Difficult Statements

Red SeaDifficult Statements

The great truths of the Bible are not established by collecting a series of statements.  They are built on solid foundational principles.  Once these are ascertained, the superstructure can be accurately and safely constructed.  When searching out the truth of God’s character, the guiding principles are found in the nature of His government, the purpose of the law, Christ’s revelation of His Father, and the role of the cross as the expression of God’s methods of dealing with the unrepentant sinner. The mighty witnesses of God contained in these statements are more than sufficient to certify the loving, merciful, righteous, and just character of God.  They effectively prove that He does not stand as an executioner to reward the rejecters of His mercy.

But, as with every other bible topic certain statements seem to utterly contradict the witnesses mentioned above.  These constitute a serious problem to many who cannot feel at rest with the message until every statement has been explained.  This attitude is a detriment to spiritual advancement because living faith does not wait until every problem has been solved before grasping precious truths.

The life and teachings of Christ are the final, comprehensive declaration of What God is and does.  It is the standard by which every argument about the Father’s character is tested.  If the argument presented cannot find support in Jesus Christ then, no matter how logical it may seem to be or how convincing it may appear, the faithful student of God’s character will reject it even though there may be no apparent explanation for it as yet.  Faith grasps the reality of Christ’s mission as the outshining of the Father’s countenance.  It believes that God sent His Son into the world for the express purpose of penetrating the mists of error and delusion that Satan cast around His character of righteousness.  The confirmation of the faith is expressed in the resolution to accept nothing about God except that which is in total agreement with the witness of the Father attested to by His son.

Therefore, if anyone wishes to successfully prove that God destroyed the sinner, offering as evidence the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah or any other punishments of the Old Testament era, he or she must be able to bring proof that Christ, during His earthly mission, did the same thing.  Indeed, ultimately he or she must be able to prove that God destroyed Christ on the cross.  This will also demonstrate that it is God who will personally act to execute the impenitent.  It is so impossible to do this that those who cling to the erroneous view that god executes the sinner claim that the revelation of God, as given by Christ, is only a partial manifestation of the Father, which omits the sterner roles of judge and executioner.

There are not two different revelations of God, the one given in the Old Testament times versus that given by Christ.  There are no contradictions in the Word of God.  True Bible students are not afraid of difficult statements.  They may have to admit, for the moment, that the true meaning eludes them, but they know that it will not be for long since the Holy Spirit leads each trusting student along the glorious corridors of unfolding light.

Not every statement that can be presented has yet been resolved. The fact that they cannot be explained just yet is no cause of fear or doubt.  There is more than sufficient evidence in the great foundation principles to establish, beyond doubt, the truth of God’s character.

But most have been unraveled and, for the help of those still struggling with some of them, an examination of the most commonly quoted will be undertaken.  These types of statements must be examined to see exactly what they say and, just as importantly, what they do not say.  All too often the problem of interpretation lies in a tendency to assume that a statement infers something it does not. If this inference can be cleared away, the words will then be left free to say what they were intended to say.

The Same Powers

What I would rate as one of the most difficult statements to interpret is the following:

A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning.  When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished.  The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits.  There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere. (The Great Controversy, p. 614).

The portion of this statement causing the most difficulty is this, “the same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits.”

When a person does not have a clear grasp of the principles underlying God’s character, it is easy to see how this statement could leave him or her with the conviction that holy angels destroy exactly as do evil angels. It would appear that the only difference is that holy angels destroy by God’s command while the evil do it with his permission.

What happens is that almost everyone tends to read into this statement more than it actually says.  Here is what the statement does not say: “The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised in the same way by evil angels when He permits.

The four words, “in the same way,” are not in the statement, neither are they inferred there.  Furthermore, every principle of God’s character forbids them being there.  Et, despite multiplied evidences to this effect, this is exactly what most people read into the reference. They make no distinction between the work of God and of Satan, and therefore, they make no distinction between the character of each.  This is serious.

We have examined the text in The Great Controversy, page 614, we have isolated the portion that causes the confusion.  However, if we were to back up even one sentence and obtain a wider context, we would find the introductory concept spelled out clearly;

“As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife were to be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old (Ibid)

By this and similar statements we find that destructive power is indeed unleashed by God’s command to holy angels.  Angels are appointed as ministers to those who shall be heirs of salvation found in sufficient numbers, angels must abandon their heaven appointed post of holding back the winds of strife and leave the forces of evil and natural chaos to bear sway, such as we find in the major catastrophes of the flood and the conflagration upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

The angels only release the destructive forces when God judges that any further remaining on station will impose their presence where it is not desired and make Him into something which He is not – a God of force.  There are many inspired passages that teach this.

After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, and that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree (Revelation 7:1).

We are today under divine forbearance; but how long will the angels of God continue to hold the winds, that they shall not blow? (Testimonies for the church vol. 6, p. 426).

Angels are now restraining the winds of strife, that they may not blow until the world shall be warned of its coming doom; but the storm is gathering, ready to burst upon the earth; and when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture (education, pp. 179, 180).

I saw four angels who had a work to do on the earth, and were on their way to accomplish it.  Jesus was clothed with priestly garments.  He gazed in pity on the remnant, then raised His hands, and with the voice of deep pity cried, “My blood, Father, My blood, My blood, My blood!” Then I saw an exceeding bright light come and from God, who sat upon the great white throne, and was shed all about Jesus.  Then I saw an angel with a commission from Jesus, swiftly flying to the four angels who had work to do on the earth, and waving something up and down in his hands, and crying with a loud voice, “Hold! Hold! Hold! Hold! Until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads.”

I asked my accompanying angel the meaning of what I heard, and what the four angels were about to do. He said to me that it was God that restrained the powers, and that He gave His angels charge over things on the earth; that the four angels had power from God to hold the four winds, and that they were about to let them go; but while their hands were loosening, and the four winds were about to blow, the merciful eye of Jesus gazed on the remnant that were not sealed, and He raised His hands to the Father and pleased with Him that He had spilled His blood for them.  Then another angel was commissioned to fly swiftly to the four angels, and bid them hold, until the servants of God were sealed with the seal of the living God in their foreheads (Early Writings, p. 38).

Satan is the destroyer. God cannot bless those who refuse to be faithful stewards.  All he can do is to permit Satan to accomplish his destroying work.  We see calamites of every kind and in every degree coming upon the earth, and why?  The Lord’s restraining power is not exercised.  The world has disregarded the word of God.  They live as though there were not a God.  Like the inhabitants of the Noahic world, they refuse to have any thought of God.  Wickedness prevails to an alarming extent, and the earth is ripe for the harvest (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6 pp. 388, 389).

Everyone of these and many other similar statements confirm that the angels’ role is to hold back those terrible powers that are only awaiting release to destroy the earth and the heavens.  Angels are righteous.  They have not instituted their ways in place of God’s.  Accordingly, they do only what the Lord would have them do.  As surely as the God of heaven never destroys by direct action, neither do the angels.  Therefore, the way in which they exercise those powers is by withdrawal of their restraint upon them.  The released energies pass from an inactive state into one of intense activity and, and consequently, of exercise.

This is the way in which the powers are brought into active exercise by holy angels when Gods commands, but it is not the way evil angels exercise them when God permits. Satan and his followers have studied the secrets of the laboratories of nature and the turbulent forces within human beings until they know to activate them into destructive intensities. Thus, while God’s angels are working to hold back these fearful elements, Satan and his company are working in the opposite direction. It is the evil powers that are standing by with bloodlust, “now ready, and only waiting the divine permission,” to exercise their destructive power everywhere (The Great Controversy p. 614).

But whether they are released into active exercise by the holy angels or manipulated by evil angels, they are the same powers. This is the principle of thought that the statement conveys when interpreted according to the principles of God’s government and character.  It does not discuss the way in which those powers are exercised.  When it is recognized that this is the subject matter to the statement, there will be no problem in understanding it.

Far from proving that good angels, at God’s command, sally forth and execute the unrighteous, this statement, by emphasizing that it is the same power in any case, verifies that they do not.  If God understood the work of executioner, He would not bother to see anything less than the greatest powers at His command. These certainly are not those in nature and in humanity.  They are the almighty forces within Himself, forces so great that He merely has to speak and whole worlds appear and, in turn, disappear.  Therefore, if God was the destroyer, it would not be the same powers as those used by the evil angels who have nothing of themselves but are dependent on what God has invested in them, the nature, and in human beings to do their work of destruction.  God has almighty omnipotence and is not in any sense dependent on the relatively puny potentials He has given to this earth and its inhabitants.  If these facts are kept in mind, then the statement presents no problem.

Doing as He Pleases

Here is another statement that has been a problem to some.

Moses commanded the men of war to destroy the women and male children.  Balaam had sold the children of Israel for a reward as he perished with the people whose favor he had obtained at the sacrifice of twenty-four thousand of the Israelites.  The Lord is regarded as cruel by many in requiring His people to make war with other nations.  They say that it is contrary to his benevolent character.  But he had made the world, and formed man to dwell upon the earth, has unlimited control over all the works of his hands, and it is his right to do as he pleases, and what he pleases with the work of his hands.  Man has no right to say to his Maker, Why does thou thus? There is no injustice in his character. He is the Ruler of the world, and a large portion of his subjects have rebelled against his authority, and have trampled upon his law. . . . He has used his people as instruments of his wrath, to punish wicked nations, who have vexed them, and seduced them into idolatry (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a pp. 50, 510).

The main message of this statement is a warning that humankind is in no position to question the actions of God.  if God orders it, it is right and just.  This rightness is not just because God is the Creator but because His character is righteous and there is no injustice with Him. We are not to question His motives, saying, “Why do thou thus?” but we are to understand His methods.  He invites us to ask “how does Thou thus?”

The greatest revelation of God’s character and motives is portrayed in Christ Jesus and there is no question that everything He does is motivated by agape love and based upon the principle that He does not kill the sinner but hands the sinner over to the result of free choice.  We are given all that we need to understand that His government is rooted in the twin principles of freedom of choice and noncoercion.  God has not withheld from us the “why” of what He does.  Jesus came to suffer the full penalty of transgression that He might in justice reinstate us to eternal life; in fact, to an even higher station as if we had not sinned.  He has shown us that His mercy and generosity are more than exceedingly abounding.

He, therefore, tells us not to question whether He is just or whether he has the full prerogative to exercise His justice.  However, we do have much to learn and even more to unlearn in regard to “how” he exercises His justice, not only in saving sinners but in destroying them, for it is the same justice that works for all, righteous and wicked.  He wants us to know it.  That is why we are given so many principle statement and why the curtain is drawn back on so many of the “God-did-it” predictions, revealing the mechanics of destruction, as in the classic case of “God slew Saul.”

He desires that we would apply the principles across the whole inspiration.  Reading that God “uses His people as instruments of His wrath, to punish the wicked” is startling if we do not understand the mechanics of it in context of the proper view of His character.  This is what has happened in religion, and we have ended up with a view of God that presents Him as a frightening of capricious Deity.

When it comes to our handling of inspired text, there are two pitfalls to avoid: 1) Vacillating between plenary (thought) and verbal (literal, verbatim) modes of viewing inspiration, and 2) holding prophets up on such a high pedestal as to make them infallible communicators of the mind of God.  We are told that God is not presented in inspiration, as a writer, and that the prophets are His penmen, not his pen. We are to understand that God’s thoughts are given through a medium that “diffuses” them.  The medium is the minds of humans (see Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21).

We have to give the prophets some space and keep them in place as men and women who lived in certain contexts of culture, educating, prevailing tradition, and understanding, and that they were given as much light as God could reveal through them in those contexts.  God does not overwhelm, for that would be more than men and women could bear, causing them to reject His guidance and teaching. We must even be careful with an “I saw” or “I beheld” type of statement.  Sometimes the prophets did not themselves fully understand what they were seeing or what they wrote.

These thoughts are developed and demonstrated in many worthy studies available to us and you should avail yourself of this knowledge as it is highly relevant to the subject of understanding God’s character through the language of inspired writing.

Even the prophets who were favored with special illumination of the Spirit did not fully comprehend the import of the revelations committed to them.  The meaning was to be unfolded from age to age, as the people of God should need instruction therein contained (The Great Controversy, p. 344).

We have to give prophets room to grow in understanding, even shifting beliefs and practices throughout the course of their walk with God. This may be a strange thought to some, but just because a man or woman receives a call from God to a special office in the exercise of a high calling or gift does not mean they have a perfect understanding or theology and it does not mean they would not ever express something differently in the latter end of their experience than they would have in the former days.

These thoughts from the Bible come down to us from an inspired writer.  Let’s decide if it accurately represents the heart and mind of God:

Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! . . . The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked (Psalm 58:6, 10).

Even though the psalmist had Deuteronomy 31:17,18 and other defining passages available to him, it is not likely that he understood the wrath of God according to the biblical key depicting it as the “hiding of His face,” nor is it probably that he would have intelligently used what we call today the “language of wrath,” which portrays God as doing that unpleasant and punitive thing to which he hands over the sinner. This writer probably had every intention of rejoicing in bloody vengeance, according to the unrighteous wrath of man, as we read in James 1:20.

Although David was inspired and “a man after God’s own heart,” he was not to build the temple of the Lord.  God told him why: “And David said to Solomon: ‘My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “you have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight”’” (I Chronicles 22:7, 8).

The full light of the character of God has been largely misunderstood by God’s people even after the cross.  It is yet to unfold further through His church.  Because Jesus gave us Himself in the Holy Spirit, we can do an even greater work than He – He was one, but we are many.

“And greater work than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father,” By this Christ did not mean that the disciples’ work would be of a more exalted character than His, but that it would have greater extent.  He did not refer merely to miracle working, but to all that would take place under the working of the Holy Spirit (The Desire of Ages, p. 664).

Keeping all of these thoughts about prophets and inspiration in mind, we return to the lines about God doing as He pleases, and we work with the text in context of the advancing light that is being given to us in the present. It is understandable that many are troubled by the part which reads: “But He who made the world, and formed man to dwell upon the earth, has unlimited control over all the works of His hands, and it is His right to do as He pleases, and what He pleases with the work of His hands” (Spiritual gifts, vol. 4a p. 50).

No problem would exist here if it were not for the persistent tendency of people to think of God as if He, too was a man. When people have the power to do as they please and what they please, then their behavior becomes dependent on how they feel on a given day and what they want on that day. They do all things in reference to their own likes and dislikes and not according to unvarying principles. This is the behavior pattern with which we are most familiar, and we tend to think of the unknown and unfamiliar in God as if it were the same.

So we see individuals sinning against God and His people. Whereupon, we visualize God as being highly incensed and angered by this so that it becomes His pleasure to exact revenge against those who have treated Him so shabbily.

But unlike human beings, God is never motivated by feelings. He finds no pleasure in unrighteousness in any form. Therefore, it does not please Him to kill, to lie, to steal, to bear false witness, or break any other of the commandments, which are the transcript of His wonderous character.  We need never fear then that the Lord will destroy us because He had the right to do “as He pleases, and what He pleases.” On the other hand, if we become subject to human beings with limitless power to do “what they please, and as they please,” we can know that, unless we are able to serve them to their entire satisfaction all the time, sooner or later we are doomed.

In other words, this and any other statement must be understood in the light of what it please God to do, not in the light of what it would please human beings to do if they were in the same position.

Those Walls of Jericho

There are a number of statements in respect to the overthrow of the walls of Jericho, which, if understood in the way human beings naturally understand such words would mean that God and His angels personally exercised the power of force to bring down those mighty battlements.

How easily the armies of heaven brought down the walls that had seemed so formidable to the spies who brought the false report!  The word of God was the only weapon use.  The Might One of Israel had said; “I have given into thine hand Jericho.” If a single warrior had brought his strength to bear against the walls, the glory of God would have been lessoned and His will frustrated.  But the work was left to the almighty; and had the foundations of the battlements been laid in the center of the earth, and their summits reached the arch of heaven, the result would have been the same when the captain of the Lord’s host led His legions of angels to the attack (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 161, 162).

The city of Jericho was devoted to the most extravagant idolatry. The inhabitants were very wealthy, but all the riches that God had given them they counted as gifts of their gods.  They had gold and silver in abundance; but, like the people before the Flood, they were corrupt and blasphemous, and insulted and provoked the God of heaven by their wicked works.  God’s judgments were awakened against Jericho.  It was a stronghold.  But the Captain of the Lord’s host Himself came from heaven to lead the armies of heaven in an attack upon the city.  Angels of God laid hold of the massive walls and brought them to the ground (Testimonies for the church vol. 3 p. 365).

The Lord marshaled his armies about the doomed city; no human hand was raised against it; the hosts of heaven overthrew its walls, that god’s name alone might have the glory (The Review and Herold, March 15, 1887).

The most significant sentence in these statements is the one that says: “Angels of God laid hold of the massive walls and brought them to ground.”

It would seem that these words allow only one interpretation, which is that the angels of God, with Christ at their head, took hold of those walls with their hands and literally threw them to the ground.  In doing so they did more than tear down the buttresses of stone. There were people on those high walls (see Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 491).  Furthermore, there were people who actually lived in the wall as did Rahab who delivered the spies from her countrymen (See Joshua 2:15).

It follows that if the angels did in fact throw down those walls as we tend to understand those words as saying then they took the live of a great number of people.

If this is so, then we have finally found the long looked for evidence to prove that God changed because of sin and became a destroyer of life.

God has gone on record to say that He does not deal with the sin problem by use of physical force. We have shown the various principle statement repeatedly:  For he does not stand toward the sinner as the executioner of the sentence against transgression.

He leaves the rejection of His mercy to themselves to reap that which they have sown.

Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government.

God does not destroy, He destroys no one.

From His kingdom, every weapon of coercion is banished.  IF the Lord were to violate those principles in just one situation. It would be all that was necessary to give Satan the victory in the great controversy.  Therefore, our understanding of the principles that govern God’s character compels us to look more deeply into the problem in an endeavor to see in what sense the angels laid hold of the walls and brought them to the ground.

However, if such a search, for the moment at least, fails to bring to light exactly what the angels did then we cannot lose faith in the great principles. We simply understand that this is but one of the hooks left to hang our doubts on if we want to do so.  God always leaves some point unexplained to see if we will trust Him in the unknown from what we know of Him already.

The explanation for any difficult scripture must be found in some other parts of the Word of God.  In a problem like this, the most likely place to find such an explanation is in a similar incident. Such is to be found in the fall of Jerusalem, which, like Jericho, had filled up the cup of iniquity.  From it, the Spirit of God had also departed.  Its walls were likewise torn to the ground with not one stone being left upon another.  It is to be expected that the Lord would describe its destruction in the same language as in Jericho’s fall.  Research quickly shows that He does.

Men will continue to erect expensive buildings, costing millions of money; special attention will be called to their architectural beauty, and the firmness and solidity with which they are constructed; but the Lord has instructed me that despite the usual firmness and expensive display, these buildings will share the fate of the temple in Jerusalem. That magnificent structure fell.  Angels of God to do the work of destruction, so that one stone was not left one upon another that was not thrown down (The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 pp. 1098, 1099)

Consider how explicitly it declares that “angels of God were sent to do the work of destruction so that one stone was not left upon another that was not thrown down.” before He was crucified, Jesus solemnly declared that not one stone would not be left upon another in the temple.  Now it is declared that the angels were sent to do this work of destruction so the fulfillment of Christ’s word was assured.  Jesus as the language used in the fall of Jericho tends to give the picture of angels personally laying hold of the stones and throwing them down, so this statement tends to give the same impression as far as the fall of Jerusalem is concerned.

But a study of history shows that those stones were cast down by human hands.  The Romans, once they had captured the temple, razed it and much of the city to the ground making certain not one stone was left upon another (see the Great Controversy, p. 35). Perhaps the greatest authority on Jewish history is Josephus who was actually present at the fall of Jerusalem. He record of the event testifies to the work of the Roman soldiers in the destruction of Jerusalem and is found in the Wars of the Jews, book VII, chapter one, a translated by William Whiston.

This notable historian’s report is confirmed in The Great Controversy. “Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy ho0use had stood was plowed like a field” (p. 35).

Here we have two records of what took place back there. One declares that the angels did the works of destruction, while the other clearly shows that it was at Caesar’s orders and by the strength and activity of his soldiers that the city was razed.

This would be a hopeless contradiction if we had not studied the way in which the bible is its own dictionary and the way in which God is said to destroy. First, it is clear that the angels did not do the work of destruction as people do it.  That is, they did not themselves take those stones and throw them to the ground. Yet, at the same time, it must be recognized that they did a work which resulted in those walls being thrown to the ground until not one single stone was left under another. But they certainly did not use the soldiers as direct servants at their  personal direction and command to tear down those mighty bastions.

So what dd the angels do? How did they go about a mission of destruction?

As already shown by a number of earlier quotations, the angel’s role is to hold back the four winds of strife so that they might not blow on the earth. Let those winds be released and there is a terrible outbreak of human anger and natural power.  In this way, the angels come from heaven on a mission of destruction.  Let it be emphasized once more that while this involves a judgment on God’s part, it is not His arbitrary act. He assess the situation to be such that to remain any longer would be to force His presence where it is totally unwanted, and this He cannot do.  The restraining angels feel this pressure on them to leave, but they await God’s command before they do so. These instructions are conveyed to them by the messenger angels who, because of this responsibility, are called messengers of destruction, which in fact they are.

The picture of his holding and releasing by one body of angels upon receipt of a clearance to do so by other angels is clearly shown in earthly Writings, pages 36-38.

The chronicle of Jerusalem’s destruction bears out the facts recited above. The tearing down of the city into individual stones was the end result of a series of causes.  The Romans did it as the expression of their white-hot anger and hatred for the Jews.  That, in turn, was the result of the behavior of the Jews who had given the Romans so much trouble, had shown such a spirit of rebellion, and had been so ungrateful for the favors the Romans desired to show them.

That spirit, consequently was the result of the Jew’s persistent determination to institute their ways in the place of God’s and of their continual rejection of the appeals of mercy to them.

For the apostasy of the Jew and the glory of the Romans to race away uncontrolled, the angels of God had to fully and totally withdraw their restraining power over the vile passions of humanity.  This they did.  That accomplished, the infuriated Roman soldiery was so totally uncontrolled that even their officers, generals, or Titus himself could control or restrain them.  Titus had determined to preserve the temple and had given specific orders that it should not be burned, but his orders were flouted.  Even though he rushed in among them and demanded obedience, it was as if he was not even there.  Here is part of Josephus’ account of the burning of the temple.

“And now a certain person came running to Titus, and told him of this fire, as he was resting himself in his tent after the last battle; whereupon he rose up in great haste, and as he was, ran to the holy house, in order to have a stop put to the fire; after him followed all his commanders and after them followed several legions, in great astonishment; so there was a great clamor and tumult raised as was natural upon the disorderly motion of so great an army.  Then did Caesar both by calling to the soldiers that were fighting, with a loud voice, and by giving a signal to them with his right hand, order them to quench the fire; but they did not hear what he said, though he spake so loud, having their ears already dinned by a greater noise another way; not did they attend to the signal he made with his right hand neither, as still some of them were distracted with fighting, and others with passion; but as for the legions that came running thither, neither any persuasion nor any threatening could restrain their voices, but each one’s own passion  was his commander at this time; and as they were crowding into the temple together, many of them were trampled on by one another, while a great number fell among the ruins of the cloisters, which were still hot and smoking and were destroyed in the same miserable way with those whom they had conquered: and when they were come near the holy house, they made as if they did not so much as hear Caesars’s orders to the contrary: but they encouraged those that were before them to set it on fire. As for the seditious they were in to great distress already to afford their assistance (toward quenching the fire); they were everywhere slain, and everywhere beaten; and as for a great part of the people, they were weak and without arms, and had their throats cut wherever they were caught.  Now, round about the altar lay dead bodies heaped one upon another; as at the steps going up to it ran a great quantity of their blood, whither also the dead bodies that were slain above (on the altar) fell down (Wars of the Jews, book Vi chapter four, paragraph six).

The blind obstinacy of the Jewish leaders and the detestable crimes perpetrated within the besieged city, excited the horror and indignation of the Romans, and Titus at last decided to take the temple by storm.  He determined, however, that if possible it should be saved from destruction. But his commands were disregarded.  After he had retired to his tent at night, the Jews sallying from the temple. Attacked the soldier without. In the struggle, a firebrand was flung by a soldier through an opening in the porch, and immediately the cedar lined chambers about the holy house were in blaze. Titus rushed to the place, followed by his generals and legionaries, and commanded the soldiers to quench the flames.  His words were unheeded. In their fury the soldiers hurled blazing brands into the chambers adjoining the temple, and then with their swords they slaughtered in great numbers those who had found shelter there.  Blood flowed down the temple steps like water. Thousands upon thousands of Jews Perished.  Above the sound of Battle, voices were heard shouting “Ichabod!” O the glory is departed.

“Titus found it impossible to check the rage of the soldiery; he entered with his officers and surveyed the interior of the sacred edifice.  The splendor filled them with wonder; and as the flames had not yet penetrated to the holy place, he made a last effort to save it, and springing forth again exhorted the soldiers to stay the progress of the conflagration. The centurion Liberalis endeavored to force obedience with his staff of office; but even respect for the emperor gave way to the furious animosity against the Jews, to the fierce excitement of Battle and to the insatiable hope of plunder” (The Great Controversy, pp. 33, 34).

When the soldiers who had instilled into them the strongest disciple of respect and obedience to the emperor are so totally maddened with rage that they completely ignore orders he has personally give, it is a manifested that human passion is rioting in its most unrestrained form. Such outrage was possible only if the angels had vacated their positions as with holders of the winds of strife.  They had no further influence over these men.

They never step down on their own volition, but only on the receipt of orders from on high.  These are brought to them by messenger angels commissioned to fly swiftly with the advice that the time has come when the people have chosen to reject God so utterly that He can no longer provide them with protection. The advent of these messengers at the outposts heralds the unleashing of destruction.  The result was the full release of the Roman’s infuriated hostility toward the Jews, which would not be appeased even when, with their own hands, they had torn the city apart.

This cast great light on the fall of Jericho, teaching how the same descriptions are to be understood in the destruction of the Canaanite city. The only difference between the overthrow of Jericho as compared to Jerusalem is that, while the latter it was the unleashing of the furies in men that did  the work, At Jericho it was the release of the pent-up forces of nature.  The role of the angels in both instances was the same. They acted only and entirely in harmony with the principles of God’s kingdom. Christ, Himself, led the messengers to the walls of Jericho to give the sad message that the people had forfeited all divine protection, leaving God with no option but to call away the restraining angels.  Then the furies of nature, hitherto held under control, burst forth to flatten the proud metropolis.  The walls were hurled to the ground, Yet the Word of God says that the angels did it.  Surely, from the way in which inspired text interprets itself, the time has come when it is clearly understood in what sense the angels did this.

If careful comparison is made between the language used to describe the destructions of both Jericho and Jerusalem, all difficulties will disappear.  Just what the angels did will be quite clear.  Once more, it will be confirmed that they did not act any differently from the revelation of God’s character as given by Christ when He came to earth.

The Wrath of God

The wrath of God is referred to frequently in the Scriptures.  It is an expression describing the savage fury of demons, humanity, or nature, or any of these working in concert, in a rampage of destruction.  “The Seven Last Plagues are referred to specifically as the wrath of God, which is poured upon those who worship the beast and his image.”

There  is very real danger that God’s wrath will be understood to be exactly what humanity’s wrath is.  People’s wrath is the development within them of fury, anger, and a desire to retaliate against those who have hurt or offended them. God’s wrath is not the expression of His personal feelings, for while His wrath is busily destroying people and the world, God is feeling anything but wrathful.  He is pained with sorrow and distress to see His handiwork and children being committed to so terrible a fate. The wrath of God is an expression of the very opposite from what He is feeling.

Yet without question it is wrath.  See the blasting might of the rearing hurricane, the thunder of a thousand falling buildings and opening crevasses as the earthquake strikes, the cracking roar of the blazing inferno, the shriek of the storm, and even the fiendish fury of individuals at war. This is wrath.  It is the complete picture of anger and fury, and these are the events that the bible terms “the wrath of God.”

From the message God gave through Moses’ rod, He plainly showed that when nature is in this state it has passed out of His control.  Therefore, it is not the expression of God’s feelings.  Why then is it called “the wrath of God?”  It is God’s wrath simply because every power that has is released in wrath is through God’s power being withdrawn, which is of God. They are the power of God in a wrathful state; therefore, it could be called the wrath of the powers of God.  Instead, it is simply and more briefly called “the wrath of God.”

Other Difficult Statements

There will come many times, as the bible record is studied, when situations will confront us for which the Lord has not yet revealed any specific explanation or at least it has not been revealed to our individual mind. Someone else may have studied it out. This is why those who are advancing in this light must communicate, study, and fellowship together in this special time and final generation (Malachi 3:16-18).  True faith knows that the absence of the correct explanation does not compel us to accept the one which readily presents itself to human logic, or as would be interpreted by thinking in a mode of verbal inspiration, or by sing human language dictionary definitions of terms and concepts even though these are the first tools for which we would reach based on years of conditioning in the world and in the traditional understanding of religion.  True faith rests in the knowledge that God does nothing out of character, nothing arbitrary, and nothing outside of the principles of His law. We can rest and trust Him in the unknown because of what we have learned and know of Him.

Published by The Bible In Your Hand

Hi, I am Pastor Lester Bentley, a devoted husband, father, and Pastor for the Northeastern Wyoming District of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. I am committed to the great gospel commission as stated in Matthew 28:19, 20.

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