Days of Vengeance

temple-destruction

When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near… because these are days of vengeance. (Luke 21:20-23)

When prophesying about the fall of Jerusalem, Jesus referred to the days of vengeance. But whose vengeance was it? Why was it brought about? And what does it mean for us?

Many theologians say it was divine vengeance. Eusebius, the church historian, wrote that the Jews met “with destruction at the hands of divine justice.” John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople, said the Jews experienced “wrath from God intolerable.”

It’s a shocking tune yet there are many who sing it. Following these two ancient writers, many theologians have added their voices to the chorus of condemnation. In fact, this notion of divine punishment is now so widely accepted, it even appears in some Bible translations:

This is the time when God will punish Jerusalem (Luke 21:22, NIrV)

Talk about adding to the Bible!

According to some theologians and Bible translators, days of vengeance means “days of God’s punishment of the Jews.” But God did not punish Jerusalem, the Romans did. God good, Romans bad. Sure, Jerusalem had heaped up its sins, but those sins were punished on the cross in AD30 and not in AD70.

On the cross, the Son of God did away with all sin, including the sins of those who put him there. So it is inconceivable that God punished the Jews. They certainly experienced days of vengeance, but it was not divine vengeance any more than the Nazi Holocaust was divine vengeance.

The Roman destruction of Israel unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism that has continued for 20 centuries. This evil is fueled, in part, by racist theology from Christians who ought to know better, such as Adam Clarke:

God visited and avenged the innocent blood of Christ upon the Jews and they continue to be monuments of his displeasure to the present day.

This anti-Semitic nonsense should be vigorously resisted by everyone, and especially those who follow Christ. Jesus did not slaughter the Jews. Nor did he slit their bellies looking for swallowed gems. If you must blame someone for these atrocities, blame the Romans.

When Jesus speaks of armies, vengeance, and wrath in Luke 21, he is referring to Roman armies, Roman vengeance and Roman wrath. It’s the “great distress” of a small nation being squashed by a vengeful empire.

These are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled… (Luke 21:22)

The “days of vengeance” phrase is a reference to the “things which are written.” Jesus is alluding to calamities foretold by the prophets.

Prophecies about Jerusalem’s fall

Centuries before it happened, the prophet Isaiah spoke of siege works and battle towers being raised against Jerusalem (Is 29:2-4). Long before some Roman put an eagle on a pole, Moses spoke of a besieging nation coming “as the eagle swoops down” (Deu 28:49-53). The coming siege would be so dire, said Moses, that parents would eat their children. Asaph said the blood would run like water (Ps 79:1-4), while Micah predicted that the city would become a heap of ruins (Mic 3:9-12).

All these prophecies were fulfilled in AD70.

The Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming days of vengeance that would be inflicted by Israel’s enemies, but they also spoke of a coming day of vengeance, which is something else altogether.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God. (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Jesus began his ministry in a synagogue by reading these words (see Luke 4:18-19). However, Jesus did not quote the last part of the passage. He left off the bit about the day of God’s vengeance.

“Exactly. Jesus began his ministry to the Jews by preaching favor, but he ended in Luke 21 by declaring vengeance.”

Except the vengeance of Luke 21 is Roman vengeance, not divine vengeance. There is a difference.

Roman vengeance involves armies, wrath and great distress. In contrast, the divine vengeance Jesus spoke of brings liberty and freedom. One is bad news, the other is good news. Thus the days of manmade vengeance can be contrasted with the single day of divine vengeance,

Human versus divine vengeance. One is frightening, the other is good. We will take a closer look at these two types of vengeance in the next post.

___________

Extracted from chapter 22 Paul’s new book AD70 and the End of the World.

46 Comments on Days of Vengeance

  1. Thomas Morse // March 2, 2017 at 1:39 am // Reply

    Excellent Paul. Thank you!

  2. I agree with you that that God did not punish Jerusalem in 70 AD. I believe God is nonviolent. He warns people about bad things, but He doesn’t do bad things. Believers sometimes confuse God with Satan. Jesus represented his unchanging Father exactly, and confronted a false bipolar view of his Father in John 10:10—“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

    The Bible is part of a progressive revelation of a good God, and so it must be read by the Spirit, not by the letter, in order to see that God is not violent or bipolar.

    I associate the “anti-Semitic nonsense” you refer to with the increasingly popular “dominionism” viewpoint. Dominion theology promotes the idea that we Christians should gradually position ourselves to take over the world for Christ. Most dominionists are postmillennial or amillennial in their eschatology, and believe we must do this in order for Christ to be able to return to earth and reign over what we have prepared for him here. However, while I think it is fine for Christians to hold jobs in government and other areas of society, “bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth” is not our commission. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. He will set up his own kingdom when he returns, thank you very much.

  3. This is the most profound truth I have ever read on this verse, such clarity and grace, thanks Paul… You have paved the way for so many truths to finally come together…

  4. jvtravels15 // March 2, 2017 at 2:36 am // Reply

    Thank you!! Explains so much.

  5. Brandon Petrowski // March 2, 2017 at 4:03 am // Reply

    Good stuff, well said Paul.

  6. And all the people answering said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Matt 27:25
    So the Jews cursed themselves and their children. Yes if they had repented all the curses would have been absolved on the cross. However they did not. SO was this horror brought by them or Satan working in them? Does not God allow these things to happen? Is not God in control of His Universe? All men have free will, but do they really if everythings is part of Gods plan. I see that there is a difference in Gods “thelema” His will and God’s plan “boule”. The will of God is in a way subordinate to His Plan (ultimate intention), or Blueprint of History. This raises the most basic question about the justice of God, because that death imposed upon us outside our will is the root cause of all personal sins after Adam’s original sin. The Children are not responsible for the sins of the fathers. People are free to sin, but there are consequences. IN the plan all things work out. But are we not disciplined by the results of our sins? If so is it for sanctifying our souls?
    Is that the reason that bad things happen? God sees thing from an Eternal perspective and all things work out in the end, even our sanctification.

    • This is not so much about the Jews cursing their kids with their rash words, but the undeniable fact that sin has consequences.

    • Carole Rosenfarb // March 2, 2017 at 1:46 pm // Reply

      Isn’t amazing that as the Jews cried out, ” His blood be upon us and upon our children”, the Holy Spirit knew the deeper meaning of that, allowing Saul to turn into Paul, all the early leaders being Jewish, etc. As a Jew, I’m so grateful that His blood was and always will be upon me and my children! There is no safer place to be!

  7. This is good, it’s very important to understand this correctly! From your statement of “Jerusalem had heaped up its sins, but those sins were punished on the cross in AD30 and not in AD70.” This suggests a penal substitution theory, but it may not have been what you meant? In my understanding, that still says God’s anger had to be appeased, so my question is; in your view, was that the purpose for the cross? If I’ve understood your teaching, I think you would say it was more about restoring our innocence to the state Adam was created in by removing sin’s power over mankind, by absorbing it all and dying it away. I wanted to be clear on your thoughts about penal substitution.

    • The Lamb of God carried the sins of the whole world on the cross, including yours and mine. Romans 8:3 tells us that God condemned sin in the flesh, meaning he dealt with sin once and for all. More here.

    • “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom 8:3, NKJV) That word “condemned” is katakrinō. But Thayer’s includes this alternate definition for katakrinō: “By one’s good example to render another’s wickedness the more evident and censurable.”

      Are you familiar with the “Christus Victor” theory of the Atonement? In contrast to the traditional Penal Substitution Theory, the idea seems to be that it was actually SATAN’S wrath being poured out on Christ at the cross, not God’s. Christus Victor is related to the Ransom Theory, with the idea that “redeeming” means “buying back.”  Satan offered all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus, “in an instant” ( Lk 4:5)–without Jesus contradicting his right to do so at that time.

      Recall the discussion of a property deed scroll in Jeremiah 32.  That passage helps our understanding of how a kinsman could buy back land by paying the purchase price. The sealed book could then be delivered to the original owner, or the heir.  The heir could, at his convenience, break the seals, and, with the open scroll as his authority, take possession of the land—by force, if necessary. 

      So, as to the Second Coming, the final process of evicting Satan begins when the Lamb starts breaking those seals on the title deed (Rev. 6).

  8. Robert kinyua // March 2, 2017 at 5:29 am // Reply

    Everyone’s good God ought to sound this way.Thanks paul

  9. Is it possible that God’s wrath was on the ‘system’ rather than on the individual. God’s plan was to do away with the temple, and sacrifice and priests etc… as Jesus had become the Temple. So i am just wondering if its a case of God working all things together for our good…. sort of thing. Yes, it was the Romans, and Jews were not being punished. It has been said that not one Christian Jew perished that heeded Jesus warning to flee the city. To stay there was starvation and death. So the way I see it, is that 70AD was part of God’s plan to usher fully in the New Covenant, but he used what was happening as part of that plan. Do you agree Paul?

    • I don’t. The notion that God judged the religious system and that those who clung to it were doomed to die with it is a 20th-century spin on the ancient view that God slaughtered the Jews. It has zero support in scripture. Yes, God redeems and works things together for good. No, God was not an accessory to genocide. Josephus certainly believed God was an assistant to the Roman cause, but I do not. (As far as I can tell, I am the only one who has said this in 2000 years, so if you disagree with me you have plenty of company.)

      Any transition from the old to the new took place during the three years of Christ’s ministry. Just as Ishmael (representing the old) and Isaac (the new) lived together for 2-3 years, so did John (the last OT prophet) and Jesus (Malachi’s messenger of the new covenant). The new covenant was fully in place the moment Christ died and rose from the dead.

      I talk at length about the transition and the obsolete OC in the book.

  10. I never saw the relation before between Ishmael/Isaac & John/Jesus. Good teaching, Paul.

  11. A perfect human judge doesn’t act or speak from anger or jealousy, shows no favouritism to his relatives nor distain towards their enemies, and doesn’t disqualify any accusation before hearing the charge. Most men operate from their emotions and are partial and passionate and so we lean towards interpreting decisions made by judges as motivated by the judges own passions.
    Accusers can be motivated by anger, vengeance or jealousy, and a judge will rule in his favour regardless of the motive IF the accused cannot make a proper defence. The full weight of the law will apply and we would call the whole process “justice”. Men image that anger and retribution motivated the judge and wrongly say, “The Judge was angry”.
    I try to understanding all vengeful, wrathful, retributive and judicial actions written in the “Word” to be the result of accusations initiated by Satan. Our God has from the beginning provided legal covenants to guard us from prosecution and the justice that follows. Maybe these covenants’ only strength was to give man reason to trust in God, or maybe they are actually legal mechanisms. Regardless of which you favour, God does not accuse, is not angry, does not kill steal or destroy, on the contrary, he provides a councillor and an advocate to save, restore and teach in a time of trouble. In the absence of an accuser neither does God accuse, “go and sin no more”.
    I think what happened in Jerusalem was failure to understand where the legal protection was.

  12. Exactly Richard.
    But does not all mankind’s messups fit into the total plan of God? When Adam sinned it was not Gods will but maybe His plan. When they crucified Christ it was not God’s will but it was part of His plan (the Mystery) see Cor 1 Cor 2:8. And what about the verses that a just God by the law did not hold children responsible for their fathers actions. see Ez 18:20 and Deut 24:16. Yet we and all creation and Adams children suffer death from Adams mistake. God had to intervene and have a second Adam save us by His blood. All who accepted Him that is. Yet we still are dying in this world for the effects of our father Adam. God seems to have an over all plan and all things work together in the end for good in His plan for those in Christ. God doesn’t judge us but we judge our selves by our own sins. But doesn’t all of it fit into an over all plan in the end? God may not interfere but He sees all from before the foundations. But no matter what the devil does or we do Gods got it covered in Christ. There is seeming injustice but read the end of the story and it turns out all good.

  13. The big plan has limiting factors, to the extent these limits are covered the plan proceeds.

    I’ll say that nothing proceeds without Faith, and, that I understand Faith as “the knowledge of relationship” and works of Faith as “our response to that relationship”.
    e.g Abraham knew the relationship between the one God who spoke to him and Gods’ ability to perform what he said, Abrahams’ life and actions responded to that knowledge. e.g The centurion knew the relationship between the words of one in authority and compulsory implications of those words. Jesus said he had great Faith. . .he had a great knowledge of the relationship of Jesus words and the inevitable outcome of words spoken by one in authority. e.gThe syrophoenician women understood the relationship between a dogs position and its ability to eat crumbs. “you’re awesome, such a great knowledge of relationship” said Jesus.

    Faith has a limiting factor, Faith works by Love.

    If Israel had failed to respond to the instructions to collect manna there would have been problems, God had made a provision and they needed to take it up.
    If Israel failed to understand the relationship between the bronze snake lifted up and their snake problems there would have been death.
    If Israel disregarded the function of the tabernacle their sin would stand and Satan’s accusations would stand also. Death would follow
    The tabernacle system was made obsolete by the once and for all sacrifice. Jesus become Gods’ provision and they needed to move under it.

    For lack of knowledge my people perish, and so Faith has another limiting factor.

  14. When reading commentary about God’s vengeance I am reminded of Isa 54.17

    ““Behold, I have created the blacksmith
    Who blows the coals in the fire,
    Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
    And I have created the spoiler to destroy.”

    Does anyone with insight have a view on this verse? I would genuinely love to know how it could be interpreted? Does it only apply under law?

    • The gist of Isaiah 54 is how God will protect and shield his people from harm so that “you will have nothing to fear” (v.14). In contrast with false prophets who attribute man’s vengeance to the Lord, God says, “If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing” (v.15).

      The Lord promises that “no weapon forged against you will prevail” (v.17), but how can he say this? Isaiah 54:16 tells us: “Behold, I myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin.”

      Just as the smith is greater than the weapon he made, so the Lord is greater than the smith he made.

      The Creator is surely able to protect us from his creations, whether they are smithies (weapons makers) or destroyers (weapons users).

    • Paul has a previous post titled, “Isaiah 45:7 – Does the Lord Create Evil?” (“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”)

      As I mentioned in my comment there, the Bible is part of a progressive revelation, “reflective of the human mediators’ growing understanding of his [God’s] character, will, and gracious saving purposes in Scripture.”

      As my friend Richard Murray has said,

      “Old Testament saints wrongly included Satan in their functional definition of God. Whenever there was temptation, destruction, wrath, and death, all activities which the New Testament would later assign to Satan, the Old Testament would instead attribute these destructions to God Himself. They would not pray against the wiles of the devil, the way the New Testament instructs, but would rather beg God to stay His own wrathful hand. Satan was nowhere in their causative equation. God was the ONLY cause of both good and evil.

      The New Testament, by contrast, DIFFERENTIATES the identities of God and Satan totally. What is joined at the conceptual hip in the Old Testament is separated and forever severed in the New. Jesus, it could be argued, IS the DYNAMIC DIFFERENTIATION of God’s image from Satan’s image. He is the refining fire which burns all the unworthy attributes the Old Testament God out and away from the pure and perfect divine nature.”

      Our Father was, is, and always will be, “only good, all the time.”

  15. AGREED PAUL! I have fuelled my faith for decades on ISA 54 and I know its assurances to be absolutely true to me personally and indeed to each of us (thank God!), but never fully understood that verse. Thank you!

  16. The Muslim nations, will invade Israel according to Exzekiel 38:1-17, but with the return of the Jewish nation from the four corners of the world as I have witnessed and many others; as stated: Isaiah 11:11-12, thanks to Christ finish work and Christ alone, they cannot be destroyed. Yes, there are false Jews that God will cause to fall down at our feet as his word stated and they are everywhere; especially in the media; but we have Christ and Christ alone to thank for unwavering grace to all; the clause is, if you don’t accept his offer of salvation, when your time is up, you will like wise perish. Grace is grace and yes, the Jews will get there…..eventually cuz future tense, they will reject the Antichrist and they will return back to God and receive Yeshua Zechariah 12:10 Romans 11:25-27

    • richard elson // March 8, 2017 at 12:30 pm // Reply

      I spent half a Lifetime thinking I was saved because of who and what I rejected.
      I did find that only after I rejected myself as the solution to my problems I could plainly see Jesus as my champion.
      I think the Jews will be the same.

      I am only now starting to imagine how the God (who loves his enemies and forgives those who wrong him) will deal with the future events described so violently in the Bible.

      • Adriaan Hattingh // March 8, 2017 at 7:20 pm //

        “I spent half a Lifetime thinking I was saved because of who and what I rejected.
        I did find that only after I rejected myself as the solution to my problems I could plainly see Jesus as my champion.”
        You put exact words to my experience! Thanks Richard

      • Like you, I have gone through serious changes in my Christian beliefs. I now recognize God never was, is, or will be violent; nevertheless, my understanding of end-times Bible prophecy remains premillennial. I still believe in a future Antichrist, Rapture, and Tribulation.

        I now see the Bible as part of a progressive revelation (reflective of the human mediators’ growing understanding of God’s loving character), and see that both in the Scriptures, and in the Church today, believers sometimes confuse God with Satan.

        As to the violent events depicted in some of the end-times prophecies: when Satan is being evicted, he will not go quietly. Satan is the one who sheds men’s blood. God WARNS about bad things, but He never DOES bad things.

        The book of Job shows Satan kills with sickness (“boils”), with nature (“a great wind”), with violent men (“Sabeans with swords”), and with supernatural power (“fire from heaven”). Satan is a master assassin who kills a million different ways. Some Old Testament people wrongly believed he was at the command of God.

        But in the New Testament, we get a significantly different picture. Hebrews 2:14-15 reveals that Satan, “the devil,” is the one with “the power of death,” not God. Jesus’ purpose in bearing the cross was to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Jesus ascended the cross in order to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”

      • I’m working my way through the implications of a non violent God. I know i my Father is correctly described as loving, forgiving, and nonviolent. Can you help me understand the instructions given to Israel to take the “promised Land”. I wonder if Israel were to take it by force?

      • Richard, I know it flies in the face of what we have always been taught (and believed), to now maintain that God is nonviolent. But violence and death are not God’s way. He is, unchangingly, a loving Daddy. The only variation regarding Him is how people perceive Him—including the prophets who wrote the Bible. Then, as now, people sometimes confuse God with Satan, who IS violent. But Jesus made the distinction between his Father and the enemy in John 10:10. There, he says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

        In this verse, it certainly looks like God is only about LIFE, but that the devil is about DEATH. And we know that God considers death an enemy: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Corinthians 15:26. Blessings.

      • Thanks Kevin, Totally agree with your direction. I have been able to re-understand so many scriptures that describe God as angry and retributive, and I now see that the accuser has brought accusations to God the judge for his judgement. . . meanwhile, here on earth men have only perceived that God was angry with them after the judgement from a holy judge has been “guilty”. All through history where unholy men have taken up the protection God has legally instituted, they have been impossible to bring the full weight of the law against. Even “Mercy” is a legal response.

        Men can only receive mercy when they stand before a judge and “agree with their accuser”, that is, to offer no excuse, and say to themselves and to God the judge, “i’m guilty as charged”.
        Only then can a judge offer Mercy. If men offer any hint of an excuse they must be judged against the law.

        When Israel entered the land God gave to them I’m sure and certain my Father didn’t say to kill people. The fact that they did judge the people who lived there came back to bit them, and a few hundred years later the judgement they had used against the occupying people was measured back against them. I’m thinking this was Jesus’ main point in Matt 7 . . .don’t judge lest you be judged. The only clue I can see to explain Gods hopes and intentions for Israel to receive the promise land came from the angel that Joshua met. when Joshua asked “are you for us or against us”.
        The answer was a anti nationalistic “neither”. It seems God was not against the people in Canaan, and that I can believe.

        I would have thought that after 40 years of walking in the wilderness might have learned more about themselves, or that there might be more clues to describe Gods true nature.

  17. Hope this not universalism, all sins were dealt with at the cross of Christ. But it hinges on our acceptance of it for salvation. Sadly the Jews rejected Christ and opened themselves up to the devices of the devil. I’m against anti-Semitism and all who hate the Jews are not Christians, not matter what they claim, because Jesus himself is a Jew, all the apostles and even the early church is comprised of Jewish believers.

    • The gospel of grace declares what God has done. It says nothing about what man might do in response, so no, it’s not universalism.

    • Wait, friends. As an “Evangelical Universalist,” I too believe an individual MUST be born again in order to be saved from hell, and to enter heaven. And yes, I believe in a literal hell, followed by a literal Lake of Fire. These are terrible places, to be avoided at all costs. The dividing question is: “Is hell a never-ending torture chamber, as commonly believed, or limited in time, and for corrective purposes?” …

      • Please note I don’t normally publish comments that are unrelated to the article being discussed. This one should probably go under one of the many articles I’ve written on the subject of hell, such as this one. Thanks.

      • Okay, truth seekers everywhere: I will substantiate “Evangelical Universalism” in 250 words or less, over there 😉

  18. …Except I find “Comments are closed” over there…

  19. Paul I love your blog. I am trying to understand Romans…

    • Thanks for your question Lee. Please note I don’t normally publish comments unrelated to the articles being discussed. This is a perfect place to discuss vengeance, but questions about the law should go under one of the many law posts. Check out the Archives > Subject Index > Law or Living Under Law to find a relevant post. Thanks.

      • Paul I did go to scripture reference in your blog but there was no explanation re romans 4:15. sorry to bother you again.

      • No, but if you look up the Subject Index you will find plenty of law posts, and you may wish to join the discussion under one of these. Many of the questions posed by readers on this site get answered by other readers, but that only happens if you join a discussion of people talking about the subject you’re asking you about.

  20. The NIrV is a terrible translation.

  21. Mark A Perkins // March 27, 2017 at 9:40 pm // Reply

    When the love of God is out of balance with the justice of God we make Him too familiar. Spurgeon once told a man that his God was too human. If God is sovereign, then EVERYTHING that happens by either primary causes or secondary causes has the Almighty in control. Exodus 4:11 says God makes lame and blind. He sent the flood and judged many. To take away Gods hand of judgement and only use the positive verses is to fashion a God to our liking. God is God and he does what He pleases. (Psalm 115:3)

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