Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community
Lesson 13. How Shall We Wait?
After studying about the role of the church in our communities, we might be left with the impression that we are the ones who must revive ourselves. If we were just more consecrated, we would be reformed. If we will really get more serious and creatively witness our faith, then God can bless us. Most importantly, if we were more obedient to God's will, then we would experience the blessings of the Spirit. We tend to think that our revival will produce the reformation of thought and life that is so desperately needed.
Rather than speculate on what we will do with the church, let us inquire what the Lord says He will do. He is the Head of the church. Not all the demons in hell can stop what He purposes to do.
He will send revival and reformation. As surely as His character is love, He will visit His people: "The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). 
He will accomplish this objective through a special message. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all the nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14).  As surely as day follows night, such a message will come. Repentance for the 1888-era rejection of such a message will bring a whole-hearted acceptance of its renewal.
This message will be the outpouring of the latter rain. It will bring spiritual refreshment and prepare the church for the final issue of the mark of the beast: "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain. ... And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:23-25). 
The latter rain will be a clearer revelation of the gospel of righteousness by faith than we have yet discerned. The meaning of the Hebrew phrase in Joel 2:23 is "a teacher of righteousness," linking the latter rain to the message of righteousness by faith.  Here is the key truth that is almost totally overlooked today--the initial showers of the latter rain were manifested in the "most precious message" of righteousness by faith which the Lord sent to this people in 1888.  Further showers of the latter rain must include a recovery of that message, because Heaven's intent can never be defeated.
It's obvious that after a century or more of evangelism calling for individual repentance that this has not hastened the coming of Christ, but delayed it. We have misunderstood the nature of repentance that Christ gives to Laodicea.
Christ's remedy for "lukewarmness" is both an individual and a corporate repentance. Herein lies the secret to lasting revival and reformation. Sin is a corporate disease of the human race. "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). "All have sinned" following the footsteps of our father Adam (Rom. 5:12). Instinctively we recoil against this, for we feel that surely we have something good in us. But Scripture reminds us: "In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). This means that the sin that another human has committed, I could commit if Christ had not saved me from it. We need the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ 100 percent.
This was the stumblingblock in 1888 and still scandalizes many today. Apart from the grace of a Saviour, the sins of the whole world could be mine if I had the "opportunity" to be in the shoes of other people, to be tempted as they in their circumstances.
This idea is impressively stated by Ellen White: "God knows every thought, every purpose, every plan, every motive. The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity."  There is indeed abundant forgiveness and heart-cleansing with Jesus, but He cannot "cleanse us from all unrighteousness" unless we "confess" it with understanding; and we cannot confess it unless we realize it. We have something yet to learn.
How can we be guilty of sin as a church or corporate body? "There is a terrible amount of guilt for which the church is responsible."  The great gospel commission could have been completed before the horrors of the wars in the 20th and 21st centuries were unleashed on the world.  The reason is that the 1888 message was the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry; she says it was "to a large degree" rejected by the leadership of the church. Thus those who fervently believed in the doctrine of the second advent actually delayed it for generations. The sorrow of "what might have been" filled Ellen White's soul with anguish. 
If we were to have another 1888 Session where the Holy Spirit manifested Himself as the latter rain, would we again insult Him? Unless there is repentance for doing it the first time, the answer has to be yes.
What is denominational repentance? It is a "body" of believers individually experiencing corporate repentance. As surely as the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is the "remnant church" of prophecy, the Laodicea of Revelation, so surely will such repentance permeate that "body" in the time of the "final atonement." This is Christ's gift to His church.
"Unto two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed" (Dan. 8:14). The books of heaven cannot be cleansed of the record of our sins until our hearts are cleansed. The righteousness by faith issue thus comes into focus: justification by faith is more than a mere legal declaration; it makes the at-enmity soul to be at-one-with God.
Is such a repentance possible? Will God ever have a people who have so learned contrition that they feel that all the sins of the human race could be theirs but for the grace of a Saviour, and who thus stand before the throne "cleansed"? Will He have a people who recognize their 100 percent need of the imputed righteousness of Christ, who fully realize what they would be without it?
Some sadly say no; ancient Israel failed, and so must modern Israel. But the bottom line of Bible prophecy says: "Then the sanctuary shall be cleansed." Zechariah foretells an experience of corporate denominational repentance, followed by a glorious experience of cleansing (Zech. 12:7-14; 13:1). Such an experience permeating the church is denominational repentance. Christ calls for it in His message to Laodicea. Isn't it time for us to respond?
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (From Ellen G. White's writings, unless cited otherwise):
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