What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to
the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast
about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham
believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one
who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the
one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is
counted as righteousness ...
Monday, February 18, 2013
Joel's Day of Wrath & The Gospel
by Johanna Sawyer
An animated French couple advance on a tourist attraction on a beautiful day in Chicago. The two are non-practicing Catholics and environmentalists, with the man wearing a "Green Party" t-shirt. Meandering toward the center of activity, they are approached by a woman they don't know. She asks if they have strong opinions on the bigger realities of life and whether God exists. They beg off from the interruption, feeling the urgency to move on to the next leg of their sightseeing. But the woman hands the couple a flyer, which is promptly stuffed into the man's messenger bag. Two nights later, the man finds and carefully reads the printed flyer on his Air France flight out of JFK...
The Great Dystopia CONSIDERING
THE (OFFENDED) ARCHITECT OF OUR HABITAT
Originating in the near east, Christianity has constantly been
in flux in its language and culture. Instead of being based on ethnicity (or
culture) it is based on a text. And its text is urgently concerned with a future
time of great ecosystem damage. This period of global disorder will be sent by
God. But He would rather not (or is extremely hesitant to) send it. Because of
the immense loss of life that will result, and because of His hesitancy regarding
the loss of life, God’s period of great hardship has been delayed. The God of
the Christian text is a 3-person God. This means that He is the most relational God possible or conceivable,
and also the most personal God possible
or conceivable. Because He is compassionate, He has sent (message-like)
evidence to scientifically-informed humanity. This evidence shows that God is both
creative and protective. It is the great mass of evidence that an invisible,
cosmic Architect finely-tuned the vast universe and the Earth’s ecosystem as a
complexly-responsive habitat for mankind. However, a time of loss is
approaching our habitat. God will make our habitat dramatically less habitable.
Lasting for less than a decade, the period of ecosystem degradation will be God’s
subjective, personal response to (and judgment of) various human sins: corrupt
political leadership in the world, greed in the international economic system, deceptive
rhetoric, religious violence and genocide, the current genocide of Christians, wars
based on ethnic hatreds, the sex abuse of children in media and in schools and
families. But God will also judge a universal sin, which is the resolute
refusal of humanity to be grateful to Him (our habitat’s Architect) and give thanks
to Him and worship Him. Therefore, the unappreciated Creator will begin to
un-create and dismantle our habitat. Our highly passionate Creator will judge
the Earth’s ecosystems with fierce destruction, so that at one point a third of the
Earth’s residents (perhaps 2 Billion) will perish. Earth’s political rulers
will respond to the devastation with genocide on Christians. But our Christian
text teaches something else. It is that God’s fierce anger has already been expressed
in space and time. Earth’s 3-person God has already expressed wrath—onto
God’s Son. On the Cross of Christ, God the Son both “expiated” and “propitiated”
human sin, meaning He fully purged (by
paying for) sin—and fullysatisfied God (and God’s justice)
regarding the punishment of sin. In purging sin, the Son suffered immense pain,
but did so because He looked forward to refreshing peace, intimacy with, and emancipation
of, those He loved. But humanity has rejected the Son and His love. Even though
He proved Himself the righteous master of our fragile habitat by rising from
the dead, humanity has refused to be thankful for the Son and to worship Him, esteeming
only Nature and themselves. Nations refuse to repent from corruption and refuse
to worship the Son. Individuals refuse to admit sins from their past and to
repent from sins in their current lives. If humanity would repent, God would
bring healing—and the period of ecologic dismantling would again be delayed. No
one except God Himself knows when the destruction of our habitat will ultimately
come—but you (and your friends and family) will not perish, or enter Hell, if
you believe in the Son, who generously gives eternal life to whoever believes
in Him and His faithfulness. When you believe in Him, eternal life and future
resurrection is secured to you through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.That
is, because of His compassion for the
world, God sent His Son—so that whoever believes in His Son would not perish,
but have eternal life.All of this
is what the Christian text, the word of God, teaches. Carefully considering this
message is in our self-interest. After the end of Earth’s judgments, after the genocide
of those who love Him, after His enemies are judged, the Son will bring peace
and healing to the Earth. He will rule the nations with love, purity and
justice in our newly-healed habitat, planet Earth.
From:the blogger Johanna
Sawyer (formerly HK Flynn; from back in the day when some of us kept our
personal information off the internet.)
Here’s my premise:
judgments are far more central to the Gospel & evangelism in the NT, than to the Gospel in today's churches.
Eschatology is now thought
of as a very separate topic from the Gospel message. But this means there is a sharp difference
between NT evangelism and our own evangelism. The tribulation/day of the Lord judgments have gone missing from our Gospel.
Is this a big, So What??
No, it really isn't, in my not so humble opinion.
It’s not a small shift.
Because of it, we distort
#1 might be, Isn't the day of the Lord a vague expression with several
I agree that it and
similar expressions, that day, the day of wrath, the day of Christ, have a
range of meanings. Bob Wilkin has shown
that the day of Christ is a term pointing to the Bema seat judgment where
believer’s deeds will be judged by their Savior. And the day of the Lord can mean the
tribulation judgments (Daniel’s [final] week), but also the final war that apparently
takes place at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
#2 might be, Isn't all of eschatology an absolute distraction from the discipleship
issues we desperately need to focus on?
I agree that
discipleship issues are urgent and central, but see NT eschatology as key to
filtering discipleship through a thoroughly biblical perspective that has the potential to add turbo-ness to all of our pathetically lame efforts. (I'm an expert I'm afraid in that latter department.) And I would have to agree that eschatology is often weirdly severed from a devotional perspective.
But even if a pastor decides he does not want the
coming judgments as part of evangelism in his church, there
is still a reason for close study of this Gospel shift out, where we shift out the topic of the day of the lord
judgments, and shift in the topic of Hell. The Apostles clearly taught Hell. But they usually preached Joel’s day
of wrath in their Gospel preaching. This
can be seen in the Acts sermons of Peter (in Acts Ch 2) and Paul (Ch 16), in
Romans, and in John the Baptist’s preaching.
For the Apostles, the day
of wrath prophesies of Joel were solidly linked with the coming of the Holy
Spirit and the Gospel in general.
But again, many will
ask, So what?
This is what. We risk falsifying the Gospel whenever we fully conflate ideas the NT writers did not.
What two ideas do we conflate?
When we conflate Hell with the judgments of the Earth, we pull in repentance to a place the NT writers never brooked.
Don't get me wrong. The urgent message of repentance is necessary
to prepare for the Kingdom. Repentance
gets regenerate individuals ready for being presented with all the church as
the bride. Repentance gets nations to give thanks to the One true Creator and worship Him, and
this worship gives God an opportunity to continue to delay His judgments.
But... when we say that turning from sin is part of the free offer of eternal
life, we have gotten creative with the stern and authoritative promise Jesus
makes to the readers of John’s Gospel. And that is not okay. Repentance (as turning from sin) and belief are two things not one.
Jesus sternly offers
By first conflating Hell with the day of wrath we end up conflating repentance with belief.
Offer of life Illustration: A (Catholic) Christian missionary lives in
the Philippines. She works and lives in poverty in order to bring the love of
Christ to the poor. But if that missionary
is stopped on the sidewalk and encouraged to receive eternal life by faith alone, or
to be justified by faith alone, she may be less than Christian in her verbal
response. She might be totally outraged
by the idea of not relying partly on the sacraments and partly on good works—both
as gritty expressions of her deep faith in Christ and His atoning grace for her. She'd likely be insulted.
Regarding Hell, Free Grace believers put
all their eggs in one basket. We cling
to Jesus and His offer of life because of the finality of His work on the Cross.
Regarding the day of wrath, we teach repentance. Repentance is most desperately needed in many situations, personal, relational, local, regional, cultural, and
(yes, even) political. We need to realize that
if we keep clarifying and re-clarifying grace and leave repentance as a minor point to be slipped into our evangelism near the end, we are not teaching the whole Gospel that Jesus left us with.
In my next post I hope to give
an example of how the day of wrath might connect powerfully in modern evangelism.