The Gift of Biblical Love
God so loved the world that He gave…. This is the month for giving gifts, but are you giving them in love? The biblical language perceives love as an action word, and one way to express your love is to give. “ But what is biblical love?
Fortunately, I can see nowhere in Scripture that we are asked to give the life of a family member as God gave the life of His son. In fact, the commandment is the exact opposite. God declared, “I will set My face against any man and cut him off from among his people if he gives some of his offspring to Molech [the pagan god of the Moabites] (Lev 20:3). A common practice throughout the ancient Near East was to give the firstborn son (the most precious of one’s offspring) in a ritualistic killing to the gods, which often involved burning the child as a burnt offering. God’s commandment against this practice was revolutionary for its time. The story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac, instructs us about God’s gift of love by giving Abraham a substitute animal for the sacrifice.
However…. God asks each of us to be prepared to give our own lives, which is not a commandment but a request that requires the greatest gift of love. So, let me ask you this. Are you curious about the Great Tribulation? Do you want to participate in God’s chosen remnant that has an important role to play in God’s great plan to redeem mankind? Then you must be prepared to die. In fact, God did not sacrifice His son. Instead, His son gave his life as an act of love, which is what we are being asked to do also. Not now, but in the Great Tribulation. So now we are in preparation for that gift of love.
We receive instruction once more through the narrative. Esau, the firstborn son of Isaac, “came in from the field and he was famished.” He asked his brother for food, but Jacob refused to give him any unless Esau sold the birthright of his inheritance to which the firstborn was entitled by the position of his birth. Because he was famished to the point of death, Esau responded, “I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me” (Gen 25:32)?
In my work on the remnant in Scripture, I have equated those who are worthy to inherit the birthright (a position of leadership and responsibility) with God’s selection of a remnant. Esau was not worthy of the birthright, and so Esau will not be selected by God to participate in the remnant. Jacob may have purchased the birthright, but it took twenty years of exile in Padan Aram before he was finally worthy of that inheritance. His twenty years in exile gives us a picture of the temptations and trials of the world that we must learn how to overcome.
When will we be asked to give our life in love? In the Book of Revelation we see a battle in heaven between Satan and his army on one hand and the Messiah and his army on the other. When Satan is cast down to the earth, the battle continues there. Then “the dragon was enraged with the woman [who had given birth to a son, the Messiah], and went off to make war with the rest of her children” (Rev 12:17). Stop here for just a moment. “The rest” is a common expression in Hebrew for the remnant, those who are left and remain after God’s selection of who is worthy of this role. Confirmation of “the rest” as the remnant is verified by what follows. They “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17).
The battle on earth continues. “It was given to him [Satan] to make war with the ἁγίων (Rev 13:7). The Greek word ἁγίων has been translated “saints”, but that is misleading because a common understanding is that all believers in Christ are saints. Not so. Saints are the holy ones who are righteous, and that only describes some of God’s children. We are told that “these [who are serving in the Messiah’s army] are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes [signifying baptism that washes away sins] and made them white [representing pure and holy] in the blood of the Lamb [putting their complete trust and faith in him]. (Rev 7:14).