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What the Bible says about God's Vengeance
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 15:1-18

Exodus 15 opens with the word "then," showing that the context of chapter 14 provides the background for this first "Song of Moses." Since Exodus 14 relates the crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptian army in it, the song exalts God's victory over Pharaoh and Egypt. Much of it records in triumphant, descriptive poetry the details of that miraculous deliverance of the Israelites.

The song falls into three parts: verses 1-5, 6-10, and 11-18. This division can be seen by the concluding words in the first two sections: "They sank [into the sea]." The first section introduces the subject matter generally, giving the credit for the victory to God and explaining what it meant to the Israelites. This latter point appears plainly in verse 2: "The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him. . . ." The wording shows a progression of results: God acts strongly in His people's behalf, they praise or thank Him, and He saves or delivers them (either physically or spiritually) as their God.

This is indeed how God always works. He first reveals Himself, often by doing something for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Then, once we become aware of Him, we praise and thank Him and begin to develop a relationship with Him. At that point, the real work of salvation commences in and for us, and He becomes our God. Moses, in a few quick clauses, maps the salvation process!

The middle section amplifies the generalities of the first section by detailing the events of the Red Sea crossing, emphasizing God's participation. It was God's right hand that "dashed the enemy in pieces" (verse 6). In His burning fury, He "consumed them like stubble" (verse 7). At "the blast of [God's] nostrils," the sea parted and formed walls through which Israel could pass (verse 8). Finally, when the Israelites were through, God's "wind," His breath, pushed the waters back into place, covering and destroying the Egyptian army (verse 10). There can be no doubt who receives the credit for this astounding miracle!

Verse 9 captures the Egyptians'—particularly Pharaoh's—vengeful blood-lust against the Israelites. Their words, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil," pictures them almost breathlessly running or riding after their fleeing former slaves with dogged determination. Contrary to Moses' claim that God would prevail, they say, "My desire [for vengeance] shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them." In the end, it is very clear who was right—and who was dead!

The final section begins with a phrase repeated multiple times throughout Scripture: "Who is like you, O LORD . . .?" (verse 11; cf. Isaiah 40:18). The question is rhetorical; the answer obvious: No one! No other Being in the universe is so excellent in holiness, so awesome and praiseworthy, and so able to work such wonders!

In verses 13-18, Moses puts on his prophet's mantle and predicts the results of God's tremendous act. The nations along Israel's route to the Promised Land would be terrified, panic-stricken, paralyzed with fear, that they would follow the Egyptians into total destruction (verses 14-15). In fact, Moses literally says, "They will be petrified!" (verse 16).

Moses sees the entry of Israel into the Promised Land as a foregone conclusion (verse 17). Why would he not? He had just witnessed God bring them through the Red Sea and defeat the greatest army on earth! It would be a little thing for God to guide and protect them through the wilderness and lead them over Jordan. In the flush of victory, he cannot imagine the 40 years and the tremendous struggle it would take until that occurred. Moses even foresees a sanctuary "in the mountain of Your inheritance," which some scholars believe refers to Mount Moriah, where Abraham sacrificed Isaac, and where the Temple was eventually built.

Finally, verse 18 trumpets the perpetuity of God's reign. It is hard to believe that it took 65 chapters for the Bible to refer to God as a king, but indeed, this is the first instance. It does it in grand style, as the triumphant conclusion to a marvelous psalm of praise and victory!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Moses, Psalmist (Part 3)

Deuteronomy 32:1-43

Moses' life was full of lessons and instruction, and at the end of his life, he left Israel and us a song that encapsulates much of what he learned about godly living. This is not apparent at first because it seems to be a prophecy of Israel's future, but Moses himself tells us in Deuteronomy 32:2 that his song concerns "doctrine" (KJV) or "teaching" (NKJV).

What is the doctrine he is trying to explain to us? The doctrine of God Himself! In this song, Moses is "proclaim[ing] the name of the LORD" (see also Exodus 33:12-23; 34:1-9)! He summarizes in Deuteronomy 32:4 exactly what he means: "He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He." An accurate conception of God is a Christian's first concern, for if we truly understand God, we will respond properly to Him and live in a godly manner.

Moses' song breaks down into five sections:

1) Introduction (verses 1-4);
2) God's faithfulness versus Israel's faithlessness (verses 5-18);
3) God's just chastisement of Israel (verses 19-33);
4) God's eventual compassion on Israel (verses 34-42);
5) Conclusion (verse 43).

From this simple summary of the song, we can see the main themes Moses is attempting to expound. First, God is always faithful, right, just, provident, and merciful in all His dealings with Israel. God Himself "found" Israel, and nurtured, protected, and instructed its people "as the apple of His eye" (verse 10). He gave them the best and "choicest" of the earth (verse 14).

Second, the Israelites always forsook Him and turned to other gods, even to the point of sacrificing to demons (verses 15-18). It is the height of irony that Moses uses the term "Jeshurun" to name Israel, as it means "upright one"! Whether this means that God saw Israel in this idealistic way or this is how the Israelites saw themselves is not known, but their actions certainly show them not to be worthy of the name.

Third, God's reaction to their idolatry—various deadly disasters ending in scattering (verses 23-26)—is justified by their faithlessness to the covenant (verses 19-20). Even so, God restrains His wrath, "fearing" (that is, "worried" or "concerned") that Israel's enemies would misunderstand His actions against Israel and take credit for its downfall themselves (verse 27). Moses concludes this section by saying that this happened to Israel because they failed in two areas: 1) foreseeing the consequences of their behavior, and 2) failing to understand God's character.

Fourth, though God takes vengeance and inflicts punishment, He is also a God of compassion and mercy (verses 35-36). Once He sees that the remnant of Israel learns its lesson—that the gods they worshipped are nothing compared to the true God (verses 37-39)—He will pardon them so they can resume their relationship. Maybe then they will understand that what God says He will do—and does in abundance (verses 40-42)!

To conclude the song, Moses brings in a New Covenant image of the Gentiles rejoicing with Israel because God is faithful to His promises and will provide atonement for His people (verse 43). As Paul shows in Romans 15:8-12, it is through the atoning work of Jesus Christ that salvation has come to both Israelite and Gentile, and they can now sing praises together as His people, spiritual Israel.

After the song was sung, Moses gives Israel a final bit of advice: "Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today. . . . For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days . . ." (Deuteronomy 32:46-47). Because of our calling, we have an even greater reason to take this advice from God's servant Moses, a psalmist.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Moses, Psalmist (Part 4)

Psalm 110:1-7

Even the Psalms describe the awesome might of Christ's return, showing that it is one of war and vengeance with great wrath. He is coming with power to set things straight.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Shock and Awe - and Speed

Amos 1:3-15

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)

1 Corinthians 1:7-8

In verse 7, apocalypsis is translated "coming" in the King James and "revelation" in the New King James. Paul clearly refers to the return or the second coming of Jesus Christ; he uses the word in relation to Christ appearing visibly at a specific time: His day.

This "day" of course does not refer to a specific day of the week, but rather to the period in which the misjudgment of man ends and the righteous judgment of God begins. Mankind, under the influence of Satan, has been trying in vain to rule himself for 6,000 years, or six "days," using the principle in II Peter 3:8 of one day equaling one thousand years. The seventh "day" is when God intervenes and establishes His government, so that mankind can finally understand how to live. That day begins with the visible appearance of Jesus Christ, coming in the clouds in all of His glory (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26).

II Thessalonians 1:7-10 speaks of that same day, or that same time:

. . . and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed [apocalypsis] from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Here again, apocalypsis refers to the person of Jesus Christ, and it plainly describes His visible revelation—His unveiling—when He returns from heaven with His angels to take vengeance on those who do not know God and disobey the gospel. When He is revealed in that day, not only will He appear in glory, but He will "be glorified in His saints." At that time, His saints, people He has separated to Himself, will be resurrected and exchange their earthly glory for heavenly glory (cf. I Corinthians 15:40-49).

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Book of Revelation?

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10

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 iswonderful 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?

Jude 1:12

Jude uses a nautical theme here. Thus, "hidden reefs" (a variant translation supported by the Greek) is preferable to "spots." The apostle says that these false teachers are like hidden reefs at our socials; they are just under the surface, waiting for the unsuspecting Christian to come along and be shipwrecked upon them.

Paul dealt directly with a similar problem in Corinth (I Corinthians 11:17-22). They held "feasts without the fear of God." They do not fear the oversight and punishment of God, that what He says will happen as a result of their self-satisfying sins, which may take many forms. Gorging themselves is only one part of it. Worse is that they use these occasions to shipwreck people, to undermine their faith, to whisper in their ear to get them thinking along the wrong lines.

Jude says that they serve only themselves. Again, this phrase is poorly translated due to being interpreted rather than given literally. It should be "shepherding only themselves." Ezekiel 34:1-5, 10 alludes to the same problem Jude faced.

Verse 12 also says that these false shepherds outwardly show promise of producing fruit, of bringing rain, but they never do. Paul indeed calls some of Satan's ministers "angels of light" (II Corinthians 11:13-15), but their fruit shows they possess nothing of godly, spiritual substance (Matthew 7:15-20). They will never produce godly fruit. They look good on the outside, but on the inside they are corrupt and full of bones (Matthew 23:27). When Jude describes them as "twice dead," he may be refering to the second death (Revelation 20:14; 21:8)—that they will die physically once, and then they will die spiritually the second time. It is at least saying they are well on the road to the Lake of Fire.

Hebrews 10:26-31 says plainly that once we have been forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Christ, there is no going back. If we continue to sin as a way of life, there is no second redemption, and all we face is the vengeance of God, who is a consuming fire. This is what Jude is trying to get across in relation to these false ministers.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude

Revelation 6:11

Before God answers their question ("How long . . .?"), they are each given a white robe. Much has been made of the fact that this robe is a stolé, a long, stately, often status-indicating garment, while the overcomer in Sardis receives a white himation, an ordinary outer garment like a cape or cloak (Revelation 3:5). This distinction should not be taken too far, as Christ Himself returns in a himation dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13), not a stolé. The important element is that the robe is white, the color of purity and righteousness, as well as joy, victory, and perfection. The giving of a white robe, formal or common, is a symbol of salvation for these martyred Christians.

Finally, God responds to their question: ". . . it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed." The immediate answer, "a little while longer" (literally, "yet a little time"), is ambiguously short-range. At this point in the prophetic timeline as we have learned it—the Great Tribulation has just commenced—this uncertain period is probably at most three and a half years long.

Yet, because Revelation was written to the church late in the first century—more than nineteen hundred years ago—this comforting and expectant phrase implies a longer duration for Christians through the ages since then. II Peter 3:8 reminds us "that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." There is even biblical backing to regard the day of the Lord as the whole period since Christ's first advent nearly two millennia ago! Written around the same time as Revelation, I John 2:18 goes even further: "[W]e know it is the last hour"! Certainly, God marks time differently than we do. Nevertheless, the phraseology assures us that, though it is still future, God's vengeance will fall justly on the guilty, and His saints will be free of suffering and receive their promised reward.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part Two)

Revelation 11:18

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 19:11-15

When God gave Israel the Land of Promise, He required them to be avengers to execute wrath on wicked peoples. He commanded that they enforce His law within their new domain. When Christ returns as “King of kings,” He will do exactly the same thing.

The peoples of the world at His return will be doing the same things that the Canaanites were doing when God gave it to Israel (Revelation 9:20). The peoples of the land did not repent, just as the survivors of God's plagues will not repent. Had there been repentance, there would have been no need to execute wrath on evildoers. God is a God of great mercy and compassion, but with the hardhearted and rebellious, He is a God of justice.

David C. Grabbe
Why Did God Command Israel to Go to War?


 




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