The memory text for this lesson contains the 1888 message that will prepare a people to be translated at the second coming of Jesus. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25). Peter is talking about being born again. Our birth into this world of a mother and father is of corruptible seed. It will not endure, but pass away like the grass withers on a hot, windy day. What will endure the heated blast of the fiery crisis ahead?
It is the word of God that endures forever. It is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation in Christ Jesus. This word is of an incorruptible seed. Being born again of this word, the planting of God will become a redwood tree in God’s forest, which will endure the fiery inferno.
Peter takes his text from Isaiah 40, which is a wonderful forecast of the gospel message which will lighten the earth with His glory, but it begins with a message for God’s people. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:1, 2). The expression “double for all her sins” means the punishment fits the crime. Jerusalem had been unfaithful to God and thus had been permitted the Assyrian and yet future Babylonian invasions. But the comforting word from God is that He loves Jerusalem and pardons her iniquity.
God is going to send a voice, a message, to prepare His way. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3). Of course, John the Baptist is recognized as the fulfillment of this prophecy. It was his work to announce: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isa. 40:4). The heart that is humbled before the Lord shall be lifted up. The haughty and boastful spirit will be brought down. The devious and winding pathways of life will be straightened. And the bumpy, rocky roads will be graded. Truly, John the Baptist was a sign to his generation of the Messiah’s first advent.
Now Isaiah’s prophecy takes a turn which far transcends John’s ministry. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. 40:5). This global revelation of God’s character of love is the loud cry of the third angel’s message which is blessed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. John the Revelator spoke of this: “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with His glory” (Rev. 18:1). The beginning of this message came to His people in 1888.
God has given His people a unique message and experience of justification by faith not comprehended by the churches and religions of the world. The forgiveness of sins is accompanied by cleansing from sin. The restoration work of Christ as our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary is absolutely essential, as is the sacrifice on His cross, to fit His people for the second coming. Hence, justification by faith and the sanctuary message are present truth.
John the Baptist’s message is to be magnified tenfold in the days before Christ’s second coming. The voice announces a message from God to His people. “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa. 40:6-8). God compares humanity to the grass of the field and the flowers that adorn the hillsides. The summer heat causes them to dry out and turn to tinder.
What are man’s expressions of doubt and higher criticism of the Bible, when in but a few days he passes to the grave and turns to dust, but the word of God endures forever? What is the churchman’s pride in great institutions and worldwide acquisitions, when man is grass? But the word of the Lord endures forever.
The last message which God brings before His people and the world humbles the glory of man in the dust before the cross of Jesus Christ. This is the word of our God which shall stand forever.
When the people of God truly appreciate that Jesus died the curse of their second death, then they will be born again of incorruptible seed. They will humble all their pride. There will be the repentance of the ages and a turning away from sin. God will demonstrate the power of His gospel through them. The Holy Spirit will accompany the message of the gospel with power in latter rain proportions as it did upon the disciples at Pentecost.
It will be truly said of them in that day: “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” (Isa. 40:9). God has yet to set His church upon the mountain for the world to see. When He does set them in the spotlight, they will no longer proclaim the gospel of self, but “Behold your God!”
—Paul E. Penno