The Fall of Lucifer

Satan

April 29, 2014 – Satan

The word Satan is only mentioned three times in the Old Testament (Job 1:6-12; Zechariah 3:1-10; 1 Chronicles 21:1). However, conservative scholars identify the serpent in Genesis 3 as Satan or at least a beast that was possessed by Satan. Scripture says the serpent is “more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). Satan’s designations as tempter (Matthew 4:3) and the old serpent (Revelations 12:9) refer back to the Genesis passage. Orthodox Christianity has always understood that it was Satan who deceived Eve and caused the fall of humankind.

Biblical scholars have noted that the characteristics about the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 do not seem applicable to a mere human being. He sees himself as being wise as a god (vs. 6) and wiser than Daniel (vs. 3). This proud person claims to be a god and sit on the throne of a god (vs. 2). The Lord said about him (verses 12-15): “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God . . . You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you . . . So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you . . . Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”

The church has understood this passage to be speaking about the fall of the king of Tyre and the fall of Satan. Ezekiel is making an historical as well as a cosmic point about Satan as a created angelic being. At one time Satan had a privileged position with God, but fell due to his own rebellious choice. The full character of Satan’s evil nature is not fully developed in the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament the term Satan occurs thirty-six times. Most references are preceded by the definite article, “the Satan,” and refers to him as a personal devil. That means the devil is a personality who is crafty and deceptive as opposed to an impersonal force. Orthodox Christianity has always professed to believe in a personal devil.

Satan holds a position of great influence in the spiritual world. He has personal access to the presence of God, a privilege that will be taken away from him in the future (Revelations 12:9). Satan is the ruler over a powerful kingdom of evil that he executes with intelligent consistency. However, Satan is a created being and therefore does not have the attributes of God. Since he is not omnipresent, he rules over the kingdom of darkness by delegating responsibility to “his angels” (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Good Versus Evil

April 28, 2014 – Good Versus Evil

There are no religious references in the book of Esther. God is never mentioned neither is prayer, worship or sacrifice, and yet it clearly illustrates the eternal battle between good and evil. In the normal course of human events, Satan is working to destroy God’s plan of redemption and God controls and directs all the seemingly insignificant coincidences that results in deliverance for His chosen people. Events in the Persian City of Susa threatened the continuity of God’s plan in redemptive history. Had Haman successfully destroyed all of Mordecai’s people, the Jews, it would have prevented the coming of the Messiah (Esther 3:6). Devout Jews to this day celebrate the Feast of Purim to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites in Persia (Esther 9:26).

Think of all the times that the Messianic bloodline was threatened. Cain killed Abel but Eve was granted another son to carry on the family line. A scapegoat was provided minutes before Abraham sacrificed Isaac his son. A caravan happened to come along when Joseph was left to die. Moses was spared when all the male children were killed. Haman tried to annihilate the Jews. The demonized Saul tried to kill David. Herod ordered all the new born male babies to be killed, which would have included Jesus, but Joseph and Mary were warned in a dream to flee to Egypt. Wars, diseases and natural disasters have threatened God’s people, but God always ensured that there would be a remnant.

The Jews were dispersed after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Throughout the church era, they have continued to be persecuted. Had Hitler been successful, he would have annihilated the Jews. It is a miracle that they have maintained their Jewish identity and re-established their home in Israel. As a nation, they did not accept Jesus as their Messiah. But, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). As a result of their rejection, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). Israel continues to be God’s timetable for the consummation of the ages.

The New Testament and the early church clearly understood that Satan and his demons were the instigators of evil in this world. The western church is inclined to see the book of Esther as a battle only between good people and bad people. Such a deduction leaves one to think that evil is purely the product of natural people living in a fallen world operating under the permissive will of God. That ignores the reality of Satan and his diabolical rule over the world. Satan interfered with God’s plans in the Garden and the battle continues all the way to the Book of Revelation. The primary battle is still between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness, between the Spirit of truth and the father of lies, between the Christ and the anti-Christ.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

God’s Future Reign

April 25, 2014 – God’s Future Reign

Zechariah prophesied that the Lord would one day be King over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). The coming of the kingdom is a recurring theme in Scripture. Although the kingdom was present in the ministry of Jesus, He also spoke of it being future and told His disciples to pray for its coming (Matthew 6:10), and to be ready when it comes (Matthew 25:1-13). When Jesus said a number of times that it was coming soon (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1), He was referring to the age yet to come (Mark 10:30). The future kingdom was associated with the second coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead and the setting up of an eternal peace in His presence. It is described as a banquet or wedding feast (Matthew 8:11f).

If the presence of the kingdom is closely associated with Jesus then its future coming is associated with His Second Coming. The two events form a single future hope. Even though the future kingdom is imminent for us, Jesus indicated an interval between His death and its arrival. During this time the disciples were given the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19) and were instructed to preach the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 24:14). The Church age was a mystery, which means that its existence had not been previously revealed. The purpose of the Church is given in Ephesians 3:8-11: “This grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery [the Church], which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the above passage, the rulers and authorities are in the spiritual realm (i.e. the heavenlies), not the natural realm. The church triumphs over the kingdom of darkness when the children of God live righteous lives and speak the truth in love. They can do it, because Jesus is the head of the church. “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23).

We don’t know when the Lord will come again. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:10-12). We should make plans to live a long productive life on planet earth, but live righteously as though Jesus were coming tomorrow.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Presence of the Kingdom of God

April 24, 2014 – The Presence of the Kingdom of God

The Lord often used parables to teach kingdom truths. They are illustrative stories that Jesus drew from nature and human life. When asked why He spoke in parables. “He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them’” (Matt. 13:11). Recall from Paul’s teaching that the natural person cannot comprehend the word of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). In the parable of the sower, the message about the kingdom is received by some but not by others. The devil snatches the message away from some, others hear the good news but it doesn’t take root. Still others are carried away “by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” (vs. 22). The good soil is the person who hears the word and understands it. Only the latter bears fruit, which is the evidence that they have new life in Christ.

The parable of the weeds (vss. 36-40) reveals another truth about the kingdom of Heaven. Whenever and wherever God sows good seed in the field, the devil comes along and sows a bad seed. The field is the world and Jesus is the one who sows the good seeds who are the sons of the kingdom. The devil sows the bad seeds who are the sons of the evil one. The bad seed is darnel or quack grass. It is very hard to distinguish from the other grain when it is young, but when it matures it is very easy. The good seed produces fruit that can be seen, the darnel doesn’t. The good seed propagates by spreading seed; the darnel sends out roots under ground. They will co-exist until the final harvest when Jesus sends His angels to weed out His kingdom. They will throw those who do evil into the fiery furnace.

The kingdom of God is not an action taken by mankind or a realm that we set up. The kingdom is a divine administration, not a human accomplishment. The word kingdom also means the realm set up by God and the benefits that are associated with it. Mankind may enter the kingdom (Luke 16:16) or receive it as a gift (Luke 12:32). Consequently, the message of the kingdom is good news. The present world is under the rule of Satan, but the action of God in Jesus means that Satan is disarmed, his rule brought to an end, and his captives are being set free. The coming of the kingdom means the hour of judgment upon wicked people (Matthew 3:10), it is also the hour of deliverance from demonic powers (Matthew 12:28). The work of Jesus is a sign of the coming and the presence of the kingdom. He rules in the hearts of those who are the sons and daughters of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is characterized by grace (Matthew 20:1-16) and a compassion that binds up the broken hearted. Notice how the kingdom is associated with preaching, and spiritual authority over demons, and healing (Lu. 9:1,2,6,11; 10:9; Mk 1:39; 3:14,15).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Kingdom of God

April 23, 2014 – The Kingdom of God

Kingdoms have a ruler, a realm and a reign. God created Adam and Eve to rule over the birds of the sky, the beasts of the field, and the fish of the sea. Under the Sovereign rule of God, Adam and Eve’s descendants were to have dominion over the earth. But Satan deceived Eve and Adam sinned. Satan became the rebel holder of authority, the prince of this world. He would rule through his hierarchy of demons who would blind the mind of the unbelieving (2 Corinthians 4:4), and deceive and lead astray the hearts and minds of all mankind. Satan is portrayed as possessing all the kingdoms of this world (Luke 4:6). When the devil offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world in exchange for His worship, Jesus never corrected his claim nor did He succumb to the temptation.

Scripture clearly presents God as the King of kings and Lord of Lords of the universe. God sits on His throne (Ezekiel 1:26-28) where He is surrounded by the heavenly host who serve Him (1 Kings 22:19), and He watches over the whole earth (Psalm 33:13f). God is the eternal King (Psalm 145:13) who overcomes the forces of chaos and disorder symbolized by the flood and the sea (Pss. 29:10; 93:1-4). His reign is characterized by power and glory (Psalm 145:11f), but also by truth and righteousness (Ps. 96:13). God alone is the judge of this world (Psalm 96:10).

The kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are essentially synonymous. The apostles expected that the kingdom of God would be established through the nation of Israel (Acts 1:6). John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles announced to Israel that the kingdom was at hand. However, the leadership of Israel rejected Jesus as their King. As a result, the kingdom of heaven in its earthly manifested form was postponed until the Second Advent of Christ. Some Bible scholars see the Second Coming of Christ as the beginning of a millennial reign when the Kingdom of God will be fully established on earth. The final judgment will come after the millennium.

Satan may be the prince of this world, but he has been judged and now stands condemned (John 16:11). That is one reason why Paul could boldly and without hindrance preach the kingdom of God. The full manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth is yet future, but that does not mean that God is not King, and that He is not ruling. On earth, His realm consists of His children who are charged to fulfill the great commission. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Satan knows his end is coming and he will do all he can to impede the progress of the gospel.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Worldview

April 22, 2014 – Worldview

Worldview is what we have learned to believe about the world we live in. It is the conscious and subconscious suppositions that we hold about reality. Rationalism and naturalism have dominated the western world. From that philosophical perspective, reality is only that which can be perceived through the five senses. That would exclude God, angels, and demons.  A biblical worldview includes the reality of the spiritual world. That is why, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

From a biblical worldview perspective there are three enemies to our sanctification, the world, the flesh, and the devil. We not only live in a fallen world that shapes our old nature; we live in a world that is dominated by spiritual forces that are actively opposing the will of God. Satan is the prince [ruler] of this world (John 16:11), the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Satan leads the whole world astray (Revelations 12:9), and “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). If we honestly look at the world around us, we will see more evidence of the kingdom of darkness than we will of the kingdom of God. There is more immorality, injustice and bondage to sin, than there is righteousness, justice and freedom from sin. For this reason the Son of God appeared, “to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).

This opposition to the will of God is illustrated in Daniel 10. Daniel prays, fasts, and mourns for three weeks on behalf of Israel’s captivity (vs. 2). Finally an angel comes to tell Daniel that his prayers have been heard, because of his humility and desire to gain understanding. The angel said, I would have come sooner, but “the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me because I was detained there with the king of Persia” (vs. 12). Conservative scholars agree that the “prince of the Persian kingdom” is a spiritual enemy of God who is opposing God’s plan to work with Daniel.

There is a fierce battle going on in the heavenlies, (i.e. the spiritual realm), and it is affecting what is happening in the natural realm. A Christian worldview takes into account that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Return of Christ

April 21, 2014 – The Return of Christ

We don’t know the day or the hour, but we do know that the Lord is coming again. Jesus gives us the signs of the end of the age in the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24).  He warns us not to be deceived, because there will be false Christs and false prophets and there will be a coming apostasy before He returns. Peter said there would be scoffers (2 Peter 2:1f) who make fun of the Second Advent. With wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famine, and increasing lawlessness, why doesn’t the Lord come back now? Because He looks into the kingdom of darkness and sees millions who have never heard the Gospel. If He shut the door now, how many of your friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers would be shut out of His kingdom for all eternity. He is waiting for, “the gospel of the kingdom to be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3: 9). Listen to some of Paul’s final words 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

The only way to hasten the day of the Lord is to do the work of an evangelist, which we should do out of love for God and others anyway. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief” (vs. 10) when we least expect it. Jesus could come tomorrow or next year or next century. The real question is “What kind of person ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (vss. 11-12). May the good Lord bless you and encourage you as you seek to be all that God created you to be. “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever! Amen: (Jude 24).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Wonderful Counselor

April 18, 2014 – The Wonderful Counselor

Jesus quoted the first part of Isaiah 61:1-3 when He stood up in a synagogue to read from God’s word on the Sabbath (Luke 4:14-22). Jesus stopped reading in the middle of verse two after the word “favor,” emphasizing what He would accomplish in His first advent. When He comes again, He will complete verses two and three. Judgment will come for unbelievers and a garment of praise for those who trust in Him.

No passage better reveals the heart of God than these few verses. Jesus is the good news. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus is the great I AM. To His children He is our Savior, our Lord, and our life. Isaiah said He was anointed to preach the good news to the poor. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Isaiah said Jesus was sent to bind up the broken hearted. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Isaiah said Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). This is the year of the Lord’s favor and we are the benefactors.

During this church age, God had committed himself to work through His children as they minister one to another. So when we minister to the spiritual captive and the broken-hearted, we can be assured that Jesus is present and He wants to set them free and bind up their broken hearts. Christian disciplers and counselors are facilitators of a process that connects people to God. They are encouragers who acknowledge the presence of God and realize that apart from Christ, they can do nothing. They know in their hearts that the Spirit, the Sovereign Lord and the Messiah is, “The wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Discipleship counseling is the process of building the life of Christ into one another. It is a relational experience centered on the word of God in the presence of Christ and one another. A good biblical discipler would be a good biblical counselor and a good counselor would be a good discipler. They are essentially the same pastoral roles in the New Testament. The goal of both is to work with God in the sanctifying process. Therefore, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). We do this, “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Complete Freedom

April 17, 2014 – Complete Freedom

Chapter twelve of Matthew establishes Jesus as God’s chosen Servant. He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-13) who fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah (vss. 15-21), and Jonah (vss. 38-42), and demonstrated His authority over the kingdom of darkness (vss. 22-32). He considered those who did His Father’s will to be spiritually related to Him (vss. 46-50). Jesus also showed total concern for the plight of His people. If His disciples were hungry, He saw that they were fed even if it violated man-made religious traditions. If they were disabled, He healed them from their physical and spiritual bondages.

The demon-possessed man was blind and mute and the Lord “healed Him” (vs. 22). Healing the whole person and deliverance from demons have not always been seen or understood as part of the same process. It is human nature to polarize into physical or psychotherapeutic ministries that ignore the reality of the spiritual world, or some kind of one dimensional deliverance ministry that sees human problems as only spiritual. But that wasn’t the nature of Jesus. He ministered to the whole person, and did so in the context of all reality.

People’s lives are like houses. If they haven’t taken the garbage out in six months or cleaned up their spills, they will attract a lot of flies. Because flies are so distracting, we want to get rid of them. Some will be tempted to study the flight patterns of all the flies and determine their names and spiritual rank. Even if that were possible, it still wouldn’t resolve the problem. We could exercise our authority over them and demand that they leave, but they would only come back and find the house empty resulting in even greater bondage. The primary goal is not to get rid of the flies, but to get rid of the garbage. Repentance and faith in God has been and will continue to be the answer until Christ returns. Once the person has submitted to God, resisting the devil and his demons is quite easy because they have no right to be there.

Jesus didn’t dialogue with demons, He told them to be quiet. If we dialogue with demons in another person we are bypassing the victim, who needs to repent and choose the truth. Anybody who dialogues with demons and believes what they say will be deceived, because they all speak from their own nature and they are all liars (John 8:44). A captive is set free by the grace of God as they individually and personally respond to Him in repentance and faith. This is a ministry that God has extended to the church. If we are going to carry on the work of Christ, we too must deal with the whole person and take into account all reality as Jesus did.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog