|NO CONFUSION: BRETHREN MADE LIKE HIM
In the book of Revelation, John tells the church that the battle between truth and error that began in heaven was already won by Christ before the conflict came to this earth. The "dragon … that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan … was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:7-9).
This means that the theological hassle about "propensity" and inherited problems and babies and/or fetuses becoming guilty and being or not being sinners is the fruit of speculation. The contest began among sinless beings, where there were no inherited biases; there was no human nature in the conflict. The battle and the conquering of Satan by two-thirds of the angels in a sinless nature had been accomplished before sin invaded this world. That part of the case has been won. It has been settled that among sinless beings truth is stronger than error; sin cannot stand before the law. Michael overcame Satan.
Therefore to put Christ into a worldly contest having taken only a sinless nature like Adam had before the Fall, is to defy the rules of justice. Human beings need a Saviour because they are sinful, therefore the final verdict must depend upon equal conditions affecting the contestants.
What would the Olympic judges do if it were discovered that a woman who had taken gold medals in several feats had had a sex change six months previously? An unlikely case, but surely there is no question the judges would disqualify the contestant and recall the medals.
A real life case is on record. In the recent Olympics the champion runner who took the gold medal with praise heaped upon him for outstanding achievement was discovered to have been on steroids. Thus the runner had an advantage; the race was unfair and the contest was annulled. The gold medal was recalled and the contestant was disgraced. Such a verdict made no problem for the judges.
The greatest case in all history is now pending. If the incarnation was only partial and the standard of justice was not as stated to be; if Christ did not partake of the same flesh and blood as all children of men; if He was not made like unto His brethren, the universe would be compelled to declare a mistrial. If the Defendant achieved His record by unfair methods, then the Accuser of the brethren, "that old serpent called the Devil," could win his case before it goes to court.
But the matter goes much deeper. No court can render a judgment without a law that establishes a standard of measurement. In this case the trial will be settled by the standard of Jesus whose character is a transcript of the law. The whole world will be judged in righteousness "by that man" Christ Jesus (Acts 17:31).
The war in heaven was fought between Lucifer the chief angel of the sinless heavenly host, and the Creator of the universe. The battle on earth was between this fallen angel, now called Satan, and Christ who took fallen human nature. He left His heavenly position and became known as Son of man. In the original war in heaven the contestants were in a sinless environment. In the war on earth the contestants were in a sinful environment. If in the war on earth the Accused, the Son of man, remained "exempt" from having "to live the life of human beings," and would "make-believe" take human nature, then the case was rigged and was illegal.
But it was legal. It was just. It was righteous. It was ordained by God. It laid a foundation and provided a system that would satisfy the deepest emotions of the human heart and challenge the most profound thoughts of men for now and eternity. There remains only to have our eyes opened to discern the issue.
The Path to True Unity In the Church
Political and economic confederacies in every era of earthly history have pursued the Utopian mirage of unity. Only the truth as it is in Jesus, matured and fully developed, will ever bring true "unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:13). The diplomacy and policies that extol human negotiation and compromise as the solution to mankind's turmoil discount completely a gospel that knows no compromise and is nonnegotiable.
In the gospel are absolutes that will emancipate us from the turmoil and confusion of fallen mankind. Only as we understand the truth can the mortal bonds of our human nature be broken so that we can "grow up into him in all things" (verse 15). We will see as He saw, think as He thought, believe as He believed. God will never issue a divine manifesto to herd humanity into the kingdom like so many dumb beasts. We must intelligently discern the path or we will never follow it.
The outpouring of the Spirit of truth in the latter rain will fall in much the same way as the early rain. The disciples did not awake one morning with new personalities and charismatic powers. The outpouring of God's Spirit was not initiated by throwing a celestial switch. It began on a little road to a tiny village a few miles from Jerusalem.
Two disillusioned disciples, perhaps hoping to get away from the ridicule and reproach of the city, were plodding their way into the eventide, heading for Emmaus. With all their expectations shattered, the Scripture tells us "they talked together of all these things which had happened" (Luke 24:14). Though sorely disappointed, they were mindful of their history and they cherished a glimmer of faith which was rewarded when "Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days" (verses 15-18)?
They were incredulous. How could anyone be ignorant of what had happened in Jerusalem? But Jesus could not force the scales from their eyes, anymore than the thunder and lightning on Sinai could inscribe the law on Israel's heart. Only the eyesalve of spiritual understanding would allow them to see Him as the essence of all truth.
Jesus did not astound them with celestial glory and majesty. But with sorrowful, piercing words He said: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (verses 25-27). If the Master should walk in the midst of Seventh-day Adventists today, would His reprimand be any less dramatic? Would He not tell us that our scriptural understanding is wholly inadequate?
As He opened their understanding, their thirst was deepened, for they urged Him to stay the night with them. "As he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (verses 30, 31). It was as He blessed and broke the bread that their sight was perfected. With the bread in hand their eyes were opened, and in a spiritual sense it must follow that they drank His "blood" and were nourished in heavenly understanding. The physical food was of lesser importance. "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh prof-iteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
It mattered not that night had closed in. With hearts aflame they "rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem." When they reached the room where the little company had locked themselves in for fear of the Jews, they gained access with an unseen Visitor. With joy, with skepticism, and with what surely must have been animated conversation, they discussed the events of the day, only to be startled afresh with the appearance of Jesus in their midst. Then to prove He was real, He did that which confirms human life and health; He asked for something to eat. When He had eaten, He spoke to the whole group like He had spoken to the two on the way to Emmaus.
He went to the Scriptures, the law of Moses, the prophets, the psalms, and rehearsed the things concerning Himself. The account makes clear: "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (verse 45). Then was granted to them the beginning of the former rain as Jesus said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:21, 22).
Understanding came before the gift of the Holy Spirit could be given. Fifty days were spent in study, prayer and reviewing the past three years. When spiritual discernment came and their eyes were opened, heaven could grant the blessing that was essential. In a special way they were being made ready to be a people "in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21, 22).
As the disciples reconstructed the temple of truth from the material that Jesus had given them, their prophetic history illuminated their earlier embarrassment and discouragement. The very events that had initiated their disappointment and humiliation became the Chief Cornerstone of their newly developed faith. With comprehension until now unknown, they were in a condition for heaven to come close, imparting the Holy Spirit. "There came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2). It was as if insight blew through their minds and the fire of the Refiner rested upon their brows. All confusion vaporized in a kind of fusion when prophecy and understanding were united and the explosion resulted—Pentecost.
New Wine and Old Bottles
For too long Seventh-day Adventists have skirted their own prophetic history and viewed it through a darkened glass. The True Witness yearns to escort us out from the maze of confusion where detouring Evangelical criticism has led us. But that journey involves far more than reinstating the faith of our fathers. It is a path of transformation. We need a revolutionary unveiling of truth such as Pentecost brought to Israel's prophetic history. Our prophetic legacy must yet yield its harvest of spiritual discernment.
Would we have joined with the crowd who were offended by the display of God's power at Pentecost and with dim understanding judged it to be the fruit of debauchery? The Scriptures assure us they lacked discernment and could only speak the thoughts of their hearts: "They were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine" (Acts 2:12, 13).
These critics little realized the truth of their derision. The disciples were now "full of new wine," of heavenly vintage, such as no one had ever tasted before. Their accusing skeptics did not recognize that these men who had before demonstrated only weakness and confusion of face, were now "new wine skins" filled with a power previously unseen and unknown. Their spiritual vision had shifted from the earthly authority of the Jewish system to that of heaven itself. They no longer trembled before the leaders and potentates of earth. Their entire understanding of truth had undergone a radical transformation. For them, former things had passed away and all things were new. This change ended forever the usefulness of the temporal sacrificial services of Judaism and provided a new spiritual vision in a new spiritual environment. The self-satisfaction that had blinded them to the inadequacy of an earthly system waxed old and vanished away before the testimony of the True Witness.
The revelation of Jesus in the "flesh" as the fulfillment of types and shadows recreated their understanding of the system of salvation, and this in turn remade their experience. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
But their experience was merely a shadow of the real which awaits an end-time fulfillment. The consummation of this transition ultimately results in Christ's return and the establishment of the everlasting kingdom. In this experience is to be found the destiny of Seventh-day Adventists. But the frightening question that looms before us is, will we repeat their history? They thought they were "rich and increased with goods" and the True Witness tells us that this is our fantasy also. The facts show exactly the opposite. If His diagnosis is true, we face the death and resurrection of our own preconceptions, and our system of salvation must undergo a transformation as radical as that of the apostles' day.
Do Adventists see their position like the "unbelieving Jews" regardless of what we may profess? We have spent vast resources of time and energy to reassure the Evangelical world that we are like they are, when in fact we were raised up by God to burst the old wine skins of tradition by a revolutionary insight that would lighten the world with glory. To claim that we are the remnant that keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus, demands the reality of Christ's soon-to-be-ended High Priestly ministry which does not allow us to bypass the moral realities of such declarations. For us to accept the label of "commandment keepers" will not bear the scrutiny of logic while our understanding revolves around a system that makes up for the lack of heart-felt commandment appreciation. Our history tells us that we are to prepare for the end of that ministry.
For this to take place in any community of human hearts and lives, the full truth of righteousness by faith must be clearly understood. Genuine righteousness by faith is not only a truth, but an experience in harmony with the heavenly High Priest's ministry in His closing work of atonement. Continued centuries of ignorance of this truth cannot resolve the problem. The "third angel's message in verity" is vitally needed. In the absence of that truth, no body of people anywhere can be prepared for the second coming of Christ, regardless of their religious affiliation. The High Priest cannot forever minister His blood in substitution to cover the perpetual sinning of His people. He must accomplish something on the Day of Atonement that was never done previously. He must have a people who "overcome" even as He "overcame," a people who condemn sin in the flesh through His faith.
The Evangelical world deplores this idea as surely as the Jews rejected the light given at Christ's first advent. The greater peril is that Adventists are already tinged with the same immature Evangelical concept of the gospel. We face the danger of hiding behind a supposedly perpetual High Priestly ministry which makes provision for continuing transgression. Such compromised theology perpetuates substitution indefinitely and unwittingly postpones the second advent to some dim future time when God arbitrarily decrees His return. But this cannot be! This destroys the principle and purpose of the Day of Atonement. Intercession must come to an end.
The "gospel" of everlasting substitution commandeered by the "little horn" power, and approved by the Evangelical world, justifies and perpetuates sin and therefore logically extends Satan's reign. The practical outworking of this was explained to the church over 100 years ago.
This "unholy influence of Satan" is the secret impetus of all the lawlessness that pervades the modern world at every level of society. But this is the very thing that the true gospel is to conquer. Only those "that do his commandments" will have a right to the tree of life (Revelation 22:14). This is what all the symbols of the sanctuary plainly declare. This is the truth of the three angels' messages to be proclaimed to all people everywhere. This is the coming theological earthquake that has not registered yet on any denominational seismograph. Christ's high priestly ministry is a gracious pro tem provision that must come to an end. It has secured our pardon and it is our title to heaven, but sanctification imparts the needed fitness for translation. Jesus said, "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).
Like His Brethren
Satan is dedicated to keep the enabling power of the gospel eclipsed and to hold God's people in confusion. He is determined that they shall not understand that his "works" were destroyed by Christ as He in human nature "was manifested to take away our sins" (1 John 3:5).
This understanding is the connecting link, the junction box that dispenses power and merges our weakness with heaven's strength. This provides the solution to the final atonement. We must see Christ's victory in terms of His plan for us—our own victory. This means recognizing that all our liabilities rest upon Him. Heaven will never wave a magic wand to free us from the bondage of sin. Such deliverance would deny that there is a war between Satan and Christ. Such mystical deliverance would make a detour around the cross and support the enemy's claim that the law cannot be kept. Jesus must position Himself where we are if we are to obey truly His injunction, "Follow me."
The Saviour of mankind must actually experience our travail and anguish in the struggle against "self." This is why "he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Adventism's unique function is to unveil this truth of a people made righteous by faith. This makes the message of the first angel effective for those who "fear God and give glory to him." As God's people fathom the sufferings and conflict of Christ, their restoration will be complete and revealed before the universe. This revelation will replace the substitutionary gospel that a mere legal pronouncement exempts us from our moral liabilities. Substitution will be replaced by the genuine imparting of Christ's righteousness that He provides "for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). His being made sin for us will bear the fruit intended that "we might be made the righteousness of God in him." This puts sin to an end.
This is the ultimate work of the gospel for which all creation is waiting. This will be proof that the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" from sin. This will be the end of substitution for continual sinning, the end of intercession. The atonement at last has been completed because at last the hearts of God's people are fully "at-one" with Him. The alienation caused by sin is ended. This must precede the proclamation: "There came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done" (Revelation 16:17).
The Last Enemy Overcome
The universe continues to wait for this solemn proclamation until Laodicea comes to "know" the mystery of godliness in contrast to the mystery of iniquity. The church must cease from old covenant dead works and go on to perfection of character. Every aspect of the atonement must be made plain. The experience of Christ must be the experience of His people and that is none other than the experience of the cross. It was this experience that Peter rejected, and it was this attitude that Christ called the domain of men, the throne of Satan (Matthew 16:23). This is the naked abomination of Babylon. In all the centuries since Calvary, believers have heard the same call to take up the cross, but the remnant will hear with a keenness that exceeds all others and will be sealed with a mutual bond of love stronger than the powers of hell. They will "know" that which no previous people have known.
When James and John came to Jesus with a special request for preferential treatment, they little knew what they asked or what was involved. The immaturity of their plea was like a parable of a people in the end-time known as Laodiceans, who talk much of the latter rain and the second advent without sensing that both are the ultimate display of the Creator's power and majesty in vanquishing sin. For those two disciples to ask boldly for the highest places in the king' dom was the height of self-exaltation.
Their request for places on the right and left hand of the King in His glory received a frank, deliberate answer: "Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Their confidence overflowed and they replied, "We can." With patient words, Jesus then told them they spoke more than they understood, for truly they would drink, they would be baptized, but it was not His to give them the high place they coveted. That place was reserved and "it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared" (Mark 10:35-40).
In that hour they did not know what was involved to "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." That place on the right hand and on the left is for a select group who understand the travail of Jesus, and sense His battle with sin. That is a reserved special place: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame" (Revelation 3:21). A mutual conquering of sin would provide a mutual reigning in glory, and for each person seated there has to be a cross. "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain [leader] of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10).
The testimony of Scripture assures those who are willing to listen, that there was far more to the agony on the cross than the payment of a legal debt. There was victory over sin. Jesus did far more than die the second death—He conquered it. The portrayal is clear:
Whatever the second death could hurl at the helpless soul of Jesus on the cross, it could not crush His faith. The sense of the loss of His Father's favor was withdrawn. The very power of sin to exclude us from the favor of heaven was broken. The initial blindness that sin inflicted upon our first parents in the Garden was defeated by the second Adam, the Son of man. The misapprehension and fear that have blinded man and kept him in the bondage of sin, were vanquished by the faith of Jesus. He saw beyond the lie of sin and refused to heed its accusations. "He saved others; himself he cannot save. … When Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands 1 commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost" (Mark 15:31; Luke 23:46). His faith was triumphant.
At this point in the history of the universe, sin was made evident for what it is. Every human heart was exposed. All the hidden desires and motives that could deceive mankind were brought to the surface by the Refiner's fire at Calvary when "love of self" in the human heart was conquered by the Son of man.
But the death of sin must be attended also by a resurrection from it. And here it was that the faith of Christ clung to the evidences of God's prior acceptance. The Scriptures He had stored in His heart sustained Him so that He could not sin against God. That evidence and those promises He employed by faith, and triumphed over the abyss of the second death. He was dead but now He lives and has "the keys of hell." And so …
How could words be plainer?—"no more offering for sin" means an end of substitution. It is no longer required, and the penitent may enter the holiest without fear. Here is the substance of things hoped for; here is the evidence God has promised to His people. Here is a new and living way, consecrated for us by that One who became flesh and lived among us so that we could behold the glory of God. But going on to greater heights than this: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).
Brethren Like Him
The sacrifice that God offered consecrated a new and living way through "his flesh." It has perfected forever them who are sanctified to produce results that astonish the angelic host, both fallen and unfallen. Satan is dumfounded at the transformations made upon human hearts by God's abundant grace that closes the door to his sophistries. The unfallen angels, seraphim and cherubim, "look on with astonishment and joy, that fallen men, once children of wrath, are through the training of Christ developing characters after the divine similitude, to be sons and daughters of God." The picture of God's people, portrayed by the Lord's messenger creates an ecstasy of soul beyond description.
Our church has been given ample facilities to render to God the large revenue of glory purchased and made available on the cross. This majestic description gives power and hope while the complete fulfillment is pending. The pulpits of the church around the world are waiting to resound with this powerful good news:
The wonder of the angels must be amplified to tears, as they listen to questions bandied about among God's people today. They hear church members asking and doubting how Christ could become one of the human family like Adam after the Fall. They hear jesting about how His people can never be overcomers before He returns. They see His church challenge the idea that the remnant in their untainted and spotless perfection are the supplement of His glory. They read belittling remarks about an "esoteric brand of righteousness by faith" with scorn heaped upon the call of Christ for "corporate repentance" and a return to the message God sent to His people in 1888.7
In all history have any people shown such apostate lack of faith as is now obvious? What can make His people receive the eyesalve He offers? The evidence is mountain high, and even casual study brings forth ever more confirmation of the truth about His incarnation. The gospel is straightforward, and every part of it supports and vindicates God's character. We need only to believe the truth we have been given.
The magnitude of how and why Christ took human nature leaves no doubt as we are assured:
Here is condescension that should arrest the most calloused—Christ purchased a mutual victory. God and man are to be in harmony, but there are those who would tell us that we cannot be in harmony. It is claimed that man is bound to continue wallowing in sin until Jesus comes. Surely our blindness is as great as the scribes and rulers of 2000 years ago. They were convicted. Their understanding was opened and they were convinced, but they would not receive the Seed of the woman. They had been privileged with every temporal and spiritual advantage heaven could supply, but they turned away from the light.
There is growing dichotomy in the church today, there is outright objection to Christ taking fallen human nature. Many insist on holding the pagan philosophy of Babylon that proclaims God's "dwelling is not with flesh" (Daniel 2:11). (The only kind of "flesh" there is in the world is fallen, human flesh.) Our reticence to call sin by its right name, makes provision for its continuation. In the meantime, we oppose the discussion of the heaven-sent truth of righteousness by faith. All this is tantamount to the course the Jews took in Christ's day. The results will be equally disastrous.
The purpose of the gospel is to restore to the human race that robe of God's glory that Adam had before the Fall, and more than that—not only to be like Adam, but "like Christ." This is why we are assured that the love of the Father is so great that "we should be called sons of God." But the world does not know Him. They want Him to be other than He was. In the same way His people will be misunderstood and with Him will be rejected by the world. The world is not willing to accept a people such as John saw, "born of God," and in whom "his love is perfected," and who "have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are [they] in this world" (1 John 3:9; 4:12, 17). They will be brethren like Him!
What the gospel did in Christ it can do in every man, woman and child who believes. All creation is waiting for this "manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19). It will continue to wait until the demonstration is complete "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This divine purpose is portrayed in a few verses from Paul's letter to the Galatians:
When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:4-7).
In the final generation God will stand vindicated before the universe. Satan will not only have been overcome by the Son of man, the Lord Jesus, but by all the sons of Adam who reflect the image of God fully. There will be "144,000" of them, brethren and sisters by the power of the gospel made like unto Him.
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