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Bible verses about God's Judgment
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 18:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Abraham knew his friend, God, pretty well: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" In a sense, he was throwing back to God the very understanding that he had of His holy, righteous character. He knew that in God's justice there could be no turning from what God is, and that His act toward Sodom and Gomorra would reflect what God is.

Well, there was probably never a more rhetorical question ever asked by a man on the earth. Even though Abraham knew a great deal about God, he may not have had a complete understanding of how far such an act like that is from God's character. There was never even a remote possibility that God would kill the innocent with the guilty in the city of Sodom.

God said, "Okay, I'll spare it for 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10. . . ." God could bargain like this because it is not in His mind to kill the innocent with the guilty. Why? Because for God to do that, He would have to cease being holy, and that is not possible. In essence, He would have to stop being God.

God is the supreme Judge of all the earth, and if He is unjust, there is no hope that justice will ever prevail. We know that human judges can be corrupted—they take bribes, they can be partial, they can be ignorant, and they can make mistakes. God, however, is never corrupt. No one can bribe Him. He refuses to show partiality. There is no respect of persons with Him. He never acts out of ignorance. He never makes mistakes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice


 

Leviticus 10:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What did these men do that was so awful? They were priests, sons of Aaron, the High Priest, nephews of Moses. If anybody had a close relationship with God and would receive a measure of leeway in judgment, it was these two. Nevertheless, there was none; with God, there is no respect of persons in judgment (see Romans 2:11). He reacted swiftly and violently, wiping them out on the spot. This incident involved no Temple prostitutes, no human sacrifices, just "strange fire." Surely, such a little thing would not matter! God's reaction allowed no time for a trial; there was just a summary execution, a terrifying supernatural judgment by God.

Verse 6 contains an interesting sidelight to this violent event. Undoubtedly, Aaron was shocked into an emotional reaction that may have ranged from pitiful wailing to a consuming anger toward God, but Moses cautioned him to control himself and give no outward demonstration of his emotional state! Why? Moses understood that they had sinned grievously and got what they deserved. Aaron was told that, despite the shocking nature of what had happened, he should express no disagreement with God's judgment.

Consider this in a larger context. Beginning in Exodus 40:1, the Tabernacle, its altar, and the laver were erected and the interior furniture arranged, then all was consecrated in a solemn ceremony. At that point (verse 34), God came to dwell in the Tabernacle.

Leviticus 1 follows the sequence of events, showing God giving the sacrificial rituals to be performed at the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, Aaron and the priesthood are officially consecrated. In Leviticus 9:1, the priesthood's ministry formally begins. In verse 24, a startling occurrence takes place during that first offering: ". . . and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar." This signaled God's acceptance, showing that all had been done according to His will.

However, there is more to this story, giving us understanding of the term "strange fire" that follows in chapter 10. Within the instructions regarding the sacrifices, Leviticus 6:12-13 gives the priests an interesting charge:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The term strange means "what is alien to." Foreigners are called "strangers" in Scripture because they are aliens to Israel and to the covenant (Ephesians 2:12). In this case, the fire used by Nadab and Abihu was alien to what God had commanded regarding fire. Together with Exodus 30:7-9, their infraction becomes clear. The priests were to make the morning and evening incense offerings only with the special incense mixture God commanded, and they were to take the coals for these offerings only from the continually burning fire under the altar of burnt offerings, which He started in Leviticus 9:24.

Aaron was undoubtedly confused and displeased, not understanding what happened, but Moses gave him God's answer. In Leviticus 10:3, the Lord says, "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified." Nadab and Abihu were among those chosen to come near Him in service. They revealed their disrespect for Him by treating His command regarding the fire as something common. They simply did not follow His instructions.

They added or subtracted to what God said and did, attempting to get by with what they carnally assumed was acceptable to Him. By this incident, holiness is defined. Among those who are consecrated to serve God, His instructions must be explicitly followed. Thus, this example appears especially pointed toward the ministry.

The instructions are not ambiguous. Each step and instrument in the process is designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had been completely instructed, so they blatantly twisted God's teaching. In response to Moses, Aaron remained silent, knowing the judgment was correct. This incident is of special importance to us because of the context and because of who we are. The context is the consecration of the priesthood in service to God, and we are, according to I Peter 2, a royal priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices. By this incident, God shows, perhaps more clearly than in any other place, what holiness is in relation to Him.

Holiness is not merely consecration or dedication to a god, but it is both moral and ethical as well. True holiness is what results from His consecration, but the consecration must be combined with our submission to His commands. In pagan religions, a person could be dedicated but not moral, as is clearly shown by the ritual prostitution practiced at their temples. The prostitute was indeed consecrated to her god, but she most certainly was not moral—nor were they who used her services.

Today, a person may claim that his god is the Creator God, but if he is not obedient to the Creator God's commandments, he is merely deluding himself. Sincerity is only part of the picture. We are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). The closer one is associated with God's work, the more necessary it is to ensure that the relationship with God is not marred by spiritual blemishes. Otherwise, the person cannot function properly as a channel for God to work through. God will not be glorified before the people unless His servants submit to His commands.

A similar careless notion got Cain into trouble. If we add or omit with knowledge, it is presumption, and presumption springs from pride. It is as if we are telling God He does not know what He is doing. We have elevated ourselves to His level. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else than His will must be our attitude.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Leviticus 10:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Surely these men did not deliberately intend to sin. However, notice how quickly God's sense of justice reacted, striking these men dead in their tracks and burning them to cinders. Obviously, they either did or failed to do something far more serious than ever entered their minds. Is not God's reaction a vivid warning, especially to those who come near Him? Are we not among those who come near Him?

Look at the evidence more closely and observe God's sense of justice. First, these men were the sons of Aaron, and Moses was their uncle. One would think that, if anybody among those two to three million Israelites had a close relationship with God, that family did. So one might think there may have been some leeway in God's judgment, but there was not! God reacted swiftly and violently.

Second, the charge against them was not because they consorted with prostitutes. No human sacrifices were planned or made. The charge was that they used "profane" (NKJV) or "strange" (KJV) fire.

But we need to look further. Just a few days before this startling event, Exodus 40 reveals the construction of the Tabernacle had been completed and its furniture arranged. Leviticus 1 begins listing the final procedures made for God to dwell in the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, the priesthood was consecrated, and in Leviticus 9, they made their first official offering using the Tabernacle and its furniture. Leviticus 9:22-24 says:

Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This spectacular and serious event shows the offering's acceptance by God.

To this point, all was well, but we must consider a solemn command given by God to the Levites regarding their responsibilities in Leviticus 6:12-13:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The altar fire was to be rekindled continually from its own coals, which remained from God's acceptance of the original offering. What was Nadab and Abihu's sin? They used coals from a fire not ignited by God. It was not from His hand and therefore was foreign fire.

If we read between the lines here, we can easily see that Aaron was shocked. He went right to the top of human leadership to get this straightened out, and Moses gave him God's answer: Do not mourn. Do not show any agreement with Nadab and Abihu. Do not show any disagreement with God's judgment.

Why? God's judgments are never wrong. Nadab and Abihu got what they deserved. God saw every aspect of their act as it unfolded. They had added or subtracted to what God commanded and died. They had tried to get by with what they carnally felt was acceptable.

The instruction is clear: Among those consecrated by God to serve Him and His family, His instructions must be explicitly followed. They totally disregarded what He had commanded in Leviticus 6:12-13. There is no ambiguity in the instructions. They had been completely and adequately informed. Each step and each instrument in the process had been designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had thought that common fire was good enough, but in their careless, presumptuous neglect, they had blatantly twisted God's Word.

This incident vividly illustrates that the wages of sin is death. Leviticus 10:3 says Aaron held his peace; he knew the judgment was correct. It was a shocking demonstration, but we can be certain that, because God is love and is supremely sovereign in His judgment, His every decision will be as correct as His judgment of Nadab and Abihu, since He Himself is the standard.

God is not a holy terror lying in wait for us to do something wrong, but He provides us examples such as this and several others of what He can do in response to sin. When He responds like this, He is fully justified. He wants us to consider His justice so that we will be better prepared to evaluate our calling properly and then live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Deuteronomy 6:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's mind is absolutely undivided. In practical application, this means that His sovereignty can never be separated from His love; His grace cannot be separated from His omniscience; His judgment cannot be separated from either His mercy or His wrath. God is absolutely constant because His faithful providence cannot be separated from any other of His attributes. God is whole and complete. Under every circumstance, He is never confused or uncertain about what to do. He is always headed in the same direction, which is to complete His purpose.

It is absolutely impossible for Him to do anything that is not wise and at the same time loving. It is He who tells us how to live and how to be like Him. What God is has awesome ramifications for us because we are so different, and He wants us to be like Him, to be one with Him, to be whole, to be complete, to be undivided in mind like Him.

There are problems here because becoming this way requires a measure of cooperation from us. Compared to God, our mind is all over the place, and thus we are so easily distracted from our focus.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 

Deuteronomy 21:18-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If a child was unmanageable, stubborn, and disobedient, God empowered the judges to back up the parents. However, regardless of their level of exasperation, the parents had no right to put to their child to death. The elders of the city tried the child, evidence was presented, and they executed the judgment.

It is interesting that the parents charge their son with drunkenness. It does not mean a one-time binge but repeated offenses implying alcoholism, which is a drug addiction. Drug addiction is a major problem today. The wisdom of God reveals this alternative for dealing with it. Is it offensive that God is so stern? He does not pass this problem off as of little consequence or significance! Look at what it is doing to American society.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Judges 2:11-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Forms of the situation described here appear frequently in the history of Israel's relationship with God. Several hundred years after this, God inspired Isaiah to write, "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets" (Isaiah 10:5-6). This can only mean that God inspires and empowers the Assyrian nation to punish the nations of Israel for their flagrant disobediences.

Such punishment precipitated Israel being scattered, taken into captivity into foreign lands, and losing their homeland, to which they have never returned. God remarks in II Kings 17:18, after providing a long list of Israel's sins, "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone."

However, the tribe of Judah was hardly better than Israel, as II Kings 17:19 states: "Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made." The result was similar to Israel's, for in II Kings 24:2-4 God carried out His threats of punishment against Judah too:

And the Lord sent against [Jehoiakim] raiding bands of Chaldeans, bands of Syrians, bands of Moabites, and bands of the people of Ammon; He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken by His servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.

Much negative, indeed inflammatory commentary, arose in America's newspapers and radio and television programs when some suggested that we are not as innocent as we like to think we are and that we must consider the attacks of September 11 to be a judgment from God and repent. The fact remains that, long before the attacks occurred, critics of American morality—Americans themselves—have been calling upon their fellow citizens to change their immoral ways. The attacks and a wave of sympathy for the grief of those directly impacted by them, as well as a sudden spurt of patriotism, changed the way people heard these messages. Before, they just tuned them out. After all, the messages were not for them but for others because they considered themselves to be okay. Afterward, however, the sense of being innocent victims of a sneaky and undeserved attack made the hearers feel that the messages were demeaning and insulting. But were they true?

In addition to the undisputed fact of God's sovereignty over Israel, ample additional evidence exists to show that He exercises equal dominion over the other nations of the world. He determines their rise and fall and the times of dominance of every nation. Clearly, God judges the inhabitants of His creation, and His judgments are not limited to Israel or to "biblical times." God lives and He always rules and judges—just as surely today as He did thousands of years ago. Since the One who judged during Old Testament times is the same One who judges today, we can be certain that He uses the same standards now that He did then. His laws, which define His standards of morality, have not changed one iota. Jesus emphatically asserts in the Sermon on the Mount that we should not think that He came to destroy the law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Indeed, Malachi 3:6 proclaims, "I am the Lord, I do not change," while Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus "is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Is God to blame because He exercises His authority, punishing to maintain order and to continue the advancement of His purpose in His creation? Who sins and brings upon themselves the necessity of punishment? God does not sin, men do. If God does not punish for sin, then righteousness loses all meaning. Life will soon become a violent free-for-all (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The Bible makes it clear that human nature is violently evil, and when left unchecked as it was before the Flood, it will reproduce similar conditions (Genesis 6:5). Indeed, God forecasts that exactly those conditions will face those living just before Christ's return (Matthew 24:37). Every indication is that we live during that time now.

The Bible prophesies scores of horrific punishments: epidemics of incurable diseases; wars; fires burning fields, forests, and homes; earthquakes; famines; floods from raging seas; violent weather patterns; and infestations of insects and wild animals. All of these occur as punishments for sin as God exacts His vengeance on "those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18). "Earth" here represents all aspects of His creation—including man—which He created for man.

God is most certainly not to blame if He reacts in accordance with what He has told man He will do. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 establish that, if one does well, God will bless him. Conversely, God strongly warns that, if one does not do well, He will surely punish him. Though not to blame because His sins did not cause these tragedies, He is responsible for them because He at least allowed them to occur. He may even have inspired them to occur and oversaw events so that they would.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

1 Samuel 13:6-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I Samuel 13:1-15 recounts the story of an act of presumption by another well-known figure, containing another valuable lesson for us. Saul arranged with the prophet Samuel to perform sacrifices in an appeal to God to intervene before Israel went into battle with the invading Philistines. Saul's sin was in presumptuously stepping in to perform Samuel's responsibilities when the prophet arrived later than the appointed time. Saul gave Samuel three justifications for his presumption: 1) The people were growing distressed and deserting him; 2) Samuel's late arrival; and 3) the growing threat of the Philistine army (verse 11).

On the surface, it appeared Saul and the Israelites were indeed in a difficult situation, yet Saul's reasons did not justify presuming to disobey what was commanded. He should have waited for Samuel to arrive and perform his responsibility. Saul, a Benjamite, could request a sacrifice be made and provide the animal for it, but he was not authorized by God to perform the sacrificial ceremony. Samuel was merely later than both he and Saul thought he would be.

Saul excused himself further by saying he "felt compelled." The King James Version records that Saul said, "I forced myself." This suggests that he was not ignorant of what he was doing but convinced himself it was more important to make the sacrifice than to obey God's instruction. He was immediately stripped of the opportunity of having his dynasty continue forever (verses 12-13), as God later promised David.

Many circumstances arise in a Christian's life when following God's commands runs counter to prevailing opinion and to our own fears about the threatening conditions we imagine are building around us if we obey God. Strong thoughts are then likely to mount, urging us to turn aside from what He says - "just this once" - to relieve the swelling pressures.

As our own children do not always understand what we tell them to do, we cannot always see why God tells us to do this or that. But can we trust God that His reasons are good? For instance, He tells us to set aside three tithes and to travel to far places to keep His feasts. He commands us to love our enemies and do good to them. He asks us to become like little children and to sacrifice ourselves in service when we would rather give orders. He tells us to submit ourselves to one another in love and to be subject to corrupt and unjust governments. Keeping these instructions is sometimes far easier said than done. Can we see God in the picture even in difficult circumstances and trust Him? In this case, Saul did not.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

1 Chronicles 13:9-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I Chronicles 13:1-3 introduces another episode containing a presumptuous act, immediately followed by a sobering display of divine justice. However, this time, one of the most respected names in Israelite history is directly involved. It is the story of Uzza's sudden death while moving the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred and revered of Israelite objects. The Ark, representing the throne of God and containing the tablets of stone Moses received from God on Mount Sinai, normally resided in the Holy of Holies.

David desired to move the Ark to Jerusalem to continue to consolidate the kingdom under himself. As they were moving it on an oxcart, the oxen stumbled, and the Ark appeared to be toppling to the ground. Uzza, in what may have been pure reflex, put out his hand to steady the Ark, but upon touching it, he was immediately struck dead (verses 9-10)! At first, David was angry that God ruined his party (verses 8, 11) - as the whole atmosphere of the Ark's transfer was celebratory - but shortly after, he became extremely fearful (verse 12).

The Bible shows God to be longsuffering and slow to anger. Why did they not hear His voice from heaven saying, "Thank you, Uzza, for keeping the Ark from getting damaged and dirty"? Instead, He exploded in anger and slew Uzza on the spot! However, God had given strict instructions for transporting the Ark, found in Numbers 4:4, 15, 17-20:

This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy things: . . . And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry. . . . Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "Do not cut off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; but do this in regard to them, that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things; Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint each of them to his service and his task. But they shall not go in to watch while the holy things are being covered, lest they die."

The Bible nowhere indicates that Uzza was a Kohathite. If he was, what God did is even more understandable. Everyone in the whole procedure from David on down was guilty of disobeying God's instructions regarding the most holy things. David failed to consult with the High Priest - or any priest, for that matter - regarding how the Ark should be moved. Evidently, no priest protested that proper procedures were not being followed.

The Kohathites were not even supposed to look on the uncovered Ark. To God, when Uzza reached out and touched the Ark as it seemed about to topple off the cart, it was no act of heroism but the final act of desecration, arrogance, and presumption. The last thing presumed was that Uzza's hand was less defiling than the earth that he feared would contaminate the Ark.

God's instruction in Exodus 20:24-25 regards building Him an altar. An altar made for His worship had to be constructed of earth or unhewn stones. No altar defiled by man's sinful hand was suitable. Dirt cannot sin; it always follows the nature God established. God did not want the symbol of His throne contaminated by the evil that manifested itself in a whole string of rebellions against His specific instructions. There was nothing arbitrary, capricious, or whimsical in God's action.

Jesus teaches us to address God as "Father," a title suggesting familiarity, yet we are also to pray, "Hallowed be Your name." God shows in these two incidents that, if reverence is due to the symbols used in His worship, how much greater reverence must be given to the realities of the New Covenant?

Those involved in this incident were well-intentioned, but it illustrates for all generations that God still requires conformity with His directives concerning holy objects. Deviation from orthodoxy can be deadly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

2 Chronicles 15:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's Word expands on this principle—that we are judged as we judge others—in other places. Thus, He says to be very careful in judgment when imputing motives to people whose hearts we are not able to read. We can say things about them that God knows not to be true. When we do so, we are judging them on the basis of our "insight."

Jesus also tells us in the Lord's prayer that we will be forgiven as we forgive. So we can see another principle here, that faithfulness and loyalty are a two-way street.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1


 

Job 23:10-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Many times, as we go about our lives, it seems as though this powerful Sovereign is nowhere around. Job 23:10-14; 24:1 records an interesting complaint of the perplexed Job, who represents anyone whom God has led through a trial.

On the one hand, Job perceives by faith that God is almighty and is involved in the events of his life. He is also confident that he is obedient to God. On the other hand, he cannot understand why God is being so hard on him, where He is, or how He can be persuaded to change His course of action. Job feels God is treating him unfairly. He also questions why those who know God still sin despite realizing He will judge those sins. The piper must be paid. We know that whatever a man sows, he reaps—and still we sin!

Many of us who have undergone a heavy trial have taken this course of thought. We may not use the same words, but they will have the same sense. We might say, "I am God's child, and I know I am not perfect, but I am not out there sinning a lot or terribly. Why is God so overbearing? Why does He seem so far away? Why does He not answer when I pray to Him? When am I ever going to get relief from this? Others seem to be doing things a great deal worse than I. Why are they getting away with it?"

It is humbling to grasp that we are not completely in control of our destinies. A great, overriding Power sees life and its purpose far differently and with much greater clarity than we can even grasp. His every thought is righteous, and as our Creator He has every right to move us about as He wills. He is in charge, and nobody keeps Him from carrying out His ultimate purpose, to create a Family in His image. Psalm 33:14-15 provides an interesting insight into His work among men: "From the place of His habitation He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works."

Isaiah 10:5-19 is on a much larger scale—involving an entire nation and millions of people. It predicts God's intention to use Assyria to punish Israel and His response when Assyria boasts of "its" accomplishment. This yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecy is a clear example of how God intervenes in man's affairs to complete His purpose. In verse 7, He even prophesies that Assyria will not want to cooperate with Him, but He makes them. After Israel is punished (verses 12-15), Assyria takes undue credit, and God's judgment begins in verse 16. The lesson to all is that we are empowered to do only what God wills or permits. There is no room for pride when God enables us.

Like Job when he understood more fully, we as sons of God should be rightly humbled—and at the same time, greatly encouraged—by the awesome knowledge that His creative efforts focus on us (Job 42:1-6). Paul writes, "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (II Corinthians 4:6-7). God is doing something very special in us, but all the praise and glory belong to Him.

Even though His path for us may sometimes seem very rough, and He often appears distant and deaf, who is better in directing our lives toward a glorious end? Were we or some other human to choose our way, the result would surely be ignoble and shameful. To comprehend these truths and yield ourselves to searching for His path for us are among life's greatest accomplishments. Submitting to Him produces the abundant life Jesus so graciously wants us to have (John 10:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Psalm 92:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalmist encourages us to thank God for His justice upon His and our enemies. Is it right that we should be thankful for God's judgment and punishment upon them? We certainly should not gloat over their fate (Proverbs 24:17-18). However, we would be wise to remember the just punishments of Nadab and Abihu, of Eli's sons, of Uzzah, and of Ananias and Sapphira. We must beware of thinking of God as harsh or rash in His judgments. God's enemies are our enemies too, and His punishment of them is for our good (and ultimately theirs).

Staff
Thanksgiving


 

Psalm 111:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The works of His hands" could be the creation or what He does in redemptive situations. "Verity" is truth, and "judgment" describes how soundly and wisely God's works are thought out. That "all His precepts are sure," indicating longevity, hints at their eternal nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 10)


 

Proverbs 26:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can understand "curse" in several ways: as the invoking of evil or misfortune upon another, or as the evil or scourge itself. The proverb primarily deals with invoking a curse against another when no justification for doing so exists. Such a curse is akin to the aimless flitting of birds, suggesting that it will have no effect. It will not "hit" its intended target.

We can definitely consider the tragedies of September 11 as a curse. However, God undoubtedly approved of it, or it never would have happened. This curse hit, and it hit hard. Therefore, we must conclude that there was more than ample justification for it falling upon this nation. The death toll was approximately 3,000 people, a horrendous figure to be sure, but it pales when compared to just one other death-toll figure: Every day in the United States over 4,000 human lives are snuffed out of existence by abortion. In the 30 days following September 11, 120,000 lives ceased to exist. Of those 120,000 abortions, 95% of them—114,000—occurred solely for the mother's convenience!

Is it any wonder that God cries out in Ezekiel 7:23, "Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence." George Mason, whose great influence can be seen in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, wrote that sin "brings the judgment of heaven upon a country. . . . By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence [God] punishes national sin by national calamities." George Washington declared in his First Inaugural Address, "We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

The apostle Paul states in Romans 9:14. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!" As a people, we are guilty and fully deserve anything He in His loving wisdom decides to inflict upon us. Most assuredly, we are not innocent victims. Individually, few of us have sinned against any of the people, groups, or nations that may have done this, but as citizens, we are part of this nation, and our well-being rises and falls with it. We have eagerly accepted God's overflowing abundance of material blessings with which He showered this nation. So when He judges that we need to be brought down a peg—or many pegs—we would do well to consider deeply the many ways we may have offended the great God who created us and gives us every breath of air we breathe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Where one might expect righteousness (as in a court), one finds iniquity. But Solomon cautions, "Hang on. God will judge." Another important point to understand is that God's plan seems designed to show men how weak and meaningless they are in the overall scheme of life.

Even injustice and wickedness serve a purpose. Though they are painful for us to deal with, they provide a massive demonstration of our ignorance of our own nature, clearly revealing the overall character of mankind without conversion.

This is a tremendous benefit to the converted because they can always look at the world and ask, "Do I want those results?" If what we see in the world motivates us to fear God and follow the path toward His Kingdom—even though it might be painful, cause us to make a great many sacrifices, or put us under some kind of persecution or tribulation—it is doing a positive work for us if it helps to keep us on the track.

If there were no benefit from it, God would not permit it. If we did not know what evil was, we could not repent. The world shows us, in lurid detail, what evil is. We have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not we want to do the things that have produced this world. Even in the courts, we will see evil, and we see it even in religion. Solomon says we should expect it and not be overly frustrated by it. Instead, we should learn from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Clearly, God's patience is exercised so He can work on the situation and produce repentance. All too frequently, though, His goodness and patience are abused through stubbornness or neglect. Be assured, God is aware, and there comes a time when His patience is exhausted and His judgment falls if the change God expected does not occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Ecclesiastes 8:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The righteous seem to receive all of the bad things, and the wicked seem to go through life unscathed, untouched. They have the big cars and the nice houses on the hill. They can take fancy vacations. Nothing bad ever seems to happen to them.

A main reason that I Peter 2:18-24 was written is to warn us that sometimes the innocent are caught in God's justice. They will have to suffer for something that they have not caused. The test for us is whether we will be able to accept God's justice, His judgment, and take it in the same spirit that Christ did. If anyone could ever cry out, "Unfair! Unfair!" Jesus Christ would have to be the One.

How about us? What trials have we gone through, in which we did not cause the trial but became caught in somebody else's sin? It is very easy in such cases to cry out to God, "Unfair! Unfair! God, why are You allowing this to happen to me?" The implication of our complaint is, "After all the good things that I've done for You, God, You treat me like this." We are, in effect, trying to vindicate ourselves. We become frustrated and accusative, never even stopping to think that, if we received truly fair treatment, we would get what happened to Nadab and Abihu and Ananias and Sapphira!

God wants to see if we have faith in His judgment, in Him as an absolutely perfect Judge. Do we trust Him, or do we only trust Him when the going is good?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Ecclesiastes 11:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God says that individuals will have to account for all of their works, including our secret sins. Even the words we have spoken will be judged.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Isaiah 11:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus will not judge according to appearances. He will not pay attention to anecdotal evidence or rumors. Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God, can judge on the basis of true knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Isaiah 27:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no doubt about the context in which this appears. A great trumpet is going to be blown, undoubtedly the seventh trumpet. What will happen at the seventh trumpet? The context says that God is going to bring the children of Israel back into their land, showing God making a judgment that involves, not only the people of Israel, but also the land of Israel.

The word that is translated "thresh" is not the ordinary word for that activity. Ordinarily whenever threshing is done, the Bible shows the grain either laid on a firm surface and then beaten with a stick, or taken in hand and beaten against something solid, like a wall. The purpose for this is to break the wheat berries from the stock, and it generally takes a fair amount of force to do this.

The word "thresh" here does not indicate that kind of threshing but a method that is more careful and gentle. This word is applied when a person gently strikes an individual piece of fruit—like an apple, peach, or pear—from the branch, or when the tree is gently shaken so that the fruit falls out.

Here is God's judgment. At that time, the children of Israel will not be in a condition in which they will need to be beaten. Taking all of the scriptures on this together, we find that they will be returning to their land weeping, their wild spirit broken. It has been broken, of course, through the tribulation and the Day of the Lord. So as He is gathering, He is doing it one by one, leading them, as it were, by the hand.

At that time it is God's judgment that the children of Israel will need more than the usual amount of concern. He is indicating not just a separation from the nations, but that an act of purification is also taking place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Isaiah 28:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 17, the plumb line is defined as justice and righteousness. We have seen that already in our word "upright," a synonym of "vertical." What is upright is righteous, and God will judge according to that standard. He will set us up so that we can see—and He can see—how close we are adhering to godly judgment and right doing. He and we will see how much we are living by the standard.

He writes, ". . . the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place." The process of this judgment will sweep away 1) the deceptions that we have allowed ourselves to believe and 2) the hidden, secret sins that we have allowed to continue. We will not be able to hide from the lies and the sins that we have ignored for so long.

The plumb line is nothing to sneeze at. God is serious. When He holds the plumb line next to His people, He is deadly serious, "eternal life and death" serious—especially to those who are converted. We had better measure up.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Isaiah 65:20-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Last Great Day foreshadows the Great White Throne Judgment period. The prevalent conditions of the Millennium - God's government, peace, prosperity, etc. - will continue into this time, just as the Last Great Day follows the Feast of Tabernacles. From Isaiah 65:20, some speculate that this judgment will last a hundred years, the life span of a healthy individual.

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

Jeremiah 30:8-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In all of God's dealings with Israel and Judah, and especially regarding the Second Exodus, we see His perfect application of justice and mercy. He is just, because He does not allow their sin to go unpunished. We could not trust God if He did not hold to His promises of blessing and cursing (Numbers 23:19; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). If He allowed Israel and Judah to sin with impunity, His laws would have no authority, and His words would be of no consequence. However, for the sake of what is best for Jacob, God has to show him that He is serious about what He says. So His justice will be upheld as Israel and Judah are brought to the painful realization that they have forsaken Him and have been living the wrong way.

Yet, we can also see God's mercy in His dealings with His people. Today's Western culture—a product of the nations of Israel—is not so very different from Sodom and Gomorrah. The same sins are committed in the same brazen manner. Our regard for humanity is so low that in America alone during the last three decades, an estimated 40-50 million pre-born children have been killed for the sake of convenience. Further, God has been systematically removed from schools, from government, and from public life. Post-Christian Europe has transgressed even further. Even Jerusalem—the "Holy City"—has an annual "Gay Pride" parade, and is essentially secular.

Despite these atrocious sins, God will not utterly destroy Israel as He did to Sodom and Gomorrah. A number of latter-day prophecies of various peoples—the Edomites, for example—foretell that God will make a complete end of them (Jeremiah 46:28). However, He has chosen not to do this with Israel and Judah, though not because they are righteous in any way.

He will show them mercy because of the promises He made, not because they deserve it. Ezekiel 36 shows this clearly. God repeats several times that He is bringing Israel back for His name's sake, and not for Israel's sake:

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this [restoring Israel and blessing the land; verses 6-15] for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. . . . Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this," says the Lord GOD, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!" (Ezekiel 36:22-24, 31-32)

God would be unfaithful to His own promises if He annihilated Jacob's descendants—even though, by all accounts, it is exactly what they deserve.

David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 31:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

After God performs the intents of His heart, as it says at the end of the previous chapter, and His wrath has consumed those He will consume, then peace in the relationship between Israel and God becomes possible because all of those who declared war on God through their conduct are dead. God does not believe in "peace at any price." He works toward repentance, but if there is no repentance, the only solution is to destroy those in rebellion against Him. Yet, after the destruction, He promises once again to be the God of all of Israel, and Israel will again be His people.

Verse 2 provides the qualifier that the remnant will be those who have survived the sword. Ezekiel 5:1-4 illustrates this time:

And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber's razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair. You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them. You shall also take a small number of them and bind them in the edge of your garment. Then take some of them again and throw them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will go out into all the house of Israel.

From these verses and the remainder of Ezekiel 5, it is evident that a great deal of violence will be done to the peoples of Israel, but when it is over, God will give them rest (Jeremiah 31:2). The people who survive the sword will find grace. God begins to demonstrate His lovingkindness and to rebuild and restore Israel. Jeremiah 31:4 contains the imagery of a festive occasion with dancing, something that the Israelites probably will not have felt like doing for quite some time. There will be food in abundance, and the time of famine will be over (verse 5). On all counts, Israel's outlook is brightening.

David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)


 

Ezekiel 9:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ezekiel's blood must have run cold when he heard God's judgment, which appears in the last verse of the previous chapter: "Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them."

Continuing the vision in Ezekiel 9, it relates a partial execution of that judgment. It is important to note here that the prophet witnesses God actually leaving His portable throne (described in detail in Ezekiel 1). At this point, "the glory of the God of Israel" actually demounts from it and removes, as verse 3 records, "to the threshold of the temple." So He has taken His place in the Temple, but not on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. He is, in effect, in the gate, a place of judgment.

And this is a momentous judgment. In verses 5-6, God commands some of the angels, "Go . . . through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women." This is a summary judgment on the entire populace of Jerusalem!

When Ezekiel heard this command, how did he respond? Certainly not in a self-righteous, I-told-you-so manner. When he is alone with God, the angels having left on their mission, he falls on his face in apparent anguish, crying out: "Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?" (verse 8).

This is a vital question. Ezekiel is concerned about the people and about the scope of God's judgment. Like Lot, he lived in his own kind of Sodom, in his own type of Gomorrah, and he felt anguish over the sin that he saw and heard and over its consequences—as it were, tormented by what was happening around him. Ezekiel was emotionally and spiritually tormented or tortured, not by what the pagans were doing around him, but by what the leaders and the people of Israel were doing in his immediate environment—and even in the Temple! Their wickedness and what they were about to suffer for it are what tormented this righteous man. In vision, he must have witnessed a terrible slaughter, and the trauma and shock of that vision affected him most acutely. Indeed, a prophet of God has no pretty job.

Charles Whitaker
The Torment of the Godly (Part One)


 

Ezekiel 10:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a very interesting passage. It makes no mention of the Babylonian troops who would later descend upon and lay siege to Jerusalem, who were going to slay and burn. Spiritually speaking, those who died in that catastrophe died at the hands of the angels whom God had sent, and Jerusalem burned with the fire of God!

Herbert Armstrong taught that the book of Ezekiel is for the modern nations of Israel, which are presently led by the United States of America. Truly, it is a vision, but it points to a reality: that America's fall will be the greatest of any nation in the history of the world. Yes, and the vision seems to tell us that when she burns, America will burn with the very fire of God.

Ezekiel, as verse 19 indicates, watches as the cherubim "mounted up" and left the earth. God returns to His throne in heaven, but the impact of the visions remain on Ezekiel's psyche. Thousands in Jerusalem had perished, and the city was in flames. Ezekiel must have been absolutely terrified to see God leave, to see such utter devastation in advance and probably in living Technicolor, to witness the destruction of God's Temple, the slaughter of myriads of people, and the end of his homeland as he and his forefathers had known it for centuries.

He may have asked, "Could Israel have become so decadent? Could this happen to the city of God?" He must have wondered, but he knew the answer. He had seen it in visions from God Himself.

Similarly, we could ask today, "Could America drift so far from the principles of its founding?" and "Can the destruction of America as we have known her really be happening right before our eyes and her final dissolution be so relatively close?"

We, too, know the answer, for we have seen it in God's Word.

Are we tormented by what we see around us? Are we spiritually tortured by the evil that we hear and see?

Charles Whitaker
The Torment of the Godly (Part One)


 

Ezekiel 16:47  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We do not like to think of Israel in this kind of terminology, but God judges fairly. God judges without prejudice. He sees things exactly as they are, and He says we, modern-day Israel, are worse than Sodom ever was. Let that sink in. If we think that we are living in a beautiful civilization or culture, we had better think again, because the way God looks at it, we are living during a time and in a culture that is worse than Sodom ever was.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Ezekiel 20:37-38  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that the sheep pass under the rod. Besides being an instrument of both offense and defense—the rod was, in effect, a two-foot club—it also functioned as a tool, under which the sheep passed. What does this picture? First of all, it pictures counting. The shepherd would count the sheep in his flock to make sure they were all present and accounted for.

It pictures something else too. As the sheep passed under the rod—a symbol of the Word of God—they would undergo a close scrutiny. The shepherd would run his rod backward or across the grain, as it were, of the wool. The rod separated the wool, allowing the shepherd to look down onto the sheep's skin. He was then able to see both the quality of the skin and of the wool.

God is illustrating that by means of His rod, He is giving us careful, close scrutiny for two reasons: One, it gives Him the opportunity to evaluate the quality of His sheep. Two, it provides a means of separation. Quality and separation are the two reasons for His scrutiny of us.

Recall Matthew 25 and the separation of the sheep and the goats. The rod aids in identifying or making sure of possession. Sheep's ears were often bored through or distinctively notched as a mark of identification. Sometimes, since the shepherds could not always see that identifying mark due to several flocks being mixed together in the pasture, they would make the sheep pass under the rod. When they did, the shepherd would flip back the ear to see the mark of possession. Again, it also gave them a chance to evaluate and determine the relative health and quality of that sheep.

We are all under the rod right now. Now is the time of our judgment (I Peter 4:17), and we are under evaluation to determine to whom we really belong: God or Satan. Who is our shepherd? The rod is a vitally important instrument for a shepherd. No good shepherd would be without one.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)


 

Daniel 4:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God will give the Kingdom to the lowest of men and women. Similarly, Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:26, "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." The lesson is to know that God rules, which has been the issue from the very beginning.

Adam and Eve did not act as though they knew that God rules; they acted as though Satan or they ruled. They rejected the rule of God, and from that time on, God has concentrated on this very fact. Mankind will learn that God rules, and in order to do that, God is going to have to judge, to issue decrees, and to hand down sentences.

His sentences are going to be very stiff indeed, because Scripture shows that the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord will reduce the population of the earth to about 10% of all of mankind. The carnage that will result from God's judgments being handed out, so that mankind will know that God rules, will be bloody to an extreme. An awful lot of pain will result from the execution of this sentence. God judges, and it will begin at the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.

To most people on earth—if God even exists in their thoughts—He is, at best, a rather remote personality who acted a long time ago but seems to have grown disinterested, as nothing has happened for quite a long time. However, the Bible shows Him to be a hands-on ruler. He is overseeing planet earth, and He is doing it for the purpose of fulfilling His purpose of establishing His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Amos 1:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the wild a lion roars just as it is about to pounce on its prey. Symbolically and metaphorically, the roar of a lion or the crack of thunder shows the imminent intervention of God in human affairs (I Samuel 2:10; Isaiah 29:6; 31:4; Hosea 11:9-11; Revelation 16:18).

In the mid-eighth century BC when Amos preached, Israel's economic base was largely in agriculture, but a drought had begun to destabilize that foundation. The pastures had already begun to feel the effects of God's roaring, as had Carmel, the most verdant part of Israel, and incidentally, the supposed stronghold of Baal. Amos proclaims that the drought is the result of God's judgment.

The prophet uses this drought to illustrate that God is not an absentee landlord. He governs His creation (Psalm 104; Matthew 6:26) and knows everything that happens in it (Psalm 139; Matthew 10:29). He has neither abdicated nor delegated these responsibilities. If calamity strikes, God is involved in some way, possibly executing judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 1:3-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Before Amos gives specific reasons for God's judgment on Israel, he explains His judgment on the surrounding nations in Amos 1:3—2:3. Some may question God's punishment of nations to whom He has not revealed Himself. But God's response is that every human being knows—to one degree or another—what is moral and immoral (Romans 2:14-15). Abimelech, a pagan king of the Philistines, knew that it was wrong to commit sexual immorality (Genesis 26:10). In like manner, God holds these surrounding nations guilty.

Man has learned to silence the voice of his conscience (Romans 1:18), which has led to his sinking into total depravity (verses 20-32). Though God does not hold man accountable for understanding every detail of Him and His way, God does judge him for suppressing the knowledge of Him that he does have.

God does not unfairly accuse anyone. When He judges the Gentile nations as guilty, He does it with good cause. David writes poetically in Psalm 19:1-4 that man has ample evidence in the creation to conclude that a great and awesome Creator God exists. In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas preached that God witnesses to the Gentiles through the many things He provides for them (Acts 14:12-17). Paul writes similarly in Romans 1:19: "What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them." If he follows his conscience, man should bow down in reverence and awe to his Maker. Instead, mankind has worshipped things that God has made.

God's impartial judgment is important to this book. The nations around Israel in 760 BC had one negative common denominator: They had no revelation of God or His law, no priests or prophets from God. Yet Amos shows them as nations under judgment. Even without special revelation, they had a moral responsibility to God and to one another.

They were accountable to God to be good men, not depraved animals. He does not hold them responsible for their horrible and erroneous religious ideas, but He judges them for what they did or failed to do to other men. No human being can escape the obligation to be humanly moral as God intended, not even the Gentiles. Though God has never dealt directly with them, they know enough of His moral standards to be accountable to God.

If God requires this of men who have no revelation of Him, what does He require of us as Christians? The sobering fact is that we are held accountable for our relationship with both God and man. This underlines our need to listen to Amos.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 1:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's judgment of Syria focuses on her use of total war—take no prisoners and leave nothing productive. Amos says to them: "War or no war, you had no right to treat people like that!" It is barbarism, and even in war people must be treated honorably and well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 1:3-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In one way or another, these Gentile nations took vengeance in retaliation for injustices that they believed other nations committed against them. God promises to judge their barbarity, but He does not say when. Many years may pass before He takes action because His overriding goal is repentance and a change in character.

He will execute proper judgment—true justice, and it is our responsibility to have faith in that. Fifty years passed before God avenged the depredating acts of Hazael, king of Syria, against Gilead (Amos 1:3; II Kings 10:32-33). God waited for the right time and place to act. But He did act with a punishment from which He will not turn back (II Kings 13:22-25). When He decides to act, He acts!

When He says that He knows our sitting down and rising up (Psalm 139:2), He is not speaking metaphorically. He is involved with His people. We must learn that sometimes God may not take action within our lifetime, but when He says, "I will repay" (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35), He means it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 2:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Law in Amos 2:4 refers to instruction, not legislation and its enforcement. From a verb that means "to throw," its root describes casting lots or throwing dice. When lots or dice were cast, God revealed His will in the way they landed (Proverbs 16:33; see Leviticus 16:8-10; Acts 1:26). At times lots were used in making judgments in criminal cases in which God's will needed to be ascertained (Joshua 7:13-25). Thus, by setting a legal precedent, the casting of lots served to give instruction in other cases in which the same basic principles of behavior were involved. God's will—His law—was taught to His people through the casting of lots.

This instruction process implies a teacher-student relationship. When the Israelites rejected God's instruction contained in His law, they rejected the Instructor as well. Their relationship with Him quickly deteriorated.

Commandment means "to engrave or cut into stone," suggesting its permanence and immutability in contrast to temporary and changeable lies. The law comes from an unchangeable, righteous, and pure God in contrast to fickle and iniquitous men.

Judah's despising of God's law and revelation of Himself was internal—from the heart (Psalm 78:37; 81:11-12; Jeremiah 5:23). The personal and social failures Amos records are evidence that the people had rejected the truth. So it is with us: God wants to change our hearts so He can change our actions and turn around our lives.

In every area of life, Israel perverted the truth of God to accommodate the ideas of men. In the final tally, they loved lies rather than the revelation of God (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). Thus Amos says that God's people despised His law. They made the mistake of devaluing their calling and considered it common. Believing they were God's elect, they thought they were irrevocably saved. With this attitude it was only a matter of time before spiritual and moral complacency set in. As the church of God, we cannot allow ourselves to slip into this attitude because we, too, would fall into immorality.

If that occurs, God must pass judgment because His justice is the same for everybody (Colossians 3:25; I Peter 1:17). God's laws govern the people on the outside as well as the people on the inside. No matter what makes Israel or the church distinctly different, His judgment is always righteous. When God could not change Israel's immorality through His prophets, He had to punish them. So will He punish an apostate church.

It is easy to see why this book is written to the end-time church. The people of America and the British Commonwealth are already in the moral and spiritual condition of the people of Israel and Judah in the time of Amos. Members of God's church come out of such a world. Just as Israel's privileged position became a curse, so will it be for the Christian who ultimately rejects his calling (Hebrews 6:4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:3-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"A lion has roared" (Amos 3:8) concludes the section that began with "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). The Lord, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5), has roared against Israel to take heed. When a lion roars, anyone within hearing distance should change the direction of his path, especially if the lion is very close!

Amos 3:3-6 contains seven consecutive questions. After the first one (verse 3), the remaining three pairs of questions consist of a sequence of "before" and "after" illustrations:

  • When a lion roars (verse 4), he is warning others of his presence—there is still time to escape. When a young lion cries out of his den, however, he is content because he has killed and eaten. It is too late to escape.
  • Birds cannot fall into a snare when there is no trap (verse 5), but the trap always springs when one walks into it.
  • The trumpet warns of danger coming (verse 6), but it cannot sound if the watchman is already dead and the city has been taken.

The Lord has done what He warned He would do. While the threat is being made, one can still escape, but once judgment begins, it is too late.

When a lion sees his prey, he will try to kill it. When the divine Lion roars, the people need to shake off their complacency because His roar means He is about to spring into action! He means what He says about living His way of life, and He follows through when we depart from it.

Some people, like birds, unwittingly stumble into trouble. Oblivious to everything around them, they fall into traps, like being swindled by con men or crafty deceivers. God's people are often just like birds, unsuspectingly going to their destruction, unmindful of the dangers around them. In other words, God is warning: "Don't be a birdbrain!" We must think about the direction that we are heading. In His mercy, God always warns His people of coming calamity, either through His prophets (Amos 3:7) or through escalating disasters that lead to His ultimate judgment.

Unlike the other six questions, Amos 3:3 stands alone without a second question following it: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" It pictures a couple who have arranged to meet and do something together; they have a date. In the language of the Bible, this agreement is a covenant. God considered His covenant with Israel to be a marriage (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:8, 14). Could the silent second question be: "Can a marriage be restored if the bill of divorce has already been issued?"

God chose to withdraw Himself from Israel because He realized He had nothing in common with her. They could not walk together any longer. But in Amos' day, the divorce was not yet final; reconciliation between God and His people was still possible.

But there came a point in Israel's history that it was too late. The die had been cast. Repentance was no longer possible. The trumpet blew, the trap sprang, the lion pounced.

Through Amos, God is warning our nations today that similar, devastating calamities lie just ahead, and escape from them is still possible. As yet, the lion has not pounced—it is not too late.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 9, God invites the pagan nations to witness the decadence in Israel. Then He says in verse 10 that our moral sense is so warped, our concepts of right and wrong so blurred, that while pagan nations plunder each other, Israelites plunder and violate each other! That is not what one would call even normal, human common sense, let alone a godly perception of true morality and responsibility.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Scourge of AIDS and the Sacrifice of Christ


 

Amos 4:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's people were very busy making money, accumulating things, and practicing their religion. But God was also very busy—sending famines, droughts, blights, locusts, epidemics, warfare, and possibly earthquakes in judgment for their unrighteousness (Amos 4:6-11). He hoped that they would heed these "minor" warnings before He sent the rod of His anger against them (Isaiah 10:5).

Rain fell on one part of the country and not on another. When it rained, it rained too much, causing floods. In other places just enough rain fell to deceive the people into feeling a sense of hope—that it was not so bad after all.

We see this in the United States. Natural disasters—insurance companies call them "acts of God"—are growing more frequent and more intense, killing many and causing billions of dollars in damage. Floods ravaged the Midwest in 1993, while drought killed crops in other areas. After a year or so of good rainfall, California fell back into drought conditions—only to suffer from floods a year later! Fires rage over thousands of acres after periods of drought, destroying forests and homes. Sudden earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and extreme temperatures destroy homes, businesses, and lives.

It never seems to get quite bad enough to send the nation into a real tailspin, but it is just enough that, like the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus (Exodus 7:13-14), we continue to harden our hearts. We fail to repent. If the unrepentant attitude continues, the "natural" disasters will intensify, bankrupting the nation economically. Since money seems to be the nation's foremost god, the true God will hit where it hurts most.

The vast majority of Americans have become so far removed from God that they lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear the warnings He sends. Educated in a system that fundamentally denies God, they lack understanding. They interpret God's warnings as natural events—just nature running her course. An earthquake or flood or drought is viewed as "nature doing her thing."

Rather than heed the warning and repent, Americans turn to their other false gods—science and technology—to bail them out. "Design better levies to protect us from floods," they cry. "Seed the clouds to produce more rain." "Engineer stronger buildings to withstand more powerful earthquakes." "Science will someday give us the ability to predict—even stop—earthquakes." Americans have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15).

In these disasters, God is saying something quite different—something vitally important. He is warning the people that they have a responsibility, and if they fail to live under their covenant with Him, He has the power to correct them so that they will repent. So, in fairness and mercy, God lays a simple choice before them: "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Their choice is either to face their sins and repent, or face the wrath of a just God.

To bring about His purpose, God is active in His creation, especially among His people, whether physical or spiritual Israel. "If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" (Amos 3:6). Is God involved in our lives? Do things happen by chance to the people of God? This world would have you believe that God really is not aware, that He does not care or even exist! But He says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

Is God involved? "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30). Do we see God working in our lives? Events do not happen accidentally to God's people, of whom God is very aware. He is very concerned and thus very involved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 5:18-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you?" (Amos 5:18). It is always a prophet's responsibility to remind the people that the future is inextricably bound to the present. What one does today affects the course of events as time marches on.

Malachi asks, "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?" (Malachi 3:2). No such doubts assailed these people at all. They were confident that things would be all right. They felt they would march right through the day of their judgment because they were His chosen people.

But when Amos looked at his times, he became frightened. "It will be darkness, and not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him; or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him" (Amos 5:18-19).

There is no escape! People, living in their complacency, think that everything is fine. But the day of judgment will come upon them unexpectedly, and in utter hopelessness they will start running for their lives. They will escape one terror only to confront another! And just when they think they are finally safe, they will receive a mortal wound!

But, the prophet is not yet finished! "Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?" (Amos 5:20). Wailing and inescapable judgment are followed by darkness. In their complacency, the people think it logical to conclude that, since everything is presently all right, they must have overcome those things which plagued them. With that behind them, they think their future is full of gladness and good times. Amos disagrees! He accuses them of feeding themselves false hopes. When God comes, he says, He will be their enemy!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 6:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The prophet pronounces God's judgment. Notice the many parallels to Babylon and Laodicea. Also notice what Jesus says in a parable concerning the time just before His return: "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards . . ." (Matthew 24:48-49). Amos and Christ speak about the same sequence of events. The attitude of putting off the day of Christ's return promotes violence and injustice toward one's fellow man. Appeasement, a "strength" of the Laodicean, virtually guarantees violence and war, as happened in the years leading to World War II.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 6:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Amos 6:4-6 mentions feasting, indulging in artificial stimulation, listening to unusual music, and taking excessive and vain measures in personal hygiene. The single idea behind these illustrations is that the excesses of powerful Israelites were possible because of their oppression of the weak and poor.

By contrast, verses 9-10 show ten common Israelites huddled together in one house in fear of the war-induced plagues. People will die so rapidly that the survivors, looking out for themselves, will not take the time to bury the bodies of their own families but burn them in huge funeral pyres. These survivors will eventually recognize that God has dissociated Himself from them, and they will consider it an evil thing even to mention His name! How very bitter! And how very far from God!

The people, whether rich and indulgent or poor and deprived, were self-concerned. Throughout chapter six, Amos balances complacency and disaster, boasting and fear, showing that they result from rejecting God and idolizing self. Inevitably, God will send judgment upon Israel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 7:7-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In construction, the plumb line tests whether what was erected is perpendicular to the square, that is, if it is straight up and down, if it is upright. It provides a standard against which one can measure what he has built. Metaphorically, when God draws near with the plumb line, He is looking for those people who are living and abiding in His grace and His law. The Israelites' moral standards had degenerated, so their religious profession was not verified by the right kind of works. They were not upright; they failed the test.

Amos has no opportunity to intercede at this point. God will no longer relent. "I will not pass by them anymore" means that God would not overlook their sins any longer. And, if He will not pass by them, He must pass through them. The plumb line shows that He will pass through "with the sword" in judgment; His patience and forgiveness have finally ended. He could no longer defer the punishment for their sins—the time had come to destroy them.

God passes through by destroying "the high places of Isaac," the altars and idols of the false religions responsible for the moral, spiritual, and ethical decline of the people. They worshipped Baal and a host of other foreign deities (Judges 10:6). They set up sacred pillars and idols throughout the land (I Kings 14:23; II Kings 17:10-13). Some of them even burned their sons in the fire to Molech (Ezekiel 16:20-21). Through their spiritual harlotry, they abused grace—the free, unmerited pardon of God—and rejected His law.

"The sanctuaries of Israel," the religious shrines of Bethel, Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba, would also be among the first to fall. They were the fountainheads of the attitudes of the nation. In them the people were taught to seek the material prosperity that characterized the nation, and in part they sought this physical abundance through cultic fornication and fertility rituals done in the name of the eternal God. The religions taught the people how to sin and do it religiously.

Next, "the house of Jeroboam" would fall through war. Amos refers to Jeroboam I, after whom Jeroboam II was named, and worse, after whom he followed in his sins. God selected Jeroboam I to become king of the northern ten tribes of Israel after Solomon (I Kings 11:29-31), however He made the continuance of Jeroboam's dynasty contingent upon his obedience (verse 38).

But Jeroboam did not trust God. He thought that the religious festivals and sacrifices would entice Israel to return to David's line in Judah (I Kings 12:25-27). To counter that possibility, he set up counterfeit shrines in Bethel and Dan and changed the Feast of Tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth (I Kings 12:27-33). Jeroboam turned away from the law of God, causing the people to sin.

Historians examine economics, social conditions, and military strength to determine what causes the rise or fall of nations, but God shows that His purpose and the morality of the people are the true causes. Thus, God makes sure that the two major motivators of Israel's spiritual decline, the religious and political leadership, would feel His wrath first (Isaiah 9:13-16).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 7:8-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We need to remember that this was originally given to ancient Israel, and the wording applies first of all to the physical people of Israel. However, it contains a spiritual anti-type that we can apply to the end time. In both the type and the antitype, Christ is doing the judging. In the end-time fulfillment, this occurs right before the catastrophe of the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's Trouble when things will get really terrible. When the Lord stands on the wall, He says, "Look, this is what you have to be like. You have to be able to stand here next to this plumb line and measure yourself to the vertical to see how upright you really are."

He also says, "I will not pass by . . . any more." This means that judgment is coming, and however this judgment falls, that is it! The first six verses of chapter 7 record two other visions. In those visions, the prophet had said, "Please God, Israel is such a small people. Will you please pass us by this time?" He means, "Will you please have mercy and not punish us?" and both times God replied, "Okay, Amos. Because you have asked Me for this, I will pass by." Now, in this vision of the plumb line, He says, "This time I am going to exact My judgment. I will pass sentence and execute the penalty."

What does He pass sentence on? The "high places of Isaac" indicates idolatry, as do the "sanctuaries of Israel." He says He will "rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam," meaning that He will wreak a great deal of vengeance upon the leadership of the nation for leading the people away from God and into disaster as they have.

This is very serious. At the time of the end, when God appears with the plumb line, the end it at hand. His judgment will come soon. He is about to react violently, exacting the sentence that He thinks is fair and necessary.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Amos 9:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The vision in Amos 9 is different from the four visions in chapters 7 and 8. There is no conversation between God and the prophet. The time for talk is over; God simply acts. The situation has moved beyond Amos' ability to intercede—God's time to act has come, and He will not relent.

The background of this final vision is interesting. To make his rule more secure, Jeroboam I devised what the Bible calls "the sin of Jeroboam," the use of religion in the service of politics. Using the system in place in Judah, he counterfeited the holy days, the priesthood, and the temple ritual. On his altar his priests offered sacrifices to the two golden calves, and the king stood by the altar to burn incense (I Kings 12:26-13:1). It apparently became a custom for the king to stand at the right-hand side of the altar at his counterfeit feast in the eighth month.

Who is standing beside the altar in Amos 9? Not Jeroboam, but the Lord! Instead of officiating, God is destroying everything in sight!

Amos also draws on the story of Samson destroying the temple of Dagon by toppling the supporting pillars. If a man tries to pull a house down with his bare hands, he has to undermine it from the bottom, but God is not restricted like a man. He strikes the house down from the top! God, as the Supreme Omnipotent One and the Sovereign Lord, has every right to crush the house of Israel. Since the people had ignored all the numerous warnings He had sent for them to repent, He is now fulfilling His promise.

In the type, the temple of Dagon fell on everyone's head; no one survived (Judges 16:30). The same holds true in this destruction. No matter where the people of Israel flee in the day of calamity, they will not find any rest, ease, safety, or security (Amos 9:2-6). They had tried to get security by building multiple homes for themselves, but God will wipe away this assurance by smashing their houses to bits. Anything that they thought would provide them security in the day of punishment God will destroy.

God is omnipotent. When He decides to judge His people in this very painful way, there is no escaping it. He reminds His people of the covenant they made with Him, that He called them to His service, yet He is also the God of all the earth and Lord of every nation (verse 7). In other words, He has the same responsibility to judge and punish them as He has to the other nations of the world. The Philistines and Syrians, by the way, are two of the nations He judges in Amos 1. God is judging Israel in the same manner.

We find a manifestation of Israel's problem—false reliance that the covenant would save them—in modern-day "Christianity." Many professing Christians believe in eternal security, commonly called "once saved, always saved," a devastatingly subtle deception of Satan the Devil. It is a belief that one can never fall out of favor with God, no matter what one's behavior or attitude.

As members of the true church, we need to beware lest we bring this false idea into the church with us. When God called us, chose us, and granted us repentance, we were baptized. But that does not exclude us from His scrutiny. He is no respecter of persons; He will judge us as justly as He does anyone else on earth.

That we chose to follow God's way of life is good, but having that fact on our spiritual resumé is not enough. God is not interested in past actions but in present performance. What is happening today? Are we living righteously each day? Or, have we fallen from our past performance and profession? What God did in the past to give us the opportunity for salvation does not absolutely bind Him to work everything out to our benefit, if we do not produce the corresponding good works, character growth, and obedience He expects (Ezekiel 18).

He wants us to see that we should not make the same mistake ancient Israel made—that is, take His salvation for granted. We can rely on Him and trust Him, but we also have a responsibility to submit to and obey Him. We must strive to produce the best character possible and be a light so He can say of each of us, "That's My son! He looks and acts like Me! He is definitely part of My Family."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Obadiah 1:1-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Edom lived in the area east of the Jordan in the mountainous areas south of the Dead Sea—a dry, barren, rocky place. Here, in this end-time prophecy, Edomites are still living in this inhospitable place.

Verse 1 contains a parenthetical statement that informs us that God has sent a messenger among the nations, urging them to "rise up against her." This is how things really work: God is the prime mover of world affairs. He determines His purpose and starts affairs rolling toward its fulfillment by inspiring an idea. Then the political and diplomatic mechanisms of nations take over to bring it to fruition, guided and pushed all the while by God (see Isaiah 46:9-11; Isaiah 55:11).

In this case, a national leader decides to send an ambassador to other nations to form a military alliance against Edom. The complaint, as explained in subsequent verses, is that Edom must be brought down to size, perhaps because she is not a team player, wanting all the glory and plunder for herself. That God is the ultimate author of this message means that it will happen as advertised.

Obadiah 1:2 adds emphasis to verse 1. The "I" is God Himself; it is His purpose to bring about Edom's national deflation. He wants Edom to recognize this! He thinks that the Edomites need to be brought into account for their actions and severely punished. Those among the nations who are scheming against Edom are merely agents God will use to fulfill His decree.

Verse 3 strikes at the root of Edom's problem: "The pride of your heart." It was easy for the Edomites to believe themselves to be invincible due to the nearly uninhabitable territory they dwelled in. To the west, where Israel lay, the geography made their territory nearly impregnable. Otherwise, they could feel secure because their fortresses were carved out of the rock, so they could either hunker down for long periods or engage in guerilla warfare. An attacking army could in no way pry them out, and they knew it. They felt invulnerable, and this filled them with pride.

"Pride" in verse 3 is the Hebrew word zadon, from the root, ziyd. This root is translated "cooked" in Genesis 25:29, where Jacob cooked a stew that the famished Esau desired. "Cooked" would be better translated "boiled" or "seethed." When heat is applied to water, it boils, and from this process, the Hebrews gained their understanding of pride.

Obadiah, it seems, specifically used this word to draw the reader's attention back to this incident, perhaps suggesting that Esau's selling of the birthright was rooted in his pride. Esau became heated and angry, and it manifested itself as haughtiness, arrogance, pride—the major trait he passed on to his descendants. Just as stew boils up under heat, so Edom puffs herself up thinking that she is self-reliant and invincible. God, however, is out to prove her wrong.

The Edomite challenge at the end of Obadiah 1:3 bears some scrutiny: "Who will bring me down to the ground?" This is remarkably similar to the words of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:13-14 and to those of the great harlot in Revelation 18:7. This same pride will lead Edom into trouble. The Bible declares that, in all three of these examples, God will have the last word: He will humble them all. In Obadiah 1:4, He decrees, no matter how high and mighty Edom considers herself to be, "from there I will bring you down."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Three): Obadiah


 

Obadiah 1:10-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Obadiah 10 had named the Edomites' great sin: "violence against your brother Jacob." The four subsequent verses tick off a number of illustrations of the Edomites' violence toward Israel, providing an expanded description of their transgression.

The prophet's first example (in verse 11), the only one requiring explanation, is that they "stood on the other side." This Hebraism indicates they "stood aloof," a description of their haughtiness. God is emphasizing their attitude here. Literally, the phrase reads, "stood from in front of them," a roundabout way of saying that the Edomites considered themselves too good to stand with them. In other words, because of their pride, they stood off to the side or in front of them, effectively separating themselves from their brother.

Their action reflected their hearts, saying, in effect, "Do not confuse us with them!" It indicates an attitude of great superiority, of haughty pride and separation. Thus, instead of standing with Israel in her defense, they stood aside and let the enemy do what it would. Edom did not behave as a brother nation should have. Even had the Edomites not been directly engaged in the hostilities against Israel, this act alone reveals that their loyalties were solidly with Israel's enemy.

The New King James Version poorly translates verses 12-14, rendering them in the past tense, when the Hebrew text relates this story in the future tense. The difference in tense transforms a castigating historical narrative into a more appropriate and stern warning against future activity:

But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. (English Standard Version)

Specifically, what is the day of Israel's calamity? Jeremiah 30:5-7 provides the answer:

For thus says the LORD: "We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it."

Jesus also spoke about this distressing day in His Olivet Prophecy:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22)

"The time of Jacob's trouble," more commonly known as "the Great Tribulation," is a period of intense hardship and war for the people of Israel. It is generally thought that it will last three and a half years (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2; 12:14; 13:5), until Jesus Christ returns in power to defeat the Beast and his armies and to rule all nations (Revelation 19:11-21). According to Jesus' description, it is a time of global holocaust; if God did not intervene, all life on earth would cease!

The warnings in Obadiah 12-14 are directed toward the Edomites alive when that day arrives, perhaps not very long from now. We may have seen a precursor of the fulfillment of this prophecy, when, on and after September 11, 2001, television news programs broadcast images of Palestinians gloating and dancing in the streets in the West Bank, giving out candy, and shrieking in giddy celebration. Such a scene is likely to happen again when the Great Tribulation fully comes upon the nations of Israel.

At that time, the people of Edom may not have a great deal of power over the nations of Israel, and the prophecies do not indicate that they will. Today, their strength is limited to suicidal terrorist attacks, but they still have the ability to mock, to pillage, and to take advantage of any sign of weakness. God says in Obadiah 6-9 that He will remove their wealth, their wisdom, and their courage, but they will still be able to gloat when they see Israel fall.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment


 

Habakkuk 1:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a very simple introduction. He does not say, "In the tenth year, in the tenth month of the reign of a certain king, Habakkuk the prophet, from a certain town, who was a Levite and a priest, saw a vision." He simply says, "This is what the prophet Habakkuk saw." We begin to see immediately some of Habakkuk's character. He removes himself almost entirely from the book. He is not worried about himself or his pedigree. His book is just a narrative of his conversation with God.

All we know about Habakkuk is that he was the prophet at the time. He is an obscure character, not appearing anywhere else in Scripture. In effect, there is nothing to learn except from what he says; the Bible contains no extraneous details about him. It is possible to extrapolate a few things about him. He may have been a Levite, one of the singers or musicians in the Temple, perhaps one of the sons of Asaph, because he writes a very fine song in the third chapter.

Even his name is uncertain. It seems not even to be Hebrew but foreign, an Akkadian word. Moreover, its meaning is disputed, the best guess being that Habakkuk means "embracer," almost like "hugger"—one who wrestles. In a way, that is what he does throughout the whole book. He embraces God, wrestles Him, for an answer—similar to what Jacob did—and he does not let go because he wants God to answer his troubling questions.

The date of the book is also uncertain. We know a general time, that it was probably written within twenty-five years of Jerusalem's fall in Judah, somewhere between 610-585 BC. This was right after Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612, and about the time that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Tyre and before he came against Jerusalem. His first attack on Jerusalem occurred in 604, so the general consensus is that Habakkuk was probably written sometime during Nebuchadnezzar's seige of Tyre.

The awesome might of the Chaldeans was just one country away, and Judah itself was sinking further into sin. Josiah, one of Judah's best kings, had died, and his sons had come to the throne, and they had failed to hold the country together morally. Judah was beginning to fear that they would be next in the domino of nations that were falling, and they were terrified because word had reached them of what the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, did to those they conquered. Judah's day of reckoning was near, and so Habakkuk's cry to God is only a natural response of a man who loved his people and his nation.

We can see that Habakkuk's situation fits current circumstances quite closely. The fall of Israel is not too far off. This land is sinking further into sin, and no one seems to want to stand up to stop it. It could go quickly, even though we are the world's superpower. Just one terrorist who says he has a briefcase-size nuclear bomb could hold this country hostage, because no President would want to give up Houston, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, or any city in the United States to call the bluff of some terrorist group or some nation who decides that America needs to be cut down to size.

Not only that, things are happening in the church itself that make people ask questions, even of God Himself. "Why are you doing this, God?" "Why is the church disintegrating?" "Who are these people that have come in and destroyed the doctrines of the church?" "Why have You allowed it to happen?" Many of us have asked questions like these. They are the same questions Habakkuk was contemplating. He did not know what to think because what was happening did not seem to follow what he knew of God. "Why would God work this way?"

Like Habakkuk, we want to reconcile what we know of God with what is happening because we understand that He is sovereign. However, sometimes with God, it seems that two and two do not quite equal four, but with God two and two always make four. Our perspective is just not the same as His. So, we must go to God for answers when things do not seem to be going the way we expect them to. In this is the real value of this little, obscure book: It helps to answer some of these kinds of questions.

Notice that Habakkuk calls his message, his prophecy, a "burden." This is a very important word. Sometimes God's ministers, especially the prophets, had to deliver messages that people really did not want to hear. Often, speaking God's words is a burden because they are not always sweetness and light. Sweetness and light seem to come only at the end of the message, as a quick conclusion to the matter. What is so burdensome are the heavy, depressing terrible things that are the main part of the message. In addition, we all know what often happens to the messenger who bears bad news—sometimes he gets his head cut off! People who hear bad news too often take their wrath, their disappointment, their frustration out on the messenger. So it is no wonder Habakkuk says this is a burden! He bears a heavy load: He must tell his people something that they will despise, and because he says it, they will despise him. Thus, as he begins, Habakkuk says, "All right, here goes. You will not like what I have to say here, but read on." And so he presents his "burden."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:5-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God says, "You are not going to believe what I am about to tell you, Habakkuk, but I am already at work to deliver you and punish the sinners around you." Then what does He do? He tells the prophet that He is sending the ferocious, bloody, terrifying Chaldeans to conquer Judah!

The prophet must have been stunned! This was not the answer he expected in the least. What kind of deliverance is humiliating defeat at the hand of these utterly godless people who struck terror into the entire Middle East? In addition, they were Gentiles, and God was taking their side and cruelly punishing His own people. It must have shaken his faith to hear God tell him, "I am coming to spank this nation with the worst of the heathen."

And just as God said, Habakkuk did not want to believe it. In his eyes, the deliverance was worse than the original corruption—at least that is what he thought at first. From what he understood of God, this made no sense. How could a loving God punish His own special people with a club like the Chaldeans?

To understand God's answer we have to understand what God's work is. Psalm 74:12 says, "God is . . . working salvation in the midst of the earth." Genesis 1:26 says God is creating man in His own image, building character in us so that we can live eternally as He does. What is astounding is how He chooses to do it because He does it far differently than we would. As the old saying goes, "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." To a man's way of thinking, His works are truly mysterious; sometimes, we do not have a clue how He works.

Isaiah 55:8-11 explains that God sometimes does things in a very round-about way, but it has a kind of boomerang effect. At times, it seems God goes in one direction, off the beaten path, but that is merely our perspective of it. We find out later—after we have grown in wisdom and understanding—that He has been following His plan all along. We are the ones who have not kept up. Habakkuk deals a great deal with perspective—man's perspective versus God's. God always gets His job done. When He sends forth His word to accomplish a work, it always comes back to Him with the result He intends. It may not make much sense to us at the time, but it surely works because God is behind it. In the end, it is the best way.

Many have questioned why God has allowed the church to decline and scatter in recent years. What is happening here? Why has God had to do this in order to bring us into His Kingdom? Why must He destroy to make well? We have shaken our heads at the swiftness and brutality of it all. That is how Habakkuk felt with the Chaldeans breathing down the Judeans' necks. If God had told us a few decades ago that the church would lose, say, two-thirds of its members, would we have believed Him? Would we have even considered that a work of God? "Look . . . and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you" (verse 5). Now we can understand how Habakkuk felt. He had prior warning, and it made him question God's very nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:5-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the first chapter, the prophet Habakkuk was upset with God because He had made prophecies regarding where Judah's punishment would come from—from the Chaldeans. Habakkuk was irritated by this because he considered the Chaldeans to be worse than the Judeans. His questions run: "God, why are you doing this? Why don't you at least punish us by a righteous nation instead of sending upon us a nation far worse than we are?"

That was the way Habakkuk looked at it. God did not look at it that way because He would not have sent the Chaldeans if He did not think it was the right thing for Him to do. Maybe they were worse in an overall sense, but who was more responsible for what they were—the Chaldeans or the Jews? Had the Chaldeans had God's way revealed to them as the Judeans had? Of course not. Maybe the Judeans were not as bad on paper, maybe statistically, but they were more responsible. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

God would punish them with a hasty nation, He says, a nation violent and rapacious in the way it did things. Habakkuk did not like that one bit, so he appealed to God, and his appeal was hotly delivered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Habakkuk 1:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse begins a section that leads up to Habakkuk's second question. He begins immediately with asking, "Is this really the holy God of Israel? Am I talking to the very God of the universe, the One who lives forever? Can this really be God, if He will punish His own people by the hands of these terrible Chaldeans?" This verse shows how much his faith was shaken.

"We shall not die" is an emendation by the Jews. They think that God should never be linked with death. But Habakkuk actually says, "You shall not die." He is reaffirming to himself just who is speaking to him—the Eternal God! He is desperately trying to square what God had just told him in verses 5-11 with what He understood of God's nature.

"You are of purer eyes than to behold evil." Habakkuk understood God to be pure and holy, so he wonders, "How can God do this evil thing to His people? He is purer than that." God has revealed something about Himself that the prophet has not yet grasped. His understanding is being stretched. He thought he knew what God's character was like, but God had just thrown him a curve ball.

Habakkuk asks God, "How can You restrain Yourself from just simply annihilating these Chaldeans? Look how wicked they are!" In verses 6-11, God Himself had described all of their evil doings. They take what is not theirs. They march through the breadth of the earth and gobble up town after town after town. They eat what they want. They take the jewels, the gold, the silver, the people themselves, and they transport them back to their own lands. Habakkuk cries, "These are terrible people, God, and You are going to let them punish Your own special people? This is not the God I remember learning about as a child."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 1:14-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 14-17 use an extended metaphor in which the Chaldeans are seen as fishermen and the peoples of Judah and the nations around them are the fish. Habakkuk visualizes the people, especially his own, as fish in a barrel! They cannot escape—easy pickings for the cruel Chaldeans. Whether by hook or by net, these evil Gentiles will have their way with the Judeans—because God is letting them!

This, of course, makes the Chaldeans pretty happy (verse 15). It is like shooting fish in a barrel! To the prophet, it makes no sense; it seems as if God is acting against His own people. The enemy is happy, wealthy, and powerful because God is not punishing their wickedness, and the Judeans are being killed, enslaved, robbed, and beaten to a pulp! In effect, Habakkuk is accusing God of letting them get away with murder!

In verse 16, Habakkuk speaks of the Chaldeans "sacrific[ing] to their net." Their net is a symbol of their weapons of warfare, their means of conquering the nations around them and gaining wealth. This is similar to Daniel 11:37-39, where Gabriel prophesies that the King of the North will honor "a god of fortresses."

Finally, the prophet asks, "Are You going to continue to allow them to get away with all this?" (verse 17). With this, his frustrations seem to abate, and he concludes in Habakkuk 2:1 with a remark that is very smart and wise.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Habakkuk 2:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse comes in two parts. The first two lines parallel each other, and the last two lines parallel each other. "An appointed time" and "at the end" mean the same thing. In Daniel 12:4, God tells the prophet, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" (see also Daniel 8:17; 10:14). God is telling Habakkuk the same thing. The message was not necessarily for him and the people of his time. It is for the herald who runs and the people he will deliver the message to. It will be sealed until the appointed time, then it will be revealed.

This, then, is a revelation for our time today. He says, "At the end it will speak," an interesting image. It literally means the message will pant, like a runner after a marathon. Again, it is the heraldry image. The herald runs for miles with his message, and when he arrives, he is out of breath, panting. Then, he speaks his message to the recipient before he has recovered his breath, emphasizing its urgency. It must be given at the right time because things will happen swiftly, and the recipient must be ready. The wording mixes excitement with fatigue and urgency, a messenger rushing to get the words out because of shortness of time and breath!

God immediately reassures us that the message is truth. It will not lie. It will come. It will begin to be fulfilled right away. But it is God's truth, so we should believe it!

"Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" is also a parallel construction. God is saying, "Be patient. If things seem to be delayed, it is only your perspective because it will come right on time. I do things when I want them to happen."

What is the vision? In Hebrews 10:35-37, Paul not only quotes this verse, but he interprets it for us.

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

What God has promised is His rest. The Israelites could not enter into His rest because of their unbelief (Hebrews 4:1). They showed no endurance. They did not see it all the way through to the end. So Paul says we need endurance to claim our reward.

Though the wording is somewhat different, the meaning is the same. Paul explains that what God told Habakkuk is, "Christ is coming!" That is the vision! That is the urgent message that we must understand—and not just that He is coming but all the end-time events too. Bad things and good things accompany His coming. Which side will we be on? The side that gets the bad things? Or the side that gets the good things? This is the revelation, the vision, that Habakkuk receives from God: that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come and solve the problems he is so worried about.

How does this answer his question, "Why do You use the wicked to punish us, who are the righteous?" Revelation 11:15-18 provides the answer. Because everything will be squared in the end; God will punish the wicked and reward the just. We have no need to be worried about why the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous are persecuted and killed. He soothes Habakkuk's troubled mind by giving him a dose of reality. The horrendous things God predicts will still occur, but they are His will, part of His plan. But events must take this course to produce the right fruit in the end. It will all be sorted out. No evil deed will go unpunished, and no good deed will go unrewarded.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Zephaniah 1:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Pictured as holding aloft a lamp as He walks, God searches through the city—Jerusalem, Zion—shining a light to reveal everyone to His judgment. No one escapes the judgment of God. Who is He looking for in particular? He looks for complacent men, like the Laodicean. Just as Hosea uses wine to illustrate the principle (Hosea 4:6, 11-12), Zephaniah also mentions wine though it is obscured in the translation: the words "settled in complacency" are literally "settled on their lees" like the dregs of wine (cf. the footnote on this verse, NKJV)!

Again, the prophet speaks of a prosperous people who had deluded themselves into believing that their physical wealth meant that they were equally rich spiritually. As the years passed, their relationship with God had diminished into lip service and complacency. When God describes them saying things "in their heart," He means a reasoning process that happens internally. A person could not see it with his eyes, but the attitude cannot be hidden from the Judge walking the city with the lamp of truth.

In today's parlance we call their problem "sins of omission." Like the Laodicean, the religious Jew of that day was not on the streets committing horrible crimes like murder or rape or armed robbery. These verses speak about the thousands and thousands of ordinary people who were stagnant and indifferent toward their relationship with God. Their problem was not what they did, but what they did not do.

Nor does God accuse the Laodicean of the more apparent sins in Revelation 3. He is angry with him because of what he is not doing! He is not a true and faithful witness, and indeed cannot be, because of his poor judgment in prioritizing his life. In focusing on his selfish pursuits and self-centeredness, he leaves God almost completely out of his life. Still, he bears the name of God, attends Sabbath services, and at least in a superficial way, worships God on the Sabbath. Yet the relationship is growing cold as he fails to seek Him earnestly as in courtship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Zephaniah 2:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Looking at this in the light of the larger context, God prophesies judgment—only not just on Assyria but on the whole world. With this thought in mind, chapter two opens with an appeal to God's people to gather together. This is not merely a plea to congregate, which may indeed be implied, but it is not the main thrust of the advice given here. Rather, it is to gather one's thoughts, to meditate, to pull things together in one's mind, to think about their consequences on the nation, on the individual, on one's loved ones. God wants us to consider these things as a first step toward repentance, so he says, "Change direction, turn to righteousness and perhaps you will be hidden during His anger."

"Perhaps" might throw a person into discouragement or doubt, but God is not playing with our emotions. The measure of doubt expressed concerns whether men will repent. We must never forget that God is a God of salvation. He is a God of deliverance. It is His desire to deliver and to protect, and certainly He is never without means to save. Nothing is too hard for Him, if we give Him a chance, which is why it says, "Seek the Lord now, before the destruction comes." This is the warning: "Watch, but don't just stand there passively! Gather your thoughts and think about the implications of this. Where is it leading?" He is appealing to us to respond.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 3)


 

Zephaniah 2:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most people do not realize that the name Zephaniah means "Yahweh has hidden or protected." This idea is a major theme of his preaching.

The timing of the book of Zephaniah is also interesting. He prophesied at the same time three other prophets were prophesying as well: Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Nahum. So there were four of them proclaiming God's warning message at the same time. Do these four correspond to the four sections of hair in Ezekiel 5 and the four "I am coming soon" statements in Revelation 2-3? Time will tell.

Notice the urgent warning and loving advice God gives through Zephaniah:

[The time for repentance is speeding by like chaff whirled before the wind!] Therefore consider, before God's decree brings forth [the curse upon you], before the time [to repent] is gone like the drifting chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you—yes, before the day of the wrath of the Lord comes upon you!

Seek the Lord [inquire for Him, inquire of Him, and require Him as the foremost necessity of your life], all you humble of the land who have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments; seek righteousness, seek humility [inquire for them, require them as vital]. It may be you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger. (The Amplified Bible)

The time seems to be drawing ever closer. God tells us that His judgment will begin at His sanctuary (see Ezekiel 9:6; Revelation 11:1), and from there, He says in Ezekiel 5:4, the fire will go out to all Israel! God will decide who is hidden from the hour of trial, and perhaps it will be you!

Ronny H. Graham
Hidden From the Hour of Trial


 

Matthew 5:38-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What kind of justice does God dispense? Is it based on a so-called cruel Old Testament law? The "Christian" churches of this world say that Jesus came to do away with that law. Preposterous! Without law as a foundation, there can be no justice. Jesus explicitly says, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).

Some think that Jesus condemns the Old Testament system of justice in Matthew 5:38-40. However, He is correcting, not nullifying, an abuse of the eye-for-an-eye principle, which the Romans called Lex Talionis. The Jews of His day were advocating it for settling personal disputes. In effect, each person was taking justice into his own hands, and Jesus says that was not His intent when He gave it to their forefathers.

Considered by many to be barbaric and primitive, the eye-for-an-eye principle is, on the contrary, the basis for God's system of judgment, of civil law, for ruling a nation (Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-20). It has its foundation in equal justice as provided by equal payment for damage done. God established this principle so that a judge could be merciful in evaluating the circumstances of the crime and render a fair and just decision in cases of sin against other men.

This does not mean that if A bloodies B's nose, then B has to punch A in the nose in return. Lex Talionis requires commensurate payment for damage done, punishment fitting the crime. It is the basis for evenhanded justice, demanding fair compensation for damages. As implemented in God's law, Lex Talionis was enforced with a system of fines—with the money paid to the injured party, not to the state (e.g. Exodus 21:22, 28-32).

Though it was to be the basic law, a judge had the power to give mercy. For instance, if he determined that B really goaded A into punching his nose, he was free to show mercy along with the payment required. In His judgment of us, God does the same. When we deserve death because of sin, God shows us mercy by allowing Christ's blood to cover our transgressions. He has decided to forgo the strict application of the eye-for-an-eye principle and extend mercy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 7:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus warns us that we will receive the same kind of judgment that we make of others. Do we really want that? That warning ought to sober any thinking person! Do we really believe God when He gives us such a stern warning?

Jesus adds another warning: Our judgment may be distorted because we may have a flaw of far greater magnitude in us than the flaw we observe so critically in our brother. The unspoken intimation is that because the flaw is ours, and we love ourselves, we are willing to be lenient in our self-judgment. By focusing our criticism on another, it enables us to avoid scrutinizing ourselves carefully and critically. Some enjoy correcting others because it makes them feel virtuous, compensating for failures in themselves that they have no desire to face. But the judgment we make about others is in reality the judgment we will receive from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction


 

Matthew 10:27-28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is not unreasonable that we should fear God. Jesus Christ Himself says that we are to fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Why? He is the only One who can revoke the judgment of Gehenna fire. The wages of sin is death in Gehenna fire. If we want to escape this punishment, we can see that it is closely connected to whether or not we actually fear God.

Why? What does the fear of God have to do with escaping a judgment that would otherwise take us into the Lake of Fire?

This series of verses in Matthew 10 contains some encouragement, indicating that, if one really fears God, then there is no need to be fearful of others. Proverbs 29:25 plainly tells us, "The fear of man is a snare." This is an attitude in which we do not want to be entrapped. It is obvious, in the context of Matthew 10:27, that He is talking about fear in the sense of "dread." We are not to fear men because the worst that they can do does not even begin to match the worst that God can do! The basis for this is what God is: omnipotent and omniscient, and in Him are the issues of life and death!

The Christian life is our calling; this is our only chance for salvation. We have been personally chosen by God. The elect are an insignificant number, and we are even more insignificant personally. Yet, He has given us this calling. The world population is somewhere in the vicinity of six billion people, and out of this huge number are a miniscule few who are truly converted and have been given the Spirit of God. This is not something that we want to pass up! The fear of God is crucial to our salvation!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God


 

Matthew 12:41-42  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

After Satan has God's sentence carried out against him, then a process of judgment begins. It begins in what we call the Millennium and continues right through what we call the Great White Throne period. The judgment spoken of in Matthew 12:41-42 is that of the Great White Throne, during which the act of evaluation, by God, of those people who are living at that time takes place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Matthew 13:48-50  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus tells us that the bad fish are thrown into the fire. John the Baptist says this in a slightly different way in Matthew 3:12: "[Jesus] will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." This principle appears somewhat differently in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46): Christ is Judge, and He sets the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left. He judges that the sheep can enter eternal life, while the goats receive the destructive judgment of fire.

Although a final judgment is coming for the world, the church is now under God's judgment (I Peter 4:17; Revelation 11:1-2). Not only is the sentence coming, but our conduct and growth are also currently being judged - Christ is evaluating whether we meet His high standards. Ultimately, everyone is judged the same way, according to the same standard, by the same criteria. The "bad fish" among us are not ours to judge, but Jesus, the righteous Judge, has promised to judge with equity (Psalm 98:9).

Matthew 13:50 says they are thrown "into the furnace of fire." A similar thing occurs in the Parable of the Weat and the Tares: At the end of the age, the tares will be gathered and thrown into the furnace (verses 30, 41-42). The emphasis in the Parable of the Tares is on the wicked and their evil works and their subsequent judgment. However, in the Parable of the Dragnet, instead of highlighting the wickedness, Jesus focuses on the process of judgment, not necessarily on condemning evildoers. Some people are condemned for doing wicked things, but others are saved and rewarded for doing the good works assigned to them. God's calling is first impartial, and then His judgment is absolutely fair. The wicked will get only what they deserve.

God's "catch" is the church, a chosen cross section of the entire world; He casts a wide net. However, once those He calls accept Jesus Christ, God does show Himself partial to the "good fish" - those who love Him, obey Him, serve others, grow, and produce spiritual fruit. In the process of salvation, God judges whether we are good, useable fish or substandard fish fit only for the fire. He judges us according to how we measure up against His standard of righteousness, "the perfect man, . . . the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). God throws His net into the world and drags us in, and if we are unwilling to comply with His holy standard, our eternal judgment will be to be discarded in the fire.

Presently, the church's function is not judicial but declarative. On the one hand, the church is responsible to warn sinners of the dire consequences of sin and of the time of God's judgment coming upon all humanity. On the other hand, we are to witness of God's way of life, as well as to proclaim the return of Christ's return and the establishment of God's wonderful, benevolent government here on earth. That is good news!

Martin G. Collins
The Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Eight): The Parable of the Dragnet


 

Matthew 25:31-46  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Understanding the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats lies in their surprised responses. Both the sheep and the goats respond, "When did we see you in need and help you?" (verses 37-39, 44). This parable contains two lessons.

The first lesson is that neither the sheep nor the goats are surprised at the place Christ assigns them. A careful reading of the parable shows that clearly. They do not respond to the place that Christ assigns them, but they express surprise at the reasons He gives for His judgment. A vital question to Christians is, on what does He base his judgment? The basis of His judgment is how they treated Christ! Of course, their treatment of Christ manifests itself in how they treated those in whom Christ lived, those who had His Spirit.

The second lesson is no less important than the first. Jesus, our Judge, eliminates the possibility of hypocrisy obscuring His judgment of the sheep and the goats. If the goats had thought that treating their brothers in the faith would have gotten them into the Kingdom, they would have done it. What is the lesson? Jesus is interested in love from the heart, not a false love.

The true love of God is seen in the sheep. As the sheep respond to their brother's need, they are united in their distress and at the same time unwittingly, unconsciously, without hypocrisy, align themselves with Christ. Apparently, they are not even aware of what they were doing. This is a kind of love that cannot be faked or put on. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

The reaction of the goats is quite different. They have little sympathy for God's way and remain indifferent, Laodicean, to their brethren. In so doing, they reject their Messiah, their King, since He lived in the people whom they would not serve. The goats are condemned because of their sins of omission.

Because they had developed their relationship with Christ through prayer, Bible study, fasting, and obedience, the sheep have love through a regular infusion of the Spirit of God. "[T]he love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5). A godly life always comes down to the basic things. The sheep are simply unconsciously and unaffectedly good, kind, sympathetic, and concerned, attributes of character that cannot be feigned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Luke 12:48  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's judgment is perfectly fair. In this life, some have better opportunities to develop God's character. Others have greater intelligence or natural abilities. God will apply the principle of "to whom much is given, much is required" with perfect fairness. Teachers of God's way will be held to an even higher standard.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Luke 12:49-50  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This section shows that Jesus thought as we do regarding the time of the end. The word "fire" in verse 49 indicates "judgment." "I am come to send judgment upon the earth." And then He says, "What will I?", meaning, "How I wish that it was already kindled!" He wanted to get on with it, even as we do today. However, in verse 50 He shows that certain things have to come to pass and be done first. In this particular case, He is referring to His death and resurrection.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)


 

Luke 13:23-28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Many will seek to enter the Kingdom of God but be barred from it because of flagrant sin. Jesus will refuse to answer the knock of unruly sinners who have rejected salvation, though they weep and grind their teeth when they find out they cannot enter God's Kingdom. When the third resurrection arrives, all humanity will have had the opportunity to be saved; everyone's ultimate destiny will have been eternally set. It will be too late for anyone who, after coming to the knowledge of the truth, sins willfully and thereby rejects eternal life. Those who reject God and His way of life must then reap the consequences of that decision - the second death following the third resurrection to judgment.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection


 

Luke 16:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Abraham and Lazarus were separated from the rich man suffering for his sins. The latter had received his reward in the material things he had sought, craved, and acquired during his mortal lifetime. The gulf Abraham mentions that prevents the wicked from escaping death in the Lake of Fire—and that also keeps the righteous from being burned—is immortality. Those who are immortal will never die because they are composed of spirit like God (Revelation 20:6). Only the saved possess immortality as the gift of God (Romans 2:7).

Conversely, human beings who have not been resurrected or changed to spirit are still physical and subject to corruption and death. They can be consumed by fire because they are composed of flesh and blood. The wicked will reap anguish and wrath, the fiery indignation that will devour the adversary (Hebrews 10:27). For such people, there will be a time of anguish before they die when the fire consumes their bodies. The parable ends with Abraham's words ringing in the rich man's mind and flames of judgment engulfing his body.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Part Two)


 

Luke 17:20-37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The original question posed by the Pharisees was, "When is the Kingdom of God coming?" (verse 20). The long section from the end of verse 20 to verse 37 is Jesus' answer, first to the Pharisees (verses 20-21) and then to His disciples (verses 22-37). His reply to the Pharisees is rather curt: "You won't be able to discern the coming of the Kingdom because you haven't recognized that I am its chief representative, though I have been among you."

In His longer explanation to His disciples, Jesus goes into quite a bit more detail about the timing and conditions of establishing His Kingdom. First, He says, do not be deceived when people tell you Christ has come (verses 22-23). We will know very well when He returns; it will be like a flash of lightning that everyone will see (verse 24). However, before this can happen, Jesus must be tortured and crucified as man's Redeemer (verse 25). From our vantage point, which the disciples did not have, we know that this condition has already been met at Golgotha or Calvary.

Then He gives details about the conditions in the world when He returns. It will be as it was in the days of Noah and Lot (verses 26-30). He highlights two major signs of the end here:

1. He will come suddenly when people do not expect Him to return. Most people will be going about their normal activities, unaware of the times.

2. When He returns, society will be degenerate and wicked just as it was before the Flood came and before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 6:5-7; 18:20; 19:1-11).

Luke 17:31-33 shows that, for His disciples, His coming will result in a test of faith. They will have to be willing to leave everything behind—their homes, their possessions, even their loved ones—in order to obey the call of God. Lot's wife turned back in longing for what she had left behind, and God's judgment fell swiftly upon her. We may have to be willing even to give up our lives for salvation, because in trying to save our physical lives, we would have to renounce our beliefs.

Verses 34-36 illustrate three scenes of judgment. These show that Christ will judge us individually, and despite how close we may be to another—a spouse, a neighbor, a co-worker—our obedience and good works will not deliver anyone else (see Ezekiel 14:12-20). We will have to prove ourselves to the righteous Judge of all (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10).

Finally, the disciples ask Jesus where these things will take place (Luke 17:37). His reply is better translated in the Revised English Bible: "Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather." This seems somewhat enigmatic, but if we take what He says literally, He implies that He will return at a place of great carnage. This would parallel the scenarios prophesied in Zechariah 14:1-5 and Revelation 19:11-21 (see especially verses 17-18, 21b).

All through this section Jesus is describing real circumstances, real people, and real places. He speaks of a literal Kingdom to be established at His return "with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

Since the context of Luke 17:21 is Christ's second coming, and Jesus is speaking in great detail about the time, place, and conditions of His return, we must see His Kingdom as a literal government—just as real as any government of man. We cannot divorce "the Kingdom of God is among you" from this larger topic. Doing so distorts the true meaning of a literal, soon-coming Kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ that will grow to fill the whole earth after His return.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

John 7:37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As the God of the Old Testament (John 1:1-3, 14), Jesus personally instituted the Last Great Day to symbolize the Great White Throne Judgment. As Judge of mankind, Christ is great in all His attributes; He is the perfect Judge of all (John 5:22, 24-30). We can also see the greatness of this period in the huge number of people who will be mercifully and lovingly judged and granted eternal life.

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

John 12:48  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God will judge us by the things written in the "books," that is, His Word. The Bible contains God's laws, the standard of righteousness by which everyone is judged.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Romans 2:1-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 1, Paul says that anybody participating even in some of the more easily mastered practices of human nature is putting himself on dangerous spiritual quicksand. Today, in the wake of the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, a common judgment is to call Herbert Armstrong into account yet say at the end, "But I loved him." Those who do this have overlooked how vulnerable and subject to God's judgment this makes them.

Verse 2 carries Paul's warning a step further by reminding us that God judges according to truth. Those who judge and act as Paul describes in verse 1 have precious little truth. However, this major element gives God the right to judge. He alone knows all the facts and can arrange them all in the light of perfect righteousness.

He reveals in verse 3 the weak position of those judging: They are guilty of committing the same sins, or ones just as bad, as those they are judging! Paul is saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones! In fact, their judgment of others may be one of those sins! In verse 4, he counsels them to lay aside their pride and concentrate on making the best use of God's patience by repenting of their sins.

In verse 5, the apostle plays on the word "riches" in the previous verse. Physical wealth is something one normally sets aside and treasures, but those who persist in evil works are "treasuring up" judgment for themselves! Verses 6 through 11 are a classic argument for the doing of good works after justification from the mind and pen of the very man most often accused of saying no works are necessary.

Within the context of the entire book, Paul is saying here that, while a person is justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, establishing a relationship with God that because of sin never before existed, good works should result from justification. Good works are the concrete, open, and public expression of the reality of our relationship with God. They are its witness.

Just as surely as day follows night, if our faith truly is in God, the works that follow will be according to God's will. Living by God's will should be the natural consequence of faith in God. Though we are justified by faith, II Corinthians 5:10 spells out that we are judged according to our works. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Is it not logical, then, for a person, knowing he will be judged according to his works, to want at least some clearly stated absolutes to show him what is expected of him rather than a fuzzy and vague statement about loving one another? Would not such a person want to know more specifically what constitutes love?

In Romans 2:7, Paul is not saying using one's faith will be easy, but that those who have that faith will use it to work. "Patient continuance" presupposes a measure of hardship, and "seek" implies pursuing something not yet attained. Together, they indicate a persistent quest of God's righteousness. In verse 10, the apostle uses the phrase "to everyone who works what is good." He does not define what "good" is at this point, but whatever it is, work is necessary to accomplish it. In verses 11-12, he reiterates that we will be judged, introducing a word that many seem to find so repulsive: law!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Romans 2:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This instruction refutes the doctrine of eternal security. He writes this letter to converted Romans, those who had already accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. As God does in Genesis 3, the apostle threatens these Christians with God's utter abhorrence of sin and His unwavering promise to judge it.

Paul later illustrates this process of judgment to the Hebrews:

For the earth [Christians] which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessings from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned [in the Lake of Fire]. (Hebrews 6:7-8; see verses 4-6; Matthew 13:47-50; 25:31-46)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

Romans 2:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We cannot be justified before God except through faith in the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and then God gives us grace. This does not excuse us from keeping the law because He says those who keep the law will be justified; therefore, keeping the law cannot justify. It cannot save a person, but those who keep the law will be justified and saved—not because they are keeping the law in order to be saved but because they are faithful in showing God that they are preparing their lives for His Kingdom, where everybody will live the same godly life, according to the same rules. That is what God's law outlines—His way of life.

This section, up to verse 16, shows that both those with a formal ignorance of God's law (say, the Gentiles) and those with knowledge of the law (in this case, the Jews, or in our context now, Christians) will be judged by the law. Why? Because the law defines sin! Sin brings God's judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Romans 5:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Adam and Eve sinned, God judged them. Since they were the father and mother of all of mankind, and they were the only representatives of mankind at the time, all of mankind figuratively sinned in Adam and Eve. God's judgment was correct, because given the chance, every human has sinned.

What then happened to Adam and Eve? They were ushered out of the Garden, and God put a cherubim at its entrance to guard the Garden and the Tree of Life so that nobody could get back in. This is why at times the Bible bids people to return to God when they had never seemingly turned away from Him. Yet, all of mankind did turn away from God in Adam and Eve, and He invites us to return to the place, symbolically, where everything started, back to the environs He occupies, where the Tree of Life is.

The relationship with God is everything to our salvation. Without what Christ did in dying for our sins, we would not be in the position to have one with Him. Christ's payment of our sins opens up the way for a relationship to be built and for us to grow in the Holy Spirit, because now we have access to the Tree of Life in a relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Romans 6:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not a single person would be alive if God responded to sin as carnal man wants to respond to sins that directly affect him. Consider that, in the scenario of killing in self-defense, the one killing is judging that his life is more important than the life he is willing to snuff out. One sinner accounts his life to be of more worth than the life of another sinner. Would God make the same determination?

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

Romans 9:14-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sometimes these concepts are tough mental nuts for us to crack and swallow because we emotionally recoil at thinking of God as doing the things Paul mentions. Nevertheless, the Bible's record is true. Clearly, the sovereign God, in working out His plan, purposely makes people for destruction, while at the same time giving abundant grace in His calling to others who are just as worthy of destruction as those destroyed! Were Pharaoh and the Egyptians any worse sinners than the Israelites? Hardly, but in God's purpose they died while the Israelites received grace.

As Paul says, there is no unrighteousness in God. He is free to exercise His powers as He wills. His actions are always done in love, and in the end, they will produce righteousness, love, and honor for Him. The Egyptians will be saved. When God gives them grace in the Great White Throne Judgment, they will come to know Him and glorify Him as their God too.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Romans 9:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul says, "How can we even think such a thing?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Romans 11:19-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul directs this passage toward Gentiles as part of an admonition he wanted them to consider regarding their calling into the church. We, too, must seriously consider God's goodness and severity. God is not only what we commonly think of as love. His character is perfectly balanced by a sense of justice for all concerned and for His purpose too. To be just is to be fair, evenhanded, and impartial. God will always be fair because even His justice is executed in love and is an act of love.

God is not only supreme in power and authority, but He is also supreme in judgment. His mind pierces through all of the justifications we make to excuse our bad attitudes and conduct as measured against His righteous standard. So, if we desire to live by faith, we must seriously consider His sense of justice because what we may think is a small matter, an event of no great magnitude, may trigger God to react with terrible swiftness and severe consequences that leave us wondering why. Scripture records a number of these sudden, violent reactions.

We must begin by understanding that we do not see the entire picture as God does. The reality of God's justice helps us to perceive three important factors to living by faith: 1) The wages of sin is indeed death (Romans 6:23); 2) we are headed toward death and do not know its time; and 3) God means exactly what He says.

Jesus declares an important principle in Luke 12:48: "But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." We need to think about the seriousness of our calling, knowing that human nature contains a strong strain of self-deception. This verse should remind us that because we have been given so much, our judgment will be sterner.

God states in Romans 1:18-20 that mankind is without excuse regarding His existence, but it is easily seen in the immoral conduct committed throughout the world that people are paying little or no attention to their responsibilities to God. As people go about their daily activities, they ignore Him; a relationship with Him is not perceived as a vital, everyday necessity to life.

Some may talk of Him on occasion and even pray, but they are not seriously committed to true devotion to Him. They are neither learning more of His truth nor further broadening and deepening obedience to Him. Besides those folks, some are openly and aggressively antagonistic toward Him and His laws.

However, in the face of these attitudes, we cannot allow ourselves to disregard the fact that God is very serious about His intentions to fulfill His purposes for His creation and most especially in the lives of His children. His purpose has been revealed to us, and we are more responsible than others.

Though by our reckoning of time God's justice often seems long delayed, the prophecies will be fulfilled and His Kingdom established under Jesus Christ. God commands that we must live by faith, so we cannot let down. We must push on in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Romans 11:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Many other scriptures state that God desires to save all of mankind, not just Israelites. Given the circumstances that have already occurred, and the criteria that must be met under the process of judgment, the only way God can save humanity is through a future resurrection.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

1 Corinthians 1:10-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no doubt that the church is now badly divided—and it shows no evidence of reuniting—yet we are all commanded to speak the same things.

Paul goes on to use the words "mind" and "judgment." Mind is actually related to the power of observation—the way that we see things. He is saying we all need to see things in the same way. Judgment deals with the forming of an opinion.

The Corinthians obviously did not all see things the same way, and they therefore could not possibly come to the same opinion. So they did the natural thing and divided. They did not actually leave the congregation, but cliques formed within it, and the members were not at peace with one another.

Why did they not see things the same way? The context shows it depended upon whom each person decided he would use as his authority. Some used Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, and of course, some Christ. There is no evidence that those named as authorities were divided, but people made it seem so. No wonder they were divided! Today, sadly, many are doing the same thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

1 Corinthians 6:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is saying, "If you go to man's law in charging your brother, you have already lost! It does not matter how the judge decides it; as far as God is concerned, you have lost the case!"

Paul's instructions are clear. In a case involving brothers, a Christian had better be prepared to "lose," as an act of faith, out of respect for Christ, the Head of this church. By faith, we know that He will judge the situation. Does He have enough wisdom to do that—and power to carry out His judgments? Do we have enough faith to allow Him to do it?

Is there a legal basis for this? Absolutely—He owns us! We are His slaves! He purchased every single one of us with His blood! He has legal right to judge between brothers. We are to submit to the authority of Christ by faith and allow Him to judge if no judgment can be reached within the church. If a judgment is reached within the church, but the church has judged wrongly, then the brothers must be willing to accept it with the knowledge that they can, by faith, appeal to a higher court, and that Christ will vindicate the righteous. It may not happen right away, but if we pray for that in faith, then we can patiently wait for it. He will do it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

2 Corinthians 8:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God judges according to what we have and what we do with it. Thus, we should give freely, generously, and cheerfully without grudging, knowing that we will reap what we sow. God never expects us to give more than we have. If you have a willing mind to give, give what you have. God will notice.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'If I Have Not Charity'


 

Ephesians 2:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What a depressing status! If these verses stood alone, these "aliens" and "strangers" would indeed live their lives in vain. Without a future opportunity for salvation, they would truly be lost forever.

Are millions lost because they never heard the name of Christ? What about infants who died? What about the billions enslaved under the dreadful yoke of atheistic communism? They did not choose to be born in a godless society. Are the doors forever shut on those born in a nation dominated by Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or Islam? Most calling themselves Christian think so.

Could we call God merciful if He consigned people to hopelessness merely because of an accident of birth? Would He be fair to condemn those who never heard? God can do anything He wants. It is, after all, His creation. In verse 13, though, there is a slight crack in the door of hope: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Everyone has stood in the Gentile's position of being far off from salvation. We have all had to be brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Could the only difference between us and them be a matter of timing?

Imagine the multiple billions who have lived through childhood unloved, uneducated, and unhealthy in body and spirit. They may have endured miserable marriages, reared and lost children to disease, war, and natural disaster. Others may have spent seemingly pointless lives growing old, neglected, and disrespected as fodder for the next disaster.

The heaven and hell doctrines of this world's Christianity may make for interesting reading, but they render the judgments and resurrections of God as superfluous. They diminish the creative power of the great, merciful God in these areas as finished and past, not as ongoing and future.

In contrast, the Last Great Day has a very special meaning to those who understand. It answers perplexing questions about the great masses of humanity who are living or have died without knowledge of God's way or a true understanding of Jesus Christ, the only "name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In my multiple decades as a minister, I have yet to talk with anyone from another church who knows the fate of these "lost" people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that II Thessalonians 1:8 says that God will take vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. This idea has a strong tie to the book of Revelation, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is the "good news" that He brought. His good news is not primarily about Himself, but rather it is the message that He brought from His Father about the Kingdom of God being established on earth (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16-17). After the gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14), God will be justified in punishing all of those who reject it. The end of this present world will come when God takes vengeance on those who have heard the gospel message—which, at that point, will be everyone alive on earth—but who refuse to repent and submit to God's rule on earth.

The tie to the book of Revelation is that the unveiling of Jesus Christ, when He removes man from governing the earth and takes that responsibility to Himself, is the fulfillment of the gospel message that He brought. When Christ is revealed, the Kingdom of God will be at hand. Revelation fills in the explosive details of how the governments of this world will come under the rulership of God.

Even though the word gospel means "good news," people typically do not think of the book of Revelation as being encouraging or uplifting. For most professing Christians, the gospel that Jesus preached is not good news. They prefer a gospel that is limited to the forgiveness of their sins. When they hear that God's Kingdom includes repentance and obedience to His laws, they cannot tolerate it (Romans 8:7). For those who will not obey the gospel, the book of Revelation is not good news at all, because it foretells their judgment for idolatry and disobedience.

For true Christians, though, this book is wonderful news! It may not be "good" news in the sense of being pleasant, enjoyable, or attractive. Instead, its news contains a zealous, righteous goodness—an active pursuit of what is good for mankind, a deliberate and forceful bringing to pass of those things that will make life good for everyone. The entire creation will rejoice when the present principalities, powers, and broken governments of men are replaced with a King who will powerfully impose all that is good upon a sin-sick world.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Book of Revelation?


 

Hebrews 10:38  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Now the just shall live by faith" is both a statement of fact and a command. It is not easy, but at the very least, God has gifted each member of the Body. It requires of us a great deal of focused and disciplined living to live by faith. To do it well, we must fully accept God's sovereignty, not merely as a random fact, but as a reality working in our lives of faith.

Recall that many Israelites failed along the way to the Promised Land because their faith failed at some point during their pilgrimage. But their faith in whom and in what? Of course, it is faith in God, but unlike them, have we fully accepted what He is and what He does? Jesus commands in Luke 14:26 that we must place Him before all else in our lives. What are His qualities and attributes? What is our vision of God's place in our lives?

Besides God's warning about the world, we must often be reminded that the carnal mind is not subject to Him, as indeed it cannot be (Romans 8:7). A major reason the Israelites in the wilderness failed is that it never entered their minds at the beginning of their journey that it would be so difficult.

Our positions as called children of God place us in a position in which we must determine who is regulating affairs on this earth. To whom will we submit our lives, God or Satan? It is not as though there is a struggle between them. The "contest" has already been decided. God won. However, He permits Satan limited leeway to test and try us. Which of these two—between whom we must choose—is supreme? Which will we choose to be sovereign over our lives?

Revelation 12:9 states that Satan has deceived the entire world. He is an accuser and the author of confusion. If we take an overview of conditions on earth, we see turmoil everywhere, providing a clear picture that mankind as a whole has given itself over to Satan. Indeed, in II Corinthians 4:4 the apostle Paul names him as "the god of this age" who has blinded men's minds to the light of the gospel.

However, this is not so with us. By God's mercy, our minds have been opened for the very purpose of freely choosing God as our sovereign and submitting to Him. So then, how much do we truly know about His attributes, character, and judgments as shown in His Word?

For instance, are we aware of what it says in Deuteronomy 28:63?

And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.

This is a side of God that is not often taught, yet it is part of the whole of what He is, and we must face it and choose. Judgments are often painful. God says in Deuteronomy 8:3 that He humbled the Israelites and caused them to hunger. Will He for His purposes bring similar judgments on us so that we must choose to accept His chastening and submit to Him as our sovereign?

Why might He rejoice in exercising His judgment against people? It is actually because of His merciful love. Peter reminds us, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). Paul, in I Timothy 2:4, confirms this, saying God "desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." Thus, He can rejoice in punishment because He knows that the punishment will be the means of drawing men to the knowledge of the truth by which they can repent and be saved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part One)


 

James 2:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A divine judgment is coming, and it will be done fairly. However, God will be disinclined to show any mercy to those who have not exhibited mercy and kindness to others. This is the law of reciprocity: God will judge us according to how we have judged others (see Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:37-38).

James also says that "mercy triumphs over judgment." Indeed, the laws we have broken demand our death, but the mercy of God through the sacrificial death of His Son has made a way for us to be accepted. In the end, it will be clear that God's mercy prevails.

John O. Reid
Mercy: The Better Option


 

1 Peter 2:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Bible reveals God's patience as a quality of His character that deters Him for long periods from retaliating against those who sin against Him. This fits neatly with what Peter says regarding Christ's example. As a man, Christ did not strike back, but wisely and patiently left any retaliation due in the matter to God's judgment. This is also an example to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

2 Peter 2:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The ungodly are sinners. God, being the just God that He is, judged according to His law. He wanted to save these people so that they could be resurrected and given an opportunity for salvation at a better time. Not being able to abide their rebellion, He wiped them out because they were sinners, ungodly, breaking His law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

2 Peter 3:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does not want anyone to perish but desires all to come to repentance. However, to those who refuse His mercy and trample the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ as if it were vile (Hebrews 10:26-31), He is a God of justice and righteous judgment. These, who leave Him with no alternative but to put them to death for eternity, will know what He earnestly desired them to achieve.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection


 

Jude 1:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is one of a series of three examples that Jude uses to show the surety of God's judgment falling upon sinners (those who are committing sin as a way of life). The angels left their first estate or their place of habitation. Habitation refers either to a place of living or of responsibility. In this case, it refers to both. We have to recognize that their habitation was the earth. This is where they lived and the place they were responsible for.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What I Believe About Conspiracy Theories


 

Revelation 6:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Theirs is not a bloodthirsty cry for vengeance, as some have seen it, since this does not accord with Christian character (Romans 12:19-21), but a call for justice or judgment—a major theme of the seals—as well as a question about the proximity of Christ's return. It is well known that at His second coming, He will both reward His saints and judge His enemies (see Matthew 24:30-31; Revelation 11:15-18; Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 14:1-5).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part Two)


 

Revelation 6:12-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Unlike the other five seals, the text of the sixth seal is straightforward and uncomplicated. Only a few of the details in the description require more than a brief comment in explanation. Far more important to understanding this seal as a judgment is the effect the signs have on the people of the earth.

The seal opens with "a great earthquake" (Revelation 6:12), a common indicator of God appearing (see Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:8; 77:18; 97:4; Habakkuk 3:10; Haggai 2:6-7), working out His purpose (see Exodus 19:18; Matthew 27:51-54; 28:2; Acts 16:26), and/or striking out in displeasure and judgment. In terms of anger and punishment, God caused an earthquake to open the ground in the wilderness and swallow Korah and his fellow rebels (Numbers 16:31-32). In Psalm 18:7, David writes, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry" (see Isaiah 5:25; Nahum 1:2-5). God prophesies in Isaiah 13:11, 13, "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. . . . Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger."

Earthquakes occur frequently in Revelation, of which this one is the first. Seismic activity accompanies the seventh seal (Revelation 8:5), the resurrection of the Two Witnesses (11:13), the seventh trumpet (11:19), and the seventh bowl or vial (KJV) of God's wrath (16:18). Evidently, massive earthquakes—the kind that strikes dread and panic into every soul caught in them—will frequently punctuate the Day of the Lord.

Certainly, the heavenly signs that occur in tandem with the great temblor are astounding, especially if all of them should occur within a short span of time. Joel 2:30-31 describes the same event: "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD." In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus repeats the warning: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25). Luke's rendition adds a few details:

And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)

The Sun Darkened: John describes the darkness of the sun as "black as sackcloth of hair" (Revelation 6:12), comparing it to the black goat hair used to make sackcloth and tents in his day. This may depict a solar eclipse or possibly a massive dust storm caused by a volcanic explosion. The Ninth Plague covered Egypt with a "darkness which may even be felt," a "thick darkness" (Exodus 10:21-22), and perhaps God will repeat it on an even grander scale. Whatever the case, visibility will be severely limited, even during the daylight hours.

The Moon Like Blood: This chilling sight presages calamity and death, particularly in war, as in the color of the second horse (Revelation 6:4). Sometimes lunar discoloration occurs naturally when unusual amounts of dust are suspended in the atmosphere, particularly after a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. Incidentally, many manuscripts read "full moon" rather than simply "moon."

The Stars Fall: John's imagery reflects countless late figs blown down by the violent winter wind (verse 13). This seems most likely to predict a meteor shower of immense proportions, possibly containing larger-than-normal meteorites, thus increasing the effect and making it seem as if the stars themselves are falling. Because stars are a biblical symbol of angels, some have suggested that this verse parallels Revelation 12:7-10, the casting out of Satan and his demons from heaven. However, for this to have any credence, the concurrent celestial events must also be taken symbolically.

The Sky Recedes: Of these four wonders, this event is the most puzzling (Revelation 6:14). The apostle compares it to a scroll rolling up, or we might think of it in terms of opening a spring-loaded window blind. Joseph A. Seiss, in his The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation, comments: "Great, massive, rotary motion in the whole visible expanse, is signified, as if it were folding itself up to pass away forever." Perhaps John saw clouds building to thunderheads, roiling, and flying at breakneck speed across the expanse of the sky. Such turbulence could make an observer on the ground think the sky was splitting apart. Isaiah 34:4 describes the Day of the Lord similarly.

The Mountains and Islands Move: As a result of the great convulsion of the earth, massive land transformations occur, shifting mountains on land and undersea. Obviously, such a violent shaking will create unprecedented destruction and loss of life. As the conclusion of the sixth seal's disturbances, this displacement of terra firma is the calamity that most terrifies earth's inhabitants. Suddenly, nothing is stable—not even the earth under their feet!

Finally, God has their attention!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal


 

Revelation 6:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The effect of these cosmic signs from God is to produce terror in earth's populace, triggering humanity's strong drive to preserve itself. Despite mountains moving, men and women of every origin, status, and creed—from king to slave—flee for the caves under the mountains in a vain attempt to hide themselves from God (Revelation 6:15). This is reminiscent of Isaiah 2:19, a prophecy of the Day of the Lord: "They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily."

John sees these fearful people speaking to the mountains and rocks, commanding them to hide them from the sight of God the Father and from the "wrath of the Lamb" (verse 16). Their cry, "Fall on us!" is not a death wish or a suicidal means to avoid God's judgment but a hope that the mountains will cover and conceal them. "Fall on us and hide us" is typical Hebrew parallelism, as can be seen from an Old Testament parallel in which Israelites "shall say to the mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall on us!'" (Hosea 10:8).

It is somewhat startling that earth's sinners correctly identify these catastrophic events as evidences of God's wrath. We are used to them being termed "natural disasters" and in no way a result of God's intervention in humanity's affairs. Yet, this time, these cataclysmic signs are indeed "acts of God," and men know it. Such a succession of disturbances can be nothing other than divine anger.

Further, people seek to be "out of sight, out of mind" to both the Father—"Him who sits on the throne" (Revelation 6:16)—and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Often, the phrase "face of Him," "face of God," or "face of the LORD" suggests being in His presence (Genesis 33:10; I Samuel 26:20; II Chronicles 7:14; Lamentations 2:19; Luke 1:76). However, it can also imply being under the judgment of an angry God (see Leviticus 26:17; Psalm 34:16; Jeremiah 44:11; Lamentations 4:16; also Amos 9:4). Obviously, the latter idea fits this instance.

Initially, it seems incongruous to pair "wrath" with "of the Lamb," but it makes perfect sense on two levels. First, "Lamb" is only one title of this complex Individual, Jesus Christ, who is not a cute, cuddly, little lamb. As the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue," relates, a person's name cannot describe his entire personality, and one may rue the day he made the assumption it could! The same Jesus Christ who took little children in His arms and blessed them also made a whip of cords and angrily drove the moneychangers from God's Temple.

Second, as it pertains to Christ, the lamb represents a sacrificial Redeemer, One who gave His life to buy back others who had been enslaved. The meaning of the symbol contemplates, not only the force of character it would take to perform such a selfless act, but also the position of mastery to which it elevated Him due to its success. In other words, the imagery of the lamb contains both the Suffering Servant and the Exalted Lord and Judge of all (John 5:22).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal


 

Revelation 6:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation 6:17 should read, "For the day, the great [day] of Their wrath, has come, and who is able to stand?" This is a plain statement of truth followed by a rhetorical question (see Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2). The sixth seal announces in unmistakable fashion that "the great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly" (Zephaniah 1:14). The prophet Joel describes it:

Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all of the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. . . . The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness. The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? (Joel 2:1-2, 10-11)

This is the question: Who will survive it? Who will pass God's judgment? The answer seems to be, "No one." But there is hope, as Joel 2:12-14 instructs:

"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him . . .?

Jesus gives us His answer in Luke 21:36: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." We must be alert and prepared for what may come, and the most important part of our preparation is the strengthening of our relationships with the Father and the Son through prayer, study, meditation, and obedience to His instructions. This is the only means to escape God's wrath.

Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD'S fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger comes upon you! Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD'S anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

If we wish to avoid the coming stern and destructive judgment of God on recalcitrant mankind, there is no time like the present to seek His face (Psalm 105:4).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal


 

Revelation 11:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Measuring is "judging against a standard." When we measure a thing, we take something with a fixed proportion - like a length or a weight that is known or standardized - and we compare it to whatever we are trying to quantify or measure. We see how it measures up: how long it is, how wide it is, how tall it is, how heavy it is, etc. We can also see if it fits a pattern or a template that is necessary for the item to do its part. In our case, one can see if he is fit for the Kingdom of God.

"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17). We are being measured, judged, against a standard. "The house of God" is another way of saying "the temple of God," the phrase used here. Judgment begins at the house of God, and the Two Witnesses are given the responsibility of measuring the Temple of God. The two verses are saying basically the same thing. Note, the Two Witnesses are not actually doing the judging - Christ is, for that is His job. The Two Witnesses' responsibility is to explain the basis for the measurements. In other words, it is their job to show what the standard is, to let people know what they should be measuring up to.

Their job is similar to Amos' vision of the plumb line (Amos 7:7). The plumb line can be said to be slightly different because it is used to measure verticality - to see whether something is standing up straight, or to use a more "religious" term, to see if it is "upright." A plumb line is a weight suspended on a string. When it stops swaying like a pendulum, the string is perfectly vertical. When a workman puts it next to something like a wall or post that needs to be vertical, he can tell whether his wall or post is out of plumb or not.

That idea is present here in Revelation 11:1. How close do we meet the standard? How upright are we? How fit are we for the Kingdom of God? Finding the answers to these questions is part of the Two Witnesses' job. Remember that the work of the church is essentially done by this time. This preaching of the standard is a work that the ministry of the church has been given to do in every time, but maybe not to this extent. In any event, the Two Witnesses, at this time of the end, are the only ones able to do this job in a major way.

It is possible that this part of their ministry begins, however, before the Seven Thunders cease. In fact, it is a pretty good bet that they will already be involved in ministry before the Tribulation begins. Then God will say, "Okay, now it's time for you to do your real job." They will then begin their prophesied ministry, which will be quite intense.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

Revelation 11:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies." This really confused commentators up until about 1940 or 1950, because they did not understand how the whole world would be able to see dead bodies in Jerusalem. So, scratching their heads, they thought of it as a mystery. Now we know: Television makes it possible for us to see anything that happens anywhere on earth. With the modern technological advancements over the last half century or so, we have a better grasp on how Bible prophecy will be fulfilled.

The next matter is the phrase "not allow." They do not allow the Two Witnesses' dead bodies to be put into graves, which is the ultimate in disrespect and desecration. Amos 2:1 shows how much God is against this sort of thing, which is why this detail is mentioned in Revelation 11. Amos is summarizing God's judgments on the nations surrounding Israel and Judah:

Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment [meaning, I will punish], because he [the king of Moab] burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime." (Amos 2:1)

The Moabite king evidently exhumed the dead body. Then, in the sight of the defeated Edomites, he burned the bones of one of their kings. To defile the dead is so heinous a crime that God says, "Just for that, I'm going to come and wipe you out." It was a terrible thing for a nation to perpetrate against the king of another nation—despite his being dead for perhaps many years. God is very much against this sort of desecration.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 7)


 

Revelation 11:15-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This last - seventh - trumpet announces the coming of Christ, the establishment of God's Kingdom, the judgment upon the nations, and the rewarding of the saints. They occur simultaneously!

The last trumpet sounds when Christ returns, not 3½ years before! If we compare verses 11-13 (the resurrection of the Two Witnesses) with verse 19, the "great earthquake" ties the resurrection of the saints with the beginning of the Kingdom (see also Revelation 16:18). In addition, an angel tells John in Revelation 10:7 that when "the seventh angel . . . is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." There will be no more mystery about man becoming God when the saints are resurrected or changed to eternal spirit beings!

Matthew 24:30-31 also verifies this scenario, showing that the trumpet sounds to send the angels to gather the elect from all over the earth to meet Him upon His return. To clinch the argument, verse 29 very plainly says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. . ."! Isaiah 27:12-13, Joel 2:1-11 and Zechariah 14:3-5, 9 also confirm these events.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

Revelation 11:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

According to these angels, part of the reason for Christ's return is to pass judgment on those who have polluted, defiled, and marred God's creation! God has great patience, but by that time He will have seen enough of man's blatant disregard for the work of His hands. He will strike with a vengeance that mankind has never before even imagined (Matthew 24:21-22), and the guilty will pay with their lives.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment


 

Revelation 20:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that this is done so that Satan can no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years are finished. This is God's judgment. Why does He make this judgment? So that Satan will no longer be able to deceive. Man is separated from God because he was deceived into sinning, thus rejecting the government of God, causing estrangement from God. As long as Satan is free to deceive, mankind will never be reconciled to God.

So then, God judges that, even though Jesus Christ will be on earth, unless Satan is gotten out of the way, atonement can never take place. Thus, the first order of business, after Christ returns, is to make a judgment against Satan so that man can be reconciled to God.

The judgments of God are continuing. They do not stop with the Feast of Trumpets, but they keep right on rolling.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Revelation 20:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first part of verse 5 inserts a parenthetical statement that refers to a second resurrection, described in verses 11-15. After the Millennium, God will raise up to physical life all those who have never had an opportunity for salvation. Christ will judge all those who lived throughout human history yet have not been called. Ezekiel 37:1-14 prophesies of God resurrecting all Israel. At the same time (see Matthew 12:41-42), He will raise all the Gentiles and extend to them the same offer He does to Israel (Romans 2:7-11; I Timothy 2:4). If they satisfy God's judgment, He will at some point grant them eternal life and give them spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:44-49).

After all have had their opportunity, God will perform still a third resurrection. Those who will not repent of their rebellion against the Almighty will be raised to physical life and cast into the Lake of Fire, which provides a merciful, permanent death (see Matthew 25:41).

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

Revelation 20:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Great White Throne Judgment will occur during a hundred-year period (Isaiah 65:17-25). At this time, those of the second resurrection will be judged by the same standard as everyone else - the Word of God.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Revelation 20:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle John saw people rising from the dead and experiencing the same kind of judgment we do now. For the first time, they are called of God, granted repentance, given His Holy Spirit, and gain access to Him. They, too, must then overcome and grow into the image of God that they might be prepared to live and reign in God's Kingdom. Like us, God judges them against the things written in His Word. He also opens the Book of Life so new names can be entered. All these things do not happen instantly but over a period of time deemed sufficient by God to prepare them for His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

Revelation 20:11-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The resurrection of the righteous takes place at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that of the uncalled - the second resurrection - will occur in the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium. God is merciful, loving, and kind, not willing that any should perish. He desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance at the proper time. He has determined that most will receive this opportunity when He has set up His Kingdom on the earth, an environment most conducive to salvation.

These people will be raised up to physical existence. The "books" that are opened at this time are the books of the Bible in which are revealed true knowledge and understanding. The "Book of Life" will also be opened so their names can be written in it when they repent of their sins, accept Christ as personal Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. During this time, they will be judged according to their works. Thus, we see most of humanity standing before God to be judged. God in His wisdom has determined that this is the best way to bring the most sons to glory and eternal life in His Kingdom.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection


 

 




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