Does God have a hidden agenda? Is He a angry old man, not refraining from violence and warfare in the Old Testament, incarnated in Jesus Christ to spread love in the Gospels, and than having his finale opening the gates of hell, judging right and wrong and live with the happy few up in Heaven, once Revelations’ plagues are finished? If God is love, how can he send people to hell? Will people get a second chance, especially those who couldn’t hear the gospel and so never had a first chance to accept Him? What to make of the holy wars in the era after Moses and before king Saul and David? Is Christianity exclusive, or are there other ways to God as well?
Many of us fear God has some skeletons in the closet. Hell, judgment, and holy war are hot topics some preachers stay away from not to offend their audience, where others are that zealous that they pursue souls to win before it is too late. You don’t want to be left behind or sent to hell, will you? Joshua Ryan Butler dives into these tough questions and comes up with fresh answers, showing the integrity of both Old and New Testament, and God’s plan with heaven and earth. God seeks to reconcile heaven and earth from the destructive power of sin and hell. Rather than going up to heaven, heaven will come down. A wedding is going to take place, Jesus Christ the groom and the Church as His bride. A New Jerusalem will come down, with open gates. We are the part of the foundation, pillars. God cannot stand sin, so that remains outside the city, just like Gehenna (‘hell’) was outside Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is a garden city, consummating creation, a blessing for the people. The Old Testament notion of Hades or grave is just the grave, and not a (temporary) torture room of God. God’s skeletons, His creation, dead because of the penalty of sin, will be resurrected, restored and reconciled.
God is more patient than we are. He will topple empires, not roasting individual people. Our empire (rebellion, thinking we can do without God) must be gone. Die to ourselves, and resurrect with Him. Let His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Will we take God’s invitation seriously. The admittance to God’s city is free, yet it costs us everything. Resurrection is the raising of life that sin has destroyed, out of death and into the glorious presence of God.
The Old Testament serves as good reference to get a clear picture on the holy war language. God is about to restore His kingdom, and cast out evil empires. Satan is seen as the spirit of the empire, offering Jesus power over kingdoms, where the earth belongs to God. In our western thinking we distinguish secular and christian powers. Will we choose freedom from God or freedom for God? Like a puzzle pieces fit and show the larger image. God has no skeletons to hide, yet He raises dead bones and breathes life to restore humanity. The skeletons in God’s closet is a provoking book with fresh insights.
About the author
Joshua Ryan Butler serves as Pastor of Local and Global Outreach at Imago Dei Community, a church in the heart of Portland, Oregon, where he enjoys helping people who wrestle with the some of the tough topics of the Christian faith. Joshua oversees the church’s city ministries in areas like foster care, human trafficking and homelessness and develops international partnerships in areas like clean water, HIV-support and church planting. Joshua is also a worship leader who enjoys writing music for the life of the church. Joshua’s wife Holly and daughter Aiden enjoy spending time with friends over great meals and being a foster family for vulnerable children.