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Monday, June 2, 2014

The throne is God's to give

Some folks have assumed that God made Lucifer (now Satan) the king of this earth. They point to Satan's temptation of Christ as the basis for this assumption. According to them, the fact that Christ does not refute Satan's authority to offer him all the kingdoms of the earth strongly implies that they were Satan's to give.

Speaking of Satan's temptation of Christ, Herbert Armstrong wrote in his The Incredible Human Potential:
"Jesus had been required to overcome Satan—to resist
and defeat him—in order to qualify to sit on the throne
of the whole Earth!"
"Consider! Think on this! If Jesus was required to overcome
Satan—the former Lucifer—who is still on the throne where
God originally placed him—in order to qualify to succeed
the disqualified Lucifer on that throne—should we humans
be required to do less, in that we also may sit on that throne
with Christ?"

These views, however, are refuted by a careful examination of the scriptural evidence and sound reasoning. (In this connection, the reader may also wish to read my post entitled "God is not working on plan B") In short, the Bible clearly indicates that the "throne" of this earth has always been God's to give; and that it has never been Satan's to hold or give to anyone else! Moreover, Jesus Christ was required to obey God's Law to qualify to receive that throne - to triumph over sin. To be sure, as the chief promoter and instigator of sin among humans, Christ had to face the same challenges that the people he was sent here to save have to face - and that certainly included a confrontation with Satan.

In beginning this discussion, it is important to understand the nature of Satan's dominion. Yes, Satan does occupy a "throne." After all, Lucifer did say, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." (Isaiah 14:13) As stars are clearly associated with "the host of heaven" in Scripture, and the author of the book of Job reveals that all of the "morning stars" joyfully sang together at the creation of the earth (Job 38:7), we may reasonably conclude that Lucifer intended to make himself the ruler over all of the angelic host. This, however, would have been a usurped throne (had he achieved his purpose, which he did not - more on that later).

The Hebrew word translated into English as "throne" in the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah has a somewhat broader meaning than the English word implies. According to Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the Hebrew word indicates a seat of honor. God told Ezekiel that this great angel that became Satan the devil was originally designated by God to be one of two cherub's whose wings covered the throne of God in heaven (see the details for the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant and Ezekiel 28:14). I think that this would qualify as a "seat of honor" by almost anyone objectively evaluating the evidence. Admittedly, it is probably reasonable to speculate that Lucifer also had other angels under "his" authority, but this is not explicitly indicated in Scripture.

Lucifer, however, was apparently not satisfied with his "throne." The cherub coveted a more prestigious seat of honor - a more lofty throne. Although we cannot be sure about the chronology, John wrote that: "there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not (they didn't win - they weren't successful); neither was their place found anymore in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Revelation 12:7-9) So this cherub that had been stationed at the very throne of God in heaven lost his seat of honor there. Earlier, in this same chapter of Revelation, we are informed that the dragon's tail "drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth." (Revelation 12:4) Hence, we could also reasonably deduce from this information that about one third of the total number of angels followed Lucifer in "his" rebellion.

This is an important point in interpreting the information that is revealed here: We must closely follow what has happened and consider all of the information we are given together. By following Satan, these angels made him their leader, ruler or king. Whatever "his" relation to these other angels prior to the rebellion, they effectively made "him" their king by following him into battle against the armies of heaven. Now even Jesus Christ said that a kingdom that is divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25-26), so it is reasonable to conclude that Satan's "kingdom" was organized (which is also implied elsewhere in Scripture).

In fact, Paul wrote that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (places of authority)." (Ephesians 6:12) Read that passage again! It clearly states that our struggle is against spiritual entities that rule over "the darkness of this world" - not the whole world, just the bad and evil part of it! This verse strongly implies that Satan's "kingdom" is organized, but it does not state or imply that this kingdom holds sway over the whole earth. In fact, the Scripture does strongly imply the very limited nature and extent of that kingdom.

"But hasn't Satan deceived the whole earth?" (Revelation 12:9) my friends will challenge. "Isn't he the god of this world?" (II Corinthians 4:4) they will insist. Yes, Satan has deceived the whole earth, and we have been willing participants in "his" efforts to do so. He is the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), the one who floods the atmosphere of this planet with "his" lies and evil attitudes. Nevertheless, allowing or permitting someone to temporarily exercise such authority, does not mean that God made him king of the earth or instructed him to do what he has done. Likewise, Satan is the "god of this world" in the sense that we (humans) have all made him our god - not in the sense that THE GOD designated "him" as such.

Brethren, make no mistake, Satan is a usurper whom God has allowed to temporarily exercise a limited amount of authority over the angels and people who populate this planet to further "His" own purposes and plans. Scripture informs us that Satan knows that "his" time to work mischief here is very limited. (Revelation 12:12)

Now, what about that confrontation between Christ and Satan? Let's take a closer look. We read: "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory (greatness) of them, And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." (Matthew 4:8-10)

Notice that Satan offered Christ only what was "his" to give - the kingdoms (dominions) of this world. He did not offer Christ the throne of the earth, because it wasn't "his" to give. He offered this to Christ on the condition that Christ would worship him. Christ didn't even bother with the offer. Instead, he attacked Satan's condition. Christ directly challenged any authority that Satan thought he had by pointing out that only God is worthy of worship. In other words, Jesus Christ completely ignored the question of whatever petty authority Satan had arrogated to himself. Christ went to the heart of the matter of who was truly in authority here, in heaven and throughout the universe!

God told Moses that the earth was his. (Exodus 19:5) David declared that "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1) In the book of Daniel, we read that "one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:14) When Christ's disciples thought that the establishment of the kingdom was imminent, Jesus told them "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return." (Luke 19:12) When some of his disciples asked for the seats of honor on his right and left when he occupied his throne, Christ told them that those offices (thrones) were his Father's to give. (Matthew 20:23) To the church in Laodicea, Christ said: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Revelation 3:21)

What Daniel said clearly makes sense in the larger context of the Bible as well. Since God originally gave humankind dominion over the surface of the earth (Genesis 1:26-28), it makes sense that the Son of Man and his followers would eventually occupy the "throne" of this planet.

Clearly, the "throne" of this earth is not currently occupied by Satan the Devil, and it has never been his to give to anyone else. The "throne" of this earth is God's to give!

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