Tag Archives: Satan

The Devil

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

A 2003 Gallup poll concluded that 70% of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil.[1] A 2009 Barna survey stated, “A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement,”[2] i.e., that Satan is a real entity. I could not find a more recent survey, but my observation tells me that most either do not believe in the existence of the Devil or they are unaware or indifferent of his existence. On the darker side, there is a rise in Satan worship and the occult.[3]

Regardless of survey results or prevailing thought, Satan – the Devil, Lucifer, the Serpent the Dragon, the Accuser – exists. The Bible introduces him first as the conniving serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1).[4] The Book of Job identifies him as the Adversary (Job 1:6; 2:1) – “Satan” means “opponent or adversary.” Isaiah describes his pride and arrogance and his elevated position among God’s angels before his fall (Isaiah 14:12-15). The prophet Ezekiel offers a similar description (Ezekiel 28:11-19).

That the Devil is powerful is clear. However, his power is limited; he is not omnipotent (all-powerful) like God. He is not omniscient; therefore, he has to guess at what God will do. He knows the Bible better than most highly educated theologians do, but he cannot discern God’s ultimate plan; although he realizes his time is growing short.

The Devil is not omnipresent. He is a created being; therefore, he is constrained by time. God’s transcendence allows Him to exist both outside of time and at every point within time (past, present, future) simultaneously. The Devil cannot do that. The Devil must operate in the present, and he can only be in one place at a time. However, who knows how many demons he has working for him! To say, “The Devil made me do it” is probably a false accusation.

The Devil and his angels are immortal; therefore, they know a lot of “history” which is why they can reveal things about people in the past to “psychics.” However, they can only guess at the future.

All that said, the Devil is not to be trifled with. He hates God, and he hates God’s most prized creation – you and me. More than that, he hates God’s people – Christians and Jews – and he wants to do all he can to destroy them. He also thinks he can overthrow God. He thinks that by destroying God’s people, or by attempting to thwart God’s prophetic promises, that he can somehow subvert God. For such an intelligent creature, he really is stupid.

We need not fear the Devil. The Bible assures us that “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Our leading verse reminds us that we must be “sober.” The Greek word nēphō means to “abstain from wine,” but it implies that we must keep a clear mind. There are many things besides drugs and alcohol that can cloud our thinking – anything that dominates our thoughts at the exclusion of God qualifies as insobriety. We must be “vigilant.” The Greek word there is grēgoreuō, and it means to be “watchful,” to be “on guard.” We are not watchful when the things of this world – things that are insignificant in the light of eternity – constantly and consistently distract us.

The Devil “walks around” (because he is not omnipresent) looking for whom he can devour. Christians cannot be eternally destroyed by the Devil, but he can surely make a mess of our lives if we let him. Therefore, we must be “sober” and “vigilant” and resist him when we remain “stedfast in the faith.” The Devil is a formidable opponent but not unbeatable. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, emphasis mine).

Notes:


[1] “The Devil and the Demographic Details”  https://news.gallup.com/poll/7858/devil-demographic-details.aspx

[2]  “Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist” https://www.barna.com/research/most-american-christians-do-not-believe-that-satan-or-the-holy-spirit-exist/

[3]  “What the Hell? Satan worship on rise in America” https://www.rt.com/op-ed/357523-what-hell-satan-worship-america/

[4]  “Why Satan?” https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

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Being Gods

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?       (John 10:34)

When Satan met Eve in the Garden of Eden, he charged that by His prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God denied Adam and Eve of something good. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, emphasis mine).

Being gods remains mankind’s greatest desire. We all want to have complete, unfettered control of our lives with no one telling us what to do; and we want, as much as possible, to exert influence and control over others. The latter becomes more apparent daily as we witness the radical left’s efforts to alter the course of our nation. The strong desire to force upon our society their radical agenda manifests itself in unprecedented violence across our land. They want to be the gods that dictate what we all should do.

However, this is not a new phenomenon. History records the rise and fall of numerous demagogues. Bringing it closer to home, we might be tempted to deflect the guilt to them and deny that we harbor the same desire to make our own rules and impose them on others. We all like being gods to one extent or another.

In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders wanted to be gods, although they would never admit to that. They were the keepers of God’s law, and from their self-perceived superior position, they sought to impose their perception of God’s law on others. They enjoyed their position of control. They were being gods without knowing it. However, they met their match with Jesus. Him they could not control, so they sought to destroy Him.

It was the winter before His crucifixion around the time of Hanukkah (John 10:22). The Jewish religious leaders surrounded Jesus with the hope of finding something with which to accuse Him of a capital offense. “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus referred to His countless miracles, of which no doubt they were familiar, in His defense. Nevertheless, the clear evidence escaped these “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24). Their incapacity to perceive the truth centered on the question of ownership. They were not Jesus’ sheep (John 10:26-27); they were their own “gods;” therefore they could not recognize His authority or submit to His direction.

Since the clear evidence eluded them, Jesus plainly told them what they wanted to hear, “I and [the][1] Father are one” (John 10:30). That was plain enough. Jesus made it clear that not only is He equal to God (the Father), He is the same as the Father. The message came through loud and clear. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:31). They got what they were after. He deserved to be stoned “for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:33).

Jesus then quoted from Psalm 82, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34). The psalm begins with this declaration: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods” (Psalm 82:1). Considering the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, “the mighty” and “the gods” are the same.[2] To “the mighty” and “the gods” God challenges, “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2). Then He charges, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). These mighty gods are none other than the leaders of the people – ordinary men in extraordinary positions of power and authority. Yet, according to the psalm, they are ignorant of God’s laws and supplant them with laws of their own devices, so that “all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Psalm 82:5). To these demigods, God says, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” (Psalm 8:6-7). God confers the appellation of “gods” on these rulers in that they are “children” of God. As such, they are God’s representatives on the earth, “princes” to carry out God’s will on earth. However, they are not more special than other men. They will die just like every other man.

The psalm ends with a cry for God to, “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations” (Psalm 82:8). In the end, the One true God will reign over all the earth, and here He was standing before the Jewish leaders. God accused of blasphemy by the little gods.

Solomon rightly lamented, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, emphasis mine). We still try to be our own gods – set our own rules and impose our will on others. Since the Garden of Eden, we continue being gods, even if only in our minds. The sooner we learn to let God be God, the sooner we can enjoy the peace and rest that only God can give. To all who are tired of being gods, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour [at being gods] and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Notes:


[1]  The KJV inserts “my” in italics where the Greek text (Textus Receptus) used the definite article “the” before “Father.”  εγω και ο πατηρ εν εσμεν

[2]  Michael S. Heiser, in his book The Unseen Realm, suggests that the elohim (gods) in this psalm refers to the “congregation” of the bene elohim (sons of God) that make up the council of God.  These include both God’s angels and Satan’s angels as seen in Job 1. That idea is not implausible, however, based on Jesus’ reference to it, it can also apply to mankind.

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End-Times 101

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)

I am constantly amazed at how many Evangelical Christians, much less the rest of the world, have no interest in current events as related to end-times prophecy. One reason may be related to Jesus’ prediction of attitudes at the end times. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39). In context, Jesus was speaking to Jews, not Gentiles, and His prevision referred to His physical return to earth to set up His Millennial Kingdom. More on that later.

Many things took place prior to the flood which the Bible does not detail (Genesis 6:1-4). There are some who believe that some of that is taking place again, but that is a can of worms I choose not to open at this time. Jesus probably had those activities in mind, but the main point is that they carried on life as normal “until the flood came, and took them all away.” They were clueless just like the world today.

Even with all the signs God is clearly providing, the world (including many Christians) carries on with business as usual. Part of the problem is “the cares of this world” that “choke the word” of God so that “it becometh unfruitful” in the life of the individual (Mark 4:19). Perhaps another part of the problem is the glut of information out about end-times prophecy that confuses the casual student. Many opinions and contradictions may discourage the pursuit of this truth. Rather than getting excited about the Lord’s soon return, many take the attitude of “que será, será.”

However, the prospect of Jesus’ soon return (and I mean REALLY SOON), should be, for the believer, a source of excitement and anticipation. What greater hope can we have than to be in the presence of our Savior forever! Of course, for the non-believer, this information can be a source of dread, but there is a remedy. So I want to make this as simple as possible, by omitting “the weeds” where people often get lost.

First, Jesus promised He would return for His followers. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This event is known as the Rapture of the Church. Jesus’ second coming is in two phases. First, Jesus comes to receive the Church (the body of believers) to be with Him forever. He does not come to earth at this time, and the rest of the world does not see Him. Only believers will be involved, but the “disappearances” will certainly create havoc around the world.

The Apostle Paul describes the Rapture in our leading verse. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [i.e., die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, emphasis mine). To the church in Thessalonica, he wrote: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [i.e., “go before”] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, which means “to seize, carry off by force” or “to snatch out or away.” That word is further translated into Latin as rapturo from which we get our word “rapture.”

Second, after the Church (also known as “the Bride”) is taken out of the world, there is a period of seven years that is known as “the Tribulation.” The prophet Daniel predicts this time (Daniel 9:27; 12:1-3). Jesus spoke of this time also, (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-28). Almost the entire book of Revelation offers explicit details of what will take place at this time (Revelation 4-19). The Tribulation will be an awful time for the inhabitants of the earth. So terrible will be those days that Jesus said, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Those believers belonging to the Bride of Christ need not be concerned about going through the Tribulation. Our present concern should be for those who are lost and will go through the Tribulation. We who are “saved” will have to give an accounting of neglected opportunities to witness for Christ.

Third, at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus will return with His saints, His Bride, to set up His kingdom on Earth (Revelation 19:11-14). Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Messiah’s reign on earth. This is the reason the Jews missed Jesus’ first coming. They expected a king to rule over all the earth. They were not expecting a suffering Savior to come meekly and humbly only to die on a Roman cross. His earthly kingdom will last for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Eden-like conditions during Jesus’ reign (Isaiah 11).

Finally, at the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released from his prison for a very short time. He incites a rebellion against the King, which is short-lived for Satan and those who were foolish enough to follow him. Those that rebel are sent to “the lake of fire” for eternity (Revelation 20:7-15). After that, history ends, and God creates a “new heaven and a new earth” where His children will live with Him forever. Who knows what that will be like, but it has to be multiple millions of times better than what we know here on earth. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).

That is it! Time is short. There are many detailed “signs” taking place right now indicating Jesus’ soon return is very close at hand. Jesus said, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33, emphasis mine). We are seeing “these things.” Do what you need to do to get ready. If you know Jesus, tell others. If you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him; read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Spiritual Contortions

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)

Have you ever patted yourself on the back? I mean, have you literally reached around behind your neck and patted yourself on the back? I have, and I can honestly say it’s not so easy nor is it very rewarding. It feels better when someone else comes behind you with a solid pat on the back and a heartfelt, “Good job!” In comparison, self-approval always rings rather hollow.

These days the media are full of the “rich and famous” who take any opportunity “toot their own horns” from the highest levels of our government to the lowest levels of the entertainment industry. This is nothing new; it has been around from the beginning of time. Remember Cain? He thought so highly of himself that brought God an offering that he determined was good enough by his estimate. Then, when God rejected his offering, his jealousy, and anger toward his brother. Abel, who offered a proper offering, drove him to commit the first murder.[1] However, such arrogance started even before that. It was Lucifer that started it all when he said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).

Paul encourages us “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). Jesus provides the insight for this axiom: “God knoweth your hearts;” and furthermore, “that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Instead, what God esteems is an abomination to men; that is, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10). God’s pat on the back exceeds any spiritual contortion I can make to pat my own back. How I long to hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)!

However, the Preacher reminds us, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The Apostle Paul admonishes, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). The final test of our work will reveal its true value. Nothing we have done on our own will earn God’s “Atta boy!” Therefore, the Preacher concludes, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Rather than follow the world’s example of self-aggrandizement (and risk pulling a muscle by patting ourselves on the back), let us faithfully serve the Lord with humility. He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) in due time.


[1]  See Genesis 4:3-16.

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Nothing Changes!

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Nothing changes! Well, that is not exactly true. Many things change. The First Law of Thermodynamics informs us that matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that everything is changing from order to disorder. I experience that every day as I endure the aging process.

However, humanly speaking with regard to our relationship with our Creator, nothing really changes. We may be more technologically advanced than past generations, but we still fall into the same sin traps that Satan sets before us. Nothing changes!

In the Garden of Eden, God gave only one command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Satan’s strategy to bring about the Fall was simple: (1) Create doubt in God’s Word. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1). Not only does he challenge God’s Word, but also he purposefully distorts it to raise further doubt. (2) Challenge the veracity of God’s Word. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God said, “thou shalt surely die,” but Satan calls God a liar. (3) Character assassination of God’s character. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). In other words, God is keeping something good from you. God does not want the very best for you.

Nothing changes! Satan continues to use the same strategy: create doubt in God’s Word, deny the truth of God’s Word, and denigrate the character of God. Satan also employs tactics that take advantage of human frailties: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). This too never changes. In the Garden of Eden, Eve “saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life]” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine).

The Bible tells us that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). Following His baptism by John the Baptist and in preparation for His earthly ministry, Jesus went off into the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days and nights (Matthew 3:13-4:11; Luke 4:1-13). At the end of the forty days and nights without food and very little water, Jesus was physically weak and vulnerable. Satan chose this time to attack with the lust of the flesh: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3; Luke 4:3). Note that the question also challenges the Word of God: “If thou be the Son of God.” When that tactic failed, Satan tried to seduce Him with the lust of the eyes: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Matthew 4:8; Luke 4:5). Not only did Jesus see all the glitz and glamour the world offered, but this overture also exploited the pride of life. The final attempt to cause Jesus to fall involved the pride of life because it challenged Jesus’ position as the Son of God. “And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:9-10).  Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine).

Nothing changes! Satan still uses the same strategy and attacks our human weaknesses just as he has from the beginning of time. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Satan knows that. He hates God, and he hates that which God loves. Therefore, he does all that he can do to keep people from knowing the truth that God loves them and wants them to have eternal life. Nothing changes! Satan still employs the same strategy, and humans still have the same weaknesses. However, things can change when “whosoever believeth in Him.” Jesus beat Satan at his game in the wilderness. He paid the ultimate price for our sins with His shed blood on the cross. He broke the chains and the power of death when He rose from the dead on the third day.

Nothing changes unless we are willing to believe and place our faith and trust in Jesus. Then everything changes! “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). If you want to do that, here is what you need to do:

  • A. Admit/confess you are a sinner: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • B. Believe that Jesus is Lord and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
  • C. Call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Confess and believe (Romans 10:9-10 above) and ask Jesus to save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “…for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There is nothing hard about this. It is as easy as ABC; however, it is not a magic formula. The decision must be heartfelt and sincere. God knows your heart. He is not fooled by empty words, but if you mean it, God is faithful, and He will keep His promise.

Nothing changes? Well, maybe today it can change for you.

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The Gates of Hell

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

Most of Jesus’ earthly ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee, aka the Sea of Tiberius, with His ministry headquarters at Capernaum. The furthest north He traveled, as recorded in the Gospels, was Caesarea Philippi, an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Formerly, it carried the name of Paneas in association with the Greek god Pan. Herod the Great erected a white marble (pagan) temple there in honor of Caesar Augustus in 19 BC. Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[1]

Ruins of Temple of Augustus, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[2] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[3] From a grotto at the foot of Mount Hermon used to issue a spring that has since stopped due to seismic activity.

Nahal Senir Spring formerly “Panias” for the Greek god Pan. This spring, one of three headwaters of the Jordan River, used to flow directly from the cave.

“The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves. To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld—the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.”[4]

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples and asked, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13).  The disciples recited the popular rumors: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then, “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Without hesitation, “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18, emphasis mine).

Jesus then disclosed details of His coming crucifixion.  “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter in the harshest of terms. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23, emphasis mine). Then to all Jesus counted the cost of discipleship. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, emphasis mine). He closed the discussion with these words. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28, emphasis mine).

“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1, emphasis mine). The summit of Mount Hermon is 9,232 ft. (almost two miles) above sea level. From the “gates of hell” to the portal of the Watchers, Jesus ascended with His closest disciples; “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matthew 17:2-3.) The disciples were flabbergasted. They did not know how to respond or react to what they were witnessing. “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4, emphasis mine). Perhaps because the mountain was littered with all kinds of shrines to pagan gods,

Niches to pagan gods at the Gates of Hell

Peter thought it would be appropriate to build something similar for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A voice from heaven quickly put the kibosh on that idea.

A niche for a pagan god

“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).

Gates are defensive barriers designed to keep out the enemy. The gates of hell are no different. Satan is at war against the Kingdom of God, and he erects all kinds of barriers to keep the Kingdom of God from the hearts of those who are perishing. Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Upon that confession – that “rock” – Jesus declared, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  All that they had witnessed would not be clear until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Peter later recalled, “… [we] were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (2 Peter 1:16-18, emphasis mine).

On the mountain, Jesus received His marching orders, and it was time to storm the gates of hell. Luke records “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). Jesus tore down the gates with His death, but more so with His resurrection. The gates of hell cannot stop His Church, and we have our orders: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid” (Matthew 17:7, emphasis mine).

Notes:


[1]  Caesarea Philippi – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[2]  Temples of Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[3]  Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[4]  Ray Vander Laan, That the World May Know, “The Gates of Hell” – https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/gates-of-hell-article

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Jesus’ Brethren

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. (Mark 3:31)

One of the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a perpetual virgin her entire life, but that is not what the Gospels teach. Here in this passage from Mark’s Gospel, as well as in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21, we see a different story.

According to Mark, Jesus had just selected His twelve apostles (Mark 3:16-19) and “went into a house” – probably Peter’s house in Capernaum right across the way from the local synagogue. Jesus had just completed a long day of healing the sick and casting out demons, and it was time to sit back and enjoy dinner with His disciples, but “the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread” (Mark 3:20). Among the crowd were “scribes which came down from Jerusalem” (Mark 3:22) accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub.”

Jesus exposed the absurdity of their charge. “And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end” (Mark 3:23-26).

Then He made this seemingly unrelated remark. “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:28-29, emphasis mine). Note that Jesus, as God, spoke by His authority: “Verily [truly] I say unto you.” By leveling the charge that Jesus cast out devils by the power of Satan, the scribes blasphemed against God Incarnate. However, Jesus did not rain down fire on them for their blasphemy; instead, He overlooked it and only pointed out the absurdity of such a charge.

As Trinitarians, we believe in the three-in-one nature of God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It stands to reason, then, that blasphemy of one is blasphemy against all.  Then why did Jesus single out blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin? It is the role of the Holy Spirit to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He is “the Spirit of truth” which “will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). Therefore, when the Holy Spirit speaks to a person’s heart and convicts that individual of the truth of the Gospel and his need of the Savior, and that individual rejects the message, he has effectively called the Holy Spirit a liar. That blasphemy cannot be forgiven.

About that time, Mary and her sons showed up from Nazareth. “There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee” (Mark 3:31-32, emphasis mine). Apparently, Jesus’ mother and brothers were well-known by the people. Later, when He returned to Nazareth “he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-56, emphasis mine).

Jesus was “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), but He was not the only child of Mary. Jesus’ response to the notification that His family was calling for Him strikes us as somewhat aloof. “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?” (Mark 3:33). This was not the first time Jesus distanced Himself from His earthly family. Luke records the first occasion around the time of Jesus’ bar mitzvah. “And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the [Passover] feast” (Luke 2:42). In all of the festivities, the boy Jesus got separated from His parents. They were on their way back to Nazareth a day’s journey before they noticed the missing child. When they returned, they found Him three days later in the Temple discussing Torah and astonishing the doctors of the Law (Luke 2:46-47). Like any worried parents, they laid the guilt trip on Him for worrying them, but Jesus’ response expressed where His true loyalty lay. “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, emphasis mine).

On another occasion at the beginning of His earthly ministry, He was invited to a wedding in Cana. During the festivities, the wine ran out, and Mary came to ask His help. Obviously, she had faith that He would resolve the problem. Jesus’ response to her comes across as rather detached. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). Yet, as any good son, He complied with His mother’s request by turning water into wine.

However, we should not conclude that Jesus held no affection for His earthly family. Indeed, one His final acts from the cross was to see to the care of His mother. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:25-27, emphasis mine). John, the disciple “whom He loved,” was a close relative, probably a cousin, whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother.

So Jesus’ response to the announcement that His mother and brothers were calling for Him should not be taken as lack of affection for His earthly family. No, Jesus had a greater lesson to teach. “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Mark 3:33-34, emphasis mine). Not all that sat in that place qualified for the privilege. Among them were those who blasphemed against Him by charging that His power to cast out demons came from Satan. However, many in the crowd did meet the standard as Jesus explained. “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35, emphasis mine).

What is that will of God by which we join the family of God? “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s will is “that all should come to repentance.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine). “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35).

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