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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