Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 15 - The terrible day of the Lord

Dear Johnboy circa 80's and 90's...

Remember when the Russian commies were the great enemy of America? Without a doubt that totalitarian system was horrific. Once they fell apart though, this country needed someone else to hate on. Osama Bin Laden was happy to oblige. But their threat was not close to nuclear annihilation, which left room in our collective psychology to look for other things to hate/fear. Whenever things in the world get scary, the fundagelical tribe likes to warn the nation about God's wrath and judgment. In the past, it has scared up new converts and kept the doubters in the fold. But the wrath never arrived. They kept crying "wolf" and the Lamb of God never shows up to start kicking in doors.

So Johnny, you don't really know about the internet or Facebook, just free discs from America Online and long load times on dial up modems. Now the wolf criers are all over the place. It's like a million John the Baptists, Jesus' cousin, the hippy prophet, baptizing crowds in the Jordan River, to prepare for the kingdom of God.

John the Baptizer (JtB) has a cool background story. His parents never had children. Then his dad, a Jewish priest, hit the priestly jackpot and was chosen to make the offering in the Holy of Holies, where Indiana Jones' skull melting ark resided. Instead of his skull melting though an angel visited him and told him about his wife's forthcoming pregnancy and the son's mission.
Luke 1:16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go as forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.”
Elijah is an important dude in the Jewish Bible. As Moses is set apart as the law giver, Elijah is esteemed as the greatest prophet who never died but was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot by God. Even today, the Jewish Sabbath ritual leaves an empty chair for Elijah, should he return to inaugurate something big for the children of Israel today. JtB's cousin, Jesus explicitly declares in Matthew's gospel that JtB was the return of Elijah in a non-reincarnation sort of way.
Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John appeared. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come. 15 The one who has ears had better listen!
What is the big deal about Elijah's return? It's the time for tail kicking by God on Israel's behalf, according to the Jewish prophet Malachi.
Malachi 4:4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
When JtB's dad heard the angel talk about the power of Elijah and the turning of father's hearts to children's and vice versa he must of gotten real excited. Not only would he be a dad, but his son would inaugurate the restoration of Israel. Finally they would throw off their oppressors. The preceding verses in Malachi are a fine collection of tail kicking promises.
Malachi 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts.
When you are not a free people, these promises of deliverance are so quaint 400 years later. In the 400 years after Malachi, the Greeks took over Israel and the Maccabee family led a terrorist revolt, that succeeded for the short term until there were no more Maccabees to kill. The Romans succeeded the Greeks and kept the Jews on a short leash, putting down rebellions and riots over and over again. If God sends Elijah, then according to Malachi, the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" will soon follow.

Then Jesus shows up. Surprise! No swords, no armies, no consuming fire. A complete disappointment for all the Bible scholars in his time who took the scriptures seriously. Jesus implicitly confirmed early on in his ministry this dreadful day of the Lord was the complete opposite of what the prophets spoke of. In Luke he shows up in his hometown synagogue as he begins his ministry and reads from the scriptures
Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
But he left out the rest of the sentence in Isaiah, 61:2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn... the rest of the prophecy is encouraging, and perhaps is useful to understand what God's vengeance looks like. Jesus did not speak of God's vengeance (or he is redefining it), he stops mid-sentence at the synagogue.

Later on, on top of the Mount of Transfiguration, Elijah appears again with Moses to hang out with Jesus. Peter and James and John are allowed to tag along and witness this visitation. Then God takes away Mo and Eli and says, about Jesus, "This is my son, listen to him." Mark 9 and Matthew 11. God is telling these guys, and the gospel writers are telling us, the church, that Jesus takes priority over the law and the prophets. He gets to define God's terrible day in whatever way he wants. And that terrible day was when God let humans kill him. It was terrible and victorious at once.

It was a terrible day when Jerusalem was destroyed 40 years after Jesus' resurrection. It was when Rome fell in the 400s. It was when Constantinople fell in the Middle Ages. It was when Orthodox Russia fell to the atheist Communists. It was when Lutheran Germany fell to the Allies. But none of those live up to the hype in the Bible about THE terrible day. If those big ones weren't big enough... then it was not when America elected its first black president nor when the US Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional for states to deny marriage rights to gay couples.

But when you do finally discover the internet Johnny, and then Facebook, some Christians will make assertions like those last two. My advice to you, is to focus on what Jesus said, talk about the good news, help the oppressed and proclaim God's favor. Those are much easier to keep doing then trying to figure out what the last straw is that will make God lose his temper, go nuts and start flinging thunderbolts like Zeus...not at all like Jesus.

Jesus redefines everything in the Bible, which is why I keep saying, not everything biblical is Christian.

Series review----------------------
This is part 15 of the series, Not everything Biblical is ChristianPart one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine. Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137. Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus. Part five merely brushes the concept of source criticism.  Part six looks at the Old Testament application in the early church: a brief summary of the book of Acts. Part seven looks at how the church has worked this out regarding slavery. Part eight, showed one example of how an unchristian part of the Bible helps tell the Christian story. Part nine asks who would Jesus hate? Part 10 discusses women as Biblically approved spoils of war. Part 11 discusses divorce. Part 12 discusses the imposition of Bronze Age social constructs onto our diverse and complex modern world. Part 13 discusses women as property in the Biblical world. Part 14 discusses dehumanization of people with Biblical support.


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