|THE WORD WILL REMOVE OUR CONFUSION
The last book of the Bible begins as "the Revelation of Jesus Christ." "Revelation" means to unveil. The first book of the Bible begins with the promise of a Seed. Both the beginning and the ending of the Scriptures bring to Seventhday Adventists insight and admonition that is imperative. Each presents a picture of conflict, a war that has been in progress for 6000 years and continues to plague the universe. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain," suffering in a way that until now only God can comprehend. The entire cosmos is waiting "for the manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19, 22).
Meanwhile, what is the Seventhday Adventist church doing today that is more knowledgeable and efficacious than it was doing 100 years ago? Do we understand the Day of Atonement more clearly now than did the pioneers of the church?
God's people have been content to consider that the sin problem belongs to Him and sometime He will decide to do something about it. In the meantime we will watch and pray and read the Bible and above all strive to be more like Jesus. We will hope that the Lord gives us a love for people that will lead us to share the good news, and that our hearts will burn with the blessed hope because Jesus is coming soon. And the decades roll on!
The sons and daughters of God will take their rightful place only when they recognize their responsibility in the war between sin and righteousness. Until they do, the promise given to the parents of the human race must remain "on hold."
While we wait, we need to get on with our homework. We have a lesson to learn—that the summation of Jesus' office and work is contained in His statement, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending" (Revelation 1:8). Hidden in this announcement is the plan of salvation. The resolution of this 6000 years of controversy is no less than the revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ. It is this Word which was "made flesh" that Satan blackmails and slanders before the universe.
But his war against God, with all his subterfuge, will vaporize in the face of this revelation. To unveil Jesus before the universe is to demonstrate the truth of who God is, and to bring to an end the doubt and fear that have given Satan his hold on minds.
The power of this demonstration of Christ's glory is vividly portrayed in the 12th chapter of Revelation. Here is a woman, the church, "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (verse 1). These symbols that have reflected the glory of righteousness are the foundation for her feet. She is crowned with the honor of the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles. She is entrusted with the law and the prophets and the gospel. She is "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (Song of Solomon 6:10); and all this light and truth is for one specific purpose, that she might give birth to "the man child."
The glory, wisdom and truth of all ages is consummated in knowing and in understanding this "man child," Jesus Christ. Satan trembles for fear the church will discover a clear understanding of this "man"—for to know Him is "life eternal," and that means the end of the war. Every conflict in the history of sin is framed against the backdrop of the travail of this woman to give birth to this "revelation."
The original rebellion in the beginning when "his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven" (Revelation 12:4), to the final defeat and destruction of Satan, hinges on the incarnation. The "accuser of our brethren" cannot be "cast down" (verse 10) so long as the character of Christ is unrevealed and misunderstood. The proper understanding of the Word becoming "flesh" seals the final victory that ends the war against God. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (verse 11)—physical death and death to "self." The testimony that constitutes their victory is said to be theirs, but it is more. The declaration of their experience of overcoming by the blood of the Lamb is none other than the "testimony of Jesus" who stands with His people (verse 17).
Verse 17, (frequently connected with Revelation 19:10, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy") supplies authority and support for the writings of the Lord's messenger, Ellen White. As true and supportive as this has been, much more is involved than the validity of her writings. This verse forecasts the day when our own testimony and experience will be directly connected to the experience of Christ as the "Son of man." This experience will be the culmination of all prophetic utterance.
This is the reason why the woman stands on the moon. The light and glory that has emanated from the past is only a reflected image of the final revelation that clothes this woman with the sun. When she understands the revelation of the Word in the "flesh," born of her flesh, she will overcome as He overcame. The "remnant of her seed" will be one with the "Seed" and bear the same testimony, the "testimony of Jesus."
I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
This "Seed" must confront the serpent in a crucial battle. Faith in this promise of Genesis 3:15 has secured the salvation of all who will enter heaven's portals. Here at the outset of human history faith was established in the Seed of the woman that must carry God's people through to the kingdom. This faith must bring divinity and humanity together in a union sufficiently strong to win the battle. Since this promise was based upon a "Seed," the war and the outcome of that war must be in the context of human intelligence. The human race knows of only one kind of "seed." And it was in this fashion that "God sent forth His Son" into this world, "made of a woman, made under the law" (Galatians 4:4).
This truth is magnified in the "book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). His genealogy is loaded (as is ours) with perverse characters and the catalog of their sins, which leaves nothing to the imagination. In it there are liars, cheaters, deceivers, adulterers, harlots, and offspring by incest, with apostates worse than the heathen surrounding Israel. This was the royal line of Jesus' genetic inheritance, a gallery of rogues with not one Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Daniel in the list.
Through the centuries Satan searched the psyche of these vagabonds in Christ's lineage to build up a strategy that he expected would be invincible. This caused him to boast that he would overcome Christ when He took fallen human nature. He laid plans to seduce Jesus as he had His forebears. He planned to pull down the Son of God from His exalted position.
The Father did not yield up His Son without anguish—"it was even a struggle with the God of heaven." Why should He allow His Son to take "man's fallen nature" and become forever a member of the human race, the Seed of the woman, a child of a created being? The God of heaven had to decide if He would take up His cross and give his beloved Son to die for us, or "whether to let guilty man perish."1
It was all or nothing: become the Seed of the woman or stay in heaven!
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
The promise in the end of the Scriptures is the culmination of faith and finds expression in this Seed, this gift of God to the whole world. In this assurance, "to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame," a common victory is made evident. Christ, and each person who stands with Him and takes up His cross, will face temptation and trial, but each will conquer. The Seed given to the world had to travel the highway of humanity and grow to maturity. Eventually it must be proclaimed that the battle has been won, the enemy has been overcome. The Seed must then sit on His throne because He "overcame." The battle that sinful human nature had fought for supremacy was lost; "self" was crucified. The Seed conquered in this war, and bruised the head of the serpent.
But there are others of the royal family who, if they overcame like He overcame, must sit with Him on His throne. This promise, enshrined in the most solemn decree in all Scripture, is a vital part of the message to Laodicea. But the thrust of this warning is blunted because of our misconception of truth. Little have we realized the price of our compromised position expressed to the Evangelicals. How can we overcome as Christ did if He was "exempt" from our weaknesses and liabilities, and took a nature unlike ours and thus evaded our problem? Something will have to give. Either Moses did not know what he was recording in Genesis or John was confused when he wrote Revelation. But even more serious, did the True Witness say something He did not mean?
We must believe Jesus was the Seed of the woman. It was this Seed, the Word that was "made flesh." This was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). When this Word became "flesh" and dwelt among us there was no magic change in the Seed, or "exemption" from becoming other than a genuine member of the human family subject to all the trials and temptations of the human family.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 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 3:1, 2).
What He was, we are called to be. The promise is, "we shall be like him," and if we are to be like Him, He must be made like us.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The best known verse in the Bible may be the verse least accepted for what it says. What did God give? He "gave his only begotten son" to the world. If Jesus did not truly become the Seed of the woman, what did God give? If He did not become our "flesh," what did God give? If He came into the stream of humanity for a little space of time only, what did God give1. If He was "exempt" from anything, what did God givel Unless He took human nature, to be a member of the human race with all its liabilities, what did God give?
Jesus confirmed that the gift was for real. He had become a member of the human race. He even made the astonishing statement that the Son of man did not know when the second coming would take place, only the Father knew this (Mark 13:32).
When we are assured that He was the "only begotten," we must believe that there was nothing else that could be given. Like Abraham when told, "Take now thy son, thine only son" for a burnt offering, God held nothing back. As Abraham's faith urged him on to fulfill all righteousness, so God proved that He held nothing back, but "gave" His Son as an offering.
Adam's aspiration to be "as God" implied a denial that he was made in God's image. God could have created another man, but this would have been admission of failure. Instead, He waited 4000 years for sin to develop and then "gave" His Son to be "made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). When the race had suffered all the deformities of four millenniums pressing down upon it with all the liabilities inherent in degenerate humanity, then Jesus became "flesh" and took these infirmities upon Himself. In this way the gift of God is really a gift. The Seed took human nature for eternity, never to return to the same place He held before the incarnation.
This is the gift that holds the universe in awe. It is the seal of the promise that "both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. … Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same" (Hebrews 2:11, 14). And how could the Scriptures be more emphatic? "He also," "he … himself," "he … likewise" took the flesh and blood of His brethren. This truth confirms forever that God "gave" without reservation, knowing He would have less afterward than before; but in this grand gift He proved His love. In some inscrutable way the redeemed will help fill this void made by the gift of the only Begotten.
But wonder of wonders, the God of heaven not only gave the Seed, the Word, the Lamb, He gave Himself to the human family. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Corinthians 5:19). His gift was an active gift. Moment by moment He has bound Himself to us. This is plainly shown by the fact that the incarnation existed in principle from the foundation of the world. The foundation of the world was laid after the inception of sin. Sin brought God into a new situation. Eternity was disrupted and time became a fact; death loomed imminent. At this point the Seed, the Word, the Lamb, became also the Alpha.
This "Alpha" provided the universe with a new and superior revelation of God. He is the One who "was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). It was God that "made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). As alpha is the first letter of the alphabet so the last letter must come, and Jesus is that ultimate, the Omega. The Alpha opened the door to salvation and as the Omega He will close the door to sin when the serpent's head is finally crushed.
This was God's plan. He "gave" the Alpha to us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This righteousness is the spoils of battle with sin, for righteousness implies a conflict with evil, and victory in that conflict. The whole plan of salvation was not to save people possessed of Adam's nature before the Fall, but sinners like Adam and his "children" became after the Fall. This situation demanded a Saviour who should come on the same level as those to be saved. The only way this could be done was to place the Seed in the stream of humanity, "made like unto His brethren" and prove Satan's charges to be false.
Since the coming of sin and evil to this planet was an intrusion from beyond, the controversy began before this world was created. The salvation of the children of Adam is a secondary matter in this cosmic conflict between Satan and Christ. The battle then—and the battle now—is summarized in the final message to the world. That "loud voice" proclaims that the "everlasting gospel" is to bring to the Creator supreme honor and glory in His most trying, final hour when His judgment is pending before the universe (Revelation 14:6, 7). The ultimate purpose of the gospel is to resolve this great controversy and eradicate sin from the universe.
At the beginning of the conflict, when the prince of the heavenly host brought his charges against God, he campaigned among sinless beings. The angels who remained loyal retained their faith in the Creator and overcame temptation by choice, having sinless natures. Sinless nature does not need a Christ to take an unfallen nature for their salvation. Unfallen beings are not lost.
The angels who by choice fell, possessed no "genetic" connection with sin. They inherited nothing. They had no "propensity" to evil. There was no "original sin" among them. They sinned and fell by choice and choice alone. Sin became a fact in a perfect environment when sinless angels agreed to worship "self" and set out on a path that would lead to the murder of the Son of God. This virus of rebellion was passed from mind to mind without inheritance or a physical act of any description.
In a similar way sin took root on planet earth. In a perfect environment sinless Eve renounced her faith in the Creator and accepted counsel from the serpent and chose to rebel and worship "self." Adam, with his eyes open, chose to cast his lot with Eve and neither of them had a "propensity" to sin. But having made their choice to rebel they were subject to death. It was in this arena that Christ overcame in human nature. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). He took up His cross and accepted His calling to be the Omega.
Just how firmly Christ was joined to Adam's posterity as He took human nature is emphasized scores of times by the Saviour. Almost always He called Himself the "Son of man." He seemed to delight in His connection with sinners. But sinners have an ego loathe to accept a Saviour too close to the human family. We would prefer a superman enshrined in mystery and miracles, "exempt" from commonclay human problems. The carnal heart revels in fantasy and delights to make provision for sin. Is this attitude the fruit of an unconscious desire to excuse evil?
When the truth of John 3:16 is appreciated by sabbathkeepers, there will be no fear to talk about the human nature of Christ. This truth will become the theme and wonder of God's people. Urged on in their glorious study of His purposes they will be brought into a unity of love and appreciation of the plan of salvation that is now but dimly understood.
Our immature understanding of the incarnation can be compared to an acorn on the ground under an oak tree. For someone who had not seen a gigantic oak, it would be very difficult to understand an explanation that would adequately describe how the tree is hidden in an acorn. The two are different, but they are the same. The one foreshadows the other. The tree can only come from the acorn. To a child this presents a wonder. How can a giant tree be held in the hand? To an adult this is pure logic, absolute truth.
For too long Christians have not dug deep enough to plant the acorn of their faith so that it may germinate. The vast difference between the towering oak and the acorn seems obvious, but the real issue is whether we will argue about the differences or see the potential. Our dim perception is like that of Philip when he said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father," and Jesus could only answer in sorrow, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me" (John 14:8, 9)? It is impossible for the Lord to return until there is a people who "know" Him!
Sin must continue as long as His people are willing to continue in sin in the shade of Christ's righteousness, assuming that His substitution for our continual sinning will suffice in the war against sin. Such substitution blinds us and interposes itself between us and victory over sin. It is content to let Jesus bear the cross alone, and ignore His invitation to come after Him in a mutual crossbearing. It can profess great sympathy for His suffering but in reality be a covering for an inward glee that He was punished and we escaped. Such an idea of substitution is nurtured by selflove.
Selflove, selfishness, the essence of sin, cannot exist without a host. It is a parasite that either kills the host or is killed when sin is blotted out of the host. In the final conflict between truth and error, substitution serves as a sedative to shield and numb the host so the parasite of sin continues to flourish. Mature spiritual health and the disease of sin are mutually exclusive; one or the other dies.
God is working to remove childish ideas held by His remnant people. All heaven is interested in Laodicea's coming to "know" her condition. God has promised to remove all confusion from the midst of His people. If they will but "repent," they will move forward into that light that lightens the whole world (Revelation 18:13). As yet, the man of sin has not been exposed in our own ranks (in our own hearts). We remain in the darkness of immaturity.
This final generation has more to learn than any previous people. Our love and appreciation of the Christ who took upon Himself human nature must exceed that of all past ages. This esteem will be the ultimate of human capacity in this world, and this people will "know" God! They will be the living in faith in contrast to those who "died in faith." They will make it possible for all the worthies, the prophets, and the martyrs from Abel to this day, to be made perfect through faith. The record gives assurance: "They without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:140).
This process of learning will be like the chaste courtship of two lovers who increasingly appreciate the beauty, the integrity, and nobility of each other's character. They do not "strive" to love each other. Their dedication is mutual and absolute; their marriage is pending and certain, and everyone sees and knows of their mutual dedication. The world stands charmed at their commitment to one another. So also is the ultimate union of God's people and Christ.
There can be no confusion about this.
|Read Chapter 6 — Truth Knows No Confusion|
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