Posts Tagged ‘judgement’

Because of joy 4

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away. It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:48-50

The final parable in this set of three teaches us a similar lesson to the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43), and seen in the context of the 3 parables put together, we see God’s final act after the redemption of Israel (depicted as hidden treasure) and the Gentiles (depicted as pearls). This act is the separation of the evil from the righteous. The symbolism here is obvious, the net represents the gospel, the sea as the world and the fish as the souls of men.

Once again, a few things are noted here:

All kinds of fish were caught

This develops the evidence that the gospel goes out not just to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles (Matthew 15:22,28:19). It could also be a picture of the various forms of “salvation” as depicted by the farmer who sows the seed (Matthew 13:1-23). In the light of Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the weeds, where the variety is seen as “people of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38) and “people of the evil one” (Matthew 13:39), it would be a closer fit to view this passage as talking about the variety of believers and non-believers who hear the message. For hearing is not necessarily understanding and understanding the gospel is crucial (Matthew 13:14-17; 19-23).

The nets are brought in only when they are full – at the end of the age

Similar to Matthew 13:28-30, the judgement of all things belong to Christ when He comes again. We do not separate the evil from the good now, instead we live together on this earth. We are not to judge others as unelect or unsaved, but to leave that judgement to Christ. We do not remove ourselves from the world or try to remove ourselves from the presence of so called “wicked” people. In fact, the inverse is needed; we should be amongst them to reconcile them to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).

The nets were pulled ashore and the fishermen sat down

Where in previous parables there was only one sole protagonist, it seems that there are many here. The common interpretation of fishermen in the New Testament are believers or “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), but this parable offers a distinctly different view that the fishermen are symbolic of angels. Sitting down is a picture of rest and judgement – kings sat down when they judged over matters in their kingdom. Christ and his fishermen will complete the fishing in entirety, with the nets pulled ashore, and sit down to judge the quality of the fish (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

The fiery furnace of weeping and gnashing of teeth

The words here mirror Matthew 13:42 exactly. While the Parable of the weeds was delivered to the public, the Parable of the Nets is delivered only to the disciples. The disciples were very familiar with the symbolism since at least four of them were fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22). They easily understood the gravity of the parable (Matthew 13:43, “He who has ears, let him hear”). If they didn’t get any of the other parables, at least get this: that the end will not be sweet for the wicked.

This is a sobering message to believers and non-believers alike. For believers, bring the gospel to those family and friends who are not yet saved with urgency for we know their final destiny. For non-believers, I plead with you to be found in Christ, to be placed in the container marked “safe” (Genesis 7:1-10; 2 Peter 3:2-7).

Leave and don’t turn back

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

But Lots wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26

Isn’t Lot’s rescue from the wickedly sinful city of Sodom and Gomorrah a picture of salvation?

  • In His grace and mercy (Genesis 19:16), God allowed Lot to be rescued from the impending judgement (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
  • He warned that His judgement would be coming very soon (2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 22:12), so they had to escape quickly (Genesis 19:12-13, 15)
  • God made it easy for them to escape His judgement (Matthew 11:28-30) by allowing them to retreat to a small nearby town (Genesis 19:20-22)
  • Lot was told to bring others and tries to persuade his sons-in-law (Genesis 19:12, 14)
  • The magnitude of God’s grace and mercy (Ephesians 2:7) was shown when they hesitated – they were carried out into safety (Genesis 19:16-17)
  • They were also warned not to look back (Genesis 15:17; Luke 9:62; Philippians 3:13; Hebrews 10:39; Galatians 4:9)

If this episode is a reflection of salvation, what about Lot’s wife? This gesture reveals her heart: even after God’s grace and mercy had been extended to her, she still longs for her past life – the life lived in the boundaries of sin, surrounded by sinfulness. This was even after the old life had been left behind and it had been destroyed (Genesis 19:23-25), her heart had not left. In the same way that the Israelites left Egypt but Egypt had not left them, Lot’s wife had left Sodom and Gomorrah, but it had not left her.

Salvation is not a single decision made in one point in time. It is continuous choice to accept God’s grace and not to look back. That is why we are told to consider the cost of being a disciple of Christ (Luke 9:62; Luke 14:33), because looking back is disastrous. It might be a daily or weekly episode, but whenever our old life and it’s sin comes around to haunt us, we need to decide to leave it and not turn back.

Give

Monday, May 28th, 2012

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.”
Luke 6:37-38

In it’s immediate context, this verse talks about not judging our enemies but loving them and doing good to them. Here Jesus is talking about the principles of treating others graciously, whether it is our enemies or our brother. The principle is that whatever we give to others will be given to us. The examples that He uses to illustrate this are judgement, condemnation, forgiveness and generosity. This verse gives practical meaning to the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) The Golden Rule now makes sense because our actions come around. The equivalent modern day saying goes like this: “whatever goes around comes around”.

In ancient times, they had some sort of standard metric measurement but these were not precise. These measurements could be honest and dishonest. Also, commodities such as wheat were gathered and traded in baskets. Traders who were not generous or were dishonest would use bad scales, fill a basket load of wheat and not shake it to level it or pack it down. Generous traders on the other hand would use good measurements, filled a basket and shook it, leveled it, packed it down and heaped it on. In the same way, Jesus tells us to be generous in our giving. Because the measure that we use is the measure that we get. This principle applies to both the good and bad that we hand out.

The challenge that God puts before us is to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” These are some questions that we need to ask ourselves about how we have been relating to others, particularly our enemies:

  • What have I been handing out? What have I been giving?
  • What have I been getting? What has been poured onto my lap?
  • How much have I been giving or getting (both good and bad)?

Fear

Monday, April 16th, 2012

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God… It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:26-27, 31

We cannot escape the fact that our all-powerful God has an all terrifying side. The bible talks about fear of God in two ways – reverence and terror. While we talk about the reverence and awe of God, we seldom hear about the side of God that punishes, banishes and utterly destroys. The same God that hands out love and grace, also carries out divine justice. On Judgement Day, our God will judge and He act out this divine justice against His enemies. Terrifying!

Christians are exempt from this side of God. We who accept Christ have no reason to fear (in a terror sense). 1 Thessalonians 5:8 says that we are not appointed for wrath and Romans 8:1 says that we are not under condemnation. 1 John 4:17-18 also tells us that fear is not to be in our nature, because Christ perfect love drives out fear. At the same time, the early church walked in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31) and Paul tells the Phillipian church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). When Ananias and Sapphira was punished for their deceptive act, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” Jesus himself convinced crowds that fearing God was a good thing (Matthew 10:28).

Could it be that our understanding of the fear of the Lord is inadequate? Could it be myopic and shortsighted because of the cultural sway against hellfire and brimstone preaching? Possibly.

When the fear of God is mentioned, it is often related to God’s final judgement. Isaiah 2:10,19, 21 speaks of God’s Judgement Day. On this day, the Lord will be feared. People will run in terror from His presence. Hebrews 10:26-27, 31 warns believers not to turn their back to the gospel lest they suffer God’s wrath on Judgement Day. So why have we taken God’s judgement so lightly? Just because we escape this judgement doesn’t mean that others will escape it too.

We have a duty then to turn God’s wrath away from others by revealing God’s wrath to them – instilling fear in their hearts! This might not always be the best way to do it, but it certainly is one way. Afterall, the same Spirit that convicts the world of sin and affirms God’s love to us is also the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). Let us not be blind to the danger of Judgement Day.

A shrewd personsees dangerand hides himself, but the naive keep right on going  and suffer for it.
The rewardfor humility and fearing the Lordis riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 22:3-4

Of gods and God

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Scripture

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?
John 10:34-36

Observation

Context

  • The tension is high in this final passage where Jesus speaks to the Jewish religious leaders to persuade them to believe in Him after He is cornered at in the Temple courts and challenged by them
  • Jesus has just questioned the Jewish religious leaders about the charge that they are stoning Him for
  • Even in questioning them, He gracefully tried to help them see the errors in their reasoning
  • Here Jesus answers to the charge of blasphemy and pleads His case

Passage

  • “Is it not written in your Law” the verse that follows is from Psalm 82:6 (v34)
    • The Psalm is technically not a book of Law and does not feature in the Torah, however there have been times where law was used to mean OT books (John 12:34 and 15:25 are similar cases)
  • “‘I have said you are gods’”, Psalm 82 is about God exalting judges not to “judge unjustly” (Psalm 82:2) and “give justice to the weak and the Fatherless” (Psalm 82:3) (v34)
    • gods here  (and Psalm 82:1) are used to describe the Jewish leaders who judge according to the OT Law
    • Psalm 82 reminds the judges that God is the ultimate Judge and as judges, they too are men and will one day die and face judgement before God, therefore judge justly
  • “If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came”, the word of God (here refers to the OT Law) is administered by the Jewish authorities, so it is said that it came to them (v35)
    • Jesus is saying, “if you judges who are mere men are called gods”
  • “and the Scripture cannot be broken”, what is written in the Scriptures cannot be “broken” meaning changed or altered, therefore what is said in Psalm 82:6 about judging justly cannot be changed or altered (v35)
    • Jesus says here, “and what is written stays true”
  • “what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?”, a comparison is made between the judges and God’s son (v36)
    • Here Jesus makes a point that God’s son is more special than any judge who is a mere man, He is “set apart” by the Father, and is His “very own” and is “sent into the world”
    • This is the logic: If a small fry like a man can be called God, surely God’s son can also be called God
  • “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”, that exactly is Jesus’ claim – to be God’s son (v36)
    • We start to see the development of His case when we put it together – “If you judges who are mere men are called gods and what is written stays true, then I can claim myself to be God’s son and be called God as well!”
    • He is argument is that if the judges who were men can be called God, then His claim to be God (as God’s son) isn’t blasphemy, if not, the judges themselves would be blaspheming as well (or the word of God would be).

Very quickly we see how the Jewish religious leaders have double standards. They would allow themselves to be called gods and not be blaspheming, but once anyone calls themselves god, they scream out “blasphemy”! But they are both mere men, yet the Jewish leaders elevate themselves over others with the Law rather than use the Law to provide justice and protection.

Application

Do I have double standards? Do I look at people one way and myself another, just because I think know God (more)?

Prayer

Father, help me to see through your eyes and feel through your heart. I want to see the injustice that happens around me and bring justice to them. Let me first see the plank in my own eye before pointing out the splint in other’s eyes. Let me first apply your Word to my life and not use it on others. At the same time, give me wisdom and courage to speak the truth in love to myself and to others. Father, where I lack, would you transform me.

Amen.

Of works and judgement

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Scripture

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
John 10:31-33

Observation

Context

  • Jesus is giving His final speech to sway the Pharisees to believe in Him
  • In this final discourse, He has spoken unreservedly about His divine identity as God and Messiah
  • The tension between the Jewish leaders and Jesus is at the critical point, Jesus has done all He could to show and tell them about Himself and His mission, they however simply could not see and understand the truth

Passage

  • “Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him”, this isn’t the first time they’ve tried that (John 8:59) (v31)
    • Even after Jesus has taught them something about themselves and the Law – that in the eyes of the Law they have all been guilty of sin and deserve it’s wages (John 8:7), they are stubbornly quick to judge
  • “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”, the fact remains that Jesus is faultless in word and deed (v32)
    • His works are no doubt good! He has healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, made the lame walk, multiplied food and raised the dead. These are not normal charitable deeds, these are morally excellent and miraculous deeds
    • Jesus as always is trying to get the Pharisees to see how their own logic does not make sense. In essense, Jesus says, “Look at my good works and hear my words, since you say that a sinner and demon-possessed cannot perform these things then consider what is the only last reasonable explanation?”
    • At this critical point, Jesus is still trying to save the Pharisees!
    • If someone is to be stoned, there was to be a charge, a trial (with testimonies from witnesses) and a sentencing, however at this point, there was none of that! So Jesus ask, what has He done to deserve stoning?
  • “We are not stoning you for any good work”, the Pharisees do not fault His work (v33)
    • It would seem that they acknowledge His work, in all that Jesus has done, He is faultless
  • “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” the Pharisees finally lay down their charge (v33)
    • They were somehow not able to connect Jesus’ deeds with His words, and it is a shame because His deeds prove His words
    • Blasphemy is a serious charge and punishable by stoning (Leviticus 24:13-23), the way the Pharisees it, Jesus has made a fool of God by bringing God down to His level as a man
    • Little do they know (or believe) that the truth is right before their eyes! What they think to be blasphemy is God’s redemption plan for the world
    • In the end, the Pharisees stubbornly judged no different from what they began with even after seeing His works and hearing His authoritative teaching (John 7:47-48, they didn’t even entertain the possibility that he could be a prophet); in all of Jesus’ efforts, they (John 7:50, all but one) have not moved an inch to even consider otherwise

Application

If the charge of being a Christian is put before me, what “good works” have I got as evidence of my faith? Are they just simply charitable deeds or undoubtably “from the Father”? If anyone charges me as a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to be undeniably guilty in both word and deed!

Has my idea of Jesus Christ changed over the years or have I stagnated like the Pharisees have? Do I now see a more glorious, more powerful, more loving God than when I was first saved? Perhaps it is time to evaluate my mindset about God in the light of all the “good works” that He has done in my life.  

Prayer

Father, I want to be good in both word and deed. I want that quality of yours so that the world can see and know that I too am “from the Father”. I know that you do not change, but my small mind cannot conceive how good are and how glorious you are. Open my eyes to the work that you do in my life. Help me to see more of you everyday. Help me to have a bigger picture of you everyday.

Amen.