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.

Discernment Ministries

In these latter days, there is a great need for discernment in the church (and in the world) because of the rise of heretical teachings and apostasy.  Pastors and teachers, left and right, are embracing what they may think are truths, but upon examination are not Biblical.  This is a strong indication that our time on earth is growing short.  Deception is rampant.  False teachers, messiahs, and doctrines are so prevalent as to make us dizzy as we turn first one way then another to vet their Scriptural veracity.

We know the verses warning of these times:

1 Timothy 4:1-2

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

1 Timothy 4:3-4

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

2 John 7-11

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

There are many other such verses.

This has led to numerous Discernment Ministries that examine potentially questionable people, both what they say and what they do, potentially being the operative word.  One person’s practices might be of concern to one group, but not to another.  Generally, I think these ministries can be valuable to the Body of Christ.  I say generally because there are countless such ministries that do nothing but criticize in an unscriptural manner.  A quick example is that many of us believe whole-heartedly in the pre-Tribulation Rapture.  There are criticizers of this position who “discern” that it is errant, believing that its supporters are leading many straight into the throes of the Tribulation where those hapless followers will lose their salvation.  From what I’ve seen and heard, there’s quite a rabidity to a lot of these anti-pre-Tribbers.  This has led to numerous un-Christian-like verbal attacks, which leaves a lot of us scratching our heads.  Maybe the discerners in this instance should look in the mirror.

There are also many good ministries bringing a discerning spirit into the marketplace of Christian ideas.  Like all of us, the folks doing these ministries are fallible and subject to error.  They can also jump to conclusions that may be warranted, but perhaps should have been validated more fully.  In any of these circumstances, because of the public nature of the Internet where all things said never die, reputations can be tarnished on one side or the other.

Mistakes happen.  Misunderstandings can abound.  People and ministries get hurt.  Resolving a discerned error from either side of the position can be difficult.  Once the damage is done, again warranted or not, it’s hard to undo.

In a prior post I mentioned that recently I got involved at the periphery in a discernment dispute.  Because I happen to have some minor connections to the people on both sides of the issue, I believe the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me just watch from the sidelines.  My heart in this instance was to attempt to bring truth and resolution into the issue.  Both sides had valid arguments in my estimation.  It grieved me that the public nature of this situation seemed to bring a hardening from both camps.

The purpose of this particular message is ultimately one of methodology.  How should a discernment ministry go about its task?  I won’t dwell on these points, but try to succinctly lay them out.

  • The first and most obvious is that the Word of God should be the foremost means by which anyone is judged. Does the ministry in question adhere to Scripture?
  • When an issue arises and a question is asked whether someone is deviating from Scripture in their teachings, the source should always be noted.
  • There should be an investigation of the one accused of heretical teaching. Is there a consistent pattern of errant doctrine?  Or, are there simply things spoken that could be up for misinterpretation?  I think one aspect of this should also be to validate those various sources that led to the issue at hand.
  • The evidence should be accumulated and examined. Does it rise to the level of concern?  If the answer is yes, then the case continues.
  • If the discerning ministry believes a teacher has gone off the rails, the resolution effort MUST begin with the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

  • Every attempt should be made to go directly to the source for a direct confrontation in love. If we can’t follow the example of Jesus here, we’ve got more issues than discernment.
  • This one-on-one discussion should address all the issues of concern through a Biblical lens. From this encounter all aspects of the issue should be explored.  Resolution is the most desirable outcome in which one or both of the parties repents.  It’s possible the discerner was wrong; there must be admittance of error on whichever side it lies.  Paul in 1 Timothy 4:6 tells us the value of a discussion that gets at the truth:

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

  • Sometimes, for one reason or another, access to the potentially offending party is difficult. Hopefully, however, the discerner can reach out to others who might have access to the person accused of speaking falsely.  If a public ministry, perhaps there’s an accountability board through which someone can go.  If the ministry has a public presence on Facebook or other social media, perhaps there is a closed group that can be joined and access attempted through the administrators of the group.
  • If neither of these approaches is successful and the discerner believes the public outing of the errors is necessary, that point is the one which corresponds to Jesus saying that it must be told to the church, in this case whatever forum the discernment ministry uses for its public exposure.
  • Even after this public outing, there should be every attempt at resolution. Often publishing on the Internet has the effect of getting people’s attention.  As Christian brothers and sisters, we MUST do everything in our power to bring the love of Christ into the situation.  Repentance, apology, forgiveness, whatever is needed should happen.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:15:

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are NOT optional in the Kingdom of God.


Who Travels the Stairway to Heaven?

This morning in my daily Bible reading I came across the following verse in John 1:51, in which Jesus tells his soon-to-be disciples the wonders that await them as they follow Him:

“I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

How many times have I read that and moved on?  Quite a few, but not today.  The study notes in my Bible stated:

“Jesus represents himself as the ladder by which God’s revelation comes to the world (cf. Genesis 28:12).”

Because of the ladder reference, I knew what Genesis 28:12 was going to tell me before I turned there.  This is the story of Jacob on his journey back to reconcile with Esau.  He stops for the night, pulls up a comfortable rock to rest his head upon, and then:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Wow!  Once again, how many times have I read that and never related it to Jesus?  Yet the purpose of the entire Old Testament is to point to Jesus.

What does this tell us about the communication between heaven and earth and the access from earth to heaven?  Why did these verses rise to such an intense level of interest for me today?

Very briefly, I’ll answer the second question first.  Without using any names or specifics, let me just say that I got into the middle of a controversy and am trying to act as a facilitator/mediator.  The core issue is whether or not there is heavenly communication to loved ones or others on earth following death.

To most of us the answer should be obvious.  The Bible in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says:

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.

Very clear.  We are not to communicate with the dead.  Doing so is an abomination to the Lord.  This is called necromancy.

What happens following death?  For a clear picture we turn to Luke 16:19-31, which is Jesus’ story of The Rich Man and Lazarus.  Most Bible commentators believe this is a real incident since Jesus uses a real name, the only time He does so in such a story.  The rich man dies and goes to Hades; Lazarus dies and goes into the arms of Father Abraham.  There is an unbreachable chasm between the two places.  The rich man begs Abraham to help him in some way, but that is impossible.  Then he begs for Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about this awful place.

First, in Luke 16:26 Abraham says:

“And besides all that, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross from there to us.”

Then in Luke 16:31, Abraham nails the coffin shut on the rich man’s hopes that his brothers will turn from their wicked ways:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Apparently, some people will never turn to the Lord.

The account in Luke 16 may raise the question, how does Jesus figure into this death scenario given Abraham as a main actor?  Personally, I think, since Jesus is the teller of this, that He may be using Abraham symbolically for Himself.  The reason I think this is because of 2 Corinthians 5:8, which says:

we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

Our New Testament understanding is that upon death we immediately go to be with Jesus.  I think this may also be a disembodied spiritual state at this point.  We are at rest following death and remain that way until certain prophetic events occur.  The main one in this regard is the Rapture.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Paul spells this out:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We learn in this passage that it’s ONLY upon the Rapture that those who have died in Christ are raised into glorified bodies.  How do I know this?  Because of 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Okay, what do we know from all this?  Luke 16 doesn’t refer to a chasm between earth and heaven, but between Hades and heaven.  However, I think we can infer from Jesus’ own words that there is also a separation between earth and heaven.  When we die, we go to be with Jesus.  We’re only given new bodies following the Rapture.

That would mean that those in heaven right now do not have bodies.  That would also mean that anyone having a glimpse into heaven—which may or may not be valid; that’s not my point of contention here—will see, not necessarily their loved ones in actual glorified bodies, but perhaps a vision of that as a representation of what will be in the future.  (If it’s a true vision from God, which again, is another issue altogether.)

Now let’s go back to my original verses in John 1 and Genesis 28.  I believe the Bible tells us here that the only means by which there is communication or passage between heaven and earth is through Jesus.  He is the ladder.  Who do we see traversing Him, i.e. the ladder?  Only angels.  We know that angels are God’s messengers, so this makes sense.  They go from heaven to earth on divine missions and then return.  The key to any of that is Jesus.  He has to be the purpose and completely integral to what the angels do at God’s direction.

We have absolutely no evidence that deceased loved ones go up and down this ladder, nor that there’s any approval of anything remotely like that.

The only conclusion, then, is that anyone thinking they’ve had a visitation from heaven by a deceased loved one is being deceived.  As 2 Corinthians 11:14 says:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Thus, for someone to see their deceased son, daughter, mother, father, etc. is seeing a deception from Satan himself.  He can appear as an angel.  Surely, he appears as a dead son to grieving parents.

And unfortunately from this, many people can be led astray away from the truth that is Jesus, and Him only.

The Psalm 83 War: Part 1 of 6

This entry is the first of a 6-part series plus a 7th entry addendum on the Psalm 83 War.  The potential for such a war is disputed among Bible prophecy experts.  One of the first that I’m aware of to explore that this war is not yet a completely fulfilled prophecy was Bill Salus.  I consider Salus an original thinker when it comes to examining Bible prophecy with a fresh set of eyes and thinking out of the box.  I highly recommend his works.

The controversy of this psalm concerns the time and extent of the war’s fulfillment.  Many prophecy teachers conclude that it was completed at the time of Israel’s birth on May 14, 1948.  Many of the same attacking nations discussed in Psalm 83 were a part of those hostilities.  In my mind, again heavily influenced in this regard by Bill Salus, I think the Psalm 83 War has yet to see a final conclusion.  I’ll give my reasons as this series unfolds.

First, let’s look at Psalm 83:

1 Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!
For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.
They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.
They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

For they have consulted together with one consent;
They form a confederacy against You:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;
Moab and the Hagrites;
Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek;
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
Assyria also has joined with them;
They have helped the children of Lot. Selah

Deal with them as with Midian,
As with Sisera,
As with Jabin at the Brook Kishon,
10 Who perished at En Dor,
Who became as refuse on the earth.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb,
Yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
The pastures of God for a possession.”

13 O my God, make them like the whirling dust,
Like the chaff before the wind!
14 As the fire burns the woods,
And as the flame sets the mountains on fire,
15 So pursue them with Your tempest,
And frighten them with Your storm.
16 Fill their faces with shame,
That they may seek Your name, O Lord.
17 Let them be confounded and dismayed forever;
Yes, let them be put to shame and perish,
18 That they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord,
Are the Most High over all the earth.

We’ll break this down a little and initially discuss verses 1-4 and then verses 5-8 in this post, with subsequent verses and analysis in latter blog entries.

Verses 1-4:

Here we see that the enemies that are gathering are considered to actually be against God, even though their intent is to come against Israel.  We can’t ever forget that Israel is the Promised Land and the Jews are God’s Chosen People.  He considers them the apple of His eye.  Is it any wonder that when nations come against her, they come against the One who created her for a special purpose?  Never forget the seminal verse regarding this point.  It is Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you [Israel],
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

As you can see, coming against Israel is a risky business.  Doing so exacts the wrath of God upon anyone or any nation who tries harming Israel.

The enemies are cunning.  They are plotting against Israel, conspiring to come against this nation that God loves so much.  In fact, God cherishes the nation of Israel.  If we ask why He loves Israel so much, we may as well ask why He loves each of us so much.  He simply does.

The intent of Israel’s enemies is to completely destroy her, to bring about her total annihilation.  There’s nothing subtle about this.  They want to wipe Israel out as if she has never existed.

So much do they desire this destruction that they believe in accomplishing it that Israel’s name will be remembered no more over the face of the entire earth.

Verses 5-8:

The purpose of Israel’s enemies is unified.  They meet and plot together in a formal alliance.  They form a confederacy and have a covenant among them to accomplish their single purpose.

There are 10 members of this group, and the psalm names the conspirators.  Depending on the Bible translation you read, the names can be slightly different, but that’s only a matter of semantics.  Here are the 10 nations noted with the indication of who they are today.  Remember, the way the world looked back at the writing of this psalm is not the same as we have today, but we do have the remaining people groups that still exist and populate today’s various nations.

  1. Tents of Edom – Palestinians and Southern Jordanians
  2. Ishmaelites – Saudis (Ishmael is the father of the Arabs)
  3. Moab – Palestinians and Central Jordanians
  4. Hagrites – Egyptians, aka Hagarenes (Hagar, the consort of Abraham, was Egyptian; Ishmael was their son by permission of Sarah, Abraham’s wife)
  5. Gebal – Hezbollah and Northern Lebanese
  6. Ammon – Palestinians and Northern Jordanians
  7. Amalek – Arabs of the Egyptian Sinai area
  8. Philistia – Hamas of Gaza Strip
  9. Tyre – Hezbollah and Southern Lebanese
  10. Assyria – Syrians and Northern Iraqis

As you can see, this is an intriguing group.  Who are some of them?  Aren’t there various peace treaties in place that seem to make the inclusion of various ones of these peoples problematic?

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss these conspirators at greater length and hopefully bring clarity to some of these questions.

The Parable of the Tenants

Matthew 21:33-46:

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner with a vineyard who builds a wall around it to protect his investment.  He dig a winepress to harvest the vineyard’s bounty, and he erects a watchtower to oversee all that goes on.  Finally, the landowner rents out the vineyard to tenant farmers, then he goes on a long journey thinking his investment is safe.  When it’s time for harvest, the landowner sends his servants to collect the fruit, but the tenants seize each of the servants and kill them.

The landowner eventually sends his son to collect what’s owed him, but the wicked tenants kill him too.  The consequence for the tenants is that when the landowner himself returns, those tenants will have a wretched end.  The landowner will rent out the vineyard to other tenants who will be honest and faithful and give back their share at harvest time.

The vineyard that Jesus speaks of is Israel.  When God gave the land to the Israelites, He placed His protection around it and assured that it would produce a great bounty.  He promised in Deuteronomy 28 that if Israel followed God and all His ways, she would receive much blessing.

At the time of God’s choosing, i.e. the time of the harvest, He sent many prophets and finally His Son, Jesus Christ, to collect what was due Him.  He expected the Jews to obey, worship, and adore Him.  Instead, they killed the prophets and worshiped idols.  Finally, they killed Jesus and went so far as to accuse Him of being from Satan.

For their disobedience and rebellion, the curses of God—long since prophesied and known from Deuteronomy 28 and many other places in holy Scripture—came upon Israel.

Two times over the centuries Israel was scattered from the land.  The first complete dispersion concluded in 586 BC.  The final scattering was a two-part event.  The destruction of the temple occurred in 70 AD and the final dispersion of Israel from the land happened in 135 AD.

Following the first rebuke by God, he graciously brought them back after seventy years to the land.  Unfortunately, their hard hearts caused such rebellion, ending in their crucifying Christ, that God cast them out of Israel for 2,000 years.

This period since Jesus is known as the Church Age.  The Church is the new tenant that God gave the harvest to in order for them to share with Him.

For 2,000 years Israel was wretched, naked, and seemingly abandoned by God.  But He has gathered them again in the land of Israel.  He is not through with His chosen people, the apple of His eye.

Israel is destined to experience the time of Jacob’s trouble described in Jeremiah 30:7, which is the 7-year Tribulation in order that she might be saved.  Just like many people need to be completely broken in order to truly turn to Jesus, this is how it will be with Israel enduring the horrors of the wrath of the Lamb during this time of judgment:

Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

As the verse says, a remnant will survive.  They will acknowledge the landowner’s Son as Messiah and God.

This remnant of Israel—finally obedient—will go into the Millennium with the Name of Jesus on their lips and serve God for all eternity.