Friday, July 1, 2016

Lesson 1. The "Restoration of All Things"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community 
Lesson 1. The "Restoration of All Things"

How did evil get started in the perfect world which God created "in the beginning"? The answer is astonishing. Human beings invited the devil in, opened the door to him, welcomed him. And those human beings were our first parents, Adam and Eve. The devil could not push himself in unless our first parents should invite him into their home. We can understand this even today, for evil cannot intrude into a person's heart and control him unless he first gives his consent. In creating man "in his own image," the Creator endowed him with the ability to reason and to choose. The enemy took advantage of this freedom and deceived man.
Which is more reasonable, to accept the Bible by faith, or evolution by faith? Evolution is man's imagined idea of "what might have been."
The Bible teaches devolution, that is, that man has fallen lower than his original condition. This is in complete harmony with the simplest, most easily seen law of nature, namely that everything gets old, wears out, or runs down. Man was created "in the image of God" and has wandered far from his original place of honor, but he is still a child of God through Christ, and is loved by His heavenly Father. Evolution teaches that man is essentially only an animal for whom the survival of the fittest is the jungle law. Who can estimate the cruelty and injustice, the inhumanity of man toward man, that this "theory" has produced in our sad world? Which do you prefer to consider yourself to be? A child of God or merely a clever animal?
An animal caught in a trap can know nothing but physical fear; but a human being is created in the image of God with infinite capabilities for joyous eternal life, not merely eternal existence. Unlike animals, we can know bright dreams of "the much more abundant life."
Eve actually believed the serpent's deception; Adam did not. He joined her in the evil step only because he loved her. Whatever this mysterious, unknown thing to come might be that God said was "death," he chose to share it with her. But mother Eve's original deception included the idea that there would be no death: "Ye shall not surely die," the wily serpent had assured her. Here is the origin of the idea of the natural immortality of the human soul.
Adam and Eve's descendants split into two camps: those who believed the deception and those who held firmly to God's original revealed truth, "Ye shall surely die." And there were those who believed the serpent's lie, "Ye shall not surely die."
His three deceptions were woven together into one strand: (1) There will be no death, for Eve believed the serpent that man's nature is immortal; (2) "knowing good and evil" is essential, for there is a conjunction of opposites; and (3) "ye shall be God," for divinity dwells within every immortal human soul and only awaits self-realization.
The descendants of Adam and Eve who heartily repented of their folly and maintained a firm loyalty to the original truth of God were called "the sons of God" (Gen. 6:2). They became the progenitors of an unbroken line of generations of faithful worshippers of God who believed that man had forfeited immortality by rebellion against Him and could obtain it only through faith in a divine Saviour to come, and in His sacrifice. These faithful believers in God's truth cherished the promise that He made to the serpent in the presence of the guilty pair in Eden: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). Here is the acorn of good news in seed-form that developed through the ages until the grand oak of truth was fully matured in the New Testament.
Look at this precious assurance that has brought hope to the human race: This "enmity" against the serpent is something not natural to the human heart. No one is born with it. God puts this enmity against evil in the heart through the grand sacrifice mentioned in this promise. It is a gift of grace. Satan will have his followers known as "thy seed." "The woman" will also have "seed." And there will be "enmity" or war between the two "seeds." A Deliverer will come in the person of the woman's "seed," a descendant of Adam and Eve. This is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus.
Satan will succeed in wounding or "bruising" the woman's seed on the "heel"--an "acorn" prophecy of the eventual crucifixion of the Son of God on His cross. But Christ's apparent defeat will prove to be a glorious victory; He will crush the serpent's head and kill him.
God's people cherished this promise for thousands of years, waiting for the coming of the Deliverer. Satan (the serpent) has been defeated by the sacrifice of Christ, and the long reign of sin and evil is to be brought to an end.
Does the sin of Adam transmit to us irresistible tendencies to sin? Would it not be more accurate to state that the sin of Adam transmits to us tendencies to sin that have overcome all human beings except Christ, and which are "irresistible" to us if we have no Saviour? If we say that the tendencies to sin transmitted by Adam are truly "irresistible," are we not in danger of echoing Satan's charge that the law of God cannot be kept by fallen man? The idea that our natural "tendencies to sin are irresistible" is responsible for the immorality and anti-nomianmism that pervades the world and even the lukewarm church? This seems to be a kind of Calvinist defeatism.
The 1888 message advances the startling thesis that tendencies to sin are resistible--if only we understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. And part of that "good news" is that Jesus proved in His human flesh that these tendencies are indeed completely resistible. This is not fanatical "perfectionism" but rather a reverent appreciation of the message of Christ's righteousness.
Christ came to save the lost race, fallen and degraded. In His giving of His life on Calvary, He made an abundant atonement for the sins of the entire world. No sin can be committed for which satisfaction was not met upon Calvary. This was also one of the distinctive features of the 1888 message--that Jesus did more than just make an offer--He gave the gift of His own righteousness to all mankind, and that the only reason all mankind would not be made righteous by that giftwas because so many would refuse to partake of the gift freely given.
Peter at Pentecost spoke of Christ's heavenly inaugural in this way: "... Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things ..." (Acts 3:21). The parallel thought to this is Revelation 19:7 [1]--Christ cannot return until this "restitution" takes place.
In numerous Ellen G. White statements, this "restitution" is described as "restoring the image of God in man," [2] etc. This is equivalent to the seal of God placed in the forehead. Such a "restitution" certainly entails a vindication of God, and His plan of salvation. It cannot be mere legal imputation, for if it were, the "times of restitution of all things" would have been Abel's time when he was murdered by Cain, for he was legally declared righteous by imputation then, long ago. The "times" Peter speaks of are meaningless unless they are when righteousness by faith is fully imparted as a "fitness for heaven."
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready."
[2] Ellen G. White, "This Man Receiveth Sinners," Signs of the Times, Jan. 15, 1894.
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Raul Diaz