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Sunday: The Meaning of the Seven Last Plagues — 47 Comments

  1. The passage about the seven last plagues is always disturbing reading for me because it does not say what I want it to say.

    I would like it to say that the plagues come from Satan but it says that they come from angels who come from the heavenly temple. I would like it to say that the plagues were redemptive, but they appear to be punitive. Whichever way we look at it we seem to be stuck on the two horns of a dilemma.

    And I don't have some startling answer from an epiphany moment of revelation. I have read the lesson study guide and Ranko Stefanovic's commentary and still have those, "Yes, but ..." questions because the answers are not neat and tidy.

    Hopefully, having questions is not a loss of faith but rather evidence of active faith. I am reminded of the rock-climbers maxim. "Keep hold of two firm anchor-points as you search for the third."

    The Bereans had the right attitude:

    And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11

    • Maurice, The Father's justice and wrath do not squash His unconditional love for humans. Just as justice and mercy kissed at the cross, so God's dealing with sinners who don't want anything to do with Him is an important aspect of His character. We must believe however, that God's dealings with unrepentant humans He formed in His own image, tore His only begotten Son from His heart for, hurts during this time worst than any other being can hurt! It is indeed 'a strange act'.
      Parents will tell their children 'this hurts me more than it hurts you', but this doesn't come close to what the Father is already experiencing because of His foreknowledge!
      If this universe is to be secure again, The Father must do what only He can do to bring it about, and ensure we don't have to experience this again. I wish I could help Him bear the pain, but I can't!

    • Thanks Maurice for opening up honest questioning and dialogue - where ideas can be discussed and exchanged. And where doing so is not, like you said, evidence of loss of faith but an of an active and growing faith.

      In response to a couple of points you raise, I propose the following for consideration and feedback.

      I would like it to say that the plagues come from Satan but it says that they come from angels who come from the heavenly temple.

      There is an explanation that accommodates both aspects. A bowl is a container which is named such because it contains. Rev 7:1 speaks of the concept of containment by angels until the sealing of God’s people has occurred. This implies that after the sealing, this containment will be released - which is synonymous with pouring out the contents of a bowl leading the contents to no longer be contained but instead released. Now, there are 2 schools of thought regarding the source of these contents - God’s punishment or the inherent cascade of outcomes from sin’s nature and character of lawlessness (steal, kill, destroy).

      I would like it to say that the plagues were redemptive, but they appear to be punitive. Whichever way we look at it we seem to be stuck on the two horns of a dilemma.

      There is a third alternative. The plagues can simply be consequential to sin/lawlessness (ie the outcomes of the breakdown of things under a sin-infected reality in the same way that diseases such as cancer etc are a consequential outcome under cellular functioning - for whatever causative reason - deviates from functional harmony with the laws of health). Thus, the plagues are not confined to having to be either redemptive (due to their timing as hearts are already set) or punitive (for if God’s ‘justice’ is punitive, it is no higher than our existing human sense of retributive ‘justice’).

      Consequently, the desires you mention for a less disturbing reading may well be appropriate desires that are capable of fulfilment...

      Just my propositions based on my studying and considering these very issues...being offered for checking out, Berean style...

      • Maybe we are locked horns because some don’t want to believe God is capable of destroying(the judgement type). The other type of destroy: God is not involved in, which involves salvation. God wishes that all would be saved. We destroy ourselves, God does not need to destroy us when we chose to follow after the image of the beast. I do not believe the plagues are redemptive, yes I would like to too. I am on ground with the author and editors. “They are poured out upon those, who like Pharaoh, hardened there hearts against God’s redeeming love and would not repent.” Revelation 16:11.

    • Talking about Jesus Christ, Rev 19:15 says "Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He HIMSELF (emphasis mine) will rule them with a rod of iron. He HIMSELF (emphasis mine) treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

    • Similar concerns here. If it's all decided, why make punishment more severe than necessary?

      I believe the hour of God's judgement is a 2 way thing. Yes, God judges us. But the universe is also judging whether God is trustworthy. How does God deal with sin without inciting fear and future rebellion?

      I also took a closer look at Exodus 40 and 1 Kings 8. In both cases, God's glory fills the temple (not just the Most Holy) after the temple is completed and the ark is placed therein. How do we get from that to closed probation? (I don't know.)

      "...the goodness of God leads you to repentance." Rom 2:4b If goodness doesn't do it perhaps crisis will. So could it be that people still have a chance when the 7 plagues fall? That God has not arbitrarily said, "Too late, now you're gonna get it."
      If the plagues harden their hearts then what more could He do to get their attention?

    • May I ask- What definition of justice do we attribute to God? Does our God who IS love, require of us to defend and protect the downtrodden, or to make sure the “sinner” is punitively punished?...or both?
      Is God invested in making salvation available to all, or causing those who reject His salvation to suffer “weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth”?
      And, when the “winds of strife” are released, does God tell us what will take place because He knows what will take place, or because He planned and executed the plagues? Did God create these winds?
      Will the wicked be “sinners in the hands of an angry God”? Or sinners in the hands of a loving God?
      Is God’s law natural or imposed? Does sin destroy it’s self, or will those that choose self need to experience retributive punishment on the way to destruction?
      Which of these views of God draw us to God, or cause us to be afraid of Him?
      Is God love?
      This is the controversy of God’s character that we face and are actively discussing in our local church.

      • I mentioned elsewhere that in an attempt to understand judgment and justice I am reading CS Lewis’s book, “Reflections on the Psalms”. Lewis makes the observation that in modern thinking we think of judgment in terms of a criminal court where punishment is metered out to the wicked. The Jew, on the other hand, thinks of a civil court where justice means that wrongs are righted. The issue for a civil court is not that you will get a fair hearing, but that you will get a hearing at all. He notes that it is very difficult for the “small man” to be heard in a civil court. They know that they have a good case but because they do not have the money to afford to have their case heard, civil justice will not be done.
        There is still a lot more to be read and I am having difficulty because I am getting a lot of interruptions but I thought that Lewis’s observation gives a new perspective on the justice of God.

      • Gary, just to address this part of your comment:

        Does our God who IS love, require of us to defend and protect the downtrodden, or to make sure the “sinner” is punitively punished?...or both?

        In our society, it is the job of the government to deal with lawbreakers, aka sinners, not ours.

        If we still lived in a theocracy, and if defending and protecting the downtrodden requires dealing with the murderer and child molester, what would you expect God's instructions to be?

        An examination of the civil/criminal laws given at Mt Sinai might be instructive. These are practical applications of God's eternal law of love. Some would prefer these laws to be different because of their concept of love. However, rather than adapting the Bible to our concept of love, perhaps we should modify our concept of divine love?

        Some observations: There were no prisons in Israel.

        There were cities of refuge which sheltered the suspected/accused murderer until a fair trial could be granted. If the person was found innocent of murder (but had caused death inadvertently), he could live free within the boundaries of the city of refuge but would be subject to death if he presumed to leave the city.

        The laws for less serious crimes were mainly centered around restitution.

        I believe it is still instructive to study those laws to see how God applies His own Law down here where we live in specific situations. (Our situations may differ from those of the Israelites, but principles remain the same.) Some things might surprise you.

      • Thank you for the points you raised Gary. I believe you hilight many key considerations. And I particularly appreciate your hilighting of the Controversy of God’s character as the overarching context and focal point to the issue/s.

        And I resonate with what you are raising, Maurice, with regard to consideration of the Jewish conception of ‘court’.

        It is true that the Bible uses judicial language in relation to God and His redemptive/restorative/salvific activity. But it also heavily utilises the language of healing - something that has not received nearly as much focus within Christianity. What appears may have been overlooked is that these are metaphors. And in overlooking that, the metaphor is all too easily interpreted as the literal reality.

        IF such concepts are in fact metaphors, what were the aspects the writer using the metaphor/s was trying to convey to the recipients of their writing? With specific regard to the judicial metaphors, I would propose that consideration of the prevailing ‘judicial processes’ of the Old and New Testaments is vital.

        Now, at this juncture there is also need to dovetail in the consideration of the key concepts themselves. For example, is God’s justice precisely the same as or differing from our concept of justice - for it is our prior experiences with human justice that have shaped our background conception of justice. [Concept formation occurs subconsciously from birth and is an ‘experience-contingent procession’, meaning our conceptualisations/schemas are typically unconsciously shaped by the experiences we are exposed to. Consequently, the majority (or more) of the conceptualisations we hold have been substantially (if not totally) formed well before we become consciously aware of them. It is more rare than common for people to step back and consciously examine these conceptualisations - rather they typically become intrinsically accepted ‘fact’.]

        Therefore, there is need to consciously and intentionally consider what kind of justice was being practiced and the dynamics of how it was being practiced during Old and New Testament times. Then, it is necessary to similarly consider whether the bible writer was using their metaphorical description to say this is how God’s justice and process or achieving justice is the same, or this is how it is different. Consequently, I would propose that the issues you raise in your comment, Maurice, are of direct relevance to such a consideration.

        I present the above framework for consideration and feedback.

  2. This interpretation of these plagues as God’s wrath sound like Satan’s accusation of God. Aren’t these Satan’s plagues?

    • Jack, I don't see that as an "interpretation" so much as a translation. See Rev 15:6-8 and Rev 16:1. How do these read in your Bible?

      Like Maurice suggests, this is something to wrestle with.

      It also seems to me that we've usually taken the first five a literal plagues while we interpret the sixth and seventh as symbolic. I wonder if maybe we should be more consistent?

    • I hope you've been staying with us, Jack, and following the conversation. I see merit in Phil's suggestion that

      "There is a third alternative. The plagues can simply be consequential to sin/lawlessness (ie the outcomes of the breakdown of things under a sin-infected reality in the same way that diseases such as cancer etc are a consequential outcome under cellular functioning - for whatever causative reason - deviates from functional harmony with the laws of health)

      The image of the contents of the bowls (previously contained) being "poured out" corroborates the concept of Rev 7:1 of the angels "holding the four winds" to prevent them from causing chaos on the earth. The winds being released would be parallel to the bowls being poured out. Thus rebellious humanity will experience the results of personal choices, without God's restraining Spirit to intervene. (Thus, in effect, the "plagues" are certainly the work of Satan.)

      Does that make any sense to you?

  3. Maurice, I have been and I am still struggling with this same thought. Is it really God doing it and what does He want to achieve? It doesn't reflect the character of the God that I know.

    • Not to be dismissive of the struggle, nor argumentative, but here are my thoughts as I think of this "Is it God or is it the Devil?" musings. Did God produce The Flood? Did God open and close the Red Sea? Did God inflict the plagues on Egypt? Or is Satan the puppet of God that God has do His dirty work?

      When we start to question whether God is or is not doing it, I think we muddy the waters of our limited comprehension of God more readily, than if we let the texts speak and we seek to square a holy God of love response to the sin problem. Indeed, Satan does bad stuff. Sin fallen men in their warped selves commit all sorts of atrocities all on their own. The Bible shares that God takes drastic actions as well. Sorting it out isn't easy.

      The plagues are admittedly difficult if we have this notion that a loving God doesn't cause pain nor render judgments. A passive God doesn't fit the plagues and in that passiveness is simply allowing the devil to work his work, but these plagues are directed at the devil and his work. Is Satan divided?

      There has to be a purpose in view of an all knowing, all powerful, all loving God. If, as it appears, it is God's actions, then I will have to struggle with that and I have to do so in light of all the revelation of Scripture.

  4. I trust the Bible when it says that the Lord is righteous and His judgements are righteous in Rev 16:5-7, if these bowls of God's wrath don't tie up with my understanding of His Character then maybe I need to go back to the beginning of the Bible and see what it reveals. I have discovered that there are different aspects of how the LORD treats us as individuals and what He needs to do to ensure harmony and justice in the Universe.

    • It is true that we need to go back and study the related parts of the Bible. At the same time I don't think we should expect to see neat definitive answers to some of these questions. Part of the problem is that they refer to future events and we try and interpret prophecy in terms of the past. With our limited vision that is always risky.

      In the meantime, I know that I can live with unanswered questions, assured that God loves those who put their trust in him, even it we dont have 20-20 spiritual vision.

      • True but as Inge says the Bible tells us God says vengeance is Mine I will repay Rom 12:19, Ps 79:10. What I am saying is the Bible repeatedly shows God destroying the wicked and even punishing His people when they refuse to listen to Him, see Lev 26, so why do some (not you) say this can't be God doing this.
        I agree as the bowls are future we don't know exactly the details but that they are the consequences of their actions and as you said are from God and are not contrary to His previous actions is clear.

        • Shirley, you are correct when you cite the verse regarding vengeance is mine...

          This is how the verse has been interpreted and translated. The Greek root word that has been translated vengeance is ekdikeo which Strongs concordance notes can mean vindication or retributive punishment.

          We could perhaps conclude that God’s exercise of retributive punishment would vindicate Him as a God of justice. But then I would propose that we are at odds with Isa 55:8,9 because the notion of retributive justice is already our sense/way of justice. Thus, if God’s vindication is retributive, it is not any “higher” than our way.

          Further, if Ellen White is correct in her commentary in Desire of Ages pg 761.4, it is Satan who has alleged that if God doesn’t punish sin, then He cannot be a God of truth and justice. This is no small point if she is correct as it implies that the desire that “someone has to pay or it’s not fair” is actually a desire that is consistent with the Kingdom of Darkness and is inconsistent with the self-renouncing nature of the Kingdom of God.

          Jesus claims that He came to earth and revealed God’s nature and character fully (Jn 17:4-6, 26). If this is true, where was His display of God’s retributive justice? Consider Peter’s display of retributive justice to the High Priests servant’s ear in defence of the unjust arrest and treatment of Jesus - and of Jesus response to that display of what we would consider to be ‘justifiable’ retributive justice?

          I would propose that God is essentially asking us to leave our desire for retributive vengeance (which is not healthy for us) with God and He will take care of the matter in His “higher” ways rather than our desired way.

          All this is to illustrate that I am not just out to make fanciful speculation but rather that I am carefully investigating and considering converging and diverging evidence - and presenting what I find for what its worth for people or not.

          Sharp, clear perceptions of truth will never be the reward of indolence. Investigation of every point that has been received as truth will richly repay the searcher; he will find precious gems. And in closely investigating every jot and tittle which we think is established truth, in comparing scripture with scripture, we may discover errors in our interpretation of Scripture. Christ would have the searcher of his word sink the shaft deeper into the mines of truth. If the search is properly conducted, jewels of inestimable value will be found. The word of God is the mine of the unsearchable riches of Christ. {RH July 12, 1898, par. 15}

          • Phil, you wrote,

            The Greek root word that has been translated vengeance is ekdikeo which Strongs concordance notes can mean vindication or retributive punishment.

            And that seems to be not all that much different from the English translation of "vengeance." If we look at the full verse, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord," (Rom 12:19) who do you see as being avenged or vindicated? It seems to me that the "vindication" would apply first and foremost to the person who has been wronged. And God says, "Never mind, let me take care of it. It's my job, not yours."

            I'm rather disappointed that you use Isa 55:8,9 to suggest that God's sense of justice cannot be anything like ours because "His ways are higher than our ways." If that were a legitimate use of the text, we could perhaps say that God's concept love, kindness, joy, stealing, killing, coveting, etc. is also very different from ours, and if we cannot trust the language in which God communicates, how can we know anything about God? (We have to trust language even to know something of Christ.)

            While it is surely true that God loves more unselfishly and deeply and experiences all emotions more deeply than we do, I see nothing in the verse you quote to suggest that God's view of justice is fundamentally different from ours.

            Now let me reference that sentence in Desire of Ages in context (This will be a bit long.):

            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. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God’s favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner.

            But even as a sinner, man was in a different position from that of Satan. Lucifer in heaven had sinned in the light of God’s glory. To him as to no other created being was given a revelation of God’s love. Understanding the character of God, knowing His goodness, Satan chose to follow his own selfish, independent will. This choice was final. There was no more that God could do to save him. But man was deceived; his mind was darkened by Satan’s sophistry. The height and depth of the love of God he did not know. For him there was hope in a knowledge of God’s love. By beholding His character he might be drawn back to God.

            Through Jesus, God’s mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man’s redemption. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19.

            The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:26 (Desire of Ages, pp. 761 - 762.)

            Readers can judge for themselves in the fuller context I provided, but it seems to me that the error of Satan's charge was underestimating the depths of God's love and how far He would go to save humanity. It seems to me that Satan was perfectly correct in concluding that "The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give." Thus God "could not forgive." But God Himself provided the required sacrifice, "But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."

            Although, I like to base our discussion on the Bible, I don't mind referencing Ellen White now and then. But I'm disappointed that in referencing what she wrote, you used a sentence in a way that appears to be completely out of its context.

            In this we are in agreement:

            I would propose that God is essentially asking us to leave our desire for retributive vengeance (which is not healthy for us) with God and He will take care of the matter in His “higher” ways rather than our desired way.

            I don't think that it gives us grounds to conclude that God didn't mean it when He said "I will repay." Quite the contrary, as I see it.

          • Although, I like to base our discussion on the Bible, I don't mind referencing Ellen White now and then. But I'm disappointed that in referencing what she wrote, you used a sentence in a way that appears to be completely out of its context.

            Hi Inge

            I am in absolute agreement with you that a statement should not be used in a way that is completely out of context. I have read this passage many times over the past year or more and have looked at it very closely to double and tripple check that I am not reading something into it that isn't there. From my perspective, I believed I was doing the opposite of what you perceived me to be doing. Hence, I will elaborate.

            To me, the wider context to the statement I quoted (for the sake of brevity) is the laying out of Satan's perspective on what would be required if the law of God were to be broken. Satan asserted that the sinner could not be pardoned without application of punishment because (from Satan's perspective) in order for God to be a God of truth and justice, every sin had to be punished- there was no way around this.

            The following paragraphs, culminating in the one you bolded, then provide the true perspective that counters Satan's false perspective. And this true perspective is that God's truth and justice are in fact preserved because forgiveness and remission is restored on a completely different basis to the one Satan asserted was the case. Satan claims the basis has to be punishment - God counter claims that the basis is in fact redemption and restoration. Notably, there is absolutely no mention at all of a need for punishment under God's perspective.

            From my perspective, I was being true to context and was in no way trying to misrepresent the statement I reproduced.

            At the end of the day, as you correctly state, readers will need to judge for themselves and I am more than willing to be held accountable for what I write. So I thank you for holding me accountable...

          • Thank you Inge, that clarifies it for me.

            These quotes help me understand that God can “be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. God can be love and the judge.

            Through Jesus, God’s mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man’s redemption. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19.

            Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:26 Romans 3:26 (Desire of Ages, pp. 761 - 762.)

          • Thank you for sharing your perspective, Phil. I think our dialogue provides a good example of confirmation bias. Because we have different backgrounds and different ways of thinking, we read the same passage differently, according to our bias. You have demonstrated that, for you, your quotation is in perfect harmony with the context. Thank you. And I want to apologize for directly saying that you took a sentence out of context. Please forgive me.

            First of all, I pretty much agree with all you say in your reply. I just disagree with your apparent conclusion previously that there is no sense in which sinners "pay" for their sins. Your conclusion seems to be putting a little too much weight on one sentence. (Now, if you had worded this more like a suggestion, it might have been more acceptable. 🙂 )

            Please permit me to share my "bias" which prevents me from coming to the same conclusion:

            1) Not everything Satan says is inherently wrong. He is perfectly correct when he implies that sinners do not deserve to be saved. We don't "deserve" to be saved. We are saved only through the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary - something Satan could not imagine.

            2) Satan assumed that man's position relative to God's law of self-renouncing love was the same as his. In this he was wrong. Ellen White goes on to explain that the position of the newly created (and deceived) pair was different from Satan's.

            3) Then she goes on to explain the multi-faceted remedy God provided:
            a) Christ would demonstrate the height and depth of God's love, and thus humanity might be drawn back to God.
            b) God could not set aside justice which demanded the life of the sinner. Rather, He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man's redemption. Christ offered his righteous life, His perfect character to "meet the claims of God's holy law." (A substitute.) "These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."

            I see a clear reference to a legal aspect of the atonement as well as a substitutionary atonement - something clearly taught in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. From a forensic perspective, Adam and Eve brought the sentence of death on themselves. From a practical (reality) perspective, they would have died just by being separated from their Source of life.

            I will just point out two example of substitutionary atonement:
            1) When the angel of death was about the pass through Egypt to kill all the first-born, God provided a provision by which the first-born of believers might live. They were to sacrifice a lamb and paint the door posts with its blood. The lamb died that the first-born might live.
            2) When Abraham was asked to offer his firstborn, God provided a substitute, thus teaching one aspect of the atonement. The concept of substitution was taught throughout the sanctuary system.

            Peter refers to the substitutionary nature of Christ's death when he wrote, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." (1 Peter 3:18) And Paul wrote, "He [God] made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

            I mentioned that God's remedy is multi-faceted. I believe it includes a height and breadth that we will plumb for eternity. So we can't hope to understand it all now. Nevertheless, the substitutionary aspect is clearly taught in Scripture, and it is not helpful to argue against it in favor of another aspect. Rather, we can demonstrate that healing love motivates all God does in and for us. The forensic (i.e. legal) aspect of the atonement is closely tied to the substitutionary aspect, as in 1 Peter 3:18. "Just" and "unjust" is forensic language. So is Paul's language when he writes that "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor 5:10) "Judgment" is forensic language, and it is woven throughout Scripture. So is "justification."

            But this isn't a time to write a book. 😉 I believe we make a mistake when we limit the Atonement to a forensic substitution, ransom, moral influence, deliverance from slavery (kinsman-Redeemer), treasure worth all one possesses, adoption into the family of God, Christ as Victor where Adam failed (recapitulation), reconciliation, being made joint heirs with Christ, healing love, or any other single aspect. The full Atonement includes all these aspects and more, which we'll be studying for eternity.
            PS I believe that in Isa 55:8,9, set in the middle of one of the most joyful chapters in Scripture, God is saying that His mercy and love is much greater than we can possibly imagine. He is not saying anything specific about justice - ours or His. From this you might infer what you wrote previously, but to use that as a key part of your argument is going a step too far, in my view.

          • Thanks Inge for your elaboration of your perspective too. I am mindful of the time it would have taken to write that. It's a catch 22: there is need for expanded dialogue but such is very time consuming!

            Hopefully you and I are not the only ones benefiting from 'laying our cards on the table' for others to compare and contrast perspectives with their own study of scripture - like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11).

            And I like how Acts 17:3 outlines that Paul reasoned with the Thesselonians from the scriptures - showing how he was joining the dots from scripture to the views he was presenting.

            I appreciate you elaborating on your understanding of Isa 55:8,9. Thank you. By contrast, my line of reasoning for linking my remarks regarding God's justice to this passage is as follows (potentially way too brief and therefore still at risk of misunderstanding).

            Isa 55 starts out with God's appeal to everyone to consider where their life is headed so that they may choose the path being outlined by God that leads to their soul being preserved (Isa 55:3). Further on there is a parallelism of expression in verse 7 that is repeated in 8,9: the wicked mans ways and the unrighteous mans thoughts with Gods ways and thoughts. In the centre of this parallelism is the mention of how God will respond to a wicked/unrighteous man who repent - with compassion and abundant pardon. What I see taking place here is the expression of the 'righteousness and justice' that is repeatedly expressed throughout Isaiah as synonymous concepts. Although it may be argued that this is only referring to the repentant, the way I view how things operate is that there is one 'mechanism' that is in operation but that how that mechanism is played out for a person depends upon 'which side of the fence' they are on. An illustrative example that is more brief to explain what I mean would be the concept of laws/boundaries. God has outlined that the greatest genuine freedom lies within those laws/boundaries. Satan made the counter claim that the greater freedom lies outside the boundaries. Same boundaries, different outcomes depending on which side of the boundaries a person lives. Hence, to me I was being true to the context as I see it...

            You mentioned the concept of confirmation bias - the tendency to disproportionately weight the evidence 'for' in favour of the evidence 'against' the position one holds. I am not so sure either you or I are coming from a confirmation bias platform. Rather, we each have points of view that we believe to be the outcome of careful consideration of all the evidence and we genuinely believe these positions, though different to each other, to be the more valid. At the end of the day we each make a judgment call on consideration of all the evidence as we see it at that point - which is why I would suggest Paul's statement that we each need to be fully persuaded in our own mind (Rom 14:5) was the response to a situation where differing points of view were in existence.

            Final point (before I too end up writing a book) regarding my "apparent conclusion previously that there is no sense in which sinners "pay" for their sins", this would be a misperception. Sinners pay for their sins all the time (it destroys their character) and they will particularly 'pay' to a level of intensity at the end of time such that they will call for rocks to fall on them and they will weep and gnash their teeth (massive understatement of the inescapable internal torment they will actually experience). It is that I differ on what I believe the source of that 'payment' to be - sin as the source not God delivering imposed punishment. That is just my perspective that I believe there is a solid evidence-base for - just as others believe a different perspective that they equally believe there to be a solid evidence base for. Hence back to Rom 14:5.

            Thanks for the opportunity to dialogue briefly amid our mutually busy schedules...

      • With regard to your appropriate suggestion, Maurice, concerning re-studying the related parts of the Bible, it is also necessary to hilight that Bible translations subsequent to the original languages already have an interpretation bias. Such is unavoidable and therefore we need to consider what that bias is accordingly.

        The majority of translators since the 1st century were trained in law and therefore were influenced by a forensic paradigm. The original languages frequently can be interpreted within a forensic paradigm or alternatively within a healing paradigm. Some would say that these two paradigms overlap. However a forensic paradigm is based upon contrived laws (ie, rules) with imposed consequences (penalties/punishments) for breach of these laws. A healing paradigm is founded upon natural laws with inherent consequences.

        Depending on which paradigm is used makes a big difference to the resultant view/interpretation - whether such is acknowledged or not.

    • Shirley, did you follow the link to read the reply Phil made to me? (Your comment makes me think that you didn't read it. I suggest you do, and you can comment further there.)

      Phil can speak for himself, but I have found it useful to use different terminology to help people to think rather than passively accept traditional ideas that may be missing something important. It's a bit like singing a familiar song to a different tune, which has often helped me think of the significance of the words again.

      The important aspect that Phil is emphasizing is that God's Law is not like human laws. As humans we have laws imposed on us by a higher power, like the government. Many such laws are good. Some are not. But God's eternal Law is different in its very nature: It is not imposed by a higher power (God). It is a "natural law," like gravity. We can deny that the law of gravity exists, but we will still suffer the consequences if we ignore it, even though it's not a law imposed on us. Gravity just describes the way things are in the part of the universe that we know.

      God's law is like that: It describes the way things are in God's universe. Every created being ministers to another or others. It is only the selfish heart of man that lives to itself. When Lucifer broke God's law of self-renouncing love, the angels were not even aware that a law existed. They lived in self-renouncing love because it was written in their hearts, and the beautiful thing is that God has promised to do that for His people in the new-covenant promise. (Jer 31:33)

      We are so used to talking about God's Law that I believe we often miss its significance - that even though it was pronounced in ten precepts for fallen humanity - God's eternal law is the law of life for the universe. And it matters because it affects the way we present God's Law to others. And that affects the way they perceive God. (Incidentally, one of the Ten Precepts for humanity is not a "natural law," but is a specific, imposed command for residents of this planet - because we need it to remind us of Who God is and who we are. Can you think of which one that is? But even that commandment has strong aspects of "natural law," which scientists are just now discovering.)

      And, finally, you suggest that there "would be no confusion" if Phil simply referred to "God's law." But it seems to me that there are many on our blog doing just that, and there's no lack of confusion. I never know what someone means by "God's Law." Does the person mean an imposed law by an omnipotent Ruler, or does that person refer to the law of self-renouncing love which is the law of life for earth and heaven? I find it less confusing when people clarify what they actually mean.

      • Inge, I am doing just that asking Phil to be more clear like you are doing, suggesting he refer for instance to God's laws of nature or God's Principles of Life. Like you I find his use of "reality" seems to imply a system outside of God's control.

        • It depends on how you conceive of control. For example, God could not stop Lucifer rebelling and becoming Satan - He could not control that. God placed a limit on the degree to which Satan could inflict Job but God could not prohibit Satan from inflicting Job altogether (otherwise He would have).

          In our world and experience, we equate being Sovereign with being in absolute control. But in God’s higher ways where things are infinitely more complex than we can fully comprehend, it seems that God is able to be Sovereign even over things He doesn’t have direct control of. Sometimes people get concerned that such a suggestion implies a limited God or a less Omniscient or Omnipotent God. I find that such a suggestion does the opposite - it magnifies God.

          At the end of the day, we each need to check things out for ourselves (Acts 17:11) and be fully persuaded in our own mind (Rom 14:5).

          I am not out to try and change your views but to constructively discuss and dialogue within the ssnet virtual community (Prov 27:17).

          • Since He is God He could have stopped Lucifer from rebellion but this occurred exactly according to His perfect plan and purposes. Puny sinful humans can appreciate and applaud the creations of puny sinful beings, how they perfectly fulfill the purposes for which they are created - cars, trains, space shuttles, computers, respirators. However, it is impossible for puny sinful humans to find and appreciate perfect fulfillment of purpose in God’s creation.

      • Ing, the number of members including yours that have contributed to this discussion have been both enlightening, as well as difficult, for some to follow. I am not sure what the subject materials were, or their purpose. Pardon my ignorance.

  5. A painful work that God has no choice but to perform.

    God is forced to give a command that He so much dislikes.

    The plagues cannot fall until the world has been warned and the work of salvation is over.

    At that time the holy spirit Will be withdrawn from the earth and and Christ Will cease His work as saviour and high priest.

    At that time it Will be too late to seek for forgiveness, too late to confess.

    Now it's the time to focus on the heavenly sanctuary and take our sins there.

    The last plagues can bring people to repentance now not then if we preach and warn the world about them.

    This is not making them to fear but telling it as it is written.

    A topic about these plagues should not miss in our gospel campaigns.

    • Cyrus; I have seen several references to the close of probation and you say, “At that time the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth and Christ will cease to do his work as Savior and High Priest.” I wonder when that time will be? Morris Vanden wrote a book entitled “Never Without an Intercessor. I agree with him. I believe that the reference in Revelation 8:3-5 is to the second outpouring of the Holy Spirit not the end of probation!...Royce

      • Royce, I agree I don't think Rev 8:3-5 is the close of probation but that Rev 15:8 read with Rev 22:11 indicate a time when choices are set and there is no more options to change our minds. I agree Jesus will be with us until the end and beyond but the offer of salvation has a time limit- which is just before He comes.

  6. I agree with you Cyrus. If God sent His plagues on Pharaoh in Egypt, why do we not believe He will do it again. It's not His Will that anyone should be destroy, but because of sin and what satan has been doing to corrupt God's people and His Creation...

  7. Having God act in dramatic and destructive ways shouldn't surprise us, should it? It was God that was behind the plagues of Egypt. It was God behind the closing of the Red Sea upon the Egyptian armies. It was God that took the lives of 186,000 Assyrians in one swoop. It was God that knocked down the walls of Jericho. It was God that brought about the most globally destructive event in earth's history: the flood. In these God has acted for His people. I believe the plagues are God's actions for His people: the judgment of the enemies of His people.

    The plagues also point out as to who are really God's. The wicked have a history of being deceived. They are still being deceived in the plagues. There is no change. And neither is there any change in the people of God. And the same revelation will be made after the 1,000 years are over. The enemies of God and His people will be deceived one more time, and they try to take the city.

    It has to be pointed out that God has not missed on who is for Him and who is not. The suffering is real, but joy comes in the morning. The process must go forward in order to fully address the great controversy so as sin will not rise a second time among beings who will have the power to say "no." I think the "strange act" amply applies here.

  8. To me all this is about the choice we make.When God made man, He made man with the freedom of choice. Man did not have the freedom at the time to choose whether man wanted to be made or not. We now have that freedom whether we want to live forever or to return to dust from which we came.Right now as we study about the plagues and about God's wrath its telling me that God is giving us fair warning us about the consequences, about the choice we will make either choose God and live or return to nothing.He is giving us enough time to repent. So when God's wrath is poured out, it's still in love because then He is giving the reward to the choice we've made.I don't know if I'm missing the point.

    • Those who drowned in the flood also based their unbelief on "immutable laws of nature." After all, it had never rained before and there was not enough water in the world to cover the highest mountains. The flood and other acts of Divine judgment are completely in God's control (e.g., Ezekiel 38:22). Would we otherwise believe that the Creator of the universe is held captive and bound by what He created? Can He not make the sun go backwards if He wishes (Isaiah 38:8)?

      God will utterly destroy Satan and his minions as well as all people who refuse the pardon given as a gift but provided at infinite cost (Rev 20:10, 14, 15).

  9. The following quote might be helpful for those who doubt that a loving God will punish the wicked.

    Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 627.

    God’s judgments will be visited upon those who are seeking to oppress and destroy His people. His long forbearance with the wicked emboldens men in transgression, but their punishment is nonetheless certain and terrible because it is long delayed. “The Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act.” Isaiah 28:21. To our merciful God the act of punishment is a strange act. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Ezekiel 33:11. The Lord is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, ... forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Yet He will “by no means clear the guilty.” “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.” Exodus 34:6, 7; Nahum 1:3. By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. The severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor may be judged by the Lord’s reluctance to execute justice. The nation with which He bears long, and which He will not smite until it has filled up the measure of its iniquity in God’s account, will finally drink the cup of wrath unmixed with mercy.

  10. I see this outpouring of the bowls of plagues no differently than the closing of the door of the Ark and all the people being wiped off the face of the earth.

    These are the individuals' choices, not God's. He loves us enough to warn us and they choose not to heed the warning. We can't blame God for humans' choices. Praise God we are sealed from those plagues and Praise God that the Holy Spirit pled with us and we listened to the call. Everyone has had the same chance.

    Maybe I'm more of a "Tough Love" kind of person. I know that my position as a Law Enforcement Officer were based on the law and violators must keep the law. I did show grace in many traffic stops and other situations as I understood the "Spirit of the Law". I never felt that I chose to punish someone, but rather the violator made those choices and the consequences of their actions must be dealt with. Same for those who do not listen to the call of the Holy Spirit!

  11. Christ came into the world sinless. He never sinned. It’s not sin’s wrath that “killed” Him. It was the wrath of God, His own wrath, against sin. He laid down His life. Sin has no significant existence apart from the creature’s mind. *All* judgment has been given to Christ (Jn 5:22,23). His judgment at this time is separating sheep from goats, delivering, harvesting His sheep from their lost condition; and assigning the perishing to darkness.
    God says He has a condition prepared for the Devil and his angels. It was not prepared by Sin, that’s impossible. Satan would never prepare such a place for himself. The Son of Man will execute judgment.

  12. Read what EGW says in 2 Selected Messages, page 191,192. She is very clear that God has not given anyone the work to determine when exactly probation closes or when the Gospel Message closes either. I feel that the author of this lesson is stepping out of line with this counsel in saying that because no one can enter the Temple during the Seven Last Plagues is indicative that probation has closed and that even the Gospel Message comes to a close also when these plagues start to fall. Not even EGW took that stand! Personally, I feel that God is so merciful that He does not close probation for anyone until sometime during the Seventh and Last Plague is in progress. Jesus Himself said that His Father Judges no man, John 5:22 and then three chapters later Jesus says that He also judges no man, in 8:15. And why else would Jesus tell Peter to forgive 70 times 7 times if He and His Father did not do that too?

      • I am a tad confused. Not with your comment or any of the others. Will there be opportunity for repentance during outpouring of the plagues? If not what's the reason for the plagues, since eventually all who are not saved will be burned?

    • ...I feel that God is so merciful that He does not close probation for anyone until sometime during the Seventh and Last Plague is in progress.

      Is it even possible that it is not God who closes probation, but humanity?

      This is my evidence for my proposition:
      * we have verses such as Jn 3:16, 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Jn 1:9; Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13 etc that state things in absolute terms with no qualifier to them in regard to those who genuinely seek salvation. The combined implications from verses such as these is that anyone and everyone who genuinely desires and embraces salvation will receive it.
      * Gen 6:5 essentially describes a scenario where probation has previously closed once before in the history of humanity. This verse is very specific in its description of what it was that precipitated the flood. People's hearts had become irreversibly hardened as evidenced by the fact that they are exclusively living out the nature and character they most deeply desired (hence the use of the term "heart"). The order in verses 5-7 is that God witnessed this state of affairs (v5) and, subsequent to this, announced His personal (v6) and consequential (v7) responses. Hence, God observes that people had closed their own probation because they had reached an irreversible state of being (irreversible because they had no desire to return - hence the concept of a hardened or irreversibly set heart which parallels with our experience with concrete once it has set and is consequentially no longer able to change form).

      Jesus hilighted one parallel aspect of the days of Noah and His second coming (Matt 24:37-39). Could the close of probation be another?

      What do you think?

  13. Some very interesting comments. For me, a lot of this hinges on motive. It is so human to want to 'get even'. And as the DA quote above suggested, Satan both believes and incites this notion. He offers a childish argument that God must relate to everyone the same way He related to him.

    God hates sin--because it is destructive, and because it harms His innocent children. But He loves the sinner and offers him every chance to be saved. I am not able to accept the notion that He is 'getting even' or paying back. I find that inconsistent with how He has revealed His character to us. But He must destroy those who would destroy others (and themselves). He hates sin for a good reason, and if a person refused to separate themselves from it, He has no choice but to destroy them. But I don't think He finds any glee in it, or do I think we will when we see it happening. At most, relief that we are no longer harassed by it.

    I particularly appreciate the comments about handing our 'vengeance' over to Him, as He knows how to deal with the situation and we don't.

    Regarding whether God could have stopped Lucifer . . ., to me it seems almost in the category of "can God create a mountain He can't move?" From an authoritarian perspective, sure He could have stopped Lucifer. But from the perspective of a God who's primary attribute is love and who desired above all to be in relationship with beings who could freely chose to share and return that love, no He couldn't. Not only was it inconsistent with His character, but it would have sabotaged His desire for beings that could freely chose to love Him.

  14. I always thought the seven last plagues and the trumpets were literal, except for those demonic spirits like frogs that will come out of the mouth of the beast and the false prophet. Can someone please be so kind of explaining in the detail what is exactly about each trumpet sounding and each plague? Thank you and God bless you.


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