Rather recently, I had a conversation with an individual, whom I greatly admire and trust, and who actually claimed to have read my puny efforts that the Harrison Daily Times permits me to submit for publication. And I thank them both for doing so. Due to the events and environment in which it occurred, the conversation was not long and somewhat truncated, but a portion of it went like this:
“Don, you are an Old Testament guy and I am a New Testament guy.” Now, I am going to confess and admit to something which needs neither my confession nor admission. It has been on display all of my life, unfortunately, but it is incontrovertible: I am not among the sharper knives in the drawer. Hold the amens, please. Look, ease up, it ain't fun to admit, so give me a little slack, okay? So because of that handicap which includes failure to think of it, either quickly or slowly, I did not ask the obvious: “What do you mean?”; or “Please explain.”
Yes, I could have called him later regarding the matter, though I haven't (besides, if I did that now, it could possibly require me to redo this article and I am not up to that); but that statement of his eventually caused me to contemplate just exactly what he had in mind.
In past articles, if I can so presumptuously refer to them as such, there is no doubt that to discuss Israel's history, one must by reason of necessity go to that section of the Bible which was written between 1400 BC and 400 BC and is commonly referred to as the Old Testament.
It comprises thirty-nine books, with the first transcriber being Moses 1400 BC, and the last transcriber being Malachi 400 BC. The actual author of all these books is the God of Israel (and Who, by the way, is the God of everyone else as well).
It is within these thirty-nine books that the genesis of a people and the genesis of that people's nation, Israel, is recorded: the nation from which God chose prophets and apostles and empowered them to reveal Himself to the world. And within the documentation of that nation's history, there is without a doubt an immense, I repeat, an immense amount of material which speaks to God's anger, fury, wrath, vengeance, indignation, and God imposed calamity and catastrophe upon not only His own people, but the gentile peoples as well. Impartiality is almost as common a virtue of God as is His love.
So under the influence of surmising and conjecturising (is this a word?), and without a hint from the one who made that statement to me that this was the basis of his response, one of my contemplated conclusions was that he sees the Old Testament as having been rendered moot by the coming of the New Testament; a compilation of twenty-seven books which were written between approximately 55 AD and 100 AD. And that one of the elements of the Old Testament negated by the New Testament are the above stated attributes of God which indicate that the consequences of disobedience and rebellion against Him can result in very bad things happening to individuals, groups, nations, and the world; and that by virtue of the New Testament only the love of God, which He is above all things, now controls. This is, at least, a possibility and it is certainly a view held by vast numbers of people, if not my friend. It is this view which drives these thoughts of mine onto papyrus or parchment, whichever way your Harrison Daily Times gets to you.
Now, unfortunately, the human condition remained the same throughout the periods covered by both Old and New Testaments and, obviously, to this very day: an absolutely perpetual, unrelenting, exhaustive, history of hate, inhumaneness and depravity. But God, the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, has also remained the same throughout. In fact He has said so: “For I am the Lord, I do not change, … ” Malachi 3:6. Man is sinful; God is Holy; which brings man and God into spiritual conflict; and, as we have seen many times in the Old Testament and the New, repeated physical consequences upon the human element, whomever they may be, contending with their and our God.
REMEMBER: He is the only God that anyone of us will ever have.
But, as both Old and New Testaments also repeatedly declare, He is love, first and foremost; and by virtue thereof He provided a means for Israel to seek His temporary and ongoing forgiveness and reconciliation in and through His pronounced and provided system of continuous animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. These sacrifices were a mere hint of the ultimate sacrifice which would be effected by His Son and proclaimed throughout the books of the New Testament. That singular sacrifice of God was and had to be Jesus. Two thousand years ago. The only sacrifice which would or could provide complete and eternal forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, and atonement not only for His own people Israel, but the entire Gentile world: Jesus, God the Son, the Messiah of Israel, and the Christ of the Gentiles. Those sacrifices in the Old Testament period, and then the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, were meant to enable us all to avoid personal responsibility for our rebellion and rejection: little or big, short or long term, and the otherwise inescapable anger of a Holy God who is repelled by our refusal to acknowledge Him or obey Him; demands that are actually designed for our supreme good, and fulfillment for life, both now and eternally.
That cross which Christ bore and then died on, which we now use as an ornament, grave marker, piece of jewelry, or symbol of faith, was once the means and method of the Roman Empire to inflict on those who displeased them with the ultimate in terror and agony. It inflicted the maximum in excruciating (no pun intended) pain, for the longest period possible, so as to convert the objects of their wrath into a more acceptable and conducive way of thinking, even though that thinking would only last until the poor wretches died of their “rehabilitation” treatment. It also served as an attitude adjustment exercise for any in the populace who also might be thinking unkindly thoughts about Roman rule. In fact, it could take so long to die that the Roman soldiers would apparently at times tire of this prolonged attitude adjustment exercise and break the individuals legs to expedite the process of death; possibly in order to get back to their barracks in time for chow and ale, or to go on leave, or so as to get a good night's sleep, so they could get up and do the same thing all over again on the morrow. Maximum pain for the rebel, and maximum advertising to other potential political or religious malcontents.
In a Time Magazine book regarding the Holy Land, I have actually seen a photo of an ankle bone that had been recovered from an ancient ossuary in Israel with a rather crude looking iron spike that had been driven into the side of the unfortunate's ankle and then apparently into the cross, which is somewhat different from the manner as portrayed in the crucifixion of Jesus. Also, I have read that during the Jewish revolt against the Romans from 66AD to 73AD that there were so many of these style executions that trees became almost non-existent for several miles around Jerusalem! This was the means of death for Jesus; this is what the God of Israel and the Father of Jesus deemed as the only appropriate manner by which Jesus could atone for the sins of the world: mine, yours, ours, and all others.
Isaiah 53, a messianic and prophetic chapter of the future of Jesus written almost 800 years before His advent, says it all: “BUT HE WAS PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS, HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES; THE PUNISHMENT THAT BROUGHT US PEACE WAS UPON HIM, AND BY HIS WOUNDS WE ARE HEALED. V.5 … IT WAS THE LORD'S
WILL TO CRUSH HIM AND CAUSE HIM TO SUFFER. V.10.
Which should demonstrate to us all the immensity and intensity of God's hatred of sin; BUT at the very same time the immensity and intensity of His love for mankind; and His AND His Son's desire to deliver us from sin and its consequences.
However the spiritual suffering of Jesus during His crucifixion is absolutely unquantifiable or describable, though we get a hint from His agonizing cry, after having uttered nothing in response to His obvious physical suffering: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”
Forsakenness by God was the ultimate in Christ's suffering! And that is precisely what He and His Father were seeking to protect us from when Jesus endured the physical and spiritual punishment for our sins in His body and His spirit; particularly and especially that everlasting condition of forsakenness for eternity! That is the ultimate in sentencing for unbelief and rejection of God, His Son, and His Spirit: FORSAKEN!!!! ABANDONED! ALONE!!!! Jesus is the only cure for this; He is the only remedy for this; He is the only antidote for this; He is the ultimate in spiritual chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery for the otherwise terminal condition of sin.
So does the New Testament echo the consequences of sin as the Old Testament has? AFTER Jesus paid the price of our disobedience on the cross? The answer is resoundingly in the affirmative and here are just a few scriptures which speak to this very issue:
“The Son of Man (Jesus) shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:41-42. Jesus' words.
“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and SEVER the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50. Jesus' words.
“Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, depart from Me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41. Jesus' words.
“ And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. BUT it will show you WHOM YOU SHOULD FEAR. FEAR HIM WHO AFTER HE HAS KILLED (did you see that!!!), HAS THE POWER TO CAST INTO HELL: YES, I SAY TO YOU, FEAR HIM.” (Emphasis mine). Luke 12:4-5. Jesus' words.
“... In flaming fire taking vengeance on those that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (which is to believe, accept, confess, and live for the Christ of God who lived and died for each of us): Who 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.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10. Apostle Paul's words.
“ The same shall drink of the wine of the WRATH OF GOD, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be TORMENTED with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and they have no rest day or night.” Revelation 14:10-11. Apostle John's words.
“ And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was CAST into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:14-15. Apostle John's words.
“ But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, SHALL HAVE THEIR PART in the lake which BURNETH with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8. Apostle John's words.
Billy Graham in his great book, PEACE WITH GOD, made this comment: “But I hear someone say, “I don't believe in hell. My religion is the Sermon on the Mount.” Well, let's listen to a passage from Jesus' sermon on the Mount”: And he then quotes this passage: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be CAST INTO HELL. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be CAST INTO HELL.” Matthew 5:29-30.
TOGETHER, the Old and New Testaments harmoniously and absolutely declare and proclaim that not only is God's love, but that He is also a God of judgment and retribution. But, in the face of all these scriptures and countless other admonitions and clarion warnings from both Testaments, here is a glorious invitation from the God of Israel, the God of all of the nations and the God of all of the universes: It comes through His prophet Isaiah at 55:6-9:
“ SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND, CALL UPON HIM WHILE
HE IS NEAR. LET THE WICKED FORSAKE HIS WAY, AND THE UNRIGHTEOUS
MAN HIS THOUGHTS; LET HIM RETURN TO THE LORD, AND HE WILL HAVE
MERCY ON HIM; AND TO OUR GOD FOR HE WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON.
(One translation says: LAVISH FORGIVENESS) FOR MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT
YOUR THOUGHTS, NOR ARE YOUR WAYS MY WAYS SAYS THE LORD. FOR AS
THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE MY WAYS HIGHER
THAN YOUR WAYS, AND MY THOUGHTS THAN YOUR THOUGHTS.
So obviously, with the use of the word “WHILE” above, neither this AGE OF GRACE in which we are so privileged to live, nor our lives, will last forever; thereby making it imperative that we embrace God's LOVE, MERCY, AND GRACE WHILE HE continues to extend it in order to avoid the sinister, grim, and endlessly terrifying alternative. NOW!!! NOT LATER!!! Because later may never come!!! CONNECT THE DOTS and CARPE DIEM!!!, dear friends.