There is no statute of limitations on being an encouragement. Each day think of someone who might need a supportive word—perhaps a note, a visit, a phone call. Don’t wait then. Do it. Satan never stops his attempts to discourage the people of God; therefore, we should never stop in our work of comforting and encouraging and exhorting.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. — Hebrews 3:13
In this verse, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the church to be the church. That is, he is telling us something of what it means to live in a community with brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a responsibility that is laid upon all of us once we join the family of faith. Here we learn what it is, when we’re to do it, and why it’s so important.
The What of Exhorting One Another
First, the “what.” The Greek word translated “exhort” (parakleite) is the word of strong encouragement. Maybe you recognize it from the word Paraclete, an older term referring to the Holy Spirit and referred to by Jesus as “the comforter” or “the helper” (John 14:16). This word is often used in secular Greek literature of the naval or military commander putting strength into his sailors or soldiers.
Thus, believers are expected to exercise a daily, cheering ministry to other Christians. We are not meant to be a burden: nitpicking at all the things we think people are doing wrong or could be doing better. We are not meant to sit in judgment over others either. We are called to be cheerleaders. We are to mimic those traits of the Holy Spirit and be a help and an encouragement.
The When of Exhorting One Another
In his commentary The Message of Hebrews, Raymond Brown writes,
It is never fitting for believers to adopt the depressing pessimistic outlook of a godless world. (p. 88)
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By Dean Davis — 8 months ago
The intended audience of the book is the universal Church, the purpose of the book is to instruct, exhort, and encourage the universal Church, and the theme of the book is the privileges and prerogatives of the High King of Heaven who rules over the cosmos for the good of the universal Church. It should not surprise us then if Revelation 20 addresses the Church, prophesies to the Church, and speaks of the destiny of Church during the course of High King’s reign.[Author’s] Note: This essay is a chapter from my book, The Great End Time Debate: Issues, Options, and Amillennial Answers (Redemption Press, 2022). I have posted it here not only to introduce readers to the Revelation, but also to help them understand its most controversial chapter, Revelation 20. Once you have finished reading the essay, you may wish to continue with the sequel, available here.
Here is a key to some of the acronyms you will find in my books and essays:
DNT = The Didactic New Testament (the teaching portions of the NT)OTKP = OT prophecies of the Kingdom of GodNCH = New Covenant Hermeneutic (the NT method for interpreting the OT in general, and OTKPs in particularHP = Historic PremillennialismPP = Partial PreterismFP = Full Preterism
Immanuel’s Loftiest Land
Truly, God has situated the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the high places of Immanuel’s Land, for which reason many a biblical traveler, growing suddenly dizzy, has found himself turning back, overwhelmed. And yet the holy terrain ever beckons, being richly favored with tall peaks and lush valleys that God’s pilgrim people long to see and enjoy. The need, then, is not to avoid the Revelation, but to be equipped and prepared so that we can boldly enter in. In the following essay I have done what I can to meet that pressing need.
The year is around 95 A.D. John, in all probability the last living apostle, is now in his 80’s (John 21:21-23). Because of his faithfulness in preaching the Gospel, the Roman authorities have exiled him to a penal settlement on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9; John 21:21-23). It has been over 60 years since Christ’s ascension. The Lord is tarrying, and among many believers the expectation of his Parousia is waning (2 Pet. 3:1f). The demonic emperor Nero (A.D. 54-68), a vicious persecutor of the Roman Christians, has come and gone. Titus has decimated Jerusalem (A.D. 70). Under emperor Domitian the persecution of Christians has spread throughout the Empire and reached Asia (A.D. 81-89). More is now looming (Rev. 2:3, 10, 13). And beyond this external threat there are internal threats as well. Heretical “Christian” sects have grown in size and number. Their members are seeking to penetrate the orthodox churches and draw away disciples (Acts 20:13ff; Rev. 2:2, 6, 14-15, 20-24). Some churches are even tolerating their presence (Rev. 2:14f, 20f). Meanwhile, other churches are in decline. The love of certain Christians is growing cold (Rev. 2:4, 3:1-2). Others, having thus far escaped the fires of persecution, are falling in love with the world and sinking into apathy and hedonism (Rev. 3:14-21). The situation is dire. The faltering Church needs a word from the Lord. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is that word.
The author is the apostle John (Rev. 1:1, 4, 9, 12; 22:8), an historical fact confirmed by several of the early church fathers. Significantly, he is now in exile (likely from his home church in Ephesus) and under persecution. In fulfillment of his Lord’s words, he has remained upon the earth for many years; and now, as promised, his Lord has come to him. It is not to take him home, but instead to give him a revelation and prophecy meant for the Bride, the entire Church (John 20:20-23). Like John himself, she will be in exile: not from the presence of her Lord, but from her heavenly home. Like John himself she will (often) be under persecution (Rev. 12:6ff). And so Christ comes to him . . . and through him to her. Through the Revelation he will prepare his Bride for her centuries-long pilgrimage through the howling spiritual wilderness of this present evil world (Rev. 12:6, 14).
It is almost certain that John recorded the Revelation around 95 AD. This is important to keep in mind, since preterist interpreters argue for a much earlier date: sometime between 54 and 68 AD, during the reign of Nero. Based on that assumption, they say that most (or all) of the “comings” and judgments described in the Revelation were actually fulfilled in and around the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. But as indicated above, the internal evidence weighs heavily against it. Accordingly, the vast majority of scholars agree that the Revelation was composed between 81-96 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. Notably, at that time Pergamum was the official center of emperor worship in Asia, and the city in which Antipas became a “faithful martyr” for his Lord (Rev. 2:12f). External confirmation of a late date comes from the scholar and bishop, Irenaeus (ca.125-202), who, citing earlier sources, wrote, “John received the Revelation almost in our own time, toward the end of the reign of Domitian” (i.e., AD 81-96).
The Revelation is a prophecy given by God, through the glorified Christ, his angel, and his apostle, to the universal Church, for the crucially important reason that it is about the universal Church. It is not, as preterists hold, about the Church in and around 70 AD. Nor, as dispensationalists hold, is it (largely) about a band of 144,000 Jewish evangelists proclaiming a millennial Kingdom during a literal seven-year Tribulation. No, it is about all Christians of all times and all places. It is a prophecy meant to edify, exhort, and encourage the universal Church.
The evidence for this crucial thesis abounds.
Revelation 1:1 states that God gave Christ the Revelation in order to show it to his bond-servants. That would be the universal Church.
In Revelation 2-3 we have Christ’s messages to the seven churches of Asia. But the number 7, which symbolizes completeness and perfection, alerts us to the fact that here we have a complete and perfect message designed to perfect the complete Church: the Church of all times and places.
In Revelation 1:9 we hear Christ telling John: “Write down the things you have seen, and the things that are, and the things that will take place soon after them.”
This verse gives us one of the key structures of the book. The things John saw are described in chapter 1: the details of Christ’s self-disclosure to the apostle. “The things that are”—the present condition of the seven churches of Asia—are described in chapters 2-3. “The things that will take place soon after them” are described in chapters 4-22. These are the things that will happen from now on: all the way out to the Consummation and beyond. Why does Christ want all his bond-servants to know about these things? The answer is obvious: It is because he knows these things concern and affect all his bond-servants. The Revelation is for the universal Church because it concerns the universal Church and the things that will affect the universal Church.
In a moment we will discover a second way in which the Revelation is structured. It too will show that the book is for and about all Christians of all times and places.
Nature and Purpose
On six separate occasions John speaks of the Revelation as a prophecy (Rev. 1:3, 19:10, 22:7, 10, 18, 19). Now according to the apostle Paul, he who prophesies speaks to men for edification (i.e., instruction in the faith), exhortation (i.e., warning, admonition), and comfort (i.e., encouragement, the impartation of hope), (1 Cor. 14:3). This short definition wonderfully captures the deep purpose of the Revelation. Everywhere we turn we find the exalted Christ teaching, warning, and encouraging his Bride, so that she may overcome all adversaries, complete her pilgrimage, and safely enter the completed Kingdom of God.
A few examples will illuminate this rich three-fold purpose.
In the Revelation Christ teaches the Church Militant by helping her understand her true place in the world and in Salvation History. In other words, through the use of richly symbolic language he strengthens her grip on the biblical worldview. Here Revelation 12 is central. In a prophetic vision of stupendous theological reach and power, Christ teaches the Church Militant who she is, what she is about, what she can expect, and upon whom she can call and count as she makes her way out of eschatological Egypt, through the eschatological Wilderness of Sin, and into the eschatological Promised Land. Fittingly, this rich chapter stands in the middle of the book, since in many ways it gives us the keys to the whole book. Before wrestling with Revelation 20, it will repay you to study it well.
In the Revelation the Lord exhorts the Church by warning her about the four enemies she will encounter in her long pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world.
The first is the Dragon, that serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan (Rev. 12:9). While he is indeed capable of direct attack upon the saints, in the Revelation he is found using the three remaining enemies as his evil agents and instruments.
The second foe is the Beast (Rev. 13:1-4), the political or governmental face of the world-system, which, when seized and energized by the Dragon, will always persecute the true spiritual Church.
The third enemy is the False Prophet, also called the Beast from the Earth (Rev. 13:11-18, 16:12-16, 19:20, 20:10). This beast symbolizes not simply false religion, but false religion in the service of the self-deifying State, and therefore demanding that the Church worship the State on penalty of persecution or death.
The fourth and final enemy is the Harlot, also called Babylon the Great and the Great City (Rev. 17:1, 3, 5, 18; 18:2). This is the economic, commercial, and cultural face of the world-system. As a general rule the Harlot likes to collude with the Beast and the False Prophet, doing all she can to persecute the Church (Rev. 17:6), even as she entices saints and sinners alike with her allurements and sorceries (Rev. 18:23).
Out of deep love and concern for the Church’s purity, power, and eternal welfare, the High King of Heaven exhorts his Bride to be aware of all her enemies and to come out from among them (Rev. 18:4)
Finally, in the Revelation the heavenly Husband speaks comfort to his Bride, and this in several different ways.
At the very outset of the book he comforts her with a majestic vision of his own divine nature, covenant faithfulness, and Messianic glory (Rev. 1:9-20).
He comforts her with repeated assurances of his presence in, and faithful watch-care over, all his churches, even as he manifests the tough love that he feels for each one of them (Rev. 2:1-3:22).
He comforts her with rich, symbolic representations of his heavenly mediatorial reign, the share that the saints have in it, and his absolute sovereignty over all that remains of Salvation History (Rev. 4:1-5:14).
He comforts her with scenes of the spirits of departed believers safely arrived in heaven, praying for divine justice, and waiting eagerly for the resurrection of their bodies at his return to the earth (Rev. 6:9-11, 20:4-6).
He comforts her with serial portraits of his own Parousia in power and glory at the end of the age (Rev. 14:14-20, 19:11-21).
In conjunction with these portraits he also comforts her with visions of ultimate justice: of final rewards for the faithful saints, and of final retribution against the persecuting and God-hating “inhabitants of the earth” (Rev. 6:9-17, 11:11-19, 15:1-4, 16:17-21, 20:7-15).
He comforts them with several “sneak-previews” of the glorified Church surrounding the throne of the Triune God, exultantly lifting up the eternal worship that will fill the World to Come (Rev. 7:9-17, 14:1-5).
And finally, he comforts her with two luminous chapters supplying mysterious, thought-provoking glimpses of the (eternal) life of the saints in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21-22).
Do you consider the Revelation a frightening book? Well, for sinners it is, and is meant to be. But for saints who bravely venture into its depths, it is not only a prophecy that instructs and exhorts: It is also a river of comfort that never ends.
And this is true of Revelation 20 as well.
The underlying theme of the four Gospels is the humiliation of the Son of God: His incarnation as the Last Adam, his righteous life, atoning death, and public ministry on earth as Israel’s Messianic prophet, priest, and king.
The underlying theme of the Revelation is the exaltation of the Son of God: the various ways in which God the Father is pleased to honor his Son, so that in the end every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord: the High Prophet, Priest, and King of the universe (John 5:23; Phil. 2:5-11).
In a moment we will see how the structure and contents of the Revelation reinforce this majestic theme. Here, however, I want to highlight the many ways in which this book sets the worshiping Christian before every facet of the one diamond that is the exaltation of Christ.
The Revelation shines its light on Christ’s resurrection (Rev. 1:18), his ascension (Rev. 12:5), his session at the right hand of the Father (Rev. 5:1ff), his spiritual headship over his Body (Rev. 2-3), his authority and control over all the remaining events of universal history (Rev. 5:7, 6:1), his prophetic proclamation of the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth through the Church Militant (Rev. 6:2, 11:4-13, 14:6), his faithfulness to his persecuted people (Rev. 12:6, 13ff), his ongoing (providential) judgments against their enemies (Rev. 11:5, 16:1f), his rich provision for the souls of his departed saints (Rev. 6:9-11, 20:4-6), his rush to the rescue of his little flock in the days of the Last Battle (Rev. 16:12f, 19:11ff), his glorious Parousia at the end of the age (Rev. 6:12ff, 11:11ff, 14:14ff, 19:11ff), and, at that time, the final judgment of his enemies, whether human or demonic (Rev. 6:12ff, 11:11ff, 14:14ff, 16:17ff, 19:11f, 20:11ff), the final redemption of his Bride (Rev. 7:1ff, 11:11f, 15:2-4, 14:14-16), and the creation of new heavens and a new earth, the eternal home where he and his beloved Bride will dwell with the Father, the Spirit, and all the holy angels as the eternal family of God (Rev. 21-22).
This manifold revelation of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ is integral to the prophetic character of the book. It is in beholding and contemplating the exalted Christ in all of his offices, prerogatives, judgments, and redemptive acts that the saints are instructed, admonished, and, above all, comforted for their arduous spiritual journey through the wilderness of this world.
Does all of this help us understand Revelation 20? Indeed it does. For if the theme of the book as a whole is the glory of the exalted Christ reflected in the course, character, and consummation of his heavenly reign, how likely is it that the theme of Revelation 20 is the glory, vicissitudes, and final failure of his future 1000 year earthly reign?
No, the Revelation is a predictive prophecy that sings the glory of the High King of Heaven and Earth through and through. To see this is to see the meaning of chapter 20 as well.
The Revelation is an outstanding example of what theologians refer to as biblical apocalyptic. We may define this as a special kind of prophecy in which the Holy Spirit uses symbols—both images and numbers—to communicate divine truth about the course, character, and consummation of Salvation History, and especially about final judgment and final redemption.
By J. Alan Branch — 1 year ago
Written by J. Alan Branch |
Monday, June 20, 2022
Biblical sexual ethics advocates a morality of restraint in which the best interests of both women and children are affirmed. Biblical sexual ethics entails the sanctity of human life because when the act of sex is treated as a gift from God to be celebrated within God’s moral parameters, then children conceived via sex are also treated as gifts from God.
Sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life are two inseparable moral issues. Unbiblical views of sexual ethics go hand in hand with devaluing human life, particularly women and children. If one treats sex cheaply, then one will treat other people cheaply, and when sexual ethics are cheapened, women and children become the victims of males’ unrestrained sexual appetites.
In the sexual revolution, the demand for sexual freedom preceded the loosening of abortion laws. Because the “free love” generation divorced sexual activity from ethical responsibility, it is no coincidence that the so-called “Summer of Love” in 1967 was followed a few years later in 1973 by legalized abortion. Liberalizing abortion laws is the logical conclusion to the abandonment of sexual restraint.
The sexual revolution claimed to liberate women from what feminists considered the oppressive confines of marriage. But unrestrained sexual ethics actually serve to devalue women as mere objects for sensual gratification, and this contributes to disregard for children. Sexual permissiveness has conditioned our culture, particularly men, to think of children as a bothersome intrusion instead of a gift to be received. The moral issues of sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life are intricately connected, and biblical sexual morality dignifies both women and children. To demonstrate this thesis, five propositions will be presented: First, various forms of unbiblical sexual ethics devalue both women and children by viewing pregnancy as an undesirable outcome of sexual intercourse; second, biblical sexual morality properly connects sexual ethics to the sanctity of human life by teaching that pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse; third, when pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, women are dignified as being more than merely objects for sexual gratification; fourth, when pregnancy is a welcome outcome to sexual intercourse, not only are women dignified, but young children are honored as welcome additions to a family; and finally, biblical sexual morality creates a culture which is safer for women and children as they are honored as co-bearers of the image of God.
I. Various Non-Christian Forms of Sexual Ethics
To demonstrate the connection between sexual ethics and the sanctity of human life, first we must see how various unbiblical forms of sexual ethics devalue both women and children by viewing pregnancy as an undesirable outcome of sexual intercourse. Daniel Heimbach’s True Sexual Morality suggests four counterfeit views of sexual morality: Romantic, Playboy, Therapeutic, and Pagan sexual moralities. Each of these views are various expressions of an unrestrained view of sexual ethics, and each of them though different in focus share an emphasis on hedonism and moral autonomy. In none of these views is pregnancy viewed positively.
The first unbiblical view is Romantic Morality, which says all that is necessary for sex to be moral is for the participants to be “in love.” In this case, love is an amorphous feeling of affection for another person, and affection is expressed as sexual attraction. Heimbach explains, “Romantic sexual morality so glorifies the importance of sentimental affection in sexual relationships that sex is justified based on feelings alone. It says couples have only to decide if they are in love, and if they are, then sex is moral whatever else might be the case.” From this perspective, marriage may or may not be an intended goal. Just because someone professes love for a sexual partner does not necessarily mean he or she intends to marry the person.
Since the Romantic view is based in ephemeral feelings of attraction, pregnancy interferes with the excitement of romance. As sex is occurs outside of marriage, conception is undesired and children are usually not wanted. In many cases, a man will insist his professed love for his sexual partner does not include love for any children conceived between the two of them. Tragically, Romantic sexual morality destroys the affection it promises. As Heimbach observes, “God designed sex to create a total union between persons at all levels at once, but romantic morality tells individuals to avoid unconditional commitments and hinders partners from pursuing total union.”
Because Romantic Morality destroys the affection it promises, it contributes to the devaluing of human life. Love is divorced from a covenant, and instead is grounded in fleeting emotions which may or not remain present if pregnancy ensues. And here we see the connection between Romantic Morality and abortion. While there are usually a complex set of reasons which contribute to a decision to abort, a 2013 survey of abortive women found that 31% of respondents gave partner-related reasons as influential in the decision. To be clear, only 6% mentioned the father of the child as the only reason for aborting. But one wonders how the variable of an unsupportive father amplified the perceived reality of other stressors, such as finances or an inopportune time for having a baby. All this to say, not only does Romantic Morality destroy the affection it promises, it destroys the children resulting from this purported “love.”
While the Romantic view is founded in vague feelings of love, Playboy Morality builds an entire system based pleasure. As the Feinbergs explain, “[The Playboy morality] says sex is a natural human impulse or instinct. . . . Greater human happiness is attained if people can take whatever pleasure they can get from sex without the burden of moral guilt, as long as they do not satisfy their sexual urges by using a partner involuntarily, hurtfully or deceitfully.” Heimbach adds, “Playboy sexual morality begins with the physical pleasure associated with sexual experience and proceeds to construct an entire framework of moral thinking based on it.” Quite simply, this approach to sexual ethics says any natural impulse that produces pleasure is good and should be allowed free expression.
This Playboy Morality is reflected in many popular songs. One example from the era of the sexual revolution is Foghat’s 1972 version of Willie Dixon’s I Just Want to Make Love To You, which says:
I don’t want you, wash my clothesI don’t want you, keep a homeI don’t want you to be trueI just want to make love to you
In this song, sex is completely divorced from any sense of marriage — “I don’t want you, keep a home” — or fidelity — “I don’t want you to be true.” Instead, the woman is merely seen as a target of opportunity for sexual gratification with no commitment beyond the sexual encounter itself. Pregnancy is not a desired outcome and children are not wanted. All that is wanted is sexual pleasure.
Playboy Morality exhibits the danger of the hedonic paradox — the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake does not result in pleasure, but frustration. For example, Ecclesiastes 2:1–11 describes the hedonistic pursuit of wine, accumulation of wealth, aesthetically pleasing surroundings, and sexual encounters, only to conclude by saying, “And behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Eccl 2:11) Pleasure, especially sensual pleasure, is an insufficient starting point for ethics. The danger of the hedonic paradox was recognized by Aristotle who was critical of using pleasure to determine morality and said, “It appears to be pleasure that misleads the mass of mankind; for it seems to them to be a good, though it is not, so they choose what is pleasant as good and shun pain as evil.” Indeed, when physical pleasure is seen as the telos of life in and of itself, one is deceived about the true value of other people and other humans become a means to achieve the ends of one’s own pleasure.
The third unbiblical view is Therapeutic Morality, an ethic of which sees sex as a means to human fulfillment and personal growth. Though not denying the vague form of love in Romantic Morality or the pleasure associated with Playboy Morality, advocates of Therapeutic Morality contend that limiting sex to marriage denies the single person of something essential to his or her personhood. Heimbach says: “Therapeutic sexual morality justifies sex based on ideas about human psychology. Sex is regarded as moral or immoral depending on how it relates to things such as mental health, personal development, or social success. . . . No sexual behavior is right or wrong in itself because what matters is a person’s inner sense of satisfaction.”
Planned Parenthood best fits in the category of Therapeutic Morality because they see sex as a part of any well-rounded person’s life, married or unmarried, adult or teenager. For them, emotional wellbeing assumes one is having sex. In answering the teenage question, “What should I do if I think I’m ready for sex?,” they suggest the teenager ask himself or herself questions such as: “Do I have a healthy relationship? Can I talk with my partner about things that are bothering me?,” as well as asking, “How would I deal with an STD or unintended pregnancy?” Setting aside obvious questions about how a teenager only a couple years removed from cartoons and toys is supposed to “deal with an STD or unintended pregnancy,” Planned Parenthood assumes it is normal and healthy for teenagers to have sex. The idea that one would wait until marriage is barely even suggested, though the group glibly adds, “And some people choose to never have sex — that’s totally okay too.” And in case teenagers do get pregnant, Planned Parenthood offers abortion as a coping mechanism. In this way, both young men and women are conditioned to see each other only as objects of sexual pleasure and children as a bothersome obstacle to human fulfillment.
The final unbiblical view is Pagan sexual morality. This moral stance can encompass vague notions of love ( Romantic Morality), pleasure-based ethics ( Playboy Morality), and vacuous concepts of human fulfillment ( Therapeutic Morality), but combines all of these ideas into using sex as a vehicle to connect with the divine. Pagan sexual morality emerges from the monistic worldview integral to paganism: “All is one and all is God.” Based on this premise, all humans are seen as partially divine or having some form of divine spark. Such religious language serves as a camouflage for radical autonomy, and as Heimbach says, “Indulging sexual desires is therefore good no matter what form it takes.”
Pagan sexual morality and fertility cults associated with it are clearly seen in the Roman god Mutunus Tutinus and his Greek parallel, Priapus. In Rome, Mutunus Tutinus was a phallic image deity with a shrine on the Velian Hill. The god was embodied in a sacred phallus on which the bride was required to sit before the consummation of marriage. But while the pagan gods were invoked for fertility within marriage, the diminutive deities of the pagan pantheon engaged in sexual promiscuity and there was no moral rule against the common practice of exposing unwanted children.
Modern neopaganism has revived the sexual ethics of ancient polytheism. Neopagan author Amber Laine Fisher proclaims the goodness of sex without moral boundaries and says, “Goddess religion and goddess spirituality endeavor to release us from the taboos of sex and sexuality, to untie our hands, freeing us from certain paradigms or ideals that we are taught to accept as normal.” And Pagan sexual morality devalues human life. For example, California-based psychologist Ginette Paris grounds pro-abortion arguments in a pagan worldview. In her 1992 work The Sacrament of Abortion, Paris urges women to abandon a Christian worldview and instead worship Artemis, and she considers abortion a sacrifice to Artemis.
Each of these views share the one purported rule of mutual consent. Both parties are supposed to be willing participants in the sexual encounter. But the tenuous restraint of the canon of consent is seen in the salacious revelations about Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. One of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry, for years Weinstein forced himself upon women. A serial sexual predator and rapist, Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to twenty-three years in prison on March 11, 2020. Christians grieve with and for the women violated by this evil man. But our grief is heightened when we see an entertainment industry which repeatedly sexualizes women in song and film, and catechizes young people into a culture of unrestrained sexual desires. And yet, this industry which communicates such unholy messages is surprised when a man objectifies and abuses women. When sex is divorced from a restrained view of ethics and separated from marriage, other people are valued only objects of sexual gratification. Women in particular become vulnerable targets of opportunity for predatory males. And for such men, children are undesired outcomes from sex.
By Ken Jones — 3 months ago
Asaph has put into words what is and has been a struggle for many Christians down through the ages who have gone through difficult times. This frustration is compounded when their struggles occur against the backdrop of the prosperity of the wicked. Trying to understand this paradox seemed like a wearisome task to Asaph—that is, until he went into the sanctuary of God (vv. 16–17). The sanctuary of God—with its ceremonies and rituals and bloody altars—had a sobering and crystallizing effect on Asaph, causing him to see his previous envy and doubt as coming from an embittered soul (v. 21), leading him to think and speak like a brutish and ignorant beast toward God (v. 22).
Question and answer number 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism is as follows: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Answer:
That I, with body and soul, both in life and death am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all of my sins and delivered me from all of the powers of the Devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea that all things must be subservient to my salvation and therefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and He makes me sincerely willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.
I begin with this all-encompassing word of comfort as the backdrop for the very difficult subject of trusting God in difficult times, especially when that difficulty is financial. Contrary to what some might think, Christians are not exempt from the trials and adversities that are part and parcel of living in a fallen world. So I would like to begin with three overarching extractions from the answer to question 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism: (1) We belong to Christ, both body and soul, which means that His love and care for us are for both body and soul; (2) the blood of Christ has satisfied for all our sins, and therefore, we cannot reason that our hardship is punishment for sin; (3) we are delivered from the powers of the devil, which means that tough times are not ultimately dispensed by the hand of Satan. He will use our tough times as opportunities to entice us to not trust God or to make us think that He has forsaken us. But as Paul says in Colossians 1:13, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Therefore, all that occurs in a Christian’s life is by the will of God and ultimately works for the good of the believer. Romans 8:28 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This does not mean that only good things happen—far from it. The catechism and the Scriptures teach that God’s saving purposes for the elect can never be frustrated by anything they experience. Romans 5:3–5 puts it this way:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Consequently, we are enabled to serve and trust God in all seasons and circumstances.
The rationale of the catechism is that faith in the sufficiency of the person and work of Christ and the sovereignty of God attaches us to a reality that transcends our temporal experience and circumstances. We do not diminish the importance of our physical bodies in their present state. After all, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1 that we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice . . . , which is [our] spiritual worship.” But in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul points us to the transcendent realities to which our faith in Christ attaches us:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (vv. 16–18)
Critics of the Christian faith, as well as those who adhere to various forms of the prosperity gospel, would take Paul’s words as espousing a “pie in the sky” religion. Be that as it may, our faith attaches us to a reality that is beyond our present experiences in this fallen world. Embracing the paradox that the Apostle presents does not mean that Christians go through tough times stoically and unperturbed. The words of Asaph in Psalm 73 come to mind.