RSS

Tag Archives: Judgment

Mark 13 – Context and a Pattern

Jesus starts out talking about the Temple and how it will be destroyed.  The Apostles ask when it will happen.  In response, Jesus goes on to warn the Apostles about trials and suffering they will undergo.  He also tells them, using apocalyptic prophetic style, what the signs are that this is about to pass.  Since we don’t ever use that style of speaking in grand images and pictures to depict things, especially God’s judgment, we often think this must mean the end of time.  However, verse 30 says plainly that all of this will come to pass before that generation passes away.  The reference to the abomination that causes desolation is from three different passages in the book of Daniel.  The mention of the sun and moon being darkened are from Isaiah.  Following on the criticisms of the Jewish leaders in chapter 12, Jesus is showing that they will not escape their failings.  God’s judgment will come as the prophets foretold in the past, and in that generation’s present.

…or is it?

Even though I understand that passage to refer to Rome’s eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it does still have value and significance for us today.  Daniel, Isaiah, and now Jesus all speak of times when God judges people and cultures who fail to be faithful.  These examples show us that God often works in patterns, doing in this day what he has done in times past.  But even those who are faithful will undergo trials, as Jesus plainly tells the Apostles in this chapter.  He tells them that they will be arrested, tried, and go through persecutions.  What’s important is to know that God is in charge.  He will take care of the Apostles when they undergo persecution.  Jesus is providing warnings to care for his people during the time of judgment to come.

God is in control.  Even when it seems like he isn’t, we have to know that he is.  He ends this section with a simple instruction, “Watch!” With all the questions currently circulation about the end of times, the wrong questions are being asked. It isn’t a question of “When” but of “Are you ready?”

I am comforted by v31. All kinds of things come along in life that demand your attention and we feel often demand our loyalty, this verse helps keep things in perspective. Heaven and earth, and everything in them, will pass away. All of your stuff will be kindling for the great big bonfire at the end. God’s Word will never pass away. If you find yourself being pulled this way and that by the things of this world that demand your attention, keep them in perspective.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Mark

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Revelation 22 – The End (Evil Undone)

Does Revelation 21-22 fit what happened in Rome two thousand years ago?  Or does the book now speak of the final judgment to come?  I think that the answer is both.  It’s hard to say that it has no relevance to the Roman situation since we are told yet again in 22:7 that this return will come very soon.  Remember how in Revelation 20, we talked about the idea that Satan will have times in the future that he will regroup and return to try to destroy the people of God.  In a similar way, there will be time after time that God will rescue his people and let them join his victory.  In that way, the book of Revelation is a pattern that is repeated throughout history.  It makes sense that in the final Judgment Day that it will be a more complete version of what God has been doing all along.

Revelation 22 has many beautiful images of how the remaining damage that has been done by evil will now be completely undone.  The image of crystal clear water pouring forth for the people of God is an image of life.  Some think this indicates the Holy Spirit while others are reminded of Eden’s rivers or Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman that he would give her living water.  What’s clear is that this water is a source of life and blessing.  Those who drink it will never thirst again.  The tree of life reminds us of Eden, where God’s garden provided everything humans could want, before death or sin ever entered the creation.  And not just any fruit, but 12 kinds of fruit for each month (12 times a year).  Again, the number 12 reminds us of God’s people and we are supposed to realize that God is feeding his people and providing for them abundantly.

The curse will be lifted.  The curse immediately leaves me thinking of men working the land for food and women having pain in childbirth, but Revelation 22 doesn’t connect the lifting of the curse to either of those aspects.  Immediately after the curse is lifted we are told of an intimate relationship between God and his people where they can see his face and his name is upon their foreheads.  This is the fulfillment of communion and the relationship that is desired.

The book ends with several promises that all of this is true and will soon come to pass.  The letter, as soon as John finished it, was not to be kept secret, but sent throughout the churches warning them.  While some have said that Revelation uses images to keep Romans from understanding it, these final verses seem to contradict that.  There is an invitation that those who are outside the gates might listen and “come.”

At the end of the day, every single one of us has a choice.  This is good news and bad news in this.  The bad news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.  The good news is that God will honor our choice and give us what we ask for.

My prayer is that God will give me rivers of crystal clear, life giving water.  And my prayer is that you will ask for the water too.  Because that water washes all the pain of the dragon and the beasts away.  It heals.  It gives life.  It fills you with the love of the one who created love.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Revelation 20 – Still a Picture

So up to this point in Revelation we have continued to recognize we are looking at pictures.  We see a red dragon, recognize that its a symbolic picture and seek to determine what truth is behind the picture.  We see a beast, recognize that it is a picture, and seek the truth behind the picture.  So now, we read about 1,000 years and a dragon and thrones, its a figure, an image that indicates a truth.  It’s also fitting that this is the conclusion of what we have been talking about (the fall of Rome) rather than something new.  

The first three verses show that Satan has indeed been defeated, is now chained and captive.  His defeat is complete.  Rome is destroyed.  The persecutor is no more.  Then verses 4-10 tell us what happens to the saints.  Although they suffered for a time, they have seen their enemy destroyed by Jesus and they now join him on thrones.  They are safe and secure from all alarms.  There is no more reason to fear or suffer.

The 1,000 years is not something that can be shown on a calendar.  Its a symbolic figure.  10=completeness.  10x10X10=1,000 or very complete.  So what we see here is that after the time of destruction of Rome is complete there will come another time when Satan will return to have another go at God’s people.  When?  Sometime.  Where? Somewhere.  The point is that although God defeated Satan and Rome, Satan will continue to wage war against the saints.  That’s why this book continues to matter to us today.  We need to know what the saints learned in Rome, that God will be faithful and will bring them through whatever trials face them.  God is greater than any force against us and God will be victorious and we can share in his victory.

However, the victory isn’t for everybody.  Now the celebration earlier in the chapter was figurative so this judgment is as well.  This judgment is still against Rome.  It’s telling us that Rome and the enemies of God and his people will suffer utter, irrevocable defeat.

I close with Ryan’s oft used assessment of Revelation because it certainly fits here as in other places: God wins, pick a side, don’t be stupid.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Revelation 16 – Shock and Awe

We’ve unsealed the seven seals and heard the blasts of the seven trumpets and now we watch as the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out on the earth.  As I read this, I am reminded of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 with a military offensive that was termed “Shock and Awe.”  The idea was that the attack would come so fast, and be so overwhelming, and so debilitate the enemy that they would be unable to stand against the US.  I remember watching on a tv in my OC dorm room as the bombs fell and the military raced towards Baghdad.  I couldn’t stop watching for days and slept little, watching round the clock coverage.  While I know many have strong opinions about the Iraq War, my intent is not to comment on the motives or execution of that war, but rather to comment on how the horrible and overwhelming force demonstrated in those days doesn’t come close to the images here in Revelation 16.

The time for warnings has passed and now God pours out his wrath on the earth to punish those who bear the mark of the beast.  The horrors again echo the plagues on Egypt with darkness, hail, storms, water turned to blood, and more.  It is devastating.  However, it is also reminiscent of the Creation with judgments affecting the water, the land, the skies, the sun, the darkness, and humanity.  It is complete and utter destruction of everything.  And on top of everything, these plagues are not coming one at a time as in Exodus, but seem to be piling on top of one another bringing exponentially horrific suffering.

And at several intervals throughout this terrible judgment, the angels stop the work of pouring out wrath to praise God and commend him for his righteous justice that is being brought upon the earth.  This is hard to imagine for people like me who live in a clean, orderly, society without violent oppressors.  But when you live in a corrupt world where the powerful bring pain to the powerless and the faithful are persecuted, you understand the need for God to cleanse the earth.  You pray daily for God to put things back the way they belong.  So when God brings this wrath upon the two beasts, sent by the Dragon, there is praise from the angels and rejoicing from the saints.  God is right.  God is good.  God takes care of his creatures and his creation, even when it means cleaning up his creation from some of his creatures.

The final bowls are setting up a great battle and even mention the battlefield Armageddon.  Some believe that this will someday be the location of a huge end-of-time battle.  However, when we get to this battle later, even though armies gather on both sides of the battle field, only Jesus fights.  This isn’t a battle between humans.  This is a battle between Jesus and the enemies of his people to restore order to the creation and justice for God’s people.

To those who stand opposed to God and persecute his people…you are on notice.  God will bring justice.  God wins.  Pick a side.  Don’t be stupid.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Revelation 15 – Another Pause

Before the removal of the seals, there was a break in the action, a calm before the storm.  Right before the seven trumpets were blown there was a similar pause.  Now, before the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out, there is yet another moment of the calm before the storm.  

A great audience has gathered, the victors over the beast are ready to see God’s justice done.  We are told of angels and of the plagues.  It is clear that this is all being done with God’s authority and is being done with full intention.  It is not an accident.  The judgment of God is about to be poured out on Rome, the representative of Satan in this world at that time.  The time for warnings has come and gone.  They were ignored and now the full judgment comes on the beasts and those who worshiped the beast.

It’s important to note that God’s people are to be safe and protected while God’s wrath is poured out on those who have opposed him.  God’s people need not fear, in fact we will soon find them praising God and rejoicing to see his righteousness being spread out over the world.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Revelation 9 – Crime is Punishment

As the seven trumpets continue sounding, we now have the two woes being poured out upon the earth.  Chapter 9 begins with a description of a falling star that was given the key to the Abyss and who released sun-blotting smoke and locusts upon the earth.  While the first four trumpets were from God and from above, this one comes from the depths, from the Abyss.  McGuiggan says that the fallen star with power over the Abyss is Satan, and the imagery fits as monsters emerge from the depths to attack people.  They are not allowed to harm the 144,000 who have been sealed and they are to torture those who are not faithful for five months.  

This trumpet turns many things upside down.  First of all, a plague of locusts (as was seen in Egypt in Exodus 10) would completely destroy plants, crops, trees, and the land while not doing significant harm to people.  However, when the trumpet sounds, these locust-like-monsters torture people while not harming and plant or tree.  Additionally, this situation is exactly the reverse of Luke 10:18-20 where Jesus tells the disciples that he saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven and that he (Jesus) has given the disciples authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy.  In this woe-filled trumpet, a star falls from heaven and the locusts with scorpion attacks are given power and authority.  Things have gone wrong because of the sinfulness of mankind.  After the five months of locust attacks, the sixth trumpet sounds and four angels were released to kill 1/3 of mankind.

The imagery of judgment is violent and extreme, and yet it remains partial.  After the sixth trumpet is sounded and great violent death comes to 1/3 of mankind, the book will now stop to evaluate whether or not mankind has learned its lesson.  Will they heed the warnings of the trumpets and repent?  Unfortunately they do not.  Those who survived the plagues did not repent but continued in their sin.

There is an important principle that has some connection to this passage.  In Romans 1:24-28 we are told that God punished the Gentile world by “giving them up” to their own sinful desires. Proverbs 14:34 says that entire nations can be brought down by moral depravity.  In this sense, the crime is the punishment.  When we choose sin over God, the greatest punishment that can often be given to us is to be allowed to choose sin over God.  This would be similar to a parent whose child is about to do something wrong or dangerous, who after warning the child to not do that thing, then decides to step back and allow the child to learn from their own mistakes.  Sometimes when we choose sin, God’s punishment is to let us sin.  He turns us over to our own desires.  For nations, this often results in entire generations or cultures being given over to moral depravity and corruption.  It would be difficult to study the fall of the Roman Empire without recognizing the impact that moral depravity had on that once powerful society.  Today, we must recognize that a loss of morality can have be a punishment in and of itself on both ourselves and our society.  (This idea is developed fully in N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian.)

Is it possible that there are times in our lives that if it were a book, the author could step back as Revelation does at the end of chapter 9 and say, “And yet they did not learn from their mistakes.  They did not repent.  They continued in their sin and foolishness.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Revelation 8 – Trumpets of Woe

Now that we have received the comfort from the sealing of the righteous in chapter 7 we are going to get back to the business of judging in chapter 8.

Hopefully you remember from earlier that there are seven seals that are opened to reveal judgments on the earth, especially those who oppose God and his people.  Behind the seventh seal are seven trumpets and in the seventh trumpet are the seven bowls.  These seals, trumpets, and bowls take up most of the remainder of Revelation.  So, in essence, the seals and what they reveal makes up most of the book.

Beware evil bears! The day of judgment is at hand!

As the trumpets begin to sound, they indicate a great number of trials being brought upon the earth.  The echoes of the 10 Plagues in Egypt can be heard throughout this passage.  Waters turned to blood, hail, destruction of crops, death, the sun and stars darkened.  And yet, each trumpet brings destruction to only 1/3 of whatever is affected.  It’s a partial judgment.  Why are partial judgment and not a full destruction?  These trumpets are warning blasts.  They will ideally provide a wake up call to anybody opposing God and provide them an opportunity to change sides before a greater judgment comes.  In this way, the judgment of God is in its own way a type of grace in that its intent to is get people’s attention and bring them to repentance.  This idea is there in Exodus during the plagues as well.  Several times we are told that God performed those great signs and wonders so that Israel might know that God is God and that the world might know that only God is God.  While it seems that God is pouring out his wrath on Egypt (in Exodus) and Rome (in Revelation), there is a strong implication that part of the reason is to bring about the world’s awareness that God is God.

I have known people in my own life who have been awakened to their own need for repentance and a change in their life by tough times.  Will it work in Revelation?  I guess we will find out tomorrow.  Spoiler alert: It’s not likely.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Revelation

 

Tags: , , , , ,