I’m participating in a Bible Study this year; Bible Study Fellowship for those in the know. In days of old BSF meant leaders should “buy skirts fast”. The rules were iron clad. If you didn’t have a written answer on your paper you couldn’t speak in discussion group, some leaders even made you flip your name tag over so they would know not to call on you. Speaking of name tags, they were works of art. Leaders decorated the heck out of them, then you’d forget you had it on while ordering lunch at Taco Bell. ONLY the Bible was discussed, no books, sermons, denominations, pastors, (maybe Billy Graham). It was a thorough and vigorous Scriptural workout.
I’m happy to report that today BSF is much less less rigid, leaders can even wear jeans! No more limited sharing, and and you won’t be publicly shamed for accidentally mentioning your church. Group discussion strives for conversational dialog, various points of view are savored, if politely disagreed with (we here in the mid-west are eternally polite). It’s still a vigorous Scriptural workout but more emphasis is placed on personal growth vs personal knowledge. Welcome changes all. Last year I returned and took along another deadbeat wife. We enjoyed the study and the carb loading on pancakes afterward!
Now we come to this year. A new study with an anticipation of a huge turnout. Over the summer I was approached about becoming a group leader. After a day of discussion and a bit of prayer I took the plunge. I’m currently working with the next generation of women coming up the Scriptural ladder and it’s a joy. I get to study every week with the SERIOUS scholars, also a joy. Time consuming? Sure. But it’s been a wonderful exercise of unused ministry muscles (Bruce’s phrase) and a tremendous study of a book that has always plagued the church with it’s symbolism and doomsday language…
Let me tell you, this study is not for the faint of heart. At times it leaves me speechless (and if it can do that it must be–HYUUUUGE). Anyone remember Chick Tracts? Jack Chick was an illustrator who developed little comic tracts to help people witness. They covered topics like Salvation, Evolution, Eternal Security, End Times, The Rapture etc… The End Times tracts were popular in youth groups. Titles such as “Where Did They Go?”, “The Beast”, “Let’s Fly Away”, “The Last Generation”…you get the idea. One in particular had illustrations of soldiers driving around with portable guillotines, mounted on the back of trucks, ready to behead those who refused the mark of the Beast. Terror struck my heart. Understandably I wasn’t eager to revisit this book. As we’re nearing completion of the study the description of Jesus as he returns gives pause…
Revelation 19:11-16 “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
I know Jesus, Lover of my Soul, intimately (if I dare to say). I sing about him, lean on him, walk behind him, talk to him, share him. He is the one who saved me, delivered me from my fears, healed my spiritual wounds, guides me, comforts me and keeps me from going insane in a crazy world. My brother, friend, savior, leader, master. He is Gospel Jesus. The one who heals the sick, holds children in his lap, feeds multitudes, teaches, raises the dead, walks on water and is a beloved friend to his disciples. He is the son of God in a human body. Powerful in his anger at what religion had done to his people yet approachable enough that women were in his inner circle. He suffered ridicule, shame, torture and a hideous death.
But the Gospels, though they tell us of Jesus, do not fully reveal who The Risen Christ is. It takes the book of Revelation to illuminate him and once enlightened the entire Bible reads differently. When Paul says “In Christ” it has new meaning. This Risen Christ is no wimp. He isn’t coming again as he did before. No baby in a manger, no sermons on mountains, no donkey rides into Jerusalem and no crown of thorns. Next time he comes in power, with firebolts in his eyes, a white horse, fully transformed in his ascended person to defeat the last of those who stand against his Father’s people. And he’s bringing the armies of heaven with him. This Jesus, or Christ, is coming to end a world gone mad. His purpose, to bring an end to the evil that plagues humankind and to administer God’s wrath.
What IS wrath anyway? It’s a middle English word that describes the anger a ruler or one in authority felt for those who incensed them. Common folk didn’t get to display wrath, it belonged to the ones who wore the crowns. It brought condemnation and often painful, crippling, even fatal consequences. Despotic rulers wielded it at whim, just rulers used it appropriately. In either case, people lived in fear of it. The potential to incite it governed their behavior. Assigning that word to God implies he (#1) wears a crown and (#2) is or will be angry at something or someone. Past preachers preached about it with shouts, spittle and fist banging. While I’m not an advocate of hellfire sermons, I have a healthy fear of God’s wrath. It’s potential to obliterate me gives me pause before I dare ignore it’s consequences. Society could use some healthy fear today. As Bruce, my fountain of old time church sayings, quotes “If you can’t love em’ into heaven, at least scare em’ outta hell”.
Most of the world embraces Gospel Jesus, they love him, admire his teaching, lament his suffering and debate his resurrection. They believe man is good, he will do good, he will be good, that he even defines good. They embrace Gospel Jesus as they would Gahndi or Buddha. It makes sense now, why Revelation uses the title “Anti-Christ” to describe deceptive religiosity, very few are “Anti-Jesus”. Following Risen Christ involves things we’d rather not contemplate. It might require…repentance, submission, sacrifice, surrender, relinquishing our own Theory of Everything. It assumes man is fundamentally not good without Risen Christ to make him good.
Gospel Jesus saves, heals and restores us to God….Risen Christ conquers the things that get in the way of our ability to live our Christian faith. Addiction, lust, anger, hatred, abuse…Risen Christ has power to remove these ills. Both Gospel Jesus and Risen Christ are necessary, one doesn’t exist without the other but their purposes are different. Gospel Jesus came to fulfill the Father’s redemptive plan, Risen Christ comes to deliver the world and judge evil. One I love, embrace, run to and follow, the other I serve, worship and bow to. Together they make Jesus Christ, the Victorious Lamb of God, seated at his Father’s side, waiting to come with his army of white robed warriors.
I love the Amplified version of this verse:
Hebrews 10:31 “It is a fearful (formidable and terrible) thing to incur the divine penalties and be cast into the hands of the living God!
As much as I love Gospel Jesus, I am newly and completely in awe of Risen Christ. My hope is that any and all who need will come to know both as one.
Hallelujah He is Risen!