For my next magical trick, I’m going to steal liberally from my pastor. But seeing as how he gets the vast majority of his material from Someone Else, I think I’m safe.

We’ve been studying Revelation on Sunday mornings at my church. Even if a person takes significant license with the text and/or interprets it all metaphorically, you have to deal with the question, “How can a loving God judge man, bringing about the horrible plagues cataloged in the text and condemning people to hell?”

The easy answer is found in Isaiah 55:8:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.

But I think that we don’t really understand the magnitude of that verse the way we ought.

Although we’ve dealt with the question (”How can a loving God. . . “) before, my pastor raised it again this week, noting in Revelation 15:3-4:

They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying:

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested. ”

He noted that, “Here, [the singers] are going to be seeing the most devastating judgments on the earth. And is anyone complaining about how unfair it is?” (Obviously the answer is “no”.)

He then went on to give an illustration that helped me better understand this issue:

My two-year-old daughter [is] a very sweet girl. But she has a lot of self-will to her. Now she doesn’t have the wisdom or knowledge or experience or mental capacity that I do or that [my wife] does. But she thinks she does. She thinks she knows the right way to do everything herself. If her shirt or dress is on backwards, it’s “right”. If she doesn’t get Sprite for breakfast, then it’s “not fair”. If candy’s not on the menu for dinner, then sometimes a tantrum will ensue, proclaiming dad’s injustice.

And [my daughter and I] are both humans. When you try to put your capacity and knowledge and wisdom and compare it to God’s — take [the difference between my daughter and me] and multiply it by infinity, and you maybe come close to understanding the difference between what you think and understand and what God thinks and understands.

And yet, as [my daughter] grows and matures, she’ll start to understand why we do the things we do as parents. It’s the same thing [for us] as Christians — we grow, we mature, we gain from God’s Word. We grow in the Lord. We start to understand more of His ways and why He does [what He does]. But there will not be a perfect understanding until we come face-to-face with Him.

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12 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 18th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

A very good thought. I guess a revealing answer for me would be that personally “I would not do what God has and will do; either good or bad”.

I would not send people to hell.
I would not offer redemption to mankind.
I would not have waited so long.
I would not have died for my enemies.
I would not have made man knowing the future.

So when I see those statements and others like them I must conclude that I am not God and I have an extremely shallow and myopic view of YHWY. All I really know is that Jesus died and rose again for sinners like me. The rest is sometimes a religious and philosophical maze that others much more intelligent and spiritual than I are actually sure about.

And I believe all one has to be sure about is the Jesus issue, and all the rest seems to erode in diminishing importance proportionate to the distance the issue travels away from Jesus and the gospel.

2   John Hughes    
March 18th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Choose one of the following:

(1) The Book of Revelation is just the Apostle John (or whoever wrote it) wrongly projecting his bitterness against society that boiled him in oil and stranded him on Patmos and attributing it to his perception of God. Feel free to totally ignore.

(2) The Book of Revelation is total allegory and is not be be taken literally in any shape form or fashion. God would never do that.

(3) Most of The Book of Revelation is a history of events that have already happened culminating in the events of AD 70. Don’t sweat it.

There. Just thought I would do my community service for the day and go ahead and get the majority of the views represented here up front. :-)

3   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 18th, 2010 at 4:34 pm

The Book of Revelation is overwhelmingly prophetic. If it was historical, why wouldn’t it be written as is Acts or the gospels?

4   Paul C    http://www.thepath.cc
March 18th, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Definitely agree that Revelation forecasts the future: the time prior to the return of the Lord Jesus.

In terms of the terrible judgments that will be unleashed, we need to keep in mind that the Father never errs.

Also, Rev 19: “With justice [JESUS] judges and makes war.”

I don’t think the fact that God is love is in conflict with the fact He is just and righteous.

5   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 18th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I believe Revelation is about the future as well… but, I believe it’s a matter of whose future. I believe that it was mainly describing the immediate future of those it was written to. For sure it describes some events that are yet to come, but I have hard time believing that the bulk of the book was meaningless to the people it was originally written to.

6   Paul C    http://www.thepath.cc
March 18th, 2010 at 5:01 pm

but I have hard time believing that the bulk of the book was meaningless to the people it was originally written to.

I have a hard time seeing how scripture speaking of the imminent return of the Saviour is “meaningless”.

For example, here we are in 2010. I take comfort in reading the book (especially Rev 21) and it serves to help guard against worldliness. Whether Christ comes back in 10 years or 1000 years, it is far from meaningless to me and millions of others.

7   Eric    
March 18th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Very good thoughts Brendt – I appreciate your contribution.

8   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 18th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

How can a loving God allow the internet? :lol:

9   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
March 18th, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I have a hard time seeing how scripture speaking of the imminent return of the Saviour is “meaningless”.

Probably because that’s not what I said…

All I’m saying is that if Revelation is mainly prophesying events that weren’t going to happen for thousands of years after if was written, it would seem a little odd. Remember, the book is epistolary in nature as well as apocalyptic – it was written to specific people living in a specific time period. Personally, I think there’s more evidence for dating it towards the end of the first century rather than before AD 70. The Christians it was written were facing intense persecution, and the judgments described were meant to give them hope. The Roman empire would not win out despite what things looked like.

10   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 18th, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Aside from the chronology and time placement of Revelation, let us not forget that it is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

But the question is “Am I”?

11   Chad Holtz    http://www.chadholtz.net
March 18th, 2010 at 8:02 pm

#2: Apart from the 3rd one (and that, only partially), I’ve never seen any of those views expressed here.

12   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
March 18th, 2010 at 10:53 pm

John, #2, I’m not sure I’ve seen 1 in any book I have read on the subject of the Revelation. I’m not sure anyone thinks it is a ‘total’ allegory. 3 is iffy since you used the word ‘most’.

Other than that, thanks for the contribution.

Brendt, thanks for the thoughts. Good stuff.