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Tag Archives: righteousness

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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Romans 4 – Father Abraham Had Many Sons…

…And Many Sons Had Father Abraham

I just sang that old song through a couple times in my head, and I am not even sure that it makes any sense.  Romans 4 is confusing to many people who focus on the personal salvation discussed in Romans.  Why is Paul all of a sudden talking about Abraham?  (Unfortunately, vs 1 is extremely difficult to translate since that verse asks the question that frames the rest of this passage.)  I think the question is essentially something like, “What shall we say then about Abraham, our forefather in the flesh?”

The rest of this passage goes on to show that Abraham is not only the father of the Jews, but the father of the uncircumcised Gentiles as well.  And if Abraham is their father then they are covenant people too.  You see, the covenant with Abraham began in Genesis 15, when God credited Abraham’s faith as making him in the right and opening and relationship with God.  The covenant of circumcision doesn’t enter the picture until Genesis 17.  Clearly, Abraham became God’s covenant person because of his faith, not because of the circumcision.

Therefore, Abraham was ungodly and pagan before his covenant with God that began with is faith.  This is exactly like the Gentiles who were now entering the church as ungodly and pagan as a result of their faith.  So a Jew could stand up in the assembly and boldly say, “I am a child of Abraham, one of God’s covenant people, circumcised on the eighth day after my birth.”   Now a Gentile Christian can stand up and proudly say, “And I am a child of Abraham, one of God’s covenant people, made righteous by the faith demonstrated by Abraham and demonstrated in me.”

On the other hand, if you are a Jew who has been claiming to be close to God simply because of your circumcision while you live your life ignoring the law and all that God expects of his people, then perhaps you aren’t a child of Abraham.  After all, the descendants of Abraham should be known by their faith, not by any outward marking.  Those who believe like Abraham are his true heirs.

I wanted to include a video of “Father Abraham” (or as Ryan calls it, the Christian Hokey Pokey) the song we all know and love from our VBS days. I have to admit that I watched half a dozen, laughing quite a bit before settling on this one as my favorite.  

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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Romans 2 – Circumcision of the Heart

Israel’s Failure

In the Old Testament, the Prophets frequently pleaded with Israel to be God’s nation and a light to the world.  God promised Abraham that his offspring would be a blessing to the nations.  And yet, the Prophets also condemned Israel over and over again for their failure to be any sort of light to the nations or even to follow God’s law, which was intended to set them apart as his Holy Covenant people.  In this chapter, Paul begins to echo this sentiment that Israel has failed and that judgment and a total restructuring of Israel is now necessary.  This judgment and destruction took place in the form of God’s own son, Jesus dying on the cross.  And now God is beginning the rebuilding of his people.

Justification

For centuries, most of Jewish thought has been that if you are Jewish and know God’s law, then you are judged to be one of God’s people.  However, Paul says in this passage that it takes much more than knowing God’s law or hearing God’s law to be righteous.  What matters is when people obey the law.  Verse 13 says that it is those who obey the law who will “be declared righteous” or “justified.”  While those words are very churchy and have meant different things to different people at different times, the basic idea is simply that those who live the way God tells us to live will be judged by the one almighty impartial judge to be “in the right.”  And if you can imagine how much a person’s life can change when a judge on our earthly courts determines that they are in the right, imagine how much greater it is to have the one true judge determine that you are ultimately in the right.

Mark of Being In the Right

But don’t go assuming that it’s as easy to tell as we often think it is.  You can’t tell that somebody is one of God’s redeemed people because they are circumcised.  People can be circumcised and live far outside of God’s will for their life.  It is those who allow God’s law to be written upon their heart who are internally and spiritually circumcised who are God’s People.  If you want to be a true “Jew,” Paul tells his audience, it isn’t about physical markings, national heritage or paternal birthright.  It’s about living faithfully according to God’s law.

In my church today, we would say that baptism isn’t how you tell if somebody is saved.  Certainly, somebody can get baptized and come out of the waters and live a life far outside of God’s will.  If your body is washed but your heart remains filthy then you’ve done nothing.  Don’t assume that the outward markings are indications of salvation.  God’s mark of the saved is on their hearts because of their living as God wants them to live.

(I am not implying that circumcision or baptism aren’t important.  They were/are.  I’m simply saving that for later, like Paul does as well…see Romans 6.)

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Bible Blog, Pauline Epistles, Romans

 

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