WRATH OR REST: SAINTS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD — By R. Mark Musser — Advantage Inspirational Books — 2010 — Trade paperback: 272 pages — ISBN: 978-1-59755-246-2
Didn’t someone say you can’t go home again? At the very beginning of the Christian era, both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) were coming into the faith in great numbers. The problem, as it is in any transitional period, was that the new converts were bringing with them all of the old religious accretions they had assimilated from their own cultures; naturally enough, overcoming those cultural impediments would nearly always become a major obstacle for the new believers.
The author of the book of Hebrews—probably Paul, but it’s uncertain—which was addressed to Hellenized Jews in Asia Minor, was understandably anxious that these new Christians not revert to the old ways they had been raised in, because such were now of no effect in this new and vastly better age of grace. To go back, in fact, entailed both practical and spiritual dangers for the new believers.
But while Hebrews is aimed at the local Jewish converts, the book can also be applied to 21st century Christians, especially the Protestant denominations that are even now insinuating worthless ritual into their worship practice.
In Wrath or Rest, Mark Musser touches on many topics of concern to the modern believer:
The great thrust of the book of Hebrews is on how to worship God in the age of New Testament grace. The Hebrew readers had lost respect for Christian worship because of the lack of outward display so characteristic of pure Old Testament religion (and of course their own contemporary Judaism). As such, the sacred author of Hebrews writes this sermon to correct their faulty views of Christian worship. Here he shows his readers that even though Christian worship is invisible, it is awesome. It is far more spectacular than anything the Levitical priests ever did on the earth. In fact, because of Jesus’s one time sacrifice for sins, Christians can actually worship God in heaven right now. They can worship God confidently and boldly through Christ within the heavenly holy of holies. The author of Hebrews therefore spends an enormous amount of time contrasting Old Testament worship with New Testament worship. Moreover, New Testament worship is better in every way conceivable, precisely because it is the real thing as opposed to a mere model. The problem of course is that the Hebrew readers were being tempted to go back to the old model at the expense of the real thing. The author of Hebrews thus exhorts his readers, that is, he both severely warns, but also encourages them, to experience the greatness of the New Testament worship, according to the order of Melchizedek, in heaven itself, inside the veil.
Musser tackles the persistent problems presented by the Calvinists and the Arminians in their own peculiar interpretations of Scripture, especially as regards salvation and sanctification in the controversy over eternal security (“once saved, always saved”), and finds a third way. Since this alternative constitutes the bulk of the book, the reader is encouraged to explore it for him- or herself.
Wrath or Rest can be recommended to both Christians and unbelievers alike—to Christians because it puts the book of Hebrews into its proper context in Biblical doctrine and might shake them out of their hidebound lethargy; to unbelievers because it will show them what the Christian faith is all about.
Mark Musser is also the author of Nazi Oaks, a history of environmentalism in Hitler’s Germany.