August 25–August 31, 2002
Memory Verse: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 25:13.
Study Helps: Christ’s Object Lessons, 405–421; Evangelism, 694–697; The Desire of Ages, 627–636.
INTRODUCTION: “I am bidden to say to you that you know not how soon the crisis will come. It is stealing gradually upon us, as a thief. The sun shines in the heavens, passing over its usual round, and the heavens still declare the glory of God; men are pursuing their usual course of eating and drinking, planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage; merchants are still engaged in buying and selling; publications are still issuing one upon another; men are jostling one against another, seeking to get the highest place; pleasure lovers are still attending theaters, horse races, gambling hells, and the highest excitement prevails; but probation’s hour is fast closing, and every case is about to be eternally decided. There are few who believe with heart and soul that we have a heaven to win and a hell to shun; but these show their faith by their works.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 413.
1 Does any one know the exact time of Jesus’ second coming? Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:36.
NOTE: “We are not to be engrossed with speculations in regard to the times and the seasons which God has not revealed. Jesus has told His disciples to ‘watch,’ but not for definite time. His followers are to be in the position of those who are listening for the orders of their Captain; they are to watch, wait, pray, and work, as they approach the time for the coming of the Lord; but no one will be able to predict just when that time will come . . . . You will not be able to say that He will come in one, two, or five years, neither are you to put off his coming by stating that it may not be for ten or twenty years. . . . We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ.” Review and Herald, March 22, 1892.
2 What are we expected to know about the time of Christ’s return? Matthew 24:33.
NOTE: “Though no man knoweth the day nor the hour of His coming, we are instructed and required to know when it is near. We are further taught that to disregard His warning, and refuse or neglect to know when His advent is near, will be as fatal for us as it was for those who lived in the days of Noah not to know when the flood was coming.” The Great Controversy, 371.
3 With all the apparent delays of Christ’s return, what do Christians need and why? Hebrews 10:35–37.
NOTE: “It was not the will of God that Israel should wander forty years in the wilderness; He desired to lead them directly to the land of Canaan and establish them there, a holy, happy people. But ‘they could not enter in because of unbelief.’ Hebrews 3:19. Because of their backsliding and apostasy they perished in the desert, and others were raised up to enter the Promised Land. In like manner, it was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be so long delayed and His people should remain so many years in this world of sin and sorrow. But unbelief separated them from God. As they refused to do the work which He had appointed them, others were raised up to proclaim the message. In mercy to the world, Jesus delays His coming, that sinners may have an opportunity to hear the warning and find in Him a shelter before the wrath of God shall be poured out.” The Great Controversy, 458.
4 Why were the angels commanded to hold the four winds? Revelation 7:1–3.
NOTE: “I [Ellen White] asked my accompanying angel the meaning of what I heard, and what the four angels were about to do. He said to me that it was God that restrained the powers, and that He gave His angels charge over things on the earth; that the four angels had power from God to hold the four winds, and that they were about to let them go; but while their hands were loosening, and the four winds were about to blow, the merciful eye of Jesus gazed on the remnant that were not sealed, and He raised His hands to the Father, and pleaded with Him that He had spilled His blood for them. Then another angel was commissioned to fly swiftly to the four angels, and bid them hold, until the servants of God were sealed with the seal of the living God in their foreheads.” Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, 102.
5 What experience should the saints be having during the delay of His coming? Matthew 25:1–13.
NOTE: “In the parable, all the ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. All had lamps and vessels for oil. For a time there was seen no difference between them. So with the church that lives just before Christ’s second coming. All have a knowledge of the Scriptures. All have heard the message of Christ’s near approach, and confidently expect His appearing. But as in the parable, so it is now. A time of waiting intervenes, faith is tried; and when the cry is heard, ‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh,’ . . . many are unready. They have no oil in their vessels with their lamps. They are destitute of the Holy Spirit. . . .
“The theory of truth, unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit, cannot quicken the soul or sanctify the heart. One may be familiar with the commands and promises of the Bible; but unless the Spirit of God sets the truth home, the character will not be transformed. Without the enlightenment of the Spirit, men will not be able to distinguish truth from error, and they will fall under the masterful temptations of Satan. . . .” Reflecting Christ, 210.
6 How will the unbelievers react to the delay of Christ’s second coming? 2 Peter 3:3, 4.
NOTE: “The world, full of rioting, full of godless pleasure, is asleep, asleep in carnal security. Men are putting afar off the coming of the Lord. They laugh at warnings. The proud boast is made, ‘All things continue as they were from the beginning.’ ‘Tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.’ 11 Peter 3:4; Isaiah 56:12. We will go deeper into pleasure loving. But Christ says, ‘Behold, I come as a thief.’ Revelation 16:15. At the very time when the world is asking in scorn, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ the signs are fulfilling. While they cry, ‘Peace and safety,’ sudden destruction is coming. When the scorner, the rejecter of truth, has become presumptuous; when the routine of work in the various money-making lines is carried on without regard to principle; when the student is eagerly seeking knowledge of everything but his Bible, Christ comes as a thief.” Maranatha, 34.
7 As the unbelievers scoff, in what may the believers be confident? Isaiah 46:13; Hebrews 10:37.
NOTE: “God designs that His people shall fix their eyes heavenward, looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. While the attention of worldlings is turned to various enterprises, ours should be to the heavens; our faith should reach further and further into the glorious mysteries of the heavenly treasure, drawing the precious, divine rays of light from the heavenly sanctuary to shine in our hearts, as they shine upon the face of Jesus. The scoffers mock the waiting, watching ones, and inquire: ‘Where is the promise of His coming? You have been disappointed. Engage now with us, and you will prosper in worldly things. Get gain, get money, and be honored of the world.’ The waiting ones look upward and answer: ‘We are watching.’ And by turning from earthly pleasure and worldly fame, and from the deceitfulness of riches, they show themselves to be in that position. By watching they become strong; they overcome sloth and selfishness and love of ease. Affliction’s fire kindles upon them, and the waiting time seems long. They sometimes grieve, and faith falters; but they rally again, overcome their fears and doubts, and while their eyes are directed heavenward, say to their adversaries: ‘I am watching, I am waiting the return of my Lord. I will glory in tribulation, in affliction, in necessities.’” Testimonies, vol. 2, 194, 195.
8 Why is God not willing to fulfill His promise to come immediately? 2 Peter 3:9, 10.
NOTE: “In mercy to the world, Jesus delays His coming, that sinners may have an opportunity to hear the warning.” The Great Controversy, 458.
9 What assurance does God give His people that His purpose has not failed? Habakkuk 2:1–4.
NOTE: “The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of deep trial was the same faith that sustains God’s people today. In the darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian believer may keep his soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. ‘The just shall live by his faith.’ . . .
“We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified—the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. . . .” Conflict and Courage, 242.
10 What instruction did Jesus give to His servants? Luke 12:35–40. Compare Mark 13:33–37.
NOTE: “Silently, unnoticed as the midnight thief, will come the decisive hour which marks the fixing of every man’s destiny, the final withdrawal of mercy’s offer to guilty men. ‘Watch ye therefore . . . lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.’ ” Sons and Daughters of God, 355.
11 What warning is given of putting far off the second coming? Matthew 24:48–51.
NOTE: “Those who are ‘do-nothings’ now will have the superscription upon them, ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.’ They knew their Master’s will, but did it not. They had the light of truth, they had every advantage, but chose their own selfish interests, and they will be left with those whom they did not try to save.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 237.
12 How are we to employ our time until Jesus comes? Luke 19:13. Compare Matthew 24:45, 46.
NOTE: “God has left us in charge of His goods in His absence. Each steward has his own special work to do for the advancement of God’s kingdom. No one is excused. The Lord bids us all, ‘Occupy till I come.’ By His own wisdom He has given us direction for the use of His gifts. The talents of speech, memory, influence, property, are to accumulate for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. He will bless the right use of His gifts.” Counsels on Stewardship, 116.
“Belief in the near coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven will not cause the true Christian to become neglectful and careless of the ordinary business of life. The waiting ones who look for the soon appearing of Christ will not be idle, but diligent in business. Their work will not be done carelessly and dishonestly, but with fidelity, promptness, and thoroughness. Those who flatter themselves that careless inattention to the things of this life is an evidence of their spirituality and of their separation from the world are under a great deception. Their veracity, faithfulness, and integrity are tested and proved in temporal things. If they are faithful in that which is least they will be faithful in much.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 309.