As in the Day

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)

This was the assessment of the Lord concerning mankind prior to the world wide flood in the days of Noah. By the grace of God Noah and his family were saved to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The people of Noah’s day were warned by Noah’s testimony as he built the ark. Those who ignored his testimony went on as before and were drowned in the flood.

Jesus warned that His second coming will be in similar circumstances (Matthew 24:37f; Luke 17:26f). In these days God’s warning of impending judgment and the outpouring of His wrath against sin is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Those who do not heed His words will carry on as before and be unprepared for His judgment. Those who receive it will be saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Romans 5:9).

In the days of the Tribulation the Lord’s witnesses will be 144,000 Jews who will preach the Gospel to all nations and ethnic groups in all languages. Those who carry on as before and ignore the warning are destined to endure God’s wrath. Those who receive it will be delivered through it or from it by bodily death.

Jesus also gave the illustration of the city of Sodom (Luke 17:28f). Lot had been less than faithful in warning the people that their wickedness would bring an outpouring of God’s wrath. The judgment of God fell upon those people also.

Denying either of these historical events is to call Jesus a liar and renders one carrying on as before and unprepared for the wrath to come. His words are clear; when every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind is evil, then we can expect God to again judge the earth.

God is presently allowing Satan to test the hearts of nations and of individuals to reveal openly whether they are truly His or not. He is giving us an opportunity to see the world as it would be without His righteousness and without Him. Perhaps some will turn to Him and call for mercy.

Of that great city, Nineveh, the Lord said, “Their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was sent to warn them. With reluctance he went saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Unlike in the days of Noah and the days of Lot the Ninevites had a change of heart and pleaded for God’s mercy. They believed the warning and acted upon it through prayer and fasting believing that God might show them mercy. God will always respond to genuine calls for mercy.

It is not difficult to see that our world is at the threshold. Those who know the truth have the privilege and responsibility of warning others. We don’t know whether the world, our nation or our neighbour will respond in the way the people in Noah’s and Lot’s days did or in the way that Nineveh did so let us persevere in sharing the Gospel of grace and see what the Lord does in the hearts of people and nations.

A Day Nearer

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Revelation 5:2

The above question was asked in heaven by a “strong angel.” Opening this scroll by breaking the seals is described in this book beginning in the next chapter. The breaking of the seals is the beginning of God pouring out His wrath on the nations. God has judged people groups before. He wiped out all but eight people at the time of the worldwide flood. He judged the new population later by confusing their language and He judged the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying the whole region and only saving Lot and two of his daughters. The Bible records that God has judged nations and people groups on many occasions in the past and that He will do so again.

God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with. People deny or disregard God’s warnings of future judgment at their peril. John records God’s revelation to him of the future outpouring of wrath in this book. Revelation 6:16-17 and 19:15 particularly reveal this warning.

Who is worthy to judge the nations? Certainly no man is worthy. Many set themselves up as judges but this “strong angel” can find no one worthy to judge the nations. Worthy has to do with character. The scribes and Pharisees believed that they were worthy judges and brought a woman they caught in the act of adultery to Jesus to see if He would agree with their judgment. His response was, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). As the Gospel records, they all left without so much as picking up a pebble. None of them was worthy to judge the woman. The “strong angel” seems to be in that kind of situation as well. Who is without sin to judge mankind?

The only one found to be worthy is the one who Himself bore the wrath of God that was due us. John made this clear in his first letter, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “Propitiation” is the turning away of wrath by satisfying the debt.

Consequently Paul could write, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9; cf. 1:10 & Romans 5:9).

In Revelation 5:9 we read the words of a new song sung in heaven by the twenty four elders, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood.” This is what makes Jesus Christ worthy to open the seals of God’s judgment. No one else qualifies. Every day brings us a day nearer to when the nations will be judged by Jesus Christ.

Know His Comfort

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

In this letter Paul expresses considerable affection for the Christians in Thessalonica (2:7-8). Many of his intended readers had turned from either Judaism or idols to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of his earlier visit (1:9).

There were others who were jealous of the affection of the Christians toward Paul and they attempted to discredit him. They accused him of proclaiming Christ for financial gain and for prominence and power over people. However, this was more likely the motivation of his accusers.

Paul reminded them of his first visit. At that time he provided for himself so he had not been preaching for financial gain. Also he proclaimed the plain truth of the Gospel that produced conviction of sin so he wasn’t seeking a following for himself by deceit (2:5). Further, he accepted the persecution that followed preaching of the Gospel (2:2). On reflection the Christians in Thessalonica could readily see that the accusations against Paul were unfounded and false.

Another concern of these Christians was the return of Jesus Christ to establish His earthly kingdom. Fortunately for us, in correcting their confusion, he also corrects the confusion that is about now.

To keep his readers rightly focussed he pointed them to Christ’s return and kept that expectation alive throughout his letters. It is this expectation that keeps our minds on Christ. Key to the church’s future is that it will not endure the Tribulation. Jesus will deliver the church from this time of trouble on the earth (1:10). Paul’s words in 5:13-18 regarding the process of deliverance were intended to bring comfort. There would be no comfort if this was not to be taken literally (v 18).

To affirm what he has already written, Paul writes, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ: (5:9). That Christians would not endure the Tribulation is intended to bring comfort and encouragement (5:11).

As Paul poured out his love and affection he asked them to remember how they first received the Gospel. He then asked them to look forward to when they will meet the Lord (2:19). In closing and to sum up his letter Paul writes, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (5:24). Remember when we responded to the Gospel; keep our minds steadily fixed on the day we will see Jesus, and trust Him to do all that He has said (cf. Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 1:6; 3:20-21). Then we will know His comfort.

Don’t Worry, Believe

“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 12:48

If Jesus intended that we should treat His words in a non-literal manner then the verse above, and its context (vv 42-50), would be nonsense. Since Jesus makes it clear that people will be judged according to the word He has spoken it should be evident that a correct understanding of His word is imperative. The only way that is possible is to take His word in the usual literal and grammatical sense. The context itself will determine what kind of literature we are reading, whether it be theology, history, poetry, allegory or a parable, and give us the guide as to how we should understand the passage.

Since it is evident throughout the Bible that God intends for us to correctly understand what He has said and had recorded for us, Jesus’ words in the above verse then make sense. How could we know truth if we interpret the Bible to our ideas of what is possible or true?

Jesus affirms that the words He has spoken come with the authority of the Father (vv 49, 50). The same is true of the whole Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) so we would be wise to ensure we take God at His word throughout. It will be a sad day when the multitudes that have been deceived and not taken Jesus at His word, are judged by His word. They will be among those who cry out, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied (taught) in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in your name?” And then Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” (Matthew 7:22, 23).

It has always pleased God to let those who do take Him at His word to know something of the days ahead. Only those who treat His word literally will discover the truth and find comfort in it. Matthew records three occasions when Jesus clearly warned His disciples that He would die and rise again. Had they received His word they would have been comforted when Jesus was crucified because they would have known that He would rise again. Instead they ran away in fear and Peter denied he even knew Jesus. John records Jesus addressing this in John 14. In that chapter Jesus gives two reasons for telling them of future events; so they will not worry or be afraid (vv 1, 27) and so they would believe He would rise (v 29). It is evident that He intended that they receive His words literally.

Our world is about to endure the most horrendous period in all its existence and God has warned His people of what is to come. Those who take God at His word will be comforted and assured as these things approach but those who do not will be just like the disciples when Jesus was crucified. They will be anything but comforted.

The Lord revealed to Abraham the awful judgment that was about to come on Sodom and Gomorrah (James 2:23). He has also revealed the awful judgment that is going to come upon the world to us if we will take His word literally. “I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (John 14:29; see also 15:15).

The Last Straw

“Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord … tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.” 1 Samuel 28:18, 19

These are some of the words of Samuel to King Saul when Saul visited the medium at En Dor. This was expressly against the will and word of the Lord and Saul knew it. He himself had made a law that all mediums should be put to death. It is just one more occasion where Saul shows his lack of comprehension and understanding concerning the Person of the Lord. It is also “the last straw.”

Until now Saul had been told that the kingdom would be torn from him and given to David, not his son Jonathan. Saul’s pursuit of David to kill him was his attempt at preventing the Word of the Lord being fulfilled. This was the same motivation for Satan seeking the Lord Jesus’ death. In both cases their attempts backfired.

This pronouncement by Samuel to Saul that he and all his sons would die in battle the next day because he failed in his responsibilities as Israel’s king to obey the Lord was crushing to his heart. But did he confess his sin and repent? No way. He was a proud man and still stood in defiance even though a timeframe had now been placed for his final disgrace and death.

Saul’s sorrow was not that he had sinned against the Lord but because he had been found out and that the consequences were devastating. We observe this often today. A person commits a crime and when convicted awaiting sentence they profess sorrow at having done the crime. That is too late and is most likely not sorrow for the crime; it is sorrow for having been caught and having to do the time. Genuine sorrow would have been expressed before guilt was established.

At the Great White Throne when Jesus judges all unbelievers they will be like Saul. Sorry for having been caught out and having to do the time (eternity) but unrepentant and still in defiance of the Lord.

Obedience to the Lord comes from knowing Him intimately and therefore trusting His wisdom and Word. Like King David, we will then readily agree with the Lord about our sin and let Him forgive and cleanse us.