1. The Meaning of Probation

By John Thiel, Preparation for the Close of Probation Conference, Study 1, mp3

Scripture reading: Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

To prepare for the close of probation we have a need to understand what probation actually is and also what is involved in this preparation during the time of probation before it closes.

We want to go right back to when Adam and Eve first sinned. It looked like that was it. God had said, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. But God gave them another chance. Another opportunity was given. God said that there would be a woman’s seed that would be born. He will put enmity between thee, Satan, and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and her seed shall bruise the head of the serpent, and the serpent shalt bruise His heel. Here is spelt out for us the probation that was given to man. As Jesus was going to be that seed, man was given an opportunity to receive that seed and to have a restoration from sin. This is the privilege and the opportunity that was given to the human race through Adam, through Christ.

Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: … 15 But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Here is the probation. This is the understanding of probation. Through Jesus Christ there is a gift that God’s grace has offered to the human race that they may yet recover.

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.

Because of Jesus Christ by that one man, we have received probation which is justification and which requires our faith and our belief to be able to appreciate and benefit by that probation.

Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Here we have the kernel, the foundation of understanding what probation is. Because of Adam’s sin, we should all be dead; but God has given us the free gift of His grace in Jesus Christ so that we can be justified. Having been justified, we are then to be able by the obedience of Christ, also to be made righteous.

During this time of justification, of grace that has been given to us, we have been given a wonderful time of being able to reach for that righteousness that God has given us in His gift of Jesus Christ. This meditation of probation is expressed also in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. 21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? Saith the Lord GOD: [and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?

Time has been given to the sinner. It has been given so that he might turn from his sins, that he might return to God and live again in eternity if he will make use of that time and apply himself to what is written. God did not have any pleasure in the death of the wicked. While He said that the sinner must die, yet He says, But I am going to give you opportunity and time to make restitution.

The instant man accepted the temptations of Satan, and did the very things God had said he should not do, Christ, the Son of God, stood between the living and the dead, saying, “Let the punishment fall on Me. I will stand in man’s place. He shall have another chance.” {FLB 75.3}

What is probation?

Another Chance

Adam and Eve were placed upon probation in the garden of Eden, and they were to prove their loyalty to their Creator by obedience to his law of love; but they fell, through the temptation of a wily foe. A great and infinite sacrifice has been made, that man may have another trial. God provides that man may have another probation, {ST, November 24, 1887 par. 8}

They had their time of probation to prepare and develop a perfect character before they had fallen. That was their probation. They failed in that probation, but God gave them a second one. He gave the human race a second probation. How many people are there who say that there is going to be another time of probation during the one thousand years? That is not true. God has already given the human race a second probation.

Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours; but we are placed here on probation to see if we will prove worthy of eternal life. {1T 198.2}

That is probation. The moment that Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus stepped into the gap. He said, I will take their sins; I will die for them. Give them another chance. Give them another probation to prove whether they will appreciate and benefit from this.

A Period Given for Redemption

We can understand the value of the human soul only as we realize the greatness of the sacrifice made for its redemption. {CTBH 15.3}

Probation is another meaning for redemption; a period given for redemption. A sacrifice was made for it.

The word of God declares that we are not our own, that we are bought with a price. It is at an immense cost that we have been placed upon vantage ground, where we can find liberty from the bondage of sin wrought by the fall in Eden. {CTBH 15.3}

Vantage ground – We are trying to understand what is probation, and what is involved in probation. Probation is a period of time in which we are placed on vantage ground at a huge cost, where we can find liberty from the bondage of sin wrought by the fall in Eden.

Adam’s sin plunged the race into hopeless misery; but by the sacrifice of the Son of God, a second probation was granted to man. In the plan of redemption a way of escape is provided for all who will avail themselves of it. {CTBH 15.3}

Is it piecing together in your mind? Probation is a time given for us to avail ourselves of the costly sacrifice that was made for us.

God knew that it was impossible for man to overcome in his own strength, and he has provided help for him. How thankful we should be that a way is open for us, by which we can have access to the Father; that the gates are left ajar, so that beams of light from the glory within may shine upon those who will receive them! {CTBH 15.3}

Probation is a time given for us to avail ourselves of the sacrifice of Christ so that if we will avail ourselves of that, if we will receive the glory shining from heaven, then we may be ushered into eternal life again. This is what is involved in probation.

Here are dictionary definitions of probation:

The state of man in the present life, in which he has the opportunity of proving his character and being qualified for a happier state. {Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, Probation}

To prove the character of a person to qualify him for a happier state.

The testing of conduct, or character of a person before full admission. {Oxford Dictionary, Probation}

We are given probation time; and in this probation time, a second probation, we are to avail ourselves of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, of Jesus and of what the Father has given to us, that we may embrace the enabling of God; we are to develop a character, to prove and qualify our position with God again, which we had lost through sin.

Through sin the human race was expelled from Eden. To regain that place Jesus was provided. He spoke about Himself in John.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

These were the words that Jesus spoke to Thomas when he said to Him, Please, show us the way, we don’t know the way. That is when Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. In this period of probation Jesus has been provided for a way, for the way back to the Father. There is so much to this word of probation that we often do no stop to examine closely enough.

After this meditation, let us not quickly forget but appreciate what is provided for us in God’s providence; this amazing dimension of probation, in reference to which Jesus said, I have provided in Myself a way. I am the way. Jesus has provided a way and a time period for us.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Here is the way. Here is what is meant in the period of probation – Jesus died for every sinner. God does not want any person to die; He has given the whole human race the opportunity to put away their sins and live a righteous life.

Reconciliation and Salvation

Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Here we see what is involved during this time of probation. Probation has been given to every human sinner; justification has been provided. But now that justification has been provided God’s love is commended to us, not just in giving us justification, but we are not yet fitted for a place, so we are going to be saved by the life of Christ. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

Probation is a provision of reconciliation. Having been reconciled by the blood of Christ, we are then given this time to be saved. Because reconciliation is just a provision by the blood of Christ, so that the enemies of God can be reconciled, and so that they can be saved. Many people think that by believing in Jesus they are saved. No, they are reconciled. Then having been reconciled, they are now to be saved. That is what the time of probation has been given for.

There are two aspects; reconciliation (or justification) and salvation.

Romans 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

God calls every sinner, Come and be saved. I have given you probation. My probation is found in that, if you will believe I will justify you and if you will be justified then you will also be glorified.

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate

He knew the people who would accept the probationary time and apply themselves. What did He predestinate them to do?

Romans 8:29 …[to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 

What is here included in this time of probation?

To Be Conformed to the Image of His Son

If you have been justified, you have been given the opportunity to ultimately be glorified, or conformed to the image of His Son. We are to be changed from glory to glory by beholding. To be glorified means to be changed. To be justified means to have the opportunity to be changed. We have been placed in a position where God accepts us because Jesus has died for us; and His death has been in the place of my death, for my sin. Now that I have been justified, I am now to be conformed to His image. That is what is to take place during the time of probation.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:30 …whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

To be conformed to the image of His Son, or to be sanctified by the Spirit because of the belief of the truth, we have been called by the gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. To be glorified means to be sanctified, to have the glorious character of Jesus – to be conformed to His image. Justification and sanctification are placed into view in this comprehension of the time of probation.

Justification and Sanctification

The righteousness by which we are justified is imputed; the righteousness by which we are sanctified is imparted. The first is our title to heaven, the second is our fitness for heaven. {FLB 116.2}

Probation has been given us by the fact that we have been given the imputed righteousness of Christ. The word imputed has something to do with, written to our account. If we will believe in Jesus, then, although we are terrible sinners, we are now regarded as though we had never sinned. That is now a title to heaven. But just because you have a title to heaven, does that mean you can get to heaven? There is something else needed; just like when you have to apply to be able to leave your country and get into another country, in all cases you need a passport, but in most cases you also need a visa, which examines the person’s fitness, whether he has any record of the past that makes him unworthy to get into that country. There is a passport, a title to heaven, that is given through justification; and there is a visa, a fitness for heaven, which is sanctification. This is the concept of gaining a fitness for heaven:

Mark 4:26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Here is what Jesus used as an illustration of the title – the seed falls into the ground, and it germinates. Now there is a potential of that germinating seed to be able to be taken into the garner, but it can’t be, it has to grow: first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Not until it has fully developed and the corn is the ear, and is all well dried out, can it then be harvested and taken into the garner. This is the process of justification and sanctification. Justification takes place because the seed falls into the ground, and it produces a blade. The kingdom is like that, said Jesus. The person has a precious opportunity, but he must grow, and he must develop the fruit. Sr. White quotes this scripture of Mark chapter 4.

The seed here spoken of is the word of God sown in the heart and made fruitful by divine grace. If the truth takes root in the heart, it will sooner or later spring into life and bear fruit. The life and character will show the nature and quantity of the seed sown. But the work of cultivating is the work of a life-time. The principles of truth once planted in the soul, are to be carried out in the daily duties of life. The growth of Christian character is gradual– like the advancement of the natural plant through its various stages of development. But nevertheless the progress is continual. As in nature, so it is in grace, the plant must either grow or die. {2SP 243.3}

This is probation. It is from the time that the seed falls into the ground, grows through the winter months, and arises through into spring, and then in spring and heading towards summer; and in summer time there is the harvest – probationary time to the full growth. It can either die or grow. That is what happens during the time of probation. Some plants die. In the parable of Jesus where the sower went forth to sow, some of the seed fell on the wayside, some of it fell onto the stony ground, and some of it fell onto good ground. This is the situation during the time of probation; this is what happens to some of the seed that has been sown.

Day by day the sanctifying influence of the Spirit of God almost imperceptibly leads those who love the ways of truth toward the perfection of righteousness, till finally the soul is ripe for the harvest, the life-work is ended, God gathers in his grain. There is no period in the Christian life when there is no more to learn, no higher attainments to reach. Sanctification is the work of a life-time. First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear, then the ripening and the harvest; for when the fruit is perfect, it is ready for the sickle. {2SP 244.1}

Are we getting the message very simply? Probation is given that we may perfect a character fit for eternity.

It is by the word sown into the heart. As we open our hearts to that word, as we cultivate it during this time of development, this probation, we receive the blessings of the precious gifts.

We must not come away with a false impression that, Probation means I have to develop my character and we start to work hard at it; we start to be anxious about the fact that my character is not going to be perfect. As we realise that we are heading towards the close of probation, we can be filled with a deep sense of anxiety that, I am not going to make it. That would be a false conclusion.

The time of probation is given us that we may perfect a character fit for eternity. {1SM 318.4}

The precious time of probation is passing, and few realize that it is given them for the purpose of preparing for eternity. {4T 147.2}

Sr. White is suggesting that few people realise that everything that has been provided for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ is an engagement with the word that prepares them for eternity; it is an engagement in the developmental stages of conforming to the image of Christ, of conforming to His glory to be changed. Few realise that, but as we study this and we begin to realise it, we can start thinking, Oh no, it’s nearly over, and what am I like? And we are filled with this terrible sense. So, in order not to come away with this false impression of the necessity to gain a fitness for heaven, we need to understand what was suggested in our material. It is by receiving the mercy and goodness of God. It is by receiving the word, by receiving Jesus. And as we receive Jesus, this is going to take place. But we must receive Him.

Not by Works

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Not of works – This is strange. We have to develop a character, but it tells us here that it is by grace through faith, and that faith is not even of ourselves. It is not even of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

It is important for us to get the correct appreciation of what is involved in this probation time. Here it is pointed out that it is not by works, but by faith. If it was by works you could say, Well, I am now ready for heaven. That would be boasting. But it is by the gift of God through Jesus Christ that He will work in us. We are created in Christ Jesus unto those good works that time is going to be given to attain to.

If we are trying to get to that condition of perfection of the glorious character of God, by works, Sr. White says:

He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. {1SM 364.1}

How many of you have been attempting this impossibility? But we keep on trying, don’t we? We are attempting an impossibility.

Man cannot be saved without obedience, but his works should not be of himself; Christ should work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. If a man could save himself by his own works, he might have something in himself in which to rejoice. The effort that man makes in his own strength to obtain salvation, is represented by the offering of Cain. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God. When we seek to gain heaven through the merits of Christ, the soul makes progress. {1SM 364.1}

Probation has been given us to make progress and probationary time is nearly running out and now we need to prepare so that when probation is closed we will be on the right side of that experience. All that man can do without Christ is polluted. But when we seek to gain heaven through the merits of Christ, then the soul makes progress. We are in need of understanding the linkage of the progress with the right method – it is not by works, and yet we have to obey. It is alone gained by something that is not polluted with selfishness, which is total resignation to the merits of Christ by which we will make progress.

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we may go on from strength to strength, from victory to victory; for through Christ the grace of God has worked out our complete salvation. {1SM 364.1}

It is my prayer that during this conference, as we apply ourselves to this during the probationary time, we will not delay the progress by not understanding this important ingredient: Not of my own works, but by the progress that is found through the merits of Jesus Christ.

A Saving Knowledge

Probation has been given us to gain, not the anxious tenseness of trying to reach perfection, but for us to receive the word Jesus Christ, to gain a true knowledge of Jesus. Jesus says this beautiful statement, that the people may have eternal life, and where is this life found? How is it gained? It is the knowledge of the Father and of Jesus Christ that is going to get us there, and that is what probationary time has been given us for.

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

What has probationary time been given us for? To know God, and to know Jesus. Because as we know Him, and as we take hold of His knowledge, His merits, then we will make progress. It is in this sense that probationary time has been given to us; not in the sense of anxiously trying to develop a good character.

We need to believe in Jesus, not just to believe in general, but to believe savingly.

[John 17:3 quoted] These words mean much. It is only by knowing Christ that we can know God. The Sent of God calls upon all to listen to these words. They are the words of God, and all should give heed to them; for by them they will be judged. To know Christ savingly is to be vitalized by spiritual knowledge, to practice His words. Without this, all else is valueless (ST Jan. 27, 1898). {5BC 1145.11}

Can we see how important these words are, and that we wrap our understanding around them? To know God and Jesus Christ is eternal life. She here emphasises that, “To know Christ savingly is to be vitalized by spiritual knowledge, to practice His words.” If I am going to be prepared for the close of probation, which means I have to reach that perfection, and there is little time left, then I must hurry to know Jesus; because if I know Jesus savingly, what will happen? I will be vitalised by that spiritual knowledge. It is going to vitalise me; it is going to be a vivifying energy that is going to provide for that perfection. It is a vitalising spiritual knowledge, and it vitalises me to practice His words, to produce that good fruit. The time of probation has been given for us to engage in the knowledge of Jesus, because that is the only way by which we are going to get there.

Seeking with All the Heart

Here God is speaking these beautiful words of comfort that we must get to know Him by finding Him:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

That is what we are studying – preparation for the end. How can we get this expected end? He says, I have these thoughts for you.

Jeremiah 29:12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD:

If I am going to reach that close of probation perfection, He says, You need to know Me; you need to embrace Me, because the vitalising power that is going to cause you to develop into this perfect person is dependent upon you searching for Me with all your heart.

It is upon finding Him that the true righteousness and fitness for heaven may be gained. It is not by anxious concern about whether I am right yet or not. It is by keeping my eyes focused on Him, knowing Him, and seeking for Him with all my heart. That is why probation time has been given us. And the rest will take care of itself. It is by beholding Jesus, and as we watch Him being made perfect by He Himself destroying the power of sin in His own flesh, we will be inspired.

God stands back of every promise He has made. With your Bibles in your hands, say: “I have done as Thou hast said. I present Thy promise, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ (Matthew 7:7).” . . . {AG 157.2}

Seek for God with all your heart. Stand with that Bible promise before the Lord, and say, Lord, I have done as You have said, I present this promise. I am asking You, I am depending on You, I am not going to rely upon myself because I know that it is all coloured with my own selfishness; I need You, Lord. As I look for Him, and search for Him with all my heart, He says, I will be found of you, and I will work in you the righteousness of Christ.

To summarise: Probation is a time of grace given to gain a fitness for heaven; and that fitness can only be gained by personal engagement with Christ. This is what we have gained from God’s word. We have commenced this time of our conference with this meditation so that we can then carefully and prayerfully go through every successive subject to appreciate the full entirety of what is involved for me to be finally ready for Jesus to say, It is done, he that is righteous, let him be righteous still. And he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. God grant us His Holy Spirit that we may appreciate these things with a full and intelligent understanding.


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Posted on 23/05/2015, in Preparation for the Close of Probation (Conference) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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