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  • Direction: Ecclesial Repentance: The Churches Confront Their Sinful Pasts
    unnecessary divisions among the people of God The disunity of Christians as expressed in many bilateral dialogues points to the given unity in Christ which calls for reconciliation Included are several Mennonite statements on repentance from North America and Canada although a confession expressed by German Mennonites fifty years after WWII is missing Repentance for offences against the Jewish people were issued by the churches after the Holocaust an initiative which made Jewish Christian dialogue possible and paved the way for much needed corrections in Christian theologies particularly supersessionism While church declarations from Western Europe receive special attention the criteria for selecting the resources are not always self evident For example the important statement by the Evangelical Church in Rhineland in 1980 a paradigm shift for Christians in Germany is summarized in a mere two sentences 43 This is simply to signal the vast quantity of material and the enormous influence ecclesial repentance has on doing theology which is one of the main reasons why this research is so important Second churches have confessed guilt and expressed repentance for the legacy of Western colonialism including such offences against aboriginal people as slavery racism and apartheid The third category includes declarations of repentance for sexual abuse violence and injustice discrimination against women and homosexual persons as well as participation in civil wars and environmental destruction In the second half of the book entitled Doctrine and Practice Frameworks and Implications Bergen seeks to interpret the presented material by choosing corresponding ecclesiological motives questions of history memory and the temporal nature of the church are confronted with the self understanding of the church as the communion of saints ch 5 Here he draws on the Trinitarian approach of Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson as a reference point The temporal continuity of the church is rooted in God s triune life it is the movement of the Holy Spirit that enables the church to repent of its sins Further it is God s reconciling work in Christ that creates the community of saints and also establishes and preserves the eschatological character of the church Differences in ecclesiological self understanding become relevant when dealing with the nature and meaning of sin in the church While in Protestant perspective the community of believers is able to sin collectively and always sins the Roman Catholic interpretation of the church as sacrament which therefore simply cannot sin still faces the challenge of repenting for the sins of its members Here the question of the holiness of the church is chosen as a point of reference and a possible way to interpret ecclesiologically what in fact happens ch 6 Bergen sees a movement in both traditions towards one another The church s holiness is fully in Christ and fully bound to its historical character and identity 241 even in light of the Holocaust Holiness is an indestructible gift of God and the church is conformed evermore to the body of Christ by repentance Bergen then moves on to discuss the

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/2/ecclesial-repentance-churches-confront.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Jesus and Paul Before Christianity: Their World and Work in Retrospect
    focuses on Jesus beginning with a summary of the literary geographical and archeological sources from which our picture of Jesus emerges ch 4 While the meaning of Jesus ministry is captured in many ways by the crucifixion ch 5 Shillington argues for the importance of understanding his pre ministry context growing up in a humble Jewish village ch 6 then deliberately placing himself within the already established revolutionary movement of John the Baptist ch 7 The central concept of Jesus ministry itself is the Kingdom or Rule of God Jesus not only announced this Kingdom but also enacted it ch 8 through the call of disciples healings and exorcisms the drawing of crowds and table fellowship with unsavory people an enactment that appealed strongly to the rank and file Jewish people who were weighed down under the yoke of taxation imposed on them by a foreign power 88 The Kingdom sayings themselves were embedded in the social codes of Jesus listeners and Shillington s insight in deciphering the codes for contemporary readers is invaluable ch 9 For example he offers an enlightening discussion of the salt of the earth parable in which halas is interpreted not as salt that loses its taste but as fertilizer that loses its potency the same fertilizer in fact that is extracted from Dead Sea salt to this day The section ends with Jesus last days in Jerusalem ch 10 including an intriguing interpretation of the nature of the resurrected Jesus In Part III then we turn to Paul While some claim that Paul s mission distorted that of Jesus Shillington emphasizes continuity He demonstrates that Paul s faith convictions were rooted in the early messianic communities of Jerusalem and Antioch ch 12 that Paul like Jesus was Jewish to the end ch 13 and

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/2/jesus-and-paul-before-christianity-their.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Roots and Branches: A Narrative History of the Amish and Mennonites in Southeast United States, 1892-1992
    city of Sarasota and a congregation in Gainesville closely connected to faculty and students at the University of Florida In 1992 when Lehman s narrative more or less ends the Southeast Mennonite Conference included 2300 members in twenty eight congregations By 2008 the book s epilogue notes the conference was the most diverse of the twenty conferences in Mennonite Church USA and was being called to the front of the pack to show what Mennonite Church USA should look like 207 Lehman has served us well by documenting this story as a narrative history However the book is short on analysis and some readers will wish there was more context and reflection on the racial ethnic diversity theme The other prominent theme is ecclesiology and polity In the early and middle decades of the twentieth century the Mennonites who moved to Florida and nearby states organized churches under the auspices of various northern Old Mennonite conferences By the late 1960s there was no single Mennonite conference in the southeast Instead there were almost two dozen churches tethered to five different northern conferences Lehman recounts the slow and careful process by which these churches decided they had more in common with one another than they did with their northern counterparts The decision was not easy because many white Mennonites in the South cherished their familial and ecclesial ties to the North and in some cases mission churches were financially dependent on northern conference budgets for their survival Eventually most of the congregations in the region formed the Southeast Mennonite Convention which supplemented but did not replace northern conference ties The convention then evolved into Southeast Mennonite Conference a structure parallel to the northern conferences of the Mennonite Church This story of emerging polity played out against other narratives including the reorganization

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/2/roots-and-branches-narrative-history-of.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Selling the Amish: The Tourism of Nostalgia
    is slow food and Amish women s culinary labors as cooks and waitresses are on display at Der Dutchman restaurant for example Trollinger also discusses frontier themed buildings and simulated farmsteads in the town of Berlin that encourage tourists to identify the Amish as present day pioneers conquering the wilderness Further she argues that the Swiss ethnicity identifiable in Sugarcreek s architecture cheese factories and annual Swiss festival is less successful as tourism due to white assimilation and loss of ethnic identity Trollinger s interpretive work rightly applies Dean MacCannell s notion of staged authenticity which can be understood as the marketing of re imagined ethnic cultural traditions However Trollinger largely overlooks the vast field of heritage tourism literature that could have contextualized and provided comparative data to her work She cites Buck s 1978 sociological tourist research and John A Hostetler s critiques both dated to support her contemporary claims of the shallowness of Amish tourism putting an ahistorical cast on an industry that at least in Lancaster County has grown exponentially and developed enormously in the last decade Trollinger describes tourists to the Amish in general and to the Ohio Amish in particular as made up of relatively homogeneous white middle class Americans from the Midwest and Northeast United States My study of Amish tourism in Lancaster demonstrates that tourists in this region include significant numbers of Orthodox Jews tourists of color from nearby cities and foreign tourists Lancaster Amish tourism also generates nearly three times as much economic activity as that of Ohio Amish Country 11 million vs 4 million My research in Lancaster also shows that many Amish are involved in representing themselves to outsiders albeit for their economic livelihood and are not in fact reliant on the visual rhetoric of a particular place to define

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/2/selling-amish-tourism-of-nostalgia.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Present Tense: A Mennonite Spirituality
    one such articulation one that is primarily descriptive and very personal yet also strangely universal in our time Houser as a long time journalist who comes to the tradition from the outside seems uniquely well suited to the writing of this volume He is familiar with words and language but uses them with sensitive care and deliberate precision His preface is very helpful both in opening up and providing boundaries for the key words of the title and subtitle It also provides a context and a summary statement of this present Mennonite spirituality It is about how we live as bodies not how we escape our bodies The eight chapters then each explore one way that Houser members of his congregation and other Mennonites live the Spirit in their bodies Each chapter is headed by one word beginning with the letter p This is unfortunate for those of us who immediately discount as trivial anything that is alliterated too cleverly But needless to say it is an effective mnemonic device Each chapter is a collection of a wide range of anecdotes stories and personal reflections related to the key word or concept For example the chapter on patience includes a discussion of the German Anabaptist concept of Gelassenheit a word that captures the essence of Anabaptist spirituality as highlighted by Arnold Snyder and others Houser also includes a discussion of personality inventories such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram and a particularly poignant story of his Hopi Mennonite friends the Myrons as a way of explaining patience understood as learning to trust God rather than taking things into our own hands Perhaps patience is the spiritual root and foundation of the notion of peace a term more commonly used in Mennonite circles The chapter on politics is

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/2/present-tense-mennonite-spirituality.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom
    of Assisi a thirteenth century monk serves as the model for this radical ordering of life He was of the strong conviction that the words of Jesus ought to be taken as literally as they were spoken and obeyed This however is not merely a personal journey into radical piety rather the Sermon is to be lived out corporately The Little Flowers Community believes the image of Christ and his mission in the world are best experienced and given witness to through the community of Jesus the church After an introductory chapter setting out the main idea of the book Arpin Ricci divides the material into eleven sections followed by a concluding chapter focusing on the parable of the Two Builders The primary emphasis is on Matthew 5 which is the focus of six of the eleven chapters This might appear to be a problem of imbalance but much of the material of the first six chapters contributes directly to the final five chapters which cover most of Matthew 6 and 7 Each chapter is the blending of three streams of material which do not necessarily follow the same order in each case One stream presents an incident in the life of the community or in society which puts a practical down to earth human face onto the material Second an exegetical treatment of the text is included While this book is not to be mistaken for a commentary on the Sermon it nonetheless deals very adequately with the meaning of the text Third although he is far removed from the Little Flowers Community in time the book draws helpful insights from St Francis of Assisi s extraordinary life The incidents and illustrations from the life of St Francis are particularly revealing and worth the effort of reading the book

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/2/cost-of-community-jesus-st-francis-and.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: From the Editor: Atonement
    by the Heidebrecht study 1 Has Mennonite Brethren atonement language recently taken a new direction 2 Why have MBs emphasized the atoning value of Christ s resurrection In Pierre Gilbert s paper he argues that the fall had ontological consequences requiring an atoning intervention capable of healing that rupture in the fabric of reality The suffering death and resurrection of Jesus was that intervention Paul Cumin s Augustinian treatment of sin continues the ontological discussion Sin he says is manifested in religion lust and cowardice each a kind of ontological violence which diminishes us and others Christ is the condition of ontological fullness and peace Erwin Penner draws attention to the cosmic significance of Christ s atoning work Suffering in our place the penalty for our sin is but one part of what Christ accomplishes his death and resurrection also motivate mission in all its forms in anticipation of God s future new creation In another paper based on a study conference workshop Bryan Born and Mark Wessner ask us whether we see the big picture that makes sense of Christian mission They echo Penner s insistence that God s mission is cosmic in scope and helpfully develop an outline of a theology of mission based on the biblical themes of cosmos calling cross and commission Mark Baker attempts to answer critics of his thinking on atonement but also seeks to advance the conversation by suggesting that Jesus life understood against the backdrop of the Old Testament is the foundational story that renders intelligible what happened on the cross Ryan Schellenberg joins the discussion by noting the points at which the recent second edition of Baker and Green s Recovering the Scandal of the Cross differs from the first His careful analysis should clarify some issues even as it raises

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/41/1/editorial.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Substitution: The Sure Foundation of Atonement
    throughout the New Testament using a variety of metaphors and figures of speech The Old Testament is full of atonement language Here we read of a complicated system of sacrifices God provided so that atonement cleansing arresting the wrath of God might occur For example on the Day of Atonement two goats played crucial roles The high priest was to take two male goats for a sin offering Lev 16 5 in order to atone for the people s sins One goat was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the altar to make atonement On the living goat a fascinating ritual ensued the high priest laid hands on the goat confessed the sins of the people and transferred them onto its head and banished the goat into the wilderness Lev 16 20 22 The sacrificial goat exhibited the means of atonement and the banished goat the results I Howard Marshall observes The scapegoat ritual pictured the getting rid of sin rather than the sinners The confession of sin transferred the sin to the goat When we read of Christ as the Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world it is difficult to avoid the impression that the same kind of thing is happening 8 Hebrews 9 and 10 point to the shed blood of Christ as effecting what animal sacrifices and the scapegoat symbolized i e the cancellation and removal of sin from God s sight and hence the purification of the sinner Hebrews 9 22 echoing Leviticus 17 11 states that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness In the Old Testament rituals God was teaching his people the gravity of sin and that their breaking covenant faithfulness not only brought him grief and sorrow but anger and wrath Then by various aspects of the sacrificial system an ultimate sacrifice was foreshadowed and foretold whose death would absorb God s wrath and take upon himself the iniquity of us all Isaiah 52 13 53 12 as no other Old Testament passage undergirds and explicates the substitutionary death of Christ the Suffering Servant of the Lord It is from this text that I want to start my first major point Jesus perspective on the atonement Three other points will follow the Pauline perspective the Lion and the Lamb motif of Revelation and then some closing caveats JESUS PERSPECTIVE ON THE ATONEMENT It is clear that by his numerous allusions to the Suffering Servant motif of Isaiah our Lord saw himself in that soteriological light He would fulfill the sin bearing role of Isaiah 53 The New Testament writers certainly saw in Isaiah 53 the atoning work of Christ Indeed No other passage from the Old Testament was as important to the early Church as Isaiah 53 writes Joachim Jeremias 9 The New Testament writers quote eight specific verses from Isaiah 53 as being fulfilled in Jesus verse 1 Who has believed our message or what was heard from us ESV is applied to Jesus by John John 12 38 verse 4 he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases NRSV is referenced in Matthew 8 17 as being fulfilled in our Lord s healing ministry verses 5 6 by his wounds we are healed and We all like sheep have gone astray are picked up in 1 Peter 2 22 25 verse 9 nor was there any deceit in his mouth and verse 11 he will bear their iniquities are also referenced in 1 Peter 2 22 25 Thus eight verses out of twelve in Isaiah 53 refer to Jesus There are numerous references by Jesus to Isaiah 53 For example he said he would be rejected Mark 9 12 cf Isa 53 3 taken away Mark 2 20 cf Isa 53 9 and numbered with the transgressors Luke 22 37 cf Isa 53 12 Isaiah 53 7 8 was a pivotal passage in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch He was reading about the One who was led like a sheep to the slaughter and being deprived of justice and life but he did not know of whom these verses were speaking Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus Acts 8 35 Isaiah 53 is reflected by Jesus in his ransom sayings Mark 10 45 Matt 20 28 and his supper sayings Mark 14 24 Matt 26 28 In his reference to his life being given as a ransom for many Jesus unites the Son of Man and Servant passages A ransom was the price paid to free slaves from bondage In the institution of the Lord s Supper Jesus declared that his blood would be poured out for many certainly echoing Isaiah 53 12 he poured out his life unto death One might add that the many for whom our Lord gave his life as a ransom and the many for whom he poured out his blood are not as restrictive as they at first appear The many of the ransom saying echo the fourfold many in Isaiah 53 14 15 Indeed as Stott points out the expression is not exclusive many but not all but in the Semitic manner of speech inclusive the totality consisting of many 10 There are those who take exception to the interpretation that our Lord fulfills the salvatory role of Isaiah 53 In The Nonviolent Atonement Mennonite theologian J Denny Weaver asserts that Jesus death was never intended by God or chosen by Jesus for this would have been tantamount to sanctioning violence Jesus came not to die but to live to witness to the reign of God in human history While he may have known that carrying out that mission would provoke inevitable fatal opposition his purpose was not to get himself killed 11 Furthermore Weaver claims that the cross was not a salvific necessity Jesus death accomplishes nothing for the salvation of sinners nor does it accomplish anything for the divine economy Since Jesus mission was not to die but to make visible the reign of God it is clear that neither God nor the reign of God needs Jesus death in the way that his death is irreducibly needed in satisfaction atonement 12 Jesus death was clearly not the will of God according to Weaver Both of the above assertions fly in the face of the abundant and clear teaching of Scripture In addition to our exposition of Isaiah 53 we add some sample passages from the Gospels In Luke 18 31 33 Jesus for the third time foretells his death to the disciples And taking the twelve he said to them See we are going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon And after flogging him they will kill him and on the third day he will rise In John s Gospel Jesus is described as moving steadily toward the appointed hour of his death 2 4 7 30 8 20 12 2 27 13 1 16 32 17 1 which is also the hour of his glory 12 23 27 28 17 1 5 In John 10 11 and 14 18 our Lord says I am the good shepherd The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep I am the good shepherd I know my own and my own know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep For this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may take it up again No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again This charge I have received from my Father As to the salvific necessity of our Lord s death the ransom sayings the supper sayings of Jesus already referred to indeed the entire New Testament exult in the Lamb who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood Rev 1 5 Throughout his epistles Paul exclaims that he wants to proclaim nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified 1 Cor 2 2 For the word of the cross to us who are being saved is the power of God 1 Cor 1 18 Was the atonement nonviolent a view gaining much traction No atonement theory can possibly avoid the fact that Jesus suffered a cruel and bloody death crucifixion probably being the cruelest method of execution in the Roman world Critics cannot deny the physical violence of crucifixion What they say is that there was no divine violence involved in the death of Christ Make no mistake about it writes Weaver Satisfaction in any form depends on divinely sanctioned violence that follows from the assumption that doing justice means to punish 13 How can a God of all peace not only sanction violence but actually require it to satisfy his own honor or justice The atoning death of Christ was violent in its execution but our Lord was nonviolent in his response no striking back and no retaliation He endured violence nonviolently knowing this was the will of God He could have called on his Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to deliver him Matt 26 53 but he did not Instead When he was reviled he did not revile in return when he suffered he did not threaten but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly 1 Pet 2 23 I maintain that the death of Christ was violent vicarious and victorious Thus we don t have to choose between the three v view and the Christus Victor view In Colossians 2 14 15 we read that the cancelling of our debt on the cross means also triumph over the evil powers oppressing us and our world God nailed the indictment against us to the cross and by the death and resurrection of his Son disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him THE PAULINE PERSPECTIVE Paul was the preacher of the cross par excellence To unpack his perspective on the atonement is a large task We begin by briefly commenting on what has been called the most significant atonement passage in the New Testament a text riddled with theological controversy 14 The text is Romans 3 21 26 Much of the discussion centers around the meaning of the Greek word hilasterion Is it to be translated propitiation the turning away of God s wrath or expiation the covering or cancellation of sins or something more generic like sacrifice of atonement Let me go on record as leaning in to propitiation as the more consistent translation of hilasterion in this context with expiation not denied but seen as secondary The thrust of Romans 1 God s wrath revealed against all unrighteousness is carried through in Romans 3 5 and 8 We are saved by Christ from the wrath of God 5 9 and There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus 8 1 In his commentary on Romans in The New Interpreter s Bible N T Wright states Dealing with wrath or punishment is propitiation with sin expiation You can propitiate a person who is angry you expiate a sin crime or stain on your character Vehement rejection of the former idea in many quarters has led some to insist that only expiation is in view here But the fact remains that in 1 18 3 20 Paul has declared that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness and that despite God s forbearance this will finally be meted out that in 5 8 and in the whole promise of 8 1 30 those who are Christ s are rescued from wrath 15 In the Old Testament hilasterion refers to the mercy seat in the temple on which blood was sprinkled and at which place God s merciful forgiveness was granted on the Day of Atonement The Hebrew word for atonement means ransom substitute cover or wipe away and whatever the precise nuance of its mechanism the result of atonement was always to prevent or arrest the wrath of God from flaming out and consuming Israel while he dwelt in their midst 16 Citing passages like Numbers 16 46 49 Numbers 25 1 3 Exodus 32 30 33 6 and 2 Samuel 24 1 25 Groves proposes that atonement is best understood as made by an act that purifies something in such a manner that the outbreak of Yahweh s holy wrath is either arrested or prevented 17 As we have noted Isaiah 53 is full of atonement language It concerns that which purifies and shields from God s wrath the Suffering Servant bore our grief was smitten by God wounded for our transgressions crushed for our iniquities oppressed and afflicted cut off out of the land of the living stricken for our transgressions and it was the will of the Lord to crush him and put him to grief The cross was necessary because humanity was alienated from God by sin and God was alienated from humanity by holy wrath Thus Romans 3 25 26 explains the need for Christ s propitiating sacrifice of God s holy character One of the reasons the concept of propitiation is rejected is as Weaver and others assert it portrays a wrathful God vindictive and vengeful requiring placating as did pagan deities However Scripture does not portray God in this manner He has none of the capriciousness spitefulness and loss of control so characteristic of human anger God s wrath is always predictable because it is provoked by sin and evil and by sin and evil alone He is of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong Hab 1 13 Stott writes What is common to the biblical concepts of the holiness and the wrath of God is the truth that they cannot coexist with sin God s holiness exposes sin his wrath opposes it So sin cannot approach God and God cannot tolerate sin 18 It is precisely because of this dilemma that God put forward and Christ willingly became a propitiary offering The condemnation our sins deserved for we are all by nature children of wrath Eph 2 3 fell on Christ and now He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world 1 John 2 2 There was no conflict in the triune Godhead regarding the atonement nor in God s character The cup of God s wrath was given by the Father and voluntarily taken by the Son on our behalf Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me said Jesus John 18 11 God s love his holiness justice and wrath are all part of his character Because he is love God provides an atonement that simultaneously wipes out the sin of those who offend and keeps his own justice intact Rom 3 26 In the words of P T Forsyth in The Cruciality of the Cross The holiness of God is meaningless without judgment The one thing he could not do is nothing He must either inflict punishment or assume it And he chose the latter course as honoring the law while saving the guilty He took his own judgment 19 This is all of grace and is received by faith The richness of the Romans 3 21 26 text comes through in a variety of the translations New Living Translation We are made right in God s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins The Message God sacrificed Jesus on the altar out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself and the expanded translation in Today s New International Version This righteousness is given through faith through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith THE LION AND THE LAMB MOTIF OF REVELATION As we have noted much current theological thinking seeks to marginalize biblical passages which speak of wrath and punishment as pertaining to God s actions in spite of the fact that God s wrath is mentioned no fewer than thirty times in the New Testament alone If there is any doubt regarding the wrath and damnation from which the atoning work of Christ came to rescue us the final book of the Bible graphically shows the horrific fate of those who reject that atoning work Warfare wrath and judgment are writ large in the Apocalypse For example terms seldom used elsewhere in the New Testament appear quite frequently in Revelation i e twice the Lamb makes war in 2 16 and in 19 11 where the warfare is linked with judging righteously Two words for wrath thymes and orgĒ are used ten and six times respectively far more often than elsewhere in the New Testament except orgĒ in Romans The verb avenge occurs twice 6 10 19 2 of its six New Testament uses Numerous words from the dik family are used stressing the righteousness and justice of God 16 5 7 19 2 22 1 15 4 19 8 19 11 20 Although Revelation is certainly largely symbolic one must not see symbol as taking away the surety and severity of God s judgment From our Lord s mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations 19 15 Miroslav Volf observes that the violence of the divine word which comes from our Lord s mouth is no less

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