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The Moment of Truth - Lesson 16

Is There Really a Hell?

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Once again, welcome to this study of the Word of God! Let us pray:
Our Father,

We thank You for all Your mercies towards us.

Today, we turn again to You, asking for enlightenment on another subject that has fueled many discussions: Hell. We know that Your Word can give us clear answers on this subject.

This is why we ask You to guide us in the truth, by Your Spirit. In Jesus Christ we pray.

Amen.
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Psalm 73:12,16,17 Comments
Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. (...)

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
The end of the ungodly...

Is it to burn forever in hell’s fire? Or is it to be completely destroyed?

We will let the Bible answer these questions.

(We strongly advise you to study the previous two lessons «Body, Soul and Spirit» and «After Death...» before beginning this one.)
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Ezekiel 18:32 Comments
«For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies,» said the Lord God.

«Why turn yourselves, and live you!»
First point to establish clearly: God is love.

He takes no pleasure in seeing many people choose to reject His plan of salvation, and thus receive the last punishment.

He rather invites us to accept Jesus as our Savior.
1 Timothy 2:3,4
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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Romans 2:4-6 Comments
Despise you the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds.
God is Love, but He is also Justice.

If we reject His plan of salvation in Jesus Christ, He will have no choice but letting us bear the consequences of our decision, and die in our sins.
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Matthew 13:40-42 Comments
[Jesus said,]

«So shall it be in the end of this world.

The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.»
In our previous lesson about death, we have learned that no one goes to heaven or to hell immediately after his death.

The dead are in a state of sleep, completely unconscious, waiting for the day of their resurrection.

So the punishment of the wicked will take place only at the end of times.
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Matthew 13:49,50 Comments
So shall it be at the end of the world.

The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
When will the punishment of the wicked take place?

The answer given by God’s Word is straightforward: at the end of the world, on the day of judgment.
2 Peter 2:9
The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished.
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Revelation 20:9; 21:1 Comments
[The nations] went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (...)

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
The Bible says that the wicked will be punished on this earth, whose surface will be consumed by fire from heaven.

Thereafter, a new earth will become the dwelling of God’s people.
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2 Peter 3:7 Comments
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved to fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. Therefore, the wicked will be punished on earth, at the end of the world.

Having said this, what, then, will be the lot of the wicked? For a long time, it has been taught that the wicked would suffer forever in the fire of hell...

Does the Word of God agree with that teaching?
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Romans 8:11 Comments
He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you. First, let us note this essential point: man is a mortal being (please review the lesson «Body, Soul, and Spirit» for more details).

No man has immortality in himself.

Thus, we can already note an anomaly in the teaching of eternal sufferings: indeed, to suffer eternally, man would have to be immortal, and that is not the case.
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1 Corinthians 15:53 Comments
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Therefore, to live forever, man must receive immortality which can only be given by God.

Now, the question we have to ask is: Will God also grant eternal life to the wicked, so that they may suffer forever in the fire of hell?
1 Timothy 6:15,16
(...) the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only has immortality.
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Romans 2:6,7 Comments
[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. The Bible answers in a very clear way: eternal life is reserved for the righteous.

Only the people of God will receive immortality at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

As for the wicked, they will keep their mortal nature: thus, they won’t live forever.

Many other verses of the Bible confirm this fact, as we will see...
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Immortality will be given only to those who will be saved:
«For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.» (Romans 6:23)

«Our Savior Jesus Christ has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.» (2 Timothy 1:10)

«No murderer has eternal life abiding in him.» (1 John 3:15)

«He that does the will of God stays for ever.» (1 John 2:17)

«He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.» (Revelation 2:11)

«God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.» (1 John 5:11,12)
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Malachi 4:1,3 Comments
«For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble.

And the day that comes shall burn them up,» said the Lord of hosts, «that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (...)

And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this.»
Since the wicked won’t have eternal life, they won’t burn forever.

This conclusion is confirmed by the Bible which teaches that the final lot of the wicked will be total destruction.
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Obadiah verse 16 Comments
All the heathen (...) shall be as though they had not been. The Bible teaches that the wicked will be «destroyed», «devoured», «consumed», «as though they had not been», «ashes under the soles of your feet», and many other words expressing a complete destruction at the end of times.

The wages of sin is death, not eternal torture in hell.
Psalm 92:7
When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever.
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The Bible teaches that the wicked will be destroyed at the end of times:
«You have destroyed the wicked, You have put out their name for ever and ever. O you enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end! And You have destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.» (Psalm 9:5,6)

«[God] shall bring on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness.» (Psalm 94:23)

«For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.» (Proverbs 24:20)

«You shall seek them, and shall not find them, even them that contended with you: they that war against you shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nothing.» (Isaiah 41:12)

«Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.» (Isaiah 13:9)

«They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry.» (Nahum 1:10)
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More verses teaching the final and complete destruction of the wicked
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Matthew 25:46 Comments
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Now, let us see some verses often presented by those teaching that the wicked will be tormented throughout eternity in the fire of hell.

First of all they say that the expression «everlasting punishment» means «everlasting torment».

Yet, etymologically, «punished» means «cut off», «removed». The sinner will be definitively cut off from life.

The punishment will therefore be eternal in its effect, since the sinner will never live again.
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Isaiah 11:4 Comments
But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.

And He shall smite the earth: with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.
The «everlasting punishment» is therefore the everlasting death of the wicked, whom God «shall slay», without any possible return to life.
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Hebrews 6:1,2 Comments
Let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation (...) of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. Likewise, the «eternal judgment» should not be interpreted as an eternal torment.

The Bible is clear: God’s anger is «but for a moment».

Let us think about it: how could a God of love and justice inflict eternal sufferings on someone whose rebellion has lasted only a man’s lifetime? The Bible clearly rejects this heresy.
Psalm 30:5 (NKJV)
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life.
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Luke 12:47,48 Comments
And that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.
The Word of God does not indicate how long will be the punishment of the wicked, before their final destruction.

However, it is clearly stated that they will be punished according to their deeds, the greatest sinners receiving a more severe punishment than the others.
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Matthew 25:41 Comments
Then shall [the King] say also to them on the left hand,

«Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.»
Another expression wrongly interpreted: the «everlasting fire».

Yet, God’s Word clearly explains the true meaning of this expression.

Let us see the next verses...
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Genesis 19:24,25 Comments
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.

And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.
The «eternal fire» destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, this fire went out long ago!

This was «set forth for an example», yes, but for whom?
Jude verse 7
Sodom and Gomorrah (...) are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
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2 Peter 2:6 Comments
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes [God] condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample to those that after should live ungodly. The punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah shows the wicked’s punishment at the end of time, that is, complete destruction.

The wicked will perish in a fire which will go out only after its work of complete destruction.
Proverbs 26:20
Where no wood is, there the fire goes out.
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Luke 16:19-24 Comments
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. (...)

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said,

«Father Abraham, have mercy on me! (...) For I am tormented in this flame.»
The parable of Lazarus and the evil rich man is also presented to prove that the wicked go to hell immediately after their death.

However, we have already seen that a parable must not always be interpreted literally; otherwise, we should also believe that trees speak, according to the parable in Judges 9:8-15.

Please review the lesson «After Death...» for more details about this.
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Revelation 20:10 Comments
And the devil that deceived [the nations] was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. The Greek words «eis aionas aionon» (literally, «unto ages of ages»), and the Hebrew equivalent «al yolam» (generally translated as «for ever») do not mean that the wicked will suffer eternally, just as the eternal fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is no longer burning today.

Now, let’s see other verses using the expression «for ever and ever» which will show us the real meaning of these words.
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Isaiah 34:6,9,10 Comments
For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. (...) And the land thereof shall become burning pitch.

It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever.

From generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.
So the expressions «the smoke thereof shall go up for ever», «for ever and ever», simply mean a complete destruction, the cities being «perpetual wastes».
Jeremiah 49:13
Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.
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1 Samuel 1:22,28 Comments
I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever. (...)

As long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.
Likewise, the expression «for ever» does not mean «eternally», but rather «a lifetime».

Indeed, the slave could serve his master «for ever», that is, all his life here below, but certainly not eternally.
Exodus 21:6
His master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and [the servant] shall serve him for ever.
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Psalm 83:17 Comments
Let [Your enemies] be confounded and troubled for ever; yes, let them be put to shame, and perish. Thus, the wicked will be troubled «for ever», that is to say for the time they have left to live, before perishing in a total destruction.
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Matthew 25:41 Comments
Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Will Satan be destroyed too?

Some people teach that, since Satan is an angel, God won’t be able to destroy him.

Yet, the Bible teaches us exactly the contrary. Satan will be destroyed at the end of times.

Let us see some verses from the Scriptures confirming this point.
Revelation 20:10
And the devil that deceived [the nations] was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
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Ezekiel 28:17-19 Comments
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness. (...)

Therefore will I bring forth a fire from the middle of you, it shall devour you, and I will bring you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all them that behold you.

All they that know you among the people shall be astonished at you: you shall be a terror, and never shall you be any more.
In our lesson «Why Does Evil Exist?», we have seen this prophecy of Ezekiel showing how Satan came to rebel against God.

The same prophecy also announces the near destruction of Satan.
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Just like the wicked, Satan will be destroyed at the end of times:
«In that day the Lord with His sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and He shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.» (Isaiah 27:1)

[Note: In the previous verse, «Leviathan the serpent» and «the dragon» both designate Satan: «The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world.» (Revelation 12:9)]

«(...) that through death [Jesus] might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.» (Hebrews 2:14)

«The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.» (Romans 16:20)
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Revelation 20:14 Comments
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.

This is the second death.
The lake of fire is the second death, not eternal torment in hell.

And after the annihilation of all evil, death itself will be destroyed.
Isaiah 25:8
[The Lord] will swallow up death in victory.
1 Corinthians 15:26
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
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Revelation 21:4,5 Comments
There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And He that sat on the throne said, «Behold, I make all things new.»
The happiness of God’s people will not be disturbed by the wicked’s cries of suffering, for they will have been destroyed, just like the former things.
Nahum 1:9
What do you imagine against the Lord? He will make an utter end.

Affliction shall not rise up the second time.
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Romans 3:7 Comments
If the truth of God has more abounded through my lie to His glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner? Let’s conclude our lesson with this point.

Some may believe that the doctrine of eternal suffering, true or not, will frighten the sinner and bring him to repentance.

However God disapproves of such a thought. He wants us to follow Him out of love, not out of fear.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.
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Let us pray together:
O Lord,

We thank You for having shown us that You are not a cruel God planning eternal sufferings for the wicked.

On the contrary, You are a God of love, respecting everyone’s choice to follow You or not, destroying the wicked at the end of time because You know that they would not be happy living in a World from which all evil is banished.

We also thank You for this wonderful hope You give us, by announcing that You will soon establish Your everlasting kingdom, and then make all things new.

In the precious name of Jesus Christ we pray.

Amen.
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Lesson 16 - Test The test of Lesson 16 is waiting for you!

Source of the Pictures of this Lesson
Screen 1: Picture from the Web site: www.geo.mtu.edu/volcanoes/hazards/primer Screen 2: «La Pure Vérité» magazine (Unknown date), Worldwide Church of God, front cover. Screen 3: LEASON, Percy. In: «Votre Bible et Vous» (MAXWELL, Arthur S.), p.95. Used by permission. Copyright ©1959, 1987 by Review and Herald® Publishing Association, USA. All Rights Reserved. Screen 4: VAN DER WEYDEN, Rogier. «Saint Michael» from «The Last Judgment» (1445-48), Musée de l’Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, France. In: «Revelation - Art of the Apocalypse» (GRUBB, Nancy), Abeville Press Publishers, 1997, p.85. Screen 5: In: «Angels: An Endangered Species» (GODWIN, Malcolm), Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990, p.148. Screen 6: MEMLING, Hans. «Casting the Damned into Hell» from «The Last Judgment» (1467-71), Pomorskie Museum, Gdansk, Poland. In: «Revelation - Art of the Apocalypse» (GRUBB, Nancy), Abeville Press Publishers, 1997, p.114. Screen 7: BAERG, Harry. In: «Signs of the Times» magazine (December 1999), Pacific Press Publishing Association, p.10. Screen 8: Photo from Viewfinder Colour Photo Library, Bristol. In: «Revelation» (LORIE, Peter), Simon & Schuster, Labyrinth Publishing Ltd, 1994, p.38,39. Screen 9: Photo from the Web site: http://leopardi.com/genealogy/grave_of_howard_emerson_and_eliz.htm Screen 10: HARLAN, Russell. In: «Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, volume 5» (MAXWELL, Arthur S.), Review and Herald Publishing Association and Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1976, p.92,93. Screen 11: ZINGARO, Charles. In: «The Bible Story, volume 5» (MAXWELL, Arthur S.), p.152. Used by permission. Copyright ©1955, 1983 by Review and Herald® Publishing Association, USA. All Rights Reserved. Screen 12: BISHOP, Tom. «The New Earth». In: «New Pictoral Aid For Bible Study» (BREADEN, Frank), Australian Division of Seventh-Day Adventists, 1970, chart #12. Screen 13: MARTIN, John. «The Great Day of His Wrath» (1851-53), Tate Gallery, London. In: «Revelation - Art of the Apocalypse» (GRUBB, Nancy), Abeville Press Publishers, 1997, p.96. Screen 14: Robert Harding Picture Library. In: «The Illustrated Guide to the Bible» (PORTER, Joshua Roy), Oxford University Press, 1995, p.72. Screen 15: Photo by RADOVAN, Zev. In: «Bible Then and Now» (ROBERTS, Jenny), MacMillan, 1996, p.93. Screen 16: RUBENS, Peter Paul. «The Defeat of Sennacherib», Pinakothek, Munich. In: «Great Bible Stories and Master Paintings» (RACHLEFF, Owen S.), New York, Abradale Press Publishers, p.212. Table of Screen 16: HEASLIP, William. In: «The Bible Story, volume 10» (MAXWELL, Arthur S.), p.204. Used by permission. Copyright ©1957, 1985 by Review and Herald® Publishing Association, USA. All Rights Reserved. Screen 17: Picture from the Web site: http://192.204.74.15/studpage/bill/belief.htm Screen 18: MANISCALCO, Joe. In: «Images from the Bible and Sacred History CD», Chosen Works, MLI Software, JM228.BMP. Screen 19: Justinen Creative Group. In: «Signs of the Times» magazine (May 2000), Pacific Press Publishing Association, p.21. Picture edited by Cyberspace Ministry. Screen 20: VON CORNELIUS, Peter. «The Last Judgment» (1845), Ludwigskirche, Munich. In: «Revelation - Art of the Apocalypse» (GRUBB, Nancy), Abeville Press Publishers, 1997, p.93. Screen 21: In: «The Watchtower» magazine (May 1, 1993), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, p.10. Screen 22: COLEMAN, Ralph Pallen. In: «The Way, the Truth, and the Life», Philadelphia, The John C. Winston Company, 1958, p.7. Screen 23: «Sodom and Gomorrah: The Cities of the Plain». Picture from the Web site: www.arkdiscovery.com/sodom_&_gomorrah.htm Screen 24: Anonymous Portuguese painter. «Hell» (16th century), Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Portugal. In: «Revelation - Art of the Apocalypse» (GRUBB, Nancy), Abeville Press Publishers, 1997, p.119. Screen 25: Picture from the Web site: http://home.hiwaay.net/~scaudle/Animation/AnimationShots.htm Screen 26: Photo from Comstock. In: «Bible Then and Now» (ROBERTS, Jenny), MacMillan, 1996, p.21. Screen 27: In: «The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes» (TAYLOR, Kenneth N.), Moody Press, Chicago, 1956, p.75. Screen 28: In: «The Watchtower» magazine (June 15, 1993), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, p.1. Screen 29: In: «La Révélation - le grand dénouement est proche», New York, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1988, p.292. Screen 30: In: «Vivez éternellement heureux sur la terre!», Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1982, picture number 44. Screen 31: DORE, Gustave. In: «La Bible de Gustave Doré», Lausanne, Edita, 1994, p.201. Screen 32: Digital Stock Photograph. In: «Signs of the Times» magazine (August 1999), Pacific Press Publishing Association, p.8. Screen 33: In: «The Bible Story, volume 10» (MAXWELL, Arthur S.), p.207. Used by permission. Copyright ©1957, 1985 by Review and Herald® Publishing Association, USA. All Rights Reserved. Screen 34: BLOCH, Carl. «Come unto Me». Landskrona Church; Landskrona, Sweden. Screen 35: In: «Photo Gallery 25,000» by Media Graphics International, CD #2, AC074.JPG.
Any copyrighted images not bearing a statement of permission, are used for the purpose of non-commercial scholarly commentary or criticism in accordance with section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law, and with article 29 of Canada Copyright Act (Chapter C-42), which by law can be without the consent or endorsement of the copyright holder. Images lacking attribution are either known or assumed to be in the public domain, or have an as yet undetermined status. Anyone having knowledge of proper attribution for an image is requested to contact us via email below so that it can be correctly noted. It is our intent to comply fully with applicable laws regarding intellectual property rights.

Lesson 16 - Test The test of Lesson 16 is waiting for you!