“His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it, but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ ”
Verse 44 is key to the statement we just read: “But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.”
According to Bible prophecy, God’s last church in this world will have the following characteristics: (1) it will keep the commandments of God, (2) it will have the Testimony of Jesus, and (3) it will have the same faith that Jesus had. (See Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 14:12.)
Jesus has promised to be with His church until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). But it is possible for the church in the last days to take for granted that Christ is with them while they live in a way that will result in their losing His promised presence, just as the vast majority of the leaders and almost the entire Jewish nation lost the Saviour, even though He had come to them in the flesh and blood, desiring to be with them forever. Only a few accepted the Son of God. Why? What was their major problem?
Elder F. C. Gilbert, a converted Jew who for many years was in charge of our work to bring Christ to our Jewish friends, had knowledge on the problem of the Jewish nation. He knew all about the Jewish language, the Jewish culture, and when he spoke and wrote it was with authority. Elder Gilbert wrote an article in Ministry magazine in December, 1933, about the Jewish church leadership at the time of Christ’s first advent. He explained that the Jews as a nation rejected their Messiah because of higher learning. The rabbis thought that they could reach the world through scholastic achievements.
He wrote: “It was suggested by the Greeks that the Jews send their talented young men to Alexandria for training and instruction in the philosophies, sciences, and learning of the Greeks.
“Many of the elders of Israel feared the results of such a course, the sages remembering the sorrowing of their ancestors who came into contact with heathen manners and customs. They counseled the younger men against such a procedure. These, in turn, argued that it would be an advantage for strong, thoughtful, vigorous young men who could enter the schools of Greece, as they might influence the philosophers and the Greek scholars to see the value and the beauty of the Jewish religion, and some of the learned Greeks might embrace Judaism. Still, the aged men of Israel advised against it. They maintained that should the younger men come into contact with the learning of the heathen, it might be ruinous to the future of the Jewish race. …
“Many of Israel’s influential men yielded to Greek urging. They said that God would help their young men to be true to their religion, and the training schools of Jewry would have a better standing in the eyes of the nations. The men of Israel were made to feel that the advantages of the Jewish scholars would be immeasurable. The young men would gain knowledge, influence, and prestige.
“Gradually the Jewish schools came to confer degrees upon their graduates. There were the Rav, or rabbi, the Tana, the Gayon, the Sadi, and the Rabbon. It was thought necessary for the graduates of the rabbinical schools to display their rank by wearing different clothing. Little by little an educational aristocracy was formed, which was called the Sanhedrin. This term is of Greek origin, the Hebrew name being Beth din ha-go-dol, Great House of Judgment.
“The religious schools continued to operate, but a marked declension in spiritual influence and power was apparent. Year by year the word of God was studied less, as studies based on culture and philosophy increased. Human concerns became exalted and God was less thought of.”
What a picture of the condition of the Jewish church because of higher education at the very time Christ came to this world!
The Desire of Ages, 29, confirms this. “As they departed from God, the Jews in a great degree lost sight of the teaching of the ritual service. … The Jews lost the spiritual life from their ceremonies, and clung to the dead forms. … In order to supply the place of that which they had lost, the priests and rabbis multiplied requirements of their own; and the more rigid they grew, the less of the love of God was manifested. They measured their holiness by the multitude of their ceremonies, while their hearts were filled with pride and hypocrisy.”
Quoting again from Ministry magazine, Elder Gilbert writes: “Because the leaders of Israel failed to accept the message of John [the Baptist] as coming from God, they were unprepared to receive the message of the Saviour, although He assured them that His life and advent were based on sacred Scriptures. The rabbis argued: ‘How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned?’ John 7:15.”
You see, Jesus never went for this higher education from Babylon.
“The Israelites did not realize that to be … unlike other nations was a special privilege and blessing.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 607
Oh, somehow I wish that we, as a church, would read and think that through today.
“God had separated the Israelites from every other people, to make them His own peculiar treasure. But they, disregarding this high honor, eagerly desired to imitate the example of the heathen! … As they depart from the Lord they become ambitious for the gains and honors of the world. … Many urge that by uniting with worldlings and conforming to their customs they might exert a stronger influence over the ungodly. But all who pursue this course thereby separate from the Source of their strength. Becoming the friends of the world, they are the enemies of God. …
“Thus it has been in every age of the world.” Ibid., 607, 608
We have not been able to reach the surrounding churches with our God-given three angels’ messages, and the sad news is that the teachings of Babylon have infiltrated our educational system, our preaching, and the books that are being printed. We are losing our cardinal truths as we mingle with the churches in the ecumenical movement. We need but two divine streams to close the door of apostasy—the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, and nothing more. These two heavenly sources will keep us in touch with Jesus and prepare us to be ready to meet Him when He comes.
Consider with me the doctrine of the sanctuary. No other people in the world except the Jews of old who were faithful to God’s truth understood the living Christ within the heavenly sanctuary teaching. For instance, every sanctuary emblem represents Jesus Christ—the Lamb, the bleeding victim; the laver, in which Christ washes away the iniquity; the candlesticks, Christ the light of the world; the showbread, Christ the bread of life; the altar of incense, the place where Christ presents our requests to God the Father; the ark, the law, a transcript of Christ’s character. Yet when the living Christ appeared to His people they rejected Him. Why? Because they had taken Christ for granted. They supposed they really knew Him when all they actually had was a form of religion, and for this God rejected the whole Jewish nation.
And what about us? We hear less and less today of the sanctuary, for it is within this doctrine that the true Christ is discerned. The majority will likewise reject Him in the time of judgment.
Consider more closely the truths of the heavenly sanctuary. Do you realize that you may know beyond a doubt that Christ entered the Holy place in heaven at Pentecost, there to act as our High Priest, cleansing our sins with His own blood? Do you realize that you may know with equal certainty that He entered the Most Holy place in 1844, and is this very moment standing before the ark of the ten commandments as our advocate until the final moments of this world? At that time God will declare, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11
When Jesus appears the second time, will you and I be ready to meet Him? Or will we have followed in the path of the Jews of old, been misled by the teachings of Babylon? Will we listen to educated men who teach that there is no sanctuary in heaven, that Christ kept the law for us; that we are saved by faith alone, so we need only believe and continue in sin until Jesus comes? Rather than studying for themselves to know the truth, millions accept these false teachings because they are being presented by doctors of divinity. They are preparing to reject Him as did the Jews and will not be ready to meet Him when He comes.
Let’s consider the Magi. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.’ ” Matthew 2:1, 2. Can you imagine the sensation that this caused? All Jerusalem was astir. Even King Herod was alarmed. Had not prophecy precisely predicted that Bethlehem would be the King’s birthplace? The shepherd’s experience with heavenly angels was known to all the priesthood. Zacharias’ encounter with the angel was also known widely. The birth of John the Baptist was revealed to thousands, yet both the priests and almost all the Jewish nation knew not that it was time for the Messiah to come. Sadly, only a few were ready to meet the Messiah.
Consider with me the dedication of the baby Jesus. The Christ child was to conform to the law in every particular. God had promised the Firstborn of heaven to save sinners and this gift was to be acknowledged by His consecration in commemoration of God’s people being delivered from Egypt—Egypt meaning full deliverance from sin.
“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that He may serve Me. But if you refuse to let Him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” ’ ” Exodus 4:22, 23. After these judgments God commanded, “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.” Exodus 13:2. “… On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, … They shall be Mine: I am the Lord.” Numbers 3:13
When the tabernacle service was instituted, the tribe of Levi took the place of the firstborn. However, the firstborn was still regarded as the Lord’s and must be bought back by a ransom. Just as the blood on the doorpost saved the firstborn, so the blood of Christ was to save the sinner. What a message was to be found in this dedication of the baby Jesus!
Picture with me the baby Jesus in the arms of Mary. The priest does not seem to comprehend the divine significance, for to him this is just an everyday common occurrence. As he begins the dedication service, he sees nothing unusual in Joseph and Mary except that they are very poor, offering the smallest gift the law allowed. He takes the Christ child from Mary’s arms into his own and lifts Him high above the altar. This priest has no idea that this baby boy is the Majesty of heaven or that he is holding in his arms the King of glory.
God made every effort to alert His people in the day of Christ, so why was this priest not prepared for this divine moment? Because he took his religion for granted. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. At the precise moment of Jesus’ dedication as the priest lifted Him up before the altar, Simeon enters the temple and takes the Baby out of the priest’s arms and praises God that he has now seen the Messiah. How is this? Simeon took nothing for granted. He had been praying for the Messiah to appear. He has never before experienced such joy as he returned Jesus to Mary’s arms. And before the astonished priest he speaks, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” Luke 2:29, 30. Then he blessed the child Jesus, and Mary and Joseph also.
Immediately, God sends Anna the prophetess to alert the priesthood also. She, too, has taken nothing for granted. She has “served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Verse 37, last part. She confirms Simeon’s testimony. “And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Verse 38
Such an acknowledgement by Inspiration quickly spread to every priest, ruler, and scribe. So why did the priests and the people reject Him? The people supposed that they were correct. They did not study or pray for themselves to discover the truth. They took for granted what the church leaders said and believed it.
Now let’s return to the Passover visit when Jesus was 12 years old. The journey took several days as a large company traveled together. They passed historical sights and recounted the providences of God. Songs of victory filled the air when Jerusalem finally came into view and the whole company would burst into song, “Our feet have been standing within Your gates, O Jerusalem!” Psalm 122:2
During this Passover visit, Jesus takes His first look at the temple. He is captivated by the sights and the wonders. He beholds the white-robed priests performing their solemn duties. He sees the bleeding victim of sacrifice. He bows in prayer amidst the cloud of incense. Hour by hour the sanctuary truth unfolds to His mind. His every act of life seems bound up in this Passover ritual and new impulses are awakened within Him. Alone in the temple, He studies the sin problem, and the mystery of His mission unfolds before Him. God is teaching Him the facts of His mission.
“With most of the people in the days of Christ, the observance of this feast had degenerated into formalism. But what was its significance to the Son of God!
“For the first time the child Jesus looked upon the temple. He saw the white-robed priests performing their solemn ministry. He beheld the bleeding victim upon the altar of sacrifice. With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God. He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service. Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly. Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life. New impulses were awakening within Him. Silent and absorbed, He seemed to be studying out a great problem. The mystery of His mission was opening to the Saviour.
“Rapt in the contemplation of these scenes, He did not remain beside His parents. He sought to be alone. When the paschal services were ended, He still lingered in the temple courts; and when the worshipers departed from Jerusalem, He was left behind. …
“While He [Jesus] was obedient in every particular to the word of God, He did not conform to the rabbinical rites and usages. … Jesus in the temple had been taught by God. That which He had received, He began at once to impart.
“Seating Himself at the feet of these grave, learned men, He listened to their instruction. As one seeking for wisdom, He questioned these teachers in regard to the prophecies, and to events then taking place that pointed to the advent of the Messiah. …
“The doctors turned upon Him with questions, and they were amazed at His answers. With the humility of a child He repeated the words of Scripture, giving them a depth of meaning that the wise men had not conceived of. If followed, the lines of truth He pointed out would have worked a reformation in the religion of the day. A deep interest in spiritual things would have been awakened; and when Jesus began His ministry, many would have been prepared to receive Him.” The Desire of Ages, 78, 79.
Can you imagine what would have happened had these priests listened to God? They supposed they knew it all for they had taken for granted that they were acquainted with God’s truth.
A day’s journey from Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary realized they had completely lost sight of Jesus. They had supposed that He was with them. They did not know that He had stayed in Jerusalem. They had become absorbed in visiting with their friends. How many like Joseph and Mary feel the presence of Jesus at a religious service, but lose the blessing on the way home?
“Jesus will not be found in the company of those who are careless of His presence, and who engage in conversation having no reference to their Redeemer, in whom they profess their hopes of eternal life are centered. Jesus shuns the company of such, so also do the angels who do His commands. These heavenly messengers are not attracted to the crowd where minds are diverted from heavenly things. These pure and holy spirits cannot remain in the company where Jesus’ presence is not desired and encouraged, and His absence not marked. For this reason, great mourning, grief, and discouragement exist. Through lack of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they have lost all that is valuable.” The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2, 37
This is exactly what happened to Joseph and Mary as they left Jerusalem to return home. As the day closed they prepared to pitch their tent only to miss the ever-ready hands of Jesus. Suddenly it struck them that He had not been with them all day. They had taken it for granted that He had been by their side. Now they shudder with fear for they remember how Herod had tried to kill Him. They remember that they had been charged with heaven’s most precious gift. They reproached themselves as they retraced their steps. All through the long dark night until early in the morning they walked the silent streets of Jerusalem looking for the boy Jesus. For three days they searched every nook and cranny.
Finally, they see a crowd of early worshipers entering a room of the temple. Following, they hear a familiar voice—serious, earnest, youthful, filled with melody. There’s no mistake. They have entered the school of the prophets. They cannot contain their grief any longer as they listen to His meaningful answers. Mary cries out, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” Luke 2:48
Every ear listens for the answer. “And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ ” Verse 49. We are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that as the boy Jesus spoke, He lifted His hand and pointed to heaven. Jesus was already engaged in His life work. Joseph and Mary had neglected theirs and blamed Jesus.
In committing His Son into their care, God had given to Joseph and Mary the highest honor. “If Joseph and Mary had stayed their minds upon God by meditation and prayer, they would have realized the sacredness of their trust, and would not have lost sight of Jesus. By one day’s neglect they lost the Saviour; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us; by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Saviour’s presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost.” The Desire of Ages, 83
How often we take Christ for granted!
“In our association with one another, we should take heed lest we forget Jesus, and pass along unmindful that He is not with us. When we become absorbed in worldly things so that we have no thought for Him in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, we separate ourselves from Jesus and from the heavenly angels. These holy beings cannot remain where the Saviour’s presence is not desired, and His absence is not marked. This is why discouragement so often exists among the professed followers of Christ.” Ibid.
How can God’s people mingle with the lost in attending rock concerts, in visiting sports arenas, where drinking, smoking, and profanity occur? How can one spend hours looking at movies in the theater or in the home, or reading novels that have been authored by Satan?
But you say, the youth are so young, they cannot understand. Look at the boy Jesus, only 12 years old. He understood because of the faithfulness of His parents. Parents, you, too, have a responsibility. God has given you a son or a daughter who is very precious in the sight of God. Are you having daily worship with them, teaching them to pray, and giving Godly counsel? Never forget, God gave you these children that you may lead them to Jesus to be saved for all eternity. Never, never take for granted that your child is with Jesus.
What of yourself? Could this be the reason you experience spiritual discouragement? “Many attend religious services, and are refreshed and comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. Often they feel that God has dealt harshly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence.” Ibid.
Don’t take Christ for granted. He’s heaven’s most precious gift. He’s the Pearl of great price. Don’t neglect one day in having morning devotions and searching to make sure you know that Jesus is with you in all that you do, and that the truth that you believe is the truth of God. “As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. If we are Christ’s, our sweetest thoughts will be of Him. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be ‘changed into the same image from glory to glory.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18.” Ibid.
For more than fifty years, Elder Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Though nothing could be found in his preaching that was contrary to the doctrines of the church, he was considered divisive. As a result, Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry was born. Elder Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.