Sunday, September 13, 2009
The Hammer of God is poised to strike
6 For a nation has come up against My land, Strong, and without number; His teeth are the teeth of a lion, And he has the fangs of a fierce lion. 7 He has laid waste My vine, And ruined My fig tree; He has stripped it bare and thrown it away; Its branches are made white. (Joel 1:6-7)
This short passage from Joel has a very important role in helping us understand a couple of parables in the Gospel of Matthew:
1. Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:18-22)
2. “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘ The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46)
In the passage from Joel, God equates the nation of Israel ("My land") with the vine and fig tree. Joel prophesied of the destruction of the vine and fig tree. Jesus, in Matthew 21, picks up the theme, and the chief Priests and Pharisees identified that Jesus was speaking about them. In verses 18-22, Jesus identifies that it is their fruitlessness that warrants their destruction. And in verses 33-46, it is their repeated persecution and murder of prophets and the final murder of the innocent Son of God that warrants their being ground to powder by the visitation of Jesus, who is the Chief Cornerstone upon Whom we must fall, or else He will fall upon us.
The nation of Israel did eventually suffer complete destruction at the hands of the Romans in AD 70. The Temple was left without one stone upon another, the city was flattened, and the Jewish inhabitants were starved in the siege, and finally killed by the invaders. To a person, the Christians had left the city when they saw the signs of the invasion approaching (as warned by Jesus). In the midst of the Judgements of God, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ were spared.
God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). The Church is Israel now. In the same way that Jesus said to the nation of Israel, "the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it," so Jesus says the same to the New Israel, the New Jerusalem, the Church:
4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ... 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. ... Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. 24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. ... 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. ... 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Revelation 2 - 3)
Just as Assyria, Babylon and Rome were the instruments in the hands of Jesus to judge apostate Judaism, so in the post-resurrection era, Islam is God's hammer against apostate Christendom. Every church must come before the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him for an assessment of the spiritual condition of the Body of Christ in that location. Jesus is not shy in performing radical surgery if there is gangrene in His body. The prevalent greasy grace of modern Christendom must go. We must hear more frequently from our church leaders the cry of, "REPENT! for the Kingdom of God is at hand." If we do not, then Islam is in the wings, in many parts of the world, waiting for Jesus' word:
"Go ... through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city." (Ezekiel 9:4-7)