Sex, Corruption and Wrath: 7 Tom Wright Quotes on Revelation
Sexual morality isn’t, as it is so often portrayed, a matter of a few ancient rules clung to by some rather conservative persons when the rest of society has moved on. It is, rather, a matter of the call of the creator God to faithful man-plus-woman marriage, reflecting the complementarity of heaven and earth themselves. That is the theme which finally emerges in the great scene at the end of the present book. Married love is a signpost to the faithfulness of the creator to his creation. The reason sexual immorality is so often coupled with idolatry, as here, is because such behaviour points to different gods – the gods of blood and soil, of race and power.
The Lion and the Lamb
What John has heard is the announcement of the lion. What he then sees is the lamb. The two seem radically different. The lion is the symbol both of ultimate power and of supreme royalty, while the lamb symbolizes both gentle vulnerability and, through its sacrifice, the ultimate weakness of death. But the two are now to be fused together, completely and for ever.
Repentance is more than just expressing regret for a few peccadilloes. It is a radical, heartfelt, gut-wrenching turning away from the idols which promise delight but provide death. God longs for that kind of repentance. He will do anything, it seems, to coax it out of his rebellious but still image-bearing creatures
Imagine a village in the outlying countryside of Judea. It’s a long way from the city, and even traders don’t come there that often, far less government officials. A circuit judge comes to the neighbouring small town once every few months if they’re lucky. But that doesn’t mean that nothing needs doing. A builder is cheated by a customer, who refuses to admit his fault. A widow has her small purse stolen, and since she has nobody to plead for her she can do nothing. A family is evicted from their home by a landlord who thinks he can get more rent from someone else. And a fraudster with his eye on the main chance has accused a work colleague of cheating him, and though nothing has been done about it the other colleagues seem inclined to believe the charge. And so on. Nobody can do anything about any of these – until the judge comes. When he comes, expectations will be massive. Months of pent-up frustrations will boil over. The judge will have to keep order, to calm down accusation and defence alike. He will have to hear each case properly and fairly, taking especial care for those with nobody to speak up for them. He will steadfastly refuse all bribes. And then he will decide. Judgment will be done. Chaos will be averted and order will be restored. The cheats will be put in their place, the thief punished and made to restore the purse. The grasping landlord will have to give way, and the false accuser will suffer the punishment he hoped to inflict. And the village as a whole will heave a sigh of relief. Justice has been done. The world has returned into balance. A grateful community will thank the judge from the bottom of its collective heart. Now magnify the village concerns up to the global level. The wicked empire, and its local henchmen, have become more and more powerful, taking money, lives and pleasure as and when they please. It’s no use appealing to the authorities, because it’s the authorities who are doing the wrong. So the cry goes up to God, as it did to the God of Israel when the Egyptians were making their lives more and more miserable. And God’s action on behalf of Israel is therefore a great act of liberating, healing, sigh-of-relief judgment. Things are put right at last.
The ‘wrath’ of the creator God consists of two things, principally. First, he allows human wickedness to work itself out, to reap its own destruction. Second, he steps in more directly to stop it, to call ‘time’ on it, when it’s got out of hand. If we knew our business, we would thank God for both of these, even though both can appear harsh. They need to be. If they were any less than harsh, the wickedness in question would merely pause, furrow its brow for a moment, and then carry on as before.
It is God who chooses, and the God who chooses is the triune God who works as father, son and spirit, not as a blind watchmaker or a celestial bureaucrat. When God chooses, he also redeems; when God chooses and redeems, he also works in people’s lives; and the miracle of the divine–human relationship, from the very beginning, has always been that human thought, will and action is somehow enhanced, rather than being cancelled out, by the divine initiative and power.
The Goodness of Creation
The whole of Christian theology is based on the goodness of creation, yet the goodness of creation consists partly in this, that it points beyond itself to the new creation.
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