Is there a vantage point from which the world is visible in forward movement along lines of God’s own purpose, a place where events which exalt God and his creation are measured and known, a place transcending destruction and stronger than death, a place which knows the heart of the victim and is not undone by violence, a place which mourns for the earth and worships heaven?
In such a place we should be found. To all its motions we should be devoted. For its sake, we consider a most serious conflict, a turning point in human history, as described in the Revelation of John:
“And war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting with the dragon; the dragon and his angels also fought….
It is one battle in the great battle of the ages. It is a battle fought literally in heaven and on earth. For us it is important to know the status of this battle, its position in the unfolding of history. We need to understand the manner in which it was conducted. In the study of this battle we may be able to form some conception of where it is that the core motion of history takes place.
Many people on earth, over the span of two millennia, have been waiting for the great day of return of the Messiah of Israel. Especially now, toward the close of this long period of expectation, it is imperative that we remain attentive to the current agenda of our Messiah in this world. We must not be dulled into ignoring that our world suffers from an ancient and tragic rebellion, and that this rebellion endures in a carefully contrived opposition to the purposes of our Messiah. Nor may we ignore the fact that this opposition is centered in the ambitions of a very powerful person of angelic origins.
A serious appraisal of our own purpose in this world must involve serious consideration of the purposes of God in this time, the present state of the battle of the ages, and the condition and intentions of the enemy.
We who love the kingdom of God must care for our role in its historic realization on earth by discerning carefully where to focus the ambitions of our hearts. We may look to our roots. In the culture of Israel and our Messiah there is a much intoned call to dedicated life and action, commensurate with the injury of the world:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command to you this day shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorways of your house and on your gates.
These are words to hold in the heart in a world of injustice. These are the words borne as a seal upon the hearts of the first people to attempt to live as a nation holy to God. And in the last great war, they were the words last spoken by thousands of Jews as they stepped without rebellion into the valley of death. Little is said about the magnificence of their witness as they entered the death chambers, intoning the shema, knowing that nothing, not even death, could separate them from the love of God and the promise of Jerusalem. The “Never again” in the mouth of the modern Zionist falls far short of the shema in the mouth of the true martyr of Israel.
Our Messiah forbids us to raise a hand in violence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. We are to be warriors, but violent force is not in our arsenal. The peace which we bring to our neighbor in our actual lives is a sword in the face of the enemy’s labor to increase madness and bring down God’s creation. There is more power in one Rachel Corrie than in all the armies of the West.
Now the world stands on its head. “Religious zeal” devotes itself to bulldozing homes and orchards, to suicide bombings in the marketplace, to shelling combattants and civilians with spent uranium, and to activities which cement the bonds of church and state. In the midst of conflict, it is difficult to avoid partisan activity in one faction or another. We, the people of God, must not forget that we, the peacemakers, are the ultimate faction. We must stand up. We must not give away the sterling truth of God’s love in order to satisfy the opinions of our peers who are engaged in a mad and doomed ring around the rosie.
What is the present purpose of God and His Messiah on this earth? Paul, an early servant of the Messiah, said that he was compelled “to preach …the unsearchable riches of the Messiah, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Yeshua the Messiah.”
This mystery is of the greatest significance. At a climactic moment in the book of Revelation, we read, “There shall be no more delay; in the days of the seventh angel’s voice… then shall the secret purpose of God be fulfilled, as he assured his servants the prophets.”
What is this mystery, this secret purpose? Paul expressed it directly : “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in the Messiah, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even the Messiah.”
The purpose of the Messiah goes far beyond the popular church images of personal salvation to the issue of the salvation of the earth and to the full realization of the original agenda of creation: a world not in rebellion but in communion with its Creator.
As for the form of this message in the hands of the prophets, the most graphic presentation comes in a most unusual vision granted independently both to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and to Daniel, his court adviser, about five hundred years before the entry into history of Yeshua on earth. This vision expresses the magnitude and the finality of the purpose of God as it is rarely broached in a world where church and state must be kept in sympathetic alliance. Having such importance, I quote the entire chapter:
In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”
Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”
The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.”
This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.
When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.
Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
Daniel Interprets the Dream
Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”
Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these:
“As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
“You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
“After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands–a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the golod to pieces. The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. Daniel 2.1-49
The statue in the vision was an image of the sequence of great earthly powers. The gold head was the Neo-Babylonian empire; the silver chest and arms were the coming Medo-Persian empire established by Cyrus in 539 B.C. [the date of the fall of Babylon]. The bronze belly and thighs would be realized in the Greek empire established by Alexander the Great c. 330 B.C. The legs of iron with feet partly iron and partly clay would become Rome in its entire evolution into the present time: “a divided kingdom….partly strong and partly brittle,…the people …a mixture….and will not remain united any more than iron mixes with clay.” It is the last great empire of earth.
We, in all our divisions, are a form of Rome. The culture of Rome is pervasive and familiar. We do not not even see it. In the alliances of Western nations, in the forms of our speech, in our democratic system of checks and balances that characterized the classical Roman senates and assemblies, in our architecture, in our belief in the efficacy of physical might and arms, in our ubiquitous worship of the goddess Libertas, we are Rome. The coming global government will be the final form of Roman civilization.
And this is the future of Rome: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”
In a subsequent vision Daniel again sees the kingdoms of world history not represented by metals but by a series of four great beasts. Out of the fourth beast comes the antimessiah. He is slain, and the dominion of Yeshua is established forever:
“I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this.
“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’
The purpose of God is not a secret. The record of Daniel’s vision says, “A rock cut out, but not by human hands…struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.”
A statement such as this clearly denotes that the agency of history as well as the end of history lies fully in God’s hands.
At the same time, when we talk about history, no matter how many divine agents are involved, “history” is to us human history. It is about us. At the heart of history is man face to face with God’s claim upon his life. It is not just heaven. It is not just earth. It is heaven and earth, and we need to know how they are related.
In Revelation we are given this prophetic narrative of the events in a battle, involving a war in heaven with Michael and his angels on one side, and the dragon, Satan, and his angels on the other:
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I [John] heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12.7-12
There is no widespread acceptance of this battle as accomplished fact. There are reasons for this. Of course only the smallest minority of people give any serious consideration at all to the possibility that Satan exists. But even among those who do take him seriously, the following factors affect their view of this event:
1.] People in the West at this time in history think of the earth as a relatively wholesome place. They are insulated from a vision of events which would render it plausible to them that Satan is engaged in a war of great stealth against mankind, based here on this earth.
2.] People feel that it is impossible to receive evidence in any form of an actual battle in heaven. Therefore judgment is withheld until major evidence is provided, either of a heavenly battle or of the sudden and radical appearance of Satan on earth.
3.] A third obstacle is that in this passage, coincident with the event of Satan being hurled down, it is announced that “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.” The religious community has difficulty with this statement. It is as uncertain as secular society as to the reality of the kingdom of God at this moment and the presence of our Messiah upon the throne of God. Men of faith rarely see themselves in service as subjects inside the kingdom of the Messiah of Israel. They see themselves as members of a church or synagogue. In sum, most believers hesitate to accept the battle in heaven as accomplished fact, for this would mean that the kindom of the Messiah is realized in this world, and they are not so sure that such a thing is true.
4.] This brings us to a fourth dilemma. In the final words of Yeshua to his disciples Yeshua said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Now, if the battle is accomplished fact, then we have it here confirmed by the words [verse 10] given above: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.” But if the battle is accomplished fact, then Satan is also [verse 12] “hurled” to earth. Most of the world and the church give little consideration to either the presence of Satan or of the kingdom of God in this world. So, to reckon both as concurrently in full activity around us, might require some adjustment of what is commonly perceived.
Now, putting the skeptics to one side, we may consider that believers of all shades must find one thing very curious about this narrative. That is that in a battle which takes place in heaven as a struggle between powerful angelic beings, the tide of battle is turned on earth by the sacrificial death of our king and by the word/martyrdom of mortal witnesses. There are two aspects of this event which do not fall readily into any common view of the world.
The first is that there seems to be a curious absence of partition between heaven and earth, such that the primary visible aspects of battle may play out in heaven [angel facing angel, Satan losing his place and being thrown down] but there are also visible aspects occurring on earth [martyrdom and sacrifice], and these earthbound aspects seem to carry the day in the battle of the angels.
The second unusual aspect is the particular influence of “the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” such that it would effect the removal of Satan from heaven. It is not intuitively obvious that the committed speech of a person or the sacrificial blood of a person on earth, even God incarnate, can have power over the life of Satan in heaven. This is what I want to address now. I wish to do so by presenting a series of accounts of lesser actions recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. Each of these will illustrate in some way the power of mercy to undo an enemy, an accuser. For “the blood of the Lamb” is the sacrifice of our king upon the cross and is the foundation of God’s mercy upon us who are the target of Satan’s accusations.
Ham came upon his father Noah naked in his tent. Noah, having celebrated in excess the fruitfulness of his vineyard, had fallen asleep without a covering. Ham, instead of covering and caring for his father’s dignity, advertised his condition to his brothers, Shem and Japheth. Going to his brothers he belittled the father before them.
The brothers, with love and loyalty, immediately went for a covering for their father, and approached his tent with all respect, backwards, their eyes turned away from him, and laid a covering over him.
The belittling exhibition of Ham was made of no account through the mercy and honor shown by Shem and Japheth.
Later, when Noah conveyed God’s blessing to his sons, Ham was marked to serve Shem and Japheth.
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses “because of his Cushite wife.” In fact they were jealous of the pre-eminence of Moses’ relationship with God and jealous of Moses’ prophetic understanding. They complained, “Hasn’t He [God] also spoken through us?”
Moses said nothing. But God faithfully stood in for Moses, challenging Miriam and Aaron: “Why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
Miriam was cast down as her accusations were rendered without merit by the affirmation and grace of God toward Moses.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship a golden statue of himself. Certain astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews “who neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The three men claimed that nothing could turn them aside from faithfulness to their God: “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the furnace .. the God we serve is able to save us from it … and even if He does not … we will not serve your gods.”
They were thrown into a furnace, but by the mercy of God they were protected from harm, joined in the flames by an angel of God. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to God who has sent His angel and rescued His servants.”
Then the accusers were struck down by Nebuchadnezzar’s own words: “All who say anything against God… shall be cut into pieces and their houses turned into piles of rubble.”
The mercy of God in rescuing the three men was the foundation for the mercy of the king upon the accused. The king, as instrument of accusation, was not undone by God’s mercy because he repented of his role as instrument of the accusers. The mercy of the king upon the accused became the destruction of the unyielding accusers.
Daniel refused to bend to a decree of King Darius that no one should pray to any god or man but Darius. Administrators and satraps accused Daniel of breaking this law [which they themselves had instigated.]
Daniel continued to pray to God openly and had no fear for the possible consequences of loyalty to his Lord. Daniel was arrested and sent to the decreed punishment — incarceration in a den of lions.
Daniel survived by the grace of God. The king, recognizing the grace of God, extended his own mercy to Daniel. Daniel’s accusers were then, by order of King Darius, thrown into the den of lions along with their wives and children.
By the mercy of the king upon the accused, the accuser is without merit and is cast down.
Esther was a child of the Babylonian exile, a young Jewish woman, an orphan raised by her elder cousin Mordecai. The king, Ahasuerus, in searching for a bride, found Esther and chose her above all other candidates. She pleased him above all other wives and he made her his queen.
Whether in the gateways of the city or in the courtyards around the palace, Mordecai looked out for her welfare, as he was also a member of the service of the king. He even discovered a plot against the king and uncovered it in time to save Ahasuerus from harm.
A man named Haman was advanced to be above all the princes of the court. By the king’s command, all in the service of the court were to bow and pay homage to Haman. Mordecai, however, would not bow. When his peers questioned him about this, he told them that he was a Jew and could not so worship another man. This information was passed along to Haman. Haman, in his wrath, decided that he should not merely turn on Mordecai, but should lay accusations at the feet of all the Jews.
Haman then deviously laid accusations before the king that within his kingdom “a certain people….having laws different from all other peoples… and not keeping the king’s laws” should be destroyed, by decree. The king, trusting Haman, gave him his signet ring and gave him leave to do as he saw fit. A decree was sent out, proscribing every Jew in the kingdom.
When Mordecai learned what had happened, he went into mourning, as did all of the Jews. When Esther learned of it, she was overcome with grief and sent a request to Mordecai for word of what was happening.
He sent word of the events, including a copy of the decree. He also asked Esther “to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people.” He urged her to remember the importance of her faithfulness to her people:
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther determined that after three days of fasting she would seek an audience with the king. She was granted her audience, and her initial request was simply that the king and Haman join her for dinner in her royal apartment. At dinner she requested their presence at a second dinner where she would make known the true nature of her heart’s request.
In the interim, Haman went out congratulating himself on his position of honor in the daily life of his king and his queen. This only encouraged his sense of injury when once again Mordecai did not bow to him in the king’s gate. Wife and friends listened to his tale of grief and suggested that a gallows be made for the express purpose of bringing justice to Mordecai. Haman did not hesitate and had it ready for use on Mordecai the next morning, hoping to lighten his heart before the royal dinner the following evening.
But that very evening something else happened. The king was in his chambers reading his diary and was reminded of the events of the day when Mordecai saved him from an assassination plot. He felt compelled to secure for Mordecai a reward for his loyal act.
Reflecting upon what he might do to honor Mordecai, the king noticed someone in the courtyard. He asked his servants who it was. It was Haman, freshly arrived to ask the king permission to hang Mordecai the following morning. Before he could speak, the king asked Haman’s council on how to reward someone who has done great service to the king.
Imagining that the king must be thinking of his own service, Haman laid out the details of a ritual of great honor.
“Good,” said the king, “Carry it out tomorrow morning for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king’s gate.”
Upon parading Mordecai through the streets in royal robes, Haman returned home in an agony of mourning. But the hour came for dinner and Haman was compelled to put on a good face and join the king and queen in Esther’s apartment.
At dinner, the king again asked Esther the nature of her petition. She now replied in full: “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.”
King Ahasuerus answered, “Who is he , and where is he , who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing?”
Esther responded, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.!” Enraged, the king had his servants cover the face of the trembling Haman. He was hung on the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai.
Mordecai was brought before the king and given his signet ring.
The decree against the Jews could not be erased, but a new decree was sent to every city permitting the Jews to defend themselves and to oppose any force or people who might assault them.
The choice of Ahasuerus to show mercy to Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews rendered the accusations of Haman without honor, and they could not stand. The true gift of mercy erases every stain and renders the purposes of the accuser without meaning. Haman was cast down.
Now we come to the event in question, the battle in which Satan, the Accuser, is cast down “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Is Satan undone in exactly the same manner as the conspiring administrators of Nebuchadnezzar or as Haman in the court of Ahasuerus? We must look at the narrative and its setting.
God created the world:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God created man in His image:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
But out of heaven came an angel in rebellion, grieving against God and against his creation:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
Satan in the garden essentially accused God of dealing with Adam and Eve in bad faith, restraining them from enjoying the good fruit of this world and from knowing a level of “god-likeness” to which Satan claimed they had a right.
Satan, in accusing God of bad faith, essentially implied that God is lawless, upon which foundation of falsehood he dared to claim that crossing God’s boundaries and eating the fruit would make Adam and Eve “like God.” In saying, “like God, knowing good and evil” the suggestion was that they would be so sophisticated in their relationship to the law that they, “like gods,” would be above the law.
Adam and Eve trangressed the bounds laid out for them by God, choosing liberty and physical substance over excellence in the love and service of their God.
Then God spoke prophetically to Satan, advising him that, by the hand of a descendant of Eve, this moment of victory in the garden would someday cost him his very existence. God then sent Adam and Eve out of the garden into a much less protected environment, sealing the garden “to guard the way to the tree of life.”
But Satan had a victory, and he intended to maintain it and see it prosper. Men had broken the law and lived. God had said that they would die [meaning both that they would sacrifice the life of His presence in their souls — die spiritually — and that they would forfeit the eternal life which He had intended that they spend with Him — die physically]. With vision clouded by rebellion they imagined that they had broken the law and “lived!” The seductive enchantment of being above the law could not be repressed!
Soon lawless “sons of God” [ apparently angels who had followed after Satan in his own rebellion against God] began to mate with the lawless women of earth:
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal ; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Satan’s success was not so small, given that in God’s early judgment against mankind only Noah and his family were found suitable for rescue.
After the flood men kept together and built the tower of Babel as an attempt to gain heaven through architecture and science. God brought their culture to an end, disabling their language, and forcing them apart.
Then, in approximately 2030 B.C., with one man, Abraham, something new appeared in the world. Abraham saw the presence of the unseen God in the world. He communicated with and worshipped the unseen God. Abraham was convinced to the depth of his being that his life was and must be in the hands of the one living and historical God. Abraham alone held in his heart, not the law of Satan, Ut fiat Libertas , but the Law of God: Fiat Voluntas tua, “Thy will be done.” This he proved by his life. Out of Abraham God undertook to create something new: a separate people, holy to Himself.
Satan was hardly undone. He had great interest and was seemingly incontestable in maintaining that, by the standards of the holy God, the bulk of mankind was “fallen” and unfit to be entertained in His presence. Satan also maintained that they were basically his, sharers fully in his own rebellion against God and His law. Perhaps this much of his argument was hard to refute and required little time at the bench.
On the other hand, something was happening with Abraham which might require his extended attention:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Although God ultimately prevented him, Abraham showed himself obedient even to the point of willingness to follow a command to sacrifice his own son. The Angel of God addressed him from heaven with these words:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
At this point Satan, I imagine, is lodging a protest: “How can You, who claim to be a Holy God, bring into intimacy with yourself the sinner Abraham? He may love you, but he is far from perfect. What about a man who peddles his beautiful wife as his sister, even into the private chambers of the Pharaoh of Egypt? Is this acceptable to the Holy God? Where is law? Where is justice?”
But something unstated was in the works:
“Behold I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.”
Abraham knew something of it, … the hidden redemption of the world, …some brooding thing implicit in the world waiting for the day when it becomes explicit, something of which Satan might have been aware, but perhaps never allowed himself to believe that it would actually come to pass. Perhaps Satan was suspicious of its possibility when he encountered the curious confidence of Abraham.
God’s covenant with Abraham guaranteed the continuation of His care and mercy to Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and his brothers. There came a promise of a line of kings out of Jacob’s son Judah, a line which would begin with David. What was Satan to do? He had to maintain the rebellion outside of Abraham, but he also had to remain on hand in heaven to remind God that His holiness could not justly entertain the children of Abraham, even should He manufacture out of whole cloth some sort of mercy or grace upon them…. even upon those with a spirit of obedience…. for, obedient or not, they were still men, heirs of his rebellion, short-sighted in their vision, stubborn children of stubborn parents, ears and hearts desensitized and often unable or unwilling to hear the voice of their God.
Satan reasoned that He, God, can not extend a blanket of blessing over these sinful men and still remain the God of heaven. If rebellion is acceptable, then he, Satan, is also acceptable, and he also is justified. Satan maintained himself in heaven as Accuser, for the source of the mercy of the Holy God was not yet explicit and no one could counter the words of Satan.
In the book of Job we find Satan returning from an apparently regular excursion to earth:
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
As Satan answered God by saying, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he presented to God two accusations: one, that Job fears God not out of love for the person of God, but only for the profit which his faithfulness earns him in his life on earth; two, that God is not deserving of honor for His true nature but only in trade for dispensations of reward.
One other time we see Satan as accuser in the heavens, in the book of Zechariah:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”
Even for the high priest, Satan believes his accusations have rational foundation. God may “choose” Jerusalem, He may “choose” Joshua, He may “remove his filthy clothes,” He may “take away his sin” … but HOW? and remain a holy God? HOW and maintain that he, Satan, is not equally deserving of favor?
Zechariah had this vision of Joshua and Satan in approximately 520 B.C. Zechariah was near the end of a long line of prophets and kings who had lived the faith of Abraham and had told their people that a Messiah was coming to Israel, one who would be priest and king and Redeemer of all who hold to the faith of Abraham.
Approximately five hundred and fifty years after Zechariah something happened. On the night of Passover, the 10th day of the month of Nisan, probably April 6, 32 A.D., Yeshua of Nazareth was in Jerusalem. Passover is the yearly feast which commemorates the redemption of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt — their auspicious protection from the angel of death afforded them by the blood of a lamb sprinkled over the doorway of their homes. A few days before Passover, in a festive procession, Yeshua had been hailed by the people of Jerusalem as the awaited Messiah.
But he held no sword. He slew no Romans. He wore no helmet. He staged no coup. Seeing his hold on the hearts of the people, the agents of power in the temple hierarchy saw their fabric of political power under threat. They had him arrested, finding him at night in a garden surrounded by disciples. He was led to a trial which was a mockery of justice. He was beaten with whips and crowned with thorns. He was taken to a hill overlooking his city and he was nailed to a wooden cross with a banner over his head in three languages: “The King of the Jews.”
Every Passover Lamb since the Exodus had only been a foreshadowing of this moment. On this day, only a few individuals really knew that Yeshua of Nazareth bore in his body the fullness of the being of God, and that this person had gone to Jerusalem knowing and telling others that he would be crucified as the true Passover Lamb of God. On a hill overlooking the temple he took upon himself the highest act of kingship, standing in for the sins of his people.
In this moment, “prepared since the foundation of the world,” the value of rebellion was forever cast in the light of its essential mediocrity. The nature of radical love and obedience to the God of history, the God of Israel, was forever raised to its true position of ultimate honor. In this moment, our king and our God, having by his own choice assumed our mortality, lived out his love for us, saying, “In their place…my own blood be shed.”
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer……
Who is it who dares seduce us and test the love of our God? Who is it who dares accuse us of being unworthy of His kingdom? It is the very same Satan, that father of rebellion, who seduced our ancestors, who accused Job, who accused Joshua, who was so senseless of the true nature of Yeshua that he tried in the desert to tempt Him to worship his fallen soul “in return for the world.”
The stricken Messiah rose from the grave and in his transformed body showed his scars to his disciples. No Haman could have been more surprised or more sickened than Satan at that moment. Now the mercy of God had not only a foundation. It had explicit majesty. And in his resurrection lay the proof that the power over life and death was fully at home in the hands of God.
……. and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
“There was a battle in heaven. Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels.” It would seem that, with the dullness of the heart of evil, Satan did not see that he had been undone by Yeshua at the cross, did not readily accept that all heaven now saw the emptiness of his accusations. Now God’s mercy rested on every child of the faith of Abraham, Fiat voluntas tua.
There is nothing left for Satan to say. God’s creation is now implicitly restored to Himself: “Now has it come, the salvation and power, the reign of our God and the authority of his Christ! — for the Accuser of our brothers is thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony: they had to die for it, but they did not cling to life.”
The actions of our king are their own witness to the faithfulness of God, undoing every accusation of Satan against our God. We are the second witness and we are important. “The word of their testimony” is not only influential in the court of public opinion among the heavenly beings. It also erases the possibility that God should extend mercy and no one should care. Certainly Satan was clever enough to include that possibility in his strategy. Our care, our witness, our love of God and his creation and his people is a sword raised against the lies of Satan. Job stood unshakably for the goodness of God, through every disaster that Satan worked on him, and Job won a battle in heaven.
Above all, of course, our importance lies in the fact that we, mankind, are the premier object of God’s love. For the sake of the goal of having us as a people for Himself, this long progress of history has been fathered in the patient love of our God. Us He will not have us by force, but He has courted our hearts, and He will have us by love alone.
Michael may have had to remove the enemy physically, but the historic core, the conquest, was made at the cross. It is impossible to know the exact moment in which Satan was removed from heaven, and it is impossible to know if Satan might still have some traffic in heaven, but it is certain that in the historic time of our king’s death upon the cross, Satan “lost his place in heaven.”
In a future time he will be isolated from mankind. In the meantime we do well to take very seriously his active presence on this earth. “Rejoice for this, O heavens and ye that dwell in them! But woe to earth and sea! The devil has descended to you in fierce anger, knowing that his time is short.”
Lawrence S. Jones
August 30, 2009
email at firstname.lastname@example.org