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“Occupy Till I Come”
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GoodSalt.com-kibas0359I was running my shift at UPS early one morning, trying to beat the clock, as we loaded the package cars, and prepared them for their busy day. In the midst of our hustle and bustle an alarm sounded. A sorter spotted flames on a conveyor belt. We safely evacuated the building and made sure everyone was okay. The fire was actually extinguished before the fire trucks arrived.

Later, I recollected how we were focused on getting our job done, in time for all the brown package cars to deliver their thousands of packages, all over a waking city, preparing itself for business. In a split second, our important task meant nothing and we were all prepared to quickly walk away and let the building, and all of our business burn to the ground if need be.

We were dedicated to our jobs at UPS but we still had enough sense to know when to walk away. I think this is the kind of balance we need when we hear the words,

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Matthew 24:42

and,

Occupy till I come. Luke 19:13

Some people complain that our church is not preaching enough about the Second Coming. They complain we just preach about day-to-day living. Yet these sermons are biblical, since Jesus taught us about day-to-day living. He did not teach us to sit around waiting for Him to come. The Bible says, “occupy” (“do business” in the NKJV) until He comes.

While our church is rightfully focused on the prophecies of the Second Coming, we must also remember those words in Luke, “Occupy till I come.” Remember the purpose of the gospel is to make people whole. This means more than just telling people what the mark of the beast is, when we can’t buy and sell. It also means teaching people biblical stewardship and money management, while we occupy and can buy and sell. Making people whole means more than just telling them dead people are dead. It means helping them to become whole again as they deal with grief day to day until the resurrection.

Making people whole also involves more than just telling people adultery is wrong. It also means ministering to and healing those scarred by divorce. A friend who had just joined the Adventist church, had emotional scars from divorce. He told me he was glad he had found the Adventist doctrines, but complained that there was nothing in our church to help with the daily pain of divorce. He went to a divorce recovery workshop the local Methodist church shared with the community. He asked me why we had nothing like that in our church.

Is it the job of other churches to help with day-to-day life, while the Adventist church just tells people about the mark of the beast and second coming? No! The first angel in Revelation 14 carries the everlasting gospel to the entire world. The everlasting gospel is a holistic gospel designed to make the entire person whole – body, mind and soul. I am very proud that today I work with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, which like many other Adventist churches today, is ministering to the entire person. My church has “Life groups” on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday nights people can also come to our church and join a prophecy seminar which I am leading, or they can choose between a grief-share group, parenting group, divorce recovery group and spiritual gifts workshop. We have had many workshops ranging from finances to sexual purity.

The Adventist Church proclaims a holistic gospel which brings healing in our every-day lives while preparing for the Second Coming. I pray that we may we each do our part.

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Near-Death Experiences: How Should Christians Relate to Them?
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People are fascinated with Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) these days. Books like Heaven is For Real, To Heaven and Back, 90 Minutes in Heaven, and 23 Minutes in Hell tell the story of people who died and crossed over to the other side before they were sent back to earth to tell their stories. 30bh2tzMany Christians find in these stories evidence of the traditional doctrine of the immortal soul. For them, the teaching that the soul goes directly to heaven or hell upon death has been placed, due to the common occurrences of NDE’s, beyond question. In this article I don’t wish to argue for or against the doctrine of immortal soul. I must, of course, freely admit my bias against the immortal soul theory. However, for the sake of this article I am not going to debate whether or not the doctrine of the immortal soul is biblically sound. Instead, I will simply show that NDE’s cannot be proof of that doctrine.

First of all, NDE’s contradict each other. I am not saying that NDE’s should be identical. What I am saying is that while I would expect diversity from one NDE to another what I don’t expect is contradiction. For example, Christians who have NDE’s report an experience consistent with their biblical beliefs. Likewise, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims report NDE’s consistent with their beliefs. However, all of these beliefs contradict one another. Christians believe that there is only one God manifested in three – God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. So how does a Christian respond to a Buddhist who has an NDE and sees Buddha or a Hindu who has an NDE in which he talks with Hindu gods which the Bible declares false gods? One Hindu claimed to go to heaven on the back of a cow, others report seeing Krishna in heaven.

Another contradiction in these NDE’s is that they often contradict basic Bible teaching. In some instances the person who has the NDE is not even a follower of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the only way to heaven and yet just last year I read an account of a man who had an NDE and went to heaven even though he was not a follower of Jesus. While there he rode on the wing of a butterfly and spoke to spirits. On his way back to earth he was told by the spirit that he could “do no wrong.” This is contrary to Scripture which declares that “all have sinned (past tense) and fall short of the glory of God (present tense)” (Rom. 3:23). Mormons report going to heaven and participating in a self-judgment even though the Bible says that we are judged by God not ourselves. Others are often told that there has been a mistake and that it is not yet their time to die, so they must return to earth. However, the Bible tells us that God doesn’t make mistakes. Perhaps the scariest aspect of NDE’s that contradict Scripture is the New Age NDE’s in which those who experience it come back to push the idea that truth is relative and that all paths lead to “the light” when Jesus said that he alone is the door of heaven.

The final problem I would like to propose is the absence of NDE’s in Scripture. The Bible reports many instances in which people were resurrected. The New Testament alone records more than 5 instances of resurrection from the dead. In most of these instances the dead person had been dead for more than just a few minutes. In fact, Lazarus had been dead for 3 days! However, not one of these report anything even remotely related to NDE’s. Lazarus, who would have spent 3 days in heaven, is strangely silent while those who have NDE’s today can’t stop talking about it.

In conclusion, I propose that NDE’s do not in any way prove the doctrine of the immortal soul. If we accept NDE’s as true afterlife experiences we must do so whether the person is Hindu, Christian or whatever. We must also be willing to embrace the plethora of contradictions they propose. While NDE’s are real experiences I see no ground to believe that they are genuine afterlife experiences. At best they are merely psychological and at worst they are Satanic deceptions. Sound too far fetched? Not as far fetched as riding on the wing of a butterfly I hope. Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan and opened the gates of sin into our world. To this day Satan has not changed his tactic. He continues to deceive and, as his time runs short, will do so with even more intensity. Were I not grounded in the Bible, how easily could an NDE, in which a “spirit” points me away from Jesus and the Bible, lead me down the path of perdition? Our only safeguard is the word of God. I’m sticking to that. I pray you do the same.


Note: All of the information in this article regarding NDE experiences of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Atheists etc. can be accessed through Google searches on these topics.

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He Won’t Forget to Pick you up
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A family I had studied with called me late one afternoon, asking me to meet them ASAP at the hospital. Their mother was dying, and they wanted prayer. Now I believe that God can hear your prayers for your sick loved one, just as easily as He can hear an elder’s prayer. GoodSalt.com-pppas0004Nevertheless, I met the family in ICU. They told me they were praying for a miracle. One son told me they knew God was going to work a miracle for his mother. He explained that God was going to raise her up right now, or He would heal her, like He did Lazarus, by letting her sleep and then waking her up at the resurrection. Either way it would be a miracle.

We admire people who have the faith to heal a loved one, but what about having enough faith to just let them go to sleep? The son had faith in the miracle of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

A few days later his mother fell asleep in Jesus, and his family is encouraging each other with the promises of the greatest miracle yet to come.

There are more Bible prophecies about the Second Coming than any other event. While many prophecies have already been fulfilled, we are certain the prophecies pertaining to the second coming are just as sure.

I understand that while we sleep, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, we are actually very close to death. Yet each morning when we wake up, we don’t realize the miracle that has just taken place. I understand there are many mysteries about sleep that medical science is still researching. Could it be that sleep is just our “rehearsal” for the resurrection? That God is just getting us used to falling asleep and trusting Him to wake us up when it is time?

I walked into the church lobby after worship service to find a very distraught elderly lady. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and had forgotten who had driven her to church. She was afraid she was going to be left. I put my arm around her and assured her that even though she may have forgotten who had taken her to church, whoever they were, they had not forgotten her. I told her we all loved her and would not leave her alone. She began to cry like a little girl, as she told me “Thank you very much!” Sure enough her ride found her. She had forgotten them, but they remembered her.

This elderly lady felt like a little child left all alone. When we face the grave of a loved one, or even our own, do we feel like a little child left all alone? We needn’t be afraid. Our Ride to heaven will remember us even if in death we forget Him as we sleep. The same God who wakes you up every morning, the same God who remembered to create you and remembered to redeem you on the cross, is the same God responsible for waking you up when He comes again. Don’t worry, even when in death you forget Him, He won’t forget you!

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The Loophole Heresy
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Okay, definition first:

Loophole – “an ambiguity, omission, etc, as in a law, by which one can avoid a penalty or responsibility”1

Probably, most of us don’t think about loopholes very often. If we think of them

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Image © Rolf Jansson from GoodSalt.com

at all, it’s in the context of rich people trying to get out of paying taxes or a criminal avoiding jail time.

I’d like to suggest, though, that when it comes to the Ten Commandments, almost every one of us has succumbed to the search for a loophole that would give us “permission” to do something we knew we really were not supposed to do.

Remember when we were little and our parent would give us a directive of some kind – for example, “You are not to take one step out of this room until you have finished your homework.”

Now, even as children we knew what they meant, right? They meant we were to finish our homework before we were to do anything else, right? But, because we really didn’t want to finish our homework, we would think of loopholes. We would consider things like crawling, because that doesn’t involve taking any steps. Or we might keep our feet at the door of the room and then lie down on the floor and stretch our bodies as far as we could out of the room.

If the instructions were to clean the floor of the bedroom, we might decide to pick up everything on the floor and lay it on our bed. You can probably think of other ways you got around the rules at your house.

The point is, that many of us, even as adults, feel like if something is not specifically spelled out as prohibited, it is allowed.

Many of us who were raised in Sabbath-keeping homes, might remember spending a goodly amount of time trying to think of ways around what we thought of as Sabbath restrictions. We concluded that wading did not qualify as swimming and so was okay; if the TV show or movies was non-fiction and/or educational, we were cool; that games like Monopoly or Life were out, but Pictionary was okay as long as we limited the content; and, of course, we kept a very close eye on the clock so that we could switch modes the instant Sabbath was over.

We were masters at finding the loopholes. We weren’t any different than the Pharisees who carefully spelled out 39 categories of activities that were prohibited on the Sabbath. Their motivation was very different – they originally wanted to make sure they didn’t do anything that would compromise the Sabbath – but people being people and sinful, they started looking for loopholes in all 39 categories.

I’m going to include a few examples so that you can understand the mindset that I believe Jesus was trying to expand.

Plowing – “Promotion of substrate in readiness for plant growth, be it soil, water for hydroponics, etc. Included in this prohibition is any preparation or improvement of land for agricultural use. This includes dragging chair legs in soft soil thereby unintentionally making furrows. Pouring water on arable land that is not saturated. Making a hole in the soil would provide protection for a seed placed there from rain and runoff; even if no seed is ever placed there, the soil is now enhanced for the process of planting.”

Reaping – “Severing a plant from its source of growth. Removing all or part of a plant from its source of growth is reaping. Rabbinically it is forbidden to climb a tree, for fear this may lead to one tearing off a branch. It is also forbidden rabbinically to ride an animal, as one may unthinkingly detach a stick to hit the animal with.”

Sorting/Purification – “Removal of undesirable from desirable from a mixture of types. … For example, if there is a bowl of mixed peanuts & raisins and one desires the raisins and dislikes the peanuts: Removing … the peanuts from the bowl, leaving a ‘purified’ pile of raisins free from unwanted peanuts, … [is prohibited] However, removing the desirable raisins from the peanuts does not purify the mixture, as one’s left with undesirable peanuts … and is thus permissible.” (emphasis mine)2

My purpose here is not to condemn or judge these rules in anyway, because I am equally guilty. My point is that God never intended any of the Ten Commandments to be kept around loopholes.

Loopholes are human ways to legitimize breaking a rule. We know what we’re doing is wrong because we’re using the loophole. That’s why I believe sometimes Jesus went out of His way to push the Jewish perceptions of law-keeping. He was trying to get them to see that keeping Sabbath is more than making sure we don’t drag a chair through the dirt or accidentally tear off a branch of a tree or making sure we pick what we like out of the trail mix and not what we don’t like.

That’s why Jesus told the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27-28

Jesus wanted us to know that making more and more guidelines for keeping the Sabbath would never bring anyone into a closer relationship with Him. The last thing in the universe Jesus wants is for anyone to keep the Sabbath by following a list. He wants us to keep the Sabbath (and the other nine commandments) because we love Him. And why do we love Him? Because He first loved us.

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.
“For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.” John 3:16 AMP

It’s time we quit looking for loopholes around the Sabbath and start looking for Jesus in the Sabbath. He’s longing for us to come away from our worldly lives and spend 24 uninterrupted hours falling in love with Him.

  1. loophole. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved September 05, 2014, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/loophole
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activities_prohibited_on_Shabbat
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Monday: The Purpose of Jesus’ Second Coming
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The great plan of Redemption will find its culmination in the Second Coming. Without Christ’s return to this earth, His incarnation, death, and resurrection would have no effect for our Salvation.

Image © Consuelo Udave from GoodSalt.com

Image © Consuelo Udave from GoodSalt.com

What is one of the basic reasons for the second coming of Jesus? See Matt. 16:27.

Life is not always fair; in fact, often it is not fair. We do not always see justice in our society. Innocent people suffer while evil ones seem to prosper. Many people do not receive what they deserve. But evil and sin will not reign forever. Jesus will come to give to every one according to his work (Rev. 22:12, NKJV).

This assertion implies that a judgment must take place prior to Christ’s return. When Jesus comes, the destiny of each human being will already have been decided. Jesus clearly hinted at this investigative judgment in the parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:11-13). The fact that we are judged by works does not mean that we are saved by our works or by our own merits. Salvation is by God’s grace and received by faith in Jesus (Mark 16:16, John 1:12), which we demonstrate by our actions.

What’s important about the promise in Matthew 16:27 is that justice will be done. We just have to wait for it.

Also, at the Second Coming, those who sleep in Christ will be raised to eternal life. As we saw earlier-because we know that the dead are asleep in the grave-the promise of the Second Coming and the resurrection to eternal life that follows is especially important to us.

Amid the reeling of the earth, the flash of lightning, and the roar of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then, raising His hands to heaven, He cries: Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise! Throughout the length and breadth of the earth, the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live. And the whole earth shall ring with the tread of the exceeding great army of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. From the prison house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55. And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voices in a long, glad shout of victory. — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 644.

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Sunday: The Promise
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After the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that He would go to a place where, at least for now, they could not go (John 13:33). The thought of being separated from the Master filled their hearts with sorrow and fear. Peter asked, Lord, where are You going? . . . Why can I not follow You now? (John 13:36-37, NKJV). Christ knew their desire and assured them that the separation would only be temporary.

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Read Christ’s promises to us in John 14:1-3. Apply those words to yourself. Why should they mean so much to you?

Our Lord’s pledge could not have been more emphatic. In Greek, the promise I will come again is in the present tense, emphasizing certainty. It could literally be translated, I am coming again.

Jesus has given us the certitude of His Second Coming. He did not say I may come again, but I will come again. Every time He mentioned His return, He referred to it in certain terms.

Sometimes we make promises we later cannot keep, even in spite of our best efforts and determination. That’s not the case with Christ. Many times He proved unmistakably that His word is trustworthy.

Referring to His incarnation, the Lord prophetically announced through David: Behold, I come (Ps. 40:7, NKJV). And He did (Heb. 10:5-7). The reality of His first coming sustains the certainty of His second.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus promised a despairing father: do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well (Luke 8:50, NKJV). And sure enough, Jairus’s daughter was made well, although she had been dead. Christ announced that three days after His own death He would rise from the grave; and He did. He promised the Holy Spirit to the disciples; and He sent it right on time. If our Lord honored all His promises in the past, even those that, from a human perspective, seemed impossible, we can be certain that He will keep His promise to come again.

How can you keep the fire burning in your own heart for the second coming of Jesus?

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Sabbath: The Second Coming of Jesus
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Read for This Week’s Study: John 14:1-3; Matt. 16:27; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matt. 24:3-14; Matt 24:42, Matt 44.

gless13-2014cMemory Text: Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1-3, NKJV).

The Second Coming of Jesus, mentioned more than three hundred times in the New Testament, is the capstone of our teachings. It is essential to our identity as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. The doctrine is engraved in our name, and it is a crucial part of the gospel that we are called to proclaim. Without the promise of His coming, our faith would be in vain. This glorious truth gives us a sense of destiny and motivates our missionary outreach.

It could be argued that the stretching of time beyond our expectations would undermine our belief in Jesus’ promise to return. However, this has not happened. For many, our passion for Christ’s return is stronger than ever.

This week we will review what Jesus said about the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13, NKJV).

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 27.

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12: Death and Resurrection – Hit the Mark
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toombThen said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. John 11:14

The sisters of Lazarus were crushed. The brother whom they loved so much had been taken away from them by the cruel enemy called Death. They had sent word to Jesus that He was sick, knowing that if Jesus could get to Lazarus quickly, he would not die. But hours turned into days,  and Lazarus died.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. John 11:5

After Jesus finally arrived back at Judaea, Martha poured out her heart to Him. Her confidence in His power was unshaken, but in her grief she could not grasp the deep purposes of God.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:23-27

We cannot go on without gleaning some gems from this short discourse. It is obvious by Martha’s words that she understood that her brother was dead – not in heaven looking down upon them. Her expectation was that her brother would remain dead until the resurrection foretold in the Scriptures.

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2

But more to the point of our discussion was the promise Jesus repeated that day.

He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. John 11:25

This is beyond the comprehension of man to fully understand but not beyond our ability to accept. From the beginning man was not created to die. We scarcely begin to live before the shadows of death slowly creep across our path. Our zest for life, our loves and hopes and dreams, all will end as we enter death’s door. But that’s not the end of our story.

Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:25-29

This week as we study Death and Resurrection, what better outcome could there be than for us to recommit ourselves to Christ? What could be more profitable than understanding what it will take to be in the resurrection of life? And what can be more satisfying than helping others to share in this hope.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord Isaiah 1:18

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • Why does it matter if one falsely believes that everyone goes to heaven when they die?
  • Is it true that the fear of going to hell should motivate us to live right? Why or why not?
  • Is it true that all good people will eventually go to heaven? Explain your answer.
  • John 5:29 says “those who have done good” will be in the resurrection of life. What does “done good” mean to you?
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: Understanding the truth about the state of the dead is not crucial to your growth as a Christian. Explain your answer.

We close these week with the heart-warming words written to the believers in Thessalonica. Jesus is the resurrection and the life:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

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HopeSS: Death and Resurrection
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You can view a discussion of the current lesson in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below. You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS Youtube channel.

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Inside Story: The Story Box
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Muka [moo-KAH] is the third wife of a Himba headman living in northern Namibia.

Muka Courtesy of SS Office of Adventist Mission

Muka
Courtesy of SS Office of Adventist Mission

While some Himba children have gone to school, few who remain in the settlements can read or write. They pass their history and culture to their children during story times around a fire in the evening.

For more than 15 years Adventist missionaries have been working with the Himba, befriending them, teaching them about God, showing they care. They prayed for Muka when she was seriously ill, and God healed her. Muka’s husband respects the missionaries for what they are doing to help his family and his people.

Muka enjoys the missionaries’ visits and eagerly takes part in their prayer times. She wishes she could attend worship services, but the nearest worship service is too far away to walk, and the family is too large to ride in a donkey cart. So Muka contents herself with praying when she has free moments.

Recently the missionaries held a special camp meeting for the Himba people. Everyone was invited, and nearly everyone went. At the meetings the missionaries gave the headmen a special gift, a solar-powered MP3 player. They showed the men how to lay the MP3 player in the sun to charge the batteries and how to turn the player on so they can listen so God’s stories in their own language.

Returning home, Muka’s husband gave the MP3 player to his first wife to listen to. When she finished listening to the stories, she passed it on to Muka so she and her children could hear God’s stories. She passed it on to the next wife, and so around the circle of families the stories of Jesus are being woven into the fabric of Himba life.

I understand God better now after hearing the stories the missionaries have given us on the little story box, Muka says. I want to learn more about God and know how to follow Him better.

The MP3 players have proven a breakthrough among the Himba, and a recent Thirteenth Sabbath Offering is providing hundreds more MP3 players and the funds to record more stories in the Himba’s language. Thank you for your offerings, which help people such as Muka and her family meet the Savior and learn to follow Him.

Muka lives in a rural settlement in northern Namibia with her extended family.

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Friday: Further Study: Death and Resurrection
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Further Study: Ellen G. White, Lazarus, Come Forth, p. 524-536, and The Lord Is Risen, p. 779-787, in The Desire of Ages.

studymoreThe voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then, raising His hands to heaven, He cries: Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, and arise! Throughout the length and breadth of the earth the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live. . . . From the prison house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55. And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voices in a long, glad shout of victory. — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 644.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We’ve all struggled with the reality of death, the seeming finality of it, and the seeming senselessness of it. If, as many believe, there is no God, no hope of eternal life, and no resurrection, then what does human life itself mean? What can it mean if, sooner or later, everyone who ever lived dies and every memory of them is forever gone? How does our understanding of the resurrection answer this otherwise unsolvable dilemma?
  2. What are some of the dangers inherent in the idea of the immortality of the soul? Why is Satan eager to propagate this nonbiblical belief? What role will this concept play in the religious scenario at the time of the end? Think about all the potential deceptions out there from which those who understand death as a sleep until the resurrection are spared.

 

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Thursday: Jesus Conquered Death
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Why was Lazarus’ resurrection the crowning miracle of Christ’s earthly ministry? See John 11:38-44.

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Though Jesus had raised two others from the dead, none was as dramatic as this. Lazarus had been dead for four days, a fact that Martha corroborated at the graveside. Jesus performed the miracle in the full light of day before a crowd of respected witnesses from Jerusalem. The evidence couldn’t be dismissed.

Still, far more important than Lazarus’ resurrection was Jesus’ own resurrection. Since He has life in Himself, He not only has the power to raise the dead and give life to whom He wills (John 5:21), but He also has the power to lay down His own life and take it again (John 10:17-18). His resurrection proved this convincingly.

What is the relationship between Christ’s resurrection and ours? Why is His resurrection so important for our salvation? See 1 Cor. 15:17-20.

Christ’s power to break the bonds of death is undisputed. He arose from the sepulcher as the first fruits of those who slept in Him. His resurrection is the guarantee of every believer’s resurrection, for He has the keys of death (Rev. 1:17-18).

To the believer, Christ is the resurrection and the life. In our Saviour the life that was lost through sin is restored; for He has life in Himself to quicken whom He will: He is invested with the right to give immortality. The life that He laid down in humanity, He takes up again, and gives to humanity. — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 786, 787.

Death is so powerful that only the One who first created life can restore it. What does this truth tell us about why we must trust that Jesus can, and will, resurrect us as He promised?

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Wednesday: What Jesus Said About Hell
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Jesus used two Greek terms, hades and gehenna, to speak about death and the punishment of the unrighteous. Given the popular belief in the meaning hell, we need to consider it carefully.

Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

Hades is equivalent to the Hebrew she’ôl, the most common Old Testament term for the realm of the dead. These names simply represent the grave or the place to which all descend at death, with no connotation of punishment or reward. There is one text, however, where hades appears to be connected with punishment. It is in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Read Luke 16:19-31. What is the basic lesson that this parable sets forth (see especially Luke 16:27-31)? What’s wrong with using this parable to teach that human beings go to paradise or hell immediately after death?

This parable is not focused on the state of man in death. A popular but unbiblical belief that many of Jesus’ contemporaries held provided the background for this parable, which teaches an important lesson: our future destiny is determined by the decisions we make daily in this life. If we reject the light God grants us here, there is no opportunity after death. Any attempt to interpret this parable literally leads to many insoluble problems. Actually, the details of the picture seem purposely awkward in order to show us that Jesus did not intend His words to be taken literally, but figuratively.

What warnings did Jesus pronounce regarding hell? See Matt. 5:22, Matt. 5:29-30; Matt. 23:33.

In many Bible translations, the word hell appears eleven times on Jesus’ lips. He actually used the Greek term gehenna, from the Hebrew name Gê Hinnom, Valley of Hinnom. According to the Old Testament, in this gorge south of Jerusalem, kings Ahaz and Manasseh conducted the horrendous pagan rite of burning children to Molech (2 Chron. 28:3; 2 Chron. 33:6). Later, godly king Josiah brought the practice to a halt (2 Kings 23:10). Because of the sins perpetrated in it, Jeremiah prophesied that God would make the place a valley of slaughter (Jer. 7:32-33; Jer. 19:6). Hence, for the Jews, the valley became a symbol of the last judgment and the punishment of the impenitent. Jesus used the name figuratively, without explaining any details regarding the time and place of the punishment, which we find in other biblical passages. Hell, though, is not a place of eternal punishment.

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12: Death and Resurrection – Lesson Plan
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Key Thought : Without the resurrection of Christ, our religion would not be the road to eternal life, but just an empty promise like many other religions.

gless12-2014c[Lesson Plan for Death and Resurrection September 15, 2014]

1. Have a volunteer read John 1:1-4.

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. How is the life the light of men? Is this literal or spiritual? Is the life speaking of Jesus’ life or of man’s life?
c. Personal Application: How does the hope of the resurrection through Christ give you a sense of peace in the face of the death of a loved one? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “If Jesus was God, how could He die? Doesn’t God have immortality? In what sense or way did Jesus die?” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read Luke 16:27-31.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. What words were spoken to the rich man that indicate it is not probable or possible to return from the dead?
c. Personal Application: How extreme and pointed do we need to be to get people’s attention to their own spiritual condition? Are we to speak softly and love them to death in hellfire? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “See the story of Lazarus and the rich man shows that people are alive after death and are punished in hell.” How would you respond to your neighbor?

3. Have a volunteer read John 5:28,29.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How does Jesus’ words of the resurrection help us in our understanding of the teaching of the immortal soul?
c. Personal Application: Does the belief in the resurrection have any impact on how you face temptation? Share your thoughts..
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “Why does Jesus speak of the two resurrections based on what people have done? I thought salvation had to do with believing in Christ, not by good works.” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read John 11:38-44.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What description of Lazarus’ resurrection show that man does not have an immortal soul or spirit?
b. Personal Application: What was the purpose of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? Share your thoughts.
c. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.

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Tuesday: The Resurrection and the Judgment
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What we have studied so far could lead us to think that the resurrection will be for only a few. But Jesus affirmed that a time will come when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth (John 5:28-29, NKJV, emphasis added). Believers and unbelievers, righteous and sinners, saved and lost, all will be raised. As Paul declared, there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15, NKJV).

Image © Justinen Creative from GoodSalt.com

Image © Justinen Creative from GoodSalt.com

Though all are, eventually, raised from the dead, all will face only one of two eternal fates. What are they? John 5:28-29.

The universality of the resurrection doesn’t mean that at the final day everybody will be ushered into a blissful and joyful eternal life. Those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2, NKJV).

The Bible teaches that God will judge the lives of every human being, deciding the eternal destiny of each person who ever lived (Eccles. 12:14, Rom. 2:1-11). The execution of the divine sentence, however, does not occur immediately after the death of each individual but only after his or her resurrection. Until then, both the saved and the lost sleep unconsciously in the dust. The resurrection, by itself, is neither a reward nor a punishment. It is the precondition to receiving eternal life or condemnation.

Speaking of the two resurrections, Jesus indicated that our destiny will be decided on the basis of the moral quality of our deeds (good or bad). This fact, however, doesn’t mean that works save us. On the contrary, Jesus clearly taught that our salvation depends exclusively on our faith in Him as our Savior (John 3:16). Why, then, are works taken into consideration? Because they show whether our faith in Christ and our surrender to Him are genuine or not (James 2:18). Our works demonstrate whether we are still dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, NKJV) or dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:11, NKJV).

Dwell on the ultimate destiny that awaits each of us. If anything is standing between you and eternal life, why not, right now, choose to get rid of it? After all, what possibly could be worth losing eternity for?

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Monday: The Hope of Resurrection
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At Creation, the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. As a result, man became a living being (Gen. 2:7, NKJV). As long as God maintains the breath of life in the living creatures, they are alive. But when He takes away their breath, they die and return to dust (Ps. 104:29, Eccles. 12:7). This is not an arbitrary decision of God; it is the inevitable consequence of sin. But the good news is that, through Christ, there is hope, even in death.

Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

Read John 1:1-4. What is implied in these verses that shows us the power of Jesus to raise the dead?

Christ has life in Himself, for He is the life (John 14:6). He created everything and has the power to give life to whom He wills (John 5:21). Thus, He can raise the dead.

How does resurrection happen? See Luke 8:54-55.

According to the Bible, resurrection is the reversal of death. Life is restored when the breath of life comes back from God. That is how Luke explained the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. After learning that the twelve-year-old girl had passed away, Jesus went to the house and told the mourners that she was sleeping. Then He took her by the hand and called, saying, Little girl, arise. Then her spirit [pneuma] returned, and she arose immediately (Luke 8:54-55, NKJV). At Jesus’ divine command, the life principle imparted by God returned to the girl. The Greek term that Luke used, pneuma, means wind, breath, or spirit. When the Bible uses it in relation to human beings, it never denotes a conscious entity capable of existence apart from the body. In this text it clearly refers to the breath of life.

Death is so common that we take it for granted. How, though, can we learn to trust in God’s promises about eternal life, even though for now, death seems to be the victor?

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