EGW on Does God Destroy or Use Force?
Here is a collection of Ellen White’s statements, arranged by publication source (ignoring “the” in titles), saying that God does not destroy or use force. There is a separate page for statements that say Satan is the Destroyer. It needs to be understood that, while a surface reading can sound like God destroys, there are principles in God’s system and in scripture that explain that anything sounding like destruction by God is not destruction as we commonly understand it. God’s ways are not our ways.
A little commentary is added with some statements to stress important aspects.
“Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished.” (The Acts of the Apostles, p12)
“It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, who seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederated with evil angels sometimes bring suffering upon their fellow men in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love.” (The Acts of the Apostles, p541)
There can be no “voluntary” service under a threat of death from God for transgression. That would be “to compel the conscience” – Satan’s method.
“God destroys no man. Everyone who is destroyed will have destroyed himself.” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p84)
“The earth was dark through the misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority.” (The Desire of Ages, p22)
“It is true that all suffering results from the transgression of God’s law, but this truth had become perverted. Satan, the author of sin and all its results, had led men to look upon disease and death as proceeding from God,-as punishment arbitrarily inflicted on account of sin.” (The Desire of Ages, p471)
“It is no part of Christ’s mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, that seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederate with evil angels bring suffering upon their fellow men, in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love. There can be no more conclusive evidence that we possess the spirit of Satan than the disposition to hurt and destroy those who do not appreciate our work, or who act contrary to our ideas.” (The Desire of Ages, p487)
“God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not do this. Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God’s government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power.” (The Desire of Ages, p759)
This is a significant statement in more than one way. It clearly says that the Lord’s principles do not include the use of force. The paragraph following the one above is also very important:
“It was God’s purpose to place things on an eternal basis of security, and in the councils of heaven it was decided that time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the foundation of his system of government. He had claimed that these were superior to God’s principles. Time was given for the working of Satan’s principles, that they might be seen by the heavenly universe.” (ibid)
The statement about God not using force is in the immediate context of an explanation of the Great Controversy – that Satan thought he had a better idea of how to run the universe and that God would allow a demonstration so that the watching universe could see who had the better principles – God’s (which do not include the use of force) or Satan’s (which do include compelling power).
This statement implies strongly that Moses was not to lead Israel using the law of force:
“In the military schools of Egypt, Moses was taught the law of force, and so strong a hold did this teaching have upon his character that is required forty years of quiet and communion with God and nature to fit him for the leadership of Israel by the law of love. The same lesson Paul had to learn.” (Education p65)
“God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a seed sown, which yields its unfailing harvest. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from the sinner, and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, and no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan.” (The Great Controversy, p36)
“I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way: They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then, if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course, independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan’s decided attacks upon them.”
It is Satan’s power that is at work at sea and on land, bringing calamity and distress and sweeping off multitudes to make sure of his prey.” (Manuscript Releases 14:3; 1883)
“Angels are sent from the heavenly courts, not to destroy, but to watch over and guard imperiled souls, to save the lost, to bring the straying ones back to the fold.” (MS 36, 1904, RH May 10, 1906)
“It is the prerogative of God to have to reconstruct, not to destroy.” (MS 39, 1891)
“The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all intelligent beings depends upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love—service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p34)
“God never compels the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve.” (Prophets and Kings, p511)
If God compelled obedience that would involve coercion if not force. Freedom to choose involves freedom to have the results naturally coming from that choice as well.
“Satan’s representations against the government of God, and his defense of those who sided with him, were a constant accusation against God. His murmurings and complaints were groundless; and yet God allowed him to work out his theory. God could have destroyed Satan and all his sympathizers as easily as one can pick up a pebble and cast it to the earth. But by so doing he would have given a precedent for the exercise of force. All the compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. He would not work on this line. He would not give the slightest encouragement for any human being to set himself up as God over another human being, feeling at liberty to cause him physical or mental suffering. This principle is wholly of Satan’s creation.
The principles of the character of God were the foundation of the education constantly kept before the heavenly angels. These principles were goodness, mercy, and love. Self-evidencing light was to be recognized and freely accepted by all who occupied positions of trust and power. They must accept God’s principles, and, through the presentation of truth and righteousness, convince all who were in his service. This was the only power to be used. Force must never come in. All who thought that their position gave them power to command their fellow beings, and control conscience, must be deprived of their position; for this is not God’s plan.
These principles are to be the foundation of education in God’s church today. The rules given by him are to be observed and respected. God has enjoined this. His government is moral. Nothing is to be done by compulsion. Truth is to be the prevailing power. All service is to be done willingly, and for the love of God. All who are honored with positions of influence are to represent God; for when officiating, they are in the place of God. In everything their actions must correspond to the importance of their position. The higher the position the more distinctly will self-sacrifice be revealed if they are fit for the office. Every heart that is controlled by these principles will be loyal. But when those who profess to be in God’s service resort to accusation, they are adopting Satan’s principles to cast out Satan; and this never will work.
In the councils of heaven it was decided that principles must be acted upon that would not at once destroy Satan’s power; for it was God’s purpose to place things upon an eternal basis of security. Time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the foundation of his government. The heavenly universe must see worked out the principles which Satan declared were superior to God’s principles. God’s order must be contrasted with Satan’s order. The corrupting principles of Satan’s rule must be revealed. The principles of righteousness expressed in God’s law must be demonstrated as unchangeable, perfect, eternal.” (Review and Herald, Sep. 7, 1897)
Notice how often principles are referred to in this quotation. The question could be asked: why would God in the very last act of the Great Controversy (the battle between the principles of heaven and the principles of the rebellion) carry out an act (the personal destruction of the lost) using force – a principle of Satan’s creation? It just does not make any sense. Especially, when there is so much evidence that sin naturally results in death.
“We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.” (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p235)
“Force is the last resort of every false religion.” (Signs of the Times, May 6, 1897, p16)
“Moses was too fast in slaying the Egyptian. He supposed that the people of Israel understood that God’s special providence had raised him up to deliver them. But God did not design to deliver the children of Israel by warfare, as Moses thought, but by His own mighty power, that the glory might be ascribed to Him alone.” (The Story of Redemption, p110)
The following extended quote is included because it explains the process of the hardening of the heart.
“How was it in the case of Pharaoh? The statement in Holy Writ is that God hardened his heart, and at every repetition of light in the manifestation of God’s power the statement is repeated. Every time he refused to submit to God’s will his heart became harder and less impressible by the Spirit of God. He sowed the seed of obstinacy, and God left it to vegetate. He might have prevented it by a miracle, but that was not His plan. He allowed it to grow and produce a harvest of its own kind, thus, proving the truthfulness of the scripture: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” When a man plants doubts, he will reap doubts. By rejecting the first light and every following ray, Pharaoh went from one degree of hardness of heart to another, until the cold, dead forms of the first-born only checked his unbelief and obstinacy for a moment. And then, determined not to yield to God’s way, he continued his willful course until overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea.
This case is placed on record for our benefit. Just what took place in Pharaoh’s heart will take place in every soul that neglects to cherish the light and walk promptly in its rays. God destroys no one. The sinner destroys himself by his own impenitence. When a person once neglects to heed the invitations, reproofs, and warnings of the Spirit of God, his conscience becomes seared, and the next time he is admonished, it will be more difficult to yield obedience than before. And thus with every repetition. Conscience is the voice of God, heard amid the conflict of human passions; when it is resisted, the Spirit of God is grieved.” (Testimonies For the Church, vol. 5, p119-120)
“The laws of God are designed to bring His people closer to Himself. He will save them from the evil and lead them to the good if they will be led, but force them He never will.” (Testimonies For the Church, vol. 5, p444)
God allowed the seed of obstinacy to grow in Pharaoh’s heart. To do otherwise would have interfered with Pharaoh’s free will. Since God might have prevented it by a miracle (God has the power to do that), He accepted a degree of responsibility for it. The example is for us – every soul that neglects light will have their heart hardened by the same process.
This process of the heart becoming hard, with additional quotes, is explained very well in Fred Wright’s book Behold Your God, p131-133.
“God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from the heart.” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p77)
“God destroys no man; but after a time the wicked are given up to the destruction they have wrought for themselves.” (Youth Instructor, Nov. 30, 1893)
Return to the index of EGW material.