August 29, 2010 – September 4, 2010
Babylonian Captivity, Escape and Rebuilding God’s Church
A Study for Modern Israel
The Second Babylonian Captivity, A Call Out, A Wall to Rebuild, the Church Reestablished
Collective Action and the Work of Rebuilding
“Each of the ancient prophets spoke less for their own time than for ours. … Their prophesying is in force for us. … Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel … spoke of things that … reached down to the future, and to what should occur in these last days.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 338, 419, 420.
In our most recent lessons, we have been examining the fit of ancient prophecies and experiences relating to captivity and destruction for ancient Israel to modern Israel. The first three questions of this lesson deal with some large pragmatic question about what God’s church should do given our current situation. These questions should be prefaced in the mind of the student by the idea that God’s modern church really is in trouble. The final question returns to the subject of captivity, attempting to summarize what the author believes can be said about the situation of modern Israel.
The student should see by this point in our lessons that the term modern Israel has been loosely defined. This is with purpose. The term certainly often includes the corporate trade-marked entity: The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, but several of the situations may be seen to fit a variety of groups of historic Seventh-day Adventist believers—itself a very loosely defined term. The first three questions in this lesson are addressed with historic Seventh-day Adventists in mind.
1 What remains to be done?
- If we are experiencing the effects of a seeming captivity, we must escape and join with the others God is calling
- We must help rebuild the church and the wall in troublous times by working collectively
- We must honor God’s name
- We must, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, bear fruit and bear offspring
Friends, let’s be straightforward; the need for true gospel workers and teachers is not being adequately supplied by any portion of the corporate entity of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. But among historic Seventh-day Adventists, the situation of supplying and hiring trained workers is even worse. We are not in a position to exercise collective action with the Seventh-day Adventist church on all fronts. And we are absent of the collective capability to train and hire gospel workers.
However large this problem may seem, we must at minimum not ignore it, or pretend that because it takes the action of many, we are in no position to make an attempt to rectify it. You can see this is about much more than pooling our money. You will find out, as you continue to read, that God will use the heathen to fill this vacuum if nothing else is done.
It is time to consider more than theoretical future solutions; it’s time to consider pragmatic ones. It is past time to ask some very difficult questions; questions such as:
- If someone felt called to the gospel ministry (the gospel ministry as laid out in Testimonies to Ministers, for example), what real training and employment options do they have?
- What would it take to train and hire workers?
- Would the historic Seventh-day Adventist church nearest me need to be better organized?
- Could I help?
- Would it take more than one local church to get the job done?
- Would I be prepared to recognize and act collectively with 11th hour workers from other churches?
- Would it take things like an identity, plans, goals, boards, and bank accounts to move forward?
- Am I an amicable enough person so that others could get along with me well enough to prosecute a plan of action?
I know the preceding points may sound like heresy to some. But we are halfway there, and that halfway position will not long be stable. Historic Seventh-day Adventist churches do exist. There are groups of historic SDA churches working together in various places in the world. There are historic SDA teachers, and medical professionals. All of these exist because people believe that the gospel message drives and defines the identity of the remnant, and not the other way around (Revelation 14:12)! Today we are either half wrong, and need to close shop on these activities, or we are half right, and need to, “Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees” (Isaiah 35:3).
The reader may be tempted to say that the thought of working on a large scale is preposterous given our current situation and the shortness of time. He may ask, “Do you really expect to launch some large, potentially bureaucratic edifice for training and employing workers when God has said that He will complete His work through surprisingly simple means?” But creating a bureaucracy is hardly the problem of the hour; and even though God has said He will finish His work in simple ways that will astound us, do you think that He will sanction our part in that work if we simply excuse ourselves from attempting to act collectively, because it’s hard, risky and time consuming?
2 Is there any risk in attempting to work collectively?
By way of illustration, read the story found in II Chronicles 30:2–13.
YES! The good news for us is that Christ has already guaranteed the outcome of the war; there is zero risk that He will lose the great controversy. But there is very real risk in each battle of the great controversy, risk that souls will be lost. When you undertake a project by yourself, you are individually to a large degree in control of the risk of failure. When you engage in collective intelligence and action, you as an individual are in a much smaller way in control of the risk of failure. Act collectively with others only in prayer, and with the knowledge that you are collectively putting your efforts at the risk of each other’s good will. There is no way to make money through investment, without putting money at risk of loss—at least temporary loss. And when we invest our talents for Christ, we may indeed realize temporary loss and may not in this life realize the gain of our investment. But our risk in these endeavors pales to the very real risk that God made to save you and me, the risk of the loss of His own Son!
3 What can we learn from ancient Israel’s rebuilding of the church in regard to where and how we work together?
Where we work:
During the rebuilding, we find that builders worked on all portions of the wall together! Today, we cannot work collectively on building God’s church, while we work exclusively from the waste places of the earth. We cannot effectively work together while all of us move to the remote mountainous regions. In Nehemiah’s time, all parts of the wall needed workers. God needs people today working together on different parts of the wall and from many places. God needs families, not satisfied to simply realize the dangers of raising a family in the city, but to devise plans for reaching other families in the cities. God needs builders on the wall to work in cities, in towns, and villages. He needs workers in the mountains, in the plains, and the coastal areas. For reference, see Testimonies, vol. 8, 119; Testimonies, vol. 7, 34, 36; Evangelism, 384–428.
How we work:
Let us review what is necessary in God’s plan to collectively accomplish large scale projects.
- More than one person is necessary, but not sufficient
- More than one group of people is necessary, but not sufficient
- Knowledgeable and strong people are necessary, but not sufficient
- Knowledgeable, strong people working on the same project are necessary, but not sufficient
- Knowledgeable, strong groups of people working together, under Divine leadership and human leadership, is necessary, and with the Holy Spirit, is sufficient
4 Does the Bible predict captivity for God’s last day people?
It is beyond question that God says He has people in captivity to Babylon in the last days. See Revelation 18:1–4. Beyond this, the author contends the following three points:
- What we have studied thus far clearly demonstrates that modern Israel (Seventh-day Adventists), in general, have partaken of the same sins that led to ancient Israel’s first captivity to Babylon, second captivity during the time of Christ, and ultimate destruction. And as such the potential to find God’s professed people in captivity is significant.
- That modern Israel, under whatever names or theologies they are identified, have also been affected to a dramatic degree by the results of these sins—and these effects have given rise to conditions in the church that closely mirror the captivity of Israel during the time of Christ.
- One way in which the times of trouble through which God’s people must pass is described as a captivity, and that this captivity leads both to destruction and complete purification for separate groups of people bearing an identity of Israel.
The author stops short of attempting to define and integrate, with pinpoint accuracy, the relationship of all of these sobering prophecies to modern Israel. That these prophecies are applicable to the subject is well enough demonstrated. The author suggests that it is possible to make a distinction between being captive to Babylon and fully becoming Babylon; but that for those who remain integrated with their captors (such as the majority did in Zerubbabel’s time), the distinction is ultimately of little value.
These following verses, of which only phrases are excerpted, speak to the question at hand:
- To Babylon you shall go – Micah 4:10
- Up, Zion! Flee from Babylon – Zechariah 2:7
- Captive daughter of Zion! – Isaiah 52:2
- Depart! Depart! Go out from there – Isaiah 52:11
- The children of Israel shall … ask the way to Zion … Move from the midst of Babylon – Jeremiah 50:4–8
- Flee from the midst of Babylon – Jeremiah 51:6
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where He had driven them.’ ” Jeremiah 16:14, 15.
“Behold … I will punish all those who are circumcised with the uncircumcised—Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab. … For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel is uncircumcised in the heart.” Jeremiah 9:25–26.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down … we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps. … Those who carried us away captive required of us a song … saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Psalm 137:1–4.
“… the Lord will reach out His hand a second time, to reclaim the remnant that is left of His people, from Assyria … Egypt … Babylon. … He will gather the exiles of Israel.” Isaiah 11:11, 12.
Studies prepared by John T. Grosboll, P.E. John T. is a mechanical engineer living near Vancouver, Washington. His secular employment includes several years of experience in primary metals and transportation-related industries. He, along with his wife, Teresa, is actively involved in the work of the Historic Message Church in Portland, Oregon. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.