Mount of Olives
This article is on the announced Judgments as revealed in the Scriptures; and a surprise. Much of what is in the Old Testament’s Major and Minor Prophets relates to Israel’s judgment for her own sins.
Yet at the same time, that same judgment is invariably in relation to the judgment of Israel's surrounding nations.
The theme of judgment is throughout the Bible. God initiated a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy all flesh. God did not say that He wouldn’t destroy, punish or discipline nations (individuals or collectively). He just said he would not destroy 'all'. For example, in Exodus 34 verse 7 God promised not to leave the guilty unpunished; and Jeremiah 50 verse 7 states that God is the Habitation of Justice.
Christians affirm this is God’s word, that we make individual and corporate choices and we recognise His rules, and therefore the consequences are correlated to our decisions.
Further, the Prophets exposed the sins of the surrounding nations, which served as a warning to other nations, against inviting the same judgments.
Interestingly, the judgments included sins against Israel which “created the heaviest judgement”. Yet, in many instances repentance stayed God’s hand (as in Ninevah with Jonah).
Israel, which is synonymous with the Jewish peoples, are God’s chosen; a special treasure above all the nations (Dueteronomy 7 verse 6). This is also a burden because, being God’s chosen also incurs a stricter judgement as they have a greater 'light'.
The people of Israel were twice exiled from their land.
First: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters for they rejected the Living God from whom came their well-being and gave attention to idols,” (Jeremiah 2 verse 13); and
Second: “Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust”, as only a few thousand survived the Assyrians and Babylonians, (Jeremiah 17 verse 13).
Christians believe - 560 years after God returned them from exile the descendants of the survivors added to their situation by rejecting the Messiah, as in Isaiah chapter 53 verse 3 “He was despised, and we did not esteem Him”. He is the spring of living water and Jesus came to quench spiritual thirst, as explained in John chapter 4 verse 14
The descendants cried out, as recorded in John chapter 19 verse 15 “Away with Him, Crucify Him!”. Then every attempt was made to stop the spread of the Gospel, I Thessalonions chapter 2 verse 16 “Wrath came upon [Israel] to the uttermost”.
Yet there are also indeed serious costs for anti-semitism. In Genesis chapter 12 verse 3: “And I will curse him who holds you lightly in esteem”, and in the book of Esther where Haman is punished (Esther chapter 8 verse 7). The Old Testament shows how judgements on the surrounding nations are severe, yet Syria’s judgement is light. Isaisah chapter 17 verse 1 says, “Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap” (this is not the nation of Syria, only one city).
Syria once included Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, parts of Saudi Arabia and Israel. Syria itself has been a prize for conquerors and traders, and Syria has always enjoyed an array of architecture, art, culture and ambience. Syria was a cultured and rich part of the Roman Empire with many wealthy merchants.
Damascus’ temple to Zeus was altered in focus by Theodosius 1 into the Church of St John the Baptist. Later again it was altered into the Great Mosque. There are beautiful and extraordinary churches still functioning in Syria which were built in the 400’s.
Syria was the centre of earliest Christianity. Paul’s conversion was in Syria. It was in Syrian Antioch that the followers of Christ were first called Christians, and from where Paul’s team was sent on missionary journeys.
Pool of Bethesda
Syria, before its civil war was one of the last Middle East societies in which pluralism is intact, it was never partitioned like Palestine, it never had an expulsion of Christians as in Turkey. The Christian quarters in Syria were intact, Syrian Orthodox Priests were regularly seen in possessions carrying the cross. The Christian churches were in back streets and an integral part of the community.
Prior to the civil war, there were plenty of Christian car stickers seen on Syrian motor vehicles, such as the fish, and some congregations still use the Aramaic language, the language of Jesus’ time, the 1st Century (as in the movie produced by Mel Gibson on the blood thirsty crucifixtion of Jesus).
Syria was the centre of the third and fourth century super-saints (the celebrities of the time). Simeon the Stylite stood on a pillar for 40 years; the Younger for 68 years; rulers sought his blessing and asked advice. John of Damascus’ influence as a Christian leader led to the Muslims developing their own systematised understanding of God.
Syria’s mix of religion and politics past and present has set it aside with an internal religious tolerance, as an Arab nationalist ideology, rather than one based on Islam, although there are radical elements circulating in Syria.
It may be a surprise for many to learn that Michel Aflaq, the founder of the modern nationalist Syria in the 1950s, was a Christian who drew together a broad coalition. This resulted in authoritarian regimes, but it allowed open religious pluralism.
Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles is the story of Salvation for Gentiles, while Syria and Syrians had a precious part to play in this.
On the Judgments, there is a need to carefully analyse the Biblical announcements as it is not always as it might seem. This leads us to the nature of the 'mystique'.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at