Posted on | October 3, 2015 | 2 Comments
What is God waiting for to judge his creation and restore his sovereignty over the universe?
There are various schools of thought regarding this question. One is that God is waiting for all peoples and nations to hear the gospel. Another is that there is no longer anything that needs to happen, and that God is merely biding his time and will unleash judgement according to a preordained timetable. These are the most common orthodox positions, the second being the most popular. Each of these, however, has serious problems. The first makes the universal restoration of God’s sovereignty conditional upon the efficacy of global evangelism – a complicated position for obvious reasons. The second derives from an application of the doctrine of predestination, wherein God has already decided precisely when he will bring down the curtain, and that time has simply not yet arrived. Although acceptable by itself, its logical dependence on the predestination heresy makes it very problematic.
The hypothesis of this article is that there is another position, one that I find more coherent biblically, historically, and logically. Before we attempt to state the hypothesis, let us look at the arguments in its favour.
The first point is that it is very clear from the text in Genesis 5:1 that the Imago Dei – the uniquely human quality of having been made in the image of God – remained true even after the fall of mankind. Because of this, there persists in mankind even today echoes of the person of God – enduring fingerprints of the creator’s hands, as it were. There is an innate nobility in mankind that is manifested in many ways. To state a few: love of family, love of home, love of friendship, love of honesty and truth, love of faithfulness, love of beauty, love of fellowship. Fallen though the race is, all except the most cynical observer will readily admit this inner nobility. And although not proof against deliberate personal subversion, these traits are astoundingly difficult to eradicate on a broad scale. This difficulty speaks to the origin of this trait – were it merely cultural heritage, the eradication would be far easier. It is certainly true that in Eden man fell from grace and, once lost, could never attain it by personal effort. But in falling man became neither a demon nor a beast. In other words, he became neither irredeemable, nor bereft of anything to redeem. So there is indeed something in man that God treasures. It is something God himself made. It is something that remembers the hands of the creator at the dawn of humanity, and it is something which God wishes to preserve, hence his love for mankind – a love so great it sent his only begotten Son to die for us.
The first point, then, is that there is something that motivates God to delay the execution of justice – a reason for him to wait.
The second point is whether there is an historical precedent for God delaying justice. In other words: he may want to delay justice, but is that something he has ever done before?
The biblical witness to this precedent is the Apostle Peter who, when talking about God’s judgement of his creation in the days of Noah, mentions God’s patience (1 Peter 3:20). Now, God’s patience, like any of the divine traits, is as infinite as God himself, yet balanced by the other traits of his personality. God’s patience with his creation is balanced by the imperative for justice. Every single evil deed committed since (as far as we know) the fall of Lucifer must and will be paid for in full. The very existence of God demands this. It is only a matter of time.
Clear illustrations of this point are the three documented cases where the patience of God was provoked too far. The Israelites invaded Canaan and wiped out the Canaanites: men, women, children, and animals. Nevertheless they waited 400 years between the time God promised them this land and the time he commanded them to proceed with the invasion. The reason for this delay, as we can see in Genesis 15:16 and also Deuteronomy 18:9-14, was that the sins of the Canaanites (AKA Amorites) had not yet reached the point of being absolutely intolerable to God. They were delayed due to the patience of God with the Canaanites. Further back in time, in Sodom and Gomorrah, the sins of the inhabitants reached the point that the anger of God overflowed the containing walls of his patience, and they were wiped out, again: men, women, children, and animals. Again, God stayed his hand from executing justice while Abraham intervened. Even further back, and more to our point, the sins of mankind grew so great that God ‘repented of his creation’ (Genesis 6:6-7), and for the first time (as far as humanity is concerned) his anger overflowed the mighty dam of his patience, and he obliterated his creation with a cataclysmic flood, killing men, women, children, and animals. And once again, God waited before executing his judgement, this time for over 120 years, while Noah built his ark and preached about the coming wrath.
In all three cases God exercised patience, giving the people a chance to repent. In two of the cases, as also in the case of Nineveh, the historical record explicitly mentions someone who preached of the coming wrath of God and the need to repent. Noah, Lot (possibly not in words, but by his just deeds), and Jonah. There is good reason to think that in the case of the Canaanites, the descendants of Melchizedek also bore witness against evil, certainly the arrival of the Israelite army was a call to repentance that they did not heed. In all the cases the wrath of God, once provoked beyond the limits of his patience, proved terrible and unstoppable. In all cases, a few were saved. Notably, the criteria for their selection wasn’t that they were without sin, but that they feared God. During the Israelite invasion of Canaan, Rahab and her family were saved from the ruin of Jericho. In Sodom, Lot and part of his family were saved from the hail of fire. Noah and his family were saved from the global flood. In all three cases the destruction, once begun, was shockingly indiscriminate. The vanishingly few who were saved, were saved only because they believed in God (and therefore feared him). All three cases were pointedly apocalyptic in their finality and ferocity.
Interestingly, a fourth case of threatened obliteration was Nineveh, whose destruction was avoided by the mass repentance of her people. The relevance of this case to our discussion is precisely the fact that the looming and historically similar sweeping justice was not executed, and the stay of execution was due to the wise reaction of the people upon whom judgement was imminent. Note also, in his rebuke of Jonah’s anger, that God felt pity for all the people, and wished to spare them. This event calls to mind the Paul’s mention of God’s call for repentance in Romans 2:4. Together these two facts argue that the final apocalypse, although foreseen by God, is not pre-ordained. God does not wish to destroy his beautiful creation. Did he wish to do so, he would have surely long since put an end to to evil. Despite the claims of the predestination heresy, God is not schizophrenic. He will destroy his creation not because he arbitrarily chooses to do that which he does not wish to do, but because the sins of mankind will demand justice, and so long-delayed justice be served. The salvation of Nineveh shows that although the final destruction of creation is inevitable, it is because mankind will provoke God, not because God has already decided to do so.
In all the cases mentioned above, God waited until the aggregate sins had degraded the societies to the point where the demand for justice overcame the call for patience. And once God had done waiting – once his long patience was finally exhausted – the end was brutal and devastating. In all three cases the society in question brought about its own destruction. There was no arbitrary divine decision obeying mysterious criteria. The people deliberately and systematically expunged every expression of the Imago Dei in themselves. They expunged from their souls the fingerprints of their creator. They not only refused to submit to the sovereignty of God, but they denied its very foundational legitimacy by defacing themselves, and so removing all memory of He who made them. They defied every natural law of God, and so defied the one who made and stands behind those laws. They not only sinned, but also declared their sin to be good and demanded that others admire their sin. And so they defied God himself by challenging his right to judge mankind.
As he explicitly stated in the case of the Canaanites, God in his divine fore-knowledge knew precisely when the aggregate evil of each society would reach the tipping point of divine fury. So too does he, and he alone, know the precise moment when his anger will spill out against all humanity and the last day will dawn red.
At various times in the gospels, Jesus mentions sins that would be signs of the end of days (e.g., Matthew 24). According to our hypothesis, these are not mere coincidence, but cause and effect. It is precisely BECAUSE of the rampant evil of those days to come that the pitiless flood of the wrath of God will finally overflow the eons-deep bulwarks of his patience.
This, then, is the second point. God is putting off the final execution of justice, but his patience is limited by his passion for justice. Once this limit is passed, justice will arrive.
The hypothesis, then, is that God is waiting for a precisely foreseen but not preordained day. He is waiting, but not for the militant church to achieve some goal. There is something holding back his anger. That something is his own patience. Patience born of his wish to preserve something of value, and patience of a magnitude and depth that truly only God himself is capable of. He is containing his growing wrath at the metastasizing evil of mankind. Like earth in the days of Noah, like Canaan in the days of Moses, and like Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot, God is waiting for the crescendo of sin to reach its climax. And once that climax is reached, then the extermination of the Canaanites, the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the global destruction of the flood will be revealed as mere foretastes of the anger of God.
We cannot know when God’s patience with his creation will be exhausted. We can see certain signs, but it would be folly to claim as a fact that these signs are final. It certainly seems to us that evil is attaining levels never before seen, but we might well be wrong, and even if we are right, God could hold back his anger for another two thousand years, or more.
That being said, for those of us upon whom it has fallen to live in these dark days, let us do all within our power to hold back the tide of evil and the defacement of the Imago Dei. It is foreseen that we will eventually fail to hold back this infected tide, but far better we lend our strength to a doomed albeit just cause, than that in despair we cross our arms and let evil flourish unhindered. Since the final decay is not preordained, we are not fighting God by resisting it, and since our cause is the preservation of the image of God in man, we are fighting with his approval. For those whose hope is heaven, there is no dishonor or defeat in dying in arms for a worthy cause, and we will surely receive our reward if we hold fast to the truth. There is, however, great dishonor in refusing to battle evil, inevitable as its temporal victory may seem to be. We serve the one true God. He will be victorious, and with him we will be revindicated if we hold fast until the end. Although the battle for this creation may indeed be lost, and its loss has been foreseen since before Eden, the war will not be lost by any means. This is our hope.
Blessed, truly, are they who hold fast to this hope as the sun begins to set on this age of man.
Posted on | September 27, 2015 | No Comments
A withered flower floats sadly away
In the heavy silence the twilight
shadows merge to gray
And forlorn colours
At dawn so glad a sight
Bleach out of a dying day
For the shadows of Eden
Lie so bold
across our lonely road
Down silent paths
Our days are told
And childhood laughter
Once a tapestry bright
In memory lingers cold
The season of loss too soon arrives
Cold fingers of night so heartless
weigh our lives
And the dwindling warmth
Of forgotten noon our delight
In vain against them strives
Though man should battle so bravely
To his dreams to cling
Yet the means destroy the end
And grievous loss and pain
The silence and the dark
Chill webs around him
So fortunate who await
Of another day
For whom the shadows
Are but a doorway to
A never-dying morn
Listen, my weary soul!
Though the darkening years dismay
Yet from your breast your hope
Will not be torn.
Posted on | July 5, 2015 | 1 Comment
Humanity is a helpless refugee camp full of expendable pawns in Satan’s ancient war against God.
Our first father and mother sold us into slavery willingly, but – as too the soldiers who crucified Christ – they did so not understanding the true meaning of what they were doing. They sold themselves and their descendants into bondage for a handful of lies. Lucifer and the host that rebelled with him, on the other hand, knew well what they were doing. It is not obvious why they thought they could get away with it, and even less why they thought they might actually succeed.
And that puzzling question is what I would like to consider today. That and the related question of why on earth did the freshly outcast Satan bother to destroy the innocence of mankind’s founding parents.
Although Lucifer is indeed a very powerful being, and one imbued at his creation with deep knowledge and understanding, it is a dangerous error to presume he is more powerful or knowledgeable than he really is. Among many other things, he does not know the future. Perhaps he thought he could know the future by creating it, but he does not see it nor ever saw it as God himself does – an eternal present holding no secrets. This leads me to my conjecture.
An hypothesis that seems to comfortably fit the facts as we know them is that they – Lucifer and his host – thought they could avoid justice by seducing God’s creation and thereby holding His beloved but now fallen creatures hostage. In other words, once our forefathers had fallen – and we, present in their loins – along with them, if God were to execute his judgement on the fallen angels, he would have to do so on all fallen creatures and would thereby send all mankind to hell along with the demons.
In the parlance of gangster films, “If I’m going down, I’m taking them all to hell with me”.
And so the fallen angel of light thought he’d checkmated God. There would exist a forced state of detenté until the end of time, with God pitying his corrupted creatures, and so staying his hand from destroying them, and as a consequence being unable to destroy the demons either. If this conjecture is true, then Satan did not corrupt humanity (at least primarily) out of hatred for all God’s works, nor to destroy their innocence and so sadden God. Instead his foremost purpose in corrupting humanity was to protect himself and his followers from justice.
The original human shield.
It stands to reason that Lucifer knew he’d be evicted from heaven and banished from the presence of God. It is inconceivable that he could have been so profoundly stupid as to think he could depose God and rule. It is far more plausible to think that he was quite content to be banished from heaven, planning to set himself up as an immensely powerful emperor on earth, served by his followers, worshiped by mankind, and protected forever from God’s anger by God’s love for his creatures.
But it is shatteringly clear that it never even began to cross his mind that God himself would die on a cross to redeem his poor shackled creatures.
The beautiful irony is that, while Lucifer was counting on God’s love for the creatures made in the very image of God to protect himself from God’s justice, he fatally underestimated the depth of that divine love. As Lucifer expected, God was indeed not willing to condemn all men to hell so as to destroy the enemy hiding behind them. But – and this was where mighty Lucifer’s plans went terribly awry – God was willing to come down to earth himself and to die on a cross, so that the captives could be set free.
Popular interpretation notwithstanding, it is inconceivable that Satan thought he had won a victory when Christ died on the cross for our sins. The fact that he pulled out all the stops in tempting Christ in the desert precisely to avoid such an outcome shows that he well knew what the result would be. Indeed, Satan offered everything he had, even his very own domain that he’d bought at so high a price, but to no avail.
And the result is that Satan’s strategic and oh-so-wily defense has been utterly demolished. The shield behind which he and his followers thought to ride out the ages, protected from God’s wrath by God’s pity, has proven only barely good enough to ride out God’s finite patience. The instant the last human soul that will ever turn to God does so, God’s patience will end and all hell will come crashing down on the devil and all those who have chosen to believe his lies. And worse yet, as terrible as the wrath of God would have been merely at Lucifer’s rebellion, how much more horrifying will it be at all the oceans of misery, sadness and destruction his failed defensive tactic has provoked?
Perhaps you ask why couldn’t God execute judgement on the fallen angelic host without simultaneously judging fallen mankind. Because the personality of God is indivisible, and in the soul of God justice is not separate from fairness. God is not schizophrenic and could no more be unfair by judging one yet not the other than he could command mankind to do something God himself hates. The only thing limiting God’s actions is God himself. Also, by creating freedom of choice God himself created the conditions whereby either obedience (the angelic host that remained faithful to God and those humans who repent of their rebellion) or disobedience (the fallen host and obstinately rebellious mankind) could happen. The day of judgement is nothing less than the closing of this window in time. And the window cannot close for some yet not for others, for it marks a radical reversion to the previous state of the universe, consisting of God’s total sovereign control, before he created free will. Hence the perverted beauty of Satan’s play. At least so it must have seemed at the time.
There will come a time in the not too distant future when the only humans remaining in that crumbling shield are those who choose to remain alienated from God of their own free will. In that day the shield will utterly fall and Satan and his host will be fully exposed to the white-hot pent-up heat of God’s fury, and all the universe will give a great sigh of relief as injustice, unrighteousness, and all other fruits of rebellion are scorched clean off the face of time and space and God’s sovereignty is fully restored.
Posted on | April 8, 2015 | No Comments
When we are struggling with God for something, and he seems to be deliberately taking an infuriating and quite unnecessarily long time in answering us, and we are long past the point where we would be philosophically willing to hear a negative, just to be able to get on with our lives, then we must stop to ask ourselves a few questions regarding the nature of God and of his relationship with us.
If he is indeed a benevolent God, full of love and kindness for his adopted children – and we hold as an article of faith that he is; and if he hears our prayers and desires to grant that which we ask of him as a father grants the requests of his children – and again we hold this to be an aspect of the very nature of God; and if we are no longer under judgement nor need have any fear of punishment – and this firm promise is based on the efficacy of the blood of the sacrificial Lamb; and if that which we are requesting has passed all the tests of what is good, wise, timely and appropriate (and if it hasn’t, then before saying one more word to God we need to back and rigorously submit it to the tests), then why is he forcing us to wait? He is not deaf to our pleas. He takes no joy in our pain. He is not impotent that he cannot grant that which we ask. We are not under judgement. We are acting as his children ought when we take our requests to him in prayer. To the extent of our ability to see, what we are asking for is good. Although we wish for an affirmative answer, we could deal with a negative. We just want an answer. Any answer. So why the silence?
I have come to recognize a very specific method in the way God deals with his children in these situations. We come to him in prayer asking for something good, something that does not go against his will to give us; something that, because he loves us, he would like to give us. But, you see, it is imperative that we learn – truly learn – that there is only one purely good thing in the universe, and that is God himself. As good as the thing we desire may be, learning this lesson is incomparably more valuable, for the thing we desire will turn to dust, but the soul is immortal. One day all the good things that we have accumulated in life – be they friends, family, possessions, experiences – will all pass away, and we will be left with only God himself as our treasure.
We must put away the popular yet childish fantasy that heaven is some kind of personalized theme park tailored to every desire to entertain us for eternity. Heaven is nothing more, and nothing less, than – for every single second of every single hour of every single day, month after month, year after year, millennium after millennium – to gaze unblinking upon the very uncovered face of God. And until we have acquired the taste for that banquet – which is the only banquet set in heaven – we are not prepared for heaven.
God is that which is good. Every other good thing (and there are countless other good things) is good only insofar as it reflects some aspect of God himself. It is not wrong to desire some good thing. On the contrary, we are expected to do so. But we ever fall into the error of forgetting that any goodness there is in anything other than God is only a reflection of him, and only truly a blessing as long as we keep that in mind. Nothing is purely good, save God himself. To put our hope in anything other than God is to lean our weight on a cracked staff that will fail us when we least can afford the betrayal. Until my heart can be truly satisfied in God and in God alone, I am putting my hope in something other than God. Until my internal definition of joy and delight and pleasure is based on the person on God, then any joy or delight or pleasure I take in any other thing in this world is a delusion and a fatal waste of precious, irreplaceable time.
I can understand this with my mind, yes. I can also understand, mathematically, how big the known universe is. But, simply because I understand it, I cannot claim to know it. It is too big for me, too strange to my fallen heart, too antithetical to the sin that still seeks to govern my mind, too different from the dirt beneath my feet and the hunger in my belly. It is only God, acting as my shepherd, who can educate my heart to truly comprehend that he and he alone is my hope and my joy and my consolation and my treasure and my reward. But God chooses to treat me as a person, not as a dumb animal, and he will not impose this on me. I must do my part. God wishes to be my partner in the preparation of my heart for heaven, and as in any partnership, I must do my part.
My part is to face with faith each silent day that passes, be it ever so weary. My part is to say to my disbelieving and fallen heart that I will trust in God and that he is the very incarnation of all goodness that I could ever hope to find in this life and in the next. And to say it again. And yet again. And each time I do so, by the miracle of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, my heart changes just a little. Each time I declare my faith in God (in God himself and not that he will do what I want him to do, no matter how badly I want him to do it, nor even how much I think he should), each time I say to God, “Father, I pray you grant this request, but your perfect will be done and not mine”, and that caveat isn’t mere rhetorical window-dressing, then I learn a little more how to live in heaven. Each time I bid my heart wait on the Lord, he prepares my palate for the banquet of eternity.
Posted on | June 25, 2014 | No Comments
The holy scriptures are a window into the soul of God.
They are a faithful and clear window, neither distorting nor adding anything to the soul of God.
Let us, however, not fall in love with the window. Rather, looking through this faithful window, let us fall in love with God.
The merit of this window is that it reveals God. To glorify the window is to miss the whole point of the window. The window exists not to receive glory, but to point to the one to whom all glory is due.keep looking »