Check out this enlightening video on the book of Revelation.
Sometimes, I have a tough time dealing with authority. I might obey, but I can have a heart that disagrees and I can get fussy spirit towards my authority figure. Much has been said on the issue of authority and obeying those who are above you. It ranges anywhere from justifiable rebellion to blind obedience. Everyone who has studied the Bible knows that the bible has plenty to say but might find it hard to interpret. This is where we turn to the Bible, and more importantly to Christ, for a better perspective on obedience and submission.
The letters of Colossians and Ephesians raise the question about Christians and authority. Both of these letters are written to people who believe their true Lord is Jesus, which stood in contrast to the Roman Empire that controlled their cities and claimed that Caesar was Lord and that Caesar brought true freedom. This led the Christians to think that they should rise up and cast off other ruling figures. Paul had different things in mind. Of course, Jesus was Lord, but for someone to follow Jesus, he had to buy into His way of sacrificial love and uncontrollable freedom. If you look in these two letters, you see much contrast between worldly rulers, whether physical or metaphysical, and Gods rule. You also see the freedom in Christ is not dependent on a worldly rulers actions.
Colossians and Ephesians comment on each other and the predicament of being a Christian with heavenly loyalties and living in a world that demands your loyalty. Christians who had been declared free in Christ and were saying Jesus Christ is Lord withstood tribulation and even martyrdom from Romans who said Caesar is Lord and makes everyone free. They also experienced the same from the Jewish people who said Jesus was not God and was not the promised Messiah. They also held beliefs about the spiritual world and feared certain spirits and gods of the pagan world that were assumed to have power. Questions were coming up from the Christian community about who to follow, who to trust, and who to fear with utmost respect. They wanted to know how they could be free in this situation.
Paul answers all of these by appealing to authority of God and attributing full authority to Christ. This is subversive but only with love. This is why the early church had such a hard start with wveryWhen you subvert with love, you do not fight back, and the world does not know what to do with this. It only reacts the way it’s used to, with violence, hate, and spite.
What is submission to authority in this context? How does love play into this? How does a shared inheritance with Christ interact with this? Romans 12-13 paints the image more clearly that all of our actions are to spring from the love of Christ working in us. It is not that submission to authority is our end goal, but that it is a means of expressing the love of Christ in this broken world. It shows that we respect the shadow of the imago dei that governing authorities have in them, but we also know that they are not always completely in God’s will and that we must show them what God’s plan for the imago dei was. We have been given authority over everything, but we exercise the authority by submitting. We submit, not as a sign of obedience to the authority as much as a sign of our allegiance to Christ. We do, however, obey as a sign of love, which means we can enter a prophetic, life changing relationship that reveals Christ crucified and risen. Christ can use us to reveal heaven to a broken World.
The story of Jesus being taken into heaven is found in Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53, and Acts 1:3-11. When we hear this story, our first thoughts are of orthodoxy. Christ ascended and that is the fact the must be accepted when being a Christians. But where does this intersect with real life? The abstract is fun to talk about because it can be kept out of our lives. When it starts to break in it become a life altering experience.
One historic help is looking at Ancient Near Eastern views on cosmology and heaven. The Bible’s universe is very small compared to the current scientific models. Mountains were known as the pillars of heaven, the sky was a barrier between heaven and earth, and heaven was the dwelling of God and the heavenly deities. So when Jesus gets taken to the higher realm, He is once again having His claims validated and He is being put in the realm of God.
How does that affect us? First, it makes Jesus our true King. If He really is vindicated, then He really must rule our lives. He also has the best way to live. Even His own lifestyle is an example and His teachings a guide for us.
Another important aspect is hope. Hope involves waiting with anticipation. This very much like parents promising Disney Land or a boss verbally promising a raise. The is no real scientific guarantee of the event actually coming, but the certainty of the intangible has been placed in us. Since Christ has promised blessing at His return for those who follow Him, we hope.
Do you live in hope? Are you feeding hope to others? Do you live in faith, hope, and love towards God and others?
Transfiguration Story in Matthew 17:1-9 is a passage that can spark much debate on its meaning. To sum up, Jesus goes to pray on a mountain with Peter the two brothers to pray. Next thing the disciples know, Jesus is talking to Elijah and Moses. Peter, being the usual outburst of a man, starts planning to build a monument for the event. But God says to be silent and to listen.
I think the concept of silence is very important to this story.
How many times do we try to honor God by doing the first thing that comes to mind?
How often does that form of worship become busy work and leave no room for silent reflection?
The main question is how open are we? Peter had the right desire was in the right place. Many people have this same desire today, but so much of the desire is misguided with loud shows, catchy sermons, and ceremonies of feel-good spirituality. God is asking something else. The temptation to raise monuments and celebrate loudly is strong in us. We are a very ritual based species. But God wants an ear. Too much action can lead to an over bearingly noisy culture that drowns out the Holy Spirit.
How many of us are going here and there for this or that event? Busy living can be filled with school, sports, dances, proms, deadlines, overtimes, Church events, and even our own personal hobbies. For Peter, it was even his outspoken religious zeal. God wants us to spend some time away from that. It’s not bad, but cut out a part of your day just to sit in silent prayer. Don’t say anything. Just listen. Maybe Christ has something for you to hear today.
Check out what writer Ian Michael Cron says on this subject.
Penal Substitutionary Atonement: the theory that states that God sent His son to serve as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins and that Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God. Jesus is portrayed as pure lamb going to be sacrificed, just like in the Jewish tradition, except it is a once and for all atonement.
Those against it need to consult Scripture, especially Hebrews. We should not treat this theory as an enemy, but learn to understand it in light of covenant history in the Bible. We should read that Jesus is not simply making a God who is always angry happy by killing himself. Jesus did the will of God in this matter but it was a desire to save and not the desire to destroy that drove this action. Also, Jesus is not just taking on sin, but is providing covenant according to Jewish tradition. In this way he is not simply once and for all atonement, but is creating a once and for all covenant with humanity.
Those who are against all other theories might not understand the other theories and need to consult scripture, especially Romans. Take a closer look at it and see Christ as a rescuer more than one who simply takes punishment. He is a great liberator who defeats death and fear. Romans is not really that strong in substitutionary atonement theory. It uses more warrior metaphor and sounds something like the description of a Roman emperor freeing a people and bringing blessings to the people he recently conquered. It is a contrast to worldly rulers and paints a picture of Christ as a Messianic ruler who came to conquer the world and liberate humanity from death and sin so that they could live out their God-given purpose.
Instead of having one or the other, we need balanced view that includes all biblical models. The definition of the theories needs to be clarified according to the narrative of the Bible. It is important that God sent His son out of His love for us (John 3:16). Without that, we would have no hope of resurrection or complete relationship. As for the wrath part, a walk through much of the Old Testament use of the wrath or punishment of God is very temporary. This is due to the fact that this wrath is not so much a stative, emotional descriptor of God’s view of us as much as it is an experiential reflection on the human experience of God. When one rebels against God, it does not go well for them. It is true that God punishes, yet his punishment is always an attempt to bring those opposing Him to a deeper understanding of the way that God loves. One of the ways he does that is rescue which always follows punishment. Most of the prophets of the Old Testament could not say anything about the punishment of God without following it with the rescue of God. God always promises rescue to those who will turn to Him. This does not sound like a God who is perpetually angry with humanity and that Jesus needs to appease Him by dying. That view creates too much dichotomy between the Father and the Son and will logically lead to heresy. The best view is that God and Jesus share the same love and the same mission, which is rescue. Anger is not the high attribute of God, love and sovereignty is. Whether you are a neo-calvinist in the likes of John Piper or Mark Driscoll, or your more open like the minds of Greg Boyd and Joel B. Green, we must replace the thought that God hates in a purely emotional sense, which comes from modern definitions of emotionalism. The Biblical idea is that God hates rebellion. God, however, loves everyone, or else the Bible would have been more explicit on some receiving the revelation and others having it completely hidden from them on purpose due to the separation of the mission of God the Father and God the Son, which seems a mix of pure Augustinianism and Gnosticism, both of which have been rejected by the Church.
So let’s find a good and balanced view of atonement that reaches into the Scriptures and offers something pure and beautiful for the world, the way that God meant it to be.
How do you see God? Is He always angry or does he primarily love us? Is He out to punish us or give us new life? Are you finding reasons to be afraid of Him or stand in awe before Him?
*A good read that furthers this view is Ezekiel 18. In that chapter we see that God takes no joy in letting the wicked die. Contrary to people like John Piper, it also means He does not consider it a glorifying event either.