Lou: This next question is similar. “If God’s character is love (1 John 4:8) and God loves us so much (John 3:16), why was pain and death so prevalent in the Old and New Testaments? And is it God who will actually destroy man in the end? Or is it sin and Satan that causes destruction? If God does destroy, then is that contrary to His own Word?”
Graham: I too couldn’t live without an answer to those questions, and one should work on them. But I’m glad the Bible does not settle for just claims. “These questions you will find answered on page 721, lines one, two, three, four, five and six.” Those are just claims. It has actually cost a great deal to answer those questions.
Now on the violence in the Old Testament, we know we’re all caught up in the consequences of this war. We also bring a lot of this on ourselves, to be sure. God sometimes disciplines those He loves. And the devil is also at work. There are many causes of trouble and difficulty. We plan to look at them all. But I don’t expect a neat answer to a question like that.
The biggest question, however, may be, “Will God destroy us in the end?” If all God asks of us is love and trust, and if we don’t give it to Him, is He going to destroy us in the end? This would be like God saying, “You either love Me, or I’ll destroy you.” And if that’s the way He is, I cannot trust Him. I do not care to live with Him. I do not believe He’s that way; but it cost the death of Christ to prove it. So to answer that question we have to watch Jesus die. Did the Father destroy His Son? The cross is the central answer to all of this, and we will look deeply into that answer in Chapter Eight.
Lou: Let’s shift gears to a question about the Flood, which is still in a similar vein: “On the subject of the Flood, it is apparent that God didn’t do things right the first time. So He had to send a Flood and start all over again.” What would you do with that?
Graham: That question makes a lot of sense, since the text says, “It repented the Lord that He had made man. . . (Gen 6:6, KJV).” Or as some versions say, “He was sorry that He had made man” (RSV). As you go through the sixty-six, you run into several places where God is pictured as if He were not too aware of what is going on and certainly not having as much foreknowledge as we think. For example, when He comes to the Garden of Eden, He says “Where are you?” And Adam says, “We’re over here.” “Oh, thank you. I didn’t know” (based on Genesis 3:10-11). Another time He came to Abraham (before the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah) and said, “Abraham, I’ve come down to check out the reports I’ve received, to see if they are correct or not” (Gen 18:21). Now we’ve all assumed that God is getting very good reporting. Apparently not; He had to come down and say, “I’m checking this out Myself.”
There are many places in the Bible like that, where God talks in very human language. And so in this case with the Flood it grieved God that He had made man (Gen 6:6, NIV). My understanding would be that He foreknew all of this, and He had now come to the time when there were only eight people left on this planet with whom He could communicate. And the answers to the questions in the great controversy had not yet been given. So God, as it were, turns to the universe and says, “I’m really going to test your faith in Me. The next thing you see will stun you.” And He drowned all but eight to preserve the one remaining point of contact He had with the human race. It was the only way He could go on unfolding His plan.
I’m sure the devil cried, “Foul! I told you He’s that kind of a God. You either love Him or He’ll drown you, or He’ll burn you, or have you stoned, or swallow you up.” The risk God ran in arranging the Flood suggests just how important it was to do what He did. The risk was that great. Had He not done that, everything would have ended at that time. And the answers to the great questions had not yet been given. The Flood has to be put in the total setting that includes the cosmic perspective with the angels watching. God ran a great risk of being misunderstood at that time. But I believe it was all in His plan.
Lou: You say that everything would have ended at that point. Do you mean that the whole human race was so evil that it would self-destruct?
Graham: Well those eight that got on the boat weren’t that good, you remember. Ham wasn’t too virtuous, and his father hadn’t taken the temperance pledge yet. Those eight weren’t saved because they were obedient. I believe they were saved because they got on the boat. But we can’t compare that with the salvation at the end. It’s not quite the same. The Flood was an emergency measure. At the end, God will be determining who is safe to save.