Thursday, June 26, 2008

His Return as King and Friend

As we review the past thirteen lessons about Jesus, one magnificent truth about Him emerges as all-important:

He GAVE Himself for us, GAVE Himself completely—emptied Himself as we read here: “Christ Jesus. . . being in the form of God, counted not equality with God a thing to be grasped at, but made Himself of no reputation (a man or woman will fight to the death to preserve reputation!), and

  1. “Made Himself of no reputation,
  2. Took upon Himself the form of a slave,
  3. And was made in the likeness of men:
  4. And being found in fashion as a man,
  5. He humbled Himself,
  6. And became obedient unto death,
  7. Even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

This author who is writing this INSIGHT was born into a Lutheran home and early learned to love the story of Martin Luther; he became my hero.

Then we moved to a town where there was no Lutheran church, so we became Methodists; and then we moved again, and again no Lutheran church, so we became Presbyterians.

The Presbyterian church was the most handsome one in town, complete with a pipe organ, which I loved as a child. I will never forget the walls trembling with the grand bass notes as we sang, “Love Divine, All Love Excelling,” etc.

I discovered the Sabbath truth in that Presbyterian Sunday School; the dear Lord gave me the grace to receive it and to believe it because it was so obviously Bible truth. It wasn’t any goodness of my own; the Lord gave me the grace to believe.

When we left and went to the little Seventh-day Adventist Church, they had no pews, just benches to sit on, and not even a piano—they had an old wheeze organ—the kind you pump with your feet.

But I knew that the Sabbath truth is biblical, and the Lord in His great mercy gave me of His much more abounding grace to open my heart to receive the truth. It meant saying goodbye to the nice little girl I liked who accompanied me on the piano when I played Massenet’s “Thais,” etc., on the violin.

The Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Campbell, offered to finance my way through college if I would give up this crazy “seventh-day-sabbath-business.”

Walking through downtown on Saturday mornings dressed in my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes on my way to the Seventh-day Adventist church across town, seemed a bit painful; class mates thought I was crazy, including the nice girl who played the piano for me; but conviction of truth held me.

Today I thank the Lord from the bottom of my heart that from His much more abounding grace, I was permitted to have this test of faith.

If I had stayed in that dear Presbyterian church (that’s where the bank president was), I would never have learned this most astounding truth that we have learned in our thirteen weeks of studies about “Jesus”:

The death that Jesus died for us was “the second death” which is mentioned twice in the book of Revelation (2:11; 20:12-14). That is the measure of “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of the love (agape) of Christ. Only when those grand dimensions of His love (agape) are clearly understood, do you and I sense the “constraint” of that love (agape) motivating us to total consecration to the service of Jesus: “The love [agape] of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). In fact, what Paul said was that “henceforth” you will find it impossible to live for self, no matter how the world tempts you, if you let that love (agape) constrain you.

But come to think of it, this “second death” truth wasn’t mentioned with emphasis in our 13-week “Quarterly,” either!

But someday, and we trust it will be soon, this glorious truth of “agape” will take center stage in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and then will lighten the earth with the glory of the fourth angel’s message of Revelation 18:1-4.

The Lord did His very best to send that message to us in 1888; but “in a great degree” it was kept away from our people, and kept away from the world (cf. Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235).

Thank the Lord for the glorious good news yet before us!

—Robert J. Wieland


Click here to Download Insight as PDF File: His Return as King and Friend

The Efficacy of His Priestly Ministry

Ellen White was overjoyed when she heard the message of justification by faith from the lips of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. To her this clear teaching was consonant with the message of the three angels. “The hour of His judgment is come” and our Priest is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary. What connection is there between justification by faith and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary by Jesus our High Priest?

The answer is that since 1844 Jesus was performing the Day of Atonement ministry. He was engaged in the final blotting out of sins. But before the sanctuary could be cleansed in heaven the temple of His people on earth must be cleansed. The source of sin pollution must be ended in His people. The honor of God and the integrity of His covenant were at stake. God has the solution to the problem of sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ can forgive sins and His righteousness has the power by virtue of the Holy Spirit to cleanse the soul temple. This God has promised in His everlasting covenant.[1]

So when she heard this message she recognized in it the power and force of the gospel which would prepare God’s people to stand with a pure character in the day of Christ’s second coming. They would be a living testimony for God through the crisis hour. They would be part of the 144,000 who would be translated without seeing death at His return. They would be a living testament to the power of God unto salvation from sin. Living in sinful flesh, tempted, tried and afflicted, the mystery of godliness would be revealed in them—”Christ in you the hope of glory.”

Like a drumbeat over the course of several weeks Sr. White wrote in the columns of the Review during 1890 of her enthusiasm. The significance of this time frame from January to March 1890 and what was taking place in the ministers’ Bible Institute in Battle Creek is of great importance.

Notice her statements: “We are in the day of atonement, and we are to work in harmony with Christ’s work of cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Let no man who desires to be found with the wedding garment on, resist our Lord in His office work. As He is, so will His followers be in this world. We must now set before the people the work which by faith we see our great High Priest accomplishing in the heavenly sanctuary.”[2]

“Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary, and He is there to make an atonement for His people.... He is cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. What is our work?—It is our work to be in harmony with the work of Christ. By faith we are to work with Him, to be in union with Him. ... A people is to be prepared for the great day of God.”[3]

“Christ is cleansing the temple in heaven from the sins of the people, and we must work in harmony with Him upon the earth, cleansing the soul temple from its moral defilement.”[4]

“The people have not entered into the holy place, where Jesus has gone to make an atonement for His children. We need the Holy Spirit in order to understand the truths for this time; but there is spiritual drought in the churches.”[5] Notice here that entering the sanctuary with Jesus by faith in the day of atonement means progressing with the light which Jesus was giving on earth to His people. The truth of justification by faith which Jones and Waggoner were bringing to God’s people was to be understood in connection with Jesus’ day of atonement ministry in the sanctuary.

“Light is flashing from the throne of God, and what is this for?—It is that a people may be prepared to stand in the day of God.”[6]

“If our brethren were all laborers together with God, they would not doubt but that the message He has sent to us during these last two years is from heaven. ... Suppose that you blot out the testimony that has been going during these last two years proclaiming the righteousness of Christ, who can you point to as bringing out special light for the people?”[7] The present message of justification by faith was the third angel’s message in verity giving power and force to the cleansing of the sanctuary. This is what she meant by “in verity”—or in truth.

The Sunday-keeping churches had not followed Jesus by faith into His most holy place work in 1844. Hence they were worshiping a god of their own creation—Satan if you please.[8] To this day, for the most part, they view the sanctuary message of Seventh-day Adventists as a colossal error. It has been termed the greatest face-saving device to explain away a mistaken interpretation of Scripture—Daniel 8:14.

But God’s people have been given a unique understanding of justification by faith in connection with the cleansing of the sanctuary that is to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord. This is why the Lord gave it to His people to be proclaimed to the nominal Christian churches of the world. They had initially rejected it in 1844.

Christ now stands in the heavenly sanctuary and he ministers in our behalf the merits of His atoning death. And His blood alone can atone for sin. That’s not merely a legal atonement. There has to come a practical outworking of that atonement in the hearts and lives of God’s people or the great controversy can never be finished. And it must not go on for ever and ever.

While past generations of Adventists may have viewed the investigative judgment as a time to get ready and reform completely, there’s a different emphasis today. The gospel, the transformation of our characters from the inside out is what is important. There must be a wedding garment put on in order for us to enter into the wedding.

The important issue looming in the background is that wedding—the marriage of the Lamb—which has been postponed so long. The time must come, and it will come by the grace of God, by His people waking up and sensing how important it is. The time must come when the wife must make herself ready for the wedding.

—Paul E. Penno


  1. "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:33, 34. [return to text]
  2. Ellen G. White, “The Need of Complete Consecration,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (January 21, 1890, p. 33). [return to text]
  3. Ellen G. White, “The Lord Must Be Our Light,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (January 28, 1890, p. 49). [return to text]
  4. Ellen G. White, “The Danger of Talking Doubt,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (February 11, 1890, p. 81). [return to text]
  5. Ellen G. White, “Need of Earnestness in the Cause of God,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (February 25, 1890, p. 113). [return to text]
  6. Ellen G. White, “Draw Nigh to God,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (March 4, 1890, p. 129). [return to text]
  7. Ellen G. White, “The Present Message,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (March 18, 1890, p. 161). [return to text]
  8. “I saw that as the Jews crucified Jesus, so the nominal churches had crucified these messages, and therefore they have no knowledge of the way into the most holy, and they cannot be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there. Like the Jews, who offered their useless sacrifices, they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left; and Satan, pleased with the deception, assumes a religious character, and leads the minds of these professed Christians to himself. ... He also comes as an angel of light, spreading his influence over the land by means of false reformations. The churches are elated, and consider that God is working marvelously for them, when it is the work of another spirit” (Early Writings, 1882, p. 261). [return to text]
Click here to download Insight as PDF File: The Efficacy of His Priestly Ministry

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Power of His Resurrection

The Greek word anastasis (resurrection) literally means "to stand up again." Satan knocked down the human race through sin, and at the Tree of Knowledge he stood on the neck of his conquered victims declaring that he was stronger than God. However, at the moment Adam sinned and should have died eternally, Christ stepped between the dead (Adam) and the living (God), thus placing the entire human race on an extended probation[1] (see RH March 12, 1901; Letter 22, Feb. 13, 1900; SDA BC vol. 7-A, pp. 16-17). The promised power of Christ's resurrection was seen in that first instance of justification in the Garden of Eden. "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14).

Jesus "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." Rom. 4:25. "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:17. His resurrection from the equivalent of the second death (unlike the resurrections of Jairus's daughter, the widow of Nain's son, and even Lazarus), proved that Satan has no power to make us continue living a life of sin (see Desire of Ages, pp. 209-210).

Paul tells the Philippians that he wants to be "found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law [old covenant legalism], but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9). Commenting on this verse, E.J. Waggoner stated: "The power by which a man is made righteous is the power of the resurrection. This power of the resurrection, which works righteousness in a man, is the surety of the final resurrection to immortality at the last day by which he enters upon his inheritance." (Waggoner on Romans, p. 91).

Speaking of the promised inheritance in the New Earth, Waggoner wrote: "The inheritance is one of righteousness … Now the man who thinks that he himself can get righteousness out of the law, is in reality trying to substitute his own righteousness for God's righteousness. In other words, he is trying to get the land by fraud." (Ibid., p. 88).

Waggoner's position is that the old covenant idea of man's supposed ability, by means of "faith" or "good works," to add to God's work of salvation is really attempting to obtain the promise through a lie. "Works of the law" (legalism) don't add one iota to the salvation equation (Gal. 3:18, 21-22; 4:21-26; Glad Tidings, pp. 66, 70-72). "Since the gospel is contrary to human nature, we become doers of the law not by doing but by believing. If we worked for righteousness, we would be exercising only our own sinful human nature, and so would get no nearer to righteousness, but farther from it." (The Glad Tidings, p. 56; see also E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 24).

Beginning in July 1886, E.J. Waggoner began expounding a view of the two covenants that was out of sync with the view held by the majority of the church's leadership. The men who objected to Waggoner's position claimed that grace was being asserted at the expense of the law. They saw Waggoner's position on the "law in Galatians" as an attack on the church's long-held position on the moral law and the Sabbath. If the "law in Galatians" was "primarily" the moral law, then these men assumed that their defense for Sabbath keeping would be "nailed to the cross," just as our opponents claim. It was this dispute that set the prevailing attitude for the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session.

How does this tidbit of history relate to this week's study? Monday's lesson focuses on the story of the two disciples who encounter the resurrected Jesus as they travel the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Concerning this the Adult Teacher's Guide makes this statement: "What this account should teach us is that it's important that we not superimpose our own desires, our own wishes, our own expectations, on our understanding of doctrine. We need to be surrendered to what the Word of God teaches, even if it teaches things that aren't exactly as we like."

The Quarterly further points out that these disciples "were so focused on their disappointment that they failed to see the enlightenment and clarity that were right in front of them." Then it asks a few pertinent questions: "In what similar ways do we disregard the Holy Spirit? In what ways have things been presented so clearly to us and yet, at the time, from our own hardness of heart, we completely missed them? How can we learn to avoid making similar mistakes again?"

The majority of the leadership of the church rejected the truth on the covenants that Waggoner attempted to present during the years 1886-1896 because it differed from their own expectations concerning doctrine. The heart of the "most precious message" is the distinction between the old and new covenants; between believing God's everlasting covenant promise, or relying on man's promises to obey. In a letter dated March 8, 1890, Ellen White wrote to Uriah Smith: "Yourself, Brother Dan Jones, Brother Porter and others are spending your investigative powers for naught to produce a position on the covenants to vary from the position that Brother Waggoner has presented." In contradistinction to the position held by Smith and G.I. Butler, Ellen White later wrote to Smith referring to the law in Galatians 3:24, saying: "In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is speaking especially of the moral law." (1888 Materials, pp. 604, 1575).

Why did the message incite so much opposition? "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones." What was lost by the opposition? "By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart." (Ibid.).

When we are willing to die to self, to self importance, and preconceived opinions, then the Holy Spirit will raise us from the dead and give to our Movement power for finishing the work.

" … The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King's highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the pentecostal energy. This will come; for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power." (Gospel Workers, pp. 307-308).

—Ann Walper


Ellen G. White comments on why Adam did not immediately die, as God said he would: "Why was not the death penalty at once enforced in his [Adam's] case?—Because a ransom was found. God's only begotten Son volunteered to take the sin of man upon Himself, and to make an atonement for the fallen race. There could have been no pardon for sin had this atonement not been made." RH April 23, 1901; SDA BC vol. 1, p. 1082. Please note that the atonement was made at the beginning of earth's history, as soon as Adam sinned, and that the "fallen race" was included in Adam when he was ransomed.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Meaning of His Death

Of all our thirteen lessons this quarter, this one is the most profound.

It’s easy to trivialize the subject, as millions do. Putting a cross on a church roof or hanging it around one’s neck or on the living room wall, is not what Jesus meant by His phrase about “bearing the cross:”

“He said to them all, If any one will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it”(Luke 9:23, 24).

Profound words, but what do they mean?

1. First, we must understand what kind of death Jesus died: here is where Seventh-day Adventists have a great contribution to make to the spiritual life of professed Sunday-keeping Christians everywhere. “Babylon” does not, cannot, understand what happened on that cross of Jesus. And it is not their fault primarily, for they have inherited a pagan misconception about the death that Jesus died.
2. As He hung on the cross, the kind Ladies Aid Society women of Jerusalem offered Him a sponge filled with a deadening narcotic. (They probably did this for all victims of the horrible Roman–invented death by crucifixion; it was just an expression of their womanly kindness and sympathy with human suffering; thank God that He created woman!)
3. Being human as well as being divine, Jesus would have loved to bite down hard on that sponge and drink down the narcotic and simply go to sleep, as the two thieves who were crucified with Him doubtless did. The believing thief died happily, trusting the promise of Jesus that he would be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43; put the comma in the right place, because neither Jesus nor the believing thief were in “paradise” that day!). That one believing thief will simply wake up in the resurrection. Then is when he will eternally be thankful that he was privileged to be literally “crucified with Christ”—the only human on earth so privileged!
4. Moses had long ago declared that any criminal who is sentenced to die on a tree is automatically “accursed of God”(Deut. 21:22, 23). Everyone believed what Moses had said—even of Jesus; and we can be sure that the hate-driven scribes and Pharisees who cried “crucify Him” slapped each other on the back in triumph when they saw Jesus was hanged on His cross. “See? We’ve been right all along to reject Him,—He cannot be the Messiah, look, He’s hanged on a tree!”
5. But they had not thought about what Isaiah says of Christ’s crucifixion: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. ... We esteemed Him not” (53:3).
6. Doubtless Isaiah’s message brought great comfort to believing, repentant victims of Rome’s cruelty. As Jesus had “compassion” on suffering people of His day, so God has all along had compassion on Rome’s many victims of crucifixion.
7. The death of Jesus was not like the death of any other person in all time. The only death that any humans have ever suffered is the “first” death—the common lot of all descendants of fallen Adam.
8. Not one person, no matter how wicked, has ever as yet endured what the Bible calls “the second death” (cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:14); with the sole exception of Jesus.
9. The second death will come only at the end of the thousand years (“millennium”). When it happens at last, there will be “silence in heaven” for a “space” of time (cf. Rev. 8:1), God and the holy angels grieving for the death of all who have chosen to end their existence by the second death. Yes, they have chosen it!
10. Ellen White declares that at the end, the lost will welcome their death by the Lake of Fire—so the common picture of the lost being cast screaming and yelling in protest while being thrown in is incorrect. Let us look:
11. “A life of rebellion against God has unfitted them for heaven. Its purity, holiness, and peace would be torture to them; the glory of God would be a consuming fire. They would long to flee from that holy place. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. The destiny of the wicked is fixed by their own choice. Their exclusion from heaven is voluntary with themselves, and just and merciful on the part of God” (The Great Controversy, p. 543; emphasis supplied).
12. The Lord Jesus Christ has done something for every man, woman, and child in the earth:
He has died the second death of everyone! “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).
13. That “death” that Jesus “tasted” cannot be the first death, which is only a dreamless sleep. Therefore, it can mean only the “second death.”
14. That’s why the Samaritans said that Jesus is already “the Saviour of the world,” and Paul says that He “is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tim. 4:10). That’s two ways that Jesus is “the Saviour of all men”—He is practically, literally, the Saviour of those “that believe.” But in a judicial sense, He is also “the Saviour of the world” in that He has died the second death of every man.
15. This is made clear in Romans 5:15-18: “God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to the wrongdoing of that one man [the fallen Adam]. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many [everyone], its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. ... The judicial action, following on the one offence [of Adam], resulted in a verdict of condemnation, but the act of grace [of Jesus], following on so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal. ... It follows, then, that as the result of one misdeed [of Adam] was condemnation for all people, so the result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all” (NEB).
16. There can be only one response from us if we have honest hearts that can appreciate the agape of Christ: “henceforth” we are totally dedicated to Jesus, His love (agape) ever constraining us to bear our cross with Jesus, the cross whereon self is crucified with Him!

—Robert J. Wieland