February 20 - 26
Guide for the Last Days
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Ps. 119; Isa. 50:4; 60:1-3; Dan. 7-12; Eph. 6:17; Rev. 10:1, 2, 7.
MEMORY TEXT: "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).
KEY THOUGHT: Bible writers did not always comprehend the full importance of the message given through them. Some things in the Bible are reserved especially for readers living in the last days.
BIBLE STUDY INVOLVES COMMUNICATION WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. An attitude of humility, earnestness, diligence, and expectancy greatly enhances our communion with God through the study of His Word. His sure promise is that "you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NKJV). Studying God's Word involves intimate communication with the Holy Spirit, who promised to be with us and to guide our minds. Some may shy away from any suggestion that we can be taught individually by the Holy Spirit. But we can be. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible is always ready to help us grow strong in Christ and to guide us "into all truth" (John 16:13).
WORD FOR THE WEEK: Illumination. Do not confuse this word with inspiration. Although both of these words are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, illumination focuses on the light the Holy Spirit sheds on the Inspired Writings to help us understand God's revealed will for us all.
The seventh chapter of Daniel presents a prophetic vision that covers the major events of history in relationship to God's people from the time of Daniel until the establishment of Christ's everlasting dominion on earth.
What did Daniel do when he could not understand the vision? Dan. 7:15, 16.
Even though a more detailed explanation was given, verse 28 indicates that Daniel still remained troubled. Two years later he was given another vision. It was designed to increase his understanding of the revelations that had been disturbing him. (See Daniel 8:17.) As a result of this more detailed explanation, undoubtedly, Daniel understood more fully what was to take place in the future. But the last verse of chapter 8 relates that he was so astonished at the vision that he fainted and was sick for several days.
What does chapter 9, which was written about thirteen years later, demonstrate concerning Daniel's continuing difficulty with fully understanding the visions?
Daniel's difficulty revolved around understanding the time factor involved and its relationship to the seventy-year period of captivity predicted by Jeremiah. He began to seek the answer by fasting and prayer. While he was praying, the angel Gabriel stood by his side, announcing that he was there to give Daniel "skill and understanding." The angel particularly discussed Daniel's problem concerning the period of time "determined" upon the Jewish people.
Three years later, Daniel remained so troubled about the length of time involved that chapter 10 informs us he fasted three weeks because of his lack of understanding. Once again he was given a vision in which he was assured of Heaven's interest in helping him comprehend what he needed to understand.
|Why do you think an intelligent man like Daniel, gifted with divine wisdom, was having so much difficulty with what Christ and Gabriel were telling him regarding the visions? How do you react when, in your Bible study, you find some things difficult to understand? Why do you suppose you respond this way?|
Chapters 11and 12 contain a brief outline of events from Daniel's time to the second coming of Christ, particularly those events that the text suggests are to be sealed till the "time of the end."
What do we find Daniel admitting in 12:8?
The understanding of these events was sealed until the time of the end (verse 9), since it was impossible to grasp them fully until the last days. Daniel was told, "Go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days" (verse 13, NKJV).
Instead of satisfying Daniel's request for complete understanding of the visions, what words of encouragement does God offer to Daniel? Dan. 12: 9-13.
There was no way Daniel could understand fully the events revealed and recorded in the last six chapters of his book. But he was encouraged to believe that the time would come "at the end of the days" when the things he had been so troubled about would be unsealed and made meaningful to those who would be guided by the Holy Spirit in understanding what he had written.
When was the prophecy "unsealed?" Rev. 10:1, 2, 7.
"Daniel shall stand in his lot at the end of the days. John sees the little book unsealed. Then Daniel's prophecies have their proper place in the first, second, and third angels' messages to be given to the world. The unsealing of the little book was the message in relation to time. The books of Daniel and the Revelation are one. One is a prophecy, the other a revelation; one a book sealed, the other a book opened." Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol 7, p. 97 1.
After doing everything possible to determine objectively what a Bible author is trying to say, we need to realize that the Scriptures "are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11).
The Holy Spirit sometimes intends a prophetic passage to have more than one application. Jesus Himself had two applications in mind in Matthew 24. Whenever a later inspired Bible writer is led by the Holy Spirit to convey what God intended in the writings of an earlier inspired Bible writer, we have clear authority for understanding it in this sense.
The Holy Spirit is not given as a shortcut to eliminate the necessity of careful and methodical Bible study. But when we apply ourselves as a "workman that needeth not to be ashamed," the Holy Spirit helps us to rightly divide, or properly understand, the Word of Truth. (See 2 Tim. 2:15.)
To approach the study of the Bible with the human mind unaided by the Holy Spirit is to open the way for a spirit not of God to lead us astray. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are inclined to misinterpret the scriptures. If the Word of God is opened without reverence and prayer, the study of the Bible can lead to faulty understanding and to unbelief.
"A true knowledge of the Bible can be gained only through the aid of that Spirit by whom the word was given. And in order to gain this knowledge we must live by it. All that God's word commands, we are to obey. All that it promises, we may claim. The life which it enjoins is the life that, through its power, we are to live. Only as the Bible is thus held can it be studied effectively."Education, p. 189.
These two important factors must be kept in mind as we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in applying biblical passages:
First, we must be able to distinguish between universal principles and local applications of these principles. Certain portions of the Scriptures were written to meet particular circumstances and specific instances. The principles behind the specific applications expressed in these portions are universal in their scope; that is, they apply in all circumstances, for all time.
Second, we must be able to relate a particular Bible passage to times and circumstances today. We need to be able to see the relationship of truths or teachings in the passage to the Scriptures as a whole. Any one passage may emphasize a certain portion of a Bible teaching without giving all the other parts that must be understood to grasp the truth being discussed in its wholeness. Before drawing definite conclusions concerning the nature of a revealed truth, it is essential to study it in the light of the entire Bible teaching on the subject. In doing so we must recognize that the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself.
What does the Bible tell us about new light that contradicts old light? Isa. 8:20.
|For reflection: How does the Holy Spirit safeguard your careful, comparative Bible study against misinterpreting or misunderstanding a Bible teaching? What valuable lessons has this taught you?|
What does the Word of God do to enlighten our way in a world darkened by sin? Ps. 119:105, 130.
"As we search its pages, light enters the heart, illuminating the mind. By this light we see what we ought to be."My Life Today, p. 27.
What part does the Holy Spirit play in this illumination? John 16:13.
"The Comforter is called 'the Spirit of truth.' His work is to define and maintain the truth. He first dwells in the heart as the Spirit of truth, and thus He becomes the Comforter. There is comfort and peace in the truth, but no real peace or comfort can be found in falsehood.... Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul."The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
"No man can have insight into the Word of God without the illumination of the Holy Spirit. If we will but come into the right position before God, His light will shine upon us in rich, clear rays."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1152.
What do the following texts reveal about Christ's communication of Heaven's truth?
John 14:24 __________________________________________________________
Isa. 50:4 ____________________________________________________________
How can we receive illumination from the Holy Spirit as Jesus did?
"From hours spent with God He came forth morning by morning, to bring the light of heaven to men. Daily He received a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the early hours of the new day the Lord awakened Him from His slumbers, and His soul and His lips were anointed with grace, that He might impart to others. "Christ's Object Lessons, p. 139.
|How is it possible in this hectic life to emulate our Lord's example of daily receiving a "fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit"? Share some helpful suggestions with your class.|
Isaiah 60:1-3 indicates that, in these times, when "darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people," God's people will bring the glorious light of the gospel of Christ to the entire world. (See Matthew 5:14; Revelation 18:1.)
What two challenges does God give to His people? Isa. 60:1.
1. ARISE: What does that indicate? Many are caught up in a deadly Laodicean sleeping sickness (see Rev. 3:17) and are not measuring up to all that Christ makes possible.
2. SHINE: What does it mean for us to shine and for His glory to be seen upon us? (Isa. 60:1, 2). We do not shine; Christ shines in and through us. This means that we reflect the glorious light of His character to those about us. The following illustration from a newly published book, Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith, ed. by Susan Bergman (San Francisco, Calif.: Harper) helps us understand how God can work when people see the character of Christ shining in our lives.
In 1995, Steve Saint moved to Ecuador with his wife and children to establish an airport and hospital for the Huaroni people. Steve's father, Nate, was one of five missionaries who was martyred in January of 1956 in his attempt to take the gospel to those who have commonly been called the Auca Indians. Steve recently learned some of the details of the fate of the five martyrs when he became a good friend of the now-converted Indians who killed the missionaries.
The five attackers are Christians today. Knowing that they had nothing to fear from Steve, they openly told him the story of the slaying of the five missionaries. As they attacked with hardwood spears, the Aucas were fearful that they would be killed, because the missionaries had guns to protect themselves from wild animals. One of the missionaries did fire a pistol in the air when he realized what was happening, but the five had agreed among themselves that they would rather be killed than kill any of the Aucas. As the Indians discussed their raid with Steve, they repeatedly asked, "Why didn't the men use their guns to defend themselves?" This all-important question became the major factor in later allowing missionary Elizabeth Elliot and Steve's aunt, Rachel Saint, to come live with them, begin medical missionary work, and finally convert them.
|For reflection: Have you ever experienced a time when your witness for Christ brought you loss by the world's standards or put you in danger? How did your "loss" influence others to accept Jesus?|
FURTHER STUDY: Carefully and prayerfully study chapter 37 in The Great Controversy entitled "The Scriptures a Safeguard." If you do not have a copy of the book, the following texts progress through the chapter: Isa. 8:20; Rev. 14:9-11; 2 Tim. 4:3; Prov. 3:13; 16:25; Mark 12:24; John 7:17; Ps. 119:11, 18, 99, 104; Isa. 59:19; John 14:26; Eph. 5:14-16; Jer. 17:8.
Note: "A device of the enemy." "We are to pray for divine enlightenment, but at the same time we should be careful how we receive everything termed new light. We must beware lest, under cover of searching for new truth, Satan shall divert our minds from Christ and the special truths for this time. I have been shown that it is the device of the enemy to lead minds to dwell upon some obscure or unimportant point, something that is not fully revealed or is not essential to our salvation. This is made the absorbing theme, the 'present truth,' when all their investigations and suppositions only serve to make matters more obscure than before, and to confuse the minds of some who ought to be seeking for oneness through sanctification of the truth."Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 49.
SUMMARY: Although some of the Bible writers were not able to anticipate how their writings would apply to the last days, the Holy Spirit guides us in making proper applications so we might be prepared for Satan's great masterpiece of deception.
The days of Paul and Silas are not as far removed as we might think.
Julio and Carlos are two teenage boys living in Cuba. Like Paul and Silas, they are not afraid to share their faith with others. The boys often distribute Christian literature in their city, including Bible lessons, church invitations, and program guides for the Spanish language Your Story Hour (Tu Historia Preferida), a half-hour radio broadcast featuring dramatized Bible stories.
One day when they were about twelve years old, the boys were passing out invitations to evangelistic meetings in their church when two military police approached them and demanded to know what they were doing. "We're giving away these brochures," the boys said, showing the men their papers.
"Do you have government permission to pass out this subversive material?" the soldiers demanded to know.
"No sir, we do not," the boys replied politely.
The men arrested the two boys, handcuffed them, and took them to the police station, where they were locked in a cell to await transport to a prison for young delinquents.
Meanwhile, the boys' parents began to worry about them. It was time to go to church, and they were not home yet. Their mother grew alarmed and began searching for the boys. She asked people on the street if they had seen her sons. Finally someone who had witnessed the boys' arrest told her where they were. But when she arrived at the police station, her sons were not there. She was sent from one precinct to another until finally she arrived at the correctional prison for delinquents.
A guard led her down a long hallway. From the far end of the hall she heard young voices singing a familiar song:
"This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine . .
She rushed to the cell and found her sons still singing. She hugged them and listened as they told her about their exciting day that began with witnessing and ended in prison!
The boys' experience with prison did not dampen their enthusiasm for evangelism. As they walked out of the prison, they pulled their pamphlets and invitations from their pockets and began passing them out again!
Thony Escotto is a writer and translator for Tu Historia Preferida, the Spanish Your Story Hour, an independent, interfaith radio broadcast originating in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver
Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor: Leo Van Dolson
Editor: Philip G. Samaan
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Assistant: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator: Glen Robinson
Copyright © 1999 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
This page is Netscape friendly.
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET
Last updated February 18, 1999.