The Source of Justice in the Kingdom

The Bible says the kingdom of God is established and upheld by justice and righteousness. (Isaiah 9:7).  Speaking prophetically of Jesus, Isaiah said, “He will faithfully bring forth justice.  He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”  (Isaiah 42:3-4). 

The most important question on the issue of justice is: What is the basis for justice?  The problem is we believe we innately know what is just.  We think:  “I am a just person.  Therefore, whatever I think is right in a situation is just.” 

However, none of us are free from the corrupting influence of sin.  It taints our motives, discernment and judgment.  That’s why revelation from God through the Bible is necessary to understanding justice.  Justice is not what you think is right, but what the Bible says is right, and what is just often differs from the prevailing opinions of the day.

Take the issue of capital punishment.  Conservatives believe it should be easier to convict violent criminals and that punishment should be severe (e.g. the death penalty).  Liberals believe it should be more difficult to convict violent criminals and that punishment should be lighter.  Both are wrong.  The Old Testament law would dictate that it be more difficult to convict for capital crimes but that the punishment be severe. 

The Old Testament law required two witnesses to a capital crime. (Deuteronomy 17:6).  To serve as a witness, the individual could not be guilty of the crime for which they served as a witness.  (Deuteronomy 19:15).  Note: this would prohibit the modern practice of relying on coconspirator testimony to obtain convictions.  Moreover, one of the witnesses had to be willing to initiate the execution. (Deuteronomy 17:7).  Yet, the Old Testament law endorsed capital punishment for more crimes than modern Western nations.

That the Bible has a different view of justice than the Republicans or Democrats should not really surprise us.  Neither political platform was formed using the Bible as a guide.  Both are humanistic and flawed.  All the more reason that as Christians we should not look to political parties to inform us on great issues like justice but instead should look at what God has revealed through the Bible. 

The coastlands “wait expectantly for His law”  (Isaiah 42:3-4) because the law of King Jesus is the basis for justice.  GS

A Kingdom Philosophy of History

How do you view history?  I mean big picture, how do you view it?  In other words, do you have a philosophy of history? A philosophy of history is a paradigm for interpreting the purpose and direction of history.  It not only seeks to interpret the events of the past but also attempts to place the present in the proper context and give insight into the future.  There are a few different major philosophies of history. 

One philosophy of history holds that history is cyclical.  The belief that history repeats itself and that there is not any real progress over time is an example of a cyclical philosophy of history.  A cyclical view of history sees such cycles as inevitable because it operates from a presumption that man never really changes.  Man is destined to repeat the mistakes of history because man is a prisoner of his nature and never really progresses.

Another view holds that history is linear.  An example is Marxism, which teaches that history is on an inevitable progression to the goal of a pure communist society.  Marxism attempts to explain the past, place the present in proper context and predict the direction of the future through its philosophy of history. In the Marxist view, it is just a matter of time before the whole world embraces the ideals of the Marxist state.

Many Christians have adopted a pessimistic linear philosophy of history.  They see history as on an inevitable regression into sin and rebellion against God.  They believe the world is beyond hope, the gospel is destined to fail and evil is destined to prevail on the earth. 

It seems to me that the proper Christian philosophy of history holds history is both cyclical and linear.  While it recognizes history moves in a cyclical manner, those cycles progress in a linear fashion toward an ultimate positive conclusion.  Imagine a bicycle wheel rolling up a ramp to reach a high platform.  The same point on the wheel will sometimes be rotating downward, backward, upward or forward around the axle, but the wheel itself is always moving up the ramp to a higher point. 

 When viewed in the context of this Christian philosophy of history, the last fifty years of American cultural and moral decline are easily explained without compromising the linear view of progression and advancement for the kingdom of God.  The last fifty years in the United States of America merely represents a down cycle, whose peak will reach higher in the next cycle as the kingdom progresses towards its ultimate victorious consummation.  History, driven by the leavening force of the kingdom of God is like a wave traveling up a beach.  There are high points and low points, but it is moving up toward a high consummation. 

This view provides the context for understanding history without compromising Jesus’ promise that the Kingdom will successfully leaven the whole earth.  Anyway, it makes sense to me.  What do you think?  GS

Kingdom History: 1000 A.D.

If you had been living in Europe at the end of of the first millennium, would you have thought it was the end of the world?  Would you have been reading the equivalent of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and looking to the sky for Jesus’ return?

Christendom had been on the decline for some time.  Pagan Vikings continually raided what is today northern Europe and England.  Pagan Magyars (from modern-day Hungary) were encroaching on Christendom’s eastern borders, and Muslim Moors, who controlled most of Spain, were encroaching in the south.  What’s more, history was nearing the end of the first millennium A.D.  There were wars and rumors and of wars, comets were seen in the sky and there were other natural phenomena which people interpreted as bad omens.  There was much talk of the Apocalypse, the end of the world.

Then, within the span of forty years, everything changed.  The Vikings (Scandinavia) were converted to Christianity, following the conversions of Olaf of Trygvesson (991 A.D.), Svein Forkbeard (1014 A.D.) and Canute the Mighty (1014 A.D.).  The conversion of other pagan leaders solidified this glorious turn of history:  Harald Bluetooth of Denmark in 974 A.D., Vladimir I of Russia in 988 A.D., Boleslav the Brave (modern day Poland) in 996 A.D., Thorgeir of Iceland in 1000 A.D. and Leif Eriksson in 1000 A.D. The pagan Magyars were tamed when a Christian leader named Vajk (St. Stephen) was crowned king in 1000 A.D. and began facilitating the spread of Christianity through modern-day Hungary.  Spain was reclaimed when Sancho the Great defeated the Moors in 1002 A.D.

History is fluid.  The kingdom of God remains.  With the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, there will be talk of the end being near, as there has been for the last 2,000 years every time a temporary retreat of Christianity is coupled with a natural disaster or two.   Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye will sell more books, but the world will continue.  The world will continue because it must continue until the kingdom of God has covered the earth.  So, when things look bad in the world, when it seems Christianity is on the decline, if it means anything, it means the end is likely farther away than you think, not nearer.  GS

What’s Wrong With The World, Part II

As you’ve probably heard, Adam and Eve ate from the tree from which God had instructed them not to eat.  When they did, they introduced into God’s creation a disease that affected every aspect of creation.  Principally, four things happened that explain state of the world ever since.

1.  Man was separated from God.  When Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the forbidden tree, they were separated from God.  We know this because “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”  (Gen. 3:6-10). They had never run from God before.  Man has been running from God ever since.

2.  Man was separated from himself.  When the Lord called out to Adam, Adam said he heard the Lord and “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”  For the first time, Adam felt fear, shame and guilt.  Before eating of the tree, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed,” (Gen. 2:25) but when he sinned man became embarrassed about who he was and realized he was naked and exposed.  Man has struggled with guilt, shame and poor self esteem ever since.  

3.  Man was separated from others.  When the Lord asked Adam if he had eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam went into a classic blame-shift: “The woman whom You gave me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:11-13).  Prior to their sin Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony. (Gen. 2:24).  Since that time man’s relationship with his fellow man has been filled with contention, conflict and war.  

4.   Man was separated from his environment.  As a result of man’s sin, the rest of creation became cursed. (Gen 3:14-15, 17-21). There is now enmity between man and the animals God created to be man’s pets and companions.  Man’s separation from his environment changed man’s surroundings from a place of abundance to a place of scarcity.  Before his sin, food was abundant to man.  After his sin, the earth became cursed and began to bring forth thorns, thistles and other impediments for the first time.  (Gen. 3:17, 19).

Francis Schaffer described the effects of sin on creation as the four separations.  These separations occurred as a result of sin, not as part of God’s original intent for creation.  Man’s estrangement from God, himself, his fellow man and his environment, which seem normal to us, are in fact aberrations from the paradise God intended and are the reason we no longer have a paradise on earth. 

Man’s sin and the resulting four separations ended paradise on earth.  Those who would follow would find a sick creation enslaved to the effects of the corruption of that sin, a creation that longed to be free again and be the paradise God intended from the beginning.  In a nutshell that’s what’s wrong with the world.  Fortunately there is a solution.  More about that later.  GS

What’s Wrong With The World, Part I

Ever wonder what’s wrong with the world?  Here’s the answer from a kingdom perspective.  I will have to give it to you in two installments to keep below my goal of no more than 500 words per post.  Just consider it like the book-of-the-month club, except it’s a blog and not books, but pages, and you get the installments in days not months.

The world God created was a pretty cool place.  It was a place of beauty, peace and prosperity.  God created for man a garden that was beautiful and bountiful, containing trees of every kind, bearing every kind of fruit.  (Gen. 2:9).  There was a river running through the garden, providing a convenient, endless supply of fresh water.  (Gen. 2:10).  There was also an abundance of precious gems and metals. (Gen. 2:12).  This was kind of like living next door to a grocery story, jewelry store and art gallery where everything you wanted was free. 

There is no record of any natural disasters in or around the garden—no earthquakes, tornadoes or violent storms.  You wouldn’t have had to worry about Giraldo Rivera showing up with a crew to shoot the hurricane or flood.  Man gathered fruit and vegetables easily without contending with weeds, thorns or disease.  God created animals for man and brought them to him to name, presumably so the animals would know to come when man called them.  (Gen. 2:18-20).   It was like a zoo without the need for cages   Man was at peace with his environment, surrounded by beauty and abundance, and by any definition of the word was wealthy. 

Things were going pretty well for Adam, but being a single, successful guy was still not completely fulfilling.  So, God hooked him up with a gal named Eve, and the two of them started the world’s first nudist colony,… sort of.  They had the perfect relationship, free of strife, hurtful words and selfishness, and they loved one another unreservedly.  They suffered from no disease or sickness, emotional or mental problems.  They were completely secure with who they were and who God had created them to be. 

God gave what he created the cosmic seal of approval, calling it very good. (Gen. 1:31). It was so good God intended it last and that man export it to the rest of the world.  After placing Adam and Eve in the garden, God blessed them and instructed them to “…fill the earth, and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28).   The Garden of Eden would have functioned as a reference point to which man could always return to view the blueprint for the world.  At this point, things were looking pretty good.  You think you know what went wrong?  Tune in for part II tomorrow.  There may be more to it than you thought.  GS