Today, part three of HAYSTACKS. The word "HAYSTACKS" is our memory tool for this short synopsis of what it means to be Seventh-day Adventist. "H" stood for Hope, and "A" for Advent. "Y" stands for a "Youthful Eternity." Seventh-day Adventists anticipate a youthful eternity.
Forever Young and Strong
God designed man to live, not to die. Humans are made in God's image. Humans aren't disposable. We're designed to live for eternity, rub shoulders with moral beings, to interact even with God Himself. When the interruption of sin is ended, when the war is over, hear what will happen:
'For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,' says the Lord of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.' 'But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall' (Malachi 4:1, 2).
At the end, after the fires of judgment have consumed the choosers of selfishness, we will grow up at last. Our shrivelledness will be ended. We will enter upon a new phase of healing and growth. We will be frisky, lighted with youth, and benign.
Recall the famous lines of Isaiah 40:27-31:
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary (Isaiah 40:27-31).
To those who think that morality does not apply to them, that they will escape accountability, God says He will not tire. God is strong. Even children filled with vitality and physical energy become fatigued. But those who join themselves to God will be strengthened. Like the fierce raptor, riding the wind, ruling the sky, all who choose God are granted eternal life, an existence unravaged by degenerative aging, a youthful eternity.
He gives gifts to us that we might be companions worthy of His plans for us. He wants to build us. Degeneration is no part of the divine plan. Degeneration is an add-on, a result of sin. How rapidly we fade apart from Him. We fall over in the bloom of life, and even Adam's 900 years is as nothing compared to eternity. We are not supposed to wear-out.
Consider these statements:
"As man came forth from the hand of his Creator, he was of lofty stature and perfect symmetry. His countenance bore the ruddy tint of health and glowed with the light of life and joy" (Patriarchs and Prophets 45).
"They [Adam and Eve] were full of the vigor imparted by the tree of life, and their intellectual power was but little less than that of the angels" (Patriarchs and Prophets 50).
Earth and Humans Linked in God's Creation
Have you ever noticed how God linked the human with the plant? The creation of earth and of humans on earth, go together. Access to the tree of life, for eternal sustenance, was essential. But "The giving of the tree of life in Eden was conditional, and it was finally withdrawn" (Education 302). Yet Revelation 2:7 says that the one who overcomes will eat from the tree of life.
In Patriarchs and Prophets Ellen White writes,
"In order to possess an endless existence, man must continue to partake of the tree of life. Deprived of this, his vitality would gradually diminish until life should become extinct" (Patriarchs and Prophets 60).
So, God has preserved the tree of life. In the earth made new He will restore this tree to us. But it is not about the tree. Human existence is contingent. We are created not Creator. This we must always know.
The Desire to Be God
But here is the problem. Many are unwilling to be less than God. They cannot abide that they are created. Lucifer climbed up, clawed up, grabbed up, for more. He aspired so far as possible to leave behind his creaturehood and become god. He wanted to be worshiped. But this could never be.
So, what about our lives?
God stands back in the darkness. He hides Himself. How could we learn to live by faith if He always stood in the open? If He gave us only the easy magic carpet ride into the kingdom, How could we learn to trust? He stands back, for our good, just as parents at times stand back and let them learn so that they might actually grow.
God is building us. People want everything handed to them. Then they'd be no better than the bird in the cage. God doesn't do cages. He's building a moral civilization that will last for eternity. He is the Master Builder. He knows exactly how to do His Carpenter work.
Who among us will be in eternity? All who seek for it. Turn to Romans chapter two. We begin reading at the end of the fifth verse and read out through verse eight.
God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation (Romans 2:5z-8).
While we are not saved by our deeds, deeds show what we value. That is, they show who we value. Who will receive immortality? Those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality. Those will be people who obey the truth.
They seek God; they plead with God; they know that in themselves is no good thing. They know that no good motives reside in themselves that they can claim as their own. They ask Him to change their desires, to cleanse their motives, to grant them clean hearts. They persist relentlessly in that. And God honors that.
We cooperate in the strength He gives us, and so Paul says work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12, 13). Read the passage from 2:5 through 14 and understand the "with fear and trembling" element.
When we see what God did, how far Jesus descended in order that He might ascend to the cross, we should be in awe. There's a love going on here we are not ready to imagine. This is God who from the ages sought us and suffered in order to make a place for us. He died for us while we were His enemies. Even then, only some will accept Him as King and become part of His kingdom.
When we see the price that Jesus paid we realize how little is required of us. And yet, we have to change kingdoms. We must abdicate our own throne and receive Jesus as King. It is one thing to say that and another to do that. No matter how squeaky, how ratty, how ramshackle, my own kingdom is, I want to be king over that. I echo Lucifer's thought in Paradise Lost, that it would be better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.
That is a bad calculation. It gets the numbers all wrong.
First, it misvalues hell.
Hell is nothing to rule over. The grave, death, or just a temporary life doesn't amount to much. Even if there were a "place" called hell, it would be no possible existence for us. We are moral beings; existence without authentic love is no existence worth taking part in.
In an existence absent God's love there is only self-love. Self-love doesn't work. You can't fool yourself. You can't lie to yourself and believe truly deep down in yourself that you have any actual love in you. You have no love innate in your essence. You know rather the bare fact, that deep inside yourself, as deep as you can go, there is only desperation, emptiness, self-loathing, and recognition that you have played the enemy of God and good. Your love can never satisfy you and your own lies can never persuade you that you are a fount of love. God is love. I am certainly not that.
Self-love is the least satisfying experience of all. How many made it to the top in music or movies or wealth, and history is littered with the stories of their self-destruction. On our own we exemplify self-destructivity. And we don't love ourselves; we cannot read our real value, our potential as moral beings in God's image. To be ruler over my own space for eternity would wear itself out in the first four minutes, because I know there is no such love original in me.
To be ruler over hell would be to be imprisoned in self-torture. Our failures and misfires stick to us. Demons raise the spectre of our shortcomings over and over again and we listen. But while God wants us to understand hoe empty we are without Him, He does not call us to wallow in self despair. We've chalked up wins and losses both in our lives. The most hellish losses have been when we turned our back on God. The most glorious wins were when we faced Him and thrilled at His goodness to us.
But the second problem with ruling our own hell is that it misvalues heaven.
In heaven we will be always in God's presence, always in the midst of others in whom God Himself has built love. Heaven is where we reflect God's light. God is love. His love radiates to us and reflects back from us to others. Unselfish beings dwell in peace there and aspire to God's ways. They know that, in themselves, there is no ground for bragging. They know--all of them--that they have not earned heaven, that salvation was a gift and that they were just poor humans who came to understand their need for that gift. They have sought God and He has worked in them.
What Will Heaven Be Like?
We must choose heaven. What will it be like?
"None will need or desire repose. There will be no weariness in doing the will of God and offering praise to His name. We shall ever feel the freshness of the morning and shall ever be far from its close" (The Great Controversy 676).
Infinitely better than hell.
"There the student of science may read the records of creation and discern no reminders of the law of evil. He may listen to the music of nature's voices and detect no note of wailing or undertow of sorrow. In all created things he may trace one handwriting--in the vast universe behold 'God's name writ large,' and not in earth or sea or sky one sign of ill remaining" (Education 303).
Infinitely better than hell.
"The history of the inception of sin; of fatal falsehood in its crooked working; of truth that, swerving not from its own straight lines, has met and conquered error--all will be made manifest" (Education 304).
Infinitely better than hell.
Do you hear this? The straight line of truth in all things will stand out boldly revealed as well as the crooked line of error. Error will be seen for the fatal self-serving delusion it always has been.
"All the perplexities of life's experience will then be made plain. Where to us have appeared only confusion and disappointment, broken purposes and thwarted plans, will be seen a grand, overruling, victorious purpose, a divine harmony" (Education 305).
Infinitely better than hell.
Parents and teachers lie down in their last sleep, their lifework seeming to have been wrought in vain; they know not that their faithfulness has unsealed springs of blessing that can never cease to flow; only by faith they see the children they have trained become a benediction and an inspiration to their fellow men, and the influence repeat itself a thousandfold. Many a worker sends out into the world messages of strength and hope and courage, words that carry blessing to hearts in every land; but of the results he, toiling in loneliness and obscurity, knows little. So gifts are bestowed, burden are borne, labor is done. Men sow the seeds from which, above their graves, others reap blessed harvests. They are content here to know that they have set in motion agencies for good. In the hereafter the action and reaction of all these will be seen (Education 306).
We'll see the end, the beautiful and good end, of many things we do not see now. Our unfinished business and apparent failures will be seen differently, and many children whose eternal disposition we died all unsure of, will greet us in the kingdom to our overflowing joy, safe at last.
Infinitely better than hell.
"The life on earth is the beginning of the life in heaven; education on earth is an initiation into the principles of heaven; the lifework here is a training for the lifework there. What we now are, in character and holy service, is the sure foreshadowing of what we shall be" (Education 307).
Heaven gives us a lofty goal. That's infinitely better than hell.
"The redeemed only, of all created beings, have in their own experience known the actual conflict with sin; they have wrought with Christ, and, as even the angels could not do, have entered into the fellowship of His sufferings; will they have no testimony as to the science of redemption--nothing that will be of worth to unfallen beings?" (Education 308).
We will tell of God's power to save across all the universe's ranging stars. We'll travel telling God's goodness as brands plucked from the burning. That will be infinitely better than hell.
"For what was the great controversy permitted to continue throughout the ages? Why was it that Satan's existence was not cut short at the outset of his rebellion? It was that the universe might be convinced of God's justice in dealing with evil; that sin might receive eternal condemnation" (Education 308).
All our moral questions will have been given completed answers. Our lives will each have shown that sin is worthy of eternal condemnation as much as God's love is worthy of eternal admiration.
"All rise with the freshness and vigor of eternal youth. . . . The mortal, corruptible form, devoid of comeliness, once polluted with sin, becomes perfect, beautiful, and immortal. All blemishes and deformities are left in the grave. Restored to the tree of life in the long-lost Eden, the redeemed will 'grow up' (Malachi 4:2) to the full stature of the race in its primevil glory. . . . The Saviour leads him [Adam] to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat" (The Great Controversy 644, 645, 648).
Here we see it again in the Bible. Youthful eternity. God shows Malachi the future. Malachi 4:2:
But to you who fear My name, the Son of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.
You shall go out from what? From the finality of the age and the final destruction of the wicked at the end. The earth will be a new Eden, Eden restored. We will walk out into that. We will grow up from that time. The effects of sin will no longer stunt us. We will be young again and remain young for all time.
Different Than Other Christians
Many who believe in Jesus believe that God gives eternal life. But they have been taught to look upon salvation as merely a special legal process. They never trained for heaven; they never adopted its principles in any deep way. They lived lives oblivious to health principles, indifferent to God's deep purposes revealed in Scripture. They neither grasped the model nor modeled the model.
Many will be saved who lived largely in contradiction to the Kingdom. The opportunity of a lifetime they neglected all unawares. Their hearts were given to God yet they remained confused in measure and presented a confused witness. But Seventh-day Adventists are called to model heaven. It's a high standard but a high privilege. For the Christian, heaven begins on earth. We are to have, now, a peace which is beyond description.
There are broad philosophical movements around us. How strange that Christianity so often embraces alien and contradictory ways of thinking. One of these is called "emergent." That part of christianity infected with the emergent strand of ideology has broadly embraced postmodernism. But this is also a philosophy that has little faith in what the inspired writings say about the future or about eternity.
Emergent is all about living in the now. This is why it has no substantive interest in prophecy, and certainly no interest in a youthful eternity. It is only about living a "good" life here, now. That is something very different from the Bible. We are called to live for God now with the future in view.
This creates a different witness. We are not here to put bandages on a fatally infected wound. We are not here to administer morphine in a death-setting. We are here to echo life given us from God out into the world in healing streams. We are here to point to a kingdom that will soon fill the whole world. We are here to show Jesus' love and to be part of something that condemns sin for the self-destructive delusion it is. We are to share something better, not just claim there is something better. We are to model God's youthful eternity plan for humans now. The cameras are rolling.
We'll speak more of health under another letter. But seventh-day Adventists believe that God's plan for us today is to embrace a youthful eternity. We're planning to live forever. That shapes how we live today.
Jesus is the center--Jesus who made us for morality, Jesus who tells us there is a future. Do we believe there is a future? Then we should show this with different lives now. In fact, our lives now tell whether we are planning for a future with Jesus or not.
Coming up next in this series, the first "S" in Haystacks. . .
Chewelah WA SDA church 2017-04-08
Muskegon MI SDA church 2019-12-21