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#21 Resource Manager

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:38 AM

11. Demons (2)

 

Mark 1:21-27

Luke 11:24-26

Luke 4:33-36

1 Samuel 16:13,14

Mark 5:1-20

Acts 19:13-16

Matthew 8:28-34

Acts 10:38

Luke 8:26-39

James 2:19

Matthew 12:43-45

 

There are a few demon passages with special features and calling for special attention.
 

1. The man in the Capernaum synagogue (Mk. 1:21-27; Lk. 4:33-36).


First, it seems fairly clear that he was mentally deranged. Mark’s phrase is “with (Gk: in) an unclean spirit”, which is presumably an abbreviation for “in the grip of an unclean spirit, under its control.”

 

Second, what the man shouted out raises a double problem:
 

a. He used plural pronouns: “we, us”. Who did he mean?
 

b. What he cried out seems to be self-contradictory — a thing not surprising in itself, coming from a man out of his mind. But if his cry was just so much rubbish, why should the gospel writers be so careful to report it?


The contradiction in the man’s wild shout seems to have escaped the attention of the commentators. As soon as it is considered that the bewildered man had probably been listening to vigorous discussion about Jesus, and now wildly shouted out what he had heard (but not comprehended), the incident begins to make sense.


One opinion he had heard and now cried out was: ‘This Jesus of Nazareth has come to destroy us;’ that is, ‘his activities will get us Galileans into trouble with the Romans, and to keep their grip on the country they will ruthlessly destroy us.’


Another opinion, totally different from the other, was: ‘He is the Holy One of God, the promised Messiah (cp. Ps. 89:18-20).’
 

False Messiah! True Messiah!


Here were contradictory current opinions (suggested also by the switch from plural to singular pronouns) both coming confusedly from the same lips. So of course Jesus had to take some action to quell this undesirable interruption.


“Hold thy peace! Come out of him!”


The Son of God was asserting his authority over one of God’s angels of evil. What better witness could the people have to the truth about him?


“What new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him?” There was no lack of charlatans who claimed healing powers such as these, but “the constant and essential element in all these exorcisms was the power wielded by the recitation of special names,” and particularly the (invented) names of angels (H.D.B.1.812a).


No wonder, then, that people were amazed, for here was Jesus casting out angels of evil by his own authority. A new doctrine, truly!
 

2. The Gadarene demoniac (Mk. 5:1-20; Mt. 8:28-34; Lk. 8:26-39).


Here only the details relating to the present thesis will be considered. For a fuller exposition, see “Studies in the Gospels”, HAW, number 84.


“Clothed, and in his right mind” tells plainly, if indeed it were necessary, that this demoniac was a violent lunatic.


Luke implies (8:29) that his was intermittent lunacy. All three gospels say that he recognized Jesus. So it is possible to infer that during some period of sanity he had seen the Lord and must have listened to his teaching — with comprehension, too, for he worshipped Jesus (say both Mark and Luke), addressing him as “Son of God most high.” Here, surely, sanity was fighting its way through.


If indeed he were possessed by a wicked spirit, it is difficult to understand why the man should be impelled to worship, and not execrate, Jesus. But if his pathetic disability was the work of one of God’s angels of evil, there is little or no difficulty.
 

Understanding of the work of Jesus might also be implied in his words: “Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” That last phrase seems to suggest that he had grasped that there would be two phases to the work of Jesus, the second being in judgment.


“I beseech thee, torment me not” also presents a problem. Most probably he had been violently beaten, as a standard contemporary method of expelling the demon. And this may explain why he had learned, in his own crazy fashion, to torture himself, “cutting himself with stones” (Mk. 5:5).


The name Legion, now a fixation in his delusion, had most likely been dinned into him by those unable to make sense of his malady: ‘You are not possessed with just one demon, but with a whole legion of them’.


What was the point of the Lord’s concurrence with the suggestion: “Send us into the swine”? Could he not have healed the man without this bizarre accompaniment? Of course he could. So it may be safely assumed that there was purpose and value in this decidedly grotesque addition to the miracle. Already there have been indications in the narrative that the lunatic’s malady was intermittent. This was a common enough phenomenon. Then, although restored to sanity, he would very soon be anxiously asking himself: ‘How long before I am once again in the grip of this evil? Jesus has healed me — but how long will it last? Is this merely a temporary restoration such as I have known before, or is it a permanent cure?’


Here lies the wisdom in the Lord’s ready assent to the mad request: “Send us into the swine.” Whenever this man, healed of his terrible infirmity, found himself beset with doubts as to the permanence of his cure, there would always be the vivid memory of the great herd of swine stampeding uncontrollably into the sea. It was the lasting guarantee that the demon possession was gone for good. Never again would he experience the horror of a lapse into the world of maniac fury and ferocity which he had known time and again.
 

3. From this incident it is only a short step to James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well (note the irony!): the demons also believe, and tremble.” That there is allusion here to the Gadarene episode is highly probable. But what is the point of it? The argument appears to be this: You remember how an angel of evil controlling a deranged man confessed Jesus to be the Son of God, and trembled, and obeyed him? Then if an angel serves him with such humble readiness, how much more should you?


On the other hand, from the point of view of orthodoxy, James’s words make nonsense, for why should evil spirits which seek to overthrow the work of Christ believe in him and tremble before him?

 

Nor does the “accommodation” theory fare very well here: Of course neither James nor his readers believed in the actual existence of unclean spirits, but he wrote and they read as though this were truth. What a superb and utterly convincing non-argument! Were the early brethren so short on common-sense as that?
 

4. There are only two places where demons are spoken of as evil spirits. This presupposes a connection between them, and this hunch turns out to be correct.


In Matthew 12:43-45 (= Luke 11:24-26) Jesus told a grotesque parable about an unclean spirit being cast out and returning later with seven others, yet more evil, to take over the untenanted “house”, so that “the last state of that man was worse than the first.”


A clue to the meaning of the parable comes in the added words: “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”


John the Baptist’s ringing call to repentance cast out the evil disposition of Israel. The people evinced a strong inclination to cleanse their lives; but the “house” stayed not only tidy but also empty. When its rightful tenant, the Son of God, came on the scene, they would not have him.

 

So in his parable Jesus prophesied a phenomenal moral deterioration in the nation. And all careful readers of Josephus are aware how fully that expectation came to be fulfilled in the course of the next forty years.

Since the Lord’s words are a parable there is no need to insist on a literal reading here. But even so, taking “evil spirit” to mean “an angel of evil”, the picture presented makes good Biblical sense, without grasping at the straw of “accommodation” to the wildly-mistaken notions of that generation.


Indeed, there is fair similarity to the experience of king Saul. Whereas “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward...the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (1 Sam. 16:13,14). The parallel with Jesus, son of David, and the contemporary rulers of Israel is pretty close.
 

5. Acts 19:13-16 describes a strange episode which all commentators seem glad to by-pass. Two of the seven sons of a Jewish chief priest sought to cast out the “evil spirit” from a man by invoking the names of Jesus and Paul (see par. 1). Instead, they suffered badly, being glad to escape battered and bruised from the house of this violent lunatic. It is implicit also in the story that by and by the man was completely healed by Paul (v.12).


Why does Luke include such a bizarre story? His record would hang together very well without it. Evidently he wanted his readers to see a link with the parable just discussed. The resemblances are perceptible enough. Here then is an acted parable and prophecy of how the vigorous forces of Judaism in the early church, seeking alliance with the gospel for their own purposes, are to be routed by the believing Gentile, so that they will be glad to flee from “the house”, leaving a greater sanity brought by Paul’s gospel. (The details have been worked out in “Acts of the Apostles”, HAW).
 

6. In Acts 10:38 the Lord Jesus is described as “healing all that were oppressed of the devil.” If this is a generalised reference to the devil as the power of sin, then the passage is distinctly difficult, for all the people Jesus encountered, sick and healthy alike were oppressed by this devil, yet he did not heal all that were so oppressed. But read this as an allusion to God’s angel of evil bringing affliction into the lives of those who for this very reason came to Jesus, and the difficulty shrinks considerably, for out of sheer compassion the Lord went out of his way to succour such.



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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:40 AM

12. A Personal Devil

 

Ephesians 4:26,27

Deuteronomy 24:15

Mark 3:5

Psalm 3,5,6,7

Psalm 4:4,8

2 Samuel 19:22

 

Ephesians 4:26,27: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil.” Every part of this passage presents a problem of some sort.

 

It is agreed that it is possible to be violently angry without falling into sin. There were occasions when this was true of Jesus; e.g. Mk. 3:5. But those who know the danger to themselves when provoked to anger will find it difficult to believe that Paul would write such a positive recommendation as this. There is an alternative, fully consonant with the Greek phrasing; that is, to read this first sentence as a rhetorical question, with a negative answer plainly implied: “Be ye angry, and sin not?” — as who should say: It is hardly possible.

 

This reading of the words is made the more likely by the fact that Paul used a continuous imperative. Would he ever be likely to say: ‘Go on being angry, but do not sin’?

 

The phrase is a quotation from Ps. 4:4, where the Hebrew means, literally: “Tremble, and do not sin,” or possibly: “...and do ye not sin?” The word may mean trembling from rage or from fear. The background to the psalm (examined shortly) suggests the former.

 

It is clear that Paul was not quoting out of context, for this is an evening psalm: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (v.8).

 

Appropriately, then, Paul continues: “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” implying: ‘Evening is a time for prayer to God, and therefore for forgiveness — of yourself and by yourself!’

 

The apostle makes this point more effectively by an allusion to Deuteronomy: “At his day thou shalt give him (thine hired servant) his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it” (24:15). Thus Paul implies: ‘You are to have done with your wrath before you sleep.’ And thus he reinforces the warning behind: “Be ye angry, and sin not?”

 

In such a context, then, it is not difficult to see that “neither give place to the devil” might well be a reinforcement of the caution already given against giving rein to the evil of one’s own nature (than which there is no devil more insidious or powerful). But further study of the psalm suggests a more specific reference.

 

Psalm 4 (and the psalms that go with it — 3,5,6 and 7, probably), belongs to the time of Absalom’s rebellion and the king’s flight from Jerusalem (see v.1,2,6a). One outstanding adversary was Shimei who with profound satisfaction hurled curses at David. On the king’s return to the city Abishai pleaded for permission to let loose vengeance against this evil man, but was reproved: “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries (Heb: a Satan) unto me?” (2 Sam. 19:22). David feared the encouragement to indulge his own resentment against his enemies: “Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel?”

 

It would seem, then, that Paul had his eye not only on the psalm but also on its historical background when he wrote: "Neither give place to the devil.” By “the devil” he may have meant one’s own bitter feelings, or he may have been warning against any incitement by others to seek revenge: Do not allow violent counsel to change your spirit of forgiveness. Either way, the “devil” is a very personal devil (as in so many other Scriptures already examined), and not at all some invisible prince of evil.



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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:44 AM

13. The Temptation of Jesus
 
Matthew 4:1-11
Hebrews 4:15
Luke 4:1-13
James 1:14
Psalm 24:1
Mark 1:13
Daniel 4:17
 
The records (in Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13) of the temptation of Jesus are regarded by many who are wedded to the doctrine of a superhuman Devil as the most clear and decisive Scriptures supporting such a conviction.
 
Those who have reached such a conclusion have surely read the gospels in a somewhat superficial fashion — as the following list of details certainly suggests:
 
a. “The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them (Lk: in a moment of time).” It is not unreasonable to ask: How is it possible to see all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time? And where is the high mountain from which this can be attempted? Is not even Everest a tiny pimple on the earth’s surface from which there is visibility for only a few hundred miles, at most? What about the countries on the other side of the globe?
 
b. The tempter said: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” But none knew better than Jesus that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (Ps. 24:1); God “rules in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan. 4:17 etc.). These truths Jesus knew perfectly. What sort of a Devil was this, unable to mount a more effective temptation than this?
 
c. If the Devil really appeared to Jesus in person and spoke these things to him in person, what force or power would there be in such an attempt at seduction? If the reader of these words were to find himself face to face with such a tempter and such a temptation, would he not find it relatively easy to respond: “But you are the Evil One seeking to lure me into doing your foul work. Then, away with you. You will get no fellowship with me in this!” And if an ordinary human being such as the writer or reader of this paragraph could so readily react, what of Jesus the Son of God, filled with the Holy Spirit? Everyone knows that the power of temptation is in its subtlety, not in its blatant obviousness. This Devil was surely a very poor psychologist!
 
d. Jesus was “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Could words be plainer than this. Let the reader ask himself: “Have I ever been face to face with the Devil, plainly recognizable as the King of Evil? Have I ever heard him speaking to me?” It is universal human experience that temptation arises through the attraction of some alluring person or circumstance; and even then temptation is of no power at all unless it chimes in with a marked personal inclination: “Every man is tempted (really tempted) when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed” (Jas. 1:14). And Jesus was tempted in this way (as will be shown by and by) — “like as we are, yet without sin.”
 
e. It needs only a superficial reading of Matthew and Luke to detect that in one of these the “batting order” appears to be wrong. If Matthew’s sequence is ABC, then Luke’s is ACB. Contradiction? Those who know the gospels really well know also that this is the last conclusion to come to. But at least it must be conceded that a literal interpretation of both records is now more difficult than ever.
 
f. Mark’s very brief record of the Lord’s temptation has two specially significant details: “And he was there in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan” (1:13). On the face of it, here is flat contradiction with Matthew and Luke, for they make it plain that only the first temptation was in the wilderness. The other two were on a pinnacle of the temple, and in a high mountain. Another inconsistency? God forbid!
 
g. Again, Mark’s clear meaning is that Jesus was “forty days tempted of Satan.” How could this be? Forty minutes, more likely. The reading of all three records can be done comfortably in four minutes. So here, once again, is a serious obstacle in the way of literality. Nor is this all —
 
h. Luke ends his record with these words: “And when the devil had ended every temptation (Gk.), he departed from him fora season.’’ That word “every” tells the reader that in fact the Lord’s temptations were more than three in number. And the ominous phrase “for a season” plainly implies that the “devil” returned on some later occasion, or occasions, to re-assail the integrity of this Son of God. Yet in all four gospels there is no other hint of the Devil (as usually understood) working for the Lord’s downfall.
 
The foregoing fairly considerable catalogue of details goes a very long way (is utterly conclusive, some would agree) to establish that these accounts of Christ’s temptation by the devil are not to be taken with strict literality. Indeed, such a feat of mental gymnastics is impossible. Then what sort of confidence remains concerning the personal literality of the devil? When one is driven to a symbolic interpretation, as seems inevitable, how can room be found for the conventional rebel-angel?
 
But it may well be asked: What alternative understanding of the temptation narratives is possible?
 
Concerning this there is more than a small hint available in paragraph (d) above, and in chapter 3. A frank recognition of the truth about human nature makes seduction by a superhuman tempter totally unnecessary. Indeed no kind of temptation from without stands any chance of succeeding unless the unrighteous thought has some welcome in the mind. That achieved, the satan of human inclination needs no incitement from the Lucifer of mediaeval fable.
 
The important truth (so much glossed over in current church reading) needs to be recognized that Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a virgin and thus he shared human nature and its propensities to evil. Yet in no sense was he a sinner. Temptation constantly assailed him. Consider Gethsemane: “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” That antithesis between “my will” and “Thy will” shows in stark and clear fashion just how human Jesus was — and therefore “tempted in all points like as we are.” (See “Bible Studies”, HAW, ch. 12.01).
 
Thus, endowed without measure from his baptism with Holy Spirit power, at the beginning of his ministry there was an inevitable tussle in his soul as to how this divine power should be used.
 
Use it for your own gratification: “Turn stones into bread, and satisfy your hunger”.
 
“Make a tremendously sensational start to your preaching work, and all the nation will be at your feet;” so “Cast yourself down from this high pinnacle, and alight unharmed.”
 
You would like to make the world a better place to live in? Then give yourself the satisfaction of achieving this. It is yours for the asking. Then why not become a better Caesar than Rome has ever known, and enjoy the exercise of power more than Tiberius does?
 
And of course every other subtle temptation that his human nature was capable of Jesus had to grapple with and strangle in its very beginnings. But this devilry “departed from him only for a season.” Further study of the gospels reveals how, time and again, the battle was renewed. Over and over again the Son of God had to vanquish himself (see “Gospels”, HAW, p.73).


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:45 AM

14. “Delivered unto Satan”
 
2 Timothy 2:16,17,18
1 Corinthians 5:5
Titus 1:9-11
1 Timothy 5:14,15
1 Timothy 1:19,20
2 Corinthians 2:6-11
Acts 26:18
 
In 2 Timothy 2, Paul wrote a very strong passage about “profane and vain babblings” which, he warned “will increase unto more ungodliness” (v.16). Then, contrary to his usual method, he mentioned by name two men of specially evil influence: “Their word will eat as doth a canker (cancer or gangrene), of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (v.17,18).
 
Paul took very seriously this matter of false teaching. His words in another place make this very clear (Titus 1:9-11): “Holding faith and a good conscience (understanding); which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:19,20).
 
If the Satan here is indeed the unseen Evil One of orthodox theology (C.S. Lewis and J.W.s especially), there is something very extraordinary about this determined policy of Paul’s. Would not such a Satan want these reprobates to blaspheme? Would he not teach them most efficiently the art of blasphemy against Christian truth? No explanation of this difficulty has ever been forthcoming.
 
But the concept taught by other “Satan” usage in the Bible presents no difficulty at all. The circle of believers is frequently described as being “in Christ”. Outside that well-defined boundary is the world and its thinking — Satan! The two areas are mutually exclusive. The commission given to Paul by his Lord — “to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18) is another easy example of the same idea.
 
Thus, Hymenaeus and his fellows, by their perversion of gospel truth, proved themselves to be no longer fit for fellowship “in Christ”, the more so since this teaching was so damaging to fellow-believers. So, accordingly, they were put away from the communion of the brethren — “delivered unto Satan”, as a disciplinary action intended to make them appreciate the terrible seriousness of their activities hitherto. This decision would also insulate from worse harm others who had already been shaken by false teaching.
 
It is desirable here to renew attention to the same idiom in the instance of immorality already touched on in chapter 4.
 
A most reprehensible instance of incest had arisen in Corinth. This was in itself a terrible evil, such as could have sprung only from a serious failure to appreciate true Christian standards regarding sex and marriage. It was a wickedness not to be ignored. So Paul went into action. Writing from Ephesus across the water, he set down plainly what needed to be done. A full meeting of the assembly of believers was to “deliver such an one unto Satan, for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5).
 
Here, "the destruction of the flesh” clearly means “...of the fleshly mind”, by contrast with “the spirit”, the spiritual mind. Both of these usages are common in the New Testament. But would not Satan (as commonly, and mistakenly, understood) encourage “the mind of the flesh”? Is not “fleshly thinking” one of the devil’s greatest weapons?
 
On the other hand, read here (as in 1 Tim. 1) this delivering to Satan as an idiom for exclusion from fellowship, an act of discipline to make the offender see the terrible seriousness of his evil way of life, and no problem remains. In this way the sinner would be brought to his senses and “the spirit saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
 
That this “Satan” phrase is an early Christian expression for excommunication is readily seen from the parallel expressions in the same chapter “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators” (v.9) “But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among you that wicked person” (v.13).
 
It is particularly interesting to trace in 2 Cor. 2 the outcome of this rather drastic excommunication recommended by Paul: “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many (i.e. by majority vote), So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm the Agape (the Love Feast) toward him...lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:6-11).
 
Thrust out from the fellowship of the believers he might be tempted to give way to the world (Satan) altogether, instead of repentance leading him back to the fold.
 
The same usage crops up also in 1 Tim. 5:14,15, where the apostle deplored the light-headed unspiritual behaviour of certain young women in the church. He lamented that “some are already turned aside after Satan”. In this context it is easy to see that Paul meant that they were letting go their loyalty to Christ and were drifting back into the world (Satan).


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:46 AM

15. Baalzebub
 
Matthew 12:22f, 26
Mark 3:23
2 Kings 1:6
 
A man who, perhaps through brain damage, had lost both speech and sight, was impressively healed by Jesus (Mt. 12:22f). Because of the marvelling of the crowd the scribes very dexterously turned this occasion into what promised to be one of their most effective assaults on the reputation and character of this hated Nazarene.
 
Very blandly they agreed that he was working a series of remarkable wonders. But (they added in their knowing fashion) it is easy to see how he achieves such sensational results. He is in league with the powers of evil. He casts out devils by Baalzebub, the prince of the devils!
 
In answer, Jesus picked up their own argument and turned it back on themselves:
 
“Does Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. Does dog eat dog?
 
Consider the simple logic of the thing. What prosperity is there for a city in which one mob constantly fights another mob? And the same is true in a family. Do constant squabbles and mutual criticism make for peace and contentment?
 
All of this, Mark explains, “he spake to them in parables" (3:23). Neither house nor city, Satan nor Baalzebub, are anything but illustrations. Those who would cite this episode as proof of the existence of a devil-in-chief called Baalzebub are indeed grasping at a straw; for this is not the first mention of Baalzebub in the Bible. Amaziah, the king of Israel in the time of Elijah, sought healing from Baalzebub, the Philistine god with a temple in Ekron (2 Kings 1:6).
 
These Jewish adversaries of Jesus knew right well that this Beelzebub (a scornful Jewish perversion of Baalzebul, the Lord of the Dwelling) was just an invention of unscrupulous heathen priests. There was no sentiment the scribes subscribed to more enthusiastically than this: “An idol is nothing in the world.”
 
So even when they derided Jesus with their Baalzebub smear it was with tongue in cheek. What did they care so long as the jibe went home in the minds of an ignorant populace?
 
There is, then, no evidence whatever for reading Baalzebub as the Bible name for a supernatural Devil. It is true that in this context Jesus did counter with: “If Satan cast out Satan he is divided against himself” (Mt. 12:26); but, as has already been made very clear in chapter 10 this was only his scornful way of saying: ‘Does wickedness discipline wickedness?’ As a reason for adhesion to a doctrine of a personal Devil, this is flimsiness itself.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:46 AM

16. The Devil and the Body of Moses
 
Jude 9
Zechariah 3:2
 
“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee”.
 
Those who would advance this Scripture in support of a conventional Devil doctrine need first to offer clarification of a number of difficulties which their use of these words necessarily involves — difficulties which it is just not permissible to take in one’s stride with a few tacit assumptions:
 
1. Where did Jude get his information from about an altercation between a good and a bad angel? There is no word about it in all the rest of the Bible.
 
2. And if it be answered that this was imparted to the writer by direct inspiration from heaven, where is the point in mentioning the episode, for it could have little or no force at all in the minds of Jude’s readers if they knew nothing about this except from this verse 9?
 
3. As though in anticipation of this difficulty, the dogmatic assertion is made that the words quoted are to be found in an early church writing called “The Assumption of Moses”. Agreed, there was such a book, known to modern scholars only in a handful of fragmentary passages quoted by other writers, and none of these including these words. However, before this chapter is concluded it will be made evident that the idea of a Michael versus Devil quarrel has actually evolved from a crude misunderstanding of the words of Jude 9. In other words, if there has been any borrowing done, this was from Jude and not by him. The available evidence will establish this.
 
4. Is it not incumbent on those who would misuse this passage to offer some plausible explanation why the Devil should be so concerned about having custody of the body of Moses? Isn’t the Devil supposed to be enthusiastic about the destruction of the souls of good men, and not their bodies?
 
5. And is it not pertinent to enquire: Why should not Michael the archangel rebuke the Devil? Why must this responsibility be left to the Almighty?
 
6. If indeed there were a squabble between Angel and Devil about the body of Moses, ought not this strange episode be shown to have special relevance to the context in Jude and to the argument which the apostle is putting together there? Ought not this mysterious passage to be much better understood by those who lean on it, before they can be allowed any degree of dogmatism concerning it?
 
But of course it is only fair to require also the same degree of understanding regarding these words, from those who reject totally any reference to a superhuman Devil.
 
This better insight can now be briefly advanced here. For yet more detail, the reader is recommended to consult “Seven Short Epistles”, pp. 266ff.
 
The key to this “mystery” lies in the words: “The Lord rebuke thee.” This is a direct quotation from Zechariah 3:2. At that place there is described a court case involving a collision between the Angel of the Lord and Satan, with the Lord Himself presiding as Judge. The correspondences with Jude 9 are plain and clear:
 
1. The angel
2. Satan
3. Contention
4. “The Lord rebuke thee”.
 
This parallel is not to be explained by invoking coincidence. But there is one highly important difference: Whereas Jude says “The body of Moses”, Zechariah has “Joshua the high priest”. The bridging of this apparently unbridgeable gap is actually a relatively simple matter — thus:
 
The Greek word for “body” (soma) is a double-meaning word of the kind which crops up in all languages. English and Hebrew both offer copious examples: consider “pen”, “ruler”, “bat”, “ball”, “dash” and so on; there are literally hundreds of them.
 
It needs to be recognized, then, that soma means not only “body” but also “slave or servant”, as in Revelation 18:13; Romans 6:6. What more appropriate than to refer to the high priest as the “servant” of Moses. The phrase applied to him better than to any other man in Israel. Thus a fifth point of contact is established between Jude 9 and Zechariah 3:2.
 
It is now possible to go further and demonstrate that the background to Zechariah 3:2 presents a marvellous resemblance to the difficult situation Jude was faced with centuries later. This aspect of the parallel between the two is worked out in detail in “Seven Short Epistles”, p. 266f.
 
One last point, to silence any carping criticism. Why should Jude say “Michael the archangel”, whereas Zechariah 3 was “the angel of the Lord”?
 
Answer Jude’s added detail is an easy inference from the fact that Zechariah 3 is concerned with the well-being of the people of Israel, and it is a fact readily established from the Old Testament (e.g. Dan. 12:1) that the angel specially responsible, under God, for the Chosen People was Michael, the archangel.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:47 AM

17. “Him that had the power of death”
 
Hebrews 2:14
Exodus 12:4,23
 
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
 
It is easy to argue from these words that the devil spoken of here is not the conventional Evil Spirit commonly believed in, for, if the sacrifice of Christ destroyed that Devil, how is it to be explained that, by any standards of judgement, the world today, now two thousand years older, is much more full of evil than it was in A.D.30?
 
The words that follow underline the conclusion: If that devil has been destroyed, why is it that great multitudes who “through fear of death are (still) subject to bondage” do not know the deliverance which verse 15 plainly declares?
 
So much for the ideas of centuries old orthodoxy!
 
Then, who or what is the devil spoken of here, and what was the great work which this verse 14 says was accomplished in the death of Christ?
 
It is not sufficient to say, rather glibly, that in his sacrifice Jesus destroyed sin-in-the-flesh. This was doubtless true for Jesus himself; but this passage goes on to glory in the deliverance of those who were (i.e. formerly) subject to bondage — with the plain implication that now that bondage is ended. But is it, as long as this mortality continues?
 
There is another way of seeing this verse which throws a flood of light on its phraseology.
 
Briefly, the suggestion is that this passage is a sustained allusion to the Passover which brought deliverance to Israel in the time of Moses. The figure of “Christ our Passover” is being worked out in one detail after another:
 
a. The Lord’s same “flesh and blood” is emphasized here to give prominence to the Passover meal — “flesh” — and the sprinkling of sacrificial blood on the sideposts and lintel of the door. The key phrase “through death” emphasizes the sacrifice of Christ as the true Passover Lamb.
 
b. Why are redeemed people called “children” here, except it be to recall “the children of Israel”?
 
c. The word “likewise” is not necessary here at all after the strong emphasis provided by “he also himself...'' But the Greek word strongly suggests the idea of “a next door neighbour” (Ex. 12:4) clearly with reference to the Passover commandment.
 
d. Verse 15 now shouts for a Passover reference, in everyone of its details: “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” It is a picture of Israelite slaves saved from captivity and harsh treatment.
 
If the foregoing sequence makes a case, the inevitable question follows: Then who or what was the devil who had the power of death?
 
To this the easy Biblical answer is: the destroying angel who slew the firstborn in Egypt. Exodus 12:23 says: “The Lord (the protecting angel) will pass over (not, pass by, but hover over) the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.”
 
And now another detail in the text harmonizes delightfully with this conclusion: the word translated “destroy” means, literally: “make useless, bring to nought.” By all means consider 2 Tim. 1:10; Gal. 3:17; 5:4; 2 Cor. 3:11-14 (“done away... abolished...done away in Christ”).
 
Thus, properly understood, this Hebrews passage is to be seen as presenting a vivid fulfilment in the deliverance Christ brings after the pattern of God’s saving of Israel from Egypt. And the devil Christ has brought to nought is the destroying angel, the angel of death, one of God’s angels of evil, whose authority over saints in Christ is now ended.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:48 AM

18. “Deliver us from the Evil One”
 
Matthew 6:13
1 John 2:13
Matthew 5:39
1 Corinthians 5:13
John 17:15
Galatians 1:3-5
 
This familiar petition of the Lord’s Prayer is translated in the above way in several modern versions. Two questions arise: (a) Is this reading correct? (b) If it is, does it necessarily imply reference to a superhuman Devil?
 
So far as the Greek goes, “evil” or “evil one” is equally correct. But New Testament usage, especially in the gospels, leans towards the first. Here are one or two examples:
 
1. In the preceding chapter, “But I say unto you...that ye resist not evil” (5:39). Clearly, here, Jesus forbad resistance to the evil man. It is inconceivable that he would urge no resistance to the great Spirit of Evil (if there be such). This consideration makes the modern translation highly unlikely.
 
2. Jesus prayed for his disciples: “Keep them from the evil” (Jn. 17:15). Reference to John 16:2-3 shews that Jesus had evil men in mind.
 
3. “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 Jn. 2:13). This is a slanted translation, for the Greek is identical with the phrases just quoted: “...because ye have overcome evil (the world’s wicked- ness).” If indeed there is reference here to the Devil, how could John write this about those beginning, and not ending, their lives of Christian dedication?
 
4. “...Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor. 5:13). Again the Greek is the same: “the evil man” (see the whole chapter).
 
5. Galatians 1:3-5 is the most decisive and explanatory of all, for these verses contain no less than five clear allusions to the Lord’s Prayer; but here Paul’s equivalent to “deliver us from evil” is “deliver us from this present evil world”. It is hardly conceivable that this inspired apostle had badly misconstrued his Lord’s Prayer.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:48 AM

19. “The Snare of the Devil”
 
1 Timothy 3:6,7
2 Timothy 2:25,26

In three places in his letters to Timothy, Paul uses “the devil” consistently for the world and its thinking, by contrast with the mind of Christ.
 
1. A bishop, or elder, must not be “a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil,” that is, provoke the censure of those who though themselves outside the church are quick to notice and condemn any hypocritical inconsistency in the life of a believer, and particularly of one who is prominent in the church.
 
2. The point is made again in the next verse, with a slightly different emphasis: “Moreover, he (the elder) must have a good report of them which are without (i.e. worldly people who know him), lest he fall into (their) reproach and the snare of the devil (the trap which a worldly environment constantly presents).”
 
3. In 2 Tim. 2:25,26 a similar warning is addressed to all believers: “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves (the devil, once again, happy to criticize those in the Faith), if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they (these critics) may (thus) recover themselves (NIV: come to their senses) from the snare of the devil (obsession with a worldly life) being (thus) taken captive by him (by Christ) unto his will.”


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:49 AM

20. “The devil and his angels”
 
Matthew 25:31-46
Luke 17:20ff
Revelation 12:7
Luke 10:14
Revelation 20:10
Matthew 7:22ff
 
In the vivid picture of the Last Judgment, as described by our Lord in Matthew 25:31-46, there are two verses which merit special attention in connection with this subject:
 
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal” (v.46). Naturally, the enthusiasts for the idea of an everlasting torment of fire for the unworthy read their favourite dogma into these words with a certain satisfaction. Yet the words mean no more than this — that the penalty described will be everlasting in its effects, an eternity of oblivion, not of torment. (Cp. Jude v.7).
 
But what of v.41?
 
“Then shall he say to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
 
Again, allowance must be made for the figurative character of the language here. The entire passage is shot through with it; e.g. “I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink...etc;” nor is it possible to conceive of two vast congregations of people arranged strictly on the Lord’s right hand and left hand.
 
Then, it may well be asked, what meaning is to be derived from this verse 41 if it does not mean precisely what it says?
 
Here two possible answers present themselves.
 
In the first instance, it can be well argued that since these words about “the devil and his angels” are addressed to those whom the Lord rejects, this must be because these — the unworthy — are the devil and his angels.
 
So far, so good. But does this explanation go far enough? Should there not be forthcoming some reason why such strange and indeed unexpected language is employed?
 
Yes, to be sure! So the next step is to observe the remarkable correspondence between these details and certain verses in the Apocalypse:
 
There is the vivid picture, already considered, of a “war in heaven” between “Michael and his angels and the dragon (the devil) and his angels” (12:7); and, subsequently (20:10): “The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone...and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
 
Here it is necessary to agree that these similarities between Mt. 25:41 and Rev. 12:7; 20:10 are not accidental. There must be a link of meaning as well as of phrasing. And since the greater detail is unquestionably in the Revelation verses this must be held to be the original. But how, for obvious reasons, can this be regarded as possible?
 
An important consideration comes in here. There is much in the teaching of Jesus that is every bit as apocalyptic as any passage in Revelation. If in the days of his flesh, in his Olivet prophecy and in such other passages as Lk. 17:20ff; 10:14; Mt. 7:22ff, he could portray beforehand such ‘purple’ pictures of judgments long centuries ahead, it is utterly reasonable to believe that through his constant fellowship with his Father (see ‘Gospels”, p.143) he would have familiarity with the highly- coloured symbolism of Revelation, and would be able now and then to lift the corner of the curtain to hint at some of the cataclysmic transactions yet in store. Here, surely, is the obvious reason why Matthew 25:41 seems to anticipate some of the powerful symbolism of the Apocalypse.
 
This conclusion granted as seemly and reasonable, is it necessary to underline a reminder that in reading Revelation 12 and 20 literalism is not just unlikely but utterly impossible. In these two chapters how many verses can be taken with strict literality?


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:49 AM

21. “Doctrines of devils”
 
1 Timothy 4:1
 
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.”
 
Other phrases here, besides the last, call for careful examination.
 
“The Spirit speaketh expressly” must mean either the Holy Spirit speaking through inspired Scriptures already written, or else communicated by an inspired prophet in the early church. The present tense: “speaketh”, points fairly decisively to the second alternative.
 
By contrast with this, “seducing spirits” can only mean false teachers claiming to speak with the authority of the Holy Spirit (as happens among Pentecostals today), whilst leading innocent souls astray through their self-confident lying claims. Is there any other explanation of the words which can compare with this for simplicity and lucidity?
 
“Doctrines of devils” is now readily seen as a parallel expression to the foregoing: “(false) doctrines taught by devils, that is, by enemies of the Faith.” See chapter 2 for similar instances.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:50 AM

22. “Unclean spirits” in the Apocalypse
 
Revelation 16:13-16
Revelation 13
Revelation 18:2
Joel 3:13,14
Revelation 12
Revelation 19,18
 
Two very sinister passages in Revelation (16:13,14; 18:2) employ this phraseology about end-time judgments against “Babylon”.
 
“Three unclean spirits like frogs...out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet...the spirits of devils (demons) working miracles...to gather them (the kings of the Land and of the whole earth) to the battle of that great day of God Almighty... And they (not, he) gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (16:13-16).
 
Those interpreters who would seize on the words “spirits... devils” here, and dogmatically interpret them as meaning minions of the Devil proclaim their own disqualification; for in a book which declares its own symbolic character and in a chapter which is so obviously packed with symbols and figures of speech, there is almost no room at all for dogmatism as to the interpretation. The man who declares that he knows what the details of this chapter mean also declares his own incompetence in Bible scholarship. And to lift a couple of phrases out of such a context as this in order to give them a strictly literal meaning is a practice which no sane interpreter will take seriously.
 
Having said this much, for present purposes it would be possible to leave the matter there. However, for the reader’s interest a few tentative suggestions may be appended here, but without the fairly copious supporting evidence which might be submitted:
 
a. Here are three evil movements in the Last Days originating from the enemies of Israel. The dragon, beast and false prophet come together (against Israel) in Revelation 12 and the two halves of 13. Note the reference to ‘the Hebrew tongue’ in 16:16, where the meaning is “a heap of sheaves in the valley of judgment”: see Joel 3:13,14).
 
b. In scores of passages, Old Testament and New Testament, the word “place” means a holy place, a temple, or altar. So perhaps 16:16 should steer attention to Jerusalem, the holy city of three false religions. Also “Babylon” (in ch.19, and ch.18 throughout) is the apocalyptic codeword not for the papacy but for a faithless Jerusalem (for copious evidence on this, see “Revelation”, HAW, ch.34).
 
c. Hence “Babylon the great...the habitation of demons etc.” describes the triumphant but short-lived conquest of Jerusalem in the Last Days, but most probably Jerusalem when it has come once again under the heel of the Muslims. This third “overturning” (see “Five Minutes to Twelve”, ch.8,9) already looms on the horizon. It will mean the fulfilment of an impressive array of Bible prophecies, most probably for 3½ years, during which time all this strong apocalyptic symbolism will find fulfilment on a frightening and bewildering scale.
 
The reader is reminded that these suggestions, although expressed here fairly positively, are tentative.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:50 AM

23. The “devil” who sowed tares
 
Matthew 13:19,39
Mark 4:15
 
In the parable of the tares, the enemy who sowed them among the wheat is called “the devil” (13:39). Similarly, in the parable of the sower, the birds of the air snatching away some of the seed are said to be “the wicked one” (13:19); and the parallel verse in Mark 4:15 has this: “Then Satan cometh immediately and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.”
 
Here are three equivalents: the devil, the wicked one, and Satan. But what Satan?
 
The parable of the tares is specially clear as a prophecy by Jesus of how the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom would be corrupted by the deliberate propagation of false teaching by intensely hostile Judaists who thought they were doing God service. This theme is worked out in detail in “Acts of the Apostles”, HAW, App.3.
 
Those who would believe the Satan here to be the superhuman rebel against the Almighty have an awkward question to answer Why did this Satan take so many centuries to get to work among God’s chosen people long before the preaching of the gospel by Jesus and his apostles? And if indeed there was such diabolic activity in more ancient days, why the conspiracy of silence about this in the Old Testament?


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:51 AM

24. “Satan at his right hand”
 
Psalm 109:6
 
The normal idea of “Satan” meaning a human adversary (already copiously illustrated in chapter 4) is entirely sufficient to make sense of this verse.
 
The parallelism, such a common place feature of the psalms, points immediately to this meaning:
 
“Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.”
 
Also, careful attention to the shape of the psalm soon reveals that verse 5 requires to be ended with: “saying:” introducing v.6-19 as the imprecations of David’s enemies, spoken malevolently against him. The marked change of pronouns from “they” (v.5) to “him” (v.6), and then back again from “him” (v.19) to “them” (v.20), is a plain intimation that the psalm is to be read in this fashion. For other examples of the need to supply “saying” in various other psalms, see “Psalms” (Geo. Booker) on this; and Ps. 2:6; 9:12; 22:7; 30:8; 39:3; 41:5; 52:6; 116:4; 132:2,11.
 
This approach also settles once and for all the problem of why a psalm of David should include such a venomous catalogue of blistering curses.


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 10:53 AM

25. “The Man of Sin”
 
2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
 
In “Five Minutes to Twelve” (ch.12), the details of this remarkable prophecy are reviewed. There it is suggested that Paul was warning against a sinister Judaist movement which was cleverly infiltrating into the early ecclesias. The Man of Sin himself was the astute leader and organizer of this deleterious campaign.
 
There is also the likelihood of manifestation of a similar movement in the Last Days.
 
Then, what did Paul mean by his description of this Man of Sin as being “after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders”? The language implies that he was an echo or imitation of some evil power already known to Paul’s readers. He sits in the temple of God (v.4), that is, in the ecclesia.
 
Several other expressions in this prophecy provide hints as to the direction of the apostle’s thought: “With all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that are perishing...they received not the love of the truth...God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie” (v.10,11).
 
These phrases, and the more specific words about “the working of Satan” steer the minds of readers to the tragedy of the Garden of Eden and the fell work of the serpent. The Adversary against whom Paul was warning his converts was similar in all essential respects to the serpent of Genesis 3 — the same lie, the same deceit, the same encouragement to aspiring after a higher status before God; and the same judgment.
 
It is perhaps useful to note that 2 Corinthians 11:3 uses similar language about the same satan and the same vexatious problem troubling Paul.
_______
 
Quotations Index (included in attached .pdf)

 

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