Friday, December 25, 2009

"Cities of Refuge"

"Cities of Refuge"

Refuge. The word conveys a sense of rugged impermeability. Protection. Peace. Safety. Permanence. Today, more than at any other time in earth's history, humanity longs for refuge. As Seventh-day Adventists, we have something immediate and compelling to share with those in need.

Sunday's lesson asks these two questions: "How can we protect ourselves from the negative influences that are always around us?" and "What personal choices must you, and you alone, make for yourself to help limit the negative impact of these influences on you?"

The answer to the first part of this question is that we cannot protect ourselves. But there is One who can protect us. "The story of the cities of refuge is one of the things written aforetime 'for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope.' We find ourselves continually beset by enemies. This is no figure of speech, but an actual fact. Everybody knows that he possesses evil habits and traits of character that are positive enemies to him, often destroying not only his happiness here, but his hope of the world to come. And what is worse, they are stronger than we, so that we cannot successfully fight against them.

"From all these enemies, more dangerous than any earthly foes, we have a sure refuge. 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.' David wrote, 'The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.'

"This refuge is real. The walls of Shechem and Hebron did not protect a refugee from his enemy so securely as God keeps those who flee to Him from the sins that beset them.

"Try it. When the enemy presses upon you, lay hold upon the promises of God, and they will be to you a wall which no temptation can pierce. Satan himself in person cannot get through them to lay violent hands on one who is behind them. The God of heaven is infinitely more real, although invisible, than all the gods that can be seen; so His Word is a rock infinitely more real and more enduring than Gibraltar" (E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth, Oct. 10, 1895).

"We know the power of the resurrection of Christ only by experiencing the same power in the forgiveness of sins, and in overcoming sin. Thus we share even now in the resurrection of Christ, and that is the assurance of the future resurrection at his coming" (Waggoner, The Bible Echo, Aug. 1, 1893).

Read the immediate context of this week's memory verse (Heb. 6:17-20). Here we see that our hope is anchored in the high-priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Everything there reflects what is happening in actual fact in the hearts and minds of God's earthly children. In Revelation 3:20 our Refuge is pictured, ever knocking at the very door of our soul temple (see Selected Messages, book 1, p. 325). The faintest cry of the heart is heard by that persistent Visitor, and He will not fail to answer our invitation to come in. After all, what good is a refuge if it is far away and hard to reach? I have no refuge at all if it is not where I need it, when I need it to be there. Christ, ministering within the veil, "ever liveth to make intercession" for us (Heb. 7:25).

Thursday's lesson asks the question, "In what ways do we find the same kind of refuge and protection in Christ that those who fled to the cities of refuge found?"

A city of refuge was placed within reach of every Israelite. In the same way, faith is given to every human being (Rom. 12:3). "Since faith is the depending upon the word of God only, for what that word says, being justified by faith is simply being accounted righteous by depending upon the word only.

"When he has made the way so plain, the justification so complete, and the peace so sure to all, and asks all people only to receive it all by simply accepting it from him, and depending upon him for it, why should not every soul on earth be thus justified, and have the peace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ?" (A. T. Jones, Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 14, 1899, p. 104).

The second item on Friday's Summary of the lesson states the following: "The one guilty of killing another had no part in preparing this hiding place for him/her self." Another item on the list adds, "We had better just determine that the City of Refuge is our permanent home. We are privileged to stay there forever, hidden in Christ. To leave is to murder our Redeemer and to commit suicide. Freedom from the wages of sin is found only in Christ, the ultimate 'City of Refuge.'"

Consider the following: "Abiding with Christ is choosing only the disposition of Christ, so that he identifies his interests with yours. When you give up your own will, your own wisdom, and learn of Christ as he has invited you, then you shall find entrance into the kingdom of God. Entire, unreserved surrender he requires. Give up your life for him to order, mold, and fashion; take upon your neck his yoke; submit to be led and taught, as well as to lead and teach; learn that unless you become as a little child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Abide in him, to be and do only what he wills. These are the conditions of discipleship.

"Unless these conditions are complied with, you can not have rest. Rest is in Christ; it can not be found as something he gives apart from himself. The moment the yoke is adjusted to your neck, that moment it is found easy; and the heaviest labor in spiritual lines can be performed, the heaviest burdens can be borne, because the Lord gives the strength and the power, and he gives gladness in doing the work. Mark the points: Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart. Who is it that speaks thus?--The Majesty of heaven, the King of glory. He desires that your conception of spiritual things shall be purified from the fog of selfishness, the defilement of a crooked, coarse, unsympathetic nature. There must be the inward, higher experience. You must obtain a growth in grace by abiding in Christ.

"As these things were spoken, I saw that some turned sadly away, and mingled with the scoffers; others with tears, all broken in heart, were making confessions to those whom they had bruised and wounded. They did not think of maintaining their own dignity, but asked at every step, 'What must I do to be saved?' The answer was, 'Repent, and be converted, that your sins may go beforehand to judgment, and be blotted out'" (Jones, op. cit.).

"We have done mischief. We have sinned. What are the wages of sin? Death. Then who is after us? Death. Who had the power of death? Satan. Then who is after us? Satan. And we fled for refuge to lay hold on that hope set before us. Where is that hope? In Christ. Who is our refuge? Christ. Who is our city of refuge? … Now then, when we are in Christ, our refuge, can Satan touch us? He cannot. How do you know? It says so. Suppose we go out before the priesthood closes, what then? Satan can, and he will smite us, and our blood will be on our head. If we go out before the priesthood closes, we have no protection and he will take us. If that man would remain in the city ten or fifteen years he would have grown strong enough to meet his enemy, wouldn't he? He would have got experience there, and therefore he could say, 'I am strong enough now I am not afraid of any enemy; now I can go out. I can go out now, I am all right. That other fellow has gone away now and forgotten all about this.' But he is not able to meet the enemy, is he? Where is he able alone to meet the enemy? In the city. And in the city he does not have to meet him at all, does he? The walls of the city meet the enemy. That shield of faith that quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked--that shield of faith which is Jesus Christ, is the walls of our city of refuge, and the fiery darts of the enemy cannot get past it at all.

"Well then our strength and our safety forever, is only inside of our refuge, isn't it? And then when the priesthood closes, we can go everywhere in this universe--but not outside of Christ. Then we can go everywhere, and can the enemy do us any damage? No, sir. Let us stay in the City, brethren; let us stay in the refuge to which we have fled, where our safety is. And when we are there haven't we the victory? Yes, sir. In Him we have the victory. We can meet the temptation then with joy. Why, we have the victory before we meet temptation, haven't we? Then cannot we be glad? Wouldn't you rather have a battle when you know you have a victory before you start in, than to have no battle at all? Then let us do some of that kind of fighting. Come on, what is the use of being afraid? The victory is ours" (Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin, Feb. 9, 1893, p. 205).


Saturday, December 19, 2009

"The Second Generation: Admonitions"

"The Second Generation: Admonitions"

Sabbath Afternoon: The questions posed in the last paragraph are especially appropriate for those of us who attempt to study the "most precious [1888] message." We recognize that some of our forefathers made some bad mistakes. Are we ready to "take up the mantle" now given to us? Are we ready to cross over Jordan and posses the Promised Land?

Sunday: The land (wealth) was generously provided by God and fairly divided among the families. The lesson for me is: Am I sharing the wealth God has so generously provided for me? Am I witnessing the gospel I have been privileged to receive?

The principle of gender equality is significant in the world's culture of that time. The fact that it was established as a statute speaks to our day. We especially as a people claim to be Abraham's true descendants. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:26-29).

The 1888 message certainly promotes true liberty in all areas.

Monday: The gospel principle of biblical solidarity is brought to light in this section. "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him" (Heb. 7:9, 10; see also Gen. 17:8). "And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger" (Gen. 25:23; see also Rom. 9:10-12).

A number of nations were poised on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Abraham's descendants through Ishmael, Isaac, and Keturah were there as well as the descendants of Jacob, Esau, and Lot. We can see the all-inclusive nature of the gospel invitation. Any of these nations could have acknowledged the God of Abraham and joined with Israel in inheriting the Promised Land.

Tuesday: "The Sacrificial System Reaffirmed" the extreme high cost of our salvation in the shed blood of Jesus and its eternal efficacy. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). God, through His Son loved us, died for us, and reconciled us when we were without strength, ungodly, sinners, and His enemies.

Romans 5 also tells us that through Jesus Christ we have received the gift of grace. In addition, we have received the free gift of justification. But it does not stop there. It goes on to say: when we receive the "abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, [we] shall reign [with] in Jesus Christ." Verse 18 emphasizes the universality of God's love by saying: "by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

As a bonus, verse 19 assures us that we will experience the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Wednesday: This section opens the door to a discussion of the core gospel teaching of God's Everlasting Covenant or Promise. It also brings along a teaching of the "Old Covenant." I want to share an Ellen White quotation here just in case some have not seen it. "Night before last I was shown that evidences in regard to the covenants were clear and convincing. 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 [E. J.] Waggoner has presented. …You have turned from plain light because you were afraid that the law question in Galatians would have to be accepted" (Letter 59, to Uriah Smith, March 8, 1890; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 604).

Space limitations will not allow a detailed study of the Covenant Question here in this Insight. There has been a lot of material written by highly qualified writers. I recommend you to those sources. It is my opinion that one must start their study by investigating what E. J. Waggoner has written, and then go on from there.

I will remind you of this: God's Everlasting Covenant is His Promise. His word will come to pass because it has creative power in it. The Old Covenant is based on man's word or promise. Keep this in mind and don't make promises you know you cannot keep. If you make a mistake, go on your knees and God will forgive you just like He did the people in our lesson study.

Thursday: Perhaps there is a lesson for those who feel they know and have accepted that "most precious message" given in 1888. We have an obligation to go to the forefront of the "battle" to spread the gospel to the world.

Friday: Again this speaks to the heart of the controversy surrounding the 1888 message in the 21st century. We must not forget our history because we are repeating it. In addition there is a concerted effort to re-write our history by (so called) historians.

May God bless each of us as we stand on the border of the "Promised Land!"

--J. B. Jablonski

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Immorality on the Border"

"Immorality on the Border"

In our denominational history the 1888 rejection of Christ and His Holy Spirit as the beginning of the latter rain can be likened to the rebellion of ancient Israel when the twelve spies returned from their search of the "goodly land." Ten of the spies denied that they could conquer the land, which was in essence denying God's covenant promise to Abraham. Their failure to comprehend the full depth of the covenant promise and their lack of faith in God caused them to magnify every conceived obstacle. Only two men stood before the entire congregation and proclaimed "we are well able to overcome it" and enter the Promised Land by faith in God's power alone (Num. 13:30). This rebellion among the people included the rejection of the prophet who stood with Caleb and Joshua (Num. 14:1-5).

At Minneapolis in 1888, there were two men and a prophet who proclaimed "we are well able" to proceed to the heavenly Canaan through faith in Christ's righteousness and His power over all sin. The majority spurned this good news, rejected the message, the messengers, and the prophet who supported them. In so doing the leaders of the church also rejected Christ who delegated those two messengers and gave them the message they were proclaiming (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1353; Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 90-91, 96-98). Thus, because of unbelief what should have been "a quick work" has resulted in more than a century of wandering in the wilderness (Review and Herald, Oct. 6, 1896; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 450; vol. 5, p. 217; vol. 9, p. 29).

Following promptly on the heels of the rejection of the Spirit of Prophecy and the message of Christ and His righteousness in the context of the everlasting covenant, we find a plunge into pantheism. J. H. Kellogg influenced many of the leadership to accept a false concept of the very character and essential being of God. The pantheism openly promoted by Kellogg beginning at the 1897 General Conference Session, and especially in his book The Living Temple, is no different than the ancient Canaanite religion that caused Israel to stumble on the very borders of the Promised Land. Opening the door to spiritualism this "alpha of heresies" paved the way for our deepening confusion regarding the Gospel of righteousness by faith that would ensue over the next half century. "In the 1950s we borrowed and endorsed the Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones's concepts of 'righteousness by faith.'" E. Stanley Jones preached a "deficient Christ" who could be augmented through the acceptance of supposed "truth" found in all religions, including Eastern mystical pantheism. Highly refined spiritualism was being offered to the church, but it is a terrible counterfeit species of righteousness by faith that destroys confidence in God. Through theological compromise Baal was usurping the place of Jehovah, and we didn't even notice (see Knocking at the Door, p. 83; Faith on Trial, chap. 1; Baal Worship and the Long Delay).

In the midst of this theological confusion on July 11, 1950, God again sent two messengers to the leadership of the church with a plea to recover the message of Christ and His righteousness as A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presented it during the years 1888 through 1896. Elders Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short attended the General Conference Session that year as delegates from Africa, where they were serving as missionaries. Impressed by the call from Elder L. K. Dickson for the church to correct our course, and "make a right turn at this session where we took a wrong turn in 1888," these two young missionaries wrote a letter to the General Conference Committee that resulted in nearly 60 years of debate. Key points in this letter included the observation that the spiritualistic sophistries introduced by Kellogg, and the highly refined spiritualism and false "Holy Spirit" promoted by E. Stanley Jones, had deceived the people of God into departing into Baal worship even while hovering on the very brink of the heavenly Canaan.

Flipping back to our present study we find that the children of Israel were at ease, parked on the eastern shore of the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land. All their enemies had been subdued and perhaps they were feeling a trifle smug (even Laodicean?). Balaam's curse had proven to be a blessing, and they now viewed the man (mistakenly) as a prophet of the true God of heaven--an erroneous opinion that Balaam promptly used to an evil end. Having failed to curse Israel, Balaam switched tactics and under the guise of friendship and goodwill, he threw an enormous party on Mount Peor. Enticing as many of the Israelite leaders as he could to attend this festival, Balaam charmed God's people through sensuous pagan music, visually stimulating religious pageantry, and the allure of sexual fantasy. "Passion had full sway; and having defiled their consciences by lewdness, they were persuaded to bow down to idols" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 454). Israel committed spiritual adultery within sight of the Promised Land when they should have been taking possession of the precious promise of God's everlasting covenant. Some of the brightest lights went out in this apostasy (see Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 80-81). Moses warned ancient Israel (and us) to not make any covenants with the unbelievers, "for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Him above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:1-11). Be aware, what Satan cannot accomplish by direct frontal attack he will achieve through beguiling subterfuge. Since the fall of our first parents compromise with error in the name of improvement, unity, or increased knowledge has always been Satan's method.

During the mid-1950s and concurrent with the confusion over who God is and what constitutes righteousness by faith, Satan brought yet another challenge to the leadership of the church. Beginning in the spring of 1955 and continuing until the summer of 1956, a series of conferences took place between the leadership of our church and two Evangelicals, Donald Grey Barnhouse and Walter R. Martin. Barnhouse was editor of Eternity magazine, theology consultant for Billy Graham, and author of an article which discussed the challenge for people from various theological positions to understand one another. Martin was a Southern Baptist minister, consulting editor for Eternity, and author working on a manuscript he hoped would define the aberrant theological views of several major cults in America. His intention was to include in this work the Seventh-day Adventist Church primarily because we held certain "heretical views" such as Christ taking upon His sinless nature the fallen nature of Adam at the Incarnation*; Christ's on-going ministry in the heavenly sanctuary since A.D. 31, and Christ's work since 1844 in cleansing the hearts of His people (see The Consecrated Way, pp. 119-121); the investigative judgment; Sabbath as the seal of God; and the mark of the beast (to mention only a few points of contention).

According to Mr. Martin, the main thing which hindered our acceptance into the Evangelical fold were certain "divergent teachings" in the older Adventist literature. Because of our expressed "eager desire to join" with the Evangelicals, Martin hoped that once these divergent views were pointed out to the leadership of the church, the aberrancies would be remedied through editorial control and harmonization with the Evangelical theological position. Fear of exposure as an heretical cult caused modern Israel to take yet another left-hand turn which resulted in serious compromise on certain fundamental doctrines of the church that make us distinctive from all other religions on earth. We were now retreating toward Egypt (for applicable counsel see Testimonies vol. 5, pp. 217-218). M.L. Andreasen stated plainly that "The present conflict within the denomination is not one of semantics, as some have insisted. It is a question of our denominational existence."

How did God solve the apostasy at Baal-peor? Leaders of the people who were foremost in the apostasy were ordered executed and their bodies hung up as a testimony that God's justice would be swift and sure. The execution followed corporate repentance and involved a corporate action on the part of the whole camp. Those repenting for the sins committed on Mount Peor were not the ones who rebelled against God; the rebels were killed. Spiritual adultery will not be tolerated, but will receive just recompense. Our success and prosperity depends on our remaining a separate and distinct people. We are a movement specially called by God in direct fulfillment of prophecy to carry the message of Christ and His righteousness to a world living under fatal deception and dying in sin. But Satan has been quite successful thus far in frustrating the purposes of God for His "peculiar people" and the world at large. Taylor G. Bunch stated that "1888 is not only an important date in the history of the Advent movement because of the message that began at this time, but also because it marked the beginning of Satan's greatest efforts to strengthen his positions and thwart the purpose of God through His people." Compromise of God's truth for the sake of "unity" has no place in this final war. "The enmity of Satan against good will be manifested more and more as he brings his forces into activity in his last work of rebellion; and every soul that is not fully surrendered to God, and kept by divine power, will form an alliance with Satan against heaven, and join in battle against the Ruler of the universe." (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 465).

--Ann Walper

*It should be noted here that the editions of Bible Readings for the Home Circle published after 1888 and before the 1950s contained a succinct description of the nature which Christ assumed, that was written by E. J. Waggoner. In the editions published after the meetings with Barnhouse and Martin, those notes were rewritten to expunge any mention of the fallen nature.


Baal Worship and the Long Delay, Donald K. Short.
Faith on Trial, Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short.
The Knocking at the Door, R. J. Wieland.
1888 Re-Examined, R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short.
An Explicit Confession Due the Church, R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short.
Exodus and the Advent Movement in Type and Antitype, Taylor G. Bunch.
Letters to the Churches, M. L. Andreasen (Leaves of Autumn Books).
The M. L. Andreasen File (compilation by Laymen Ministry News).
Christianity Today, Feb. 5, 1990, “The Recent Truth About Seventh-day Adventism,” Kenneth Samples.
Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin.
The Truth About Seventh-day Adventists, Walter Martin

Thursday, December 03, 2009

"The 'Madness' of the Prophet"

"The 'Madness' of the Prophet"

Our lesson this week refers to the "madness" of Balaam. It is appropriate that the word "madness" is in quotes. From a worldly standpoint, he was not mad in the sense of angry or insane, he was clever and shrewd.

Though not an Israelite, God favored Balaam with direct communication. Balaam probably earned or enhanced his income by his reputation as a prophet. He must have seemed a pretty smooth operator, at least until his untimely death. Technically, he complied with God's instruction not to curse Israel. His pious protestations that he could only speak the word of God resulted in Balak upping the ante, thinking Balaam was stalling for more money.

If Balaam was truly loyal to God, he could have assured Balak that God had told Moses not to bother Moab or Ammon, both relatives of Israel through Lot's daughters. But, greed was taking over.

The miraculous experience with his donkey makes it incredulous that Balaam continued his journey to the Moabite king. But, the promise of wealth was too much. What a show he made, seven altars, seven sacrifices, the retreat to a "high" place to communicate directly with God. All was calculated to impress the watching Moabites, though it might have been more of a ploy for time. Balaam must have been hoping to concoct a curse that was acceptable to both sides, just tough enough to impress Balak, but vague enough to get around God's instruction. How silly to think God can be fooled.

Given the many remarkable aspects of this story, the most curious is the gullibility of the Israelites. Balaam suggested that the Moabites begin a campaign to entice Israel into idolatry to their gods, Baal and Ashtaroth. Why Israel fell for this is beyond comprehension. It must be remembered that Moses wrote the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, where this story is recorded. He was alive during this episode. He must have reminded Israel that God had promised to deliver the land to them, so concern about animosity from the locals was unfounded. The golden calf debacle was fixed in their recent history. They should have understood the dangers of idolatry. Why did they fall for a clumsy counterfeit?

The answers must be blamed on both Israel and Balaam. Balaam was the worst kind of deceiver. Posing as a pious man of God, he had authority to bring Israel what we might term "new light." The implication is that they were being exclusive in accepting only that light which came from God's messengers. Just imagine the arguments: "We need to mix with Moab, to make friends in the name of 'friendship evangelism.'" "We need to dialogue with them, hear their understanding of various doctrinal points, exchange thought papers even on clear points of theology, just in case they have light for us. After all, Balaam does receive communication from our God." "We need to minimize the more controversial aspects of our faith, avoid hot button words." Poor Moses, at the end of his career and life, his job just got harder.

Why was Israel so receptive to the ploys of the Moabites? Could it be that they were slightly embarrassed at being such a "peculiar" people? After all, no one else believed as they did. What harm is there in just opening a dialogue? Even though God had tenderly cared for them, working miracle after miracle for years, they kept remembering the "good old days;" familiar things, not to them, but to their parents in Egypt. They were "worshipping" their own ideas, not the direct instructions from God. This is why Jude 11 connects Balaam with Cain and Korah. Suffering from greed, idolatry, and pride, no wonder they refused the warnings of Moses.

This spirit is still present. We have only to look at the history of our church and the special message God gave to us through Jones and Waggoner. As they were publishing their articles in the Signs of the Times in the 1880's,opposition was being published in the Review and Herald. By the time of the General Conference session in 1888, many minds were probably closed, even when the acknowledged servant of the Lord urged acceptance.

Truth is always a two edged sword, it cuts both ways. There will always be opposition by some to the truth when it flies in the face of their experience.

"Here is where we have met the greatest difficulties in religious matters. The plainest facts may be presented, the clearest truths, sustained by the word of God, may be brought before the mind; but the ear and the heart are closed, and the all-convincing argument is, 'my experience.' Some will say, 'The Lord has blessed me in believing and doing as I have; therefore I cannot be in error.' 'My experience' is clung to, and the most elevating, sanctifying truths of the Bible are rejected" (The Bible Echo, Dec. 19, 1904).

Those of us privileged to hear and study this "most precious message" naturally want to share it as much as possible. When the message is presented to folks who have a different experience, there can be disapproval, opposition, and, frequently, advice on how to present "the message" in a more palatable manner. While the Lord will always give kind and gracious ways to present the truth, we can never become inadvertent Balaams by distorting, omitting, or watering down truth to garner favor and gain. We may not be satisfied with what we see as lack of progress in spreading the truth, but that is not our problem. We are to preach the Word, the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to hearts.

--Arlene Hill

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Priests and Levites"

Two prominent threads weave through the Old Testament Church, the New Testament Church and its Remnant of these last days. These threads are the corporate solidarity of the race and also individual acceptance of Christ and His righteousness. Both the corporate and the individuality themes are further illustrated by the various human body parts and its differing systems--the skeletal, sensory, circulatory, reproductive, respiratory, and digestive--all working together in harmony. Each one, although different in structure and function, contributes to the well being of the whole body.

In three of his letters Paul used the human body to illustrate the structure and various functions of the church and its individual members (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:14-31; Eph 6:11-16). The Church, whether in the Old Testament wilderness (Acts 7:38), or in New Testament times (Matt. 16:18) or in the last days (Rev. 12:17) was and is to be under the control of Christ its Foundation, Head, and Representative (Eph. 1:22, 12; Col 1:18).

After the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in the wilderness, God re-emphasized the roles of both the priesthood and that of the Levites within the church. The issue was not one of superiority and inferiority as imagined by the rebelling Levites led by Korah. The issue was that of corporate structure and distinctive function. The distinctions are outlined in Numbers 18 with each as a part of the church of Christ.

The division caused by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram brought much suffering into the Church in the wilderness. Centuries later Paul wrote "that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another" (1 Cor. 12:25). This care was ignored by the rebels in the Old Testament Church. Korah and cohorts claimed they and the congregation were "holy" and stated that Moses and Aaron were guilty of self-exaltation above everyone else (Num. 16:3). This accusation against God's messengers seems to be a recurring theme throughout the history of the church.

Jesus had to deal with a similar false holiness as did Moses. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matt 23:27). These men while professing godliness rejected both the gospel message and the Messenger, Christ Jesus their Savior.

Along a similar vein Ellen White wrote, "Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God's message" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 4, p. 1651).

There is only one cure for this whitewashed deadness that appears beautiful on the outside. This cure is of course, Christ.

One of the shrubs, whose twigs were used for the sprinkling of blood or of water in ancient Jewish rites of purification, was the hyssop. This was a type of the cleansing power of Christ for the uncleanness of sin. David understood this and prayed "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7).

Another typical purification ceremonial rite was that of a "red heifer." The animal was slaughtered and burned outside the camp (Num. 19:1-9). The red heifer was similar to, yet different from, the other offerings for sin. Nevertheless, the purpose was the same. It was a sin offering "for purifying from sin" (vs. 9). The blood was not individually applied to the sinner, but corporately for the congregation. The blood is mentioned only in relationship to the sacrifice, when the priest sprinkled it toward the tabernacle seven times. The blood of this slain animal was not carried into the first apartment of the tabernacle.

After sprinkling the blood of the red heifer, it was completely burned. Nothing but its ashes remained. Along with the heifer, pieces of "cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet" were placed in the fire (vs. 6). The ashes of those combined elements were then preserved for future use and lasted over a considerable length of time. The ashes were to be kept and later mixed with water for the "water of separation," or "purification for sin" (vss. 9, 17-22). The ceremony was for the removal of defilement incurred through physical contact with the dead and applied to the "stranger" as well as to the Jew (vss. 10-16). Hebrews 9:12-13 refers to this custom when contrasting the effectiveness of Christ's blood for the purging of conscience "from dead works to serve the living God."

The red heifer was a congregational, or corporate, offering (Num 19:1, 2). It was to be offered outside the camp, typifying Christ who was made to be sin and a curse for us. He suffered outside the established order of things (Heb. 13:12). The offering of Christ was corporate in nature, not for believers only but also for non-believers even enemies. Although enemies, He reconciled us to God, through His death (Rom. 5:10).

A yoke was never placed on the red heifer. This signified the voluntary giving of Christ to and for the world. Christ, in heaven, was above all law. The only thing that bound Him was the cord of His own love for us. When He became incarnate He came under the law, both in its jurisdiction and in its condemnation. He came under its jurisdiction in order to develop a righteous character for us. And He came under the condemnation of the law in order to redeem mankind (Gal. 4:4, 5).

Just as the red heifer was offered as a sacrifice outside the camp, so likewise Jesus went outside the gate to become the curse of God in order to redeem Adam's corporate and our individual failures (Gal. 3:13). Both the offerings of the red heifer and that of Christ were corporate in nature. However, the heifer's ashes were applied because of the individual's personal contamination with contact with the dead. So with Christ's sacrifice, while it is for the fallen human race, only those who have it applied individually are personally cleansed and these only receive eternal life.

--Gerald L. Finneman

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Power Struggle"

"Korah" "challenged the authority of Moses" (Num. 16:1, Revised English Bible). This Levite felt he had just as much of the spirit of prophecy as did Moses and Aaron, who were God's appointed messengers to ancient Israel. But Moses could go into the West Wing and speak with the President face to face, receiving direct communications from God (Num. 12:8).

Ellen White frequently drew the parallels between the rebellion of Korah, et. al., and the brethren of the 1888 era. In 1890 she wrote to Uriah Smith, "You have refused my testimonies given me ... from the Lord" and "labored to make them of none effect as did Korah" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 599). Before the 1891 General Conference held in Battle Creek, she said that in refusing the light placed before them, they were "like the Jews" and "like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram" who "set themselves against the light" (ibid., p. 912). To her nephew Frank Belden she wrote in 1892, "Never before have I seen among our people such firm self-complacency and unwillingness to accept and acknowledge light as was manifested at Minneapolis. ... They were actuated by the same spirit that inspired Korah. ..." (ibid., p. 1067).

Ellen White decided "to leave Minneapolis." But the angel told her to stay. "The people are acting over the rebellion of Korah. ..." She was to shine the light. However, "they will not heed your testimony." "It is not you they are despising, but the messengers and the message I send to My people. They have shown contempt for the word of the Lord. Satan has blinded their eyes. ..." (ibid., p. 1068).

This rebellion extended to the very sources which controlled the reading material available to our people from the Battle Creek publishing house. In 1896 Ellen White wrote to Kate Lindsay, "The publishing house at Battle Creek has been under the reproof of God for years, especially since the time of the Minneapolis meeting, when some acted the part of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram" (ibid., p. 1518).

As one reads Patriarchs and Prophets (PP) it can be seen why there was much foot-dragging on its final publication, which was finally announced in the Review of August 26, 1890. Ellen White had begun the revision of volume 1 of The Spirit of Prophecy sometime in 1886-1887 (Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years 1876-1891, vol. 3, p. 443). This expansion of her Old Testament history (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. I) reflected the conflict of the 1888 crisis in her application of "The Rebellion of Korah" (PP, chapter 35) to what was happening with the leading brethren.

She wrote of how Korah sought to "overthrow the authority of the leaders appointed by God." "... Korah had been secretly opposing the authority of Moses. ..." (PP 395). "Korah and his associates gained the attention and enlisted the support of the congregation" (p. 397). This went on secretly for sometime before it became an open rebellion. Moses did not attempt self-justification.

It was Jesus, "the angel of the Lord," who was leading Israel. The rebellion was really against Him. Those who were confused and deceived by the principal conspirators were extended "forgiveness" "lingering for them." (p. 401).

After God had withdrawn His protection from the rebels and they were destroyed, the enmity of the people was manifest by their purpose "to put both Moses and Aaron to death." "It is hardly possible for men to offer greater insult to God than to despise and reject the instrumentalities He would use for their salvation" (p. 402).

Despite God's forbearance in convincing them to be "the greatest of sinners" "they still cherished hatred of the men of God's appointment, and braced themselves to resist their authority" (p. 402).

Ellen White wrote that the same spirit of pride and "ambition for position and honor" which motivates Lucifer's rebellion "worked upon the minds of Korah" and his friends. There is a "... desire for self-exaltation" which excites "envy, distrust, and rebellion. Satan caused them to reject God as their leader, by rejecting the men of God's appointment" (p. 403).

Then she drew her most forceful parallel. "Do not the same evils still exist that lay at the foundation of Korah's ruin? Pride and ambition are widespread. ... Like Korah and his companions, many, even of the professed followers of Christ, are thinking, planning, and working so eagerly for self-exaltation that in order to gain the sympathy and support of the people they are ready to pervert the truth, falsifying and misrepresenting the Lord's servants, and even charging them with the base and selfish motives that inspire their own hearts. ... While endeavoring to destroy the confidence of the people in the men of God's appointment, they really believe that they are engaged in a good work, verily doing God service" (pp. 403, 404).

The sad fact is that the rejection of light engenders a spirit of continued rejection of advanced light. "Every advance made by those whom God has called to lead in His work has excited suspicion. ..." Solemn indeed! "... They had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, a sin by which man's heart is effectually hardened against the influence of divine grace. ..." (pp. 404, 405).

It is no wonder that the book committee dragged its feet in publishing Patriarchs and Prophets. But Ellen White urged: "God gave me the light contained in Great Controversy and Patriarchs and Prophets, and this light was needed to arouse the people to prepare for the great day of God, which is just before us. These books contain God's direct appeal to the people. Thus He is speaking to the people in stirring words, urging them to make ready for His coming. The light God has given in these books should not be concealed" (MS 23, 1890; quoted in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, vol. 3, p. 444).

Ellen White wrote these lessons plainly for the benefit of God's people today who might heed them and correct the mistakes of their past history related to 1888. Patriarchs and Prophets is prime evidence of what happened in our 1888 era crisis. It is still relevant today so far as attitudes toward God's message and His messengers.

If the "beginning" of the latter rain and loud cry was the message itself, there is a real hope that we can do something positive: we can restudy and accept the message. And it logically follows that when our people worldwide come to understand and believe the message, the long-awaited eschatological blessings can at least begin to be realized again.

--Paul E. Penno


Friday, November 06, 2009

"Planning Ahead [Or Plan 'B']"

This week's lesson is a relatively peaceful interval between two major rebellions. In preparation for entry into the Promised Land, God moved the camp after more than a year at Sinai. Much had been accomplished: the temple was built and its various sacrifices were given to graphically foreshadow the cross as never before, the Old Testament "church" was organized; health, criminal, and civil laws were issued; and a method of communication via trumpets was introduced. The similarities to the Seventh-day Adventist Church before and immediately following 1888 are striking.

But, like the 1888 era, things were not all good. The way taken from Sinai was rugged and difficult. Discontent began in the mixed multitude and quickly spread to willing Israelites leading to open expression, unbelief, outright rebellion, and punishment. The ostensible reason for the discontent was the food, but from the family jealousy that resulted from appointment of the 70 elders, it is clear that the fundamental reason was doubt over the leadership of Moses. The Lord was clear, they were not doubting Moses so much as His leadership. Following 1888, it is remarkable how the authority of the messengers with "heavenly credentials" and especially His prophet was challenged and even questioned.

Questioning the leadership of those the Lord allows in sacred office is a very delicate matter. Those who have been privileged to study and have come to love this "most precious message" must be aware that our enthusiasm to promote and teach it can be misinterpreted as criticism. Like the mixed multitude, we can borrow vestiges of old attitudes that justify any means because "we are right." We forget that our duty is the great commission to "go tell" the everlasting gospel, not to persuade by argument. The persuasive wooing is gently done by the Holy Spirit.

Just like Israel, many see problems within the Adventist camp. Some believe they are entitled to express their displeasure by robbing God of His tithe and offerings. If God places us in a position to call for change in love, it will never entitle us to offend another of His requirements. On the brink of entering the Promised Land, the Lord expanded the burnt offering sacrifice to be accompanied by a grain offering. We remember Cain and Abel's offerings. "Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground, and Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock … (Gen. 4:3-4, NASB). In other words, Abel brought both the grain and lamb offering. The lamb represented identity with the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. The Lord required these grain offerings with every burnt offering to teach the lesson that the products of man's efforts were acceptable solely on the basis of the spilled blood. Only when the sinner acknowledges this need, can he expect God to accept the dedication of the fruits of our labors to God.

Are you in a church leadership position and, like Moses, have become weary and discouraged because you see little progress, either in your congregation or yourself. Are you weary of what seems like constant resistance? The answer always is in joining Moses on his face in front of the tent of meeting. God has provided rest, but we can enter it only by faith. Waggoner explained the concept of rest in the Lord: "It is sin that brings weariness. Adam in the Garden of Eden had work to perform, yet he had absolutely perfect rest all the time he was there, till he sinned. If he had never sinned, such a thing as weariness would never have been known on this earth. Work is no part of the curse, but fatigue is" (The Everlasting Covenant, p. 308; Glad Tidings ed.). As workers for the Lord, we may feel physical fatigue, but mental, emotional, and spiritual fatigue can, by faith, be given to God, and we can claim His promised rest.

In the rebellion following the report of the spies, we must humbly acknowledge a parallel to the rejection of the message given in 1888. Numbers 14:1-2 emphasizes that the entire congregation was involved in the rejection. Yet, we know that three, a prophet, and two messengers remained faithful to the message. Caleb and Joshua urged the people to exercise faith in God's promises. In what must have been an allusion to the fire/cloud that protected Israel, Joshua declared that the giant people of the land had lost their protection. The margin says the literal word translated "protection" is "shadow," (Num. 14:9). As with the golden calf incident, the Lord responds to the peoples' rebellion by telling Moses He will smite them and make Moses and his progeny into a great nation. In his pleading on their behalf this time, Moses argues that if God does that, people who have heard of it will think "Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath ..." (Num. 14:15-16, NASB). God did not abandon His church when we rejected the message that was to prepare His people for entry into the Promised Land of heaven. Instead, He continues to protect us while we wander in the wilderness.

Did our church leadership understand everything that was involved in the rejection of the message in 1888? Most of them thought they had legitimate concerns, and President Butler urged, "stand by the old landmarks." But their short-sightedness has become clear as history continues now some 120 years. Our beloved church desperately needs to openly accept the message of Christ our Righteousness, and many still are suspicious to even investigate because there has been no emphasis on the 1888 message by the leadership. Truly, we are Laodicea who does not discern her true condition. God gave Israel the trumpets for special communication just before entry into the Promised Land. As Ellen White frequently admonishes, the trumpet must be given a certain sound.

A dedicated student of the message penned this analysis some 50 years ago:

"The rejection of the message of Christ's righteousness, which was in reality the beginning of the 'loud cry,' was a subconscious reaction of the carnal heart at enmity with God and His righteousness; it was an undeliberative and unknown sin. It was nonetheless responsible and exceedingly serious. The people of Israel knowingly rejected the recommendation of the two spies; they unknowingly rejected God's leadership in a program of the immediate conquest of the Promised Land. The Jews knowingly rejected the claims of an obscure Galilean; they unknowingly rejected the Son of God and the Father who had sent Him ('Brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also,' Acts 3:17, NASB). Likewise, it appears that the brethren of 70 years ago knowingly rejected what they mistakenly assumed was merely an uncalled-for re-emphasis of the doctrine of justification by faith as presented by some apparently imperfect and fanatical messengers; in reality, unknowingly, they rejected the beginning of the 'latter rain' and 'loud cry.'"

May God give us His agape grace should He give us the privilege of proclaiming this "most precious message."

--Arlene Hill

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Trumpets, Blood, Cloud, and Fire"

This lesson encompasses many things; some we will only touch on. Let's consider first the discipline and orderliness necessary for Israel in their desert wanderings. Think of the size of the encampment. There were about two million people in the tent city surrounding the tabernacle. This city of tents was about the size of Houston, Texas. The land area used by the tents probably would not be the same as Houston, but there would have been many square miles stretching out from the tabernacle. So there would have been a great need for self-discipline and order, especially when they broke camp and began to move out.

When God led Israel into the desert, He led them in an orderly fashion. At the head of each tribe was a standard and each tribe had its place. God commanded that silver trumpets were to be made and used for the preparation to leave their encampment and for journeying, for directions in war, to call assemblies, and for use in the religious ceremonies connected with the tabernacle (Num. 10:1-10). The trumpet's various sounds were used so that Israel would know that their Leader was Christ, who was with them and led them.

It was Christ, the Cloud, in Whom they were protected by day; it was Christ, in the pillar of Fire providing for them in the darkness of the night (Num. 9:16). It was Christ who was their spiritual food and their spiritual drink; it was Christ crucified who was that spiritual Rock who followed them (1 Cor. 10:1-4) and who led them.

The first anniversary of Passover after being freed from Egyptian bondage was commemorated by Israel before they left their yearlong encampment at Sinai (Num. 9:1-3). At this time Israel read their history backward, but they were to live their lives forward. They were to live the emancipated life of Christ, by faith, who was then dwelling among them (Ex. 25:8), and who was to come in the future as the Incarnate One to dwell in human flesh (John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16).

The Passover not only pointed back in history to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, but also forward to the greater emancipation by Christ on the cross for mankind. Let's fast forward to our day. From our time history is read backward, but must be lived forward. There is always the danger that we mould the great historical figures according to the influence that we know they had on the times long after they were dead. But they did not know that future. They could not make decisions by hindsight, any more than we can in our daily living. To understand them we need to live beside them in our minds, think their thoughts, feel as they felt, react to the changing situations with only the past to provide guidance.

It is here that Ellen White gives us guidance. She takes us by the hand and conducts us to the crises in our Advent history and introduces us to the main contenders for power and opens up some of the books and messages of the pioneers, especially the messages sent from heaven through Jones and Waggoner. Reformation was the issue then as it was in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Reformation in Minneapolis was similar in principle to Wittenberg. The vision of reformation for Jones and Waggoner was as unusual as was Luther's. And it is troublesome for us in our day.

The roots of the Reformation go back to the 14th century attacks on the wealth, the ethics, the behavior, of and the hierarchy of the Church of Rome. These were mere symptoms of spiritual sickness. Attacks on the symptoms were made both by loyal groups within that Church and by those who were marginalized by the Church, such as the Lollards and the Hussites. Luther recognized what those reformers did not. They all dealt, for the most part, with symptoms and how to destroy them. Luther identified the nature of the spiritual sickness of the Church and knew that it could not be healed, and so he went for the jugular.

The reformation Luther undertook was one of doctrine rather than ethical renewal as others before him had done. His was a reformation of the doctrine that occurred through the preaching of the Gospel of justification by grace through faith based on the Word of God. In his own words, "Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wycliffe and Huss attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine." [1] "Others before me have contested practice. But to contest doctrine, that is to grab the goose by the neck!" [2] "[O]ur gospel comes along, takes away indulgence, abolishes pilgrimages, puts a stop to bulls, checks covetousness, and achieves marvelous results." [3] Luther's trumpet gave a certain sound that prepared God's people.

Luther recognized that the behavior would change as people accepted the doctrine of justification by faith. He spoke and wrote of the doctrine of justification by faith under the influence of the "former rain." Ellen White spoke and wrote of the doctrine of justification by faith that Jones and Waggoner proclaimed as the "Loud Cry" during the "Latter Rain." Notice her words:

"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." [4]

This is God's trumpet certain sound of justification by faith. This will prepare God's people for what is coming upon the earth. Don't you think it's time to move out?

--Gerald L. Finneman


[1] Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1989, p. 55.
[2] Christian History Magazine, Issue 34: "Martin Luther: The Reformer's Early Years," 1992. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.
[3] "A Letter of Dr. Martin Luther Concerning His Book on the Private Mass," 1534; Luther's Works 38:231-232.
[4] Testimonies to Ministers", p. 91.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Worship and Dedication"

The dedication of the earthly sanctuary was made after, and as a result of, the old covenant. The old covenant was given by the people in their promise to God: "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8), and by so promising told God they could handle this just fine without Him. As a result, God gave them the Ten Promises in Exodus 20 to give them a chance to receive them as promises or, in their old-covenant mindset, make them into a list of commands that had to be carried out--which, of course, is exactly what they did. It was the same sin of Adam and Eve when they tried to make their own (fig leaf) garments to replace the robes of light that God had given them when they were created.

When Israel confirmed (Yes, they really did!) their promise in Exodus 24 (verse 3), God then instituted an elaborate system (beginning with chapter 25) that was designed to constantly remind them that they could not keep their promise, but instead, needed to constantly apply the blood of God's sacrifice that would be made in the future and look to Him for the keeping of His promise to them. Each time they broke their promise to God, they would participate in this graphic and gruesome procedure. It was impossible for them to keep their promise to Him (Joshua 24:19). But God does keep all of His.

All this was done in the Holy Place, that first room of the sanctuary that was dedicated to the daily ministration of sins for individuals. In this room was found the candlestick, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense. Each of these pieces of furniture represented the various aspects of Jesus Christ and His work with His people in their daily lives.

Some of the symbolism is as follows: The candlestick (menorah) with its light, fire, and oil represents, respectively: Christ as the light of God's all-powerful inherently creative and redemptive Word going to the entire world through His people because the purifying cleansing fire is cleansing the hearts of God's willing people through the powerful fuel of the oil of the Holy Spirit of God.

The table of shewbread represents Christ as the bread of life feeding God's people both temporally and spiritually during their daily sojourn, and also represents the throne of God during the daily walk of God's people during the work of first apartment ministry, with the two stacks of bread, one for the Father and one for the Son. (They later move to enter a new level of ministry in the Most Holy place; Early Writings, pp. 54-56.)

The altar of incense with its smoke from the special incense represents respectively the constant prayers (smoke entering the Most Holy place) of God's people seeking the application of the merits (incense) of Christ to their hearts.

The second room in the sanctuary (the Most Holy place) was used for the annual cleansing of the sanctuary--a corporate work on the Day of Atonement. This included the cleansing of the hearts of God's people as part and parcel of the corporate whole. The work in this room represents the cleansing of God's church (including the hearts of His people) in the last days in preparation for the special final events of earth's history.

The study of the Day of Atonement vastly exceeds the scope of this paper, so I will write no more about that. However, I will close with some quotes from A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 messengers:

"'Who may abide the day of his coming? Who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's FIRE.' Good. Then when I meet him now, in the consuming fire that he is, I meet him in a fire that is refining, that purifies. 'And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.' That is separation from sin; that is purification from sin. And that sets us where we offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness: we become the servants of righteousness unto holiness, that we may meet the Lord. So, then, bless the Lord that he is a consuming fire,—that he is as a refiner's fire.

"… In that day his eyes will rest upon each one of us, and he will look clear through us. When his eyes are as a flame of fire, and those eyes in that great day rest upon every one of us, and look clear through us, what will that look do for every one who is wrapped up, body and soul, in sin?--It will consume the sin, and the sinner with it; because he would not be separated from the sin. And today, just now, those eyes are the same that they will be in that day."

"All the Scripture is founded upon this thought,--that it is not against the person, but against the thing to which the person has fastened himself, that the wrath of God comes. Then as the Lord executes vengeance primarily only against sin, as his wrath is only against ungodliness and unrighteousness, and he has done everything he could to get the people to separate from sin, then in that burning day when he comes, and reveals himself to the world, and the world sees him as he is, it will still be only sin against which he will execute vengeance."

"Only as the man clings to his ungodliness, only as he holds down the truth in unrighteousness, shall it be that the wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against him: and even then not against him primarily, but against the sin to which he clings, and will not leave. And as he has thus made his choice, clinging fast to his choice, he must take the consequences of his choice, when his choice shall have reached its ultimate" (Our God is a Consuming Fire, pp.16, 17, 8, 3).

"The finishing of the mystery of God is the ending of the work of the gospel. And the ending of the work of the gospel is, first, the taking away of all vestige of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness--Christ fully formed--within each believer, God alone manifest in the flesh of each believer in Jesus; and, secondly, on the other hand, the work of the gospel being finished means only the destruction of all who then shall not have received the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10): for it is not the way of the Lord to continue men in life when the only possible use they will make of life is to heap up more misery for themselves" (The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, p. 119; Glad Tidings ed.).

Our bodies are also the sanctuary of God (1 Cor. 6:19). Let's rededicate ourselves today to the work of the refining fire of God.

--Craig Barnes

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Preparing a People"

This week's lesson is taken from Numbers chapters 5 and 6, where some themes emerge: the putting away of sin, God's desire for purity in His people individually and corporately, faithfulness, and the special call of the Nazirite.

There is a quote at the top of Wednesday's lesson that says, "God purposed to organize Israel in the broadest sense to be for Him 'a nation of priests and a holy nation.' They would thus witness to the nations far and near about the truths concerning the living God and the Creator of all things." Several texts in Isaiah confirm this idea: 49:6, " Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles'"; 42:6, "I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house." Although these two passages are clearly messianic they can also be applied to a people called by God to give a special message to God's people. Isaiah 58:6, 7, "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry …"

The people of Israel were established as a "kingdom of priests and an holy nation" with a mission to the world. They were called to be God's prophet to the world. Most of the prophets of old spoke as individuals but a people can also be called by God to function prophetically. Israel received this call as we see in the verses above, and so also the Seventh-day Adventist movement has received such a call. As we contemplate this seemingly haughty claim and examine Numbers chapter 6, we see some similarities between the call of the Nazirite John the Baptist and the call of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. We use the term movement here purposefully. Moses had a dramatic call--the burning bush spoke to him. Jeremiah wore an ox-yoke around his neck, and Ezekiel lay on his left side for 390 days. Not so with John the Baptist. John was clothed in a camel's hair coat, "with a leather belt around his waist; and he ate locusts and wild honey." He looked like a prophet, he dressed like a prophet, and he ate like a prophet! But that was not the only thing. Luke 1:77, 79 says he was "to give knowledge of salvation to His people … to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Then the Bible says, "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). John the Baptist--that peculiar Nazirite as the Elijah-messenger of his day, has much to say to the bearers of the Elijah message of today. The prophetic call is founded on a message. The prophets' entire reason for being as prophets has to do with what they have to say. No message, no prophet. The Adventist prophetic movement will need to understand, receive, and preach what God has commissioned this people to say, and to say it with clarity. Prophets are given a voice.

What is the message about which we are to have clarity? "The soul saving message, the third angel's message, is the message to be given to the world. The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are both important, immensely important, and are to be given with equal force and power. The first part of the message has been dwelt upon mostly, the last part casually. The faith of Jesus is not comprehended. We must talk it, we must live it, we must pray it, and educate the people to bring this part of the message into their home life" [1].

"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. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. 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].

"Several have written to me, inquiring if the 1888 message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity'" [3].

"The loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth" [4].

"Why are our lips so silent upon the subject of Christ's righteousness and His love for the world? Why do we not give to the people that which will revive and quicken them into new life? The apostle Paul is filled with transport and adoration as he declares, 'without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory'" (1 Tim. 3:16) [5].

There are truths inherent in the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness that are not comprehended by any segment of Christians who do not understand the two-apartment ministry of the heavenly High Priest. In the absence of the truth of the "third angel's message in verity, "no body of people anywhere can be prepared for the second coming of Christ, regardless of their religious affiliation. And we must not forget the transcendent motivation of concern for the honour and vindication of the Saviour so that the great controversy can be ended in victory for Him. Isaiah 40:9 sums up well this insight and the call mission and message. Read carefully: " O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God.'" May God give us courage, Amen.

--Lyndi Schwartz


[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 430.
[2] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-92.
[3] E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[4] E. G. White, Review and Herald, Nov. 22,1892.
[5] 1888 Materials, p. 430.

Friday, October 02, 2009

"A New Order"

Everything which God did with ancient Israel, after they made their old covenant at Mount Sinai, was an accommodation to them in order to lead them to the Christ of the new covenant. "The old covenant, the covenant from Sinai, is summed up in the word 'SELF.' The new covenant, the everlasting covenant is summed up in the word 'CHRIST.'" [1]

It was Christ who came to them at Sinai as the Revealer of divine agape (1 Cor. 10:1-4). The message of the smitten Rock was the crucifixion of Jesus--the same message of which it is said that "Abraham rejoiced to see" (John 8:56). There is no "self" in being crucified with Christ.

God would use ancient Israel to proclaim His love to the nations. The dark, pagan world would be lightened with His glory. All this is what "might have been," but for Israel's trust in themselves--"all that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). That was their old covenant. They had spurned and insulted their Divine Lover. Only recognition of what they had done and an appropriate repentance on the part of the people could safely restore their alienated hearts to God. So God would permit them to have as much of "self" as they wanted until they would get sick of it and awake to their need of Christ. He had told them He would use hornets to drive out the Canaanites from their promised inheritance (23:27-30). Would they believe God's promise or trust in their own strong arm? God must permit this test for love never forces His will upon His people.

The "New Order" was nothing more than the "old order" of trusting in "self" to gain the inheritance. Certain it is that the Lord commanded the census (Num. 1:1, 2). How intrusive! 603,550 strong! (1:46).

Levites were now in charge of a "kindergarten object lesson" tabernacle with restricted access (1:50, 53); whereas God's plan would have been for all the people motivated by His agape to come by faith to their Heavenly High Priest in His sanctuary--the true Tabernacle. They were to have been "a kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6).

Oh, yes, they were scrupulous in doing everything just so as God instructed (Num. 2:34), but a people are perfectly capable of performing ritualistically prescribed rules and regulations without their hearts being in it. When unconsciously "self" is the object of worship, lots of rules and rituals are important to validate religious experience.

Ancient Israel is a parable of modern Israel. "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11).

Our "Mount Sinai" was 1888. Jesus came to "us" as a Lover. The True Witness sent "messengers" with a message to the Laodicean church of "the matchless charms of Christ" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 348). ("The message given us by A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church," ibid., p. 1052). The same reign of "self" in the hearts of the ancient Jews which rejected and crucified Christ reigns in our hearts and spurns and ridicules the "messengers" and the message of Jesus ("Those who might have been co-laborers with Christ, but who have spurned the messengers [ATJ and EJW] and their message, will lose their bearings" ibid., p. 1651; "We had to meet with prejudice and with ridicule and with sneers and with criticism of the very same character that we have had to meet here in this conference [1888]," ibid., p. 830). We have been wandering in the wilderness every since. Jesus is still with modern Israel through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

God has abundantly blessed the evangelistic proclamation of the third angel's message by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. The Holy Spirit is working marvelously for the expansion of the work. Back in 1948 it was declared:

"The financial success of this vast denominational undertaking cannot be stronger than the faith and zeal which animate God's chosen people. These combined resources, under the generalship of the Captain of the Lord's Hosts, will lead to the early triumph of the great Second Advent Movement in all the world" (Thirty-seventh Financial Report, General Conference, Year Ending Dec. 31, 1948, p. 9).

And, yet, we are still here in this old world. Could it be that the Lord is testing our hearts with success? Is He permitting us to have as much of the religion of "self" as we desire in order that we might become sick of it and really want the true Christ and genuine righteousness by faith? Are we depending upon the strong arm of "self" or is "the still small voice" being heard in our midst for the purpose that God's plan has in store so much more in terms of the revelation of His agape as we see the message of the cross and the Holy Spirit is poured out in Latter Rain proportions.

On the day of Pentecost when Peter proclaimed "let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified" that the Jews "were pricked in their heart" and asked, "What shall we do?" And Peter said, "Repent" "and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:36-38). Peter brought into focus their history of rejecting Christ. When the Jews "saw" that, they repented.

Faith is an appreciation of what it cost Jesus to die for us ("You may say that you believe in Jesus, when you have an appreciation of the cost of salvation," Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, July 24, 1888; The Desire of Ages, p. 753, conveniently summarizes the cost Christ paid). Self is crucified with Christ.

This will necessitate God bringing us back to where we failed the test in 1888. Then a spontaneous repentance will arise from the hearts of modern Israel. Alienated hearts will receive the atonement with God.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] A. T. Jones, "Studies in Galatians. The Two Covenants. Gal. 4: 21-31; 5:1," Review and Herald, July 31, 1900, p. 489 (emphasis his).

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Power Struggle"

Reviewing the lesson this week a couple of thoughts related to the 1888 message immediately jump out. First the lesson author points us to the love that John expressed toward one of his fellow believers, the one to whom the letter was addressed, Gaius.

John wrote: "The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John 1:1-2). The original terms for love which John used were agapao and agapatos. It is easy to discern that these words both come from the root word agape. By using this terminology, John indicates that his affection for Gaius was no mere human sentimentality. He loved him with the love which comes only from God.

Human beings were originally created with hearts full of agape. Unselfish, Christ-like love was natural to our first parents. However, when Adam sinned, we are told "... man's powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love" (E. G. White, Counsels to Teachers, p. 33). Thus, as a result of the fall, mankind has no natural conception of true love. We tend to confuse it with human love which is anything but selfless. But agape, the term used most often to denote God's love, is completely unrelated to human love and completely selfless.

It is described for us in the thirteenth chapter of Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians. In the first three verses we are told of the significance of agape. It is more essential than eloquence. It is more necessary than prophecy. It is even more important than faith. These are startling qualifications. Eloquence may seem like a luxury, but prophecy and faith are important elements indeed. Yet without love they are virtually ineffective, all but useless.

The description continues and again we are shocked by the revelation of agape. "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3, ESV). Extravagant generosity and even sacrificial martyrdom are vain and empty without the essential motivating qualifier called agape.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Human love, which consists of self-love, embodies the exact opposite of all of these qualities. Yet there is hope in Christ "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5, ESV).

As we consider the love of God and the grace which that love prompted Him to extend to humanity, we find the courage to face the echoes of the other 1888 related topic which leaps from the pages of our Sabbath School lesson this week. In Friday's lesson we find a statement which calls to mind similar statements from our history at the 1888 conference and its aftermath.

"Those who are inclined to regard their individual judgment as supreme, are in grave peril. It is Satan's studied effort to separate such ones from those who are channels of light, through whom God has wrought to build up and extend His work in the earth. To neglect or despise those whom God has appointed to bear the responsibilities of leadership in connection with the advancement of the truth, is to reject the means that He has ordained for the help, encouragement, and strength of His people" (E. G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 444).

As this statement concerning "channels of light" and "truth" and their rejection is read, one cannot help but remember many similar statements of warning from the pen of inspiration.

"Prompted by pride, prejudice, and hatred, the Pharisees, priests, and rulers rejected the Lord of glory. His mighty works had no softening influence upon their minds; for they hardened their hearts lest they should be converted. When evidence is given that a man is a messenger of the Lord of hosts, that he speaks in God's stead, it is perilous to the soul to reject and despise the message. To turn away from heaven's light and refuse the light-bearer, is to take a course similar to that which Satan took in the courts of heaven when he created rebellion in the ranks of the angels" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1062).

"I have no smooth message to bear to those who have been for so long as false guideposts, pointing the wrong way. If you reject Christ's delegated messengers, you reject Christ. Neglect this great salvation kept before you for years, despise this glorious offer of justification through the blood of Christ and sanctification through the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, and there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. I entreat you now to humble yourselves, and cease your stubborn resistance of light and evidence" (ibid., p. 1342).

"My brother, why do you cherish such bitterness against Elder A. T. Jones and Elder Waggoner? It is for the same reason Cain hated Abel. Cain refused to heed the instruction of God, and because Abel sought God, and followed His will, Cain killed him. God has given Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner a message for the people. You do not believe that God has upheld them, but He has given them precious light, and their message has fed the people of God. When you reject the message borne by these men, you reject Christ, the Giver of the message. Why will you encourage the attributes of Satan?" (ibid., p. 1353).

Why should we be reminded of this dark period of our history? A wise philosopher once remarked, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana). Our history is of such a character that we dare not repeat it. It is perilous to resist the advances of the One who loves us with such extravagant "agape." Yet this is what we are all so prone to do, apart from intelligent and conscious, Spirit led, corporate repentance. We must remember our history and learn its lessons, for "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (E. G. White, Life Sketches, p. 196).

--Kelvin (Mark) Duncan

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Important Themes in 1 John"

1 John is not a lengthy Book, only four or five pages in many Bibles, but it is packed with "important themes." We would like to explore some of the themes that form the basis, or "heart," of the 1888 message.

Our favorite text for forgiveness is 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That text is often misunderstood as a virtual license to go on sinning. Just keep on sinning, confessing your sins, and you'll keep on being forgiven. But what is Bible forgiveness? Is it merely pardon that justifies sin? No, the Greek word in this verse for "forgive" means to take away sin, here and now, to do the "washing" with the "blood of Christ" (Rev. 1:5). Is anything more precious than such cleansing?

John introduced Christ by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Not "maybe," "perhaps," or "He would like to be," or "He takes away the sin of a few." Why this universal sacrifice of atonement? "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

God's love (
): We read in 1 John 4:8 that "God is agape." And what is agape? Verse 9 tells us it is the motivation that led the Father to give His only begotten Son to die for us "that we might live through Him." It is a special kind of love that is willing to die the second death so that we might live eternal life. It is a love that is willing to go to hell so that we might go to heaven. It is a love that chooses to die on a cross rather than indulge self. If "God is agape," and if Jesus is the Son of God, then in His incarnation Jesus is agape in human flesh. When He came to earth He laid aside all the prerogatives of divinity, but He could not empty Himself of agape. And that's why He chose not to sin--He chose a cross instead.

But there are counterfeits! How can we tell the difference? Why are so many preaching "love, love, love," yet the listeners sense no need to overcome sin itself? There's nothing wrong with love itself if they knew the right idea of it when the Bible says "God is love." They assume our natural egocentric human idea. It's impossible for an honest heart to hear, to understand, to contemplate, to "survey" that
agape displayed in the "wondrous cross," and then go on in captivity to sin.

Perfect love (
) casts out fear: 1 John 4:18 says that "perfect love casts out fear," but how does "perfect agape" cast out its root? We fear that the economy may collapse, but that's not the root of fear. We fear cancer or other possible fatal diseases (or the H1N1 flu), but again, that's not it. The bottom-line root is the fear of eternal hell, separation forever from light, love, and God. One may not know how to articulate it, but all other fears derive from that one. The Bible calls its horror the "second death." Unspeakable, unmatched by earthly terrorism, if one could go through it just once and come out the other side, he could be done with that root of fear forever. He could tell the devil, "I've been through it already; nothing can faze me now. I'm immune to fear because I've already suffered the quintessential fear and survived. No lesser fear can touch that one!" But the problem is, you can't do that and survive. Don't fear! Keep close to Jesus in His closing hours; let self be "crucified with Him," and then "perfect love [agape will] cast out [your] fear." The Bible is clear, Christ died the equivalent of that "second death," endured 100 percent the torture and horror of hell itself, and drained the cup dry.

Righteousness by Faith:
Many church-goers say they have gone to church for decades and heard legalism preached; now they rejoice that the gospel of "righteousness by faith" is proclaimed. But are there different kinds of "righteousness by faith"? Revelation 14 presents an "everlasting gospel" that validates itself by raising up people who truly "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." They prepare for the literal second coming of Christ (6-15). John also writes a series of warnings against false claims of "righteousness by faith" in which "we lie, and do not the truth;" "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us;" "we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." "He that saith, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, etc.). Apparently the apostle John wants us to discern any "gospel" that does not produce obedience to all the commandments of God (all ten!). The "everlasting gospel" of Revelation 14 is no legalism; it is a clearer understanding of the cross of Christ than has ever "lightened the earth with glory." The final crisis will be two opposite views of "righteousness by faith." One will spin the Emperor's New Clothes, multitudes rejoicing in "imputed righteousness" but not noticing it's not imparted. "Covered" by what they assume is a spiritual insurance policy, they will go for "the mark of the beast," which will be the most sophisticated counterfeit of "the everlasting gospel" the world has ever seen.

Good News for the Seventh-day Adventist Church:
More than a century and a half has gone by since the "great disappointment" of 1844, and still Jesus has not returned as He promised in John 14:1-3, "I will come again." But the faith that motivated those people in the 1840s now motivates millions around the world who still believe He will keep His promise and return a second time. They set no date; they seek only that the love of Christ may in them be "made perfect" (1 John 4:16-18). But their motivation is becoming purified: it is no longer based merely on a fear of hell or hope of reward in heaven. A new motivation is emerging--a concern for Christ Himself that He receive the reward of His great sacrifice, as Isaiah says, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (53:11). That produces the miracle of love for others. The last Book of the Bible sees Him as a Bridegroom at last receiving His Bride, who has at last "made herself ready" (Rev. 19:6-8). Nothing in the world is better News than that.

--Robert J. Wieland