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First blog post

Welcome to The Bible Blog!

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Welcome to The Bible Blog. Thank you for checking it out. As a concerned Christian and the author of three published books, I decided to start a blog as a forum for anyone interested in studying and sharing ideas about the Bible. In a world where we are expected to agree with and accept the current (politically correct) opinions of others, I thought it would be fun and helpful to have a place where the truth can be discussed without fear of judgment or condemnation, even if it differs from the accepted norm.  Ideas expressed in this blog will likely be someone’s opinion.  Everyone’s opinion is important and helps us learn.  The one and only standard for absolute truth is the Bible. It is my prayer that this blog will help us all come to a better understanding of God’s will.  The world desperately needs some good news today!

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Worship

     What is worship?

We often think of worship as standing before God, possibly lifting up our hands, singing praises, praying, etc.  These may be a part of our worship, but true worship is so much more.  Paul said in Romans 12:1, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship.” Worship is not a few acts we perform when we meet together with other Christians. It is the total life we live.

How one lives says everything about his or her values, morals, priorities, and most importantly, what one believes about God. Christians are the body of Christ in the world (1 Corinthians 12). 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”  Everything we do sends a message to all those around us about our God. What message are we sending?

In 1 Peter 3, the apostle says a an unbelieving husband may be led to faith in Christ “without talk, by the behavior of his wife, when he sees the purity and reverence of your life.” The lives we live proclaim a message. How we live determines the content of that message and its effects on those around us. Honoring God in our daily lives is the definition of worship, not the performance of a few rituals on Sunday.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!”  As a member of the body of Christ, whatever we do with our bodies we also do with the body of Jesus Christ. How we live says everything about our faith and commitment to Jesus. It is also the complete expression of our worship of Almighty God as well as the message we are teaching others about Him.

Do we truly worship God? Think about it.

The Kingdom of Heaven

     What is church?

One Sunday a friend and I listened to a self-proclaimed “prophet of God” deliver a “message he had received from God” that the Holy Spirit was going to work mighty miracles that morning during the worship service. After an hour of emotional frenzy, countless prayers, and declarations of healing and deliverance that would be more appropriately described as a “religious séance” than a worship service, and four collections of “seed faith” ($$$), nothing miraculous happened. It was a message heard every Sunday in many churches around the world and on religious television programs every day of the week. We all need to realize that everything said and done “in the name of Jesus” is not from God. This is just one example of how false prophets and fake healers “use godliness as a means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:5) and make a mockery of Christianity, turning honest, truth-seeking people away from the church.

The solution, however, is not to leave the church, but to understand its true meaning and purpose, as described in Scripture. What is called “church” today is a far cry from what Jesus died to build. The church Jesus established is not a place to worship on Sunday, it is the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is the subject of the Scriptures from beginning to end and is the dwelling place of all the redeemed. God planned this kingdom before He created the heavens and earth (Ephesians 1).

Exodus 19:3-6 tells us that when Moses led the children of Israel from Egypt, they came to Mt. Sinai where the Lord called Moses up to meet with Him and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” The nation promised to Abraham was to become the kingdom of God.  This was going to be no ordinary kingdom, but a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. It would serve as a type of the ultimate spiritual Kingdom of God.

In 1 Samuel 16 we read about the Lord sending the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king over Israel. David reigned seven years in Hebron, but after conquering the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem, he made that the permanent capitol of the kingdom.  2 Samuel 5:9 tells us, “David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David.” He had the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem and placed in the tent tabernacle that was erected on what would be the future temple site. With the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, and the Ark of the Covenant now present, Jerusalem became not only the City of David, but also the City of God.

As we continue to follow the story, we know that David’s son Solomon built the physical temple for the Lord in Jerusalem. The temple was more than just a beautiful house of worship. It was built exactly as God had instructed Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness as a sanctuary for the Lord. This magnificent structure became the permanent tabernacle where God’s presence would dwell in his kingdom on earth. The most important function of this temple was the annual atonement sacrifice offered by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies.

During the succeeding reign of the various kings in Jerusalem, the prophets were foretelling of a future king that would sit on David’s throne in a new Jerusalem. Isaiah 9:6-7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

A few hundred years later God sent His angel to a young virgin in Judea to tell her she was going to have a baby. In Luke 1:32-34 the angel said, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.” God had not forgotten His promise. Everything was now in place for Him to restore the kingdom and throne of David.

When Jesus was baptized by John, the Spirit of God descended on Him and proclaimed Him to be the Son of God. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Later Jesus sent His apostles out to preach the same message. The kingdom of heaven was the subject of virtually all of Jesus’ parables and most of His other teachings. In Matthew 11:11-13 he said, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” About what had all the Prophets and the Law before John prophesied? Obviously the coming kingdom of heaven, which was now near. In Luke 4:43 Jesus said the reason He was sent was to “…preach the good news of the kingdom of God.”

As Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time we read in Mark 11:9-10 that those who went ahead of Him and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” This coming kingdom of God would also be the restored kingdom of David. Jesus was born into the world through the tribe of Judah and thus was a descendant of David. He could rightfully claim the throne of David and fulfill all the promises of the Old Testament concerning the everlasting nature of the kingdom of Israel.

Jesus identified this coming kingdom as the church in Matthew 16:18-20. After asking His disciples who they thought He was, Peter replied that He was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said to him, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In his parable about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:34 Jesus said the king would say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” According to Jesus the inheritance of the righteous was this coming kingdom, the church, which had been prepared since creation.

But the Kingdom of Heaven (church) would be very different from all previous kingdoms of the earth. John 18:36-37, when Jesus was standing trial before Pilate, tells how Jesus explained the true nature of His kingdom. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world…” Jesus had come to be a king, but it was the nature of His kingdom people did not understand. “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus’ kingdom was going to be a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to the patriarchs was this new spiritual kingdom. The real tragedy of sin is spiritual death, the victory we have through Jesus Christ is spiritual life.  The physical was only a prototype of the coming spiritual.  They didn’t get it…and their hopes and dreams of a new kingdom died with Him on the cross.

With the resurrection of Jesus came a renewed excitement and hope for the future. Now would the kingdom be restored? That was what the apostles wanted to know.  We read in Acts 1:1-8: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, He showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ ”

His resurrection convinced His disciples He was the one to restore the kingdom. However, they still did not understand when or how, although He had explained this to them prior to His death. Most Jews believed the Messiah would come, raise an army, defeat the Romans, set up an earthly kingdom and physically reign on David’s throne. Many Jews tragically missed their own Messiah because they could not understand and accept the spiritual nature of His kingdom. They wanted a physical kingdom, a physical king, so they refused to believe Jesus. It is even more amazing that a majority of Christians today have believed the same false concept concerning the coming King and His kingdom. They have been told Jesus will physically return to the earth to establish His kingdom and reign on David’s physical throne in a rebuilt city of Jerusalem for a thousand years. If that is the case, where does that leave Christians today? If the church and the kingdom are one and the same, as Jesus taught, how is this possible? Has the church not yet been established? The theology of this teaching is completely foreign to Scripture.

Jesus taught otherwise during His earthly ministry. He plainly said His kingdom was “not of this world” and it “would not come visibly.” He also taught when it would come. In His instructions to the apostles recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21, He told them his kingdom would come at the same time the old physical one was removed from the earth.  That is how they would know when it was completed. Luke 21:20 Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.” A few verses later in that same discussion He said, “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Luke 21:31-32).

All through the New Testament we find the Holy Spirit guided the first century disciples and writers to continue teaching about the coming kingdom. In 2 Timothy 4:1 the Apostle Paul tells young Timothy, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word…” Evidently the appearing of Jesus and His kingdom were still in Paul’s and Timothy’s future. They were also inextricably linked together.

The writer of Hebrews discussed in great length the change from the Old Law to the new covenant in Christ, from the physical kingdom of the Jews to the spiritual kingdom of Jesus. He also clearly recognized this change was still in progress and would be completed when the Lord returned during their lifetime. In chapter 10:36-37 he said, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” Then in chapter 12:26-29, he spoke of the removal of the old and the coming of the new when he said, “At that time (giving of the Old Law on Mt. Sinai) His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

The giving of the old Law of Moses on Mt. Sinai led to the eventual building of the temple in Jerusalem where God’s presence dwelled during the days of the physical nation of Israel. All these physical (created) things could be “shaken” or removed from the earth.  The physical nation had been shaken in the past and even the sacred furnishings of that physical temple had been carried off into foreign countries. God was replacing the physical kingdom with a spiritual one that could not be shaken. According to Hebrews, that spiritual kingdom was still coming at the time of his writing and would be complete when Jesus returned. He said we are receiving (not have received) a kingdom.

So when did the kingdom come? We know the establishment of the church began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and since the church and the Kingdom are the same, that is when the kingdom would also have had its beginning. The gospel of the Kingdom was first proclaimed on that day and the Bible clearly says “the Lord added to the church those who were being saved.” However, there was still more to come before the Kingdom (church) would be fully established. This is also clear from passages in Timothy and Hebrews, written three decades after Pentecost, which clearly state that the fulfillment of the kingdom, as well as Jesus’ appearing, were still to occur in the very near future.

Jesus taught the new spiritual kingdom would replace the old physical one and fulfill all the prophesies of Old Testament Scripture. Further, he said when the armies came and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, that would be the sign that all these things had been completed. To make sure we didn’t miss it, he said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.”

The Apostle John was privileged to witness the events of that great “day of the Lord” when the physical kingdom of Israel (the prototype) became the kingdom of God (the reality). Revelation 11:15 says, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.’ ” The book of Revelation is about this consummation of God’s plan to complete His eternal plan for redemption and establish the eternal kingdom. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not the revelation of some imagined end of the world.

The church was never intended to be some magical place where one can go on Sunday to experience a connection with the “spirit world” and, through a mystical séance of “prayers” and divinations by the “spirit filled” speaker, receive healing from every physical ailment or release from the “demons” that plague our lives. It is the Kingdom of Heaven, in which we live every day of our lives. Our gatherings are to worship the Almighty and praise Him for our deliverance from sin and thank Him for the grace He has given us, regardless of the various conditions of our present circumstances. It is the fellowship of believers who all belong to the family of God, who are citizens of His Kingdom, because of the kinship we share in Jesus Christ.

Restoration Movement

    The Restoration Movement

Many Christians today, including this author, have been grounded in the religious tradition known as the Restoration Movement for several generations. This religious revival began in the late 1700’s in America. Frustrated by the many divisions among mainstream Christian denominations, many church preachers and leaders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries began to look for a way back to religious unity. Several of these folks independently, and later collectively, began to call for a “restoration of New Testament Christianity.” They pleaded for everyone to return to only the Bible as the sole guide for faith and practice in religion.

One of the primary mantras of this group of Christians was, “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, love.” These early pioneers of our faith understood there had always been, and always would be, differences in opinions regarding various “issues,” especially those that were not clearly stated in Scripture. They also understood the gospel message of salvation was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was one’s belief in and obedience to this simple message that made one a child of God and Christian fellowship should be based on these principles alone.

They allowed a wide range of differences in matters of opinion regarding the various “interpretations” of how the details of worship and practice within the church should be defined. Matters of opinion would no longer be linked to fellowship, and people were free to disagree and still be part of the body of Christ.  They understood the two fundamental principles upon which all of God’s laws have forever been based; 1) love God, 2) love people. They knew any interpretation of Scripture that violates one of these principles is not correct. They took seriously Paul’s admonition to the church in Rome, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, because God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

People by the thousands from every denomination united in this call for unity based on the Scriptures alone. What resulted over the next generation was a religious revolution comparable in size and importance to the Great Reformation, started by Martin Luther, in Europe a century earlier. Driven by the desire for freedom that was prevalent in the new American spirit, and emboldened with the ability to own one’s own copy of Scripture as a result of the invention of the printing press a few centuries earlier, thousands of these pioneer Christians were excited to leave the authoritarian religious organizations and simply follow what the Bible taught. The church of Jesus Christ experienced a renewed awakening and missionary zeal not seen for centuries. Christians were eager to study and learn the Scriptures for themselves and share the good news with their neighbors.

All went well for about a hundred years. Unfortunately, some people simply cannot resist the urge to impose their own “interpretations” of Scripture on others. “Matters of opinion,” differences on certain issues and things about which the Bible was silent, slowly became “maters of faith.” Other slogans which were used by original proponents of this movement to describe the restoration effort were; “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only,” and “We will speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” These principles also took a back seat to a more legalistic interpretation of Scripture. By the early 20th century many of these Christians could no longer fellowship other Christians with whom they disagreed. Some began to believe and preach “we are the only Christians,” and if you do not belong to “our fellowship” you are not a Christian. In matters about which the Bible is “silent,” instead of remaining silent, these later leaders of the Restoration Movement came up with many rules to teach their own opinions. They even created their own “doctrine of silence” by which they attempt to bind their rules on the entire fellowship. These self-appointed “guardians of the faith” have created more divisions (denominations) within the body of Christ than existed prior to the start of the movement.

However, this is not to say the Restoration Movement failed, or was a bad idea. It is to say restoration is not a one-time-and-it’s-done thing. The concept that fueled one of the greatest revivals in Christian history is a wonderful, Biblical idea. We should simply follow what God says, not bind our opinions on others, love God and our neighbors and do everything in our power to keep the unity of faith in the bond of peace. We should not judge or look down on our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ just because they do not share “our view” on every issue (Romans 14:10). The Restoration Movement proved that the simple message of the gospel has great appeal when it is presented as the inclusive invitation from a loving God and not encumbered with man-made rules to exclude all who do not “measure up” to human standards. Unity in the church is not based on agreement on all issues. We are one because we all have the same Father. The church is a family. We do not decide who our siblings are…God does!

We also must understand that Christianity is not a hand-me-down religion. Every generation must have its own “restoration movement.” It behooves each of us to study the Bible and see for ourselves exactly what God says…and do that. We should not accept ideas, religious practices and beliefs based on what some preacher, elder, church or council says. We must stop selectively interpreting Scripture to support our traditions and take an honest look at what God says.

It is past time for another “restoration” of New Testament Christianity. Many have already seen the need to start fresh with only the Scriptures. A growing number of existing churches have realized their allegiance to tradition must change in favor of a more Biblical stance and independent Bible churches are springing up all across America and around the world. Christian unity is still a worthy goal. Our world today desperately needs a Christian revival. May God help us to be part of the solution, not the problem. The church is not ours…it belongs to Jesus.

To HIM be the glory!

The Devil Made Me Do It (Part 3 of 3)

     Part 3 of 3:

One might imagine the appointed time when the devil was finally defeated was at the crucifixion of Jesus. We tend to think that everything concerning salvation and Jesus’ victory over death, hell and the grave was accomplished at the cross. That is simply not the case. Jesus was indeed the lamb slain for the sins of the world on the cross. However it was not the death of the Passover lamb which made atonement for sin; it was the blood offering from that sacrifice made in the Holy of Holies.

In the case of Jesus’ sacrifice, His blood was not taken into the temple in Jerusalem, which was a type of the Holy of Holies in heaven.  It was to be offered in heaven, before the throne of God, in the real Holy of Holies. That is where the final struggle between God and the devil took place.  All eternity awaited the outcome.

John sets the stage. Revelation 10:7 says, “But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” In Revelation 11:15 the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and “there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’ ” Continuing in verse nineteen we read, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.”

The Ark of the Covenant was first introduced in the tent tabernacle constructed as God had outlined to Moses. The ark was housed in the room called the “Holy of Holies” and nobody but the High Priest was allowed to enter, and only once each year to offer a blood sacrifice for the sins of the people.  When the permanent temple was constructed by Solomon in Jerusalem, it was also built according to the same pattern and the Ark of the Covenant was moved into the Holy of Holies in that temple.  This was the most sacred place on earth and represented the place where God dwelt.

Now we see the Ark of the Covenant in heaven itself; the real one in the very presence of God! The devil knew what happened on that ark! So it is no surprise that the next thing we see is a short review of how the dragon (devil) had tried to stop Jesus when he was born, when he lived, when he died…all to no avail.

And the next thing we read in Revelation 12:7-17:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

The devil declared war to stop the atonement sacrifice from being offered on the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant in heaven. Satan knew this was his last chance.  Once the atonement was complete, the devil’s power was destroyed. But he lost. The atonement sacrifice was made and Satan was cast out of heaven. Continuing in Revelation 12 we read,

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.’ 

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” 

How was the war in heaven won? How was the devil and his angels defeated? By the blood of the lamb! ATONEMENT! First we see the devil and his angels cast out of heaven and hurled to the earth.  The earth had been his kingdom, now it was his only place of refuge from the fury of God and the Lamb. But his time ruling on earth was also short, so he was furious.

As we follow John’s Revelation through the next few chapters we have a detailed and vivid portrayal of the judgment of God. The devil does everything in his power to overcome. He marshals all his forces, but he is unable to prevail because the blood of Jesus paid the price for sin forever. Once the atonement was made in heaven, Satan no longer had power over people. And by the time we get to Revelation 20:9-10, “They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

The devil had been completely defeated and was cast out! This time he was thrown into the lake of fire. He no longer had access to heaven and had no power on earth. He was crushed!  And all by the blood of the lamb!

Jesus had entered the strong man’s house, bound him, took his possessions and plundered his house (Matthew 12:29). He had crushed Satan under foot (Romans 16:20). Judgement was done. Jerusalem and the old temple were destroyed. The destruction of the earthly temple was the final sign Jesus gave his disciples to watch for so they would know that all things had been done (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). Now that the real atonement had been made in heaven there was no more need for the earthly temple. Speaking of the atonement ritual, the Bible says in Hebrews 9:8-10, “The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.”

The new order had come! The old temple had to be destroyed so we could have access into the Most Holy Place. The physical kingdom of Israel had become the spiritual kingdom of heaven.  The final scene we see in Revelation 21 and 22 is the new heaven and earth, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, THE CHURCH, coming down out of heaven from God. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ” 

This is not some future picture of heaven. This is the fulfillment of exactly what Jesus came to do; destroy the devil’s work and establish the Kingdom of Heaven, the church. How that was accomplished was the great mystery of the ages (Ephesians 1:3-10).  Jesus did it.  Mystery accomplished!

But, you may be thinking, how can this have already happened and there still be sin and death in the world? Because we are looking at the physical and do not see the spiritual. Remember the consequence of sin was death…spiritual death.  Adam and Eve died spiritually the day they ate the fruit.  Sin separates us from God. The atoning blood of Jesus forgives our sin and reunites us with God, giving us eternal spiritual life. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, we have to change our focus. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

But we still die. That actually depends upon whether one is saved by the blood of Jesus or not. Before Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead he asked Martha a question. In John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ” Whoever believes in Jesus will never die!  That is what He said.  Do we believe it?  He was talking about spiritual death.  Physical death means nothing if we are alive spiritually.  We simply go on to live forever with God.  Again in John 5:24 Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

But what about the devil? Has he really been cast out of heaven and earth and thrown into the lake of fire? If that is true, why is there still so much evil in the world?  The real question is how do you know there is so much evil in the world?  That is because you have the knowledge of good and evil!  Satan sinned, but he is not sin. Neither is he evil itself.  He may have been the instigator of evil, but evil is the condition resulting from sin.  Sin is not obedience to Satan. By definition, sin is disobedience to God.  Eve sinned when there was no sin, or even knowledge of it, in the world. The result of her sin was the knowledge of good and evil.

The atonement for sin by Jesus did not take away the knowledge of good and evil. Nor did it take away the free will we all have to make our own choices. The physical effects of sin can never be removed from the earth. The earth is full of evil, not because the devil is alive and well, but because people continue to disobey God. By enticing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, the devil laid a trap for all mankind which will forever plague the inhabitants of the earth.

Paul’s description of the human condition in Romans 1:18-32 is applicable to every generation since Adam and Eve:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

There is no mention of the devil in this passage. The evil in the world is due to the choices people make. We cannot blame our bad choices, our sin, on God or even directly on the devil. Because we have the knowledge of good and evil, the choice is ours.  James 1:13-15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” We sin by our own choosing.  The devil does not make us do it!  What else has not changed since creation is the penalty for sin.  Death!  Eternal separation from God.

In the past the devil had complete power over everyone who sinned…which was everyone. There was a time when he could literally possess those under his control.  He no longer has that power. Jesus destroyed the devil and his work.  But Satan’s influence will always be present in this world. Sin is, and always will be, a powerful delusion and the source of evil in our society. When one chooses to sin, rather than obey God, he or she chooses to follow the devil and becomes ensnared in his trap. The wages of sin is still death. But the devil no longer has control.

The good news is there is now a remedy for sin. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin! 1 John 1:5-9 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The Devil Made Me Do It (Part 2 of 3)

     Part 2 of 3:

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden the Bible says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened…” (Genesis 3:7). With the knowledge of evil, and the myriad of temptations Satan was now able to offer mankind, the entire world became increasingly sinful until we read in Genesis 6:5-6, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”  The ensuing flood removed all but eight people from the earth, but further proved that, with the knowledge of good and evil, people would continue to sin.  As David wrote in the Psalms, quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter three, there is not one righteous person; all have sinned!

While there is a lot written about evil in the Old Testament, there is surprisingly little mention of Satan himself. The first mention of the name Satan is not until 1 Chronicles 21:1, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.”  Satan appears in only two other Old Testament books; Job and Zechariah.

The most interesting passage concerning Satan in the Old Testament is a conversation between him and God beginning in Job 1:6-12, “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’ Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ 

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ 

The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Satan destroyed everything Job had accomplished in his lifetime; even killed all his children, yet Job still did not sin against God. So Satan tried again. In Job 2:1-7 God reminded Satan that Job still maintains his integrity, “‘though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ 

Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life.  But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ 

The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’  So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.”

Despite Satan’s best efforts, and his own wife’s encouragement to “curse God and die,” Job maintained his faith and did not sin against the Lord. While the primary lesson of Job is one of faith, the story does reveal some interesting things about Satan.

Evidently Satan had access to appear before God whenever he chose to do so. And it seems his appearances were designed to accuse God’s people before the Almighty.  In Zechariah 3:1-2 we read, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ ”

It seems abundantly clear that, despite the presence of sin in the world since Eden, Satan did not have the power to force people to do evil. He could entice, lure, and tempt people, but sin was always a result of a person’s own choice. The Genesis account says Cain murdered his brother Able because he was angry, not because the devil made him do it. 1 John 3:12 says, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:16 “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Sin is always the result of a choice; whether to obey God and do right or yield to temptation and do wrong.

There is a lot more said of the devil (Satan) in the New Testament but it is not until we get to the last book in the Bible that we see clearly the serpent, Satan and the devil are the same being. In Revelation 12:9 we read, “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Again in Revelation 20:2 the Bible says, “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”

The devil and his angels (or demons, as they are usually called) take a more prominent place in the New Testament Scriptures. Matthew and Luke record the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove from heaven, descended upon Jesus and the voice of God was heard saying, “This is my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Immediately afterward we have the first direct reference to the devil in the Bible. Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” When Jesus began his ministry on earth there was no point in the devil using any disguise; no need to impersonate a serpent; Jesus knew exactly who he was.  The devil spent forty days trying to get Jesus to join his ranks, but Jesus refused.  The devil left him, but he had not given up.  He knew what was at stake.  As Luke’s account says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”  The devil would look for other opportunities to tempt Jesus.

Once mankind had the knowledge of good and evil, the devil’s work was to make sin so alluring that everyone would try it. Sometimes evil is presented in the form of fun or pleasure. Sometimes Satan simply made evil look like good. His strategy worked. There has never been a human being that could live a perfect life free from sin. However, the pleasure of sin only lasts a short time while its consequences are devastating and eternal. Ask the addict who would give anything if he or she had resisted the first temptation to try something that now controls every aspect of a life of shame, depression and hopelessness. Even worse, with sin came spiritual death; eternal separation from God. There was no way out. Satan became the ruler of all God’s earthly creation. The world became his kingdom and death was his eternal hold over it. He could stand before God in the presence of the angels and accuse everyone of sin. And for mankind there was no way out.

UNTIL JESUS CAME!

The reason Jesus came into the world was to destroy the devil’s work and his power over death. 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” In John 12:31 Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out.” And in Hebrews 2:14-15 we read, “Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” And the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:9-10, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Speaking of his approaching crucifixion Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out.” When, and from where, was the devil to be cast out? To where was he to be sent? The answer lies in how he was overcome. Jesus connected the casting out of Satan with the judgment of the world and said the time for both was now, a result of his coming death.

Many people believe that Satan was cast out of heaven when he sinned against God, sometime before the world was created. Jesus’ statement about seeing Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18) is usually cited as proof of this.  We have already shown above that, from the context, this is not likely a correct interpretation of what Jesus said. We have also noted in several Scriptures how Satan stood in the presence of God in heaven with the angels to accuse people of sin.  Evidently he had not yet been cast out of heaven.  Because of sin, the world was his kingdom, so he had not been cast out of it either. Satan’s control over the entire human race was complete and his power great.  Once a person chose sin he came under the same curse that had existed since the garden. We learn from the gospels that demons had the power to literally possess people and completely take over their lives.

Jesus repeatedly demonstrated during His personal ministry that He had power over demons. He cast them out of people everywhere He went.  He often did not let them speak because they knew who He was. On one occasion we learn that, not only did the demons know Jesus was the Son of God, but they also knew their own destiny should Jesus complete His divine mission.  We read in Matthew 8:28-29, “When he (Jesus) arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’ ” Although there were two men for whom Jesus cast out demons, Luke, in his gospel, focuses on only one of them and tells a more detailed account.  As he reveals the story he writes in Luke 8:30-31, “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

These demons knew Jesus was the Son of God and that His mission was to destroy the devil’s work and send them into the abyss to be tortured forever at the appointed time.  When Jesus cast these demons out of the men, the appointed time had not yet come, so He sent them into a herd of pigs. When was the appointed time?  Again, the answer lies in how Satan was going to be overcome. We will consider that in the next post.

In the meantime, don’t give the devil more credit than he deserves.  Remember, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The Devil Made Me Do It (Part 1 of 3)

     Part 1 of 3:

Who is the devil? Where did he come from? What power does he have?

A study of the spirit realm is an interesting one. The world is full of beliefs, superstitions, and tales of spiritual and supernatural beings of every description. The most cursory look at archeology shows every civilization has had some belief system which included celestial or spiritual beings, both good and bad.

Since we cannot physically see into the spiritual realm, what we know about gods, angels, demons, and whatever other creatures we may dare to imagine must be based on the evidence of what we can see or the reliability of historical records. For those of us who believe there is one God, who created the universe, we accept His word, the Bible, as the only reliable source to learn about Him and whatever He has determined to reveal to us about the spiritual realm.  He has revealed everything we need to know for our redemption from the consequences of sin, but there are many things he has not chosen to reveal. As Moses told the Israelites centuries ago in Deuteronomy 29:29, The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” We can learn much from a study of the Scriptures, but we must accept the fact that there will remain things we will never be able to know in this life on earth.

With that in mind, let’s look at what the Bible does reveal about spirit beings, specifically the devil and his angels. It should be noted that the term “angel” in the Bible simply means “messenger.” It appears in at least 290 verses throughout the Scriptures, and in all but three cases refers to the angel(s) of God. Today we normally, and correctly, associate angels with God and view them as “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:4).

However, it does appear that the devil also has “angels” who are ministering spirits to serve his evil purposes. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” And in Revelation 12:7-9 we read, “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

In the Old Testament there is no mention of the term “devil.” He is referred to only as the serpent in the Genesis account of the temptation of Adam and Eve. However, the magnitude and consequences of evil that entered the world as a result of that seemingly innocent and insignificant act fills the pages of the Old Testament…without a mention of the devil. Why?  It might help if we spend a little more time looking at what exactly took place in the Garden of Eden.

First it is important to note that sin is, by definition, a transgression of law (1 John 3:4). We might think that the first sin, the one act that brought all the evil into the world, would have been a little bigger than simply eating a piece of fruit from one of the many trees in the garden. But there was only one law…don’t eat that fruit. And that was no ordinary fruit tree.  It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Prior to their eating that fruit, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil, and ignorance was indeed bliss!  Eve did not even know that what the serpent was enticing her to do was a “sin”   …because they had no knowledge of right and wrong, no concept of sin.  To make things worse, except for one tiny word, what the serpent told Eve was true.  The fruit would make them like God, knowing good and evil. But what Adam and Eve did know was that God had told them not to eat the fruit.  It was the only rule they had. And they broke it.

What were the consequences of that first sin? When God warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil He said, “The day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” They ate…but did they die that day? Some would argue they “began to die” that day or they “became subject to death” that day. That is not what God said. If we do not understand the meaning of death, we will certainly not understand the significance and eternal consequences of sin.

Death literally means “a separation.” When Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually. They were banished from the garden and separated from the presence of God that day. Physical death may have been a subsequent consequence of their spiritual death, but Jesus proved that physical death cannot separate one from God. If it did, he could not have come back from the grave. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, even if they died a physical death, what would have happened to them? They would have continued to live with God throughout all eternity! When Paul said in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death,” he was not talking of physical death. Neither was God when he told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit. The consequence of sin is spiritual death, eternal separation from the presence of God. They died the day they ate the forbidden fruit.

Human beings were created free to choose their own actions. They had no knowledge of evil and, therefore, could not be tempted to do evil.  By this time Satan and his angels knew all about evil and wanted to inflict it on God’s new creation.  The only opening the devil had was to introduce Adam and Eve to the knowledge of his realm.  Once they knew about evil, there would be endless temptations they were never created to withstand. Every person who ever lived would, sooner or later, make wrong choices.

When God approached Adam and Eve following their snack, they hid from him. Why?  The Scripture says after they ate the fruit “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.” They now knew about good and evil. They made clothes from fig leaves but still felt naked and ashamed before God, so they hid. God asked them an interesting question; “who told you that you were naked?” They had been naked since they were created and had never felt ashamed.  It was not their outward appearance that caused their shame and no amount of fancy clothes can cover the shame that comes from sinning against God.  And when asked if they had eaten of the tree, they began to do what every person does when caught in sin; they immediately began pointing fingers at others for their own bad choice.  “She made me do it!”  “The serpent made me do it!”  “It’s not my fault!”  There is a fundamental truth we must all eventually accept when it comes to the evil we do…IT IS OUR OWN FAULT!

There are those who advance the idea that all people, when they are born, inherit the sin of Adam and Eve; that we are all born into sin. That is simply not the case.  What all descendants inherited from our original ancestors was the knowledge of good and evil. Newborn babies are not sinners.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). As children grow and mature, they begin to realize the difference between good and bad, between right and wrong.  Once they reach that point in their lives, and willfully choose to do what they know is wrong, they become sinners. Sin is always a choice. With the knowledge of good and evil and the freedom to choose came the responsibilities and consequences of our choices. Eve’s sin was willfully choosing to disobey God. That is the root of every sin.

Satan did not have the power to force Eve to eat the fruit. When she saw it was good for food and would make her wise, she wanted it and ate it.  It was her choice. Later, Cain knew it was wrong to kill his brother because he had the knowledge of good and evil, but he did it anyway because he was jealous. His jealousy, and the subsequent cause of the first murder, was his own choice to disobey God.  God asked him, “If you do right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Life would have been so much easier not to have been so wise! When we do wrong (and get caught) we would all like to say, “The devil made me do it!” But we all know good from evil and are responsible for the choices we make. We can either choose to obey God and do what is right or attempt to fulfill our own desires and choose evil.

Still, where did Satan come from? Did God create him? The Bible says that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) created everything from nothing.  Colossians 1:15-17 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” God created all things. That includes everything in heaven and on earth; everything visible and invisible; all thrones, all powers, all rulers, all authorities…everything! That includes all the angels.  So the answer is yes, God created Satan.

But He did not create Satan (or whatever his name may have been prior to his sin) to be evil. Everything God created was good. Evidently God created a host of angels (and we have no idea what else, if anything) prior to creating light and life on planet earth. Genesis 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

We have no idea, because it is not revealed, how long creation existed and the earth remained without physical life. Beginning in verse three the Bible says God created light, called the light day and the darkness night, and the earth had its first morning and evening, its first day. This would have been the beginning of time as we know it. Over the next six days God put in order the solar system and everything else necessary for life on earth and created that life, including humans. But He did not reveal what He did prior to the first day, nor does he ever reveal when or how he created everything outside the physical universe we see. But we know that at some point, prior to His bringing life to the earth, He made the angels.

We also know, from the evidence of Scripture, that angels must have had the freedom to choose whether or not they wanted to obey God. 2 Peter 2:4 says, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment…” And again in Jude 6 we read, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” A lot of interesting stories have been made up to explain how these angels became disobedient, but God does not tell us so we cannot know for sure.

It is also assumed by many that Satan was one of these fallen angels. He may have been, but it is also possible he was some other form of spiritual being. He could have been any one of the “thrones, powers, rulers, or authorities” mentioned in Colossians as part of God’s creation. Some say Isaiah 14:12 and Ezekiel 28:13-16 are passages that describe Satan’s fall from heaven after being a perfect angel of God who decided to revolt and lead an angelic coup against the Almighty. This is a simple case of taking Scriptures out of context to support a concept that is completely foreign to the text.  A more careful examination of these passages shows clearly that Isaiah 13-14 is a prophecy against Babylon and Ezekiel 28 a similar prophecy against the king of Tyre. It is possible that Satan may have been an angel who led a revolt against God, but these particular Scriptures do not speak to that.  God does not reveal how Satan came to be the prince of darkness.

Some people believe that Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 is about Satan falling from his good standing with God in heaven and being kicked out because of his sin. Considering the context of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples, this is a very unlikely interpretation. Jesus had sent seventy-two of his disciples into the surrounding towns to announce the Kingdom of Heaven was near.  When they returned, they were very excited about things they had seen.  They told Jesus, “even the demons submitted to us in your name!” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

The Greek word for “saw” or “beheld” (KJV) in this verse is “THEOREO” which means one who looks on as a spectator. The literal translation of the phrase is, “I was watching Satan, as lightning from heaven, fall.” This passage does not say Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven.  It says Jesus saw Satan fall…like lightning from heaven.  Every time one of the disciples spoke in the name of Jesus, the demons were powerless…they fell, like lightning from heaven.  Jesus did not change the subject to some prehistoric fall of Satan.  He was confirming exactly what His disciples were telling him; “in the name of Jesus, the demons fall down, they submit.” And Jesus told them He had given them this power over demons, and had watched them use it…but not to rejoice over that power, but that their names were written in heaven.

Below are some of the more exact translations of this statement of Jesus:

American Standard Version (ASV) published in 1901 “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.”

Young’s Literal Translation says, “I was beholding the Adversary, as lightning from the heaven, having fallen.” 

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB) “I was seeing Hasatan (Satan) falling like lightning from Shomayim (heaven).”

We shall see later why it is important to understand that Jesus gives people the power to make Satan fall like lightning. However, it is true that Satan was good when created by God, because everything God created was good.  At some point, we do not know when, where, or why, Satan decided to disobey God and fell from his former position.  He evidently became the leader of many fallen angels whose eternal purpose is to fight against everything God does and tempt all creation to join him in his evil ways.

We have all obliged!

Revelation: Part 12

     Revelation 21-22:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death’ ” (21:1-8).

Before we immediately jump to the conclusion that he is describing heaven after we die physically, let’s examine what John said here in light of other passages of Scripture. Twice in this text John described the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Compare this with what the writer of Hebrews said concerning this same heavenly Jerusalem. In Hebrews 11:10, concerning the promise made to Abraham, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” In chapter 12:18-21 he first described the time Moses received the old covenant when God was setting up the physical kingdom of Israel which would serve as a pattern for the spiritual kingdom promised to Abraham. He said, “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’ ”

Then comparing that physical kingdom to the much superior spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, in verses 22-29:

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” 

The Hebrew writer clearly identified the heavenly Jerusalem as the church. He further stated that the old physical kingdom of Israel was passing away and, “…we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” John and the writer of Hebrews are referring to the same heavenly Jerusalem, the church. This is the city promised to Abraham whose builder was God. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The church is the “kingdom of heaven.” In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” As the Apostle Paul said, our citizenship is in heaven. While we recognize the eternal, spiritual nature of this heavenly Jerusalem, the church, we are not waiting for the physical universe to be destroyed for it to be established by God. John was describing that eternal kingdom in which we enjoy citizenship now as well as throughout all eternity.

That John was not speaking of life with God in heaven after we die physically is further underscored by his wording when he said, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” Jesus said in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Yes, we will live with God in heaven forever. In the meantime, he lives with us through his Holy Spirit, whom he gives to all who obey his will.

Some may say this cannot be a description of life in the church on the earth because John said, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” As is the case from beginning to end of John’s Revelation, he was explaining how Jesus fulfilled Scripture at the “consummation of the ages” when the “mystery of God” would finally be revealed. In this description of the “heavenly Jerusalem” identified in Scripture as the church, he was referring to Old Testament prophesies that were being fulfilled.

Isaiah 25:7-8, “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.” When did Jesus “swallow up death” and “remove the disgrace” (sin) of his people? Surely it was in his death, resurrection and atonement for sin.

Prophesying about the coming spiritual kingdom in Isaiah 35:8-10 the prophet said, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

And in Isaiah 65:17-19, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Again, in Isaiah 49:8-10, “This is what the Lord says: In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” In a typical “this is that” passage Paul quoted from this very same Scripture in Isaiah, indicating its fulfillment in the church, when he said in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” He said the prophet’s message is fulfilled NOW.

All the above prophesies, and many more, clearly indicate that in the kingdom of heaven, the new Jerusalem, the church, there will be no more sorrow, hunger, death, crying, etc. This does not mean these things will literally disappear from the earth, nor are these Scriptures referring to heaven after we die. The comparison is between the physical kingdom of Israel and the spiritual kingdom of heaven. The physical kingdom was subject to all these physical problems; wars, captivity, calamities, sorrow, hunger and death. The spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ is vulnerable to none of these things. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). In John 5:24 he said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Again, in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Paul, writing to Christians in Thessalonica said, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The concept of “no tears, no sorrow, no death” relates to the spiritual nature of the kingdom of heaven as compared with the former physical kingdom. The former things have passed away, all things have become new.

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass” (21:9-21).

There is no question that John here was describing the church. In Ephesians 5:25-27 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” The church is the bride of Christ. It is also the heavenly Jerusalem. Hebrews 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” It is also God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20). 

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:22-27).

The temple in Jerusalem was built to house the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. That is where the High Priest would go to make the annual atonement sacrifice for the sins of the people. It represented God’s presence with the kingdom of Israel and was a prototype of heaven itself. There is no need for a physical temple in heaven since that is God’s dwelling place. He and the Lamb are the temple. The gates into the kingdom of heaven are always open to anyone who will submit to the king. We become citizens of the kingdom of heaven when we obey the Gospel message. As was the case with the Jews on, and following, the Day of Pentecost, the Lord adds to the church all who are saved (Acts 2). He writes their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Eternal life begins the moment a person is cleansed of his or her sins by the blood of Jesus. We live in victory for the duration of our days on earth, then, when we die physically, we simply go to be with the Lord forever in heaven.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place’ ” (22:1-6).

Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:10, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus was speaking of the water of life, pictured here in Revelation flowing from the throne of God. This is a continuation of the description of the church, the kingdom of heaven.

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’

Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 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.’

Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (22:7-21).

The identity of the servant who showed John this vision of the church is not revealed, but his message should not be missed. Worship God!

To make sure nobody misses the point made in the beginning of the Revelation and misunderstands the time frame for the events described in this book, the Spirit directs John to repeat FIVE TIMES in the closing verses these things were going to happen SOON.

Revelation 22:6 “The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’” 

Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” 

Revelation 22:10, “Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.’

Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” 

Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

In Daniel 8:26 the Bible says, “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” John was told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). How can 490 years be the “distant future” and two centuries and counting be “very soon,” “at hand,” “at the door,” “what must soon take place,” “near?” We do not need to explain God’s time statements in these passages any more than when John the Baptist said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The meaning did not change, and we have no Scriptural authority to change it now. What is confusing people today are all the modern “philosophies of men” concerning the “end of time,” of which the Bible does not speak.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ as revealed to the Apostle John is not to be taken lightly. It contains a sobering warning. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

One final thought about John’s writing seems appropriate. If the coming of the Lord is to destroy the earth and bring to an end the possibility of one more sinner hearing the gospel and being saved, why would Christians want to hasten his coming? If, on the other hand, the Lord’s coming was to usher in the spiritual kingdom, to proclaim the completion of the atonement sacrifice of Jesus for sin, to destroy death and Hades, to reveal the mystery of God’s redemptive plan so that every sinner might hear the gospel message of reconciliation and have the opportunity for salvation, then by all means…AMEN! COME LORD JESUS!

He came! MYSTERY ACCOMPLISHED!