Jesus Judges the Nations Now! Part Four of a Review of Andy Stanley’s “Irresistible”

“Why do some Christian leaders constantly warn of God’s impending judgment?   Why would a Christian believe God judges nations at all? New Testament authors along with Jesus spoke of a once-for-all final judgment .”  Andy Stanley, Irresistible (91).

Why?  Because the Bible says so.  Jesus is “the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1:5), the “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15).  Many modern Christians would argue that these titles are given to Him prospectively – that the title reflects a role that he will take up only after the Great Tribulation.  But that option is foreclosed to Pastor Stanley because he takes the view (correctly) that the Great Tribulation happened already in A.D. 70, which was when the Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.  When writing the sentence quoted above, Pastor Stanley must have forgotten what he previously affirmed in his book, that God sent judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70, after the resurrection of Christ. (62-65)  As Pastor Stanley recounts, it was a vicious judgment, with widespread starvation, hundreds of thousands slaughtered, and even more led away into slavery.  Who was in charge of ruling the world then?  Jesus.     Jesus predicted that He would be bringing an earthly, historical judgment soon after He ascends to heaven – before His disciples could evangelize the whole country of Israel (Matt. 10:23), and before all of them would die (Matt. 16:28).  The Great Tribulation comes “upon this generation” (Matt. 23:36, 24:34), the generation to whom He was speaking in the first century, long before the Second Coming and Last Judgment.  Like the judgments that God brings against wicked nations in the Old Testament, it doesn’t come by ending the world but by sending a fierce foreign army (Luke 21:20), which Christians are warned to flee – not waiting for the rapture (Luke 21:21; cf. Matt. 24:15-16).  The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when Roman armies invaded was the “sign of the Son of the Man in heaven” (Matt. 24:30), i.e., the sign that Jesus was reigning from His heavenly throne to execute judgment on His enemies.  Since Christ is still on the throne ruling over the earth, the implication of the A.D. 70 judgment for modern times is that Christ is still bringing judgment in history with His “rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9) against nations that refuse to obey God’s law.

The New Testament affirms over and over that the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah ruling the nations began when Jesus was resurrected and ascended to His Heavenly throne.  Jesus’ favorite title for Himself was “the Son of Man.”  In Daniel 7 we read about this Son of Man:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.  (Daniel 7:13-14)

The Great Commission amounts to Jesus saying that this passage in Daniel 7 was fulfilled after His resurrection:  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matt. 28:18-19).  The New Testament writers affirm it as well:

. . . the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”  (Ephesians 1:19-21)

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

. . . Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:21-22).

Peter’s statement that Jesus “is at the right hand of God” is reference to Psalm 110:1, the most-often quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament:  “The LORD says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”  In his famous sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter says that this passage was fulfilled when Christ ascended to heaven:

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:34-36)

And it is taught in Psalm 2, often quoted in the New Testament:

You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; You will shatter them like pottery.  Therefore be wise, O kings; be admonished, O judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in your rebellion, when His wrath ignites in an instant.  (Psalm 2:7-12).

Very “judgmental” against nations, isn’t it.  Paul says that this reign over the nations began when Jesus was resurrected:  “He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.’ (Acts 13:33).

Pastor Stanley’s view that Jesus does not rule the nations in any significant political sense – a view shared by the vast majority of evangelical preachers in our day – essentially sides with the kings of the earth in their rebellion against Jesus the Messiah.

The New Testament teaching that the Messiah’s reign over the nations has begun means that the following Old Testament predictions about the reign of the Messiah are applied to our current age, even though the full manifestation is only gradually being implemented:

My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd.   They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.  (Eze. 37:24)

And this greater obedience to God’s law will extend to every nation on earth:

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
(Isa. 2:3-4, cf. Mic. 4:1-4)

Give attention to me, my people,
and give ear to me, my nation;
for a law will go out from me,
and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.
My righteousness draws near,
my salvation has gone out,
and my arms will judge the peoples;
the coastlands hope for me,
and for my arm they wait.
(Isa. 51:4-5)

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. . . .
[A] bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. . . .
The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
(Isa. 42:1,3-4, 21; cf. Mat. 12:20)

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isa. 9:6-7)

May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight. (Ps. 72:11-14).

And furthermore – this will really upset Pastor Stanley – Christians, in submission to Christ, are called to exercise authority over the nations.  This, again, is based on Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7 (and many other Old Testament prophecies about the Messianic reign).  After saying that the Son of Man would receive authority to rule all the nations on earth, Daniel says, “judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. . . . And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:22,27).

Paul teaches in Ephesians that this is fulfilled under the New Covenant.  After saying that Christ has been exalted above all authority, Paul says, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).  Notice, Christ is over all things “to the Church.”  And notice that the Church is Christ’s body, so when all things are put under Christ’s feet, the lowest part of His body, that means that all authority, including political authority, is put under the Church![1]  This is reinforced a few sentences later when Paul says that Christ “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6-7).  Being “in Christ,” Christians participate in Christ’s reign over the earth from His heavenly throne.  It happens now, in this age.  Not only does Jesus sit at this very moment at the right hand of the Father, working out the process with the pace that He sees fit of breaking His political enemies with a rod of iron and dashing them in pieces like a potter’s vessel (Ps. 2:9), Jesus also says that His disciples will imitate Him in this, as He promised the members of the first-century church at Thyatira:  “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father” (Rev. 2:27).

Christ will bring judgment on nations that don’t enact Biblical law in their legislation and enforce Biblical law through their police powers and courts.  You haven’t heard that sermon from Andy Stanley, or his father Charles, or probably from any other modern preacher (there are a few, but you probably haven’t heard them).  But you should.  It what the Bible teaches.  The people of God are weak and despised because they will not stand up for God’s word in all areas of life, including politics.  The Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament teach that this will eventually happen:

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.  Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. (Isa. 32:1-2)

Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers.  With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet.  Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame. (Isa. 49:23)

Why will rulers during the Messianic kingdom desire to honor God and enforce God’s law?  Because they will be Christians – self-conscious followers of the Messiah.  Before a person repents and believes in Jesus, he hates God and His law:  “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7).  Influences like political pressure and natural revelation (Rom. 2:15) can only produce a very inconsistent conformity to God’s law, and not one based on a desire to please God.  On the basis of natural revelation alone, people tend to “suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18).  Over generations without saving grace, morals gradually go further into the gutter:  “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom 1:28).  Christians need to run for office if their talents and other life circumstances allow.  Christians also need to work to convert politicians so that the politicians will love God and His law.  Paul tells us that “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)  One reason for this is to so that rulers let Christians live in peace (v. 2) but another reason to pray for rulers is so that they will be saved:  “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (vv. 3-4).  When God’s law is honored among all the nations on earth, then the prophecy will come true that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:4).  The gospel includes the message of how to get to heaven, but it includes much more.  It includes peace on earth to a substantial degree before Christ’s Second Coming at the Last Judgment.  This view of eschatology is called postmillennialism, which you can read about more fully elsewhere.[2]

 

Earthly Blessings for Obedience under the New Covenant

Pastor Stanley denies a connection between obedience to God and earthly blessing:  “To put it in broad terms, under the old covenant when you obeyed, you were blessed.  When you disobeyed, you were punished. Under the new covenant, when you obey, you may suffer.  If you disobey, the world may applaud you and you may even prosper.” (100)

But Jesus taught that His disciples would experience both earthly persecution and earthly blessing:  “a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

The Old Testament taught the same thing – not all blessing or all persecution for God’s people.  In Isaiah 51:7-8 God says that those who obey His law can take comfort that His righteousness is “forever,” in contrast to earthly, mortal bodies; in other words even if they are persecuted in this life, they receive eternal rewards in the afterlife, just as Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount:

Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings.  For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.

In Psalm 73 says to those who are “pure in heart” (v. 1) and see the “prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3) should recognize that the Lord will “rouse” Himself (v. 20) and “put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you” (v. 27).  Like Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes, the Psalmist suggests that the victory may not be until after death:  In contrast to the wicked, whose “phantoms” the Lord despises (v. 20), the righteous enjoy God forever even if their body is killed:  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (v. 26).

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).  This blessing is mentioned too many times in the Old Testament to quote them all here.[3]  It begins with the Dominion Mandate to God’s image bearers at the beginning of creation to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28), and repeated again to Noah, as the beginning of the new humanity bearing God’s image after the Flood (Gen. 9:1-7).  Then it is given a specifically Messianic focus when God chooses Abraham to become a nation that will produce the Messiah who will restore God’s image in humanity, with Abraham being told that “in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18; cf. Rom. 4:13).  Moses predicted that “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num 14:21).  In a Messianic psalm often quoted in the New Testament, God says, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8).  The most often quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1:  “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”  Daniel is given a vision of the future Messianic kingdom, and it grows until it “filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35).  Isaiah prophesied that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).  Isaiah also recorded an incredible prophecy that wars will end when all nations choose to submit to God’s law (Isaiah 2:2-4).  Jesus comes back to the topic of the meek inheriting the earth when He issues the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).

Because God’s people are more numerous and more obedient to God’s law in the New Covenant era than in the Old Covenant era, the Old Testament predicts that there will actually be a closer temporal connection between righteousness and blessedness in the New Covenant era than in the Old Covenant era (Isa. 2:3-4, 32:1-2, 49:23, 65:20; Micah 4:1-4; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27).  The blessing promised in the Old Testament becomes a reality in the New Testament, although gradually (Mark 4:28; Matt. 13:31-33).  The beatitude “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” is almost a direct quote from Psalm 37:11 that says that “the meek shall inherit the land.”  Jesus expands the promise beyond the land of Israel to the entire world (just as Paul did to one of the Ten Commandments in Ephesians 6:2-3).

We have hard, empirical evidence that Jesus has brought abundantly greater material blessings to the world.  Modern science, technology and economic prosperity are the products of the influence of Christianity in Western civilization.[4]  Solomon may have been clothed in splendor, but did he have a microwave oven, air-conditioning, or a giant flat-screen television?  In the countries most influenced by Christianity, the poor live in greater prosperity in many respects than the kings of the ancient world.  Christianity reversed the ancient status quo of despotism and brought political freedom to the world.  Greece and Rome were slave societies, dependent on slaves for most labor.  About thirty percent of the population of Rome and Italy were slaves under Emperor Augustus in the first century, but the spread of Christianity gradually ended mass slavery in Europe.[5]  Through the Papal Revolution that began in the tenth century, kings were restrained in their power.[6]   Later, Calvinist Protestants introduced further restraints on monarchs, as well as rejecting the Papal abuses of power, and established republican government in America as a beacon to the world.[7]

______________________________________________________________

[1]  I would argue that “the Church” here is not the institutional organization, with the State under a Church hierarchy in the Roman Catholic sense.  Rather, “the Church” refers to Christians who gain leadership in various institutions, including the State.

[2]  Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope: A Study in Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (Banner of Truth, 1975);  Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism:  An Eschatology of Hope (Presbyterian and Reformed Pub., 1999); Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart, The Reduction of Christianity:  Dave Hunt’s Theology of Cultural Surrender (Fort Worth, TX:  Dominion Press, 1988); Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness:  Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs, GA:  American Vision, 1999); Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Tyler, TX:  ICE, 1989); The Greatness of the Great Commission  (Tyler, TX: ICE, 1990);  He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (Tyler, TX:  ICE, 1992); Mike Warren, The Coming of Christ’s Kingdom:  The End Times and the Triumph of the Gospel, http://www.christianciv.com/eschatology_bs_Sect2.htm.

[3]  For a more complete list, see Mike Warren, “The Victory Theme in Scripture,” in The Coming of Christ’s Kingdom:  The End Times and the Triumph of the Gospel, Sect. 2 (http://www.christianciv.com/eschatology_bs_Sect2.htm).

[4]  Robert Royal, The God that Did Not Fail:  How Religion Built and Sustains the West (New York:  Encounter Books, 2006); Frances and Joseph Gies, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages (New York: Harper Collins, 1994); Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God:  How Monotheism Led to the Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003);  Stanley Jaki, Science and Creation:  From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (Edinburgh:  Scottish Academic Press, 1974); Edward Grant, The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages:  Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts (Cambridge, UK:  Cambridge University Press, 1996); Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition, 2011); James Hannam, God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (Icon Books, Kindle Edition, 2008); Robert K. Merton, The Sociology of Science (Chicago:  U. of Chicago Press 1973);  Mike Warren, “The Light Has Come: Quotations on the History of Christian Contributions to the Progress of Civilization,” at http://www.christianciv.com/LightHasCome.htm.

[5]  Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God, pp. 295-299.  For the percentage of slaves in Greece and Rome, see K. Hopkins, Conquerers and Slaves, Sociological Studies in Roman History, Vol. 1 (Cambridge,1978); W.L. Westermann, The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity, (Philadelphia, 1955), and W.V. Harris, “Towards a Study of the Roman Slave Trade,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome XXXVI (1980), 117-40.

[6]  Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution:  The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1983).

[7]  See Robert D. Woodberry, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 106, No. 2 May 2012, pp. 267-68, at https://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_Missionary_Roots_of_Liberal_Democracy; Abraham Kuyer, Lectures on Calvinism: The Stone Lectures of 1898 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1943); Otto Scott, “The Great Christian Revolution” in The Great Christian Revolution:  The Myths of Paganism and Arminianism by Otto Scott, et al. (Vallecito, CA:  Ross House Books, 1991); David W. Hall, The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (Lanham, MD:  Lexington Books, 2003); Donald S. Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism (Baton Rouge &. London: Louisiana State University Press, 1988); Douglas Kelly, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992); Gary DeMar, The Case for America’s Christian Heritage (Powder Springs, GA:  American Vision Press, 2009), and Historical Revisionism:  An Attempt to Rewrite America’s Christian History (Powder Springs, GA:  American Vision Press, 2009); Stephen C. Perkins, Christianity and Law: The Influence of Christianity on the Development of English Common Law (Kuyper Foundation, 2012).

 

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2 Responses to Jesus Judges the Nations Now! Part Four of a Review of Andy Stanley’s “Irresistible”

  1. Victor Porlier says:

    Pastor Stanley must have forgotten what he previously affirmed in his book, that God sent judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70, after the resurrection of Christ. (62-65)

    62-65 AD?????

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