Monday, November 30, 2015

A Consideration of Theodicy: The Invisible Life of Faith of the Human vs. the Visible Life of Rejection by Lucifer and One Third of the Angels


We Christians turn to God as our ultimate resource, particularly when we believe we are in urgent need, as we should. After all, we belong to God thus, it is reasonable that we make petitions to him. The Bible is clear that God is all-powerful (Matthew 19:26) and that we are to flect to the omnipotent God for our necessities but as well, our desires. God’s Word is explicit in stating, (John 14:14 ESV) “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” (understanding the context of this verse, of course) and that (Psalm 84:11) “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Further, God makes it quite plain that we, in our justification through Christ, are not just permitted such prayer but implored to (Hebrews 4:16) “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

However, we equally know that in coming to God as his children and making our petitions known, with the passages above in mind, the aforementioned texts do not constitute a theological formula that God has delivered to us in which we may assume all of those things we ask will be granted as we delineate in our prayers. We are not always rescued from personal disasters in the manner we request, we are not always healed of sickness and in fact, may suffer more intensely than we imagined. And we do not always see friends and family come to believe the gospel and the list goes on and on.

So, instead of attempting to address the gap between answered and unanswered prayers by addressing the specifics of potential contextual problems which may lead to unanswered prayers (i.e., you have sin in your life, you didn’t pray correctly or according to God’s will, etc.) or stating the obvious (God is sovereign and does not always choose to answer all prayers as we see fit,) I want to address the life of faith in a more broad manner with respect to Satan or Lucifer’s fall in his sinless state and perfect environment verses us, with our sinful nature as humans, which at birth, bends us toward sin and the natural rejection of God along with the human earthly purlieus or habitat which is ruled by The Evil One hence, saturated with sin. Satan had a flawless environment and constitution, we have a flawed/sinful/fallen environment and constitution (Adam’s innocence is addressed later). But both, Satan and we, are required to believe God.

Thus, I will use the life of faith to underscore a greater theological or Biblical emphasis and narrative, which I am certain will not only fill in the gaps mentioned above but may serve to mitigate, if not provide an opulent and regaling foundation in the outworking of the life of faith with regard to the various forms of general or logistical suffering of all humans and specific sufferings of those who have been adopted by God into the divine family through faith in the gospel.

Made a Little Lower than the Angels

Many readers are familiar with the beginning of the apostolic letter to the Hebrews and particularly chapters 1 and 2. I point to these because they contain what I hope you will keep in mind as this essay unfolds and consider its relevance in your theological discipleship.

When we are born again, regenerated, and as we mature, we grow from a spiritual child to a spiritual adult, becoming more and more like our Savior. But more importantly, he is like us and was made like us. And who are we and our Savior in his incarnation, in comparison to the angels? The Bible makes this important comparison. Hebrews 1: 1-4 states (NASB – bold mine):

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Adjacent to this text, really flowing from this text into chapter two, still, is this protracted comparison of the human Christ to that of angels. Hebrews 2:9 reveals (NASB – bold mine):
9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
Why the comparison? Why is this extended reference, with its comparison to the angels, made? The text reveals some reasons but the rest of Scripture suggests this context is supplemented with a more thorough explanation. That is to say, there is more to this issue than the immediate textual comparison between man and angels as we view Satan’s entanglement with humanity and his campaign, from man’s initial creation until this very moment, to destroy his race which God created for eternal purposes.

I will not go into a treatise on what numerous Christians understand to be the conflict between Satan (with his cohort of unsaved angels) and that of God. Suffice it to say at least, most Christians recognize this conflict.

But what many believers do not have is any definitive theological construct as to the connection between humanity’s creation and Satan’s fall and the great trial of Satan which preceded man’s creation and then continued into the era of humanity with both, the end of humanity’s epoch in time and Satan’s being cast into the lake of fire, being co-terminus. In other words, we all share the same timetable for an end and into the final judgment and the beginning of eternity. We start at different points but end, simultaneously. Thus, the relationship between the two exists.

*I encourage my readers to research the good works of men who have studied and articulated on the angelic conflict. One of the earlier, modern works, is that of Dr. Donald Barnhouse (1895-1960), a Presbyterian Minister and Theologian, which is titled, The Invisible War. From this source many Bible teachers have furthered his studies on the correlation between humanity and angels and specifically the relationship between the fall of Satan and his angelic acolytes and the subsequent creation of humanity. Unfortunately, in Reformed circles, this fantastic work and topic has been neglected. Happily, its focus has been taken up by other Evangelicals.

Satan’s Former Life

His Home - Before Satan’s rebellion against God, his environment was the Kingdom of God. This assumes a domain of divine transcendence in all which existed. There was no sin, no corruption in heaven to distract or detract Satan from his devotion to God.

His Position – Satan had a position in the Kingdom of God as part of the created angelic race. Ezekiel 28:14 describes him as “the anointed cherub” who was positioned on “the holy mountain of God”. One of the privileges he had as this anointed cherub was to walk in “the midst of the stones of fire”. The Bible does not reveal what this was and we can only surmise what it may be. Fire consistently represents divine purification in Scripture thus, it may have been a certain privilege that was limited to notable angelic positions in which they were permitted the experience of exhilarating divine purity at some exceptional level. Who knows? Speculation does not provide a real answer but we know it was a special entitlement granted by God to Lucifer.

In Ezekiel 28:16 we learn something else about Satan’s position namely, that he was involved in divine commerce. It states:

By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned.
Commerce in heaven, a perfect and sinless heaven mind you, is not surprising. The Bible presents to us a homogenous view by God of commerce both in heaven and on earth which is that it is to be just. Obviously, human justice will never be perfect but it is measurable and not difficult to demarcate with respect to fairness and equity and when our conscience informs us of our greediness, that is, if we are willing to yield to these things.

But this aside, we clearly see a heavenly economy of trade existing prior to Lucifer’s fall, one which evidently had the intent of God by design. And it is unambiguous that The Evil One was a very productive angel in seeing he is described as becoming abundant in the divine market, thus, he was very wealthy.

His Person - As we observed in Ezekiel, Lucifer was a supremely blessed angel who not only was accorded a pristine and perfect environment but an elevated position with its privileges. As if that is not enough, God also reveals that Lucifer was beautiful. Ezekiel 28:17 says that his heart was “lifted up because of your beauty.” And in addition to his resplendent appearance, Satan was endowed with a superlative intelligence. The same passage states, of Lucifer, “You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.”

There is no dispute as to the elegance and divine magnanimity with which Lucifer was blessed in every facet of life in eternity past. Yet, in all of this, there was but one thing given to him which could lead him to reject it all, as he did in arrogance and sin against God, and that was his volitional capacity, his ability to choose, his will.

The Choice of Satan

Informed believers are well-versed in God’s revelation concerning the decision Satan made in this flawless context. Isaiah 14:13-14 provides a frank account of this: 

But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.
(*Two prominent passages, Isaiah 14: 4-21, a prophecy against the King of Babylon, and Ezekiel 28:1-19, a prophecy for Israel and against the King of Tyre, are constructed in a manner which refer both to the immediate context of these monarchs and their kingdoms but as well, to the larger kingdoms and conflict of God and Satan. Thus, we are able to extrapolate from this this literary technique some insight - along with it providing theological construction with application - into the nature of the arrogant rebellion and fall of Satan. Augmenting these passages is the text in Revelation which tells us that one third of “the stars” – a metaphor for created angels in heaven – rebelled and fell with The Evil One).

Thus, we have a record of Lucifer, The Evil One, or Satan or whatever Biblical designation you wish to reference, and the context of his rebellion. He had full sight, full contact, and full blessing and enabling without the debilitating effects of sin, yet, in this spotless realm he chose apart from God and refused any salvation offered (we know this because the angels who accepted the real but undescribed angelic salvation are called “elect angels” thus, making it clear there was an angelic plan of salvation in eternity past).

Theodicy – Why God, why? 


The human being, though fashioned in innocence and without sin via Adam, fell, as did Lucifer. They, too, chose against God. However, unlike Lucifer, Adam and his wife accepted redemption from God, a redemption which only God could design and accomplish which was revealed to father Adam and mother Eve in the prophecy of the Christ to come (Genesis 3:15).

But just as Lucifer (and the one-third who rebelled with him) rejected the angelic class of salvation offered to angels, there are humans, too, who will reject the salvation offered from God. Which brings us to the crux of my consideration with regard to theodicy.

Theodicy refers to all that is related to the various arguments regarding mankind’s existence in his weak estate as compared to God and even weaker estate after his fall, described as depraved by theologians, along with God’s greatness, perfection, holiness, benevolence and all other attributes and essence and the existence of evil.

Why? Why would God permit such a thing? What is the purpose of the presence of evil in the lives of humanity which brings so much ruin and destruction when we have a God who could stop it all? To answer that I point you to the comparison of what we covered earlier and what we will now discuss.

Your Current Life

What is the one thing God gave Lucifer in all of his perfect blessing that God did not control (and cannot control by its very definition and nature) and would leave its outcome to that of its owner? That one thing is volitional power, the ability to choose and account for that choice which was given to all angels. Man, as well was given that power which is precisely why we will stand to account for our choices one day. So let’s contrast your situation with that of Satan’s in his fall which will lead to my conclusion.

Your Home – Your home is isolated and limited to one planet. It is filled with many ungodly people, endeavors and influences. Your home is not one in which the presence of God is magnified but de-emphasized and at times covered in as much soil as sinner and Satan can muster. There are places of splendor but natural and limited in their glory of God, though glorious indeed. 


Your home, this world, isn’t even your real home, but a temporary dwelling. And among the citizens of this world, the expression of God’s presence is limited to that of his people, generally speaking, and done so through whatever protocols God has prescribed to his people during that era. The surrounding communities often are hostile to granting any homage to God, though in history there have been exceptions. Suffice it to say, this world is not heaven.

Your Position – The text in (Psalm 8:4-5) reads, “You were made a little lower than the angels.” And it is clear that this lower position manifests itself when we see angels able to transform themselves into the appearance of men. They are able to fly. They are able to move through solid objects and so on.

The truth is, while we are made in the image of God in our initial creation we were still made lower than the angels and now we are also fallen. Our beginning place is that of a sinner, not as Satan was in a majestic and elevated role. Even our father, Adam, though created in innocence, was limited in intellect and position, a garden attender and manager of an earthly domain. He was not honored with angelic prestige and a magnified continual existence in the presence of God.

After Adam’s fall and our inherited sin, we are born spiritually blind. Our eyes betray us because our mind is cut off from God. And it is by his grace in which his Spirit illuminates to us the gospel, that we may believe. And even after our regeneration, while we are redeemed and able to be Spirit-filled we are living in bodies of sin which urge as contrary to the Spirit of God.

Our Person – And all of this brings us to our person. Limited in mobility, given to sickness, born dying, born with a sinning nature and as Paul tells us in Romans, there is no one, none of us, who in and of ourselves, seeks after true righteousness.

Our beginning deficit is more than a margin of difference between Satan and the cooperative one third who rejected God’s salvation for them and rebelled. It is tremendous in measure. It is almost as if we are by deliberate design, in a context which is the complete opposite of Satan and the salvation rejecting angels when they fell.

The Choice of Man

Man and the angels share one thing most critical in the story of both races and their redemption, volition, the ability to choose and an accounting for that. It is proposed by those who teach on the angelic conflict, that man was created as a response to the fall of Satan and his legion. Mankind’s creation is evidence introduced by the prosecutor that God’s grace is sufficient and would be so in a lesser creation.

This is a reasonable suggestion because Satan is the Accuser. And he accuses God of both lying and being responsible for all of the problems which have ensured from any divine endeavor. By design, Satan has no doubt, charged God with being responsible for The Evil One’s own fall. “God, you made me this way, it is your fault”, I can hear Lucifer cry.

So here we are. Evidence for the prosecution as Job was evidence. Did Satan not appeal to God to examine the evidence of God, to put it to the test? And Satan did as God allowed. Of course the record reveals that God’s grace was sufficient. In spite of Job’s lowly place and in comparison to Satan’s high position, he was steadfast and relied upon the Holy One while Lucifer, in his pristine position, vaulted himself against God.

Think About Your Life

This is precisely why, when you live a life of faith, that of unseeing eyes and untouched realities which you believe more than what your human senses and intelligence tells you, God is glorified. You are evidence of his sufficient grace. You are evidence in the court of heaven.

And this is why, my dear Christian brother and sister, you will share in the glory of Christ, the one who is most glorified, in eternity. You will have lived by faith, you will have lived as corroborative evidence in the great trial of Lucifer on behalf of the divine prosecutor, that God’s grace, God’s will and God’s plan is sufficient, righteous, true and that there is no other way.

Every time you believe God, as we do with the aid of God’s Spirit, you glorify God and reject the claims of Satan. Every time you obey what you receive as truth from God’s bequeathed Word, though you have not seen him in contrast to Lucifer who was privileged to be in the presence of God and experience his grandeur and blessing on a magnitude no where reachable here on earth, you glorify God.

And one day God will reward that faith. Live, not by what you see as Satan did but by what God has said. This was Satan’s fatal flaw. Even seeing God’s glory is not sufficient. One must believe. One must exercise faith in the person and Word of God. Satan saw and experienced the glory of God and was gifted immensely but did not believe God’s way.

Conclusion

I mentioned prayer, earlier, for a reason. Often we accept the view that answered prayer is glory to God, and it is. But many times the lack of answer is considered less glorious and disappointing. The truth is, what is most glorious is simply trusting and believing God’s Word no matter the condition of life. Yes, pray for God’s intervention but remember, in a very real sense he has already intervened and works all things (syngergizes is the Greek word) for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose.

You, have not seen God, have not touched God, and have not entered glory yet you believe, even in the midst of your sin and a world which is hostile to God. This is, in a great way, why you will be privileged to rule and reign with Christ as the new spiritual species who will fully inherit the Kingdom of God on judgment day.

Your creation, with its lowly estate, is on purpose. Its purpose is to act as evidence in the court of heaven that though weak, though limited, though likely functioning as intellectual midgets to the super-intelligence of angels, you are proof or evidence in the great case against Lucifer that God’s grace is sufficient. You are evidence every time you believe. And you will be given a reward greater than that of the angelic race which will last for eternity. Your faith matters, far more than just the concern of your life.

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