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Thursday: A Fearful Thing — 25 Comments

  1. I am somewhat at odds with the theme of todays lessons for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the book of Hebrews (which we will start to study in just over a week's time) is a book of hope and encouragement. Secondly, for too long, the Christian Church has used the fear of punishment as an instrument of control. You only need to visit art galleries of middle-ages art to see scenes of naked bodies writhing in agony as the flames of hell scorch their skin. Going to church in those days must have been the stuff of nightmares.

    There is no doubt that there is an ultimate destruction of the wicked, but that is not the big theme of Christianity. It is a message of hope and joy. When I teach a maths class, I don't threaten my students with punishment for not learning how to do differential calculus. I let them peek into the future and see the sorts of problems that they can solve easily using this new mathematical tool.

    Christianity can be a matter of perspective. There is a judgement, and sin will be destroyed. But, our focus should not be on avoiding the destruction, but rather, filling our vision with the Gospel hope, and sharing it with one another.

    • I wish I could give you many amens for the last sentence in your comment! My sentiments for many years. Let's do away with the carrot and or the stick. Jesus, Hope, and Encouragement.

      • Certainly for mature Christians, "our focus should not be on avoiding the destruction, but rather, filling our vision with the Gospel hope, and sharing it with one another."

        But what about the babies - those who are just learning about God? I remember our babies: We used some strong intervention, even punishment, to persuade them to make right choices. The alternative would have been to experience the "natural consequences" which would have been much more dangerous - even deadly.

        I believe God deals with us according to our level of experience and capacity to understand. For some people seeing the rewards of salvation and the consequences of sin is just what is needed. After all, God knows human psychology much better than we do. He seeks to save as many as He can, and He details both the consequences of disobedience and the rewards of obedience.

        In the same way, we need to consider the experience and capacity to understand of those we want to win to Christ. Pray to understand what will be most persuasive to help our friends understand the gospel. That said, nothing we say will overcome our lack of living the gospel. We must first know Jesus personally before we can introduce others to Him. And that will show in the way we live.

        H'mm ... but just now I am remembering the story of two men sitting together at a table as they were getting thoroughly drunk. They had both been Seventh-day Adventists in their youth, but that was a long time ago. The younger of the two was known as the "town drunk" in the town our little church was located. The older of the two, his uncle, told the younger, "You know, Lester, God is lonely for you!" The Bible says that He is meek and lonely of heart. I tell you, He's lonely for you!" Those words stuck in Lester's mind, and the next Sabbath he turned up and sat down at the back of our little sanctuary. He did come back to God and get baptized, but there's much more to the story - for another time.

        The reason I am sharing this little bit right now is that we don't have to wait till we perfectly represent Jesus to encourage others to come to Him. If that were the case, we could never invite anyone. That drunk uncle's words were effective in saving his nephew, even though he never joined him. If God could use that uncle, surely He can use you or me? And, as I suggested earlier, God takes personality and experience into account. The words, "God is lonely for you" was just what Lester needed, even though it was a misquotation of the Bible. (It was only years later, when he was a deacon in the church that Lester discovered the difference in the real verse. 😊)

    • I have to agree with your struggle. The very last question of today and the text they used, Romans 8:1, begged for another question. Why indeed is there no condemnation? Is it because Jesus paid “a penalty”, or is it because my life has been transformed and I am now living a life perfectly reflecting His character?

      • If we escape the consequences of sin by being obedient, doesn't that mean we are saved by our works - even if aided by the Holy Spirit? That looks like a hybrid model that allows humans to take credit for salvation.

        Even if we were perfectly obedient from the point of conversion, have we not already earned "the wages of sin" by our previous life? (Romans 6:23)

        We usually call transformation of life "sanctification." And even while we are being sanctified, it seems we still sin. So how is this and our past sin taken care of in light of Romans 6:23?

        • Sanctification, as I understand it, is the work of a lifetime. I am not saying we will be sinless, what I am saying is that by daily choosing to remain connected to Jesus, by choosing obedience and self denial, which can’t be done without the aid of our Savior, our lives become transformed. My behavior becomes who I am and not what I do. I’m reading a book called Divine Conspiracy, and the author describes it this way; I want to go to New York and I don’t get there because I didn’t go to New Mexico or didn’t go to Texas or… I get there because I went there. (I may have butchered what he said, but I hope I got his point across). I hope this clarifies what I’m trying to say. We can’t earn anything, but obedience is the only way to Salvation.

          • We can’t earn anything, but obedience is the only way to Salvation.

            This appears to be a clear contradiction. What am I missing?

            For me, the only way this would make Biblical sense is if it read:

            We can’t earn anything, but Christ's obedience (faithfulness) is the only way to Salvation.

            blessings and Happy Sabbath to all...

            • Wasn’t Christ’s life of obedience an example for us of how to live? His constant connection to his Father was his source of strength to be obedient. We have that same source of strength. His obedience was not just a free pass for us to live as we please. Our obedience keeps us connected to him. In John 17:21, Jesus prays to his Father that we will be one with them. If we are not obedient, how will we be one with them?

          • We need to pull up Phil's rendition on this topic from a couple of weeks ago. It was great, telling us how this works. Basically we come to God out of choice, a good example is the jailer of Acts 16. He and his family saw the character of God through Paul and Silas. They chose to learn more, they chose to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they acted on their belief, and chose to make a commitment to Christ, and be baptized. Their love for Christ was kindled and a new life in Christ was born. What next, they saw the necessity of doing the will of Father. Out of love seeing what Christ had done for them, the Jailer and his family followed the precepts that Paul and Silas taught them. "Precepts and promise, law and love combining, til night shall vanish in eternal day." p. 272. I left out the forgiveness, and repentence, I am saving that for another time.

            • Hi Karen:

              God’s law demands perfect righteousness (right doing) from the moment we take our first breath until the moment of the last. It doesn’t only demand righteousness from the time we are converted or even sealed, it demands a perfect existence. There is only One who has lived this perfect existence, the Lord Jesus.

              God doesn’t want our righteousness, our obedience, our perfection… He wants Christ’s righteousness, obedience and perfection. And that was made possible when Jesus became us (Hebrews 7:26 KJV). Our part? Believe, and then Christ’s life is our life. Christ's life of perfect obedience wasn't just an example for our life, it was our life, by faith.

              The plan by which God gives us eternal life has always been the same. It is still the same as it was in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. God gives eternal life to those who obey His law perfectly, to those who have perfect righteousness. Eternal life cannot be given by any other plan, for then the happiness of all creation would be in danger. Sin would go on forever. Suffering and unhappiness would never end. It was possible for Adam before he sinned to form a righteous character by obeying God’s law. But Adam failed to do this. Because of his sin, we are all sinners, and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Because we are sinful and unholy, we cannot perfectly obey God’s law. We have no righteousness of our own to do what God’s law requires. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth, facing the same kind of trials and temptations we have to face. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. We may give ourselves to Him and accept Him as our Saviour. Then, no matter how sinful our lives have been, we are counted as being righteous because of Him. Christ’s character will stand in the place of our characters. We are accepted by God just as if we had not sinned. Steps to Christ, P. 62

              There is not a point that needs to be dwelt upon more earnestly, repeated more frequently, or established more firmly in the minds of all than the impossibility of fallen man meriting anything by his own best good works. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Ellen G. White, Faith and Works, pp. 18, 19

              Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son.” Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367.

              If I may be permitted to share a video on the 1888 message to the SDA church, Camron Schofield explains this in a way I found very helpful.


            • Hi Sieg

              So we can better understand - rather than assume - where you are coming from, perhaps you could unpack what you see salvation is and what it involves? Is it a merely a matter of a legal declaration? Is it a changed life? Etc?


            • Hi Phil. Please take the time to look at the video link I posted. Afterwards, if you're still uncertain about what salvation is and what it involves, I will be do my best to address and "unpack" any specific questions.

              Hint: Our "best" will never come close to what the law requires. As such, we need Someone better than "our best" to meet the requirements of salvation.

            • Hi Sieg

              I have taken quite some hours to view and ponder the presentation by Camron that you suggested - and also some of his more recent April 2021 presentations.

              Essentially, Camron views salvation as contingent upon perfect keeping of the law. He proposes that because we can't keep the law perfectly, it is therefore necessary that Jesus literally kept the law for us, not as our substitute, but actually and literally personally and individually. As Camron stated:

              "Jesus became our own selves and as our own selves - individually and personally - He lived a perfect life. Who was He? He was we - He was me. His life, His perfect life was our life individually, personally. Every single one of us has the right to say Jesus lived my life... And when the law comes to me and says I want a perfect life - and it's not going to accept a substitute, we don't need a substitute - there is Jesus Christ who became me... therefore we can say to the law here is a perfect life".

              So the key points Camron is suggesting include:

              1) the law requires that it be perfectly kept - apparently the condition for salvation with salvation being attainted by perfect law keeping - and we have to answer to the law
              2) human law systems will not accept a substitute therefore Jesus cannot be and is not our substitute. Rather, Jesus literally and actually became each of us and 'pre-lived' our individual lives personally and perfectly (with the KJB's unique rendering of Hebrews 7:26a being used as supporting evidence of this view:"For such a high priest became us...").
              3) righteousness = right doing
              4) that "the law" = the 10 commandments - which Camron believes was in existence from the beginning of creation and is the standard of righteousness, right doing.

              If Camron's teaching is what you believe, then I understand better where you are coming from when you variously suggest in your comments that (a) we don't do anything towards our salvation because Jesus has done it all, and (b) that any efforts on our behalf constitute working to merit salvation. However this view is very heavily based upon seeing salvation as perfect behavioural compliance with the law and correspondingly that any and all work we undertake can only be because we are trying to merit salvation. I find Camron's view to be parallel in principle to Luther's view, except that instead of Jesus being our substitute to provide perfect obedience to the law on our behalf as Luther proposed, Camron proposes that Jesus actually became us via some kind of 'transsubstantiation'-like process, a phenomenon that Camron admits is a mystery he doesn't understand.

              Have I misunderstood something?

  2. Today's lesson implies that 'the judgment' will involve God imposing punishment upon people at some point. And this accords with the most commonly-held understanding within Christianity.

    However, I find that God's judgment is something quite different. I find evidence that God's higher ways (Isaiah 55:8,9) include judgment that is revelation rather than determination - bringing things to light - in order that everyone can see things as they really are (as per 1 Corinthians 4:5). Put another way, God's judgment is equivalent to a diagnosis and prognosis which reveals what is actually going on and what are the inevitible outcomes of this via inherent cause and effect (as per Galatians 6:7,8) - 'evidence' that speaks for itself.

    And in line with revelation of inherent cause and effect outcomes that led to each person's 'fate', I am confident there will be no imposed punishment by God. For as Deuteronomy 32:35 points out, the "vengeance" and "recompense" comes via "their foot shall slip in due time". This too is talking about inherent cause and effect - "their foot shall slip" and is therefore consistent with the above principles reflected in Galatians 6:7,8 which will be revealed so we can see this is the case - as per 1 Corinthians 4:5.

    If you can see what I have outlined above, you can perhaps appreciate even more how much God is about wanting to save us from "our foot slipping" - our self-destruction (consider what is actually being said in 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). This will give you more hope, more confidence in God's abundant compassion towards us - His wanting to give us every opportunity and encouragement to regain life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) - and more passion to help others you come across each and every day to have an opportunity to also share in regaining true life.

    But you do your own research and see for yourself if these things are true or not (as per Acts 17:11; Romans 14:5b)...

    • I agree with you Phil. God’s punishment was placed on Christ which He endured on the cross, separation from the Father. What happens to the rest of us be it salvation or destruction, is a consequence of God’s eternal/universal law. It just plays out because God and His Law is unchangeable.

      • Jim, are you saying that Christ's life on earth and death on the cross has nothing to do with our salvation? Or?
        (I don't think that's what Phil is saying.)
        I believe he is saying that God does not have to impose punishment - that sin comes with its own consequences.
        While I may not always agree with Phil on the details, we agree in principle. Humanity's default state is "to perish" unless rescued by divine love which needs to be accepted. See John 3:16. So God does not impose punishment on sinners. They just reap the natural consequences as pointed out in Romans 6:23.

    • Although I very much appreciate the desire to have people understand the matchless gift and gracious love of God for us, there will come a point where God decides that sinners will be destroyed. It is God that controls when the "consequences" will be death. Otherwise death would not occur.

      • Michelle, a question I would ask is this, is God punishing the sinners or is He finally putting an end to sin? God will destroy sin and if people have chosen to hold on to it, they too will be destroyed. In Noah’s day, God gave the world 120 years of warning that the flood was coming, plenty of time to decide to get into the ark. He cleansed the world and because they chose not to enter the ark, they too were destroyed. Matthew 24:37 describes the end of time as being the same as the days of Noah. God made a promise to Adam and Eve, and He will keep it, but not without giving every human an opportunity to be saved.

      • If not for the intervention of God on our behalf, the wages of sin would already be ours.
        Genesis 2:17 ..."in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
        God intervened on the natural consequences and and a type of Christ, lambs, died a substitutionary death in the place of the guilty pair, and by the intervention (grace) of God we remain alive this day.
        Genesis 3:21 "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them."

      • Hi Michelle and anyone who is interested

        I personally believe you are correct that there will come a point where God will release fully the inherent consequences of sin/lawlessness for those who have chosen to embrace the self-seeking ways of the Kingdom of Darkness rather than the self-denying, other-benefiting ways of the Kingdom of God. However, this will not be an arbitrary decision on God's part - it will be a response brought about by humanity having reached a critical point in (the Cosmic Conflict's) history.

        I find consistent Biblical evidence that since Genesis 3:6, God has been intervening to restrain the inherent consequences sin/lawlessness that God alerted humanity to in Genesis 2:16,17. Had God not intervened with this restraint, humanity would have perished at Genesis 3:6-7. So God has had to step in and mercifully and graciously initiate restraint of inherent consequences to varying degrees for the purposes of salvation (ie providing a probationary second-chance for each human to choose salvation if they want, and to keep open the avenue for Messiah). But once every person has made their free-will decision and either hardened (set) their heart in sin/lawlessness (as per Genesis 6:5) or become sealed (set) in loving God and others (Revelation 7:1-3), God will then release the restraint He has been exercising. This is because the purpose for 'probation' has been fulfilled - everyone has made their second-chance choice - and therefore no further probation is needed. Note that according to the principle hilighted in Galatians 6:7-8, the source of destruction is from within the flesh - not from within God. This parallels Romans 8:2 regarding the "law of sin and death" where sin inherently produces death, not God. God is instead intimately involved with "the law of the Spirit of life". Again, Jesus said that while the thief is the source of steal, kill and destroy, Jesus came to facilitate life (John 10:10). This is such good news!

        We have many examples of God having released restraint to varying degrees at varying times previously in history. But one example was the Red Sea crossing. At the Red Sea, God temporarily restrained the inherent 'consequences' of the natural order of the sea in order to make a path of escape for the Israelites. And when the last Israelite had crossed, God then released the restraint and the sea returned to its inherent, non-restrained state which caused the drowning of the Egyptians when/because they attempted to take advantage of a probationary state they had no 'right' to participate in. Attempting to go against reality (ie lawlessness) is what caused them to drown.

        Essentially, while God is actively involved in 'orchestrating' and 'facilitating' what is going on, it is not God who independently 'controls' when the "inherent consequences" will be released and no longer restrained. God responds to humanity's movements*. I find this to be consistent with 2 Peter 3:9-12 where Peter (a) asserts that God is patiently waiting for every last person who will to make their choice for God and therefore where Peter consequently (b) encourages believers to "hasten" the day of the Lord by conducting themselves in holiness and godliness (reflecting God's love for others in the way they conduct themselves in the treatment of others). It is because God is waiting for humanity that we can therefore hasten - or delay, which has unfortunately been the case - this day/point in time.

        But do you own research (Acts 17:11; Romans 14:5b)...

        * I find this to be characteristic of God's "higher way" (as per Isaiah 55:8-9 principle) of Sovereignty in contrast to human exercise of imposed sovereignty.

  3. The Good News about the Judgment!

    At Jesus Second Coming the war that started in heaven, the Great Controversy, will be won by Jesus and His followers, the Dragon and His followers will cease to exist.

    The Good News is that the LORD is the Judge and our Advocate and he wil refute the accusation of the devil, stating that His righteousness has been imputed and imparted to His people because they chose to believe in Him and to follow Him.

    Rev 19:11
    Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

    Ps 96:13
    Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

    Matt 25:31-34
    31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
    34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

  4. The wicked (satanic), and the righteous (godly) can’t live together in peace because they clash. They are opposites. One set belongs to God and worship Him and the other set belong to Satan and worship him. The decision on who to worship is by choice.

  5. Deuteronomy 32:28-33
    The Message

    They are a nation of idiots,
    they don’t know enough to come in out of the rain.
    If they had any sense at all, they’d know this;
    they would see what’s coming down the road.
    How could one soldier chase a thousand enemies off,
    or two men run off two thousand,
    Unless their Rock had sold them,
    unless God had given them away?
    For their rock is nothing compared to our Rock;
    even our enemies say that.
    They’re a vine that comes right out of Sodom,
    who they are is rooted in Gomorrah;
    Their grapes are poison grapes,
    their grape-clusters bitter.
    Their wine is rattlesnake venom,
    mixed with lethal cobra poison.

    Deuteronomy 32:36-38
    The Message

    Yes, God will judge his people,
    but oh how compassionately he’ll do it.
    When he sees their weakened plight
    and there is no one left, slave or free,
    He’ll say, “So where are their gods,
    the rock in which they sought refuge,
    The gods who feasted on the fat of their sacrifices
    and drank the wine of their drink-offerings?
    Let them show their stuff and help you,
    let them give you a hand!

    Deuteronomy 32:46-47
    The Message

    44-47 Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua son of Nun. When Moses had finished saying all these words to all Israel, he said, “Take to heart all these words to which I give witness today and urgently command your children to put them into practice, every single word of this Revelation. Yes. This is no small matter for you; it’s your life. In keeping this word you’ll have a good and long life in this land that you’re crossing the Jordan to possess.”

    this last text summarizes the true importance of Deuteronomy. Not only is it important enough to be quoted elsewhere in the Bible, but the directions of God contained in it are our very life!


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