2 January 2023 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
The only Bible class I recall in four years of academy Bible was the day we covered the final destruction of the wicked and the second death. I will never forget Ellen White’s explanations about how all are resurrected, just to be destroyed again—some in a moment, others suffering for extended periods with a full sense of excruciating pain as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed!
I felt such hatred towards a God who would punish me for as long as I was fully conscious of the torment of the fire burning me until I was gone. Why couldn’t I just die and be gone at the first death if I chose to reject God, and not have to be raised and made to die a horrible death a second time?
How do you understand this hellish doctrine, Aunt Sevvy?
Signed, In terror of a God who would do this
Dear In terror,
Hellish is right! How can you possibly reconcile a good and loving God, whose main concern is to save us, with His insisting on causing us extended pain that ends in inevitable obliteration? The only good thing you can say for Ellen White’s teaching is that it is a little better than the eternal punishment taught by some other Christians.
But both teachings make God look sadistic and vengeful, and Aunty rejects them.
Here’s Aunty’s rule: all Christian teachings must confirm the character of God as modeled and described by Jesus Christ. Teachings like those promoted in The Great Controversy misrepresent the character of God. This is the case not only in the matter of judgment (perhaps the most cruel teaching about judgment is the secret close of probation) but our whole eschatology. The simple message that Jesus is returning and that no one—not even Jesus Himself—knows when, evolved among our Adventist pioneers into scary nonsense about persecution and Catholics and spiritualists and no security of salvation and “standing without a mediator” and several deaths and resurrections and a long, painful punishment.
Let us forgive our church ancestors to this extent: in their need to make sense of 1844 and the Great Disappointment, they cobbled together an eschatology from Daniel and Revelation that included a lot that was spiritually indefensible. We Adventists should be mature enough now to be able to admit that Daniel and Revelation are not the oracles of the future we thought they were.
“Why do you say that, Aunty?” you ask. Because not one thing that The Great Controversy predicts has happened: there are no significant Sunday laws, no persecution of Sabbath-keepers, no Jesuits chasing Seventh-day Adventists through the mountains, no spiritualists running the world.
And Jesus hasn’t returned “soon” by any normal meaning of that word.
So let it go, and be happy. We’ve got enough to occupy us down here without adding unfounded worries. As Jesus once said, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” Matthew 6:34.
As for Jesus’ return, He will come when He comes. What we can be sure of is that no matter what happens surrounding that end time, “Lo, he is with us always, even to the very end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—without identifying the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.