God Destroys His Enemies: The Horns & Craftsman
Passage: Zechariah 1:18–1:21
Sermon from Zechariah 1:18-21 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration, Part 3
Delivered on August 16, 2015
Some of you know that I married a Texas Aggie. Rachel graduated from Texas A&M. And this school has some very—let’s call them—unique traditions (Russell and Colby, you’re just going to have to bear with me for a minute). One of this school’s traditions is the Aggie War Hymn. It’s a fight song of sorts that they sing/yell regarding their rival competitors. And right at the end, the students sway and shout these words: “Saw Varsity’s horns off/ Saw Varsity’s horns off / Saw Varsity’s horns off / Short! Hey!” Varsity refers to their rival. To cut off Varsity’s horns means to defeat them.
Aggies have fun singing this song, but of course we know their fight song doesn’t always mean victory. That’s not the case with the songs resounding from the church of Jesus Christ. We sing because with the Lord always means victory. In our passage today, the Lord gives Zechariah a vision of some horns that he will cut off. Only, once the horns are destroyed, they never raise their heads again. God destroys his enemies, so that his kingdom alone stands, and so that his people alone dwell with him in peace.
That’s where we’re heading. And it’s really a continuation of where the first vision left us hanging last Sunday. If you recall, each vision is interlocked with the other, such that these eight visions tell a single story. The first vision only gave us part of the story, God promised to return to his people, giving them restoration, grace, and a future hope in a new Jerusalem. But it also left us hanging in some ways.
One of those ways is that God said he was “exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease” (Zech 1:15). But we weren’t yet told what God was planning to do with the nations. Would he get them out of the way? Would he fight for his oppressed people? Would he really judge them? These questions get answered in the second vision. Let’s read it together, starting in verse 18:
18And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns! 19And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. 21And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”
Visions & Angelic Interpreters
As we noted last week, visions are one vehicle among others that God used to reveal himself (cf. Heb 1:1). And visions often involve peculiar imagery and overlapping metaphors, many times quite difficult to understand. But what’s also true of most visions is that God provides an interpretation. The interpretation is not always exhaustive in detail or chronology, but the interpretation is always sufficient for us to know God and trust him to save us.
Within the genre of literature we’re reading—which we also find elsewhere, such as Daniel and Revelation—God interprets the vision through an angel. God gives the vision, and then sends an angel to interpret what is there, to help the prophet understand—and by doing so, help the coming generations understand as well. We get this much in our vision today. Zechariah sees four horns and four craftsmen and then asks the angel, “What are these [horns]?” and “What are these [craftsmen] coming to do?” (1:19, 21). The angel then answers accordingly (1:20, 21).
Four Horns of the Nations
Let’s begin with the four horns. Three times the angel discloses the identity of these horns. Look first at verse 19: “I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these [horns]?’ And he said to me, ‘These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.’” Then he says it again in verse 21: “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head.” Then he gets even more specific at the end of verse 21: “to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horn[s] against the land of Judah to scatter it.” It’s very clear what the horns represent. The horns represent the Gentile nations that scattered God’s covenant people into exile.
The horn metaphor in Scripture, a nation’s strength
Often times in Scripture—stretching back as far as Deuteronomy 33:17—the horn of an ox becomes a metaphor for the military strength of kings and nations (Ps 92:10; 112:9; 148:14). So if one talked about the horn of Moab (Jer 48:25), or the horn of the wicked (Ps 75:4; Lam 2:17), or even the horn of the righteous (Ps 75:10)—the horn stood for the strength of that nation or that king. If your horn was raised up, you had the power. If your horn was cut off, you lose in great shame (cf. Ps 132:17-18; Lam 2:3). You see this playing out especially in Daniel 8:3-9, as different kingdoms vie for the upper hand (cf. Dan 7:7-11, 20-24).
Same metaphor here in Zechariah. We’re getting a picture of strong nations, who oppose God and his people. They’ve come in and humiliated Israel. They’ve so defeated Israel that no one was able to raise his head, verse 21 says. Israel sits in shame.
Scattering the result of Israel’s unfaithfulness
And God said this would happen, if his people didn’t uphold their end of the covenant. Leviticus 26:33—if Israel disobeyed God’s word and chose not to follow him, he promised this: “I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.” Israel was unfaithful to the Lord. The nation at large took idols into their hearts (Ezek 14:4; 20:23). And so the curse overtook them, and the Gentile nations scattered God’s covenant people into exile (Jer 31:10; Zech 1:6; 7:14). They tossed them up like a winnowing fork tosses the grain into the wind to get rid of the chaff (Jer 15:7; Ezek 5:2, 12-13). That’s what these four horn-nations did to Israel.
The horns as encircling nations oppressing God’s people
Now, over the centuries Christians have attempted to name the four specific horn-nations that Zechariah has in mind. Some begin with Assyria, since Assyria was the first to take out the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Then they move on to Babylon, since they were next in line to finish off Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. And then on from there they name the Persians, still ruling in Zechariah’s day, and lastly—usually by prophetic prediction—Greece (e.g., Zech 9:13) or some other future power.
Much older is the interpretation that these four kingdoms must be the same four kingdoms that the prophet Daniel understood in his visions (Dan 2:36-45; 7:1-28). That is, the four kingdoms are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. In this view, the four horns stand for those kingdoms ruling over Israel throughout the centuries until Christ brings his final rule at the Second Coming.
Both views have much to commend in their attempts to name the four horn-nations, but we must be careful not to draw dogmatic conclusions where Scripture itself isn’t explicit. We can say with certainty that Zechariah’s vision complements Daniel’s vision. Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. Both lay out a history of wicked nations oppressing God’s covenant people; and both reveal that God destroys them for his covenant people. But whether Daniel’s four and these four are the same is difficult to prove. What Zechariah does make explicit is that the horns are oppressive nations who scattered God’s covenant people into exile.
And in addition to that, the book of Zechariah itself gives us the sense of what he means by the numeral four. Later in Zechariah 2:6, he gets more specific: “I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens”—speaking of all four points on the compass (Zech 6:1, 5-6; cf. 7:14; 8:8; 9:13; 10:10). Jews were scattered north, south, east, and west (cf. Isa 43:5-6; Jer 40:11; 43:4-7). In that sense, the numeral four in the “four horns” represent all the encircling nations, who oppress God’s covenant people. It doesn’t matter what direction the nations come from, they have oppressed God’s people, and their day of oppression is drawing to a close. God intends to destroy them.
Four Craftsmen of the Lord
That brings us now to the four craftsmen of verse 20, and a number of observations are before us.
Four horns meet four craftsmen
First off, see that there are four of these craftsmen. The four horn-nations have met their match in the four craftsmen. But we can hardly say it’s an equal match, because the craftsmen terrify the horns. They have the ability to cast down the horns. The problem of these oppressive nations is great, but it’s not insurmountable. God has a plan with these craftsmen. They’re suited for the task.
A different question with a different focus
Also, note the difference between the prophet’s two questions in verses 19 and 21. The first question about the horns is, “What are these?” He’s concerned with their identity; and the angel then identifies the horns with the nations, as we saw. The second question, however, is different. It isn’t about the craftsmen’s identity, as much as it is about the craftsmen’s task: “What are these coming to do?” he asks. That question should shape our focus as well. The text isn’t concerned with disclosing the identity of the four craftsmen; the text is concerned with telling us what the craftsmen do. And the end of verse 21 tells us that the craftsmen come for a single purpose: “to terrify [the horns], to cast down the horns of the nations.”
The message of exile: God judges covenant breakers
Before, in verses 11 and 15, the nations weren’t terrified of anything—the nations were “at rest;” they were “at ease.” And that wasn’t a good thing. They should have been fearing the Lord of hosts, who just judged his people for breaking covenant with him. You see, the exile of God’s covenant people wasn’t just a way for God to judge his own people, it was also a way to get a message out to all the Gentile world: “Hey, world, God judges covenant breakers!”
That’s one point of the exile: God doesn’t sweep sin under the rug; he must judge covenant breakers. And on this side of Adam’s sin, everybody—not just Israel—everybody is a covenant breaker. Israel breaking covenant with God under Moses helps everybody see that they have broken covenant with God under Adam. Doesn’t Paul say this much in Romans 3:19? The Law speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
The nations should have seen God’s covenant people in exile, learned, “Whoa! He does not tolerate sin,” and then repented of their own covenant-breaking and turned to Israel’s God for mercy. But that’s not what they did. Instead, the nations grew even prouder. The Lord says it like this in Isaiah 47:6-11. This is to Babylon…
I was angry with my people; I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand; you showed them no mercy; on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy. You said, “I shall be mistress forever,” so that you did not lay these things to heart or remember their end.
That is, they didn’t get the purpose of the exile. They grew prouder. Then he goes on…
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’: These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day; the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments. You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing.
The nations that scattered Judah didn’t get the message that God judges covenant breakers, because they never cried out for mercy themselves.
The craftsmen are God’s agents of judgment
So, now God was setting himself against the nations. And these craftsmen—mentioned by Zechariah—act as God’s agents of judgment. These craftsmen are “to terrify” the nations—same word appears elsewhere when God shows up. He shows up on Mount Sinai and the people tremble (Exod 19:16, 18); he delivers his people from exile, and Egypt and Tyre tremble (Isa 19:16; Ezek 26:16); God begins establishing his lordship over the world, and the ends of the earth tremble (Isa 41:5). Likewise, these craftsmen spread the fear of the Lord among the nations. They terrify them.
The craftsmen fit God’s final building project
But we still have to ask, why choose craftsmen of all things to terrify and destroy the nations? Why not warriors, or hunters, or dragons, something with a bit more pizazz than craftsmen? Well, do remember that these visions are interlocking visions. Each vision relates to the other, and often times with overlapping metaphors. Already, we were introduced to a pretty fascinating construction project that God was to begin very soon.
The exile left the temple and Jerusalem and Zion in ruins, but God was about to rebuild it. Verse 16, “I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the LORD of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.” House shall be built; measuring line shall be stretched, not just over the temple but over the whole city—this is a major construction project; and as we’ll see next week, the project keeps building outward in chapter 2. Well, as with all major construction projects, you need craftsmen; people with skills to build.
In fact, this same word appears elsewhere in Scripture to speak of the agents God uses to build his dwelling place and his royal city. It appears in Exodus, when the Lord fills a few people with his Spirit to build and decorate the tabernacle (Exod 35:35; 38:23). Then it appears in 2 Samuel 5:11, when the king of Tyre sends David a bunch of craftsmen to build the city of Zion, and in so doing God exalts his kingdom for the sake of his people. Then later we find it in Chronicles, when David leaves Solomon a ton of “carpenters” to build the temple in Jerusalem (1 Chron 22:15; 29:5; cf. 2 Kgs 12:11; 22:6; 2 Chron 24:12).
But we also find that it was devastating to the city not to have such craftsmen. Without craftsmen, you couldn’t build—you couldn’t build walls to defend yourself or even make weapons to attack others. If you wanted something, your enemies had to provide it—and that’s no good (1 Sam 13:19). So it’s pretty significant that whenever the Scriptures recount the exile, they include in their lists of folks getting hauled off to Babylon the “craftsmen”—carpenters and metal-workers and such (2 Kgs 24:14, 16; Jer 24:1). At one point, 2 Kings says, “a thousand craftsmen, all of them strong and fit for war”—they were hauled off (2 Kgs 24:16). Not good for the temple or for Jerusalem.
But, the Lord wasn’t going to leave them there. Even before they went into exile, the prophet Jeremiah—after listing how the craftsmen were captured—he makes a promise that God wouldn’t forsake them utterly. One day a remnant would return to the land, and God would begin a new building project (Jer 24:1, 6): “I will set my eyes on them for good,” the Lord says, “and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down…”
Fast forward several decades, and we find the Lord fulfilling the promise given by the mouth of Jeremiah. The Lord stirs up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia. Cyrus was to be God’s special servant. And through his rule, God would subdue nations (Isa 44:28; 45:1-2) and then initiate his new building project for this purpose: that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no [God] besides the Lord (Isa 45:6). Cyrus would be a sign that God reigns sovereign for his covenant people.
So, Cyrus orders the Jews to return and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem (2 Chron 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3). The people return, and when they do we find among them—according to Ezra 3:7—“craftsmen” once again building the second temple right about the time of Zechariah’s ministry.
All that to say, the metaphor isn’t out of place. Using “craftsmen” fits the bigger picture God is painting for his people in these visions. Whoever these agents are, God is going to build his royal temple-city, and there’s not a single nation that will stand in his way. That’s the point of the vision. If they get in his way, he will destroy them. When God exalts his kingdom, all other kingdoms must come crashing down (cf. Isa 2:1-4, 11, 17). The craftsmen terrify the nations because their visible work on earth displays the invincible rule of the invisible God in heaven. God’s work through them will send the nations scurrying with their horns missing. They will cast down the horns of the nations, Zechariah says. And you know why?
The horn of Jesus Christ and his righteous ones
Because there’s only one horn that deserves to stand, the horn of Jesus Christ and all his righteous ones. Zechariah’s prophecy complements several other places in Scripture, where God raises up a horn of salvation for his people. It’s anticipated first in Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:10: “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed [one].”
The Psalms then carry the same theme a bit further. Psalm 75 depicts the horns of wicked nations trying to shake off Yahweh’s yoke like stubborn oxen—they don’t like his lordship (Ps 75:4). Then God steps in, lops off their horns, exalts the horn of his anointed King, and then Game over, God’s people get the kingdom from sea to sea (Ps 75:10; 89:17, 24; cf. Mic 4:13). “The horns of the righteous shall be lifted up,” God promises in Psalm 75:10—the whole Old Testament cries for this day to come.
And then enters Jesus Christ. Luke 1:69-78, just after the birth of John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit says this through another Zechariah:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.
This, my friends, speaks of Jesus Christ. And I am here to tell you that God has exalted the horn of his anointed. Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose again from the grave, and now sits at God’s right hand, exalted. And from his exalted place, he offers pardon for our sins—and for those who trust him, assurance that we might serve him without fear. These craftsmen were only preparing the way for Jesus’ everlasting kingdom.
The vision of these craftsmen are assurance that God’s people will stand victorious with their King in his new temple-city, and nobody can stand in God’s way. That’s a message for every generation, not just the remnant in Zechariah’s day.
Four Takeaways for Us
So, what might be a few takeaways for all of us, now two-and-half millennia separated from the prophet Zechariah? Keeping with the theme of four, I have just four takeaways for you to consider. There are others, but here are four.
Repent, because God judges covenant breakers and offers salvation in Christ
The first takeaway is this: repent, because God judges covenant breakers and offers salvation in Christ. God is no different now than he was then. He still judges covenant breakers. And all the temporary judgments we see peppered throughout the Old Testament—including the exile—they all point forward to a much greater judgment that is coming on the world. Even Zechariah brings it up in the last chapter of his prophecy. On that day, heaven will open, and Jesus will come with great vengeance to strike down the nations. And Zechariah says, “their flesh will…rot while they’re still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths” (Zech 14:12). The message of Scripture is clear: God judges covenant breakers.
And we must acknowledge that we are covenant breakers too. Israel is not unique in breaking covenant with God. We’ve all broken covenant with God. In some way or another, we’ve all attempted to shake off the yoke of Jesus Christ and his lordship, and raise up our horn over his. It doesn’t matter if it looks like power and sinful sex and loads of cash, or if it looks more quietly like pretending we’re good people overall and we don’t need God’s grace. In some way or another, we’ve all broken covenant with God, because we’re all born in Adam—born in sin and needy of grace.
But this is also why God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. According to the way God set up the world, we needed a covenant keeper who could stand as our representative before God. We needed a new Adam who wouldn’t break covenant with God, but keep covenant with God. We needed a true Israelite, who wouldn’t break covenant with God, but keep all his commands. God sent his only Son into the world to keep covenant with him at every point we failed—at every point we continue to fail. And based on Jesus’ obedience, he became the only qualified man to inherit the kingdom, the only qualified Israelite to inherit the promises.
But never did he intend to inherit his kingdom alone. In obedience to his Father’s loving purposes, Jesus was going to bring all kinds of covenant breakers to inherit the kingdom with him. And the way he does this is by dying as their representative and their substitute on the cross. He was the only covenant keeper, but he died the death of a covenant breaker—not because he broke covenant with God, but because we broke covenant with God. And it was there—at the cross—that God judged multitudes of covenant breakers like us once and for all time.
Anyone who trusts in Jesus and follows him, never has to fear God’s judgment for their covenant-breaking again, because God’s judgment was all poured out on Jesus instead. So, rather than arrogantly sitting at ease in your sins with the rest of the nations; rather than living it up in your sins, see that God judges covenant breakers, repent from all your covenant breaking, and then keep trusting in Christ, who is your only covenant-keeping hope for salvation.
Align your hopes with Jesus and his everlasting kingdom
Second takeaway: align your hopes with Jesus and his everlasting kingdom. Our passage implies that only God’s kingdom in Christ will finally stand. The horn-nations in our passage aren’t living for God’s kingdom; they’re living for themselves. And God promises to cut off their horns, to bring them down. The message for you and me is that we cannot live for our own kingdoms, or God will cut us down too.
The kingdoms of this world will not last. Only Christ’s kingdom will last. If we align our hopes with the state of the American nation; if we align our hopes with our own political parties; if we align our hopes with our favorite organizations; if we align our hopes with our favorite entertainment venues; if we align our hopes with our company and the money it makes us; if we align our hopes with united military efforts against whatever jihadist; we will be thoroughly disappointed—not only in this life but especially in the next.
All worldly kingdoms will totter and defeat one another; and all worldly regimes will one day fall to the kingdom of Christ. Even now their demise has been solidified, because God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heaven. And there Jesus reigns until he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power (1 Cor 15:24).
Hope in a kingdom that’s going to last forever. Hope in a King, who can never lose, whose power is sure, and whose kingdom will prevail.
Even Christians need to hear this message, because—in our flesh—we often suppose that God gives us grace to keep doing what we would have done anyway without him. We sometimes lie to ourselves with a false gospel that says, God gives me grace for this or that, so I don’t really have to change anything—I can keep judging others in self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14); I can keep ignoring true reconciliation with my brother or sister (Matt 5:24); I can keep building bigger barns with my money and ignore the poor (Luke 12:13-21); I can keep bossing around my wife and family so they only ever do what I want to do (Eph 5:21-6:4); I can keep pretending that “I’m okay” and that I don’t have any sins to confess (1 John 1:5-10); I can keep saving face in front of others (John 5:44); I can just do whatever I want.
Listen, friends, if we presume on the Lord’s grace like that, then we don’t really understand the Lord’s grace. As Paul Tripp once put it, “God didn’t give us grace to make our kingdoms work; he gave us his grace to invite us to a much, much better kingdom” (What Did You Expect, 51)—Jesus’ kingdom. Give yourself to his work. It may not look like you’re doing much in the world’s eyes when you do. But God is using it to build his kingdom, and his kingdom will not fail.
Remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to you
Another takeaway: remember that vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to you. The wicked world will continue oppressing and persecuting God’s people. But if we belong to Jesus, we can gain strength from the truth of this vision that God will eventually cut down our enemies. This vision is written to encourage us.
Remember again the state of God’s people in verse 21: “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head.” Again, the idea being that of humiliation, helplessness. But pay closer attention to how this vision began: “And I lifted my eyes and saw…” In the midst of their helplessness—when no one could raise his head—God is asking his people to lift up their eyes with the prophet, to see the world around them as God sees the world.
No wicked nation can stand against God ultimately. We must not give way to the voice of our culture that says that things will always be the way they are. God is calling us to lift up our eyes with the prophet to get a counter-cultural view of the world. And that view of the world is where we’ll actually find courage to keep going in the face of opposition.
You may say, “Wait, wait, wait! This promise was given to Israel ages ago, not to us. In fact, I’m even a Gentile. So, how can I be so sure that this promise is for me?” And to that I would say, this promise was never made to Israel in general; it was made to the remnant in Israel and ultimately to Jesus Christ—the singular, true seed of Abraham—and if you belong to Christ, you get grafted in to God’s people too. That’s how these promises become yours: all of God’s promises are Yes and Amen in Christ.
So we too gain strength from the truth of this vision that God will eventually cut down our enemies. Their evil cannot win-out. Their evil may take our lives in this world; but in the end, God will judge them. God never ignores the state of his covenant people. He has total knowledge of our suffering, and total knowledge of those causing the suffering, and he will deal with it by destroying them in his own timing.
What that means for you and me is that we are freed to love our enemies, not take matters into our own hands. We are freed to pray for those who persecute us, not get even with our persecutors. We are freed to do good to all and show patience with our oppressors, not retaliate with sinful anger. We are freed to sacrifice our lives in bringing the gospel into the lives of our enemies, not take their lives with violence.
Paul picks this up in Romans 12:19-21, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
In other words, love your enemies—whether big enemies or small enemies, love them—because God’s a better judge than you are. Don’t try to take his place as judge. That’s to hope in your own kingdom again. God brings vengeance rightly and with the pure motives and with perfect ends for his glory. He will deal with our enemies—whether in the cross of Christ or in the Lake of Fire—he will judge them. That means we are freed to show mercy, not wrath.
Our mission to spread the gospel is urgent
Our fourth and final takeaway: if Zechariah’s vision is true—and it is—then our mission to spread the gospel is urgent. God intends to destroy his enemies. But God has also shown compassion on his enemies by delaying his final judgment for a time. He gives his enemies an opportunity to escape. And the only way they will escape punishment is if they hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s wrath is coming and the days of sinners are fleeting. Therefore, let us be all the more fervent in bringing the hope of Christ into the lives of others.
Our culture of tolerance will tell you that speaking of things like “God destroying his enemies” is bigotry. Our culture will tell you that it is narrow-minded to assert that God is angry with sinners. Our culture will tell you that warning people of God’s judgment is manipulative. But these accusations only stand if the threat of God’s judgment isn’t real (cf. Carson, God Who Is There, 208). But we know from Scripture that it is, and therefore it would be unloving for us not to warn them about judgment.
Moreover, if we are to remain faithful to God and faithful to his word, we must warn people of the judgment to come, and plead with them to believe on Christ. And we do this not as if we don’t know what it means to be part of the wicked nations; we do this as those who—without deserving it—were rescued out of the wicked nations to belong to Christ and his forever-kingdom.