Let’s Make God Known
Concluding Address at the Trans-European Division Pastors' Conference
25 August, 2012 Rogaska Slatina, Slovenia [Bertil Wiklander]
Let’s make God known!
Let’s know God, so that our witness to him is genuine and credible!
Let’s do it in being and living, in speaking and writing, in proclamation and dialogue, in preaching and teaching, in argumentation and invitation!
Let there be no doubt that this is not like going on vacation. It is a fight – ‘Fight the good fight of the faith’, says Paul (1 Tim. 6:12). Bear in mind what he says:
2 Corinthians 10:3-5: ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’
In another letter, Paul describes what our weapon is:
Ephesians 6:13-18: ‘Put on the full armour of God … Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’
Making God known is part of the Mission of God to destroy evil and create a new heaven and earth where he has peaceful and growing communion with man (Revelation 2:1-5). As Creator of all, he is the God of all peoples, and he wants to be known to them all. He calls us to take up his mission to his world by making him known. Let’s make God known!
Making God known is part of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). God gave Christ all authority in heaven and earth in order to complete God’s mission. By this authority, Christ commissioned his disciples – you and me -- to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of God, and teaching them all that Christ stands for, i.e. the fullness of God. Christ promises to be with us always, to the end of the age, as we learn from him and come to know God in an even deeper sense. ‘Being a disciple is being an apprentice or a learner, who has decided to be with someone so that he can learn to do what that person does and become what that person is’ (Dallas Willard). We are learning to know God in Christ, ‘because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us’ (Rom. 5:5). This life that we are learning to live is what we must share with the world. Let’s make God known!
Making God known is part of the identity of Seventh-day Adventists, as we take up God’s end-time calling through the three angels’ messages in Revelation 14:6-13. Jesus is mentioned here only once, in verse 12, in the peculiar phrase pistis Iēsou, ‘faith of Jesus’. What does this phrase mean in the context of making God known?
Literally, Revelation 14:12 says:
Revelation 14:12: ‘This is the patient endurance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’
The phrase pistis Iēsou, may be translated in four ways:
- faith of Jesus,
- faith in Jesus,
- faithfulness of Jesus,
- faithfulness to Jesus
As we make an informed choice from the biblical data, these observations stand out:
(1) A subjective genitive fits the immediate context better (as demonstrated by Sigve Tonstad in Saving God’s Reputation, 2006, 179-185): it has to be pistis of Jesus.
(2) As a term rooted in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition, pistis means ‘belief (in God’s words), obedience, trust, hope, and faithfulness.’1 A combination of the meanings ‘faith as trust or hope’ and ‘faithfulness or obedience as loyalty’ is supported by the close parallel in 13:10:
Revelation 13:10: ‘If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed by the sword, with the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.’
Facing coercion and violent death, ‘the faith (of the saints)’ is both trust in God and faithfulness to God.
(3) ‘The faith of Jesus’ in 14:12 is to be ‘kept’ by the saints — similarly to their ‘keeping’ or ‘preserving’2 the commandments of God — in a situation of widespread idolatry and distrust in the true God, which suggests that what is at stake here is loyalty to God.
In keeping with these observations and seeing a connection between ‘faith of Jesus’ and ‘witness of Jesus’ in Revelation,3 I understand ‘faith of Jesus’ in terms of trust in God being demonstrated as faithfulness and obedience to God.4
This understanding of pistis Iēsou reflects most adequately the theme of the cosmic conflict in Revelation and keeps the character of the divine government in view (true love as sacrifice of self).5 (a) It is meaningful as a reference to Jesus’ faithfulness to God until death, which is the very point of the exhortation in Revelation 14:12; (b) it would mean that ‘the faithfulness of Jesus’ is being witnessed to by the faithfulness of those who die in the Lord, who follow the Lamb and who are therefore being blessed in 14:13 – but they also make God known!
The saints are encouraged in 14:12 to endure in their loyalty to God. The basic meaning of Greek hypomonē is ‘steadfast endurance until the end under persecutions or temptations.’6 In Revelation, the threat against the faith comes from divisive teachings7 and the blasphemy, religious coercion and death threats by God’s enemies.8
The point of the encouragement in Revelation 14:12, however, is faithfulness that endures even until violent death by the sword. This goes back to the core value in Jesus’ teachings, that loyalty to God is more worth than life (Mark 8:35; Matt. 10:39; Luke 9:24). Peter tells us:
1 Peter 2:20-23: ‘If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. … When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.’
Reading Revelation 14:12 as a description of the disciples of Jesus as those who ‘keep the commandments of God and the faithfulness of Jesus even until death’ is sustained by many features in Revelation as a whole:
(a) the righteous dead (Rev. 14:13) are asked to rest a little longer until their number is complete of those ‘who are soon to be killed as they themselves have been killed’ (Rev. 6:11);
(b) the killing of the saints is connected with a call for their ‘endurance and faith’ (Rev. 13:9-10);
(c) the righteous dead are being ‘beheaded for (their) witness of Jesus’ (Rev. 20:4);
(d) Babylon is described as ‘drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus’ (Rev. 17:6) (note also Rev 6:10; 16:6; 18:24; 19:2);
(e) keeping faithfulness until death is what Jesus’ is asking his followers to do at the beginning of the book: ‘Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life’ (Rev. 2:10; cf. 3:10-11);
(f) The faithful are those who overcome the enemy of God ‘by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their witness, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death’ (Rev. 12:11).
We have here an important key to understanding Revelation 14, a passage that Ellen White described in 1904 as ‘a chapter of the deepest interest’ that ‘will soon be understood in all its bearings’.
(a) The saints’ faithfulness until death is their ‘witness’ (martyria) to Jesus (Rev. 6:9; 12:11, 17; 17:6; 19:10; 20:4) that follows the ‘witness’ (martyria) that Jesus gave through his death on the cross as the Lamb of God (Rev. 1:2, 5; 5:6, 9, 12; 7:14; 12:11; 13:8; 19:13).
(b) The ‘witness of Jesus’ is his faithful revelation of God, or ‘the word of God’ (Rev. 1:2, 9; 12:17; 19:10; 19:11-13; 20:4) through ‘the spirit of prophecy’.
(c) By obedience until death, Jesus’ life has displayed God’s faithfulness (Hebr. chesed) to his creation, or, in other words, God’s love (Hebr. chesed) for the world and his people, revealing the way in which God rules the world as opposed to how the satanic trinity (‘Babylon’) rules the world (by falsehood and coercion).
(d) In God’s mission to achieve the new world-order seen in vision by John in Revelation 21:1-5, Christ as the Lamb that was slaughtered is therefore the key. All is based on that.
And that is what makes God known!
Jesus is ‘the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth’ (Rev. 1:5). As the saints follow him, they witness to his faithfulness to God until death and will receive their share in his victory over death and rule the world with him.9
Revelation 14:6-13 not only describes what it means to make God known to the world but what it means to be a disciple of Jesus at the end of time. The three angels’ messages are an intensification of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus at the end of time!
Seventh-day Adventists: We are called to this life!
Since the victory of Christ came from his faithfulness to God and his will, John encourages the Seventh-day Adventists to follow Christ’s victorious faithfulness — until death, if necessary. In 14:4, the redeemed are those who ‘follow the Lamb wherever he goes.’ Their faithfulness imitates the faithfulness of Jesus Christ who has authority over death:
Revelation 1:17-18: ‘I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades’.
In light of this, the blessing of the faithful who die in the Lord (14:13) acknowledges their claim to Christ’s victory over death and opens their path to the reward of eternal life. Thus, following Jesus’ faithfulness to God until death is our path to blessedness and rest in death and then to eternal life.
Do you see what I mean?
Do you see that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the whole book of Revelation?
Do you see that the faithfulness of Jesus in making God known, even unto death, is the reason for the resurrection? (Paul uses the term ‘humility’ instead of ‘faithfulness’ as the reason for the resurrection in Philippians 2:1-11.)
And do you see that we, the faithful, are to follow Jesus, learning from Jesus, and making God known in him?
Can we do this in Europe? Of course we can!
If you doubt that, you have been led astray by the mass media that bombard your mind every moment. In Europe, the tacit assumption is that there is no God. Even in the Olympic Games, there is no God and he is never being mentioned, although the winners make the sign of the cross and bow down on the tarmac to thank God for their victory. As Mo Farah won his two sensational gold medals on 10,000 m and 5,000 m, he bowed down first of all to thank God. And the British commentator did not know what to say, so he said: ‘He is having a private moment.’ That is how far you can go to make God known in the televised Olympic Games in Europe!
In the midst of all our sophistication, all our welfare, all our pretension that we are living in the best of worlds, however, Europeans fear death. They lack hope. They look for meaning in their lives and a better quality of life.
And here we are, God’s people, having the best that life can offer, because we know that God has defeated death in Christ and is working to accomplish his mission to restore everything according to the Creator’s intentions. And what do we do?
What are you going to take with you from this Pastors Council?
We normally read Matthew 25 and the parable of the sheep and the goats as referring to material help. When Jesus says:
Matthew 25:42-43: ‘I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
… we may feel urged to make a donation to ADRA. And let’s do that, but remembering that Jesus taught us that ‘life is more worth than food’ (Matthew 6:25) and that ‘man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matt 4:4).
What if Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 are also about peoples’ spiritual needs in Europe? On the great day of his coming, this is then what he will say to us, pastors and leaders of God’s prophetic church at the end of time:
Matthew 25:35-36: ‘I was hungry [for God] and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty [for God] and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger [and did not know God or feel at home in the church] and you invited me in, I needed clothes [that would cover me from the shame of my weaknesses] and you clothed me [with the love of God], I was sick [of the coldness of lost hope] and you looked after me, I was in prison [where my only exit was termination by eternal death] and you came to visit me [bringing me a way out].’
Let’s make God known! Bring it back to your churches and organisations: Let’s make God known!
Deuteronomy 6:6-8: ‘Keep it in your hearts. Impress it on your children. Talk about it when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie it as a symbol on your hands and bind it on your foreheads. Write it on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.’
Let’s make God known!
1 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 6, 205-208
2 Tonstad argues for a sense that brings to view a legacy or a trust that is safeguarded and preserved as well as ‘kept’ in the sense of ‘put into practice’ (Reputation, 184).
3 Ibidem, 179-185.
4 For a discussion of the fine line between ‘faith’ as the confidence in God demonstrated by Jesus’ and ‘faithfulness of Jesus to God,’ see Tonstad, Reputation, 185-189.
5 Tonstad, Reputation, 168-185, 193-194; cf. Bauckham, Revelation, 121.
6 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 4, 585-588.
7 Rev 2:2-3, 9, 14-16, 20-22; 3:9.
8 Rev 2:10; 3:10-12; 6:10-11; 12:11, 17; 13:10; 15:2; 17:6, 14;18:4, 20, 24; 19:2; 20:4-6.
9 Rev 1:5-6, 17; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 5:1-14; 7:9-17; 11:15; 12:10-11; 14:1-5; 19:11-16.
By Dr Bertil Wiklander, President of the Trans-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists