In every age, God's truth has been assailed by error. It was so in the days of the Apostles, it is so today. In Apostolic times some taught that justification was by the works of the Law (Acts 15:5), others claimed that the resurrection was past (2 Tim. 2:17-18), others again, that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh (1 John 4:3), and so forth. The Apostles vigorously challenged the errors, and warned that their false doctrine was destructive of faith. Paul pronounced a curse upon those teaching these errors (Gal. 1:8), and urged upon believers the need to take heed to their conduct, “and to their doctrine,” for by so doing they would save themselves, and those who heard them (I Timothy 4:16). The Lord Jesus taught that acceptable worship is only that offered “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). Therefore, there is a need to seek out truth, and to carefully sift out error. Unfortunately, many doctrines taught by Christendom today are erroneous. Some of these, like the doctrine of the mortality of man, we have already dealt with in the course of our studies. Others, we propose to consider in this section, though we will not be able to treat with all. The reader owes it to himself and to God to carefully discriminate between truth and error, even in relation to teaching which he has been taught to revere. God's word must be magnified above all else (Ps. 138:2). “Let God be true” even if every man be “made a liar” (Romans 3:4).
(16) God is One Not Three
The Trinity Not Taught In The Bible.
The importance of this subject was stressed by the Lord Jesus when he prayed: “This is life eternal to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou bast sent” (John 17:3). He thus stated that a true knowledge of God is essential to salvation (see also Hebrews 11:6).
We claim that Christendom is astray on this matter. Most systems of religion propound belief in what is termed the Trinity. They accept the principle of a “one God,” but a God who is, at the same time, a “triune Being” made up of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But, though this doctrine is commonly taught, the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Not until the 4th century after Christ, at a time of great apostasy from the Apostolic faith, was the doctrine of the Trinity introduced, and superimposed upon the original faith. This is acknowledged by many theologians. The Encyclopaedia Britannica declares:
“The propositions constitutive of the dogma of the Trinity were not drawn directly from the New Testament, and could not be expressed in New Testament terms. They were the products of reason speculating on a revelation to faith … They were only formed through centuries of effort, only elaborated by the aid of the conceptions and formulated in the terms of Greek and Roman metaphysics” (i.e., borrowed from pagan mythology-Editor).
In contradistinction to this, however, the declaration of God through Moses was: “Hear, OIsrael, the Lord our God is One Lord,” (Deut. 6:4). To that belief the Jews have ever kept. The monotheism of the Hebrews wag a distinguishing feature in a polytheistic world.
This same teaching was proclaimed by the prophets (Isa. 45:5; 46:9), the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Mark 12:29), and the Apostles (Acts 7:32). The early ecclesias were founded upon the doctrine of the unity of God and Jesus as the Son of God, not God the Son. Thus:
“To us there is but ONE GOD, the Father, of whom are all things … and one Lord Jesus Christ … howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge” (1 Cor. 8:6-7).
“There is ONE GOD, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
“One Lord (Jesus Christ) and ONE GOD and Father of all” (Eph. 4:5-6).
“Jesus of Nazareth, A MAN approved of God among you by miracles and wonders which GOD DID BY HIM” (Acts 2:22).
“GOD IS ONE” (Gal. 3:20).
Him (Jesus) hath God EXALTED with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31).
All these references exhibit God as the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as His only begotten Son. They are opposed to the dogma of the Trinity, and the theory of a supposed preexistent Christ.
We do not go to the extreme of the Unitarians, and teach that Jesus was no more than mere man however. There was a divinity in Jesus that we must not overlook.
He was the manifestation of God. In character, word and deed there was seen in him the impress and influence of the Father, so that he could say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” and “I and the Father are one.” Trinitarians feel that this language supports their theory, but they overlook the fact that what Jesus claimed for himself, he also prayed for his disciples: “That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). Not God as a Trinity, but God in multiplicity, is the doctrine of the Bible. When the fullness of His purpose is revealed in the earth, He will be found manifested in a multitude of redeemed ones, of whom the Lord Jesus is chief (see Hebrews 2:10-11).
That Jesus is not the equal of his Father is shown by his prayers and teaching. Jesus prayed, “Not my will but Thine be done” (Mat. 26:39). He taught: “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me” (John 7:16). If Jesus were God would he pray or teach like that? If be were God he would claim the will and doctrine of the Father as his own. On the contrary, be declared: “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30) and “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28).
Jesus the Man.
The Bible reveals Jesus to us not as God the Son, the second person of a Trinity, but as “the MAN Christ Jesus” (Acts 2:22; 1 Tim. 2:5; Rom. 5:15), as the “prophet like unto Moses” (Deut. 18:15; Acts. 3:22), who was made of a woman (Gal. 4:4), “touched with the feeling of our infirmities … in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15), who “learned obedience by the things that he suffered” (Heb. 5:8), who “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared” (Heb. 5:7). These are not terms relating to God!
The Bible reveals Jesus as a man limited in knowledge (Mark. 13:32), even after his glorification (Acts 1:7), even when in heaven (Rev. 1:1). It shows us a man who was at times found weary (John 4:6), weeping (John 1:35), praying for strength. We see one possessing a nature common to all mankind (Heb. 2:14), a nature subject to death (Rom. 5:12), and in need of redemption (Heb. 9:12; 13: 20). We see him “striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4), triumphing over the flesh. We learn that “God was in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19), “strengthening him” (Luke 22:43; Ps. 80:17; Isa. 11:1-3), “reconciling the world unto Himself.” From this we understand that he was the expression of the Father's love to those who trust Him, so that he became for them the Author of eternal salvation.
The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the Son was coequal with the Father, but surely this is contradicted by the lonely cry that came from his lips during the agony of Calvary: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
The doctrine is shown to be completely wrong by the teaching of Paul who declared that at the epoch of Christ's greatest triumph in the future, when every enemy shall have been subdued before him, “then shall the Son himself be subject unto Him (God) that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
How could this possibly be true if Jesus is co-equal with God. The doctrine of the Trinity is false; God is one, not three; and Jesus Christ is His only begotten son.
Concerning The Title: God.
But some may draw attention to the fact that the title of God is sometimes applied to Jesus Christ. For example, when Thomas saw the risen Christ, he exclaimed: “My Lord and my God! ”
Does the use of such titles in relation to Jesus prove that be is the second person of a Trinity.
We answer, No, on the grounds that if it did, it would present a contradiction to many passages which show that he is not co-equal with the Father. In addition the same titles are used for angels and men who stood in a special relationship to the Creator.
This may sound confusing at first sight, but it is not really so. Consider. An agent goes forth in the name of the one who employs him; the representative of a firm merges his individuality in the name of the company he represents. On the same basis, angels and men used God's name when they went forth as His accredited agents.
The Lord himself reminded the Jews of this when they accused him of using the name of God blasphemously. He replied:
“Is it not written in your Law, `I said, Ye are gods?' If He (God) called them `gods' unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken (i.e.-you cannot refute this fact), why say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, `Thou blasphemest,' because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:34-35).
The Lord was quoting from Psalm 82, where the divinely appointed priests and elders of Israel are given the title of “Gods” because they acted and spake in the name of God. The fact that they used the title and applied it to themselves, did not make them part of the Godhead, anymore than it did Jesus when it was applied to him. That is the point of his reasoning with the Jews. He made it perfectly clear that he was not claiming equality with the Father.
Those “to whom the word of God came,” such as the priests in Israel, derived their authority from God, judged on His behalf, and were His accredited representatives among the people. They were “Gods” by deputy (2 Chron. 19:6). To stand before the priests was to stand “before the Lord” (Deut. 19:17), so that Paul taught: “Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, to us there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6). The “gods” in heaven and on earth besides the Father are His angels and rulers, who, in consequence assumed the title. In Exodus 7:1; 4:16, Moses is called “God,” and in Joshua 22:22, the Father is described as a “God of gods and Lord of lords.”
Any humble believer can attain unto that high and lofty title in a more complete sense than did the mortal rulers of Israel in ages past who though called Gods, nevertheless “died like men” (Ps. 82:6-7). Believers are described as “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), rejoicing in hope “of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). Peter taught that they can become “partakers of divine nature,” (2 Pet. 1:4), and Christ promised that he would “write” upon those who overcome “the name of my God” (Rev. 3:12). If mortal man can attain unto the glory, nature and name of God, surely the Lord Jesus can claim the privilege of the title “God” without teaching that he is part of the Trinity.
The angels also spake and acted in the name of God, without claiming co-equality with Him. There was one placed over the affairs of Israel, concerning whom, God told Moses:
“Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for My name is in him” (Exod. 23:20-21).
That angel spake and acted as God, but it would be folly to claim that he was part of the Trinity. In the Age to come, the faithful will be “equal unto the angels” (Luke 20:36), and will go forth in the name of God.
The Holy Spirit.
This is frequently translated Holy Ghost in the Bible, but should always be rendered Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the energy or power of God by which all creation came into being and is sustained. Whilst God dwells personally and Corporeally in the heavens, His spirit is diffused throughout the universe (Ps. 139:7-12), and is the substratum of all creation (Acts 17:25).
When God's Holy Spirit was poured out upon men so that they could use it, it enabled them to perform miracles, or to speak with Divine wisdom. Micah declared: “I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord” (Ch. 3:8), and so he proclaimed his prophecies of the future. Of Peter it is written that he was “filled with the Holy Ghost” (Spirit) and thus spake boldly unto the people (Acts 4:8). It is surely obvious that he was not filled with the third person of a Trinity! Cornelius was told that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost” (Spirit-Acts 10:38). Surely the first Person of the Trinity did not anoint the second Person with the third Person.
No! The Holy Spirit relates to God's power, which was then (but not now) poured out upon men, enabling them to speak foreign languages without having learned them, or to perform miracles.
The prophets were moved by the Spirit to record their teaching (Nehemiah 9:30; 2 Pet. 1:21), and by the same means God spake to men through His Son (Heb. 1:1). In consequence of this the revelation of God's truth can be described as the spirit-word (see John 6:63; Eph. 6:17; 1 John 5:7). It is this spirit only that is available to men today, but that is also capable of performing miracles, for it can cause the hard hearts of men to become softened and pliable to the Divine will, and to reflect this in a changed way of life (see Ga. 5:22-25).
On one occasion, when Paul visited Ephesus, he came upon certain disciples, and enquired as to whether they had yet “received the Holy Spirit.” The disciples replied that they had not, and commented: “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” (i.e. Spirit). Obviously they had never heard of the modern doctrine of the Trinity. The incident is recorded in Acts 19: 2-3.
Did Jesus Pre-exist?
There are verses that seem to give support to the theory that Jesus existed in heaven before he was born. For example, on one occasion he declared: “I came down from heaven” (John 6:51). What did he mean by such a statement? The context shows that he meant that he had been born from above, for a few verses later, he is reported as saying: “It is the spirit that quickeneth …” (v. 63).
Jesus was born by the interposition of the Holy Spirit on the virgin Mary. She was told:
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
In that sense Jesus came down from heaven, for God was his Father.
Though Jesus was in the mind and purpose of God from the very beginning, he had no corporeal existence prior to his birth of the virgin Mary, 1900 years ago. Previous to that event, God spake of the coming Lord in the future tense: “I will be his Father, and he shall be My Son” (2 Sam. 7:14). “I will make him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27); “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,” etc. (Isa. 9:6). If Jesus were already in existence when those words were uttered, God should have said: “He is my son, I am his Father,” “He My firstborn,” “His name is Wonderful” etc.
The future tense used in relation to the Son shows quite clearly that be was not in existence when the words were uttered, except. in the mind and plan of God.
Jesus Christ was the Seed of the Woman promised in Eden; the Son promised Abraham; the Prophet promised Moses; the King promised David; the Messiah promised Israel; the Chief among the sons of God, and the Captain of their salvation promised believers (Heb. 2:10). Of him it is written:
“When the fullness of the time was come God sent forth His son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the status of sonship” (Gal. 4:4-5).
This is clear, easily-understood language; but to teach that he had some prior existence only confuses these words, and is contrary to Scripture. Moreover, where is there any power of example for mortal man in Jesus if he were a pre-existent angel, or the second person of a Trinity? God's purpose was to manifest His righteousness in a man of our nature, whose perfect character would ensure a resurrection to life eternal (Acts 2:24 ) and by that means to point the way whereby we can conquer both sin and death. Paul declared:
“Forasmuch then as the children (i.e. sons of God-believers unto salvation) are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14).
If Jesus were an angel, or the second person of a Trinity, he would not be a partaker of flesh and blood, he could not have died (cp. Luke 20:36), he would not be a representative man, and therefore he would not qualify as a sacrifice for sin unto salvation.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 16
1. Please give Bible references in the Old-and New Testament which prove that God is ONE.
2. Is Jesus Christ the only person that can be “one” with the Father, as he declared to be according to John 10:30?
3. Where do we read that Christ learnt obedience by the things that he suffered?
4. Where does Jesus declare that those, unto whom the word of God came, were called “gods”?
5. Where in the Old Testament is Moses called “a god”
6. Describe an incident where God placed His Name and Authority in an angel.
BIBLE TEACHING CONCERNING THE GODHEAD
• GOD AS CREATOR: “Thou, even thou art Lord alone. Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein; the seas, and all that is therein. Thou preservest them all and the host of heaven (the angels) worshippeth thee” (Neh. 9:6). See also Isa. 40:13-27; Ps. 124:8; 146:6, 148:5; Acts 17:24.
• HIS CREATIVE POWER: “By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens” (Job 26:13; Jer. 10:12-13).
• INVISIBLE TO MORTAL MAN: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God be honor and glory for ever” (1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:15).
• HIS UNITY: “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord.” Notice it is not “We, even we are the Lord” (Isa. 43:10-11; Isa. 44:6-8; 45:5; 46:9-10; Deut. 6:4).
• HIS ABSOLUTE POWER AND GLORY: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the Kingdom O Lord, and thou art exalted as head over all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might, and in thine hand it is to make great and to give strength unto all” (1 Chron. 29:11-12; Ps. 145:3; Isa. 26:4; 40:26; Ps. 92:5; 104:24; 147:4-5; Isa. 28:29).
• ALL THINGS VISIBLE TO HIM: “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to shew Himself strong unto them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9; Job 28:24; Ps. 33:13-14; 44:21; 32:19; Amos 9:2-3; Acts 17:27-28).
• HIS DWELLING PLACE: “O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Ps 123:1; 1 Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49; Matt. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:15-16).
• EVERYWHERE PRESENT BY HIS SPIRIT: “If I make my bed in hell (the grave) behold thou art there” (Ps. 139:7-11; Prov. 15:3; Jer. 23:24).
(17) The Devil and Satan
Not A Fallen Angel.
The current teaching that the Devil is a fallen angel, with mysterious powers over the minds of men and women, is quite foreign to the Bible teaching on this theme. We learn from the Bible that Jesus Christ was manifested that “he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Again, Jesus partook of human nature that “through death he might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
In these two statements, the devil is defined as:
1. That which Christ came to destroy;
2. That which has the power of death.
From other parts of the Word, we learn:
(1)-That Christ came to destroy sin.
“He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). “He was manifested to take away our sins” (1 John 3:5).
(2)-That sin was the original cause of death.
“The wages of sin is death”(Rom. 6:23). “By one man (not the devil) sin entered the world, and death by sin” (Rom. 5:12). “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56).
These two lines of reasoning converge to show that the terms “sin” and “devil” are used synonymously. In order to destroy the devil, Jesus came in that nature where it is found, for we shall show that the act of sin comes from the flesh. He partook of flesh and blood, that through death be might destroy the devil. So declared Paul in Hebrews 2:14.
But if the devil were an angel, how would the death of Jesus destroy him? Yet Paul is specific that the devil was destroyed through death!
Human Nature Is The Devil.
If we can show that human nature is the devil, it follows that when Jesus died, seeing that he came “in the flesh” (1 John 4:2), the devil was put to death as far as he was concerned. Jesus possessed our nature, but he never succumbed to it, for he never sinned. He triumphed over it during his lifetime by figuratively putting it to death, and when he died on the cross, its power was brought to an end.
After he had been raised from the dead, he was given “divine nature” or immortality, in which the devil, or the lusts of the flesh, find no place.
But the devil still lives in us so long as the lusts of the flesh hold sway, and so powerfully, unfortunately, that we give way to sin. What can be done? We can seek the strength of God to overcome (Phil. 4:13), and His mercy to forgive where we fail. And in Christ, if we confess our sins, such mercy will be freely extended (1 John 1:7).
We have shown that the devil and sin are synonymous terms, and we now propose to quote Scripture to show that the term “sin” is used for human nature, the source of all transgression. Consider the following passages
“Sin dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:17).
“He (Christ) died unto sin once” (Rom. 6:10).
“Reckon yourselves to be dead to sin but alive unto God” (Rom. 6:11).
“God made him (Jesus) to be sin for us who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).
In all these places “sin” is related to human nature, or the lusts of the flesh. Normally “sin” is transgression of law, but it is clearly seen that such a definition cannot apply to the references above.
Sin (transgression of law) springs from fleshly lusts or desires, styled in Romans 8:3 as “sinful flesh” (see Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-23). Our nature is such that we do not need the prompting of a supernatural devil to cause us to sin, because it springs naturally from the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). The thought of sin is generated by the “desires of the flesh,” before the act of sin is committed (Ps. 10:4; 94:11), so that Isaiah exhorted the unrighteous to “forsake his thoughts” (Isa. 55:7). James summed up the matter thus:
“Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).
This process is illustrated by the confession of Achan:
“I SAW two hundred shekels of silver, I COVETED them, and TOOK them … I SINNED” (Joshua 7:20-21).
Saw, coveted, took! That defines sin, without the need of a supernatural devil to tempt!
Paul likewise, in treating with the subject of sin (Romans Ch. 7) speaks of it as an. element of human nature, which he found to be at enmity with the principles of God. There is no hint in his words of a supernatural devil being responsible for sin.
“The evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin (human nature, alias the devil) that dwelleth in me” (Vv. 19-20).
He confessed to a “law in his members” warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the “law of sin in his members” (Romans 7:23).
The “law of sin and death,” the desires of the flesh that lead us to disobey God, is the Apostle's term for human nature, the devil of the Bible (Rom. 8:2).
Significance Of The Word: Devil.
The word “devil” has been used as a translation for two entirely different Greek words: diamonion and diabolos. The first word should be translated “demons.” It was applied to those diseases (mainly mental disorders) which Jesus miraculously “cast out” of afflicted persons. An example occurs in John 7:19-20. Jesus asked the Jews: “Why go ye about to kill me?” They answered: “Thou hast a devil (diamonion), who goeth about to kill thee?” The Jews' reply, “Thou hast a devil!” is equivalent to the modem expression: “You are mad!”
In speaking of “demons” in that way, the New Testament was merely using the vernacular of the times by which mental disorders were described. The Grecian theory was that demons were the cause of madness, epileptic disorders, and obstructions of the senses. To be “possessed of a demon” was the way in which these illnesses were then described; and to “cast out a demon” was to say that the person was cured.
The word diabolos is compounded of dia, a preposition signifying across or over, and ballo, meaning to throw or cast. It defines that which crosses, or falls over, and is therefore a fit word by which to designate inordinate desires of the flesh which cause mortal man to cross over the line of righteousness established by God, and so to sin.
The word also signifies to “traduce,” “slander,” “libel,” “falsely accuse.” Thus Judas is described as a devil (diabolos) because he betrayed and slandered Jesus to the authorities (John 6:70). In 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3 the word had been correctly rendered “false accusers” (Gr. diabolos), for it should never be translated “devil.”
A consideration of the places where the word is used, will reveal that it cannot apply to a fallen angel. In Revelation 2:10, the faithful are warned that “the devil shall cast some of you into prison.” Did the fallen angel do that? Of course not! The reference is to the civil authorities of the times, who were “falsely accusing” the Christians. In this case, sin was politically manifested. How much better would this reference read if diabolos was therein translated as it is in Timothy and Titus: “False accusers shall cast some of you into prison.”
Again, in Ephesians 6:11, Paul refers to the “wiles of the devil” (i.e. the false accusers). He was referring to the unscrupulous means that pagan authorities were using to obtain a conviction against Christians when they were hailed before the courts. These same “devils” were always on the watch, ready to condemn any inconsistency on the part of the Christians. The Apostle therefore warned certain ones against being lifted up with pride, and so “falling into the condemnation of the devil” (I Tim. 3:6-7).
Would the devil taught by Christendom condemn anybody lifted up by pride? By no means! He would look favorably upon such as a most promising subject!
Another reference, frequently quoted to prove the existence of a supernatural devil is 1 Peter 5:8“Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom be may devour.”
But let us look at the statement a little more closely. The word “adversary” is antidikos in Greek, and signifies “an opponent at law!” So, once again, we are in the atmosphere of a court case! And who is opposed to us? Why, the devil! Again let us use the translation of 2 Timothy 3:3, and the “opponent at law” is a “false accuser,” and against such Peter warned Christians to be on their guard.
But why describe him as a “roaring lion?” Because, as the use of a similar expression in 2 Timothy 4:17 shows, this was a figure of speech by which the fierce and unscrupulous antagonists of Christianity were described. They were men of the flesh, and they personified sin in political manifestation.
The flesh, with its lusts, is a false accuser and a calumniator, because if its desires are gratified, mankind will never attain unto the Kingdom. It slanders God, because it reasons that He does not really want men to do the things He has asked them to do. It is a deceiver, because it claims that true happiness is found only in gratifying its desires. The whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19), and there are but few who are prepared to “resist the devil,” and so gain a victory over flesh. Most are “children of the devil,” in that they obey its lusts without consideration of God's way, thus revealing that they are “of their father the devil” or sins flesh.
There is not a reference to the words “devil” or “satan” in the Bible that cannot be interpreted in accordance with the principles outlined above.
The Word “Satan?”
The Hebrew word “satan,” means “adversary.” In contrast to the word diabolos which denotes an evil adversary, satan can refer to either a good or an evil adversary!
In Numbers 22:22 it is used in the former way. The verse reads: “The angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary (Heb. satan) against him.” Here the word satan had been correctly translated “adversary,” though the same Hebrew word in many other places has been transliterated “satan.”
In v. 32, the word satan had been rendered “withstand.” The account has to do with the withstanding of the wicked prophet Balaam by an angel of God, so that in this, we have an example of a good satan opposing a wicked man.
Another example of a good satan, or adversary, is contained in 1 Chronicles 21:1. It records: “Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel.” The parallel account in 2 Samuel 24:1 reveals that the “satan” (adversary) in question was God, Who was opposed to Israel at the time because of the wickedness of the people. The record in Samuel reads: “The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”
A careful consideration of the use of this word throughout Scripture reveals that it should not be interpreted to signify a fallen angel.
For example, in I Timothy 1:20, Paul wrote that be had delivered certain heretics “unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
Would the Satan of orthodoxy teach them “not to blaspheme?” Not if the current doctrine is true. On the contrary, he would teach them to blaspheme. The satan in this instance was the pagan world to which Paul bad excommunicated the heretics, in order that they might be disciplined, and eventually brought back to an acknowledgement of the truth (see Titus 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:6, 15).
In I Timothy 5:15, Paul wrote of certain women being “turned aside unto Satan.” They had not sought out the invisible tempter of orthodoxy, but had been drawn aside by the allurements of the world, the great adversary of the Truth (1 John 2:15-16).
The Bible refers to a “synagogue of satan” (Rev. 2:9), or a religious congregation in opposition to the true one. It describes Satan's seat as being in the Asian city of Pergamos (Rev. 2:13), because that city became the temporary headquarters of those heretics which troubled the early Ecclesias (cp. v. 14).
It refers to satan as being “bound” during Christ's millennial reign (Rev. 20:2), which is a reference to flesh being restrained under the disciplinary laws of Christ. It describes Peter as satan, when he set himself in opposition to Christ (Matt. 16:23).
The word Satan, therefore, signifies “adversary.” Whilst it can relate to a good adversary opposing wickedness, most often it is an evil adversary that is in view. The greatest and most evil adversary to righteousness that mankind possesses are the lusts of the flesh. The desires are so powerful, that to gratify them men turn their backs upon God. Jesus taught that “from within, out of the heart of man” proceed all forms of sin (Mark 7:21-23), and that is the satan we need to dread most.
Satan In Job And Revelation
Satan figures largely in the book of Job, and many base their concept of a fallen-angel-devil upon the expressions of this book.
It is alleged, for example, that the scene of Ch. 1:6-7 which depicts Satan appearing before the Lord in company with the sons of God, relates to God's dwelling place in heaven, and at first sight it seems to read that way.
But obviously, if God is so holy that He “cannot look upon sin,” He would not tolerate such a creature in close proximity to Him.
And a true interpretation of the verses does not require such an inconsistent picture.
We learn from Deuteronomy 19:17 that when a person appeared before a priest (God's representative on earth) he appeared before the Lord, because God was with the priest in the judgment (2 Chron. 19:6).
Why not apply the same principle of interpretation to Job Ch. 1:6-a principle that is consistent with other parts of Scripture? When that is done, the whole transaction is understood as taking place on earth, before God's priest.
But what of the term: “Sons of God”? Does not that indicate the angels of heaven?
By no means. The same phrase is used of mortal believers (see Deut. 14:1; Hos. 1:10; Isa. 43:6-7). John, writing to mortal believers, declared: “Now are we the Sons of God” (1 John 3:2). Thus the term relates to Mortals, not angelic beings.
Satan (many Bibles supply the alternative-“adversary” in the margin) was also a son of God, or a believer, but one who was motivated by jealousy and envy against job, and who was therefore his adversary. He sought to blacken Job's reputation in the sight of God by imputing unworthy motives to his blameless life, and by accusing him of hypocrisy.
It is by no means uncommon to have such people among the believers, and claiming to be sons of God in the sense of 1 John 3:1. Even among the disciples of the Lord, there was satan in the person of Judas (John 6:70) as well as Peter (Matt. 16:23, Mark 8:33). Every Christian community has its satan, its Judas in its midst, so that Job's experience was by no means unique.
It is sometimes claimed, however, that the Satan of job exercised the powers of life and death over the patriarch. The book does Dot say so. It claims that all the trials that job experienced came from God (Job 2:3; 19:21; 42:11). He was tested that his enemies might be confounded, and that a principle of faith in adversity might be exhibited as an example for all times (James 5:11).
Another reference frequently advanced to prove the existence of Satan in heaven as a fallen angel is Revelation 12:7: “There was war in heaven …”
This seems conclusive, but is far from being so when the context is examined. For example, vv.1-2 depicts a woman giving birth to a son “in heaven.” It is the same “heaven,” but is it God's dwelling place?
Such an idea is unthinkable. There is neither marriage nor giving in marriage there (Luke 20:36). It is obvious that we are in the presence of symbolic language (see Rev. 1:1), and the “heaven” in question relates to the political “heavens” which are set up on earth!
In fact, all this chapter is couched in symbolic language, and should be interpreted in that light. It is completely wrong to base a Bible doctrine on the literal interpretation of such expressions.
The same chapter speaks of a “great red dragon” (also in heaven) “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his beads” which catches a third of the stars in his tail and casts them into the earth.
Obviously this is not literal language; nor is it the language of fantasy. It is the language of symbol, the clues for the understanding of which, are carefully given (see Rev. 17:9-10). And these reveal that the symbols have relation to political events on earth, not in heaven, in which God's purpose is worked out.
The doctrinal evidence of the Bible shows, without doubt, that the devil revealed therein relates to sin in its various forms which Christ came to destroy.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 17
1. What, according to the Bible, was the original cause of death?
2. Explain in scriptural terms the process of sinning and its results.
3. What does the word “devil”, used in our English Bible version, really mean, when properly translated from the Greek?
4. How should the Hebrew word “satan” be translated into English?
5. Did Job think that the evil brought upon him was caused by a super-natural Satan?
6. Where, in the Book of Job, do we have proof that the trials were divinely controlled?
(18) The Purpose of Christ's Second Coming
Misconceptions of His Coming.
It is unfortunately true, that though frequent reference is made to the second coming of Christ in the Bible, it is misunderstood even by some who believe and teach it.
On the other hand there is much skepticism shown in regard to it, fulfilling the prophecy of 2 Peter 3:3-4:
“Know this first, that then shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming …”
Obviously, if the souls of the faithful ascend to heaven at death, there is little need for Christ to return to the earth, but we have seen, in earlier studies, that the current teaching of the immortality of the soul, and heaven going at death is completely false.
Some who proclaim the second coming of Christ teach that he will never be seen because he possesses an invisible body. Others again affirm that he will not actually return to the earth, but will come half-way, and will withdraw from the earth those accounted worthy to rule, and that ultimately the heaven and earth will be destroyed!
They do not reveal why God should thus destroy his own creation, and particularly the heavens, nor where everybody will dwell whilst both heavens and earth are destroyed. Again, as we have suggested earlier, this doctrine is based upon a wrong interpretation of figurative expressions of Scripture.
We propose, in this study, to set out a summary of Bible teaching relating to Christ's return, and his work on earth.
1. Christ will return personally and visibly to the earth.
“We shall see him” (1 John 3:2).
“Every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7). “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come IN LIKE MANNER as ye have SEEN HIM GO into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:20-21).
The literal and visible return of the Lord to earth is distinctly implied by the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. Referring to the ultimate conversion of the Jews, the prophet declared: “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10), and they shall “say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands?” (Zech. 13:6).
The wounds referred to are those that convinced Thomas that his Lord had risen from the dead (John 20:24-29), and they will also convince the Jewish people at his return.
The disciples “handled” the risen Christ (1 John 1:1), they saw a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39-though not of blood for it was energized by God's spirit-1 Cor. 15:45, 50), they saw him ascend bodily into heaven (Acts 1:9), and they were told be would return in like manner (v. 11).
2. Christ will return to raise the responsible dead and reward the worthy with eternal life.
The responsible are those who know the will of God, whether they obey it or not, and such will be raised to judgment (John 12:48). Both just and unjust will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ (Acts 24:15), The faithful will receive life eternal (Daniel 12:2-3; 1 Cor. 15:49-53; Rom. 2:7, 16; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10-11), whilst the unworthy will be consigned to the “second death” (Rev. 2:11). Thus the alternative is to receive eternal life, or to perish for ever (John 3:15).
From 1 Peter 4:17 we conclude that the judgment of the household of faith will precede that which Christ will then proceed to pour out upon the world of the ungodly (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
3. He will manifest his power at Armageddon.
Having judged the household of faith, Christ will move against the world at large in company with some of the glorified redeemed (Psalm 149:4-9; Zechariah 14:1-5). The nations will be gathered together against
Jerusalem for war (Zechariah 14:1-2), but they shall be scattered before the glory of Christ, and turning their weapons one upon another, will wreak mutual destruction (Ezekiel 38:21-23).
4. Christ will set up his power in Jerusalem.
Christ will enter Jerusalem as King, to make it the metropolis of his earthly rule (Joel 3:16; Isaiah 24:23; Jer. 3:17; Matt. 5:35). He will bring the Jewish people in the land under his control (Zech. 12:7); and will then restore all those still remaining, in the countries of their dispersion (Ezek. 39:25-29; ch. 37) . They will accept him as king, and embracing his means of salvation, will be incorporated as the first dominion in the empire Christ will set up (Ezek. 37:21-23; 36:24-38; Jer. 31:31-34; Micah 4:6-7; 18-20). Israel will then be reorganized into its twelve tribes once again (Ezekiel 45).
“I would not that ye should be ignorant of this mystery … that blindness in pad is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all (i.e. all the tribes) of Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning , the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes” (Rom. 11:25-28).
Paul's statement that the Israel referred to are “enemies” of the gospel but “beloved for the fathers' sakes” reveals that the practice of identifying the Israel to be restored as spiritual Israel, the followers of Christ, (as do such sects as the Jehovah's Witnesses) is completely fallacious.
5. Christ will extend his power from Jerusalem throughout the earth.
Having established his power in Jerusalem, Christ will issue a proclamation to all nations calling upon them to submit to his rule (Psalm 2:10-12; Isaiah 14:32; Rev. 14:7). Those nations that accept the summons will be incorporated in his growing empire (Isaiah 60:9); those nations that reject him will be compelled by conquest to submit (Isa. 60:12; Zech. 10:3-6; 9:13).
Thus, gradually, in ever widening circles the kingdom of God will spread throughout the earth. Its symbol, in the prophecy of Daniel, is that of a stone that grows into a mountain, and fills the whole earth (Daniel 2). Interpreting this, the prophet declared:
“The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Dan. 2:44).
During this same period, Christ will supervise the building of a Temple in Jerusalem, to act as a House of Prayer for all nations. This will become the rallying point that will unite all people under God and His Son (Zech. 6:12-13; Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17; Zephaniah 3:8-9). Periodical pilgrimage will be made to Jerusalem by peoples of all nations, for the purpose of Divine worship (Zechariah 8:22-23; 14:16).
6. Christ's millennial reign will last for one thousand years
Whilst there will be “no end” to the kingdom Christ will set up on earth (Luke 1:32-33), there will be changes of administration. The world will enjoy one thousand years of peace (Revelation 20:4), during which time, the righteous regime of Christ will bring material and spiritual blessings to all people.
Men will be united in worship and in peace (Isa. 2:2-4). Conditions in the earth will be drastically changed to provide for conditions in which mankind will be a mutual blessing instead of a mutual curse.
The rulers, during that period, will be immortal (Rev. 5:9-10; 2:26), though the ruled will be mortal (Isa. 65:17-22). The latter, however, will be able to work out their salvation unto eternal life, which will be granted them at the end of the thousand years reign of Christ.
7. A Second resurrection at the end of the Millennium.
During the Millenium, sin (personified as satan) will be greatly restrained (Rev. 20:2-3), and the life span greatly extended (Isa. 65:20). Sin will be restrained, both by the open revelation of God to guide the people, as well as by the enforcingof divine law by rulers who will have the ability to read the hearts of the people, and prevent disobedience before it occurs (see Isaiah 30:21). At the close of the millenium, however, this disciplinary action will be relaxed, enabling all to give expression to their personal desires, and demonstrate their continuing loyalty to God and to Christ, or otherwise.
Some will remain faithful, but human nature being what it is, others will oppose the rule of Christ (Rev. 20:9; Isa. 26:10). Judgment unto death will be poured out upon the latter (Rev. 20:9), leaving the faithful alone living. This will be followed by a general resurrection of all others who have died during the millenium, and they likewise will be judged (Rev. 20:12). Eternal life will be given the faithful, whilst the unfaithful will be consigned to the second death.
The completion of the judgment, therefore, will see death itself eliminated from the earth, which will, in consequence, reflect completely to the glory of its Creator (Num. 14:21).
At that time, a perfected world will be delivered unto God by Jesus Christ, that He might be “all in all.”
Thus the story of the Bible which commences with the statement: “In the beginning, God …” is completed with the declaration: “God shall be all in all …” The long era of sin and death will have been brought to a close with a glorified creation upon a globe that will reflect praise to its Creator. Three epochs of resurrection are set forth by Paul which reveal the developing stages (1 Corinthians 15:19-28):
1. Christ the first fruits -1900 years ago;
2. They that are Christ's at his coming;
3. Then the End, when he shall deliver up the Kingdom to God.
Paul summarizes the future work of Christ in the following terms:
“He most reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feel. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death … And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him (Le. unto, God), that God may be all in all.”
The above epitome should correct some false ideas that are current concerning the future work of Christ upon the earth.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 18
1. Prove with New Testament references that Christ shall return visibly to the earth.
2. Which prophet foretold that the Jews shall “look upon him, whom they have pierced”?
3. Did Christ, after his resurrection have a body of “flesh and blood” or is it described as being “flesh and bone”?
4. What will be Christ's first mission on earth at his second advent?
5. Which three epochs of resurrection does Paul set forth in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15.
6. What is the ultimate purpose of God with this earth and mankind upon it?