Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 4

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 3

This post will continue our closer look at the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
“ALMIGHTY”

Almighty is a powerful word that is part of God’s character of being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

This is not like the power of the pagan gods who might intervene in the world from time to time. God’s might is everywhere present in creation. It is the underlying mystery of everything that exists. It is not just a solution to problems in this world. It is the reason there is a world at all.

We could not trust in God if God’s power were limited, sporadic, or unpredictable. A god who exercised that kind of power would be a pagan god: not the world’s sustainer but its invader, or perhaps a distant ruler whose wishes have to be imposed by force.

That is the problem with trying to place any limitations on God’s power. If God’s power were just one power among others – if God were “mighty” but not “almighty” – then divine power would end up being another form of manipulation or control. Only a totally free and sovereign God can relate to the world with unconditional love, patience, and generosity. There is power elsewhere in creation: each living thing has its unique power and energy. But God does not have to compete with these other powers. God’s power is their source, the reason why they exist at all. God’s power is what sustains and nourishes the power of creatures.

True power is not the ability to control. Controlling behavior is a sign of weakness and insecurity. True power is the ability to love and enable without reserve. Like the power of a good parent or teacher, God’s power is the capacity to nourish other people and help their freedom to grow. Without the sovereignty of a good parent, children have a diminished sense of worth. In the same way, God’s sovereignty is what secures human freedom, not what threatens it.

In the creed, we confess the three great movements of God’s power: God lovingly brought the world into existence; God lovingly entered the womb and became part of the world as Yeshua HaMashiach; and God the Ruach HaKodesh who is lovingly transfiguring the world in the lives of the saints.

The world lives because of this gentle but all-embracing power, and we are free because of it.

“CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH”

In Hebrew, Genesis 1:1 reads B’resheet bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. בָּרָא bara is a verb meaning to create. Only God is the subject of this verb. It is used for His creating: heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1); humanity (Gen. 1:27); the heavenly host (Isa. 40:26); the ends of the earth (Isa. 40:28); north and south (Ps. 89:12); righteousness; salvation (Isa. 45:8); darkness (Isa. 45:7). David asked God to “create” in him a clean heart (Ps. 51:10). Isaiah promised that God would create a new heaven and earth (Isa. 65:17). [1]

Belief in the truth of this one simple yet utterly profound verse hangs all the validity of the entire Bible and serves as the basis for a belief in creationism. If we cannot believe this one simple truth, then nothing else is relevant. If we cannot believe the veracity of this one simple statement, then the entire rest of the Bible is merely words with no lasting meaning. B’resheet bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Henry Morris, President of the Institute of Creation Research, writes, “This simple declarative statement can only have come by divine revelation. Its scope is comprehensively universal, embracing all space (heaven), all time (beginning), and all matter (earth) in our space/time/matter cosmos. B’resheet 1:1 speaks of creation ex nihilo (Latin for “from or out of nothing”); only God could originate such a concept, and only an infinite, omnipotent God could create the universe.” [2]

Yet, in the second century, Messianic teachers struggled to define their beliefs and commitments in opposition to popular rival teachings. The prevailing cultural mood was one of deep spiritual pessimism. Members of the educated class took it for granted that the physical world was inherently evil and irredeemable. They yearned to escape from the world of the flesh and to experience spiritual enlightenment.

The Messianic baptismal confession developed, in part, in response to such world-denying doctrines and the broader culture of despair that had engendered them. Right from the start, Messianics were marked by their positive stance toward creation. John’s Gospel begins by retelling the creation story: “In the beginning …” (John 1:1; Gen 1:1). The followers of Yeshua believed that in Him, they had encountered the enabling source of creation. They had come to know the One through whom all things came to be (John 1:3). Looking into the face of Yeshua, they had seen the blueprint of reality and had come to understand God’s good plan for the whole creation.

It is often said that creeds are narrow and intolerant. But in the ancient world, the truth was precisely the opposite. It was the Messianic creed that took a stand on behalf of creation. It was the creed that said No to those doctrines that condemned creation, disparaged the body, and sought escape from the world of the flesh.[3]

As a side note, my wife’s small group got into a discussion of the word “heavens” in Genesis 1:1. So I did some research in my digital library (Logos) and found some interesting stuff. I have attached the PDF version of the one document that was the most comprehensive here if you are interested.

In my next post, we will continue to examine the Apostle’s Creed in detail.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament.

[2] Scientific Creationism by Henry M. Morris, Institute of Creation Research, Masters Books

[3] The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism.

War in Heaven

Revelation 12:7-12
The End Times

In my last post, we explored Revelation 12:1-6 dealing with The Birth of the Male Child.  In this post, unpack Revelation 12:7-12, War in Heaven.

“Next there was a battle in heaven — Mikha’el and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But it was not strong enough to win so that there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown out, that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and HaSatan [the Adversary], the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship, and the authority of his Messiah; because the Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before God, has been thrown out! 11 They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood and because of the message of their witness. Even when facing death they did not cling to life. 12 “Therefore, rejoice, heaven and you who live there! But woe to you, land and sea, for the Adversary, has come down to you, and he is very angry because he knows that his time is short!” ~ Revelation 12:7-12 (CJB)

War in Heaven

Wow, what is this imagery all about?  This conflict between Mikha’el and his angels and HaSatan and his fallen angels, like so many events described during this interval, does not follow any chronological order. In this particular battle, we are told that Mikha’el and his angels cast the HaSatan out of heaven. HaSatan had already, fallen from his lofty position (Isaiah 14:12), but still had access to the throne of God (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). But now HaSatan is booted out of heaven entirely and is hurled to the earth. Mikha’el is a warrior angel whose name means “One who is like God.” It is believed by many that his primary responsibility is that of protector of the nation of Israel.

David H. Stern, in his commentary on this passage, has some fascinating background information for us to digest. [1]

In traditional Jewish thought, angels are a Christian invention reflecting a departure from pure monotheism. Angels are frequently mentioned in the Tanakh, although Mikha’el and Gavri’el (Gabriel) are the only ones it identifies by name. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology.

At Daniel 10:13, after Daniel had fasted three weeks, Gavri’el explains his delay in coming: “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days, until Mikha’el, one of the first-ranked angels, came to my aid, and I was no longer needed there with the kings of Persia.” At Daniel 10:21, Gavriʾel tells Daniel about “Mikha’el, your prince”; and “your” is plural – Mikha’el is the Jewish people’s prince or guardian angel, who fights alongside Gavriʾel against the angels of Persia and Greece. Daniel 12:1, speaking of the End of Days, adds, “At that time Mikha’el, the great prince who stands [guard] for the children of your people, will arise; and there will be a period of trouble greater than any which has been from the time nations began until then; but at that time your people—that is, everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” (This verse is alluded to at Revelation 20:15 and Matthew 24:21.) Here Mikha’el is seen with his heavenly armies, defeating the dragon.

The aggadah [the legendary and Midrashic material woven about the Tanakh] names many other angels, for example, Rafa’el and ‘Aza’zel, referred to in the quotation from 1 Enoch in 2 Kefa 2:4. Moreover, the tradition expands the roles of Mikha’el and Gavri’el. According to Pesikta Rabbati 46:3, they are two of the four angels surrounding God’s throne; but the Talmud states that Mikha’el is greater than Gavri’el (Bʾrakhot 4b). Mikha’el was the angel who called on Avraham not to sacrifice Yitzchak (Midrash Va-Yosha in A. Jellinek, Beit-HaMidrash 1:38, referring to Genesis 22:11). According to Exodus Rabbah 18:5, it was Mikha’el who smote Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35); the passage adds that:

Mikha’el and Samma’el [identified with HaSatan] both stand before the Sh’khinah; HaSatan accuses, while Mikha’el points out Israel’s virtues, and when HaSatan wishes to speak again, Mikha’el silences him.”

Esther Rabbah 7:12 says it was Mikha’el who defended the Jews against each of Haman’s accusations. When the Messiah comes, Mikha’el and Gavri’el will accompany him and will fight the wicked (Alphabet Midrash of Rabbi Akiva).

“Next there was a battle in heaven — Mikha’el and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But it was not strong enough to win so that there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown out, that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and HaSatan [the Adversary], the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.  This conflict between Mikha’el and the HaSatan is but one more battle in the long line of battles that have been fought in the spirit world. One needs to realize that behind every conflict between people there is a spiritual war that has been going on from the beginning. M. R. DeHaan explains it this way: [2]

After man had sinned and God had pronounced the curse and sentence upon the sinner, He turned to the serpent, and through the serpent to the devil, and said: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15). This was the beginning of the conflict, the battle of the ages, in which HaSatan seeks to thwart the purpose of God, set up a false kingdom upon earth, prepare a false church upon the earth and persecute the true believers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is well to recognize that behind all the wars of men and of nations is the great spiritual battle between sin and righteousness, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, as described in Genesis 3:15.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,  “Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship,  and the authority of his Messiah; because the Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before God,  has been thrown out! 11 They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood and because of the message of their witness.  Even when facing death they did not cling to life. 12 “Therefore, rejoice, heaven and you who live there!  But woe to you, land and sea, for the Adversary has come down to you, and he is very angry, because he knows that his time is short!” There is definite rejoicing going on in heaven. HaSatan, the accuser of the brethren, is cast down. Even though this battle is still in the future, there is a message worth chronicling for the Messianic Community. The same serpent who accuses the saints in heaven also deceives the nations on earth. It is through HaSatan’s deception that the leaders of the nation’s band together against Yeshua and His people. Believers in every age can expect the world’s opposition, but they can always defeat the enemy by being faithful to Yeshua. Note in verse 11 how the saints on earth won the victory over HaSatan.

  1. By the blood of the Lamb.
  2. By the word of their testimony.
  3. And they loved not their lives unto the death (martyrdom).

As verse 12 closes, HaSatan knows that his time is short!  Realizing that his days are numbered, he attacks Israel and all other believers with a vengeance.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 12:7-12[3]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists don’t seem very united on this passage. Elliott refers to heretical persecutors arising from within the church and to the Gothic scourge soon to come.  Barnes, however, believes it is referring to the rise of the Papacy.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists seem to think that Mikha’el is Yeshua Himself and pinpoint this heavenly battle at the time of His atonement and resurrection (cf. John 12:31, Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14-15).

Futurist Approach:

Futurists look to Daniel 12:1ff as the same event described here in the middle of the Tribulation. Since he is cast out of heaven, he can no longer accuse the saints there but continues his attack on the Tribulation saints on earth.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists view this passage as the same spiritual conflict as depicted in Revelation 12:1-6 (see my last post) from the heavenly perspective. They concur with the Preterists view of the timing and symbolism of Mikha’el.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 12:13-17 dealing with The Woman Persecuted, But Preserved.

Click here for PDF version.

 

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern

[2] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.