LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER
Foreword, by Dr. C. I. Scofield
I. The Career of Satan II. The Ages III. The Course of This Age IV. This Age and the Satanic System V. The Satanic Host VI. Satan's Motive VII. Satan's Methods VIII. The Man of Sin IX. The Fatal Omission X. Modern Devices XI. The Believer's Present Position XII. The Believer's Present Victory
If any word of mine shall add to the number of the readers of this book I shall be glad to have written it; and I sincerely wish that all believers, and especially all ministers and Christian workers, might in some way be led to read it.
The subject is vital to any right understanding of the age in which we live, and of the personal conflict which we wage; for the existence, personality, and power of Satan are awful facts and of immense present significance.
We walk in the midst of his snares, hear on every hand his doctrines proclaimed by men of blameless lives "transformed as the ministers of righteousness," and are allured by the pleasure, place and power of his perfectly organized world-system.
I know of no other book on Satan in which the dispensational aspects of the subject are so clearly stated, nor any other so severely Biblical.
C. I. Scofield.
The world has been willing to comply with the wishes and projects of Satan to the extent of ceasing to believe that he really exists; this unbelief being most advantageous to his present undertakings. Yet the opinions of men have never changed the facts of revelation, and, according to Scripture, Satan exists; still possessed with great power and influence over the affairs of men—a power and influence to be increasingly dreaded as this present age advances.
The teachings of Scripture on this important subject are but little understood by Christians and seem to be entirely outside the thought of the world. It is, therefore, to be expected that any attempt to present this truth will seem, to many, mere folly and fiction.
The name Satan has by no means been lost. It has, however, been associated with a most unscriptural fancy. Without reference to revelation, the world has imagined a grotesque being, fitted with strange trappings, who has been made the central character in theatrical performances; and by this relation to the unreality of the theatre, the real character of Satan has come to be only one of the myths of a bygone age.
Scripture reveals a detailed description of the person and career of Satan; beginning with his creation; his original condition; his fall, and on to his kingdom with all its developments, and his final defeat and banishment. It presents a personage so mighty and so prominent in the world to-day that the Christian heart would fail, were it not for faith in the One who has triumphed over all principalities and powers.
This attempt to outline the Scripture teaching on this character will be undertaken under certain general conditions:
First—The authority of the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments will be accepted without question.
Second—Evidence will be drawn from the Word of God alone, since no final light can be found on this subject other than it has pleased God to reveal in the Bible.
Third—There will be no discussion as to the actual existence of Satan; this being both assumed and taught from Genesis to Revelation.
These pages are prepared especially for believers; knowing that this body of truth will be wholly unnoticed or rejected by the Satan-blinded world (2 Cor. 4:4).
There has also been a deep sense of the seriousness of the undertaking: both because Satan, by his present direct power, would, if possible, hinder any larger understanding of his projects and purposes; and because so great a warning has fallen from the lips of Christ against the sin of ascribing to Satan the things which are really of God (Matt. 12:22-32). The work has, therefore, been undertaken with some degree of reliance upon the keeping and guiding power of the Spirit of God, and is presented with the prayer that believers may have a clearer understanding of this important body of truth and be able to say with Paul, "We are not ignorant of his devices." It is also desired that some clearer vision of this mighty foe may be had which will cause the child of God to realize the overwhelming power of his adversary and be constrained to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might;" that greater victory may be had in the realization of the whole will of God.
The Career of Satan
This chapter is a brief outline of the past, present and future of Satan, which is taken up at this point both that the following chapters may be more easily studied and because of the fact that those passages which deal most directly with his earliest condition are closely interwoven with predictions of his future and final defeat.
Revelation in regard to Satan begins with that dateless period between the perfect creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) and the desolating judgment which ended that period, when the earth became waste and empty (Gen. 1:2; Isa. 24:1; Jer. 4:23-26). One passage, Ezek. 28:11-19, deals at length with Satan and his relation to that age. In this Scripture Satan is evidently described under the title of "The King of Tyrus." Like the Messianic Psalms,—wherein the Psalmist is apparently referring to himself, though statements are made and conditions described that could only be connected with the Messiah, the Son of God,—so, here, that which is addressed to "The King of Tyrus" is, by its character, seen to be a direct reference to the person of Satan; for no similar person to whom this description could apply is revealed in Scripture. In the previous as well as the following chapters the final judgment of Jehovah is pronounced upon the enemies of His chosen people. Satan is distinctly numbered among these enemies in I Chron. 21:1; and his record and judgment naturally appear in this list.
Every sentence of this extended passage is a distinct revelation and is worthy of long and careful study. Only a passing reference can be made to it here. The passage is as follows:
"Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the King of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 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. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before Kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thy iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more."
This passage describes much of the early and latter career of Satan. Twice is his creation referred to. In verse fifteen it is stated that he was created perfect, and in verse thirteen that perfection is set forth in detail by the suggestive symbols of precious gems. He was also "full of wisdom," "perfect in beauty," filling up the sum of perfection. In verse fourteen he is called the "anointed cherub that covereth." By this the purpose of the Creator is revealed. The general interpretation of this verse is that Satan was created as a guard or protector to the throne of the Most High. This is reasonable. Like the golden cherubim, covering the visible mercy seat in the Holy of Holies of the earthly tabernacle, he was created a guard and covering cherub to the heavenly center of Glory. It is expressly stated that he was located by the Most High upon the holy mountain of God, the mountain of God being a symbol of the center of God's power, government, and eternal throne (Ps. 48:1; 68:15; Isa. 2:2). Over this exalted throne Satan was set as a covering cherub. He is also said to have been in "Eden, the garden of God," which is evidently another Eden than that in which Satan appeared as a serpent. It is probably a reference to the primitive creation, and the whole passage suggests a position of great authority for which he was created and anointed; a position from which he fell, drawing with him a host of beings over whom he had governing influence and power.
Again, it is stated that Satan was perfect in all his ways from the day he was created. It is important to notice both that he was created, and that he was created perfect. Since he was created, he is not self-existent, and never can be free from his dependence upon the Creator. He may vainly propose to become independent, and even be permitted for a time to act under that delusion; but that would only delay the inevitable judgment that awaits him. He was created perfect, or was a perfect fulfilment of the Creator's intention. Satan was a free moral agent; capable of choosing evil, but not obliged to do so. That he chose evil must ever be his own condemnation; for the Creator had surrounded him with sufficient motives to choose the good.
The crime of Satan is partly revealed in verse sixteen and this is followed by an exact description of his final judgment as it is predicted in the book of Revelation.
The important teaching of this passage is of Satan's first position and power—a power and wisdom sufficient to guard the throne of God from every possible enemy, and a glory and beauty that would become the highest officer in the Court of Heaven. By this revelation his present position and power may be estimated.
The revelation next in importance is that of his crime; this is clearly set forth in Isa. 14:12-20. Before reading this passage it should be noticed that the prophet's vision of Satan, here recorded, is from the time of his final judgment, and the prophet is looking backward over Satan's whole career. Much that is still future is, therefore, referred to as though it were past. The passage is as follows:
"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. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet."
Here Satan appears under a different title. When he is seen in the primal glory, as described in Ezekiel 28:11-19, he bears the earthly title of "The King of Tyrus" and when fallen from that sphere, he bears the heavenly title of "Lucifer, Son of the Morning." It is as though, being out of harmony with the Creator by his sin, he is out of harmony with every sphere in which he may appear. This glorious heavenly title, "Lucifer, Son of the Morning," speaks of his first place in the celestial sphere, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7). It would indicate a position near to the unsurpassed glory of "The Bright and Morning Star," "The Sun of Righteousness" who shall yet arise with healing in His wings.
Satan is here again said to be fallen from heaven. Of this fall Jesus speaks in Luke 10:18, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
The reference in both of these passages is not to Satan's moral degeneration but rather to a great event when he was, because of his sin, driven from his place in glory and made to inhabit the earth and air (Eph. 2:2; 6:12; I Pet. 5:8). Yet he was granted the privilege of access to the presence of God (Job 1:6; Rev. 12:10).
Referring to these texts: In the first two chapters of the book of Job, Satan is seen appearing in the midst of other heavenly beings, before the presence of Jehovah; and there seems to be nothing unusual in the presence of Satan in this celestial company. To the question of Jehovah, "Whence cometh thou?" he replies, "from going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it." From this revelation the important information is given that Satan, while inhabiting the earth and air, is free to appear in the presence of God. His occupation of the earth and air is also taught in Eph. 6:11, 12. Here believers are addressed as follows: "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenlies" (R.V.). Another injunction to believers is contained in I Pet. 5:8, 9: "Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom withstand steadfast in your faith."
These two latter passages, taken together, restate with greater emphasis the revelation in regard to the present abode of Satan. That the earth and the air are his present abode must be accepted on the testimony of Scripture: in spite of the almost universal impression that he is now in hell.
In addition to this statement in regard to Satan's fall, the passage in Isaiah, which is under consideration, reveals two aspects of his present activity. He is first seen seeking to establish a throne for himself, and then as the promoter of confusion and terror in the Divine purpose in the world. This is followed with another statement of the certainty of his final judgment and banishment.
The crime of Satan is concisely stated in the fourteenth verse as being a purpose in his heart to become like the Most High. His heart was lifted up because of his beauty; he who was created and placed as the "Covering Cherub," with the high honor of guarding the throne of God, has corrupted his wisdom by reason of his brightness; he has struck at the throne he was set to protect. It was a purpose in his heart which would require the time of the ages to wholly destroy. There could be but one Most High, and the purpose of Satan to become like him could, naturally, be nothing less than an attempt to dethrone the Almighty.
The secret purpose in his heart reveals his method to be, not a violent attack upon the throne: but, like Absalom's, to steal the hearts of the unfaithful in the kingdom, and, through subtlety, to gain a government. He would thus become an object of worship, and attract attention from other beings to himself. To accomplish this, a hindering attitude must be assumed toward the purpose and projects of the Most High. No adequate appreciation can be formed of Satan's present projects and devices, and the motive that prompts them, without a clear understanding of his age-abiding attitude toward the Person of God.
There are two prominent events revealed in the history of Satan, falling within the period of time when he proposed in his heart to become like the Most High, and his yet future banishment and execution. The first of these was his meeting with and triumph over the first Adam; when he wrested the scepter of authority from man, by securing man's loyal obedience to his own suggestion and counsel. This earthly scepter Satan held by the full right of conquest, seemingly without challenge from Jehovah, until the first advent of the Second Adam; this meeting of the Second Adam, Christ, with Satan being the second great event which is revealed during this period in his career. Only the unfolding of the coming ages can reveal the magnitude of this terrible conflict. A glimpse is revealed from time to time of the unceasing effort of Satan to triumph over the Second Adam, as he had done over the first. He met Him in the wilderness, offering Him all he had gained from the first Adam, even the kingdom of this world; if only he might become like the Most High, and receive the obedient worship and adoration of the Second Adam, the Son of God. Again he is seen voicing his attempt to dissuade the Christ from His sacrificial death, through the impetuous Peter; and still again in the crushing attack upon the very life of Jesus in the Garden, when, it would seem, Satan attempted to take that life before it could be offered for the sins of the world.
However victorious Satan may have been over the first Adam, it is certain that he met a complete and final judgment and sentence in the Second Adam; and that bruising of the serpent's head was realized which was a part of the Adamic covenant. Referring to His Cross, Jesus said, "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (Jno. 12:31). And again in Jno. 16:11, "Of judgment because the prince of this world is judged." Still another Scriptural testimony to this great defeat of Satan is recorded in Col. 2:13-15: "Having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." It is, therefore, clear that, though Satan may have triumphed over the first Adam and thereby become the god and prince of this world; he himself was perfectly and finally triumphed over and judged by the second Adam in the Cross.
It is quite possible, however, that a sentence may be pronounced and made known some time before that sentence is actually executed. During such an interval a criminal is said to be under sentence awaiting his execution, which some higher authority has decreed. This period of sentence is that in which Satan appears in the present age; which age had its beginning with the Cross. Execution of this sentence would have banished him forever. That he is not banished is revealed in the fact that he, even after his judgment in the Cross, is referred to in Scripture as still being in authority over this world.
An illustration of Satan's present relation to this world may be taken from the history of Saul and David. It is natural that David, the first to occupy the Davidic throne, should be a type of Christ, the last and most glorious occupant of that throne (Luke 1:31-33). As there was a period between the anointing of David and the final banishment of Saul, in which Saul reigned as a usurper, though under Divine sentence and David was the God-appointed king: in like manner there is now a similar period in which Satan rules as a usurper, though under sentence; and the actual occupation of the throne by Christ is still future. In this period Satan, the rejected monarch, still rules; hunting to the death all those who have allied themselves with Christ, the God-anointed King.
Why Satan is thus allowed to continue his reign is perhaps but partly revealed. The real Church which is the Bride of Christ, is to sit with Him upon His throne (Rev. 3:21; I Cor. 6:2, 3; Matt. 19:28), and the present age must continue until that glorious heavenly people are gathered out from the world by regeneration. Again, it seems the course of Divine wisdom to make a sufficient and final trial of every claim of His adversaries; and when this age, with all its developments, shall have passed by, every mouth will be stopped, and the whole world and Satan will know their own failure and sin before God. They will stand self-condemned; and nothing could accomplish this but the testing, by actual trial, of all the self-sufficient claims of Satan and man. The sin of man has brought him under sentence too; and grace alone withholds his immediate execution (Jno. 3:18; Rom. 5:18, 19). Though the day of execution is, in the purpose of God delayed; it is, nevertheless, sure; and the time is fast approaching when an awful destruction of self-enthroned beings will be executed; and He alone shall reign, whose right it is to reign; "for He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet" (I Cor. 15:25). The Kingly Son shall yet arise and claim the nations of the earth and "break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel" (Ps. 2:9).
It would seem that Satan cherishes the expectation of actually accomplishing his purpose until near the end of his career (though the demon testimony of Matt. 8:29 is suggestive on this point). Preceding his banishment to the pit, he is violently cast out of heaven and into the earth, according to Rev. 12:7-12; and his activity, from that time on is limited to that sphere. He is no longer granted access to God. The passage is as follows:
"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 there 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. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accuseth them before God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Here Satan is pictured as being in great wrath as he is banished from heaven into the earth, "knowing that he has but a short time." After this short time, which is a terrible tribulation in the earth, Satan is bound and cast into a pit; this being an event in the glorious return of Christ to the earth, where He will reign on the throne of His Father David for a thousand years. Satan is confined to the pit during the same period, at the end of which he is released for "a little season." He then gathers an army for a last and terrible attack upon the government and people of God, which ends in his being banished to the lake of fire, where he meets his final and long predicted doom. These events are clearly stated in their order in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Revelation.
Satan is thus revealed as having been first created perfect in all his ways, mighty in power, and full of beauty and wisdom. While thus privileged, he proposed a stupendous project in his heart—himself to become like the Most High. Though cast down and yet having access to God, he is seen wresting the world scepter from man; and ruling as the god of this world, until the judgment of the Cross; and after that he still rules as a usurper. At the end of the age he is cast out of his access to heaven, into the earth; from thence to the pit; and, finally, is banished to the lake of fire forever.
This review of the career of Satan is made at this point in order to call attention to the direct and mighty influence he exerts upon the affairs of this world according to his varying positions and freedom.
After Satan rebelled, humanity, too, was thrown into an abnormal and almost universal attitude of independence toward God; and this continues beyond the Cross with increasing confusion and darkness, to the end of the age. The only exception to this rebellion is the little company of believers; and how terribly real is the tendency to the self-governed life of the old nature, even among these! When Satan is cast out of heaven and limited to the earth, there is tribulation upon the earth of which Jesus speaks in Matt. 24:21, and which is also referred to in Dan. 12:1. When Satan is bound and put in the pit, and the promised Kingdom of Christ has come, there is peace covering the earth as waters cover the face of the deep.
Can it be doubted that this mighty being is a living power, acting directly over the affairs of men, even in this self-glorying age?
It is a conspicuous fact that the comparatively few errors and inconsistencies in translation, found in the English Authorized Version of the New Testament, serve to hinder, directly or indirectly, any clear understanding of the teachings of Scripture in regard to the conditions and relationships of the world at the present time. Even the revision did not greatly relieve this confusion beyond the addition of some helpful marginal renderings. It would seem, if it were possible, that Satan, the author of confusion and the only one advantaged by it, had been able in some subtle way to keep in darkness that which would otherwise be light; thus preventing a revelation of his own projects.
The continuation of these misleading translations is most evident in the unqualified use of the English word "world." The word which, in common usage, has a limited meaning is used, by the translators, as the one English rendering for at least four widely differing ideas in the original. So that, if the truth contained in this important body of Scripture is to be understood, the student must not only know the various meanings which are expressed by the one word, but also be able to determine the correct use of the word in any single instance. This necessary effort to understand the real meaning of many passages has, therefore, placed the simple truth they contain beyond the average reader of the Bible.
The English word "world" as used in the New Testament may mean a distinct period of time, commonly known as an age (as its original is a few times translated); or it may refer to the things created: the earth, its inhabitants, or their institutions. Two of these original meanings are used in connection with this present time. First, as to an age, or period of time:
The ages are often referred to in Scripture, and the study of the exact conditions and purposes of each of them is not fanciful: but is rather the only adequate foundation for any true knowledge of the Bible. Not all the ages can be taken up in this Chapter, but only such as may be confused with the present one.
The age of law, which began with the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and ended, approximately, with the death of Christ, is mentioned by Zacharias in his prophecy at the birth of John: "As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the age began" (Lu. 1:70). The same period is referred to by Peter in Acts 3:21: "Whom the heavens must receive until the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his prophets since the age began." These references, it will be seen, are not to the creation of the world, as the English rendering would indicate; but to the beginning of that particular period in which the prophets spake.
The present age of grace, in which the grace of God has had its appearing unto salvation, began where the age of law ended, or with the death of Christ; and will continue until He comes again. The duration of this age is suggested by the communion table, which, being peculiar to this age, will continue to its end. Of this sacrament it is said: "As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (I Cor. 11:26).
As a distinct period of time this age is mentioned by the word "world" no less than forty times in the New Testament. A few of these passages follow: "And whosoever speaketh a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (age), neither in the world (age) to come" (Matt. 12:32). "And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)?" (Matt. 24:3). "The field is the world (men); the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world (age); and the reapers are the angels" (Matt. 13:38, 39). "And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (age)" (Matt. 28:20). "For the children of this world (age) are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Lu. 16:8). "And set him at his own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but that which is to come" (Eph. 1:20, 21). "We should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (age)" (Titus 2:12). By these and many other passages, it may be seen that the present age is a particular limited period of time in which special conditions are to prevail, and definite purposes are to be realized.
Judging from the mass of Christian writings and from utterances in public address and prayer, this age is assumed by many, without question, to be the Kingdom of Christ; though no Scripture is found to warrant that conclusion.
There is a kingdom of God which embraces the entire universe, over which God is enthroned, and to this kingdom every enemy must finally be brought back to original subjection and adjustment, or be banished forever. This final victory is described in I Cor. 15:24, 25: "Then cometh the end, when He (Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under His feet."
There is a still more extensive body of Scripture which anticipates a literal kingdom of righteousness and peace upon the earth; this theme being the burden of the Old Testament prophets, and was announced by John Baptist, by Christ and His disciples. This announcement was simple and plain: "The kingdom is at hand." The expression "at hand" here used is significant; indicating not necessarily the immediate future, though the kingdom was definitely offered to that generation; but that the earthly kingdom was the next event which had been clearly announced by the prophets. When the Messiah had been positively rejected by the Jews, He began, alone, without even the sympathy of His disciples, to unfold this forthcoming mystery-age, which had been kept secret in the councils of God, and which was more perfectly revealed to Paul, the first messenger to the Gentiles. Of this revelation of a hitherto unknown age, Paul writes in Eph. 3:1-11: "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The same truth is emphasized in Rom. 16:25: "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began."
This new age of the Gentiles was also to have its hope centered in Jesus Christ, but in His sacrificial death rather than His kingly reign. It was to be an age in which the Gentiles were to be visited and a people called out from them for His own Person (Acts 15:14); and these people, who are the real Church, were to be built together upon a rock (Matt. 16:18); their glorious salvation and final heavenly perfection were to rest only on His perfect and finished work for them. By this Divine transformation, He would secure, out of all nations, both Gentiles and Jews, a heavenly people; wholly fitted in quality to be His own body, His heavenly bride, and a kingdom of priests unto God.
All this, though not revealed in past ages, was known in the councils of God (Acts 15:18) and is parenthetical in the history of the Jew. It is a delay of their earthly kingdom and in no way its fulfillment or substitute.
Want of knowledge of the right divisions of truth is also evident in the general impression that God has cast off His people, the Jews, and that the Gentiles are their rightful successors and the recipients of the blessings of their unfulfilled prophecies. This confusion is due to a failure to distinguish between this and the following age.
Two distinct lines of seed were promised to Abraham. One, an earthly seed, to be like the dust of the earth, without number (Gen. 13:16), centered wholly in the earth by a relationship of physical generation: the other seed were likened to the stars of heaven, without number (Gen. 15:5), centered wholly in the heavenlies by a relationship of Spirit regeneration, which is the present answer of God to all true Abrahamic faith (Rom. 4:1-5). The earthly people found their origin in the physical fatherhood of Abraham: while the heavenly people find theirs in the shed blood of Christ. One had an earthly history from Abraham to their dispersion among the Gentiles—a history which will yet be resumed and the everlasting covenants fulfilled in the faithfulness of God: the other has a transient earthly pilgrimage from the Cross to their completion; when they will be caught up to meet and marry their Bridegroom, and be forever with the Lord (I Thes. 4:13-17).
To one, Christ is the coming glorious Messiah, who will actually sit upon the throne of His father, David (Lu. 1:31-33), in a literal earthly kingdom (else all Scripture language fails): to the other, He is the glorious Head of the Body, and coming Bridegroom. One of these lines of seed are the favored subjects in the earthly kingdom: while the other is to be in His bosom as a bride, and be associated with Him in His reign (I Cor. 6:2; Rev. 3:21).
As these two lines of seed are everywhere distinct, there must be at least two separate ages for the accomplishment of these ends. What, then, are these ages?
If it is believed that an earthly kingdom, with Messiah as King, is promised the Jew, it must also be admitted that the Jew is not now enjoying that kingdom; nor has he had any semblance of a kingdom in all the centuries since his dispersion among the Gentiles. This age cannot, therefore, be the predicted earthly kingdom of Christ. Turning to Acts 15:13-18, a description of the present age and that which will follow is found. The passage is here given: "And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, after this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world."
It is recorded that, after His resurrection, Jesus was seen for forty days by His apostles whom He had chosen; and during this time He was speaking to them concerning the Kingdom. It was natural, therefore, for them to inquire, at the end of those days, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom unto Israel?" (Acts 1:6) and they had full warrant from the prophets to expect that great event when their Messiah came. They had not, however, grasped the meaning of the then dawning age of the gathering out of the Bride, and in this passage they are seen adjusting themselves to the newly revealed Divine program, and recognizing the God-appointed delay in the predicted earthly kingdom.
In Acts 15: just referred to, the purpose and order of two distinct ages is set forth. The first age is described as the "visiting of the Gentiles," that from among them a heavenly people may be called out, and is a description of this present age, which had its beginning in the very generation in which this passage was written; for no previous age could meet these conditions. The second age, here described, is that of a distinct rebuilding of the Davidic order, which is clearly separated from the former age by the return of Christ. This same order of events is also carefully maintained wherever these events are referred to in Scripture, and any confusion of the order is a positive violence to the truth. The revealed consummation of this Gentile age is always the return of Christ, who comes first to receive His own; and then to render judgment upon all the nations and to bind the enemy and place him in the pit. The same return of Christ is the necessary preliminary event before any kingdom of righteousness and peace can be realized upon the earth. No amount of enlightened sentiment can establish a kingdom without a king; and no universal blessedness can be experienced in this world until the enemy is dethroned and banished. Sadly has the world failed to include these two necessary Divine movements, in its vain dream and godless attempt at a perfected universe!
The purpose of this age is then clearly defined as the visiting of the Gentiles to call out of them a people for His name; the called out people being the true Church (as that word signifies), which is made up of all the saved ones who have been saved since the Day of Pentecost, at which time the Spirit came to unite them into one body and to indwell them. They are the heavenly people, regenerate and complete in Christ, their Bridegroom and living Head.
When this age is considered as the Kingdom of Christ it is usually thought of as in a state of development. This is a necessary conclusion in view of the presence of sin and failure in the world. But the setting up of the earthly kingdom is never described as the result of a process. Scripture deals conclusively with this question.
In Dan. 2:34-35, an image is described, which is defined as being a symbol of the then dawning Gentile world power (which is still continuing, Lu. 21:24). The image is here made to represent both the development of world rule and its terrible and final ending. The image is seen to be gradually developing from one world government to another until the form of the image is wholly completed. Its ending is then precipitated by a shattering blow from a Stone, "cut out without hands." By the same inspired interpretation, the "Stone" becomes both a symbol of superhuman power, being "cut out without hands;" and a type of Christ, the Ancient of Days, in His coming to the earth as a resistless Monarch; banishing all rule and authority. A portion of the whole passage reads thus: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:34-35).
This being a Divinely interpreted prophecy as to the extent and ending of the present Gentile age, it should be noted that the Stone (Christ) strikes the image (the world power) with one destructive blow, and at the time when it has become fully developed. The blow is struck on the part of the image which is last formed. The great image is thus instantly and violently broken to pieces and is even blown away "like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor." In like manner, according to this prophecy, the whole Gentile rule will suddenly be broken and will vanish.
It should also be noted from these symbols that the Stone does not "become a mountain and fill the whole earth" until the great image has been scattered to dust. From this it is certain that there can be no development of the Kingdom of Christ on the earth before the final breaking of the kingdoms of the earth. This same order is recognized throughout all prophecy. The king suddenly returns as lightning shining from one part of heaven to the other; Satan is violently seized and cast into prison; and a nation is born at once. The second Psalm connects the kingly reign of Christ—the time when He is set upon the holy hill of Zion—with the time when He shall claim the nations of the earth and "break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel." Also in Matt. 25:31, "when He sits on the throne of His glory" the "blessed of the Father" are called to enter the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. And in Rev. 12:7-12, where Satan is cast out into the earth and the execution of his sentence is begun, the announcement is made by a great voice in heaven, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ." There is no evidence of a gradual process here; all is sudden and decisive.
Again, this age is not the coming earthly kingdom for nowhere are the promised conditions of that kingdom now to be found. The Old Testament prophecies contain long and detailed descriptions of that glorious time; God's ancient people shall become the chosen nation, restored to their own land; the enemy shall be banished; the earth shall be purified, and blossom as a rose. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:6-9). "And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely" (Hos. 2:18). "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim" (Joel 3:18). "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee" (Zech. 2:10, 11). "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech. 8:23). "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them" (Isa. 65:17-21). "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert" (Isa. 35:5, 6). "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more" (Jer. 31: 33, 34). "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon the kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6, 7). "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Lu. 1:32, 33). "And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isa. 11:12). "And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it" (Micah 4:3,4).
Though blessings abound in the individual heart where Christ is enthroned, yet not one trace of this glorious transformed earth can be found in the present Gentile age.
The Course of This Age.
It is necessary to distinguish between rightly dividing the word of truth, and a critical attitude toward that word; the former being an important duty in the believer's life, according to II Tim. 2:15, while the latter may easily become a wicked and misleading display of unbelief and the wisdom of this world (I Cor. 1:19).
Personal interest in the Word of God usually begins with the first understanding of its real divisions; and no one is prepared to understand the providence of God who does not first come to know something of the purpose of God as marked off by these great divisions. Especially is this necessary, as has been stated, for any clear understanding of the present age.
Again, the power and force of the whole body of Scripture must depend, in a large measure, upon a belief in unfulfilled prophecy. Such a belief is not general, even among Christians. They believe that Christ camp in the flesh, suffered, died, and rose again, because that is all now a matter of history; but that belief is not greatly influenced by the fact that this was all exactly foretold by the prophets. Let those who are free to condemn the pious Jew for not recognizing the fulfillment of prophecy in the first advent of Christ, beware lest they fail to rightly interpret the signs of these times, or look with positive unbelief upon the stupendous events that, according to prophecy, are imminent to-day. It seems a sore test of faith to believe that which is predicted for the present age, though those predictions are being fulfilled in every particular. This prevailing attitude of unbelief usually arises from one of two errors; either Satan has been so estimated that it seems impossible for him to be the promoter of anything that is moral or good (of this error more will be said in the following chapters): or the exact meaning and purpose of this age has been disbelieved or misunderstood; and because of these conditions many enthusiastic Christians are found to be, not only working toward unscriptural and hopeless ends, but are actually contributing to the confusion and darkness that is prevalent to-day.
The purpose and course of this age are not matters of prediction alone. Almost two thousand years of history may be considered in the light of these predictions; and while the age is not yet complete, and much that is reserved for the last days is still future, enough of prophecy has now been fulfilled to indicate the certain fulfillment of all.
Since there has been no universal conversion of men in even the most favored locality, it is evident that, thus far, there has been a separating and calling out of a few from the many; and the Divine purpose, as revealed in Scripture, which is to gather out a people from the Gentiles for His own name, has been verified. The blessing of God has been upon world-wide evangelism: rather than upon any fruitless attempts at world-wide conversion; for the individual or church that has become self-centered has, to that degree, sacrificed the power and blessing of the presence of Christ which was promised in Matt. 28:20: "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations"—"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age."
Again, the formation of the Kingdom has not been discernible in the present age. The Jews, to whom alone the promises of an earthly kingdom belong, have continued a separate people under the unseen hand of God, without a country, or a vestige of national life. Certainly none of the predicted and necessary events accompanying the establishment of their kingdom have been experienced, nor is there any trace of its promised blessings. The fact that some Jews are now organizing and looking toward their native land, argues nothing for this age, more than that its end is very near, and that the way for their coming Messiah and national glory is being prepared. Just so, the conspicuous fact that all the marvelous present development of the resources of the earth has been limited to about the last eightieth of the present history of the age is evidence that the earth's return to her former glory is already in preparation.
Belief in the revealed course of this age is, therefore, based upon history as well as the predictions of Scripture.
The present age is different from all others by reason of the admixture of opposing classes of people; there being two distinct divisions (not including the Jew as a nation) living and acting together, who are, nevertheless, removed from each other by a degree that is immeasurable. This fact necessitates many careful distinctions and special injunctions which are peculiar to the age.
The fact that these two widely differing classes are present together, and are to continue so to the end of the age, is the teaching of the seven parables in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Very much, therefore, depends upon the correct interpretation of these parables. Their meaning has been somewhat hidden by the use of the word "world" where reference is made to this period of time; and the fact that the conditions described are true of this age only, has not been generally realized.
These seven parables are but a description of the unfolding and development of these mixed elements to be found in Christendom throughout this age. The same program is again proclaimed by Christ, from the Glory, in the messages to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2 and 3). Here are seven letters to organized existing churches; yet these messages also reveal an exact outline of the history of Christendom for this entire age; and there is perfect agreement in order and detail between the parables of Matthew 13 and the letters of Revelation 2 and 3. The first two parables are interpreted by Christ Himself, and the interpretation of these sheds light on all that remains.
Christ is the sower in both the first and second of these parables, and the sowing is continued by His messengers throughout this age. The field is the world of men, which reveals a marked change from the responsibility of the Jewish age that was then closing; and the results of the sowing are most definite: not all the good seed sown comes to fruitage; and the wheat and the tares grow together until the end of the age. This interpretation is not fanciful, for it is given by Christ Himself; and the following parables must necessarily agree with these. The third and fourth are of the mustard seed and the measure of meal. Though commonly interpreted to mean the world-wide development of the Church and the permeating influence of the Gospel, in the light of the interpretation of the previous parables they can mean only the mixture of evil with that which began as small as a mustard seed and as pure as meal. The fifth parable is of a treasure hid in a field, which pictures the earthly people in the world; while their real relation to Christ is covered until the accomplishment of that which is revealed in the sixth. Here the same man, the Lord Jesus Christ, sells all that He hath to purchase the Church, the pearl of great price, for He "loved the Church, and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25); the pearl, by its formation and its power to reflect the light, being a wonderful type of the Church in her present formation and future place in glory. Both the treasure and the pearl are found in the world, but do not include all of the world. The last parable but restates the truth that the mixture of the good and the evil is to continue to the end of the age.
The highest ambition of the great missionary, Paul, was to be all things to all men that he might save some, not all. He found that his preaching was a savor of "death unto death" as well as of "life unto life" (II Cor. 2:15, 16), and he clearly states in II Tim. 3:13, "And evil men shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Christ also predicted that the end of this age should be marked by such sin as provoked the judgment of the flood: "But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. 24:37-39).
This truth is often rejected as being pessimistic and disloyal to the progress of the world: yet has not the history of the age verified the teaching? And is not the coming glory nearer and more certain when depending upon His promised return in resistless power and splendor, than when depending upon any human progress the world has ever known? One is the majestic movement of the Divine program in fulfillment of every covenant: while the other is the vain dream of the world in its ignorance and disregard of the testimony of God.
Because of the presence of these two classes in the world in this age, there are two very distinct lines of Scripture descriptive of them. One body of Scripture directly applies to and governs the "wheat" or heavenly people, and one applies to the "tares," the "children of the evil one." The marvelous revelation of the believer's relation to Christ and the heavenlies, and his deliverance from any actual identification with this age, though in it, will be the subject of another chapter. Only the relation of the unregenerate to this world and to Satan will be continued here.
As it has pleased Satan to hide himself and all his projects from the unbelieving world, that which God has revealed in all faithfulness will be received only by those who have unquestioning confidence in His Word.
According to Scripture, the relation of the unbelieving to Satan is far more vital than a mere pleasure-seeking allegiance. On two occasions Jesus spoke of the unsaved as the "children of Satan" (Matt. 13:38; Jno. 8:44), and Paul so addressed Elymas, the sorcerer, according to Acts 13:10. The same class is also twice called the "children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2; Col. 3:6), and once it is called the "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3).
It is evident that these are descriptions of the same class of people, since both terms are employed together in Eph. 5:6: "Let no man deceive you: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." The exact cause of that wrath is stated in Rom. 1:18 (R.V.): "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness;" the word "hinder" being the same as is used in II Thes. 2:7, where the Holy Spirit is said to be restraining the working of lawlessness in this age. Therefore, the willing neglect and disregard for the testimony of God by the world, has allied them with Satan, and placed them under the wrath of God, which must find its righteous execution in due time if grace is not accepted.
Again, Satan is revealed as directing and empowering the children of disobedience: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this age, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:1, 2). The real force of this passage, also, is dependent upon the meaning of one word; the word "worketh" being the same as is used in Phil. 2:13, where God is said to impart His wisdom and strength to the believer: "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Additional light may be had as to the reality of this relationship from the following passages in which the same original word is used: "And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all" (I Cor. 12:6); "But all these (gifts) worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (I Cor. 12:11); "And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies" (Eph. 1:19-20); "For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:8); "Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Col. 1:29); "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that worketh in us" (Eph. 3:20). It is also said in regard to the energizing power of Satan, using the same original word: "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (II Thes. 2:7); "For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death" (Rom. 7:5). In the last two passages quoted, the meaning is, like the preceding passages, of an imparted energy, and is, therefore, most suggestive.
It may then be concluded from the testimony of Scripture that Satan imparts his wisdom and strength to the unbelieving in the same manner as the power of God is imparted to the believer by the Holy Spirit. There is, however, no revelation as to the comparative degree of strength imparted by each. It should be further noted in this connection that this impartation of energizing power from Satan is not toward a limited few who might be said, because of some strange conduct, to be possessed of a demon; but is the common condition of all who are yet unsaved, and are, therefore, still in the "power of darkness."
The relation between the unregenerate and Satan is still more vital, according to the original from which I Jno. 5:19 is translated. The Revised Version renders it, with marginal note, as follows: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one." In this passage there are two startling revelations in regard to this relationship. First: the word "in" is the same as is used everywhere of the believer when he is said to be in Christ, and in the case of the believer it signifies an organic union to Christ—as a branch is in the vine, so the believer is in Christ. Though the word, when used of the unregenerate, probably cannot mean the same degree of organic life-relationship as exists between Christ and the believer, yet it does denote a deep relationship; and Satan is the light, inspiration, and power, of all those whom he energizes.
The second revelation in the passage is found in the word "lieth"—"The whole world lieth in the evil one." It might as well be translated "lieth asleep;" for its condition is not only a fixed position in the evil one, but is also a condition of unconsciousness. The saved ones are said to be in the Father's hand where no created thing can pluck them out (Jno. 10:29), and underneath are the everlasting arms: so the great mass of unsaved humanity is in the arms of Satan; and by his subtlety they are all unconscious of their position and relation. This is not at all strange. Even the believer has no present power to discern his glorious position and security in the Father's hand, apart from the assurance of the written Word. Much less, then, can the unbeliever come to realize his own position in the arms of Satan, when, under the direction of Satan, he gives no heed to the testimony of God.
Still another passage should be noted in this connection. In II Cor. 4:3, 4, Satan is described as the god of this world, blinding the minds of the unbelieving. The whole passage is as follows: "And if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this age hath blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should not dawn upon them" (R.V. with margin). In this passage the unconscious condition is said to be the direct result of the power of Satan, and the blindness of their thoughts, it is stated, is along one particular line. To them the gospel is veiled; and the gospel here referred to is not the whole life story of Jesus, nor is it the "Gospel of the Kingdom;" but the message of good news or favor; the exact terms of Salvation by grace alone. This Paul here calls "our gospel," for to him it was first unfolded in its completeness.
The unregenerate are, then, unconscious of their position in the arms of Satan, and blind in their thoughts toward the gospel of mercy and favor,—their only hope for time or eternity. Satan, like a fond mother, is bending over those in his arms, breathing into their minds the quieting balm of a "universal fatherhood of God" and a "universal brotherhood of man;" suggesting their worthiness before God on the ground of their own moral character and physical generation; feeding their tendency to imitate the true faith by great humanitarian undertakings and schemes for the reformation of individuals and the betterment of the social order. God's necessary requirements of regeneration are carefully set aside, and the blinded souls go on without hope, "having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in there, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 5:18). How important, as a preparation for salvation, is the illuminating work of the Spirit in conviction, by which He lifts the veil and opens the mind to a new vision of the redemption and glory that is in Christ! Without this God-given vision there can be no understanding of the way of life, nor any intelligent decision for Christ.
This Age and the Satanic System.
It may also be concluded from the study of the ages that God has not been pleased to meet the presumptuous claims of Satan or of man by a simple denial of those claims; He has chosen, rather, to bring everything to an experimental test. One advantage of this method is obvious: every mouth will be stopped, and the entire universe of beings will see clearly the utter folly of that which might have been arbitrarily denied. Man can no longer claim that his conscience is sufficient to guide him to his highest destiny; since the whole race, when standing on that basis before God, so utterly failed that their destruction, by a flood, was necessary: in like manner, by the history of a most favored people in the age preceding the first advent of Christ, man has demonstrated his own inability to do right or to keep the law. In the present age, man proves his separation from his Creator by his spirit of self-sufficiency and positive rejection of God. The present issue between God and man is one of whether man will accept God's estimate of him, abandon his hopeless self-struggle, and cast himself only on God who alone is sufficient to accomplish his needed transformation. All Divine love, wisdom, and power have wrought to make these conditions open to man; and when this last and supreme effort of God has been rejected, the final pleading with man must be forever past, and the long delayed judgment upon sin be executed in righteousness.
It has already been pointed out that Satan purposed in his heart to attempt all the functions of God; and, according to Scripture, that which he purposed is being permitted, to the extent of his ability, throughout the course of this age. Though his failure and defeat have been predicted from the beginning, yet it has pleased God to permit the Satanic ambition to come to its own destruction, and to demonstrate its own weakness and wicked folly. No other solution is given of the present power of Satan and the terrible manifestations of his increasing authority yet to be experienced in the closing scenes of this age.
His present authority is by no means complete. In II Thes. 2:7 it is stated: "The mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way." This is a description of the work of the Holy Spirit as He restrains and hinders the development of the power of evil. Nor can Satan direct the affairs of that part of humanity who have been delivered from the power of darkness and are now united to Christ (unless they yield to his wishes); though they are in the world and their earth lives are mingled in much of its history. These saved ones are the antiseptic salt, hindering, like the Spirit who indwells them, the untimely dissolution of humanity. Again, Satan's dominion is limited in that "there is no power but of God: and the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1). In this Scripture it is revealed that Satan, though in authority, is not wholly free from his Creator, and that any direction of the governments of the world which he exercises is by permission from God. Therefore, the efforts of Satan and man are not supreme, but must come to their predicted end when the eternal purpose of God has had its realization in the gathering out from the Gentiles of the heavenly people for His own name.
A few tremble in the face of the social and industrial problems of the day; while the vast majority are confident that the sagacity of man is not only controlling iniquity, but is gradually developing an improved social order. Thus, man, in his vanity, assigns to himself that which is of God alone, for all the elements of corruption and tribulation are latent in the world to-day, and the mighty effort of God is required to stay its bursting into flame until the appointed time. Tribulation will, therefore, instantly begin when the hand of God is removed from the unregenerate and Satan-ruled humanity.
Though under the restraining hand of God, Satan, according to Scripture, is now in authority over the unregenerate world, and the unsaved are unconsciously organized and federated under his leading. The fact that there is such a federation, although stated in Scripture, is obscured in translation. In at least thirty important passages the English word "world" is again used without qualification. In these passages reference is made to a great evil system or order over which Satan is in authority, the word "world" referring to the world of men, their evil undertakings, ideals and federation. This federation includes all of the unsaved and fallen humanity; it has the co-operation of the fallen spirits, and is but the union of all who are living and acting in independence of God. This Satanic system has its own ideals and principles which are in sharp contrast to the ideals and principles given the redeemed: yet these two classes must mingle together as closely as the ties of human life can come.
The whole truth concerning this federation is contained in those passages wherein the Satanic system is mentioned.
First, Satan is its governing head. Three times Jesus referred to Satan as the prince of the Satanic system: "Now is the judgment of this world: Now shall the prince of this world (Satanic system) be cast out" (Jno. 12:31). "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world (Satanic system) cometh, and hath nothing in me" (Jno. 14:30). "Of judgment, because the prince of this world (Satanic system) is judged" (Jno. 16:11). Paul also refers to Satan as the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), and again as the "god of this age" (II Cor. 4:4). In the latter passage, mention is made of the age or period of time only, as in Eph. 6:12: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the age rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies" (R.V.).
From these Scriptures it must be conceded that the offer, which Satan made to Christ, of the then inhabited earth, was very real. The Scripture is as follows: "And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine" (Lu. 4:5-7). It has sometimes been held that the claim of possession of the earth was a lie, this being asserted on the ground that Satan is exposed in Scripture as a liar. Such a conclusion is impossible for at least two reasons. It would have been no temptation had he not possessed the kingdoms he offered; and any such false claim would have been immediately branded as a lie by the Son of God. He is still further revealed as the recognized head of this world system in two additional passages: "Because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world (Satanic system)" (I Jno. 4:4). "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world (Satanic system) lieth in the wicked one" (I Jno. 5:19).
Returning to Isaiah 14:12-19, wherein Satan is described as "Lucifer, the son of the morning," and where the prophet in vision sees the whole career of Satan in retrospect, it will be seen that Satan holds a mighty grip upon the world. Here it is said of him that he was the one who "didst weaken the nations" and who "made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms, that made the world as a wilderness and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners." Every phrase in this remarkable passage is a revelation. Undoubtedly there is reference here both to the fall of man and to the authority of Satan in the earth, as well as to his attitude of resistance toward salvation which is by the grace of God, since it is said of Satan that he "made the world as a wilderness; he opened not the house of his, prisoners."
Second, the Satanic system, according to Scripture, is wholly evil. This is a hard saying; and is usually denied by those who do not realize that all Scripture estimates are made from the standard of the holiness of God; and that the Satanic system, of itself and apart from the influence of God and His people, has never improved their own moral condition, but that they are individually under condemnation before God (Jno. 3:18); their borrowed interest in morality and charity being a poor commendation, in view of their fallen and Christ-rejecting attitude before God. They are also incapable of comprehending the standards of God, whose thoughts and ways are above their thoughts and ways as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isa. 55:8,9). The quality and incapacity of the fallen race is accurately described in Rom. 3:10-18; this description of them being as they appear before the holiness of God, stripped of all externals: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes." So, fallen humanity, federated under Satan, will appear and act when the restraining hand of God is removed. Though the unsaved are moral, educated, refined, or religious, they are not righteous in God's sight; for the charge here brought against them is that "there is none righteous, no, not one;" and "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The following Scriptures which directly refer to the character of the Satanic system are, therefore, the estimate of God upon those conditions which the world holds to be ideal: "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world (Satanic system)" (II Pet. I:4). "For if after they have escaped the pollution of the world (Satanic system) through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning" (II Pet. 2:20). "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (Satanic system)" (Jas. 1:27). "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world (Satanic system) is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world (Satanic system) is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). "For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world (Satanic system)" (I Jno. 5:4). "Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world (Satanic system) cometh, and hath nothing in me" (Jno. 14:30). "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (Satanic system)" (I Jno. 4:3). In like manner the believer is said to have been "delivered from the present evil age" (Gal. 114) and "delivered from the power of darkness" (Col. 1:13) and is not to be conformed to this age (Rom. 12:2).
These judgments are made from the view-point of the purity and holiness of God. In His sight the highest moral, educational, and religious ideals that the unregenerate world can comprehend are but a part of the confusion and darkness of this age when coupled with a rejection of His testimony in regard to His Son as their atoning Saviour.
Thus, it is presented from the Scripture that the present age and its great federation is, in God's sight, most unholy.
Third, Satan is also set forth as having direct control of the physical well-being of his subjects, and at the same time as being able, by special permission, to gain access to the people of God: "For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He (Christ) also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2: 14). "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all them that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). "And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" (Lu. 13: 16). "And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (Job. 1:9-12). "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I have made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, establish thy brethren" (Lu. 22:31, 32 R.V.). "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (II Cor. 12:7).
By these passages, the emphasis of Scripture on the power and authority of Satan in this age may be seen. And though the exact limits of his power under the restraining hand of God are not revealed, it would be unreasonable to deny that he is the god of this age, the head of the great world system; and, though all unknown to them, the director of the affairs of unregenerate men.
Fourth, The works of the Satanic order are clearly outlined in several descriptive passages which also present that which is highest in ideal, and deepest in motive in the Satan energized mass of humanity. One passage, alone, contains the entire revelation: "For all that is in the world (Satanic system), the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (Satanic system)" (I Jno. 2:16). The satisfaction of these same cravings was the temptation placed before Eve in the Garden: "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did give also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Gen. 3:6). The real nature of these cravings is easily recognized as wholly self-centered and without thought of God or of any true character.
All "wars and fightings" among men are only a natural result of the evil qualities of this great federation. Jesus said to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world (Satanic system): if my kingdom were of this world (Satanic system), then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered unto the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (Jno. 18:36). It is a noticeable fact that the governments of the world depend upon physical power and a display of armament to maintain their position and authority, and the superior law of love does not seem to be adapted to, or understood by, the elements that make up the Satanic order.
Fifth, All earthly property is of the Satanic order, which property the believer may use, but must not abuse: "But whoso hath this world's good (Satanic system), and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (I Jno. 3:17). "And the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful" (Mark 4:19). "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and those that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world (Satanic system), as not abusing it" (I Cor. 7:29-31).
Sixth, The same world that crucified the Christ will also hate the saved one in whom He dwells: "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world (Satanic system) hate you" (I Jno. 3:13).
Seventh, The impotency and limitations of the world order are most evident. Its leader, though mighty, is inferior to Christ: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (Satanic system)" (I Jno. 4:4). Its knowledge and understanding are limited: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world (Satanic system) knoweth us not, because it knew him not" (I Jno. 3:1 R.V.). "Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, and He Himself is judged of no man" (I Cor. 2:14, 15, R.V.).
"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11). "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them" (II Cor. 4:3, 4, R.V.). "They are of this world (Satanic system): therefore speak they as of the world, and the world (Satanic system) heareth them" (I Jno. 4:5, R.V.). All the sorrow of this order is without hope: "For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret: But the sorrow of the world (Satanic system) worketh death" (II Cor. 7:10, R.V.). And, finally, the whole order is temporal and passing: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Pet. 3:10). "And the world (Satanic system) passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (I Jno. 2:17).
The Satanic Host.
Christ inferred, in one of His controversies with the Pharisees (Matt. 12:22-30), that Satan is a King; and as such is in authority over a kingdom. This particular discussion was in regard to the fact that Christ had healed one "possessed with a demon, blind and dumb." The Pharisees claimed that the demon had been cast out by Beelzebub the prince of demons, or the one whom Jesus, later in the narrative, calls Satan. The passage is as follows: "Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb; and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."
By this Scripture it may be seen that the kingdom of Satan is a host of bodiless spirits. Although their origin cannot be definitely traced, it is probable that they were created as subjects of Satan in the primal glory, as he, also, was created as their prince and king. Satan, being in authority over these beings, doubtless drew them after him in his sinful attempt to thrust himself into the place of God.
It would seem that Satan is in authority over two distinct orders of beings—the Satanic order of the earth, and the Satanic host of the air. It is clear that he secured the scepter of government in the earth from Adam, by right of conquest: while his authority over the Satanic host is, undoubtedly, that which he has been permitted to retain from his creation. If Satan has thus kept his authority over these spirits from the beginning, it follows that they are in full sympathy with him and render him willing service. The following Scriptures emphasize the authority of Satan over these beings: "And if Satan cast out Satan, how then shall his kingdom stand?" (Matt. 12:26). "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).
The reality and personality of this host of evil spirits is taught in Scripture; and a careful study of the numerous passages in which they are mentioned will reveal how God has provided complete instruction in His Word concerning this theme on which so much of the believer's welfare depends.
These spirits are usually referred to in both the Authorized and Revised Versions of the New Testament as "devils," but the word might better have been translated "demons."
In considering the service these beings render to Satan, it is important to distinguish between demon possession or control, and demon influence. In the one case the body is entered and a dominating control is gained: while in the other case a warfare from without is carried on by suggestion, temptation, and influence.
Investigation of the Scriptures in regard to demon possession reveals:
First: That this host is made up of bodiless spirits only. The following Scripture verifies this statement: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and tak'eth with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (Matt. 12:43-45). "And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them" (Mark 5:12).
Second: They are, however, not only seeking to enter the bodies of either mortals or beasts (for their power seems to be in some measure dependent upon such embodiment); but they are constantly seen to be thus embodied, according to the New Testament. A few of these passages are given here: "When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick" (Matt. 8:16). "As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake" (Matt. 9:32, 33). "And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed" (Acts 8:6,7). "And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying" (Acts 16:16). "And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs, a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea" (Mark 5:1-13).
Third: They are wicked, unclean, and vicious. Many passages might be quoted in proof of this statement: "And when he was come to the other side of 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" (Matt. 8:28). "And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (Matt. 10:1). "There met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones" (Mark 5:2-5). "And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming" (Mark 9:20).
It might be added that there seem to be degrees of wickedness represented by these spirits: for it is stated in Matt. 12:43-45 that the demon, returning to his house, "taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself."
The question is often raised whether demon possession obtains at the present time. Although the authentic records of such control are almost wholly limited to the three years of the public ministry of Jesus, it is incredible that demon possession did not exist before that time, or has not existed since. In this connection it should be remembered that these beings are not only intelligent themselves, but that they are directly governed and ordered by Satan, whose wisdom and cunning are so clearly set forth in the Scriptures. It is reasonable to conclude that they, like their monarch, are adapting the manner of their activity to the enlightenment of the age and locality. It is evident that they are not now less inclined than before to enter and dominate a body. Demon possession in the present time is probably often unsuspected because of the unrecognized fact that demons are capable of inspiring a moral and exemplary life, as well as of appearing as the dominating spirit of a spiritist medium, or through the grosser manifestations that are recorded by missionaries from heathen lands. These demons, too, like their king, will appear as "angels of light" as well as "roaring lions," when by the former impersonation they can more perfectly further the stupendous undertakings of Satan in his warfare against the work of God.
Demon influence, like the activity of Satan, is prompted by two motives: both to hinder the purpose of God for humanity, and to extend the authority of Satan. They, therefore, at the command of their king, willingly co-operate in all his God-dishonoring undertakings. Their influence is exercised both to mislead the unsaved and to wage an unceasing warfare against the believer (Eph. 6:12).
Their motive is suggested in what is revealed by their knowledge of the authority and deity of Christ, as well as by what they know of their eternal doom. The following passages are important in this connection: "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?" (Matt. 8:29). "And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him" (Mark 1:23-25). "And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" (Acts 19:15). "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (Jas. 2:19).
Of the methods of demons in the latter days of the age, the Scriptures bear special testimony. They will cover their lies with the empty form of religion, and by every means make them to appear as the truth, that they may draw both the saved and the unsaved from their hope in Christ: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Tim. 4: 1, 2). A departure from the true faith is thus predicted to be the evidence of the influence of demons in the last days. This is none other than the great apostasy that must precede the "Day of the Lord" according to II Thes. 2:2, 3.