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First Quarter 2019 • January, February, March
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Week 3: January 12–18
COMMENTARY ON "Jesus' Messages to the Seven Churches"
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.
From the lesson: “Like Balaam, who apostatized and enticed the Israelites to sin against God on the way to the Promised Land”
The author seems to be saying that Balaam was an Israelite who apostatized, but he wasn’t an Israelite.
So he (Balak) sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people...
Gen. 36:42 says that Edom was the land of the descendants of Esau.
Gen. 36:30 says that “Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom..”
From this we see that Balaam was an Edomite, not an Israelite. Furthermore:
The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain (Josh. 13:22).
He was not an apostate Israelite; rather he was a descendant of Esau and a diviner, or one who talked to the dead.
At the end of the day’s lesson there is a sentence that is quite subtle—so subtle I almost missed what it said:
How can our refusal to deny our faith help us to resist compromise and be “ ’faithful unto death’?
This sounds innocuous until you realize its deeper meaning in the language of Adventist theology. It references Rev. 14:12:
Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
In “Adventist-speak” this means keeping the 10 Commandments; the “faith in Jesus” is only secondary to the Law-keeping. In the Adventist context this is asking how the reader can keep from denying his faith and keep the 10 Commandments—meaning especially the 7th day Sabbath—even if it means death. This is a subtle way to reinforce the necessity of Law-keeping, even over and above having faith in Jesus.
They say that having faith in Jesus means you are enabled to keep the 10 Commandments, but that entirely misses the mark. Having faith in Jesus means, Biblically, to trust in Him to save and to trust in Him entirely with no reliance on our own works—including Law-keeping.
From the lesson:
Think about the words of Revelation 2:25: “Hold fast what you have till I come”(NKJV). What do those words mean to us, both corporately and individually? What do we have from Jesus that we must hold on to?
In Adventist theology, what we have from Jesus is a start of the process of salvation and an example we must follow in order to be saved. There can be no assurance of salvation in this context as we are required to finish the salvation process ourselves, with a little help from Jesus. Also, we know in our hearts that we can never follow His example sufficiently to save us. In fact, His example is that of holy living, dedicated to God and relying on the Holy Spirit, not that of providing salvation.
The next paragraph further reveals the real intent:
Keeping ever before us the great truth of salvation by faith in Christ alone, in what ways could we say that our works have not been found “perfect” before God? What does that mean, and how can we “perfect” our works before Him? See Matt. 5:44–48.
The last verse of Matthew 5 is the key:
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Here, then, is the real intent of this: we must “perfect our works” before God, with the clear warning that if our works are not perfect, there is no salvation possible.
Add to this the idea that our perfection is to be that of our efforts and achievements rather than that of Jesus’ perfection which is credited to us, and you have a recipe for hopelessness. We all know that we will not be perfect—without fault—and pretty soon we either ignore the impossibility of the situation and try harder, or we give up.
Actually, giving up is the right way to go as long as you then turn it all over to Jesus and accept His perfect righteousness in place of our own!
Here is where Strong’s Complete Concordance is helpful. It defines “perfect”, #5046 as: “complete, of full age”.
The idea is that we are to grow up in Christ, not that we become perfect in ourselves. To grow up in Christ is to acknowledge that our own perfection is never enough, which leads us to the cross to accept Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us. Only with his perfection credited to us can we stand "perfect" before God.
From the lesson:
Unfortunately, these same Christians do not have much to share about their present experience with Christ. Their religion is nominal, lacking the true religion of the heart and genuine commitment to the gospel…
To be honest we must add to that those who claim their own “Law-keeping” as a sign of their good religion and standing with God, ignoring once again the total impossibility of keeping the whole law perfectly—the only acceptable standard. Only Jesus has ever done so, and when we accept His perfection in place of our own, only then will we be counted perfect.
From the lesson:
Given the light they had, God’s people did indeed seek to keep “My word” (Rev. 3:8, NKJV) at this time. There was a growing emphasis on obedience to God’s commandments and pure living.
There are a couple of problems here, starting with the first phrase “given the light they had”. This is Adventist-speak that’s used to excuse the errors at the start of the Adventist church. While they believe that God was behind it and that the message of EGW is directly from God, this little phrase is used to cover up the errors and to blame God for them and to excuse the serious theological errors of the founders of the church.
And the last sentence packs quite a punch. While there is nothing wrong with pure living, to say that it is necessary to maintaining your salvation is to once again deny the efficacy of Jesus’ death for us. It is always our goal to live purely, but it is out of gratitude to Jesus for the completed salvation He provided, not to maintain it or else! As soon as you make it necessary for salvation, you are saying that Jesus death for our sins was not enough, but you have to save yourself by your own effort.
The next sentence is completely out of place and misrepresents the Bible text:
The “open door” is apparently the way into the heavenly sanctuary...
To say that every instance of “open door” means the same thing, regardless of context, is to do serious damage to the Word of God. This is a blatant attempt to insert the Investigative Judgment theme into the Bible in an attempt to prove that it’s true and Biblical.
Look at all of verse 8:
I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name
It says that the open door is “before us”, not some supposed door in heaven where Jesus entered in 1844. This is a door of ministry which is opened for them through the power of Jesus.
The word ‘put’ is the perfect tense of Greek which literally means “I give”. In context it can mean bestow, grant, supply, commit. It is a door for ministry opened by God’s power for them to use to reach the lost.
The next sentence:
One door being closed and another door being opened point to the change that would take place in Christ’s high-priestly ministry, in 1844.
This is a complete twisting of the meaning of the verse. If you notice, it says that “no one can shut”" not that it was shut.
From the lesson:
What indications are given that time is short and that the coming of Jesus is drawing near? What is the significance of God’s name being written on His people (see 2 Tim. 2:19)? If a name represents a person’s character, what does Exodus 34:6 tell us about those who bear God’s name?
There are a couple of problems here. First of all, 2 Timothy 2:19 has nothing to do with God’s name being written on us. Rather, it refers to those who call on God’s name.
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." 2 Tim 2:19
Then there is an even more bizarre misuse of Scripture; the last sentence in that paragraph refers to Exodus 34:6:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”
According to the question in the lesson, this would apparently mean that we are compassionate and gracious. This is simply not true and NOT what the verse in Exodus is saying. It is proclaiming, in God’s own words, His character, not ours.
In the next paragraph:
God’s promise to write His name on those who overcome indicates that God’s character will be seen in His people.
No, that is not what it indicates! We are not “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth”! Those are God’s characteristics, and although we are to become more like Him, for us to reproduce those character traits would mean we would be like God.
What it means for God to “write His name on those who overcome” is to claim us as His own. We overcome through accepting the perfect life of Jesus and His death for us, not by our own achievement. And further, according to John 6:37-40, once He writes His name on us, He claims us for His own—HE WILL NOT LOSE ONE OF US!
Not through any goodness or achievement of our own but rather by our accepting His perfection in our place so that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus’ perfection in place of our own failures. To say that those characteristics will describe us is to say that we will become perfectly like God. We know this isn’t possible until we receive our glorified bodies without a sin nature. Even then, we will not be exactly like God or we would BE God. What a discouraging claim!
From the lesson, in questions at the end of the day:
What does the hope of Christ’s soon coming mean to you?
I won’t speak for anyone else, but for me, that always meant a heart-sinking clutch of fear and despair. I knew I wasn’t good enough or “safe to save” and preferred not to think about it.
Now that I have thrown off the lies about perfection and the need for my own works to be added to those of Jesus in order to be saved, I am so excited about the soon coming that I can hardly wait! Sometimes when I think about it, I am almost discouraged when it doesn’t happen NOW!
And the last question:
How does Christ’s promise to complete the work He has begun give us assurance?
Does the author really believe that Christ will finish the work? Or does he think that he himself has to finish the work? As if his salvation is a wind-up toy that Jesus’ death started, but he now has to do the rest himself.
From the lesson:
What does this counsel say to us as Seventh-day Adventists, who recognize ourselves as the Laodicean church?
Does the author really see the Adventist church as the Laodicean church? OOPS! Look at the description of that church:
So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Have need of nothing, wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
While that description does describe the current state of much of the church (Body of Christ as a whole), do they really want to use it to define the Adventist church?
Actually, sadly, it does describe those who believe the official doctrinal beliefs of the Adventist church.
As long as they think they can become perfect in themselves, they are blind they don’t know that they need Jesus from start to finish.
As long as they think they need nothing—as long as they keep the 10 Commandments, specifically the 4th one—they are relying on their own self for salvation.
As long as they accept what EGW says about the need for perfection, they are wretched and miserable because we all know that that is an impossible goal.
Perhaps the author meant to say “part of” the Laodicean church. That, at least, would remove some of the burden of despair.
Further down we see this:
The warning to keep one’s garments and not walk naked appears in the midst of a reference to the spiritual battle of Armageddon. The timing of Jesus’ warning may seem rather strange, at first, because it is no longer possible to receive these garments. After all, probation already will have closed for everyone.
Here, again, we see the attempt to spiritualize much of the book of Revelation. Armageddon is mentioned in Chapter 16 where it is clearly talking about a gathering of the nations—meaning those of the world, not the saved—into the valley of Megiddo. Then the lesson immediately changes from symbolic to literal by claiming that "probation will have closed". Then, in the next paragraph, it again refers to Armageddon as a real event, not a spiritualized battle.
This is not the way to read the Bible. Take it literally unless the immediate context clearly indicates it is symbolic. If you don’t do that, you can make it mean anything you want it to say. Which, of course, is exactly what is happening here.
From the lesson, this quote from EGW:
Think of that promise in light of the statement that “the church, enfeebled and defective though it be, is the only object on earth on which Christ bestows His supreme regard. He is constantly watching it with solicitude, and is strengthening it by His Holy Spirit.—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 396."
This shows a lack of understanding of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit. We are saved individually, not corporately and the Holy Spirit indwells each saved individual. Yes, as a group indwelt by the Spirit, we as a group are powered by the Spirit.
Apparently, that quote is meant to strengthen the idea that only the Adventist church is God’s approved work on earth.
The Church, meaning the whole body of Christ, not just one denomination, IS watched over by Christ as He watches over each member of His Body.
In the questions at the end, question #3:
How can we, as Seventh-day Adventists, better heed the words given to us in the message to the Laodiceans?
I would like to answer that this way: the only way to heed the words to Laodicea is to accept the following. So if you claim to be the Laodicean church, take it to heart.
Are you neither cold nor hot?
Accept Jesus’ finished work for your salvation and receive the Holy Spirit in place of your own perfection. As the Spirit fills you, you will find a fire of joy and faith by trusting in Jesus finished work
Do you think you are rich and need nothing?
Realize that if you have to work to keep yourself saved, you will fail and truly have nothing. Only Jesus’ work on your behalf can save you and only He can keep you saved (see John 6:37-40).
Are you wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked?
Know that ONLY in Jesus will this pathetic state be changed; nothing you can do will make it better
Do you need to buy white garments?
The only white garment that will adequately cover your sins the perfect righteousness of Christ, NOT your own works. As far as ’buying’ it, look at Isaiah 55:1 to see the true price.
Do you need eye salve in order to see?
When they Holy Spirit indwells you, your eyes will be opened to the glorious truths of God and you will realize that, in yourself, you are nothing.