Ezra’s Conundrum

The story of Ezra returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple has a disturbing account at the end of the book.  The leaders come to Ezra and inform him in Ezra 9:1-2 (ESV) that:

“The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”

The LEB translation (Lexham English Bible, based on the Septuagint) in this passage says in place of holy race: “holy seed.”  The NIV says “intermingled” instead of mixed itself.

One verse later (v3) Ezra tells us:

As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.

Reading these verses from our Western context, we think, “Well, sure Ezra was disturbed.  God had told Joshua and the Israelites when they came into the land that they were to destroy most of these tribes because they were exceedingly sinful in His eyes.”  But does that really explain Ezra’s great angst?  I submit that this explanation is inadequate and our understanding is flawed because our typical Christian teaching doesn’t reach into the past far enough, it neglects to include the supernatural issues that are in play, and it misses the entire context of the situation.

The Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Amorites were all descendants of Noah’s son Ham.  They were also labeled, along with several other tribes descended from Canaan, as Rephaim.  Inevitably, each time the Israelites came upon any of these tribes, God commanded His people to completely annihilate them, i.e. devote them to destruction.  The Hebrew word for this concept is cherem, which means to exterminate.  Again, that seems pretty harsh if we only consider them as sinful people.  Where is God’s mercy?  Maybe there’s something else going on at a deeper level.

To appreciate the context and how the ancient Israelites would have understood the implications in God’s decrees, we have to first go to Genesis 6:1-5:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Modern Christianity attempts to whitewash this passage and take away its supernatural aspect.  The thought of divine beings or angels coming to earth and taking human women as their “wives” is a bridge too far for many people.  As a result, the idea that the sons of God, the bad guys, are Cain’s descendants, while the daughters were from the Godly line of Seth has been promoted.

There is nothing in the Biblical text that can in any way lead us to this conclusion.  Pastors, when they must touch upon this topic, and seminaries, when they reluctantly address it, almost universally declare there’s no way angels could come to earth and reproduce.  The argument often revolves around the statement Jesus made in Matthew 22:30 that angels in heaven don’t marry.  This is a simplistic argument.  It doesn’t address angels when they come to earth and assume a corporeal body.  What do we know about angels in this human form and the functions they have?  Nothing.  The verse also doesn’t say angels can’t marry; it says they don’t marry.  Words mean things.

So, the supernatural meaning of this passage is a distinct possibility.  Beyond that, we must realize that the Ancient Near East was a hotbed of the supernatural.  Moses, who wrote Genesis, knew the neighborhood in which he lived.  He knew that God was a God of miracles and manifestation.  The angel of the Lord came and spoke to him face to face.

To comprehend that the Nephilim were the hybrid offspring of fallen angels and human women wasn’t a conceptual stretch for Moses or anyone else in that period.  In fact, it’s this narrative that shapes the entire Biblical story.  God’s rebellious divine sons wanted to take His place.  Fallen angels intermarrying with humans, corrupting the human bloodline, and killing off humanity so that the Seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 couldn’t bring forth the promised Messiah, were ideas that every Israelite carried with them as God’s chosen people.

How do we get to the Rephaim and the associated tribes that God wanted His people to kill off?  It is speculated that the wife of Ham had Nephilim corrupted blood; whereas Noah, his wife, his other two sons and their wives had the righteous, pure, human blood that God needed when He saved Noah and his family.  But through Ham we have these tribes that God says to cherem—to devote to destruction.

When Ezra prays is Ezra 9:11-12, he reiterates what God has told the Israelites:

“which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore, do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’”

God was very clear.  Don’t have anything to do with these abominable people.  They are unclean.  The deeper story is that their uncleanness is not simply from sin; it is from a corrupted bloodline that must not pollute the offspring of the Israelites.

Regarding the other three tribes of the Moabites, Ammonites, and of Egypt, we have oracles and prophecies that God declares which condemn these nations.  Amos 1:13-15 deals with Ammon; Amos 2:1-3 addresses Moab; and Isaiah 19:1-17 speaks of Egypt.  Each of these transgressed against Israel in vile ways, and perhaps in this instance in Ezra God truly is judging their sins as abominations.  On the other hand, maybe there were Rephaim offspring that had migrated to these countries and at that particular time their people had tainted blood.  Thus, intermarrying with them was particularly forbidden.  God knows.

As a result of these impurities, when Ezra issues a proclamation for all descendants of the captivity to gather in Jerusalem, he says in Ezra 10:10-11:

“You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.”

Ezra 10:44 finishes up with:

All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.

This is tough stuff.  Everyone who has taken a foreign wife is to separate from them; any kids go as well.  If God hates divorce, what’s with this?  These people had placed themselves into a position completely contrary to God’s Word.  The implications for their intermarrying actually went beyond the concept of divorce.  It was a necessity that none of the offspring be considered Jewish because they might actually have tainted blood, i.e. blood resulting from the fallen sons of God in Genesis 6:1-5.

You may have also wondered what the point of listing the offenders was—why bother?  It was very specific, very deliberate.  The names of the offending Israelites had to be made public so that none of their descendants could claim to be an Israelite.  God’s people had to maintain purity within the bloodlines to truly be those through whom Messiah would come.

It was Ezra’s faithful actions in a difficult situation that enabled God to continue with His plans and purposes.  What were these?  To redeem Israel so that through her all nations could be blessed.  And we are.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Ezra that he was a righteous and holy man, totally sold out to God.

Paul’s Mars Hill Declaration of Deuteronomy 32:8

The Apostle Paul was a product of the Ancient Near East.  He understood the neighborhood in which he lived.  He knew there was a supernatural world and worldview that greatly influenced the lives of those to whom he witnessed.  This is fully on display when Paul goes to Athens and engages the Greeks on the Ares rock: the Areopagus, i.e. Mars Hill.

Mars Hill was a place of intellectual pursuit.  Luke in his account says in Acts 17:21:

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

How the philosophers must have frittered away their days!  They ran here and there for something new, something that would tickle their ears.  And apparently, there was plenty of that around.

But then came Paul.  He comes to this city known for its religiosity.  It’s the center of Greek culture with its rich history of mythology.  The Greek gods were well known and revered.  People lived their lives seeking to know more about them.

I heard a couple of interesting interviews recently between Dr. Michael S. Heiser and—I can put it no other way—a Greek Olympian.  Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm is the basis for much of what I’ve been reflecting in many of these articles lately.  Hercules Invictus has spent his life pursuing knowledge of the Greek gods.  He’s a walking encyclopedia about them.  His podcast is found on The International Pagan Network—yes, there is such a thing.  Better yet: “All pagan, all the time.”

In this discussion—and it really was such; there was no contention or animosity between them—Heiser simply responded to Hercules in the calm, laid-back manner that he does and proceeded to lay out the Biblical view.  He ended up presenting the Gospel in such a non-threatening way that I couldn’t help but pray for the salvation of Hercules.  He reminded me so much of the truth-seeking philosophers of Mars Hill, who inevitably came away empty.

Paul interacts with those around him.  He’s seen the altars, the statues, and the darkness in which these people live.  Because Paul knows the context of that culture, he can relate directly to their situation.  Thus: what is the context?

He states it in Acts 17:26-28:

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”

So, where did Paul get this information?  What is he talking about?

It goes back to Deuteronomy 32:8.  In fact, many Bibles refer to this in a Scriptural reference from the verses in Acts.  Here’s what the verse says:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,

when he divided mankind,

he fixed the border of the peoples

according to the number of the sons of God.

Paul is clearly declaring that nations are under the authority of the sons of God whom He placed there.  In this Deuteronomy passage, we see that God effectively divorced the nations.  He had become fed up with the disobedience of man and let him have free reign to pursue what they chose.  However, the divine sons of God were supposed to point people back to Yahweh.  Instead, as we see in Psalm 82, they rose up in rebellion and set themselves as supreme deities over the nations.

Yet, God never intended for this to be, and He wanted mankind to seek Him, even from their place in outer darkness, i.e. these nations outside Israel.  Paul affirms that all men are God’s offspring.  It’s through Him that we have life.  We ultimately are to reject the false gods, the usurpers, and come to Him.

This is such a great scene because it puts on clear display what Paul knew about the supernatural realm, what had happened, and what was supposed to happen.  His description intrigued many in that pagan place, and God moved, bringing salvation into their midst.

How fortunate we are that God has not given up on us!  He has not relegated us to wander in the wilderness forever.  Rather, He gives each one of us the means and opportunity to turn to Him and to know the One true God.  How gracious He is, and how merciful!

Called To Suffer

Why is it many people don’t understand that being called to become a disciple of Jesus Christ involves suffering, that rather, they believe it is supposed to be a comfortable life filled with material blessings?

The Lord was quite clear to Saul when He called him on the road to Damascus where he became the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:15-16:

But the Lord said to him [Ananias], “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

In the initial description of how Paul will serve Jesus the rest of his life, the requirement is that he will suffer for the sake of the Gospel.

What must Paul have thought when he heard that?  He was very aware of his past actions.  After all, he had been among the chief persecutors of those who followed this new Way.  He didn’t like it.  It offended him because of his Pharisaical training.  This heretical group—which came to be known as in Antioch as Christians—proclaimed that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.  How could that be?  Every Jew knew the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

If Yahweh was one, then He couldn’t be two or three.  This Jesus had to be a blasphemer and all who followed Him were as well.

But then Paul has a dramatic visitation from God—Jesus Himself!  That turned everything upside down in his life and what he believed.  In that instant, he immediately knew that everything these followers of the Way proclaimed was true.  Thus, if he had persecuted them in his ignorance, surely others would likewise persecute him.

The statement by Jesus to Ananias that was surely transmitted to Paul was something he would have had to wrestle with.  “If I’m going to be the Lords’ instrument to carry the Good News about Him to Gentiles, kings, and all of Israel, and given my opposition, what can I expect from everyone else in response to this radical, new teaching?  I know it’s the truth, and I must pursue it.  Thus, whatever comes my way, I’ll endure and even welcome it for the sake of Christ.”

Was Paul going to suffer?  Indeed.  He chronicles some of his many trials in 2 Corinthians 11:24-29:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

He lived a difficult life for the sake of Jesus, yet he endured because he knew that it was for the truth of God, which he was compelled to proclaim.

So, what’s our problem?  Why is it that so many people think a life lived for Christ should be a bowl of cherries?  How did that thinking come to permeate much of Christianity?

Paul’s tribulations are echoed today around the world.  Christ-followers in what are known as hostile and restricted nations—primarily, but not exclusively, in the 10-40 window—suffer greatly at the hands of those who hate Jesus.  How did such enmity arise?  Doesn’t it seem, in some respects, out of proportion?  After all, don’t all religions lead us to the same place?  Shouldn’t we all just co-exist?

I believe the answers take us back to the rebellious sons of God.  In Deuteronomy 32:8-9, God—for the time being—abandoned all nations because mankind didn’t follow His commands to spread out over the earth.

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

Men had decided to disobey by gathering together and building the tower of Babel, a ziggurat intended to bring God down to them under their control.  In this Deuteronomy passage, we see God assigning His divine sons as rulers over the nations that arise following this incident.  Israel as God’s chosen people also comes into view as God calls her out specially in order to fulfill His purposes.

Because God’s sons have freewill just like humans, and have been given the power to rule over nations, this apparently goes to their heads.  We see in Psalm 82 that they rule unjustly:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Ultimately, they’ll pay for their transgressions.  In the meantime, every indication we see in the world around us is that they continue to reign over their respective territories.  Every one of these fallen divine sons of God knows his fate.  There will be a day that they will die.  They will likely suffer the second death allotted for Satan and his angels, i.e. the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

Is it any wonder that they try their best to thwart God’s plans?  Each one of them made himself a god over the nation or area he was originally given to rule for God.  It wasn’t what God intended, but He wasn’t surprised.

As a result, we see what could only be called collaboration among these fallen divine rulers in the mutual embrace of Islam over nations, or those that use Hinduism or Buddhism to keep people lost and in darkness.  In these and all other instances of religions that run counter to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the demonic is behind them.  These are the spiritual rulers and authorities that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

It is these entities, in conjunction with Satan, that bring persecution to the world.

But back to our original question: What is it about Christians—primarily in America—that we don’t understand the life of suffering that Jesus speaks of and instead desire material blessings?

I’ve pondered this in relation to our country.  How is it that we’ve had such freedom, that we haven’t looked like other nations for much of our history?  What is it behind the spiritual veil that has blessed us so immensely, yet now is disappearing so that we’re falling toward the fate of other nations where persecution has been rampant?

Israel is God’s sole possession.  What is America in relation to God’s disobedient sons ruling elsewhere?  There’s no Biblical indication that God has called America out to be His own, as He did with Israel.  Given how God works in delegating, which we see in Divine Council passages like Deuteronomy 32, presumably He assigned one of His sons over the United States when it was formed.  There was much divine intervention in the forming of our nation, much divine providence.

So, what happened?  We speak of God removing His hand of blessing, but what does that really mean?  Did the spiritual ruler God placed over us originally follow his Father’s commands and subsequently fall as his brethren over other nations did?  Given the increasing darkness we see enveloping us daily, it certainly makes one wonder.

Regardless, there is a concentrated effort by spiritual forces of darkness to take out this nation.  We’re seeing it in the increasing apostasy of churches and in the secular marketplace where mention of God—specially Jesus Christ—is considered hate speech.

Part of the apostasy, however, has been in the extreme watering down of the Gospel into prosperity, social justice, and other derivations.  Sin isn’t spoke of in pulpits because that might offend people.  Pews might empty and coffers go unfilled if people are made uncomfortable.  Repentance simply isn’t spoken of when our best life now is on display.

In this atmosphere that closely resembles the world outside the church, why would there be persecution and suffering?  These churches that fall away like this—and there are many—have no connection with the true church of Jesus Christ.  Surely, there must be born-again believers in many of these churches, but as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33:

“Bad company ruins good morals.”

Association with continuing sin has caused, and will continue to cause, many to fall away.  How much easier it is to go along and get along!

As we near the soon-coming Rapture of the Church, those who truly love and follow Jesus Christ will—in this country as in others—be called upon to suffer persecution.  Jesus promises us in John 16:33 as His followers that it’s not easy to be His disciple:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The world is encroaching on the church.  It is becoming the world.  Neither wants hardship and difficulty.  Everyone wants blessings.

Thank God that Jesus has shown us the Truth.  We may indeed suffer for the sake of Christ, but take heart!  Jesus has overcome, and in Him we, too, are overcomers—faithful to the end.

How Does Apostasy Enter the Church?

We know that in these latter days apostasy has entered the church.  Scripture prophesies to that.  Various translations describe this differently as rebellion and falling away, but the NASB in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says it most clearly:

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

We’ve seen this happen in church after church, most visibly in the high-profile position of a pastor moving away from the actual Word of God.  This apostasy, however, doesn’t just come top down, it also rises from the bottom up.  Today, I want to briefly discuss this aspect of the phenomenon.

With the end times being much of my focus, I read quite a lot both directly about prophecy in the Bible and about what various people say about it.  Naturally New Age and Eastern ideas and philosophies are a major aspect in the whole concept of apostasy.  The occult plays such a huge role influencing the many world religions that it’s no wonder it has infiltrated the Christian church to a large extent.

There’s a subtlety to occult practices that draws well-meaning people into them.  They can be deceptive; and no wonder, Satan is a deceiver, the father of lies.  Thus, people who love the Lord can be drawn into them a little bit at a time until they’re participating in something they never would have previously dreamed of.  The result may be ugly.

One of the biggest deceptions that has come into the church is yoga.  “I just do yoga for the exercise.”  “It’s Christian yoga and has nothing to do with Hinduism.”  We hear these and similar statements justifying why this occult practice is acceptable.  The problem is that yoga can never be acceptable in a Christian context because it’s all about awakening the occult, Kundalini spirit within the self.  Yoga is completely anathema to Christianity.

The practice I want to particularly comment on in this article is contemplative prayer.  This has entered the church through various practitioners that appeal to women.  I’m aware in my church of a couple of women’s all-day teachings that focused on this in the guise of discerning the voice of God.

As believers in a Pentecostal church, we believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today, and needed more than ever in this increasing time of darkness.  However, I believe that the excesses of charismania have infiltrated to one degree or another good, doctrinally solid churches that embrace spiritual gifts.  In doing so, they’ve brought error.  It’s a fine line.  Am I truly hearing God’s voice, or because I’ve opened myself to the occult through various practices, am I hearing a different spirit?  I’ll admit that our discernment better be fine-tuned to differentiate in this matter.  Yet, we say that God speaks to us through His Word, and He does.  For us to hear Him during prayer shouldn’t be a stretch.  The issue becomes whether we’re adhering to Scripture, where our heart is, and how we’re applying Biblical principles in our lives, or not.

Contemplative prayer can be dangerous because some aspects of it specifically take from the occult.  One of its practices is to empty the mind in order to hear God speak.  Unfortunately, the Bible never directs us to do that.  We’re to meditate on the Word of God.  That means to keep Him at the forefront of our contemplation, never to divorce ourselves from Him.  Frankly, emptying the mind is a Zen practice.  That will never draw us to the One true God.

Another dangerous practice of contemplative prayer is visualization.  Adherents are instructed to visualize Jesus coming alongside them and talking with them.  They’re to conjure up in their minds their image of Jesus and to have Him be a constant companion in their lives.  This reminds me of children who have their little, invisible friend who comes out of the closet when they’re in their rooms and plays with them.  What Jesus is being visualized?  Who is this Jesus in the minds of these folks who attempt to make Him their friend who walks around with them and continually speaks about the things they encounter each day?

Much of the teaching of contemplative prayer comes from the writings of Catholic mystics.  There seems to be much admiration for these forerunners in this practice.  It appears that these men and women achieved an alternate state of consciousness that the contemplative prayer folks want to emulate.  Another way that they seek to achieve this goal is through the repetition of a mantra-like practice.  Rather than blatantly using “Om” as the Hindus do, it becomes Christianized.  The teachers say, “Choose a meaningful Christian word or phrase, such as ‘Jesus’ or ‘Abba’ or ‘God loves me.’” This is to be repeated endlessly as all else is emptied from the mind.  In the subsequent “hearing” state, God is supposed to be able to more easily penetrate our natural barriers.

I seem to have missed that instruction in the Bible.  Who is it that’s actually gaining a foothold in these people’s minds?

I’m aware of a situation that recently happened that I must be extremely vague about.  Someone I have viewed as being a loving, cheerful, extremely pleasant servant of God became distraught and acted completely out of character in accusing someone of having an affair.  The mystery was how this person could literally channel the demonic accusations that were uttered.

I know that this person had fostered several teaching sessions that included contemplative prayer.  In the middle of the night, whether from my subconscious or the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t say, out of the blue in my sleepless state I had these thoughts.  Yes, this is complete speculation on my part.  I simply don’t know the truth behind this situation.  I don’t know how much of these contemplative prayer concepts this person may have embraced.  The one thing I do know is that the accusations were completely baseless.  The person against whom they were leveled would absolutely not have done what was alleged.

Did contemplative prayer open this person to the demonic?  Had the emptying of the mind created a vacuum for a demonic spirit to enter?  Was the Jesus this person was listening to another Jesus?  I don’t know.  It’s worth considering.

What I do know is that the possibility exists simply because the occult practice of contemplative prayer may have been a part of this person’s life.  In these perilous times, we who love the Lord must be on our guard.  Anything that smells unbiblical probably is.  Let us be alert and keep our focus on Jesus as we wait expectantly for His soon return and not engage in practices that God never intended for us to follow.

God’s Divine Family Council

In the Book of Job, we get a glimpse of how God’s Divine Council works.  Somewhere in the beginning, God created the heavenly host.  Whether this was before the account of creation that we read about in Genesis or during, we don’t know.  Since Scripture is silent about God creating His divine family, it’s likely the sons of God came prior to our understanding of the Biblical narrative.  We simply know that they’re present during those amazing seven days.  Job 38:4-7 (ESV) definitively shows us this reality in a passage where God is questioning Job about his human wisdom:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

    Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

    Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

    or who laid its cornerstone,

when the morning stars sang together

    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Morning stars are a reference to divine beings as are, obviously, the sons of God.  They were present when all these creation events took place.  At that time, it appears they were of one accord in that they were joyous at what they saw.

The Divine Council scene first takes shape in Job 1:6-12:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

We see a similar scene immediately following in Job 2:1-6:

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

These passages contain much fodder for discussion but we’ll limit that to an extent.  Here we see the sons of God coming before Him in what seems to be a regular occurrence.  Naturally God has a purpose.  Even though He is omniscient, He gets input from His divine family.  One of those is Satan.

Much scholarship has been done on this in relation to other Ancient Near Eastern literature.  In this case, where Bible translations attribute a proper name to Satan, the actual Hebrew doesn’t.  It is a description—the satan (with an adjective)—which as we know means the accuser.  It’s only later translations that make the satan into the person of Satan.  Interestingly, the Hebrew shows this particular being in Job isn’t the devil, as much as we’ve been led to believe that he is.  He’s one of God’s servants doing what he’s supposed to do, i.e. check out activity on the earth and report back in an accusatory manner.

The question also arises as to whether this divine being is part of the council or simply one who had access because of his job description.  Additionally, had he already fallen, or does this particular being eventually fall at all?

In any case, God listened to him and took what he said under advisement.  That’s the other important piece to see in this scene.  God says, “Hey, what do think of my boy, Job?”  Satan (we’ll continue propagating that misunderstanding) responds according to the purpose of his name—he accuses—and tells God that this human God thinks is so special really isn’t.  It’s only because God protects Job that nothing bad ever befalls him.  Of course, because Job is so blessed, he’s not going to curse God.  Just wait, however, until the sky falls in on him.  Then watch him fall away.

Surprisingly God is amenable to this challenge.  He knows Job’s heart, and He has the benefit of seeing the end from the beginning.  “Go ahead, Satan,” God orders.  “Do your thing.  Job is faithful and will remain that way.”

We know the story.  Satan literally brings everything plus the kitchen sink against Job.  But here’s the thing: God had given Satan the authority to do this.  In the council, God listened to those who came before Him, then He commanded that they—Satan in this case—carry out what He had decreed.  Only upon God’s order could any of this occur.  And it had to be within the parameters He laid out.  Initially this was: don’t lay a finger on Job.  Subsequently, it was: you must spare his life.

Undoubtedly there are many other purposes for God’s Divine Council, but He has determined that these members of His family in heaven will have access to Him, provide input as to the affairs with which they’re charged, and they must carry out their orders exactly as God has specified.  And that’s the thing: the heavenly host works at God’s pleasure to do those things He wants done.  There is a hierarchy within heaven starting with God at the top.  He’s the CEO.  What He says must be accomplished by His executives, managers, and various employees—who are all family.

In other Biblical passages (e.g. Psalm 82) we see that in times past, because of the free will God gave these divine beings, some number of them fell into sin and rebelled just like His human family.  Here in Job that’s not necessarily in view.  Satan, after all, did what God told him to do.

The Divine Council is a fascinating concept.  The sons of God, the morning stars, the heavenly host, the courts of God, the thrones, the rulers, the authorities, are all integral to God’s workings throughout history seen in the Biblical narrative.  Gaining a perspective on His divine family is intriguing.  It informs us more as to how God works.  We have a much bigger picture of what’s happening throughout Scripture when we begin to see the many references to the Divine Council.  More importantly, we gain a greater appreciation as to God’s redemptive purpose through Jesus Christ for mankind.

Spirit Baptism In the Deuteronomy 32 Worldview

Since reading The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael S. Heiser, which rocked the way I view Scripture, I’ve begun considering how the Deuteronomy 32 worldview applies to other aspects of what I believe.  Even as Dr. Heiser says that we who have an eschatological view of the Bible look at it through certain systems we’ve acquired, I think that’s also true for other areas of Biblical doctrine.

My bias regarding end times events is through a prophetic lens that strongly believes the Bible teaches us about a pre-Tribulation Rapture.  That’s the system I’ve been taught and through study have embraced.  Someone else may have learned the essentially opposite extreme of amillennialism.

Before I get to the heart of my premise for today, let me recap what the Deuteronomy 32 worldview espouses.

God created a divine family, the sons of God, that we see in numerous Old Testament passages.  He also created a human family.  The intent for both was for them to come together and extend the original creation of Eden throughout the earth.  Both families have free will and both had members that rebelled against God.  This has set up an ages-long spiritual war as God works through His human family to redeem them so that ultimately, in Christ, we who believe in Him will be glorified and be like Jesus as He is; in other words, we ultimately will be divine.  At that point, we will rule and reign with Christ and the two families will come together to resume what God decreed initially to Adam and Eve and then again to Noah: multiply, subdue, rule the earth.  This will be the eventual utopia that man has always sought but can never achieve on his own.  God must be at the center of the effort, and He will be some day.

In the meantime, the rebellious sons of God, the lesser elohim in this divine scheme, currently rule the nations because God gave rebellious mankind over to these divine rebels.  We’re not exactly sure how this came about, but Satan somehow has authority over many, if not all, of these corrupt spiritual rulers over the nations of the earth.  It’s why Satan could legitimately offer Jesus the nations during His temptation in the wilderness if He would bow down and worship him.  Of course Jesus said, to paraphrase, “Nothing doing, My Father has a better plan and I’m going with that.”

What all this leaves us with, however, is spiritual darkness throughout the world with points of light being those who are born again and have chosen to follow God’s way, not the way of the world.

One other review point.  Just as when God dwelt in the tabernacle in Jerusalem, His presence was literally there.  That space was holy ground.  In fact, all of Israel was God’s possession, while the other nations under His corrupt sons were outside the domain that He chose to inhabit.

In the same way, Christ-followers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Our bodies are His tabernacle.  There is truly a specialness about us as believers because we have chosen God and His way.  Non-believers are completely in outer darkness, while we are in the light.

God has given us a task, the Great Commission.  He has instructed us to go out into the world, take the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him, and teach them His way of righteousness and holiness.  The problem is that the vast majority of Christians don’t do this.  Why?  Because, despite the fact that they are saved and the Holy Spirit lives inside them, they have not appropriated the power and authority that God has made available to them.

Now that I’ve hopefully set the stage, here’s where my thesis becomes controversial.  Remember what I said earlier in echoing Dr. Heiser?  We believe what we do because of the system we’ve come to embrace.  There’s a system that says the Gifts of the Spirit ceased at the end of the first century.  This system believes that the Bible is the perfection that Paul speaks of, so those pesky gifts he mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 aren’t necessary for us.  There’s another system that argues the opposite, that the gifts continue into today and are for today, in fact, are vitally necessary more than ever.

Let’s examine this.  If spiritual darkness is all around us and growing worse because of apostasy in the church and the general coarsening of the culture, if these trends are the result of the activities of the corrupt sons of God in the world and there will be no letting up of this for the foreseeable future, if the trajectory is down-down-down, perhaps something is necessary to address this before God takes the battle to a new level..  Eventually the Rapture of the Church will cause the Restrainer, i.e. the Holy Spirit present in the believers who are snatched away, to leave the earth and lawlessness will increase exponentially.  That’s a whole nother dimension of war that’ll break out at that point.  But for now, we’re here, we’re in the midst of this mess, and we’re not doing so well obeying God’s decree for us.

Far too many churches are without life, without power, without much of anything that looks like obedience to God’s command to bring those in darkness into the kingdom.  I humbly submit in this essay that the reason is because these churches, their pastors, and the people in the pews have embraced a system that makes them powerless.  This system believes that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is weird, not applicable, and not necessary for today.  Now, believe me, I’m with these folks when we consider the excesses in the charismatic movement.  I’m all over that and look askance at some of the shenanigans that go on.  The problem with too much of this is that it doesn’t point to Jesus; it’s the experience of the gifts.  Some of the things that happen are potentially true gifts from God, but I’m equally convinced that some numbers of these experiences come from the dark side.

But…but…God has made it clear in His Word that He does give spiritual gifts.  He gives them through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  How do we know we’re baptized in the Spirit?  The same way that the apostles in Acts knew: they witnessed something that showed them, demonstrated to them, that God had done something supernatural.  What was that?  Grit your teeth.  It was the gift of tongues.  Only when believers spoke in an unknown tongue did God’s representatives know by that evidence that others had the baptism.

So, what was the purpose of this?  When believers are born again, they’re saved, but frankly, it’s the rare person who becomes on fire for God.  There’s something lacking.

The purpose of the Baptism of the Spirit is to give Christ’s power and authority to believers.  It’s through this means that they can demonstrate to a dark, lost, unbelieving world that embraces the lies of the corrupt sons of God and of Satan, that the kingdom of God is greater and will prevail.  What do we see in Acts?  The Gospel was preached and miracles occurred.  The power of God works supernaturally both through His Word and through those who have yielded themselves to Him, who allow Him to perform the miraculous.

Listen, the rest of the world knows about the darkness.  Witch doctors, necromancers, curses, spells—these are all real demonic manifestations.  Demon possession, oppression, and harassment are all around us.  People in the third world know this.  We in the west have relegated these things to psychiatry, to our detriment.  The church has yielded its power to the medical profession.  If we went into the world like the men and women in Acts did, in the power of God, i.e. baptized in the Holy Spirit and given over to allowing Him to work through us in power and authority, this world would look a whole lot different.  God probably wouldn’t be to the point of calling in all the chips, snatching the His church away, and bringing the battle to a head in the Tribulation.

But, most people have not embraced the Spirit in this way.  Most believers are content to dwell in their little corner of Christendom generally disobedient to God in the most important command He gave us.  “Tell the world about Me!  Operate in My power, My authority!  Send the powers of darkness packing because I AM greater than all of them!”

Is this important?  Am I passionate about this?  Do I believe that we the church are missing the boat?  Rhetorical questions all.

God will accomplish His ends.  We could do so much more to be a part of His plans if we only say yes and allow Him to work more fully in us.

New Age Spirituality & the Sons of God

The New Age movement, i.e. the New Spirituality, isn’t really so new.  Its roots go back to antiquity.  They weave throughout the Bible.  And they manifest in various world religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.  These roots are fascinating and deadly.

In order to see the nature of these roots, we have to look at the Bible in a new way, actually one that is old.  It’s all about context.  How would ancient Israel, and the nations surrounding her, have understood various concepts that we read in Scripture but pass by as throw-away passages because we don’t have the proper context nor desire to apprehend the supernatural as those in past millennia did?

One of the keys in this approach is found in two passages from Deuteronomy.  The first is Deuteronomy 4:15-19, which reads:

“Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.”

The second is Deuteronomy 32:8-9:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

In the Deuteronomy 4 passage, God warns His people Israel not follow false gods; they are allotted to every other nation except Israel.  But we know the story.  Israel did exactly the opposite.  She bowed down and served the gods of other nations.

The verses in Deuteronomy 32 round this out for us.  It says that God placed other nations under the control of other gods.  When He did that, however, He called Abraham, who then fathered the nation of Israel that became God’s special people.  They would be His heritage.  We also know that from them all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Who are these gods that God the Most High placed over the nations?  They are the members of His divine council we see in Psalm 82:1, divine beings He has created to be part of His family:

God stands in the divine assembly;

he administers judgment in the midst of the gods.

In this psalm we gain a clear picture that His divine sons have been corrupt in their administration over the nations.  God rebukes them in verses 2-5:

“How long will you judge unjustly

and show favoritism to the wicked? Selah

Judge on behalf of the helpless and the orphan;

provide justice to the afflicted and the poor.

Rescue the helpless and the needy;

deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They do not know or consider.

They go about in the darkness,

so that all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”

These sons of God, the divine rulers He placed over the nations have become wicked.  They’ve harmed mankind in their divine oversight.  God is quite displeased.  Then He issues a decree as to their ultimate fate in verses 6-7:

‘I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”’

In other words, these divine beings that God trusted to responsibly do a job for Him failed miserably.  They took the same attitude that we see with Satan in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.  They decided they could do a better job of “godding” than God.  They had free will, just as God created mankind to have.  They used it poorly and will suffer the consequences.  Though divine, they will die like men.

Ultimately, God will right this wrong.  The final verse in Psalm 82, verse 8 gives us that assurance:

Rise up, O God, judge the earth,

because you shall inherit all the nations.

God will take back the nations from these unjust divine rulers.  His plans and purposes will prevail.

All this has been background to my premise.  These are the roots.  How does this equate with New Age Oneness?

Recall that God had directed mankind twice to go throughout the earth, multiply upon it, subdue it, and have dominion over it.  He told Adam this (Genesis 1:28), and we know where that went.  He also told Noah this following the flood (Genesis 9:1-2).  It’s clear that God intends for mankind to multiply, subdue, and have dominion over the earth.

But what did men do?  They gathered in Babylon to build a tower.  Their intent was to stay there and bring God down to them on their terms.  Of course, that’s not what He wanted.  He would have none of that.  So, He confused their language and scattered them throughout the earth.  In doing this, that’s where Deuteronomy 32 comes into play.  This is where God assigns members of His divine council to administer the nations.  This is what we call the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

The original desire of mankind, in contradiction to God’s will, was to come together as one, seen in the building of the Tower of Babel.  Although each god over his own nation is doing his own thing, the inclination of them all is to thwart God’s intent and man’s understanding of who God is.

God is our creator.  He is separate and above all things.  He wants to restore our relationship with Him, but that can only be done on His terms.  It turns out that the means for this is through the incarnation of Jesus, His death, and His resurrection—all contrary to what these rulers and authorities over the nations want.  Besides, when God ultimately accomplishes His will, these divine sons will be toast.  They will be cast into hell; they will die like mere men.

So, the plot thickens.  What can these rebellious sons do?  They will mislead men and their understanding of the nature of reality.  They will confuse men as to who and what they are.

These gods do this by teaching men that they are all part of a seamless fabric.  Mankind is not only part of all creation, it is one with it.  There is no difference between a man and an ape.  Man evolved from the muck.  The oneness man feels when he looks at the trees is because he is part of them and they are part of him.  In fact, because man is in all, he is also god, the one universal essence and energy in the universe.

This all comes together in the ancient and the New Age religions.  It will have its final fulfillment in the 7-year Tribulation with the rise of the One World Religion.

When we talk about the fact that we’re in a spiritual battle, it is much greater than most of us realize.  There’s a much bigger picture at play here that we typically see.  Its roots are extensive and it involves all the spiritual entities that Paul writes about in Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

…and Colossians 1:16:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

It is all these entities that have rebelled against God that we struggle with in the flesh.  This great eons-old war is coming to a head.  When Jesus came, He threw down the gauntlet that God was about ready to take back what is rightfully His.  That’s the last thing these rulers want, so the battle is intense, and it’s growing by the day.  It will reach a fever pitch following the Rapture of the Church as the Restrainer is removed.  At that point, lawlessness originated by these demonic entities will have its day.  We generally think it’s just Satan we have to worry about as the director of the chaos that will soon erupt on the earth, but he’s got a lot of powerful friends in high places.  The corrupt sons of God will have a major part in the violence that fleshly rulers will perpetrate in the world.

But God is in charge.  He is greater than any of these His sons, these divine and wicked rulers.  He created them, He can and will destroy them.

Our job is to remember who we are in Christ and to warn others of the horrors to come, even as we show them the love of God.  Let us keep our eyes on Him and these pretenders to the throne will never deceive us.

The Blasphemy of Jesus

When reading Matthew 26 where Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin for them to judge Him, no doubt you’ve seen the extreme reaction by Caiaphas the high priest.  Caiaphas is interrogating Jesus and is getting frustrated because He doesn’t say a word in His defense.  Finally, in this confrontation Caiaphas has had enough.  Matthew 26:62-66 tells us what happens next:

And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

What is it about the declaration Jesus makes that sets Caiaphas off so much?  The typical thinking here is that the high priest takes the implication of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God as being the blasphemous statement, but it’s actually more than that.  There’s a deeper meaning in what Jesus said.  It’s this connection that Caiaphas immediately made and which caused him to condemn Jesus because of this particular blasphemy in his eyes.

Note again verse 64:

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus says that He will come on the clouds of heaven.  This is the problem that Caiaphas has, and of course, the question is “Why?”

For the answer we need to look deeply into the Old Testament and how it portrays God.  Beyond that, we must see how other gods in the Ancient Near East were portrayed.

The Canaanite god Baal was considered one of the foremost deities of the nations, and of course, one of those which the Israelites continually got into trouble by worshiping him.  Ancient texts describe Baal as “the Charioteer of the Clouds.”  He was a god that rode around in this manner and smote his foes.  In this context of the Ancient Near East, the Israelites were very familiar with this depiction.  This was the neighborhood in which they lived, and given their constant flirtation with gods other than Yahweh, they knew intimately of Baal’s characteristics and descriptions.  In fact, it was for this reason that the Pharisees in Jesus’ time were so strictly legalistic.  They wanted to make sure that they were completely following the Law set down by Yahweh so they wouldn’t drift into the worship of other gods such as Baal as they had in the past.

In the Deuteronomy 32:8-9 worldview which comes about following the Tower of Babel incident where God scatters mankind to the nations, God in this passage assigns the nations to other gods, in fact, to the sons of God:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

He then calls out Israel as His special people which He does through Abraham and Sarah.

God’s divine sons become corrupt through their free will and set themselves up as gods over each of their nations.  This doesn’t sit well with God and He condemns them in Psalm 82:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

The Old Testament writers knew of these dynamics and the interplay between Yahweh and His corrupted divine sons that He has judged and found wanting.  In the inspiration of Scripture, God has its writers make a clear distinction between Him and these lesser, created beings.  What they do is replace Baal as the rider on the clouds with the One true God.  We see this in several places.

Psalm 68:32-34

O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.

Psalm 104:1-3

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;

Isaiah 19:1

An oracle concerning Egypt.

Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

None of this is problematic for Jesus.  However, there’s a passage that brings all these other references together which Jesus specifically links to in His statement.  It’s Daniel 7:9-13 that causes Caiaphas to issue the death penalty:

“As I looked, thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

This is an amazing passage.  It shows God’s divine council in session depicted by the thrones and the court.  And who shows up?  The Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.

Look once again at what Jesus says to Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64:

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus has just told Caiaphas that He is this One in the heavens.  He is the Son of Man.  Not only that, but the connection as noted above in the various psalms is that Yahweh is the one who rides the clouds.  Jesus has made the very clear declaration that He is Yahweh.

This is beyond the pale for Caiaphas.  It’s absolute blasphemy from his perspective.  There is only one God in the Israelite understanding according to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Is it any wonder that Caiaphas tore his robes?

Jesus is indeed who He says He is.  He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He is above every other god because all were created by Him.

There is coming a day when the people of Israel will finally acknowledge this truth that Caiaphas and the Jews in that day denied.  It will conclude the horrendous 7-year period of the Tribulation.  As Zechariah 13:9 says, it will be a wonderful day for all of God’s people:

“And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

Jesus & the Sons of God

I read a fascinating book recently that has changed how I look at the entire scope of Scripture.  That’s a tall order because most of us gain a certain bias through the teachings we’ve had via sermons we’ve heard and various studies in which we’ve engaged.  My Biblical view is and remains one that looks to the fulfillment of all things.  I view the world through the lens of Scripture, but it’s one with an entirely prophetic bias.

This has not changed; what has changed is that I’ve gained a larger scope of this prophetic worldview.  In this, my view of spiritual warfare has broadened immensely.  I’m seeing things in Scripture that before I simply passed by.  This is giving me an even greater appreciation for the wonder of God and the supernatural aspect of His kingdom.

The book I read is The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael S. Heiser.  It’s a fairly weighty book with copious footnotes.  Dr. Heiser has also written a condensed version of this book called Supernatural, whose intent is to make the ideas and concepts more accessible to the general lay public.  I’m currently reading that as well to reinforce the ideas and understanding I gained through the larger book.

This message isn’t intended to provide a review of The Unseen Realm.  That would take many such articles.  What I will say is that Dr. Heiser presents a view into God’s unseen realm through his discussion of what is known as the Divine Council.  Because the ramifications of the council extend throughout Scripture, it’s extremely important to understand that it exists and from it have come numerous references and implications in God’s Word that the vast majority of readers completely overlook.

The term “the sons of God” is a direct reference to this council.  These are the “benai Elohim” in Hebrew, also seen in the Bible as “the morning stars” and “the hosts of heaven.”   These are part of God’s family, the divine branch.  We see the sons of God in Job 1:6 and again in Job 2:1 where the angels present themselves before God.  These passages give us a glimpse into heaven with the gathering of these divine beings:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 32:8-9 we see them again.  Many commentators want to assign this passage to the sons of Israel; this is how many Bible translations read.  But if you look at the footnotes, you’ll see the correct translation from the Septuagint that it should be “the sons of God.”  (Note: I’m using the ESV translation in all the Bible passages referenced.)

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

There’s much to unpack in this passage, which I won’t do at this time other than this: Here, God is telling us that this is a Romans 1:24 moment in the Old Testament:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves

Mankind had an opportunity to follow the God of gods, Elohim of the elohim, but it chose not to and disobeyed once more at the Tower of Babel incident.  Thus, God assigned man to the not-so-tender mercies of these other divine beings that He set over the nations, but Israel He reserved for Himself.

My point is to show that the benai Elohim are mentioned throughout the Old Testament.  It is also relevant to note that the term is used in the New Testament referring to those who have become believers in Jesus Christ.  Humanity is the other branch of God’s family, one that will itself become divine some day when believers receive their glorified bodies and we become like Jesus just as 1 John 3:2 tells us:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

The connections between the Old and New Testaments are fascinating and worthy of discussion at another time.

In Psalm 82, one which is frequently misunderstood, we see in verse 1:

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

In this psalm God condemns these gods, these elohim, who have become corrupted in their oversight of the nations that was assigned in Deuteronomy 32.  In Psalm 82:6 God says to these beings:

I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

These gods, these divine beings set over the nations became corrupted through their free will, just as man did.  As a result, He has sentenced them to death.  If God was speaking to Israel, to its rulers, why would He tell men that they would die like men?  These are Divine Council members who have rebelled against Him.

This brings me to John 10:34-39 where Jesus is speaking to the Jews:

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

The most common approach is for commentators to say this means that Psalm 82 and Jesus’ statement are referring to the Pharisees and other religious rulers.  I don’t think so.  Jesus is here saying that if He called the divine beings gods, how much more is He God—as the Son of God—than these entities who sit in God’s presence?  He is God’s actual Son, more than a created being like these others.

It’s for this and other such supposedly blasphemous statements that the Jews wanted to seize and stone Jesus.  We’ve seen numerous instances before where He had to literally disappear from within their midst; here He does it again.  In a sense, this is a kind of Rapture that happened to Jesus in multiple instances because it wasn’t yet His time.  You’d think they would have gotten a clue.

Jesus is more than a benai Elohim, a son of God; He is THE Son of God, the Name above all names.  What are some of these names?  Satan, Chemosh, Molech, Ashtoreth, Rimmon—all Divine Council members in heaven who rebelled because of their belief that they were equal to or greater than the One true God, the Lord of lords.  All these were lords over their earthly domains, all given territory as we see in Deuteronomy 32, but they will go down to Sheol and die like mere men (Psalm 82:6).

Have you ever considered these Bible passages in this light?  It’s eye-opening and astounding.  It provides a more comprehensive understanding about the Bible’s great theme of redemption.  It rounds it out our entire view of Scripture and, I think, even brings revelation.

The spiritual warfare playing out around us is a result of these rebellious divine beings, ones like the Princes of Persia and of Greece seen in Daniel 10:13,20:

The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.

Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Look again at the incredible statement that the angel who has come to Daniel tells him in Daniel 10:21:

But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Michael alone is on God’s side as archangel over Israel, God’s Promised land—the land and the people that He took for Himself.  Apparently, there were no other divine rulers over the nations at that time who were loyal to God; they had all turned away.  Is it any wonder the people in the nations worshiped these other gods?

Here’s a thought for our present time: If the corruption of these divine beings who are the princes over the nations of the world has worsened; if every divine ruler over every nation has decided to lift himself up to fight against the God of Israel and the God of all true believers, Jesus Christ, is there any question as to why the world is what it is today?  Truly, this cosmic-geographical battle will only intensify and become horrendous during the Tribulation.

Only when Jesus returns to slay the unbelievers of the nations who gather against Him at Armageddon will these rebellious divine rulers likely see their end.  The Bible doesn’t clearly tell us how this will work.  Perhaps Isaiah 34:1-4 gives us a glimpse:

Draw near, O nations, to hear,
and give attention, O peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;
the world, and all that comes from it.
For the Lord is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.

This appears to be another passage that speaks both to the natural realm and the spiritual one.  To be devoted to destruction by God is for Him to completely annihilate.  As the nation’s armies, or hosts, are devoured at the breath of Christ when He returns, this may also be indicating that this is the point at which the corrupt divine rulers over these nations are also done away with and Psalm 82:6 applies.

Will they be thrown into the abyss along with Satan prior to the Millennium?  Or will God allow them to stick around until Satan’s final rebellion when he’s cast into the Lake of Fire?  I can make arguments for both.

The certainty is that the White Throne Judgment is their final end, as it is for Satan and all unbelievers.  God will bring His ultimate plan of redemption to a conclusion at that time.  Sin and evil will be no more.  How glorious will be that day!

A Conspiracy Theory About the Garden & the Fall

Did you ever have one of those days when you began pondering the mysteries of God and wonder how something happened or came about in the Kingdom?  That’s been me lately.

Recently I’ve been studying the pagan religion of Hinduism, and how the practice of yoga plays into that.  As someone has said, “There is no Hinduism without yoga, and no yoga without Hinduism.”  Let me establish right from the beginning that yoga has no place in the life of a believer or in the church.  Because of its relationship to Hinduism, any practice of yoga calls demonic forces into play.  The Western acceptance of yoga comes from New Age spirituality.  The yoga practitioner, e.g. even someone who engages in Transcendental Meditation (TM), is flirting with the occult.

The yoga positions can ultimately lead to an awakening of a demonic power known as Kundalini.  In yoga there are seven psychic energy points in the body.  This psychic energy is pictured as a serpent that initially lies coiled at the base of the spine.  Upon practicing yoga and meditation, the serpent is awakened and begins to travel up the spine through these psychic energy points known as chakras.  Practiced deeply enough, the energy can be focused through a point on the forehead between the eyes, in what is called the third eye.  Many psychic/spiritual manifestations can occur through this process, and particularly when it reaches the third eye.  (By the way, that’s why all Hindus place that red dot on their foreheads in this position.  It’s an acknowledgment of their supposed godhead and the power of yoga to awaken it.)  The final release of the energy through the last chakra at the top of the head is supposed to lead to a state of final bliss known as nirvana.  This is the ultimate goal of the yoga practitioner because, in the Hindu belief system, this is when the person merges with the godhead, realizes his oneness with all of creation, and effectively become god.

Obviously, this is all absolutely contrary to what the Bible teaches and is exceptionally dangerous.  A follower of Jesus Christ should NEVER practice yoga or go anywhere near the occult.

Having said that, I believe there is a mystery here.  I also don’t believe that we’ll truly know God’s real intent or unveiling of this mystery until we’re with Him.  But, that doesn’t hinder us from thinking and speculating.  We’re human, after all, and God made us to inquire and to seek out His mysteries.

I want to be very careful in how I express all what I’m going to explore next because there is such potential connection with the occult and things that God never intended for man.  You have to understand that as a fiction writer I “go places” in creating scenes and scenarios that a lot of people may not even come near.  So, please, give me a little latitude with this and hear me out.

What occurs in yoga in the traveling of this Kundalini serpent through the psychic energy centers is part of the mystery.  It’s real.  It happens.  When people practice yoga, these chakras are opened and greater awareness, albeit of a demonic nature, occurs.

Here’s my key question.  Where did this come from?

Here’s my answer.  It had to originally come from God.

God is our creator.  Everything in the world came from His creative mind.  What is within each human being had, therefore, to come from Him.  This means that these seven psychic energy centers within each person had to be placed there by God.

Chew on that a minute.  The fact that they are currently used for a demonic purpose is the rest of this story, but Satan didn’t put them inside us.  He only figured out a way to use them to his purposes

My theory—absolutely, completely speculative, but not without some Biblical foundation—is the following.  The host of heaven (i.e. the sons of God, the morning stars, the angels) celebrated the creation of the world and all things in it when God did His work in seven days.  We see that in Job 38:4-7:

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

When God made man, is it possible that He showed the “blueprints” to the angels?  I believe He did.  My theory is based on that assumption.  Recall in Job 1:6:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

Consider also 2 Chronicles 18:18-22 in which the prophet Micaiah is summoned to the kings of Judah (Jehoshaphat) and Israel (Ahab) and describes how a lying spirit is placed in the mouths of false prophets:

18 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. 19 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ 21 And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 22 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you.”

Notice how God consults those around Him, the host of heaven.

There is much more to this, but what we see in these verses is what is known as the Divine Council.  God’s creation in the heavens is part of an assembly that He consults.  God is completely sovereign and His will is always done, but He works through His creation.  An aspect of this could have been the revealing of His divine “blueprint” for the final glorification of man.

When Satan rebelled against God, what did he do?  He went to the Garden of Eden to corrupt mankind.  He tempted Eve and through her Adam fell.  Satan asked Eve one critical question, “Has God truly said?” (Genesis 3:1) and made one fatal statement: “For God knows that in the day you eat of the fruit your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Satan taught man to first question God and then to aspire to be like Him.  This led to the fall of man.  It resulted in our DNA somehow being corrupted by sin, so that within every person there is a sin nature.

Now, let’s suppose that Satan knows that God has put within every person something very special—call it an essence of the fulness of the Spirit that will be activated within us at the appropriate time.  This essence, however, was never intended by God to be used by mankind in the flesh as we know it.  It was to be initiated by God at some point in the future.  It may very well be that it’s connected to our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Perhaps this essence was only intended to become manifest once we’ve become like Jesus and are given our glorified bodies after the resurrection.  Remember that 1 John 3:2 says:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Don’t forget that in our glorified bodies, at some point, we will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3)—probably fallen angels.  How do we do this without something greater within us that enables this?  Is part of it the living water that bubbles up within us flowing to eternal life?  (John 7:37-39)  Is all this interconnected?

What if this essence, the living water, is the Spirit of God with definitive attributes?  Isaiah 11:1-2 speaks of this specifically regarding Jesus:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

There are seven qualities, characteristics, or manifestations of this essence of the Spirit.  They are:

  1. Spirit of the Lord
  2. Wisdom
  3. Understanding
  4. Counsel
  5. Might
  6. Knowledge
  7. Fear of the Lord

Remember how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, and after that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Him?  (Luke 4:14) Was this the true awakening of the Son of Man into the power of the Son of God?

This is also the sevenfold Spirit mentioned in Revelation 1:4 and 4:5:

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne

 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God

Going back to yoga and the seven chakras.  I couldn’t definitively correlate these psychic energy centers that Satan has constructed with the true seven Spirits of the Lord, but I suspect that was the intent in the counterfeiting plans of the adversary.

I guess this is where the conspiracy theory really kicks in.  Knowing these spiritual things, Satan decides to use them in his ages-long quest to displace God and take down His creation to the pit of hell with him.  The fruit that Eve eats, however it works, is the gateway.  It’s part of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; it opens man’s eyes to that which he isn’t supposed to see at this time.  But he does.  The sin nature comes in and the ability to access this spiritual essence comes about.  At this point, God has to expel Adam and Eve from the garden, because He can’t also have them partake of the tree of life and live forever in this sinful state with dormant powers and capabilities we were never supposed to have in the flesh.  That would really mess things up.

Mankind is now infected with the sin of desiring to be like God.  Adam and Eve never went any further in their quest for ultimate knowledge, but that doesn’t stop Satan, because their descendants certainly pursue it.  He has now made a way through the very mechanism in man’s body that will ultimately be used for good when born-again believers are glorified and we have spiritual bodies.  Satan can tempt man to awaken his godhead now in his fleshly state.  He devises yoga within the pagan Hindu culture and makes this spiritual quest the ultimate achievement of man.  He spreads it worldwide through the practice of yoga in the New Age movement.  But it must be gained only through endless lives recycled again and again, all based on how one lives his life at any time.  Theoretically, man’s karma enables him to progress spiritually through the cycle of reincarnation and attempt to become god even as he focuses solely on himself.  Very diabolical, and opposed to the truth, which is found in Hebrews 9:27 that:

it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

The bottom line in this conspiracy theory is that Satan, as he so often does, uses the good things of God, twists and corrupts them, and causes many to fall away from eternal life that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Don’t be deceived, and don’t be tempted by something that seems good, but can only end in death.  God’s plan for us is so much better, and He will reveal it in His own time.