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:
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). And "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29). "Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." 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 all 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.
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"?
"When I sent you without purse, and script, and shoes, lacked ye anything? . . . But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, 'And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end" (Luke 22:36, 37, emphasis supplied throughout). This text appears only in Luke. Matthew, Mark, and John apparently did not consider it of sufficient importance to include in the gospel record.
Clearly, this statement marked a change in Christ's life and behavior in a way the disciples could not comprehend, although He had told them. They thought He meant the time had come to fight; therefore, Peter drew his sword and cut off the high priest's servant's ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" and quickly healed the man. The disciples knew that Jesus had the power to win any confrontation. Why wouldn't He fight? Why wouldn't He allow them to fight? Now thoroughly confused, having taken Jesus' meaning literally, when He gave them opportunity to flee, they took it. Although critics of the message of God's character of love try to use this text to prove that, when threatened with physical harm, Christ endorsed use of the sword, abundant evidence exists1 that He didn't mean that. Violence was not in His nature. Well, then, what did He mean?
In a footnote to Luke 22:36 in The Geneva Bible Commentary, the author makes this comment: "He says all this using an allegory, as if he said, 'O my friends and fellow soldiers, you have lived until now in relative peace: but now there is at hand a most severe battle to be fought, and you must therefore lay all other things aside and think about dressing yourselves in armour.' And what this armour is, is shown by his own example, when he . . . reproved Peter for striking with the sword."
Remember where Jesus was at this time, because it is relevant. As they entered the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew this was the hour that He would drink the cup of sorrow to its dregs and then return to His home in heaven. Although the disciples didn't know it at the moment, this was His departing message to them.
Indeed, Jesus position in the world changed that day. Henceforth the disciples would have to go it alone without His physical presence to comfort and counsel them. He said, "[T]his scripture must be fulfilled in me, 'And he was counted among the lawless,'" quoting Isaiah 53:12, "[H]e was numbered with the transgressors," meaning He knew that within a few short hours He would be hanging between two thieves on His way to a voluntary death. He meant His crisis hour had arrived. His concern had nothing to do with swords, as critics of present truth today assert. He used the word "sword" symbolically. Did He refer to future conquests by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God? Or might He have meant the severity of the assault on His emotions? Could He have attached a symbolic word within a statement that was otherwise quite straightforward? One thing is clear; what He didn't mean. And He didn't mean to endorse the violent use of the sword.
Imagine what an emotional burden Jesus carried into the Garden that night. Could His experience have been compared to the agony of a sword slashing through His heart? Apparently so, for there are at least two references to this in Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The first is in Psalms 22:18, where we hear Christ praying to the Father. "Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog." A sword was not used at the crucifixion. The only thing that came close was a spear, which a centurion plunged into His side when He was already dead. This sword was clearly figurative.
A second example is Zechariah 13:7. "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man who is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Jesus claimed these words as a prophecy of Himself when He said, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" (Matthew 26:31). Although He did not mention the sword in the part of the text that He quoted, these two portions clearly belong together, again symbolizing the great pain Jesus experienced when He went to the cross for us.
The New Testament offers a third example of the use of the sword to symbolize the pain that Jesus felt through His mother's experience when He went to the cross. The just and devout Simeon at the dedication of baby Jesus declared to Mary, "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also," implying the piercing of a sword through Jesus heart and by this, through the heart of Mary. Did Simeon speak the truth? Yes. But it was a symbolic sword that nonetheless drove through His emotions so realistically that it broke His heart. Symbolic swords can kill.
When opponents of this message seek ammunition in Jesus' life to defeat our position, they inevitably pick this statement in Luke 22:36, 37 as their first exhibit. You can hardly blame them, because scant proof exists that Jesus was ever anything but nonviolent, and they have little from which to choose. Couple that with the fact that the Father is just like Jesus, and (what can I say?) we win.
Luke 22:36 illustrates what can happen when the symbolic is erroneously interpreted as literal or vice versa. In the study of no subject is this more clear than in the study of the Fires of Judgment Day. We will take up this study next time.
1"Then Simon, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?'" (John 10, 11).
"Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, 'Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.'" (Matthew 26:51-53).
Jesus surveyed the crowd before Him, noting how eager the people were to hear Him speak. Possibly, candidates for His kingdom, He thought. But there were other faces, Pharisees and Saducees, the leaders of the Hebrew nation, that were not drawn out to seek His wisdom. Rather, they listened intently to hear Jesus speak words they could twist to condemn Him. Later, when He was alone with His disciples, Jesus said. "[B]ware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees" (Matt. 16:6).
The disciples' reaction to Jesus' statement illustrates an important element of the way they listened to Jesus. They thought He meant to chide them for not bring enough bread with them. Instead of bewaring of the influence of the leaders, they thought He meant literal bread, because He said the word "leaven." Leaven meant bread to their minds; therefore, Jesus followed up with a reminder of the four thousand and the five thousand they had fed at one time with the simple exercise of faith. He didn't mean bread. They had enough bread, since Jesus could create it out of a few small loaves and fishes. He meant beware of the leaven, the influence, of the leaders. They misunderstood. They thought He spoke of literal bread. They misunderstood much of what Jesus tried to teach them, because they were steeped in the ancient traditions of their fathers. They could only see Jesus sitting on a Roman throne. Throughout His teachings, they listened with tradition running in the background.
A short while later He asked them, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" This conversation allowed Him to speak openly about what the future held for Him--and for them. He said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again" (Mark 10:13, 14). "And they [the disciples] kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean (Mark 9:10). Again, they misunderstood. They tried to attach a symbolic meaning to something that we know was clearly literal.
I find it interesting that what they thought was literal was symbolic, and what they thought symbolic was literal.
We do that today. We misunderstand what the word of God is trying to tell us. In His day Jesus spoke of putting old wine into new bottles. How important to understand that new truth belongs in new bottles, new settings, while that which is old settles down to become the carpeting, the background for our lives. Use the new settings for the new wine, forgetting the traditions of the fathers.
Here is a parable that the disciples didn't understand and that we misunderstand, even today. It was the Thursday evening before Passover Sabbath. They had just eaten the Passover meal and could see that Jesus' bearing was burdened, not what they were used to seeing in Him. Just before stepping in to the Garden of Gethsemane He said something totally out of character for Him and the diametric opposite of anything they expected Him to say. He said, "When I sent you without purse, and script, and shoes, lacked ye anything? . . . But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword., let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end" (Luke 22:36, 37).
The disciples realized that these words signified a change in Christ's behavior and in His relationship with the world. Perhaps now He would appear in His true character and make their lives less painful.
My Definition: A sanctificationist is one who believes that righteousness can be achieved through hosting the presence of the Holy Spirit, representing Christ, within the self. How much sin did Jesus commit when He walked this earth? None. Since Christ overcame sin in our own human flesh, sanctificationists believe He brings that victory with Him when He comes in through the Spirit to abide in them. He imputes righteousness at the same moment when He imparts it. Thus He--not the human host— is expressed in their every word and action, revealing the Christ within.
There is more than one way to look at obedience. The minds of many automatically default to legalism when the subject of obedience to the law is raised, making talking about this subject problematic beyond words. The preconceived ideas of many regarding how to have victory in the life--or, indeed, if obedience is even wanted or needed in the life of a Christian--further confuse the issue.
Like many of you, I have hesitated to raise the subject, knowing things can go "off the rails" in a heartbeat. To further complicate the issue, Paul says, "[T]he law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching" (1 Tim. 1:9, 10). The law is not intended for those who obey. Who would want to take up this subject, knowing how the enemy of souls hates it, will do everything he can to obscure it, and that raising the issue brings you head to head with the kingdom of darkness?
Please excuse me if I talk about myself for a moment but this story makes a needed point. I came into the SDA church about the time people started talking about obedience. Could you obey, or couldn't you. Was it even needed? Too much focus on obedience was a red flag to God that our faith was weak to nonexistent (they told me); therefore, in order to demonstrate our faith we should just forget thoughts about obedience. And I did. For awhile.
I finally had to know. I could not go on another moment without knowing the truth of the puzzle before me. I saw that it impacted my whole life. I prayed earnestly about it and became impressed that the answer was somewhere within the fragile pages of the word of God. How I resisted! I did not want to read the Bible completely through as the Holy Spirit directed. It was such a thick book with all those "thee's" and "thou's" in it. We finally compromised with a more readable modern translation, and I began my first daily journey through Scripture. What did I find when I was through? I found the beautiful message of God's character of love.
Looking back, I marvel at God's providence. He arranged for me to learn--at the same time--the righteousness by faith message. These two messages that are still inexcusably misunderstood and rejected by many within Adventism (including the historic kind), while not realizing that these two messages together are the most potent tools in the arsenal of the saints to teach the need to obey God (the message of God's character of love) and also how to do it (the righteousness by faith message). And this is the point I want to make. I wonder, How many of the "saints" are in the boat I was in? How many of them are wondering the same thing I wondered for so long?
So how does use of the made-up word "sanctificationist" fit into this scenario? It offers, as a foil for the word "legalist," another better word, "sanctificationist." It shows that there are two mind sets regarding the subject of obedience. With only the word legalist to define us, we enter the battle zone greatly disadvantaged. Everything got dumped under that one definition.
"Sanctificationist," however, means the child of God understands the only path to true victory over sin. It means that he/she hears Jesus knocking at the heart's door and hastens to open it and let the Holy Spirit in to guide each day. It takes the subject of obedience from something cold, hard, and difficult and turns it into something alive with the sweet spirit of Jesus. Therefore, in the future if you have the misfortune to be called a legalist, correct the speaker by saying, No, I am a sanctificationist.
"Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea" (Psalm 106:7, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis supplied).
I was wrong! Psalm 106:7 does not provide conclusive evidence that when Israel rebelled at the Red Sea, the subject of the rebellion was Israel's decision to use weapons to defend themselves rather than leaning fully on God to protect them. Again, this psalm does not prove it.
Let's review what coercive evidence we do have.
1. God did not use human weaponry in releasing Israel from Egyptian bondage. In the nine plagues culminating in the tenth, wherein the firstborn of man and animal died, no human weapons were used. This we know for sure. We also do not have record of any Israelites dying during or after the plagues. They seem to have come through the crisis intact.
2. They left Egypt unarmed. We know this from Scripture (See Light on the Dark Side of God) and from Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 282. "They [Israel leaving Egypt] were unarmed and unaccustomed to war. . ." (emphasis supplied).
3. They walked by faith through the Red Sea as if it were dry land (Hebrews 11:29), with armed Egyptians approaching swiftly from the rear.
4. Psalms 106:7 proves there was a rebellion at the Red Sea, but it does not say what the issue was that caused the rebellion; for that reason this text cannot be considered 100 percent proof positive that the rebellion was about the weaponry.
5. Soon they experienced war with Amalek at Rephidim. SOP is clear, that event would not have taken place except for their "murmuring." "Because of their murmuring against Him, the Lord suffered [allowed] them to be attacked" (Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 298), showing that this was not His ideal will for Israel. This was His "permissive" will--what He "willed" when He could not have His perfect will. (an issue that pertains to the great controversy and is a subject for another day.) But could their "murmuring" have included rebellion at the Red Sea?
What was the source of their weaponry? Where did they find it, make it, beg, borrow or steal it? From where did Israel's weapons come? My subjective assessment is that they picked up the dead Egyptians weapons that lay around them on the shore of the Red Sea. Then why is there no mention of it during the rest of the entire Biblical narrative? Particularly when that event played such a major part in our understanding of God through future years?
This question, which throughout history seemed inconsequential, is monumental as the character of God becomes the issue of the last days. At this time in history, Psalm 106:7 takes on enormous importance. But it is not coercive evidence such as you might find in a court of law, nailing the door shut on the case. It is highly persuasive evidence which should figure prominently in discussions in the days ahead.
Psalm 106:7 reads: "Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wonderful words; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea." (emphasis supplied throughout)
We learn several facts from this quotation.
The psalmist had the Exodus in mind when he penned these words. ". . .our ancestors, when they were in Egypt . . . "
He further tells when this event took place. It occurred "at the Red Sea." Do you see the connection? Egypt, Red Sea, Exodus . . .?
The Israelites "rebelled" at the Red Sea. Do you remember Scripture mentioning any rebellion at any time or place around the Red Sea? About what were they rebelling?
According to Strong's Concordance, the Hebrew word morah is translated "rebelled" in this passage in most modern translations. It is also translated as disobedient, disobey, or provoke, the last of which is found in the King James Version. There is no question that something happened around the Red Sea that triggered God's anger (as we now know it).
Did this rebellion occur when Israel arrived at the Red Sea? when they walked through the Red Sea? When they arrived on the far shore of the Red Sea? We have a hint of the answer in Hebrews 11:29. "By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land." They had faith when they walked through the Sea. Rebellion was not on their minds at that time.
When we connect these dots with information in Light On the Dark Side of God, there is a high degree of probability that the reason for the rebellion was when they saw the Egyptians' weapons lying on the ground and picked them up with the intent of protecting themselves with them. Remember, in Egypt the Lord was their only defense; they did not have to fight their way out of Egypt. From that moment God's ability to protect them in His own way was sharply curtailed. The free-will decision of the people themselves greatly handicapped God. From then on they would depend upon themselves for security and protection. This event greatly skewed humankind's impression of God, as He attempted caring for them while they were intent on caring for themselves.
Psalm 106:7 is the only verse I have found in the sacred text that openly suggests a rebellion at the Red Sea. Absent this verse the evidence is mostly circumstantial. In my opinion, this text nails it down.