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Headship

Jesus Christ is our ascended King, the living head of the Church.  How do we understand the concept of Christ being the head?  Does headship also apply to government and family?  Join us as we discuss the Biblical doctrine of headship and its implications for our society today.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Episode: 64

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St. Michael and All Angels: Revelation 12:7-12

Revelation 12 focuses on Satan and his war against the Church. Satan previously was able to enter God’s courts, albeit briefly, as he wandered to and fro on the earth (Job 1). The Accuser—since Satan is a title like Christ and not a proper name—opposes the saints, even though his accusations are frequently false (Zechariah 3:1-5; Jude 9; John 8:44). Even if he speaks about the past, he does not speak the truth, because the saints, covered with the Lord’s righteousness, can no longer be justly accused of them. They are gone, never to be brought up again (Psalm 103:12). Satan’s accusations, then, are a direct assault on God, which is why he is rebuked for speaking against the saints.

Satan’s foolishness knows no bounds, however, because he sought to destroy the male child of Revelation 12:5. This action prompted a reaction from heaven. The war of Revelation 12:7 is against the dragon, and the dragon is in a defensive posture. His judgment has come, because the fullness of his sin flowed forth from his attempted murder of the boy. God is not deaf to the plight of His Church on earth, and all the powers of heaven wage war in her defense.

The identity of Michael is a disputed question. Some think that this refers to Christ Himself. Michael, whose name means “Who is like God?”, is described in Jude 9 as an archangel. This is sometimes rejected on the grounds that Jude is part of the antilegomena (a weak argument, in my opinion, since Revelation itself belongs to that category). Further, the corresponding passage in Zechariah 3 states that the Lord Himself rebukes Satan, a statement attributed to Michael in Jude. The two are not mutually exclusive. The Lord is often described as speaking through agents, just as we often use similar language to say things like “The king waged war on the kingdom.” Even if the king’s generals and soldiers actually carried out the war, that hardly means that the king had no part in it.

Regardless of who Michael is—and I tend to think that it is the archangel—it does not change the meaning of the passage. The outcome of this war against the devil is his utter defeat and subsequent banishment from heaven. Nor do I think that we need to figure out the timing of this war. The general message is clear: even as the devil wages war on earth against the Church, he is already defeated and his final defeat is certain. He is fighting a losing battle, and God Himself fights for His Church. Whatever he might throw at us, Satan’s doom is certain, and he cannot win.

I think it’s worthwhile to mention that the word “dragon” carries a lot of cultural baggage with it. The image of a four-legged, winged, fire-breathing lizard is a much later concept. “Dragon” or perhaps “drake” in Greek describes a large snake. It is used in conjunction with the more general term “serpent” in Revelation 12:9. He is not an ordinary snake, to be sure, since he is described as having “seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems” (Revelation 12:3). But we must be careful so that we do not impose our cultural images upon the Bible. Yet this imagery recalls Genesis 3, where the snake tempts Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. As Satan sought our destruction from the very beginning, he remains a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

However, Satan is defeated by “the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). The death and resurrection of Jesus silenced the devil who had previously tried to tempt Him to sin. Christ’s resurrection proves that the devil is a liar, because it is undeniable proof of His righteousness. Yet Satan is also defeated by the witness of the saints, because the reign of Christ is not yet complete (Hebrews 2:8; 1 Corinthians 15:25). Bearing witness about the hope within us is an assault on the powers of darkness (2 Corinthians 10:4). This is Christ’s work within us, engaging us as soldiers in His victorious campaign to put all things under His feet.

Therefore, Satan should not make us abnormally afraid, as if he had the power to do as he pleases. “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). The shield of faith extinguishes his flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). He should not be underestimated, of course. His anger is fierce and he is unwavering in his rage. But he stood no chance against heaven. If God Himself is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? Those who are with us are more than those who are with him (2 Kings 6:16).

Fifth Sunday after Trinity: 1 Kings 19:11-21

Elijah has been very zealous for the Lord of Hosts.  The reading for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity is part of a larger section beginning in 1 Kings 16:29.  “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.  And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him” (1 Kings 16:30-31).  Ahab is deliberately wicked, and Elijah is sent to proclaim the Word of the Lord to him.

Elijah therefore proclaims a drought upon the land.  He does not predict that one will come, but rather that it will not rain “except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1).  This is the first of several signs in this conflict, all with the same ultimate end.  Elijah is provided bread and water for a time by the ravens by the brook Cherith, because it is the Lord who provides (1 Kings 17:2-7).  The widow at Zarephath receives the miraculous jar of flour and jug of oil “until the day that the Lord sends rain,” because all things come from His mighty hand (1 Kings 17:8-16).  Her son is raised from death, because the Lord is the Lord of life and death, and His Word is in Elijah’s mouth (1 Kings 17:17-24).  The altar of Elijah is burned up in the sight of all, because “the Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39)!  Finally, the Lord sends rain again upon the land (1 Kings 18:41-46).  All of these signs point to the same thing:  the Most Holy Trinity is the Lord of heaven and earth, and beside Him, there is no other.  “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

But Elijah doesn’t yet understand this.  Jezebel threatens to kill him because he put the prophets of Baal to death, and Elijah flees.  He has seen the hand of the Lord again and again throughout his life, and especially throughout the time of the drought.  But he is now afraid of the threat of a woman.  As Jesus says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  But Elijah fears for his life.

A few notes about the passage itself.  Elijah strives to present his fear as zeal, as if he was the only one left who was faithful in Israel.  He has apparently forgotten the widow and Obadiah who hid the prophets in his fear, among others.  He is convinced that there is no future, because he thinks that the Lord’s Church will die out with him.  Yet the Lord reminds him that He will leave seven thousand in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).  Not seven thousand who have chosen to remain faithful or even a count of those still faithful at the moment.  The Lord declares “I will leave seven thousand in Israel,” because it is His Church.  The Church does not continue because of men, but because of the will of God.

The end of this chapter should not be excluded in this consideration.  Elisha’s call follows right on the heels of Elijah’s experience at Horeb.  God still sends men to proclaim His Word from generation to generation.  His Church will continue her mission in this age until Christ brings it to a close.  But this should remind us, as it probably did for Elijah, that the Church does not depend on us.  There will not be a “hole” when our time is ended.  Our talents, our gifts, our zeal, our ability are useful for the time in which God wills to use them for His purposes.  But the time allotted to each will come to an end, and the work of the harvest will pass to others.  We should not think of ourselves too highly and imagine that God will lack something when we are gone.  It is His Church, and He will never fail to provide for her.