Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 23, No. 6 Straight and Narrow June 2014
In this Issue:
Are the Feasts an Option?
The Good Shepherd Poster
Are Miracles a Test of Truth?
Laundry Soap Recipe
West Virginia Camp Meeting
Are the Feasts an Option?
Have you ever heard of the cute, little car called the MINI Cooper? One of the unique features of the MINI Cooper is the vast array of options and option packages that are available. The base 2014 MINI Cooper has a 6-speed manual transmission, but you can get an optional 6-speed automatic. There is a premium bundle option package that has a panoramic sunroof, automatic cruise control, a premium sound system, rain sensitive windshield wipers, and so on. You can get another option package which helps you to have navigation, traffic information, and sound information. There is also a sports package, with added flasher wheels, sports seats, LED headlights, and so on. There all kinds of colors of paints and trim. There are probably more options available for the MINI Cooper than for any other car. I asked an owner about his car, and he said, When you order these cars, you go through a big checklist and you get a car exactly like you want.
I am not selling MINI Coopers or advocating that you should buy one, but the fact is many things have options. We buy different kinds of cars, we may eat different kinds of food, you may like a black suit instead of a blue suit, or a blue shirt, while others like red shirts or white shirts. We have options about many things.
Some people live in a Christian world in which they believe there are options in the way that they can worship or not worship, options in what they believe or do not believe. Dear reader, there are certain core, fundamental principles of our beliefs and practices that are not optional. Now, I am writing partly in response to a message that was recently given at a camp meeting by a very good brother of mine whom I love very much. In this message he stated that keeping the feasts was neither right nor wrong, but something optional. One could choose to keep them and all is well, and if one chose not to keep them, all is still well. The concept includes having an option whether to give or to not give notoriety to the times that these feasts occur. A comparison was made to the early church, when circumcision seemed to be optional.
Let me state clearly that I do not believe that setting out that the ceremonial feasts are optional today is the will of God, and we will see from inspiration why this is so.
Let us begin by asking a very simple question. How many commandments are in the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue? You might think that is a strange question. Why would I ask how many commandments are in the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments? Some might say, in fact, that there are one hundred, or they could say that there are hundreds more that are linked to the Mosaic law, but what does the Bible say about these matters? What do we know about the Ten Commandment law? What do we know about the statues, laws, and judgments, and how do we relate these two groups together? I believe that inspiration has an exact answer and that we do not need to be in confusion.
In Deuteronomy chapter 4, we read:
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it. (Deuteronomy 4:13, 14)
Notice two things in these verses. In verse 13 the Ten Commandments are mentioned. These were written with the finger of God (see Exodus 31:18), but in verse 14 are certain statues and judgments that God gave to Moses, who then gave them to the people.
Now let us turn to 2 Kings 21:8:
Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
Do we see two distinct categories at this pointthe law which God commanded, the same law that the Bible says was written with his finger, and the law that Moses gave, another law which was an oral law?
In Daniel we read about the law of Moses. Daniel is praying and says:
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. (Daniel 9:11)
This verse speaks about a law called the law of Moses, and it has something to do with a curse which is poured out upon Israel because they had been disobedient to it.
Earlier we noted that the Ten Commandments were written with the finger of God and were placed in a very important and sacred place. They were put in the ark of God. Let us turn to Exodus 25, for we want to have a biblical basis for what we are saying, and let us read verse 16:
And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
And that testimony, of course, was the Ten Commandments. The sacred Ten Commandments were placed in the ark, but the ark also was a repository for something else. Let us read Deuteronomy 31 about this:
And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel. . . .
And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. (Deuteronomy 31: 9, 2426)
Is there a difference between putting something inside something and putting something in the side of something? Of course, there is a difference. If I put something inside something, it is right in the middle, but if I put something in the side of something, there must some kind of a tray, pouch, or other holding device on the side of, not inside of, the article. When the ark was made, there was some way to put the law of Moses in the side of the ark. We know Aarons rod that budded and the pot of manna were also put there, as well (Hebrews 9:4).
These two laws have different authors, and they were written on different material. One law was written with the finger of God, while the other was written with the hand of Moses. One was put inside the ark, and the other was put in the side of the ark. Do you see that God is trying to show that there is a distinct difference between these two laws? It is not just simply one law, under a general heading.
As we consider the text in Daniel 9, it is interesting that curses were poured out from this law, and it speaks there of what we read in Deuteronomy 31that this law of Moses would act as a witness against them. In this law there are curses and there are penalties for disobedience that are totally lacking in the Ten Commandments. In fact, if you go through all the Ten Commandments, you will not find one curse. You never find a curse or a penalty in the Ten Commandments, and for this cause the law of Moses was said to be against us. Notice Colossians 2:14:
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
Certainly something was nailed to the cross, and it was something that was contrary to us. Now, dear reader, can you tell me if there was anything contrary to us in the Ten Commandments? Is there anything against us in the Ten Commandments? It was not against any of the new Christians to refrain from idolatry, from theft, from lying, from murder. Paul speaks of the Ten Commandments, and he speaks of them very positively, never as something that was against them, never as something which was contrary to them. For example, notice what Paul says about the Ten Commandments:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7)
What law says thou shalt not covet? The Ten Commandments. So, Paul is speaking here about the Ten Commandments. Soon after this, Paul notes:
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Romans 7:12)
And in verse 14, we read:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
So, this law is spiritual, it is good, and it is holy. Notice the language: For we know that the law was spiritual. Is that what the verse says? No, it doesnt say that, does it? It says, For we know that the law is spiritual. Now what is the difference? One is still in effect today. If I just say was, it could imply that it is not now, but was at a prior time. However, when Paul says the law is spiritual and the law is holy, the law just wasnt (past tense) holy, just, and good, but the law (Ten Commandments) is, today, holy, just, and good.
For an example, we could turn to Ephesians 6.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right [all present tense]. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. (Ephesians 6:13)
To honor the fifth commandment is a good thing.
Something that was part of the law of Moses that was closely connected to the life of all the Jewish people is circumcision.
If we turn to Acts 15:5, we notice the connection between circumcision and the law of Moses:
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
There was a tremendous debate in the early church on whether the young men converts or the male children born into the faith had to be circumcised. Circumcision had been given as a sign to help demonstrate, in a physical way, that the Jews were Gods people. Spiritually it was to represent a cutting away of the flesh, a ceasing to depend upon the flesh and to depend fully upon God. Circumcision was not part of the Ten Commandments, and the Ten Commandments say nothing about circumcision whatsoever. Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:19:
Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
Paul is very plain that the Ten Commandments and circumcision are not in any way connected. The moral law remains, but Paul says circumcision is gone. Let us turn to Hebrews 7 and notice some principles that Paul brings out:
For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. (Hebrews 7:12)
Is Paul talking about the Ten Commandment law? Maybe the law has been changed, and the Sabbath is no longer Saturday, but Sunday. No! Paul is talking about a law that deals with a priesthood. Show me anywhere in the Ten Commandments where it speaks about priests or a priesthood. Of course, it doesnt. Paul is here discussing the law of Moses that dealt with all the regulations. Continuing:
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. (Hebrews 7:1316)
If you were to be a priest in Israel, you had to be a Levite, and you had to be a special Levite, not just any Levite, but here comes someone from the tribe of Judah, and he is going to be a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. Paul said there had to be a change of this law, and this law involved what he called carnal commandments. Remember, however, that in Romans 7:14, Paul said that the law is spiritual.
In Hebrews, chapter 8, speaking of the priests, Paul says:
Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. (Hebrews 8:5)
There was a pattern of things that was shown to Moses, and this pattern was a shadow of something real. Now a shadow can show you the outline. It can give you an understanding of what something looks like. You might even be able to see certain actions performed through watching the motions of a shadow, but the shadow is not the reality. If I have a photograph of my daughter, I might like to look at the picture when she is not around. It helps to remind me of her, but once she is here, I dont need the picture anymore. I have the reality. I have that which is of substance. A shadow has no substance. You can walk on it, but you cannot really touch it, nor can you weigh a shadow. You can block a shadow, but it has no substance. It has no reality.
The shadows and types were given by God. They were truth for a time, but they are no longer applicable in the same way that they were at one time, and we shall see why.
We need to understand that a transition took place after the times of the Old Testament and that, today, we are removed almost two thousand years since that time. The question we must answer is this: Is there any difference in the way that we relate to the law of Moses today, including circumcision and keeping feasts, and the way that the apostles related to these things in their day and time? I would like to propose to you that there is, indeed, a difference, and part of the reason for the difference is the fact that truth is progressive. Now, I know you have heard that said many times about this issue of the trinitarian doctrine, for instance. Pastors might say, Well, weve accepted the trinity today because truth is progressive, and we have learned more about that now. However, the fact is, God raised up this Advent Movement on a platform of
truth. There were certain things that platform did not contain and certain things that it did contain, but that platform of truth, we are told, is a platform of truth that would take us from the time then present until Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven. (See chapter 1 of The Foundation of Our Faith.) In other words, there might be some refining, there might be some tweaking, there might be some elevating of that truth to a higher plane than hitherto has been given (See The Home Missionary, July 1, 1897, paragraph 1.) but friends, we do not need new, radical messages brought in to our movement because we have already been given the truth by God.
Whatsoever Thy Soul Desireth
In Deuteronomy we find something, if you havent read it before, that will be shocking to you. Let us begin with a little context:
And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always. (Deuteronomy 14:23)
God is speaking here about a second tithe, or an additional tithe, because it was very clear that the people were not to use the first tithe themselves. It was to go to the priests, but here God is giving instruction about an additional tithe, and notice what he says can be done with it. He says there would be a place shown to them where they would worship. At first the tabernacle was in Shiloh; then worship was established in Jerusalem. Continuing, Moses says:
And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household. (vs. 2426)
The word lust in verse 26 is from the Hebrew avah which is better translated to desire after. It does not mean to lust in necessarily a sinful way, just that which you desire, but notice what the soul might desireoxen, sheep, or wine (which we might think to be unfermented wine), but notice that the next expression is strong drink. Continuing:
And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest. (Deuteronomy 14:2729)
I recently picked up a hitchhiker. He was an interesting guy. He had a little dog with him and a cat on his back, along with his backpack. As we were traveling he said, You know, I am going to stop and visit Morgantown, West Virginia, for about a week. I really like Morgantown.
I asked, What do you like about Morgantown so well?
He replied, Its a big party town. They drink more Anheuser-Busch [a brand of beer] there than any other place in the world per capita. So this man was on his way to drink what his soul desired.
But returning to our text in Deuteronomy, does this text mean that, like the hitchhiker, we could go to Morgantown and start partying? Does it mean we can have our wine, and even have strong drink, because that is what it says Israel could do at the time the counsel was given?
It may seem difficult for teetotalers, health reformers, and temperance workers of today to realize that even fermented strong drink and wine, at that point, were permitted. The question is, why?
Let us begin by noting that in times past God often winked at gross ignorance. God formerly allowed practices which in his sovereign will he would never permit or approve. However, the time comes when on each point God calls for all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30). Those who persist in these practices, in spite of counsel and warning, will have, as Jesus said, no cloke for their sin (John 15:22) anymore.
God says that during this time of ignorance prior to Israel being enlightened, God did not hold them wholly accountable, even though their deeds were far short of the ideal. But Gods long suffering extends to all. When Jesus was upon the cross, he said: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). At one time Paul was very ignorant and persecuted the church, but he did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13). There comes a time, however, when our ignorance, like Pauls ignorance, must cease and repentance must start because God cannot continue to wink at ignorance during enlightened times.
Strong drink and wine were not the only things that God winked at in times past. For another example, let us look at Exodus 21:
Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve . . . (Exodus 21:1, 2)
Wait a minute! Buy a servant? Servant means slave, and if you buy a slave, here is how you do it. Do you mean God allowed Israel to have slaves? Yes, he did. A man could even sell his daughter to become a slave (Exodus 21:7). God did try to make provision for their welfare. For instance, in verse 20, we read:
And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. (Exodus 21:20)
In other words, you could not beat your slave to death and do certain other things. If you knocked his tooth out, he could go free (Exodus 21:27), but friends, even in the Christian church in the time of Jesus and in the time of Paul, slavery was not immediately abolished. The masters were instructed to deal kindly with their slaves:
And, ye masters, do the same things unto them [referring to the slaves], forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. (Ephesians 6:9)
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)
Although it was not Gods sovereign will for slavery to exist in the time of Paul, it was an option in the time of Paul. Is it an option today, however? Do you think slavery is right today? Just because it was an option then, should it still be an option today? Was it Gods sovereign will that there ever, ever be a slave? Friends, we are all slaves to sin, but God never wanted anyone to be a slave to sin or a slave to another man, with men ruling over men. This was never Gods design, never Gods will, but he allowed it because of the ignorance. He says, however, the time of ignorance is past.
God gave Moses laws designed to help create stable homes; however, these laws did not directly abolish the practice of polygamy. They did try, however, to discourage it. You can read about that in Leviticus 18:18 and in Deuteronomy 17:17. God allowed Abraham, then David, to have multiple wives and after David, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Polygamy was not abolished in the times of the New Testament, either, unless you wanted to be a bishop or a deacon:
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [synonymous with elder], he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife. (1 Timothy 3:1, 2)
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife . . . (1 Timothy 3:12)
Does this mean a Christian man, at that time, could have had more than one wife? Yes, that is what it says.
In the times of the patriarchs, polygamy, while discouraged, was allowed. In the time of David and under the kings, polygamy was allowed. Polygamy was allowed in the time of the New Testament; it was an option. But now I ask, is polygamy an option for Christians today? We would all agree that it is not. Why not? Because it was never Gods sovereign will in the beginning. God allowed the people, through their ignorance, to maintain this practice for a time, but today he calls everyone to repent.
In a similar way, God made provision for the practice of divorce, but Jesus said in Matthew 19:8 that from the beginning it was not so but for a time he allowed divorce, and not only because of adultery (Deuteronomy 24:1, 3). God gave instructions to safeguard the rights of women, to mitigate the sufferings that resulted from these practices, and to protect the marriage relationship from grosser abuses. Whereas on the one hand God did not forbid Abraham, for instance, to take a second wife (Hagar), on the other hand he did not protect him from the evils that resulted from a curse of such an action. The supreme example would be the problems that Solomon got into because of his wives.
Now returning to the issue of strong drink and fermented wine, we should know that in the beginning neither was strictly prohibited except to those engaged in religious services of the tabernacle and apparently also to some civil magistrates, but the evils of wine and of strong drink have clearly been portrayed in the scriptures. For example, Proverbs 20:1 states: Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. There are very clear pronouncements against alcohol in Proverbs 23:2932, and a curse was placed upon those who overindulged in the drinking of wine (Habakkuk 2:15). First Corinthians 10:31 says, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, and lying drunk in a gutter does not bring any glory to God. Ive been there; I know. God tells us:
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17)
Intoxicants defile the temple of God, and their use cannot be considered a means of glorifying God. Paul abandoned the use of everything harmful to his body. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, we read:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Paul says, I have brought my body into strict temperance on all matters because after I have preached to others, I do not want to become a castaway. So, remember to take care of the temple God has given you.
There is no excuse today for the argument that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the use of intoxicants on the basis that God once permitted them. As we already noted, God also once permitted such practices as slavery, polygamy, and no-fault divorce, if you please. The Bible warns further that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God. So let us not be deceived on this issue. There are things that we can look at where clearly we see a line of progression of truth, a line of understanding what is right and what is wrong, for God says you were at one time in ignorance about many of these things, but I am calling you now to repent and because of the hardness of your hearts, I have allowed certain things to continue, but no more.
Now how does all this relate to the annual feasts? Are they optional for the people? At one time they clearly were commanded. I think we need to understand that the Jewish people looked forward to these feasts, for they were times of great national celebration, times of festivity, and times of happiness and joy. Let us look at chapter 18 of Acts:
When they desired him [Paul] to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. (Acts 18:20, 21)
Paul said he had a desire to go and attend that feast.
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. (Psalm 122:16)
Israel loved to go to Jerusalem and attend the annual feasts.
Paul kept the Passover. It was the national festival of the Jews. He did this with the coverts in Philippi. In Acts 20:6, he says:
And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
So they had been there for the Passover and Unleavened Bread (they are synonymous, Luke 22:1), and he mentions Pentecost also. Paul was willing to be all things to all people, if he could win people to Christ, as long as he did not compromise.
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:2022)
I would like to propose to you that the years from AD 31 to AD 70 were years of a transition period from the Jewish laws and customs into the Christian observance and the Christian ordinances, and Paul, indeed, kept some of the Jewish laws that were not mandatory after the death of Christ. From Sketches from the Life of Paul, we read:
Paul did not bind himself nor his converts to the ceremonies and customs of the Jews, with their varied forms, types, and sacrifices . . . (Ellen White, Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 105)
Now while Paul, at times, kept some of these observances, she says that he did not bind himself nor his converts to them. In other words, he did not feel it was mandatory, but it was optional at that time.
After the decision of the council at Jerusalem concerning this question, many were still of this opinion, but did not then push their opposition any farther. The council had, on that occasion, decided that the converts from the Jewish church might observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law if they chose, while those ordinances should not be made obligatory upon converts from the Gentiles. (Ibid., p. 121)
The Passover, I mentioned, was considered the national festival of the Jews:
Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. He, the spotless Lamb of God, was about to present Himself as a sin offering, that He would thus bring to an end the system of types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to His death. As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He instituted in its place the service that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice. The national festival of the Jews was to pass away forever. The service which Christ established was to be observed by His followers in all lands and through all ages. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 652; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
What is the service that he established? We call it the Lords Supper, or communion, two great festivalsthe Passover and communion. The Passover was like the Jews Fourth of July. It was the big holiday of the year, and there was a time of transition that these people had to go through. From about AD 31 until the temple was destroyed, there was a transition that was occurring because of the hardness of the hearts of the people, and you see it today, friends.
You show someone the truth about the Sabbath, you show someone the truth about the state of the dead, and you try to get them to come out of the fallen churches, and it is hard. It is a struggle for them to pull away from that which they have been associated with all their lives. The same can be true in Adventism. You show some Adventist how the testimony has been ignored or you show them how the church today is in apostasy, and it is just like pulling teeth to get the people to follow the message of Revelation 18:4. Sometimes it takes a transition period for change to happen. The people have to learn a little bit to be able to grasp it and to go with it, but friends, we are coming down to near the end of time, and if there was ever a time when ignorance cannot any longer be offered as an excuse, it should be today.
Let us consider the question, can Passover be gone and yet the Feast of Unleavened Bread be kept? The Desire of Ages says that Passover, the national festival of the Jews, was to be done away with forever. Does this mean that if the Passover is gone that I should still keep Unleavened Bread or that I should still keep Tabernacles? Remember, Unleavened Bread was synonymous with Passover. In fact, Luke 22:1 reads:
Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.
They were synonymous. Technically there was the day that they killed the Passover and then you had the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but they all considered it as one. Can we keep Tabernacles or even Unleavened Bread and yet believe that Passover is forever gone? Are these annual feasts an option today? Was it Gods sovereign will for them to continue to be optional today because they were optional at one time during this transition period? No, and we will soon see why the answer is a very firm no.
Truth for Today
Let us get to the heart of the matter by looking at some very point-blank statements:
Paul and Barnabas soon after returned to Antioch in Syria, where they again labored for some time; and many Gentiles there embraced the doctrine of Christ. But certain Jews from Judea raised a general consternation among the believing Gentiles by agitating the question of circumcision. (White, Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 63)
Now what was the question about that was being agitated? Circumcision. Continuing,
They asserted with great assurance, that none could be saved without being circumcised and keeping the entire ceremonial law.
This was an important question, and one which affected the church in a very great degree. Paul and Barnabas met it with promptness, and opposed introducing the subject to the Gentiles. They were opposed in this by the believing Jews of Antioch, who favored the position of those from Judea. The matter resulted in much discussion and want of harmony in the church, until finally the church of Antioch, apprehending that a division among them would occur from any further discussion of the question, decided to send Paul and Barnabas, together with some responsible men of Antioch, to Jerusalem, to lay the matter before the apostles and elders. (Ibid.)
As you read the stories of the early church, remember that Timothys father was a Greek, and Timothy was not circumcised when he was born. As he was traveling with Paul, however, the people found out, and it caused a prejudice and a dissension at that time. So, what did Paul do? He had him circumcised (Acts 16:13). On the other hand, Paul would not let Titus be circumcised because it was in a different place and in a different situation (Galatians 2:15). Circumcision during this transition time was optional; there is no question about that. Lets continue in Sketches from the Life of Paul:
There [Jerusalem] they were to meet delegates from the different churches, and those who had come to attend the approaching annual festivals. Meanwhile all controversy was to cease until a final decision should be made by the responsible men of the church. This decision was then to be universally accepted by the various churches throughout the country.
The apostles, in making their way to Jerusalem, called upon the brethren of the cities through which they passed, and encouraged them by relating their experience in the work of God, and the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith. Upon arriving at Jerusalem, the delegates from Antioch related before the assembly of the churches the success that had attended the ministry with them, and the confusion that had resulted from the fact that certain converted Pharisees declared that the Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved.
The Jews were not generally prepared to move as fast as the providence of God opened the way. (Ibid., pp. 63, 64)
Sometimes Seventh-day Adventists are not prepared to move any faster, either. We are just about as set in our ways as were the Jews. She continues:
It was evident to them from the result of the apostles labors among the Gentiles, that the converts among the latter people would far exceed the Jewish converts; and that if the restrictions and ceremonies of the Jewish law were not made obligatory upon their accepting the faith of Christ, the national peculiarities of the Jews, which kept them distinct from all other people, would finally disappear from among those who embraced the gospel truths.
The Jews had prided themselves upon their divinely appointed services; and they concluded that as God once specified the Hebrew manner of worship, it was impossible that he should ever authorize a change in any of its specifications. (Ibid., p. 64)
We read here that the Jews prided themselves in their divinely appointed services. It is very clear that they were given to them by God. There is no question about that, and they prided themselves upon it and thought that God had given them those services and would never change them. Continuing,
They decided that Christianity must connect itself with the Jewish laws and ceremonies. They were slow to discern to the end of that which had been abolished by the death of Christ . . . (Ibid.)
Now there are a couple of key words hereabolished and end. What does end mean? What does abolished mean? I am not trying to play with words, and I do not think Ellen White was trying to play with words, either. These are straight-forward, understandable concepts. She says there was an end; something was abolished. We are at the end of it. Continuing:
. . . and to perceive that all their sacrificial offerings had but prefigured the death of the Son of God, in which type had met its antitype rendering valueless the divinely appointed ceremonies and sacrifices of the Jewish religion. (Ibid.)
Some feast keepers will declare: We dont keep the sacrifices; we just keep the days; we keep the ideas, but inspiration says that not only the sacrifices, but the ceremonies became valueless. Now, I did not say that; that is what this prophetess said; it is what God has sent his people, and you can believe it or not. It is up to you, but it is the gospel truth. Continuing, and please notice this very important statement:
Paul had prided himself upon his Pharisaical strictness; but after the revelation of Christ to him on the road to Damascus, the mission of the Saviour, and his own work in the conversion of the Gentiles, were plain to his mind; and he fully comprehended the difference between a living faith and a dead formalism. (Ibid., p. 65)
Do you see two things contrasted herea living faith and a dead formalism?
Paul still claimed to be one of the children of Abraham, and kept the ten commandments in letter and in spirit as faithfully as he had ever done before his conversion to Christianity. But . . . (Ibid.)
When you see that little word but, it means something is changing.
But he knew that the typical ceremonies must soon altogether cease, since that which they had shadowed forth had come to pass, and the light of the gospel was shedding its glory upon the Jewish religion, giving a new significance to its ancient rites. (Ibid.)
Do you see the part that is italicized? . . . he knew that the typical ceremonies must soon altogether cease . . . There was a point in Pauls experience when the observance of the feasts had not yet altogether ceased. Do you see that? In other words, the feasts were at that time an option. But, what was going to happen? Were they going to partially cease? No, the testimony says they were soon to altogether cease.
How soon is soon? We have now passed nearly two millennium since that time. Almost two thousand years ago they were to soon altogether cease, so I ask you the question: Have we finally come to that time? Has Christianity existed for two thousand years, and they still havent altogether ceased yet? Have we been in Adventism now for one hundred sixty plus years and have not seen the light on this? Has God has been so displeased with us over this but not enough so to show us the truth on this matter? I dont think so. I do not think so at all.
Concerning the ordinance of the Lords Supper, including foot washing, we are told:
This ordinance does not speak so largely to mans intellectual capacity as to his heart. His moral and spiritual nature needs it. If his disciples had not needed this, it would not have been left for them as Christs last established ordinance in connection with, and including, the last supper. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, June 14, 1898)
Now notice the next statement:
It was Christs desire to leave to his disciples an ordinance that would do for them the very thing they needed
They needed something. You may want something, and you may need something. What is the difference? If I need something, it is because it is mandatory or essential, but if I want something, it is optional. So, if it is something that I need, it is not optional, friends. Continuing,
. . . that would serve to disentangle them from the rites and ceremonies which they had hitherto engaged in as essential, and which the reception of the gospel made no longer of any force. To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah. (Ibid.)
To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah! Now, beloved, many times we have done things in ignorance or because of the hardness of our hearts, and we just couldnt clearly see straight, but I want to tell you, if you love the God of this universe, the sovereign of the universe, you do not want to insult him. Do you want to say: Look, the sacrifice of Jesus just isnt enough; Ive got to add to it? The divinely appointed ceremonies taught the people, they helped them to understand the reality or substance that was coming, that the one prefigured by the lambs would actually come and die as a sacrifice for the human race so that my sin and your sin could be forgiven, so that the besetting sin of anger or of mistrust or of whatever it might be can be overcome fully and completely through the blood of Jesus Christ. Believers today, like those disciples, have a need, and that is to be disentangled from the rites and the ceremonies and the shadows, and the reason is because there is no power in them. Continuing, we read:
Eating of the body, and drinking of the blood, of Christ, not merely at the sacramental service, but daily partaking of the bread of life to satisfy the souls hunger, would be in receiving his word and doing his will. (Ibid.)
And this is where we should be today, friends. We need a living faith today. We need a living faith based upon breaking the bread of life and of daily partaking of it and not a dead formalism.
Again, what about the idea of the feasts being optional? I want to speak very directly to this matter. If the feasts are right and if they are true, then how dare we tell people that they do not have to obey them because they are optional. If they are right and if they are true, we should be damned for telling people to avoid them. If, on the other hand, the feasts are an insult to Jehovah, how dare we teach and preach that the people should do them, or that they, at least, have the option to do them and become complicit in the insult of our God?
God does not wish us to be neutral on such important matters. We have been told:
If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency. Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 280)
The question might be asked: Is it wrong to attend feasts, even though we know that they are wrong, as long as we find good fellowship at the attendance and acceptance? We have been told:
I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors. I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach error that is a deadly poison to the soul and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has set us free and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffetings of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness. (Ellen White, Early Writings, pp. 124, 125)
We should never give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence. (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 152)
On a historical basis, the Adventist pioneers did not teach that we should keep the feasts. J. N. Andrews, for instance, in making a remark about a paper that O. R. L. Crosier had written, said:
The ordinances of the Jewish Church were abolished; the ordinances of the Christian Church have taken their place. (J. N. Andrews, A Review of the Remarks of O.R.L. Crozier on the Institution, Design and Abolition of the Sabbath, p. 23)
William Miller, as quoted by James White, stated:
I say, and I believe I am supported by the Bible, that the moral law was never given to the Jews as a people exclusively, but they were for a season the keepers of it in charge. And through them the law, oracles and testimony have been handed down to us. See Pauls clear reasoning in Rom. 2,3,4, on that point. Then, says the objector, we are under the same obligation to keep the sabbaths of weeks, months and years that the Jews were. No, sir; you will observe that these were not included in the decalogue. . . . Only one kind of Sabbaths was given to Adam, and only one remains for us. See Hosea 2,11. I will cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. All the Jewish sabbaths did cease, when Christ nailed them to his cross. Col. 2,14-17. Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. These were properly called Jewish sabbaths. Hosea says, her sabbaths. But the Sabbath of which we are speaking, God calls my Sabbath. Here is clear distinction between the creation Sabbath and the ceremonial. The one is perpetual; the others were merely shadows of good things to come, and are limited in Christ. (Millers Life and Views, pp. 161, 162; quoted by James White in Life Incidents, pp. 284286)
James White had something to say about this, as well:
The feasts, new moons and sabbaths of the ceremonial law, which Paul declared to be abolished in consequence of the abrogation of that code, have been particularly noticed already. That the Sabbath of the Lord is not included in their number the following facts evince: (James White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 18, 1862)
And then he goes on to list the evidence that he has for that point. Writing a few years earlier in 1849 in The Present Truth, he said:
The first covenant which had ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary, was a shadow of the second, and better covenant. The law was the shadow, and the Gospel is the body, that cast the shadow; and as all shadows reach to their body, and no farther, it is very clear that the sacrifices and oblations, new-moons, feast days, and Sabbaths of the Jewish law ceased, when the precious body and blood of the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the cross. This is what Paul calls nailing it to his cross. (James White, The Present Truth, August 1849)
Uriah Smith in The Bible Institute on page 139, said:
The feast days, new moons and ceremonial sabbaths which as shadows were to cease at the cross, God declared that he would take away. Hos.2:11. (Uriah Smith, The Bible Institute, p. 139; 1878)
And you might find this reference to the Waldenses interesting. Christian Edwards is quoting from page 38 of the work Luthers Fore-Runners:
That we are to worship one only God, who is able to help us, and not the Saints departed; that we ought to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that there was no necessity of observing other feasts. (Christian Edwards, Facts of Faith, p. 124; published in 1943)
James and Ellen White and Feast of Tabernacles Statements
Now it might be objected that Ellen White made a statement such as this one:
Well would it be for us to have a feast of tabernacles . . . (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, November 17, 1885)
Have you ever read that statement before? What does she mean by this? Well, I think it is best to let her describe what she means. As we look at the context of this, and of other similar statements, we can find out exactly what she means. We dont have to be in question about it. In The Bible Echo, Ellen White wrote:
Shall we not gather our forces together, and come up to the feast of tabernacles? (The Bible Echo, December 8, 1893)
The Bible Echo was an Australian publication. (Ellen White was in Australia at this time.) Since she said, Shall we not gather our forces together, and come up to the feasts of tabernacles, it could sound encouraging to those who believe in keeping the feasts, but let us continue reading in this statement:
Let us not treat this matter as one of little importance, but let the army of the Lord be on the ground to represent the work and cause of God in Australia. Let no one plead an excuse at such a time. One of the reasons why we have appointed the camp-meeting to be held at Melbourne, is that we desire the people of that vicinity to become acquainted with our doctrines and works. We want them to know what we are, and what we believe. Let every one pray, and make God his trust. Those who are barricaded with prejudice must hear the warning message for this time. We must find our way to the hearts of the people. Therefore come to the camp-meeting, even though you have to make a sacrifice to do so. (Ibid.)
Did you notice the date? The brethren were having a camp meeting in December. She is writing about coming to this feast of tabernacles, but I want to ask you when the literal Feast of Tabernacles was held. It was held in the autumn, not in the winter. She is using this phrase as a figurative expression for the camp meeting, as a time of rejoicing and a time when they could come together and study Godís word and learn.
On another occasion, she said:
Then shall your life henceforth be a continual Feast of Tabernacles, a continual thank offering. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, p. 270)
Here she is speaking about giving thanks and a thank offering.
James White also wrote something that we should notice using the phrase feast of tabernacles. He was writing about a camp meeting that was being held in Melvern, Kansas, and that camp meeting opened on May 25, 1876.
This excellent meeting, with all its labor of preparation, anxiety, preaching, hearing, exhorting, confession of sins and want of Christ, its tears, deliverances, and joys, is now past. Those parents who brought their children to the meeting and saw them converted, and take the baptismal vow, are now glad that they brought them. Those who did not bring their children regretted their mistake. These annual feasts of tabernacles are gatherings of the greatest importance; and there should be a general turnout of all who may be benefited (James White, The Signs of the Times, June 8, 1876; quoted by Arthur White in The Early Years, p. 38)
This was published in The Signs of the Times on June 8, 1876, but Elder White was making reference to the camp meeting that occurred earlier on May 25, and he says that these camp meetings are what he called annual feasts of tabernacles. Is May 25 anywhere near the time the Feast of Tabernacles normally was held? It is almost as far away from it as possible, but Elder White calls that camp meeting a feast of tabernacles.
Clearly for James and Ellen White, the phrase the feast of tabernacles found its meaning in the present-day camp meetings held at various times throughout the year.
So what excuses do we have today? In this issue of Old Paths, there is an article on miracles, and I encourage you to carefully read it all. Are miracles a test of anything? No, they are not because even Satan and his cohorts will perform legitimate miracles. You can go to meetings where all kinds of miraculous things are going on, but it doesnt mean truth is being preached. I can attend a little Pentecostal church about a mile from where I live, and I can see and hear what appear to be great miracles. The people there are going to testify that these miracles are happening because the spirit of God is working there, but that spirit of God is also telling them that they do not have to keep the Sabbath. They claim that the spirit of God also tells them that they can eat pork or do anything else they wish. That spirit is telling them that their loved ones are already in heaven. Miracles are happening, so it must be true. Or is it true?
Maybe I can test truth at these churches because everybody is nice and loving at them. After all, Jesus said: By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). We do need to have more love for one another, and we do need to have a genuine care and concern but again, I can go to many places, and I can find this so-called love, this so-called acceptanceopen armsfor me as a brother of a strange faith. I can find this so-called love in all these Protestant churches, but this is not a test. Friends, the test is the word of God alone. The Bible says that there were times of ignorance that God winked at (Acts 17:30), but we are not in those times of ignorance today. We are in a better time and in a better position than any other group of people. We are living in a time of the 144,000, a group of people who have a special mission and a special work, and the requirement for them to be the 144,000 is not the same thing as was required of a child of God who died two thousand years ago. If there was ever a time that we should not be pleading ignorance, if there was ever a time when, to the contrary, we should be saying exactly what is right and know what we believe, it is now. Remember what Jesus said? We speak that we do know (John 3:11). Do we? Or do we just go off with ideas, hoping one of them is right? It is like blindfolding yourself and trying to pin the tail on the donkey. You know the donkey is out there somewhere, and you hope you will hit it. If you keep trying, eventually you will, but how many times will you miss?
In summary, there was a transitional period in the early church which occurred because of the ignorance, because of the hardness of the hearts, and because of the deep-seated experience of the Jewish people on such issues as circumcision and the feast days which allowed such things to be an option for the people. There is no question this happened, but there is also no question that we are living in a more enlightened time, a time in which we do not drink alcoholic beverages, in which we do not practice polygamy, and in which we do not have slaves, even though those things were allowed in both the Old and the New Testaments. We do not agree with these points today because we have a greater and better understanding of Gods sovereign will.
I do not want to insult Jehovah. Do you? Beloved, this truth is incontrovertible; let us not fight God. We have the word of God, and we can depend upon it, for it is true, and it is faithful.
Are Miracles a Test of Truth?
What is the test of truth? That might seem like a simple question, especially in light of Isaiah 8:20: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. However, the reality is that many look elsewhere for validity for what truth is. Experience, especially experience which is affected by apparent miracles, is used by many to determine if a church, its teachings, or its ministers are presenting truth.
James Warren Jim Jones was an American religious leader who founded what became known as the Peoples Temple. He was a charismatic leader and those who attended his services felt that they were having a great experience but after moving his cult following to Guyana, he led the group of over nine hundred souls in a mass suicide.
Within the Pentecostal community of churches, there is a great emphasis upon miracles worked by the Holy Spirit. Many are not concerned about doctrines or about being accountable to biblical teachings, for if the Holy Spirit is working miracles among them, they must be right and must have truth.
But is experience, and especially experience attested to by supposed miracles, a reliable test of truth or a proof that God is leading and directing?
The English word miracles is from the Latin miraculum which means an object of wonder. This Latin word is a derivative of the word mirari which means to wonder, which, in turn, is from mirus which means wonderful. Miracles thus carry the concept of something wonderful and are usually considered something that is good and proper.
In the New Testament the Greek word used most often for miracles is semeion. Semeion is used seventy-seven times in the New Testament and translated fifty-one times as sign(s). For example:
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign (semeion) from thee. (Matthew 12:38)
And this shall be a sign (semeion) unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)
Semeion is translated token twice. One example is:
The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token (semeion) in every epistle: so I write. (2 Thessalonians 3:17)
Semeion is translated wonder three times (Revelation 12:1, 3; 13:13).
Finally, semeion is translated miracle or miracles twenty-two times, such as in Acts 6:8: And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles (semeion) among the people.
Miracles can be defined as an unusual event that manifests Gods direct intervention on the world. The first miracle of the Bible was that of creation. The first miracle of the plan of redemption was the enmity put between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Satan): And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15). Without this miracle of enmity, man would never be able to approach God and fight the battle of faith against sin.
Miracles Are No
Guarantee of Genuine Faith
Signs or miracles are given to confirm Gods word, but never to replace or supersede the word of God (Matthew 11:4, 5). Miracles may be used to warn the rebellious or to encourage the faithful. People may seek signs as a result of a genuine desire to serve God, but we should be very careful to remember that miracles are not, in themselves, proof of Gods work. Miracles are no guarantee of genuine faith.
Many supposed miracles are claimed to be done in the name of Jesus:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:2223)
Jesus, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, struck down the idea that miracles can replace the word of God in bringing a person to conversion. Verse 31 gives the thrust of the parable:
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my fathers house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:2731)
There were those in the days of Jesus who, at first, believed in him because of his miracles:
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men. (John 2:2324)
Despite the belief that the miracles were supposed to bring, Jesus did not commit himself or entrust himself to the people for he knew what was in the heart of humanity. Jesus knew that those who believed because of miracles would be in unbelief, unless the word abided in their hearts. Many of those who shouted hosanna, when he triumphantly rode into Jerusalem, would later shout crucify him.
But not a few who had then shouted His praise, because it was popular to do so, now swelled the cry of Crucify Him, crucify Him. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 743)
Miracles, without love, are nothing. Paul notes:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2)
The claim of miracles has been repeatedly used by the papacy to substantiate her claims to verity:
The roll [purporting to be from God Himself, which contained the needed command for Sunday observance, with awful threats to terrify the disobedient] forbade labor from the ninth hour, three oclock, on Saturday afternoon, till sunrise on Monday; and its authority was declared to be confirmed by many miracles. It was reported that persons laboring beyond the appointed hour were stricken with paralysis. A miller who attempted to grind his corn, saw, instead of flour, a torrent of blood come forth, and the mill wheel stood still, notwithstanding the strong rush of water. A woman who placed dough in the oven found it raw when taken out, though the oven was very hot. Another who had dough prepared for baking at the ninth hour, but determined to set it aside till Monday, found, the next day, that it had been made into loaves and baked by divine power. A man who baked bread after the ninth hour on Saturday found, when he broke it the next morning, that blood started therefrom. By such absurd and superstitious fabrications did the advocates of Sunday endeavor to establish its sacredness. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, pp. 577, 578)
Miracles Can Be Counterfeited
In Egypt the magicians of Pharaoh counterfeited some of the miracles performed by Moses and Aaron. Their rods appeared to become serpents.
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aarons rod swallowed up their rods. (Exodus 7:11, 12)
Pharaohs magicians appeared to be able to turn water into blood (Exodus 7:22) and even bring frogs upon the land (Exodus 8:7). However, we are told:
The magicians did not really cause their rods to become serpents; but by magic, aided by the great deceiver, they were able to produce this appearance. It was beyond the power of Satan to change the rods to living serpents. The prince of evil, though possessing all the wisdom and might of an angel fallen, has not power to create, or to give life; this is the prerogative of God alone. But all that was in Satans power to do, he did; he produced a counterfeit. To human sight the rods were changed to serpents. Such they were believed to be by Pharaoh and his court. There was nothing in their appearance to distinguish them from the serpent produced by Moses. Though the Lord caused the real serpent to swallow up the spurious ones, yet even this was regarded by Pharaoh, not as a work of Gods power, but as the result of a kind of magic superior to that of his servants. (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 264)
And as we should understand and apply this knowledge today, we have been warned:
The man who makes the working of miracles the test of his faith will find that Satan can, through a species of deceptions, perform wonders that will appear to be genuine miracles. It was this he hoped to make a test question with the Israelites at the time of their deliverance from Egypt.Manuscript 43, 1907. (Ellen White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 52)
Jesus predicted that there would be false christs, especially in the last days. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:24). The Bible teaches that Satan himself will be involved in this deception: For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14).
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviours advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:1315. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: Christ has come! Christ has come! The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying: This is the great power of God. Acts 8:10. (White, The Great Controversy, pp. 624, 625)
We must both know the truth and love the truth, if we are to be sure that we shall not be deceived.
If we accept not the truth in the love of it, we may be among the number who will see the miracles wrought by Satan in these last days, and believe them. Many strange things will appear as wonderful miracles, which should be regarded as deceptions manufactured by the father of lies. Letter 136, 1906. (White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 53)
The Bible teaches that one of antichrists specialties in the last days is to be the working of miracles, not simply the sleight-of-hand miracles, but real miracles that cannot be explained by any known science.
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power (Gr. dunamis) and signs (Gr. semeion) and lying wonders (Gr. pseudos teras). (2 Thessalonians 2:9)
In the days of Elijah there was a test by fire. In the last days apostate Protestants will claim that God is using them to bring down fire from heaven: And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men (Revelation 13:13).
John sees a threefold confederacy, an axis of evil, consisting of the papacy, apostate Protestants, and spiritualists, as unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty (Revelation 16:13, 14).
These miracles will have their baleful effect upon many who shall be lost, but the agents of Satan shall not escape: And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20).
There will be delusive miracles and great deceptions of the last days and if we depend upon miracles and what we see, we are sure to be deceived. If, however, we will stand on Gods word, we will be fixed and unmoveable.
Even in the midst of the great deceptions of the last days, when delusive miracles will be performed in the sight of men in behalf of satanic theories, it is our privilege to hide ourselves in Christ Jesus. It is possible for us to seek and to obtain salvation. And in this time of unusual peril, we must learn to stand alone, our faith fixed, not on the word of man, but on the sure promises of God. (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 490)
We Are Not To Look to Miracles
Jesus said, A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign (Matthew 16:4a). The Greek word for sign is semeion, the same Greek word we also translate as miracle. Instead of seeking miracles we should be seeking God through his word. We are told that we are to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).
Many who refuse the message which the Lord sends them are seeking to find pegs on which to hang doubts, to find some excuse for rejecting the light of heaven. In the face of clear evidence they say, as did the Jews, Show us a miracle, and we will believe. If these messengers have the truth, why do they not heal the sick?
Could their eyes be opened, they would see evil angels exulting around them and triumphing in their power to deceive them. The day is just before us when Satan will answer the demand of these doubters and present numerous miracles to confirm the faith of all those who are seeking this kind of evidence. How terrible will be the situation of those who close their eyes to the light of truth and ask for miracles to establish them in deception!Letter 4, 1889. (Ellen White, Evangelism, p. 594)
The time is at hand when Satan will work miracles to confirm minds in the belief that he is God. All the people of God are now to stand on the platform of truth as it has been given in the third angels message. All the pleasant pictures, all the miracles wrought, will be presented in order that, if possible, the very elect shall be deceived. The only hope for anyone is to hold fast the evidences that have confirmed the truth in righteousness. Let these be proclaimed over and over again, until the close of this earths history. (The Review and Herald, August 9, 1906)
We cannot use miracles as our claim to be Gods people:
Papists, who boast of miracles as a certain sign of the true church, will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power; and Protestants, having cast away the shield of truth, will also be deluded. Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power, and they will see in this union a grand movement for the conversion of the world and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium. (White, The Great Controversy, pp. 588, 589)
Perhaps you have been to meetings where things happened that seemed supernatural, even great and wonderful, but even if supernatural and seemingly wonderful things happened, that is not the test of truth. We might be sincere, but sincerity will not save us. God will reveal truth, and we will either have to change or quit being sincere.
Faith in a lie will not have a sanctifying influence upon the life or character. No error is truth, or can be made truth by repetition, or by faith in it. Sincerity will never save a soul from the consequences of believing an error. Without sincerity there is no true religion, but sincerity in a false religion will never save a man. I may be perfectly sincere in following a wrong road, but that will not make it the right road, or bring me to the place I wished to reach. The Lord does not want us to have a blind credulity, and call that the faith that sanctifies. The truth is the principle that sanctifies, and therefore it becomes us to know what is truth. We must compare spiritual things with spiritual. We must prove all things, but hold fast only that which is good, that which bears the divine credentials, which lays before us the true motives and principles which should prompt us to action.Letter 12, 1890. (White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 56)
Make-Your-Own Laundry Soap
Grate the bars of soap, either through a food processor (it cleans up
well) or by hand. Place all the ingredients in a garbage bag and mix. Yields
about two gallons of powdered soap. Use 23 tablespoons per load of clothes,
but do not use bleach, as bleach and Oxyclean do not mix. When you want
to use bleach, the next recipes work well.
Step 1: Grate the bar of soap and place in a small saucepan. Cover with hot water and heat over medium low heat, stirring continually, until the soap dissolves.
Step 2: Put washing soda and borax into a 5gallon bucket. Pour in the hot, melted soap mixture. Stir well, until the powders dissolve. Fill the bucket with hot tap water. Stir, cover securely, and let set overnight.
Step 3: In the morning, stir the mixture well (it will take energy) and
fill empty laundry soap jugs. Use about 1/2 cup per load, shaking the mixture
Creamy Soap: (Great for shining kitchen appliances, too!)
Step 1: Heat 4 cups of water to very hot in a large, heavy saucepan on high heat. (Follow steps precisely to get a creamy soap; otherwise, the soap may turn out grainy.)
Step 2: While water is heating, mix borax and washing soda in a bowl and set aside.
Step 3: Grate the bar of soap, using a food processor or a hand grater. Add to the saucepan, reduce heat to medium, and stir very frequently until soap is completely dissolved.
Step 4: Pour the liquid over the powders and stir until they dissolve, then pour mixture equally into two 1quart, regular-mouth Mason jars.
Step 5: Add water to bring the contents up to the rounded shoulders of the jars, leaving about 1.5 inches of headspace. Screw lids on the jars, turn them upside down, and let them set for 45 hours, no longer. The mixture will separate.
Step 6: Unscrew the blade and bottom from a blender and screw them onto one of the Mason jars. Place jar on the blender and whiz until smooth and creamy throughout, about 1 minute. Remove the blade, recap the jar, and repeat.
Use about 1 tablespoon per load of clothes.
Youths Corner Under Iron Rule
Our story this month continues Chapter 18 of Youthful Witnesses by W. A. Spicer, entitled Under the Iron Regulations of Militarism.)
AFTER FIVE YEARS
In the days before the Great War [World War I], there came a time in Germany when it seemed that the military authorities were about to recognize the conscientious convictions of young Seventh-day Adventists in the matter of Sabbath observance, while serving the two years in camps as required of every able-bodied youth in those times. But the course advocated by some was rejected, and it was determined to endeavor by severity to break down their religious convictions. Refusal to do ordinary manual work on the Sabbath brought sentences more and more severe. One young man, M_____, wrote from prison to the annual meeting of his fellow believers:
Eight years ago I made my vows to Christ by baptism at the annual meeting. Four years of the time I have spent in military- fortress, a prisoner. There have been trials severe. But I can say from my heart that these four years of imprisonment have been the sweetest of my life because of the presence and blessing of my dear Saviour, who has been with me all the way.
And from the prison cell the young man sent as his song of hope and prayer a poem by Sturm, the first verses of which may be roughly translated thus:
Be still, my heart, be still;
In quietness lies wondrous power,
As now temptation, grief, and pain,
A thousand dartlike fears shall shower.
Be still, be ever still.
Thou knowest that thy God is near
As fortress, shield, and guard;
While on thy vision, like a star,
Shines through the night His word,
Be still, be ever still.
With God fare trusting in and out
Through night and tempest wild.
Into the Fathers house of love
Hell lead at last His child.
Be still, be ever still.
After five years, this young man and another, N____, of nearly the same term of punishment, were released. Their cases had gone before councils and courts and the highest powers, and those who had thought to crush religious conviction were distressed at their failure. The severities of the punishment threatened the lives of the prisoners. They neither drink nor smoke, said officers; they use no profane language, they do nothing that one can criticize. They are honorable, intelligent young men who only obey their God. This is terrible. And out of it all, at last, came the order of release. I talked it all over with those boys, said one visitor to them after they were set free, shattered for a time in health, and they said they would go through it all again rather than disobey Christ and be untrue to Him.
THE POWER OF THE MESSAGE
Following is the report of a talk by Elder A. G. Daniells at a young peoples gathering in America after his visit to France in the prewar times. In the days of peace, however, military conscription laid its hand upon every youth as he reached the prescribed age of service. Elder Daniells said:
When I was over in France last summer, attending the campmeeting, I saw coming on the camp-ground a French soldier boy about twenty-two years old. I said, There is a soldier. Is he a Sabbath keeper?
Yes, was the reply, and I want you to have a talk with him and learn the experience he has gone through.
So I got a stenographer, and called in Brother B____. He told me this story:
He had been the secretary and stenographer to the president of the Latin Union Conference; and when he came of age, he was called into the servicethe army. Everyone in France had to spend three years in the army. Brother B_____ answered the callthere was no way out of it. When he was called in by the captain to receive his instructions, he ventured to tell the captain that he was a Sabbath keeper, and to ask if his work could not be arranged somehow so that he could keep the Sabbath.
The captain flew into a terrible passion, and jumped to his feet exclaiming, Are you a fool? Do you think you are going to run the French army and boss the lot of us? He struck the desk a terrible blow, and said: Dont let us have any more such nonsense from you. You are going to obey orders, like any of the rest of us, and we will teach you that you are not going to run the affairs of the army.
Brother B_____ said: I dont wish to dictate to the army. That isnt it. And I dont think I am a fool, either. I tell you plainly, I do this from a conscientious standpoint. I fear God, and believe the Bible, and am trying to live a Christian life; and I feel that it is my duty to obey that commandment of God.
The captain tried to show him that there was nothing in that; when it came to the requirements of the army, a man had to obey them above everything else.
The young man replied: I cant do that in disobedience to God.
The commander told him to stop, and go back to his barracks, and obey the orders and regulations of the army. He said: If you dont do thatif you venture to disobeywe will send you to the, fortress.
Brother B____ replied: Then I shall have to go, Captain.
Well, the officer remarked, you will only want to go once.
But our brother said: Captain, we might as well understand this thing now. I shall go to the fortress until I go to my death before I will work on the Sabbath. You may as well know, when you start in, that it isnt imprisonment in the fortress for one week, or one month, but for the rest of my life. That is where I stand.
Then the captain declared: I will draft you off into the African fortresses. I will send you to the worst climate in Africa, and with the scum of the French armywith the worst lot of rascals we have.
Very well, the young man said, I can go there, but I cannot work on the Sabbath and disobey my God.
The captain drove him out, and said, You will report Saturday for duty. But Sabbath morning B_____ took his Bible and went off through the woods, and stayed there all day, and read the Bible and prayed to God; and he settled it with the Lord. He went over the experience of death in the fortress and down in the African jungles, and he faced it all, and took his stand to live for God, no matter what the consequences might be.
He expected to be summoned before the captain Sunday morning, but he wasnt. Monday morning the captain called for him, and said, You were not on duty Saturday.
He replied, No, I was not.
The captain wanted to know where he was and what he was doing, and he told him. The captain was furious, and he said, Now I am going to take you to the higher officer, and he will give you your sentence. So he led this young man in, and reported to the higher officer.
This officer looked at him kindly. Well, he said, my man, whats the matter? Brother B_____ explained to him about the Sabbath. The officer listened, and then said, Do you think you cant do any work whatever on the Sabbath, on Saturday?
He said, No.
Well, he said, do you think that the French government can surrender to your whims?
He answered: I dont know what they can do. I only know what I cannot doI cannot work on the Sabbath day.
After some conversation, the commander stepped out with the captain, and the young man remained in the room, and he prayed to the Lord to move on their hearts, that the right thing might be done. After a bit, the captain came back, but the commander went away. The captain asked, Well, how do you feel just now since seeing the officer?
He answered, I feel just the same.
You do not intend to do any work on Saturday?
You say you were a stenographer and secretary before you came here, and you can do that work now?
Yes, if I have a chance.
Then the captain asked, How would you like to be my stenographer and secretary?
Why, he said, Captain, I would like it fine, only no work on the Sabbath.
Very well, he said, thats taken for granted now. And he made that boy his secretary, and gave him the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday night.
He had been there a full year, and his two weeks holiday was to come in connection with our camp-meeting; but it was to begin on Friday, just as our meeting was about to close, so he would only get one Sabbath, the meetings closing on Sunday. He had his work all finished, so he went to the captain and told him about the camp-meeting, and asked him if he would be willing to let him leave early, and cut the time off the other end of his vacation. He said: Captain, I would stay up all night tonight, and all night tomorrow night, and do everything necessary, if you would let me go.
The captain said: I havent anything to do now, and you have everything finished, so you can go now.
Brother B_____ said: Very well, Captain. I will come back as soon as it is over.
But the captain replied, Your regular time closes Saturday, and you are no good Saturday, and I dont want to be fussing around here Sunday, so you neednt come back until Monday. So there he was, with the full time of his holiday and eight days over.
His story was a revelation to me of splendid Christian heroism, of real, firm, definite loyalty to God. Just a French boy, only twenty-two years old, and he would have died in the fortress or in the jungles of Africa rather than have worked on the Sabbath.
How I wish every young man and every young woman in our ranks in the United States had that fixedness of purpose, that loyalty, that conscience, that devotion to God! I see some going away from the truth, away from God, for the merest baubles, for the allurements of the world, picture shows and dress, and some for money, losing heaven for these trifles. But out in some of these lands we have men and women enduring all kinds of persecution for the cause of Christ.
To Be Continued
The Second Death
Death is one of the most mysterious concepts meditated upon by humanity. In some ways it is more mysterious than life. All can grasp life experientially, but none can know death in person while alive and able to contemplate.
Death is a departure from life. We all know others who have passed from life to death. The common teaching of Satan, through spiritualism, is that there is no death, just the passing from one state of existence to another. This, of course, is not the teaching of the Bible.
To understand death we need to understand life. God is the giver of all life. God made man from the dust of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). James says that death is the reverse. The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26).
God is the Creator and giver of life. If one examines the universe on the macro or on the micro level and on all places in between, he or she can see that God has created great and wonderful things. As creation is studied, one comes to see how God loves to create and especially to create life.
But when sin entered Gods creation, death soon followed. For the wages of sin is death . . . (Romans 6:23). Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15). Though all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and death is appointed to all men, Jesus said something amazing in John 5:28, 29:
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Through the death of Jesus, the plan of salvation provides life again to all men, both righteous and wicked. All will one day come forth from their graves: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Eternal life, however, is only the gift of God towards those who have faith in Jesus. Those who reject the plan of salvation receive the second death.
In the twentieth chapter of Revelation, we read of something called the second death:
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:16)
When Jesus comes back to earth during his second coming, all the righteous living will join the righteous dead who have been resurrected, and they will ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1517). The wicked living will be slain by the brightness of the coming of the Lord. (See Isaiah 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8.) The righteous will live with Jesus for a thousand years in heaven before the second resurrection. At the end of the thousand years, the wicked are to be raised to experience the white throne judgment and the second death.
But what is this second death? It is directly mentioned four times in the Bible. Let us notice each usage. The first is in Revelation 2:11:
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
This promise was given especially to the church at Smyrna which represented the church during a time of intense persecution when many lost their lives. Jesus assured these believers that they would not be hurt of the second death.
As we noted from Revelation 20:6, the second death will have no power on those who were a part of the first resurrection.
The third usage of the term second death is found in Revelation 20:14: And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. While the first two references only give an idea of who will and will not experience the second death, this reference directly defines the second death as being the lake of fire that will destroy the wicked. Here death is personified and is destroyed as the last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). For the Christian there is victory over death. (See 1 Corinthians 15:5457.) The Christian has been delivered not only from death, but also from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). For the believer death will be no more (Revelation 21:4).
The last reference to the second death is found in Revelation 21:8:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Here, again, the lake of fire is defined as the second death because it is a final and total destruction.
According to the Spirit of Prophecy, references to the second death are also to be found in Deuteronomy 30:15 and in Romans 6:23.
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. (Deuteronomy 30:15)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The death referred to in these scriptures is not that pronounced upon Adam, for all mankind suffer the penalty of his transgression. It is the second death that is placed in contrast with everlasting life. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 544)
Here the second death is set in contrast with everlasting life. Further insight is given in the following testimony:
The Sabbath was made for the benefit of man; and to knowingly transgress the holy commandment forbidding labor upon the seventh day is a crime in the sight of heaven which was of such magnitude under the Mosaic law as to require the death of the offender. But this was not all that the offender was to suffer, for God would not take a transgressor of His law to heaven. He must suffer the second death, which is the full and final penalty for the transgressor of the law of God. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 533; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
The second death is the full and final penalty for the transgressor of the law of God. Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Jesus . . . was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. In the Bible to taste something, when used in a spiritual sense, means to experience it. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him (Psalm 34:8). Jesus experienced a death for each person. What kind of death did Jesus taste? Every person, if they live long enough, will taste (the first) death. Jesus does not have to taste this for us, but it is the second death that Jesus experienced, or tasted, for each person. The death of the wicked is to be eternal.
Said the angel, Satan is the root, his children are the branches. They are now consumed root and branch. They have died an everlasting death. They are never to have a resurrection, and God will have a clean universe. (Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 295; from the chapter entitled The Second Death)
In order to determine how important are the interests involved in the conversion of the soul from error to truth, we must appreciate the value of immortality; we must realize how terrible are the pains of the second death; . . . (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 620)
We are told that there are terrible pains associated with the second death. Yet we are also told that when the wicked are destroyed some are destroyed as in a moment . . . (White, The Great Controversy, p. 673). How terrible can be the pain from a moment? This terrible pain must reach beyond the bounds of the physical to that of the emotional/spiritual.
To help us understand what this implies, I want to share a very personal story with you. My son, Hans, died from cancer when he was twenty-five. He had a massive, inoperable tumor in his chest. The day came when the doctors announced that the cancer had spread to his brain and other organs. As Hans listened to the doctors devastating report, he simply nodded and said, Okay. When asked if he had any questions, he simply said, No.
After this his mother and I went outside the room to talk with the doctors. Inside the room his sister, Heidi, asked him if he was really okay and told him it was all right to not be okay with this kind of news. He told his sister, who had grown up always as his best friend, Sissy, its okay; either way its okay. If somehow he were to live, that would be great, but if he did not, it was still okay, and he could say that because he knew there was to be a resurrection!
Through the years, Christian martyrs could face the flames, the rack, and the gibbet because they knew their cause was just and knew the infliction of pain and death was not the end. The hope of a resurrection buoyed them from sinking into despair, but what if you felt that you would die forever, without hope? That will be the emotional/spiritual experience of those who suffer the second death.
When Jesus was upon the cross, he cried out: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me (Matthew 27:46)? Was this a real cry of despair or a well-chosen line of speech, something said to sound good, but something not really experienced? This cry of Jesus was prophesied in Psalm 22:1. In fact, the twenty-second Psalm is a window into the mind of Jesus as he hung upon the cross. Notice the deep emotions and feelings of loneliness and hopelessness:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. (Psalm 22:15)
In his mind Jesus could recount his Fathers help to Israel in the past. When they called out to God for help, he responded, but Jesus now felt alone, even as a worm:
But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mothers breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mothers belly. (Psalm 22:610)
God helped Israel, but now Jesus appears to be left alone.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (Psalm 22:1115)
Jesus pleaded for his Father to be near him, for he felt the separation that taking the sin of the world upon him had caused. He felt as though he was being destroyed by bulls and that his body was melting within him:
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. (Psalm 22:1620)
The picture here is one of despair. Ellen White has brilliantly written:
Jesus had united with the Father in making the world. Amid the agonizing sufferings of the Son of God, blind and deluded men alone remain unfeeling. The chief priests and elders revile Gods dear Son while in His expiring agonies. Yet inanimate nature groans in sympathy with her bleeding, dying Author. The earth trembles. The sun refuses to behold the scene. The heavens gather blackness. Angels have witnessed the scene of suffering until they can look no longer, and hide their faces from the horrid sight. Christ is dying! He is in despair! His Fathers approving smile is removed, and angels are not permitted to lighten the gloom of the terrible hour. They can only behold in amazement their loved Commander, the Majesty of heaven, suffering the penalty of mans transgression of the Fathers law.
Even doubts assailed the dying Son of God. He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Bright hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the tomb a conqueror and His Fathers acceptance of His sacrifice. The sin of the world, with all its terribleness, was felt to the utmost by the Son of God. The displeasure of the Father for sin, and its penalty, which is death, were all that He could realize through this amazing darkness. He was tempted to fear that sin was so offensive in the sight of His Father that He could not be reconciled to His Son. The fierce temptation that His own Father had forever left Him caused that piercing cry from the cross: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
Christ felt much as sinners will feel when the vials of Gods wrath shall be poured out upon them. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 209, 210)
Without question, this experience was real and no sham. Christ was tested upon the cross, and this test he passed, but to be a test, the test must have meaning. If there is no unknown element, it can hardly be a test. If one knew all the questions on a test before taking the test, it would hardly be considered a fair and just evaluation. The cross was to be a demonstration of the character of God, not of his power. Jesus must demonstrate total unselfishness, total agape love. To do this it must be shown what he would do without the assurances and encouragements of the Father. In fact, he must be totally alone and willing to die for eternity to prove the love of God. In the counsel of peace (Zechariah 6:13), the entire plan of salvation was agreed upon by the Father and the Son, but when Jesus became incarnate, he did not come as a babe to Bethlehem with all of the knowledge of omniscience; instead, he grew and learned in ways all humanity may learn. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man (Luke 2:52). As Jesus grew and matured the Father revealed the plan of salvation to him step-by-step, but there was one point that was not revealed to the Son.
Just before his crucifixion Jesus could say, Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me (John 16:32). Earlier he had said, And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him (John 8:29). Coming to the cross, Jesus knew the disciples would all forsake him, but he expected his Father to be with him through thick and thin. However, when the Father began to veil himself from his Son, the Sons heart was troubled with the knowledge of the displeasure of the Father for sin, and its penalty, which is death. This was all that He could realize through this amazing darkness.
Jesus makes the decision. If he must pay the wages of sin with eternal death, never to see the Father again, never to receive his approbation again, he will die without a resurrection so that sinful man, who has, for the most part, scorned his love and sacrifice, may live eternally.
Faith and hope trembled in the expiring agonies of Christ because God had removed the assurance He had heretofore given His beloved Son of His approbation and acceptance. The Redeemer of the world then relied upon the evidences which had hitherto strengthened Him, that His Father accepted His labors and was pleased with His work. In His dying agony, as He yields up His precious life, He has by faith alone to trust in Him whom it has ever been His joy to obey. He is not cheered with clear, bright rays of hope on the right hand nor on the left. All is enshrouded in oppressive gloom. Amid the awful darkness which is felt by sympathizing nature, the Redeemer drains the mysterious cup even to its dregs. Denied even bright hope and confidence in the triumph which will be His in the future, He cries with a loud voice: Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit. He is acquainted with the character of His Father, with His justice, His mercy, and His great love, and in submission He drops into His hands. Amid the convulsions of nature are heard by the amazed spectators the dying words of the Man of Calvary. (White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 210211)
Did Jesus die the second death? Was this experience the second death? Jesus was not cast into the lake of fire, and the death of the cross was not a death from which there was no resurrection. Later Jesus could tell John: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:18). But did Jesus experience the terrible pain of the second death? Yes. Did Jesus have a spiritual/emotional experience like those who die the second death? Yes. So while Jesus did not physically die the second death and was not cast into a lake of fire, never to live again, he did have the spiritual/emotional experience like the second death, and he did this to pay the penalty of sin and to fully demonstrate the character of God. Jesus hung upon the cross between heaven and earth. Satan had accused God of being a tyrant and one full of power which he would not share. God declared that his character was giving. How could he prove it? How could Christ prove it for the Father? By stripping away all the externals that made him God. Take away his power and his immortality and see what he will do in the crisis. Will he save himself? Can he? No, not if we are to be saved (Mark 15:31). If Jesus is to save humanity, he must be willing to truly die forever.
Think of the person or persons you have most loved in this earth. Think of the joys and bonds of fellowship you have enjoyed and then think of that coming to an eternal end so that ungrateful people who despised you could have eternal life. Would you easily give up your loved one? Would you be willing to be the one to die? The Father and Son agreed to equally suffer. The experience was terrible for Christ, but I tell you, the Father suffered equally with his son. To see his despair and to be able to do nothing was heart-rending to the Father.
The last night my son, Hans, lived, he had a terrible night. He ran a fever and was full of pain. I was with him, however, to put a cool cloth on his forehead, to hold his hand, and to tell him that God is good and that he was in control. What if, however, I had left the room at the height of my sons greatest agony, without explanation, and never returned? What would Hans have thought? He would have thought I had forsaken him. The mental blow would have been crushing. What if I, also, had been able to watch him from behind a two-way mirror and had seen his sorrow and despair, knowing that far beyond his physical pain was his emotional despair? It would have been crushing to me, as it would be to any parent, knowing that my presence could have relieved his distress, but I was not able to do so.
That this redemption might be ours, God withheld not even the sacrifice of Himself. He gave Himself in His Son. The Father suffered with Christ in all His humiliation and agony. He suffered as He saw the Son of His love despised and rejected by those whom He came to elevate, ennoble, and save. He saw Him hanging upon the cross, mocked and jeered by the passers-by, and He hid as it were His face from Him. He saw Christ bearing the sin of the world, and dying in the sinners stead. The human heart knows the love of a parent for his child. We know what a mothers love will do and suffer for her beloved one. But never can the heart of man fathom the depths of Gods self-sacrifice.
O, the cross, the cross! It is set up that we may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Only the cross can measure the length and breadth, the depth and height, of infinite love, the greatness of the Fathers sacrifice for lost humanity. (Ellen White, Australian Union Conference Record, June 1, 1900)
Satan had accused God of requiring self-denial of the angels, when he knew nothing of what it meant himself, and when he would not himself make any self-sacrifice for others. This was the accusation that Satan made against God in heaven; and after the evil one was expelled from heaven, he continually charged the Lord with exacting service which he would not render himself. Christ came to the world to meet these false accusations, and to reveal the Father. (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, February 18, 1890)
Romans 8:32 says, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? In giving Jesus all heaven was emptied for mankinds redemption. The day Jesus died was the most glorious, and yet the most terrible, day in the history of time. In the gift of his Son, God has shown that there is nothing that he will withhold from humanity and that he has freely given all things. God gave all for you. His Son died the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Jesus laid down his life to save us. How small is any sacrifice we can make, compared with his (Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 96).
YouTube Channel: We are pleased to announce that we have posted some very important new videos on our YouTube channel this month.
To see these new videos, including character-building science demonstrations, we invite you to visit our Youtube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/swiftkayak?feature=results_main.
Are the Feasts an Option? has been posted at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxKp8SGsrVk&feature=share&list=UUvsrGJG5fm2ux0AEwVuoVAw&index=1. This study explores whether or not Christians should keep the feasts, such as Tabernacles or Unleavened Bread. This presentation is clear and forthright, using the Bible as a basis and then looking at the Spirit of Prophecy for additional insights.
Gods Goal of Unity has been posted at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEMQWX-9b6M&feature=share&list=UUvsrGJG5fm2ux0AEwVuoVAw&index=2. This sermon presented at the Smyrna Chapel studies the true goal of unity. Gods purpose is to bring together and to reconcile to himself the whole of creation. This desire for unity is a reflection of the unity of the Father and Son, is expressed in marriage, and is demonstrated in the fellowship of the church. The highest function of unity is to unite all people under the rule and worship of God.
The video Suppose takes you back to the time 680 BC, during the reign of wicked King Manasseh, when idols of Baal were in the temple and when the priests had become priests of Baal. Would you have attempted to worship Jehovah in that temple? Your answer may be a good measure of how you react to apostasy today.
The video sermon Suppose has been posted at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg9-AMpEPUQ&list=UUvsrGJG5fm2ux0AEwVuoVAw&feature=share&index=4.
WV Camp Meeting
We are pleased to announce that the West Virginia camp meeting will be June 2428 this year. The theme of the camp meeting is Perfection of Character. Several speakers are being arranged, and we hope to have some new speakers from overseas that we know you will not want to miss.
We certainly encourage you to come and share the blessing with us. Camping is free to all, but each camper will be responsible for his or her own meals, except on Sabbath, when a fellowship meal will be provided. Please check your calendars now and block off the time.