Did Jesus say you have to ask Him into your heart to be saved? Do I have to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Do I have to ask Jesus to take control of my life and accept Him as my Saviour? What does that even mean? What does it mean to “commit” myself to the Lord? What are the steps involved to “being saved”? The church says you must first believe that Jesus is Lord. Then you must confess your sins and repent of them. Finally, you must ask Jesus into your heart or life to receive His Holy Spirit. But what did Jesus say?
Jesus said you must first believe in Him (John 3:16). He also said you must repent of your sins (Luke 13:5). The word for repent is metanoeō in Greek, and it means “to change one’s mind or thinking.” But Jesus also said we must repent and believe the gospel as well (Mark 1:15). The word for gospel in Greek is euaggelion, and it means “good news”. What is the good news? That Jesus Christ came into the world to save us (John 3:17). Save us from what? From damnation, which occurs because we have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Damnation without God’s grace extended towards us would be eternal separation from God.
So far, Jesus lists faith in Him that He came to save us and repentance. But what did He say about confession?
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, NKJV).
“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8, NKJV).
No mention of confessing our sins to anyone or confessing our sins to God either. Jesus’ confession seems to be more along the lines of acknowledging before God and man that He is Lord and that we believe He came to save us. What did the apostles preach?
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10, NKJV).
“Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11, NKJV).
It would seem the apostles also taught the same thing as Jesus. So does that mean we don’t have to confess our sins to be saved? Well, one thing we must remember about Jesus and the Apostles is that they were very Jewish. They did not forget nor neglect the importance of confession because confession of sins, is a very Jewish thing. It wasn’t mentioned because it was likely something they had all been practicing since childhood, as part of their obedience to the Law.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged” (Numbers 5:5-7, NKJV).
So we see two different types of confession at play here. One is to confess (acknowledge) publically that Jesus is Lord and that we believe He died for our sins and rose again on the third day. The other is to confess (acknowledge) our sins. The Apostle James (Jesus’ step-brother) also believed that we needed to confess our sins out loud to each other.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16, NKJV).
The Apostle John agreed:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
Confession that Jesus is Lord (acknowledging Him before others) is central to our salvation. Confessing our sins to God and one another is essential to our spiritual health.
But why do we have to confess our sins to God when He knows them already? What’s the point? Perhaps there is something to the phrase “confession is good for the soul.” For when we acknowledge our sins out loud, either in prayer to God or to someone we have wronged, it creates in us feelings of remorse. Sure, you can silently tell God you are sorry for this or that, but what feeling does that kind of confession stir up in you? Regret? Slight guilt with a promise to never do it again (until you do)? Silent confession does not bring about real repentance. But saying it out loud forces you to examine your motives and acknowledge with true repentance how wrong your actions were. Did you sin against God? Then acknowledge those sins out loud to Him. He is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins (1 John 1:9). Did you sin against someone else? Don’t write them an email or call them on the phone asking for forgiveness. Meet them in person, so you can look them in the eyes and acknowledge your sins to them. But don’t expect to get off scot-free. As Numbers 5:5-7 tells us, you must make restitution for your sins. Why? Isn’t that the reason Jesus died for us? So we wouldn’t have to pay the price for our sins? Nice try. But you can’t expect Jesus to take the hit for you every time you deliberately hurt someone. That’s tantamount to throwing His sacrifice for you, back in His face. We don’t make restitution just because the Bible commands us, but because restitution brings about true repentance to ensure we will never sin in that way again. Those to whom you have sinned against will see your remorse and forgive you and if they don’t, God will because He is faithful and just (1 John 1:9).
Couldn’t I just confess to my priest? Again, nice try. You didn’t sin against your priest. You sinned against God and someone else. And for the record, when we sin against another we are sinning against God too because we are violating God’s moral law and hurting someone He created. And we know when we are wrong. Without question, if you are a child of God and you sin, you know it! So confession to the person you hurt, as well as to God, is essential for your spiritual growth. Saying ten “Hail Mary’s” is not true repentance. It’s just an easy out. You will still be dealing with regret and remorse until you right your wrong.
Jesus teaches faith in Him and repentance. But what did He say about asking Him into our hearts? What did He say about repeating the standard “sinner’s prayer” or “accepting Him as Lord and Saviour of our lives?” Truthfully? He said absolutely nothing! In fact, you may be surprised to learn that these concepts aren’t even in the Bible.
Biblically, only two things are required for you to be saved – repentance and belief in the good news that Jesus died to save you. That’s it. Repentance, as I have already stated, is changing your mind about Christ (who He is and what He did). Up to that point, you have been living in opposition to Him, but with repentance comes faith. In fact, Jesus preached that very thing – repentance and faith (Mark 1:15).
Do you want assurance of your salvation? Salvation is obtained through belief in two facts God promised about Jesus:
Believe those two things, and you will be saved.
That’s how I become a “Christian”? No. That is how you are saved from damnation. Becoming a Christian is what you do after you are saved. You see one extraordinary thing will happen to you once you make your confession of faith (acknowledge that Jesus is Lord). You will be sealed with the Holy Spirit, who will lead you and help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and your knowledge of God. Will you change? Your personality will not change. Why would it? God created you to be unique. What will change is your awareness of Him, your understanding of the Scriptures and your awareness of sin in your life. This is the Holy Spirit teaching you how to live like Jesus and for God.
For example, how will you live now in light of the gift you have been given? Will you continue to use God’s name as a swear word? Will you abuse your body with drugs or alcohol or food? Will you continue to be sexually promiscuous? Honouring God with your body will be just one way the Holy Spirit will affect you because you are not your own when you commit yourself to Christ. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 1:13) and your life will change because your outlook will change. You will not want to dishonour God. You will want to obey Him and please Him. That’s what will change.
“Becoming a Christian” or “being a good Christian” does not involve politics. It does not involve singling out certain sectors of society and browbeating them into the ground about their sin either. Jesus ate with and associated with sinners of all kinds, all while gently showing them the way to eternal life. The only time Jesus concerned Himself with sin, in particular, was the sin of hypocrisy and it centred on those who considered themselves “righteous” or the religiously inclined. In His day, it was the leaders of the Jewish ruling authority – the Sanhedrin. He became so angry with them for allowing merchants to sell their products in the Temple that He fashioned a whip and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. Today, I’m of the belief His anger would be directed at those same types of people within His church.
We spend so much time yelling about the darkness in the world that we have failed miserably at being the light we were called to be to that world.
Do you want to be a “good Christian”? Stop attacking the gay community. Stop attacking institutions and people outside the church. Stop labeling all Muslims and refugees as terrorists! Stop protesting outside abortion clinics. You think those women don't already feel confused and horrified by what they are about to do? Outside the church be a light. Feed the poor, help the homeless, care for the sick, the refugee, the widow, the orphan and those in prison. Be Jesus to them! Our mission isn’t with the world at large and the darkness that encompasses it. Our mission, our mandate is to offer hope to a dark world one soul at a time. Yes, the darkness is horrible. Governments everywhere are leading their countries further and further away from God. So things are getting darker. And they are getting darker because no one is listening to the church anymore. And why aren't they listening? Because Jesus’ church stopped being that beacon of hope to the world the moment they started attacking it! Now the world ignores the One they so desperately need. Instead, we have become the “moral authority” that everyone hates. The church is making the world hate Jesus!
So, you want to be a good Christian?
In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council (the Sanhedrin) came to Jesus at night. He didn’t approach him during the day when crowds of people surrounded him. He went at night, when people were sleeping and when it would be unlikely that anyone else on the council would know what he was doing.
This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2, NKJV).
And how does Jesus respond? He changes the topic.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NKJV).
He doesn’t talk about the signs Nicodemus mentioned. He stays clear of all that. Instead, he tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus rightly responds with incredulity. Basically, in modern terms, Nick says something like, “What the heck is that supposed to mean? How can I be born again when I’m old? What are you talking about?”
So Nicodemus accepts that Jesus is a Rabbi (teacher) from God who does miracles, but Jesus is not impressed with his belief. After all, anyone who’s seen him in action has got to know that Jesus is more than “just a teacher.” There is something else going on here that requires more than belief in miracles.
So Jesus explains, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6, NKJV).
In other words – you want to get into heaven? Doing good works won’t get you there. Believing in miracles, won’t either. Performing religious duties in the temple/church/synagogue/mosque, etc. won’t get you there. Praying frequently won’t do it either. Memorizing Scriptures or having daily Bible studies? Nope. All those things are done in the flesh. True, they are works done with good intentions, but they will not get you into heaven. Jesus says, you also need to be born of the Spirit.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NKJV).
Nicodemus is at this point, scratching his head. He doesn’t understand what Jesus is getting at, and Jesus is floored that Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel who is supposed to know these things, doesn’t understand.
“Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:10-12, NKJV)
Jesus is making a distinction between two very different groups of people. One group can’t see the truth even if it is staring them right in the face. They see the miracles, but still, there is doubt. Or they refuse to believe that Jesus is the only way to be saved. Like many today Jesus is a stumbling block for them. The other group, however, seem to be more attuned to the spiritual life. They readily accept Jesus not just because of his miracles but because of his teachings. They hear his call to repent (which means to change your way of thinking) and believe in Him. There is a reason Jesus spoke in parables most of the time. When His disciples asked him about it, this is what He said in Matthew 13:11-13.
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”
In other words, those born of the spirit, who seek God, will be given more. They will hear and understand the deeper things. They will have life with Christ. They will have an abundance. Jesus always had large crowds following Him and speaking in parables was . . . well . . . a kind of litmus test to see who was listening and taking what He said to heart. A lot of those who followed Him just wanted something from Him, a healing or miracle of some kind. They wanted the superficial that didn’t involve repentance (changing their thinking) or giving of themselves in any way to the Lord. Others didn’t want to believe at all. Preferring to trust in themselves or their many gods instead of just one God. So, quite simply, Jesus spoke in parables so that those who weren’t listening or seeking wouldn’t get it. They were not born of the Spirit, and this is what was lacking in Nicodemus. His belief in Jesus was centred around Jesus’ miracles, not on something more eternal.
So Jesus tells him what he needs to know to be saved and it is the crux of the reason Jesus came and one of the most famous verses in the Bible.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).
It all comes down to faith. When Jesus told Nicodemus that, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” he was telling him that the Spirit comes through belief in Him. And it is this Holy Spirit that enables those who believe in Jesus to understand heavenly things. It’s not about miracles or healings or what Jesus can do for you, but it is about belief in Him.
And that belief, that faith in Him comes with a promise – that we would not perish, but have everlasting life. Oh, yes our bodies will die, but our spirits, the essence of who we are will live on forever with Christ Jesus.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, NKJV).
Many people believe in something called universalism. It is the belief that a good and loving God would not condemn anyone to hell. They think because of the verse above that everyone is saved. After all, doesn’t the verse say that Jesus came to save the world, not just a select few – but the entire world? It does, but they are missing something crucial. It involves something else Jesus said and it’s the stumbling block that keeps so many from Jesus today. Repentance with belief:
I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5, NKJV).
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, NKJV).
“He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:18-21, NKJV).
Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Then you are not condemned. But if you don’t believe you are already condemned. And what exactly are those who don’t believe in Jesus condemned to? Darkness. Separation from God for eternity. Those who don’t believe love darkness rather than light because as the Scriptures state, “their deeds are evil.” But those born of the Spirit (John 3:8), come to the light. They practice and live truth so that their deeds may show that they have been done because of God.
So yes, there are two groups of people – those who believe and repent and those who don’t. The saved versus the unsaved. But here’s the kicker, we don’t know where the wind will blow, and it is the same with the Spirit. We don’t know who will come out of the darkness and into the light. Jesus says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NKJV).
This is why we pray for those still trapped in darkness, who don’t understand or refuse to accept that Jesus is Lord. We pray God will reveal Himself to them. We pray the wind will blow in their direction and they will change their thinking (repent) and know what it means to be born of the Spirit.
So, yes God loves the world and Jesus did die for everyone, but not everyone will repent and be saved. Universalists want you to believe that no one will go to hell because God loves us so much. So you can keep on living in the darkness if you want, because, they insist, God will forgive you. But that is not what Jesus preached. Jesus preached repentance, plus faith in Him. You cannot have one without the other.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36, NKJV).
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When reading the Bible do you ever notice certain word choices that make you say, “Why would they phrase it like that?” I do. All the time. It sends me on Greek/Hebrew word searches for the actual meaning of the word. It forces me to read various translations, and I always end up reading commentaries to find out the “why” behind my questions. The phrase that piqued my interest this month is found in Mark 1:23 and Luke 4:33.
Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23).
Now in the synagogue, there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon (Luke 4:33).
Mark calls the spirit “unclean”, whereas Luke says it is a “spirit of an unclean demon.” So here’s my question – aren’t all demons technically “unclean?” This, of course, led me to more questions – how was this originally written? How do the Jews view demons and Satan in particular? How did Jesus see Satan and demons? Are fallen angels demons? And the list in my head goes on and on. But before I can answer any questions, I have to look at everything in context, not just with the surrounding scripture, but with the rest of the Bible. I also like to take into account the beliefs of the Jews in regards to Satan and demons. So when I have a Bible study, it can sometimes take me weeks before I will put anything on paper to share with you, which is why my posts are becoming so infrequent. I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m just knee deep into my Bible looking for answers. So the questions I’m currently pursuing are the areas of Satan, demons, angels and spiritual warfare – what did Jesus believe about it all? And have Christians inadvertently added to his beliefs? To get those answers, we first have to ask a few more questions.
What Do the Jews Believe About Satan & Demons?
Jewish thought about Satan, who he is and his purpose, is entirely different from that of Christians. Whereas Christian’s believe Satan was an angel who rebelled against God and cast to earth along with his demons (aka fallen angels), Jews believe quite the opposite. They believe Satan is an agent of God and has no free will or independent existence. Therefore he could never rebel. He can only do what he was created to do. He cannot do anything outside of God’s will and intended purpose for him. In other words, in their eyes, Satan was created by God for one reason – to test humanity – an angel whose sole purpose is to tempt, deceive, lie and manipulate man into sinning. They call him the adversary (1 Peter 5:8). He is an angel who cannot go outside the will of God or harm someone physically without first getting God’s permission to do so. They cite Job, chapters one and two as proof of their belief that Satan cannot act outside his created purpose.
Since God created good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15; Isaiah 45:7) the belief that Satan is vying for God’s throne is totally foreign to Jewish people. He is simply an angel of God with a purpose – to get people to sin.
However, when it comes to Jewish belief on demons, I found those views to be wide and varied. They ranged from the belief that demons were the stuff of folklore, to supernatural, malevolent beings with the power to hurt humans, to the belief that demons don’t exist at all. This last one I found very surprising, considering that they believe Satan does exist as an angel. Hmm…curiouser and curiouser. So I searched the Scriptures and asked myself these questions: Did God create demons? If there are different types of angels, could demons be a “type” of an angel as well, that God created for a particular purpose? What does the Bible say?
What Are Demons or "Unclean Spirits"?
In the Old Testament demons were most often associated with idol worship (Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37). They are sometimes referred to as demons, devils or unclean spirits. An unclean spirit is a better description of what they are because it gives us a clue as to what it is and what it isn’t. In Mosaic Law, something that was “unclean” was considered unfit to use in worship to God. When the Israelites turned to making their own gods and worshipping them, not only did the item itself become unclean, but the spirit used to worship these idols became unclean. In essence, an “unclean spirit” (or demon if you will) is not fit to worship God, and they are made unfit by giving their adoration to an object or person. The object created also becomes unclean or “demon possessed”.
So, where do we get the idea that demons are horned creatures that are malevolent beings? The Torah refers to devils or demons as satyrs, ancient mythical creatures that were half goat and half human. They were similar to those worshipped in Egypt along with bull and calf idols. In fact, goat idols are mentioned along with calf idols in 2 Chronicles 11:15. So, this is how demons and Satan in particular got their horns.
And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs [Christian Bibles changed this word to demons or devils], after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute forever unto them throughout their generations (Leviticus 17:7, JPS).
“… and he appointed him priests for the high places, and for the satyrs, and for the calves which he had made” (2 Chronicles 11:15, JPS).
So when the Torah refers to demons, it is not referring to fallen angels but to man-made idols like goat idols or calf idols. Which is why many Jewish people don’t believe in demons as a spiritual entity.
They sacrificed unto demons, no-gods, gods that they knew not, new gods that came up of late, which your fathers dreaded not (Deuteronomy 32:17, JPS).
So when the Israelites demanded that Aaron create an idol for them to worship (when Moses was up the mountain talking to God), their spirits automatically became unclean or “demon possessed” because they offered themselves to an idol in worship.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are, as a species, always seeking something greater, better than ourselves. It is the spirit God created in us that drives that desire to find our way back to Him. For those who seek to know God with an earnest and sincere heart, they will find Him. Some, however, will impose their views of what spirituality looks like, and so they lose their way and wander far from God. The more their spirit is exposed to the profane, the more “possessed” the person becomes who is giving in to unholy desires. An unclean spirit, therefore (or demon), resides in anyone who has given themselves in worship to something or someone, who is not God.
There is a reason the Holy Spirit is given to all who accept Jesus as Saviour. Not only are we cleansed by the blood of Christ and forgiven of all our sins, but when God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, we house the Shekinah Glory of the Lord (the Holy Spirit). He leads us and guides us into all truth. Our desire to worship and honour God becomes part of who we are. But, as human beings, we are always fighting against the adversary (Satan). Who will, until the day we die, tempt us to sin. There is a reason God calls us to be holy in all our conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16). There is a reason we are commanded in Scripture not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and there is a reason the first five verses in the Ten Commandments deal strictly with how holy God is and how we are to revere Him. Our spirits are meant to worship God and God alone and we are to live our lives in such a way that we glorify Him. To give ourselves in worship to anything or anyone else is to invite an unclean spirit to take up residence within us.
When Did Satan Get Cast Out of Heaven?
Christians believe that when Satan rebelled against God, he and a third of the angels who sided with him were cast out of heaven. These angels then became known as fallen angels or demons. Christians base their beliefs on the following verse:
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Revelation 12:7-9, NKJV).
So why were they cast out heaven and when exactly? Well, that involves reading Revelation 12 in context.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his head. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born (Revelation 12:3-4).
Revelation is full of symbolism and metaphors. We must remember this when trying to interpret it. We see Satan standing before the woman (Israel) who was about to give birth. He wants to devour her child as soon as it is born. That child was Jesus.
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne (Revelation 12:5).
Jesus is caught up to God and His throne. This either refers to Jesus’ resurrection or his final ascension into heaven. Then war breaks out in heaven in verse seven and Satan, and his angels are cast to earth. Notice the progression. Jesus has returned to heaven after completing his mission on earth, and war breaks out there, resulting in Satan and his angels being permanently cast to earth. It would appear from Scripture that up until Jesus’ ascension, Satan was allowed to come before God, along with the other angels, to give his report on what he was doing on earth (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7). Could it be possible that with Jesus’ defeat over sin and death, there is no longer any purpose for Satan to report to God on what he has been up to on earth? He has been defeated because of Jesus’ death on the cross. But with Jesus’ victory over him, Satan suddenly realises there is no place for him in heaven any longer. Nor is there a place for those angels who were created to help him (Revelation 12:8), and they will also be cast out of heaven. So there is a war in the heavenly realms as Satan fights for the right to stay there. He loses and is cast to earth with his angels with one purpose in mind – vengeance. He is going to attack and persecute all those who acknowledged Christ as their Saviour. He is going to attack and persecute those who are called God’s Chosen People (the Jews). And he is going to make sure those who haven’t accepted Jesus never do. And we see it in the following verses:
So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:9-12, NKJV).
This is why there is victory in Jesus! Satan has already been defeated. But he is still carrying on as he did before – causing temptation, deceiving others, causing destruction everywhere he goes, because he is angry that he lost his place in heaven and because he knows his time is short. The sad part about all this is, of course, that Christians still act like Satan hasn’t been defeated at all. We should be walking in victory, but instead many of us are slumped over in defeat.
Are Demons Fallen Angels?
When you look at any mention of those with evil spirits or who were demon possessed in the New Testament, the words used to describe them when translated mean “an inferior spirit, false god or minister of the devil.” In other words, like Satan, who was created for a purpose (to tempt people to sin), God also created helpers for him, also known as demons. The Torah calls them “unclean spirits”. Christians call them fallen angels (ministers of the devil) who possess anyone who offers themselves to idols in worship or live in defiance of God. FYI – we all used to belong in Satan’s camp. If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, you no longer have an unclean spirit within you. With your confession of Christ as Saviour and your repentance to turn from sin, God’s Holy Spirit resides within you instead. But, you will still (just like Jesus in the desert) have to deal with the temptation of the adversary to sin.
Are Demons Created by God or the Result of Sin?
The answer would be both. They exist because of humankind’s penchant for sin and its desire to disobey or defy God. Which would mean that those who reject or defy God, worship false gods or dabble in the occult could open themselves up to satanic forces. They could find themselves in the same circumstances as the man in the tombs who was possessed by a legion of demons (Mark 5:1-20).
In Matthew 12:24 one word used for Satan is Beelzebub. In Greek, it is translated to mean “lord of the house, a name of Satan, prince of evil spirits.” This is very telling because God’s angels are often referred to as “princes”. The word “prince” in Hebrew is sar, which has many meanings: “prince, ruler, chief, captain, leader,” and quite a few other forms of leadership. It can be in reference to an earthly leader or an unearthly one, as we see in Daniel 10:13, where the archangel Michael is referred to as the “chief of princes.” In fact, the word sar is also used about the prince of darkness or Satan. So, where Michael is the chief prince of all angels, Satan would be the prince of evil spirits. So when we look at God’s servants, His angels (His princes) we can see a particular structure or organisation of how they serve Him and why they were created. Besides the myriad of angels who are used by God daily to communicate God’s will to men (Luke 2:8-14; Luke 1:26-38; Genesis 19:15; Acts 7:52-53), they also give instructions and act as guides to mankind (Matthew 1:20-21; Acts 8:26; Acts 10:1-8) and strengthen and encourage God’s people (Matthew 4:11; Acts 5:19-20; Acts 27:23-25). But there are other levels of angels as well. For example:
It is because of this organisational structure that I am convinced the Jewish people are right about their views on Satan, in that God created him for a specific purpose. While we may not understand why God would create such a being, I have to accept that if, as the Scriptures state, God created good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15; Isaiah 45:7) and everything He creates is “good” (Genesis 1:31) then Satan and his helpers were formed for one purpose – to tempt humans to sin, or in simple terms – to test our loyalty to God.
Which means we have a choice – to live for God or to live in defiance of Him. One way leads to life, the other to destruction (John 3:36; Revelation 20:15). Which will you choose?
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Have you ever wondered why the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth got so angry with him over a few little words? He had just finished reading the following to them:
“The spirit of the L-rd GOD is upon me; because HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound; To proclaim the year of HaShem’s good pleasure” (Isaiah 61:1, 2, JPS).
Now here is the interesting thing about these verses: In the Tanakh, the verses above are similar to what Jesus would have initially read. But in the Christian Bible, a few words are changed, and added, which I have highlighted:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19, KJV).
You will notice in the KJV this phrase was added, “To set at liberty them that are bruised.”
And you will also see in the NIV one verse is entirely missing:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).
Naturally, my main question as to the changes and omissions is – why? Why would the NIV translators leave out the fact that Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted?” Or why would the KJV add “to set at liberty them that are bruised?” Why would the translators of the New Testament change any of the words of Isaiah 61 at all? I have no answer for that but include these verses here to show you why it is so crucial to not rely on any one translation. If you are studying the Old Testament, I highly recommend using the Jewish Publication Society’s 1917 edition of the Tanakh as it is the most reliable and in cases like today’s verses is ideal for cross-references.
Getting back to the verses at hand, after Jesus finished reading to the people he said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And of course, everyone who heard him was impressed with this statement. In their minds, they thought he was going to help people by seeing what he could do to make their lives easier. They were thinking in physical terms. Being under oppressive Roman rule, they believed Jesus was going to do something about it. They didn’t get the deeper picture of what he was saying, and they also missed the significance of where he stopped reading. Jesus stopped in the middle of verse two. Why? Because what he was saying was an announcement to all that the Lord was amongst them. The Messiah had come and was in their midst, “To proclaim the year of HaShem’s good pleasure.” The time had finally arrived for all to meet and receive their Messiah. Which was why Jesus didn’t finish the verse because if he had, he would also have been proclaiming “the day of vengeance of our G-d; to comfort all that mourn.” He didn’t come the first time to bring judgment or vengeance. He came to save. That’s why he didn’t finish the verse.
But look closely at his words and what he was saying:
“HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble” (Isaiah 61:1, JPS). Most translations of Luke 4:18-19 say that God had anointed Jesus to “preach the gospel to the poor” or “proclaim good news to the poor.” They had changed the meaning of the Hebrew word `anav which means “humble, meek, lowly or poor” and lost the original intent when they translated it from Hebrew to Greek. They used the word ptōchos instead, which means, “Poor, destitute or indigent”. So when Jesus said he had been anointed to preach good news to the poor, he meant the meek, the humble, those who realized they were not worthy in God’s eyes – the poor in spirit. When Jesus preached his famous Sermon on the Mount the first thing he said was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). This is what he meant when he read Isaiah 61:1-2. He was anointed by HaShem to bring good news to those who saw their sin, regretted it and wished there was a way to make themselves right with God. Which is why the rest of what he said was so incredible. Just listen to what Jesus is offering for those who are poor in spirit:
“He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” To “bind up” literally meant to “heal, bind, or bandage”. In other words, Jesus came to fix those who are brokenhearted over their sin, who have lost hope of any reconciliation to God. It isn’t about your broken heart that was betrayed by your cheating husband – this is about spiritual brokenness. Despair over sin, in particular.
“To proclaim liberty to the captives.” He isn't promising freedom to those in an actual prison for their crimes. He is promising freedom to all whose sin keeps them eternally separated from God.
“And the opening of the eyes to them that are bound.” With freedom comes insight. Those that are bound in sin will have their eyes opened to see that only Jesus can set them free.
But when Jesus saw how the people were reacting to his words he realized they didn’t understand his meaning. So he needed to get their attention, and he said, “Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24).
Imagine you have known Jesus since he was a little boy. Your children grew up playing with him. Now here he is reading the Scriptures on the Sabbath, and you are impressed and delighted that he has chosen to serve the people. But then you sit up, and you cock your head a little and think to yourself, “Did he just say he was a prophet?” So now you are listening a little closer. Then Jesus does the unthinkable. He compares everyone in the synagogue to the faithless Jews of Elijah and Elisha’s time and suggests it would be Gentiles instead who would enjoy the blessings of God because the Jews would reject their prophet (Luke 4:25-27). Well, that got their attention big time. They were angry. How dare Jesus suggest that people like those idol-worshipping Romans would experience God’s blessings! The Jews were God’s chosen people, not the Gentiles!
But the Jews were famous for rejecting the prophets God sent them. Jesus knew their hearts, and he was aware that a vast majority of them would reject him. And in time Jesus’ prophecy would come true, when the Jewish nation, under the guidance of the Sanhedrin, would reject him as their Messiah by having him crucified. But this rejection started in his hometown.
Jesus wasn’t trying to antagonize people on purpose. That wasn’t his intent because, at other times, he dealt gently with people who were aware of their guilt and wanted to find forgiveness. But this was his hometown. These were “his people” so to speak. He knew their hearts, and like the Jews of Jeremiah’s time, they believed they were saved simply because they were God’s chosen people. Whether they sinned or not, was irrelevant.
Sometimes we act the same way when God is trying to talk to us. We ignore His voice or that inner warning when we know we have done wrong. Or we rush headlong into doing things our own way even though we know better. We may even get caught up like the crowds in Nazareth who rushed to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29), by accepting new teachings or doctrines without first checking them out against Scripture.
Jesus made it clear his reasons for coming to us:
These blessings come to all who recognize their sin and their need of a Saviour. Despite what many celebrity preachers claim, Jesus did not come to make us rich, nor did he come to make us feel better about ourselves. The Gospel has nothing to do with “feel good” doctrines but has everything to do with recognizing our sin and acknowledging that Jesus is the only way to be healed and made right with God. Once you do that, everything else falls into place.
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I want to take you on a journey today of how events might have transpired after Jesus’ time in the wilderness. One of the things I like to do when reading the Gospels is to open them all up on Biblegateway.com in different tabs. That way I can get a complete picture of events as they transpired. After Jesus had defeated Satan in the wilderness, for example, we get a full picture of what He did next.
From the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus returned to Galilee and taught in the synagogues there.
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all (Luke 4:14-15).
The Gospel of Mark gives us a bit more information by telling us that during Jesus’ time in the wilderness John the Baptist was imprisoned. Jesus returns to Galilee with a message similar to John’s – to repent and believe in the gospel. FYI – the word “gospel” means “good news.” Only Jesus has added something extra to his message. He lets us know that “the time is fulfilled”. Meaning that the “time” John was talking about in regards to “one coming” (Mark 1:7) was now fulfilled and that the “kingdom of God” was at hand.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom] of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The Gospel of Matthew gives us even more details. In it, we learn that when Jesus heard John was in prison, he went to Nazareth in Galilee first. I find this incredibly moving. Why? He has just heard Herod has imprisoned his cousin. So what does he do? He heads home to see his family. No doubt to give comfort to his mother (John’s aunt). We learn he journeyed to Capernaum (also in Galilee), which was where Peter, Andrew, James and John lived. Matthew gives us specifics regarding the region, and Scripture to back up that the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus. But he leaves out the part about Jesus’ journey to Cana.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:12-17).
The Gospel of John confirms that Jesus went to Cana “on the third day”, where he attended a wedding, in which his mother and brothers were present. But, he first travels to Nazareth, and we are filled in as to what transpired there (before the wedding), and it wasn’t pleasant.
He went to the synagogue (as was his custom) on the Sabbath. He stood up and read from the book of Isaiah 61:1-2:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
He then announced to everyone there (keep in mind these are people he has known all his life) that the Scriptures he just read were now fulfilled. He could have stopped there. The people were impressed. In their minds, Jesus just declared that he was going to help people by taking care of the poor and the sick. But that’s not what he meant. So he explains - and ends up getting run out of town (Luke 4:23-30).
Yeah, going to a wedding sounds about good right now. Let’s get out of here!
Is it easy to imagine the sequence of events now? Jesus hears about John’s imprisonment and journeys home to Nazareth. While there he goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath, ruffles some feathers and “on the third day” he travels to Cana for the wedding. He probably made the trip with his mother, brothers and disciples. It is believed this was where he performed his first miracle, which caused his disciples to believe in him. Who were his disciples at that time? John’s gospel tells us they were Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael (John 1:35-50). But, this is a wedding where members of the family and close friends were attending. If Mary was invited along with her family, can we assume that James and John, along with Zebedee and Salome (Mary’s sister, brother-in-law and nephews) would also be there? The Gospels don’t say directly one way or the other, but the celebration of a wedding was a big thing, and Jewish wedding celebrations lasted for seven days. I find it hard to believe Mary’s sister and her family were not there.
John’s gospel also confirms that after the wedding in Cana Jesus, the disciples, along with his mother and brothers, journeyed to Capernaum. Capernaum was the home of Peter and Andrew. It was also the home of Jesus’ cousins, James and John. It was located by the Sea of Galilee. Can’t you just hear Salome suggest to her sister to come to Capernaum for a visit after the wedding?
“Come visit with me, Mary. Why go back to Nazareth where everyone is still in such an uproar. Come to Capernaum. Relax by the sea and stay for a while until everyone cools down a little.” Sure, she never said that, but the writer in me can’t help imagining that she did. So off they all go to Capernaum. And it is here that Jesus officially calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20).
With this sequence of events, we can see why the four fishermen so easily left their trade to follow Jesus. They had just seen their first miracle in Cana. Now they are home in Capernaum. Peter and Andrew are no doubt contemplating what they saw. So they get in their boats and go fishing. Jesus walks by, sees them and says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” How can they say no? They heard John the Baptist declare that he was the Lamb of God. They spent time with him before he went into the wilderness. They have just seen their first miracle in Cana. They don’t hesitate. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew say, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” They left their nets! In the water! They forsook everything – their livelihood – to follow Jesus. There was no doubt in their minds as to who Jesus was.
Then Jesus moves on down the shore. He sees his cousins James and John out with their father Zebedee mending their fishing nets. Now keep in mind – these two men have known Jesus all their lives. Their father married Mary’s sister Salome. So they had an “inkling” that Jesus was no ordinary man. They too left everything to follow Jesus after he called them. They left their father Zebedee with the hired help to tend the nets. But Zebedee didn’t stop them because he knew. They all knew who Jesus was and why he had come. They heard the stories of his birth, so imagine their excitement at being asked to be a part of his ministry.
Isn’t that the way it is for all of us who meet Jesus? One day everything is normal, we’re attending weddings, visiting family or maybe out fishing on a boat (or whatever your work is) our plans are set, then you hear about Jesus. And you are ready to change your life in an instant just to follow Him.
“They immediately left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20).
Maybe Jesus is calling you today. Perhaps you have been following him for a while, but he is calling you to do something new that would require a great sacrifice on your part. Would you leave behind everything to obey? Would you forsake your family, quit your job, possibly change all your plans to follow Jesus? Now, he never asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to do any of that. He just said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew in their hearts what that meant for them. But what does it mean for you? For some, it will mean obediently following the Lord as he calls you to become a missionary or a pastor. It might mean that He calls you to stay in your current job, but risk getting fired so that you may tell others about Him. It may mean selling your house and moving somewhere to start all over again. It might mean giving up something you have loved and done all your life because he wants you to go down a new path now.
Following Jesus can be different for each person, but the main question we should ask ourselves is this - how willing are you to become a “fisher of men?”
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