Living the Advent Hope

Living the Advent Hope

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:58, Luke 18:1-8, Ecclesiastes 8:14
Date: 09/14/2019  Lesson: 11
'How can and should the hope and promise of Jesus’ return impact how we live now, especially in the context of helping those in need?'

The Ultimate Deliverance - Paper or Digital PDF

The Ultimate Deliverance - Paper or Digital PDF
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Luccas Rodor: Hello, I'd like to welcome you all to our "Sabbath School Study Hour." It's so good to have all of you here with us right now and I'm sure that the Lord has been with you throughout this week, throughout the study of this lesson, taught here at the Granite Bay SDA Church and also in partnership with Amazing Facts Ministries. I'd like to welcome not only you who are here with us today, our local congregation, but all of those that are watching through the internet, our worldwide congregation. It's so good to have you with us and I'm sure that you will be blessed by this study hour. Today we're going to be studying lesson number 11 which is "Living the Advent Hope." And that's--again, that's number 11 on our quarterly but if you don't have the quarterly, that's okay, you can find an online version of that and you can find that at Lesson.aftv.org and you can download the current lesson, the current quarterly right there.

Also we have a free offer for you and we like to--we'd like you to take advantage of that free offer. And today's free offer is "Ultimate Deliverance: The Return of Jesus Christ." And this is an amazing study. It talks about when Jesus will come back and how that's going to happen. It has all the Bible verses and I'm sure that this will benefit you, your family, and anyone else around you that you'd like to talk about the return of Jesus. Now, for you to get this in North America, if you live in North America, you can call... and that's how you can get your free offer. Another way that you can do this here in North America is that you can text the code "SH090" to the number 40544 and you can get a digital copy of this. Now if you're outside of the United States or Canada, North America, you can go to study.aftv.org/SH090 and you can get this free offer also. I'd like to invite you to say a word of prayer before we invite our teacher for today. Let's pray. Dear heavenly Father, we thank You and we praise You for all of Your blessings, for Your love, and for Your guidance. Lord, I ask You to be with Pastor Shawn as he teaches us today. Guide him, Lord, and may he be an instrument in Your hands. I ask You these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, amen. Pastor Shawn, may God bless you.

Shawn Brummund: We are looking at "Living the Advent Hope." Now as--for those of you who have looked through this lesson study and have reviewed it before our time here today, you have discovered that really there are two great hopes and so maybe we could even call this lesson study, "The Two Great Advent Hopes," and so they're very closely tied together and we're going to discover how that takes place. And so let's get right into it. I'm going to jump ahead if I could. I'm going to go right past Sabbath, Sunday, Monday, we're going to come back to some of that material as well during our lesson study here today but I want to look at one of my favorite chapters and the first great hope that God has given to us that's very closely tied together with the hope of Jesus Himself returning to this earth.

And so let's open our Bibles and let's go to 1 Corinthians chapter 15. As we go to 1 Corinthians chapter 15, we're going to discover why this is one of my favorite chapters and if you've studied this in detail in the past, I also know why it is one of your favorite chapters as well. As far as I can recall, this is the most extensive chapter that we have in all of Scripture that talks about this great hope, this great event which is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And not only the Resurrection of Jesus Christ but also pointing forward as He is the first fruits to the ultimate resurrection of all the saved, the great Resurrection of Life. And so it's no small chapter. 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is a huge chapter because of that. Now, as God is working through the prophet apostle Paul and as we come to the first verses of this, because we're going to look at verses 3 through 8 as the introduction to this chapter.

Now, obviously, time doesn't permit us to be able to go verse by verse through this chapter even though that would be a great study. Verses 3 through 8 is kind of the introduction to the subject. And puts it in the context for us so let's read it here together. At verse 3 it says: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas," and that's another name for Peter, "then by the 12. And after that He was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to present, but some have fallen asleep."

And so in verse 6, it's intriguing here that Paul points out the fact that more than the apostles saw the resurrected Christ. In fact, he tells us that there were 500 different individuals that had witnessed that. Now when we look at the context of the book of Acts in the beginning and such, we find there the departure of Jesus and that's almost for certain when we have this larger crowd that had gathered and were devout followers of Christ and had witnessed His ascension to His Father back in heaven. And, of course, Paul is pointing out back when he penned 1 Corinthians that there was--the greater part of them, they were still alive, still worshiping within the church, witnessing for Jesus. Then verse 7 goes on and says: "After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And then last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of due time." And so Paul also laid eyes upon the resurrected Christ when he was first traveling to Damascus and as he was on the way there, of course, Christ appeared to him. But then he also writes later that he also had a number of encounters prophetically with the resurrected Christ as well. And so we have a number of eye witnesses that witnessed this core truth that not only did Jesus die according to the Scriptures, but just as importantly, as Paul later is inspired to flesh out quite extensively, then Jesus rose to glory according to the Scriptures as well.

And so the Resurrection is just as much a part of the gospel and the Advent hope that God has given to us as Christians as the death of Jesus on the cross for the sins and guilt of mankind. And so the greatest hope that we have for the future is founded on the little resurrection of Christ. He is the first fruits from the grave. He is the example. He is the one that we point to and that we focus on that we might know that we also through Him will have victory over the grave. It's good news, isn't it? Okay, good, I'm glad to hear an "Amen" out there. Well, let's continue on. We're going to go through verses 12 to 23 and so we're going to pick up a larger part there concerning the Resurrection because now God is inspiring the prophet Paul to be able to expand on why the Resurrection is so important.

In verse 12 it says: "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" And so there is a bit of a rumor going around, a little bit of a false theology that had entered into the ranks of the Corinthian church and they were claiming that there would be no resurrection for the dead. Maybe they were, some of the Christians perhaps, were of a Sadducee background because there was a larger population of the Jewish religious world of Christ's day that believed that there was no future resurrection. That when we die, we die, that's the end. We know we're eaten by worms or go back to the dirt and that's the end. And yet we find here that Paul is addressing that. Somehow it had crept into the church. And verse 13 says: "But there--if there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty."

So if there's no resurrection of Christ, are we left empty? Yeah, our hope is left empty and, really, he says the floor of the Christian faith really is just pulled out from underneath you. And so that makes it very important. Verse 15, it says: "Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen." So if there's no future resurrection and there's no such thing as the power to be able to overcome death and come back from the grave, then Christ hasn't come back from the grave as well and so Paul here is saying, "Listen, you can't take one and refuse the other." And yet Paul says that "myself and 500 saw the resurrected Christ." Then we come to verse 17 and it says: "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins."

And so again, does the gospel require a resurrection of the Messiah? A resurrecting of the Savior? Yes, it does. Okay, there's not much hope for a Savior that has died permanently and is not the first fruits that go through the grave to find that victory over the grave, and to be able to have eternal life for you and me. And so to have our sins forgiven is a wonderful thing and I know many, if not all of us, have experienced what that is and the freedom, the victory, that that brings into our life, into our heart, and so on. But if that forgiveness dies with us when we are buried in the grave, then, of course, we're still futile, we're still in our sins in a very large way. Then verse 18, Paul goes on. He says: "Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." In other words, those who have already gone ahead and died in Christ, well, they had a great life, they experienced salvation or at least the forgiveness of sin but that's still the end of it. And so it still comes up empty. Verse 19: "If this life we only have hope in Christ, then we are of all men most pitiable," there he goes on, doesn't he? Now, he's going on about this quite a bit because he wants to get it across and he wants us to be able to understand how important this truth are and how pitiable we really are if there is no resurrection of Christ and there is no hope of us having the resurrection of life and eternal life. Then in verse 20 he goes on: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead."

Now Paul is looking at the biggest picture that we could really see in all the Scripture, okay? Outside of the great controversy between Christ and Satan and good and evil that began in heaven, of course. But here on earth in human history Paul is now pointing to the greatest and biggest theme concerning salvation and so he points us all the way back to the original man, the original human being that God first created in the very beginning. That is Adam. And so when he uses the term "man" in verse 21, he's talking about Adam. "For since by one man," that's Adam, "came death," okay, because of course, Adam gave us something that we really didn't ask for, did we? I'm tempted to call it a present but it really isn't a present. It is--that would be a misnomer because Adam gave us the curse of a sinful nature, didn't he? And because of that, we're all guilty of sin and the wages of sin is? Is death and that was Paul's here reviewing for you and me. He says, "For since why by one man came death," because he also brought to us sin and therefore we all face death, "by Man," and some of your translations may even have it capitalized. M-A-N, that's Jesus, "by Man through Christ also came the resurrection of the dead." And so Christ came to reverse that which Adam brought to mankind. He came to reverse the curse of death and of sin. In verse 22 he goes on and says, "For as in Adam," well, there we go, now he's given it away for sure. Just in case you were wondering who that man was for sure, verse 22 goes on and says, "For in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." And so he parallels the previous verse of--21 and he actually names the two individuals.

And then we come to the last verse that we'll be looking at in this particular chapter. It says: "But each of them--but each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, and afterwards those who are Christ's at His coming." Now that reveals a very important event and also plays it in the--places it in the timeline of prophecy and of God's plan for your future and mine. In other words, when do we receive eternal life? Do we receive it at death? No, it's here revealing something that's very important that all Bible prophets wrote on extensively, we can find dozens of verses that tell us that when we go to the grave we go to the grave and that's why he uses the term--Paul uses the term over and over: "They have fallen asleep." Okay, why? Because we rest in the grave, we rest in peace unconsciously until we receive that eternal life, that great hope of which Christ was the first fruits which is the resurrection from the grave. Overcoming death.

Now, this is one of the greatest subjects that we can find in all of Scripture and, again, this is the most extensive passage that we can find on the subject and, again, I wish I could just go on verse by verse until we get all the way through to the end because it's just so powerful and there's so many important life-giving truths that are found there but we just don't have time. But we do want to be able to spend enough time in it to be able to look at it biblically and understand that this is an important powerful hope that God gives to us.

One of the things that God has given to me is I have taken that and put it in my heart and I live by that from day to day, is that it's given me a great source of encouragement. And not only has it given myself a great source of encouragement, but it's also given me the ability to encourage a lot of fellow believers as a pastor. Because as a pastor, you know, we're all called to encourage each other and to serve each other, but as a pastor you do it just a little bit more. And so I've sat in a lot of homes and I've talked to a lot of people in the hospitals and visited them and some of them aren't walking out of that hospital with everything that they had before they came into the hospital. Some of them are walking out and some of them aren't walking out of the hospital. They used to walk before they went in but when they came out they won't be walking again in this life. And so there's a number of things that take away from us, have you noticed that? Now, there's one. We can avoid all disease we might be one that's--are spared disease and any serious injury that takes away different physical functions and mental functions and health that we have. But there's one thing that we can't all avoid that takes away slowly but surely and what is that? It's called growing older, isn't it? It's called aging. And one of the curses of sin is that as each decade goes by, we lose more and more, don't we?

You know, I know some beautiful people in our church here at Granite Bay and I've talked to them about it and how they got knee replacements and hip replacements and even in spite of that, they're not able to walk the way they used to walk. They're not able to ride a bicycle anymore the way they used to ride a bicycle and so they have to give up their bicycle-riding days until Jesus comes. But the good news is the encouragement that is found and I found that too, you know. I went through spinal surgery in my neck. I lost one of my vertebral joints. You know, that's a major, major loss. I'll never have my neck function the way that it did before that. But I'll tell you, friends, one of the things that got me through the day and continues to get me through the day, and not only does it get me through the day but it gives me joy. It gives me genuine joy from the inside out, is the fact that I know that it's a temporary loss. To be able to know that one day God is going to give me a new neck and I'm never going to have a pinched nerve, I'm never going to have any of these difficulties that we face in this life. And so I want to encourage you to hold on to that, to be able to find your hope and your encouragement in this great hope that God gives to us. And so God wants us to look forward to the time when death is history, when we will never experience not only loss personally, physically, mentally, and so on, but we will never experience injustice anymore in a sinful and corrupt world. We'll never experience pain, we'll never be exposed to evil. All of these different things that are negative that we need to be able to battle with and deal with in different ways from day to day, all of it will be gone. And so God wants us to be able to hold on and look forward to that time when it is history.

You know, there's a time when I was much younger, I was just a young boy and I was eight or nine or ten years old and all of us were there and so this is not a unique illustration but, you know, especially when you're just a little tyke and, you know, your mom and dad announce, you know, "Guess what, we're going to go camping at Yosemite this summer," or "We're going to go out to Hawaii and the family's going to spend a week in Hawaii this January," whatever it is. And when you find out about it, wow, you know, you're just starting to count the days. Maybe you're marking off the calendar and, you know, as it gets closer and closer you're more and more anticipating it and there's a term that probably all of us used to wait, "Oh, Mommy, Daddy, I can't wait. I can't wait until we go to Hawaii," or "We go to Yosemite camping," or whatever it is. And that's the focus I believe that God wants us to have, that we can't wait until Jesus comes, that we receive that resurrection of life and we receive that celestial perfect eternal body that had--God has in store for us. And so I know many of you, if not all of you, are looking forward to that and I hope that everybody that is watching is going to be able to experience that, if you're not already.

Now, what is the second great hope that God has for us? What is the second great hope that God has for us in the future that we can look forward to? Pardon me? All right, judgment, somebody says. Yes, okay, so it's judgment. And so that can rub certain people wrong, you know, just bringing up that subject sometimes. You know, there's a couple of words that I've started to observe and I haven't been in the church very long, maybe since the early, mid-'80s is when I started going in church for the first time in my life and so I don't have a lot to be able to compare to over the years but it seems to me that there's two words that have become kind of bad words even within Christianity, even within the church and the churches of our modern day. And that is "judgment" and "repentance," you know, and both of them speak to the heart, don't they? And Adam, you know--I'm not an expert and I haven't looked at the studies, I haven't looked at Barna and seen what kind of surveys they've made. You know, one of the most extensive Christian poll takers and survey takers and such, but I'm--if I was to put my money somewhere and probably guess, I would guess that the reason that judgment is a topic that's not all that popular, even amongst Christians today, is because there's a growing unfaithfulness that is happening within Christians today as well.

You know, we want the heaven, we want the eternal life, we want that first hope, you know, we really get excited about the first hope that we looked at which is eternal life and heaven and so on, but when it comes to accountability, we're not so sure we're as excited about that. You know, we--you know, judgment kind of tells us and reminds us, as we'll look at some verses that kind of uncover everything and such and so sometimes we get just a little bit nervous about that. Now, that's not to say that God is expecting us to be perfect or that we should be reflecting Christ exactly perfectly with a week of baptism because sanctification is something that takes place over the years of our life and God takes different character traits and different weaknesses and He makes them into strengths and gives us victories.

But are we being faithful? Is our heart in the right place? If it is, then we can look forward to a time in the future when God makes all wrongs in this world right. This is found in an event and process that is written perhaps more than any other subject in the Bible and that is judgment. It's not a small subject and that's why we find that there are hundreds, literally hundreds, of verses from the beginning of the Bible to the end that talk about this great subject. And so how we view it, of course, depends on where our life is right now, where our heart is. But for the sincerely faithful, this should be nothing but good news. Judgment is something that we shouldn't be fearful of but we understand the gospel correctly and we understand our heart correctly and we know that we're making choices or decisions both in private as well as in public for Him then we can know that the judgment is a good thing. Why is it a good thing? Well, this sinful world is chock full of unfairness. Have you noticed? This world is chock full of injustices.

You know, there's things that are stacked against us, depending on who we're born to, where we're born, what era we're born, you know. Many of us have been born with all the cards stacked against us and it's not our fault. It's not because we chose that but, nevertheless, that's the pathway that we're born into. Now, Jesus gives us light and He gives us strength and He gives us help and He helps us to be able to come onto higher ground and be able to make an impact in the world in a positive way but, friends, this world is chock full of injustices. It's so unfair. Greed, corruption, power mongering, all of these things are making this world a very unjust world, a very unfair world. And so it should be something--judgment should be something that we look forward to it if our heart and life is right with Christ. Well, come with me to John chapter 3. We're coming to that powerful chapter when Jesus meets with Nicodemus in the night. Talks about the importance of being born again full of the Holy Spirit and, of course, you can't see or enter into the kingdom of God without being born of the Spirit as that chapter powerfully paints for us.

But I want to look at verses 19 and 20 as Jesus here is concluding His conversation and instruction with this very influential Jewish leader, Nicodemus. In verse 19, Jesus here kind of helps us to get to the heart of why judgment for many is a very unpopular topic. In verse 19, it says: "This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds," were? "Because their deeds were evil." Verse 20 says: "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come into the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."

You know, my wife was at home. I was going for an annual Father's Day campout which I try to do every spring, in June, when Father's Day come along, I'll go and spend that Sunday night camping with, first, my oldest daughter when she was alone. Now, both my daughters. And so we had headed up to Lake Tahoe to camp for the night. And I got a text from my wife, I don't know, about 10 o'clock, 10:30. She goes, you know, "The police just left the house. I'm still shaking," you know, "I'm so glad everything's okay." And so, of course, you know, I immediately, "What is the problem?" And she said, "Well, you know, I was in the front room and I was watching the news. There's something on TV and all of a sudden I," you know, there's a gate that goes along the paved sideway. There's a fence that runs all the way around our house and comes up to the front of the corner, and she was just on the inside of that wall with a window there. And so whoever approached that gate, certainly would have known somebody was there, that the television was on because the window was open and the light would have come through and such. But they just boldly came up and opened the gate and had these big heavy boots, thump, thump, thump, thump, you know, along the side of the house, and there was a flashlight kind of, you know, being flashed and there was one or two of them just walked right into the back of the house. I guess they're just quickly trying to see what they could loot in different back yards and so then she called the police right away and they showed up and they had a K-9 unit. There was, like, four cruisers out there.

It was quite an event that she went through as they kind of sent the dog back there first to see if he's still there and, of course, they don't know what they're up to as the police goes in the dark back yard and he--the perpetrators were long gone. But, you know, after that, I saw a couple of these solar lights, you know, these security lights now, you know, and you can--it has a little solar panel and it's got a motion detector and so on. So I bought two of those. I put one right in the corner there, that same house where the gate is. I put the gate, you know, latch on the inside so you had to--you literally can't really open it unless you're on the inside of the gate now. And then I put one of these lights on and then I put another one on the driveway, you know, and so if anybody comes near, they, boom, you know, this great big light kind of flashes and lights them all up.

Thieves don't like light, you know? It's a very effective deterrent for many thieves because what they know is something that they know is wrong and they also know it is very dangerous and they can get caught and so we find here that it's a deterrent. And Jesus is using that metaphor here, isn't He? "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come into the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." And so Jesus here is really getting to the root of why some of us might not be excited--all that excited about this particular topic.

Now, it's important for us to understand that when Jesus is making this statement, by the way, He's not just talking about the non-religious people. He's talking about the religious people as well, isn't He? In fact, the greatest enemies that God had were those who were pretending to be very pious, pretending to be very devout and sincere to God but really, they weren't and so they weren't all that excited about Jesus as well. Well, all of this is best summarized in Wednesday's text on the subject of judgment and why judgment should be good news for us as believers.

Let's go to Ecclesiastes chapter 8. Ecclesiastes chapter 8 and verse 14. We're going in Ecclesiastes chapter 8. Okay, and verse 14. In Ecclesiastes chapter 8 and verse 14 it says: "There is a vanity which occurs on the earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the works of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. And I said that this is also vanity." Now, of course, this is balanced out as Solomon was also inspired to write many of the Proverbs that tell us that when we follow God and His law's a delight and God is a delight and we truly love Him and sincerely want to follow Him and surrender to Him and so on. That we are like a tree that is planted by a river, you know, and God prospers us in many different ways and so He does tell us that there is a general trend when you follow after righteousness and you follow after what is--and keep your integrity in that which is good, then your life will be a blessing and you will receive the fruits of that in general.

But at the same time, there's many Psalms as well as here in Ecclesiastes he's just read, that there is also a--there's a great injustice about the way that the world works too often and that is that we have those who are choosing wickedness on a regular basis and they don't have integrity. They don't have honest--honesty is not a virtue, and among other things. And so, they'll steal and lie and cheat and sometimes even kill if they need to, to be able to achieve great prosperity and such and so it appears like they're receiving the reward of the righteous. And history today tells us that some of the greatest men and women on earth, you know, have lived out many--much of their life, if not all of the last years of their life in prison, you know, just simply because they were standing for what is right and believing in Christ and following Him and so that general rule isn't always followed, isn't always fleshed out the way that we'd like it. It's an unjust reality that exists in a fallen world with human nature being followed the way it is today, our sinful natures. And so to have the mind of Christ is to hate and despise all that is evil, all that is wrong, all that is unjust. And we, as believers, can look forward to when all of that is exposed. Much of it is done in the dark. The motion detectors aren't catching them right now. The lights aren't being turned on but one day those lights will be turned on, Jesus says. One day those lights will be turned on. And we can look forward to when it's all exposed, when all secret and rebellious corruption is fully exposed and stopped.

You know, one of the greatest temptations that some of us have, especially if we're retired, is that we can get wrapped up and just spend endless hours, literally, for the rest of your years in your retirement years online looking at different conspiracy theories, you know? And you can waste the rest of your life, you know, looking at those and the key word of that is theory. Conspiracy "theories." And see, the problem with theories is that they're not proven. Now, sometimes we're absolutely convinced that they're proven but I would venture to say that well over half, the vast majority of them are not proved--they're theories. Some of them may be true but the vast majority I would say are not true. But you know what, friends? There is going to be a time when every true conspiracy, evil conspiracy, will be exposed in the light for all that it is. And, friends, I can't wait 'til that takes place. I can't wait.

Come with me to Mark chapter 4 and verse 22. Let's go to the Gospel of Mark. Mark chapter 4. Mark chapter 4 and verse 22. In Mark 4 and verse 22 Jesus touches on the same subject and again He says, "For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to," there's that key word again. Back to light, okay? And so again, Jesus is saying, one day during the judgment hour that's taking place in Heaven, even right now. When you look at prophecy we know that over the last 100-and-something years that wrap-up time is taking place, the books are open, the angels, the angelic jury, and Jesus and the Father are sitting on the judgment throne and they're examining and the lights are being turned on in Heaven right now. But one day on Earth those lights will also be turned on and everything that is being done in secret that is evil will come to light.

Come back with me to Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes chapter 12. This is another important text that the lesson study brings to light and I'm not saying that as a pun. But obviously it's on the top of my mind. It's a natural metaphor. Okay, Ecclesiastes chapter 12 and verses 13 and 14. These are the last two verses of the book and so God is inspiring Solomon, King Solomon, to come to the conclusion, the summary, and even uses that term in verse 13. It says: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, whether every secret thing--including every secret thing, whether good or evil."

And so one day the secret things that are good and Jesus actually counseled us as believers. He says, "Listen, when you do good things, don't advertise it." He said, "Don't advertise it, you know. When you're fasting or when you're praying extra, you know, you're giving alms and, you know, giving to charity or to the church and so on, don't advertise it." He says, "You--that which is kept in secret and done in secret, God will reward you in secret. But that who advertises it, your reward is already with you," and you want to keep that reward for when Jesus comes. And so that's why the Bible here tells us that every secret thing whether good or evil will be exposed. And so the best secrets that we should have, the only ones that we should have, is that of doing good because we don't advertise it. So that's important.

Now, statements like the ones that we looked at can either scare us or they can encourage us. And so, friend, I want to take this opportunity. If you have never surrendered to Christ, if you have never found Christ as your Savior, if you have never understood and experienced Christ as your friend, a forgiving friend that offers you free forgiveness, to be able to find that forgiveness in Christ. And to be able to know that He has forgiven you, that you are clean, that He has a robe of righteousness that belongs to Him that He covers you with, and that He will work with you and that He will mold you into the character and the person of Christ. And that you can know that one day Christ will return and that He will take you home. You don't have to be scared. You don't have to be afraid because you have a friend that is returning. And so to be best friends with the judge in any court process is a very comforting thing. And so you too can be ready for judgment day. You too can know that when Jesus comes that you have eternal life, that you will be part of the resurrection of life.

Now, God gives us all an opportunity to move from fear of the subject to a love of the subject. And so nobody, no preacher, no reader, no prophet, has ever intended or should intend to be able to bring the subject of judgment to scare people. Now, sometimes in the past, especially in the Middle Ages, but even in different chapters of evangelicalism and Protestantism, we've used the judgment process to scare people into heaven and we'll start to describe the great, you know, sufferings that you're going to experience in hell one day and so on. But, friends, God doesn't convert through fear. He converts through love. "Do you not know it is the goodness of God that leads you to repentance," it tells us in the second chapter of Romans. It's only the love that melts our hearts. Jesus says, "And I--when I am lifted up will draw all men unto Me." Now, he doesn't lift up--Jesus is not talking about being lifted up as a vindictive judge that can't wait until you make your mistake or that you can come to judgment day and I can throw you into hell. No, we find that Jesus has died on the cross, that His sacrifice--He voluntarily for your eternal life. And that's what draws us. That's what converts the heart because fear only converts the behavior but Jesus wants to convert the heart. That's why Jesus says you must be born again. Jesus says, "I want to come in. Whoever opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with Me." It's an internal experience, not an external experience.

Now without judgment, and this is important subject, because without judgment it would be impossible for God to make the world right. The nightly news is full of people victimized by evil, crying out for justice, crying out for judgment. They want judgment. And sometimes we'll be guilty of wanting judgment because we've been the victim of some great evil but, at the same time, we don't want to be--we don't want the light to shine too brightly at us because there's, you know, maybe something that we're not bringing to the Lord that we need to bring to the Lord and such.

But, friends, this world is chock full of victims that are crying out for judgment and justice and we should be the greatest criers of that. And so in light of these two great hopes of the future, this week's lesson study points us to what the Bible teaches on how we should spend our time until judgment day and the resurrection of the saved. And so the--in light of those two great hopes that we can't wait for, that we're anticipating, what should we do between today and resurrection and judgment day, the Coming of Jesus? Because the Coming of Jesus, those two events take place on the same day, by the way. I don't think I clarified that.

Most of you know that but some of you who may be watching or are here tonight don't know that, but both those events, when Jesus comes in glory, very clearly the prophecies and the teachings of Jesus tell us that there will be the resurrection of life. All those who have died by faith in Christ will rise again and we who are alive will be changed in an instant, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. We will receive these eternal perfect bodies and minds and then all of us will be raptured up into the air to meet the Lord in the air. And we will always be with the Lord. And so that takes place, the resurrection of life, eternal life is granted on that day. But it also tells us that there's a last phase of judgment because it tells us in the last chapter of Revelation that when Jesus comes His reward is with Him to give to everyone according to his work, according to the fruits of their life, either for good or for evil, for eternal condemnation or eternal life. And so judgment day is also on the time when Jesus comes. The same day is the day of judgment. We want to make sure that we're on the right side, amen? We want to make sure that we are--that we have allowed ourselves the opportunity to take that opportunity to melt our hearts and fall in love with our Savior and to make Him our friend.

And so does the Bible tell us that between now and judgment day, the return of Jesus, that we should retreat to the hills and isolate ourselves somewhere? Is that what the Bible teaches? Not totally. It's kind of yes and no but there's much more no than yes. I know it can be tempting, you know, because once we come to Christ we start to hate sin, we hate evil, we hate, you know, observing it. We hate hearing people use God's name in vain. We hate all these things that the world exposes and unbelieving people around us are exposing us to. We hate all these things now and so it's tempting to say, "Okay, well, the best thing I can do is just retreat out into the mountains, some crazy faraway place where I can minimize my exposure to mankind and sinful humanity." Now, that's not what Jesus taught.

Now, in the early Christian centuries, we had made that mistake and it led to the building of monasteries and convents and so on and, you know, they believed that, you know, the best thing we can do, the holiest life you can experience, is to build big walls and isolate ourselves from the world as much as possible. But God doesn't call us to retreat. He says to go forward. God has given us the offensive. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all things which I have commanded you and, lo, I'm with you always even to the end of the age." That's an offensive. He tells us, listen, I want you to take the offensive, not the defensive. I want you to go out in battle. I want you to pick up the sword of the Spirit which is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and I want you to go in there. I want you to convert sinners, not avoid sinners. I want you to convert sinners. That's what God has called us. Matthew chapter 5, verse 13.

Let's verify that because I don't want to just stand on my own opinion. I want us to be able to understand this biblically. So let's hear it straight from the words of Christ Himself. The Sermon on the Mount, the greatest and most powerful sermon in all of history. Chapter 5 and verse 13. Right at the beginning, the very first chapter in the three-chapter sermon. Verse 13, He says: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under the foot."

Now, friends, when you put salt on your plate, you have a meal and you want to add some salt, do you just put it on one little--do you put it on the edge of the plate right here? Make sure it doesn't touch the food? No, not at all, okay? You take that salt and that's why we have salt shakers, why? Because there's all kinds of holes at the end so that it helps you. And so you can just go like this without going crazy, but when you go like this, why, it's flying all over the place, isn't it? It's intermingling. Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the salt of the earth. Go and make disciples." In verse 14: "For you are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be--cannot be hidden." Verse 15, He says, "Do not--nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all those in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." And so, friends, we are to model something different to the world. But if we're hiding up in the woods somewhere.

By the way, I don't want this to be misunderstood because I know we have a lot of beautiful Christians, even members in this church, that have acreages out in the woods and so on. I'm not talking about outside Auburn here and, you know, within a half an hour or even ten minutes of civilization and so on. And of course, they're amongst other acreages and they have neighbors to witness to still. I'm talking about some crazy place up in Truckee or Covelo or something like that, you know, and that's a bit of an inside joke but, no, there's some beautiful people in Covelo but way up in the woods outside of Covelo. You don't want to stay out there too long, right? Yeah, yeah.

So country living is a beautiful thing and I encourage it. If you have an opportunity, especially when you have young children that you're raising. It's a beautiful environment and so on and stuff but, at the same time, you want to also instruct and train your children to mingle with the unbelievers and to know that their commission and your commission as a family is to make sinners into Christians, is to bring the gospel to the lost. And we need to be able to be that salt of the earth. In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus makes it clear that in the times of extreme persecution, retreating to the hills and the wilderness can be fitting at times. So in extreme situations, you know, going up to somewhere like in the woods outside of Covelo and I know on Sabbath School Study Hour Pastor Doug has even invited us and said, you know, "When it comes to that extreme if we're still alive, you know, I have a place and you can be welcome to be able to join me there and such." And so, yeah, there are times.

Jesus made it very clear. In extreme situations where retreating, you know, the walled-in season and so on we have during the persecutions in Europe during the 1260 years of persecution. During those most intense times in years and decades, God's people have had to retreat to the hills just to survive, just to live, so that they could make disciples. Because you can't make disciples if you're dead and so sometimes God's people need to retreat in those different extreme situations. And Matthew chapter 24 makes that very clear.

I want to bring us to Monday's lesson and read a quote there. So if you have your lesson study, that's helpful, but if you don't, I invite you just to listen carefully. It's the last sentence in the main section there that's written by the authors. It says: "To focus solely or even primarily on the escape aspect of the Christian hope for the future is to miss some of the deeper points Jesus was making." And so we want to make sure that we're not guilty, and some Christians have been and may be today, that we just want to get up in the day and just kind of hold on to the hope of the resurrection and things made right and our bodies made whole and so on and we just want to kind of, you know, leave the world to itself and just kind of focus on that every day. But Jesus doesn't want us to focus on that as our main focus. He wants us to find the encouragement and hold on to it. But He wants our main focus is to bring our neighbors to heaven as well.

His main focus is to be able to bring as many people here in greater Sacramento, Northern California, America, different nations, to heaven. Our main focus is the--is to increase the population of heaven, of the kingdom. That's the main focus that we need to be able to focus on. So that's very important and lesson study points us to Matthew chapter 24 and 25. And what a wonderful study that would be if we could stay with that for the rest of our study. But again, of course, we don't have time for that. Some of you have read it in the past, maybe over the last week, but those two are very critical. It's a sermon that Jesus preaches to His disciples and apostles. Does this sermon speak to--or how does this sermon speak to our living until Jesus comes? How should we live? We come back to that key question. Well, first of all, Matthew 24, Jesus makes it very clear that we're to be careful not to be deceived by false Christs and false prophets. So He says, "Be careful because many will come in My name and claim to be Christ. Many will come in My name and claim to be prophets and receive visions and messages." And inevitably, they always lead it into some kind of doctrinal heresy, some kind of erroneous theology. And so Jesus says, "Be very careful in concern to that."

The second trap that I believe that we also have to be aware of and be careful not get caught up in is doing what Christ told us not to do. And this comes back to the escapism kind of focus of our Christian experience. We look so forward and we focus so much on the Second Coming, the resurrection of life, eternal bodies, you know, perfect harmony and love, and all evil being eliminated, that that's all we can think about. And so our focus is so much that we fall into that trap of wanting to know, "Is Jesus going to come next week? Is He going to come next month? And if He is going to come next month, what day of the month is He going to come?" And then we get caught into that trap of thinking that, "Well, God wants us to know what day it is so that I can focus on it even more."

Now, again, this is--almost seems anti-Adventist but it's not, okay? What it is, is it's being an Adventist in the context of the teachings that Jesus gives to us. How are we to be Adventists and look forward to the Coming? Well, one of the important things that we need to be able to be very much aware of is that in both Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus tells us four times--four times He says, "You do not know the day or the hour and you will never know the day or the hour until that day," okay? Four times He repeats that and He counsels us, "Do not try to set a date for no one knows the day or the hour." Why is Jesus telling us that? He says, "Don't focus on that. Focus on the Coming of Jesus," and He says--you know, my favorite, you know, in Matthew chapter 24, there's a lot of good important verses but if you were to ask me, "What's your favorite?" I'd say right away Matthew chapter 24, verse 14: "And this good news of the kingdom, this gospel of the kingdom, will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations and then the end will come."

What is Jesus telling you and I? By the way, that's the only sign that we can focus on as believers. The rest are all the devil's work. Everything else He covers there in the signs are the devil's work, okay? The only sign that He gives to us that you and I are to participate is the one that we should focus on. Again, "Go make disciples. Bring the gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people." That's our focus. That's our focus. So He gives us three parables in Matthew chapter 24 and we're not going to be able to go into those in details. But we have the foolish virgins and, of course, the foolish ones--the ten virgins, the foolish five are short of oil, and the wise ones are trimming their lamp and they've brought extra oil, representing the Holy Spirit and a true experience in Christ. And they found that in two ways: they watched, which means they studied; they prayed, as Jesus counseled them; and they're found in Christian service, contributing to the gospel. How can I contribute to the gospel?

And even the second parable is telling us the same thing. Talents are used, our spiritual gifts, not as an option but as a requirement to be able to expand the gospel. So I'm going to close with a quote from one of my favorite authors. Her name is Ellen White and I believe that she was given a genuine spiritual gift of prophecy and she gives this statement in a book that she wrote called "Trials and Triumph," page 30. And this is what she reads. She reads: "But near the close of the earth's harvest, a special bestowal is promised to prepare the church for the Coming of the Son of Man. This outpouring is the latter rain and for this added power Christians are to send their petitions to the Lord of the harvest in the time of the latter rain. In response, the Lord, quote, 'Shall give them showers of rain.' He will cause to come down the, quote, 'The rain, the former rain and the latter rain.'" Now, she's quoting off and on from Zechariah chapter 10, verse 1, and Joel chapter 2, verse 23. Both of them are speaking about this latter spiritual rain that will take place just before the Coming of Christ. "But only those who constantly receive fresh supplies of grace will have ability to use that power. Daily," that's in the here and now as she's talking about. "Daily, they are improving the opportunities for service that lie within their reach, witnessing wherever they may be, in the home or in a public field of usefulness." Public field of usefulness means in the workplace.

And so, friends, I want to encourage you to be able to, in the light of the Advent hope, to be able to look forward to the time when Christ comes again, yes, when we have evil brought to an end, yes, but to be able to contribute to the Coming of Jesus. Now, I want to invite everybody before we close here to take advantage. If you haven't caught the beginning of our program or you didn't write down the different phone numbers or text numbers, take advantage of that. We have a great study. It's one of my favorites: "Ultimate Deliverance: The Return of Jesus Christ." How will Jesus come? When will He come? And what will take place? We looked at some of those different teachings already here today but this will go to it in more detail. You can see the information on the screen. You can dial the 1-800 number or 1-866 number and there's also a text number that may be on the screen for you to take advantage of as well. An so until next week, we look forward to seeing you again. May God bless you. May He keep you. And don't forget that God loves you.

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Doug Batchelor: What can be more irresistible than a kitten? These guys might look cute now but some of their ancestors have grown into man-eaters. [lion roaring] Doug: We're here in a lion park in South Africa now where we can view these creatures in relative safety. But there's a reason they're known as the king of beasts. So what is it that people find so enchanting and frightening about lions? Is it their speed, their claws, their sharp teeth, or all of the above? Might also be some of the stories about man-eating lions, like in 1898, right here in Africa, they were building a bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya and two brother lions terrorized the construction process, eating 135 workers. Did you know, lions are mentioned in the Bible over 100 times and you can find them all the way from Genesis to Revelation. It's usually in reference to their ferocity and how dangerous they are. Of course, Samson killed a lion with his bare hands, David killed a lion, there are man-eating lions in the Bible. The way that they punished criminals was by throwing them in the lions' den, and early Christians were even fed to lions. But amazingly, as the Bible mentions, not all lions are to be feared.

There have been a few friendly lions in history. For example, in the 1950s a couple, George and Margaret Westbeau who lived up at a ranch near Seattle, Washington, adopted an abandoned lion cub. They named it Little Tyke because they felt sorry for it. But they discovered as they tried to feed her, she refused to eat any meat at all. They were concerned, thinking there was no hope for this little lioness to survive and everybody told them the same because we know in the wild lions survive on almost an entirely meat diet. Then someone showed the Westbeaus that verse in the Bible that talks about in heaven the animals are vegetarians and the lion will eat straw like the ox. That encouraged them and so they began to feed Little Tyke a purely vegetarian diet. Not only did she survive, she thrived, growing into a lion that was over 352 pounds and over 10 feet long. In fact, zoologists that examined Little Tyke when she was full grown said they had never seen such a perfect specimen of a lioness in their life. A pure vegetarian.

You know, when we hear incredible stories about that, of Little Tyke, it reminds us that God's original plan was to make a world of total peace. It describes it here in the Bible in Isaiah chapter 11, verse 6: "The wolf also will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child will lead them." Nothing is going to hurt and destroy in the new heavens and the new earth that God is going to create. Wouldn't you like to live in a kingdom where there's perfect peace, where there's no more death or killing or pain? God says that He wants you in that kingdom. The Lamb of God made it possible for you to have an encounter with the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Wouldn't you like to meet Him today?

♪♪♪ [car honking]

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Male: Buddy, jump in.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Doug: How many of you wish you could get a new start? I'd like to live my life over knowing what I know now. I don't want to start over and just make all the same mistakes. I want to have my memories so I don't make the same mistakes. But you do get a new beginning. You become a new creature. That feeling of all your sins being washed away because God promises it, isn't that a wonderful concept, friends?

Male: "I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to Me." ♪♪♪

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