After 400 years of silence, God finally spoke again to Israel.
Hag 2:6-7 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the Desire of All Nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
Joh 1:1-3,14 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made....And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
Heb 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,
In the past, God had spoken to them about social justice. Why? Because they had decided they desired a work-based covenant with God (Exodus 19, 24). As such, social justice demands were placed upon them when they failed to be moral, ethical...righteous. Social justice demands were placed upon the kingdom and government of the nation of Israel for them to enforce morals and ethics, in accordance with the nations claims to works-based righteousness.
The prophet Daniel had declared that this nation had 490 years (70 weeks of days =490 years) to fulfill their obligation to God, as his chosen people. Daniel prophesied that they were to bring about everlasting righteousness and anoint the Most Holy. Then he said that the Messiah would confirm the covenant with them for 1 week. They were still the chosen people of God by virture of the the Sinaitic covenant of works for righteousness, which they made with God in accordance with their ignorance and arrogance and not God’s intention (see Exodus 19-24; Hebrews 8; Also see “God Gospel and Social Responsibility in the Old Testament: Ethics and Justice”, “God, Segregation and Integration Parts 1 and 2 ), and more importantly by virtue of the Abrahamic covenant which secure them as the people through which the Messiah, his life and message would come to bless all the world.
Jesus' inaugural sermon captured all their hopes and dreams :
Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
If he had been in an Old Testament Theocratic government, he would have actually been delivering captives, but he didn't. His cousin, John the Baptist, is an apropos example of a prisoner not being delivered...he was beheaded. Freedom to the bruised...everyone Jesus met was not made free, even though they may have been bruised. He certainly did preach the gospel to the poor, but what was the gospel he preached, and what was the gospel they were expecting? What is the exceptable year of the Lord?
Jesus and Jubilee: Ethics and Justice
The Acceptible Year of the Lord is the Jubilee year. In the Old Testament Theocratic Israel, every 50th year was a year of release, of freedom, and restoration. All debts were cancelled, land and property was returned to its origina owner. Israelite in debt-servitude (indentured servants) to other Israelites were given their freedom. However, sadly there is no biblical evidence that this practice ever took place in Israel.
When Jesus comes, he proclaims the Jubilee. His words would have been immediately recognizable by the hearers, who suffered under Roman oppression, who longed for release from 2nd class conquered citizenship, and for a return to the former Israelite ethno-theocratic Glory.
Unfortunately, Jesus' other words do not speak of their interpretation of His jubilee. They expected physical freedom. Here is what Jesus said:
Mat 5:38-42 "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust...Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Mar 12:17"And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him."
Notice Jesus' command to "be perfect", to "love your enemies". This is contrary to what they had been taught, to what they desired. They had bee taught, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", and this was based on a legal view of a legalist Old Covenant. The Old covenant basically focuses on righteousness promissed and performed by humans, and the justice demanded when righteousness was not performed as promised. Now consider this: at no time during their history was the Hebrew nation ever a righteous nation in a relationship to the works-based covenantal-promise they made to God at Sinai. They had beeen given 490 years to fulfill this promise, to keep this covenant. They had tried, and had consistently failed. Daniel stated "he will confirm the covenant with many for one week..."(Daniel 9:27) Jesus, in reinterpreting the law and commanding them to “...be ye therefore perfect...”, is in actuality confirming the covenant they made God by expecting it of them, and yet revealing that righteoueness is far beyond their own effort and reach. His sermon on the mount is a New Testament Sinai, and he is speaking the practical application of holiness, which they have never and of themselves can never fulfilled. He does not speak this in terms of power, but in terms of powerlessness, humility, and love, which the law of Sinai does not create..
He speaks this way to them, and not in a ethno-nationalistic way, because he is concerned with the covenant. They are under Roman rule due to national unrighteousness. The Sinai Covenant states that blessings come upon the righteous, and curses upon the wicked. That they are a conquered people is evidence of their and/or their ancestors wickedness, and thus are living under the divine punishment of a people in a works-based covenant with God. Jesus comes to not only confirm this covenant with them, but to introduce them to the New Covenant, to the non-nationalistic, multicultural, intercultural direction God prophecied to Abraham and always intended for humanity: “In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18;26:4)
Nowhere in Jesus ministry does a earthly ethnoi-theocratic aim, intent, or message reveal itself in word or methodology. Yes, he healed the sick, and when the people saw it they envisioned a Jewish army unstopped by injury. Yes, he raised the dead, and they envisioned a Jewish army unincumbered by death. He fed thousands, and they thought they could have a Jewish army fully fed. He calmed the sea, and they recognized even the nature itself would be on their side. He cast out demons, and they knew that there was nothing on earth to stop their return to former ethno-national glory. Yet, he fulfilled none of these ethno-national theocratic dreams. None of his sermons were politically revolutionary. He was not a Muslim radical, a Ku Klux Klan member, a pro-Israel Evangelical, not even a Black Panther. In fact, when brought before the politcal power of his time Jesus says this:
Joh 18:36-37 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
In affirming that his kingdom is not of this world, Jesus declares that his aims are not driven or hindered by earthly constraints or interests. When he fed thousands, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and calmed the storm, he was not aiming at social justice reform of the ruling government. He was addressing the social ethic of his people, of those within his immediate sphere if influence.
Everyone can practice social ethics. Not everyone in this fallen world will recieve social justice. Jesus himself did not recieve social justice. He actually tells his diciscples that, because of him, they will recieve social injustice:
Luk 21:12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought beforekings and rulers for my name's sake.
Joh 15:18-20 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
Joh 16:33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Contrary to popular opinion, while Jesus was for social ethics and social activity in the lives of his community, not only does he not preach or work for social justice with the state, or from a legislative or political standpoint, but he actually promises that, when one is his follower, one can count on NOT receiving socia justice, and one should NOT EXPECT social justice from fallen governments.
Actually, when Jesus went head to head with anyone, it was never with the secular political and governmental powers of Rome. On the contrary, Jesus locked horns with his own Jewish people , particularly the Jewish elite, the Sanhedrin. When Jesus was angered by the social economic injustice perpetuate by those who dared to call the name of God (Luke 19:45; John 2:14-15), who dared to claim Abraham as their father (John 8:33), and who boasted in the law, Jesus flipped tables twice (luke 19:45; John 2:14-15), used a whip on them once (john 2:14-15), called them blind guides (Matthew 23:16, 24), children of the devil (John 8:44).
Jesus' application of Jubilee in the context of first century Judaea carried with it none of the earthly political, liberation messages the people were looking for. Jesus didn't give the people a message that would empower them to over-throw the Romans and set them up as the political military and economic superpower of the then known world (social justice). He gave them a message of how to actually live ethical, moral lives within a structure of subjugation. He gave them a message on how to be resilient without hatred. Even his declaration, "my kingdom is not of this world...if it were my servants would fight," reveals 2 things: 1) he has an actual, literal kingdom, and 2) it is not earthly.
Jesus prayed "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6). In other places he says things like, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). The immediacy of the kingdom of heaven would lead one to consider a physical and/or legislative political activity, and yet Jesus does not give his servants permission to fight using either tool. Jesus brings the good news of the reign of God, and this reign was to manifest itself in the lives, the living, of his followers. It was not to manifest in armies, military victorys, economic and infrastructure strategies, or political machinations. Everything about Jesus and his kingdom, God's kingdom, was about the heart. It was about dematerilaizing, destabilizing the status quo by converting the people to an alternative moral ethic...a spiritual one.
Acts, Ethics, and Justice
Joh 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, ReceiveyetheHoly Ghost
This is the disciples receiving the Holy Ghost before Pentecost, before the crucifixion. What were the results of this breathing the Holy Spirit into them into them before pouring the Holy Spirit upon them?
- Gender Integration: In the Jewish system, the woman sat on one side of the worship, and the men sat on another. In the Temple, the women had their own court to pray and worship in, separate from the men. Even today among Orthodox Jews, an synagogue is considered establishable when there are 10 men present, not 10 persons.(http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10865-minyan). In contrast to this masculine hedgemony, Acts 1:14 says, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren".
- Ethnic Inclusion begins: while he was not actually voted in, Jospeh Barsabas Justus was nominated to take Judas' place. He is a half jew: his last name is of latin origin, meaning his father was arguably a Greek or Roman. This ethnic inclusivity continues with the voting in of the 7 deacons (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus,, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicholas the Proselyte of Antioch), 5 of who are half jew, and 1 is an actual proselyte (convert to Judaism). It continues in the care of the greek widows of the fledgining church.
- Sacrificial Giving: While the giving happened post-pentacost, it is not the result of an outpouring of spiritual power, but by an indwelling of spiritual presence. This indwelling is symbolized by Jesus breathing on his disciples (John 20:22), and it manifested in a mindset of sacrificial giving for those who had less within the community (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 6:1-7). These sacrificial attitudes and actions were so prevalent that "a great company of priests" joined the faith.
The three major divisions at that time, gender, ethnicity, and economic classism, begin to be hammered away through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost in the community. It should be of note that sexism, racism/ethnocentrism and nationalism, and materialism and greed are equally the problems plaguing the church right now...but I digress.
Throughout the entire book of Act we see this social ethic taking place. What we do not see in the first 7 chapters of the book, in the majority of the book, is an appeal to social justice. On the contrary, we see the church resilient, growing, and strong in the face of opposition. The believers are mocked (Acts 2:13), arrested (4:3), threatened (4:17-21), arrested (5:17-20), beaten and threatened (5:40-42), and killed (7:54-8:1). At no time do we find them appealing or requesting social justice. They were the recipients of social injustice, and it was this injustice that actually spread the gospel away from Jerusalem, to Judaea, to Samaria, and beyond (Acts 1:8). They praised God for the injustice, as they saw it as a badge of honor to be able to suffer for Jesus (5:40-42). This model is followed throughout the entire book of Acts, with one exception. At the close of the book, Paul decides to appeal to Roman emperor for justice (Acts 25:10). This is the first instance of an appeal to social justice by a Christian.
In brief explanation, God had revealed to Paul that while he was in captivity “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:10). However, after being held without trial, and the wheels of grinding toward seemingly almost halting, Paul appeals to Caesar. God never told him how he was going to get to Rome, and thus Paul took the initiative to appeal to the societal justice power source of his day, out of human frustration, and I submit in an attempt to move forward the promise of God.
Paul, Ethics, and Justice
Paul has some challenging statements in considering this notion of a christian’s relationship to the state. He declares that the king is ordained by God, and anyone who resists the king resist God (Romans 13:1-7). This should be viewed in the greater context of how the Bible presents pagan kings being used by God to maintain order, to punish the wicked, and contain/restrain the greater evils of humanity (see God, Segregation, and Integration part 1: Government and Politics).
Paul rebukes his people for failing to act ethically and thus needed to seek justice outside of the church for injuries within the church community (1 Corinthians 6:5-7). His rebuke continues, as he is aware of the unethical relationship between a male member and his step-mother, and the church's silence on this moral failure, which even the gentiles find unethical (5:1-2). The rest of the book of 1 Corinthians is an ethical and moral treatise for christian behavior, not for social activism.
Actually most of Paul's writing is ethically and morally oriented toward the church. In Philippians he acknowledges that Christians should be more ethical and moral, so as to be seen as sons of God, shining as lights in a crooked and perverse nation (Phil. 2:15). This letter is to the church in the very town where Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail unjustly, and sang the jail open (Act 16:16-40).
The Book of 1st Thessalonians is a book of encouragement to the saints who have experienced social injustice and persecution for the sake of Christ. There is no call for social justice by Paul, but rather an admonition and encouragement toward gospel social ethics and resilience in the face of persecution, with the promised hope of Jesus' return.
2nd Thessalonians, a book which promises more persecution, is a book priming the believers to trust in the final judgment of God and to remain firm in their ethics, morals and faith in the face of injustice.
Paul and Philemon
Philemon is arguably the most social-oriented book written by Paul when considering the interplay of social ethics versus social justice. Philemon is the owner of Onesimus (Philemon 15-16). Onesimus is a slave who ran away (Philemon 15). It is believed Onesimus stole from Philemon (Philemon 18). Somehow Onesimus finds himself with Paul in Rome in prison (Philemon 10), and is converted to Christianity (Philemon 10). Here is the challenge for us today: despite the fact that "who the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36), or these other verses (I proof-text intentionally),
2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage,
...Paul sends Onesimus back to bondage. Why? and more importantly, why did Onesimus return, if the gosepl, the inaugural Luke 4:18-19 declaration of Jesus himself, is designed to give earthly freedom? According to Roman law, Onesimus was not free. To declare him such based on Christianity would have made Christianity a seditious movement, worthy of violent extermination. Spartacus comes to mind, as do the Zealots of Judaea, who consider and attempt freeing people without the establishments consent, and outside the established order. If Onesismus is walking around free, and basing it on Christanity, the church would truely have been seen as a rival kingdom, aiming to take Caesar from the throne. Death would have been the solution. Additionally, as an assumed thief, he could have been jailed on sight, and Philemon could have had him killed.
Paul sends Onesimus back, but he has certain expectations of Philemon. Paul asserts that Philemon owes him (Paul) his soul, arguably because Philemon was converted to Christianity through Paul. Then Paul says that Onesimus is his son, born by Paul during his imprisonment. Paul informs Philemon that he would have kept Onesimus with him, to minister to him as Philemon's proxy. Paul instructs Philemon to love Onesimus like a brother. These instructions to not overturn the structure of the status quo, but its application. Paul is appealing to Philemon's honor as a Christianity. The system may not be overturned, but hearts can be. The system may say "this (human) is your property”, but Paul says "here is your brother". One should not treat family like property.
Philemon will be challenging for social justice warriors in America, who seek to use the New Testament to justify overturning systems by legislation, vote, or violence. Neither Jesus, the apostles, nor Paul (excepting Acts 25:10) can be see as advocating any form of expectation in relationship to social justice from the state. What is expected is for the Christianity to behave with gospel social ethics, regardless of the system in place.
Reflecting on Revelation
All of the writings of the New Testament carry the same gospel social ethic for the church, but no expectation is given the believer for social justice from the state. Even Revelation either encourages good ethics and morals, or rebukes for bad ethics and morals, with a call to resilience in the face of persecution.
The 7 churches are written to address the ethics and morals of the church, with chapter 4 being the juxtaposition of a holy God against them. Chapter 5 is God's solution to the churches' ethical and moral failures: he gives Jesus the scroll, and the church gets more time.
Chapter 6 is dealing with the non-christian world, which starts out looking like Christ (but not being like him) and descend quite rapidly into looking like a demon. Chapter 7 is God's solution for failure on the part of the non-churched: he will hold backs the winds of strife, giving more time for pagans to be saved. This saved are the 144,000, the symbolic number of the actualy innumerable multitude.
Chapter 8-9 demonstrate God's movement of pagan kingdoms to punish other wicked kingdoms, in line with God's movement in the Old Testament. Chapter 10-11:3 reveals God's answer to them as well: God will cause the church to prophesy again, using the sanctuary as the model of teaching pagans about the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, , the way made for a higher order of ethics in their life becasue of the Justice provided by Jesus at Calvary (the altar), and the justice that will be provided on Judgment Day (priest exiting temple on day fo Atonement).
Chapter 11:3f reveals one nation’s response to God's movements, and that is to absolutely reject him.
Chapter 12 is a quick sweep of history, from the incarnation of Christ, through the post-ascension war in heaven, through the migration of the church from the mediteranian and surrounding Europe-Middle Eastern-African continents which John is familiar with, to the Western Hemisphere. It is movement through geography and time. The last verse of the chapter describes the final people fo God, who while being worthless (remnant of her seed) are moved upon by his Spirit (Spirit of prophecy), and thus created into his image (keeping the commandment of God). Their ethics and morals (keeping the commandments) are the result of God's grace (Spirit of prophecy), because they themselves are morally bankrupt (remnant of her seed).
Chapter 13 addresses 2 powers, a government which acts like a church (sea beast), and then a very young government which is draconianly unjust and abusive from its inception (lamb-like beast). This second political entity creates a global governmental third entity (a land look-alike of the sea beast), causes all to worship it and the previous government acting like a church (the sea beast), instituting the mark of the beast, subjecting all who worship the true God to poverty, persecution, and death. It should be noted that the lamb-like beast manages to bring about the unification all of humanity in rebellion against God and in abuse of fellow humans, the exact unification which brought about the flood and the Tower of Babel.
Chapter 14 is God's final call to the world, which is his response to the whole world wondering after and worshipping a fallen government and religion. It is also the preparation of the 7 last plagues, which seem to originate in the earth itself: the harvest of grapes from the earth is the condensation of human evil trod in the wine press, by pressing out the iniquity of pagans into the streets, which rises up to the bridle of horses. Chapter 15 is the distribution of the pure, uninhibited condensation of the wickedness of humanity back upon humantity, 7 last plagues, into the hands of the angels responsible for its pour. Chapter 16 is the pouring out of the 7 last plagues upon humanity.
Chapter 17 is the identity of the final government at the end of chapter 13 (it is not Rome, but the image to the beast, a Rome-look alike) and the apostate protestant church controlling it (protestant America).Chapter 18 is this global and ecumenical world order’s judgment for unrighteousness: social injustice, lack of ethic, and immorality.
Chapter 19 deals with the second coming, chapter 20 the thousand year silence on earth and the final judgment and destruction of evil.
Chapter 21 and 22 present us with the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem.
At no time during this book are God's people called to work with the state to enact social justice. God's people are called to social ethics, morals, resilience, suffering, sacrifice, etc., but never to expect social justice. God holds pagan kingdoms accountable for failures at social justice and ethics, reviews his movements to chastise them with other kingdoms, and postpones the second coming to ensure they have a chance to understand him via the sanctuary model, so that they may recieve the seal of God.
Summary: Contrary to popular or wishful belief, there is no evidence of social justice movements directed at any injustice of a political or governmental power in the New Testament. On the contrary, Christians are called to live the gospel of social and moral ethics and responsiblity, and thus become better citizens without civil rights than the citizens with civil rights. Social responsibility is the Christian privilege and responsiblity becasue of Jesus Christ. We are called to be social ethical and responsible with all the means given to us, toward our friends and family, as well as our enemies, knowing the Jesus is justice and mercy for the righteous and the unrighteous. We are called to resilience, to an unbreakable faith, unbreakable conviction, inextinguishable love for all mankind. The challenge is this: western countries have often made the claim to Christianity, thus giving hope that they will behave Christianly, and when they fail to do so those who believed them prophetically protest the injustice. Isn't it interesting that the New Testament is inundated with Apostles, teachers, preachers, etc. but is quite limited on Prophets, while the Old Testament is full of the prophetic voice? Having said that, it is also interesting that the Revelation 10 speaks of prophesying again to the kingdoms who have failed. Thus, there. Is a prophetic role to play in the New Testament, New Covenant era. However, just because one prophecies again to different ethno-cultural-National groups, such a prophecy 1) does not expect justice from said works- based entities, and 2) one is to prophecy through the sanctuary model. This type of OT social justice prophesying paradigm is designed to point works-based rebel to the apostlic ministry, with its kingdom of God and Social responsiblity in the face of continued face of social, civil, and moral injustice.