Lou: I’m intrigued by the Maxwell version of Romans 3:25-26 that you gave earlier. Why do so many versions translate this gospel passage as a revelation of God’s activity in salvation rather than a revelation of God’s character, or the kind of person God is? Is the gospel the truth about God’s character or the truth about how God saves us?
Graham: To understand what Paul is saying here, you need to go back to Romans 1:17-18. According to the Greek of verse seventeen, the gospel derives its power from the fact that it reveals the righteousness of God. But then in verse eighteen Paul says, “The wrath of God is revealed.” The Greek in these two phrases is almost identical. It is God’s wrath one verse below, and God’s righteousness one verse above. But many of our good Christian friends say, “Why would God’s righteousness need to be revealed? He’s the Sovereign of all things, of course He’s righteous.” You see, following Luther’s example, they don’t understand this text in light of the great controversy over the character and government of God.
In the larger, great controversy view, it’s God’s righteousness that has been challenged. If God is not proved to be righteous, there is no basis for us to trust Him. The good news, in that case, is that God is righteous. Those who are not aware of a conflict over His righteousness, choose something else, such as, “It’s God’s way of righting you and me.” What’s beautiful about this, though, is that both ideas are true. If the good news is about God’s righteousness, then the revelation of God’s righteousness is the way in which He rights you and me. And so the larger view contains the smaller view, but the narrow view denies the larger view.
That’s what I like about the larger view of Scripture. You can be much more generous when you hold it. You can say, with the beautiful Good News Bible, “God’s way of righting wrong.” That’s beautiful. But what is God’s way of setting men right with Himself? It is to reveal and demonstrate the truth about His own righteousness at infinite cost. It is our privilege to explain the larger great controversy view from all sixty-six books of the Bible. That view allows the Bible to be translated very literally in Romans 1:16-17, and even leaves room for narrower views which are more focused on what God has done for you and me. To many of our friends, the good news is primarily what God has done for you and me, the plan of salvation. The larger view, on the other hand, is the good news that God is not as His enemies have made Him out to be. And to see Him like that is to be won to repentance and faith. The plan of salvation has at its very heart the revelation and the demonstration of the truth about the righteousness of God. That’s a more inclusive view. That’s why we venture sometimes to call it the “Larger View.”
Lou: Another question: “I understand that the wrath of Satan (Rev 12:12, 17) and the wrath of God (Rev 14:10; 15:1) are based on the same word in the original language. How can we fit Satan’s wrath into the picture you are helping us to see regarding God’s wrath? Or could it be that I am misinformed regarding the original language?”
Graham: Yes, the two main words for “wrath” in the Greek are orge and thumos. Both words are used for God (in Rev 14:10) and for Satan (in Rev 12:12, 17), the same words. Similarly, the word “faith” is used for “saving faith” or “trust” (Rom 3:28) and also for the frightened kind of faith the devils have (James 2:19). The only difference is that when God expresses His wrath, He sadly gives us up. When the Devil comes down with great wrath, he comes “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). That’s the difference between the two. Same words, different context. The context indicates the meaning.
Lou: It has to do with the kind of person the Devil is and the kind of person that God is. Because their characters are different, their expressions of wrath are also different.
Graham: That’s the difference.
Lou: All right. Another friend has raised this question. I think it’s a very important one. “Are we going to have the same freedom that Adam and Eve had when we go to heaven—free to choose, perfect freedom of choice?” What about this matter of freedom which you have stressed so much?
Graham: Well, when you think of the price God has paid to show what freedom means to Him, and to restore freedom, you could say, “Absolutely, yes.” The end of the conflict doesn’t mean that freedom is gone, to the contrary.
Lou: Let’s move very quickly to one other question: “Why wasn’t the conflict ended with Christ’s victory at the cross and His resurrection? Why has pain and suffering gone on since then?” We have covered this before, but it may help to review it here.
Graham: The fact that this issue keeps coming up suggests how important it is. We will address it again at some length in “God Waits for His Children to Grow Up” (Chapter Eighteen). In the narrower, more legal view, if it’s done at the cross, why wait any longer? In the larger, great controversy view, there are terrible events to occur at the End, and there will need to be a mature generation— not a generation of children, or even the “dear idiots” of Galatia (Gal 3:1). There needs to be a group of Jobs who are so grown up and settled into the truth, that like Paul they could say: “If even an angel from heaven should come with a different gospel,” pretending to be Christ, “he is wrong and we will not believe it” (Gal 1:8-9). So God in mercy waits.
Lou: Our next chapter is “Satan’s Final Effort to Deceive.” What more important subject could we study to be prepared for these final days?
Graham: I considered putting that chapter before this one, but I wanted to do the good news first. Having said that, it is a truly important subject for the times in which we live.