Timeout: “The Smoke of Their Torment”

No belief enables Seventh-day Adventists to stand tall as much as the fact that we do not believe in eternal punishment. I wish nothing more needed to be said, but it does not end there. Sadly, it is only the eternal part that has been erased from the Adventist version of punishment. The belief that gives us the greatest reason to feel proud is also the greatest reason to be embarrassed. No belief is more embarrassing than the fact that Seventh-day Adventists believe that God will burn people alive — and burn some for a protracted period.

I take that back.

Here is a softer version. Nothing is more disappointing than the fact that Seventh-day Adventists were not aroused to rethink the notion of God burning people alive after the Holocaust. The Nazis did not simply cremate people after they had been gassed. Some individuals — children, women, and men — were thrown alive into the fire. In God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense, I contend that hell, understood as a place where God tortures people, lost its meaning-making potential after the Holocaust.

Irving Greenberg has proposed a new criterion for what can and cannot be part of theology in a world that went through hell. “Let us offer, then, as a working principle the following: No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children.” I support one hundred percent that “the burning children” must have a say in what passes for responsible theology in the twenty-first century.

The Sabbath School Quarterly does not mention the burning children, but it makes no attempt to wean its audience from the belief that God will burn people alive. In a comment on “the smoke of their torment,” the study guide is content to affirm that the fire will not be eternal.

These texts do not talk about endless burning, for none of these cities is burning today. The consequences are eternal, not the burning itself. The “eternal fire” in Revelation refers to annihilation; the burning will be long enough to make the consumption complete until nothing is left to burn.

I had planned to leave this for the end of this TIMEOUT, but it is just as well that it comes at the beginning. It is important enough to return to it at the end of this reflection. Before we do, I wish to discuss three other things. With reference to the Quarterly, I will discuss “the everlasting gospel,” the announcement that “the hour of his judgment has come,” and the Adventist conviction that “the mark of the beast” allots a critical role to the Sabbath in the time of the end.

Everlasting Gospel

As noted in my submission earlier this week, the message of the first angel is called a euangelion — without the article (Revelation 14:6). In Greek, far more than in English, the article defines and delimits the noun to which the article is attached. We have enough of it in English to get the idea. It is not the same to say that “the stone hit a boy” as to say, “the stone hit the boy.” In the latter example, the boy is defined. The person telling us this says “the boy” for a reason, either because there was only one boy in the story that could be hit or because there is one boy among many that has special significance. “A boy,” by contrast, leaves unsaid who the boy was. Did the stone hit “a boy” in a crowd of many boys? Did it hit “a boy,” not a girl or a woman or a man or an elderly person, all of them also at the scene? Did the stone accidentally hit “a boy,” not the inanimate target at which the stone-thrower was aiming?

As we can see, the article is not a minor matter even in English. This is one reason why most of the leading interpreters of Revelation believe that the first angel’s “gospel” should not be confused with “the gospel” in New Testament usage elsewhere. In addition, we have a crucial Old Testament background text, Psalm 96:1-13, and we have the story of Revelation up to this point. John’s euangelion is on this logic best understood as “an eternally valid message.”

How much of this is preserved in the Quarterly and other SDA interpretations? Lumping prevails over precision.

The gospel is good news about God, who saves human beings on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and His work for them. The gospel is “everlasting” because God never changes. His plan was put in place even before we existed (2 Tim. 1:9, Titus 1:2).

This is good Protestant theology, with a nod to “the gospel” in the letters of Paul, but is it adequate for the cosmic horizon in Revelation? A similar generic understanding is found in the writings of one of the architects of the “New Historicism.”

The adjective “eternal” [Gr. aionos] applied to “gospel” in Rev. 14:6 carries special meaning. It affirms that the end-time gospel is the unchanged gospel of the apostles and Jesus. The end-time gospel is not a different gospel, but the gospel as set forth by Paul in his letters to the Romans and to other churches (H. K. LaRondelle).

This statement affirms the opposite of what John’s non-use of the article leads us to expect: it makes definite what John has left indefinite. It gives us “the boy” instead of “a boy,” as it were, and it takes away from John the prerogative to define the meaning in the context of his story. The notion that the message of the first angel is “the gospel as set forth by Paul in his letters to the Romans and to other churches” might have merit if it took stock of newer perspectives on Paul.

While the Seventh-day Adventist community was busy with other things the past four decades, “new perspectives on Paul” have upended verities long taken for granted. The “Lutheran Paul” that is evident in the statements quoted above was carpet-bombed by the rediscovery of the apocalyptic tenor in his letters; by Paul’s respectful use of the Old Testament; by a new appreciation for the narrative substructure of his message; by animated rhetorical give-and-take; and by instances of speech-in-character. Most important, perhaps, is the growing conviction that Paul in Romans picks up where Habakkuk left off in the Old Testament. What is revealed in the gospel, is not “faith in Jesus” or a message that is “by faith from first to last” (Romans 1:17, NIV). Instead, it is “the faithfulness of Jesus” that is revealed; “the faithfulness of Jesus” reveals God’s righteousness and right-making (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-36).

Paul’s message in Romans becomes a message of theodicy (the trustworthiness of God) and not only a message about soteriology (how can I be saved)! It has been my privilege to explore these perspectives in my commentary on Romans, The Letter to the Romans: Paul among the Ecologists (2017). And I sometimes wonder: is ignorance of ‘the new Paul’ in the Adventist community a result of indifference, anxiety, insularity, or the determination that our community is best served by continuing business as usual?

God “saves human beings on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ,” says the Quarterly. This view reflects the traditional view of Paul’s faith-language in Romans. It leaves out the most exciting common ground between Romans and Revelation. Paul, too, knew that the divine command was misrepresented before it was violated (Romans 7:7-13). He, too, knew that God’s right-making had to address the misrepresentation and not only the violation. This Paul is less Lutheran and more like John, as when the third angel draws attention to “the commandments of God as explained by the faithfulness of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

“Hour of His Judgment”

In my submission earlier this week, I said that the judgment of the first angel is best understood as the critical moment (Revelation 14:7). The cosmic conflict is coming to a head. The bad side is about to declare itself. The scene plays out in the streets and not in the court room. “Fear God and give him glory” is a call to turn away from the misrepresentation of the slanderer and his audacious imitation. The “hour” has indeed come, as in the Gospel of John (John 12:20-33), and it is “hour” in the sense of the critical moment (Revelation 14:7, translation mine). The Quarterly’s idea about “the hour” makes it harder to see the theological street battle here taking place.

It is important for God’s people to give Him glory because “the hour of His judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7, NKJV). The judgment in view here is the pre-Advent investigative judgment, which takes place prior to the Second Coming. The purpose of this judgment is to reveal whether or not we are truly serving God — a choice made manifest by our works (see 2 Cor. 5:10). At the conclusion of this judgment, the destiny of every person is decided (Rev. 22:11), and Jesus will come to bring His reward to every person according to his or her deeds (Rev. 22:12).

Let the notion of “the pre-Advent investigative judgment” stand, but all the eggs should not be in that basket. We are in territory where “the dragon acts and God reacts.” We are approaching the crisis point, peerlessly described by R. H. Charles one hundred years ago.

The Satanic host is about to make its final struggle for the mastery of the world…The hidden mystery of wickedness, the secret source of all the haunting horrors, and crimes, and failures, and sins of the past was about to reveal itself — the Antichrist was to become incarnate and appear armed, as it were, with all but almighty power.

We are also in the theological universe of John. We are indebted to him, unique among the writers of the New Testament, for the notion of “judgment” that is revelatory (John 12:31).

The Quarterly’s emphasis on judgment as a judicial scene brought back to my mind one of my rare encounters with the theological hierarchy in the church. Some years ago, I was invited to contribute a volume of the projected Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary. I was asked to write on the Gospel of John. I have presented on John in scholarly contexts; I even had a paper included in a volume that had contributions by famous scholars like Jürgen Moltmann, Rowan Williams, and Miroslav Volf. I have taught the poetic theology of John at Loma Linda University, and I hope to write more extensively on John before the sun sets on my life.

The prospect of writing on John made me happy. In the vetting process, I was asked to sign a document outlining the methodological constraints that applied. On my first reading of the document, said to be a joint work of scholars at the Theological Seminary and the Biblical Research Institute, I did not see anything objectionable. I told the person who had invited me to participate that I had no objections. But then, perhaps thinking that this was too good to be true, I read the document again. There, in a footnote, I found this sentence: “Key theological concepts rooted in the broad testimony of Scripture serve as a guide and check on exegesis of individual passages. These concepts include: (a) in the context of the Great Controversy, it is not the role of humans to bring God into judgment, but vice versa…”

I told my friend that I had no problem with the methodological constraints, but I could not accept this statement. I certainly could not accept it as a constituent of the cosmic conflict outlook. In the cosmic conflict, the distinctive feature is precisely the two-way character of “judgment.” God subjects his ways to the judgment of humans, angels, and principalities. Humans do not bring God into judgment; it is not necessary because God brings his case before the universe. God’s interest in making things known is greater than our interest in knowing (John 16:5, 12, 25). That was not the vice versa that the authors had in mind. “God is the one who brings humans into judgment — and not vice versa.” I consider this to be a view untamed by cosmic conflict theology. I told my friend to ask the committee to allow me an exception. “It is an interpretation,” I said, “a dubious interpretation, too; it has nothing to do with method.” But the matter ended there. I could not be entrusted to write on John unless I signed the statement. I did not agree then; I do not agree now; the statement targeted a pillar of my faith. And yes, with an eye to the Quarterly, I think it is a missed opportunity to make so little of the revelatory, two-way character of the judgment in Revelation.

“The Mark of the Beast”

The Gospel of John shows the risk of observing the Sabbath while separating it from its meaning. “Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed” (John 19:31). It is good to be ready in time for the Sabbath to begin, as we see in the Sabbath practices in this text, but something is missing. The day has achieved independent standing: it is the day over its meaning or the day without the need to consider the meaning. Worse yet, it is the right day but the wrong meaning.

The Quarterly takes a clear position on the relation between the Sabbath and “the mark of the beast.”

The central issues in the final crisis will be worship and obedience to God in keeping His commandments (Rev. 14:12). The Sabbath commandment, in particular, will be the test of faithfulness and obedience to God. As the Sabbath is the distinctive sign of the obedience of God’s faithful people (Ezek. 20:12, 20), so the mark of the beast is the sign of allegiance to the beast.

The mark of the beast involves the substitution of a human com­mandment for God’s commandment. The greatest evidence of this fact is the humanly established institution of Sunday (see Dan. 7:25) as the day of worship instead of the seventh-day Sabbath, the day mandated in Scripture by our Creator. The attempt to change the sign of God’s authority to another day is an attempt to usurp the role and power of God Himself.

Is the Sabbath “the sign of God’s authority,” as the Quarterly avers? Or, putting it differently, does the authority-question and the obedience-response best define the meaning of the Sabbath in the Bible? This would be good Calvinist theology, but it should not be accepted as good Sabbath theology without reflection. When I worked on these questions in The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day, I changed my mind about several things. I concluded that the Sabbath is a sign of God’s commitment more than it is a divine commandment. God’s commitment is the primary meaning. We see God’s commitment in God’s rest in Genesis (Gen. 2:1-3); we see it in God’s promise in Isaiah (Isa. 56:1-8). We see it above all in John, where the extent of God’s commitment is demonstrated in conspicuous Sabbath healings (John 5:1-18; 9:1-41), and where his commitment comes to a head precisely on Friday when Sabbath-observing Jews were rushing to put things in order so they could observe the Sabbath properly (John 19:31).

Tetelestai, “it is finished” (John 19:30), echoes Genesis at the point when the Sabbath is instituted (Genesis 2:1-3), and it is a scene of stupendous commitment. We shall see the commitment one last time when, as Revelation puts it, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them” (Revelation 21:3). Better people than me have shown that this is a Sabbath text (Moltmann), the Sabbath in the form of God’s enduring commitment.

Authority, not commitment, has been the default position in Seventh-day Adventist explanations of the meaning of the Sabbath.

In an arbitrary manner God appointed that on the seventh day we should come to rest with His creation in a particular way. He filled this day with a content that is “uncontaminated” by anything related to the cyclical changes of nature or the movements of the heavenly bodies. That content is the idea of the absolute sovereignty of God, a sovereignty unqualified even by an indirect cognizance of the natural movements of time and rhythms of life. As the Christian takes heed of the Sabbath day and keeps it holy, he does so purely in answer to God’s command and simply because God is his Creator (Raol Dederen).

Why, then, should a man keep the Sabbath? To the Christian there is only one reason, and no other, but that reason is enough: God has spoken. The Sabbath commandment rests definitely and solely on a “Thus saith the Lord” and has no ground in nature, as such. It is for this reason that God makes the Sabbath His sign and test (M. L. Andreasen).

I am grateful that Andrews University Press let stand my proposed corrective to this view of the Sabbath. Here is what I say in The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day:

Where the Roman Catholic Church and leading Protestants argue that the Sabbath is changeable because it is arbitrary, defenders of the Sabbath concur that it is arbitrary, but they do not agree that it should be changed.

Is divine arbitrariness the default position in theology, the rising tide that lifts all ships, including the ships that have the Sabbath as part of their cargo?

On the premise that the controversy between good and evil in the biblical narrative revolves around the question of whether or not God is arbitrary, it is difficult to appreciate how God will be vindicated from the charge that God is arbitrary under a symbol that proves God’s arbitrariness. Moreover, if the alleged arbitrary feature of the Sabbath is made to be its most fundamental characteristic, it leaves a residue of arbitrariness on God’s reputation. By choosing this line of reasoning, defenders of the Sabbath may be winning the battle for the Sabbath at the tremendous cost of losing the war concerning the character of God.

May God hasten the day when we shall have more to say about the Sabbath as the sign of God’s commitment.

“The Smoke of Their Torment”

Virtually all interpreters of Revelation believe that the scenes of torment in the message of the third angel is torment orchestrated by God (Revelation 14:9-11). Seventh-day Adventists have not contested this view with much passion; we have been content to say that the torture will not last forever. Chris Frilingos captures well the theological impact of the traditional view of the scene. The lost are tortured alive in a lake of fire, with “the Lamb and his angels” (and presumably the redeemed) watching from afar (14:10). “As if to confirm the truth of the Lamb’s manly bearing, the creature’s posture goes unmentioned in this episode; and the gash in the Lamb’s body, so apparent earlier, disappears from view,” he says. I don’t agree with Frilingos’ view of the scene, but I agree what the consequence of his view is: “the gash in the Lamb’s body…disappears.”

Where this happens in interpretations of Revelation, the book has been for naught. “The gash in the Lamb’s body” is at risk if we give the wrong answer to the most important question in the Three Angels’ Message: Does God burn people alive for a protracted period at the end? Our answer so far seems to confirm that we do our worst work on texts with which we are most familiar.

Further Reading:

Revelation: For Re-Readers Only, January 5, 2019

Apokalypsis, January 8, 2019

Revelation and the Neighborhood, January 14, 2019

Timeout: Revelation and the Crisis of Historicism, January 18, 2019

Crisis in the Heavenly Council, January 21, 2019

Timeout: Cosmic Conflict vs. Historicism, January 25, 2019

Silence in Heaven — for about Half an Hour, January 28, 2019

Timeout: From Daniel to Revelation, February 1, 2019

Revelation 7: The 144,000 and the 233,000, February 4, 2019

Timeout: Storm Clouds over Historicism, February 7, 2019

Revelation’s Trumpets: The Devil is in the Details, February 11, 2019

Timeout: Disarray and Trivia in the Trumpets, February 14, 2019

Revelation 12: Don’t Rush at Ground Zero, February 19, 2019

Timeout: “1,260 Days” and the Smoke Signals in Flyover Country, February 22, 2019

Revelation 13: “The Dragon’s Story,” February 26, 2019

Timeout: “And Its Number is 666,” February 28, 2019

God Reacts: The Three Angels’ Message, March 5, 2019

Sigve K. Tonstad is Research Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University.

Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9464

Could you be kind enough to answer me 2 Questions?

  1. Was it God or Satan that killed Aaron’s sons in the tent?
  2. Can God be righteous and loving and destroy the wicked if it takes 1 second?
    Your under no obligation, obviously.

If Iunderstand God in relation to man, I have come to believe that the life of the unrepentant sinner will be snuffed out. the dead body will be cremated. The lesson of that event will be forever a testimony of what unrepentant sin has cost. Thus smoke is used as the symbol of that event.


Sigve—brother in Jesus,
Thank you for this series,truly Mind expanding and exhilarating. I’m half way through Sense and Non-sense. Blessings. Jim


Thank you for your article, Sigve. I particularly appreciated your statement, "I concluded that the Sabbath is a sign of God’s ‘commitment’ more than it is a divine ‘commandment.’* By extending this phrase further to a “commitment to compassion,” this has helped some to flesh out my own theological exploration of the noahician flood metaphor and its pertinence to the Lake of Fire metaphor in Revelation. I deeply appreciate your desire to question and theorize rather than simply accept the facile and popular. God bless.

Musings on Ash Wednesday –
Wednesday afternoon I was home thinking about the Ash Wednesday service I would
be going to that evening. I would be singing in the Choir for the choir number, and we
would also be singing the Psalm, and Congregation would be singing the refrain after
each of the 3 verses. And then we would be going to the Altar rail to get ashes on our
foreheads in the sign of the Cross.
As it was performed, the priest would say the words of God found in Genesis 3:19.
“For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” – God to Adam and Eve.

I was thinking about the dynamics of the event. God had created Adam and Eve to
be FOREVER friends with Him, and all their relatives to be FOREVER friends with Him.
THESE Must Be the SADDEST words on the whole Bible.
God is confronted by DEATH. The realization that their friendship, no matter how long they
lived, would ONLY be Temporary. Would come to an END. Same with all who came
after them, down to our time.
The words – DEATH is swallowed up in VICTORY!! Actually has MORE meaning to God
than it does to us.
This is WHY the Old Testament prophet says – God does a VERY STRANGE act when
He has to finally make a FINAL end of the wicked.
At Ash Wednesday during the service, it gives ME an opportunity to Grieve WITH God
How sad He must feel. WHO will comfort God when He does His Final VERY STRANGE
I appreciate that God let me enjoy my non-SDA friends and worship with them the past
13 years. And to participate in Ash Wednesday.
As a Seventh-day Adventist ONLY, I missed out on this experience, because Seventh
day Adventists see NO VALUE in Ash Wednesday, NOR the meaning of Ash Wednesday.
From now on, no matter where I am, I will seek out Ash Wednesday participants, put
the ashes on my forehead, and REAPEAT after God – For dust thou art, and unto
dust shat thou return."
Remembering the words – “Death is swallowed up in VICTORY!”


"By choosing this line of reasoning, defenders of the Sabbath may be winning the battle for the Sabbath at the tremendous cost of losing the war concerning the character of God."

This struck me…because I have thought this about this topic and many more in Adventism. It also begs the question about what the entire Bible is all about. I actually never heard this discussed nearly all of my life.

I wonder if this “line of reasoning” might be the fatal flaw in Adventist theology after all.


This is beautiful. Thank you. I especially appreciate the recognition that if the Great Controversy means anything, it means taking the risk that the Universe might judge against God. Depressingly, if God really is not the type of being to burn alive (eternally or temporarily) Their creation, how shall the Universe know this in order to reach a correct verdict?

You invoke grim, gruesome, ghastly and grisly images of children being burned alive in the Holocaust. The six million victims of Hitler, included countless babies, toddlers, children, and teenagers, of whom, Anne Frank, of Amsterdam is the most poignant, perturbing and eloquent example.

Death by drowning is also gruesome, but God had zero compassion nor compunction about drowning huge numbers of children in Noah’s flood. What is more sadistic is the drowning of millions of innocemt animals ( those saved in the Ark were a minuscule fraction of the total animal population on the planet at the time ).

God’s vehement, vociferous instructions to Israel, to ethnically cleanse surrounding tribes, demanded the slaughter of babes, infants, toddlers, and teenagers along with all the livestock owned by these neighboring peoples.

The Israelites themselves practiced a death cult, sacrificing countless innocent animals in ritualistic barbarity.

Were these ethnic cleansings, exterminations, and mass exécutions meant to inure, toughen and callous the good Angels to all future genocides ??

Why were the Angels not clamoring to God to end the carnage of the Holocaust ?? Was one more genocide merely banal, bland, blah to them after so many God ordained genocides in the OT ??

The Armenian, Bosnian, Rwandan, Pol Pot genocides elicited zero concern from the “unfallen beings on other planets “. It was all “ old hat “ to them ! One more atrocity to ignore !

An omniscient God, who foresaw all these horrors, apparently lacked the compassion to fast forward the Second Coming so that these atrocities could have been avoided!

He sadistically awaits to inflict a “ time of trouble such as never was “ before the final Apocalypse! As if the Holocaust was not the essence of evil, the archetypal atrocity, the ultimate affront to humanity — we have to expect worse?

So much sadism and cruelty has been catalogued in the OT that future “ smoke of their torment “ and “ endless burning “ merely emphasize a sadistic God, lacking in compassion for humankind,

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To me, this is the entire conundrum of the author’s approach in these articles, Pat. The Bible throughout speaks of God actively judging and eliminating the wicked while also giving a picture of sin inflicting its own destructive force upon those who cling to it…its wages are death; the thief destroys and kills, etc. However, the author, colored by the horrors of the Holocaust, as he admits, doesn’t hold both ideas in tension…he ostensibly eliminates the former as being out of step with the picture of a loving and just God.

Why would there be so many appeals in the bible as a whole to God, to intervene and bring the wicked to justice? Why would God’s judgement in this way be considered a cause for rejoicing? And specifically in Revelation, why would the final picture of the wicked be one of them seeking to destroy the city, the saints, and even God himself, before he puts an end to their existence? What does this say other than that sin in all its rawness is not simply a self destructive force, but also a force that seeks to destroy others, to destroy what is good, to destroy what is life giving, to destroy not only the creator, but his creation itself?

To give an admittedly limited analogy, would a father protecting his family from murderous intruders be seen as unjust in defending them from attack by any means necessary? What would be said about him if he didn’t? Would he be seen as loving or just?

While I admire the attempt to paint a picture of a loving God, I just think that this is doing so while pushing aside what seems disagreeable to our modern sensibilities in the biblical text, and not dealing with the actual tenor of it, or specifically of Revelation, on the issue of God actively dealing with sin, and actively carrying out judgement.

I also realize that this is no longer a well accepted or politically correct view for many.




Re. your first question: In Timothy Jennings’ book The God-Shaped Brain (IVP 2013), the author points out that the fire “consumed” Aaron’s sons, “yet their bodies weren’t charred and their tunics were still intact”–they are available to be carried outside the camp for burial (217). (Though unsurvivable for the sinful, this “fire” was not the kind we are familiar with.)

Jennings’ study of the phrase “consuming fire” throughout the Bible leads him to identify it as the intense, “burning” love of God’s personal and immediate presence, fatal to the selfish and fearful.He points out that in Isaiah 33:14-15, it is the righteous who live (unconsumed) in the “devouring fire” and “everlasting flames.”


I have often wondered why, in the face of such a narrative, we choose to question God rather than the narrative? Have we made such an idol of the Bible that we cannot allow ourselves to question its accuracy regarding the character of God? After all, the Bible itself claims that interaction with God existed for millenia before any written record was made. I realize that this may sound blasphemous to a literalist, but perhaps that literalism is the crux of the theodicy problem.


"Have we made such an idol of the Bible that we cannot allow ourselves to question its accuracy regarding the character of God?"

Perhaps we don’t even have the bandwidth to understand as humans that the “Created” cannot possibly exceed the understanding (or perhaps, intent) of the “Creator”…another “idol”.

"perhaps that literalism is the crux of the theodicy problem."

Only if it is, again, part of the “worship” and I believe that it is.


"I also realize that this is no longer a well accepted or politically correct view for many."

Why do you think that this is so, Frank?

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@ezbord, I appreciate your antithetical push to consider the sadistic mindset viewpoint. Whilst an SDA I found this to be a very pertinent view regarding “relational punishment”. This brings me to the “reality” response to @frank_merendino, to wit… I’ve always been frustrated, fully vetting the concept of the “second death”.

To me, from a valuation stand point. Whatever we do, whatever choice we make ultimately “honors” God. To those remaining (that escape the 2nd death - mentioned in Revelation) the "fairness and equality of God dealing with sin - those beings (also including angels), that choose to NOT find God “worthy of worship” @tjzwemer presents this viewpoint which I find very solid and thought provoking.

Thus… the 2nd death pain wise to me would be the realization that I did not choose God, not whether the punishment is not warranted. For counterpoint, @ezbord 's point is warranted in that… if the human viewpoint is the defining “clarity”… Burning, drowning, and pro-longed death doesn’t equate to a God of fairness. (Unless a higher level thought process and/or rubric is present).

This brings the article’s main thrust into objective relief… namely, that Jesus is faithful – that transcends the “judgement” as well as the “hour” that we find ourselves in historically… This thread also is missing a very key ingredient - the holiness of God. Which leaves the contextual question. Does God’s presence (Holiness have some bearing in the reality of the final judgment?).

I am still thinking this one over. (It’s a very interesting commentary that the “expectation’s of ancient Israel” (killing all inhabitants, livestock, mothers, children) as a direct command from God). This is woefully (not discussed) or studied out… because the genocide brings up deeper questions regarding the permanence of God’s character.

I am interested, in the replies for this thread, this dichotomy has puzzled me for a long time. Basically, what is the correct question to ask regarding torment? what is God’s context (not the SDA preset).

with kind regards,


Well said. Unfortunately some would feel it would even be wrong even to shoot that intruder to lrotect one family. My thought is, Are we more righteous than God?

Maybe because it sounds too fire and brimstone for our sensibilities, Kim? Maybe the excesses of former generations, inculcated with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and the like, have moved the pendulum in the opposite direction? Maybe the horrors of 20th century events like the Holocaust, as Sigve has shared, have caused revulsion in people for any biblical picture of active judgement by God?

I do know one thing from everyday life and my work. We teachers have been told that we now can’t take away recess from children as a form of discipline. It’s actually a state law in CT. To me, this is a reflection of an age that emphasizes positivity and warm fuzzies to the point that any type of discipline is viewed as being too harsh, destructive of self esteem, etc. Meanwhile, our schools are increasingly filled with kids who have little to no respect for any type of authority, and a society with the same issues. Call me old school, I guess.

I know that this is an overly simplistic illustration, but maybe it is this type of mentality that can’t relate to a picture of God that is not always what we would view as one that is soft and warm. Judgement of the wicked is in the Bible. A judgement by the one who in the end protects his own from those who are irrevocably bent not only on self destruction, but destruction of the other. That isn’t soft and warm sounding, but doesn’t love also protect, sometimes by any means necessary?




How about just a fire bolt that killed them. It didnt need to consume. Timothy’s eisegesis is informed by filtered EGW clips.
And, what were the plagues of Egypt and the death of the first born. His consuming love presence.

Thanks for spending the time to reply.

I think that you are explaining very well some of the current cultural aspects in understanding how the Bible/God is viewed or interpreted. Also, I think what you wrote would be a logical conclusion if the biblical stories are taken literally- as well as a literal belief in a God/Devil paradigm.

Wasn’t Moses told by God to hide himself on the mountain when Moses asked to see God? God’s presence was too intense for survival if directly observed by a human, selfish or unselfish.

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