God’s infinite love was manifested in the aeons before the sin disaster
intruded upon the unblemished happiness of the creatures throughout the universe,
but the manifestation of that love is even more wonderfully revealed since
Yet, while no one
who has any understanding of God’s Word would even consider that He punished
or destroyed before the appearance of iniquity, the vast majority are
strongly convinced that necessity has demanded such actions from God since
the rebellion began.
There are at least
two reasons for this thinking. Firstly, the human mind has long been educated
to believe that the only way to overcome rebellion is by force. Therefore,
because man is conscious of no other way than this, and because he is aware
that the Lord does have a problem which must be solved, man, unless
especially enlightened by God’s Word under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit,
cannot see that there can be any alternative but for the Lord to use force.
But there is another way. Examinations will be made later, of incidents in
Bible history to show that God’s actions can be viewed in a different light
A second reason is that
the mind has been trained to read Scripture references according to a certain
method of interpretation. When read according to that system there are many
Scriptures which will be understood as saying that God punishes, destroys and
“And God saw that
the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
“And it repented
the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.
“And the Lord said,
I will destroy man who I have created from the face of the earth; both man,
and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth
Me that I have made them.” Genesis 6:5-7.
“And, behold, I,
even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh,
wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in
the earth shall die.” Genesis 6:17.
“Then the Lord
rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of
“And He overthrew
those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and
that which grew upon the ground.” Genesis
“And it came to
pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered
Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the over
throw, when He overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.”
“And the Lord said
unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those
wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” Exodus 4:21.
“And I will harden
Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. .
. . And He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the
Lord had said.” Exodus 7:3, 13.
“And he said unto
them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side,
and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man
his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.” Exodus
“The Lord is
regarded as cruel by many in requiring His people to make war with other
nations. They say that it is contrary to His benevolent character. But He Who
made the world, and formed man to dwell upon the earth, has unlimited control
over all the works of His hands, and it is His right to do as He pleases, and
what He pleases with the work of His hands. Man has no right to say to His Maker,
Why doest Thou thus? There is no injustice in His character. He is the Ruler
of the world, and a large portion of His subjects have rebelled against His
authority, and have trampled upon His law. . . . He has used His people as
instruments of His wrath, to punish wicked nations, who have vexed them, and
seduced them into idolatry.” The SDA
Bible Commentary, 1:1117.
“It was to be
impressed upon Israel that in the conquest of Canaan they were not to fight
for themselves, but simply as instruments to execute the will of God; not to
seek for riches or self-exaltation, but the glory of Jehovah their king.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 491.
“Like the men
before the flood, the Canaanites lived only to blaspheme heaven and defile
the earth. And both love and justice demanded the prompt execution of these
rebels against God, and foes to man.” ibid.,
“And it came to
pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to
Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down
great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were
more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew
with the sword.” Joshua 10:11.
“But when the king
heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed
those murderers, and burned up their city.” Matthew 22:7.
A careful reading
of the who parable of which this last verse is a part, and the commentary on
it in Christ’s Object Lessons,
307-309, will show that the king is God, the armies were those of the Romans,
the murderers were the Jews, and the city was Jerusalem. The text was
fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Therefore the text
is really saying, “And when God heard thereof, He was wroth: and God sent
forth His armies, the Romans, and God destroyed the Jews, and God burned up
“And they went up
on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and
the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured
them.” Revelation 20:9.
This is by no means
a comprehensive list of statements of this nature. There is no special point
in assembling every such quotation here. However, these are more than
sufficient to provide the examples needed to show that there are many such
Scriptures, which when interpreted according to the way our minds have been
accustomed to interpret them, leave one with no option but to believe that
God does use force to liquidate those who have rebelled against Him.
There are many folk
today who read these texts, interpret them according to long-accustomed
methods, and are quite satisfied to believe that God does behave as an
executioner to those who refuse to obey His laws.
But in doing so
they have to ignore several things. Firstly there are quite a number of
statements which say the opposite from what these statements are interpreted
to mean. Secondly, there are the great principles which are embodied in the
constitution of God’s government. Thirdly, there are the terrible implications
of holding such beliefs about God.
These will be
considered in turn as we proceed, but firstly let a list be made of what some
would call counter-statements. In reality they are not and cannot be
counter-statements for there is no such thing as a contradiction in God’s
Here are some
examples of such statements:
“The Lord is
righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works.” “Thy testimonies
[commandments or laws] that Thou hast commanded are righteous and very
faithful.” Psalms 145:17; 119; 138.
The Lord is
righteous and the law is righteous. Therefore God is what the law is. It is
the “transcript of His own character,” Christ’s
Object Lessons, 315, and that law declares “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13. Therefore, if it is not in the law to kill, it is not
in the character of God to kill.
So, “God destroys no man. Everyone who is
destroyed will have destroyed himself.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 84.
“God destroys no
one.” Testimonies, 5:120.
“God does not stand
toward the sinner as an executioner
of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that
which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or
unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a
seed sown, which yields its unfailing harvest. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from
the sinner, and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of
the soul, and no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan.” The Great Controversy, 36.
“Satan is the
destroyer. God cannot bless those who refuse to be faithful stewards. All He
can do is to permit Satan to accomplish his destroying work. We see
calamities of every kind and in every degree coming upon the earth, and why? The Lord’s restraining power is not
exercised. The world has disregarded the word of God. They live as though
there were no God. Like the inhabitants of the Noachic world, they refuse to
have any thought of God. Wickedness prevails to an alarming extent, and the
earth is ripe for the harvest.” Testimonies,
“This earth has
almost reached the place where God will permit the destroyer to work his will
upon it.” Testimonies 7:141.
“God keeps a
reckoning with the nations. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His
notice. Those who work evil toward their fellow men, saying, How doth God
know? Will one day be called upon to meet long deferred vengeance. In this
age a more than common contempt is shown to God. Men have reached a point in
insolence and disobedience which shows that their cup of iniquity is almost
full. Many have well-nigh passed the boundary of mercy. Soon God will show
that He is indeed the living God. He will say to the angels, ‘No longer
combat Satan in his efforts to destroy. Let him work out his malignity upon
the children of disobedience; for the cup of their iniquity is full. They
have advanced from one degree of wickedness to another, adding daily to their
lawlessness. I will no longer interfere
to prevent the destroyer from doing his
work.” The Review and Herald, September 17,
When Jesus was
asked to destroy the Samaritans who had rejected Him, He replied to His
disciples, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man
is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to
another village.” Luke 9:55, 56.
“There can be no
more conclusive evidence that we possess the spirit of Satan than the
disposition to hurt and destroy those who do not appreciate our work, or who
act contrary to our ideas.” The Desire
of Ages, 487.
“Rebellion was not
to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan’s
government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. His authority rests
upon goodness, mercy and love; and the presentation of these principles is
the means to be used. God’s government is moral, and truth and love are to be
the prevailing power.” ibid., 759.
“The exercise of
force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the
service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or
authority.” ibid., 22.
We know that God does
nothing that is contrary to the principles of His government. Therefore, He
does not use force.
suffering, and death are work of an antagonistic power. Satan is the
destroyer; God is the restorer.” The
Ministry of Healing, 113.
Here is a
compilation of statements emphatic and clear, asserting that God is not an
executioner, does not punish, and destroys no one. When
these and the first set are viewed side by side, there appears
no possibility of their being reconcilable. No attempt has been made to
search out and copy every statement which exists for one side or the other.
This is not necessary, because any further quotations would only say that
which is already quoted in these representative selections.
contradictions present the Bible student with a problem. For some, it is
“solved” by simply discarding faith in the Word of God, charging it and its
Author with duplicity and inconsistency. Others simply ignore the words which
they are unable to understand or do not really desire to accept, while they
carefully collect the opposite set, building their faith accordingly.
This was the course
adopted by the Pharisees and the Jews prior to and at the first advent. In
the Old Testament there were many prophetic statements describing both the
first and second coming of Christ. One set naturally spoke of His coming in
obscurity, shame, ignominy, rejection and to final crucifixion. The other set
described a coming in indescribable power, glory and triumph in which all His
enemies would be totally annihilated. To the Jewish mind, especially as it
lost the Spirit’s illumination, it was impossible to reconcile these seeming
contradictions. Their solution was to ignore every statement which spoke of
humility and obscurity and to dwell heavily on those which spoke of power and
glory. Thus Satan trained their minds to reject the Saviour when He came. So
clever was he, that he used the Scriptures themselves to accomplish this.
Once they had embarked on that wrong principle of interpretation, then, the
more they studied their Bibles, the more conditioned they became to reject
the Saviour when He appeared. He came exactly as the Scriptures said He
would, but not as they had read the prophesies. Therefore, because He did not
fulfil the set of prophecies they had gathered, they rejected Him and thus
lost their eternal lives.
The story of their
experience contains a lesson of the most solemn warning. While we understand
the differences between the comings of Christ, we find ourselves confronted
with other subjects about which two different sets of statements are written.
The subject of God’s character has one set which states that He does not
destroy and another which says He does. We can do what the Pharisees did by selecting
the set which we prefer to believe, carefully gathering all the quotations
supporting that view and discarding or ignoring the others. Should we do this
we will emerge with a view of the subject as erroneous as that of the
Pharisees in regard to Christ’s coming. The consequences for us will be the
same as for them—the loss of eternal life.
The true student of
God’s Word will not make this mistake. He will ignore no statements, no
matter how they may seem to contradict others. He will candidly acknowledge
that so far as his understanding has now developed, these statements remain
for him a flat contradiction of each
other, though by faith, he knows that in God’s Word there is
no real contradiction. Consequently, he will rest in the conviction that the
problem is only apparent and not real. Confessing the weakness and frailty of
the human mind, he will recognize that the difficulty lies in an inadequate
depth of spiritual perception on his part. Undisturbed by the clamor of
voices around, he will move forward in quiet faith, patiently studying God’s
Word, knowing that, under God’s tutelage, such revelations of the mysteries
will come to him and will remove all contradictions, providing instead, a
perfect harmony, where previously only confusion existed.
spirit-enlightened student of God’s Word thus comes into possession of a
harmonious system of truth, he will find that those who follow out the
alternative system of interpretation, by carefully collecting only those
statements supporting their own preferred view, will charge him with twisting
the Scriptures. They will accuse him of making the Word of God say what it
does not. They will argue emphatically that the Bible says, “God destroyed
them.” Then they will ask, “What could be written more plainly than that?
One might counter
by saying, It also says, “God destroys no man.” This will have no effect. Their minds have been programmed to
accept only that which they have chosen to believe. No impression can be made
by quoting contrary statements. They merely entrench themselves more firmly
behind their list, while in glowing indignation, they level the charge that
the plainly written words of God are being rejected.
Two things must be
established at this point. One is that this problem cannot be solved by
simply countering statements with other statements. Secondly, it cannot be
resolved by twisting or changing the statements to conform to our preferred
ideas. In this study great care will be taken not to do this. Even so, we
still expect that the opponents of the position taken in this publication
will level this accusation against us. We will strive to make our position so
clear that such an accusation will in fact be groundless. We ask each
objective, candid, and responsible reader to carefully check to see if in any
way the Word of God is twisted to suit a personal or private view as these
pages unfold. We believe it will be found that the only interpretations given
to the Scriptures will be those found in the Scriptures themselves, with no
private interpretation being offered. At the same time it will be perceived
that all disharmony between the two sets of statements will disappear.
There has been the
careful and frank quoting of the two different and seemingly contradictory
compilations, in order to demonstrate that there is a problem which needs
solving. How can this problem be solved so as to bring the thoughtful,
responsible student to an accurate knowledge of what the Word of God is
teaching? That is the important question which we must now study
go back to that time when without question we did believe that God destroys.
We understood that after great patience and
longsuffering, when God had sought to win the sinner, He was
finally left with no recourse but to obliterate from the face of the earth,
in an act of signal destruction, those who refused to repent and come into
harmony with the principles of His government. For many years this idea
remained unchallenged. Meanwhile, our understanding of God’s ways was
becoming far more extensive as with careful, conscientious purpose we studied
God’s Word. In so doing we arrived finally at that point where other
statements and principles began to unfold. These principles denied the
position we already had in regard to God’s character. We could not honestly
reject the new concepts and at the same time could not easily revoke the old.
Yet, there was no solution as to how they could be reconciled.
Faith was a
steadying factor in the problem. Faith said that there are no contradictions in God’s Word. Faith
said that we must take both of these statements as they read. Faith said that
in due time, the God of heaven Himself would provide the answers if we
trusted Him and continued our careful, objective study.
In my own personal
experience it came about as follows. As far back as 1952, I had never doubted
the way in which God dealt with the unrepentant. It was plain to me that He
destroyed them in the lake of fire. In that year however, the Sabbath School
lessons in the church of which I was a member, dealt with the origin of evil.
We looked deeply and carefully into the nature of God’s government, the
problems which arouse in Lucifer’s mind, the issues of his challenge against
God’s government and the way in which God would deal with that problem. It
was not as clear then as it has been set out in the previous chapters, but we
did gain a beautiful and wonderful grasp of the constitution of God’s
We saw how upon
this earth, there was to be worked out in absolute fairness so far as God was
concerned, the great struggle between good and evil. Good was to conquer upon
its own merits without the
assistance of an overpowering physical force. I shall never forget the
soul-filled rejoicing with which I grasped these precious principles of
truth. I possessed understandings of the great controversy the like of which
I had never known before, but which have increased in depth since that day.
Today I cannot recommend too strongly, the necessity of every soul making a
deep and detailed study of the issues involved in the great controversy from
its origin to its end.
A few weeks later
my new found belief was to receive a serious challenge. The Sabbath School lessons
moved on through the fall of Adam and Eve, the death of Abel and the
proliferation of people upon the earth. Then we came to the flood.
The implications of
the standard view of what God did in the obliteration of the human race in
Noah’s day were very serious indeed. I saw that the commonly accepted view of
what God did back there, meant that He was forced to admit that righteousness
was not able to withstand the
crushing tide of evil, so that God and Christ were obliged to
step in, exercising Their own superior physical power to reverse the tide,
erase the entire company of Satan’s followers, and preserve alive only Their
I imagined a
conversation between the Father and the Son along these lines. “In the
beginning We did undertake to fight this great controversy out on the basis
that righteousness could stand on its own merits. But now it is clear that
sin has reached such proportions that it is on the verge of a world takeover.
At the moment We only have eight subjects remaining, and in a short time,
these too, will have died or passed into Satan’s camp thus making him the
total victor in this struggle. So we must now act by coming to the rescue of
righteousness. Let us step in with our limitless, infinite power, and obliterate
the entire side standing for Satan. We will preserve only our own people and
thus make a complete, fresh start. Thereafter, We will maintain the use of
force in appropriate places to ensure that Satan never again brings the world
to this same crisis point.”
This implied that
God had to revise His method of
dealing with the sin problem. It revealed Him as beginning in one way, but
finding Himself later obliged to introduce measures not contemplated in the
beginning. This made God less than infinite, omniscient, omnipresent and
omnipotent. It meant that He was not really God because God has perfect
foreknowledge, and needs no revisions, compromises, or changes as time goes
by. [This is such an important fact! rb]
In this way I found
a serious problem on my hands. Nothing could deny the clarity of the
principles underlining God’s government or of His way of dealing with the sin
problem. Yet, at the same time, the story of the flood seemed to show a God
who was later forced to introduce an element of compulsion and destruction.
While, on one hand, I could not and would not deny the truths learned in the
origin of evil, on the other, I was unable to see wherein the popular view of
the flood was wrong. So, for the first time, a real challenge to long-held
concepts and views was presented to me. At first I could not meet that
challenge. There were no answers to it.
My attitude was one
of faith. I made no attempt to twist or bend either side of the question to
suit the other. I believed implicitly that in the Word of God there are no
contradictions. Those contradictions which appear as such are there only
because of an inadequate understanding on our part. I likewise believed that
God would give light and understanding to those who humbly and sincerely
sought for it. So I studied, prayed, and waited. The time came when further
evidence began to accumulate, and piece by piece the puzzle came together
until I found a perfect reconciliation between God’s stated attitude to the
sin problem and the story of the flood.
I recount this
development in my own thinking to indicate the way in which we all may come
to the saving truth of God’s Word. There are problems in understanding and in
interpretation. At the same time there are clearly laid out rules in the
Bible as to the way in which the problems can be solved. If we will learn to
follow those Bible explanations of interpretation we cannot but arrive at the
living truth of God.
This chapter has been devoted to the recognition that there is
a very real problem to be solved because of the existence of apparent contradictions in the Word of
God. As there are statements which plainly say that God does destroy and
others saying that He does not destroy, we strongly recommend that each
reader face the fact that such a problem exists. At the same time we
encourage each believer to realize that there are no real contradictions in
God’s Word, that the Bible is written for man’s understanding, that these
problems are therefore solvable and that simple trusting faith in God will
bring clear understandings in this connection. If we are prepared to adopt
this attitude then we are ready to proceed on to the study of the way in
which the problem may be solved.
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