Mar
14
2012

Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation. Teilhard de Chardin

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. C.S. Lewis

But this is not the full story. Let’s listen to another part of the story that God wants to share. We need to go way back; back to the beginning, even before we were created. An important character of the Bible shows up who also is very crucial to its story. In fact, he is the antagonist, our opponent, enemy and foe. He is the nemesis, and he is a formidable one (not to God, but to his children and to his creation). His name is Lucifer (or Satan) and he is an essential character in the story of God’s purposes of creation and redemption and it can be a great danger to forget that.

To begin, Lucifer was and is a very unique being.  In terms of understanding who this person is, in the book of Ezekiel, we are painted a portrait of who this remarkable angelic being was before his rebellion and fall.

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and beryl. Gold work of tambourines and of pipes was in you. In the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers: and I set you, so that you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you. (Ezekiel 28: 13-15)

The Message translates one section of these verses, this way: “A robe was prepared for you the same day you were created.” In this telling, we can think of the story of Joseph and the favoritism from his father Isaac when he was given his special coat of many colors (Genesis 37: 3-4). With a passage like that, it is obvious that Lucifer is favored by God as well. But this is where significant problems begin to emerge in the story—God had other plans.

God earlier was partial to Lucifer, but now he has decided to create someone even more favored, even more beautiful, and I dare say, with even more authority than this beautiful prince. Lucifer (see Isaiah 14:12-15) was one awesome creature, but now he was about to be subject to another creation and people. Simply put—we, as human beings supplanted Lucifer as God’s beloved. In terms of the overall plan, we were the rightful heirs right from the beginning. In reading the Scriptures, it can be surmised that Satan’s jealousy of man began a whirlwind of destruction that we are still subject to today. Again, understanding who we are in the story is of utmost importance. To help spell this out better, below is the hierarchy of the creation in terms of the position of God, the angelic beings, and mankind as his creation.

Before Creation

  • God
  • Lucifer and the angels

After Creation

  • God
  • Human creation
  • Lucifer (Satan), the fallen angels and angels

After the Fall of Man

  • God
  • Lucifer (Satan), the fallen angels and angels
  • Human creation

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

  • God
  • Human creation
  • Lucifer (Satan), the fallen angels and angels

Specifically, if we reframe this understanding of the “hierarchy” of God’s creation, it begins to paint with broad strokes where Lucifer fits into the center of this story. If we, being made in God’s image, can now begin to understand why this fallen and evil creature wanted our destruction, we can begin to understand why we are so important and why our lives are so crucial to the makeup of this world.

The delineation above tells us some important theological insights. First, after God created the earth and Adam and Eve, human beings not only had dominion over the earth, but over Lucifer and the angels as well. However, here’s the bad news and a very important, but tragic point: after man disobeyed God, Lucifer now has now taken dominion and authority over God’s treasured creation, his children. In essence, when we Adam and Eve “obeyed” Lucifer, when they followed him into his lie, when they disregarded God’s command for their lives—on paper, it was all over and lost.  The New Testament spells out what Genesis tries to tell us:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:2). 

In the early part of the book of Genesis, we see this example when it tells the story of the Fall. As we go on and flip a page or two into the book of Genesis, the passage describes this awful situation with greater clarity. In this jealousy Lucifer had toward God’s children, in his great hatred toward us, he attempts to lead us away from the One who truly loves us—and with nothing more than a piece of fruit,with just a simple red apple that you could pick on a cold October day.

         The Serpent: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”

The Woman: “…God did say ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

The Serpent: “You will not surely die…”

Before night fell, Lucifer succeeded in his manipulation and lie, and God’s children found themselves subject to a different ruler—to this evil and fallen being. In the Fall, in our disobedience to God, we obeyed the Enemy and became his slave. This can be missed when reading Genesis. This is the aspect of reading the Bible as a narrative and not only looking for the obvious. At this point in time, the entire world is under the dominion of this rebellious angel. As we have said, the Bible calls him Lucifer or Satan and in different passages he is called “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). As Milton writes in Paradise Lost, “Satan exalted sat, by merit raised to that bad eminence.” That day the world turned sour or as Sally Mann has said, “The earth [became] sculpted out of death.”  Because Lucifer knew his demise, what a better way to end it—to destroy the creation God loved and treasured the most.

YOU GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY

Let’s talk a little bit more about theology. A new thing happens and God does not forget about his cherished ones. As Jesus, he comes onto the scene and restores what had become so messed up—not only is he our substitute, but he also ransoms us from Lucifer’s hand. What does that mean? For some of us, when we think about the cross, we immediately think of the phrase—Jesus died for our sins—theologically, this premise is what we call substitutionary atonement. However, in the early church, they viewed the cross in another way; they saw Jesus’ death as a ransom for our lives, as a deliverance and protection from Lucifer’s authority over mankind.  After the Fall, the human race literally became his property and possession. Theologians from the early church up until the present call this ransom atonement. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, all that is nullified—Lucifer’s reign and control can be over if you want it to be.

So often when Jesus spoke to people he asked them to follow him and this was the reason—to follow him meant that we would literally be turning our back on the one who hates us and we could begin to learn how to live with the One who always had our best at heart. If we were to follow Jesus, everything could be as it should be—we now have restored to us the privilege of being an heir and child of God, and we no longer have to be subject to someone who does not care for us in the least. We now literally give our lives back to God and release ourselves from Satan’s control and contempt (to learn more about this premise, you can google Christus Victor). As a central teaching of the New Testament about Jesus’ death on the cross, it contends that God not only saves us from sin and death, but also Lucifer’s hatred and control.

Let’s look at this concept from one more angle. I love literature. I studied it in college and it is still one of my favorite things to do—to read stories. I have learned so much through them. Drama, tragedy, comedy—they illustrate for us in exceptional ways important truths about life. Stories teach us the most. This is why Jesus spent so much time telling them—it is how we learn best. They stick with us and this is why Jesus spoke truths through parables and stories. The problem is that stories don’t always spell it out. You have to read them (and sometimes reread) and listen for what they are trying to say. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious to understand what the author is trying to say. And when you think about it, the Bible is written almost exclusively as a story when one reads it cover to cover. Sometimes when we read the Scriptures, we need to remember to read it that way—simply as we would read an exhilarating novel that a friend has recommended. Walter Wangerin did us a great service when he wrote The Book of God, because it brought us back to the fundamentals of the story of redemption; the pages we turn do not become just a bunch of rules that need to be followed out, but the fullness of a story where we become the central characters alongside our Creator.

This takes us to a final point. Let’s look at the word kingdom. Throughout the gospels, Jesus uses this word over and over when he is teaching the people and his disciples. What he is attempting to explain is that in this world there are two kingdoms co-existing with one another: the kingdom of God, and for a better word, the kingdom of the World (to which Satan is the “prince” of this “kingdom”). He makes it clear and states that each person is in one camp or the other. Jesus says it about as blatantly as it can be said: “If you are not with me, you are against me.” (Matthew 12:30) There is no middle ground. Each person is either in allegiance to him or blindly being swayed by his enemy.  Even Bob Dylan gets it; in one part of a song he wrote, he belts out this truth:

You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

 

Might be a rock’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage

Might have money and drugs at your commands, women in a cage

You may be a business man or some high degree thief

They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.

 

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk,

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,

You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,

You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

 

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

The question we each have to ask ourselves is where do we stand, who are we going to serve and follow? Again, there is no middle ground. With this issue, there is never a happy medium. Your mailing address is either in his Kingdom or in the world. You are either for or against Jesus. You are either serving him or someone else. At least, this is how Jesus explained it.

 

 

 

 


In: Spiritual Formation
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