Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Devil Has the Power of Death

Hebrews 2:12-15, "Since God's children live in flesh & blood Jesus Himself became flesh & blood, that through death He might render powerless the one who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

How People Were Protected from the Power of Death in the Old Testament
Here it says, "the devil holds the power of death." This text means that the devil also had the power of death before the cross, in Old Testament times. God tried to protect people from Satan by offerings, sacrifices, & obedience. If we take Satan having the power of death very seriously & the fact that he made people fear for their lives we can see God's motivation in the OT change from looking like a selfish God who demands obedience to a loving, protecting God who advises His children against things that lead to death. Because Satan had the power of death people had to be protected from him. So if they did not cooperate with God they refused his wise protection & they died.

Cain & Abel
Before the law Cain & Abel gave offerings that God regarded or disregarded. This suggests that they were told that they should do this. So the idea of sacrifices & offerings did not start with the law. God did not have "regard" for Cain's offering of fruit. The word regard there carries the idea of "a shepherd who inspects and watches over his flock with compassion and protection." Most seem to take God's disregard to Cain's offering as arbitrary or mysterious. But what happened is Cain's offering didn't allow God to protect Cain from sin. He gave fruits instead of blood. Satan craves blood & death.

Cain was angry & his head fell because his offering was not good enough but God said to Him, "If you do well, will there not be a lifting up?" The word for "lifting up" is the same word often translated as "forgive" that means to "lift up" or "carry away" a burden. God then said, "If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” This is the first use of the word "sin" in the entire bible. Sin is described as something that wants to follow Cain & ambush him. God says Cain must control/master/rule over sin. How? By offering the appropriate blood sacrifice, that is what "doing well" means. Cain could have the oppression of sin lifted off of him by giving the right sacrifice. This then doesn't describe God playing arbitrary favorites. Instead He is seeking to protect these brothers but His protection requires their cooperation because sin is a spiritual force, the devil, who God is aware of but they are little aware of. God's regard & disregard for the sacrifices is essentially God saying, "Abel your metal shield is great protection. Cain your grass shield is going to be useless."

Cain then Goes on to kill his brother. Why? Because the burden, guilt, shame, oppression, & influence of sin causes the action of sin. We also know there was something wrong with Cain's heart already because he didn't give the appropriate sacrifice. Satan seeks to kill. One way he does this is by convincing humans to kill one another. The only way for Satan to kill a protected man is by using another man to do it.  But next is one amazing thing God does. Cain says to God that he fears death. God then marked Cain to where no one who found him would kill him. God protected Cain, a murderer, from being murdered. We see that even though the law would some day judge Cain as worthy of death God saved his life & protected him from death. God is a God of life!

Most translations have Cain say, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." But the word punishment is actually the word for "twistedness, wickedness, unrighteousness." Cain was actually saying, "My twistedness is greater than I can bear." He was broken up about what he had done. Additionally the meaning of the names of the people in Cain's family were godly, also suggesting that Cain regretted what he had done. God was somehow able to mark Cain as protected from murderers because of this. (Side note: Cain is taught to be the first murderer yet Cain fears "whoever finds me will kill me"). God was able to sometimes protect men from being murdered, men such as Cain, Job, & the armies of Israel.

The Law
God's goal is to protect life despite sin, not to take life because of sin. The curses of the law weren't only a revelation about how God feels about sin or to be punishments from Him. They were also the reality of what Satan can seize through sin. God said in Deuteronomy 6:2 that keeping his laws prolonged people's lives & breaking them & worshipping false gods lead to death. Paul also said that obedience to the law can preserve life but it cannot give life & certainly cannot give eternal life.

Hebrews 7:18-19 describes the law as weak & unprofitable. The law could not add anything. It could only keep & weakly defend. It says the reason why is because "the law made nothing perfect." Yes God would bless people for obedience because obedience was safety for them. The law is performance based & sin is performance based, God is not performance based. Because sin, which is Satan who holds the power of death, is performance based God had to make a performance based law to protect mankind. The law was "safety rules." This is one reason why some of the laws seem so strange. Satan would take the smallest drop of impurity & use it against people.

God's covenant with man that started with Abraham was based on trust & promises not on performance. Galatians 3:17 says, that covenant was still in effect while the law was in effect. Righteousness & life never came through the law (Galatians 3:21). People were always saved by faith/trust. If people could never be given life or righteousness through the law then why did God give it? Paul says God gave it to make people aware of sins so they would know that everyone is imprisoned under sin. Another way to make this imprisonment obvious was by the law being a burden itself which made the even greater burden of sin obvious. That is the other reason why there are strange laws, strange yet detailed laws are more burdensome.

Jews never forgot about Abraham so trusting in the promise that was given in his covenant was always an option. The law was given to preserve people's lives, help people treat one another better, & most of all point people to God to trust in Him & His promises. People weren't to fight for themselves (self-righteousness) but to trust in the Lord who wants to be their protector. Many of the descriptions of God in the OT described Him as someone strong & safe. The covenant of Moses, the law, was to get people to realize their need for God which can be fulfilled by the covenant of Abraham, faith/trust & promise, which pointed forward to the New Covenant of the Blood of Christ.

The Sin Offering
In the old covenant there was a "sin offering." It wasn't an offering to God to appease Him. Instead it was an offering toward sin (the devil) to keep him from killing people because of sin. Satan had the power of death, the power to kill anyone he wanted to. Jews had to give sin offerings to protect themselves from Satan not from God. God is always about life & saving lives.

Those sacrifices "covered" sin. Why did sin need to be covered? Because Satan demanded payment for sin, which is death. Covering sin threw Satan off the scent of people's sin (notice OT offerings had scents). In Psalm 40 & Hebrews 10 God said that He took no pleasure in sacrifices & offerings & in fact He did not desire them. That means they weren't for Him. Hebrews 10 says sacrifices could not clean people from sin & that it was impossible for them to "take away sins." If you can't get clean & you have a scent then you must cover up the scent. Satan is described as a lion seeking to devour. While it is easier for lions to hunt by sight & sound they can also hunt by smell. Thus someone who had sinned but was not openly sinning at the moment still "smelled" like sin. God wanted to take sin away so people could be clean & perfect. He eventually did so with Jesus' sacrifice.

Protected from The Power of Death by Christ
Jesus didn't cover sin, He took sin away. Jesus was a sin offering but not one to appease God or to throw off Satan (like the OT one) but to defeat Satan & "render him powerless" & "free those who feared death because of him!" Why would the devil enslave people to fear death? Because he holds the power of death. Jesus said that Satan "seeks to kill."

"Christ Jesus, the savior of the world, broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News" (2 Timothy 1:10). The power of death is broken because the way to life is illuminated. It is like saying the power of your enemy in war is broken because Jesus has laid out a bunch of rocket launchers. The enemy is still there but if you use what has been given, in this case the life offered by Christ, the enemy is powerless & you have no reason to fear him killing you. The life of Christ has hopelessly outgunned the power of death, sin, & the devil. Jesus overpowered death through His resurrection & provided a way out.

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; everyone who lives and trusts in Me will never die" (John 11:25). God allows our flesh to pass away because it is a sin wrecked vessel of weakness. He gives eternal life to our spirit so when we trust Him there is a sense in which we Christians never die.

"For those who have trusted in Jesus the fact of sin & death has been replaced by the new reality of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. You are free from sin & death. You have been released from the reality of sin & death and born into a new reality of the spirit, the reality of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2).

With sin taken away Satan "cannot touch the children of God" (1 John 5:18). We are cleaned of the scent of sin, made perfect, & hidden with Christ in God. Everything God wanted to do for us to protect us from Satan has been accomplished. Satan only has the influence of deception in regards to Christians & his deception is only powered if we believe his lies.

Under the law Satan would take the smallest drop of impurity & use it against people. God is not a stickler anymore about what kind of fabric we wear because Christians are protected from Satan & God is offering perfect life to all mankind through His Son, the Savior of the world. Our actions no longer condemn us because God has broken the power of sin & death. God has no reason to charge people with sin because the solution to sin has been given (2 Corinthians 5:19). The law was a defense against Satan but he managed to use it to produce more sin & death & condemnation (Romans 7:8). But Jesus is only good & only love, Satan cannot tempt God or twist Him to do evil (he tried in Job & he tried with Jesus in the desert). Today the old dead law is used by Satan to distract people from Jesus & to make people fear death (people who believe they can "lose" their salvation fear death based on their performance).

It is clear that Satan has the power of death & it is God's character to save & give life. I believe God gives people a second chance to trust Him on judgment day as evidenced by Romans 14:10-12 saying Isaiah 45:18-25 occurs on judgment day. Thus I believe God has killed people in the flesh (such as the flood, see 1 Peter 3:18) to save them from the second death. Death is His final enemy. He doesn't let death win the first time when we die in the flesh. We have a second chance to choose life.

God has not yet ended the existence of death but He has broken its power. Satan still seeks to kill but God has offered imperishable life to all mankind for free. Satan may still be able to grab hold of unsaved people's actions & produce death but there is an easy escape. It is not an escape route, it is a Savior offering to take our hand.

Related Posts
Second Chances & Why God Killed
Satan is Not God's Attack Dog 

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