Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook

angels-and-demons

Episodes

Monday Dec 06, 2021

     God’s Word reveals there’s a divine drama unfolding, and the actors consist of angels and people, both good and bad, who operate in interlocking realms that are invisible and visible, both affecting the other. Failure to grasp this biblical truth limits our ability to understand what is transpiring in the world and what role we play. God desires that we live in reality, and His revelation is the blessing that provides insights we could never know except that He has spoken. What we do with that revelation determines whether we’re a force for good or evil. When believers know and live in God’s Word, it affords them the opportunity to make good choices that can bring blessing to those near them. But the opposite is true, that believers living outside of God’s will can bring suffering to those in their periphery. This was true of Jonah who was in disobedience and others suffered because of it (Jonah 1:11-12). But when Jonah obeyed God, many with positive volition were blessed and God’s judgment upon a nation was stayed (Jonah 3:1-10). As Christians, we should play our part well, sharing the gospel of grace and communicating God’s Word as best we can. But we must always keep in mind we’re not the only actors, and that Satan and his forces are at work, trying to weaken individuals, groups and nations. It is the work of Satan in America that motivates the writing of this article. Full article is here: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/09/11/where-satan-is-attacking-in-america/ 

Saturday Nov 20, 2021

     God’s Word reveals there’s a divine drama unfolding, and the actors consist of angels and people, both good and bad, who operate in interlocking realms that are invisible and visible, both affecting the other. Failure to grasp this biblical truth limits our ability to understand what is transpiring in the world and what role we play. God desires that we live in reality, and His revelation is the blessing that provides insights we could never know except that He has spoken. What we do with that revelation determines whether we’re a force for good or evil. When believers know and live in God’s Word, it affords them the opportunity to make good choices that can bring blessing to those near them. But the opposite is true, that believers living outside of God’s will can bring suffering to those in their periphery. This was true of Jonah who was in disobedience and others suffered because of it (Jonah 1:11-12). But when Jonah obeyed God, many with positive volition were blessed and God’s judgment upon a nation was stayed (Jonah 3:1-10). As Christians, we should play our part well, sharing the gospel of grace and communicating God’s Word as best we can. But we must always keep in mind we’re not the only actors, and that Satan and his forces are at work, trying to weaken individuals, groups and nations. It is the work of Satan in America that motivates the writing of this article. Full article is here: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/09/11/where-satan-is-attacking-in-america/ 

Saturday Nov 13, 2021

     In this pericope, Moses directs Israel to appoint judges and officers for themselves within each town that God was giving them (Deut 16:18). These judges were to judge according God’s righteous standards and not perversely (Deut 16:19-20), especially as it related to worship and sacrifice (Deut 16:21—17:1). This section also begins to name four leadership offices God would assign in Israel, namely, judges (Deut 16:18-17:8), priests (Deut 17:9-13; 18:1-8), kings (Deut 17:14-20), and prophets (Deut 18:15-22). These were all bound by the Mosaic Law, which legitimized their authority and was the guide for their rulership.      Previously, Moses had tried to serve as the single judge in Israel, but became overwhelmed, fatigued, and burned out. Moses’ wise father-in-law, Jethro, counseled him to appoint qualified men who were wise and of good character to help judge cases. Moses followed Jethro’s advice and trained men in the law of God so they could serve as judges in Israel (Ex 18:13-27).      Moses knew his people would soon find themselves transitioning from a nomadic existence to that of living in settled communities. This sociological paradigm shift would necessitate a hierarchical structure of elders who could administer just judgments according to God’s Law that was being communicated by Moses. Moses said, “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment” (Deut 16:18). Moses was giving the people just laws, but it was their responsibility to recognize men of integrity and appoint them (נָתַן nathan) as judges who would officiate legal matters and officers who could carry out their judgments. With this directive, it fell to the elders in each town to appoint judges (שָׁפַט shaphat) who could properly arbitrate legal matters among God’s people, and to select officers (שֹׁטֵר shoter) as subordinates who could carry out their decisions. It’s possible the judges would be selected from among the ruling elders, who were themselves to be wise and discerning men from the community (Deut 1:13). It was the responsibility of the elders to make sure those laws were justly applied within their towns, according to their tribes. More difficult cases could be sent to a higher court (Deut 17:8).      The laws were given by God, who was their Judge, Lawgiver, and King (Isa 33:22). God was also the One who had liberated them from slavery (Deut 5:6), given them the land of Canaan (Deut 4:1; 9:6), which included cities, houses, wells and vineyards (Deut 6:10-11), enabled them to produce wealth (Deut 8:18), and blessed their labor (Deut 7:13; 11:13-15). Now God was directing them concerning legal matters which, if followed, would have marked them as a righteous people who adhered to just laws. To judge the people with “righteous judgment”- מִשְׁפַּט־צֶדֶק) mishpat-tsedeq) meant their decisions were to conform to the standards set forth in God’s Word. Righteousness (צֶדֶק tsedeq) consisted of the objective standard of written laws Moses was giving the nation, which at that time would have been the Pentateuch. Wiersbe writes: "The repetition of the word “gates” (16:5, 11, 14, 18; 17:2, 5, 8) indicates that the basic unit of government in Israel was the local town council. It was made up of judges and officers who, with the elders, conducted business at the city gates (Ruth 4:1-12). The judges and officers were probably appointed or elected by the male land-owning citizens of the town, but we aren’t given the details. The word translated “officers” means “writers, secretaries” and refers to the men who kept the official records and genealogies, advised the judges, and carried out their decisions."[1]      However, living in a fallen world and possessing sinful natures meant there would always be a challenge to following just laws and administering justice. For this reason, Moses said, “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous” (Deut 16:19). Being partial in a legal case, or taking a bribe from a litigant, are two examples of perverted justice. The judges were not to distort justice, nor be influenced to partiality by the social position of those who stood before them, whether small or great. Each judge was to realize the laws they administered were God’s laws, and that each judge was directly under “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen 18:25). Israel was to remember that “the LORD is our judge, The LORD is our lawgiver, The LORD is our king” (Isa 33:22). The judges in Israel were to realize they were serving as God’s representatives within the community. If a judge perverted justice, it meant he diminished the character and name of God (2 Ch 19:6-7), and the Lord would curse those who perverted justice (Deut 27:25).      The judges were to be pure in their decisions. For this reason, Moses said, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deut 16:20). To emphasize his point, Moses uses a double reference to righteousness (צֶדֶק צֶדֶק tsedeq tsedeq), stressing the need for the judges to pursue God’s standards among God’s people. If they complied with God’s directive, the result would be that God would bless them by allowing them to continue to live in the land. The reality was that God owned the land (Lev 25:23), and He could evict them as a means of punishment if they became corrupt. Historically, we know that because of rampant idolatry, human sacrifice, and other egregious sins, God eventually destroyed the ten northern tribes of Israel in 722 B.C. (2 Ki 17:7-23), and the two southern tribes of Judah in 586 B.C. (Jer 25:8-11).      What follows in the next few verses appears to be examples of crimes that were deserving of punishment by judges. Moses said, “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates” (Deut 16:21-22). Because Israel was a theocracy, one could not separate legal from theological matters. In fact, the highest crimes committed were those that perverted the worship of Yahweh by introducing idols within the nation (Deut 5:6-8), which God had previously commanded to be destroyed (Deut 7:5; 12:3). Such an act was tantamount to treason, for it sought to subvert God’s authority with a manmade block of wood or stone.[2] Eugene Merrill writes: "Moses had just discussed the matter of righteous judgment and the blessing that followed such a policy. Now he provided a hypothetical case or two to illustrate what he meant by untainted jurisprudence and the practices to be followed in achieving it. The violations he adduced could not be more significant, for they strike right at the heart of the covenant relationship. In fact, they challenged the uniqueness of the Lord and the exclusiveness of his worship, on the one hand (16:21–22), thus disobeying the first two commandments; and, on the other hand, they spoke to the sin of cultic impurity in defiance of the third and fourth commandments (17:1). At stake was nothing less than who God is and how he is to be worshiped."[3] Here, the command was for God’s people not to engage in religious syncretism, in which a pagan Asherah pole would be placed alongside the altar of the Lord and worshipped together. If idols were worshipped alongside Yahweh, it would subvert the Lord’s authority and eventuate in social and judicial perversions. Being only a block of wood or stone, idols cannot protect, provide, or guide those who worship them, but neither do they make demands contrary to the proclivity of the fallen human heart. And when there is no check on the human heart to restrain its sinful inclinations, the result is a breakdown in morality that weakens society and leads to harmful behavior, especially toward the weak and innocent within a community.      Moses then provided a third example for the judges in Israel, saying, “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the LORD your God” (Deut 17:1). Moses had previously provided the directive not to offer a blemished or defective animal as a sacrifice to the Lord (Lev 22:20; Deut 15:21), which here he makes clear would be an afront to God. Such an offering failed to acknowledge God and His goodness as Israel’s Provider. Unfortunately, this is what the Israelites were doing in Malachi’s day (Mal 1:6-9). Peter Craigie writes: "In relation to 16:21–22, the offering of a blemished sacrifice is similar in result to defiling God’s sanctuary by the importation of things foreign to Israelite worship. It is possible that Canaanite religion did not have such a prescription, and therefore that offering defective animals was a sign of further lapse into a syncretistic form of religion. Any type of syncretism with foreign religion would be an abomination of the Lord your God."[4]   [1] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Equipped, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1999), 114. [2] Gideon, a judge in Israel, had cut down an Asherah pole within his community when directed by the Lord (Judg 6:25-27). Gideon’s action caused a stir in his community and the residents of his town wanted to kill him afterwards (Judg 6:28-30). [3] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 258–259. [4] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 249.

Sunday Nov 07, 2021

     God’s Word reveals there’s a divine drama unfolding, and the actors consist of angels and people, both good and bad, who operate in interlocking realms that are invisible and visible, both affecting the other. Failure to grasp this biblical truth limits our ability to understand what is transpiring in the world and what role we play. God desires that we live in reality, and His revelation is the blessing that provides insights we could never know except that He has spoken. What we do with that revelation determines whether we’re a force for good or evil. When believers know and live in God’s Word, it affords them the opportunity to make good choices that can bring blessing to those near them. But the opposite is true, that believers living outside of God’s will can bring suffering to those in their periphery. This was true of Jonah who was in disobedience and others suffered because of it (Jonah 1:11-12). But when Jonah obeyed God, many with positive volition were blessed and God’s judgment upon a nation was stayed (Jonah 3:1-10). As Christians, we should play our part well, sharing the gospel of grace and communicating God’s Word as best we can. But we must always keep in mind we’re not the only actors, and that Satan and his forces are at work, trying to weaken individuals, groups and nations. It is the work of Satan in America that motivates the writing of this article. Full article is here: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/09/11/where-satan-is-attacking-in-america/ 

Sunday Sep 19, 2021

     God’s Word reveals there’s a divine drama unfolding, and the actors consist of angels and people, both good and bad, who operate in interlocking realms that are invisible and visible, both affecting the other. Failure to grasp this biblical truth limits our ability to understand what is transpiring in the world and what role we play. God desires that we live in reality, and His revelation is the blessing that provides insights we could never know except that He has spoken. What we do with that revelation determines whether we’re a force for good or evil. When believers know and live in God’s Word, it affords them the opportunity to make good choices that can bring blessing to those near them. But the opposite is true, that believers living outside of God’s will can bring suffering to those in their periphery. This was true of Jonah who was in disobedience and others suffered because of it (Jonah 1:11-12). But when Jonah obeyed God, many with positive volition were blessed and God’s judgment upon a nation was stayed (Jonah 3:1-10). As Christians, we should play our part well, sharing the gospel of grace and communicating God’s Word as best we can. But we must always keep in mind we’re not the only actors, and that Satan and his forces are at work, trying to weaken individuals, groups and nations. It is the work of Satan in America that motivates the writing of this article. Full article is here: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/09/11/where-satan-is-attacking-in-america/ 

Saturday Sep 18, 2021

     We live in a divided world. I’m speaking about a division between believers and unbelievers, children of God and children of the devil. Jesus gave an illustration when He told the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13:24-30). Afterwards, when Jesus was alone with His disciples, they asked for an explanation of the parable (Matt 13:36), and Jesus said: "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matt 13:37-43).      In this revelation we understand: 1) God the Son has sown good seed in the world, which are believers, 2) Satan has sown weeds, which are unbelievers, 3) both live side by side until Christ returns at the end of the age, 4) at which time Jesus will send forth His angels to separate out all unbelievers, 5) which unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, and 6) believers will enter into the millennial kingdom. That’s a picture of the current state spiritual of affairs which are followed with eschatological certainties concerning judgment and kingdom rule.      For the present time, Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19). We are all born under “the dominion of Satan” (Act 26:18), into his “domain of darkness” (Col 1:13). Our spiritual state changes at the time we turn to Christ and trust Him as Savior (1 Cor 15:3-4). At the moment of faith in Christ, we become “children of God” (John 1:12), are transferred to the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13), forgiven all our sins (Eph 1:7), given eternal life (John 10:28), the gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17; Phil 3:9), and the power to live holy (Rom 6:11-14). And, it is God’s will that we advance to spiritual maturity (Heb 6:1; Eph 4:11-13; 1 Pet 2:2), and serve as His ambassadors to others (2 Cor 5:20).      Are Christians called to make the world a better place? Certainly, those who know God and walk in His Word will live moral lives and bring improvement wherever they go. However, that’s not really our calling or objective. As a Christian, our primary focus is evangelism and discipleship (Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19-20), not the reformation of society. Though Christians are to be good and do good (Gal 6:9-10; Eph 2:10; Tit 2:11-14), the reality is we live in a fallen world that is currently under Satan’s limited rule, and God sovereignly permits this for a time. True good is connected with God and His Word, and His good is executed—in part—by those who walk according to His biblical directives. But there are many who reject God and follow Satan’s world-system, which system is always pressuring us to conform (Rom 12:1-2). A permanent world-fix will not occur until Christ returns and puts down all rebellion, both satanic and human (Rev 19:11-21; 20:1-3). Those who are biblically minded live in this reality. As a result, our hope is never in this world; rather, we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit 2:13). We are looking forward to the time when Christ raptures us from this world to heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18). This will be followed by seven years of Tribulation in which God will judge Satan’s world and those who abide by his philosophies and values (see Revelation chapters 6-19). Afterwards, Christ will rule the world for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-7), and shortly after that, God will destroy the current heavens and earth and create a new heavens and earth. This is what Peter is talking about when he says, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Isa 65:17; Rev 21:1). Our present and future hope is in God and what He will accomplish, and not in anything this world has to offer. As Christians, we are “not of the world” (John 17:14; cf. 1 John 4:4-5), though it’s God’s will that we continue to live in it (John 17:15), and to serve “as lights in the world” (Phi 2:15), that others might know the gospel of grace and learn His Word and walk by faith. This understanding is shaped by God’s Word, which determines our worldview.      How are we to see ourselves in this present world? In the dispensation of the church age, we understand people are either in Adam or in Christ (1 Cor 15:21-22). Everyone is originally born in Adam (Rom 5:12), but those who have trusted in Jesus as Savior are now identified as being in Christ (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Co 5:17; Rom 8:1; Gal 3:28; Eph 1:3). This twofold division will exist until Christ returns. Furthermore, we are never going to fix the devil or the world-system he’s created. Because the majority of people in this world will choose the broad path of destruction that leads away from Christ (Matt 7:13-14), Satan and his purposes will predominate, and Christians will be outsiders. And being children of God, we are told the world will be a hostile place (John 15:19; 1 John 3:13). There will always be haters. Until Christ returns, Satan will control the majority, and these will be hostile to Christians who walk according to God’s truth and love.      How should we respond to the world? The challenge for us as Christians is not to let the bullies of this world intimidate us into silence or inaction. And, of course, we must be careful not to become bitter, fearful, or hateful like those who attack us. The Bible teaches us to love those who hate us (Matt 5:44-45; Rom 12:14, 17-21), and we are to be kind, patient, and gentle (2 Tim 2:24-26; cf. Eph 4:1-2; Col 3:13-14). What we need is courage. Courage that is loving, kind, and faithful to share the gospel of grace and to speak biblical truth. The hope is that those who are positive to God can be rescued from Satan’s domain of darkness. We also live in the reality that God’s plans will advance. He will win. His future kingdom on earth will come to pass. Christ will return. Jesus will put down all forms of rebellion—both satanic and human—and will rule this world with perfect righteousness and justice. But until then, we must continue to learn and live God’s Word and fight the good fight. We are to live by faith (Heb 10:38; 11:6), share the gospel of grace (1 Cor 15:3-4), disciple others (Matt 28:19-20), be good and do good (Gal 6:9-10; Tit 2:11-14), and look forward to return of Christ at the rapture (Tit 2:13; cf. John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18).  

Saturday Sep 11, 2021

     God’s Word reveals there’s a divine drama unfolding, and the actors consist of angels and people, both good and bad, who operate in interlocking realms that are invisible and visible, both affecting the other. Failure to grasp this biblical truth limits our ability to understand what is transpiring in the world and what role we play. God desires that we live in reality, and His revelation is the blessing that provides insights we could never know except that He has spoken. What we do with that revelation determines whether we’re a force for good or evil. When believers know and live in God’s Word, it affords them the opportunity to make good choices that can bring blessing to those near them. But the opposite is true, that believers living outside of God’s will can bring suffering to those in their periphery. This was true of Jonah who was in disobedience and others suffered because of it (Jonah 1:11-12). But when Jonah obeyed God, many with positive volition were blessed and God’s judgment upon a nation was stayed (Jonah 3:1-10). As Christians, we should play our part well, sharing the gospel of grace and communicating God’s Word as best we can. But we must always keep in mind we’re not the only actors, and that Satan and his forces are at work, trying to weaken individuals, groups and nations. It is the work of Satan in America that motivates the writing of this article. Full article is here: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/09/11/where-satan-is-attacking-in-america/     

Saturday May 29, 2021

Study notes for understanding Satan's strategies 

Saturday May 29, 2021

Study notes for understanding Satan's strategies 

Saturday May 22, 2021

Study notes for Angels and Demons - Part 10 - The Christian's Armor (full notes)

Saturday May 22, 2021

Study notes for Angels and Demons - Part 10 - The Christian's Armor (full notes)

Saturday May 15, 2021

Study notes for Angels and Demons - Part 10 - The Christian's Armor (full notes)

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