Author Topic: SDA Sabbath School Lesson 1--4th Quarter 2022--Death, Dying, and the Future Hope  (Read 163 times)

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God created human beings to enjoy eternity in a loving relationship with Him and His creation. But this relationship was distorted by the mysterious appearance of sin within the heavenly courts (Isa. 14:12-15, Ezek. 28:12-19, Rev. 12:7-12) and the subsequent fall of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-19, Rom. 5:12). Tragically, death engulfed not only the human race but all life, as well. Expressions of death can be seen today in the leaves that fall from the trees, the flowers that fade in our vases, our innocent pets who die in agony, and our beloved ones who are taken from us so brutally. Our world is full of suffering and unwiped tears.

Longing for a better world, people have painted for themselves many “paradises” in which they would like to live. For example, in 1933 English novelist James Hilton released his book, Lost Horizon, which a few years later was turned into a film under the same title. The film captures the plight of an airplane that runs out of fuel, eventually crashing into the snow-covered Himalayan Mountains. The pilot dies in the crash, but the few who survive are pulled from the wreckage and escorted by a group of Tibetans to the paradisiac valley of Shangri-La. Isolated from the outside world, the inhabitants grow in love and wisdom, living an almost immortal life of enduring harmony and joy.

Of course, it’s only fiction.

As mortal human beings, we need assurance in the present and hope for the future. As well-stated by the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner, “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life. Take oxygen away and death occurs through suffocation, take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath; despair supervenes, spelling the paralysis of intellectual and spiritual powers by a feeling of the senselessness and purposelessness of existence. As the fate of the human organism is dependent on the supply of oxygen, so the fate of humanity is dependent on its supply of hope.” — Emil Brunner, Eternal Hope (London: Lutterworth Press, 1954), p. 7. Indeed, the biblical hope sustains us during the existential crises we face in our journey toward eternity.

In contrast to the fictional Shangri-La of the Lost Horizon, our hope of eternal life does “not follow cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16, NKJV). It is based on God’s trustworthy promise of a perfect world with no more tears, pain, or death (Rev. 21:1-5). This precious promise inspired the apostolic church and was held, and cherished, by many Christians throughout the centuries. Without ever losing its power, this same promise gives meaning and purpose to our present lives. It allows us to look with confidence into the future. It assures us that all our beloved ones who died in Christ will finally be raised from the dead to inherit eternal life.

The present Bible study guide deals with the subject of the great controversy between good and evil from the perspective of two major themes. One is the origin and ongoing existence of sin and death. The other theme is God’s enduring work to solve these problems and bring the world back to its original perfect condition. Special emphasis is given also to the mortal nature of human beings and how the resurrection is what leads to immortality. In reality, we should not fear death because Christ died for us and overcame the power of death. Actually, we are assured that He holds “the keys to death and to the place of the dead” (Rev. 1:18, NCV).

This quarter we will explore the painful subject of death, but through the lens of the hope offered us through Jesus.

Alberto R. Timm, PhD (Andrews University), is an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, Inc. and a member of the Biblical Research Institute Committee (BRICOM) and the Geoscience Research Institute Committee (GRICOM). Previously he served as president of the multi-campus Latin-American Adventist Theological Seminary (LATS).

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants:  we have done that which was our duty to do.  Luke 17:10


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Lesson 1 September 24-30

Rebellion in a Perfect Universe

Commentary in Navy                  Inspiration in Maroon

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants:  we have done that which was our duty to do.  Luke 17:10

Richard Myers

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Let me try to keep my comments not much longer than the introduction by our author of this quarter's lessons on Death, Dying and Hope. It is my hope that not all will consider death a "painful experience."

During Paul’s final trial before Nero, the emperor had been so strongly impressed with the force of the apostle’s words that he deferred the decision of the case, neither acquitting nor condemning the accused servant of God. But the emperor’s malice against Paul soon returned. Exasperated by his inability to check the spread of the Christian religion, even in the imperial household, he determined that as soon as a plausible pretext could be found, the apostle should be put to death. Not long afterward Nero pronounced the decision that condemned Paul to a martyr’s death. Inasmuch as a Roman citizen could not be subjected to torture, he was sentenced to be beheaded. Paul was taken in a private manner to the place of execution. Few spectators were allowed to be present; for his persecutors, alarmed at the extent of his influence, feared that converts might be won to Christianity by the scenes of his death. But even the hardened soldiers who attended him listened to his words and with amazement saw him cheerful and even joyous in the prospect of death. To some who witnessed his martyrdom, his spirit of forgiveness toward his murderers and his unwavering confidence in Christ till the last, proved a savor of life unto life. More than one accepted the Saviour whom Paul preached, and erelong fearlessly sealed their faith with their blood.

Until his latest hour the life of Paul testified to the truth of his words to the Corinthians: “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:6-10. His sufficiency was not in himself, but in the presence and agency of the divine Spirit that filled his soul and brought every thought into subjection to the will of Christ. The prophet declares, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3. The heaven-born peace expressed on Paul’s countenance won many a soul to the gospel. Paul carried with him the atmosphere of heaven. All who associated with him felt the influence of his union with Christ. The fact that his own life exemplified the truth he proclaimed, gave convincing power to his preaching. Here lies the power of truth. The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favor of Christianity. Argument, even when unanswerable, may provoke only opposition; but a godly example has a power that it is impossible wholly to resist. The apostle lost sight of his own approaching sufferings in his solicitude for those whom he was about to leave to cope with prejudice, hatred, and persecution. The few Christians who accompanied him to the place of execution he endeavored to strengthen and encourage by repeating the promises given for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. He assured them that nothing would fail of all that the Lord had spoken concerning His tried and faithful children. For a little season they might be in heaviness through manifold temptations; they might be destitute of earthly comforts; but they could encourage their hearts with the assurance of God’s faithfulness, saying, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.” 2 Timothy 1:12. Soon the night of trial and suffering would end, and then would dawn the glad morning of peace and perfect day.

The apostle was looking into the great beyond, not with uncertainty or dread, but with joyous hope and longing expectation. As he stands at the place of martyrdom he sees not the sword of the executioner or the earth so soon to receive his blood; he looks up through the calm blue heaven of that summer day to the throne of the Eternal. This man of faith beholds the ladder of Jacob’s vision, representing Christ, who has connected earth with heaven, and finite man with the infinite God. His faith is strengthened as he calls to mind how patriarchs and prophets have relied upon the One who is his support and consolation, and for whom he is giving his life. From these holy men who from century to century have borne testimony for their faith, he hears the assurance that God is true. His fellow apostles, who, to preach the gospel of Christ, went forth to meet religious bigotry and heathen superstition, persecution, and contempt, who counted not their lives dear unto themselves that they might bear aloft the light of the cross amidst the dark mazes of infidelity—these he hears witnessing to Jesus as the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. From the rack, the stake, the dungeon, from dens and caves of the earth, there falls upon his ear the martyr’s shout of triumph. He hears the witness of steadfast souls, who, though destitute, afflicted, tormented, yet bear fearless, solemn testimony for the faith, declaring, “I know whom I have believed.” These, yielding up their lives for the faith, declare to the world that He in whom they have trusted is able to save to the uttermost.

Ransomed by the sacrifice of Christ, washed from sin in His blood, and clothed in His righteousness, Paul has the witness in himself that his soul is precious in the sight of his Redeemer. His life is hid with Christ in God, and he is persuaded that He who has conquered death is able to keep that which is committed to His trust. His mind grasps the Saviour’s promise, “I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40. His thoughts and hopes are centered on the second coming of his Lord. And as the sword of the executioner descends and the shadows of death gather about the martyr, his latest thought springs forward, as will his earliest in the great awakening, to meet the Life-giver, who shall welcome him to the joy of the blest. Well-nigh a score of centuries have passed since Paul the aged poured out his blood as a witness for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. No faithful hand recorded for the generations to come the last scenes in the life of this holy man, but Inspiration has preserved for us his dying testimony. Like a trumpet peal his voice has rung out through all the ages since, nerving with his own courage thousands of witnesses for Christ and wakening in thousands of sorrow-stricken hearts the echo of his own triumphant joy: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Ellen White; Act of the Apostles, pgs 510-513.

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Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: 1 John 4:8, 16; 1 John 4:7-16; Ezek. 28:12-19; Isa. 14:12-15; Revelation 12.

Memory Text: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! ” Isiah 14:12

Many thinkers have tried to explain the origin of evil. Some suggest that evil always has existed because, in their view, good can be appreciated only in contrast to evil. Others believe that the world was created perfect but, somehow, evil emerged. For example, in Greek mythology, evil started when the curious Pandora opened a sealed box out of which flew all the evils of the world (this myth, however, does not explain the origin of the evils supposedly hidden in that box).

By contrast, the Bible teaches that our loving God is all-powerful (1 Chron. 29:10, 11) and perfect (Matt. 5:48). All that He does must likewise be perfect (Deut. 32:4), which includes how He created our world. How, then, could evil and sin appear in a perfect world? According to Genesis 3, the fall of Adam and Eve brought sin, evil, and death here.

But that answer raises another issue. Even before the Fall, evil already had existed, manifested by the “serpent,” who deceived Eve (Gen. 3:1-5). Hence, we need to go back, even before the Fall, in order to find the source and origins of the evil that so dominates our present existence and that at times can make it pretty miserable.

For those who abide in Jesus, His goodness, love, and justice dominate our world. We are confronted with evil to the degree that God allows. We will not be tempted beyond what we can bear. It is a promise! "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]." 1 Cor. 10:13.  In the middle of the storm, we have peace that passes all understanding. And that evil is turned to good. Satan has lost the battle and is as a roaring lion seeking to devour all he can. But, nothing happens in this world that God does not allow or cause. Evil exists as a mystery, but will not forever. Affliction shall not arise a second time. Nahum 1:9.  "He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time."

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 1.

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Sunday          September 25
Creation, an Expression of Love

Nature in its present condition carries an ambiguous message that mingles both good and evil. Rosebushes can produce lovely and fragrant roses but also harmful and painful thorns. A toucan can impress us with its beauty and then dismay us by assaulting the nests of other birds and eating their frail chicks. Even human beings, who are capable of kindness one moment, can be vicious, hateful, even violent in the next. No wonder that in the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants asked the field owner, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” (Matt. 13:27, NKJV) And the owner replied, “An enemy has done this” (Matt. 13:28, NKJV). Likewise, God created the universe perfect, but an enemy defiled it with the mysterious seeds of sin.

Read 1 John 4:8, 16. What can the certainty that “God is love” tell us about the nature of His creative activities?

The fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16, NKJV) conveys at least three basic implications. First, love by its very nature cannot exist closed in itself but must be expressed. (What kind of love is not expressed?) God’s love is shared internally among the Three Persons of the Godhead, and externally in His relationship with all His creatures. Second, all that God does is an expression of His unconditional and unchangeable love. This includes His creative works, His redemptive actions, and even the manifestations of His punitive judgments. Actually, “God’s love has been expressed in His justice no less than in His mercy. Justice is the foundation of His throne, and the fruit of His love.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 762. And third, since God is love and all He does expresses His love, He cannot be the originator of sin, which is in direct opposition to His own character.

But did God really need to create the universe? From the perspective of His sovereignty, one could say “No,” because it was a decision of His free will. But from the perspective of His loving nature, He wanted a universe as a means of expressing His love. And how amazing that He created some forms of life, such as humans, not only capable of responding to God’s love but also capable of sharing and expressing love, not just to God but to others, as well. (See also Mark 12:30, 31.)

Look around at the created world. In what ways can you see in it reflections of God’s love, despite the ravages of sin? How can we learn to draw lessons of hope from the expression of God’s love revealed in the Creation?

It is the Spirit that opens our eyes to the truths found in nature. Thus, in order to draw lessons of hope from Creation we need to have spiritual eyesight which comes when we love the Lord our God with all of the heart and allow the Holy Spirit to take possession of the heart so He may cleanse it whiter than snow!

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Monday          September 26
Free Will, the Basis for Love

Read 1 John 4:7-16.

 4:7   Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 
 4:8   He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 
 4:9   In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 
 4:10   Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. 
 4:11   Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 
 4:12   No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 
 4:13   Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 
 4:14   And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world. 
 4:15   Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 
 4:16   And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 

What does this passage tell us about free will as a condition to cultivating love?

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." There is no oppression, we are free to love God or to not love God. If we love God we shall love even our enemy. When we freely choose to learn of Him who gave all while we were yet sinners,  we will love Him because He first loved us while we where His enemy.

Artificial flowers can be gorgeous, but they do not grow and bloom as do real ones. Robots are pre-programmed to talk and to perform many tasks, but they have neither life nor emotions. In reality, life and free will are indispensable conditions for someone to receive, cultivate, and share love. So, our loving God created angels (including Lucifer) and human beings with freedom to make their own choices, including the possibility of following a wrong path. In other words, God created the whole universe as a perfect and harmonious environment for His creatures to grow in love and in wisdom.

In 1 John 4:7-16, the apostle John underscores that “God is love,” and that He manifested His love to us by sending His own Son to die for our sins. As a result, we should express our gratitude for His infinite love by loving one another. Such love, divinely originated, would be the most convincing evidence that God abides in us and that we abide in Him. This appeal to reflect God’s love to one another makes sense only if addressed to creatures who can choose to cultivate and express that love or, in contrast, to live a self-centered life. However, freedom of choice can easily be misused, a sad fact demonstrated in the tragic rebellion of Lucifer in heaven.

Even recognizing the importance of free will, some people still wonder, If God knew that Lucifer would rebel, why did God create him? Does the creation of Lucifer not make God ultimately responsible for the origin of sin?

No. Lucifer is responsible for his stupidity. He chose to turn against God and truth. It is a mystery as to why other than he was proud of God had made him.

That can be a very difficult question to speculate about, because it depends upon many factors, including what exactly is meant by the word “responsible.” The origin and nature of sin are mysteries that no one can fully explain.

No need to "speculate." This can get you into trouble. Just believe what God says, that is good enough.

Even so, God did not ordain sin to exist; He only allowed its existence, and then, at the cross, He took upon Himself the ultimate punishment for that sin, thus enabling Him, ultimately, to eradicate it. In all our painful musings about evil, we must never forget that God Himself paid the highest price for the existence of sin and of evil (see Matt. 5:43-48, Rom. 5:6-11), and that He has suffered from them more than any of us ever will.

Free will, a gift from God, is sacred, but comes heavy laden with powerful consequences, not only for yourself but for others, as well. What important decisions are you, using this gift, about to make, and what will be the consequences of whatever choices you make?

If we choose to follow God, then we shall avert the punishment for all of our sins. There is truly going to be fire and brimstone for all who have hurt others and God. But for the wise who choose to follow God, there will be an eternity of living with Jesus in a world without sin. And, in case one has never realized it, God rewards us greatly for the little difficulties we experience in this world.
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Tuesday          September 27
Mysterious Ingratitude

Read Ezekiel 28:12-19.

 28:12   Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. 
 28:13   Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone [was] thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 
 28:14   Thou [art] the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee [so]: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 
 28:15   Thou [wast] perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. 
 28:16   By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. 
 28:17   Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. 
 28:18   Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. 
 28:19   All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never [shalt] thou [be] any more. 

What can we learn from this passage about the mysterious origin of sin?

Lucifer was proud of what God had given him.

Much of the book of Ezekiel was written in end-time symbolic language. In many instances, specific entities (like persons, animals, and objects) and local events are used to represent and describe broader cosmic and/or historical realities. In Ezekiel 28:1-10, the Lord spoke of the king of Tyre (Tyre itself was a prosperous ancient Phoenician port city) as a rich and proud ruler who was only a “man” but who claimed to be a god and who even sat (he claimed) in the throne of the gods.

Then, in Ezekiel 28:12-19, this historical reality becomes an analogy to describe the original fall of Lucifer in the heavenly courts. So, the king of Tyre, who was a human being living “in the midst of the seas” (Ezek. 28:2, 8, NKJV), now represents “the anointed cherub who covers,” (Ezek. 28:14, NKJV) living “in Eden, the garden of God,” (Ezek. 28:13, NKJV) and “on the holy mountain of God” (Ezek. 28:14, NKJV).

A crucial statement in the whole account is found in Ezekiel 28:15, which says, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (NKJV). Hence, and importantly, Lucifer’s perfection included the potential for evil, the potential to do wrong, and that was because, as a moral being, Lucifer possessed free will, part of what it means to be a perfect being.

In reality, Lucifer was created perfect — which included his ability to choose freely. However, abusing that perfection by the misuse of his free will, he became corrupted by considering himself more important than he actually was.

No longer satisfied with how God had created and honored him, Lucifer lost his thankfulness to God and wished to receive more recognition than he actually deserved. How this could happen with a perfect angelic being living in a perfect universe is, as already mentioned, a mystery.

“Sin is a mysterious, unexplainable thing. There was no reason for its existence; to seek to explain it is to seek to give a reason for it, and that would be to justify it. Sin appeared in a perfect universe, a thing that was shown to be inexcusable.” — Ellen G. White, The Truth About Angels, p. 30.

Amen!! "to seek to explain it is to seek to give a reason for it, and that would be to justify it." Let it alone. Don't speculate in why or how.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says that “in everything” (NKJV) we should give thanks. How can these words help us to overcome any feelings of ingratitude and self-pity, especially in trying times?

They really can't overcome being aligned with Satan and sin. The only hope we have is to flee to Jesus and give Him the whole heart, then we shall not have self-pity and feelings of ingratitude.

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Wednesday          September 28
The Price of Pride

Within Scripture, one can see two major predominant themes or motifs that are competing with each other. One is the theme of Salem, Mount Zion, Jerusalem, and the New Jerusalem, which represents God’s kingdom. The other is the theme of Babel and Babylon, which stands for Satan’s counterfeit domain. Several times God called His people out of pagan Babylon to serve Him in the Promised Land.

For example, Abram (later Abraham) was asked to move from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan (Gen. 11:31-12:9). At the end of their long exile, the Jews left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2). And in the book of Revelation, God’s people are called out of end-time Babylon (Rev. 18:4) to abide with Him eventually on Mount Zion and the New Jerusalem (Rev. 14:1; Rev. 21:1-3, 10).

Read Isaiah 14:12-15.

 14:12   How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! [how] art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 
 14:13   For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 
 14:14   I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 
 14:15   Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 

What far-reaching consequences did Lucifer’s pride while in heaven bring to the universe and to this world?

He brought sin, he "didst weaken the nations."

In the Bible, the city of Babylon stands for a power in direct opposition to God and His kingdom; and the king of Babylon (with special allusion to Nebuchadnezzar) becomes a symbol of pride and arrogance. God had revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar that Babylon was only the gold head of the great image of successive empires (Dan. 2:37, 38). Challenging God’s revelation, the king made an image entirely of gold — a symbol that his kingdom would last forever — and even required everyone to worship it (Daniel 3). As in the case of the king of Tyre (Ezek. 28:12-19), the king of Babylon also became a symbol of Lucifer.

Isaiah 14:3-11 describes the fall of the haughty and oppressive king of Babylon. Then, Isaiah 14:12-15 moves from the historical realm to the heavenly courts and highlights that a similar proud and arrogant spirit generated the original fall of Lucifer. The text explains that Lucifer planned to exalt his throne above all heavenly hosts and make himself “like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14). This was the beginning of a new and hostile situation in which God’s altruistic love and cooperation would be challenged by Lucifer’s selfishness and competition. The enemy was not afraid of accusing God of what he himself was and of spreading his lies to other angels. Here are the mysterious origins of evil in the universe.

Why is it so easy to become proud and boastful of either our positions or achievements, or both?

Because we are fallen evil creatures aligned with Satan and sin. But, there is good news in Gen. 3:15. God has promised to give us a hatred for Satan and sin and a love for Him which will bring eternal life!

How does keeping the cross before us prevent us from falling into such a trap?

By beholding Jesus with stripes the stripes that belong to each of us, we are transformed into His image (character-2 Cor. 3:18). It would be very well to spend a thoughtful hour a day contemplating the life of Christ, especially the closing scenes where we behold His great grace.
Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Thursday          September 29
The Spread of Unbelief

Read Revelation 12.

 12:1   And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 
 12:2   And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 
 12:3   And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 
 12:4   And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. 
 12:5   And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and [to] his throne. 
 12:6   And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days. 
 12:7   And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 
 12:8   And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 
 12:9   And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 
 12:10   And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 
 12:11   And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 
 12:12   Therefore rejoice, [ye] heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. 
 12:13   And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man [child]. 
 12:14   And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. 
 12:15   And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. 
 12:16   And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. 
 12:17   And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

What does this chapter teach about the spread of the rebellion in heaven to the earth?

That sin was spread to the Earth.

The fall of Lucifer was not a simple clash of conflicting ideas. Revelation 12 tells us that a major war broke out in heaven between Lucifer and his angels on one side and Christ and His angels on the other. In this passage, Lucifer is called “the great dragon,” the “serpent of old,” “the Devil and Satan,” and “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:9, 10, NKJV). Christ is referred to as “Michael” (Rev. 12:7), which means “who is like God.”

Based on the allusion to “Michael the archangel” (Jude 9), some interpreters believe that He is only an angelic being. But in the book of Daniel, each major vision culminates with Christ and His everlasting kingdom — as the stone cut out without hands (Dan. 2:34, 45), as the Son of man (Dan. 7:13), as the Prince of the host and the Prince of princes (Dan. 8:11, 25), and as Michael the great prince (Dan. 12:1). So, as the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself (Exod. 3:1-6, Acts 7:30-33, etc.), Michael must be the same Divine Person, i.e., Christ Himself.

Revelation 12 provided a general overview of this ongoing controversy, which 1. began in heaven with the rebellion of Lucifer and one-third of the heavenly angels, 2. culminated with Christ’s decisive victory at the cross, and 3. still continues against God’s end-time remnant people.

Reflecting on the beginning of this controversy, Ellen G. White explains that “God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission.” — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 495, 496.

We do not know how long that war lasted in the heavenly realms. Regardless of its intensity and time span, the most important aspect of the whole struggle was that Satan and his angels “were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Rev. 12:8, NRSV; see also Luke 10:18). The problem, of course, was that they came here, to the earth.

What are ways in which we can see the reality of this battle being played out on earth? What is our only hope to overcome our enemy in this battle?

The answer is always the same, we need to love the Lord our God with half of the heart, or all of the heart holding nothing back?  Yes, the answer is always very simple. How is it that we can love the Lord our God with all of the heart? By spending time with Him. We need to die daily. We need to keep the "body" under lest we be castaways. By beholding the loveliness of Jesus we shall be transformed into His image (character).

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.

Richard Myers

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Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Why Was Sin Permitted?” pp. 33-43, in Patriarchs and Prophets; “The Origin of Evil,” pp. 492-504, in The Great Controversy.

“There was no possible hope for the redemption of those [Satan and his angels] who had witnessed and enjoyed the inexpressible glory of heaven, and had seen the terrible majesty of God, and, in presence of all this glory, had rebelled against Him. There were no new and wonderful exhibitions of God’s exalted power that could impress them so deeply as those they had already experienced. If they could rebel in the very presence of glory inexpressible, they could not be placed in a more favorable condition to be proved. There was no reserve force of power, nor were there any greater heights and depths of infinite glory to overpower their jealous doubts and rebellious murmuring. Their guilt and their punishment must be in proportion to their exalted privileges in the heavenly courts.” — Ellen G. White, Confrontation, p. 21.

Amen, but with man who was deceived there is hope in gaining of true knowledge of God. It is this knowledge of God that the angels had that will reconcile sinners to God.

“From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency. So great was His love for the world, that He covenanted to give His only-begotten Son, ’that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 22.

Discussion Questions:

    In class, wrestle with the question about whether God is ultimately responsible for the origin and existence of evil in our world. How might we seek to answer that charge

No need to wrestle with the idea that God is responsible for sin, He is not. But, He surely did allow evil into our world and for Satan to stay here. Be prepared to explain to your Sabbath School class why God allowed Satan to not only live, but to live here with us. Here's a clue: Our dark spot in the universe is the lesson book for the entire universe.

    How does the cross fit in with our understanding of the whole question of evil? Why must the cross and what happened there be central to any understanding of the origin of evil?

    After so many millennia of sin and suffering in our world, Satan should now be fully aware of the tragic consequences of his rebellion. Why then does he still carry on his rebellion against God?

When one reaches the point of no return, that is to say that the heart is hardened past the point of hearing that still small voice, then the character is forever fixed. This is why so many are in error regarding God giving all a third chance to be transformed.

    In Matthew 5:43-48, Christ speaks of God’s unconditional love for all human beings as the pattern for all our own interactions. How can you reflect this pattern more closely within your family and church?

The answer to this  kind of question is always the same, we need to be truly converted, fully surrendered to Christ. Then we can love even our enemies.

    The apostle Peter warns us  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8. Read also Ephesians 6:10-20. How can we prevail against the “wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11)?

Again, the answer is always the same, there is only one answer, we need abide in Jesus and He in us, otherwise we have no power to resist the smallest temptation to sin.

Jesus receives His reward when we reflect His character, the fruits of the Spirit......We deny Jesus His reward when we do not.