Lou: This matter of emergency measures is a very interesting idea, and it sparked a really good question: “Why does an omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God allow Himself to get into a situation where emergency measures are needed? Why didn’t God plan better?” The impression this question leaves is that something happened that God wasn’t counting on. How would you answer that?
Graham: I think that’s why several times in the Bible we have to have things like the wheels within the wheels in Ezekiel. That picture suggests that God is calmly in control amidst all the complexities of human affairs. Books like Daniel and Revelation suggest that God foresaw all these complexities. He was not surprised, but in human terms an emergency has developed for which God has made adequate provision. That He would allow the emergency to occur, when He has the power to run the universe any way He wants, speaks very well of Him and speaks volumes about the value of freedom to our God. That He would allow the emergency says that an even higher value was at stake in the way God responded to rebellion in the universe.
Lou: But with the phrase “emergency measures,” are we saying that God is meeting a difficult situation in a way that runs the risk that we might misunderstand Him? Or that the Devil might use it to confuse us about God’s character?
Graham: Satan has very much used these things against God. That’s why Jesus said, “I haven’t come to destroy the law and the prophets” [the Old Testament], “I have come to explain” (Matt 5:17). For example, He set out to explain the Old Testament rule about “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt 5:38, cf. Lev 24:20). That’s an emergency measure. I suspect they didn’t like Jesus’ explanation very much (Matt 5:39-48). He also gave an explanation of the divorce rule in Deuteronomy 24:1-3 (Matt 19:3-10), and they didn’t like that explanation either. Remember even His own disciples said, “You’re taking away our only escape clause in the marriage ceremony! If that’s the case, it would be better not to marry” (Matt 19:10). And He responded to them, “Not everybody can take this” (Matt 19:11-12). So Jesus did come to explain—because these things could be misunderstood. On the other hand, there were Old Testament prophets that didn’t misunderstand. That’s what’s so impressive.
Lou: You’ve been speaking about an emergency and a time period of emergency. The question is this: “Has the emergency ended yet? When will it end? Are we still living in the emergency?”
Graham: If one thinks of the emergency as a legal problem, maybe it all ended at the cross. But look around us, we’re still in the emergency. I would say the emergency is not over until God’s last emergency measure is no longer needed. I would think of the last emergency measure as the veiling of His life-giving glory, lest we be consumed. That’s what Christ did when He came. “He veiled the dazzling splendor of His divinity that human beings might come to know God without being consumed” (Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, page 419). That’s an emergency measure. So not until the end of the millennium, when everything is done and no one will misunderstand, will God unveil His life-giving glory. Then the last emergency measure will be over, and everything will come to a natural conclusion. So we’re still looking forward to the end of these measures. That doesn’t mean the cross is somehow inadequate. You can’t add to the cross. The provision is totally adequate. But we’re still in the emergency period.