At the Brink of Eternity
It is interesting to visit the renowned Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum located in the city of Lambayeque, Peru, where the mortuary trousseau of the Lord of Sipán, an ancient ruler of the Moche culture, is exhibited. This ruler dominated the north of the current territory of that country during the third century A.D.
In 1987, a team of specialists excavated this archaeological site, recognized as the main pre-Inca discovery of the 20th century in South America.
With the mummified body of the Lord of Sipán can be found some insights into his personal life and hopes:
• His royal dress, revealing the presumptuous desire to perpetuate his dominion beyond death.
• Different representations of the god Al Paec, the main divinity that he worshiped.
• A gold and silver necklace made of twenty peanuts, symbolizing the sun and the moon, that is, the perfect spiritual balance between the darkness and the light that it wanted to reach.
• Some pieces on his face, displaying anatomical forms such as nose, eyes, teeth and earmuffs, all forged in fine gold, evidencing the desire to immortalize his face.
• The depiction of the funeral procession with what is understood to be his wife, two concubines, the military leader, a lookout, a soldier, as well as a child, a dog and two llamas (an indigenous animal of the Andean region sacrificed in his favor).
All this pointed to the center of his spiritual hopes, namely: living eternally with his objects and the most precious people to him.
“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” ().
To live in this world as the Lord of Sipán did, striving to obtain power and eternal youth, constitutes the most vain of hopes. But even more regrettable is the case of those who, being aware of the eternal gospel, incur such folly:
“Solomon sat upon a throne of ivory, the steps of which were of solid gold, flanked by six golden lions. His eyes rested upon highly cultivated and beautiful gardens just before him. Those grounds were visions of loveliness, arranged to resemble, as far as possible, the garden of Eden. Choice trees and shrubs, and flowers of every variety, had been brought from foreign lands to beautify them. Birds of every variety of brilliant plumage flitted from tree to tree, making the air vocal with sweet songs. Youthful attendants, gorgeously dressed and decorated, waited to obey his slightest wish. Scenes of revelry, music, sports, and games were arranged for his diversion at an extravagant expenditure of money.
“But all this did not bring happiness to the king. He sat upon his magnificent throne, his frowning countenance dark with despair. Dissipation had left its impress upon his once fair and intellectual face. He was sadly changed from the youthful Solomon. His brow was furrowed with care and unhappiness, and he bore in every feature the unmistakable marks of sensual indulgence. His lips were prepared to break forth into reproaches at the slightest deviation from his wishes.
“His shattered nerves and wasted frame showed the result of violating Nature’s laws. He confessed to a wasted life, an unsuccessful chase after happiness. His is the mournful wail, ‘All is vanity and vexation of spirit.’ ”1
At the “Ebenezer Missionary School” in Brazil, the students assist at the Oasis Paranaense Naturist Hospital. On one occasion, two patients were admitted with terminal cancer. One of them was visited periodically by his wife and children. In their conversations, the patient saturated the air with laments and negative expressions. Observing the face of his wife whenever he expressed distrust in simple natural treatments, his bad attitude was clearly obvious. She asked us: “How can I encourage this man who is doomed because of his own negativity?” Some months later, this patient died in unfortunate circumstances.
At the other end of the same room, a diametrically opposite picture was presented. A patient in a similar health condition—a man who did not even get the blessing of visitors—behaved very differently. Every time we entered to apply a treatment, he filled the room with expressions of joy and hope. His attitude exercised a healing power in his whole being, and also in those who assisted him.
Can you imagine the end? One day we entered the room according to our routine and we noticed an unusual situation. The patient was in the bathroom, but we could not understand his persistent silence. Finally we entered to see what had happened to him. We discovered that he had something in the oral cavity that prevented him from speaking. It was a deformed mass the size of a medium orange. Following the order of the professional on duty, he was taken immediately to the laboratory of the Hospital de Clínicas in the center of the city of Curitiba, where it was found that it was a cancerous tumor in its entirety, naturally and miraculously removed from the root.
The day they told him the news, we were at his side and watched his impressive leaps of joy. He hugged us and used an expression that will never be erased from my memory. He exclaimed: “From the very first day, I had hope in these natural methods!”
I never saw that young man again, but we can be sure that hope moved the divine arm and triggered a physiological response that flooded his organism with health—so surely, the tumor had no environment in which to develop.
If we learn to live with hope, we will fill the air with expressions of victory that would infect even the most hopeless.
In New England region of the United States, the people needed to build a very important dam to generate electricity. In the projected terrain there was a village with beautiful houses. The government communicated to the inhabitants: “The execution of this project will take many years, although we have already signed the contract and now your houses are property of the State, so you will be allowed to continue living in them for some time, until the day you must permanently leave the zone.”
This was a nice town, but from that time on, it began to deteriorate. People no longer repaired their homes or took care of their gardens—and what was once a pretty town became a miserable neighborhood. Why did such a change happen? They had lost hope.
Many Christians, who have stopped studying prophecy, no longer have a genuine hope for the glorious future of the church. Their loss of hope results in an inactive and miserable life.
“The coming of the Lord has been in all ages the hope of His true followers. The Saviour’s parting promise upon Olivet, that He would come again, lighted up the future for His disciples, filling their hearts with joy and hope that sorrow could not quench nor trials dim. Amid suffering and persecution, the ‘appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ was the ‘blessed hope.’ . . .
“From the dungeon, the stake, the scaffold, where saints and martyrs witnessed for the truth, comes down the centuries the utterance of their faith and hope. Being ‘assured of His personal resurrection, and consequently of their own at His coming, for this cause,’ says one of these Christians, ‘they despised death, and were found to be above it.’ ”2
“‘Hasten, O Lord, this blessed day!’ Such was the hope of the apostolic church, of the ‘church in the wilderness,’ and of the Reformers.”3
From ancient times the Scriptures have declared the certainty of the second coming of Christ, stimulating His church to stay active. Moreover, the prophecies also outline the signs so that everyone can know the time and prepare.
“The revelator thus describes the first of the signs to precede the second advent: ‘There was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood’ ().
“These signs were witnessed before the opening of the nineteenth century. In fulfillment of this prophecy there occurred, in the year 1755, the most terrible earthquake that has ever been recorded. Though commonly known as the earthquake of Lisbon, it extended to the greater part of Europe, Africa, and America. It was felt in Greenland, in the West Indies, in the island of Madeira, in Norway and Sweden, Great Britain and Ireland. It pervaded an extent of not less than four million square miles. In Africa the shock was almost as severe as in Europe.”4
“Twenty-five years later appeared the next sign mentioned in the prophecy—the darkening of the sun and moon. . . . On the 19th of May, 1780, this prophecy was fulfilled. . . .
“Fowls retired to their roosts and went to sleep, cattle gathered at the pasture bars and lowed, frogs peeped, birds sang their evening songs, and bats flew about. But the human knew that night had not come.”5
“After midnight the darkness disappeared, and the moon, when first visible, had the appearance of blood.
“May 19, 1780, stands in history as ‘The Dark Day.’ Since the time of Moses no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration, has ever been recorded.”6
“In 1833, two years after Miller began to present in public the evidences of Christ’s soon coming, the last of the signs appeared which were promised by the Saviour as tokens of His second advent. Said Jesus: ‘The stars shall fall from heaven.’ 7. . . . This prophecy received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. That was the most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has ever been recorded.”
“In the year 1840 another remarkable fulfillment of prophecy excited widespread interest. Two years before, Josiah Litch, one of the leading ministers preaching the second advent, published an exposition of Revelation 9, predicting the fall of the Ottoman Empire. According to his calculations, this power was to be overthrown. . . . ‘It will end on the 11th of August, 1840, when the Ottoman power in Constantinople may be expected to be broken. And this, I believe, will be found to be the case.’—Josiah Litch, in Signs of the Times, and Expositor of Prophecy, Aug. 1, 1840.
“At the very time specified, Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control of Christian nations. The event exactly fulfilled the prediction. When it became known, multitudes were convinced of the correctness of the principles of prophetic interpretation adopted by Miller and his associates, and a wonderful impetus was given to the advent movement.”8
“When the Saviour pointed out to His followers the signs of His return, He foretold the state of backsliding that would exist just prior to His second advent. There would be, as in the days of Noah, the activity and stir of worldly business and pleasure seeking—buying, selling, planting, building, marrying, and giving in marriage—with forgetfulness of God and the future life. For those living at this time, Christ’s admonition is: ‘Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares’ (9).”
Spiritual blindness, greed, apostasy, gluttony and unrighteous sensuality are the sure result of a life without hope—a life which inevitably becomes careless and indifferent. I would like us to analyze the contrasting results that the true “Blessed Hope” will have on my life and yours:
“When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (, ).
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” ().
Wherever the word of God has been faithfully preached, those who were converted brought forth fruit meet for repentance. “They believed and were baptized, and rose to walk in newness of life—new creatures in Christ Jesus; not to fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God to follow in His steps, to reflect His character, and to purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now loved, and the things they once loved they hated. The proud and self-assertive became meek and lowly of heart. The vain and supercilious became serious and unobtrusive. The profane became reverent, the drunken sober, and the profligate pure. The vain fashions of the world were laid aside.”10
Beloved, if our hope is genuine, we will not only long for Christ to return to earth the second time, but our chief aim will be that He will return definitively to our own lives and, as a result, to the church. Our desire should be to banish the enemy of souls from our midst along with his distractions of the world that divert us away from Jesus in our daily lives. Satan takes possession of the heart by sending demons with specific commissions to trigger the various tendencies to evil that separate us from our Lord.
Let us consider some passages of the Spirit of Prophecy with respect to the demons that specifically attack our weak points.
“Evil spirits, in the beginning created sinless, were equal in nature, power, and glory with the holy beings that are now God’s messengers. But fallen through sin, they are leagued together for the dishonor of God and the destruction of men. United with Satan in his rebellion, and with him cast out from heaven, they have, through all succeeding ages, cooperated with him in his warfare against the divine authority. We are told in Scripture of their confederacy and government, of their various orders, of their intelligence and subtlety, and of their malicious designs against the peace and happiness of men.”11
“The demon of jealousy entered the heart of the king [Saul]. He was angry because David was exalted above himself.”12
When Jesus came to the earth, “the bodies of human beings, made for the dwelling place of God, had become the habitation of demons. The senses, the nerves, the passions, the organs of men, were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the vilest lust. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the countenances of men.”13
The passsages quoted are very clear. Satan organizes his agents to hammer on our weak points to confirm us in indolence. If I am greedy, a gossiper, dishonest, selfish, intemperate, lascivious, impatient, a liar, lazy, superficial, vain, etc., certainly some of his evil agents are commissioned to prey heavily on some of my shortcomings. The old saying is: “What you do not overcome, will overcome you.”
If we possess some of these undesirable traits of character, we should not be discouraged, for the Spirit of Prophecy says that: “None but Christ can fashion anew the character that has been ruined by sin. He came to expel the demons that had controlled the will.”14
Even in the case of Judas Iscariot: “If he would open his heart to Christ, divine grace would banish the demon of selfishness.”15
Ultimately, Mary, “who had fallen, and whose mind had been a habitation of demons, was brought very near to the Saviour in fellowship and ministry.”16
“The arm of Christ can reach to the very depths of human woe and degradation. He can give us help to conquer even [the] terrible demon of intemperance.”17
In 1927 the submarine S-4 sank in the Gulf of Mexico. Many ships responded quickly to save the crew. During the rescue maneuvers, a tactical diver heard a sound on the metal walls of the ship; it was a message in Morse code. He deciphered the code and transmitted the message immediately: “The crew of the submarine is asking a question, they say: “Is there any hope? Is there any hope?” That is what this world wants to know and it is our turn to remind them that we also live in the same way:
At one 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” ().
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” ().
Observing the majority in the church today, a question arises. Will ours be a frivolous hope like that of the Lord of Sipán? Am I squandering the benevolence of God like King Solomon did? Has the active and fervent hope of the apostolic church and of the reformers been extinguished in us?
What is happening in our lives—have we cooled down? Is the absorbing devotion for the gain of money replacing my personal devotion? Did the desire to be a popular church lead us to put that solemn day in the future when the current order of things will end?
Let us exclaim with the messianic prophet: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence” ().
Brethren, may this vehement desire take us individually and as a people to live as true Christians!
“The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people. Their blameless deportment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner’s peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and doctrines were known.”18
Then the world will not be able to deny that the Reform Movement is that people who are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” ().
Amen and amen!