November 2020
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Lesson 13: “The Promised Revival: God’s Mission Completed”


Revival & Reformation


Lesson 13: “The Promised Revival: God’s Mission Completed”

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Our church leadership is obviously exhorting us to “revival and reformation” in this quarter of Sabbath School lessons. This is but an extension of a recent thrust in this regard since the 2010 General Conference in Atlanta. But this is only the latest cycle of “exhortations” since 1888.

Why these repeated appeals to “revival and reformation”? Is the nature of “R&R” temporary only to be necessarily restarted again and again? Or has the True Witness a permanent solution for our spiritual “lukewarmness”?

Our lesson 13 on “The Promised Revival” presents many good things from the Bible on “the Latter Rain.” It rightly identifies the gospel of “God’s message of love and truth” with the angel of Revelation 18:1. [1] A number of encouraging quotations scattered throughout the lesson from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy indicate the victorious outcome.

The missing link is “the Latter Rain” given as initial showers in 1888. “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. … This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” [2]


What was resisted in 1888 and beyond to this day is the “latter rain.” Ellen White confirms that the “latter rain” was opposed. There was “opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord’s message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit [latter rain] that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost [early rain].” [3]


Essentially what we are being asked to do is surrender, study, and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter rain proportions, when, in fact, Christ has already given it to us in our history. [4] We are being told that the laity is the big holdup in the outpouring of the Spirit because “our leaders are calling us to it.” [5] The fact is, “the light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory [Rev. 18:1] was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world.” [6]


The position that our brethren take as to whether the church accepted the 1888 message is that initially there was resistance. However, righteousness by faith gained traction among the leadership. It was fully embraced. It is our evangelistic message to the world.


What we need to clearly understand is that the church is teaching righteousness by faith, but it’s the evangelical understanding of justification. Does Jesus straighten out crooked people with a legal pardon? Does believing in Jesus correct an auditing problem regarding the sinner’s heavenly accounts. Evangelicals teach that by believing one is legally justified. Sanctification is never completed until the second coming. Should Seventh-day Adventists teach what other churches teach about righteousness by faith?


“The truth of the gospel” is an understanding of justification by faith which is consistent with and parallel to the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary idea. The word “justification” or “righteousness” means to straighten out that which is crooked. What is the heart-changing Good News that can change the alienation and resistance which God’s people have toward Him?


Christ did not die like one who takes a holiday break from all the stresses of persecution and rejection to get away from it all. He made the choice to give up all future claims to the Godhead and a relationship with His Father. The cross was the most complete and utter demonstration of agape that had ever been revealed to mankind.


We need to see Christ’s “blood.” “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). God made the sacrifice and so did Christ in order to assuage our “enmity” against Him. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). God made the sacrifice in order to win our hearts.


When you “see” Their atonement and appreciate what it cost Them to sacrifice all, then you can say you have authentic faith. You experience the forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness involves something more than a legal adjustment to your heavenly accounts. You appreciate the sacrifice. You identify yourselves fully with the One “who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).


Looking to Jesus as a priest who forgives sin so that it can be repeated again and again, only to be forgiven again, is to remain in a first apartment ministry. Is Jesus an accomplice to such recidivism? A mere legal understanding of righteousness by faith is to completely misunderstand His second phase of ministry.


This is where the Evangelicals are including many Adventists. It’s a wonderful ministry of legal forgiveness of sins which Jesus performed for 1800 years in the first phase. If you’re planning to die, make sure your sins are forgiven. You’ll come up in the resurrection at the second coming.


But Jesus isn’t there anymore. He’s been in the second phase since 1844. And we should be interested in what He wants. Forgiving sin over and over could go on forever without any resolution to the sin problem. It would forever leave our High Priest in embarrassment that Satan has invented something–sin–for which the gospel has no solution to save. Satan would win his case in God’s hour of judgment. Satan would win the great controversy.


What does Jesus want? It should be what we want. We finally stop thinking about what we want selfishly. We finally stop thinking about the easy way to heaven,–the underground route. Jesus will prepare a willing people, a cleansed people, for translation without seeing death at His second coming. They will be a fully ripened harvest–the 144,000–sealed with God’s unselfish love, of which the seventh day Sabbath is the visible sign.


This is what caused Ellen White to rejoice in the 1888 message. She saw in their message an understanding of justification by faith compatible with the cleansing of the sanctuary idea. Justification “is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.” [7] In others words, here is the clearest gospel of all because it is in harmony with the law of God.


If we can begin to understand our own opposition and resistance to Christ as a denomination, then our history is only one heartbeat away from Calvary. Once we see our true involvement in the crucifixion of Christ, we are prepared to recognize our involvement in the sin of rejecting the latter rain and the loud cry message of 1888. No longer can we smugly brush it off, saying, “It’s no concern of mine, I wasn’t even born then,” any more than we can brush off our involvement with the cross. As surely as the shadow of Calvary hangs over the Jews as a nation, so surely does the shadow of 1888 hang over us as a church. “Just like the Jews.”


The latter rain will therefore be a gift of the Holy Spirit that will bring the true and ultimate conviction of sin that only He can bring to human hearts: the guilt of the crucifixion of Christ is our sin. But that is a truth that we don’t comprehend clearly, as yet. When God’s people do grasp that reality, there will come the greatest repentance of the ages (Zech. 12:10-13:1). It will become the “final” experience of reconciliation with Christ, something known as “the final atonement.”


This will make possible a movement, a self-propagating and permanent reformation and revival, a second “Pentecost,” a message, to be proclaimed worldwide that will “lighten the earth with glory,” and prepare a people for Christ’s return.


Paul E. Penno




[1] Sunday, September 22.
[2] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-92 (emphasis supplied).
[3] Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234-235 (emphasis supplied).
[4] We are told that “our leaders are calling us to” “revival and reformation.” This “will not happen until we, as individuals, make a conscious choice to surrender ourselves with all our hearts and souls and minds to the Lord” (Friday, September 27).
[5] Friday, September 27.
[6] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235 (emphasis supplied).
[7] Op. cit., p. 92.