There is a powerful Biblical theme, upon which we have expanded
elsewhere. It is that if we do not judge / condemn ourselves now,
then we will be at the judgment. If we don't burn up the flesh now,
then it will be at judgment day. When the rebels were burnt by fire,
Moses commented: "This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will
be sanctified in them that come nigh me" (Lev. 10:4). Either we
burn ourselves up in commitment now, or we will be burnt up. God
demands us from ourselves. The glaring logic is that seeing the
flesh will be dissolved, it must have its judgment, therefore we
ought to judge it now and thereby receive acceptance at the judgment;
rather than omit to do so now and go through the same dissolution
at the judgment, with the result that we will sleep eternally. Israel's
cities were full of witches, Egyptian horses and chariots, and idols;
and therefore those cities had to be destroyed in judgment. If those
things had been cut off by Israel's own self-purging, there would
have been no need for the process of condemnation to do it (Mic.
5:10,12,14). But they would not; and so "I will pluck up thy groves
out of the midst of thee: so [therefore] will I destroy [Heb. 'purify']
thy cities" (Mic. 5:14). This is where an understanding of the ongoing,
present nature of the judgment is such a powerful imperative to
spirituality; if we don't condemn sin in ourselves now, then God
does, and will articulate His judgment at the Lord's return.
- Jeremiah used it in appealing to Israel to humbly repent: "Say
unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves: for
(i.e. because) your principalities shall come down ", i.e.
be humbled (Jer. 13:18). The pride of man will be humbled by Yahweh;
if we refuse to humble ourselves, then God's condemnation of us
in the day of judgment will humble us. Therefore it is logical
to humble ourselves now.
- John the Baptist had a clear perception of this logic: "He
(Jesus) shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit (even) with fire:
whose fan is in his hand, and...he will burn up the chaff with
unquenchable fire" (Mt. 3:11,12). John put a choice before them:
fire, or fire. Either we are consumed with the fire of devotion
to God, or we face the figurative fire of thecondemnation. This
is the logic of judgment.
- The Lord Jesus picked up on the same idea. He spoke of the
destruction of the unworthy in Gehenna fire, and went straight
on to comment: "For every one shall be salted with (Gk. 'for the')
fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted" (Mk. 9:48,49). Unless
we become a living sacrifice, wholly consumed by God's fire, laying
ourselves down upon the altar, then we will be consumed by the
figurative fire of Gehenna at the day of judgment. Again, there's
no real choice: it's fire, or fire.
- And it's bankruptcy, or bankruptcy. Paul spoke of spending
and being spent in the Lord's service, alluding to how the prodigal
spent himself in dissipation (Lk. 15:24). That sense of losing
all must come- either in sin's service, or in that of the Lord.
- We are either ashamed of our sins in repentance; or we will
be made ashamed of them in the judgment (Jer. 6:15 RVmg.)- it’s
shame either way. We either wail for our sins now, or we will
wail for them at judgment day (Jer. 9:19,20).
- Is. 45:20 RV speaks of how some "carry
the wood of the their graven image". We either carry the wood
of the cross, or the wood of the cross of our idols. In the same
vein Is. 30:17 says that the rejected will be left as a beacon
(RVmg "mast") upon the top of a mountain, "and as an ensign on
a hill". This is the image of the cross- a piece of wood on a
hill. And so it's a cross, or a cross.
- God’s people are likened to a hilltop vineyard, about which
God “made a trench” (Is. 5:2 RV) in order that it would bring
forth fruit; and it had a winepress in the midst of it. Yet ultimately,
in the horror of condemnation in AD70, a trench was made around
Jerusalem in order to destroy it, and the city became a winepress
of judgment. The logic of judgment again becomes apparent; we
either respond now to the appreciation of our rightful condemnation;
or we will be condemned.
- Legalism and human religion [of which
our own brotherhood has its share] are a burden laid on men's
shoulders. But the cross of Jesus is also a burden laid upon our
shoulders (Mt. 23:4). The greatness of the demands of the cross
free us from the burdens of man's legalism. But it's still a choice,
between a cross and a cross.
- "I will judge [condemn] you...and ye
shall know that I am the LORD", Ezekiel often warned (e.g. Ez.
11:9). Men must either know Yahweh now, or they will know Him
in condemnation. And Ezekiel uses the idea of 'knowing' Yahweh
in the sense of the knowledge that leads to a desire for responsive
action. But Ezekiel plays on this logic even further; because
Israel had not "executed my judgments", therefore in their condemnation
Yahweh would "execute judgments among you" (Ez. 11:9,12). We cannot
escape the moral requirements of Yahweh; if now we ignore
the cutting of the flesh which they demand, then in the day of
condemnation those judgments we have neglected to execute will
be executed in us.
- We must have tribulation, either in the condemnation of the
judgment (Rom. 2:9), or now, in order that we will enter the Kingdom
(Acts 14:22). We must bear the burden either of our sins (Am.
2:13; Is. 58:6; Ps. 38:4) or of the Lord's cross (Gal. 6:4 etc.).
We will experience either the spiritual warfare of the striving
saint (Rom. 7:15-25), or the lusts of the flesh warring in our
members, eating us up with the insatiability of sin (James 4:1;
Ez. 16:28,29). Either we will mourn now in repentance (Lk. 6:25;
the Greek for "mourn" is often in a repentance context), or we
will mourn at the judgment (Mt. 8:12 etc.). Having foretold the
inevitable coming of judgment day, Yahweh Himself pleads with
Israel: "Therefore also now...turn ye even to me...with
weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2:12).
- The sacrifices taught Israel that God especially valued the
fat- the best parts of their lives were to be freely offered to
Him. But the wicked at judgment day will be as the fat of lambs,
consumed upon the altar (Ps. 37:20). We either give our best to
the Lord's service now, or He will ultimately take it from us
anyway. Cars, houses, flats, valued jewellery, banknotes stashed
away, bank accounts, our innermost emotions, jealousy, love...we
either give them now, or He will take them from us in the day
- We simply must get down to serious self-examination. To him
who orders his ways aright, the salvation of God will be shown.
But for those who never reprove themselves, and think that God
"was altogether such an one as thyself", He will reprove them
"and set them in order before thine eyes" at the judgment (Ps.
50:21,23). We must face our sins, either now in our self-examination
and genuine confession and struggle for self-mastery; or then,
when the grounds for rejection are made painfully apparent.
- The day of the Lord will result in the wicked being "in pain
as of a woman that travaileth" (Is. 13:8; 1 Thess. 5:3). The Lord
seems to have alluded to this when He spoke of how the faithful
just before His coming would be like a woman in travail, with
the subsequent joy on delivery matching the elation of acceptance
at Christ's return (Jn. 16:21). So, it's travail- or travail,
especially in the last days. If we chose the way of the flesh,
it will be travail for nothing, bringing forth in vain (this is
seen as a characteristic of all worldly life in Is. 65:23). We
either cut off the flesh now (in spiritual circumcision), or God
will cut us off at the last day. This point was made when the
rite of circumcision was first given: "The uncircumcised [un-cut
off] man...shall be cut off" (Gen. 17:14).
- "Whosoever shall fall on this stone (Christ) shall be broken:
but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder"
(Mt. 21:44). There is an unmistakable allusion here to the stone
destroying the image, the Kingdoms of men, in Dan. 2:44. The choice
we have is to fall upon Christ and break our bones, to get up
and stumble on with our natural self broken in every bone; or
to be ground to powder by the Lord at his return, to share the
judgments of this surrounding evil world. Yet strangely (at first
sight) the figure of stumbling on the stone of Christ often describes
the person who stumbles at his word, who rejects it (Is.
8:14,15; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:7,8). In other words, through our
spiritual failures we come to break ourselves, we become a community
of broken men and women; broken in that we have broken our inner
soul in conformity to God's will. As Simeon cuddled that beautiful,
innocent baby Jesus, he foresaw all this: "Behold, this child
is set for the fall and rising again (resurrection) of many in
Israel...that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk.
2:34). If we are to share his resurrection, if we are to experience
such newness of life in this life, we must fall upon him, really
feel the cutting edge of his word. We must be broken now; or be
broken and ground to powder at the judgment.
- Having spoken of the need to take up the cross daily, the Lord
Jesus employed this form of logic to encourage people to really
take on board what he was suggesting: "Whosoever will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross...for
whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall
lose his life for my sake, and the gospel's, the same shall find
it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own life (AV "soul")? Or what shall a man
give in exchange for his soul?" (Mk. 8:34-37). If we follow Christ,
we must lose our natural life. If we don't, even if we gain the
whole world, we will lose our natural life. I must lose my
life, one way or the other. We need to go through life muttering
that to ourselves. God asks our life, our all. If we hold it back
in this life because we want to keep it for ourselves, He will
take it anyway. The cross was a symbol of shame (Heb. 12:2 speaks
of the shame of the cross). In this context verse 38 continues:
"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in
this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son
of man be ashamed" at the day of judgment. We either go through
the shame of carrying the cross now, especially in our personal
witnessing to those around us; or we will suffer the eternal shame
of rejection (Dan. 12:2); our shame will be evident to all then
- The Greek text in Mt. 16:25,26 and Lk. 9:25 can bear a re-translation
and re-punctuation which quite alters the sense as found in the
English translations. It shows the Lord emphasizing the evident
and compelling logic of losing our lives for His sake: "Whosoever
will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his
life for my sake shall find it. For how much a man is profited
if he shall gain the whole world (in the Kingdom) and lose his
own soul (now, as I asked you to do, to lose your soul for me)!...for
the Son of man shall come... and then he shall reward every man
according to his works", i.e. the losing of our soul is through
our everyday works. Lk. 9:25 makes the same point: 'How is a man
advantaged if he gain the whole world (the Kingdom) and lose himself
(now)!: or - be cast away, be condemned at the judgment,
because he tried to keep his soul, he didn't see the logic of
all this!' . The point is, a man at the day of judgment will be
willing to give up everything, even the whole world if
he possesses it in order that he may find acceptance. But then
it will be too late. Now is the time to resign all for
the sake of that blessed acceptance.
- Israel were told to "throw down", "break in pieces" and "utterly
destroy" the idols and altars of Canaan. There were times during
their history when they obeyed this command by purging themselves
from their apostasy in this. The Hebrew words used scarcely occur
elsewhere, except very frequently in the context of how God "broke
down", "threw down" and "destroyed" Israel at the hands of their
Babylonian and Assyrian invaders as a result of their not 'breaking
down' (etc.) the idols. "Throw down" in Ex. 34:13; Dt. 7:5; 12:3;
2 Chron. 31:1 is the same word in 2 Chron. 36:19; Jer. 4:26; 31:28;
33:4; 39:8; 52:14; Ez. 16:39; Nah. 1:6. "Cut down" in Dt. 7:5;
12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 later occurs in Is. 10:33; Jer. 48;25; Lam.
2:3. So Israel faced the choice: either cut down your idols, or
you will be cut down in the day of God's judgment. Those who worshipped
idols were like unto them. The stone will either fall on us and
destroy us, or we must fall on it and become broken men and women
(Mt. 21:44). For the man untouched by the concept of living for
God's glory, it's a hard choice. God will conquer sin, ultimately.
When a man dies, it isn't just a biological, clockwork process.
It is God's victory over sin in that individual. Either we must
be slain by God; or with His gracious help, we must put sin to
death in our members through association with the only One who
really did this- and thereby rise to life eternal. The inevitability
of God's conquest of sin is brought out in Ez. 6:4-6: "Your altars
shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken...in all your
dwelling places, the cities shall be laid waste, and the high
places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid
waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease...and
your works may be abolished...I will lay the dead carcasses of
the children of Israel before their idols". The people of Israel
had to be destroyed because their idols had to be destroyed. The
inevitability of God's ultimate conquest of sin is evident:
and we are asked to side with Him, not against Him. God
will have His way. The rebels amongst natural Israel were
"wasted out" (Dt. 2:14)- using a Hebrew word which means 'perfected'.
God will perfect us anyway, either by our destruction or by our
salvation; He will have His way. This means we must put to death
our sinful works now, not leave it for Him to destroy us
so that He might destroy them. The secret sins of every human
soul, those things we wrongly allow ourselves, those untackled,
unacknowledged habits, will all ultimately be destroyed by the
Lord: either through our response to His hand in our lives, or
through His destruction of us so that they might be destroyed.
- There is reason to think that a latter day tribulation is to
come upon us, which will really test our appreciation of this
principle which is so embedded throughout God's revelation. Those
who will refuse to worship the beast will be killed (Rev. 13:15);
but those (responsible) who try to avoid this death will themselves
be tortured to death by the Lamb, because they worshipped
the beast (14:9-11; 16:2).
- Paul speaks of how sinful behaviour ends up in people doing
things ‘contrary to nature’; and yet he uses a similar phrase
to describe how being ‘graffed in’ to the true hope of Israel,
with all it implies in practice, is likewise “contrary to nature”
(Rom. 1:26,27 cp. 11:24). We walk against the wind, go against
the grain, one way or the other in this life. And, cynically speaking,
it may as well be for the Lord’s cause than for the flesh.
- In the end, all the enemies of Jesus will be placed "under
His footstool" (Acts 2:35 etc.). Yet we were all His enemies,
due to the alienation with Him caused by our sin (Rom. 5:10; Col.
1:21). The Lord's footstool is the place where His people are
figuratively located, praising Him there (Ps. 99:5; 132:7; Lam.
2:1). Ultimately, all things will be subjected under Jesus, placed
at the Lord's footstool, under His feet (1 Cor. 15:27). Submission
to Him is therefore the ultimate end of both the righteous and
the wicked; the difference being, that the righteous submit to
Him now, rather than in the rejection and final exaltation of
the Lord over them in the condemnation process.
- The breaking of bread is intended to bring the logic of all
this powerfully before us. The cup of the Lord is a symbol both
of His condemnation, and also of His blessing and forgiveness.
We take it, week by week, either to our condemnation, or to our
salvation. There is no third way. We may as well realize this.
The Lord Jesus hates the fact that some think there is
a third road; He would that we recognized, as He does, that there
is really no 'lukewarm' position- only hot or cold. He seems to
ask us to realize this: "Either make the tree good, and his fruit
good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt" (Mt.