Sabbath, April 26, 2014

“The world is soon to be left by the angel of mercy, and the seven last plagues are to be poured out…. God’s patience and mercy will not always wait.… The bolts of God’s wrath are soon to fall, and when He shall begin to punish the transgressors, there will be no period of respite until the end.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 182.

The four winds let loose 

1. What will come upon the earth when the time of probation closes?

Revelation 15:8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.

Revelation 16:1 And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

“Then I saw that Jesus would not leave the most holy place until every case was decided either for salvation or destruction, and that the wrath of God could not come until Jesus had finished His work in the most holy place, laid off His priestly attire, and clothed Himself with the garments of vengeance. Then Jesus will step out from between the Father and man, and God will keep silence no longer, but pour out His wrath on those who have rejected His truth. I saw that the anger of the nations, the wrath of God, and the time to judge the dead were separate and distinct, one following the other, also that Michael had not stood up, and that the time of trouble, such as never was, had not yet commenced. The nations are now getting angry, but when our High Priest has finished His work in the sanctuary, He will stand up, put on the garments of vengeance, and then the seven last plagues will be poured out.” –Early Writings, p. 36.

2. What will the four angels at the four corners of the earth then release?

Revelation 7:1-3 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

“Angels are now restraining the winds of strife, that they may not blow until the world shall be warned of its coming doom; but a storm is gathering, ready to burst upon the earth; and when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture.” –Education, pp. 179, 180.

“Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.” –The Great Controversy, p. 614.

The first two plagues 

3. In the first plague, what will come upon those who accepted the mark of the beast and worshiped his image? What will happen to the sea in the second plague?

Revelation 16:2, 3 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image. And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea.

“When Christ ceases His intercession in the sanctuary, the unmingled wrath threatened against those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark (Revelation 14:9, 10), will be poured out. The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgments which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of God’s people. Says the revelator, in describing those terrific scourges: ‘There fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image.’ The sea ‘became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.’ Revelation 16:2, 3.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 627, 628.

The third plague

4. What is affected by the third plague? Revelation 16:4. Lacking pure water, what do the wicked drink to quench their thirst? Why?

Revelation 16:4-7 And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. 

“And ‘the rivers and fountains of waters … became blood.’ Terrible as these inflictions are, God’s justice stands fully vindicated. The angel of God declares: ‘Thou art righteous, O Lord,… because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.’ Revelation 16:2-6. By condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands. In like manner Christ declared the Jews of His time guilty of all the blood of holy men which had been shed since the days of Abel; for they possessed the same spirit and were seeking to do the same work with these murderers of the prophets.” –The Great Controversy, p. 628.

The fourth plague

5. How do people suffer from the consequences of the fourth plague? How will nature be affected?

Revelation 16:8, 9 And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

Joel 1:10-12 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men. 

Joel 1:17-20 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

“In the plague that follows, power is given to the sun ‘to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat.’ Verses 8, 9. The prophets thus describe the condition of the earth at this fearful time: ‘The land mourneth;… because the harvest of the field is perished.…. All the trees of the field are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.’ ‘The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate…. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture…. The rivers of water are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.’ ‘The songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.’ Joel 1:10-12, 17-20; Amos 8:3. 

“These plagues are not universal, or the inhabitants of the earth would be wholly cut off. Yet they will be the most awful scourges that have ever been known to mortals.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 628, 629.

The fifth plague

6. Upon what group of people will the terrible fifth plague specifically fall?

Revelation 16:10, 11 And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

“An important fact is established by this testimony. The plagues do not at once destroy all their victims, for some who were at first smitten with sores, are still living under the fifth vial, and gnawing their tongues for pain. An illustration of this vial will be found in Exodus 10:21-23. It is poured upon the seat of the beast, the papacy. The seat of the beast is wherever the papal see is located, which has been thus far, and without doubt will continue to be, the city of Rome. ‘His kingdom’ probably embraces all those who are ecclesiastical subjects of the pope wherever they may be.” –Uriah Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, 1944, pp. 690, 691.

God’s deep love and desire

7. In studying what will come upon impenitent sinners, what do you understand that God wants and feels?

Romans 1:16, 17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

“To our merciful God the act of punishment is a strange act. ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’ Ezekiel 33:11…. Yet He will ‘by no means clear the guilty.’ Exodus 34:6, 7. While He does not delight in vengeance, He will execute judgment upon the transgressors of His law. He is forced to do this, to preserve the inhabitants of the earth from utter depravity and ruin. In order to save some He must cut off those who have become hardened in sin. ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.’ Nahum 1:3. By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. And the very fact of His reluctance to execute justice testifies to the enormity of the sins that call forth His judgments and to the severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 628.

For meditation

Ezekiel 3:16-21; 33:11-14; Luke 23:28-31.

“All the judgments upon men, prior to the close of probation, have been mingled with mercy. The pleading blood of Christ has shielded the sinner from receiving the full measure of his guilt; but in the final judgment, wrath is poured out unmixed with mercy….

“Those professed Christians who come up to that last fearful conflict unprepared will, in their despair, confess their sins in words of burning anguish, while the wicked exult over their distress. These confessions are of the same character as was that of Esau or of Judas. Those who make them, lament the result of transgression, but not its guilt. They feel no true contrition, no abhorrence of evil. They acknowledge their sin, through fear of punishment; but, like Pharaoh of old, they would return to their defiance of Heaven should the judgments be removed.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 629, 620, 621.

* * *

Missionary Report
from the General Conference Missionary Ministry

To be read on Sabbath, April 26, 2014

The Special Sabbath School Offering will be gathered
on Sabbath, May 3, 2014

Take care of them…

According to at least two early church fathers, Papias and Irenaeus, “Matthew recorded the oracles

[or ‘prophetic discourses’] in the Hebrew tongue.” To date, about thirty Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew’s gospel (in whole or in part) are known to exist. These manuscripts give evidence that the Greek version is indeed a translation of an original Hebrew text. 

The last three verses of the Hebrew Matthew are variously translated; one such version simply reads:

18. Jesus came to them and said: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to Me,

19. You go to them

20. And take care of them so that they fulfill all the things I have commissioned you. [I am] with you forever.” 

Here Christ is speaking to His disciples, the leaders and evangelists of the new movement, when He commissions these ordained men to “take care of them.” Not only were they to “bring them into the fold of believers,” but they were then to take care of them. The “them” in the verses are the new believers or disciples of Christ. 

A parent hearing these words, “Take care of them,” may think of taking care of a newborn baby or a growing child. A nurse or doctor may think of taking care of a sick or injured person. A church leader or teacher may understand the meaning in a slightly different way. Ultimately the object of taking care of a child, an injured or sick person, or even a student is not to keep them children, or forever sick and in bed, or students, but to help them come to the point in their lives where they can contribute to the health and well being of others–to work for the time when they themselves become parents, health professionals, and/or evangelists. 

And that is exactly what the rest of the last phrase in the book of Matthew says. The last words–the most important words–are: “Take care of them so that they fulfill all the things I have commissioned you [to accomplish].” 

There has never been a time when more information was available to the common man or woman than now. Yet the vast majority of all that information leads away from Christ, not to the fulfilling of the things He commissioned His followers to do. While the church is working to fulfill this commission of equipping members for evangelism and medical ministry, much needs to be done, and additional materials need to be prepared. 

Starting with our children and youth, as well as parents and teachers, we would like to prepare the best possible materials, books, CDs, DVDs, and seminars on how to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; how to conduct a successful community outreach; what to do and not to do in dealing with sickness and distress; how to equip those contemplating marriage for family responsibilities; how to share tracts and publications; and how to increase our own and others’ skill in defending and serving the Lord in the most perilous of all days.

This coming Sabbath, a Special Sabbath School Offering will be gathered for the purpose of preparing more materials for equipping willing church members in their outreach to young and old, thus inspiring more church lay ministry activities.

As you consider the contribution that you will give next week, think also of the gifts of time, talent, and influence with which God has blessed you. Ask Him where He would like you to use them for Him and how they can be used to glorify Him. As we use our ideas, time, and talents to share spiritual gifts with others, we ourselves grow in the joy of the Lord. Thank you for your support of this important work. May Jesus be with you forever!

–Larry Watts, General Conference
Missionary Ministry Director