GOD IS JUST . . . But God’s vengeance is evident also

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. “ (Reference: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8 )

Some four hundred years since the Reformation, and some two thousand odd years since Christ Jesus came to Bethlehem, we still have many views of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and what the end of all days will be like. Will God come? Or will it be the manifestation of Christ? Will it be like Revelation, with battle and fire? Or silent and mysterious, like the thief in the night? And the largest question of all, when?

Maeyken Deynoots (d. 1571) wrote to her brothers and sisters in the faith, “The abundant grace and mercy of God our heavenly Father, through His only, eternally begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered up Himself for us to God His heavenly Father, as a propitiation of our sins, that He might deliver us from the future wrath that shall come upon all them that have not obeyed the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (2 Thess. 1:8); but may wisdom, power, and the consolation of the Holy Ghost, which proceeds

from both the Father and the Son, this only eternal and almighty God, by whom every good and perfect gift is given, always abide with us and you, my dear brethren and sisters, so that He may through grace make us all together fit through Himself, that we may be found worthy in the day of His coming. Amen. Luke 21:36.” Wow! Here we have a complete theology, compressed into the opening of one letter. Worthy of Paul I would say.

And it sets up well the dichotomy that is evident – God’s mercy if we would only avail ourselves of it through “Lord Jesus Christ” versus the “future wrath” and punishment of “everlasting destruction . . . in the day of His coming.” Might it be both? One scenario for the faithful believer and the other for “then that have not obeyed the Gospel”? If our God is a transcendent God (which the God-self is) there might well be two kinds of appearances – one for the faithful and one for the not-so-faithful. I will not ask, beloved, which one you might be at. But I trust and pray that we all may be counted amongst the worthy. Selah!

The First Week of Advent: Getting Ready While We Wait

During Advent many churches closely follow and use the scripture passages found in the Revised Common Lectionary, even if they do not use the lectionary during the rest of the year. The fourth reading each week is usually from the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

Since the first Sunday of Advent is November 30th you might wonder why I have started to post these Advent commentaries and reflections the week before the first Sunday of Advent. It is a common practice, regardless of the time of year, to study and reflect on scripture passages during the week for the coming Sabbath/Sunday. During the days that lead up to the weekly communal worship we prepare ourselves by reading and pondering on the scripture passages that will form the basis and be part of the worship – if the worship service does follow the lectionary cycle.

But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” (Mark 13:24-27)

The passage from Mark also talks about preparation – preparation for the coming of the “Son of Man”. In verses 24-27 creation itself is preparing for what is to come. Sometimes preparations are times of joy and celebration. But other times preparing for what is to come involves hard work and endurance. And the timing of the preparations are important too.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:28-31)

Some changes are temporary and fleeting. We respond to new conditions and then return to older more familiar ways. Other times the change is permanent, or is a series of changes that take us from one point in our lives to another one. Often this change comes upon us when we are unaware, and we scramble and hurry to incorporate new ways. And we may need to abandon or leave behind what is familiar, and embrace newness and change.

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Verse 32-37)

It may seem unusual to look at scripture passages that we have read before, and expect them to tell us something new or prepare us for change. But as our understanding and knowledge of living a Christian life changes and grows, we may respond and react to scripture passages differently. In this way scripture lives and grows within us. But we must make the effort to continue reading and studying, if we are to grow in our Christian faith. Then when change comes, we will be ready – stronger and deeper in our faith.

May you remain awake and alert in your faith, beloved reader. And it is my hope and prayer that your first week of Advent is preparing your for the growth and change that our Lord has planned for you. Selah!