Today our series exploring key pieces of Adventism continues. We use the acronym "HAYSTACKS": "H" stands for "Hope," and our historic focus on Scripture and prophecy. "A" is for "Advent," Jesus is returning. Second Coming occurs very soon! "Y" stands for "Youthful Eternity." In the earth made new, those who accept Jesus and His unselfish principle of life, will receive new bodies, experiencing a perpetual youthfulness. The first "S" is for "Sabbath." God prepared His rest in the beginning, not merely to help us slow down for 24 hours, but that we might experience focused communion with Him on His holy day. "T" is for "Temperance," living the abundant life, refusing to be enslaved in sensation or anesthetized by food.
It has been impossible at any letter to leave Jesus out. Adventists are VERY interested in Jesus. We look to His soon return, but we're also deeply curious about Him. How did He live? How did He overcome? How can He be our pattern? How can we live a life that pleases Him?
Our study proceeds from three Bible passages referring to the Alpha and Omega. Who is that? The Father? Jesus? The Holy Spirit? The baseline is always and only, what does the Bible say?
Alpha and Omega
Consider Revelation 1:4-11, our first "alpha and omega" passage. The chapter's first three verses describe God's book of Revelation purpose: to reveal to His servants things soon to occur in God's plan. Verses 12 through 20 describe Jesus who is standing in the midst of seven candlesticks.
Our interest is especially with verses 4-11. God asks John to send a letter to the seven churches in Asia. Verse four greets the reader from God. This welcome seems to be from all three persons of the Godhead. First the Father is mentioned: "Him who is and was and is to come." Then "the seven spirits which are before His throne," a reference to the Holy Spirit actively working God's will and protecting His people in seven distinct church periods. Then, verses 5 and 6 send greeting from "Jesus Christ the faithful witness." Verse seven also gives glory to Jesus. But consider especially what we find in verses 8 and 11.
John is speaking in verses 1 thru 7. In verse eight there is a shift; God speaks. He begins with "I am." "I am the Alpha and the omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." It is clear from the verse 11 description given of this speaker that He is Jesus. In verse 17 He self-identifies as the First and the Last. Verse 18 then makes absolutely certain this title used refers to Jesus. It is used again at Revelation 2:8. In 21:6 He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, and finally in 22:13, He is "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Second Alpha and Omega passage: 21:5-8
Third Alpha and Omega passage: 22:11-20a
God as First and Last in Isaiah
In Isaiah we see several passages the Spirit of God puts into John's mind. In 41:4: Isaiah tells of a king whom God raised up and gave victory over the nations. It is claimed that He, God, has caused this. "Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am He."
God has watched over the nations from the beginning. He has shaped history to meet His purposes. In 43:10b, 11 Isaiah writes His Word: "Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior." There is only one God; every other purported God is an imposter. If we make anything or anyone else first or last for ourselves, we are displacing Jesus' place. To be first and last for us in all things, that is Jesus' throne. We serve God or we serve idols. We are worshipers of the one true God, or we are idol worshipers.
Then there is the word for us in Isaiah 44:6, "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god." We are part of a kingdom. There is God and there is everything else. We are citizens of the kingdom or we are creatures gone wild.
Its not just in Revelation that God says He is first and last. God explicitly identifies Himself as the "first and the last" right here. Isaiah is often called the "gospel prophet" of the Old Testament. Some will suggest the idea of there being one God and no other is archaic, a left-over theme from ancient days and that the Church advances far beyond this narrow monotheistic line with the New Testament gospel of Christ. Most of us may not be familiar with such views since we don't tread in those liberal branches of thought. We see a harmony, the same God in Old and New Testaments.
The issue of idolatry is very simply the issue of the gospel. We serve the one God and no other. It is Jesus or nothing, God or idols. What has changed? Not much. Our idols today just have brand names and logos and we employ little plastic cards to give them our worship.
God is calling at the end of time for more than warmed-over idolatry.
We seek Jesus, not stuff. We actually seek to be like Jesus, not like the milquetoast Jesus sung in so many songs.
What About Jesus Versus Doctrine?
Here's where we need clarity. What about Jesus and doctrine? Obviously the teachings of the Bible are important, yet some claim these teachings become blockades in the way of following Jesus, that doctrine inhibits heart Christianity. Is that so?
A teaching can become an idol. But excesses and aberrations rarely tell the whole truth. More often, they misrepresent what something is really about. A true teaching of Scripture, embraced and lived in the Spirit, is no impediment to Jesus. Truth will help you be more balanced, more like Jesus, more one who helps by actual acts of good done to others.
A right understanding is not the requirement for salvation, but a right Savior. Jesus is the right Savior. Right understanding helps us. But impersonal information was not nailed to the cross for us and never made atonement for us.
The Sabbath is not Alpha and Omega. But it certainly helps us to draw close to God and know Him better.
The Church is not alpha and omega. But the Church helps us draw close to God and know Him better.
Unity is not alpha and omega. We should have unity about God's truth though, because His truth helps us know Him better.
Friends, even the Bible is not alpha and omega. But without the Bible where would we be? We'd be left to random attitudes and platitudes about Jesus. Surely we'd soon be worshipping a god of only our own design.
The investigative judgment is a fascinating Bible doctrine, but it is not alpha and omega. It helps us see God's plan. Knowing the Judge makes understanding the judgment much clearer. But it is no replacement for Judge Jesus Himself!
Our Bible understanding of the importance of the health message is very important. Clearer minds mean clearer understanding of things spiritual. But the health message is not alpha and omega. We should seek ways to advance the health reform that are as friendly as possible, winning, not condemning. Hearts are fragile. We keep seeking God's grace and He shows us with ever increasing clarity how people can come up higher, and not feel beaten down lower.
Because Jesus is first and last, all these things have a special importance for us. But they are not Him, they are not the end or the goal. They are part of the understanding, part of the journey. Yes, there are many downgrading these things, but let's be careful we never usurp Jesus' supreme place with them. We must not over-correct and make critics claims against us actually true.
If Jesus is first and last, alpha and omega, then we will find our place. "All things have been created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16). In Jesus we come to our purpose, even our design. We are made in God's image. Quite visual, isn't it? But His image is what? His character is what? We in our actions should be examples of godlikeness. If people want to know what God is like, our lives should show the answer. If they want to know what Christian brotherhood and sisterhood looks like, they should see that in us. For that matter, if people want to know what human people should be like, our actions should show them. If people want to know what respect for others looks like, we should show them; if they want to know what God's counter-culture to Satan's culture looks like, we should show them.
I was blessed in reading the following short quotation from Ellen White:
Affection may be as clear as crystal and beauteous in its purity, yet it may be shallow because it has not been tested and tried. Make Christ first and last and best in everything. Constantly behold Him, and your love for Him will daily become deeper and stronger as it is submitted to the test of trial. And as your love for Him increases, your love for each other will grow deeper and stronger (Adventist Home, p. 105).
How can we have more affection? More authentic love? By copying Christ. By giving help in concrete ways. What are people used to seeing? Entitlement and permissiveness, sentimentalism, slippery, sloshy, politically-correct definitions? Real love gives something and costs something; it has substance. God is love and as the beginning and the ending He is love personified. First of all love is giving. So Jesus is Alpha. He was love before He came. He came to live among us because He is love. He is coming again for us because He is love.
In the end-time, His people will be like Him, so we will all be examples and samples of love. We will follow Him wherever He goes (Revelation 14:4) and we will be like Him wherever we go.
So yes, this is a "Jesus sermon." He is Alpha and Omega. How could it not be?
Seventh-day Adventists are people of hope, advent, youthful eternity, Sabbath, temperance, alpha and omega--a people centered on Jesus. If they're not, they're not Adventists.
Our doctrines and practices are very important. But they are not Jesus. Jesus is the beginning and ending, the destination all these help us pursue.
Our next letter in this series will be "C."
Deer Park WA SDA 2017-07-12
Chewelah WA SDA 2017-09-23