Bible study series: The Beginning and the End - Genesis and Revelation
The Cosmic Conflict
by I Gordon
As I write, unseen forces are battling for control. No, I'm not talking about the 'deep state' or 'the illuminati' or earthly players (both seen and hidden) who manipulate the world for control as they seek to do with the current Covid19 crisis. No... the battle is on a far deeper level than that. To illustrate, can you remember watching Star Wars for the first time? First you see 'the Empire', who are clearly established as the baddies. They want to control everything and remove those that rebel. But who controls them? Soon you see him. You can't miss Him, all dressed in black with that distinctive deep breathing coming from behind that dreaded mask - Darth Vader! He is the ultimate leader controlling them right? Clearly he is... until you start hearing a few mentions of someone else that he reports to. Someone higher and deeper still... someone behind the scenes but manipulating what the Empire and Vader does. He is not seen physically at all in Star Wars. But you know he is there. In The Empire Strikes Back he is only seen as a grainy holographic projection. But you know he is controlling and up to no good!
Well, our world is like that. There is what we see going on around us but there is a deeper level of control that can't be seen with our physical eyes. And there is someone behind the scenes, a shadowy figure trying to manipulate events on this earth. The Bible tells us that there is a cosmic conflict going on where the 'god of this world' battles to be like 'the Most High' and somehow, if possible, usurp control over the world. I know what you are thinking... 'Sounds a little Hollywood... bit like a Marvel comic plot to me!' Unfortunately it is worse than that. The deception is far greater, the time frame far longer and the stakes far higher than any movie plot you'll ever see. There is a supernatural cosmic conflict going on which humanity finds itself right in the middle of.
But let's not jump ahead just yet! We need to start at the beginning. In a previous study on the mystery of iniquity we saw that right from the beginning, there amongst the purity, innocence and glory of God's creation, lay this shadowy figure, waiting for the right time to strike. And strike he did! Through deception and cunning he deceived Adam and Eve into disobeying God... and the consequences are still firmly with us today. In this study we'll try to answer...
- Why did he have it in for Adam and Eve?
- Why does he still have it in for humanity today?
- What is his goal? What did he achieve?
- And what does the Lord need to do to win this cosmic conflict?
I have mentioned previously that this would be a 'big picture' series. Well you probably don't get any bigger than this! This is putting the extra, extra wide angle lens on!
Satan's desire from the start...
In talking about Satan's desire right from the beginning, would I be going to far to say it is for universe domination? While we are introduced to this cunning serpent in Genesis 3, his history goes back a lot further than that. The prophet Isaiah actually gives us a glimpse into a pre-Genesis conflict involving this one and it is all about control. We read:
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. (Isa 14:12-15)
While addressing the fall of the king of Babylon, Isaiah looks back even further to address the fall of the one who was directing this earthly king. He addresses One who was an anointed Cherub (the highest of angelic beings) of unmatched beauty (Ezek 28:12). And yet this proud angelic being wasn't content with playing second fiddle or just giving worship to God. No... he wanted to be like the Most High himself. He wanted the worship. He wanted to rule. And through the five 'I will's' presented in this passage, we see his transformation and fall from Lucifer, a creature of beauty and glory, to Satan, the adversary! But he didn't fall alone. The Bible records that he was able to convince and deceive one third of God's holy angels to follow him in his rebellion (Rev 12:4, 7)
You now had two kingdoms in opposition - the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. The kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.
I asked the question earlier, why did the serpent have it in for Adam and Eve? I think we can answer that now. He simply hated, hates and opposes, anything that God loves. He also hates anything and anyone that gives the glory and worship back to the living God for He desires that for himself. Humanity found itself in the middle of this cosmic ongoing conflict. But even more than that, Satan saw an opportunity to corrupt God's creation and therefore show himself to be more powerful than God Himself! He desired, and desires, to rule so he will use every deception he can to foil the plan of God and place himself on the throne of the universe.
What did Satan achieve?
With the fall of mankind, the corruption and the entry of sin into the beautiful creation of God, the kingdom of Satan seemingly scored a decisive victory. If you were a fallen angel looking on at the time you may even think that a knockout blow against the kingdom of God was achieved.
Renald Showers, in his book 'What on earth is God doing?' lists the following six consequences of the fall, each of which MUST, somehow, be remedied if the kingdom of God is to prevail in this cosmic (and earthly) conflict with the kingdom of Satan.
|Consequence of the fall||Description|
|Spiritual death||At the fall man died spiritually. His favorable disposition towards God was replaced with a disposition of enmity (Rom 8:7) His pure innocent nature was replaced with a self centered fallen nature. His relationship with God was broken. He died spiritually (Eph 2:1)|
|Physical death||When man rebelled a process of decay began operating in his body that would see his eventual death. It made him subject to disease, deformity and eventual death. (Gen 3:19, 5:5, Rom 5:12, Heb 9:27)|
|Lost dominion over the earth||Man's ability to exercise dominion over the earth changed. He lost ability to govern some things (Heb 2:5-8). He began exercising his dominion in a manner contrary to the will of God.|
|The curse was over man's domain||The production level of the soil was reduced and weeds and thorns were introduced. (Gen 3:17-18) The animal nature changed from a tame, non-carnivorous state to a wild carnivorous state. All of the earth became subject to vanity and corruption.|
|Mankind transferred into Satan's kingdom||Mankind was transferred from the kingdom of God into the kingdom of Satan. Every human would be born spiritually dead and in Satan's kingdom (Eph 2:1-2, 2 Cor 6:14-15). They would be a child of Satan (Matt 13:37-39, John 8:44, 1 John 3:8,10). Thus they would be heading for the same place of judgement as Satan (Matt 13:40-42, 25:41, Rev 20:10)|
|Theocracy lost - Satan usurps control of the world||Satan was able to usurp the rule of the world system away from God. Thus the earth's government changed from a theocracy to a satanocracy. Satan was now in a position where he could offer all the kingdoms of the earth to Jesus, if Jesus would simply bow down and worship him (Luke 4:5-6)|
Gulp! Clearly with the fall of Adam and Eve, everything changed in regards to life and control of this planet. Look at how Jesus, Paul and John described the enemy with regard to this in the New Testament:
Jesus - "I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; (Joh 14:30)
Paul - '... the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2Co 4:4)
John - 'We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1Jn 5:19)
Hmmm... Did Satan achieve a knockout blow? Or was there a solution, a remedy, for all of this?1
Intermission... Saul and Satan2
Before answering this question above (ie how could God rectify all this MESS!) I want to briefly look at how the first King of Israel pictures Satan. You may remember that Israel wanted a king that they could follow. For the Lord God, this was actually a a rejection of Himself and His rule over the people and stated as much to Samuel (1 Sam 8:6-7) But this wasn't the first time His creation had rejected Him and desired another king... He had been here before when a large portion of his angelic subjects had rejected Him and followed after another king... Lucifer! Thus we are right to see how the one story may picture the other....
|God ordained leadership roles
Both Saul and Satan were chosen by God for their high roles and position
|Saul: When Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said to him, "Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people." (1Sa 9:17)
Satan: "You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. (Eze 28:14)
|The beauty of the ruler
Both Saul and Lucifer are noted for their beauty.
|Saul: And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. (1Sa 9:2)
Satan: 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. (Eze 28:12)
|Pride entered in
Both were lifted up in pride
|Saul: So Samuel said, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?... Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?" (1Sa 15:17-19)
Satan: "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.. (Eze 28:17)
|Jealousy of the true King
Both, in their pride, became jealous of the true King
|Saul: As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him... And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (1Sa 18:7-9)
Satan: "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.' (Isa 14:13-14)
|A terrible transformation of their character
Both had known the presence of God but had a terrible fall and transformation occur. Lucifer (light bearer) became Satan (adversary)
|Saul: Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. (1Sa 16:14)
Satan: Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you; It has consumed you, ...All who know you among the peoples Are appalled at you." (Eze 28:18-19)
|The wicked king tries to kill the true king
Both, through fear and jealousy, would try to kill the true king (David and Jesus)
|Saul: Saul hurled the spear for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David escaped from his presence twice. (1Sa 18:11)
Satan: Herod... became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. (Mat 2:16)
|The true king had to leave while the wicked king reigned over the people
Both Satan and Saul ruled over the people while the true king is away in exile
|David: Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth. (1Sa 19:18)
Jesus: "You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father... the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (Joh 14:28-31)
|The people must make a choice
Which king do they want to rule over them? Saul or David? Satan or Jesus?
One choice leads to ease in this life. The other comfort in the next.
|From Saul to David: Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him (David); and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him. (1Sa 22:2)
From Satan to Jesus: I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Act 26:17-18)
|The demonic king will fall
Both Saul and Satan meet with a violent end. And it will mean the end for those that follow them as well!
|Saul: The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him ...So Saul took his sword and fell on it... Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. (1Sa 31:3-6)
Satan: And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev 20:10)
|The true King begins His reign!
And those that decided to follow Him (David and Jesus) will be rewarded and reign with Him!
|David: So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them before the LORD at Hebron; then they anointed David king over Israel. (2Sa 5:3)
Jesus: Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." (Rev 11:15)
Right... back to the drama at hand
So the question was posed... did Satan score a knockout blow? The extent of the fall of man was so complete, so devastating... Was it something that God could fix? If so, how? All of creation was looking on at God's move. Angels, fallen angels, Satan himself... 'What would God do?' they thought. How could a righteous just God redeem a thoroughly corrupted humanity and undo the curse that He himself had placed on this planet? How could He, in perfect justice, remove Satan from being 'the god of this world'? How could He undo death? Had this been a master play by Satan? A checkmate as it were against the Most High Himself? Had a creature outwitted His creator? What would God do? What could He do?
Well... He did something that no one foresaw. The checkmate, the killer blow in this cosmic conflict would actually be struck by God... but in the most unusual way.
He Himself would come. And die. For all. On a cross. On a darkened hill. So that light and new life could come.
And in doing so He would place upon Himself all of our sin (2 Cor 5:17). He would take the curse upon Himself (Gal 3:13). He would take 'the old creation' to its death (Rom 6:6). He would experience death itself to defeat death! (Rev 1:18) And the prince of this world would be cast out from his usurped position over this earth! (John 12:31)
This truly demonstrated a depth of 'wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.' (1Co 2:8)
Oh the wisdom of God! But who needs to see it?
Look now at this wonderful passage in the book of Ephesians that speaks of this great mystery and manifold wisdom of God through the cross.
Eph 3:8-11 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,
This passage speaks of a mystery kept hidden for ages in God. This mystery is Christ Himself; that He would come and die for you and me. Through this plan of God His 'manifold wisdom' would be made known... but to whom? To believers? To the church?
The manifold wisdom of God was made known scripture tells us, not to the church, but through the church! So to whom? Who is watching? Who is the wisdom of God being demonstrated to? Who needed to see what the cross meant? To the 'rulers and authorities in heavenly places'. That is, the angels, the fallen angels, Satan and all his host. They very ones involved in this cosmic conflict are the ones who needed to see what God, in love, would do to reverse the fall and win this battle. The depths God was willing to go to, dying for us, was a perpetual testimony that there is only one sovereign Most High God. William MacDonald writes really well on this verse:
'One of God's present purposes in connection with the mystery is to reveal His manifold wisdom to the angelic hosts of heaven. Paul again uses the metaphor of a school. God is the Teacher. The universe is the classroom. Angelic dignitaries are the students. The lesson is on 'The multi-faceted wisdom of God.' The church is the object lesson. From heaven the angels are compelled to admire His unsearchable judgments and marvel at His ways past finding out. They see how God has triumphed over sin to His own glory. They see how He has sent heaven's Best for earth's worst. They see how He has redeemed His enemies at enormous cost, conquered them by love, and prepared them as a Bride for His Son. They see how He has blessed them with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. And they see that through the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, more glory has come to God and more blessing has come to believing Jews and Gentiles than if sin had never been allowed to enter. God has been vindicated; Christ has been exalted; Satan has been defeated; and the church has been enthroned in Christ to share His glory.'
And this act of love is said to be 'in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus'. Again MacDonald writes: '
The mystery itself, its concealment, its eventual disclosure, and the manner in which it exhibits the wisdom of God are all according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Before the world was made, God knew Satan would fall and man would follow him in sin. And He had already prepared a counter-strategy, a master plan. This plan has been worked out in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of Christ. The whole program centered in Christ and has been realized through Him. Now God can save ungodly Jews and Gentiles, make them members of the Body of Christ, conform them to the image of His Son, and honor them in a unique way as the Bride of the Lamb throughout eternity.'
That is why we read of how the cross was victory for God (and us that believe) while disarming and defeating God's enemies.
Col 2:13-15 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
So will that stop a defeated Satan?
Satan is defeated but don't think that will stop him. He is hatred personified. He only knows rebellion and conflict with all of God's purposes. That is why he persists. That is why he still works to blind the eyes of mankind and thwart God's plans. He still thinks that he, but a creature, can be the Most High. And so down through the ages, even since the cross, he tries to destroy the church. He tries to wipe out the Jews (knowing that the return of Jesus to this earth surrounds their end-time redemption). He still tries to amass followers that will rebel with him against the true king. Like Saul carrying on in his reign for a season after God had chosen David to be the true king, so Satan carries on until the true King of Kings come back to take up His throne! It won't be long.
Till then battles will continue and even increase in the last days. BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THE WAR HAS ALREADY BEEN WON!
Revelation and the reversal of the fall
So what of our six dreadful consequences that we saw earlier came in at the fall... Will God redeem and remedy these? Can He show Himself openly to have defeated all these and have won the cosmic conflict? Asking easy questions today aren't I? Of course He will! Let's close with the book of Revelation (and some assorted verses that speak of the end) to see to remedy for each of these.
|Consequence of the fall||Remedy / Reversal|
|Spiritual death||Spiritual death is replaced with spiritual life for those that believe!.In Christ we partake from the tree of life and the river of life and these are shown freely available again in the book of Revelation..
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. (Rev 22:17)
|Physical death||The Bible says that death is the last enemy to be defeated (1 Cor 15:25-26). But death itself will be done away with for we read:
'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." (Rev 21:4)
|Lost dominion over the earth||Believers will again be given full dominion over the earth alongside the King, Jesus Christ. Revelation tells us that we will reign with Him:
'Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them... and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.' (Rev 20:4)
That which was no longer fully under man's control after the fall (like the animal kingdom) will be placed back in its right position (Isa 11:6-9) as it was in Genesis before the fall (Gen 1:26)
|The curse was over man's domain||All effects of the curse will be removed!
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; (Rev 22:3)
|Mankind transferred into Satan's kingdom||Believers in the Lord are back in God's kingdom, seen living with God in a specifically designed dwelling place. Nothing that is impure will be able to enter. Those that would not believe are judged alongside Satan.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:2)
"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." (Rev 21:7-8)
|Theocracy lost - Satan usurps control of the world||The earth's government changes from a satanocracy to a theocracy once again. The true King reigns over His Kingdom!
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." (Rev 19:15-16)
And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. (Zec 14:8-9)
There is a conflict going on in the heavenly realm between two kingdoms. This cosmic conflict has well and truly come to earth and is a very real one for the believer. Whether you see it or not. And as we approach the last days and the return of the true King expect the level of conflict and manipulation to ratchet right up. In the book of Revelation, chapter 12, it tells us a coming war in heaven where Michael and his angels will fight against the dragon (Satan) and his angels and Satan will lose and be cast down to earth. From that point all access to Heaven is gone for Satan and his followers. And what is the reaction?
"Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (Rev 12:12)
The scripture tells that heaven and all those that dwell in it will rejoice. This includes us. We will be with the Lord in heaven in those days. That is our hope. He is 'comin for to carry me home!' The devil can't have access to heaven once the believers have been taken home. And what is his reaction? It says the devil will be filled with a greater fury in those days. Why? Because he knows that his time is short. He lost the war 2000 years ago but at this point he will truly know he only has a few years left to rule and manipulate this world. So things will get crazy on earth.
But even for these days in which we live now, are not things already crazy? And did you notice how fast it all happened? In January, maybe even February of this year you were still planning your holiday and what you might like to do this year. Now economies are crashing, jobless is rapidly increasing. The planes aren't flying. Basically every nation in the world has some type of lockdown rules in place. And how quick did all that happen? So too, how quickly can the events still to come transpire? For the believer out there, know this, that the bridegroom is coming and this cosmic conflict is already won! 'Stand' the Bible says, with your armor and sword in hand. Stand in His victory and all that He is for you. Use the word of God, the promises of God, the truth of God as your sword. The battle is real. But it is one that is, ultimately, already won. We know the end. God's word tells us how it ends. The days of the wicked usurper are soon to end and the true King is coming. Just as King Saul was replaced by the true King David, so shall it be.
Ok, there is a possibility that you know the answer to this. If so, just act like you don't will ya? Alright... in all seriousness, at this point things are incredibly dire and I don't think anyone, bar starting again, would have seen a solution to the depths of the fall. But if God started again that is defeat... it means that He cannot come up with a solution to Satan's attack so He has been outwitted. God would in a sense start again... but in a marvelous way, taking the first creation into the place of death on the cross and bringing forth a new creation in Jesus' resurrection! ↩
Feel free to skip this section if you can't remember the story of king Saul. Or better still go and read all about it in 1 Sam chapters 8 - 31. A good chunk of Bible reading never did a person any harm! ↩