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Verses for This Week: 1 Thess. 4:13–18; Matt. 24:27, 30, 31; 2 Pet. 1:19–21; Dan. 8:14; Dan. 9:20–27; Ezra 7:7–13.

Opening Question: “What role does hope play in the lives of human beings?”

The lesson this week is anchored by a well-known verse from the writings of the ancient prophet Isaiah – “And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9, NKJV). This is one place of many in the Bible that look forward to a day when God will, in a dramatic way, interrupt the flow of human history in order to save those who believe and to also establish a kingdom of righteousness that will never end.

Although this theme of a coming Deliverer is found all throughout the whole record of Scripture beginning in Genesis 3, there have been times when it has been all but lost sight of. In modern times, it was revived when William Miller, a Baptist farmer in upstate New York, after many years of careful study, began to tell how he had come to the conclusion that the Bible predicted the actual return of Jesus. He even claimed to know the approximate time. Of course, his conclusions were wrong in terms of their attempted precise predictions for Jesus did not come on the appointed day leading to what is still known as the Great Disappointment. At the same time, his teachings resulted in a renewed fascination with what we know as the Doctrine of the Second Advent, the first Advent having already taken place at Bethlehem when Jesus was born. As we will see, this hope is one that has sustained believers for many centuries. It is a hope that has enabled them to survive even unspeakable circumstances.

Three of the major passages in the New Testament that speak clearly of Jesus return are these:

  • John 14:1–3
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
  • Titus 2:11–14.

This would be a good point to spend some time discussing why the promise of Jesus returning is so significant to believers. There are a host of reasons. How many reasons can you come up with?

In the official lesson guide, there are not a few pages that go through a recitation of all the calculations William Miller and others, including early Adventists, went through in their quest to understand or decipher the various prophecies found in Daniel in particular. There are a host of dates given that, by one process of calculation, end with the year 1844, the precise year in which Miller and his associates expected Jesus to come. This process of calculation has great historical value at least for it explains the fervor of the early Adventists to include those who were present before Seventh-day Adventism emerged. What is unclear today is what to do with those calculations given we are now 180 years beyond what was then predicted. At the same time, those calculations are what caused the idea or belief of a second Advent to become now well-known. It is important not to let arguments about calculations obscure the fact that the Bible is very clear that Jesus will come again at some time in the future. And it is also very clear that believers should live with an attitude of expectation. But it is also very clear that we cannot know the precise date.

One line of thought that has not been talked about much has to do with the Bible teaching that a time of trouble will precede the coming of Jesus again. What this would lead to is a careful monitoring of issues of freedom, specifically issues of freedom of religion and conscience. It could be credibly argued that when freedom of conscience is finally proscribed leading to gross intolerance of those who believe, then Jesus will come. It is when that happens on a global level that Godwill ringdown the curtain of time saying, “Enough!”

Another outcome of the various calculations used by early Adventists was a new interest in the services of the Old Testament Sanctuary. In particular, people then began to make a correlation between what went on in that ancient edifice and what is happening now. This will be the subject of future consideration.

One more note here. Do not forget that the hope of Jesus coming again is what has sustained and energized the believing community for many years and in many seasons. That hope should not be obscured either by the cares of this life or by any misunderstandings of older prophecies. However you understand the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation or anywhere else, do not miss the fact that the grand conclusion to the story of the Bible is the coming of God’s kingdom to replace the kingdom’s of man.

  • Jesus worried that what he called “the cares of this life.” How would you describe thecres of this life?
  • What keeps hpe alive?
  • Do you think freedom of conscience and religion is faring well or poorly in current times?

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