Friday, November 28, 2008

“Metaphors of Salvation”

In this week’s insight we will reverse the order of the daily topics. This method follows a series of steps in a definite order, reaching from the motivating love of God (Thursday’s lesson) to the end result which is reconciliation (Monday’s lesson). Redemption (Sunday’s lesson) will end the study with an illustration of the two phases of emancipation.

Thursday’s Lesson—The Display of God’s Love: There is special significance regarding the declaration of God’s love in the first three words of the first chapter in Patriarchs and Prophets and the last three words of the last chapter in The Great Controversy. The three words are “God is love.” This is the main theme in the conflict of the ages between Christ and Satan. By the end of the conflict, as stated in the last words of the book The Great Controversy, a chorus of voices coming from “all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” (GC 678).

The cross of Calvary is heaven’s eternal declaration of the unchanging, unlimited and unconditional love of God. Paul clearly presents the love of God as revealed in the death of Christ: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is while we were “without strength, ... ungodly, ... enemies” (Rom. 5:8, 6, 11). The center of attraction not only of earth but also of heaven is the cross where Christ crucified is revealed in the midst of the throne as “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6).

By way of the cross we learn of the initiative and motivating love of God. “Look at the cross of Calvary. It is a standing pledge of the boundless love, the measureless mercy of the heavenly Father” (MS 154, 1897; 1SM 156). This love is foundational in the giving Christ as the expiratory sacrifice for our salvation.

Wednesday—Expiatory Sacrifice: The term expiatory is involved in Christ’s act of making atonement by His sacrificial death. An expiratory sacrifice means the point at which it ends. By His death on Calvary, Jesus lifted, legally, the condemnation and guilt incurred by the sin of Adam and the fallen race. Christ’s last emission of breath (“into your hands I commit my spirit”) was a testimony of His faith in God that one phase of the atonement was accomplished.

The death of Jesus provided the legal basis for salvation. In Romans three there is the most concentrated thought in Scripture dealing with God’s work of deliverance from the power and effects of sin. Let’s consider three metaphors of salvation as listed in that chapter. These three—propitiation, redemption and justification—come from the sanctuary, the market place, and the court of law.

Propitiation is the “focus on the means by which sins are forgiven having atoning power, bringing about reconciliation.” This figure of speech is also the focus “on the place where sins are forgiven by means of the blood from an atoning sacrifice placed there (the) place of forgiveness, place where God forgives sins, often translated mercy seat (HE 9.5). Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (emphasis original).

The mercy seat was a most important piece of furniture within the most holy place of the tabernacle and later in the temple. It was a gold cover placed on the ark of the covenant. It was there where typical corporate atonement was made for Israel on the Day of Judgment or Atonement. It was by means of the blood of the expiatory sacrifice that atonement was accomplished. Those two types came together in the sanctuary—the blood of the sacrifice and the mercy seat both symbolizing Christ. Jesus is both our Sacrifice and our Mercy Seat, our atoning cover. It took both symbols to illustrate the Christ’s work of atonement. This work consists of justification and cleansing. In Romans 3:25 the original word for reconciliation is used in relation to the means of the atoning justification while in Hebrews 9:5 the word is used as the place of atonement. These two verses take in the scope of atonement as the typical service illustrated.

Tuesday—Justification, Monday—Reconciliation: Justification is a legal term. In Romans 3:24 Paul presents God’s justification by grace as a gift to everyone. God’s justifying activity is universal in scope as presented there in relation to the “all” in the previous verse, that is, all those who “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is a legal justification and corporate in nature in these verses. Those being justified in verse 24 are the “all” who have sinned in verse 23.

In the plan of salvation there is one justification only, but with two phases. The first was God’s work in Christ on the cross whereby He legally lifted the deserved condemnation from the fallen race (Rom. 5:9,18). (Compare this with the thought that Christ is the “Savior of the world,” John 4:42; 1 John 4:14. However, this does not mean everyone will be saved unconditionally. The Savior of the world must be permitted to dwell within a person who then personally experiences salvation.) The second phase of justification is accomplished when the conditions of faith and repentance are exercised by individuals who hear the good news of the gospel along with the heart searching claims of the law (Rom. 5:1; 2:4; 10:16,17; Gal. 2:23,24).

Genuine faith and repentance always lead to obedience to all of God’s commandments (1 John 5:3; 2 John 6). True, the law cannot justify (Rom 8:2). It convicts of sin and points to Christ as our justifying righteousness. The law testifies to the righteousness of God (Rom 3:21). This righteousness, in Christ, comes to us from God by means of Christ’s faith—“the faith of Jesus” (Rom. 3:22). Through the human race’s Representative’s faith God’s righteousness comes to everyone, to the first “all” of Rom 3:23 as well as to the second “all.” (The manuscript used for the King James Version is correct here in designating two categories of people by the two uses of “all”). It is because God’s justifying righteousness reaches to everyone that “all” live. Without it no one could possibly exist. But there is much more. God does not desire His righteousness to stop by providing mere temporary protection and life. He wants everyone to be not merely protected by His justifying righteousness. So He places it within “all” who will believe. God’s righteousness is an objective righteousness that is to be experienced subjectively only by those who believe.

As with justification, there are two aspects of reconciliation. The first occurred in the death of Christ, the second involves receiving that reconciliation. The first part of the formula is “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” that is, “when we were enemies.” The second is accepting that reconciliation as Paul wrote, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 5:9; 2 Cor. 5:20).

Justification and reconciliation are the same. Both occurred when Christ died (Rom. 5:9, 10; 2 Cor. 5:19-21), but in our thinking, justification precedes reconciliation. The reason is: the legal condemnation, because of our guilt, had to be lifted before there could be reconciliation. The sin that separated God from man first had to be dealt with before reconciliation could take place. The fact that God “did not send His Son into the world” to condemn it (John 3:17), is revealed by Paul in his concluding words of Romans 5:18: “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

Sunday—Redemption: In conclusion, like justification and reconciliation, redemption has two aspects. First there is the legal act of redeeming or purchasing (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19); the second is the response of believing the first aspect. Just as President Lincoln initially enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby setting slaves free legally, the slave had to believe the good news of that legal determination and he had to act upon it in order to experience liberty personally.
Gerald L. Finneman


Friday, November 21, 2008

“Born of a Woman—Atonement and the Incarnation”

Gnosticism is founded on the Greek principle of a dualistic existence that separates matter from spirit, the first being inherently evil, and the latter being divine. It assumes that all material things came into being through a fallen semi-god (demiurge), who ruled the imperfect world, that by its very existence, is antagonistic to the divine spirit. However, according to this belief there occasionally enters into the constitution of some men a divine spark that can be developed through gnosis and practice of special rites. Through gnosis, this special individual could escape the material world and become entirely “spiritual.”

Such a concept was being circulated among the early congregations in Asia, challenging the truth on the nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation. For the Gnostic Christian, the function of Christ was not to come as Savior to make an atonement for fallen humanity, and redeem from sin, but He was to enter this evil world and bring gnosis to mankind. By learning this mystical “knowledge” and following His example, a “oneness” with God could be obtained. The whole idea dwelt on “relationship” rather than the problem of sin and its repugnance to a holy God.

In his first letter, John told the congregations, “ye have heard that antichrist shall come” and this “hearing” came through Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (2:1-12), which was widely circulated among the early congregations. After John’s release from Patmos, he traveled among the churches of Asia, no doubt witnessing for himself the infusion of Gnostic philosophies into the truths being preached by the apostles. One of the truths which was being challenged through Gnostic teaching was the nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation. Denying the reality of the incarnation spawned a libertinism among the early believers that disputed the truth of overcoming sin in this life, which resulted in widespread loss of piety. Thus the truth of sanctification and victory over sin was falling into disfavor. Through such teaching, Christ’s atonement was being made of none effect.

John explicitly addressed this problem in his letters when he stated that the deceivers circulating among the churches denied that Jesus came in “the flesh” (Greek, sarx [1]). John wrote: “Beloved, believe not every spirit [i.e. person, or “living soul”], but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [sarx] is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [sarx] is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come [through Paul’s teaching]; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:1-3). Anyone who taught that Jesus did not assume the real fallen nature of His ancestor Adam was “antichrist,” plain and simple.

Prior to the preaching of Christ and His righteousness in a fuller measure, as A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presented it at the 1888 general conference session in Minneapolis, the nature which Christ assumed was only a theological sideline. However, since the whole point of the Gospel is to bring to humanity the truth of God’s power over Satan and sin, the nature which Christ assumed took on a new and important dimension in the preaching of the Gospel. In the 1888 edition of The Bible Readings for the Home Circle, there was no mention of the nature of Christ, but by the 1914 edition E. J. Waggoner had made a significant contribution to the discussion under the new chapter “A Sinless Life”:

“The idea that Christ was born of an immaculate or sinless mother, inherited no tendencies to sin, and for this reason did not sin, removes Him from the realm of a fallen world, and from the very place where help is needed. On His human side, Christ inherited just what every child of Adam inherits,—a sinful nature. On the divine side, from His very conception He was begotten and born of the Spirit. And all this was done to place mankind on vantage-ground, and to demonstrate that in the same way, every one who is ‘born of the Spirit’ may gain like victories over sin in his own flesh. ... God, in Christ, condemned sin, not pronouncing against it merely as a judge sitting on the judgment-seat, but by coming and living in the flesh, in sinful flesh, and yet without sinning. In Christ, He demonstrated that it is possible, by His grace and power, to resist temptation, overcome sin, and live a sinless life in sinful flesh” (page 174; emphases in original).

A. T. Jones concurred in his Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection: “Only by His subjecting Himself to the law of heredity could He reach sin in full and true measure as sin truly is. ... Thus He met sin in the flesh which He took, and triumphed over it, as it is written: ‘God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’.” Addressing the whole point of the atonement, Jones states: “If He were not of the same flesh as are those whom He came to redeem, then there is no sort of use of His being made flesh at all” (pp. 48, 41, and see also p. 42; emphases in original).

The Teacher’s Quarterly asks a most pertinent question: “What are the implications of Christ’s being the second Adam?” This question brings home the truth of the nature which Christ assumed for sinners bogged down in the mire of sin and rebellion. Because Christ took upon Him the fallen nature of Adam and was “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” we have the assurance of overcoming “even as He also overcame.” This is the crux of the Gospel’s good news! We don’t have a “savior” who dwells in some high and lofty place, afar off from the problem of sin, but rather we have an high priest who has been “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” who knows how to “succor them that are tempted.” Thus when tempted, no matter by what, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace” and “in time of need” we can find grace, mercy, and power over sin (Heb. 4:15-16; Rev. 3:21; Heb. 2:18).

Because Jesus took upon Himself Adam’s nature after the fall, and in that nature “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), He proved that Satan’s claims against the law of God are false. Then, in compliance with the covenant He had made with His Father before the world began (Rev. 13:8), Christ, as corporate mankind, took that fallen nature to the cross and paid the ultimate price for redemption from sin, crucifying the “old man” of sin, and setting humanity free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1-4; 6:5-17; Gal. 2:20). Can the “good news” get any better than this?

Ann Walper


[1] Sarx is defined as “the concrete form of human nature marked by Adam’s fall.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 151.

Friday, November 14, 2008

“Atonement in Symbols: Part 2”

God would rather die for us than live without us.

The Day of Atonement is evidence that God did not institute the sacrificial system to be a perpetual, endless cycle of fall, confession, and forgiveness without any conclusion.

The services performed daily for the corporate body of Israel provided for the transfer of sins into the temple, which by its many facets represents Christ. The Israelites were not expected to be present for the daily morning and evening sacrifices the priests offered for the entire camp. During the year, the only active participation was when the individual brought an animal to sacrifice for specific forgiveness. In both instances, the significance was the transfer of sin into the temple. Thus, it became defiled over the course of the year.

Similar to the daily ministry, at the cross almost the entire world was unaware of the existence of the event, and few of those who were aware understood its significance. Yet, on Him was laid the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6), regardless of our presence or identification with its significance. Mary Magdalene may have understood, but her statements in the garden on Sunday morning reveal she was not aware there would also be a resurrection.

The Day of Atonement was different from the daily ministry in that Israel was to afflict their souls, humble themselves and do no work (Lev. 16:29-31). This process started when the Feast of Trumpets began ten days before the Day of Atonement. Why the difference? It involves cleansing of the individual soul temple from sin, something God will never force. There will be a conscious and informed participation where the penitent will acknowledge his willingness for the Holy Spirit to do His work convicting of sin. The penitent will acknowledge his sin and acquiesce in the removal and transfer of those sins into the temple.

The camp was thus divided into two groups, those who participated by afflicting their souls, and those who did not. Logically, those who belonged to each group must be identified by a judgment, because the accuser of the brethren continually claims all of earth’s inhabitants as his. It was this concept of judgment that alerted the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the proper explanation of the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14. It is after this process in the cosmic antitypical day of atonement that Christ declares: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me ...” (Rev. 22:12). Their decisions have all been made, and Christ has sealed His Bride. Those who refuse to participate in the cleansing process will receive the results of their choice (to be “cut off”).

Those who accept at-one-ment with Christ and allow Him to wash their robes will be given the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the City (Rev. 22:14). They are victorious over the beast, his image, and his number by submitting to the refiner’s fire and are entitled to stand on the sea of glass mixed with fire surrounding the throne of God (Rev. 15:2).

The Psalmist declares, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary” (Psalm 77:13). The Day of Atonement demonstrates that new and living way, which Christ through His flesh has consecrated for us. He, coming in the flesh, identifying Himself with mankind in the flesh, has for us who are in this flesh consecrated a way from where we are to where He now is, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens in the holiest of all.

The sacrifices and the service of the earthly sanctuary could not take away the sins of men, and so could not bring them to this perfection. But the sacrifice and the ministry of the true High Priest in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle do accomplish this. This does take away utterly every sin. And the worshiper is so truly purged that he has “no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:2).

Isaiah experienced a personal Day of Atonement (Isaiah 6). In his vision, he saw God sitting on His throne (mercy seat) with six-winged seraphim (the ark). After recognizing his sin he confessed it, fearing that he was “undone.” Another expression for “I am undone” is “I am cut off,” the punishment for those who refused to participate in the Day. Isaiah submitted to the cleansing process where a burning coal was touched to his lips. This was declared to have taken away his iniquity and forgiven his sin.

Those who have overcome the beast’s system of self-worship are entitled to stand on the sea of glass (Rev. 15:2-4). They have exercised faith to follow Christ along the way He consecrated into His second apartment ministry. When the censor is cast down, there is no need for a mediator because in Christ they are already standing in the presence of God. They are now sealed “at one” with Christ, and in Him they are entitled to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Let us all eagerly welcome the refining process that results in at-one-ment.

Arlene Hill

Thursday, November 06, 2008

“Atonement in Symbols: Part 1”

God would rather die for us than live without us.

“... In these ceremonies, he [Satan] discerned a symbol of communion between earth and heaven. He set himself to intercept this communion. He misrepresented God, and misinterpreted the rites that pointed to the Savior. Men were led to fear God as one who delighted in their destruction. The sacrifices that should have revealed His love were offered only to appease His wrath” (The Desire of Ages, p. 115).

When the children of Israel demonstrated their slave mentality at Sinai and promised “all that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8). It was inevitable that they would misunderstand the great collective symbol of the plan of salvation represented by the sanctuary.

“... And the placing of the tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel was an illustration, an object lesson and suggestion, of the truth that He would dwell in the midst of each individual.” Eph. 3:16-19. Some of that nation, in every age, saw in the sanctuary this great saving truth. But as a body, in all ages, Israel missed this thought; and stopping only with the thought of His dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp, they came short of having His own personal presence dwelling in their individual lives. Accordingly their worship became only outward and formal, rather than inward and spiritual” (A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 72, 73).

God used the symbol of the worthless foundling in Ezekiel 16 to symbolize the perversion Israel had made of His sanctuary symbols. The Lord adorned His Israel with temple symbols, gold, silver, fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth, and He nourished her with fine flour, honey, and oil (vs. 13). Yet, she played the harlot and attributed these symbols as provided by her other gods. They refused to see that they were symbolic of God’s work of sanctification within them.

When Jesus began his ministry, He cast out the merchants who were selling the symbols of the sanctuary (John 2:12-22). The people had completely lost sight of their real significance. It was enough that they obtain an animal and perform the ritual of sacrifice because they had come to believe salvation was produced by the act itself, not the Sacrifice it represented. Israel believed that the presence of God was limited to the mercy seat within the man-made earthly temple.

Without a proper understanding of the covenants, we will repeat ancient Israel’s error regarding the significance of the sacrificial system. In the New Covenant, God promises to write His law on our hearts. Only God can change the sinful heart. Yet, we demonstrate our misunderstanding of this principle when we insist on using the ten commandments to force outward conduct regardless of genuine heart change. Do we not make the same error as Israel when we engrave the commandments on signs of various materials, even stone, and put them on the walls of our schools and churches or even bumper stickers? By our formal legalism, we demonstrate we are satisfied to have God in our midst, but not within us.

At the very end, when the fourth angel of Revelation 18 has lightened the entire earth with his glory, the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn “because no one buys their cargoes any more” (vs. 11). The cargo is defined in verses12 and13, and the articles described are basic furnishings of the temple. Even the merchants of religious symbols can no longer fool people that these are the real thing after they have seen God’s genuine glory.

The fourth angel of Revelation 18 enlarges the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14. The final gospel message disproves Satan’s claim that God cannot produce a people who have allowed God to so change their hearts that His character is perfectly reproduced in them. The symbol of His character is embodied in His law. Like Israel of old, we can pervert the symbols of the covenant of grace. The great symbolism of the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the Daniel 8:14 cleansing of the sanctuary can be perverted into a complicated system of dates and sacrifices where the genuine message of heart-changing grace is lost in all the details. The ability to reproduce the 2300-day chart with all the trimmings will not save us. Even humble acceptance of the cleansing work of God in our hearts also does not save us, but only fits us for life in the heavenly economy of love.

The symbols all point to the Cross where God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. That is what saves us. Dependence on anything else is a perversion.

Arlene Hill

Note: Bible texts are from the New American Standard translation.