April 29 - May 5
Salvation and the Second Coming
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 3:1-7; Ezek. 18:4; Matt. 27:46; John 11:49-52; Rom. 3:21-26; 5:8-11; 1 John 2:2-6.
MEMORY TEXT: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: God manifested His love to us by sending His only Son to live and die for us. This is central to the plan of salvation and is the key to the certainty of the Second Coming. Without the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, there would be no hope of His second coming.
THE DEATH OF CHRIST REVEALS THE HEIGHT OF THE LOVE OF GOD AND THE DEPTH TO WHICH SIN WILL GO. In the council of peace, even before our creation, the Godhead made the decision to send Jesus to this world if humankind should sin. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
The Cross also reveals the magnitude of sin. At every turn, Satan and his agents sought to destroy the Son of God and His mission of saving fallen humanity. No longer must the universe wonder about either the love of God or the awfulness of sin. The events of Calvary stand as an eternal witness to the magnitude of both. Calvary made it possible for us to be rescued from sin and death and for us to be fully restored to God at the Second Coming.
The Cross tells us that God takes sin very seriously. Sin is rebellion, and it goes contrary to the character of God. It is the desire to establish other gods ahead of the loving, creating, and life-giving God of the universe. It is rooted in the desire to live our lives independently of God. God's judgment is that "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:4, NKJV). God does not desire to bring that judgment upon us sinners. Rather, Jesus chose to take that death sentence upon Himself so that He may give us life eternal at His return.
What caused Jesus to cry out in anguish to His Father? Matt. 27:46.
"He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father's wrath upon Him as man's substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God."The Desire of Ages, p. 753.
For the first time, the universe fully understood God's judgment on sin. The Cross tells us how intensely sin matters to God. No wonder He will not deal lightly with sin. God's judgment on it must be understood so that it will never arise the second time. The Cross makes it possible for God to be understood as a God of love when He destroys evil and evildoers at the end.
Yet, God does all in His power to draw them to Himself before the end comes, when it is too late. Jesus took the penalty for sin upon Himself. In place of eternal death, He offers eternal life. Only the Life-Giver can make such an offer. Only He who has life within Himself can stand in our place.
God did not lower the standard for eternal life. Perfect harmony with His character and with the universe as He created it is necessary. Any other standard would result in anarchy. Yet, Christ took the result of transgression upon Himself in order "that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26, NKJV). God revealed His character of love and justice. Of justice, because He did not lessen the seriousness of sin by removing its results; of love, by taking the results of sin upon Himself
|Imagine living in a universe without any trace of sin. Do you look forward to the time when sin will be finally eradicated? How do you prepare yourself and others to welcome that day?|
What did the high priest unknowingly prophesy about the role that Christ would take on our behalf? John 11:49-52.
Jesus took our place in this sinful world in order that we might take our place next to Him in the world to come. The righteous One died to save many from sin unto righteousness and from death unto eternal life. Christ came to reveal who His Father is and what He is like. That God is love was revealed in the healing of the sick, in the offer of forgiveness, in the gentle touch, and supremely on the cross. Christ also revealed the justice of God. On the cross He showed that God will not tolerate sin in the universe, that one day sin will be eradicated. At the Cross, God was revealed to be a God both of love and of justice. Christ took our judgment upon Himself so that He could make it possible for us to enter His glory.
How did God reveal His love and righteousness to us? 1 John 4:9, 10; Rom. 3:21-26.
God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us! This is great news! The God of the universe condescended to take our sin upon Himself. To see what love means, we must see ourselves as sinners, the objects of God's wrath, and yet as people whom Christ loves and for whom Christ died. "It is one of the NT's resounding paradoxes that it is God's love that averts God's wrath from us, and that indeed it is precisely in the averting of this wrath that we see what real love is."D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, editors, The New Bible Commentary, third edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1267.
Explain why God sent His Son into the world. 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 2:2.
|Echoing through the ages comes Jesus' question: "'When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?'" (Luke 18:8, NKJV). The question echoes today, When Jesus returns, will He find faith in my heart? In what ways do I allow Him today to build up my faith and to prepare me for His appearing? In what ways do I actively work with Christ to build up the faith of others?|
What was at the heart of Adam's and Eve's rebellion against God? Gen. 3:1-7.
At the tree in the garden, the serpent asked, "'Has God not said?"' Adam and Eve believed the tempter's words, which were in direct contradiction to God's words. Will we, too, develop our own concept of how God will behave? Such distrust in God's Word led them out of Eden and plunged the human race into sin and destruction. Nothing else but trusting God's Word and His plan of salvation will show us the way to Eden restored.
What can we learn from God's revelation in His Word about His initiative in our salvation?
Rom. 5:8-11 ________________________________________________________
2 Cor. 6:1, 2 ________________________________________________________
How can we know about the plan of salvation? How can we have knowledge of the role of Christ in our salvation? Can we discern God's plan of salvation in observing the world around us? Can we determine how God will save us by our philosophy and research?
It is in our human nature to try to develop our own concept of God apart from His self-revelation in Jesus Christ and the Bible. It is then tempting to measure the biblical concept of God by our own human yardstick. We begin to ask, What kind of god is God? Will He really execute judgment on sin and sinners when His Son returns? Did He die on the cross to actually take our place? Is it moral for one person to die in place of another? Maybe Christ came only to demonstrate the love of God, not to take our penalty upon Himself.
But according to God's Word, Christ did come to take our place. He did come to pay with His life for our sins. His great love was supremely demonstrated on Calvary's cross as He became our reconciliation, substitute, and assurance of salvation. Such concepts of Christ's life and death come not from humanity but from our unchangeable God and His trustworthy Word; and they do not have to harmonize with the moral sensibilities of our age.
|What are the implications for the certainty of the Second Coining if we do not trust the biblical truth that Christ died in our place, becoming our Substitute and Surety? Why not gratefully accept God's plan of salvation just as it is revealed in His Word?|
What is salvation, and how do we receive it? John 17:3; Eph. 2:8-10.
What role do our righteous deeds and works play in our salvation? Titus 3:4, 5.
It was God's decision to become one of us and to die in our place. Our great need alone and utter helplessness motivated His decision. No work we can perform merits His grace. God's grace originates in His desire to restore us to Himself. In His great love, He longs to restore us to the Edenic face-to-face communion with Him for eternity.
The tragedy is that Christ, the Creator of the world, came to those whom He had created, and they did not receive Him. As the Creator, He was the true light, and His human creation preferred darkness to light. Yet, those who did receive Him by believing in His name received the right to be called the children of God (John 1:6-11).
What is our only way to confront and deal with fear of condemnation and judgment? Rom. 8:1; John 5:24. Explain.
Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save it. He came to bring us eternal life. He came to restore us to a knowledge of God, so that we might live with Him throughout eternity in perfect fellow-ship. Those who believe in Christ are not condemned, but those who do not are condemned already, because they have not believed in Christ. They loved darkness rather than light and would not come to Jesus, the Light of the world. (See John 3:17-19.)
What is the determining factor for us in receiving eternal life now? 1 John 5:11-13.
Christ wants to have fellowship with us (Rev. 3:20). He has taken our place on the cross in order to remove every barrier erected by sin. On the cross, He has taken the separation from God that was ours in order to give us the eternal relationship with the Father that is His.
|How do you react when God confronts you with your sinful situation? Have you considered Christ's death as your substitute good news? How does this give you hope in the judgment and certainty in the Second Coming?|
What is the relationship between Christ's resurrection and our walk in newness of life? Rom. 6:1-5.
God's purpose in salvation is to restore us to Himself. By faith in the death of Christ, God removes the sin that has separated us from Him, so that we might live with Him forever. If we continue in sin, we will continue to be separated from God. Grace is not given in order that we might continue to live in sin, but it is given to free us from sin.
"Those who have risen with Christ to walk in newness of life are the elect of God. They are holy unto the Lord, and are acknowledged by Him as His beloved. As such, they are under solemn covenant to distinguish themselves by showing humility of mind. They are to clothe themselves in garments of righteousness. They are separate from the world, from its spirit, its practices, and they are to reveal that they are learning of Him. . . ." Sons and Daughters of God, p. 133.
How do we become free from the slavery of sin to live unto God? Eph. 2:1-10. How do we overcome this world to enter His world? 1 John 5:4, 5; John 3:3.
Jesus came to this fallen world to "save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21, NKJV). He died for our sins, but He was resurrected that we might live for Him. He died to remove what was separating us from Him, but He was resurrected to give us His life. God wants us to enter into the newness of His life, because He wants us to walk with Him. This is the preparation we need to walk with Him throughout eternity.
What does John say about our character if we claim to know Christ but do not keep His commandments? Explain what loving obedience is. 1 John 2:3-6; 5:2, 3.
Remember that eternal life is defined as knowing God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Thus, a claim to know God is a claim to eternal life.
What is the relationship between the resurrection of Christ, the life you live by the power of that resurrection, and the resurrection of the righteous dead at the Second Coming? Mention specific ways in which you may live by the power of Christ's resurrection.
FURTHER STUDY: Luke 23:39-43; John 14:1-3; Rom. 8:31-39; 1 Cor. 15:20-22; Col. 2:1-12; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Heb. 9:14.
Read chapter 78, "Calvary," in The Desire of Ages, pp. 741-757.
"Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all. He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law. The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart. The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with consternation. All His life Christ had been publishing to a fallen world the good news of the Father's mercy and pardoning love. Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme. But now with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father's reconciling face. The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt."The Desire of Ages, p. 753.
Here is one way to illustrate how to walk in the newness of life and the power of Christ's resurrection: Birth is not the only thing that has to do with life. It is true that we had nothing to do with our birth; it was totally a gift upon which we will always be solely dependent. However, birth does not define all of life. It describes entrance into life. Life is not very meaningful if we do not move beyond birth into the fullness of life.
So, entrance into salvation is totally the gift of God. We can do nothing to deserve it. Nonetheless, God invites us to enter into the fullness of salvation, to flex our spiritual muscles, to breathe the fresh air of the Spirit, to carry out His earthly work. Christ came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. As Christ was resurrected from the dead, so He invites us to be resurrected to newness of life now and to look forward to its fullness throughout eternity.
SUMMARY: God's plan of salvation is complete. It accounts for our situation in sin, as well as for God's character of love and justice. It makes our eternal reconciliation with God possible through the death of Christ. It gives us the hope and the certainty of the Second Coming.
J. H. Zachary
Pastor Thomas Davai, president of the Western Highlands Mission in Papua New Guinea, boarded the mission plane to visit a remote congregation. In a few minutes the plane circled the tiny jungle landing strip to announce its approach. By the time it landed, the entire village had gathered to greet the visitors.
But Pastor Davai did not recognize anyone in the crowd. "Can you tell me if there are Seventh-day Adventists here?" he asked.
"What are Seventh-day Adventists?" one man replied. During the conversation that followed, Pastor Davai and the pilot learned that they had landed at the village of Tawa instead of their intended destination. Before they climbed back into the plane, Pastor Davai asked, "May we return sometime to visit you?"
"Yes, you are welcome to return," the villagers answered.
Several months later a man entered the mission office and asked if he could speak to "the big fella." He was shown into Pastor Davai's office. As they talked, Pastor Davai realized that the man had come from the village of Tawa.
"How did you know where to find us?" Pastor Davai asked. The man told the pastor that he had remembered the three angels emblem on the mission plane. He walked through the streets of the city until he found a sign with the same logo. The sign was on the mission office.
"When can you come to Tawa village?" the man asked. "We have been waiting for you." Pastor Davai recognized God's call, but he explained to his visitor that the village is quite distant from the mission headquarters and that there is no access by land. However, he promised to send someone as soon as he could.
Pastor Davai asked Casenov, a lay missionary, to go to Tawa to survey the people's interests and needs and to help them.
The people of Tawa welcomed the lay missionary. They built a simple church and house for their pastor. Casenov remained in the village seeking interests, studying daily with those who wanted to learn about God, and teaching simple health remedies to these isolated villagers. Today the little church has 16 baptized members and 40 more preparing for baptism. Pastor Davai is convinced that God had a hand in guiding the mission plane to the wrong airstrip and thus opening the village of Tawa to the gospel.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour. He works in cooperation with the Ministerial Association of the General Conference.
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