The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's edition is shown above.
Official Adventist Resources for week 7:
Support this project
If you would like to support this website, please click on the following link to donate online or you may mail your check to: Life Assurance Ministries, PO Box 905, Redlands, CA 92373. Mark your check "Bible Studies."
Fourth Quarter 2016 (September 24–December 30)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JOB
Week 7: November 5–11
COMMENTARY ON "RETRIBUTIVE PUNISHMENT"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This week’s lesson attempts to explain God’s retributive judgment. It exposes Job’s friends’ soliloquies as shallow and wrong but containing some right ideas. Ultimately this lesson attempts to explain how God can justly destroy sin and sinners and yet balance His retributive punishment with His grace and mercy.
The lesson, however, fails to deal with this subject clearly because of the false foundation upon which the arguments build. First, the lesson authors interpret the story of Job through the lens of the great controversy. On page 97 of the Teachers Comments is this assertion:
Within the great controversy, sin has originated on a personal level with Satan. The end of sin—whether it be through the direct punishments in the Bible that foreshadow the final judgment or the final resolution of sin at the end of time—is also brought about by a personal being, a God who is actively involved in the work of salvation. Ad lest we forget: God’s judgment always is inextricably connected to His mercy.
The fact is that the Bible does not tell us that sin has originated on a personal level with Satan. Ellen White included the conjecture of “pre-history” that included Satan’s rebellion and jealousy that God exalted Jesus to be His Son and confidant, and Satan’s consequent turning one-third of the angels against Jesus and his expulsion from heaven. The Bible does not give us these details.
Moreover, the Genesis account of the origin of sin on earth is the story of Adam and Eve, not the story of Satan. Satan is not responsible for human sin. Yet in the great controversy, Satan is held ultimately responsible for causing human sin and is given the role of scapegoat, the one who carries the sins of the saved out of heaven at the final judgment, thus cleansing heaven and being punished for causing those sins.
The Bible, however, teaches something different. Satan is never blamed for causing human sin. Humans are blamed for their own sin. Adam was blamed for plunging the human race into sin, not Satan. The idea that sin began with a personal act by Satan and ends with a person act by God when He destroys sin completely misses the point.
To be sure, God will destroy sin and evil, and God does destroy and punish according to His sovereign wisdom. Nevertheless, it is not the final judgment that is the death blow for sin and evil; it was the cross that did that.
The lesson completely misses the point that Jesus paid the price for humanity’s sin. The issue is not that the earth is plunged into confusion and evil caused by Satan and is waiting for God to destroy it and remake it. The issue on earth is that humans are depraved because of a man’s choice to disobey God’s word to him, and Jesus became a man to die a human death so He could pay for human sin. We are not suffering here because of Satan; we are suffering here because our original father plunged us into spiritual death and depravity. Satan is not the cause of our sin.
Moreover, Romans 8:18-25 explains that the corruption, bondage, and decay we find here is because God subjected the earth to decay. We cannot blame Satan for our troubles; God bound all creation to corruption as part of His curse because of Adam’s sin.
The cross spelled defeat for Satan. Jesus humiliated and disarmed Satan at the cross, and there is no controversy raging in the universe that is yet to be determined. The outcome is fixed. Jesus has defeated Satan, and Scripture tells us how God will conduct the cleanup at the end. The issue, however, is not that Satan is to blame for our sin, and God will finally punish him.
Colossians 2:13-15 says,
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
God will destroy all evil at the end of time, but this destruction will not be about stopping Satan and showing that God wins. It will, rather, put an end to the bondage of humanity to our natural depravity, and it will destroy the corruption to decay that God has put in place. Satan will be destroyed, but not as a solution to human sin. The Lord Jesus took care of human sin by becoming the Sacrifice and the propitiation for our sin. He satisfied the demands of God; He was the acceptable sacrifice.
The nature of man
There is one more plank in the false foundation upon which this lesson is based: the nature of man. Adventism believes that man is merely an animated physical body. When the body breathes, the body is alive. When it ceases to breathe, the man ceases to exist. This idea is wrong.
The Bible teaches that we are made in God’s image, the only creation to be so made. Adam and Eve were the only creatures into which God breathed His spirit. Further, the Bible teaches us that the essence of every person goes to God when the body dies (2 Cor. 5:1-9; Phil. 1:22-23). Jesus Himself committed His spirit to His Father, but His body went into the tomb.
This misunderstanding that man is a spirit-being, not just a physical one as are animals, changes our understanding of suffering. For example, at the end of his ordeal Job was given twice as many animals as he had lost in the beginning, but he only received ten more children after he lost the first ten.
This “replacement” seems somehow unfair; in the first place, he had lost his first children with no certainty of seeing them again. In the second place, he received a lower replacement value for his lost children than for his animals.
However, understanding that the human spirit, the essential identity of each person, does not cease to exist at death explains that Job’s ten children were with God. They had not ceased to exist. Therefore, Job did have 20 children, and when he died he went to be where the first ten were, and the second ten followed later.
This understanding of the human spirit changes the impact and significance of physical suffering. Because we live in a fallen, bound-to-decay world, everyone suffers, and we seldom can explain why certain suffering occurs. We know that all will suffer, and all will eventually die.
Jesus’ death and resurrection, however, brought eternity to light (2 Tim. 1:10), and the significance of suffering was more fully revealed in the New Testament. Job did not know that God had allowed Satan to touch his life with suffering, nor that God was limited and determining what Satan could do to him.
Paul, on the other hand, understood that God gave him “a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Cor. 12:7). In some strange way we cannot fully explain, Paul’s thorn in his flesh was sent to him by God after God had taken him to the third heaven and had shown him things of which he was not permitted to speak. The thorn was from God for the purpose of keeping him humble. At the same time, God allowed Satan to be involved in Paul’s “thorn”; Paul called it a “messenger of Satan”.
Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn, but God said, “No.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
The great controversy paradigm greatly reduces the sovereignty and power of God, and it exalts Satan’s role. Satan is God’s monkey. He has to stay within God’s restraining parameters. He is not allowed to function even semi-sovereignly. He is evil and twisted, but he is limited to God’s boundaries.
Our suffering is ultimately purposeful. Our job is not to find a balance between God’s punishment and His mercy; that is not a formula that must be balanced. God’s attributes include being both just and merciful; if He were not just and certain to mete out justice and vengeance on evil, He would not be merciful and He would not have grace. The two are not separate things; they are different facets of the Almighty God. They cannot exist without each other. They are God’s character.
Job ultimately repented at the end of the book. He was not a good man who was unconsciously a pawn in the hands of God and Satan who were fighting over him. Quite the opposite. He was a sinful man who trusted God but who had to learn that he had limited understanding of God’s sovereign authority and power.
Job repented, but significantly he did not repent for deeds he had done. Rather, he repented for having presumed to think he understood how God worked:
Then Job answered the LORD and said:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that his counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-6).
God does punish; in fact, He is the only One can do so. Jesus, in fact, said,
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both should and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28).
God kills the wicked at the last day. God destroys sin and evil. But there is not ongoing fight with Satan. He is already defeated; He is already a doomed slave of His own Creator. We needn’t try to balance anything between God’s punishments and His mercy. He is God.
We are His creatures, and we are utterly subject to Him. Nothing that happens is a surprise to Him, and His will absolutely WILL come to pass and is coming to pass now.
Retributive justice is just a conundrum for those who do not understand that God is utterly sovereign, and we are His spirit-being creatures who are 100% responsible for our own sin. We are born depraved, but the Lord Jesus became a man and paid for human sin.
The question of God’s punishment is forever resolved. On the cross the Father crushed His Son, and when we believe and trust in the Lord Jesus, we pass out of death into eternal life at that very moment. We will never die, as Jesus told Martha.
Because of Jesus, there is no confusion over God’s justice and mercy. All of God’s glory was displayed in Jesus as He took our sins into Himself and died for us. All of God’s pleasure in His Son was displayed when Jesus rose from the tomb.
When we trust in Him, we are born again, and we will never die.