The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: J

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Judgment or reconciliation?

There was no tolerance in the law of Moses for those who would kill innocent people:
"Show him no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you" (Deu 19:13).
Even when it was not known who had committed the crime, the elders were called to make a sacrifice and declare their innocence:
"Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, and they shall declare: 'Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done'" (Deu 21:6,7).
And the one who murdered the innocent for money was under a divine curse:
" 'Cursed is the man who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person.' Then all the people shall say, 'Amen!' " (Deu 27:25).
But that was exactly what happened in the murder of Jesus:
"When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 'I have sinned,' he said, 'for I have betrayed innocent blood.' 'What is that to us?' they replied. 'That's your responsibility' " (Mat 27:3,4).
So, it was no news when Peter declared to the men of Israel:
"You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this" (Acts 3:15).
And in Acts 2 Peter pointed out that they did not do this alone -- they had joined themselves with the wicked to accomplish this:
"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross" (Acts 2:23).
So it was an alliance of Israel and Gentiles that murdered the Lord Jesus. However, Jesus used an even broader brush when he held a whole generation responsible:
"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world" (Luke 11:47-50).

"And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar" (Mat 23:35).

Abel, who offered God a better sacrifice (Heb 11), as Jesus would -- murdered!
Zechariah, whom the LORD sent to warn the people about their disobedience, as Jesus did -- murdered!

Killing the prophets

Let's take a closer look at the stoning of Zechariah in the temple in 840 BC:
"After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God's anger came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen. Then... Zechariah... stood before the people and said, 'This is what God says: "Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you." ' But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD's temple. King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah's father had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, 'May the LORD see this and call you to account' " (2Ch 24:17-22).
Refining the reference to idolatry, there is a parallel to Jesus' time:

Jesus spoke of the generation that would be condemned for the death of all the righteous (Luke 11:50 above), and he said that it was "this generation", ie, the one to whom he was speaking then. The Greek word translated "generation" is the same word as in Matthew 24:34:
"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."
And while there was a more immediate fulfillment, much of what he described will be at the end of the age. Whatever "generation" means here, it lasts a long time!

The Greek "genea" may signify a period, a time, an age, or a race of people possessed of similar characteristics.

And the characteristics held in common between Jew and Gentile are wickedness, a refusal to listen, and acting against those whom God has sent.

Righteous judgment
"God's wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Rom 1:18).
The righteous judgment about to fall on the earth will strike Jew and Gentile alike, with no partiality:
"For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last" (1Th 2:14-16).
Hearing the truth is intolerable to the wicked. When they rise up to suppress it, they bring judgment on themselves. This happened in the murder of Jesus.

Jesus saw the division of men into two camps: not Jew and Gentile so much as those who would stand with him, and those who would oppose him:
"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Mat 12:30).
Those who oppose the work of God are condemned:
"By his faith, he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith" (Heb 11:7).
This last passage was written about Noah, but it can also apply to Christ:
"For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man" (Rom 8:3).
God condemned sin in sinful man, or "sin in the flesh" (KJV). When He condemned sin in the flesh, He condemned sin, the works of sin, and the people of sin. Mankind and all its works and wonders were condemned.

No condemnation

The murder of Jesus was the ultimate rejection of God's love, allowing God to be just or righteous in bringing His judgments on the world. And yet, even so, condemnation was not why Jesus was here...
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:16,17).
How can this be? Jesus came into a world that was already condemned by the sin of Adam, which had poisoned the stream of human life, leaving the human species in an abnormal, degenerate state.

And while the condemnation of sin in the flesh means the wrath of God for the wicked, for the believer it brings reconciliation with God!
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!... when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son" (Rom 5:8-10).
Or, as it is stated in Rom 8:1,
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
In the end, there is no Jew and there is no Gentile; there are only those in Christ -- and the rest. In the death of Christ, there is judgment and reconciliation in a single stroke. Judgment for the world, and reconciliation for those who are Christ's.

So what?

What does that mean for you?
"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison" (Mat 5:25).
Make your peace with God before you go to the judgment seat of Christ -- you do not know what his judgment will be! Your salvation is conditional on your willingness to listen and act upon the gospel message.

There is a story of a young soldier brought to Confederate General Robert E. Lee for his misdeeds. The young man was obviously nervous in the presence of the great commander. General Lee told him, "There's nothing to be frightened of, son. You'll find justice here." To this the young man replied, "I know, sir. That's what I'm a-skeered of!"

In conclusion, those who are in Christ stand with him in the fight against sin:
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24).
So, are you in Christ? Have you joined with him in the fight to the death against sin? The time to decide, and to make a commitment, is now.


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