NT Part 9. The Rest of the Story
Have you ever wondered why a God who is supposed to be all powerful and all loving allows evil and violence and death and destruction in our world? In the midst of evils such as the holocaust, the intentional killing of the innocent through groups such as ISIS, the pandemics that attack many especially in third world countries, some have argued that
If God is good God certainly could not be all powerful, and
If God is all powerful then God could certainly not be good.
The response to this argument against God because of evil falls into the category of Theodicy, the attempted defense of God in the midst of these criticisms.
Interestingly, the Bible does not attempt to defend God. In essence the Bible says that God is sovereign, knows what is going on, and for some reason within God’s plan allows evil to exist at this time in human history. Yes, the Bible acknowledges a very real evil that not only infects humanity but also fights against the purposes of a holy and loving God.
So, if the Bible does not attempt to defend God who it says is sovereign, almighty, holy, and loving yet acknowledges the real activity of evil then how does it project to resolve this conflict?
Paul Harvey, a radio broadcaster from a previous generation, had a unique style as he presented news of the nation and the world. He also had a program where he took a known incident or person, worked backwards into history to reveal some unique and surprising facts which he always saved for the end of his presentation. Then, as the grand finally he would conclude by saying, “And now you know the rest of the story.”
A final part of “Why the ancient book of the Bible is relevant for humanity in the 21st Century” revolves around the topic of “The Rest of the Story.” Different from Paul Harvey’s version that reveals hidden facts from the past, the Bible gives prophetic words for the future. The simple message is, “The world you are presently experiencing is not the last word in God’s plan. God may not tell you why evil is allowed to exist but the Bible does tell of a day when God will put an end to its existence.”
The message of a Final Triumph over evil runs as a thread throughout the Bible. The words of hope found in Isaiah 2, 9, 11, 53 talk about a Messianic savior who will establish God’s kingdom. The Book of Daniel presents an ancient timeline for God’s activity. The Gospels tell us that Jesus spoke of the final days of evil’s work and of God’s ultimate triumph (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). The Apostle Paul talked about the final intervention of God, the removal of God’s people and the defeat of evil (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thess. 2; 2 Timothy 2). Of course the largest presentation of the defeat of evil and the establishment of God’s Rule is the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.
There are many people who have taken this biblical material and attempted to create a timeline of God’s plan to end evil and establish God’s kingdom. I am not one of those. I am simply reminded of what Jesus said to his disciples after the resurrection and just before he returned to heaven. They pressed him as to when God’s kingdom would come. He told them:
It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:7,8
So, if we are not to mess with guessing God’s time table, what are we supposed to do with the evil we see and the evil we experience in our world?
First we are called to endure. It is like aging. I am now 64 years old. My days of athletic competition are over. I remember the highs and lows. But, at this time in life my activities have changed dramatically. My body ‘ain’t’ what it used to be. I must endure the aging process even as I attempt to remain healthy and active. Life is a marathon and not a sprint.
This was Jesus’ message to his disciples in Matthew 25.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (12).
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father (36)… Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come (42).
Second there is action. We are not called upon to ‘endure’ passively. If God will ultimately triumph in his time for his purposes, and if Jesus is the proof that there is an eternity in which we shall live as God’s triumphant people, then we have the choice how we will live today. Will we allow the evil of this world to discourage us and overwhelm us or will we choose another path?
In the Lord’s Prayer we receive direction as to how we should live…the goal behind our actions. Jesus taught his followers to pray
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
We do not have to succumb to the evil of our day. We do not need to allow our world to rob us of God’s joy. Our commitment of action should be to live as if we are already in God’s kingdom because there will come a day when either through our physical death or Jesus’ physical return that evil’s day will be done and God’s Kingdom will come for ever.
Finally, we are to live as people of hope. Hope is not fantasy. Hope has foundation in reality. Our hope is based on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There were sects amongst the earliest Christians who were saying that we would not rise from death into eternal life with Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul confronted those people and said,
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But, Christ has indeed been raise from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (died) (19, 20).
We have hope that the evil in this world is not the final word because Jesus showed us the triumph of the righteous over that evil.
The earliest of Christians who faced evil against them in many forms had a saying: mara natha. Simply put it says, “Come, O Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:22). When the earliest of Christians shared holy communion, they had a saying which they added to the words of Jesus from the last supper. They said
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
The rest of the story is in the hands of God and there will be “The Rest of the Story!!” And so, with Christians from the earliest of times to 2 billion who live on our planet today we continue to say, “Come, O Lord” with the rest of our story and, until you do, we will endure, acts, and hope in accordance with the Kingdom of God where we will live for all eternity. Amen.