While in a bookstore recently, some books containing pictures of the past caught my eye. I looked at pictures of the Civil War, covered wagons, miners in California, and various groups of people, all of which were very interesting to me, because it is history which was lived, and now it is gone. Although a reality at one time, it is passed away, but pictures are left behind which help us see what the people and their lives were like.
Man can produce pictures of the past. We have the technology to produce pictures of the present, but God is the only One Who can produce pictures of the future. A picture of the future is given in Matthew 8:11: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” Here is a picture of reality. Jesus pulls back the veil, and He gives us a picture of what is going to happen. Someday, “Some of you are going to sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in My kingdom.” Do you want to be there in that day?
The Future is Reality
In Matthew 22:31, 32, Jesus categorizes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob among the living: “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus says that God is a God of the living, not of the dead. But then He says that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These patriarchs of the Old Testament are dead. How, then, can He identify them among the living?
Romans 4 explains how God is able to do this. God looks at things differently than you and I look at things. Remember, through Isaiah, He says, “My thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8. “Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” Romans 4:16, 17.
God calls those things which are not right now, as though they are. He views reality—past, present, and future—all in the perspective of the living. So, He views Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as living even though they are not, because some-day they will be living. The picture of the future is reality. God deals in the reality of what has been, what is, and what will be. The question we may ask ourselves, at this point, is, Would it not be well for us to view life as God does? Yes, it would.
Real or Imaginary
“On a certain occasion, when Betterton, the celebrated actor, was dining with Dr. Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury, the archbishop said to him, ‘Pray, Mr. Betterton, tell me why it is that you actors affect your audiences so powerfully by speaking of things imaginary.’ ‘My lord,’ replied Betterton, ‘with due submission to Your Grace, permit me to say that the reason is plain: It all lies in the power of enthusiasm. We on the stage speak of things imaginary as if they were real, and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’ ” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 255.
God wants us to wake up to the reality of the past, the present, and the future, because God is dealing in reality. If we are going to walk with God, we are going to have to deal in the same. How is it with us when we talk about salvation, when we talk about Jesus, when we talk about Calvary? Is it real? How is it when we talk about heaven? Is it real? If it is, it will be sensed in our voices; it will be seen in our expressions; it will be heard from the pulpit.
Sitting with Jesus
Jesus gave us a picture, in Matthew 8:11, that someday the redeemed would sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—very notable men—and there will be others with whom the redeemed will sit, but I want you to know there is Someone else. A picture of the future—a reality which will be: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Revelation 3:21. Where is Jesus today? He is sitting at the right hand of His Father. Not only will the redeemed sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they are going to sit with Jesus also.
Do you want to sit with Jesus Christ someday? Do you want to be in this picture? When you are looking at family pictures, and you see yourself in the picture, there is a special feeling about being included. God wants you in His picture. This verse tells us how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest of the redeemed will eventually sit down with Jesus in His kingdom. How did they obtain an experience, which will eventually place them in the picture of the future—namely, eternal life? There is one word; they were overcomers! In their lives, they overcame, and this gives them the reward of someday sitting with Jesus and the rest of the redeemed in the picture of eternity.
It does not matter whether you read James, 1 Thessalonians, Romans, Isaiah, Ezekiel, or any of the other various books of the Bible; one Author inspired every book. It is the same One who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. We are not listening to Paul; we are listening to Jesus. We are not listening to Isaiah; we are listening to Jesus. We are not listening to Moses; we are listening to Jesus. And may I say, we are not listening to Ellen White; we are listening to Jesus Christ! The testimony of Jesus Christ is the Spirit of Prophecy.
“Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12. God places Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the future picture, because they overcame temptations in their lives. They will receive their crowns, because they endured the temptations to sin. Did they sin at one time? Oh, yes! But did they eventually gain victories? Yes, they did. If we are going to sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, we are going to have to learn to endure temptation as did they, living in a world of trouble, sin, and temptation.
Jesus said, very clearly, that we will never endure without Him. “Without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Not a thing!
If we cannot endure temptation, we are going to sin. If we sinned this past week and we know that we have, it is because we disconnected ourselves from Jesus. If we are walking with Jesus, we will not sin; we will be overcomers.
Overcoming is merely coming over. It is coming over to Jesus and to His side of the issue in the great controversy. Jesus says, “Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. When we respond to this invitation, we then have made the decision to walk with Jesus. We then have the ability, through His grace, to endure temptation, just as surely as did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are attributes to help us overcome, and I would like for us to consider three of them. Three men with three things in their lives which, if we incorporate them into our lives, will give us the victory over temptations which they experienced, and thus give us the privilege of someday sitting with them in the kingdom of God!
Faith of Abraham
Let us start with Abraham. He is a tremendous example of faith. God called him and told him, early in his experience, that he needed to leave his hometown. Did he obey? Oh, yes, he did. Abraham had faith in God, and he responded to Him. Notice what God tells us about Abraham, through the writings of Paul. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” Romans 4:1. Abraham found something, which we need to find, and if we have found it, we need to hold on to it. Continuing, in verse 3: “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” It was accounted unto him for righteousness because he believed God. Abraham had more than just faith—he had a living faith. A living faith is a faith which acts!
James says that faith without works is dead. (James 2:20, 26.) We know, by God’s testimony of Abraham, that he had a faith that worked. The kind of faith Abraham had is the kind of faith that we need, if we are going to someday sit in God’s kingdom.
Notice what motivated his faith: “And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” 1 Corin-thians 13:2. The kind of faith, which Abraham had and God rewarded, was motivated by love. This is why James tells us that Abraham became the friend of God. You and I can be God’s friend, if we respond to His love with love. Love begets love, and God has taken the initiative to love us, even though we are unlovely. God commended His love to us, in that while we were yet transgressors of His law, Christ, His Son, died for you and me. (Romans 5:8.) He has demonstrated His love, not merely professed it, and He wants us to have the kind of faith that will act. Abraham had the kind of faith which was motivated by love.
On what was Abraham’s faith focused? Romans 4:20, 21 says, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” You see, Abraham focused on God’s Word—His promises. He not only focused, but he also believed what God said would be. He chose to cooperate with God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. (Romans 4:3.)
The living faith, which is motivated by Christ’s love, becomes a living reality and can do wonderful things. We find Abraham doing something that would be impossible without such faith. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten [son].” Hebrews 11:17. Abraham was privileged to illustrate the plan of redemption to fallen man by taking his only son, Isaac, up to Mount Moriah and willingly offering him as a sacrifice at the command of God. Did it take faith for Abraham to do this? It took a great deal of faith. He knew God’s voice, and he knew Who had asked him to do this nearly impossible thing. But he was willing to do it, and he exercised faith, which God rewarded.
If we have the kind of faith Abraham had, we will be able to do the impossible! What we think is impossible, we can do, by God’s grace, if it is His will and His command—just as Abraham did the impossible by taking Isaac to Mount Moriah. He never hesitated. This is why he is called the friend of God. If we have any hesitation in our experience with God, in believing His promises, we still have room to grow—and all of us have room to grow in faith.
We can have this kind of faith! “It is not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have that will give you success. It is that which the Lord can do for you. We need to have far less confidence in what man can do and far more confidence in what God can do for every believing soul. He longs to have you reach after Him by faith. He longs to have you expect great things from Him.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 146. We need to focus on His promises.
God wants to do great things for us, but He cannot do them unless we exercise faith, because He will not compromise. He does not have to compromise. He has made Himself well-known to humanity, if humanity chooses to respond through the avenues by which God has made Himself known. All that He did for Abraham, He will do for you and me, for God is no respecter of persons. If we are not there in the day when Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sit down with Jesus, it is not against God. It has nothing to do with any arbitrary decree on the part of God. It will be our own choice. Just because we are in church every Sabbath does not mean that we are safe and secure. We are marked men and women. “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed.” Revelation 12:17. We can choose to be God’s wheat, or we can choose to be the tares. Jesus told us they are growing together. We can all be wheat, if we so choose.
From Abraham, we learn a main attribute. If we are going to be in God’s kingdom someday, we have to exercise a living faith—a living faith that is motivated by love; faith that is a personal experience with God; an experience that causes God to call us His friend.
Now let us look at another attribute from the life of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Did Abraham raise Isaac right? Oh, yes! We are going to see that he did. I can tell you that the majority of young people today, whom I see in the world around me, would not have reacted as Isaac did that day on Mount Moriah. It has everything to do with how a child is raised. “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.” Genesis 22:9.
Was Isaac struggling all the while? Was he saying, “Dad, Dad, do not do this; it is wrong”? No. Isaac was told by his father, Abraham, what God had told him, and Isaac said, “Father, may God’s will be done. Tie me up.” We need to think about this for a moment. Did Isaac have faith? Oh, yes, he had faith. But he also had obedience—obedience which was more than mere obedience.
Remember, the rich young ruler came to Jesus and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus enumerated some of the Ten Commandments, and the rich young ruler said, “I have done all of those since I was a child.” (Mark 10:17–20.) Did he have the obedience which would allow him to someday sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? No. He had obedience, but he did not have the kind of obedience that Isaac had.
Isaac had what we would call sacrificial obedience, which is the putting of self aside and obeying God, no matter what. Do we have this kind of obedience—actually dying to self and doing God’s will instead of our own, turning away from the inclinations of the flesh, the desires of our own, natural hearts and choosing God’s will no matter what? Jesus had this kind of sacrificial obedience to His Father when, in Gethsemane, He said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42.
Isaac had what Jesus had—sacrificial obedience. If you and I are going to sit someday with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are going to have to go beyond obedience. We are going to have to have sacrificial obedience, a willingness to die to self.
What motivated Isaac on Mount Moriah to allow his father to bind him and put him on the altar? “And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3. Isaac was motivated by love to offer the sacrifice of obedience. How is it with us?
“Isaac believed in God. He had been taught implicit obedience to his father, and he loved and reverenced the God of his father. He could have resisted his father if he had chosen to do so. But after affectionately embracing his father, he submitted to be bound and laid upon the wood.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 107. This is inspired commentary. Sacrificial obedience is what we see in the life of Isaac. “All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses.” The Desire of Ages, 668.
Do we not want to have this kind of obedience? Jesus is the only One Who can give it to us, but it is all based upon our consent, our willingness to do. “The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience.” Ibid. Did Isaac know God? Yes, but he was a young man. You might ask how he knew God. He knew God from his father, but then he came to know God himself, choosing, individually, to respond to his heavenly Father. So not only did Abraham know God personally, but Isaac also knew God personally.
We can never offer sacrificial obedience to God without first knowing Him. We can offer obedience without knowing Him, but never sacrificial obedience. We have to know Him from the heart.
Jacob’s Persevering Determination
Finally, what does Jacob teach us? What attribute from the life of Jacob will help us to be ready to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and him in God’s kingdom someday?
The conflict of Jacob’s life is recorded in Genesis 32. You and I are going through little conflicts, little tests, right now. A river Jabbok is just before each one of us. The conflict of our lives is just before us, as God’s professed people. Each one of us will be tested, closer and closer. How are we doing on the quizzes?
As Jacob struggled with the Angel—Jesus—from midnight to dawn, He said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” And Jacob responded, “I will not!” Have you ever told God this? Every time we fall into sin, we are saying, “God, I will not!” But we can say, as did Jacob, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Genesis 32:26.
I can remember that, when I came back after the apostasy I went through, I struggled with things in my life. It is not an easy thing to come back, but it is not impossible either. I remember giving in to temptation and sinning, then weeping and going to my Father, thinking, “It is impossible! Give it up.” But the Lord inspired me with a thought, and I prayed it more than once, because it took more than once. I remember praying to my Father, “Please forgive me; I choose not to give up, but to get up!”
Jacob said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What [is] thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Verses 26–28. We have something to learn from Jacob’s experience. It is called persevering determination. How much do you press toward heaven?
In 11 Peter 1:10, Peter says, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence [give determination] to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” May I add, if you do not do this, you will fall! He goes on to say, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Verse 11. We must have this attribute—persevering determination—to continue to press on.
Paul said, “[This] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, 14. [Emphasis supplied.] He pressed; he was determined. Paul was a determined man, because he realized that the pictures, which God put before him of the future, were reality. He knew the pictures of the past were reality. He knew what he was going through was reality.
Jacob was a determined man. What motivated Jacob? Paul speaks about love in 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8: “[Love] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.” Did Jacob have this kind of love, this kind of motivation? Yes, he did. He was determined. His faith endured. Jacob knew his quest was real, not imaginary.
“Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded.” The Great Controversy, 621. This is
a wonderful promise. What Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob experienced, we can experience. It must be our experience if we are to someday sit with them in God’s kingdom.
The Final Picture
Someday soon, Jesus and all of His angels will come to this earth. He is coming for those who have had the living faith of Abraham, the sacrificial obedience of Isaac, and the persevering determination of Jacob. Of them, Jesus says, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. We need to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ. Combining the attributes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with love, we will have victory! We will secure a seat in the kingdom. We will be part of this picture!
Craig Meeker is Director of the Bible Correspondence School at Steps to Life. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.