Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The God of the Bible

One of the ways I can tell that someone has not read the Bible is they say this authoritatively: "I believe in the New Testament's God of love, not the Old Testament's God of wrath."

That is biblical illiteracy at its worst. God did not change His character at the end of the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, we see Sheol, the place of the dead. To my knowledge, the Old Testaments does not describe Sheol. Jesus describes it several ways. In Luke 16, Jesus tells us the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This is not a parable, for two reasons: 1) Lazarus is named. People are not named in parables. 2) The Scripture normally tells us if they are parables, as in Luke 15:3. If the story were a parable, then the real would be much worse than the parable says, not less.

"So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire'" (Luke 16:24).

Jesus was the original Hell fire preacher. "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24). "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them" (John 3:36).

The parable of the wheat and tares explained in Matthew 13:40-42, 49-50 is the meaning of the dragnet. "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth...This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

In the story of the marriage feast, Jesus tells us of the people who refused to come. "The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city" (Matt. 22:7). Jesus also tells of the person who attended without wedding clothes. "Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'" (Matt. 22:13). Jesus did not give an explanation of these violent statements. These statements were the explanations.

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" (Matt. 23:33). This is a rhetorical question.

"He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 24:51).

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Notice that everlasting life in instead of perishing.

In Revelation 6, when the sixth seal is broken and everyone wants to hide, "and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" (Rev. 6:16-17). Another rhetorical question.

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:11-16). He treads the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God.

"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14-15).

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).

The New Testament describes the love of God and the wrath of God. The love of God was expressed towards us on the cross, because the wrath of God was the alternative. Jesus took our place and received the wrath so we would not have to receive it.

"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Gal. 5:19-24)

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:6-8)

Jesus paid our penalty. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).

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