In the teaching of present truth the Bible instructor finds it necessary to stress the great present-day issues of prophecy. This means that Bible truth should be clearly taught in contrast with tradition, and that those chapters in Daniel and Revelation that reveal these special issues should receive their proper emphasis. Today whole systems of fallacious teachings must be exposed by the searchlight of prophecy. The Bible student must be led to see the foundation of his faith, whether it is grounded on the solid rock of the Word or built on the sinking sand of tradition. Before he considers taking the serious step that involves changing his rest day from the first to the seventh day, he should recognize its importance through a study of these special prophecies that pertain to this important truth.
Prophecy helps the Bible student to see the true problem of sin and righteousness. This issue centers on the great question, What is truth? Prophecy here throws the spotlight on the man of sin as well as on the sinless Saviour. In the prophetic portraits of nations we perceive the immutability of God's throne. Again prophecy presents a clear picture of the true church as compared with the apostate Babylon. Here are revealed the reward of obedience and the consequence of disobedience.
Through a study of the prophetic portions of the Word the Bible student will see God's wise, over-all purpose in a way that doctrinal study alone cannot supply. Bible teachers should balance their doctrinal instruction with prophecy. Doctrine and prophecy must again be balanced with practical truth.
I. WELL-BALANCED TRUTH TEACHING. (Based on Evangelism.)
1. Doctrinal subjects. 361-364.
2. Prophetic studies. 193-199.
3. Practical lessons. 124.
a. Teachings of Jesus. 172, 199.
b. Practical godliness. 142, 178, 200, 400.
4. Witnessing experiences. 186, 187, 485, 486.
II. STRESSING PRINCIPLES.
1. Principles of Bible truth. 195, 374.
2. Doctrines vitalized by principle. 557.
3. Truth reflected in principle. 483.
4. Principle not obscured. 357.
Denominational Bible work is not merely a plan for giving proof texts in defense of our doctrines, important as this duty may seem. Therefore our workers are invited to study a point that needs more consideration the teaching of principles of truth, and not simply doc trines of truth. The present intricate dispensational confusions cannot be met with only proof texts, for this and other last-day fallacies re quire a thorough acquaintance with the principles of God's governing purpose as against the principles of Satan. That purpose, of course, is founded on Scripture, and Bible texts must be supplied. The messenger of the Lord states that doctrines such as the sanctuary, the Sabbath, the state of the dead, health and dress reform, and the Spirit of prophecy should be taught by stressing the principles of these truths. When teachers get hold of this point their teaching will hold a new appeal.
Discovering the True Church
In our emphasis on teaching the principles of a doctrine let us take as an illustration that familiar topic "The True Church," based on Revelation 12. This lesson would usually be given near the close of the series. If we bear in mind that we are still aiming at explaining the problem What is truth? our Bible study should be providing an answer. Some teachers, perhaps, might think that the historical aspects of the church should here be stressed, but Revelation 12:17 suggests that the eternal principle of God's law be stressed. Even in these lawless last days a remnant will be keeping His commandments. The gospel church began in pristine purity, but because of persecution it passed through stages of temporary retirement. Prophecy reveals her emergence from obscurity. In earth's closing hours, when all the world wonders after the beast, the true church gloriously demonstrates that the law is a principle of the everlasting gospel. From this study the reader must catch the idea that the law as well as the gospel is an eternal principle. The Sabbath, therefore, must abide on principle, and should still be kept by us today.
There are other grand prophecies in the book of Revelation that teach the principle of the immutability of the gospel the seven churches, the seven seals, the sealing, the three angels' messages, et cetera. The Bible instructor should become skilled in presenting these prophetic studies with interest, point, and decision. The principle of the controversy between Christ and Satan presents the theme for these topics.
Babylon the Great
As the prophetic clock keeps striking the last hour, the reader must become more concerned about his own case pending at the judgment bar. Stimulated by the Holy Spirit, the reader's imagination will often get ahead of the teacher's points of instruction. It is not because the Bible instructor is reluctant to expose the whole truth that she may restrain some points; it is rather because of her desire to be tactful and considerate in presenting new truth. Yet the Word of God makes no apologies for any man's feeling; it cuts to the quick! Prophecy points an accusing finger at the man of sin; it dramatically reveals the great Babylon; it unflinchingly points to the consequences of lawbreaking the lake of fire.
To expedite decision on the part of the reader, the Bible instructor should emphasize the characteristics of the apostate church by a study on "Babylon and Her Daughters." The way having been prepared by the Holy Spirit, she may now give a clear call to the reader to come out of this great confusion. There is inspiring and convincing proof for Babylon's sins in Revelation 17 and 18. It may be necessary for the instructor to point out flagrant apostasy, but the effect of this should be a deepened conviction that truth requires absolute and immediate obedience. Rome's traditions and backslidings must be merely incidental.
Personalities should never be attacked by us as teachers. A negative spirit will only tend to defeat truth's noble objectives. There is today a growing conviction that there is good in all religions. Bible instructors know there are sincere souls in every religious body, and what the readers need is a clear call to leave their former Romish practices. Truth, like a great magnet, attracts to herself all the children of truth. She is mighty to defend herself, and does not need unwise zeal to give her added support. Therefore let us keep these principles of truth from becoming submerged by details of such a nature as will amuse only shallow minds. Methods of ridicule and attack produce an adverse effect on the broad-minded and informed. Emphasizing the great principle of God's sovereignty bears much weight especially when presenting the Sabbath truth.
Contrasting Truth Aids Decision
Pedagogy suggests that a contrasting of two or more objects, principles, or systems is strong teaching. (See Evangelism, p. 24.) We see the strength of a Bible doctrine by comparing it with tradition. Truth or error, sin or righteous ness, light or darkness, life or death, are evaluated by their contrasts. Then as the reader learns to reason from cause to effect, guided by both knowledge and experience, he will be helped to make right decisions. This explains why a prophetic subject assists the teacher in gaining the reader's prompt decision to accept God's revealed light.
Even though the element of emotion may enter into the final decision to walk in all revealed truth, it certainly should not predominate. Purely emotional decisions usually last as long as a stimulus is being supplied; decisions made on principle will last after the worker has been transferred to another field of labor. So while the student of prophecy learns to weigh and compare truth, he is also being taught to do his own thinking an experience that will speak well for the Bible instructor's methods.
Two problems today suggest that prophetic teaching be re-emphasized: first, that the more doctrinal type of lessons do not crowd out this method; second, that our caution in interpreting unfulfilled prophecy will not cause us to shy away from prophetic analysis entirely. Prophecy must remain strong in the Advent message. The challenge comes to every Bible instructor to become a closer student of prophecy, fulfilled and fulfilling, and then to receive a new endowment of God's Spirit for presenting prophetic truth in the same undaunted spirit as did the prophets of old.