The word "HAYSTACKS" helps us remember core Bible principles underlying Seventh-day Adventist belief. "H" was "Hope," and today, we come to the letter "A." "A" is for "Advent."
"Advent" means the coming of something, the time when something arrives at last. We are Christians. We look for the Second Coming, Advent, Appearing, Parousia of Jesus. But others also believe that Jesus is coming. They think He may come a thousand years from now, or, in three seconds. Either of those approaches effectively separates the Second Coming of Jesus from the lives of God's people. If Jesus comes in 1,000 years, we and our children will be dead long before. If He comes in three seconds, there is no serious opportunity between now and then to change what we are.
As you might guess after our previous presentation, we are about to point out that the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Advent is distinct from that of others. We appreciate that many look with anticipation to the near return of Jesus. But different views are held. Our views determine our Christian living today.
Second Coming Linked to Human Choice From Beginning
In non-Adventist circles where there is a belief in the Second Coming of Jesus, the usual viewpoint holds that His return could come at any time. His return is arbitrary.
But let's keep in mind that the work of Jesus (which includes His first and Second Coming) is linked directly to Satan's rebellion and to human sin. In the first book of the Bible, when humans first sin, God promises to send His Son (Genesis 3:15). The Seed of the woman is promised, who will do battle with those who cleave to Satan and selfishness.
In Matthew 1:21 Jesus' incarnational mission is to save His people from their sins. He took our humanity that He might sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), and was made like us in all things (Hebrews 2:17) in order to be our Great High Priest. Jesus' work as sacrifice was essential that He might have that which it was needful to offer. But, so too His role as High Priest, that He might actually offer it and actually cleanse His people.
In Isaiah 53:11 we read of Jesus on the cross. "By His [Jesus'] knowledge shall My [the Father's] righteous servant [Jesus] justify many; for He [Jesus] shall bear their iniquities" (KJV). What Jesus does has everything to do with the sin and the redemption of His people.
The linkage of the lives of God's people to this urgent work of God is seen in Peter's call to holy living in 2 Peter 3:3-14. He insists on the necessity of repentance for God's people (verse 9), and then asks, "Since all of these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God?" (verses 11, 12). Verse 14 affirms that righteousness will persist in the earth made new.
Likewise, the prophetic program outlined in Daniel 12:1 and Revelation 14:4 and 19:7, 8, links the work of God in His people with what they become passing through the closing scenes. Jesus' work is no antiseptic, forensic and judicial thing. It is heart work. It changes His people. As Job was tested, their testing shows what being friends of God has done for them.
Passages like these help us understand that the idea of a distant Second Coming, or a Second Coming arbitrarily but hours or days away, would be incorrect. To disassociate Jesus' Second Coming from human action would turn the Great Controversy War into a puppet show, an exercise in theatrics. Our focus will not be on ourselves but on Jesus. But this very focus, following Jesus' guidance so closely through the final crisis, will change us. We never become Jesus or equal Jesus, but we do works that please Him and that testify to the world of His goodness.
The Bible foretells false christs who appear in the end. Just as there were false prophets competing with the true, so there will be false christs competing with the true. There will in the end be two distinct pictures of who Jesus is and what Jesus is like.
One portrayal will be a law-changing Jesus, one, a commandment-keeping Jesus. One will require of men Sabbath-breaking, one will require of men Sabbath-observance.
The Second Coming is Genesis Again
When we think of the Second Coming our thoughts should return to the beginning, to the Garden of Eden. From the start God's plan was that divinity and humanity would combine in fellowship to time's end. We are designed for communion, we are designed as social beings, and we are created in God's image.
In Revelation 21:1 we read, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea."
When, in his infancy, man sinned, this plan was put on hold. But now the great question of right and wrong, goodness and badness, unselfishness and selfishness, is ready to conclude. We can look with anticipation to the return of Jesus, knowing that His return means a return to Eden. It means all things being made new like they were new then, the sin issue resolved, and the love of God revealed as it had not yet been revealed to Adam and Eve.
At Jesus' Second Coming God and man will be on face-to-face terms again. We will take up right where we left off.
Recall the situation in Eden and realize that this is what the Second Coming means to us. Adam and Eve and God visited together. Earth was a smiling painting saturated in pastel colors, no sin anywhere. Satan had been cast down but was limited to one tree; no one need parley with him. Humans and nature stood in close converse.
What's new is, now God has demonstrated His love by buying us back from a future destruction; now He has died for us on the cross, and sent the influence of the Holy Spirit to change us. In Eden this was future; to us this is past.
In this past 6,000 years God has shown His love in innumerable ways. Humans have seen it; the universe has seen it. All the air has been taken out of Satan's sails. God's case for the rightness of unselfishness and the destructiveness of self-serving, is almost complete. There has been much suffering and death but much love and life has been demonstrated.
We are about to pick up where we left off! Think what it will mean. We'll do that very thing in this series soon.
False Versus True Jesus
Jesus is coming again. There will be an advent. You know this, I know this, Satan knows this. Satan must launch His deceptions before Jesus comes. We can be assured he will. How will we tell the true and the false apart? I read in the book The Great Controversy, pp. 624, 625 and saw nine useful facts about the closing deception. Ellen White records what she saw in prophetic vision about this deception. Consider the manifestations:
The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of heaven. By these agencies, rulers and subjects will be alike deceived. Persons will arise pretending to be Christ Himself, and claiming the title and worship which belong to the world's Redeemer. They will perform wonderful miracles of healing and will profess to have revelations from heaven contradicting the testimony of the Scriptures.
As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour's advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:13-15. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: 'Christ has come! Christ has come!' The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths, which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give head to these sorceries, saying: This is 'the great power of God.' Acts 8:10.
Let's notice the list we build from that:
- Satan appears on earth in various places AMONG men impersonating Jesus
- He presents himself as a majestic being of dazzling BRIGHTNESS, imitating the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-15. "The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld" (GC 624).
- His VOICE is soft, subdued, melodious
- He presents SOME OF THE SAME heavenly truths as the Jesus of Scripture
- He HEALS diseases
- He CLAIMS to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday
- He COMMANDS Sunday observance
- He DECLARES those who persist in keeping the Sabbath holy to be blasphemers
- He PRONOUNCES blessing upon the worshipers of the beast and his image
Items one, four, and seven are the most useful. We know exactly from Scripture that at His Second Coming Jesus does not walk the earth but appears in the sky. Because of the Scriptures, we know truth from error on this point. When the counterfeit Jesus is seen walking through Times Square, we will know it is Satan the imposter.
Item four, the utterance by this being of SOME of the same truths is very telling. We will notice several things that the Bible teaches that are MISSING when they are spoken by this false Jesus. As Christians we are learning to live "by every word" that comes from the mouth of God. The fake will present only some words. He will leave aside crucial truths.
Finally, when the false Christ commands us to keep Sunday in place of the Sabbath, it will be indisputable to us that he is a fake. But to the deceived it will not matter. So steeped in antisupernaturalism until now, every word spoken by this walking, talking, glowing being will be received as truth.
The Bible is The Divider between truth and error. It is the only means we will have of knowing which Jesus is which, which is Christ, and which is antichrist. Without the Bible the Advent of Jesus would be a disaster for us. With the Bible we can know exactly who is true God and who is a destroyer.
Belief in Jesus' Near Advent Changes My Life Now
If it is a part of the great controversy between Christ and Satan that Jesus changes the life, then when First John two and three speak of Jesus' Second Coming they make a great deal of sense. Both in 2:28 and 3:2, there is emphasis that when He comes we will be changed and will have confidence that He will receive us. We will be like Him at that time. Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness (Romans 10:4).
Think about it. If you believe Jesus is coming soon, it must change your life. You realize that there is a God, that this God is the moral Determiner. You do not exist in the middle of a moral nowhere, but you and all others are living your life in a moral universe. More than this, you realize that by your actions your life testifies whether you do right or wrong, and even whether you worship He who is Right or he who is wrong.
This changes everything. You are morally accountable. You realize that the Bible is a Book of inspired instruction, a revelation from beyond, a love letter telling us where the traps are, and how to live here and now.
Your awareness that Jesus is coming soon shapes how you live now but it also helps you temper your commitments to this world. You recognize that it is temporary, a part of your life journey on the way to eternity. This life is an opportunity to test drive how you will live for eternity. You realize that you have been given a mission by God Himself, to be a blessing to this world, to your parents, your children, your spouse, and your friends.
But if Jesus' coming is arbitrary, our living here would have no essential part in the Great Controversy war between good and evil. Then we are more in the vein of spectators or passive audience. Then we have no serious role here.
And If None of This is True?
Let me share just one more thought. Suppose that none of this is correct. Suppose that evolution is true and that when we die there is nothing. Then we are just smart and deadly animals who exist for a blink on the billions of years time scale. But if believing makes this world a better place, even if but for a brief lifetime, has not the world gained? Isn't some morality better than none at all? Isn't some goodness better than none at all? And there is still no serious way to account for Bible prophecy in that alternative reality. Belief in God is the more logical approach to the phenomenon of life than unbelief. Because the evidence around us points to a Creator God, even if we are all wrong about that, still, at least we would have the satisfaction of having been intellectually honest and believing that there is a moral God on the basis of evidence.
Advent is part of our name. We look to the soon return of Jesus. Life takes on fresh importance. Jesus' return is closely connected to the sin problem, and the blessing of His return is closely connected with His solving it in the lives of His followers.
If we believe this is true, it changes how we live now. This world is not all that is. The disease and death we see in our world are distortions, temporary manifestations of the impact of sinning on this world.
I'm for life! I'm for Jesus and His soon return! He tells me in Scripture about His soon return because He wants me to tell the world, He wants me to be an example of goodness in a world filled with badness.
Rooted unalterably in the genetic baseline of Seventh-day Adventists is belief in the Advent, the Second Coming of Jesus. We look at the present differently because we look at the future differently. The return of Jesus is what animates us. It's nearness calls us to live holy lives. The immorality that we see abounding is temporary. We cannot fasten our hearts here. This world is passing away.
"H" was for "Hope." "A" is for "Advent." I wonder what "Y" could be? The third presentation in this series will answer!
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