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Brian-McLaren
 

Brian McLaren... What Christianity Has Come To

Part III... The Wrath, Justice and Judgment of God. The Book of Revelation

Carol Brooks

INDEX TO ALL EIGHT SECTIONS

Foreword and Introduction: Why Brian McLaren in particular? Who is Brian McLaren?...Short Bio. Index to sections

 Part I...The Secret Message of Jesus: Overview The "secret" message... isn't such a big secret. The New Testament emphasis on doing good works to "the brethren". Do modern day Christians get it?

Part II... God's Coming Kingdom: Are God's coming kingdom and the second coming of Christ literal physical events, or are they to be seen in a 'spiritual' sense? What does the Bible say? The dual 'now' and 'then' message of the Kingdom. How McLaren redefines the word "Kingdom, the phrase "Eternal Life", and changes God's "will" to God's "dream" in order to 'prove' his points.

    You Are Here 001orange Part III... A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice? The wrath Of God.The "amazingly subversive" Book Of Jonah. The justice and judgment of God. While there is no question that, as McLaren says.. Jesus will condemn and destroy evil, who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil? Revelation...example of the "literature of the oppressed", territory of the lunatic fringe, or our only hope. Does God plan to "destroy creation"?

Part IV... McLaren's All Inclusive Kingdom: God's promise to Abraham... who exactly would be "blessed"? Practicing what he preaches... Brian McLaren and Jewish leaders. Services done to "Tash".... unbelievers saved without explicit faith in Christ. Salvation. Does seeking salvation make a person "self-centered" and "narcissistic"? The Bible's conditions for entrance into the kingdom. Redefining repentance and the word "transgression". Demon worship. What's in a Name? What exactly Is a "Christian"? Did Gandhi seek "to follow the way of Christ"? The inclusiveness AND exclusiveness of Jesus. What determines one's 'status' in the Kingdom? The Pax Christi. Many shall come from the east, and from the west..

Part V... The Lambeth Conference: Three questions asked Brian McLaren after the Lambeth Conference. Should Christianity be seen as a "threat" or "welcome friend" to other religions, and are they caretakers or enemies of the Gospel

Part VI... Glossing Over the Occult: Occult ceremonies are not harmless 'traditions'. Contemplative spirituality...practices learned learned from a myriad of sources outside of Christianity

Part VII... McLaren And The Bible: Is the Bible inerrant, infallible, absolute and authoritative, or are Christians resorting to the authority of extra Biblical words and concepts" to justify their own belief in the Bible's ultimate authority? Is the sole purpose of the Scriptures to equip God's people for good works. Seeing the Bible as narrative, does not mean forgetting the all-important meta-narrative. Genesis literal or "deep mythic language"?

Part VIII... Conclusion: God A or God B? Re-writing and sanitizing the Message. Profane babbling. Brian McLaren, the New Age, and the antichrist. Ideas that blends harmoniously with New Age beliefs. McLaren and the "visionaries"

 

ON THIS PAGE

Everything Will Change
A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice?
The Wrath Of God
The "Amazingly Subversive" Book Of Jonah

Justice and judgment
The Justice of God
The Judgment of God

Jesus Will Condemn and Destroy Evil..
... but the million dollar question is who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil?

God As “Judge”
Ample evidence That shows that when God is spoken of as a judge, the Bible means it in the strict sense of the word.

The Book of Revelation
Is Revelation An Example Of The "Literature Of The Oppressed"?
Was Jesus "Influenced" By The Apocalyptic Literature of the Day?

Does God Plan To "Destroy Creation", Or Is The Message of Revelation Our Only Hope

 

No Question About It... Everything Will Change

A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice?
The hardcover version of McLaren's book, Everything Must Change, was released in late 2007 and, as he himself says, is in many ways a sequel to The Secret Message of Jesus, . In McLaren's 'Sermon Ideas' for Everything Must Change (on his web site) he says that a "key idea for a sermon would be to suggest" [All Emphasis Added]

    "that there are two very different understandings of the gospel afoot in our churches today: one is a gospel of evacuation and the other a gospel of transformation. One gospel says that God has given up on creation and plans to destroy it, extracting souls for a disembodied existence in heaven. The other gospel says that God is faithful to creation and is at work to heal it and save it from human sin, and promises that any sacrifice we make to be co-laborers with God in God's saving and healing work will be amply rewarded in this life and the next. One gospel offers little hope for the earth and its inhabitants in history, and focuses their hope beyond this life only. The other gospel is good news for all people (Luke 2:10) offers hope for both this life and the life beyond. [15]

I am afraid that I am going to have to take a few minutes break to see if I can get my jaw back into place, that is, if it didn't irreversibly shatter when it hit the floor. It is absolutely incomprehensible to me how anyone can actually read their Bibles, then come up with this load of manure.

As far as this supposed "gospel of evacuation" is concerned, Heaven is not some ethereal and intangible place somewhere out there, which we go up to. Most of the church simply glosses over God's promise to give Abraham an entire country for an everlasting possession, in spite of the fact that it is one of the most solemn declarations He ever made. [See earlier section Kingdom Where: Do We Go "Up" to a Timeless Heaven After We Die?]

And, anyone who believes that Jesus' message of the kingdom was a call to transform the world, runs into one rather large problem... there is no place in the Scriptures where we are told that the precepts of the kingdom will ever become the guiding principles of parliaments, congresses, or any other form of government. Much less corporate boardrooms, Wall Street, Hollywood, or even the mosques and temples of the world.

On the contrary, the New Testament provides a short, but very descriptive summary of a fallen society.. one that we should be all too familiar with.

    being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: [Romans 1:29-31]

While it certainly covers the bases, Paul's words actually seem to be a rather tame description of the world we live in today. 2000 years later, things are far worse than they have ever been. As authors Jon Zens & Cliff Bjork say in their article, A Better Society Without The Gospel?

    It isn't necessary to dredge up the names of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of fallen mankind's propensity for evil. Right here in "America The Beautiful" the evidence of a universal bondage to sin fills our newspapers, our radio and television broadcasts, Hollywood's productions, Madison Avenue's advertising campaigns and every other aspect of our culture's pursuits. Promiscuity, pornography, and permissive paganism are proudly promoted while participation in prayer, preaching and praise is perversely prohibited in the public square. It is a society of sin-blinded pleasure seekers "who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20). Whether Corinth, Athens, or Rome in Paul's day or New York, Chicago, or Detroit in ours, the natural bent of any society of unbelievers remains the same: "All have turned away, they have become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:12).  [22]

In light of which, I find the following statement, from A Generous Orthodoxy, absolutely ludicrous.

     "the gospels tell us that he selected 12 and trained them in a new way of life. Some would believe and become practitioners and teachers of this new way of life, too. Even if only a few would practice this new way, many would benefit. Oppressed people will be free. Poor people will be liberated from poverty. Minorities will be treated with respect. Sinners would be loved, not resented. In other words "the kingdom of God would come- not everywhere at once, not suddenly, but gradually, like a seed growing in a field, like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough, like light spreading across the sky at dawn" [23]

The yeast that is spreading through the dough is not the Gospel, but the leaven that Jesus warned us about. "Evil men and impostors" are proceeding from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [2 Timothy 3:13 NASB]. Besides which, we have to consider that "sinners" are not always, or even often, the man who steals a loaf of bread to feed six starving children. In our society it is more likely to be the rapist, child molester, the wall street or corporate racketeer, the murderer, and on and on. It is an unending list of horrendous crime and violent, heartless, criminals.

What happens to this corrupt society, unredeemed by Calvary? From cover to cover, the central theme of the Scriptures is that any, and all, sin is unacceptable to God, and will be punished. So much so that virtually every bit of history, story, and lesson to be gleaned, revolves around this hub. As early as the sixth chapter of the first book of the Bible, has God saying

    Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." [Genesis 6:5-7 ]

and, hopefully, McLaren's readers will be familiar with the Scriptures that tell us how God did exactly that, in fact more than once. That is, if he hasn't convinced them that, these are non-literal stories. (For details on why Genesis is to be taken literally, see section McLaren and The Bible)

Paul explicitly said the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God...

    "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." [1 Corinthians 6:9-11]

Not only will the unrighteous not inherit the kingdom of God, but they will have to one day face the wrath of God, which is exactly what believing, born-again, Christians are saved from.


The Wrath Of God
In an online Christianity Today article, author Andy Crouch quotes McLaren as saying

    "I don't think we've got the gospel right yet. What does it mean to be 'saved'? When I read the Bible, I don't see it meaning, 'I'm going to heaven after I die.' Before modern evangelicalism nobody accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, or walked down an aisle, or said the sinner's prayer." [24]

In spite of the modern tendency to want everything in an 'instant' version, there is no question that Biblical salvation is neither cheap, convenient, easy, or quick. Reducing salvation to a quickie "sinners" prayer, and/or a walk down an aisle, is but a shallow parody of the Gospel message. However, in complete opposition to what McLaren thinks, the Bible is very clear about what it means to be "saved". Numerous NT verses tell us that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God Himself [All Emphasis added in the following verses]

    John, the 'apostle of love', said "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him". [John 3:36].

    Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. [Romans 5:9 NASB]

    For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [Ephesians 5:5-6 NASB]

    Paul spoke of "Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come [I Thessalonians 1:10] 

    For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, [1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB]

God's wrath can be Biblically defined as a measured response to one thing, and one thing only… sin.

    In Matthew 3:7, when John the Baptist saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he called them offspring of vipers, then asked who had warned them to flee from the wrath to come?

    In Romans 1:18 Paul said “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness". He adds to the thought in Romans 2:5-11 where he says... God will render to every man according to his works, and people with hard and impenitent hearts are storing for themselves wrath in the day of wrath to come.

    Paul warned the Colossians that if they did not put to death fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness the wrath of God would descend on them...the sons of disobedience. [Colossians 3:6-8]

And while the actual word "wrath" is not used in the following instances, the picture painted by Jesus is not a pretty one (All Emphasis Added).

    He warned again and again of 'the weeping and the gnashing of teeth' of hell fire and outer darkness, and to not be "afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" [Matthew 10:28].

    In Luke 12:5 He said “But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear (phobeo) him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear (phobeo) him”. (Note: phobeo means (passively) to be frightened, be exceedingly fearful, be very afraid, to be alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, that is, revere or reverence.)

    Jesus pictured Himself as one day saying: ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41]. 

In other words, according to the New Testament, to be "saved" is to set free from the consequences of sin... to not have to face God's wrath and subsequent judgment. [See The Wrath of God]


The Wrath To Come
Christians, who are usually very given to telling each other how God does not change, often seem to gloss over the fact that His changelessness includes His response to sin. In spite of all warnings, the people to whom He gave His law, and through whom the message of salvation was given to the world, persisted in their perverse ways and God brought down judgment on them... a pattern that was repeated over and over again. Everything in the Scriptures point to the fact that exactly the same pattern will be repeated yet one more time.

Note how the oracle of Isaiah, which foretold the destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians....

    "Now behold, here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs." And one said, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon; And all the images of her gods are shattered on the ground." [Isaiah 21:9 ]

....was applied to the end of days by the apostle John in the book of Revelation.

    And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. [Revelation 18:2 ]

The accounts of God's wrath are not out-of-date, antiquated, fairy stories, nor has His wrath dissipated over time. On the contrary, all evidence seems to point to the fact that that sin piles up on itself, and the terrible plagues and judgments in the book of Revelation are the accumulation of God's wrath over the entire period of mankind's existence.

    "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality." I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. [Revelation 18:3-5]

And what happens to those who are not saved from God's wrath?

John paints a chilling picture of Christ coming as King of kings and Lord of Lords 'treading the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of God the Almighty' [Revelation 19.15]. Even John 3:16, one of the best known, and most comforting, verses in the Bible, is extremely clear about the fate of unredeemed sinners. When John says believers should not "perish", the obvious implication is that unbelievers do.

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish (Gr. apollumi), but have eternal life. [John 3:16]

Similarly, noting that the Greek apollumi, means to 'destroy fully' or "kill",

    Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy (apollumi) both soul and body in hell. [Matthew 10:28 NASB]

    For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (apollumi) , but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB]

    For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (apollumi). [Matthew 18:11 NASB]

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (apollumi); I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. [John 10:10 NASB]

    and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish (apollumi); and no one will snatch them out of My hand. [John 10:28 NASB]

We would be well advised to pay close heed to two very important events connected with Nineveh and the Assyrians.

But wait!

In The Secret Message, McLaren only mentions one of these events, in what he calls ...


The "Amazingly Subversive" Book Of Jonah
One of the most unbelievable examples of pick and and choose theology is when, in The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian McLaren refers only to one half of the story of Nineveh. He mentions the "amazingly subversive" book of Jonah, but completely ignores the book of Nahum. He says

    The prophets and poets who rose unpredictably through Jewish history frequently reminded the people of their global calling and rebuked them for their parochial exclusivism [25]

He adds (in the notes on this chapter, at the back of the book) "See, for example, Isaiah 60:1-3 or Psalm 117 or the amazingly subversive book of Jonah".

Certainly the book of Jonah, was about God granting grace to the Assyrians, who had a terrible reputation as cruel and ruthless warriors, burning and destroying, raping, and pillaging, sparing no one. They had for many years shaken their fists at God, even carting off the northern kingdom of Israel into exile, and had done so without repercussions... or so they thought. The unwilling prophet, Jonah's mission to Nineveh was simply to relay a message from God to the warrior nation.

    Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." [Jonah 3:4 ]

But, what McLaren fails to mention is the reason the Ninevites were spared from being "overthrown" was because the entire population of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes. This alone caused God to spare both them and the city. To be especially noted is the fact that the account does not say that God forgave them, simply that He held back the evil that their wicked deeds deserved.  (Emphasis Added]

    Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. "But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. "Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish." When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. [Jonah 3:5-10]

What McLaren also neglects to mention is that, some 100 or so years later, when the Assyrians reverted to their old ways, the prophet's Nahum's mission was to pronounce on Nineveh its doom...

    The Lord has issued a command concerning you: "Your name will no longer be perpetuated. I will cut off idol and image From the house of your gods. I will prepare your grave, For you are contemptible." [Nahum 1:14 ]

    Your shepherds are sleeping, O king of Assyria; Your nobles are lying down. Your people are scattered on the mountains And there is no one to regather them. There is no relief for your breakdown, Your wound is incurable. All who hear about you will clap their hands over you, For on whom has not your evil passed continually? [Nahum 3:18-19]

    "Behold, I am against you," declares the Lord of hosts. "I will burn up her chariots in smoke, a sword will devour your young lions; I will cut off your prey from the land, and no longer will the voice of your messengers be heard." [Nahum 2:13 ]

Assyria fell to the Babylonians and Medes in about 605 BC. The Babylonians defeated the Egyptian and Assyrian allied armies at Carchemish, bringing an end to Assyria as an independent political entity. Since Nabonidus the last king of Babylon showed little interest in rebuilding Assyria, it remained in a degree of devastation for a long period of time. Although the Assyrians rallied for a while many years later (eventually sacked by Alexander the Great), Nineveh was never rebuilt.

So when McLaren says [Emphasis Added]

    If some bad and dishonest people are out to deceive or oppress others, God brings justice by bringing the natural consequences of their bad actions-on the evil doers so they are incapacitated and can't fulfill the additional evil they intended. (Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover edition. Pgs. 93-94)

 I wonder if anyone has told the Assyrians that they were merely "incapacitated", so they could not "fulfill the additional evil they intended".

A Summer 2007 Update on Brian McLaren's site says

    I also continue to receive positive reports on how groups are using Secret Message of Jesus. The new soft cover edition has study questions included (otherwise, they're also available here on this site). I'm especially gratified to hear how mixed groups are enjoying the book - Christians and non Christians, including Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. It's thrilling to see people focusing on Jesus, his life, and teaching. [26]

It is tremendously sad that people in these "mixed groups" who are so "enjoying" The Secret Message, may never hear that it is possible for them to be forgiven for their sins and, therefore, will not have to face the wrath and judgment of God, which will descend on our planet in the not too distant future.

The books of Jonah and Nahum were a type and forerunner of the future. Jonah signified a warning made to an evil world ... repent and turn from your evil ways. Nahum signified the judgment to come, if the warnings go unheeded.

    And the warnings are still in place. (Isaiah 60:1-3 and Psalm 117 only point to the fact that salvation was never intended to be only for the Jews. As I have already pointed out, there are any number of Old Testament texts that clearly spoke of the ultimate inclusion of the Gentiles into God's kingdom, some of which are even more direct than Isaiah 60: 1-3 or Psalm 117. (See, for example, Genesis 12:1-3, Psalm 22:27-28, Isaiah 49:1-6 and 56:3-8).


Justice and judgment

The Justice of God
While justice in the here and now (a very popular subject in the emerging church) is to be applauded, and makes one wish that more people would get on a similar bandwagon, all too many Christians have no room for God's final judgment in their theology. It is either ignored, severely downplayed or altogether denied.

Brian McLaren has what is called The Justice Creed on his web site. I do not know if he wrote it, but presume he did. The creed is rather long, therefore not quoted in it's entirety.

    We believe that the living God is just
    And that the true and living God loves justice.
    God delights in just laws and rejoices in just people.
    God sides with those who are oppressed by injustice,
    And stands against oppressors....
    We believe that Jesus, the Liberating King, came to free humanity from injustice
    And to display the justice of God,
    In word and deed, in life, death, and resurrection....
    We believe that the Holy Spirit is here, now,
    Convicting the world of sin and justice,
    Warning that God's judgment will come on all that is unjust.
    We believe that the Kingdom of God is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    Empowered by the Spirit, then, we seek first God's kingdom and God's justice,
    For the world as it is has not yet become the world as God desires it to be.
    And so we live, and work, and pray,
    Until justice rolls down like water,
    And flows strong and free like a never-failing stream.
    For we believe that the living God is just
    And that the true and living God loves justice [27]

When we speak of justice, we are often referring to the quality of being just... the principle of fairness.... that like cases should be treated alike. There is no question that justice is overwhelmingly important, and even hard wired into humans. A very interesting study by UCLA shows that the brain reacts to fairness as it does to money and chocolate,

    The human brain responds to being treated fairly the same way it responds to winning money and eating chocolate, UCLA scientists report. Being treated fairly turns on the brain's reward circuitry. [28]

However, just as there is in our vocabulary, there is another side to the word "justice" in the Bible. It also means according individuals what they actually deserve or merit, according to the principles- or the law- established by God. There are plenty of verses in the Bible that bear this out. While all the verses are significant, especially note the quote from Habakkuk that clearly ties justice in with the law.

    "You shall not pervert the justice (mishpat) due to your needy brother in his dispute. [Exodus 23:6 NASB]

    His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice (mishpat). [1 Samuel 8:3 NASB]

    The king gives stability to the land by justice (mishpat), But a man who takes bribes overthrows it. [Proverbs 29:4 NASB]

    Therefore the law is ignored and justice (mishpat) is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice (mishpat) comes out perverted. [Habakkuk 1:4 NASB]

Of importance is the fact that every single verse quoted above uses the Hebrew word mishpat which, according to Strong Hebrew and Greek lexicon, means a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree.

The Old Testament story of king Solomon being called on to judge between two women, who both claimed that a baby was theirs, emphasizes that judgment and justice go hand in hand. Solomon solved the case by threatening to divide the baby in two and give one half to each of the women, at which the real mother begged him not to kill the baby but give him to the other woman. The story ends with verse 28, which says [Emphasis Added]

    When all Israel heard of the judgment (mishpat) which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice (mishpat). [1 Kings 3:28 NASB]

When McLaren says in his Justice Creed... "Until justice rolls down like water, And flows strong and free like a never-failing stream" he was paraphrasing a verse from the book of Amos, who also uses the Hebrew word mishpat

    "But let justice (mishpat) roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. [Amos 5:24 NASB]

Because they are two sides of the same coin, there is no such thing as perfect justice without judgment. God will judge each and every person, and render justice giving to every individual what he, or she, deserves. And, since we are all sinners and the Bible clearly tells us that the wages of sin is death, death is what we get, unless of course we have been forgiven our sins.

    In that day the LORD of hosts will become a beautiful crown And a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people; A spirit of justice for him who sits in judgment, A strength to those who repel the onslaught at the gate. [Isaiah 28:5-6 NASB. Emphasis Added]


The judgment of God
In the quote from 'Sermon Ideas' for Everything Must Change (above), McLaren said "The other gospel is good news for all people (Luke 2:10) offers hope for both this life and the life beyond", which made me wonder what he envisions as "the life beyond". I didn't have far to look. In a rather extended quote from Making Eschatology Personal (stated to be part of a chapter cut from A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith), McLaren relates what he expects to happen after he dies. [All Emphasis Added]

    I expect to experience death as a passage, like birth, like passing through a door. I don't know how that passing will come … like a slow slipping away in disease, like a sudden jolt or shock in an accident, like losing my grip and feeling that I'm falling, only to discover that I’m not falling out of life, but deeper into it. On the other side, I imagine I will be in the unimaginable light of God's presence, a goodness so good, a richness so rich, a holiness so holy, a mercy and love so strong and true that all of my evil, pride, lust, greed, resentment, and fear will be instantly melted out of me.

    I imagine that I will at that moment more fully understand how God has in mercy and grace born the pain of forgiving and cleansing me, because I think forgiveness is indeed agonizing, as Jesus’ suffering on the cross embodies. I imagine that at that moment, because I will know more than ever how much I have been forgiven, I will more than ever be filled with love … for God, and with God, for everyone and everything...

    I imagine, then, that dying will be like diving or falling or stepping into a big wave at the beach, and I will feel myself lifted off my feet, and taken up into a swirl and curl and spin more powerful than I can now imagine. But there will not be fear, because the motion and flow will be the dance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the rising tide will be life and joy; the undertow will be love, and I will be drawn deeper and deeper in. 

    So, when the atoms and molecules that sustain my life on this earth stop working, when the chemical reactions slow and stop and my embodied life is over, I am confident that I will be retained – saved, if you will, remembered like a computer saves data – in the loving mind of God. But of course, God is no computer: God is a creator. So just as I can set my knowledge of you free in a dream, I can imagine God setting God's knowledge of me alive in some new way beyond this life, in ways and through mechanisms that I can't begin to understand.

    And one more thing. When I think of one of my sons or daughters, I don't let his or her failures and faults dictate my view of him or her. Sadly, some people present God as if this were the case in God's dealings with us. No, because I love my daughter, I interpret her failures and faults in light of her needs, her weaknesses, her struggles. And because I love my daughter, my understanding of her radiant strengths and glowing successes shine all the more brightly against the backdrop of her dark or weak sides. So I can't know my son or daughter apart from my love for him or her, and I believe it is the same with God – not only as God deals with me, but as God deals with every single human who ever lived.  [29]

It is fascinating to me how any and all New Testament references to God's judgment have been conveniently eliminated from what Brian McLaren 'imagines' will happen after he dies. McLaren's eloquent and evocative words stand in stark contrast to the simple, yet forcible, statement made by the author of the book of Hebrews...

    And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment [Hebrews 9:27 NASB. Emphasis Added]

But since even McLaren cannot avoid the word "judgment" which is found some 70 times in the New Testament, often used in the context of God's judgment of man, he throws his usual spin on the word.

    Sometimes God saves by judging. To speak of judgment as a form of salvation surprises people who have religious baggage and don't actually read the Bible, but only hear it filtered by sermons or theological systems. They assume that judgment is something bad or awful. But in the Biblical context, judgment is generally a good thing. It means the coming of truth and justice into our deceived and depressed world. [30]

When McLaren says "To speak of judgment as a form of salvation surprises people who have religious baggage and don't actually read the Bible, but only hear it filtered by sermons or theological systems", he is obviously hoping that his readers have not read the Bible either, but are willing to let him weave words into a mesmerizing scenario, which they then assume is what the Bible teaches. Therefore let us read the Bible's exact words about "judgment", thus avoiding any charges of it being filtered through a sermon or "theological system".

Bringing together some of the verses that speak of God's judgment paints a very vivid and, what should be, a very disturbing picture. As a start the Bible tells us where the judgment will begin... with God's own people, who will be saved with difficulty

    For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? and if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? [1 Peter 4:17-18 NASB]

The Scriptures do not even hint that everyone will "be in the unimaginable light of God's presence", but clearly states that each person will stand before the judgment seat and be 'rewarded', that is recompensed for worthy behavior, or in retribution for evil acts. Some will "pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord" [2 Thessalonians 1:9]

    But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. [Romans 14:10 NASB]

    "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. [John 5:28-29 NASB]

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. [2 Corinthians 5:10 NASB]

I would be willing to bet that the author of the book of Hebrews did not base his book on any sermons he had heard, nor were his thoughts filtered by any preconceived ideas or "theological systems". Yet he does not mince words, telling us that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Similarly, Paul makes it very clear that those who do not obey the Gospel will "pay the penalty of eternal destruction". Peter was no less descriptive, saying that ungodly men are kept for destruction. [All Emphasis Added]

    therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, [2 Thessalonians 1:4-9 NASB]

    but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "vengeance is mine, i will repay." And again, "the Lord will judge his people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [Hebrews 10:27-31 NASB]

    But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [2 Peter 3:7 NASB]

In the book of Romans, Paul cautioned against hypocritical judging, warning them that they themselves would not escape judgment should they practice certain "things"

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? [Romans 2:2-3 NASB]

And, by the way, the "things" that incur God's judgment are mentioned in the latter half of the previous chapter (chapter 2 being but a continuation of chapter 1). The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hating God, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, disobedience to parents, being without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.

    To say nothing of "men with men committing indecent acts", and women exchanging their "natural function for that which is unnatural" [Read Romans 1:15 -2:9]

And when does this judgment take place? While we obviously do not know the exact time frame, it is certain that there is a day of judgment, a phrase that occurs seven times in the New Testament.

    "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. [Matthew 10:15 NASB]

    "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. [Matthew 11:22 NASB]

    "Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you." [Matthew 11:24 NASB]

    "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. [Matthew 12:36 NASB]

    then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, [2 Peter 2:9 NASB]

    But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [2 Peter 3:7 NASB]

    By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. [1 John 4:17 NASB]

I can only speculate as to why we soft-pedal the idea of judgment.

Removing the notion of judgment, which is often considered to be offensive, may make Christianity more palatable to a generation that prefers to think of God as a a celestial doorman, or at the very least, a soft cuddly teddy bear. However, the cornerstone of the Gospel is salvation, in terms of being saved from God's wrath and judgment. Since the Gospel, which means good news, is that we can be forgiven our sins, and not receive what we so richly deserve. Denying God's judgment renders the Gospel redundant, and almost completely does away with the main reason to share it with an unbeliever. There cannot be good news about salvation, when there is nothing to be saved from.

Perhaps admitting that there is a final judgment, opens an uncomfortable door which causes us to look into the evil within ourselves, and face up to the fact that our sins will be dealt with. We would no longer be able to suppress the reality of our own sinfulness.

Most people in the West have only heard of the atrocities carried out in other countries. Perhaps if we have seen, or experienced the Holocaust, the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when an estimated 800,000 people in the East African state, the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which approximately 1.7 million people, or 21% of the country's population lost their lives, or any other examples of man's inhumanity to man, we might have been more concerned about the perpetrators getting what they deserved.


The Judge
Besides which there is ample evidence to show that when God is spoken of as a judge, the Bible means it in the strict sense of the word. The Greek word krites is a derivative of krino, which means; distinguish, that is, decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish: - avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine. Which makes it quite obvious why krites has been translated into the English judge. As the following verses show, it means exactly that... someone who, in a court of law, hears and decides a case, then after careful consideration, determines what is fair, and/or passes sentence on one who has broken the law.

    "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge (krites), and the judge (krites) to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. [Matthew 5:25 NASB]

    saying, "In a certain city there was a judge (krites) who did not fear God and did not respect man. "There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' [Luke 18:2-3 NASB]

    But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, "This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you; but if there are questions about words and names and your own law, look after it yourselves; I am unwilling to be a judge (krites) of these matters." And he drove them away from the judgment seat. [Acts 18:12-16 NASB]

    "For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. "And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. We wanted to judge (krino) him according to our own Law. "But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him." The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so. When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: "Knowing that for many years you have been a judge (krites) to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. [Acts 24:5-11 NASB]

So when the Bible uses exactly the same word to describe the Lord as the judge of both the living and the dead, we would be extremely stupid to try and downplay the fact that the day is not far away when He will 'reward' individuals with what they actually deserve or merit...

    "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge (krites) of the living and the dead. [Acts 10:42 NASB]

    You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge (krites) is standing right at the door. [James 5:8-9 NASB]

    in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge (krites), will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. [2 Timothy 4:8 NASB]

Added to the innumerable verses that speak of God's wrath, judgment, and the fate of whose who are not saved, are those that say the Lord will destroy evil.


Jesus Will Condemn and Destroy Evil

McLaren says...

    Just as Jesus came originally not to destroy the law but to fulfill it, not to condemn people but to save them, I believe he comes today not to destroy or condemn anything (anything but evil) but to redeem and save everything that can be redeemed or saved. [31]

While it all sound very good, the problem is that, according to the Bible, he is wrong when he says Jesus came "not to condemn people but to save them"

A simple reading of the Gospels makes it perfectly obvious while Jesus came to offer the free gift of salvation to a lost world, He was also very emphatic in His condemnation of certain people, like the religious leaders, upon whom He pronounced woe after woe. Telling them they were hypocrites, full of dead men's bones was not exactly polite conversation, nor any effort to make peace with them. This because they not only failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but also tried to turn others against Him. In other words, they refused to be 'redeemable'.

    Note: What Jesus meant by coming to fulfill the law is a topic in itself, and has been extensively covered on another page. I believe it is imperative reading for today's Christian who is often baffled by the fact that the Bible contains both Old and New Testaments, each with seemingly different teachings and commands. This has led to more than a little confusion for those that have not grasped the seamless relationship between the Old and New Testaments, and struggle with the tension between the Old Testament emphasis on regulations and the New Testament emphasis on grace. [See Jesus and The Law]

Besides which, I have absolutely NO idea how to reconcile his statement that he believes that Jesus "comes today not to destroy or condemn anything (anything but evil)" with the one made on pages 121-122 of the 2006 paperback edition of the same book, in which McLaren says that even if a few practiced this new way, many people would benefit... "Oppressed people will be free. Poor people will be liberated from poverty. Minorities will be treated with respect. Sinners would be loved, not resented". (This quote may be found on pg. 111 of the hardcover edition)

The question is whether sinners count as "evil" whom Jesus will destroy, or will they be "loved" as the new way of living begins to spread? And, if the latter, what happened to justice?

However, even though McLaren's theology seems a bit fuzzy on this (and many other issues) we turn once more to the Bible that makes no bones about the fact that Jesus will condemn and destroy evil. However, the million dollar question is who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil? Since it often happens that we read about someone being "evil" in the NT, and it may be several weeks, or months, before we come across the term again, we could very well lose track of just how encompassing this term is. Compiling into one list many of the NT passages in the that speak of evil persons, is an eye opener.

The Scribes and Pharisees

    "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  [Matthew 12:34 NASB]

    And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? [Matthew 9:3-4 NASB]

The General Population, or the World

    "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! [Matthew 7:11 NASB]

    But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; [Matthew 12:39 NASB]

    "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. [John 3:19 NASB]

    "The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. [John 7:7 NASB]

Unsaved People

    And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, [Colossians 1:21 NASB]

    Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. [2 Timothy 3:12-13 NASB]

    We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. [1 John 5:18 NASB]

Especially telling are the following two verses that call people 'enemies' before they were reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ.

    For if while we were enemies (echthros) we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. [Romans 5:10 NASB]

    And although you were formerly alienated and hostile (echthros) in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach [Colossians 1:21-22 NASB]

A so-called Christian who is an immoral or covetous person, or an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler

    But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. [1 Corinthians 5:11-13 NASB]

Friends of the World

    You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [James 4:4 NASB]

Backsliders

    Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. [Hebrews 3:12 NASB]

False Teachers

    If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. [2 John 1:10-11 NASB]

    Note: Unfortunately, as a false teacher, McLaren himself doesn't qualify as non evil. And please, please do not write me silly e-mails telling me that one person cannot know what is in another person's heart. While, in many cases, this may very well be true, at this point in time, McLaren's heresies are numerous, and well documented in several of his books and other writings. No wolf in sheep's clothing, including McLaren, can possibly be saved, unless real repentance is involved.

Summary
By process of elimination, the only group of people that the Scriptures do not define as evil, and who will not be destroyed, are true born again, righteous, followers of Christ. So when McLaren talks about the "evil" in our religion..

    Ah, but you say, there's the problem: there's so much evil in other religions. Yes, I reply, there is indeed, but not just in other religions. There's so much evil in our own, too.  So I propose that before we seek to remove the splinters from the eyes of other religions, we concentrate on the planks in our own." [31]

... he is completely wrong. Let me explain.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus means believing in Him, obeying His Word, and making Him Lord of one's life. The true born again Christian's beliefs, values, and practices are based on what God says in His Word, and the life and teachings of Jesus, in which there is no evil.

The "religion" cannot be judged by the side show that the church often resembles, the slew of false doctrines introduced as Biblical teachings, nor the sins and foibles of so many Christians (noting that no true Christian is perfect, but constantly strives for righteousness).

In other words, even a man were to bring about, then live in a perfect world, with no taint of war, injustice, poverty, hunger, cancer, or used car salesmen, it would do him not a bit of good if he were, at the end of it all, to be destroyed as "evil". Yet, in The Secret Message, the spiritual barely gets a passing mention. It is all about bringing ideal conditions of justice, peace, (Pg. 160), and harmony to the planet.

 

The Book of Revelation

Is Revelation An Example Of The "Literature Of The Oppressed"?
Yet, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, not only does McLaren dismiss the idea of a literal second coming of Christ, but assumes the world will go on like it is for "hundreds of thousands of years". In other words, the planet can be saved without an apocalyptic intervention. In A Generous Orthodoxy he says

    If the world, contrary to fundamentalist expectations, does not blow up in a Left-Behind conflagration, but instead goes on for a hundreds of thousands of years, we should realize that, from the perspective of our descendants, say in 224.000 A.D., we are still in the days of the early church. Years 1 to 2100 will be but a few brief pages in their church history textbooks. [32]

He also says that when the book of Revelation is read.. "first in its native niche of Jewish apocalyptic, and then in its native ecosystem of literature of the oppressed" it can no longer be seen as a book about the distant future, but "becomes a way of talking about the challenges of the immediate present". He goes on to say that because "the original readers of Revelation lived in constant threat of religious oppression", they could not, under pain of imprisonment or death, speak nor write a word of criticism against those in power. Therefore they had to very "covertly" tell the truth about the "corrupt and "bloodthirsty" rulers. In The Secret Message he says

    "You don't talk about the corrupt religious authorities; you personify them as a false prophet. You don't talk about the emperor; you tell a story about a dragon.

    If Revelation were a blueprint of the distant future, it would have been unintelligible for its original readers, as well as the readers of all succeeding generations, and would only become truly and fully relevant for one generation-the one who happen to live in the one period of time it is prognosticating about.  But if Revelation is instead an example of the literature of the oppressed, full of ever-relevant warnings and promises, it presents each generation with needed inspiration and wisdom and encouragement. In this light Revelation becomes a powerful book about the kingdom of God here and now, available to all. [33]

I am not sure how any one can ignore the fact that there are many, many, scenarios outlined in the book of Revelation that have not yet been fulfilled. For example Revelation 13:4, 7-8, 13-16 tells us about someone (or something) so powerful that no one even attempts to make war with him/it. And this same entity causes all "to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, without which a person will be unable to buy and sell. (Note: By "it" I mean a possible organization or government/s, that the antichrist may be associated with). Neither am I sure how McLaren's idea that Revelation was only pertinent to the time it was penned in, can possibly explain so many verses in the book that tell us that John was talking about world wide cataclysmic events, that haven't happened... so far. For example, Revelation 3:10 says a future time of trial will come upon all the world.

    'Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. [Revelation 3:10]

The Roman occupation was a time of great trouble for Israel, but did not particularly affect the other nations of the world, and certainly does not match the descriptions of the great tribulation, which point to a world-wide time of distress. The Bible repeatedly states that the great tribulation is a unique time of trouble such as has never been before, and will never will be seen again. As Jesus Himself said...

    "such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" [Matthew 24:21]

See An Overview of Revelation and The End of The Age


Was Jesus "Influenced" By The Apocalyptic Literature of the Day?

McLaren also asks what we are to make of prognostications from the lips of Jesus Himself, that seem to relate to the end of the world. He explains it thus...

    "Since Jewish apocalyptic literature was a popular genre in Jesus' day, we would expect Him to be influenced by it to and use its language and metaphors", therefore, We need to approach Jesus' language about the future as we would the language of Revelation. So, against the background of Jewish apocalyptic, we discover that phrases that sounds like they are about the description of the world-like "the Moon will turn to blood" or "the stars will fall from the sky"-are actually rather typical stock phrases in Jewish apocalyptic. They are no more to be taken literally than phrases we might read in the paper today: " the election results were earth-shattering." Or," the president's announcement sent shock waves through Congress." Or, "on September 11 2001, everything changed." [34]

However, a closer examination of these phrases in the Bible reveals a very different picture. In the books of the prophets, events that were catastrophic for particular groups of people, or even entire nations, were often represented by great upheavals in the heavens. For example, the fall of Babylon was portrayed by the stars and constellations of heaven withdrawing their light, and the sun and moon being darkened. The destruction of Egypt (called a lamentation over Pharaoh) was described as the heaven being covered, the sun enveloped in a cloud, and the moon withholding her light.

    Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. [Isaiah 13:9-10]

    "And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud And the moon will not give its light. "All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land," Declares the Lord GOD. [Ezekiel 32:7-8]

What is certain is that the Jews of Jesus' day knew their Scriptures. When our Lord said "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29), they would have understood the significance of Him using almost exactly the same terminology and symbolism as the two Old Testament Prophets. Significance that seems to have escaped some modern day readers. It is preposterous to believe that Isaiah and Ezekiel's words signaled God's judgment that literally fell on humans, but Jesus' words are not to be similarly understood.

The violent cosmic disturbances wasn't all Jesus talked about in this chapter.

What are we to make of verse 31, which has our Savior saying that He "will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Jesus also says the coming of the Son of man would be like lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other [Vs. 27], hardly something that is going to be missed by the world's population. Reinforcing the point, He also says "the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky" and "they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory" [VS. 30].

Is it really possible to dismiss these very specific words as "typical stock phrases in Jewish apocalyptic"?

However it is the prophet Joel that tells us when the moon will turn to blood. In his words.... "Before the great and awesome day of the Lord.." 

    "...will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the Lord has said, Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls. [Joel 2:30-32 ]

The "day of the Lord" was referred to over and over again in Scripture as an extended period of time when God will punish human sin, and judge a world that has rejected Christ. A time Jeremiah said was so "great" that there is "none is like it." [Jeremiah 30:7]. Note the strong emphasis on the universal nature of that judgment.

    Wail, for the day of the Lord is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will fall limp, And every man's heart will melt. They will be terrified, Pains and anguish will take hold of them; They will writhe like a woman in labor, They will look at one another in astonishment, Their faces aflame. Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. [Isaiah 13:6-11 ]

    "For the day is near, Even the day of the Lord is near; It will be a day of clouds, A time of doom for the nations. [Ezekiel 30:3 ]

    "For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. "Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, All the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow And become as if they had never existed. "But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, And it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions. [Obadiah 1:15-17 ]

    Near is the great day of the Lord, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities And the high corner towers. I will bring distress on men So that they will walk like the blind, Because they have sinned against the Lord; And their blood will be poured out like dust And their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them On the day of the Lord'S wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth. [Zephaniah 1:14-18]

    Seek the Lord, All you humble of the earth Who have carried out His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord'S anger. [Zephaniah 2:3 ]

So when, in Revelation 3:10, he spoke of the "hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth", John was certainly referring to the oft prophesied "day of the Lord", about which the prophet Daniel made one very explicit point.. God's people, who's names are found written in the book of life, will be rescued...

    "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. [Daniel 12:1]

They will be the last "remnant" that the Scriptures so often speak about.

However, regardless of the extent of either man's sin, or the corresponding magnitude of God's wrath....


Does God Plan To "Destroy Creation", Or Is The Message of Revelation Our Only Hope
In his 2004 book, A Generous Orthodoxy (Ch. Why I Am Green), McLaren says that Christians in the power centers of modernity (England in the 1800's and the US in the 1900's) saw only "Spiritual decline and global destruction". And their only hope was (is?)

    A skyhook Second Coming, wrapping up the whole of creation like an empty candy wrapper and throwing it in the cosmic dumpster so God can finally bring our souls to heaven, beyond time, beyond messy matter, beyond this creation entirely.  There is virtually no continuity between this creation and the new heavenly creation in this model; this creation is erased like a mistake, discarded like a non-recyclable milk carton.  Why care for creation? Why get sentimental about a container that's served it's purpose and is about to be discarded into the cosmic trash compactor of nothingness?

    ...For pop-Evangelical eschatology to proliferate, it had to ignore or, better, reinterpret much written by the Old Testament prophets. Prophetic visions of reconciliation and shalom with history (metaphorically conveyed via lions and lambs, children and serpents, swords and plowshares, spears and pruning hooks) had to be pushed beyond history, either into a spiritualized heaven or a millennial middle ground- a post historic time zone between history and eternity, so to speak. They also had to marginalize Jesus with all his talk of the kingdom of God coming on earth, being among us now, and being accessible today. [35]

Is the literal return of Christ and the literal kingdom of God “pop-Evangelical eschatology"?  McLaren rightly says there is "no continuity between this creation and the new heavenly creation".... simply because there is no "heavenly creation". The words of the Old Testament prophets did not have to be pushed beyond history, because everything they envisioned is part of the longest, yet to be written, chapter in the history of the earth.

As quoted earlier, in McLaren's 'Sermon Ideas' for Everything Must Change (on his web site) he states that the traditional "gospel of evacuation" says that "God has given up on creation and plans to destroy it, extracting souls for a disembodied existence in heaven". This gospel "offers little hope for the earth and its inhabitants in history, and focuses their hope beyond this life only". [15] All Emphasis Added

Although the Scriptures graphically speak of a time when God will rain judgment down on an evil and corrupt world, nowhere in the Bible does it say that this earth is going to be blasted into obliteration. Nor does it anywhere say that He "has given up on creation", and plans "to destroy it", much less discard it like a "non-recyclable milk carton". On the contrary, in response to Noah's sacrifice after the flood waters had abated, and he, his family, and all the animals, had stepped out onto dry land, the Lord said to Himself, ... [Emphasis Added]

    "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." [Genesis 8:21-22 ]

Therefore, McLaren's statement that the traditional gospel offers "little hope for the earth and its inhabitants in history" is perhaps the largest amount of blarney, I have ever read in a single sentence. However, it is based on fuzzy theology that implies that Heaven is some ethereal and intangible place somewhere 'out there', which we go 'up' to. This is not true. I have to once again refer the reader to an earlier section... The Location and Nature of the Kingdom

Mired in misunderstanding, misconstrual, and confusion, Revelation is often seen as the territory of the lunatic fringe, eagerly anticipating the end of the world. However, Revelation does not describe the end of the world. On the contrary, Revelation's message of hope is the only permanent, unshakeable, light found anywhere. It is the only reassurance we have that our world, which is rapidly spiralling out of our control, is well in God's control.


Our Only Message of Hope
When McLaren says the book of Revelation "would have been unintelligible for its original readers", he is forgetting one detail that he himself pointed out ... "Jewish apocalyptic literature was a popular genre in Jesus's day". The Jews of Jesus' day knew their Scriptures, and would have been well acquainted with the symbolism of Daniel, Ezekiel, and the other prophets. Therefore, it stands to reason that the language and the, often, bizarre panorama of symbols in the book of Revelation would have been far more easily understood by the people of the day, than by the modern reader, who has trouble wrapping his head around beasts emerging from the sea, dragons with seven heads, angels with trumpets and bowls, horse shaped locusts with tails like scorpions, bottomless pits, women riding scarlet beasts etc. These were all highly dramatic scenarios which endeavored to portray huge, almost indescribable, spiritual realities and would have been understood by the original readers as easily as the modern reader reads, and understands, a political cartoon in the newspapers.

The fact is that Revelation was not written to satisfy our curiosity about future events, but to assure believers that God's redemptive program will neither be deterred nor delayed. Regardless of how many of the details are understood, the fundamental message to all generations is the same ... The broad brush strokes very simply tell us that the Gospel culminates in His return to earth where he will defeat evil once and for all, setting up his kingdom of peace and reigning over the earth for ever. [See Overview of the Book of Revelation]

How can anyone not understand the magnificent overall picture presented by these verses

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. [Revelation 21:1 ]

    And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." [Revelation 21:5 ]

    Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. [Revelation 22:1-5 ]

Also, by giving us a general idea as to what to expect Revelation, very importantly, helps prepare believers for what is to come to pass. Not only are we reassured that those who have placed their faith very firmly in God as redeemer, will be seen through the dark and terrible days of the tribulation. (After all, the point of salvation is forgiveness for sin, and NOT to be at the receiving end of God's judgment), but He has offered us a glimpse of the very brilliant light at the end of the tunnel. We have been told over and over again is that there is a "new earth" coming, at the heart of which will be God's kingdom, and God's rule. And all of us have been given the opportunity to live as children of the Most High in this utopian kingdom, spoken of by virtually all the prophets.

Your future, my future, and the future of all humanity, is tied up in the Biblical promises and prophecies about the coming kingdom.

If the book of Revelation is, as McLaren says, "full of ever-relevant warnings and promises", "a powerful book about the kingdom of God here and now, available to all" presenting "each generation with needed inspiration and wisdom and encouragement", it has pretty much been an abysmal failure.

Apart from the fact that in the Middle Ages, (a period of about a thousand years ... from about 5th to the 15th centuries), most of the world could not even read, and, even if they could, Jesus' message was apparently so well hidden that McLaren himself, a pastor, a recipient of an honorary Doctor of Divinity, actively mentoring church planters and pastors for some twenty years, says that even after years of struggling and searching, he is not quite there yet, but "on the verge".

    "After many years of searching, struggling, questioning, doubting, wondering, walking away frustrated, returning, rereading, and starting all over again, I've seen a few things that are making the pieces come together for me and many others. If I'm not at that point in the movie whether the rush of insight happens, and right on the verge of it. [36]

    What if Jesus had actually concealed his deepest message not trying to make it overt and obvious but intentionally hiding it as a treasure one must seek in order to find? If that's the case why would Jesus ever do such a thing? How will be find his message if he had indeed hidden it? [37]

If you believe that the most important message ever given mankind, is so obscure and concealed that, even now, with all our education and resources, most of us still haven't figured it out, there's a castle in Scotland, going real cheap, that I would like to talk to you about. [Emphasis Added]

    we look around us and what do we see? Not the kingdom of God, fully come. Instead, we see regimes of violence, threat, abuse, conflict, danger, pollution, corruption, domination, and oppression. The kingdom has not yet fully come. There's much to do-beginning with our realizing that there is such a thing, such a possibility, as the kingdom of God, and adjusting and arranging our lives to be part of it, to seek it to work with it and for it. [38]

"The kingdom has not yet fully come".

No kidding!

The fact of the matter is that a full 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth, the world has not, on the whole, taken a single step closer (many steps backwards anyone?) towards this fantasy kingdom. On the contrary, the moral condition continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate, while violence, corruption and conflict rapidly escalate. The good news is, while men are still blathering on about the "possibility" of of the kingdom of God, and "arranging their lives to be part of it", the forces on either side are marshaling their armies.

And we all know who comes out on top.

 

CONTINUE ON TO PART IV... MCLAREN'S ALL INCLUSIVE KINGDOM: God's promise to Abraham... who exactly would be "blessed"? Practicing what he preaches... Brian McLaren and Jewish leaders. Services done to "Tash".... unbelievers saved without explicit faith in Christ. Salvation. Does seeking salvation make a person "self-centered" and "narcissistic"? The Bible's conditions for entrance into the kingdom. Redefining repentance and the word "transgression". Demon worship. What's in a Name? What exactly Is a "Christian"? Did Gandhi seek "to follow the way of Christ"? The inclusiveness AND exclusiveness of Jesus. What determines one's 'status' in the Kingdom? The Pax Christi. Many shall come from the east, and from the west..

 

End Notes
All URLs were good at the time of writing (July 2012)

[22] Jon Zens & Cliff Bjork. A Better Society Without The Gospel? http://www.inplainsite.org/html/a_better_society.html

[23] A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. January 2006 Paperback Edition] Pgs. 121-122

[24] Andy Crouch. The Emergent Mystique. 11/1/2004.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/november/12.36.html?start=4

[25] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. You Can't Keep a Secret. Pg. 74

[26] http://web.archive.org/web/20070707135057/http://www.brianmclaren.net/

[27] http://www.brianmclaren.net/emc/archives/imported/the-justice-creed.html

[28] Stuart Wolpert. Brain reacts to fairness as it does to money and chocolate, study shows.
http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/brain-reacts-to-fairness-as-it-49042.aspx?link_page_rss=49042

[29] Making Eschatology Personal. Part of a chapter cut from A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith (Harper, 2010). http://www.brianmclaren.net/Making%20eschatology%20personal.pdf

[30] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover edition. Pgs. 93-94

[31] ibid. Pg. 254

[32] ibid. Pg. 269

[33] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. Troubling Questions About Jesus.
Pgs. 76-177

[34] ibid. Pg. 178

[35] Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan/Youth Specialties. 2004 Hardcover Edition. Pgs. 237-238. [Pg. 268 of the 2006 Paperback Edition]

[36] Brian McLaren. The Secret Message of Jesus. Thomas Nelson Paperback Edition (April 2007) Ch. Troubling Questions About Jesus.  Introduction. Pg. 16

[37] ibid. Pg. 4

[38] ibid. Pg. 203. Chapter: Seeing the Kingdom

Cathedral-Back

Brian McLaren, Part 2... God’s Coming Kingdom

www.inplainsite.org