Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lesson 13: From Dust to Stars

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Lesson 13: From Dust to Stars

One discerning writer says that "it is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal." [1]

Don't forget that Daniel adds some tremendous "good news" about this time of trouble: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: ... and ... thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1).

Michael is another name for Christ which means, "Who is like God?" The angel who was talking with Daniel probably used the name to emphasize the divine-human character of the mighty One who steps forward in the final crisis for the defense of His people. To "stand up" is an idiom to describe how a king takes over his throne and assumes complete control. The idea is clear: Jesus won't be asleep during the time of trouble!

For Him to "stand up" means that He will enter into a new nearness with His people, something never before realized. He will become a Bridegroom and they will become His bride. Revelation pictures the sublime excitement of this new relationship: "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" (Rev. 19:7). There is an intimacy in marriage that no other relationship can approach. And a bride not only loves her bridegroom; she can't help but respect and trust him implicitly. She is ready to go with him anywhere, even to perils. She will gladly share all his future experiences. She is even jealous to share his sorrows and pain.

No way will the Lord allow this coming time of trouble to take place until His people collectively "marry" Christ in that capacity as a bride. And this means for them a growing-up "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13) like a bride is grown-up to be able to stand by the side of her bridegroom at the wedding.

A wedding means that now the bridegroom and bride will begin sharing life together. This explains how the coming time of trouble will be the "honeymoon" for Christ and His bride. They will get to know each other intimately as they share the excitement of that time. And if there is to be any pain and sorrow endured by God's people in the time of trouble, you can be sure that Christ will suffer it as much as they.

He is not the one who brings on the time of trouble; He will not cause it in any way. He would love to return the second time in perfectly peaceful circumstances; the time of trouble was never His idea. It is Satan's idea of a farewell party for the saints of God. It will be brought on entirely by the machinations of the wicked who let their hatred of God erupt into a final frenzy of rebellion. Christ will meet this head on as "Michael," the Son of God to be sure; but also the Son of man "not ashamed" to call us "brethren" (Heb. 2:14-18). He is a partaker of our "flesh and blood," the new Head of the human race, 100% human as well as 100% divine. Single-handedly He takes on the combined enmity of hell and of the apostate human race in the final defense of His people.

So we conclude this series of studies on the Book of Daniel with the standing up of "Michael"--the most solemn, awe-inspiring act humans have ever had a chance to see. All the Star Wars and Superman epics of fiction will be eclipsed by the grandeur of His final campaign when He sallies forth (Rev. 19:11-15).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 622.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, March 20, 2020

Lesson 12: From North and South to the Beautiful Land

Lesson 12: From North and South to the Beautiful Land


"Perplexity" is the word that the Son of God used to describe the kind of international stalemate that characterizes the relations between the Western World and the Middle East. The ABCs have been trying to find the elusive XYZs of peace. And Christ's word is right on. He said that "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be. ... upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity" (Luke 21:24, 25). Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians want all-out war, but their religious traditions are in total conflict over the fate of the tiny Old City of Jerusalem. Strange, that in our age of economic and political euphoria that mysterious Middle Eastern "city" still dominates world attention.

The words of Jesus are solemn, but cryptic. Prominent church leaders don't know for sure how to understand what He meant; and there are the equally mysterious chapters of Daniel 11 and 12 where the prophet spoke of political (and religious) developments centering in Jerusalem (the city "between the seas in the glorious holy mountain") as signaling the time for Christ to "stand up" at the beginning of the "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time" (11:45; 12:1). One's heart goes out to all political leaders who sincerely have been agonizing over what to do to prevent bloodshed.

The religious traditions of Jews and Muslims are deeply rooted and take us back to the biblical beginnings of the present tensions--the Old and New Covenants in the Book of Genesis (we take notice of this because of the 1888 Message bringing to our attention the two covenants).

In the last Book of the Bible we are introduced to God's solution to the crisis: the proclamation of a Good News New Covenant message that will "lighten the earth with glory" (Rev. 18:1-4). It will penetrate even to those deep roots of conviction that motivate Jews and Muslims. How that "loud cry" message will capture their attention is something only God knows. But it will; and it deserves our solemn attention just now. In that same Luke 21 Jesus says the time for fun and games is over (vss. 34-36).

Daniel 11 is probably the longest, most detailed prophecy of the Bible. It mentions wars, persecution, and suffering in connection with alliances and conflicts. National politics, world governments, and power plays involving nations and ideological factions seem overwhelming. All of this can easily cause believers to retreat or, just as dangerously, to embrace worldly methods to advance God's work. Many Christians have fallen into either of these extremes. Some have cowed before the challenge, while others have joined the world in an attempt to advance God's kingdom.

Beyond this important lesson, what else can we learn from Daniel 11 that is relevant and meaningful to our lives? This complex chapter shows that the powers of the world by themselves can neither thwart nor advance God's work.

Daniel 11 focuses on the kings of the north and the south because God's people, living between the warring parties, would be affected by the war and, ultimately, become the target of the final attack. However, as the prophecy reaches its climax, it becomes evident that the God who stands above and behind the unfolding military, political, and religious events will destroy the enemy.

As the prophecy unfolds, there arises "one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom" (Dan. 11:20). Historicist interpreters have identified this ruler as Caesar Augustus, who ordered the census that led to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1). Next, the prophecy predicts the rise of "a vile person" who has no legitimate claim to the throne and who destroys the "prince of the covenant" (Dan. 11:21, 22).

Augustus Caesar was a man of peace. He was famous as a "raiser of taxes." Luke speaks of "a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2:1), at the time that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Augustus' days were the "glory of the kingdom" of Rome. Peace was universal, corruption had been curbed, justice was maintained, and learning was promoted. He died a few years after the birth of Christ, not at the hand of assassins as happened so often, but peacefully in bed.

But Another was "broken" during the reign of Tiberius Caesar--the Prince of the Covenant, the Christ, the Son of God, mentioned as the "Messiah the Prince" in Daniel 9:25-27. This was the one great event of all world history. Rising above the stormy waves of a sea of corrupt human history, stands this eternal Rock of Ages--the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whence we have everlasting salvation.

The death of Christ, the "Prince of the covenant," confirms beyond all doubt the interpretation of these verses in Daniel 11. Christ died only once, under only one government, under only one Roman emperor--Tiberius Caesar. Like an expert surveying land, we see this landmark as making certain our understanding so far of the history in this prophecy.

People from the four quarters of the earth gathered around Christ in His last hours. The Greeks representing the cultured and proud of earth, came saying, "We would see Jesus" (John 12:21). The thief, representing the fallen failures of human life, repented as he was crucified with Jesus. The Roman soldier, a European, was convicted and said, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27:54). Simon of Cyrene from North Africa bore His heavy cross to Calvary, the first of hundreds of thousands of Africans who since have gladly shared the sufferings of Christ.

Could it be that what was "present truth" then is still present truth today? It was indeed the intention of Jesus Christ to have returned to earth to claim His people within the lifetime of those who first began to understand Daniel and Revelation in the opening of "the time of the end" (1798). The Millerites' prophetic expositions were carefully studied; their conclusions were conscientious and reasonable. Truth is still truth.

God's word has not failed, but God's people have failed to "follow on" to grasp the ever-developing "light" of justification by faith. Their failures have delayed the final victorious conclusion of "the great controversy between Christ and Satan." The delay has not been due to faulty prophetic understandings, but to a failure to grasp the self-humbling revelations of "the everlasting gospel." It must yet "lighten the earth with glory" when the fourth angel's message of Revelation 18 is finally proclaimed clearly.

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, March 13, 2020

Lesson 11: From Battle to Victory

Lesson 11: From Battle to Victory


Daniel chapter 10 is a link between the vision of the 490 years probation for the Jewish nation after their return from Babylonian captivity (9:24-27), and the final vision of world history to the "time of the end" (chapters 11 and 12). It is fascinating because it gives us a behind-the-scenes view of the way God intercedes to beat back the powers of darkness that is hindering His work.

The misunderstanding concerning "the daily" and what the "prince of the host" is, shows up again in Thursday's lesson. The "prince of the host" is not Christ. Neither is Daniel 8:11 referring to a heavenly "host" or angels. The "host" in Daniel 8:11 is the pagan military "host" that gave his power to the rising papacy in A.D. 508, when the Frankish king, Clovis, was baptized into the papal church, and surrendered his entire army to the service of the bishop of Rome. In that way, paganism was "absorbed into" and exalted in the papal, "little horn" system.

If this view is not accepted as correct, then there is no explanation for the 1290 years in Daniel 12:11, which is speaking of the very same "desolating power" that is prophesied in Daniel 8:9-12; 9:27, and 11:31. "Those who hold to the view that the 'daily' refers to the continual priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary and to the true worship of Christ in the gospel age find no satisfactory explanation of this text [Daniel 12:11]." [1]

Just as Satan was interfering with God's work in returning the Jews to Jerusalem and reestablishing them there as a sovereign nation (see Ezra 7:25, 26) in preparation for the first advent of Christ, so Satan has been working to hinder God's work through His remnant church that should be preparing for second advent of Christ. By infiltrating the modern remnant church with evangelical theology, such as "the daily" being the ministry of Christ, the claim that sin was finished at the cross (Calvinism), and futurism that is creeping into our prophetic teachings, God's people are being subtly led deeper into Laodicean lukewarmness. 

"This means that Satan will endeavor to commandeer the whole system of substitution just as he took over the old sacrificial system to fight against Christ and the preaching of the new covenant. He [Satan] will proclaim that the gospel of the Reformation, the preaching of Martin Luther, is sufficient to prepare a people for the second advent, and the Lord will come when we have done enough proclaiming. He [Satan] will insist that substitution is sufficient and there is no need for repentance and cleansing." [2]

"We may have much so-called 'righteousness by faith,' but it is a far cry from the light that the Lord gave this people in the 1888 message. And not only has the charismatic movement made attempts to seduce the remnant church through an extremely subjective 'gospel,' but the opposite extreme of a purely objective Calvinist or Reformationist 'gospel' has exploited our widespread ignorance of the 1888 message." [3]

Just as Christ and Gabriel wrestled with the leader of the Medes, Christ and the Holy Spirit are now wrestling with the leadership of the modern remnant church. "The Lord had [a blessing] for us at Minneapolis ... but there was no reception. Some received the light for the people and rejoiced in it. Then there were others that stood right back, and their positionhas given confidence to others to talk unbelief." "Leading men are giving a mold to the work that will result in a loss of souls." [4]

Christ has called His people to repentance through His last message to the world--"be zealous therefore, and repent!" (Rev. 3:19). We continue to believe the smooth words of theologians and cynics who claim that there will never be a "last generation" through whom Christ will demonstrate His power to perfect our characters, and prepare a people for translation. Accepting the words of the skeptics causes us to believe that there is nothing for us to do but wait for the grave to take us. If there will never be a people that finally surrenders to Christ and allows Him to clean us up, then the hope of translation evaporates as a mist.

"We have been enriched by an acceptance of the message that was to illuminate the earth with glory and prepare that generation for translation. Yet no one has been translated, and the loud cry has not yet lighted the earth. This means either one of two things: the message was not what Ellen White said it was, or our acceptance of it was not what we have supposed it was." [5]

We must not overlook the desperation under which Satan toils to prevent God's last message to the dying world from going forward. When it is accepted and proclaimed with the power of the Holy Spirit through the latter rain, Satan's days are at an end. Therefore, he is doing everything he can, using anyone who will promote conflict and doubt that will turn God's people from the message of Christ and His righteousness.

9"According to Ellen White, the 1888 Conference was a miniature Calvary, a demonstration of the same spirit of unbelief and opposition to God's righteousness that inspired the ancient Jews. The spirit that actuated the opposers of the message was not a minor misunderstanding, a temporary underestimate of a debatable doctrine. It was inward rebellion against the Lord. If the Lord's messenger [Ellen White] means what she says over and over, it was a reenactment of the crucifixion of Christ--in principle. This reality is our great stone of stumbling and our rock of offense." [6]

It is past time for us to wake from our Laodicean stupor, repent of our continued resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit in us as individuals, and as a corporate body. It is time for Christ to receive the honor and blessing due to Him when every creature on earth will proclaim, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever" (Rev. 5:13).

--Ann Walper

[1] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary,vol. 4, p. 881.
[2] Donald K. Short,Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed, p. 97, CFI ed. (2018).
[3] Robert J. Wieland,The 1888 Message: An Introduction, p. 34, Glad Tidings ed. (1980).
[4] Ellen G. White, quoted in Robert J. Wieland,Grace on Trial, p. 138, Glad Tidings ed. (2001).
[5] Ibid.
[6] Robert J. Wieland,Corporate Repentance: Plea of the True Witness, Glad Tidings ed., p. 127 (1992).

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, March 6, 2020

Lesson 10: From Confession to Consolation

Lesson 10: From Confession to Consolation


Many years ago one of the Andrews Seminary professors, Leslie Hardinge, had a unique way of looking at the prayer recorded in Daniel 9. He asked his students to read aloud the entire prayer, verses 3-19, and time how long it took. With a big grin on his face, he would read verse 23 where the angel Gabriel relates to Daniel that as soon as he started his prayer, Gabriel was commissioned to leave heaven and meet with Daniel on earth. With the grin still on his face, Dr. Hardinge would tell his students that this is a good indication of the distance between us and heaven.

While this idea might be a little tongue-in-cheek, it's just a literal way to make heaven more real. We know that the Holy Spirit given to us by Jesus is everywhere all the time, and in reality, He doesn't need a few minutes to get to us when we pray, but if Daniel had to wait, we can persist in prayer like he did.

This wasn't an ordinary prayer. Daniel had been studying his Bible, specifically the prophecies of Jeremiah (25:11, 12; 29:1, 10), and he realized that the captivity had been predicted to last only 70 years and that was almost done. At this point in his lengthy life, Daniel could have left studying to the younger men, but he knew the need for staying close to God through His written word. He was a prophet who had explained Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the image, and the first phase, the fall of Babylon and power transfer to Medo-Persia, had already happened. That must have made him a highly respected legend, yet he was remained humble enough to study the scriptures.

Daniel's prayer is one of the best examples of "corporate repentance" found in the Bible. "We are told: 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ' (Gal. 6:2). By taking his people's sins upon himself, Daniel was experiencing a repentance for the sins of others, as though they were his sins (he had not joined in their apostasy!). This is the kind of repentance that Jesus experienced in our behalf. When He came to John the Baptist requesting baptism, John refused Him, for he knew that Jesus was sinless. But Jesus had to explain to him that He has come as 'the Lamb of God' taking upon Himself the sins of the entire human race. … John was not permitted to baptize anyone except 'for repentance.' This repentance that Jesus experienced in our behalf was a corporate repentance--repenting for the sins of others, putting Himself in our place. As soon as we begin confessing 'our' sin as Daniel did, realizing that the sin of others would be our sin but for the grace of Christ, revival and refreshing of the Holy Spirit will sweep through God's people." [1]

Daniel's prayer begins with a hopeful note. "Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and Keep His commandments" (Dan. 9:4, New American Standard Bible). Daniel knew God didn't need to be reminded of His promises to His people, but it was probably good for Daniel to say these words and remind himself that he served a loving and faithful God. This is a gracious way to start any prayer which can serve to remind us that those promises (covenants) that He made to ancient Israel also apply to modern Israel who believe in Christ. (cf. Gal. 3:29). God is the loving, covenant keeping God that He has always been. It is the same God that came looking for Adam and Eve on the day they sinned. He was not coming to punish them so much as He was there to tell them that they had a significant problem that would kill them, but that He had a solution--the entire plan of salvation.

Daniel's prayer reveals the best reason for prayer. "Daniel pleads a reason that at present moves only a few of God's people to pray. Not for their own personal or selfish benefit, but that the Lord's name may be honored and glorified before the world.…Moses used the same argument in pleading for Israel (Num. 14:11-19). As we near the end, this paradigm shift in motivation will more and more impress God's people." [2]

One of the important facets of the 1888 message is that our motivation for seeking the Lord changes from self-centered requests for our own benefit. We join Daniel and Moses in their concern that the people of the world will misunderstand who God is and how much He loves and cares for His wayward children. Most people have trouble believing God loves even people who are against Him. They don't realize that God poured His love into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit while we were sinners, ungodly, helpless and enemies (see Rom. 5:5-10).

A little insight into the mind of Daniel is found in Daniel 9:21. He is offering his prayer "at about the time of the evening offering." Daniel knew the sanctuary in Jerusalem was demolished and we have no record that the Jews attempted or were even allowed to keep the services going while they were in Babylon. In his small way, Daniel was doing what he could to keep the prayers for his nation going by molding his life according to the sanctuary schedule. The "daily" sacrifices offered by the priests were "corporate" sacrifices made on behalf of the entire camp.

It is interesting that the question Daniel is asking is the one he first asked back in Daniel chapter 8 since he was troubled by that vision and had become sick and exhausted trying to understand it. Daniel had been studying to try to understand what "2300 evenings and mornings" meant for about 12-13 years since that original vision. Daniel was trying to fit the time frame into the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem, but he was still confused. Even though Daniel was assured in chapter 8:26 that the vision pertained to "many days in the future," he was still trying to understand it. This must be part of the reason Gabriel tells him he is "highly esteemed." He has persistently been praying for understanding for 12-13 years.

So many people have no interest in what is happening in heaven. Many go about our daily routines ignoring that there is a heaven and a God who is very interested in us. We fail to recognize how all of heaven is working for humanity's benefit to help us understand what heaven is trying to communicate. Daniel was given the vision of the 70-week prophecy which pinpoints when Christ would come to earth to accomplish the sacrificial phase of the plan of salvation.

Daniel chose to believe the Good News of the great plan of salvation that God was accomplishing through the centuries of earth's time. He also chose to respond and receive Christ's legal justification which gave Daniel the experience of justification by faith. This resulted in his obedience and interest in heavenly things. Pray that we who are privileged to hear this "most precious message" will also receive Christ's free gift.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Robert J. Wieland, The Gospel in Daniel, Glad Tidings Publishers. pp. 128-129 (2004).
[2] Ibid., p. 132.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: