Thursday, May 3, 2018

Telling All of God’s Story OR (Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary)


Introduction

To my amazement, as I was reading a book written by a respected Christian author of another faith, I heard him say that many Christians today are telling only half of God’s story.  They assert that we have all sinned and that Jesus died on the cross for us. Then he said it again, “Many Christians today are only telling half the story.  They are leaving off the “bookends” of God’s story!” What could he possibly mean?

By bookends he meant that many do not include as part of the salvation story, the Creation account nor do they tell of the restoration of Creation at the end.  Is that possible?  Is there more to the story than sin and the cross?  Ever since its inception, Seventh-day Adventists have said there is more to the story. We don’t deny sin and the forgiveness of sin nor do we discount the wonder of the cross. But we do say there is more to the story!

The question before us today is this, “What part of the story is missing and why is it important for the every-day-Christian as he or she face temptations and challenges.”  This is our study for today.  There are three biblical themes that we need to consider:

1.     Jesus, Our Self-Sacrificing Saviour
2.     Jesus, Doesn’t Let Go
3.     Jesus, Makes Our Eternity with Him Secure
 
I.          Jesus, Our Self-Sacrificing Saviour

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29, NIV)

The “Lamb of God” is a clear reference to the Passover lamb found in Ex. 12:13,14.  This is when the angel of death passed over the Israelite homes where the blood of a lamb was placed on the door posts of the home.  This led to the exodus – the freedom from bondage and slavery.  This term becomes a metaphor in the book of Revelation – you know, that book that talks about all those beasts! It is the most frequently used symbol in the book of Revelation.  You get the idea, then, that freedom from every kind of bondage is an important theme of the last book of the Bible.  The lamb is vulnerable to its predators and Jesus chose to become vulnerable to the penalty of our sins – not His!  Note Isa. 53:7

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.  

II.        Jesus, Doesn’t Let Go

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb. 7:23-25)

As strange as it may seem, Jesus isn’t only portrayed as the lamb that was slain, He is also seen as the “priest” who killed or sacrificed the lamb!  Now that is strange, and no doubt is meant to raise our curiosity! What’s going on here?
The role of the priest in the sanctuary that went with the Israelites in the desert, was to present the sacrifice that was slain on behalf of the sinner. But the priest then acted as an intermediary. The verse we read explains that Jesus, now in heaven, has a permanent priesthood. Not only is this verse telling us that Jesus does not die, it is also telling us we have direct access to God 24/7! He is our intercessor. No sacrifice stands between us and God.  Jesus is both the sacrifice and the priest.  It’s all about Jesus never letting go—as long as we allow him to be our Priest-Intercessor.  We do have a choice!   But it is also about Jesus preparing the kingdom of God.  Forgiveness is possible only through the sacrifice made by Jesus but it part  the ultimate restoration of  Creation that has been distorted by sin throughout history.

III.       Jesus, Makes Our Eternity with Him Secure

Judgement sometimes sounds like a negative word but if it is in your favor, it is a cherished word! It brings with it a sense of security.  It can actually bring a sense of relief.  In the Sanctuary service, the Day of Atonement was such a time. It was a solemn event as any time of judgment is. It only makes sense that after a sacrifice has been made that a review is made to see if the liberation provided has been accepted. This kind of judgment, of course, takes place before Jesus comes. It would make no sense for this judgement to take place after everyone has already been taken to heaven.  This is why we refer to this judgment as the Pre-Advent Judgment or the judgement that is determined at the time just before Jesus comes—Daniel refers to this as the “culmination of the ages.”

“But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb. 8:26b-28)

Note Dan. 9:24 in this context:
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

This judgment/Day of Atonement is critical. It is a solemn and critical time for each person.  It is critical for the future of the universe.  The decisions made impact the whole universe of God.

Through a careful study Daniel 8 and Dan. 9, Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Day of Atonement, this phase of Christ’s ministry, began in 1844. It is one of the clearest signs that Jesus is about to come. Using the sanctuary service motif, Daniel pointes to the assurance of what Christ has done for us in the Holy Place or Part of the sanctuary.  He is now serving as our priest to the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary. Indeed, the final phase of the restoration of the Creation talked about earlier is now underway! The first angel’s message of Revelation 14 is clearly a call to action:
“He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:7)

In Summary

The news is good!  The same Jesus that sacrificed Himself for us, that intercedes for us is now making provision, so nothing will ever break-up our relationship with Him again. Security comes at a cost – for Jesus, He gave Himself as the “Lamb of God.”  For us, it means surrender of self and aligning ourselves with the principles of God kingdom. 

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:2-5)

So, there we have it, the full story of God in brief, bookends and all!

1.     Earth and people restored to the purpose of Creation
2.     The sin problem judged and called for what it is.
3.     The character of God is upheld in the sacrifice that Jesus made.
4.     God’s people have willingly, against all odds, surrendered themselves to be remade into His image.

And the universe exclaims,

“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” – EG White, The Great Controversy, pp. 299-300.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Cosmic Battle -- How to Win!

 

Sabbath School Bible Study
April 7, 2018
Larry R. Evans, SS Teacher

Introduction

You may have missed the news report, but we are in war. In fact, we have been in war for some time.  Regardless, of your political persuasion, neither Trump nor Obama started it!  In case you missed it, I found the transcript of the report:

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
“It has come at last—
salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters
has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
before our God day and night.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!
And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!
But terror will come on the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you in great anger,
knowing that he has little time.” (Rev. 12:7-12, NLT)

Let me assure you, the Dragon didn’t lose gracefully. He is the posterchild of a poor loser.  No doubt, on his way out of heaven he looked back and said something like, “You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ll take your children with me. You’ll be sorry.  Just wait!” And so, the war began long ago. Whether we like it or not, sides are being taken.  Despite the agonies of this war, and they will only increase, the outcome is certain.  This war and its outcome will be our study for the coming quarter. The good news is that there is a survival guide! Let’s get started.

How to Survive

According to the news report of Revelation 12:7-12, those who survive do so by having a unique protection and by adopting an unusual strategy.  I thought it would be good before we get into discussing the specifics of this war that we first learn how to survive. I say this because knowing the survival tactics helps identify the kind of war we are facing.  Note carefully the following:

“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die.”  (Rev. 12:11)

The survival tactics reveal that this is no ordinary war. Those who survive aren’t in love with themselves. They are, in fact, willing to die. So, staying alive on this earth isn’t what defines a winner!  We defeat the enemy by the sacrifice made by Jesus, the Lamb AND by our testimony.  Testimony about what?  Our love and allegiance to the Lamb!! This is enough about survival for now. Clearly this is a different kind of war.

How the War Got Started

As we saw, the survivors are those who are not in love with themselves. This hints that love of self may have been a key point in the origin of this war.  In fact, it was a factor.  The Bible pulls back the curtain, so we can peer into history.

“How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isa. 14:12-14)

 “The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“‘In the pride of your heart
you say, “I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god
in the heart of the seas.”
But you are a mere mortal and not a god,
though you think you are as wise as a god.” (Ezek. 28:1,2, NIV)

It is strange indeed but is it really?  Don’t most arguments, fights and wars begin with thinking that someone wants more, deserves more and demands more?  Pride fuels aggression and prevents repentance.  So it happened in heaven. Why?  I don’t know but neither did the Apostle Paul who called it “the mystery of iniquity.” (2 Thess. 2:7).

A Conspiracy in the Land

My computer dictionary defines conspiracy as: “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.”  This is exactly how the Bible describes strategy of this cosmic war: 
“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring —those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17, NIV)

Are you noticing how things are beginning to come together?  Those who survive do so by their allegiance to the Lamb even if it costs them their lives. And here we discover that the Dragon takes his anger our on those who hold fast to Jesus.  Their testimony is revealed, the Bible says, by keeping God’s commands or commandments as the KJV puts it.

This cosmic war mentioned in Rev. 12:17 is spelled out in Revelation 13 and 14.  In both chapters a key element of contention is over the issue of worship!  This comes as no surprise because as we have seen in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, Satan’s desire is self-worship. Anything that gets in the way of this sparks an intense anger and even hatred. (Remember how this was played out with Cain and Able?).  The unmasking of the conspiracy is one of the key purposes of Bible prophecy.  Note the length the Dragon’s representative goes to quell a worship directed away from him.

“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.”  Rev. 13:15-17

Indeed, a conspiracy!  The Dragon or Satan seeks to do harm to anyone or anything that reminds him of Jesus.  His own self-absorption fueled by selfish pride knows no limits of anger and destruction.  But the battle isn’t without a response!
 
The Lamb Speaks

My dictionary re conspiracy doesn’t stop there with overt actions of repression.  It also speaks of “a conspiracy of silence” which is defined as, an agreement to say nothing about an issue that should be generally known.”  Indeed, silencing the “woman” (the Church) described in Rev. 12:17 is part of the strategy of conspiracy.  However, heaven is not silent, nor should we be!

Three angels or messengers from heaven are sent to all “who live on the earth” (14:6).  As you might have guessed, to counter the conspiracy the message that is announced focuses on worship. But worship of whom?  Note Revelation 14:7,

He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (NIV)

In doing so, the very heart of the 10 Commandments is raised to a unique prominence in the final days of this cosmic battle,

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” – Exodus 20:8-11

This battle is intense and lengthy. The third messenger from heaven shares an important bit of news that must not before gotten by those feeling the wrath of the Dragon:

“This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”  Rev. 14:12.
 
The Lamb Rejoices and Brings Healing

The conspiracy’s deception has resulted not only in physical harm but spiritual harm as well.  Is it any wonder that those who have seen families and friends turn against them that a special healing is necessary!  The Lamb, whose blood was shared for His people, offers the very kind of healing needed,

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  Rev. 21:6,7.

The Conspiracy Ended

“The great controversy is ended.  Sin and sinners are no more.  The entire universe is clean.  One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation.  From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space.  From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” – The Great Controversy, p.678.

What a way to end the conspiracy!  What a revelation! What a declaration! What a truth needed today:  “God is love!”



-->