Three Angels Messages Part 75

The messages of the Three Angels close with this encouraging announcement. “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The word translated “patience” is the Greek hupomone, which means literally “remaining under” and has the idea of “endurance”, “tenacity” or “perseverance.” This word appears frequently throughout the pages of the New Testament. Quite obviously, this “patience” is a vital component of the characters of the saints. Though translated by a variety of English words, it is this word that appears (in italics) in the following passages, the ones from the Old Testament being from the Septuagint.

This patience was exemplified in the life of Jesus, the divine Pattern. “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Hebrews 12:2, 3.

Christians of all ages, those who follow the example of Jesus, have needed this “patience,” but it is especially required among those who live at the close of time. Amidst His predictions of the fall of Jerusalem, an illustration of the circumstances at the end of the age, Jesus said, “In your patience possess your souls.” Luke 21:19. In this same discourse He said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13. Speaking of the coming kingdom Paul wrote, “If we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Romans 8:25. In the book of Hebrews we read, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:36.

James writes, “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:3, 4. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7, 8. God’s counsel is, “Therefore wait for Me,’ says the LORD, ‘until the day I rise up for plunder.’” Zephaniah 3:8. Those who cultivate this “patience” will look up one day and say, “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 25:8, 9.

“Here is the patience of the saints.” The word translated “saints” means “holy ones.” Is this holiness something they’ve developed on their own, something they’ve earned by their own endeavors? Absolutely not! “And to her (Christ’s bride, the last day church) it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:8. The word “granted” tells us that this is a gift. It is something that is given to the saints. But they must cooperate in this process. They must be willing to receive what God is intending to give.

“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” There can be no doubt but that the “commandments of God” spoken of here are the Ten Commandments. When Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees, questioning why, through their tradition, they transgressed the “commandment of God,” He quoted from the fifth commandment; “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and mother.’” Matthew 15:3, 4. Jesus told the rich young ruler “‘If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to Him, ‘which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’” Matthew 19:17-19. These are obviously references to the Ten Commandments. Jesus added the thought also, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” because that principle summed up the second half of the Decalogue.

When Paul declared, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good,” to what commandments was he speaking? Obviously the Ten Commandments, since just before this he said, “I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’” Romans 7:12, 7.

There can be no question that the “commandments of God” that are kept by the saints at the close of earth’s history are indeed the Ten Commandments, God’s holy law, the Decalogue spoken from Sinai and committed to writing by God’s own finger. This law has been the object of attack by the enemy from the beginning. He knows that if he can get God’s people to disobey, His blessing will be forfeited, just as he accomplished on the borders of Canaan through the agency of Balaam and the seductive women at Beth Peor. Bewitched into idolatry and immorality, many suffered the divine judgment and were slain, not making it into the Promised Land. See Numbers 25.

It takes only one door to be violated for an entire building to be compromised. It takes only one of the commandments to be broken to be a transgressor of all. If we inflate a balloon, holding it with one hand while with the other a pin, what part of the balloon cannot be pricked without the whole balloon collapsing? No part! I can prick the balloon on the left, the right, the top or the bottom, and it won’t matter. The entire balloon will burst if any part of it is punctured.
As we have seen, the special point of attack by Satan has been the Holy Sabbath day, the subject of the fourth commandment. Seeing how it reveals the Creator God, how it illustrates salvation by grace, how it testifies to His power to bring beauty from that which is “without form and void,” the devil has erected his siege mounds and aimed his battering rams against this commandment like no other. In Old Testament times he was successful in getting God’s people to treat the Sabbath with carelessness. Then, following the captivity, they overreacted and piled on it a mountain of useless and distracting regulations, obscuring the glory of what God had established.

Through his sophistry and the work of misguided men, Satan assaulted this commandment in the early centuries of Christianity, and has maintained his fierce warfare against it ever since. He “turned the signpost around,” and substituted a common working day, the first day of the week, the day espoused by pagans in honor of the sun god, for God’s sacred Sabbath. The man of sin, the horn power of Daniel, the beast from the sea which came to life in the historical papacy, sought to “change times and laws” and “cast truth to the ground.”
The papacy elevated itself above “all that is called God” and aspired to evince its supernatural authority in the act of changing the eternal law of Jehovah. She points with satisfaction to the millions who follow her lead on this, Catholics and Protestants alike, though there is, by her own confession, not a whisper of biblical evidence to support the notion that God or the apostles made such a change in His law.

But there will be people who will honor the law of the Lord and “keep the commandments.” This will not be in order to earn salvation; that’s impossible. Only the blood of Jesus can save. But obedience is the fruit of genuine faith; it is the outgrowth of appreciation for God’s gift of salvation and the product of Christian maturity. It is the result of the Spirit’s writing His law on our hearts. It is the highest form of worship. To say “I love Him, but I refuse to obey Him” is utter blasphemy.

Doesn’t it say that “God is love”? Yes, the Bible says that. I John 4:8. Doesn’t it also say that “love is the fulfilling of the law,” and that the whole law hangs upon the principle of love? Yes, it says that. Romans 13:10; Matthew 22:37-40. If follows then that since God is love, and since His law is love, that God and His law are one and the same; they are indivisible. You can’t separate them. They are a seamless garment, like the one Christ wore to Calvary.

Therefore it is impossible to profess allegiance to God and knowingly despise His law, because they are the same. The Jews of Jesus’ day put the Son of God on the cross, and the Christian world abhors this act of sacrilege. But is the Christian world any less guilty because they have put God’s law on the cross? Is it any different in the eyes of the Father?

To say that one loves Christ but rejects His law is not only impossible; it is the essence of idolatry and anarchy. It is preposterous. God cannot save the one who knowingly rebels. It would only perpetuate the sin problem. He must deal with sin. He can take to heaven only those who submit to His gracious law of love, for the sake of the harmony of the universe. Does it really make sense that He would take commandment-breakers to live with Him?

The saints at the end will be those who have chosen to obey God though it cost them goods, kindred and even if it means that their very lives are threatened. The beast will have erected his image, the false sabbath. The command will have gone forth throughout the world to bow to it and worship it. But here is a company who refuse to bow to the image, the Sunday sabbath; who stand firm to the commandments of God. This raises the ire of the beast and his consorts, who attach the severest of penalties upon the violation of their laws. But God’s people hold firm. They have tenacity, endurance, perseverance and patience.

And they have something else, too. Notice that this text declares that the saints have the faith of Jesus. This is something different than faith in Jesus. It is true that we need to have faith in Jesus, but this text emphasizes the faith of Jesus. Most assuredly we are to believe “in” Him, and the Scriptures contain many admonitions addressing that principle. But there is a difference in the nuance when the passage reads “the faith of Jesus.” This is the faith that belongs to Jesus, which is given to the saints. It is His faith. This is the faith that kept Jesus faithful (“full of faith”) all the way to the cross of Calvary. This is the faith that maintained His allegiance to the Father despite the afflictions and temptations that assailed Him in that last trying hour.

For the saints to have the faith of Jesus is most appropriate, since the saints will be required to walk a similar path as did Jesus. He Himself predicted that, like He experienced, the saints of the last day would also endure prosecutions and court trials filled with false testimony. He personally knew what that was like. There would be cruel mocking and taunts. He experienced those. There would be physical adversity heaped up by the master of coercion. The saints will know what it is to “drink the cup” and be “baptized with the baptism” of His experience. Matthew 20:23. They will have made their own journey from “Gethsemane” to “Golgotha,” enduring the hatred of God’s enemies. Some, before the close of probation for the entire world, will have shed their blood in martyrdom. Others, though they have been spared by the protecting hand of God, will have been adjudged worthy of death by human authorities.

They will need the faith of Jesus in order to survive these trials, and it will be given them. How does this happen? It is because they have received the “mind of Christ.” With His mind comes His faith. The Pauline promise has been fulfilled in their lives, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5.  Along with His mind, which means His way of thinking, they have received His faith; not merely faith about Him, or faith in Him, but His very faith. To withstand the horrific tribulations through which they must pass, they are granted “the faith of Jesus.” Do you feel that your faith is weak, that it couldn’t survive the trials of persecution? Would you like to have the faith of Jesus? He is willing to give it to you!

John wrote in his first epistle, “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding.” I John 5:20. The word translated “understanding” is the Greek dianoia, which often is translated in the New Testament as “mind.”  The apostle is saying that “Jesus has come and has given us a mind,” that is, a new way of thinking and a new way of believing. This is the same word that appears in texts such as, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind.” I Peter 1:13.
God’s saints, who have the “faith of Jesus,” are the recipients of the blessings of the New Covenant, which includes the promise, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts.” Hebrews 8:10. Notice the perfect blending of “law and grace,” of “obedience and faith” as revealed in God’s way. It is His law that is written in the minds of saints, along with His faith which makes obedience to His law possible. The only way the saints can be faithful and “obey His commandments” is because they have the “faith of Jesus.” But with His faith, they can obey His law. This is not at all to their credit, for they are weak mortals. It is all to God’s glory. But in these exhibits, God produces evidence that His Gospel, which is the “power of God to salvation,” is capable of overcoming sin in the lives of willing and submissive people. Romans 1:16.

These saints have “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” Colossians 3:10. At the creation, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26. But then came the Fall, and this image of God was marred. What’s important to understand is that the intention of God as expressed in Genesis 1 has never been withdrawn. It’s never been revoked or canceled. It is still today His proposal to “make man in Our image.” It has been the purpose of God ever since sin came in to restore lost mankind to His image, His likeness.

The word in Greek that appears in the text quoted from Colossians is eikon, which is also the same word used in the Septuagint of Genesis 1:26. We get the word “icon” from that word, a word familiar to users of computers as well as members of the Greek and Russian orthodox faiths, who commonly paint pictorial representations on wooden panels which decorate the walls of their churches. We’ve had the privilege of seeing many of these.

The word eikon means “image or likeness.” It is the word used to describe the representation of the emperor on a coin, for example. When questioned by the Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes Jesus said, “‘Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’” Matthew 22:19, 20.

It is also, we should note, the same word used in the phrase “the image of the beast.” Satan wants his followers to receive his image, his eikon. Through the Gospel, God wants to replicate the picture, the eikon of His character in our hearts. This is what the Three Angels Messages are all about! It’s not about physical eikons hanging on church walls, as beautiful as they may be. It’s about His character and way of thinking controlling our brains, so that we can reflect His eikon. That was God’s design in creating Adam and Eve in the beginning.
Having spent a number of years in building, we’ve always considered that “new construction” is preferable to “re-modeling.” There may be some contractors who differ on this perspective, but we’ve come to the conclusion that building something from scratch is easier. If you have to deal with older construction, you often find that there are unpleasant surprises behind those walls. Older pipes have a tendency to break off. Older wiring isn’t always safe to work with. That floor may not be too level; that wall might not be too straight. You’ll need to spend significant time just getting things prepared to work; you’ll have to detach and remove the older components. It’s harder to fix something that’s decrepit and decayed than it is to begin fresh with new material.

So it is with humanity. God’s work of restoration, the re-creation of His likeness, His eikon, in fallen humanity requires greater skill and power than what happened in Genesis 1 and 2. But our Lord is capable of doing just this! He has promised to make us, lost sinners, in “the image of Him who created him.” Amazing! What a wonderful God we have!

Throughout the centuries, there have been those who have responded to His invitation to become new in Him. There have been the Enochs and the Elijahs, the Josephs and Daniels through the passage of time. But now at the end there will be a “harvest,” a representative group to whom He can point and say, “Here they are. Here are the ones who keep God’s commandments and have the faith of Jesus. Here is the Generation Enoch that reveals My power and grace.” I want to be among that number, don’t you?