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Type the word “cherub” in an image search engine and you’ll get a bunch of cutesy baby angels with wings sitting on clouds.

The plural for cherub is cherubim.  The cherubim in the Bible are a far cry from that imagery.

They are the highest order of angelic beings, possessing incredible beauty and great power.

In fact, cherubim are never called angels, though we believe they belong to that class of beings.  For example, Satan is a cherub, but then in the New Testament it is said of him that he masquerades as an angel of light.  He can appear as an elect angel Even though he is fallen; so we conclude he is a cherub, and that cherubim are angels.

Scholars say they are not called angels because they are never messengers, which is the meaning of the word “angel,” but, rather, proclaimers and protectors of the glory of God.

Thus you find them posted in the Garden of Eden, and in the inner room of the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple.

The first biblical reference are the cherubim of Genesis 3:24 who were placed at the gate of the Garden of Eden after man was expelled.  They were stationed with flaming swords to protect the way to the tree of life, lest sinful man should intrude into God’s presence or presume to take of the tree of life.

They next appear in the form of golden images upon the mercy seat, the lid on the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament worship tent (Exodus 25:17–22) and in Solomon’s temple (2Chronicles 3:10–13).  The ark and mercy seat with its symbolic cherubim were kept in the innermost sanctuary of the tabernacle where God’s Shekinah glory was manifest.

In our last study, in Ezekiel twenty-eight, we saw that Satan was a cherub – maybe the chief among the cherubim.  This is further confirmed by the other Old Testament passage evangelicals cite as describing him – Isaiah 14:12-17.

Isa 14:12    “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

Isa 14:13    For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;

Isa 14:14    I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’

Isa 14:15    Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Isa 14:16    “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms,

Isa 14:17    Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’

The verses that precede these address the king of Babylon and his golden city.  But, suddenly, in verse twelve, they seem to be describing someone supernatural.

There are at least three ways to approach this text:

You can see it all as a description of an earthly king – the king of Babylon.

You can see it all as a description of Lucifer, the cherub we now know as the devil or Satan.

Or you can see it as a description with a dual meaning – of both an earthly king, and the person behind him.

The very fact that, when you read this text, it sometimes seems like you’re reading about an earthly king, then it seems it’s about someone supernatural, tells you it has a dual meaning.  You don’t need to be a scholar to understand God’s intent.

Charles Ryrie writes that this is “evidently a reference to Satan, because of Christ’s similar description (Luke 10:18) and because of the inappropriateness of the expressions of Isaiah 14:13–14 on the lips of any but Satan.”

In Ezekiel twenty-eight we saw that Satan was lifted up with pride.  This passage in Isaiah is like a commentary on the devil’s pride.  It dissects it, showing you its parts.

“Fallen from Heaven” means the loss of his original position leading eventually to his being confined to the Lake of Fire.  I mentioned last time, Satan still has access to Heaven, but doesn’t hang out there anymore.  He’s the prince of the power of the air, so I guess his HQ is the atmosphere above the earth (or maybe the stellar heavens).

During the Great Tribulation, he will be cast down from there to earth.

At the Second Coming, he’ll be chained and cast into the bottomless pit.

At the end of Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom, he’ll be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity.

Here we learn the devil’s name, Lucifer.  The Hebrew is heylel and means “light bearer,” “shining one,” or “morning star.”  Many modern translations translate this as star of the morning or morning star.

In this passage, heylel refers to the king of Babylon and Satan figuratively.  Of course, Jesus lays claim to this title in Revelation 22:16.  Though the passage in Revelation is in Greek while the passage in Isaiah is Hebrew, both are translated similarly.

This is the only place in all the Bible Satan is called Lucifer.  Notice it is used to describe him at the time of his fall into sin.  It may not be his original name; it may describe his aspirations as the devil, to climb to the zenith of the heavens before the rising sun.  In other words, his desire was to be the day star, and rise ahead of the sun. To be first.

“For you have said in your heart” is Isaiah’s way of saying what Ezekiel alluded to when he said, “iniquity was found in you.”

Since God created Lucifer perfect, and cannot be the author or creator of evil, we understand this to be a mystery of free will.

Apparently if you want beings that have genuine freedom to choose, they may choose badly.

The Bible everywhere assumes that both angelic beings and human beings were created with genuine freedom to choose to obey or to disobey God, and that if they disobeyed God, it was not His fault, nor was He the cause of it.

When you are in the midst of a tragedy, and are asking, “Why?” of God, it seems hollow to say, “Free will!”  But it’s true; God created beings with free will, risking the evil that the devil’s bad choosing, and Adam and Eve’s free choosing, brought into His perfect creation.

He immediately went to work to redeem creation and set things right.  He’s been at it for over six thousand years of human history.

Assuming God is smart, and that He would choose the quickest path to redeeming His creation, we live in the best possible universe that will accomplish God’s will without violating our free will.

You can think all my talk about free will is too man-centered, but the alternative is that everything – including every evil – is God’s will, and that He is, in fact, the creator and author of evil.

He’s not.  He can’t be.  And by His providence, He will see to it that all things work together for the good.

While we’re talking about the history of our race, I should mention something you might encounter.  There is a teaching, made popular in the 1980’s by Hal Lindsey, that mankind was created to teach Satan and his angelic followers a lesson.

As I originally heard it, the lesson was about His grace to forgive sin.  Hal Lindsey used to say that after God condemned Satan and the angels who followed him in rebellion, that the devil accused God of being unfair.  So God created man, saw him fall, then showed His grace and mercy in sending His Son to redeem them by His blood.

That may or may not be true; it is merely conjecture.  I’d avoid teaching it, since we can’t be certain whether Satan fell before or after God created Adam and Eve.

He certainly sinned before Genesis three; but there’s nothing in the Bible to tell us with certainty exactly when before Genesis three.

There are five “I will” statements in Isaiah fourteen.  These statements are probably flashbacks to his original intentions in his original situation just before his fall.  This is what Satan “said in [his] heart” in rebellion against God.

“I will ascend to heaven.”  Since Satan had access to the very presence of God as the leading cherub, this means that he desired to occupy the place of God, probably desiring equal recognition with God.

“I will raise my throne above the stars of God.”  The stars are references to angels.  Satan already was the greatest angelic being, and it may be that all angels took orders from him as the chief administrator under God.  Angels would recognize that orders through him came directly from God.  It seems he wanted to rule all the angels directly rather than subordinately.

“I will sit on the mount of assembly.”  According to Isaiah 2:2 and Psalm 48:2, the mount of the assembly is the center of God’s kingdom rule.  It later seems associated with Messiah’s earthly rule of the Millennial Kingdom from Jerusalem.  Satan would also, then, seek to rule over all human affairs.

“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.”  Stars refer to angels; mount to a place of rule; now clouds are associated with the glory of God.  Lucifer had in him a great glory that reflected his Creator.  He desired a glory equal to or above God’s glory.

“I will make myself like the Most High.”  He would usurp God’s authority rather than be submissive to it, for no one can be like God and still let God be God; for there is none like Him.

Satan’s rebellion has left him a murderer, and a liar.

Joh 8:44    You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

The “you” of John 8:44 were Jews who believed that their descent from Abraham was proof of their salvation.  Jesus pointed out that in their rejection of Him, they were imitating the devil and, thus, were more like his descendants than the true, spiritual descendants of Abraham.  They would, in fact, plot the murder of Jesus, telling lies to convict Him in their tribunal, as well as before Pilate.

Satan is behind the spiritual death of angels and of mankind in Eden.

Had he not been lifted up in pride, one-third of the created angels would not be headed for the Lake of Fire for eternity.
When Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning,” He was probably referring to all that happened in Genesis 3 and 4, including the murder of Abel.

Jesus describes the devil as a liar four different ways in one verse.  He invented lying and does all he can to propagate it.

If we want the song of our life to be, I Did It My Way, than we can expect a lot of deception and death, spiritually speaking.  When we disobey the Word of God, we risk murdering something or someone.  It may not be an actual murder; but it will feel like one.  People murder their marriages, for example, by going outside the loving boundaries that God has set.

We may be in the process of murdering our way of life, as we redefine marriage outside of the way the Bible presents it as the monogamous heterosexual union of one man and one woman for life.

Instead, let’s hum, In My Life, Lord, Be Glorified, as we submit ourselves to the clear teachings of the Word.

The Encyclopedia Satanica, Volume 1 (Ezekiel 28v1-19)

Origin stories are big in blockbuster movies these days.  We want to know where the super heroes (and villains) came from – what makes them tick.

One of the best in recent memory has to be the way director Peter Jackson portrayed the transformation of Smeagol into Gollum in The Return of the King.

I must admit, I’m a little tired of the origins of Batman.  Too overdone.  Too much angst.  But that’s just me.

Satan has an origin, and we want to take a brief look at it.  After all, no series on spiritual warfare could be considered complete without it.

Satan is an angel.  We know that from the Book of Job, where he comes to present himself before God with other angels.

To talk about the origin of Satan we need to mention the origin of angels.

Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things, including angels.  The eternal Son of God was the cause of every creature: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

Each angel is a direct creation from God, for they do not procreate as do humans (Matthew 22:28–30).  Perhaps this is why they are sometimes called “the sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1).

In Psalm 148:2 angels are commanded to praise God, and they are included with other creations in verse five: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created.”

The angels were all created at or near the same time.  The exact time of their creation is not certain, but we know that “all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the earth, and that Satan, an angelic creature, appears in Genesis three. From this we conclude that God created all angels before He created the earth.

All angels were created in a holy state, but we know that Satan fell from that state, enticing one-third of the angels to fall with him.

In Matthew 25:41 Jesus speaks of Hell as being a place prepared “for the devil and his angels.”

Revelation 12:4 depicts Satan’s fall, saying he drew a third more with him.

They are according to their nature termed “holy” (Mark 8:38) or “elect” (1 Timothy 5:21 KJV), and “evil” or “unclean spirits” (Luke 8:2; 11:24, 26).  According to their allegiance they are called “the angels of God” (John 1:51), or grouped with “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) and the “dragon and his angels” (Revelation 12:7).

Let me pause for a moment to say something about the name, Satan.  When Satan first appears in the Bible, he is not named.  In Genesis, he is the serpent who tempted Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden.

He next appears in Job and is described as satan – but not as a proper name.  It was the common word for accuser.  Thus, in Job, he is literally, the satan.  Over time he began to be called Satan as a proper name.

Satan is not mentioned all that much in the Old Testament.  He’s in the Garden; he comes against Job.  Then he is mentioned directly in Zechariah 3:1-2, and in Second Chronicles 21:1.

These few mentions aren’t meant to minimize him as an adversary.  Quite to the contrary – the Bible is a war story as Satan seeks to undermine and overthrow God’s gracious plan to create, then redeem, then glorify, a race of people who freely love Him.  Satan is always behind the scenes, robbing, killing, lying, destroying, devouring.

So – where’d he go wrong?  While modern scholarship tries to minimize it, most, solid evangelical scholarship looks to a passage in Ezekiel to draw back the curtain.

It’s Ezekiel 28:1-19.  Here is how the chapter breaks down:

In verses one through ten God announces His judgment upon the human ruler of Tyre.

In verses eleven through nineteen God seems to be talking to Satan even though Heʼs still addressing the ruler of Tyre.

God was addressing a man, the ruler of Tyre, the whole time.  But in the later verses He was revealing the motivation behind the man. It was Satan.

Remember in the Book of Daniel we learned that there can be satanic powers behind the rulers of the nations of the earth.  We read there about a demon who was “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” who withstood Gabriel until Michael the Archangel came to fight with him.

Ezekiel 28:1 The word of the Lord came to me again, saying,

Ezekiel 28:2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas,’ Yet you are a man, and not a god, Though you set your heart as the heart of a god

The “prince,” or ruler, of Tyre at this time in history was a guy named Ithobul II.  Did he really think he was “a god?”  Probably.

Eze 28:3    (Behold, you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you!

This is sanctified sarcasm.

Eze 28:4    With your wisdom and your understanding You have gained riches for yourself, And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;

Eze 28:5    By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),”

Eze 28:6    ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god,

Eze 28:7    Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, The most terrible of the nations; And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, And defile your splendor.

Eze 28:8    They shall throw you down into the Pit, And you shall die the death of the slain In the midst of the seas.

Eze 28:9    “Will you still say before him who slays you, ‘I am a god’? But you shall be a man, and not a god, In the hand of him who slays you.

Eze 28:10    You shall die the death of the uncircumcised By the hand of aliens; For I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD.’ ”

I absolutely love the scene in The Avengers when Loki says he’s a god, and the Hulk tosses him like a rag doll and says, “puny god.”

The King of Tyre would die unconverted, die in his sins, die eternally separated from God.  Heʼd wait in the “pit,” in Hades, where heʼs still waiting, for the resurrection of the damned, the second death, to be thrown alive into the Lake of Fire.

Something else was going on, behind the scenes.  God began to address Ithobul as if he were a fallen angel:

Eze 28:11    Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

Eze 28:12    “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

Eze 28:13    You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created.

Eze 28:14    “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.

The person being addressed is a “cherub.”  Thatʼs a class of angelic beings.  In fact, it is the highest, most beautiful, most privileged and powerful class.

This particular cherub was “in Eden.”  Who is the only other individual, besides Adam and Eve, we read about in Eden?  It’s the serpent, Satan.

Wait; how do we make the leap from the serpent to Satan?

Rev 20:2    He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan…

Ezekiel fills-in some gaps about Satan:

He was, and still is, “full of… beauty.” I donʼt think he looks like the guy on the fireworks stands.

As we said, he was “created.”  He is in no way an equal with God, with the Creator.  Itʼs not like the Force, or the yin & yang, good versus evil.

“Timbrels and pipes” describe some sort of musical ability.  Satan is thus said by many to have been a worship leader, maybe THE worship leader.

He was in the very presence of God.  He held a high rank.

Itʼs possible to identify the “fiery stones” with a fiery wall around the Throne of God in Heaven.  If thatʼs the case, Satan was an inner-circle angel.

Eze 28:15    You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

Eze 28:16    “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.

Eze 28:17    “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.

Without explaining how it happened, God says, “Iniquity was found in [him].”  The only clue (here) as to what occurred in Satan’s mind is found in verse 17: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.”

The “trading” of verse sixteen might allude to Satan’s convincing other angels to join him.

His sin is a proud heart and self-occupation.  Reflecting upon his God-endowed beauty, he became enthralled with himself and was lifted up with pride

Eze 28:18    “You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you.

Eze 28:19    All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.” ‘ ”
Ezekiel was describing both Ithabul and Satan.  The purpose of the lament was to speak of Tyreʼs destruction.  So he began to blend the characteristics of the satanic king with the human ruler.

Satan would be cast to the earth and the king of Tyre would also be cast down before other kings, his enemies.
Satanʼs ultimate destiny will be the Lake of Fire and the defeat and death of the human ruler of Tyre was pictured as being consumed by fire.
Both Satanʼs and Tyreʼs defeats would shock those nations who had followed them.

There’s another important origins passage.  It’s Isaiah fourteen.  It’s where we get another name for Satan – Lucifer.  Next time!
We talk about the fall of Satan but it is more accurate to describe him as falling.  Though Ezekiel presented the fall of Satan as a single act, it actually occurred, and is still occurring, in stages:

Satanʼs initial judgment was his expulsion from the position of Godʼs anointed cherub before His throne.  God expelled him from the “mount of God” (meaning Heaven).  As I already said, he is still allowed access to God, but he is described in the New Testament as “the prince of the power of the air,” somewhere between Heaven and earth.

In the Tribulation Satan will be finally cast from Heaven and from earth’s atmosphere and be restricted to the earth.

At the Second Coming Satan will be confined in the Millennium to the bottomless pit.

After his brief release at the end of the Millennium he will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

God went on a Tyre-rant against a tyrant, and along the way we learn about our accuser, the devil, that serpent of old, Lucifer.

The Prince Who’s Not Your Pal (Daniel 10v1-21)

When I was in elementary school, we learned a few spelling tricks.

The one general rule that most people remember from school is not a very good rule at all: I before E except after C – but not in “eight,” or “protein,” or “efficient,” or “glacier,” or lots of other exceptions.

The rule does get better with extra qualifications.  You may have learned it as follows:

I before E except after C,
Or when sounded as “a”
As in “neighbor” or “weigh.”

If so, then you will have accounted for a range of exceptions.  Still, you’ll be out of luck on “weird” and “ancient.”

One other rule I remember was the difference between principle and principal.  One spelling means, a fundamental truth, and the other means, the most important, used of the head administrator at a school.  The rule I learned was, “the principal is your ‘pal.’ ”

As a Christian, I find there are principals who are not so palsy-walsy.

They are the “principalities and powers” mentioned by the apostle Paul in a list of demonic forces that aid the devil in his assault on believers.

We get our most complete look at such a demon in the Book of Daniel.  We need to read all of Daniel chapter ten to get the complete picture.

Dan 10:1    In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision.

Dan 10:2    In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.

Dan 10:3    I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.

Dan 10:4    Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris,

Dan 10:5    I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!

Dan 10:6    His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.

Dan 10:7    And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.

Dan 10:8    Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength.

Dan 10:9    Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.

Dan 10:10    Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.

Dan 10:11    And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.

Dan 10:12    Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.

Dan 10:13    But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.

Dan 10:14    Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”

Dan 10:15    When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless.

Dan 10:16    And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength.

Dan 10:17    For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.”

Dan 10:18    Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me.

Dan 10:19    And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

Dan 10:20    Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come.

Dan 10:21    But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince).

From the description in verses five and six, we know that the person dispatched to Daniel was an angel.  We believe it to be Gabriel, who had made contact with Daniel twice before (8:16 & 9:21).

Gabriel states plainly that he was hindered from coming to Daniel for twenty-one days by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.”

He also leans that there is a “prince of Greece.”

It is obvious, in the context, that these princes are not the human rulers of Persia and Greece.  They are somewhat equal in power to angels like Gabriel and Michael.

Such princes are hinted at elsewhere in the Bible.  In Isaiah 24:1 we read,

Isa 24:21    It shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, And on the earth the kings of the earth.

“The host of exalted one’s” could be translated “the powers in the heaven’s above.”  They are the supernatural beings, the demons, who are behind certain “kings of the earth” who they influence to serve their nefarious purposes.

These may have been viewed, and worshipped, as gods by these nations, but it’s clear that they are fallen angels out to hinder the unfolding drama of redemption.

The Prince of Persia, and the Prince of Greece, are two specific examples.

Daniel had been in prayer and had been fasting for three weeks.  Out of nowhere, Gabriel appeared to him, and proceeded to tell Daniel that he would have arrived sooner if he hadn’t been hindered by the Prince of Persia.

Only tapping-out to Michael, who had come to aid Gabriel, set him free to arrive when he did.

After explaining to Daniel what was in store for the Jews, Gabriel revealed he would return to fight the Prince of Persia, and afterward, the Prince of Greece.

We can conclude from the Bible that Michael and Gabriel have been assigned authority over angels who administer God’s affairs for the nation of Israel.  Michael, in particular, is the Prince of Israel.

In Daniel 12:1 we read,

Dan 12:1    “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.

Michael is clearly identified in Revelation 12:7 as a leader of an angelic host: “Michael and his angels.”
Satan has also apparently assigned high-ranking demons to positions of authority over certain kingdoms.  I say “certain” because it’s unclear if every nation on earth has a demonic prince, or just those nations that have to do with hindering Israel.

The nations in the Bible that are especially involved with Israel are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  All these, in succession, were spoken of by Daniel in his prophecies.

Two of those six clearly have demonic princes over them, and I’d wager the other four do, too.  But I’m not sure if there is sufficient info in the Bible to say that every nation on earth has a demonic prince assigned to it.

It’s no secret Satan was opposed to Israel on account of her being the nation through which the Savior was promised to come.   The study we do on Christmas, and the biblical text of the booklet we wrote, The Girl with the Dragon Antagonist, is the depiction in Revelation twelve of the devil seeking to devour the Savior born to the world through Israel.

Persia, for example, would be incited to stop the construction of the Temple.  On earth, enemies of the Jews appealed to the Persian king, Artaxerxes, who commanded the work be stopped – apparently influenced by the demonic prince over his realm and rule.

Ezr 4:24    Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

As for Greece, after Alexander the Great died, his vast empire was divided, and eventually the Jews came under the control of Antiochus Epiphanes.
He is the ruler who would make desolate the Temple by offering a sow on its altar, and by erecting a statue in it.  He prefigures the future antichrist.

All of this prompted one commentator to say,

The portrayal of the princes of the nations in Daniel reveals that the unfolding of human history is not determined solely by the decisions made by human beings, for there is an unseen dimension of reality that must also be taken into account.  In particular, there are malevolent forces in the universe that exercise a baneful influence in the sociopolitical realm, especially where the people of God are concerned.

What should we do with this information?  We should do exactly what Daniel did: Nothing.

Don’t get me wrong.  Daniel kept right on praying, and fasting, and serving The Lord.  But he neither modeled, nor suggested, any direct strategy we adopt towards the princes of the kingdoms of the world – or any such territorial demons.

As we mentioned at length in a previous Soldier Up! session, recently there has been a resurgence in teaching about territorial demons, and suggestions about how Christians must identify and oppose them if people are to be delivered from satanic bondage.

There is nothing like that anywhere in your Bible – and certainly not in Daniel, where you’d expect to find it.

There’s no evidence Daniel prayed for Gabriel, or Michael, or for the overthrow of the Prince of Persia, or of Greece.

Neither should we.  Don’t get caught-up in that sort of sensationalism.

What we can say is that there is a relationship between spiritual warfare in the heavenlies and prayer on the earth.  Daniel’s three weeks of fasting and prayer coincided with the Prince of Persia hindering Gabriel for three weeks.

Daniel praying, for his people, influenced God to dispatch Gabriel, to encourage Daniel with some information about things to come.  And it caused the devil to try to interfere.

Many people don’t engage much in prayer simply because they have embraced a worldview in which prayer simply doesn’t make sense.  If God is going to do whatever He’s going to do anyway, what’s the point?

They pray because it changes you, not things.

James sums up the general teaching on prayer when he says that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (5:16).  The example he gave is that Elijah’s praying affected the rainfall.

We must conclude that prayer is powerful and effective not just in changing us but also in affecting God and therefore in changing the world.

While it’s true prayer changes you, Scripture consistently depicts prayer as significantly influencing God’s interaction with us.

As an example, I could cite King Hezekiah.

2Ki 20:1    In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’ ”

2Ki 20:2    Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying,

2Ki 20:3    “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

2Ki 20:4    And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

2Ki 20:5    “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.
2Ki 20:6    And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”

Commentators are split on whether or not living an additional fifteen years was a good idea, because Hezekiah did some things in those years which put the Kingdom of Judah in jeopardy.  Namely, he showed a contingency from Babylon all the treasures of the Temple.

The point is: Hezekiah’s prayer certainly affected God and changed things.

Another example, more along the lines of repentance but certainly showing how our prayers change things is in Jeremiah’s example of the potter and the clay.

Jer 18:7    The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,

Jer 18:8    if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

Jer 18:9    And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,

Jer 18:10    if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

God, Who is immutable and cannot change as to His eternal attributes, nevertheless has sovereignly chosen to allow prayers to affect the world and to change things.

Prayer remains somewhat ambiguous.  We cannot know, unless God chooses to tell us, why some prayers change things, and others seemingly do not.

A lot of my most fervent prayers are not changing the things I’m praying for.  The same is probably true for you.

One commentator answers it by saying,

Among other things, God must respect the necessary stability of the world and the irrevocable freedom of vast multitudes of free agents.  Prayer makes a difference, but so do the necessary regularity of the world and every free choice humans and angels make.  We have no way of knowing how the power of prayer intersects with these and other variables… We pray and God responds in the context of an unfathomably complex creation that is racked by cosmic war.  

Prayer must remain ambiguous, but that doesn’t mean we should not approach it with passion and persistence.

Beach Bum (Ephesians 4v29)

Friends of mine used to make light of an important question by asking, “Can a demon be Christian-possessed?”

By changing the order of the words, they were indicating their disdain for the real question, “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?”

They thought it so obvious that the answer was “No” that it was foolish to even ask the question.

Let me be clear from the start: If you ask me, “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?” my answer is, “No.”

More-and-more, however, it’s becoming popular to say “Yes, a Christian can be demon-possessed.”

In 1952, noted and respected scholar, Merrill Unger, wrote a book,  Biblical Demonology, in which he concluded a believer could not be demon-possessed.  That seemed to answer it for evangelicals.

Some twenty years later, Unger came to the opposite conclusion, mostly from reading letters sent to him from foreign missionaries.

He visited some foreign fields, and then he claims to have encountered what he believed were genuine cases of Christians being possessed by demons right here in the United States.

It was Unger’s change of position that paved the way for the modern deliverance ministries we have today.

This view received more credibility when the chairman of the theology department at Moody Bible Institute, C. Fred Dickason, published a book setting forth a theological argument that Christians can, in fact, be demon-possessed.

He claimed to have been involved in counseling at least four hundred believers, between 1975 and 1987, who were possessed.

This new theology of Christian demon-possession abandons the word “possession.”  Possession, they say, does not occur in the original manuscripts, and is therefore a poor English translation.  They say there is no Greek word for possession, and that the word in Greek is a single word, better translated demonized.

They want to ask, “Can a Christian be demonized?” and their answer is, “Yes.”

I might agree with that, except they go on from there to describe a demonized Christian exactly the same way we would describe a demon-possessed person.  So, while they may be right about the word, the end result is the same.

One of the arguments put forth for why we cannot be possessed is that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  The proponents of being demonized note that, even though that’s true, we still have the flesh to contend with.  By that they hope to show that the Holy Spirit can and does coexist with something less than holy.

True, we have our flesh, and we will until we go to be with Jesus.  But the Holy Spirit coming to dwell within us is a whole lot different than a demon coming to dwell with Him.

We see the violent reaction of demons to the presence of Jesus and what is holy.  God does not have to flee but demons do.  The Scripture shows them in agony just being near Jesus; the same would be true of proximity to the Holy Spirit.

I just don’t see them as roommates.

One scholarly proponent of this new way of looking at demonization honestly admits, “the epistles do not use the terms demonization or have a demon to describe a Christian,” but he goes on to say, “the concept is nevertheless present.”

I say it isn’t.

The apostle Paul wrote prolifically on the subject of Satan and spiritual warfare.  It is Paul, primarily, who lets us know that there are a group of demons subordinate to Satan, assisting him in his malevolence.  In Ephesians chapter six he calls them “principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness of this age… spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v12).

Let me say one quick thing about these demons.  While they are most likely organized, Paul’s description isn’t really meant to give you their ranks; nor does he anywhere indicate we need to know anything about how they are organized in order to resist the devil and defeat them.

Something else we want to notice about Paul.  While it is recorded of him that he personally confronted and cast-out demons, he never gives any instruction about how to go about doing so.  In other words, he knew folks could be demon-possessed, and he delivered them; but the Holy Spirit thought it best to not inspire Paul to talk about it.

If the writers of the New Testament letters, and Paul especially, did not warn of Christian demon-possession (or demonization), then it’s most likely because a Christian cannot be demon-possessed (or demonized) in the way these modern scholars say they can.

It may be an argument from silence – but it’s a pretty deafening silence, don’t you think?  I mean, if you and I can be demonized, we really need to know it, and know how to deal with it.  But Paul and the boys say nothing.

Here is what Paul does say.  Paul says we were once of darkness but now we are light.  Light always rules over the darkness.  Try bringing darkness in the room when the light is on.  Only if there is no light there can there be darkness.  Scripture never says that we can go on and off like a light switch.

But don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet.  The devil is a vicious, evil foe, and he is not going to let you go your merry Christian way without a fight.

If you are not careful and vigilant, he can and he will make rather significant inroads in your life.

In fact, he can ruin your life; and he wants to.  Paul did have this to say:

Eph 4:27    nor give place to the devil.

The word for “place” is topos, meaning a foothold.  “Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

We sometimes speak of getting a foot in the door.  We mean by it that we have a further opportunity to influence the person.

This word ‘foothold’ has also been understood by some to mean a beachhead.  It’s like an invasion force landing on the beach, trying to establish a base of operations from which to launch further incursions.

It seems best to understand it as giving the devil an opportunity, a base of operations, to influence you.  It’s not demon-possession; but it’s not good, either.

Maybe an example would help.  In fact, Paul gave several in the verses surrounding the word “foothold.”

Eph 4:25    Therefore, putting away lying, “LET EACH ONE OF YOU SPEAK TRUTH WITH HIS NEIGHBOR,” for we are members of one another.

Eph 4:26    “BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,

Eph 4:27    nor give place to the devil.

Eph 4:28    Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

Eph 4:29    Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

It would seem these are examples of giving the devil a foothold, meaning giving him an opportunity to influence us.

Since the devil is a liar, it’s no surprise that, if I lie, I give him a foothold in my life.

The book The Day Americans Told the Truth says that 91 percent of those surveyed lie routinely about matters they consider trivial, and 36 percent lie about important matters; 86 percent lie regularly to parents, 75 percent to friends, 73 percent to siblings, and 69 percent to spouses.

Anger is the second example Paul used.  In the Book of the Revelation we read that the devil has great wrath (12:12).  If we don’t deal with our anger, the devil has a foothold.

He is, according to John 10, a thief; if I steal, it gives him a foothold.

Corrupt speech is a specialty of Satan’s.  It’s how he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.  If I use it, I’m giving him a foothold.

This idea of the foothold, or the beachhead, is far from demon-possession.  But it is very serious.  We all know believers who gave the devil some small foothold from which to influence them, whose lives have subsequently been ruined by him.

Those in the “Christians can be demonized” camp say this foothold is, in fact, an example of the devil (a demon) taking up residence in your life.

I say “No,” because the solve for it isn’t any kind of exorcism or deliverance ministry.  It is to simply quit lying and tell the truth; or quit being angry; or quit using corrupt speech, etc.

When Paul encountered a demon-possessed slave girl, he cast out the demon.  He didn’t turn to her and say, “quit deceiving people and tell the truth.”

The Christians he was talking to, here in Ephesus, were not demonized.  Foothold does not correspond to being demonized or demon-possessed.

Concerning what Paul did say, one scholar put it this way:

When Paul wrote to his Christian readers, what he did relate to was the importance of resistance and identity.  For a Christian who gives in to the temptation to steal, for instance, Paul would urge the person simply to quit, to resist.  If this pilfering appetite, fueled by Satan, is left unchecked, it can lead to a greater measure of demonic influence in that individual’s life.

Behind such an injunction of refraining from a certain [sinful] behavior is a whole theology of identity.  Christians not only have the obligation to eradicate such unseemly patterns of behavior, but they also have the ability to do so.  This capacity to resist is an integral part of what it means to be a Christian – experiencing forgiveness, being on good terms with God, receiving a new nature, having a real oneness with the resurrected Jesus, experiencing the power of the new age and so much more.

To indicate that the problem, the sin, a Christian has is being caused by demonization is to deny their personal responsibility; and it might delay repentance and obedience.

Does Satan have some foothold in your life?  If he gets his foot in the door, he will establish a beachhead.  He cannot possess you.  But he can influence you, and he will if you let him.

Resist him, based on your identity in Jesus; because, “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1John 4:4).

Hindered Fellas (2 Corinthians 127v-10)

It was 1957, and there was no such thing in movies as CGI.  Nonetheless, the blowing-up of the bridge in the film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, is a masterpiece of destruction.

They really blew it up and only had one take to get it right.

You can probably think of at least one famous bridge-blowing scene from the movies.

Blowing-up bridges is a timeless military strategy to hinder the progress of your enemy.

It’s so effective, it is even used by supernatural forces, against believers who are pressing forward, gaining ground, with the Gospel.

In First Thessalonians 2:17-18, the apostle Paul tells the church at Thessalonica that he wanted to return to them, but that Satan “hindered” him.  That word, “hindered,” means breaking-up the road and putting up obstacles.  Satan had effectively blown-up the bridge.

Satan not only hindered Paul in his mission; he tried to hobble him.  In Second Corinthians 12:7 we read,

2Co 12:7    And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

If Satan hindered and tried to hobble Paul, he and his forces will attempt to do the same to us.

Paul’s commission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, but he always started his ministry among the Jews.  The local synagogue was the place where the Old Testament Law was known and revered.  Paul could get a sympathetic hearing in the synagogue, at least until persecution began.  Furthermore, there were always many Gentile “God-fearers” in the synagogues, and through them Paul could begin a witness to the pagan Gentiles.

Thessalonica was a particularly difficult theater of operations for Paul.  He ministered in the synagogue for three Sabbaths.  Many people believed in Jesus Christ and were saved.  However, the nonbelieving Jews began to oppose the work, and Paul and his helpers had to leave the city.

Concerned about the state of the fledgling believers, Paul desired to return.  But, as we’ve said,

1Th 2:17    But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.

1Th 2:18    Therefore we wanted to come to you – even I, Paul, time and again – but Satan hindered us.

The first thing to note, and it’s pretty amazing, is that the devil marshaled his vast resources against Paul and two of his traveling companions.
Three humble men, bearing no letters of authority, holding no earthly position, nevertheless commanded the attention of the devil and his demons.

It’s because they had the good news, the Gospel, which was, and is, the power of God unto salvation.

Their presence in Thessalonica had already saved many, and was spreading from the believers there throughout the entire region.

The devil had done all he could to get Paul driven from there; yet the Gospel had taken hold.  What might happen if Paul were to return to Thessalonica, to further strengthen the believers?

The devil, therefore, set out to “hinder” Paul; and he was successful.

Notice, this was not the providential action of God.  By that I mean we read of other occasions where God, by the Holy Spirit, forbid Paul from going certain places.

In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts it says, “And we were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (v6).  And then it says, “And when we assayed to go into Bithynia, the Holy Ghost forbad us” (v7).

Apparently Paul could discern when God was closing doors of ministry, and when Satan was hindering.  All I can suggest, as to how, is that there needs to be a discernment of the Spirit.  You need to grow sensitive to feel the leading of God the Holy Spirit, and know immediately when you are being blocked by a deceiving, destructive spirit.

There is a lot of speculation about exactly how the devil hindered Paul.  That’s all we can do, is to speculate, because we are not told exactly what he did.

W.A. Criswell, reknowned Southern Baptist pastor and leader, once preached on this text, saying,

I look down on this bed and there is a child, eleven years old: the child has wasted away.  It’s a skeleton, soon to die – polio, the dread disease; Satan has hindered us.  Here’s a beautiful fellowship, a church of Jesus and they’re divided and torn asunder; Satan has hindered us.  Here’s a fine, strong and beautiful Christian, working for the Lord and now, cut down and in pain and in misery and in ill health; Satan has hindered us.  And here’s a noble and wonderful family, all torn apart.  Satan has hindered us.  How many areas? And in how many ways?  There he stands and there he is, our adversary and “the Accuser of the brethren” who accuses them day and night” (Revelation 12:10).  

The overwhelming import of this text is to alert us that spiritual warfare is real, and it can be severe.  Satan might blow-up a bridge that you have come to depend upon; or that you believe is essential to your life and testimony.

How do we respond?  Well, first of all, don’t stop praying.  Especially because Paul knew it was the devil hindering him, he prayed day and night.

1Th 3:10    night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?

It is a reminder that prayer can change circumstances.  Since God had not said “No,” Paul kept shelling Satan and his forces with prayer.

Remember – while Daniel prayed, a demon hindered God’s messenger angel for 21 days before he could get to Daniel.

I know what you’re thinking, cause I’m thinking it to.  My hindrance has been going on much longer than three weeks.

On one level, it isn’t the timing that is as important as the understanding that there are things going on behind the scenes that we probably will never be privy to.

As Dori might say, if she were to be born-again: “Just keep praying; just keep praying.  Praying.  Praying.”

Just as important, persevere – and by that I mean, press forward along other fronts in your warfare.

Never forget Paul’s over-all strategy, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

In another place he said,

Act 20:24    But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul didn’t let Satanic hindrances stall the ministry of the Gospel.  He pressed on.

How do you defeat a guy like that?  Well, you might try to hobble him.

Remember Satan’s second accusation against Job?  Take away his health, he argued before the throne, and that guy will stop following God.

2Co 12:7    And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

Paul had many visions and revelations.  He saw Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus on the day he was saved; he had a vision when he was called to minister to the Gentiles; it was by a vision the he was sent to Macedonia; when things got tough in Corinth God encouraged him with a vision.

In the future, he would have others: After his arrest in Jerusalem; in the midst of the storm at sea that would leave him shipwrecked on Malta.

Add to all these that Paul had spent some three years in the desert receiving teaching directly from the risen Lord.

“Thorn” is the translation of a word used of a tent-peg or a rather large stake upon which you were tortured or impaled.

“In the flesh” indicates it was most definitely a physical infirmity. There are a multitude of theories as to what it was; we just don’t know.

“A messenger of Satan” means it was a satanic strategy designed to stumble Paul.  It does not mean it was a demon who oppressed Paul.  It is similar to the situation with Job in the Old Testament.  Satan desired to destroy Paul, and God let him reach through the hedge surrounding Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:8  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

Paul immediately went to prayer; he prayed repeatedly to be delivered from this infirmity.  I would suggest that his motive was that he would be better able to serve the Lord if free from the infirmity.

Which leads us to our dilemma, Why does God weaken the hedge?

Well, Paul doesn’t tell us, but he does indicate something that can happen.

2 Corinthians 12:9   And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The hobbling allowed “the power of Christ” to “rest upon” him.  The word “rest” is tabernacle.  Jesus Christ tabernacles, or dwells, with you, in your infirmities.

I can tabernacle with God, at those times, in a way I simply cannot if I remain unscathed.  Let’s call it the tabernacle of trouble, for lack of a better word.  It’s a building I probably would not enter on my own.

The devil is willing to roll the dice, betting I am not a modern-day Job.  He’s betting I will fall away, or at least, grow bitter and quit serving The Lord.

It’s been said many times: Bitter or better – it’s up to me to decide.

2 Corinthians 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Wow.  Paul lists a few other ways the devil was hindering him.  This is like that scene in the movies where the hero is being tortured, but he responds to it as if he has the upper hand.

If you have the liberty to watch the Avengers movie, you’ll recall that Black Widow was being tortured by her captors when she got a phone call.  She answered, saying, “I’m in the middle of an interrogation,” as if she was in charge.

She was, it turns out.  And so are we, if we remember this is war, and that hobbling us is something the devil is going to do as often as he is let through the hedge.

When Jesus answered Paul, he realized that the infirmity was serving the purpose of keeping him humble.  He further realized that God’s “grace” is always sufficient for every situation you face.

“Sufficient” means adequate to provide contentment.  It is adequate for me to learn, in whatever state I am in, to be content.

If you are being hindered, or are hobbled, take heart in your tabernacling with Jesus.  Pray until you receive an answer; persevere.

The Thrilla With Belial

The Thrilla in Manila was the third and final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

It was a brutal fight.  Ali would later claim it was the closest to dying in the ring he had ever been.  Ali won when Frazier’s corner stopped the fight prior to the fifteenth round.

After Round 11, Frazier indicated that he could not see some of the punches he was being hit with.  He was nearly blind in his left eye since a training accident in 1965, and now his right eye was badly swollen from Ali’s barrage of head shots.

At this point, Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, gave him what turned out to be poor advice – he told his fighter to stand more upright when approaching Ali rather than continuing his usual bobbing and weaving style.

Ali seized upon this immediately in Round 12.  With his back to the ropes, he threw punches with both hands that landed accurately, and did still more damage to Frazier’s limited eyesight.

Eddie Futch’s poor advice contributed to Joe Frazier taking a beating, and losing the fight.

Since our ‘fight,’ our warfare, is against a masterful and malevolent spiritual foe and his armies, we need good, rock solid advice on how to fight.  No one wants a beat-down from the devil.

It only makes sense that someone who has gone up against the devil can give us insight and advice.  The particular someone I have in mind tonight is the great apostle Paul.

Paul mentioned the devil, one way or another, quite often in his letters.  It was a matter of fact for him that we are in a spiritual fight.

If we take a look at most of Paul’s references to the devil, it should give us good advice in the ring.

Tonight we’ll look at some of the things Satan did, and does, to believers in general.  Next time we are together, we will look at two assaults that Satan made directly against Paul – one to hinder him, the other to hobble him.

There is a general reference to what we ought to expect from Satan in the famous spiritual armor section of Ephesians, when Paul says,

Eph 6:11    Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

The word “wiles” can be translated schemes.  This puts you on notice that the devil is constantly scheming against you, behind the scenes.  He has a strategy to rob, kill and destroy you.

Although it isn’t funny, we sometimes joke with people who aren’t enduring any suffering by saying, “Just wait!”

It isn’t funny, because the devil is scheming against them.  And he’s doing it on many fronts at once.  And he is patient, setting things up, sometimes, for decades.

Remember, though, that the spiritual armor passage is hopeful that you will be enabled to stand, and withstand, the schemes, and even gain ground.

But only if you are prepared for battle – constantly vigilant, as a deployed soldier.

In Ephesians 6:16, Paul describes Satan’s attacks as flaming arrows.  These would be more obvious, frontal assaults.  They are extinguished by utilizing the shield of faith; in other words, realizing that we can withstand any assault as we continue in faith.

We looked at Job last time.  Talk about an assault by Satan!  To us, it seems Job was riddled with flaming arrows that penetrated his defenses.

In point of fact, Job’s faith remained in tact; he endured by faith.

Hmm.  The shield of faith isn’t exactly what you thought, was it?  It’s more a shield for the heart; it’s not a guarantee Satan won’t land any punches – or, in context, arrows.  They might hit their mark, but we will “quench” their flame when we endure by faith.

Let’s look at a few more specific things Satan does to put you in danger.

Second Corinthians 2:5-11 deals with the man who had been disciplined by the congregation at Corinth.  He had repented, and wanted to be restored to fellowship.

Paul says,

2Co 2:8    Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him…

2Co 2:11    lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

For lots of reasons, the Corinthians were hesitant to receive the repentant sinner back into full fellowship.  In their case, they ought to have forgiven him – forgiving him as Jesus had forgiven them.

First, the Corinthians extended too much grace, tolerating sin in their assembly.  Then, they extended too little forgiveness.

Thus Paul said, “for we are not ignorant of his devices,” meaning the devil is constantly seizing upon every situation that presents itself, to twist it to his advantage.

He will take advantage of our every failing, of our every shortfall.  We don’t need to be perfect; just correctable, in order to do the right thing, at the right time, as prescribed by the Bible.

A little later in Second Corinthians, Paul mentioned the devil again.

2Co 6:14    Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

2Co 6:15    And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

“Belial” occurs only here in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, it is a word that describes evil men and behavior in general, but among the Jews it became a proper name for the devil.

Oxen plowing in the field were “yoked” in teams of two in order to accomplish their task.
It’s super-important we understand the context in which Paul said this.  in verse sixteen we read, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?”

It seems the immediate context was the practice of some in Corinth to attend idolatrous feast and eat the food that had been sacrificed to idols.  You could buy the meats later, in the marketplace; but you should not be at the temples, participating in the rituals, just for a good cut of steak.

Other relationships that involve being “yoked” with a nonbeliever are inherently dangerous to a believer.

We could certainly apply this to marriages between believers and nonbelievers.  This is enhanced by Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians seven, where he indicates that marriage should be “in The Lord” (v39).

What about business partnerships?  I can see it applying there, too.

What is odd, to me, is that, on a practical level, we only seem to apply this to marriage, giving believers involved in idolatrous practices, or those in weird business partnerships, a free pass.

You and I must beware of close relationships of any kind – personal or professional – that would tend to compromise us as believers.

So, guess what we should expect?  We should expect Satan to make that nonbelieving guy or gal super attractive to us… Or that worldly hobby or habit… Or that business deal.

Be careful out there.  Once yoked, it begins to chafe, at best, and cripple, at worst.

Still in Second Corinthians, in chapters ten through thirteen, Paul deals with the false teachers who had crept in to the church.  Twice he makes reference to Satan:

2Co 11:3    But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

What God told Adam and Eve was simple.  They were free to eat of any tree, except for one.  The devil completely reversed this by asking whether God had said that they were not to eat from any tree in the Garden.  He exaggerated the extent of God’s prohibition, and framed it as if God was restricting them, rather than preserving their freedom.

The point for us is that the devil loves to mess around with what God has said, to put a deceptive spin on it.

2Co 11:13    For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.

2Co 11:14    And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

Today, the devil introduces false teaching by using men and women who appear to be sent by God, but who are not.

You must be discerning, and search out the Word for yourself.  Otherwise you may end up like those described in Second Timothy 2:25-26,

2Ti 2:25    in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

2Ti 2:26    and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

The people described are those who have embraced the false teaching.  Spiritually speaking, they have become prisoners of war – having been taken captive by the devil to do his will.

I’ve, unfortunately, seen a few folks over the years embrace some crazy doctrine.  Where there was once a robust, evangelical faith in Jesus, there is an obsession with the one, particular doctrine, leading to a life of either extreme legalism, or extreme license.

Notice they can return to the truth; and we should struggle to bring them back to it.

Persecution is another way that Satan tries to assault us.  Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul said,

1Th 3:4    For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.

1Th 3:5    For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.

The “tempter” is the devil, and here he was enticing the believers into abandoning their faith because of the persecution it brought upon them.

Satan is a bully, and, while he will never abandon his behind-the-scenes scheming, often he just punches you in the face with persecution.

The list of qualifications for overseers in First Timothy 3:1-7 includes two references to the devil:

1Ti 3:6    not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.

1Ti 3:7    Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Don’t promote people to a position of leadership too quickly, or it could lead to pride, which was the downfall of the devil.

Furthermore, leaders would seem to be a preferred target for Satan, who sets snares for them that they might lose their integrity and “fall into reproach.”

Paul’s other references to the devil as our adversary involve certain sexual sins – or, at least, the possibility of falling into them as traps.

In First Corinthians 7:5 we read,

1Co 7:5    Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In Corinth, certain married couples thought it was more spiritual to refrain from regular sexual relations and devote themselves, instead, to prayer.

Paul says that’s OK, as long as it is by mutual consent, for a limited time, and for the express purpose of prayer.

But you must return to a regular sexual relationship, or else it exposes you or your spouse to temptation.

Hold that thought as we read First Timothy 5:11 & 14-15.

1Ti 5:11    But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry…

1Ti 5:14    Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

1Ti 5:15    For some have already turned aside after Satan.

It seems that the younger widows were holding off marrying, causing them to become “wanton,” meaning they were succumbing to sexual temptation.

These Scriptures about sexual sin are a general but serious warning that sex is one area in which the devil will certainly assault every believer – single, married, or widowed.

I read an article the other day, and though it was slightly sensational, it warned that the church is going to come under assault from powerful homosexual activists.  The author described institutions that have given up to the idea the homosexuality is not sin, but is, in fact, normal.  It started with an assault on the American Psychiatric Academy, and its latest conquest was the Boy Scouts.

Jesus unequivocally condemned ALL sexual sin, including homosexuality, by affirming the “one flesh” paradigm of Genesis (Matthew 19).

We distinguish between same-sex attraction and homosexuality:

Same-sex attraction is misplaced desires for the same sex that need to be given up to God.  It is not sin; it is temptation to sin, and therefore it can and must be resisted.

Sex outside of marriage is sin, whether it is a man and a woman, or two men, or two women.  Period.  Marriage is to be monogamous, between a man and a woman.

In general, our society is easily the most pornographic ever – simply because of the technologies that exist, and are in our possession.

Satan owns society as far as sexual sin is concerned.  We are surrounded by it.  We need, therefore, to take our stand, and to withstand the onslaught.

Those, then, are most of the references the apostle Paul makes directly to the devil.

Knowing how he has attacked in the past gives us the ‘heads-up’ we need to recognize his schemes, and to be ready for his flaming arrows.

Satan The Hedge Hog (Job 1-2)

I could have written God’s Not Dead.  Sort of.

My very first day of classes, in my very first class at UC Riverside, Professor Bernd Magnus, chair of the philosophy department, opened his lecture by stating that Christianity had failed.  As proof he offered the two horrific World Wars of the 20th century.  Certainly no ‘good’ God would allow anything like that.

I wasn’t a believer at the time so I bought into it.

A few years later, after I got saved, I felt a strong leading to go back and see another of my philosophy professors, James Biffle, and share Christ with him.

He respected me, so he tried to keep his disdain to a minimum.  His big argument against God was the fact that God would allow Satan to devastate Job.  Professor Biffle understood it was a test of faith; he simply objected to pain, suffering, and affliction as being in any way compatible with a ‘good’ God.

If you’ve seen God’s Not Dead, you know it hinges on the suffering that the philosophy professor endured when, as a twelve year old boy, he watched his mom die of cancer.

Let’s agree with most scholars and say Job is the oldest book of Scripture.  It’s subject matter: “Why, God, if You’re good, do You allow evil?”
It’s as if God is saying, “Let’s get into the problem of pain, and of evil, and of whether or not I am both almighty and good, right now, right from the start.”

Job 1:1    There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

Job 1:2    And seven sons and three daughters were born to him.

Job 1:3    Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.

Job 1:4    And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

Job 1:5    So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.

Great saint.  Great dad.  Great citizen.

Job 1:6    Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

The word “satan” is used most frequently in the Old Testament, not as a name, but as a noun that means “accuser.”  In three places – here in the prologue of Job, and in Zechariah 3:1-2, and in First Chronicles 21:1 – the word refers to a celestial being.

Literally, in Job he is called “the satan,” the accuser, describing his behavior.  Eventually the Bible drops the article and simply call him Satan.

“Sons of God” is a title for angels.  Chapters one and two of Job describe two scenes in which Satan, along with other angels, present themselves before God in Heaven.

Does it blow your mind that Satan has access to Heaven?  That he and God have a dialog?  It’s definitely not the pop culture view of the devil as the ruler of Hell.

Job 1:7    And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

If you think Satan is a tourist, consider what Peter said about him: that he goes about on the earth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Job 1:8    Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

Job 1:9    So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?

Job 1:10    Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

Job 1:11    But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

Two important truths are understood from this encounter:

The first is that Satan is a malevolent enemy, seeking the destruction of God’s saints.
The second is that God is almighty.  He can put a “hedge” of protection around His saints, and Satan must have permission to get through, over, under, or around that hedge.

Job 1:12    And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

This is where it gets dicey.  When God gives permission to breach the hedge, we balk.

Job 1:13    Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house;

Job 1:14    and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them,

Job 1:15    when the Sabeans raided them and took them away – indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:16    While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:17    While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

Job 1:18    While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house,

Job 1:19    and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”

This is all the devil’s doing, in opposition to God.  While clearly subordinate to almighty God, he nevertheless wields vast power over nature and over ungodly men.

Job 1:20    Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.

Job 1:21    And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Job 1:22    In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Job came through it with his faith intact.  That’s not to say his heart wasn’t broken; or that he didn’t have moments of despair.  Only that he looked above his circumstances to Heaven.

Job 2:1    Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

Job 2:2    And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Job 2:3    Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

Job 2:4    So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.

Job 2:5    But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

We have a relentless enemy, bent on our spiritual destruction.

Job 2:6    And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

There it is again.  Permission to breach the hedge.  Satan can only act within boundaries.  It’s just that the boundaries seem too lax.

Job 2:7    So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

Job 2:8    And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.

Job 2:9    Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Job 2:10    But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Before commenting any further, let’s note that three characteristics of Satan here in Job continue in the New Testament:

I’ve already mentioned one – that he roams the earth as a roaring lion seeking humans to devour (First Peter 5:8).

The second is that he accuses Christians before God’s throne, and we see that in Revelation 12:10.

The third is that Jesus describes Satan as desiring to sift Peter, and presumably other believers, as wheat, similar to what he did against Job (Luke 22:31).

Job is thus an ancient story that repeats itself in each of our lives to some degree.

We call the effort to resolve the problem of pain and evil, theodicy, from Greek theos “god” + dike “justice.”

I reject any answer that makes God the author or the initiator of evil.  One thing Job teaches us is that God is not mysteriously behind all the evil, pain and suffering in this world.

A malevolent being has that distinction.  Nothing that happened to Job was initiated by God.

If you think that God, by giving permission, initiates or is the author of evil, you’re mistaken.  The fact that God can, and does, set hedges, ought to show us what His attitude toward suffering is.  It is to prevent it; it is to minimize it.

Satan doesn’t seem to be God’s instrument, or servant, as some theodicies would suggest.  No, he is an antagonist, an enemy.

Still, the question remains – Why relax the hedges?

I’m realizing, as I get older, that there isn’t any one, single answer.

Free will is an important part of any theodicy that rejects the idea that God is the author or initiator of evil.  The Bible seems to present free will as the culprit, first in the rebellion of Satan and one-third of the angels, then in the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

So I would definitely say that evil exists because God created beings with free will to obey Him or disobey Him; and it was necessary to do so since love requires free will or it ceases to be love.  And because of the nature of God’s creation, the resolve for sin and suffering required God to come as a man, and that took time to unfold through human history.

Free will only gets us so far.  As one author puts it,

Understanding why God made free beings goes a long way in answering why evil in general is allowed to take place.  But it doesn’t address the mystery of why particular evils happen to particular people.  It doesn’t answer the age old question, “Why me?”  Nor does it answer why God seems to miraculously answer prayer sometimes but not at other times.  Why does everything in life, including God’s interaction with us, seem so arbitrary?

Job can help us with that, but we won’t like the answer.

God answers Job from a whirlwind by listing things Job cannot do, and cannot begin to comprehend.  He goes on for several chapters.


Job 38:1    Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:

Job 38:2    “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?

Job 38:3    Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

Job 38:4    “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

Job 38:5    Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?

Job 38:6    To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone,

The answer given to and by Job is that God’s ways are incomprehensible unless He definitely reveals them to us.  Meanwhile we know that He is both almighty and good, so the proper response to suffering is faith that endures.

We also see in Job that God can redeem everything that happens to us, making all things work together for the good, when we read, at the end of the book,

Job 42:12    Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…

That’s not to say that everyone who suffers will see, in their lifetime, the good that God is working together in redeeming their situation.  Half of the super-saints listed in the Hall of Faith, in Hebrews eleven, died without receiving anything resembling “good” on the earth.

Job probably never imagined it, but how many multiplied millions of people have benefited from his story?

We are almost glad that God moved the hedges in Job’s life, because we can draw strength from it.  Job never knew what had occurred in Heaven.  He had no reason to think that his tragedies would instruct anyone after him.  No explanation was offered him, except that God’s ways incomprehensible.

We are more like Job, in that will most likely not see the reasons, or receive the explanation, or make the connections.

Job had to be content with coming to a greater knowledge of God than he had previously; which he did, exclaiming,

Job 42:5    “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.”

One author called this “the theodicy of theophany.”  A theophany, in the Old Testament, was a visible appearance of God, most often in a human form.  Often these were actually Christophanies – appearances of Jesus before His incarnation.

In his pain, God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind; God appeared to him as a theophany.

In the end, our theodicy is a theophany in this way:  We see Jesus in a deeper, fuller way as He walks with us, yoked with us, in the fellowship of suffering.

Scar Faith (2 Corinthians 11v23-28)

It’s my favorite scene from the movie, Jaws.  Chief Brody, Hooper and Quint, in the galley of their boat, the Orca, get to comparing scars.

It starts with Brody touching a recently acquired abrasion on his forehead.  Quint pulls his hair aside to show a permanent lump from being hit with a spittoon in a bar on “Saint Paddy’s Day.”

Hooper shows a scar, on his forearm, where a classmate bit him during recess.  Quint responds by showing a scar on his forearm, attributed to a wire burn.

Next, Hooper rolls up his sleeve to show the bite of a Moray eel.

Quint counters with a knife wound he received in a fight.

Hooper shows a bull shark bite on his leg; Quint, the scar from a thresher shark.

About that time, Chief Brody sheepishly checks the scar from his appendectomy!

Wounded and scarred isn’t how we normally think of Christians – but we should.  After His resurrection, Jesus invited Thomas to examine the scars on His glorified body.  Charles Spurgeon said,

For did he not say to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing.”  I wish to draw your attention to the ample fact, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when he rose again from the dead had in his body the marks of his passion.  If he had pleased he could readily have removed them.  He rose again from the dead, and he might have erased from his body everything which could be an indication of what he had suffered and endured before be descended into the tomb.  But, no!  Instead thereof, there were the pierced hands and feet, and there was the open side.

When He steps forward, in Heaven, to take the scroll and open the seals of the Great Tribulation, Jesus does so as the Lamb Who was slain.

Dave Hunt once commented on this, saying,

It’s quite clear that He did have a hole in His side.  He said to Thomas, “Put your hand into my side.”  He did have holes in His hands where the nails went.  Now whether there were still scourge marks on his back – that I don’t know, but perhaps.  I wouldn’t see why not.

Now in Revelation 5, He appears as a lamb, newly slain.  Now I don’t understand that, because I’m sure Jesus doesn’t look like a lamb, but it would indicate that He will bear the marks of the crucifixion throughout eternity as a reminder.  I mean, why would they be healed?  You see, this was the payment for our sins, His death upon the cross.

Amy Carmichael applies this tolow us in her classic poem, No Scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

The apostle Paul was informed, at his conversion, “how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).

In a passage filled with passion and pathos, Paul described a few of those sufferings.

2Co 11:23    Are they ministers of Christ? – I speak as a fool – I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.

2Co 11:24    From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.

2Co 11:25    Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;

2Co 11:26    in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

2Co 11:27    in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness –

2Co 11:28    besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

The context within which this boasting is set is important.  Opponents of Paul’s were challenging his authority.  They were promoting themselves as great men of God.

Paul countered their claims by pointing out they had not suffered for the cause of Christ.  They had no wound, no scar.  They were Chief Brody’s at best.

“In labors more abundant.”  This is a general comment indicating he simply worked harder and more strenuously than those who were challenging him.

“In stripes above measure” refer to frequent physical beatings.

“In prisons more frequently.”  By the time of this writing, the only recorded imprisonment was at Philippi.  Apparently there were others not recorded in Scripture.  And there would be others still to come.

“In deaths often” refers to the very real risk of death Paul faced, often from angry mobs.

2 Corinthians 11:24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.

The Mosaic law prescribed a maximum of forty lashes.  This was traditionally limited to thirty-nine so as not to exceed the legal limit.

2 Corinthians 11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods…

This was the Gentile version of being whipped.  It’s commonly called caning.  Even though he was a Roman citizen, and therefore exempt from caning, three times the punishment was inflicted before he claimed his citizenship.

“Once I was stoned.”  This is recorded in Acts fourteen.

“Three times I was shipwrecked. A night and a day I have been in the deep.”  These were all before the really heavy-duty shipwreck in Acts twenty-seven.

2 Corinthians 11:26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

Paul’s frequent journeys were not pleasant excursions but dangerous travels. Swollen rivers caused real peril. Robbers were a threat to any traveler. Danger hounded Paul’s steps, both from persecuting Jews and from Gentiles. Whether he was in city or desert, or at sea, he faced continual danger in pursuing his service for Christ.

One of the threats he faced was posed by false brethren.  Perhaps he had in mind Judaizing opponents who were bitter against him and did not hesitate to stir up Christians against him, and would even report him to the authorities if it would remove him from the scene.
“Weariness and toil” was an expression Paul used of his manual labor to support himself.

“Sleeplessness” refers to the sleepless nights he endured, working late to support himself so he would not burden the church.

“Hunger and thirst” were sometimes his experience when his own labors did not fully supply his needs.

“In fastings often” does not seem to refer here to voluntary fasts, but to those times when food ran out altogether, or when other circumstances made eating impossible.  He also knew what it was to have insufficient clothing, especially when traveling on long journeys when nights were cold and accommodations primitive.

2 Corinthians 11:28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

Paul cared deeply for the churches, and for each struggling, suffering believer in every church.

Physically, he was a wreck.  But these were his wounds, his scars – battle scars he was proud to be able to display.

We are in a spiritual war.  They are not war games; it’s not a simulation.  Our enemy is using real bullets.  That’s live ammo whistling by your head.  And you’re going to take some hits.

When Christian artists and illustrators want to portray spiritual warfare, they generally draw a Roman soldier in full armor.

At least show the soldier as if he had been in a fierce battle.  We usually think of him as if he is presenting himself for inspection, when the truth is that there is a war going on.

There need to be dents in the helmet and breastplate; stains and scratches on the shield.  The sword should be notched.

And there should be bruising, and blood.  Lots of blood.

Better yet, portray the Christian soldier with a drawing of Paul that somehow represents all of the battle scars he listed.

Can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

The Fog Of Spiritual War (Romans 8v35-39)

It’s been called ‘the fog of war.’

The phrase encompasses all of the confusions and miscalculations that can occur during an actual combat situation.

Friendly fire, for example, is often the result of unavoidable confusion once the battle has begun.

Since we are involved in actual spiritual combat situations, we can – and we do – experience the fog of spiritual warfare.

What forms does that fog take?  I think a passage at the end of Romans chapter eight does a good job identifying the fog of our spiritual warfare.  In it we learn that God’s love for us is the light that guides us in the densest of fogs.

Romans 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…

The love of Christ is the love He has for you.  It’s not just that it is His nature to love and, so, He has to love you.  His love was proven on the Cross when He took your place.

His love is illustrated in many romantic metaphors.  Thus it is not just a duty that Jesus took upon Himself.  It is His delight.

The question that opens verse thirty-five assumes that there are things which can cloud our appreciation of the Savior’s love.  Some of those things are listed:

Rom 8:35    … Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

“Tribulation.”  The word properly refers to pressure from without; affliction arising from external causes.  It means, however, not infrequently, trial of any kind.

“Distress.”  This word means narrowness of place.  These are situations where you cannot see a way out.

“Persecution.”  This is the specific trial or trials that come simply because you are a believer and take a stand for Jesus.

“Famine.”  We haven’t really experienced shortages because we have lost everything for the sake of the Gospel.

“Peril.”  It is a general word referring to dangers of any kind.  If there is intended to be a progression in these words you can see that once you’ve lost everything and are literally homeless you are in great peril.

“Sword.”  As if the preceding weren’t bad enough, you could be martyred.

Each of these is a kind of fog, obscuring our vision of God’s love.  Several together form a dense fog around our walk with The Lord.

We think it strange when they occur:

We lose our bearings, as if we just entered a dust cloud on a clear day.

We might lose our way completely and become deserters from the battlefield.

The point is that these could all occur and yet they cannot in any way alter Jesus Christ’s love for you.  You may not ‘feel’ the love, but it is just as precious as ever.  He is just as present as ever; even more so.


It’s written in Psalm 44:22.  God’s saints in the past were thus mistreated.  Do we conclude that God did not love them?  Do we conclude some failure or fault in them was a reason for the Lord to turn away from loving them, thus separating His love from them?

No, quite the opposite!  When we see Job or Joseph or Abraham or David in some tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or peril we understand it was precisely on account of God’s love they were mistreated.  When we see an Old Testament prophet killed by the sword we rejoice he was so loved by God.

Romans 8:37  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

On the phrase “more than conquerors” Dr. J. Vernon McGee writes,

What does it mean to be more than a conqueror? It means to have assistance from another who gets the victory for us, who never lets us be defeated.

Jesus loves you so much that He fights your battles for you; He conquers your enemies for you.  He does it, however, with spiritual weapons, like humility, patience, forgiveness, etc.  In other words, it may seem like you are being conquered, but only because you won’t accept His kind of help.

Another author put it this way:

[We must] define life in terms of giving rather than taking, self-sacrifice rather than self-protection, dying rather than killing… we win by losing, we triumph through defeat, and we become rich by giving ourselves away.

“Through Him who loved us.”  Notice the past tense – “loved.”  Jesus loves us still and we know He does because He loved us at Calvary and died for us.  There He proved His love, and it cannot lessen over time.

Do you realize that, because God is love, His love cannot lessen for you?  We don’t realize this, because so often our love for someone (or their love for us) does lessen.  People seem to fall into and out of love pretty easily.

God cannot fall out of love for you.  You can leave your first love for Him, but He will never, not ever, no never, leave you, or forsake you.

“Through Him” is a reminder that we can do nothing without Him but all things through Him.  The very trials themselves draw forth His presence, His sustaining grace.

Paul’s point was and is that these things which on the surface seem separators are really connectors.  They connect us to the deepest understanding and experience of the love of Christ.

I’m reading a recent book on the topic of suffering.  In it the author says,

Our hope is not “Jesus plus an explanation as to why suffering happens,” or “Jesus plus an explanation as to why you have this job, that spouse, or these circumstances or pain.”  God is especially present in suffering… this is the foundation of what is known as the “theology of the cross,” as opposed to a “theology of glory,” which sees God as present in victory rather than defeat.

We do not produce tough Christians anymore.  The slightest trial throws them.  We need a theology of the cross.  We need to be often talking about the patient endurance of suffering.

Romans 8:38  For I am persuaded…

One version translates it, “I am certain.”  There is not the slightest doubt in his mind regarding the strength and sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s love.

As the chapter closes the apostle Paul is still searching for something that might separate us from the love Jesus has for us.  Let’s go through his interesting list one-by-one.

Romans 8:38  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…

“Death” is the most terrible and terrifying of enemies.  He strikes all ages and at any time.  Making death notifications as a law enforcement Chaplain for the past seventeen years has given me a new appreciation for death’s nondiscrimination.

Death cannot “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  For a believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  Death has no sting!  It is even to be preferred because it ushers us into glory.

“Life” seems an odd choice.  He must mean those times when life is so hard, so difficult, you could actually despair of it.  Times when you hate life or living.

Then there is the other aspect to life – having it all.  But what does it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul?

Romans 8:38  …nor angels nor principalities nor powers…

These terms seem to refer to angelic beings that are arranged in various hierarchies.

If evil (fallen) angels are meant then we say that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.  Jesus defeated Satan on the Cross.  Sure the devil fights on; but he has already lost.

Romans 8:38  …nor things present nor things to come,

“Things present” would include calamities and catastrophes we are subject to.  Many terrible things happen; just watch the news.  Do they “separate” me from the love of Christ?  Only if I let them.  He loves me no less.  In fact, it is His loving presence that reassures me in them.

“Things to come” are worries about tomorrow.  Worrying cannot change them.  And, besides, God is working all things together for the good.

Romans 8:39  nor height nor depth…

“Height” has been variously understood.  It seems most likely Paul was referring to prosperity, honor, and elevation in this life.  Jesus loves you no less if you have this world’s goods.  If they have you, then you may not be experiencing His love, but He loves you still.
“Depth,” therefore, would be the lowest circumstances of depression, poverty, contempt, and want; the very lowest rank of life.  I think of the saints in Hebrews chapter eleven who were in dire circumstances.  God loved them just as greatly.

Romans 8:39  …nor any other created thing…

This encompasses everything else in God’s creation.

Romans 8:39  … shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We know fog, right?  Tule fog is famous.  Now, when you’re in the fog, you want to see light ahead, and focus on it – you head for it.  It doesn’t dissipate the fog; you’re still in the fog.  But the fog becomes secondary because you can see your way through it.

Jesus is your light, and therefore your guide, in the fog of spiritual war.  The fog may remain; it may press in upon you all the more.
Ah, but there is always the light of Jesus’ love for you.  Fix your gaze upon it – upon Hi – as you journey homeward.

The Commission is Our Mission

Is the best offense a good defense?

Or is the best defense a good offense?

So far we’ve talked about our part in spiritual warfare as mostly mounting a good defense.  Taking a stand… resisting… Things like that.

Truth is, we are always to be on the offensive – but maybe not the way you think.

Our offensive strategy isn’t to go about demon-hunting and conducting exorcisms.  As we saw last time, it doesn’t involve things like spiritual mapping.

Our great spiritual offensive is simply, but powerfully, the sharing of the Gospel in a world ruled by Satan.

Is it not by receiving the Gospel that a person is set free from sin, transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light?

Nothing seems more on-offense than to share Christ and see those held captive set free.

Along those lines I’d like to string together three separate passages:

Matthew 28:18-20 is what we call the Great Commission.  It is our marching orders as soldiers of the Cross.

Matthew 12:26-29 describes Jesus as binding Satan in order to plunder his possessions.

Luke 10:18-20 is Jesus’ assessment of the success of 70 soldiers He sent out to preach the Gospel.

The Great Commission:

Mat 28:18    And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Mat 28:19    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Mat 28:20    teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

We aren’t going to spend too much time on these verses.  There are two take-aways we always need to be reminded of:

“Go” is as you are going.  It’s not describing a missions trip you “go” on, but rather your life as a mission to share Jesus as you are going through it.

The Lord will be with you by His indwelling Spirit, and by the baptism of the Spirit, to empower you as you’re going.

The single point I want to make tonight from these verses is that we start thinking of the Great Commission as an offensive battle strategy.

It might be better to call it the Great Mission.  Left in enemy territory, we are to go through it sharing the Good News about Jesus as we encounter people who are in Satan’s kingdom of darkness, being held captive by him.

The offensive against Satan continues after a person is set free.  We are told to “make disciples” of the converts.  In a nutshell, it means we are to build them up so they, too, go about sharing the Gospel.

The gates of Hell have not, and can not, prevail against our offensive.  Everyone we share Jesus with isn’t saved, but many are, and the Gospel marches on right to the coming of Jesus to resurrect and rapture the church.

I like to reference D-Day when discussing spiritual warfare.  As I’ve said in the past, the successful invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces effectively ended World War Two.

The war went on for almost another year; but the enemy was routed, defeated, and our victory was assured.

There were significant casualties after D-Day and until the war was ended.  It’s similar to our spiritual warfare in that Satan and his minions were defeated by Jesus but continue to fight on – and will fight on until the Second Coming of The Lord.

The thing about D-Day is that we had to take the five beaches or the whole thing would have failed.  It was from those beach heads that the Allied forces were sent out to cement the victory.

Jesus invaded earth and took the beaches for us.  A pivotal battle took place in the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by the devil for a period of forty days.
It was like champion warfare in which each side sends out its strongest soldier – its champion – in a winner-take-all match.

Jesus soundly defeated Satan.  You see the extent of His victory in His literal beach landing at Gadara.  As recorded in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was approached by a demon-possessed man.  In conversation with the man, Jesus learned he was possessed by a legion of demons.

That’s a lot.  A Roman legion was one thousand men.

He cast out the demons; they entered a heard of swine and rushed headlong over a cliff into the sea.

Jesus took the beach!  He established a beach head for us, from which we venture out with the Gospel, on offense.

The Lord described His victory over the devil by telling a quick parable – The Parable of the Strong Man.

Mat 12:26    If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?

Mat 12:27    And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.

Mat 12:28    But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

The religious leaders were astonished at Jesus’ authority over Satan and demons, but they didn’t want to give Him any respect.  They attributed Jesus’ power over the devil to His being in league with him.

It was stupid.  When you reject the truth, any lie will do – no matter how stupid.

Jesus pointed out why it was a false accusation, then said,

Mat 12:29    Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

Jesus pictured the world as Satan’s house, and Satan as a strong man guarding his house.  The devils “goods” are a reference to people held captive by him.  Not just demon possessed people, but everyone who is not saved.  By default, if they are not saved, they are lost and will perish eternally.

Scholars debate when, exactly, Jesus first ‘bound’ Satan.  Best guess: When He defeated the devil in the wilderness, it put everyone on notice that Jesus was and would be victorious.  From that moment forward, the devil was on the run whenever Jesus was around.

Jesus went about setting free the captives.  He exorcised demons… And He also set men free from all their physical ailments and disabilities – many caused by demons.

One way to categorize Jesus’ entire three and one-half years of ministry was that of a plunderer who went about setting free those previously held bound.

Jesus sent out His followers to do what He had been doing.  In one such mission, He sent out seventy disciples.  Upon their return, they said to The Lord,

Luk 10:17    … “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

To which The Lord responded,

Luk 10:18    And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Luk 10:19    Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Luk 10:20    Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

It’s unlikely Jesus was referring to Satan’s original fall when he sinned in the past and led one-third of the angels with him.  The context here is a fall that is the result of his having been defeated by Jesus.

Is it his future fall at the return of The Lord?  Probably not, because The Lord was describing something that connects to the success of the seventy in their mission.

I think Jesus was describing His victory over Satan in the wilderness as a precursor of His final victory over him at the Cross.  The devil came at Jesus with his best shot, but he went down in flames (as we might put it).

The point we want to make is that, because Jesus took the beach, we have authority on earth to battle the devil and his demons in our mission of going with the Gospel.

And, as is usual in our spiritual warfare, we are to not concentrate on them being subject to us, but on our salvation, and on sharing it with other captives.

I keep saying ‘we,’ when clearly this was spoken to the seventy.  It was also spoken to every disciple – in the last chapter of Mark’s Gospel:

Mar 16:15    And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Mar 16:16    He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Mar 16:17    And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;

Mar 16:18    they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

A few quick observations:

These signs did accompany the early disciples in the Book of Acts.  They are present throughout church history.  They happen today, too.  They don’t need to happen in every instance in order for this to be true.

“New tongues” may be a reference to the supernatural gift of being able to speak in a language you’ve never learned, in order to preach the Gospel.  It happened at Pentecost, and I’ve read of it happening in church history.

As to deadly serpents, the sense of the words are, “if you are compelled to pick up serpents…” or “if you are compelled to drink poison..,” then God is more than able to protect you.

​”…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  ​God still gives gifts of healing to His body of believers on earth.  He is sovereign as to who and how and when He heals; whatever He does, in your sickness or in your health, He does to bring glory to His Name.

Going with the Gospel is spiritual warfare – it is us on the offensive, setting free captives because the strong man is bound.

Had the Jews received The Lord, He would have established the kingdom.  Satan would have literally been bound, and thrown into the abyss.

They didn’t and he wasn’t, so he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

The devil is like the Axis forces who fought on after D-Day.

Our mission – Go with the Gospel.

Not everyone is saved; but neither was everyone saved when Jesus was on the earth.

Just go, and, as you are going, in the power of the Spirit, share Jesus.