Sunday, April 23, 2017

Psalm 145:18-19

Dead to Sin

In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul spoke of the lost as being “dead in sin”.  We understand that one is dead in sin when they willfully choose to embrace the lusts of the flesh.  Through their disobedience they are doomed to a bleak fate with the way of sin only leading to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Even though we deserve punishment for our former life, God is loving and merciful.  It is by His grace He allowed us a means of escape from condemnation.  Through the sacrifice of Christ, God forgives our sin, thereby making us “alive” so that we may stand before Him redeemed!

Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

In a turn of that phrase – “dead in sin” – Paul also spoke of the concept of one being “dead to sin”…  This particular phrase refers to one who has accepted Christ as their Savior!

Dead in Sin versus Dead to Sin

Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

One word makes a big difference!  Being “dead in sin” is very different from being “dead to sin”.  As we have seen, being “dead in sin” is a hopeless situation in which the unrepentant are condemned in their sins, eternally separated from God.  Meanwhile, being “dead to sin” offers us redemption, a path to eternal life through God’s grace.

So how do we go from being “dead in sin” to being “dead to sin”?

In Romans 6 Paul related the act of baptism - the avenue by which God provides the remission of sins - to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

Romans 6:3-7  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. 

As we will see through this lesson, God desires us to be “dead to sin” so that we will have freedom from sin and be once more “alive” in His eyes.  We will find that being dead to sin requires some effort on our part, but that, ultimately, it is being dead to sin that offers us hope for the future.

Freedom from Sin

When one is dead to sin, they are no longer controlled by sin.

Romans 6:6  Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

To the unbelieving of the world, sin might be frowned upon at best, and it is very unpopular to condemn sin outright. In our society especially morals seem to be subjective.  We know all too well that some sins are celebrated as a sort of freedom.

But to one who has committed their life to Christ, sin is recognized for what it truly is:  Tyranny. When were in sin, we were enslaved by our own desires.

Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Through God’s grace manifested by Christ’s sacrifice, we are granted freedom from our sin.

A New Creation with a New Purpose

Upon rising up from the waters of baptism, a Christian has been cleansed of their former sin.  We stand before God renewed…  A new creation with a new purpose!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…

Some on the verge of accepting Christ find themselves discouraged at the prospect of giving up sin.  This is a spiritually shortsighted attitude!  It’s important to realize that God offers us something so much better than the temporary pleasures of sin.  Not only are we putting away our former desires but we are allowing God to replace them.  Through Christ’s redeeming power we are made new once more!

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The phrase “living sacrifices” would seem at first glance to be a paradox; After all, sacrifices do not live, they die.

But this is a great analogy for the kind of life a Christian should strive toward.  Our devotion to Christ should be so deep that we readily put away our own desires.  A dramatic metamorphosis should occur.  In becoming Christians we should no longer desire to please ourselves, but God!

Colossians 3:1-4  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set you mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him glory.

Our mindset should change completely and we should live a life that emulates the life of Christ.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Avoiding Sin

Aspiring to be Christ-like requires great commitment on our part.  As we have read, we ought to set our mind on the pursuit of righteousness, doing the will of God.  Accordingly, we should actively be avoiding sin!

Understand that a new Christian will still face temptation, it’s not like being cleansed from your former sin makes one immune to future temptation.  Being imperfect, we will still be tempted.  We will stumble in our Christian walk.  We will – unfortunately – sin.

(We shouldn’t be discouraged by this as God lets us know that we will not be tempted beyond what we are able to withstand - 1 Corinthians 10:13)

But as a new creation set upon a new purpose, we will grow in strength as we develop as Christians.  We will dwell upon godly principles (Psalm 1:1-3, Philippians 4:8) and thereby completely change the way we think about the world, the way we approach certain situations.  Our attitude will attune to God’s will.  We will find certain temptations easier and easier to overcome until they are no longer enticing to us at all.  With time we will develop a distaste and intolerance for sinful behavior (2 Timothy 2:22).

However, we cannot allow this newfound confidence to become self-righteousness.  And we certainly cannot allow ourselves to take God’s forgiveness for granted, especially not to the point that we misuse it as a license to sin!

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

In this passage Paul was rebuking Christians who sought to use God’s grace as an excuse to return to a life of sin.  What an awful attitude to have, treating the sacrifice of Christ so irreverently as to casually return to sin, perhaps thinking, “Well, God will just forgive me anyway…”

Peter described just how disgusting it would be to willingly return to the depravity of sin.

2 Peter 2:20-22  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Returning to a life of sin after being forgiven would be like Christ abandoning the glory of His resurrection only to return to the despair of the grave.

Romans 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 

We must not return to our former life of sin, for in doing so we foolishly forfeit our salvation, rejecting the gift of God (Romans 6:23).

Created for Good Works

Therefore, our new purpose should be set upon pleasing the Lord and doing His will through good works.

Of course, in doing these good works, we must always remember that our salvation is attained by works.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Indeed we are saved by God’s grace.  However, God expects an obedient faith (James 1:22).

1 Corinthians 6:20  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Therefore we work as “instruments of righteousness” not to be saved, but because we are saved!

Romans 6:12-14  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Alive to God

As we read in Romans 6:11, to be dead to sin is to be “alive to God”.

Let’s attempt to tie together all of the figurative language:

When one decides to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, they repent of their former life of sin…  They put to death the self-serving life of sin that they once led.  They become dead to sin.  But that’s not the end of the story.  As one reborn through baptism, they are a new creation likened to the resurrected Christ.

Romans 6:8 -9  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.

Just as Christ won’t die anymore now that He has been resurrected, neither will we.  Being alive to God is a blessing while we live in the flesh and onward into eternity.

John 10:10  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

As Jesus points out, through Him our earthly life will be enriched greatly.

No longer burdened by sin and diligently resisting temptation, a faithful Christian lives a fulfilling life with a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21), enjoys the spiritual blessings God offers (Ephesians 1:3), and now has a hopeful future to look forward to as he is guaranteed an eternal home with Jesus!

John 6:40  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Evidences of the Resurrection

With so many celebrating the Easter holiday this week, millions around the world - believers and non-believers - are reminded of Jesus' death, burial, and - most importantly - His resurrection.

The Significance of the Resurrection

Jesus’ resurrection is the single most important event in the Bible.  Our Lord’s victory over death is the very foundation of our faith.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19 …If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

As Paul pointed out, if Christ had not been resurrected, our faith would be useless.  We would still be in our sins.  Life would be as meaningless - and, therefore, hopeless - as unbelievers contend.  There would be no point to us being Christians.

However, as Paul goes on to state, Christ was resurrected.  He is risen.  We serve a living Savior who overcame death.

God Wants Us to be Informed

I think it’s a great misconception that faith ought to be blind.  Time and again, the Bible tells us that God wants us to be informed and search out evidences for ourselves.

Proverbs 3:13  (NIV) Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.

Aside from that, Christians need evidence in order to convince others and lead them to the Truth.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…

Keeping that in mind, let us examine 5 evidences that make the case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Evidence #1 – Secular History

Many skeptics will point out that Bible evidence for the very existence of Jesus – including His death and subsequent resurrection – is questionable because of its inherent bias.  Of course the Bible, a book claiming to be the Word of God, would confirm itself as true a skeptic might say in questioning the validity of the Gospels.

Indeed, due to wars, pillaging, and simple deterioration of various writings and artifacts, there is a severe lack of information about the life of Jesus to be found. In fact, few writings from the time of Christ exist at all, even information about important secular leaders of the time such as Julius Caesar, and yet no historian would question the existence of Caesar!

However, Historian Darrell Bock notes that since He wasn’t a great political or military leader that “It is amazing and significant that Jesus shows up at all in the sources we have.”

The sources available today include the writings of Jewish and Roman historians, Roman officials, and pagan sources, none of which would have any reason to want to further the influence of Christianity.

It is through these early non-Christian sources that the following facts about Jesus’ life are confirmed:

Jesus was from Nazareth
Jesus lived a wise and virtuous life.
Jesus’ enemies acknowledged that He performed unusual feats.
Jesus was crucified in Judea under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at the time of Passover, being considered the Jewish King.
Jesus was believed by His disciples to have died and risen from the dead three days later.
It’s truly as Paul said to King Agrippa, the things Jesus did were “not done in a corner!” (Acts 26:26)

Evidence #2 – The Empty Tomb

Establishing the reliability of the Bible through the verification of outside, secular sources, let’s examine some of the physical evidence detailed in the Scriptures.

John 20:1-7  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

Reading this section of verses, it would be easy for skeptics to argue that since believers of Jesus found the tomb empty that their testimony is biased and therefore unreliable.  However, it is important to note that even the enemies of Christ – the Pharisees and others – never denied that the tomb was found empty.

It is also significant that the first people to discover the empty tomb were women.  Taking into consideration historical norms of the Greco-Roman culture of the day this detail is especially noteworthy.  As sexist as it may sound today, in this ancient society the testimony of women was not considered reliable.

Therefore, if the Gospel writers were merely making things up surely they would not have reported that it was women who found the empty tomb.  Wouldn’t they have written that it was men instead that made this discovery so as to make their story more believable in that day and age?  However, we read in the Gospels what actually happened as reported by those who were actually there, regardless of the cultural taboos of the day.

Many have sought to explain away the evidence of the empty tomb with various theories such as the body of Jesus was stolen or that Jesus wasn’t actually dead to begin with.  These theories are all easily debunked however.

Take for example the “Stolen Body” theory:  Jesus’ enemies – namely the Pharisees of the Sanhedrin – actually feared that something of this sort would happen, that one of Jesus’ disciples would try to steal His body in order to make the claim that He had been resurrected.

The disciples, however, seem to have little to no motivation for doing this.  In fact, it would seem that the Pharisees had more faith in Jesus’ declaration that He would live again than some of His closest followers.  We read that many of the disciples weren’t even present at the tomb that Jesus was revealed to be resurrected (Luke 24:13).  This is further indicated a lack of faith by expressing disappointment that Jesus had not delivered on His promise (Luke 24:21).

The Pharisees however, were taking no chances, so they took precautions and asked that the tomb be sealed and that Roman guards be stationed at the entrance of the tomb to prevent the stealing of Jesus’ body.  Based on Roman military protocol of the day, historians estimate the number of soldiers guarding the tomb being anywhere from at least 4 to a dozen to possibly even more.  On top of that, keep in mind that Jesus was put to death and buried during the Passover feast, at time at which there were thousands of Jews camping in the surrounding area.

Taking all of this into consideration, the notion that a group of disciples boldly snuck up on these soldiers, rolled away the 1-2 ton stone at the mouth of the tomb and stole Jesus’ body all without being seen or heard by someone is highly unlikely.

Evidence #3 – Post-Resurrection Appearances

It would be all-too-easy to refute the story of Jesus’ resurrection if no one ever saw Him again.  However, we have documentation that people not only saw the resurrected Jesus, but also touched, walked with, ate with, and talked with Him!

Jesus appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions following His resurrection.  Recall that Jesus was among them for 40 days after His resurrection.

Acts 1:1-3 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

The Apostle Thomas famously doubted that Jesus was actually alive again until encouraged by Jesus to touch Him.

John 20:24-28 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Some of Jesus’ own disciples supposed that Jesus’ resurrection – if it took place at all – was going to be a sort of ghostly manifestation in keeping with the Jewish belief that the spirit lingered after the body died.  Taking this evidence into account, however we know that Jesus’ resurrection was not merely a spiritual resurrection, but a physical one.

In fact, hundreds of witnesses saw Jesus at one time following His resurrection!

1 Corinthians 15:6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

Modern psychologists have confirmed that this could not be could be a case of “mass hallucination”, that all these witnesses merely imagined Jesus among them. His appearing to so many witnesses in the flesh confirmed that He was indeed alive once more!

In a court of law we find ourselves convinced by eye-witness accounts, people who were actually there.  Why then would we question the testimony of those who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus?

Evidence #4 – The Radical Transformation of the Disciples and Others

Consider for a moment the life and character of Peter and the other disciples as recorded in the earlier parts of the Gospels.

We read over and over that these eleven men were often proved to be fairly ignorant of the scriptures and slow learners (Even to the point that Jesus Himself actually got frustrated with them on more than one occasion!).  They would jump to brash conclusions and were downright self-righteous at times.  Additionally, they exhibited inconsistent faith time and time again and were even shown to be cowardly, fleeing for their lives as Jesus was being taken away.

How is it then that these same men would so suddenly become such knowledgeable and bold evangelists responsible for spearheading a religious movement that would go on to last some 2000 years and counting?  Something very real happened to them that transformed their lives!

Perhaps the best example of such a drastic 180-degree turn is that of Paul.  Previously known as Saul of Tarsus, Paul was once an extremely devout Pharisee and one of the harshest persecutors of the early church.  A religious zealot, Paul was responsible for having many Christians imprisoned and even put to death.

However, on the road to Damascus, Paul encountered Jesus.  While this was not Jesus in the physical form as we previously discussed, this was no mere subjective vision.  Paul’s travelling companions also perceived the bright light and voice of Jesus as He appeared to Paul (Acts 9:7, 22:9).  After meeting the Lord, Paul repented of his wicked ways and became a changed man.  He went on to become a great leader of the early church and wrote the bulk of the New Testament.

Many unbelievers claim that all religions – including Christianity – only exist to control the masses and that they are all ultimately based upon some kind of lie.   But by the world’s standards, what did the Apostles have to gain in preaching Christ?  In the physical sense they had nothing to gain and everything to lose!  The disciples never gained worldly riches from their evangelical work, and yet they were willing to face imprisonment, exile, torture, and even death in order to preach Jesus!  This simply isn’t something that anyone would be willing to do if it was all simply based upon lie.

The fact is they knew that Christ truly had risen from the dead!

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Evidence #5 – The Birth and Growth of the Church

It was during the first century that the church was established and it wasn’t long before the movement exploded onto the scene.  This wasn’t merely some short-lived cult; it was a huge movement that came suddenly and hasn’t gone away since.  The church positively thrived in the first century and beyond.

From the beginning the Church saw a huge, instantaneous shift in the religious landscape of the day.  The Day of Pentecost was a major turning point.  Occurring 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and just 9 days after His ascension into Heaven, thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost.  Many of those present had been witnesses to Jesus’ ministry, His crucifixion, and resurrection.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter addressed the crowd.  Notice the reaction of this huge crowd after hearing the first Gospel sermon.

Acts 2:40-41 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Following the church’s establishment, the Christian faith continued to gain incredible momentum.  It wasn’t long before Christianity would become the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, impressively overthrowing pagan practices that had went on for centuries.

In our modern era, we see movements spring up almost overnight thanks to our advanced transportation and communication technology.  However, Christianity spread like wildfire without the aid these modern devices.

Only something as compelling and persuasive and real as Jesus’ resurrection could account for this widespread conversion.

Responding to the Resurrection – “What Shall We Do?”

Regardless of the evidences we have discussed today, ultimately, it all comes down to faith…
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

However, God requires more than just mere faith.  There is a call for obedient action on our part.  Recall on the Day of Pentecost that the crowd was moved by Peter’s sermon.

Acts 2:36-38 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Perhaps, like those gathered on the Day of Pentecost, you find yourself convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior who overcame death through the resurrection.

Perhaps you likewise find yourself “cut to the heart” in recognizing that you are guilty of sin and that you desire God’s forgiveness.

If that is the case then you will want to know the answer that Peter gave to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, for it is the same offer of salvation that Jesus provides to all of us today…

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit...”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Romans 8:11

Concerning Angels – Part 2

In the previous lesson we discussed the appearance of angels, learned what angels are and are not, and defined some of the roles that angels fulfill.

The subject of angels is a dense one.  I started out the previous lesson thinking it would be easy, only to find myself unsure of where to begin and conclude.  There is still more to learn about angels, and this lesson will continue to just scratch the surface.

The Fallibility of Angels

We’ve all heard of someone being referred to as being a “perfect little angel” – usually in mocking tone – the implication being that all angels are pure and holy.

However, this is not entirely the case.  In the previous lesson we discussed the fact that angels are somewhat similar to humans in that they are apparently sentient beings with free will. Therefore, like humans, angels are imperfect and just as capable of making mistakes.  Angels can turn away from God.

Galatians 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
In addition to turning away from God, we see that some angels actively work to turn humanity away from God.  

Concerning Demons

“Demon” (from the Greek word daim┼Źn, translated “devil”) is another name for these fallen angels.  While the origin of demons is not explicitly discussed in the Bible, there are verses that speak of the fall of angels and their leader Satan.

Revelation 12:7-9 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,  but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them  in heaven any longer.  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

After rebelling against God, Satan and his angels (as many as one third of all the angels – Revelation 12:4) were cast from Heaven.  Since that time, Satan has taken on the role of tempter and his primary goal is turning the hearts of men away from God (Genesis 3).  Like their leader the devil, demons actively seek to contaminate the human race, damage our relationship with God, and thereby condemn us to a fate similar to their own.

John 8:44  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

There is not much said about demons in the Old Testament, but some Scriptures describe “distressing – or evil – spirits from God” (1 Samuel 16:15-16, 23) or “lying spirits” (1 King 22:21-23) that afflicted kings and prophets of the age.

In the New Testament they are usually called “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7), “wicked – or evil – spirits” (Luke 7:21, Acts 19:12-13), “deceiving spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1), or “spirits of divination” (Acts 16:16).

As disturbing as it may sound, Satan and his demons have some degree of power in our world.  Satan is even sometimes called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31) or “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  While he does not have complete rule over this world – God is still above all – it is unsettling to realize that in some way that the devil rules over the people of this world.

The book of Job describes an instance in which Satan was allowed by God to do anything but kill him (Job 1:6-12).  In our time Satan and his followers are more subtle in their work.  They utilize deceit as a means to manipulate mankind into rebelling against God by appealing to the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:16).

Some pagan worshippers apparently had dealings with demons.  Whether this was done unknowingly or intentionally is unclear.  Regardless, it is certain that demons delight in the making false idols to draw away worship from the true God (Leviticus 17:7, Psalm 106:37).  I wonder how many false religions today owe their existence to the work of fallen angels?

Another tactic employed by the devil and his infernal cohorts is the twisting of the very word of God (Satan himself actually quoted Scripture in an attempt to corrupt Christ – Matthew 4:5-6) and the enabling of false teachers to spread their perverted gospels.

Revelation 16:14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Therefore, as Christians we are warned to be aware of spiritual threats…

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.

1 Peter 5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

But we are also encouraged with the knowledge that God has the ultimate power over all.

James 2:19  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

1 John 4:4  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

What about Demonic Possession?

Of course we cannot discuss demons without delving into the topic of demonic possession…
During a demonic possession, an unclean spirit would personally attack a human with various afflictions.  Demons could cause diseases such as muteness (Matthew 12:22), deafness (Mark 9:25), blindness (Matthew 12:22), and bodily deformations (Luke 13:10-17).  Additionally, we read of demons capable of inflicting mental problems (Matthew 8:28, Acts 19:13-16) such as ranting and raving (Mark 1:23-24, John 10:20), uncontrolled fits (Luke 9:37-42, Mark 1:26), and antisocial behaviors (Luke 8:27, 35).

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He healed people who had been possessed by demons (Mark 1:22-28, Mark 5:1-16).   Through such miraculous acts, Jesus established His power over Satan and his demonic forces.  Jesus needed only to issue a simple verbal command to expel demons.  Meanwhile, His disciples would invoked Christ’s name (Luke 9:49) or prayed (Mark 9:29) to cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A question that often comes up while discussing demonic possession is whether or not such things still happen in the modern age.  It is worth noting that the Gospel writers would often distinguish between sickness and demonic possession and point out that not all diseases were caused by demons.
For example, in Matthew 12:22 a man was brought to Jesus “who was demon-possessed, blind and mute…” in this instance the infirmities of this individual appear to be caused by the demon.  However, in John 9, Jesus healed a blind man who was “blind from birth”.  Apparently this was a natural, rather than supernatural affliction.

The point being that it is unclear whether or not some of the diseases and mental illnesses we see today are caused by demonic possession.  However, it’s worth pointing out that the age of miracles has apparently ended (1 Corinthians 13:8-13) and the ability to cast out demons is listed among the miraculous abilities (Mark 9:38-41).  Therefore, if mankind no longer has the ability to cast out demons, then perhaps it can be assumed that God no longer allows people to be afflicted by demons in this way.

Interestingly enough, following the book of Acts there is no mention of exorcisms in the latter part of the New Testament.  It’s almost as if that particular threat from the demonic realm was phased out altogether.  Perhaps the power of demons is significantly limited now that they are bound in Hell…

2 Peter 2:4  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

We know that some will still claim even to this day to have the ability to cast out demons in Christ’s name.  However we are warned against such false teachers by Jesus Himself.

Matthew 7:21-23  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Should we fear demons today?  Not if we are in Christ!  Christ’s power over demonic forces is just as potent today as it was when He walked the Earth.

James 4:7  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Angel Worship

While it’s obvious that seeking communicate with demons or otherwise dabbling in the occult is forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10-11, Leviticus 19:31), one might think that conversing with righteous angels might be an acceptable practice.  I’ve heard of some individuals seeking to direct prayer to their “guardian angel”.

We can read of instances in which mankind encountered angels and began to worship them.  In such cases we can read of the angels actually rebuking them for doing so!

Revelation 22:8-9  Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.  Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

It’s important to make clear that the worship of anything/anyone other than God is forbidden by Scripture!

Colossians 2:18  Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind…

Humanity and Angels within the Spiritual Hierarchy

How often after a loved one has died have we heard somebody seeking to comfort us by saying “Heaven has gained another angel”?  We must realize that humans do not become angels after they have died! As we have studied in both parts of this series of lessons, angels are created beings distinctly different from mankind.

For further proof of this truth we can look to the words of Christ Himself when He was discussing marriage in the afterlife.

Matthew 22:29-30  Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

Notice that while making this point Christ differentiates between angels and human souls.  Humanity and angels are distinct and unique creations!

Within the spiritual hierarchy, we read that mankind is ranked just below the angels…

Psalm 8:4-6  What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

…And yet, as we just read, the psalmists said that mankind holds a favored position.
Isn’t it amazing to consider that humanity actually possesses a few distinct advantages over the angels?

First, we know that mankind is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  This cannot be said of the angels (whose appearance we discussed in the previous lesson).

Additionally, we see that mankind was actually made privy to knowledge withheld from the angels through the revelation of the Gospel.

1 Peter 1:12  To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

We tend to think of the angels as always being positioned above humanity, holding some unattainable degree of righteousness over us.  However, it’s incredible to realize that Scripture tells us humanity will actually be charged with judging the angels!  Obviously not just any humans, but rather it will be the Saints – the Church – that will take on this role.

1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels…?

What an awesome responsibility for mankind to take on, exercising authority over some of Heaven’s original inhabitants!

The Eternal Fate of Angels

So what happens on the Day of Judgement and beyond?

The righteous angels will accompany Christ when He returns.

Matthew 25:31  When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

From there, the “holy angels” will enjoy the pleasures of the “new heavens” (2 Peter 3:13).

As for the demons, those fallen angels…

Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day...

And there they will remain in torment.

If any of this sounds familiar, that is because the eternal fate of angels is more or less identical to our own destiny…

One final point to consider:

When it comes to deciding how one will spend eternity, it appears that humanity have a privilege that angels never had. To my knowledge there is no Scriptural evidence of fallen angels ever repenting or even having a chance at repentance...  Once they turned their back on God, there was no chance of rejoining Him.  It’s almost as if the angels were given one chance to choose whom they would serve, whether it be God or Satan.

That is the same choice that we face every day of our lives, isn’t it?

On that last day Jesus will judge the nations…

Matthew 25:41  Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…

Will that be our eternal fate?  Or will we be those “on His right hand” who gladly hear Him say…

Matthew 25:34 …Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…