20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Have you ever read through the whole Bible? I know lots of people who have made the attempt. Not all of them succeed. Do not feel too badly if you are one of them. Genesis and Exodus have some great stories, but Leviticus can read a little like the tax code or your computer owner’s manual. Rituals for making sacrifices do not have much plot. If you slog through Leviticus, you will eventually come to the psalms and the prophets. Here another problem surfaces. The psalmist and prophets often ask God to destroy their enemies. In a time when many of us have been thoroughly schooled in the evils of colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, and the various other “isms” which describe the many ways humans have been cruel to other humans, it might seem like God should take the “destroy your enemies” parts out of the Bible. After all, is not God about forgiveness and love?
But that is to read our desires and experiences onto God and not to let God’s word speak to our experiences and shape our lives. God has enemies and he does destroy them. That is a good thing. The last day is a glorious revelation of Christ, and it will be violent. Indeed, that Lord Jesus appears with heavenly armies to rescue his people. Christ will put every rule, every kingdom, and every power under his feet and deliver them over to his Father. Those powers and authorities, long enthralled to our evil foe, will not go willingly. Paul tells us here that this will involve all God’s foes, even death itself. Its foul doors will have to be wrenched open to release its prisoners.
I have the honor to serve a congregation which is known as St. Michael’s Lutheran. Michael is the archangel in command of God’s armies, according to Revelation 12. He is usually depicted holding a spear and wearing armor. Yes, God has a real army which will win the day. I want to be very clear here, I am not condoning human cruelty and violence perpetrated against fellow humans. But I am also unable, as a reader of my Bible, to reject all violence. In his second coming Christ will not be timid, meek, and a victim. He will be the victor who destroys his foes. I join the psalmist and Paul in longing for the day when God will exercise righteous power and crush his foes. I praise God that in Christ I am his child and the object of his concern.