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The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, [1858], at



Death, Not Eternal Life in Misery


Satan commenced his deception in Eden.  He said to Eve, Thou shalt not surely die.  This was Satan's first lesson upon the immortality of the soul; and he has carried on this deception from that time to the present, and will carry it on until the captivity of God's children shall be turned.  I was pointed to Adam and Eve in Eden.  They partook of the forbidden tree, and then the flaming sword was placed around the tree of life, and they were driven from the Garden, lest they should partake of the tree of life, and be immortal sinners.  The tree of life was to perpetuate immortality.  I heard an angel ask, Who of the family of Adam have passed that flaming sword, and have partaken of the tree of life?  I heard another angel answer, Not one of the family of Adam have passed that flaming sword, and partaken of that tree; therefore there is not an immortal sinner.  The soul that sinneth it shall die an everlasting death; a death that will last forever, where there will be no hope of a resurrection; and then the wrath of God will be appeased.

It was a marvel to me that Satan could succeed so well in making men believe that the words of God, The soul that sinneth it shall die, mean that the soul that sinneth it shall not die, but live eternally in misery.  Said the angel, Life is life, whether it is in pain or happiness.  Death is without pain, without joy, without hatred.

Satan told his angels to make a special effort to spread the deception and lie first repeated to Eve in Eden, Thou shalt not surely die.  And as the error was received by the people, and they believed that man was immortal, Satan led them still further to believe that the sinner would live in eternal misery.  Then the way was prepared for Satan to work through his representatives, and hold up God before the people as a revengeful tyrant; that those who do not please him, he will plunge into hell, and cause them ever to feel his wrath; and that they will suffer unutterable anguish, while he will look down upon them with satisfaction, as they writhe in horrible sufferings and eternal flames.  Satan knew that if this error should be received, God would be dreaded and hated by very many, instead of being loved and admired; and that many would be led to believe that the threatenings of God's word would not be literally fulfilled; for it would be against his character of benevolence and love, to plunge beings whom he had created into eternal torments.  Satan has led them to another extreme, to entirely overlook the justice of God, and the threatenings in his Word, and represent him as being all mercy, and that not one will perish, but all, both saint and sinner, will at last be saved in his kingdom.  In consequence of the popular error of the immortality of the soul, and endless misery, Satan takes advantage of another class, and leads them on to regard the Bible as an uninspired book.  They think it teaches many good things; but they cannot rely upon it and love it; because they have been taught that it declares the doctrine of eternal misery.

Satan takes advantage of still another class, and leads them still further to deny the existence of God.  They can see no consistency in the character of the God of the Bible, if he will torment a portion of the human family to all eternity in horrible tortures; and they deny the Bible and its Author, and regard death as an eternal sleep.

Then Satan leads another class who are fearful and timid to commit sin; and after they have sinned, he holds up before them that the wages of sin is not death, but an eternal life in horrible torments, to be endured through the endless ages of eternity.  Satan improves the opportunity, and magnifies before their feeble minds the horrors of an endless hell, and takes charge of their minds, and they lose their reason.  Then Satan and his angels exult, and the infidel and atheist join in casting reproach upon Christianity.  They regard these evil consequences of the reception of popular heresy, as the natural results of believing in the Bible and its Author.

I saw that the heavenly host was filled with indignation at this bold work of Satan.  I inquired why all these delusions should be suffered to take effect upon the minds of men, when the angels of God were powerful, and if commissioned, could easily break the enemy's power.  Then I saw that God knew that Satan would try every art to destroy man; therefore he had caused his Word to be written out, and had made his designs to man so plain that the weakest need not err.  Then, after he had given his Word to man, he had carefully preserved it, so that Satan and his angels, through any agent or representative, could not destroy it.  While other books might be destroyed, this holy Book was to be immortal.  And down near the close of time, when the delusions of Satan should increase, the copies of this Book were to be so multiplied, that all who desired it might have a copy of God's revealed will to man, and, if they would, might arm themselves against the deceptions and lying wonders of Satan.

I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible, yet learned men, when the copies were few, had changed the words in some instances, thinking that they were making it more plain, when they were mystifying that which was plain, in causing it to lean to their established views, governed by tradition.  But I saw that the word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion of scripture explaining another.  True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the word of God plain and simple in declaring the way to life, but the Holy Spirit is given to guide in understanding the way of life revealed in his Word.

I saw that the angels of God were never to control the will.  God sets before man life and death.  He can have his choice.  Many desire life, but continue to walk in the broad road, because they have not chosen life.

I saw the mercy and compassion of God in giving his Son to die for guilty man.  Those who will not choose to accept salvation which has been so dearly purchased for them, must be punished.  Beings whom God created have chosen to rebel against his government; but I saw that God did not shut them up in hell to endure endless misery.  He could not take them to heaven; for to bring them into the company of the pure and holy would make them perfectly miserable.  God will not take them to heaven, neither will he cause them to suffer eternally.  He will destroy them utterly, and cause them to be as though they had not been, and then his justice will be satisfied.  He formed man out of the dust of the earth, and the disobedient and unholy will be consumed by fire, and return to dust again.  I saw that the benevolence and compassion of God in this, should lead all to admire his character, and to adore him; and after the wicked shall be destroyed from off the earth, all the heavenly host will say, Amen!

Satan looked with great satisfaction upon those who professed the name of Christ, and were closely adhering to these delusions formed by himself.  His work is to still form new delusions.  His power increases, and he grows more artful.  He led on his representatives, the popes and the priests, to exalt themselves, and to stir up the people to bitterly persecute those who loved God, and were not willing to yield to his delusions, introduced through them.  Satan moved upon his agents to destroy Christ's devoted followers.  O the sufferings and agony, which they made the precious of God to endure!  Angels have kept a faithful record of it all.  But Satan and his evil angels exulted, and told the angels who administered to, and strengthened those suffering saints, that they would kill them, so there would not be left a true Christian upon the earth.  I saw that the church of God was then pure.  There was no danger of men with corrupt hearts coming into the church of God then; for the true Christian, who dared to declare his faith, was in danger of the rack, the stake, and every torture which Satan and his evil angels could invent, and put into the mind of man.


See Genesis chap.3; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 12:7; Luke 21:33; John 3:16; 2Timothy 3:16; Revelation 20:14-15, 21:1, 22:12-19


Next: Chapter 20. The Reformation