Archive for October, 2010

“Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:9

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

It is significant that “trees” is plural. The previous verse says, “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” John (the Baptist) is preaching that just because a person was born as a descendent of Abraham, they still have to produce the fruit for their own season of crops.

Bearing fruit is not an unreasonable request for tree. In fact, Jesus will later tell a story that shows how much help and mercy is available to help produce fruit:

6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, `Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 “And he answered and said to him, `Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’ “
~ from Luke 13

This goes even beyond the three strikes and you’re out! After three years, the tree got an extra year of aeration and fertilization!

John has been preaching that the only way to flee the wrath that is to come is on the knees of repentance. The good fruits are “in keeping with repentance.”

Look at it this way: God is going receive His benefits one way or another. If you don’t produce fruit, you can be the firewood.

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“His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Luke 3:17


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“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.”
Luke 1:51-53

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

This is part of Elizabeth’s speech when Mary shows up for a visit. Elizabeth is about six months into her pregnancy and Mary is at the beginning of hers. Her speech is a Big Picture kind of thing. It gives an overview on how God deals out judgment.

The pattern is that judgment falls against the proud who operate without God, against the rulers who try to supersede God, and against those who rely on riches and don’t seem to “need” a heavenly supplier.

He scatters the proud … this is a moral revolution. … He cast down the mighty; he exalts the humble. This is a social revolution. … He has filled those who are hungry … those who are rich he hath sent empty away. This is an economic revolution.
~ William Barclay

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In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
Mark 12:38-40

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

Notice how Jesus states this as a direct warning, “Beware of …” These people are dangerous!
The tendency is to discount such people as ‘all show, no go’ but that is not how Jesus regards them. That is because He sees their hearts and knows that the same inner motivations that make them as pompous as peacocks will also motivate them to be destructive.

Self-important persons become good at rationalizing. They will hurt the weak, (in this example it was devouring widow’s houses,) and be completely able to justify it in their own minds.

They go out of their way to look good to others; they wear a mask of respectability to obscure their dishonesty, to screen themselves from the suspicion of treachery. That makes them hypocrites.


The damnation of hypocrites will be, of all others, the greatest damnation.

Henry, Matthew. “Complete Commentary on Mark 12”. Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible. 1706.


Sin disguised with a show of piety is a double sin—once for lying and once for covering it up. That is why the condemnation is greater.

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And if any community will not receive and welcome you, and they refuse to listen to you, when you depart, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in Judgment Day than for that city.
Mark 6:11

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

This is the Gospel of Mark’s rendition of the October 22nd post from Matthew.

Shaking off the dust of the feet is an expression of disowning; it is a rejection in the form of giving up or turning away. The dust will be a testimony against the community

The Big Sin here was not listening. The apostles didn’t have to try to force folks to listen. They simply said their piece and if no one paid attention, they left, leaving the dust behind as a testimony. Then the Lord severely avenges evil.

There is no indication of the vile solicitation, violence or deviant sex acts of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Merely” not listening to the Truth will be judged. The term “more tolerable” indicates that some judgments are more severe than others. Rejecting the truth is a biggie.

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Matthew 23 lists Eight Judgmental Woes.

The chapter itself is a good counterbalance to verses like 1 Peter 2:13-17 that deal with submission to those who may be the cause of our suffering because it establishes that “the greatest among you shall be your servant.”

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

The Woes

Woe to you
• hypocrites who shut off the kingdom of heaven from people, but do not enter in themselves
•hypocrites who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers
• hypocrites who make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves
• blind guides who say, `Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated
• hypocrites who tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law
• hypocrites who clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside are full of robbery and self-indulgence
• hypocrites who are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness
• hypocrites who build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, `If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

“Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth…

Matthew 23:32-35

Did they really teach THIS in Sunday school? That Jesus said, “Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started and fill up the measure of your fathers!” These hypocrites did get woefully noticed!

“You can’t squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah’s son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head.
The Message Version, Matthew 23:35

Poetically in English, those are names A to Z.* Jesus is really going in for the kill here. In “nice human” rationale, if bad guys are killing off your prophets, you stop sending prophets. In the Divine Mind, apparently you send more for them to kill, scourge, and persecute so that you can justify sending them to hell.

I “nice human” rationale, it seems obvious that the effectiveness of this approach will depend on having a steady and plentiful supply of righteous people to have killed off and persecuted. In the Divine Mind, apparently that is not a problem.


* Abel starts it off, you cannot go further back in time for a righteous death than that of Abel. There are several possible Zechariahs, but the one in scripture who was murdered near the altar during prayer dates to 2 Chronicles 24:20,21. The historian Josephus also tells of a Zecharias, the son of Baruch who was murdered in the temple by the Romans shortly before it was destroyed, but that murder would happen about thirty years into the future from when Jesus says this. Was it a prophecy of when the Pharisees would fill the measure of their guilt, or something else?

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Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
Matthew 10:14, 15

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

The lands of Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed by a rain of brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven. This is worse. Genesis 13:13 says, Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. Those cities had been in physical carnal sin. The crime here is willful rejection of the Truth. The townsfolk did not want to hear it, and they certainly did not want to heed it.

People are far more willing to accept the idea that God punishes ‘bad actions’ like stealing, but when scripture says that not listening and receiving the truth is worse, they are offended and think it is not fair.

A small fraction of the blame must fall on an educational system that has suspended absolute truth, but ultimately the problem is selfish, willful, and hard hearts.

Heard Hearts → Stiff Necks → Deaf Ears

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…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 16:8

[[[ Continuing the series on Judgment in the New Testament ]]]

This is a judgment for causing the defenseless to stumble. The crime will be considered in a later blog, but for now, the focus is on the judgment. This event of Jesus’ preaching is covered in Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2 as well.

Notice first the phrase “it would be better for him” indicating that this example of punishment is less severe that what is deserved. The real retribution will be worse for them.

Secondly, the original language makes it clear that the millstone is the type turned by a donkey; it is not a small stone used for hand grinding. It would surely cause drowning.

When a person initiates someone else into that person’s sin, they are corrupting innocence. The death penalty is better than what they deserve.

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