Category: Spiritual Warfare

The Consequences of Hatred

Unfulfilled Desires 

Post-holiday depression is felt by many people, yet rarely has it been so prominent in our daily consciousness as in the present time.  Due primarily to the influence of today’s social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, people are freer than ever to convey their resentments without consequence.  Posts such as, “I hate my life!” or “I Can’t Do This Anymore!”  are common.

Other reasons for the visibility of depression are also probable, however, not just the ability to vent one’s emotions and feelings so freely without any repercussions, events that are extremely contagious in today’s “connected” society.

Since many people have believed the promises made to them in childhood, such as, “You can do anything you set your mind to do!” or “Your dreams can all come true!” they have grown discouraged and resentful when their life goals and desires do not seem to be coming true.  

This despair may lead to expressions and feelings of “hate,” including “hatred” towards others, such as public figures, including politicians and authority figures, whom they often see as the ultimate sources of their depression due to unfulfilled promises.

One reason hatred is increasing in the world today is that some are promoting hatred as a means of obtaining what they feel they deserve or has been promised.  Hatred is seen as the motivator, the “leverage,” that makes one make changes that promote success, fulfillment, and happiness.  Here is how one blog writer validates his hatred:

Finding that sweet spot, where I know what I hate, and why I need to challenge that hatred is central to my ability to succeed with my goals. That is what will spur me to act. Drive me away from pain. Towards pleasure. Ultimately, that is what it all boils down to. Reducing my pain. And increasing my pleasure.

So, the key is to hate the status quo with all our heart. Hate it so badly, that not acting will only take me down the hole even further.

This is also called the leverage. A point in my life where I cannot stand the pain any further. Where the misery of my painful existence is unbearable making my goal the only option to survive.

But for the leverage, I would never push myself to climb out of the pit of agony. . .I turn to my hatred towards the status quo [to] fuel my passion to succeed (Source).

A Story From Long Ago

King David of Israel committed a grievous sin, taking the life of Uriah the Hittite in order to claim the man’s wife for himself, Bathsheba.  Nathan, the prophet, confronts David, admonishing the king and foretelling the woes that would come to the royal family:

“Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight” (II Samuel 11:9-11).

Nathan’s prophecy began to be fulfilled through Amnon, King David’s oldest son.  Amnon was heir to the throne of Israel, one of the privileged few, intent on seeing all of his desires fulfilled, even those that were forbidden by the laws of Jehovah.  Under the Mosaic law, it was forbidden to have sexual relations outside of marriage, particularly with a relative. Amnon desired Tamar, his half-sister, with whom he believed he was in love.

Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her (II Samuel 13:1-2).

It was not only “hard” for Amnon to possess his half-sister, but also forbidden, yet Amnon is so lovesick that he listens to the advice of Jonadab, a counselor to the king.  Jonadab is described as a “shrewd man,” but his advice results in horrendous consequences. We later see this same man’s “shrewdness” brought into the story in the end when King David is faced with his own son’s treachery and Jonadab presumes to counsel the king.  Here is what Jonadab tells Amnon:

But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.” (II Samuel 13:3-4).

Jonadab advised Amnon to pursue his sinful lusts by first pretending to be ill, then requesting that his Father King David send Tamar to him to minister to him, a request that Jonadab knew would be difficult for David to refuse.

Jonadab then said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill; when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat, and let her prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat from her hand’” (II Samuel 13:5).

Amnon assents to Jonadab’s plan, and when King David came to see his supposedly ill son, Amnon asks his father to send Tamar to him so he could regain strength through the food that she prepared for him.

When Tamar arrives and prepares food for Amnon, however, he asks her to bring it to him where he is lying in his bed.  He takes hold of her, demanding that she lie with him.

Tamar refuses his request, saying,

“No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! 13 As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you” (II Samuel 13:12-13).

Amnon is not moved by Tamar’s suggestion that they marry, and he easily overcomes Tamar’s opposition to his lusts: “However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her” (II Samuel 13:14).

Once he has taken her virginity, Amnon’s guilt turns his love for Tamar to hatred:

 Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” (II Samuel 13:15).

Ironically, Tamar does not feel so violated, for she finds solace in the Mosaic law commanding that a raped woman shall be able to marry the one who has violated her.  Thus, she refuses to leave Amnon. Her response relates to Deuteronomy 22:28 which states that a man who rapes a virgin must marry her.  

“If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

In addition, Tamar realizes that no other man will marry her since she has been violated:

“But she said to him, “No, because this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!” (II Samuel 13:16).

Amnon calls his attendant, however, to take Tamar away and lock the door behind her so she cannot return.  Subsequently, Tamar goes into mourning; she “put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went” (II Samuel 13:19).  

Absalom’s Hatred

Tamar then stays and lives in the home of her brother Absalom, where she remains in extreme sorrow and distress.  She has no apparent future since Amnon has taken away her promise of a happy life.  

When King David hears what has happened, he is exceptionally angry at Amnon, but perhaps because David realizes how he himself may have opened the door to Amnon’s lust for Tamar by sending her to him, David chooses not to exact punishment on his son, the heir apparent to the throne.

Absalom, however, Amnon’s half-brother, decides to take revenge in spite of his advice to Tamar not to make Amnon’s rape known: 

Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house (II Samuel 13:20).

Nevertheless, we can only imagine the intense hatred Absalom has for Amnon, as he witnesses the sorrow and depression of his sister, Tamar:

But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar (II Samuel 13:22).

After two years, Absalom hatred grows, until he plots Amnon’s death, enticing him away from King David’s protection through an elaborate plot:  inviting all of the king’s sons and servants to help with and celebrate his sheep shearing. 

When Amnon joins Absalom’s company, Absalom commands his servants to murder him:

Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant” (II Samuel 13:28).

Subsequently, King David is erroneously told that Absalom has murdered all of his sons:

Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground; and all his servants were standing by with clothes torn (II Samuel 13:30-31).

King David’s nephew, Joab, who is the commander of the king’s armies, intervenes as a peacemaker. He plots with a woman, asking her to pretend to be a widow whose two sons have quarreled, resulting in the death of one of the sons.  Asking for help, she relates to King David that now the rest of her family is calling for the death of her other son.  

David assures her that “not one hair of her son will fall to the ground” (II Samuel 14:11).  

Joab has contrived this pretense, however, to show David why he must forgive Absalom for killing Amnon.  When David sides with the widow, she responds according to Joab’s instructions:

“Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him (II Samuel 14:13-14). 

Seeing the justice of his own judgment for the woman, David sees also that he must forgive Absalom. He calls Joab to seek out Absalom and to bring him home to Jerusalem.  The division between David and Absalom continues, however, for many years: “However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (II Samuel 14:24).

Ultimately, Absalom becomes the leader of a rebellion against his father’s reign:

But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron’” (II Samuel 15:10).

King David flees from Jerusalem as Absalom advances, leaving his house in the hands of his concubines.  Ultimately, in another fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy, Absalom commits his own sexual sins on the advice of Ahithophel, David’s advisor.

Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father. The hands of all who are with you will also be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (II Samuel 16:21-22).

Conclusion

What a story!  The sins of one man, Amnon, led to the sins of many others, all resulting in even more sins and divisions in King David’s family, and finally the dissolution of David’s kingdom, resulting in warfare among the people:

Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured (II Samuel 18:6-8).

Finally, Absalom, famous for his beautiful, extremely long hair, is ensnared in the branches of an oak tree, where he hangs helplessly until Joab stabs him with three spears, and ten young men (who carry Joab’s armor) surround Absalom and kill him.  

When King David hears the news of Absalom’s death, he is stricken with grief:

The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33).

Hatred is Contagious

Living a life of resentment, descending into depression, and hating one’s life, or having any kind of hatred, leads to more hatred, especially hatred for other people.  

When I was growing up, many years ago, I never heard the term “hate crime,” but this designation is increasingly heard and printed today. Clearly, the causes and consequences of hatred are growing in today’s world.   

In this story of Amnon and Tamar, we can also see how hatred is severely infectious. By pursuing sinful thoughts and lusts, Amnon only ends up hating Tamar, the woman he has supposedly once fervently loved. Even if they were to continue to live together and be married, she likely would only have reminded him continually of his evil plot to take her virginity through lies and deception.

It is also likely that Absalom blames his father King David for Tamar’s rape, for Absalom ends up plotting treason against his own father, attempting to overthrow King David to become king himself.

These stories, beginning with Amnon and Tamar, extending through Absalom’s murder of Amnon and his rebellion against King David, resulting in Absalom’s death and David’s grief, all exemplify why we must follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts” (Romans 6:12).  And we must not allow resentments over perceived injustices to lead us to hatred, a condition that only leads to more sin.

Love, Not Hatred

Of course, the ways of the world are the opposite of what the Word of God tells us.  The Apostle Paul wrote the following admonition in his letter to the Corinthian Church:  

“Let all that you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14).

Rather than hatred in any form, whether spoken or felt, love must be the source of our motivations in our lives.  And our all-knowing God is the provider of true love in our lives, for “God is love.”   

 

The Kingdom of God, Part VIII

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The End of All Things:  Revelation 21-22

Chapter 21 in Revelation begins with a vision of the new heaven and the new earth John sees after the final judgment described in the previous chapter, when death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)

Again, like other images in Revelation, this detail about the sea’s not existing should not be taken literally, although in a new Heaven and a new Earth there may indeed be no more water, as some teachers of Revelation have suggested, even though there is a “River of Life” flowing through the city.

I believe that the sea in verse one refers symbolically to humanity, which no longer exists on the earth, for all of the unredeemed rebellious people have been sent to the lake of fire, and all of the redeemed are seen as the “New Jerusalem.”  

The sea also symbolizes humanity in Chapter 13 of Revelation, where we see two “beasts,” one rising out of the sea and the other rising out of the earth.  The first is described specifically as devoted to speaking blasphemies against God and persecuting the Church.

And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in thebook of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:6-8)

The city called the “New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21 is also depicted as the bride in the following passage:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

The speaker in the next few verses is clearly Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, or the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is the First and the Last, and the Beginning and the End!

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:5-8)

This symbolic connection between the New Jerusalem and the Bride of Christ is emphasized further in the next passage, for “one of the angels says to John, Come and see the Bride” (21:9), yet the vision John then sees is the holy city, the New Jerusalem:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. (Revelation 21:10-11)

 

What follows is an extensive and elaborate description of this magnificent city, including the dimensions, descriptions of the city gates, and the ornate composition of the walls and streets.

We need to be certain not to interpret these details literally, as though they describe a physical city, however.  Instead, the details are all symbolic, beginning with the picture of the “Lamb” and the temple.

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)

Even the word “Lamb” is a symbol representing Jesus Christ who is described as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), a description which links Jesus to the lambs of the temple sacrifices of the Old Covenant that were sacrificed for the sins of the people.  Even these lambs were a pre-figured representation of the ultimate sacrifice for sin that Christ completed on the cross of His crucifixion, as described by Peter:

  • He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (I Peter 2:24)
  • For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, (I Peter 3:18-19)

In addition, unlike what I was taught as a teenager, the New Jerusalem is not a physical place where all the saints will live, but instead consists of all of Christ’s saints, those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and are built up as “living stones,” as the Apostle Peter relates:

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, aprecious corner stoneAnd he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (I Peter 2:4-6)

Further, John writes this about the Temple that is in the midst of the New Jerusalem, indicating that the Temple is an overall representation of the Church of Christ:

And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only thosewhose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

The Water and the Tree of Life

What follows in the next chapter, Revelation 22, is a description of the river of the water of life and the tree of life in the middle of the New Jerusalem, once again the symbolic representation of the Church, the Bride of Christ:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
This passage alludes back to the story of the fall of humankind in the Book of Genesis, where the tree of life first appears in the Scriptures.  If you will recall, God told Adam that the Earth was cursed because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, and the couple was banished so they would no longer have access to the Tree of Life.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Geness 3:22-24)
Thus, as the passage relates, there will no longer be a curse on the land, and the light will appear not from the sun, moon, and stars, but from the Lord God.

The Final Messages in Revelation

Finally, in Revelation 22:6-21, we read the final messages at the end of John’s visions:

  •  “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” (22:7)
  • “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. (22:10)
  • Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” (22:11)
  • “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (22:12)
  • I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (22:13)
  • “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (22:16)
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (22:17)
  • He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” (22:20)

Some of these messages seem confounding and confusing, for they seem to be saying that the Lord is coming soon and Christ’s coming is near, in spite of the clear fact Jesus did not come soon.  Even the early apostles and the Apostle Paul implied that Christ’s coming was near.  

However, either His appearing has been delayed for two-thousand years or the Lord’s purposes have a deeper intent than we might suppose and understand.

Perhaps both interpretations may be correct, however, for the Apostle Peter addresses both possibilities about the delay in the Lord’s coming.  Considering that God is timeless, above the restrictions of the linear nature of time’s progress, only two days have passed!

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (II Peter 3:8)

In addition, the Lord will delay His coming until every stone has been added to the Temple, every person has been added to the Body of Christ:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)

And finally, Peter says, the Lord will appear suddenly, without warning, much the same way a thief might secretly break into a home when least expected.  

Christ is not a thief, of course, but Peter’s analogy is significant.  As in the parable of the Ten Virgins, we need to be ready, no matter how long it takes, for He could appear at any moment:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (II Peter 3:10)

A Word of Warning

John  adds a final note of his own to his book, warning that some may try to add or take away from the words, and perhaps even the meanings, of the signs and symbols of these marvelously revealed visions.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Unfortunately, some of the most dedicated teachers of Revelation have made the errors John mentions, either by adding their own interpretations to the visions or taking away parts of the visions. 

I heard recently a description of these kinds of interpretations as follows:

It’s like looking into a well and seeing one’s own reflection.  

Thus, some well-meaning teachers only see from their own solipsistic perspectives, rather than finding the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of Revelation.  This means, for example, that the locusts in the Book of Revelation are not helicopters with guided missiles, and the 144,000 saints are not members of a religious cult that only appeared in the twentieth century.

The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part VI

The Sixth Vision: Chapters 17-19

The Sixth Vision John describes in the Book of Revelation begins in Chapter 17 and continues through Chapter 19. This vision shows only the end of the cyclical tableau of seven visions John is shown. Rather than beginning with the first coming of Christ and revealing the warnings and judgments of the Gospel’s being sent to the world, however, this vision focuses on the end result of the judgments of God against Babylon.

Please understand that our purpose is not to dissect the text and try to understand every symbolic meaning and metaphoric element. Instead, it is more productive to get a comprehensive overview of the entire book to see how it relates not only to the Church today, but also to the Church of the whole Body of Christ that has come before us.

Two overriding metaphors are used in this vision to reveal the ultimate purposes of God.  Two women and two cities appear: first, the Bride of Christ, the Church, and the Harlot, Mystery Babylon; second, two cities also are in evidence, the New Jerusalem and Babylon. Just as the figure of the harlot and the virgin are seen as contrasting opposites, the Book of Revelation also speaks of two contrasting cities: Babylon and New Jerusalem.

The Harlot in Proverbs

John first compares Babylon to a “harlot,” and typical of a woman who sleeps with many men in exchange for money, this “woman” personifies spiritual corruption and contrasts with the purity of the other woman in the Book of Revelation, the Bride of Christ, or the Church.

The book of Proverbs portrays a harlot as a seductress to the vulnerable young man, seeking to lead him astray from wisdom and understanding. She uses the cover of darkness and the temptations of love and sexual pleasure to lead a young person to depart from wise behaviors.

Above all, the harlot in Proverbs is an advocate for false wisdom, a wisdom that leads to destruction rather than blessing. Spiritually, the harlot offers false wisdom as a means of obtaining wealth and power.

Lucifer’s deception in the Garden of Eden was that Adam and Eve  would not die as a result of disobedience, but they would become “like God,” knowing good and evil, and hence become the masters of their own destiny.

This deception has become the basis for all false religions, including atheism and agnosticism, as well as the false religions of both the past and the present, particularly occultism and sorcery.

Harlots in Isaiah and Jeremiah

The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both referred to Israel, Judah, or Jerusalem as a harlot or an unfaithful woman who commits adultery, for she was judged faithless and filled with selfish unrighteousness and even murder.

How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers. (Isaiah 1:21)

Then the Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:6-10)

Babylon, the Harlot

Since the Bride in Revelation is a clear portrayal of the Church of Christ Jesus, numerous attempts have been made to identify the harlot in Revelation as representing some religions such as Catholicism or Islam, for example.

Unfortunately, many expositors of John’s Book of Revelation typically interpret the mysteries too narrowly, according to their own perspectives, rather than understanding that Revelation was written for the whole Church of all ages.

In this case, therefore, the vision is interpreted by the angel speaking to John himself. Although the angel declares that the  harlot is  a mystery, the angel provides the meaning of the mystery:

And on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5)

The angel further explains the mystery of the woman, saying,

The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.  (Revelation 17:18)

This interpretive key, along with the name of the harlot, tells us that Babylon is related not only to the stories of ancient Babylon in the Book of Daniel, but also to the story of Babel’s tower in Genesis 11:1-9:

 Mystery Babylon

In the original Hebrew texts, the names for “Babel” and “Babylon” were the same, essentially “Bbl,” since no vowels were used.  We can conclude, therefore, that the two cities were the same.  Thus, the Hebrew word translated “Babylon” is bâbel, which is the same word used in the book of Genesis that refers to the tower of Babel.

Using this story as a backdrop, therefore, we see that Mystery Babylon in Revelation represents the great city of historical Babylon, a city that symbolically depicts the attempts of humans to be equal with God and to elevate themselves to the sphere of divine beings.  They had swallowed the lie that they would be like gods, and their hope was manifested by building a tower they believed would reach into heaven.

Thus, Mystery Babylon in Revelation represents both a city and a harlot of false religion, one that supposedly helps humans find the divine from within themselves, rather than finding justification and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

The Tower of Babel

After the flood of Noah, the city of Babel was ruled by Nimrod, under whose leadership the tower was built.  Despite God’s desire that the people separate and inhabit the whole earth, Nimrod collected the people to himself, even building a ziggurat, or tower, to negate the possibility of a future flood in defiance of any future judgment of a flood from God.

Nimrod was the son of Cush, the grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah.  Genesis describes him  as “a mighty one in the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Genesis 10:8-9).

Here is the story of the Tower of Babel as it is found in Genesis:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

An interesting article by biblical archaeologist Dr. David P. Livingston attempts to show that Nimrod was a fierce opponent of Yahweh.  Livingston proposes that Nimrod is not the man’s true name, which was a derogatory pseudonym, but that he was the one named Gilgamesh in the ancient epic.

First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. (See http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/nimrod.html)

Another legend concrning Nimrod is detailed by Josephus, the Jewish/Roman historian, who claimed that Nimrod’s city of Babel was constructed in defiance of Yahweh:

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. . . . He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to reach. And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimrod)

Thus, the stories of Nimrod and Babel lead us to the image of “Mystery Babylon” in Revelation, particularly the associations with autocratic governments, rebellion against God, blasphemy, and religious occultism. Consequently, we are able to understand more fully the symbolic images of Babylon, as the great city and the harlot, in the vision that John sees in Revelation.

The Harlot Rides on a Beast

The angel in John’s vision relates that the citizens of this Mystery Babylon will wage war against the Lamb and those who are with Him, those called “chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Revelation 17:8)

This description is uniquely mysterious.  I suggest that it relates to a parallel story about Lucifer.

We understand that Satan became the prince of this Earth after Adam’s sin, for Adam gave him his authority over the earth.  The three temptations of Christ confirm this assumed authority, for Satan the tempter declares that he will give Jesus the kingdoms of this world in exchange for His worship (see Matthew 4:1-11).  Of course, Jesus does not succumb to the lies of the devil, choosing instead to use the sword of the spirit, the Word of God in opposition.

Satan was then ultimately defeated by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and the kingdoms of this world were indeed given over to the Messiah, who declared that “all power is given to me in Heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18-20).  Though Satan fell “like lightning” from Heaven, he will arise from perdition for just a little while, only to be defeated again and finally imprisoned in Hell.  (We will study this in a future chapter of Revelation, specifically Chapter 20.)

Victory for the Lamb

Again in John’s vision, the sixth we have studied, there is a call for repentance and for all who are redeemed to come away from the spiritual domains of the Harlot:  

I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:4-5)

The kings and merchants of the earth will mourn over Babylon, the Harlot, for they will no longer be able to access her luxuries or sell their goods to her.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. (18:20-21)

The destruction of Mystery Babylon, the Harlot, is decreed not only because of her corruption and rebellion, but also because of her persecution of the saints of the true Church of Christ:

And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24)

The Bride of Christ

I’m constantly amazed at how perfectly God’s plans merge together into an astounding harmony throughout the Scriptures.  For example, just as Eve was formed out of the side of the first Adam in Genesis 2, the Bride of Christ, the Church, was formed out of the side of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:45).

The Body of Christ, or the Church, was formed, therefore, as a result of Christ’s willingness to give His life through crucifixion and even to take the penalty in Hell for our sin.  At the time of His death, out of His side flowed water and blood to give us life in Him.

In Chapter 19 of Revelation, therefore, we see the Bride of Christ, the Church, ready to be married to the Lamb, or Christ Jesus.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)  

Our union with Christ as a marriage is a great mystery, wrote the Apostle Paul, for we are members of His body, having been formed from His resurrection. (Eph. 5:32).  We next see in Revelation, therefore, the second coming of Christ, not only to receive His Bride, but also to defeat finally the forces of Satan.

 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, brightand clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)

Christ appears with His saints, also riding white horses, and the name written on His robe and on His thigh was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Forces of Satan Defeated

We then see the forces and powers of darkness defeated, represented by the beast and the false prophet, the symbols of religious and secular opposition to the Kingdom of God.

And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:20-21)

Thus, the sixth vision ends with the destruction of the forces of Satan and the blessed union of Christ with His Bride.

 

The Warfare We Face

Like a Roaring Lion 

Much controversy exists in the Church today over how vulnerable we may be to the forces of the enemy.  Clearly we are not invulnerable, however, for before introducing the spiritual armor used by Christians to engage in spiritual warfare, the Apostle Paul writes about our warfare:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

From this passage, we clearly learn that Paul sees the battle as dangerous, a struggle to the death. In addition, Paul writes that we need the full armor of God that covers every part of our bodies to resist in these days of evil.  In particular, Paul mentions the shield of faith by which we may extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the enemy.  Here is the complete list of equipment we need to resist the forces of darkness:

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.  (Ephesians 6:14-18)

Likewise, in the letters sent by the Apostle Peter, we are also taught to be alert and of sober spirit, for our enemy, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:9).  The assumption is that we face much danger from Satan, but we must resist him, standing firm in our faith  This same message also applies to all believers within the Body of Christ even today, not just those living in the persecutions of Nero, for Peter writes that “the same experiences of suffering” are being experienced by our brethren in the world.

Most Christians, in my experience, do not really know their enemy as the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  Jesus declared that Satan was “a murderer from the beginning” and he “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  Throughout, the Scriptures declare that Satan is our adversary, both a tempter and a thief who seeks to destroy us.

Of course, the subterfuges of Satan have been so strong that many people today, even Christians, deny even the existence of these spiritual forces.  Any manifestations in the lives of people are attributed merely to psychological causes, one of the reasons why even those who suffer from the lies, temptations, and deceptions themselves believe that they originate within their own minds, rather than from demonic entities that speak to them from the spirit world.

 

My Near Death Experience

Growing up, I learned very little about the enemy of my soul, and despite dressing up like a skeleton or roaming the neighborhoods with ghosts and witches on Halloween, I knew nothing about how my enemies were deployed against me, despite growing up in the church and attending services three times a week as the son of a deacon and choir director.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I first came to understand the nature of the warfare we all face in this world.  In spite of the fact that I had been born again and Spirit-filled, I only understood the nature of the spiritual warfare I faced when I nearly had my life stolen from me.

I was an English teacher in a public school in Central California, and my wife and I regularly attended a Baptist church.  The pastor’s wife somehow decided that we were worth mentoring, so she often asked me to go with her to minister to those who were hurting.

One incident in particular revealed the supernatural to me.  A young man had been enduring extreme distress, alternating between what appeared to be hallucinations and periods of unconsciousness.  I remember praying for him while he stared off into space, yet in frustration, at one point I said, “In the name of Jesus, I command you to look at me.”  It was the only response we got from him, for he immediately obeyed my command.  We didn’t see much immediate improvement, however, and I was left to wonder what exactly had happened.

 

Opening the Door

Meanwhile, I had decided that I wanted to be not only a teacher but also a writer of plays and screenplays, so I began searching for a good topic for  a film for Christian audiences.

I determined to write a screenplay about the dangers of the occult and occult practices for Christians.  Unfortunately, I had little firsthand experience on this topic, so I did what I always did in college:  I began to do research on the occult using primary sources, so the sources I found were occult books, not just books about the occult.  Consequently, since no one had experience with computers or Google in those days, I went to the public library to check out my sources, books about witchcraft, sorcery, divination, even ouija boards.

I began writing a prospectus to send to someone I knew to be both a Christian and a producer of films.  It wasn’t but a week or so later, however, before I became very ill, experiencing severe head pain and double-vision.  In just a few days, I was admitted to a hospital with a very high fever, one hundred and five degrees, along with severe diarrhea, double-vision, and strong headaches.

I recall sitting in a wheelchair, riding in the elevator to my hospital room, and sensing that my soul was leaving my body. Whether true or not, I actually believed that I was ready to meet my Lord.  My wife prayed for me, however, and I ended up in a hospital bed for four days, then went home only to return for another eleven days.

During my lengthy stay, I was not able to rest much at all between hourly temperature checks, bed pan requests, and every kind of medical test the doctors could think of, from x-rays to barium enemas to intravenous injections.  I was exhausted both physically and mentally, yet no true results appeared from the tests to show what illness I had.  I merely was diagnosed with the symptoms of gastroenteritis and encephalitis.

I was unable to eat or drink, and I had to make constant trips to the toilet or the bedpan, unable to keep anything inside.  At one point, I was even given “astronaut food,” a kind of beef broth that was supposedly predigested, yet I still couldn’t keep it down.

At the end of the fifteen days total hospital time, I was finally able to return home.  I had lost a lot of weight, only weighed 126 pounds, and was extensively weakened from my ordeals of vomiting and diarrhea.  Yet I slowly began to improve in strength, and in a few months I began taking graduate classes in the fall.

While I slowly began to gain strength, however, my spiritual life began to deteriorate, in spite of being newly filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit the previous year.  Finally, after one year of decline our marriage was slowly deteriorating, to the point where my wife packed up the car, took our two-year-old child, and left home.

 

Finding Help

Desperate for some answers, I turned to a man who had been my pastor years before when I was a pre-teenager.  I had heard that he was doing Christian counseling, praying for people with great success, so I rode the five miles to his house on my bicycle.

What followed was a lengthy and laborious time hearing Scripture verses, singing choruses, and experiencing prayers for deliverance to expel the evil spirits that had entered my life.  I can definitely say that these spirits were inside me, for expelling them through my mouth was never easy.  I felt their feelings of terror at hearing the name of Jesus and heard their words being spoken through my own mouth.

The minister, along with a number of prayer partners, began leading me in prayers of confession, followed by insistent demands that the demons leave me.  I can’t say that I always approved of their methods in retrospect, for they were focused on seeing the evil spirits manifest themselves and state their names, but the reality of the spirit world and the power of the hold these spirits had on my life was certainly confirmed to me.

Appallingly enough, I found that many of the thoughts I thought were my own had actually originated from the evil spirits that had come into my mind and body.  I was asked to write down the names of the spirits so I could see the progress being made, and I slowly began to experience the freedom and joy that deliverance brings.  I even began to pray for others in the process, for I actually lived at this man’s home for two weeks or so.  I experienced home group meetings with singing and prayers for people, and I saw amazing changes in people’s lives, including my own.  

At one point, I began actually seeing the demons leaving those we prayed over in the form of a fine mist coming out of their mouths.  One time, I actually saw them leave the house through the sliding glass door.  I began seeing spiritual manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seeing a mist over the heads of those in our group who were praying and praising God.  

I even began actually seeing the demons leaving those we prayed over in the form of a fine mist coming out of their mouths.  One time, I actually saw them leave the house through the sliding glass door.  I also began seeing spiritual manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seeing a mist over the heads of those in our group who were praying and praising God.  

I began receiving words of knowledge from the Holy Spirit as we were praying for people, revealing very specific moments when lives had been changed because of demonic activity. These words of knowledge were confirmed by those being ministered to.

About one week later, my wife returned to me with our daughter, and we both began living with this pastor’s family, seeing and experiencing the miraculous on a daily basis.  I can’t say that I later approved of all of the methods and practices of deliverance that we observed, for we eventually found that some were detrimental to the lives of those being prayed for. However, the wholeness that my wife and I began to share was truly miraculous.

Yes, we endured further periods of trial as we entered first into home ministry, then into pastoral ministries over the years.  But the reality of what we experienced was life-changing.

The deliverance I received was both humiliating and horrific, but I was thankful for the new freedom I experienced.  I realized that most of the sinful thoughts and temptations I had heard were not just my own.  Yes, my old nature was inclined in those directions, but I learned how to say to myself, “I reject that thought in the Name of Jesus!”  Even if I had to repeat the sentence five times in a row, I found that I could resist the temptations of the enemy successfully and powerfully.  Over time, resisting sin became easier, and I found myself overcoming in the areas of sin that once had so easily beset me.

In addition, I learned that I could help others find deliverance as well, a ministry that was truly edifying to me.

 

Are Christians Immune? 

I can state emphatically from personal experiences that a Christian can “have” a demon, for I was a spirit-filled Christian yet I was delivered of a very many demons over the course of several weeks, enduring much labor and stress, yet experiencing a freedom I had never known.  How was this possible? 

So many Bible teachers state without hesitation that a true Christian cannot be demon-possessed, but unfortunately there is much confusion  in the language used.  

In the original Greek, the word is a verb:  δαιμονίζομαιI, or “daimonizomai.”  Even in the Authorized Version of the Bible the phrasing is “possessed with,” not “possessed by,” and the difference is more than significant.   The most important factor is the choices we make.  We may choose to entertain sin in our lives to the point where it becomes addicting or dominating

A person who is “possessed by” something or someone no longer has freedom of choice but is a slave, yet a Christian has made a choice to make Jesus Lord.  To be “possessed with” has an entirely different meaning.  This phrase means “to have,” not “be a slave to,” much like “having” a cold or “possessing” the flu.  

However, a more accurate translation of daimonizomai is “to be demonized,” and those who have experienced addictions of any kind know what it means to be attacked by temptation and evil desires.  Christians are constantly exhorted to resist temptation and refrain from evil, but we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the reason we continually need His grace, His forgiveness, and His mercy.

 

Finding Clarity

After witnessing a miraculous deliverance of a man with a mute spirit, certain people in the crowd accused Jesus of using the power of demons to cast out demons, saying, ““He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons” (Luke13:15).

Jesus emphatically refutes their charge with just a few sentences, pointing out the false logic of their conclusion:

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? (Luke 11:17-20)

Jesus continues to refute His accusers with the following example:

But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.   (Luke 11:20-23)

Ironically, comparing Himself to a thief, Jesus essentially is saying that only a more powerful opponent can defeat and overthrow a man who is secure in his own house.  The inevitable conclusion is that He is overcoming the unclean spirits using the “finger of God,” not the power of Beelzebub.

Jesus then makes the following application:

When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.  (Luke 11:24-26)

Thus, even a house that has been cleaned, therefore, may be inhabited again, and the end result is worse. Likewise, even Christians who have been cleansed, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit may be inhabited by unclean spirits if they give in to temptations.  This is why we are exhorted to “walk in the Spirit” so that we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh or enter into sin (Galatians 5:16).

 

More Proof

I believe that the story of Peter’s experience during the Last Supper with Jesus and other disciples helps explain this conclusion even more convincingly:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. . . .[He] got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He *came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”  (John 13:1, 4-10) 

This story is filled with significance, and many truths may be gained from it.  However, one important application relates to the deliverance issues.

Much of the story focuses on how Jesus changes his attire, wears a towel around his waist, and washes their feet, along with Peter’s strong objection.  However, another question should come first: Why did the disciples need to have their feet washed?  

The many places in the Scriptures that describe this custom of foot washing show that the practice was very common, usually performed by a servant or attendant.   Given the eating customs of the people, particularly their reclining while eating, it was appropriate that the feet be washed before gathering together.  Otherwise, the smells and dirt of the streets would have been very disturbing to the appetite.

Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet to demonstrate the nature of true leadership and godly service: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15).

Much may be written about this aspect of the account.  For example, Jesus also washed Judas’ feet, for Jesus discloses the treachery later.  But the exchange between Jesus and Peter is significant, for it illustrates the idea that walking about through this world, even Peter, the one whom Jesus used mightily in the Early Church, would be soiled as he walked through the world as a disciple and a later apostle.  Yet, Peter did not lose his place even after he denied three times that he  knew Jesus just before the crucifixion.   

Walking through the world, we will be dirtied by the sinful conditions we may face, but we need only seek the forgiveness and deliverance freely given by the One who willingly gave up His life for us and Who continues to wash us of all that soils our house. 

 

Drugs and Spirits

The True Source of Enlightenment

Many people would never think of looking in the Scriptures for guidance about using drugs, hallucinogenic drugs, in particular. Given the number of states that have allowed the legal use of marijuana in recent years, at least for medical purposes, it is apparent that the minds, lives, and laws of many are being changed and influenced by the “tune in, turn on, and drop out” generation of the post-Vietnam era.

Even many Christians have been less opposed to marijuana legalization than in past years, tending to focus on what they believe may be more pressing issues.  After all, the Apostle Paul recommended that Timothy take a little wine for his stomach, so it doesn’t seem much different to use pot to feel better also.

Two arguments are central in the movement to change the laws.  

  • First, some seem exuberant that tax revenues are being collected in the legal states from the sale of marijuana to support children’s educations or other local concerns.
  • Second, many proponents argue that medical marijuana is highly effective in relieving the painful symptoms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other such illnesses.

Consequently, citing studies and even supposed government experts, many advocates claim that no brain cells are damaged or destroyed, and no brain damage results even from long-term, high-dose use.  Regardless, the tides have changed, and the rise in  pot acceptance seems to have accelerated just in the past few years.

Proponents of legalization have argued that since cannabis is a natural plant, not the product of a chemical laboratory, it was designed by God for humans to use, at least for medical dosages.  God did not design plants to be used to to be used to get high, however, as I will demonstrate from the Bible.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Be not drunk with wine but filled with the Spirit.” And being drunk or high limits our ability to make wise decisions and resist the temptations of the devil. There is a reason why, I think, that liquor is often referred to as “spirits.” And how can any kind of smoke inhalation be benign, especially when marijuana supposedly lowers the user’s IQ over time?

No, I have never smoked, sniffed, or toked, unlike certain recent U.S. presidents, and I have never even been drunk, so my opinions are a bit unique, perhaps. However, I don’t believe I have suffered at all by not engaging in pot smoking or other mind changing drug activities: For example, I have never had a hangover or wondered where I was when I woke up.  I never learned that I had acted foolishly at a party or received a DUI.

Proponents Have Their Reasons

I have an idea that many proponents of “medical marijuana” are being disingenuous about their advocacy:  They only want to start moving in the direction of legalization for everyone by starting with those who are in pain and deserve sympathy.

And the excuse that legalizing pot will raise tax incomes for the local governments does not inspire confidence because the governmental “powers that be” are not especially wise overall in how tax money is used.  Marijuana production does not produce true wealth since it all goes up in smoke, just like tobacco. Yes, profits may be made, but it is all worse than paper money.  

And it may be that the ingredients in marijuana my indeed be helpful in some cases for medical purposes, although I have an idea that other medications are probably available that are just as good.  Regardless, why not just extract the chemicals and make them available to ill people in a form that is not smoked. Abuse is abuse, no matter how it appears. 

I’ve personally witnessed the deleterious effects getting high has on students who come stoned to the classroom enough to know that pot does not produce healthy minds, even if the effects appear to be only temporary.  Supposedly, marijuana is not addictive like tobacco, but once any habit is formed, it is very difficult to stop the behavior, whether the user is chemically addicted or not.

However, my concerns are not so much political, cultural, or social, and I have no direct personal or scientific evidence of my own.  I am nevertheless concerned about the spiritual ramifications of any drug use, including pot.

Supposedly, the main reason for using drugs, aside from peer pressure, is to get “high,” at least in the beginning.  Everyone wants to feel good, and anything that produces good feelings is highly valued in our society, even if the overall long term effects are negative.  As the saying goes, “If it feels good, do it!”  

And making drugs illegal only makes them more desirable for some people, for people often want what they cannot have. This fact makes illegality an incentive for those wanting “forbidden fruit,” especially when the criminal justice system and penal systems have not been effective in preventing drug use.

 

What the Scriptures Say

Therefore, in spite of common assumptions, the Scriptures have much to say about drug abuse that are more significant than merely the legal, mental, or social problems that may arise.    This is what the Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)

Paul’s exhortations give many suggestions for walking in God’s wisdom, including using our time wisely, lifting our moods by praising God instead of getting drunk, and being positive in our outlook by giving thanks to Him.

The negative aspects of dissipation are present also by contrast, including living foolishly or living aimless lives.  Paul’s exhortations mean we should no longer amuse ourselves by spending money on what we don’t need, eating or drinking excessively, or immersing ourselves in sensuality and sensuous pleasures.

It is significant that being “drunk with wine” is pointed out by Paul specifically as being “dissipation.”  When fog or smoke dissipates, it disperses or evaporates and becomes less dense, eventually becoming invisible.  When we live lives of dissipation, we waste our resources, our energy, our time, and our talents, until eventually we have nothing.

Notice also what Jesus said to His disciples:

Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.  (Luke 21:34-35)

Notice how Jesus, like Paul, links drunkenness with dissipation.   Though the effects may differ, being high on drugs and being drunk both produce dissipation in the user’s life.

The Apostle Paul also warns that drunkenness is a “deed of the flesh,” and he mentions a number of other sinful behaviors which prohibit those who engage in them from inheriting the Kingdom:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  (Galatians 5:18-21)

I want to focus on the word “sorcery” in this passage because it links directly with the problems of spiritual warfare.  

 

Sorcery and Hallucinogens

As an undergraduate student at the University of California in Santa Barbara, I was first exposed to the ideas of Carlos Castenada in an Anthropology 101 class.  His book (The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Berkeley: U of California P, 1998) was required reading, and I went through it with astonishment, for it told of Castaneda’s apprenticeship with Don Juan, a shaman, or “man of knowledge” from a group called the Toltecs in Northern Mexico.

Castenada wrote about “Mescalito,” a spirit that inhabits peyote plants, that facilitates divination, and allows the user to fly in the form of an animal.  To different drugs were used to show these powers: peyote and jimsonweed, or datura, also called the “devil’s weed.” Peyote is also a recreational drug because, like LSD, it can cause hallucinations.  Unlike LSD, however, it is a natural plant rather than a manufactured chemical drug making it more acceptable to nature-minded people.

From these descriptions, one can clearly see that hallucinogenic drug use has its foundations in the demonic realms of sorcery. Indeed, the Greek word used in the New Testament for “sorcery” is pharmakeia, the root of the English words for both “pharmaceutical” and “pharmacy.”   

Merely walking into a pharmacy is not like walking into a den of sorcery, however.  The difference between medicinal prescriptions and hallucinogenic drugs is primarily distinguished in the New Testament by the use of this Greek word that we translate “sorcery,” as in Galatians 5:20.   

Essentially, sorcery entails magic, wizardry, enchantment, spells, and other occultic practices, all those listed in Deuteronomy 18:10-12.  However, the use of hallucinogenic drugs is also included, for they are used to control people or induce people to use mind-altering drugs in a search for the divine within, rather than above.  This was essentially the sense of the original temptation in the Garden of Eden: 

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Peter understands that Satan has easier spiritual access to non-sober individuals.  Furthermore, the Apostle Paul writes down a searing message to those who practice “pharmakeia,” that is practicing sorcery by using substances to get high:  “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).  Even an “altered state of consciousness,” not just hallucinations, opens people’s minds to demonic influence, for their ability to think clearly and resist evil is diminished.

Essentially, then, people who get high on drugs will not inherit the kingdom of God, even if it’s only to feel good or relax. Hallucinogenic drugs open the divide between the physical world and the spiritual world, and demonic spirits may enter the user and take as much control as they are allowed.  One who is on hallucinogenic drugs rarely can say no to the demonic influences in their lives, leading to unwitting bondage to the enemy.

These Scriptures remind us that we must be vigilant against the schemes of the Devil, who seeks to ensnare us through deception. We are exhorted to set our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2), not seek for a disguised demonic spirit within who is deceiving us into thinking we ourselves are divine.  This was the temptation of the serpent when it said to Eve, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

 

 

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