Since the issue of the first part of this study, a remarkable television program has appeared on the Second Channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation attempting to make the world of High Energy Physics accessible and relevant to more than a small group of scientists. This program, one of a series entitled “Horizon,” revealed “a fundamental harmony in the whole of the universe” -- a harmony “so all-embracing that it seems the universe has been created in the only possible way. THE UNIVERSE WE HAVE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT COULD EXIST.” [Note: The date of this article is circa 1975]
This statement compares with the summary of Boehme’s philosophy given in the first part of this series of our studies; “THERE NEVER COULD HAVE BEEN A CREATION DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE WE KNOW, FOR THE ONLY IMAGE GOD CAN PROJECT MUST BE THE IMAGE OF HIMSELF FASHIONED AFTER THE PATTERN OF HIS OWN TRIUNE NATURE.”
Another fundamental statement in the B.B.C. “Horizon” program answered the question, “Where does it all lead to?” The physicist to whom the question was addressed replied, “WE CANNOT HONESTLY SAY WHERE IT WILL ALL LEAD TO. WE ARE ALL WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO STEP OUT OF THE CROWD AND TELL US WHAT IT MEANS.”
Our readers will appreciate our point that it was nearly four centuries ago that someone did step out of the crowd, anticipating the latest findings of 20th century physics, and told the world where it was all leading and what it all means. His name was Jacob Boehme, the enlightened German layman and true Christian philosopher. He taught the fundamental harmony of creation in its tripartite principle and its destiny in a return of its physical energies to the higher level of the spiritual, when all creation will resume its perfection in the total harmony of that Kingdom of Light and Truth which Christ brought forth with Him in His physical resurrection from the mortality of the grave to the immortality of that heavenly state which is beyond death and beyond the possibility of a fall. The total harmony of creation is finally realized in the glorious manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19), when the divine nature, united in the Son of God with human nature, will raise creation to its full and final glory. Modern science does not have the key to the meaning of the mysteries unlocked by its noble researches. That key is REDEMPTION--the goal and climax of the holy wisdom of God.
“Horizon” concluded, “What we do know is that no matter how incredible this is, it is still only one single drop in what we recognize as a whole ocean of consciousness in which the unity we see here is total. What we see here as a seeming diversity is an actual unity.”
In the experiments illustrated in “Horizon” was a dramatic portrayal, by models and figures, of the THREE LEVELSOF PARTICLE FORMATION lying at the base of all created matter. These levels of plus, neuter and minus, altered in their configuration by the collision of atoms (or the electrical components of atoms), though producing an apparent diversity, always exhibit in diversity a hexagonal pattern in which “music, color and form” (the three artificial aids used to portray the action within the atom) always assume a regular pattern so that nothing is really and fundamentally changed. The apparent confusion of the “players” on the dance floor of creation settles always for a harmony which the commentator significantly described as “THS CHOREOGRAPHY OF CREATION.”
Who does not see in all this the tripartite nature of matter in which the fundamental spiritual truth of creation, THE HOLY TRINITY OF FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, is exhibited?
We now proceed to our study of the problem of evil as presented by “THE PLACE OF SATAN IN TEE ECONOMY OF CREATION.’
THE PATTERN OF CREATION
We have learned from the helpful meditation of Jacob Boehme, the 17TH century German mystic and philosopher, that the pattern of creation which lay from all eternity in the heart of the Triune God, was God Himself--the self-existent One-in-Three, beholding Himself in Himself and eternally rapt in that never-beginning, never-ending contemplation of His own glorious perfection, resting always in the ecstasy of His own love in an eternal act of giving, receiving and proceeding.
(See note at end of this article).
This wondrous God, whose very nature is self-revealing love, inevitably determined to reveal Himself in a creation of intelligent, glorious and morally free beings patterned on His own nature, capable of entering into the some rapture enjoyed eternally by Himself as they contemplated His glory, beauty, truth and love and saw in themselves the reflection and reproduction of the divine.
So great a wonder, so great a climax of being, could only be a reality to them as to Himself, in a perfection of love. Yet because the nature of love is to go out from itself to another and not to seek its own fulfillment in itself, a moral determination became necessary in the case of each created individual personality. The highest example of this lay in God Himself, who could only truly be Himself as He subsisted in three Persons, each one equal, each one non-existent without the other and coming into view in a proper order which could not be other than Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an order of succession but not of time. It was proper for the Father to be the Fount of deity eternally generating Himself in the Son. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. There is but one Spirit, not three Spirits; yet because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, being neither the one nor the other but of both proceeding, He is a mysterious third Person in whom triunity is wondrously complete.
Truly to recognize this is essential not only to a valid theology but to the understanding of creation, sin, evil and suffering. The soul being the true image of the eternal God can only be perfected in an act of self-giving in free, unfettered, glad, and willing surrender and dedication to that One in whom alone it can rise to its full stature of love.
In other words, the soul cannot find its fulfillment in itself but only in the giving of itself in love to the One who is its true center. That act of giving must be free under test of knowledge or even lack of knowledge, calling forth an absolute faith in the goodness and worthiness of the One who is the source, center and goal of the life of the soul.
The thought becomes titanic when the scene moves to the actuality of existence and the consequence of being.
The self-giving is crowned by a creator-creature communion of love in which is realized to eternal fullness that oneness with God, which (lost for a while by sin) is realized in a new and more glorious form by a divine act of RECONCILEMENT which we know as atonement, in which the divine Person bears creation’s curse and carries it through death to endless life. That reconciling act could not have been made unless God were a triunity of Persons; unless love was the foundation of the universe; and unless evil was not a possibility but (more) in the outcome was a reality which called forth from Eternal Love the utmost outpouring, self-abnegation and self-giving.
The love which was the secret of the being of God was released by evil into a movement so complete as to disclose in itself the reason for creation and provide the ground for the complete manifestation of divine love.
THE FALL OF LUCIFER
Bishop Martensen (after Jacob Boehme) in a chapter headed, “The Fall of Lucifer and the Appalling Turba,” summarizes the question of the “origin of evil” by fixing attention on the “two centers” of creation--darkness and light—or egoism and love. “A being who can be tempted must have within himself two contrasting principles according to either of which he may determine himself,” writes Mortensen.
“TURBA” (Boehme’s philosophic term for that vortex of being, the self or the ego, into which sin precipitates the soul) takes place when the two natural properties, darkness and light (the self-existing personality or ego, on the one hand, and the obligation of love, on the other) are separated.
“It is the will of God that the creature should sacrifice the natural principle (the ego or the self) to the principle of love. In the devil, his egoism burned within him and sought to manifest itself. Satan opened up the hidden depths of the dark nature-principle within him (instead of surrendering it to the light-principle of love) and thereupon his light was instantly quenched. The beautiful star was wholly darkened. The foundation of hell, hidden from all eternity, was now revealed. He roused in himself hell and the principle of the wrath of God. His torment consists in this that he perpetually climbs to destroy the heart of God, but as often as he reaches the height he is plunged back into the deepest abyss.
“The angels stand in a derivative eternity, and thus the illusion lay ready to Satan’s mind that he was not created: that a primitive eternity was also his possession and that he might enter as a veritable God (an anti-God) into conflict with the Most High.”
At this point Martensen quotes Milton, who puts the following into the mouth of the falling Lucifer:
All is not lost; ...
... since by fate the strength of gods
And this empyreal substance cannot fail ....
“Lucifer was confident in his own immortality and in his belief that God cannot annihilate him,” concludes Martensen.
* * * * * * * * *
Here we are obliged to leave Boehme and his interpreter, the good Bishop Martensen, for regions where their theology did not carry them.
The institution and the meditation of Boehme covered an immense region of thought, but one important fact is not made clear--the temptation which caused Lucifer to turn into himself for the fulfillment of his being and fall into the vortex of his own darkened soul forever.
Neither Milton nor Boehm can help us at this stage. Both laid down the soundest of principles to bring the inquiry to the point of Satan’s departure from his true nature and destiny, but fail (in so far as we are able to ascertain) to tell us in practical terms the occasion of the trial by which not only Lucifer himself, but the totality of those who fell with him, met their doom.
God, who made everything good in its time, did not create the devil. He created noble and upright and perfect in his nature and his ways the lofty angelic being who through his own sinful choice became the devil.
How long, Lucifer remained in a state of perfection we do not know—time is of no great consequence in that eternal world anyway--but we can with tolerable certainty tell how and why he fell.
All theories which revolve around the idea that Satan wanted to be God or equal with God may be summarily dismissed. Whatever else he may be, Satan is no fool. He knew that he could not match omnipotence; but he certainly felt within himself as he contemplated his own beauty, wisdom, and immortality that he was at liberty to challenge the wisdom and goodness of God in the matter of his (Satan’s) own creation. His fall involved his resentment against the limitations imposed upon him by the will of God as touching place and function in the scale of being.
It may be deduced from the whole divine record of creation and of Satan’s subsequent history that his fall had everything to do with the creation of the inferior creature Man.
The clue to the mystery is in the great Creation Psalm (Psalm 8:1-2):
Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
Herein is laid down a divine principle drawn from the nature of God Himself. It pleases God to take of the lowest, the feeblest, and the most humble and meek, to advance His glory above all heavens. Ha does this to silence the pride of any and all who try to make themselves the central point of creation and thereby aspire to rule beyond their appointed sphere. “The enemy and the avenger” find their original type in Satan.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels and hast crowned him with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-5).
It is the marvel of all the intelligent and moral creation that God should ordain that through so feeble and limited a being as man His ultimate glory and purpose should be realized.
MAN AND THE ANGELS
How great the contrast between man and the angels! Man was created a lonely soul, confined in space and time, finding none to be helpmeet for him till the delayed appearance of woman. Through toil and travail, sin and death, he was to pursue his historic way, yet destined for all that to exercise the dominion over all the works of God and be clothed with glory and honor far above the destiny of the bright and glorious angels who were created full end complete all in one stupendous moment in all their uncountable multitudes, superb in their endless circles of light around the throne of God.
Not in the angelic creation, but
in the lower creation of men, the
entire purpose of creation was to
be realized. Man's soul, not the
angelic spirit, was to be the
battleground on which the problem
of creation must be fought and won.
Angels cannot die. Angels cannot weep. Angels never heard the cry of a babe nestling in their bosom. Angels never knew the companionship of woman, with whom to share the wonder of continuing creation. Angels cannot suffer anxiety and pain, weariness wad the baffling uncertainty of tomorrow. Therefore, they cannot know faith and hope as a personal experience as man knows it in the face of danger, reverse, disappointment, tragedy, bereavement. Angels are not confined behind the barricade of death. Only man’s soul is fitted to encounter and overcome and destroy by faith the mightiest and most terrifying of all enemies--the last enemy death.
The purpose of the angelic creation was to be the minister or servant of man. Their great powers were given them at their creation so that they could serve man in his lesser state till through man the purpose of all creation is attained and the glory of angels becomes subservient to the government of man.
The divine commentary on the eighth Psalm is in Hebrews, Chapter 2, where the inspired Paul tells us that man’s destiny as ruler of creation is mysteriously realized in one who is both God and man--the Son of God and Son of Man, in whom the divine and human are forever united in glorious harmony and fullness of joy. In man, Christ suffers; in Christ, man reigns. As man, the Son of God sheds His blood and dies that man in Him might be raised, a new creation, no more to die but to reign as partner in His throne--or as the figure varies, as bride and queen with heaven’s king.
It was when the angels learned for the first time that they would realize the purpose of their creation only through their subordination to the fate of man that Lucifer rebelled. The demand upon love’s humility, ready to give itself in its entire being to another lower than itself, became the ground of pride as Satan rebelled against his own being and inwardly accused the Almighty God of arbitrary and unjust determinism. With the speed of thought, the infection spread to countless numbers of his companions by that means of communication that only heaven knows and for which we have no counterpart on earth. Heaven shook with an enormous moral earthquake. The light was extinguished in those falling spirits. Their sin became black as sackcloth of hair. Their moon became blood. The abyss of their own being opened up to receive them, and they became prisoners of their own pride--swallowed up as by some horrible vortex in the bottomless pit of their own ego.
Jude puts it this way:
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day (Jude 6).
This, therefore, was Satan’s sin; and his sin is the only possible sin, for all sin, human or angelic, is the same in its nature: it is quite simply the departure from the law of perfect love, which is the law of creation and the law of the divine nature.
There was withheld originally from the angelic spirits two things: (1) they did not know the hidden depths of divine love; (2) they did not know how God would realize in man the purpose of creation and thus fully unfold His wisdom.
The withholding of these two depths of knowledge was essential to angelic probation. Their nature (as man’s nature) could only be proved under supreme trial. We have said that love can exist only in the positive giving of itself for the glory and praise of another. Angelic love for God could come into play only as these splendid beings, not knowing as yet the fullness of the divine purpose, nevertheless submitted themselves and dedicated themselves in love to the great end their Creator had in view. In His goodness and perfection of love, they trusted; so that they acquiesced in their own fate as decreed for them by Him whom they adored, no matter what that fate might be. Love assured itself in the goodness of God and did not need to know. This was the morel test of angels and the ground of their moral rebirth and establishment in holiness.
The blasphemy of Satan--the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which knows no pardon because it can know no repentance--is now laid bare. Satan’s rebellion against his own fate impugned (as he intended it to impugn) the goodness of God. It denied the divine nature and instantly set Satan above God as being more righteous and wise than the Creator.
Satan saw that the creature man, made so very far below the glory of angels, was to be preferred before him and that his fate was to be servant and minister to man. It was enough. To this he would not submit. Pride in himself arose and aimed itself at the throne of God. God was not just: His ways were not equal; His decrees were arbitrary; God was not worthy of His own throne; His majesty was a self-centered and coercive force, which be (Satan) was not bound in justice to obey.
Alas! How love was slain in the very palace of heaven! and how didst thou, 0 wounded Love, give Thyself to be slain on the cruel tree to overcome so great an evil and to fulfill the purpose of creation in Thyself so that by utter meekness and surrender of Thyself to enormous evil, evil might at last be banished and all thins be consummated in Thyself!
THE INCARNATION—CREATION’S SECRET
What Satan did not know was that creation’s secret lay in the incarnation. God would become man. By this means, man would be raised to the throne of eternal glory to the rapture of elect angels. Satan did not and could not know that the end and purpose of creation was a marriage of love between God and man in redemption, with the angels joining in the never-ending joy of it as courtiers around the throne. He did not know that the invisible God would become visible in man and through incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection would find the means to display His manifold wisdom and perfection of love, according to His eternal purpose in the only begotten Son (Ephesians 3:11).
It might be asked whether it would not have been better for Satan to have known the secret beforehand so that be might not have fallen? But then there could have been no probation of angels, and no angel would ever have been confirmed in holiness and truth. Moral being must be proved under trial; else it is not truly moral. Satan should have known, and in fact did know, that all God’s ways were right and true. Pure love should have accepted joyfully the decrees of eternal love in freedom of choice, not under coercion of will. Satan chose otherwise and so became evil. Rebellion against love is therefore the origin of evil and the only evil.
The bitterness of Satan’s hell will lie in the frustration of knowing that all be has ever done against God has only been the means of love’s triumph. All along he has been the slave of providence to promote love’s full realization by providing the means by which love gives itself to suffer and to die. The existence of evil is neither an exception to the goodness of God nor a threat to His throne. It affords no ground for any imputation against His love or His wisdom because it is overcome by love. The all-knowing wisdom of God ordained not only that evil should be, but that it should rise up against Him in the totality of its power so that He might prove the full strength and glory of love. Against love evil cannot stand. Love’s submissive meekness overcomes all, and the Creator reserved for himself the greatest contest between light and darkness, by the denying of Himself at the cross, that He might in resurrection wrest from death and the grave (those greatest symbols of evil) their dreadful dominion, and Himself as man be the crown and glory of the whole creation and the guarantee of its eternal and unchangeable perfection.
THE FALL OF MAN
We are not surprised, therefore, to find that the temptation of our first parents exhibited the nature of the first sin in heaven. Satan tempted man with the instrument that had been the means of his own ruin.
Thou shalt not surely die. God
doth know- that in the day that
ye eat thereof ye shall be as
gods knowing good and evil
In other words, Satan was saying that God was unjustly withholding from man that which was man’s right; man was being deprived of a higher and greater state by the whim and jealousy of the Almighty. Precisely this was Satan’s own evil thought by which he had fallen from his perfection into the “appalling Turba” of his own ego. Now he tempts man to ruin by reproducing his own error in the mind of man. The eating of Eden’s forbidden fruit was a gigantic crime not less in its nature than the sin of Satan. Man’s moral test was that of unquestioning obedience to the ordinance of God. The preservation of the sacredness of one tree as the token of obedient love was the only way by which man’s moral nature could be proved in circumstances where there was no human society and no law of possession or subordination save in the demarcation of one ordinary, visible object which was sacred to God.
The invasion of that precinct was the invasion of the divine prerogative, deliberate and daring and utterly beyond excuse. Human nature was instantly ruined as love departed and the Holy Spirit withdrew from the defiled temple. The human race was in the loins of that one man, and all human nature was tested at one time in him in conditions of perfection utterly favorable to obedience and rectitude. All fell, therefore, in Adam because all human nature was morally corrupted in him who acted as representative of the human race. This was original sin.
Then began man’s long and painful pilgrimage till the realization of love’s purpose in man through Another who was God Himself, God and man, Christ Jesus.
Those who deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the deity of Christ have no true theology. There is no work of Satan so deadly as his venomous attack on the nature of the Godhead and the true personality of the eternal Son. There can be no salvation for man or hope for angels except in a new creation fashioned by God Himself. That new creation is as much an act of omnipotent love as the first was of omnipotent power and wisdom, and if the first could be called into being only by God Almighty so the second could be realized only through the self-giving of One who was God, the ONLY ONE of the eternal Father and the beginning and end of all creation, Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. If the original sin in heaven and the first sin upon earth were fundamental departures from the first law of creation and a willful severance from the nature of God Himself, so the repair of that awful disaster could be made only by the Creator Himself in the reassertion of that law and the vindication of its righteousness by an act of atoning self-giving. Anything less than absolute divine self-giving could not establish creation on an impregnable foundation which, being the nature of God Himself, must be eternal and no longer subject to a fall.
Therefore the one who atoned must be God. No created being, even though he were first or special, could wear the divine nature and carry in himself the honor, glory, eternity, holiness, and very life of Him who is absolute love. When Christ is described in the New Testament as “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14), this does not mean “the first being ever created.” The phrase denotes that He is the head of all creation, the one through whom and for whom creation was called into being. When it is said that Christ is the “first-born of every creature” (Col. 1:15), this does not mean that He had a creature-precedence over angels and men; it means that creation belongs to Him by the inheritance of birthright because of His eternal Sonship, begotten not made, eternally THERE, in the bosom of the Almighty Father.
When Christ says, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), He is referring to that proper order of the Godhead that there should be a triunity of Persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit in that order--an order not of time (for there is no time with deity), but of propriety. It is proper for the Father, the Fount of Deity, to take precedence; but it is a precedence of “order,” not superiority of essential nature.
Theology begins there. The fact of sin and the problem of evil require a solution which is wholly and exclusively divine. The Father gives Himself when He gives the Son, and the response of the Son in humiliation and death in the burning and consuming Spirit of love, the one Spirit of the Father and of the Son, majestically and mysteriously projected in the third Person. Thus—
“God so loved the world that he gave....”
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself....”
“Christ through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God.”
“My Lord and my God.”
The cross is the triumph of deity over evil and the assurance that creation will be one in its living head and rightful heir, the eternal Son. The values created by the overcoming of evil through the descent of deity into the vortex of sin and death will constitute the element of heaven. Filled for all eternity will the Upper Sanctuary be with the enraptured praise of angels and redeemed men of God.
THE BOOK OF JOB
The amount of liberty given to fallen Lucifer in the bitterness of his own ego to tempt and oppress mankind is strictly circumscribed. The limitations upon the activities of Satan are specially displayed in the book of Job--a book recorded by the Spirit of inspiration to throw light upon the mysterious background of all temptation. The book does more: it shows clearly what is the nature of the first sin in heaven and consequently of all sin.
Satan’s spite against the inferior creature man is exceeded only by his implacable hatred of God. Whether the appearance of Satan in the presence of God (Job 1 and 2) is a dramatization of the processes of the divine rule or whether it is an actual event (in which case, whether performed in heaven or in earth; whether the “Sons of God” are the angels or whether they are a company of believers meeting for prayer or sacrifice in patriarchal times}-this does not affect the significance of the portrayal. The fact is that Satan can do nothing but what divine omnipotence permits; but within that prescribed sphere he boastfully pursues his course under the impudent claim that he is free to act as he pleases in God's creation:
“Whence comest thou Satan?”
“From walking to and fro in the earth and going up and down in it.”
This reply is a daring claim to be the real ruler of creation. “He who has the freedom of creation is the master of it; God may be God but I, Satan, am the real king doing as I please and going where I will.”
God does not crush insolence with superior force but challenges it in the weakness of humility, submission, and self-denial.
It is no glory to God to overcome by supreme power. By other weapons does the Most High rule. He accepts the battle and offers the field to Satan. The field is the soul of man. On that territory alone Satan must be overcome and cast down, for it was the creation of man that was the occasion of his revolt.
“Hast thou considered my servant Job?”
If God can point to one man on earth who is an exception to Satan’s vaunted freedom, then Satan’s claim is proved to be false.
The evil one sees his dilemma and seeks to break out by alleging that no one serves God for naught. Job was fenced around with the divine favors: “Take them away and he will curse you to your face!”
The allegation in this reply is that God is not good and there is not a creature in heaven or in earth who would serve Him except for self-advantage. Remove the fence and God would be exposed as the true “evil one” who can command no genuine allegiance anywhere in His own creation.
Such arrogance can be quelled only in weakness, not in strength. The crushing of Satan by sheer force would leave the question unanswered: Does Job serve God for naught?
Hence the battleground must be the soul of man, the creature whom Satan despises and through whom alone he can fabricate weapons against the Most High. Job was not to know in advance the strategic nature of the combat.
Not till the end of his sufferings could he be acquainted with the event behind the event. For him, faith alone and faith’s meek companion, patience, must prevail. He must be left without the formidable aid of knowing the reason why, in order that his unshakeable faith in the goodness of God should prevail over all his trials.
The real question in Job’s heart became, Why do I suffer this heavy and cruel trial seeing it has nothing to do with any disobedience or sin on my part?
The whole point of the book of Job lies in the fact that no answer is given to Job other than that God in His sovereignty has permitted and ordered the trial, and He is not obliged to give reasons to faith. The triumph of faith is revealed in the humility of Job’s response when he “sees” God in his trial and reverently leaves the question with the divine goodness and sovereignty: “I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Satan recoiled in confusion from the conflict. Meek trust in God, unshaken by trial, distress, calamity, tribulation, not only destroys the devil: it vindicates the name of God against all the arrogant pride and evil insinuation of the powers of darkness. If this were better understood, there would be a greater readiness in the child of God to endure, to learn, and to submit in love and faith and patience, and a less eager pursuit of “reasons” and “remedies.”
THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
The Lord’s supreme conflict with Satan in the weakness of human flesh revealed finally and fully at the cross the mystery of Satan’s place in the economy of creation. The mystery of the temptation in the wilderness is not so easily discerned. The fact that it occurred immediately after the baptism of Christ and was the first event in that great three and a half years’ conflict which was to end at Gethsemane and Golgotha must be taken into full account. The awful and sinister wisdom, craft, and power of the evil one is fully extended and disclosed. Satan knew his foe and committed himself in person to the deadly conflict.
Christ’s miraculous fast of forty days was designed by Cod on the pattern of that double fast of Moses of twice forty days when the law was inaugurated on Mount Sinai, and the similar fast of Elijah in the same region when the righteousness of the law was re-established in Israel.
That “the Spirit drove Christ into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Mark 1:12) indicates that the battleground was carefully chosen and ordained by divine providence. The forty days indicated that the law was being promulgated again but this time in the Person of the Lawgiver Himself; not with thunders and tempests and earthquakes as in the case of Moses and Elijah, but in the meekness and submissiveness of that eternal love which itself is the fulfilling of the law.
There can be little doubt that the wilderness of Christ’s temptation was the wilderness of Sinai, where Moses and Elijah in turn received the law. The Lord did not hunger and thirst during those forty days, for neither did Moses or Elijah. It was “afterwards” that He hungered (Matthew 4:2).
The first temptation, “If thou be the Son of God, command these stones that they be made bread,” was a temptation to make trial of His own divinity for self-advantage and to act independently of that will of God which He came to fulfill.
It was a temptation to go beyond the divine will and purpose, and its subtlety lay in its aim to destroy the very throne of God by denying the moral nature of man.
The repudiation of the temptation was complete: “it is written that man shall not live by breed alone, but by every word that preceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
The Lord showed thus the glory and purpose of true manhood: his reverence and absolute subordination to the holy will of God. Only so can our humanity rise to the stature of immortality and realize its destiny on the throne of creation. In Christ alone that purpose is realized.
The second temptation to “tempt” God by putting His word to trial lay in the devil’s suggestion that by casting Himself down from the temple pinnacle Christ would oblige God to preserve Him by angelic agency and so His (Christ’s) Sonship and divinity would be proved. Faith lies in obedience to the will of God, not in putting the Word of God out to the hazard, and compelling providence to work miracles. Christians should be very careful about “putting God to the test,” as urged by some preachers who think there is some glory in “living dangerously.” Certain divine “promises” are often arrogated to the self by being wrenched from their true purpose, and this is often called “living by faith.” It might more correctly be called a religious fanaticism and delusion.
The third temptation is the hardest of all to explain. There is no mountain on earth so high as to command a view of all the kingdoms of the earth in a moment of time. The earth is a globe anyway, and its curvature limits vision to a few hundred miles at best. The temptation was produced in the mind, by inward vision only--which shows the immense power of the Evil One to produce in the imagination pictures of immensity and consequence. “All this will I give you if you fall down and worship me.”
Satan could not have been so foolish as to imagine that the Son of God could be beguiled by such an illusion. What Satan was really saying was that by divine decree he (Satan) had been given the authority over the world and that it could not be wrested from him but by conceding the honor due to him and recognizing him as the lawful overlord of the world. It is certainly a temptation to which mankind has always been prone. What men will do in order to possess the earth may usually be assessed in terms of compounding with the devil. The real truth is that it is the meek who inherit the earth.
Satan’s claim is false or, as it might be said, a half truth. More than one thousand years after Job, he is still boasting that he goes to and fro in the world and walks up and down in it--he is still reiterating his blasphemous claim to the over-lordship of creation. This was his original concept of his rightful destiny as against the inferior creature man, who was preferred before him. The exaltation of his own ego against the goodness of God was the root of his sin, as it is the root of all sin.
Christ’s repudiation of the temptation was the repudiation of Satan’s false claim. The half-truth in Satan’s assertion lay in the act of usurpation by which he endeavors to bold all mankind in thrall and attract all worship to himself. Paul in Hebrews 2 tells us that Satan “has the power of death.” This does not mean that Satan can kill or make alive. Only the Lord, in this sense, “has the power of death” as of life also (see also Revelations 1:18). The “power of death” means that Satan’s kingdom is a kingdom of death and darkness, fear and sin--a kingdom which holds the mind of mankind in dark and perpetual bondage. Christ by his atonement and resurrection has broken this power and released His people from the cruel bondage of the fear of death. The deliverance of one soul from Satan’s bonds would proclaim the victory of the Son of God. The deliverance of a great and uncountable number of every kindred, tongue and nation proclaims the utter ruin of Satan.
Any thought that the fate of a multitude of the impenitent in hell represents a victory for Satan can only be established upon the superstition that hell is Satan’s preserve as the place where he will eternally reign. On the contrary, Satan’s hell is in himself and so is the hell of the impenitent. There is no “second force” in the universe.
THE TOLERATION OF THE DEVIL
The toleration of Satan by the ineffable wisdom and decree of God is the token of the divine ability to make all things serve His power. It is not enough that evil be destroyed. Eternal wisdom decrees that, like the dark torrent that turns the machinery of the busy mill, the tide of evil should be harnessed to an unceasing purpose of good. If there is an inevitability of evil in a moral universe where free agency has full play, God’s holy will to create must have taken into account the awful reality of evil in its onset, growth and havoc, and determined that out of that chaos a new creation should be raised in which the problem of morel agency would be solved forever in a world of reborn creatures: creatures who; in triumph over evil, would be raised to holiness and immortality beyond the possibility of any further moral disruption.
Such a result was not attainable in the first creation, because true moral creation required that the nature of angels and men should be freely tested and proved under trial. The second creation could arise only out of the vortex of the old, purified, sanctified, and partaking of the nature of God Himself. Paul calls this new creation the kingdom of God, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Peter speaks likewise of the new heaven and the new earth “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Many find understandable difficulty in the face of the atrocities and violence and cruelty which have contributed to the miseries of mankind, saint and sinner alike. They wonder why God delayed so long in sending Christ to the earth and for so long permitted all nations to walk in darkness and in the shadow of death. It is, of course, easy to exaggerate the picture of human suffering. The imagination portrays more horrors than actually have existed. The most of mankind throughout history have lived tolerable lives and the phenomenal increase of population in recent centuries proves this beyond question. Man is a fairly recent creation. His life on earth has not yet reached six thousand years. If he had been in true pursuit of happiness, he long ago would have turned to his God, of whom he has never been totally ignorant.
Christ appeared “in due time” (Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4). Late in time the Deliverer came, because the world must first learn the bitter lessons of its apostasy and prove in experience that man could not save himself or break free from the evil of his own nature by his own strength or will.
There is another aspect of human suffering and endurance which must never be left out of account--the triumph of man against the most stupendous and fearful odds. It is no part of our case for the sinful depravity of man to close our eyes to those achievements which ennoble human nature and exhibit something of that pattern of the divine purpose still reflected in mankind despite the inroads of sin.
As in the ruins of some great house or the fallen ramparts of a once mighty fortress the skill of the ancient architect and the glory of his original design can be traced and admired after a thousand years, so mankind still bears he impress of a divine origin; and in the ruins of human nature can be seen something surviving of the original purpose and wisdom which fashioned him in perfection.
Poetry, art, music--who is so base as to belittle the noble achievements of the human mind in these great fields? The dignity of man in extreme suffering, the noble courage and self-sacrifice often seen on the bloody fields of war, the subduing of the wilderness, the conquest of the oceans, the exploration of space, the humble courage and dedication of the faithful mother and wife, the wrestling with pain, the sympathy and help given to the weak and to the sufferer--shall we write all these things small? Man matches his strength against all the powers of nature, and even in failure leaves his bones in the arctic wilderness, or hanging on the North Face as a testimony to his indomitable courage and will to conquer, even against hopeless odds. His refusal to accept defeat in the battle against disease and pain, no matter though years of dedicated research, in disappointment and discouragement, should be needed before the mite which causes malaria is discovered and overcome, or the principles of anesthesia are discovered--is all this of nothing worth?
The very existence of appalling evil has brought out values in human nature which we should never otherwise have known were there. The utmost efforts of Satan to defile and destroy mankind have had only limited success. “Thus far and no further” (as in the case of Job) has always been God’s warning to Satan.
Again and again, history has thwarted every plot by Satan finally to debauch the divine image. The classic judgments of the Deluge, Babel, and Sodom, Carthage and Rome, the destruction of the Amorite, the pulling down of the great tyrants and oppressors of history--these are all samples of the divine intervention in the history of man to limit evil and sin. Evil men and seducers scarcely live out half their days, and the wicked who flourish like a green bay tree--how soon are they all carried away, and their place is no more to be found!
When the restraining hand of God is lifted, man travels swiftly to self-destruction. Such a phase of history may well be upon us now--and it could be the last phase before Judgment.
The history of the Church, the Kingdom of God, has been the most significant of all in the long story of the divine initiative in bringing the highest good out of the lowest depths of evil.
The cross of Christ is the symbol of the conquest of evil and sin. It shows how by submission to all evil God has conquered evil, and that love is and must be the ultimate victor. Christ bore what no other could bear. He who made the world must Himself bear the world’s burden of curse, sin, and shame that by expiating the offence, in virtue of who and what He was and is, He might raise a new and perfect creation from the grave of the old.
The cross is the denying of self and therefore the symbol of perfect love. Hence the cross of Christ is the key to redemption. “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness, but to those who are saved, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
The believer, too, carries a cross, but it is not a cross of redemption: it is love’s response to Love’s giving of Itself for us. We love Him because He first loved us--not in order to be redeemed but because we have been redeemed; not to atone for our sins, but to prove our release therefrom. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
Hence the history of the people of God has been one of carrying the cross, a history of daily denying of self, of bearing and enduring all things for the sake of Him who loved and whom our soul loves. The believer has endured persecution, shame, and unspeakable torments for His sake and rejoiced in that he has been counted worthy thus to show his love for His Lord. Were it not for Himalayan heights Arctic wastes, trackless deserts and stormy seas, there would be no story to be told of man’s conquest of adversity. Were it not for the fact of evil and the existence of Satan, there would have been no Book of Job, no Cross and no Crown; there would have been no enemy to overcome, no death to endure, no pain to suffer, no patience to exercise, no faith and hope to ennoble the soul, no repentance to purge the conscience.
Were it not for evil, we might have known God in His eternal power and unapproachable righteousness, but we could never have known His unveiling of Himself at the cross as a Trinity of holy and perfect love. We should have known nothing of the humility and meekness of the Godhead, nor His compassion, mercy, pat and longsuffering.
The eternal purpose of God is to show for all that He is, through the redemption of the Church (Ephesians 3:10-11). God MUST, by reason of His nature, manifest Himself, and it is in this manifestation of Himself that the full blessing of the Godhead can be shared and enjoyed by angels and men.
THE NATURE OF CREATION
(See note at the beginning of the paper under THE PATTERN OF CREATION)
The nature of God is to reveal Himself. To create is as inevitable with God as to love. Creation had to be in itself revelatory of the divine nature so as to exhibit in all its parts, animate and inanimate, the wonder of the Divine Being. Hence the very particles of which the natural creation is composed exhibit the energetic principle of attraction or “desire,” and show in natural form the triune nature of love itself. This has been verified in our time by nuclear science.
The heaven of heavens, that Empyrean where angels dwell, is as much a part of creation as the time-space world in which we live and is formed on the same principle of desire or love, with this difference: the angelic heaven exists in other dimensions than those of our visible world. In it there is no death, pain, age, or decay. The nature of angels cannot be confined in our time-space dimension, much as the human mind cannot be confined in its range by any material dimension. The mind has no shape or form. The soul exists in its own self-consciousness. Therefore, in the article of death, there can be no such thing as “soul sleep.” As Tertullian said, “The soul of the soul is perception”--and death only releases the soul into a higher consciousness.
Angels have no form as we know form, though in their converse with men they are able to assume the form of man as a temporary convenience, just as Satan in the Garden assumed the form of a serpent. Otherwise, the nearest “form” of which we can conceive as being descriptive of angels is a flame of fire (Hebrews 1:7).
MILTON ON SATAN AND HELL
A dear friend in U.S.A. reminds us of the following quotations from Milton’s Paradise Lost in amplification of our earlier comments concerning hell as being Satan’s prison, not the place where he reigns. Satan is speaking in both these quotations:
...while we dream,
And know not that the king of heaven hath doomed
This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat
Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt
From heaven’s high jurisdiction, in new league
Banded against his throne, but to remain
In strictest bondage, though thus far removed,
Under the inevitable curb, reserved
His captive multitude: For he, be sure
In height or depth, still first and last will reign
Sole king, and of his kingdom lose no part
By our revolt, but over hell extend His empire, and with iron sceptre rule
Us here, as with his golden those in heaven.
BookII, lines 315-328
Again in Paradise Lost, Book IV, lines 73-75; Milton makes the devil confess that he is his own hell:
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell.