An Open Door No One Can Close

What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. Revelation 3:7-8 NLT

The church of Philadelphia represents the church that found the open door into the Most Holy Place in 1844.  This church also found a book open that had previously been sealed.

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:9 NLT

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll[book] that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. Revelation 10:1-2 NLT

If the details in Revelation 10 follow the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1840 in Revelation 9, then the time period is around 1844, when the book of Daniel became an open book and the time of the end began.  Revelation 10:4 says that John was getting ready to write something down that the Thunders spoke, but was told not to write it.

What did they say and why was he told not to write it down? Obviously I have no clue for sure! But I do have an idea. In Revelation 10:8-10 John is told to eat a book that tasted sweet in his mouth but turned bitter in his stomach. Many believe that refers to the great disappointment in 1844 when people misunderstood that Jesus was coming to earth instead of going into the Most Holy Place ministry which had just begun. I wonder if the Thunders told John about the great disappointment, but he was told not to write it down? If I happen to be right, why would they tell him not to warn everybody so they wouldn’t be so disappointed? Because some things have to be learned by experience. Sometimes we have to experience problems personally so we can work out the solution clearly in our minds and see why that is the solution.

Most math books have some or all of the answers in the back. But it is not enough to just write the answer down. The teacher wants to see your work. She doesn’t just want you to know the answer, she wants you to write out and work out the problem so you know why it is the answer. The Bible tells us Jesus is the answer, but we encounter problems in life so we can know why Jesus is the answer. God wanted his precious church represented by Philadelphia to work out the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation so they would know by experience what the answer is, instead of just reading what the answer is.

Now back to the open door. While many believe the door is the door into the Most Holy Place, other scholars point at doors of evangelism that were open in those days. The American Bible Society was opened in the early 1800’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of all places! Publishing and spreading sacred literature became easier during this time. Add to this that when Jesus said, “what he opens no one can close, and what he closes no one can open,” I don’t think that applied to just one door. I think that is true about any door. If anyone has ever closed a door of opportunity on you, you can be sure of this, Jesus never opened it for you! If He had opened it for you no one would have been able to close it. No matter how things turn out for us we can be sure that man does not control our destiny. The same hands that were nailed to the cross and turned around and opened the seven seals holds our destiny.

It is also interesting that the church of Philadelphia is shown an open door in heaven, yet later when Jesus comes to the church of Laodicea He finds a closed door. If we are lost it won’t be because Jesus would not open heaven’s door. Heaven’s door is open. If we are lost it will only be because we would not open our heart’s door to Jesus. Next time we will take a look at the message to Laodicea.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Where in the World Are You Studying the Bible?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To me, the Bible is the  most personal and universal book ever written. When I read it I know God is personally talking to me, just as He was personally talking to Martin Luther as he read the Bible chained to the monastery wall in Europe in 1517, and Ellen White as she read the Sacred pages on the  Alameda as it sailed the South Pacific on its way to Australia is 1891, and the business secretary who read the Bible app on her tablet commuting on the New York subway last evening. The Bible brings me into a one on one personal relationship with Jesus. It also ties me to billions of people around the globe throughout earth’s history.

Last Christmas while I was on vacation, I went golfing with a buddy in Western Arkansas near Ozark Adventist Academy. On our way to the golf course we stopped in a diner for brunch, where we coincidentally ran into my cousin Paul, who was sitting at the community table, studying his Sabbath School lesson on his tablet. We joined him and had an enjoyable conversation, before we went chasing golf balls all through the woods. I had never seen a community table before, where everyone was welcome to sit together, where strangers become friends. Now that I think about it, I guess its like the bar stools at diners back in the 50’s so maybe the idea isn’t so novel. The small town diner enchanted me with its social atmosphere, with people visiting, coming and going at their leisure.

It made me think about SSNET, the Sabbath School lesson website I write for, as well as my personal blog, In Light of the Cross. Both are a social online community where people can come and visit, study and share ideas at their leisure. I got to thinking about my cousin Paul who was studying his Sabbath School lesson at the diner, in a social setting. It made me think about people studying their Bibles and Sabbath school quarterlies around the world. I got to wondering where all people are studying their own Bible around the world. Are people studying right now at a  Starbucks in Seattle? You know Starbucks sells bottled water and fruit juices too. Is someone reading their lesson on a park bench in Birkenhead park in Liverpool? Is someone having their devotional on their back patio in Cape Town? It is summer time there now you know? Is someone passing the time on their Sabbath School app while waiting on a plane at the Perth airport?

I just thought it might be nice to share where in the world we enjoy studying our Bibles and or Sabbath School lessons. Many I suppose have a special place inside your comfy home or flat God blesses them with, while others may have a special restaurant, park bench or special meeting place. Even Jesus had a special place of prayer and worship, which was the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you have a special place for your Bible study and prayer time? Years ago in Samaria, a woman met Jesus at a well. They had a one on one conversation, but Jesus also mentioned to her about worshiping in the Spirit. John worshiped in the Spirit while on Patmos. So you have two people, one in Samaria and one on Patmos both worshiping in the same place-the Spirit! So you see why I say our Bible study time is very personal and universal all at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

I would be interested in meeting you, and finding out not only what country you are from, but where you enjoy studying the Bible. Are you like many of my nostalgic friends who still enjoy holding an actual book or quarterly in your hands, or do you use an electronic device? Please comment below and let me know where in the world you like to study God’s Word. Then the next time I am enjoying my alone time in the Spirit with God’s Word, I will know who I am studying alone with, and I can say a prayer for God to bless your study as well as mine.

Remain Faithful Even When……What?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 NLT

 

Kevin o’Rourke grew up dreaming of being a firefighter one day.  He could not imagine being anything else. When he finally became a firefighter, knowing the dangers involved, Kevin loved his job more than anything else in life. Sadly, on September 11, 2001 in New York City, his love for being a fireman cost him his life. From what I have read about Kevin and his family, I believe he would have rather died a faithful firefighter at age 44, than to have lived to be 100 without being faithful to his calling.

In 2006 an Amish school girl asked a crazed gunman at her Amish school, in an effort to buy time for help to arrive to save the other students, to shoot her first. The Amish treasure the Bible, and I can’t help imagining this young girl receiving her very first Bible, and proudly holding it close to her little heart, as she treasured the sacred pages that would teach her to give up her life. The church of Smyrna loved Jesus so much they were faithful even when facing death and will receive at the resurrection, the crown of eternal life!

So are Kevin O’Rourke and the Amish school girl extreme cases or does Jesus expect all of us to be faithful even when facing death?

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NLT

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16 NLT

As someone who has been giving Bible studies since the 1980’s I don’t know if it is just my imagination or not, but it seems people have a harder time these days grasping the idea of being totally committed to Jesus,and being faithful even to death. Many of us are only faithful until its inconvenient! Bible students have told me that surely God does not expect a poor widow to return an honest tithe and offerings. In 1 Kings 17 we meet a poor widow who tells Elijah, “I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” 1 Kings 17:12 NLTSo this woman is at the point of death. What does Elijah tell her to do? “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:13 NLT The woman is at the point of death, but Elijah still expects her to be faithful to God and His messengers first. Even when facing death! Of course we read on about how the oil and flour never ran out after she supported God’s servants first.

So today, does God expect us to be faithful even when facing death, or just until life gets a little hard or difficult? A while back I told an embarrassing story about when I was in my early twenties and held back my tithe money for a while. So now please let me share a a couple stories where I actually did something smart. I was working for a family-owned business, and one Friday the owner called everyone into his office. He was very upset about everything being unorganized, so he said everyone would have to come in the next day, Sabbath, and work to straighten it all out or lose their jobs. My first thought was I had lost my job. I was already imagining myself losing my apartment and moving back home. What I never imagined was me working on Sabbath! I didn’t get a chance to imagine very long, before our boss looked at me and said, “I understand tomorrow is a religious holiday for you. So we won’t see you but I better see everybody else!” God saved me!

Years later I was working for UPS, and had the opportunity to become package deliverer and drive the big brown trucks. Human resources told me there may be some times I would have to work on Friday nights after sunset. I told them there was no way I would. They asked, “What if your truck breaks down, and by the time we get you another truck, it is dark?” I summed it up for them quickly. I told them, “Many people have died for their faith, and I am not going to give up my faith just to save my job!” That ended the discussion and I became a delivery driver.

I share those two stories, because so many times I have studied with people who supposedly accepted the Sabbath, only to turn around and take the first job offer that required them to work on Sabbath. I have baptized Bible study students who later told me they could not come to church on Sabbath because they had to work. When I asked them what their boss said when they asked for Sabbath off, I found they never even asked. By not being faithful, they are missing wonderful opportunities to see God work in their behalf! If we want God to be real to us we have to be real to Him.

Many never see how real God is because they never give Him a chance to do anything real in their life. We must be like the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3, who said God could deliver them, but even if He didn’t they would still remain faithful unto death! If they hadn’t taken that stand, they would not have had the experience of Jesus walking with them in the fire.

In a world that bases everything on convenience instead of faithfulness,  in a world where  surviving  is more important than sacrifice,  Jesus still promises eternal life to those who are faithful, not until it becomes hard, but until death.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

When Was The Last Time You Invited Someone Home From Church?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

When was the last time you had people from your church over to your house?

The New Testament speaks of churches in homes. See Romans 16:51 Corinthians 16:9Colossians 4:15,Philemon 1:2.

Years ago, when I became a Bible Worker at a church in Texas, an elderly saint informed me of a group of people who began having church in one of their houses. She wanted me to get them to come back to the “real” church because, according to her, having church in a house was not “real” church. Realizing that having church in a house was indeed “real church,” I reached out to them and began a wonderful friendship. We worked together and played together, even though they “assembled themselves together” for worship in a house, while the rest of us assembled at the church building.

God’s remnant church will look like the original church, and the original church first met in homes as well as meeting in the temple court. Meeting in buildings dedicated to Christian worship came later.

By the way, the order of service most Adventists follow for worship service does not come from the New Testament. It comes from the Methodists. Nothing wrong with that. Just saying. Occasionally I have gone to preach in a church building that only had about 15 members present. Instead of having church in the sanctuary “Methodist style” I persuaded them to come into the fellowship hall where we all sat in a big circle and had a “home church.” Instead of preaching a sermon I led out in a group Bible study. It was informal yet reverent and Bible-based. Many told me they found it refreshing. It was what I imagine church to have been like in the New Testament.

Notice even the churches that met in temple courts also met in homes.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:46-47 NIV

To me, the fact that they met in each others’ homes shows me how dedicated they were to the church. They took the church home with them! The New Testament church was not compartmentalized. There were no boundaries between what belonged to the church and what belonged to them. Their home dining room was just as much church property as the fellowship hall.

Do we compartmentalize today? For example, let’s look at church fellowship lunches. Are they social or anti-social? For instance, do we meet for lunch at church so we don’t have to actually invite each other over to our house? We say we all meet at church so we can all socialize together. Really? Then tell me why when I visit various churches I see so many people eating alone at fellowship lunch. I often see families sitting alone at tables that could have just as easily been sitting alone at home. But it makes us feel more sociable if we eat alone at church?

Of course many people do actually fellowship during fellowship lunches. Still, I have to wonder why we aren’t meeting in homes more often? Again do we compartmentalize? Do we fellowship on neutral ground while protecting the privacy of our home? Does our church have borders, or do we hold all things common?

It may be said that we can’t invite the entire church over to our house at once, so some may feel left out. To that I would say, over time invite several people, and those who feel left out can invite people to their house! It works both ways, you know. 🙂

The New Testament church did not compartmentalize. They held all things common, even meeting in their homes. I believe the remnant church should reflect the New Testament church. In the last days Satan is working hard to polarize us and make us unsociable. Meanwhile God is drawing us together to make up, not an isolated people but a great multitude which no man can number, who reflect His character of love and hospitality.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Pray For Our Leaders

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: Daniel 4:34 NKJV

I don’t know how it is around the world, but here in the last days in the United States, we are becoming very polarized politically. I am afraid it is even affecting the church. A while back a young person in the church shared a meme on Facbeook, bashing a political figure with lies. I messaged my young friend and shared the documentation with her that the cruel meme was making a false accusation. She replied back that she did not need me telling her the meme was false because she already knew it was a lie. I asked her why she was spreading lies. She replied back, “They make the point I am wanting to make.” I replied back, “so your point is a lie?” She replied back that she had an agenda and did not need me judging her integrity. If it took a lie to promote her political agenda then so be it!

Sadly that is not an isolated case. Professed Adventist Christians are spreading lies and fake news about political figures to suit their political preferences. It is being done on both sides. What really saddens me is that many professed Adventist Christians are using social media to promote earthly politics instead of sharing the gospel. Not only are they being worldly focused but they are not even using integrity even by worldly standards. They are using lies, fake news and gossip.

In Daniel 4 we see a pagan king who repents and is saved. The first six chapters of Daniel are filled with stories that will be repeated as the prophecies in the last six chapters unfold. The image in Daniel 3 is similar to the mark of the beast. I believe if Daniel 3 repeats itself then Daniel 4 will repeat itself as well. I believe ruthless pagan political leaders will be converted int he last days. Why else would Daniel 4 be in the middle of other stories that are to be repeated in the last days?

As we prepare for the end time, instead of means that even the world recognizes as immoral, such as fake news, lies and gossip to bash political leaders who we think are pagan, lets instead pray for their conversion.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV

May I also suggest that instead of hiding behind an electronic device on social media, to hurl insults at others, that sensitive issues are better discussed face to face in real life? I have yet to see social media solve a social issue yet. Social issues are better solved in social real life discussions. It also helps us to be more responsible and Christlike with our comments.

You may read this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Why Support a Bible Worker Who Isn’t Even in Your Area?

There are plenty of Bible Workers to support, so why should someone support my Bible Worker ministry, especially if I’m not even in your area? First of all, God may not be asking you to support my ministry. He may be asking you to support workers in your own area. There are many Bible Workers worthy of your support. At the same time God may also be asking you to support ministries outside of you area, including mine. Here are some things to prayerfully consider, if you are asking yourself why you should support my ministry while I am far away.

Here is a letter Steven Vargas sent me from Chile. He shares how my ministry has helped him in soul winning while thousands of miles away.

Steven Vargas

Steven Vargas, High school student in Chile.

My name is Steven Vargas, and I am a former student of Tampa Adventist Academy, where Pastor Earnhardt was my Bible teacher. In his classes, he would always give the class Bible [chain referenced] studies to complete. Each week a different topic for example, Baptism, The Second Coming, The Sabbath, etc. Later that year I moved to Chile, where I was not able to attend a Christian school. It was difficult to adapt to my new school, but with God’s help I was able to do it. One day, a friend came up to me and asked, “Why are you so different?” I answered and said, “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist…”.Later that week, my friend asked why I kept the Sabbath and as soon as I heard that question, I remembered the Bible studies I used to complete in class. I asked Pr. Earnhardt where I could find them, and he lead me to his website, where I was able to find the bible studies. I asked if he had them in Spanish, and turns out he did. I used this to my advantage, and I was able to spread the word of God thanks to Pr. Earnhardt’s website. Sadly, my friend changed schools, but I will never forget the look in his eyes when I was giving him the bible studies. I hope to see him in heaven when God comes to take us. I give thanks to God for letting me preach His word through the bible studies of Pr. Earnhardt, and I hope to gain more souls for God thanks to them in the near future. -Steven Vargas, High School Student, Chile

Possibly God is asking you to support this Bible Worker ministry because it is literally reaching around the world! As well as giving studies in the Tampa Bay area, I have also provided seminars in person as far away as Peru and Connecticut. I also mentor other Bible Workers in other areas, and I thank you for supporting them as well. The In Light of the Cross website gets hits from over 175 countries every year. I also write and moderate for the Sabbath School Net, which reaches many more thousands of souls around the globe.

Also please consider that the Plant City and Tampa Bay area is a mission field like any other, with souls needing to hear the gospel.

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If you have prayed and felt God is leading you to financially support my Bible Worker ministry monthly or with a one time contribution, your support will be gladly appreciated! You may send your tax deductible contribution to the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, FL 33563. Please mark your check, “Bible Worker.”

Thank you to all my contributors past, present and future!

PS We are still working on online giving thank you for your patience. Meanwhile a few are giving from their online banking.

The Mystery of Iniquity and the Mystery of Godliness

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan has two mysteries –the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of Godliness.

The phrase, “mystery of iniquity” is mentioned only one time and only in the KJV.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 KJV

Paul mentions the mystery of iniquity right after talking about a man

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV.

Now while the KJV uses the word “iniquity” many other versions use the word “secret.” Also many other versions use the word “lawlessness” instead of “iniquity.” I am using multiple versions to get the big picture. In 2 Thessalonians Paul is talking about someone whose secret agenda is to overthrow God’s law and set himself on God’s throne.

Is this what also happened in heaven? Yes!

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:… I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV

John shares more light on this mystery when he says,

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, Revelation 12:7 KJV

Here we see an outright war. Not with tanks and machine guns, but a war of the minds. Lucifer is secretly trying to overthrow God’s law and government in order to set up his own kingdom. I imagine he was using flattery, bribery and mind games to secretly undermine God’s law and government and turn people to himself, just as he does now.

This is where the word “iniquity” comes in. Iniquity can be described as being bent towards or inclined towards self. Ezekiel has another clue in this mystery.

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Ezekiel 28:15 KJV

In heaven, Lucifer’s love, which was supposed to be centered on God others took a u-turn and headed towards himself. Somehow Lucifer mysteriously started undermining the importance of God and others and began his secret agenda of exalting self.

When things appear unexpectedly where they are not supposed to be, we call that a mystery. Part of the famous D.B. Cooper case involves a family finding a large sum of money while hiking in the forest. It was a mystery because the money was unexpected and not supposed to be there. Was self-love supposed to be in an angel’s heart in heaven? No, it was unexpected and not supposed to be there. Was there a logical reason for Satan to be at war with Christ in heaven of all places? No. It was not logical at all. The rebellion was not supposed to be there. That makes it a mystery doesn’t it? We can’t explain it or defend it. It’s a mystery.

Sometimes we are tempted to think, once we get to heaven we just automatically won’t sin any more, because we will be in a perfect world. Yet sin began in a perfect world! What a mystery!

However we do know there will be no sin in heaven.

Affliction will not rise up a second time. Nahum 1:9. NKJV

This leads us to another mystery, the mystery of Godliness. While many find it a mystery how a perfect being became so sinful, they also find it a mystery how a sinful race can become Christlike.

Obviously this is not done on our own. This mystery can only be performed by Christ working in us.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NKJV

Revelation 10 gives us another clue to the mystery. John is given a book, which I understand to be the book of Daniel. It was sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. When the 2300 days in Daniel 8:14 came to an end, the expectation of Christ’s return in 1844 was sweet, but the disappointment was bitter. (I wonder if the thunders told John about the disappointment, but he was not allowed to write it down because some things must be learned through experience?) While they were disappointed in 1844 when Jesus did not return, Revelation tells us what would occur in 1844.

… but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets. Revelation 10:7 NKJV

According to Colossians 1:27, the mystery of God is Christ in us. This leads us to the cleansing of the sanctuary, not just a building on earth or in heaven, but even more so the cleansing of the soul temple, so God can dwell right within us! See Exodus 25:8 and John 14:1-3.

Again this mystery can only be accomplished by Christ working in us. It is all grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In Titus 2:11-14 Paul describes a people on earth who have become Christlike. What a mystery! In heaven where you would least expect it, sin began. Now thanks to God’s grace, right here on earth, where you would least expect it, people become Christlike. John agrees with Paul. We don’t have to wait to get to heaven to be like Jesus.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 NKJV

I like the way Ellen White explains it:

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. The plan of salvation, making manifest the justice and love of God, provides an eternal safeguard against defection in unfallen worlds, as well as among those who shall be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. -Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889. 

In the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan we see a perfect angel in heaven who becomes sinful. We also see a sinful race on earth become Christ-like.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.