John the Baptist: Preparing the Way for Jesus

Scripture: Matthew 11:11, Luke 1:1-80, Luke 3:10-15
Date: 07/19/2008 
Lesson: 3
The mission of John the Baptist was to prepare the people to receive Christ. God's end-time people have a similar mission before Christ's return.
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Good morning. Happy Sabbath and welcome to another "central study hour" coming to you from the Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church here in Sacramento California. We'd like to welcome you. We're so glad that you're tuning in whether you're a regular joining us every week or this is your first time, welcome. I'd like to, of course, remember those of you who are listening on the radio, I don't want to forget you, or watching live on the internet this morning at saccentral.

org or watching 3 weeks delayed on the various television networks, welcome. Let's turn in our hymnals, those of us that are here. And those of you who are at home, pull out your hymnals, and we'll turn to number 500. "Take time to be holy" is our first request this morning, and it comes from sharon robinson in Kingston, jamaica. So all the way in jamaica, Happy Sabbath to everyone who's watching, 500, verses 1, 2, and 4.

Thank you so much for that song request. And you're probably wondering who's the new face up at the front. Well, it's emily larson who is a visitor and she's come all the way from loma linda. And so she was a very willing, not victim, but participant this morning to help and we really appreciate that. Our opening song is number 100, "great is thy faithfulness.

" This is from pharry in australia and tracy also in australia. Judith in grenada. Sharonette in jamaica. Hiaset in india. Harry in indonesia.

Jayan in norway. Manny in the Philippines. Yolanda in saint kitts and nevis. Wilson in kenya. Raleigh in California.

Ardina in California. Bayati in Massachusetts. Joanne in New York. Abel in puerto rico and janice in Maryland. And janice is 8 years old and she likes this song because God is great.

So we're gonna sing 100, all three verses. Father in Heaven, you are faithful to us. You are great. And we thank you for the blessings that you shower down upon us every single day for just giving us life and health and strength, for letting us be here this morning. We just thank you so much for that privilege that we have to be together to worship you in your house.

I pray that you'll be with those who aren't here. Those who are joining us from across the country and around the world, that you'll be with them as they study with us this morning. And, of course, be with our speaker as he brings us the lesson study this morning. In Jesus' Name, amen. At this time our lesson study is going to be brought to us by our youth pastor here at central church, pastor steve allred.

Welcome to "central study hour." Today our free offer is number 770. It's entitled "a voice in the wilderness." You can call our number -866-788-3966 For offer number 770, "a voice in the wilderness." A year or two ago, I found a book at a, I think it was a used book store. It's called "good to great." The book basically profiles a number of companies that went from being good companies to becoming extra good companies or great companies. One concept that jim collins and his team concluded was something that made these companies great was something he calls the hedgehog concept. Let me tell you a little bit about this concept.

He talks first of all about Isaiah berlin's famous essay, "the hedgehog and the fox." You may have read this before. And in this essay, Isaiah berlin divides the world into two kinds of people, hedgehogs and foxes. And he based it on the ancient Greek parable that said this, "the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing." And he goes on to say, "the fox is a cunning creature able to devise a myriad of complex strategies for sneak attacks upon the hedgehog. Day in and day out, the fox circles around the hedgehog then waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. Fast, sleek, beautiful, fleet of foot and crafty, the fox looks like the sure winner.

The hedgehog, on the other hand, is a doughtier creature. He waddles along going about his simple ways, searching for lunch and taking care of his home." Jim collins goes on here he says, "the hedgehog minding his own business, wanders right into the path of the fox. He leaps out bounding across the ground, lightning fast. The little hedgehog, sensing danger, looks up and says, 'oh, no, here we go again. Will he ever learn?' Rolling up into a perfect little ball, the hedgehog becomes a sphere of sharp spikes pointing outward in all directions.

The fox, bounding toward his prey, sees the hedgehog and begins to calculate a new line of attack. Each day, some version of this battle between the hedgehog and the fox takes place. And despite the greater cunning of the fox, the hedgehog always wins." You know it's interesting because the companies that went from being just kind of your mediocre, or even your very-- what were considered good companies to becoming the best were the companies that did what the hedgehog did. And so as I was looking at our lesson this week it took my mind back to this book, "good to great." It took my mind back to this concept of people who realize that their mission in life is to do one thing and do it very well. These companies that realize that their purpose was to be something, and they knew what that something was and they decided to do that with the most fanatical consistency.

And I happen to believe, and I think you would agree with me, that God has called a certain people at the end of time to do something very well. Do you agree with that? He's called a certain people at the end of time to sound a message and to make that message the purpose of their existence, the purpose of their calling. Look back in history, and we see some people who we could say specialized in messages at different times. I think of one such person, his name was Noah. Remember him? Yeah, what was his message? It was that "hey, you know what? There's a flood coming.

I'm building a boat and if you want to get inside, come on in, right?" That was his message. And he preached it for how long? A hundred twenty years, just that message. That's pretty deep. So another person, Elijah, think of him and Israel. In fact we'll talk a little bit about him today.

A person who specialized his message to Israel was simply repent, right? And then there was the dramatic showdown, if you want to call it that, there on Mount Carmel. And then, of course, we think of John the baptist. His message, very interestingly as we talk about him today in our lesson, was simply that he was the forerunner for who? The Messiah, right? Jesus. That was his message. Again, fast forwarding to 2008.

Seventh day adventists, I believe, have been called with a special message for the people of our world. It doesn't mean that we're any better than anyone else, does it? In fact there are a lot of people out there that are probably better than us. It doesn't mean that we're the most qualified necessarily either, but it simply means that God has given us a life or death message. It doesn't mean that other Christians aren't going to heaven either. Isn't doesn't mean that they don't have some things figured out that we don't.

But it means that there's a certain message that God has given us that's special and that we're supposed to be telling this message to the world. And so today we're gonna open up our lesson. And if you brought your quarterly with you, here at central we're going to check out lesson number 3, "John the baptist: preparing the way for Jesus." Called before his birth, John the baptist was a special prophet. In fact, Jesus in Matthew 11:11 which is there in our memory verse, he said, I tell you the truth. Among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than who? This guy is the greatest prophet there ever was.

And so Jesus praised him more than he praised any other person. There were others in history who were also called before birth. Who were some that we can think of? Samson. Thank you. Samson was called before his birth.

The angels said, and we'll talk about him a little bit later actually, that his mission was going to be to start delivering Israel from the philistines. That was what was predicted of Samson. Samuel, another example of someone who was, in a sense, he had a calling before birth. Isaiah, as well was called before his birth. Another one that wasn't in the lesson is a certain pagan king, what was his name? Cyrus, right? Remember God, actually in the book of Isaiah, I think it's chapter, what? Forty-nine or something there.

Predicted that he would deliver Israel from Babylon. And so he was called before his birth. Jeremiah, another one who was called. And, of course, Jesus we know had his birth predicted in the mission as well given to him. Okay, let's go to Luke 1.

Let's actually look. And in the lesson, they ask the question here about Luke 1. They said, okay, so some things were predicted about him before he was born. What were those things and did he actually fulfill them? So let's look at Luke 1. I was looking through and as you read through Luke 1, it's actually a very long chapter, isn't it? Eighty verses, kind of cool.

I like that. The first prediction, if you want to call it that, that I found about his birth was in verse 15. So here's what it says, the angel standing there at the altar standing there talking to zacharias, his father said, "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor. And we will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb." And so in a sense this is a prediction, right? He's going to be filled with the Holy Spirit, just even before he's born. And not only that but it says, he will drink no what? Wine or liquor or strong drink.

And whether this was more of a command to his mother to say, "you know, don't feed him this stuff." Or if it was saying he's not going to, I think we can probably say that it was both in a way, right? Verse 16, look what it says, another prediction. "And he will turn many of The Sons of Israel back to the Lord their God." Going on verse 17, another prediction, "it is he who will go as a forerunner before him." Speaking of the Messiah or the Lord their God. "In the Spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of The Fathers back to the children and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous." Look at this, so as to make ready a people, what? Prepared for the Lord. Going down to verse 76, we see some more predictions here of this child that was to be born to zacharias and elizabeth whose name was John. Verse 76, look what it says, this is actually zacharias, right? After the child is born he says, "the new child will be called the prophet of the most high for you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways.

" We've read that already. Verse 77, "to give to his people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins." Now before we can find out whether or not these predictions were actually fulfilled in the life of John the baptist, the lesson jumps ahead to Matthew 14. If you want to turn there, the story is told of John's death. In a way, as you read through the story of the life of John the baptist, the word that comes to me, the thought that comes up in my mind is what a waste, right? Here's a guy who I mean spent his whole life in the wilderness preparing for a mission, and he spends maybe a few months, maybe a year or two at the most, fulfilling this mission. And then he's thrown in jail, and the next thing we hear about him is that he is executed.

And so we look at the story, the story is, of course, you know the story, herod, the King, kind of a party boy king, right? Not only that but he was very wicked and foolish and apparently cruel as well. And so here he is, he's having a party. It's his birthday. His wife's daughter comes in and dances, and they're drunk. And he tells her, "hey, I'm gonna give you whatever you want.

" So she says, "all right, just a second." Goes and talks to her mom. And the mom says, "hey, this is my opportunity. To get the guy who's been telling my husband that he shouldn't have married me." 'Cause see, this was his brother's wife, his former sister-in-law that he now is married to. And so she goes and tells her daughter. She says, "tell your father-- tell my husband rather, to give you on a platter the head of John the baptist.

" How sad. And look what it says in verse 9, it says, "although he was grieved," speaking of herod, "the King commanded it to be given because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests." So many things we can talk about here in this story. I think Ellen white says that if one of the dinner guests had raised an objection, that it would have saved John the baptist's life. Obviously if herod himself weren't so proud he could have done that himself. And just such a waste, you think about it, his life.

And so it says in verse 10, "he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought on a platter and given to the girl and she brought it to her mother." And, of course, it says the disciples came and buried his body and then told Jesus. Why did God let this happen? Why did God let the prophet that Jesus himself said was the greatest of all prophets die in such a humiliating and shameful way? Let's ask this question: did John's life fulfill the predictions that were made of him that we just read? Did they? He did go before Jesus and he prepared the way. And you know you think about it, he accomplished what God had said he was going to accomplish, right? Even though his life was so short and his actual ministry itself was extremely short. But by most standards even back then and today, John's life and death, a lesson pointed out, would not have made him someone the world would call successful, right? I mean, you know, you go to school all your life and you work for a few months and then you die.

Is that success? That's pretty much what happened with John, right? And they asked the question in the lesson, two questions I wanted to throw out to us, what should that tell us about the difference between God's ideals and the world's? And are our standards of success more like God's or more like the world's? You know if you think about it, God as he looked at this life, it was a short life. And yet, God knew that John was going to spend eternity in heaven, right? He was gonna spend eternity with him. And eternity is so much greater than the little speck that we on the timeline of the universe that we call life, right? And so as God looks at the big picture, he realized that you know, to the world, this didn't look like it was the most successful life, but John accomplished what God had called him to accomplish. And yet, let's go on to Monday's lesson. I thought this was an interesting question that they asked.

"As we say this, do we mean to say that we are somehow just pawns in the hand of God?" That God says, "you know, I've got a purpose for you and this is what I created you to do, and you're going to just do what I tell you to do." Or do we have choice in the matter? Now, this has been a big debate, and we're not going to solve it or even try to solve it here today, right? Because this debate has gone on for centuries, ever since-- probably before the time of Christ, but definitely after that. So predictions were made about John. He would accomplish this and this and this in his life. Did John have any choice other than to do what God predicted? What do you think? Did he? Okay. Well, then would God's Word have been proved wrong if John had done something different? Kind of a hard question to answer in a way.

But yet as we look at the Bible, I thought of one example. Someone named him earlier, who God had predicted something about his life as well, Samson. Remember Samson? You read the story of Samson and boy, it's a way not to live life, right? You look at his life, and you realize that he's a good example of what we shouldn't do in some ways. But if you look, let's go back, Judges 13, I want to show you the actual words of the angel there. Judges 13:5.

Okay. I'm in Joshua. Hold on here really quick. Here we go. Okay so the angel shows up to maNoah and his wife there and look what it says, verse 5.

"For behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, no razor should come upon his head for the boy shall be a nazarite to God from the womb." And she shall what? "He shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the philistines." That was the prediction that was made about Samson. Now if you read the story of Samson's life, it seems like from the beginning he kind of decided he wanted to do something different than what the angel had said he was going to do with his life. Different than the plan that God had for him, right? I mean every time you turn around he's like, "hey, mom and dad, I want to do this." And they're like, "no, no, you shouldn't do that." And he does it. You know and it's just like how stupid could you be, right? Sometimes? But yet he does it, but it's interesting. And I think this is how God works with people.

God doesn't force us, does he? I think the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden is a classic example of how God deals with humanity. He gives us a choice, isn't that right? And so you have Samson who had a calling in his life. God had a plan for him. It was a great plan. What would Samson's life had been like if he had chosen to follow God's plan? I guess we'll never know.

But in spite of his waywardness. In spite of going off of the path that God had set for him. In the end, it's interesting how Samson came around and actually did fulfill God's plan for his life, didn't he? And so whether it's the way that God brings about circumstances to kind of strongly influence people to do his will or whether that's just the way circumstances work out because of God's overruling providence, somehow I believe that God can fulfill his plan even when we choose otherwise. Well, it's a complex topic. But I think Samson's an example of someone who kept choosing to go astray from God's plan for his life.

In the end, God preserved his life long enough for him to choose to step back onto the path that God had made for him. So how about us? Do we know the plan, do you know the plan that God has for your life and are you choosing to follow that? So John, he needed preparation for his work. And in Luke 1, if you want to look back there with us, Luke 1:15. The Bible says that these are some of the preparation, different aspects of preparation that God went about to get him ready to do his-- fulfill his purpose in life. Luke 1:15, what does it say? "He will be great, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

" I think that was probably the most significant part of the preparation that John experienced, don't you? Now going on in verse 80 of Luke 1, what does it say? And the child continued to grow and to become what? "Strong in spirit." What does that mean? Strong in spirit. What is the Spirit? It can be, you know, speaking of our mind, can't it? Kind of the internal fortitude that a person has, right? He became strong in spirit. You think about that. In order to do what John did, he's out there standing on the river. He was kind of weird, wasn't he? I mean how many people do you know that live in the wilderness and then come out? And I guess they would attract a crowd, right, I mean if-- hey, this guy who's been a hermit all his life is out preaching by the river.

But he's out there by the river, he's preaching, and he's telling people stuff like, "you guys are a bunch of snakes and vipers." That was not a compliment. We're so used to some of the things that he said that it just sounds kind of like normal, right? But he wasn't complimenting these people. He's like, "you guys are a bunch of hypocrites." And he even rebuked the roman soldiers, by the way, who were pretty powerful, right? And could have had him arrested or locked up. And he would tell them that they needed to quit, you know, ripping people off and extorting people and being violent. And so John was a very unique individual.

But it says that he became strong in spirit. And he had to be, didn't he? To do the job that God had called him to do. Verse 80 last part, it says, "and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel." In Luke 3:2 if you go down to the next couple of chapters up there it says that here's what happened. Preparation for his work now we're looking at here. It says, "in the 15th year," verse 1, "of tiberias caesar.

In the high priesthood of annas and caiaphas, the Word of God came to John The Son of zacharias in the wilderness." Would you agree that perhaps this is another part of the preparation he received? The word of the Lord came to him. The lesson pointed out that he lived in the wilderness. What's in the wilderness? Not much, right? Especially, have you been over to palestine before, seen pictures over there? And it might have been a little bit nicer back then, but it probably wasn't too much prettier. So he was living out in these desolate areas, and it was arid and dry and there was nothing out there. And he spent most of his life there but believe it or not, there were a lot fewer distractions out there, right, then elsewhere.

And he was probably able to spend time undistracted, uninterrupted time with God in prayer, isn't that right? And spending time in reflection, in communion, in Bible study. The lesson I like what they asked. They said, "how about us? How often do we pray? How often do we spend time in the word?" Do we sometimes in our hectic lives, in our culture that values busyness over quality of life, do you think that perhaps some of us could use a time in the wilderness as well? And Jesus, look at this actually, Luke 21, I want to share a verse with us today here. Luke 21, times in the wilderness. Do we need that today with our busy, busy lives? Jesus said, "be on guard, be careful.

" Luke 21:34, so that your hearts will not be what? Overcharged. And that really means, I think the common vernacular is stressed out. Stressed out. Little kids are stressed out today, you know that? I work with youth a lot. That's my job.

And I see these kids and some of them are stressed out. They're stretched to the limit. All this homework and different things they've got going on in their lives. And I know there's a balance there obviously, but it's interesting that we even do this with our kids. It says, "be on guard that your heart will not become weighted down or overcharged with some things that aren't good, dissipation, drunkenness and also the worries of life," right? "And that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap.

" Add so I think we ought to be considering here what John the baptist did to take time away from our lives to retreat and spend time with God. Jesus said in Luke 17 that just like it was in the days before the flood and in the days before sodom and gomorrah were destroyed. It would be like that before he comes back. People would be doing all sorts of things, busy with life, distracted perhaps with even good things. Okay, going on to Tuesday's lesson.

In our quarterly, we find here that the angel prophesied. Actually let's see, back in Luke 1:17, we read it earlier that John the baptist would go before the Messiah in the Spirit and power of who? Of Elijah. Elsewhere, Jesus said, in fact let's look at it. Matthew 11:14. Matthew 11:14, Jesus said that John the baptist was actually the fulfillment of a prophecy that said Elijah would come back.

Look at what it says Matthew 11:14. It says, "and if you were willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come." Interesting. Elsewhere in chapter 17 of Matthew verses 11-13 as well. Let's see it says something similar here. It says that "Elijah is coming and will restore all things.

But I say to you that Elijah already came, and they didn't recognize him but did to him whatever they wished." And then he said, "so also The Son of man is going to suffer." And so who was Elijah? Let's ask that question. Let's kind of sum it up. We know probably the story of Elijah, who was he? First of all he was-- what was his job? Prophet, okay. He lived back in a time when Israel was exceptionally faithful or unfaithful to God? Unfaithful. the King who was reigning at the time, I believe part of his ministry was ahab, very wicked king.

So Israel was in apostasy not doing that well. What's something else we know about him? What was his message? It was pretty simple in a way, he came first of all to ahab and he said, "listen, there's not going to be rain or dew. Basically everything's going to die. There's gonna be a famine until I say so," and he walks out. And for 3 1/2 years there's no rain.

Everything dies. People are getting desperate. And he comes back and he says to--he meets king ahab and he says--of course, ahab says to him, "you're the troubler of Israel." He says, no, it's not me, it's you because, you have what? Forsaken the commandments of who? Of God. It's interesting. He's like, "this is why you have problems is because you have forsaken God's commands.

" And then look what happens next. He says, "so, go ahead and let's get everybody together and we're gonna go to Mount Carmel," right? Okay. So they get to Mount Carmel, and what happens there? He's like today we're gonna have something that's going to be very clear. There's going to be a choice between God and this false God over here, right? And that's the ministry of Elijah right there in a nutshell. The test on Mount Carmel was a public message.

It was a public calling of people to a decision. And it was, in a way, a watershed moment in the Bible. It was something that even the new testament in Revelation refers back to many times, this Mount Carmel experience. Ellen white in one of her comments, and they've actually recorded this in the fourth Bible commentary, notes that we have been called to be Elijah at the end of time. We being seventh day adventists.

And she says that our message is simple and here's what it is, it's prepare to meet God. That's what it is. It's very simple. And so today I thought we could look at the message that is the Elijah message that we could sum up in those words, "prepare to meet your God." But it's found in Revelation 14. I thought we could take a few minutes here to ask ourselves what this message is all about, what it actually is.

Let's look at it for a moment here. Revelation 14, starting in verse 6. We jump into the middle of this chapter. John is in vision. He sees an angel.

It says, "and I saw another angel flying in mid heaven having," what? To preach to? Everybody. Look at this, this is really-- I think it tells us right at the beginning what this is all about. The first part of this message is what? The Gospel. What is Gospel? That means good news, right? We can find elsewhere Paul said that it is the power of God to, what? Save people, right? Romans 1:16. So an angel flying in heaven having this Gospel to preach to who? Everybody.

Nations, kindreds, tongues, people, everybody. It's not to one nation or country or ethnic group, but to the whole world. It's a worldwide message. Here's what it is, verse 7, "fear God," and what? "Give him glory because the hour of his judgment has come," or is come. Okay, has come is come.

"Worship him who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and springs of waters." Now it's interesting because there's no other church out in this world that actually believes, at least not any church that I know of, that there is a pre-advent judgment. In other words, a judgment that has come or is come prior to the second coming. And seventh day adventists are unique in that respect because we believe that before Jesus comes back that he's going to actually--the Bible says in Daniel 7, "the books will be open. The judgment is set." And there's a form of investigation, if you want to call it that, that goes on. And so here's the message: fear God.

And if you look back in, of course, Ecclesiastes 12, what does it say? To fear God is to keep his commandments, verse 14. Ecclesiastes 12:14, "give him glory." There's so many things that we can extrapolate from that little phrase. But Jesus said if you let your light so shine before men that they may, what? See your good works. And do what? Glorify God. So what we do, how we live our lives actually matters.

That's a message that we as seventh day adventists can tell to the world, how we live makes a difference. The hour of judgment has come. And look at this last part. "Worship him who made," what? "The heavens and the earth and the sea and the springs of water." That little phrase is almost a direction quotation from where? Exodus 20:8 which is the fourth commandment, right? It says, "remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor.

" And it says later on, for in it God rested--or because he--okay, I gotta go back there. You know what it says. I know the Ten Commandments here, let's see here. Oh, here it is. "For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that in them is and rested on the seventh day.

" Okay, so interesting that the end of time, check this out, a message specifically pointing people back to the fourth commandment. And if we look around the world today again, not that seventh day adventists are any better than anybody else, but it's just a fact that most of the Christian world today has forgotten the one commandment that God said to remember. Isn't that right? And so at the end of time here's this message saying, "hey, don't forget that if you really want to worship me," God says, "worship me in the way that I've asked you to. Give me the worship that I've asked of you which is on a day that I set aside just for us. It's the day I made special.

It's holy." God isn't doing it just 'cause he's the kind of God who likes to tell us what to do. I think there's something pretty cool about the fact that God wants to spend a whole 24 hours with us. And in this message at the end of time it's all about a relationship with God. It's about calling people back to real worship here. Okay, going on verse 8.

This is the continuation of this message. Another angel, a second one followed saying, "fallen, fallen is Babylon." By the way, okay, Babylon fell a long time ago. Can you find Babylon today on the map? I guess you probably could find the ruins of Babylon, right? It's somewhere over there in modern-day iraq. But as we look in the new testament, we're not talking about literal Babylon, but what? Spiritual Babylon or it's a symbol of something, right? And so I always ask the question, all right, so how in the Bible do we find an explanation for this? We go back to the old testament. We find the first reference to Babylon was where? The very beginning of time.

Genesis chapter, what? Eleven, where we find the tower of babel on the plain of shinar, the same exact place where a lot of other things happened in the Bible, this tower being built. Just to summarize it, the tower was built out of what? What was the material that was used? Kind of interesting. You know what it says? It says they used bricks instead of stone. Interesting. It notes that in the Bible.

I think that's significant. Okay, bricks instead of stone. It says the reason they built the tower was why? They wanted to reach heaven. And the reason they wanted to reach heaven was because of what? Because of a flood. And it really basically goes back to that they didn't believe that God would actually do what he said, right? God said, "I'm not gonna destroy the earth again by water.

" They said, "oh yeah, I think he might. Let's build a tower to heaven," right? That's really the reason. In fact that's what it said. So they said, "all right, we're gonna build a tower to reach heaven. The reason why is because we don't think God will keep His Word," right? And again, where were they trying to reach? Heaven.

So I think you put all those things together and you see, you know what? Babylon has been around for a long time. It really just sums up anything that's not following Jesus. Any way to heaven other than Jesus, right? Any manmade way, bricks instead of stones. Stones in the Bible oftentimes represent what God does. Bricks, I guess, can represent what people build instead of what God does.

A manmade way to heaven that doesn't follow or trust what God has said. Very interesting, and that's Babylon. And by the way, you don't have to be in another church, we don't have to have our membership elsewhere to be in Babylon. It's in our minds, isn't that right? And so let's not get too smug thinking that we're better than somebody else here. So it says, "Babylon is fallen because she made all nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.

" This, I think, kind of alludes to a mixture of religion, false religion and the nations, church and state. She's making the nations drink of her wine because later on in Revelation we find Babylon is a church in Revelation 17, a woman riding a beast. So a mixture of church and state, this false religion. Verse 9, "then another angel, a third one, followed saying with a loud voice--" boy, this is pretty serious. Look at this, "if anyone worships the beast--" that's the one in chapter 13 you've read about there.

"And his image--" also in chapter 13-- "and receives a Mark in their forehead or their hands, they are going to drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is mixed full strength in his cup of anger. He will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the angels and the presence of the lamb." I want to read verses 11-12. It says, "and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest day and night. Those who worship the beast and his image and whoever receives the Mark of his name." This is the last part of the message, verse 12. "Here is the perseverance or the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus," or have the faith of Jesus.

So here's a message. It's a solemn message. Some of it's kind of scary, right? I mean that last part there, I don't know about you but a little uncomfortable sounding. But that's the message that God has given this church to tell the world. And as I looked at this, the lesson asked the question, okay, so you read this and where do you see warnings as well as hope mingled together? Do you see both in this passage? Yes.

It's not just God sitting there and beating people over the head, is it? It's not about God saying, "all right, I want you to go out and tell the world that they are on the fast track to the warm place," right? 'Cause I have a friend who refers to this place here that says their smoke goes up forever and ever. In fact it is a message of hope as well. It's a message of life or death. And I think that it's a message, you guys, that we as Christians, as adventists are privileged to have. Would you agree? All right.

Let's see, I have one more question as we look at this message here and that is, how is the Gospel central to this message? How is the Gospel central to a message that says if you worship the beast, you are going to be tormented with fire and brimstone? Where is the Gospel there? Where is it? And you know it's interesting, it talks about the faith of Jesus. There is one part that we can see the Gospel, right? I think there's something else. I remember I used to read this and thought, man, where is the Gospel? I can't find it here. First of all it says that in the very beginning, there is the everlasting Gospel. But even in the message itself, this is the part that jumps out at me.

It says, "those who receive this Mark will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, poured out into his cup." And as we look back in the Bible, we see one other person who has also had a drink. In fact he's drunk the wine of the wrath of God. That cup he has drained to its very dregs, right? And that person is who? It's Jesus. And he did it so that nobody would ever have to drink from that cup if they chose to not drink from that cup. And I think that's the message that we can tell the world is that, you know what? No one has to receive the Mark of the beast, right? No one needs to not go to heaven.

In fact, God wants everybody to go to heaven. That's the point. And that's the Gospel right there, folks, is that God wants to save people at the end of time. The interesting thing about the end of time, before we move on here, is that at the end of time, unlike any other time in history, at the end of time, everyone on earth will know the difference between what God wants and what satan is offering them. Now right now there are probably many groups.

Not everyone is divided into those two groups, but at the end of time, those will be the only two groups. And I think that's the significant thing about the message of Revelation that we can give people hope. So Wednesday goes on to talk about John the baptist, his mission, his message. And just like we have been given a message, John had a message. His message was very simple as well, and what was it? Okay, exactly.

Matthew 3:2, let's just look at it really quick. What did it say? Matthew 3:2, "now in those days," verse 1, "John the baptist came preaching and saying," verse 2, "repent--" one word-- "for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." The word "repent" says the lesson brought out means to change one's thinking about something. I like what they said. They said, "when John says repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near, he is telling the people that the Kingdom of heaven requires a totally new outlook. In other words, in preparing the people for Jesus' arrival, in preparing the way for the Lord and making straight paths for him, John was challenging the people to change their world view and how they live.

As we kind of wind things up today, I wanted to look at the message that John preached in addition to this. Go to Luke 3, and I think this is very interesting. It's very significant. As Christians who believe in prophecies about the end of time, I remember as a kid, I heard all about Jesus coming back and thought man, what does that mean? What are you supposed to do? Do you sit around and like try to be holy so that you don't sin until he comes back? You know, what does it mean? Does it mean I sit and study my Bible all the time? Am I a hermit in a cave? Is that what it means to be ready for Jesus to come? Well, there should be some of that stuff happening, right? Spending time in the word and praying, having our wilderness experience. But there's something more practical.

It's interesting 'cause John the baptist lived out in the wilderness. And it's interesting that Ellen white notes that he didn't call other people though to go and do the same thing, necessarily, as far as a lifestyle. He didn't say, "all right, guys, leave your job, leave your family, your occupation, go live in the wilderness." That wasn't his message. In fact it was different. Check out what his message was, Luke 3.

"The crowds," verse 10, "were questioning him saying, 'what shall we do then?'" Good question, right? "You're telling us to repent. What are we supposed to do? You're telling us to get ready for Jesus to come back, what are we supposed to do?" That's a good question, isn't it? Here's what he said, "and he would answer and say to them," verse 11, "the man who has two coats or tunics is to share with him who has none. He who has food is to do likewise. And the tax collectors came to him to be baptized and they said, 'and teacher, what should we do?'" And he said to them, what? "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." "Some soldiers," verse 14, "were questioning him saying, 'what about us? What should we do?' And he said to them, 'don't take money by anyone from force or accuse anyone falsely and be content with your wages.'" Talk about practical, right? I mean let's sum it up. Verse 10, "'what should we do?' The crowd said.

He said, 'if you have two coats, share with those who have none and do that with your food too.'" How would you sum that up? Sharing. And sharing is the opposite of selfishness. Don't be selfish. Instead, be generous. That's really practical, isn't it? Do you think that this is what we as Christians living at the end of time ought to be doing as well? You know, I don't think it's just about getting up on our soapbox and preaching about how bad everyone in the world is.

In fact, I don't think we should be doing that at all. I think we should be warning people. But the practical application in our day-to-day lives is look it, this is how we should live. Unselfishly. If we got a bunch of selfish people preaching the third angel's message, what good does that do, right? So I want to be like this, don't you? Look at verse 12.

The tax collectors were like, "what should we do?" He said, "don't collect more than what you've been ordered to." What would you call that? How would you sum that up? Being honest, don't steal. Instead, do what's fair. Do what's right. Some soldiers, they said, "what should we do?" He said, "don't take money by force or accuse anyone falsely. Be content with your wages.

Live a life of love and honesty as opposed to a life of violence or dishonesty." And, of course, baptism was an outward sign that people had chosen to live a different life. As we conclude today, I wanted to read to you something that is on the last page of your lesson quarterly under Friday's lesson. And if you want to look at that with me today, I'm gonna read this today. It begins with "in this age." It's from "Gospel workers" page 55. It says, "in this age just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, such a work as that of John is to be done.

God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. The message preceding the public ministry of Christ was repent publicans and sinners, repent pharisees and sadducees. Repent ye for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. And then as a people who believe in Christ soon coming, we have a message to bear, prepare to meet your God." Back when this church started over 150 years ago, it was the result of a group of people who believed very fervently in the Word of God and that the messages in this book really mattered. They gave their life, their blood, their sweat, their tears to get this message out to the world.

And as I look back, I was reading a little bit a book again that I read a few years ago, "tell it to the world" by mervyn maxwell. He tells the stories in here of the self-sacrifice that the early adventist pioneers-- many of them fairly young people, some of them were older who gave their retirement so they could spread the Gospel. They gave their life savings so they could publish a paper to tell people about Jesus. They stayed up late. They got up early.

They worked with low wages or no wages to do God's work. And the question is I thought about these incredible people who believed so much in this message. And it actually it wasn't just about a message, I think it was about the fact that they loved God and they loved people. Would you agree? They said, "you know what? This message is a message that people need to hear. We've gotta tell 'em.

" I thought, you know I wonder if I love that message that much, I wonder if we love the message that we have that much. If ever the message of warning and hope ought to go to a world that is dying, it is now more than 150 years ago. And if ever we were closer to that incredible event of the second coming, it is today. So do we believe this message as fervently as those that came before us? Are we committing our lives to this cause with everything that we have? There's a little story in the book of Isaiah. One of those prophets that was called by God.

And the story goes that as Isaiah was there in the temple, he saw the Lord. I mean just imagine this, seeing God on his throne. His glory just filled the temple. In fact, the pillars of the temple were shaking from the reverberations as God would speak, his voice. And the story says that God actually spoke to Isaiah.

I think the message, the words that he spoke could be to us as well. And he said, "who am I going to send? Who's gonna go for me? He's gonna take the message that I have to tell people this message?" And you know the story. Isaiah said, "you know what? I'm a man of unclean lips. I dwell among a people of unclean lips. I have issues.

I've got problems." And God said, "it's okay. I'm gonna take, I'm gonna clean you up. I'm gonna forgive you. I'm gonna cleanse you." And Isaiah said, "okay, God. Here am i, send me.

" Do you want to be like Isaiah? Today I want to, once again, extend our free offer number 770, it's "a voice in the wilderness." You can call our number -866-788-3966 for that offer.

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