Sunday, 25 July 2010

God will judge the world

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 25th July 2010.

The Bible tells of the goodness of God, and also his severity (Romans 11:21-23). He is a God of love and mercy, but also a God of truth and justice. The Gospel involves the coming Kingdom of God, and also the judgement of the world.

Judgement on Israel

Jesus was talking of the Jewish religious rulers when he said: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” (John 9:39)

Later he said: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” (John 12:31-33)

The world in general was not judged at that time, so what did Jesus mean? It was suggested that the ‘Prince of this world’ was Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest.

Jesus replaced Caiaphas as ‘prince’: this is a conversation between the Jewish high priest and some of the disciples, later: “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

The Jewish rulers killed Jesus Christ at Passover, approximately AD30.

At Passover AD70 the Roman army laid siege to Jerusalem. Jesus had explained that this was a judgement for what they had done: “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:33-43)

(Note that although the Jewish nation was punished for what it did, the Jews are still God’s people and have not been cast off – Romans 11.)

Judgement on the world

There is a pattern in the Bible: What happened to Israel was a foretaste of what is to happen to the world. For example Jeremiah 25:29: “For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Paul explains how the judgement will work: “God hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. “(Acts 17:31)

Jesus will judge the world when he returns.

This is what Jesus himself said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:25-30).

Let us strive towards the ‘resurrection of life’!

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Bible, God's living word

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 18th July 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

Three good reasons why you can be confident that the Bible is the word of God: the Law of Moses; world history; prophecies about Christ.

1. the Law of Moses

The law that God gave to his people Israel was thousands of years ahead of its time.

At the turn of the 19th Century, two thousand women a year died of ‘childbirth fever’ in England and Wales. Dr Semmelweiss had an idea that it was to do with cleanliness, so he ordered that all the doctors in his department wash their hands between handling corpses and delivering babies. The mortality rate from ‘childbirth fever’ in his department reduced from 18.3% to 1%.

More recently, MRSA in hospitals has again highlighted the need for cleanliness.

The Law of Moses laid great emphasis on washing and hygiene – e.g. Numbers 19:11-19.

This passage from Numbers highlights other enlightened aspects of the Law of Moses which were way ahead of its time:

verses 13-15, looking after the poor (note, not handing out ‘charity’ but allowing disadvantaged people to work to look after themselves)

verse 11, honesty

verse 13, prompt payment of wages

verse 14, respect for the disabled

verse 15, impartiality in justice

verse 18, the reason for all this is respect for God.

2. a tale of three cities

Babylon was known as the Golden City – reached its height around 600BC, when it was the capital of a superpower. The Jewish prophets declared that it would be completely destroyed and never again inhabited (e.g. Isaiah 14, Jeremiah 50). Its destruction was so complete that until fairly recently people argued that it never actually existed! Since its ruins were rediscovered there have been attempts to rebuild it, but they have all failed – in fulfilment of Bible prophecy.

Tyre was a sea port at the centre of a powerful maritime empire. Ezekiel 26 foretells its downfall. Ezekiel’s words came true in astonishing detail – the city was repeatedly invaded, eventually the city was relocated to an island off the coast; Alexander the Great finally captured the island by building a causeway from the mainland using the rubble of the old city. In fulfilment of Ezekiel’s words, the city actually became a place where fishing nets were spread out to dry.

Jerusalem is the subject of many Bible prophecies, e.g. Jesus’ ‘Olivet prophecy’ in Luke 21. He foretold that it would be besieged and destroyed, and he warned people that when they saw it surrounded by armies they should flee. This happened 40 years later in AD 70: the Roman general Vespasian besieged the city, but then for a short time the siege was lifted while Vespasian was recalled to Rome to be made emperor. Christians who’d taken note of Jesus’ words took the opportunity to flee to the nearby town of Pella, but many others took the opportunity to flee for refuge to Jerusalem. Shortly afterwards the Roman army returned under Titus, and Jerusalem was destroyed.

The prophet Micah had said that Jerusalem would be ‘ploughed as a field’, and this actually happened in AD 135 when the Emperor Hadrian had a plough drawn over the city to demonstrate its complete destruction.

In Luke 21 Jesus said that Jerusalem would be “trodden down of the Gentiles (non-Jews) until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. In 1967, Jerusalem once again came under Jewish control and became the capital of the state of Israel.

3. The life of Jesus

The life and death of Jesus were foretold in detail by the prophets in the Old Testament.

Just one example is Psalm 22, where the Psalmist describes Jesus’ death (by crucifixion, a method of execution that wasn’t known in the Psalmist’s time). For example:

verse 7 could well be a description of onlookers mocking the spasms of a crucifixion victim

verse 8 is precisely the insult the Jewish onlookers threw at Jesus

verse 14 describes dehydration by blood loss and sweat, and bones pulled out of joint

verse 16 describes the method of fixing the victim to the cross

verse 18 – the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothes

verse 22, the Psalm abruptly changes from a plea for deliverance from torture into confidence in God’s salvation.

These are just a few remarkable reasons why you can be sure that the Bible is what it says it is – the word of God.