Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lesson 5: More Woes for the Prophet

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 5: More Woes for the Prophet


What is the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? What lessons can we learn from the prophet Jeremiah and his message to Judah that will help us know what lies ahead for Adventists? Is there any correlation between what Jeremiah was proclaiming to an unrepentant nation and what the 1888 message says to us today?

God instructs Jeremiah to observe a potter working at a wheel creating a vessel (Jer. 18:2-4). The potter wants to make the best vessel possible with the materials with which he has to work, and will work perseveringly to that end. The potter's work now and then turns out badly because of the quality of the clay.

Given the analogy that the potter is God, it can be assumed that God is not the reason for the inferior results; it is the clay/people that are corrupt. "Now and then a vessel he was making out of the clay would be spoilt in his hands, and then he would start again and mould it into another vessel to his liking" (Jer. 18:4, NEB).

The shape of Israel's future remains somewhat open. Just as the potter recreates a vessel that seems good to him in view of the possibilities inherent in the clay, so God will take corrupt Israel and work with the possibilities inherent in the human situation. Integral to that situation is the way in which Israel responds to God's continuing work; God will work with what is available, yet with God's good purposes always in mind.

Israel can respond to God's declared word in two different ways. "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them" (Jer. 18:7-10). They can repent of their evil and turn to God or they can turn away from God, not listening to God's voice. By their response the people have the God-given capacity to shape God's own response.

In Judah's case there was no repentance and the Lord permitted them to be deported in exile to Babylon. But what bearing does this have upon our own situation today as Seventh-day Adventists in view of our prophetic destiny and our failure to embrace the latter rain message of justification by faith, which is consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth?

It's serious not to understand the true nature of agape. But the 1888 message teaches us to always follow His covenant agape. Critics who have given up hope cannot see how God's love could possibly be loyal to a faulty, erring church. They assume that divine love is like human love--conditioned by the value or goodness of its object and dependent on it. So they look at the enfeebled and defective condition of the church and wonder how God's love for it can be permanent.

Christ never calls us to leave the church; He calls us to repent within the church, and to "sigh and cry" positively and effectively instead of negatively. An inspired voice emphatically assures us of ultimate denominational repentance. This is implicit in statements like these: "I am instructed to say to Seventh-day Adventists the world over, God has called us as a people to be a peculiar treasure unto Himself. He has appointed that His church on earth shall stand perfectly united in the Spirit and counsel of the Lord of hosts to the end of time." [1]

The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. [2]

Christ's message to Laodicea, in fact His very character of agape, is on trial before the heavenly universe. Will it be effective? Or will century after century go by with it never accomplishing the great work it calls for?

It is clear that the Lord's greatest concern is for the human leadership of His church. "God's ministers are symbolized by the seven stars. ... Christ's ministers are the spiritual guardians of the people entrusted to their care." [3] "'These things, says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand.' These words are spoken to the teachers in the church--those entrusted by God with weighty responsibilities." [4] If they refuse Christ's special call to repent, church organization must eventually disintegrate. But leadership can respond to Christ's call, and Revelation indicates that before the end they will.

Christ respects church organization. He intends that the "angel of the church" shall repent first, and then minister the experience to the worldwide church. When the leadership of the church "in a great measure" rejected the 1888 message, [5] He did not disregard them; He permitted their unbelief to arrest the finishing of His work for over a century.

However, we have an encouraging promise to lay hold of: the time will come when the Lord will override impenitent leadership. "There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness." [6]

No one knows precisely how the Lord will take "the reins in His own hands." Although His love is infinite, His patience is not. His love for a lost world will prove greater than His patient indulgence of continued Seventh-day Adventist lukewarmness. Christ died for the world. There will come a time when He can no longer tolerate persistent, willful impenitence. He is quite capable of righteous indignation. When the time comes for it to blaze forth, "Who is able to stand?"

Thus "his wife [the church] hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7) to be the Bride of Christ. He deserves this practical fruitage of His sacrifice. He has suffered enough, and at last His church will give him the complete surrender that a bride gives to her husband.

Can you think of any greater tragedy in the end of history than for a disappointed Christ to stand before "the door" knocking in vain (Rev. 3:20) and ultimately turning away in the humiliation of defeat? That is what the devil wants! Why should we give in to him by default? The picture we see in Scripture indicates complete success. By virtue of the infinite sacrifice on Calvary we must choose to believe that the Laodicean message will fully accomplish its objective.

That which God purposed to do for the world through Israel, the chosen nation, He will finally accomplish through His church on earth today. He has "let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen," even to His covenant-keeping people, who faithfully "render Him the fruits in their seasons." [7]

The Laodicean church is the new covenant church. Not for her own intrinsic goodness will the Lord remain loyal to her, but because He has to be a covenant-keeping God. "Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but ... [that] the Lord your God ... may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Deut. 9:5). That covenant aspect of Christ's character is the assurance that the message to Laodicea will not fail.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes (From the Writings of Ellen G. White):
[1] Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 397.
[2] Ibid, p. 380.
[3] Gospel Workers, pp. 13, 14.
[4] Acts of the Apostles, p. 586.
[5] Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234, 235.
[6] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 300.
[7] Prophets and Kings, pp. 713, 714.


Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org


Friday, October 23, 2015

Lesson 4: Rebuke and Retribution

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 4: Rebuke and Retribution


"Rebuke and Retribution"--What a title for a Sabbath School lesson study. Is anybody listening to this kind of stuff anymore? We have to wonder whether God's people have been so spiritually "burned out" that they've turned a deaf ear to what the Spirit says about our latter rain message.

One good way to get rid of God's message, which we don't like, is to condemn the messengers. It has been an age-old problem of God's people and we still haven't learned this lesson today.

Jeremiah made a powerful request of God based upon a complaint. "I did not deliver this unbearable message of judgment out of my own imagination. It is, rather, the verdict upon Judah, which you sent me to deliver." "But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause" (Jer. 11:20). He prays that God will protect His messenger. "I am just the messenger proclaiming what you have given to me."

Jeremiah took his cause to the one who "judges righteously." Jeremiah is being mistreated because he is being faithful to what God asked him to do. Evil is being plotted against him. He is suffering for righteousness' sake. The wicked have the upper hand. This is an unfair situation. God must intervene and do something to make things right.

Jeremiah summons God to "judge and test" this cause of evil and right. Along with Jeremiah's appeal for adjustment is a counterclaim against his persecutors. "Let me see Thy vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause" (Jer. 11:20). This call for "vengeance" is no desire for self-justification upon the part of Jeremiah. He is thinking more about the cause of God than He is about himself. It is God's reputation that is at stake if injustice continues unchecked. God must win His case in the great controversy with the enemy.

It is a fact that God needs His messengers to step up and recognize that "the hour of His judgment is come" (Rev. 14:6). As they faithfully speak up for God who is on trial He, in turn, hears their claim against the wicked and adjudicates the wrong. In other words, as God wins His case the righteous on earth are included in His victory.

The guilt of those who scheme against Jeremiah is established with these words: "Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand" (Jer. 11:21). The men of Jeremiah's hometown, Anathoth, are guilty of trying to silence a prophet.

The offense of silencing a prophet is scandalous in Israel. Prophets are essential for the life of a religious community. Silencing prophets diminishes the denominated status of Israel as God's chosen people.

Here's the lesson from 1888 that we need to learn. Ellen White unequivocally stated that Jones and Waggoner were straight and true in bringing a message of God to His chosen people. "God is presenting to the minds of men divinely appointed precious gems of truth, appropriate for our time." [1] "God had sent these young men, Elders Jones and Waggoner, to bear a special message to them." [2]

Ellen White recognized the seriousness of the opposition to them personally and to their message, and fixed the ultimate blame for their potential faltering "to a great degree" upon the opposing brethren. [3]

Criticizing the messengers imposed on them a burden that was heavier to carry than normal opposition: "Whatever course the messenger may pursue, it will be objectionable to the opposers of truth; and they will make capital of every defect in the manners, customs, or character of its advocate." [4]

"Some of our brethren ... full of jealousy and evil surmising, ... are ever ready to show in just what way they differ with Elder Jones or Waggoner." [5]

The two men spoke positively and strongly. Keen perceptions of truth often lead those who are "only men" to speak that way. But that was offensive to human nature, which was looking for an excuse to reject the message: "Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, 'They are too positive; they talk too strongly.' They may talk strongly; but is it not needed?" [6]

The Lord Himself had clothed His personal messengers with evidences of authority, "heavenly credentials." They had lost sight of self in their love for Christ and His special message. The still-uncrucified self in others was annoyed:

"If the rays of light which shone at Minneapolis were permitted to exert their convincing power upon those who took their stand against light, ... they would have received the richest blessings, disappointed the enemy, and stood as faithful men, true to their convictions. They would have had a rich experience; but self said, No. Self was not to be refused; self struggled for the mastery." [7]

At Minneapolis, the personality of Jones and Waggoner became the visible, conscious stumbling-block for the invisible, unconscious rejection of Christ the Word. This is evident, as follows: "Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God's message. The Jews asked regarding Christ, 'Who is this? Is not this Joseph's son?' He was not the Christ that the Jews had looked for. So today the agencies that God sends are not what men have looked for." [8]

If we are tempted to find an easy way out, to say that this shameful past is no concern of our generation, can this open the way for the Lord again to send us the latter rain?

The Lord calls us to recognize our solidarity with our "fathers." Although himself innocent, Jeremiah confessed and repented of the sins of his fathers: "O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against Thee" (Jer. 14:7).

Repentance alone can prevent a repetition of the fathers' sins. The reason why the Lord requires repentance for the sins of "our fathers" is that without it we are programmed to repeat them. We share a common humanity. We are by nature no better than those who rejected the 1888 message. If we were in their place, we would have done the same. This is what Ellen White means when she says, "The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity." [9]

Christ knew no repression of guilt for sin at all. He stood before God by "faithfulness" and was thus "righteous." His motivations were pure and transparent.

This is but a foreshadowing of the kind of people that the third angel's message will gather out, for they too are to have "the faith of Jesus"--not merely faith in Jesus, but the very kind of faith which He had, the faith of Jesus. This is the deep experience given to the Laodicean church--faith, spiritual discernment, and the righteousness of Christ.

--Paul E. Penno

[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 139.
[2] Ibid., p. 1043.
[3] Ibid., p. 1127.
[4] Ibid., p. 1061.
[5] Ibid., p. 1043.
[6] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 410-413.
[7] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1030.
[8] Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 472.
[9] SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 1085.

Notes: If you would like to view or download a copy of "How Many Times Did Ellen White Endorse the Message of Jones and Waggoner From 1888-1896?" you will find it on the Internet at:http://1888mpm.org

"Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at the same website.


Sabbath School Lesson 4 | "Rebuke and Retribution" | Pastor Paul Penno

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lesson 3: The Last Five Kings of Judah

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 3: The Last Five Kings of Judah

Millions of Seventh-day Adventists around the world are studying this week about the last five kings of Judah, but as our lesson begins with King Josiah, the king who did everything just right, our main focus will be on his rulership. Can we draw parallels between the history of Josiah, and the history of the 1888 message?
Josiah knew that the kingdom of David, of which he was now the ruler, was virtually on the rocks; their very existence was only a "millimeter" away from national disaster, for God was on the verge of withdrawing His care and protection from them, leaving them to the mercies of the pagan Babylonians.
Hilkiah the high priest had found the book of Deuteronomy in the Temple, and when Shaphan the scribe read it to the king he "rent his clothes" (II Kings 22:8-13). He was utterly sincere in his efforts to avert the national ruin he saw coming. He put his whole soul into a work of repentance as he saw it was needed; what he led the people into was a "national repentance" or one might say, a "corporate repentance." It began in the king's palace, the proper place for any national or corporate repentance to begin.
Jeremiah hopes that there will be no more weeping his eyes out in anguish for the incomprehensible rebellion of God's own people. The evidence indicates that they are repenting and doing what is right, for they are following their king (Jer. 9:1, 2).
But that was exactly their problem--they were following their king. That's what Israel did throughout their history--they followed their good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah and they followed their bad kings like Manasseh and Ahab. They never truly followed the Lord!
Ellen White described this condition: "Depending on man has been the great weakness of the church. Men have dishonored God by failing to appreciate His sufficiency, by coveting the influence of man. Thus Israel became weak. The people wanted to be like the other nations of the world, and they asked for a king. They desired to be guided by human power which they could see rather than by the divine Theocracy, the invisible power which till then had led and guided them, and given them victory in battle. They made their own choice, and the result was seen in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the nation." [1]
The Importance of Telling the Truth About History
The person who loves Bible truth is also concerned about the importance of historians telling the truth about history. The same honest concern applies to the history of God's work. Jeremiah 8:8 reveals the prophet as telling the Kingdom of Judah that their historians have falsified their national history and in so doing plunged their nation into ruin. "How can you say, 'We are wise for we have the law [torah] of the Lord,' when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?" (NIV). Likewise, the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' day "handled falsely" their history and thereby prepared to lead the nation to crucify the Son of God. Ellen G. White has warned the church that "we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." [2] Jesus says, "Take heed that no man deceive you" (Matt. 24:4). To be deceived is not merely a temporary setback, it can be fatal.
In this time of great crisis for God's work of proclaiming the gospel to all the world, it is especially important that the history of the work of the Holy Spirit not be "falsified" as wrote the ancient scribes in Jeremiah's day. Those who dig into the facts of national or church history and present them honestly are to be welcomed not resented or silenced. "Prove all things," says the inspired apostle, and "hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). You want your doctor to be careful and accurate when it comes to your health; it's also important to remember that the health of the church is involved with honest history.
A Demonstration of Old Covenant Unbelief
A thumbnail sketch of Israel's story demonstrates Old Covenant unbelief impelling them to final ruin. Monarch after monarch dragged their nation downhill. Not one ruler of the northern kingdom ever did what was "right," although the Lord pleaded with them by numerous prophets and messengers (2 Kings 17:13, 14). Finally Assyria crushed them forever as a nation and scattered them irrevocably among the Gentiles.
Meanwhile, Judah steadily rebelled. Several of their kings desperately tried "stop-gap" measures of revival and reformation, such as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and last of all, beloved young Josiah. But Scripture shows that each simply tried to renew an Old Covenant revival. Never was New Covenant justification by faith recovered. They were sincerely blind to the faith which Abraham had experienced. The problem was not that they had an "organization"; it was their heart-alienation.
Josiah was the last hope. This young king's zeal for the Lord was unbounded. Again, in deep piety he sought to renew the Old Covenant: "He made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take their stand for it" (2 Chron. 34:31, 32). But the prophetess Huldah had to tell him sadly that it was too late; all this "reformation" was only veneer. Utter disaster must take its course. The Old Covenant must "gender [its] bondage" to the ruin of the nation and their captivity in an alien land (cf. Gal. 4:24).
Josiah even surpassed Hezekiah in his devotion to the Spirit of Prophecy, zealous in following every detail as he knew it--especially Deuteronomy. Never had a king so meticulously obeyed the written word. The young Jeremiah rejoiced. But while maintaining such devotion to the written Spirit of Prophecy, Josiah managed to reject its living demonstration. The problem was that the renewed "spiritual gift" came through the most unlikely avenue that king or people could imagine--the mouth of a supposedly pagan king!
Pharaoh Necho of Egypt was leading his army in opposition to the rising power of Babylon. Josiah thought it his duty to attack him. Didn't Moses in the Spirit of Prophecy tell Israel to oppose the heathen? But the zealous king couldn't discern how Necho was on God's errand. He warned Josiah, "Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you" (2 Chron. 35:21). The Chronicler says the king "did not heed the words of Necho from the mouth of God." The Lord was forced to let the young king die of his battle wounds (vss. 22-24). Jeremiah was heart-broken, for Josiah's revival fizzled out with his untimely death. From then on it was downhill all the way.
Reliving Josiah's blindness.
Like Josiah, is it possible for us as Seventh-day Adventists to think we are super-loyal to "the Spirit of Prophecy" while at the same time rejecting its living demonstration? That actually happened in 1888; our brethren were replaying Josiah's "tape." In rejecting that "most precious message" "sent from heaven" they imagined they were loyal to Ellen White's past writings while setting aside the Lord's living message[3]
Are we replaying Israel's Old Covenant revivals and reformations? Sober reflection forces an answer: as a body we are as lukewarm now as we were over a century ago. When "we" "in a great degree" and "in a great measure" rejected that "most precious" New Covenant truth that came in the 1888 era, "we" locked ourselves into "many more years" of an Old Covenant detour as surely as did Israel at Sinai[4]
The faith-experience of the New Covenant was the main focus of leadership opposition to the 1888 message. While they opposed Jones and Waggoner, they actually preferred the essential elements of the Old Covenant. Ellen White was shown in vision that these revered leaders were wasting their time trying to urge a view different from Waggoner's, for she was "shown" that he was right. [5]
Old Covenant ideas have continued to predominate in our experience. Our revivals and reformations have followed the pattern of those of Israel, including the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Not yet have we as a church body truly recovered the New Covenant which "we" largely rejected a century ago.
Who can estimate the confusion and tragic apostasies that have come because of the unsatisfied hunger within the church (and the world) for that "most precious" gospel? Speaking of Uzzah irreverently grabbing the sacred ark, Ellen White in 1890 pleaded with her brethren, "Take your hand off the ark of God, and let the Spirit of God come in and work in mighty power" [6]
That little word "let" means that the Holy Spirit is eager to go to "work." When that New Covenant message is rescued from the oblivion of the archives, He can feed it like heavenly manna to our famishing world.
A converted Jew likened his people's problem to a farmer driving a horse and wagon to town. A wheel falls off; does he look for it further ahead down the road, or does he go back to where it fell off? If the Jews must recover what they lost 2000 years ago, is it too humiliating for us to go back and recover what we lost over a century ago? Going back to retrieve what he lost would be the farmer's only hope, wouldn't it?
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] Ellen G. White, Ms. 159, 1899.
[2] Selected Messages, book 3, p. 162.
[3] See, for example, Uriah Smith's and G. I. Butler's letters to Ellen White of Feb. 17, 1890, Sept. 24, 1892 (Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888, pp. 152-157, 206-212). The Lord not only sent "prophets" to Israel, but "messengers" also (2 Chron. 36:16).
[4] See Ellen G. White Letter 184, 1901; Evangelism, p. 696.
[5] See Ellen White Letters 30, 59, 1890.
[6] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 543.
Note: If you would like to view or download a copy of "The Two Covenants Contrasted," you will find it on the Internet at http://1888mpm.org

Friday, October 9, 2015

Lesson 2: The Crisis (Within and Without)

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 2: The Crisis (Within and Without)

God promised to give His reluctant prophet Jeremiah words to say, and He did, but they were not smooth words. Judah had forgotten her history and how God had led and taught her in the past. Jeremiah (chapter 2) tells us that everyone, including the priests and rulers were guilty of forgetting the past, forsaking God, and building "broken cisterns" (vs. 13) that cannot hold life giving water.

In order to get water, Judah seeks it on the road to Egypt so they could drink from the Nile, and to Assyria, to drink from the Euphrates. Both geographic areas represent heathen nations that had made slaves of God's people when they forgot Who they belonged to. Living as a slave is easier because it requires little thinking, and no faith. Once a people, or for that matter, an individual, forgets or chooses to deny God's leading, there is nothing genuine to rely on. Idol replacements are given power against all logic. Even when God allows trouble to get people's attention, the slave mentality interprets it as abandonment.

Years before, the northern kingdom of Israel had apostatized so completely that God allowed them to be attacked by surrounding nations and scattered. He pleads with Judah to learn from Israel's experience and return to Him. He reminds them through Jeremiah that He gave repeated warnings, which were ignored because My people are "foolish," "stupid," and have "no understanding." They are "shrewd" and only do evil and not good. Repeatedly, God also uses the imagery of a faithless wife cheating on her husband (Jer 4:19-22).

What does this sad lament have to do with us today? Why do we study the terrible history of Israel and Judah? If we cannot see their history as profitable warnings today, we are as foolish and stupid as Judah. If we fail to see the importance of reviewing our history, we lack understanding of our true condition.

"The reason why the children of Israel forsook Jehovah was that the generation rose up that had not been instructed concerning the great deliverance from Egypt by the hand of Jesus Christ. Their fathers had not rehearsed to them the history of the divine guardianship that had been over the children of Israel through all their travels in the wilderness. ... If parents had fulfilled their duty, we should never have the record of the generation that knew not God, and were therefore given into the hands of the spoilers" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, May 21, 1895).

Today, there are those who refuse to discuss anything about the history of the message given in 1888. Usually, the need to study what it actually was is dismissed as unnecessary, or even silly. Important scholars go to great lengths to either declare it wrong, or that they church accepted it in 1888, or shortly thereafter so there is no reason to study it. Some criticize it as being too "liberal" while others criticize it as too "conservative." It is rare to find someone who can articulate what the message is, and rarer, to find someone who has studied the original sources written by the "messengers," Jones, Waggoner, and White.

So long as the "priests," "those who handle the law," and "rulers" (Jer 2:8) refuse to corporately acknowledge we have turned our back on God and His message, the people will never know the destruction that awaits. Some may take comfort in Ellen White's statement in a letter to George Butler and S. N. Haskell in 1886 that "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall" (Letter 55, December 8, 1886). Those who find that statement comforting, fail to appreciate the awful and unnecessary condition the church will be in when it "appears about to fall." Why would we as God's children want to let the church disintegrate that far just because God pulls it through in the end.

The message of Jeremiah is that repentance initiated by a well-informed leadership might forestall devastation much as the repentance of Ninevah's king was accepted by the entire community and disaster was averted.

There are many devout Jews who stand at the "wailing wall" in Jerusalem, asking God to send the long awaited Messiah. God can never "answer" these prayers because they refuse to see it has already happened. In the same way, our church has prayed for the outpouring of the latter rain for well over 150 years, but God cannot answer our prayers until we recognize and admit the sins of our forefathers, including our years of denial since then. Admitting the truth of our history will save us from perpetuating their mistakes, and will lead us to a deep repentance for our own unbelief.

At times, it seems discouraging that God needs to discipline His people, but He always gives hope. "Yet even in those days, declares the Lord, I will not make you a complete destruction" (Jer 5:18). God loves His people too much to leave them to complete destruction. So what does this have to do with us? God needed to chasten Judah and Israel because they were ignoring Him; He wanted them to listen to Him. Rather than thinking that advice is for everyone else, we need to listen to God individually. We must heed the warning ourselves before we can nurture others. The message of 1888 is the final message that will prepare a people who are willing to participate fully in the cleansing process as typified in the Day of Atonement.

"The work begun in 1844, at the end of the 2300 years, is unique in the universe and brings Christ and the remnant into a new kind of union. There will be a mutual understanding which makes His remnant go with Him into the Most Holy Place. There the wedding is consummated. There sin is blotted out. There Christ sits down with His remnant, and He assures them that the 'true tabernacle,' His abiding place, is cleansed. His victory in conquering self is a guarantee that He has in all points been tempted like unto His brethren for every sin is born of a love of self. Thus as they abide with Him in the Most Holy Place, they will by faith be uniting their humanity to His divinity, and they will be one with Him in purpose and thus be 'married' to Him. They will have the faith of Jesus which keeps mortals from sinning. Then the work of the Mediator will be finished, the sanctuary will be cleansed and restored to its rightful place, the heart of the 144,000 will have been purged. Sin will not rise again. This experience awaits the remnant whenever they choose to accept the eyesalve of heavenly insight offered by the True Witness. And when her blindness is gone and at last she can 'see,' then the Bride will sit down with the King on His throne, as He has promised, for both have overcome by the blood of the Lamb" (Donald K. Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed," p. 92).

This is the work of the last generation before Christ comes. Whether the number 144,000 is literal or otherwise, those of us living in the end time need to see ourselves as similar to ancient Israel, a people who need to listen and act on God's warnings. We should never take comfort that our church, the very Bride of Christ, is "about to fall." Our mission is to individually participate in the cleansing process, but also to be concerned for everyone who will ultimately make up that remnant group. As we study the message of Jeremiah for the next three months, let consider it a special voice just for us.

--Arlene Hill

Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org


Sabbath School Lesson #2 | "The Crisis (Within and Without)" | Pastor P...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sabbath School Lesson 1 | "The Prophetic Calling of Jeremiah" | Pastor P...

Lesson 1: The Prophetic Calling of Jeremiah

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 1: The Prophetic Calling of Jeremiah
Like the maker of a fine musical instrument, God created Jeremiah as a spokesman for the word of the Lord. The Lord was thinking about Jeremiah as His prophet before he was born (Jer. 1:4, 5).
Likewise the Lord "cause[s] His face to shine upon us" (Psalm 67:1). For God to smile at us with approval is the same as for Him to justify us, for that is its meaning. God has a plan for your life just as He had a plan for Jeremiah before he was born which included forgiveness of sins. Are we justified in God's sight by our good works, or by grace through faith? Because of the 1888 message we see in Jeremiah's call as with us, that our justification is a birthright inheritance from God.
The Lord commissioned Jeremiah to "go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak" (Jer. 1:7). "I have put my words in thy mouth (Jer. 1:9). His message was largely unheeded. By all accounts his success must be judged an abysmal failure. He often wept because he loved the people, but they refused to hear what God was saying to them.
God appointed Jeremiah to an international ministry "to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant" (Jer. 1:10). Erroneous beliefs and practices must be destroyed before reconstruction can take place. A new building cannot be constructed until the old structure it will replace has been demolished.
Judah, under King Manasseh and a corrupted priesthood, was led into idolatry, Baal worship, and human sacrifice. All of their ideas about appeasing an angry god must be overthrown, before replacing it with God's true word of righteousness by faith. Though the people did not receive the message, God evaluated Jeremiah's ministry a success because he faithfully proclaimed God's word.
God's good news of salvation and deliverance is the same in every generation. God's great Sacrifice is the only solution to our common human problem of rebellion against Him.
"The message given us by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays." [1]
During the fall of 1882, at the age of 27, E. J. Waggoner had an experience that he would later describe as the turning point of his life. Sitting under a camp meeting tent one dismal rainy afternoon in Healdsburg, California, listening to the gospel presented by Ellen White, he suddenly saw a light shinning about him, and the tent illumined as though the sun were shining. He had a distinct "revelation of Christ Crucified" for him. He later wrote that it was revealed for the first time in his life that God loved him, and that Christ gave Himself for him personally--that it was all for him. The light that shone on him that day from the cross of Christ became the guide in all his Bible study. He resolved that the rest of his life would be devoted to discovering the message of God's love for individual sinners found in the pages of Scripture, and making that message plain to others. [2]
At the close of our lesson's study on Friday a very important question is posed: "What is our attitude toward the prophetic word to us, especially when we hear things that we don't like? ... The very ones who should have been revealing the true God to the world were the ones who were, by reviling and attacking His spokesman, fighting against Him?"
The cleansing of the sanctuary can never be complete until the 1888 incident of our history is fully understood and the underlying spiritual problem solved. That particular segment of our history is especially significant. This is implied in a statement Ellen White wrote to the General Conference president, O. A. Olsen, four years after the Minneapolis conference:
"The sin committed in what took place at Minneapolis remains on the record books of heaven, registered against the names of those who resisted light, and it will remain upon the record until full confession is made, and the transgressors stand in full humility before God." [3]
Her later writings indicate that "full confession" was never made and the experience of "full humility before God" eluded most of them. [4] Those brethren have all died, but that does not mean those "record books of heaven" are automatically cleansed. They record corporate sin as well as personal sin. The foundation truth that has made Seventh-day Adventists a unique people is that death does not cleanse the heavenly record books. The cleansing must occur in "the investigative judgment," a corporate and final Day of Atonement.
The present issue is not the salvation of the souls of those dear leaders of a century ago who resisted the message. They rest in the Lord, at peace, while they remain prisoners in their tombs. The issue now is the finishing of the work of God on earth, developing a long overdue empathy with the Lord so that we can truly "give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come." We must recover in this generation the priceless blessing which our brethren of a century ago "kept away from the world" and "from our people, in a great measure." [5] We are "one body" in Christ, a spiritual community corporately involved with those brethren of the past. Their sin is our sin, apart from specific, intelligent repentance.
The "body" is lukewarm, ill with spiritual disease that can be traced to 1888. A new generation must now correctly interpret what happened in a past generation because of its profound implications for our spiritual state today. Christ's message to His last-day church implicitly demands a re-examination of our history which underlies our "rich-and-increased-with-goods" complex (Rev. 3:14-21).
A failure to do so invokes upon ourselves the guilt of previous generations. We are being tested as truly as they were. Like Calvary, 1888 is more than a mere historical event. God's providence will not permit it to be covered with dust in the Adventist attic, forgotten by a new generation. It represents the outworking of principles that reapply in every generation until the final victory of truth.
In a certain real sense, we today are each one at Calvary; we are also "delegates" at the 1888 Conference. We shall be called upon to do what a past generation failed to do. An inspired prophecy tells us how 1888 must be revisited:
"We should be the last people on earth to indulge in the slightest degree the spirit of persecution against those who are bearing the message of God to the world. This is the most terrible feature of unchristlikeness that has manifested itself among us since the Minneapolis meeting. Sometime it will be seen in its true bearing, with all the burden of woe that has resulted from it." [6]
O. A. Olsen, president of the General Conference, also recognized that this issue of 1888 must remain a perennial test among us until at last we do fully overcome:
"Some may feel tried over the idea that Minneapolis is referred to [in these meetings, 1893]. I know that some have felt grieved and tried over any allusion to that meeting, and to the situation there. But let it be borne in mind that the reason why anyone should feel so is an unyielding spirit on his part. Just as quickly as we fully surrender, and humble our hearts before God, the difficulty is all gone. The very idea that one is grieved, shows at once the seed of rebellion in the heart ...
"If we fail at one time, the Lord will take us over the ground again; and if we fail a second time, He will take us over the ground again; and if we fail a third time, the Lord will take us over the same ground again. ... Instead of being vexed over the idea that the Lord is taking us over the same ground, let us thank Him, and praise Him unceasingly, for this is God's mercy and compassion. Anything else than this is our ruin and destruction." [7]
Welcome to this new line of studies in Jeremiah from the 1888 perspective.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052.
[2] Letter E. J. Waggoner to Ellen G. White (Oct. 22, 1900).
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1031 (1892).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234, 235.
[6] General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 184.
[7] Ibid., p. 188.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org