What about violence in the New Testament?

Some people think that the Old Testament God is very aggressive and violent, while the New Testament God and Jesus are peaceful, loving and kind.  

#  Superficially it looks like it.  

  • The fourth chapter of Genesis began with a murder and from there it deteriorated to such an extent that, ‘The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.’ 1 
  • Contrary to that, in the New Testament we meet a host of angels that sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.’ 2  That was when the Messiah, Jesus our Lord was born in Bethlehem.  However, initial observations can be misleading. 

#  Incidents of violence in the New Testament 

  • Herod killed the boys under two in Bethlehem and vicinity. 3
  • Pilate mixed the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices. 4  It refers to Passover pilgrims who were butchered by Roman troops in the temple while they sacrificed. 
  • Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul, the apostle) persecuted and killed Christians. 5

#  Death by crucifixion in the New Testament 

The treatment Jesus received before He was crucified typifies the violent times.  

  • He was cruelly subjected to flogging. 6  A crown of thorns was put on His head and struck into His skull with a staff. 7   They pulled out His beard and spit in His face, 8  mocked Him, 9 blindfolded and hit Him. 10  
  • Isaiah 53:14 explains, ‘Just as there were many who were appalled at Him [Jesus on the Cross] – His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness….’   

#  The slave revolt under Spartacus 11

  • It is an incident that is not recorded in the Bible.  By the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire ran almost on slave labor.  The Romans did not always treat their slaves with the respect a human being deserves.  Because of all the wars, the captives were used to construct buildings and other projects.  Most families had many slaves to serve them.  
  • Spartacus was a gladiator and escaped with others.  They had quite a few victories against the Roman armies, but were eventually defeated.  Although the whereabouts of Spartacus remains shrouded in mystery – whether he died in battle or not – 6,000 of the captured slaves were crucified.  
  • That explains why Jesus did not organise a revolt against the Roman Empire to free the slaves.  Thousand would have been killed.  Jesus came to save, not to destroy. 

#  The book of Revelation describes violence never seen before in human history.  

  • Jesus warned about the signs at the end of the age.  There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, blazing stars that fall on earth and destroy man and beast.  The book of Revelation graphically describes that destruction.  One can even call it, ‘The Book of Blood.’  
  • Although the calamities will be on an unprecedented scale, God will still desire to see men saved.  His mercy and grace to sinners is available to the very end: ‘Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people.’ 12

Conclusion

Will peace ever come?  Yes, when this age ends the eternal age will finally come.  Then the reign of the devil will end.  He will go in to his eternal jail.  All unbelievers and people who hated God will be removed and peace will ensue.  For the first time in human history there will be peace – for eternity.  God will have achieved His goal.

References

  1. Genesis 6:5  
  2. Luke 2:14  
  3. Matthew 2:16-18  
  4. Luke 13:1  
  5. Acts 22:4-5  
  6. Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15  
  7. Mark 15:17-19  
  8. Isaiah 50:6  
  9. Psalm 22:1-21  
  10. Mathew 26:67
  11. Spartacus, Wikipedia  
  12. Revelation 14:6

God’s wisdom celebrated in Easter

Easter goes back a long time.  After Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent (Satan) in the garden of Eden, God told the serpent,  ‘…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers: he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.’ 1

#  With that verse God declared that the devil, Satan, is our enemy.

He will do whatever he can to prevent us from obeying God and following his ways.  He will also try to do away with Jesus.  With the crucifixion, he rejoiced that he tortured and killed Jesus.  He did not understand God’s plan:  ‘…we speak of God’s secret wisdom…that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ 2

#  God was preparing a place for His people. 

“…as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’” 3   That refers to the wonderful new heaven and earth where God will be among His people eternally.

#  At Easter we celebrate Jesus’ victory over the serpent.

We remember the pain, agony and suffering Jesus went through to die for the sins of humanity.  But we celebrate God’s secret wisdom: the serpent thought he won the battle, but it was his downfall, ‘…Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised [eternal life], being through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.’ 4

Conclusion  

On Easter Friday, Jesus took the first step to help us re-enter Eden.  God’s plan of the Kingdom became possible by what Jesus did on the cross.  The message of a ‘King on a Cross’ sounds strange, yet it was the wisdom of God.  At Easter we celebrate the mercy and grace of God in Jesus for our benefit.   For that we glory and honour the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

References

  1. Genesis 3:15
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8
  3. 1 Corinthians 2:9
  4. Galatians 3:22
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