Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Why I stopped posting.

My idea for this Blog was to create an archive for all the insights released be 1888 Commitee. I stopped creating this archive after I discovered they had their own. What is the use if they are doing it themselves. I can easily just link you to their URL. I took some time to decid e what to do with this. I decided to write my own insights starting with the next quarterly of John. So starting next week I will be posting my insights about this lesson. I am also going to find a way so that you can respond to my insights. See you next week.

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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Insights to Lesson 7 - 4th Qtr :Jonah : “Second Chances”

Dear Readers of Sabbath School “Insights”:

The experience of Jonah demonstrates in a miraculous manner that
the goodness of God leads to repentance. Yes, God’s goodness was
chasing after the Ninevites to bring them to repentance, but He went to
extreme lengths to draw Jonah to the foot of the cross in the whole
process. Jonah was given a second chance. But his second chance was
derived from the second chance given to the father of his race. The
prime evil second chance was conceived from eternity past when the
Father and the Son covenanted together to execute a plan, should it
become necessary, which would reveal the height and depth and length
and width of divine love.
“Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and
Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by
Satan. They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ
should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has
fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, ‘It is finished,’ He
addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He
declares: Father, it is finished.” [1] The blood of the everlasting
covenant ratified this pledge at the cross and by so doing guaranteed a
second chance to all mankind. In effect Christ saved the world from the
second death and gratuitously granted a probationary life to all. [2]
As a result of that pledge from eternity not only Jonah but the
whole world lives in panoply of grace. [3] The goodness of God was
teaching Jonah that there was much more power in His amazing grace than
in all the power that human effort can muster. God’s amazing grace
ordained both the fateful storm at sea and the great fish that
swallowed Jonah alive. But it was not until Jonah was deep inside the
belly of that fish that Jonah began to realize that where sin abounds,
grace much more abounds. And now Jonah began to partake of that grace,
something he had uniformly frustrated until this monumental crisis. “I
cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered” and
Jonah acknowledged the grace of God, “You brought up my life from the
pit. … Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:2, 6-10).
But the moment of truth came after God’s amazing grace caused the
fish to vomit Jonah and plant him on dry land. There is only one way to
partake of the grace that much more abounds. Grace and truth come
through Jesus Christ and Jesus is the Word that was made flesh. It is
only through the Word, and the Word alone, that grace becomes all
powerful. It is submission to and acting upon the authority of God’s
word that conveys power to the life of those who profess faith in the
Lord God of heaven and earth. Again God spoke the word to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh that great city, and preach to it the message
that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2).
Jonah came face to face with grace of God with that command. The
grace of God was in the command to carry out the command. Jonah was not
so foolish to frustrate the grace of God on this “second chance.” He
acted on the Word and in the Word itself there was power to carry out
the command. Through the grace of God that much more abounds, Jonah
accomplished what no prophet of God ever accomplished. An entire nation
responded to goodness of God which leads to repentance. Jonah still had
much more to learn about God’s abounding grace, and we too like Jonah
have much to learn when He commands that message be given to the world.
At the time of end recorded in the book of Daniel when hour of
God’s judgment on the Day of Atonement arrived, God has commanded a
message to be given to the world. Within that command there is power to
carry out the command. There is power to deliver a message that has
power within itself to lighten the earth with glory of His changeless
love and much more abounding grace. May our hearts be stirred as we
meditate and act upon the command.
“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.” [4]
--John W. Peters

[1] The Desire of Ages, p. 834.
[2] Christ was tempted by Satan in a hundredfold severer manner than
was Adam, and under circumstances in every way more trying. The
deceiver presented himself as an angel of light, but Christ withstood
his temptations. He redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and saved the
world. With his human arm, Christ encircled the race, while with his
divine arm, he grasped the throne of the Infinite, uniting finite man
with the infinite God. He bridged the gulf that sin had made, and
connected earth with heaven. In his human nature he maintained the
purity of his divine character. He lived the law of God, and honored it
in a world of transgression, revealing to the heavenly universe, to
Satan, and to all the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, that through
his grace, humanity can keep the law of God. He came to impart his own
divine nature, his own image, to the repentant, believing soul (The
Youth’s Instructor, June 2, 1898).
[3] “[He] hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not
according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now
made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath
abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through
the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:9-10).
[4] Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91-92. The uplifted Saviour is to
appear in His efficacious work as the Lamb slain, sitting upon the
throne, to dispense the priceless covenant blessings, the benefits He
died to purchase for every soul who should believe on Him. John could
not express that love in words; it was too deep, too broad; he calls
upon the human family to behold it. Christ is pleading for the church
in the heavenly courts above, pleading for those for whom He paid the
redemption price of His own lifeblood. Centuries, ages, can never
diminish the efficacy of this atoning sacrifice. The message of the
gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct
lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists
talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ. The
efficacy of the blood of Christ was to be presented to the people with
freshness and power, that their faith might lay hold upon its merits.

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Thursday, November 06, 2003

Insights to Lesson 6 - Qtr "Jonah": “Salvation Is of the Lord

Dear Readers of Sabbath School “Insights”:

As this Quarter began we wondered how Jonah could hold our
interest for 13 weeks. But now we can see how its message is present
truth. One serious question looms over all that we have studied thus
Why was Jonah as an inspired prophet of the Lord so confused in
his heart-attitude toward the people of Nineveh? Why was he so
reluctant to preach the message to them? Hadn’t Christ given His blood
for them? Why did he run away and why was he so unhappy when they
finally repented and God forgave them?
Was his heart right with the Lord--he an ordained prophet?
Probably our Sabbath School attendees will agree that there was
something wrong in Jonah’s thinking about the Gentiles, especially the
Assyrians. (And if we really knew what the Assyrians were like--could
they be as bad as al-Qaida?--we might find ourselves sympathizing with
Jonah in his petulance.)
Jonah was very likely the best man the Lord could choose from all
of Israel for this mission. His heart-attitude was not unique to him.
It was like Israel’s attitude toward the Gentiles. It was a national
But how did it originate? Their “father” Abraham had no such
heart-attitude, for the Lord had promised him that his descendants
would be a “blessing” to all people, including the Gentiles: “In you
[that is, Israel] all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.
12:3). The promise was at last fulfilled in Christ; but God’s plan was
for Israel to “bless” all those “families of the earth,” not just their
own selfish selves. The Lord wanted Jonah to be a “blessing” to the
greatest city in the world--an evangelistic campaign that would have
been the grandest of all history, more so even than ours in London,
Moscow, or Los Angeles. The entire city was to be “blessed” with
repentance-results that should extend through all the rest of Assyrian
These world/blessing promises that the Lord had made to Abraham
were the essence of God’s New Covenant. At Mount Sinai, the Lord
proposed to renew it to Israel, but they chose as a nation to carry on
under the Old Covenant.
Jonah was a creature of his Israelite milieu. He could preach the
law, the law, until he was “as dry as the hills of Gilboa,” as Ellen
White said “we” were prior to 1888. [1] And the Lord blessed--He has
always blessed Old Covenant ministry. The Old Covenant was good; the
laws that govern our civilization are good and necessary--based on fear
of penalty. But the New Covenant is based on “better promises.” [2] It
is yet to be fully realized by God’s people. The wonderful “Loud Cry”
message that is yet to “lighten the earth with glory” will be a
beautiful New Covenant message of how the grace of Christ is much more
abounding than all the sin the devil can invent. The “most precious
message” which “the Lord in His great mercy sent to” us in 1888 was
pure New Covenant truth--refreshing, heart-moving, motivating. For
example, in the initial months when the people gladly received it
before opposition confused them, Ellen White says the results were
phenomenal. Tithe flowed in, for instance, as never before. [3] The
youth were motivated as never since the Midnight Cry of 1844. [4] Ellen
White confessed that the “latter rain” had begun--for the first time
What would a New Covenant presentation of the gospel have done
ancient Nineveh? We don’t know of course; but it would have depended on
a New Covenant nation of Israel to back it up, else those who “came out
of Babylon” could not have known where to go, and would have become
confused by Israel’s backslidden condition. (Which may illuminate our
evangelism work today. Ellen White says the Lord would bring many more
from “Nineveh” into the church today if we would proclaim the New
Covenant message and we were ready to receive them.)
Another question that arises in this week’s Sabbath School
When Jonah prayed in the fish’s “belly” did he taste a tiny bit of what
the second death will be like? As our Quarterly emphasizes, he went
“down, down, down.” But not just physically, his soul went “down.” He
was in “hell” (Sheol; 2:2). The language of his prayer in this chapter
suggests that death “encompassed . . . [his] soul.” He felt “cast out”
“forever.” But unlike Christ on His cross who cried, “Why have You
forsaken Me?” the Lord responded to Jonah’s cry before he actually
could die the second death.
But why did Jonah need to go to “hell” (Sheol) before he could
repent and accept his mission?
Thus chastened and enlightened, and with a heart-felt gratitude for
being saved from the second death, he chose to consecrate himself to
the Lord’s service. When Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ,” he
must have had much the same experience. He also did not die the second
death (only one Man has ever done so!), but his whole soul appreciated
that Christ had died that death for him. That’s how “the love [agape]
of Christ constraineth us” to live “henceforth” not for self, but unto
Him. [5]
Would you like to sense that “constraint” that realizes the “much
more abounding grace of Christ” (Rom. 5:20), the “power” that is in the
gospel (1:16) to set you free from all paralyzing egocentric concern?
Join with Christ on His cross as the repentant thief did; understand,
appreciate, “comprehend,” [6] how He died your second death. Spend a
“thoughtful hour with Him” there. [7] The results of simply “beholding”
will be wonderful.
--Robert J. Wieland

[1] “As a people we have preached the law until we are as dry as the
hills of Gilboa, that had neither dew nor rain.” Review and Herald,
March 11, 1890; January 31, 1893.
[2] Hebrews 8:6.
[3] MS. 22, 1890 (Feb. 3). quoted in L. H. Christian, The Fruitage of
Spiritual Gifts, p. 238.
[4] Review and Herald, March 5, 1889, “Meetings at South Lancaster”
[5] 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, KJV.
[6] Ephesians 3:18, KJV.
[7] The Desire of Ages, p. 83.

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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Insights to Lesson 5 - Qtr 4 "Jonah": “A Hebrew Prophet and Heathen Mariners”

Dear Readers of Sabbath School “Insights”:

Have you ever been in a situation in which you were pointed out
the cause of a big problem? How did you feel at that moment? Did you
feel like saying “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. . . .”? (Jonah
1:12). Embarrassment can make us wish to be dead, and the sense of
responsibility for the mess that we’ve caused others is a weighty
burden indeed. This week we see Jonah in this very predicament! Could
we, too, be in the same?
In this week’s passage from Jonah (1:4-13), we look in on the
prophet of God aboard ship and bound for Tarshish. What will God do?
Will He let the Ninevites perish without hearing a last message of
mercy? Will He find another messenger and write Jonah off, leaving him
as a casualty to the worldly influences in Tarshish? Absolutely not! So
the Lord does the most merciful thing that could be done in the
situation. He decides to get Jonah’s attention. “The Lord sent out a
great wind on the sea” (1:4)--so great that the experienced, salty
sailors on board Jonah’s little boat were shaken up enough to pray to
their various gods. Not only this, but they were willing to part with
worldly wealth in order to save their lives--they “threw the cargo that
was in the ship into the sea to lighten the load” (1:5).
Question: Where was Jonah during this impromptu prayer meeting?
What was he doing while these stout men’s hearts were melting, while
they were throwing away dollars as it were? Why he was asleep!! As the
lesson quarterly points out, the Hebrew word used here means a
death-like stupor. The same word is used for the complacent, exhausted
sleep of Sisera in Judges 4:21. Jonah probably felt a bit like
Sisera--a man on the run who had finally found what he thought was a
safe place, out of the reach of God. That is, until he was rudely
awakened by the captain of the ship! How ironic that the prophet who
should have been leading the prayer meeting had to be exhorted to pray
by a man who did not know the Lord.
From here, things go downhill even further, because when the lots
are cast to determine who is responsible for all this, lo and
behold--the lot falls upon Jonah. Jonah explains more about who he is.
“I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the
sea and the dry land” (1:9). Then the question: “Why have you done
this?” (1:10). A fair question indeed! One for which he did not have a
good answer. In the end, at his own request, Jonah is thrown into the
angry waves by the reluctant seamen, who were so desirous of sparing
the life of God’s prophet. What a shame that the prophet did not feel
the same way about those to whom he had been called to preach! And yet,
observe how God used this situation for good, in spite of Jonah. God
got the message through to the mariners by putting Jonah in a situation
where he had to give it. And apparently these heathen sailors accepted
it and “feared the Lord,” “offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and took
vows” (1:16).
What an encouragement to Seventh-day Adventists to see that God
still uses messengers who are headed the wrong direction. How thankful
I am that we are studying Jonah this quarter. As a pastor, it’s
encouragement that I needed! After all, do we not find ourselves in a
Jonah situation today? As others have pointed out this quarter, God
gave to us a “most precious message” to give to the world. That work
could have been finished in a few short years in the 1888 era had we
gone straight to work with the light from heaven. Ellen White said in
1898, “If God’s people had the love of Christ in the heart; if every
church member were thoroughly imbued with the spirit of self-denial; if
all manifested thorough earnestness, there would be no lack of funds
for home and foreign missions; our resources would be multiplied; a
thousand doors of usefulness would be opened, and we would be invited
to enter. Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in
giving the message of mercy to the world, Christ would have come to the
earth, and the saints would ere this have received their welcome into
the city of God.”(Selected Messages, book 1, p. 82; italics supplied).
So, what happened as a result of our resistance to the message
given us from heaven at Minneapolis and in the years following? Could
it be that the Lord has sent out another “great wind on the sea”? The
twentieth century, which followed on the heels of our lost opportunity
has been the bloodiest, most disastrous ever recorded, and the
twenty-first has taken up right where the twentieth left off. Indeed,
the storm is getting worse. And where is God’s church today? Are we not
asleep? Aren’t we generally unconcerned that “men’s hearts [are]
failing them from fear, and the expectation of those things which are
coming upon the earth?” (Luke 21:26).
The time is coming when we will be rudely awakened, and the
uncomfortable questions will be asked--“For whose cause is this trouble
upon us?” “WHY HAVE YOU DONE THIS?” The ease that we thought to enjoy
in the Tarshishes of this world will be taken away--indeed, we will
loathe ourselves for what we have done and rather choose persecution
and death. “The work which the church has failed to do in a time of
peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under
most discouraging, forbidding, circumstances.” (Testimonies for the
Church, vol. 5, p. 463). Will God go looking for another movement to
carry His message? Nope! Wouldn’t it be better for us to awaken now and
embrace the message which God has given us!?
As you study Jonah this week, prayerfully consider our
responsibility in the unnecessary lengthening of earth’s history, and
let it bring you to your knees to ask Jesus for understanding of and
submission to the light that he has sent to us in his mercy. May God
bless your Sabbath School with a prayerful, thoughtful class this week!
--Skip Dodson

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Insights to Lesson 4 - Qtr 4 : "The 'Dove' Flees"

Jonah’s name means “dove.” This week’s lesson focuses on the
flight of the “dove”. It’s a unique story in a dubious sort of way.
It’s the story of a prophet who fled “from the presence of the Lord”.
In all the Bible there is hardly a clearer example of rebellion on the
part of an entity that you would least expect to rebel.
Of course we can understand Jonah’s feelings. It’s his actions
that startle us. He has heard God’s audible voice speaking to him and
there is no doubt or question as to his duty. He knows it was the word
of the Lord. There are no questions of interpretation or
misunderstanding. Yet he purposes to go not only contrary to the
direction in which he has been commissioned, but to go exactly in the
opposite direction. He will go as far from the will of God as possible.
He will not deliver God’s message to the people who desperately need to
hear it. Why? Was he afraid of a fierce people with a reputation for
being cruel? If so, it does not come through in the narrative. Was he
so filled with prejudice that he did not want to help in the salvation
of Gentiles? If so, it is not the motive that he articulated. At the
end Jonah said, “I fled previously to Tarshish” because “I know that
You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in
lovingkindness” (Jonah 4:2). In other words, Jonah didn’t want to
preach the message that God had given him to preach because he was
concerned that if the people repented, he would be called a false
prophet. Jonah’s reputation was too important for him to preach the
message that God had sent. Therefore, the “dove” fled. Jonah, how could
you do it?!!
We are tempted to judge him harshly. We are tempted to forget,
that “all we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to
his own way . . .” Before we pronounce a severe verdict against Jonah
and throw down the gavel, perhaps we should remember our own history.
In 1888 “the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message.”.
[1] It was the message that God “commanded to be given to the world.”
[2] There should have been no issues of misunderstanding or questions
of interpretation. We were assured that the message is true “because
the Bible is true.” [3]
Yet, instead of receiving the message and giving it to the world,
we did the exact opposite. “Our own people opposed the work of God by
refusing the light on the righteousness of Christ by faith.”[4] “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.”[5] In all of sacred history there is no clearer
case of rebellion than that which has resulted in the suppression of
the message which God “commanded to be given to the world.”[6] The
rebellion of God’s messengers in these last days is every bit as
shocking as the flight of the “dove.”
What is the Lord to do? Would he cancel the mission to Nineveh
let the people perish? Would He modify the message to make it more
acceptable to His messenger? Would he fire the prophet Jonah and find
another messenger to go to Nineveh? No. No. No. None of these options
would meet the mind of our compassionate God. He loved the Ninevites
too much to cancel the mission. The message was perfect, essential and
unalterable, therefore He could not change the message. And He loved
and respected His messenger too much to let him go. It seems “the gifts
and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29, NKJV). Therefore, God
did what He has been doing since the beginning of sin, since the
beginning of the wandering of His wayward children. He began to pursue
the lost wayward messenger, just as He searched for Adam asking, “Adam
where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). He sought after Jonah just as He came to
“seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Good Shepherd
leaves “the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains [and if need
be the ocean], and seeketh that which is gone astray” (Matt. 18:12).
“There is none that seeketh after God” (Rom. 3:11). But I am glad
there is a God seeking after man. He sought Jonah through the storm and
through the water and through the great fish. He was seeking him
through putrid digestive juices and slimy seaweeds and the frightful
motion of the fish’s belly. He was seeking Jonah through the awful
darkness and the terrible experience of his cruise into the depths of
“hell” (Jonah 2:2). And He was seeking Jonah through his miraculous
regurgitation from the mouth of the fish onto the seashore.
Now He is seeking us. He cannot cancel the gospel commission. He
cannot change the message He has given us to share. He cannot fire the
messenger and call someone else. Therefore, He must pursue. He has been
seeking us through all of our long flight, from 1888 until now. He was
seeking us in the fifties and the seventies, when we were more
concerned about our reputation among the churches of the world than we
were about sharing the message they need to hear. He is still seeking
us today. How long will He have to pursue? How far will we fly? Will
the ocean have to engulf us and the fish swallow us and the seaweeds
wrap about our neck before we understand that “the gifts and calling of
God are without repentance”? Will we have to be taken into the depths
of “hell” and brought back again before we truly begin to appreciate
the depths to which He has gone to save us and are willing to share the
message? How far will we fly?
In the Song of Solomon the Beloved refers to His lady as a
Ironically, or perhaps appropriately, we even find the expression in
the passage were she is too self-absorbed to respond to His pursuit. “I
sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that
knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove . . .” (Song
of Solomon 5:2). Can this be the voice of the True Witness knocking at
the door, the voice of the Beloved pursuing His bride-to-be? Can it be
that the story of Jonah is the story of Laodicea, and the bride is the
“dove”? If so, then the whole universe wants to know: How long will the
dove flee?
—Mark Duncan

Notes: [1)] Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91; [2] Ibid., p. 92; [3] The
Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1025; [4] Ibid., p. 1643; [5] Ibid.,
p. 1575; [6] Testimonies to Ministers, p. 92.

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Insights to Lesson 3: "Jonah and Judgment"

Except for the rise of sin, there would have been no necessity for judgment. Judgment is a phenomenon peculiar to falling away from moral rectitude. Judgment occurred in heaven upon Lucifer’s libel and slander of God’s word. Judgment came upon all men after the offense of one man, resulting in condemnation of all men. Therefore death spread to all men because the whole race of men was affected by that one man’s offense. But the judgment resulting in condemnation was executed upon the whole race in the person of one Man, resulting in justification of life to
the whole race.
God, the Judge of all, always contends or pleads (Hebrew: rib) with the offending the party before executing judgment (see Job 10:2; Psalm 35:1; 43:1; Prov. 22:23; 23:11; Isaiah 3:13; 49:25; 51:22; 57:16; Jer. 2:9; 50:34; Amos 7:4; Micah 6:1; 7:9). God not only pleaded and contended with Nineveh, and numerous other nations recorded in Isaiah and Jeremiah, but also with Cain, with the antediluvian world, with
Sodom, with Israel throughout their history. He pleads with mankind to
come into harmony with the everlasting covenant of the promised Seed who would reverse the condemnation of Adam’s offense. Isaiah describes a covenant lawsuit that God has with all nations, “because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broken the everlasting covenant” (24:5).
The great standard of all covenant lawsuits is the covenant itself which is the Ten Commandments. “And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:28). The covenant is God promise to restore that which was lost, and that which was lost at the Fall was the moral image of God in man. These ten words were the promise to restore the image of God in mankind. This promise was the everlasting covenant: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on
their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). The covenant has been repeatedly broken by failing to comprehend the mystery of Christ and attempting to obey the law written on tables of stone.
There is good news concerning all covenant lawsuits embedded in
the mystery of Christ who could say “I delight to do your will, O God,
your law is written in My heart.” God would adopt, elect, and
predestine all men by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.
The judgment which came upon all men in Adam has been mediated by the
Seed of the covenant, namely, the Seed of the woman, the Seed of
Abraham, the Seed of David to whom the promise was made that He would
become heir of the world. At the cross the judgment of the world came,
and the ruler of this world was cast out (John 12:31). The judgment
from one man’s offense resulted in condemnation, but the righteous act
of One Man resulted in justification of life for all men (Rom. 5:16,
There is no partiality with God. By executing the covenant lawsuit with the world in the person of His Son at the cross, God has reversed the condemnation of Adam’s offense resulting in a legal acquittal for all men. Now God has a covenant lawsuit with all those who resist this unconditional good news. The question God places before the world is, “What have you done with My Son?” There is not a reason why anyone
should come out on the wrong side of the judgment and be lost, except they choose to spurn the gift given to the whole world. But those who truly embrace Christ will also embrace His cross and esteem the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than the treasures of self-esteem that comes from the world, except as it comes with
identifying with the meek and lowly One.
The good news has been proclaimed to the world since the Fall with the promise that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. The same promise has been repeated through the ages with the patriarchs that “in your Seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed.” From Adam to Enoch to Noah to Abraham this same message has been set forth in greater and greater degrees of light even to the
brilliance of the cross, until at last it will illuminate the whole earth with His glory.
At the Great White Throne Judgment all those who are raised in the second resurrection will be speechless, and without excuse. Their own resurrection will be the final evidence to them that they were chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world for salvation, but they knowingly resisted and spurned the glimmers of greater and greater evidence at each exposure throughout their lifetime. At last every knee
will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Jonah was commissioned with this responsibility to proclaim a message of repentance, but he resisted for a season. Finally Jonah himself responded to the call of repentance. God’s last day church has been commissioned with a “most precious message” and has resisted for a season (since 1888), but Revelation 3 says a call to repentance has been sounded by True Witness to the “angel to the church of the
Laodiceans.” The Lord will “cut the work short in righteousness” and the message will go forth that we are indeed living in the hour of God’s judgment. “Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” and the blood of the everlasting covenant will have accomplished its work. Christ will have a church of people on whose foreheads the Father’s name is written.

--John W. Peters

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Thursday, October 09, 2003

Insights to Fourth Quarter 2003 Adult Sabbath School Lessons - Lesson 2: "People and Places"

Studying Jonah seems to some like a waste of time. Why spend 13
weeks poring over a simple children’s story about a man who was
swallowed by a big fish? Doesn’t seem like there’s much “gospel” in
those four short chapters, so why bother?
Well, we should “bother” because God chose to tell us the story for
a reason, or maybe many reasons. We can begin by asking: Do we find in
the book of Jonah any significant correlation to our day and current
spiritual condition? and Why did the Holy Spirit provide this lesson
fast on the heels of a study of the covenants and then the sanctuary?
Let’s begin our exploration to see if there’s anything significant
for us in this “children’s story” with a brief outline of points to

1. Jonah’s story seems to drop in on us from nowhere. It starts
abruptly: “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah.” For me, that phrase
started the wheels turning. A quick look at the concordance showed why.
a. The phrase “the word of the Lord came” appears 22 times in the
Bible, all in the Old Testament. Most are in Ezekiel and Jeremiah. But
the ones brought to my mind involved Elijah and King Abab. A similar
story, but with a very different outcome.
b. How similar? A prophet of God suddenly appears out of nowhere
confronts a sinful nation, speaks ominously, and walks away.
c. One nation repents immediately. The other rejects God’s word,
attempts to kill His messenger, resists His will and suffers the
consequence of obstinate disobedience until it does finally “hear the
word of the Lord.” Then the rain was poured out abundantly.

2. It’s an interesting parallel that two messengers appeared almost as
“out of nowhere,” at a General Conference Session of this church. They
were young, not the usual age for such speakers. Jones and Waggoner
were not “prophets,” but Ellen White characterized them as “the Lord’s
messengers,” “special messengers,” with “heavenly credentials.”
a. They were not “reluctant” messengers, but the “king and his
nobles” unto whom their message came were reluctant to accept the
message. “In a great degree,” says Ellen White, they rejected the
message and “shut [it] away from our people” (Selected Messages, book
1, pp. 234, 235).
b. If “the king and his nobles” in 1888 had received the message as
the Lord intended, a grand repentance would have followed, as with
Nineveh. “From the greatest of them even to the least of them,”
Seventh-day Adventists would have responded, for the people were ready
to accept the message. Then, according to God’s plan in 1888, the dark
world itself would have heard the message and many would have responded
(see The Great Controversy, p. 612). The parallel with Nineveh’s
repentance would have been striking.

3. Outside the book that bears his name, Jonah is only mentioned one
time in the Old Testament. From that one brief verse we learn that
Jonah is a prophet of God and that he preached also to the wicked
Israelite king, Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-27).
This fact places Jonah preaching during a time of serious
backsliding among God’s people (like Elijah). Despite the military
advances made by Jeroboam in expanding the borders of Israel, the
relative political security enjoyed by the people, and the extravagant
outward display of religiosity, the northern kingdom was living in deep
moral corruption (see Amos 5:21, 22; 2:6-8; Hosea 6:6-10).
The spiritual condition of Israel at this time was parallel to that
of the seventh church, Laodicea, today. Prosperous, proud, but so sick
spiritually that it makes Jesus want to throw up (Rev. 3:14-21).

4. As we read through the narrative in the book of Jonah we find that
in each instance where Jonah gave his witness to pagan peoples, they
were converted from their pagan ideas, confessed faith in “the Lord,
the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” and
changed their evil ways. Jonah was a powerful witness for the Lord,
even when he didn’t want to be, even when he was running away from God,
resisting the work that the Lord had given him to do.
We cannot dream of the wonders that would have attended the
proclamation of that “most precious message” if “we” had given it to
the world just after 1888.

5. “People and Places”--two nations contrasted. One claimed to have the
name and power of the living God on their side, while they were
actively resisting His will for their lives. The other nation was
recognized for its sinfulness, which was founded on the apostasy of
Nimrod--the desire to make a name for themselves; to make themselves a
“great nation” in defiance of the living God (Genesis 10:9-11; 11:2-4;
compare this to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3).
a. Both are living in opposition to God’s will for them, but one
heard the word of the Lord preached to them, the other had not. One was
actively resisting, the other was living in ignorance.
b. Between these two nations stands a reluctant prophet, sent by
to preach righteousness to the fallen nation of Assyria. Here is where
the real contrast comes in to play. While Israel stubbornly resisted
God’s call to repent and remained in rebellion, Nineveh repented from
the top to the bottom with fasting, and sackcloth and ashes (compare
this to the language describing the day of atonement in Leviticus 16).

6. God used Jonah to show his rebellious people how easy it is to be
saved, if one will truly believe in the “word of the Lord” as it is
given to them.
--Ann Walper

(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

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Saturday, September 27, 2003

Special Insights Extra

Third Quarterly 2003 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Sanctuary Themes: The Book of Hebrews”
(Produced by the editorial board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)
As we come to the last lesson in this series, let us review some
significant contributions that the 1888 message of Christ’s
righteousness gives us for understanding Hebrews:

(1) Hebrews chapter 1--Christ is the eternally pre-existent Son
of God: “Our purpose in this investigation is to set forth Christ’s
rightful position of equality with the Father, in order that His power
to redeem may be the better appreciated” (E. J. Waggoner, Christ and
His Righteousness, p. 19, new ed., 21). “The fact that Christ is a part
of the Godhead, possessing all the attributes of Divinity, being the
equal of the Father in all respects, as Creator and Lawgiver, is the
only force there is in the atonement. It is this alone which makes
redemption a possibility” (pp. 43, 44; new ed., 51).
(2) Hebrews chapter 2--in His incarnation, Christ “took” our
fallen, sinful flesh or nature, yet was sinless: “There was in His
whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of all
righteousness, would tend to sin, yet His divine nature never for a
moment harbored an evil desire, nor did His divine power for a moment
waver. . . . He returned to the throne of the Father as spotless as
when he left the courts of glory” (Waggoner, Signs of the Times, Jan.
21, 1889; note Ellen White’s similar comment six years later: “On not
one occasion was there a response to . . . [Satan’s] manifold
temptations. Not once did Christ step on Satan’s ground,” Letter 8,
1895). This view of the blessed nearness of our Savior is special to
the 1888 message. Again: Christ “was made in the likeness of sinful
flesh. Don’t go too far, . . . not in the likeness of sinful mind. Do
not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh; but the mind was
‘the mind of Christ Jesus.’ . . . If He had taken our mind, how then
could we ever have been exhorted to ‘let this mind be in you, which was
also in Christ Jesus’”? (A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin,
p. 327).
(3) The central theme of Hebrews is perfection of Christian
character--5:9, 14; 6:1; 7:11, 19, 25, 28; 9:9; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 13:21:
“Christ was in the place and He had the nature, of the whole human
race. And in Him meet all the weaknesses of mankind, so that every man
on the earth who can be tempted at all, finds in Jesus Christ power
against that temptation. For every soul there is in Jesus Christ
victory against all temptation, and relief from the power of it”
(Jones, ibid, p. 324; eleven times in Hebrews Christian perfection of
character is emphasized).
(4) Hebrews 9:2-10--the “1888” Hebrews spotlight is on Christ’s
unique work in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. He is
preparing a corporate body (the church) to be ready to meet Jesus at
His second coming and be translated. (His First Apartment ministry
prepared people to die and come up in the first resurrection.) In 1893
Jones discusses the 1888 message: “Now brethren, when did that message
of the righteousness of Christ begin with us as a people? [One or two
in the audience: ‘Three or four years ago.’] Which was it, three? Or
four? [Congregation: ‘Four.’] Yes, four. Where was it? [Congregation:
‘Minneapolis.’] . . . What is that message of righteousness? The
Testimony has told us what it is; the loud cry--the latter rain. Then
what did the brethren reject in that fearful position in which they
stood, at Minneapolis? They rejected the latter rain--the loud cry of
the third angel’s message. . . . And, brethren, the time has come to
take up tonight what we there rejected. . . . Let us thank the Lord
that He is dealing with us still, . . . and to pour upon us the latter
rain, that we may be translated. That is what the message
means—translation--to you and me” (1893 General Conference Bulletin,
(5) Hebrews 11 lifts our vision above a reward for ourselves. We
glimpse a concern for Christ that He receive His reward. Here is a
sample insight: “The little horn--the man of sin, the mystery of
iniquity--has put his own earthly, human, and sinful priesthood,
ministry, and sanctuary, in the place of the heavenly and holy
priesthood, ministry, and sanctuary. In this priesthood and service of
the mystery of iniquity, the sinner confesses his sins to the priest,
and goes on sinning. Indeed, in that priesthood and ministry there is
no power to do anything else than to go on sinning; and even after they
have confessed their sins. But, sad as the question may be, is it not
too true that those who are not of the mystery of iniquity, but who
really believe in Jesus and in His priesthood and ministry--is it not
too true that even these also confess their sins, and then go on
“But is this fair to our great High Priest, to His sacrifice, and
to His blessed ministry? Is it fair that we should thus put Him, His
sacrifice, and His ministry, practically upon a level with that of the
‘abomination of desolation,’ and to say that in Him and in His ministry
there is no more power or virtue than there is in that of the ‘mystery
of iniquity’?” (Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp.
121, 122).
(6) What does the 1888 message see as the end result of the
sanctuary message in Hebrews? Revelation 19:7-9: To prepare a corporate
body of God’s people to become the bride of Christ, to “grow up” to
“make herself ready” for the “marriage of the Lamb.” This wedding will
be His reward!
(7) Let us not think of our study of Hebrews as a past
(as our algebra in high school!). Let’s continue receiving fresh
insights by studying Christ and His Righteousness, The Consecrated Way
to Christian Perfection, The Everlasting Covenant, and the 1893 and
1895 General Conference Bulletins.
—Robert J. Wieland

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

After a wonderful thirteen weeks of studying "The Promise," let us review briefly thirteen points of the precious New Covenant message (these may not exactly parallel the thirteen Quarterly lessons):

(1) The New Covenant is the same as "the everlasting covenant" of Hebrews 13:20. It was established anciently in that far-off "counsel of peace . . . between them both" when Father and Son agreed to redeem humanity if they should sin (Zech. 6:12). We read of this divine pledge in Early Writings, p. 149: Christ "then made known to the angelic host that a way of escape had been made for lost man. He told them that He had been pleading with his Father, and had offered to give His life a ransom, to take the sentence of death upon Himself, that through Him man might find pardon." Here is the New Covenant in its beginning.
(2) When Cain let himself get angry with his brother to kill him, he was devoted to the Old Covenant, right there just outside the gates of Eden. He had brought his own offering of the works of his hands instead of one signifying total reliance on the sacrifice of Christ.
(3) The New Covenant was expressed anew in the seven promises that God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Paul makes clear that nothing can be "added" to that Covenant, for God had ratified it (Gal. 3:15-19; Gen. 15:7-17). The law spoken at Sinai was not an addendum; the word "added" means it was emphasized, or underlined, or set in bold type. Thus the function of the law is to convict of sin; but not to cleanse from it.
(4) God asked no return promises from Abraham; his part was to believe the promises of God (Gen. 15:6). That's all that God has asked of us (John 3:16); but such faith on his or our part "works by love" (Gal. 5:6). Thus in the New Covenant there is no disparagement of works: genuine faith is proven by our works. It always leads to obedience "to all the commandments of God." (See Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92; for example, if one continues to transgress the Sabbath commandment while professing to proclaim the gospel of Christ, he is mistaken, for his so-called faith proves itself to be "in vain" (James 2:26; Matt. 5:19). Why then should we study under commandment-breakers the meaning of the gospel?)
(5) Even after Abraham "believed God," he stumbled and staggered into Old Covenant thinking. He listened to Sarai's unbelief and took Hagar as a second wife in order to get a boy baby.
His faith was not fully demonstrated as genuine until in Genesis 22 he offered up Isaac.
(6) Sarai had her own battle with Old Covenant unbelief. She manifested unbelief at God's wonderful promise and cherished enmity against Him as the cause of her infertility (Gen. 16:1, 2). Even now, when we cherish unbelief and doubt that the Lord will "give [us] the desires of [our] heart" (Ps. 37:4), we are repeating her Old Covenant journey.
(7) The Lord healed her of this alienation by repeating to her directly the same wonderful promises He had made to Abraham (Gen. 17:15, 6; 18:9-15). Then her name was changed from Sarai ("contentious woman") to Sarah, "Princess and mother of kings." Thus we learn that only New Covenant Good News can heal and reconcile alienated human hearts.
(8) Sarah repented of her unbelief; she chose to believe the Good News that God had given her. "Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed" (Heb. 11:11).
(9) But 430 years later, Abraham's descendants at Mount Sinai failed to appreciate their experience of victory over unbelief. They did not have the faith of Abraham, nor that of Sarah when she overcame. They re-invented Cain's Old Covenant unbelief, and that of Sarai before her name was changed. As in Cain's case his unbelief led him to murder his brother Abel, so Israel's Old Covenant unbelief led them eventually to murder their Messiah.
(10) Thus it is clear that the Old Covenant is bad news all the way through. Paul says it "gendereth to bondage" (Gal. 4:24). That's the last thing we want! No re-crucifixion of Christ, please!
(11) Not only has God never asked us to make Old Covenant promises of obedience to Him, the practice of making them is itself opposed to happy living. Steps to Christ discloses the tragic failures that are involved: "Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. . . . The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. . . . The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise" (p. 47). Children are often led to make solemn promises to God.Then when they inevitably break them in childhood, unbelief and despair are encouraged. This is the key reason why so many of our youth lose their way. They desperately need to learn New Covenant truth, with no Old Covenant confusion mixed in.
(12) Paul makes clear that the gospel was as full in the days of Abraham as it has ever been or will be (Gal. 3:8; cf John 8:56). Probably the first Jew ever to discern rightly the significance of ancient Israel's Old Covenant detour of unbelief, Paul says that the Old Covenant (law) was their disciplinarian ("schoolmaster") whose work was to lead them (or drive them!) back to where their father Abraham was, that they might experience justification by faith as he did (Gal. 3:19-25). In order to understand our perplexing Seventh-day Adventist history, we too must see again how our long involvement with the Old Covenant has functioned as a "schoolmaster" to lead us back to the "most precious message" of justification by faith that "the Lord in His great mercy sent" us in our past history.
(13) The end of the long detour is Good News: when we understand and believe the gospel of justification by faith as Abraham did, then "the earth" can be "lightened" with the New Covenant glory of the loud cry of the third angel (see Rev. 14:6-12; 18:1-4).

Thanks for being with us this Quarter! At the request of many subscribers, this service will be continued into the next Quarter
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Thursday, March 20, 2003

Insights to Lesson 12: "Covenant Faith," March 15-21, 2003

Thank God that the topic this Quarter has been "The Covenants." We have long needed to understand this truth. Our Quarterly has had many inspiring thoughts in it. Lesson 12 brings clarity to the world church rather than confusion.

Thank God it says that "salvation is a gift," and that it doesn't say that salvation is an "offer." If salvation is merely an offer, that means it is nothing unless we accept the offer. Then it would have to follow that our salvation is ultimately due to our own initiative. The Bible is clear: salvation is free as the sunshine; Christ died for "every man;" He died every man's second death. None of us has done anything to help save ourselves.
But Sunday's lesson also brings us back into some confusion again: "The Old Testament way of salvation under the Mosaic covenant is no different from the New Testament way of salvation under the new covenant. Whether in the Old or New Testament, old or new covenant, salvation is by faith alone" (Sunday).
Here the thought is expressed again as in last week's lesson that "God ordained" salvation to be for the Israelites under the Old Covenant through "animal blood." It postulates two methods of salvation, one under the Old Covenant that was valid up until the cross, when the New Covenant finally came into force at the death of Christ.
True, after expressing these Old Covenant ideas the Quarterly always adds a caveat that there is a better way to come through the New. But this idea that the two Covenants are really the same in two dispensations is confusion confounded, the source of worldwide lukewarmness.
Not one sin was forgiven, not one sinful heart was cleansed, by the ministry of animals' blood! The people thought so, but only because of the massive confusion they brought upon themselves by using the Old Covenant idea at Sinai. Any sin in Old Testament times that was truly forgiven was forgiven only by the blood of Christ.
Individuals in old Israel could understand the New Covenant--such as David after his sin with Bathsheba. He knew well that "Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it" (Ps. 51:16). Apparently he didn't offer even a turtledove as atonement for that double sin of adultery/murder! No animal blood could wash away that sin!
David understood that the New Covenant was already in force at the Garden of Eden. Forgiveness of sin was only through the "Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world."
Some Good News: Thank God that our Lesson 12 lets Ellen White tell us what faith is--that long quote from Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 212, 213 (Sunday's lesson). If your heart longs for a fresh burst of heavenly light, read that entire chapter from p. 200 through p. 215. That was first published in the 1860s. It demonstrates how she could say at Minneapolis in 1888 when for the first time she heard Jones and Waggoner present the New Covenant "light," "I have been presenting it to you for the last 45 years--the matchless charms of Christ. This is what I have been trying to present before your minds" (1888 Materials, pp. 348, 349). Then when she heard them, she rejoiced that at last here were two Seventh-day Adventist ministers who understood what happened on Christ's cross. When the hearts of ministers are humbled thereby, the hearts of their hearers will be won to Christ. Even youth will respond.
The full blessings of the New Covenant message still await us in future. "The third angel's message in verity" will reveal the significance of the cross of Christ. God's plan in 1888 was that every Seventh-day Adventist church become the place where hungry-hearted people in Babylon could come and learn what Jesus accomplished there, and what His ministry means to them in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. As the Holy Spirit blessed the apostles after Pentecost, so "our" ministry would have been blessed after 1888 (Selected Messages, book one, pp. 234, 235). God's people are still in Babylon; the Voice calling "Come out of her My people" would have sounded clearly in the 1888 New Covenant message going worldwide from every one of our churches. As The Great Controversy says, honest-hearted people everywhere would have responded in wonder (cf. pp. 611, 612). The world would never again have said that Seventh-day Adventists "preach the law, the law, but not Christ."
When God "counted [Abram's embryonic] faith for righteousness" (Gen 15:6), did that mean that He would never test Abraham to make sure that His "counting" was valid? No, the "test" had to come in Genesis 22, when God asked him to offer his only son Isaac. We must beware of the popular Old Covenant idea that our profession of faith triggers an automatic "counting" of us as already perfect in fact while we are content that it be not so; the pre-Advent judgment merely determines that God didn't make a mistake when He "counted" our faith for righteousness. Our works will testify that it was genuine.

Thus the New Covenant truth will prepare a people to be ready for Christ's coming, to stand before Him truly "without guile, . . . without fault" (Rev. 14:5), not merely assumed to be, but actually so "in Christ." And that "blessed hope" is not the heresy of "perfectionism." It's the cleansing of the sanctuary--the New Covenant in full fruition.

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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Insights to Lesson 11: "New-Covenant Sanctuary," March 8-14, 2003

As the 13 Sabbaths of this quarter go by, we grow in our understanding of the Old and New Covenants. This is a blessing:
(a) The New is God's wonderful promise to save us, to give us everything as a gift "in Christ." It includes "He shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Ps. 37:4). It includes all the promises in Ephesians 1:3-12. It includes the heart-thumping joys of Romans 8:28-39. It prepares God's people to understand and receive the latter rain--at last.
(b) The Old is the fear-driven promises of the people to do everything right. It is subtle legalism. It has a lot going for it; it has kept the world together thus far. You can live relatively safe because the fear-driven Old Covenant restrains the wicked from total evil. But only the New Covenant can bring final victory in the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
(c) The second angel's message says, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen." And the fourth's says, "Come out of her, My people" (Rev. 14:8; 18:1-3). We have learned so far this quarter that it's easier to come out of Babylon than to get Babylon's confusion out of us. The confusion imported from Babylon's Sunday-keeping thinking on the two Covenants has bewildered many of us for a century or more.
(d) All efforts to twist the New Covenant into our promises, making it a mutual "bargain" with God, an "agreement" negotiated with Him, a "compact" or a legal two-sided "contract"--all these are confusions imported from Babylon. They are the root cause of our worldwide lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-21). The simple truth of the two Covenants eluded us in our past history. Now it's time for us to recover it.
(4) Likewise the idea of "dispensations" is not biblical; the two Covenants are not matters of time, but of heart-condition. The Old did not end at the cross nor did the New begin there. Both date from the Garden of Eden and both run parallel today. Christ was "slain from the foundation of the world," and only manifested at Calvary. You live under the one Covenant or the other depending on whether you understand and believe how good is the Good News of the gospel. (Babylon has a very popular counterfeit "gospel." Read the Bible for yourself--it's clear as sunlight there.)

A question about our lesson (March 10):
Is it really true that "the divinely appointed way for the Old Testament sinner to rid himself of sin and guilt was through animal sacrifices"?
Is it really true that "the person who had sinned . . . could be restored to full fellowship with God and humanity by bringing an animal sacrifice as a substitute"?
Were the animal "sacrifices, with their rites, . . . the God-appointed means to bring about cleansing from sin and guilt"?
Was animal blood "instituted to cleanse the sinner, . . . reinstituting communion and full covenantal fellowship of the penitent with the personal God who is the saving Lord?"
Were "the Old Testament animal sacrifices . . . the divinely-ordained means for ridding the sinner of sin and guilt"?
These questions are stated as positive on Monday's page, with an added qualifying statement that "an animal sacrifice was meant to be a looking forward to the coming of the Divine-human Servant of God, who would die a substitutionary death for the sins of the world. . . . Through this process . . . the sinner is forgiven and accepted by the Lord . . ."

A glance at our history may be important to note. Elders G. I. Butler, R. C. Porter, and Uriah Smith (spokesmen for the opposition in 1888) took the position that God had instituted the Old Covenant and its animal sacrifices as "a good thing which God had ordained for their salvation, but it had no usefulness after the cross" (The Law and the Covenants in Seventh-day Adventist History, by Paul Penno, Jr.; book manuscript in publication; p. 53). They saw the Old and New Covenants as identical except that the Old was ordained for those times and the New ordained for our times (p. 52). They were "two methods of salvation in Elder Butler's scheme; one through the remedial system for the Jew before the first advent and the other through the Messiah for Jew and Gentile after the cross" (id).
Further, quoting author Penno, according to Butler/Smith, the ceremonial law "made provision for the forgiveness of these transgressions in figure, till the real Sacrifice should be offered" (p. 41). In other words, there was no real forgivenss of sins until the cross--this was Butler's position. "The two covenants were almost two methods of salvation in Butler's theory. The old covenant was for Israel before Christ and the new covenant was for spiritual Israelites after the coming of Christ" (p. 42). "Uriah Smith, like so many others, took his definition of a biblical covenant from Webster's dictionary." Smith words were, "The theological definition . . . from Webster is therefore correct when it placed obedience as the first of the terms upon which the promises are to be secured" (Smith, Review and Herald, Sept. 13, 1887; Penno, p. 27). In other words, you obey first; you take the initiative; then God works.
Thus it is clear that our brethren who rejected the 1888 view of the Covenants believed:
(a) God's covenant is a mutual "bargain," "agreement," negotiated between God and man, and not an out-and-out promise on the part of God.
(b) They also saw the two Covenants as two methods of salvation validated by dispensations. That has become the root of the present anti-Adventist propaganda from Dale Ratzlaff and others. If they had been exposed to the 1888 view of the Covenants in academy, college, and the Theological Seminary, Ratzlaff-ism could never have developed.

Is there power in God's New Covenant promises themselves? Or do they merely point forward to fulfillment in the distant future?
When we make a promise there is no power in it, of itself. Our use of the word implies that you wait. The Old Covenant idea is that God's promises too only point to future blessings; the New Covenant idea is that we already have the blessing in the promise itself. We read "that the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:8, 9). That's astonishing! It means that God's promise itself produces children.
Consider Sarah, wife of Abraham. After decades of bitter disappointment, she was angry with God for keeping her from getting pregnant (Gen. 16:2). Then God gave her some personal New Covenant Good News--she would bear a baby boy and become the "mother of nations, . . . kings" (17:16; 18:9-11). It was for her the equivalent of the New Covenant promises God had made to Abraham (12:1-6).
But on that very day when God made the promise, Sarah was so unbelieving that she ridiculed the Good News as impossible, virtually insulting God to His face (18:12-14). Then to make matters worse she lied about the incident, whereupon God rebuked her sharply (vs. 15).
Hebrews makes clear that at this personal, divine rebuke she at last repented, for it was "by faith [that] Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed . . . when she was past age" (11:11). Isaac's was not a virgin birth or of an "immaculate conception," for both Abraham's and Sarah's reproductive organs were rejuvenated; he actually impregnated her.
She actually conceived. The faith of the two made it happen.
The point is this: God specially conveyed to Sarah His New Covenant, Good News promise. Being the lawful wife of Abraham through whom alone the promise to him could have been fulfilled, she could have believed it decades earlier and saved herself all those years of bitterness. (If as Paul says, Abraham is "our father," maybe Sarah is "our mother" in faith--or more exactly, in non-faith! Often we re-live her life story.) But when she finally chose to believe, immediately the promise met its fulfillment and she became pregnant--maybe even that very night.
Could our simple act of receiving a check illustrate the New Covenant promises? A check is not the actual cash, but we take it as though it were (if we believe the writer). The check becomes an occasion for rejoicing.
So, the one who believes the New Covenant promises goes through life with a merry heart. He knows he has the billion dollars in the Bank. His eternal life has actually begun here now. He doesn't wait and wait for forgiveness of sins; he has it now. He doesn't wait to walk with the Lord, he walks with Him now. He doesn't wait for grace to overcome sin; he rejoices in that much more powerful grace now. He does nothing to effect his justification--it's been a gift given him when Jesus purchased it for him at His cross. The infinite deposit was made there in his name. His faith in Christ is like cashing the check--now he experiences justification by faith.
Yes, there is power in God's New Covenant promises themselves! Believe Psalm 37:4 and you start being happy immediately--you don't wait until you're 90.

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Thursday, March 06, 2003

Insights to Lesson 10: "The New Covenant," March 1-7, 2003

This week's Sabbath School lesson's topic for discussion is the new covenant. Much confusion exists regarding the old and new covenants. The objective of this quarter's lessons is to clarify the confusion and bring us to a greater understanding of God's plan of salvation. To accomplish this we need to come to grips with some basic concepts.

* When did the old covenant end?
* When did the new covenant begin?
* Another valid question that we often overlook is: When did the old covenant begin?
* Is there a difference between a "covenant" and a "contract"?

Contract and Covenant Contrasted
Many confuse the meaning of the word "covenant," thinking that it is the same as a "contract." When a man enters into a contract with someone, it is for the mutual benefit of both parties. "I will do thus and such, if you will do so and so." A contract is negotiated and is "thing" oriented. We want something that the other party has, and we feel that we have something to offer in return. A contract is self-centered--what can "I" get out of the deal?
Once both parties agree to the terms, the contract is signed and made legally binding on both of them. Each must keep his side of the bargain or some type of penalty or forfeiture will occur as a result. A contract is therefore a mutual affair, but are we on equal terms with God? Can we make mutual agreements with God based on equal terms? "The carnal mind is enmity against God." "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 8:7; 3:10). God is righteous; we are unrighteous. God is holy, divine; we are unholy, carnal.
Where is there any basis of equality for us to begin our bargaining with God? What have we to negotiate with when we come to God to make a contract? Only our "filthy rags," our sins, our "works of the flesh." Of ourselves, we cannot offer obedience to a single commandment, because the carnal mind will not let us obey God's law (Rom. 8:7). We cannot make a contract with God because we have nothing to bring to the bargaining table except our sinful selves--which is worthless.
In contrast to this idea, a covenant would properly be defined as a promise or a pledge. It is "person" oriented, made TO someone BY someone. It is always made by the stronger individual to a weaker individual. A covenant involves loyalty, care, and concern for the individual to whom the promise was made.
This is clearly illustrated in Genesis 15. The covenant God made to Abraham was intended to be one-sided. God promised to give Abraham a child that would be born of his wife Sarah when both Abraham and Sarah were well past child-bearing age. There was nothing Abraham or Sarah could do to make this promise a reality in their lives, except believe that God was able to fulfil what He had told them. Abraham's faith in God's promise (he could only say "amen"--verse 6, Hebrew) was as "new covenant" as it gets!

A Biblical Illustration
Perhaps starting the lesson off with a cartoon illustration has set our feet headed down the wrong path. We must investigate Bible truth through an inspired lens. Paul gives us an excellent illustration of the two covenants.
"For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants" (Gal. 4:22-24).
Paul explains what the two covenants are, using the illustration of the two women, Sarah and Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian slave woman, servant to Sarah. The children of a slave woman are slaves, even though their father is free. Hagar could only bring forth children that were under bondage. Scripture tells us that, "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:8).
These two covenants exist today. "The two covenants are not a matter of time, but condition of the heart. Let no man flatter himself that he cannot be under the old covenant, thinking that its time has passed." So long as we try of ourselves, in our own strength to keep those promises which God Himself has made to us, then we are under the old covenant. (E. J. Waggoner, Glad Tidings, pp. 99-100). It is only when we fully believe God, that we are set free to live under the new covenant.

Where Does the "Old" End and "New" Begin?
If the new covenant is not tied to the New Testament, where does it begin? The "new" covenant has been with us since Eden. God promised the fallen pair that He would place enmity between them and the serpent who had led them into sin (Gen. 3:15). The "new" covenant and the "everlasting" covenant are one and the same thing. It has always been God's promise to save us without any works of our own. The new or everlasting covenant was put in place first--before the old.
Then where does the old covenant first come into view? At the very gates of Eden. The "old covenant" has been in existence in the heart of humanity since sin entered. It was in existence long before the ceremonial laws were given at Mount Sinai. It has nothing to do with "time" and everything to do with the condition of our hearts as we strive to save ourselves.
When God instructed Adam to bring the sin offering, it was to be a lamb without blemish from his flock. Adam was instructed that this animal symbolized the Messiah that was to come (see Rev. 13:8; 1 Peter: 18-20). Through faith in the promise of God, Adam taught his sons to do the same.
"And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock . . . And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect" (Gen. 4:3-5).
Why did the Lord "not respect" Cain's offering? Because "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." (Heb. 9:22). Cain was trying to save himself by his own methods. He thought that his offering of fruits should be just as good as the required offering. Had he not worked to produce them? Was this work of his hands not sufficient for the Lord? Cain would not believe God's promise and took the burden of his life upon himself. His subsequent history is the lesson of the results of the old covenant way of doing things.

What is the "Better" Covenant?
This week's lesson also discusses the "better covenant." While persisting in its misunderstanding of the old and new covenants, it rightly states that the "problem" was the people's failure to "grasp" God's promise by faith. There has never been a failure or deficiency in God's promise to humanity.
The "better" covenant Paul tells us about in Hebrews 8:6 is God's everlasting covenant made from the foundation of the world. This covenant is "better" than man's promises to obey God. Why? Because it is "established upon better promises"--the promises of the Godhead to save humanity from sin. "The salvation of human beings is a vast enterprise, that calls into action every attribute of the divine nature. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have pledged themselves [promised] to make God's children more than conquerors through Him that loved them." Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, January 27, 1903 (emphasis supplied).
The Gospel is called the "good news of God's salvation." It is God's promise to us that He will save us "from our sins," not in them (Matt. 1:21). He has told us through the Word that He will "provide a way of escape" from every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). When we believe that this is so, then it becomes a reality in our lives. "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16).
What is the "new covenant" God wishes to "make" with us of which Jeremiah speaks in 31:31? God has always had only one objective for His creatures--that we would believe His "better" promise to save us from our sin. He longs for the day when His people will heed His loving call to turn around, leave their folly, and believe wholeheartedly in His power to save "to the uttermost" all who will believe His promise. Instead of relying on our sadly deficient promises to obey, when we believe God's word to us and by faith allow Christ to live in us, we will be living under the better promise of the new and everlasting covenant (see Glad Tidings, pp.57-60).

It is Indeed a Work of the Heart
Sadly, as we stand at the "foot of the mount" we are prone like the children of Israel to say, "All the Lord has spoken, we will do" (see Ex. 19:7, 8). We promise the Lord, when the Lord has not asked us to promise anything. He knows that our promises are as insubstantial as ropes of sand. All He asks is that we believe His promises to us. "If ye will [hear] My voice indeed, and [cherish] My covenant (previously made with their father Abraham), then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people" (Ex. 19:5--literal translation of Hebrew words in brackets).
When we believe that we are the adopted children of God, then we will respond in the appropriate manner. Instead of behaving like rebellious heathens, we'll respond as if we were the children of the King of the universe. Not as a servant will we obey, out of duty or debt, but from the heart will come the desire to follow God everywhere He leads us. Obedience to all the commandments of God is the natural result of this understanding.
What God promises He produces through the power of His Holy Spirit and through faith in His word. When we believe God's promises, we are enabled to do those things which we were unable to do previously by our own strength (see Gal. 5:16, 17; and Christ's Object Lessons, p. 333). Faith brings us under the new covenant of God's better promise.
When we truly appreciate all that He has done to save us, we will respond as God wants us to respond. We will see the Ten Commandments as ten glorious promises, not ten fetters that bind us as we toil and struggle to keep them. Commandment keeping will become a heart response to the love of God revealed on Calvary. As adopted sons and daughters of God, we will go forth with rejoicing, gladly willing to obey our gracious Father.
We do not need to live under the old covenant. God's promises are sure. Faith makes all the promises of God a reality in our lives. We need not wait one moment longer. "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).

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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Insights to Lesson 9: "The Covenant Sign," February 22-28, 2003

The seventh-day Sabbath is in crisis according to ex-Adventist minister Dale Ratzlaff. He argues that since Christians are new covenant believers, they have nothing to do with such legalism as Sabbath-keepers practice. After all, Jesus did away with the old covenant Sabbath when He died on the cross.
But if the Sabbath is in crisis, then so is God in crisis, for the Scriptures teach that "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made" (Gen. 3:3). God put the blessing of Himself into the seventh day of the week before there ever was such as thing as the old covenant. The blessing of God is His life, righteousness and love.
There is no legalism in the Sabbath. The Sabbath is all about God's rest. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matt. 11:28, 29). Jesus invites the believer to rest his sin-burden upon Himself. Sins are forgiven. The sinner is declared righteous in Christ, thus sanctifying him apart from the world.
The Sabbath is the seal of God's sanctification. "Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them" (Ezek. 20:12). The seventh-day Sabbath rest is the sign of righteousness by faith in Christ.
In fact the seventh day Sabbath is part of that law of God which is sealed upon every believing heart through God's new covenant promise. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people" (Heb. 8:10).
It is a misunderstanding of God's everlasting covenant to speculate that the old covenant embodied the Sabbath before the cross did away with it, and the new covenant saves people after Calvary.
God's covenant is His plan to bring sinners back into harmony with His law through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The old covenant is man's promises to keep God's law (Ex. 19:8), which were doomed to failure on arrival. The law was the basis of both covenants. Which method to achieve obedience to God's law would you choose for salvation?
The new covenant is superior to the old in that it is based on the better promises of God in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20) and the better ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. The old covenant was based on man's promises to obey and had an earthly priesthood which could never bring perfection of conscience.
The two covenants are not bound by time before and after the cross-the new covenant succeeding the old in sequence. The two covenants are two different dispensations of the heart-condition with respect to God's promise and oath. The old which is passing away is trust in self and God. The new involves death to self and absolute confidence in Christ.

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Friday, February 21, 2003


The tragic news is emblazoned everywhere. "Seventh-day Adventist ordained pastor found guilty of genocide!" Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana is convicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Tanzania and sentenced to ten years (his frail health made the sentence lighter). His son, Gerard, a physician, was also found guilty and sentenced to 25 years. Former U. S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark served as counsel for Pastor Ntakirutimana.
One key piece of evidence was the letter that a host of Tutsi pastors and people sent to Pastor Ntakirutimana, "We are doomed to die. Can you help us?" To which he replied, "I can do nothing for you. Prepare to die. Your time has come." Then he brought in the Hutu soldiers who slaughtered them all.
Most Seventh-day Adventist church members don't want to believe the headlines. Beloved ordained pastors should shepherd the flock, not kill people!
Let us say a word in defense of Rwandan Seventh-day Adventists. They are not monsters; they are people who need the pure, true gospel of Jesus as much as anyone else on earth. We labored among them from 1945 to 1953, when we were sent to Uganda to serve (large numbers of Rwanda people lived in Uganda).
From the beginnings of our work in Africa, the message "we" proclaimed was largely Old Covenant in nature. From 1896 Ellen White was forced to declare that "Satan succeeded" in "our" rejection of the "most precious message" of Christ's righteousness that Heaven sent "us" in 1888. She said that "by the action of our own brethren" it has "been kept away" from both our people and from the world. Our people in Rwanda just had never had a chance to know what that message of Christ's righteousness is. They knew practically nothing of agape.
Hutu hatred of Tutsis was very popular in Rwanda among the people in general. It was for them the "patriotic" thing to do. The hatred they felt was similar to "our" hatred of Osama bin Laden. A lukewarm, "worldly" Seventh-day Adventist just hated the Tutsis like everybody else; when the rip tide swept the people off their Christian feet, our pastor and his son had nothing to hold them. Nothing could have held them except the pure gospel teaching of the New Covenant. They just didn't know what it is.-Robert J. Wieland

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Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Insights to Lesson 8: "Covenant Law," February 15-21, 2003

As we have studied our Sabbath School Lessons this Quarter on "The Promise--God's Everlasting Covenant," the Lord has permitted some things to focus more clearly.
There is widespread discussion. Just now one large SDA church has devoted three Sabbath afternoon hours to a discussion of the Covenants. There is the possibility that we might take wrong positions and again condemn truth. That's what our dear people did some 115 years ago. They missed out on receiving the latter rain and proclaiming the loud cry message; and the second coming of Christ was delayed.
(1) All who see the gospel as the fundamental truth of "the third angel's message in verity" long for, and pray for, a healing of divisions, and harmony to unite the church.
(2) The fundamental truth of the message God has given to Seventh-day Adventists for the world is the New Covenant. Its "everlasting Good News" alone can reconcile alienated hearts to God. The New Covenant is the "Elijah message" that will "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:6), before judgment "smites the earth." The New Covenant is holy ground; we must tread softly. Carelessness or irreverence here is fatal. Jokes and ridicule are out of place.
(3) The message of Revelation 18 that must "lighten the earth with glory" is the New Covenant truth as verily as the message of the apostles was the New Covenant truth for their day. The 1888 understanding of the Covenants is a breath of fresh air that will sweep through the popular churches and speak to every honest heart. The Bible is clear that it will also speak to "all nations," which must include Islam.
(4) The message is not just for the church, but is perfectly suited for proclamation to the world. God entrusted its "most precious" truth to the care of His "remnant church," as He entrusted His most precious Son to the Jews, but they rejected Him. Ellen White says we did precisely the same with this "most precious" "verity" of the third angel's message--"in a great degree."
(5) There can be no mixture of Old Covenant confusion with that pure New Covenant lest "the truth of the Gospel" be compromised. Paul didn't like controversy any more than we do, but when it came to dealing with the Galatians, he said of those who wanted to worm in their Old Covenant confusion, "To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Gal. 2:5).
(6) Old Covenant confusion is directly responsible for the worldwide condition of lukewarmness. It is not cultural, for it is as prevalent in Third World churches as in Europe or America. Money doesn't cause it; poverty-stricken people can get it too. It's a universal malady of the human heart, a virus that can grow and flourish only through the absence of New Covenant truth. It's like an illness that attacks only if there is a deficiency of vitamins.
(7) A believing response to the New Covenant promises (such as Abraham's faith) transforms people individually, and also churches corporately. In these last days, understanding and believing the New Covenant promises prepares a people to welcome Jesus at His second coming. If this is true, it invests the topic of the two Covenants as immensely important. Maybe that's why the Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs is devoting those three Sabbath afternoon hours to it.
(8) Understood in context, "the most precious message" which "the Lord in His great mercy sent" us in 1888 was in fact the New Covenant message that God intended should lighten the earth with glory--salvation "by grace . . . through faith, and that not of [ourselves]: it is the gift [not merely an offer!] of God: not of works." That message alone could produce living works, because any so-called "obedience" not motivated by grace-much-more-abounding always ends up as "dead works."
(9) Understood in context, the message of the Battle Creek leaders who opposed was the Old Covenant resurrected--Galatianism revived. But it was far more subtle than what Paul faced in his day (which at that time came from church leaders in Jerusalem). The confusion will shape up to become the greatest shaking of all time. This history can't be reversed. The plan of salvation is on trial and must be fully revealed and demonstrated. And the efforts of "the great dragon" to confuse us must be exposed.
Again in Sunday's lesson we are frequently reminded that what Christ accomplished for the world was an "offer." The Bible seems to indicate that Christ GAVE something to the world, and Israel were to tell the world about it. If (as it says) He "died for all humanity," that seems to be what the Bible is saying. His love and His sacrifice were both unconditional. The condition for our receiving the blessing is faith.
In Monday's lesson we read of "various requirements . . . for maintaining the special relationship He sought with His people." It is better Good News to realize that through the Holy Spirit God is seeking to "maintain" that relationship. He took the initiative in starting it, and He takes it in keeping it going--if we don't resist Him.
Thursday's lesson is so true that the Covenant from Sinai states "conditions of obedience." But we must not insert the Old into the New.

Questions have been coming in that evidence perplexity:
(1) "Isn't it true that we 'have to obey'? Isn't the Seventh-day Adventist Church the one that teaches obedience to all of the Ten Commandments? Is there some secret in this New Covenant emphasis that will weaken our denominational emphasis on keeping the commandments?"

We don't obey because "we have to." The very idea of "having to do it" suggests a fear motivation mixed in, which immediately makes it suspect of being Old Covenant in principle. If you "have" to do something, back in the shadows lurks the idea of a threat if you don't--a possible curse. We obey because our hearts have been made at-one with the heart of God; He loves His law, so do we. Abraham was "the friend of God." They were close in the father-son love experience. Do you remember how unafraid you were when you were with your father when you were a child? Did he threaten you with curses if you made a mistake? Abraham was not coerced "under law." Those today who are motivated by Abraham's faith (when he was justified) are living under the New Covenant.

(2) "Is there danger that this emphasis on the New Covenant may weaken our stand on dress and health reforms?"

Dress and health reform become Old Covenant when the motivation is egocentric. We follow health reform with the supreme motivation to yield ourselves fully to the service of Christ. We follow dress reform because in a healthy sense "we pour contempt on all our pride" when we "survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died." That doesn't mean dressing in a bizarre manner to draw attention to ourselves, either as pride or as self-abasement. It's all sanctified common sense.

(3) "Deuteronomy 28:15-68 lists a host of curses that the Lord promised to send on Israel if they did not obey; aren't they just as much 'the word of the Lord' as the New Covenant promises He made to Abraham?"

Yes, because when Israel at Sinai rejected the Lord's Plan A, He was forced to implement Plan B. The Old Covenant became their "schoolmaster" or disciplinarian to drive them back to where Abraham was, to be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24). If they would not keep step with Him, God must humble Himself to keep step with them because His faithful love would not let Him abandon them. Thus began the long detour of many centuries, of their own choosing. As a nation Israel failed, although there were always some few individuals who chose to believe New Covenant truths. Paul was the first to clearly grasp the meaning of this history (3:15-25).

(4) "Paul uses the term 'the law' in Romans and Galatians to denote the instructions Moses gave Israel from Exodus 19 through Leviticus to Deuteronomy. Is not that body of instruction just as inspired as the Lord's promises He made to Abraham, which are the New Covenant?"

Yes, as "the law" of the Old Covenant. Doubtless the threat of the curses inspired much of the obedience. But there were some wonderful Old Covenant revivals in Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. But "the third angel's message in verity" today is New Covenant because it teaches the true self-less motivation of the cross.

(5) "Is not the Ten Commandment law the basis of both the Old and New Covenants, thus proving that the two Covenants are actually identical?"

In the Old Covenant, the law was written on stone. In the New Covenant, it is written on believing hearts. The underlying issue is motivation. As we near the end and the call sounds ever more powerfully, "Come out of [Babylon], My people," hearts will be moved by the revelation of Christ's High Priestly ministry in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. The appeal of the message will be Christ and Him crucified. It will be clear that there is heart-moving power in the message when self-centered motives are transcended by a purpose to honor the One who gave Himself for us. It works! Multitudes will learn in a short time what it has taken us many decades to grasp.

May the Lord hasten the day!