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.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/sabbath-school/2019/timeout-smoke-their-torment

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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