Question & Answer – Why were James and John called the ” sons of thunder “?

“John did not naturally possess the loveliness of character that his later experience revealed. By nature he had serious defects. He was not only proud, self-assertive, and ambitious for honor, but impetuous, and resentful under injury. He and his brother were called “ sons of thunder ” (Mark 3:17). Evil temper, the desire for revenge, the spirit of criticism, were all in the beloved disciple. But beneath all this the divine Teacher discerned the ardent, sincere, loving heart. Jesus rebuked this self-seeking, disappointed his ambitions, tested his faith. …

“The defects in John’s character came strongly to the front on several occasions during his personal association with the Saviour. At one time Christ sent messengers before Him into a village of the Samaritans, requesting the people to prepare refreshments for Him and His disciples. But when the Saviour approached the town, He appeared to be desirous of passing on toward Jerusalem. This aroused the envy of the Samaritans, and … they withheld the courtesies which they would have given to a common wayfarer. …

“… the coldness, jealousy, and disrespect shown to their Master filled them with surprise and indignation. James and John especially were aroused. … In their zeal they said, ‘Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?’ … They were surprised to see that Jesus was pained by their words, and still more surprised as His rebuke fell upon their ears … (Luke 9:54–56). …

“At another time during their early evangelistic labors, James and John met one who, while not an acknowledged follower of Christ, was casting out devils in His name. The disciples forbade the man to work and thought they were right in doing this. But when they laid the matter before Christ, He reproved them, saying, ‘Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can lightly speak evil of Me’ (Mark 9:39). … James and John had thought that in checking this man they had in view the Lord’s honor; but they began to see that they were jealous for their own. They acknowledged their error and accepted the reproof.

“The lessons of Christ, setting forth meekness and humility and love as essential to growth in grace and a fitness for His work, were of the highest value to John. He treasured every lesson and constantly sought to bring his life into harmony with the divine pattern. John had begun to discern the glory of Christ—not the worldly pomp and power for which he had been taught to hope, but ‘the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).” The Acts of the Apostles, 540–544.

Until they were converted, they were surely sons of thunder.

Inspiration – Watch and Pray

“ Take ye heed, watch and pray ” (Mark 13:33), were the words of our Saviour spoken in reference to the time of the end, and His second coming to take His faithful children home.

First, you are to watch. Watch, lest you should speak hastily, fretfully and impatiently. Watch, lest pride should find a place in your heart. Watch, lest evil passions should overcome you, instead of your subduing them. Watch, lest a careless, indifferent spirit comes upon you, and you neglect your duty and become light and trifling, and your influence savor of death, rather than life.

Second, you are to pray. Jesus would not have enjoined this upon you, unless there was actual necessity for it. It is well known to Him that of yourself you cannot overcome the many temptations of the Enemy, and the many snares laid for your feet. He has not left you alone to do this; but has provided a way that you can obtain help. Therefore He has bid you to pray.

To pray aright, is to ask God in faith for the very things you need. Go to your chamber, or in some retired place, and ask your Father for Jesus’ sake to help you. There is power in that prayer that is sent up from a heart convinced of its own weakness, yet earnestly longing for that strength that comes from God. The earnest, fervent prayer will be heard and answered. Go to your God Who is strong, and Who loves to hear children pray, and, although you may feel very weak, and find yourself at times overcome by the Enemy, because you have neglected the first command of our Saviour, to watch, yet do not give up the struggle. Make stronger efforts yourself than before. Faint not. Cast yourself at the feet of Jesus, Who has been tempted, and knows how to help such as are tempted. Confess your faults, your weakness, and that you must have help to overcome, or you perish. And as you ask, you must believe that God hears you. Plead your case before God, through Jesus, until your soul can with confidence rely upon Him for strength, and you feel that you are not left to do the work of overcoming alone. God will help you. Angels will watch over you.

But before you can expect this help, you must do what you can on your part. Watch and pray. Let your prayers be fervent. Let this be the language of your heart, “I will not let Thee go unless Thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26). Have a set time, a special season for prayer at least three times a day. Morning, noon, and at night Daniel prayed to his God, notwithstanding the king’s decree, and the fearful den of lions. He was not ashamed, or afraid to pray, but with his windows opened he prayed three times a day. Did God forget his faithful servant when he was cast into the lion’s den? O, No. He was with him there all night. He closed the mouths of these hungry lions, and they could not hurt the praying man of God (see Daniel 6:3–28).

Children, you cannot live without food; you would soon feel the cravings of hunger, and your bodies would pine and die. You need spiritual food just as much, and often, as your body needs temporal food. Three times a day is none too often to draw strength from heaven, or sap and nourishment from Christ, the Living Vine. Read the words of our Saviour in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”

The Youth’s Instructor, October 1, 1855.

Keys to the Storehouse – The Greatest Battle

Each day when I arise, the battle begins and continues all day until I retire in the evening. It is the battle with self and it is one of the greatest battles we will ever fight. I must give praise to God because truly His grace is sufficient when I allow it to take charge.

“The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought.

  • The yielding of self,
  • surrendering all to the will of God,
  • and being clothed with humility,
  • possessing that love that is pure, peaceable, and easy to be entreated, full of gentleness and good fruits, is not an easy attainment. …” Gospel Workers (1892), 376.

Have you ever tried to be pure, peaceable and easy to get along with while under stress? Only through God’s grace is that possible!

“The Christian life is a battle and a march. But the victory to be gained is not won by human power. The field of conflict is the domain of the heart. 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.

The old nature, born of blood and of the will of the flesh, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The hereditary tendencies, the former habits, must be given up.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 141.

In other words, we must give up self or we cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The devil loves it when you refuse to surrender self to Jesus because then he can manipulate you. When you surrender yourself to Jesus to walk in the spiritual kingdom, the devil is angry and you can expect the following:

“He who determines to enter the spiritual kingdom will find that

  • all the powers and passions of an unregenerate nature, backed by the forces of the kingdom of darkness, are arrayed against him.
  • Selfishness and pride will make a stand against anything that would show them to be sinful.

We cannot, of ourselves, conquer the evil desires and habits that strive for the mastery. We cannot overcome the mighty foe who holds us in his thrall. God alone can give us the victory. He desires us to have the mastery over ourselves, our own will and ways. But He cannot work in us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the faculties and powers given to man. Our energies are required to co-operate with God.

“The victory is not won without much earnest prayer, without the humbling of self at every step. Our will is not to be forced into co-operation with divine agencies, but it must be voluntarily submitted.” Ibid., 141, 142.

Are you ready to yoke up with Jesus in the greatest battle ever fought? Let us together enroll under the banner of Christ Emmanuel—I am ready and willing.

Father: I earnestly humble myself before Thee and surrender all. I choose to walk with Thee. Please give me the victory over my evil desires and ugly habits that will keep me out of heaven. Give me the mastery over self that I may stand at all times for the right so that I may be part of the heavenly kingdom. I choose to yoke up with Jesus, to die to self, and to cooperate with You in the battle against self. Amen.

Current Events – Earthquakes and Floods

“The enemy has worked, and he is working still. He is come down in great power, and the Spirit of God is being withdrawn from the earth. God has withdrawn His hand. We have only to look at Johnstown [Pennsylvania]. He did not prevent the devil from wiping that whole city out of existence. [On May 31, 1889, an estimated 2,200 people lost their lives in the Johnstown flood when a dam broke after many days of heavy rains.] And these very things will increase until the close of this earth’s history.” Last Day Events, 25.

“The earth’s crust will be rent by the outbursts of the elements concealed in the bowels of the earth. These elements, once broken loose, will sweep away the treasures of those who for years have been adding to their wealth by securing large possessions at starvation prices from those in their employ. And the religious world, too, is to be terribly shaken, for the end of all things is at hand.” Ibid.

May 2015 – At least 31 people have died as a result of the devastating storms that have ravaged parts of Texas and northern Mexico. More people are still missing. Floodwaters have washed away cars and even a house was seen floating down a river. In Mexico, the epicenter for this severe weather, a tornado killed 13 people. One river surged from 5½ feet to over 40 feet—which is more than three times its flood stage—in less than two hours, sending raging waters through communities.

“ ‘This is the biggest flood this area of Texas has ever seen,’ Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Monday, according to Reuters. ‘It is absolutely massive—the relentless tsunami-type power of this wave of water.’

“In its latest report, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that heavy precipitation events in North America and Europe appear to have been growing more frequent and more severe and predict the precipitation events will get worse and surface air temperatures will continue to rise in the coming century.”

April 2015 – A powerful 7.8 earthquake shook Nepal near its capital, Katmandu flattening sections of the city’s historic center. Dozens of sightseers were trapped in a 200-foot watchtower that came crashing down into a pile of bricks. The quake set off avalanches around Mount Everest causing the death of many as the wall of snow and ice took out everything in its path. The ancient city was turned to rubble in a matter of minutes killing many thousands of people and injuring more. The death toll has reached over 8,000 with 18,000 injured and hundreds still missing and unaccounted for.

“By midafternoon, the United States Geological Survey counted 12 aftershocks, one of which measured 6.6.

“Seismologists have expected a major earthquake in western Nepal, where there is pent-up pressure from the grinding of the Indian tectonic plate as is it forced underneath the Eurasian plate to the north.”

There is no safe place on this earth outside of the protection of Christ. We should ask ourselves, “Are our feet on the rock of ages? Are we hiding ourselves in our only refuge? The storm is coming, relentless in its fury. Are we prepared to meet it? Are we one with Christ as He is one with the Father? Are we heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ?” Evangelism, 199.

A Sentence of Death – The Beginning of Life

And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. And standing her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say?’ They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear. But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.’ And again bending down, He wrote on the ground. And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you?’ And she said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.’ ” John 8:3–11 NKJV.

This story is a powerful illustration of a stark reality as expressed in the following quote from Selected Messages, Book 1, 219. It says, “They [sinners] must feel themselves sinners, exposed to the wrath of God, before they will realize their need of a Saviour.”

The Desire of Ages vividly portrays the position of the woman caught in adultery, the reality of her situation, and poignantly illustrates the reality. Try to wear her shoes, empathizing with her in her position, feeling her shame and terror, her abjection, wretchedness, and despair. After all, we are told in Revelation 3:14–17 that this is indeed our state, not just hers. So take into your very soul the reality of her situation, because it is your own.

The Desire of Ages, 460–462: “A group of Pharisees and scribes approached Him, dragging with them a terror-stricken woman, whom with hard, eager voices they accused of having violated the seventh commandment. Having pushed her into the presence of Jesus, they said to Him, with a hypocritical show of respect, ‘Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou’ (John 8:5)? …

“Jesus looked for a moment upon the scene—the trembling victim in her shame.

“The woman had stood before Jesus, cowering with fear. His words, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone’ (John 8:7), had come to her as a death sentence. She dared not lift her eyes to the Saviour’s face, but silently awaited her doom.”

Picture the scene. The woman, caught in the very act, shamed and embarrassed, dragged through the streets before the eyes of all, and cast at the feet of Jesus, facing the death she knew she deserved.

But she was painfully, terrifyingly aware of more than this. Not only was she facing death, death by stoning, she was facing an eternity without her Lord and Saviour. She knew she was a sinner. She knew of the purity and holiness of Jesus. She was brought face to face with death—eternal death; terrifying, hopeless, forever lost. She knew she was not ready to die.

Yet, there she was, caught in the act of adultery, surrounded by the temple dignitaries, accusing, pointing fingers, condemning, seeking her death. She heard the hard, judging voices, pressing upon Jesus for His decision, and with downcast eyes, and fearful heart she awaited the whistle of stone flying through the air and the first crushing blow.

But as she waits, the seconds stretching into eternity, nothing happens. No stone whistles through the air to wound, to bruise, to destroy. Only a painful silence descends upon the air, and eventually the shuffling of feet fading into the distance reaches her ears. Time passes, and lo, she is left alone with Jesus. “In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’ Her heart was melted, and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins.” The Desire of Ages, 462.

Her encounter with death, physical and eternal, was to her the turning point to a new life, a new life in Jesus, a life free from the degradation and shame of sin. It is this same encounter that we each one must face in order to appreciate, and hunger and thirst for the redeeming grace of a Saviour.

“They [sinners] must feel themselves sinners, exposed to the wrath of God, before they will realize their need of a Saviour.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 219. The woman realized, in her encounter with death, that she was a sinner. There was not a shadow of a doubt in her mind. She realized the reality of the following words from the same book, page 342: “He [the sinner] has nothing of his own but what is tainted and corrupted, polluted with sin, utterly repulsive to a pure and holy God.” This was an inescapable, brutal truth to her. I believe that she had reached the point stated in Testimonies, vol. 5, 620: “We must realize how terrible are the pains of the second death.” She tasted this stark reality.

But the story does not end there. It is rather, in fact, simply the beginning; the beginning of a new and different life, a life in Jesus, free, pure, joyous, full of gratitude and thanksgiving, with a heart overflowing with love for our Saviour and Redeemer.

“This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is unto death everlasting. This penitent woman became one of His most steadfast followers. With self-sacrificing love and devotion she repaid His forgiving mercy.

“In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save. The world had for this erring woman only contempt and scorn; but Jesus speaks words of comfort and hope. The Sinless One pities the weakness of the sinner, and reaches to her a helping hand. While the hypocritical Pharisees denounce, Jesus bids her, ‘Go, and sin no more.’ ” The Desire of Ages, 462.

What made the Pharisees hypocritical? It was nothing more or less than pretending that they were without sin, without need, but rather rich and increased with spiritual good. Jesus never told them “Go, and sin no more.” They never received of Jesus’ mercy, His grace, His power to overcome sin and live a life of purity and peace. Why? Because they did not see themselves as “sinners, exposed to the wrath of God.”

It was after her traumatic encounter with death, and her ensuing rescue that, with a heart full of gratitude and filled with love for her Saviour, that the woman, enabled by His power of love fulfilled the command of Jesus, “Go and sin no more.”

Although there is no conclusive proof that the woman taken in adultery is Mary, the similarity of the two situations is evident. Whether or not the two are the same is immaterial, for in both situations, the repentance of the sinner is clear. The following statement from the book The Spirit of Prophecy, although spoken of Mary at Simon’s banquet, could rightfully be said of the woman taken in adultery:

“Though she had been very sinful, her repentance was sincere, and Jesus, while reproving her guilt, had pitied her weakness and forgiven her. Mary’s heart was filled with gratitude at the compassion of Jesus. Seven times she had heard His stern rebuke to the demons which then controlled her heart and mind, and she had listened to His strong cries to His Father in her behalf. She knew how offensive everything impure was to the unsullied mind of Christ, and she overcame her sin in the strength of her Saviour. She was transformed, a partaker of the divine nature.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 377.

“Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration.

“Christ might commission the angels of heaven to pour out the vials of His wrath on our world, to destroy those who are filled with hatred of God. He might wipe this dark spot from His universe. But He does not do this. He is today standing at the altar of incense, presenting before God the prayers of those who desire His help.

“The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature. They stand beside the great Sin Bearer, in the light proceeding from the throne of God. ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us’ (Romans 8:33, 34).” The Desire of Ages, 568.

Dear friends, fellow sinners, do you recognize that you have “nothing of his (your) own but what is tainted and corrupted, polluted with sin, utterly repulsive to a pure and holy God?” Do you feel yourself a sinner, “exposed to the wrath of God?” If you do not, for your soul’s sake, and for the sake of Him Who spilled His blood on Calvary, plead with God to show you your wretchedness and sin. Plead that He will open your eyes to the reality in which you stand before Him. Then He will fulfill His promise. Of our Father it is said, “God’s plan is not to send messengers who will please and flatter sinners, He delivers no messages of peace to lull the unsanctified into carnal security. But He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrongdoer, and pierces his soul with sharp arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God, to deepen the sense of his great need and prompt the agonizing cry: ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ The very hand that humbles to the dust, rebukes sin, and puts pride and ambition to shame, lifts up the penitent, stricken one, and inquires with deepest sympathy: ‘What wilt thou that I shalt do unto thee’ (Mark 10:51)?” Testimonies, vol. 4, 178.

“When man has sinned against a holy and merciful God, there is no course for him to pursue so noble, as to sincerely repent and confess his errors in tears and bitterness of soul. This God requires of him and will accept of nothing less than a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” The Signs of the Times, February 12, 1880. And then His promise is “He lifts up the penitent, stricken one, and inquires with deepest sympathy, ‘What wilt thou that I shalt do unto thee?’ ” Ibid.

Let us join this woman taken in adultery, bowed at the feet of Jesus, trembling, recognizing our shame, our sin, our degradation. It is the truth. It is our reality just as much as it was hers. Let us accept that we are sinners; accept that we are “exposed to the wrath of God;” accept that we have “nothing of [our] own but what is tainted and corrupted, polluted with sin, utterly repulsive to a pure and holy God.” It is then, and only then that we will realize our need of a Saviour. And it is only as we recognize our need that we will seek—and receive healing. It is then, as with her, that Jesus will say to us, “Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.”

Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at:

Thoughts from the Book of Hebrews

The disciples of Jesus stayed in Jerusalem for three and one-half years after the day of Pentecost. This period ended when Stephen was stoned. The Sanhedrin was steeped in the earthly sanctuary service and the sacrificing of animals after Jesus’ death, even after the veil of the temple was rent in two and the sacrificial lamb escaped, signifying that the sacrificial service had ended. It was about this time, following the stoning of Steven, that Paul became instrumental in the gospel story. Paul was a young and brilliant student, trained and educated in Phariseeism and in the traditions of the Jews. It appears that he had no significant contact with Jesus prior to the crucifixion.

“Prominent among the Jewish leaders who became thoroughly aroused by the success attending the proclamation of the gospel, was Saul of Tarsus. A Roman citizen by birth, Saul was nevertheless a Jew by descent and had been educated in Jerusalem by the most eminent of the rabbis. …

“Saul had taken a prominent part in the trial and conviction of Stephen, and the striking evidences of God’s presence with the martyr had led Saul to doubt the righteousness of the cause he had espoused against the followers of Jesus. His mind was deeply stirred. In his perplexity he appealed to those in whose wisdom and judgment he had full confidence. The arguments of the priests and rulers finally convinced him that Stephen was a blasphemer, that the Christ whom the martyred disciple had preached was an impostor, and that those ministering in holy office must be right.” The Acts of the Apostles, 112.

Saul had a question about what he was doing and went to the leaders of the church. He struggled with this conviction. “And having fully decided that the priests and scribes were right, Saul became very bitter in his opposition to the doctrines taught by the disciples of Jesus.” Ibid., 113.

Some of these doctrines were as follows:

  1. Jesus was the Lamb of God Who was represented by the lamb that had been sacrificed every morning and evening.
  2. Jesus was the Son of God represented by that sacrificial lamb.
  3. Jesus ratified the new covenant by His death.
  4. The sanctuary on earth was useless now that Christ had died and that no sacrifices should now be offered in the temple.
  5. Jesus rose the third day after His crucifixion, ascended to heaven that third day and opened the holy place in the sanctuary in heaven.
  6. Jesus again ascended 40 days later and was inaugurated at that time as the High Priest in the daily service of the new covenant sanctuary in heaven.
  7. The sanctuary in heaven replaced the sanctuary on earth.

These were the messages that the disciples were told to preach in Jerusalem for the next three and a half years. Because Saul heard this message and saw the success they were having as thousands were joining this new movement, he had a controversy in his mind.

He had been convinced by the church that the apostolic message had to be destroyed. “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting,’ He replied.” Acts 9:3–5. Saul was shocked. He saw Jesus in person, in His inaugurated, glorified position in the holy place of the sanctuary in heaven.

Revelation 1:16, last part, gives a description of Jesus as High Priest. It says, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” When you look at the sun too long, you become blinded. Saul could not turn his eyes from Jesus and he went temporarily blind. “But Saul understood the words that were spoken, and to him was clearly revealed the One who spoke—even the Son of God. In the glorious Being who stood before him he saw the Crucified One. Upon the soul of the stricken Jew the image of the Saviour’s countenance was imprinted forever.” The Acts of the Apostles, 115.

Paul never forgot what he saw on the road to Damascus. He now understood the terrible condition of the Sanhedrin and the Jewish nation in their misapplication of Scripture, the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah, the persecution of the true church and the disciples. And most importantly he saw their rejection of the new covenant—the plan of redemption. He was overwhelmed with the thought that his friends in the Sanhedrin were doomed to destruction. He now knew that the sacrifices they were offering every morning and evening were useless and they were deceiving themselves thinking that they were serving the God of heaven by offering those sacrifices.

The theme throughout the book of Hebrews, written to the Jews, concerns Christ and the sanctuary in heaven. Paul is elevating Jesus in the eyes of the Jews—helping them to see that Jesus was the true Son of God. The phrase in Hebrews 1:6, “Let all God’s angels worship Him” had been recently spoken by God the Father in His inauguration in heaven, as related in The Desire of Ages, 834: “The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. … The Father’s arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’ (Hebrews 1:6).”

“But we do see Jesus, Who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9. Paul is trying to show that Jesus was the One promised to Adam to atone for their sins, to give them power to overcome the devil, to provide eternal salvation and to free them from the judgment of eternal death. Jesus had to become a human being so that by His death He might destroy Satan who holds the power of death.

“In the Saviour’s expiring cry, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), the death knell of Satan was rung. The great controversy which had been so long in progress was then decided, and the final eradication of evil was made certain. The Son of God passed through the portals of the tomb, that ‘through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil’ (Hebrews 2:14).” The Great Controversy, 503.

Paul informs the Jews that the One they persecuted was their Saviour. In chapters 2 and 3 of Hebrews Paul shows the reality of Jesus—that the disciples saw Him ascend to heaven and that he saw Jesus serving as High Priest. If they believed in Moses then they needed to believe more in Jesus because He has received greater honor than Moses. Paul was doing his best to present Jesus Christ to them to save them from eternal death.

He continues in chapter 4:14–16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest Who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest Who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What a hope! We have a High Priest Who is living in heaven—Jesus, the One you crucified. We are holding firmly to this faith. He is without sin and He can represent us in the heavenly courts. Paul presented Christ as our mediator Who is in heaven and Who understands our infirmities. Let us approach Him with confidence. He explains that you do not need to go through that sacrificial lamb every morning and evening like you are doing. Go to Jesus in the holy place in the sanctuary in heaven with confidence that Jesus will free you from sin.

In Hebrews 5 Paul tells the Jews that Jesus had to take humanity upon Him and experience our suffering. Because He suffered faithfully, under reverent submission, no sin was found in Him. He learned obedience and through that obedience, He was made perfect. Being made perfect He became the Source of eternal salvation for all who obey. God appointed Jesus to be priest in heaven. Jesus has offered the sacrifice of Himself, has ascended to heaven, and is our High Priest forever “in the order of Melchizedek.”

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” Hebrews 6:17, 18. God has offered by an oath His commitment to the plan of salvation and we can trust God the Father because He never lies. This oath was pronounced to Abraham. In Patriarchs and Prophets, 371, Ellen White explains as follows: “The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the ‘second’ or ‘new’ covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God—the ‘two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie’ (Hebrews 6:18).”

Paul tells the Jews that this covenant in which they profess to have salvation, the Abrahamic covenant, is actually Christ’s ministration in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary because He was the Lamb that was slain.

In verse 19 he says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain …” Our hope is in the ministry of Jesus in the holy place “… where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Verse 20.

There was no question that they understood the ministry of Jesus in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. The apostolic church had no question about the sanctuary in heaven. Had they clung to the truth that Jesus is our high priest, we would not be in the problem we are in today; but because they allowed that message to become obscure, and because the Roman church covered it up by setting the pope as the head of the church, instructing people to confess their sins to the priest, the role of Jesus has been replaced by an earthly priest, wiping out the message of the apostolic church. Daniel 8:14 had to be proclaimed because this message will be restored in the Second Advent Movement, in which the sanctuary message will become just as prominent as Paul’s message is in the book of Hebrews. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Verse 19.

Jesus is still that High Priest today. He is no longer ministering in the holy place, but in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary. Those who enter into His ministry in the most holy place as the apostolic church entered into His ministry in the holy place will find eternal life.

Paul builds the case stronger for the truth. “And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to His ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” Hebrews 7:15, 16. In other words, it is not based on the ancestry of the priests in the earthly sanctuary. “For it is declared: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ ” Verse 17. One has been found like Melchizedek Who is a permanent priest forever. We can believe in Jesus and accept Him for He meets the Melchizedek requirements.

Paul goes on to say in verse 21: “… but He [Christ] became a priest with an oath when God said to Him: ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever.” ’ ” He is an anchor for us today. Those who cling to Jesus and His ministry in the most holy place have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure during the storms around us.

“Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—One Who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.” Verses 22–27. He is the One that died on the cross and He has His offering, His blood, forever.

Hebrews 8:1, 2, a continuation of the thought at the conclusion of chapter 7, says, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, Who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and Who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.” Paul confirms to these leaders in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, that we do have a High Priest and He is ministering today in the sanctuary in heaven.

“Turning again to the book of Hebrews, the seekers for truth found that the existence of a second, or new-covenant sanctuary, was implied in the words of Paul already quoted: ‘Then verily the first covenant [ministration] had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.’ And the use of the word ‘also’ intimates that Paul has before made mention of this sanctuary. Turning back to the beginning of the previous chapter, they read: ‘Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest, Who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man’ (Hebrews 8:1, 2).” The Great Controversy, 413. [Emphasis author’s.]

Then is made this interesting statement: “Here is revealed the sanctuary of the new covenant [the sanctuary in heaven]. The sanctuary of the first covenant [the earthly] was pitched by man, built by Moses; this is pitched by the Lord, not by man. In that sanctuary the earthly priests performed their service; in this, Christ, our great High Priest, ministers at God’s right hand. One sanctuary was on earth, the other is in heaven.” Ibid.

Paul openly contrasts the purpose of the sanctuary on earth with the one in heaven. He says that since Christ has died as the Lamb of God, the earthly sanctuary is now useless—no more to be used.

“By calling this covenant ‘new,’ He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13.

In “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 932, she says, “Christ’s death and resurrection completed His covenant. Before this time, it was revealed through types and shadows [the earthly sanctuary], which pointed to the great offering to be made by the world’s Redeemer, offered in promise for the sins of the world. … Christ’s sacrifice is the glorious fulfillment of the whole Jewish economy. The Sun of Righteousness has risen. Christ our righteousness is shining in brightness upon us.”

“When the Jews sealed their rejection of Christ by delivering Him to death, they rejected all that gave significance to the temple and its services. Its sacredness had departed. It was doomed to destruction. From that day sacrificial offerings and the service connected with them were meaningless. Like the offering of Cain, they did not express faith in the Saviour. … and that the system of sacrificial offerings was forever at an end.” The Desire of Ages, 165. To reject the new covenant sanctuary in heaven is to reject the plan of salvation.

In Hebrews 9:1, 2, Paul states: “Now the first covenant [ministration] had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.” Here Paul simply points back to the earthly sanctuary stating that this is what represented the sanctuary of the new covenant in heaven. Now that Jesus has paid the price and opened the sanctuary in heaven, we do not need this type anymore. Over and over again he emphasizes the uselessness of the sanctuary service in the earthly temple.

The Great Controversy, 411, states: “The sanctuary to which Paul here refers was the tabernacle built by Moses at the command of God as the earthly dwelling place of the Most High. ‘Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them’ (Exodus 25:8).”

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11, 12. Paul did not intimate that everything was done at the cross. He continually pointed them to Jesus and His ministry in the holy place as part of their salvation.

In Hebrews 9:14, we are told: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Paul’s appeal is to get rid of sin and false teachings and come to Christ to be cleansed through His atoning blood.

“For this reason [that we might get rid of our sins in verse 14] Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” Verse 15.

“Christ is the mediator of the new covenant” that we might be free from sin and receive eternal life. This is the gospel in one verse.

“It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices [animal sacrifices], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these [the blood of Christ].” Verse 23.

“In Hebrews 9 the cleansing of both the earthly and the heavenly sanctuary is plainly taught. ‘Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens [the earthly sanctuary] should be purified with these [the blood of animals]; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these’ (Hebrews 9:22, 23), even the precious blood of Christ.” The Great Controversy, 417. Paul tells his Hebrew friends that it was Jesus that they crucified and Who provided this blood to open the heavenly sanctuary. He pleads for them to give their hearts to Him and to forget their useless sacrifices—eternal life is in the message He is giving.

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Hebrews 9:24. Paul could have gone on to say that he saw Jesus there.

“The ceremonial law was given by Christ. Even after it was no longer to be observed, Paul presented it before the Jews in its true position and value, showing its place in the plan of redemption and its relation to the work of Christ; and the great apostle pronounces this law glorious, worthy of its divine Originator. The solemn service of the sanctuary typified the grand truths that were to be revealed through successive generations.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 367.

That was the purpose of the earthly sanctuary, which has now been fulfilled.

“Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Hebrews 9:25.

Paul says that Jesus has now appeared and we have crucified Him. “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Verses 27, 28.

Jesus is not coming the second time to bear sin or to take away your sin. Your sin and my sin must be confessed before that or we will be lost.

Paul then makes his conclusions and appeal in Hebrews 12:22–24: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Paul states that Jesus has come to open the sanctuary in heaven. You have been presented this message—come, join us and enter into the city of God, the New Jerusalem.

After his presentation throughout the book of Hebrews of Christ and of His work in the sanctuary in heaven, Paul makes his appeal in verse 25, where he says, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven?”

If we fail to heed the warnings of the prophets in the Old Testament, are we not even more guilty if we turn from God’s warnings that come directly from heaven?

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ ” Verses 28, 29.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul presented an appeal to accept Jesus as the High Priest of the sanctuary in heaven. Jesus is the only One Who can take the confession of sin and atone with His blood and separate it from the sinner.

The following statements appeal to the Second Advent: “… the third angel was pointing them to the most holy place, and those who had had an experience in the past messages were pointing them the way to the heavenly sanctuary.” We see here that Ellen White had the essence of the whole second advent movement—the true disciples pointing everyone to the heavenly sanctuary. “Many saw the perfect chain of truth in the angels’ messages, and gladly received them in their order, and followed Jesus by faith into the heavenly sanctuary. These messages were represented to me as an anchor to the people of God.” Early Writings, 256.

Just as the Jews could turn to Jesus in the holy place and receive forgiveness of their sins, so we today can go to Jesus in the most holy place and there confess our sins and find an Anchor to sustain us through the latter rain experience. This is the only place where our Anchor is. The third angel’s message that does not include this truth of Jesus’ role as our high priest is a false message, just as false as the Jewish sacrificial service after the crucifixion.

“Those who understand and receive them [the three angels’ messages] will be kept from being swept away by the many delusions of Satan.” Ibid.

Jesus is ministering in the most holy place and all who seek Him there will find in Him One Who can give power to separate from sin right now. When the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, deal with it immediately. Jesus will give you the power to do it and then you will be ready to receive the Holy Spirit when the latter rain falls.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New International Version.)

Maurice Hoppe is Director of the Steps to Life training programs and a member of the Steps to Life Board. The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders is a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as pastors or Bible workers. Preparing for the Final Conflict is a correspondence course for the laity. Both of these courses teach present truth that will be an anchor for the soul during the storm of opposition and persecution just ahead. He and his wife also have a correspondence course offered through Revelation Ministry. He can be contacted at:

Like Master, Like Disciple

During Christ’s ministry on earth He was not accepted favorably by the masses. Warning His disciples about the future, He said, “It is enough for a disciple that He be like his teacher and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household?” Matthew 10:25.

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word I said to you, a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” John 15:18–20. The Christian faith involves not only hope, but also bearing the cross while following Jesus.

In his epistles, the apostle Paul told of his personal encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. It was very convincing because it was backed up by a change in his life that nobody could contradict. Those who refused his testimony became furious with rage because of the effect that it had wherever he went. The Jews determined to find some pretext by which they could justify his death.

“While Paul’s labors in Rome were being blessed with the conversion of many souls and to the strengthening and encouragement of the believers, clouds were gathering that threatened not only his own safety, but also the prosperity of the church. Upon his arrival at Rome he was placed in charge of the captain of the imperial guards, a man of justice and integrity, by whose clemency he was left comparatively free to pursue the work of the gospel. But before the close of the two years’ imprisonment, this man was replaced by an official from whom the apostle expected no special favor.

“The Jews were now more active than ever in their efforts against Paul, and they found an able helper in the profligate woman whom Nero had made his second wife, and who, being a Jewish proselyte, would lend all her influence to aid their murderous designs against the champion of Christianity.

“Paul could hope for little justice from the Caesar to whom he appealed. Nero was more debased in morals, more frivolous in character, and at the same time capable of more atrocious cruelty, than any ruler who had preceded him. The reins of government could not have been entrusted to a more despotic ruler. The first year of his reign had been marked by the poisoning of his young stepbrother, the rightful heir to the throne. From one depth of vice and crime to another, Nero had descended, until he had murdered his own mother, and then his wife. There was no atrocity which he would not perpetrate, no vile act to which he would not stoop. In every noble mind he inspired only abhorrence and contempt.

“The details of iniquity practiced in his court are too degrading, too horrible, for description. His abandoned wickedness created disgust and loathing, even in many who were forced to share his crimes. They were in constant fear as to what enormities he would suggest next. Yet even such crimes as Nero’s did not shake the allegiance of his subjects. He was acknowledged as the absolute ruler of the whole civilized world. More than this, he was made the recipient of divine honors and worshipped as a god.

“From the viewpoint of human judgment, Paul’s condemnation before such a judge was certain. But the apostle felt that so long as he was loyal to God, he had nothing to fear.” The Acts of the Apostles, 485, 486.

God did shield his servant. The charges against him were not sustained. Nero declared him guiltless, and again he was a free man. However, during his confinement, the converts to Christianity had become so numerous that they attracted the attention of the authorities. The Emperor became particularly concerned when members of his own household became converted and he soon figured out a pretext by which he could kill off most of the Christian population in the city of Rome.

At that time the terrible fire that history has recorded occurred in Rome. It was rumored that Nero himself had caused the flames to be kindled that destroyed nearly half the city. However, blame was cast on Christians. This monster in human form amused the public by exhibiting the victims in their dying agonies when they were burned to death after their bodies had been painted with pitch. He took the keenest delight in the misery of others, which is one of the clearest signs that a person has become Satanic in character.

Paul knew his labors among the churches were coming to an end. It was not long before the Jews conceived of the idea of blaming Paul for instigating the burning of Rome. He was seized while in the city of Troas in the house of a disciple and taken by ship again to Rome for his second and final imprisonment.

“Reformatory action is always attended with loss, sacrifice, and peril.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 305. Jesus was opposed and hated because people hate change. It is no easy matter to overcome sinful habits and practices. They can only be overcome with divine help.

The majority of people are not willing to accept the standard given by the gospel in the New Testament. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” I John 5:3. The person who says he loves God and does not keep His commandments is a liar.

When Paul returned to Rome for his second imprisonment, thousands of Christians had been killed for their faith, and many had left the city. Those who were left were greatly intimidated because of the persecution. There were no warm-hearted disciples to meet Paul as had happened on his first imprisonment. There was no one like a courteous and kindly Julius to say a word in his favor, no statement of favor from Festus or Agrippa to attest to his innocence. Paul was not now put in a rented house but in a gloomy Roman dungeon that would be his home until he was martyred.

A visit to the apostle Paul during his second imprisonment was nothing like a visit during his first imprisonment when he was in his own rented house. In the first imprisonment there had been no charge that had been sustained against him and he had won favorable opinions from princes and rulers such as King Agrippa, Felix, and Festus. But to visit him during his second imprisonment was to visit a person who was the object of universal hatred, being accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible crimes against the city and nation. Anybody who did venture to visit him to show any kindness or attention made himself subject to suspicion and endangered his own life. Rome, at that time, was filled with spies who stood ready to bring an accusation against any person on the slightest occasion that could advance their own interests.

One by one, the apostle Paul saw his friends leave. In a letter to Timothy, he wrote, “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.” 1II Timothy 4:9–15.

And then he said, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever.” Verses 16–18.

Paul was still able to communicate with the outside world through Luke and his secretary so messages were sent to and from the different churches. While in such a dire situation, he was encouraged by an unexpected visit by Onesiphorus, who had come to Rome not long after Paul had arrived there the second time. Knowing that Paul was a prisoner somewhere in the city, he determined to find him. This was not an easy task in a city crowded with prisoners. Suspicion was everywhere and had only to fasten itself upon an unfortunate victim to consign him to prison and perhaps to death.

But in spite of all these difficulties, Onesiphorus searched for the apostle until he found him. Not satisfied with just one visit, he went again and again at the risk of his own life to Paul’s dungeon to lighten the burden of his imprisonment. The fear of scorn, reproach or persecution was powerless to terrify this true-hearted Ephesian Christian because he knew that his beloved teacher was in bonds for the truth’s sake, while he himself, in every respect far less worthy, was free. (See Sketches from the Life of Paul, 308.)

Paul wrote about this in 11 Timothy 1:16–18: “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very diligently and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day—and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.”

“The desire for love and sympathy has been implanted in the human heart by God Himself. Christ in His hour of agony in Gethsemane, while bearing the guilt of sinful men, longed for the sympathy of His disciples. And Paul, though almost indifferent to hardship and suffering, yearned for sympathy and companionship. God would have His people cherish love and sympathy for one another. …

“It was the practice among both the Greeks and the Romans to allow an accused person to have an advocate to plead in his behalf. By force of argument, by his impassioned eloquence, or by entreaties, prayers, and tears, such an advocate would often secure a decision in favor of the prisoner, or failing in this, would mitigate the severity of his sentence.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 309.

Paul had no legal counsel. Not one came forward to stand beside him even to preserve a record of the charges that were leveled against him. There are no human records of the arguments that he urged in his own defense. The only record that we have of this occasion is that of Paul himself: “At my first defense, no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” II Timothy 4:16. All alone, he stood in a pagan court accused of an aggravated crime and all alone, he had to defend himself. However, unseen to those present there was One who stood with him and strengthened him. The result, he said, was that the preaching might be fully known.

“Paul before Nero—how striking the contrast! The very height of earthly power, authority and wealth, as well as the lowest depths of crime and iniquity had been reached by the haughty monarch before whom the man of God answered for his faith. In his power and greatness, Nero stood unrivaled, unapproached. There were none to question his authority, none to resist his will. The kings of the earth laid their crowns at his feet. The most powerful armies marched at his command. The ensigns of his navies upon the seas betokened victory. His statue was set up in courts of justice, and the decrees of senators and the decisions of judges were but the echo of his will. … The name of Nero made the world tremble. To incur his displeasure was to lose property, liberty, and life. His frown was more to be dreaded than the pestilence. Yet while surrounded by all the outward semblance of earthly pomp and greatness, adored and reverenced as a god in human form, he possessed the heart of a demon.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 311.

There stood Paul before him, an aged prisoner, calm, whose face told of the peace of God that reigned within. “The results of opposite systems of training and education stood that day contrasted—the life of unbounded self-indulgence and the life of utter self-sacrifice. Here were the representatives of the two religions—Christianity and paganism; the simplicity of self-denying endurance, ready to give up life itself, if need be for the good of others, and the luxury of all-absorbing selfishness, that counts nothing too valuable to sacrifice for momentary gratification; the representatives of two spiritual powers—the ambassador of Christ and the slave of Satan. Their relative position showed to what extent the course of this world was under the rule of the prince of darkness. The wretch whose soul was stained with incest and matricide, was robed in purple, and seated upon the throne while the purest and noblest of men stood before the judgment-seat, despised, hated, and fettered.

“The vast hall which was the place of trial was thronged by an eager, restless crowd that surged and pressed to the front to see and hear all that should take place. Among those gathered there were the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, the proud and the humble. Yet all alike were destitute of the true knowledge of the way of life and salvation.

“Again the Jews urge against the prisoner the old charges of sedition and heresy, while both Jews and Romans accuse him of instigating the burning of the city. While his enemies were vehemently urging their accusations, Paul, preserved a quiet dignity; no shade of fear or anger disturbed the peaceful serenity that rested upon his countenance. The people and even the judges beheld him with surprise. They had been present at many trials, and had looked upon many criminals; but never had they seen a man wear such a look of holy calmness as did the prisoner before them. The keen eyes of the judges, accustomed as they were to read the countenances of their prisoners, searched the face of Paul for some hidden trace of crime, but in vain.” Ibid., 312, 313.

Finally, after the accusations had been made, Paul was given opportunity to speak for himself. With more than human eloquence he explained to the anxious listeners the truths of the gospel. The company had never before heard words so true, clear and convincing. Divine light penetrated their darkened minds and the truth proclaimed on that occasion would never die. They had come to hear the utterance of a feeble and aged prisoner, but instead they heard words that were destined to shake nations.

Paul said, “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me so that the message might be preached fully through me and that all the Gentiles might hear.” II Timothy 4:17. Longing to see these people receive the truth of salvation and not perish, he lost sight of the terrible fate that awaited him and he looked to Jesus, his Advocate, and his Intercessor in the courts above. He pleaded with them and showed them that there was an Advocate available to them at the throne of God. He told them of the infinite sacrifice that had been made in behalf of the fallen race. There was no trace of fear, sadness, or discouragement on his countenance as he presented Jesus to his listeners.

“Never had Nero heard the truth as he heard it upon that occasion. Never had the enormous guilt of his own life been revealed to him as it was revealed that day. The light of heaven had pierced the sin-polluted chambers of his soul. He quaked with terror at the thought of a tribunal before which he, the ruler of the world should be arraigned, and where his deeds would meet a just reward. He was afraid of the apostle’s God, and he dared not pass sentence on Paul, against whom no accusation had been sustained. A sense of awe for a time restrained his bloodthirsty spirit.” Ibid., 315.

For a moment it seemed that the peace and purity of heaven would be something desirable. That was the moment of mercy, the moment, when—if Nero had made the decision—he could have turned his life around and chosen to repent and confess his sins and follow Jesus.

“But only for a moment. The command was issued for Paul to be taken back to his dungeon; and as the door closed upon the messenger of God, so the door of repentance was forever closed against the emperor of Rome. Not another ray of light was ever to penetrate the dense darkness that enveloped him.” Ibid., 316.

Paul knew that his enemies would not rest until they had secured his death, but he knew also that the truth had triumphed for the time. He had been given the opportunity to proclaim a crucified and risen Saviour before the vast throng who had listened to his words. It was a victory for the gospel. The work begun that day would increase and prosper and in vain would the emperor of Rome seek to destroy or hinder it. His speech had gained him many friends, and he was visited by some persons of rank, but it was with Timothy that the apostle longed to spend his final days.

There was great affection between the youthful laborer and the apostle. Timothy had been converted through his labors and to him had been committed the care of the church at Ephesus. Paul wrote to him asking him to come as soon possible to Rome. In case Timothy did not arrive in time, the apostle wrote his dying testimony. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all those who have loved His appearing.” II Timothy 4:6–8.

Time was fast running out for the apostle; he must give some final counsel to the young minister. This same charge is repeated today when ministers are ordained in Christian churches. “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing in His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” II Timothy 4:1–5.

Paul predicted that the time would come when Christians would not endure the truth and get for themselves teachers who would preach smooth things that would please their ears. It is the duty of a Christian minister to hate and reprove sin, while manifesting pity and tenderness for the sinner. That is a difficult attainment.

On the one hand we must be careful that we do not have undue severity toward a wrong-doer, while at the same time, we need to understand the exceeding sinfulness of sin. This requires Christlike patience and love toward the erring, but being careful of the danger of manifesting so great tolerance for error that eventually the person who is living in sin will consider himself undeserving of reproof and reject it as an uncalled for hardness.

Care must be taken that toleration does not degenerate into toleration of sin. Godliness leads to brotherly kindness, and those who do not cherish the one will surely lack the other. So, if a person blunts his moral perceptions so that he becomes sinfully lenient towards those whom God condemns, the time will come when he will commit a greater sin by using severity and harshness toward those whom God commends. When Paul says that the time will come when Christians will not endure sound doctrine, he is not talking here about people who are atheists, or agnostics, or openly irreligious. He speaks of professed Christians who have indulged inclination until they are enslaved by their own ungoverned passions and led away as he says in chapter three, with various kinds of cravings or lusts.

Paul foresaw that people would turn away from the plain, searching truths of God’s word and that they would have itching ears, and would heap to themselves teachers that would present to them the fables that they desired, an easier gospel (11 Timothy 4:3). These teachers trample under their feet the fourth commandment and end up trampling all of the others as well.

The Creator of the world is insulted by those who claim to be His children while they transgress His law, and Satan laughs at the success of his plots against the human race. We are living in a time where there is distaste for religion and a growing contempt for God’s holy law. Pride, love of pleasure and self-indulgence abound. Many ask the question, “What can be done to arrest the alarming evils in society?”

Paul’s instruction to Timothy was, “Preach the Word.” Preach what the Bible says, whether people will hear or whether they will not. Within its pages are the only safe principles of action to reform or to save society. The Word contains a transcript of the will of God; it is an expression of divine wisdom. It opens to the understanding how to solve the great problem of life and all who will listen and act on it will be directed in the right way.

In Paul’s last letter he said, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” II Timothy 3:1–5.

In the last days religion will be full of people who have a form of godliness. They will profess to be Christians. They will profess to be religious and go to church. Looking at them from the outside, people in the world will believe that they are Christians but, while they have a form of godliness, they deny its power.

Paul clearly describes the power of the gospel in Romans 1:16, 17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ ”

At the end of his life as a true disciple of Christ, Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” II Timothy 4:7, 8.

(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 of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Editorial – Feelings

When God created mankind He not only gave the ability to think intellectually but also the ability to feel. When sin entered the world, mankind began to have to deal with negative feelings and feelings of despair and despondency. In the Bible we not only have books like the Song of Solomon but also books like Job and Lamentations. Dealing with feelings of despair and despondency is beyond the scope of this editorial, but following are some excerpts from Ellen White’s letters to one of our leading ministers, S. N. Haskell, who was sometimes plagued with feelings of despair.

“You ask me why it is that you awake in the night and feel enclosed in darkness? I often feel the same way myself; but these desponding feelings are no evidence that God has forsaken you or me. … Gloomy feelings are no evidence that the promises of God are of no effect.

“You look at your feelings, and because your outlook is not all brightness, you begin to draw more closely the garment of heaviness about your soul. You look within yourself and think that God is forsaking you. You are to look to Christ. …

“Entering into communion with our Saviour, we enter the region of peace. … We must put faith into constant exercise, and trust in God whatever our feelings may be. … We are to be of good cheer, knowing that Christ has overcome the world. We will have tribulation in the world, but peace in Jesus Christ. My brother, turn your eyes from within, and look to Jesus Who is your only helper.” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 324.

“I felt sorry when I read your letter breathing so depressed a spirit. Read Ephesians 2:4–22. This Scripture has been given me for you. Read it carefully, as you never read it before. It is full of instruction. …

“Bear in mind, the time will never come when the hellish shadow of Satan will not be cast athwart our pathway to obstruct our faith and eclipse the light emanating from the presence of Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness. Our faith must not stagger, but cleave through that shadow. … Our faith is not in feeling, but in truth. …

“We have the companionship of the divine presence, and as we realize this presence, our thoughts are brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. Our spiritual exercises are in accordance with the vividness of our sense of this companionship. Enoch walked with God in this way.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 387–389.

For inspired counsel on dealing with feelings of despair and despondency, read the chapter in The Ministry of Healing entitled “Mind Cure.”