SDA Sabbath School Lesson
April 27 - May 3
The Last Hour
Read For This Week's Study: 1 John 2:18-29.
Memory Text. "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28, NKJV).
Key Thought: Though some will attempt to deceive, teaching all kinds of error, the true Christian will remain true to God, realizing that widespread apostasy is proof that the end is soon to come.
On knowing God Knowledge and Forgiveness Knowledge and Victory Knowing God Loving the World Living Forever Further Study Also see: Lesson Helps for study material used in this lesson. And don't miss: The Inside Story
Sabbath Afternoon April 26
Almost There! A soccer match is in its final minutes. The two teams make an all-out effort, throwing as many men forward as possible into their opponents' half, trying to score that all-important goal. A cycle race is in its final mile. The competitors redouble their efforts, sprinting toward the finish. The marathon race is nearly over. Just a few more paces to run, one last struggle to find that extra energy to push over the line, so that victory is achieved.
These are familiar images that fill the media, images of people who have trained long and hard, who have run a good race, and have won the gold. The victors were those who endured to the end.
We are told to run the race set before us. And as we run, we must not be unaware of the finishing post just up ahead. To fail in sight of the prize would be foolish and futile. John encourages each one to realize that this is the last hour.
As the end comes, we can say with Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:7, NKJV).
Sunday April 27
Antichrists and the Last Hour (1 John 2:18,19).
How does John say we can identify that this is the last hour? 1 John 2:18.
The very fact that the voices of deception and rebellion have reached such a crescendo means that the last hour has arrived. While John was not trying to date the time of Christ's return, he pointed to the same signs that Jesus identified to indicate the urgency of the times. "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible" (Matthew 24:24, NIV).
What does John tell us about the antichrists who had arisen in his day? 1 John 2:19.
Antichrists are those who follow the devil, either deceived by him, or deliberately adopting his evil ways. For John, they were those who had once been part of the church but had now gone their own separate ways. These were substitute christs and opponents of Christ. "John sees it as a sign of the approaching end and warns his readers accordingly.'--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 644.
The course adopted by the antichrists of John's day has been followed all too often since then and is part of the devil's attack on the church today. Unfortunately, many in today's world have given up on biblical Christianity and have bought the deceptive lies of the devil. They may even be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong! Just because you are sincere that you are going in the right direction is no guarantee that you will arrive where you should.
And as the end approaches, we will see an intensification of hostility to the gospel. The ultimate end-time antichrist is identified in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. (See Dan. 8:25; 11:42-45; Rev. 13:16, 17; 16:13, 14.) A religious union based on non-biblical teachings will arise that will claim to be Christian but which will support secular powers in their opposition to the faithful people of God. Apostate Christians will unite with pagans in substituting the power of spiritism for the power of Jesus Christ. They will accept unbiblical teachings because they are popular and will bitterly persecute those who insist on adhering to Bible truth. Only as we remain in close union with the Lord can we escape Satan's deceptive snare.
For reflection: Is there any way in which you, even indirectly, assist the antichrist?
Monday April 28
Anointed by the Spirit (1 John 2:20, 21, 26, 27).
How do we know the truth? Is it head knowledge, a feeling, a spiritual experience, or a combination of these? 1 John 2:20, 21, 26, 27.
Even the phrase "anointed by the Holy One" (1 John 2:20, RSV) is interpreted by some to mean that we receive mysterious impressions telling us what is right.
"I am afraid of anything that would have a tendency to turn the mind away from the solid evidences of the truth as revealed in God's Word. I am afraid of it; I am afraid of it. We must bring our minds within the bounds of reason, lest the enemy come in as to set everything in a disorderly way."-Selected Messages, book 2, p. 43.
This is why John later on (in 1 John 4:1) tells us to "test the spirits." What the Holy Spirit is telling us can always be confirmed by referring to Scripture. From Scripture we can know for sure whether the impressions we are receiving are from the Holy Spirit. " 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them' (Isa. 8:20). Even the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart is to be tested by the Word of God. The Spirit which inspired the Scriptures, always leads to the Scriptures." -Selected Messages, book 1, p. 43.
There are many who claim to have the truth. How do we tell what is false and what is true? List a few ways of knowing. Isa. 8:20; Matt. 7:20.
Examine the Bible evidence for what many who claim to have the truth are saying and how they are living! This is surely what John means when he says, "You do not need anyone to teach you" (1 John 2:27, NIV). Why then was John writing to them? Because he realized that what he was writing was inspired truth. But he wanted to distance himself from the idea that you can place absolute trust in any human teacher in whom you have total confidence.
Paul wrote sharply to the Christians in Corinth: "My brothers, some ... have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' " (1 Cor. 1:11, 12 NIV). Paul then asks, "Is Christ divided?" No; the fellowship of remaining in Christ, of examining God's Word together, will help us identify truth. And as for the different teachers: "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20).
Tuesday April 29
Denying Christ (1 John 2:22, 23).
In what ways do people deny Christ? 1 John 2:22; Matt. 10:33; Mark 8:38.
People can deny Christ by a lifestyle contrary to the principles of His Word. They may choose to be ignorant of Him. They may directly deny His claims. Christians may deny Him by claiming to know Him while not allowing Him to change them from sinners into trustworthy friends of God. "Who, then, is the liar? It is anyone who says that Jesus is not the Messiah. Such a person is the Enemy of Christ-he rejects both the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22, TEV).
John wrote like this because some of those to whom he was writing believed the old Greek idea that the physical world is naturally evil; they could not accept that Jesus was a real person in human flesh. They thought that God is too exalted to take on human form. So they suggested that Jesus only seemed real (Docetism) or that Christ came down on a totally human Jesus at His baptism. Or they found some other way to avoid the truth that God actually took on humanity.
But the incarnation was vital to the gospel. Any attempt to make Jesus less than God would mean that He could not rightly represent God to us! His statement that "anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9, NIV) would then become invalid. In Jesus' death on the cross, the answers about God would become questionable. Only God could pay the legal penalty for all human sin (1 Peter 2:24), only God can save, only God can rise again. Christ is God, equal in authority and power with the Father (Col. 2:9).
What happens if you do totally accept that Jesus always was, is, and ever will be God? 1 John 2:23.
Then "the man who believes in the Son will find that he knows the Father as well" (1 John 2:23, Phillips).
"Had God the Father come to our world and dwelt among us, humbling Himself, veiling His glory, that humanity might look upon Him, the history that we have of the life of Christ would not have been changed.... In every act of Jesus, in every lesson of His instruction, we are to see and hear and recognize God. In sight, in hearing, in effect, it is the voice and movements of the Father."-That I May Know Him, p. 338.
For reflection: How do you deny Christ in what you do or say?
Wednesday April 30
Remaining In Christ Means Eternal Life (1 John 2:24, 25).
How do I remain in Christ? 1 John 2:24; 4:13; John 15:7-10.
Fellowship with the indwelling Holy Spirit is abiding in Christ. This is the means by which we do His will. The word remain, which is used all through this section, means, "making a settled home, having a permanent address." The Christian is to make a permanent home in Jesus Christ, not use Him as some kind of temporary campsite. Often in the news we hear of people of no fixed abode; they do not claim to have any home; they are drifters, transients without an address. In other words, they do not belong. To belong is a vital human need. We all want somewhere we call home, where we can feel we truly belong. We seek love from our family, a sense of belonging. We identify with a particular place, or a certain country. This is the idea John wants us to have of Christ-in Him we truly belong.
Paul talks about having our "citizenship in heaven" (Phil. 3:20, NIV). This is the same idea. We must not remain comfortable here. We are to be restless for our true home, our destiny, which is out of this world. And so the Christian remains in Christ now, walking with Him along the way, looking for His return to complete the redemption process so that we can then be truly at home with Him in the glorious future He promises.
What exactly does God promise? 1 John 2:24, 25.
The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is the presence of the Father and the Son (John 14:18, 23). God's presence in our lives by the Holy Spirit is the gift of eternal life. "It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of life eternal."-The Desire of Ages, p. 388.
Of course, if this were an eternity with someone you did not care for, this would not be something to be desired. But because we know God through Christ now, we can be completely confident of a wonderful eternal life in the presence of our loving Lord.
Remember the words of Jesus: "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3, NIV).
For reflection: What future do you want and how can you be sure of having it?
Thursday May 1
Ready for Jesus to Come (1 John 2:28, 29).
Why do you want to be ready when Jesus comes? 1 John 2:28 (compare Rev. 6:13-17).
Sometimes we have a desire to be ready because we see the coming of Jesus as a kind of nightmare. Because we fear the negative consequences, we desperately want to make ourselves ready. The truth is that we should not fear, but eagerly anticipate the return of Jesus. We should live with joyous expectancy, not in an attitude of apprehension and dread, but of exhilaration and joy.
This will be our experience if we "continue in him" (1 John 2:25, NIV). John encourages us not to give up in sight of the prize. In a cycle race, one boy, tired of the troubles and hazards he had to face, ended up sitting by the roadside discouraged and gloomy. When the race officials found him, they were astonished. For right around the comer was the finishing point!
We are called to continue, not to give up, not to be quitters in the race of life. Yes, the situation may seem appalling. Yes, troubles will inevitably come. Yes, you will meet opposition and hardship. But don't give up, shouts John. For Jesus is coming, and you want to meet him in confidence and not feel embarrassed for your lack of faith in him. John seems to be using a play on words here as a way of teaching this truth. You need to have confidence (parresia) when Jesus appears (parousia)-two words that sound similar in the Greek. This would be like saying in English we need to have com-fort at His com-ing!
What makes it possible for Christian believers to do works that God regards as righteous? 1 John 2:29.
First John 2:29 translates literally: "If you know that He is righteous, you know that anyone who does righteousness has been born of Him." In other words, the individual who is born of the Holy Spirit has the power to do righteous works. John adds to the thought in 1 John 3:7. "He who does righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous." The one who does righteousness is the born-again believer (1 John 2:29). By the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, this person reflects the righteous character of Jesus (Gal. 2:20), which is manifested in good works. (Compare Eph. 2:8-10.)
For reflection: How do you demonstrate your eagerness for the return of Jesus?
Friday May 2
For Further Study: On the Second Advent, study: 1 Thess. 4:16-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 2 Peter 3:8-14.
Ready for Jesus to come. "We are looking for the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are not only to believe that the end of all things is at hand. We are to be filled with the advent spirit that when the Lord comes He may find us ready to meet Him, whether we are working in the field, or building a house, or preaching the Word; ready to say, 'Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us' (Isaiah 25:9)."-Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, no. 847.
"Living power must attend the message of Christ's second coming in the clouds of heaven.... The message for this time is positive, simple, and of the deepest importance. We must act like men and women who believe.... Waiting, watching, working, praying, warning the world-this is our work."-Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, no. 844.
On making sure faith is based on truth, and not only on impressions: "Faith in a lie will not have a sanctifying influence upon the life or character. No error is truth, or can be made truth by repetition, or by faith in it. Sincerity will never save a soul from the consequences of believing an error. Without sincerity there is no true religion, but sincerity in a false religion will never save a man."-Selected Messages, book 2, p. 56.
"Impressions alone are not a safe guide to duty. The enemy often persuades men to believe that it is God who is guiding them, when in reality they are following only human impulse."-The Acts of the Apostles, p. 279.
1. How does expecting Jesus return affect you and the way you live?
2. Is it practicable to live each day "as if it were your last"?
3 If this really is "the last hour," what should your priorities be?
Summary: While divisions over doctrine and practice will become ever more common as the end approaches, true Christians will hold on to the truth as found in Jesus. Denials of the absolute divinity of Christ will be at the heart of many deceptions, but to follow such ideas would mean a false understanding of our God. The message is stand firm and look forward to the soon return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Victor Kpoto had once been a skilled carpenter. His work was well known, and he had a flourishing business in Cotonou, the capital of Benin, a tiny country in West Africa. Then one day his right hand was crushed in an accident. His work as a carpenter was over. Sometimes Victor wondered how God could bring victory out of such a loss.
Victor had to support his family, so he returned to his home village of Lobogo, a farming region 55 miles north of the capital. His family owned a plot of land there, and he began cultivating it and planted vegetables and nursery stock to sell in the city.
As he traveled back and forth to Lobogo, Victor began to feel a burden for the people there. Many were relatives and old friends. There was no one else to share the Adventist message with them. So Victor began offering his customers Bible studies. In faith, he bought a field on which to build a church, and painted a little sign that read "Seventh-day Adventist Church." He placed it in the middle of the empty field.
He began spending more and more of his time in Lobogo, and soon he had a group of about 30 people meeting in a temporary shelter to study the Bible. Three young men were ready for baptism, and others soon would be ready. But they had no baptistry.
Victor and the other believers began building a baptismal tank in the empty field. Bit by bit they bought cement and made blocks. They sacrificed to put up a temporary shelter around their baptistry. Then they invited a lay evangelist from another area to hold evangelistic meetings.
One day a message came to the mission office. "Pastor, come soon. Eleven people want to be baptized." The minister arrived and interviewed the new believers. Then with great joy he invited one after another of the new believers to enter the new baptismal tank and seal their commitment to a totally different way of life in Jesus. Faces of new believers shone with joy as they began their new life in Christ, but the most radiant face of all was Victor Kpoto's. He had watched God bring victory out of apparent loss.
Pray for the fewer than 1,000 believers in Benin, and the handful of faithful workers to minister there.
Inge Gray and her husband have recently transferred from Benin to the Africa-Indian Ocean Division in Cote d'lvoire, West Africa.
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Last updated on April 25, 1997