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).