Jesus Christ as King
Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv
Judgment is the logical consequence of the non-payment of the sin debt. It refers to the consequence of sin. The ultimate consequence of sin is eternal death suffering in hell. Since sin is committed against an infinite God the punishment is also infinite. Since we are finite creatures, it take an infinite amount of time to pay that infinite debt. On Earth, God has delegated judgment to mankind in the form of government. God told Noah "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6) The idea that man is made in the image of God is also taught in the New Testament. "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God." (James 3:9).
When human government defaults on its responsibility to execute justice God then intervenes with collective judgment, often in the form of unusual natural catastrophes. Jesus said that the proof for judgment is that "the prince of this world is judged" (John 16:11). During the time of Moses the "prince of this world" was Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Egypt was the superpower of the time, which made its ruler the most powerful man in the world. The Lord used Moses and Aaron to judge Pharaoh and his people by means of the ten plagues.
The Bible indicates that human history is circumscribed by two periods of catastrophic judgment, one future and one past. The first catastrophic judgment was the Noachian flood, the next one will be the day of the Lord, the judgment surrounding the second coming of Christ. The fact that such judgment occurred in the past creates a precedent and proves that a future judgment is possible. Peter says "scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.' For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. . . The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:3-7,9, nkjv).
The greatest danger of the theory of evolution is not so much in that it denies the doctrine of creation, but that it denies the authority and willingness of God to judge His creation. This is because the principal subject of the debate between creation and evolution is not the veracity of the events of the creation week, but the veracity of the catastrophic flood described in the book of Genesis. It is difficult to study the initial process of creation because there is no direct evidence. All that is possible is backwards extrapolation from the present to the past. However, any extrapolation is based on the assumption that the same laws of nature which exist now were at work at the beginning. The alternative view is that creation is an unrepeatable miracle based on forces which are no longer at work. In that case extrapolation from the present to the past is not possible. Which of these two assumptions is true is primarily a matter of faith because these processes left little distinctive evidence. However, the Bible describes a God who entered human history in judgment several thousand years ago during the lifetime of Noah and obliterated virtually all terrestrial life in a watery world wide cataclysm. In contrast to the veil of mystery which shrouds the creation week, this cataclysm, and its aftermath, left behind tangible evidence in the form of a geological and fossil record.
Therefore, this action of God within created time, while the normal laws of the created order were in operation, is much easier to study than those events which occurred at the beginning of time. As a result, at its core, the creation vs. evolution debate is a struggle to determine which view can best explain the fossil and geological record. Since the two views are mutually exclusive, the ability to accurately explain that record by means of the Genesis Flood eliminates most of the proof for evolution. Perhaps a more accurate name for creation science might be deluvialism, cataclysmology or, better yet, maboolism (the latter two are derived from the Greek and Hebrew words for 'flood', respectively). However, the term creationism is the currently accepted term for this scientific model, even though it does not accurately represent the actual focus of creation science.
Peter, in the passage quoted above, implies that belief in the Genesis Flood is a prerequisite for belief in prophecy. A person who does not seriously believe in the veracity of the Flood is not going to take seriously the warnings of prophecy. However, faith is based on evidence, and the evidence for the Genesis Flood takes the form of scientific data. Unfortunately, scientific research of any type is very expensive and creationists are poorly funded. Even though there is a significant number of scientists who are creationists, most of them are involved in secular research. There are only a handful of creation scientists who are able to work full time on research which directly studies the flood. Most work is done after hours or by retired scientists. Even those scientists who teach at those Christian colleges which hold to creationism spend most of their time teaching and little time doing research. This lack of funding for creation science is a major weakness which must be solved in order for the church to be strong enough to survive the seventieth week.
As was discussed earlier, the church too will pass through a period of judgment. Peter says "beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (I Peter 4:12-13). The denial of this Biblical doctrine is probably an important cause for the apathy and lack of holiness which has beset the church.
This apathy towards prophecy and a failure to prepare for the seventieth week diminishes the ability of the church to drive home the message of the reality and severity of God's judgment on sin. However, as we saw before, only the faithful church receives the promise of deliverance. Faithfulness is defined as the willingness to suffer for Jesus Christ now in our daily life. Many of those who are not willing to sacrifice now for the cause of Jesus Christ will have to prove their loyalty later by suffering during the seventieth week. The lives of Peter and John exemplify this idea. John stayed with the Lord during the crucifixion and he was granted long life and a natural death. Peter, even though he promised to be loyal to the Lord unto death, the next morning denied the Lord on the night of His arrest. Peter later kept his promise of loyalty by being crucified upside down in Rome.
Nevertheless, most of the judgment which mankind experiences is not in catastrophic judgments such as the ten plagues, the ancient flood, or the future day of wrath. Instead it is found in the execution of justice by human government in the present. Paul says "for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. . . . For he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:3,4). Peter says "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good" (I Peter 2:13-14). That part of the Mosaic law which deals with the execution of justice by human government is called the Mosaic civil or statutory law. It contains two parts. One part is the body of laws dealing with economic compensation, similar to modern civil law, and the other part is the body of laws leading to the death penalty, similar to modern criminal law. The foundation of Biblical statutory law is restitution. When restitution to the victim is possible, then a balanced restitution is mandated. When the crime is so great that it irreparably destroys the life of the victim then restitution is made to God with the perpetrator's life. In these cases restitution to the victim is impossible. Only aggravated forms of murder, adultery, or rape fit this category. Some might think that the death penalty is cruel and unchristian, but the thrust of the Old Testament teaching seems to be that someone who has been hardened by sin to the point that he engages in these aggravated crimes can only be reformed by confronting death. For a person to be saved he must first accept his own sinfulness. Only coming face to face with an early death might cause a hardened criminal to repent. Spending his life with other hardened criminals surely will not bring him to this point. These two principle, restitution by monetary compensation or by death are the foundation of the punitive laws of the Old Testament.
In addition to the statutory laws there are certain laws which create an economic framework. These laws are based on the concept of the Sabbath. First of all, the basic unit of the economic cycle is defined as the six day work week demarcated by the Sabbath day. A larger business cycle was defined by the Sabbatical year. Every seven years certain business activities were to stop. These included agriculture and the collection of interest on loans. The sabbatical cessation of agriculture would have a healthy effect on the environment. A yet larger business cycle was defined as seven cycles of seven years interrupted by an extra Sabbatical year, the year of Jubilee. On this year all slaves were freed and all land returned to their original owners. Even though these laws are tailored to an agricultural society, the principles on which they are based have universal application.
Nowhere in the Bible is the civil law abrogated. It still forms the model for righteous government. This does not mean that we should implement the statutory law as individuals. This law was designed to be carried out by civil government in a consistent manner. That is the point of the story about the woman taken in adultery. Even Jesus, as a private individual, did not have the right to take justice into his own hands without breaking the very laws He established. It also does not mean that we have the right to ignore those human laws which do not follow the Biblical model. However, it does mean that the more closely the laws of a nation are based on the Biblical model, the more righteous will be its government, and the more prosperous and peaceful will be the nation. Most importantly, the righteous concept of justice created by such laws will make the population more receptive to the gospel.
The importance of righteous laws is seen in the success which the gospel had throughout the Roman empire. The Romans were known for their adherence to law. Even though their legal system had more inconsistencies than some of the modern systems, it far surpassed any other legal system in existence at that time and they were insistent on following that law. Paul even compared them favorably to the Jews "if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law" (Romans 2:26-27). Notice how Paul distinguishes the ceremonial law (circumcision) from the rest of the law (the righteous requirements). This adherence of the Romans to the concept of the rule of law, and their development of a somewhat just civil law code was probably an important factor in the partial Christianization of the Roman empire. In contrast to this, the rest of the world had very poor penetration of the Gospel. By allowing the development of a relatively just code of law the Lord prepared the way for the spread of the Gospel into Europe.
Unfortunately, the great protestant reformers tended to dismiss Old Testament civil law for Roman law, which they euphemistically called natural law. They believed that man could create just laws based on pure reason and logic through democratic systems of government. This principle is enshrined in the North American declaration of independence which states "we hold these truth to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they have been endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The problem is that these truths are not so self evident to sinful men. At the same time that this was being written white Europeans had for many generations treated black Africans as subhuman animals and were taking them from their homes, families and countries as slaves, often to die in the equivalent of concentration camps where they were worked to death and survived an average of two or three years in places like Haiti. If the horror of such blatant inhuman behavior was not self evident to supposedly enlightened civilized people who were supposed to believe in the created equality of all men, then there is no hope that we can on our own discover this supposed natural law.
The modern legal system is basically designed as a way to balance the needs and wants of powerful interest groups who represent money and votes. Votes can usually be bought or at the least, money can influence many voters, so often the interest group which wins is the one with the most money. Therefore, modern politics is a compromise between interest groups with money. The result of this compromise is not real true moral justice, but a system which accomplishes what it set out to do, which is to protect the interests of the rich and powerful.
The more a legal system strays from true justice, the more contradictory its laws become because injustice is logically inconsistent. Some modern pieces of legislation are so vague that it is hard to know if one is keeping the law or not. This is true of some medical privacy laws in the United States and also of some campaign finance laws. This gives the government a huge tool for coercion to use in favor of whatever interest they favor because when the law is not clear, or is contradictory, everybody is potentially a law breaker, and if accused they must at the very least spend large sums of money defending themselves.
The guidelines for true justice are given to us in the Old Testament. The only other alternative is survival of the supposed fittest; to let groups of people fight for their rights and wants and allow the richest to win. The result of that is the conditions which have predominated in most of the world through out most of history, and still do today, that a few live in opulence while the majority lives near or below poverty. We can be ruled by God or by mammon. I propose we allow God's principles as recorded in the Bible to be our guide. This is the essence of theonomy and is very different from a theocracy as will be explained later.
In order to treat this parallel between Moses and Jesus in a complete fashion, it must be pointed out that under the Old Testament monarchy the king was both chief executive and chief justice. The role of judge is part of the kingly office of Jesus Christ. John describes seeing a title on His robe which said "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16). The rightful prince of this world is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the prince who was judged in order to pay for the sins of the elect. Satan, and all unbelieving human rulers are also judged, but for their own sins. Making Christ the object of the condition in John 16:11 "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." makes it consistent with the other two conditions, all of which make Christ the object "because they believe not on me," "because I go to the Father." However, it might seem to ruin the parallelism with Exodus where Pharaoh was judged as prince of the world by losing his firstborn. However, Moses too was judged and almost lost his firstborn. There is a rather cryptic passage that describes some events which took place on the way back to Egypt after Moses first spoke with God. Moses had initially planned to take his wife and sons back to Egypt. However, God told Moses "So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn. And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him [Moses' son(?)]. Then Zipporah [Moses' wife] took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said 'Surely you are a husband of blood to me!'" So He let him go" (Exodus 4:24-26 nkjv). Here, Moses was judged for not practicing circumcision on his children. Apparently this practice was no longer consistently followed by the Israelites (suggested by Joshua 5:2). Therefore, in a way, he too almost had to pay for the sins of his people. Only the shedding of blood by circumcision prevented the death of Moses' son.
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