Friday, August 20, 2010

Angels & Demons 19: Satan Temporarily Laid Off (From 2nd Job)

According to Revelation, Satan lost his first job—that of “accuser of the brothers”—due to the “Blood” of Jesus. Revelation, therefore, places the Fall of Satan somewhere around 30 AD. The Hebrew word “SATAN” means “prosecuting attorney.” Prosecuting attorney was Satan’s FIRST job. There is no need for a prosecutor, if all of the accused have been “pardoned.” While John the writer of Revelation is familiar with virtually all of the Fallen Angel Stories I have been discussing—angels sin, angels marry human women, angels bring culture to mankind, angels rebel against God, angels refuse to worship Adam, etc.—he seems to reject them all in favor of a progressive “outmoding of Satan’s jobs” approach. The first job to go was that of accuser/prosecuting attorney. The loss of this job resulted in Satan being cast to earth because there was no longer a job for him “in Heaven.” No longer did Satan’s job(s) require him to be in the presence of God. Before whom else would Satan have accused and prosecuted the brothers? God is the ultimate Judge. Satan needed to be in His presence to present the prosecution’s case against the brothers. There is no sin in this task, but it is certainly a task God and “the brothers” were happy to see ended. Yet, Satan has other jobs: tempter, executioner, and raiser of world empires. There has never been a time in human history in which Satan’s jobs as tempter and executioner were put on hold. The end of those two jobs will eventually occur, according to Revelation, when Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire. There was a time, however, in which Satan’s 2nd job--as the raiser of world empires--was temporarily withdrawn.

John predicted the temporary elimination of Satan’s 2nd job in Revelation 20:1-3:

“And I saw an angel descending from Heaven, holding in his hand the key to the Abyss and a gigantic chain. He overpowered the Dragon—the ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan—and bound him for 1000 years. He hurled him into the Abyss, which he closed and sealed above him, so that HE MIGHT NO LONGER LEAD THE NATIONS ASTRAY until the 1000 years are ended. After that, he must be released for a little while.”

We know that the point of Satan’s being bound for 1000 years is to see that the NATIONS are no longer led astray, because John repeats the rationale in 20:7 & 8:

“When the 1000 years have ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out TO LEAD ASTRAY THE NATIONS in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—to muster them FOR BATTLE.”

Going along with John’s concept of an end to the world empires who affect God’s people is the concept that each NATION/world-empire has its own guardian angel who rises, then falls. This teaching is strong in Rabbinic literature. I will discuss the Rabbinic sources of this teaching in future commentaries. There is insufficient room in this commentary to address them.

I mentioned in my commentary “Angels and Demons #4” the great world empires that had affected the Jewish nation:

The BABYLONIAN Empire 627-539 B.C. (King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carried the Jews away into captivity in 567 B.C. The prophet Daniel and his friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were among the young men who were captured. Daniel predicted the eventual Fall of Babylon to the Persian King Cyrus.)

The MEDO-PERSIAN Empire 539-323 B.C. (Jewish princess Esther becomes the Queen of Persia from 492 to 460 B.C. Around 400 B.C., under the rule of Persia, the last two books of the Bible were written—Ezra and Nehemiah—as these two men reestablished the Jewish religion in Jerusalem.)

The GREEK Empire 323-146 B.C. (In a period entirely between the Old and New Testaments, the Greek religious influence was strong. This is called the Hellenistic period. During this time, the Maccabees mounted a successful Jewish revolt against Greece and Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes defiled the Jerusalem Temple with Greek religious practices and forbade the practice of the Jewish religion.)

The ROMAN Empire (146) B.C.-476 A.D. (While the Romans conquered Greece in 146 B.C., they really did not become an “Empire” until their first “Emperor” Augustus Caesar in 27 B.C. Augustus was the Emperor during whose reign Jesus was born. Christians will certainly remember the decree that went forth from Augustus Caesar. Augustus was most likely the First Head of the seven-headed Beast of Revelation.)

John seems to be predicting that (with the Fall of the Roman Empire) there would be a 1000 year period during which time there would be a relative absence of world empires affecting the people of God.

John is not alone in predicting this period of freedom from the domination of world empires. As Daniel had predicted the Fall of Babylon to Persia, he can be understood to be predicting the succeeding empires and their falls. The conclusion of Daniel’s prophecies is invariably a period dominated by God and his servants. Daniel 7:13-18 speaks of “One coming with the clouds . . . like a son of man” to whom was given” a universal “kingdom for ever and ever.” Isaiah 11 describes this period of peace in such terminology as lambs lying down with lions, leopards, wolves, cattle, bears, and oxen. Isaiah 2:2-5 describes the period:

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all NATIONS shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the NATIONS, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; NATION shall not lift up sword against NATION, neither shall they learn war anymore” (NIV).

The prediction from Isaiah “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation” may well be what John had in mind when he wrote of Satan “no longer lead[ing] the nations astray.” I see in John’s interpretation of the messianic reign, as presented by Isaiah and Daniel, the following elements:

• The temporary period will last 1000 years.
• It will be a time of relative peace in the sense that major “national” conflicts will not occur (nation will not rise against nation).
• A universal kingdom shall be led by a “son of man,” a representative of the Lord.
• Instead of studying war, many people will study the ways of the God of Jacob.

You can imagine how I was impressed, then, when my professor of Greek Lyric Poetry at Indiana University, Willis Barnstone, made a comment in class, nearly 40 years ago, to the effect that for a thousand years, secular Greek and Roman literature was systematically destroyed and that Christian literature was the only thing that was preserved. If one desired to study anything, the only thing available to him/her was Christian literature. Barnstone was referring to the Dark Ages—the period from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. His comments were in line with a quotation attributed to him on Wikiquote concerning Sappho, a Greek poet from the sixth and seventh centuries BC. The Barnestone/Wikiquote calls her a “prolific and much acclaimed writer, she is credited with either seven or nine long books of poetry, but over a thousand years of neglect and hostility destroyed most of her work” ( Barnstone appeared to me to be unhappy that Christians had destroyed so much of Greco-Roman civilization during this thousand years. Yet, it occurred to me that Barnstone had just identified a 1000 year period in which there was a time of relative peace-in the sense that major “national” conflicts did not occur—and during which many people studied the ways of the God of Jacob. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were all Abrahamic religions that flourished during this period and became the three largest religions in the world.

One could actually say that the Satanic job of raising world empires was temporarily eliminated for a thousand years. Nevertheless, with the Renaissance came a rebirth in interest in Greco-Roman culture. With the Renaissance came a rebirth in NATIONALISTIC spirit, and as John predicted, THE NATIONS in the four corners of the Earth have once again mustered FOR BATTLE.

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