And there was war in heaven:
Michael and his angels
fought against the dragon;
and the dragon fought
and his angels,
Revelation 12:7 (KJV)
The Cross was HellBathsheba Nathan's Parable The Rape of Tamar Absalom's Revenge on Amnon Reconciliation Absalom Returns to the Court Lucifer's Jealousy Lucifer Schemes Rebellion Spreads Freedom and Equal Access Abuse of Freedom Absalom Undermines His Father Lucifer Looks for Weakness in God's Government Lucifer's Catch-22 Love is God's Power The Testimony of Demons A War of Words Jesus' Death Wins the War in Heaven God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom
Imagine that you have been handed a scepter that has made you the all-powerful ruler of the universe. Your character and personality, though, remain the same. With one word you can speak a world into existence. With one word you can cause a world, a solar system, or even an entire galaxy to vanish into nonexistence.
All the mighty angels, your friends, are at your command. With one word you could create more beautiful angels, or any other kind of intelligent being that you desired. With a mere thought you also could cause anyone to cease to exist. You have successfully established a society that is based on kindness, friendship and love.
How would you have handled it if one of your closest friends, the head angel (Lucifer) had taken advantage of his lofty position, your kindness, and friendship and had started a rebellion by insinuating unkind, untrue things about you, behind your back? I don't know about you, but I would've been inclined to nip it in the bud.
Wouldn't it be nice if sin and rebellion had been erased before it ever got started? You could have threatened Lucifer with demotion or even destruction to bring him into line. With one word you could have confined him to fiery torment. Or you could have destroyed him.
But then the questions would come. Your angel friends would wonder what happened to your close friend and their leader, Lucifer. Would it bother you if even your closest friends were afraid of you? Can anyone really love a ruthless dictator?
It is nice to have friends that enjoy your company, who love and trust you. Would your integrity be so great that you would allow the rebellion to run its course, knowing that one third of your dear friends would join Lucifer's side? These are only some of the delicate, though vitally important issues that God faced when war broke out in Heaven.
In all wars there are rules of engagement. There are principles and territory that are disputed. Take the Civil War for example. National unity, state sovereignty, and territory were disputed. Also at issue was slavery. The South favored slavery. The North condemned slavery. The North wouldn't be honest or convincing if it condemned slavery in the South and then practiced it within its own territory. In theory, the rules of war forbid the targeting of civilians.
The war in Heaven followed a similar pattern. The unity of Heaven, the sovereignty of God over the entire universe, and the law of God were disputed. Lucifer desired to rule in Heaven and on earth. Lucifer tried to change God's law of love.
The war continues, and there are rules of engagement. Satan (Lucifer) uses deceit, lies, coercion, and any other malignant principle that he can think of. God, however, has chosen the powerful weapon of truth. Indeed, God cannot lie. Titus 1:2 "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;" (KJV).
God in his wisdom has chosen to remain faithful to certain principles. 2Timothy 2:13 "If we are not faithful, he remains faithful, because he cannot be false to himself" (TEV). In other words, God never steps out of character.
There is also the principle of equal access. Both God and Lucifer must have an equal opportunity to present their case to the inhabitants of heaven and earth. Satan cannot force anyone to join his side. Adam and Eve were free to choose whom they would follow. They were free moral agents. In other words, neither God nor Satan would be able to force Adam or Eve to join his side.
God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life in the Garden of Eden to provide Adam and Eve with freedom of choice. Adam and Eve chose, on the basis of incomplete information and Satan's lies, to rebel against God. Satan deceived them. The war in Heaven had spread to Earth.
Another principle disputed was slavery. John 8:34-36 "Jesus said to them, 'I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there for ever. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free'" (Living Bible).
In order to learn more about the war in Heaven, we will examine the story of Absalom's rebellion against his father, King David. The story of David and his rebellious son Absalom has many parallels to the war between Christ and Satan. We will also weave in other Bible texts.
At first, Lucifer and Absalom had each responded to his father's love. Over time, however, each allowed vanity and ambition to block the blessings of love.
In order to understand Absalom's rebellion, we will first need to look at the story of David and Bathsheba, and the story of Amnon and Tamar. These stories give us important background information that will help us to understand why David did not punish his sons for their serious crimes, and why Absalom grew to hate his father, David.
2Samuel 11:1-17 It was now spring, the time when kings go to war. David sent out the whole Israelite army under the command of Joab and his officers. They destroyed the Ammonite army and surrounded the capital city of Rabbah, but David stayed in Jerusalem.
Late one afternoon, David got up from a nap and was walking around on the flat roof of his palace. A beautiful young woman was down below in her courtyard, bathing as her religion required. David happened to see her, and he sent one of his servants to find out who she was.
The servant came back and told David, "Her name is Bathsheba. She is the daughter of Eliam, and she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite."
David sent some messengers to bring her to his palace. She came to him, and he slept with her. Then she returned home. But later, when she found out that she was going to have a baby, she sent someone to David with this message: "I'm pregnant!"
David sent a message to Joab: "Send Uriah the Hittite to me." Joab sent Uriah to David's palace, and David asked him, "Is Joab well? How is the army doing? And how about the war?" Then David told Uriah, "Go home and clean up." Uriah left the king's palace, and David had dinner sent to Uriah's house. But Uriah didn't go home. Instead, he slept outside the entrance to the royal palace, where the king's guards slept.
Someone told David that Uriah had not gone home. So the next morning David asked him, "Why didn't you go home? Haven't you been away for a long time?"
Uriah answered, "The sacred chest and the armies of Israel and Judah are camping out somewhere in the fields with our commander Joab and his officers and troops. Do you really think I would go home to eat and drink and sleep with my wife? I swear by your life that I would not!"
Then David said, "Stay here in Jerusalem today, and I will send you back tomorrow."
Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day. Then the next day, David invited him for dinner. Uriah ate with David and drank so much that he got drunk, but he still did not go home. He went out and slept on his mat near the palace guards. Early the next morning, David wrote a letter and told Uriah to deliver it to Joab. The letter said: "Put Uriah on the front line where the fighting is the worst. Then pull the troops back from him, so that he will be wounded and die."
Joab had been carefully watching the city of Rabbah, and he put Uriah in a place where he knew there were some of the enemy's best soldiers. When the men of the city came out, they fought and killed some of David's soldiers Uriah the Hittite was one of them. (CEV)
God sent Nathan the prophet to relate a parable to king David, about a rich man stealing a poor man's only lamb. It illustrated the evil that David had done. Without noticing the similarity to his actions, David condemned the rich man to repay fourfold and to be killed. After king David had sentenced the imaginary man, Nathan drew the parallel to David's actions. He revealed how David had condemned himself:
2Samuel 12:9, 10 Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah and stolen his wife. From this time on, the sword will be a constant threat to your family, because you have despised me by taking Uriah's wife to be your own. (NLT)
When David understood how the parable applied to him, a strong sense of guilt engulfed him. In spite of the darkness of guilt, David's faith in God's mercy remained strong. David repented and asked for forgiveness of his sin. Though God forgave him, David still suffered some of the consequences of his sin. His child with Bathsheba died shortly after birth. But God, being full of mercy and forgiveness, spared David's life. David wrote a poem about this experience.
Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 9-11, 14
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me... Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. (KJV)
David knew that his example would lead others to regard sin lightly. He felt the responsibility deeply. David knew the cleansing power of God's mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He also knew the destructive power of guilt, hatred, and vengeance. Having received such abundant mercy from God, David became quite probably the most merciful king to ever rule on this earth. Some would contend that King David was too merciful. Absalom certainly did.
The Rape of Tamar
2Samuel 13:1, 2, 6-22 David's son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half brother, fell desperately in love with her. Amnon became so obsessed with Tamar that he became ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible that he could ever fulfill his love for her.
So Amnon pretended to be sick. And when the king came to see him, Amnon asked him, "Please let Tamar come to take care of me and cook something for me to eat."
So David agreed and sent Tamar to Amnon's house to prepare some food for him.
When Tamar arrived at Amnon's house, she went to the room where he was lying down so he could watch her mix some dough. Then she baked some special bread for him. But when she set the serving tray before him, he refused to eat. "Everyone get out of here," Amnon told his servants. So they all left. Then he said to Tamar, "Now bring the food into my bedroom and feed it to me here." So Tamar took it to him. But as she was feeding him, he grabbed her and demanded, "Come to bed with me, my darling sister."
"No, my brother!" she cried. "Don't be foolish! Don't do this to me! You know what a serious crime it is to do such a thing in Israel. Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me."
But Amnon wouldn't listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. Then suddenly Amnon's love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. "Get out of here!" he snarled at her.
"No, no!" Tamar cried. "To reject me now is a greater wrong than what you have already done to me."
But Amnon wouldn't listen to her. He shouted for his servant and demanded, "Throw this woman out, and lock the door behind her!"
So the servant put her out. She was wearing a long, beautiful robe, as was the custom in those days for the king's virgin daughters. But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying.
Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, "Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, don't be so upset. Since he's your brother anyway, don't worry about it." So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in Absalom's house. When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about it, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister. (NLT)
Notice that while David was angry, and had the authority and the power to put Amnon to death for the rape of Tamar, he did not do it. David had committed adultery. He then had committed murder to try to cover up the adultery. Having felt the restoring power of God's incredible mercy, David condemned his son's sin, but still extended mercy, reconciliation, and rehabilitation rather than resorting to a punishment that would result in death. David also felt that his murder of Uriah and adultery with Bathsheba made him partially responsible for his son's crime. Even though his motives were not perfect, David's mercy made him a man after God's own heart.
Absalom, on the other hand, did not share in his father's tendency toward mercy. While Absalom had no authority to put Amnon to death, he nevertheless allowed a desire for vengeance to burn in his heart.
The Old Testament story of Absalom's rebellion against his father David highlights the differences between the principles of God and Satan. Many Christians will be familiar with the story of David and Absalom. Many will also understand that in the Bible, David often represents Christ, the Son of God. Perhaps some have seen that Absalom represents Lucifer, now known as the Devil or Satan. In symbolic form this Bible passage parallels the story of the war between Christ, the Son of God, and Satan.
Absalom's Revenge on Amnon
2Samuel 13:23-29, 34, 37-39 Two years later, when Absalom's sheep were being sheared at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, Absalom invited all the king's sons to come to a feast. He went to the king and said, "My sheep-shearers are now at work. Would the king and his servants please come to celebrate the occasion with me?"
The king replied, "No, my son. If we all came, we would be too much of a burden on you." Absalom pressed him, but the king wouldn't come, though he sent his thanks.
"Well, then," Absalom said, "if you can't come, how about sending my brother Amnon instead?" "Why Amnon?" the king asked. But Absalom kept on pressing the king until he finally agreed to let all his sons attend, including Amnon.
Absalom told his men, "Wait until Amnon gets drunk; then at my signal, kill him! Don't be afraid. I'm the one who has given the command. Take courage and do it!" So at Absalom's signal they murdered Amnon. Then the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled.
Meanwhile Absalom escaped Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. He stayed there in Geshur for three years. And David, now reconciled to Amnon's death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom. (NLT)
This story reveals the stark contrast between the characters of David and his son Absalom. David's heart and character represent God. Because he had deserved to die and yet had received so abundantly of God's mercy, King David had mercy on Absalom.
In a similar manner, though based on different principles, God's wisdom constrained Him to have mercy on Lucifer and the rebellious angels.
Lucifer despised and exploited God's mercy. Absalom's heart and character represent Satan. Absalom also despised and exploited David's mercy and forgiveness. He felt that these were weaknesses that prevented the proper application of justice. The seeds of rebellion were planted in Absalom's heart.
2Samuel 14:1-14 Joab knew that David couldn't stop thinking about Absalom, and he sent someone to bring in the wise woman who lived in Tekoa. Joab told her, "Put on funeral clothes and don't use any makeup. Go to the king and pretend you have spent a long time mourning the death of a loved one." Then he told her what to say.
The woman from Tekoa went to David. She bowed very low and said, "Your Majesty, please help me!" David asked, "What's the matter?" She replied: "My husband is dead, and I'm a widow. I had two sons, but they got into a fight out in a field where there was no one to pull them apart, and one of them killed the other. Now all of my relatives have come to me and said, 'Hand over your son! We're going to put him to death for killing his brother.' But what they really want is to get rid of him, so they can take over our land.
Please don't let them put out my only flame of hope! There won't be anyone left on this earth to carry on my husband's name." "Go on home," David told her. "I'll take care of this matter for you." The woman said, "I hope your decision doesn't cause any problems for you. But if it does, you can blame me." He said, "If anyone gives you any trouble, bring them to me, and it won't happen again!"
"Please," she replied, "swear by the Lord your God that no one will be allowed to kill my son!" He said, "I swear by the living Lord that no one will touch even a hair on his head!" Then she asked, "Your Majesty, may I say something?" "Yes," he answered. The woman said: "Haven't you been hurting God's people? Your own son had to leave the country. And when you judged in my favor, it was the same as admitting that you should have let him come back. We each must die and disappear like water poured out on the ground. But God doesn't take our lives. Instead, he figures out ways of bringing us back when we run away." (CEV)
Joab knew how to reach the heart of King David. Joab knew that David was merciful, forgiving, and always looked for ways to reconcile those that have been separated by sin and guilt. Truly, David is a man after God's own heart. Truly, Absalom is a man after Satan's own heart.
The story of merciful King David and his vengeful, rebellious son, Absalom, accurately portrays the contrasting methods and principles that led to war in Heaven. Lucifer began his rebellion against the Almighty God slowly, craftily, and deceitfully. Absalom also began his rebellion against his powerful and popular father using similar methods. It is no coincidence that the rebellion of Absalom is patterned after Lucifer's rebellion. Satan molded Absalom's willing heart and mind after his own motives, methods, and madness.
Absalom Returns to the Court
2Samuel 14:28-33 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years without seeing his father. He wanted Joab to talk to David for him. So one day he sent a message asking Joab to come over, but Joab refused. Absalom sent another message, but Joab still refused. Finally, Absalom told his servants, "Joab's barley field is right next to mine. Go set it on fire!" And they did. Joab went to Absalom's house and demanded, "Why did your servants set my field on fire?" Absalom answered, "You didn't pay any attention when I sent for you. I want you to ask my father why he told me to come back from Geshur. I was better off there. I want to see my father now! If I'm guilty, let him kill me." Joab went to David and told him what Absalom had said. David sent for Absalom, and Absalom came. He bowed very low, and David leaned over and kissed him. (CEV)
As we have seen, David was merciful, kind, forgiving, and valued reconciliation over punishment. These are the qualities that distinguished David as a man after God's own heart. 1Samuel 13:14 "The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already chosen him to be king over his people." (NLT).
While David shared many of the attributes of God, Absalom shared many of the attributes of Lucifer. For example, both were renowned for their beauty. Absalom was the most handsome man in Israel.
2Samuel 14:25, 26 Now no one in Israel was as handsome as Absalom. From head to foot, he was the perfect specimen of a man. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was too heavy to carry around. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! (NLT)
In like manner the Bible describes Lucifer's beauty as perfect. Compare Absalom's description with the following description of Lucifer:
Ezekiel 28:12, 16, 17 You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty . . . You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. (NKJ)
Just like Lucifer, Absalom allowed vanity, pride, and a burning desire for harsh punishment of sinners to fill his heart. Both Lucifer and Absalom felt that patience, mercy, kindness to enemies, and the desire for reconciliation were fatal weaknesses that could be exploited for their own gain.
We know that Satan and his angels lost the war in Heaven. Let's take a look at what Scripture reveals and see if we can determine some of the main principles. We'll start with two passages that describe Lucifer, and how he became Satan, the great rebel, destroyer, liar, and murderer. From these two main Scriptures we'll look at some other passages to see if we can fill in some of the details in order to get a clearer picture of what the war in Heaven was like.
Ezekiel 28: 12-15 'Thus says the Lord God: "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. "You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you."' (NKJ)
Lucifer in Heaven walked among the stones of fire. He was a covering cherub, which is the highest position among the angels. It was his job to shield the glory of God, as symbolized by the two golden, covering cherubs above the Ark of the Covenant in the Hebrew sanctuary. It was Lucifer's privilege and blessed responsibility to share and teach the other angels about the glory of God. God freely shared his light, wisdom, knowledge, and love through an organized chain of command. Lucifer was the highest created being. Lucifer shared his ever-deepening understanding and appreciation of the light of God's love with all the angels. As the covering cherub, Lucifer was God's ordained leader of all the heavenly hosts. Lucifer means Light-Bearer or Day Star. All the angels in Heaven respected Lucifer. All the angels looked to Lucifer as God's ordained source for the knowledge of God's love.
Isaiah 14:12-14 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, 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: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (KJV)
Lucifer allowed pride and self-seeking to fill his heart. Instead of worshiping his Creator, Lucifer began to worship himself. The greater the blessings received and the more exalted the position, the greater the capacity for evil. Lucifer had the greatest potential for good. He also had the greatest potential for evil. Lucifer's pride began to alter the way he thought. He was the leader of the angels. He was second only to the Son of God. He began to resent being second. He knew that the Son of God cooperated with the Father in the creation of the universe.
Colossians 1:15-17 Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the firstborn Son, superior to all created things. For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. (TEV)
Lucifer felt that he too could participate in the creation of new worlds and new beings. He was jealous of the Son of God, and even of the Father himself. Lucifer's true goal was to ascend to the throne of God. As Lucifer cherished desires for self-exaltation, he lost sight of the true nature of God's throne.
The throne of God, the foundation of his government is based on the unselfish principles of love, mercy, and reconciliation. That is why his created children praise and worship him. That is what makes the society of Heaven secure.
1John 4:16, "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." (NRSV). God's law of unselfish love is very simple. Mark 12:30, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (NRSV).
Our loving Heavenly Father is merciful and always seeks to bring back his wandering ones. 2Samuel 14:14 "We each must die and disappear like water poured out on the ground. But God doesn't take our lives. Instead, he figures out ways of bringing us back when we run away" (CEV).
1Corinthians 5:19, 20 "God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends!" (TEV)
1Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal. (TEV)
Psalm 22:3 "But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel" (NKJ). One foundation principle of God's throne or government, is that he never forces or coerces anyone to belong to his kingdom. It is composed only of those beings that freely love, worship, and praise Him. God's law of unselfish love guided the society of Heaven before sin entered. The same law governs God's kingdom now, and will continue after sin comes to an end. All the angels lived in happy, holy, harmony. That is, until Lucifer allowed the mystery of iniquity to enter his heart.
As the anointed, covering Cherub, the leader of the angels, Lucifer allowed pride and jealousy to blind him, making the step to the throne of God seem within his grasp. He felt that with enough of the angels on his side, and some careful scheming, he could force God to acknowledge and exalt him. He had to plan carefully, subtly, and slowly.
Keep in mind that Lucifer was well aware of God's infinite power. Lucifer well knew that as a finite, created being, that physical force would be useless against the omnipotence of God. Lucifer also knew that God's love and mercy were infinite.
Consider carefully that if Lucifer had thought that God would immediately, or even eventually, punish disobedience with death, he would never have rebelled. God had taught Lucifer that unselfish love is the only foundation for a secure government. Lucifer knew that God would not threaten him or punish him. Otherwise, fear, not love would have motivated him to obey. But, obedience based on fear is not really obedience at all.
God loves all his creatures and wants only obedience and worship that spring from a heart of love. He created angels and humans with freedom of choice. If God had created robots, then there would be no sin, suffering, or death. The continued existence of sin with its high cost of suffering and death is strong evidence that God values freedom of choice.
As covering cherub, Lucifer knew God better than any other created being. He knew that God loved him. He knew that rebellion would cause God deep sorrow. He also knew that God would not directly punish his rebellion. He was right.
Lucifer and his fallen angels are still alive. They are free to come and go upon this earth and tempt all six billion of us humans. I am quite sure that you know this by experience, as I do. Lucifer and his fallen angels exist only by the mercy and sustaining power of God. This shows that Lucifer was right about God. Lucifer and his angels have long since passed the point of no return, but God has not killed them. Nor has God confined them to hellfire. The first two chapters of the book of Job show that Satan was free to present himself in the heavenly courts, before the throne of God. Other evil angels also spoke in the heavenly courts.
2Chronicles 18:20-22 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. (KJV)
God's holy angels never tempt anyone, nor do they put lying spirits into prophets' mouths! Clearly, then these were evil angels seeking to bring destruction to king Ahab. Notice, though, that they needed God's permission before they could act. 1Corintians 10:13 "No temptation has taken you but what is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but with the temptation also will make a way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it" (MKJV). God limits evil.
What Lucifer did not understand was that, in the end, sin itself destroys all those who allow its evil seeds to be planted and grow in their hearts and minds. Lucifer knew that God would be a formidable Opponent. He had witnessed God's creative power. But depending on God's love and mercy, Lucifer decided to go ahead with his rebellion!
If Lucifer had merely declared open rebellion, none of the angels would have followed him. The deception must have been very hard to detect. He had to have moved carefully and slowly. Based on the texts in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 and the story of David and Absalom, I believe that Lucifer used a two-pronged plan of attack. He decided to subtly attack the very throne of God, his law of mercy, unselfish love, and reconciliation.
First, Lucifer used his exalted position to gain support among the angels. He made it look like he was trying to improve upon the government of Heaven. He claimed that he was trying to expand the freedom of the angels. Hadn't God created angels to be noble, holy, wise, and loving. Hadn't he created the angels to be perfect? He hinted to some of his closest angel friends that they did not need the restraints imposed by God's law of unselfish love.
Lucifer used the same deception on the angels that he would later use on Eve. Genesis 3:4, 5 "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (KJV).
Lucifer insinuated that God's law was holding the angels back from reaching their full potential as gods. Many of the angels listened to his subtle insinuations. His words were so subtle that they thought that they had come up with the ideas themselves. These angels then talked with other angels. A minor note of discord rippled through the angel ranks.
Lucifer, as the "covering cherub," (The highest position among the angels) then pointed to this discord in the harmony of Heaven as evidence that there was room for improvement in the underlying structure of Heaven. He proposed that God's law of love unnecessarily limited the angels. God had made them perfect. they did not need any law to govern them. Lucifer told them that they could become like God.
Next, Lucifer took advantage of the discord in Heaven's harmony, that he himself had so artfully caused, to attack another of God's principles, the principle of mercy and reconciliation. Under the cover of seeking to remedy the unrest among the angels in Heaven, Lucifer promoted his "superior" idea for insuring security and harmony in Heaven.
If an angel or other created being did wrong, God, in order to maintain Heaven's security, would need to punish this being. The ultimate punishment, of course, would be death. This "suggestion" was abhorrent to God. Our Father is a God of love, mercy, and reconciliation. Ezekiel 18:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye" (KJV). Lamentations 3:33 "For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men" (KJV).
Romans 6:23 "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (KJV). Our Father longs to give us the gift of eternal life. The inevitable consequence or wages of sin is death. Force cannot produce love.
God does not condone or cause anyone to sin. Although, when we do sin, God can still turn some aspects of it around to his glory. Some would say that David's sin and restoration caused him to be perhaps too merciful. When his son Absalom rebelled and was trying to kill him, David still requested that his officers spare his son's life.
God faced a similar situation when Lucifer, the highest angel in Heaven, rebelled. When, after repeated warnings, Lucifer and one third of the Heavenly angels willfully continued in rebellion against God's government of love, they hardened their hearts and passed the point of no return. Their probation closed. They had slammed the door to God's love so many times that God could no longer find an opening into their hearts. If God had not stepped in and shielded them from the burning, crushing weight of their sin and guilt they would have perished.
However, all of Heaven would have been afraid of God. Many would have been led to believe Satan's false charges that God was an unfair, self-centered tyrant. True obedience and worship can only be based on love and freedom.
God in his infinite wisdom shielded the rebellious angels from reaping the natural consequences of their sin in order to allow the time necessary to reveal to all of Heaven the horrible, inevitable results of rebellion against the perfect law of Heaven. Lucifer took advantage of God's mercy. He claimed that it proved that God knew that the rebellion was justified or else they would have been killed.
Lucifer had charged God with selfishly, arbitrarily holding back the angels from their true potential, and at the same time being too compassionate to provide heaven with the necessary security. One third of the angels sided with Lucifer. Two thirds of the angels sided with God. In order to permanently bring an end to rebellion, God had to allow sin to develop fully. God's newest creation, earth, became a battleground.
Freedom and Equal Access
God created Adam and Eve, endowed with perfect love. Nevertheless, God had to allow Adam and Eve freedom to choose. Their natural tendency was to love God and each other. However, they had to develop their characters. That would take time. Both Lucifer and God would be given limited access to Adam and Eve and their descendants.
God visited with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Genesis 3:8 "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day" (KJV). Lucifer was limited to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to present his case.
Satan deceived Adam and Eve and they fell. Satan thought he had won the war, but it was only the first battle. Satan had shown that he could deceive sinless beings. Now God would have to show that he could woo sinful beings back to a love relationship. Both God and Lucifer would need a lot of time to present their case to the human race.
In order to be fair, both God and Satan would have to have equal access to the hearts and minds of each human being. Each person would be free to choose between Christ and Satan. The war between Christ and Satan has been going on for about six thousand years. Earth's history, as a battleground between good and evil, will soon draw to a close. Each of us has a part to play in this battle.
Each day we must choose between good and evil, Christ and Satan, selfishness and love. We can choose to behold and partake of the grace of Christ, or we can choose to behold and partake of Satan's lies, sin, and selfishness. By beholding we become changed. Behold your God. Behold his infinite sacrifice, his mercy, grace, and love, his righteousness.
Our heavenly Father, in his great wisdom, has chosen to deal with Lucifer's rebellion patiently, carefully, and at very high cost to himself. King David also chose to deal with Absalom's rebellion patiently, carefully, and at very high cost to himself.
Abuse of Freedom
Absalom abused his lofty position as a prince. In the same way, Lucifer's high position gave him tremendous influence in the courts of Heaven. When the mystery of iniquity, the seeds of rebellion, began to grow in Lucifer's heart, he turned his exalted position to his perverted purposes.
The more richly that God blesses his creatures, the greater the potential curse when used in rebellion. God had more richly blessed Lucifer than any other created being. Let's examine the Scripture story of Absalom's rebellion against his Father David and see if we can find the parallels with Lucifer's rebellion against his "Father," his Creator, Jesus Christ.
Absalom Undermines His Father
2Samuel 15:1-12 Absalom then bought a magnificent chariot and chariot horses, and hired fifty footmen to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city; and when anyone came to bring a case to the king for trial, Absalom called him over and expressed interest in his problem. He would say, "I can see that you are right in this matter; it's unfortunate that the king doesn't have anyone to assist him in hearing these cases. I surely wish I were the judge; then anyone with a lawsuit could come to me, and I would give him justice!" And when anyone came to bow to him, Absalom wouldn't let him, but shook his hand instead! So in this way Absalom stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.
After four years, Absalom said to the king, "Let me go to Hebron to sacrifice to the Lord in fulfillment of a vow I made to him while I was at Geshur that if he would bring me back to Jerusalem, I would sacrifice to him." "All right," the king told him, "go and fulfill your vow." So Absalom went to Hebron. But while he was there, he sent spies to every part of Israel to incite rebellion against the king. "As soon as you hear the trumpets," his message read, "you will know that Absalom has been crowned in Hebron." He took two hundred men from Jerusalem with him as guests, but they knew nothing of his intentions. While he was offering the sacrifice, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David's counselors who lived in Giloh. Ahithophel declared for Absalom, as did more and more others. So the conspiracy became very strong. (Living Bible)
Absalom hated the mercy and forgiveness of his father David, and yet he himself depended on it. In fact, Absalom laid the groundwork for his rebellion counting on his father's mercy. Absalom surely reasoned in his heart that he had to take justice into his own hands because his father the king was too weak and softhearted to do justice.
Lucifer had said the same thing about our heavenly Father - that God was too softhearted to keep the kingdom of Heaven secure. Just as Lucifer had done, Absalom equated mercy and forgiveness with weakness. This feeling was inspired from Satan. Pride, selfishness, hatred, vengeance, a desire for power, and a desire to be worshiped warped Absalom's heart just as these flaws had warped Lucifer's heart. Absalom was molded after Lucifer's pattern.
Lucifer gathered one third of the angels in Heaven and with subtle sophistry and lying words, attacked the loyal angels and God's throne. Just like Lucifer, Absalom gathered a large army and attacked David and his loyal followers. David and his loyal followers fled from the large army. Even then, David asked his men to spare Absalom's life. David's men made their stand in a large wooded area. God was with David and his men. David's experienced men loved him and fought fiercely and wisely.
Absalom's inexperienced, halfhearted men became confused and fled. Absalom, too, fled. Absalom's long, beautiful hair, a symbol of his pride and vanity, got caught in the low branches of an oak tree. Absalom's pride cost him his life. At the end of the age, all will see that Lucifer's pride has cost him his life too.
Lucifer's pride caused him to battle his Father. Lucifer also ran into a tree - Calvary's tree. Jesus became a Man, taking human flesh. "He did this so that through his death he might destroy the devil, who has the power over death" (Hebrews 2:14, TEV)
When king David heard of Absalom's death, he grieved for his son. 2Samuel 18:33 "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (KJV). Jesus loved Lucifer even more than David loved Absalom. David's grief is a type of God's grief over Lucifer.
Lucifer Looks for Weakness in God's Government
As the mystery of iniquity silently grew in Lucifer's heart, his mind began to separate that which God had joined together.
Knowledge, reason, and facts blend with love, truth, and beauty. Reason separate from love, knowledge separate from truth, and facts separate from beauty become curses instead of blessings. For example the Grand Canyon could factually be described as just a huge ditch in the ground. Fact combined with beauty would describe the multitude of colors, the interplay of light and shadow, and the feeling of awe and wonder at the immense proportions of the canyon. Fact plus beauty equals truth.
Lucifer began to analyze God's government of unconditional love. God had given Lucifer an incredible mind, endowed with exalted powers of reason. Lucifer knew that God granted his creatures freedom. He knew that God would not destroy him for proposing a "more secure" form of government than Heaven's law of unconditional love.
Lucifer selfishly thought he saw a way that he might achieve equality with God. He reasoned that God's unconditional, reconciling law of love had a fatal flaw. Lucifer reasoned that if he could manipulate a large number of angels to rebel, God would have to respect him. Lucifer knew that if God destroyed him and his fellow rebellious angels, fear and doubt would become permanently entrenched in the hearts and minds of the rest of the angels.
God's government, founded on obedience to the principle of unconditional love, would be compromised. The very essence of love requires freedom. Love cannot be forced, coerced, or bought. 1John 4:18 "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (KJV). As love casts out fear, so does fear cast out love. Lucifer knew that if God destroyed him and his angels that Heaven would be turned into hell.
Lucifer explained to the angels that God had only two options. God could either allow the rebellious angels to live, or he must destroy them. Either way the rebels claims would be proven right. Lucifer thought he had found the perfect catch-22. God must acknowledge Lucifer's wisdom by setting aside his law of unconditional love and mercy, the very foundation of his throne, in favor of Lucifer's idea of conditional love, justice, and punishment. Or God must destroy his law of love along with Lucifer and his angels.
Lucifer was sure that he had God backed into a corner with no way out. Having formulated the new law of Heaven, Lucifer would be exalted to the very throne of God. Lucifer would have the prerogatives of God. He would be able to help design and create new worlds.
And all Lucifer's loyal followers, who had risked their lives to stand up for the rights and progress of all the angels would be exalted as heroes. All the angels would advance to a higher level of existence that God had selfishly and arbitrarily withheld from them. They would be as gods.
When it became clear that God was not going to destroy Lucifer and his fallen angels, the rebellious angels declared that was proof that God's government was flawed and that God knew that their rebellion was just.
Love is God's Power
But God is Master of the third option. After patiently waiting four thousand years, God countered Satan's rebellion. The plan to sacrifice his Son on the cross of Calvary stunned Satan. Satan's selfish heart couldn't conceive of that level of unselfishness. Satan understood the prophecies, but he couldn't imagine the effect that Jesus' sacrifice would have on sinful men and the heavenly beings.
Yet our merciful heavenly Father was patient with Satan. He did not kill or punish Satan and his angels for their rebellion. God did not even force them out of Heaven. Jude 6 "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" (KJV).
Jude asserts that Satan and his angels voluntarily left Heaven, their first estate, their own habitation. They have forged their own chains by hanging onto selfishness, pride, hatred, and sin with its attendant shame, guilt, stress, and fear. The horror of sin and guilt has changed their perception of the light, love, and truth of God into dark lies from the pit of hell.
The Testimony of Demons
Dear reader, have you come to believe some of Satan's lies? Do you accept as truth the testimony of demons? Please do not answer too hastily.
Matthew 8:28,29 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (KJV)
The devils that possessed these two men falsely accused Jesus of coming to torment them before the time. Sin and guilt have so darkened and distorted their debased minds that they believe that God desires to torment them.
Nevertheless, their own sin and guilt torment them now. Furthermore, at the judgment, their sense of sin and guilt will be excruciatingly accentuated in the presence of the perfect purity of God's holiness, his perfect character of unselfish love, his glory.
At the judgment all will see that from the beginning Satan has lied to men and angels in order to exalt himself. Lucifer thought he could win the war for the hearts and minds of Heaven's angels.
Revelation 12:7-9 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (NKJ)
A War of Words
This war was fought with words, ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The hearts and minds of each citizen of Heaven had to be brought to a point of decision. Was God's law of unselfish love a firm, secure foundation for the government of Heaven? Did God the Father himself live by the same principle of unselfish love? Or did Lucifer, the covering cherub, the highest created being in Heaven, really have a better idea? Was God holding the angels back, limiting their potential to become gods? The great Dragon, Lucifer, deceived one-third of God's holy angels.
"Nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer." The disharmony, dissension, and differences eventually reached a crescendo. John, in Revelation 12:9 informs us that Satan and his angels were "cast out." Jude 6 asserts that they left voluntarily. Both Scriptures are true.
The key lies in understanding how they were cast out. The next verse will give us that key. Revelation 12:10 "Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down" (NKJ).
Jesus' Death Wins the War in Heaven
"Now salvation" clearly refers to the crucifixion of the Son of God. This passage gives us the time and the method by which Satan and his angels were cast out of Heaven. When the loyal angels saw how Satan and his angels treated the beloved Son of God, their hearts and minds overflowed with outrage. The sacrifice of the Son of God on Calvary's cruel, tree in contrast with Satan's self-centered, malignant hatred, decided the outcome of the war in Heaven. They cast out what little sympathy they might have retained for Satan's cause.
The loyal angels no longer had any desire to listen to Satan's accusations. Truly, God had cast Satan and his angels out of Heaven. God did this by contrasting his unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness with Satan's brutal concept of justice, his selfishness, and hatred. God accomplished all this through the suffering of his Son on Calvary. At the same time, God demonstrated the infinite beauty of his character of love and the hideous destructiveness of sin.
Victorious in the battle for Heaven, God won the hearts and minds of all the loyal angels. He vanquished Satan and his evil mob of angels, and banished their evil lies and accusations from the heavenly realms. However, in his great mercy and wisdom, God sustains Satan's life. Nevertheless, God did not lie. Sin does result in death. Satan will come to an end. And it won't be pretty. But remember, how the end comes is equally important as the end itself. We will examine that concept in a later chapter.
God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom
God has the power to do anything that he wants, but God's character governs his actions. Our God is a God of principles. God's character, his principles are eternal, unchanging. James 1:17 God created mankind free to choose. Sin could not make our Creator change his mind. In fact sin is proof that we are free moral agents. If Adam and Eve hadn't been free, sin would never have raised its ugly head.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (KJV). Listen to what God reveals to Israel about himself, in Malachi 3:6: "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (KJV).
Paul also affirms the same thing about Jesus. Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (KJV). The presence of sin cannot change God's principles, which are the very foundation of his heavenly government. Coercion, destruction, and force cannot win the loyalty of human or angel hearts.
Our Creator God has the physical power to destroy Satan and all his sympathizers. But that would not solve the sin problem. Many would seek to obey motivated by fear. Fear-based obedience is not really obedience at all. Heaven would not be secure. Selfishness and sin can only be overcome by love's warm embrace. God, in his wisdom, chose not to use force because he knew that it would not work.
There is another, more important reason that God has not destroyed Satan and his sympathizers. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God's government. Or in other words, compelling power and the exercise of force are contrary to, and in fact the opposite of, his glorious character of love.
God has written with his own finger, on stone tablets, the foundation principles of his government and his glorious character of love. The life and death of Christ exemplified, honored, and expanded our understanding of the Ten Commandments. his authority rests upon his character of mercy, and love; the presentation of these principles is how God does battle.
This principle can be found in Psalm 22:3 "But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel" (NKJ). I used to struggle with this verse. It seemed out of place and even a little silly. How could the foundation of God's throne, his government have its foundation in the praises of Israel? Human praise seemed like the weakest of foundations to me. I prayed about it and asked the Holy Spirit to give me deeper understanding.
Praise God, he did! He brought to mind Proverbs 14:28. "In a multitude of people is a king's honor, But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince" (NKJ). God is not a dictator. He is a benevolent king. He desires only willing subjects in his kingdom. "Enthroned in the praises of Israel," means that our Father's kingdom is only as strong as the enlightened loyalty of each of his children.
Severity, harshness, force, military weapons of mass destruction, revenge, and punishment may have the illusion of expediency and power to our warped human minds. These may seem necessary to deal with bold, sin-hardened minds. But these have no place in our Father's kingdom, which is founded on love. His kingdom is ruled and guided by love.
Our Father has only one weapon, namely the presentation of the principle of unselfish, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. If you don't think that love alone can win, you don't understand the power of the cross, or the self-destructiveness of sin.
Christ's sacrifice on the cross shows us that the Almighty Creator God wields the mightiest weapon in the universe, his infinite, self-denying love. If anyone's mind were ever forced or coerced our Father's kingdom would suffer. Heaven's foundation would not be secure. People would doubt the goodness of the King. Sooner or later Heaven's harmony would disintegrate and end in open rebellion.
Fear and force can never bring true loyalty! Money or material rewards cannot win our hearts. Our Father's government, founded on the principle of love, is holy and pure. It is untainted by unwise human ideas. Only love can win the heart. Only God's perfect love can win our complete loyalty.
God is even better than you've ever hoped or imagined.
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