There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every purpose under heaven — A time to give birth and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones, a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost, a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together, a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Eccl. 3:1-8)
The other day one of the guys in my men’s group read this passage, and as he did the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Me!” Ecclesiastes 3 is a beautiful picture of our multi-faceted Savior, and one we dare not miss just because to date we have largely seen only one side as represented in this passage. We need to understand the full tapestry of the true, real Jesus which encompasses far more!
First, it’s important to note how these verses open: “There will be a time for every purpose under heaven.” Two very important truths need to be addressed here: first, everything that is about to be mentioned is “purposed.” The Hebrew word here means desired, mattered, willingly purposed. These things are all willingly desired and set in to motion by God because of the second truth: they have all in operation “under heaven” since time began. This means they are not done without God’s notice or, more importantly, His divine intervention and approval. Jesus said all authority in heaven and on earth had been given Him. Therefore, Jesus purposed everything within His kingdom realm on earth mentioned thereafter. We cannot say the comforting events to follow are from Jesus and the unnerving events are from some other source. Every event to follow is from Him, through Him, and desired by Him because they mirror His own character.
Modern temple teaching for years has sold us on “nice” Jesus, and that easily done because we have been living in the age of grace. The Lamb/Savior has been the Jesus we have, for the most part, witnessed and it has given birth to a dangerous theology that He is love, love, and nothing but love. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, “not sparing the rod” is a part of love, just not the kind we’ve been selling. Being myopic in our view of Jesus might seem harmless enough, until you consider how one is supposed to learn a healthy fear of God under such a biblical view.
Without a healthy fear of God there is no working out our salvation (Phil. 2) in a practical way in this life. Without it, there is no perfecting holiness (2 Cor. 7), and no knowledge (Prov. 1) or wisdom (Psalm 111). Because we haven’t seen “the time” yet for the Lamb to lay down and the Lion to roar—because we haven’t witnessed “the time” for the Savior to hand His gavel to the Judge, doesn’t mean it’s not coming and we don’t need to worship Jesus, all of Him, now. In everything to follow we see these two sides to grace, righteousness, justice, and holiness. In every matter under heaven we need to see all sides of Jesus.
To begin, there will be “A time to give birth and a time to die.” Jesus, the Lamb/Savior, said He came to give us life, and that abundantly (John 10). His entire mission in coming was to give us new birth into His kingdom and all that entails. He said we must be born again (John 3), and then made it possible. Nonetheless, under the rule of the Lion/Judge, there will be a “time to die.” In John 8, Jesus said anyone who did not believe in Him would die in their sins, and Paul says in his Communion admonitions many had “fallen asleep” because they partook of the elements unworthily, thereby dishonoring the table of the Lord. The word used for “sleep” means to literally die in the flesh, the end, game over. It is not the same word used when Jesus said of the little girl He raised from the dead, “she is only asleep.” Jesus did not just come to save, He came to bring death upon those who would not accept God’s offer of grace, or who abused it once given through non-repentant disobedience or “letting the light in them become darkness.”
Ecclesiastes then says there will be a “time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.” Jesus speaks to this clearly in the parable of the Sower, where He, the Lamb/Savior, says He pants seeds. Yet, while one grows and bears much fruit, the Lion/Judge reveals three of the four don’t make it because of various pressures brought to bear by the world and the evil one. One is eaten, one withers away, and one is choked. John 15 speaks of vines and branches, obviously “planted,” and then says that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit is taken away, cast into the fire and burned. Sound like being “uprooted?”
Then there is “a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build up.” Jesus, the Lamb/Savior, went about healing all sorts of diseases, and Isaiah says, “By His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53).” But Revelation 19 tells us of the Lion/Judge who kills many by the sword which came from the mouth of a warrior/King, eyes of fire, sitting on a white horse! Following that books of judgment are opened by Jesus, and anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life is thrown in to the lake of fire. We are now living in the time to heal and build up, but the time for killing and tearing down is coming. The same Jesus that now presides over the healing will also preside over the tearing down.
The next seeming dichotomy includes “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Again, in John 15 the Lamb/Savior speaks of his teachings resulting in His joy being in us, and our joy being made full. He said we must come to Him as children, or not at all. What do children love to do? Laugh and dance! In 1 John 1, the disciple says the things He wrote about Jesus were written so that our joy may be made complete. God was honored when David danced like a child in priest’s underwear, and when Saul’s daughter hated him for it, God made her barren for life. Yet, in numerous places in the NT we find those Jesus, the Lion/Judge, casts into the outer darkness experiencing “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It must be Jesus doing the judging, because He proclaimed the Father had handed all judgment in heaven and on earth over to Him (John 5). Zechariah 12 speaks of a day coming soon when God will cause His original people, Israel, to finally see Jesus, whom they crucified, for who He truly is. Then, great weeping and mourning will be experienced by many as they repent for their blindness in missing Him while He walked among them.
Ecclesiastes then speaks of “A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones, a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing… A time to tear apart and a time to sew together.” The Lamb/Savior came to show us what embracing in the Spirit truly meant. In John 13, He told us to love others according to the example of loving us He set. He said the world would know we were His disciples by the love we displayed in Christian community for one another and transformed the environment from individual empowerment to communal empowerment. Paul told us every spiritual gift from God was to be developed within, and then used for, the benefit of the body. Ah, but the Lion/Judge tells us in Matthew 10 He did not come to bring peace among men, but rather a sword, and a man’s enemies in the end will be the members of his own household! In Matthew 24 He says in the days to come many will fall away [indicating those who professed faith] and will betray and hate each other. Sound like “throwing stones and shunning embracing?
Then Ecclesiastes comes to, “A time to search and a time to give up as lost, a time to keep and a time to throw away.” In Luke 19 the Lamb/Savior says He came to seek and save that which was lost, and in the parable of the lost sheep He says He would leave the 99 safely in the flock to go find the one that had strayed. In John 17 He prays the Father would keep His disciples in His name, and also that He would keep them from the evil one. But again, the Lion/Judge says in John 15 those in Him who do not bear fruit will be “taken away,” and those who do not abide in Him will gathered, “thrown away,” and cast in to a fire. In Matthew 25, the “bondservant” [the same word Paul uses to describe himself many times in his Epistles] who hides his talent under the rock [bears no fruit] will also be taken away and thrown out into the outer darkness.
The passage then speaks of “A time to be silent and a time to speak.” When Jesus, the Lamb/Savior came, though He was innocent of all charges leveled at Him which eventually got Him crucified, we are told, “Like a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth” (Acts 8). Isaiah prophesied of Him that He would not raise His voice, nor make it heard in the streets (Isa. 42). Ah, but then we find the Lion/Judge giving a tongue lashing to the religious leaders in Matthew 23, driving out the money changers in Matthew 12 with a whip [think He was silent while doing this?], and in several passages in Revelations 12 and 19 we find Him striking down nations in fierce wrath with the sword coming from His mouth. Is this a “time of silence?” I believe His voice will be like the shot heard ‘round the world in that day!
This passage in Ecclesiastes concludes with “A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” The Lamb/Savior came not to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him (John 3). He said, “blessed are the peacemakers,” of which He was foremost. Nonetheless, the Lion/Judge will come to make war against the nations as we have seen above and will do it in “fierce wrath!” I don’t think this will be done in the love the Lamb/Savior displayed.
All judgment and all authority, along with power to save are found in our to-be-loved and to-be-feared Savior. To preach only the aspects of Jesus that are comfortable to us is to preach “another gospel.” Paul summarized it well in his letter to Timothy when he said, “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
This half-gospel myth preaching only those characteristics of Jesus that are comfortable to us has been the hallmark of modern-day temple worship for many years. It has been, and is now, leading many to destruction. Love your incredible Savior, by all means, but do not in any way deny Him the fear [reverence, awe, and place above all things] due Him! The two are not mutually exclusive, and there is plenty of room for both “under heaven.” In closing, I am reminded of the words of Paul as he was rebuking the Corinthians for their actions and words, “Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” Paul, like His Lord who lived in him, was fully capable of employing both.