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Monday: Written in the Book — 39 Comments

  1. As I write this most of us a facing uncertainty. In the last week, the whole world has changed. Planes have stopped flying, cafe's and restaurants closed, supply chains have been overburdened, toilet paper has become hard to buy, and churches closed. In Australia there have been a couple of things that are really hard to take; Popular beaches have been closed, and major sporting events cancelled. The whole world is shutting down, bringing fear and uncertainty into our lives at a level that few of us have ever experienced.

    And yesterday, it hit home when someone I know personally tested positive to the CORVID-19 virus. It is no longer a threat on the horizon but the new reality.

    Amid the current confusion, it is encouraging to read the certainly of final delivery that is the theme of this week's lesson. The battle between good and evil has a guaranteed outcome and we need to communicate that by giving those in our sphere of influence the love and support of a living relationship with Jesus. Christianity is much more than just getting the doctrines right.

    On a practical note. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of isolation in reducing the impact of COVID-19. To give an example; a meeting of 20 people took place somewhere in Australia last week. One person inadvertently had the virus, and this week all 20 people who attended the meeting are testing positive to the virus. That is how seriously contagious it is. I suggest that you encourage your friends to join online forums such as Sabbath School Net where we can grow spiritually by interacting with one another without the threat of infecting one another.

    • Good advice. Also, this past Sabbath I participated in a SS class in California(I'm in Pennsylvania) via ZOOM. It worked really well and I look forward to this weeks class on Daniel 12.

      We have the technology to keep in touch easily as we all keep our "social distance" to avoid spreading this very contagious virus.

      Our plans to have a public presentation on the health message in May might become an invitation to watch a youtube presentation, with the intention of giving copies of "The Ministry of Healing" to all who wish to have one. These will be distributed by mail most likely. No need to stop bringing our wonderful message to those who could be looking for it.

      Imagine the Gospel going viral!

  2. Alleluia! It's worth noting that God's Spirit will be withdrawn from rebellious mankind. And I was inspired and comforted when I noted how when God's angels cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all elements of strife will be let loose.
    I'm glad that God's people will be delivered because in the investigative judgment conducted in the heavenly tribunal, they have been vindicated by Jesus. We should always keep in mind that their names are written in a book.There is the book of life and the book of deeds. I'm glad that the lesson reminds us that they're heavenly records containing the names and deeds of every human being. I'm so comforted that this heavenly record provides judicial evidence to the entire universe that we belong to Jesus.

  3. The lesson states, "Then the seven last plagues, as expressions of God’s wrath upon the nations, will be poured upon the end-time Babylon (Rev. 16:1-21; Rev. 18:20-24) and the powers of darkness will be unleashed upon the world."

    This statement is internally inconsistent in what is being implied. In the first part it portray's God as the source of the plagues via His "wrath" being "poured out", but in the second part it states that the powers of darkness will be unleashed - identifying the powers of darkness as the source of the plagues.

    The Ellen White statement that follows supports the second position - “Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old”. — The Great Controversy, p. 614.

    God's "wrath" is very different to how it is typically portrayed - consistent with a key concept that Isaiah 55:8,9 points out.

    Conceptually, "wrath" is the motivating energy that arises when something is not as it should be. The way that humans then typically exercise that wrath/motivational energy is not the way God does - yet it precisely the human view that God is misportrayed as displaying.

    Keeping Isaiah 55:8,9 in mind, what does God's 'wrath' look like? Paul undertakes the most direct and detailed unpacking of God's wrath in Romans 1:18,24,26,28. In a nutshell, Paul emphasises 3 times that God's 'wrath' is the action of releasing (giving up, giving over). But what does this mean?

    Sin (ie lawlessness: 1 John 3:4) means to be out of harmony with 'lawfulness'. And lawfulness means to live in harmony with the laws/principles that alone enable true life to be possible. If we live in harmony with those principles (and are connected to God as the Source of life: Genesis 2:7), we will have life. On the other hand, if we exercise our freedom to be out of harmony with those principles and instead follow lawlessness, we will perish because lawlessness is incompatible with life. This latter point is what Paul describes as the law/principle of sin (lawless) and death (via perishing) in Romans 8:2. Interestingly, viruses share this nature of being out of harmony with the principles that promote healthy cellular function and in so doing instead promote death to healthy cells (via internal corruption which leads to "perishing").

    So if lawlessness produces death, how come those who choose lawlessness are still 'alive'. This is where the restraining action of God is vital to understand (2 Thessalonians 2:7,8; Revelation 7:1). God has been restraining the full consequences of sin right from the outset for a range of reasons. While God can do this temporarily to provide a 'probationary period' during which everyone has a second chance (2 Peter 3:9), this cannot go on forever otherwise the true nature of lawlessness and of Satan as the prince of lawlessness would not be fully self-revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:7,8).

    Compare what I have outlined with the following thoughts by Ellen White (bold emphasis and bracketed elaboration mine):

    "The warfare against God’s law, which was begun in heaven, will be continued until the end of time. Every man will be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. All will be called to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will be but two classes. Every character will be fully developed; and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of rebellion.
    Then the end will come. God will vindicate His law and deliver His people. Satan and all who have joined him in rebellion will be cut off. Sin and sinners will perish, root and branch, Malachi 4:1,—Satan the root, and his followers the branches. The word will be fulfilled to the prince of evil, “Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; ... I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.... Thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” Then “the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be;” “they shall be as though they had not been.” Ezekiel 28:6-19; Psalm 37:10; Obadiah 16.
    This is not an act of arbitrary power on the part of God. The rejecters of His mercy reap that which they have sown. God is the fountain of life; and when one chooses the service of sin, he separates from God, and thus cuts himself off from life. He is “alienated from the life of God.” Christ says, “All they that hate Me love death.” Ephesians 4:18; Proverbs 8:36. God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice. By a life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love will destroy them (in the same way that light non-violently destroys darkness: see John 1:3,4).
    At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.
    But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the (self-) extermination of sin will vindicate God’s love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law." (Desire of Ages 763,764)

    Also compare with Galatians 6:8 and James 1:14,15.

    So what about the times in the Old Testament where the Bible states that God punished and destroyed? This is where a mere superficial reading of scripture is insufficient. One of the main problems is that there is a Hebrew idiom at work that has not been sufficiently acknowledged. An idiom means a phrase that has a particular meaning to the people who use it. The particular Hebrew idiom of relevance is known as the idiom of permission. In Hebrew culture of the ancient near East, God was said to 'cause' that which He allowed or permitted to happen. Another main problem is our understanding of the mechanism of 'destruction' where God is involved. As I inserted in the quote above, consider how much God is referred to by way of the metaphor of light - a key metaphor used by John. Then consider what happens to a dark room when the light is turned on. The darkness is 'dissolved', 'disappears' or no longer in existence. But no violence produced this result! Non-violent destruction! There is much more to this topic, but that is for another time...

    For now, I would propose that there is a strong case that God's higher (Isaiah 55:9) manifestation of "wrath" is not His pouring out of punishment that He is typically portrayed as doing. Rather, it is His (reluctant but nevertheless active and definitive) releasing of restraint against lawlessness which thereby unleashes the self-destruction and self-extermination that is inherently caused and produced by the nature of what lawlessness itself is.

    • I would request all who read Romans 1 about God "giving up" (current days) that we read Romans 2 about God executing His wrath (at the end of days).

      Rom 2:5 But according to your hardness and your impenitent heart, do you treasure up wrath for yourself in a day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Rom 2:6 who will render to each according to his works; Rom 2:7 indeed to those who with patience in good work are seeking for glory, and honor, and incorruptibility, everlasting life.
      Rom 2:8 But to those who indeed disobeying the truth out of self-seeking, and obeying unrighteousness, will be anger and wrath, Rom 2:9 tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man who has worked out evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Greek.

      • Bottom line is we each must/will/do 'choose' which foundational 'perceptual filter' we look at scripture through as there are two options.

        Option 1: God operates on the same basis as humans. If someone does something wrong, He will and must punish them otherwise He is not being fair and just. This is the more typical and dominant view within Christianity and the view reflected by English translations of the Bible.

        Ellen White has proposed that it is precisely this view that Satan has leveled against God:

        "In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice." (Desire of Ages p 761.4)

        According to this statement, Satan's view of justice is that if the guilty one is not punished, it isn't fair.

        Option 2: God operates on a very different basis to humans. It someone does something 'wrong', they cut themselves off from that which is vital and necessary for life and the inherent result is "perishing". This is a phenomenon of self-destruction and is a 'natural law' cause and effect mechanism. This does not mean that God is merely being passive in the way we view and understand passive. God's exercise of restraint (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8) and release (Romans 1:24,26,28) are very active processes.

        I used to view the Bible through Option 1. And when I initially heard ideas reflecting Option 2, I restudied the Bible deeply in order to 'disprove' Option 2 as I initially believed that it surely must be wrong. But in the course of that deep restudying, I ended up discovering that Option 2 is infact Truth. But what I had to do in that process was learn to unpack the words and concepts more deeply rather than merely impose my assumptions upon what those words and concepts typically reflect to us as humans (eg as per my brief explanation of the mechanism of "wrath" that I outlined in my original post).

        When I now read Romans 2 (and the rest of Paul, the rest of the New Testament and the rest of the Bible), I see no difference to what Paul outlined and unpacked as his foundational premise in Romans 1.

        Sin itself is way more destructive than we realise - and the nature of that destruction is pure self-destruction. Because of this, the need for God to additionally 'punish' is redundant. And the desire to do so is contrary to God's nature as expressed by Jesus on the cross when He asked God to forgive rather than punish those who had crucified Him.

        Not too long ago I came across the following quote that is consistent with Galatians 6:8 and James 1:14,15:

        "We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death." (Ellen White: 1 Selected Messages p 235.2).

        It is important to note that in this quote, the words "punish" and "punishment" are being used - but the meaning of these words as reflected in this paragraph is natural rather than imposed/arbitrary consequences. Hence, the English term "punishment" applies to two very different phenomena and without carefully distinguishing between which phenomena is being represented, confusion results. This same problem applies to many other key terms.

        What is being outlined in the quote above is a reflection of the Principles of Love and Life. Living in accordance with those principles promotes life. Living out of harmony with those principles precludes life. The natural consequences of this latter reality are the meaning of "punishment" as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned.

        That said, at the end of the day we will each choose which 'perceptual filter' option we view God through. What can help us make a more informed choice is to keep the principle of Isaiah 55:8,9 in mind - which option more closely reflects our human ways and which option more closely reflects "higher" ways? I am in no way trying to direct people as to what choice they 'should' make, I am outlining what I believe to be the evidence so that each person can make their informed choice...

        • Phil, “option 2” has been introduced to our congregation...what a game changer. Our pastor has illustrated in sermon, the difference between living a “principled” life and a “law abiding” life. Also, that God’s laws are not changeable while referencing the laws of creation/science = the law of love. Our SS class is embracing God is Love only, all the time while we examine the scriptures. It has helped us to focus on God’s intent for our congregation because we are coming to a better understanding of God and being changed by our relationship with the Creator.

    • Hello Phil,

      I wonder how many understand the true nature of the plagues, which are clearly stated in scripture as the wrath of God(Rev 15:1; 16:1).

      If we view/interpret these "plagues" as we do most of the Revelation, perhaps we might see something more inline with the "wrath" of God as you share above.

      Perhaps if we look at the first two plagues:

      1. the "wicked" and "evil" "wound"(literally) is simply to illustrate their defilement by sin which now remains forever as the voice of mercy no longer pleads with any who have rejected it. God forces no one and now grants them what they desired; no intervention by God's grace.

      2. The sea is shown to be as the blood of a dead man, and every living soul in the sea died. We need only ask, what is represented by the "sea" in prophecy, and throughout the Psalms, etc? Yes, it has always represented those who oppose God and His people, from which the nations of the earth have formed shown as wild beasts in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. This plague reminds the wicked of Rom 6:23 and John 8:24, and they must now receive what they chose to "earn".

      Do these then fit the true nature of God's wrath? They are represented as terrible plagues because they are final, with no 2nd chance after they have rejected every opportunity given. They are simply prophetic symbols of what the the wicked have brought upon themselves. Whether the plagues are literal or not, the message is clear, they have refused God's grace and are lost forever. At present, I don't see these plagues as being literal, but figurative expressions of the terrible outcome for the impenitent. They are only prophetic announcements that probation has closed.

      I think we see the true nature of God's Sovereignty, His Character, Government, and purposes from the beginning in Eden with the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden without a fence or guard. The free-will choice is left with every soul, as well as the sure consequences.

      So perhaps the quarterly is half right? Depending of course on the understanding and intention of the author/editors.

      Just a thought.

      • Hi Robert.

        It's good to see someone starting with the metaphorical intent first and foremost before subsequent consideration of what may be the literal application.

        I agree with the overall essence of what you have outlined.

        With further regard to 'probation', my view from scripture is that a person closes their own probation when they reach sufficient hardening of their heart. And because they have closed their probation, the flow-on inherent result is that the grace-based 'probationary' period that God has extended to them via restraint of the full natural consequences of sin is no longer effective for them so in essence it lapses. Not because God withdraws it, but because it no longer exists.

        My thoughts...

        • Agreed, in God's freewill government, we set our own probation. Putting off repentance is really a self-deception, thinking we can change our minds once we feel ready to. We will then reach the point of no return without knowing it.

          When Jesus taught forgiving "70 times 7", I believe He was referring directly to the 70 "sevens" of Daniel 9, meaning: forgive until they no longer repent. Doesn't this demonstrate that "probation" closes by one's own choice?

          I also believe that probation for all the living will be brought about by the last great apostasy which will deceive all "whose names are not written in the book of life...", leading each to make a final choice after both sides of the issue are clearly stated. At this point one's faith or unbelief will seal their fate for eternity.

  4. The Holy Spirit as our teacher.

    Well said Bro Phil. Many times I encourages us to study the Bible. Precepts upon precepts. Line upon line. When the Bible says God is love. His very nature is love. Then humans will say then how did he allowed evil to exist? How did he allowed this Corona Virus to infect and kill thousands of people. God people needs to go back to study the word. He already educated, told, show us in Matt 24 what is going to happen. The only thing The Word did not told us is the the exact date or day of Christ return. Everything else is written in the Bible. Study. While we study let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. Let love reign. Love is not love until it is tested.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Phil. So often God is portrayed in our terms and we misunderstand His true character AND the true self-destructive nature of sin. Until the concept illustrated in the Desire Of Ages passage you quote is fully understood and accepted, our witness to our culture will be less than convincing. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Tim.1:7

  6. SSQ: "Daniel 12:1 talks about those who are “found written in the book.” What does that mean?"

    This book would be the book of Life. Jesus tells us that when a sinner believes in Him, they have passed “from death to life”(John 5:24). In Him we find life due to His death for OUR sin, and to believe means to obey His teachings(Matt 7:24) which is to “repent and believe the gospel”, to “go and sin no more”, to “take My yoke upon you and learn of Me...”, and to be “born again”, etc.

    If we don't believe in Jesus we must “die in your sins”(John 8:24). If we have received Jesus, our works will reveal this, as the “new creature” grows by God's grace into the likeness of Christ who “went about doing good”.

    SSQ: "Why is it that the righteousness of Christ alone, credited to us, is our only hope of being found “written in the book”?"

    See answer above. I would also add that “justification” without “sanctification” is only a pretense. If there is no evidence of change, there is no change, and sin still rules. Our names are retained in the book during the “investigation” if we are found wearing the wedding garment. Otherwise, we are only clothed in
    fig-leaves at best, or naked.

  7. There is only one reason that I would be found worthy for citizenship in heaven, Christ redeemed me. It will not be because a council considered what I have done and weighed it in the balance. It is Christ’s life they see imputed to me as if I had Lived it.

    My responsibility is to except the gift and live a life empowered by the Spirit in service to Him in appreciation of His sacrifice.

    • If I might engage you in some discussion Jim.

      The idea of 'imputed' needs unpacking to understand what it actually refers to. Is it just that God doesn't see the reality of our lives because that is somehow covered over, or is it that the reality of our lives is actually changed via a collaborative co-operation of God empowering us and us exercising our responsibility to live a life empowered by the Spirit?

      You mention the notion of the motivation to living a Spirit-empowered life being appreciation of Christ's sacrifice. This is often mentioned as the sole motivation for how we 'should' live. While appreciation certainly has a central place, what about also being motivated by the awareness of the need for actual restoration of our lives (via Spirit-empowered living) if we are to actually once again live the life we were created to live? Unless we live in harmony with the principles of abundant life/Kingdom of God, there can be no abundant life - it is not actually possible.

      Your thoughts?

    • Jim, there are many passages of scripture to consider when making this claim as you have. It is true that without Jesus' blood, no sinner can be saved. Yet, there are conditions set forth in God's word that make clear the fact that while many will say "Lord, Lord", few will be saved(Matt 7:15-23).

      All will be judged by works, not profession. See Eccl 12:13,14, Rev 22:11-15, Matt 12:33-37. Our works, including our words, are what we are judged by to see if our profession of faith is genuine or not. Anyone can claim to be saved, but only few will demonstrate the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Without works of faith, faith is dead(Jas 2:17). As Jesus did good works, so will those who take His yoke upon them(Matt 11:28-30).

    • There are several concepts raised in these posts. My opinion on them:
      The books are mainly to reveal to the universe the true state of our hearts, the LORD already knows.
      Jesus perfect character is imputed and imparted.
      In the judgment His character will cover ours.
      In our daily life until the judgment our character will become like His character.

  8. Isa 55:8,9 is so true, we need to be careful when discussing topics to watch out for the technique of presenting only two options, one is too bad so the other must be true. The LORDs ways are much more complex and I suggest the there may be further choices and even combinations of ideas.

    • I am all for identifying and weighing up as many options as are supported by ‘evidence-informed’ reasoning. Reality is vastly complex with multiple inter-related and reciprocally influential dimensions.

      You are right that God’s full reality exceeds our comprehension. And yet at the same time God does want to help us increasingly understand as much as we can (Jeremiah 9:24).

      Sometimes however there are only two options and one is good and the other is not. This is because there are only 2 Kingdoms and two options under those kingdoms - life and death. Unless I am overlooking a third option?

      • Are you suggesting that if we believe that God punishes the wicked (your option 1) we belong to the wrong kingdom?
        Doesn't God give life and take away life, physical and eternal?

        • Thanks for asking for clarification of what I was saying in my most recent post.

          All I was saying in my comment is that there appear to be situations where there in fact only two options with one option being good and the other not. Presenting an either or scenario in such instances is merely reflecting reality - not merely being arbitrarily black and white.

          With regard to the question of God giving and taking away life, according to Galatians 6:8 and James 1:14,15 life is taken away by people embracing lawlessness, not by God taking it away. The Ellen White 1SM 235.2 quote that I provided earlier also reflects that same understanding. If we live in accordance with the Principles of Love and Life, we are in harmony with that which is necessary for life and we live. If we choose to live in violation of these principles, we fail to retain connection with the very things that are necessary for life and we perish.

          If that doesn't sufficiently address your question, please ask further.

          • On this question of God bringing about what He claims He will do concerning the wicked(Ps 37, Rev 20, Gen 6-8, 11, 18-19, etc), let's say a building has become dangerous and needs to come down for the safety of all. So there is an announcement made to all occupants that on a certain day the building will be demolished, and that all must leave.

            If some refusing to leave the building are destroyed during the demolition, who's fault is it? Who did the demolition? Who chose to be exposed to the demolition?

            In real life, no charges would be set off until thorough inspection proved no one was in danger. In the realm of eternity, there will be no force against any who chose to cling to unbelief and sin. The earth will be cleansed by fire and those found outside of the city will be consumed by it. It doesn't matter the true nature of this "fire", only who originates it, why, and who's choice was exercised to remain in harm's way.

            Does this help with the discussion?

            All the events from scripture referred to above also presented this choice. Anyone could have escaped from Sodom, anyone could have been on the ark.

            Those not seeking the shelter of the ark chose to expose themselves to the cleansing flood, but make no mistake, the flood was brought by God with purpose.

            The Bible teaches that Satan may destroy our temporal life/body, but only One has the power to destroy body and soul, and Satan is not that One.

          • Hi Robert

            To reflect how I have come to understand how God operates, I would restate the analogy that the building has become dangerous because it is collapsing. Therefore, it is not an issue of needing to come down for the safety of all but rather that because it is coming down, for the safety of all, a call is sounded to "come out" of the building because it is collapsing. This is what I believe Revelation 14:8-11 in conjunction with Revelation 18:4 is reflecting.

            And because I believe that lawlessness is what kills and destroys both temporally and eternally, I believe that the Bible teaches that it is Satan who has the 'power' to destroy body and Soul - not God. God's power is Truth - meaning the Truth of how life alone can be viable (The gospel of John portrays this concept repeatedly). And Satan's power is deception which leads people to be out of harmony with Truth and therefore out of harmony with what is absolutely necessary for life (This is reflected in Genesis 3).

            I used to view things the way you have described above - but in light of what I can now see, I can't go back to seeing things that way again. So, we differ on this underlying premise - but that is ok because of the principle expressed in Romans 14:4,5. My job is not to try to convert anyone, but we are each called to provide our reasons (evidence) for the views we hold that are the basis of the hope that we have - and to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

            So, keep presenting your viewpoints and evidence to me and I will keep checking what I see in light of that and will keep providing you with my corresponding viewpoint. Even though we differ in some of our views, we can still mutually benefit each other...


          • Hello Phil,
            Some thoughts/questions that arise in this discussion:

            I'm not sure how to see Satan as the one who can destroy both body and soul. His own soul will be destroyed as he already knows, so how could he have that power to destroy the souls of anyone else? He is a creature and does not possess the power to give or take life. Wouldn't the One who can give life be the only one who can remove it?

            Also, where in scripture is anyone called to fear the devil (though we are told "fear not" and to "resist" him)? Yet everywhere is the call to "fear God", which I believe gives us the proper understanding of Matt 10:28.(a word study on "fear" will reveal a proper understanding of "fear" towards God) If we do "fear God", we will become faithful servants like all who "fear God and give glory to Him".

            The other option perhaps is self. It is my choice to place my soul in peril, and it will be my wicked deeds that will bring the verdict of guilty and thus, the wages of sin. But even then, God alone creates and sustains life for all, whether wicked or righteous. He also is the one that scripture tells us will "cut off/down" the wicked at last. Notice Eze 28:18. Who among men will destroy their own soul at last, who will thus avoid the final judgment? We can only destroy our body, as God will bring the dead to life after the 1000 years, to receive their final reward. Also, if it is man who is able to destroy his soul, then why wouldn't he just choose not to? Though our choices/habits might even lead to our death, none will escape the last judgment. Even the evil angels are being being held for the final judgment by a power they cannot overthrow or avoid.

            In regards to the derelict building, the call to come out of "it" is to avoid the inevitable destruction to fall on "it" by another power. If it was going to self-destruct, why would God intervene? Why the 2nd resurrection of the dead and the following judgment by God? God alone, as I find in scripture, is able to create, preserve, or destroy the soul. The devil is never shown to possess such power.(if it matters, Ellen states this as well)

            Though we have the power of choice, none of the wicked are shown as escaping judgment or the "fire from God"(the exact nature of this fire is irrelevant isn't it? God brings it, whatever it is, and will raise the wicked to face it, while the righteous are shown to dwell in it "with exceeding joy"!)

            Just sharing my current understanding, and want to point out that the call to "come out of her my people" is another clear demonstration of God's love toward sinners and His desire to save all who would be saved. God will find no pleasure in anyone's death.

          • "I'm not sure how to see Satan as the one who can destroy both body and soul. His own soul will be destroyed as he already knows, so how could he have that power to destroy the souls of anyone else? He is a creature and does not possess the power to give or take life. Wouldn't the One who can give life be the only one who can remove it?"

            My response is a bit delayed Robert because life is pretty chaotic at present...

            If life has to be removed by God in order for us to die, then what you have outlined is correct.

            But if that is true, then we cannot cut ourselves off from life (as Ellen White has suggested).

            John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 contain the word "perish". Looking into the Greek word meaning, the word translated perish can mean to be destroyed from an external source or it can mean to be destroyed as an outcome from internal 'corruption unto complete and utter ruination'.

            I find the internal corruption concept more closely matches the descriptions in Galatians 6:8 and James 1:14,15. It also matches how we know reality operates.

            I need oxygen to remain alive. Oxygen surrounds me all the time (under normal circumstances). However I can do things to my body such that I am not able to avail myself of the oxygen that surrounds me with the consequence that I perish/die (eg smoke to the point of developing terminal COPD). Nobody cut the oxygen off from me - I did something that cut myself off from the oxygen.

            Consequently, because God kills no-one, that means that the source and ‘mechanism’ of death is not from God (eg John 1:1,4; James 1:16-18 as ‘the other side of the coin’ to the above-mentioned James 1:14,15). All Satan has to do is get us to disconnect from God (via lies, deceit, temptation) and he has effectively killed us. This is precisely what Satan did to Eve and Adam in Genesis 3. Hence God's caution outlined in Genesis 2:17 regarding natural cause and effect was realised. Paul describes this phenomenon in Romans 8:2 as the law (cause and effect principle) of sin and death. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). And lawlessness is incapable of sustaining life, lawlessness fosters death. Cause and effect.

          • Yes, everyone's daily life has changed drastically lately!
            No problem Phil.

            Perhaps we need to think about the life which God creates. It is my belief that God creates an eternal life when His breath animates the elements He uses to form His creatures. Don't we have this understanding when God chooses to ban man from the Tree of Life so that they would not live forever(Gen 3:22-24)? This means that He must somehow intercede and keep sinners from living forever in some way. Yes, a smoker will usually die prematurely, as will anyone who abuses their body in any way that would rob them of the natural vitality we were created with. Still, it seems God will not let this play out on its own as it would take perhaps thousands of years for the fallen angels to die, if that is possible. Rather, God will bring judgment on the day appointed and use means His Word describes in clear terms.

            Notice that Sodom and Gomorrah no longer exist and their previous location is uncertain due to the complete destruction that took place when God visited His judgments upon the unrepentant population. Do buildings acquire guilt, and therefore punishment? Consider that there are ruins of pagan civilizations that have lasted for thousands of years when God does not actively intervene and remove them by a Divine action.

            The flood, and the clear evidences of it also tell us something don't they? How would this have happened on its own? Why does it not happen again with the wickedness that prevails until now, except that God promised He would not destroy the world by water again?

            If I must believe something, it will be the very words inspired by God and written by faithful servants. Otherwise, how far must we go to redefine what we might think God's word is saying? I just don't find support in this Word to question what is plainly stated. At least not yet, and I've been at this a while.

          • Thanks Robert.

            We fundamentally differ on how we understand life to operate (our presuppositions) and therefore we accordingly interpret the same scripture differently. And we may well stay that way until the end but what we differ on is unlikely to see either of us ‘barred’ from heaven. So I’ll enjoy having chats with you face-to-face in a better world one day. In the meanwhile, we will keep exchanging ideas. I do value understanding in detail how and why you see things the way you do being that it is different to how I do.

            Till next exchange...

  9. Now...

    Upon searching of hearts lies the essence of this doctrine.

    Though puzzled by the lesson from the parable of workers in the field paid the same amount when work ended, it is arguable that there shall be "rewards" on account of merits. (I doubt this).

    The essence of Investigative Judgment is not to condemn, as opposers of the doctrine may insinuate. It is there to vindicate love. To chronicle every tendency, both cultivated and natural, to record every habit, unimproved duty, etc., is not for God to used in accusing humanity, but that humanity will evidentially be showed how intricate salvation process has been.

    Jesus had just to stoop low and draw the prostitute's sin on the dust, a kind of panoramic field to vindicate the innocence of love and faultiness of sin. Similarly, the role of the process is not because God is not all-knowing, but that being all-knowing, He needs to settle the misgivings and doubts of men by coming up with panorama. This panorama will be embodied in the "sea of glass" and shall convict humanity of the extent of Love upon man

  10. Maurice's opening comment triggered some thoughts on the COVID-19 plague.

    What I appreciate most about physical reality is that it overrules political and ideological fantasies. It does not matter what you or I believe or say. Physical reality trumps fake news, fake ideologies, misinformation and disinformation regardless of who is their author, be they president, king or cleric.

    COVID-19 is a physical reality. It has a physical message for all of us that brings into sharp focus exactly what we are. Are we trusting in our purchases of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, food stockpiles, etc to protect and save ourselves? What will be the cost of our focused self-interest in the lives of others? These are the questions that the physical reality of COVID-19 brings to each one of us. The physical reality reveals the spiritual reality of which all of us are a part.

    What is the Spirit of Christ revealing to you and me personally during this time? Is God calling us to build stashes of toilet paper or is he calling us to work for the good of our family, friends, neighbours and even our enemies? In this crisis, the Lord is revealing each of our characters for all to see. He is revealing my character to me. One might say that this situation is a personal revelation of Jesus Christ to each one of us.

    Just some thoughts.

  11. I note that this whole long discussion regarding the wrath of God began when someone quoted the following statement from the lesson.

    "Then the seven last plagues, as expressions of God’s wrath upon the nations, will be poured upon the end-time Babylon (Rev. 16:1-21; Rev. 18:20-24) and the powers of darkness will be unleashed upon the world."

    That person then went on to state that the above quote is internally inconsistent. This is false. According to the quote, two separate things will happen. The seven last plagues, according to the book of Revelation, are the bowl judgments, in which an angel is represented as pouring out the judgments of God's wrath. That is, the plagues are not merely permitted to come upon the earth. God actively sends them. The second statement is that the powers of darkness will be unleashed upon the world. This is a consequence of God's removing the restraining power of His Spirit from the finally impenitent, leaving them to be fully controlled by Satan. This is what brings about the time of trouble such as never was, not the plagues.

    Just as in Job's day, God doesn't need people to promote falsehoods in His defense. When Ellen White states that those who are destroyed will have destroyed themselves, she means that their own choices will have made their eternal destiny inevitable. She certainly does NOT mean that God will be passive in how their destruction ultimately plays out.

    Character -- including the character of God -- has nothing do to with being active versus being passive in bringing about one's necessary purposes. It has to do with just what is being done or permitted, and how manifestly just and merciful are those decisions. It is important for us to understand that God takes no pleasure in anyone's discomfiture, that His only desire is our salvation and felicity. It is also important for us to understand that justice is as much a part of God's love as is mercy. Our concepts of right and wrong are supposed to be uplifted and ennobled until we can think God's thoughts after Him. We are not supposed to try to bring Him down to our own low conceptions of ethical goodness.

    • Hi RG

      What is being illustrated here is the pivotal role that presuppositions play in scriptural interpretation. Four fundamental presupposition differences of relevance to the current discussion appear to be:

      1. That lifeforce is given by God at the beginning and that that life is automatically eternal unless God removes it

      2. God as a source of destruction in addition to Satan/the Kingdom of darkness.

      3. That God releasing heretofore exercised restraint is merely a passive process.

      4. That God’s justice is fundamentally no different to our justice - it is based on having to punish the offender otherwise it isn’t fair.

      If I have misrepresented any of these presuppositions, please clarify/correct me.

      We each need to know what our foundational presuppositions are and our evidence for those. Then we can each and all present these for others to consider and constructively critique. In case anyone might think this is merely an intellectual exercise with no practical relevance, I can assure you it is not. What is being discussed here shapes how I live, how I treat others that I interact with each day and what I share with others who are finding their lives falling apart. That is why I put in the time and effort to discuss ideas in this forum.

      (RG, if you knew me, you would know that the very last thing I would want to do is promote falsehoods in God's defense or that I would want to bring God down to a low conception of ethical goodness. I would sooner surrender eternal life than do that.)

      • Item #1 is about passive vs. active, so I consider it a moot question.

        Item #2 is not a presupposition. It is a clear Bible teaching, easily recognised by those who read the Bible.

        Item #3 is also about passive vs. active, making it as irrelevant as item #1 in my book.

        Item #4 is essentially axiomatic, with respect to our deepest sense of justice. Otherwise the word itself, attributed to God by the inspired writers, would have no meaning. Every culpable injury creates a debt that must be repaid. If it were not so, Jesus need not have died for our sins on the cross. Of course we know that God has nothing to do with the petty vindictiveness and self-righteousness that are inherent to sinful human nature, and that tend to make human beings an unsafe and unreliable source of justice. God really will see that every wrong is made right in the end. Otherwise, not every source of discontent could be eliminated, and the universe could not be placed on a basis of eternal security.

        "Low" was not the right word for me to have used. I was referring to our own narrow conceptions of what God ought to be. We need to adopt His standards, not judge Him by ours.

        • Thank you for your response.

          In regard to 'justice', I agree with your wording that "God really will see that every wrong is made right in the end".

          However I would propose that the understanding of how God makes things right is not as axiomatic as you state. How does punishment actually make something right again? How does it actually restore that which has been lost to the one who has experienced the loss?

          The notion of "every culpable injury creates a debt that must be paid" is the foundation of our retributive justice ideas and systems - a human paradigm. I would propose that the Bible outlines God's 'higher' paradigm of restorative justice. When Jesus was on the cross after having just sustained culpable injury, which form of justice did you see being enacted in Luke 23:34?

          I absolutely agree with you that Christianity's typical conceptions of God are far narrower than what ought to be. This is precisely why I write and explain/unpack the things I write in this forum.

          • I appreciate your good intentions, Phil, but it matters what we say about God. This fixation over passive versus active wrath just doesn't make any sense.

            "You know what happened? Well, God didn't actually do it. He just stood by and watched it happen, doing nothing to prevent it. So He's not really responsible."

            Seriously? Who really thinks that God needs or wants that kind of defense? He is perfectly capable of vindicating His own character, and justifying every action (or inaction) that He has ever taken.

            In making right every wrong, of course God can and will more than make things up to those who have wrongfully suffered loss. Restorative justice will undoubtedly be a part of the picture, but so will retributive justice. The inspired writers have made this abundantly clear. I suspect that you may have had a bad experience, in the past, with retributive justice as carried out by faulty human beings. Well, God is certainly not like that.

            That said, truth is not best pursued by seeing how far we can get away from error. The track of truth and the track of error lie close together. It appears to me that you are altogether opposed to the concept of retributive justice. In this, I'm afraid that you are mistaken.

            When the public becomes aware that a mass rapist and murderer has taken his own life, or has been humanely executed, there is often a general sense that justice has not been satisfied.

            "He should have been made to pay for what he did!"

            Of course this public sentiment is mistaken. It is the role of civil government to deter and punish crime, but ultimate justice is not within their purview. Self-righteous individuals may be all too ready to inflict the severest punishments on others who may not even be as guilty as they themselves are, in God's eyes.

            Then again, this public sentiment is only partly mistaken. If the evildoer were left in the grave, and never resurrected to face God's judgment and to fully pay for his deeds, in the retributive sense, then I believe there would be just cause for dissatisfaction. In any case, the word of God clearly indicates that, in the end, retributive justice will have been fully satisfied. For those whose sins are forgiven, Jesus' suffering on the cross will have paid the debt. This concept is foundational to the gospel.

            Luke 23:34 reveals the heart of God. He would far rather find a way to show mercy, at any cost to Himself. Nevertheless, for the finally impenitent, "He will by no means clear the guilty."

          • Thanks again RG

            I fully agree that it matters what we say about God.

            To clarify with regard to passive vs active "fixation", views I have presented regarding how God operates have led others to suggest that I am advocating a passive God. That is where the passive/active notion entered the conversation. It is not a concept I raised or advocated - it is only a concept raised by others that I am responding to. So I am unsure as to what you mean by it being a fixation.

            Just wondering where the quote "You know what happened? Well, God didn't actually do it. He just stood by and watched it happen, doing nothing to prevent it. So He's not really responsible" is from?



  12. R.G., thank you for clearing up our understanding of whether God is active or passive in respect of what happens to those who neglect or reject God's love.
    Points that you made that stand out for me are:
    God actively sends the seven last plagues
    E White does not mean God is passive in how their final destruction happens
    It is important to understand that justice is as much part of God's love as is mercy
    I recommend those also struck by these excerpts to re-read your post.

    • I think it is a profitable exercise to study the plagues closely as they are given in a book of obvious symbols. Clearly, they come from God, but what are they and what do they accomplish? Are they literal or figurative? If either figurative or literal, what do they mean to the lost? I would suggest comparing the plagues to the overthrow of Jericho and how it was accomplished. We also need a right conception of God's character, government, and purposes, as they are revealed in His Word, and in the life/death/resurrection of Jesus.

      I have my current understanding, but it remains open to further enlightenment as I continue to seek Divine guidance. Lastly, could there be elements of truth from both sides of the current discussion?


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