A Holy and Just God (Joel)
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #3
"A Holy and Just God (Joel)"
April 20, 2013
As the minor prophets such as Joel heralded the last messages of comfort, hope, and warning to the people of Judah before the first advent of Christ, so we find in these timeless letters an apocalyptic fulfillment for the generation that lives to see Christ return a second time. "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" Romans 15:4.
Joel describes the judgments of God that fell on Israel as a result of their disobedience to His commandments. The Laodicean message found in Revelation chapter three also hints at judgments that will befall God's last church on earth: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" Revelation 3:19. We are rebuked for our sins of worldliness and self-righteousness, for our woeful ignorance of our true condition. The remedy includes being clothed with the garments of Christ's righteousness and anointing our eyes with heavenly eye salve that we may see ourselves as Christ does, and see Him as He is.
It was for this purpose that the Lord in His mercy sent a healing message to cleanse, rebuke, and purify us. Speaking to those gathered at the General Conference session of 1893, Brother A.T. Jones quoted Joel 2: " 'Be glad, then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately.' What is the margin? 'A teacher of righteousness.' . . . When He gave the former rain, what was it? 'A teacher of righteousness.' And when He gives the latter rain what will it be? 'A teacher of righteousness.' How? 'According to righteousness.' " A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, #9.
Bro. Jones goes on to explain that the latter rain message -- this teacher of righteousness -- was sent from heaven to the delegates of the 1888 Minneapolis session through messages that uplifted the righteousness of Christ.
In a later message (#14), also given at the 1893 GC session, Bro. Jones warned that "the nearer we come to the second coming of the Saviour the more fully spiritualism will be professing Christ." But we need not be deceived. The hallmark of Satan's version of the "righteousness of Christ" is self-exaltation. We need to pray that God will give us discernment to know the difference.
Though the work of the latter rain in preparing God's people for the greatest test ever faced by man (outside of Christ's experience on the cross) has been delayed, the promise is sure. The latter rain will come. It will do it's work, and in its wake we will see young and old receiving visions and prophesying; we will witness "wonders in the heavens and in the earth" (Joel 2:28-31); God's people coming into unity to give the last warning message to our world (Joel 2:15, 16); a spirit of repentance manifested by the leadership of the church (Joel 2:17); And the a unified church proclaiming the last warning message to our world in the face of disaster and calamity on every hand (Joel 2:1-11).
"It is true that in the time of the end, when God's work in the earth is closing, the earnest efforts put forth by consecrated believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are to be accompanied by special tokens of divine favor. Under the figure of the early and the latter rain, that falls in Eastern lands at seedtime and harvest, the Hebrew prophets foretold the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon God's church. The outpouring of the Spirit in the days of the apostles was the beginning of the early, or former, rain, and glorious was the result. To the end of time the presence of the Spirit is to abide with the true church.
"But near the close of earth's harvest, a special bestowal of spiritual grace is promised to prepare the church for the coming of the Son of man. This outpouring of the Spirit is likened to the falling of the latter rain; and it is for this added power that Christians are to send their petitions to the Lord of the harvest "in the time of the latter rain." In response, "the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain." "He will cause to come down . . . the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain," Zechariah 10:1; Joel 2:23. Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles p. 55
"But unless the members of God's church today have a living connection with the Source of all spiritual growth, they will not be ready for the time of reaping. Unless they keep their lamps trimmed and burning, they will fail of receiving added grace in times of special need.
"Those only who are constantly receiving fresh supplies of grace, will have power proportionate to their daily need and their ability to use that power. Instead of looking forward to some future time when, through a special endowment of spiritual power, they will receive a miraculous fitting up for soul winning, they are yielding themselves daily to God, that He may make them vessels meet for His use. Daily they are improving the opportunities for service that lie within their reach. Daily they are witnessing for the Master wherever they may be, whether in some humble sphere of labor in the home, or in a public field of usefulness.
"Every worker who follows the example of Christ will be prepared to receive and use the power that God has promised to His church for the ripening of earth's harvest. Morning by morning, as the heralds of the gospel kneel before the Lord and renew their vows of consecration to Him, He will grant them the presence of His Spirit, with its reviving, sanctifying power. As they go forth to the day's duties, they have the assurance that the unseen agency of the Holy Spirit enables them to be "laborers together with God." Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles pp. 54-56
The book of Joel tells of the time period in which "the angel who unites in the proclamation of the third angel's message is to lighten the whole earth with his glory. A work of world-wide extent and unwonted power is here foretold. The Advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God; the first angel's message was carried to every missionary station in the world, and in some countries there was the greatest religious interest which has been witnessed in any land since the Reformation of the sixteenth century; but these are to be far exceeded by the mighty movement under the last warning of the third angel.
"The work will be similar to that of the day of Pentecost. As the 'former rain' was given, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the opening of the gospel, to cause the up springing of the precious seed, so the 'latter rain' will be given at its close, for the ripening of the harvest.
"The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel, are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close.
"Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from Heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. [Revelation 13:13.] Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand.
"The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit. The publications distributed by missionary workers have exerted their influence, yet many whose minds were impressed have been prevented from fully comprehending the truth or from yielding obedience. Now the rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord's side." Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy pp. 611-612