Wednesday, May 22, 2019

“SEASON OF PARENTING”

"SEASON OF PARENTING"

 

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" Psalm 127:3.

Giving birth to a new life has the potential for bringing tremendous joy as well as unfathomable grief to parents. Some have experienced profound pain for never having children. Others have struggled to do a two-parent job alone. Being a parent is wonderful, but it isn't easy. 

In anatomy class we aren't taught what really happens when a baby is born: months before descending the birth canal, it reaches its little hand up to its mother's heart, wraps its tiny fingers around it, and holds on tightly to it through the birth process. After the baby is born, the baby keeps its mother's heart. She never gets it back. Forever, her heart is wrapped in love and concern for this being. Whatever happens to this baby will affect her--for life and eternity, for better or for worse. 

"Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed," said Simeon to Mary as he blessed her infant baby Jesus (Luke 2:35). 

Of all women who ever lived, Mary was singularly blessed to be the mother of our world's Redeemer. But all of us are blessed beyond measure to be called the children of God.

The story of the human family with each succeeding generation is the story of God's family. He made us with this amazing capacity to bring children into the world, and in so doing, He gave us a window into His heart of love for mankind. Where our love is, at best, still faulty and selfish, His love is unfailing.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love," He says, "Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you" (Jeremiah 31:3).

When our first child was born, she was wrapped in a blanket and presented to my husband in his new fatherly role, the first to ever cradle her in his arms. Gazing at that tiny bundle, he sang to her softly. Welcome to our world, little one. We love you so much. After that, I couldn't imagine that I could love another child as much as her. But the Lord blessed us with three more children. With the arrival of each new life, our hearts were again smitten with an overwhelming sense of love. 

And as the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace good will toward men," so our heavenly Father rejoiced over us with singing. His love for us has not abated on account of the billions that have been born. God's plan for each baby is that it would grow to distinctly reflect His character of love. We cannot calculate the value of a human soul except as we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross and permit the sword that pierced her heart to pierce our hearts also. 

Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward." And we are His reward. 

Sin introduced pain to the universe, and most acutely, to God. He could have spared Himself so much if He had just canceled His plans for the creation of our little world. Think of it. If He assessed the pain, He would experience on account of creating Adam and Eve, He could have decided to take an easier route. He could have skipped the cross and the agony that began in the garden of Eden, continued through the slaughter of Abel, and reverberated through the ages. Sin, death, pain. It wasn't the easy path. Why did He do it?

Paul explains that "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," assessed the situation from eternity past. He saw all the sorrow and woe that would come because of sin, and He made a decision to create man anyway, and to save man at any cost. Why? "For the joy set before Him." What was that joy? Seeing a few of us saved. Oh, John makes it clear that God so loved the world, not just those who would be saved at last. Paul tells us that He died for all, that none need be lost. That the free gift of salvation has come to all. But so few will respond. Would it really be worth it? "Who for the joy set before Him," the joy of seeing us respond to His love, would give Him courage to "[endure] the cross," even while "despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2).

If any who are reading this today are parents, think of the burden you feel for the salvation of your children. Multiply that longing times infinity, and that is the longing in the heart of God for our salvation.

We can praise God for whatever pain (whether the source be physical, emotional, guilt, regret or loss) we have experienced on account of bringing children into this world, for in this He has gifted us with a glimpse into His heart.

He could not bear to stay in heaven when we were lost and without hope in this world. For those of us who aren't parents, if we can learn to see the world through God's eyes, we will recognize everywhere children who are desperately searching for love and to be loved by Someone. If we will open our hearts to His love, He will instill in us a love for these needy ones. We can be to them a lifeline by revealing Jesus' love to them. 

Heaven will be wonderful, but it won't present any new opportunities for saving souls. Only in this world do we have opportunity to increase His reward by sharing the Good News of salvation. 

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust" Psalm 103:13, 14.

 

~Patti Guthrie

Friday, May 10, 2019

“THE ROYAL LOVE SONG”

"THE ROYAL LOVE SONG"
 
 
TEMPORIZING 
 
It was a very dark, damp and cold night. But that didn't bother her, for she had a dim candle to light her way to bed. During the time when she lived, most of the homes were very simple. There were one or two rooms, whose floors were made of dirt and covered with hay; this type of flooring meant that the occupants' feet were dirty and needed to be cleaned just prior to going to bed. Hers were no exception. By the side of her bed, there was a little bowl of water. Nightly she sat on the bed, placed her feet in the cold water, washed and immediately dried them with a small towel she had by a table - where she had placed the candle. As soon as she dried her feet, she put them on the bed, leaned over, blew out the candle, and then pulled the thick blankets up to cover herself. After a few minutes, she began to feel comfortable and warm. As she felt the heaviness in her eyes, and limbs, she began to relax, thinking that at last she'd get a good night's sleep. As soon as she closed her eyes, and began to drift into sleep, she heard the knock at the door. Startled, she opened her eyes, and listened intently. It was her Beloved Lover calling to her, telling her he wanted to see her, that he longed to spend time with her and that he wanted to be intimate. Annoyed that he had awakened her, she decided to remain quiet; perhaps he would go away. Afterall, he could come at another time—a more convenient time. But he didn't go away. Instead, he continued knocking, pleading even more softly, and persuasively, "Please open the door, my love, I wish to see you. Won't you let me in? Don't you miss me? My darling, it's so cold out, it's raining, and I'm wet. Can't I at least come in and dry off?" Conflicted, as he continued to plead for entry, she finally, retorted, "Not now! It's very dark, and I've blown out the candle; it's cold, and I am underneath my blankets. Besides that, my feet are already clean, and I do not want to dirty them by going to the door." Quiet for a few moments, her lover responded, "It has been such a long day; I have not seen you, and I really want to spend time with you; you will not regret it. "Frustrated, yet conflicted, she firmly replied, "Come back tomorrow." Her response was met with silence. Feeling awful that she had rejected him and moved with remorse, she got up, and walked in the dark to the door. After a few moments of feeling her way, she found the knob. Turning it, she opened the door, and sadly found that her lover had left. Filled with angst, she wept, thinking that it would probably be days before she could see him again. It was likely that he left to see his fields far away and would not return anytime soon.
 
Does this scenario sound familiar? If you have read the book of the Song of Solomon, you may realize that this is a paraphrase of Song of Solomon 5:2-6, in which the lovers part ways for a time. Things seemed to be going so well between them, so why did Solomon leave Shulamite? What could have caused him to distance himself in such a way? And why did Shulamite respond to him with such resistance? Of course, we remember that the floor was dirty, and the light out; that she had just drowsily retired to bed, and was in that sweet sleep-wake state. Naturally she didn't wish to be disturbed—after all, who would. I mean, proper rest is needed to function the next day, right? Yes, at first glance we can see these things. But, where was her compassion for him? He was cold, she was warm, he was wet, she was dry, he was shivering, she was comfortable. Leaving a friend outside in the inclement elements is something you wouldn't do. Then why did she do it to her lover? What could have motivated her, and why did he leave?
 
The last three questions can be answered, "because she was temporizing." What is temporizing? It is acting evasively to gain time, avoid argument, or postpone a decision. It is what we do when we do not want to be bothered, inconvenienced, or are caught unprepared. In either case, we may be trying to buy some time to find a way out. But a way out of what? Closeness; the vulnerability that comes with both emotional and physical closeness -- Intimacy.
 
On the one hand we want intimacy, we desire to be close, to be fully known and accepted. Yet on the other we don't want the vulnerability, and inconvenience that comes with self-exposure. Thus, like the Shulamite woman, we selfishly and immaturely find more comfort in the warmth and cleanliness of our beds, than in the company and presence of our divine Lover who has come so near to us. As Shulamite perceived she was better off in her condition, "in need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17), we often do too. And by so doing both she and we resist the love, warmth, comfort and cleanliness, the wonderful knowing, and deep acceptance that only our divine Beloved Lover can give.
 
You may recall that the Song of Solomon is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom - the Beloved Lover - and His Bride the Church. Christ has not come back for us, because we - His Bride, the Church - like the Shulamite woman have repulsed His nearness to us – His desire for union. We are content with connectivity, if you will, but not union—or full ongoing disclosure on our part. And yet, it is our permission and receptivity to His closeness that brings cleansing and renewal such as is typified in the cleansing of the Sanctuary. As a body we seem to be preoccupied with teaching and preaching the temporal specifics of how to know He's coming (prophecy), without teaching, preaching or practicing the internal preparation needed for His return. We want Him to be near enough to rescue us from our individual and corporate fears and failures but not near enough to see us as we really are. We're willing to point people to the mirror as a standard of Sabbath keeping, but not as a reflection of our unlikeness to our divine Lover. We're even willing to share the Gospel, as long as it's focused on the righteousness we are to have, and the "nearness" with its attendant victory Christ desires us to receive.
 
These things are in essence true, however, if we were in school, it would be the difference between theory and clinicals. Spiritually speaking, we as a body like the old covenant theory (and practice), but God wants to provide us with His new covenant clinical model. In the old covenant model, we try to impress God and each other with our theology and endeavors. Under the new covenant model, we believe His compassionate nearness to us (the taking on of our collective humanity, and gaining the victory over sin) along with His promises, and see them as His loving invitation to open the door of our individual and corporate heart to Him. This is the only power that will transform our thinking, our living, and our witnessing.
There is a song that comes to mind, probably one of many with this theme-- "Open the door, Jesus is knocking, open the door let the light shine in. Open the door, Jesus is waiting, open the door to Him." Couple this with another that goes something like this, "the Saviour is waiting to enter your heart, why don't you let Him come in? Receive Him and all of your darkness will end, O how He wants to come in. Time after time He's waited before, and now He's waiting again, to see if you're willing to open the door; O how He wants to come in."
 
Friends, no longer let us temporize, but willingly open the door of our hearts—the deepest recesses of our minds, to Him.
 
~Raul Diaz

Friday, May 03, 2019

WISE WORDS FOR FAMILIES

SECOND QUARTER 2019

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #5

MAY 4, 2019

"WISE WORDS FOR FAMILIES"


 

God's design for families.

We are living in interesting times. Things that many Christians reading this article will assume to be normal simply no longer are. Principles of dating, marriage, sexuality, discipline, spouse roles seem to have changed in the minds and lives of many people. This is especially true for the younger generations coming up.

To illustrate this and to invite us deeper into the study this week I would like to contrast two buildings for you. The first one takes us to the wilds of Cambodia, the second back to the USA. 

You will need to use your godly imagination to create the correct mental pictures as I take you to this far off place. One travel book quoted a famous writer calling the Bokor Hill Station the "eeriest place on earth." So, with an introduction like that and a healthy sense of adventure, let's go!

These descriptions have come from a trip my family and I took years ago when we were serving with Adventist Frontier Missions and long before Cambodia's infrastructure caught up and made this historic French installment accessible. For us to make the trip we had to use our new to us "off-road" Camry that God's believers had sacrificed to supply for us. I say off-road because the Cambodian people liked to use the older Camrys and add about 4 inches to the struts so that there was a little higher clearance for the roads that would be the norm. So, feeling a little more secure with four wheels (compared to our trusty 100 cc moped we had used previously for all of our trips - with 4 people on it) we headed off towards the mountains in southwest Cambodia.

As we ambulated up this intentional piece of old French military asphalt, with thoughts of elephants emerging from the pristine jungle each hole, fallen log, and mud filled chasm reminded us of our thankfulness that we weren't on our trusty moped for this adventure! Passing a poor tourist on our right further cements that thought. I intentionally use the word cement because the road needed some of that; and the tourist was poor, not in the sense of having no money (though flying half way around the world to see Bokor may increase those chances), but because she actually believed the travelogue blather about "you can take a local moped driver up to the top of the mountain." As each bump and pothole (read: !POTHOLE!) catapults her to new heights we quickly realize that it was only the weight of the clay draped all over her body that is keeping her spinal shock absorber semi-attached to the intrepid driver and moped. Hoping to see her again on the top if any of us make it, we wave and bounce on, happily surrounded in our bondo-sustained steel Camry.

After what seemed like a tremendously long time of Toyotian/Cambodian rodeo and a few stops to check on our tire pressure, we arrive at one of the buildings towards the top of the mountain. Was it truly eerie? Only because of disuse. Peering through the fog our eyes take in a building of great intention and marvelous beauty. Unfortunately, due to Cambodia's horrendous past it is being reclaimed by the jungle although the structure is still intact. Many items are missing either from age or from the pilfering or irresponsible guides and tourists. Nonetheless, there is ample evidence that this place was made to be a retreat of majestic grandeur with magnificent views. Walking from room to room one sight intrigues me above all others: a glorious, oversized bay window overlooking . . .

In contrast, quickly come with me in your mind's eye to the heartland of the USA to see a building that the international speaker Ravi Zacharias describes as unthinkable. Imagine an experimental building known for being the epitome of postmodern thinking on a university campus. Having thrown off the normal constraints of purpose and "rules", it boasts columns supporting nothing, staircases leading nowhere, hallways that dead end, and even windows in front of brick walls. As Ravi listened to his driver praise the merits of a building made without the age old constraints in the name of pure freedom, he asked an important question: what about the foundation? Even a building defying rules requires a solid foundation!

That is what this week's lesson endeavors to do and remind us of. In a world of doubt and change the scripture gives us both the foundation and design for a true and happy family. Principles for marriage, discipline, interpersonal communication, and finding true love can be found through this study guide of God's word. I pray that we take the time to glean its timeless truths. Yet, may they be more than just a foundation for a life of mindless futility and decisions that lead nowhere. Let God's truth transform our families. 

Momentarily let's go back to Cambodia. What was the picture window overlooking? 

Unfortunately, I did not see it! Due to the dense fog I failed to see both the view and the purpose of all the architectural focus of the building. Tragically, we actually left Bokor without the fog ever lifting. 

I am concerned that the same is happening in our world today. Godly marriages and families are becoming ancient relics of a bygone time. The intention, design, and beauty remain nearly inaccessible in remote corners of the world, and the god of this world has blinded peoples' eyes so that they do not see the whole point and purpose of the family. As we dive into this week's lesson let's pray that God will send His mighty wind in these last days to dispel the mists of doubt and reveal His glorious design for families, again!

~Bryan Gallant


Sent from my iPad

Friday, April 26, 2019

1888 Message Study : When Alone

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-2nd-qtr-apr---june/when-alone

"WHEN ALONE"

 

 

Definitions of the word alone include separate, apart, isolated from others, lacking companions or companionship, solitary. Who of us hasn't experienced a sense of aloneness at times?

 

MADE IN GOD'S IMAGE, MADE FOR COMPANIONSHIP

"And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'" Genesis 2:18, NKJV.

Many a prayer has undoubtedly referenced this week's memory text.  Perhaps a prayer that goes something like this:  "But Lord, You said that it is not good to be alone.  You created marriage!  It is one of the first and finest gifts you gave to humanity.  And here I am single.  Please Lord, lead me to someone with whom I can share my life.  I am lonely!"  Or maybe for the person dealing with the breakup of a marriage or relationship the prayer is: "Lord, what happened?  What went wrong?  Why?  The pain and loneliness, the sense of failure, the abandonment, and the betrayal is unbearable!"

Man was not made to dwell in solitude; he was to be a social being.  Without companionship the beautiful scenes and delightful employments of Eden would have failed to yield perfect happiness.  Even communion with angels could not have satisfied his desire for sympathy and companionship.  There was none of the same nature to love and to be loved.  PP 46.

God celebrated the first marriage.  Thus the institution has for its originator the Creator of the universe.  "Marriage is honorable"; it was one of the first gifts of God to man, and it is one of the two institutions that, after the fall, Adam brought with him beyond the gates of Paradise.  AH 25, 26.

Yes, we were created to live in harmonious community, and the family unit is the social order God ordained.  Of course a profound theological truth about God is implied in the words, "It is not good that man should be alone."  In Genesis 1:26 we read, "And God said, Let Us make man in Our imageafter Our likeness."  The Godhead is the prototype family.  In all eternity past the triune God has never been alone!  And how could it be otherwise?  God is Love.  God is agape.  This other-centered love cannot exist alone.  It lavishes its affections, attentions, and creative power outward away from self.  It expresses itself in mutual sharing and like-mindedness.  In the Gospel of John many verses point to the oneness, the complete cooperation and unity of the Godhead.  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.  If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.  There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. John 5:30-32.  But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me… John 15:26.  Jesus directs attention to His Father.  The Father bears witness to the Son.  The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and bears witness of Jesus.  The oneness of the Godhead permeates the Gospel of John and indeed all of scripture.  Jesus desires His followers to experience this oneness.  "…that they may be one, as We are."  John 17:11

 

THE CAUSE OF ALONENESS

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Genesis 3:9-10.  The lesson points out that while human beings were not meant to be alone, sin entered and ruined what had hitherto been harmonious and joyful companionship.  Isn't it interesting that after partaking of the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve seek to be apart from God?  They go and hide!  Sin is the root cause of all aloneness.  A reading of the book of Genesis makes this readily apparent.  Discord, alienation, and death is introduced in chapter three and continues throughout the book.

Aloneness often confronts the characters in the second half of Genesis.  Hagar and Ishmael are sent away to dwell apart from the family of Abraham.  Abraham ascends Mt. Moriah with Isaac, the promised heir, all the while imagining the unimaginable ̶ descending the mountain alone.  Death separates Abraham from Sarah.  Jacob, fleeing from home, lays his head upon a stone feeling utterly forsaken and alone.  He works for Laban seven years anticipating receiving Rachel but is given Leah instead.  Poor unloved, unlovely Leah!  The names she bestows on her first three sons tell the story of her personal struggle with rejection and loneliness.  "The Lord has looked upon my affliction, maybe my husband will love me now.  The Lord has heard that I am unloved.  Now this time my husband will become attached to me." (Genesis 29:32-34).  The final chapters of Genesis are largely devoted to Joseph, betrayed by his own brothers, separated from family, living in a foreign country, put in prison for a crime he didn't commit.  But while Joseph is living apart from the family so is Judah.  His father's inconsolable grief was a constant reminder of the brothers' crime and deception in which he, Judah, had taken the leading role.  It's not that hard to figure out why Judah departs from his family for a time.  What a dysfunctional family at every turn so it seems!   And we shouldn't be surprised.  Sin is the cause of all aloneness.  It isolates and alienates.   We are all infected by the leprosy of sin.  In Leviticus we read the law concerning the unfortunate person pronounced a leper.  "He shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.  Leviticus 13:46.

 

THE CURE FOR ALONENESS

But while Genesis is a story of God's perfect creation gone awry, it is above all the story of a covenant keeping God.  It is a story of forgiveness, mercy, love, and redemption.  It is a story of creation and recreation.  Yes, the cure is the Gospel, and the Gospel is ever present in the story of Abraham's family!

 

God provides water for Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness.  He speaks to Hagar.  She too is loved.  God calls Abraham, "my friend." (Isaiah 41:8).  "Between perfect friends there is a perfect understanding.  So God called Abraham his friend, because they perfectly understood each other.  This sacrifice fully revealed the character of Abraham.  God had said before, "I know him;" and now again He said; "Now I know that thou fearest God."  And Abraham on his part understood the Lord.  The sacrifice of his only begotten son indicated that he knew the loving character of God, who for man's sake had already given His only begotten Son.  They were united in a mutual sacrifice and a mutual sympathy.  No one could appreciate the feelings of God so well as Abraham could."  The Everlasting Covenant 09: The Call of Abraham – The Test of Faith/ The Present Truth July 2, 1896 by E. J. Waggoner.

 

Abraham is bowed down with grief at the loss of his beloved Sarah, yet faith and hope make the loss bearable.  The separation is temporary.  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

 

And what of lonely Jacob?  That first night, parted from his family, he receives in a dream the promise of the everlasting covenant.  Jacob awakes realizing he is not alone!  God is present.

 

Leah's focus changes at the birth of her fourth son, "Now will I praise the Lord."  Genesis 29:35.  And Judah, this fourth son?  His transformation of character is evidenced by his speech before the prime minister of Egypt pleading that he become the slave and Benjamin be allowed to go free.  Remembering the anguish and loss he had previously caused his father his speech is full of love for his father and a desire to spare him.  Jealousy and selfishness are gone.  "How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?  No!  Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father." Genesis 44:34 NIV.  Judah concludes his speech and it is enough for Joseph.  The Covenant keeping God has wrought transformation in the brothers.  The family is reunited.

 

Redemption is creation.  Redemption is the same power that was put forth in the beginning to create the world and all that is in it, now put forth to save men and the earth from the curse of sin…..The Scriptures are very clear on this point.  The Psalmist prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10). The apostle says, that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," (2 Corinthians 5:17) or a new creation. ………….  Now the same power that in the beginning made the earth from nothing, takes man, if he is willing, and makes of him that which is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:6). E. J. Waggoner from "The Gospel in Creation". 

 

Both A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner write at length of the vital connection between creation and redemption.  And indeed redemption is foreshadowed in the creation story (Genesis 2:21-25).  The last Adam like the first Adam was put to sleep/death.  His death was the means through which His bride was given life.  "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water."  John 19:34.  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."  Ephesians 5:30-32.

The marriage of divinity to humanity!  What a theme for contemplation!  Jesus is the cure!

By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin.  It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen.  In taking our nature, the Savior has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken.  Through the eternal ages He is linked with us.  "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." John 3:16.  He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race.  To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature.  DA 25

 

THE GREATEST ALONENESS

" And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15.  "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me:" Isaiah 63:3.  It was in the garden that Adam and Eve lost their innocence and their one accord became notes of discord and separation.  In another garden the unity of eternal ages was broken up.

The Garden of Eden, with its foul blot of disobedience, should be carefully compared with the Garden of Gethsemane, where the world's Redeemer suffered superhuman agony when the sins of the whole world were rolled upon him.  Listen to the prayer of the only-begotten Son of God, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." And the second time He prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." And the third time He prayed, saying the same words. Oh, it was here the mysterious cup trembled in the hands of the Son of God!   E. G. White, Signs of the times, April 17, 1893

We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God's dear Son in Gethsemane, as He realized His separation from His Father in consequence of bearing man's sin.  He became sin for the fallen race.  The sense of the withdrawal of His Father's love pressed from His anguished soul these mournful words: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Matthew 26:38. . . .  AG 169

The Majesty of heaven was as one bewildered with agony.  No human being could endure such suffering; Manuscript 42, 1897. CTr 266

God spared not His only-begotten Son.  To show the depth of His love for man, He delivered Him up for us all.  "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Behold Him dying on the cross.  Behold Him who was equal with God, mocked and derided by the mob.  Behold Him in Gethsemane, bowed under the burden of the sins of the whole world.  HP 15.4.

The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood.  Look upon the Savior uplifted on the cross.  Hear that despairing cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Mark 15:34.  Look upon the wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet.  Remember that Christ risked all.  For our redemption, heaven itself was imperiled.  At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul. COL 196

 

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

The gospel is the solution but as long as we live in this sinful world we all face seasons of aloneness.  In the last couple of weeks two dear friends have gone to their rest.  Family and friends grieve.  As we approach the end of all things, and the contest between the truth and the lie intensify, the problem of aloneness becomes more acute.  We rub elbows daily with many who have or are experiencing incredible loss and aloneness.  In addition, feeling unloved, unwanted, unappreciated, misunderstood, ignored, ridiculed, scorned, criticized, unattractive, inferior, or marginalized (the list goes on) can and do contribute to a sense of aloneness.  If we ourselves have struggled with one or more of the aforementioned we should of all people be most empathetic and sympathetic to the lonely.

The lesson gave many examples of bible characters who were confronted with aloneness.  We can find great comfort in bible biographies!  We relate to the various characters' perplexities, struggles, failures and triumphs.  We are not alone after all.  And again, truly the Gospel is the answer!  We have a Savior, a representative who experienced the lot of humanity and knows our temptations.  Hebrews 4:15.

He walks with us.  Keep cheerful.  Do not forget that you have a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which Christ has appointed.  You are never alone.  If you will listen to the voice that now speaks to you, if you will respond without delay to the knocking at the door of your heart, "Come in, Lord Jesus, that I may sup with Thee, and Thee with me," the heavenly Guest will enter.  When this element, which is all divine, abides with you, there is peace and rest. AH 350.  

 Our pilgrimage would indeed be lonely were it not for Jesus.  "I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:18), He says to us.  Let us cherish His words, believe His promises, repeat them by day and meditate upon them in the night season, and be happy.--MS 75, 1893, 2MCP 468.

As a single person I have known what it is to be alone.  For years I believed I would marry.  I had very much looked forward to sharing my life with a husband and to having children.  Unfortunately in my search for happiness I made many wrong choices.  I often was wounded, caused grief, and brought grief upon myself.  I am deeply grateful for God's forgiveness, mercy, love, and abundant blessings.

At this point in my life I am content to remain single.  While I have been privileged to witness a number of marriages that are powerful testimonies to the creative and redemptive love of God, I'm not aware of any perfect marriages.  I've yet to find anyone living the utopian life, married or single.  I resonate with the words of the song, This World is not my home.

After her vision of Heaven, Ellen White had this to say.  "Then an angel bore me gently down to this dark world.  Sometimes I think I can stay here no longer; all things of earth look so dreary.  I feel very lonely here, for I have seen a better land.  Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest!"  CCh 36.  Don't we all long for Heaven? - a place where misunderstanding does not exist, a place where love is perfectly expressed, a place of true intimacy and pure unselfish desire, a place where the beauty of individuality is preserved and yet a meeting of minds occurs.  No conflict!  Heaven will more than compensate for any dashed dreams and disappointments of this life.  The spiritual reality is always greater than the type.  The marriage of the Lamb and His bride is the greater reality.  Oh what a glorious restful union! 

But even prior to Heaven we can look forward to the time that surely is right before us.  A time when "One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,--Christ our righteousness.  RH, December 23, 1890 par. 19.  This experience is going to unite God's people.  May the desire of our hearts be - Christ in us, the hope of glory.  (Colossians 1:27)

~Martha Ruggles


Friday, April 19, 2019

1888 Message Study : Preparing for Change

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-2nd-qtr-apr---june/preparing-for-change

"PREPARING FOR CHANGE"

 

 

"Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway" (Psalm 85:13, NKJV).

 

We spent last quarter delving into the book of Revelation: reviewing the history of God's people over the past two thousand years, examining prophecies that were fulfilled in the past, and studying things yet to come. Revelation contains the heartbeat of the Seventh-day Adventist message. The three angels' messages of Revelation 14 followed by the final fourth angel's message of Revelation 18 direct us to our unique call as Adventists, to proclaim the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the earth, and to embrace the final "Loud Cry" message of Revelation 18, which will culminate in the complete overthrow of Babylon, the earthly apostate church system which epitomizes Satan's self-exalting character. These are thrilling themes!

 

This quarter our lessons have seemingly pivoted 180 degrees. Instead of studying the great prophecies of Daniel or Revelation, we are now contemplating the seasons of life. What a contrast! In rapid succession our lesson this week, titled "Preparing for Change," guides us through the major life changes. A scant page is devoted to each theme. Sunday's lesson discusses changes brought about by our own actions. Monday's lesson covers preparation for marriage; Tuesday, preparation for parenting; Wednesday, preparation for old age; and Friday, preparation for death. We could certainly add other life experiences to the list (as was alluded to on Sunday): preparation for starting school, moving to a new community, selling a home, etc. But there's another item that could've been given a page in the lesson this week: Preparing for translation! And it is that topic to which I would like to turn for the remainder of this Sabbath School Insights.

 

If you search "translation" on the EGW app, you will find a consistent theme. The early Adventists were focused on preparing for translation. For example: "God is leading out a people who are peculiar. He will purify them, He will cleanse them, and fit them for translation" (RH, Jan. 19, 1864).

 

"While the eyes of the righteous are fixed upon the heavenly, priceless treasure, they will be more and more like Christ, and will be transformed, and fitted for translation" (RH May 20, 1882).

 

The Seventh-day Adventist movement was started by a group of young people who believed fervently, with all their hearts, that Jesus was coming soon, within their lifetime. Some put off decisions to marry or have children, believing time was short. They expected to be translated. Who among them imagined growing old? But after 40 years of believing in the soon coming of Jesus, the faith of some had grown faint; heads had turned gray; not a few, including James White, were laid to rest.

 

Spiritually, this beloved movement had become as lifeless as the bones in Ezekiel's vision, "as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain" (RH, March 11, 1890).

 

This past winter I had opportunity to visit Adventist Historic Village in Battle Creek, Michigan. We toured the homes and meeting places of the advent pioneers on a cold, rainy Sabbath afternoon. Seated on wooden plank pews, we sang early advent hymns accompanied by an old pump organ. That experience, along with docents dressed in period clothing, helped to create a nostalgic sense of being back in time. To our modern minds, distracted by emails, texts, calls, and worries, it seems those were the good old days.

 

But history tells another story. "Had Adventists, after the great disappointment of 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. . . . Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!

 

"It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in 'because of unbelief.' Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.

 

"For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years" (Ev. pp. 695-696, originally written Manuscript 4, 1883).

 

Generation after generation has gone to the grave. We now have a whole quarter of lessons devoted to the seasons of life. Don't get me wrong. We need to be cognizant of these life stages. The decades pass all too quickly. All too soon, we are preparing for old age.

 

We are beyond disappointed.

 

Slowly, imperceptibly, but surely, Adventism has apparently lost sight of the goal of translation. With so many generations of advent believers now resting in their graves, what are the prospects for us? Like the Israelites of old, we have become accustomed to our wilderness wanderings. Dying before we reach our heavenly Canaan home has come to be the expected order of the day. We are saving for retirement. Then what? For some, agonizing months or years of struggling with terminal disease, debility and senility precedes our final steps to the grave. And somehow, we've come to accept this as our new normal.

 

I don't know about you, but I would like to see the cycle stopped. My parents are old. Their remaining days on earth are few. They will pass, then it's my turn.

 

We are familiar with the commission: "This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14, ESV).

 

We have been doing evangelism for many years. But 130 years ago, we find that the Lord "in His mercy" sent a most precious message of Jesus Christ and His righteousness to enliven our church with the love of Jesus. Without Jesus, we had succumbed to formalism and a rigid adherence to lifeless doctrines. The green tree turned brown. The bones dried up. The grass withered. We needed that most precious message which the Lord "in His mercy" sent through Brothers Jones and Waggoner to replant the gospel seed of Jesus and His love in our hearts. While the hearts of some were warmed, others resisted.

 

"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth [of Christ and His righteousness], lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world (Ellen White to Uriah Smith, Letter 96, June 5, 1896, 1888 Materials, p. 1575).

 

Let's take stock of our situation in light of what has gone before. The message of Christ our righteousness which God sent to our church through His messengers was for the purpose of preparing us for translation. There is no other message that will do this, for the message of His righteousness strips us bare of our own filthy garmentsWe can't go through the final time of trouble depending partly on God and partly on ourselves.

 

A colloquial definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way, over and over, and expecting a different result.

 

If we want Jesus to come, we need to do something different. We need to go back to our history and discover the most precious message God sent to prepare a people for translation. Not any gospel, but a particular gospel is needed. When "this gospel of the kingdom" is preached in all the world, Jesus will come. The earth will be lightened with the glory of the fourth angel. Jesus will come because this message has done its work. We don't just need it intellectually; we need it to settle in our hearts and give us a passion for souls. The love of Christ will drive out the selfishness in our hearts if we permit it. It will infuse us with a desire to share the last message of love and mercy with our dying world so Jesus can come, and the seasons of life can transition to the earth made new where there will be no more sickness, pain, tears, disease, and death.

 

Please join me in praying for that day and making the study of this most precious message a priority in our lives.

 

--Patti Guthrie


Thursday, April 11, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Choices We Make

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-2nd-qtr-apr---june/the-choices-we-make

"THE CHOICES WE MAKE"

 

 

This week's lesson is about God's gift of choice. The areas this lesson highlights are: (1) choosing friends, (2) choosing a life partner, and (3) choosing a life occupation. In Sunday's lesson we have this thought: "This week, we will look in a very broad way at the question of the choices we make, how we should make them, and what impact these choices can have on ourselves and our families." The impact of our choices is seen in ourselves and our families.

 

Let's begin by going to the beginning when God gave the gift of choice to the human family. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God which means they were "endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator – individuality, power to think and to do." Education, 27. This ability to think, and to choose, and to act involved also the consideration of alternatives for putting into practice wrong, as well as right, capabilities.

 

This is of special concern with regard to the freedom of choice given to humanity. Both Adam and Eve freely chose a different direction than God's way. When they came to a fork in the road, they chose the enemy's path. Because of their choices, life-changing consequences happened to them, but not to themselves only. Their life-changing consequences had, and has, eternal end results for every member of their human family.

 

God did not take back His gift of choice after Adam and Eve sinned. The power to choose is an eternal principle with consequences reaching into eternity. This freedom to choose continued in humanity after as well as before the fall. While it is true that humans reap the results of the wrong choices made by our first parents (and present ones), we are responsible and accountable for our own sinful choices. Persons eternally lost will be so because of their God-given freedom of choice exercised in a different way than God's choice for them.

 

Jesus, Himself, made an eternal choice to take Adam's place and also our place. Christ's choice has had on-going eternal consequences for Himself. He will never be the same as He was before He came to earth. He became human in order to save us from both Adam's sin and from our own sins. He will forever retain the human nature He came to save. Because of His incarnation into fallen human flesh, Christ became the Son who took the place of the first "son of God" – the first Adam (Luke 3:38). As the second and "last Adam," He was the last "Son of God." But unlike the first Adam He was made to be sin itself so "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). "He, the Sin Bearer, [endured] the wrath of divine justice, and for thy sake becomes sin itself." The Desire of Ages, 755. What an exchange! Christ became sin and we become righteous in Him.

 

Christ appeared "bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11). In the words of Waggoner, "God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession. Thus, every mouth will be stopped." The Glad Tidings, 22-23. It is because of their freedom of choice men and women spurn and throw away eternal salvation which God wrought out for them and gave to them, in Jesus. Consequently they will be lost for eternity.

 

From Monday's lesson we read, "We all know very well the importance of the choices we make. And we all know, too, how wrong choices can very negatively impact our lives and the lives of others. The question is, how can we know how to make the right choices?"

 

Before we consider some answers to this question, take into account some observations about the plight of thinking, choosing and doing because of today's educational system. In receiving a secular education, I was never taught how to think and to choose correctly. We were taught to regurgitate the mental cuisine we were fed in the various required classes.

 

We observe the same today. Education made a turn for the worse when it came to another fork in the road. The fork chosen was socialism instead of the Protestant system of education upon which America was built. Today minds are made mush through educational institutions. Students are not taught how to think and to make intelligent personal choices, but they are told what to believe and how to riot socially as demonstrated on college and university campuses today. This is group think that produces mob action; not how to make correct personal choices. They are not taught to think for themselves, but to reflect their teacher's thoughts. This is because of the systematic destruction of mental processes through false education. The consequential result is continually seen in poor choices of friends, of a life partner, and of a life occupation.

 

Continuing the thought of the above passage earlier from the book Education we read: "It is the work of true education to develop this power ["to think and to do"], to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen. Instead of educated weaklings, institutions of learning may send forth men strong to think and to act, men who are masters and not slaves of circumstances, men who possess breadth of mind, clearness of thought, and the courage of their convictions" (Education, 17-18). This is true Protestant education continued in the Spirit of Prophecy for us today. The break-in into our families and the robbery of the ability to think, choose and do can be changed by God's grace as we return to the question of Monday's lesson:

 

"How can we know how to make the right choices?" There are several Scripture references given and summarized here: prayer, willingness to obey God, to study His word diligently, to trust in God with all your heart, and to seek counsel from godly men and women. Convenience, cultural trends, peer pressure, emotions, habits, and mere preferences are unreliable guides for the choices that lead to the life God intends for us.

 

In closing I want to leave you with a couple practical ideas to help in learning to make proper choices. The first is to lend a hand to those who are afraid to make a choice for fear of making the wrong one.

 

"Long delays tire the angels. It is even more excusable to make a wrong decision sometimes than to be continually in a wavering position, to be hesitating, sometimes inclined in one direction, then in another. More perplexity and wretchedness result from thus hesitating and doubting than from sometimes moving too hastily" (Testimonies, vol 3, 497).

 

Think of it this way. If you seek prayerfully for God's guidance and you make a wrong choice, He will not abandon you. He will take you back to where He wants you to be. We can then learn from those mistakes. On the other hand, if we make the right choice, we will have heaven's affirmation, in time, as we see how God leads us.

 

"Every child [and adult] should understand the true force of the will. He should be led to see how great is the responsibility involved in this gift. The will is the governing power in the nature of man, [it is] the power of decision, or choice. Every human being possessed of reason has power to choose the right. In every experience of life, God's word to us is, 'Choose you this day whom ye will serve.' Joshua 24:15. Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil. In every [adult,] youth, every child, lies the power, by the help of God, to form a character of integrity and to live a life of usefulness." Education, 289.

 

The following is a practical promise:

It is for you to yield up your will to the will of Jesus Christ; and as you do this, God will immediately take possession and work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Your whole nature will then be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ, and even your thoughts will be subject to Him." Testimonies, Vol. 5, 513.4.

 

"Pure religion has to do with the will. The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power which works in the children of men unto obedience to God or unto disobedience. Ibid., 513.1.

 

So, God's word to us continually is, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve."

 

~Jerry Finneman


Friday, April 05, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Rhythms of Life

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-2nd-qtr-apr---june/the-rhythms-of-life


"THE RHYTHMS OF LIFE"

 

 

          We begin a new quarter of Sabbath School studies entitled, "Family Seasons".  The cover photo of two new young parents with their newborn baby direct our focus to the topic for this quarter as we study "the family" with all the influences and circumstances that affect it and are affected by it.

 

          With the destructive influence of sin invading nearly every aspect of our society and individual identity, it is no wonder that our discernment of God's ideal and plan for families (husband, wife, marriage, parent, children, brother, sister) is dimly understood and in need of Biblical clarity as well as inspired commentary from Ellen White.

 

          As we begin our study, it's vital for us to remember – as the first lesson points out – that "the Bible is a book of relationships" (p. 11 quarterly).  It makes sense that the Bible is a book of relationships because it reveals the character of its author Who is fundamentally relational!

 

          God in His very character and constitution is relational.  From eternity past there have been three individual beings composing one God.  And they existed for all eternity past together – and together in loving relationship.  "You loved Me before the foundation of the world." (John17:24).  The word for "world" in John17 is the Greek word "kosmos".  The verse literally reads, "God loved His Son Jesus before they began creating anything in the universe"!

 

          We as human beings are, at our core, relational individuals, relational beings.  And we are that way because we were created by relational God.  A God who was relational from eternity past.  In order for us to have a glimpse of their relationship with one another they have self-identified to us as, "God the Father", "God the Son", and "God the Holy Spirit".  The Godhead compose a family unit!  Not in a gender-based sense.  Not in a hierarchical sense.  But in an intimate, familial, devoted, affectionate, personal sense!

 

          The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are a family made up of three members who love and like each other.  They care about each other.  The fact that GOD IS RELATIONAL, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, is one of the strongest arguments for the truth of the doctrine of the trinity.  If there ever was a time when God was not a family, but rather was a singular being, then it could not be said that God was – in His very essence – and had always been, RELATIONAL.

 

          For those who don't believe in the trinitarian nature of God from eternity past, they must admit that God at His very essence is not relational – and therefore cannot be love – as love by its very nature is relational.  If God existed in eternity past as an isolated singularity, there would be no "relationships" by definition, and thus there would be no love possible by definition.  Thankfully for us, God has been a relational, loving trinity for eternity.

 

And it was out of Their love and care for each other, that They wanted to share Their love and care – and this led Them to create "others" to include in Their family.  "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," (Ephesians 3:14-15).  At its very core, the intelligent life in the universe from God to angels to other created beings such as humanity, is a family entity.

 

The universe is not run as a business with God the owner giving orders to all His employees.  The universe is not run as a dictatorship with God as the head power broker controlling minions based on a system of dispensing rewards and punishments.  The universe is not even a "cooperative" where everyone shares to receive and give with God as the head.  The universe is fundamentally a family!  The angels see each other – and they help us – as brothers and sisters in God's family.  God sees us as a parent sees His children.  We are part of a massive social network infinitely bigger than Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.  We are part of a loving, social, relational network called the family of heaven and earth according to Paul in Ephesians 3.

 

Sadly, one member of the family decided to break with the family and take as many as possible with him in a rebellion.  He chose that path of self-concern and self-interest as the primary "family" attitude – and this always leads to discord and alienation.  Other members of the family chose to continue on the path of self-giving and self-sacrifice.  And these two types of "family" relationships are present in our world today.

 

"The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and to see the relation of its parts.  He should gain a knowledge of its grand central theme, of God's original purpose for the world, of the rise of the great controversy, and of the work of redemption.  He should understand the nature of the two principles that are contending for supremacy, and should learn to trace their working through the records of history and prophecy, to the great consummation.  He should see how this controversy enters into every phase of human experience; how in every act of life he himself reveals the one or the other of the two antagonistic motives; and how, whether he will or not, he is even now deciding upon which side of the controversy he will be found." {Ed 190.2}.

 

As we study these lessons this quarter, may we keep in mind the two ways of relating to the other members of the family – even the rebellious members of the family – and reveal the great motive that prompted the heart of God to share His family intimacy with us.  And as we reveal the great motive of God's heart, may we win over some rebellious brothers and sisters to God's side of the family.

 

"The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian." 
{AG 276.7}.

 

 

~Bob Hunsaker

Friday, March 15, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Seven Last Plagues

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-q1/the-seven-last-plagues

FIRST QUARTER 2019

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #11

MARCH 16, 2019

"THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES"

 

Revelation 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

 

Revelation 16:14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

 

Revelation 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

 

Revelation 16:16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

 

Armageddon is a combination of two words, Har, and Megeddon.  The Mountain at the place of slaughter.  I have been to that mountain, Mt. Carmel, at which Elijah encountered the engagement with the prophets of Baal.  As in the type, the final "battle" will be over true vs. false worship.  The enemy will have his Three Demons Messages, to counter the Three Angels Messages, coming from his false trinity.  Miracles, as in Revelation 13, are a major part of the enemy's strategy to deceive.  If we "watch and keep our garments", we will have protection, discernment, and a deep loving loyalty already demonstrated in the mark of the beast issue.

 

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

 

Isaiah 1:19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:

 

Isaiah 1:20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

 

As Joshua 24:15 says, "Choose you this day whom you shall serve."  The Seven Last Plagues fall on those who chose poorly.  The Seal of God is experienced by those who chose to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

 

"The Third Angel's Message is to keep men from the worship of the Beast and his Image, and so to save them from the wrath of God. And the way in which men escape the worship of the Beast and his Image, and so escape the Seven Last Plagues, is by keeping the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus; for the closing words of the Third Angel's Message are: "Here are they that keep the Commandments of God, and the Faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12. "

 

AT Jones, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Vol. 78, No. 5, January 29, 1901, p. 72.

 

Revelation sixteen describes the seven last plagues (Revelation 15:1) of earth's history. Included in these plagues is the only mention of the word "Armageddon" in the Bible. This section (Revelation 15-16) begins with the end-time people of God standing by the sea of glass singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, an allusion to the Exodus (Revelation 15:1-4). Then the seven plagues are introduced with a vision of the heavenly temple emptied because of the glory of God, a reversal of the original inauguration of the Mosaic sanctuary (Revelation 15:5-8; Exodus 40:34-35). This is close of probation imagery. Seven angels were then told to pour out bowls of wrath upon the earth one by one (Revelation 16:1-21).  The Sanctuary Message shows us how God deals with the sin problem without the sinner being destroyed, by presenting a substitute, and a cleansing from all iniquity.

 

The 7 Last Plagues should always be viewed in relation to Revelation 15, and the Final Remnant who have seen victory over the Beast, the Mark, the Image, and the number of His name.  As Revelation 12:11 says, they overcame by the Blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and they loved their lives not until death.  The Blood of the Lamb was and is available to all, through the redemption accomplished for all humanity in Christ.  Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.  No one has to be lost, and thus, no one has to experience the Seven Last Plagues.

 

God promises to place love in our hearts. Romans 5:5. Satan's effort is to have people angry, like him. Revelation 11:18.  It is up to us to decide whom will control our mind and heart.

 

The Book of Revelation presents us with two sets of Seven Blessings for Obedience, and 7 Promises for Overcoming.  Then it presents us with two sets of Seven presentations of New Testament history, the Seven Letters and the Seven Seals, showing God's work in history with His people, His concerns, and His dealings with those who reject His love.  Then in contrast to the two sets of blessings, we see two sets of judgments, the preliminary judgments of the Trumpets, and then the final Seven Last Plagues.  These all result in two groups, the Righteous and the Lost, seen at the end in the Remnant who do not receive the Mark, and then in Revelation 20, the saved and lost from all time.  Those who are lost had ample opportunity to fall in love with Jesus, to appreciate, and receive by living faith the gift of His righteousness, and the promise of eternal life.  God wishes that all be saved.

 

The Seven Last plagues are called "last" for several reasons.  They are the final judgments on the wicked.  Also, in Exodus, the 7 "last" plagues of the ten fell on Egypt only, and Goshen was protected.  Those who believe in the Secret Rapture say the church must be raptured because, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:9, they say the church is not "appointed to wrath", and thus the plagues could not fall on them.  But as we see in Psalms 91 and the type of the plagues in Egypt, the 7 last plagues do not fall on God's people, while they are on earth during the final tribulation period.

 

The end time remnant are praising God for the fairness and justice of the fate of all.  Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.

 

Revelation 15:4 Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest.

 

The significance of the Song of Moses AND the Song of the Lamb is that in it, one understands why the remnant are saved, and others are lost.  The righteous had the "Faith of Jesus", the faith that led to obedience, even the death of the cross.  The Song of Moses, seen in Exodus 15, was a shallow faith that was easily shaken by trials, and thus murmuring against God when they faced, immediately, the waters of Mareh.  The righteous have a faith that is not based merely on the miraculous, the positive, but a faith as that of Daniel and his friends, who purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves, or not to be disloyal to God.

 

In ancient times, God's people, the Israelites, were slaves in Egypt. God wanted to take them out but Pharaoh hardened his heart. When Egypt's pharaoh refused to let God's people go and instead took away their right to a Sabbath rest, God struck Egypt with plagues (Exodus 5). These events symbolize what will happen in the final days. The circumstances will be similar, and the application will be universal.

 

Because Moses reestablished the Israelites' Sabbath, Pharaoh increased their workload, making it impossible for the Israelites to keep the Sabbath. When this law was enacted and God's people could no longer worship according to their consciences, God intervened. The plagues came and Israel was freed from slavery and taken to the Promised Land.

 

In Revelation, John describes the seven last plagues that will fall at the end of the world's probation. This close of probation, just like in Egypt, will come after the mark of the Beast is enforced, depriving God's people of their freedom to worship Him according to the dictates of their conscience. In the end times, the Sabbath will once again be the issue.

 

I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God (Revelation 15:1).

 

In Revelation, John sees the heavenly temple fill with smoke. The heavenly temple service ends and probation is closed: "And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled" (Revelation 15:8).

 

First Plague: And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image (Revelation 16:1-2).

 

In this text, the first plague falls on those who have the mark of the Beast; God's people are divinely protected. In Egypt, God separated the Egyptians and the Israelites so that His people were not affected by the last seven plagues.

 

Later in Revelation, before Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, God warned His people about the coming destruction. He pointed them to the prophecies of Daniel and urged them to study and understand them. Those who listened to His counsel escaped with their lives, but those who did not perished. They suffered the consequences of their choice. God had pleaded long and it was only with aching heart that He gave them up.

 

Just as Pharaoh did not relent when the plagues fell, so the unrepentant will not cease in their endeavors to destroy God's people. The crisis will escalate until it climaxes in the death decree against those who refuse to honor the Antichrist. The promises of God are, however, sure:

 

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it will not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plagues come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways (Psalms 91:5-11).

 

This should be to us a comforting thought—angels will protect those who have the seal of God.

 

He is our refuge and my fortress, He will save you; you will not fear the terror by night, no harm will befall you.

 

What assurance does God give that He will feed us during this time? Isaiah 33:16

 

Answer: His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.

 

Where do we find our refuge or security in the time of trouble? Psalm 46:1, 2

 

Answer: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.

 

Second Plague: And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea (Revelation 16:3).

 

Third Plague: And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments (Revelation 16:4-7).

 

In this passage, while those who turned against God continue in their determination to shed the blood of those who love Him, the waters turn to blood. But the promise for the people of God is that "bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure" (Isaiah 33:16).

 

Just as Elijah was taken care of in his calamity, so God will take care of His children in their calamity. The prophet Elijah serves as a type of the end-time people of God. Elijah did not see death, but was translated and taken to heaven. Similarly, those that receive the seal of God will also be translated without seeing death.

 

Just as Elijah was persecuted by the church-state alliance of his day, so God's people will suffer a similar persecution at the end of time. God provided Elijah's needs, and God will also provide the needs of the faithful at the end of this great drama of rebellion against His government.

 

Fourth Plague: And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory (Revelation 16:8-9).

 

During the fourth plague, the sun's radiation will not only scorch the earth, but will also scorch people. With the destruction of the ozone layer, ultraviolet radiation has increased dramatically and some countries have introduced dress codes for school children to avoid exposure.

 

Weather patterns have changed dramatically over the last decades. Changing weather patterns have resulted in unprecedented droughts in some areas and massive floods in others. The droughts, often associated with the Él Niño phenomenon, have caused raging fires that have swallowed up millions of acres of forests and grazing.

 

What is being witnessed today is merely a foretaste of worse things to come. The prophet Joel foresaw this plague and had this to say:

 

How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. O LORD, to Thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flames hath burned all the trees of the field (Joel 1:18-19).

 

In the same way that God protected the Israelites from the plagues that smote the Egyptians (Exodus 11:4-8), God's people will be protected from this plague. "The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night" (Psalm 121:6).

 

God protected the Israelites from the heat of the day by being a pillar of cloud for them, and protected them from the cold of the night by being a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21). He will also protect His people when this fourth plague comes to fruition.

 

Fifth Plague: And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven (Revelation 16:10-11).

 

This plague will strike at the throne of the Beast in particular. The Papacy has kept the people of the world in darkness, and so darkness will be their portion. With their tongues they deceived the nations, and they will gnaw their tongues in agony.

 

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

 

Light emanates from God, and in Him there is no darkness. The Papacy replaced Jesus, the Light of the world, with its own systems. This system slights Christ's role as Mediator and crucifies Him again and again in the mass. Instead of the Word, Rome feeds the people on liturgies and earthly commandments.

 

The Word of God, which had been withheld and distorted by the Papacy, could have cured Rome's malady, had it been willing to listen. "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

 

But instead of heeding God's Word, Rome tampered with God's law and changed His ordinances:

 

The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 24:5).

 

If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever (Jeremiah 31:36).

 

The fifth plague will bring about a turning point. The inhabitants of the earth, already reeling under the effects of the previous plagues, will witness the agony of the Beast (the papal system) and begin to doubt its credentials. Just as Egypt's support for Pharaoh waned when the plagues hit (Exodus 10:7), so support for the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and its water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared (Revelation 16:12).

 

Sixth Plague: Two issues are brought forward in this passage: the Euphrates river dries up and this prepares the way for the kings of the East. The Euphrates was the river that fed into Babylon. This verse reminds us of this city's ancient fall when the river dried up to prepare the way for the conquerors to enter the city. One hundred fifty years before Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, was born, the prophet Isaiah mentioned his name:

 

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron (Isaiah 45:1-2).

 

This is an amazing prophecy. Cyrus is here a type of Christ who will one day come and rescue His children from mystic Babylon and take them to the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid (Isaiah 44:27-28).

 

Isaiah 44:27 says that God Himself will dry up the waters of the Euphrates and this will cause Babylon's fall by opening the way for Cyrus to enter the city. History reveals that Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 BC because the waters of the Euphrates stopped flowing. Cyrus is called a shepherd, and in Isaiah 45:1 he was called the Lord's anointed. Just as Cyrus set Israel free without price, Jesus will set His people free without price.

 

Just as the waters of literal Babylon dried up, so the waters of spiritual Babylon will dry up. The waters, according to Revelation 17, are the nations that support Rome. This support will begin to crumble.

 

And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues (Revelation 17:15).

 

Cyrus and his father-in-law Darius, a type of father and son, were the kings of the East who conquered Babylon in 539 BC when the waters of the Euphrates dried up. Who are the kings that will come to our rescue once the antitypical Euphrates dries up? If Cyrus was a type of Christ, then the antitypical kings of the East must be Christ and His Father. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel speak about Christ's Second Coming:

 

Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow (Isaiah 41:2).

 

Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory (Ezekiel 43:1-2).

 

Jesus will come in His glory, His Father's glory, and the glory of all the holy angels:

 

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38). The papal system will begin to wane, opening the way for the sixth plague.

 

Seventh Plague: And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

 

And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great (Revelation 16:17-21).

 

The final plague of hail will destroy the nations of the earth. Babylon will disintegrate into its three components. The greatest earthquake in history will destroy the last life on earth. Huge blocks of hail weighing over 100 pounds will end the rebellion. No one will be left. In the midst of this confusion, Christ's people will be taken away.

 

In Job 38:22-23, we have a reference to this war of hail:

 

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

 

Christ is the victor in this conflict:

 

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11-16).

 

The redeemed will shout for joy when their conflict ends, because they will be taken to the heavenly Canaan.

 

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation (Isaiah 25:9).

 

God's sole interest is twofold – the salvation of man, and the protection and reconciliation of the entire universe.  His plagues demonstrate that the hearts of some would never repent, no matter what the experience.  But they also demonstrate the hearts of the others who are saved, for we will be weeping, grieving, and saddened by the loss of so many that Jesus died to save.  The plagues will show that the righteous are ready for heaven, for they have heaven in their hearts.  Duty has become a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure.  Love springs forth spontaneously.  They are walking in the light, as Christ is the light.

 

~Pastor Tom Cusack