Friday, September 25, 2015

Lesson 13: Must the Whole World Hear?

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Biblical Missionaries
Lesson 13: Must the Whole World Hear?
Must the whole world hear what? This is not a facetious question. The answer goes to the heart of the 1888 message.
The lesson study doesn't identify what the world needs to hear. It deals with how much or how little one needs to hear and leaves one in a quandary. One could assume that whatever Christian missionaries are proclaiming is sufficient for the world to hear.
If people can be saved eternally in God's kingdom without ever hearing the name of Jesus, why do we send missionaries? Why not just let them live up to whatever light they have? Paul says, "What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. ... Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, ... show the work of the law written in their hearts" (Rom. 1:19; 2:14, 15).
If Christ is "the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world," what is the need of preaching the gospel? (John 1:9). The "Light" will of itself judge "every man." Let people be—with what light they have!
There is some refreshing news in Peter's sermon at Pentecost: "It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. ..." (Acts 2:17). Peter quoted Joel 2 at the time of the "early rain" outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But the "early rain" will be eclipsed by the "latter rain" outpouring of the Spirit "in the last days." That sounds like good news, but is it too good?
"The everlasting gospel" is the third angel's message as we like to call it (Rev. 14:6-12). But you say, Seventh-day Adventists have been proclaiming this message for 170 years. If this message is the "latter rain" outpouring of the Holy Spirit, then why hasn't it accomplished the finishing of God's work on the earth? The third angel's message is not the "latter rain."
The three angels of Revelation 14 cannot finish their primary task of the ripe harvest without the added help of "another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with His glory" (Rev. 18:1). "Glory" is the truth about God's character of agape—"the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). "The law and the gospel are one, both cemented in one. ..." [1] The 1888 message is an understanding of justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. The 1888 message is the truth of the gospel which is in harmony with the law of God.
Ellen White identified the beginning of the "latter rain" in our history. "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." [2]
What is the result of the third angel's message when the "latter rain" sanctuary truth is received? Answer: "The harvest of the earth is ripe" (Rev. 14:15). Then the harvest is ready for "the Son of man" "on the cloud" to thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped" (Rev. 14:14, 17).
The words "all flesh" surely mean everybody in the world (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28). The everlasting gospel is for "them that dwell on the earth" (Rev. 14:6). "The earth was lightened with His glory" (Rev. 18:1). The "latter rain" sanctuary truth will result in "a loud voice" for "every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people" (Rev. 14:7, 6).
Peter does not say that everybody will receive the Holy Spirit's message. He only says that God will give the gift to everybody. Jesus can help us understand. He says that "when He [the Holy Spirit] is come, He will reprove [convict] the world of sin, ... because they believe not on Me" (John 16:7-9). The Father "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Christ "was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9).
The ancient Jews wouldn't believe this, for they thought that only they are "lighted." But Gentiles are also included! The Holy Spirit sheds light on every human heart. That person may not receive the light, but in the last great judgment day, no one can accuse God of not letting some light shine upon his pathway, some evidence on which that soul could make a choice. In every human heart the Holy Spirit has brought a conviction of sin, a sense of right and wrong. And blessed are those who respond to that conviction the Holy Spirit gives.
But there's another statement in Peter's sermon that arrests our attention: "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). Of course, that must mean, "in sincerity" (Eph. 6:24). God pays attention to "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2). Here is His "much more abounding grace"; "the same Lord ... is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Rom. 10:12). David says, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:6).
Do you feel sinful and unworthy? Call upon the Lord, and believe that in His mercy He will hear you. Yes, He will convict you of sin; but thank Him for that with all your heart.
If there should never be a personal, visible second coming of Jesus Christ, and every one must depend on a resurrection from the dead, there could be a bit of logic in the idea that we don't need to send missionaries to the ends of the earth. But there can be no resurrection for anyone without the personal appearance of Jesus! If He doesn't come, no one can realize eternal life. Only He is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). And that means some people must be prepared to endure meeting the glorified Christ face to face while still alive, whom to see is death unless they have become "pure in heart," for only they can "see God" and live (Matt. 5:8).
That means to "overcome even as [Christ] overcame" (Rev. 3:21). And there the "everlasting gospel" of Revelation 14:6-15 comes into focus—yes, the final "light" which must "lighten the earth with glory" (Rev. 18:1-4). The ripe harvest is seen with the "Lamb on mount Zion, and with Him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads" (Rev. 14:1). We will need a much more clear understanding of the cross, the sacrifice of Christ.
—Paul E. Penno


[1] Letter Ellen G. White to Brethren in Fresno, June 13, 1889 (previously unpublished).

[2] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235.