Day 5: Through Treachery Satan coils to strike

Persecuted Jews

Jews have been persecuted, loathed, feared and mistreated in many ways and this is recorded both in the Bible and in history outside it.  Of course, many people have experienced persecution and discrimination at the hands of other nations.  But history demonstrates a tendency to inevitably target Jews in a unique way over other groups.  A special word has been coined to label discrimination specifically against Jews – antisemitism. This demonstrates the enduring peculiarity of their mistreatment.  But the most perplexing aspect of antisemitism is that it is not confined to one time period, one region of the world, or simply a small group of perpetrators.  

A Brief List of Anti-Semetic events

For example, consider these:

 Medieval ghetto
Russian pogroms
Dreyfuss affair
The annihilation of Kaifeng Jews in Imperial China
Historical Expulsions of Jews across Europe

Causes of Antisemitism

But what causes antisemitism? Wikipedia, in its series on antisemitism, can show many instances of antisemitism through history and across cultures, but cannot point to a definitive cause that explains it. The difficulty with any explanation is that it cannot adequately explain both the breadth and long history of antisemitism.  A racial cause might explain Nazi-derived antisemitism, but does not explain Christian antisemitism of the Middle Ages.  A Christian/Judaism polemic might explain the Christian antisemitism, but it does not explain the 19th century French antisemitism that broiled France for over a decade in the Dreyfuss affair.  And then there is the ancient antisemitism of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.

The Bible on the root cause of Anti-Semitism

However, the Bible offers a simple and straightforward explanation for the cause behind antisemitism. It spans the Book from its beginning to end. In the beginning, after Adam & Eve’s disobedience, God pronounced a curse upon the Serpent. He then prophesied a pattern of ‘enmity’ between it and the “Woman”.  That woman was not Eve but Israel. (details here)  

Then, at the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, a vision references back to that showdown. It identifies the ‘serpent’ and the ‘woman’.  Here is the vision:

The Women, the Son, and the Dragon

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne… 

Revelation 12: 1-5

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him…

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

Revelation 12: 9, 13

The Enmity focused particularly on the Child of the Woman

The child born of the Woman is Jesus.  The Woman is the Jewish Nation, from which Jesus came.  The Serpent, also called ‘the dragon’, is identified as Satan. Back in the Garden, God had said that there would be ‘enmity’ between the woman (Israel) and the serpent (Satan). History has documented the ever recurring antisemitism. That it comes from a wide variety of social conditions and perpetrator nations shows the enduring reality of this enmity.

But God also predicted enmity towards the offspring, or son, of the Woman. We see this enmity build on Thursday, Day 5 of Passion Week, when the Dragon rises to strike the Son.  We have been looking at Jesus through his Jewish lens. The Bible presents him as the archetype of the Jewish Nation (synthesis of that thesis here).  So it is not surprising that the Offspring of that Woman should also experience that same enmity.

Judas: Controlled by The Dragon

The Bible portrays Satan as a ruling Spirit who manipulates hatred and intrigue behind the scenes.  Satan had plotted to have everyone worship him, including Jesus.  When that failed, he set about to murder him, manipulating people to carry out his scheme.  Satan used Judas on Day 5 to strike Jesus, just after he taught about his return.  Here is the account:

Judas betraying Jesus for 30 Silver Coins

22 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

Luke 22: 1-6

Satan took advantage of their conflict to ‘enter’ Judas to betray Jesus.  This should not surprise us.  The Revelation vision describes Satan like this:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Revelation 12:7-9
Michael and His Angels Defeat Satan

The Bible likens Satan to a powerful dragon cunning enough to lead the whole world astray.  As that ancient serpent he now coiled to strike. He manipulated Judas to destroy Jesus as the Gospel records:

16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Matthew 26:16

The next day, Friday, Day 6 of the Week, was the  Passover Festival.  How would Satan, through Judas, strike?  We see next.

Day 5 Summary

The timeline shows how on Day 5 of this week, the great dragon, Satan, coiled to strike his foe Jesus, the Seed of the Woman.

Day 5: Satan, the Great Dragon, enters Judas to strike Jesus

Why did a Good God create a Bad Devil?

The Bible says that it was the devil (or Satan) in the form of a serpent who temped Adam and Eve to sin and brought about their fall.  But this raises an important question:  Why did God create a ‘bad’ devil (which means ‘adversary’) to corrupt His good creation?

Lucifer – The Shining One

In fact, the Bible says that God created a powerful, intelligent, and beautiful spirit  who was chief among all angels. His name was Lucifer (meaning ‘Shining One’) – and he was very good.  But Lucifer also had a will with which he could freely choose.  A passage in Isaiah 14 records the choice he made:

How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the North.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”

Isaiah 14:12-14

Lucifer, like Adam, faced a decision.  He could accept that God was God or he could choose to be his own ‘god’.  His repeated “I wills” show that he chose to defy God and declare himself to be ‘Most High’. 

A passage in Ezekiel gives a parallel description of the fall of Lucifer:

You were in Eden, the garden of God.
…  I ordained and anointed you
as the mighty angelic guardian.
You had access to the holy mountain of God
and walked among the stones of fire.
“You were blameless in all you did
from the day you were created
until the day evil was found in you.
… and you sinned.
So I banished you in disgrace
from the mountain of God.
I expelled you, O mighty guardian,
from your place among the stones of fire.
Your heart was filled with pride
because of all your beauty.
Your wisdom was corrupted
by your love of splendor.
So I threw you to the ground.

Ezekiel 28:13-17

Lucifer’s beauty, wisdom and power – all the good things created in him by God – led to pride.  His pride led to his rebellion, but he never lost any of his power and abilities.  He is now leading a cosmic revolt against his Creator to see who will be God.  His strategy was to enlist mankind to join him. He did so by tempting them to the same choice that he made: become autonomous from God and defy Him.  The heart of Adam’s temptation was the same as Lucifer’s. It was just presented differently.  They both chose to be ‘god’ to themselves.

Satan – working through others

The passage in Isaiah speaks to the ‘King of Babylon’ and the Ezekiel passage speaks to the ‘King of Tyre’.  But from the descriptions given it is clear they do not speak to humans.  The “I wills” in Isaiah describe someone thrown to the earth in punishment for wanting to place his throne above that of God.  The passage in Ezekiel addresses an ‘angelic guardian’ who once moved in Eden and the ‘mountain of God’.  Satan (or Lucifer) often puts himself behind or through someone else.  In Genesis he speaks through the serpent.  In Isaiah he rules through the King of Babylon, and in Ezekiel he possesses the King of Tyre.

Why did Lucifer revolt against God?

But why did Lucifer want to challenge the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator?  Part of being ‘smart’ is to know whether or not you can defeat your opponent.  Lucifer may have power, but that would still be insufficient to defeat His Creator.  Why lose everything for something he could not win?  I would think that a ‘smart’ angel would have recognized his limitations against God – and hold back his revolt.  So why didn’t he? 

But consider that Lucifer could only believe that God was His all-powerful Creator by faith – the same as for us.  The Bible suggests that God created angels during creation week.  For example, a passage in Job tells us:

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:…

Job 38:1

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.

Job 38:4

…while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

Job 38:7

Imagine that Lucifer was created, becoming sentient during creation week, somewhere in the universe. All he knows is that now he exists and is self-aware. Also another Being claims that He has created Lucifer and the universe. But how does Lucifer know that this claim is true?  Perhaps, this so-called creator had popped into existence in the stars just before Lucifer popped into existence. Since this ‘creator’ arrived earlier on the scene, he was (perhaps) more powerful and (perhaps) more knowledgeable than Lucifer. But then again maybe not.  Perhaps both he and the ‘creator’ just popped into existence simultaneously.  Lucifer could only accept God’s Word to him that He had created him, and that God himself was eternal and infinite. But in his pride he chose to believe his fantasy instead.

gods in our minds

Maybe you doubt that Lucifer could believe that both he and God (and the other angels) just ‘popped’ into existence.  But this is the same basic idea behind the latest thinking in modern cosmology.  There was a quantum fluctuation of nothing, and then out of this fluctuation the universe popped into existence. That is the essence of modern cosmology theories.  Fundamentally, everyone – from Lucifer to Richard Dawkins & Stephen Hawkings to you & me – must decide by faith whether the universe is self-contained or was created and sustained by a Creator God.

In other words, seeing is not believing.  Lucifer had seen and talked with God. But he still had to accept ‘by faith’ that God had created him.  Many people say that if God would just ‘appear’ to them, then they would believe.  However, in the Bible many people saw and heard God – but still did not take Him at His word.  ‘Seeing’ alone never resulted in trust. The issue was whether they would accept and trust His Word about Himself and themselves.  The fall of Lucifer is consistent with this.

What is the Devil doing today?

So, according to the Bible, God did not create a ‘bad devil’, but a beautiful, powerful and intelligent angelic being.   In pride he led a revolt against God – and in doing so was corrupted. Yet he retains his original splendor.  You, I and all of mankind have become part of the battleground in this contest between God and his ‘adversary’ (devil).  The devil’s strategy is not about wearing sinister black cloaks like ‘Black Riders’ in the Lord of the Rings. Nor does he put evil curses on us.  Instead he seeks to deceive us from the redemption that God has accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  As the Bible says:

Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.

2 Corinthians 11:14-15

Because Satan and his servants can masquerade as ‘light’ we are more easily tricked.  Perhaps this is why the Gospel always seems to run against our instincts and against all cultures.