Monday, July 24, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 3-06

Special Insights No. 6

Third Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Daniel 9”

Dear Subscriber,

Due to travel, Insight No. 9 is being sent to you a week early. May the Holy Spirit guide your study.—Carol Kawamoto for “Insights”


Daniel nine is an important chapter for Seventh-day Adventists. It is here that we find clear reference to beginning date for the prophecy which distinguishes us as a prophetic movement and sets us apart theologically from all other denominations. The chain of references actually begins in Daniel eight: “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (Dan. 8:14); “The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith” (Letter 208, 1906; Evangelism, p. 221).

An important aspect of this “correct understanding” depends upon understanding the time prophecy delineated by the 2300 days. But a time prophecy is useless unless one knows when it begins. We can get a hint at when this time prophecy begins through a careful study of Daniel chapter eight. It begins in the days of the “ram” (vs. 3), which represents the kingdom of Media-Persia (vs. 20). But we cannot determine the exact starting point without a study of Daniel chapter nine.

In chapter eight, Daniel uses the term “vision” several times. Note verses 1, 2, 13, 15, 16, 17, 26, and 27. However upon reading this chapter closely, one begins to sense that Daniel does not always use the word “vision” to refer to the same thing. Some refer to the entire vision of chapter eight, others refer only to the 2300 day portion of the vision. An examination of the Hebrew reveals that there are actually two different Hebrews words translated by the English word “vision,” chazown and mareh. When Daniel refers to the entire chapter’s content he uses the term “chazown” (see verses 1, 2, 13, 15, 17), but when he refers to the 2300 day portion he uses the term “mareh” (see vss. 16, 27, and the first reference in 26).

Now notice what it was that Daniel said he did not understand: “I was astonished by the vision [mareh], but no one understood it” (Dan. 8:27). But what was it that the angel Gabriel was especially sent to explain to Daniel? Verse 16 says: “And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision [mareh]’” (8:16, NKJV). Daniel understood the vision, but he did not understand the vision. That is he understood the chazown. He had seen this portion of history depicted in Nebuchanezzar’s dream. But he did not understand the mareh, the part which Gabriel was sent to explain.

Since Gabriel is a faithful angel, and he knew that he had not yet explained to Daniel that which he had been especially commissioned to explain, he returns as Daniel wrestles with the prophecy as described in chapter nine. Notice what he says when he comes to Daniel in verse 22: “‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision’” (Dan. 9:22-23, NKJV).

Which vision is it? Is it the chazown or the mareh? Which “vision” was Gabriel told to make Daniel understand in chapter eight? Which “vision “was it Daniel said he did not understand? It was the mareh. Thus the word that Gabriel uses in chapter nine is mareh. He came to explain the mareh. Thus we see clearly that verses 24 through 27 of Daniel chapter nine are an explanation of the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel chapter eight.

After explaining that the first seventy weeks are determined [Hebrew: chathak—to cut off] from the 2300 hundreds days as especially pertaining to the Jews, Gabriel provides the secret required for understanding the longest time prophecy in the Bible, the starting point: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times” (Dan. 7:25).

The commandment to restore and build both the temple and the city (Jerusalem) is recorded in the book of Ezra: the Jews built the city “according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (6:14). There were four commands to build the city and the way was not fully open for the work to be completed,according to God’s will until the fourth command, which was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia. His command is recorded in Ezra chapter seven. It was given in the seventh year of his reign (7:7).

In Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith, page 208 contains the following editorial footnote: “The years of Artaxerxes’ reign are among the most easily established dates of history. The Canon of Ptolemy, with its list of kings and astronomical observations, the Greek Olympiads, and allusions in Greek history to Persian affairs all combine to place the seventh year of Artaxerxes at 457 B.C. beyond successful controversion. See Sir Isaac Newton, Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel, pp. 154-157.”

Beginning with 457 B.C. all of the prophecies of Daniel chapter nine fall into place. The Messiah appears on time. He is “cut off” right on time, in the middle of the sixty-ninth week. The covenant is confirmed to the “seed of Abraham” for one week, exactly per the prophecy. And the end of sacrifices is indicated by the tearing of the veil of the temple from top to bottom by an unseen hand, right on time!

Some have attempted to change the interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel eight and nine in order to invalidate certain points of Seventh-day Adventist belief. However, a comprehensive review of the chapters reveal that much more is affected by tampering with this prophecy. The cross of Christ appears right in the middle of this prophecy. Therefore changing the interpretation in order to invalidate 1844 invalidates much more than the foundation of one denomination. It denies the cross of Christ and invalidates Christianity itself.

We must continue to believe, as the 1888 messengers’ believed and proclaimed, something very special began in 1844. It was then that Christ began a very special work for His people. Hear what one messenger, A. T. Jones, said:

“There is a difference between the forgiveness of sins and the blotting out of sin. There is a difference between the gospel being preached for the forgiveness of sins and the gospel being preached for the blotting out of sin. Always, and to-day, there is abundant provision for the forgiveness of sins. In our generation comes the provision for the blotting out of sin. And the blotting out of sin is what will prepare the way for the coming of the Lord; and the blotting out of sin is the ministry of our high Priest in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary; and it makes a difference to the people of God to-day in their ministry, in their message, and in their experience, whether they recognize ... or ... experience the fact of the change. ... That should be distinctly brought out in the third angel’s message; and with that, of course, will come the clearest revelation of the gospel ministry for this time, the blotting out of sin in this generation, thus preparing the way of the Lord” (General Conference Bulletin, 1903, pp. 53, 54; The 1888 Message An Introduction, page 162).

It is obviously Satan’s purpose to destroy the concept of the cleansing of the sanctuary and thus delay as long as possible (indefinitely if possible), the coming of Christ. May God’s purpose prevail.

Kelvin (Mark) Duncan


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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 4, Qtr 3-06

Special Insights No. 4

Third Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Daniel 7”


The introduction to our lesson states: “Daniel 7 covers the same ground as Daniel 2, as well as provides a key element not explicitly expressed in Daniel 2: the great judgment in heaven that leads directly to the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world as we know it. In short, in Daniel 7 we are shown the pre-Advent judgment.” Let’s discuss the judgment and answer several questions: What is the judgment? Why is there a judgment? Where, when, and how does the judgment take place? What does it mean?

The reason we have a judgment is because we have an accuser—a plaintiff. Lucifer (Satan) made the charge in heaven that it is impossible to keep God’s law. He was getting a following, so the questions had to be answered.

When man fell in Eden, Satan was able to say, “SEE!? I told you so! It is impossible to keep God’s law!” So God had to prove him in error. Hence, God became man—a living human being—taking upon Himself the same fallen sinful human flesh that you and I have in order to prove that it is possible to keep God’s law.

And He did it! He lived a perfect life in that same fallen flesh that we all have. But one question remained. God could do it in human flesh, but is it possible for humans that are not God to do it? So here we are, waiting for man to live a perfect life. If we were left on our own, then there would be no hope. Thank God, He came as our representative and did it as us. Now let’s allow Him do it again—in us.

That is the “why” of the judgment, but let’s answer the question, what is the judgment ? God has already passed His judgment upon us. He says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). How can this be His judgment on us? After all, we are far from perfect! The answer is in Genesis 1: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” God’s word has, inherent within it, the power to create what it says. That is how He creates—by speaking it into existence. The real question is: do we believe it? If we do believe, we will act as we truly believe. We always do. No one can hold a mask forever. The all-important question is, “What do you believe?” If you believe God’s word, taking it for what it actually says, then God will work out in your experience what you truly believe. So let’s believe God and be done with it.

Well, that is the “what” of judgment. But can you see that this is also the “where” of judgment? All of this takes place in our hearts. You know, we all like to think that God is the judge—and He is, but ultimately ... Well, let’s allow God say it Himself. In John 5:22 He says, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son,” and in John 3:17 He says, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” So the Son judges, but He does not condemn. He judges only righteousness and brings only deliverance. The work of the judge, at least in Bible times, was to deliver the accused, not to condemn him (Psalm 76:8, 9; Judges 2:16; 1 Sam. 24:15).

But, does not God condemn people to destruction? Look at John 3:18, 19: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 “messengers,” writes in The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, that even the impenitent receive deliverance (p. 119, new ed.).

The finishing of the mystery of God is the ending of the work of the gospel. And the ending of the work of the gospel is, first, the taking away of all vestige of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness—Christ fully formed—within each believer, God alone manifest in the flesh of each believer in Jesus; and, secondly, on the other hand, the work of the gospel being finished means only the destruction of all who then shall not have received the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10): for it is not the way of the Lord to continue men in life when the only possible use they will make of life is to heap up more misery for themselves.”

So, you see, we judge ourselves. The place of ultimate judgment is in our hearts. I may ask again, “What do you believe? And what do you really want?”

When does judgment take place? Judgment is a two-step process. First, God says, “You are perfect” and second, man chooses whether to believe. John 12:31-32 says, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.” Judgment began at the cross and ends when the last ember from the lake of fire goes out.

So what does Daniel have to do with all of this? Daniel sets the time of the judgment hour message. Daniel 7:13 is a specific reference to 1844, when Christ, as High Priest entered the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the process of removing the sins of the people—a cleansing of Laodicea, if you will (The Great Controversy, p. 424). Although this is called the pre-Advent judgment, it is also called the “investigative” judgment. But, what is God investigating?

Recalling the above-mentioned trial scenario, Satan is the plaintiff, God is the defendant, and the universe is the jury. But there is one “player” missing : “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). God needs witnesses at His trial. Revelation 14 is all about God’s trial (vs. 7) and the 144,000 witnesses (vss. 1-5). The investigative judgment is God looking through those who are alive at the end of time to see whether there is faith in the earth—whether there is anyone who is qualified to be a witness as to what God can do in fallen, sinful, human flesh—today—in your flesh and in my flesh. Not now Christ Himself, who did it 2000 years ago, but Christ’s character in you and me today—the mystery of godliness. Look at Colossians 1:27, 28, “To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

The judgment hour is not a time of nail-biting for God’s people!

Craig Barnes

Note: Emphases in Bible texts are the author’s.


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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 3, Qtr 3-06

Special Insights No. 3

Third Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Daniel 2”


In five simple but concise verses, God describes thousands of years of earth’s history in Daniel 2. Seventh-day Adventists have a special interest in this image because of the light it sheds on end time events. But is the special 1888 message understanding of righteousness by faith in the story? Or is the story just a mere historical curiosity, devoid of the gospel? Exploring the details of the image is interesting, but the real lesson is in the reactions of the people involved.


The king had forgotten his message from God. The collective wisdom of Babylon couldn’t read the king’s mind, in spite of a death decree. Daniel interceded for the pagan “wise” men, asking for time to pray to his God. The king could have interpreted this request as defiance and hastened the executions. Daniel’s request was courageous but not reckless. His faith was mature enough to openly stand for his God even in the face of death.


Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have already had severe tests of their faith. Torn from home as teenagers, the forced march from Jerusalem to Babylon provided time to make decisions. Like Joseph on the trip to Egypt, they made the right choice, to serve God, come what may. Only an unembellished reference to their master being “chief of the eunuchs” (Dan. 1:3, KJV) tells of the personal cruelty they have suffered. Their first recorded test was on diet, and from that and most likely other tests, they knew that God was using them to witness for Him. Faith does not mature without trial.


Daniel logically believed God would use this event as an opportunity witness. His prayer of thanksgiving (Dan. 2:19-23) and his attribution of the interpretation to God (vs. 27-28) is evidence of Daniel’s humble walk with his Lord. He concluded confidently (verse 45), “the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure” (KJV).


Daniel then did a most unselfish thing by asking that his friends be included in the reward given to him. Thus, it can be said that by his intercession they were to sit with him in places of honor and responsibility.


Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction turns from gratitude to gadol, the Hebrew word for self-exaltation, which is what the king demonstrated by revising the dream. Nebuchadnezzar is accustomed to selecting what to accept from the gods. Ignoring Jehovah’s prediction of Babylon’s overthrow, the king likes the idea of making the image entirely of the metal used to represent his kingdom. Even better is the suggestion that everybody come to worship it. The notable characteristic of Babylon, literal and symbolic, is the willingness to force outward conformance in religion without concern for heart change. Babylon refuses to believe there is any Power that has the ability to create a genuine change of the heart, so it always has to settle on outward show. Force is an acceptable and necessary component of this system.


God cannot accept outward show without a genuine change of heart. Because He is the essence of love (agape) He will never force. But, with consent, He can and will change the heart. The 1888 message explains that a special change of heart is required before the church is ready to be tested like Daniel and his friends. A lukewarm form of legalism will never survive a severe test. Outward performance without genuine heart change cannot provide the faith necessary to believe their sacrifice will be rewarded.


The secular political leadership (Dan. 3:3) kneeled down in worship when the celebratory music played. But three young men chose to stand, ironically without Daniel, their mediator. Their insistence on glorifying only the true God and their willingness to face death illuminated the minds of the leaders of the whole world. The church that will give the great message of the fourth angel in Revelation 18 is no longer concerned for her own welfare, but only for that of her bridegroom, Jesus Christ. She has come out of all interaction with the religion of Babylon.


The king is furious, but instead of ordering immediate executions, demands that they be brought to see him. I can imagine the rationalization tempting them during the walk to the palace. “We now have the king’s attention. If we stay alive, we can give him Bible studies and he’ll get baptized. We could just half-way bend over with a mental reservation that we don’t believe it.” Practical, expedient, good human reasons. Not these boys. This was another opportunity to witness during great tribulation, but not by compromise. They have come out of Babylon, and are not afraid to declare their position. There is no sitting on the fence.


The king thinks they weren’t “ready” (Dan. 3:15) and gives them a second chance. Their confidence in their God is unshakable. Like the five virgins in the parable whose lamps were full of oil, they needed no more time (v. 16). The decision to continue trusting their God has become a way of life, they live in readiness. Even if not rescued in this life, they will go to their sleep-death knowing that God could use them to witness. They will not disappoint Him. Daniel, who has always interceded for them, is not with them, but intercession is no longer required. They have been sealed by daily choices. They “could not see through the portals” of that fire, but they chose to trust their God.


An entire verse (Dan. 3:21) is devoted to describing the clothing the young men were wearing when they were thrown into the furnace. This is not insignificant “filler” in the story. Clothing in the Bible generally describes character. The character we take to heaven is the righteousness of God frequently described as “linen, clean and white” (Rev. 19:14). When they landed in that furnace, these young men were clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness “woven in the loom of heaven, which has in it not one thread of human devising” (The Signs of the Times, Nov. 22, 1905).


That their lives were preserved is only one of the miracles in this story. The real miracle is that before what looked like a fiery end, God had prepared a small remnant who were willing to stand without their mediator, knowing by faith that regardless of outcome, their God could preserve them.


Were they given that kind of courage before they needed it? No! Our assurance does not come from present courage and strength, but by believing that we will be given what we need when the time comes. It is sad indifference to the cause of God when people fear the time of trouble, hoping to get to heaven “on the sleeper car.” What if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had decided to get to heaven that way? Maybe they would have made it anyway, but they would have deprived God of an unequivocal instance where He changed fearful human hearts.


“The Lord abhors indifference and disloyalty in a time of crisis in His work. ... All through the ages, God has had moral heroes, and He has them now—those who, like Joseph and Elijah and Daniel, are not ashamed to acknowledge themselves His peculiar people. ... Such men make their wills and plans subordinate to the law of God. For love of Him they count not their lives dear unto themselves. Their work is to catch the light from the Word and let it shine forth to the world in clear, steady rays” (Prophets and Kings, p. 148).

Arlene Hill


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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 2, Qtr 3-06

Special Insights No. 2

Third Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Judgment Must Begin”


The author of this week’s lesson employs the word “judgment” in two different ways. In Sunday and Monday’s lessons, judgment is used in the sense of executing the judgment or the verdict; in Tuesday through Thursday’s lessons judgment is used in the sense of determining the verdict, which Adventists normally connect with the investigative judgment.


The author sets out to answer the question, “How are the judgment and the gospel linked?” He rightly answers that Jesus died as our Substitute and that “there is no such thing as the gospel without judgment, because the ‘good news’ of the gospel is that we are spared condemnation.” But upon serious reflection this view of the gospel seems somewhat narrow and man-centered.


Corporate Judgment

The Bible is abundantly clear that the gospel is all-inclusive, irreversible, and contains some unconditional good news. Jesus is the Savior of the world; He is the Savior all men, especially those who believe; He gave Himself a ransom for all; He, Himself, is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (John 4:42; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Tim. 1:6; 1 John 2:2). He tasted the second death for all and abolished that death temporally and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (Heb. 2:9; 2 Tim 1:10). As a result of the gospel Adam’s fall has been redeemed and man has been placed on vantage ground and given a second trial, a second probation.


“The inheritance of children is that of sin. Sin has separated them from God. Jesus gave His life that He might unite the broken links to God. As related to the first Adam, men receive from him nothing but guilt and the sentence of death. But Christ steps in and passes over the ground where Adam fell, enduring every test in man’s behalf. He redeems Adam’s disgraceful failure and fall by coming forth from the trial untarnished. This places man on vantage ground with God. It places him where through accepting Christ as His Saviour, he becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Thus he becomes connected with God and Christ. Christ’s perfect example and the grace of God are given him to enable him to train his sons and daughters to be sons and daughters of God” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 9, p. 236).


“Christ died for a ruined world, and through the merit of Christ, God has elected that man should have a second trial, a second probation, a second test as to whether he will keep the commandments of God, or walk in the path of transgression, as did Adam” (Review and Herald, Sept. 28, 1897).


Adam’s offense condemned our human nature, but Christ assumed that condemned human nature and executed that condemned nature at the cross, thereby providing the gift of justification to every man while simultaneously bestowing probationary life upon all men. This is the corporate, unconditional good news of the gospel. The verdict of condemnation that came upon the world from Adam’s offense was executed at the cross. So we read in John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world, now the prince of this world will be cast out.” From a corporate perspective and by virtue of the incarnation whereby the Son of God assumed our condemned human nature, God not only executed judgment upon the world at the cross, He saved the world.


“Christ was tempted by Satan in a hundredfold severer manner than was Adam, and under circumstances in every way more trying. The deceiver presented himself as an angel of light, but Christ withstood his temptations. He redeemed Adam’s disgraceful fall, and saved the world. There is hope for all who will come to Christ, and receive Him as their personal Saviour” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, p. 40).


Those who disavow this good news will ultimately condemn themselves and suffer the wrath of God. This is the condemnation: light has come into world and men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19).


Personal Judgment

The Bible is also clear as the quarterly points out that everyone will come into judgment where a verdict will be rendered concerning everyone’s response to the corporate good news of the gospel. Seventh-day Adventists should feel a special sense of urgency and responsibility to the world. Not only is the judgment underway in heaven, but the wedding is underway. Jesus Himself said, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocks, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them” (John 12:35-37).


The world is to be warned of the impending executive judgment and they are to be compelled by invitation to go the wedding in heaven. But the invitation must be bathed in the unconditional corporate good news of the gospel. Namely, by His sacrifice Christ has wrought out and provided the gift of an acquittal to all while bestowing probationary life upon all. But there is a cost for those who wish to go to the wedding. They must surrender their righteousness by identifying with Christ and His death and resurrection and thereby be clothed with His righteous character. The cost is extravagant for God and free to the sinner.

John W. Peters


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Monday, July 03, 2006

Special Notice for "Insights" Subscribers

Dear “Insights” Subscribers


Recognizing that his Sabbath School Lesson comments are not always “ordinary,” the editors of ADVENTIST TODAY and SPECTRUM Magazine have both invited Robert J. Wieland to contribute comments for their publications regarding this “hot” Adventist topic of the Sanctuary, 1844, the Judgment, and the Gospel. Wieland’s comments on the 14 lessons (available on cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3s) are made within the context of the “hot” comments that are rocking the church during this 3rd Quarter. Helpful to Sabbath School teachers as well as class members.


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