4.8 Time

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.


4.8.1 Unchanging Faith

There are, of course, perfectly logical reasons for refusing to change one’s religious beliefs. If they are part of a consistent world-view that one believes to have been revealed by God, then to change them implies that God is a liar, or that His truth is not eternal and changeless. The new evidence has to be assimilated to the story, rather than the story accommodated to the evidence. The story is in principle unfalsifiable.

—Peter Herriot, Religious Fundamentalism

For as long as I can remember, the church has claimed that its doctrine has never changed and need never do so, often citing the statement in Heb 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” The first two quotes in my sample make indirect reference to that passage:

“How good it is under the trials of the present moment of your journey, when you see how everything around you changes, to know from the assuring word of God, that Jesus has not changed and does not change. He is the same today. And as you travel towards that day which is your last on this journey, how good to know and trust that He is still the same” (Paul Heideman, Greetings of Peace, 1/1944).

“All other things in the world shall change but the word of the Lord shall remain forever. When God gives a promise–gives His Word–it shall never change. The Lord Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we have based our faith upon this Lord Jesus Christ then it is such a rock which shall not be shaken, but shall remain forever” (Uno Makela, sermon given 1980).

An article originally published in Finnish in 1995 also refers to the Heb 13:8 passage. But note how it also casts “God’s children” as being the unaltered successors of the “first congregation” and the apostles:

“The members of Christ’s congregation, God’s children, have the same desire as they had in the time of the first congregation: to remain in the doctrine and common love of Christ and the apostles. The foundation hasn’t changed, and it must not change, for the Bible warns us of going astray from the way marked by God’s Son [2 John 1:9 cited]. The foundation of our faith must remain on the rock of Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (VOZ, 4/2007).

It is one thing for a first- or second-century text to say that the ascended Son of God is unchanging, or even to follow that with a warning not to be “carried about with divers and strange doctrines” (Heb 13:9). It is another thing entirely for a church that carries the burden of such later ecclesiastical innovations as the confessional rite (5.1.2), the near-worship of a collection of books (4.3.4) canonized hundreds of years after Christ and disputed for a thousand years to follow, and sectarianism whose exclusivity has become grotesque in a vast and populated world (4.2.1). Even the way that Christianity (Conservative Laestadianism being no exception) views the unchanging Christ has changed since the earliest statements of the Bible (7.1).

One change of recent years that nobody disputes is the presence of non-white Conservative Laestadians in faraway lands. The new phenomenon inspired some appropriate and thoughtful words of admonition that,

“before God all men are the same and within the kingdom all believers are to be loved and accepted equally. Each of us is, however, a captive of the time in which we live and a product of the environment in which we were raised. The attitudes one carries regarding people of other races are, in large part, determined by the attitudes of those by whom one is taught, most commonly parents, immediate family, close friends and the prevailing societal norms at the time of one’s youth. With the vast majority of the believers being of northern European extraction during this past 140-some years of God’s visitation, dealing with race issues among believers has not always seemed pressing. It hasn’t occurred to many believers to challenge and clarify their underlying attitudes towards people of other races, nationalities, or ethnic origin. Recent conversions in South America and Africa, however, have changed this scenario” (VOZ, 4/2001).

An article entitled “Faith Does Not Change with the Times” in Päivämies (No. 30, 2006) addressed the claim of people “[i]n our time” who

“repeatedly claim that the foundation of Christian faith is crumbling. To the minds of many, the Bible is not God’s Word, nor is it given fundamental value as a guide to faith and life. Jesus’ death as the propitiation for our sins and His resurrection especially engender offense. Many demand change in the content of faith according to science and the majority opinions of people. In this way, human reason has risen as the yardstick for everything.” Living faith “receives secure directional signs, in our time also, from the enduring Word of God.”

Conflicts between faith and science are most certainly not limited to our time, as Petr Beckmann makes clear in A History of Pi. He writes that the “Christian Roman emperor Valens ordered the burning of non-Christian books in 373,” lists other Christian book burnings in 1109, 1204, and the early 15th century, and tells how, in 1486, the Grand Inquisitor “sentenced the Spanish mathematician Valmes to be burned at the stake because Valmes had claimed to have found the solution of the quartic equation. It was the will of God, maintained the Grand Inquisitor of the Holy Office of the Inquisition Against Heretical Depravity, that such a solution was inaccessible to human understanding” (p. 80). In 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned alive for his claim that the earth moves around the sun. He preceded Galileo, who was forced to recant the same heretical idea, by some thirty years.

Every one of these battles has ended in victory for science. Today, missionary preachers of Christian faith fly around a world that wasn’t supposed to be round, in jet aircraft burning fossil fuels from reservoirs that aren’t supposed to be millions of years old, assured of their health by medicines engineered to resist microscopic species that aren’t supposed to be evolving. With “faith” in full retreat from any position of authoritative teaching about the natural world, statements like those of Peter Nordstrom in 1973 (4.3.1) about six-day creation look quaint and the Voice of Zion now proclaims (in between regular discourses about Adam and Eve), “It is not the purpose of the Bible to answer questions about genetics, medicine, or natural sciences” (4.3.4).

Despite all that,

“The claim that God’s word is bound to time and shackled to the culture of its time does not do justice to God’s revelation. According to Jesus, the content and the message of the Word of God does not change along with changes in the world. God’s Word is always timely. We cannot relinquish this principle” (VOZ, 4/2008).

At least there has been acknowledgment that enlightenment is possible in some areas:

“In the 1980s and ’90s we experienced a time of enlightenment. I think it is safe to say, at least my experience is that we in American Zion have become more enlightened about music. We have learned much from our Finnish friends, brothers and sisters in faith, about music. . . . [T]here wasn’t a lot of understanding about classical music and other forms of appropriate music” (Keith Waaraniemi, presentation given 2009).

Of course, acceptance of certain types of music other than church hymns isn’t the only area where change has occurred. As we have seen in 4.7.5, women are no longer expected to die rather than prevent life-threatening pregnancies; “false spirits” are nowhere to be found, congregational “caretaking meetings” are almost never conducted after having been almost a weekly occurrence at times decades earlier, and the expectation and practice of personal confession is greatly diminished.

4.8.2 Eschatology

The last times are come upon us.

—Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians [c. 100 A.D.]

There always have been Christians who thought that Jesus would come back in their own lifetimes, starting with Paul (Ehrman 2011, 106). He wrote to comfort his brethren who were concerned about the fate of their loved ones who died before Jesus’ return, promising that

we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [1 Thess 4:15-17, emphasis added].

Some forty years later, the writer of First Clement wrote, “Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, ‘Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;’ and, ‘The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look’” (Ch. 23). His contemporary Ignatius also thought the “last times” were coming. A hundred years after that, Tertullian said the second coming “impends over the world, now near its close” (Apologetic, Apology, Ch. 21).

So it’s no surprise to see Conservative Laestadians talking the same way throughout the decades, starting with Laestadius himself in 1852:

“Through this awakening, a great grace has taken place in these last times of the world through which God has permitted us to have a foretaste of heavenly blessedness. Do not become again fastened to the world, you few souls, who have become freed from the world. Strive, hasten and endeavor, that through love of the world, the enemy would not be able to extinguish the spark of faith and love that has been kindled in your hearts, when the Lord Jesus came to kindle fire upon the earth. If the spark of living faith should go out, sparks may soon shoot from hell and set the whole world afire” (Reading Examination sermon; Fourth Postilla, 109).

“There has been false godliness throughout times, but in the last times the enemy of the soul is more cunning for he comes in under the cover of better Christianity and penetrates among the living children of God and there begins his hidden work of scattering through false doctrine and heresy. There are the most certain signs of the end of the world” (Siionin Lähetyslehti, 1920).

“Here on earth, all do not await the appearing of Jesus. Here are such that fear it, for their consciences are defiled” (Havas [1936], 1).

“The shadow of the antichrist is falling over mankind. The light of truth dims. Night is coming. Therefore in the work of the Lord, there is reason for haste!” (Havas [1940], 9)

“There are so many dangers in these last times. They are times which are written in the Bible. The enemy is set loose, and he knows he has but a little time. Now is such a time. We are living in the evening of the time of visitation” (Alajoki [1966], 125).

“It seems the closer the end comes, the less men care about their souls’ salvation. Things of the world are more important. When believers have no time to come to the services of Christians this is a sign that the world is falling away from God. Also, the fear of God is disappearing in the world today. All manner of sin enslaves man. Shame of sin is disappearing. Men live openly the life of sin. Immorality is rapidly rising. Marriages are broken, families are torn apart, children are rejected, and dishonesty grows. Greediness, selfishness, and all manner of disobediences are seen. Civil laws are forsaken. Drinking, fighting, murder, and other acts of violence are everyday news. The children of God look at all this and wonder how long God will endure this wickedness of man” (Alajoki [1968]).

“The world is literally crowding with events and acts to fulfill the Scriptures; its predictions about the approaching end. No matter how one considers it, the future is not a happy prospect. How fortunate are those who now can finish the ‘course’ and go home! When I consider the future, the fear fills my heart, can I resist and fight the enemy until the end?” (Greetings of Peace, 1/1968).

In the 1980s, as the prospect of nuclear armageddon still loomed and the second millenium drew to a close, I remember hearing in many an apocalyptic sermon that we were living in the “Saturday evening” of God’s work week. There was a strong impression conveyed that the end might well come at any moment. The following quote provides an example of this sentiment as well as the “Saturday evening” mentality:

The statement, “Little children, it is the last time” in 1 John 2:18 “indicates that the last two-day period of God’s week began with the birth of Jesus. Now this period has advanced so far towards evening that the signpost of the times is written on the calender as 1970. The entire period has been prophesied to be full of temptations, but especially the evening is so perilous, that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived” (Arvo Perala, Greetings of Peace, 8/1970).

The quoted writer attempts to wedge his “last two-day period of God’s week” symbolism into John’s text without any appreciation that John (whoever he was)–like Jesus (see Mark 13), Paul, and the writer of 2 Peter–expected that he really was, literally, living in “the last time.” Indeed, the full context of the passage Perala quotes makes that clear: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”

Another writer whose imagination was better at spotting signs of the end times than anticipating the conversions of Africans and South Americans wrote,

“We are living during very tumultuous times, but also very fascinating times, for we are privileged to witness the realization of God’s prophecies of the return of His nation . . . As we dear Christians now consider these signs of the approach of the ‘eternal spring,’ let us be glad and watchful. We are the last of the Gentiles” (VOZ, 5/1975).

Then, it was still apparently believed among Conservative Laestadians that the world had only been around for some 6,000 years, because that timeframe was mapped into Creation-week symbolism, with the “1,000 years as one day” passage of 2 Pet 3:8 providing a handy scaling factor. It’s actually not a new view of things. The Epistle of Barnabus asserts that “the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years” as part of an argument for the Christians’ observance of the sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday (Ch. 15).

For Ville Suutari, speaking here in 1976, the time from Adam until Noah occupied the first 2,000 years, from Noah until Christ the second 2,000 years, and from Christ until Judgment Day–well, it had almost been 2,000 years. At that point, on the end of the sixth day, the eternal Sabbath would begin:

“Here is a different mystery ‘that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.’ Peter [in 2 Pet. 3:8-16] speaks of two days. They are the days of the new covenant, those 2,000 years. The Old Testament had four days, nearly 4,000 years. Why does Peter speak of one day? Then had come the great time of peace when the kings came to govern! The laws of the lands were drawn up to protect freedom of living faith. It is for this reason that this one day has been separated and named. It has been predicted in the prophets: the swords will be made into plowshares, spears into scythes, no one will raise arms against another. The time of martyrs was to end this way. . . . We are now living the end of this 1,000 years. The Book of Revelations says of this that Satan was bound for 1,000 years. When 1,000 years have passed, Satan was released and then he will approach the nations of the world, to gather all the pagans into war whose numbers are as of the sands of the sea. This spiritual war is now on.”

As the decades wore on, the drumbeat became quieter, although the last of the following quotes attests to the fact that eschatology remains part of the movement’s worldview.

“This year, 1976 has been a year of many developments. We must say that the Scriptures are being rapidly fulfilled. The events of the world are achieving a feverish pitch of haste, the approach of the end is evident to many who would even favor ignoring this unpleasant prospect” (VOZ, 12/1976).

“Oh, how tiring it is to note that perilous times are at hand. . . . The predictions of the Bible are coming true in the so-called spiritual world. The wound that Luther struck in the beast during the Reformation appears to be healing. ‘And I saw a beast. . .And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed . . .’ Ecumenism and the religious disorder appear to be gathering strength. Now there is still external freedom to confess living faith in spite of this, but we do observe the signs of the time [Rev 20:7-9]” (Päivämies No. 6, 1978).

“It is yet for a short moment that the Word of God will be preached upon this Earth. The sun of grace is now on the horizon; we laborers can hear the evening bells chime. Soon will come the final call beckoning us from the fields to begin the Sabbath rest. When the sun finally sets, no more will the gospel be preached unto mankind” (VOZ, 7/1990).

“The signs [of the last times] are evident in both the outward and spiritual worlds. They are also in God’s kingdom. Nevertheless, Christ will come unexpectedly. Ordinary workday life will continue until the end. . . . All of the Scriptural teachings regarding the last times are dominated by the admonition to watch and the warning against being led astray. We want to believe so that we will be ready to receive Christ. Ahead of us is a journey on which we will depart unexpectedly” (Uljas 2000, 121-22).

“When a person in living faith is able to reflect on the present world around us, we know that the Second Coming of Christ must be at hand. In our time we see that the floodgates of sin have been opened wide, and we are–as was Lot–vexed by the life of sin around us. . . . We are living times like those of Noah” (VOZ, 11/2008).

Fundamentalism looks back to a “golden age” where man was in communion with God before man succumbed to Satan and ruined everything (Herriot 2009, 201). “However, the present age has plumbed new depths of depravity. The rot has really set in in modern times. True religion is threatened as never before by the Enemy, dressed up in a variety of garbs. Such a dire state of affairs indicates that the Almighty will surely soon intervene” (p. 201). Luther was saying that kind of thing 500 years ago: “The world cannot stand long, perhaps a hundred years at the outside” (Table Talk §759). The apocalyptic Conservative Laestadian preachers of past decades said it with great urgency. And I have no doubt that there will be fundamentalists saying it for generations to come.

4.8.3 Eternity

Take from the church itself the threat and fear of hell and it becomes an extinct volcano.

—Robert G. Ingersoll, Ghosts

Laestadius begins this sample of quotes about heaven and hell with the idea that there is a special place in hell reserved for those who should have known better:

“If hell is not a nice place for those who never have come to the knowledge of salvation, it surely is still hotter for those, who have once tasted the tribulations of hell and yet want to go there to eternal death. It must become still hotter for those who have had a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven and then return to the world from where the way leads to hell” (Laestadius, Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity sermon [1853]; Fourth Postilla, 172).

Justin Martyr leaves evidence of early Christian belief in a graded hell. In his First Apology, he says “we believe (or rather, indeed, are persuaded) that every man will suffer punishment in eternal fire according to the merit of his deed, and will render account according to the power he has received from God” (Ch. 17).

The promises of heaven were quite eloquent in the early days of Laestadianism. The Finns and Finnish immigrants to America had difficult and exhausting lives, which must have made the afterlife seem that much more appealing:

“Press onward, travelers! Do not tire of crying out so long as an edge of the sun is still visible! Soon you will arrive unto the Father in the Homeland where your weary bones may rest! Run yet to the end of this last quarter mile! Lift up your eyes and behold: already coming into view are the homes in the New Jerusalem! There the candles burn in crystal holders, the voices of the elect children begin to be heard and all God’s children there await the new travelers, soon to arrive!” (Laestadius, First Rogation Day sermon [1859]; Fourth Postilla, 86).

“Blessed is he who gets into that grace-boat, where the bloody flag waves, before the signal to move to the home harbor is given. The eternal fiery sea of the wrath of God remains burning and all who were not found written in the book of life, they were cast into the sea of fire. But the righteous can rejoice in the brightness of the new heaven and the new earth, where eternal righteousness and peace dwell. Where the tear-streams have dried up, all lackings and temptations ended. The notes of victory sound out from the lips of God’s children. Glory-wreaths shine upon their heads. There is time to wonder, time to greet and to rejoice in the midst of the chosen. There they all leap for joy and endlessly praise their Bridegroom Holy, holy” (Matti Suo [1861-1927], from Greetings of Peace, 5/1964).

“As you soon bow to this low supper table [for Communion], your eyes are tear stained because of the wickedness of the world and your own wretchedness; but once will begin such as supper where no one will weep. From this cold world’s crust will rise a white robed throng; a glorified flock of supper guests. The Father will be there to receive them. He will wipe away the last tear from the eyes of the very last travelers” (Havas [1934], 33).

“We know that death for a Christian is only a moment of calm sleep from which we awaken to heaven’s joy. The grave is a warm bed which our Savior with tender hands has prepared for his own. In the graves, many beloved ones sleep, those who have departed as blessed. They are at rest. One day they will rise glorified to the wedding of the Lamb” (Lasten Siioni [1941], from VOZ, 4/1976).

“Soon we shall be freed from this sin corrupted body, and sinless and perfect, like unto Christ, we shall be gathered with all the Saints at that great gathering where all poor feelings, doubts, and misgivings will be no more. But we shall completely comprehend the great love of our Saviour” (Paul Heideman, Greetings of Peace, 10/1942).

Then, probably as a coincidence of my sampling, we get a helping of fire and brimstone for the next several decades. I don’t think there was any new emphasis on the damnation part of eternity–Laestadius certainly wasn’t bashful about threatening it.

“Modern children of the world do not tolerate the mention of judgment and the agony of hell. Such speech is considered old-fashioned and not enlightened. If someone dares to make known to a religiously minded person of our day the judgment of the wicked, according to the old folks’ Word of God, jest is made of sermons that ‘smell of brimstone.’ Jesus is that ‘old-fashioned’ that He speaks of the furnace of fire into which people shall be cast and says ‘There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth’” (O.H. Jussila, Greetings of Peace, 4/1944).

On Judgment Day “the righteous shall stand with great courage against those who have spurned them and rejected their labors. The days of lamentation shall end for the righteous and begin for the ungodly. Then you, a poor one of the Lord, may conclude your believing and begging, when you sit at your place at the communion table, where the Lord Jesus shall serve you forever” (Taskila 1961, 22).

“Jesus admonishes His believers to watch in faith, love and unity of spirit also in the parable of the ten virgins and does not permit the door of the wedding-house to be closed from even one who strives to come in, not even from a heretic who has received the grace of repentance. He Himself closes it. And the people of God do not want to close it, for they know that the door is not closed day or night (Rev 21:25) as long as this world stands and Jesus is on His mercy-seat through the Holy Ghost in the kingdom of His children. But as soon as he moves from His mercy-seat to His judgment-seat, no one is pardoned nor taken in” (Eino Rimpiläinen, Greetings of Peace, 6/1963).

“Woe to the ungodly on that moment when in a wink of an eye the Son of God comes to judge, when they shall have to sink to eternal distress. It is too late to repent. Hasten therefore, unbeliever, to the children of God to repent” (Päivämies, 1973).

The writer of this next quote fails to see the irony in his attempt to talk about God’s love in the same sentence as eternal torment:

The children of God “still rebuke people for their sins, through the insistence of God’s love, and urge them to repent so that the human soul would not fall into eternal torment of hell” (VOZ, 6/1979).

God is the one who created this hell from which he “through the insistence of his love” is trying to save people. And he has chosen what has proved to be a highly ineffective mechanism for doing so, if the tiny number of conversions to Conservative Laestadianism is any indication.

I was 11 years old when Uno Makela said the following terrifying words, and I might well have been there in the audience to hear them:

“Shall you experience eternal joy or shall you be cast into eternal damnation? These are great matters to consider. Eternity is long and if one must depart during this time of grace having sins upon the heart, that is, sins are not forgiven, he shall stand before the fiery-eyed judge and hear those terrible words: ‘Depart from me ye cursed into that everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Uno Makela, sermon given 1980).

Hearing all that during my childhood certainly had an impact on me. Whether by design or not, that sort of talk sets up a lifetime of coerced worship, or to reverse the order of words in 1 John 4:18, “perfect fear that casts out all love.” Marlene Winell calls it the “most powerful technique of fundamentalism,” a “terror tactic”:

Fundamentalism teaches the existence of hell, a place of eternal torment. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you are doomed. . . . Even other, non-fundamentalist Christians are considered lost. This appeal capitalizes on the natural fear people have of death, making it much worse with horrible images of everlasting torture. “Fire-and-brimstone” preachers have long known the power of such an approach. Especially for children, with their vivid imaginations and unclear notions of reality, the imagery of a fiery hell is intensely frightening. [1993, 64]

As a psychologist, Winell notes that it could easily be seen as abusive for a parent to threaten a child with such tortures before death. “But fundamentalist preachers have no shame about describing with relish the ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ that God will mete out to sinners,” which, I would add, God will continue doing forever. “The fear of hell is frequently powerful enough to keep the person trying to conform” (p. 64). Even after leaving Christianity (with as much intellectual backing for his decision as anyone could really hope to have), Bart Ehrman was gripped by the fear of death for years and says “there are still moments when I wake up at night in a cold sweat,” so deeply was the view of hell driven into him (2008, 127).

The book By Faith does its part to put this terror into the hearts of hundreds of confirmation students every year, citing the Bible as its source:

“A person is spiritually dead when his soul is in the state of unbelief. . . . When the spiritually dead person confronts temporal death he becomes forever separated from God. Eternal death is irrevocable: the fate of such a person is sealed eternally. According to the Bible, in hell or perdition begins anguish and torment that shall last forever” (p. 93).

But the idea of hell is actually only supported by a few passages in the New Testament. Even there, the reference is often to Gehenna, a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem where the bodies of those denied a proper burial were burned. The Old Testament has absolutely nothing to say about any place of eternal torment. Indeed, it is inconsistent even about the existence of any afterlife. Where it does discuss what if anything happens after death (well after the five books of Moses), it makes a pretty good case that there is no difference between the final destination of the righteous and the wicked. See my notes regarding 1 Sam 28:19, 2 Sam 12:23, 1 Kings 11:43, 2 Chron 9-14, Job 3:13-19, Ecclesiastes 9:2-3, Ezekiel 25:17.

Ingersoll states the matter with his usual irreverent clarity. Despite the flaws of the Old Testament, “with all its stories of murder and massacre; with all its foolish and cruel fables; with all its infamous doctrines; with its spirit of caste; with its spirit of hatred,” he said it was better than the New Testament in one important respect. In the Old Testament,

when God got a man dead, He let him alone. When He saw him quietly in his grave He was satisfied. The muscles relaxed, and a smile broke over the Divine face. But in the new testament the trouble commences just at death. In the new testament God is to wreak His revenge forever and ever. It was reserved for one who said, “Love your enemies,” to tear asunder the veil between time and eternity and fix the horrified gaze of men upon the gulfs of eternal fire. [Lecture on Orthodoxy]

So we are left with the threat whose import is so horrible as to seemingly remain impervious to any assault of evidence or logic:

“This is a great question in the midst of man: Where will I spend eternity? Is it there where there is everlasting joy or is it there where there is everlasting suffering? This is a question that man himself must make. Where will I spend eternity which has no end?” (Uno Makela, sermon given 1985).

“Soon will come the final call beckoning us from the fields to begin the Sabbath rest. When the Sun finally sets, no more will the gospel be preached unto mankind. Oh, how great will be the sorrow of those who reject this calling!” (VOZ, 7/1990).

And how great will be the confusion of those who never even heard that calling! The vast majority of mankind will supposedly wake up in hell wondering what hit them.

“After this life, the loss of a soul is irrecoverable, and no compensation can be made for it any longer. Jesus points out the time when all this will become manifest, when the ‘Son of Man’ will appear with all of His angels to execute judgment. Christ will then reward every person according to his works. There is no way to escape the righteous judgment of God. The only work acceptable to God is faith upon His Son, Christ Jesus” (VOZ, 6/2001).

“[E]ven those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. On that day there will be only two groups. There will be those who have attempted to justify themselves through the carnal mind and the works of the flesh. Dear child of God, you will be found in that other group, where you have been able to wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb, and believe the gospel preached in God’s kingdom” (VOZ, 11/2005).

The last quote once again resorts to caricature (4.2.3). Conservative Laestadianism condemns to eternal torment the billions of sincere, pious believers in other religions who have died and will die utterly ignorant of its doctrine. Is it necessary to also caricature them as making misguided attempts at their justification when they are simply attempting to achieve salvation via the spiritual framework they were taught from childhood?