Book Review: The Cross and the Double-Edged Sword

Book review of The Cross and the Double-Edged Sword, by Norman De Jong. Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2017. 164 pages. $14.49.

This book was born of a series of Bible studies on the book of Revelation by Dr. Norman De Jong. The words “double edged sword” are from the opening vision of John on the isle of Patmos in which he sees Christ “sitting on the throne and from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.”

Dr. De Jong writes, “One of the hallmarks of the evangelical community in the twenty-first century is that it readily proclaims the love of Christ, while failing to recognize the justice and holiness of God. Love is popular, but wrath is often condemned. The love and mercy of God is the good news of the gospel, but it is only half of the message of God’s Word.”

The God of a liberal theologian is a doting grandfather, tolerant, affable, and permissive. Says De Jong, “If one did a serious, in-depth study of the book of Revelation, that person would soon have to change his mind. The book of Revelation has two dominant themes running through it: the wrath of God and repeated calls for repentance.”

Is it correct to say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin? To answer this, the author points to Psalm 5:5–6: “Thou dost hate all who do iniquity . . . The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit,” and Psalm 11:5: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence his soul hates.” De Jong asks: “Did God love the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who died in the destruction of those cities? Does God love the radical Islamist who beheads Christians solely because they worship the name of Jesus Christ? Does God love the murderer who performs abortions and kills the very persons that he has so wondrously created?” Where are the preachers today who dare to preach about sinners in the hands of an angry God?

In all the chapters, after the author has reminded us of the wrath of a holy God, he strongly reminds us even more of the cross of Christ and the amazing grace of God to repentant sinners, as he showed to Paul, who was once a murderer of Christians.

Following this balanced approach to God’s holiness and mercy, De Jong spends a good bit of time looking at Christ as portrayed in the Old Testament. For example, in the Psalms, Christ is both the lamb on the cross (Pss. 22; 69), the enthroned Son who breaks the enemies with a rod of iron (Ps. 2), and the Lord who shatters kings on the day of his wrath (Ps. 110).

The language of the book is easy to follow and could be understood by a junior high student. It is also an encouragement to pastors to seek to be balanced in presenting both the holiness and the mercy of our Savior and Lord.

Mr. Gary Vander Hart is a graduate of Westminster Seminary (1964) and professor of Old Testament in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia (1992–2007).