What does it mean to be like Jesus? Most of us want to have sin out of our lives, we want to be like Jesus. That is a very noble goal and it should be our goal. But in order to be like someone, you have to know what they are like.
Let's go through all the righteous individuals from the beginning of time. We have the righteous individuals in the Old Testament and the righteous individuals in the New Testament. We have the unfallen worlds. We have loyal angels and at the end of time we have a people that are really going to be like Jesus – the one hundred and forty four thousand. All of these groups find themselves in scenarios identical to Jesus and we will see how each responds.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2
In relation to that text, how do we become like someone? Well, we behold them, but its not only to behold them, but to behold them as they are. We have to know who someone is to be like them and the more we behold them, the more we can represent them.
Let’s look at someone who was designated as righteous by Jesus Himself of the Old Testament. “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” – Matthew 23: 34,35
Zechariah was a righteous man and he was famous because he spoke out against the wicked king and the apostasy. What did they do to him? They killed him. Where was he? Yes, in the temple, then what happened? His blood could not be erased. It was to be there perpetually as a witness against their crime of killing a righteous man.
And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah...they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD... And as he died, he said to them,’The LORD look upon it and require it.’” (or repay them ) – 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. A righteous man who was like Jesus spoke those words – ‘repay them for their deeds.’
Jesus Himself was also killed, not by stoning. But a more horrible death. Notice Jesus words, “...Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do...” – Luke 23:33,34
So a question; Was Zechariah righteous or not? Jesus Himself calls him righteous. He is righteous but he is not really like Jesus in his response to his persecutors.
Paul: Righteous or Unrighteous?
Let's take a look at the New Testament. Paul is being taken to task by the Sanhedrin and gives a response at one point.
“And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.” Is that a nice thing to do? Probably not. If you are in court having a case brought before you, it's probably not nice to have the deputy smack the witness in the face, on the witness stand. But Ananias commands that very act, “Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” – Acts 23:2,3
What kind of person was Paul? We are told in the Great Controversy when Jesus was lifted up above the city, “Amid the ransomed throng are the apostles of Christ, the heroic Paul, the ardent Peter.” — Great Controversy p.667. They will be there. They will be saved.
Jesus was also struck. “And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand,” He was then railed upon; “Answerest thou the high priest so?” While Jesus was meek, He did call men to account. His response, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” – John 18:22,23
Did Jesus know if He had spoken evil? Of course He knew He hadn't. His answer brings his accusers to account. I guess we then ask why did Paul answer the other way? “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall...” Because he was not really like Jesus.
“Before Christ's first advent, the sin of refusing to conform to God's law had become widespread. Apparently Satan's power was growing; his warfare against heaven was becoming more and more determined. A crisis had been reached. With an intense interest God's movements were watched by the heavenly angels. Would He come forth from His place to punish the inhabitants of the world for their iniquity? Would He send fire or flood to destroy them? All heaven waited the bidding of their Commander to pour out the vials of wrath upon a rebellious world. One word from Him, one sign, and the world would have been destroyed. The worlds unfallen would have said. Amen. Thou art righteous, O God, because Thou hast exterminated rebellion." ” —Reflecting Christ p.58
Angels and Unfallen Worlds
Angels have never committed sin. They are beholding us here in this world, and they are wondering what Jehovah will do. The angels and unfallen worlds have given their vote. We are voted off the planet by a unanimous vote. But God didn't wipe us out of existence and every one of us should be glad He didn't. “But, 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God might have sent His Son to condemn, but He sent Him to save. Christ came as a Redeemer.” —Signs of the Times, Aug.27, 1902.
God received the vote from the unfallen worlds that earth was not deserving of Him. But wonderful Saviour, Jesus overrode the unanimous vote from all the unfallen worlds to give us a chance. Now, did they vote against you and I because they are evil? No, they are righteous; worlds unfallen! But the reason they vote against us is because they are not really like Jesus.
But we do have some hope. Coming to when man first fell. “Angels were so interested for man's salvation that there could be found among them those who would yield their glory, and give their life for perishing man. But, said my accompanying angel, That would avail nothing. The transgression was so great that an angel's life would not pay the debt. Nothing but the death and intercessions of his Son would pay the debt, and save lost man from hopeless sorrow and misery.” – Spirit of Prophecy, vol.1, p.48.
Now this is very intriguing, because when did they make this offer? This quote is very early on in the plan of salvation. Look a little closely to the quote. “There could be found among them.” What does that phrase mean? Not all of them. Not all of them would say Jehovah, I will go to save man. I will lay down my life and existence to save fallen man. Now, does it make them evil that they didn't do that? No. It just means that they are not really like Jesus.
There is so much more to being like Jesus than being free from sin. As we come along in the plan of salvation, let's see if the angels change their tune. This is a quote a few thousand years after sin began. “The heavenly host looked upon the world as undeserving of the sympathy and love of God. Angels marvelled that Christ should undertake to save man in his lost, and as it seemed to them, hopeless condition...” So we know what hopeless means? What chance do we have of salvation if our case is hopeless? Zero! Their assessment of us was zero. – Review and Herald, Nov.26, 1895
“They marvelled that God could tolerate a race so foul with sin as to be a blot upon His creation. They could see no room for love...” —Ibid. Everyone deserves some sympathy and love, people have said that, but obviously you and I don’t! We got a zero vote from the unfallen worlds and now, although there were some angels who had some sympathy, we got a zero vote from them too.
But may we be so thankful that Jesus overrode that vote. “They could see no room for love...” But Jesus could. Though they see no hope, Jesus could. Jesus saw hope and saw that you and I could be changed. He saw that we could be different. Though all the evidence of my life shows that I am undeserving even of sympathy, Jesus did not believe that. Jesus stepped down from His throne and said, ‘I know you all think that this is a hopeless mission, but I am going anyway.’ And you want to know what the reaction was?
“No words can describe the effect of this movement on the heavenly angels. With wonder and admiration they could only exclaim, 'Herein is love!” Do we comprehend why they said that? Because they are not quite like Jesus. The angels do not bow before Jehovah and worship Him because He is all powerful, because they would be doing that out of fear. They worship Jesus because there is no greater love than His.
Satan Knows the Most
“To Him (Lucifer) as to no other created being was given a revelation of God's love. Understanding the character of God, knowing His goodness...” —Desire of Ages p.761,762. Here we see Lucifer was given the maximum amount of information about 'Who Is God'. He now uses all this knowledge against God. He knows God's character and His goodness. “If intellectual greatness, apart from any higher consideration, is worthy of honor, then our homage is due to Satan, whose intellectual power no man has ever equalled.” —Desire of Ages p.219
In the book of Daniel when Gabriel was fighting with the prince of Persia, he was being withstood for thirty days. Was he prevailing? No, because he can't prevail against the enemy. Who had to come and help him and defeat the enemy?” Michael did. Our prince! Our Redeemer! Scary thought. If Gabriel is dependent on Michael to defeat the enemy, how do we stand? Even in Satan's fallen state, he can withstand Gabriel for thirty days. Wow, they need the power of God. We also need the power of God.
“When Satan led man to sin, he hoped that God's abhorrence of sin would forever separate him from man, and break the connecting link between Heaven and earth...” – Signs of the Times, Aug 4, 1887. But did it? No, no!
“Satan had been working to make the gulf deep and impassable between earth and heaven. By his falsehoods he had emboldened men in sin. It was his purpose to wear out the forbearance of God, and to extinguish His love for man, so that He would abandon the world to satanic jurisdiction. —Desire of Ages, p.34,35. But he failed to extinguish God's love for man!
“At the time when sin had become a science, when the hostility of man was most violent against heaven, when rebellion struck its roots deep into the human heart, when vice was consecrated as a part of religion, when Satan exulted in the idea that he had led men to such a state of evil that God would destroy the world...” —Signs of the Times, Feb.5, 1894. We ask again, did God do it? No, He did not.
God’s Love Knows No Bounds
In the context of this quote, the Saviour works earnestly for mankind whether we appreciate it or not. Jesus continues in the sanctuary above pleading for you and for me on our behalf.
“And while the Saviour works, Satan also works, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, and with unflagging energy. But victory will never be his.” —Review and Herald, March 12, 1901. Satan will not win the Great Controversy. It is an impossibility. Victory is won. But the question is, which side will you be on?
“Satan could not comprehend the mystery of this great sacrifice for the benefit of fallen man...” —ibid. Though he has received more understanding of the character of God than any other created being, he still couldn't comprehend it because the love of God is infinite. Even if you have been given the maximum amount, the maximum amount is always zero when divided by infinity. So for all practical purposes he knows nothing of the love of God.
Jesus stepped down off His throne, He laid aside His robe, He gave the sceptre into His Father's hand and said ‘I will go to save mankind now.’ Satan, though he was given the most information about God's character, could not comprehend that kind of move because he is not like Jesus.
“Jesus was sent into the world, not to condemn it, but, amazing grace! to save the world. The unfallen worlds watched with intense interest to see Jehovah arise and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth. Satan boasted that if God did do this, he would complete his plans and secure for himself the allegiance of unfallen worlds. He had arguments ready by which to cast blame upon God, and to spread his rebellion to the world's above, but at this crisis, instead of destroying the world, God sent his Son to save it.” —Signs of the Times, Feb.5, 1894
Doubts of the 144,000
Let's take a look at the 144,000. This is just after they have completed their mission of sharing the message. The three angels’ message. They have shared it, and now the time of trouble bursts upon them. “They have not consulted their temporal interests, nor sought to preserve their reputation or their lives, yet when the storm of opposition and reproach bursts upon them, some, overwhelmed with consternation will be ready to exclaim, 'Had we foreseen the consequences of our words, we would have held our peace.’’’—Great Controversy p. 609
Is this fear because they are evil? No. “The work of Christ on earth was hastening to a close. Before Him, in vivid outline, lay the scenes whither His feet were tending. Even before He took humanity upon Him, He saw the whole length of the path He must travel in order to save that which was lost. Every pang that rent His heart, every insult that was heaped upon His head, every privation that He was called to endure, was open to His view before He laid aside His crown and royal robe, and stepped down from the throne, to clothe His divinity with humanity. The path from the manger to Calvary was all before His eyes. He knew the anguish that would come upon Him.” —Desire of Ages, p.410
And despite knowing it all, He said, “I'm coming anyway.” The 144,000 said, “It we could foresee all this stuff, we would have kept quiet. But Jesus said, “I see the consequences and you are worth it. And why do the 144,000 say that? Because they are not quite like Jesus. Though they are righteous. Though they have perfected Christian character, they are not God. For that reason, we don't worship the 144,000, we don't worship the unfallen worlds, we don't worship the angels. We worship Jesus Christ, the only One who voted for us; the only one who believed in us, that we could be saved.
Here is the real reason why we worship Jesus. “...the gift of Christ reveals the Father's heart. It testifies that the thoughts of God toward us are ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil.’ — Jeremiah 29:11. It declares that while God's hatred of sin is as strong as death, His love for the sinner is stronger than death...” —Desire of Ages, p.57
“...Having undertaken our redemption, He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor, gift upon gift. The whole treasury of heaven is open to those He seeks to save...” —ibid
So what is the Father's goal with all these gifts for us? “Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven...” – ibid. That is redemption – to convince us that there is no greater love than Jesus in earth or in heaven.
Oh, brothers and sisters, we should be so glad that angels are not on the throne? We should be glad that the unfallen worlds aren't in charge either, because if they were, we would be lost. But no, Jesus sits on the throne, God makes the decisions. We are thankful it is not a democracy, oh, may we be grateful it wasn't put to a vote!
Come every one of you. May you commit your lives to One who has no greater love than that of Jesus Christ. Rededicate your lives to the One who gave all of heaven in One beautiful gift in Jesus. He voted for you, He believes in you. Don’t let Him down. Prove to all the angels and unfallen worlds that our God’s vote was the right one.
—Basic Transcript of Dr. Tim Riesenberger’s meeting, Rotorua Summer Camp, 2018