Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 10, Qtr 3-06

Special Insights No. 10

Third Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment”

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

Rome and Antiochus”


Our lesson takes a different turn this week as it focuses upon the major view that the Christian world takes when studying the prophecies of Daniel. The lesson author deals with the subject in two parts, this week and the next, so we will here look at these general questions: “What difference does this view of Antiochus as the little horn make to the gospel in Daniel?” “Is there a reason why the view of Antiochus is so prevalent and what might we miss if we accept such a belief?”


To answer these questions we need to first review why God sent Israel into Babylon. Usually we assume that God’s purpose for the Captivity was primarily punishment for Israel’s rebellion and stubbornness. However, a closer look at the book of Jeremiah suggests a more redemptive purpose. In chapter 25 Jeremiah tells of God’s displeasure with His people, and that they will be taken by Nebuchadnezzar as slaves.


It is an interesting side note that this whole issue dates back to Israel’s cry for a king, to be like other nations (1 Sam. 8:1-5; cf. 7:3-4). They are still not convinced that God is big enough to lead them by Himself. Now it seems that He is going to let Israel have the best possible opportunity to see the other nations and how they operate. In chapter 29 Jeremiah picks up the same topic of how Israel will go to Babylon, but notice His intent:


“‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart’” (Jer. 29:10-13, NASB).


It would seem that God’s intention was to have Israel learn their need of a new heart from their experiences in Babylon. Please read Jeremiah 30-31, especially 31:31-34, and compare God’s instructions to Moses in Deuteronomy 4-11. Note the emphasis upon the connection between serving God from the heart and the danger of Baal worship. It is as if God was putting on another evangelistic series in Babylon as He did in Egypt to wean His people off false gods and build faith in Him and His ways by putting them where they have to closely compare Him with other gods!


When we see God’s explicit intent in sending Israel to Babylon, then the issues that are dealt with in the prophecies of Daniel take on a deeper significance. For example, the suggestion that Antiochus is the little horn because he desecrated the Jewish temple by erecting idols in its precinct and offering strange sacrifices does not address God’s issues with Israel as delineated by Jeremiah. Israel had already desecrated the temple in a way far worse than Babylon or Antiochus could ever do by their heart rebellion and then denying they had done anything wrong (see Jer. 7:4-11). The thought that restoring the physical temple and its services would resolve the problem seems futile unless the real issues are dealt with.


Even before the time of Antiochus (174-165 B.C.), God spoke through Malachi about what His people were doing after returning from Babylon. God saw the condition of the people and what they were doing in the temple that Zerubabbel restored (Eze. 8:1-17). God was so disappointed that He said, “‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates [of the temple] that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you’” (Mal. 1:10, NASB). Clearly Israel had not grasped their problem, and more specifically God’s New Covenant gift of a new heart and a life of righteousness by faith in Him.


With the coming of 1844, attention was drawn to the heavenly sanctuary. Through the Sabbath issue the world was again brought to face the problem of Israel. The Sabbath focused attention upon the law and its relationship to the gospel in ways most had not understood. The Old Testament had been seen as being only for the Jews, and the New for Christians. Now that was challenged. The need to cleanse the heart of sin needed to be seen in light of the law and the gospel. Unfortunately, too many of our pioneers became debaters over the Sabbath and failed to see the deeper issues of Christ and His righteousness and what this means for the world.


When E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones (the 1888 “messengers”) began to speak on the law and the gospel, they brought a new focus. The covenant issue highlighted the need to better understand what God had originally expected of Israel in how they were to obey Him. The other unique views, such as what Christ had done for all men, the closeness of Christ to the sinner, etc., all united in addressing the real issue that God had been dealing with His people from the beginning. The 1888 message was Heaven’s gift to finally overcome the heart of sin that had derailed God’s people for so many years. Is this not what we should have expected “the beginning” of the loud cry and latter rain to do?


So, we return to the two questions we started with. (1) “What difference does this view of Antiochus as the little horn make to the gospel in Daniel?” Simply put, the Antiochus view derails the 2300 day prophecy which reveals God’s timetable to finally resolve the besetting problem of His church. The sanctuary services properly understood show that God’s intent to cleanse the earth of sin includes cleansing the hearts of His people, and they need to understand His ways that will get the job done. Nothing less will do.


(2) “Is there a reason why the view of Antiochus is so prevalent and what might we miss if we accept such a belief?” Again simply put, we face an enemy that is determined to distract us from the source of our estrangement from our Heavenly Father. Anything that blinds us to our real need and its remedy while our Savior is preparing the final work for His coming will ultimately render us unfit for eternity. Jesus is not willing that any should be lost. The work that is before us is most important. May we gather courage and strength from the history of God’s saving work for His people from the beginning, knowing that we are laboring in harmony with Heaven’s purpose in this Day of Atonement.

Robert Van Ornam


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