This article was previously published by The Lepanto Institute
They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. (John 8:39-40)
I was six years old when my grandmother presented me with a Spanish translation of the Bible that I started reading right away. Of course, I did not understand much at that early age but I was fascinated by those tiny letters and numbers piling up in the central column of every page. It took a long time until I figured out that those were references to other parts of the Bible. Soon after that, I was filling the margins with my own references with a soft pencil. That was five or six decades ago.
It still amazes me how many times one can read a passage of Scripture imagining that one understands it perfectly and yet miss completely why the Spirit placed it there. Then when one concentrates on such passages and meditate prayerfully on them guided by the Fathers of the Church … the lesson starts shining its light on one’s soul.
The dialogue between Jesus and his adversaries in John 8 is one of those passages that appear to be a trickle of water and ends up being a deep wide river when carefully observed.
The Church of the Promise: Truth, Freedom, and agreeing with God equals life
At the beginning of his discourse, Jesus addresses a mixed crowd. Among them were some of those who have believed in him. Jesus promises them freedom. Freedom is the result of knowing the truth and remaining in the truth. That is the definition of discipleship, willful intellectual submission to a Teacher. When Jesus brings up the matter of their liberation, the new disciples are surprised. They did not know they were not free. After all, they thought they were the inheritors of Abraham’s promise! Abraham believed in God’s promise and he was blessed for his faith.
Faith is believing in a person. Jesus is obliquely revealing his own divinity when he says ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did.’ Abraham believed in God. To inherit the promise of Abraham the disciples have to believe in Jesus. The promise made to Abraham by God was freedom: the possession of the land and a strong and numerous offspring. Abraham believed that until the last day of his life. Jesus told us: “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” (John 8:56) Jesus also told us that one day his disciples would see a number of signs marking our joyful redemption, our liberation and the possession of a kingdom, the fulfillment of the promise typified by the Promised Land. (Luke 12:32) Possession of that land entails also the possession of eternal life by allowing Christ to be the Lord of our will, to let His will be done by our own will. Saint Paul described it this way: “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NRSVA) The mystery of the promise given to Abraham and made possible by Christ is unfathomable. First comes Truth, then the freedom of discipleship, and finally –when our will is completely surrendered to the will of God– the gift of life, not mortal life but everlasting life, the very kind of life that God lives.
The anti-church: Lies, slavery, and disagreeing with God equals death
Reading the well known passage of the temptation of Christ by the devil in Matthew 4:1-11, we discovered the negative mirror image of this problem. The three temptations attack a specific Christian notion. Making bread out of stones would reveal a distrust of Divine Providence. Jumping of the pinnacle of the temple would reveal an attempt to force God to do something for us, to own God’s will by manipulating God’s love for us. Finally, worshiping a creature like the devil would entail to replace God with something God created. Only God deserves to be worshiped as divine. Worshiping is something we don’t choose to do but something that God mandates. The first two temptations concern the bodily life of the tempted but the third is different: the devil makes a promise. He promises the kingdoms of this earth in exchange for an act of God-like adoration. It is a false promise because the devil does not own all the kingdoms, the Earth is the sovereign domain of God Almighty: “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession” says God to the Messiah. (Psalm 2:8, NIV) That false promise of the original liar is the counterpoint to the true promise from God to Abraham.
The image presented to us is that of two camps: the camp of truth and the camp of lies, the promise of God is true. All those who believe in God’s promise are the men and women of faith, the Church; they will inherit eternal life. Those who choose to believe the devil are the anti-church and their inheritance is eternal death.
In short. In these extraordinary times we are facing a de facto division that has occurred between the Catholic Church and the anti-church which is the result of almost a century of a purposeful infiltration by forces hostile to the cause of Christ.
The infiltrates have worked long and hard to catch an empty bag. The father of lies has been deceived into believing that he has conquered the Church but the Church is unconquerable. The drama of the Passion is reenacted again. Back in the days of Calvary, the devil foolishly thought that by crucifying the body of Jesus he was ending his ministry forever. But the opposite happened! In the profound mystery of God’s designs, the devil was forced to serve God indirectly . He ended up facilitating the redemption of mankind! Well, the same is happening now. What looked like a victory to the revolutionaries was in reality a great defeat. They have inherited absolutely nothing and they are sitting ducks waiting for God’s next move.
I can tell you only one thing: they will not like God’s resolution of this impasse. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)
The dreadful Tribulation that will engulf the world
There are two principles opposed to each other and each has powerful spiritual forces fighting to win the ancient contest for the soul of the world. Naturally, God affirms His right to rule the world by the principle of sovereignty. That is His right because God is the Creator and the Supreme Benefactor. Righteous mankind agrees to live under God’s generous rules of peace, love, and justice.
The other principle is proposed by the resister, the devil. It is the principle of conquest. He affirms that the world should belong to whoever conquers it by cunning, by force, or both. He forgets the principle revealed by Christ:
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? … (Matthew 16:26)
God has accepted the challenge. When this is all done and the devil is ignominiously defeated, God will own the world by the right of sovereignty and conquest also. The devil will eat the bitter dust of defeat.
Because you [the serpent] have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’
That is still in the future. Now, we must face the consequences of the eclipse of the Church. If you think about it, the Church justifies the existence of the world. The Gospel has to be taken to those in the world until everyone has heard of the glorious opportunity for salvation that we have in Jesus Christ. But, what will happen when the light of the Church is no longer shining on this world? Well, the world would have lost its purpose. The Church is a hard, indestructible, unconquerable reality. The world is passing, it is an illusion tied to sin and death.
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (John 2:17)
The predicted Tribulation will come as a result of the eclipse of the true Church. The world will descend into darkness very fast, God will allow it to glorify His Holy Name in the same manner that He glorified His Name by allowing His Son to be fixed to a Cross to resurrect him on the third day. The death of Jesus made possible the Sunday Resurrection and then the Pentecost. Those doing the will of God will see those actions repeat when the Church emerges from her present eclipse.
Who is doing the will of God? Certainly not the anti-church. We have come full circle to the words Jesus directed to the crowd as shown in John 8:39-40
They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
Abraham was a friend of God who rejoiced when he was allowed to see the days of the Kingdom of God (John 8:56) but the anti-church is like those who wanted to kill Jesus.
Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ (Matthew 25:41-46 NRSVA)
For us, this is a time of patient endurance, a time to reflect and decide which side are we on.
For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 NRSVA)