From The Cross in the End-Times
Offenses Must Come (Matthew 18:7)
The question can reasonably be asked, why did God not openly expose Lucifer in the Garden of Eden? Why did God not thoroughly and irreparably expose Lucifer during the ministry of Jesus Christ in the first century? Why does God allow Lucifer to continue this hiding-game of deception even to this day? Why will Lucifer be able to continue as a formidable deceiver and a liar, apparently part-way into the Great Tribulation, before he is finally exposed and revealed according to this 2 Thessalonians 2:3 verse?
Why does God allow what amounts to the equivalent of an open forum process, where unbelief, rebellion, and deception have a viable platform, to continue unabated to express their destructive world-views under the cover of high-minded, good-natured, and well-meaning debate? Why does God allow people the total freedom to continue to make eternally decisive, self-destructive wrong choices?
Lucifer’s classically deceptive statement in the Garden of Eden reads: “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” (Gen. 3:5). Mankind, represented through Adam and Eve, sadly swallowed this massively deceptive temptation “hook, line, and sinker”, without requiring the slightest backup evidence or character references from Lucifer to qualify him to be able to make such cleverly disguised, yet boldly critical statements about God.
One answer to the question why God has not thoroughly exposed Lucifer is contained within the nature of Lucifer’s rebellion, and the subsequent fall of man. Lucifer’s rebellion against God in heaven had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of God’s management of the affairs of the universe. Lucifer wanted God’s seat of power…pure and simple. Lucifer’s rebellion was a raw power-grab. Lucifer offered himself as a credible leader in place of God based upon appearances rather than substance.
Like Absalom’s rebellion in the Old Testament against his father David’s reign as king, no attempt at high-minded debate regarding competence, credentials, or agenda was made. Like Absalom, Lucifer depended upon good looks, appealing charm, and persuasive smooth-talk, leaving out any specifics as to how things could be done better under his rule. Absalom rode upon the coattails of his father’s existing beneficial reign as Israel’s King, with Absalom’s supporters uncritically assuming that Absalom possessed the same high quality of character and leadership abilities as David, yet in a more popular and outwardly charming package.
Lucifer, like Absalom, offered himself as an improvement in place of the existing ruler God, rather than offering an improvement in the ideological agenda to replace the existing policies and leadership regime.
Lucifer’s rebellion was an attempted coup, a change of personnel, not a reformation of ideas. Lucifer has no ideas of his own, no positive agenda, other than to steal and corrupt God’s existing program. Lucifer by nature is a destroyer, not a builder, with the fatal character flaw of insatiable ambition. God lovingly created mankind with a need for fellowship with God, and Lucifer cleverly hides within religion, inserting himself into the very seat and object of worship where God should rightfully reside.
This is the really dangerous and eternally threatening part of Lucifer’s rebellion contained within the subsequent fall of mankind. A brilliantly executed negative attack-ad campaign by Lucifer against God, combined with deceptive good looks and charm, do not make a qualified god who can effectively and capably rule the universe. But this approach almost enabled Absalom to topple his father David from the throne of Israel.
This approach did actually bring about the successful temptation in the Garden of Eden. We see the negative consequences of sin as objective fact every day in our newspapers and on the nightly news. This cleverly and cunningly devised challenge to God’s rulership and authority, even though it contained absolutely no substance and had no positive agenda of its own, nonetheless required an equally well thought-out and executed counter-response from God at the highest level.
The entire course of human redemptive history might be partially characterized as God allowing the consequences of unqualified ambitious rebellion to demonstrate its ill effects through real-life situations and circumstances. The platform of information that makes up God’s qualifications and positive agenda, which is deceptively by-passed in a beauty contest based solely upon outward appearances, and which is ignored altogether in a cleverly conducted attack-ad campaign, God has nonetheless managed to submit into the human experience through the four dimensions of space and time. The credentials and qualifications of Lucifer to be able to criticize God, which should have been required upfront and carefully examined in the Garden of Eden, but which were gullibly accepted by mankind without question, are now being exposed and scrutinized in agonizing detail through the long course of human history.
Lucifer can say whatever he wants using words alone. But the difference between the disaster that occurs when man sits atop the throne of his life as a spiritual rebel against God, contrasted with the glory of redeeming character transformation that rescues people from personal destruction through repentance and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ as Lord, is acted out every day through the medium of this current life on earth. The real truth regarding the credentials and character of God are being discovered every day in the progress being made in Christian apologetics, in the field of intelligent design, in Christian service to the world, and in individual journeys of faith following Jesus Christ.
God could alternately choose to write across the sky this afternoon with large flaming letters for everyone on earth to read, that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the outward expression of the Triune nature of God, and to worship only Him. But then the freedom to choose between belief and unbelief would also end this afternoon. And a journey of faith voluntarily following Jesus Christ through this broken world, having real consequences and eternally valuable spiritual lessons, would also come to an end.
Mankind’s corporate enlistment by Lucifer into his rebellion against God does not excuse our individual rebellion. Each of us has individually sinned against God in our own rebellious ways. When we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, He forgives each of us individually. God places His hand upon our shoulder, looks into our eyes, and says: “I forgive you.” But even though God completely and thoroughly forgives us, we are still in the same vulnerable, uninformed position regarding the nuances of deception as were Adam and Eve in the Garden. Even though the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, we still have the issues of Lucifer’s successful temptation in the Garden of Eden to resolve. For the remainder of our Christian lives, we still have to wrestle against this self-centered fallen nature we inhabit (Rom. 7:23-25).
This is why God created the vehicle called a journey of faith, and why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13). This is why God inspired the writing of the Bible, recording the adventures of the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments as patterns and examples of His correct interaction with His followers. This is why the current environment of our broken world is the proving ground for truth and error to be a demonstration in action. This is why God allows belief and unbelief to operate side-by-side in opposing tension in our world, not decisively exposing the ultimate pros and cons of truth versus error, for the time being.
Christians have to experience first-hand for ourselves the truth or falsity of this enormously destructive attack-ad by Lucifer, first proposed in the idyllic Garden of Eden so long ago, that our happiness somehow lies in being our own gods atop the thrones of our lives, apart from God. For Christians to become spiritually wise, mature, and savvy regarding the knowledge of good and evil, these first-hand experiential lessons must be out-there and in-play within the context of real life situations and circumstances.
One of the important questions explored in this book, is whether or not this all-important journey of faith, which is a God-led tour into the discovery of the fundamental issues that are the basis for eternal happiness and peace, comes to an abrupt halt for Christians at the start of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation period through the rapture of the church? If the seven-year tribulation is a culmination of the theme of the story that God has been writing over the last six thousand years, through the Bible, through the nation of Israel, through the church age, and through the journeys of faith that Christians are currently experiencing, then the natural conclusion would lead a person to think that the church would be a major participant, rather than an absentee raptured bystander, in this final chapter of redemptive history.
The tribulation is the crisis-filled environment of events and circumstances capable of bringing the substandard qualifications of the deceiving, negative attack-ad specialist Lucifer out into the open. God has perfectly timed this absolute and final exposure of truth versus error, of the demonstration of pure love versus self-centered ambition, of the characters and motivations of everyone, to be revealed for all to see at the close of human redemptive history. The universe and our natural world were created for just such an explosive final ending.
Finally, if Jesus was the leader of a small band of warriors like David, when He stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, the townspeople would never have reacted with such outwardly violent opposition to His words (Lk. 4:28-30). The townspeople would have respected His worldly power and feared His military might, keeping their opinions to themselves. Jesus is led by the people of Nazareth to the edge of a cliff to be thrown over to His death because Jesus has no worldly influence, honor, or respect to intimate anyone.
The townspeople in the synagogue in Nazareth ask: “…is not this the carpenter, the son of Joseph?” The growing reputation of Jesus as a prophet came from areas outside of His hometown (Lk. 4:14). Jesus had no reputation as a “somebody” in a worldly sense to be feared and respected. Jesus was an outcast and lowly among his native town. He did not fit-in in a worldly sense. Otherwise the people of Nazareth would never have thought they were free to be offended with Jesus to the point of throwing Him off a nearby cliff.
Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice for our transgressions within a worldly-free package having no pedigree, wealth, social standing, or outward appeal. Jesus did not resort to appealing to worldly power. Jesus lived a spotless life amidst no worldly influence, material success, or cultural acclaim. Yet Jesus purchased through the cross and the resurrection the power to give eternal life. Jesus has the power to effectuate the second birth of John 3:3. Eternal life through the Son of God comes through zero worldly stature or authority. This means we can live godly lives “in Christ” pleasing to the Father, likewise with or without any worldly acclaim, influence, or stature.
But more importantly for the discussion in this chapter, the complete lack of appeal to worldly influence in the life and ministry of Jesus tells us that Jesus as King and Ruler is the diametric opposite of hypocrisy. Jesus does not have to resort to worldly acclaim, influence, and appeal to impress the world. Jesus is the perfect, sinless Lamb of God sacrifice despite being devoid of outward worldly appeal.
By contrast, the son of perdition of 2 Thessalonian 2:3 to be shortly revealed by the upcoming events and circumstances of the great tribulation…the negative attack-ad character-assassin specialist…is the vilest hypocrite. He promises peace and safety according to a modified version of the promise of worldly power he made to Jesus of Nazareth in the temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13), without the lightest intention or capacity to offer anything other than destruction and ruin for all who choose to follow him.
In my opinion, the Christian church has to participate in the exposure of this vast contrast between the genuine King and Ruler of the realm, and the counterfeit impostor who would like to overthrow God and assume His position. The only Person in all of existence smart enough to outmaneuver and trap Lucifer in his deceptive lies and hypocrisy is God Almighty. But for our benefit, for a discovery of the knowledge of good and evil to reach its full extent, the Christian church will be engaged in the middle of the action as previewed in every narrative story of faith recorded in the Bible.