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The Lion and/or the Lamb

On Sunday evening at church, we sang the Bethel song ‘He’s coming on the clouds’ (by Brenton Brown,Brian Johnson and Leeland Mooring). Actually, everyone else sang it - I can’t. Sometimes, something about a song leaves me feeling uneasy. This song, in particular, ‘sticks in my craw’. Why? Well, let’s see shall we? We’ll start by reading some of the lyrics.

"He's coming on the clouds
Kings and kingdoms will bow down
Every chain will break
As broken hearts declare His praise
For who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He's roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him…"

Some of it is very good, but I have a problem with the first lines of the chorus:

"Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He's roaring with power and fighting our battles"

The Jewish nation, in the first century AD, was oppressed by the Romans, and groaning for ‘rescue’ - they longed for a messiah who would come in and, with fire and sword, liberate them from Rome’s grip: they wanted a lion - they wanted ‘right-handed power’. Instead, they got Jesus. Almost universally, they failed to recognise Jesus for what He was - even His disciples didn’t really ‘get’ him.

God is Love, Part 27

Well, perhaps I haven’t written 26 previous posts entitled ‘God is Love’, but it certainly feels that way! This particular post isn’t going to be one of my (relatively) carefully crafted, meticulously edited, posts… It’s going to be more ‘stream of consciousness’ and so it may be a bit rough around the edges. In a way, I want to write about the latest, awful, school massacre in the USA, but I don't know what I could add to the debate. So I won’t comment, even though ‘business as usual’ feels rather flat and hollow in the circumstances.

On Tuesday evening my wife Linda was leading our church lifegroup meeting. She asked us to think of ways to describe God’s character. I found myself thinking (almost inevitably, given that it’s an obsession of mine!) God is Love (from 1 John 4). But then I thought on from there, in a fairly meditative way, and found myself reading a chunk of 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The Really Good News

In my previous post ‘Grace is Outrageous’ I made it fairly clear that I believe in ἀποκατάστασις πάντων (apokatastasis panton), meaning the restoration of everything and everyone (derived from Acts 3:21, but implied in lots of other places too).

Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. Acts 3:21

When I say that this is what I believe, I encounter a number of objections, but one in particular crops up most frequently. It is usually expressed something like this:

“If everyone is saved anyway, then there was no point in Jesus dying on the cross.”

I’m sorry, but I completely fail to see the logic behind that argument.

God’s stated aim is that everyone be saved.

God ourSaviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4

I suggest that, if Jesus’ life and death saves anything less than everyone and everything, His incarnation is a pointless failure and God is a serial liar…

Grace is Outrageous!

We can’t cope with grace. We find it offensive. It seems unfair to us. We want rules; we want obedience to the rules to bring reward; we want disobedience to bring punishment. To us, that’s ‘fair’ and how, in our transactional mindset, we feel that the world should work…

It’s the way we try to make the world work - with our ideas of working for a living; being paid for what we do - and in the words of the Lord High Executioner’s song from Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Mikado’:

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time -
To let the punishment fit the crime…

Indeed, most of our theology is set up this way - those who are ‘good Christians’ - those who ‘accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour’ and who then lead squeaky-clean lives of service to the church - ‘go to heaven’ whilst all the rest ‘go to hell’. This seems natural and right to us.

And then we come across scriptures we can’t deal with. The parable of the workers in the vineyard, where everyone receives the same wage, regardless of whether they worked all day or just for an hour at the end of the day, is bad enough, but then we get to things like this:

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022