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Friday, August 15, 2014

 

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Part 2

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The Fallen Angels

Then we are referred to the case of the fallen angels, thus, and thus only, referred to in scripture:
If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment . . . (2 Pet. 2: 4). And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day (Jude 6).

This does not even appear to countenance the Miltonic tradition. It does not tell of angels being expelled from heaven to engage in marauding expeditions against human interests and divine authority, wherever their caprice might lead them; but of disobedient angels, not necessarily in heaven, being degraded from their position, and confined in the grave against a time of judgment. It speaks of them as in custody, "under chains of darkness" -a metaphor highly expressive of the bondage of death-in which they are held, and from which they will emerge, to be judged, at a time when the saints shall sit in judgment (1 Cor. 6:3). (Note: A reasonable explanation connects the language of Jude and Peter with the account of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Num. 16. The punctuation of the Greek text of recent Editors supports this view, by only separating verses 5 and 6 by a comma. "The angels that sinned" thus belongs to the wilderness experiences of Israel.)

Lucifer, King of Babylon

Next referred to Isaiah 14:12-15, we turn to that scripture, and read something that, read apart from the context, looks a little in the direction of the popular history of Satan: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! . . Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven: I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High." Nothing appears more clearly in favour of the popular tradition than this language, till we ask of whom these things are said. To whom is this highly wrought language addressed? Reasonable minds will ask this question. They will not be contented to sit down in front of the passage isolated from its context. They will not suffer themselves to be confined within the four corners of a quotation, so to speak, without the liberty of looking out of the windows to see where they are. They will ask to know the connections and surroundings of the matter. When they have ascertained these, they will simply ask for the next proof, discovering that in this there is none. The personage addressed in the language in question is declared (verse 4) to be "the king of Babylon"-a declaration confirmed by all the allusions in the chapter, such as that he "ruled the nations in anger" (verse 6): that he "weakened the nations" (verse 12): that he was "the man that made the earth to tremble" (verse 16): and that at last, he should be dishonoured in death, in being refused the rites of burial (verse 20).

The King of Tyre

Ezek. 28:13-17, yields similar results. Quoted in isolation from the context it seems to countenance the Miltonic view: "Thou hast been in Eden, the garden of God: every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, the topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold.... Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth, and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God: thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.... Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." All that is necessary to be said of this, in confutation of the claim to put it forward as an account of the angelic origin and fall of the popular devil, is that it is part of an address to the Prince of Tyre, who is explicitly described as "a man, and not God" (see verse 2). Its applicability in this way is evident from the particulars of political and commercial greatness contained in the chapter. The precise meaning of the language of the verses set forth above, we need not here consider, in view of its incontestably pointing in a human and not in a diabolical direction.

The Woman, The Dragon, and The Man Child

Rev. 12:7-10 is next put forward as furnishing a scriptural sanction to the Miltonic idea of the nature and origin of the Devil. Instead of furnishing a sanction, however, it withdraws the whole subject from the possibility of such a sanction by affording conclusive evidence of the unscripturality of the clerical theory of the devil. It does this by identifying the scriptural devil in an explicit and recognizable direction very different from that of the popular belief; it does this in a way that leaves no room for doubt. Still, on the face of it, nothing could look more like the Miltonic tradition, as the reader will perceive in the perusal of the following quotation:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more 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.

Reading this as a piece of literal history, it, is of course, impossible to see in it anything else than what is pictured in popular tradition as to the origin and downfall of Satan, ages before the world began; but reading it as we are in the book itself directed to read, the scene changes altogether.

In the first place, we find it was not historic as related by John, but prophetic. It was part of a representation of events concerning which it was said to John, "I will show thee things which must be hereafter" (Rev. 4:1), on which there arises the obvious reflection that if it was a representation of things future to John's day, it cannot be a history of something long before John's day. This is sufficient of itself to dispose of the passage as a proof of the popular "Devil and Satan".

When we come to look at the meaning of the recital, there is not an inch of standing ground left for the popular case. We may acquire the meaning from the Apocalypse itself. The Apocalypse is strewn with hints of interpretation that make it possible to work out a piece of symbolism otherwise inexplicable. In the first place, the symbolic character of the whole book is plainly announced. "He sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John" (chap. 1:1): the things communicated were exhibited in "sign" or symbol. The symbolical character thus intimated is illustrated beyond the possibility of misapprehension. Thus, in the very first scene, John first saw seven golden candlesticks which he was presently informed (chap. 1:20) stood for seven churches; thus, too, the "odours" ascending from angels' golden vials, represented the prayers of the saints (chap. 5:8); a woman, a certain great city having authority (Rev. 17:18); a resplendent edifice of gold and precious stones, the bride-community of the friends of Christ (Rev. 21:9-10).

With this guidance we look at the war in heaven between Michael and " the dragon, the old serpent, the Devil and Satan". And we ask the meaning. First we note the description of "the Devil and Satan" - "A great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head, and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth" (verses 3, 4). It is not altogether beside the mark to observe that the colour and form of this creature are out of harmony with the popular conception which assigns to the devil blackness of colour and a single head, and a person mainly of human shape. We need not press this discrepancy, since no one is prepared to submit an authentic image of the popular devil.

The Apocalyptic dragon is, of course, a hieroglyph; and the question is, the meaning of the hieroglyph; for which we have not far to seek: for a few chapters on, we find a word of interpretation on the heads and horns, prefaced with this significant sentence: "Here is the mind which hath wisdom" (17:9): as much as to say, the matter is one requiring wisdom to penetrate, and that the man who looks at it simply as a pictorial description of the devil, is not exercising wisdom: "The seven heads are seven mountains (or hills) on which the woman sitteth, and (an additional meaning) there are seven kings (sovereignties-forms of sovereign power, succeeding each other on the seven hills), five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come.... And the ten horns are TEN KINGS which have received no kingdom as yet . . . " From this it is manifest that the seven-headed ten-horned dragon is symbolical of a certain incorporation of political power upon earth. This perception is increased by a consideration of the woman mentioned in connection with the explanation of the heads-"seven hills on which the woman sitteth". What are we to understand by the woman? The last verse supplies the answer: "The woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth". Was there a great city in this position in John's day? Yes-ROME, the queen of the world at that time, and holding authority over the subject kings everywhere, e.g., King Agrippa. Has Rome anything to do with seven hills? Yes; she is known in history as the seven hilled city. The city stands on seven hills; and this topographical peculiarity is made the occasion of exhibiting a peculiarity of her political history, viz., that Rome-political has been upheld by seven successive forms of government, of which the Papacy is the sixth repeated and (coming after the seventh-the Gothic kingdom) therefore forming the eighth, though one of the seven-a riddle propounded in verse 11. The seven dragon heads were therefore symbolic of topographical and historical peculiarities of Rome; the ten horns of a coming division of her empire into many independent parts which has taken place.

Thus the dragon as a whole is a political symbol-the symbol of a constitution of the things among the nations of the earth-a constitution having its centre in Rome. Now it is this symbol which is labelled THAT OLD SERPENT, the DEVIL and SATAN, which deceiveth the whole world". Consequently, we have here a clue to the discovery of the Bible devil. We are to find him in the system of things established among men, in its official relations. We need not seek him in a subterranean hell; nor need we contemplate the invisible air, where ancient and some not very ancient theologians maintain the Powers of Darkness hold high and crowded revel in the full blaze of sunlight, darting, unperceived by man, the arrows of their malignity into the minds and bodies of Adam's race. We are to look on earth; we are to see man; we are to behold the governments which corrupt and brutalize and oppress the nations.
Looking in this direction we have to ask a question which takes us right into the heart and essence of the devil question from a Bible point of view: why is the Roman system of government as historically developed and diversified in the centuries, styled "the Great Dragon, Devil and Satan"? and why "Devil and Satan"? and why "that old serpent which deceiveth the whole world"?

 

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"Christ Destroys The Devil Through Death"
"Sin and Death


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