May 27 - June 2
Millennial Expectation and the Second Coming
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Deut 18:22; 2 Pet. 3:1-18; Dan 2:41-45; 8:14; 12:4, 9, 10; Revelation 13.
MEMORY TEXT: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Children of God who know that Jesus dwells in their hearts by faith will long for His near return. While watching for events that indicate His return is near and eagerly anticipating that reunion, they will joyfully delight in His daily presence. Christ, rather than the crisis, will be the focus of their lives at the end.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE MILLENNIUM. As we enter this new millennium, the excitement of prophetic fever is part of our global and cultural climate as evidenced by a wide range of expectations.
Luke predicted that such a climate would exist at the end when people's hearts would fail from fear and foreboding (21:26). Even though the Bible predicts such a season, Christ's second advent will still come as a "thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2). Many will be lulled to sleep by false predictions that have no basis in Scripture.
This week, we shall try to discern the difference between Christ's admonition to "watch" and "be ready" (Matt. 24:42, 44) and the general fever of millennial expectation that leads to presumption and false expectations.
By what criteria should prophetic claims be evaluated? Deut. 18:22; Matt. 7:15-23.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has never set a date for Christ's return, although a few individual members have tried. Recent dates they have calculated on the basis of the jubilee include 1987, 1991, 1994, 1996, and 1998.
An Adventist friend recently received a letter, full of impressive calculations, informing him that Jesus would return on New Year's Day. My friend wrote this message on the envelope containing his response: "Not to be opened until January 2." By the time this Bible Study Guide appears, another date probably linked to the year 2000 will be in the mail.
Why do you think Jesus has not returned yet? 2 Pet. 3:9.
Time-setters often rationalize their mistakes by coming up with more erroneous dates and explanations that are not Bible-based. Some also misuse Ellen White's writings in the same way. She is clear that the coming of Christ has been delayed:
"It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in 'because of unbelief.' Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.
"For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years."Evangelism, p. 696.
|Jesus promised: "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:3, NKJV).|
How can the 2,300-year prophecy build up your confidence in God's Word as we await the Second Coming? Dan. 8:14.
Seventh-day Adventists began as a prophetic movement rooted in an understanding of the 2,300-year prophecy. Synonymous with the Millerite movement, some "seventy-five prominent and respected voices," scattered over a dozen nations on four continents, tracked this prophecy to fulfillment in about 1843-1847. These were all prior to publication of William Miller's first book on prophecy in 1836.Le Roy Edwin Froom, "The Status of Prophetic Interpretation," in The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers: The Historical Development of Prophetic Interpretation (Washington, D.C.: The Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1954), vol. 4, p. 403. Thirty-eight of these writers ended the 2,300 years in 1843 or 1844 and thirty in 1847. Many expositors were convinced that the fulfillment of this prophecy marked the "time of the end," the "latter days," or the "last days."Page 407. William Miller himself believed human probation would end shortly before the Second Advent. (See page 409.)
Church historian Le Roy Edwin Froom wrote: "It disposes forever of the notion that this [concept] was simply or principally an American Millerite or New World concept.... It began, instead, on the Continent of Europe and in the British Isles, but almost immediately appeared on both sides of the Atlantic. It was distinctly international, and was virtually a simultaneous world phenomenon."Page 410. This was a direct fulfillment of Revelation 10:1, 2, which portrayed an angel with the open book of Daniel standing on the land and on the sea.
The global impact of this prophecy was also predicted in Daniel 12. Daniel predicted that "many" would understand the unsealed contents of his book after the end of the 1,260 years, which closed in 1798 (12:4, 7). This promise was repeated in 12:9 and 10 to show the certainty of the prophecy's fulfillment. Daniel wrote, "for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified . . the wise shall understand" (12:9, 10, NKJV).
Froom records the historical fulfillment of this prediction: "It was... the spontaneous conviction of many of the finest minds of the time....
"And finally," writes Froom, "it lays low the suggestion that this [concept] was the hobby of a single unstable religious group.... It was, instead, spread with amazingly balanced distribution among all leading religious groups or denominations."Page 410.
|Why has God allowed so much time to elapse between 1844 and the final end? What does this say about His character?|
As the end approaches, how will God greatly increase our knowledge of Jesus and the prophecies relating to His return? Dan. 12:4, 9, 10.
Several signs of Christ's return are hidden in the prophecies of Daniel to be opened only in "the time of the end."
In yesterday's lesson we noted the developing global interest in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation around the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. In 1899, Ellen White wrote: "The time has come for the light given [Daniel] to go to the world as never before. If those for whom the Lord has done so much will walk in the light, their knowledge of Christ and the prophecies relating to Him will be greatly increased as they near the close of this earth's history."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1174.
The increased knowledge promised in Daniel 12:4 was "shut up" for centuries. During that time sincere believers understood and appreciated some of Daniel's prophecies. As Christ's second advent neared, they were given a clearer and broader vision of closing events. Prayerful study of Daniel and Revelation revealed the awesome dimensions of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. This cosmic perspective offered a unified framework for understanding all the great truths of Scripture. The final pieces included the judgment, the Second Coming, resurrection, and the ultimate eradication of evil from the universe.
Though the context of Daniel 12:4 points to an increased knowledge of Scripture, the prophecy has also been interpreted as pointing to "the stupendous advances of science and general knowledge in the last century and a half, advances that have made possible a widespread proclamation of the message of these prophecies."SDA Bible Commentary, vol.4, p. 879.
|How have communication advances helped people understand the prophecies? What role have they played in the advancement of the everlasting gospel? Is global communication technology a "sign" of Christ's near return? Explain your answer. What technological advances are being used by Seventh-day Adventists today to diffuse the three angels' messages to all parts of the world?|
At what point of world history does the "stone" strike the feet of the great image? Dan. 2:41-45.
The prophecy of the image of Daniel 2 points to the setting up of God's kingdom at the time of the end. Ellen White highlights two signs from the prophetic image. The iron and clay mixture, she says, represents (1) the "deterioration of the kingdoms of the earth in power and glory," as well as (2) the "deterioration of religion and morality among the people of these kingdoms."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1168.
How are the signs mentioned above evident in today's political and cultural environment? What factors are accelerating moral decline and spiritual deterioration?
One sign is linked to the union of church and state on a global scale. "The mingling of church craft and state craft is represented by the iron and the clay. This union is weakening.., the power of the churches. This investing the church with the power of the state will bring evil results.""Manuscript 63, 1899," Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 51. Jesus taught His disciples that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Therefore, His faithful church could never set its affections and hope on the success of an earthly empire. In contrast to Europe, the founders of the United States recognized the moral virtue of the separation of church and state. However, there are political forces today challenging those founders' position.
Much of Western Europe is today largely indifferent to religion. Their great cathedrals are empty monuments to a lost glory. To some, it seems that the era when Europe was a Christian continent lies behind us. In an attempt to regain their former influence, the historic churches of Eastern Europe, delivered from communism, are again seeking power through a connection with the state.
Every weekend in the USA, many millions attend their houses of worship. Today their organized influence is being felt more and more on all levels of government. The prophecies of the Bible are quickly being fulfilled as the wall separating church and state begins to crumble.
|In what ways do you see church and state joining forces today? Are Adventists as sensitive to these dangers now as before? How can Adventists speak out without becoming overly political? What can you do personally?|
What elements of church and of state are described in Revelation 13? What current struggles are revealed there?
The elements of the Seventh-day Adventist view of Revelation 13 are not all new. From the Reformation on, expositors identified the papal power as the ten-horned beast, the successor to Imperial Rome. Our identification of the lamblike beast as the United States has its roots in recognition of historical fulfillment. Le Roy Edwin Froom writes of "a long background of antecedents developing over a course of centuries before Seventh-day Adventists entered the picture." Page 1093. The 1,260-year prophecy (Rev. 13:5) points to the years following 1798 as a time of conflict for God's people. The first and second beast will then unite efforts at the time of the end to enforce the mark of the beast and to destroy God's remnant church (Rev. 13:12, 15).
When in 1899 Ellen White wrote about the mingling together of church craft and state craft, the National Reform Association, founded in 1863, was seeking a religious amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At that time, a national Sunday Law bill had been introduced into the U.S. Senate, and Protestants and Catholics were uniting to promote its passage. These early attempts failed, but not before some Sabbath keepers had languished in prisons for breaking Sunday laws. In the same century, spiritualism gained international recognition and broad acceptance in the West. Three prophetic powers emerged as actors in an end-time drama: Romanism, apostate Protestantism, and spiritualism. It seemed as though Revelation 13 were about to be fulfilled, but God's people were not yet ready.
In 1899 Ellen White warned that "laws manufactured by satanic agencies under a plea of goodness and restriction of evil will be exalted."Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles (Dec. 26, 1899), vol. 4, p. 135. Even now, concerned citizens cite the loss of family values, rising crime rates, and the evils of society as good reasons for tampering with the U.S. Constitution.
To these events must be added the developing miracle-working powers of Revelation 13:13 and 16:13, 14, such as the New Age movement, excesses in the charismatic movement, scientific and media support for communication with the dead, and the spread of reincarnation teachings.
The above are compelling signs that we stand on the threshold of eternity. Will we be ready to enter in? What does it mean to be ready to enter in and live an eternity in the presence of Jesus and the Father? How does the Word of God define readiness to meet the Lord?
FURTHER STUDY: Daniel 2; 9; 12:4, 10; Matt. 24:23-27; Acts 1:9-11; 2 Thess. 2:1-11.
"As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will [im]personate Christ... . In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness.... The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out. . .'Christ has come! Christ has come!' "The Great Controversy, p. 624.
In 1992 an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism took a full page ad in the New York Times to reveal that "The Time for Your Redemption Has Arrived." The Messiah, said the ad, was their leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who has since died."Expecting the Messiah," Time (March 23, 1992), p. 49.
SUMMARY: In the 1890s, excited by revival in the church and a threatened national Sunday law, many Seventh-day Adventists thought Jesus' return was imminent. Ellen White cautioned: "We are not to live upon time excitement. . . . No one will be able to predict just when that time will come. . . . You will not be able to say that He will come in one, two, or five years, neither are you to put off His coming by stating that it may not be for ten or twenty years."Selected Messages, book 1, p. 189.
Bogdan worked in a brewery when he heard that an evangelist was holding meetings in town. Still interested in learning more about the Bible and eager to practice his English, he decided to go. After the meeting he talked with the pastor. When the pastor put his hand on Bogdan's shoulder and asked God to touch his life, a frightening power seemed to surge through his body, and his heart began beating wildly.
Shaken, Bogdan went home and told his father about what had happened. That night he lay in bed thinking about what had happened and what it could mean.
He attended the remaining meetings. At the close of the series, the evangelist announced that the local pastor would hold a Revelation Seminar. Eagerly Bogdan attended, and there he found the keys that unlocked this fascinating book. But the knowledge he gained left him in turmoil.
He had accepted an offer to study brewing in Hungary as part of his work, but new insights into the truths of the Bible left him wondering how the principles of Christianity and a career in the brewery business could coexist.
Bogdan quit his job in the brewery and was baptized. He remembered a voice that had spoken to him during the first evangelistic meeting he had attended. "You should be standing there" where the speaker stood. Was God calling him to be a pastor? It seemed impossible. He had no job and no money to pay tuition.
Nevertheless, if God was calling him, he must go. But God would have to perform a miracle. He confided his convictions in the pastor, who told him that nothing was impossible for God. One day the pastor came to Bogdan and said, "It's all arranged; you go to Zaoksky to study theology."
Bogdan journeyed to Zaoksky seminary, where he is studying to become a pastor. He does not know who has sponsored him, but he knows that God has arranged everything. He had no idea when he first read the Bible that his mother bought that his spiritual quest would change his life. But he would not change anything along the way, for he is convinced it was all in God's plan.
Bogdan Koshelev is studying at Zaoksky Seminary to become a pastor. Barbara Huff is an administrative
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