Thursday, September 11, 2008

Redeeming Hell

My God Wouldn’t Torture People for Eternity

How can anything about hell glorify God? Those who advocate annihilation often appeal to the love and mercy of God as the basis for their rejection of eternal punishment. They reason that the God they believe in wouldn’t torture or torment people for all eternity. They suggest that such a belief would put God on the same level as humans who act out of vindictive vengeance, revenge, retribution, and hatred. Some would suggest that those who subscribe to an ever-burning hell have a need to be punished and view God as punitive in nature. The motives of the person preaching about hell may be brought into question as well. There is an aura of kindness in the sentiments of those who deny the existence of eternal hell. But while they may choose to take the
Bible literally in other subjects that corroborate their beliefs, in this realm, they suspend those rules of exegesis because the very thought of an ever-burning hell cuts across their own suppositions about the character of God. So, the inability to understand the complexity and mysteries of God and sin leads to inaccurate conclusions.

So how could hell be good news? Did a loving God come up with such a ghoulish solution to sin? How could the reality of eternal suffering possibly glorify God? First, we must trust that God is good, always and in all things. So if there is something that seems to defy that truth then we must push thru until we either understand, or come to a settled decision to have faith in His goodness until He reveals the mysteries to us.

The Enormity of Sin

Hell is not the ultimate evil in the universe; sin is the ultimate evil against a God who is infinitely good. Therefore, unending punishment is commensurate justice. What is that punishment? It is what has been chosen by free wills: to be shut out from the presence of God. Those who argue for annihilation see the solution to sin from a human viewpoint. For this reason many have been deceived into the doctrine of Universalism. They reason: “God is love and would not exact punishment on people for their offenses toward Him. He sent His Son so that no one would have to bear the consequences for their own sins. Therefore, the grace of God extends to all, whether they respond to Him or not. If they have to offer a response, then salvation depends on them, and is not from God alone. It would give people a part in their own salvation, and that is antagonistic to grace.”

The wonder of the substitutionary death of Christ is a mystery beyond all that we can fathom. But we err if we think that it does not require a response. God does not coerce people into obedience or salvation. He has given us free choice, which we can and must exercise. Grace has led some to believe that even though sin is heinous that God would not let anyone suffer the full consequences of its enormity. But that is to minimize the nature and extent of sin. We incorrectly underestimate the awfulness of sin, especially our own. We dismiss it as ignorance, a mistake, a blunder, in some cases, even charming. But only God can rightly estimate the magnitude of sin in His universe.

Let me illustrate. What if we were able to ask Adolph Hitler what he would consider to be an appropriate punishment for the sum total of his actions in the holocaust? What would he answer? Then, let’s consult the survivors of the holocaust - those who suffered the fear and horror of the internment camps and loss of children, parents and friends after seeing them tortured and finally exterminated. Let’s ask them what they believe would be an appropriate sentence for Adolph Hitler. Whom do you think would argue for the greater punishment? Hitler, or those who suffered at his hands? Most likely, Hitler wouldn’t believe that God should punish him at all, but instead, should punish those who didn’t believe in what he was doing. While his victims would feel that no matter how much he was punished, it could never'Wages of Sin' by Duncan Long be enough to pay for his crimes. Would the family of the child - mistreated, experimented on, molested, and finally exterminated in a gas chamber - opt for a quick, painless injection that took Hitler’s life? Or would they believe that something much more would be called for to exact justice for their precious little one’s suffering? In anyone’s estimation, his crimes would merit ultimate punishment, because the moral outrage for his part in this chapter in Earth’s history is unspeakably evil.

Is this not, in truth, the reality of the infinite nature of sin against the infinitely good God? Jesus came and gave the infinite sacrifice, commensurate with all human sin, so that no one else would have to pay the price for his or her own sins - great or small. It was in this gift He showed His mercy, His love, His forgiveness. He offers it freely to all who will take it. If we choose not to accept His substitution, would it not follow that we are accepting the responsibility to pay the price, ourselves, for the ultimate horror of sinning against ultimate Goodness?
Sin Isn’t Cute

We all wink at sin and consider it “not that bad.” But God’s view is not our view. As we peer into God’s perspective of what it means to sin against Him, we see that it is not insignificant -however much we would like to believe the contrary. Let’s look again at some examples. Adam and Eve’s sin of eating forbidden fruit plunged all humanity - for all history - into horrific consequences that continue to escalate to this day. Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for worshipping in ways God had not ordained. Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead for lying about the selling price of their land. Lot’s wife was turned into salt for looking back at the home she loved, while walking away from it. This is what sin means. We have tried to tame and sanitize it, and have allowed Jesus’ fathomless grace to be trivialized by blindly believing that sin is a matter of making mistakes.

Listen to what the New Testament writers say about sin: “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law (this is the New Covenant Law that we are under) according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:8-10 (NASB)

What are the two highest laws of Christ? Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul, and your neighbor as yourself. How many of us can keep those laws for even ten minutes? Therefore, we are all guilty of all sin, unless we have accepted the blood of Christ. Sin is not the same as sins. Sin is to turn away from our Creator; sins are the result of that rebellion.

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matt 12:36-37 (NASB) Those are the words of Jesus.

Every careless thought and word? Yikes! Would you think you should be condemned by a careless thought or word? "No," we would think, “Oh, God will overlook that; it wasn’t a big deal”. Not so, because it would signify a heart that could turn away from God. It was Adam and Eve’s mistaken belief that it was a small thing to go against God that required the cross. Jesus, Himself, came to take the place of every person ever born on Earth, to keep us from having to meet the consequence of hell - eternal separation from Him. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and our state of forgiveness, we have minimized the seriousness of sin instead of recognizing its malignity. Because we have been acquitted, we seem to believe that it isn’t really all that bad. We have but to repent and accept Jesus. So, we think the magnitude of sin and the cost of salvation are small. But sadly, that only shows our total blindness to the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus, made on the cross. In this we make a grievous error.

The Infinite Price of Sin

Listen to Jesus calling the world to accept salvation: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” John 3:16-19 (NASB) 'Resurrection' by Duncan Long

”Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb 4:12-16 (NASB)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24 (NASB)

The ubiquitous nature of warnings from God in scripture should be a clue to us that He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. If we are like Him, we will join Him in exposing the plans of the enemy for the destruction of humanity. This is not, as it has been charged, “scaring people into Heaven.” If we saw children running to the edge of a cliff, and didn’t save them from plummeting to their deaths, would we feel justified in allowing them to follow their own inclinations, congratulating ourselves for being non-judgmental, or would we be complicit in the children’s deaths? If we observed someone else warning the children, would we dispense an accusation of heavy-handedness? That’s sounds too absurd to even consider.

God agrees: “At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself.’" Ezek 3:16-21 (NASB)

This desire of God, that none should be lost, is echoed in the warnings about hell from Jesus. We are foolish to hide behind a self-righteous refusal to speak the truth about hell because we think it reflects badly on God. Jesus demonstrated no such restraint.

Our horror should not be that there is eternal consequence to sin against God. Our outrage should be that there would be anyone who would choose to accept the consequences of the enormity of sin, themselves, rather than to confess, repent and receive forgiveness thru the unfathomable gift of God’s Son in their place. Abhorrence toward eternal punishment is an acknowledgment of ignorance about the immensity of sin. I believe this has been shown in the reticence within the church toward confession and repentance. There is a stubborn pride in the refusal to acknowledge sin, humbling ourselves at the foot of the cross in broken repentance for that sin. It is seen as groveling - unnecessary - in the light of grace. No, it is the condition of grace. Grace is an accomplished fact in our lives only if we acknowledge our desperate need, and confess that need. This is not a popular position these days, and those who voice it are seen as judgmental, harsh, and clueless about mercy. But the day is upon us when we will be held accountable for not raising up the cross of Christ -imploring all to call upon His name, so that none might perish. It has become the order of the day to avoid discussing the consequences of sin, thereby lulling people into complacency about their standing with God. We have been called as watchmen on the walls to call out a warning to all who will listen.

Cold Feet Over the Flames of Hell

We seem to be afraid of even suggesting that those who will not come to Christ might be lost, for fear it will make God look bad. Perhaps we are even more afraid of looking bigoted for suggesting that there is only one name given on Earth by which anyone can be saved. We are mistaken if we believe that warning people against utter ruin makes God look bad. Eternal punishment for sin does not reflect badly on God, but on the stubborn, ungrateful refusal of the objects of His grace to take hold of the Life Preserver. It is the inevitable result of willful rejection of the free gift of Jesus. Only God knows the hearts, the opportunities and the responses of all humanity to His gift. It is not our business to even speculate about what ifs in regard to these questions.

We are not God ,and will never (though some can’t fathom this) be called upon to make the decisions about anyone’s eternal destiny. Thankfully, we can trust the God who gave Himself to hang between Heaven and hell, so that none might perish. God is calling His people to join Him in His relentless pursuit to snatch every person possible out of the flames of eternal punishment.

Do you recall the little group of Sadducees who smugly thought they could trap Jesus with a question about the resurrection? They didn’t believe in the resurrection, but had interpreted scripture to fit their theology. They asked Jesus whose wife a woman would be in the resurrection if she had had seven husbands. Jesus told them that they weren’t even asking the right questions. Their whole premise was wrong. They didn’t know what they were talking about. We, too, see thru a glass dimly. For now, we will have to be content with clues that point to future answers: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Romans 1:18-19 (NASB)

Why have we been so negligent to partner with Him to “compel them to come in” Luke 14:23 (NASB)? Our denial of hell has blunted our passion for souls. We are oblivious to the stakes involved. We have, ourselves, denied the enormity of sin, and the immensity of its consequences, thinking that we 'Pre-birth Self-portrait #2' by Ramone Romeroare guarding 

God’s reputation by downplaying the results of sin. In our minds, receiving a death sentence of extinction doesn’t merit our commitment to bring everyone possible to Jesus so that they will not be eternally lost. They will be lost or saved, and soon, the whole messy business will be over so that we can get on with eternity.

Since we have trouble with the second great commandment of considering others more highly than ourselves anyway, we are not sufficiently motivated by the goal of seeing that others enjoy the pleasures of Heaven. We do not have the unselfish love that compels us to go out to the highways and byways to seek and to save that which is lost. Consequently, we sit back and tell ourselves that surely, God won’t turn all those nice people out into the “blackest darkness”. Perhaps we have come to believe in Universalism by default because we have misjudged the malignity of sin, the holiness of God and the character of grace.

We have made God over into our own image, setting that image up as an idol. This impostor god is able to overlook sin, whether or not we are covered by the Blood. “After all, we forgive people who do not ask for our forgiveness, or acknowledge their actions against us. What kind of god would be less gracious than we are - punishing offenders for eternity? That kind of god would be worse than the greatest tyrant who ever lived on Earth.” Or so goes the reasoning. But we must not believe it justifiable to equate God with Hitler in the doctrine of eternal hell fire. In doing that, we are creating incompatible parallels.

To use words like “torture” with respect to God’s punishment, is to humanize God and imbue Him with human emotions and motives. Hell is the absence of God’s nature - the absence of all Good. It is what the Bible describes as destruction, ruin, torment, and fires of punishment. 'I Chose You' by Hazel HollandWhen we understand the reality of Hell correctly, we will be eager to tell all nations, tribes and people about God’s gracious love - the antithesis of all that is evil in act, thought, motive and destiny. It is our privilege to demonstrate to the world the differences in the two kingdoms with their two outcomes, saying with God, “I set before you this day life and death. Choose life.”

When discussing hell, an annihilationist will usually state that it is improper motivation to scare people into Heaven. Is that what we are doing by unmasking the plans of the enemy - telling people that they don’t have to be deceived by his lies? Are we misrepresenting God in this way because we, ourselves, don’t comprehend God's incredible gift versus the utter misery offered by the enemy? Are we comforting ourselves with the idea that “our God wouldn’t torture people for all eternity,” in the same way the Sadducees completely missed the point? We set up a straw god, then proceed to burn him.

We have allowed the enemy to ascribe to God his own plans for humanity. We have allowed him to convince us that there is no such thing as hell, as he schemes to take the entire world with him into the lake of fire. The charge of injustice for a god who would allow hell is misplaced. If we are going to cry foul, let’s get the right perpetrator. Without Satan, there would be no hell. We are choosing between two kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light. However, even Satan’s boasts of a kingdom are false, because there is one King, one Lord, one God and one Kingdom. Why have we not spoken out to unmask his lies?
Hell: An Evidence of God’s Love?

During medical school, I can remember sitting in religion classes taught by A. Graham Maxwell and Jack Provonsha. I didn’t understand all of the implications of their teachings at the time, but one of the things they said that made sense to me was that if God had simply exterminated Satan when He sinned the rest of the universe would serve Him out of fear. It was necessary to allow freedom of choice, or love of God would always be tainted by the threat of annihilation.

It’s interesting to me now that I never carried that line of reasoning on out to eternity. If free choice is an unchangeable tenant of God’s character, then how could annihilation ever be an option? Just as God would not wipe Satan off the face of existence for rebellion against God, (since God created all of His beings with free choice) why would He, one day, put an end to that policy? When does the statute of limitations on free choice end? If hell is, indeed, being cut off from the presence of God, then those who choose to be without God in their lives are given the results of their choices. Do we, as parents, kill our children if they refuse to obey us? No, we allow them to choose, and then live with the results of their choices. Albeit, much entreaty and instruction precedes those results.

Norman Geisler puts it this way, “those who do not wish to love God must be allowed not to love Him. Those who do not wish to be with Him must be allowed to be separated from Him. Hell is this eternal separation from God. If God allowed unbelievers to enter heaven, it would be worse than hell for them. How could people who detest prayer and praise to God stand to be sentenced to a place where this activity goes on forever…How could a loving God force people to go there when they don’t want to worship Him but rather hate and ignore Him as they have in this life? It is more congruent with the nature of divine love not to compel people to love Him against their will. Therefore God is actually merciful to unbelievers to provide for them a place consistent with their rejection of Him.” Everything You Wanted to Know About Hell, pp. 32-34

Even C. S. Lewis weighs in on hell when he says, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell.” The Great Divorce p. 72. He refers to the one who rejects the overtures of God, in The Problem of Pain, p. 110, when he says, “He has his wish – to live wholly in the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is hell.” Is it benevolence or malevolence that allows the creatures He loves to live forever as they have chosen? There is really no question.

Cook at 350º For One Hour

The Adventist version of annihilation calls for the wicked to pay for sin in accordance with their wicked deeds. The Bible does suggest that the final punishment of some will be more bearable than for others. But we must not loose sight of the fact that it is not just bad works that caused the separation between God and humanity. There is a much deeper breach than doing something naughty. It is the sin of rebelling against God - willful rejection. It is a choice to withdraw from the only source of good in the universe, and beyond. It is the notion of sins (bad deeds) versus sin (turning away from Holiness).

If sins were the issue there could be a formula for exacting payment: the legalism of hell. If someone committed just a few, relatively benign sins, they would receive a different degree of punishment from those who committed worse sins - or more of them. It suggests that sinners who refuse Christ’s payment for their sins can sign up for their own payment plan. An eye for an eye, a payment in kind. But, of course, that would be impossible. We are spiritually bankrupt without God, and the redemption price for sin requires perfect holiness. The implication is that burning a person for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature can atone for, or be adequate payment for, their sin.
The Adventist doctrine of annihilation also makes Satan the sin-bearer. Ellen White introduces this view when she writes: “The wicked receive their recompense in the earth…Some are destroyed as in a moment, while others suffer many days. All are punished 'according to their deeds.' The sins of the righteous having been transferred to Satan, he is made to suffer not only for his own rebellion, but for all the sins which he has caused God’s people to commit. His punishment is to be far greater than that of those whom he has deceived. After all have perished who fell by his deceptions, he is still to live and suffer on…” GC 673
Notice that, in this quote, Satan is made to pay for the sins of the saved - as if Satan’s suffering could ever meet the penalty for sin or atone for inexcusable rebellion against God. Only Jesus - God Himself - could do that. It is Jesus who has paid the price for our sin and our sins. They were placed on Him and nailed to the cross. Somehow, just as all of us were in Adam (our human father) when he sinned - so that his sin was handed down to us - just so, each of us was in Him (our spiritual Father) so that His righteousness was handed down to us, as if we had never sinned. The EGW account above sounds like a recipe for the atonement of sin that goes something like this:
Tear-Out Recipe for the Atonement of Sin

1 Condemned Sinner.
Bring sinner to repentance and confession of sin.
Sinner accepts Christ.
Place the sins of the forgiven sinner on Satan who will bear them.
Place saint in Heaven for all eternity.

1 Condemned Sinner.
Sinner rejects Christ.
Sinner sentenced to hell in the judgment.
Add Sinner to the flames of hell.
Bake Sinner at 350º for just a moment for mild nature or number of sins.
Bake Sinner at 500º for 60 days for moderate nature or number of sins.
Bake Sinner at 750º for 90 days for severe nature or number of sins.
Bake Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, Nero, Ivan the Terrible and any others who reached this level of evil at 5000º for 120 days.
Bake Satan and his hosts at 10,000º for a lot longer or until done.
Then annihilate them all.

But the truth is, no matter how long Satan, his demons, the false prophet, the beast or any who worship the beast burned - it could never atone, or pay, for sin. That is why casting Satan as the scapegoat in this play is blasphemous. Sin against God could only be atoned for by God Himself. If this were not true then God could have, and would have, sent someone other than His Son to die for the sin of humanity. However, no one else could pay the price. Only He could take upon Himself the full consequences of infinite sin, against a Holy God, for every human being - precisely because He is God. Therefore, He came and made the only sacrifice that could redeem us from eternal loss. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! The all-sufficient name of Jesus! The only name, Jesus! Jesus, the Savior of all who will call on His name. Those who refuse to call on His name can never atone for their sin. Even an eternity of human suffering cannot pay the price, and so it never comes to an end for those without the redemption price. Praise God! The price has been paid, once, for all.

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Heb 7:25-27 (NIV)

Summary of Redeeming Hell

1) Only an infinite sacrifice could be made for the ultimate rebellion.
2) The scandal is not hell, but the refusal to accept redemption.
3) We have not correctly estimated either the enormity of sin or the cost of our salvation.
4) There are many mysteries that we cannot understand, but we can trust that God is good all the time. 'Cross of Light' by Hazel Holland
5) When we ask questions about hell with respect to 

those who have never heard the name of Jesus, we are stepping in over our heads.
6) We are responsible for our own choices; Jesus will deal with their's perfectly. We don’t even know the right questions to ask, so we would be wiser to keep silence.
7) We have the privilege to set before people the truth about God, and the truth about Satan, so that they can make choices based on the contrasts.
8) No formula of payment for sin could ever cover the cost of human rebellion; for without Christ, there is no remission for sin.
9) The Adventist version of paying for sin in-like-kind is fatally flawed.
10) Adventist Annihilationists believe the wicked will burn in hell. The issue is how long they burn before they pay for their sins.
11) How long is long enough? How long is too long? If it’s abhorrent for hell to last for eternity, what about half an eternity or a quarter of an eternity? Time cannot be the issue.
12) The problem is, those who reject The Sacrifice can never pay for their sin.
13) The price for sin has been paid once, for all, thru Christ. We have been commissioned to call the world to repentance so they can spend eternity with Him.

Prayer of Freedom for the Adventist Heart

Quiz for Redeeming Hell
Circle the correct answers
1. At the heart of sin is:
A. Believing in soul sleep
B. Eating pork
C. Choosing to separate from God
D. Observing Sunday

2. Sin is the ultimate rebellion; only Jesus could pay the infinite price.
A. True
B. False

3. God
A. Secretly enjoys watching people suffer
B. Planned hell out of vindictive hatred for the beings He created
C. Can’t wait to make S’mores and wienies over the fires of hell
D. Takes no pleasure in the suffering of the wicked

4. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice no one will be lost except:
A. Those who refuse His sacrifice for their sins
B. Sunday keepers
C. Smokers
D. Catholics

5. Annihilation makes sense because once the lost have been punished for a certain amount of time equal to their sins the debt has been paid.
A. True
B. False

6. Ellen White’s teaching states that the sins of the righteous are placed on and born by:
A. Jesus
B. Sunday keepers
C. Satan
D. Constantine

7. We can trust Jesus to take care of the problem of those who have never heard His name because He is perfectly merciful and perfectly just.
A. True
B. False

8. Satan is our sin bearer.
A. True
B. False

9. The focus regarding hell should be placed on all of the following except:
A. The Church’s apathy toward preaching the gospel in power and completeness
B. Those who would reject the provision made in Jesus
C. God’s refusal to remove the possibility of rejecting His salvation and presence
D. Those who neglect warning people of the consequences of their choices to reject

Jesus’ sacrifice for their sin

10. The quizzes in this study are:
A. Actually stimulating and fun
B. Brilliantly constructed
C. Not in the least bit slanted to the perspective of the author
D. All of the above

Answers: 1-C, 2-A, 3-D, 4-A, 5-B, 6-C, 7-A, 8-B, 9-C, 10- Why, D, of course!

I want to commend you for your persistence in pursuing this study to the end. I would imagine that it has been a challenge, and may have brought into question some dearly held presuppositions. We are all on a journey of discovery. Jesus honors our quest. He will be true to His word in sending His Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. I pray a blessing on your future study of this topic, and would ask for your prayers on mine. Each time you approach His word, to learn more about Him, pause, and pray that His Spirit will open the eyes of your heart to see things you have never seen before - bringing revelation into hidden mysteries. I commit to doing the same, and expect that five years from now, we will see and know things we have not yet imagined. Perhaps as we continue to open ourselves to the same Spirit we can come back together and share the wonderful and marvelous things He has spoken into our hearts.

“The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.” Num 6:24-26 (NASB)

Prayer of Freedom for the Adventist Heart


Anonymous said...

"5) When we ask questions about 'hell' with respect to those who have never heard the name of Jesus, we are stepping in over our heads."
Yes, maybe, but how 'bout simply Qs re. 'salvation' for those who've never heard the name of Jesus...? Isn't Jesus, as John 1:9 says, "the true Light which lighteth EVERY man that cometh into the world."?

I recently had someone ask me such questions and I found related Ellen White comments that were very helpful, and full of grace... But first note below the Scriptures I found that seem to speak to such questions.
Several days ago a friend called wanting to know whether people who did the best they knew, yet never knew of Jesus, could be saved. I told him yes, I tho’t so, because this class seems to fit Rom. 2:14 & 15. They “have not the law”, yet “do by nature the things contained in the law” … “show[ing] the work of the law written in their hearts.” Maybe Rom. 1:19, 20 (& a few after) speaks to this Q. as well. This class also seem like those Paul described in Acts 17 as “ignorantly worshipping Him” whose times God could wink at for awhile…

Anyway, I finally used my EGW CD to find the following helpful statements.

Gently Broken said...

Moderator: Thank you for these comments. I believe that when we are able to see more clearly the vast mercy and grace of God we will fall on our faces and repent, once again, of our smallness of heart. Though we fancy ourselves the sinner who was forgiven little, we continue to function in the model of the sinner who was forgiven much. We hold the feet of those whom we do not understand to the fire - demanding judgment. May Jesus give us His heart and His discernment.

savedbygrace said...

Because Adventism teaches that we are saved by how much light we have, it is a natural thing to take these verses and use them in this fashion. And in all honesty, I think there's a partial truth there. It is true that we are saved by Light....the Light of the World, but there isn't a partial light by which we are saved. Does that make sense? We have to have the whole Light, even if He isn't well understood by the person who has fully accepted Him. (Does anyone fully understand Him? We'll spend eternity getting to know Him, right?) The crux of the confusion I see here is that we can't on one hand say we're saved by light and then on the other by law. They are diametrically opposed. The Law brings sin and death and the Light brings grace and mercy...Life. One damns us eternally, the other sets us free. We have to choose which one we want. We can't have both. Romans makes no sense to a person who wants to hold on to the law because it essentially looks like Paul has bipolar disease going back and forth between law and light; sin and freedom. Romans 8:1,2 which I consider to be the peak of the mountaintop of scripture says this: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death." (NASB)

Blessings in our Lord and Savior...


Ramone said...

Patria, that is an amazing contrast I had not realized before! We are saved by the Light, not by the *shadows*.

Hazel Holland wrote a good article about these things which can be read here: "The Wideness of God's Mercy"

Gently Broken said...

In response to the annonymous writer:

If you read all of this article you will find that I have quoted some of the same texts you have shared above from the Bible. I do not accept Ellen White's writing as an authoratative source for developing a belief system. I also do not turn to her writings to add to the scriptures or to interpret them. I believe that the Bible, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the only source we need to arrive at truth. If she agrees with the Bible, then her words are superfluous. If she disagrees with the Bible then her words are heretical. If she adds to the truths of the Bible then her words are unreliable.

Truly, the Bible teaches that God is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. He alone knows how that all happens in instances where someone has never had the privilege of hearing the gospel. But I do trust Him and know that if I did know how it is all worked out I would fall at His feet and worship once again.

With respect to these issues, let me pose a question to you. Why did Jesus command His followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel? What is the purpose of evangelism? Why send missionaries to lands that rarely hear the gospel? Anyone can jump in here.

Dennis said...

Act 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

According to this it would clearly be to spread the gospel and defeat evil in the field. It is an old old war and it cannot be won with complacency. Winners and losers are mostly determined by who gets there first. If evil is allowed to spread without resistance their may not be much hope for mankind. I can't find anything anywhere but I think God would like us to show that we care about good triumphing over evil. If we don't care then what is the point. Annihilate the earth and be done.