Rebuilding the Temple After Captivity

J. Wilfred Johnson

Sabbath School Lesson Oct. 18, 1986

Transcribed April 1, 2014

Note: This meeting is actually a small Sabbath School lesson given by Mr. Johnson at the College Heights Church Alberta, Canada. There are other groups meeting in the sanctuary at the same time as well as individuals talking among themselves. All of this background noise makes it nearly impossible to hear individuals addressing Mr. Johnson with their comments or questions.

(Wilfred) We today move through the second chapter of Haggai with respect to the rebuilding the temple back in Jerusalem after the captivity in Babylon. God's people had been taken captive into Babylon because they had continually let the Lord down. Once in a while God has to come through with a little bit of discipline even as you parents recognize after having raised one or more children. And He does it in love, He does it because He wants to save his children and that's why parents usually do it although I'm a little suspicious there are times when parents have their own interests in mind a little bit. But then is that not true with God? Is God not doing these things because He has his own interests in mind? Does God not have goals that He desires to reach? But don't overlook this point; the basic underlying motive of all of God's actions is self-denying love, self-denying love. God is willing to give himself completely for his people; He demonstrated that on the cross. He gave himself, his life, that it might be shared with all his people.

So we are looking at the restoration, the coming back, the coming out of Babylon. And at this point I would like to emphasize there is no point in our studying this lesson in its details historically unless we keep in mind that this has an application to a more pertinent situation today with God's people now. How many of you thought about that as you went through the lesson, just let me see by way of interest? Oh good, that's good, every lesson we study Brothers and Sisters should be studied with the viewpoint of seeing how this message can apply to our immediate situation, even our personal situation. If we don't do that we are missing the point, we can spend time studying all these things but if we don't apply them what is the value?

So let's take another look and I trust that you've gone through the things in the Quarterly so that we will not have to cover each of those details. May I ask this question? Why did God want his people to build another temple? And perhaps I should go beyond that, why did God ask them to build the tabernacle in the wilderness which was an initial model of the temple, why did He ask them to build that in the first place, what was his point? Just to give them something to do out there in the wilderness so they wouldn't get bored?

(A woman) One reason was to reach them, some way to talk to them.

(Wilfred) To teach them something? Right?

(Same woman) To be there.

(Wilfred) To be there or to be present with them? He wanted to be with them. Well, let me ask this question; could He not have been with them without a tabernacle?

(Same woman) Unintelligible

(Wilfred) Thanks for your answers, your answers are correct. Maybe we can dig one step deeper.

(A man) Unintelligible

(Wilfred) That's right on brother. Thank you. This is a difficult situation in our class here because people at one end of the class cannot hear people at the other end. So I'll repeat briefly, the idea is; that God uses tangible things to illustrate and demonstrate concepts and thoughts that may be a little intangible. You folks who have taught kindergarten do you remember those little sand-tables they had down there with all the little things you shove around, what do you have those sand-tables for? Well, to help demonstrate the thoughts that you are trying to get those little tikes to grasp. And we are just little tikes in God's Kingdom so we are very immature if we weren't we wouldn't be here now we would have been through this thing. We are still not fully educated and God uses types, symbols, and models to teach his people. Did you know that the Bible says, "Thy way oh God is in the sanctuary", the tabernacle. The plan of salvation, the means of restoring God's people from sinfulness to sinlessness is written into the building, the structure, the ceremonies, and the processes within the sanctuary service. We ought to be grateful to God that He saw fit to bring us into this church for it is the only church on the face of the globe that emphasizes the sanctuary services in the light of the gospel of salvation for his people. And I wonder how clearly we really understand it? But that's why God ask them to rebuild this temple. Now, unless you realize that the temple that God is talking about is your soul temple you've missed the point.

May I read from The Desire of Ages page 161? And I hope you have confidence in this messenger of God. God saw that in his people in this closing hour of this earth's history we're going to need a little assistance in interpreting the things that are in that scripture to help them understand what God is trying to do so He gave us a prophet, yes He did. He gave us a prophet and through that prophet He has unfolded to our immature thinking some of these mature thoughts. Let me read it. This is in connection with the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem but it is the thought that comes beyond that that I would like you to get. "In the cleansing of the temple, Jesus was announcing His mission as the Messiah, and entering upon His work." Now listen. "That temple, erected for the abode of the divine Presence," And that is what you folks said. "Was designed to be an object lesson for Israel and for the world." And I think I said something like that. "From eternal ages it was God's purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator." Now that's the point we need to zero in on because the lesson today has a message for us Brothers and Sisters, is this temple fit for God to dwell in? Can God come and dwell in my temple now or is there a deficiency involved that needs to be corrected? What do you think? Let me read on. "Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God." Look inside will you? Look in. Are you fit to be a temple for God? Are you? When will we be considered fit to be a temple for God?

(John) When the sanctuary is cleansed.

(Wilfred) When the sanctuary is cleansed. What is God's plan for his people anyway? What did Jesus come down here to do? What did the angel tell Joseph? His name shall be called Jesus for He shall save his people from their sins. - "Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God dwells in humanity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes again His temple." I don't think you got that. Jesus came down to this earth and took upon himself humanity. God was in humanity and He demonstrated that every requirement of God, every Commandment of God, every obligation that God has placed upon his people, can be fulfilled and kept in a human temple with the inheritance that it receives from Adam's sinfulness which Jesus also received. He proved that it was possible to become a temple of God and to live without sin. I have the evidences and I could read the statement but I can't take time to do it now.

(Same man) Unintelligible

(Wilfred) Thank you for anticipating that. I was just starting the sentence. Did you see what it says? God dwells in humanity, does that mean He just dwells in one person, Christ? Is that what she is saying? What's the rest of it? Through saving grace the heart of man becomes again his temple. Now did Jesus have to go through the process of saving grace for God to dwell in him and He became the temple and demonstrate that humanity can be a temple or can we become a temple of God while still in a sinful state? That's a vital question; it's a vital question.

(John) Unintelligible

(Wilfred) Partially, that's correct. We qualify to become a temple of God; well there are different ways of looking at that John. Let's hold it a minute. We qualify to become a temple of God when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior and his perfect righteousness is counted in our favor and before God we stand without fault. That is a tremendous message. It came to us back in 1888 and there was a lot of stir about that thing, a lot of questions about it and I think at this point I want to just read you one statement just to make sure we are clear on this. Can you bear with me here?

This is from 6th volume of the SDA Bible Commentary page 1073, a statement by Sister White. "Faith is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise pardon to sinners; not that there is any virtue in faith whereby salvation is merited, but because faith can lay hold of the merits of Christ, the remedy provided for sin. Faith can present Christ's perfect obedience instead of the sinner's transgression and defection." Now if you have faith in Christ you can present the perfect righteousness of Christ in place of your sinfulness that's what it's saying. Let me read on. "When the sinner believes that Christ is his personal Saviour, then according to His unfailing promises, God pardons his sin and justifies him freely." What a tremendous thing. "The repentant soul realizes that his justification comes because Christ, as his substitute and surety, has died for him," And. "Is his atonement and righteousness." Did you get that?  I'm not through yet, there is more in this statement. This is a fantastic statement. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Now listen to the next part. "Righteousness is obedience to the law." Now if you quote that all by itself you're going to get the wrong concept. That statement is true it's very true and unless that piano plays before I get to the point I'm going to bring it in right here. God is calling his people today to rebuild the temple but his people are so concerned with other things, building their own houses, that they have let go of the most important thing that could possibly be done today and it is delaying the coming of Jesus and we pray very glibly, Lord please come soon to take us home. But He can't come soon to take us home until we are qualified. He has to prove the point that his people can obey every one of his requirements because righteousness is obedience to the law and He is going to have a people that He can point to and say, here are they who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. Did you follow my point? Jesus is waiting for the manifestation of himself in his people that's why He has not come. And it says again, quoting that statement still further; when the character of God shall be perfectly reproduced, how much? Don't let anybody tell you that it can't be done, will you? Don't let them do that. If they say it, just correct them. Say, that's not what the Bible says and that's not what God's prophet says. The Bible says, if you will be perfect, it wouldn't say that if you couldn't be perfect. It says He gave the gifts of the Spirit until they all come in to the fullness of the stature of Christ. We haven't got there yet Brothers and Sisters and that is why we are still here. When that character will be perfectly reproduced, she says, then He will come to claim them as his own. If I get nothing else across this morning I want to get this point across and those of you who have been in my classes in years gone by you'll be getting tired of hearing it but I'm going to keep on saying it until God's takes my breath away because we are still sluggish in building his temple, we haven't done it, and I haven't done it. God knows maybe you don't. I wonder if we have any idea what the final conflict really is like? Brothers and Sisters just try doing it and find out. Try doing it and find out. I cry to God sometimes day and night, "God why did that happen to me". God just wants to show me that I'm not secure; I may think I am but I'm not. I'm a victim and so are you and where does the relief come from? God says listen, if you will obey my voice then I will do certain things. But those people built that temple on their own. Well, they might put the structure up, would that bring the presence of God? No, something more has to be added to what we do. All the commandment keeping you ever do is not going to save you from sin nor from hell. But if you don't do that commandment keeping you will never have a clean temple. I can read it to you right out of the prophet's mouth. Obedience is the condition for the cleansing of your soul temple Brothers and Sisters because obedience is the condition for the out-pouring of the latter rain and only those who have cleansed their own soul temples of every defilement will partake in the latter rain. She says it in so many words. And the latter rain is the cleansing stream of Jesus' shed blood through which you will be purified. And that's another story. But you have no power to cleanse your own soul temple in the sense of your heart, you cannot do it, you can't change your heart, you have an evil heart, you have a wicked heart, the Bible tells us that and I know it as far as I'm concerned. Only God's Spirit can cleanse that soul temple and it's in the latter rain that the final cleansing is going to occur. And only Adventists teach that final at-one-ment with God, we are the only ones that teach it. And some of us are pretty sluggish at teaching it and some of us don't teach it at all because we don't believe that it can be done, I say we, I'm not one of them and I hope you're not. Be an Adventist Brother and Sister I don't care what happens in the weeks to come, don't give up the Advent faith. We have been warned and warned and warned, don't do it. Hang on there, you may not understand it all but you will. God has the explanation for all these things and He will see that you get whatever explanations you need to pull you through if you are willing to go with him. You don't have to, it's a voluntary thing. You don't have to keep every one of God's commandments to escape hellfire. Let me read it. "Righteousness is obedience to the law, the law demands righteousness and this the sinner owes to the law but he is incapable of rendering it." That's pretty plain isn't it? I can believe that because I've tried it. I can believe it, there's no problem in me believing that statement. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ and the Lord places the obedience of his Son to the sinners account. There's some bookkeeping here.

God places to the sinners account, what? The righteousness of Christ. "The only way in which he can attain to the righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God," Now listen. "The merits of Christ and the Lord places the obedience of his Son," What kind of obedience was that? Perfect obedience. "And the Lord places the obedience of his Son to the sinners account." Fantastic! I have perfect righteousness checked off in my account in heaven, if I qualify by faith. And faith is not faith unless it is manifested by works. Now I do keep God's commandments that's why I'm here it's the Sabbath today, I'm keeping one of God's commandments. I'm using my willpower to order my muscles that control my body to do what God asked me to do. That's my part of the bargain, she says in another place God does nothing for us without our cooperation and God says, If you love me keep my commandments and then I will pray the Father and He will send you the Holy Spirit. And what will the Holy Spirit do? Why it is the creative power of God and it will transform this wicked heart of mine and make it righteous. When? In God's due time, that's when? When I have manifested before the eyes of the observing universe that I can be trusted, I have demonstrated my perfect confidence in God that I will never move away from him, then God can justifiably send that Spirit to me, He can't do it before because if you put a six shooter in the hand of a six year old you're going to have trouble aren't you? If God gave me that power of his Spirit before I was ready, I know you are going to say you are wrong here Johnson but I'm going to say it anyway, before I am ready we are in trouble. Do you think that you could look at a stone in the desert after having fasted for maybe ten days, let alone forty, knowing that you had the power to turn that stone to bread and not do it? Do you have a character that is strong enough to make a decision of the will over and above your intense hunger feelings and not turn that stone to bread? That's what Jesus did to prove that it is possible to make a decision over-ruling your feelings and that's the only thing you can do in keeping God's commandments. You can just use your willpower that's the only thing you have that is entirely yours that God will not touch, He honors it, He let's you make the decision. But until you have proved to the universe that this is the route you want to take God cannot justifiably send that Spirit, why not? Oh, He could do it but everything that God does He must justify in the eyes of his universe. And the first one who would criticize him and accuse him if He sent me the Holy Spirit's power to cleanse my soul temple from all defilement before I had demonstrated that I was deserving of it the first one who would point the finger at him would be his great prime minister, the one who used to be his prime minister. He would say, No, No, you can't do that to Wilf Johnson that's unfair you didn't do it for me. Does that make sense? Do you think that God can pour his Holy Spirit on a bunch of sinful people who haven't demonstrated that they really want to go his way? Do you think He can do that justifiably and be clear in the eyes of his righteous universe? Why no, He can't, I hope you see the point.

I haven't finished the statement yet. "By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account." Listen. "Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul," And. "Treats him as though he were righteous," Isn't that something? You do that with your kids don't you? You parents, haven't you done that with your kids? God gave us families you know, that's another one of his little sand-table displays. That's why He gave us families, as though we were righteous. "And loves him as He loves His Son." I can't swallow that hardly my throat gets tight, God can actually love me the way He loves Jesus? Is it coming through, are you getting it? Listen, You are the temple of God, do I need to read that? I've got it here, yes, I did read part of it but I've got many more statements but you are that temple and that temple is to be cleansed. That's what Jesus was doing here in this passage I was reading before, He went in and cleansed the temple, that was his first job. He entered the temple to clean house and He is waiting patiently to come to your temple to clean house. But He can't do it Brother and Sister until you go up to the mountain and bring down some wood and complete the building of that temple. Because you see, sin has destroyed your temple as a dwelling place for God. Oh but you say, Brother Johnson just told us that we can still qualify. Yes I did. Now get this point, it's vital. In order for God to accept you as a sinless human being and love you as He loves his Son, the Son has to take the consequences. He has to take the responsibility for every sin that you commit, just like a parent. You accept that child; he's your child he's in your family. You may even have adopted the child but you accepted him, you are responsible for every misdeed that youngster commits until he becomes mature. Right?  Am I right or am I wrong?

(A man) Right.

(Wilfred) Yes, thank you. Now listen, don't let anybody tell you, be he an Adventist or Evangelical or whatever, that you do not have to keep God's commandments. You don't have to keep God's commandments to get your ticket to heaven. You get that as a gift. But if in response to that wonderful gift you listen to the words of Jesus when He said, if you love me keep my commandments. If you do that and if you understand that every time you sin you are crucifying to yourself the Son of God afresh. And He endures the pain, and it's severe, and in case you don't believe that sooner or later He will give you a chance to feel it because we all are going to share the sufferings of Christ. And when the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes upon us Brother and Sisters we'll be shaken loose, I'll tell you we'll be shaken. And it will come as an overwhelming surprise and it can come overnight. And we will taste it and only those who have been fortifying their minds with the truths of God's word as we are trying to do today will stand through that final conflict. You don't have to stand through that conflict and I say this again, it's elective, it's voluntary. You have your ticket to heaven if you trust God. Am I right? And if you want to maintain your justification there must be continual obedience she says. And are you trying to do that are you endeavoring to cooperate? I hope you are, you wouldn't be here if you aren't. But if you still think in terms of your doing all of these things so you can get to heaven, you don't want to go to hell and sizzle; you're on the wrong track. That's not the reason you don't get to heaven you see. The reason you don't get to heaven is the fact that you don't trust God's statement that He will accept you as though you have never sinned. If you accept Jesus as his only begotten Son and as your personal savior and the King of the universe and respect what He asks you to do, you do that then you’re in. But, every sin you commit now registers in the soul of Christ because you see when you become one of his children you are sort of married to him, you are a member of his family, you are attached to him and He intimately feels you and the consequences of your sin. Doesn't it say that our sins were laid upon him? What do you think the cross is for anyway? She tells us that the cross is to reveal to us the pain that enters the heart of God at the inception of sin right back from the beginning and it continues she says, in continues. And He will never be free from that pain until you and I quit sinning. Now what's the motive then for our refusal to sin? That we might have eternal life? No.

(John) To relieve our savior from suffering.

(Wilfred) To relieve our savior from suffering. Now God had to get this message of righteousness by faith back in 1888. It's been given before that of course but Adventist have gotten on the other track you know of keeping the law and went a little overboard on that until they were as dry as the hills of Gilboa, Sister White says. So this was fresh light coming in. Now there is a tendency to swing the other way and we have people in our denomination today who have lost sight of the second compartment of the sanctuary where the cleansing of the soul temple takes place they have lost sight of that. They don't even believe that there is a sanctuary, some of them. I just read about one the other day, they don't believe it. Don't ever fall into that trap Brothers and Sisters, don't. Because God had to give us this righteousness by faith otherwise He could never prove that our keeping of his law was based on self-renouncing love for him and the law of God, Brother and Sister, Sister White says the cross reveals that the law of life for earth and heaven is the law of self-renouncing love and if you are going to reveal the character of God you're going to have to be put into a situation where you realize and recognize that you don't have to keep this law you're doing it because you love Jesus. Do you understand? I can't make it any plainer. You cannot be saved from sin until you quit sinning because you are the sinner. Get that straight. Sin is a decision of your will, righteousness is obedience to God's law and you are not righteous in the true sense of the word until you keep every one of God's commandments perfectly. And God is waiting for a hundred and forty four thousand people who will do it. And when He gets them this thing is going to close off and because it's been dragging on for so long do you know what God's going to do?

(John) He’s going to speed up the process.

(Wilfred) He’s going to speed up the process. Just like any parent would if that youngster continues and continues and continues and he gets to a place where it's an emergency what do you do? Ahh, you pick him up and give him a little taste of the consequences of the sin and God's going to do that. We are heading in for a sharing of the sufferings of Christ such as we have never seen, are you ready to face up to it. Do you really want to build this temple? Do you really want to go with God? Oh, I had so many more things I wanted to tell you here today.

(Another man) Unintelligible

(Wilfred) That's right, a storm is coming and relentless in its fury. I don't like to tell you that but it's in the Bible. And there is no way we are going to get there the way we are going, I've been in this thing for fifty or more years and we are still dribbling away. In fact we are getting further away from the idea of striving toward perfection than we ever were. How many sermons have you heard about striving for perfection? I can read it here, I've got it. Are you striving for perfection? Well, why bother striving? I've got my ticket, righteousness by faith, I'm in. Praise be the Lord. Ahh, look at the other side of the coin, look at the Adventist part of the gospel, the second half of the gospel as Elder Pierson called it. The perfection of God's people, his very throne is at stake in the perfection of his people. Do you realize that you are prime witnesses for God? That He is depending on you? You have to chose to refuse to sin. He can't force you, He'll discipline but never force.

Are you willing to go up to that mountain and get the wood that you need and get that temple built and you do what God asked you to do? If He says reverence and sanctify and regard as holy my Sabbath then do it. If He says; thou shalt not commit adultery then don't do it. If He says, love your neighbor as yourself then do it. But how can you love your neighbor when you don't love him? He says, love your enemies. I can't love my enemy the only thing that I can do is use my decision to do things for my enemy. And when he's hurt I help him, I may not feel like doing it but God asked me to do it. Didn't He? So I obey God and I do it. I hope I do. Then what? God will cleanse the soul temple of every defilement, the heart this time, the heart so I will love righteousness, I will be at one with God. The final at-one-ment will take place in my experience and yours if you follow through. Then you will love to do righteousness and she says, In doing his will you are but carrying out your own impulses. I can't think of a better government than that. Not a better one where every creature in God's universe loves to do the right things and hates the wrong things.

May God bless you, honor you, keep you, and stir you up to follow him all the way.

Main Index
Top of Page