Bible Study Guides – Many of His Disciples Turn Back at the Present Time

March 20, 2005 – March 26, 2005

Memory Verse

“But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, [and that] ye shall not prolong [your] days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.” Deuteronomy 30:17, 18.

Suggested Reading: The Great Controversy, 593–602.


In last week’s lesson, we studied about the trials and attitudes of the independent movement during the first advent. The Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy both speak of a large group of “His disciples” that turned their backs on Jesus the day following the feeding of the 5,000. In this lesson, we will study about the trials and attitudes of the independent believers during the time of the second advent movement.

The importance of this subject is emphasized by the following statement: “We want to understand the time in which we live. We do not half understand it. . . . The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ—how the enemy sought every occasion to take control of the minds of the Jews, and today he is seeking to blind the minds of God’s servants, that they may not be able to discern the precious truth.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 406.

1 What two phrases tell us that the trials and attitudes of the people during the second advent will be similar to those of “His disciples” during the first advent? What did Jesus predict about the second advent? See Matthew 24:3, 4, 10, 11, 24.

note: “Because they were too vain and self-righteous to receive reproof, too world-loving to accept a life of humility, many turned away from Jesus. Many are still doing the same thing. Souls are tested today as were those disciples in the synagogue at Capernaum. When truth is brought home to the heart, they see that their lives are not in accordance with the will of God. They see the need of an entire change in themselves; but they are not willing to take up the self-denying work. Therefore they are angry when their sins are discovered. They go away offended, even as the disciples left Jesus, murmuring, ‘This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ [John 6:60.]” The Desire of Ages, 392.

2 In the above statement, what three phrases explain the attitudes that will be revealed in the people of God when they are tested today? What does Mark record Jesus as predicting about attitudes today? Mark 13:12, 13.

comment: In last week’s lesson, we noted that the following attitude changes took place among “His disciples” when they turned their backs on Jesus: They (1) sought out His enemies; (2) were in harmony with His enemies’ spirit and work; (3) misinterpreted His words; (4) falsified His statements; (5) impugned His motives; (6) stirred up false reports; (7) wished to wound the Saviour; (8) left Him with disdain; and (9) desired to gratify the malice of the Pharisees.

3 What prophecy is written concerning a large class who profess faith in the third angel’s message? What does Paul predict about this very development? 11 Thessalonians 2:10–12.

note: “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition.” The Great Controversy, 608.

4 Describe the attitude change that takes place after they abandon their position. This had already happened in the first advent type. See John 8:58, 59; 11:45–50.

note: “By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.” The Great Controversy, 608.

comment: It has now been documented that as a large group of “His disciples departed from the faith during the crisis in Galilee,” so a large group of believers in the third angel’s message will depart from the faith in the second advent movement. It has also been seen that they exhibit the same attitudes.

After the large departure of “His disciples” during the crisis in Galilee, Jesus began to give instruction to the twelve disciples to prepare them for their crowning trial and final test. So also Christ has sent messages to His faithful believers in the second advent movement to prepare them for their crowning trial and final test.

5 What specific information did Jesus give to His disciples? Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31, 32, first part; Luke 9:22.

note: “Before His crucifixion the Saviour explained to His disciples that He was to be put to death and to rise again from the tomb, and angels were present to impress His words on minds and hearts. But the disciples were looking for temporal deliverance. . . . The words which they needed to remember were banished from their minds; and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared. The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if He had not forewarned them.” The Great Controversy, 594.

6 What is opened to us as plainly as it was opened to the disciples? See Isaiah 33:14–17.

note: “So in the prophecies the future is opened before us as plainly as it was opened to the disciples by the words of Christ. The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble, are clearly presented. But multitudes have no more understanding of these important truths than if they had never been revealed.” The Great Controversy, 594.

7 According to the above reference, how well are these important truths understood by the people today? See Hosea 4:6; 8:12.

8 What was the crowning trial and the final test for His beloved disciples? What will be the crowning test today? See Jeremiah 30:5–8.

note: “Compassionate Redeemer, who in the full knowledge of the doom that awaited Him, tenderly smoothed the way for the disciples, prepared them for their crowning trial, and strengthened them for the final test.” The Desire of Ages, 394.

“He foresaw that in the hour of temptation every one of His beloved disciples would be severely tested. His agony in Gethsemane, His betrayal and crucifixion, would be to them a most trying ordeal.” Ibid.

“Christ had spoken a sacred, eternal truth regarding the relation between Himself and His followers. He knew the character of those who claimed to be His disciples, and His words tested their faith. He declared that they were to believe and act upon His teaching. All who received Him would partake of His nature, and be conformed to His character.” Ibid., 391.

9 What will be the great test of loyalty for the people of God in the second advent movement? Revelation 13:15–17; 14:9–11.

note: “The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty; for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not.” The Great Controversy, 605.

“Those who endeavor to obey all the commandments of God will be opposed and derided. They can stand only in God. In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God as revealed in His word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them. None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict. To every soul will come the searching test: Shall I obey God rather than men?” Ibid., 593, 594.

10 How did the eleven disciples react when they came up to their crowning trial and final test? Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50.

note: “The disciples were terrified as they saw Jesus permit Himself to be taken and bound. They were offended that He should suffer this humiliation to Himself and them. They could not understand His conduct, and they blamed Him for submitting to the mob. In their indignation and fear, Peter proposed that they save themselves. Following this suggestion, ‘they all forsook Him, and fled.’ [Mark 14:50.] But Christ had foretold this desertion, ‘Behold,’ He had said, ‘the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.’ John 16:32.” The Desire of Ages, 697.

11 How will the faithful people of God in the second advent movement respond to their crowning trial and final test? Revelation 14:12; 20:4.

note: “In this time of persecution the faith of the Lord’s servants will be tried. They have faithfully given the warning, looking to God and to His word alone. God’s Spirit, moving upon their hearts, has constrained them to speak. Stimulated with holy zeal, and with the divine impulse strong upon them, they entered upon the performance of their duties without coldly calculating the consequences of speaking to the people the word which the Lord had given them. They have not consulted their temporal interests, nor sought to preserve their reputation or their lives. Yet when the storm of opposition and reproach bursts upon them, some, overwhelmed with consternation, will be ready to exclaim: ‘Had we foreseen the consequences of our words, we would have held our peace.’ They are hedged in with difficulties. Satan assails them with fierce temptations. The work which they have undertaken seems far beyond their ability to accomplish. They are threatened with destruction. The enthusiasm which animated them is gone; yet they cannot turn back. . . . God put the truth into their hearts, and they could not forbear to proclaim it.” The Great Controversy, 608, 609.

12 What experience will every soul pass through on their way to the Holy City? Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1.

note: “The ‘time of trouble, such as never was’ [Daniel 12:1], is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God.” The Great Controversy, 622.

13 What will be the consequences to those who delay their preparation for the time of trouble? See Matthew 22:11–14. Compare Revelation 16:15.

note: “Those who delay a preparation for the day of God cannot obtain it in the time of trouble or at any subsequent time. The case of all such is hopeless.

“Those professed Christians who come up to that last fearful conflict unprepared will, in their despair, confess their sins in words of burning anguish, while the wicked exult over their distress. . . .

“The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. . . . All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he [Jacob] did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it.” The Great Controversy, 620, 621.

14 What must the people of God do now if they would pass safely through the time of trouble? Revelation 3:18–20; 12:17; 19:10.

note: “Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ. . . . Christ declared of Himself: ‘The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.’ John 14:30. Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.” The Great Controversy, 623.

“Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all the testing time will come.” Ibid., 625.

[All emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted.]

Answer key available upon request.

Bible Study Guides – Many of His Disciples Turn Back

March 13, 2005 – March 19, 2005

Memory Verse

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life.” John 6:63.

Suggested Reading: John 6; The Desire of Ages, 383–394.


Three events have been documented that have their counterpart in the second advent movement. They are: (1) The first cleansing of the temple and the second angel’s message (Revelation 14:8) in 1844; (2) The Sanhedrin’s rejection of Jesus at the second Passover and the second advent church’s rejection of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy; (3) The second cleansing of the temple and the loud cry of the third angel (Revelation 18:1, 2).

As it was necessary for Jesus to begin a ministry independent from the Sanhedrin in the first advent, so in the second advent movement, God found it necessary to begin a ministry independent from the organized church. He led E. A. Sutherland and P. T. Magan to open a school and a sanitarium for the people in the South.

Our study this week concerning “the trials of the children of Israel and their attitude” during the first advent of Christ will continue, as we look at the events connected with the ministry of Jesus in Galilee just a year following the Sanhedrin’s rejection of Christ’s message and His departure from Jerusalem.

1 What is the setting for the crisis in Galilee? John 6:1–13.

note: “The Passover was at hand, and, from far and near, bands of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem gathered to see Jesus. Additions were made to their number, until there were assembled five thousand men besides women and children.” The Desire of Ages, 364.

2 What did the twelve disciples and the crowd plan to do after they were finished eating? John 6:14, 15.

note: “All day the conviction has strengthened. That crowning act is assurance that the long-looked-for Deliverer is among them. The hopes of the people rise higher and higher. This is He who will make Judea an earthly paradise, a land flowing with milk and honey. He can satisfy every desire. He can break the power of the hated Romans. He can deliver Judah and Jerusalem. He can heal the soldiers who are wounded in battle. He can supply whole armies with food. He can conquer the nations, and give to Israel the long-sought dominion.

“In their enthusiasm the people are ready at once to crown Him king. They see that He makes no effort to attract attention or secure honor to Himself. In this He is essentially different from the priests and rulers, and they fear that He will never urge His claim to David’s throne. Consulting together, they agree to take Him by force, and proclaim Him the king of Israel. The disciples unite with the multitude in declaring the throne of David the rightful inheritance of their Master. It is the modesty of Christ, they say, that causes Him to refuse such honor. Let the people exalt their Deliverer. Let the arrogant priests and rulers be forced to honor Him who comes clothed with the authority of God.” The Desire of Ages, 377, 378.

3 How did Jesus respond to this effort to make Him king? John 6:15, 16.

note: “But Jesus sees what is on foot, and understands, as they cannot, what would be the result of such a movement. Even now the priests and rulers are hunting His life. They accuse Him of drawing the people away from them. . . . Calling His disciples, Jesus bids them take the boat and return at once to Capernaum, leaving Him to dismiss the people.

“Never before had a command from Christ seemed so impossible of fulfillment. The disciples had long hoped for a popular movement to place Jesus on the throne; they could not endure the thought that all this enthusiasm should come to nothing. . . .

“Jesus now commands the multitude to disperse; and His manner is so decisive that they dare not disobey.” The Desire of Ages, 378.

comment: Here we have a clear description of a group of people who are followers of Jesus along with the twelve disciples. They plan to take Jesus by force to Jerusalem and, through popularity, proclaim Him King of Israel over the authority of “the arrogant priests and rulers.” It is evident that even though these people had left the organization to follow Jesus, they had no better understanding of the nature of Christ’s kingdom than had the priests and rulers in Jerusalem.

4 Because Jesus refused to let the people proclaim Him king, what great change now occurred in His ministry? John 6:66.

note: “When Christ forbade the people to declare Him king, He knew that a turning point in His history was reached. Multitudes who desired to exalt Him to the throne today would turn from Him tomorrow. The disappointment of their selfish ambition would turn their love to hatred, and their praise to curses. Yet knowing this, He took no measures to avert the crisis. From the first He held out to His followers no hope of earthly rewards. . . . Of those now connected with Him there were many who had been attracted by the hope of a worldly kingdom. These must be undeceived. The deep spiritual teaching in the miracle of the loaves had not been comprehended. This was to be made plain. And this new revelation would bring with it a closer test.” The Desire of Ages, 383.

comment: Although the crowd was dispersed by Jesus, the next day they gathered again at the synagogue in Capernaum. Before we join the meeting at the synagogue, it is important to understand the relationship of these people to the organized church in Jerusalem and the independent ministry of Jesus.

5 How does John identify the relationship of these people to Jesus three times in his gospel? John 6:60, 61, 66.

note: The Spirit of Prophecy calls them “His disciples” seven times:

“He knew the character of those who claimed to be His disciples, and His words tested their faith.” The Desire of Ages, 391.

“By the public rebuke of their unbelief these disciples were still further alienated from Jesus.” Ibid., 392.

“Many are still doing the same thing. Souls are tested today as were those disciples in the synagogue at Capernaum. . . . Therefore they are angry when their sins are discovered. They go away offended, even as the disciples left Jesus, murmuring, ‘This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ [John 6:60.]” Ibid.

“As those disaffected disciples turned away from Christ, a different spirit took control of them.” Ibid.

“With a yearning heart, Jesus saw those who had been His disciples departing from Him, the Life and the Light of men.” Ibid., 393.

“When Jesus presented the testing truth that caused so many of His disciples to turn back, He knew what would be the result of His words; but He had a purpose of mercy to fulfill.” Ibid., 394.

comment: In looking back, the picture becomes quite clear. About the time of the second Passover, the Jewish church rejected Jesus and His ministry. Jesus then departed from them and went into Galilee to work. This resulted in large multitudes joining Him as “His disciples.” At the feeding of the 5,000, they planned to take Jesus to Jerusalem and proclaim Him their King, but by the end of the next day, the records say that most of “His disciples” turned away and left Him. Let us now take a look at the reasons for this amazing change in the attitude of “His disciples.”

6 What was the hope of this multitude of “His disciples” that attracted them to Jesus? John 6:14, 15. See The Desire of Ages quotation after Question 4.

7 According to the reference following Question 4, what did Jesus have to do for these people before they could understand the true nature of His kingdom? See John 18:36.

8 What would this new revelation bring to the people? John 6:61–64.

note: “Christ had spoken a sacred, eternal truth regarding the relation between Himself and His followers. He knew the character of those who claimed to be His disciples, and His words tested their faith.” The Desire of Ages, 391.

9 What did Jesus tell “these disciples” they would have to do to become His true disciples? John 6:53, 63.

note: “To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ is to receive Him as a personal Saviour, believing that He forgives our sins, and that we are complete in Him. It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature. What food is to the body, Christ must be to the soul. Food cannot benefit us unless we eat it, unless it becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of no value to us if we do not know Him as a personal Saviour. A theoretical knowledge will do us no good. We must feed upon Him, receive Him into the heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His grace, must be assimilated.” The Desire of Ages, 389.

10 What does this character change involve that Jesus requires? John 6:44–56.

note: “He [Jesus] declared that they were to believe and act upon His teaching. All who received Him would partake of His nature, and be conformed to His character. This involved the relinquishment of their cherished ambitions. It required the complete surrender of themselves to Jesus. They were called to become self-sacrificing, meek and lowly in heart. They must walk in the narrow path traveled by the Man of Calvary, if they would share in the gift of life and the glory of heaven.” The Desire of Ages, 391.

11 What was the attitude of “these disciples” after Jesus told them that they must believe and act upon His teaching? John 6:60, 66.

note: “The test was too great. The enthusiasm of those who had sought to take Him [Jesus] by force and make Him king grew cold. This discourse in the synagogue, they declared, had opened their eyes. Now they were undeceived. In their minds His words were a direct confession that He was not the Messiah, and that no earthly rewards were to be realized from connection with Him. . . .The insincere, the selfish, who had sought Him, no longer desired Him. If He would not devote His power and influence to obtaining their freedom from the Romans, they would have nothing to do with Him.” The Desire of Ages, 391.

12 When “these disciples” turned from following Jesus, what kind of spirit took control of them? John 6:60–64.

note: “As those disaffected disciples turned away from Christ, a different spirit took control of them. They could see nothing attractive in Him whom they had once found so interesting. They sought out His enemies, for they were in harmony with their spirit and work. They misinterpreted His words, falsified His statements, and impugned His motives. They sustained their course by gathering up every item that could be turned against Him; and such indignation was stirred up by these false reports that His life was in danger.” The Desire of Ages, 392, 393.

13 What fatal finality was involved in their decision to separate from Jesus? John 6:66.

note: “By the public rebuke of their unbelief these disciples were still further alienated from Jesus. They were greatly displeased, and wishing to wound the Saviour and gratify the malice of the Pharisees, they turned their backs on Him, and left Him with disdain. They had made their choice,—had taken the form without the spirit, the husk without the kernel. Their decision was never afterward reversed; for they walked no more with Jesus.” The Desire of Ages, 392.

14 What evidence is there of the number of “His disciples” that turned their backs on Jesus at this time? John 6:66–68.

note: “Without attempting to hinder those who were leaving Him, Jesus turned to the twelve and said, ‘Will ye also go away?’ [John 6:67.]” The Desire of Ages, 393.

15 How did Peter express the faith of the disciples at this time? John 6:68, 69.

note: “ ‘To whom shall we go?’ [John 6:68.] The teachers of Israel were slaves to formalism. The Pharisees and Sadducees were in constant contention. To leave Jesus was to fall among sticklers for rites and ceremonies, and ambitious men who sought their own glory. The disciples had found more peace and joy since they had accepted Christ than in all their previous lives. How could they go back to those who had scorned and persecuted the Friend of sinners? They had long been looking for the Messiah; now He had come, and they could not turn from His presence to those who were hunting His life, and had persecuted them for becoming His followers.” The Desire of Ages, 393.