What Goes Around Comes Around (Psalm 73)

Many of us can identify with the experience of the psalmist who wrote, “But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray. For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps 73:2–3). Indeed, when we look at this world, hard-working teachers (such as the one writing these lines!) command only a basic salary—though they are trying to be content and make ends meet as best as they can!)—while celebrity athletes—and even those hardly known—make millions upon millions. Who can blame the psalmist for being tempted to envy the arrogant when he saw their prosperity? Does God care? How can he reward the arrogant and overlook the plight of those who fear him?

The problem with this analysis, of course, is that it is premature. Only fools arrive a final determination of a matter without waiting for its ultimate outcome. This is where the Book of Revelation comes in. In the sweep of biblical revelation, this book tell us what this final outcome is going to be—from God’s perspective. Many biblical interpreters believe that the Apocalypse contains four visions (indicated by the phrase “in the Spirit” in 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; and 21:10): (1) the risen Christ and his message to the seven churches (chaps. 1–3); (2) the throne room vision (chaps. 4–16); (3) the whore Babylon (chaps. 17–20); and (4) the New Jerusalem (chaps. 21–22). It is no coincidence that of these four visions, the second one, which has to do with the judgment of the world, is by far the most extended; for the end is the time of God’s judgment when everyone will receive his due.

Revelation depicts the vindication of God’s righteous purposes (called “theodicy,” from theos, “God,” and dikaios, “righteous”) and of his saints, especially those martyred for their faith, in graphic detail. This also will be the time when the arrogant and the wicked, those without Christ, will be judged, as well as Satan and his fallen angels. For this reason, as the angel in the last vision tells the seer, “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy” (Rev 22:11), for in the end everyone will surely receive his just reward. For this reason, let us not judge a matter before its end. And let us entrust ourselves to God who one day soon will make all things right: “’Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19, citing Deut 32:35).

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