Revelation 8 demonstrates the power of the judgment of God. I know that people will debate over what this actually means and when it takes place, but I think there’s no doubt that is not fun to experience the judgment of God.
Rev 8:13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
This is a hard thing for many of us to put together. Yes, God is a God of love. There’s no doubt about that. As a matter of fact, God is love. We love because God first loved us. There is no doubt about that from the Biblical testimony.
On the other hand, God is also a God of judgment. We see that in Sodom and Gomorrah. We see that with the nation of Israel when they disobeyed. We see that with Ananias and Sapphira. We now see that in Revelation.
How do we reconcile these two images of God? Some people might think they are entirely different or at the very least inconsistent.
I don’t think it is particularly hard to reconcile these however. Think about your parents or your teacher in school. They certainly love you, but they also are in a position to discipline you. The discipline does not come out of a place of vengeance or hate. It comes out of a place for the just consequence that follows the action you committed.
The world as we know it has fallen away from God. There’s no doubt about that. It started with Adam and Eve. As a result, there are consequences, and God does need to exercise discipline. It does not mean that He does not love the world. This does not need to be inconsistent.
It’s no secret that many people have disagreements, and even the church is going to have conflict in it. Ideally, it should not happen, but we are human, and people do not always get along. However, we need to be very careful that these disagreements do not become hatred. In 1 John 4, there is very strong terminology used for people who carry hatred with them.
1Jn 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
1Jn 4:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Brother here does not necessarily mean a familial relation. According to my Greek dictionary, brother here can be literal or figurative. It is the same root word used in Philadelphia also known as The City of Brotherly Love.
As a result, this seems to indicate to me that we cannot hate either our Christian or our non-Christian brethren. Keep in mind that this does not say anything about how the act towards us. Jesus speaks about the world hating him and his disciples, but as Christians we cannot reciprocate that. If we do, John says that we cannot simultaneously say that we love God and hate our brother.
Getting back to my original thought at the beginning. Churches are not without conflict, and feelings are hurt without a doubt. However, Christians need to be careful not to fall into hatred. John uses strong words, and I don’t want to discount them. If we’re supposed to be people that are marked by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, then what does it say to the world around us when we hate each other in the church? Discipline might certainly be appropriate and necessary in certain situations, but at the same time, should we not characterize our interactions specifically within the church but also with everyone with grace, forgiveness and mercy?
Words hurt. People remember words for a long time, and I’m sure that we can all think of times during our lives where people said things that really hurt us. In light of those types of memories, James 3 seems incredibly appropriate.
Jas 3:7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
It is a valuable point here. We are able to control so many things. Think about something like an orca. It is a massive creature, but humans are able to train them to do all kinds of things. Elephants are much larger than us, but we can ride on them through training. How ironic is it then that we cannot even control our own mouths?
What does it really mean then to control our tongues? Obviously, we’re not in the business of hurting people, but we are also not in the business of flattering people. We are in the business of truth and love. We ought to use our words to communicate not only what people need to hear, but they also need to hear how much we care about them.
Isn’t that the heart of the Christian message and the testimony we see from Jesus Christ Himself? He certainly spoke the truth. He did not hold any punches. He called the Pharisees vipers for crying out loud. However, speaking the truth is loving.
If I see some people driving down the road towards a cliff, is it better for me to let them know that they are wrong truthfully, or is it better for me to let them feel good about their choice of direction that is leading towards disaster?
If I love them, I’m going to correct them from their wrong direction. They might not appreciate me telling them that they are wrong, but if I truly love them, I’m not going to let them drive off a cliff.
Keep this in mind then about controlling our tongues. We are called to be loving, and we are called to be truthful. Words are powerful, and they have a major impact. Let’s make sure we are working in the right direction.
Hebrews 8 takes us back to the Old Testament and the Old Covenant. As you will recall, the Old Covenant established the relationship between God and Israel. Even back in Genesis 17, God establishes with Abraham a covenant. This covenant establishes the fact that the nation of Israel will be God’s children, and He will be their God. This type of relationship is also reiterated in multiple places throughout the Old Testament.
The problem with this type of covenant as we see in the Old Testament is that the children of Israel continually rejected it.
Heb 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
God was certainly still the God of the people of Israel, but the people ran away from Him and refused to be His people. I think that is what the author of Hebrews is talking about here in regards to the Old Covenant not being faultless. The fault came from the people of Israel; it was not from God or the covenant itself.
Therefore, there needed to be a new covenant that would be more effective. This is what we have been talking about for the rest of the book. Jesus established that New Covenant. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus established a new relationship and dynamic.
This is part of the amazing love of God. The Old Covenant was not working out as well. The people were not living up to their end of the bargain. Granted, Israel would have revivals where they would be in following after God again, but then there would be another falling out. God could have thrown the entire thing out. He could have simply said that it wasn’t worth His time to try to develop a New Covenant, but He did it. In fact, He gave His one and only Son, His most precious gift. If God did not love us, I don’t think this would’ve happened.
That then ought to make us incredibly grateful.
In Hebrews 2, the author strikes at the heart of one of the things that I think most of us have thought about at one time or another. Why does God care so much about people who only seem to cause Him trouble?
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Heb 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Heb 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
This is a pretty amazing passage. Jesus became like us simply because He wanted to save us from the problems that we had created. Because He loved us, He wanted to make that reconciliation. These passages and so many powerful words to describe the process, but He was destroying the power of death and delivering those who were trapped in bondage.
I think about this, and God loves us in spite of all the problems we cause. We are conditioned to think as humans obviously. We are set in our perspectives, and it is easy to love those who love us and either fight with or simply ignore those who do not. We figure those people are not worth our time. However, God turns that entire perspective around. Every single one of us has offended him without a doubt, and He still loves us. He does not get mad; He does not ignore us. Rather, He is ready to forgive us as soon as we ask because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
It is important to remember this attribute of God. We cannot forget what He has done for us.
In apologetics, we talk a lot about 2 Timothy 3:16, and I know there’s good reason for that, but I want to focus on the next verse for today.
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The Scripture is inspired by God. It is profitable for a variety of things, but all of those things serve a purpose. God gives us doctrine to do good works. We receive reproof from God to do good works. We are corrected by God to perform good works, and we are instructed by God so that we will do good works.
I always think about the fact that the greatest commandment is to love God first. However, the second commandment is to love those around us. We do have a relationship with God through Scripture as I tried to emphasize above. That is part of the first commandment. We can love God when we know who we are actually loving.
However, as a result of that relationship, we should begin seeing results. Again, I do not believe in works-based salvation, but I do believe that good works are the result of salvation. We learn all of these things from Scripture to develop a relationship with God, and then we’re supposed to bring that to those around us.
Book knowledge is excellent, but we also need to remember that a major part of the Christian life is serving those around us. As we learn more about God, I am convinced that we will want to share the love of God even more with those around us. As we do these good works, they are going to see God glorified.
We need to remember this character of love. If we do not communicate that to the world around us, I don’t know how we will gain their attention.
It is easy to think that we have done all the right things and are going to get into heaven because of how great we are. After all, I think most of us think that we are pretty good people. However, in Philippians 3, Paul points out how that simply doesn’t seem to be the case.
Php 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Php 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul had a pretty impressive pedigree. However, they were all loss. They ultimately didn’t have any value because of that is not how you earn favor in the eyes of Jesus Christ.
Php 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Our righteousness comes from God alone. I think that’s hard for us to conceptualize because it doesn’t always make sense God would give that to us. We receive righteousness from God by faith. That’s it. In a world where there is always a price, there really isn’t one as far as God is concerned. God gives it to us freely.
Personally, this makes me think about gratefulness. God doesn’t have to help us freely. God could set conditions about certain laws we would not be able to break or something like that, but He didn’t. He chose to help us freely, and that is something we all ought to reflect on.
Ephesians 3 seems to provide us with a contradiction about our perspective on the love of God.
Eph 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Eph 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Eph 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
We bow to God the father, and because of our faith, we have Jesus Christ in our hearts. As a result of that relationship we simultaneously know the love of Christ and also recognize that it passes knowledge. That almost seems like a contradiction. After all, how can we have knowledge of something that goes beyond what we know?
I think about this in relation to a human relationship. Think about your best friend. It would be safe to say that you know your best friend. Simultaneously though, there are parts of that friend that you don’t know. I think about my friends, and I think I would be able to say what any of them had for dinner last Tuesday. No one has perfect knowledge of anyone else’s life, but that does not stop us from claiming that we know people.
I think the same is true with the love of God. We might not always understand it or know everything about it, but we understand that it does exist because we have experienced it. This might appear to be a contradiction, but it doesn’t strike me as a particularly difficult one. We can know the love of God without knowing everything about our infinite Creator.
It is hard for us to comprehend the type of sacrifice that it was for Jesus Christ to come to earth and be crucified on the cross. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul explains that Jesus was experiencing a lot more than the excruciating physical pain that accompanied his torturous death.
2Co 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus never experienced sin on earth until this point. He was the perfect human, and He made no mistakes, but He was made to be sin. That darkness went with Him to the grave, but when Jesus rose again, He proved that He was able to do what no one else could. He triumphed over sin, and because of that victory, we are able to become righteous through Him.
It doesn’t mean that we are perfect right now. It should be relatively obvious that we still sin here on earth even after we put our faith in Jesus Christ. However, Jesus paid the price for all of that. It is really remarkable. All that debt is paid for, and we get the righteousness of God as a result.
I think it is important to reflect about the amazingness of this. Jesus did not need to die. God had have said that humans made their own decisions, and they messed up. However, the mercy of God shines through. Because God loves us, He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty that we would never be able to pay. He didn’t have to, but He did it out of love.
As Paul closes his first letter to the Corinthians, Interpol style, he greets many people as he usually does, and he left them with a few very short pieces of advice.
1Co 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
1Co 16:14 Let all your things be done with charity.
Since this was Paul’s last advice in this particular letter, it is probably rather important. After all, he would have wanted this message to remain in their minds now that they had finished the entire letter.
There are two important things. We need to remain strong and faithful to what we have been taught. We need to do everything with love. That really sums up the Christian life in my opinion.
We have beliefs that we have been taught, and it would be ridiculous to not see the importance of those beliefs. I understand that Christians have differences of opinion on certain issues, but think about something like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are not a Christian. We need to remain faithful to the core beliefs of Christianity. Part of me thinks that today many people want to keep parts of Christianity, but they want to discard the parts they don’t like. You simply can’t do that. If you’re going to call yourself a Christian, you need to follow the teaching laid out by the Bible.
At the same time, Paul also made sure that the people understood that love needed to characterize all of their interactions. We might have all the right doctrine and the right answers. However, if we turn everybody away because we are the most unpleasant people on earth, how is that helpful whatsoever? The truth is still serious, but nobody will want to hear it if we don’t explain that we care. Why do we share the gospel? Because we love people.
Paul knew this stuff was important, so even though these ideas had been interwoven throughout his entire letter, he thought it was wise to mention them one more time. Hold to the truth, and love other people.