“The God who said, ‘Out of darkness the light shall shine!’ is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory
shining in the face of Christ,
…who is the exact likeness of God.”
(2 Cor 4:6,4b)
In the appointed time of the Father, God became flesh in the person of the Son and dwelt among us. The invisible God became visible in Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God in such a manner that Jesus could say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 1:14,18;14:9).
In prior generations God had spoken through the intermediate agency of the prophets, but in Jesus Christ He spoke to us in person (Heb 1:1-2). For this reason, when Jesus was transfigured upon the mount and was speaking with Moses and Elijah in the presence of His disciples, Peter, James and John, when Peter interrupted, suggesting that they make three tabernacles, one where they could gather and listen to Moses, another where they could listen to Elijah and another where they could listen to Jesus, the Father spoke from heaven saying: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt 17:5).
That is not to depreciate what He had previously spoken through others, as some have mistakenly assumed, but rather that we are now to look to Jesus and learn from Him. In Him all previous truths concealed in Scripture are now revealed to our understanding in a new and fresh way. The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (Rev 19:10). In order to rightly understand Moses and the Prophets we need to hear Him and learn of Him.
This way of seeing Scriptures through the lens of Jesus Christ has been referred to as the Christocentric hermeneutic since the early days of the Church. Martin Luther emphasized the need for the centrality of the cross, or a crucicentric hermeneutic, in order to rightly understand and apply the Scriptures.
However, there is a modern trend away from the historic faith of the Fathers. While still speaking of the centrality of Christ, their presentation of Christ and His teachings is selective, failing to take into account the totality of His life and teachings. Likewise, while using terms such as “cruciformity,” they have redefined the cross and what Christ accomplished in His atoning death on our behalf.
They approach the Scriptures with the presupposition that, since God is love, He is entirely non-violent. Using this presupposition as a filter, they proceed to reject or reinterpret all portrayals of the Father and even Jesus Himself found in the Scriptures when they portray them as intolerant towards sinful human behavior or acting in violence to correct or punish it.
Based upon this presupposition they must also redefine the cross. Since the cross involved violence and God is totally nonviolent (according to them), it cannot be true that it was God’s hand and eternal purpose that predetermined that His crucifixion should occur in order to bring about our redemption through His blood as the Scriptures state (Acts 4:27-29; 2:23; Isa 53:5-6,10-11; Eph 1:6-7). These and other passages are either ignored or rejected by them in order to present the cross as nothing more than an act of wicked men against Jesus with no redemptive value in God’s eyes. I consider the implications of the atonement in my blog: “Did Christ’s sacrifice on the cross change God’s attitude towards us?” and also in my book: “The Ways of God (As seen through the eyes of a Conservative Restorationist).”
Having stripped the cross of all redemptive value before God for the forgiveness of sins, saying that it was nothing more than Jesus passively absorbing the collective violence of mankind into Himself as He unconditionally forgave them, they then apply what they call the “cruciform hermeneutic” to the Scriptures. What that means is that any portrayal of God in Scripture that is not passive and nonviolent is deemed contrary to the love of God shown on the cross – it is not cruciform and therefore is to be rejected as nothing more than primitive Near-Eastern misconceptions of God imposed upon the Scriptures by depraved human authors such as Moses, David and the prophets (cf. 2Peter 1:21).
This “cruciform hermeneutic” is not only applied by them to the Old Testament authors but also to the New Testament. Some even question the very words of Jesus if they do not fit into their cruciform mold, reasoning that since we already know that God is cruciform (non-violent and tolerant towards sin), any human author saying otherwise must have falsely attributed such words or actions to Jesus.
However, once we bring into question the very words and deeds of Christ recorded for us in the New Testament Scriptures, then every concrete basis for the knowledge of Him is lost in the sea of relativity. In this blog I will argue from the presupposition that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and that it is therefore an accurate revelation of who Jesus Christ is and therefore who the Father is, since Jesus said that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father and that He and the Father are one (Jn 14:9; 10:30).
Jesus validated the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures
The infallibility of the Scriptures is not an arbitrary starting point since Jesus Himself affirmed it (Jn 17:17, cf. Ps 119:160; Matt 5:18; 4:4; Jn 10:35). In these circles it is common to hear someone say something like: “I am a follower of Jesus – not a follower of the Scriptures.” However, it is impossible to be a true follower of Jesus and not have the same regard for the Scriptures as He did.
Jesus validated the writings of Moses and the Prophets
Far from depreciating Moses and the Prophets or deauthorizing them, Jesus said that not one jot nor title could pass from the Law or the Prophets without them first being fulfilled. (Matt 5:17-18). This is based upon the fact that all Scripture is inspired of God, having proceeded from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4; 2Tim 3:16). Since every word of it proceeded from the mouth of God it cannot return unto Him void but must be fulfilled (Isa 55:11).
After Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples, He explained to them that all that which was written in the Law and the Prophets had to be fulfilled. He said, “it is written, and thus it was necessary” (Luke 24:44-46). What was necessary due to it having been written? That He should suffer. It happened to Him just as God’s hand and purpose had previously determined should be done to Him (Acts 4:27-28). According to Jesus, if it was written it had to occur.
Jesus equated the words of Moses with the very commands of God Himself, including the non-cruciform punishments prescribed in the Law for disobedience:
“He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother; and, He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’” (Mark 7:9-10)
According to the “cruciform hermeneutic,” all violent depictions attributed to God must be filtered out of the Scriptures. Yet here we see Christ Himself including the death penalty as part of the commandment of God rather than considering it merely Moses’ projection of his mistaken vision of Ancient Near-Eastern deities upon Jehovah.
Jesus said that those who truly believed Moses would also believe Him, since Moses wrote about Him (Jn 5:45-46). He said of the brothers of the rich man in hades that if they didn’t believe Moses, then nothing could persuade them to believe – not even someone raising from the dead (Luke 16:31). Sadly, this same refusal to believe Moses is still characteristic of many so-called Progressive thinkers today.
Jesus repeatedly endorsed Moses and the Prophets. He said that the people were to observe and do what the scribes and Pharisees told them to do since they sat in Moses’ seat (Matt 23:2-3, cf. Matt 8:4). Nowhere does Jesus give place for us to question or sit as judge concerning the validity of any portions of the writings of Moses or the Prophets as many so lightly do today. On the contrary, He equates the commands of Moses with the commands of God Himself and warns, saying that those who invalidate the least of them and influence others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:19).
Some erroneously insist that Jesus Himself does just that in His very next breath. Just two verses later in Matthew 5:19 through to the end of the chapter, Jesus five times repeats the phrases: “You have heard it said… But I say…” They misconstrue this as meaning that Jesus was setting aside the Law and presenting something new.
However, it should be obvious that Jesus isn’t contradicting what He just said concerning the writings of Moses. When Jesus referred to the writings of Moses, as He did when tempted by Satan in the previous chapter, He always said, “it is written” referring to Scripture as final incontrovertible truth (Matt 4:4,6-7). In contrast, in each of these instances in Matthew 5, Jesus is confronting, not the Law, but the misapplications of the Law of Moses made by the Rabbis of that day. Rather than saying: “It is written… But I say…” He instead says, “You have heard… But I say…”
While space doesn’t allow me to cover each instance in detail, the careful reader will notice that nowhere does Jesus teach contrary to the Law of Moses. Rather, He confronts the Rabbi’s misapplication of the Law. In the first four instances – that of murder (5:21-22), adultery (5:27-28), divorce (5:31-32) and oaths (5:33-37), Jesus raises the bar which the Rabbis had lowered, using loopholes in order to get around fully fulfilling the Law.
Then in the fifth one Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” (Matt 5:43) The command to love your neighbor is in the Law (Lev 19:18), but the rabbinical loophole “and hate your enemy” is not. On the contrary, the Law told them to show kindness towards their enemies (Ex 23:4).
So we see that, rather than Jesus invalidating the Law and teaching others to do the same (something He forbade them from doing in verse 19), He elevated the Law back to its rightful place. The Law was given to reveal our sin and need for grace but the Pharisees had lowered the standard and created loopholes in order to make it appear that they were fulfilling the Law when in reality they were breaking it. In elevating the Law to its rightful place, we all become convicted as transgressors and must look to Him for grace and mercy.
Jesus validated the Psalms
In order to demonstrate to the Pharisees that He was not only a descendant of David according to the flesh but also the Son of God, Jesus appealed to the Psalms as the final authority. When the Pharisees said that the Messiah would be the son of David He replied:
“How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool?’ If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” (Matt 22:43-45)
Here Jesus appeals to the Psalms as authoritative, being what the psalmist said in the Spirit. Just as He confronted Satan with the authoritative written word saying, “It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” thereby authenticating Moses’ writings as having proceeded from God, so here He authenticates the Psalms saying that they were spoken in the Spirit (Matt 4:4, cf. Dt 8:3). Also He referenced the Psalms referring to the manner of His death, saying that what was written in the Psalms concerning Him had to be fulfilled (Luke 24:44).
In the same manner, Peter even referred to the imprecatory Psalms as having to be fulfilled, even within New Covenant contexts. In reference to Judas, Peter said concerning his punishment for having betrayed Jesus:
“For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it'; and, ‘Let another take his office.’” (Acts 1:20 cf. Ps 69:25; 109:8).
Most of those who say that they are followers of Jesus rather than the Bible throw out the imprecatory Psalms. But both of the Psalms here cited by Peter as authoritative are non-cruciform imprecatory Psalms. The immediate followers of Jesus still considered the written Word to be authoritative – including the imprecatory Psalms. Who are most likely to be followers of the true Jesus, the original Apostles themselves, or modern Progressive scholars who reject all the writings of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms that don’t fit their cruciform model?
Paul likewise cited the imprecatory Psalms as being authoritative and fulfilled in our times. Concerning Israel’s temporary judgment, he cites Psalm 69:22-23 in the following manner:
“And David says: ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. 10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.’” (Rom 11:9-10)
Jesus and vengeance
On the surface we would all agree that Jesus accurately revealed the Father in all that He said and did. Yet those who insist that Jesus revealed a God who always acts in a cruciform manner must ignore or reject many sayings of Jesus which present God as actively punishing evil. Jesus presents God as the Avenger of evil and injustice. He says of the Father:
“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.” (Luke 18:7-8)
Jesus Himself says that God will avenge those who oppress His elect. This is why He said that it would be better for one to hang a millstone around their neck and drown in the depth of the sea than to cause one of those who believe in Him to stumble (Matt 18:6). This is why the martyrs under the heavenly alter were not out of line when they cried out to God saying: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10).
The word “vengeance” at first seems to be incompatible with God’s revealed nature which is love. Vengeance as we commonly understand it is a personal vendetta where an individual becomes obsessed with getting back at someone for an offense suffered. However, the Greek word often rendered “vengeance” is ekdikesis which is a composite of dikeo, meaning “justice.” The word ekdikesis would be better translated, “to fully execute justice.”
It is not for the offended individual to avenge himself, but rather he is told to leave vengeance (the full execution of justice) to God the Judge of all (Rom 12:19). God has also established governing authorities who are appointed to avenge evil (Rom 13:4; 1Pet 2:13-14), but we as individuals are not to act as vigilantes.
Those who think that God’s wrath and vengeance against evil and injustice is incompatible with His love fail to adequately contemplate what our fallen world would be like if God’s love were merely a passive tolerant “cruciform” love that simply says “peace be unto you” to a terrorist as he proceeds to blow up a building full of innocent victims. Paul poses the question: “Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?” (Rom 3:5-6).
Most of us know intuitively that a father who says that he loves his little daughter and yet would stand by passively while she is being raped in front of him doesn’t really love her at all. True love is angered by evil and takes appropriate action against the evildoer.
Jesus repeatedly presents God as avenging evil (Luke 13:3-5; 12:46-48, etc.). In the parable of the ungrateful servant who was forgiven a debt he couldn’t pay, only to turn around and refuse to forgive his neighbor a lesser debt, we see that God fully executes justice against those who refuse to forgive the offenses of others against them:
“And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matt 18:34-35)
So, when we say that Jesus reveals the Father we must be careful to give attention to all that Jesus says and does, rather than looking at Him through rose colored glasses or what Gregory Boyd refers to as the “magic eye” or the “cruciform hermeneutic” which they use to justify filtering out all parts of the Bible that do not fit the passive nonviolent love demonstrated by Jesus on the cross.
Jesus in His Second Coming
Jesus said that immediately after the Great Tribulation He will come again and gather His elect unto Himself, and then He will sit upon His throne and separate the sheep of the nations from the workers of iniquity (Matt 24:29,31; 25:31-32; 7:23). The sheep will be granted entrance into the life of the Millennial age (zoen aionion), but He will send the goats into eonian fire (pur aionion) or the correction of the age (kolasin aionion) (Matt 25:41,46) When Christ returns the nations will realize that their time of judgment has come and they will flee from Him:
“And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Rev 6:15-17)
I realize that many reading this blog may be Preterists and therefore believe that this was fulfilled in the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem. I present my arguments in favor of a Futurist understanding of the book of Revelation in my book, “Last Days – Past or Present.” However, for the subject at hand, one’s eschatology does not change the fact that both God the Father and God the Son are here presented in a non-cruciform manner, since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. They are no different now than they were in 70 A.D. Those who present a filtered incomplete image of Jesus and hence of the Father, will be in for a rude awakening in the day of reckoning, as will be their followers. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, also presents both the Father and the Son in a manner which could not be defined as cruciform by any stretch of the imagination. He said:
“it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 IN FLAMING FIRE TAKING VENGEANCE on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished (tino, “pay the penalty of”) with everlasting destruction (olethron aionion, “eonian destruction”) from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” (2Thess 1:6-10)
When Christ comes in the Day of the Lord, He will not appear a second time as the suffering Servant. He will come with power and great glory as Judge to execute justice, and as King to reign with a rod of iron (Matt 16:27; Rev 11:15; Rev 19:11,15-16). Many, failing to see the distinction between His first coming as the suffering Servant to give Himself a ransom for sin, and His final coming to judge and reign upon the earth with a rod of iron, think that His Second Coming (third for the Partial Preterist) will be similar in nature to His first coming.
When Jesus began His ministry, He went into the Synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath and read the portion in Isaiah 61, which described His ministry. However, He intentionally read only the part that referred to His earthly ministry in His first coming. He stood up to read. Then Luke says:
“And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.” (Luke 4:17-20)
It is not without significance that Jesus stopped mid-sentence and closed the scroll in Isaiah 61:2. In Isaiah the verse reads, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Why did Jesus close the scroll mid-sentence? It was obviously intentional, but what was His intention? Those who would apply a “cruciform hermeneutic” must say that Jesus was invalidating the second part of the verse since it presents Him as violent and judgmental. However, such reasoning is inconsistent with His statements such as “your word is truth,” and “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (Jn 10:35; 17:17). Also, just a few chapters earlier, in Isaiah 55:11, God said, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Therefore, it is unreasonable to argue that Jesus Himself was here setting aside or making void the very Scriptures that He said could not be broken.
The obvious reason that He stopped reading mid-sentence is because the first half of the verse referred to His first coming as the suffering Servant, whereas the second half referred to His Second Coming as Judge of the living and the dead and as King of kings and Lord of lords to execute justice and reign upon the earth (2Tim 4:1; Rev 11:15-18). The separation between His first and second comings was a mystery hidden until Israel had formally rejected Christ’s offer of the kingdom (Matt 23:37-39).
Even now, during this present Dispensation of Grace, we see Christ intervening in a non-cruciform manner, correcting and judging unrepentant sin within the churches. To the church of Thyatira Jesus said:
“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.” (Rev 2:20-23)
Here we see Jesus warning a prophetess and false teacher within the church whom He calls by the name of Jezebel, telling her that if she doesn’t repent of her false teaching and sexual immorality that He will afflict her with sickness and punish those who partake with her with great tribulation. He even warns He will kill her children if she obstinately persists in that lifestyle. Many who have given themselves over to sexual immorality fail to take into consideration the fact that the sicknesses that comes upon them as a result of their immorality can end up taking the lives of their own children.
To the careful student of the Word it is evident that there is no discontinuity between the God of the Old Testament and the God revealed in the person and teachings of Jesus or in the New Testament, including the book of Revelation.
I realize that the Jesus of the Bible is offensive to many in this present generation, but we must not for that reason shun from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-30). The true Jesus will always be a rock of offense to those who are unwilling to repent and submit to the Word. As Peter said:
“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, the stone which the builders rejected as become the chief cornerstone, 8 and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” (1 Peter 2:7-8)
Paul spoke of our time when he said:
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:2-5 cf. 2Thess 2:10-12)
Especially we as teachers of the Word of God have a tremendous responsibility to proclaim the whole counsel of God rather than trying to accommodate those who are unwilling to repent of their sins and obey God (Jas 3:1). We must avoid catering to those who are not receptive to the truth but simply heap to themselves teachers who will tickle their ears with convoluted nuances of truth and vain philosophy designed to take the edge off of the Word of God which is the sword of the Spirit. As Paul said:
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Col 2:8-10)
Today, perhaps more than ever before, we are seeing a generation that cannot endure sound biblical doctrine. Our generation has become one in which there is more knowledge than ever before, but it is a learning without ever coming to a knowledge of the truth (2Tim 3:7,8). Instead of becoming proficient in the Word of God they live on a steady diet of philosophy and the teachings of men who offer them new and novel twists which subvert the plain and obvious meaning of Scripture. They are more interested in traditions of men or what the Church Fathers had to say than what the Scriptures themselves say. The Emergent Church Movement actually adapts their beliefs to the changing cultural climate in order to accommodate the world, rather than confronting the changing culture with the timeless truths of God’s Word, calling men to repentance.
I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but at 70 years of age, after 50 years of being involved in church and ministry, just within the last few years I have witnessed a departure from the Bible – the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, on a scale I could have never imagined just 20 years ago when I left the civilized world to be a missionary in the Amazon jungle. We as Jesus’ followers need to return to the Jesus of the Bible. We need to put aside all the inflated convoluted rhetoric of philosophers and the empty deceit of teachers with their fancy nuances on words which deprive men of the truth. We should instead endeavor to become proficient in the Word of God. As the writer of Hebrews says, some of us have become dull of hearing:
“Concerning this subject we have much to say but it is hard to explain, since you have become sluggish in your hearing. 12 For now you ought to be teachers by this time, but you again need someone to teach you the fundamental principles of the words of God from the beginning and you have become needy of milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who shares milk is inexperienced in the teaching about righteousness, for he is a baby: 14 but solid food is for the mature saints, those who have exercised for themselves the senses that are trained by practice for distinguishing both good and evil.” (Heb 5:11-14)
Sadly, we now have a generation of giants in rhetoric and philosophy who are spiritual babes due to their neglect of the Bible and their lack of hunger for every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. What this generation needs is not more philosophy or more novel convoluted deconstructions of truth, but a renewed love of the truth and a renewed appetite for sound doctrine based upon a thoughtful and prayerful exegesis of the sacred text (2Tim 3:15).
 For a more detailed treatment of this subject see my book “The Triumph of Mercy.”