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At the Risk of Eternal Loss

At the Risk of Eternal Loss

By Paul Chung

Did Jesus risk his eternal existence when he came to this earth? Many Seventh-day Adventists scholars seem to suggest that Jesus did not risk his eternal existence.

Following are some statements demonstrating what some of the respected Seventh-day Adventist scholars say about the risk (if at all) Jesus took. The general opinions of these scholars are that God cannot die and therefore to say it simply, Christ did not risk His divinity or eternal existence, which by the way is contrary to inspiration as you will see:

Fernando Canale (Author of the article "The Doctrine of God" in the SDA Handbook of Theology):

“Thank you for reading the treatise on the Doctrine [sic] of God. GOD THE SON COULD HAVE SINNED BUT HE WOULD NOT HAVE LOST EXISTENCE. I do not know where you get the idea that sin would have brought the death of the eternal Son of God. GOD, BECAUSE HE IS GOD CANNOT DIE. Humans can die. SIN IN CHRIST would have determined death for all humans, and would have affected the life of the Son and the trinity in ways we cannot comprehend but WILL NOT HAVE CAUSE[D] THE DEATH OF THE SON AND CHANGE THE TRINTIARIAN STRUCTURE OF GOD'S BEING.” (Fernando Canale, email to Terry Hill, 14th September 2007)

“I think that when we go to the possible consequences for the divinity if Christ had sinned, we enter into the mystery that has not been revealed and probably cannot be revealed because it touches the inner structure of the divine being we cannot understand. The idea that Christ will not have resurrected if he had sinned seems contradictory to the fact that he has life in itself. BY DEFINITION THE DIVINITY CANNOT CEASE TO EXIST, or to be the fountain of life. Besides, the real inexistence of the second person of the divinity will probably make the other two disappear as well because God is one. Yet, please bring in mind that we can indulge in our questionings but we should be respectful of divine mystery (privacy) were silence is golden as Ellen white used to say.” (Fernando Canale, email to Terry Hill, 16th September 2007)

Max Hatton (Author of "Understanding the Trinity" and "The Trinity for SDAs - author cited in many books and acknowledged as a leading SDA trinitarian):

“So now you know where I stand on the little game the Anti-Trinitarians like to play. They try to set you up for a big fall by their use; I should say misuse, of Ellen White. I would answer them on No. 1. “Yes He could have sinned.” On No. 2. “It would have affected Him terribly if He had sinned. He would be shattered to a depth that we could never understand. God would be defeated, the human family would be forever lost, the residents of the other occupied planets would be in great distress and would probably lose a lot of confidence in God. It would have adversely affected Christ’s humanity somehow but HIS DEITY WOULD NOT BE AFFECTED TO THE EXTENT THAT HE WOULD BE OBLITERATED. HE IS ETERNAL, OMNIPOTENT, AND SUCH-LIKE AND COULD NEVER DIE.” .{Max Hatton, HAVE YOU HEARD THE LATEST FROM ANTI-TRINITARIANS}

Glynn Parfitt (Author of "The Trinity: What Has God Revealed - another well reputed SDA trinitarian scholar):

“Thank you for collecting the Ellen White quotes in this area. I have examined each one of them and find that they do not state exactly what would have happened if Christ had sinned. There was a risk, that is clear, BUT JUST WHAT THAT RISK WAS IS NOT CLEARLY SPELLED OUT.” (Glyn Parfitt to Terry Hill, 8th October 2009)

As you can see these men are either in direct denial of what would have happened to Jesus if He had sinned or they try to say that we don't need to know or it isn't clear. This is due to their trintiarian doctrine, which teach that Christ could not die because He is God. Yet let's see what sister White says:

“Jesus Christ laid off His royal robe, His kingly crown, and clothed His divinity with humanity, in order to become a substitute and surety for humanity, that dying in humanity He might by His death destroy him who had the power of death.....HE COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS AS GOD, BUT BY COMING AS MAN, CHRIST COULD DIE." (Ellen G. White, Letter 97, 1898, p. 5. To "My Brethren in North Fitzroy," November 18, 1898)

Ellen G White says, Christ could not have died as God (pure divinity), but as an incarnate Man Christ (divinity blended with humanity), He could...meaning, somehow (this is a mystery) the person of Christ was able to die.

"Who can estimate the value of a soul? Go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Jesus through those long hours of anguish when he sweat as it were great drops of blood; look upon the Saviour uplifted on the cross; hear that despairing cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Look upon that wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet. REMEMBER CHRIST RISKED ALL; "tempted like as we are," HE STAKED EVEN HIS OWN ETERNAL EXISTENCE upon the issue of the conflict. Heaven itself was imperiled for our redemption. At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Jesus would have yielded up his life, we may estimate the value of a soul." {GCB, December 1, 1895 par. 22}

“Never can the cost of our redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne of God. Then as the glories of the eternal home burst upon our enraptured senses we shall remember THAT JESUS LEFT ALL THIS FOR US, THAT HE NOT ONLY BECAME AN EXILE FROM THE HEAVENLY COURTS, BUT FOR US TOOK THE RISK OF FAILURE AND ETERNAL LOSS.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages. Page 131 ‘The Victory’)

“CHRIST STEPPED DOWN FROM HIS EXALTED THRONE, LEFT THE ROYAL COURTS, clothed his divinity with humanity, and became a man among the children of men;” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times. 15th June 1891 ‘He that Hath an Ear, let Him Hear’)

“Risking his own life, he [the Samaritan] had treated the wounded man as his brother. This Samaritan represents Christ.” COL 381

We have been told from Spirit of Prophecy that in taking to Himself human nature, the Son of God literally vacated Heaven:

“THINK OF HOW MUCH IT COST CHRIST TO LEAVE THE HEAVENLY COURTS, and take his position at the head of humanity. Why did he do this? -- BECAUSE HE WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD REDEEM THE FALLEN RACE.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 9th March 1905, ‘God’s purpose for us’)

Over and over again Ellen White spoke of the possibility of Christ sinning at the risk of failure and eternal loss. She wrote such as:

“Those who claim that it was not possible for Christ to sin, CANNOT BELIEVE THAT HE TOOK UPON HIM HUMAN NATURE. Christ was actually tempted, not only in the wilderness, BUT ALL THROUGH HIS LIFE.” (Ellen G. White, Bible Echo, 1st November 1892, ‘Tempted in all points like as we are’, see also Signs of the Times, 10th October 1892, ‘Draw from the source of strength’)

“HE COULD HAVE SINNED; HE COULD HAVE FALLEN, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity. He was assailed with temptations in the wilderness, as Adam was assailed with temptations in Eden.” (Ellen G. White, Letter 8, 1895. written to Brother and Sister W. L .H. Baker, North American workers in Australia, probably from Sunnyside, Cooranbong, New South Wales)

“Yet into the world where Satan claimed dominion GOD PERMITTED HIS SON to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life's peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, AT THE RISK OF FAILURE AND ETERNAL LOSS.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages. Page 49 ‘Unto you a Saviour’)

The very same year this book (Desire of Ages) was published, she said (if Satan had managed to tempt Christ to sin):

“Could Satan in the least particular have tempted Christ to sin, he would have bruised the Saviour’s head. As it was, he could only touch His heel. Had the head of Christ been touched, the hope of the human race would have perished. DIVINE WRATH WOULD HAVE COME UPON CHRIST AS IT CAME UPON ADAM. CHRIST AND THE CHURCH WOULD HAVE BEEN WITHOUT HOPE.” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, June 9th 1898, see also Selected Messages Book 1 page 256)

This does not leave a great deal to the imagination (if Christ had sinned). Three years previous we were counselled,

“REMEMBER THAT CHRIST RISKED ALL; "tempted like as we are," HE STAKED EVEN HIS OWN ETERNAL EXISTENCE UPON THE ISSUE OF THE CONFLICT.” (Ellen G. White, General Conference Bulletin 1st December 1895 ‘Seeking the Lost’)

“Though Christ humbled Himself to become man, THE GODHEAD WAS STILL HIS OWN. His Deity could not be lost WHILE HE STOOD FAITHFUL AND TRUE TO HIS LOYALTY.” (Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, 10th May 1899, ‘Christ glorified’)

Note: We can only reason here that Ellen White was saying that if Christ had not been faithful and true - meaning if He had sinned - He would have lost His deity. How else can this statement be reasoned? In a letter written two years after ‘The Desire of Ages’ had been published – we find this written concerning Christ:

“He became subject to temptation, ENDANGERING AS IT WERE, HIS DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. Satan sought, by the constant and curious devices of his cunning, to make Christ yield to temptation.” (Ellen G. White, Letter 5, 1900, as quoted in the Seventh-day Adventists Bible Commentary Volume 7 page 926)

This shows that Christ’s divine attributes could be affected. Seven years earlier in 1893 it was said regarding the death of Christ:

“To the honor and glory of God, His beloved Son—the Surety, the Substitute—was delivered up and descended into the prisonhouse of the grave. The new tomb enclosed Him in its rocky chambers. IF ONE SINGLE SIN HAD TAINTED HIS CHARACTER THE STONE WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN ROLLED AWAY FROM THE DOOR OF HIS ROCKY CHAMBER, and the world with its burden of guilt would have perished.” 10MR 385.1 (Ellen G. White, Ms. 81, 1893, p. 11, Diary entry for Sunday, July 2, 1893, Wellington, New Zealand)

This is a mind-blowing realization. Can we possibly imagine how God would have felt if His Son had sinned – also that to remain true to His own word He would have needed to leave the stone of the tomb in its place? This is especially so when we realize that He had the power to remove it and to call His Son back to life. How would we feel if we were placed in such a position?

This is no different than what was written two years later. This is when we were informed:

“Christ has found his pearl of great price in lost, perishing souls. HE SOLD ALL THAT HE HAD to come into possession, even engaged to do the work, AND RUN THE RISK OF LOSING HIS OWN LIFE IN THE CONFLICT." (Ellen G. White, Letter 119, 1895)

This could only be referring to the pre-existent divine Son of God (not just His humanity).

Friends, the wages of sin is death and the consequence is eternal and this would have been the same even for the incarnate Son of God! But thank God that our Saviour did not fail but He overcame death!

"Who [Jesus] in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto HIM THAT WAS ABLE TO SAVE HIM FROM DEATH, and was heard in that he feared (Hebrew 5:7)

Here we see that the incarnate Son of God was pleading, "crying and tears" to the Father... Why would the Son making this kind supplication to the Father? Because the Father "was able to save him from death." In other words, His eternal existence was dependent upon the Father.

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Ellen White went on to say that because this was done by Christ, then, how should we regard our fellow human being? Who can truly estimate the value of a soul? This is quite a thought. There is no doubt that Ellen White would not have subscribed to the Trinitarian view of the Son of God - which says that because Jesus is God/divine, even in becoming incarnate, it was still not possible for Him to die nor lose His eternal existence. This shows us that she could never have believed the Trinity doctrine to be true.

Additonal notes:

The Principle underlying the Tithing System
By A. G. Daniels
The Church Officer's Gazette - October 1917

5. In undertaking to redeem what was lost at the fall, the Son of God took the fearful risk of losing his own existence forever.

Inspiration plainly declares that when Christ came to this world, he took upon himself man's fallen nature, with all its liabilities. Rom. 8:3 ; Heb. 2:16-18 ; 4:15. In this he accepted the fearful risk of possible failure. Had he failed, he, with man, would have been lost forever. This thought is almost overwhelming. It seems incredible that Heaven would condescend to purchase sinful, ungrateful man at such an infinite price.

10. "... At an infinite cost the Son of God redeemed man and his lost possession from the hand of the enemy. This not only took the life of Christ, but it imperiled his eternal interests. Had he failed, as was possible, he would have perished. At this cost he rescued what was lost, and it is now all his. Says Paul : "Ye are not your own ; for ye are bought with a price." 1 Cor. 6:19, 20. And Peter tells us that the price was the precious blood of Christ, as, of a lamb without blemish and without spot." I Peter 1:18,19."

Recommended article for a further study, "No More Than Swine's Blood" by Terry Hill.