With every good book, the opening line sets the tone for the rest of the story. That line informs us as readers as to whether the story will be happy, sad, scary, or exciting. Truly memorable first lines are those that grab our interest quickly and make us yearn to know more. The Bible begins with a bang. Some might even suggest a big bang.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
No fluff or filler for this writer. Instead, he chose a straight declarative sentence. Over the last twelve weeks, we have studied about angels and other heavenly beings that God created. The moment of the angels’ creation is debated among theologians but most fall into two camps. Either angels were created prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth or they were created during God’s orchestration of the heavens.
We studied a small portion of the life of Job in Week 7. Job longed to understand why he was suffering. His friends were unable to offer the answers that he sought. Ultimately, Job is answered by God.
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?’” Job 38:1-7
This passage implies that the angels were watching during creation. Like children that squeal and shout with delight during a fireworks show, the angels shouted their appreciation of joy at God’s creative work. In Lesson 5, we read a portion from the letter Paul wrote to the church at Colosse. Paul stated that by Jesus all things were created, “the things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” and that “all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
Angels worship and revere God in the heavenly realm. They have a front row seat in viewing His mighty work. In Psalm 89:2, Ethan the Ezrahite states that God established His faithfulness in heaven. He continues by saying;
“The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.” Psalm 89:5-7
During the post-exilic period, when the Israelites returned to their homeland, Nehemiah and Ezra realized that the people had forgotten the words of God during their years away. A spiritual revival was desperately needed among the people. They assembled the people together and Ezra began to read to them from the Book of the Law of Moses on the first day of the month. On the twenty-fourth day, after a little over three weeks of hearing God’s word, the event culminated with the people confessing their sins and the Levites leading the people in a praise service to their eternal God.
“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:6
Many years prior, David also wrote of God’s glory and power and the angels that serve Him.
“Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds— his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him….The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary. …Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides the ancient skies above, who thunders with mighty voice.” Psalm 68:4,17,32,33
The Israelites acknowledged the connectedness between God and His creations. They added their own voices to those of the angels in giving God the glory and praise due His name. The writer of the book of Hebrews also held this view of interconnectivity between inhabitants on earth and those in heaven. Written to encourage scattered Christians who fled from persecution, the author offers words to embolden and strengthen faith. These words were not only applicable to that generation but to ours as well.
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24
Lastly, John records these words from the vision that the angel showed him of God’s throne room.
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:’ Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:11,12
I hope that you have enjoyed this summer bible series on angels. For those of you that participated in the weekly lesson plans, thank you for giving your time this summer to the dedication of study and growing deeper in faith. You deserve a pat on the back accompanied by shouts of joy from the angels. I praise God for you!
The Week 12 Lesson Plan can be found by clicking here.
Next week will be the final week in the summer series, Angels of the Realm. A new Bible study for the Fall will begin in September. I’ll be posting more details later.
Many examples of Jesus expelling demons from those afflicted are found in scripture such as the demons who introduce themselves as Legion in the man from Gerasene and Mary Magdalene of whom Jesus exorcised seven demons. In the Week 10 Lesson Plan, we studied some of these examples as well as fallen angels and demons in general as found in scripture. I’m picking up with that theme today in this post.
Of all of the demonic possession accounts in scripture, only one person is stated to have been possessed by Satan: Judas Iscariot.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John , Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16
Judas Iscariot was called and chosen by Jesus to be a leader, a close companion, and an apostle yet he also became something else entirely. He became a traitor, a betrayer. John 17:12 calls him the son of perdition or as some Bible versions record; the one doomed to destruction. As a follower of Jesus, Judas would have left everything of his life behind in order to follow Jesus. He displayed no outward signs of being a deceiver because his actions appeared to reveal him as a follower and believer. Even his fellow apostles, on the night he left to betray Jesus, didn’t understand why he left the meal. They thought since he had charge of the money that he was being sent to purchase something for the Feast or to give something to the poor. (John 13:28-30) Like the rest of the twelve apostles, Judas was given the authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness when Jesus sent them out into the region. (Matthew 10:1)
Not much is historically known about Judas Iscariot. His name means ‘Jehovah leads’ and Judas is the Greek spelling for Judah which was a very common name. His father’s name was Simon (John 6:71) and he is thought to have originated from Kerioth, also called Kerioth Hezron or Hazor, a location in southern Judea. Some scholars support the notion that Judas was predetermined to fill the role as the one doomed to destruction. Others, however, disagree. These scholars believe Jesus saw potential within Judas to be a follower and disciple and that Judas had a choice. Another possibility is that although Judas was no longer an apostle inwardly, he retained his friendship with Jesus outwardly. In a sense, he believed in Jesus as a man and a friend but not as the Lord.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived,… Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served,… Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” John 12:1-6
In this passage, Judas reveals his character. He lacked compassion for the poor and was a thief. He didn’t regard how his actions affected the others in his company. He cared only to meet his own needs when his hand dipped into their communal money bag. This event in Bethany seems to be the catalyst that caused Judas to seek out the priests. Perhaps money motivated him, perhaps Jesus was not the Messiah he had hoped for or maybe Judas had begun to realize that following Jesus would mean pain and possible death for him. Whatever the reason, Judas wastes no time in approaching the religious authorities.
“Now the Feast 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
Judas operated in the shadow of secrecy waiting for the right moment to betray Jesus. Several days later, the moment arrived.
“The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.” John 13:2
During the meal, Jesus got up and proceeded to wash his disciples’ feet. Jesus washed the feet of Judas. He challenged him and the rest to likewise be a servant towards others.
“I [Jesus] am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ I am telling you now before it happens, so that when if does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.’ After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified. ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them,… asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him,” John 13:18-27
The Gospel of Matthew adds;
“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’ Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, ‘ Surely not I, Rabbi?’ Jesus answered, ‘Yes, it is you.’ Matthew 26:24,25
Judas had a choice but at this moment when Satan entered him his fate became sealed as an apostate. Jesus gave him every opportunity to make a different decision. He showed him love and friendship but Judas chose to reject him. During the Last Supper, Judas was reclined in the guest of honor seat at the triclinium table to the left of Jesus. They shared a common eating vessel to dip their bread. Jesus took the sop (broken piece of matzah) and dipped the bread into a mixture of horseradish and haroset as “a reminder of the sweetness of God’s redemption in the midst of their bitter slavery ” and then gave it to Judas to eat. Because of their positions at the table, when Jesus spoke with Judas, He had to lay his head back against the breast of Judas.
“Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.’ Mark 14:44,45
“…He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” Luke 22:48
Judas guided the soldiers and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees to the place he knew Jesus went in the grove. (John 18:2,3,) A place Jesus had often taken him and the other disciples. A kiss often used as an act of friendship between people that signified affection and intimacy, Judas chose to corrupt and defile by his betrayal. Upon learning later that Jesus has been condemned to die, Judas seized with remorse attempts to return the thirty silver coins he had received for his treacherous act. The priests refuse and Judas throws the money into the Temple and commits suicide. The law forbid the blood money to be returned to the treasury of the Temple, therefore, the money was used to buy the potter’s field, a burial place for foreigners. The Field of Blood, as the area was often referred, was an apt description for this area for other reasons. (Matthew 27:1-10; Acts 1:18,19) The Valley of Hinnom was a place of pagan child sacrifice and idol worship in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7:31). “During the Herodian Period the city’s garbage dump was located here; the garbage was burned, so there was often smoke and fire in the valley.” Jesus referred to this place as Geenna. Every instance of this word in the New Testament is uttered by Jesus. (Matthew 5:22; 18:8,9; Mark 9:43-47 and 9 other examples). The English translation for Geenna is Hell and according to Zodhiates, Geenna is the place or state of the lost and condemned.
Satan watched and waited for opportune moments to oppose Jesus. He attacked Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness. When that encounter was unsuccessful, Satan then turned his attentions toward those closest to Jesus. He asked to sift Peter like wheat but in Judas Iscariot, Satan finally found a willing host to inhabit. Instead of resisting, he yielded to Satan. Judas didn’t turn from the darkness when his heart grew dim. He continued to set his course away from the light of Jesus towards the darkness of Satan. He became a casualty of a spiritual war.
The Week 11 Lesson Plan of Angels of the Realm can be found by clicking here.
Angels of the Realm: Lesson 11 coming Monday.
Have a great weekend,