Today’s culture has Christians afraid to judge. Prophetic literature centers around the idea of judgment though, so avoiding the topic means avoiding an entire major literary genre that composes the Bible. The problem is not that Christians judge too much or too little; the problem is that Christians forget they only have the right to speak judgment that God has already declared. Another problem is a misunderstanding of what judgment is. Judgment is mercy!
Judgement is Mercy
Prophetic books are usually composed of both prophetic literature and narratives. So to start, one should always approach these books and literature genres with the 5-step method discussed in the post “Biblical Narratives”.
Prophetic literature will also bring us back to the importance of understanding subjects over objects in this literature. Focusing on what is actually happening or what will actually happen is a mistake. God uses the subjects. It’s a misconception that all prophetic literature is just about the future. Prophetic literature is about what will happen as a result to certain actions. That being said the objects in these prophecies will occur, or have already occurred. But these objects are not the point of what God is saying in His Word so I will not linger any longer on it.
There are other methods in reading this literature that are unique to the genre. One of which being what I call “the comic book strategy”. Each prophecy is like a picture. Each picture has its own meaning and all the details given are simply to support the overall picture. And each picture in this literature builds larger stories within each prophetic book. The pictures are like image panels in a comic book each telling part of a big story.
The pictures are like image panels in a comic book each telling part of a big story.
One last thing to keep in mind, when reading this form of literature, is that most prophetic books follow a similar structure. The structure starts with a command from God through His prophet to people, making a demand to change and repent and live holy lives! The second part in this literature is God’s message that if this change to a holy lifestyle does not occur than God will send judgment. Finally, the third step is that, with change or repentance, God will bring A New Hope for the future (and in that future there will be new Star Wars movies!)!
But judgment was never just to punish evil. In fact, the point of judgment while we are on earth is ultimately so God can keep us out of hell – the ultimate punishment. God put judgment on His own Son so that He can show us all mercy. God always offered A New Hope with judgment because He always hoped that judgment now would keep us from eternal punishment later!
God always offered A New Hope with judgment because He always hoped that judgment now would keep us from eternal punishment later!
It reminds me of this time in Wilmington, NC – when my friend potentially saved my life. It was during a huge storm and we were all walking on the side of the road going somewhere. I began to cross the street when a car suddenly sped around the corner and my friend gave me a good hard shove to get me out of the way. It hurt, but it saved me. God is wanting to shove us all out of the way of hell and judgment is the only way to do that at times!
Judgment is mercy!!!!
Finally, I ask us all to look to the story of Jonah. In this story, God uses Jonah to warn the people of judgment, if they didn’t repent. But the people did repent and so God was able to show mercy without judgment, in this case. However, Jonah went up on a hill and waited for the city to be judged. In fact Jonah got mad at God for not judging the city and the story ends without the reader knowing what came of Jonah. Jonah didn’t understand that the purpose of judgment was mercy and I believe he waisted his life afterwards, waiting on God to punish the Ninevites. Many “Christians” today are like this. They speak judgment on people and wait around on God to punish people, because they don’t understand that what God wants is to show us all mercy.
The points are: Prophetic literature is like a comic book, in how we should read it, looking for the big pictures.
And judgment is mercy!
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Reference & Reading List:
 Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. 423.
 Gabel, John B., and Charles B. Wheeler. The Bible as Literature: An Introduction. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Print.
 Matthews, Victor Harold, and James C. Moyer. The Old Testament: Text and Context. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1997. Print.
 Suggs, Rob. The Comic Book Bible. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub., 1995. Print.