Christianity Through the Ages by Kenneth Scott Latourette
Christianity Through the Ages by Kenneth Scott Latourette
Chapter 2: Pre-Christian History
Christianity in the History of Religion
Christianity in the History of Religion
Compared with the thousands of years in which human life has been on this planet, Christianity is a recent development. When contrasted with the much longer time that life has been present, the course of Christianity thus far is but a brief moment. Here are profound questions into which, if he is wise, the historian, as historian, does not enter. He simply notes them. If he is a Christian the historian must believe that God has always been active and has been pursuing His purpose of creating sons and not robots. In doing so, God must have been following the procedure which was eventually manifested in the incarnation. Paul declared that "when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." He viewed the people of Israel and God’s covenant with them as a preparation for the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection. But, when seen against the background of the entire record of mankind, the appearance of Israel was only slightly earlier than that of Christianity. Paul seems to have taken account of that fact where he says that what could be known about God was plain to men, because God had shown it to them. "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are seen, namely, His eternal power and Godhead." Presumably God had always been seeking men, but without violating the degree of freedom of will which He had deliberately given them. As Paul is quoted as saying in his address to the students and scholars at Athens, God made of one blood all nations of men, that they should seek Him in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him.
Certainly, so far as archeology has been able to trace the beginnings of culture, from the first, men have struggled to understand themselves and the world in which they live and have been aware, even if dimly, of a power or powers outside themselves which they have either revered or feared and have endeavored to find ways of propitiating and of bringing to their assistance.
In the history of religion which has engaged the interest of scholars, especially in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, thousands have sought to trace the inception and the development of religion and to describe the myriad forms which religion has taken, both earlier and in the contemporary scene. We need not here go extensively into that history. We must, however, note that what are usually called the high religions made their appearance within about twenty-five hundred years -- most of them within fifteen hundred years. The twenty-five centuries are roughly between 1800 B.C. and A.D. 700. These centuries saw the beginnings of Hinduism, Judaism, Greek philosophy, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam. The fifteen hundred years from 850 B.C. to A.D. 650 spanned the birth of the last five and striking developments in the first three.
Five questions emerge as this long history is faced. (1) What is the reason for this presence of religion as a continuing accompaniment of human history? (2) Is advance seen in the history of religion? (3) Which if any-of the high religions most nearly approaches the truth with which religion is concerned? (4) Is religion to continue, or is it a passing phase in mankind’s long pilgrimage? (5) If religion is to continue, what form or forms will it take? The historian as historian should not venture on definitive answers to any of these questions. His craft enables him to contribute data to some of them. Even he who approaches them as a Christian must recognize that full agreement is not found among those who share his faith. Indeed, on some issues profound disagreement has existed and still exists.
As to the first question, many see in the presence of religion as a continuing feature of human experience the efforts of men to give meaning to the unknown of which they are more or less aware as impinging on them. Through religion, so this answer would have it, men have been seeking to promote their own welfare and the welfare of their group by propitiating such elements in the Unknown as seem to them hostile and by enlisting in their behalf potentially friendly elements. Others see in the varied forms of religion man’s search for the answers to the Unknown or partially Known which they believe or at least hope exists and in which is the solution of the riddle of their existence and of the world about them. They perceive in these answers gropings which at best result in only partial apprehension of the truth and suggest that progress towards the truth, if truth there be, is in sharing the insights emerging from these quests. Their attitude is akin to that of the scientists who probe through their respective disciplines into aspects of man’s environment, but with a difference: the scientists are confident that, if they are persistent and employ the right methods, they can enlarge man’s knowledge of what they believe is an orderly universe and open the dangerous possibility to the utilization of the universe by men. The possibility is dangerous because, as in nuclear power, men may employ their knowledge in such fashion that it will harm them and even destroy them. But the possibility is there, so they are assured, that through knowledge man’s welfare can be advanced.
Christians may give and indeed have given quite different answers to the question. On the one hand, some have said that aside from the development which issued in the incarnation all the groping is an expression of man’s sin. For example, Paul declared that although men knew God through what, it could be clearly seen, He had created, they "glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations . . . professing themselves to be wise, they became as fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." On the other hand, and in seeming contradiction to this position, Paul is quoted as having said that the search for God is of His appointment, and as declaring that God had made of one blood all nations of men and had allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek Him in the hope of finding Him. Again, Paul is reported to have said that God is "not far from every one of us." Related to both views is the conviction that God has always been seeking to make Himself known to men but has respected man’s freedom. Man has responded by seeking God but, because of his sin, has reached distorted or completely false views. Christians agree that God did not cease His efforts, and among the people of Israel a few were sufficiently responsive to enable God through them to prepare the way for the incarnation and so reveal Himself fully to man and to act once and for all time for man’s redemption and salvation.
The answer to the second question, that of advance in man’s religious quest, must depend on the criteria which are judged valid for measuring advance. Unquestionably in the "higher" religions profound and at times sophisticated thought has been displayed; in it many sincere and deeply religious souls have been nourished and to it they have contributed. If dependable criteria are to be found in what Christians believe to be God’s act in the incarnation, the answer must be ambiguous. All religions, even the most "primitive," have elements which are in accord with the incarnation. But all display features, including fundamental features, which sharply contradict the incarnation and all that the incarnation entails.
In seeking an answer to the third question, many would say that all religions, especially the "high" ones, have striking likenesses. These are seen, so it is declared, in their ethical teachings. Numbers of those who take that view have advocated syncretism, a religion which would combine the insights of all and a joint search for the ultimate truth, if there be ultimate truth, and which would avail itself of all that man has thus far found in his age-long quest. This answer has appealed to many men of goodwill, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially to those in the Western world who have come out of a Christian heritage.
Any answer, if it be well informed, must recognize in each of the "high" religions basic convictions that are in fundamental contradiction to the essence of the Christian faith. Judaism, in which Christianity has its historic roots and to which it is deeply indebted, cannot accept what is at the very heart of the Christian faith, that in Jesus of Nazareth God became flesh and fulfilled the Jewish hope. The most that one of Jewish faith can do -- and some have gladly done it -- is to say that Jesus was the greatest in the long succession of Jewish prophets. None can acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah without becoming a Christian. Islam, possessing much in apparent accord with Christianity, including a belief in one God and the ascription to God of many characteristics wholeheartedly accepted by the Christian, emphatically insists that God cannot have a son, and that the gulf between God and man cannot be bridged. Thus it denies the central conviction of Christianity, that in Christ, by His initiative, God has bridged the gulf to make Christ "the first born among many brethren." Or, as one early Christian, Athanasius, declared, "God became man that man might become God." Moreover, central in Islam is the conviction, embodied in its daily reiterated proclamation, that Mohammed is the prophet of God. Then, too, Mohammed taught that Christ was not crucified, thus denying another essential tenet of Christianity.
Zoroastrianism, while recognizing the conflict between good and evil discerned also by Christians, cannot admit, without being untrue to itself, that in Christ, God, Who is supreme, revealed His love, and that in the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection He triumphed over evil.
Hinduism’s basic tenet is that many roads exist by which men have pursued and still pursue their quest for the truth and that none has universal validity. In contrast, as the root and source of Christianity is the conviction that Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life" -- that in Christ God has revealed Himself and acted for man’s salvation in such fashion that no other revelation or act is needed.
Basic in the Buddha’s teaching and fundamental in Buddhism is the conviction that life is not worth living and is so inescapably linked with suffering that salvation consists in a self-discipline which ends in nirvana, the dissolution of the entity called I, and so in releasing the soul from the endless succession of births and rebirths which to the Buddha was axiomatic. Later forms of Buddhism modified this conviction, spoke of a heaven of happiness and postponed indefinitely the entrance to nirvana, but they could not negate nirvana without being false to the teaching of the founder. In contrast, Christianity, while acknowledging the presence of suffering, declares that life can be infinitely worth living and opens the way to eternal life in fellowship with God Who so loved the world that He gave Himself in Christ.
Confucianism stresses ethics, human relations, and the competence of reason, but its dominant attitude has made for agnosticism. Here is striking contrast to Christianity’s belief in God’s action in creation, in history, and in revelation and the incarnation.
Attempts at combining these various approaches have been many but have never had enduring vitality. Essays at syncretism which down-graded the uniqueness of the central core of Christianity --the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection -- and the work of the Holy Spirit, while numerous and recurring, either have been passing phenomena or have failed to enlist large numbers. Such were the Ebionism and the Gnosticism of which we are to say more in another chapter and, latterly, Unitarian humanism and the Brahmo Samaj.
The question of the persistence of religion entails prophecy. On this, if he is wise, the historian does not venture. He can simply point to trends. As we shall see in due course, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have witnessed a growth of atheistic Communism and of a secularism which is less overtly hostile but is eroding the foundations of all religions. Yet they have also seen revivals in some of the non-Christian religions and a spread of Christianity in geographic extent and in depth of rootage unparalleled in its history or in the history of any other religion.
Similarly, so far as the historian can detect from the mounting trends in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, here lies the answer to the question of what form or forms, if it persists, religion will take. Zoroastrianism has long been dwindling, is confined to small remnants, and is making no gains. Judaism is making few converts, is ethnic as has always been the case, and is suffering from mounting secularism. Except in some portions of Africa south of the Sahara, for at least five centuries Islam has made no significant geographic gains. In the past two centuries Islam has given birth to few new movements. It owes its persistence partly to its association with nationalism, mainly, as at its outset, Arab ethnicism, but, as well, to other nationalisms and to cultural lag. Hinduism, while vigorous, has lost ground in lands in South-east Asia and Indonesia where it was once influential and is confined almost entirely to India. Buddhism has been waning for over a thousand years; such revivals as it is displaying are associated chiefly with Singhalese and Burman nationalism, and nationalism has been stimulated mainly by resistance to the Occident. The acids of modernity, represented strikingly in Communism, have so weakened Confucianism that only attenuated remnants survive. So far as can be discerned from the history of the past four centuries, the future of religion appears to depend primarily on Christianity. Here many declare the outcome to be ambiguous. On the one hand is the fading of that faith among millions whose ancestors professed it. On the other hand are striking evidences of vitality in the emergence of new movements and, as we have suggested, in geographic spread and in depth of rootage among more peoples than ever before.
The Pre-Christian Religion of Israel
The Pre-Christian Religion of Israel
Christianity emerged from the religion of Israel. Or rather, it has as its background a persistent strain in that religion. To that strain Christians have looked back, and rightly, as the preparation in history for their faith.
As we have suggested, only a minority among the people of Israel were loyal to the covenant which, they were taught God had made with Abraham and their ancestors. That minority treasured the writings in which were recorded the teachings of the law-givers, the visions of the prophets, regarded as the authentic spokesmen of God (and again, a minority of those who claimed the role of prophet), and the poetry and hymns that had arisen from their faith.
These writings, Christians have believed and continue to believe, foretold Christ and His work. The Psalms, the anthology of the hymns of Israel, are still used by Christians. Yet one of the early Christians declared that the prophets were inquiring and searching diligently into what the Spirit of Christ was seeking to make known through them: presumably they did not see it clearly nor understand it fully. One of the greatest of the prophets confessed that God was saying: "My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The prophets and the writers of the Psalms were clear that God was continuing to work in the universe and in all history. They declared that He had created the universe. They said that the heavens proclaimed His glory and that the earth is His. They perceived Him in the thunder storm. They saw Him making grass grow and giving the beasts and the birds their food. They praised Him for providing plentiful harvests. They saw His acts in making wars cease. They believed that He was interested in all nations, judged some, and called others to do His will. They regarded Him as reigning in all the earth. They held Him to be an enemy to injustice and to the oppression of the poor and humble by the rich and mighty. They were convinced that His compassion is over all that He has made. They held that His love is steadfast and that every individual can call on Him with the assurance that He will hear. They believed that He knows each man better than a man knows himself. They were conscious that their sin was against Him but that He would forgive if they repented and that He would heal their iniquities. They struggled with the problem of evil and suffering. Why is it that the righteous are afflicted? Why do men and women go astray? They wrestled in agony over the spectacle of a mighty, aggressive nation over-running the weak and the innocent. Yet they continued to trust in God when they could not understand. The prophets were well aware that only a minority would heed them and that the majority would hear but would not understand. But they were convinced that in His own way and His own time God would triumph.
The Global Scene on the Eve of The Coming of Christ
The Global Scene on the Eve of The Coming of Christ
As we have said, Christ was born in the Roman Empire. Much in that empire facilitated the spread of religion and favored the triumph of one faith. Roman rule brought political unity to the lands bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. At the outset Rome was a city-state. The empire which it governed was made up chiefly of city-states and embraced some of the oldest of civilized peoples. It included the Nile Valley, Palestine, the western edge of the Tigris -- Euphrates Valley, what was later called Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy, all of them with civilizations hundreds of years old. Its rule made possible commerce throughout its domains. With commerce went an interchange of ideas and the possibility of a cultural unity. Greek was a kind of lingua franca, especially in the cities and among the educated. In the western part of the Empire Latin was coming into wide use.
Religiously the Empire was pluralistic and marked by a search for a faith which would be satisfying intellectually and ethically and would give assurance of immortality. Official cults continued from the days before the formation of the Empire. They were maintained partly because of their utility in preserving traditional ways of life and partly for the purpose of enlisting the support of the gods for the state and for the inherited civilization. To them was added the cult of the Emperor, chiefly as a means of promoting loyalty to the Empire. Philosophies of Greek origin attracted the intelligentsia and many, not among the educated, who sought answers to the riddle of life. Prominent among the philosophies were Platonism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism, and there were in addition the Peripatetics (carrying on the Aristotelean tradition), the Pythagoreans, and the Cynics. Neoplatonism would later seek to combine several of these systems. Common to many of them and to Greek thought was a dualism which regarded matter, including flesh, as evil and sought to emancipate the human soul from it and so to achieve immortality. Mystery religions were widespread and popular. They were largely of Eastern origin -- Egyptian, Syrian, Anatolian, and Persian. Since their rites were secret we know them very imperfectly. They borrowed extensively from one another, for the general temper of the age was syncretistic; in the search for truth the assumption was that no one religion or philosophy had all the truth but hopefully each had some of it. Every mystery religion centered in a savior-god who was supposed to have been slain by his enemies and to have risen from the dead. The adherents of each were believed to share symbolically in the death and resurrection of the god and thus to obtain immortality. Some of the mysteries were built around Dionysus, others about Orpheus, and still others about Attis and the Great Mother who had loved him, mourned his death, and effected his resurrection. Some had Adonis, some Osiris, and some Mithra as their center adherents but also created fellowships among those initiated into them. Akin to the mysteries was Hermeticism, which sought emancipation of the spirit from matter. Hermeticism was potent in Gnosticism, a religious strain which took many forms and which was greatly to influence Christianity and threaten it by absorbing it into a syncretism congenial to the age. Judaism was widespread and attracted many by its monotheism and its ethical idealism.
From our mention of the Roman Empire we must immediately go on to note that the Roman domains included only a fraction of civilized mankind and an even smaller proportion of the human race outside the "higher" cultures.
Directly to the east was the Persian Empire. Under the Arsacids, a Parthian dynasty, it embraced most of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley with its early seats of civilized mankind as well as what we now call Iran. In chronic wars it kept Rome out of Mesopotamia. Later, as we are to see, the Sassanian ruling line engaged in wars with Rome which brought both régimes to the edge of exhaustion and so prepared the way for the Arab invasion and the spread of Islam. Zoroastrianism was the official religion under both the Arsacids and the Sassanians and offered more resistance to a new religion than did the state cults of the Roman Empire.
East and south of Persia was India. Although never fully united under one political structure, India was the seat of ancient civilizations and culturally did not rank behind either the Mediterranean world or Persia. For many centuries Hinduism had been strong. Buddhism, older by about five centuries than Christianity, was flourishing and had not yet reached its apex. Jainism, another offshoot of Hinduism but with far fewer adherents, was also part of the Indian religious scene.
Still farther east was China. About the time that Rome was rising to prominence China was being brought under one ruling family, known in history as the Ch’in Dynasty. The Ch’in Dynasty was short-lived, but it was followed by the Han Dynasty, which with a brief interruption was in power from 206 B.C. to A.D. 214. Although exact statistics cannot be obtained, whether for the Roman Empire or for China, nor are acceptable criteria possible for measuring the relative worth of cultures, under the Han China occupied as many square miles of land territory as did Rome, its population was probably about the same as that of Rome, and its civilization compared favorably in many ways with that of the Mediterranean world. Presumably it was as wealthy as the latter. Under the Han Confucianism had the support of the state. Other religions were present, notably two of indigenous origin, Taoism and Mohism. By the end of the Han, Buddhism had been introduced, but it did not win an extensive following until later.
Of the four high civilizations -- Rome, Persia, India, and China --the first afforded the most opportunity for the spread of a new religion. Its state-supported cults could command less respect from men seeking the answers to the riddle of the universe and of human existence than could those of the others. The religious ferment seen in the Mediterranean world when Christ was born was probably no greater than that in the other three areas of high civilization, but the stories of the gods worshipped in the temples maintained by the government had to be allegorized if the thoughtful and morally sensitive were to believe them. Nor were they undergirded as effectively by philosophy as were the popular cults in the other three realms. As we shall see, Christianity did not win the professed allegiance of the Roman Empire without severe persecution, but conditions more nearly facilitated its spread than had it come to its birth in Persia, India, or China.
Although when Christianity appeared the total population of the planet was only a fraction of that of the twentieth century, most of the earth’s surface was quite outside the Mediterranean world, Persia, India, and China. Here, too, men had been groping for the knowledge of the unseen forces which they believed surrounded them and had sought ways of enlisting their support. As the event proved, their cults were less resistant to "high" religions, including Christianity, than were these religions to Christianity. But for several centuries Christianity had little contact with them.
This was the setting in which Christianity was born. It came at a time and in a region which was best prepared to receive it. But, seemingly weak as it was at the outset, it was threatened by the environment which was part of that region’s heritage. Again and again it was apparently about to be denatured and deprived of its very essence.
Here are questions to which the historian, even when he thinks of himself as a Christian, is aware that he does not have the answers. He may agree with Paul that "when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son." He may see, as we have suggested, that by the long preparation through Israel and the religious hunger in the Roman Empire conditions were more favorable for the reception of the Gospel than they had ever been or than they were in any other segment of mankind. But he must ask: Why did God wait so long? Could He not, even when respecting man’s freedom of will, have earlier accomplished the incarnation? What was the fate of the millions who had died before the coming of Christ? If God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting, why did He permit these millions to live and die with only such glimpses of Him as could be obtained through the orderly processes of nature? Why did He witness the groping of men for the light -- the grace and truth brought in the incarnation -- without more clearly revealing Himself? We must recognize the sincerity of the founders of the "higher" religions and of many among the "lower" or "primitive" religions. We may believe that God was always seeking to reveal Himself to men, but because He had created man in His own likeness and so had given him a degree of freedom, limited but still authentic, He could not do so until He found in the succession of the prophets and seers of Israel men sufficiently responsive to Him to prepare the way for His act in the incarnation. But could He allow the millions who had died before the coming of Christ or who lived after that coming to pass through the gate of death into darkness without the opportunity to learn of His love? Here are questions with which Christians as well as critics have continued to wrestle. To us this side the gate of death and with no clear knowledge of what transpires in that "borne from which no traveler returns" the only honest reply can be that we do not know. The historian as historian has no answer. As a Christian he must believe that God’s love will not be defeated. But how and in what fashion God’s love will triumph he cannot know. He can simply trust, with the early Christians, that it is the purpose of God to sum up all things in Christ, both in heaven and on earth. In many radiant lives known to him who even now are bearing what Paul called the fruits of the Spirit, in thousands of whom he has read who across the centuries have displayed those fruits, and in the many millions who, passing, have left behind them no written records but presumably have also been characterized by these fruits, the historian sees the beginnings of the fulfillment of that purpose. Here is what the Christian regards as a guarantee or pledge of the realization of the final triumph of God through Christ, not only in history, but also in the entire cosmos.
Spiritualism, or "SPIRITISM" as it should more properly be called, is an attempt to hold communication with the "spirits" of the departed dead. It has another name, "IMMORTALISM, " and its investigations are carried on in these days under the title of "PSYCHICAL RESEARCH." The Biblical name for it is "DEMONISM."
It is forbidden in the Scriptures. "The soul that turneth after such as have 'FAMILIAR SPIRITS, ' and after 'Wizards, ' to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will CUT HIM OFF FROM AMONG HIS PEOPLE." Lev. 20:6.
"A man or woman that hath a 'FAMILIAR SPIRIT, ' or that is a 'Wizard, ' shall surely be put to death; they shall STONE THEM WITH STONES." Lev. 20:27.
"There shall not be found among you any one *** that useth 'Divination, ' * * * or a
'Witch, ’ * * *or a consulter with 'Familiar Spirits, ' or a 'Wizard."' Deut. 18:10-11. "When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have 'FAMILIAR SPIRITS' and unto the 'Wizards, ' that chirp and that mutter; should not a people seek unto their God on behalf of the living, should they seek unto the dead? " Isa. 8:19 R. V.
The "Familiar Spirits" of the Old Testament are the same as the "Demons" and "Seducing Spirits" of the New Testament.
Of the revival of "Spirtism" in these days we have been fully warned in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, says-
"Now the Spirit (Holy Spirit) speaketh expressly, that in the 'LATTER TIMES' (the last days of this Dispensation) some shall depart from the Faith (that is, give up the Christian Faith) giving heed to 'SEDUCING SPIRITS, ' and 'DOCTRINES OF DEVILS' (Demons): * * * forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." 1Tim. 4:1-3.
The phrase "forbidding to marry" does not refer to "celibacy, " but to the abrogation of the marriage relation, the practice of "FREE LOVE" and the doctrine of "AFIFINITIES, " which Spiritism leads to. The phrase "Abstain From Meats" is not a reference to fasting, but the requirement of a "vegetable diet." It is a well known fact that a "vegetable diet" renders the body more susceptible to spiritual forces than a meat diet.
The close connection of this warning of the Apostle with the words-"Refuse profane and 'OLD WIVES' FABLES, ' in verse seven, is doubtless a reference to some of the "ISMS" of these last days. For "Christian Science" is but an "OLD WIFE'S" Fable, for Mrs. Eddy was an "Old Wife" in the sense that she had been many times married.
It 's an indisputable fact that most of the "Witches" and "Mediums" of Scripture, and these "Latter Days, " were and are women. It was through Eve and not Adam that Satan sought to destroy the race. The reason may be that the nervous and impressionable character of women is better adapted to demon influence.
We are also told in Rev. 9:1-3, of an invasion of "Infernal Cherubim" or "Locusts" from the "Bottomless Pit" in the "Last Days." And we are told that "Three Unclean Spirits, " or "Spirits of Demons" are to gather the Kings of the' Earth for the great Battle of Armageddon. Rev. 16:13-15. And we read in Rev. 18:2, that the restored and rebuilt City of Babylon, shall, before its destruction, "become the HABITATION OF DEVILS, and the HOLD OF EVERY FOUL SPIRIT, and a cage of every UNCLEAN AND HATEFUL BIRD.
The revival of "Spiritism" then is one of the "Signs of the Times, " and should be a warning to every true child of God of the approaching end of the Age. But alas! because of the absence of warning from the pulpit, thousands of God's Children are entering these "Perilous Times " unprepared to meet the subtile attack of "Spiritism" because they have not been taught the doctrine of
The authorized English version of the New Testament is less clear in its presentation of "Demonology" than is the original Greek, because it translates "diabolus, " "daimonion, " and "daimon, " by the same word-"Devil." The word "diabolus" (Devil), meaning "slanderer" or "false accuser, " is only used in the New Testament in the singular, and appears 35 times. the words "daimonion" and "daimon" are used in the New Testament both in the singular and plural, but never interchangeably with "diabolus, " and should be translated "demon, " or "evil" or "unclean spirit." The word "daimonion" occurs 56 times, and "daimon" 5 times.
There is but one Devil (Satan), but multitudes of "demons, " and Beelzebub (Satan) is the "Prince of the Demons." Matt. 12:24-26. Satan has not the power of omnipresence, and so many things attributed to him should be attributed to demons. On important occasions, as the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness, Satan himself is the agent. The "Demons" belong to the "Powers of Darkness." They are not few in number, but are a great "Martialed Host, " veterans in the service of Satan. Their central camp or abode, is the "Bottomless Pit" from which they sally forth" at the command of their leader. Rev. 9:1-3. They are not angels. Angels have bodies. But the fact that demons can enter in, and take possession of, and control human beings and animals (swine), is proof that thev are "Disembodied Spirits." They are supposed by many to be the "spirits" of the inhabitants of the "Pre-Adamite Earth, " whose sin caused its wreck, and whose bodies were destroyed in the catastrophe that overwhelmed it, and their desire and purpose in entering human bodies is to re-embody themselves again on the earth where they once lived. That the "Demons" have a personality is clear from the fact that Jesus conversed with them, asked them questions, and received answers. Luke 8:26-28. They are possessed of more than ordinary intelligence. They know that Jesus is the "Son of God, " and that they are finally to be confined in a place of "Torment." Matt. 8:29.
THE POWER OF DEMONS OVER THE HUMAN BODY
They can cause DUMBNESS (Matt. 9:32-33), and BLINDNESS (Matt. 12:22), and INSANITY (Luke 8:26-28), and the SUICIDAL MANIA (Mark 9:22), and PERSONAL INJURIES (Mark 9:18), and impart SUPERNATURAL STRENGTH (Luke 8:29), and inflict PHYSICAL DEFECTS AND DEFORMITIES. Luke 13:11-13. Once they have got control over a human body they can come and go at will. Luke 11:24-26.
The Devilish character of "Demons" is seen in the use they make of their victims. They use them as "instruments of unrighteousness, " (Rom. 6:13), for the proclamation of the "DOCTRINES OF DEVILS, " (1Tim. 4:1), and the teaching of "DAMNABLE HERESIES." 2Pet. 2:1. The effect of such use of the victim is not only unmoral, it is IMMORAL. It leads to vicious and inhuman conduct. The conduct of "demonized" men and women seems to indicate that the "Demon" takes possession of them for the purpose of physical sensual gratification, thus letting us into the secret of the cause of the wreck of the Pre-Adamite Earth, the SIN OF SENSUALITY. This accounts for the desire of the victim to live in a state of nudity; to have lustful and licentious thoughts. In these days of increasing tendency to yield to "Seducing Spirits" it may account for the immodesty of fashionable attire, and the craze of dancing. The purpose of the "Demon" is often to alienate husband and wife, and break up homes by preaching the doctrine of "FREE LOVE." In short, the "Demon, " for personal gratification, has the power, once he is in control of his victim, to derange both mind and body, and wreck the victim's health, and if deliverance is not obtained by turning to Christ, who alone has power to cast out the Demon, the victim will be lost soul and body.
Demon-possession must not be confounded with diseases, such as "Epilepsy, " which causes the victim to fall in convulsions, foam at the mouth and gnash the teeth, for the Scriptures make a clear distinction between them.
"And His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were POSSESSED WITH DEVILS (Demons-"daimonizomai, " demonized or demon possessed), and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them." Matt. 4:24.
In 1Cor. 10:20-21 we read-
"But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they SACRIFICE TO DEVILS (Demons), and not to God; ani I would not that ye should have FELLOWSHIP WITH DEVILS (Demons). Ye cannot drink the 'Cup of the Lord' (Communion Cup), and the 'Cup OF DEVILS'; ye cannot be partakers of the 'Lord's Table, ' and of the TABLE OF DEVILS (Demons)"
This passage proves that behind all heathen worship there is the "Spirit of Demonism, " or "DEVIL WORSHIP, " and accounts for the "wild orgies" and voluptuous and licentious mode of worship of the heathen.
That the "Demons" have the power of "DIVINATION" is clearly revealed in the New Testament.
"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel POSSESSED WITH A SPIRIT OF DIVINATION met us, which brought her masters much gain by SOOTHSAYING. The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the 'Most High God, ' which shew unto us the Way of Salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the 'SPIRIT’ (the Evil Spirit, or Demon), I command thee in the name of JESUS CHRIST to come out of her. And he came out the same hour." Acts 16:16-18.
It is clear from the context that this young woman was a MEDIUM, and that she performed her work through the instrumentality of an "Evil Spirit" or "Demon." This reveals the source of information of modern "Mediums." The information they furnish is given, not by the person they profess to call up, but by an "Evil Spirit" or "Demon, " who, for the purpose impersonates the person called for.
If there ever was an exception to this method of communication between this and the world of departed spirits, it was the case of Samuel, recorded in 1Sam. 28:6-8. There is a diversity of opinion as to whether Samuel really appeared, or was impersonated by an "Evil Spirit." But the account is so circumstantial, and the evident and undisguised surprise of the Witch of Endor at the appearance of Samuel, whom she doubtless had known, and the conversation between Saul and Samuel without the aid of the Witch as a MEDIUM, seems conclusive evidence that Samuel did really appear. But the Witch did not bring him up. God sent him as a rebuke to Saul. Thus the exception proves the rule.
Some claim that because Samuel said-"Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me, " that it was not Samuel that appeared, but an "Evil Spirit, " for Saul and his sons would not go to the same place in the other world as Samuel. But we must not forget from our study of the chapter on the "Spirit World, " that "Paradise" and "Hell" were at that time both in the heart of the earth, from which Samuel came up, but were separated by a "Great Gulf." So the words "Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me, " meant that they should be with Samuel in the "Underworld, " but in separate compartments, separated by a "Great Gulf." And the fact that we are told that Saul's death was partly caused by his asking counsel of a "Familiar Spirit" (1Chron. 10:13), reveals God's displeasure with those who resort to Spiritism.
The account of the Transfiguration, in which Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount with Jesus, and in the presence of Peter, James and John (Matt. 17:1-3), is used by Spiritualists to prove that our departed ones can come back again to the earth. But we must not forget that Moses and Elijah were not in the state of the dead. Moses had been resurrected, and Elijah had never died, and the Transfiguration scene is a foreview of the condition of the dead after the FIRST RESURRECTION, when those who are with Christ shall return to the region of the air to reign with Christ over the earth. In that day the saints will have communication with the earth, but not in this Dispensation.
The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-21) reveals the fact that communication with the spirits of our departed dead, is not only unnecessary, but is not permitted. It is not necessary, for we have Moses and the Prophets, that is, the Holy Scriptures, to give us all we need to know of the state of the dead. And it is not permitted, or Lazarus, or the rich man himself, would have been allowed to return to the earth and warn his brethren. The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from this story is, that the spirit of a good man MAY not, and the spirit of a bad man CANNOT return to this earth. If this be true then Spiritism is a fraud, and is one of the devices of Satan in these latter days to lead astray the unwary. Those who dabble in Spiritism are in great danger of having their "understanding darkened" (Eph. 4:17-19) and come under the power and control of Demons.
The Apostle John says-"Believe not every spirit, but TRY THE SPIRITS whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world." 1John 4:1. The test is-"Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ IS COME IN THE FLESH is not of God." 1John 4:3. Ask the "spirit" that comes to you personally seeking entrance, or speaks to you through a "Medium, " if Jesus Christ IS COME IN THE FLESH, that is, was born of the Virgin, and is the "SON OF GOD " and if it says-YES ! that is the Holy Spirit, for no man can say that Jesus is the LORD, but by the Holy Spirit. 1Cor. 12:3. But if the "Spirit" gets angry, and denies the Deity of the Lord Jesus, and the authority of the Word of God, then it is clear that the "spirit" is an "Evil Spirit" or "Demon." The Holy Spirit will not teach anything contrary to the Scriptures, so a person to be able to "TEST THE SPIRITS" must be thoroughly conversant with the Word of God.
Another of the "Signs of the Times" is the revival of what is called the
"GIFT OF TONGUES, "
in which the recipient claims that he is taken possession of by the "Spirit of God" and empowered to speak in an "unknown" or "foreign tongue." But the conduct of those thus possessed, in which they fall to the ground and writhe in contortions, causing disarrangement of the clothing and disgraceful scenes, is more a characteristic of "demon possession, " than a work of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit does not lend Himself to such vile impersonations.
From what has been said we see that we are living in "Perilous Times, " and that all about us are "Seducing Spirits, " and that they will become more active as the Dispensation draws to its close, and that we must exert the greatest care lest we be led astray by them.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - NEW HEAVENS, NEW EARTH, NEW JERUSALEM
(1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; (2) for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and (3) there is no longer any sea.
1. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth = begins with the typical introductory vision formula that signals a new vision description. This vision concerns a new heaven and earth, which one would expect to follow the general judgment of all the wicked of the ages. The sequence of this event is logical in light of the overall structure of Revelation 19-21. This reinforces the notion that John’s depiction of the earth fleeing away in Revelation 20:11 is accurate. New (kainos) pertains "to having been in existence for only a short time – new, recent (Louw-Nida, § 67.115)."
2. For the first heaven and the first earth passed away = explains why John sees a new heaven and earth at this point. The first heaven and earth passed away. Louw-Nida indicates that the sense of the text is "to go out of existence." This is a clear reference to the final destruction of the present earth. One will notice the apparent absence of any reference to a fiery destruction of the earth. There is explicit biblical proof that God will destroy the wicked with fire (Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Isa 66:15-16).
There is no biblical basis for the conclusion that God will destroy the physical earth with fire. The closet possible biblical support for this conclusion might be II Peter 3:5-7, 10. However, it is clear that Peter is contrasting the destruction of the wicked in the days of Noah with that of the wicked during the Day of the Lord. Clearly, the physical destruction of the earth did not concern earth itself, but the people who dwell upon it. Equally, the Day of the Lord will remove the wicked from the earth and cause severe damage to the physical earth, but the earth will not cease to exist during the Day of the Lord.
The strongest verse that seems to support a fiery destruction of the physical earth is II Peter 3:10, which states,
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up."
This verse has caused some to argue that the Day of the Lord extends until the end of the millennial reign of Christ. However, this conclusion is unwarranted.
The translation of 2 Peter 3:10 in the English Standard Version better reflects the intent of the text. Notice, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."
Notice that instead of "burned up," the better reading is "will be exposed." The quality of the work is exposed by fire, but the physical earth is not burned up. There is no biblical basis for the physical earth being burned up.
3. There is no longer any sea = argues strongly that the period described by John in Revelation 21:1 must follow the temporal kingdom. The absence of the sea, but the presence of a new heaven and earth signals a difference between this period and the kingdom period. The sea is present during the kingdom.
(1) And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, (2) made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
1. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God = will again be repeated in Revelation 21:10 with a slight variation. This has lead some to suggests that the New Jerusalem comes down twice. One cannot be dogmatic either way.
2. Made ready as a bride adorned for her husband = describes the New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem is in stark contrast to the "woman" of Revelation 17. This New Jerusalem comes as bride for a new earth.
(1) And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and (2) He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and (3) God Himself will be among them, and (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and (5) there will no longer be any death; (6) there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; (7) the first things have passed away.
1. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men = continues the unrecognized voice that declares from the throne. In this case, the voice announces that "the tabernacle (dwelling) of God is with men." Long promised, God is finally among his people (Ezek 37:27).
2. He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people = refers to God in the third person. Someone is describing the new situation on the new earth. In a way unparalleled in history, God will live among His people.
3. God Himself will be among them = adds a note of emphasis. God the Father will live among His people. Separated in the garden, men had lost the ability to commune with God. However, God finally returns to live with man on earth.
4. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes = is the fist listed benefit of this new earthly relationship with the God of heaven. The cessation of weeping and mourning is an eschatological promise (Is 35:10, 65:19) finally realized.
5. There will no longer be any death = is the second item of relief the new creation will experience when God’s eternal rule is established on earth. The phrase is absolute. Death will cease. In the new heaven and earth with a New Jerusalem, there will be no death.
6. There will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain = indicates the absence of all those human conditions which produce outcomes of mourning, crying, and pain.
7. The first things have passed away = restates the reason why the human condition has improved. This clause refers back to Revelation 21:1, which indicated that a new heaven and earth had come. Those aspects of the creation that produced hardship and suffering for mankind have been removed. This is not restoration, but re-creation.
(1) And He who sits on the throne said, (2) "Behold, I am making all things new." (3) And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
1. And He who sits on the throne said = is a direct reference to God the Father. This is one of the few direct references to the Father in the Revelation. The Father speaks.
2. Behold, I am making all things new = is a bit strange at first glance. One would think that given the context that this sentence would read, "I have made all things new." However, as it stands, it appears that God is still in the act of creating all things new.
3. He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true" = applies to the whole book of Revelation and not just this section.
(1) And He said to me, "It is done. (2) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (3) I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
1. And He said to me, "It is done…" = indicates completion. Unfortunately, it is not clear what is finished. In context, one would assume that God’s new creation is finished, but this is guessing.
2. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end = basically is two ways of saying the same thing. The phrase focuses on the absolute power and sovereignty of God.
3. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost = is metaphorical way of referring to eternal life. What was promised for thousands of years is now fulfilled. Progressive sanctification finally results in absolute glorification.
(1) He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and (2) I will be his God and he will be My son.
1. He who overcomes shall inherit these things = reiterates the promise. The overcomer gets "all these things." This refers to the list outlined in verse four above.
2. I will be his God and he will be My son = is singular, nevertheless it applies to all of those who are overcomers. This is a great promise. Overcomers will be adopted as "sons" of God. All the rights and privileges of sonship come with this promise. This is beyond human comprehension. The road from being the objects of ridicule and scorn to "sonship" is the heart of this revelation. We are sons of God.
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.
This verse actually concludes the chronological development of the book of Revelation. From this point on, the book deals with issues related to the consummation of human history, as we know it. Having reached eternity, God restates his promise to the righteous and his intent to punish the wicked. The righteous become part of the family of God the Father, but the wicked receive eternal punishment, which ultimately refers to the absence of God’s presence.
(1) And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, (2) "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
1. One of the seven angels…saying = implies that the final details of the book are about to be added. This is not an advancement of the chronology of the book. That ended at Revelation 21:8.
2. Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb = is clearly metaphorical language. That said, I am not sure of the literal referent intended here. In Revelation 19, the wife of the Lamb consists of believers. In Revelation 21, the wife of the Lamb is the New Jerusalem.
(1) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, (2) and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven form God having the glory of God. (3) Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
1. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain = is interesting because in Revelation 16:20 all mountains on the earth are removed. This simply means that John is given the view of the New Jerusalem before the actually events occur. John saw the New Jerusalem 2000 thousand years ago before the events actually take place.
2. And showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven form God having the glory of God = indicates an obvious contrast with the city of Revelation 17, which had the glory of man.
3. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper = is an image of God’s glory.
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are those of (1) the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of (2) the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
1. The twelve tribes of the sons of Israel = will each represent a gate. Thus, each tribe has access to the city. Israel will have her promised restoration.
2. The twelve apostles of the Lamb = includes the apostle Paul. The Lord Jesus also promised the Disciples that they would govern the twelve tribes of Israel during the His temporal kingdom (Matt 19:27-30). Over the twelve apostles will be King David (Ezek 34:23-24, 37:24-25).
The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, (1) fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
1. Fifteen hundred miles = is the dimension of this great city. Fifteen hundred miles is the distance between New York City and Dallas. This city is a perfect cube. If you make a box with Minneapolis, MN as the Northeast corner, Seattle, WA as the Northwest corner, San Diego, CA as the Southwest corner and Little Rock, AR as the Southeast corner you would have a picture of this great city in terms of its breath. A fifteen hundred mile high, wide and long city would equal three billion three hundred seventy-five million cubic miles. Such a city could accommodate one billion believers with each able to have a 14,000 square-foot apartment with room left over.
The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
(1) I saw no temple in it, (2) for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (3) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, (4) for the glory of God has illumined it, and (5) its lamp is the Lamb. (6) The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. (7) In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and (8) they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and (9) nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, (10) but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
1. I saw no temple in it = is a bit strange. So long a part of the Jewish economy, the absence of a temple in the new heaven and earth is striking. This is evidence that God has indeed created "all things new." The administration of earth will be new and different.
2. For the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple = explains why there is no temple in the New Jerusalem. Shadows have been replaced with reality. Instead of God being housed in a building, the building is housed in God.
3. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it = is a second absent element in the New Jerusalem. The sun and moon are light sources. The New Jerusalem will not need natural light sources. This could mean either the sun and moon no longer exists or that the city has no windows.
4. For the glory of God has illumined it = explains why the sun and moon will not be necessary in the New Jerusalem. The glory of God illumines it.
5. Its lamp is the Lamb = continues the explanation concerning why the city will be absent of natural light.
6. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it = is seen by some as a contradiction. The nations (Gentiles) were destroyed and the kings were as well. Therefore, where come these kings? This is one of the reasons some see the New Jerusalem coming down at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. The idea is that once the eternal future begins ethnic differences fade away.
7. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed = indicates complete safety. Open gates is a sign of confidence in the personal safety of the inhabitants. The absence of night would also mean no need for sleep. This is certainly a characteristic of the eternal future.
8. They will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it = probably refers to the kings. It is not apparently clear what "glory and honor" refer to here.
9. Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it = is a natural outcome given the nature of the New Jerusalem. However, if the New Jerusalem comes down at the beginning of the eternal future, where come the wicked? That is, the judgment of the damned occurs at the end of the millennium. After the creation of the new heaven and earth, there will be no more wickedness on the earth.
This verse has led some to conclude that the New Jerusalem must come down at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. Else why talk about a problem that does not and cannot exist.
10. But only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life = clarifies who will be able to enter the New Jerusalem. This again argues for the conclusion that the New Jerusalem comes down at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. It appears strange to list those who can enter the city unless there are those who cannot enter it.