Biblical Numerology: NUMBER THREE- Part XLVI

The 1888 Crises

Two major crises had reached a head in this watershed year, both directly bearing upon the message and work of proclaiming the third and the fourth angel’s messages of  Revelation 14: 6-12; 18: 1-5. One was in Adventism of the Advent Movement, the other in U.S. Congress. Both took place in America, the symbolical beast with lamb-like horns of Revelation 13.  At first blush, the Adventist crisis had nothing to do with anyone outside the pale of Adventism, until we briefly review church history.

Any diligent truth-seeking student of the Bible will clearly see the transfer of the Abrahamic covenant with the “chosen people,” ancient Israel onto the literal Jews of the “circumcision of the flesh” after their persistent rejection and illegal crucifixion of Christ the Messiah in 31 A.D. to the spiritual Jew whose “circumcision is not of the flesh but of the heart.” Rom. 2: 28, 29.” The Word made flesh “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” John 1: 14, 11, 12, N.K.J.V.

Passover and Pentecost. While it was the first Passover instituted by Jehovah on the night of the Exodus that gave birth to ancient Israel as a nation under the Old Testament Mosaic dispensation, it was Pentecost, fifty days after Christ’s resurrection that gave birth to Christianity of the New Testament.  Christ’s promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as His vicegerent when He returned to earth after His glorious resurrection and ascension to the Father to present His sacrifice for His approval was to “present Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during 40 days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Acts 1 3.

The glorified Savior was “was seen by over 500 brethren at once” (1 Cor. 15: 3-8). The Holy Spirit descended upon each of the 120 prepared disciples gathered in “the upper room” at Jerusalem, baptizing with the Holy Spirit appearing as “cloven tongues of fire,” endowing them with unwonted power to speak fluently in “unknown tongues” or the different languages of the world that they might declare “the wonderful works of God.”  Mary, the mother of Jesus was included among the 120, the last mention of her in the Bible which nowhere mentions that she ascended to heaven! Acts 1: 12-14.

Having received Christ’s promise of the outpouring, not mere “anointing” of the Holy Spirit, they went forth as “Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1: 8. The first edition of the New Testament gospel was the good news of a victorious and “risen Savior” and all truths connected with it. Paul was converted by Jesus in a dramatic fashion to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. Old Testament Judaism and its typical services under the ceremonial laws of the Mosaic dispensation had given way to New Testament Christianity under a “better covenant,” sealed by the very blood of the antitypical Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh!

The church’s growth since then is traced in its seven-stage history as given symbolically in the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. If one follows this prophetic chart and the meaning of the names of the churches identifying each stage, it will naturally conclude with the emergence of “the remnant of her (the church’s] seed,” after 1844, identified as “the saints who keep the commandments of God and have the faith” and “testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 14: 12; 19:10; cf. 12: 17).

They will better appreciate its main global mission to proclaim the three angels messages of Revelation 14 and the precise details of Revelation 13 revealing who the “beast,” “his image,” “his mark, name and number” are so that “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” may be warned “not to partake of her sins” lest “they receive of her (seven) last plagues.” Rev. 18: 4, 5.

When stripped of any fluff, prejudice, and deliberate confusion, the three angels’ and fourth angel’s messages will be seen as intensely Christ-centered as the introduction of Revelation says, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The last book reveals Christ’s penultimate office, work, and position in its closing stages before His glorious Second Advent for earth’s final harvest. Rev. 14: 14-20. Jesus will be glorified as mankind’s only Advocate, merciful High Priest, Mediator, Intercessor, and Judge of all the earth in the heavenly sanctuary, and the simultaneous closing work of the Holy Spirit on earth in the plan of redemption and the great controversy between sin and righteousness.

The Adventist Crisis. In 1888, God moved upon two special messengers to give a specific message, Alonzo Trevor Jones and Ellet J. Waggoner. They brought a message needed at that time by the commandment-keeping remnant church to restore the balance between faith and works, law and grace, justification and sanctification.

This special message is generally referred to as Righteousness by Faith which comprehends  justification by faith and sanctification by faith—both by faith in the merits of Christ’s perfect righteousness, perfect atoning blood offered “once and for all” (Heb. 9: 28) and His all-powerful yet merciful High priestly intercession and mediation. “For without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Heb. 11: 6. “The just shall live by faith.” Rom. 1: 17.

But as in every testing truth Satan has a counterfeit, all must possess spiritual insight sharpened “by reason of use” to “discern between good and evil.” Heb. 5: 14. While at that time Adventism had drifted towards legalism, the pendulum swings to two extremes. Today some are leaning, spiritual Tower of Pizza-like towards semi-antinomianism, focusing this time on justification by faith and setting aside sanctification by faith. 

All who love Christ and His Third Angel’s message can take proper alarm when the accusation of “legalism” and “fanaticism” are raised up against those expounding upon the precepts and principles of the Decalogue as part of the work of reconciliation of the everlasting gospel.  Lest anyone forget the meaning of Righteousness by Faith of the everlasting gospel we cite the following from the Great Controversy by Ellen G. White, “Modern Revivals,” ch. 27, pp. 466-72 (1911 ed.)


      “The law of God, from its very nature, is unchangeable. It is a revelation of the will and the character of its Author. God is love, and His law is love. Its two great principles are love to God and love to man. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Rom. 13:10. The character of God is righteousness and truth; such is the nature of His law.    Says the psalmist: [Ps. 119: 142, 172 quoted]. And the apostle Paul declares: [Rom. 7: 12 quoted]. Such a law, being an expression of the mind and will of God, must be as enduring as its Author.

     “It is the work of conversion and sanctification to reconcile men to God by bringing them into accord with the principles of His law. In the beginning, man was created in the image of God. He was in perfect harmony with the nature and the law of God; the principles of righteousness were written upon his heart. But sin alienated him from his Maker. He no longer reflected the divine image. His heart was at war with the principles of God’s law. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ Rom. 8: 7.

But ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son,’ that man might be reconciled to God. Through the merits of Christ he can be restored to harmony with his Maker. His heart must be renewed by divine grace; he must have a new life from above. This change is the new birth, without which, says Jesus, ‘he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

The Law: God’s great standard of righteousness.  “The first step in reconciliation to God is the conviction of sin. ‘Sin is the transgression of the law.’ ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ 1 John 3: 4; Romans 3: 20. In order to see his guilt, the sinner must test his character by God’s great standard of righteousness. It is a mirror which shows the perfection of a righteous character and enables him to discern the defects of his own.

      “The law reveals to man his sins, but it provides no remedy. While it promises life to the obedient, it declares that death is the portion of the transgressor. The Gospel of Christ alone can free him from the condemnation or the defilement of sin.  He must exercise repentance toward God, whose law has been transgressed, and faith in Christ, his atoning sacrifice. Thus he obtains ‘remission of sins that are past’ [justification by faith] and become a partaker of the divine nature. He is a child of God, having received the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries” ‘Abba, Father!’

     “Is he now free to transgress God’s law? Says Paul: ‘Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.’ ‘How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?’ And John declares: ‘This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.’ Romans 3: 31; 6: 2; 1 John 5: 3.

      “In the new birth the heart is brought into harmony with God, as it is brought into accord with His law. When this mighty change has taken place in the sinner, he has passed from death unto life, from sin unto holiness, from transgression and rebellion to obedience and loyalty. The old life of alienation from God has ended; the new life of reconciliation, of faith and love, has begun. Then ‘the righteousness of the law’ will ‘be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Rom. 8: 4. And the language of the soul will be: ‘O how I love Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.’ Psalm 119: 97.

       “’The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.’ Ps. 19:7. Without the law, men have no just conception of the purity and holiness of God or of their own guilt. And uncleanness. They have no true conviction of sin and feel no need of repentance. Not seeing their lost condition as violators of God’s law, they do not realize their need of the atoning blood of Christ. The hope of salvation is accepted without a radical change of heart or reformation of life. Thus superficial conversions abound, and multitudes are joined to the church who have never been united to Christ.”

Counterfeit Sanctification vs. Bible Sanctification. – “Erroneous theories of sanctification, also, springing from neglect or rejection of the divine law, have a prominent place in the religious movements of the day. These theories are both false in doctrine and dangerous in practical results; and the fact that they are so generally finding favor, renders doubly essential that all have a clear understanding of what the Scriptures teach upon this point.

    “True sanctification is a Bible doctrine. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonian church, declares: ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification.’ And he prays: ‘The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.’ 1 Thessalonians 4: 3. The Bible teaches what Bible sanctification is and how it is to be attained. The Savior prayed for His disciples: ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.’ John 17: 17. And Paul teaches that believers are to be ‘sanctified by the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15: 16.

     “What is the work of the Holy Spirit? Jesus told His disciples, ‘When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth.’ John 16: 13. And the psalmist says: ‘Thy law is the truth.’ By the word and the Spirit of God are opened to men the great principles embodied in His law. And since the law of God is ‘holy, just, and good,’ a transcript of divine perfection, it follows that a character formed by obedience to that law will be holy.

     “Christ is a perfect example of such a character. He says: ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments.’ I do always those things that please Him.’ John 15: 10; 8:29. The followers of Christ are to become like Him—by the grace of God, to form characters in harmony with the principles of His holy law. This is Bible sanctification.”   

    “This work can be accomplished only through faith in Christ, by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. Paul admonishes believers: ‘Work out your own salvation with  fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’ Philippians 2: 12, 13.

     “The Christian will feel the promptings of sin, but he will maintain a constant warfare against it. Here is where Christ’s help is needed. Human weakness becomes united to divine strength, and faith exclaims: ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 15: 57.

     “The Scriptures plainly show that the work of sanctification is progressive. When in conversion the sinner finds peace with God through the blood of the atonement, the Christian life has but just begun. Now he is to ‘go on unto perfection;’ to grow up ‘unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ [Eph. 4: 13]. Says the apostle Paul: ‘This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3: 13, 14.

    “And Peter sets before us the steps by which Bible sanctification is to be attained: ‘Giving all diligence, add to your faith virture; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love] . . .  If ye do these things, you shall never fall.’ 2 Peter 1: 5-10.”   [See The Faith that God Accepts, TMK 229].

Counterfeit Sanctification and False Righteousness by Faith.  “The sanctification now gaining prominence in the religious world carries with it a spirit of self-exaltation and a disregard for the law of God that mark it as foreign to the religion of the Bible. Its advocates teach that sanctification is an instantaneous work, by which, through faith alone, they attain to perfect holiness. ‘Only believe,’ say they, ‘and the blessing is yours.’ No further effort on the part of receiver is supposed to be required. At the same time they deny the authority of the law of God, urging that they are released from obligation to keep the commandments. But is it possible for men to be holy, in accord with the will and character of God, without coming into harmony with the principles which are an expression of His nature and will, and show what is pleasing to Him?” –GC 471.

(Continued next week)