Saturday, December 28, 2013

Commentary: Exhortations From the Sanctuary

Exhortations From the Sanctuary

Memory Text: "And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10: 21, 22, NASB).

The book of Hebrews borrows a lot on Sanctuary imagery. Many believe it was written to give Christian Jews a correct understanding of the Sanctuary.  This understanding had Christ at the center.  The sanctuary was a representation of Christ and His plan of redemption.  He was the lamb. The blood shed was Christ's.  Christ was the priest; indeed, even the High Priest. 

This correct understanding must never be divorced from Christ becoming humanity.  As Levi was in Abraham when Abraham paid tithes to Melchisedech, we were in Christ when Christ lived, died, and was resurrected. 


Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:


Since, objectively, and by faith, we are already in the presence of the Father, we should have no problem approaching Him in prayer.  Paul says,

 Hebrews 10: 19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,

Hebrews 10: 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

Hebrews 10: 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,

Hebrews 10: 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

Hebrews 10: 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

As we can read in this passage the implications are many.  But, Ellen White perhaps sums it up best,

"From the Holy of Holies, there goes on the grand work of instruction. The angels of God are communicating to men. Christ officiates in the sanctuary. We do not follow Him into the sanctuary as we should. Christ and angels work in the hearts of the children of men. The church above, united with the church below, is warring the good warfare upon the earth. There must be a purifying of the soul here upon the earth, in harmony with Christ's cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven. There we shall see more clearly as we are seen. We shall know as we are known."  15MR 24.


Hebrews 9 and 10 describe His High Priestly ministry as cleansing the hearts of His people, "putting away sin," "purging the conscience," preparing a people to "receive the promise of eternal inheritance," "purifying" hearts and minds and lips, to "make the comers thereunto perfect," to render obsolete any "conscience" or "remembrance of sins," to "take away sins," to "perfect forever them that are sanctified," to write His "laws into their hearts ... [which are] sprinkled from an evil conscience," to "provoke [motivate] unto love and good works," to "believe to the saving of the soul."


He naturally wants His people to understand why what He is doing is so incomparably important, and second, He would appreciate our cooperation because He can accomplish nothing without you. Your cooperation means you stop interposing a rebellious will to counteract what He is seeking constantly to do for you!


In other words, through His Vicar (the Holy Spirit) Christ as High Priest is constantly pressing upon His people the conviction of sin buried deeper than they had imagined it to be; and when the conviction is welcomed and the sin is gladly surrendered and put away, the heart is more closely reconciled to Him. This process is called "atonement," or becoming at-one-with God. In Romans 5:11 it is "receiving the atonement" or "reconciliation." Thus, the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is a "final atonement."

Raul Diaz

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Cosmic Conflict Over God’s Character

The Cosmic Conflict Over God’s Character

In Matthew 25: 14 – 30, we find the Parable of the talents.  We read that two of the servants improved on what they were given.  We are not told why.  But, the last servant hid the talent, and did not improve on it, but we are told why.  This man’s action based on what he thought of the Master,

Mat 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
Mat 25:25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

We could imply that the other two servants thought the opposite of their master.  Ellen White seems to tell us that Eve had a similar problem,

The tempter intimated that the divine warning was not to be actually fulfilled; it was designed merely to intimidate them. . . .  {CC 15.5} 
            Such has been Satan's work from the days of Adam to the present, and he has pursued it with great success. He tempts men to distrust God's love and to doubt His wisdom. He is constantly seeking to excite a spirit of irreverent curiosity, a restless, inquisitive desire to penetrate the secrets of divine wisdom and power. In their efforts to search out what God has been pleased to withhold, multitudes overlook the truths which He has revealed, and which are essential to salvation. . . .  {CC 15.6}
Eve really believed the words of Satan, but her belief did not save her from the penalty of sin. She disbelieved the words of God, and this was what led to her fall. In the judgment men will not be condemned because they conscientiously believed a lie, but because they did not believe the truth, because they neglected the opportunity of learning what is truth.  {CC 15.7}
Eve doubted God’s integrity.  She judged God’s character incorrectly.  This is what provoked her downfall.  She now needed to restore her trust In God. 

Did you notice that Ellen White says that Eve’s experience applies to all men?  What lie are men choosing to believe that leads them away from believing God? We read from Ellen White,

In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God's favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner. {DA 761.4}

Our lesson has made it clear throughout the quarterly that this is what our denomination believes: Sin must be punished.  And, it is God who must punish it.  Is it not disturbing that we believe of God what Satan says of Him? 

If this is what we believe then we believe that something must be done to avoid the punishment.  God must be appeased.  This is the core belief of every pagan religion.  This is why they practiced sacrifices.  Only “the smell the blood” would appease the angry god.  Christians have adopted this understanding of God.  Christians understand that “Christ died to reconcile the father unto us.”  You will find no such thought anywhere in the Bible.  The Bible is very clear,

2 Corinthians 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

We read in John 3: 16 that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son – the Lamb slain from the beginning of the World to away its Sin (Revelation 13: 8, John 1: 29). It was the Father Who wanted – and still wants - to be reconciled to us.  We read from Romans,

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

In Christ, while we still saw God as the enemy, we were reconciled to God and not God to us.  Christ says in John 14,

John 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
John 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
John 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

Many read the story of Jesus and realize that there concept of God differs from Jesus.  Jesus Himself tells us that He and the Father are One.  Jesus is a prefect representation of His Father.  Any concept of God that differs from Jesus is wrong.  Ellen White says,

There stood in the world One who was a perfect representative of the Father, One whose character and practices refuted Satan's misrepresentation of God. Satan had charged upon God the attributes He himself possessed. Now in Christ he saw God revealed in His true character—a compassionate, merciful Father, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to Him in repentance, and have eternal life. (1 SM, p. 254).

A good surgeon cuts into the body of its ill patient (thus inflicting pain), not to punish the patient for having a harmful health condition, but to get rid of what is ailing the patient.  God intervenes in our life not to punish us, but to get rid of the Sin which will kill us otherwise.  Those whom He loves, He chastens.  “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Hebrews 12:11).  “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Commentary: Our Prophetic Message

The following story is representative of what the 3rd Angel's Message will produce in those who receive it by faith.

My niece Katrina* and I are not blood related. In fact, I met 16-year-old Katrina when my adopted sister married her father, a man who already had children. Soon I became her father's friend and Katrina's uncle. In fact, Katrina and her sister Katherine* have both become my nieces. There is nothing in our relationship which indicates that we are not related by blood. The fact that I'm Caribbean-born and they are American-born doesn't seem to make a difference.

When Katrina was younger she studied my home country for her research paper. In college, she went abroad to study the language and customs, which provided a common ground between us. As young women, she and her sister worried about disappointing me and sought my company often. Today they have graduated college, and grad school respectively, and I'm the uncle they call when they need to pray about work projects or have questions about the latest Latin dish they are trying to prepare.

God's demonstrated love has created a love and closeness between us which has erased every hint of difference. We are family.  So it is when God's people allow themselves to become one together with Him. In identifying with Him, our aims, and purposes become united and we become one family, one body. Although God's family comes from all parts of the world, our different languages, complexions, features and cultures should merely serve as a memorial to God's creativity -- nothing else. God has called us together as one body to serve Him and to invite others to serve with us. 
How will the world respond to our invitation if we are scattered by our differences?

In God's kingdom there are no rich or poor, no educated or ignorant, no great or small. We are all children of the Almighty in His Son. Through Him we understand that we have been enabled to work with each other in order to prepare others for His kingdom. "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Col. 3:11, NIV).
No matter how different we are, God wants us to function as one. As a part of His body He gives us His Spirit -- of Agape-love, peace and joy, which is demonstrated in caring for the needs and wants of others, all sharing in the hope of Jesus Christ.
You may be asking yourself, "What does this story about God's love as a uniting factor have to do with the message of the three angels"? Simply this: you cannot love those with whom you do not identify.

Christ's identification with us is the foundation of the gospel, the cornerstone of the doctrine of Justification by Faith; it itself is the gift through which every other gift flows. Christ's death on the cross was merely the out-flowing of His agape which was first found in His identifying Himself with us from the foundation of the world.

To be justified is to be made right with God legally and forensically as well as morally. The moral law rests on this – Agape – Supreme love to God as our response to His wooing, and love to man as He has loved us. To be justified (by faith) then, is to recognize in heart and mind that I am all men and all men are me. We are all one humanity, and in Christ all one body. The loss of any part through ignorance, willfulness or neglect, is the loss of me – part of me.

To those who wonder what justification has to do with the three angel's message, Ellen White said this, "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message in verity"-- Review and Herald, April 1, 1890; {Ev 190.3} (Emphasis author's).

The three angel's message is a prophetic message, and traditionally we have taught that this message of commandment keeping -- particularly Sabbath keeping or worshiping, is paramount to being saved; and likewise, that those who do not heed the warnings, will receive the mark of the beast, and be lost. Sadly, many of us have equated our positive performance of keeping the law, attending church, attending and promoting evangelistic series and AY's along with camp-meetings and the like with not being found wanting in the judgment. To buttress our position, we've used texts which seem to say that we are saved by our faith in Jesus and judged according to our works.

We quote Romans 2:13 – "Not just the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." But perhaps our understanding of hearers and doers is not accurate. The hearing which Jesus has in mind is active, eager focused listening with the intent to understand and receive what is being said (because the speaker is intimately known), willing to do, even before knowing what (content) is being spoken. While here on earth, Jesus Himself said, "I of mine own self can do nothing…as I hear…" (John 5:19, 30). It is He who brings everything secret and hidden into judgment – words, thoughts, motives and actions. The man or woman, whom He justifies, has the law engraved on the heart and mind. Why? Because the Holy Spirit who is residing inside and embodies the law, gives the gift of love, peace, joy, faith… (Gal.5:22, 23). Works of the flesh, no matter how good they seem are condemned as sinful, because they are not done by those whose hearts and minds have been filled with the faith of Jesus, which works by agape- love, and by which the soul is purified.  

Friends, the basis of the three angel's message of warning is the everlasting gospel. It is the pleading of the prophetic body of messengers – to accept by faith the good news of Christ's deep and abiding self-denying love which was demonstrated in His identification with us – His taking on our sinful nature -- and His death on the cross in fulfillment of the wages of sin.

I Peter 4:17 says "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached (margin: the word of hearing) did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" Heb. 4:2. The hearers did not understand that the "works" they were to do, had been finished from the foundation of the world" Hebrews 4:3. Have we understood?

(* Names have been changed)

Raul Diaz

Saturday, December 07, 2013

“The Eschatological Day of Atonement”

Eschatology is that branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world and the final destiny of mankind. This involves beliefs concerning death, the end of the world and the ultimate destiny of mankind. This includes the doctrines concerning the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the Judgment.  In our lesson for this week the vision of the 2300 days is referred to as being fulfilled “many days in the future” (Dan 8:26) from the time of Daniel. The vision was sealed until the distant future.
So, the title of our lesson is referring to a day of atonement in the final days of earth’s history.   Since, atonement is the process of becoming one or reconciliation, it means that something is happening to remove what separated man from God?  What separates man from God?   What separated Eve from God?  Ellen White states,

“Eve believed the words of Satan, and the belief of that falsehood in regard to God's  character, changed the condition and character of both herself and husband. They were changed from good and obedient children into transgressors...” (RH, January 5, 1886 par. 8).

Ellen White elaborates on the danger of believing lies about God,

In rejecting the truth, men reject its Author. In trampling upon the law of God, they deny the authority of the Law-giver. It is as easy to make an idol of false doctrines and theories as to fashion an idol of wood or stone. By misrepresenting the attributes of God, Satan leads men to conceive of Him in a false character. With many, a philosophical idol is enthroned in the place of Jehovah; while the living God, as He is revealed in His word, in Christ, and in the works of creation, is worshiped by but few. Thousands deify nature while they deny the God of nature. Though in a different form, idolatry exists in the Christian world today as verily as it existed among ancient Israel in the days of Elijah. The god of many professedly wise men, of philosophers, poets, politicians, journalists--the god of polished fashionable circles, of many colleges and universities, even of some theological institutions--is little better than Baal, the sun-god of Phoenicia. {GC 583.1}

Here is one more quote from Ellen White where she again talk about lies about God,

In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God's favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner. {DA 761.4}
You will notice that Satan’s claim is part of the creed of many Christian denominations.  So, these lies have infected Christianity.  Therefore, these lies have to be removed out of Christians, primarily.  How do these lies translate into our lives?  We believe we must be afraid of God or we see God as a sort of Santa Claus.  This then translates on how we treat each other. 

For the most part we are unaware of how much we distrust God.  The judgment is to show us what is truly in our hearts.  As God told Laodicea,

Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

The judgment is to reveal it as a patient is revealed his condition, and once the patient knows his condition the doctor can prescribe a form of intervention.  Spiritually, the intervention is,

 “Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
 “Rev 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” 

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Ezekiel 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit which reveals Sin to us and at the same time impresses Jesus in our minds (john 14: 16 -17; 15: 26; 16: 8, 14).   Because He indwells us, we are His sanctuary (1 Corinthian 16: 9).  In the Day of Atonement the cleansing of Sin from the Sanctuary was complete.  In the eschatological day of atonement the cleansing of Sin in us, must be complete also.  How clean should it be?

Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.  {COL 69.1} 

If the records in Heaven are a perfect reflection of us, then when we are cleansed so are the records in Heaven.  According to Daniel 8, when does the cleansing start?  It has to be after all those empires spoken of in the prophecies either no longer exist or no longer have the power they held before.  This would take us to the year 1798. 
The little horn of Daniel 7, which is also the beast in Revelation 13, is in power for 1260 years.  This is based on the time prophecy, in which the beast persecutes for 1260 days:  “time, times, half a time”, or 42 months, which all prophetically are interpreted to mean 1260 years.  The time frame for this is historically said to be from 538 AD, when Justinian’s general, Belisarius defeated the last of the Arian nations, the Ostrogoths, drove them out of Rome and turned over the city to the Bishop of Rome.  1260 years later, would be 1798, and that year, the French general Berthier, enters Rome, declares it a Republic, takes the pope captive, exiles him to France where the pope dies a prisoner.

With the Pope removed and the papacy no longer exerting the influence it once had, men felt at liberty to study and preach the Word of God without any adverse repercussions: it was no longer illegal.  The book of Daniel was opened to the mind of many men, including William Miller.  William Miller’s message was the cleansing of the Sanctuary.  Although, the right interpretation escaped Miller, it set the foundation for further understanding: The cleansing of the sanctuary in Heaven is dependent on the cleansing of Sin from us.