Now we come to our last presentation in this series. We are looking specifically at the Close of Probation, and here, the issue of the vindication of God’s character. Does the final generation have a different role in the vindication from previous generations? If so, how?
Let’s review just a few points and make sure we are clear before we proceed. First, the making of the final atonement, that is, the time of the investigative judgment, began in 1844. Adventism was called into existence because the final atonement was beginning. This needed to be understood and taught throughout the world just as the sacrificial atonement had been.
The period in which we presently live is called the sealing time. Characters are being formed now by the power of God and the cooperation of man. These characters must be such that we may endure the unprecedented trial we will face during the period of time after probation closes.
Every case is decided before the Close of Probation. Atonement, the final atonement even, has been completely accomplished when probation at last closes.
We will still have free will, now, after the Close of Probation, even 10 million years from now. We will be able to choose to walk away from God at any time, forever. However, after the end of probation, the characters of God and of Satan have been so clearly revealed, our own characters have been so decidedly developed, that we will not make such rebel choices.
Finally, just to help orient us, some clear thinking on the “final atonement” and the “final demonstration” from our friend, Elder Dennis Priebe:
What is the final atonement? It is Christ’s final ministry of grace in the heavenly sanctuary, as He replaces forgiving grace with enabling grace in my heart. It is His final process of at-one-ment. I am partly at-one now. I don’t sin as often as I used to, but I still sin. I still interrupt the continuous connection I could have with the Holy Spirit. I am not totally at-one yet. The universe is not yet completely safe. Christ must demonstrate that the process of at-one-ment can be completed, so that even if He would leave us here on this sin-cursed earth for another hundred years, we would never sin once. Only then will the universe be totally safe from another attack of sin. God will demonstrate, not state, this incredible fact which Satan says can never happen. The final atonement is Christ ministering His blood, no longer in forgiveness, but in enabling power—power for victory over sin—and it will be seen in our lives (Dennis Priebe, “What is the Final Atonement?” (und. http://www.dennispriebe.com/documents/What%20is%20the%20Final%20Atonement.html).
The final atonement, then, is presently occurring. It is completed, sin is committed, recorded in heaven, repented of, confessed, forsaken, forgiven, and finally its record blotted out in heaven. Then, probation closes. The period after probation closes has two sections, the “Time of Trouble,” and at the end, the “Time of Jacob’s trouble.” After the time of Jacob’s Trouble, a small black cloud about the size of a man’s hand is seen in the distance. As it draws closer, we see a brightness such as we have never before seen, and Jesus, surrounded by angels returning to earth. It is the Second Coming, the blessed hope. It is the moment for which we all have waited. It is the Advent.
So what we have then is the Final Atonement, followed by the final demonstration, followed by the Second Coming. The role of the final atonement is clear. It is the salvation of man. The role of the Second Coming is also clear: Jesus comes to claim His own. It is the great consummation. It is the middle item, the final demonstration, that is seen during the Close of Probation. Here our attention now turns.
We will address three main questions. First, is the vindication of God’s character a Biblical issue? Second, if it is, then does the last generation play a different role than previous generations in that vindication? Thirdly, what then is that role?
Is the Vindication of God’s Character a Biblical Issue?
Few, if any, other groups have said that the vindication of God’s character is a biblical issue. Most attention has been focused on asserting God’s sovereignty, or on explaining the human situation, or explicating the details of the plan of salvation as they relate to man. Numerous persons have, however, written on the theological problem of theodicy—the justice of God. How can you have a good God and a bad world? Thus, while individuals have spilt a great deal of ink over this matter, no church has. That is, no church but one. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, by publishing the writings of Ellen G. White, and others, has published more material bearing on this topic and all other groups combined. Judging by the millions of books we have placed into print and into circulation, the Seventh-day Adventist Church says that, yes, the vindication of God’s character is a truly important issue.
A variety of Scripture passages might be chosen to demonstrate this, but let’s review briefly, just a few. I think we here know most of these rather well, and we will not linger long on the point.
Job 1, 2
The experience of Job surely comes to mind. We understand that this was perhaps the earliest, more early than Genesis, Bible book to have been written. You know the story. Satan comes along uninvited with his leering ways to a meeting of the sons of God. Asked what he’s been up to, he replies that he has been causing maximum mayhem on earth. Then God stops him short. God brings up the name of one of His followers. Have you seen My servant Job? he asks. Satan urges that Job is no example of unselfish character, and urges God to do harm to Job. But God grants Job limited permission to harass Job. Job is attacked, comes through with flying colors anyway, and the process repeats, with Satan now permitted to do everything but kill Job. Poor Job does not know why God is abusing him, but while he pleads that he is innocent, still he refuses to condemn God. Job’s friends seek to persuade Job of his guilt. Job holds on tight. Finally God enters the conversation and reminds everyone that there is much that they do not know about the ultimate working of things, vindicates Job, and is Himself vindicated. Satan’s attempt to smear the characters of God and of Job is soundly defeated.
Poor Job never learned at that time that it was Satan, not God, who had been attacking him. The onlooking universe saw the contest and saw what God and what Job and what Satan were made out of. Could a man obey? Could he withstand everything that Satan could throw at him? Was there anyone who served God such that they could keep their integrity and refuse to charge God falsely under such duress? Was there a man of such character to be found on planet earth? There was. God knew who he was. Satan knew who he was. When the contest was played out, the whole onlooking universe knew who he was. All three characters (God, Job, and Satan) were revealed in the incident.
It was the great controversy in miniature. It was the oldest inspired record included in the Bible. From the first chapter it is a conflict addressing character and claims. It is an incident which God used to vindicate His own name.
Here we have an interesting place. Paul quotes from Psalm 51:4. But where Psalm 51:4 says at the end “That Thou [God] mightest be justified when Thou speakest and be clear when Thou judgest,” Paul quotes it as “That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings , and mightest overcome when Thou art judged.” You see the difference. In Psalm 51 the desire offered is that God be just when He speaks and just when He judges. In Romans 3:4 it is that He might be just when He speaks and be found just when He is judged. Very interesting indeed!
But Paul has not come up with this version of the text on his own. He is quoting from the Septuagint (LXX) translation (as he often does). What is so intriguing is how the text is used by an inspired writer (Paul) and changed from God judging to God being judged. The question of God’s justness is found answered again in the very same chapter at Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time, His [God’s] righteousness: that He might be just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’
Clearly, there is a question about whether God can restore men from their lost situation and still be considered fair and just. In other words, God’s character is on the line. And this is true of any judge. Anyone who stands in judgment will have the justice of his verdicts put under the microscope. And so, how God deals with the sin problem is a question. Is He being fair? Is He being impartial? When He destroys Satan but saves a murderer like Paul (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1, 2, 13, 14, 21; Galatians 1:13, 23; 1 Timothy 1:12-15), how is it that He is truly fair? It is important for the universe to understand, for God to overcome when He is judged. God is on trial; God’s character, according to the Bible, needs vindication.
Genesis 3:15 proclaims that God will send the Seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent, but that in so doing His heel will be bruised. This is understood to be a prophesy that Messiach, Jesus would come and defeat Satan but that in doing so He Himself would be wounded. Christian consensus applies the fulfillment of this promise to Jesus’ death on the cross. But not so fast.
Yes, at the cross my Savior bled, at the cross Satan was defeated by Jesus. And yet, what does Paul mean in Romans 16:20:
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your [Romans] feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Here, many years after Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross, Paul places the bruising of Satan as yet future. He says that God will do the bruising. But he says that He will do this bruising via your feet. It seems that Jesus’ death on the cross is a part, doubtless the major part, of the bruising of Satan. And yet, our feet, that is, our lives are also in the balance.
And while our defeating Satan in our lives by the power of God earns us no merit, nor in in way makes us saviors of ourselves, it is a contribution to the crushing of Satan. Satan, whose conflict with God stood at the center of the earliest inspired book, is still with us. Defeated at the cross or no, a woe is proclaimed long after, as “teh devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12). Consider. If Satan was entirely crushed at the cross, Paul’s statement to the Romans was obsoleted before he wrote it. I say again, Paul is an inspired writer. Whenhe says that Satan has yet to be fully crushed, and that Christ will do the crushing (albeit via our feet), we must believe him.
Revelation 7, 19
This brings us to some texts in Revelation—texts which some would prefer were left to lay quietly. But today they will speak.
First, Revelation 7:13, 14:
And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Here is a group who, in the end-time, comes forth victorious out of great tribulation. Of their robes, the Bible says that they “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Jesus is there. His blood is the solvent. His blood makes the robes white. But who does the washing? They washed their robes. At the Bible’s climax point, these emerge from the tribulations and testings, and like Job they maintain their faith. God is proven right in making high claims for what His gospel (“the power of God unto salvation”) can do, and for insisting upon holiness (Hebrews 12:14).
Again, Revelation 19:7, 8:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
“His wife hath made herself ready.” And it is granted, it is a gift, that she is arrayed in fine linen, the righteousness of the saints. This could also be accurately rendered as “the justness of the holy people.” Or “the justice.” Or “the justification.” (Dikaiomata is the underlying Greek word.)
Can God be just and Justifier of those who believe in Jesus? Can He restore fallen humans to the image of God and do it without tampering? Without cheating? Can He win the conflict between good and evil fair and square? This passage says, Yes.
These texts (and we did not even address the passages in Revelation 12 and 14) are some of those that make plain that God is on trial, how He conducts the Great Controversy War is under close scrutiny, and much is riding on the outcome even now. Clearly, God has set out to vindicate His character, and to include in His set of evidences the lives of His followers who compose the last generation.
A Different Experience for the Last Generation
Some doubt the idea of a different experience for the last generation. But listen closely to this description from The Great Controversy, pp. 648, 649:
Upon the crystal sea before the throne, that sea of glass as it were mingled with fire,—so resplendent is it with the glory of God,—are gathered the company that have ‘gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.’ With the Lamb upon Mount Zion, ‘having the harps of God,’ they stand, the hundred and forty and four thousand that were redeemed from among men; and there is heard, as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of a great thunder, ‘the voice of harpers harping with their harps.’ And they sing ‘a new song’ before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb—a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience—an experience such as no other company have ever had. ‘These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.’ These, having been translated from the earth, from among the living, are counted as ‘the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.’ Revelation 15:2, 3; 14:1-5. ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation;’ they have passed through the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation; they have endured the anguish of the time of Jacob’s trouble; they have stood without an intercessor through the final outpouring of God’s judgments. But they have been delivered, for they have ‘washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ‘In their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault’ before God. ‘Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.’ They have seen the earth wasted with famine and pestilence, the sun having power to scorch men with great heat, and they themselves have endured suffering, hunger, and thirst. But ‘they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ Revelation 7:14-17.
Noah spent 120 years obediently building the ark. Then, without a drop of water ever yet having come from the sky, he loaded it and went inside at God’s command. And yet, for six days there was no rain. Would he turn rebel and come out in slumping defeat? Noah’s greatest test was not building the ark or preaching to mocking crowds; his greatest test was keeping faith after he had obeyed and yet God seemed not to hear. On the seventh day the flood came (Genesis 7:10). Noah was faithful and God was faithful after all.
Moses faced mighty challenges, the plagues fell, and at last Egypt ruined, pharaoh released the Hebrews. After they had left Egypt, God delivered them again at the Red Sea crossing. Moses wrote a song (Exodus 15:1) detailing God’s deliverance and their victory in the end. Only those who were delivered from Egypt and delivered at the Red Sea would have the experience that goes with that song. One day soon we will be able to interview the hardy should whose faith endured that time. No doubt they will want to interview us, we who went through the time of trouble such as never was and in the strength of God, endured.
For our experience will be equally unique, in fact, moreso. The Hebrews in the time of Moses were only just receiving the first revelations that God would found His Bible upon But we are the generation upon whom the ends of the ages have come. We have a Bible full of instruction, and more besides through the gift of prophecy to the remnant. We will have the full blaze of righteousness by faith, of the Holy Spirit, the Latter Rain, upon us as probation closes and we walk through the doors never to look back.
We are told by Mrs. White that we will sing “a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand... a song of deliverance. None but the hundred and forty-four thousand can learn that song; for it is the song of their experience—an experience such as no other company have ever had.” The last generation has a truly unique experience. You see through the quotation that those discussed are those who are translated. They live through the end-times, they never die. They walk out of this world alive, they never see death.
They pass through the Time of Trouble, they endure the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. What happens during that time? They stand without an Intercessor. What is happening? They are seeing carnage such as men have never seen before. God’s judgments on those committed to sin are being poured out all around them. They see the suffering that sin brings and they see it up close. They themselves suffer. Did you see the list? Suffering, hunger, and thirst. Hunger and thirst are very physical, but suffering includes emotional agony. But these we are told in the end, have washed their robes, these have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. But why do we speak of them as “they”? For “they” are to be us.
Does God Need Man?
Does God need man? Reflexively, we answer no. But listen:
We were brought into existence because we were needed. How sad the thought that if we stand on the wrong side, in the ranks of the enemy, we are lost to the design of our creation (Signs of the Times, April 22, 1903).
This is a fascinating statement. The context is an article that speaks in fairly general terms of our obligation to our Creator to live for Him and call others to Him. How were we needed? When we were brought into existence we were an unfallen race. No atonement need be made, no demonstration of character need be accomplished through us. We are not believers in a felix culpa, the teaching of a fortunate, that is, a planned, intended, willed by God fall of man.
And yet, is it not true that every painting tells us something of the painter? Every creation tells us something of the creator? We were, it seems, in God’s plan needed. There is a place for us, a purpose in our having been created. That purpose must stand without the necessity of a fall. That purpose, we must hold, is to reflect the image of God, to echo the character of God, to reveal it. In other words, He always intended that His character should be revealed through us.
Did Satan see this? Did his demon intellect penetrate to this fact in the early stages of his revolt? Did he see and understand that were the revelation of God’s character permitted to go forward unhindered, eventually all possibility of him, Lucifer, bearing away the throne of the universe would end? Did Satan understand that given time, God would reveal His character such that all would recognize in it the perfection of infinite love? Did Satan thus understand that only while God’s character was incompletely revealed to heavenly intelligences would there be potential for a successful rebellion? And would this explain his vivid attacks upon God through misrepresenting His law, His character, and doing all possible to cause the destruction of humankind? Did he want to destroy every possible mirror that could give glory to God and reflect the beauty of holiness back into the universe? Did he understand that we were brought into existence because we were needed?
With the interruption offered by the successful, Satanically instigated Fall of man, the human mirror was warped. The entrance of sin meant that the character of God could not be perfectly reflected. But surprise! God will bring good out of the evil. Such is the power of His gospel that He will render us holy in spite of the interruption. He will render His universe secure for eternity. He will use man to vindicate His character. It is voluntary on God’s part. But in the words of inspiration, we are needed.
Spirit of Prophecy Insights on Vindication
Now, insights especially offered in the Spirit of Prophecy.
Those who transgress the law of God must suffer the penalty of transgression; but by repentance of sin, by faith in Christ, who, innocent, suffered the punishment for the guilty, the sinner may be pardoned, and through the merit of Christ, may have another probation in which he may have opportunity to form a character like Christ’s character. No one will enter the abodes of bliss who has not been tested and proved; for it must be demonstrated that those who enter heaven will be obedient to its laws, and in harmony with its government. If through the merit of Christ, we develop a character in submission to the will and way of God in this world, our names will stand registered in the Lamb’s book of life. Every soul is now deciding his own destiny, proving whether he will be worthy to unite with the saints in light, or unworthy of an entrance into the city of God—fit only to remain with the wicked and to perish with them. (The Youth’s Instructor, January 19, 1893).
But for Christ’s death in substitution of our own, we must suffer the wages of our sin. Our pardon does not mean automatic salvation but rather another probation, another opportunity, to form a characdter that is like Christ. See also that those who in the end are saved will have developed a character that is in submission to the will and way of God in this world. We are deciding our own destiny.
Of the Spirit Jesus said, ‘He shall glorify Me.’ The Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love; so the Spirit was to glorify Christ by revealing His grace to the world. The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people (The Desire of Ages, p. 671).
Revealing His grace to the world is accomplished through God reproducing His image in people. This is the process called perfection of character. Make no mistake, the honor of both the Father and of Christ is involved in the outcome of this process. Perfection is no mere accessory in God’s plan.
All heaven is waiting for man to vindicate God’s law (Review and Herald, April 16, 1901).
In this passage, the wait is for man to vindicate God’s law. Many have scoffed at the idea of a human role in the delay of the Second Coming. Yet how could its reality have been stated any more plainly?
The honor of the law of God is to be vindicated before the unfallen worlds, before the heavenly universe, and before the fallen world. The bitterest persecution will come, but when Zion arises, and puts on her beautiful garments, she will shine forth in the beauty of holiness. God designs us to have more life and more power, because the glory of God has risen upon the church (Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 338).
There is more to take into account than the relation only between God and men. The whole heavenly universe awaits the vindication of God’s law.
If there was ever a people in need of constantly increasing light from heaven, it is the people that, in this time of peril, God has called to be the depositaries of His holy law and to vindicate His character before the world. Those to whom has been committed a trust so sacred must be spiritualized, elevated, vitalized, by the truths they profess to believe (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 746).
The double call is here seen: we are made depositaries of His holy law, and we are called to vindicate His character. This trust is sacred.
It becomes every child of God to vindicate His character. You can magnify the Lord; you can show the power of sustaining grace (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 317).
The vindication of God’s character is seen in our showing the power of sustaining grace.
The professed followers of Christ are on trial before the heavenly universe (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 303).
We are on trial, this we knew. But here we see we are on trial not only before God and His angels, but before the heavenly universe—yet another reminder that the character that is being revealed plays an extraordinary role in the Great Controversy War.
The honor of Christ must stand complete in the perfection of the character of His chosen people. He desires that they shall represent His character to the world. In the work of redemption, in the sufferings which Christ was called upon to endure, you are to co-operate with Him, that you may be complete in Him. In being united to Him by faith, believing and receiving Him, you become part of Himself. Your character is His glory revealed in you (Signs of the Times, November 25, 1897).
The character developed in us vindicates the decision of Jesus to incarnate, live, and die among men. Particularly intriguing is the statement that “Your character is His glory revealed in you.” I say again, we are echoes, mirrors, reflectors, revealers of God’s character. What kind of people does God make? We are to be the evidence.
God will vindicate His law and deliver His people.... God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice.... Had Satan and his host then [at the beginning of the great controversy] been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.
But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God’s love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law.
Well, then, might the angels rejoice as they looked upon the Saviour’s cross; for though they did not then understand all, they knew that the destruction of sin and Satan was forever made certain, that the redemption of man was assured, and that the universe was made eternally secure. Christ Himself fully comprehended the results of the sacrifice made upon Calvary. To all these He looked forward when upon the cross He cried out, ‘It is finished.’ (The Desire of Ages, pp. 763, 764).
God intervened and saved the life of Satan. Had the full force of his rebellion been permitted to follow its natural course, Satan would have perished immediately, but it would have remained unclear why he must perish. God extended Satan’s life, gave him “existence for a time” in order to establish a chain of causality between sin and all that flows from it.
God vindicates His law. He did not destroy Satan early in the contest because a dangerous lack of clarity concerning the issues involved in sin and righteousness would have remained. But when He does finish the conflict, God’s character will stand revealed to all intelligences. Satan and the character of sin will also stand openly revealed. The discontinuation of sin will leave behind no uncertainties and no unanswered questions. The angels recognized the cross as a pivotal waymark in the Great Controversy War. Jesus’ death did not end the war, but it rendered virtually certain God’s ultimate victory. So virtually certain, that Jesus’ cry “It is finished!” was proleptic—the representation of an event as existing before it actually does so.
The Closing of the Sanctuary
Now, as we near conclusion, a discussion about the final demonstration. Hear M. L. Andreasen:
To silence forever Satan’s charges; to make it evident that His people are serving Him from motives of loyalty and right without reference to reward; to clear His own name and character of the charges of injustice and arbitrariness; and to show to angels and men that His law can be kept by the weakest of men under the most discouraging and most untoward circumstances, God permits Satan in the last generation to try His people to the utmost. They will be threatened, tortured, persecuted. They will stand face to face with death in the issuance of the decree to worship the beast and his image (Revelation 13:15). But they will not yield. They are willing to die rather than to sin.... God, to make the demonstration complete, does one more thing. He hides Himself. The sanctuary in heaven is closed. The saints cry to God day and night for deliverance, but He appears not to hear. God’s chosen ones are passing through Gethsemane. They are having a little taste of Christ’s experience those three hours on the cross. Seemingly they must fight their battles alone. They must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor (M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service, pp. 317, 318).
Here is an extraordinary insight, and one that should give us enormous hope. True, torture and persecution is coming, but with us will be the keeping power of God. We will not yield. And God adds to the final atonement the final demonstration. He hides Himself. As Jacob in the night of wrestling battled a silent antagonist alone in the night, Jesus alone in the night prayed and prayed. The only response was Heaven’s utter silence. Come with me to the illumination of this night offered in The Desire of Ages:
Now He seemed to be shut out from the light of God’s sustaining presence (p. 685).
He felt that by sin He was being separated from His Father (p. 686).
The Saviour trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.
But God suffered with His Son. Angels beheld the Saviour’s agony. They saw their Lord enclosed by legions of satanic forces, His nature weighed down with a shuddering, mysterious dread. There was silence in heaven. No harp was touched. Could mortals have viewed the amazement of the angelic host as in silent grief they watched the Father separating His beams of light, love, and glory from His beloved Son, they would better understand how offensive in His sight is sin (p. 693).
Jesus prayed through the night, but for long hours there was no answer. Not a peep. The Father withdrew Himself from His Son. And yet, this was in part perception only. Actually, God suffered with His Son. God the Father is everywhere present and He was present there, that night, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet for purposes of the great final test, Jesus was not permitted to experience that presence. The Father withdrew Jesus’ perception of His presence. He was there in the most intense period of suffering, but Jesus was utterly alone. God appeared not to hear. To Jesus’ urgent pleas that the Father might withdraw the cup of suffering, no reply. Always before for eternity and for all of Jesus’ human lifetime, the Father’s answers had been abundant. Now, only silence.
There are aspects to this that are not duplicated for us. The weight of the sins of the whole world for all time is not upon us in our miniature Gethsemane. But in the hour of crisis, it may seem that way. Nevertheless, God’s angels will watch over us even then. We will be sheltered from our enemies, provided with food, shielded from destruction, and, most important of all, supplied with grace and power for holy living.
One last point. We mentioned previously that we would expand on this statement in The Great Controversy, p. 621:
Jacob’s history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. While Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send His angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord’s eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God’s love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.
What is this earthliness that is consumed? Inspiration has a helpful answer.
When we learn the power of His word, we shall not follow the suggestions of Satan in order to obtain food or to save our lives... In the last great conflict of the great controversy with Satan those who are loyal to God will see every earthly support cut off... But to the obedient is given the promise, ‘He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure’ Isaiah 33:16. By this promise the children of God will live (The Desire of Ages, pp. 121, 122).
The earthliness that is removed is not sin; before this, during the sealing time this was ended. But it is during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble that the very last earthly supports are cut off. We cannot provide food for ourtselves, or water. We cannot call old friends from work or school or even family. Will we be able to access phones? Aside from those who are living with us when this time arrives, we will be at last, utterly alone. We will live suspended over the abyss, only the promises and power of God sustaining. In Christ’s strength, we will prevail. We will hold on to Jesus even tighter and refuse to let go. Listen:
Through the last generation of saints God stands finally vindicated. Through them He defeats Satan and wins His case. They form a vital part of the plan of God. They go through terrific struggles; they battle with unseen powers in high places. But they have put their trust in the Most High, and they will not be ashamed.... The cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven is dependent upon the cleansing of God’s people on earth. How important, then, that God’s people be holy and without blame! In them every sin must be burned out, so that they will be able to stand in the sight of a holy God and live with the devouring fire (M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service, pp. 319, 321).
Like Jesus in Gethsemane, we will be without an intercessor. We will, in a lesser and yet extraordinary way still, we will tread the winepress alone. The heavens will be silent. It will seem we are utterly cut off. But as with Christ, in fact, God will be there. God will be with us. Though our angel friends will long to deliver us, they must wait.
Day and night they [God’s people] cry for deliverance... Could men see with heavenly vision, they would behold companies of angels that excel in strength stationed about those who have kept the word of Christ’s patience. With sympathizing tenderness, angels have witnessed their distress and have heard their prayers. They are waiting the word of their Commander to snatch them from their peril. But they must wait yet a little longer. The people of God must drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism. The very delay, so painful to them, is the best answer to their petitions. As they endeavor to wait trustingly for the Lord to work they are led to exercise faith, hope, and patience, which have been too little exercised during their religious experience. (The Great Controversy, pp. 630, 631).
Being without an intercessor will mean for us what it meant for Christ. We will not have been abandoned by God. We will be helped and empowered by Him, but it will seem that we are alone. Our faith will be tested as never never before. We will at this time face our greatest trial. But we will endure. It is what we permit God to make us between now and the close of probation that will determine our eternity. God is ready to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. Are we ready?
In past, Heaven has asserted those who were being saved were safe to save. But now at time’s end it is demonstrated. Previous generations were personally saved, and contributed to the vindication of God’s character by their behavior. And yet, their character perfection was only attained according to the coarser grained understanding of God’s will then available to them. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). As God’s revelation advances, His people advance to better understandings of His will.
Today He calls us to arise and shine (Isaiah 60:1). The last generation has the full light of the gospel. The floodlights are on. It is all or nothing. Satan must be crushed—by Jesus—under our feet. Will we cooperate with Jesus or not? Jesus’ foot was bruised. Ours will be too. But the Satan will be defeated. The final demonstration will show his utter bankruptcy. Every question about Satan’s and God’s characters will have been answered.
Now, today, is the sealing time, the time to change the way we administrate our faculties. We must choose to change the way we think and then plead with God for help so that His strength becomes effectual in us.
At the beginning we offered short answers to these questions:
- Is every case decided before probation closes? Yes.
- Does that mean that after probation’s close everything will be easy for us? No.
- Will we be tempted after the close of probation? Yes.
- Could we sin after the close of probation? Yes.
- Will we face our greatest spiritual test before or after probation closes? After.
- Will the faithful sin after the close of probation? No.
- Will some who have been sealed before probation closes sin after it closes? No.
Now we should have an improved understanding where inspiration is coming from with these answers. The close of probation and what pertains to it is an intense topic, possibly the most intense in all the inspired record. But it is by no means an occasion for doubt or despair. It is the most blessed opportunity any being will have in all eternity to give honor to God. Not even angels are granted this. Only we are. We will perfectly reproduce the character of Christ. We will experience the perfect reproduction of God's image. We will know entire surrender to Him. Continual and active obedience and living faith and the power of God will purify our souls. When? Now.
All this calls us to walk more closely to Jesus than we have. Sin will be ended. Righteousness will reign. God&rsquio;s law and character will be vindicated. We were made for a purpose. Let us be about our Father&squo;s work. Jesus waits.
Mentone CA SDA 2007-12-01