Friday, March 11, 2016

Lesson 11: Peter on the Great Controversy

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Rebellion and Redemption
Lesson 11: Peter on the Great Controversy
What was Peter's teaching regarding Christ's atoning sacrifice? The atonement is the heart and soul of the 1888 message. If we can determine this we will have gone a long way in understanding the resolution of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Peter references God's everlasting covenant as the solution to the sin problem.

It seems like a fantastic idea, but it's like a golden thread woven throughout both Old and New Testaments of the Bible: proud, sinful, selfish, lustful, wicked human hearts (ours!) are changed by simply believing what the apostle Peter says are "exceeding great and precious promises"! (2 Peter 1:4).

And they're not man's "promises." They are the Lord's. Can it really be true that there is power in something as simple as believing God's promises that appear to be so wild and extravagant?

For instance, in the Old Testament we read that He picked up the only monotheist He could find in the ancient world, called him into exile to "a land that [He] would show him," and promised it to him "for an everlasting possession." It was infinitely more than that tiny little strip of land known as Canaan; it meant the whole earth! And no way could the "possession" be "everlasting" for Abraham unless this "exceedingly great and precious promise" included the gift of eternal life, which Abraham couldn't enjoy as a genetic inheritance for he was born a sinner under condemnation like all of us. And further, no way could he be "the heir of the world" unless it became the "new earth." And again, no way could he be "the heir" of such a new earth unless he was given the gift of "righteousness," for Peter insists that only "righteousness dwelleth" there (2 Peter 3:13).

So, it all ends up full circle: God's "exceeding great and precious promises" mean the out and out gift of "righteousness by faith." And that was the meaning of those seven promises the Lord made to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, 3, and then later swore to in chapter 15—staking His very existence and His eternal throne on His keeping them.

Our question is, Does it make sense that we, sinful selfish people by nature can be changed, converted, purified, transformed, even "sanctified," by believing those "promises"? Believe it or not, that is Peter's idea: "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, ... exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3, 4). "Escape" is what we desperately need, for we face the second death without it. The "corruption" of lust surrounds us and would permeate us. Our modern culture is steeped in it.

Our "escape" is only in believing those "promises." The difference between the New Covenant and the Old is simply the difference between salvation by faith and salvation by works. When God makes a promise, there is life in the promise itself. This is astounding news to many: believing a promise of God changes your heart! The Bible says yes! There have been "given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by [through] these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4).

There are the glorious fruits of salvation in that one statement. "Through" the promises themselves we become converted. Through the promises we "escape corruption"—isn't that our practical problem of daily living? Yes, by believing these "great and precious promises" we prepare for translation at the second coming of Christ.

It's not by works. But that doesn't mean that the good works are not there—they are there as the result of believing those "promises"! The Bible speaks of "receiving the promises" (Heb. 11:13, 17). That is the same as believing them. Such "receiving" God's promises delivers men and women and youth from addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, the allure of fornication and adultery, drugs (yes!), for we read, "Having these promises [receiving them], dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).

Thus the New Covenant is the message of the latter rain and the Loud Cry that lightens the earth with glory. Peter presents the translation message of the cleansing of the sanctuary. This is God's answer to Satan's charges in the great controversy that sinners cannot keep the law of God. It is justification by faith, which is consistent with the sanctuary truth.

Peter is focusing our attention on the second coming of Christ. Has His coming been delayed? Has the Father inexorably fixed the time of His coming so that His people can neither hasten nor delay it? Or, can His people hasten His return as 2 Peter 3:12 suggests, "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God ..."? The original can be understood as either longing for its coming or as hastening its coming. Those who believe the Father has prefixed the date, believe it means longing for its coming. Those who believe we can delay His coming hold to hastening its coming.

Jesus makes clear that the Father alone knows the time of His second coming (Mark 13:32), but that does not mean that He has fixed the time as Calvinist predestination. He has appointed the time in the sense that it is contingent on the completion of the gospel commission: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). The when is up to us.

The character of God is implicated in this question. If He has fixed the time, then He has deceived His people by repeated messages telling them that it is "near." Some hold that when He says "know that it is near, even at the doors" (Matt. 24:33), He means something different than all human language means by "near," but again that implies deception. If I tell a hungry person that lunch is "near" when I mean next week, I have deceived him.

What clears up this whole question is that the second coming of Christ cannot take place until the "marriage of the Lamb is come" (Rev. 19:7). Revelation makes clear that the only reason that "marriage" has not taken place is that His Bride "hath [not] made herself ready," for when she does make herself "ready," the heavenly Bridegroom will not tarry. Thus this question involves the character of Christ Himself. Does He love that Bride-to-be? Does He want to come?
—Paul E. Penno

Raul Diaz