Sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16)

The world today is an increasingly wicked place. At least that is what I feel. Now whenever I go out into the fray, so to speak, there is a faint but tangible sense of malice and of threat. The environment is hostile, and that hostility is caused by a growing wickedness, and I have begun to feel the feelings of the hunted. And no, I don’t think claims of my own paranoia are well-founded. Rather, I believe I utter words of sober truth (Acts 26:25). Satan has been released from the abyss (Revelation 20:7) and the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3), although not yet officially revealed, is furiously working his campaign of destruction. Wickedness and overt transgression are everywhere rampant and are spreading like an aggressive cancer. And so, I ponder how I, as a disciple of Jesus and as a child of God, should respond to all this.

The Lord Jesus Himself gave His disciples instructions about this, for He knew what was to come.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Jesus in Matthew 10:16

If I occasionally feel hunted by the evil of our day, what did Jesus’ first disciples feel when Jesus gave them this picture? Here is a picture of sheep among wolves. Sheep are defenseless animals. They cannot run well. They cannot fight at all. They are remarkably un-clever, and they die fairly easily. Wolves, on the other hand, are vicious predators who travel in packs to conquer their prey. They are smart and strong and fast with a mouth full of sharp teeth designed to rip apart the flesh of their prey. A picture of sheep in the midst of wolves is a story that will not have a happy ending for the sheep. And yet this is the picture Jesus gives His followers.

But Jesus also gives His followers instructions for what to do when they find themselves in this seemingly hopeless situation. “Be shrewd (prudent; practically wise) as serpents and innocent as doves.” In other words, realize that the world is full of wolves, and that they would like nothing better than to destroy you. But also know that the Lord is there to protect you. He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and will defend you from the wolves. Since the world is full of wolves, live wisely. Since you are a defenseless sheep, live wisely so that you can proclaim Christ’s excellencies (1 Peter 2:9) as long as possible. By all means, avoid spending a lot of time in wolf dens! When you as the sower go out to sow (Matthew 13:3), be alert for wolves at the edges of the field.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Jesus in Matthew 10:16

As sheep in the midst of wolves, we realize that our mission of being witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8) is inherently risky. There is an awesome cost, but we have accepted that cost as not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). For the glorious truth of the gospel is that, if I am a sheep belonging to Jesus, I will never die (John 11:25-26). And so, I go on wisely but boldly sowing seed and making known the mystery of the gospel and proclaiming Christ’s excellencies, trusting that He who sent me out is also He who will forever defend me from the wolves.

SDG                 rmb                 7/6/2021                     #421

For the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16)

Perhaps it is just the haze that has clouded my memory over three or four decades, but in my mind, these present days are indeed evil days compared with times past. In my teens and twenties, when I was coming of age and moving into adulthood, I was decidedly not a Christian, so the decisions I made and the ambitions I had were completely disconnected from obedience to God and were, therefore, devoid of any wisdom that would come from the Bible or from wise men. I was living for me and was only interested in my desires and pleasures, and so I made many poor decisions and several disastrous ones. But in the days of my young adulthood, the world was a much more benevolent place and even my major mistakes seemed to have only minor and temporary consequences. Truly bad choices resulted in setbacks, certainly, but there remained a ray of hope and a peculiar confidence that all was not lost and that somehow there was still an escape as I continued to plummet earthward. A parachute would be procured, and the landing might be rough, but I would survive and move on.

But that is not the case today. The world today is a malevolent place where disaster seems to lurk behind the corner of even wise decisions and righteous actions. The devil has been released from the abyss (Revelation 20:7) and the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16) and the consequences of poor decisions and unwise actions are amplified. Our days these days are evil. Instead of hiding in the dark, the wicked brazenly parade their wickedness in broad daylight, unashamed of the vilest of deeds (Romans 1:32). It seems that even the wisest and most cautious plans of the righteous walk a tightrope toward success, and the scattered plans of the unrighteous which characterized my young adulthood inevitably meet with shipwreck.

And so, the disciple of Jesus must “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL.”

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO WALK WISELY?

In view of the present distress (1 Corinthians 7:26), here are some suggestions for how the believer can walk wisely in these evil days.

First, holiness should be a constant and conscious objective. This holiness is visible righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). In years past, it seems that a token nod to holiness would stave off the temptations to evil, but in the evil day the disciple of Jesus must take up the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13). There needs to be a conscious striving for holiness that is driven into the soul by a persistent discipline. The days are evil, the disciple of Jesus is a visible target, and the battle is fierce. “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

Second, the disciple of Jesus must be alert for the encroachment of Satan and watch for the impact of his schemes. It is a doctrinal fact that the believer has, in Christ, defeated Satan and, in Christ, the believer need not fear the ultimate success of Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). Nevertheless, the disciple of Christ is to be on the alert for the working of the wicked one. Our adversary is patient, is deceptive, is subtle, and springs his traps suddenly and unexpectedly. For the naïve and the careless believer, Satan’s schemes can ruin years of fruitful service and can render the disciple useless for future work. “Be sober! Be on the alert!” (1 Peter 5:8).

Third, pray that the Lord will protect you from shipwreck and will guide you along the path of righteousness. Consider the truths of Psalm 91. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Pray through the power of Psalm 18:1-3, joining with David in asking the LORD for His protection and declaring the ways the LORD defends His children. It is certainly true that the Lord is our strength and our shield, but it is also true that, when the days are evil, the disciple of Jesus is well-advised to cry out to the Lord and proclaim the Lord’s power and declare the Lord’s promise to be the Defender of His people. “But the LORD is with me like a dread champion” (Jeremiah 20:11). What adversary will come forward to fight my Champion?

SDG                 rmb                 7/6/2021                     #420

The end-times in four verses (Isaiah 26:19-27:1)

The prophet Isaiah lived about 700 years before the birth of Jesus, and yet the book of his prophecy contains some of the most remarkable predictions and foreshadows of the Messiah’s first and second advents found in the Old Testament. The accuracy of Isaiah’s prophecy about the events of Jesus’ Incarnation are well-known to most Christians, including predictions of Jesus’ virgin birth, His ministry in Galilee, and His work of atonement to take away sins by His death on the cross. What is not as well-known is that Isaiah also had a lot in his prophecy about Jesus’ Second Coming when He returns in power and glory at the end of the age. This article is about one of Isaiah’s end-times passages.

In one short section of four consecutive verses, Isaiah writes about four key events that will occur at the end of the age. In Isaiah 26:19-27:1, the prophet leaps over thousands of years of human history to tell us about the resurrection, the great tribulation, the return of the LORD, and the judgment of Satan, one major event per verse. And what Isaiah wrote in 700 BC agrees with what other biblical writers have penned since. The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write of future events, and Ezekiel and Daniel and Zephaniah and Jesus Himself and John and Paul and others have confirmed the prophecies Isaiah wrote.

ISAIAH 26:19 – THE RESURRECTION

In this verse, Isaiah gives a crystal-clear prophecy of the general resurrection.

19 Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

   At the end of the age, the dead will live, and their corpses will rise out of the dust. The tomb will become a womb. This is the resurrection, when “those who are Christ’s at His coming (Parousia) (1 Cor. 15:23)” will be made alive. This is what Ezekiel described in the valley of dry bones, when bone came to its bone and sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin, and “breath came into them and they stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezek 37:7-10). Daniel prophesied that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life (Daniel 12:2).” Jesus talked about this event in John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells of the resurrection when he writes, “The last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (15:52).” In 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Paul gives the most complete description of the resurrection: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” So, Isaiah writes first of the resurrection.

            At the end of the age, the dead will live, and their corpses will rise out of the dust. The tomb will become a womb. This is the resurrection, when “those who are Christ’s at His coming (Parousia) (1 Cor. 15:23)” will be made alive. This is what Ezekiel described in the valley of dry bones, when bone came to its bone and sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin, and “breath came into them and they stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezek 37:7-10). Daniel prophesied that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life (Daniel 12:2).” Jesus talked about this event in John 5:28-29: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth.” In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells of the resurrection when he writes, “The last trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (15:52).” In 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Paul gives the most complete description of the resurrection: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” So, Isaiah writes first of the resurrection.

           

ISAIAH 26:20 – THE TRIBULATION

Now Isaiah tells of a time of tribulation when the people of God are forced to hide until the conflict passes.

20 Come, my people, enter your rooms
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while
Until indignation runs its course.

God’s people are urged to “enter your rooms and close the doors behind them.” Outside is some great “indignation” that is threatening them and, to avoid being annihilated, they must “hide for a little while.” This is describing the time of the great tribulation, which Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24:21-22, when the church is severely persecuted, and the best course of action is to retreat into hiding. This is also what John is describing in Revelation 12:6, when “the woman” (the faithful church) “fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God to be nourished for 1,260 days.” The exact event is described again in Revelation 12:14 where “the woman could fly into the wilderness to her place where she was nourished for time and times and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” The church will hide in the wilderness until they are rescued by the returning Jesus Christ. So, we see that Isaiah also wrote about the great tribulation.

ISAIAH 26:21 – THE RETURN OF THE LORD

21 For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their wrongdoing;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain.

Now Isaiah tells us about the terrifying day of the LORD when He will “punish the inhabitants of the earth for their wrongdoing.” This is a day of wrath and judgment, a day of thick darkness. The prophets and the Lord Jesus in His Incarnation and the church through her preachers and prophets have been warning of this day for thousands of years, but usually men refuse to hear and refuse to heed and refuse to repent. (See Revelation 9:20-21.) Now the day has come, and there is no room for repentance. The prophet Zephaniah warned of this day: “A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry (Zephaniah 1:15-16).” Paul wrote of that day in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Revelation 19:15 presents an awesome image of the returning Christ: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword so that He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” And Isaiah wrote of this day 700 years before Christ.

ISAIAH 27:1 – THE JUDGMENT OF SATAN

21 On that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.

Finally, Isaiah’s prophecy reaches all the way to the end of history at the end of the last day as Satan himself is being judged. “The LORD will punish Leviathan.” And who is Leviathan? He is “the fleeing serpent” and “the twisted serpent.” Does Scripture tell us of any serpents? There was a serpent in the Garden who tempted Eve. In Revelation we read that “the serpent of old, the dragon, who is the devil and Satan (20:2; also, in 12:9).” “The fleeing serpent” and “the twisted serpent” are none other than Satan. Isaiah also tells us of “the dragon who lives in the sea.” And who is the dragon? From the same verses in Revelation, we see that the great dragon is another alias for Satan. Satan is the serpent, he is the dragon, he is Leviathan. From Isaiah 27:1, “On that day, the LORD will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.” In Revelation 20:10, we read almost the same thing from the pen of the apostle John: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever and ever.” And so, just as Isaiah prophesied, so it will be on that day, the day of the LORD.

In this remarkable passage, in four verses the prophet Isaiah gives us sure prophecies of four events that will occur at the end of the days.

SDG                 rmb                 3/22/2021

Why must Satan be released from the abyss (Rev. 20:3)?

In this article, we parachute into the “thousand years” of the gospel age in Revelation 20:3. Things are going along splendidly with Satan locked in the abyss. Now for the duration of the “thousand years,” the gospel is being proclaimed and the church is growing, and Christ is building His church (Matthew 16:18). This all goes along swimmingly “until the ‘thousand years’ were completed; after these things he (Satan) must be released for a short time (Rev. 20:3).” And there need be no ambiguity about the intention of the Greek in this sentence. John uses the Greek word δεῖ, which is accurately translated by the NAS as “must.” It is necessary that Satan be released from the abyss. But WHY must Satan be released? That is the question.

In answering this question, we first need to keep in mind that Satan is a mere created being. He is not a threat to the church, and he is certainly not a threat to God. He is brought onto the stage when his character is needed by the Director, because there are some things that he is uniquely qualified to do.

Second, we need to observe that Satan is released from the abyss. This was not a successful jailbreak. Rather, he is released. Satan was not in control. (He never is.) He was rotting away in the abyss when he was unexpectedly released. Who released him? We are not told, but it would be reasonable to assume that the one who locked him in the abyss (the risen Christ) is the same one who released him from the abyss.

So, Satan must be released because his unique talents and abilities are needed by the Director to take the drama toward its scripted conclusion. The Hero of the Drama is preparing to make His final, glorious appearance, and all the details must be made ready for His grand entrance. The church must be purified, pruned, and cleansed through the furnace of persecution. Evil and lawlessness must increase so that the unrighteous are revealed and so hatred against the church can abound. Although they will be ignored, the final warnings of coming judgment must be loudly proclaimed to the unrighteous. Satan must have time to raise up the beast and the false prophet to oversee the proliferation of evil and the persecution of the church. Satan is the only character in the drama who can accomplish these tasks, so Satan must be released.

Finally, upon his release, notice that Satan is given only a short time (Rev. 20:3; μικρὸν χρόνον). He is not in control of the length of his performance; rather, his time on the stage has already been determined by the script. He will burst upon the scene “having great wrath (Rev. 12:12)” and will create havoc and destruction, but he has only a short time (Rev. 12:12; ὀλίγον καιρὸν). And after that short time, “he was thrown (ἐβλήθη) into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10).”

So, Satan must be released after the “thousand years” because the Lord has need of Him.

In Luke 19, as Jesus nears Jerusalem for His triumphal entry, He sends two disciples ahead to fetch a colt. As the disciples were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it (Luke 19:33-34).” That is probably the best way to think of Satan; consider him to be like this colt. He comes onto the stage of the grand drama when the Lord has need of him.

SDG                 rmb                 3/13/2021

Satan’s activity and God’s sovereignty – Part 2

“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.” – Isaiah 8:12

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” – Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:6

ARE WE FEARING WHAT THE NATIONS FEAR?

On January 29, I had posted an article about possible feelings of fear in this age of rising confusion and evil.   There is no doubt that our world today supplies us with reasons to fear. A lot of people, myself included, see a marked increase in evil in many spheres and at many levels, and it is unsettling. Things in which we used to trust as rock-solid and unchanging have collapsed and worst-case scenarios are common. Most challenging of all is that the trajectory into the future seems to be for things to get more chaotic and for losses to continue to outpace gains. Yes, the view is troubling and we as believers can be tempted to think that God is no longer in control and that Satan and wickedness have gotten the upper hand.

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF GOD’S CONTROL

Before we consider “the prince of the power of the air (Ephesian 2:2),” Satan, who is “a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44),” we need to make sure that our own thinking is on solid ground. That means that our first task is to establish a correct view of God’s control. What does it mean when we say God is in sovereign control of all things?

There are many voices competing for our attention these days, seeking to influence us to forsake the Bible and its clear truth. If we listen to these worldly voices, we will adopt an unbiblical view of God’s control that sounds much more like our unsaved neighbor than it does a child of the King who calls God his or her Abba, Father. In that case, our view of “God is in control” says that “my life is peaceful and safe, and the world is getting better and better every day, so I know God is in control.” The most serious problem here is that, with this view of “God’s sovereignty,” God is accountable to me and each day He must again prove to me that He is still in control by keeping me safe and comfortable. This is an abominable error!

On the other hand, a biblical view of “God is in control” says this:

  • God has declared in His word that He is in control of all things, and His word is truth (John 17:17)
  • God has demonstrated that He is in control of all things by displaying His control in myriad episodes recorded in the Bible
  • God has demonstrated that He is in control of our lives by ordaining the events of our salvation and by providentially guiding the events of our lives
  • Therefore, since He has proven He is in sovereign control of all things, God has commanded us to trust Him

RECONCILING SATAN’S ACTIVITY WITH GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY

Now we turn to a consideration of Satan and his activity in the world. How can God’s sovereign control be reconciled with Satan being able to increase evil and lawlessness in the world? Doesn’t a rise in Satan’s work of chaos and strife and violence indicate that God is not in complete control?

The short answer is, “No.” God remains in complete control, but as the world moves toward the end of the age, God will manifest His sovereign control by using Satan’s activity to take history in a new direction. At the appropriate time, God will begin to fulfill all the prophecies about the end-times that are written in His Word so that the world will be prepared for the glorious return of the Lord Jesus.

Despite his reputation, the Bible reveals that Satan is merely another character on the Lord’s stage. As Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve because the Lord Jesus needed a betrayer, so Satan has been created because the Lord required someone to do the grand evil acts scripted into His great drama. The Lord needed someone to tempt Adam and Eve, and Satan was ordained as the tempter (Genesis 3:1-6). God needed someone to test Job, so Satan was selected for that part (Job 1, 2). Someone was needed to test the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), so Satan received that part, as well. So it will be in the future, when Satan is released from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7) to play his role as God’s supporting actor, accomplishing what God created him to accomplish and moving history toward the end of the age. In his role, the devil will accomplish exactly as much destruction and lawlessness and sin as the Lord planned for him to accomplish before the foundation of the world . . . but not even the slightest bit more. Satan will freely choose to do all the evil that the Lord has sovereignly ordained for him to do, and he does not get to adlib. He is an actor on God’s stage, and he enters and exits the stage according to the Director’s precise instructions. He can do no other.

Therefore, we need not be frightened when we see Satan doing those things the Bible declares he must certainly do. The Lord Jesus Himself told us these things would surely take place and He told us these things so that we would not be frightened when they came to pass. (Consider Matthew 24:5-13, 21-28) Instead, when we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25), we can have these responses:

  1. Have strong confidence in God’s Word, for we see what the Bible has clearly predicted coming to pass.
  2. Increasing joy of anticipation, for we will see Jesus soon! (Matthew 24:33)
  3. Resolve to persevere to the end, for now the time is short (Matthew 25:13).
  4. Draw closer to one another, draw together for encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  5. Send roots deeper into Christ so that we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-18).

SDG                 rmb                 1/31/2021

Satan’s activity and God’s sovereignty – Part 1

“Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens although the nations are terrified by them.” – Jeremiah 10:2

“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.” – Isaiah 8:12

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” – Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:6

ARE WE FEARING WHAT THE NATIONS FEAR?

There is no doubt that our world today gives us reasons to fear. A lot of people, myself included, see a marked increase in evil in many spheres and at many levels, and it is unsettling. Things in which we used to trust as rock-solid and unchanging have collapsed and worst-case scenarios are common. Most challenging of all is that the trajectory into the future seems to be for things to get more chaotic and for losses to continue to outpace gains. Yes, the view is troubling.

As we search for security and seek to keep our feet in the raging storm, we can begin to wonder if the Lord is still in control. How can all these “bad” things be happening unless God’s grip has slipped? Godlessness and lawlessness and evil are on the rise. Does this mean Satan is in control? Natural disasters. A global pandemic. Racial tension. Political division. Fear. Distrust. Chaos. “Lord, how can You allow these things on Your watch?” Has Satan broken out and is he now on the loose?

It is in times like these that we open our Bible and dig deep to find out what God has said in His Word. With regard to what we see in our present times, our Bible gives us a foundational truth that never changes:

Our God is always in absolute control of all things.

This is implicit from the general tone and content of the Scriptures. In the Bible, the Lord makes statements about events that will take place decades or centuries in the future, because the Lord will control all things needed to bring those events into existence. See Genesis 15:13-14 about the captivity in Egypt; Isaiah 7:14 about the virgin birth of Immanuel; Micah 5:2 giving the Messiah’s birthplace.

But the Bible also makes explicit statements about the Lord’s sovereign control.

“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” – Psalm 115:3

“. . . having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” – Ephesians 1:11

“But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” – Daniel 4:35

So, if God is in sovereign control of all things, why do we see rampant godlessness in our world? Isn’t it possible that Satan is causing this rise in evil and is creating this open attack on the church and on the maligning of everything good?

Before we answer those questions, we must bury a myth that can easily insinuate itself into a Christian’s thinking, and the myth goes something like this: “If God is really in control, then Satan is powerless to cause evil to increase in my world and God will protect me from major problems in my life and bad stuff won’t happen to me.” (Read Satan’s words to God about Job in the first chapter of “Job” to get a biblical account of such thinking.) When those who have adopted this myth see growing corruption and wickedness and violence and conflict, they can conclude that God is no longer in control, and thus be deeply troubled and confused.

How do we deal with this?

First, we set our feet back on the rock of our foundational truth: Our God is always in absolute control of all things.

            Second, we confess that this idea that “God proves He is in control by keeping me safe” is an unbiblical myth. God IS in control, and we trust Him to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

            Third, I must realize that God is not ordaining all the events of history to ensure my personal comfort and happiness. Rather, God is ordaining all events because history is irresistibly moving toward a day of reckoning and final judgment when the Lord Jesus will come from heaven on a white horse to destroy the unrighteous and gather all the righteous to Himself forever (Revelation 19:11-21), and He has chosen me for salvation so that I can perform my small part in the grand drama.

            Fourth, as we carefully read our Bibles, we see that Satan has, in fact, been given a significant role in world events at the end of the age. Therefore, if we have reached that time in history, we should not be surprised to see evidence of his activity in the world.

CAN GOD BE IN CONTROL IF SATAN IS RELEASED AND FREE?

            Even with all that we have said, we are still left with the question, “How can God’s sovereign control be reconciled with Satan being able to increase evil and lawlessness in the world?” We will attempt to answer that question in our next post.

SDG                 rmb                 1/29/2021

Psalm 110: A brief lesson in Christology

The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand . . .”

INTRODUCTION

Thus, David begins Psalm 110, a psalm that held many mysteries for those who lived before the Incarnation. “The LORD says to my Lord.” “Yahweh says to my Adonai.” Right from the start the psalm presented difficulties. God is talking to God. Yahweh is talking to Adonai, so there appear to be two persons here, but the Shammah from Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” So how can this be? There is no clear solution to this puzzle.

            Jesus Himself brings out another conundrum from the psalm, as He questions the Pharisees during Passion Week. At that time, Psalm 110 was accepted by Hebrew scholars as a messianic psalm. The images and the drama of the psalm made it obvious that it pictured the victorious exploits of the Messiah. But the Holy Spirit had inspired David to write a theological riddle. So, Jesus asks, “Whose son is the Christ (Matthew 22:42ff)?” “The Son of David,” the Pharisees reply. The trap has been set and the bait has been taken. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 and asks the obvious question: “If (in Psalm 110) David calls him (the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” In other words, “How can the Christ (Messiah) be both David’s son and his Lord?” No answer is offered because no answer is available. The Pharisees have no solution to the riddle.

            But the mysteries are even deeper than that. While the psalm was acknowledged to be about the victories of the Messiah, the only reference for the pronouns “You” and “Your” in verses 1-4 and the only reference for the pronoun “He” is verses 5-7 is “the Lord,” which in Hebrew is Adonai, a divine name of God. Therefore, taking all this into account, from Psalm 110 we discover that the Messiah is the Lord Adonai, but He is also the human Son of David “according to the flesh (Romans 1:3),” a Man like us who “will drink from the brook by the wayside (Psalm 110:7)” to quench His thirst. Sort of like a God-Man.

            Does that sound familiar? It should because Psalm 110 points unerringly to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, this psalm is one of the most complete pictures of Jesus Christ in both His first and second advents in the Bible. The psalm provides us with a lesson in Christology that is supported by many other Scriptures. The rest of this article will explore Psalm 110 verse-by-verse and show how it reveals Jesus to us.

FINDING JESUS IN PSALM 110

  • Verse 1 – The Lord is told to sit at the right hand of the LORD because He has accomplished something that merits the seat of honor. Christ is exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3) because He has accomplished the work of redemption that He was given to do (John 17:4). He is highly exalted as a result of His perfect humiliation by his death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). He has been allotted a portion with the great (Isaiah 53:12).
  • Verse 1 – We have already talked (above) about the divine and human natures of the one who is the Lord (Adonai) and yet the Son of David.
  • Verse 2 – A “strong scepter” is a symbol of this King’s power. “The LORD sends forth Your strong scepter from Zion.” This scepter is the gospel that is sent forth and allows Christ through His church to rule in the midst of His enemies, “as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)”. With the scepter of the gospel Christ will conquer the nations and bring many into His kingdom.
  • Verse 3 – There is a certain day in the future, “the day of Your power,” when His power will be on full display. We know that this will be the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return. In that day, “Your people will volunteer freely” and they will be dressed “in holy array.” This is describing the glorified saints arrayed in white robes who will come with the Lord Jesus upon His return. (See 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Thess. 1:10; Revelation 19:14)
  • Verse 4 – The LORD has taken an oath and has sworn, and when God Himself takes an oath, it indicates the unchangeableness of the promise (Hebrews 6:13-20). This is the solemnity of the oath that the LORD has made to the Lord Jesus. The oath cannot be broken or changed.
  • Verse 4 – What is the nature of the oath? That Christ is “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” First, then, He is a Priest as well as a King. There were no such kings in the Davidic line, for the priests were descended from Aaron in the tribe of Levi and the kings were from David in the line of Judah. Thus Christ, the Son of God, is the only one allowed to be both King and Priest because He is of the priestly order of Melchizedek. As a priest, Jesus makes intercession for His people. As priest, He is also the one who brought the blood of the eternal sacrifice to the heavenly mercy seat (See Hebrews 9-10).
  • Verse 4 – Christ is a priest forever. The priesthood of Jesus had no beginning and will have no end. In eternity past, the LORD swore with an oath that Jesus was a priest forever. He always lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25). His people always have an advocate, a priest to intercede for them with the Father.
  • Verse 4 – For a study of Melchizedek as a type of Christ, spend time in Hebrews 7.
  • Verse 5 – “The Lord is at Your right hand.” Thus, begins the day of the Lord’s wrath. Verses 5-6 speak about the day of Christ’s return in wrath and judgment. We recall from verse 1 that the LORD invited the Lord to sit at His right hand. On the day of wrath, the Lord will still be at the LORD’s right hand as they render judgment to the unrighteous. In Revelation 6:16, the kings of the earth say to the mountains, “Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne (the LORD), and from the wrath of the Lamb (the Lord).”
  • Verse 5 – “He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.” From that same passage in Revelation 6:15-17, the Lord shatters kings and the great men in the day of His wrath. Psalm 110:5 is describing the events of Revelation 6:15-17.
  • Verse 6 – The Priest-King of the order of Melchizedek “will judge among the nations.” Can there be any doubt that this is the terrible day of Christ’s final judgment? This is described in Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and casts those on His left “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41).” We see a glimpse of this in Luke 19:27 and in Revelation 14:9-11. Psalm 2:9 also mentions that the Son “will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware.” Finally, in Revelation 19:11-16 we see the Lord Jesus coming in His final judgment.
  • Verse 6 – “He will fill them with corpses.” In the great day of judgment, there will be many slain by the Lord Jesus as He returns to deal out retribution. In Revelation 19:17-21, the Scriptures declare that the birds in midheaven will feast on “the flesh of kings and the flesh mighty men,” and all of these will be “killed with the sword that came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” The one on the horse is the Lord Jesus in His Second Coming. There will be many corpses on that day.
  • Verse 6 – “He will shatter the head over a broad country.” What would it mean for Jesus the Messiah to “shatter the head?” In Genesis 3:15, we read that the Messiah, the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan on his head. Now here we read that the great Priest-King, the Messiah “will shatter the head.” Psalm 110:6 is speaking of how Jesus crushed Satan’s head when He was crucified at The Place of a Skull. We also know that Jesus will finally “crush Satan’s head” when throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
  • Verse 7 – The final verse may be the most mysterious of all. “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” From this phrase it is unmistakable that this Warrior is human, for He thirsts and so He must stop by the wayside to drink from the brook. He wields the divine sword of judgment, yet He also needs water to slake His thirst.
  • Verse 7 – There may be more intended from the phrase, “He will drink from the brook.” For we know that, during His first advent, Jesus the Messiah was required to drink the cup of God’s wrath which He was given (John 18:11; Matthew 20:22). We know that, while He was on the cross, the Messiah thirsted (John 19:28). It is possible, then, to understand this phrase as speaking about His suffering in His earthly life. He drank from the brook of suffering that ran by the wayside of His life.
  • Verse 7 – If drinking from the brook does, in fact, point to Jesus’ suffering in this life, then the second half of the verse fits well into Scripture. In Isaiah 53:11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul . . .” Then in 53:12, “Therefore, I will assign Him a portion with the great.” In Philippians 2:8, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But 2:9, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” (See also Revelation 5, where the Lamb is given glory and honor because He has conquered.) Because the Messiah endured the cross, “Therefore He (the LORD) will lift up His (the Lord’s) head.” And this understanding would bring us back to the start of the psalm when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the LORD.

CONCLUSION

            Psalm 110 presents us with a powerful picture of Jesus the Messiah in His first advent as the suffering Servant, but also in His Second Coming as the Warrior-Judge. This psalm also highlights the prophetic nature of some of the psalms as clearly foreshadowing future events. Finally, the psalm reveals again the divine inspiration of the Scriptures as these words written by David a thousand years before Jesus’ Incarnation are fulfilled by our great Priest-King.

SDG                 rmb                 10/20/2020

The Eschatology of Isaiah – 27:1 Punish Leviathan, Slay the Dragon

The prophet Isaiah wrote powerful prophecies not only of the events of Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, but also about the events of that day, the final day when the glorified Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the resurrected Lamb of God, returns from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11ff) to judge all the earth.

It is Isaiah’s eschatology that we have been exploring in this series of studies from one brief passage of four verses, Isaiah 26:19-27:1. Here the prophet tells us of things to come at the end of time. As we have seen in the post of December 1 of last year, Isaiah 26:19 told us about the great final resurrection of the dead when the tomb will become a womb and the dust will give birth to those who will sing for joy. A little later in December of 2019, we examined Isaiah 26:20, where the prophet writes about the time of tribulation of God’s people. We recently (October 2, 2020) examined the next verse in the passage in which the prophet tells us about when “the LORD is coming out of His place,” telling of when Jesus returns. This post will be the final one of the four, examining Isaiah 27:1, which tells of the punishing of Leviathan and the killing of the dragon, and seeing how this relates to the events surrounding the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven.

PART 4 – The LORD will punish the serpent and will slay the dragon

“In that day the Lord with His hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent and He will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”

In the context of this passage that we have studied, in the context of what we can now see as a vision of Christ’s return, the meaning of this verse must be obvious. What to Isaiah the prophet must have been puzzling and mysterious, to us with the New Testament is clear. For Jesus the Messiah has already come to fulfill the prophecies of His first advent and has told us Himself of His imminent return. In the book of Revelation, we read of precisely these events coming to pass at the end of the age, exactly consistent with the other events surrounding the Second Coming of the Lord. Isaiah has already told us of the resurrection of the dead, of the great tribulation that will come upon God’s people, and of the glorious time when the Lord Himself will come from heaven. Now Isaiah tells us what will become of Leviathan the fleeing serpent and the dragon.

  • In that day – What day? This expression, “in that day,” is used throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets and almost always refers to “the day of the LORD.” So here, Isaiah is making a reference to the day of the LORD, that day when the LORD will return to judge the earth. The prophets describe this as a terrifying day, a day when the unrighteous will find no place to hide and when the LORD will recompense all sin. That is the day tIsaiah intends here.
  • Leviathan the fleeing serpent – Who is Leviathan? Although there are several Old Testament passages that speak of Leviathan, the creature’s exact identity is difficult to determine. The overall impression is that “Leviathan” is a picture of evil, and of threat and destruction. Leviathan is dangerous and foreboding, and his appearance brings with it imminent threat. The background music strikes a minor key. That is certainly the picture here.
  • But notice that Leviathan is no longer the hunter but is the hunted. Leviathan, that creature of chaos and destruction, is fleeing from the LORD’s “hard and great and strong sword.” His imminent doom is certain, for the LORD’s sword never returns to its sheath until it has accomplished its work. The LORD’s sword “will punish Leviathan.” “Punish” describes the reason for the LORD’s sword (to punish for evil), but the effect is the death of Leviathan. The LORD says, “I have created the smith who produces a weapon for its purpose (Isaiah 54:16).” The LORD’s sword is created to kill the LORD’s enemies. When Leviathan is punished, it will certainly be slain.
  • Leviathan is a fleeing serpent and a twisting serpent – Observe carefully the descriptions of Leviathan. Twice he is called a serpent. Now it is time for Bible 101. “Who is the serpent?” This is the one who tempted Eve in the Garden and thus led man into sin. This is the one who is called that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9).” Yes, in this context, Leviathan is another word for the devil and Satan.
  • Leviathan, the serpent, is also the dragon – We know that the Bible is written such that what appears later sheds light on what was written formerly. For example, what was written in the New Testament sheds light on and informs what was written in the Old Testament. Therefore, based on Revelation 12:9, we just confirmed that Leviathan, the serpent, is also the devil, the serpent. Now, from that same verse (Revelation 12:9) we can see that the serpent is the dragon, for it is the dragon who is explicitly identified as the serpent (“the great dragon, that ancient serpent”). It can thus be concluded that Isaiah 27:1 is not about the destruction of two creatures, Leviathan and the dragon, but is actually about the slaying of the one creature, the dragon. And we know from the New Testament that the dragon is a symbol for Satan.
  • OUR CONCLUSION – What we see is that Isaiah 27:1 is prophesying the slaying of Satan on the final day, “in that day,” when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven on the day of His glorious return. And that is exactly what we find described in the book of Revelation. On that day, Jesus returns from heaven on a white horse with a sharp sword in His mouth to strike down the nations. Then “He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev. 19:11, 15).” His final act of judgment will be “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where (he) will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).” Isaiah has seen the events of the last day.

SUMMARY OF THE PASSAGE

            In this four-part study, it has been shown that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who lived 700 years before Jesus the Messiah’s first advent, prophesied the events of Jesus’ Second Coming with great accuracy. As we compare Isaiah 26:19-21 and 27:1 with the prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming in the New Testament, we see the resurrection of the dead, the testing of God’s people, the great coming of the Lord, and the punishment and destruction of Satan all predicted. To me, there are two applications of this.

  • First, I am again convinced of the Bible’s being breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), for there is no other explanation for the Bible’s supernatural accuracy.
  • Second, it reminds me that there is a final day coming when all the joys and difficulties of all the ages will come to an end. There is coming a day, perhaps very soon, when Jesus will come from heaven with a shout. Jesus will come on a white horse with a sword to judge the unrighteous without mercy. It reminds me that “the Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15:3)” and that His favor will not be extended forever; there is coming a terrible day of the Lord. It reminds me that I have been promised persecution in this world, but that Jesus has also promised me an eternity with Him in heaven. It reminds me that I am to warn the unrighteous of their need for a Savior.

SDG                 rmb                 10/08/2020

Herod believed in the Messiah (Matthew 2)

There are so many fascinating themes that are operating simultaneously in Matthew chapter 2 that it can be hard to decide where to focus. This article will center on Herod, the king in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ birth, but I want to bring in a number of players to capture all the richness of the passage.

THE MAGI

To start with, let’s look at the characters who are on-stage in this scene of the biblical play. There are magi (wise men) from the east who come to Jerusalem. “Where is He who is born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him (2:2).” Who were these men? Why did they come such a long way? How did they know that the star signaled “the king of the Jews?” We cannot say for certain, but we can give some educated speculations. These men were probably astrologers and necromancers from Persia or Babylon. Because they were astrologers who studied the stars, about two years ago they had noticed the appearance of a new and unusual star in the night sky. Since they were from Persia or Babylon and were in that part of their culture that would have been familiar with ancient writings, it is possible that these magi were aware of the stories of the Hebrews and of their God, Yahweh. It is possible that may have known some of the Hebrew Scriptures and had heard about a coming Anointed One. They may have heard ancient stories about the prophet Daniel and about his prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, which gave an idea of when this Anointed One, this Messiah would appear. What other explanation would there be for a group of men traveling for up to two years to follow a star? And how else do we explain their words to Herod? These magi were searching for the King of the Jews. These pagan Gentiles saw a new star appear and they connected the dots and decided that nothing was more important than that they find Him who was born King of the Jews. Then, when the magi find the Child, the fall down before Him and worship Him and give Him expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After worshiping the new King, they return “to their own country by another way (2:12).”

KING HEROD

Next, we meet king Herod. Scripture does not tell us a lot about him, but it does tell us enough. Herod was the king in Jerusalem, and he intended to remain king. His actions reveal that he is cruel, that he is deceptive and cunning, and that he is insecure, which is a particularly unpleasant recipe. He had been in power more than thirty years when the magi arrived. While the magi sought to worship the new King and shower Him with gifts (2:2, 11), Herod saw the child as a rival and as a threat to his reign and immediately sought to kill Him.

It is clear from this account in Matthew 2 that Herod believed both that the Hebrew Scriptures were true and that this new King was the promised Messiah. How do we know that? We know that based on what Herod did. When the magi told Herod about a star and about worshiping a new king, “Herod was troubled (2:3).” He figured out that this new king was the Messiah and he wanted to know where to find Him so he could kill Him. So, believing that this new King was the Messiah, Herod went to the chief priests and scribes and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. He went to the chief priests and the scribes because they knew the Scriptures, and Herod believed the Scriptures would tell him the truth about the Messiah’s birthplace. When they told him about Bethlehem and Micah 5:2, Herod sent the magi there to confirm the prophecy. Then they were to return to him so that Herod could “worship Him,” also.

It is good to pause here and reflect on this. Herod believed that the Scriptures were true and that Jesus, the newborn King, was the long-awaited Messiah. Instead of rejoicing, however, his response was hatred and murder. Herod did not need a Messiah that demanded his worship and that threatened his worldly pleasures and power. Yes, Herod sought to kill the Messiah rather that worship Him. Sadly, that is what many in the world still try to do. Many find out about our glorious Savior who passed through the heavens (Hebrews 4:14) to be born in Bethlehem and to be crucified on a cross and reject Him rather than worship Him.

When Herod’s plot to use the magi as his accomplices in killing this new King fails (2:16), he has all the male children in the area of Bethlehem slaughtered so that he can still succeed in eliminating this messianic threat. Again, his vicious use of the sword does not land on the Messiah, for His parents had fled with Christ to Egypt to escape Herod’s wickedness.

SATAN

            There is another character in this drama who is active behind the scenes, and who will not step on-stage until Chapter 4, and that is Satan. Although Herod is the human agent for the cruelty and the wickedness that is unleashed to kill the Messiah, and while Herod is fully responsible for his wicked acts, behind these acts is the one who is “a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).” Satan is the one who was the first to hate the Messiah, and in Matthew chapter 2, he is the one who is doing everything in his power to destroy Jesus the Messiah. Since that day in the Garden when he was cursed for his deception (Genesis 3:14), Satan has been bent on stopping the Messiah from “bruising his head (Genesis 3:15).” Despite his best efforts, somehow the Messiah has snuck past his defenses and has been born in Bethlehem, exactly as the Scriptures said would happen. “More than that, when He was a ‘sitting duck’ in the manger in Bethlehem, somehow He still eluded us and has now disappeared somewhere into the backwoods of Israel. Well, maybe that’s the last we’ll see of Him. Maybe He’s disappeared for good.” (See Revelation 12:4-6 for more of Satan’s activity against the Messiah.)

SDG                rmb                9/18/2020

Satan: The powerful pawn

The Bible knows him by various names and titles. He is the serpent of old, the devil, the tempter, the adversary, the prince of the power of the air, the god of this age, the red dragon, Satan, star of the morning, son of the dawn, the anointed cherub, the accuser of the brethren, the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning. In his first appearance in the Garden of Eden, he tempted Eve, who gave to Adam, and thus the whole human race was plunged into sin and death. He is, indeed, the most powerful of God’s created beings, and he is entirely opposed to everything holy and righteous and good.

Since Satan is opposed to all holiness and goodness, he is opposed to Jesus Christ and is opposed to Jesus’ church. Satan hates Christ and hates Christ’s church and hates every member of Christ’s church. He is “our adversary, the devil” who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).” Make no mistake about it, if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, the devil is seeking to devour you. His goal is your destruction. He aims to ruin your testimony, to silence your proclamation of the gospel, to cause you shrink back from your faith, and to deny the faith when he threatens you with loss. When you, as a believer, sin, you have fallen prey to his schemes. Satan rejoices in your sin, because in that sin you have listened to Satan rather than trusted and obeyed the Lord. Yes, Satan is certainly a dangerous foe to the believer, and we are wise when we are alert to his temptations and his deceptions and are aware of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). The believer should diligently defend his holiness and make sure that the devil does not have easy access to our heart, for he desires to bring about your sudden destruction.

But while Satan is a formidable and dangerous adversary to us, he is merely a created being to the Lord God. Part of the reason that the devil sometimes has a larger-than-life persona for believers is because we insist on viewing him from a human perspective and focusing on how he appears to us. David did not go out to meet Goliath in his own strength, but he went out in the name of the LORD of hosts. “Today the LORD will deliver you into my hands (1 Sam 17:45-46).” For the LORD, Goliath was just an overgrown uncircumcised Philistine, and he would fall dead just like any other man of dust. In the same way, we do not encounter Satan in our own strength. We stand firm against the schemes of the devil because we stand firm clothed in the Lord’s armor (Ephesians 6:11ff). We can have no fear of the devil because Jesus Christ has already crushed him and destroyed him by His finished work on the cross (Genesis 3:15; I John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15).

HOW THE LORD VIEWS SATAN

Now let us think about how the Lord God views Satan. First, it is given that the Lord is the sovereign Creator of all things and of all beings. He has created all things for His purpose, and He has ordained all things that will come to pass, from the first events of Genesis 1 to the final events of Revelation. And it is evident that the Lord God created Satan, for Satan is a created being. While understanding the fullness of God’s purposes is beyond human ability (Psalm 131), the Lord has revealed to us many details of His purposes in His Word, the Bible. As we study the pages of the Bible and see what God has revealed to us about Satan, we see that the devil has been created with his unique powers and his wickedness for a specific purpose. The devil is the tempter and the accuser and the liar, and much more, but it is those very qualities that define his area of usefulness. Satan is the Lord’s powerful pawn who spends the vast majority of the divine drama of history in complete obscurity. It is only when his unique “talents” and “abilities” are needed that he is summoned onto the stage to perform his part, to say his lines, and then to exit the stage until “an opportune time (Luke 4:13)” when he is needed again. We must remember that the Lord is the playwright, the director, and the producer of history. He has already written the script, and He has, in eternity past, chosen the cast. In time and space, the Lord created the heavens and the earth, the stage for the drama. “Let there be lights, camera, action!” And history began. But the grand play of human history is not unfolding randomly. No! The drama is unfolding in perfect agreement with the way it was scripted in eternity past by the sovereign Lord of all. And so, Satan does not come and go as he pleases, nor does he ad-lib his lines. Rather, his performance is directed by the Lord and is in perfect agreement with the divine script.

SATAN: THE SUPPORTING ACTOR

When is Satan called on to make an appearance? Satan’s main role is to appear in one of his various forms to tempt someone, so that their obedience will be tested. He also enters the drama at the end of the age when he brings about the great tribulation against the church. Other than some small bit parts here and there, that’s about it. If Satan were a real actor in the world today, he would be starving! There just isn’t a lot of work on the world’s stage for an extremely evil guy like the devil! Let’s quickly examine his major supporting roles in Scripture.

Genesis 3. The Scene – the fall of mankind. Satan’s role is to tempt the first Adam to test his obedience and his righteousness. Our adversary appears as a “serpent more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made (Genesis 3:1).” His first words create doubt about the word of the LORD God. “Did God actually say?” His next words declare that God lied about the wages of sin, telling Eve instead that she can sin with impunity. “You will not surely die,” even though the LORD God had clearly said that you would (2:17). His final words in this scene suggest that God is not good and that He is keeping good things from Eve and Adam. So, Eve takes of the forbidden fruit and gives to Adam. The results are that the serpent, Satan, is cursed; in the future, the Messiah will come to crush Satan’s head; Adam has failed the obedience test; and Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden and from God’s presence because of their sin.

Why is Satan summoned? One reason is that there are only a few actors to choose from at this point in the drama. Also, Satan is the most evil and the most deceptive of God’s creatures. Satan is the one the LORD calls to test Adam.

 Job 1, 2. The Scene – The wager between God and Satan, with Satan claiming that Job only obeys God because the LORD protects Job. The LORD then allows Satan to test Job to see if Job will continue to obey even when his earthly prosperity and possessions are taken away. So, we see that Satan is summoned “from going to and fro on the earth (1:7)” and is pointed to “My servant Job” so that Job can be tested.

Why is Satan summoned? Satan is summoned because he is the only one powerful enough to ruin Job’s prosperity and to bring about Job’s physical affliction, and who hates God and man enough to bring about Job’s undeserved misery.

Matthew 4:1-11. The Scene – The testing and vindication of the Second Adam. Jesus has just been baptized (Matthew 3:13-17) and, as the first act of His earthly ministry, He is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (4:1).” Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights and then is approached by the tempter (Satan). The tempting of the first Adam should be kept in mind as the tempting of the Second Adam takes place. Satan calls Jesus’ identity into question (“If You are the Son of God . . .”), he tempts Jesus to obey him rather than God (“command these stones to become loaves of bread”), he twists the Word of God using parts of Psalm 91 (remember Genesis 3:1, “Did God really say?”), and he offers Jesus everything He could possibly desire in this world, if Jesus will worship him. Jesus perfectly resists all of Satan’s temptations with the word of God (“it is written”), and then commands Satan to depart (“Begone, Satan!”). which Satan obeys. Thus, the Second Adam conquers Satan and resists all his temptations in the very sphere where the first Adam failed.

Why is Satan summoned? Satan is summoned because it was Satan who caused the fall of the first Adam. Satan needed to be defeated by the perfect Second Adam. It was Satan who caused the ruin of the human race, so Satan needed to be confronted by the Redeemer. It was Satan who caused death to enter the world, so it was fitting that Satan be conquered by the Lord who brought in eternal life. Satan is summoned onto the stage because his crushing defeat in the wilderness proves that the Son of God has also appeared on the stage. Satan, the most evil one, can only be vanquished by the Holy One.

Revelation 12, 13, 16, 20. The Scene – The final rebellion against the Lord and attack against the church before Jesus Christ returns. In this scene, Satan takes the form of a red dragon and is allowed to persecute the church. In chapter 12 the dragon “has come down to you in great wrath (12:12),” “he pursued the woman (the church) who had given birth to the male child (12:13),” and “he became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring (12:17).” Satan is allowed to vent his hatred on the church. In chapter 13, Satan raises up an accomplice, “the beast,” who “is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (13:7).” The dragon, along with the beast, and the false prophet, assemble for the battle (16:14). Satan’s final scene is in Revelation 20:8-10 where he gathers the nations for battle. They “surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven, and the devil is thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Why is Satan summoned? Satan is summoned because he is the one uniquely qualified to be the ultimate rebel against the Lord. He is the only one powerful enough to organize and execute this battle against the Lord and His church.

CONCLUSION – THE MAIN POINT

While from our perspective the devil is a powerful and formidable enemy, from the Lord’s perspective Satan is merely a special pawn whom He has created for His use in bringing about His redemptive plan for history. We must remember that Satan is cursed by the LORD God near the beginning of Genesis and then in Revelation 20 is finally thrown into the lake of fire, while we believers are “chosen by the Lord before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)” so that the Lord might “demonstrate the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy whom He prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:23).” Therefore, we should have a healthy respect for Satan’s power, we should not fear him because we are protected from him by the Lord of hosts.

SDG                 rmb                 9.13.2020