Lesson 8

May 13 - 19

Such a Cloud of Witnesses and the Second Coming

Lesson graphic

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 6:8-13; Num. 13:27-33; Luke 1:17, 67-79; Acts 1:8-11; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; 1 John 3:1-11.

MEMORY TEXT:  "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14, NKJV).

KEY THOUGHTS: God has always had messengers to proclaim His message of reconciliation to lost humanity. At key junctures just prior to major events, these messengers proclaimed a special message. In these last days, God's people are to carry the special message of His second coming to all the world.

Sabbath Afternoon   May 13

GOD'S SPECIAL MESSENGERS. "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). God has raised up key people at major turning points in history. Noah was commissioned to warn of the coming doom through a worldwide Flood. Abraham was called out to be the founder of a nation. Jeremiah called for repentance in view of the impending doom from Babylon. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. In the last days, God is calling a people to proclaim the full gospel to lost humanity. God wants people to accept the sacrifice of His Son on Calvary. He desires them to accept His offer of reconciliation. Therefore, God is looking for a people in these last days who will carry this gospel of the kingdom—the everlasting gospel—to the whole world before Jesus returns.  

Sunday  May 14

NOAH AND THE IMPENDING FLOOD (Gen. 6:8-13; Heb. 11:7).

What was society like in Noah's day?  How do these conditions compare to those that will exist just before the second coming of Christ?  Gen. 6:11-13; Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27; 21:34-36.  

At the time of the Flood, even those who claimed to worship the true God rejected the message of Noah. They reasoned that a God of love would not destroy the creatures whom He had created. Further, their study of science convinced them that it could not rain. After all, it had not rained since the creation of the earth. Who better than they would know that talk about impending judgment was just a scare tactic? There was no danger. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 90-104.)

What prepared Noah (and what will prepare us) to deliver God's message and to remain faithful during the approaching judgment hour of earth?  Gen. 6:8, 9; Heb. 11:7.   

Noah "gave the world an example of believing just what God says."—Patriarchs and Prophets p. 95. By contrast, "The wise men of this world talked of science and the fixed laws of nature, and declared that there could be no variation in these laws, and that this message of Noah could not possibly be true. The talented men of Noah's time set themselves in league against God's will and purpose, and scorned the message and the messenger that he had sent. When they could not move Noah from his firm and implicit trust in the word of God, they pointed to him as a fanatic, as a ranting old man, full of superstition and madness.. . It was true that Noah could not controvert their philosophies, or refute the claims of science so called; but he could proclaim the word of God; for he knew it contained the infinite wisdom of the Creator, and, as he sounded it everywhere, it lost none of its force and reality because men of the world treated him with ridicule and contempt."—"An Example of Saving Faith," Ellen G. White Articles, Signs of the Times (April 18, 1895), vol. 3, pp. 200, 201.

How did Jesus' victory in the wilderness compare with Noah's stand for God's Word? Matt. 4:1-11.  

What kind of faith would it take to wait for rain for seven days in the ark with crowds scoffing outside? "But Noah stood like a rock amid the tempest."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 96.  How can you be a faithful witness in these tempestuous times before Christ returns?  

Monday  May 15

ABRAHAM, THE FATHER OF THE FAITHFUL (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:1-14; Heb. 11:8-10, 17, 18).

What did God ask Abraham to do, and what did He promise him?  Gen. 12:1-3.  How did Abraham respond? Gen. 12:4, 5; Heb. 11:8-10.  

Abraham's unquestioning obedience is one of the most striking evidences of faith to be found in all the Bible. To him, faith was "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1, NKJV). This is the kind of faith that will lead us into our Promised Land when Christ returns.

"Relying upon the divine promise, without the least outward assurance of its fulfillment, he abandoned home and kindred and native land, and went forth, he knew not whither, to follow where God should lead." "He could not even explain his course of action so as to be understood by his friends. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. . . ."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 126.

What unusual test did God bring to Abraham, and how did he respond?  Gen. 22:1-14; Heb. 11:17, 18.  Contrast following human wisdom to living by faith in God's Word. 

As the father of the faithful, Abraham was tested to the utmost. He was ordered to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise, through whom God had promised to bless all nations. How easy it would have been to reason that God's command to kill his son was totally out of harmony with God's promise concerning his son's future! The command was inconsistent with God's character. With our imagination stretched to its limits, can we even begin to comprehend the agony involved in the patriarch's resolution? By faith, Abraham obeyed, believing that God would fulfill His promise. What an example for us as our faith is tested in preparation for Christ's coming!

As for God's command to move to Canaan, Abraham could muster more logical reasons for staying in Ur. Certainly the city, with its cultural and economic advantages, was a better center for evangelism than was Canaan. Abraham, however, accepted a "Thus saith the Lord" as the basis for obedience.

Abraham's focus was on his heavenly home as he "waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10, NKJV).  What earthly things am I willing to abandon in order to possess my heavenly home? What is my focus in my daily life as I await Christ's second coming?  

Tuesday  May 16

CALEB, JOSHUA, AND THE PROMISED LAND (Num. 13:27-33; Deut. 1:22-40).

In preparation for entry into the Promised Land, Israel encamped at Kadesh-barnea. From there, twelve spies were sent to determine the nature of the fortifications they must confront, as well as the morale and fitness of the enemy soldiers. Their mission was successful; they traversed the land from one end to the other.

What impression did the spies have of the land, and how did they view the possibility of taking it? Num. 13:27-29, 31-33; Deut. 1:25.  

Taking the land was humanly impossible. It didn't take a military genius to draw that conclusion. The passes were strongly fortified. Missiles of stone were strategically positioned to wreak havoc on an approaching army. The cities were walled, the armies were well trained, and there were giants in the land. By contrast, Israel's civilian force had no military experience and was not equipped to do battle. Military science will tell you not to expect victory under such circumstances. From a human point of view, the situation seemed hopeless. That's what most of the spies and the Israelites as a whole concluded too. They "left God out of the question, and acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 388.

God had not only promised, He had commanded. Israel was to take the land. God would win the battle for them. Caleb and Joshua believed His word. They were ready to go forward, to defeat the enemy under God's leadership, and to possess the Promised Land.

Israel, as a whole, yielded to doubt. Doubt has amazing power to build upon human wisdom. By following their own judgment rather than accepting God's word by faith, Israel failed to reach the Promised Land. Neither will we enter the Promised Land by our own efforts, nor by our own reasoning. Those who gain citizenship there will be a people of faith who accept the Word of God at face value despite all kinds of opposition. What seems totally unreasonable from a human point of view is easily possible from God's perspective. Those who take a stand by faith, as did Caleb and Joshua, will enter the Promised Land when Jesus returns.

What vote would you have cast had you been at Kadesh-barnea? "Camping" around the heavenly Canaan, what vote are you casting today?  Is it a vote of doubt and insubordination, or is it a vote of faith and obedience?  Is anything holding you back from entering the Promised Land?  

Wednesday  May 17

JOHN THE BAPTIST AND THE MESSIAH (Luke 1:17, 67-79; 3:3-6; Acts 1:8-11).

What was to be the mission of John the Baptist as prophesied by his father, Zacharias?  Luke 1:67-79.  How did the apostle John describe this mission?  John 1:6-8.  

John was sent from God to witness that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. It was the mission of Christ to reveal the Father to us (John 1:15-18). Filled with the Holy Spirit, John turned "many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God." In so doing, he prepared a people to greet the coming Messiah (Luke 1:16, 17, NKJV). "John was 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. In preparing the way for Christ's first advent, he was representative of those who are to prepare a people for our Lord's second coming."—The Desire of Ages, p. 101.

John clearly and forcefully preached God's message of repentance and righteous living in preparation to receive the Messiah. "'He must increase,"' he said, "'but I must decrease"' (John 3:30). People from all walks of life responded to his preaching by repenting, and many were baptized.

Compare John the Baptist's mission with our mission of preparing the way for Christ's second coming.  Luke 1:17; 3:3-6; Acts 1:8-11.  

John the Baptist was a great man of faith. Had the book of Hebrews included New Testament heroes of faith, surely John's name would have been there. Yet, at the end of his mission of preparing the way for Christ's first coming, he languished in prison and was tempted with doubt. We, too, may face imprisonment and be tempted with doubt in preparing others to meet Christ when He comes, but we must gain courage from the experience of the Baptist who "did not surrender his faith in Christ. The memory of the voice from heaven and the descending dove, the spotless purity of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit that had rested upon John as he came into the Saviour's presence, and the testimony of the prophetic scriptures,—all witnessed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Promised One."—The Desire of Ages, p. 216.

Just as John the Baptist proclaimed Christ's first coming, so are we to proclaim His second coming. In what effective ways can we bear witness of the Light, point others to the Lamb of God, and help them be ready for His second coming? 

Thursday  May 18

FAITH IN THE PROMISES OF GOD (Heb. 11:4-39; 12:1-3, 22-29; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; 1 John 3:1-11).

Toward the fulfillment of what promise did each person in the Hall of Faith look forward? Heb. 11:10, 13-16.  

What common trait links Noah, Abraham, Caleb, Joshua, John the Baptist, and the many others like them?  

1. They all lived by faith. Each had material and intellectual resources upon which to rely. They could have managed their lives based upon principles of greed, materialism, power, and the many other resources available. They lived instead by faith in the word of God. Their faith was not based upon human ability, but upon God's word. Their faith was the "substance," the foundation of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1).

2. By faith they viewed a city whose builder and maker is God (see Hebrews 11:10, 16). That is the blessed hope we have in awaiting the coming of our Lord, who will usher us into His kingdom of glory.

3. Each had a message to go forward by faith in the word of the Lord: Noah, to go into the ark for safety; Caleb and Joshua, to move forward into the Promised Land; John the Baptist, to prepare for the first coming of the Messiah. In these last days, God is calling for a people to proclaim the second coming of Christ. Let us be as faithful in fulfilling this special mission as they were in fulfilling theirs.

4. Though human and fallible, by the grace of God they lived upright lives. "Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9, NKJV). God knew Abraham, that he would "command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice"(Gen. 18:19).

Compare what John and Peter said concerning the manner of persons we ought to be in view of the certainty of the Second Coming. 2 Pet. 3:10-13; 1 John 3:1-11. Why does John say that all who have the hope of the Second Coming purify themselves, just as Christ is pure?  

In these last days God is looking for a people who are willing to live by faith in His Word; a people who are willing to step out and follow wherever He leads; a people who are willing to accept His Word as the foundation of their lives. God's people proclaim and live by love and allegiance to God in view of the judgment and of the near return of their Savior and Lord. What are you willing to do to be one of God's people?  

Friday  May 19

FURTHER STUDY: Job 28:12-18; Luke 7:22, 24-35; John 1:15-18, 29-36; 2 Cor. 5:20, 21; 6:1-10; Rev. 20:6; 22:11.

Read Education, pp. 13-19; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 125-131.  

"Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness—godlikeness—is the goal to be reached."—Education, p. 18. What a striking thought! When Christ comes the second time, the children of God will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!

"Men put God out of their knowledge and worshiped the creatures of their own imagination; and as the result, they became more and more debased.... If the mind is never exalted above the level of humanity, if it is not uplifted by faith to contemplate infinite wisdom and love, the man will be constantly sinking lower and lower. The worshipers of false gods clothed their deities with human attributes and passions, and thus their standard of character was degraded to the likeness of sinful humanity."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 91.

1. Describe the characteristics of those who are proclaiming the second coming of Christ.  In what ways do they reveal that they are decreasing and Christ is increasing in their lives and witness?  
2. What roles do faith, devotion, and loyalty play in the proclamation of the gospel prior to Christ's coming?  Why is godliness so important in the Christian life?  Why does God want us to be like Him when Jesus returns?  
3. How do we, who are living at the end of time, proclaim the last warning message without compromise, yet with compassion and conviction?  

SUMMARY: Just as God has had messengers for every major event in human history, so He also is preparing a people who are willing to proclaim the certainty of the second coming of Christ. By faith, this people will lay hold of the Word of God as their guide. They will accept Christ as the One manifest to take away their sins (see 1 John 3:3). By the grace of God, they will be holy, for He is holy (see 1 Pet. 1:15, 16).  

InSide Story

The Mechanic Turned Preacher

J. H. Zachary

Beven Stephen lives on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. He grew up in an Adventist home, but during his teens he drifted away from the church. He dropped out of school and took a job as an auto mechanic. He was a good one and quickly became the supervisor of the repair shop. He thought he had everything he wanted from life.

But a sudden and serious illness shattered his dreams. His doctor gave him little hope for recovery and suggested that Beven should prepare to die.

Beven's family and friends began praying for him, and God healed him. Beven returned to God and the church he had left as a youth. He began telling others what God had done for him. Soon he decided to quit his job as a mechanic and become a lay preacher, even though he had no training in preaching or evangelism.

He wanted to share his faith with people who knew nothing about Adventists. He chose Nagusa, a village in the remote mountains of Guadalcanal. He arrived in Nagusa and began sharing his faith. One local man told Beven to leave the village. When Beven did not leave, the man beat him. Beven still refused to leave.

The village chief, a convert from heathenism named Billy Graham, invited Beven to visit him. "I want to know two things," he told Beven. "What is the Bible basis for not eating pork and for worshiping on Saturday instead of Sunday?"

Beven smiled and replied, "If you attend my meetings I will explain these Bible teachings."

Chief Billy Graham agreed to attend the meetings and ordered the villagers to stop persecuting Beven. With this encouragement, Beven prepared for the public meetings. As a result of Beven's fervent prayers and faithful work, Chief Billy Graham and nine others took their stand for Christ and were baptized.

Beven is working to raise up a church in another village. But he has not forgotten the believers in Nagusa. He rejoices every time he learns of a baptism there. Today 50 members worship together in Nagusa. The believers have begun construction on a church.

J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour in cooperation with the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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