Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Concerning the Time of the Judgment


Here is the good and challenging message by Ed Fudge from this week's, gracEmail. He rightly desires for postings to do be done in their, this is what I want to do for those who may not be subsribed to his messages (although I would encourage folks to subscribe to his messages).

Blessings, Don

P.S. -- I am including questions from a couple of friends with regard to the topic at the bottom, plus my response, fyi and fwiw.

Left Behind? Yes

While reading from Matthew in the Greek New Testament recently with a friend, we both were struck by something Jesus says--not once but repeatedly--about the final judgment yet to come. He tells a parable about a wheat farmer, in whose fields an enemy secretly sows a weed that closely resembles the growing wheat plant in appearance. To prevent waste due to confusion, the farmer tells his workers to let the two grow together until maturity. Then they will "gather the weeds first" to be burned, and harvest the wheat that is left. So it will be at the end, Jesus explains. The angels will "gather out of his kingdom" those who cause sin and who do evil (Matt. 13:28-30, 40-42). Then, in another parable with a different scene, Jesus repeats the image. Just as a Galilean net fisherman drags in all sorts of fish, then separates bad from good, so the angels will come and "separate the evil from the righteous" (Matt. 13:47- 50).

What caught our attention in reading these parables is that in both stories the angels gather the bad product first, out from the good product. Gather the weeds first, out of the fields of wheat. Separate the evil from the righteous. Gather the wicked out of the kingdom. In each instance mentioned in Matthew 13, the evil ones are taken away and the righteous are left behind. This detail would likely go unnoticed, if a pastor named Tim LaHaye and a writer named Jerry Jenkins had not produced a series of fictional novels which they titled Left Behind, and in which that is definitely the undesirable option. The whole plot driving the series owes more to imagination than to Scripture in my opinion (though some people who surpass me in knowledge and piety alike insist otherwise). But that is not my concern today, which is rather simply to observe how fixed our minds can become by repeated exposure to a particular notion or image until we are incapable of thinking anything else, even if it happens to appear in Scripture itself.

Jesus' purpose in tellling these two parables is the point we really need to grasp--whatever our expectation about the final events in earthly history. Like the seine-net in the parable, the kingdom of God is now a mixed bag that includes "evil men," "false believers," and "feigned confessors," as J. Jeremias aptly puts it (The Parables of Jesus, 226). That is something the Essenes could not tolerate -- so they moved away from it all and established a "pure community" at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Such ambiguity was also unacceptable to the Pharisees. Although they lived among the "sinners," they made it ostentatiously clear that they were separate from the hoi polloi -- the rest of humankind. Their piety was external and always visible if nothing else. Jesus urged his disciples not to be enticed by rumors that the kingdom of God was already dawning out there in the wilderness (Essenes), or that the path to its entrance led through the Pharisees.

If we read Matthew 13 again in its entirety, we will hear three prevailing themes. This is the time for sowing and for growing, not for judging or sorting out the people. (That will keep us busy.) Judgment time is coming, but God will handle that without our help or advice. (That should keep us humble.) Listen to Jesus with our hearts, knowing that parables will convey his message if we do that, and that they will certainly block it if we do not. Amen.


I think sometimes people today are twisting 'Judge not' to mean something different than God means. Your thoughts, Don? (Lyn Farris) -- I would agree with your assessment, Lyn. I read this article by Ed and thought it was interesting given that I just read 1 Corinthians 5 last night in my quiet time. It seems like we humans are often quick to judge, slow to exercise discretion. I love "the Woodcutter's Wisdom," as it reminds me to be wise in this area. For those who would live more according to "law" than "grace" as seen in the new covenant, it seems there is a greater sense or need to judge, rather than show grace, mercy. (Somethings never Jesus, Paul dealt with the same concerns, people). We need to focus on having the heart of Jesus in relationship to people...which I believe is critical if we are going to live like Him, for Him and be pleasing to God. There is a certainly a need for Christians to make discerning judgments or "decisions" in relationship to a number of aspects of the Christian walk, such as selecting elders, deacons, etc. I see this as far different from what Jesus warns us about in relationship to making critical or condemning judgments in Matthew 7. The church at Corinth was challenged to make a collective judgment concerning a sinful situation in the church, and this is also quite different from individual, condemning judgment.

It sounds like he is using parables so that people won't understand. What do you think, Don? I think this passage may trouble a lot a people when we read Jesus' reply to his disciples in vss. 11-16. (Eric Robinson) -- It is challenging. It is easy simply to apply the parable to people in general, as that is what we tend to do, but I think this clouds the context a bit. I believe the passage has to do with the context of His primary audience, that being the Jews...and this seems to be the case, especially in light of His Isaiah quote (vv.14-15). Those who were going to seek Him and understand Him were going to find Him...but, those who did not long to understand Him, "feed on His words," were not going to understand Him. Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and others would understand (not to mention certain Samaritans, Gentiles)...and many others such as Annas, Caiaphas, and other prominent Jews were going to be hardened by His messages and not come to know Him, but instead condemn Him.

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