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Second Quarter 2016 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
Week 5: April 23–29
COMMENTARY ON THE SEEN AND THE UNSEEN WAR
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, April 23: Introduction
This quote from today's lesson sets the theme for this week:
"Indeed, the great controversy between Christ and Satan forms the unseen background to the world of the seen that we experience every day. This week we will examine texts from Matthew (and elsewhere) that help to reveal these unseen forces and how they impact our lives, and choices, here."
Since the lessons for this week make a pretense of being a study of Matthew chapter eleven by quoting verse twelve this should have been the lesson theme text for this week:
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt. 11:11-15)
When Jesus said "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (verse 15), he is is telling us that if you have the right (spiritual, John 16:7-13) "ears to hear" you will understand that what he is about to say explains what he has just said.
By introducing the extra-biblical Great Controversy theme into the lesson instead of making a contextual study of the surrounding biblical text the lesson author makes Matthew 11:12 very difficult if not impossible to understand. In reality, the lessons for this week are propaganda intended to promote the Great Controversy theme.
As a needed reminder this is the foundation of the Great Controversy:
In this concept it is claimed that Satan (Lucifer) and Jesus (who Adventist are told is Michael the arc angel) where once equals until God (the Father) elevated Jesus to the position of 'Son of God'. Out of jealousy, Lucifer rebelled resulting in 'war in heaven' where he along with the evil angels who had joined with him were cast out of heaven. It is also claimed that this is now an ongoing war here on earth where God must vindicate his character (with the 'eternal moral law' being a transcript of God's character) before a world of watching unfallen beings (out there somewhere), by proving sinners here on earth can learn to follow Jesus example (his perfect life he live here on earth) and for "some" to live perfectly without sinning in accordance to this 'eternal existing moral law', otherwise summarized in the 'Ten Commandments' of the Mosaic law given to the Hebrew people at Sinai.
'The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan' is a concept that has not been established from Scripture. Instead, it is founded solely upon the teachings of Ellen G. White.
While there is much that can be said in opposition to this concept, the three points that will suffice for now are this:
• Jesus is and always has been eternally equal with God the Father.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt. 11:27)
And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed...Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17:5 & 24)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)
• Jesus is the Creator of all that has been created.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
Since Lucifer is not God, he exists only because he was created. Therefore the conclusion must be that he was created by Jesus, since Jesus is the Creator of all things that exist. Or as it says in this parable 'the clay cannot question the potter', Jer. 18:5-10; Rom. 9:20.
• God is sovereign. Anything that limits God's sovereignty is heresy.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." (Job 38:1-4)
Job, who God declares to be "a blameless and upright man" (Job 1:8) could not prevail in questioning the actions of God. Certainly Satan could not and cannot challenge God and prevail either. Therefore the idea that Satan could do so within the Great Controversy theme is a lie and heresy intended to limited who God is.
Sunday, April 24: Matthew 11:11, 12
In the lesson we are told that the passage of Matt. 11:11-12 is "one of the most challenging texts in all Scripture":
"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11:11-12)
Matt. 11:11-12 maybe a challenging texts yet, in the very words of Jesus, which the lesson for today totally ignores, there is an explanation. Speculating on the possible meaning without first examining the context is an extremely poor approach to understanding Scripture. Furthermore, the quarterly lesson has a 'built in' bias of promoting the Great Controversy theme which seems to be more important (in the mind of the lesson author) than simply making a contextual study of this chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Yes, Jesus is describing a battle that is both "seen and unseen" yet, as has been already stressed, the Great Controversy fraud only adds to the challenge of understanding the true meaning of Scripture.
The phrase 'from the days of John the Baptist until now' suggests a time period that spans the life of John the Baptist up to at least when Jesus is speaking. Since Jesus obviously knows what is about to happen to John the Baptist we can, by hindsight, see that the "violence" would include John having his head 'served up on a platter'. Jesus then teaches about the violence the kingdom of heaven is undergoing by using the parable of "this generation" as "children sitting in the Marketplaces":
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matt. 11:17-19)
The people are so blind to what is going on in their lives their response to Jesus' miracles and teaching is, for the most part, inappropriate. They don't know when to 'dance' nor when they need to 'mourn'. Next, Jesus explains what this 'violence' is all about in verses 20 through 24:
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (Matt. 11:20)
Then Matthew chapter eleven culminates with this wonderful promise for those who do repent:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:25-30)
While there is a possible deeper meaning to what Jesus is teaching here we should not neglect to study what is recorded in Scripture, especially the whole of this very chapter:
Monday, April 25: The Frontiers of Darkness
The lesson focus is on Matt: 11:12 while assuming a "meek and mild kingdom of heaven" that is either being attacking by "violent people" or are "forceful men seizing it are actually followers of Christ"? Then says:
"Is it possible for followers of Christ to be this aggressive, even forceful, in their pursuit of the kingdom?"
The lesson then uses a quote from the well known research professor (D. A. Carson), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to support the failed Adventist Great Controversy theme. It is with certainty that this professor of New Testament theology would be shocked to see a statement of his associated with something so blatantly non-biblical.
But back to the question of; 'are Christians to be aggressive'. The answer is; yes, but only in one way with the use of only one weapon only:
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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph. 6:10-20)
Tuesday, April 26: The "Warfare Worldview"
Instead of making this a study of the Gospel of Matthew and the words of Jesus the lesson sidetracks things by interjecting the Adventist Great Controversy "Warfare Worldview" with this question:
'What do the following texts tell us about in view of the reality of the great controversy?'
We are expected to see the "reality" of the Great Controversy in the following verses.
Wednesday, April 27: When the Battle Gets Nasty
The lesson for today continues with the Great Controversy theme with this statement:
"Read Matthew 11:1–12. How do we see the reality of the great controversy here being played out on a number of levels? That is, how does the great controversy help us to make sense of what is happening here?"
It is good to focus on the introductory verses of this chapter but this should have been done on the first day of study versus finally getting around to doing so on the fifth day. Instead of gaining an understanding from a contextual study of the words of Jesus the lesson continues to uphold the Adventist Great Controversy world view by asking a series of meaningless hypothetical questions that don't have direct answers in the text and only have the appearance of being a study of Scripture.
For instance, earlier this week it was suggested that what prompted the question put to Jesus about his identity was doubt in the mind of John the Baptist. Now that possibility has been changed into a 'certainty' by this lesson question:
"Also, who do we think was putting the doubts in John’s head?"
An idea doesn't become fact simply because we keep repeating it and think it might be true. In the bible text it does not say why John the Baptist was asking the question not does it say what or who motivated him to ask in the first place.
All this is speculation and not real bible study.
We do have other Scripture, in the very words of John the Baptist, that reveal his own thoughts concerning Jesus Christ the promised Messiah:
Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:25-30)
Thursday, April 28: A Lost Cause
The lesson author exposes the fundamental fallacy of the Great Controversy theme with this statement:
"Just as Satan lost the war in heaven, he lost the war on earth, as well. But with hatred and vengeance he’s still seeking all whom he may devour (see 1 Pet. 5:8)....."
Yes, Satan lost the war in heaven. When a war is lost it is not the same as loosing just a battle in a war. In this case Satan's person fate was determined the instant he was cast out of heaven. Therefore, in God's own timing he will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God is the Creator of all that exists apart from God. Therefore it is heresy for anyone to claim Satan (Lucifer) was once equal with Jesus (Michael the arc angel) and that Lucifer's rebellion in heaven was motivated out of jealousy when God the Father supposedly raised Jesus to be equal with himself. Who else but Satan himself could come up with such a lie?
It is also heresy to claim that our sovereign God must justify himself before watching created righteous beings 'somewhere out there' in the universe as God does not justify himself to those he has created. Furthermore the Old Covenant Mosaic law as summarized in the Ten Commandments is not a "transcript" of the character of God. The God who says “I AM WHO I AM” is self-existing and not defined by the boundaries contained in the Mosaic covenant that came later.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Ex. 3:13-15)
Nor Jesus did live among fallen mankind to prove sinners could perfectly 'keep' this law. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
As the lesson author admits in today's lesson quote, Satan also lost the warfare here on earth when Jesus died for the sins of the world at Calvary and arose three days later. Furthermore, since our redemption was complete, Jesus sat down at the side of the Father when he ascended into heaven. This means he has always been in the Most Holy place since that time. The Most Holy place is what it is because of who the Father is therefore nothing happened in heaven on October 22, 1844. What happened here on earth since that date is another story.
Friday, April 29: Further Thought
The quarterly lessons for this week to have not been a serious study of the Gospel of Matthew. The weekly lessons focused on verse twelve yet didn't seriously consider the context leading up to this verse. Then, to compound that error, totally ignored Jesus' own immediate explanation that followed what he said in verse twelve.
Instead, this has been a propaganda platform for promoting the failed non-biblical Great Controversy theme.