Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 5

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

More Life Under the Sun


By the time Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes he had wandered far from the path God intended for him. The slippery slope of self-confidence and pride began when he ignored the command of God and took a foreign wife (Deut. 17:14-20). When this worked out well, and she converted to the worship of Jehovah, Solomon was encouraged to continue along this same path (Prophets and Kings, pp. 53-54). As time went on, the more he knew, accomplished, and accumulated, the less he felt the need of faith in God. Through his indulgence in sin, Solomon’s God-given wisdom was perverted to vain imagination. Solomon the Christian became Solomon the philosopher, attempting to arrive at truth through his own reasoning powers (see ibid., pp. 56-57).

During his slide Solomon had developed what some commentaries have defined as an existentialistic philosophy, from which he declared that all his life’s work and pleasures were meaningless. Chapter four relates these facts as Solomon experienced them: In life all men suffer from oppression (4:1-3), rivalry (4:4-6), and isolation (4:7-12). He also observed that popularity of any stripe is only temporary (4:13-16). Amongst all this misery, he tells us that he saw no “comforter” and no “companion” to ease the burden. Even when a person is in his grave, no one mourns the loss.

Along the path of life Solomon had lost sight of God as the source of his power and wisdom. He lost sight of how God earnestly and untiringly works in the world and in people’s lives. He began looking at man and the things of man for understanding. All that Solomon had gained by his own means was worthless because he had turned his back on the everlasting covenant God had promised His people (see Gen. 12:2, 3), and undertook the journey of life under his own power.

From the beginning Israel was a called-out people (see Ex. 19:4-6), intended by God to be a peculiar and holy people, a witnessing people who would declare His power and glory throughout the world. If they had heeded their high calling, within a short time, they would have carried the Gospel to all the surrounding nations. God would have been known everywhere. Instead, they merely colonized Palestine, settling in among their heathen neighbors. Rather than converting these people to God’s truth, the Israelites were seduced into the faithless ways of the nations around them. Through King David God established a people who were more faithful than those in the past had been. Solomon was to continue the work begun by his father, bringing the world into a knowledge of their redemption from sin through the promised Messiah.

Israel was at the center of commerce in the ancient world, with several major traffic lanes passing through and near Jerusalem. Peace was extended during Solomon’s reign so that the Gospel could be preached unhindered to all persons who would travel through Palestine. However, the opportunities were squandered. As he rose in power, Solomon forgot that it was God who promised to make Israel a “great nation.” He neglected the truth that the great nation which God built under his watch was to be a “peculiar people”—distinctly different from those around them. It was to be a “kingdom of priests” to reach out to the surrounding nations with the message of mercy from the only true God, the Saviour of the world (Isa. 43:3, 11). (For more insight please read E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 272-278; 2002 Glad Tidings version; see also Prophets and Kings, p. 71.)

“Two things have always been true, namely, that ‘no man liveth unto himself,’ and that ‘God is no respecter of persons;’ and these two truths form a third, which is that whenever God bestows any gift or advantage upon any person, it is in order that He may use it for the benefit of others. God does not bestow blessings upon one person or people that He does not wish all to have.” (op. cit., p. 269). The blessings of God are to be universal. Solomon had perverted them, bottled them up for himself, and deprived those he was supposed to benefit with the gifts he’d received from God.

In his later years, Solomon repented for having squandered his witnessing opportunities. In light of what had been neglected, all that Solomon had accumulated was worthless. In his contemplations Solomon finally recognized his true condition: he was “rich and had been enriched, and [thought that he] was in need of nothing” (see Rev. 3:17).

But something vital was missing from his life. In his inmost soul Solomon longed for the intimacy that a thousand wives could never give him. He missed the comfort that resides in heart-felt reciprocal companionship. In all his chasing about after the lusts of the flesh, he found no rest for his soul.

However, all these treasures are included in the everlasting promise God gave to the world. In deep intimacy with God there is assurance, peace, comfort in trials, and defense against the wiles of the devil. The sad reality is that most do not want what God has given to them. As in Solomon’s life, the follies of this world throw a veil over the blessings of God, obscuring the good news of redemption from sin and everlasting fellowship with God.

In the end, Solomon saw that without God all man’s efforts are worthless. He decided that the only thing that was important in the world was loyalty to God; a total surrender of the heart and mind to the One who loved us enough to give up His own life to save us from sin (Phil. 2:5-8). All God has ever expected from His creatures is an honest, appreciative response to all the blessings He’s already poured out upon us.

God still has a called out people known around the world as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1888 He sent His “most precious message” of Christ and His righteousness through two young men, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. This was the message that uplifted the crucified Redeemer, revealing the Saviour’s matchless love. It was to be “proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in large measure” (see Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-92).

It is time for us to realize our destitute condition and our great need of repentance for squandering God’s opportunities to carry His “most precious message” around the world. Only when we are humbled in the dust at the foot of the cross can we complete the work God called us to accomplish. Under the promised Latter Rain power, we then will declare to the oppressed, lonely inhabitants of the world that there is a Comforter and the dearest of companions, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Lord. He alone can fulfill all our heart’s desires and give us everlasting happiness. —Ann Walper


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 4, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 4

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

Of Being and Time


Time ... some would say it’s relative. Even to those who know nothing of the Theory of Relativity know that it can seem to be relative. There are occasions when it seems to pass so quickly, like when you’re facing a deadline to complete the Sabbath School Insights. And there are other occasions when it seems to drag on at a snail’s pace, like when you’re waiting for a loved one to return from the operating room. Time ... is it really relative? Science says “yes.” What does the Bible teach?


“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecc. 3:1). There is a time for every purpose. God has a purpose, an objective, a yearning desire. His purpose is to bring to His home, the bride of Christ. The final consummation of the plan of redemption is yet future. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Can it be that God also “groans”?


There is a time for every purpose. Therefore the final consummation awaits its proper time. Before it can take place there are other events which must take place. The latter rain must fall. The gospel commission must be completed. The harvest of both the righteous and the wicked must become ripe. The seven last plagues, and second advent, each await the proper time, the time designated for that purpose. Is time relative, or is the appropriateness of events relative? Does time change or do events change in their significance, their meaning, their quality of rightness or wrongness depending on their place in the stream of time?


At one time in the now far too distant past, the time was right for the outpouring of the latter rain and the subsequent related events. At the 1893 General Conference Session A. T. Jones reported:


“I received a letter a little while ago from Brother Starr in Australia. I will read two or three sentences because they come in well just at this place in our lessons: ‘Sister White says that we have been in the time of the latter rain since the Minneapolis meeting’” (General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 377).


Some are amazed and taken aback by that announcement. Some find it incredible until the clear evidence supporting it is examined. The time for God’s purpose had come. It was time for the final events. And it was a time of solemn joy that thrilled the hearts of believers. In those days Jones also said:


“Let us thank the Lord that he is dealing with us still, to save us from our errors, to save us from our dangers, to keep us back from wrong courses, and to pour upon us the latter rain, that we may be translated. That is what the message [1888 message] means—translation—to you and me” (ibid., p. 185).


Some sensed that the time for God’s purpose had come. A. T. Jones was clearly one of those who understood:


“He has been trying these four years to have us receive the latter rain, how much longer is He going to wait before we receive it?


“And the fact of the matter is, something is going to be done. ... That is the fearfulness of the situation at this meeting; that is what lends to this meeting its fearful character. The danger is that there will be some here who have resisted this for four years, or perhaps who have not resisted it that long, who will now ... fail to receive it as the Lord gives it, and will be passed by. A decision will be made by the Lord, by ourselves in fact, at this meeting ( ibid., p. 377, emphasis added).


Something was done. A “decision” was made. The exact moment in time when the decision was made is not important. The content of the decision is important for all Seventh-day Adventists to understand. I am certain most of the readers of Insights are fully aware of the “decision.”


“There was a time when this work was made necessary, because our own people opposed the work of God by refusing the light of truth on the righteousness of Christ by faith. This they should have received and reechoed with heart and voice and pen, for it is their only efficiency” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 401).


“The true religion, the only religion of the Bible—believing in the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of Christ, and the blood of the Lamb—has been not only slighted and spoken against, ridiculed, and criticized, but suspicions and jealousies have been created, leading into fanaticism and atheism” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 948).


The rejection of the message and the latter rain which accompanied it could not have been more emphatic. Therefore time has gone on. God’s purpose has been delayed. It was not His will that time should have lasted this long. Long before now, He wanted to usher His earth-bound children into eternity. But the question remains: is time relative?


It would seem that it is. Although events are relative (i.e., appropriate or inappropriate depending upon time), time is also relative depending upon events. The time had come for the outpouring of the latter rain, but when God’s people refused the gift it was withdrawn and the events associated with it delayed. It would not have been appropriate for God to force the blessing upon unwilling, unappreciative, unbelieving hearts. Time made some events appropriate. Yet other events made the time inappropriate. Yes. Events are relative, but so is time.


“God ‘hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world.’ Acts 17:31. Christ tells us when that day shall be ushered in. He does not say that all the world will be converted, but that ‘this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.’ By giving the gospel to the world it is in our power to hasten our Lord's return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God. 2 Peter 3:12, margin. Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory” (The Desire of Ages, p. 633-634).

Kelvin (Mark) Duncan


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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 3, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 3

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

“All That My Eyes Desired”


[A note to the reader: We attempt to keep the length of “Insights” to no more than two pages, however this week we are sharing the full text of Pastor Penno’s essay. We hope it will benefit your study.]


The people of God in Solomon’s day enjoyed peace, security, and prosperity unparalleled in all their history. The king did not have to worry about fending off enemies because his borders had been expanded and secured by his father King David. Israel was at its height of glory. God had given wisdom to Solomon. The nations came to his doorstep to take in his seminars on botany, meterology, zoology, physiology, psychology, etc. They paid good money and honorariums. Thus Solomon’s kingdom was renowned for wisdom and wealth.

But this gift of God was squandered by Solomon through taking his eyes off of the One who gave him wisdom and turning to hedonism, materialism, and sex. In others words, he lost his first love of God who is agape. He became a weak, puny man because he was ruled by his passions and pride and so-called wisdom. God would have used him to proclaim His glory throughout the whole world, but he turned inward to himself. For years and years Solomon was oblivious to his vain journey inward.

In many respects, his life runs parallel to that of the Laodicean church of whom her Lord says, “thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art [the outstanding one who is] wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Jesus says this of a people who have been blessed beyond measure with wisdom and spiritual wealth, but who have failed to recognize the day of their visitation and thus become proud and vain. They do not recognize they are sinners and in need of a healing High Priest in the most holy place. It is their unknown sin which only Jesus can remedy in the final Day of Atonement. They are outstanding above all the other six churches with regard to their wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked condition.

Solomon had a lot to say about fools, but he never called himself a fool. But if a person is so wise, why doesn’t he recognize his own foolishness? Because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 19:9). Only God can know it. And the Heavenly Psychiatrist ministering His blood in the final blotting out of sins seeks to reveal to His people their deeply buried antagonism toward Him and His message of love. He is seeking to get their attention so they can know their heart enmity and confess it knowingly to Him so that they might experience the healing power of His gospel.

The wisdom of Laodicea came from God in opening up the landmark truths during the 1844 era. They included the third angel’s message, the ark of God in the heavenly temple shedding light on the Ten Commandments and the fourth—the seventh day Sabbath. The non-immortality of the soul and life only in Christ was coupled with the hope of a soon coming Deliverer. This message has been going forth to the world for over 120 years and is doing a marvelous work in baptizing thousands. But it will never finish His work.

The Lord promised a special message which would energize the third angel’s message and was called the loud cry accompanied by the latter rain of the Holy Spirit—an addition to the third angel’s message. “Then I saw another mighty angel commissioned to descend to the earth, to unite his voice with the third angel, and give power and force to his message [Rev. 18:1]. Great power and glory were imparted to the angel, and as he descended, the earth was lightened with his glory. The light which attended this angel penetrated everywhere. ... The work of this angel comes in at the right time to join in the last great work of the third angel’s message as it swells to a loud cry. ... I saw a great light resting upon them, and they united to fearlessly proclaim the third angel’s message. ... This message seemed to be an addition to the third message, joining it ...” [1]

God fulfilled His promise and sent a “most precious message” and the beginnings of the latter rain at the Minneapolis General Conference of 1888. “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. ... This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” [2]

This wisdom God poured out upon His people through their High Priest in the most holy place—the Wisdom and Word of God. It included seven wonderful gospel truths of the 1888 message:

1. The Unconditional Love of God for Humanity. God did not recognize such value in us that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. His agape dared to step down lower and lower, even the death of the cross, in order to rescue His enemies and carry them home on His shoulders (Luke 19:10; Rom. 5:10).

“The Spirit is constantly seeking to draw the attention of men to the great offering that was made on the cross of Calvary, to unfold to the world the love of God. ...” [3]

2. The Two Covenants. The new covenant is God’s one-way promise to forgive our sins and write His law in our hearts, and to give us everlasting salvation as a free gift “in Christ.” The old covenant is the vain promise of the people to obey, and “gives birth to bondage” (Gal. 4:24; Mark 14:29-31).

“The covenant and promise of God are one and the same.” “That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, ‘mutual’ affair—a transaction in which they can consider themselves on a par with God.” [4]

“The terms of the ‘old covenant’ were, obey and live. ... The ‘new covenant’ was established upon ‘better promises’—the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law.” [5]

3. Temporary Justification, Forgiveness of Sins for Every One While There Is Life. Justification of life reverses the damage done by Adam’s inheritance of sin, condemnation, and death. “The judicial action, following upon the one offense, issued in a verdict of condemnation, but the act of grace, following upon so many misdeeds, issued in a verdict of acquittal. ... It follows, then, that as the issue of one misdeed was condemnation for all men, so the issue of one just act is acquittal and life for all men” (Rom. 5:16, 18, NEB).

“‘By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.’ There is no exception here. As the condemnation came upon all, so the justification comes upon all. Christ has tasted death for every man. He has given Himself for all. Nay, He has given Himself to every man. The free gift has come upon all. The fact that it is a free gift is evidence that there is no exception. If it came upon only those who have some special qualification, then it would not be a free gift.” [6]

4. The Humanity of Christ. [7] Christ took the sinful human nature of men/women after the fall of Adam that needed redeeming. That which is not assumed is not healed (Rom. 8:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Christ took our weakness toward sin and faced all the temptations that are common to humanity (Heb. 4:15).

“‘He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken.’ Wherein did He link Himself with us?—In our flesh; in our nature.”  [8]

5. Heart-Appreciation. If you have a heart-appreciation for what Jesus accomplished on His cross for you in dying your second death, then it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost. This is an everlasting covenant perspective of overcoming sin (Matt. 11:28; 2 Cor. 5:14; Rom. 2:4).

“Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road is the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love [agape] has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. ... And all the way up the steep road leading to eternal life are well-springs of joy to refresh the weary.”  [9]

6. Justification by Faith and the Cleansing of the Sanctuary. For 1800 years until 1844 Jesus was engaged as High Priest in a first apartment ministry of forgiveness of sins and preparing a people to die and come up in the resurrection. Since 1844 our High Priest is in the second phase of ministry cleansing the sanctuary of sin beginning with cleansing the known and unknown sins of His people individually and corporately (Acts 3:19). This prepares them for translation at His second coming.

This experience of justification by faith is a fulfillment of the everlasting covenant and is the third angel’s message in verity which prepares a bride to be translated and enter the wedding with her groom—Jesus (Rev. 19:7).

7. The 1888 Message Helps Us to Glory in the Cross (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:2). “[Christ] took in His grasp the world over which Satan claimed to preside as his lawful territory, and by His wonderful work in giving His life, He restored the whole race of men to favor with God.” [10]

God drew Solomon out of his long life of dissipation and self-absorption to repentance. He finally hobbled with his cane back into the congregation at the end of his life. May Christ grant to Laodicea repentance. She needs to make herself ready (Rev. 19:7). Finally, her concern is for the Bridegroom.

Paul Penno


[1] Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 277, 278.

[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.

[3] Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 52.

[4] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 71.

[5] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372.

[6] Waggoner on Romans, pp. 101, 102; 1896.

[7] “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God.” Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 244.

[8] A. T. Jones, General Conference Bulletin, 1895, pp. 381, 382.

[9] Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 139, 140.

[10] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 243.


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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 2, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 2

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

“Nothing New Under the Sun”


A comment by one of the 1888 messengers is apropos (quoting an evolutionist): “‘Evolution is the theory that represents the course of the world as a gradual transition from the indeterminate to the determinate, from the uniform to the varied, and which assumes the cause of these processes to be immanent in the world itself that is to be thus transformed.


“‘Evolution is thus almost synonymous with progress. It is a transition from the lower to the higher, from the worse to the better. Thus progress points to an increased value in existence, as judged by our feelings.’


“Now notice the particular points in these three sentences: evolution represents the course of the world as a gradual transition from the lower to the higher, from the worse to the better; and assumes that this process is immanent in the world itself thus to be transformed. That is to say, the thing gets better of itself; and that which causes it to get better is itself. And this progress marks ‘an increased value in existence, as judged by our feelings.’ That is to say, you know you are better because you feel better. You know there has been progress, because you feel it. Your feelings regulate your standing. Your knowledge of your feelings regulates your progress from worse to better (emphasis in bold added).


“Now this matter of progress from worse to better, have your feelings anything to do with it? If they have, what are you? Every one here this afternoon who measures his progress, the value of his experience, by his feelings, is an evolutionist: I care not if he has been a Seventh-day Adventist for forty years, he is an evolutionist just the same. And all his Christianity, all his religion, is a mere profession without the fact, simply a form without the power” (A. T. Jones, Lessons on Faith, pp. 49-50 (emphasis in italics original).


“One of the branches of this sort of science, that has done most toward the establishment of the doctrine of evolution, is the ... science of geology, which has instituted the conception of vast and unimaginable periods of time in the past history of our globe. These vast and unimaginable periods, as another one of the chief writers on this subject—the author of it indeed—says, ‘is the indispensable basis for understanding man’s origin’ in the process of evolution. So that the progress that has been made, has been through countless ages. Yet this progress has not been steady and straight forward from its inception until its present condition. It has been through many ups and downs. There have been many times of great beauty and symmetry; then there would come a cataclysm, or an eruption, and all would go to pieces, as it were. Again the process would start from that condition of things, and build up again. Many, many times this process has been gone through; and that is the process of evolution,—the transition from the lower to a higher, from the worse to the better.


“Now, what has been the process of your progress from the worse to the better? Has it been through ‘many ups and downs’? Has your acquiring of the power to do the good—the good works which are of God—been through a long process of ups and downs from the time of your first profession of Christianity until now? Has it appeared sometimes that you had apparently made great progress, that you were doing well, and that everything was nice and neat and pleasant; and then, without a moment’s warning there would come a cataclysm, or an eruption, and all be spoiled? Nevertheless, in spite of all the ups and downs, you start in for another effort: and so through this process, long-continued, you have come to where you are to-day; and in ‘looking back’ over it all, you can mark some progress, you think, as judged by your feelings,—is that your experience? Is that the way you have made progress?


“In other words, are you an evolutionist?” (ibid., pp. 50-51, emphasis original).


Please note what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:


Ecc 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity.

Ecc 1:3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

Ecc 1:4 [One] generation passeth away, and [another] generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

Ecc 1:5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

Ecc 1:6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

Ecc 1:7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea [is] not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

Ecc 1:8 All things [are] full of labour; man cannot utter [it]: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

Ecc 1:9 The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun.

Ecc 1:10 Is there [any] thing whereof it may be said, See, this [is] new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.


The earth is not evolving. People are not improving. Fallen sinful human flesh, being what it is, is not getting better, but, thankfully, is doomed to destruction. What we call the “new” covenant, has been in existence from “before the foundation of the world”, and we are still “accepted in the Beloved” if we have not thrown God’s love away (Eph. 1:4-6). The “old” covenant has been in existence since Adam and Eve ate what they were told not to eat and such covenant is still in existence today (Gen. 3:7). The same Voice of creation (Genesis 1) is still speaking to hearts today with the same transforming power that “made something from nothing”(Heb. 11:3; Rom. 4:17). This Voice has given you by speaking it His righteousness as a heritage (Eph. 1:4, 2:10)—therefore, nothing new—having been forged out (in experience) by Christ our representative 2000 years ago in the same fallen sinful human flesh that you and I have. (By the way, this righteousness of God will become real in your experience when you believe the goodness of the Gift given and the price paid for your salvation.)


Nothing has changed. God has not changed—neither has man. Any thought that the condition of the world is advancing to new heights, or that man can improve either from some power that emanates from within himself or because of some decision he has made that might perhaps change God’s mind about him, is meaningless vanity and unbelief. The 1888 “most precious message” as given to Jones and Waggoner is not new light but old light presented in new circumstances even today*. Believe His creative word, and go free!

Craig Barnes


* “Great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost, are to shine from God's word in their native purity” (Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 473).



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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 1, Qtr 1-07

Special Insights No. 1

First Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons


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

“The Rise and Fall of the House of Solomon”



Welcome to 13 weeks of special study in a neglected Bible book! Never in my memory of 78 years since I was baptized have we had a 13-month series of lessons on Ecclesiastes. Solomon takes center stage here as the star repentant who staggers back into the church like so many do today when they have left the church and given the best of their lives to the world. They are often exalted on the camp meeting platforms to tell the youth that sin, drugs, and apostasy “don’t pay.”


Solomon is the prime example of such. He has gone the limit in lust and licentiousness; now he is old and feeble, his mind and body deteriorating, probably having to walk with a cane or maybe be pushed in a wheelchair, now telling everybody what a fool he has made of himself.


Jesus speaks of Solomon, but not of his honorable character; no, all He can remember of him is his fancy and elaborate dress (Matt. 6:29 ). This particular writer has difficulty summoning a great deal of respect for the man; God Himself had spoken directly to him in his youth, had promised him wisdom and riches galore, and had blessed him marvelously; yet he chose to descend to the level of a crude idolater, and squandered the blessings entrusted to him. Of all babies born into the world, Solomon enjoyed being conceived in the greatest repentance any parental couple have ever experienced—David’s and Bathsheba’s of Psalm 51 (this may have made possible his receiving that divine gift of wisdom).


But there is Good News in the book: God accepts repentant sinners and even has gone so far as to give them a book in His Bible! No matter who you are, if you have wasted your life, you are not to despair of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Christ “receives sinners” (Luke 15:2), some of the most encouraging words in the entire Bible. Some who have come back in repentance later in life have made wonderful contributions to the soul-saving work of Jesus—the apostle Paul for example. He is a “penitent” also. Your prime goal is not simply to squeak into the Holy City somehow and save your own soul; what you want is to honor Christ in some way, and He is waiting to bless you. The promise of God to Abraham is to you also, that you will not only receive blessings everywhere you go but you “will be a blessing” wherever you go (Gen. 12:2, 3).


Solomon’s Ecclesiastes takes us all down a notch in self-esteem.

One of his favorite words is “vanity,” puncturing like a balloon our pride in ourselves. In the end, the repentant Wise Man says words to help the youth if they will pause a moment to listen (and who are the “youth”? Maybe we can say, anyone less than 120): “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth: and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou ...” and then he reminds us of judgment (11:9, KJV).


What is he saying? Swaggering, arrogant young man who is the sports star in your class in school, who drives that red Mercedes, who has the girls crowding around you, who plans on having a big new house and three-car garage in your 20s, stop and consider where you would be if the Lord should withdraw His blessings from you: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug” (Isa. 51:1).


Gorgeously beautiful, shapely young lady, charming as well, who has everybody turning heads in your direction at school: remember that the biblical “young man” means “young woman” as well. You are great just now, but all that you have is what God gave you, to use somehow to His glory, not yours. Go visit a nursing home some day and see the former belles who were great long ago, what many look like today. Solomon has divine authority for speaking to us; he says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (12:1, KJV). Simple counsel: just “remember.” It’s the simple weekly reminder of God’s holy Sabbath, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” If you remember it, He will keep you from falling into any of the pits that poor Solomon stumbled into.


Our challenge these 13 new weeks is to search and find the “everlasting gospel” in Solomon’s 12 chapters. That may require some broader thinking than our Lesson Book provides; be of good courage, don’t despair; before you study each lesson, ask the Lord for guidance. And before you go to the Sabbath School class, ask for His blessing to receive and to give. He will not fail you. You will fall in love with Ecclesiastes.

Robert J. Wieland


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