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The Full Measure of Sin
5 August 2014
In a recent article — God's Favor and Vengeance — we saw that even though we are in the New Covenant era of God's favor, in the future that era will end with The Day of the Lord and the return of King Yeshua. As I wrote at the conclusion of that article:
In the end, even though God's patience is immense, He has chosen to limit it. One day, The Day, God's patience will run out, and He will release His vengeance, judgment and retribution upon all of mankind, as the book of Revelation makes clear. As to WHY He will do so, that's a topic for a future article....Now it is time to dig deeper into the Bible to discover why the year of God's favor will end, and the day of God's vengeance will begin. Because God wants us to understand this, He has given us plenty of clues in His written Word.
Undoubtedly, the most cataclysmic event in human history (so far*) has been the Flood. About 1,600 years after creating Adam and Eve, according to the chronology found in the book of Genesis, God decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth — except for a handful of survivors in the Ark. What caused God to take such drastic measures?
In the beginning, "God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.... God saw all that He had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:27,31a).
What started off as very good didn't take overly long to degenerate into something very, very bad. It got to the point where "Yahweh regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled" (Genesis 6:6).
Again, we have to ask what caused such a tragic turn of events? As usual, when there's an issue that's really important for us to understand, God doesn't leave us in the dark, but provides the answer in His written Word: "Yahweh saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5).
Let's pause to consider the full import of this statement. Human beings had become greatly wicked — to the point that EVERY thought and desire of human hearts was EXCLUSIVELY evil ALL the time! How could mankind get to such a state in only 1,600 years? After all, it has been about three times that many years since the Flood until now, and mankind has yet to become THAT corrupt.
Well, there's a hint of an explanation in the text. It's not the main point of this article, but since we are looking at Genesis 6, we should take a look at the opening verses:
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.... The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward — when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1,2,4)There has been debate for thousands of years over who the sons of God is referring to. I don't want to delve into all of that here — you can easily research it yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you look at how that phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible, and if you consider the context of what is being said in Genesis 6, then I believe that it literally means that demonic fallen angels somehow had sexual intercourse with human women — however outlandish that may sound to our "modern" ears. Rosemary's Baby on a global scale?
This understanding goes a long ways in explaining how mankind had become so corrupt, and why God had no other alternative than to destroy humanity and start over. "But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh.... Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God" (Genesis 6:8,9b).
Even though Yahweh revealed Himself to Moses as "the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin" (Exodus 34:6b,7a) — still, there seems to come a time, according to what God has communicated in the Bible, when there is no other way forward except by destruction and death. The account of the Flood may be the most extreme example of this, but it is not the only instance.
A bit further on we come to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah — see Genesis 18:16-19:29. At the beginning of chapter 18, three men come to visit Abraham — two angels, as well as Yahweh Himself (Yeshua?), all in human form! After talking of another matter for a while (see Genesis 18:1-15), Yahweh says to Abraham:
"The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached Me. If not, I will know." (Genesis 18:20-21)It turned out that their sin WAS so grievous that Yahweh destroyed Sodom and the surrounding towns, saving only Abraham's nephew Lot and Lot's two daughters. Years later, God had more to say about Sodom and the surrounding towns. In addition to their infamous, rabid, militant homosexuality — see Genesis 19 —
"This was the sin of Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." (Ezekiel 16:49-50)As is often the case, the New Testament provides commentary and insights on important parts of the Old Testament. The apostle Peter wrote that God "condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6).
Another follower of Yeshua wrote: "Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7).
About 500 years after the destruction of Sodom, after the descendants of Abraham had moved to Egypt and become the enslaved people of Israel (Abraham's grandson, formerly called Jacob), God led the Jewish nation out of their bondage and into the Promised Land — see Exodus 12-14. Their leader, Moses, passed on God's instructions to them:
Could you imagine the worldwide uproar if God told the Jews to do such a thing in our day — even killing all of the women and children?! The unbelievers of our day — which includes all the Muslims and many "Christians" — would drag Moses and all of Israel before the International Criminal Court in The Hague to be tried for war crimes!
When Yahweh your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations — the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you — and when Yahweh your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
So, why did God, who is full of love and compassion and wants sinners to repent rather than die — why did God command the Jews to completely destroy these people in such a brutal, uncompromising way? Once again, God gives us the answer in His word. Way back around the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Yahweh told Abraham:
"Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Genesis 15:13,14,16)Right here we have the key to all of God's dealings with mankind. He delays judgment as long as possible, not wanting anyone to perish. God gives them more than enough time to turn from their sins and turn to Himself — if they want to. But ultimately, after however-many years, people eventually become so corrupt that it is no longer possible for them to repent. They have reached the point of no return — they have reached the full measure of sin — so there is nothing left for God to do but destroy them, lest their far-gone depravity corrupt others. It's a type of radical cancer surgery in order to save the body of mankind!
Unfortunately, even the special chosen people of God can become corrupted and depraved. In the same passage from Ezekiel in which God talked about Sodom, Yahweh also said regarding the Jews themselves:
"You not only followed the ways of Sodom and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Yahweh, Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done." (Ezekiel 16:47-48)
God explains further through Ezekiel, just as He did again and again through numerous other prophets:
"... because of all the wicked and detestable practices of the people of Israel, they will fall by the sword, famine and plague. One who is far away will die of the plague, and one who is near will fall by the sword, and anyone who survives and is spared will die of famine. So will I pour out My wrath on them. And they will know that I am Yahweh, when their people lie slain among their idols around their altars, on every high hill and on all the mountaintops, under every spreading tree and every leafy oak — places where they offered fragrant incense to all their idols. And I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land a desolate waste...." (Ezekiel 6:11b-14a)But God, who is rich in mercy, had mercy once again on His chosen people. He brought them back from captivity into their own land. Eventually, in the fullness of time, God performed His greatest act of mercy. He Himself, Yahweh in the flesh, came to that land to die on an execution stake for the sins of the Jews, as well as for the sins of all the rest of humanity. Although a remnant of the Jews accepted Yeshua as their Savior and Messiah, the majority of the nation did not. Therefore, Yeshua warned them of yet another period of destruction, death and exile:
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh.'" (Matthew 23:37-39)Within 100 years of Yeshua's declarations, the Romans had destroyed the Temple as well as all of Jerusalem. The nationless Jews were scattered around the world for many hundreds of years, until God regathered them back to the land of Israel during the 20th century. The "times of the Gentiles" are coming to a close. God's prophetic clock is ticking down the time that is left until The Day of the Lord — also known as The Time of Jacob's Trouble.
As Yeshua approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." (Luke 19:41-44)
"As for the Temple, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down." (Luke 21:6)
"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.... This is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.... There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:20,22,23b,24)
The prophet Jeremiah foresaw this Day of Yahweh:
Cries of fear are heard — terror, not peace. Ask and see: Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor, every face turned deathly pale? How awful That Day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.... "I am with you and will save you," declares Yahweh. "Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you...." (Jeremiah 30:5-7,11a)The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, describes the death and destruction which God will inflict upon all of mankind during That Day.
The four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.... A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur... The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood — idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:15,18a,20,21)So the Beast kills those who refuse to worship the Beast, and God kills those who do worship the Beast. Who is going to be left? Yeshua said: "There will be greater anguish at that time than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen ones" (Matthew 24:21-22).
The Dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a Beast coming out of the sea.... The Dragon gave the Beast his power and his throne and great authority.... People worshiped the Dragon because he had given authority to the Beast, and they also worshiped the Beast... It was given power to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the Beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. (Revelation 13:1a,2b,4a,7,8)
Then I saw a second Beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first Beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first Beast... It ordered an image to be set up in honor of the first Beast... The second Beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first Beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads... (Revelation 13:11,12a,14b,15,16)
A third angel said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the Beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the Beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name." (Revelation 14:9-11)
Why will God bring such death and destruction upon the human race once again? I believe that it's the same reason why He did the same thing thousands of years ago through the Flood: "Yahweh saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5). Mankind will once again have reached the point of no return — the full measure of sin — when repentance and salvation are no longer possible.
The prophetic words of Yeshua bring us back full circle from where we started this article:
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the My return. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day that I, the Son of Man, am revealed." (Luke 17:26-30)
*The apostle Peter also makes a connection between the destruction of the earth in the Flood, and the coming destruction at The Day of Yahweh. Although God had promised never to destroy the earth again by water (see Genesis 9:8-17), you have to read the fine print! He never promised He wouldn't destroy the earth again, just that He wouldn't use water to do it! As Peter tells us, next time it will be by fire!
Long ago by God's word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.... The Master is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:5b-7,9-10)But That Day is not yet here, although it is rapidly approaching. There is still time to turn from your sins, turn to Yeshua, and receive the forgiveness He purchased for you with His own blood.
God says, "In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, NOW is the time of God's favor, NOW is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2)
So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..." See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:7,8a,12)
This article is 17th a series of articles on this Web site related to Exploring New Testament Realities which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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