12. HASTENING THE SECOND COMING AND EMBRACING THE HARVEST PRINCIPLE
Heaven has put it in our power by consecrated, Christ-reflecting lives to hasten Jesus' return. God will wait for the maturing of Christian character in a significant number of people as the chief condition determining those events, such as the latter rain, loud cry, sealing, and Sunday law, which affect the time when probation for the world shall close, and thus the time of the Second Coming.
If it is possible for us to delay the Second Coming, then logically, we may, through cooperation with God, be able to hasten or contribute to a more rapid occurrence of the same event. Second Peter 3:11, 12 says, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
In light of the imminent judgment of the earth, we are called to give unambiguous witness. Our life testifies. "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" The power of this witness is seen in the phrase "looking for and hasting," or "hoping for and causing to occur faster," or "hastening" (marginal reading). Hastening means to cause something to happen sooner than it otherwise would.
At least five lines of thought help us see the possibility of hastening. First, as we have already observed, 2 Peter 3:11, 12 urges us, in light of the speedily approaching end, to live in such a manner that the coming of Christ is accelerated.
Second, remember the ancient events involving Job. When Satan came to dispute with God, it was God who brought forth Job's name. God presented Job as an example of one who from pure motives faithfully served Him. He could be a character witness for God because he was a willing believer and a close friend. God knew it; God permitted the test. Through Job's trials evidence for the vindication of God's goodness was given.
Third, Revelation 12 shows that the end-time conflict is between Satan and the remnant church. In Romans 16:20 Paul reminds us that Christ will crush Satan under our feet. The promise of Genesis 3:15 is realized, not alone through Jesus' life and death, but through the holy lives and death to self manifest in His people in the end-time. Those who herald Christ's return, in following their Lord, will tread upon the serpent and bring tidings of final peace (Isaiah 52:7, 8).
Fourth, Revelation 14:12 shows that at time's end God points to the people matured by His gospel. "Here are they," He says. The sooner the gospel harvest is ripe, the sooner our Lord reaps His harvest of trustworthy, willing believers.
Fifth, the 490 and 2,300 day/year prophecies also help. God gave first to the Hebrews the opportunity of ushering in everlasting righteousness. From the starting point of 457 B.C., 490 years were granted (Daniel 9:24-27; Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6). Had the people then been faithful, they would have ushered in everlasting righteousness--hastened it--by some 1,810 years. But they did not. So probation for that people as a nation closed in A.D. 34, and the gospel was entrusted to the Gentiles. When the Jews failed, the time allotted for them was ended (Daniel 9:24, "determined," literally, "cut off"). The Jews could, by being faithful, have hastened the arrival of righteousness.
One of the most crucial concepts for God's people today is to understand what has been called the Harvest Principle.
God made man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26, 27). He refuses to treat us as robots, choosing the longer route of freedom (Joshua 24:15; Romans 6:16). He permits the delays that arise because of our less than full commitment to His truth.
God is like the farmer (Mark 4:26-29). He toils not in vain but with an eye to the fruit that is growing. While Jesus hung on the cross in the giving of His life for us, one thought only brought comfort: the desire that the Father would see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11), that by the death-tasting experience Jesus passed through for us (Hebrews 2:9), the Righteous Servant would make many righteous servants (Malachi 3:4). He would, in His people, find 144,000 credible character witnesses (Revelation 14:1-5). Heaven has a non-negotiable goal: the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God, men and women who can be entrusted with eternal life.
The approximate time of harvest is known, but the farmer keeps his eye on the maturation of fruit to see exactly when the crop is ripe and ready. "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come" (Mark 4:26-29).
The climax of the cycle comes when the farmer puts in the sickle. Matured wheat is harvested. Farmers don't plant seed because they enjoy weeding; they plant seed in expectation of a harvest worthy of their efforts.
- Jesus must wait until the gospel seed has produced a sizable group of Christians in the last generation. The harvest should have ripened decades ago (Revelation 7:1-3; 14:1-5). "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped" (Revelation 14:14-16).
The close of probation is not an arbitrary moment. If man cooperates fully with God, God can carry forward His purposes on schedule. He calls us to cooperate with Him in hastening this world's harvest of mature followers who are a credit to the seed He planted.
The difference in the final generation is that at last God's expectation will be clearly understood in one generation by a significant number. At last there will be a people who not only see what God is waiting for but will allow Him to fulfill His plan in them. Under the full blaze of gospel glory they give to God all the room He needs to make them new.
This final generation cooperates more fully with God's purposes than any previous generation. They are the end result of His 6,000 garden patch. Six millennia of light shining down from heaven is at last reflected in men and women who have reached the gospel's purpose--the maturity of the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The light of changed lives shines heavenward at earth's midnight, a time when champions have been few.
Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten, speed up the arrival, of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Any group's sense of mission is always but one generation away from oblivion. It takes only one generation for any organization to lose its identity. We must live under a sense of mission and relate everything in our lives to it. Many want Jesus' power without His character, but there is no changing the principles by which Heaven works.
Many last-day events are held in suspension until this "cleansing" reaches that point where God will not be embarrassed to give His end-time people the promised latter rain. (Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 3:3; Joel 2:23, 24; Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7). The eyes of the unfallen universe are not on this world's dreary parade of wars, famines, and natural disasters as they try to figure out when Jesus will return. Neither should ours be. God's people should not be spectators watching the parade of world events.
The Bible tells us that holy living at time's end has an impact on the great controversy war.
The story of Job is the great controversy in miniature. When God brought up the topic of His friend Job, Satan pressed his claim that even Job served God from selfish motives. God challenged his faulty claims. In the end, Job's life gave evidence in favor of the goodness of God and the rightness of His ways.
Back in Genesis the promise was given of a Messiah coming to crush Satan fatally under His feet. But today, long after the cross, Jesus still lives, and so does Satan. The same Bible tells us that Jesus did not at the cross complete the process of crushing our foe. Paul looked forward to the time, in the last generation, when Jesus will finish flattening the great accuser under the very feet of the accused (Romans 16:20).
13. CHARACTER WITNESSES TO THE GREAT HEALER
More than forensic declarations only, the gospel is primarily concerned with telling the truth about God as our Best Friend. He is more concerned with our healing than with legal pronouncements. In the great controversy, His character witnesses tell the story of their deliverance.
The Reformers did not leap onto the scene in one bound. Error was very strong; the darkness, apart from divine intervention, impenetrable. Even with Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, and the Reformers following after, recovery was only an incremental, step by step process.
The deep error of Roman Catholicism was a turn from the wholistic concepts about man and his restoration, to a mysticism. As this apostasy matured, it came to be understood that man was saved by his works, and those works, in order to sanctify, must be sanctioned by the Church. Those enfolded in long-established cultural expectation are often unaware of their blinders. Ingrained in the minds of the Reformers Luther and Calvin was the philosophy of predestination.
According to this teaching, God predestinates some to salvation and some to destruction. Some, by the moving of the divine will, are chosen to be righteous, while others are fated to be evil. There are no real choices or risks in the conflict between good and evil. Human free will makes no significant contribution in human destiny.
Saving others becomes reciting the script already written in heaven. Puppet-strings are attached to human minds, mouths, and hearts. Nothing is proven to the universe; the only principle presented about God is that no one in heaven or on earth can override His sovereignty.
The truth? God's character is at the center of the the great controversy. Yes, God is more powerful than Satan. But He permitted Satan time to demonstrate his principles. God's character and His government are morally right. Satan's is morally wrong. The entire universe is watching the consequences of God's principles and Satan's.
If we see God as a glowering gatekeeper or a frowning judge standing ready to throw thunderbolts when we don't live up to His expectations, then we will be less likely to appreciate Him and trust Him for character. But He does not want the service of fear, from angels or from man (2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18). He does not force the will of any (Joshua 24:15).
What He actually desires is that the creatures of His hands shall love Him because He is worthy of love and trust. Do we respect these qualities? Then we will be drawn toward Him in admiration (Romans 2:4). Our homage must spring from love for His character.
Jesus does not wish to be known by us as the great prosecutor but as the Great Physician. He has no intention of papering-over our sins with finely wrought legal arguments. He wants to cure us of sin. Someone has been hurt. He arrives at the hospital and after emergency treatment begins his recovery. Over the course of his stay at the hospital, forms are signed dealing with insurance, treatment, and medication. Everything pertaining to his stay at the hospital, and medical treatment received, is carefully recorded.
The paperwork without the treatment would be a lie; the recovery without the paperwork would be ill-documented. A good hospital will have both, and physicians and patients will be able to mark the healing process. Thus it will become clear whether anyone is really being made well or not. This is the same question the universe asks of Jesus: can He really heal? His character is the crux of the great controversy and this is the question that needs answering!
A similar question was asked by the leper. "And, behold, there came a leper and worshiped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them" (Matthew 8:2-4).
The leper needed no convincing of Jesus' authority; his question was, "Jesus, do you care enough for a miserable leper to heal me"? Do you value me? Am I included in the war between good and evil, or just a spectator?
What then is our testimony? Does our experience testify to a placebo-giving fake, or an effective, sympathizing Physician who truly heals (Hebrews 2:17, 18)? Do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit care? As participants in the great controversy war, our lives testify one way or the other as to what They do for us and what we truly think of Them (Revelation 12:11).
The universe will see the consequences of rebellion in final display, ending with the horror of the seven last plagues (Revelation 15:1-4). What kind of earth rebels does God propose to trust with eternal life? God already knows what we are individually. But He wants others to see the evidence, to make up their own minds as to whether Jesus is fair when He makes up His kingdom. The Investigative Judgment since 1844 is a matter of making more faithful bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13) and separating sheep from goats (Matthew 25:31-46)--in other words, cleansing human temples from the defilement of sin.
Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary as our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). What is He doing? Making atonement for us, cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of His people. Then we must by faith enter the sanctuary with Him; the work must be begun in the sanctuary of our souls. We are to cleanse ourselves from all defilement (Ezekiel 37:23; Ephesians 5:26; 1 John 1:7, 9). We must "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).
If I should see a man with a baseball bat entering the room behind your back, my instincts would be to intercede and do all I could to keep him from hurting you. I would be your "intercessor" at that point in your life, standing between you and the evil one. Jesus is doing just that every hour of the day and night for you through His angels and the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:5). We can count on His powerful intercessions in our lives today, even as we have been counting on the fact that He died for us on that horrible cross!
How would you feel if your best human friend died to save you? Then realize--Jesus is your best human friend. And He lives today as your High Priest, doing for you what the Holy Spirit did for Him--helping you be an overcomer--giving real grace to help in time of need (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 4:16). What is the natural result of all this? We want to tell others of His goodness. We want our character to testify to the goodness of His character. The questions of who will be saved and of whether or not God's character will at last be vindicated are two completely separate topics. Continual character surrender is what it takes to be saved; full character maturity is what it takes to vindicate God's character.
Perfection does not save man, but it does contribute to the vindication of God's character. Whether or not I am saved is a much less important question than whether or not God is found to be just when He is judged (Romans 3:4; Revelation 14:6, 7). By telling the truth about God to the world, we vote for His character.
Where is the evidence? Where is the final argument so that God can say to Satan, "You have not proved your allegations; case dismissed"? Our Father in heaven does not propose merely to assert that He is right, but, through those who believe in Him, actually to demonstrate His goodness. We have a part in the great controversy war. Being part of that answer is the most practical thing a human being can do.
14. DECISION TIME FOR PLANET EARTH
In spite of past insubordination, we believe that God stands ready to work through a repentant people. He is using Seventh-day Adventists to prepare the willing for translation. When Adventists embrace the truths they now have they will become the five wise bridesmaids. Adventist truths enflamed by the transforming Spirit will produce the light that will say to the world, "Behold your God!" The character of God will be demonstrated more clearly and winsomely by the followers of Christ than ever before on Planet Earth. It will be decision time for all, everywhere.
During most of the history of God's people, they have been wayward. Yet He waits. He desires to provoke them to a deeper experience. It was true in the time of the early church; it is true now in the time of the latter rain and the last-day church. The lonely God still waits for His distracted bride. His love is not diminished. The Bridegroom continues to stand at the altar, while His bride makes "herself ready" (Revelation 19:7, 8).
Always God is working providentially for His people. In the 19th century He raised up a movement and centered it in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
She is battle-scarred and burnt because in her hallowed halls, for every Satanic attack launched in stealth and sophistry, defenders of truth have met word with word, steel with steel, false doctrine with true. The Lord is a Man of War (Exodus 15:3). So are His faithful believers. In ages past they contended for the faith delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Today, they contend still.
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is, in God’s eyes, still what it always has been--to prepare His people for translation (Ephesians 4:7-16; 5:25-27; Revelation 7:1-3, 13, 14; 19:7, 8; 14:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). The war is not over (Revelation 12:17). God’s own stand to their post of duty. Although the forest of error grows up round her, the pure doctrines of truth still unfold within her borders.
Something happens that has never happened before when Adventists embrace the truths they already have. Possession does not necessarily mean activation. In our Lord’s parable, the owner of the field plowed it time and time again, missing the buried treasure that was his own (Matthew 13:44).
Without the lens of truth we cannot understand the riches pertaining to life and godliness that Heaven has already opened to us (2 Peter 1:3, 4). All of us need to see more clearly our true poverty (Revelation 3:17) and our true wealth (Colossians 1:27).
In the day that we embrace the truths we already have, we will become the five wise bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13). The wedding was set but the Bridegroom delayed in returning. Ten bridesmaids, all church members, went out; all grew weary and slept. At midnight the call came, "The Bridegroom cometh!" In the darkness five of the bridesmaids sought to trim their lamps, only to realize that they had not enough oil. But five were wise, and although they too had faltered and slept, when word came of the Bridegroom's approach, they turned up their lamps. The five wise had enough oil. They had preserved their connection with God, and the Holy Spirit helped them to be living reflections of His truth.
Truths delivered to the people of God will now have the last push. Finally His people are ready to cooperate with Him; finally they are ready to live the life of Jesus. At last they are ready to be the Third Angel's message enfleshed. Having cut the knots of false doctrine and mild Laodicean half-gospels, these are filled with the Holy Spirit; these reflect the character of Christ fully, producing the light (Revelation 18:1) that will say to the world, "Behold your God!" (Isaiah 60:1-3; 35; 40:9).
Men and women who "would see Jesus" (John 12:21) will see His character echoed in His willing faithful. The planet will be startled. As earth is brought to the sabbath test, there will stand the most compelling group of witnesses for God who have ever lived (1 John 4:8); Revelation 14:12).
The best evangelist is the presence of Christ in our words and actions. The character of God reproduced in us will bring this generation to the test. Armageddon is the finish of the contest between selflessness and selfishness.
When we allow God to finish His work in us, we will have reached perfection in a fallen nature that is still able to sin. But no longer will God's faithful even occasionally indulge self. We will always say "No" as Jesus said "No" to all temptations. This final demonstration will contribute to the vindication of God's character, proving Satan wrong in all his evil allegations. The great controversy war will be at the point of conclusion!
We are not Christ; we will never be Christ. But it is true that in the end we will have our Father's name written in our foreheads (Revelation 14:1; 15:1-3).
Surely then, when others see us, they will recognize in us the character-echo of the Father. Transformed by our Father, we, as the final harvest, will be described within our sphere as "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6). This is not arrogance; it is simply God revealing what He can do with formerly self-centered rebels.
Whichever character we choose to develop, we will develop. It will be ours in the judgment. It will be ours at last when we come face to face with Jesus. It will not then be exchangeable (1 John 3:1, 2). Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to walk with Christ. Do you love Jesus with all your heart? Living and giving these truths will cost something; there is a price tag.
The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people. God is bringing to realization ancient promises. Only Adventists teach the close of probation; no other gospel permits that. Obeying God's commandments by the same kind of faith Jesus had will have its part in bringing us at last to the situation of sinlessness in which the pre-Fall Adam lived. And there are Enochs in this our day (Hebrews 11:5). Will you be one of them? Will I?
At the end of probationary time, God's willing believers make plain what is His character in word and behavior. Whatever the circumstances, they decidedly reject all modes of compulsion and coercion. It is the seal versus the mark and the contrast is drawn in black and white (Revelation 7; 13). Heaven has waited thousands of years for this hour. The seal is placed on those whom God can trust forever, people who are so settled into the truth that they will never be moved--they will forever say "Yes" to God. At last it is decision time for all, everywhere.
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