Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Article for Shelby Star: Not Wrath but Salvation

I saw a statistic recently that caught my attention: nearly 15% of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10% think the Mayan calendar shows it might happen in 2012. Personally, I am comforted by what our Savior said about that in all three of the Synoptic Gospels: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” I’m thinking that includes the Mayans and the tabloids.

The Day of the Lord is a concept found throughout the Old Testament, primarily in the Prophets. As modern readers, however, we need to understand that the wrath of God, as described throughout the Old Testament, is a term full of meaning, beyond the surface implication of anger in judgment. God’s wrath is evidence of God’s judgment and God’s judgment is always motivated by God’s steadfast love, mercy, and desire to save.

The prophet Joel says the all-mighty power of God is proclaimed along with the message that God is an ever-present refuge for God’s people. (3: 14, 16) In Ezekiel, the day of the Lord is the way the power and love of God are made known. (38:23) Zephaniah calls upon God’s people to draw together and seek the Lord in humility, or else, be destroyed by sin. Obadiah clarifies how God’s judgment is to be understood, and this is affirmed later by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew: “For the day of the Lord is near… As you have done, it shall be done to you.” (1:15)

In the letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul is seeking to comfort a church which is worried because the anticipated second coming has not arrived as they expected and they are becoming confused about the meaning of eternal life. Paul comforts them, reframing for them the concept of the day of the Lord according to the revelation of God in Christ: “For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ…so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.” (1Ths 5:9-10)

Paul reminds the church that God’s plan of salvation was always for the whole world: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isa 49:6) He calls the faithful “children of the light,” the light of salvation promised by God and fulfilled in the Christ. He reminds them that the promise of God has always been salvation and he encourages them to live as children of the God who is faithful to the promises made.

This is as relevant to the church today as it was to the ancient church in Thessalonica. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the light of life, not in a calendar or in predictions made by any human. Our lives are in the hands of God alone whose faithfulness is witnessed in the Old and New Testaments.

No comments: