Friday, October 25, 2013

I will not keep anger for ever (Matthew 25)

Matthew 25 opens with the parable of the ten virgins. I've dealt with the issue of polygamy before, but let me take a moment to reiterate the important misunderstanding involved in this passage: the ten virgins are not brides, they're bridesmaids. The man in the parable isn't coming to marry them, they're just the welcoming committee to lead him to the party. (Although polygamy was probably still pretty prevalent in Jesus' day, I think men still married one woman at a time.) This parable is about being ready for the second coming, but once again, I'm not real clear on what the oil represents.

The next parable is of a businessman with some servants. The SAB thinks it's strange that the master was glad that the servants invested the money, but I think it's loosely implied that that is what they were meant to do. The SAB marks the parable as cruel and violent, and honestly, I've tended to feel the same; why punish someone for not investing? At least he didn't lose it, right? This is a troubling parable, as most people have, as far as I've heard, interpreted this as being about Jesus entrusting his followers with the Gospel. If you don't share the Gospel, are you going to go to Hell, then? Parables like this one and the previous really can be confusing and troubling, I'll readily admit.

Then Jesus goes on to describe the manner in which judgment is going to come at the second coming. In this case, while most of the time there does seem to be the sentiment that salvation comes by faith, here the judgment seems clearly to be based on how people treated those less fortunate than themselves (something which the SAB marks "Good stuff"). All of this leads to a lot of questions. One thing that may explain discrepancies with other concepts of eternal judgment is that it is said here that Jesus is judging nations rather than individual people. It's always been my understanding that God deals with people not just on an individual level, but in groups; what this means for said groups is a bit hard to say. If a nation was made up of mainly cruel people, but there were a few good people mixed in, then how does the judging go? I assume that the good people get accepted, but if the nation as a whole is rejected, then who or what gets judged? In case I wasn't making it clear, I'm saying that I'm a bit fuzzy on this event overall, but I'm going to go to the individual questions that the SAB raises.

When was Heaven created? I'm going with Heaven being created when (or even slightly before) the earth was created. While the verse in John says Jesus is going "to prepare a place for you" that doesn't mean that Heaven does not exist, it means that Jesus has work to do to get Heaven ready for everyone coming there. (It was probably spiritual work, not actually physically making rooms or whatever.)

How should strangers be treated? I'm going to go with "Be kind to them." I think the verses in the second column are meant for a special purpose, and that there are certain situations that were particular to the early Israelites that required them to deal mercilessly with strangers, but those were not general rules.

"What must you do to be saved?" is a question I keep glossing over because the way the SAB puts it, it's a big question to tackle, so I'm honestly procrastinating on it. However, "Has there ever been a righteous person?" is one I addressed back in Genesis.

"How long does God's anger last?" is a good question, and I see the page there has a lot of food for thought. I think there needs to be a few things said that clears away some, but not all of the issues here. First of all, not all of these verses are intended as general statements, but rather some of them may pertain to particular incidents. Secondly, "how long" is a rather subjective matter, especially when you're dealing with a being like God who is eternal; being angry for forty years might be to his mind "but a moment". Thirdly, the length of God's anger may not be commensurate with the length of the punishment. (Maybe God was angry just for a moment, but they had to wander for forty years anyway?) Just because there's an everlasting punishment doesn't mean that there was an everlasting anger to go with it. So all that being said, I would say that the only verse on this page that clearly states God will be angry at someone forever is Malachi 1:4. Does that still leave a contradiction? Maybe, but I think the rest of these verses are more vague than the SAB makes them out to be.

"Does Hell exist?" I addressed here, and while I didn't have a good definitive answer for it in the end, I think, "Is death final?" was an issue I addressed back in Joshua.

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