Urged to Destroy
Have you ever had the urge to destroy something, really break it and destroy it. I must admit that I have. This does not mean I am a violent or bent to meanness, but because of sin, there is this natural human urge to destroy something once in a while. Especially when we might be upset. Does God get upset and if so, does he have the urge to destroy?
In Christ’s life and teaching, God provided the complete and final means whereby every theory about Him can be tested. By this means, every interpretation of God’s behavior can be infallibly categorized as true or false. Thus, in Christ’s life we can explore the idea or concept and ask the question, Does God destroy those who defy Him? Or as these claims that state He does destroy erroneous?
While Christ was upon this earth, he showed no disposition to reach out in acts of punishment and destruction. This fact is shown not only through the consistency of His life and ministry, but even more pointedly in the instances wherein he was urged by His disciples to raise His hand and rain fire upon those who had turned against him.
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples, James and John saw this, they said, “Lord do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But he turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of Spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went to another village (Luke 9:51-56).
The Samaritans could have offered no greater insult to the Son of God. The offer of hospitality to a stranger is regarded in the east as being an obligation on all, and to refuse this is to indicate rejection of the worst kind. If ever, from the human point of view, a sin needed to be punished to teach a lesson of warning to all others, then this was it.
James and John were familiar with Old Testament history, and they thought they understood quite well the way in which God had dealt with similar offenses in the past. Therefore, they believed that they were asking Christ to do just what they were sure God would have done under the circumstances. Their misunderstanding of His character led them to expect Christ to endorse their suggestion.
If the disciples had been correct in their assessment of God’s character; if what they thought they understood Him as doing in the Old Testament had been what He really had done, then, because Christ did only as and what the Father did, He would have called down fire from heaven there and then. This would have been a splendid opportunity for Christ to show forth the character of God as the executioner of those who reveled against Him. Christ would have taken full advantage of such a splendid opportunity to show this aspect of God’s character.
But Christ would not even consider doing such a thing. Instead, He rebuked the disciples.
They were surprised to see that Jesus was pained by their words, and still more surprised as His rebuke fell upon their ears, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And He went to another village (The Desire of Ages, p 487).
Christ did not use this opportunity to show forth the Father as an executioner because that is not God’s character. But this does not mean that He missed the chance of revealing the Father. Far from it. This was a golden opportunity to do so, and He made the most of it.
He instructed His followers that the course they proposed sprang from a spirit foreign both to Him and His Father. Such a spirit and its fruit, not being found in the divine nature, found its source in Satan’s heart. It was his way, not God’s, to destroy those who failed to serve him.
Having denied identification with the spirit, Christ reiterated what He had come to do. Close attention should be paid to what He said with care taken not to read into it what He did not say. Explicitly, He declared, “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
He did not say, “The son of Man came to save all who will be saved and then to destroy the remainder.”
But this is what the saviour would have had to say if the accepted view of God’s ways based on the Old Testament is correct. Furthermore, He would have been obligated to demonstrate the veracity of His words by destroying every Samaritan whose rejection of Him was final. But he neither spoke such works nor performed such actions.
Instead, with great plainness, He said, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives.”
When Christ said that he did not come to destroy people’s lives, we can be assured of the absolute reliability of those words. Therefore, we can know that He did not destroy when He came. Further, inasmuch as He did only what the Father did then we can know that the Father does not come to destroy us. Christ came only to save. Likewise, the Father comes to us as Saviour and Saviour only.
It is no part of Christs mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, that seek to compel the conscience. Under the pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederate with evil angels bring suffering upon their fellow men, in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever showing mercy, ever seeking to win by revealing of His love. He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love. There can be no more conclusive evidence that we possess the spirit of Satan then the disposition to hurt and destroy those who do not appreciate our work, or who act contrary to our ideas. (the Desire of Ages, P. 487).
The Samaritans did not appreciate Christ’s work, and they certainly acted contrary to His ideas. Had he shown the least disposition to hurt or destroy them, He would have given the strongest evidence that He possessed the Spirit of Satan. It was because He did not possess the spirit that He did not show any such disposition.
If we project this principle back to the Father’s behavior, the same conclusions must be maintained. Let the popular concept of God’s character be tested.
It is true that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah did not appreciate the works of God, and they certainly acted contrary to His ideas. Consequently, popular theology declares that God destroyed them by raining fire down upon them. In the light of the statement quoted above, if this is true, then God provided all with convincing evidence that he was actuated with the spirit of the devil.
There is no other conclusion that can be drawn but this?
The stand made by Christ against His apostles in the matter of the Samaritans is a valuable revelation of His utter refusal to be involved in any kind of punitive work of destruction. He made it quite clear that such had no part with Him and, and therefore, no part with His Father in heaven. The life of Christ utterly denies the idea that God destroys anyone for any reason.
Let the case of the wasted fig tree be considered first.
This occurred very late in Christ’s ministry. Just a few days before the last Passover. He had ridden triumphantly into Jerusalem. This was an act of final appeal to the Jewish leaders, their rejection of which placed them beyond any further hope of deliverance. He spent the night in Bethany and the next morning returning to the temple.
On the way, He passed a fig orchard. He was hungry, “and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if happily He might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of the figs was not yet.”
It was not the season for ripe figs, except in certain localities; and on the highlands about Jerusalem it might truly be said, “The time of gifs was not yet.” But in the orchard to which Jesus came, one tree appeared to be in advance of all the others. It was already covered with leaves. It was the nature of the fig tree that before the leaves open, the growing fruit appears. Therefore this tree in full leaf gave promise of well-developed fruit. But its appearance was deceptive. Upon searching its branches, from the lowest bough to the topmost twig, Jesus found “nothing but leaves.” It was a mass of pretentious foliage, nothing more.
Christ uttered against it a withering curse. “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever,” He said. The next morning, as the Saviour and His disciples were again on their way to the city, the blasted branches and dropping leaves attracted their attention. “Master,” said Peter, “behold, the fig tree which Thou cursed is withered away”
Jesus looked upon the pretentious, fruitless fig tree, and with mournful reluctance pronounced the words of doom. And under the curse of an offended God the fig tree withered away. God help His people to make an application of this lesson while there is still time.
The strong words in these statements are “uttered against it a withering curse,” and “Under the curse of an offended God.”
Now, pause and ponder what kind of picture these words call before your mind. Practically anyone will find that this is what they see. The unabated spirit of rejection and apostasy on the part of the children of Israel had brought God to the point where He became offended, indignant, wrathful, infuriated, and judgmental. So He cursed the fig tree whose pretentious foliage was a symbol of the Jews’ hypocrisy. This act of cursing is seen as a direct sending forth of the stream of death from God to the tree. In other words, God thus appears as the one who specifically decides what the fate of the tree will be and then administer judgment on the tree.
The Scriptures emphasize that God’s ways are different from the ways of men. So we need to take a deeper look at what Christ really did there at the fig tree, for we cannot be satisfied with the popular view.
The disciples were surprised as we see in the book on the Life of Christ, The Desire of Ages;
Christ’s act in cursing the fig tree had astonished the disciples. It seemed to them unlike His ways and works. Often they had heard Him declare that He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. They remembered His words, “The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” Luke 9:56. His wonderful works had been done to restore, never to destroy. The disciples had known Him only as the Restorer, the Healer. This act stood alone. What was its purpose? They questioned?
The truth of what Christ did is spelled out in the following statement. God “delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18). “’As I live’, says the Lord God, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked’” (Ezekiel 33:11). To Him the work of destruction and denunciation of judgment is an “unusual act” (strange work (KJV)) (Isaiah 28:21). But it is in mercy and love that He lifts the veil from the future and reveals to men the results of a course of sin.
The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable, or parable acted out in reality. The barren tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation. The Saviour desired to make plain to His disciples the cause and the certainty of Israel’s doom. For this purpose He invested the tree with moral qualities, and made it the expositor of divine truth. The Jews stood forth distinct from all other nations, professing allegiance to God. They had been specially favored by Him, and they laid claim to righteousness above every other people. But they were corrupted by the love of the world and the greed of fain. They boasted of their knowledge, but they were ignorant of the requirements of God and were full of hypocrisy. Like the barren tree, they spread their pretentious branches aloft, luxuriant in appearance, and beautiful to the eye, but they yielded “nothing but leaves.” The Jewish religion, with its magnificent temple, its sacred altars, its mitered priest and impressive ceremonies, was indeed fair in outward appearance, but humility, love and benevolence were lacking.
Jesus had come to the fig tree hungry, to find food. So he had come to Israel hungering to find in them the fruits of righteousness. But love to God and man was eclipsed by pride and self-sufficiency. They brought ruin upon themselves by refusing to minister to others. The treasures of truth which God had committed to them, they did not give to the world. In the barren tree they might read both tier sin and its punishment. Withered beneath the Saviour’s curse, standing forth sere and blasted, dried up by the roots, the fig tree showed what the Jewish people would be when the grace of God was removed from them. Refusing to impart blessing, they would no longer receive it. “O Israel,” the Lord says, “Thou hast destroyed thyself” Hosea 13:9 (the Desire of Ages, pp. 582, 583).
Thus Christ’s act was a prophecy. He was declaring in advance just what was going to happen to the Jewish nation. In order for the prophecy to be accurate, Christ had to do to the fig tree exactly what He would do to Jerusalem. Prophecy is valueless if it is not accurate.
It is a principle that a prophecy is never fully understood until it has been fulfilled. Jesus indicated this in these words.
“And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe (John 14:29).
Knowing this, we find that there is an obvious advantage in that we have both the prophecy and the fulfillment of the parable of the cursed fig tree. The prophecy was made by Christ just prior to His crucifixion, and the fulfillment took place when Jerusalem fell in CE (AD) 70.
What took place in the fulfillment is very clear. As already noted in our study God did not personally decree the nature of the punishment that should and did befall the Israelites. Instead, He sorrowfully and reluctantly submitted to their insistent demands that He leave them to their own way, thus exposing them to whatever potential destruction was nearest to them. It proved in this case to be the enraged Romans who, freed of any restriction imposed by God’s presence, were able to wreak their vengeance upon the unsheltered Jews.
In order, then, for Christ to reveal in prophecy what He would do in its fulfillment, He had to do the same in prophecy. Therefore, Christ simply withdrew His presence from the tree, leaving it exposed to whatever plague, blight, or other destructive force was waiting to consume it.
Some may say that it must have been very convenient for a destructive power to have been overshadowing that particular tree so that it would serve Christ’s purpose when He withdrew his protective power from it. But only those who do not appreciate the fact that a thousand unseen dangers are lurking over us and all of nature every moment of the day would adopt such a view. It would not matter from what point or quarter the Lord was to withdraw His protection. Destruction would come flooding in, in some form or the other. If we were more aware of this, we would maintain a spirit of gratitude and dependence toward God far in excess of that which we now display.
In this particular case the attack came at the roots of the tree, for the Scriptures expressly say, “Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.” (Mark 11:20).
Note also that it was not until the next day that the effects of the withdrawing of the Creator’s sustaining and protecting presence were apparent, whereas we would expect that if the Lord struck the tree with His own direct power, as so many suppose, He did, then the tree would have instantly been blasted as if struck with lightening. But it was not so.
Thus the evidence is clear for those who will dig a little deeper that Christ did not strike the tree any more than He struck the Jews in the fall of Jerusalem when the prophecy was fulfilled. Thus is removed any possible reference to this even as an example of Christ using force or engaging in an act of destruction.
Let us now examine the driving out of the moneychangers and traffickers in the courtyard of the temple. Once again, the casual and superficial view of this incident is that Jesus drove these men out by force, but a careful study reveals another picture altogether. Here is the Scripture record of it: “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise! Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (John 2:13-17).
The natural human tendency is to interpret the words, “He drove them out,” in the same way as they would be understood if used to describe human behavior. No greater mistake could be made for the ways of God as revealed in Christ’s life are so different from out ways. Christ drove them out; it is true. But he did not do so as a human would do it by dependence on physical power or force. Let there be a continual reminder that “compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order” (The Desire of Ages, p. 759).
Therefore, compelling power or the use of physical force to achieve obedience is never found under God’s government. Inasmuch, then, as Christ was fully under God’s government, even being the perfect expression of that government, no physical force was ever used by Him to achieve obedience. So Christ did not drive those men out as others would have driven them out. He did not do it by physical force at all.
A little thought would show the infeasibility of His attempting to do it by physical force. He was only one man pitted against a considerable number of wily, hardened opponents. They were men whose souls were calloused with the sinful traffic of extortion. They feared no man on earth and would think nothing of resorting to physical violence to preserve their treasured gains.
So how did He do it? Christ stood before them that day in the role of the eternal and righteous Judge. Those men knew that He was reading the closely guarded secrets of their lives. They were conscious that his eyes were seeing beneath the pretentious garments of righteousness with which they had sought to cover the sickness of their sin-diseased souls.
The sinner cannot stand such examination. One compelling desire fills him – fleeing in abject terror from the presence of the Righteous One.
The truth of this is laid out in these words: And why did the priests flee from the temple? Why did they not stand their ground? He who commanded them to go was a carpenter’s son, a poor Galilean, without earthly rank or power. Why did they not resist Him? Why did they leave the gain so ill acquired, and flee at the command of One who outward appearance was so humble?
Christ spoke with the authority of a king, and in His appearance, and in the tones of His voice, there was that which they had no power to resist. At the word of command they realized, as they had never realized before, their true position as hypocrites and robbers. When divinity flashed through humanity, not only did they see indignation on Christ’s countenance; they realized the importance of His words. They felt as if before the throne of the eternal Judge, with their sentence passed on them for time and for eternity (The Desire of Ages, p. 162)
It was the awful power of burning condemnation that drove those men from the presence of Christ. They could not endure it. No human being ever can. God does not need to raise a single finger of physical power to drive them away. When the time comes that He must stand before them in that role, they will do nothing else but flee.
Thus we need to have no misgivings of the perfection of the revelation of God in Christ. Throughout His life Christ made no concessions whatsoever to the principles of Satan’s character. Flawlessly He showed that “God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown. He came to reveal God as a Saviour and a Saviour only, and He did it to perfection. There is not a single instances in Christ’s life in which any other character but this is shown. Christ’s life exposes the lie that God destroys the impenitent. He does not do this but rather leaves them to their own desires.
If any person in the world could see God in Christ with the understanding that Christ gave a full and undimmed revelation of the Father; if they could know that “all that man needs to know or can know of God has been revealed in the life and character of His Son” they would reject every concept that sees God as One who rises up and destroys those who are disobedient.
May the Lord Open your eyes to see God as He is to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ, “the Word of God – God’s thought made audible” (The Desire of Ages p 19).
In our next post we will explore: What does it mean when we say the law is holy and perfect as God is holy and perfect?
Does God expect us to keep the law differently than He keeps it?
What is Satan’s educational system teach about the law, through storytelling in novels and moves?
Is it ever right that the law should be broken in order to uphold it?
If you have not had the opportunity to read the other posts in this series I invite you to click on the links below.