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.
Greetings, Brothers & Sisters,
This email comes to announce the retooling of Light On the Dark Side of God. Yes, we have changed the name and size back to the original by popular demand. After much thought and discussion, the issue of the name has finally been settled (I hope).
My gratitude goes out to Floyd Phillips, the editor and supervisor of the present project, for his invaluable contribution. I couldn't have done it without him. We have cut out large sections of the book, replaced it with better thoughts and words, made it flow better and generally improved its overall presentation. Floyd was "handicapped" to a degree because he wanted the book to reflect my vision, since I was the original author, so he walked a thin line between what perhaps he would prefer to express and my ideas and concepts. But please know, in spite of Floyd's generous contribution to improving the quality of the book, if you see things in it that still "make your eyes roll," I take full responsibility for it. Floyd is not to blame.
I also want to thank Christopher Leach for the animation he has drawn for the project. I didn't want just anyone to do this drawing; I wanted someone who was knowledgeable and sensitive to what we were trying to accomplish, and Christopher is that someone. This is not to marginalize the efforts of the many brothers and sisters who are making a herculean effort to get this wonderful message out to the world. We are all needed. But the project I know best is this one; therefore, I put my whole energies into it. I hope you will want to get involved either with my efforts or the efforts of others who are teaching this truth.
Let me describe the new book to you. It has about 200 pages. We have also prepared a main condensed version that has 115 pages. We uploaded the condensed book to my two websites where interested visitors can read it freely. Then, if they like it and wish to share it, they have two options: 1) They can invite friends and family to the website to also read it free, or 2) they can purchase either the full book (200 pages @ $18.50) or the condensed book (115 pages @ $10.50) and distribute it to others. As you can see, the object is to get full saturation in order that our good and merciful heavenly Father can no longer be slandered by well-meaning churches or by anyone.
Funds will come into the project more as an "afterthought" than as a principle object, but I anticipate that a certain amount of funds will come in from product sales and contributions. Because so many have helped with this book and contributed to it, I cannot in good conscience claim any of the proceeds that come in. Therefore, I am contributing all income from both of my sites to a ministry that also teaches the wonderful truth about our Father's character and is faithful to Adventist teachings in other areas. More information is available on my websites about this ministry.
The next obvious step is perhaps the most important--advertising and promotions. All the efforts of Floyd, Christopher, me, and a host of interested friends will be in vain unless the people are informed about it. Therefore, we now need champions who can take this book and its contents out to the world. Nothing we have done is of any value without that.
My role will now change in the project. Rather than thinking of me as the author, please think of me as the Administrator of this plan and my two websites. With the money not coming to me, the baton is now passed to you. You are now in control. You are now in charge. I am now working for you. Remember, we can do more faster by all of us promoting than by only one (me) promoting.
"Adopt a Platform"
How can you help? I would like for you to "Adopt" one of the websites below on which to promote the book and/or Christopher's animation. You will find a copy of the animation on the bottom of this email. Here is a list of websites which I believe may be open to such advertising/promotion. Please email me with your choice. If possible, include a second and third choice. If you know of a site not included here but on which you can place the animation and/or otherwise promote the book(s), please select it and let me know. Someone else may want to work with you. The site will be your responsibility, including both promotions and financing same. All this will be kept track of from our Administrative office. [When emailing us, please put "PLATFORM" in CAPS in the subject line. This may be followed by a subject of your choice. If you wish to send a general email to this address, please put "GENERAL" in CAPS followed by a subject of your choice.]
NOTICE: I am allowing two weeks until April 2nd to get your "ducks in a row." Talk it over. Make your decisions. We will plan to go public on April 2nd.
I will try to get email addresses from visitors to my websites, as well as their location. (Some of you have already visited and left your email addresses. Thank you for doing that.)
I can't stress enough the need for us to pray continually and especially during the next two weeks, for God to bless this project. Someone once said, I would not give a straw for all that the most talented person can do without the blessing of God. We want to invite our ever-courteous God to be center stage of everything we do.
Sharing On Personal Websites
If anyone wants to share the condensed book on your own website, here are the rules:
a. You may show the condensed book free of charge.
b. You may set this up in either of these two ways:
1) You may either set this up on your website exactly as I have set it up on mine, where visitors can read the condensed book free of charge and, if they like, download it onto their own computer hard drive. Then make provision so that visitors have access to purchase either the condensed book or the full book. If your website wants to do this, please let me know. I am keeping track of these locations in order to a) communicate relevant information, as needed, and b) assure that somehow their visitors who read the condensed book free leave their email address and their location.
2) Or you may link to my site where your visitors may read the condensed book, download it, and/or purchase either the condensed book or the full book (or both).
But the thing I would emphasize to you is to let me know. Send me a quick email. I want this information in case of future needs I wish to convey to you and to keep track of which websites are showing the book. I will exchange links with you. [Please put "SHARING" in CAPS in the subject line. This may be followed by a subject of your choice.]
And I hope everyone who reads Light On the Dark Side of God will leave a comment or review on Amazon. Remember, the comments often determine other's desire to read the book.
The ministry which is to receive proceeds from our efforts is Truth In Jesus, which has branches in Washington State/Northern Idaho, Florida, Barbados and various other locations around the world. Most of these individuals have been schooled in Adventism, love the Lord, and are busily working to facilitate His return. I believe they will make good use of all the help we can give them. Please notice especially, donations to this ministry are fully tax deductible.
I hope every Adventist will go to my Adventist site (www.4Adventists.com) and take in the prophecy videos there. Those who have done this already have been amazed. And I'm amazed. I took SOP quotations, strung them together and am stunned at what I found. You will surely tell me if I am off base with my prophetic analysis, won't you? Good! I felt sure you would!
If you wish to translate either the condensed or full book, please contact me. I will need your contact information plus the language you wish to translate into. Notice that I have reserved all rights, meaning especially for translators, I do not want the meaning of the words changed. I will not be unreasonable about this, just would like to have your translation read to make sure that the meaning is kept as close as possible to what I intended. And once done I would like a copy for my website. [Please put "TRANSLATIONS" in CAPS in the subject line. This may be followed by a subject of your choice.]
If you have already translated and have a completed version or if you wish to translate or have any interest in translating, send me an email. I will keep a file on who is translating into what language. Then as new individuals express an interest in this aspect of the work I will know who is already translating into the language of interest and can put them in touch with that person. There are many reasons to keep me informed of your interest in this area.
There will be storefronts and individuals who will want to purchase in bulk. Therefore, I regret to say that I have contacted the publisher to see what arrangements could be worked out for these individuals to have a discount. They informed me that they have no mechanism set up to give discounts. If/when that changes, I will inform you immediately.
I will try to keep in touch through my blog, which is on both websites: www.4Adventists.com and www.The-Character-Of-God.com. This email will be permanently affixed in the beginning of the blog site.
I'm not sure whether you can find the menu on one or the other (or both) of my websites. Therefore, I will just say that the menu is in the upper left and is composed of three small horizontal bars. Let me know if you still can't find it.
If you have any ideas or suggestions that we could implement that would increase our reach, please send them to me. And if you would like to offer your help to make the websites more attractive and appealing, do not hesitate to offer. We will consider every comment or suggestion. We are all in this together!
Blessings . . .