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First Quarter 2016 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON REBELLION AND REDEMPTION
Week 13: March 19–25
COMMENTARY ON REDEMPTION
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).
This lesson opens up attempting to explain the cause of evil in the world philosophically. The writer states that it exists because of personal freedom. I would challenge the writer to prove that claim with scripture. The more concerning statement though is the following assertion:
“He will resolve the great controversy in a way that will forever end all questions about His self-denial, goodness, justice, love, and law”
What does the author mean by “end all questions”? Is the goodness of God really in question? Are we the judge of God? We actually find this same theme in the writings of Ellen White.
“Jesus was bearing the sin of the world; he was enduring the curse of the law; he was·vindicating the justice of God. Separation from his Father, the punishment for transgression, was to fall upon him in order to magnify God’s law and testify to its immutability.·And this was forever to settle the controversy between Satan and the Prince of heaven in regard to the changeless character of that law.”·EGW,·Signs of the Times, Feb. 13, 1896.
Here is the problem though; this is not backed up in scripture. Not only that but the Bible actually teaches the opposite.
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.; Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?;·But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”·Psa 115:1-3 KJV
“For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.;Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.; He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.”·Psa 135:5-7 KJV
“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing:·and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”·Dan 4:35 KJV
“Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?; Nay but,·O man, who art thou that repliest against God?·Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?; ·Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”Rom 9:19-21 KJV
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,; Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.;·He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”Psa 2:2-4 KJV
Here is the thing, God doesn’t need vindication. And according to Psalms 2 he laughs at people who question his authority. He doesn’t prove himself to them like a lawyer making a case. This false view of God taught by the author of the quarterly puts forward a deity that we are in the jury box to review. This is not the God taught in the Bible.
Sunday March 20
This lesson puts forth a number of examples related to what Christianity calls Spiritual warfare. This is simply accepting that the devil and his wiles exist in the world today. The confusing part is that we see a teaching that appears to contradict itself.
The writer first says:
“Satan has no power against Christ and Christ’s followers because Christ has released His people from the bonds of Satan”
Then he says:
“What promises can you claim that will free you from whatever chains the evil one seeks to bind you with?”
So to be clear, I have to first know in which ways the devil is going to bind me, and then I have to claim the correct promises in order to protect myself? I think this is a fair conclusion to draw from what the author is writing. The problem is that this is highly subjective and can lead a lot of people to despair. What if you are interpreting a personal tragedy in your life as an attack of the devil? If you pray and claim the right promises for protection and the tragedy persists does that mean you didn’t pray hard enough? Does that mean you didn’t have enough faith? Does that mean you’re not really a Christian after all?
The problem with this theology is that the reader is being turned to themselves as the solution. Christ has already defeated satan, this is not some ongoing battle in which we are critical front line combatants. It is finished and Jesus won. Jesus Christ has already bound the devil:
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”·John 12:31 ESV
“concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”·John 16:11 ESV
·“But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first·binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”·Mark 3:27 ESV
And he is currently ruling and reigning.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,·and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”·Luk 1:32-33 ESV
“concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh”·Rom 1:3 ESV
“But of the Son he says,·“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,·the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”·Heb 1:8 ESV
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”·Matt 28:18 ESV
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”·John 16:33 ESV
Some theologians call this the “already but not yet”. I will urge the reader to conduct their own studies on eschatology to see where they stand on such things. But the point is that Christ has defeated the devil and you need only trust in him and his finished work on the cross.
Monday - March 21
I would challenge the writer of the quarterly to prove that the “fruitful land” in Jeremiah 4:26 is the whole world. Jerusalem is frequently referred to in such terms throughout scripture. And since Jeremiah’s prophecies of destruction were very focused on the fall of Jerusalem the most logical referent is Jerusalem itself.
Also, the writer seems to be construction a chronology of end time events that is not given in the text.
“First, Jesus promises to take His followers to a place He left earth to prepare (John 14:1–3)”
Where in John 14 does it say this is the “first” thing in any chronology? I would agree this is a critical text related to the eschaton but to put it in a chronological order related to other events and then draw conclusions off of that just sets the reader up for error.
Then we get this curious statement from Ellen White:
“In union with Christ they judge the wicked, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Bible, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body. Then the portion which the wicked must suffer is meted out, according to their works; and it is recorded against their names in the book of death.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 661
What is the book of death? I don’t remember that in the Bible, I did hear about it once in a movie called the Mummy. I think this is made up. I am not denying the white throne judgment or any of that, I am just asking why we need to go adding to it. I think there is a warning against that actually.
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Rev 22:18-19 KJV
Tuesday – March 22
This lesson accurately portrays the Seventh-Day Adventist interpretation of the millennium followed by the white throne judgment. The thing that does stand out as concerning though is this claim with regards to the purpose of God’s Judgment.
“The purpose of judgment is not to teach God anything that He doesn’t already know, for He already knows everything. The purpose is to ensure that everybody knows exactly why God has judged the way that He has.”
It is almost as if the author is implying that God’s purpose is clarity rather than judgment. Again I would argue that this ties into the view of the need for God to be vindicated. But the problem with this is that it makes us the Judge of God rather than him the Judge of humanity.
We see this theme in other SDA writings as well:
“It is necessary that the truth about God, Christ and Satan be made manifest. The real story of all three is involved in the cosmic controversy. The revelation of who they really are must be made so that all created beings, angelic (fallen and unfallen), humans (redeemed and lost) and the unfallen inhabitants of worlds afar,·may all vote unanimously on who is right and who is wrong. Only one side can win, yet all from both sides must vote, and vote the same.·This is done with complete freedom, and is done purely on the evidence given by both sides.”·The Cosmic Controversy: World View for Theology and Life. , Norman R. Gulley, p. 85
“Jesus employed no·miraculous agency to compel·men to believe in him.·They were left to choose or reject him, of their own·free will. No direct power was to force them into obedience, and destroy the·free moral agency·that God has given to man.” Ellen White,·Redemption: or the Teaches of Christ, The Anointed One, Pg 83
This view isn’t supported by scripture though. In fact, instead of the Bible teaching that we are the judge of God it instead teaches that we don’t amount to much at all.
“5 And the·glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.; 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?·All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:; 7·The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.; 8·The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”·Isaiah 40:5-8 KJV
“15 Behold, the nations are as a·drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.; 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.; 17·All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him·less than nothing, and vanity.”Isaiah 40:15-17 KJV
Bottom line is that we don’t get to vote on God. It is by his grace, a disposition God has towards us, that we are saved. This Grace is not deserved or earned in any way. And without the shed blood of Christ covering your sins you have no case. The Judgment of God is not for your benefit to hear how you stack up. The Bible already reveals that plain as day. The standard is absolute perfection, if you don’t meet that standard I urge you to trust in the merits one by another on your behalf.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt 5:48 KJV
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” Phil 3:9 KJV
Wednesday March 23
This lesson focuses on a picture of the New Heavens and New Earth. The only statement that concerns me is one in the beginning.
“Sin and rebellion have been unwelcome intruders. They were never meant to be here”
The Bible is actually very clear that God knows everything (Isaiah 41:21-24)(Isaiah 45:1-6, 13)(Psalms 147:5). It logically follows from this that sin and rebellion factored in to his intent on some level before creation. That doesn’t mean he desires or authored evil, but it does mean that he knew it would take place and for reasons that he has not included us on chose to go ahead with creation anyways.
Thursday March 24
This lesson provides imagery on the authors understanding of the bliss in the age to come. What you have here is the eschaton. This is found in the oldest Christian creeds and writings.
“He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” – Nicene Creed
Next the author speaks of a broken covenant which Jesus came to “neutralize the effects” of. I don’t know what the author means by this. It seems to be a non-specific statement.
“Jesus came the first time to neutralize the effects of the broken covenant. Jeremiah described the consequences of the broken covenant this way: “ ‘ “Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you” ’ ” (Jer. 30:15, NKJV)”
This reason I mention this is because the verbiage chosen by the author is compatible with a number of false teachings that exist on biblical covenants. Some will say there is only “one covenant” for example, but we know this doesn’t work Biblically because some covenants have conditions and some do not. For example, the covenant with Noah has no condition. We have no fear of the world being flooded again. The mosaic covenant however has blessings and curses contingent upon obedience (See Lev 26).
It is the Mosaic covenant broken by Israel that was replaced:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the·Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,·not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the·Lord.” Jer 31:31-32 ESV
“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20 ESV
“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Heb 8:13 ESV
The distinction between the Mosaic covenant and the New covenant is not one of restoration but rather of replacement. One is obsolete and just gone, the other has replaced it and is the new covenant.
Friday March 25
This lesson makes a lot of unnecessary speculations about the end of the world and the chronology of end time events. The focus is on the judgment of the saints and how that applies during the millennium.
The problem with this rendering though is that Judgment is given to the saints in Revelation 20:4. This is something that SDA believe and agree with and are even arguing for in this lesson. The problem is though that in the SDA framework all of the wicked are dead during the millennium. How are the righteous supposed to be judging anyone in any capacity if the wicked are dead and on earth while the righteous are supposed to be in heaven?
I am not going to hide the fact that there are many different views on the millennium within Christianity today. And much of how one views this text is going to depend on the framework they are brining to the table. But once you do your homework on that you shouldn’t have glaring inconsistencies like the one that I just mentioned.