Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira
In this final chapter we briefly examine the crowning goal of the Plan of Redemption — Eden restored. God drove Adam and Eve from the garden, after sin, barring their access to the Tree of Life:
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
But He did not leave them without hope; He promised that one of their descendants would save the world:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This descendant is Jesus Christ. His earthly mission and heavenly ministry guarantee that sin will ultimately be eradicated, and the earth will be restored to its original perfection. The twenty-eighth fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms that glorious hope.
While the first two chapters of the Bible describe God’s perfect creation, the last two foretell the crowning act in the Plan of Redemption. Sandwiched between is the account of sin’s introduction, of its effect on mankind, and the ongoing story of redemption. The Bible presents a historical picture of sin-produced degradation and “devolution.”
Beginning with Cain’s murder of his brother, sin spread explosively until mankind at large turned against God. Wickedness became so pervasive that God sent a universal Flood to clear away undiluted iniquity and begin again with the eight members of Noah’s family — the only ones on earth who accepted God’s refuge from the Flood.
But sin had penetrated their natures as well, and mankind’s downward trend continued in them and their children. But, at the lowest point in history, God sent His Son to save the world. The angels first announced His divine intervention to shepherds with their flocks at night, declaring:
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
The Word had become flesh and was now dwelling with mankind:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
At the cross, the entire human race was executed in Christ, and the prince of this world — that old serpent — was cast out:
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Mankind now had hope that sin could be stamped out and righteousness restored forever.
From Adam to the coming of Christ, individual believers were saved by faith in God’s promise of a coming Redeemer — a promise repeated many times and in different ways in the Old Testament. One of the most effective was through the Sanctuary and its services, God’s visual aid of salvation, delivered to the Children of Israel in the days of Moses.
Then, some 2,000 years ago, the fullness of the time arrived when:
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
This is the good news of the everlasting gospel, the central focus of all biblical doctrines.
Since Christ, mankind’s only hope for salvation has been through faith in the righteousness of Jesus, obtained for the entire human race by His birth, life, death, and resurrection. This is the everlasting gospel, the incredibly good news of salvation.
The Gospel Division
This gospel will eventually divide mankind into only two camps — believers and unbelievers, or sheep and goats. Those faithful to the convictions of the Holy Spirit and the light He has given them will stand in contrast to those who have grieved the Holy Spirit by their unbelief and disobedience. The Scriptures describe the first group as the children, or sons, of God...
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God....
...the second group as the children of the devil:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The believers include men and women, boys and girls from all walks of life and from every race and culture — those who have been faithful to the light they have received. The unbelievers, on the other hand, have deliberately and definitely rejected the light, in whatever form it came to them.
Adam’s sin made sinners of all, and no one will be lost only because they are sinners:
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
God does not hold mankind responsible for the sin problem. Christ Himself spelled out to Nicodemus the one and only reason sinners will be lost:
John 3:16-18, 36 [Emphasis Added]
For God so loved the world [the entire human race] that he gave [not loaned] his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him [Christ] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ...Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Sinners will be lost because they have refused to believe in Jesus Christ or whatever light has been given to them. We must keep in mind that millions, through no fault of their own, have never heard the gospel but have been faithful to the light given them, whatever that light may be:
(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
Desire of Ages, p. 638
“All who have been born into the heavenly family are in a special sense the brethren of our Lord. The love of Christ binds together the members of His family, and wherever that love is made manifest there the divine relationship is revealed. ‘Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.’ 1 John 4:7.
“Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.
“How surprised and gladdened will be the lowly among the nations, and among the heathen, to hear from the lips of the Saviour, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me’! How glad will be the heart of Infinite Love as His followers look up with surprise and joy at His words of approval!
“But not to any class is Christ’s love restricted. He identifies Himself with every child of humanity. That we might become members of the heavenly family, He became a member of the earthly family. He is the Son of man, and thus a brother to every son and daughter of Adam. His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them. They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints. The fallen, the erring, and the sinful, Christ’s love embraces; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to Him.”
God’s Just Judgment
In the judgment, no one will be able to blame Adam or God for their lost condition; they have only themselves to blame. “Your house is left to you desolate,” Jesus told the Jews, after they had rejected Him; so it will be for those who are finally destroyed:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
God will be able to say, “How often I pled with you to receive my free gift of salvation in Christ as your only hope of salvation, but you would not! Now you must endure, for your own sakes, what my Son already suffered for you. But you rejected Him as your substitute.”
As already mentioned, millions of people through time never heard the good news of the gospel in Christ, but God will not hold this against them. Rather, He will judge them by the light they had, whatever that light may have been. Still, it is the redeeming grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, that saves — there is no other name under heaven capable of doing what He has done for the world:
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
There will be those who will hear Jesus’ name for the very first time, in heaven, and then they will give Him the glory:
...But glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
There will indeed be rejoicing during the millennium in heaven, but there will be crying and mourning, too. For, during those thousand years, the saved will not only review the way God has dealt with the sin problem, they will also judge the lost. Jesus told His disciples that in heaven they would:
“...So that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
In this judgment process, during the millennium, the saints will review the cases of loved ones and mourn their loss.
Ezekiel gives another reason for tears in heaven during the millennium:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.”
The neglect of God-given duties on earth will not be passed over lightly, and will produce deep, heartfelt sorrow in heaven.
According to the apostle Paul, those who accept the good news of the gospel become ambassadors for Christ:
2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you [the unchurched] on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
As the righteous judge the wicked during the millennium, they will mourn every time they discover the effects of their failures to represent Christ.
According to the writer of Hebrews, leaders of the church will be held accountable for failing to fulfill their God-given duties:
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Likewise, the apostle James writes:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Failure to do so will produce much pain during the judgment of the lost.
Not until the saints set foot on the earth made new will the prophecy be fulfilled:
He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Not until the third coming of Christ, when the saints descend with their Savior to witness the end of sin and experience the earth made new, will the Plan of Salvation be fully accomplished. At that time, all memory of the lost will be wiped away, and the only reminder of the sin problem will be the nail prints in the hands of the Savior.
A New Creation
After the wicked are consumed by fire, Jesus, the One who created the perfect world in the beginning and who later redeemed it by His life and death, will once again speak and create a new heaven and a new earth. This new heaven and new earth will not be “brand new,” but will be re-created out of the rubble of the old. But since the damage wrought by sin is irreparable, the earth is reduced to ashes before God restores it to its original perfection. Here is the inspired description of the process:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem [Hebrew: “City of Peace”], coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
John was also shown:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
The prophet Isaiah records another interesting description of life in the new earth:
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.
At Creation, God established the Sabbath as the day of worship for mankind, but, apparently, in the earth made new, He will add a new moon feast day every month. Why? The new moon represents the new zoe-life received through the redemption — something not needed by humanity before the Fall. The Sabbath will provide a weekly reminder of humanity’s total God-dependence, while the new moon festival reminds the human family of the saving grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
God’s Throne on Earth
But the major difference between the first and second creations is that God will establish His throne in the new earth. In Revelation 21 we read:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
John was further shown:
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
God originally created the world for humanity, while He dwelt in heaven and visited His creation on a periodic basis:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But, in the earth made new, God will move His throne to this earth and make it the capital of the universe, the central focus of creation.
In view of such a glorious hope, what should be the believers’ attitude regarding the sin problem and its hardships? The best answer comes from the words of Peter:
2 Peter 3:10-14
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.
Only in the earth made new will the believers fully realize that what they went through on the sin-cursed earth was nothing compared to the joy of spending eternity with their God and Lord, Jesus Christ. This is the glorious hope of the gospel. God has raised up the Advent Movement to proclaim with a loud voice the matchless charms of the Savior. Ellen G. White writes that, of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in lifting up Christ to a perishing world. The everlasting gospel is mankind’s only hope of salvation, and Adventists are to present every fundamental belief in the light of this glorious truth. When that happens, this earth will be lit with God’s glory. Then, and only then, will the end come:
Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 415
“It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth.
“...Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.”
We have examined in this book the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the light of the everlasting gospel. As we conclude this study, let us keep in mind that the most valuable thing the believers possess on this earth is not their bank accounts or any other asset, but the faith they have in Christ. Faith is not tangible in this life — we cannot see it or touch it. It is hidden away in the character, though we and others can witness the works it produces.
Faith alone makes the gospel effective. Faith provides the eternal hope of experiencing the fullness of salvation in the earth made new. Nothing must take its place — not even church doctrines. Everything the Christian believes must point to that saving faith in Christ. As they do so, Christ and Him crucified will become their central message.
May this be the experience of the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world, and of each of its members. Amen.