Jamestown Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Chapter 13: The Culmination of Atonement
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Chapter 13: The Culmination of Atonement
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 Dan L. Kelly, Elder Emeritus


So, where do we go from here?

We have been wandering through the Sanctuary and have come to the end of its demonstration of the plan of salvation. But what’s next. If it all should stop here, the position which we hold would not be much better than the old minstrel’s view of Heaven, that of cherubs floating about on puffy white clouds with harps in their hands.

Is that what God has in mind for us for the stretch of eternity? How long is eternity? Where will we really be? Many questions can be generated and perhaps we cannot really put answers to all of them. But some areas can be shown from scripture and we’ll try to do just that, because God does have something more for us.

There is a word that comes to mind: THEODICY.

In the simplest of terms, it means “A Defense of God.”

But, why would God need to be defended? Is it necessary for us to look into such a thing? Yes, I believe it is. Not only do I believe that it is necessary, but I believe it will be rewarding and enlightening as well. Come with me as we walk through a few thoughts and scriptures.

We have already discovered in our journey that Satan, the fallen angel, wanted to be like God. His problem was that the position was already taken by the Creator God and there is no possibility that a created being could take the place of the Creator. It just can’t be done! It defies all logic. Nevertheless, he appeared in Eden, the Garden of God and confronted the first pair and accused God of lying.1 (Genesis 3:1-6) The suggestion is that God was arbitrary, selfish, and unfair, among other things. But God is not arbitrary, selfish and unfair. Such being the case, Theodicy comes into play in the Universal Kingdom.

The question is, “How can God defend himself and still appear totally unbiased? You may say, “Well, God is the supreme ruler of all things, therefore He could have just pointed His finger and incinerated Satan on the spot.” But then, what would all the host of Heaven’s angels think? “Don’t cross God or you’ll be toast!”

Now, just for a moment, consider this: isn’t that exactly what many people think? If you misbehave, you’ll burn forever – for a few billion years! Then when you’re done on one side, the devil will stick his pitchfork in you and turn you over for another stint of a few billion years.

But Scripture tells us that God is Love. Isn’t there an oxymoronical thought process here? God can’t be love personified and still threaten those He loves with annihilation if they should step out of line. The two principles don’t support each other.

Consider this: “Love cannot exist without moral freedom and moral freedom cannot exist without the capacity to do wrong.”2

That was the purpose of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden. Without it there were no prohibitions stipulated to Adam and Eve, our forbears. So, God placed this one test in the garden for them. Would they be loyal? Or would they exercise their option to do wrong? We see the record of the fall.

Now, what’s a God to do? How does He demonstrate His honesty, His veracity, His love and self-lessness in the face of such accusations that have been made and His Creatures who have gone bad? In a simple phrase, He can use them, His people, to prove His case.

With such a complicated problem and such a profound solution, we could spend weeks in study and then writing a whole series of books exploring the wonders of such an idea. But we have neither the time nor space. So, let’s look at simply two passages of scripture with only a limited amount of commentary

The first is in the Old Testament. “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:22-27 all emphases mine)

God is speaking through the prophet Ezekiel saying, “I’m going to do something for my sake, not for yours. I’m going to take you, who have sinned and made Me look bad wherever you went, and the very people before whom you have profaned my name will see you and I will be sanctified, I will be vindicated, before their eyes. How will I do this? I will wash you and I will sprinkle you and I will make you clean. I will put a new heart in you and I will put My Spirit within you. Then I will cause you to walk in my laws, judgments and statutes and do them.” All this stuff is what HE will do, not they.

Now, that’s a paraphrase of what God wants to do with and through His people so that the heathen will see what He’s really like.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Well, that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard!” Have you ever heard of the New Covenant? It’s in Jeremiah 31:31-34. “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Italics mine)

This is essentially the same language as was used in Ezekiel. But there’s more. It’s seen in the New Testament. Come with me to Ephesians 2: 1-10: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

 That in the ages (aion)3 to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For (Because) by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For (Because) we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Paul, writing to the people of Ephesus, begins with the Gospel, laying out where we all were in our experience – lost and servants of Satan. But God, who loved us greatly, sent Jesus to become our substitute and to take our place in the death that we deserve. He then raised us up with Jesus making provision for us to sit with Him in Heavenly places. He does this for a purpose; that purpose is found in verse seven, offset in its own paragraph above. He does this so that in the ages to come, eternity, He might be able to show the exceeding riches of His grace and His character through the kindness He has shown to us through what He has done for us in Jesus.

In short, He uses us to vindicate His Holy name which has been profaned for so many years. He uses us in His defense. Theodicy.

This is one of the benefits of the Atonement for us; it is the ultimate culmination of the Atonement. We are honored to cooperate, work hand in hand, with the God of the Universe to clear His name. To whom? To those intelligent being throughout the vast reaches of the Universe who have never fallen. (Yes, they really are there! See Job 1:6,7) You see, they, having never fallen into sin; never experienced the feeling of eternal loss; they, never being able to comprehend the depth of salvation and saving grace, cannot even imagine what it’s like to be without hope. We, because of the grace we have received through Jesus Christ, know that experience and will be His Ambassadors4 not only in this era, but in the ages to come, all Eternity!

What a privilege! What a joy! What a responsibility!

And it’s all because of the love and goodness and the grace of God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent to this burned out cinder of a world. And, it has been His work all along to bring us to the place where He can demonstrate His love and Grace through us. Our part has been to cooperate with Him, allowing Him to do that work. And we tell the story that now, because of the Grace and Sacrifice made, the entire Universe is secure: iniquity shall not rise up the second time!

The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”5

Are you thankful for that?

Then join me in thanking Him and praising Him and worshiping Him, the Author and finisher of our faith6. Because He has made us one with Him as Jesus prayed in the last prayer for His disciples7. “That they may be one, as We are one. That they may be one in Us.” – Atonement: Universal – complete!

 

Dan L. Kelly, Elder Emeritus

End Notes:

  1. Genesis 3:1-6

  2. Pastor Brian Jones in SS Quarterly in Late 1980’s, the date which I have been unable to document.

  3. Young’s: “Derived from aei, always, and on, being. Denotes duration or continuance of time, but with great variety.”

  4. Ephesians 2:7; compare II Corinthians 5:14-21, especially v:20.

  5. Ellen G. White The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (1888 Edition) Page 678.

  6. Hebrews 12:2

  7. John 17. See especially vss. 11 ,21,22,23,26.