Friday, March 25, 2016

When all things become new

The Following Insight was for a previous lesson.


When all things become new

Memory Text: " 'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away' " (Revelation 21:4, NKJV).

The lesson focuses on the events from the second advent forward.  The lesson's primary objective seems to be to distance Adventists from the beliefs of other Christian denominations.  As the lesson states on Friday, other denominations have a preterist (in the past; between the first and second advent of Christ) or futurist (in the future – before the second advent) understanding of the Millennium; ours is historist - that the Millennium happens after Christ's second Advent.  The language used in our lesson is a little disturbing: The Millennium occurs in heaven as oppose to earth.  However, in my experience, Adventists teach the Millennium based on what happens here on Earth and Heaven: both the Devil held captive on this planet, and the judgment which occurs in Heaven.  So, truthfully, the Millennium happens both on heaven and earth.

Now, as Adventists, we believe that what happens to the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement represents what happens to the Devil.  Ellen White says,

In the typical service the high priest, having made the atonement for Israel came forth and blessed the congregation. So Christ, at the close of His work as a mediator, will appear, "without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28), to bless His waiting people with eternal life. As the priest, in removing the sins from the sanctuary, confessed them upon the head of the scapegoat, so Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, the originator and instigator of sin. The scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away "unto a land not inhabited" (Leviticus 16:22); so Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God's people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked. Thus, the great plan of redemption will reach its accomplishment in the final eradication of sin and the deliverance of all who have been willing to renounce evil.  {GC 485 - 486}

This is pretty straight forward.  Why is more judgment needed?

"During the millennium the saints participate in a deliberative judgment that reviews the cases of the lost of this earth and the fallen angels. This judgment is evidently necessary in view of the cosmic nature of the sin problem. The course of the rebellion of sin has been the object of concern and interest on the part of other worlds (Job 1; 2;Eph. 3:10). The whole interlude of sin must be handled in such a way that hearts and minds throughout God's universe are satisfied with its treatment and conclusion, with particular reference to God's character. It is especially important for the redeemed from earth to understand God's dealings with those who called for the rocks to fall on them and deliver them from the 'face of him who is seated on the throne' (Rev. 6:16). They must be totally satisfied that God was just in His decision regarding the lost."—Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Pub. Assn., 2000), p. 932.

Among the group that will be burning, are many who the redeemed held in high esteem.  The opening up of the books to the redeemed and their study of these books help them grieve and heal from the eternal loss of those they loved and admired.  This helps them see that what will happen after the Millennium – the burning of the wicked - is a strange act of Love.

In the book of Early Writings pages 292 and 293, there is a full narrative of the events that will happen after the Millennium and the final destruction of the wicked.  It is too long for this space.  But it is worth reading.  Suffice it to say that what is revealed during this time is that the wicked's heart has not changed.  Even when they admit that Christ is the Lamb worthy of praise, they still want to kill Christ and the redeemed.  This is the final proof that their destruction is necessary.  Their hearts have not changed.

The fire that destroys the wicked and the earth purifies the earth. Sin and its consequences are forever banished.  As the John the Revelator says,

Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Rev 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

They are beautiful indeed.

Originally Posted by Ulee at 12/28/2012

Friday, March 18, 2016

"The Church Militant"

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Church Militant"
March 19, 2016

(Church of Philadelphia)

The following is an adaptation of an article on the church of Philadelphia from the Berean Biblegroup. We begin by reading the verse in the NKJV of Revelation 3:7-8.

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name."

Adventists believe that there are two applications and, or audiences to whom the epistles of the Seven Churches were written. They are written to: 1) seven literal, first-century churches in Asia Minor; and regarding, 2) seven historical church eras. In each letter, Christ gives the admonition, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The seven letters represent either the attitudes or conditions of the leadership, as well as the organizational units and periods of each church body.

We read in verse 8, that Jesus Christ told the Philadelphians that they had only a little strength, a little power (dunamis). They had a small capability for wonderful works and mighty deeds, and a limited ability to get things done effectively. If they were dynamic, it was only on a small scale. The letter contains implications regarding the Philadelphian church that we may not have considered before.

Christ's statement that the Philadelphians have only a little strength is not necessarily a criticism. While the overall tenor of the letter is extremely positive, Christ is merely stating facts. The Philadelphians have only a small capability for miraculous work, a little physical or spiritual aptitude, and a small measure of effectiveness. Dunamis is not entirely lacking, but it is present in only a limited amount.
If we were to speak of the 'The Philadelphian' church as a person, then by the above account, the Philadelphian would probably not be the one healing people when his shadow passes by, such as one of the apostles did. Nor would he be the one moving mountains, prophesying of future events, or speaking in unfamiliar languages. He may not even have great speaking ability or a dynamic personality. This is not to say that power and effectiveness are entirely lacking, just that the Philadelphian would probably not have the same dramatic outworking we observe in other biblical figures.

Why is there only a small amount of dunamis? From the rest of the letter to Philadelphia, it does not appear that the low level of dunamis is due to any great failing or negligence in duties to God. On the contrary, the letter is a commendation because of faithfulness. A look at the Parable of the Talents can give us insight--

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey" (Matthew 25:14-15).

The word ability in verse 15 is also dunamis. These verses affirm that 1) talents are given by God, and 2) apparently the bestowing of talents depends somewhat on the capability the person already possesses.

Perhaps part of the reason the Philadelphian does not have much dunamis, as viewed through this parable, is that God did not give Philadelphia many talents. Remember, if God has ordained that something be done, He will supply the power for it to be accomplished. If He has not given that power, it may be because it is His will that it not be accomplished. Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Christ Himself was limited in the works—dunamis—He could perform because of the unbelief in some areas (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6)!  XXX

The two faithful servants doubled what was given to them, while the unfaithful servant produced nothing at all. Although the amounts were not as important as the growth, both faithful servants gave Christ a 100% increase on what He bestowed to them.

In this example, we can see the Philadelphian as the servant who received only two talents rather than five. It is possible that he did not possess the same natural ability as the one who received the five. However, even though he had fewer responsibilities, and the scope of what he stewarded was smaller, he was considered just as faithful. The Philadelphian may have had only a little ability, but with that ability he was able to keep God's word and not deny His name according to Revelation 3:8. His power enabled him to keep God's command to persevere (verse 10).

God was pleased with the Philadelphian church. We know from Hebrews 11: 6, that "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." The first two servants in the parable pleased God, therefore it can be said they had faith. Thus, we can conclude that Philadelphia did indeed exercise faith. But, as we peruse the letter further, we will see that the last church of the seven, Laodicea, does not have faith. In contrast to the church at Philadelphia, the Lord is so displeased with Laodicea that it makes Him sick to His stomach. He is so nauseated, that He feels like throwing up. Laodicea is as unfaithful as the one talent servant. Yet she considers herself rich in talents, knowledge and gifts.

The scripture says, to whom much is given much is required. And Christ said to the people of His day that the Ninevites would stand against that generation in the judgment. Why? It is because Nineveh had faith in the word of the prophet Jonah, while One greater than Jonah spoke to His own people, the Jews, and they received Him not. Philadelphia was given little, in contrast, Laodicea has been given much.  

But, all is not lost for Laodicea.  When we read the last verses of Revelation chapter 3 we see that the Lord has not given up on Laodicea, but is chastening and rebuking her out of His deep love and desire to save her. There is hope that she will finally repent of her self-serving ways. Meanwhile, the Lord waits for that day to come. How long will we continue to disappoint Him?

~Raul Diaz

Friday, March 11, 2016

Go, Ask The One Who Wrote It

Go, Ask The One Who Wrote It

A man writes a note expressing his views on a particular subject. He sends this note to some of the people he knows. He wanted their opinion and their input. The people that received the note read it, and afterward, they started to discuss its content. Many thought he meant one thing while others thought something else. Days passed by and no one got back to the author of the note, but they continued to argue amongst themselves over what they thought the writer meant on the note. Finally, they gave the note to a man known for his practical wisdom. He read the note as the people waited.  The reader nodded when he finished reading. The people asked him, "Well, what do you think?" The reader said, "I think this is worth pondering.  We can interpret it in many ways. So I do not know…" They all waited to see if he said something else. Then suddenly the man spoke, "Well you all know me to be a very practical man." "We know that is why we are asking you,' said the crowd. "And, I think this needs a practical solution." "And that is?" asked the impatient crowd. The man said very matter-of-factly, "Well, I am going to find the person who wrote this note and ask him what he meant by this." As the man left the premises to find the author, the crowd stood in place quietly mumbling, "Why did we not think of that?" I believe the Bible presents a similar situation. God inspires men to write it. We read it. We do not readily understand it. So, we discuss and philosophize amongst ourselves what we think God meant. But, we do not ask God Himself what He meant in His Word. 

This week's scripture reading makes a bold statement: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). In the Biblical Greek, the word inspired is translated from the word "theopnuestos." This term means, "God breathed out." In other words, God exhaled the writings of the Bible on the authors. God did this, not by giving the authors of the Biblical books inspired words, but by inspiring the writers. One of my favorite writers elaborates on this, 

The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers. It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God. (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21)

So when God exhaled to these Holy men they "spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1: 21). The same power that God used to give life to Adam when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7), is the same power God used to inspire the authors of the Bible. This power gave life to man, and also gives life to the Words written in the Holy Writ. 

So, that the Bible belongs to the Spirit of God. The Bible is a Spiritual thing. And, Spiritual things are "spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). Only those who have received that Spirit of God understand the things of the Spirit. Only those who receive the Spirit can discern spiritual things. To understand the Bible in its purest simplest form –as the Truth as it is in Jesus - we need the same breath that God gave to those who wrote it. If the Holy Spirit is the author, and He dwells in us, then He should be able to tell us exactly what He meant when then men He inspired wrote as moved by Him. 

The Bible says that "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). Jesus Himself says to all, 

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 
Matthew 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 

To the above quote, the Apostle James may have added, "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2). Jesus also said that the Father is more than willing to give us the Holy Spirit if only we ask for Him (Luke 11:13). Will we continue to discuss amongst ourselves? Or, will we go back to the One that wrote it and let Him breathe His heavenly wisdom upon us? 

Friday, March 04, 2016

The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement 

Atonement is one of those words whose meaning has changed. If we believe God's law as an imposed law, it affects how we understand God's Word. Many think that atonement means "satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; to make amends." Thus, we draw all kinds of wrong conclusions: like Jesus had to die to appease the Father's wrath toward our sin. Some testify that as long as they believed that distortion, His love didn't flow in their heart. It was the truth that set them free and opened their heart to love. 

 In the days of the original King James Bible was translated, atonement had a different meaning than we typically ascribe today. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the word "one" was not only a noun but also a verb. If two people were at odds and I wanted to their restore their friendship I might say, "I am going to one them." I am going to bring them back into unity, into oneness. This concept quickly became known as "at-one" or "atone." We pronounce it atone rather than at-one because that is the old English pronunciation. When you are all by yourself, you are not "all one" but "alone." The process of uniting warring factions is, therefore, called atonement. 

 We are warring with God. And, God wants peace with us. We are far from God, and God wishes to be reunited. The root of this opposition toward and distance from God is distrust of God due to trusting lies that Satan has devised about God. How does God reconcile us to Himself? By revealing in our hearts and minds the truth about Himself and removing the lies. How does He do that? Let us read Romans 5, 

 Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 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. 
Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. 

 Justification by faith is more than a mere legal declaration; it becomes a reconciliation with God, an experience of "at-one-ment." It is now the time for a "final atonement," as Jesus ministers as High Priest on this Day of Atonement. If you don't resist the Holy Spirit, He will impart to you "the mind of Christ," the greatest joy you can have--to be completely "at-one" with Him. When the sinner hears the Good News and his heart responds and he believes, then he experiences justification by faith, which is the subjective gospel. 

 The message of justification by faith is intended to create in the hearts of God's people and His corporate church, that yearning for "at-one-ment" with Him. It was to be like a bride who gladly chooses to "forsake all others" to be with Him. It was to be the end of worldliness in the church, and of all modern idolatry--not imposed by fear but by a mature response to the love of the Bridegroom. 

 In all of Hebrews' – especially chapters 9 and 10 - a great theological acumen is one great promise! The ministry of Christ iAs a High Priest in ancient Israel who was always "for the people," always concerned for them, always revealing to them his nearness and his love.  So, Christ in His second apartment in the heavenly sanctuary, the Most Holy Apartment, is ministering His presence and His blessing to us as the one described in Proverbs 18:24--He is "closer than a brother." He took on Himself the fallen, sinful nature of our father Adam so that He might reach us where we are; therefore, He was "in all points tempted like as we are [tempted], yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). 

Also, Hebrews leaves us with the assurance that all the power of the Father, who brought Jesus from the dead is directed now to the extraordinary work of preparing a people.  Jesus "make[s] you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight" (13:21). Ellen White says, 

 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} 

We shall be His people. We read in Jeremiah: "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Jeremiah 31: 33). We also read in Ezekiel 36, 

Ezekiel 36: 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness; and from all your idols will I cleanse you. 
Ezekiel 36: 26 A new heart 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 give you a heart of flesh. 
Ezekiel 36: 27 And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall heed My ordinances and do them. 
Ezekiel 36: 28 And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God. 

 Will we let Him do it?