The One Who Has The Power Of Death (Hebrews 2:14) How The Evil One Works Part One
(Sermon video here)
Did you go hungry at any time this week? Did you even miss a meal or two? Were you exposed to a bloody and degrading pagan ritual including sex, animal or human sacrifice, and other horrible activities? These might sound like strange questions to be asked alongside of each other, but the answers point to an important truth. We have had it very good here in Australia, and really in the whole West for quite some time now. And we have certainly never suffered as badly as Meghan and Harry.
Aussies are more likely to be overfed than go hungry, by a wide margin… And the Medieval Church did such an effective job of rooting out the pagan religions from the Western Nations, that even in this time of great apostasy and degradation, still the idolatrous worship and sacrifices before the gods of old have not fully caught on again yet…in the open that is.
We spoke last week about how evil has been defeated, and that it will be judged on the final day. The Devil has been defeated, his angels have been defeated, and his people, all who align themselves with him in rejecting Jesus, will be thoroughly crushed in the final judgement. But I don’t want to swipe away the presence of evil or downplay it. In fact, I am genuinely convinced that most Western Christians are not really fully aware of the level of evil in this world, even in our own nation, and just how dominant and all pervasive it is.
Paul said this to the Corinthians – “…so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Paul made sure his people were aware of the Devil’s designs. The modern Church has probably not done this very well. Likely because some of this teaching is uncomfortable for those who have lived comfortable lives to face. Partially because some of this information overlaps with stuff that conspiracy theorists like to dabble in. And partially because this sort of teaching in majored on by the kind of super-spiritual Christians that make most of us “normal” Christians uncomfortable. But also because we are just way too trusting in the West.
We Aussies are high trust, high functioning people. It is partially a product of our prosperity, and partly a product of our history. We have created a society here where everyone is given the benefit of the doubt. We like to think the best of people. We Westerners even tend to come up with silly ideas like this: that people are generally good, political leaders are generally decent, selfless, people wanting to serve, and we have long thought that most of society thinks us Christians are nice, but a little weird. But the Bible says people are corrupt, leaders are corrupt and that the world is against God’s people. We are too trusting and because of our prosperous and comfortable lifestyle, we tend to forget that the Devil really does move around like a roaring line, looking for people to devour. We forget that his servants are both spiritual and flesh and blood, and we forget that he never stops seeking to destroy and diminish good in the world. The fight against evil doesn’t end, until the end.
It is correct to know he is beaten. It is foolish for us to not be aware of the damage he can and does do, on his way down to the pit. The Bible tells us a lot about both of these things, and this is what we are going to be speaking about over the next few weeks. Launching off from Hebrews 2:14 what I want to do is a complete theology on how the Devil works, and how his evil is manifested in this world, with the Bible as our foundation and history as our aid. Someone once stated “that the Devil has convinced the world of two lies, that he does not exist, and that he is all powerful.” We don’t want to make either mistake. He has a power of a sort, and it is set against the people of God in various ways, let’s make ourselves fully aware of his schemes.
1. The One Who Has Power Over Death – Our writers says in Hebrews 2:14, “14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…” I am almost certain that most Christians don’t think of Satan in these terms, as the one who has power over death. We even like to say things like this: “trust in God and the Devil cannot harm you…” But the Bible speaks differently.
1.1 Jesus said, “16 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:16, 26-28).
1.1.1 Jesus told us that those who oppose him, and his message, and therefore us, are like wolves and can kill the body. And who do these opponents work for? Ultimately the Devil. In Matthew 10 here the Devil’s servants who will persecute the Apostles are both Jewish and Gentile.
1.1.2 People like to say that all Jews are the people of God, but this is not true. Those who believed are God’s people. Those who opposed Jesus, Jesus told us were of the Devil. Why? Because all people who oppose Jesus are of the Devil, no matter their genealogy or origins or race.
220.127.116.11 Whether you are descended from Jacob, Esau, Japheth or Nimrod, if you reject Jesus you are on the devil’s team, and if you trust in God through Jesus you are on the Lord’s team. There are only two teams.
18.104.22.168 One of the Devil’s greatest con jobs is convincing people there are more than two teams.
1.2 The Devil has sway over his people and he also has great power over death. He appears to be limited in how he can attack people. Most of the time he attacks through his lackeys on earth, people who do the Devil’s will knowingly or not.
1.2.1 But there are times when he attacks more directly. For example, the Devil was given authority to make Job sick, and cause bad weather. But even most of his attacks on Job came through other people.
1.2.2 The most important thing we learn from Job is that the Devil cannot touch you, unless God allows it. And if God is allowing it, it is to test us, or sift us as Jesus said to Peter. Luke 22:31-32 – “31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
1.3 So, what I want to do over the next couple of weeks is answer how did a created being, powerful, but puny compared to God, get the power over death, even in a limited way? And also look at how does the Devil go about his work? We will answer that as best we can.
1.3.1 I want to qualify this right now, not every aspect of the answers are given to us in scripture, so I don’t want to overstate my case, but the Bible does give us heaps of insight. This is where we launch into our theology of evil and the evil one.
2. Overruled By The Beast (Genesis 3) – Again like I do often, we need to turn to Genesis 3. There are those who would say that Genesis 3 is not to be taken as literal truth, or as revealed history. But virtually every doctrine of the Bible is dependent on Genesis 1-3, and the doctrine of evil especially. We read there – Genesis 3:1 - “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” We see here the serpent, the Devil, the dragon, being referred to as a crafty beast of the field. Why is this significant?
2.1 Because mankind was supposed to rule over beasts of the field – Genesis 1:26 – “26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
2.1.1 Adam was supposed to put the beast in its place. This was his job in the hierarchy, and his wife’s role was to help him do it.
2.2 In this case the Devil is working through a dragon, which the word translated serpent here actually means, and which Revelation 12:9 confirms for us – “9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” It is likely that some dinosaurs were very crafty and dangerous opponents of mankind, hence why they have all been hunted to virtual extinction. As grand as dinosaurs, or dragons were, they were still beasts, even possessed by the Devil. But here instead of ruling over this beast, Adam let his wife be deceived by it, and it defeated them both, taking humanity’s place as supreme in the earth, under God.
2.3 What did the Devil do? He subverted humanity’s authority, corrupted it with evil, and usurped their place. And there is now war between humanity and the evil one – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
2.3.1 This is the state of our world. This is the base reality. Our world is a place where the Devil has taken control of the world system, and he is at war with the offspring of the women (mankind) perpetually, up to and including the Son of God, who will finally crush his head, as prophesied in this passage.
2.3.2 I saw an article the other day, written by a clueless Christian minister saying that some Christians don’t want to be part of any “culture war”. But the foolishness of this position is we don’t get a vote. The Devil is against this world, and we are supposed to be against the Devil. He has his culture, and we have kingdom culture. They are by nature at war. We can choose whether or not to fight but not whether or not to be at war with evil, because it is at war with us, we have no choice.
2.4 So, we can start our theology of the Devil and how he works with these two points: The Devil got power over death by dominating mankind in the garden where he became the “god of this age”, and he is at war with humanity, especially the righteous descendants of Eve. But there is more we can learn from Genesis 3, if we want to.
3. He Likes To Attack Through Women In A Unique Way (Genesis 3:1) – Now before I go any further I have to qualify what I am going to say here. This is going to sound sexist compared to our modern perspectives on gender equality, because our world has twisted gender standards. But we should not base our standards on the world’s destructive standards, we should base them on God’s and adjust accordingly. Also I must state clearly, this is not saying that women are more sinful than men. The ancient Greeks taught that, some other cultures believed that. I think that idea is ridiculous. Men and women are both sinful in similar measure. Some men are worse, some women are worse, for every Jezebel there is an Ahab. But we are all corrupted by sin, regardless of gender. There are examples in the Bible of women representing wickedness, and examples of men representing wickedness. The beast of revelation, the man of lawlessness, and the woman who rides the beast are just two examples. But here is the key point, if we subscribe to certain wicked teachings of this world, i.e. feminism or egalitarianism, or even just being overly nice, this can cause us to miss important aspects of how the evil one works, which empowers him even more. He wants people to miss how he works and making it uncomfortable or taboo to talk about aspects of how he works, empowers his ability to work. So, this being said, let’s notice something, we are not supposed to notice:
3.1 What does verse 1 say, “3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Moses, significantly, tells us that the Devil is “more crafty”. He’s a smart sucker. He’s a crafty, intelligent, general.
3.1.1 Now don’t shoot me for asking this, but where does a crafty general, or a crafty opponent attack? In the most vulnerable place. The Devil saw Eve as more vulnerable, and so he launched his attack there. And he successfully took down the man and the woman, through this strategy.
3.1.2 This worked because…and no one will be offended by this…this worked because man’s greatest weakness is woman. And here was Adam standing before the most perfect and beautiful women ever, naked, offering him a bit of forbidden fruit…more men have fallen before that, than have stood.
22.214.171.124 For every Joseph there are a thousand Adam’s, a thousand David’s, and a thousand Samson’s helpless before Delilah. This no one objects to today, or really ever.
3.1.3 The first part, though, that the Devil likes to attack through women is not allowed to be said. But I seem to have been born without the gene which stops people from breaking silly cultural norms. And this needs to be said, this is a key part of how he wreaks havoc in the world.
3.2 In fact, this teaching is fundamental to understanding the scriptures, and it frames the entire approach to gender post-the-fall that God would have mankind take. To summarize it simply: every man has a duty, since the fall, to protect the women in his life from the evil one’s deception, in a way that Adam did not. And frankly men suck at this.
3.2.1 The weakness in Adam that caused him to crumble before this amazing woman, is found in men to this day, and it is devastating. It is precisely this dynamic that the Lord was referring to when he said, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
3.2.2 The fall put men at odds with women, and the Devil exploits that like a master manipulator.
3.3 We see over and over in the Bible how the Devil likes to attack through certain women, for example Numbers 25:1-3 – “25 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.” Numbers 31 tells us that these Moabite women were encouraged to do this by Balaam the false, weird prophet guy “Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor…” (Numbers 31:16).
3.3.1 Balaam, a wicked man, knew this strategy would work, because as an agent of the Devil, he knew how to bring down the Israelite men: licentious, idolatrous women.
3.3.2 It’s a strategy literally almost as old as time itself.
3.4 Then there are the Queens and Queen Mothers. If you read Kings and Chronicles, you will see that they note that bad queens or queen mothers had terrible idolatrous effects on the kings, of course the opposite is true as well, good women had good effects for example Amaziah’s godly mother in 2 Chronicles 25:1-2 – “25 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart.” The most famous of all the wicked queens was Jezebel, but she was just one of many. The Devil did much damage to Israel through women just like Jezebel, for example 1 Kings 14:21-22 – “21 Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. His mother's name was Naamah the Ammonite. 22 And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done.”
3.4.1 Why does it note that she was an Ammonite? Because the Ammonites were one of the idolatrous Canaanite peoples of the Promise Land. In other word’s this is the Moabite women issue all over again.
3.4.2 Another example – “15 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. 2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 3 And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 15:1-3). The good thing is that this woman’s other son deposed her, “9 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, 10 and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done. 12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron” (1 Kings 15:9-13).
3.5 This is a consistent theme in scripture, the Proverbs talk about it, the historical books note examples, the prophets speak out against it. The Devil has since the beginning attacked through women in a unique way. Of course, he does damage through men in other ways. But this is a favourite strategy of his and it has a particular effect on western men, because ours is the culture that invented chivalry, ours is the culture that gave women unprecedented rights, ours is the culture where defence of women is more important than anything else.
3.5.1 Hence ours is the culture where men are most easily made afraid to speak out on this clear strategy of the Devil…to do so risks being viewed as un-chivalrous.
3.5.2 But Paul based his theology of Church leadership and teaching on this understanding of Genesis 3 – 1 Timothy 2:12-14 – “2 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
3.5.3 When people say Paul didn't allow women to teach because the culture of the day didn't allow it, they are ignorant, or liars, because that was not the culture of the day, this is from a history of feminism, written by feminists:
126.96.36.199 "In Rome she had not only secured remarkable personal and property rights, but she officiated as priestess in the most holy offices of religion. Not only as Vestal Virgin did she guard the Sacred Fire, upon whose preservation the welfare of Rome was held to depend, but at the end of every consular period women officiated in private worship and sacrifice to the Bono Dea, with mystic ceremonies which no man's presence was suffered to profane…All Pagandom recognized a female priesthood, some making their national safety to depend upon them, like Rome; sybils wrote the Books of Fate, and oracles where women presided were consulted by many nations."[i] Paul didn't allow women to teach in Church, because it was pagan, and tracked back to Eve receiving the “divine mysteries” from Lucifer and passing them to the Adam.
3.5.4 Why did Paul base his view of church leadership and authority on such a view of the woman being the one who was deceived, while many churches and all of society pretty much ignore this? Because Paul was not unaware of the Devil’s schemes. Our modern culture is completely blind to it, most of the Church is blind to it, and indeed they try to silence those who are not blind to it.
3.6 There is a reason that progressives targeted women’s shows, books and magazines to gain support for their movement. Just as men are weaker before sexual sin, women are weaker before sinful spiritualities.
3.6.1 There is a weird view that women are generally more spiritual than men. But this cannot be true. Both men and women are created in the image of God, they both bear his stamp. Plus, remember in the Bible physical work, physically labour, tilling the ground, working to produce, is a spiritual act. Men are just geared to express their spirituality differently.
3.6.2 But think about this, the fact that to corrupt women the Devil inspired horoscopes in women’s mags, and stories about gay men with an amazing sense of fashion, and to corrupt men he just put women in men’s mags kind of proves the point doesn’t? Which is Paul’s point, the Bible’s point and the traditional Christian view in the Church up until about 1850sh.
3.7 “3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The Devil is a crafty bugger, the craftiest. And Genesis 3 tells us some important stuff about how he works. The next thing we can add to our theology is that he likes to attack through women in a unique way.
4. Our theology so far – Now men, before you go thinking I have let you off lightly today, know this, I am not finished, I am just starting to explore this theology of the evil one, and evil, and we will pick it up again next week. All we have had time this morning to do, is look at a handful of verses from Genesis 3, and explore three pillars of our theology of evil:
4.1 The Devil dominates the world – and because of this usurped the power over death.
4.2 He is at war with the descendants of Eve, that is all humanity, and especially the righteous.
4.3 He likes to attack through women in a unique way, and it is highly successful.
4.4 Now, as I said, we have just started this theology and we will carry on with it next week, and likely the week after. If you are in disagreement with this teaching come talk to me. If you are offended by it, remember this: one of the Devil’s greatest modern strategies has been to create a whole new morality, and make those who criticize that morality the bad guy.
5. Application – Now even though I haven’t finished this theology of the evil one yet, I want to give some application of what we have learnt so far.
5.1 Firstly, we can’t avoid the culture wars. We might like to we might want to live quiet and peaceful lives, but the Devil doesn’t give us a choice. Eventually the culture will confront you, better we engage, peacefully, now.
5.1.1 You engage in the culture war, when you speak God’s truth publicly, love your neighbour radically, advocate for policies that are in line with God’s kingdom, stop financially supporting TV shows, companies, or sporting organizations that hate you.
5.1.2 Also support those Christians who speak out publicly, pray for them, encourage them, even if you think they are a bit radical. They are advocating for a society where your children will be read to from the bible rather than story-time by drag queens.
5.2 Secondly, we can undermine the Devil’s strategy by structuring our families and our church around God’s vision for men and women, and rejecting the world’s vision. Because the church’s tradition on godly male leadership geared towards sheltering and protecting women existed for a reason, a good reason, it hindered the Devil’s strategies.
5.2.1 Feminism has harmed women more than anyone else. You’ve heard me teach on this before. If you don’t believe that this is true, then why are the women who are the most angry at men, the women of Hollywood who spend most of their time around the most progressive and liberal of men? Think about it.
5.2.2 Husbands our job is to protect our wives from being in a situation where the Devil can whisper to her, without our vocal opposition to his efforts. The job of a church eldership is the same. These are just two ways, in the power of Jesus and strength of Christ, that we can push back against the Devil’s schemes.
6. Conclusion – We will continue with this theology of the evil one next week, especially looking at the Bible through the lens of Hebrews 2:8 “putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” We walk in the victory of Christ, no matter how much it looks like we don’t. But part of living out this victory is know how the Devil works, so we don’t fall for his traps. Let’s pray.
[i] A Complete History of The Suffragette Movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton et. al.