The Fear Factor
Francisco José Moreno, "is afraid. Fear is one of the fundamental
motivating forces behind our actions. The history of mankind is to a very
large extent the history of our attempts to deny, repress, or escape from
fear."—Between Faith and Reason: Basic Fear and the Human Condition
(New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1977), p. 1.
Humans are, indeed, afraid—and with good reasons too. Who knows what
the next full moon, the next gust of wind, the next political twitch, will
bring? Maybe wealth will arrive in the mail, maybe happiness with the tick
of the clock, maybe peace and health in the morning light. Or, maybe (or
even more likely), disease is in the wind, famine in the sunshine, and war
in the soul. Even if we avoid famine, war, and disease, our biggest
fear—death—always awaits us at the end.
Fortunately, we have a God who loves us, a God who knows our fears and who
seeks to alleviate those fears as much as the parameters of the great controversy
will, for now, allow. One way He does this is through the apocalyptic prophecies
in which the Lord spoke to the prophets (through dreams and visions rich
in symbolism) to help us see way beyond the draining fervor and hopeless
ferment of a fallen, dying world. In an existence in which chaos, evil, and
sin seem to infect even the protons and electrons of reality, a message can
be squeezed out of the symbols, deciphered from the codes, and translated
from the images of these prophecies. That message is Fear not, God is in
control; His plan will finally triumph, and the greatest of all His promises
is as real as God Himself, the promise of a new life in a new body in a new
and sinless world for those who by faith endure to the end.
Through the unique power of the apocalyptic, God shows that no matter how
capricious, evil, selfish, and cunning human will is; no matter humankind's
devising, schemes, and plans; the Lord still rules, both in heaven and earth,
and He alone will determine the course of events that lead to the end of
the kingdom of sin. Although human will and responsibility are not annulled,
the apocalyptic shows us that God's plan will prevail; no matter how chaotic
and unruly, even arbitrary, events seem now.
Most important, the apocalyptic reveals to us Jesus, who confronted the powers
of evil in heaven; in His three-and-a-half-year ministry on earth; and, finally,
in His sacrifice on the cross. In each encounter, He unreservedly and
uncompromisingly defeated His and our foes. Now, at the close of the conflict,
He will defeat evil again, paving the way for our planet to be reincorporated
into the harmony of the kingdom of God.
This is the message of the apocalyptic. Read it, love it, trust it, and believe
it, because through it God has given us a sure remedy to alleviate the fear
that, understandably, dominates a sinful, dying world.
When the Apocalyptic Gets
my "favorite" interpretations of apocalyptic prophecy, delivered (believe
it or not) at the United States Capitol before a packed house on February
22, 1857, purported to show from the book of Daniel the exact day, even the
hour, of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence!—See
Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American
Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
1992), pp. 84, 85.
Another classic, more recently, claimed that the 70-week prophecy of Daniel
9:24-27 was partially fulfilled in the signing of the Israeli—PLO peace
accord in 1993! One "favorite" apocalyptic prognostication even predicted
that in 1994 an asteroid would wipe out one-third of the world's population.
What is it about apocalyptic prophecy that can bring out such gullibility,
even naiveté, among Christians? It is bad enough that the good folk
who make these predictions look foolish after the fact, but, sadly, their
repeated failures reflect negatively on all Christianity. After all, those
who already have doubts about the Christian faith certainly will have more
doubt when, time and again, these predictions, based on the same Book that
reveals the salvation offered the world by Christ's death, fail to transpire
when and as proclaimed.
This is too bad, because there is so much in apocalyptic prophecy that should
cause people to believe, not to doubt. I know, because of what the apocalyptic
prophecies have done for me, personally. More than twenty years ago, having
just had a powerful conversion experience, I was exposed to some
apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, prophecies that immediately
helped ground my experience in the Bible. In other words, however real and
intense my conversion experience, it was still just that, an
experience, and experience needs to be balanced, interpreted, and
verified by the Word of God. And for me, these apocalyptic prophecies added
that needed ballast in ways that strengthened my faith back then and that,
in fact, continue to strengthen it today. No doubt, many others could testify
to the same.
Thus, this quarter, Dr. Angel Rodriguez, of the Biblical Research Institute
at the General Conference, covers some of the major apocalyptic prophecies
that, if properly understood, will become personal for each of us, as well.
These prophecies will build our trust in God's Word; will teach us more about
"the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24); and will make us more
sure, more confident, and more hopeful of the future because of what
Christ—as revealed in these prophecies—has done for us in the past.
Indeed, this is the purpose of the apocalyptic prophecies, not to tell us
about asteroids or peace accords but to reveal Jesus, and when we better
understand Jesus—what He has done, is doing, and will do for us—that
is the moment when the apocalyptic prophecies become personal, the way they
always have been meant to be.
(all lessons may not be posted)
Giardina Sabbath School
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl, prepares a
series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes all related
scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New King James Version"
of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission. The study
helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions
Word; RTF for our MAC friends; and
HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on March 19, 2002
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributors: Angel Manuel Rodriguez
Editor: Clifford Goldstein
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti.
Editorial Production Manager: Soraya Homayouni Parish.
Art and Design: Lars Justinen.
Pacific Press Coordinator: Paul A. Hey.
Copyright © 2002 Office of the Adult Bible Study Guide,
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