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Tag Archives: Justice

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.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Revelation

 

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Revelation 6 – Vindication is Coming!

Welcome to the beginning of the end of the book! Well…sort of. This is the beginning of the center of the book that builds towards the end. It is hard to lay out a definite structure to the book because each section is deeply connected to its surrounding context. Trying to break the book down into major and minor sections always proves hard to uphold because the book as a whole flows well from one section to another. Revelation can be broken down into basic themes but I’d stray away from any rigid organization of the book. Chapter 6 flows naturally from chapter 5 where Christ is the one who is “worthy” to open the seals. This transition begins the central section of the book – the seals, trumpets, and bowls.

The first four seals center on the depravity of mankind. The progression of the horsemen goes from conquest (the first seal) to civil war (the second seal) to famine (the third seal) to pestilence and death (the fourth seal). This is the natural progression of man’s inhumanity to man. Simply put, God allows human sin to come full circle, turn upon itself, and self-destruct.

The cosmic scene in the next two seals to come follows the four horsemen. The fifth seal moves from the devastation of the earthly scene caused by total depravity and focuses on the heavenly scene of the martyred saints who cry out for vindication and vengeance for the torment that has come on them from their oppressors. In the first four seals the sinners destroy themselves while the next three seals (the seventh being in chapter 8) the saints have been destroyed by the sinners. The focus of these chapters is quick to point out that the plea for vindication is quickly answered. When going through persecution, keep your faith because vindication will come.

At the end of this chapter there is a great scene where everyone goes into hiding trying to try and flee from the wrath that is coming. There are two mindsets in which to read this chapter and the wrath that is to come. You can read it in fear because you have been worshiping the wrong god and wrath is coming or you can read it with hope knowing that vindication is coming to the righteous who have been oppressed. One of my mentors summed up the Book of Revelation as this, “God wins! Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.” Depending on which side you stand determines whether or not this is a book of hope or a book of fear. Take heart! God is greater than those who oppress! Vindication is coming!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Bible Blog, Revelation

 

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Romans 3 – A Divine Conundrum

The Problem Begins

Romans 3 presents a passage in verse 23 that will probably come as a huge surprise to you:  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I know.  Shocking, right?  Well, perhaps its not as shocking as I thought.  This is why we say things like, “Well, everybody makes mistakes” or “I’m only human.”  And while I think these aren’t really in line with what God originally intended for humanity, it has been our reality since Adam and Eve hid in the Garden.  And it got worse from there, and quickly.  Now God, the just judge and Creator of this mess must sit and condemn all of the injustice in His Creation.  He isn’t responsible for the Fall, but He is the one who will put it all back the way it’s supposed to be.  We know this because he tells us He will.

The Genesis Approach

So in Genesis, God makes a promise to Abraham and his descendants that they will be His people and He will be their God.  He then goes on to begin transforming Israel into his people who will reverse the curse.  While the entire world was turning away from God, Israel was intended to be a people who turned back to Him and in doing so became a light to the world.  However, when God’s covenant people became part of the problem instead of part of the solution, God’s situation has become even more complicated.

How can God deal with an entire world that has turned away from Him?  How does God bring justice to a world pursuing chaos?  When oppressed people all over the world cry out for God to save them what can God do?  And just when those questions weren’t enough of a problem, God’s own people have become as much a part of the problem as everybody else is.

Drum Roll Please

And that is exactly the situation we find ourselves in when we arrive at Romans 3:21.  If this is a story where the entire world seems doomed to destruction and despair, the “but now” at the beginning of this passage is where suddenly the music changes to a tune of hope and enthusiasm.  The hero enters and the tide turns.  It turns because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ (I believe this is a more accurate translation of vs 22 than faith in Jesus).  While humanity has failed and Israel has failed, our Messiah has kept faithfulness to God’s covenant.  Because of this, we too may enter this faithfulness and this new covenant.  All of this because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

How is God going to deal with the unfaithfulness of Israel?  Through the representative Messiah of Israel, Jesus.  How then will Jesus’ faithfulness fulfill Israel’s task to turn the world upside down and bring it back to a relationship with God?  By opening this covenant to all the nations.  Through Jesus, God is able to resolve all of the problems created by evil, injustice, sin, and oppression.  But how?  I guess we will have to keep reading…

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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