After a two week interlude, our fearless leader came back to lead men's bible study. Oh, dear Lord, save us. He did the appropriate thing by thanking the person that “lead” the group for the previous two weeks, adding, “I am sure that what you explained was excellent.” It was not, for the past weeks teaching was an attempt at defining what it means to “plead the blood” and how that you just do not hear that much about it anymore. Since there is absolutely no biblical reference to pleading the blood, nor are we directed by Jesus or Paul to do so, lacking any of those three things I see no legitimate reason to teach it or emphasize it.
Let's get something straight here; I am not in the leader bashing business. I admit that there were moments where I wanted to send them home crying, but on the overall, I have politely raised my hand and waited to be recognized; presented scripturally based arguments while demonstrating context. And, I have shown them in Scripture the love and mercy of God in contrast to the judgment they spew out of their mouths, only to hear him respond with, this was his opinion, right or wrong, and that he was going to stick to his opinion. His refusal to adapt to the word of God and continue preaching things contrary to scripture makes him a false teacher, and he will be held responsible for the damage he has done. Of those men who sit around the table with him, the majority are confused and blindly follow him as they shake their bobble-heads in agreement.
The permanent leader opened with, “the last time we met we were studying about end times events; the Second Coming of Jesus, and our continued Contrasting the judgment of the nations with the Great White Throne judgment. So let's pick up there.”
He emphasized that: the judgment of the nations is immediately after the “tribulation.”
I tackled every aspect of this tornado called a Bible study; it took up nine pages. I felt like I covered every aspect vigorously, but a voice in my head, that sounds very much like a lady friend who pointed out that I needed to be more succinct. It seems inspiration oft times comes in unusual moments, and I had one of those in which I saw how to break this up into chapters, as I have done before.
Before I dive in, I want to point out one huge problem in the body of Christ. We are all inundated with false teachings, wrong teachings, misconceptions, and tradition. Why do I say that? Because I experience its impact on those around me on a daily basis; And, no one seems to notice or care.
Chapter one, Judgment. Let's stop here and talk about judgment for a moment.
The first thing I want to challenge about judgment is this horrid emphasis on punishment.
We hear it every week, and much of it is directed at the men who come to Bible study. Why? Because there is a degree of religious control involved. I have seen this in all of us, that lack of faith or lack of understanding that God is capable of taking care of those who are His. What kind of sick darkness permeates you that you have to yell so loudly every week about the judgment of God and direct it at so many. This attitude flies in the face of God and is contrary to the love I see in Him and the desire of His heart.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 NASB First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, (2) for kings and all who are in authority so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (3) This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
So, in general, I can safely say that God has no desire to punish the world's population.
If you are a student of the Bible, then you can see that there is the creator of the universe and Satan, the god of this world. We will either, out of love follow the author, or, because of self-imposed bondage, follow the god of this world to his tortuous end. Hell was not made for man, but man can choose to go there. If you are a Bible teacher, hopefully having a broad overview of scripture, then you should have a good grasp on the LOVE of God. Having said that, what kind of sickness permeates you to the point that you must focus on people suffering and spending eternity in torment?
I do not deny that there is judgment in scripture, nor do I deny that there is a hell.
What I am denying is that God's sole intent is evil. Having come to understand what His nature and character are, I can tell you that he is anything but merciless. I also know that God does nothing blatantly, without any consideration. Therefore, the idea of God unjustly sending people to eternal punishment is preposterous. Since God's judgment is associated with his wrath let's see what enlightenment we can find on the subject.
I did a word search on the word wrath. The word, as used in the NASB, comes up 183 times. The second instance I came upon is found in the book of Numbers. Since we like to portray God as an ill-tempered character, the primary place we find this is in the Old Testament. So we will start with a reference in the book of Numbers.
Numbers 1:51-54 NIV “Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death. (52) The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each of them in their own camp under their standard. (53) The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law." (54) The Israelites did all this just as the LORD commanded Moses.”
This placement of the Levites is one of those; I have never heard or seen this before moments. (Sure I have, especially since I have read through the entire Bible. But this time, it meant something to me.) The Levites – the priest, and teachers of the “law” were to set themselves in-between the thing that would bring wrath and death, and the people. Not to merely keep them away from God, but to take the wrath away from them. In reading Numbers 1:51-54, I am immediately confronted by a God that shows mercy, not wanting people to die. Can you also see who has the greater responsibility here? The Levites. In modern language, the teachers, and leaders whom God has put in front us. Hey, get real here, God did not put people in front of you merely to play the fool. Over the course of time, many of our leaders and teachers became deluded by the world and ceased to be safe.
Since we see a great responsibility upon leaders, this should evoke a question. How can you keep yourself safe as a leader? You need to keep your head in the book – The Bible because that truth never changes; and, if necessary, get away from unstable people.
Another example from the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 9:8-20.
My personal paraphrase goes like this: At Horeb, you aroused the Lord's wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you. (What happened at Horeb? That is where they convinced Aaron to build that so-called calf, actually the god Molech upon which they would roast babies in sacrifice to an Egyptian god.) God, it seems, finds that detestable and was willing to kill anyone associated with it, including Aaron. But Moses fell upon his face before God and interceded for the people to be saved, and many were. Note to self: There is often a painful price to pay for selfish desires.
Do not think for a moment that God will only hold your hand as you walk through life and never spank you. I can tell you from experience that that is not the case. But in his judgment, I have never felt that He did not love me. Look at this:
Deuteronomy 29:24-28 NIV (24) All the nations will ask: "Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?" (25) And the answer will be: "It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. (26) They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. (27) Therefore the LORD's anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. (28) In furious anger and in great wrath the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now."
The area he is referring to is Israel. Did he leave them this way? Not at all, for Israel was restored and became a nation in 1948. Does that mean they turned to God wholeheartedly and accepted Him as the Messiah? Not at all, and that is why God's judgment and wrath are coming upon them again. But, there is hope for not all will be destroyed. Many Jews, after the rapture, will turn their hearts to Him and accept Jesus as the Messiah. Yes, they will pay the martyrs price with their heads, but eternity awaits them in the promised land, heaven.
Although there are many more references in the Old Testament to wrath, what about the New Testament. Does the New Testament speak of His wrath? Yes; how about this one, where John the Baptist challenges the Pharisees and Sadducees who wanted to be baptized by him. This act by them would have been a purely legalistic ritual.
Matthew 3:6-8 NIV Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (8) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Lacking the grace that only came through the sacrifice of Christ, the Jews only had works to rely on as an evidence of their righteousness. And they flaunted their righteousness like jewelry.
One last piece of generalized evidence from the New Testament, though there are many, is this:
Romans 5:8-10 NIV "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! (10) For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"
Before the cross, the world had no hope, as nothing could change us. Sure, sacrificing a lamb might bring temporary relief from sins, but what happens five minutes later as you merge your camel onto the highway just in time to be cut off by some hot shot on his sports camel. And, because he is texting, you go all road rage on him, dragging him to the ground to demonstrate how mad you are? There went your righteousness, just that fast, and you cannot get your money back.
Before I leave this aspect of God's judgment and wrath coming upon the earth. I want to focus on the Revelation itself. When the first seal is opened the result is this:
Revelation 6:15-17 KJV "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; (16) And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: (17) For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"
We find people, but what kind of individuals? “ the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man.”
Doing what? “ Hiding in the dens and the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne.”
Why? “ For the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?”
So the great down to the poor understand that this is God doing this; that this is His judgment, and, that they need to hide from His wrath.
In Revelation 11 we see that there is a time of judgment associated with God's wrath.
Revelation 11:15-18 KJV (15) "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (16) And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God, (17) Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. (18) And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou should give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and should destroy them which destroy the earth."
What is His judgment? To “destroy them which destroy the earth.”
Do not take this concept of destruction so literal. For God to see to it that you stop breathing air merely means for you to go to sleep, until the time of final judgment. Since we see a leniency in Matthew 25 then perhaps there is hope for even the worst, but I would not count on it. The outcome will take place at the Great White Throne where God makes the decision, based on whom you have chosen as the Lord over your life, and some will go into eternal separation from God.
Revelation 14:7 and 18:10 both speak of judgment, and they use a phrase that might give us a clue as to how long God will take complete what he needs to do. In 14:7 we see, “for the hour of his judgment is come.” While in 18:10 he says, “for in one hour is thy judgment come.” This concept of His judgment coming in an hour is not enough to make a doctrine out of, but it may answer generalized implications that God's judgment will last for a thousand years.
One last dip into Revelation, focusing on chapter 20.
Here are two references to the word judgment. The first, in Revelation 20:4, speaks of Thrones. It is who we find sitting upon them that is the peculiarity, for they are the martyred saints. And though Jesus may be sitting on one of those, He is not mentioned. Between Revelation 20:4 and 20:11, Satan is released from his thousand-year bondage to deceived the nations. In a short period, he does an adequate job, and they attempt to do battle with God, one last time. God's immediate response after destroying the armies is to throw Satan into the Lake of Fire, where the beast and false prophet are. It is at this point, at the end of time as we know it, that John sees a Great White Throne set up. This Great White Throne is the final judgment.
Some things to pay attention to:
The book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and so, when we see God sitting upon a throne, as we do in Revelation 20:11, we are seeing Jesus.
Revelation 20:12-15 tells us that "books were opened." At least one of those books was the book of life. However, the focus of most every man in Bible study, rests upon this statement, “if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” They make the assumption that only the negative books are dealt with and seem to relish the fact that people are sent to an eternal hell – the lake of fire, along with Satan, the beast, and the false prophet.
Is it reasonable or appropriate, to pick and choose what you are going to believe as far as God is concerned?