In part one of this article, we saw that God longs to do a miracle in His church on a par with the incarnation and virgin birth: Christ would again inhabit earthly flesh, through the power of the Holy Spirit. While such a miracle has always been at the heart of true Christianity, Bible prophecy foretells that prior to the Second Advent, God’s Remnant Church will develop the character of Christ to full maturity before the watching universe. This “virgin birth” will be wonderfully glorious, but it will only come about through a process of hard labor, full of pain and self-sacrifice.
No easy pregnancy
The expecting mother undergoes dramatic physiological and physical changes. She suffers months of nausea, dizziness, pain, inflammation and bizarre cravings. As the due date approaches, the contractions begin. Childbearing clearly does not allow life to simply continue as normal!
In Micah the words appear as a command: “Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail” (4:10, KJV). The miracle of the divine life within, while ensuring success, by its very nature obliges the church to participate in the pain and self-sacrifice of her Master. The Inspired Word brings clarity: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). While Christ was both obedient and perfect prior to his life as a man, His obedience had never before been tested to such an extreme. Jesus gave the ultimate proof of His perfect obedience as a man, “and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (2:8). This aspect of the atonement has profound and unpopular implications. To take up the cross, we must also take up Christ’s perfect obedience that led Him to bear it. Ellen White expounds further:
The human will of Christ would not have led him to the wilderness of temptation, to fast, and to be tempted of the devil. It would not have led him to endure humiliation, scorn, reproach, suffering, and death. His human nature shrank from all these things as decidedly as ours shrinks from them. He endured the contradiction of sinners against himself. The contrast between the life and character of Christ and our life and character is painful to contemplate. What did Christ live to do? It was the will of his heavenly Father. Christ left us an example, that we should follow in his steps. Are we doing it? (Signs of the Times, Oct 24, 1894).
The first sufferings of parturition result from the conflict between the human and the divine will. Sadly, we are often so pregnant with self that there is no room for the Christ Child. If my baby is my appetite, my education, my career, my reputation, or even my ministry, it is time to abort. Ellen White affirms the drastic nature of surrender:
Giving up the life to Christ means much more than many suppose. God calls for an entire surrender. We cannot receive the Holy Spirit until we break every yoke that binds us to our objectionable traits of character. These are the great hindrances… There is no one who has not much to learn. All must be trained by Christ. When we fall upon the living Rock, our wrong traits of character are taken away as hindrances to perfection of character. When self dies, Christ lives in the human agent. Acquaintance with Christ makes us long to abide in him, and to have him abide in us(Review and Herald, April 25, 1899).
This initial pain caused by the daily mortification of self will be followed by another kind of suffering. When Mary submitted her plans and dreams to the will of God, she endured not only physical pain, but also mental and emotional trauma. Doubted and nearly rejected by the man she hoped to marry, she was falsely accused of fornication. Today, those who dare to experience the reality of another virgin birth will suffer similar mistreatment. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Satan is furious with the church when he sees the character of his Archenemy maturing within her. We see the dragon standing “before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born” (Revelation 12:3-4). Ultimately there will be economic boycott and a death decree, and the Remnant will face the time of trouble such as never was (Daniel 12:1).
Pre-partum preparation: taking shape
Does this prognosis scare you? Does it scare the mother? Probably, but the expectation of the Child to come far outweighs her fears! She is motivated by unselfish love. And so she joyfully prepares herself. She reads every relevant and reputable book and magazine she can get her hands on. The well-informed mother understands that the health and even life of her infant depends on her personal choices. She pays special attention to nutrition and diet. She takes extra care to respect the hours of rest. And she prays like never before. Despite pain and inconveniences, she passes hours of glad anticipation. She prepares the baby room. She acquires baby clothes and accessories. Her life is all wrapped up in the life of the coming child. Nothing is more important.
Why does an expecting mother follow such a careful regimen and sacrifice so much time and energy to prepare for delivery day? Does all her special care cause the baby to be born? Of course not. But is her cooperation with nature important? Absolutely! It can potentially impact not only when and how the child arrives, but also what manner of child is born.
Of course the exceptional purity and faithful obedience to be displayed by the Remnant is only possible because of the Divine Man-Child miraculously conceived and developed in their hearts and lives. To claim personal responsibility for anything good in our characters is as foolish as it would have been for Mary to claim responsibility for the birth of Christ. However, we could use more maternal interest and intentional preparation as the Remnant people of God. The reality of Christ in us should be to us the most exciting news in the world! Don’t you long for the day when we will no longer disgrace the name of our Lord? How pleasant it will be when the brethren can finally live in harmony, and when all will know that we are Christians by our love (Psalms 133:1, John 13:35). As a church, we have been far too afraid of this message when, if we truly loved our Savior, it would fill us with joy unspeakable and the willingness to endure “this light affliction which is but for a moment” (1 Peter 1:8, 2 Corinthians 4:17).
Returning to the imagery of Revelation 12, I believe the radiance of the woman clothed in sunlight and standing on the moon, is that of an expecting mother. It is precisely the Child she carries within who causes her to shine so splendidly. As Peter puts it, “whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price (3:3-4). Paradoxically, although He’s out of sight, one can’t but see Christ, “the hidden man of the heart,” developing in the character of the true believer.
Christ will dwell in His church in such a complete and real way that the name of God, hitherto defamed before the nations, will be vindicated, and the whole earth will be filled with the glory and knowledge of God (Ezekiel 36:23-27, Revelation 18:1, Isaiah 11:9-16). The last piece of evidence in the Great Controversy will be on exhibit. The practical and genuine experience of the Remnant will give power and credibility to their message, and the everlasting gospel will be seen as well as heard by every living person on the planet.
Special delivery of grace
Does this sound fantastical? There is a good reason that the woman of Revelation 12 is called a “wonder,” and that she appears in the immediate context of the opening of the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary and the investigative judgment (Revelation 11:18-19). This detail is important, because the ministry of Christ before the ark of His Covenant on our behalf guarantees the special levels of grace necessary to perfect the reproduction of Christ’s character in His church prior to the Second Advent (see also Hebrews 8:10-11 and 4:14-16). Ellen White explains it this way:
In immediate connection with the scenes of the great day of God, the Lord by the prophet Joel has promised a special manifestation of His Spirit. Joel 2:28. This prophecy received a partial fulfillment in the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost; but it will reach its full accomplishment in the manifestation of divine grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel. . . .
Does this mean we must wait for some special moment in the future to access the help we need to win the victory today? Not at all!
At this time the special endowment of divine grace and power is not less needful to the church than in apostolic days. God will today endow men and women with power from above, as He endowed those who on the day of Pentecost heard the word of salvation. At this very hour His Spirit and His grace are for all who need them and will take Him at His word(The Faith I Live By, p 292.5-7 emphasis supplied).
Praise God, His grace is available now! Won’t you have it now? Let us begin to “grow in grace” today and in “the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 4:13).
That he [God the Father] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-21, emphasis supplied).
Suggested further reading: 2 Selected Messages pg 389.1-2 and “Prepare to Meet Thy God,” chapter 11 of The Faith I Live By, Pg 337
Kody Kostenko is a high school history and language teacher at a mission boarding school in northeastern Bolivia, South America.