Monday, December 7, 2015

Early Medo-Persian Bible Chronology

The seventy years predicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; Jeremiah 29:10) for the Babylonian captivity of the Jews extended from the taking of the first Jewish captives in 605 B.C. until 536 B.C. when the first group of Jews returned to Jerusalem. The Jews used inclusive reckoning, meaning that they included both the beginning and ending years in their count. It looks like Cyrus made his decree (Ezra 1:1-3) just before the close of his first year of reign according to the Jewish civil calendar. The earliest the Jews could leave would have been the following spring. Here is a suggested timeline of a few of the final years of Daniel's ministry. To keep it fairly simple, I have not defined accession years for Darius or Cyrus, using only the designations found in the Bible.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Place of a Modern Prophet

What is the gift of prophecy?

“If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” Numbers 12:6

“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21

“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11, 12

A prophet's scope of impact:
  • The writings of some prophets have been nearly universally available (Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul).
  • The availability of some prophetic writings has been limited (1 Chronicles 29:29; Colossians 4:16).
  • Some prophets produced no prophetic writings (Enoch, Elijah, Elisha).
  • Many prophets existed of whom we know little or nothing (1 Samuel 10:5).

What is the difference between a prophet in the Bible and a prophet today?

A modern prophet:
  1. As always, must be tested by the standard of the previous prophetic writings.
    • 1 Corinthians 14:32; Isaiah 8:20
    • Jesus Himself was tested — John 1:45; Luke 24:44
    • Paul was tested — Acts 17:10, 11
  2. Has a limited scope of impact, compared to canonical prophets.
  3. Lacks universal recognition.
    • 1 Corinthians 14:22
  4. Presents no new truths.
      Ecclesiastes 1:9; 3:15
  5. The message of a non-canonical prophet has the same authority as that of canonical prophets.
    • Nathan — 2 Samuel 12
    • Huldah — 2 Chronicles 34:20-28
    • Micaiah — 1 Kings 22

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Established, Strengthened, and Settled

"You know what the three R's are," I recently asked a student.

"Sure," she replied, "Reading, Writing, and Rather not do it!"

Well, in true education, the Christian life, we have what I call the three S's.

"Stablish, Strengthen, Settle." 1 Peter 5:10

Established, Strengthened, and Settled. This three-word expression is used in Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 546. The context has to do with our need to be thoroughly grounded in the truth. But these words also beautifully summarize the three phases of Christian experience. We are established in Christ at our conversion. Our walk with the Lord is to strengthen that experience. And the final phase, which I call crystallization, is when we have become so settled in Christ that we cannot be moved.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Daniel 11

Interest in Daniel 11 is growing. This includes a desire to understand the last six verses of the chapter. New views have emerged in recent times and Bible students are divided in their interpretations. Having been a part of this discussion for the past few years, and being familiar with the arguments on each side, I have come to the conclusion that the Seventh-day Adventist church was led by God in its early days to a correct understanding of this important prophetic chapter.

Here are some resources that relate to this subject:

Who is the King of the South? (Official 2018 Daniel 11 Prophecy Conference Paper)

Objections Answered (Official 2021 Daniel 11 Prophecy Conference Paper)

Daniel 11:16 (Who is "He that cometh against him?")

Testing Daniel 11:16-22 (Rethinking verses 17-21)

The Time of the End (March 2016 presentation that explains Daniel 11:40-45 and more)

The Eastern Question (Is it something ministers should preach about?)

A Revitalized Prophecy (July 2015 campmeeting presentation with slides; 50 minutes)

The Kings of the North and South

The West in Daniel 11

"Thy People" and the Remnant of Israel (Presented at the 2019 Las Vegas symposium)

Of Those Who Reinterpret the Prophecies

Daniel's Climaxes (Comparing the destinations reached in Daniel's four lines of prophecy)

Daniel 11:45 and the Middle East Crisis (My first attempt presenting the classical view)

Daniel and Revelation Bound Together (A sharing book explaining the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation)

Daniel: History's Empires Foretold (Prophecy Resource Folders for Daniel, arranged by empire or time period)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Of Those Who Reinterpret the Prophecies

“There are persons ready to catch up every new idea. The prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation are misinterpreted. These persons do not consider that the truth has been set forth at the appointed time by the very men whom God was leading to do this special work. These men followed on step by step in the very fulfillment of prophecy, and those who have not had a personal experience in this work are to take the Word of God and believe on ‘their word’ who have been led by the Lord in the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages.” (17MR 14.3)

“It is true that there are prophecies yet to be fulfilled. But very erroneous work has been done again and again, and will continue to be done by those who seek to find new light in the prophecies, and who begin by turning away from the light that God has already given. . . . But the Lord does not lay upon those who have not had an experience in His work the burden of making a new exposition of those prophecies which He has, by His Holy Spirit, moved upon His chosen servants to explain.” (17MR 15.1)

“You and other of our brethren must accept the truth as God has given it to His students of prophecy, as they have been led by genuine, living experience, advancing point by point, tested, proved, and tried, until the truth is to them a reality. From their voices and pens the truth in bright, warm rays has gone to all parts of the world, and that which was to them testing truth, as brought by the Lord's delegated messengers, is testing truth to all to whom this message is proclaimed.” (17MR 3.2)

“There must be no long discussions, no presenting of new theories in regard to prophecies that God has already made plain.” (RH, Nov. 27, 1900 par. 13)

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Eastern Question

Ellen White's references to the Eastern Question are significant because of statements such as:

"Let us confine our public efforts to the presentation of the important lines of truth on which we are united, and on which we have clear light." (1SM 167)

So, her endorsement of a public presentation by our ministers implies (1) that it is an important line of truth, (2) that it is a subject on which the church was united, and (3) that it is a subject on which we have clear light. If a presentation did not meet those criteria, the minister had no business talking about it. The subject should not be discussed in our meetings.

"Matters of vital importance have been plainly revealed in the Word of God. These subjects are worthy of our deepest thought. But we are not to search into matters on which God has been silent." (1SM 173)

If the Eastern Question can be found in the Word of God, it is worthy of our deepest thought. But if not, we certainly should not be preaching about it.

The Eastern Question was the diplomatic problem posed by the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Adventist ministers tied the fulfillment of Daniel 11:45 to the ultimate outcome of that question. If Daniel 11:45 has nothing to do with the Ottoman Empire or its aftermath, our ministers were preaching about something on which God is silent.

But notice the comments of the Lord's messenger endorsing the public presentations on this subject. The sermons were "of special interest." In presenting this subject, Uriah Smith was "fully and thoroughly united with us." What he was presenting was described by Ellen White as "these great events in the near future." And the message was classed as "the truth."

September 6, 1877
“Sunday morning the weather was still cloudy, but before it was time for the people to assemble the sun shone forth. Boats and trains poured their living freight upon the ground, as was the case last year. Elder Smith spoke in the morning upon the Eastern question. The subject was of special interest, and the people listened with the most earnest attention. It seemed to be just what they wanted to hear.” (RH 9-6-1877)

August 24, 1884
“Elder Smith spoke on the Sabbath question to a large congregation this morning, and this evening he speaks on the Eastern question. I feel so grateful that Brother Smith is not lost to the cause. He seems fully and thoroughly united with us; seems like Brother Smith of old. Oh, thank the Lord! Praise His Holy Name, that His love, His wondrous love has been exercised toward the children of men. It is so dark, I must stop. Will write you tomorrow.” (Lt55-1884 par. 6)

August 25, 1884
“Aug. 25, 11:00 a.m. The first two pages were written Sunday after I had spoken to the crowd. The evening meeting was largely attended. Elder Smith spoke with great clearness, and many listened with open eyes, ears, and mouths. The outsiders seemed to be intensely interested in the Eastern question. He closed with a very solemn address to those who had not been preparing for these great events in the near future.” (Lt55-1884 par. 7)

December 25, 1898
“Elder Daniells speaks this evening upon the Eastern Question. May the Lord give His Holy Spirit to inspire the hearts to make the truth plain.” (Ms189-1898 par. 9)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Possibility of Being Wrong

"The question is not whether you see as your brother does on controverted points; but what spirit has characterized your actions? Have you an experience in close self-examination, in humbling the heart before God? Have you made it a practice of your life to confess your errors to God and to your brethren? All are liable to err; therefore the word of God tells us plainly how to correct and heal these mistakes. None can say that he never makes a mistake, that he never sinned at all; but it is important to consider what disposition you make of these wrongs. The apostle Paul made grievous mistakes, all the time thinking that he was doing God service; but when the Spirit of the Lord set the matter before him in its true light, he confessed his wrong-doing, and afterward acknowledged the great mercy of God in forgiving his transgression. You also may have done wrong, thinking you were perfectly right; but when time reveals your error, then it is your duty to humble the heart, and confess your sin. Fall on the Rock and be broken; then Jesus can give you a new heart, a new spirit." RH, December 16, 1890 par. 12

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fundamental Principles

In 1904 Ellen White wrote:

"Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayerful study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, as God has signified through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority." 1SM 208

"The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced." 1SM 204

To what fundamental principles was she referring? In 1872 a pamphlet was printed on the steam press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was entitled, A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists. As stated in its opening paragraph, it was "a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by them." It had 25 points.

In 1874 James White founded the periodical Signs of the Times. The very first issue, Volume I, Number I, June 4, 1874, featured the church's declaration of Fundamental Principles just as it had appeared in the earlier pamphlet. Again, the description was included that this doctrinal statement represented "what is, and has been, with great unanimity," held by "our people."

In the years 1889, 1905, and 1907-1914, the same list of Fundamental Principles was included in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. It was prefaced with this comment:

"Seventh-day Adventists have no creed but the Bible; but they hold to certain well-defined points of faith, for which they feel prepared to give a reason 'to every man that asketh' them. The following propositions may be taken as a summary of the principle features of their religious faith, upon which there is, so far as is known, entire unanimity throughout the body."

There can be no doubt, then, that these long-published Fundamental Principles were what Ellen White had in mind when in 1904 she warned against discarding "the fundamental principles that have sustained the work" for so many years.

Below is a link to a digitized archive of this historically important doctrinal summary. You will notice that care is taken to dispel any notion that early Seventh-day Adventists viewed their statement of beliefs as a standard of disciple. It was merely informational.

A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles of the Seventh-day Adventists

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What is a Creed?

The difference between a creed and a statement of beliefs is the degree of authority it carries. A statement of beliefs is for informational purposes only. A creed is intended as a standard of discipline.

Some would define the difference in terms of changeability. A statement of beliefs, they say, can be changed. A creed cannot. But history does not bear that out. A review of the early ecumenical creeds shows that, council after council, creeds were changed. A faith statement is a creed when it is designed as a doctrinal test.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Old Testament Festivals

Leviticus 23 describes seven yearly sabbath days that, being tied to a calendar date like our holidays, fell on different days of the week each year. Each of these festivals pointed forward to some aspect of the plan of salvation. Like the weekly Sabbath, these holy days were to be sacredly held, no work being permitted for 24 hours from sunset to sunset. They were set apart for holy convocations.

The Jewish ritual year began in the spring. Each month commenced at the first sighting of the new moon. The first three of the annual sabbaths related to the first month, and the last four of them fell within the seventh month of the ritual year. Here's the list as given in Leviticus 23.

To help you visualize what this looked like on the calendar, I've prepared a couple of calendar segments. Think of these as depicting just three days of the week, rather than the whole calendar. It reads just like a regular calendar except that it doesn't show the complete week. I did that because I didn't want to give the impression that these days fell on a particular day of the week. Remember, they are tied to a calendar date, calculated from the sighting of the new moon.

The yellow dates are the ceremonial sabbath days. The gray shaded dates represent week-long festivals: the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the spring, and the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall. Only the first and last days of those week-long feasts were "sabbath" rest days. The Passover day and the Wave Sheaf Offering day, listed here, were not sabbaths unless they fell on a weekly Sabbath. As you can see, the day of Pentecost occurred seven weeks after the offering of the Wave Sheaf.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sequence of Events From Christ's Resurrection to His Ascension

  1. A mighty angel calls Jesus to life. The Roman soldiers are terrified. They go to report what they have seen. (Matthew 28:2-4)
  2. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb. She sees the stone rolled away, then runs to tell the disciples. (John 20:1)
  3. The other women arrive at the empty tomb and meet two angels. They also go to find the disciples. (Luke 24:1-9)
  4. Mary finds Peter and John. They come and find the tomb empty. (John 20:2-10)
  5. Mary, who had followed them, remains at the tomb after Peter and John leave. She sees the two angels. Then Jesus appears to her. (John 20:11-16)
  6. Jesus goes to heaven to receive His Father’s approval. (John 20:17)
  7. Jesus returns and appears to Peter. (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  8. Jesus appears to the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus. (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-32)
  9. The two disciples return to Jerusalem to tell the disciples in the upper room. There Jesus appears to all of them, Thomas missing. (Mark 16:13; Luke 24:33-49; John 20:19-23)
  10. Jesus appears one week later, Thomas being there. (Mark 16:14; John 20:24-29)
  11. Jesus meets seven of the disciples by the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1-23)
  12. In the presence of about five hundred believers assembled on a mountain in Galilee, Jesus delivers the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
  13. Jesus appears to James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  14. Jesus takes the disciples to the Mount of Olives, and from there ascends to heaven. (Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9-11)