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Someone Cares Series
God's People Identified
Throughout history God has had a special people with a special message. In this lesson we will discover who are God's special people in this age.
1. Who did God say were His people?
"Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 34:30, 31).
From the beginning God has wrought through His people to bring blessing to the world. God chose Israel to reveal His character to men. He desired them to be as wells of salvation in the world. To them were committed the oracles of heaven, the revelation of God's will.
2. Is God, then, dependent upon the literal descendants of Abraham to have a people?
"And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:9, 10).
John declared to the teachers in Israel that their pride, selfishness and cruelty showed them to be a generation of vipers, a deadly curse to the people rather than the children of just and obedient Abraham.
God was not dependent on them for the fulfilling of His purpose. As He had called Abraham out of a heathen people, so He could call others to His service.
Not by its name, but by its fruit is the value of a tree determined. If the fruit is worthless the name cannot save the tree from destruction. John declared to the Jews that their standing before God was to be decided by their character and life. Profession was worthless. If their life and character were not in harmony with God's Law they were not His people. All who became the subjects of Christ's kingdom, he said, would give evidence of faith and repentance.
3. In God's sight are all of Abraham's descendants a part of the true "house of Israel?"
"Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: ... Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God" (Romans 9:6, 24-26).
Through unbelief and rejection of Heaven's purpose for her, Israel as nation had lost her connection with God.
When the early Christian church was founded, it was composed of those faithful Jews who recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the one for whose advent they had been longing. It is to this remnant that Paul refers when he writes, "if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches." Paul likens the remnant in Israel to a noble olive tree, some of whose branches were broken off. He compares the Gentiles to branches from a wild olive tree, grafted into the parent stock (Romans 11:16, 17).
The Saviour Himself, during His earthly ministry, foretold the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles. And after His resurrection He commissioned His disciples to go "into all the world" and "teach all nations." They were to leave none unwarned but were to "preach the gospel to every creature."
"And I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God" (Hosea 2:23).
Jesus longed to unfold the deep mysteries of the truth which had been hid for ages, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews and "partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Ephesians 3:6).
In His sight the souls of all men are of equal value.
4. How can we become part of God's true Israel?
"Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. ... That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. ... For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:7, 8, 14, 26-29).
It is when Christ is received as a personal Saviour that salvation comes to the soul. Zacchaeus had received Jesus, not merely as a passing guest in the home, but as one to abide in the soul temple. The Lord recognized him as a son of Abraham.
As the Bible presents two laws, one changeless and eternal, the other provisional and temporary, so there two covenants. The covenant of grace was first made with man in Eden, when after the fall there was given a divine promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. To all men this covenant offered pardon and the assisting grace of God for future obedience through faith in Christ. It also promised them eternal life on condition of fidelity to God's Law. Thus the patriarchs received hope of salvation. The same covenant was renewed to Abraham.
When converted the slave became a member of the body of Christ, and as such was to be loved and treated as a brother, a fellow heir with his master to the blessings of God and the privileges of the Gospel. Christianity makes a strong bond of union between master and slave, king and subject, the gospel minister and the degraded sinner who has found in Christ cleansing from sin. They have been washed in the same blood, quickened by the same Spirit; and they are made one in Christ Jesus.
5. Is there any hope for Gentiles who refuse to become true Israelites through Jesus Christ?
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;" (Ephesians 2:11-14)
Christ came to break down every wall of partition. He came to show that His gift of mercy and love is as unconfined as the air, the light, or the showers of rain that refresh the earth. The life of Christ established a religion in which there is no caste, a religion by which Jew and Gentile, free and bond are linked together in a common brotherhood, equal before God. No question of policy influenced His movements. He made no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the waters of life. He passed by no human being as worthless, but sought to apply the healing remedy to every soul.
6. Besides "Israel," by what other terms does the Bible refer to God's people?
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:22, 23).
The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend on man or be controlled by man. Very close and sacred is the relation between Christ and His church: He the bridegroom, and the church the bride; He the head, and the church the body. Connection with Christ, then, involves connection with His church. The church is organized for service.
7. In Greek the word "angel" means God's "messenger" and often refers to God's church when used symbolically in prophecy. How far will God's people take His message in the last days?
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Revelation 14:6, 7).
The message of truth is to go to all nations, tongues and people; its publications, printed in many different languages, are to be scattered abroad like the leaves of autumn. To carry the truth to the inhabitants of the earth, to rescue them from their guilt and indifference, is the mission of the followers of Christ.
This soul-purifying work will lead the affections away from worldly things to a consecration never before experienced. Like John, the forerunner of Jesus, those who preach this solemn message feel compelled to lay the ax at the root of the tree and call upon men to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
8. What other symbol does God use to represent Israel (or Zion) in prophecy?
"I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman" (Jeremiah 6:2).
The church is the bride, the Lamb's wife. She should keep herself pure, sanctified, holy. Never should she indulge in any foolishness; for she is the bride of a King. If she understood this, she would be all glorious within.
9. What will the dragon do to God's last-day church, as symbolized by a woman?
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God" (Revelation 12:17a),
Those who love and keep the commandments of God are the most obnoxious to the synagogue of Satan, and the powers of evil will manifest their hatred toward them to the fullest extent possible. John foresaw the conflict between the remnant church and the power of evil.
10. Besides being world-wide, as noted in question 7, what other Identifying marks does God give to help us recognize His people symbolized by a woman?
"which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17b).
The remnant church will have the Testimony of Jesus which is the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19: 10). God has placed the gifts in the church that the church may be benefited by them.
11. Thus, God's people will keep all the commandments, including the Sabbath commandment. They also will have "the testimony of Jesus Christ." What is "the testimony of Jesus Christ?"
"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10).
The apostle Paul assures us that the testimony of Christ was in the early Christian church (1 Corinthians 1:6, 7) and John writes that the remnant or last day church will also have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17)
12. In summary, God's last-day church will be a (1) Christian, (2) worldwide, (3) commandment-keeping church (4) that has the gift of prophecy. Do you know of a church that fits these specifications today?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church alone meets the Biblical requirements. Like ancient Israel, this church was called into being by God and He invites all people into its fellowship.
13. In 1844 God gave this church the promised gift of prophecy through Ellen G. White. After two men, one after the other, refused to be God's messenger, He chose this 17-year-old woman. She continued her inspired, prophetic ministry until she died in 1915. What other women did God call to be His prophets?
"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time"(Judges 4:4).
"And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;" (Luke 2:36)
From ancient times God has given the gift of prophecy to women. Deborah was one example. At the time of Jesus' dedication Anna, the prophetess in the temple. testified to the divinity of Jesus. Joel also prophesied that women as well as men would prophesy.
14. Ellen White had only a limited formal education, yet she wrote profound truths about Jesus, the Scriptures, education, health, marriage, administration, prophecy, and latter-day events that we are seeing happening today. What kind of human instruments does God often choose to do His work?
"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Because of the pride and ambition of the children of men, God has chosen to perform His mighty works by the most simple and humble means. It is not the men whom the world honors as great, talented or brilliant that God selects. He chooses those who will work in meekness and simplicity, acknowledging Him as their leader and their source of strength.
15. Who inspired prophets to write or speak God's messages?
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost"(2 Peter 1:21).
The Scriptures were given to men, not in a continuous chain of unbroken utterances, but piece by piece, through successive generations, as God in His providence saw a fitting opportunity to impress man at sundry times and in divers places. Men wrote as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
We thank God that the Bible is prepared for the poor man as well as for the learned man. It is fitted for all ages and all classes.
16. When God appoints a prophet, where is he placed?
"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues"(1 Corinthians 12:28).
God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. He will discipline and fit up His people. They will not be a variance, one believing one thing and another having faith and views entirely opposite, each moving independently of the Body. Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith.
As responsible human beings in search of salvation, we must identify two very important things: (1) God's last true church and (2) the reformation messenger God promised to send before His second coming. But if we find one we have found them both, for the prophet is placed within the church. After applying all the Biblical tests, it is then up to us to listen to the gentle voice of Jesus, saying, "Follow Me." It has never been popular to follow Jesus, but He is calling you today to become a part of His true church. Will you accept that invitation just now?
Page created: 7/26/98 Updated: 11/24/2006
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