Tag Archives: God

Jesus as the Judge of All the Earth in Revelation

20 Oct

Read Revelation 20:11-15

Maybe I have an overly sensitive conscience, but I feel nervous around police and judges. Once, when I was called for potential jury duty, I took the stand to be asked a simple question. My heart was racing. I was sooooo  nervous! If I tremble before a human judge even though I’m innocent, what would it be like to stand before the Judge of all the earth, guilty?

The images of the end of the age are awesome, with horrible judgments poured out on the earth, and a vision of God on His throne so terrible, it says the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place for them. (Rev. 20:11) People will be so terrified, they will prefer to hide in caves and ask the mountains to fall on them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. “For the day of His wrath has come, and who can stand?” Rev.6:14-17

One doesn’t usually associate wrath with a lamb. Lambs are docile, sweet and helpless. But this Lamb, who “as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isa.53:7, was also, “Christ, our Passover, slain for us.” 1 Cor.5:7 The Lamb of God came to earth the first time to handle the sin problem. Now He is coming to Judge the earth.

In Matt. 25:31-46, Jesus tells a parable about the Sheep and the Goats. It is set at the Last Judgment. Jesus is on the throne. We know this because the One on the throne refers to His Father. Also, we know that all judgment has been committed to the Son. John 5:22, Rom.2:16, Eph. 5:10, john 5:22

The sheep and goats are separated, with the sheep on the right and the goats at His left hand. Jesus here rewards His people for doing things out of love for Him. They are so unaware of their actions being commendable, that they are surprised to hear that He likens their good works to His brethren as good works toward Him, personally.

Also notice, He rewards His people first, in order to vindicate them before the unbelieving world. It’s amazing to me that He would equip us for good works, Eph.2:10, and then reward us for them. 1 Cor. 3:14,15 Good reason to cast our crowns before Him. Rev.4:10

Then He assigns the unbelievers to eternal torment using almost the same words He uses to praise the sheep. They also protest, claiming innocence that it was Jesus they failed to care for when they failed to care for “the least of these”. They were looking to get off on a technicality, but God knows their hearts.

The images in the last few chapters of Revelation are sobering. Read Rev. 20:11-15 again. You see the awesomeness of the One on the Great white throne, the reanimation of the dead from the sea and the graves, all standing now before the Judge. Books will be opened, and people will be judged “from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” Rev. 20:12

The most important book seems to be the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:15

I know everyone has a different story to tell about how they were saved. Some see the beauty of the gospel, some see the reasonableness of it, some see the awesome sacrifice of Christ. I feared judgment. I recognized, even as a child, that I was guilty, and that God would be just in condemning me to hell. When I heard the good news, that He had also provided a way to escape the judgment, I ran for it.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s one approach to preaching the gospel. “…some save with fear…” Jude 1:23 The good news isn’t good news unless we first hear the bad news. How can we have assurance of our salvation and confidence that we can stand before the throne of this Awesome One without fear? The answer definitely doesn’t rest in us. I can’t “keep” myself in the faith, any more than I got myself into it. Salvation is God’s work from start to finish. He is the “Author and Finisher of our faith.”  Heb. 12:2 He chose me, so He keeps me. (Rom. 8:29). They are links of the salvation chain, we are secure because of Christ.

There are many theological terms we read in our Bibles, without really understanding them: justification, sanctification and propitiation come to mind. Most believers get the general idea of those words, but couldn’t give a clear definition.

We’ll focus on justification for a moment. I’ve heard that it means God looks on you “just-as-if-you-had-never-sinned”. While it might be a helpful way to remember, I think it’s a weak definition. Justification is actually a legal term. Since we’re dealing with the Supreme Court of the Universe, it’s helpful to speak legal-ease. Justification, as it is used in the Bible, primarily means to be declared righteous. That is exclusively the idea that the Apostle Paul means. James uses the term, but he uses it in reference to how our works validate our faith in the eyes of men, not how we stand or fall before God.

Justification differs from sanctification, which is the process by which God progressively makes us holy. The first thing we need is to have the death sentence removed from over our heads. When we believe in Jesus Christ; repenting of our sin and resting in the finished work of Christ as our Substitute, God declares us “NOT GUILTY”. We are free! “And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Gen.  15:6 and Rom.5:1,2, Rom.8:1

As the Judge of the earth, He has the right to do that; to let a guilty person go free. But as a holy and just God, He could not do that without going contrary to His nature, which He cannot do. “He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 If only there was a way……….There is a way! His name is Jesus. Because Jesus was our Substitute, who paid in full for our sin, God can legitimately justify us.

So when we flee to Jesus for safety, we are hidden in Him, and in that sense, God now looks on us “just-as-if-we-had-never-sinned”. When God the Father sees us hidden in Christ, He sees only the perfect righteousness of His son. Col.3:3 A great exchange has taken place. Our sins on Christ, Christ’s righteousness imputed, or made over, to our account. O sweet exchange!

Justification by faith alone is a beautiful, life-changing, uplifting, soul-assuring doctrine. Never tire of praising God for justifying you. Because you are justified, you will not be condemned on that awful day. The worst words anyone will ever hear will be, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.” Matt.7:23

Yet, “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ…” Rom.8:1

“It is in the substitutionary death of Christ that sin is overcome and wrath is averted, so that God can look upon man with pleasure, and man can look upon God without fear. Sin is expiated and God’s wrath is propitiated.” John Stott

Prayer– “Lord, how awesome You are. You are our Creator and our Saviour. The truth of a future judgement would be terrifying, if we weren’t secure in Christ. ‘Thank you’ is so inadequate to express our feelings about saving us from hell and promising us Heaven. +Help us to share the gospel so that others won’t have to face the wrath of the Lamb.”

Questions– When we stand before Jesus, will He be our Saviour or our Judge? If you are unsure, spend some time in prayer, asking God to save you, or if you are saved, to give you assurance of your salvation, so you don’t need to fear death and judgement. –Was fear of judgement a factor in your conversion?

Response– How familiar are you with theological terms? Look up the meaning of the following terms: justification, sanctification, adoption, redemption, propitiation.

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Christ as the Kinsman-Redeemer in the Book of Ruth

15 Sep

Read Ruth 1-4.

The Bible has a bit of everything in it. There is history, biography, poetry, prose, apocalyptic, and even romance. The book of Ruth is a romance novella which plays an important part in redemptive history. God could have just thrown a couple together in an arranged marriage and the family line of Christ would have continued on. Yet he chose to give us a glimpse into the character of a young Gentile woman, in order to give hope to those of us outside of the nation of Israel.

Boaz was a wealthy businessman in Bethlehem; he was powerful and important in society. He was older than Ruth by at least twenty years. He is impressed by Ruth as she works in the field, hearing a good report of her by his foreman. He has heard of her actions in following Naomi to a strange country. He may have thought of his ancestor, Rahab, who was also a stranger in Israel.
Although he is impressed by her and may even be attracted to her, he doesn’t pursue her as, undoubtedly, he feels their age difference is too great. If it were not for Naomi’s meddling and Ruth’s willingness to do as Naomi instructed her, Boaz may never have made a move. When Ruth approaches him the night on the threshing floor and basically proposes to him, he is very humble, not even acknowledging that he is quite an eligible bachelor. Instead, he commends her for not running after the young men. He guards her reputation the night on the threshing floor by sending her away while it is still dark, lest someone assume something happened between them, and then he gives her grain to take with her in case someone was to inquire where she was at that hour.

The Scarlet Thread in this story is Boaz as a kinsman-redeemer. The idea of the Kinsman-Redeemer is that a near relative can redeem, or buy back the property of a relative who had been forced to sell their land for some reason, and now they cannot buy it back themselves because they are impoverished . These laws were in place to ensure that family members are looked after and the land stays in the family. See Deut. 25:5-10 and Mark 12:18-25

The two main requirements of a Kinsman-Redeemer are that he must be 1) qualified to redeem, (a close relative who could afford to buy the land) and 2) willing/able to redeem (not already married). It was voluntary. There was a way out, although it was frowned upon. (See Deut. 25:7-10) He was spit upon and lost his sandal. It was scandalous/he was sandal-less!
Boaz is a wonderful example of a Kinsman-Redeemer who is both qualified and willing. He has a nature that is unselfish and nurturing. He comes to the rescue. He shows great kindness to Ruth. He protects her and provides for her.

He remembers there is another relative who was closer than he who could end up married to Ruth instead of him, was qualified to be a kinsman-redeemer. This is the conflict, or complicating factor you see in all great romances. How will they overcome it? Will our hero and heroine find true love? Thankfully, he was unwilling. He was too selfish. He didn’t mind inheriting Elimelech’s property, he just hadn’t counted on a wife in the deal. As well, their first son would not bear his name. He would also share the inheritance. It was all too much trouble. Boaz tells Ruth he’ll approach the other relative, so she doesn’t have to humble herself by proposing to someone else. He also indirectly promises to care for Naomi as well.
This transaction, done at the “city gates” where all business was transacted before witnesses, was done properly, so there would be no question as to the legitimacy of Boaz’s claim to Ruth and the inheritance of Elimelech. Although it sounds like Ruth is ‘purchased’ in a business transaction, you see from the interaction between them, that Ruth and Boaz do really love each other.

When he first met Ruth one of the things he said to her was, “The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Ruth 2:12 When she approaches him about marriage, she uses his own words and images back to him to show how he can help her practically and bless her and be the answer to her prayer. “Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.” Ruth 3:9

This reminds us of the idea of Eve being made from Adam’s rib. Matthew Henry has a great quote that’s nice for weddings.

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam;
not made out of his head, to rule over him;
nor out of his feet, to be trampled upon by him;
but out of his side to be equal with him;
under his arm to be protected,
and near his heart, to be beloved.”

To draw out the Scarlet Thread in this narrative, we see Christ as our Kinsman-Redeemer. He is like Boaz because he “owns the field” and marries one who was formerly a stranger and foreigner who puts her trust in Him and becomes His bride. Christ is even better than Boaz as a Kinsman-Redeemer. We are destitute spiritually, with no way to get out of debt and no way to provide for our eternal well-being. Christ steps up. He is our kinsman, one who is like us, who is our friend, who sticks closer than a brother. He is qualified. He is able to redeem.

He sees our situation and is moved with compassion. Compassion has the idea of suffering together. But he did more than that. He doesn’t merely feel a sad situation and feel pity for us. He does something about it. This is AGAPE love; love in action.

He set aside His royal robes and willingly condescended to become one of us. Then He lived a perfect life that we could not, died a sacrificial death to pay a debt He did not owe and we could never repay. Having accomplished our Redemption, our ‘purchase’, He ratified it by rising from the dead. He has purchased His people. Like Boaz’s official transaction at the gates of the city, so Christ purchased His bride publicly when He died on the cross. “This thing was not done in a corner.” Acts 26:26 By purchasing us and bringing us into His family, He saved us from destruction.

We are no longer destitute. We are heirs, co-heirs with Christ, and He owns all things. He is our Bridegroom. He has purchased His Bride, “…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Pet. 1:18,19

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.” Isaiah 54:4,5
This story is another example of a situation where we wonder if people are going to mess up the plan of God, like Judah could have by going to Canaan and marrying a Canaanite woman, or like Elimelech and Naomi could have by moving to Moab for an extended length of time and having their sons marry Moabite women. Yet, in both cases God overruled the situation and brought them back to Israel, both times with foreign women.
The characters in this story take turns blessing each other. For a short book, there’s a whole lot of blessing going on, nine in fact.
First Naomi blesses Ruth following the death of her husband and sons, “And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go, return each to her mother’s house. The LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.’” Ruth 1:8,9
Boaz and his reapers exchange blessings with each other. “Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, ‘The LORD be with you!’ And they answered him, ‘The LORD bless you!’” Ruth 2:4
Naomi blesses Boaz. “And her mother-in-law said to her, ‘Where have you gleaned today? And where did you work? Blessed be the one who took notice of you.’ So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, ‘The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.’ Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, ‘Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!’ And Naomi said to her, ‘This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.’” Ruth 2:10-20
Then Boaz blesses Ruth in response to her self-sacrificing care of her mother-in-law, “And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.’” Ruth 2:11,12
Boaz blesses Ruth after her ‘proposal.’ “Then he said, ‘Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.’” Ruth 3:10
Then the leadership of Bethlehem bless them on their marriage. “And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.’” Ruth 4:11-12
Then finally, the women of the town bless the LORD on behalf of Naomi on the birth of Obed. They also bless Obed. “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.’” Ruth 4:14-15

Prayer-“Thank you for seeing me in my distress and rising up to do something to relieve it. Thank you for being qualified to save by being rich so that you could redeem me, and yet becoming poor, so you could be like me, and a human, so you could be related to me. Thank you for being able to  save and willing to save. Thank you for your tender care and loving kindness.” Amen.

Questions-How do you feel about the poor? Do you have poor relatives who need help? Did you ever feel stigmatized because of a relative? How did you deal with it? Have you ever felt like an outsider?

Response-Sometimes we can be kinder to strangers than we are to our own relatives. I know that to be the case with me. Pray that God would show you a way to minister to the needs of a near relative. Show them love in a tangible way because you are willing and able and because you care about them as family members.

Christ as the Mediator in Job

8 Sep

Read Job Chapter 9

“For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both.” Job 9:32, 33.

Disputes can quickly turn ugly.  It can happen in labour talks, on the baseball diamond, or in a marriage.  When you have two parties, each with legitimate “beefs”, or at an impasse because neither side will compromise, you need outside help.

The form this outside help takes is important.  You don’t want someone who is vulnerable to accepting a bribe, one who can be threatened or coerced, or one who starts out with a bias toward one side or the other.

He must be trustworthy, fair and blameless.  Moreover, he must have a clear understanding of both sides in order to bring them together in reconciliation.  How difficult to find such a peacemaker!

In this passage, Job laments his situation.  He has some serious questions for God; namely, ‘Why am I suffering?’  Yet he knows he is dealing with the God of the universe, and one does not just saunter into His presence and demand answers.

Job knows he needs an advocate.  An umpire.  A mediator.  Someone who will put one hand on him, and one on God, and find a peaceful solution.  Oh Job, if you only knew that such a One would come!

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim. 2:5

As sinners, we are in such a predicament, as well.  We are rebels against the King of the universe.  R.C. Sproul says we have committed “cosmic treason”. We are guilty before the Judge of all the earth.  There is nothing we can do to fix our situation.  Moreover, we have no right to even approach this Holy God to appeal for mercy.

Enter: the God-Man, Jesus.  He is the Eternal Son of God, and yet He took on flesh.  As a man, He could understand our predicament; as God He could do something about it.  While it’s nice that someone understands our trouble, unless they can do something about it, we’re still in peril.

If I was drowning and someone jumped into the water beside me, started flailing their arms and swallowing  water, it wouldn’t mean much to me for them to say, “I know just how you feel!”  I don’t need sympathy alone, I need help!  I need a hero to save me!

That’s why Jesus is the best Mediator.  As a man, He understands how sin has ruined us, although He Himself was sinless.  He knew pain, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, rejection and oppression.  But as God, He could also do something to relieve our situation.

That situation was our broken relationship with God.  We stood condemned.  He took the punishment, satisfying the wrath of a holy God.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, we can now approach this Holy God, and appeal for mercy based on the finished work of Christ.

Christ is the mediator that Job could only dream about.  We who live after the Cross can see how our sympathetic High Priest is also our Deliverer.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Heb. 4:15

“…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thess. 1:10

As a mediator between two opponents, he brings about reconciliation.

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:18   

He doesn’t just say, “Why can’t we all just get along?” or “Let’s let bygones be bygones,” or “Boys will be boys.”  He provides a real solution, not just platitudes.  He truly solves our sin problem.  A Holy God will not just overlook our offences.  At the cross, Mercy and Peace have kissed each other.

“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Pet. 1: 18, 19

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Prayer– “Lord you know how obstinate and unforgiving I can be. You know I’m not the first to apologize after an argument. Break down my pride. Make me willing to humble myself in order to bring about reconciliation in my relationships. Thank you most of all for reconciling me to God through the sacrifice of Yourself.”

Questions– How do you deal with disputes? Are you an instigator, an agitator, or a peacemaker? Do you realize that before you were saved, you were an enemy of God?

“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement. He is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of a hole. This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is repentance.”  C.S. Lewis

I’m glad at the way it came out, but at the conversion moment, what I heard was God saying, ‘Put down your gun and we’ll talk’.” C.S. Lewis

Response– Do you need to make peace with someone? Do it before the day is over.

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