[For some reason I don't understand, this link doesn't work. You will have to copy and paste it into your browser, click, and you will go to the correct Facebook page.]
I thought as our first assignment a spinoff of a review by Jeremy Myers of “Redeeming God Ministries.” He said among other things, “Truly, this is an insightful idea. I only wish that the author had spelled this idea out in more detail and had explained more of the tough texts of Scripture in light of her position.” I thought I had written enough that those desiring to work out other instances of God's appearing to violate everything He has told us about Himself could do so. But perhaps not. And perhaps some need more “fill in” to really come to a solid belief that our God is only beneficent. Are you willing to take on the challenge? With this as our directive, perhaps some will wish to write on the Facebook page about one event in sacred history that has escaped our notice, and I am well aware that many on this email list have the intellectual capacity to explain it thoroughly and well. Those of you who might wish to take another direction are most welcome to do so. Here are a few of the “tough texts” that the reviewer might have had in mind:
11. You may think of something I haven't recorded here. Feel free to share it.
Remember, Jesus is the measure, the standard, the full revelation of the Father. That is the one point on which I think we can all agree!
Lastly, and this is the most important part. The whole point of this Facebook page is to get the message out. Michael has convinced me not to give the book away. People are accustomed to paying for something they want, and the price of the book, especially the condensed version, is not outside the pocketbook of most people. Sharing the postings on the Facebook site will be enormous. So share, share, share. When you read something that slants differently from the way it is generally seen, share it with your other social media friends. I can't emphasize this too much.
While I finally see my way clear to get this message out to a wider audience by implementing the strategy described herein, I am open to other suggestions that may enable us to find an even wider audience. In closing let me refer you to our fathers and the ancestors who have gone before us. Some of them knew this message; we have their letters and other documents to prove it. But they had no way to make the message “go big.” People, do you realize what a blessing the Internet is to getting this message out? They didn't have it; we do! As God is for us, and we have the Internet, we certainly can expect great things from our time here on the earth. Let's not waste it!
I regret that the ads I had running on YouTube and Facebook had to be discontinued for technical reasons. They weren't showing up on the reports page, and I need to troubleshoot this issue in both sites. No doubt I could find the error with a little focus, but I unfortunately do not have the time to give to the project right now. It will be about three months before I can get back to it. My vision is to promote this view as aggressively as possible, which is the one thing that generations past who knew what we know couldn't do. They didn't have the Internet, but we do, and I suspect that our Heavenly Father, who has provided the means and waited all these years for the truth about Him to transcend the lies, will be greatly disappointed if we don't put heart and soul into this work.
There are advertising agencies that can be hired to do this work. However, I am skeptical of how committed these secular companies will be in promoting this message. But it is a thought that I am pondering right now.
One thing I learned from the short period the ads were running was how well they were received. There is definitely an audience out there for this information. The world is hungry for this knowledge. We must figure out a way to get it to them.
"The truth that we are to proclaim is that 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' This truth is to be developed in the closing scenes of this earth's history" (Ms. 53, 5/11/1905).
I want to thank the Nontrinitarians for calling attention to an important subject we have long overlooked and the wonderful people who read my blog and referred me to the book, The Sonship of Christ by Ty Gibson. Although the "Non-t's" have created a superstructure of doctrine that does not, in my view, always comport with the facts I read in Scripture, they have at least called attention to something we have missed in our understanding of Christ and how He became the Son of God--how He became God's only begotten Son.
The author did what you and I should have done when faced with this conundrum. He traced the theme of the Son of God through Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, and came up with a doctrine so sensible that we wonder how we could have missed it. It drew my attention back to an Ellen White quote I had read years ago and wondered about. Could this book's contents be the fulfillment of this quotation?
I won't give the plot away. You will want to read it for yourself. The book is available from Pacific Press
- The advertisments for Light On the Dark Side of God are now serving on YouTube and Facebook for a 30-day test. I will have a report for you at the end of the 30 days. In light of prophecy I believe this situation calls for earnest prayer by God's people. Won't you join me in praying that these ads will result in God's will for this moment in history? Following is a note I received from Google: "Also, Marilyn, I would like to inform you that the ad (Video Ad #1) serving live on the Google Network is performing well and has received over 2300 impressions and 879 views in the current week i.e between October 13-October 17, 2019."
- My efforts not to use the word "Trinity" have failed in light of the fact that the word is in the title of the Nontrinitarians, and it defies all my creativity to figure out how to work around it.
# # # # # #
"Old controversies which have apparently been hushed for a long time
will be revived" (SpTAO 38.1). [See also 2SM 109.2; 341.2; 1MR 47.3, 11.1;
Ms 32-1896 (December 6, 1896) par. 15; 3SM 419.3; GCDG, 3/2/1888.1;
Ms 27-1892 (February 18, 1892) par. 3; TM 116.2; RH 8/31/1897.7;
Lt132-1898 (December 29, 1998) par. 10; Ms3-1899 (January 25, 1899) par. 1;
Ms142-1901, par. 15; Ms143-1901, par. 71; Ms130-1906 (January 3, 1906) par. 1]
I do not hate or even dislike Nontrinitarians. In fact, they have done us a service in calling attention to our confusing view of the Godhead. I have recently been watching some videos that are arguably the best statement of the Nontrinitarian position and, while they haven't moved me from my belief in Godhead, they have made me realize some facts, which, when known, may make a way for reconciliation, where healing of this rift may be possible. That is the goal of this writing.
Contrasting Godhead Views
Nontrinitarians treat the Catholic view of the Trinity and the Adventist view as if they were one and the same. They are not. In contesting this issue they are taking aim at the Catholic/Strawman view-- not the Adventist/Biblical view. In altering his position re: the Godhead, in 1876, James White said, "S. D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the Trinitarians that we apprehend no trial here"1 (emphasis supplied). Does this indicate a difference between the Catholic view and what we believe as Protestants? According to James White, the positions are "nearly" alike, yet different. Adventism needs to make its views regarding the Godhead better known throughout the church to prevent uprisings such as the present one from occurring.
What is that difference? Catholics see in their Trinity a bizarre creature with one body and three heads. In that way I suppose Catholics feel that they have satisfied both the "one God" criteria and the "three Persons" criteria that they see in the Word. This seems to be what the Nontrinitarians are opposing. They are right to oppose this; I oppose it too.
However, we must be careful not to exchange one false view for another. This is not, nor has it ever been, the Adventist/Biblical view, which sees in this Biblical "one" the plural one, which means that the Heavenly Trio is composed of three (or more than one) Persons, totally unified in one Godhead. The plural one is definitely taught in Scripture, and embracing it clears up virtually all relevant misunderstandings.
"One" is a beautiful choir working together to bring forth a lovely song. It is a husband and wife working together to build a good life in this world. It is God's people working together to bless the world in His name. And it is the three magnificent Persons of the Godhead working together to bring His children home. They have different roles, but they are united in purpose as one.
We were made in God's image. Therefore, God reflects our image. We look like Him. We have a similar frame.2 Can we see ourselves as one body with three heads? We don't need the false one-God hierarchy theory to answer for us the riddle of how three Persons become numerically one. If the Nontrinity view is correct and God the Father is the numeric-one God, then what do we do with Jesus? Where does He fit in? Nontrinitarians would say, because He is of the Father, He is included in the Godhead. We can worship Him as God. Let me announce an "uncomfortable" truth to some. That makes two Persons in the Godhead. And we are back where we started with an extra Person in the Godhead. To correct that "error" and to maintain singular oneness in the Godhead, we will soon be asking Jesus to step down from His lofty throne to the place where He is no longer Deity at all. That's where we are headed if we continue on this path. Ergo, if there is one God and He is the Father, it follows that Jesus is pushed out of the Deity and lowered to the place where He is not God, because there is only room for one.
Didn't the Father say, "Let all God's angels worship him,"3 indicating that among the Heavenly Trio no jealousy rises as to which is first. Notice that it is the Father saying this. Does He seem like Someone who would contend for His rights? seek the pinnacle? elbow His way to the "top spot"? No. He urged the angels to worship the Son. Worship, as you know, is reserved only for Deity.4 The Father knows nothing of hierarchy; He thinks in terms of equal Deity.
Don't laugh--but I compare the Heavenly Trio to a pie. If I hold up the pie before you, you see one pie. But if I cut the pie in three equal pieces, it is now one pie in three pieces. This humble metaphor does not prove anything. But perhaps it can help us to better understand our three-in-one God.
Jesus is Jehovah/Yahweh
Comments in Nontrinitarian literature regarding John 8:58, "[B]efore Abraham was, I AM," are scarce [I don't remember seeing it in the videos I reviewed]; however, one person on my email list pointed me to a place in their online literature which explains this text away. Now, why would Jesus say this (and why would John feel it important enough to record), if it could be so easily explained away? Regrettably, at present limitations of time and space preclude a thorough exegesis of this document. Perhaps that is a blog for another time. But that online document does not explain away the comparisons between the Old and New Testaments which support what Jesus said in John 8:58, describing Himself as Yahweh, the self-existent One. (See my previous blog.) John 8:58 expands our understanding of Jesus' "origins." Was He "begotten," as the Bible says and that explains His origins? In other words, did He have a beginning? Nontrinitarians would answer Yes; He was begotten. However this text, John 8:58, plus the many other places pointed out in my last blog answer No. He was eternally pre-existent and did not have a beginning. This question is critical and cannot be ignored. For if He were "produced" in some way by the Father, life would not be native in Him; like us, He would depend for life upon someone else--the Father. He could not have declared when resurrecting Lazarus that He is "the resurrection and the life."5 He could not have said, "I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again."6 In short, He would not have life in Himself to give to the redeemed, if He were dependent on the Father for it. But if He is Jehovah/Yahweh, the self-existent one, He would possess native life in Himself to share with the blood bought citizens of His eternal kingdom.
"He who has the Son has life."7 It is His life, which He shares with those He saves. That's what makes the gospel work. It all depends on each member of the Godhead, each Person engaged in the work of redeeming, having life to which none is indebted to the other. It is intrinsic to each.
If My Neighbor Believes It . . .
Nontrinitarians probably don't realize how much they lean on other's opinions in promoting their views. I sat through hours of explanations in which one after another great men of the past were paraded before me, giving their support for Nontrinitarianism. The unacknowledged philosophy behind this approach is to say, If my neighbor believes it, that makes it right, and I believe it too. But can I stake my salvation on what others believe? If we claim to believe only what the Bible teaches, our knowledge must arise from Scripture alone.
The same can be said for the many statements in Scripture that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe these statements by faith. I do not understand why or how, but I believe it now as I have always believed it and am content to wait until we gather around the throne in heaven to hear from my Savior just how He is the Son of God. The multiplicity of quotations that Jesus is God's Son does not oblige me to believe that Jesus had a beginning simply because He is the Son of God, especially if other texts contradict it. In other words, Nontrinitarians are ignoring an entire set of quotations because they don't understand how He became the Son, unless He were "begotten" (a term they don't seem able to define as it relates to this issue), hurling us into a quagmire of muddled theology and confusion. I will wait until eternity to understand.
But if we are going to lean on the opinions of men to support our beliefs, let me tell you a little anecdote about "M. L. Andreasen, who had become an Adventist just four years earlier at the age of eighteen, and who would eventually teach at the church 's North American seminary. [He] claimed that the new concept was so different from the previous understanding that some prominent leaders doubted whether Ellen White had really written it. After Andreasen entered the ministry in 1902, he made a special trip to Ellen White's California home to investigate the issue for himself. Ellen White welcomed him and gave him 'access to the manuscripts.' He had brought with him 'a number of quotations,' to 'see if they were in the original in her own handwriting.' He recalled: I was sure Sister White had never written, 'In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.' But now I found it in her own handwriting just as it had been published. It was so with other statements. As I checked up, I found that they were Sister White's own expressions.
"Desire of Ages contained equally uncompromising statements regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit. Repeatedly it employed the personal pronoun "he" in referring to the Holy Spirit, climaxing with the impressive statement, 'The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this, the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. . . . Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power (emphasis supplied).'"8
If we want to jettison our belief in the Godhead in favor of the antitrinity view, we must also jettison Ellen White's work along with it. And where would we be without Ellen White's work that we call the Spirit of Prophecy?
Where War Broke Out
War broke out in heaven, when Lucifer and his supporters went about fomenting discord among the angels. Among other accusations they said that Jesus was no better than Lucifer, so why should He get to sit with the Father on His throne and not Lucifer? There is a connection between what Lucifer and his supporters held and what the Nontrinitarians hold today. This is a subtle effort to diminish Jesus in human eyes, and it is the reason the Father called the citizens of heaven together in a great convocation to tell them that Jesus was equal with Him and therefore qualified to sit with Him on His throne.
In reviewing those videos I noticed that occasionally a word would slip in: Jesus was subordinate to the Father9 and like phrases. Let me give a word of warning to the dearly beloved Nontrinitarians. You are standing on dangerous ground. You are now standing where angels once stood in the courts of heaven--standing in the Valley of Decision as Earth's probation gradually fades away. Which way will you go? Fully half of the angels followed Lucifer in believing Jesus had no right to sit with the Father on His throne. In heaven the angels who changed their minds now heave a great sigh of relief that they came back, stayed with the Father who had never harmed them, because the next logical step down is that Jesus isn't God, and if He isn't God, you need not--must not--worship Him. Is that any way to treat your Savior, who ransomed you with His own life's blood?
When that convocation was over, Lucifer's supporters were reduced from 50 percent to 33 percent. Don't you suppose those angels that, by faith, came back to God with the flames of rebellion no longer burning in their hearts, thank God every day of their lives that they came back?
1 RH 11/29/1877.
2 With the exception of the Holy Spirit, who seems not to have a form but can appear in any form; i.e., a dove at the baptism of Jesus.
3 Hebrews 1:6.
4 Revelation 19:10
5 John 11:25.
6 John 10:18.
7 1 John 5:12.
9 (Of course He is subordinate! And the Father is subordinate to Him. Likewise the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Father and Son. Subordination is the principle of heaven! But I don't think the Nontrinitarians had that in mind.)
The Name of God—Jehovah—the Eternal Person
When Moses was commissioned by God to go to Egypt and deliver His people from bondage, in his humanity Moses asked, "Who shall I say sent me?" And God gave a reply, "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:13, 14). In God's reply to Moses He identified Himself. "I am He who is," the self-existent One. He is JEHOVAH. This name describes a quality of being—a God without beginning—having always been—and indebted to no one for His existence.
The Importance of a Printer's Clue
Now therefore, O LORD [Jehovah--always fully capitalized] our God, save from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only (Isaiah 37:20).
There is another name for God in Hebrew. He is called—Adonai. This name too is translated Lord—with a capital "L" but with small "ord." In this way [it] is easy to tell when the name of God is translated from Yahwah, or Adonai. This is seen in the printing of the following verse:
By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord [Adonai], and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon. . . . (Isaiah 34:24).
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THIS PRINTER'S CLUE IS FOUND ONLY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
The Book of Isaiah Upholds Jesus Christ as Jehovah God.
When the test of JEHOVAH is applied to the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we come to an irrevocable conclusion that the coming Messiah, predicted by Isaiah, can be none other than Jehovah Himself.
Jesus Christ—John, His Precursor:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD [Jehovah], make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3).
He [John the Baptist] said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord as said the Prophet Esaias (John 1:23).
John the Baptist quoted the Hebrew text of Isaiah. John recognized that Jesus was the Jehovah of Isaiah. This is seen by the fact that he did not feel worthy to touch the shoes of Jesus (Matthew 3:11).
Jesus Christ—Jehovah the Creator:
O LORD [Jehovah] of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth (Isaiah 37:16, emphasis supplied).
Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD [Jehovah], the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? . . . (Isaiah 40:28, emphasis supplied).
He [Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (John 1:10).
Beyond question Jesus is the "Everlasting God," the Old Testament Jehovah, creator of heavens and earth. Jehovah had no beginning. Jesus Christ is God of very God.
Jesus Christ—Received the Glory:
I [am] the LORD [Jehovah]: that [is] my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images (Isaiah 42:8, emphasis supplied).
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was (John 17:5, emphasis supplied).
It would be blasphemy for Jesus to ask for a glory which Jehovah said He would never share. But Jesus has title to that glory. He is equally Jehovah, One with the Father, before the world was.
Jesus Christ—the Rock:
Because I will publish the name of the LORD [Jehovah], ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:3, 4, emphasis supplied). [Incorrectly attributed to Isaiah 32:3, 4]
And did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4, emphasis supplied).
Isaiah [actually, Moses] declares Jehovah to be the Rock. Paul wrote that the Rock was Christ. There is only one Rock—Jesus Christ. There is no question that the Bible teaches that Jesus is Jehovah God.
Jesus Christ—the Shepherd:
The LORD [Jehovah] is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
[Jesus said] I am the good shepherd (John 10:11).
David declared Jehovah to be his Shepherd. Jesus identified Himself as that shepherd who died for His sheep—Jehovah God.
Jesus Christ—the First and the Last:
Thus saith the LORD [Jehovah] the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last: and beside me that is no God (Isaiah 44:6, emphasis supplied).
And when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:17, 18, emphasis supplied).
There cannot be two firsts and two lasts. The One who was dead and is now alive forevermore declares himself to be the first and the last. The teaching of the book of Revelation is that Jesus Christ who died at Calvary is the Old Testament Jehovah. Jesus Christ is Eternal Jehovah God.
Jesus Christ—Absolute Eternal Deity:
I am the LORD [Jehovah] and there is none else, there is no God beside me; I girded thee, though thou has not known me (Isaiah 45:5).
"I and my Father are one." Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God (John 1:30-33).
If Jesus is not Jehovah God, then His enemies were correct; He was a blasphemer. There is no other God but Jehovah. When Jesus said that He and His Father were one, He made the greatest claim that ever came from the mouth of man. The Man, Jesus, is the eternal Jehovah God.
I, even I, am the LORD and beside me there is no Savior (Isaiah 43:11).
Thou shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Only an infinite, eternal being could atone for the sins of any number of finite being. If Christ is not Jehovah, we have no savior.
Jesus Christ—the Great I AM:
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you (Exodus 3:14).
Before Abraham was I AM (John 8:58). [This is the only relevant Biblical statement that doesn't come up in nontrinitarian disputations. They never bring it up.]
If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins (John 8:24. Note this text with care).
Jesus declared himself to be the I AM who talked to Moses out of the burning bush.
A Confirmation From the Apostle Paul:
The parting words of Paul to the leadership of the church found in Acts 20:28 [were]:
Feed the church of GOD which He hath purchased with his own blood (emphasis supplied).
The apostle Paul declared that the church was purchased by the blood of God. The blood shed at Calvary was the blood of Jehovah God, Jesus Christ. In the mind of Paul there was only one God—Jehovah.
Here at last is the video ad for YouTube and Facebook. If you find anything in it that is incorrect or needs sprucing up, speak now or forever hold your peace. I have learned/worked on three pieces of software and developed a multitude of workarounds to create this simple ad. The link is provided, but I put a space between the last four digits, because I didn't know what would happen if I left it whole. Therefore, you must pull together the fourth and third digits from the end, and then it will work. I will begin asap to get the ad up on the advertising sites.
Is anyone out there interested in prophecy? We are having some wonderful studies led by Floyd Phillips on the book of Revelation. We meet Thursday at 5 pm MST, and anyone is welcome to join us. Let me know of your interest and I will send you the particulars.
BTW, you may be interested in knowing that I too have some videos on prophecy up on my Adventist website [4Adventists (dot) com/Prophecy Videos]. In the interests of full disclosure, these prophecy insights may not be of interest to nonAdventists, because they are for the most part based on the work of Ellen White as authority. Those who are not familiar with our Adventist jargon and concepts may not fully understand them, although, of course, you are welcome to view them. Start with the first and go through them to the last video for a wonderful surprise!
I do not anticipate any problem getting a real blessing out of Floyd's interpretations, because there are always new things to be discovered in Revelation, and I have found Floyd to be an excellent teacher.
Hello Kevin! Not sure what you are seeing in this statement>> "This is a fire unquenchable, and by it every unrepentant sinner will be destroyed" (ST, 4/14/1898). Are you saying that this picture does not at all represent the "fire from heaven" at the end of the 1000 years" of Rev. 20?
I'm glad you asked. What a privilege to be invited to . . . speak well of God, giving glory to Him and to further develop coherent and satisfying answers to the difficult questions arising from the inspired texts. I understand your question to be asking if this depiction of living flesh enduring the miseries of live fire torture portrays the physical realities of the final destruction of the finally impenitent. Further to the implications of your question is the belief that in such a conflagration, they would obviously have to be supernaturally sustained by God1 in order to live for even a few minutes. This presents a serious problem.
We do not believe it ends this way. We hold that this is a key component in the attack on the character of God; i.e., the thinking that God will sustain life in the throes of the agony of searing flesh for the purpose of physical torture. Punishment? For what end? Correction? Retribution? There is no purpose served in this but vengeance and vindictiveness. The process of going to second death ITSELF is the punishment. It is a torture of their own soul as they wrestle toward an acceptance of the righteousness of God, their own choice to remain outside of it, and a recognition that this is all JUST. They still do not want grace; they have gone past that day. They would still choose self-government, but they do realize the futility of it. They see that the righteous God is the very source of their breath. They must come to the acceptance of that reality and, acknowledging the justice of the whole affair, they can at last say, "you are righteous; let me go." Can you imagine such a thing? What horror!
The extent of wickedness in the individual will determine the amount of suffering they go through, in that the principles of self are all the more deeply ingrained in the more thoroughly wicked, and the principle of self is such that it wants to have its own way. The soul will desperately try to find a way out of this, and there will be a terrible wrestling. The stronger that self has been, the worse the agony of that wrestling. But every ONE of them will have to come to the realization that there is no way out. There was an escape provided during the day of salvation; they did not want it then; they are past wanting it now.
They are made to understand the principles of God's Kingdom, and they know that they are past true repentance; they have now only fear for their end and the desperate innate drive of the soul to exist tries to comprehend its own extinction. They know that to live on in this mode of fear would be only a continuance of the mental agony they are in, for they understand that they cannot exist in sin. It is separation from God in Whom is the very life that is even now sustaining them. The hell they are in is the end of the road confrontation of the eternal realities and a knowing that now is the time of reckoning.
It is a terrible thing to face soul death, and we don't ever want to experience even a "smidge" of that torture. Jesus drank it to the dregs. He would have died second death without humans putting Him on the cross. It is likely He would have gone right to the altar of His own accord and laid it down right there in the outer court of the temple without any human action against His physical being.
No, there is no need for a burning hell to eat at every nerve fiber of the physical being until the impenitent is fully consumed―with a special Divine sustaining of life so that the more wicked will suffer on for longer durations of time in accordance with the degree of wickedness. Oh, how this appeals to our human hearts that desire revenge. The natural tendency for even a "good" Christian, when faced with personal wounds as the result of others' sins, is to refrain from thoughts and desires of personal, earthly revenge and retribution but take delight in the knowledge that they [sinners] will receive their licks from God in the end.
The physical torture would not bring about a proper confession. We know this about torture―the victim will say whatever the tormentor wants him to say. Besides, this confession has already been made, before the fires consume. [We believe the fire is only a cleanup and a preparation for restoration of the creation.) So why torture by "hell-fire"? Again, I need someone to give me a reason for it that is in line with the principles of freedom, noncoercion, forgiveness, and all-for-the-other self-sacrificing love. These impenitents are going to second death, to soul annihilation. Is there something they can learn from this punishment so they will not ever do it again? Or is it a lesson to the saved that they better not mess up again or they will suffer this fate at last? Or will the "never sinned" group (the angels and unfallen worlds) have to ponder anew the claims of Satan that God will wipe out the one who steps out of line? You see, the purpose of a 6000-year demonstration of the results of sin would be wiped out entirely by God stepping in to torture and then kill the sinner.
Or does God have an arbitrary code of law that demands suffering for sin? Not that sin will naturally bring about the suffering of second death, but that God will have to impose it Himself to satisfy some sort of demand that HE HIMSELF built into the universe. In other words, are we looking at a created cause and effect rather than a natural? This is the booby-trapped garden principle: "Danger: Keep Out. Owner has planted land mines in this garden." Why would He build in arbitrary torture and suffering as a penalty for sin? Who gets satisfied by this? What principle of justice gets satisfied? Come on, people, we need a good answer that lines up with God's True Character as He declared to Moses [Exodus 33 and 34] and as He demonstrated in Jesus Christ. We have to get these mad ideas about God out of our heads forever. The universe can never be secure with this idea floating around. This fire torture would not serve any purpose to the never-sinned or to the saved or to God Himself. This is out of the character of everything we know about forgiveness and everything He has demonstrated about forgiveness.
Again, what is seen in this quote, re-posted below, is that there is no hint that the "fire unquenchable" is a physical torture, but is equated with the worm-that-will-not-die symbolism from the garbage dump of Gehenna, outside the walls of historic Jerusalem, remembering that Gehenna is one of the words from which we derive the word "hell."
See that in this quote we have an explicit definition of the unquenchable fire as that the sinner "will see that sin is the transgression of God's law" and the terrible realization comes that "his soul is cut off from God" and he/she must suffer the wrath of God. The wrath of God is well established in Scriptures as God hiding His face, pulling away from the sinner His protections. There can be varying degrees of wrath; it can be mixed with mercy, but the ultimate wrath is a complete and final separation from the sinner which results in second death, as Jesus endured in His dark night of the soul. The cross was incidental. That is not why He died. We should all know this from inspiration. . . .
We read of chains of darkness for the transgresssor of God's law. We read of the worm that dieth not, and of the fire that is not quenched. Thus is represented the experience of every one who has permitted himself to be grafted into the stock of Satan, who has cherished sinful attributes. When it is too late, he will see that sin is the transgression of God's law. He will realize that because of transgression, his soul is cut off from God, and that God's wrath abides on him. This is a fire unquenchable, and by it every unreprentant sinner will be destoyed. Satan strives constantly to lead men into sin, and he who is willing to be led, who refuses to forsake his sins, and despises forgiveness and grace, will suffer the result of his course. (ST, 4/14/1898).
May God enlighten every mind upon this most important topic. We must come out of error with regard to the character of God! We cannot go home until this central issue in the great controversy is brought to the forefront. This is the glory that enlightens the whole earth. When His character is perfectly reproduced in His people, He will come to claim them, as stated in COL 69. What character is that? If we believe that God destroys the sinner, then we would fit in with those who will be religious persecutors in the final movements.
For those religious people will see that terrible things are happening in the world, natural disasters, plagues, pestilences and so forth, and, looking for a cause, they will point to those who are not in step with THEIR idea of God's law and they will say that this little group is bringing down God's wrath upon the world, because they are (supposed) desecrators of His law; therefore, the thing to do is to coerce them into serving "God" as per the dictates of their own belief system. When this little band will not comply, the last step will be a decision to wipe them out by execution. The whole of society cannot go along with these ideas, except that they have clung to the idea that God kills the sinner or sends them to eternal hell fire. They have received the character of their god! By beholding they have become changed into the image of the Beast they serve!
Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow, in Whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning. He is the same yesterday, today and forever! Hallelujah!
1"Magical thinking" defined as thinking conventionally about final destruction.
Abortion is big business here in the United States. It began in 1973 with Roe v. Wade--legislation that was sold as a humane way to enable a woman (with competent doctors and proper sterilization) to free herself from an unplanned pregnancy. As bad as that is, today it is far worse. With the sale of fetal tissue to a number of buyers across the country and across the globe, abortion has become a cash cow for the industry. It raised $1.46 billion in 2017 (The Hill, "Planned Parenthood's annual report is out: Another unhappy tale," 1/28/18).
"The National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on research using fetal tissue in 2014 with grants to more than 50 universities, including Columbia, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Yale and the University of California in Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. It expects to spend the same amount in 2015 and 2016" (The Seattle Times, July 17, 2015).
New York State recently passed a law that extended legal abortion to late term; that is, to the time that the baby is scheduled to be born. There is considerable wrangling about whether aborted late term babies born alive may still have their life taken from them; the abortion industry spokesmen deny it; pro-life people say yes; it happens all the time.
Legalized abortion began as a "good idea," but has become complicated beyond words. I have never been faced with an unplanned pregnancy, so I don't know if I have any say in this. But it seems to me that if any woman does not want a pregnancy, she knows how to stop it before it starts. Once pregnant, could she not remain pregnant until the child is born and then adopt it out? Many adoptive parents wait in vain for a baby that never materializes. Pregnancy is an individual, private thing and should be handled by the individual and her doctor. Freedom to abort should be restricted to the very minimum and always for a good reason of which birth control is not one.
But I digress. The point is, What becomes of a nation that so casually rids itself of superfluous baby flesh? Will it survive forever?
Slavery is not outmoded or confined to Third World countries. The buying and selling of humans is still alive and well right here in the good ole' USA. Only this time, it's not Black men and women that are being traded, but young white women and children. Every year 50,000 children below the age of 16 go missing in the United States. Ninety percent of these children are sold here and abroad for perverse sexual purposes and pornography, and for the most part, are never heard from again. Auctions are held in major cities like New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Philadelphia where young, innocent human beings can be bought for $1,000 to $10,000. (Scoopified, Nr. 58, Autumn 2018)
According to sources, near China Lake, California, recently Federal officials raided an underground bunker where about a thousand children suffered in metal cages These cages were wired; therefore, the children could be shocked intermittently and the net result of this program was the splitting of these children's personalities. If their tormentors did not get the results they wanted, the children were raped.
Why do I tell you this? In spite of how ugly and perverse this situation is to talk about, there is much, much more, reaching down to the depths of depravity, that I will spare you. It reminds me of what the Bible says about ancient days, where parents bribed the pagan gods for good crops, and the children suffered the consequences. About this practice, God said, "Whosoever he be of the children of Israel . . .that giveth any of his seed unto Molech [a pagan god]; he shall surely be put to death." "I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name" (Leviticus 20:2, 3).
God seems highly emotional about causing suffering to the most innocent and vulnerable among us and refers to it in several passages of Scripture. "Take care that you are not ensnared into imitating them, after they have been destroyed before you: do not inquire concerning their gods, saying 'How did these nations worship their gods? I also want to do the same.' You must not do the same abhorrent thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods. They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:30,31).
Now we can look back over time and see the fall of the Caananites, the fall of Greece and Rome and wonder if grand scale child abuse did not have something to do with it.
I hate to mention it, but aren't we as a society doing the same things? Aren't we leaving our little children, so innocent and vulnerable, to be exploited, tortured, and even killed for financial gain. Not that those on my email list are among the guilty nor are the innocent parents who agonize when their child goes missing. But in the process of thinking about this horrible situation with our children, it occurred to me that if we don't protect our beautiful, innocent children, then the day will come when our heavenly Father can't protect us.
I thought I would not write on this subject again, but I have had many questions and comments on my last blog, and I thought I should answer them here. I do not want any error coming from my pen, for, as Ellen White said, "Error is never harmless" (CW 46.2). I wish earnestly with all my heart not to offend. When I picked up my "pen" [computer keyboard] to cover this subject, I thought this new information would please you. That is what I continue to hope for today with my present blog. Also, may I say, that I would welcome a fact checker to assure my readers that I have my facts straight. [emphasis supplied throughout]
Brothers and sisters, I am prepared to back down. Just show me that the antitrinitarian view has the weight of evidence, and I will gladly confess my error. Until then, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me." (paraphrase of Martin Luther) I am concerned about where this concept is taking us and will get to that in a moment.
Here are the questions that were raised, along with others that I thought were appropriate, and my response to them:
1. Q. An alternate translation of Elohim is "majestic," "the highest," "the greatest," etc. Is it not possible that the writer had the concept of ultimate superiority in mind when He wrote?
A. When I looked into Strong's Concordance (two versions actually) and in many others online, they all said, as the first definition, that Elohim is plural. One said derivations were occasionally used, with "majestic" given as an example. You are invited to research your own concordances and see if they shed light on this question. If you find anything other than this, please inform me.
2. Q. Doesn't the Bible says they are one? "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one" (Deut. 6:4, KJV).
A. This text is given more weight than other texts used in this discussion, and that is a perfectly acceptable approach. The original Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:4 for "one" is plural. Look it up. It is echad, the plural one. (Strong's Concordance, No. 258, to unify; No. 259, prop. united.) What it signifies is unity--the unity that exists among the heavenly Trio. That unity our Father expects of us. That unity justifies us in speaking of them as one, as monotheistic.
3. Q. Jesus is the "only-begotten" of the Father; therefore, that makes Him of the Father and justifies the appellation "Son of God."
A. For years I have read about and accepted that Jesus is the Son of God. I have no problem with it and do not need this doctrine to prompt me to accept Jesus as God's Son. Nontrinitarians have a rule of interpretation that if a concept does not "violate the laws of nature," all else being equal, that concept may be accepted as doctrine. But everything I read in Scripture about "begetting" or "begotten" pertains to birthing someone. That's all I know. When you are begotten, you are born. It requires a mother and father, and nine months later you have a brand new baby. That is "begetting." In heaven, in eternity past, if the nontrinitarian view is correct, who played the part of the mother? Well, without a mother doesn't that violate nature? Can you show me where I'm wrong?
Is it not possible that Jesus became God's Son when He was born of Mary in the manger of Bethlehem? Jesus had no other father. God's foreknowledge that this would happen justifies Him in calling Jesus His Son long ago in eternity past, for to God all things occur in the present. Scripture says that Jesus is eternal; He had no beginning. Christ's "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2, KJV). Does this agree with the concept that Jesus had a beginning? I will let you decide.
4. Q. Do you presume to disagree with the pioneers of Adventism who believed this way?
A. "We must study the truth for ourselves. No man should be relied upon to think for us. No matter who he is, or in what position he may be placed, we are not to look upon any man as a criterion for us. We are to counsel together, and to be subject one to another; but at the same time we are to exercise the ability God has given us, in order to learn what is truth. Each one of us must look to God for divine enlightenment. We must individually develop a character that will stand the test in the day of God. We must not become set in our ideas, and think that no one should interfere with our opinions." - TM 109.4
I'm not interested in what the pioneers believed, nor in what the Catholics believe, nor in what the council of Nicea believed, nor in what the Adventist church believes today. I am only interested in what the Bible says.
But I will share the history of this matter for the sake of discussion. It is uncontested that many of the early Adventists were nontrinitarians, including some of the great pioneers of Adventism. "However, it is also a historical fact that the understanding of our pioneers changed over time. For example, in 1846 James White referred to 'the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed, viz., that Jesus is the eternal God.' But in 1876 he wrote that 'S.D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the Trinitarians, that we apprehend no trial here.' And a year later he declared his belief in the equality of the Son with the Father and condemned any view as erroneous that 'makes Christ inferior to the Father.'" (from http://www.macgregorministries.org/seventh_day_adventists/trinity.html)
Belief in the nontrinitarian view was never a pillar. Rather, the church's concept of the Godhead developed over time as the church grew.
I will make one caveat to the idea that I care not for human opinions. I believe Ellen White spoke for heaven; therefore, I honor her statements. What did she believe about this subject? One of her best-known statements in this regard is DA 530, where she states, "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. 'He that hath the Son hath life.' 1 John 5:12. The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life," aligning herself with Christ having full divinity.
(You will hear that upgrading Christ's position from subordinate to the Father to full deity is the work of EGW's staff, of her son, of others but I have looked this up throughout her work, and she seems to really believe and be committed to the position she sets forth in her writings. Here are the citations in which she originated this or a very similar idea: ST 4/8/1897; Ms. 2, 2/9/1886; Ms. 22, 2/22/1898. The document dated 2/9/1886 is original and can possibly be found in the archives in her own handwriting. If this was not her position, please send corroboration. For further study consult https://media1.whiteestate.org/legacy/issues/The-Trinity.pdf, Tim Poirier's, "Ellen White's Trinitarian Statements: What Did She Actually Write?")
5. Q. You cannot believe the message of God's character of love without believing in the antitrinitarian view.
A. How so? I believe in three co-equal Persons in one God, because that is the message of Scripture. It is true, our generous, considerate God leaves in Scripture "hooks to hang doubts on," but I believe the weight of evidence supports the Godhead view. I have no further comment on this, except that if you have evidence that this assertion is true--that one cannot believe the message of God's character of love while believing in the equality of the Godhead--you are invited to share your views below.
6. Q. What do you think is the "hook" that Satan has placed in the antitrinitarian view of God?
A. It makes Jesus inferior to the Father. It causes Him to have a beginning. In this case, God sent an inferior Being to this earth to redeem us. The incarnation cost the Father nothing, because the Sacrifice came into being at some time in the past and was therefore common.
Please check your logic with this syllogism:
Proposal 1. There is numerically one God.
Proposal 2. The Father is God.
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is not God.
If proposals No. 1 and 2 are true, then the conclusion, based on the proposals, must be true as well. If you insist that the nontrinitarian view of God is correct, then the conclusion is the reality you have to live with. I cannot do that. This is where this doctrine is taking us. I can see it in neon. What might Jesus say to this proposal? Might He say, "Before Abraham was, I Am" (John 8:34)? He is Jehovah, the self-existent one.
After lunch a few Sabbaths ago our group fell into discussing the Godhead, which is a hot topic in our church today. I understand that the motivation behind this controversy is to magnify the Father, and while I agree with the motivation, I also believe that nothing magnifies the Father like the truth of the word. My purpose in highlighting this issue is not to offend, either my brothers and sisters--with whom I might not be in total agreement at this moment--, or my gracious and wonderful heavenly Father who has often been hurt by our failure to tell the world the truth. I fully believe that the truth of the word is sufficient for both my brethren and my heavenly Father.
I will divide this document into two basic sections: 1) What the Bible says about God, and 2) The plural one. [Emphasis provided throughout.]
First, how many Persons make up the Godhead? Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning Gods created the heaven and the earth."1 The word Elohim means multiple or plural Gods. On that all agree. Where we use an "s" or "es" to render nouns plural, the Hebrew language uses "im" to do the same. Although the traditional practice of seeing God as singular has made us think of Elohim as singular and translate it as such, there is no disputing that it is plural. What if when we see the word Elohim in Scripture it conjures up in our minds multiple Persons? Would we be wrong?
Genesis 1:26 supports this fact. "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image.'" Again, the name Elohim is translated "God," singular, yet in reality it should be plural. Notice the plural form of the pronouns used, us and our. Supposing we could go through the entire Bible and where we find the word Elohim, change the translation to plural. How would that look? What would that say to us?
I am not attacking that our God is monotheistic. He is. And that contrasts sharply with the pagan gods proliferating in the ancient world. But in what way is He monotheistic? How are we justified in referring to Him in the singular?
John 1:1 supports the idea that there are at least two persons in the Godhead. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Again, we see multiple Persons together at the creation of the world. We cannot ignore this or any text relating to this subject as we are seeking the golden weight of evidence for our conclusion.
1 John 5:7 says, "For there are three that bear record [testify] in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This text, which speaks in the most emphatic voice, has an interesting history. Some say it does not belong in Scripture because it is not found in most early manuscripts. However, between 476 A.D. when Rome fell and 538 A.D., when popes began to reign, a struggle took place between the Catholic church and three kingdoms for dominion over the West. These three kingdoms were Arian who believed in the "One God" theory. Listen to what the reformers John Wesley and John Calvin have to say about this text:
"JOHN WESLEY commented on 1 John 5:7 saying: 'I would insist only on the direct words, unexplained, just as they lie in the text: 'There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.'
"'As they lie in the text :' --but here arises a question: Is that text genuine? Was it originally written by the Apostle, or inserted in later ages? Many have doubted of this; and, in particular, the great light of the Christian church, lately removed to the Church above, Bengelius, --the most pious, the most judicious, and the most laborious, of all the modern Commentators on the New Testament. For some time he stood in doubt of its authenticity, because it is wanting in many of the ancient copies. But his doubts were removed by three considerations: (1.) That though it is wanting in many copies, yet it is found in more; and those copies of the greatest authority: -- ( 2.) That it is cited by a whole gain of ancient writers, from the time of St. John to that of Constantine. This argument is conclusive: For they could not have cited it, had it not been in the sacred canon: -- (3.) That we can easily account for its being, after that time, wanting in many copies, when we remember that Constantine's successor was a zealous Arian, who used every means to promote his bad cause, to spread Arianism throughout the empire; in particular the erasing this text out of as many copies as fell into his hands. And he so far prevailed, that the age in which he lived is commonly styled, Seculum Aranium, -- 'the Arian age;' there being then only one eminent man who opposed him at the peril of his life. So that it was a proverb, Athanasius contra mundum: 'Athanasius against the world.'
"To read their entire quotes in context, see this site: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2007_04_22_archive.html
"JOHN CALVIN -- 'However, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that IT IS FOUND IN THE BEST AND MOST APPROVED COPIES [capitalization in the original], I am inclined to receive it as the true reading.'"2
[The history of this text cautions us to be careful. When we read a text that doesn't agree with our ideas, we should let the text inform us-- not excise it from its Scriptural base. Our ideas and opinions are to be shaped by the word, not the word shaped by our ideas and opinions.]
Many other texts could be cited here to support that there is more than a single Being in the Godhead, but we won't cite them, since this is not a book but a blog. I will move on to the plural one.
The plural one solves the mystery of how multiple Beings can be, collectively, one and thus maintain the truth that the Godhead is one. How can multiple Beings be one? Both the Old Testament and New contain evidence of multiple Beings in one. Here are some examples:
And God wants that same unity to exist among us His children. Tracing this theme through the Scriptures gives us:
As the Deity is one, we, God's people, are to be one. Exactly like Deity. Ergo, the Deity is one as we have the capacity to come together in unity as one.
Here Jesus prays for us, that we also may be one. How can we be one? By morphing into a single unit? No. By union of thought and behavior.
So clear . . .
Three times in one chapter Jesus prays to His Father that His children might be united just as He is united with the Father. Do you think He intends that they morph into a bizarre numerically single entity? Or does He intend that they shall be united? Whatever conclusion you reach, please know that Father and Son are united in exactly that same way.
Is this concept Scriptural? Yes. Is it reasonable and objective? Of course. Does it magnify the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Yes, certainly.
Hierarchy or Equality?
Scripture says that the Gods (or Beings in the Godhead) are equal. (Philippians 2:6). It's a beautiful thing to see how they each give glory to the other. The Father says, "[L]et all the angels of God worship him [Jesus]" (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 19:10). Jesus says, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). The Holy Spirit "shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13) but happily represents Jesus in the life of the Christian. While each has His own role to play, none of the Deity seeks glory for Himself. None of them is better than the other.
To recap, we have looked at the manner in which the Bible presents the heavenly Trio. There are three equal Beings in the Godhead, not just one. Their "oneness" is in their unity, not in their number, a condition we are called to replicate. We must never forget that while we lift up the Father above all else, we cannot avoid pushing Jesus down. Thus we put Jesus in a secondary, nonequal role, falling into Satan's trap. Perhaps he brought this concept up as a vehicle to push our Savior down. He constantly desires to do this.
Notice I have not used the word "trinity," because some object to its close association with Catholicism. There is no need to use this word, because the Bible supplies one better--"Godhead." (See Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9).
Finally, we are made in God's image. Just as we cannot contract ourselves into one bizarre and indescribable entity, neither can God. Why should He want to? But if you believe my assessment of the situation is not correct, you are welcome to place your correction below this post.
1Elohim. Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Elohim.
I have never seen a human burning alive, and when I try to imagine it the horror overwhelms me. Traditional Christianity would have us believe that the God of the Bible, a God purported to be loving and kind, burns those whose ways do not please Him. Some He burns forever. What has been the result of such teaching? Some people become skeptics and barricade themselves against the church and all for which it stands. This class says, in essence, that such a God has no right to claim loyalty from anyone, and all who buy into this obvious myth are either deranged or shallow minded.
And what has this concept done to the churches themselves? It has filled them with "Christians" who are such because of that everlasting fire they believe is waiting for all who don't yield. What kind of God is that? What kind of atmosphere prevails in churches where this doctrine is taught? My guess would be drama, raucous noise, and neon lights, as the leaders seek activities to keep the interest of those not truly born again. They think God's going to "get them" one day with flaming fire, if they don't shape up.
And please note: The same difficulty faces us as faced the religious leaders of Christ's day. They wanted a muscle-bound giant who could power them to victory over the Romans, and Jesus just wasn't that guy. He didn't fit the profile. Unbeknownst to them, He had bigger plans than anything their minds could conceive, and so they killed Him. And today we expect the Hebrew leaders' "God" to fulfill our prophetic expectations! They didn't get it back in Jesus' day, and, truth be told, they don't get it in our day either. Why? They fail to understand the word, interpreting the literal symbolically and the symbolic literally.
Can we agree that there is something wrong with this doctrine? Hasn't Scripture boldly asserted that "God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind? (2 Timothy 1:7). Is this doctrine not fear based? I think we would agree that it is and, therefore, deserves a second look.
Like several other doctrines, the idea of eternally burning hell originated in paganism and was used by the medieval church to keep the people in line.
What we do see during this time [the medieval period] is the expansion and proliferation of pagan myths about the afterlife, which were then repackaged as eternal, fiery torment in the Western (Catholic) Church, primarily by Latin theologians and Church leaders from Rome. It seems this was most likely motivated by political expediency. The idea of eternal torment was a prime tool for controlling the average churchgoer with fear and was congruent with secular mythologies of the time.1
On this point some have had the courage to stand up to the current of cultural norms and say, No. This is not the Bible view. But is it possible that those too have been deceived? Is it possible we have something more to learn about how a wise and caring God disposes of those who do not see things His way?
What Does Scripture Say?
I first want to magnify Christ to His central place in this discussion. Think of His actions as a Template. He carried our sins from His entry into the Garden of Gethsemane until His death on Calvary. Besides being our example of righteousness, He paid our sin debt. He will show us how God deals with the lost, for Christ was "lost" as He carried our sins with Him into the Garden. He carried them when they nailed Him to the cross. He carried them through all that suffering and pain until the moment when He cried out with a loud voice, "It is finished." "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (John 19:30; Luke 23:46). Again, our Teacher is our Template.
Seeing what happened to Him shows us how God the Father deals with the lost of the ages, for Christ experienced everything that the lost will experience. God will give them up, just as He gave up His Son to die for our sins (Romans 8:32). All have made a final choice, refused the Father's overtures of love, preferred independence from Him. Now He must honor their choice. Now He cannot move to comfort them. How will this affect them? Just as Christ agonized in the Garden, just as He sweat great drops of blood, the sins of the lost without the soothing hand of God to lift the burden will torment them in emotional agony. Grief will possess them, just as it possessed Christ in the Garden and on the Cross until the moment He gave up His life for us.
That His death was voluntary, a choice, is supported by:
a. His "loud cry" at the moment of His death proves He died voluntarily. His voice did not fade out until He could no longer produce a loud cry. He had full control over His voice and other faculties up to the end.
b. His death coincided with the hour of the general evening sacrifice. He chose to die at that exact moment.
c. When Joseph of Aramethia requested the body of Jesus, Pilot sent a centurion to ascertain if He was really dead, because no one died in just six hours from crucifixion alone. To prove He was really dead, the centurion plunged a spear into Jesus' side. The dual streams of blood and water proved that He was dead. He died in a surprisingly short time, because He chose the moment of His death.
d. Jesus predicted, "I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17, 18). It was a voluntary choice, a choice that will be repeated in the end of all things.
This is important to show that in the end, like Christ, the lost choose to die. God does not make that choice for them. Let's look at what the lost see on Judgment Day, the day the light comes to their minds that they can no longer deny and that might make them want to die.
a. First they see their sins―in glorious living color. They see not only their sins but the far-reaching influence of those sins, the ripples that flowed out to generations beyond. As God's hand withdraws cover from them, they realize as never before the part they played in the suffering of multitudes.
b. On Judgment Day light and truth come, for that is what Judgment Day is. All are "undeceived." Here is truth staring them in the face. They can no longer deny it. They now know that they can't capture the city of New Jerusalem. With the universe now before them, they see that they are in the minority. Gone is the comfortable lifestyle that they cherished for so long. The righteous are praising God and glorifying His beautiful name. But that which appears lovely and valued beyond words to the righteous, appears vile and undesirable to the lost. There is no place for them any more, any where in the universe. They choose to die, as Christ chose to die when He paid our sin debt. "And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family" (Jeremiah 8:3; emphasis supplied throughout).
What About the Fires?
Where in Scripture do we find God endorsing burning people alive? No where. At one time I thought I had found a statement where God encouraged the people to burn someone alive. "And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire" (Joshua 7:15). Achan had stolen and concealed something valuable at the taking of Jericho. But when I looked a little farther down the page, I found this. "And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones" (v. 25). They burned Achan and his family with fire―but they stoned them first. They were dead before they were burned. Although the people themselves sometimes burned their children alive on the arms of the idol Molock, God consistently says, "They have built also the places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind" (Jeremiah 19:5). It seems God takes an attitude similar to ours when it comes live burning of humans.
Even burning of the sacrificial animals, representing Christ, took place after they were dead. You may search Scripture all you want for information supporting the idea that God will some day alter his character and burn humans alive. But you will not be successful. It just isn't there. And if it seems to be there, take note, further study is needed.
"Fire" is a word that can be either literal or symbolic in Scripture. For example, literal usage of the word "fire" would include, "And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold" (John 18:18); "He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, and walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt" (Daniel 3:25), and similar texts.
But "fire" is used extensively symbolically. "I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood" (Jeremiah 5:14). "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29). And "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body" (James 3:6). There are many symbolic uses of the word "fire" in Scripture that you may look up.
Similar to use of the word "sword" to characterize the emotional grief Christ passed through at the time of His suffering, the word "fire" symbolized that same suffering. While the word "sword" might be used symbolically in another setting, i.e., "the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17), it doesn't seem to fit this usage, which is verified by several gospel texts.
What can we do with this statement: "[F]ire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them" (Revelation 20:8). It seems that this statement provides an insurmountable barrier to seeing God as nonviolent. But is this statement literal or symbolic? What might the fire represent here, if used symbolically?
In order for this statement to be true about the lost, it would also have to be true of Christ, the Template. Did literal fire play a part in Christ's sacrifice. No, it did not. We didn't observe any fire about Christ as He died for our sins. That fire, like the sword, was symbolic. But--watch closely--a prophetic statement in the Old Testament says this concerning Christ. "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them" (Lamentations 1:12, 13 ). Here again, Christ is acting as a Template for you and me and the myriads of humans for whom He died. For our discussion He mostly represents the lost of the ages and their final fate. Does this support the falling of literal fire? Or does this support a lake, an abundance, of humans suffering their final, indescribable emotional torment?
Notice in both instances the fire is said to come down from above. However, we didn't see the fire. We didn't see the sword. Both represented the emotional agony that Christ felt in His soul. This is how the lost will feel as they contemplate their sins. This represents their grief as they contemplate their future. This is the fire of burning emotions, the sword that penetrates down into their souls.
And what is the Father's role in this. Does He in fact send the fire--either literal or symbolic? That is thoroughly covered in my other materials (See Light On the Dark Side of God). Suffice it here to say that No, He doesn't send it. He merely sees (and describes) Himself as doing that which He has the power to prevent but doesn't prevent, because the people have taken themselves out of His jurisdiction by willful sin, and He must honor their choice.
(You will find this format used over and over again in Scripture if you look for it and know what you are looking for. Again, I refer you to the book, Light On the Dark Side of God.)
After this emotional assault on their psyche, the real fire begins that cleanses and recreates the whole earth.
1Brazen Church, "How and When the Idea of Eternal Torment Invaded Church Doctrine." https//medium.com/@BrazenChurch/how-when-the-idea-of-eternal-torment-invaded-church-doctrine-7610e6b70815. To read several good essays on this subject, google "How did the doctrine of eternally burning hell come into Christianity"?