Last week, on “Echoes of a Far-Off Country”:
King Xerxes: “Esther, what do you want? Even up to half my kingdom, I will give it to you!”
Queen Esther: “What do I want…hmmm, what do I want? My Lord King, what I want is for you to save my life and the lives of my people! This vile Haman has betrayed you by passing a law that betrays us!”
Xerxes: “…uh oh. I can save you, but I cannot save your people, because it is impossible for me to revoke Haman’s law. But, um, tell you what we’ll do here: I will promote your cousin Mordecai to Prime Minister, and then he can write any law he thinks will benefit your people! — as long as it does not revoke Haman’s law…or make me look bad.”
And then we have footage of Mordecai calling in the scribes, and writing and copying and sealing and then hitting “send”, followed by the theme music, and: “skip intro”, *click-click* —
And now we find out what Mordecai wrote:  The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies.  The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.
Mordecai cannot write a law revoking Haman’s edict, Xerxes was clear about that. So instead, he has written a law that exactly contradicts Haman’s law, point for point: Haman’s law says Persian citizens can destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and plunder their goods. So Mordecai’s law says the Jews can destroy, kill and annihilate all their enemies on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and plunder their goods.
And the whole empire gets the message loud and clear, beginning with the capital city of Susa — especially when they saw Mordecai leaving the king’s presence, wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen: the Opposition just won and there has already been a big policy shift.
But the city’s reaction is quite different this time. If you recall, when Haman came to power, he was so disliked that the king had to pass a law forcing everyone to honour him! And, when his edict of genocide was published, the city of Susa was bewildered: Haman’s law made no sense to them and no doubt caused many of them to wonder which of their ethnic groups might be next on Haman’s list.
But this time the city of Susa held a joyous celebration.  For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.  In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.
So Mordecai’s counter-law made sense to the citizens of the Persian empire. They found it to be a good law, a fair law, an empowering law — empowering for the Jewish people, anyway.
And this got a lot of people thinking. Some of them thought, “Boy, when our crazy king has a bad day and decides to wipe out my ethnic group, it sure would be nice to have a law like this on our side, that gives us permission to defend ourselves!” Some others, a little more cynical perhaps, thought, “Wow, now that the Jewish party is in power, what’s to keep them from passing a law wiping out my ethnic group?”
Either way, the solution is obvious:
Many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.
So, “coincidentally” — and we know what that means in the Book of Esther, don’t we? — coincidentally Mordecai’s law has resulted in a strange kind of evangelism. Some people become Jews because they want to live under the protection of Mordecai’s law; some do so because they do not want to live outside the protection of Mordecai’s law; but practically speaking, the motivations of these converts do not matter: the real-world result is that the Jewish ethnicity suddenly expands and becomes multi-ethnic in a way that has not happened for 1000 years, not since the time of the Exodus.
But here is a question many people ask at this point: did these converts become “real” Jews, or were they Jews in name only? For that matter: were the Jews in the Persian empire “real” Jews, or were they Jews in name only? What is a “real” Jew, anyway? And is this really how evangelism is supposed to work: through fear?
These are some disturbing questions, with some disturbing implications!
…we are going to come back to these questions in a bit.
In the meantime, the empire settles into an uneasy peace, waiting for the day of reckoning. Nobody knows what is going to happen. It is clear that most people in the empire have no desire to kill Jews, so they are all wondering if those who do want to kill Jews are going to go ahead with their plan, even knowing that now the Jews are allowed to fight back?
So the months count down until, finally,  on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.
So it turns out that at least some people in the empire decided to give ethnic cleansing a try: they went ahead and took the risk of attacking their Jewish neighbors. But their Jewish neighbors fought back and won.
And how did they accomplish this? They identified with one another:
 The Jews assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes to attack those determined to destroy them. No one could stand against them, because the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them.  And all the nobles of the provinces, the satraps, the governors and the king’s administrators helped the Jews, because fear of Mordecai had seized them.  Mordecai was prominent in the palace; his reputation spread throughout the provinces, and he became more and more powerful.
And as a result,  The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them.  In the citadel of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men.  They also killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha,  Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha,  Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha,  the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
 The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported to the king that same day.  The king said to Queen Esther, “OMG! The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men and the ten sons of Haman in the citadel of Susa! And if that is the kind of damage they have done just around here, what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces?”
So the king is upset. But he is not actually upset about all the people getting killed, he is simply worried about the disruptions to the smooth running of his empire. He is also worried about losing face, because only a bad king lets his population get out of control like this.
But above all he is worried about keeping his queen happy. We know this because of what he says next:
“Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”
Xerxes just cannot help himself! He let Haman do whatever he wanted, and almost got his own queen killed. He let Mordecai do whatever he wanted, which has resulted in this mini civil war today. So of course it makes perfect sense for him to go ahead and let Esther do whatever she wants, right?
The point is this: the writer is showing us how completely the tables have been turned. Just as the Jews throughout the empire have the upper hand over those who hated them, so also the Queen of the Jews has the upper hand over the pagan king who enslaved her: he is now her slave; she is now the true ruler over his empire.
And what does she want?
 “If it pleases the king,” Esther answered, “give the Jews in Susa permission to carry out this day’s edict tomorrow also, and let Haman’s ten sons be impaled on poles.”
And here is a question many people ask at this point: what is going on with Esther?
In the second episode of this limited series, Esther was introduced to us as Hadassah, a Jewish name that means “myrtle” — a kind of evergreen tree that produces cloves and a lovely scent. In the bible, the myrtle tree symbolizes God’s forgiveness and gentleness, and that is how Hadassah seemed in the beginning: like a gentle, hyper-submissive maiden, willing to forgive any insult.
But she was also introduced to us as Esther, named after the bloodthirsty Persian goddess of passion and violence. And she certainly seems to be living up to that name now! Last week she was able to watch, impassive, as Haman was dragged away, pleading for mercy, to a lingering and gruesome death. And now, today, while the king is obviously horrified by the damage being done to his capitol city, she commands one more day of killing! — and if ancient tradition is correct, it is at this point that people began to call her by this fearful name: Ishtar, the goddess of love and death.
Is this really who Esther is supposed to be? Has this immense power already gone to her head, corrupting her? Or was that submissive demeanor just a mask concealing a bloodthirsty monster who was there all along? Are we finally meeting the true Esther?
These are some more disturbing questions, with some more disturbing implications!
…and we are also going to have to come come back to these questions in a bit.
 So the king commanded that this be done. An edict was issued in Susa, and they impaled the ten sons of Haman.  The Jews in Susa came together on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, and they put to death in Susa three hundred men, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.
 Meanwhile, the remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies. And a minute ago the king was wondering what kind of damage they had done? Well, here is the official report: They killed seventy-five thousand of them but did not lay their hands on the plunder.
Now, all that activity in the provinces  happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.  The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.  That is why rural Jews—those living in villages, in the provinces —observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
The music plays, the credits roll, next episode in 4…3…2…so we stop the program and shut down the app. And this is where we realize that, apparently, this historic event resulted in a Jewish holiday, a feast that the Jews in the Persian empire celebrated every year from that point on.
But the kampung Jews celebrated on the 14th, while the urban Jews celebrated on the 15th, and apparently some people had questions about this discrepancy.
So, apparently, at least part of the reason the writer wrote this Book of Esther was to explain this discrepancy. And this was his explanation: the reason urban Jews celebrate on the 15th instead of the 14th is because Queen Esther asked for an extra day of killing.
But that still does not answer our deeper, more disturbing questions about Esther’s character and motivations at this point. As Christians, we are troubled by how she used her royal power for bloodshed, and we are troubled by how Mordecai’s power resulted in a — very successful! — fear-based evangelism.
And, perhaps, most of all we are troubled by the fact that the writer does not seem to be troubled by these things! When people ask him, “How did the Jewish nation become so suddenly ethnically diverse?” his answer is, “Oh, you know, because Mordecai scared the hell out of everybody when he was Prime Minister!” And when people ask, “Why do urban Jews celebrate this holiday on the 15th instead of the 14th?” his answer is, “Oh, you know, because Queen Esther commanded a second day of slaughter!” — as if there is nothing to be ashamed of in these answers.
So what is going on? Is the writer trying to tell God’s people that fear-based evangelism is the right way to go about building God’s kingdom? Is he saying that organized violence is the proper way for God’s people to deal with their enemies? Are those our applications for today?
And the writer does actually make this clear: God’s people are not supposed to use political power for evangelism or vengeance. However, he also makes it clear that Esther and Mordecai were not wrong to do what they did.
Which sounds like a discrepancy: how can this be okay for Esther and Mordecai but not okay for the rest of us?
Well, just like we learned last week, it is very important for us to recognize the roles that Esther and Mordecai play here:
Esther is not a private citizen. She is God’s Queen over God’s people. Which means, for instance, that it does not matter if she was personally moved to pity by Haman’s cries for mercy atnthat banquet: as a queen, she was required to do justice for her people regardless of her feelings. And in her judgement as queen, if she released Haman, he would just attack her people again. He was very sorry that he was about to die, of course! but he was not truly sorry for his attempted genocide, he was not truly repentant: willing to take responsibility for his sins and accept the blame for the results. So it was necessary for Queen Esther to crush the unrepentant head of the conspiracy for her people’s sake.
And it was in this role as God’s Queen that she ordered a second day of slaughter in the capitol: in her judgement, God’s people were still in danger there at the centers of Persian power. This is, after all, the city where Haman lived with his ten sons. And we can bet that each of his ten sons had been given very cushy and influential government positions — we all know how that works, right? So this city is where Haman’s family had the most committed followers, more than just the 500 that were killed on the first day. That is why Esther ordered that the ten sons of Haman be impaled. They were already dead, but she needed to send a public message to the whole city: “Look! Haman’s cause is lost and discredited. So make sure you identify with the right side of this whole mess!” It was Esther’s duty to make sure all danger to her people was completely removed.
In the same way, Mordecai is not a private citizen here. He is the Prime Minister of Persia!
But he is not just Prime Minister, he is actually something far more important:
See, if you recall from back in Episode Two of this limited series, Mordecai is descended from King Saul of Israel. God had commanded Saul to wipe out Haman’s people in judgement for how they had attacked God’s people when they were at their weakest, just escaping from Egypt. King Saul was supposed to treat his war against Haman’s people as a Holy War: taking no prisoners and taking no plunder, dedicating every bit of potential profit to God alone. Well, Saul disobeyed. He took prisoners and he took plunder. And as a result God took his kingdom away and gave it to David.
Now, back in Episode Three, Mordecai thought it was his God-ordained duty to try and take Haman down and finish the holy war his ancestor began. But he was so incompetent that he actually triggered this whole genocide crisis! — as we all know.
But, today, it turns out, Mordecai was right: it really was his God-ordained duty to finish the holy war his ancestor began. It was just Mordecai’s timing and method that was wrong. Instead of trying to get himself promoted to PM back in Episode Three, he should have waited for God to lift him up at the right time, in the right way — without the help of Mordecai’s mixed motivations and questionable methods.
But God graciously worked even through Mordecai’s sinful free will to bring everything to this point where Mordecai can finally finish what King Saul began.
In short, Mordecai is actually acting as God’s King over God’s people here — that whole ”Prime Minister of Persia” thing is really Mordecai’s smaller role, that position is nothing more than a tool that God is using to allow Mordecai to redeem King Saul’s mistake and bring final judgement upon Haman’s people for their thousand-year-old unrepentant sin. So:
Esther and Mordecai are not actually using political power for evangelism or vengeance. They are conducting a God-ordained holy war. And the way the writer made it clear that this is a holy war was by repeating one particular sentence three times: the Jews did not lay their hands on the plunder — even though Mordecai’s edict gave them specific permission to take plunder.
So what this shows us is that the Jews of the empire understood the true purpose of Mordecai’s edict. Even though he was required to write a point-for-point contradiction of Haman’s edict, to cover all his legal bases, the Jewish people understood this was not a call to use political power to take revenge. They understood there was a deeper, spiritual significance to this moment: this was their chance to finally identify themselves completely with God in a way they had not before. Remember, these are people who should have moved back to Jerusalem generations ago! They have remained distant from their God and from their people. Well, Haman’s edict of death convicted them of their sins, and convinced them that they deserved death: they had refused to be identified fully with God, so it would only be fair if God refused to be identified fully with them. But then Mordecai’s edict of life, coming 70 days later, reminded them that God is merciful to all who repent and return to obedience. So they returned to obedience: they identified publically with their God and with one another, and when they were attacked they took no prisoners, they took no plunder. They dedicated everything to God.
And now that we understand what the Jews understood they were doing — preparing for a holy war — now we can understand better why so many people of other nationalities became Jews. During that nine-month-long countdown, the Jewish people would have been explaining to their neighbors what is going to happen on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. They would have been saying, “Look, we are expecting to be attacked by Haman’s followers. And we are sure that Haman’s followers are trying to recruit you to their side, they are promising you promotions and prosperity and political power and everything. But do not be fooled! Our God is going to win this fight. We know this because 1. we are following a thousand-year-old prophecy, and 2. that prophecy began to be fulfilled when Esther became Queen and our man Mordecai was crowned Prime Minister. And when that day comes it is going to be a ‘take no prisoners, take no plunder’ kind of day for us. So please do not get caught on the wrong side of what is about to happen!”
And in response to this, many people decided to just remain neutral, stand back and see how. But many others decided to deliberately take the Jewish side. That is what the writer means when he says they became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. The people did what Zeresh did two episodes ago: they looked at the circumstances, they looked at God’s Word, and they concluded that Haman’s genocide would fail, that God’s people would rise triumphant, and they realized it was God’s will for them to identify with God’s people.
But now we have to ask these questions again: did they become “real” Jews, or were they just “rice” Jews, converting for political and social benefits? And for that matter: were the Jews in the Persian empire “real” Jews, or were they just Jews in name only?
Well, really, there was no way for us to answer those questions until the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. When this series began there was no special benefit or cost to being a Jew or not being a Jew. Then, when Mordecai became PM suddenly there was a benefit to being a Jew, and a potential cost to not being a Jew, so a lot of people crossed the aisle. But the real test of who was a “real” Jew or not was reserved for this day of tribulation at the end, and it really came down to this: identifying with God and God’s people is easy when times are good and the benefits are flowing, but only those who continued to identify with God and God’s people while under attack — those were the “real” Jews in the Book of Esther. In the end it did not matter if they were “ethnically” Jewish or a convert; all that mattered was which God and which community they trusted for life and salvation on the day of death.
So…I am terribly sorry, brothers and sisters, we are not supposed to use political power for evangelism or vengeance. That is not the application we are supposed to draw from this passage. Disappointing, I know!
But then, what are we supposed to do? What is our application?
Well, as I promised last week, this week’s application will be an expansion on last week’s application. Last week we learned that we cannot be our own messiah, we cannot be Esther or Jesus, instead we need to make sure we identify ourselves with our Messiah. But we also realized last week that identifying with our Messiah must be only the beginning of the process of salvation; today we learned that the next step is faithful preparation for and participation in our Messiah’s Holy War.
But this next part is important! so please pay close attention here: our holy war today is the same holy war that God’s people fought in the Old Testament, but the way we fight it is very very different. We are not supposed to use political power to dominate God’s enemies. We are not supposed to kill God’s enemies.
Is that clear? We all need to be very clear about this: God’s holy war today is a continuation of the holy war that began right back at the very beginning of Genesis, when God promised the serpent ongoing war with Eve’s children. But the way the war is fought has changed in some significant ways. And the Book of Esther, written near the end of the Old Testament age, was designed to help prepare God’s people for those changes.
See, Phase One of the formal holy war began with Moses and Joshua. It was fought in God’s land, and the goal was simple: to completely cleanse the land of false worship, so it could become the replanted Garden of Eden where God’s people could worship in spirit and in truth. That is why the rules were: if the people do not repent, take no prisoners, take no plunder, dedicate everything to God. And during that phase of the war, Moses and Joshua recorded how the people of all the other nationalities were afraid of them. But instead of letting that fear lead them to repent and join God’s people, those nations went to war against God’s people and were mostly destroyed or incorporated by the time of King David.
But the Book of Esther marks an important transition point. Esther and Mordecai are not in God’s land. It was not their calling to cleanse the Persian empire of false worship. But still it was their calling to create a space where God’s people could worship in spirit and in truth. So the nature of the war changed slightly. The rules were really the same: if the people do not repent, take no prisoners, take no plunder, dedicate everything to God. But the conditions were different: because God’s people were scattered among the nations, they were able to preach God’s judgement and mercy more directly and personally to their neighbors. And because the conditions were different, so were the results: first, most of the nations in the empire were restrained from going to war against God’s people; second, many more people from those nations repented and joined God’s people than ever before during Phase One. But one thing remained the same: those who did attack God’s people — a small percentage this time — were finally completely destroyed, thus completing Phase One of the war and preparing God’s people for Phase Two.
We are now deeply engaged in Phase Two of God’s holy war against the ancient serpent and the nations who serve him.
Like Moses and Joshua and King Saul, we do live in God’s land — which is now the whole earth! And our ultimate goal is to completely cleanse the earth of false worship, transforming it into the completed Garden of Eden, creating a space where God’s people can worship in spirit and truth.
But, like Esther and Mordecai, we also live scattered among the nations, which means we are also called to preach God’s judgement and mercy directly and personally to our neighbors. And this preaching is, in fact, our role in this war. It is, in part, through our preaching that the earth is being cleansed and transformed, a space for true worship cleared amidst the ruins. And because the conditions of Phase Two are different, so are the results: first, over the last 2000 years, most of the nations on earth have been restrained from going to war all at once against Jesus’ Church. Second, many many more people from the nations have repented and joined God’s people than ever happened in all the thousands of years of Phase One combined!
But still, in every generation of Jesus’ Church there have been a percentage of nations who have attacked God’s people. Why are we not allowed to completely destroy them like God’s people did during Esther’s time? Why are we not allowed to use political power to scare or manipulate people into God’s kingdom, or take revenge when they fight back?
Because Jesus, our Messiah, has asked us to leave that part of the war to him.
…for the sake of time I am going to over-simplify the answer: Jesus has asked us to leave that part of the war to him because, ultimately, power corrupts. Moses, Joshua, King Saul, King David, Esther, Mordecai…all of these Old Testament messiahs were given power of various kinds, and they all ended up using that power in selfish, godless ways. So would we! That is why Jesus, in his great mercy, has relieved us of that corrupting burden and carried it himself.
So what did Jesus do with all this power that his people had failed to do with it? He gave it up. Instead of dealing out death to the nations, he received death from the nations: he accepted the death that the nations actually deserved. And by doing this he bought the nations time: time to hear the gospel and repent before the countdown runs out and the final Judgement begins.
We could describe it like this: 2000 years ago Jesus made a deal with us, his Bride. He said, “Look, I could destroy all the nations now. But I promised a long time ago that you, my people, would have a chance to be a blessing to all the nations. So this is our deal: I am going to restrain most of the nations from attacking you most of the time. But I am going to allow some nations to attack you in every generation. Even worse, instead of destroying them right away, I am going to be patient with them, even when they do not repent! Why am I going to allow this to happen to you? So that, through my patience, I will prove to the whole world that I am the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
“So, sayang, I am asking you to be patient along with me. Help me prove my character to the nations. Take this time to love our enemies by preaching my judgement and my mercy to them. That way, when the countdown finally runs out, no one will be able to claim they did not know my true, compassionate nature. They will have no excuses left to justify their attacks upon you, upon us. And on that great Day I will also finally prove to the whole world that I do not leave the guilty unpunished. Can you do that? Will you be patient along with me?”
And we agreed. 2000 years ago the first elders of Jesus’ Church submitted to this plan because they loved their Messiah and they wanted to see him glorified in the eyes of all nations, they wanted all nations to get the chance to know God the same way they knew him: compassionate and kind and forgiving. And every generation of the Church in every nation ever since has had to make the same decision to submit to this plan. Are we going to love our enemies? Are we going to preach to our neighbors? When we are attacked, are we going to take revenge, or are we going to endure, and keep on preaching?
So this is our application for today: we are going to follow our elders. We are going to keep the agreement they made with our Messiah. We are going to continue to prepare for and participate in God’s Holy War. And that means we are going to keep on preaching the judgement and the mercy of Jesus Christ to the people around us. We are going to keep on warning our neighbors not to be fooled by the nations’ promises of promotion and prosperity and political power. We are going to keep on telling the world that our God is going to win! and that we know this because, 1. we are following many thousands of years of prophecy, and 2. those prophecies all began to be fulfilled when Jesus was crowned king 2000 years ago.
And the best way for us to preach these things is by doing what the Jews did during Esther’s time: they identified with one another, they assembled in their cities in all the provinces of King Xerxes. And, by the way, they continued to assemble even after this crisis was passed. It was during the exile that the Jews began to build places they called “synagogues”, which is a word that means “gathering place”. They began gathering there weekly to pray, to read God’s Word, to sing and to encourage one another. Those synagogues were really a lot like the neighborhood suraus we have in this country, and that synagogue system that began during the Jewish exile among the nations is what gave birth to our church system that sustains us now, during our exile among the nations.
And this is why the New Testament writers told us not to give up meeting together, especially when times are hard. Quite literally, they said, “do not give up synagoguing”! Because it is in our faithful gatherings that we most effectively conduct our part in Jesus’ Holy War against the nations. This is where we learn to love one another across ethnic, cultural boundaries. This is where we learn to be faithful in all the little things that define our faith, all the little acts of love that are destined to change the world.
But we should always remember that identifying with Jesus and with one another is never going to be easy. In most places and times there is no special benefit to being a Christian, and so it is normal for some people to identify with us, while most will make sure it costs us something to identify with Christ and Christians.
Now, it is true that in some places and times Christianity has been in political power, and there has been a perceived benefit to being a Christian in those nations. We naturally think that it must be easier to be a Christian under those conditions, but actually this is not true. In some ways it is harder! because those are the places and times when Christianity gets flooded with false converts. And then, instead of being tempted to compromise by people outside our communities, we are tempted by people inside our communities! It is a painful irony, but it is often when Christianity appears most powerful in the eyes of the world that Jesus’ Church is actually at its weakest.
That is annoying. But in closing, here is our comfort, here is our Good News: first of all, Jesus told us 2000 years ago that our communities would always be a mixture of true converts and false, and he told us to leave the final sorting to him. But second of all — and above all! — do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. The sorting day is near! There will be a time of tribulation when God will remove his restraints from upon the nations, and they will all go to war against Jesus’ Church at once — and that will be the final test for all mankind. That is when the truth of all things will be revealed, Jesus’ Church cleansed, and the earth will be filled with the garden of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Identifying with Jesus and Jesus’ people is easy when times are good and the benefits are flowing, but only those who continue to identify with Jesus and Jesus’ people until the end will be vindicated as the true children of God. In the end our ethnicity will not matter, our cultural background, our sex, our station in life — none of it will matter. All that is going to matter will be which God and which community we trusted for salvation in life and on our day of death.
So let’s make sure we are doing that, together.