Mysteries of the Kingdom




THE GREAT CONFLICT

    In a 2010 movie "The Encounter," Jesus worked in a roadside restaurant for a day to try to win the trust of five humans. For an hour and a half, Jesus served up tasty burgers and philosophical debates, mostly about whether or not God really loves humans. Spoiler Alert: As the movie wound to a close, the devil took one Christ-rejector out on the road to meet his death. (We knew which character would reject Jesus by the character's devilish chin-hair. All the redeemable characters had socially acceptable hair.)
    As the devil started to leave Jesus' restaurant, he taunted Him about how he had "won" the hairy chinned human, but our quick-witted Lord (after briefly using a Jedi choking maneuver on Satan) retorted that four humans were just won over to "life." The message was clear. Jesus had four points. The devil only had one. Jesus wins! As the credits rolled however, the audience had time to work on their math. According to how "The Encounter" and many modern Christians define the primary conflict of the universe, the score is "Jesus: a multitude from every tribe and tongue. Devil: the vast majority of humanity. Devil wins!"
    In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus clearly said, "...the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." If the great conflict of the universe is a wrestling match for human souls, the Bible shows a lopsided score in Satan's favor.

BATTLEFIELD JOB
    Job presents us the only detailed account of a conflict in heaven. In the battle of Job, neither God nor His enemy showed interest in a competition for human souls. God and His enemy focused in Job on two issues: authority and worship.
          -----Who has authority?-----
          -----Is God worthy of worship?-----
    In Job chapter one, Satan entered God's courts in the presence of all the angels. God first gave Satan an opportunity to submit to divine authority by calling Satan into account for his activity. "From where do you come?"
    Satan replied arrogantly, "From roaming about on the earth and walking on it." To understand his defiance, note that in Genesis 1:28, God authorized humans to rule over "every living thing that moves on the earth." They quickly rescinded their authority by letting Satan lead them. So in Job chapter one, Satan's reply mocked God. Satan's retort was a jab about authority and boastful claim to having freedom on earth.
    God responded with, "Have you considered My servant Job?" His question proved Satan had neither full freedom nor full authority on earth because Satan had no access to Job's home or Job's family, much less Job himself. God specifically called Job "My servant." While all the kingdom of heaven stood in formation around Satan under God's authority, so too did at least one human.
    Neither God nor Satan argued about Job's eternity in heaven or hell. With all the angels assembled like spectators in a stadium, God and Satan sparred first over authority and second over worship. God described His servant Job as "fearing God and turning away from evil." Satan countered by accusing God of bribing Job. He asked, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan claimed Job only worshipped God for personal gain, personal safety, personal wealth, and selfish desires. "Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face."

BATTLEFIELD EDEN
    Satan attacked in the Garden of Eden by questioning the character of God and inciting His servants to rebel against His authority. God had blessed them to eat from all the trees except one. Satan attacked God's blessing by redefining it as a burden, asking, "Has God said...?" Next he called God a liar: "You surely will not die." Then he claimed God was not even special: "in the day you eat from it...you will be like God..." This final attack claimed God was hardly any better than the humans.
    In Battlefield Eden, all of humanity rejected God's authority to follow Satan's leadership. Those who had been created to worship God decided He was not so good. Those who had been blessed with authority yielded their authority to another. The struggle was and always has been:
          -----Who has authority?-----
                              and
          -----Is God worthy of worship?-----
    When Adam and Eve fell, the serpent did not boast of stealing their souls. Neither did God enter the scene lamenting their souls. God asked Adam who had established authority over them: "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" Adam's reply showed his newfound doubt of God's goodness: "The woman whom You gave ..."
     Who had authority over Adam? Did Eve lead him now? Did Adam still follow God or the new serpent-leader?
     God counter-attacked against Satan by limiting his newfound leadership on Earth. As a symbol of the serpent-leader's limitations, God transformed the serpent into a snake and divided him from his new subjects as enemies. "On your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed..." All of humanity had followed the serpent as their wise leader, but now they would fear and fight him like a snake. Despite the limitations God placed on the serpent, he still has the power of sin, the power of death, and the power of the world system. Scripture calls him the "god of this world", "god of this age", and "prince of the air."
    To close the Battle of Eden, God promised to defeat His enemy. He did not promise to start a soul-count contest. He promised to crush the "head" (denoting authority) of the serpent through a human: "He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." God did not promise to win by rescuing humans (although He did rescue us). God promised a human would crush Satan's head. All humanity had enslaved themselves to the serpent and denied God was worthy of worship. Yet God promised one of their offspring would rebel against the serpent and stomp on his authority.

BATTLEFIELD WILDERNESS
    In the wilderness, the serpent and the promised human sqared off face to face...

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"The Great Conflict" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on May 27th, 2013. All rights are reserved.