Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Missionary Nature of God

Insight #1 July 4, 2015
Third Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Missionary Nature of God"
For the week of July 4, 2015

     God's mission was established in eternity. His mission was to redeem and to save any inhabitant of the universe if they should turn from Him. The first to depart was Lucifer. He who knew the love of God more fully than any other created being rebelled.
     When Lucifer first chose his course of sin, God did not give him up. God still loved him with His everlasting love. We observe the missionary nature of God at work as He set into operation the plan of salvation to save Lucifer. Notice:
God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. Such efforts as only infinite love and wisdom could devise were made to convince him of his error…. [A]s his dissatisfaction was proved to be without cause, Lucifer was convinced that he was in the wrong, that the divine claims were just, and that he ought to acknowledge them as such before all heaven. The Great Controversy, pp. 495-496.

Loyal Angels Influenced Lucifer Through Song
The influence of the holy angels seemed for a time to carry him with them. As songs of praise ascended in melodious strains, swelled by thousands of glad voices, the spirit of evil seemed vanquished; unutterable love thrilled his entire being; his soul went out, in harmony with the sinless worshippers, in love to the Father and the Son. But again he was filled with pride in his own glory. His desire for supremacy returned, and envy of Christ was once more indulged. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 36.
     Unknown to Lucifer there was a plan of redemption. This plan was the agreement between Father and Son that in the event that if anyone should sin, Jesus would step in to save that person or persons. As Savior He was foreordained to be the sacrificial Lamb who volunteered to take sin upon Himself (1 Pet 1:18-20; John 1:29). When sin entered the angelic host Jesus was their Redeemer. Lucifer refused to submit and to repent. His was a voluntary and persistent rebellion. Rather than accept God's pardon he justified himself.
     Lucifer indulged in murmuring against God. Next he began to envy Christ. Then came his accusations, his rebellion and his deceptions to gain the sympathy and support of holy heavenly angels. God would have granted Lucifer forgiveness but he stubbornly persisted in his self- generated tendencies.
     Lucifer was created innocent and pure. He is the great "mystery of iniquity" – it is a mystery as to how a perfect angel became a devil. And there is another mystery, a greater mystery. It is "the mystery of godliness." This mystery is the power of God to change "children of wrath" into godly people (Eph 2:1-9).
     During the war in heaven Lucifer and his army of rebels were cast out (Rev 12:7-9). In coming to earth he made war against the couple in the garden of God. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God with the ability to choose and to do. They chose to follow Lucifer. Nevertheless, as soon as there was a sinner on earth there was a Savior. He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World" (Rev 13:8). Grace was waiting to take Adam and Eve by the hand to lead them back to God.
     God's missionary activity, on earth, is first seen as He searched among the fig trees and found Adam and Eve naked and hiding with shame and guilt. In mercy God covered their nakedness with skins from slain animals (Gen 3:21) typifying the reality of what would occur some 4,000 years later. He would be slain and His skin – His garment of righteousness – was prepared to cover the nakedness of fallen man.
     In His death Jesus took mankind's place and paid the penalty for our sins. He was sent from heaven to be the "Savior of the world" – "of all men, especially those who believe" (1 John 4:14;  1 Tim 4:10). This was His mission. He could do no other because His very nature is that of a missionary.
The "mission of Christ will reveal the truth as it is in Jesus. Man can know the depths to which he has sunk only by beholding the wondrous chain of redemption employed to draw him up. The extent of our ruin can be discerned only in the light of the law of God exhibited in the cross of Calvary. The wonderful plan of redemption must be discerned in the death of Christ" (RH, February 8, 1898).
     This quarter's Sabbath School lessons are about some of the missionaries from Old and New Testament times sent from God to share His mission – "to save to the uttermost those who come to" Him through Christ (Heb 7:25).
     In these last days of earth's history God raised up a remnant to be missionaries to the world. As He did in the past by giving the gospel to His missionaries, so He does today. Besides raising up an end-time prophet, God sent two young men with a message of righteousness by faith in Christ alone to be given to the world.
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 (1888 Materials, pp. 1336-37).
     As you and I become partakers of God's missionary nature, we too shall become missionaries proclaiming His message to a dying world (2 Pet 1:4; Rev 18:1-4). What a mission! What a message! What a privilege!

-- Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz

Thursday, June 25, 2015

“Crucified and Risen”

Insight #13 June 27, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Crucified and Risen"
For the week of June 27, 2015
Have We Been Persuaded?

This week's study is on the resurrection, so let's look together at a story which will hopefully help us to deeply consider how it relates to the resurrection as well as how it applies to us today. 

Remember the story of Peter Rabbit? You know, the one where Mother Rabbit encourages Peter and his siblings to go outside and play, but cautions against two things: losing or destroying their clothes and entering into Mr. McGregor's garden. Mother Rabbit had her reasons for warning against entering Mr. McGregor's garden, as Mr. McGregor had killed Father Rabbit in that very garden. (Father Rabbit had also gone there to eat some of Mr. McGregor's vegetables). So, off Peter Rabbit and siblings went, with Mother's warning ringing in their ears. Peter's siblings were determined to follow Mother's admonition, but Peter wasn't. He decided to go into the garden anyway. And at first, all was well as he feasted on all sorts of fresh produce such as carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and the like. Munching happily away, Peter sniffed the cucumbers and boy did they smell good. Allured, he hopped over to the cucumber patch, when all of a sudden, he and Mr. McGregor came face to face. Surprised and irritated, Mr. McGregor immediately picked up his rake and pursued Peter round and round through the cucumbers, the tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and the carrots. What mayhem they caused in the process. But try as he might, Peter could not find the entrance into the garden, nor a place to hide from Mr. McGregor. Frantic now, Peter kept looking, until at last, up ahead he saw a light. At last he'd found the garden entrance. Hopping as fast as he could, Peter squeezed through the small opening and was free. Momentarily relieved, Peter sat down to catch his breath and that's when he noticed that he had lost his clothes hopping madly through the garden. "Now, I'm in big trouble," he thought, "mother is going to be so mad at me." "Why didn't I listen?" he asked himself.

Did Peter really not listen? Did he not hear his mother's words? Of course he heard, after all he could repeat what was said. So what went wrong? Apparently there is a difference between hearing and listening. In our story, it is evident that Peter did hear his mother, but since he desired to do other than his mother admonished, he did not actively listen to her, lest he be persuaded to change his mind. That Peter resisted being persuaded is evident by his cavalier attitude.
It is obvious that this story was written about obedience. In the English language (and in many others), the word obey is typically translated "to do what you're told" (despite dictionary references stating the contrary). According to the common definition, Peter Rabbit was disobedient the moment he did not do what his mother told him to do. But is this really getting at the heart of obedience? The word rendered obey originates from a compound word meaning to actively listen. You cannot do as you are told unless you have listened carefully as to what to do. And furthermore, you cannot do so cheerfully and joyfully unless you trust the person you are listening to, implicitly. You see, Peter trusted himself more, he trusted his knowledge of his abilities, while underestimating that of Mr. McGregor's. This distrust of His mother led to his unwillingness to listen to her.

At its core, obedience is about hearing from the one who has your heart; it will not matter if the One communicating with you speaks to you with an inward, silent persistent thought, or an audible external voice. What matters is, will you, through trusting and confiding love, choose to heed what you have actively listened to? A wise man has said, "First there is the mental creation, (the mind involves the emotions) then the action is taken." So obedience involves not only our outward actions, but our motives and attitudes prior to the doing. Interestingly, a literal translation of the word "obey" in the Hebrew and Greek, is to listen willingly, eagerly, attentively, leaning in to the speaker, straining to catch the slightest nuance. Its opposite meaning would be, hearing while preoccupied, resisting the one who is speaking, reluctantly paying attention, and finally, listening to find the disagreeable. The latter are all things Peter Rabbit engaged in.

The Apostle Paul says, "Faith comes through the hearing and hearing through the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  The Greek term used for 'faith' means to be persuaded. Referring to our story, Peter Rabbit heard his mother's words; but he did not actively listen. Furthermore, he refused to be persuaded by them. In contrast, his siblings chose to be persuaded by those very same words. Their respective actions revealed their respective choices. Paul knew exactly what this meant. He, too, lived for a long time refusing to be persuaded by the Word of God. And, his actions revealed his choice of resisting persuasion. Ellen White speaks of Paul's experience.  She says:

The Saviour had spoken to Saul through Stephen, whose clear reasoning could not be controverted. The learned Jew had seen the face of the martyr reflecting the light of Christ's glory--appearing as if "it had been the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. He had witnessed Stephen's forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had also witnessed the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith. All these things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief that Jesus was not the Messiah and that His followers were deluded fanatics (Acts of the Apostles, p. 116).

It was not that Saul did not hear the Word. It was that he did not make space in his heart for it, and therefore refused to be persuaded. After, Saul's conversion his actions revealed his persuasion. The same could be said of the disciples. Christ told them many times of His impending death and resurrection, but they refused to be persuaded. Ellen White elaborates thus:

"After the death of Christ the disciples were well-nigh overcome by discouragement ...Jesus had several times attempted to open the future to His disciples, but they had not cared to think about what He said. ... When Christ was crucified, they did not believe that He would rise. He had stated plainly that He was to rise on the third day, but they were perplexed to know what He meant. This lack of comprehension left them at the time of His death in utter hopelessness. ...If they had believed the Saviour's words, how much sorrow they might have been spared!" (Acts of the Apostles, p. 26)

Three times in Luke 24 the disciples and others were reminded, "remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" (Luke 24: 6 -7). The disciples had all the evidence they needed to believe, but, preoccupied with who would be the greatest among them in the kingdom, they reluctantly paid attention to Christ's words, resisted considering them, and thus refused to be persuaded. Yet, Mary Magdalene, with less evidence, believed, and, her later action of anointing Christ, revealed her belief.

In our day, those who profess Christianity believe in Christ's resurrection. But, do they believe in His soon and imminent return? In Luke 12, Christ tells the Parable of the Unwise Servant. This servant believed his master would take a long time to return. So, this servant said, "… in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken" (Luke 12:45). This parable references those who, in our time, having heard the Words of Jesus regarding His return, refuse to be persuaded that His coming is imminent. How do we know they believe that Jesus is not coming soon? Their actions reveal what they believe. They are preoccupied with eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage; they buy and sell, plant and build (as if there is no eternity to reckon with -- Matthew 24:37 – 39; Luke 17:28 – 30). With hardened hearts, they think highly of themselves, and look down on others, and consequently abuse and mistreat each other. These have heard the Words of God, but they resist their import and refuse to be persuaded by them. Friends, let us not be resistive to God's Words, but joyfully receive them, letting them persuade us while there is still time. Let the world see by our agape-ing others that His Word has found its home in our hearts. As the scripture says, "those with ears, let them hear" (Revelation 3:13, 22).

--Raul Diaz

Lesson 13: Crucified and Risen

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Luke
Lesson 13: Crucified and Risen

As we come to the conclusion of these excellent studies on the Gospel of Luke, let us spend a thoughtful moment contemplating the final scenes of Christ's life on earth. Christ's final confrontation with the religious and political authorities of His day, have much to tell us regarding the 1888 message.
At that awful midnight hour when Judas, having received a band of men and a captain and officers, with swords, came upon Jesus in Gethsemane, it was the band and the captain, and the officers, who at the direction of the chief priests and Pharisees, took Him and bound Him.
They led Him to old Annas first. Annas sent Him to Caiaphas, and Caiaphas sent Him to Pilate the Roman governor. Pilate sent Him to Herod, who with his men of war mocked Him and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him again to Pilate. And when Pilate would have let Him go, the Sanhedrin rung their final political loyalty to Ceasar and Rome, even above the loyalty of Pilate and the Roman himself, "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King" (Luke 23:2).
Pilate made his last appeal, "Shall I crucify your King?" (John 19:15) only to be answered with the words expressive of their final abandonment of God and their complete unity with Rome, "But they cried, saying, 'Crucify Him, crucify Him'" (Luke 23:21). The voices of the Jews and of the chief priests prevailed.
The mightiest crime and the loudest crying sin in all the history of the universe was committed by the union of church and state.
Never since the rejection by Israel of her King of glory has the heavenly universe witnessed a more inexcusable and shameful failure on the part of the chosen people of God, led by their leaders than in 1888. Frequently the Lord's messenger compared the anti-1888 spirit to the Jews' rejection of Christ. For example:
"Light has been shining upon the church of God, but many have said by their indifferent attitude, 'We want not thy way, O God, but our own way.' ... Many say, 'If I had only lived in the days of Christ, I would not have wrested His words, or falsely interpreted His instruction. I would not have rejected and crucified Him, as did the Jews;' but that will be proved by the way in which you deal with His message and His messengers today. ...
"Those who live in this day are not accountable for the deeds of those who crucified the Son of God; but if with all the light that shone upon His ancient people, delineated before us, we travel over the same ground, cherish the same spirit, refuse to receive reproof and warning, then our guilt will be greatly augmented." [1]
It was not mere human sadism that drove the scribes and Pharisees to demand of Pilate, "Crucify Him!" They were obsessed with a mysterious hatred of God Himself, the roots of which linger in the dark shadows of every human heart. It was not only deicide; it was the dark desire to blot God and His righteousness out of the universe. The murderers of Jesus were Satan-possessed; and they held up a mirror for us all to look and see ourselves--what we would be and what we would do if we had been in their place, but for the grace of God.
But God resurrected Him! And He judged His murderers; and the world has judged them likewise. It's the story of the Murder of all murders because it follows the plot through to its end--which no ordinary human murder ever can do. That old, old story, properly told, is the only hope this dark world has.
The leaders of the nation and church were planning to kill Jesus. Caiaphas, the high priest, hated Him. Pilate the Roman governor would deliver Him, knowing He was innocent, to death. And King Herod would agree to His death. The greatest judicial travesty in all history!
Jesus had just reminded them of the well-known story of building Solomon's temple. One large stone had baffled the workmen--they couldn't figure out where to put it and they abandoned it in the weeds, to the heat of summer and the frost of winter and the storms. Finally they discovered that it was the "head stone of the corner," where it proved to be an exact fit. So, said Jesus, He is the "head stone which the builders rejected" (Luke 20:17).
So far, it is clear. But why the idea of anyone falling on the Stone and being broken? (Luke 20:18). Well, Peter was an example of such a person. Arrogant and proud, he was sure he would never give in to pressure and deny his Lord, but before the rooster crowed in the morning he had denied Jesus three times. Peter wept bitterly when he realized the sinfulness of his own heart. His repentance was deep. He "fell upon the Stone and was broken." The love of self was broken up; his heart was broken. It was reported in early times that ever afterward there was a tear glistening in his eyes.
On the other hand, look at Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod. All they have is the final judgment. Christ will not grind them to powder. What will do it is their own history. He will not say a word to condemn them in that final judgment. They will do it themselves. They will salvage nothing for eternity.
It's an either/or judgment we all face. Self must be humbled eventually. Either we by our own voluntary choice are to take up the cross on which self is crucified; or we go on making self the center of our heart's devotion. The former calls for tears of melted-heart repentance now. If we choose self it is ground to powder and blown away like dust in a windstorm,--an eternal record of nothingness. Herod, Caiaphas, and Pilate have given us an expensive object lesson.
Let us humble our hearts and join the class again where our instructor, the repentant thief on the cross, is teaching us. He is qualified, because we know for sure that he was truly converted and will be with Christ in His kingdom. Not all preachers are so qualified. The thief will have a place of high honor with Christ!
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, "Address to the Church," The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 11, 1893.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: 1888mpm.org
Raul Diaz

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jesus in Jerusalem

Insight #12 June 20, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Jesus in Jerusalem"
For the week of June 20, 2015

The Triumphal Entry

The lesson commences with the triumphal entry of Christ. How glorious would that day have been as the hopes of the people soared to new heights in the thought of deliverance from their Roman captors! Yet these hopes were never to be realised, and the bitter disappointment only urged many of those who had glorified Christ that day to cry more vehemently but a few days later, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

From the Mount of Olivet, Christ looked upon the city; and wept. She had been given privileges and opportunities beyond that given to any other nation, yet she had not rendered the "fruit of the vineyard" back to God. He discerned the angel of mercy folding her wings to step down from the throne to give place to judgment; and an awful cry of anguish poured forth from a heart breaking on the nation's behalf.

Question 1 in the lesson asks an important question: "His disciples were so caught up in the traditions and teachings and expectations of their own time and culture that they completely missed His earlier warnings about what would take place and what it all meant. . . What He said went so much against what they expected that they blocked it out. How can we make sure we aren't doing the same thing when it comes to biblical truth?"  

As applicable to Christ's withdrawal from Israel as from Judea, is the following statement: "As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ's withdrawal from Judea has been repeated." (E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 232.)

Today, the message of Christ Our Righteousness is being revived in our hearts and it has brought new hope and new life to our parched and fainting souls. Yet the truthfulness of the above statement must be confessed in even our day; that this message of Christ Himself – the gift to every believer – "has been rejected in every succeeding generation" since it was first proclaimed in 1888. Taylor Bunch, Robert Wieland, Donald Short, etc., sought to revive the message in their generations but it was met with the same reaction as in 1888: it "has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected." (E. G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 467.)

Cleansing the Temple

"When Jesus began His public ministry, He cleansed the temple from its sacrilegious profanation. Almost the last act of His ministry was to cleanse the Temple again." (E. G. White, Selected Messages, Vol. 3 p. 405.)

Christ must have a pure church before it will show forth His glory to the world. In Counsels for the Church, this cleansing work is described:

"I was shown the people of God, and saw them mightily shaken... I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God's people." (E. G. White, Counsels for the Church, p. 338.)

The Unfaithful

In 1888, through Elders Waggoner and Jones, the True Witness appealed to the church, identifying that they were deceived in regard to their true spiritual condition. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev 3:17). Through His messengers, He sought to awaken them to their need of Himself and His own right-doing. But many were not willing to humbly confess their need, were offended, and turned away from the Giver and the gift. Despite the many precious blessings that had been bestowed upon them, they returned not to their Lord the "fruits of the vineyard" and smote the servants whom He sent.

God Versus Caesar

Our own lives belong to God; and it has been given to us that we might fulfil the purpose of our Maker. "Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory" (Isa 43:7). God has placed a certain degree of power into the hands of worldly governments for our protection. Likewise, into the hands of the government of the church, "for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account" (Heb 13:17). As far as possible, we are to follow peace with all men, rendering to earthly governments and church authorities an obedience that does not conflict with obedience to God. Yet, God reigns supreme and our ultimate accountability is to Him; therefore it is imperative that we recognize God's messengers and His message and not depend upon any one else's knowledge or opinion; or we will make the same mistake as the disciples did of old. In this day, when many voices are crying, "Here is Christ! There is Christ!" and when "the shaking of God blows away multitudes like dry leaves" (E. G. White, Testimonies, Vol. 4, p. 89), we must know for ourselves "what saith the Lord".

"To all the testing time will come. By the sifting of temptation the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible and the Bible only?" (E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 625.) 

The Lord's Supper

From the lesson:

"… What food is to the body, Christ must be to the soul. Food cannot benefit us unless we eat it, unless it becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of no value to us if we do not know Him as a personal Saviour. A theoretical knowledge will do us no good. We must feed upon Him, receive Him into the heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His grace, must be assimilated." (E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 389.)

It is only as we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, receiving His word – His life – into our own personal experience, that we will stand unmoved in the final crisis. In 1888, Christ was offering His own perfect life to each and every member of the church. Many were satisfied with their own righteousness and felt no need of the gift. Today, we must confess our own desperate case – that all our right-doing is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). True, it is not an easy thing to confess the truthfulness of Romans 3:12 ("there is none that doeth good, no, not one") for we all have some "form" of godliness; but what is the source of our power? Do we perform all our "good works" or is it God who "worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure? (Phi 2:13)

Robert Wieland and Donald Short make a very interesting statement in their manuscript 1888 Re-Examined: "What is so urgently needed is an understanding of human nature in the light of the true atonement. Jones and Waggoner began to probe into that discovery, but the probing was so unwelcome to self that it was arrested." (R. J. Wieland, D. K. Short, 1888 Re-Examined, p. 203.)

As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we show the Lord's death until He comes. Christ died because He took our sinful selves upon Him. Let us therefore remember that we also are "crucified with Christ". From A. T. Jones:

"The man who is connected with himself is connected with the world, and the world is Babylon. . . To be delivered from sin, then, is to be delivered from ourselves. That is what it is to come out of Babylon. . ."  (A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin, p. 142.)

If we want to be among those who will give the call to "Come out of Babylon!" we must be dead to self. If self is still alive when that time comes, we will be offended. Then let us, now, learn the lessons of the past that we do not make the same mistakes again. Let us receive the message that God offered to His church 127 years ago with all its additional depth and beauty which God has promised will accompany its return. And if it hurts, and self wants to kick and scream and throw tantrums, kill it – let it go to the grave with Christ; and remember:

"Don't look to feelings. Feelings are as variable as the wind. You know that is so. Never pay a particle of attention to them. It is none of your business how you feel. (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, p. 402.)

Open the windows of the soul wide toward the heavens, and pray, "Live out Thy life within me, O Jesus King of Kings." God loves that prayer, and He will never fail to answer it.

- Camron Schofield

Raul Diaz

Friday, June 12, 2015

“The Kingdom of God”

Insight #11 June 13, 2015

Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Kingdom of God"
For the week of June 13, 2015

In this study of God's kingdom, focused on Luke's history, let's consider the character and timing of this kingdom.

The character of God's kingdom is understood by learning the character of the King. His kingship is eternal. "The LORD is King for ever and ever." (Psa. 10:16). When Isaiah saw this King, it led to a repentance and confession that prepared him for service. "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isa. 6:5).

His kingdom was extended when He created the new earth and gave its dominion to Adam and Eve. However, Satan intruded. This is seen by Satan's words to Jesus in the wilderness of temptation about "the kingdoms of the world" (Luke 4:5, 6).

"When Satan declared to Christ, The kingdom and glory of the world are delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it, he stated what was true only in part, and he declared it to serve his own purpose of deception. Satan's dominion was that wrested from Adam, but Adam was the vicegerent of the Creator. His was not an independent rule. The earth is God's, and He has committed all things to His Son. Adam was to reign subject to Christ. When Adam betrayed his sovereignty into Satan's hands, Christ still remained the rightful King. Thus the Lord had said to King Nebuchadnezzar, 'The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.' Daniel 4:17. Satan can exercise his usurped authority only as God permits." (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 129)

It was this eternal Kingship that the Messiah was prophesied to reclaim on this earth (Isa. 9:6, 7). It may appear to be connected only to this earth's history, and what Isaiah called "the throne of His father David." But Jesus, in quoting Psa. 110:1, showed His eternal nature and position. He was actually "my Lord" to David (Luke 20:41-44). Luke recorded the "throne of David" position that Gabriel repeated to Mary before Jesus' birth (Luke 1:32, 33).

In announcing the kingdom at His first coming (Luke 4:43; see also Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:15), John the Baptist, Jesus, and his disciples acted in fulfillment of a portion of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, especially the time prophecies of Daniel 9 and the type of the sanctuary courtyard. But misunderstanding the essential core of the kingdom's character, that of "meek and lowly of heart" (which the story of David's throne illustrates), the disciples expected more a Day of Atonement fulfillment, and thus suffered their greatest spiritual defeat from Gethsemane to Calvary. At the very time Jesus was achieving victory over sin, the devil, and death, succeeding at reclaiming this world from Adam's failure, the disciples were fearful and suffering the emotions of being vanquished.

This was in spite of, and in direct unbelief regarding, the consistent revelation of the nature of the King and kingdom Jesus had been teaching them, by precept and example:
1. a childlike trust in His Father (Luke 11:2; 22:42).
2. a passion to spread the righteousness of that kingdom (His faith and love; Luke 8:25; 11:42).
3. a deep commitment to put His Father first (In the very context of sacrificing Himself for the human race, He did not put man where God should be, thereby inverting the two great commandments, which was Adam's failure.)
4. a humility that showed that greatness in this kingdom was unselfishness, that to love "thy neighbour as thyself" was actually a giving of self (Luke 9:46-48; 10:27; 22:24-26; compare John 15:12; 1 Tim. 2:6).

The wrong expectation of the disciples helps us to understand the timing and mission of the Second Advent Movement in the context of the same character of the kingdom. The timing of the kingdom needs to be seen in the light of the prophetic pictures given, and the difference between those pointing to His first coming, and those involved with His second coming. "As the message of Christ's first advent announced the kingdom of His grace, so the message of His second advent announces the kingdom of His glory." (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 234).

Many in the time of Jesus' first coming expected the events of what is now understood to take place at the second coming. "He added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear." (Luke 19:11). What Jesus accomplished (finished) at His first coming were (1) defeating Satan personally by being obedient unto the death of the cross, (2) making His appeal to Israel during its final "week" of probation (Dan. 9:27), (3) setting up team of witnesses to carry the message of "this gospel of the kingdom" worldwide (Matt. 24:14), to prepare for the "falling away" (2 Thes. 2:3), and thereby to give a legal and historical background for the final appeal of this "everlasting gospel" (Rev.14:6).

In seeking to understand the time prophecies that point to the beginning of God's uncontested everlasting kingdom on earth, after the transition from the earthly kingdoms (Dan. 8:14 connected to Dan. 7:25, in the setting of 7:14, 18, 22, 26, 27), the early Adventists connected the Second Coming to the fulfilled time. This led to their "great disappointment." It was a beginning understanding of the sanctuary, especially the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, that brought meaning to that failure. "The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844." (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 423)

It is the work of the High Priest within the Most Holy Place, and the necessity of the people to follow that by faith, that began to unfold our mission and duty. This is the preparation for Jesus' second coming. It is the judgment scene that occurs before the coming, the receiving of the kingdom, which is pictured as the wedding events in heaven before the Son of man comes to get His bride. (See Luke 12:35, 36; 19:11, 12; also Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 428.)

Central to this work in the type was taking the blood from the courtyard to the Most Holy Place. This typified an understanding of Calvary in the pre-advent judgment when a presentation (by precept and example) of the law and the gospel would lighten the earth with the glory of God. This was the work pictured of the angel in Revelation 18, and fulfilled, in its beginning, in the message of "the law of God and the gospel of righteousness" in the late 1880's (Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, page 166). This remains the mission and duty of God's people, a work that will prepare for Christ's coming by calling all on earth to a final decision for or against the principles of the kingdom as manifested in the crucified King. It has been a delay in this mission that has prolonged the preparation.

The sovereignty of God has bowed to the readiness of the bride (Rev. 19:7,8), and the Bridegroom has suffered His own disappointment that is described as "beyond description" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 12/15/1904, par. 8). But the promise and the prophecy is that the bride will repent, even if by the self-abhorrence of the type that struck the disciples after Calvary (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8, page 250; see also 1888 Materials, pp. 26, 27). The events between the 1880's and these observations just after the turn of the century are vital to understand the kingdom status in our day. The following historical statements are helpful.

"Satan has been having things his own way; but the Lord has raised up men and given them a solemn message to bear to His people, to wake up the mighty men to prepare for battle, for the day of God's preparation. This message Satan sought to make of none effect, and when every voice and every pen should have been intensely at work to stay the workings and powers of Satan there was a drawing apart; there were differences of opinion. This was not at all the way of the Lord." (Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, p. 210)

"The natural heart is not to bring its own tainted, corrupting principles into the work of God. There must be no concealing of the principles of our faith. The third angel's message is to be sounded by God's people. It is to swell to the loud cry. The Lord has a time appointed when he will bind off the work; but when is that time? When the truth to be proclaimed for these last days shall go forth as a witness to all nations, then shall the end come. If the power of Satan can come into the very temple of God, and manipulate things as he pleases, the time of preparation will be prolonged. Here is the secret of the movements made to oppose the men whom God sent with a message of blessing for his people. These men were hated. The men and God's message were despised, as verily as Christ himself was hated and despised at his first advent." (Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, page 1525)

"The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. When this reformation begins, the spirit of prayer will actuate every believer and will banish from the church the spirit of discord and strife. Those who have not been living in Christian fellowship will draw close to one another. One member working in right lines will lead other members to unite with him in making intercession for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There will be no confusion, because all will be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit. The barriers separating believer from believer will be broken down, and God's servants will speak the same things. The Lord will co-operate with His servants. All will pray understandingly the prayer that Christ taught His servants: 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.' Matthew 6:10." (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8, page 251).

May that kingdom come soon!

- Fred Bischoff

Raul Diaz