In the original lecture series done in 1984 at the Loma Linda University Church, Graham Maxwell spoke for about a half hour each Friday night followed by written questions and answers from Lou Venden and also from the audience. The next several posts contain questions and answers from the ninth presentation, “There Is No Need to be Afraid of God.”
Lou: I love the way you put that, to imagine our Heavenly Father sitting down and talking with us. It certainly is beautiful.
Graham: If we believe that Jesus is God, He did exactly that all those years He was on earth. And if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. Do we really believe the implications of that? Or do we think that when we get to Heaven, even Jesus will be different? No more quiet chats by the river of life?
Lou: Why is it so hard for us to really grasp this and to experience it?
Graham: Well, I can think of at least two reasons. One is our own natural limitations. It seems almost unbelievable. The other reason is that there is an adversary who is determined that we not recognize this. He wants us to have a different picture of God. That’s been his whole campaign, and he’s won so many believers that it doesn’t seem fair. His evangelism, “bad news-ism,” has been so very successful.
Lou: I have a number of questions that relate to the previous chapter, but also tie in to this one. The first is concerned with wrath and punishment. “Do you think the concept of wrath and punishment has a useful purpose? Can it help us to remember the importance of remaining in harmony with God’s truthfulness and trustworthiness?”
Graham: God has obviously used such language many, many times. Wrath and punishment have been useful to Him. But it’s sad that he had to settle for that. When Israel was noisy and irreverent, God had to strike a little fear into their hearts. And in the midst of their terror was a measure of reverence and respect. But when our reverence is based on fear only, the moment the thunder dies away the reverence evaporates. Jesus really demonstrated this in His lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44; Matt 23:37). There was no thunder, no lightning, and no earthquake. He simply wept quietly over the city. And many despised Him for it. I do love it, though, that the children were never afraid of Him. They would sit in His lap and according to one description they would “reach up and kiss that pensive face” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, page 11).
Lou: Is it wrath and punishment what you are speaking about when you talk about emergency measures? Or is it the picture of a teacher standing on the desk throwing the chalk and the erasers to get our attention?
Graham: Both would be emergency measures; they are not God’s regular way of doing things. There is a whole chapter on God’s emergency measures coming (Chapter Eleven).
Lou: This same questioner went on to ask, “Do you feel comfortable so extensively re-reading passages like Revelation 14:10 in the third angel’s message?”
Graham: It’s significant that the last great message from the angels to this earth is about the destruction of the wicked. That’s very strong language. It’s God’s last message of warning just before the end. Things must be really desperate for Him to raise His voice that loud. It would be like a father walking with his son up in the mountains, and the son is getting closer and closer to the cliff. At first the father says, “Son, stop right where you are.” But he doesn’t hear. He raises his voice, but the wind is blowing it away. So finally the father at the top of his lungs shouts to the boy, “Stop where you are!!” A nearby group may say to themselves, “Listen to that heartless Father, bellowing at his poor little boy.” When they get closer and learn the whole situation they say, “Forgive us; we misunderstood.” I think many of us may owe God an apology. I’m glad He’s raised His voice. We needed it.
Lou: So Revelation 14:10 is warning us how dangerous the cliff is.
Graham: This is the strongest language in all of Scripture. But I like the fact that the one who wrote that is the same person who wrote, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). So we can understand that God is love and still understand the need for earthquake, wind and fire.