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Against World Powers
 



I. Of Gods and Men

  
 Introduction
   
The Divine Council
   
The Gods of the Nations
   
God's Nation

 



Introduction

   
T
he period of testing and judgment soon to come at the end of the age will be a brief period of time focused on mankind, but there is also a higher level of conflict that will be resolved as a final result. This higher level of conflict has to do with the angelic realm, and of the battle between the angels of light who serve the Creator and the angels of darkness who serve Satan, the powerful enemy of God who leads the angelic rebellion. This series of articles will take a step back and try to provide a perspective of human history that takes into account this spiritual and inter-dimensional conflict in which human beings have been trapped.

The Apostle Paul speaks from this perspective when he describes the ultimate enemies that Christian believers must be prepared to face, in his letter to the church at Ephesus,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

According to Paul, the main opponents that believers struggle against cannot be human because they are not flesh and blood. Our opponents are in fact spiritual in nature, and of the spirit world. Paul says that these “spiritual forces” are the “rulers,” “authorities,” and “powers of this dark world.” Paul is telling us that these spiritual beings are in control of the earth!

This reality is made clear when we look at what happened to Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry. The Gospels record that after he was baptized and anointed by God he went into the desert to pray and to fast for forty days and forty nights, and that during this time Satan came to question Jesus and to tempt him. The temptations culminated with the following offer,

“...the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Satan, this super-powerful spiritual being, made the offer because he did indeed have power and control over all the kingdoms of the world. They were his possession, and his to give away if he so desired.

According to a literal reading of the book of Genesis, Satan first appeared on the scene as the tempter of Adam and Eve, and he was at least partially responsible for the initial spiritual break between mankind and the Creator. As a result of their sin Adam and Eve gained the “knowledge of good and evil,” but they suffered the punishment of an inevitable death and of being cast out of the Garden of Eden.

Genesis goes on to describe how Eve bore two sons, Cain and Abel, and of how Cain murdered Abel and was forced to flee, after which Eve bore another son, Seth. The descendents of Seth were those who worshiped the Creator and they included Enoch (who was taken to heaven), Methuselah (who had the longest lifespan), and Noah.

Cain was forced to be “a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth,” but he is credited with founding a city for his son, the first city ever built. The line of Cain, because of Cain’s punishment, was less willing to serve God, and according to non-canonical sources, such as the Book of Enoch, the descendents of Cain turned instead to Satan and the fallen angels. These sources describe how a group of angels descended to the earth, took human women for wives, and taught mankind various skills including magic, warfare, metalworking, music and writing. The mating that occurred between angels and humans is described explicitly in Genesis 6:1-4,

“When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose... The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

The appearance of advanced beings on the earth, because it is a scenario found in the myths and legends of virtually every ancient culture, is used as evidence today by many writers and researchers that extra-terrestrials once visited the earth. It is even theorized that these beings were responsible for the creation of modern Homo sapiens from a more primitive species, and that man’s early awe of these superior beings became the foundation of primitive man’s religious beliefs.

These theories are provocative and sensational enough to sell a huge number of books, and they generate hours of interviews on late-night talk radio, but they are greatly flawed. The “angels” that interacted with mankind in antiquity are not visitors from another planet; they are spiritual beings that are, although capable of taking material form, actually extra-dimensional in nature rather than extra-terrestrial. They are not visitors from another planet because they have always been here. However, their natural state of existence is beyond the range of humanity’s normal physical senses and outside of our normal conscious awareness.

According to Jewish tradition the “sons of God” were created by God on the second “day” of creation. They were created to serve God and to act as stewards and managers of creation, but they were also created with the “knowledge of good and evil,” or Free Will, and from the beginning they retained the ability to disobey God and to act against His wishes and against His plan.

The being known as Lucifer or Satan is the foremost created being that has chosen to oppose God. He was a “son of God” created perfect and beautiful in the beginning, and he served as a guardian cherub before God’s throne. Ezekiel writes (28:13-15),

“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you... You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.”

Ezekiel goes on to explain that Satan’s heart became proud because of his beauty, and his wisdom was corrupted by his own splendor. The prophet Isaiah tells us that Satan demanded to be honored and respected as equal with God,

“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:13-14)

Because of his vanity, pride and blasphemous ambitions Satan was expelled from his place of honor. Through Ezekiel God says,

“So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones... So I threw you to the earth.” (28:16-17)

The precise moment when this occurred is not perfectly clear. What will become clear is that the break between God and Satan, and the break between God and many of the other “sons of God” that ended up following Satan, actually occurred gradually and in several stages, with mankind playing a key role at each stage.
 

The Divine Council

The central concept that must be understood as we move forward in this study is the concept of the “Divine Council.” God governs the universe and the earth through a hierarchical command structure, and the Divine Council simply refers to the meeting place before God’s throne where the “sons of God” (those loyal to God and those who oppose God) gather to negotiate and discuss the affairs of creation. In the Council God is supreme and His final word is always law.

It is from the perspective of the Divine Council that several enigmatic texts from Genesis are best understood. For instance, Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over ...all the earth,” or Genesis 3:22-23,

“And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden...”

These passages are both records of decisions made from within the Divine Council, and God’s usage of the terms “our image,” “our likeness” and “like one of us” refers to God speaking among the “sons of God” who are the Council members.

According to the narrative of Genesis 6, a small group of the “sons of God” descended to earth in the days before the flood and interacted intimately with humanity, teaching mankind certain skills, and also mating with human women, creating offspring known as the Nephilim. According to all sources, these “sons of God” that had sexual relations with human women were all eventually punished, for it was an act of clear disobedience against God. To this day these wicked angels remain chained in the deepest recesses of hell awaiting their judgment.

After this episode the human descendents of Cain that had benefited the most from the human-angelic interaction, through increased knowledge and with the appearance of the powerful “semi-divine” Nephilim, were able to dominate virtually the entire earth. At the same time mankind became very wicked. Apocryphal sources such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees claim to document the specific events, while the book of Genesis simply states,

“The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:5-8)

Because of mankind’s wickedness God brought the flood and, according to the book of Genesis, Noah and his family from the line of Seth were the only righteous people left on the earth to be saved.

Stories of the great flood that covered the entire world can be found in virtually every ancient mythological tradition, from the Sumerians, to the Indians, the Egyptians and the Greeks. Even Plato mentioned it in his writings of Atlantis, describing a wealthy civilization that possessed a powerful military that attacked and conquered without reason, which perished in the flood in a day and a night.

After the flood humanity had a chance to make a fresh start, but mankind was still not free from interference coming from the “sons of God” that looked upon humanity as their possession. Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth served the Lord God, but tradition holds that Ham’s son Cush was one of the first to rebel against God and fall under the influence of these “sons of God.” Cush’s son was an even greater rebel, who is described in Genesis,

“Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.’ The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.” (Genesis 10:8-12)

Nimrod is always described in negative terms as an arrogant ruler and empire-builder who defied the Lord in heaven. He is also the leader responsible for the attempt to build the Tower of Babel, which sparked another great change in the relationship between God, mankind, and the “sons of God” that we know today as the fallen angels. The story is given in Genesis 11:1-9,

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel --because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

The Book of Jasher is a non-canonical book that is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18, and it records the following about the Tower of Babel,

“And they built the tower and the city, and they did this thing daily until many days and years were elapsed. And God said to the seventy angels who stood foremost before him, to those who were near to him, saying, ‘Come let us descend and confuse their tongues, that one man shall not understand the language of his neighbor,’ and they did so unto them.” (Jasher 9:31)

This separation of mankind took place at the furthest edge of mankind’s historical recollection, but the fact that it was a historical event is confirmed by a number of extra-Biblical sources. A record of this event is given by the third century BC historian and high priest of Babylon, Berossus, in his three-volume Babylonian History, written in Greek. Another is given in the more ancient Sumerian text known as Ninurta’s Pride and Punishment, in which the historical figure Nimrod also appears, but with a different name. Both sources describe the unsuccessful building of the Tower as an act of rebellion against the “gods,” followed by the division of mankind and the creation of separate languages.

The reference to the “seventy angels” in the Jasher quote above is key here, because that is the number of nations that were created at the time of the division. Genesis 10 is known as the Table of Nations, and it lists exactly seventy names, which were the different tribes of the earth that descended from Noah. Genesis 10:32 states, “These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

These seventy angels or “sons of God” were among those present within the Divine Council when the division of the nations occurred. They were the angels that were the most closely involved with the earth, and they had their own ideas about how the earth and mankind should be managed. For this reason, which will become clear as we progress, the division of the nations also involved the handing-over of the nations to the authority of these seventy “sons of God”—one angel for each nation. God was finished with dealing directly with an obstinate and rebellious humanity, and so He created a situation where the nations of mankind would each be ruled over by an angelic prince.

 

The Gods of the Nations

This profound change in the way in which humanity was managed is mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:8,

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.”

The Masoretic translation of this text says “sons of Israel,” but both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scroll translations say that the nations were divided “according to the number of the sons of God.” An ancient Targum on this text from a manuscript called Psuedo-Jonathan states,

“When the Most High made allotment of the world unto the nations which proceeded from the sons of Noach, in the separation of the writings and languages of the children of men at the time of the division, He cast the lot among the seventy angels, the princes of the nations... even at that time He established the limits of the nations according to the sum of the number of the seventy souls of Israel who went down into Mizraim.”

As we will see, this division of the nations over to the direct authority of the “sons of God” created the basis of pagan religion, because these angelic powers quickly became viewed and worshiped as “gods” by humanity. This was another stage in the gradual break that occurred between God and the seventy “sons of God” that took control over the earth. However, these beings would continue to make appearances within the Divine Council to answer for their actions as rulers of humanity.

The original atmosphere of harmony between God and the “sons of God” is expressed in Job 38:4, when God exposes Job’s ignorance and frailty by asking,

“Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

The book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible, predating Genesis that was written by Moses, and it gives insight into the nature of the Divine Council after the division of the nations, as well as Satan’s role as God’s antagonist. The book begins by describing a meeting of the Divine Council, a scene which occurs repeatedly throughout the book:

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” (Job 1:6-7 KJV)

God never gave up His position as Head of the Council, but the seventy angelic princes were still able to exercise a great deal of freedom in manipulating mankind’s affairs. However, Psalm 82 reveals that God was not going to allow the situation to remain the same forever, and He was taking notice of the injustices that were ever-present under the rule of the “gods,”

“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? [Selah] Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I say, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!” (Psalm 82 RSV)

This Psalm explains that one day the “gods” that are in fact “sons of the Most High” will be judged for their sins, be punished and die, and that ultimately the nations belong to God, who will take possession after the last judgment.
 

God’s Nation

Many generations after handing the nations of the world over to the authority of the seventy angelic princes, God chose for Himself His own nation, which would be the avenue through which all nations would be redeemed back to Him. This event is recorded in Genesis 12, immediately after the division of the nations at the Tower of Babel.

“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.” (Genesis 12:1-4)

Deuteronomy 32:9 explains that regarding Israel, in distinction to the Gentile nations that were divided among the sons of God, “the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.”

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson and the father of twelve sons whose descendents became the twelve tribes of Israel. In Genesis 32:28 and again in 35:10 the Lord gave Jacob the name of “Israel.” Several times the promises that God made to Abraham were repeated to Jacob, and he was told that “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”

The nation of Israel was unique in that it was not ruled by any of the angelic authorities, but by the Creator Himself. This uniqueness became apparent through the rules that God laid down, through Moses, by which Israel was to worship their God.

Pagan religious worship was characterized by many practices that included magic and sorcery, divination through oracles, worship of idols, and the use of mediums, channeling and other techniques for accessing the spirit world and contacting the spirits for guidance. On the other hand, Judaism was different in many ways. From the outset it was a religious system characterized by strict intolerance, and the worship of other gods was forbidden. The first of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and the second reads,

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God...” (Exodus 20:4-5).

All dabbling in the occult or contact with the spirit world was also forbidden. Leviticus 19 records, “Do not practice divination or sorcery,” and “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them.” Leviticus 20 records, “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.” It also warns, “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.”

God says that Israel is “to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.”

When Israel was on the verge of entering the Promised Land after forty years in the wilderness God spoke through Moses to His people and told them,

“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)

In the speech recorded in Deuteronomy 4 Moses explained that the laws that Israel was to follow would set Israel up as an example for the rest of the nations. He said, “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

Moses went on to warn Israel against worshiping the gods of the other nations, the “host of heaven” that were allotted to them (4:19 NASB):

“And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.”

References to the “host of heaven” as the objects of worship by the Gentile nations are made repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. The fact that God created the “host of heaven” is given in Nehemiah 9:6 (NKJV),

“You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all.”

The “host of heaven” are the “sons of god” that ruled over and were worshiped by all the Gentile nations, but if any Israelite worshiped them the punishment was to be death, as commanded in Deuteronomy 17:2-5 (NASB):

 “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the LORD your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded... then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.”

In 722 BC, after Israel was divided into Israel and Judah, the northern nation of Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria. According to 2 Kings 17 (NASB) God allowed this to happen because “the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God... and they had feared other gods.” Israel had...

...forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him. So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.”

The same crime was committed by King Manasseh of Judah a few generations later,

“He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put My name.’ For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking Him to anger.” (2 Kings 21, NASB)

Yet this same “host of heaven” was still required to stand before God in the Divine Council, and God continued to have a relationship with these pagan angelic princes, working through them to further His plan for Israel and His ultimate plan for the nations and all of humanity.

In a strange episode involving God’s dealings with King Ahab of Israel, the prophet Micaiah saw a vision of the Council in which God gave a decree of death for the wicked king, and then allowed the “host of heaven” to offer suggestions as to how the desired result could be brought about,

“Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. ‘I will go and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’” (2 Chronicles 18:18-21)

In the sixth century BC, as a result of another punishment from God for being unfaithful, the children of Israel were forced to endure the Babylonian captivity. During this time God continued to speak to His people through the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. At one point during his ministry the prophet Daniel spoke to a holy angel that related to him the conflict that was taking place between God’s angels and the angelic princes that ruled the nations of Persia and Greece. Apparently the holy angel was being prevented from contacting Daniel and required assistance from the archangel Michael who, although he is does not rule and is not worshiped, serves as the angelic prince and protector of Israel,

“Then he said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.’ ...Then he said, ‘Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.’” (Daniel 10:12-14, 20-21 NASB)

At this time there was a great deal of spiritual confusion on the earth. The Gentile nations were being manipulated by spiritual powers that caused constant conflict between themselves, and Israel, the one nation that existed under a covenant with the Creator of the universe, was often found to be disobedient and rebellious against the God who protected them. It was a situation that God could not allow to last long, and the remedy was waiting to be applied.

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Peter Goodgame
November 17, 2004