May 22 - 28
Invented by the Devil
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Eccles. 12:14; Matt. 12:33-37; Acts 17:30, 31; Rev. 20:11-21:5.
MEMORY TEXT: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: Where does the idea of hell and eternal torment come from? What are the consequences of such a doctrine? How would you prove to a friend that this doctrine is false?
DEVIL INSPIRED. Once you believe in the immortality of persons in the form of "spirits" and these "spirits" are wicked, what do you do with them? Satan's answer? Hell. With this doctrine he tried to shift his own cruel character onto our heavenly Father.
"After the Fall, Satan bade his angels make a special effort to inculcate the belief in man's natural immortality; and having induced the people to receive this error, they were to lead them on to conclude that the sinner would live in eternal misery. Now the prince of darkness ... represents God as a revengeful tyrant, declaring that He plunges into hell all those who do not please Him....
"How repugnant to every emotion of love and mercy, and even to our sense of justice, is the doctrine that the wicked dead are tormented with fire and brimstone in an eternally burning hell; that for the sins of a brief earthly life they are to suffer torture as long as God shall live."The Great Controversy, pp. 534, 535.
The Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades are often translated "hell." The original words in both Testaments simply mean "death" or "the grave." But throughout the centuries, the word hell has come to mean a place of endless punishment for the wicked. As you read the following verses with both meanings in mind, notice what a vast difference of interpretation there can be. "We have made a covenant with death, and with hell we are at agreement" (Isa. 28:15). "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:31).
The idea of a conscious state immediately after death began appearing in Jewish literature after the 70 years captivity in Babylon. By the time of Jesus, it had become part of Jewish tradition. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 831.) Such concepts, possibly from Babylon or Persia, were embellished in later centuries by false interpretations of Scripture within the Christian church. For most of the early church fathers, hell served as a place for demons and impenitent sinners. In the Middle Ages, people's imagination was spurred by Dante's Inferno, which said that hell was in the fiery depths of the earth. Luther and Calvin rejected many such portrayals but failed to reject the traditional teaching of eternal punishment. (See The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Edgar W. Smith, Jr., ed. [Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982], vol. 2, pp. 677-679.) The Roman Catholic Church, as well as other Christian denominations, still teach that "souls" eternally suffer the punishments of hell. However, there is an exception to this. According to the Catholic faith, there is also a place called purgatory where those who have committed "lesser" sins are purified by fire before they go to heaven.
Discuss how a convert may become "twice the son of hell." Matt. 15:1-20. Then list the areas of danger.
Jesus called the leaders of the people blind guides. If they were not careful, He predicted both the people and their leaders would fall into the ditch. In Revelation 3:18, Jesus invites His people everywhere, especially those living in the last days, to buy eye salve that they might see and understand. The mixture of scriptural teaching with human traditions is what characterizes false religion (Rev. 17:1-6).
One principle of biblical interpretation is to uphold the unity of Scripture. This means not only accepting the Scripture as a whole but also accepting the Bible as a unit, written by one Author, because all of Scripture was given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). In practice, this means we need to let the Bible in one place interpret what it means in another, carefully comparing Scripture with Scripture.
Explain how the following texts in each group clarify each other: (1) Matt. 25:41, 46; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Jude 6, 7; (2) Mark 9:43-48 and Jer. 17:27; (3) Isa. 66:22-24 and Mal. 4:1-3; (4) Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10; Exod. 12:24; 1 Sam. 1:22, 28; Jon. 1:17; 2:6.
Words like everlasting, or eternal, and forever are translated from a Greek word meaning "lasting, for an age," in the sense of being continuous and not subject to change. Also, the word was used to describe the tenure of an emperor who held office for life. Therefore, its duration must be determined by nature of the person or thing it describes. Tiberius Caesar, for instance, ruled for 23 years. The emphasis is on the permanency of the results, not on a process that continues endlessly. Eternal fire would therefore mean that the results of it are never to be reversed. It destroys most effectively. (See SDA Bible Commentary vol.5, pp.512, 513; Matt.3:12; 25:41; Jude 7; 2 Peter 2:6; Jer. 17:27; 2 Chron. 36:19.)
The word used to describe a place of punishment is geenna, which is the Greek form of Ge Hinnom, the Valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem. Here the heathen sacrificed and burned their children to the god Molech (2 Chron. 28:3; 31:1, 6). It also was known as the Valley of Slaughter, where the dead bodies of slain Israelites were buried until there was no more room, and the corpses that were not buried became food for birds (Jer. 7:32, 33).
Tradition holds that later the Valley of Slaughter became a place outside Jerusalem for burning rubbish and carcasses. This insight clarifies what Jesus meant when He warned the scribes and Pharisees about "unquenchable fire" and "everlasting punishment." (See SDA Bible Dictionary , pp. 455, 456.)
|Many people who believe that the doctrine of hell is disgusting believe instead that everyone will be saved. What does such a belief lead to?|
If righteous "souls" go to heaven immediately after death and if unrighteous "souls" go to hell immediately after death, then there is really no need for a judgment. But Scripture clearly teaches that we will be held accountable for what we do.
On what basis can God hold us accountable for what we do, even though we are born with a sinful human nature? Rom. 1:18-20; 2:11-16.
God reveals Himself to us in three ways: (1) by internal revelation to our reason and conscience; (2) by external revelation in the works of creation (Ps. 19:1-4); (3) by special revelation in the Scriptures, especially in the Person and work of Christ. God gave us reason and conscience and made us capable of seeing and investigating His works. It is possible even for the heathen to recognize and acknowledge the power of an intelligent Being in the works of creation. (See SDA Bible Commentary, , vol. 6, p. 478.)
In light of universal accountability, how do you understand the meaning of Psalm 87:1-7?
A theme of this psalm is the universality of humankind (compare Acts 17:26, 27) and the inclusion in God's family of women and men from every race, nationality, and people. Where people are born is not as important as who they are in relation to God. It is not some outward sign such as circumcision that counts but what is in the heart (see Rom. 2:28, 29).
In the broader sense, this psalm also addresses problems such as the circumstances of their upbringing and what parents they had. A loving God takes all into account. But while God fully understands the human predicament, He does not gloss over evil (see John 9:41; James 4:17; Acts 17:31).
What new insights has today's study given you into the character of God and into your own life?
|How can you become more sensitive to the spiritual needs of other church members of different ethnic backgrounds and those not of our faith?|
The Bible teaches three phases of God's final judgment: (1) the pre-Advent judgment (the judgment of believers before Christ comes), (2)the millennial judgment (the judgment of the wicked dead), (3)the executive judgment (at the end of the millennium when justice against sin will be carried out and a new earth will be created).
Match the three phases of judgment to the texts:
|1. Dan. 7:9, 10||_______ A. Executive judgment|
|2. Rev. 20:4||_______ B. Millennial judgment|
|3. Rev. 20:12-15||_______ C. Pre-Advent judgment|
To understand the role of Christ in the judgment, we need to understand how the Jewish judicial system worked. Through the centuries from patriarchal times to the founding of Israel and finally to the monarchy, the basic principle of jurisprudence remained the same. A person was innocent until proven guilty. In Deuteronomy 19:15-21, the picture is simple. There are no defense or prosecuting attorneys. There is the judge, the accused, and the accuser.
The judge has a dual role: (1) to defend the accused and (2) to render a decision. If the accusations of the accuser proved false, he would have to suffer the penalty he thought to inflict on the accused. A false testimony was unforgivable, for it represented potential murder in the heart of false witnesses. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1022.) Notice the simplicity of the court when two women wanted Solomon to judge whose baby the infant was. Notice also the decision he rendered (1 Kings. 3:16-28). Remember, too, that Jesus considered hatred in the heart equivalent to murder (Matt. 5:21, 22).
In light of the court procedure mentioned above, relate John 5:22 and 1 John 2:1 to Zechariah 3:15, Romans 3:31, and Revelation 12:10.
|How has this brief insight into the Jewish court procedure helped you understand God better and the role of Christ on your behalf? Should we be afraid of the judgment if the Judge, who is also our Defense Attorney, is our Friend? Case closed!|
Some Christians believe that during the millennium people will be given another chance to be saved. There are numerous theories about what exactly will take place. But the general agreement is that in a time of peace, a golden age, people will hear the gospel again and have another opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and King. Those who do not will be destroyed. Nowhere does Scripture speak of such an additional chance to be saved during the millennium.
From the above texts listed after today's title, select the one that proves that the theory of another chance during the millennium is not biblical. Then compare your selection with John 5:24-30.
There is also the false concept that the fire spoken of in 2 Peter 3:10-13 is not ordinary fire but the fire of the Holy Spirit, similar to the tongues of fire that came upon the disciples at Pentecost. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, God will cleanse the earth and make it suitable for His Son's rule. (See Billy Graham, World Aflame [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1965], pp. 246, 247.)
While Christ is the answer to all our human problems-physical, social, political, financial, and otherwise-to believe He will return to simply renovate the earth and make it more inhabitable, even totally righteous, is not biblical.
This is one point in which Seventh-day Adventists differ from most other Christians. Christ will not come to renovate the earth at the inception of the millennium but to destroy it (Jer. 4:23-26; Matt. 24:37-39; Rev. 19:11-16). Without question, we join in the joyous chorus of Christians who look for His return. However, the new heavens and the new earth will appear at the end of the millennium (Rev. 21:1-5).
Describe in your own words the sequence of events in Revelation 19, 20, 21.
How can Seventh-day Adventists share the biblical truth about the events of the Second Coming without seeming to be alarmists?
|While we focus on Christ and not the crisis of the last days, how can we share the biblical truth about what will happen when He returns without seeming to doubt the faith of our fellow Christians?|
FURTHER STUDY: To learn about the fate of the wicked, read the following verses: Rom. 6:23; Ps. 37:9, 20, 34; 68:2; 104:35; 145:20; Mal. 4:1; Matt. 13:30, 40; 2 Pet. 3:10; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 2:14.
Read The Story of Redemption, "Satan's Delusions," pp. 388-392.
Recently some non-Adventist pastors and evangelists have spoken against the doctrine of eternal punishment and in favor of the biblical teaching that the wicked will be destroyed and be no more. One such preacher and lay scholar is Edward William Fudge, in his book entitled The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of Final Punishment (Houston, Tex.: Providential Press, 1982).
Beginning his research he says, "The greatest reason for talking about hell is also the simplest and most obvious. Jesus our Savior spoke of it more than once and in the most serious tones. Whenever He speaks, we will do well to listen. We also will do well to be careful how we hear" (p. 21). In concluding his research he says, "The Old and New Testaments alike, in a multiplicity of ways, terms, figures, pictures, expressions and examples, declare time and time again that the wicked finally will pass away and be no more, that righteousness will then fill the universe, and that God will then forever be all in all. Not one time in all of Scripture does God say that any human being will be made immortal for the purpose of suffering conscious everlasting atonement" (p. 434).
SUMMARY: Satan devised the concept of natural immortality and eternal punishment to discredit God and justify the claim that God treated him unjustly. He was able to plant this doctrine in the Christian church and by it generate either an atmosphere of fear or an attitude that God is too good to destroy life. While God is merciful, He is also just. The wicked will be no more, and the righteous will cover the earth.
Suleman (SOO-leh-man) Samson smiled at the men standing before him. Yes, he would let these Adventists use his school for evangelistic meetings. It will give me an opportunity to refute their beliefs, Samson thought.
Samson was proud of his school and his position as headmaster. He had struggled to get an education during the difficult years of war in South Sudan. When he was in the third grade, the English-speaking school that he attended was forced to close because of the war. The school did not reopen, so when Samson was 18, he traveled to Juba, the largest city in South Sudan, hoping to continue his education. But the schools there also had been closed because of fighting. So Samson took work as a house boy while he waited to continue his education.
When the schools in Juba finally reopened, Samson enrolled. But the Sudanese government now controlled the region, and classes were taught in Arabic. Samson had to start over in school. Twelve years later he finally completed his studies and returned to his home area to teach and eventually become headmaster of a school.
When in July 1996 some Adventist believers asked Samson permission to use his school for evangelistic meetings, he agreed, not because he believed what they taught, but because he was confident that he could teach these Adventists a thing or two about religion.
Before the opening meeting, Samson got drunk on the local brew to bolster his courage. He arrived at the meeting, and the ushers offered him a seat on the front row and a Bible to use. When the preacher began talking about Jesus' second coming, Samson sat spellbound. He had never heard anything like this!
The pastor read from the book of Matthew, but Suleman had no idea where Matthew was. Some people sitting next to him helped him find the verses. After the meeting Samson wanted to take the Bible home with him, but the usher explained that he had to come to every meeting before he could receive his own Bible. Angry, Samson stomped away from the schoolhouse. He would find a Bible somewhere else!
(continued next week)
Suleman Samson (left). Becky Mercill wrote this while serving with ADRA/South Sudan, in Nairobi, Kenya.
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