Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Special Insights No. 13

Third Quarterly 2003 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Sanctuary Themes: The Book of Hebrews”
(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

Insights to Lesson 13: “Jesus and Our Future”

The serious question is posed in our Quarterly: Why did Paul say
that his lifetime 2000 years ago was “these last days”? Also, “now once
in the end of the world”? Why did Peter say his day was “these last
times”? (Heb. 1: 2; 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20). Did Christ lead His disciples
then to believe He was coming back within their lifetime?
This is important. If the time of the apostles 2000 years ago was
the “last days,” how can we say our time today is “these last days”?
Could it take another 2000 years before Christ comes back? A fairly
recent Review article quoted many of our youth in our colleges and
universities saying they had no idea when Christ will return. The
Quarterly rather leaves the question in limbo; at least there’s not
much to help us. Is there any truth in the 1888 message of Christ’s
righteousness that can help us get our bearings in this important
The 1888 message that “the Lord in His great mercy sent” is in
total harmony with the prophetic time scale that established confidence
in the rise and progress of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:
(1) Paul specifically taught his people that Christ was NOT
returning in their lifetime, even though some in Thessalonica had
picked up that idea. He wrote his Second Letter to disabuse their
minds: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in
mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from
us, as though the day of the Lord [NU-Text] had come [or “is at hand,”
KJV]. Let no one deceive you by any means, for that Day will not come
unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed,
the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is
called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple
of God, showing himself that he is God” (2:1-4).
(2) The demonstrative pronouns “THAT day,” “THE falling away,”
“THE man of sin,” indicate he is referring to specific truths he taught
them when he was with them. “Do you not remember that when I was still
with you I told you these things?” (vs. 5). Where else could he have
gotten it all except the book of Daniel? “Paul . . . pointed his
brethren into the then far-distant future . . .” (The Great
Controversy, p. 356).
(3) Jesus had specifically begged His disciples to read Daniel
(Matt. 24:15). Paul would obviously do so. After the resurrection, the
disciples saw the prophecy of the “seventy weeks” (490 years)
fulfilled, as Jesus explained it to the two disciples on their way to
Emmaus; and of course during the time He was with them until His
ascension. Paul could see that the “seventy weeks” were “cut off” from
the 2300 “days.” He knew that the “seventy weeks” had to be prophetic
time in order to come to the time of the Jews’ final rejection of the
apostles (Acts 7:59, 60). He knew the Jews had passed their day of
probation as a nation. He could easily have at least a rudimentary
idea that time must yet elapse for Daniel’s “little horn,” the rise of
the papacy, and the persecution of 1260 years. This is evident in what
he wrote to the Thessalonians.
(4) In Hebrews, Paul said that his lifetime was not the “now”
to speak of the ministry in the Most Holy Apartment (9:5). He knew they
were living in the First Apartment ministry.
(5) The time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation figure in this
problem. Genuine Christians, truly converted, began studying these
prophecies in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They saw the prophetic
time-line that Ellen White described as “the chain of events that have
made us a people what we are today.” She said, “Historical events
showing the direct fulfillment of prophecy were set before the people,
and the prophecy was seen to be a figurative delineation of events
leading down to the close of this earth’s history. The scenes connected
with the working of the man of sin are the last features plainly
revealed in this earth’s history. . . . [God’s] students of prophecy
[were] led by genuine, living experience, advancing point by point,
tested, proved, and tried, until the truth to them was a reality. . . .
[We must not] make an application of the Word that will undermine the
foundation and remove the pillars of the faith that has made
Seventh-day Adventists what they are today” (Selected Messages, book 2,
pp. 101-103; 1896).
(6) When the above was written, the 1888 message was “present
truth.” At the same time, she made reference to it as follows: “A new
life is coming from heaven and taking possession of all God’s people. .
. the present message which is already lightening the earth with its
glory” (ibid., p. 114; 1896).
(7) When Ellen White urged the General Conference brethren and
church at large to accept the message of Jones and Waggoner, she
offered no criticism of the main features of our prophetic message.
Their message as the initial “showers from heaven of the latter rain”
and “the beginning” of Revelation 18, complemented our prophetic
message, and would have completed the gospel commission in that
So, what about “these last days” and “these last times” of Paul
and Peter? The Old Testament was at its end and the New Testament was
beginning. Simple.
Today the 1888 message pinpoints our place on God’s prophetic
time-line. We are way behind God’s schedule. Heaven knows it’s time for
—Robert J. Wieland