The Bible says, “On the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [made it holy], because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2, 3). Notice He blessed the seventh day and made it holy, and then He rested. The seventh day has a triple significance: it’s the day that God rested from His work, the day He blessed and the day He made holy.
Have you ever wondered why God created the world and the Sabbath in seven days? God is all powerful; He could have chosen to make the world in any period of time He wanted. But He created everything in the world in six days and rested the seventh day.
The Bible makes clear that everything God does is significant. So there is something significant about the fact that after He created the world in six days, God rested on the seventh day. Reading through the Bible, we find that the number 7 is a special number. People who study Biblical numbers say there are four perfect numbers in the Bible: numbers 3, 7, 10 and 12. Let’s look at the number 7.
While studying Hebrew, I found that the number 7 comes from a verb that means to swear or in other words, to take an oath or to make something complete or official. Seven, in the Bible, signifies spiritual perfection and is used in ways that no other number is used in Scripture. For example, the first word in the Hebrew Bible has seven letters. The first sentence in the Hebrew Bible has seven words. The first commandment in the Hebrew Bible has seven words. In addition to that, the fourth commandment lists seven categories of individuals that are to rest, and the tenth commandment lists seven things that you should not covet. The number 7 occurs multiple times in the ten commandments. In the New Testament the Lord’s Prayer has seven petitions (Matthew 6:9–13). So 7 indicates totalness or completeness.
The number 7 is used many times in the book of Revelation. It talks about 7 churches, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 thunders, 7 last plagues, etc. In The Acts of the Apostles, 585, it says, “The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time.” As Adventists, we look at them through the seven periods of time and discover that we are living in the last period of time, found in the message to the church in Laodicea. However, any church could have the experience of any one of the seven churches. Ellen White often used the Sardis church, a dead church, when describing the experience of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She also referred to the experience of the church in Ephesus, a loveless church.
There is something to note when reading through the seven churches. In every church, the person promised salvation must be an overcomer.
In Revelation 2:7, speaking to the church of Ephesus, the Bible says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
To the church of Smyrna is written: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (verse 11).
In verse 17, speaking to the church of Pergamos, we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
The Bible says of the church of Thyatira: “He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (verse 26).
We need to especially study the church of Sardis. Revelation 3:5 says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
If a person’s name is written in the Book of Life, they are an overcomer. How important is it to have your name written there? Revelation 20:15 says, “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
When you surrender yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ and your name is recorded in the Book of Life, can it be blotted out? Revelation 3:5 says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.” Notice, if I don’t overcome, my name will be blotted out of God’s book. Exodus 32:33 says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.’ ” And Acts 3:19, 20 continues, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out … .” So if you repent and are converted, in the judgment your sins will be blotted out. If you do not overcome and choose to continue in sin, your name will be blotted out. When you surrender yourself to Jesus Christ, your name is registered in the Book of Life, but it is there on probation.
In Revelation 3:12, we find God speaking to the church of Philadelphia: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
Finally, to the church of Laodicea, God says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (verse 21).
In the New Testament, salvation is not promised except to those who overcome, but God gives His Holy Spirit so you will have divine power to overcome. Only those who are overcomers will be saved out of the seven churches, but some people outrage the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 10:26–29 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” We must be careful not to insult the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is given as a divine power to help us overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil. Ellen White says, “Sin could be … overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead.” The Desire of Ages, 671. Divine power is promised to those who give their hearts to the Lord to make it possible to overcome. Then, continuing to sin is an insult to the Holy Spirit.
The Acts of the Apostles, 482, says, “The work of gaining salvation is one of co-partnership, a joint operation.” You can’t save yourself; only God can save you, but God will not save you if you don’t co-operate. “There is to be co-operation between God and the repentant sinner. This is necessary for the formation of right principles in the character. Man is to make earnest efforts to overcome that which hinders him from attaining to perfection.” Ibid. We are to go to the Lord claiming the promise of the power to overcome our besetting sins; exerting all human effort, but understanding that we are totally helpless unless the divine power works in our lives. This is a co-partnership. God gives the Holy Spirit. We do the best we can. We work together with the Spirit.
Revelation 21:1–4 is one of the most comforting descriptions in all the Bible, describing how wonderful it will be for God’s saved people. But note who will enjoy all these things: “ ‘He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son’ ” (verse 7). Who receives the promise of salvation and this inheritance? The one who overcomes. That promise is given to everyone in the seven churches, all those who choose to follow Christ.
When There is Only One Way Out
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul longed for another way out. He said to His Father, “Lord, everything is possible with You” (Mark 14:36). Everything is possible with God, but we could not be saved any other way. There was silence in heaven. No harp was touched (see The Desire of Ages, 686, 690, 693.) The whole universe was silent as it watched this battle that would not only decide the future of this world, but also that of the whole universe. The only way out for Jesus was the cross.
There are many people who say they are sorry for their sins, but make no attempt to turn away from them. To be truly sorry for a sin committed means to confess it and turn away from it. If you are looking at something bad, look somewhere else and do not look at it again. If you are listening to worldly music, turn it off and don’t listen to it anymore. If you are convicted that you are eating something forbidden by the word of God, get it out of your house and do not bring it in again.
True repentance involves not just being sorry, but being sorry enough to stop. When you are sorry enough to say, “Lord, I’m choosing not to do this anymore,” the Lord will send His Holy Spirit to enable you to stop.
“No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation.” The Desire of Ages, 555. Genuine repentance results in a changed life. Repentance, turning away from sin, does not cover up something already done. “The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin.” Ibid., 555, 556. To be forgiven, the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just [righteous] to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Repentance will be followed by confession. If it is a secret sin, it should be confessed to God. Secret sins are not openly confessed (see Testimonies, vol. 5, 635–650). Much harm has been done by people openly confessing that which should be confessed to God alone. But sins that have harmed others need to be confessed openly.
Sins that are unconfessed are unforgiven. Someone might say that there is not enough time to confess their sins before Jesus comes. Then let the Lord take care of that and make a start. The Bible says, “If there is first a willing mind …” (2 Corinthians 8:12, first part). This speaks of a person willing to confess everything.
Is there a possibility that there is some sin that is impossible to confess? Yes, if a sin is committed against someone and that person dies there is no way confession can be made. Consider the thief on the cross. He wasn’t able to make right what he had stolen, but he confessed to the Lord and the Lord saved him. The Lord will do the same for you. Remember, “If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” Don’t worry about what you don’t know. The Lord will help you to make right what you know and what you need to make right that you don’t know, the Holy Spirit will bring to your attention at the right time. Repentance is sorrow for sin enough to turn away from it, to confess and make things right, and surrender to the Lord.
Just as the cross was the only way out for Jesus, there is only one way out for you and me. Matthew 16:24–26: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ ” To follow Jesus means denying self and taking up your cross. Jesus also said, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27). It is only through the Son that you can approach the Father.
In John 14:6 we read, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” And the apostle Peter said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is only one way out of this world. Ellen White says, “One fountain only has been opened for sin, a fountain for the poor in spirit.” The Desire of Ages, 300.
Let’s look at the only way out of this world. It answers the question: What must I do to be saved and get out of this world alive? “He [Christ] has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning.” Ibid., 311. Notice, there are two things in that sentence. When a person repents, they receive the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit enables them to stop sinning. “Without Me [Christ] you cannot overcome one sin, or resist one temptation.” Ibid., 676. In fact, Ellen White says that without Jesus, “We cannot keep ourselves from sin for one moment.” The Ministry of Healing, 180. We are totally helpless without divine help because of the cravings of our own sinful nature. Without divine help every moment of every day, we cannot control our nature.
The meaning of the Greek word translated repentance means to change your mind. “True repentance is more than sorrow for sin. It is a resolute turning away from evil (2 Corinthians 7:7–10).” Patriarchs and Prophets, 557. “At every advance step in our Christian experience our repentance will deepen.” The Acts of the Apostles, 561. So, repentance is sorrow for sin; not just sorrow for sin, but a resolute turning away from sin.
The Desire of Ages, 523, says, “Self-surrender is the substance of the teachings of Christ.” “If we ever attain unto holiness, it will be through the renunciation of self and the reception of the mind of Christ.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 143. “The battle which we have to fight—the greatest battle that was ever fought by man—is the surrender of self to the will of God, the yielding of the heart to the sovereignty of love.” Ibid., 141. This is one of the reasons many people do not overcome. They do not fully surrender, so they do not receive the power they need.
We are now living in the great age of unbelief spoken of in 2 Peter 3. Ellen White wrote, “There is no escape from its power [the power of sin], no hope of the higher life, but through the submission of the soul to Christ.” Steps to Christ, 32. There is no other way out. The Desire of Ages, 825, says, “Now unbelief separates the church from her divine Helper.” And Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 160, says, “Christ cannot share a divided heart; sin and Jesus are never in co-partnership.” The devil has a power over humanity that we are not able to overcome except through Jesus. “It is only through Christ that Satan’s power is limited. This is a momentous truth that all should understand.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 294.
As we approach the end of the world, everyone is going to be marked. Most of the world will receive the mark of the beast, the mark of destruction or the mark of anti-christ (Revelation 13, 14). Those who do not receive the mark of the beast will receive the seal of God, the mark of deliverance (Revelation 7). Everyone will receive a mark. What determines which mark a person receives is described by Ellen White in The Desire of Ages, 324: “We must inevitably be under the control of the one or the other of the two great powers that are contending for the supremacy of the world. … We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the kingdom of light in order to come under the devil’s control.” Ibid. The devil will take control of your life without your permission. God will not take control of your life without your consent. He leaves you free to choose. At the end of the world, everyone will either become more and more like the devil or they will be filled with the Spirit of God and become more and more like Jesus.
God will have a people at the end of the world, not just a few people, but a church. What will God’s church be like as we approach the end? In The Desire of Ages, 680, Ellen White writes, “Christ designs that heaven’s order, heaven’s plan of government, heaven’s divine harmony, shall be represented in His church on earth.” She says it is Christ’s design.
There will be a church at the end that will be governed according to heaven’s plan of government. Heaven is perfectly organized. Heaven has no hierarchy, is not a democracy or a republic; it’s a kingdom with one king. Hierarchical governments are all of the devil. We should study and understand the New Testament church organization. The New Testament church followed heaven’s organizational plan.
God will have a church filled with the divine harmony of heaven. “The church, endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depositary, in which the riches of His mercy, His grace, and His love, are to appear [notice, this is a prophecy] in full and final display.” Ibid. [Emphasis supplied.] What an amazing statement!
The riches of God’s mercy, grace and love will not be in “full display and final display” in heaven. Why? It is not needed. If you and I are ever going to display the mercy of God, it will be here. God will have a church through which the riches of His mercy and grace will be displayed in full and final display.
The day is coming when all opportunities will be over. There are many in the world who love Jesus, even enough to die for Him, but they do not keep His commandments or understand the three angels’ messages, the sanctuary truth or the Spirit of Prophecy. Who will tell them, if not us? We must ask the Lord to help us, not just as individuals, but as a church to display His mercy, grace and love to a world that is perishing. If we don’t do it, the Lord will use someone else.
Friend, we have to pray that our first love will be restored. Because when God has a people that have that love in their hearts and have the final message to the world, there will be a display of the mercy, grace and love of God not seen in this world since the time of Jesus and the apostles. I would like to be part of it. Wouldn’t you?
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.