Today's lesson, "Living the Advent Hope" is important as have been all the other lessons. On page 145 of the Teacher's Quarterly, we are challenged, "to live each day with a burning hope for God's coming kingdom while bringing those kingdom values to bear in our lives and the lives of those whom we serve. …We empathize with the prophetic cry for a hastened return of Christ in His kingdom. While we wait for the kingdom of glory, we are reminded of the opportunities for ministry right now, as we let Christ live out His life within us." I agree with all of this except for a sad reality. We are not supposed to still be here, and empathizing with the prophetic cry may not be enough. Hear these words from Ellen White:
"Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God."—Testimonies For The Church 6:450 (1900).
"If every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. While men have slept, Satan has stolen a march upon us."—Testimonies For The Church 9:29 (1909).
We cannot help but note the dates of these quotes, all written after the 1888 General Conference session. "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ's sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action."—Letter 184, 1901.
As time, has gone on, many tragedies have devastated our planet, from wars to natural disasters like hurricane Dorian wreaking havoc in the Bahamas, to immense hatred that we see occurring and increasing here in our own country and abroad and politicians unable to lead, or leading poorly and our cry is that of Habakkuk, "O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, "Violence!" And You will not save." Habakkuk 1:2. Or John the Revelator in Revelation 6:10, "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
Indeed, the word of God tells us that the whole of creation groans.
"19For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God…. 21because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now". Romans 8:19, 21 and 22.
It is not only we who groan. It is not just the creation that groans. "Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him. When there came upon Israel the calamities that were the sure result of separation from God, — subjugation by their enemies, cruelty, and death, — it is said that "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel." "In all their affliction He was afflicted: ... and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Judges 10:16; Isaiah 63:9.
His Spirit "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." As the "whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" (Romans 8:26, 22), the heart of the infinite Father is pained in sympathy. Our world is a vast lazar house, a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon. Did we realize it as it is, the burden would be too terrible. Yet God feels it all. In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through co-operation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14." Ed263.1,2.
We get to turn the television off but He cannot! He sees every act of injustice, every act of hatred, every evil committed against our fellowman, and all suffering, and all oppression. He sees our hearts. It is true, that as we have received the good news of the gospel, our hearts overflow with gratitude to God and love for our fellowman in acts of service.
Tuesday's lesson covers Matthew 24 and 25. At the end of Matthew chapter 23, Jesus has just lamented over Jerusalem and the failure of the Jewish nation to accept Him as Messiah. It was the last day of His teaching in the temple. "There stood the young Galilean, bearing no earthly honor or royal badge. Surrounding Him were priests in their rich apparel, rulers with robes and badges significant of their exalted station, and scribes with scrolls in their hands, to which they made frequent reference. Jesus stood calmly before them, with the dignity of a king. As one invested with the authority of heaven, He looked unflinchingly upon His adversaries, who had rejected and despised His teachings, and who thirsted for His life. They had assailed Him in great numbers, but their schemes to ensnare and condemn Him had been in vain. Challenge after challenge He had met, presenting the pure, bright truth in contrast to the darkness and errors of the priests and Pharisees. He had set before these leaders their real condition, and the retribution sure to follow persistence in their evil deeds. The warning had been faithfully given. DA 610
Now He retreats to the Mount of Olives with His disciples, and the question on their hearts as would be on our hearts is, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:3. Jesus is standing in the shadow of the cross and everything He says will be full of meaning for the disciples and us! He gives much instruction and tucked amongst all His teaching is a verse that has been dear to the heart of every Adventist, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14. At least two things are noteworthy in this verse upon which we will focus for the rest of this insight. First, He says "this gospel". It's not just any gospel but "this gospel." It is not just a question of quantity, but of quality. It must be different. This gospel is complete, mature, and powerful enough to bring on the end of the age. The Seventh Day Adventist church has been called out from amongst God's people with a prophetic message. A message powerful enough to bring on the end. How do we know this? The message is the Three Angel's messages. If we look in Revelation 14 where these messages are found, we will see that immediately following the proclamation of these messages we have verses 14 and 15: "14Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe."
When the Three Angel's Messages are proclaimed as a witness, it is the "this gospel" spoken of in Matthew that brings on the end of the age. Well what is the Three Angel's message?
"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." TM 91, 92.
"Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message, in verity."—The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
"The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel. There is no work in our world so great, so sacred, and so glorious, no work that God honors so much, as this gospel work." 6T 19.
On page 81 of the Teacher's Quarterly, two terms are introduced: Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. Orthodoxy is defined as right opinion or right-thinking, or right-believing. Orthopraxy is defined as right acts, right practicing or right behaving. The author further states that orthodoxy is knowing the truth and orthopraxy is living the truth. "This gospel" – orthodoxy, "as a witness" – orthopraxy. When Matthew 24:14 says that "this gospel" is preached as a "witness", it is also speaking of living the gospel, orthopraxy, an important part of finishing the work. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy, both important. We are comfortable with orthodoxy but may be less so with orthopraxy.
The title of the lesson and the author's focus is "Living the Advent Hope." How do we live the Advent Hope as we work and wait? Let us hear Ellen White.
"When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another." Thus, Christ on the Mount of Olives pictured to His disciples the scene of the great judgment day. And He represented its decision as turning upon one point. When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering.
In that day Christ does not present before men the great work He has done for them in giving His life for their redemption. He presents the faithful work they have done for Him." DA 637
Matthew 24 & 25 teach us about orthodoxy and orthopraxy: Orthodoxy-that which we believe. Orthopraxy that which we practice. Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 25, subsume both of these - "this gospel", orthodoxy and "as a witness", orthopraxy.
"But Christ beholds it all, and He says, it was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was sick. It was I who was in prison. While you were feasting at your bountifully spread table, I was famishing in the hovel or the empty street. While you were at ease in your luxurious home, I had not where to lay My head. While you crowded your wardrobe with rich apparel, I was destitute. While you pursued your pleasures, I languished in prison.
When you doled out the pittance of bread to the starving poor, when you gave those flimsy garments to shield them from the biting frost, did you remember that you were giving to the Lord of glory?" DA 639-640
"Christ identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity. He reproved His own nation for their wrong treatment of their fellow-men. The neglect or abuse of the weakest, the most erring believers He speaks of as rendered to Himself. The favors shown them are accredited as bestowed upon Himself. He has not left us in darkness concerning our duty, but often repeats the same lessons through different figures and in different lights. He carries the actors forward to the last great day, and declares that the treatment given to the very least of His brethren is commended or condemned as if done to Himself. He says, "Ye did it unto Me," or, "Ye did it not unto Me." Letter 45, 1894.
"The tender sympathies of our Saviour were aroused for fallen and suffering humanity. If you would be His followers, you must cultivate compassion and sympathy. Indifference to human woes must give place to lively interest in the sufferings of others. The widow, the orphan, the sick, and the dying will always need help. Here is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel—to hold up Jesus, the hope and consolation of all men." The Medical Missionary, January, 1891
"Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family, that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, "Love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts." DA 641.
The opening sentence from the Ministry of Healing p.17 is compelling: "Our Lord Jesus Christ came to this world as the unwearied servant of man's necessity. He "took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses," that He might minister to every need of humanity. Matthew 8:17.
One day injustice, oppression and suffering will vanish and Revelation 21:1-5 will be a reality.
"1NowI saw a new heaven and a new earth,for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.2Then I,John, sawthe holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, preparedas a bride adorned for her husband.3And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold,the tabernacle of Godiswith men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with themand betheir God.4And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;there shall be no more death,nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."5ThenHe who sat on the throne said,"Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, forthese words are true and faithful."