Podcast Date: May 17, 2017
Speakers in the audio file:
Jon: This is The Bible Project podcast. I'm Jon. Today, on this episode, I'm going to be
talking with Tim Mackie about The Day of the Lord. This is the final in a six-part
series on The Day of the Lord. So it's been a long journey, but we're finally here.
If you're just joining us, I'd highly recommend you listen to the other five episodes.
But if you're not going to, here's a couple ideas to be familiar with so you can keep
up with the conversation.
The first word is Babylon. Babylon was an ancient civilization that Israel was captured
by. It represented to them a civilization in rebellion against God, a corrupt, unjust
human system that God needs to up end. But in the Bible, Babylon becomes an
archetype. It becomes a way of describing any civilization that's in rebellion against
God. So Egypt is described as Babylon, even Israel is described as Babylon, and the
day of Jesus, Rome was considered Babylon.
The second thing to keep in mind is this phrase "The Day of the Lord." Biblical
authors use this phrase to describe when and how God intervenes in human history,
to stop corrupt civilization to destroy Babylon.
In the last episode, we talked about how Jesus came and how his death was
considered a Day of the Lord. And that's where we'll pick up this conversation again.
That will lead us into a conversation about the book of Revelation, a book that's
made Christians really scratch their heads and ask a lot of questions like, when's
Jesus going come back? What's it going to look like?
Tim: The final Day of the Lord, what does it actually mean? The biblical authors are not
interested in giving us that information. It's like Paul says, "Concerning times and
dates, I'm not going to write to you about that."
Jon: We'll finish this episode with the practical conversation about what it means to be
living in Babylon while waiting for The Day of the Lord, and participating in a new
type of kingdom. Thanks for listening. Here we go.
Jon: The homestretch on this theme of The Day of the Lord, we're going to talk about
what the followers of Jesus thought of and how they used the phrase "The Day of
the Lord" and what that phrase "the Day of the Lord" means to us now, 2,000 years
Tim: Then the question is, The Day of the Lord in modern popular usage, Jesus' Second
Coming, his return and the events leading up to that, what's interesting, there are
two letters in the New Testament that use the phrase "Day of the Lord" more than
once - it's Paul's 1st and 2nd of the Thessalonians.
This was the church community that had a lot of questions about Jesus' return, and
what was all going to happen, and they were afraid.
Jon: Can we stop for a second. His return, why didn't it just end there? So, Jesus defeats
death and at that point the Big D day the Lord could have begun. But instead he
appears to His disciples, and he says, "Go and proclaim this kingdom to the whole
world and use the power of the Holy Spirit, which I will give you."
Now we've been living in this era for 2,000 years, where followers of Jesus are
supposed to be living in this counter Babylon. But then Jesus promises that one day
he will come back and defeat evil permanently, then there'll be the new age.
Tim: Yeah. Although the claim is that The Day of the Lord, the victory actually did happen
on Good Friday.
Jon: That was The Day of the Lord?
Tim: It was the inauguration, to use a theological term that I find helpful. It was like an
inaugural ceremony that truly placed Jesus as the Lord of heaven on earth. And he is
truly reigning, but—
Jon: Not everyone knows.
Tim: Yeah, not everyone knows, apparently or not everyone acknowledges it, like Pharaoh
or Nebuchadnezzar, and not everyone responds appropriately.
Jon: Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar before Jesus'...
Tim: Oh, I'm just using them as icons. Like Pharaoh said, "I don't acknowledge Yahweh."
So somebody who knows about Yahweh, the God of Israel but they don't
Jon: Some people know Jesus, but don't acknowledge him.
Tim: Don't acknowledge him as their Lord. And then the delay has been a challenge for
Christians from the very beginning. 2 Peter addresses this where he responds to
skeptics who said, "Yeah, everything's going on like it did before. Jesus never came.
So did anything really change?"
And Peters reflects on it, and he says, "Listen, God works with long expanses of
time." He just had the basic biblical chronology. He just had an inkling of the time
expanses involved. But he uses the language of Psalm 90 to say, "1,000 years is like a
day." So how God works in history doesn't all correspond to our perceptions of time.
That's the point.
Then he says, "And it is God's mercy that's giving you time to come to terms with
your own mortality and participation and evil so that you'll repent." I mean, I'm with
you. It's a tough one.
So the Thessalonians wrote to Paul and said, "Well, wait, what about followers of
Jesus who died before he returns? What about them? Because it's just like the first
generation." So he writes in chapter 4, "Don't worry, it's okay. Jesus can reclaim
people from the dead, whether they're in the grave or alive and it's okay."
Then, what he calls it is "the Lord's Coming." And then right after that, he says,
"Brothers and sisters, about times and dates, we're not going to write to you. I can't
predict this in a prophecy code for this, for you know very well that The Day of the
Lord - that's one of the key appearances in the New Testament of that phrase - will
come like a thief in the night while people are saying peace and safety..." This was a
public service announcement of the Roman Empire, the Pax Romana.
Jon: Stay calm and—
Tim: "We're fine. Everything's fine."
Jon: What was the British line? Stay calm and carry on?
Tim: Stay calm and carry on, yeah. Peace and safety. Here, he's poking at Rome's version
of peace. Sure, true shalom has come to the world through Rome. At what cost?
Enormous cost of the majority of the population are slaves and the gigantic army is
securing that peace. He doesn't say Rome, but he doesn't need to. He just quotes
And then he says, "Destruction will come on them." And then he quotes different
Old Testament prophets, "As labor pains on a pregnant woman, they won't escape."
Both from the book of Isaiah.
So Paul will appeal to The Day of the Lord to talk about the Babylon of his day,
namely Rome, and his basic council is it's not about timelines and predicting this.
"Just know that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth and that your life and your death is
Jon: So there he's talking about Rome falling not about the...?
Tim: Well, we got the same. For him, it's the same thing in Isaiah. Was Isaiah talking about
the end of the world of the fall of Babylon? And so, was Paul talking here about the
fall of Rome or Jesus' ultimate return and defeat of Babylon? It doesn't seem like he
even wants to think about those as separate things because, again, in the biblical
way of viewing history, it's the same narrative story and storyline.
Jon: It's like looking forward, it's the same. When you look back you go, "Oh that was The
Day of the Lord against Rome or the Day of the Lord against Babylon." But when
you're looking forward to it, you don't distinguish it between that and...
Tim: And how could they know?
Jon: God could tell them.
Tim: Sure, but apparently He didn't. Because he says, "About times and dates, I'm not
going to write to you." So he doesn't say, "Well Rome's going to fall roughly in the
400s, and I could just..."
Jon: But in a couple more thousands.
Tim: Yeah. And the same way, why Jesus doesn't draw this clear line between the fall of
Jerusalem and his own return in the Gospel. Because what they want their listeners
to see is that the same justice that God will bring on the whole world is exactly
what's breaking into history right here in the fall of Jerusalem, or in the fall of Rome.
Tim: The book of the New Testament that is all about the hope of Jesus' return is, of
course, the last one, the book of Revelation. The whole book is about the conflict of
the Kingdom of God brought through Jesus, the slain Lamb, the crucified Jesus, in
conflict with the kingdom of this world, which is only ever called...well, it's called
Babylon through most of the book of Revelation, but there's one place in chapter 11,
where the unified humanity in rebellion against God, is in chapter 11:8, called the
great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where the Lord was crucified.
So, if you are wondering, like, "Are these guys playing fast and loose, making
Babylon and Egypt and Israel becomes Babylon?" Well, here you go. The smoking
gun is a New Testament author—
Jon: Just throwing it all together.
Tim: Yeah. He's talking about Babylon as the larger character in the book of Revelation,
but he also calls the great city, Sodom and Egypt and Jerusalem, the crucified Jesus.
He sees them all as manifestations of the same thing - a city, a whole people group
that have given into the promise of evil. I love that phrase. The promise of evil.
So, at the end of the book, before Jesus comes riding on the white horse to bring his
kingdom, if God's kingdom is going to come through Jesus, Babylon must fall. And
so, in the Revelation chapter 17 through 19 is a long set of visions and poems about
the fall of Babylon. And it's amazing. Every single Old Testament passage from the
prophets about the fall of Babylon gets quoted in those chapters of Revelation
about the fall of Babylon.
Jon: They just all get thrown in.
Tim: Literally, he's quoted from—
Jon: He's just grabbing everything he can.
Tim: There's a bunch in Isaiah, a bunch in Jeremiah, a bunch in Ezekiel, and then, a
handful of minor prophets. He systematically pulled quotes from all of them. It's
really remarkable. And other from the fall of Tyre to Israel's north, from Edom to the
south-east, and at Sodom and Egypt and Jerusalem. So it's just the mega...I think
we've talked about this. In Revelation, the great city, Babylon is like a mega
Jon: That's right. You've talked about that.
Tim: I don't remember.
Jon: Yeah, I remember you talking about this before.
Tim: There's one version from my childhood that I think you don't remember called
"Voltron." It was like five lions, robotic lions that would join into one.
Jon: "Defender of the Universe"?
Tim: Yes, Voltron. And then in "Transformers," there were both—
Jon: That wasn't in "Transformers." Voltron was a different thing.
Tim: No, no, that was just Voltron. But then in "Transformers" there was the Autobahn
version and a Decepticon version of a team of robots.
Jon: They can all combine into one massive "Transformer."
Tim: They combine into this big massive robot. I remember I had the constructor cons,
the Decepticon one. They were all these neon green construction vehicles that
formed into this massive destructive robot. And that's exactly the way Babylon—
Jon: Yeah, all of these ancient cities, all are current cities all thrown together as this one
Tim: In these chapters, it's basically just the kingdom collapses and Babylon collapses,
and the nations of the earth lament and mourn, and a long list of all the economic
goods that Babylon made its wealth of off. And the last one in the list is human lives.
It's in chapter 18.
Then after that is the coming of the rider on the white horse. It's Jesus. There's some
debate about this, because he comes with a sword, but then—
Jon: But the sword's coming out of his mouth?
Tim: Yeah. "The sword" it’s a metaphor because it's coming out of his mouth. He's
quoting from two passages in Isaiah, which is proclaiming justice. It's his verdict.
Jon: The sword is his words?
Tim: It's his words that hold Babylon and those who participated accountable. This fits
into the whole depiction of Jesus as the victor in the book of Revelation. He's a slain
Lamb. So he's the most helpless creature. And not only that. His neck is slit and he's
all bloody. That's the victor in the Revelation.
So he's taking the image of the cross and made it a theme to describe the essence
of Jesus' identity. The slain Victor. I was actually really thinking about this over the
weekend. We watched a movie with Jessica's sister-in-law and her husband called
"The Magnificent Seven."
Jon: I saw half of it and then I fell asleep. Not because it was boring, but because I was
Tim: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt.
Tim: And just a classic Western tale.
Jon: Totally. And you just want to see him beat up the bad guy.
Tim: Yeah. It's just a classic. But what was interesting was the innocent town that gets
hijacked by the evil gold mining baron, that kind of thing, the innocent people are
super religious. And the first scene of the pastor, he's this wimp of a man. Of course,
he's portrayed as a total coward.
He first uses prophetic critique of the bad guy. "Who do you think you are? Don't
come into the Lord's house." And then he's just slap down. He is one of the
characters in the story who has this conversion. And what his conversion to is the
only way to beat this guy is to kill him and to kill all of his henchmen.
By the end the ends up praying for and giving his blessing on the heroes as they're
about to go annihilate the bad guys and kill them all. Then the preacher's there at
the end, thanking God for this victory. It's exactly what we're talking about here.
Jon: That's The Day of the Lord as you would imagine it.
Tim: That is The Day of the Lord from the Old Testament prophets' point of view.
Jon: The Day that [unintelligible 00:17:02] and they took down that villain and his crew
and rescued the oppressed.
Tim: But according to Jesus, that's not The Day of the Lord. If Jesus had been Denzel
Washington, he would have failed. That would be a failure because he would have
given in to the devil. And so, in a way—
Jon: There was a scene where Denzel Washington is confronted by this spiritual force
who says, "Hey, I'm going to give you success if you give me allegiance and I'm
going to give you this power."
Tim: "I'll give you a chance to blow the bad guys head off."
Jon: And then Denzel Washington is like, "Yes." And then he goes and they take care of
business. That seemed [unintelligible 00:17:47]
Tim: Yeah, totally. The preacher in "The Magnificent Seven," I think, according to honest
reading of the gospel's narratives would actually put the preacher in the place of
Judas. Like, he said he's on the side of Jesus, but actually, in the end, he knows the
only real way to defeat evil is to be like Babylon. And so, it becomes a betrayal of
And I walked away from the movie really disturbed because everything in me wants
to celebrate. I grew up watching "Westerns" with my dad. It's really nostalgic for me
to watch "Westerns." But I was really conflicted by the end of the film, because I was
like, "That's not the way of Jesus." But I love that the bad guy died the way that he
did. It's the scandal of the cross, I think.
Jon: Yeah, that's uncomfortable.
Tim: It is uncomfortable. So he comes riding on a white horse. So he takes a very
traditional image of Denzel Washington. But then his guns aren't material; they're his
Then we're told that he's covered in blood but the battle hasn't even happened yet.
He's already covered in blood before the battle happens. Here's the thing. This is a
In that phrase, he's using an image drawn from Isaiah 63 that's really actually a
divine warrior image. That's kind of disturbing. But this is a good example of how the
New Testament authors work.
So it's a depiction of The Day of the Lord in Isaiah 63. And the Prophet asks...it's like
he's on a mountain or a hill and he sees a savior figure coming up over the hills.
"Who is this coming up from the south, from Edom, the land of one of Israel's great
enemies, from Bozrah - it's another land - and his garments are all stained red? Who
is this coming robed in splendor striding in the greatness of his strength?"
And then the Victor speaks. "It's me proclaiming victory, mighty to save." Then the
Prophet asked, "Why are your clothes all red like you've been treading in a
winepress?" And then the Victor responds, "I have trodden the winepress alone; from
the nation's no one was with me. I trampled the nations in my anger, trod them in
my wrath; their blood we're using treading a winepress, the blood of grapes spatters
my garment, stained my clothing. For me, it was the day of vengeance, The Day of
Jon: And there, the blood was the nations.
Tim: It's a metaphor. He's stomping the wicked of the nations like grapes. The poem isn't
saying, "Oh, he's squashing tiny humans." He's crushing grapes, and it's a metaphor
of divine justice on the nations.
Jon: He's in the winepress by himself, squishing down the grapes, and he's saying that's
him bringing vengeance on—
Tim: Avenging all the innocent blood.
Jon: So the wine on his garments is really the blood—
Tim: Becomes this metaphor of the blood of the wicked that he's...I mean, it's a very
violent image. It's super violent image.
Tim: So here's how John picks this image up in the Revelation. In Revelation 19:11, he
says, "I saw heaven standing open, there before me was a white horse! His rider is
called Faithful and True. With justice he brings judgment and he wages war.
His eyes are like blazing fire - this is from Daniel, describing the ancient days in
Daniel. On his head are many crowns." Remember that from Revelation chapter 5.
"He has a name written on him that nobody knows but himself." The name
representing your truest identity. "He's dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his
name is the word of God, the armies of heaven following him riding on a white
horse." So here he is. He's bloody and the battle hasn't even started.
Jon: How do you know the battle hasn't started?
Tim: Oh, because it's going to start down below. All he did is arrive over the hilltop with
the sunrise. That's the idea.
Jon: He's waging war but the battle hasn't started.
Tim: He arrives with his clothes covered with blood. "Coming out of his mouth is the
sword" - that is a metaphor of his verdict. "With which he strikes the nation" - this is
a quotation from Isaiah 11. "He strikes the wicked with the breath of his mouth. He
rules with the iron scepter" - that's a quote from Psalm 2. "He treads the winepress
of the theory of the wrath of God Almighty." And you're like, "Wait, I thought...Wait.
He tried to winepress—
Jon: So the wine press can't be him at battle because he hasn't gone to battle yet.
Tim: Right. Or he treads the winepress with the fear of the wrath. In Isaiah 63—
Jon: That's how he got bloody.
Tim: That's how he gets bloody it's by treading the winepress. Here, he's already bloody,
and this is how he's waging war. So John's showing his colliding images here. He's
showing that Jesus's way of waging war is the fulfillment of all of these old
testament images. But he's also, at the same time, turning it upside down in light of
the scandal on the cross.
It's the same thing that happened earlier in Revelation where he says, "I saw the one
who could guide history and open the scroll. It's the Lion of Judah. The aggressive
lion." He says that's what he heard announced. And then what he sees is a Lamb
with a slit throat.
So he's constantly taking aggressive, violent Old Testament Day of the Lord imagery
and saying, "The cross was the day of the Lord. It was the fulfillment of those images,
and it did not involve God killing his enemies. It actually involved the Son of God
allowing himself to be killed by them."
Tim: I think it's inescapable. This is why readings of the book of Revelation that, I don't
know, help people look forward to some future cataclysm of violence where Jesus
comes with the sword cutting people apart, to me, it's not just a misreading of
Revelation. To me, it's a betrayal of Jesus. Because what you're saying is, "Oh, Jesus,
use the means of the cross, but that was just like, his way of being nice for a little
Jon: Ultimately, he will use a threat of death as his true power to bring justice.
Tim: And I'm not saying that there isn't a reality to final justice where people suffer the
consequences of their decisions if they don't yield to Jesus. I'm not saying that. But
what I'm saying is, the New Testament is transforming these violent images of The
Day of the Lord in a really important way that has gone largely unnoticed by the
modern Western church. Because we love Denzel Washington strangling the bad
guy to death.
Jon: It feels good.
Tim: It does. It's satisfying. Anyhow, that's how the day of the Lord comes to its
completion in the last book of the Bible, is this paradox. Here, he defeats the armies
of evil. And then in chapter 20, Babylon death, the beast, the dragon, they're all cast
into the lake of fire. They are assigned, they are quarantined to the place of eternal
self-destruction. And that's the defeat of evil.
And you could say that the violent image, but it's interesting, it's people being
consigned or handed over to what they've chosen. Something that they've chosen,
which is destruction.
Jon: Well, how did Butler talk about...he talked about creating a place for that to exist but
not inside of creation.
Tim: If somebody refuses, like Pharaoh, to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord - using
Pharaoh as icon or Babylon - then God will honor the dignity of that decision and
allow people to exist in that.
Jon: Oh, confinement, I think was the term.
Tim: Confinement, yes. But what God won't allow is for that evil to pollute or vandalize his
creation anymore. The end of Revelation is the New Jerusalem and then outside the
city are...Wait, I thought they were in a lake a fire in chapter 20. But then in chapter
22, the wicked are just outside the city.
So these images of that God will contain those who choose evil, and the point is that
He won't allow them to ruin His world anymore. And, of course, we wonder, "What
does that all actually refer to? The final Day of the Lord, what does it actually mean?"
Jon: And when will we know it's going to happen?
Tim: The biblical authors are not interested in giving us that information. It's like Paul
says, "Concerning times and dates, I'm not going to write to you about that. What
you need to know is what this means for history and for your own setting right now
so that you can follow the Messiah."
Jon: What are the telltale signs that you have become part of Babylon?
Tim: Well, think through the portraits. We have three steps so far. We had Genesis 3 to
11, then we had Egypt, the description of Egypt in the Book of Exodus, and then we
had Solomon's reign and the description of Israel in those books. Each one kind of
progress the portrait.
So Genesis three to 11 was about autonomy, human autonomy from God wanting to
redefine good and evil.
Jon: And every political structure does that.
Tim: Yeah, every political structure has to define what is good and not good in its regime.
Jon: There's no political structure that says, "You know, we're going to do this under the
guidance of Yahweh." Right?
Tim: Well, I don't know. I think in the ancient world, every political—
Jon: Maybe in the ancient world.
Tim: Oh, right now. Well, sure. Again, it gets into a whole debate about American history.
Tim: But God language has been used in America's entire political history, and for most of
European political history.
Jon: God language meaning?
Tim: Appealing to some kind of divine standard as giving moral legitimacy to policies and
decisions. So one nation under God, the liberty - all of that. That's all godly.
Jon: ...that comes from Judean Christian overview. But no one's constitution written in is
Tim: No, not right now. That's like the laws of the Torah.
Jon: Well, not the laws of the Torah necessarily, but even just as a nation, we will always
fear God and we will not try to define Good and Evil on our own terms but always do
it under God's guidance.
Tim: Well, it depends like which God. I mean, that's a whole debate. Even about America,
"one nation under God." What God is that? Like the kind of neutered Christian God
of the American Civil Religion or the actual God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth?
Jon: I think that's what I'm trying to say is, there isn't any nation-state that says, "Yahweh
is our God." Written into our constitution is that we will..."
Jon: Yeah, you're right. That nations state does not exist. Even Modern Israel is not that
nation-state. It's an extremely secular nation-state. Like America uses its religious
heritage as a framework for its language but the actual people and the value
systems at work are modern secular world.
Jon: And I think what's interesting is there's this fear. Because when you see that happen
in like radical Islam, it really can get ugly.
Tim: Yes, yes.
Jon: And so you wonder, "Will that be the same thing if a nations state said, 'Hey, we
follow Yahweh and believe in Jesus and the resurrection and the kingdom of God
and we want to build around that?'" Is it going to get ugly?
I guess if you truly are following Jesus, then you would be this weird nation state
that constantly is forgiving and surrendering weird moments, and creating peace
and justice in radical ways. Maybe it's not even possible. You'll probably just get beat
up and taken out.
Tim: No, it exists right now.
Jon: How does it exist?
Tim: It's called the church.
Jon: But that's not a nation-state.
Jon: That's an institution. And that's what the church is supposed to be.
Tim: It's an institution that Jesus instituted, a multi-ethnic covenant people bound by
their allegiance to Jesus and his love for them that lives by a radically different value
system as a counter back to Babylon. We're describing churches in the New
Jon: You're right, we're describing churches, with the vision—
Tim: ...with the vision of what the movement of Jesus is.
Jon: But I've never thought of churches on the same kind of platform as political
Tim: Oh, I see. Well, what is the political structure? It's just a group of people who share
resources and agree to a set of policies and values that govern their common life
together. That's what the word "politics" mean.
The word "polis" refers to abound to city surrounded by a wall, and "politikos" is the
terms to which we all commit to live together. And so, the movement that Jesus
started is a political movement in the classic sense of that word.
Jon: In the classic sense?
Jon: Not in the sense of we're going to start a new party.
Tim: Any group of people that commits to a commitment to living together by a certain
set of values is a political body in the classic sense of that word.
Tim: Stanley Hauerwas, in some circles controversial Christian theologian, but he's
probably one of the most important voices arguing for a complete separation
between the movement of Jesus and the power structures of the world. And he talks
about that the church doesn't have a political influence. He just says, "The church is a
politics." It's a great way of putting it.
Jon: Yeah, that makes sense the way we're talking about it. That seems like the strategy
that you should have as the church is don't intertwine yourself with politics; be your
Tim: But the problem is, that's not actually what the apostles advocated.
Jon: Right, okay.
Tim: They adopted Jeremiah's philosophy, which was live in the midst of Babylon and
fully immerse yourself but out of allegiance to a different ruler, and with a
completely different value system. Which most of the time is going to create overlap
in pursuit of the common good, but sometimes will create a conflict of allegiance.
And then God's people are to obey God rather than man, as Peter puts in the book
of Acts and happily suffers whatever consequences that come, even if it means
death. And here we're into the book of Daniel or Esther.
Jon: Yeah, because depending on that moment in history, and what you're doing as the
church, you're either being celebrated or you're a threat to national security.
Tim: That's right. Which is exactly how the early Christians were perceived in the first two
centuries is a political threat - a group of people organizing out of allegiance to a
Jon: And that's true persecution, like when you're a political threat correct. If all of a
sudden - and sorry international listeners - but if all of a sudden in America
Christianity is a political threat, then you could say, "Okay, persecution."
Tim: Until then, you just get made fun of in cities on each of the west or east coast. That's
the worst to get.
Jon: Lots of jokes.
Tim: But yeah, our brothers and sisters in many, many countries in the world are actually
persecuted because the Christian movement is viewed as a threat to the social order.
And there are some Americans who feel that way about Christianity, that it's actually
a danger to America social order.
Tim: And of course, so many American Christians views is exactly the opposite.
Tim: The Day of the Lord in the prophets absolutely raises the questions of what you call
political theology. The way you think as a Christian about my relationship to the
power institutions of the world.
Jon: When people ask you about your politics, you don't go into detail. But if someone
asked you, "Do you have an answer? Do you have kind of like 'here's my stance on
Tim: Well, I mean, you can just do in a shorthand way that just invites a conversation.
Which is to say, "Jesus is Lord." And so, when Caesar or Nebuchadnezzar or the
president is on board with the common good as defined by Jesus, then we're happy
neighbors seeking each other's well-being.
Jon: So when someone says, "What political party you are in?" you say, "Jesus is Lord?"
Tim: I think that's what a Christian should say. Then out of moral conscience, you get
informed about the issues, the policies, the leaders. If you're in a democratic
republic, like we have the privilege of being, use you're voting influence, decide
according to your conscience. And that clearly differs even within the body of Christ.
Tim: Because different values are different senses of what is right or we're different core
values of what is right. And here we go. Man, I just listened to a podcast on Jonathan
Haidt, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion."
I don't think he's a Christian, but the podcast I was listening to, it's for theologians
who talk about theology.
Jon: What's that one called?
Tim: It's called Mere Fidelity.
Jon: Yeah, Mere Fidelity.
Tim: It is a great review and discussion of this book. But Jonathan Haidt has identified
why it is that people in American culture just talk past each other. His argument is
just simply that they have different core values of defining what is the right and the
So some people define evil as harm. Some people define evil as disorder or violating
natural boundary lines. Some people define evil as inequality, lack of equality. And
those base definitions will then create whole narratives of what is good. Then you
get people in the same room who are just talking past each other; they inhabit
His point in writing the book is to just help people see that true dialogue means
learning what's underneath other people's core values. And that diversity is within
the body of Christ itself, which is by definition a multi-ethnic international
movement. And so we should expect that they'll be different ways that different
Christians in different countries in different times relate to the power structures
Jon: I think one thing that leads to a lot of political divides is fear. And that is, your
nation-state protects you and your way of life. One of the biggest fears as a human
is to lose security, to lose your freedoms.
I think that how you think that might come to happen is the thing you're going to
fight against. And the things that you think are going to protect those freedoms is
what you're going to fight for. But at the base of it is because we're really afraid. I
get afraid of thinking like, "What if the economy collapses? What if all these different
I was just listening to this podcast last night and they were talking about how
antibiotic strains are actually effective, and it'll take a couple billion dollars, probably
to develop a new one. And corporations don't want to do it because there's not
really any money in it because people only use it once. And the nation states are not
organized enough to do it or isn't a priority. So we're just kind of sitting around
Tim: The next black plague.
Jon: Yeah. So there those fear that's just normal. But I think what I'm realizing is, if your
politics is Jesus is Lord, no matter what happens. You know that phrase like,
whatever happens, God's in control. The prophets as they're seeing all this chaos and
they're seeing these wars—
Tim: Imagine the world they inhabit in.
Jon: Oh, my goodness. And they go, "This is the Day of the Lord. This is the Lord at work,
even though it's ugly, even though it's scary." I'm kind of imagining like, "What's the
worst case scenario for me in my part of the world? And if that happens, I'm usually
not the one to say this, but God must have a plan and the church will stand. The
kingdom of God will prevail. So we don't have to be afraid."
Tim: Yeah, that's right. This is why the Old Testament story doesn't end with exile. It goes
on to continue the story of what it means to be the covenant people of God, even
when all the structures that we thought are what defined us as the people of God
are obliterated. You have Daniel, what did he do wrong? You know.
Jon: What did Daniel do wrong?
Tim: Yeah, what did Daniel do wrong? He's a Torah abiding worshiper of Yahweh and his
life gets ruined because of the rise and fall of kingdoms in Babylon. And so he's
forced to walk this line of allegiance to the God of Israel even though against his will,
it seems, he's constructed into the Babylonian government.
And he takes a Babylonian name, he wears Babylonian clothes, and he serves in the
Babylonian government. But then there are these moments of conflict of values. And
he publicly pledges allegiance to the God of Israel and says, "I'll happily suffer the
consequences but I won't acknowledge the Babylon as God." He does it with a good
attitude. And he says, "You can kill me." That becomes the paradigm of God's people
among Babylon and among the nations.
Jon: He wasn't driven by fear.
Tim: He wasn't driven by fear. Yeah, totally. It's right. This is why the Jesus story is such a
scandal. Such a scandal. And it doesn't mean rejecting, faking, being proud of what
national identity you have. I don't think it means that.
But it does me and my national identity is relativized, it's transcended right by my
allegiance to the king of the nation's and my allegiance to the body. That political
body which is the body of Jesus.
I mean, this is so this is so scandalous to say, but what it means is, I create this
healthy ambiguity in my allegiance to whatever nation I happen to live in. I'll seek its
best, but if the things come crashing down because it's become Babylon, well, that's
the way the Day of the Lord works. And my kingdom became Babylon. I sure hope I
wasn't participating in it.
Jon: And that puts in a very interesting position. Because, let's say you, Tim had the ear of
the President, but the President knows you are sitting in this ambiguous position
where you will seek the best of the country, but you will not if it is an antithesis to
the kingdom of God.
So at one moment, you could be in great favor with the president because there's all
this alignment, and then the next moment, you could be thrown into a lion's den.
Tim: Yeah, because you're not fully on the team. Yeah, that's right.
Jon: Do you think Christians need to embrace that ambiguity or that reality?
Tim: I think many or most do. And then there are the extremes that just say, "Withdraw
and go farm in the countryside, and just and let Babylon go to hell in a handbasket."
Then there are those who say, "No, you know, this is the best thing."
Jon: "God is at work."
Tim: "God is at work, and this is the best expression of God's will in the world, is this form
of government. And so I'm going to..."
Jon: There is a perfect alignment.
Tim: Perfect alignment.
Jon: That's one extreme. The other extreme is—
Tim: Full separatism.
Tim: And then the messy middle is where almost all the stories in the Bible tend to land
which is Daniel, Joseph, Esther, the apostles' relationship to the temple in Jerusalem
in the early chapters of Acts. And Paul in Rome at the end of the book of Acts, he's
under house arrest, doesn't try and escape. He fully submits to the political
machinery of the Roman system, even though he knows that he's there unjustly. And
then he leverages his prison time to talk to strategic influencers about Jesus. There
Political theology is anything but simple. It's never simple. Anything that simplifies it
is just trying to sell you something.
Jon: This is what further complicates it is that then your definition of what is the kingdom
supposed to look like, how do you define evil, like what you were saying? Like, now
you have to, as the church, come to an agreement on how we're defining evil. And
that influences then what you think the kingdom of God is.
Tim: Yeah, how it ought to take expression through a specific local church.
Jon: And it seems like even within Christian communities, there's a disagreement.
Tim: Yeah, that's right. Which is even messier. That's right. It's the greatest threat, the
dissolution of the family and of sexual immorality, or is the greatest threat vast racial
and economic inequalities. You just have to go back to the teachings of the apostles
and the prophets and discern, in the guidance of the Spirit, what expression a
particular church is supposed to make in its context.
Tim: So the Day of the Lord.
Jon: That's a lot.
Tim: The Day Lord is solving a problem so that something better can happen afterwards.
It's not an end in itself.
Jon: Okay, we did it, The Day of the Lord. This was by far the longest and most in-depth
series we've done but we've gotten a lot of good feedback about it. And I hope you
I'm sure you've got some lingering questions. So in an upcoming episode, we're
going to do our best to respond to many of those questions. If you want your
question responded to, send it to us in audio form. Try to keep it around 15 seconds,
and make sure to use your name and where you're from as well, then send your
questions to email@example.com.
We need your questions by 9 am on Tuesday morning. That's May 23. So I know a
lot of people listen to this on Monday morning on a commute, I mean, you just got
In the meantime, if you missed any of the previous episodes, we recommend you go
back and listen to them. And if you haven't done so already, our video on The Day of
the Lord is out on YouTube, youtube.com/thebibleproject. We summarized this
entire thing in five minutes as best as we could.
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