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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LORD OF LIFE

THE TEN LEPERS

“While Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, He entered a certain village and ten lepers called out to Him, ‘Jesus, master, have pity on us’ (Luke 17:13). Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. While they were on their way to the priests, they were cured of their leprosy. Only one of them was grateful enough to return to Jesus to thank Him, and this one was a Samaritan.

WHEN IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD COMING?

As He was on His way to Jerusalem, the Pharisees came once again to try Him. They asked Him, ‘When is the kingdom of God coming?’ (Luke 17:20). Since Jesus had been preaching the arrival of the kingdom for some time, it is clear that the Pharisees were expecting something more striking than Jesus had already manifested. His works, His miracles were not apparently enough for them. No doubt they were expecting some great cosmic phenomena to manifest the tremendous power of God, or perhaps some great divine sign against the Romans, their oppressors.

SOME GREAT COSMIC PHENOMENA?

Jesus, knowing their desire for some external manifestation of divine power against the Romans, said to them, ‘The kingdom of God comes unawares. Neither will they say, ‘Behold, here it is,’ or ‘Behold, there it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17: 20-21). The meaning of Jesus is clear. The Pharisees were expecting the kingdom to begin with the liberation of the Jews from the domination of the Romans. This would demand some triumphant victory of the Jews over the Romans. The power of God would be manifested on the side of His Chosen People. The might of God would cast down into the dust the might of the greatest empire the world had ever known. But Jesus had not come to establish a world empire. So He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God had already come; it had come without the pomp and eclat of an earthly kingdom. It had already come; it was being established in their midst. But it had come quietly, for it was not to be a great political kingdom; it was meant to rule the hearts and souls of men, and it had already begun in the hearts of those who had given their allegiance to Jesus.

HE WOULD COME AGAIN SUDDENLY, IN POWER AND IN GLORY

This thought of the modest beginnings of His kingdom gave way in the mind of Jesus to the thought of His final coming at the end of the world to judge all men. “The days will come,’ He said, ‘when you will long to see one day of the Son of Man, and will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Behold, here he is; behold, there he is.’ Do not go, nor follow after them. For as the lightning when it lightens flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation’ (Luke 17:22-25).

These words Jesus addressed to His own disciples. He had come to men now in humility, but He would come again at the end of the world; He would come suddenly, in power and glory. Though men would be watching for His coming and pretending to find Him, He would come unexpectedly, swiftly, at a moment when they did not expect Him.

MANY WILL BE UNPREPARED FOR HIS SECOND COMING

The heart of Jesus is not entirely joyful at the thought of His triumph at the end of the world. He warns His disciples that many will be unprepared for His coming and will be lost. Just as no one heeded the warnings of Noe [Noah]; just as people went on wining and dining and sinning right up to the moment of the flood which destroyed them, so also will men be up to the moment when Jesus comes to judge them. At the end, then, many will still be forgetful of the Kingdom of God and so will be lost.

PERSISTING IN PRAYER TO GOD

Jesus then tells a parable to encourage His disciples to remain steadfast in their allegiance to Him and to His kingdom. A poor widow sought justice from an unjust judge. For a while he refused to render a verdict in her favour. But she persisted in coming to him. Finally, worn out by her pleas, the judge gave her a favourable verdict. The widow’s persistence had finally won justice. So also the disciples of Jesus must persist in prayer to God. If they do, their faith will triumph in the end. Then the eyes of Jesus turn once again to the end of the world and He remarks sadly, ‘Yet when the Son of Man comes, will he find, do you think, faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8). Jesus knows that not all men will become His faithful disciples, not all men will enter His kingdom. And perhaps at the end His followers will be only a few among the many.

LORD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER

On this same journey Jesus told also the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Both went into the Temple to pray. The Pharisee took pride in his own virtue and, in his prayer, called God’s attention to the fact that he was not like other men a sinner. The publican, on the other hand, stood afar off, struck his breast in repentance and asked God to be merciful to a sinner. Jesus then pointed out that the humility of the publican was more pleasing to God than the pride and complacency of the Pharisee.

WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER

It was during this same journey to Jerusalem that Jesus gave His position on the questions of separation of spouses and divorce. The Pharisees asked Him directly if it were ever lawful for a man to separate from his wife. First of all Jesus laid down the law of the indissolubility of the marriage bond: ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Matthew 19:6). When the Pharisees objected that Moses had allowed the separation and divorce of spouses, Jesus replied that while it might be allowed to separate from a wife who was unfaithful, this separation did not dissolve the marriage bond, and neither the man nor the wife were allowed to remarry while the other spouse was alive. ‘Whosoever puts away his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery’ (Matthew 19:9).

DON’T HINDER LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME TO ME

On another occasion the people were bringing their children to Jesus so that He might touch them. The disciples, probably afraid that Jesus might be wearied by this, sought to prevent the parents from so acting. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it’ (Luke 18:16-17). Men must not approach the Kingdom of God filled with pride in themselves, but rather as little children, innocent and humble, seeking only to receive the riches of eternal life.

THE RICH YOUNG MAN

Soon after, a rich young man, attracted to Jesus, came to Him and asked, ‘Good Master, what shall I do to gain eternal life?’ Jesus told him that he must keep the commandments of God. The young man replied that he had done this all his life. Perceiving his good will, Jesus then said, ‘One thing is still lacking to thee; sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me’ (Luke 28:22). Jesus was giving this young man the chance to practise heroic virtue. He was even offering him the chance to become a favoured disciple. But the young man could not find it in his heart to part with his possessions, and so he left Jesus.

IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO PASS THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE…

This young man’s attachment to his wealth led Jesus to remark how difficult it was for the rich to love God wholeheartedly. ‘With what difficulty will they who have riches enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ (Luke 18:24-25). The disciples were astonished at His words. ‘Who then can be saved?’ the asked. But Jesus told them that God could save even the rich: ‘Things that are impossible with men are possible with God’ (Luke 18:27).

MANY WHO ARE FIRST NOW WILL BE LAST

This led Peter to say hopefully, ‘Behold, we have left all and followed thee’ (Luke 18:28). Jesus rewarded his hope. ‘Amen I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, who shall not receive now in the present time a hundredfold as much, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands – along with persecutions, and in the age to come life everlasting. But many who are first now will be last, and many who are last now will be first’ (Mark 10:29-31).

Jesus promised that those who loved Him would be taken care of in this world and, even more, they would receive life everlasting. But they would also be despised in this world and suffer persecution. But, at the end, those who had persecuted them and looked down upon them would be last, and the followers of Jesus would take the first places.

THE PARABLE OF THE LABOURERS IN THE VINEYARD

Then, and perhaps to emphasise the gratuitousness of God’s gifts to men, Jesus told the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The owner of a vineyard hires labourers at the beginning of the day to work in his vineyard. Then about nine o’clock, again at noon and three, and just before evening he hired others to work also. He agreed to pay all a penny for their work. When the day was over he paid all the penny agreed upon. But those who had come early complained that they did not receive more than those who had come late. The owner of the vineyard told them that he had treated all with justice, for he had given all the sum agreed upon. If he chose to give the same sum to those who had worked less, that was due, not to injustice, but to his generosity. ‘Have I not a right to do what I choose?’ he asks. ‘Or art thou envious because I am generous?’ (Matthew 20:15)

God is not unjust to anyone, Jesus was saying. But His mercy to men was a free gift on His part. And in the mystery of His mercy He might give life everlasting even to those who had turned to Him only at the end of their lives. This should not cause those who had laboured long for life everlasting to complain. In fact, their complaints might show that they were less worthy of the divine mercy themselves. Hence Jesus concludes, ‘Even so the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 20:16).

THROUGH IT THE SON OF MAN MAY BE GLORIFIED

When Jesus was about a day’s journey from the village of Bethany, word was brought to Him from Mary and Martha in Bethany that their brother Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was sick. Jesus loved Lazarus. But He did not hasten to Bethany to take care of him. ‘This sickness,’ He said, ‘is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that through it the Son of God may be glorified’ (John 11:4). Jesus waited two days and then said to His disciples, ‘Let us go again into Judea’ (John 11:7).

TOO DANGEROUS TO GO?

The disciples objected to His going because opposition to Him was strong in Judea. But Jesus, knowing that His hour was not yet come, insisted on going to aid Lazarus. ‘Lazarus, our friend, sleeps,’ He said, ‘but I go that I may wake him from sleep’ (John 11:11). Taking His words literally the disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will be safe’ (John 11:12). Jesus then informed them that Lazarus was, in fact, dead. Thomas, the Apostle, seeing that Jesus was determined to go, said to the others, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ At this moment Thomas was ready to die with Jesus at the hands of the enemies of Jesus.

LAZARUS HAD ALREADY BEEN BURIED FOR FOUR DAYS

When Jesus arrived at Bethany Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Martha, on hearing of His coming, went to meet Him. ‘Lord,’ she said to Him, ‘if thou hadst been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever thou shalt ask of God, God will give it to thee’ (John 11:21-22). Jesus said to her, ‘Thy brother shall rise.’ Martha replied, ‘I know that he will rise at the resurrection, on the last day.’ Then Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die. Dost thou believe this?’ And Martha said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who hast come into the world (John 11:23-27).

Then Martha went to summon Mary. Some of the village dwellers followed Martha and Mary out to Jesus. Martha and Mary took Jesus to the tomb where Lazarus was buried. Some of the villagers murmured, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that this man should not die?’ (John 11:37).

LAZARUS, COME FORTH!

At the tomb Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, fearing the odour of the decaying body, said, ‘Lord, by this time he is already decayed, for he is dead four days.’ Jesus said, ‘Have I not told thee that if thou believe thou shalt behold the glory of God?’ The stone was then removed from the mouth of the tomb. Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, I give thee thanks that thou always hearest me; but because of the people who stand round, I spoke, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.’ After saying this, He cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ And at once Lazarus, who had been dead, came out of the tomb, still bound hands and feet in the burial bandages. Jesus commanded the bystanders to remove the bindings.

BY HIS APPREARANCE THERE HE WAS COURTING DESTRUCTION

The resurrection of Lazarus is one of the greatest of the miracles worked by Jesus. It is the third resurrection brought about by the power of Jesus. He had already restored life to the son of the widow at Naim and to the daughter of Jairus. In all three of these miracles Jesus had showed Himself to be the Lord of life. He proved the truth of His words, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ But, in the story of the resurrection, as told by John, there seems to be apparent an atmosphere of greater urgency and appeal than in the other miracles of Jesus. Jesus, against the urgings of His disciples, has come into Judea, the stronghold of His enemies. By His appearance there He was courting destruction. Yet He had insisted upon coming. It is as if He knew that His time was short, drawing rapidly to a close. He would, therefore, work a great miracle, right in the midst of those who were refusing to accept Him. It would be a strong appeal for their acceptance, one more effort to gain their good will.

That Jesus meant this miracle to be one of great importance in His mission is shown by His behaviour. He refuses to go at once to the aid of Lazarus because He knows that God wishes to manifest His glory through the resurrection of Lazarus. He realises that He Himself will be glorified by this miracle. He waits until Lazarus has been dead for some days before He goes to Bethany. Before working the miracle He demands from the sisters of Lazarus a confession of faith in Himself. And Martha acknowledges Him as the Messias, in fact, as the Son of God. Again, before working the miracle, Jesus says that it will happen, it will come to pass through the power of God so that men may believe that He has been sent by God, has come from God. And, lest there be any doubt about the reality of the resurrection, He commands that some of the bystanders unbind the risen Lazarus. He wished all to be convinced of the fact that He was the Lord of life, the giver of life.

JESUS HAD ASKED MEN TO ACCEPT HIM AS THE GIVER OF LIFE

Jesus had come into the world to give men eternal life, eternal life in the Kingdom of God. This was God’s greatest boon to mankind. He had asked men to accept Him as the giver of this life, the Anointed One of God, the Messias for whom they were waiting. He had worked miracles to prove His claim, to gain their faith. Some had followed Him. But many had rejected Him, and among these were the leaders of the people, the priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees. Now, in the resurrection of Lazarus, He would give them an unmistakable proof of His power and of His identity. By raising Lazarus back to life, Jesus showed Himself clearly to be the Messias, to be even more, the very Son of God, the Lord of life. By restoring to Lazarus the life of His body, Jesus showed Himself to be the Lord of eternal life. Those who accepted Him as such, would live forever in the Kingdom of God, and on the last day they would rise even in the body.

THEY RESOLVED TO PUT JESUS TO DEATH

That the resurrection of Lazarus was a decisive moment in the earthly life of Jesus is shown by its effects. Some of those who witnessed it believed in Him. But others, still opposed to Him, went to the Pharisees and reported His success to them. The priests and the Pharisees, instead of being convinced of His claims, called a council to decide what to do about Him. They refused to accept Him as the Messias, and so they could see in Him only a threat to their own power and position. They forgot that Jesus was not interested in an earthly kingdom. They feared that He might lead a rebellion against the Romans and so bring down on them the wrath of the Romans. Caiphas, the high priest that year, remarked cynically, ‘it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, instead of the whole nation perishing’ (John 11:50). The council of the Jews thereupon resolved to put Jesus to death.

GOD WAS USING HIS PLANS TO BRING ABOUT THE TRIUMPH OF JESUS

Although Caiphas was seeking his own ends in this decision, his words, in God’s sight, had a prophetic import. Caiphas was saying that it was better to put Jesus to death before a rebellion against the Romans broke out, so that the nation, and especially its ruling classes, should not suffer. But, as St John remarks, Caiphas was an unwitting prophet in the hands of God, for Jesus was to die not only to save His own nation but so that He might gather into one all the children of God throughout the world (John 11:51-52). Caiphas thought that he was planning the death of Jesus, but God was using his plans to bring about the triumph of Jesus.”

– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

 

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS FORETELLS THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE WORLD

“In great sorrow Jesus brought His public preaching to a close with a solemn warning of destruction to Jerusalem. Then He sat down opposite the Temple treasury and watched the people offering their gifts to the Temple. He observed the splendid gifts of the rich. But he also observed a poor widow putting in two mites, a small sum, but all she had to live on. He called this to the attention of His disciples.

‘Amen I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting money into the treasury. For they have all been putting money in out of their abundance; but she out of her want has put in all that she had – all that she had to live on’ (Mark 12:43-44).

JESUS CHRIST’S OWN PEOPLE WILL REJECT HIM

This little incident is both a solace to Jesus and a lesson to His disciples. Jesus has come from heaven to offer men the precious gift of salvation, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. But the Scribes and the Pharisees have rejected Him. Under their leadership His own people will reject Him and demand His death. Their unwillingness to receive Him shows, on their part, a lack of total dedication to the love of God. When Jesus sees the poor widow giving all that she has to the Temple, His heart rejoices at this example of total love of God. In pointing it out to His disciples He means to tell them once again that it is the spirit which inspires a gift that makes it valuable in the eyes of God. The rich gifts offered by the wealthy were praiseworthy. But since they were only a small part of the abundance of the wealthy, they did not symbolise so well the total gift of one’s self which God demands of every man. But by giving all that she possessed the widow showed in fact that she was totally dedicated to God.

‘THERE WILL NOT BE LEFT ONE STONE UPON ANOTHER’

After this incident Jesus and His disciples remembered His warning of the approaching doom of Jerusalem. They could not help but contrast the beauty and the solidity of the stone walls of the Temple with the sad forecast of the ruin of the Holy City. One of them said to Jesus,

‘Master, look, what wonderful stones and buildings!’ Jesus replied, ‘Dost thou see all these great buildings? There will not be left one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mark 13:1-2).

Jesus and the band of disciples went then to the Mount of Olives. There the curiosity of the disciples could no longer be restrained. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him, ‘Tell us, when are these things to happen, and what will be the sign when all these things will begin to come to pass?’ (Mark 13:4).

DID JESUS MEAN TO CONVEY THAT THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING SOON?

In the minds of the disciples there must have been great confusion. They had accepted Jesus as the Messias. Since they were Jews it was natural for them to expect the Messias to bring great glory to the Chosen People and to Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. But Jesus had just told them that Jerusalem would be left desolate and the great Temple, the centre of worship of Jahweh, would be destroyed. Perhaps they thought also that the destruction of the Temple would occur only when the Son of Man (spoken of by the prophet Daniel) came in glory to establish the final Kingdom of God at the end of the world. Of what then could Jesus be speaking? Did He mean that the end of the world was coming soon and that then His own glory would be manifested to all men?

WOULD THE GLORY OF THE SON OF MAN BE MANIFESTED TO ALL MEN SHORTLY?

Jesus, in replying to their question, spoke of both the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world. But He distinguished the two events. They were not to be simultaneous, but rather separated by some interval of time. The destruction of Jerusalem would come during the lifetime of the generation of men who had listened to Jesus Himself. But the end of the world would come later, at a time determined by God the Father. When this time might be was not permitted to men to know. But it would be preceded by signs which would warn the followers of Jesus of its approach.

THE FOLLOWING THINGS TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN THE YEAR 70 A.D.:

As for the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus first warned His disciples to beware of false Christs, men who would claim to be the Messias. These false Christs would only lead the people astray. There would be wars, and rumours of wars, He told them, pestilences, famine and earthquakes. The He added, ‘And when you see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not – let him who reads understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him who is on the housetop not go down and enter to take anything from his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. But woe to those who are with child, or have infants at the breast in those days! But pray that these things may not happen in winter’ (Mark 13:14-18).

All these things took place before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. False Messiases arose and led the people into revolt against the authority of Rome. Jerusalem was besieged. Its people suffered from famine and pestilence.

As for the disciples themselves, Jesus told them, ‘But be on your guard. For they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, a witness to them’ (Mark 13:9).

THE APOSTLES WERE NOT TO BE AFRAID

When this persecution came upon the disciples they were not to be afraid. ‘And when they lead you away to deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to speak; but speak whatever is given you in that hour. For it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit… And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:11-13).

The disciples of Jesus are urged by Him to face persecution without fear. They will be working for God, for ‘the gospel must first be preached to all nations’ (Mark 13:10).

JERUSALEM WAS ENCIRCLED BY VESPASIAN’S AND TITUS’ TROOPS

God Himself, therefore, will speak through them, and if they persevere they will be saved.

That the first Christian community took His warning seriously is proved by the fact that the Christians there fled to Pella just before the encirclement of the city by the troops of Vespasian and Titus.

THE ANGELS WILL GATHER HIS ELECT FROM THE FOUR WINDS

The mind of Jesus then turned to the thought of the end of the world. With prophetic insight He foresaw the signs which would precede His coming as the Son of Man in power and majesty to judge the world. ‘Then,’ He said, ‘there will be great tribulation, such as has not been found from the beginning of the world until now, nor will be. And unless those days had been shortened, no living creature would have been saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then, if anyone say to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ do not go forth; ‘Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with great power and majesty. And he will send forth his angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’ (Matthew 24:21-31).

‘BUT OF THAT DAY OR HOUR NO ONE KNOWS… BUT THE FATHER ONLY’

Before the world comes to an end, then, a number of false Christs will appear, seeking to lead men astray. So powerful will be the forces of evil that even the elect would be led astray except that God will shorten the time so that they may be saved. Just when the end will come Jesus does not say.

‘But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only’ (Mark 13:32).

Jesus does not mean that as the Son of God He is Himself ignorant of the day when the world will end. He means that this is knowledge which God the Father does not allow to angels or men, but reserves for God alone. Jesus, as the Son of God, knows the day and the hour, but as the Messias He will not reveal it to men.

OUR LORD JESUS’ COMING WILL BE AS QUICK AND AS SUDDEN AS LIGHTNING

The destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus foretold it, would not be sudden, its approach would not be unrecognisable. Men would have an opportunity to flee from the city and escape its fate. But the end of the world would come suddenly and men will find no chance to escape.

Neither will they be able to recognise its approach clearly.

‘And as it was in the days of Noe [Noah], even so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noe entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and swept them all away; even so will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Matthew 24:37-39). Or, as Jesus had already said, His coming will be as quick as sudden as a bolt of lightning searing the sky from east to west.

‘TAKE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY’

Because of the uncertainty of the time of the end of the world Jesus warns His disciples to be ready at every moment for that final catastrophe. ‘Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is’ (Mark 13:33).

In several parables Jesus emphasised the necessity of being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man to judge the world. ‘As a man,’ He said, ‘when he leaves home to journey abroad, puts his servants in charge, to each his work, and gives orders to the porter to keep watch. Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or early in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping’ (Mark 13:34-36).

Or again, ‘Watch, therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore, you also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come’ (Matthew 24:42-44).

Or, ‘Who, dost thou think, is the faithful and prudent servant whom his master has set over his household to give them their food in due time? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find doing so. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master delays his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect, and in an hour he does not know, and will cut him asunder and make him share the lot of the hypocrites. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 24:45-51).

THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH VIRGINS

Lastly Jesus made the same point in the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. Ten virgins went out joyfully to attend a wedding. They carried lamps to light their way. Five were wise and carried also some vessels of oil to replenish their lamps if it became necessary. But five were foolish and carried no extra supply. The coming of the bridegroom was delayed. The virgins fell asleep. When the bridegroom came they arose and prepared to attend the marriage feast. But the lamps of the foolish virgins had gone out and so they were late in arriving at the feast. The door was shut. The bridegroom, not knowing them, refused to let them in.

…TO MEET JUDGMENT UNAFRAID

In all these parables Jesus was emphasising the point that His disciples should be prepared always to meet judgment at the hands of the Son of Man. ‘Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man’ (Luke 21:36).

No man may know when the end of the world will be. But all men must be prepared to meet it at any moment. They must watch and pray so that they meet judgment unafraid.

‘HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD’

This thought of the end of the world and of the second coming of the Son of Man is followed quite naturally in the discourse of Jesus by a description of the judgment of men at the end of time. ‘But when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory and before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the just will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? And when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?’ And answering the king will say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left hand, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

THE JUDGMENT WILL BE BASED ON THE LAW OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

As the Son of Man, the apocalyptic figure spoken of by the prophet Daniel, Jesus will come at the end of the world to judge all men. His judgment will be based on the law of love which He so often preached to men. Those who have loved their fellowmen enough to aid them in their need will be given eternal life with God. Those who have not followed this law of love will be punished eternally in the fire of hell prepared for the devil and his angels. At the moment of judgment the secret of all history will be revealed.

THE SECRET OF ALL HISTORY WILL BE REVEALED

Jesus does not tell us the full nature of this secret. But He tells us enough for us to know that it flows in some mysterious way from the free wills of God, the angels and men. In the transcendent freedom of His will God has loved the universe enough to give it being, existence. And He has given it existence for the sake of His elect, angels and men whom He will gather from every corner of the universe to share His Kingdom with Him. The elect are those who live by the law of love, love of God and love of one another. Their love is the free choice of their own wills, echoing generously the creative act of God’s free decision to make the world. But some angels, and some men, will freely choose not to imitate the divine love; they will refuse to love [unconditionally], and in their refusal they will reject both God and all others. They will be punished by their own refusal; having rejected [unconditional] love, the secret of the universe, they must live forever in the self-corrosion of hate.

TO LOVE ANYONE IS TO LOVE HIM WHO IS THE BROTHER OF ALL

The disciples of Jesus might have wondered that Jesus mentioned only love of men as the basis for the final judgment of all men. Surely, they might have thought, men should be judged on the basis of their love for God. But Jesus had already taught them that it was God’s will that they should love all men as they loved themselves. In so doing they would be loving God Himself.

And in Jesus Himself there is an ever deeper reason why this is true. Jesus is God Himself come to earth, God-made-man. By taking to Himself a human nature, the Son of God has become the neighbour, in fact, the brother of all mankind. By His own free decision He has identified Himself with all men. To love anyone, therefore, is to love Him, Who is the brother of all. And to love Him is to love not just a man but God Himself.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM (I)

(This part can be read independently from Part I, “Are the creation story, Adam and Eve and the fall from grace scientific accounts?” which is found on this blog.)

THE STORY SO FAR:

“When Adam and Eve were seduced by the devil and ate the forbidden fruit, they lost for themselves and for themselves and for the whole human race the friendship of God. Up to the moment of their sin they had lived familiarly with God; they had been His faithful children; their human wills had been subject in love to the divine will. By their sin they rebelled against the will of God; they sought to achieve their own happiness and perfection in a way forbidden by God.

Their rebellion against God brought swift punishment upon them. They lost the gift of bodily immortality; they lost the perfect control of their bodily passions which God had given them; they were condemned to work out their livelihood, to procreate and to raise their children with pain and difficulty. Last of all, they were expelled from the paradise of pleasure which God had made for them.

GOD IS JUST AND MERCIFUL

In this first fateful episode of the story of the encounter of the devil, man and God, it might seem that the devil had won, and man and God had lost. But God is almighty and just and merciful. His might and His justice are shown in the punishment to which He condemns both the devil and man. His mercy appears in the promise of ultimate victory which He promises to man.

HOW IS THIS VICTORY OVER THE DEVIL TO BE WON?

God’s first promise of victory to man is made in the most general terms. The woman and her seed will war against the devils and will triumph over them. God foretells and promises the final victory of some men, at least, over the wiles and deceits of the devil. But how is this victory to be won? How is it being won? Since the participants in the struggle are innumerable – Satan and the devils allied with him, the whole human race from Adam to the end of this world, and God – only the infinite mind of God can know all the details of the victory. But God has seen fit to reveal us at least the general plan of the reconciliation with Himself. Moses tells us the earliest elements of the plan in the Book of Genesis.

BOOK OF GENESIS, CHAPTER 4 TO CHAPTER 11

From all the descendants of Adam God chose Abraham and his descendants to be the first historically significant actors in the drama of man’s reconciliation with God. From chapter four to chapter eleven of the Book of Genesis Moses traces the genealogy of Abraham from Adam to Thare, the father of Abraham. Since Moses takes such great pains to establish this genealogy, and since the genealogy itself is subject to misunderstanding, it may be useful to pause a while to reflect upon its real meaning.

First of all it is apparent that Moses intends to show by these genealogies that the human race is one, that all men are ultimately descended from Adam and Eve. But it is equally clear that Moses had no intention of listing the complete genealogies of all the known races of men. At the moment when Cain kills his brother Abel, Cain and Abel are the only children of Adam and Eve mentioned by Moses. Yet Cain fears that others may find him and kill him because of his crime. This implies that there other descendants of Adam and Eve, perhaps many in number, already living on the earth. It would be fruitless for us, therefore, to attempt to see in the genealogies of Genesis a complete history of the parentage of all the races of mankind.

What is more important is the central fact that Moses is chiefly concerned with the task of relating the descent of Abraham from Adam. When a particular family ceases to be of interest from this point of view, it is dropped from the story. In this way, for example, the family of Cain is not mentioned, at least by name, after the fourth chapter of Genesis. The chief centre of interest always is the descent of Abraham from Adam. Since salvation is to come to mankind through Abraham it is important to see how Abraham is the descendant of the parents of the race of man, the parents to whom God promised ultimate victory over the devil.

CAIN AND ABEL

Embedded in these genealogies we find moral elements which are of the utmost significance for the understanding of man’s history. The murder of Abel by Cain shows how quickly serious sin enters the history of the descendants of Adam and Eve. But God’s words to Cain show that man is free not to sin: ‘If thou do well, shalt thou not receive? But if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present at the door? But the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it’ (Genesis 4:7). Temptation to sin may afflict Cain, but he can master it if he will.

A MIXTURE OF GOOD AND EVIL

BEGINNING OF CIVILISATION

Again, the early history of mankind shows that curious mixture of good and evil which is the constant characteristic of mankind since the fall of Adam. This mixture of good and evil appears in several guises. Cain and his descendants are portrayed as the bearers of material good to the human race. They appear as the first agents of human civilisation. Cain himself builds the first human city. Jubal introduces mankind to music, Tubalcain invents the art of metal-working. On the other hand, Cain is the first murderer and Lamech the second; Lamech is also the first polygamist. The Cainites, then, bring the world many material blessings; to that extent they realise God’s plan for the mastery of the world by man.

SUCCUMBING TO SEEKING HAPPINESS IN MATERIAL THINGS

But on the other hand they succumb to the lust for material happiness and fall victim to sin. In the race of Seth, the third son of Adam mentioned by Moses, and the forefather of Abraham, we find also this admixture of good and evil. Enos, the son of Seth, is apparently a holy man, for it is said of him that he ‘began to call upon the name of the Lord’ (Genesis 4:26). Henoch [Enoch] and Noe [Noah] are holy, for Henoch ‘walked with God’ (Genesis 5:22) and Noe ‘found grace before the Lord’ (Genesis 6:8). But of the contemporaries of Noe, Moses writes, ‘And God seeing that the wickedness of men was great upon the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times, it repented him that he had made man on the earth’ (Genesis 6:5-6).

It seems clear, then, from the beginning that the history of the human race will always appear as a mixture of good and evil. As men freely submit to God or freely rebel against Him, so good or evil will cast light or darkness over the face of mankind. Nor is the promise of victory over sin, the devil and death to be fulfilled only through a line of men of constant goodness in the sight of God. Even the Sethites from whom Abraham is descended were in their time corrupted by sin. From the beginning, the ultimate victory of God and man waits obscurely behind the dark clouds of satanic and human evil.

NOAH: THE DATES AND CIRCUMSTACES OF THE GREAT FLOOD

Abraham, through whom the divine promise of deliverance is fulfilled, is the descendant of Adam through Seth and through Noe. With the tale of Noe and the great flood, the story of Moses enters for the first time into relation with humanly recorded history as we now know it. The ancestors of Abraham lived for some time in the territory of the empire Babylonia. In the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh there is an account of a vast flood and of an ark in which the hero Utanapishtim and other persons are saved. There is also evidence of severe floods at Kish and at Ur in ancient Babylonia. These floods are dated by historians as occurring between the years 3400 and 4200 B.C. It seems quite probable the flood recorded by the Babylonians and that mentioned by Moses are the same flood. But it is not possible at present to give the exact date of the flood.

If we accept this identification, then it is probable that the flood of which Moses tells us was not universal, that is, it did not cover the whole earth and it did not destroy all men and living things upon the earth except those which Noe saved in his ark. When Moses says that all men and all living creatures were destroyed he means that all living beings in the world known to his ancestors, that is, in the world of the ancient Babylonian empire, were destroyed by this great flood.

It will follow also from this fact that not all the races of men known historically to us are the descendants of Noe. The divine plan for the salvation of all men will be working even for those who are not descended from Noe. On the other hand, it is not working through them at the time of Noe. Such peoples, then, as might have been dwelling in far eastern Asia or Europe or in the Americas at this time in human history do not enter into the main lines of the development of God’s plan for ultimate triumph over evil.

‘GO FORTH OUT OF THY COUNTRY… INTO THE LAND I WILL SHOW THEE.’

Abraham is the descendant of Noe through Noe’s son Sem. He was, therefore, of the race of Semites. His own father, Thare, lived at Ur of the Chaldees, in the confines of the Babylonian empire. Thare seems to have been, like his neighbours at Ur, a polytheist, a worshipper of many gods. By this time, then, the descendants of Noe have lost any certain knowledge of the existence of the one true God. It is at this moment in human history, when the first great civilisations known to us have already come into existence, the great empires of Babylonia and Egypt, when the knowledge and understanding of the true God seem to be lost to mankind. God speaks directly to Abraham, the son of Thare: ‘Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 12:1-3).

As God, in the paradise of pleasure, had told the devil, Adam and Eve, that the woman and her seed would triumph over the devil, so now He tells Abraham that through him all men will be blessed. God is renewing His promise, and precisely at a moment when it might seem as if man was totally lost, for he had forgotten even the existence of the one true God.

MANKIND BEGAN ITS SLOW ASCENT TO GOD

It is permissible to see in the history of Abraham a second divine test for mankind. In the paradise of pleasure God had tested Adam, and in Adam all humanity failed. In Abraham mankind was tested again, but this time Abraham was faithful and mankind began its slow ascent to God.

The trial of Abraham was difficult and long. Think first of all of the fact that Abraham lived in the empire of Babylonia. His father was a worshipper of the gods of Babylonia. Before God called Abraham, Abraham himself was no doubt a worshipper of the gods of his native land. He is asked to give up the worship of the gods to which he was accustomed and to accept a God whom he has never known before. Then he is asked to leave his native land and journey through strange lands until this God who speaks to him gives him a new land for himself and his descendants. This is surely a great trial of faith. But Abraham obeys and journeys from Ur to the land of Canaan, from Canaan to Egypt and then to Palestine once again.

A GREAT TRIAL OF FAITH

Moreover, Sara, the wife of Abraham, was barren, yet God promised him: ‘I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: if any man be able to number the dust of the earth, he shall be able to number thy seed also’ (Genesis 13:16). When Abraham thought that he would not have any heirs, God said to him, ‘Look up to heaven, and number the stars if thou canst… So shall thy seed be’ (Genesis 15:5). When Abraham and Sara are in their old age, God fulfils his promise and gives them a son, Isaac. God’s promise to make of Abraham a mighty and numerous nation seems possible of fulfilment. But then God tests his fidelity even more severely. ‘Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision: and there thou shalt offer him for an holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee’ (Genesis 22:2). To Abraham it must have seemed as if God were withdrawing his promise to give him numerous descendants. If Isaac were killed, how could Abraham have any legitimate descendants at all? Yet Abraham was obedient to God, and he set out to fulfil God’s command. At the last moment, satisfied with Abraham’s faith and obedience, God intervened and said, through an angel, ‘Lay not thy hand on the boy, neither do thou any thing to him. Now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake’ (Genesis 22:12).

Where Adam was tried and was found unfaithful and disobedient, Abraham was tested and found faithful and obedient. In Adam the whole human race fell away from God. In Abraham the race begins to come back to God. In Adam the whole of mankind was cursed. In Abraham mankind is blessed again. The first pact which God made with mankind in Adam was broken by the sin of Adam. Through Abraham God makes a new pact with men and the pact is ratified by the firm faith and obedience of Abraham.

THE PACT WITH ABRAHAM

Two things are remarkable in the pact which God makes with Abraham. First of all, God seems to be promising to Abraham only material blessings. He promises him numerous descendants, land, great power and possessions. To a man of Abraham’s time and place these promises would seem attractive. It is possible that Abraham may not have seen beyond these material things to the truly heavenly blessings which God would restore to men through him and his children. If this be so, then God, in so speaking to Abraham, is stooping to the level of the spirituality of the men of Abraham’s time. We must remember that Abraham lived some time in the second millennium before Christ. If the human race is as old as many scientists say, then a very long time intervened between the creation of Adam and the time of Abraham. In all that time, through the weakness and sinfulness of men, the knowledge of the true God and of man’s true destiny was gradually weakened and men’s thoughts and desires tended to the material blessings of this world. God in His wisdom and divine condescension would lead men gently to Himself, raising them slowly but surely from the pleasures of this world to the far more precious realities of the world of the spirit.

‘THE WEAK THINGS OF THE WORLD HATH GOD CHOSEN…

Lastly, it is not without significance that God chose Abraham to be, as it were, the vehicle which would carry deliverance to all mankind. At first sight it might seem strange that the choice was made. Instead of choosing Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish race, God might have chosen the Babylonians or the Egyptians. Or He might have chosen the Assyrians who appear a little later, or the Persians or the Greeks or the Romans, or even the Chinese or the Japanese. In short, God might have chosen one of the great civilising nations which have arisen in the course of human history. But He did not. He chose one of the small nations of the earth, one of the weak nations of the earth. The Hebrews were not chosen because of their military preeminence, or their economic prosperity, or their cultural superiority. God’s choice of Abraham and his descendants will always remain somewhat mysterious to us. But it is perhaps legitimate to see in it a foreshadowing of St Paul’s words,’…the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong… That no flesh should glory in His sight’ (1 Cor 1:27, 29).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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