We are continuing our study on Spiritual Warfare; this will be part 5. Hopefully by now you have some understanding of the divine council. What we are seeing is that the gods of the ancient world were real spiritual beings with supernatural powers. These gods are actually fallen divine beings called "watchers" or "sons of God" (bene ha elohim) in the Bible. These watchers had rebelled against Yahweh's divine council in heaven and came to earth in order to corrupt Yahweh's creation and deceive mankind into worshiping them in place of Yahweh, who is "God of gods and Lord of lords" (Deut. 10:17).
How does this teaching on many gods square with texts such as:
"I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; Isaiah 45:5 NASB
"I am Yahweh, and there is no other"—was an ancient biblical slogan of incomparability of sovereignty, not exclusivity of existence. It was a way of saying that a certain authority was the most powerful compared to all other authorities. It did not mean that there were no other authorities that existed. We see this same phrase in:
"Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me. I will not sit as a widow, Nor know loss of children.' Isaiah 47:8 NASB
Here the ruling power of Babylon is proudly claiming in her heart, "I am, and there is no one beside me." The power of Babylon is not saying that there are no other powers or cities that exist beside her, but that she was the ruling power. Yahweh uses that phrase, "I am Yahweh, and there is no other," not to deny the existence of other gods, but to express His absolute sovereignty over them. Yahweh is "God of gods and Lord of lords" (Deut. 10:17).
Last week we focused our attention on "satan" in the Tanakh. Where did we find the first use of satan in the Scriptures? It was in Numbers 22:22. Who did the word "satan" apply to there? It was the angel of Yahweh who was called "satan." So we saw that "satan" isn't a proper name in the Tanakh, but a function or office with the primary meaning of: "adversary or "challenger." We also saw that "satan" was used seven times referring to human adversaries. We saw in Job that "ha satan" is used for one of the divine council members. So in Job "the satan" does not appear to be the archenemy of Yahweh, but a heavenly court prosecutor. There is really nothing intrinsically evil in the author's portrayal of "the satan" in Job.
So what we learned last time was there are no passages in the Tanakh where the word "satan" refers to Yahweh's divine archenemy, none! These verses that we have looked at in the Tanakh blow away the assumption that the technical term "satan" always applies to the same supernatural being, a single satan. As we have seen, "satan" is attached to several different beings. Then we saw that there were many gods in the Tanakh that were adversaries to Yahweh and His people.
So in the Tanakh we see that Satan is not Yahweh's archenemy, and as a matter of fact, not an enemy at all. We also see that there are other gods who are satans; they are adversaries to Yahweh. We also see these lesser gods fighting each other. There is spiritual warfare going on in the Tanakh, but not to the extent we see in the New Testament.
We then started to look at the Pseudepigrapha writings, the Intertestamental Literature, or "Second Temple Literature," which are the books written by Jews between Malachi and the time of Yeshua. The word "Pseudepigrapha" literally means: "falsely ascribed writings," and it refers to a work that falsely claims to be written by a specific author. In case you think that because these writings are falsely named they therefore serve no importance to us, let me read you a passage from The Lexham Bible Dictionary:
Although they are called the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, these texts are important for New Testament scholarship as well, because the books of the New Testament were not written in isolation from the history, literature, and culture of their time. In fact, New Testament authors were familiar with portions of this literature; for example, the Epistle of Jude contains references to two writings from the Pseudepigrapha (1 Enoch and the Testament of Moses). Second Peter, which was written after Jude (and borrows many elements from Jude), alludes to the Pseudepigrapha, but without explicit reference. This relates directly to issue in canon development and hermeneutics, offering a glimpse into the New Testament world's use of sources outside of Scripture." The Lexham Bible Dictionary.
So the writers of the New Testament used Pseudepigrapha writings when they wrote the Bible. That should give us an idea of their importance for our Bible study.
This Intertestamental Literature (Apocrypha, DSS, and Pseudepigrapha) says considerably more about Satan than the Tanakh does. Ancient conceptions of Satan and demons developed during the Second Temple period. Works from this period like 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and the Life of Adam and Eve increasingly focused on the character of Satan as the celestial archenemy of God. These works also retold the stories of Israel's history and recounted Satan's influence in certain events.
1 Enoch is fundamental in the development of Satan as a evil celestial being with a contingent of evil spirits under his command. We saw this last time in 1 Enoch 69:4-12, where we saw a list of five satans. The Assumption of Moses (10:1) and the Book of Jubilees (2:23-29) may be the earliest evidence for the term "Satan" being employed as a proper name.
In his book, When Giants Were Upon The Earth, Brian Godawa writes,
"Second Temple and Qumran Literature show an evil divine figure rising to prominence as the primary adversary to the people of God, along with a host of demons. Besides the terms 'the adversary' (satan) and 'the accuser' (devil), this figure was variously called 'Beliel,' 'Beliar, 'Mastema,' and 'Sammael'" (Godawa, 294).
The New International Dictionary of the New Testament Theology says, "In the writings of Qumran, Belial appears as the name of the evil spirit, the angel of darkness. He lives in the hearts of his followers, the 'sons of darkness' (1QS 1:10) and rules in the preacher of apostasy (CD 12:2). …Belial and his followers are solemnly cursed (1QS 2:4-9; 1QM 13:4-5). In the last days, after the Qumran community has cut itself off from the rest of the people, Belial is let loose against Israel (CD 4:13). At the end of the final war, the 'sons of darkness,' who constitute 'Belial' army (1QM 1:1, 13), will be destroyed (11:8-9)"
The Pseudepigrapha work called, Life of Adam and Eve, elaborates on the motive and role of Satan in the fall of humankind. In chapter 14 it states:
And Michael went out and called to all the angels, "Worship the image of God as the Lord God has commanded." And Michael himself worshiped first; then he called me and said, "Worship the image of the Lord God." And I answered, "It is not for me to worship Adam." And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, "Why do you urge me? I will not worship an inferior and younger being than I. I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me."
When the angels who were under me heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael said, "Worship the image of God, but if you will not worship him, the Lord God will be angry with you." And I said, "If He be angry with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest."
Does that sound familiar to you? We looked at this a couple of weeks ago:
"But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. Isaiah 14:13 NASB
Consequently, God expelled the devil and his angels from heaven onto the earth. The devil explained to Adam in chapter 16 of Life of Adam and Eve:
And the Lord God was angry with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on your account we were expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled to the ground. Straight away we were overcome with grief, since we had been robbed of such great glory. And we were grieved when we saw you in such joy and luxury. And with guile I cheated your wife and through her action caused you to be expelled from your joy and luxury, as I have been driven out of my glory.
Last week we saw that Enoch attributes the temptation of Eve to Gadreel, here it is attributed to Satan. The link between Satan and the serpent is also attested in the book, The Life of Adam and Eve (33,) and in the book of 2 Enoch (31). Both texts state it was the devil who led Eve astray. The Life Of Adam And Eve chapter 33 states:
Moreover the Lord God gave us two angels to guard us. The hour came when the angels had ascended to worship in the sight of God; immediately the enemy the devil found an opportunity while the angels were absent and the devil led your mother astray to eat of the unlawful and forbidden tree. And she ate and gave to me.
So we see quite a change in the view of Satan in the intertestamental period. This is how the Jews viewed Satan and demons. And that brings us to the New Testament:
Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 NASB
As soon as the New Testament starts we see "the devil" and "satan" as adversaries of Yeshua and God's people. Most of the New Testament references to demon possession appear in the Gospels and represent the outburst of satanic opposition to Yahweh's work in Christ. Demon possession seems to be something that happened only during the time of Christ and the apostles for the purpose of manifesting the power of Christ over the demonic world.
The New Testament shows a developing picture of Satan as an archenemy of God. Extra-biblical works written prior to and contemporary with the New Testament documents parallel this development. In the New Testament, the word "devil" is used 32 times, Satan is used 33 times, Belial once (2 Cor 6:15), and Beelzebul is used 7 times.
We see various titles used for Satan. He is classified as a dragon (Rev 20:2), a serpent (Rev 12:9), the evil one (John 17:15; Eph 6:16) and a tempter (Matt 4:3; 1 Thess 3:5); and he prowls like a lion (1 Peter 5:8). According to Paul, he is a ruler of the kingdom of the air—the leader of the demonic realm (Eph 2:2). People in Paul's day believed spirits existed in the space located between heaven and earth.
On several occasions Satan is called "Beelzebul":
"If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? "If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. Matthew 12:26-27 NASB
"Beelzebul"—might mean "lord of the house" or "lord of the heights." Like the phrase "kingdom of the air," Beelzebul probably means that Satan is perceived as being in charge of the demons.
The Book of Jubilees portrays Satan not just as an evil force, but as the ruler of a kingdom opposed to God (Sacchi, Jewish Apocalyptic, 224). The text portrays Satan (called "Mastema") as the force behind the Egyptian sorcerers, and the many rebellions against Moses in the wilderness (Jubilees 48).
So that's how the Egyptian sorcerers turned their staffs into serpents and performed the other miracles. But you know who won that showdown, Yahweh the "God of gods and Lord of lords":
"The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst." Exodus 7:5 NASB
Because of the Exodus, not only did the Egyptians, but all who heard feared Yahweh.
One thing that really strikes those who study the Bible is how radically different things are between the end of the Hebrew Bible and the beginning of the New Testament. Now we have Satan and his demons in an all out war against Yahweh and His people. Yeshua pictures Satan as a heavily armed prince dwelling with his demonic subjects in a fortified palace (Matt. 12:25-29). Satan, along with his demons, exercises so much power over the nations that he is termed the "ruler of this world":
"Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. John 12:31 NASB
Did Satan rule the whole world? No, the word "world" here is used of the Roman Empire. This is the world that he offered to Yeshua if he would worship him. Remember what we saw in Daniel:
Then he said, "Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. Daniel 10:20 NASB
Here we see these divine "host of heaven"allotted with authority over pagan nations as spiritual "princes"or rulers battling with the archangels Gabriel and Michael. Some Second Temple non-canonical Jewish texts illustrate an ancient tradition of understanding this interpretation of the gods of the nations as real spirit beings that rule over those nations:
(There are) many nations and many people, and they all belong to him, but over all of them he caused spirits to rule so that they might lead them astray from following him. But over Israel he did not cause any angel or spirit to rule because he alone is their ruler and he will protect them. Jubilees 15: 31-32
So if Persia and Greece had a prince or watcher behind them that Michael was fighting with, do you think that maybe Rome had a Watcher over it also? Who do we see Michael fighting with in Revelation 12?:
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Revelation 12:7-9 NASB
Where is this war taking place? Heaven. And yet Kirt Simmons, in an article in "Fulfilled Magazine," speaking of this text, writes, "The dragon is often interpreted to be Satan, but here again the passage is symbolic and should not be interpreted literally. The preferred view is that the battle represents Christ's earthly ministry and that of His disciples. Michael (Heb. - Who is like the LORD?) is Christ; His angels are the disciples and messengers of the gospel. The dragon hearkens back to the serpent in the garden and is a personification of sin and death; the dragon's angels are those who oppose the gospel."
So Michael is battling with a personification of sin and death. Angels are the disciples? What are angels in this passage in Luke?:
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." Luke 2:13-15 NASB
In Revelation the angels are in heaven, and in Luke the angels are also in heaven and they are not disciples; they are spirit beings.
In Revelation Michael is depicted as warring on behalf of Israel (12:7) and is called, "Israel's protector" in Daniel 12:1. Michael, is the patron angel of Israel. So "Israel's protector" is fighting Rome's prince, Satan. It seems as though Satan has moved from adversary in the Divine Council to the spiritual power behind Rome. Most scholars of Revelation teach that the Beast represents Rome and the Dragon that gives power to the Beast is Satan.
It seems as if this watcher, now known as Satan, has turned against Yahweh and is ruling over Rome and trying to destroy Yeshua and God's people. Look at what Paul says in:
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB
Are these human rulers, or spirit beings? The word "rulers" is from the Greek archon, which is used of human rulers and spirit beings:
But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." Luke 11:15 NASB
Here "Beelzebul" is called the "ruler of the demons." And notice in Corinthians that they are called, "the rulers of this age." That's interesting since Satan is called:
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 NASB
In the Greek, "of this age" is identical in both texts. So the evil spirits knew Yeshua had come to earth, they did not know God's plan. Had they known, Paul writes, they would not have crucified the Lord.
According to Daniel, Yeshua, the stone cut without hands, was to crush the Roman Empire:
"In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. "Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy." Daniel 2:44-45 NASB
This happened in AD 70, and had the rulers known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
When Christ was on earth it was clear to the demons that their end was near:
saying, 'Away! what — to us and to thee, Yeshua the Nazarene? thou didst come to destroy us; I have known thee who thou art — the Holy One of God.' Mark 1:24 YLT
This demon understood that Yeshua had come to destroy them. Where do demons come from? Nothing is said in the Bible about their origin, but there is quite a bit of information on their destruction:
And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. 29 And behold, they cried out, saying, "What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:28-29 NASB
The demons understood the mission of Yeshua—to destroy them. Notice the final words in this verse—"the time"—presumably the time of judgment at the consummation of the ages. This judgment has been predicted long ago.
Just as Psalm 82 speaks of the eventual fate of these heavenly princes:
I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. "Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes." Psalms 82:6-7 NASB
The prophet Isaiah tells of their coming punishment in a couple of passages:
And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction. Isaiah 34:4-5 NASB
Like the "host" of the nations that come against the Messiah will be slain, the "host of heaven" who rules these earthly nations will also be defeated. The sword wielded by the Messiah, will "drink its fill in the heavens" as well as on the earth.
We are told in Isaiah 34:4 that "the host of heaven will wear away" (Hebrew: maqaq, literally: "waste away," "decay"). In Zechariah 14:12, the same Hebrew root word maqaq is used to describe the fate of those who come against Jerusalem at the end of the age. There is a similarity between Isaiah 34:4 and 2 Peter 3:10-12 that deserves some attention. Peter speaks of an end-time fire in the heavens, which will melt and dissolve the elements:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 2 Peter 3:10-12 NASB
If you are a Preterist, you are probably familiar with the Greek word for "elements" here which is "stoicheion" most often translated by Preterists as "elements of religious training, or the ceremonial precepts that are common to the worship of Jews." Obviously, this "stoicheion" is not about atoms or destruction of the universe.
The Greek word stoicheion, translated: "elements" in 2 Peter 3, is understood by many scholars to refer to "heavenly spirits." This understanding can be seen in several passages written by the Apostle Paul. But let's look first at a text that doesn't use it this way:
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. Galatians 4:3 NASB
Galatians is focused on the problem of Jewish converts wanting to require Gentile believers to obey the Law. In Galatians 4, Paul speaks to both Jews and Gentiles, so he could be using the term in different ways with each audience. Galatians 4:1-7 likely addresses Jewish converts ("those who were under the Law" v5); stoicheion in verse 3, therefore, most likely refers to the elements of the Law. The use of "stoicheion" in Hebrews 5:12 seems to also refer to principles of the Jewish Law. But the Gentiles were not under The Law and did not know the true God. Therefore, Galatians 4:8-11 could be seen as addressing Gentile converts:
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? Galatians 4:9 NASB
The Gentiles weren't enslaved to The Law, so what were they enslaved to? In the context of Galatians 4:9-11, stoicheion could be interpreted as: "heavenly spirits," or "astral deities."
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 ESV
So here it is "stoicheion of the kosmos." Elements of religious training doesn't seem to fit here.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—Colossians 2:18-20 ESV
Here in context "stoicheion of the kosmos" would best fit with heavenly spirits.
The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible states,
"Given the predeliction of many people in the Greco-Roman world for astral religious beliefs and practices, it could also be argued that the elements are planetary or other celestial bodies; or that the elements refer to spiritual beings: such as angels or demons who control earthly affairs and determine human destiny." (Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible; [2nd extensively rev. ed., p. 817]. Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans.)
A number of interpreters, perhaps even a majority, have concluded that "ta stoicheia tou kosmou" refers to spiritual powers of some sort. The Testament of Solomon, a Jewish-Christian work, testifies to a belief in star spirits called stoicheia. Seven bound spirits appear before Solomon and reveal their identity: "We are the stoicheia, rulers of this world of darkness [kosmokratores tou skotous] . . . our stars in heaven look small, but we are named like gods" (T. Sol. 8:2-4). Does the word kosmokrator ring a bell?:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NASB
"World forces" comes from the Greek kosmokrator, which, according to Strongs Concordance means: "a world ruler, an epithet of Satan." Thayer's says it means: "Lord of the world, prince of this age, the devil and his demons." This is its only use in the New Testament, but it is used in Testament of Solomon of spiritual beings.
If we understand the usage of stoicheion by Peter to be the same as Paul's usage in the Scriptures cited above, we can see that Peter was simply reemphasizing what the prophet Isaiah had said about the fate of the spiritual powers aligned against Yahweh. Isaiah stated the "host of heaven" would be dissolved; Peter said that these same "elemental spirits" would be dissolved by fire.
The "host of heaven" are the same spiritual "principalities," "powers," and "rulers" Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:12. These heavenly "powers" are mentioned many times in the New Testament:
"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 NASB
We know that this is speaking of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Yeshua our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NASB
who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. 1 Peter 3:22 NASB
In Hebrews 2:5, the author indirectly establishes the rulership of their world by powerful angelic beings:
For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. Hebrews 2:5 NASB
By saying that God will not subject the "world to come" to the rule of angels, the author implies that their current world was being ruled by spirit entities. But that world ended in AD 70, and we now live in the "age to come." Satan and his demons have been defeated:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20 NASB
Satan, the Roman heavenly spirit ruler, was destroyed, the battle is over:
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 NASB
The battle is over, Christ is victorious. Those gods who rebelled against Yahweh have been judged.
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