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First Quarter 2016 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON REBELLION AND REDEMPTION
Week 1: December 26–January 1
COMMENTARY ON CRISIS IN HEAVEN
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Sabbath Afternoon, Dec. 26: Introduction
The lesson begins with an Ellen G. White quote where it is asserted that love was the foundation of the government of God. Then we come to this statement concerning Lucifer:
"His lust for power resulted in a “war in heaven” (Rev. 12:7)."
In a study of Rev. 12:7 or even when we consider possible supporting passages such as Isaiah 14:13-14 or Ezekiel 28:12-19 we don't really learn why Satan rebelled against God. Instead, it is more productive if we examine the context of this lesson reference and clearly identify who were the 'woman', the 'child' she gave birth to and the 'dragon':
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Rev. 12:1-6)
Verse 10 establishes that the child is Jesus Christ the Savior of the world and verse 9 tells us that Satan is the dragon. That leaves us with the question of; who is the 'woman'? Some wish to think the woman was Mary, the mother who gave birth to Jesus but that cannot be true because Mary could not be the one who 'fled into the wilderness, where she has a place of safety prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days'.
In Genesis 37 Joseph has two dreams. In the second he says this:
Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Gen. 37:9)
This is the only place in Scripture we find the phrase 'the sun, the moon and eleven stars'. Together with Joseph that would be twelve stars that make up the Hebrew people. Therefore the prophetic mother who gave birth to the child can only be the Nation of Israel.
Of course, this means that what is described in verses 12-17 can only apply to Israel during a time when they must retreat to a place God has already prepared for them 'in the wilderness'. Furthermore, Jesus gives the warning to the people of Judea of the coming "abomination of desolation" when they must flee to the mountains, Matt. 24:15-22.
Sunday, Dec. 27: The Fall in Heaven
The lesson for today focuses on this passage:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. (Isa. 14:12-15)
Then we are asked to examine Ezekiel 28:12-19.
While this undoubtably includes reference to Lucifer we must not ignore the contextual literal application of this text. The lesson author is wrong to say; "No earthly king has ever fallen from heaven...." because Isaiah's prophecy (Isa. 14:4) is clearly directed against the king of Babylon.
Ezekiel chapter 28:12-19 is a prophecy specifically directed against 'the prince of Tyre' who is nothing more than 'a man and no god'. Often a biblical text can and does have more than one application and truth. However, in such cases, the other understanding does not make the initial immediate meaning untrue. The author mentions "dual prophecy" but seems to forget that both meanings or applications must be fully true.
As we ponder the present-day non-existence of the kingdom of Babylon or the kingdom of the prince of Tyre we should apply our understanding of those extinct kingdoms to what it means when Lucifer fell from heaven. Lucifer's personal fate was determined from the instant he fell from heaven. That is what the kingdoms of Tyre and Babylon are being compared to. There is no ongoing battle between Satan and God. There is no such thing as the Adventist concept of 'The Great Controversy'.
Lucifer's personal fate was determined the instant he was cast out of heaven.
On the other hand, salvation for fallen mankind was in place before the time of creation with assurance of salvation given at the time Adam sinned, Gen. 3:15:
...knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)
Salvation for fallen mankind was made complete with Satan's plans defeated at Calvary then and forever. Regardless of the coming battles victory is already ours through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Rom. 8:18-39 and Heb. 2:10-15.
Monday, Dec. 28: The Prince of This World
The lesson points out that Jesus calls Satan "the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30 & 16:11 yet fails to mention the most important passage concerning 'the Prince of this world' for Christians to know:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:10-12)
Observations of Eph. 6:10-12
Tuesday, Dec. 29: War in Heaven
The lesson begins with this candid admission yet doesn't recognize that Adventist beliefs go far beyond the revealed word of God in Scripture:
"We have no idea what war in heaven means; that is, we don’t know what kind of physical battles were fought other than the casting out of Satan and his angels. The fact is, the Bible does not say anything about the physical aftermath of this heavenly conflict. It deals, instead, with the spiritual results here on earth."
The reference text for today is Rev. 12:7-16 and was the subject of the Sabbath Day commentary.
It is good that the lesson author admits what 'war in heaven' means as there is no biblical reason to add more into this one and only text on this subject than what Scripture actually says.
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (Rev. 12:7-8)
The one overlooked central point by Adventism is that 'the dragon' was cast out because he was defeated. Any warfare between Lucifer and God is over and done with. Satan is at war with sinners, not God, therefore there is no such thing as 'The Great Controversy' founded upon the Adventist invented concept that God must vindicate his character, much less than do it before the watching universe he has created.
Jesus Christ came into this world, born of a woman, to take our place as a perfect righteous atoning sacrifice that covers ours sins through his death at Calvary. Satan's attacks have always been against Adam's fallen race, not God, since he was cast out of heaven.
Jesus took our place, and did what we sinners could never do for ourselves:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:20-21)
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb. 2:14-15)
To repeat, there is no such thing as the heresy of 'The Great Controversy'.
Wednesday, Dec. 30: Satan Evicted
The theme for todays references is Luke 10:1-21 yet overlooks several of the important points to be found in this passage of Scripture but does say something important in this lesson quote:
' “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” Dwell on these words. What are they saying, and why is that such a great reason to rejoice?'
First of all Jesus is tellings these returning evangelist that their names are written in heaven and that is what they should be rejoicing over. Luke 10:1-21, in the very words of Jesus, exposes the fallacy of the false doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. What is true of them is true of all others whose sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus. You can know from the moment Jesus becomes your Savior that you have eternal life.
The second and just as important point is that the reason these evangelist had power over the demons is because it was the power of God Jesus gave them. Satan and his demons have no power over God because they have never possessed such power. Therefore there is no such thing as an ongoing battle between Satan and his demons with God. The Great Controversy theme and doctrine is a lie.
Jesus didn't live among mankind and die at Calvary to vindicate the character of God. Instead, Jesus died at Calvary to take the place of sinners and pay the penalty of death with his innocent righteous blood. Those who accept him as the righteous Lamb of God, who shed his blood that we may live, do have eternal life. Furthermore, we can and do know we have eternal life.
Thursday, Dec. 31: The Continuing Battle
Concerning Satan the lesson say this:
'He may have been defeated at Calvary, but the danger is not over yet.'
Yes, but warning of danger is directed towards us, not God, as was stressed on Monday. We are the ones Satan directs his attacks towards. We are the ones who must have on the full armor of God because we are defenseless without it. The importance of this armor is that there is nothing Satan can do to challenge or attack God.
We do have this warning....
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:12)
....but, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
Friday, Jan. 1: Further Thought
Since today's lesson alludes to the Adventist concept of 'eternal law' through the use of phrases such as 'moral beings' and 'moral law' we will take this opportunity to explore just what these phrases mean in contrast to the Adventist assumption that the Ten Commandments represent the eternal moral law of God.
What we do not have in Scripture is a definition of; 'eternal moral law' of God. Therefore we will being this quest in the book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden.
The first recorded command associated with a penalty (the penalty of death for disobedience) was to not eat of the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil'. Since Adam's disobedience led to our universal death and slavery to sin it would seem important for us to understand which, if any, of the Ten Commandments or possible one of the other Mosaic Laws was violated. Since we don't even know what happened to this tree or even if it is still in existence, questioning whether or not the eating of the fruit of this tree was a violation of God's eternal moral law would be pointless. Simply put, Adam sinned because he did not obey God and not because it was an 'eternal moral law'. The immediate consequence for us to understand is that he died on that very day, not just hundreds of years later when he died his physical death.
It is said by those who have done the research that the Mosaic Law contained within the Old Covenant consists of 613 laws which have been arbitrarily divided through human assumptions into moral, civil or ceremonial law. This division and concept is nowhere defined in the Bible. At the Lord's Supper, on the night Jesus was betrayed he clearly said it is the Old Covenant that was being replaced by a New Covenant. Questioning something not defined in Scripture such as the Adventist concept of 'eternal moral law' is pointless. All the law in the Old Covenant was replaced because it is the covenant, not the law within the covenant, that was replaced.
Now, let's consider Sabbath Keeping, the forth of the Ten Commandments. Within the Mosaic Law the penalty for violation of this command was death, normally performed by stoning. If Sabbath Keeping is truly an eternal moral law that results in such an instant violent penalty why are there exceptions where this law can be ignored? Four hundred thirty years before the giving of the Mosaic Law Abraham was given the command that all male children must be circumcised on the eight day which in the Mosaic Law superseded the command to do no work and rest on the Sabbath. Since the one command made the other command void one must conclude the voided command was not really an eternal moral command. After all something morally eternal can have no exceptions to it. Or, as Jesus said:
He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matt. 12:9-12)
If we combine the Adventist concept of 'eternal moral law' with the very words of Jesus then 'doing good' is a far better eternal moral law candidate for our consideration than Sabbath Keeping.