Insights #13, March 31, 2012
First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School LessonsFor an 1888 message believer, the doctrine of the second coming of Christ poses a bit of a dilemma. We have no doubt about the fact that Jesus will return, literally, physically, visibly and personally to this earth to receive his waiting children. Yet, the subject becomes more and more difficult to discuss with each passing year. Why? Because we believe that the 1888 message was sent to prepare a people for translation, which is now more than a century overdue. Even the 1888 message itself was likely a little late in arriving if we take into account the ideal scenario presented in the Spirit of prophecy.
"The Promise of His Return"
For the week of March 25-31, 2012
"The Promise of His Return"
For the week of March 25-31, 2012
Let's review our past, understand where we are in the stream of recent history, and face the hope, the disappointment and perplexity associated with this precious doctrine.
In John chapter 14 we find a favorite Adventist passage which articulates Jesus' promise. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:1-3). This is the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13). It is a precious promise, an irrevocable destiny. We long to see the fulfillment of this promise. It is what enables us to understand the world and it gives meaning to our sometimes mysterious existence on this planet.
As we look back at Genesis we understand where we came from. We understand the perplexities, the problems the terrible situations that we sometimes face or perceive in the lives of others. Life is not without meaning to a Seventh-day Adventist because we know that there is a great controversy going on and we are at times the direct objects of Satan's malice. Although we do not fully understand the reasons for all that we are called upon to endure, nevertheless life has meaning, and there is always hope. Someday, every mystery will be explained, every problem will be solved, every disappointment will make sense. Everything will finally make sense . . . when we are finally home. That is where a bit of mystery and perplexity sometimes forces itself into our lives.
We know that this world is headed for the glorious return of our victorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This event is inevitable and inescapable. He has promised to return--and given the record of the many prophecies fulfilled in the past, we are certain that this one will also be fulfilled in time. Time . . . that is the sometimes perplexing parameter of the situation before us. When will Jesus return? If we are honest that is the problematic issue that we face. Jesus has not told us when He will return, but He has told us that we should know when the event is near, "even at the doors" (Mark 13:26). Further, He has given us the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy which have provided insight regarding this event. Inspiration reveals that He could have already come and in fact He should have already come by now. It may be helpful to review some of those statements.
The Lord designed that the messages of warning and instruction given through the Spirit to His people should go everywhere. But the influence that grew out of the resistance of light and truth at Minneapolis tended to make of no effect the light God had given to His people through the Testimonies. . . If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, pages 1129 - 1130, Ellen White, 1893 General Conference Daily Bulletin, page 419).
"If those who claimed to have a living experience in the things of God had done their appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would have been warned ere this, and the Lord Jesus would have come in power and great glory" (Ellen White, Review & Herald, 10-6-96).
"Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God" (Ellen White, 6 Testimonies, page 450, Ellen White, Australian Union Record 10-15-98).
"Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory" (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 633-634 - written 1898).
"Brethren and sisters, from the light given me, I know that if the people of God had preserved a living connection with Him, if they had obeyed His Word, they would to-day be in the heavenly Canaan" (Ellen White, General Conference Daily Bulletin, 3-30-03).
In 1844 the servant of the Lord received a vision, in which she saw Christ go into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. As He was about to make that transition He was represented as saying, "Wait here; I am going to My Father to receive the kingdom; keep your garments spotless, and in a little while I will return from the wedding and receive you to Myself" (Ellen White, Early Writings, page 56). Because of the statements presented above, and others like them, we are forced to a realization that indeed the wedding should be in progress. But as of this late date, the bride of Christ has not yet, "made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7).
Jesus has promised to return. Yet we understand that the time of this event is not a fixed date on a calendar or an appointed time on some celestial time clock. The "time" appointed is the time when the bride is ready. As long as there is anything more important to the bride than preparing for the wedding, the delay must continue. The Lord is long suffering toward us. Time is not a real source of perplexity to Christ for "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). He is eternal, and His years fail not. He is not pressured by time the way we are sometimes pressured. Yet, time is an issue, at least I believe it should be, for there is a real cost associated with delay.
"Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him" (Ellen White, Education, page 263).
Isn't it about time the bride began to look at this delay and "its relation to God"? Isn't time that the bride began considered the cost of the delay? Only then will she find sufficient motivation to make herself ready.