as perceived by Fred Bischoff
with Links to Side Paths
31 January 2012
Before the beginning-
For all eternity, past and future, God is love. Since this love is other-centered, not self-centered, He was never only self. He is Master of space and time. They have always served Him as His dwelling place through which He can pass at will. Since He is the Creator, all created things had beginnings. At some point He brought them into existence, placing them in His space and time also as dwellers, but subject to them, not masters as He. Having beginnings, His creation could not have been His focus from eternity. Before the existence of these created things, the Others His life was centered on, were equal to Him. We are told, by way of describing Them in terms we can grasp, that there were always Father, Son, and Spirit. These titles describe the amazing functions They each have chosen, but do not depict Their nature. That peculiar quality of being which explains their constitution or existence has not been revealed. But in terms of character and relationship, it has been shown that they are equal, are one, and are love. This equality and oneness means They are united in this relationship in a way we cannot fully grasp. They speak, with no contradiction, of both "I" and "We", of "Me" and "Us", of "My" and "Our." The unity of Their relationship includes being one in thought, purpose, and mission. And in the midst of all this oneness, for this love to be genuinely Other-centered in this primary of all relationships, these three self-existent but not self-focused Ones are separate Beings, individually distinct. These Three are God. And being the Creator of all, the source of all that is love, the first, the beginning, They are called the Godhead.
Relating to the created-
Of these Three, the One who has ever been the special connection to the created ones is the Son. Though They all are Creator, He has been the main agent of creation. As He relates to everything created, He reveals another aspect of the other-centered love. God is humble, that is, He willingly goes down to the lesser ones to give and to fellowship. From the record, the first going down was to those shining intelligences created to serve closest to God. Thus He became Michael, the One who is like God, to the angels. His position was the archangel, the first among them. Also, since the Son is the One of the Godhead who is Their expression, especially to all intelligent creatures, He is called the Word. As Their chosen One for purposes also related to extreme creature needs, He also came to be called Messiah or Christ. Because of our current condition, we have a hard time seeing that such humility is true greatness, and that such a humble One who came down the farthest is actually the Highest of all.
The universal standard-
Since God is love, all that He makes is an expression of love, and is intended to reveal love. Thus nothing was designed to live for itself. Especially the intelligent beings were created for other-centered love to be the core motivation of their existence. He desired these other beings to have the ability ever to learn and thus grow in experience and knowledge of love. His method of encouraging this development is two-fold. One is the very reaching out of love to the other, which involved reaching down if to a lesser. And inherent in this reaching out is the principle of treating the other as he can be, not as he is. This principle is called faith. From the evidences given, faith grasps the unseen realities and potentials, and chooses them as the framework of action in relating to God and others, in dependent trust and enabling confidence. These amazingly simple ways of relating are how His universe operates, love believing all things, and faith working by love. This standard of doing the daily business of His vast realms is so essential, so valuable, it is called by a term that has great value to us. It is the gold. And as this is the only way to live, the truth of how He Himself functions, when Messiah came down to us to reveal this core quality of God, He called Himself the way, the truth, and the life.
Unexplainable foreign element-
Into this peaceful realm of love and faith one day a mysterious and unexplainable sentiment arose. It was harbored first in the heart of the highest created being, the one closest to God, the one whose name was the Shining One, Light Bearer, Lucifer. As he observed Michael, the one who is like God, going freely up into the circle of light where God abides, he began to entertain the thought that to be like God means to go up, and he began to desire that. When he was shown that Michael was not an angel who had gone up, but God who had come down, he refused the revelation, and pursued his unreasonable, insane course. His assertion that the way to live is to put one's self up, to be self-centered, made him the father of the lie. And the great controversy began. Because the core quality of God's character and government was under attack, resulting in confusion, He found it necessary to explain love's actions and dimensions. It was shown that Lucifer was rejecting this law, the description of how God made things to function, the foundation of His government, and the very transcript of His character. This contrary way of living was called iniquity. God was not self-centered, nor could He respond to these claims by any means other than those consistent with His character of giving. So His faith and love began to be tested in ways they never had before. The gold entered the fire. What would be the result? From the earliest time of the battle, God realized that the end would be on one side the giving of life, and on the other, the taking of life. So the Son was slain from the foundation of the world and Lucifer was a murderer from the beginning.
A new expression of love-
After this controversy began, our world was created as another expression of His love and power. He spoke and it was done. And He said, "Let Us make man in Our image," and They did, first the man, Adam, and then the woman, Eve. Male and female together were to reflect what He is like, other-centeredness making one of more than one. Out of that blessed oneness, others would come, to multiply the representations of this glorious image, each living for the others. Thus they were given dominion over the earth and all in it, to care for it as He was caring for them. Since this nurturing could not imagine the taking of life, they were to live by eating the fruit of the plants, partaking of the life God had placed in them. Weekly, in commemoration of their first full day with Him, they were to rest on His sanctified day, content in this blessed reminder of who He was and what He had done in reaching out for them. The rest of the time they were active in caring for others, including the garden in which He placed them, Eden, the place of other-centered pleasure. Anywhere and anytime, they could find Him who is Master of space and time. But to meet them where they were as subjects of space and time, and to give a window into His reality in the same dimensions, He chose a special place and day in which to meet them. He knew that otherwise it would be more likely for them to lose touch with Him. In the impersonal thought that He is everywhere, it would not be far for them to go to think the non-personal thought that He was nowhere. He is, as we have seen, above all a personal God. And so His other-centeredness demands that He meet them in a special and tangible way.
A barrier against the lie-
But in this blessed place there was one reminder of the lie. In His wisdom God picked a tree, apparently near the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and called it the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All He had made was good, yes, very good, including the man and woman. Thus they knew good from the moment of their creation. But He did not want them to know evil. The lie had pierced His heart already, and He wished to save them from such knowledge. He knew that if they partook, it would tear up and desolate all of the foundation realities He had built into their existence. So He warned them to avoid that experience of putting good and evil together by making this tree a sign of it, and placing its fruit off limits to them, a symbol of the deadliness of such a quest. For if, in their freedom of love, they would choose this counterfeit love, His image in them would be destroyed, their oneness as male and female would be ended, their dominion lost, their diet perverted into life-taking ventures, their rest in Him wrested from them, and their pleasant activity warped into tiring labor. And with this loss of love, they would die.
The earth joins the controversy-
One day Eve encountered Lucifer in one of his disguises, as a serpent, at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Using his wisdom perverted into the service of self-seeking, he questioned God's restriction on the tree. Eve repeated God's instruction given to Adam before her creation. By a subtle response Lucifer in his dark, new roles of adversary (Satan) and accuser (Devil) denied first the consequence (death) of selfishness, and then the wrongfulness of such a quest itself. In essence he said, "It will not kill, for it is not evil." He asserted that such a choice would make them like God Himself, implying that He was like that. Thus with craftiness he spun the lie for Eve, and she believed it. Being deceived, she took from the forbidden tree and ate. Moreover, she gave some of the fruit to Adam, who did not believe the lie, but ate anyway, joining Eve, leaving God, and yielding dominion of the world to Satan. Adam and Eve by their ways of turning to self-centeredness illustrate for the rest of time the two ways of following the lie, receiving its mark in your forehead (being deceived, believing the lie, and doing it) or in your hand (not being deceived, but doing it anyway). So sin and rebellion came to earth. By their fateful choice to join Satan against God, in living the lie, they broke the circle of self-sacrificing love on earth. Enamored with something else they took for love, they entered the realm of death. The self-focus, by adulterating God's perfect creation, began its baneful course. Immediately they became aware of nakedness and fear. In their newfound self-sufficiency, they suddenly felt insecure, and sought self-made remedies that were wholly inadequate. Both solutions were sought from trees, the wood of which has since come to symbolize the frailness of our fallen humanity. They used leaves to clothe themselves, and trees to hide themselves. But from whom were they hiding?
Love's pursuit of lost lovers-
It was God, in His other-centered seeking and all-knowing wisdom, who came searching for the missing pair. He who knew where they were and what they had done, confronted them with questions borne of heart-broken love. In this first encounter with His sin-infected humans, we see evidences of all the elements He will use in curing the problem, elements of that process that alone will provide eternal security. In the overall, essential setting of His humble pursuit of sinners to bring them all they would need for restoration (mercy), we find here an open review of the record, a case-by-case verdict and sentence, and an execution of the sentence (justice). But the openness of such judgment would require time. So He drew out His cowering creatures. First Adam and then Eve manifested their new nature by adversely accusing others as being the cause of their fall. The consequence of abandoning the principle of self-giving led them to the taking of the fruit, and the condemnation of others. God, in His unchanging character of self-sacrifice gave them a hope that justified their continued existence. The future would contain consequences of self-seeking that they could not then fathom, but He gave above all a promise, the miracle of unrelenting enmity between the author of the lie and the ensnared human race. And at the heart of the cryptic, prophetic promise of mercy and justice was Someone, said to be the Seed of the woman, who would crush the head of the lying serpent. But this crushing would wound the Seed. Embedded in this wondrous hope was the ultimate giving of self, for that crushing victory would be won, not by taking but by giving. God affirmed this by replacing their leaf covering with a blood covering, the skins of the first animals to die, to reveal the cost of sin, and the promise of substitution.
Tragic fruit of living the lie-
Rapidly the consequences of the alluring but deadly principle of the lie became evident. Out of their miraculously remaining but strained oneness, Adam and Eve were given their firstborn "possession," Cain. Eve said, "I have gotten a man from God." She recognized God's gift, but her son grew up to reject such dependent acknowledgment of the greatest of all Givers. A second son came and was perhaps prophetically seen to be "vaporous breath," Abel. After Adam and Even had chosen to follow the lie, God had committed to the race the symbolic service of animal sacrifice, to remind the humans of their taking life through the principle of self-seeking, and to foreshadow the giving of life by Another to the lost race, who would come to them, for them, as them, at infinite cost to Himself. Cain in his possessiveness rejected such a ceremony to express humility and faith in the Other's giving of life, and in his attempted worship instead gave what amounted to a thank offering. Abel in the tenuous vanity of his sinful humanity apparently sensed his need, and in faith offered the blood sacrifice with his offering. God affirmed Abel's faith and rejected Cain's unbelief. Cain lived out his refusal of self-giving love by taking in anger the life of his brother. This first human death brought home to Adam and Eve, in the strongest way they had yet experienced, the consequence of their initial choices to live for self.
Elements of the conflict-
Thus at the very beginning of The Story on this earth, the key elements of the battle that still exists were laid out in the events recorded:
1. The other-centered One creating a perfect creation in His image, which in the paradigm of freely-given love required the freedom of choice within the context of informed options.
2. The unexplainable choice being made, both by deceived unbelief and by open unbelief, to accept the lie about God and His image, and to live for self, even in the face of evidences of the truth (especially the word of truth).
3. The immediate results appearing of vulnerability, vain attempts at solutions, insecurity, and fear.
4. The unchanging other-centered One pursuing the estranged in concern (to restore), in inquiry and judgment (to educate), in faith (to convey evidence of what could be), and in hope (to promise a lasting solution).
5. The core essence of love thus showing itself in the humbling of self to condemn sin while justifying and reclaiming the sinner.
6. The core essence of sin revealing itself at the same time in the guilty ones by the spirit of exaltation in self-justification which always includes the inherent condemnation of others, ultimately the maligning of God Himself.
7. The true worship of God and the false worship of the creature self, leading to the laying down of life by the faithful, and the taking of life by the unfaithful, working out the principles of self-giving and self-seeking.
The early harvest-
The account is brief but sad. The development of the lie in the long-lived ancients was such that within a few generations it had reached maturity. Self-seeking had developed into a fearful degree of violence and evil. God in a most singular way decided to bring judgment, to recall the gift of life He had given in trust to His creatures, which they had dedicated to Lucifer in principle if not in conscious allegiance. He chose a man of faith and his family to present the final message of mercy and prepare a method of survival. As Noah proclaimed the divine verdict and sentence, and the coming execution of judgment, he also must have reviewed the record of what had led to such serious intervention. In an amazing display of how ripe the rejection of selfless love had become, in the end not one outside Noah's family believed the warning, repented, and accepted the remedy. The global destruction that came, and the preparation to avoid it that God provided, have ever since been types of what will come at the end of the controversy. But they were only types, as the full development had not yet come. However, God in giving Noah and his descendants the long-range remedy for sin, made promises that still apply to our day, and will forever. An everlasting covenant, embodying a blending of mercy and justice in a beautiful spectrum represented in the rainbow, was clearly explained, an expansion of the first promise given at the fall. The lesson of Noah's experience is a message of righteousness by faith, of living the self-sacrificing life based on the evidences God has given of that being the only way of life. For humanity in its sinfulness, this way is entered by repentance. The call is to turn from self-seeking in response to a revelation of God Himself, and accept His mode of living, as well as His instructions for the present time. For the individual and the human race, there is no other option for survival.
The earthly father of the faithful-
Noah's descendants reproduced the mistakes of unbelief, and developed new systems of creature worship. The center of Babel (the gate of god, Babylon) became a prototype of all human-centered religions and kingdoms with its self-dependence, false philosophies, erroneous doctrines, amalgamations of truth and error, and abuses. God scattered them, and then out of this maze of confusion called a man of faith, as He began to form a cradle into which could come the greatest revelation of self-sacrificing love the universe will ever see. Abraham's growing walk of faith out of Babylon blazed a trail for people of faith of all lands and all succeeding generations. Step by faltering step he learned to see things from God's perspective, to believe what God believes. In his line of God-dependent descendents would flow the blessing that God had for the entire world, the cure for the curse of self-seeking. God embodied His re-creative faith within the promises He gave to Abraham, who in responsive faith received and believed them in greater and greater dependence. To Abraham's posterity were given the written oracles of God, the great record of God's faith and love from the beginning. This story documented for the race their God-given identity that had been under attack since the intrusion of the lie into this world. Transmitted verbally for generations, but now inscribed in sacred writings by Moses, the unbroken line of the truth would last through the duration of the battle. Woven into this record was the sanctuary built under God's direction upon the deliverance of Abraham's descendents from Egypt (after 400 years of slavery). This sanctuary was given to embody the ways in which self-sacrificing love would itself be the cleansing solution for self-seeking, the restoration of holiness by its removing of iniquity. In the heart of that sanctuary was the visible presence of God, resting above the mercy seat of pure gold, itself above the stones on which God Himself had inscribed the code of self-sacrificing love. Thus justice and mercy were shown as the foundation of His throne of faith and love. All of these lines of faith, in heritage and revelation, were to lead to a visit by the living Word, born into the human family as one of us, to be anew the expression of faith and love from the other-centered Godhead to the fallen race.
Glory and desolation-
Abraham's family further revealed the victory that faith brings, from the child of promise (the son of faith, Isaac) through the overcoming grandson (Israel, the one who prevailed with God-dependence after battling self, the deceitful Jacob). But these and their descendents showed in great detail the battle between other-centeredness and self-centeredness. The story recounts individuals whose lives testified to the truth in blazing glory and others who embodied the lie in all its horror. At times the same person showed both as they wavered between faith and unbelief within their own lifetime. From their earliest experiences as a nation, these children of Israel exemplified that controversy. Their persistent, inborn tendency to worship the creature, unrestrained by lack of living faith, brought into their midst the abominations of the faithless. The sanctuary itself became desolated with these godless practices. Following the spiritual desolation, their families, cities, and land were physically desolated, including the sanctuary and its city, Jerusalem. The people were taken back to Babylon. But in the midst of it all, the word of God was heard through the voice and pen of the poets and prophets, calling people back to the truth, and testifying of the coming Prince of peace, the anointed One who would again connect heaven and earth, cleanse the sanctuary, and announce the kingdom based on other-centered love. In particular this fulfillment of the everlasting covenant was revealed to Daniel, even down to the dates when key events in this plan would occur. There was revealed to him the amazing overview of world history from his day down through the major kingdoms of the world, all of which eventually would come to their end, to God's everlasting kingdom. Embodied in both the visions and the stories surrounding the coming of the visions was the core battle between self-limiting self-exaltation, and self-sacrificing love, which is the guarantee God's kingdom will last forever, being but the expression of the character of the great King. Daniel's life spanned the fall of both Jerusalem and Babylon, and he grasped what led to both. We see this as he figuratively opened the books and literally explained the verdict and sentence just before the execution of the divine judgment against the last king of Babylon. In the midst of the global pictures given him of the flow and outcome of the controversy, we find embedded Daniel's personal concerns for his people and his city, which form not only the setting for the coming of the great Prince but also a type for the global conflict itself.
The ultimate going-down-
At last the time came, and the greatest of all prophets was raised up to herald the coming of the Word. John the Baptist announced the coming kingdom and King, laying the ax to the root of the tree of self-seeking, and calling for repentance. "In the fullness of the time" Messiah came as one of us, "born of a woman, born under the law," coming to where we are to recover us, "to redeem them that were under the law." He was anointed by the Spirit from birth to reveal the love of the Father, and was united with our human nature to show the curse of sin. But He came in such amazing humiliation, such condescension that He Himself needed the witness of the written word and the sanctuary to know who He was and why He had come. Thus He as one of us walked by faith. With unprecedented clarity the truth was proclaimed and by contrast the lie was shown for what it was. He went around announcing the kingdom, and describing it in His teachings and personal embodiment of the truth. But the essence of His mission was poorly appreciated, even by those who had forsaken all at His call to follow Him, as they struggled with the self-exalting lie of greatness. The battle over faith and identity had never been so intensely fought. In His final appeal to His people, He like Daniel and the prophets of old reviewed their history in the setting of revealing their deep spiritual needs. But His testimony was rejected, the sanctuary left desolate. His self-sacrificing love proved so threatening to the elite in their self-seeking (particularly the religious elite) that they conspired to do away with Him, repeating Cain's fateful choice. But no man took His life. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, He laid it down as He willingly entered into the full identification with sinners. Fulfilling the sanctuary types, and beginning to unfold that to which the festivals pointed in their order, He was the Lamb of God who was taking away the sin of the world. As He lived out the faith that works by love, He Himself was a revelation of the righteousness of God, the mercy seat where law and blood met, the unalterable standard affirmed in, and anointed by a poured-out life. His self-emptying that before had been seen in His servant role of Michael and had taken Him down through the form of man, now lowered Him to the position of sacrificial animal, "even the death of the cross." His victory over sin, self-centeredness, which was seen through His daily cross, was carried clear to His death on Calvary's cross. He overcame by giving, not taking, by submitting, not rising against. The lie and the father of it had both been unmasked. But who saw it? The unseen watchers were convinced, but this world still needed to see a paradigm shift, starting with His own disciples.
The truth affirmed-
The victory He won was not left hidden in the apparent defeat of His ultimate humiliation. The validity of His justifying by going down, rather than condemning by exalting Himself, was affirmed by His being called forth from the grave. His death had been the greatest condemnation that self-exaltation could ever suffer. And His resurrection was no mere reversal of fortunes, but the beginning harvest for Him of the other-centered exaltation He reveals. Putting the Other and others first has the consequence of drawing them all to you. In God's order they then pursue the goal of putting you first, closing the circle of beneficence. So the resurrection began His exaltation, which is still in progress, and to which we will all contribute (most, alas, unwillingly). As He unfolded to His dazed and fearful disciples these principles and the prophecies that for centuries had pointed to their fulfillment in Him, their world was transformed as with new eyes they viewed their Lord and grasped more deeply who He was and what He had accomplished in spite of and often against their lack of cooperation. They could now, in the most profound way that they had yet experienced, forsake all and follow Him. As they came to understand the cross, and entered into its reality in their hearts and lives, it brought a purity of worship and unity of spirit that had so far eluded these closest of His followers.
More witnesses to the truth-
Messiah's exaltation included His returning to the Father, a departure He had explained at length to His disciples. He had promised to send the Spirit in His place, who could be with each forever, without the limitations that even glorified humanity has. The remaining disciples were told to wait for this Gift who would bring them power and all other gifts that they would need. The timing of this coming matched the final of the spring festivals given to Abraham's descendents in the sanctuary system (the previous ones having already been fulfilled at Messiah's death and resurrection). The Spirit's coming also marked the heavenly fulfillment of the symbols of the dedication of the sanctuary and the High Priest, who had arrived at that cosmic center with the benefits of His poured-out life, validating the role of Mediator He has assumed from the beginning of sin. The impartation of the Spirit did not change the disciples' basic understanding of scripture. That had been done when the resurrected Messiah had met with them. The Spirit did not bring a unity that they had lacked. Their acceptance of the cross had cleansed from them the spirit of self-exaltation that prevents unity, so they were already in one place in one accord. What the Spirit's coming did was to amplify supernaturally their witness to the truth of the Messiah, His kingdom and authority, and the foundation of those in self-sacrificing love. The impact was explosive, as the news spread far and wide. But the battle also escalated between self-exaltation with its insistence on controlling others, and this opposite, eternal principle that brings amazing freedom. The suffering for righteousness' sake just accelerated the spread of this truth that changed lives and began even to mold societies. One of the greatest persecutors was even converted, and became the most prolific expounder of the faith that works by love. The written records left by these witnesses were added to those of the chroniclers, prophets, and poets `of old, giving a united account of a God unknown to many, a God who is love. With unprecedented clarity, as the shadows gave way to the full light of Messiah's visit, these latest of God's messengers wrote in practical earnestness, calling all to God's rest, rest in Messiah's finished work, rest from self-dependence, rest upon the foundations laid for recovery of the lie-infected human race. Into the far corners of the globe the truth spread, at this point not to end the battle, but to prepare people for the next, most difficult phase.
The greatest assault on the truth-
Messiah and His disciples embodied the principle, "he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." The rejection of this message and the messengers by the remnant of Abraham's descendants caused their spiritual desolation, followed by the second destruction of Jerusalem, all cryptically foretold in the pictures given to Daniel. And these events, in which the Eternal Word gave witness to His select people in a small locality in Palestine, foreshadowed the same process that would occur globally. As the message began to spread to the world, there arose another Judas, the son of perdition, a system combining religious and political forces. It was part of the inner circle, which like Judas refused to be cleansed of the principle of self-exaltation. Keeping some of the forms of Messiah's religion, but incorporating the essence, concepts, and forms of proud paganism, it became the greatest expression of a desolating power, at least in terms of deceit, arrogance, persecution, and longevity. It carried the fulfillment of Daniel's fourth kingdom to a new high. So horrendous was this power that it was described at length not only in Daniel's visions but also in the amazing overview given to the disciple of Messiah who wrote the most about self-sacrificing love. John was shown it as the continuation of the spirit of Babylon at its worst. The severity of the situation occasioned within the prophecies multiple, time-agonized cries of "How long?", breathtaking descriptions of the horrendous destruction "till...", and corresponding, amazing sets of time prophecies, the greatest the world would ever be given. Most who were confronted by this power were captured by the deception or crushed by its coercive force, but the foundation laid down by Messiah and His disciples survived this worst of all assaults, as a remnant continued to receive a love of the truth, and rejected this latest and greatest version of the lie. They were thus enabled to keep the commandments of God (the codifying of self-sacrificing love seen most clearly in the tables given to Moses) and have the testimony of Jesus (the witness that He Himself has given, in person and through His messengers, of the covenant of selfless love).
The beginning of the end-
In God's providence the seeds of the truth eventually burst into new life, growing for the final showdown. For three hundreds years at least they developed against great odds. And on God's predicted timetable, about the time this long-lived lie system received a near-fatal blow, they finally flowered into an unprecedented exhibition of civil and religious liberty. The special place He created to harbor and spread the end-time messages was the nation with the greatest development of those God-given liberties. These events were preparing the way for the reception and proclamation of the final messages against the kingdoms based on the lie, and in favor of God's everlasting kingdom. At the same time a counterfeit flowering of license masquerading as liberty sprung up and grew alongside, a never-before-seen tare that would confuse most, and lead to such moral corruption that, looking for solutions, people would think the system that had amalgamated Messiah's religion with paganism was desirable once again. It was in this context that God began to send the last messages of mercy, as He called messenger after messenger, and opened understanding of the prophecies given to Daniel and John. In receiving the light from God, people began to see in these amazing developments the fulfillment of those very prophecies, as related to the end. In an experience parallel that of the early disciples of Messiah, the understandings and expectations were not all correct from the beginning, but the messages were God-ordained. In sending these end-time calls, God has begun the final judgment, following the pattern He had used since lovingly confronting the first sinful humans. He is repeating the process He used globally in the days of Noah and locally in the days of Lot. Especially we see parallels to what happened on the local scale in the days of Messiah's first visit to earth. The message is to go globally for a last time, opening the books (the story of the everlasting gospel from creation to present), explaining the verdict (what it is that has caused the final spiritual fall, which foreshadows the coming physical fall), and describing the sentence (how the ultimate and horrendous global execution of judgment can only be grasped by what happens when incurable self-seeking encounters the unveiled presence of Him who is self-sacrificing love). Therefore the cross is presented in unprecedented glory, showing the meeting of mercy and justice, in the wrath of God against sin, the passionate hatred the self-giving One has, in His pure other-centeredness, against all the desolation self-seeking has caused His creation. This process is an intensely practical preparation for a never-before-experienced transition from earthly kingdoms to God's everlasting kingdom. And again the sanctuary types reveal the bigger picture, as the fall festivals in their order began to meet their fulfillment, including the ministry depicted as occurring in the Holy of Holies, as the blood from the courtyard is brought within the veil. But sensing his end nearing, the father of the lie is releasing his final effort to bring as many as he can to believe it, by rejecting the truth and the evidences for it, through the emotional and pseudo-intellectual appeal of self-love.
Our day: the final appeal of genuine love-
It is here and now that we find ourselves in this, The Story of stories. God has imparted unprecedented prosperity, technical knowledge, and peace to enable this final mission. Most do not discern the reasons these have been given, and are using them instead for self-serving ends. As God has sent the word out, some have accepted, but the majority have rejected. With many the rejection has not been merely passive. The attacks on the messages and messengers have been unrelenting from without and within. These messages have served to shake and sift the human race, especially those openly claiming to be God's followers. Their hesitancy to accept the messages and become messengers has actually delayed His plan far beyond the final time prophecy, given by Daniel. But there is no other way to bring things to a conclusion. By His opening the books and declaring the verdict and sentence, before the final execution surrounding the return of Messiah, He is calling each individual to avoid the fruit of self-centeredness, especially in its most deceptive of forms, when it is wrapped in a religious garb, in false worship. He is inviting each back to the intimate fellowship with Him of self-giving. Each of these final messages from the heart of infinite love is a call of the everlasting gospel, a call to the everlasting covenant. The choice is between worship of the Creator in all His beauty of humble love, and worship of the creature in all the allure of self-love. Side by side, in families, in churches, in nations, in all areas of life, particularly in the forms of worship, the final maturing of the two principles is developing. This spiritual battle, waged for millennia, is building to its final crescendo. If ever we needed the armor and weapons for this last warfare, it is now. In particular, the delay is making us vulnerable to counterfeit spirits. As always from the beginning in Eden, the deceptiveness of self-seeking is capturing the majority, but this is only serving to highlight by contrast the glory of self-sacrificing love, as the cross is proclaimed in word and life in ever-increasing clarity and power in those who are responding to God's faith with faith, and to God's love with love. It is these alone that are valuing the awesome privilege to be His witnesses in the hour of His judgment, by receiving a love of the truth, and by keeping His commandments and His faith. They are hastening the day when the controversy will be over, when it will be seen that He is true, when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He who humbled Himself the most is indeed Lord of all. Then all will see that The Story has been His story from the first.
The plan for our redemption was not an afterthought, a plan formulated after the fall of Adam. It was a revelation of "the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal." It was an unfolding of the principles that from eternal ages have been the foundation of God's throne. (Rom. 16:25, R. V.; DA22)
Side Paths to Studies
- The "Return to the Story" buttons take you back to the location in The Story that linked to the specific side path.
- The following Side Paths link to files that develop or are related to that theme. However, there may be other files also connected to this theme that are not linked. If you are interested in finding other files on a specific theme, you can search my List of Files for that Side Path theme (listed in "The Story" Side Path column).
Oneness. In the plurality that God is, it is this other-centered oneness that forms the basis of all oneness among others. The term corporate solidarity is sometimes used to describe a body of oneness made of multiple members. So we tap into this truth from the eternal past to understand that to which we are called, the only future available, a united eternity. The file "Universal" [pending] reviews key evidences for the solidarity of humanity.
Godhead. In Seventh-day Adventism there has been a struggle to understand the Bible's picture of the Godhead and Its Members. In their devotion to take the Bible literally and to reject the absurdities of the Dark Ages (in the path of the Reformers of the 16th Century), many of the early pioneers understood that the Son was that in some literal way. Ellen White's first extensive writing on the position of the Son was in her 1898 book The Desire of Ages. But her writing about the Godhead did not come until after the turn of the century when the need to counter J. H. Kellogg's pantheistic ideas of God became critically important. The file entitled "Godhead" [pending] attempts to outline her counsels regarding what had been revealed and what had not been revealed about God, and the danger of applying human terms to what has not been revealed.
Gold. This faith and love is the currency of heaven and of the universe. Explore this further in the file "Heaven's Currency" [pending], the PowerPoint presentation "The Faith of God—Never Without Effect" [pending], the sermon "Seeing What God Sees" (audio and outline), and especially the five-part series on the "Faith of Jesus" (audio, handout, and PowerPoint).
The Lie. The invention of the lie was a direct attack on God's truthfulness. Trace "the truth" vs. "the lie" through Scripture in the file "Let God Be True" [pending].
Foundations. The description of creation reveals that the seven pillars that Wisdom laid (Prov. 9:1) at the beginning are the Genesis 1 and 2 realities for the human race. These are briefly listed in "Foundations from Genesis and Hebrews" [pending]. See also "Foundations for Recovery" below.
Amalgamation. Part of the philosophy of the lie is putting together what God has separated (and vice versa). [Study is in draft form.]
Judgment. These three phases of judgment are (1) to review the evidence (ask questions, check the record, open the books); (2) to give the verdict and sentence; (3) to carry out the sentence. This sequence with its elements can be traced through all of Scripture in various forms and experiences. We will see this again in the books of Daniel and Revelation, mentioned under the side paths "Daniel" and "John" below.
Covenant. The first human reaction to sin, a leaf covering, was the farthest from the reality of God's solution, which was a blood covering. This contrast introduced the elements of the two covenants. Cain's and Abel's sacrifices illustrate the two covenants. These early stories give us all the essentials of the covenant realities, seen through the rest of sacred history in multiple examples. Study these vital concepts in the study "The Two Covenants in Two Dimensions" [pending].
Psalms and Proverbs. Messiah is powerfully portrayed in these poetic books, in the heart cries of David especially, and in the life of the righteous and the reward of the wicked in Proverbs. [Studies on the gospel in Proverbs are pending.]
Daniel. All of Daniel's prophecies are essential for us, giving the overview of world history from his day to the end, in the context of what makes human nations rise and fall, and what makes God's kingdom last forever. (See brief summary of those principles: "Kingdom Overview.") The introduction to this principle is in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2. The major development of it is in Daniel's own vision in chapter 7. To explore where we are in the flow of these prophesied events, see the files "Judgment in Daniel 7: The 'till' Event," "Kingdom, Judgment, Comings: Where are We?," and "Brief Table of Bible History and Prophecy." The heart of Daniel's book is actually an aside, to answer his concerns over what he was hearing. The door into that diversion in chapter 9 is the vision of chapter 8, given in a sanctuary motif, pregnant with cosmic meaning in this great controversy between the truth and the lie. Review these chapters in the file "The Cleansing from Self-Gadal" which explores this sanctuary theme through scripture but particularly examines the tracing of it as outlined in the prophecies in these two chapters and their fulfillment, from the 2nd world empire through the 4th (the last being the major focus), under which the end of probation for the Jewish nation came. We are still in the picture, but at the end! A brief preview of 14 lessons dealing with the great controversy, the coded messages of prophecy, and the current wrap-up judgment in progress (with references to "Kingdom Overview" and "Brief Table of Bible Prophecy and History" noted above) can be found in the documents under "Preview of The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment" (audio and outline).
Identity. How did Messiah, as a human, know who He was? Look at the answers to this question in "How God's Gifts of Identity and Memory Anchor the Believer" [pending]. This study bridges from Christ's experience to the experience of those victorious at the end. See side path "Identity at the End" below.
Identification. It is one thing for Messiah to know who He is. It is another for Him to identify with humanity. Do we grasp that corporate identification? See study "Mankind's Need, God's Provision" [pending]. See also the presentation "The Mystery of the Incarnation" (audio, slides, and outline).
Self-Emptying. Phil. 2 depicts very concisely this humbling of Christ. In this downward path to the cross we see four faces of Christ, reflected in the four standards of Israel, the four creatures around the throne, the four gospels, and the four series of sevens in Revelation. [Study is pending.]
Transformed. We see the disciples' transformation clearly outlined in the Luke 24 experience. See the study "Parallels" [pending]. See also the side path "Parallel" below.
Pentecost (last of the spring festivals). Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Wave Sheaf, and Pentecost were the four spring festivals. Two (Passover and Pentecost) were pilgrim feasts. So we see many references to "going up to Jerusalem" in relation to these feasts. [Study is pending.]
Paul. Being a learned Jew, he unfolded the story of the sacred writings with the veil removed, that is, seeing Christ in everything. He explained how Christ (His faith) manifested the righteousness of God, and was the mercy seat. Since Paul had not yet visited Rome, his letter to the church there goes into the greatest detail giving his understanding of the relation between law and gospel in intensely practical terms. Romans 1 and 2 deal with the evidences God has given of Himself in creation and in the gospel, and how unbelief reacts to both. Romans 3 introduces clearly God's faith seen in His righteousness in contrast to, and as the solution for, man's universal sinfulness. Romans 4 gives Abraham's story in light of his faith responding to God's faith expressed in His promises. Romans 5 explains what Christ has done to reverse Adam's failure. Romans 6 & 7 explain the need for us to identify with Christ as He did with us, how that death is the key to that experience, and the freedom that builds on Christ's accomplishment. Romans 8 describes the final stages of freedom, now and in the future. Explore these powerful Romans themes in these files:
"'Faith' in Romans 3-5" (God creative faith, and man's responsive faith)
"God's Reckoning" (the truthfulness of this "counting")
"The Questions of Romans" (the questions Paul raises, and his answers)
"The Healing of a Depressed and Crippled Man" (a parable on Romans 7) [pending]
"Reflections on the Law and the Gospel" (a diagram of the relation between the law and the gospel with some verses that illustrate the use of key words) [pending]
"To Will and to Do of His Good Pleasure" ("The Two Levels of Freedom in Each of These Miraculous Actions of Salvation" as described in Romans 5-8).
"Grace that is Given" (Romans 12 & 13)
Paul more than any other writer in Scripture explains the universal solution to the universal need. In addition to Romans 3-5, his explained this in 2Cor. 5. If you want to see the key to Paul's effectiveness in evangelism, study "Seven Dimensions of Grace" [pending]. Paul's explanation of Christ's position as "Saviour of all men" is perhaps best encapsulated in the phrase he uses, "in Christ." Without grasping the truths embodied in this reality, we don't know who Christ is, or who we are. Study this further in the file "In Christ" [pending]. There are a lot of side paths here!
Foundations for Recovery. Wisdom also laid her seven pillars for humanity after sin entered. In an interesting parallel to Messiah's finished work, we trace these seven principles outlined in Hebrews 6, and show their connection to the reality of the rest that the seventh-day Sabbath points. If you are interested in this side path, check out the file "The Foundations and the Sabbath."
The Nation. The United States stands in a unique position in world history. Its true strengths are it Christ-like qualities, humility and other-centeredness shown nationally in the dual liberties of civil and religious freedom. To defend these rights for others in this land, many have given their lives. But there is another spirit striving for dominance that echoes the voice of the dragon, the inventor of the lie. In all the citizens of that fair land the battle is being fought between the truth and the lie, and for the last 100 years we have been seeing a hubris building that bodes ill for those very liberties. To justify this trend, the sacred history of how those freedoms were won, and exactly what they are, is being rewritten and redefined. Nowhere are these battling spirits clearer that in the events of September 11, 2001. See reflections on these issues in "A Call to Repentance."
John. The longest lived of Christ disciples was John, who also received the longest vision on record in Scripture while exiled on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. The record of this vision is in the book of Revelation, which has amazing literary structures. But even more importantly, this book pulls together the threads of The Story from all the rest of Scripture, carrying one to the ultimate end of sin. The end-time events are most stirring to study. But observe that the backbone of the book is the sanctuary theme. If this sounds interesting, look at the little file "Overview of Revelation." An important key to understand the prophecies in this book is to see it as it is named, a revelation of Jesus Christ, more than a revelation of other powers. This will keep us from an unbiblical sectarianism which molds our view of prophecies too often. These principles are briefly discussed in the thought paper "Some Basic Keys to Understand the Prophecies in Scripture." Revelation also needs to be seen in light of Daniel's prophecies. Daniel was shown 4 world kingdoms in order, followed by judgment which brought the four kingdom to an end and introduced God's everlasting kingdom. Revelation, being written under the fourth kingdom, covers only the last portion of Daniel's overviews. John elaborates at length on the fourth kingdom (its several phases), God's people under that kingdom, many details of judgment, and finally God's kingdom. Many of these details are highlighted in "Brief Table of Bible History and Prophecy." John's view of the great controversy is included in a brief preview of 14 lessons dealing with the great controversy, the coded messages of prophecy, and the current wrap-up judgment in progress (with references to "Kingdom Overview" and "Brief Table of Bible Prophecy and History"), "Preview of The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment" (audio and outline).
Parallel. The experience of Christ's disciples and that of the Advent Movement parallel each other in multiple ways. Even in the contrasts that exist the parallel is strengthened. These similarities are rooted in Daniel's prophecies and God's purposes and goals expressed therein. To examine these identity-building studies, see the files "Parallels" [pending], "Thoughts on Praying for the Latter Rain and Revival," and "'In One Accord'--Parallels of Pentecost" (audio and handout; part 2 of 4-part series on the Holy Spirit and Latter Rain).
Last Messages. The Advent Movement has been compared to John the Baptist, commissioned to prepare people for the coming of Messiah. John was called a messenger ("angel" in the Greek). So Adventism is pictured as angels with messages. There are four in Revelation (3 in chapter 14, and 1 in chapter 18). These were initiated based on the time prophecy of Daniel 8. Interspersed between the second and third, and the third and fourth were two other messages, these especially for the messengers themselves. First was the parable Christ gave to instruct His people looking for His return, the Matthew 25 story of the 10 virgins. One can be a virgin spiritually, and still be foolish and miss the marriage. Identifying also with the last of God's church on earth, the movement sees the testimony of the True Witness in the last portion of Revelation 3 especially applying to its messengers. These six messages are of utmost importance, their content and the history of their initiation being the foundation of the identity of the Advent Movement. They are extremely fruitful areas of study and proclamation. They follow the same 3-fold judgment pattern seen from Gen. 3. They are cumulative in nature, with the later messages joining those that went before which also continue. The dates when these messages first came to the front in Adventist history are as follows:
First Angel's Message (Rev. 14-6, 7): 1831
Second Angel's Message (Rev. 14:8): 1844
Midnight Cry (Matt. 25:1-13): 1844
Third Angel's Message (Rev. 14:9-12): 1844
Laodicean Message (Rev. 3:14-22): 1852
Loud Cry (Rev. 18:1-8): 1888 [This is often called the 1888 Message, and at times, the Minneapolis Message, after the city where the meetings were held that gave a strong voice to this message.]
On this side path you can choose from the following:
"The Cross of Christ and the Everlasting Kingdom in Daniel" (a study of the 1888 Message in light of the cross and the kingdom prophecies of Daniel; audio file also available)
"The Cross of Christ and the Mystery of God in Revelation" (a study of the 1888 Message in light of the cross and the mystery of God mentioned in Revelation; audio file also available)
"The Last Message of Mercy" (a compilation of an 8-part series on this topic)
"'Stand By the Old Landmarks'" (a study of the Bible landmark truths contained in the final messages)
"Threads from the Past" (an short audio file reviewing the history covered in the "Brief Timeline 1831 to 1910")
"Who Shall Be Able to Stand?" (the first part of which deals with the messages in their order)
"A Second Look at the Importance of the Adventist Pioneers" (a four part series of studies published in the periodical Lest We Forget by the Adventist Pioneer Library)
"Brief Timeline 1831 to 1910" (a timeline covering the events in the series "A Second Look at the Importance of the Adventist Pioneers")
"Brief Table of Bible History and Prophecy" (a tabloid -sized table spanning all of earth history, outlined mostly on the prophecies and the sanctuary theme, showing Adventism's place in the final Judgment, with the 4 messages for the world)
"Preview of The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment" (audio and outline giving a brief preview of 14 lessons dealing with the great controversy, the coded messages of prophecy, and the current wrap-up judgment in progress)
"'Together Unbroken'--Lessons from SDA History" (4-part slide program that is available in PDF files of the slides, movies of the slides with the audio of the presentations embedded, and audio files of the presentations)
"Wrath in the Context of Law: A Suggested Overview" (understanding wrath in the third angel's message in light of the cross) [pending]
"The Past Message and the Fresh Message; Why Study the 1888 Message" (how the message that came in the 1880s and 1890s was the last of the six messages) [pending]
"What Was the 1888 Message?" (Ellen White's descriptions of the message) [pending]
"Timeline for Events Relating to Minneapolis and 1888" (large working file of dates related to the events around the 1888 Conference)
See also the side path "Delay" below for more related studies.
Transition. How does God get people ready for the end of all we are accustomed to in terms of this world's systems? If you would like to consider some of the issues involved in this awesome question, see the file "Thy Kingdom Come."
Day of Atonement (second of fall festivals). The fall festivals are Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles (the third pilgrim feast). In studying Daniel's prophecies, the Advent people found that the cleansing (restoration, vindication) of the sanctuary mentioned in Dan. 8:14 paralleled the judgment and setting up of God's kingdom in the other passages. So they understood their mission to announce this coming judgment as the time approached. Not until the date passed and Christ had not come to earth as they expected were they led to study more into the sanctuary service and discover the lessons of the Day of Atonement, centered in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and initiated by the coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of Days at the beginning of the judgment, as Daniel 7 pictured. So they began to understand the multiple Bible metaphors for what is to happen in this preparatory time. The events now in God's plan after the Son of man came to Him are of utmost significance. Many, even within Adventism, are missing this coming. What does it mean to follow Christ by faith into the Most Holy Place? See these files:
This final, global perspective is also developed in "The Cleansing from Self-Gadal." The judgment and time aspects are covered in "Judgment in Daniel 7: The 'till' Event" and "Kingdom, Judgment, Comings: Where are We?" William Miller's dream of this process, with the interpretation given by James White and others is covered in "William Miller's Dream." Miller's poem from December 1845, and 2 other poems written by others in response to his dream are presented, along with "The Overview of the Advent Movement" in "William Miller's Poem 1845 and others Related His Dream 1847; Overview of the Advent Movement." A review of chapter 24 in The Great Controversy considers the significance of those themes in relation to the Advent Movement. An in-depth study of how Ellen White describes the activities of the antitypical Day of Atonement, and its place in salvation history. The danger of not grasping what is happening (not being "Second Adventists" any better than the Jews were "First Adventists") is addressed in "Missing the Coming" [pending].
Delay. What precedent is there to a delay in God's plans? Consider Israel's experience after the 12 spies checked out the Promised Land. The history of the Advent Movement, seen through God's eyes, numerical growth notwithstanding, tells a story of heart-rending slowness and multi-generation delays. The special attack of the Devil that has accomplished this included, in the midst of accepting and proclaiming some of the final landmark truths, a rejection of other core ones. Most specifically the faith of Jesus has been neglected and resisted. This history is addressed in the fourth part of the five-part series, "The Faith of Jesus." You will find other considerations of understanding this delay in the files "Need to Retell and Reprint" (as time is prolonged and new generations arise, the old stories need to be kept in mind); "'Stand By the Old Landmarks'" (advancing time and technology do not change old truths; but what one is especially elusive?). See also the six issues of Lest We Forget which review the history, explain the delay, and affirm the landmarks. (The Adventist Pioneer Library's website of its periodical allows you to download these issues. Look for Vol. 11, No. 1 through Vol. 12, Nol. 2.) This delay has been caused by not entering into what God is doing, as described in "Missing the Coming" [pending]. The devil's counter attack also includes various spiritualistic philosophies echoing Eastern mysticism and Greek dualism. Carsten Johnsen has valiantly addresses these issues in his books (The Maligned God, The Mystic Omega of Endtime Crisis, etc.). Explore some of these concepts in "Thoughts on Materialism, Spiritualism, Pantheism, and Realism" [pending]. Some of the theological implications are covered in the file "Sola Fide" [pending].
Everlasting Covenant at the End. Each of the messages that comprise the last message of mercy express dimensions of the everlasting covenant. See a study of this theme, "The New Covenant and the Third Angel's Message."
Last Warfare. The armor includes (Eph. 6:14) the loins being girt with truth. The creative faculties of our spiritual dimension must be carefully bound by what is true, seen or unseen. Thus we avoid the damage from the make believe. If you want to explore this testing topic, check out the file "Thoughts on Dramatic Presentations." The armor also has the breastplate of righteousness, defined as faith and love (1 Thes. 5:8). So we have a special need of this gold tried in the fire. See the studies on this currency of heaven (see Gold above), on God's faith and the gospel, righteousness by faith (see Paul above).
Counterfeit Spirits. From false prophets pictured on a national scale (see Nation above), to the spirits of devils on a global scale (Rev. 16:13, 14), the human race faces Satanic delusions on a scale never seen before. Even people devoted to God may lack His Spirit in vital ways (Matt. 25:8-12). If we ask for God's Spirit, how can we know the spirit that comes is His? We have been promised His Spirit in unprecedented power at the end. We desperately need Him. The term "latter rain" is an agricultural term from Palestine that refers in a salvation sense to the end of time and the outpouring of God's Spirit that brings the harvest of the earth to full ripeness. To consider these issues, see the files, "Thoughts on Praying for the Latter Rain and Revival," "Genuine" [pending], and the 4-part series on the Holy Spirit and the Latter Rain ("'Testify of Me'--Passion of Pentecost," "'In One Accord'--Parallels of Pentecost," "'Oil in Their Vessels'--Light in Darkness, Rain in Drought," "'Make It Plain'--Rain Resisted, But Returning" (audio and handouts).
Identity at the End. This is how one endures at the end, by keeping the identity provided by the law and the gospel together. We need them both, inseparably connected. Consider more on this in the file "Meditations on Rev. 14:12."
His Story. The word "history" is derived as follows:
From GCIDE [see http://www.ibiblio.org/webster/] L. "historia," Gr. "'istoreo": a history, information, inquiry, fr. 'istwr, "istwr, knowing, learned, from the root of "to know"; akin to E. "wit."
From Thayer's Greek Lexicon (Online Bible):
2477 historeo his-tor-eh'-o (verb)
KJV - one occurrence
1) to enquire into, examine, investigate
2) to find out, learn, by enquiry
3) to gain knowledge of by visiting
3a) of some distinguished person, to become personally acquainted with, know face to face
Only use of this Greek verb in Scripture:
Gal. 1:18 "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days."
May we gain knowledge by visiting the One Peter revealed to Paul, "The Christ, the Son of the Living God," the Rock on which all rests. May we become personally acquainted with Him, and know Him face to face, so when He comes, we will recognize Him and He, us. May our enquiry, our examination, our investigation have allowed His story, His opening of His books, to have accomplished all this for us!
Yahweh our God, other lords besides You have had dominion over us;
but by You only will we make mention of Your name. (Isa. 26:13; WEB)
To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. (Rom. 16:27)
Soli Deo Gloria!