Friday, May 29, 2009


The notion that individuals enter heaven at death is widely believed, in spite of scripture's description that it will be a cataclysmic, corporately universal event. The glimpses of the second advent we are given involve multitudes of intelligent beings all aware of the events. It would be uncharacteristic of God to let the marriage of His Son with the "bride who has made herself ready" happen piece meal as ordinary daily celestial activity. A wedding, especially the Wedding of the Ages, calls for a celebration the likes of which only Divinity can arrange.

With no understanding of a pre-advent judgment, it is logical to assume a person's eligibility for heaven must be decided at death. Even people who have no religion cannot accept that, worthy or not, everyone goes to heaven. Almost always, the imagined conditions for entering heaven involve burdensome sacrifice and denial. This effort must catch God's attention so He will feel better about the person and admit them to heaven.

Stop Trying to Earn Heaven

A world that misunderstands the character of our loving God can never believe that the experience of heaven can begin here during our earthly lifetime. All pagan religions believe the gods withhold blessings until sufficient sacrifice or "works" are demonstrated. God does not need that because the cross is the basis of our salvation. We simply accept it by faith. Even faith is the gift of God, so effort and merit are never part of the equation. Because the cross is an accomplished historical fact, God can bestow the blessings of heaven before we actually arrive there. Our lesson uses two of many texts to demonstrate that the benefits exist here and now: 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now we are children of God ..., and John 5:24, "... he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (NASV, emphasis added). Almost any verse in the first chapter of Ephesians confirms that what Christ accomplished for us at the cross is already ours in Christ.

Ask for Belief

There are many ways the believer can experience heaven on earth, but they all depend on accepting God's promises by faith. Upon hearing the gospel of the cross, the repentant believer's most immediate blessing is peace. "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). Once we have peace, we can rest from our efforts to save ourselves.

Ask for a Heart to Enter into Rest

Israel repeatedly refused to enter God's rest even though it was promised. "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (Ex. 33:14, KJV). Jesus repeated this: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28, KJV). The margin expands the word "labor" to mean "work to exhaustion."

"The rest that was offered to the children of Israel in the desert, is the very same rest that Christ offers to all mankind, ... why then do not all people have rest?--For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence, ... This shows that the general inability to please God, and so to find rest, arises from practical unbelief that He exists" (The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 283-284).

When the Jews asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" they repeated the self-confidence of their ancestors at Sinai when they said: "All that the Lord has spoken, we will do" (ibid., p. 235). Jesus corrected them: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29). Their arrogance revealed that they refused to believe in a God who would do the work for them. Instead, they insisted on "laboring" to exhaustion under man made "heavy loads." Thus, they could not enter into that rest that God had prepared for them.

Enter into the Special Sabbath Rest

The Lord gave Adam rest in the garden even though he was given work to "keep" it. His work was not to make the garden perfect, but to keep the perfection created by God. Work is not part of the curse of sin, but fatigue is. "That perfect, new creation has disappeared,--but the rest still remains" (ibid, pp. 308-309). The rest that remains in spite of the curse is the Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day. Like Adam "keeping" the garden, we are to "keep" the Sabbath day that God created and made holy. We are not to create a new Sabbath, nor must we make it holy. God has already made, blessed, and hallowed the Sabbath. God asked only that we "keep" the Sabbath He created. Before sin, humans had no trouble entering into that rest. Once the rebellion entered, nothing good came naturally to those whose natures had become evil. Nothing short of a new creation was necessary.

"The Sabbath comes revealing Christ the Creator as the burden-bearer ... It is in the cross of Christ that we receive life, are made new creatures. The power of the cross, therefore, is creative power. ... Now we can understand why the Sabbath occupies so prominent a place in the record of God's dealings with Israel ... because Sabbath-keeping is the beginning of that rest which God promised His people in the land of Canaan ... This is the heritage of the Lord, now is the time, today is the day in which we may enter upon it, for He is the portion of our inheritance, and in Him we have all things (ibid., pp. 312-315).

Do you want to live as if you have already reached the heavenly rest? Ask God to give you the mind of Christ to enter into the Sabbath rest during the entire week. This does not mean inactivity, but a mental rest in the Lord for all needs, all week long.

See Trials as "Helpers on to Zion"

But someone says, "I don't feel so rested, I have problems, trials, and temptations." "Then the Lord wants us to be so well acquainted with fiery trials that, ... we can say, 'All right; glad to meet you, sir; I know you; come along.' ... let us not think it strange concerning the fiery trials "as though some strange thing happened" unto us. We are not to meet them and deal with them as strangers, but as acquaintances; not only that, but we are to meet them as helpers on to Zion" (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, #10, p. 203).

--Arlene Hill

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Christian Life: "Rest"

From the beginning, creation and God's rest have been inseparably linked together. We know that God who created all things was named Jesus and that all things were created by Him, for Him, through Him, "and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Col. 1:17). "He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:2, 3).

This same Jesus promised Moses and the people of Israel, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Ex. 33:14). This is the same promise recorded in Matthew 11:28: "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

"But God always was and is everywhere present; why then do not all people have rest?--For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence." Romans 1:20 makes it clear that "it is as Creator that God reveals Himself, for the fact that He creates marks Him as the self-existent God, and distinguishes Him from all false gods." [1]

"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 124:8). Now since rest is found only in God's presence, and His presence is truly known and appreciated only through His works, it is evident that the promised rest must be very closely connected with creation. [2]

The rest and the inheritance are always associated together in the promise (Deut. 12:8-16). They always associated together because they are one. Our inheritance is rest (3:18, 20). David rightly adds to our understanding in Psalm 16:5, 6: "O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance." He is both our rest and our inheritance; having Him, we have all. He is also "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer. 23:6, 7; 33:16). The Lord, our rest from sin.

Yet with all the power of the universe at their disposal, the people of Israel did not enter into God's rest. Hebrews 4:1-11 discloses their history, because what they did, we are at high risk of doing also. They did not enter in because of unbelief. They did not believe the gospel that was preached to them because they did not mix what they heard with faith. They did not believe it--they did not accept it--they did not enter into God's rest.

Here we see a parallel to our own recent history in 1888. The Lord in His great mercy brought the clearest presentation of the gospel to this people. They did not accept it--they did not believe it. As we have learned, unbelief prevents one from entering into God's rest--just like the ancient people of Israel. It is a principle.

The fact that "they could not enter in because of unbelief" shows that they would have entered in if they had believed; and the fact that perfect rest was ready for them, is further shown by the statement, "the works were finished from the foundation of the world." [3]

The rest that is promised is God's rest. This incomparable rest is what God gave man in the beginning. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15). "Eden" means delight, pleasure; the garden of Eden is the garden of delight; the Hebrew word which in this place is rendered "put" is a word meaning rest; therefore Genesis 2:15 may be rendered thus: "And the Lord God took the man, and caused him to rest in the garden of delight to dress it and to keep it." [4]

Adam entered into rest, because he entered into God's perfect, finished work. He was God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before prepared, that he should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). "This is the work of God, that you believe" (John 6:29), and it was solely by faith that Adam could enjoy God's work and share His rest; for as soon as Adam disbelieved God, taking the word of Satan instead, he lost everything.

"We which believe do enter into rest," because "this is the work of God, that ye believe." The two statements are identical in meaning, because the work of God, which is ours by faith, is completed work, and therefore to enter upon that work is to enter upon rest.

God did the work and placed Adam in possession of it, with directions to keep it--this he did so long as he kept the faith.

It is impossible for man to keep the Sabbath of the Lord without faith because the "just shall live by faith." Sabbath rest is a spiritual rest, so that physical rest apart from spiritual rest is not Sabbath keeping at all. Sabbath rest is much more than a nap.

Bear this in mind that while the Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week, the rest, which the Sabbath day brings to view, is continuous. [5] When Jesus cried, "It is finished," He was announcing that through His cross could be obtained the perfect works of God, which were finished from the foundation of the world.

"And I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'Come out of her, My people, ...,'" and "Come to Me, ... and I will give you rest." "Here are those that have entered into God's rest by His faith--the ones who believed Him when He said, 'It is finished'" (Rev. 18:4; Matt. 11:28; paraphrase of Rev. 14:12).

And on the seventh day Jesus rested from all His work.

--Daniel Peters


[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, chapter 38.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Op. cit., chapter 40; Heb. 4:3.

[4] Ibid. (chapter 40).

[5] Op. cit., chapter 41.

Read these chapters online:

Chapter 38 -

Chapter 39 -

Chapter 40 - -part-1-2

Chapter 41 - -part-2-2

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Christian Life: "Grace"

"Grace" is something that doesn't exist here on this fallen earth; it has to be imported.

And the only way it can get in is through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace is loving bad people, even your enemies.

Such grace is creative in that it "creates" or produces in the person who is loved, a new heart that is responsive to grace.

It is something that we fallen humans just cannot do unless we receive grace from the Lord, and unless we open our hearts to let it stay in.

It's something we don't have to beg an unwilling indifferent Lord to let us have, for He is trying His best to get us to open our naturally unwilling hearts to receive it. "Let this mind be in you," He begs us in Philippians 2:5, "which was also in Christ Jesus." In other words, if we don't resist receiving this grace, He will give it to us!

"Behold the Lamb of God!" says John the Baptist. "Beholding" is simply looking--the natural thing everybody in the world does when something happens, something different than usual. We all crane our necks to get a better view; it's the natural thing to do.

Now, "behold" Jesus, says John the Baptist.

If you think the clouds and the mist are so dense, in your particular circumstances, that you can't "see" Him clearly, remember, He is more desirous that you "behold" than you can be yourself; He loves to drive clouds and darkness and mist away so we can see clearly.

But the desire in our souls must be there like a hunger and thirst that transcends our hunger for breakfast in the morning.

And that's a simple but proper place to start: make a choice to eat not a bite of "breakfast" until you have begun to "feed" upon the "bread of life," which is the word of the Lord.

When I was a teenager, I went through a crisis--I knew I was not truly converted. You know how a teen in the dormitory yearns to get to breakfast in the morning; well, I decided I wouldn't go ... until I at least had a beginning of "eating" some "bread of life."

You may smile at my naiveté; but I meant business with the Lord! I was serious.

And now, even to this day many years later, ... no breakfast until I have knelt on my knees and found some morsel of the "bread of life" first.

And you will know more about the "grace" of the Lord Jesus than the ponderous theology tomes can tell you.

Robert J. Wieland

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Christian Life: "Sin"

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21).

All will readily identify this quote as Christ's last message to His remnant church. It is a promise as well as a plea from our High Priest. We read it; we have memorized it; we repeat it to one another. But do we understand what it is saying? "Him that overcometh" will be the recipient of the blessing of sitting with Jesus on His throne. What an awesome promise!

Our crucial question is: What does it mean to "overcome"? Overcome what? This week's lesson is focused on sin, and the hope is that the lesson would help us know how to get rid of sin in our lives. Our goal should be discovering how to overcome sin and live righteously through faith in our Saviour's power over all sin. Surely, this is the crux of the true Gospel's message which Jesus admonished us to preach to all the world (Matt. 24;14; Luke 24:47). It is the culmination of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-12, which finally allows God to declare: "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."

Overcoming sin is the very foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's primary doctrine--the cleansing of the sanctuary. However, the sanctuary cannot be cleansed so long as sin keeps pouring into it. In the typical day of atonement, "The cleansing of the sanctuary, as to the sanctuary itself, was the taking out of and away from the sanctuary all the transgression of the people which, by the service of the priests, had been taken into the sanctuary during the service of the year. And this stream must be stopped at its fountain in the hearts and lives of the worshipers, before the sanctuary itself could possibly be cleansed. Therefore the very first work in the cleansing of the sanctuary was the cleansing of the people." (A. T. Jones, Consecrated Way, p. 120). As it was in the typical, so it must be in the antitypical ministry of Christ. The "very first work" must be stopping the stream of sin "at its fountain in the hearts and lives of the worshipers."

Our pioneers discovered the glorious truth that Christ's final ministry in the antitypical day of atonement included making righteous all who would believe (The Glad Tidings, p. 72; cf. Waggoner on Romans, p. 88). This blessed truth that we can overcome all sin, right now, in this life, is the promise of the everlasting covenant (Matt. 1:21; Ezekiel 36:25-28; Heb. 8:10). It is why Jesus died, not just to pronounce you guiltless through some mysterious celestial bookkeeping, but to actually make you righteous. " ... we find that when Christ covers us with the robe of His own righteousness, He does not furnish a cloak for sin but takes the sin away. And this shows that the forgiveness of sins is something more than a mere form, something more than a mere entry in the books of record in heaven, to the effect that the sin has been canceled. The forgiveness of sins is a reality; it is something tangible, something that vitally affects the individual. It actually clears him from guilt, and if he is cleared from guilt, is justified, made righteous, he has certainly undergone a radical change. He is, indeed, another person, for he obtained this righteousness for the remission of sins, in Christ." (E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 74).

The Quarterly uses the standard definition for sin: "transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). The law is a transcript of God's character. Therefore, to continue in sin is to reject His character, and to continually rebel against His will for us. God would have all "come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Our Father's desire and the purpose of Jesus' death was to bring "liberty to the captives"--the human race mired in sin (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18; Col. 1:13; Isa. 42:5-7). It is an oxymoronic notion to claim that you are "saved" if you continue to live a life of sinning and repenting, hoping that at the second coming you will be magically freed from your odious habit of rebellion.

What that "one man" did in bringing all the world under condemnation for rebellion against God, has been undone by that "one Man" Christ Jesus. This is the focus of the message of Christ and His righteousness which the Lord sent to the world in 1888. In that "one just act" on the cross, our Saviour both redeemed and reconciled the lost world to God. (Rom. 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:14, 19; Acts 13:38, 39).

In Tuesday's lesson notes we are reminded of the complex theological debate that has ensued for more than 1700 years. Is sin what we are, or what we do? Or maybe sin is both what we are and what we do? If the sin for which we are condemned is what we are by birth into the human race, then all hope of overcoming sin must be abandoned. We cannot change our fallen physical nature. There is absolutely no truth in the idea of "holy flesh." It was never Christ's goal to perfect the flesh with which we are born--that flesh was crucified. Our fleshly house can be crucified with Him, now; it will be transformed "in the twinkling of an eye" at Christ's second coming (Gal. 2:20. 1 Cor. 15:51-54). The "house" we live in is no excuse for continued sinning. By taking our fallen nature upon Himself, Christ proved this to be true. In fallen, sinful flesh, Christ overcame every temptation with which Satan could think to assail Him, and in every point, Christ overcame by faith in His Father's power. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

This is why the "humanity of the Son of God is everything to us" (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 244). "Christ came to this earth to show that in humanity He could keep the holy law of God. 'I have kept My Father's commandments,' He declared. The Saviour proposed to re-establish the principles of human dependence upon God and cooperation between God and man." (Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, p. 114). Why does Christ admonish us to overcome even as He also overcame? Because He has proven that it is possible to stop the fountain of sin at its very source--our hearts and minds. The transformation Christ is searching for deals with our mind. "Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus;" and "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Phil. 2:5; Rom. 12:2). It is a radical transformation of our character which recreates us in the "likeness of Christ" (see Last Day Events, p. 183; The Faith I Live By, p. 150; Messages to Young People, p. 160).

"The precious blood of Jesus is the fountain prepared to cleanse the soul from the defilement of sin. When you determine to take Him as your friend, a new and enduring light will shine from the cross of Christ. A true sense of the sacrifice and intercession of the dear Saviour will break the heart that has become hardened in sin; and love, thankfulness, and humility will come into the soul. The surrender of the heart to Jesus subdues the rebel into a penitent, and then the language of the obedient soul is: "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." This is the true religion of the Bible. Everything short of this is a deception. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 625).

Tuesday's thought box presents a conundrum. "Suppose you truly have victory over sin" and "suppose you 'perfectly' reflect the character of Jesus"--what more is God asking of us? His greatest desire is that we will allow Him to accomplish these very things in us. When we reach this point, will we still need a Saviour? Absolutely! We will always and forever need our Saviour to give us power to meet Satan's temptations. We will never be able to "go it alone" when confronted by the wily foe.

Sanctification is indeed the "work of a lifetime," but it doesn't take a "lifetime" before we can reach character perfection. As the seed goes into the ground, it is perfect. When it sprouts, it is a perfect sprout; as it grows it's a perfect plant and produces perfect fruit. At each stage in the plant's growth process it is living up to all that the Creator planned for it to be (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 82-84). So it can be with us in our Christian growth process. As we moment by moment submit our wills to the Father's will, we unceasingly rely on the power of our Saviour to deliver us from sin. Through faith in Him and fully surrendered to Him, we recognize our total dependence upon Christ for everything. We can't live without Him; He is our very existence and source of all strength. Christ's promise to us is, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9). Overcoming sin on "every point" and "perfectly reflecting the character of Jesus" is not a denial of our need of the Saviour. Far from it. It is a loud declaration that we are totally dependent and committed to Him every day and in every way. Those who say that overcoming sin is nigh unto impossible are the very ones who are denying their need of the Saviour's power.

What is the answer to the sin problem? Unfaltering faith in Christ's power over sin and Satan. "Here is faith: 'Where there is not only a belief in God's word, but a submission of the will to Him; where the heart is yielded to Him, the affections fixed upon Him.' Now these are weighty expressions; they are worth considering. 'The submission of the will to Him,' is it done? Is your will submitted to Him never to be taken back, or exercised in your own way or for yourself? Is your will surrendered to Him? … Christ cannot come in fully, unless there is a full submission to Him. Let there be some dying here. Let there be some actual dying to self. That is what it means; it means death." (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 299, original pagination). Sanctification and perfection of character means death to self and all that self desires. The purpose of Christ's antitypical day of atonement ministry is the perfection of our characters. Let us hasten His work by submitting fully to His will for us.

--Ann Walper