He is Gone!

John 20:1-2. (Also (Mat 28:1–10Mar 16:1–8Luk 24:1–12 ).

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.

According to the other gospel accounts, there were three other women with Mary Magdalene. She was the one who ran back to find Peter and John (the disciple Jesus loved) and tell them that someone had removed Jesus’ body, and they didn’t know where to find Him. John mentions her specifically because she was the one who first raised the alarm.

Why had the women returned to the tomb? The most reasonable answer is that Joseph and Nicodemus had been in a hurry to get the job done before the Sabbath began, and perhaps the women felt that it needed to be more complete–tying up loose ends, so to speak. They wanted to make sure His body was properly and completely preserved, as much as humanly possible.

I think it is fitting that this Mary was the first one to see the empty tomb, and to raise the alarm. She had a sinful past. She was the one from whom Jesus had cast seven demons. She loved Him deeply for the way He had rescued her and changed her life from hopeless despair to joyous hope and love.

It would be helpful here if you were to go back and read the other accounts in the gospels, as I did, to see the whole picture. The stone rolled from the entrance; the earthquake; the angels, with their reminder that Jesus had said He would rise from death; the stunned Roman soldiers, fearing for their lives; the grave clothes still in place; the astonishment of the women; the men who, doubting Mary’s discovery, ran to see for themselves; the women meeting Jesus on the way to tell the men; their great joy as they worshipped at His feet.

What a morning! There was joy, fear, consternation, a lot of commotion among the Pharisees, priests, and other leaders of the Jews. This was NOT part of their plan! Something had to be done! The body had to be found, because this simply was not possible! He was just a man, with no power over death.

Wasn’t He?



Satan Defeated

Isaiah 24:21-23. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.”

Image result for the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed

These three verses speak of the defeat of the enemies of God, and of the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.

The high ones on high:  Satan, fallen angels, and demons will be put into the bottomless pit for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-7) and the Antichrist and false prophet will be sent to the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10).

The kings of the earth upon the earth:  will be sent to sheol like prisoners being gathered into a pit. Sheol (Hades) is the underworld of the dead and the personification of the evil it represents.

After many days: At the end of 1,000 years, Satan and his spirit forces will be liberatedfrom the bottomless pit to deceive the nations during a short season. They will then be cast into the lake of fire prepared for them (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:7-10). The beast and false prophet will remain in the lake of fire during the 1000 years; they will still be there when Satan is put into that eternal hell. The second resurrection will take place at that time and sheol-hades will deliver up the dead who will be judged and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 11-15).

Chapter 25 begins with a description of millennial worship, and blessings to God’s people.

 

My Story (guest writer Nikki Wolvert Feller)

(Today I’m stepping aside from the posts about forgiveness to share this story with you.  It is written by Nikki Wolvert Feller, whom  I have known  for over 30 years. It is in her own words, and it is powerful because it is honest.) 

“I’m here only because my friend said I had to come, not because I need it.” That was the biggest lie I have ever told myself.  The question was, “What is it that brought you to Hope Alliance Crisis Center?”

Rape. That was what brought me to Hope Alliance.  My rape. Even now, seeing that word and knowing it belongs to me makes me catch my breath. And that’s after I remind myself to breathe, after the shaking stops, after the gut-wrenching pain rips through my soul. It still makes me catch my breath after months of therapy, which, when I started going, I literally could not say that word, or bear having someone say it to me.

But how did I stumble into a crisis center for therapy?  Me, of all people?  I am the strong one, I am the one described as a chihuahua who fights like a pit bull.  I am the one about whom, when our son died in my arms, people said that if anyone could handle it, I could (as a side note, never tell someone that). And I did.  I survived a level of hell that only exists in most people’s nightmares. I was invincible and wasn’t afraid of anything, or anybody. Until I was.

The day it happened was such an ordinary day, as are most days that turn our lives upside down. We don’t have the benefit of background music to warn us that hell is just around the next bend, so don’t go that way. Instead, I got up, packed a bag and headed to Dallas to spend the weekend with one of my best friends. We’d both been having bad days that didn’t seem to end, and we knew laughing until we cried, or crying until we laughed, was the cure.  And regardless of how the weekend ended, I still cherish those memories.

I was drugged and I was raped. That’s how the weekend ended.  When you hear about a woman who has this happen to her, you picture her already a little drunk, scantily clad and in a crowded bar, because that’s what a society of ignorant people  has taught us to believe.  We’re taught that it only happens to “those” women in “those” places, flirting with strange men. Well, guess what? I’m here to tell you and all of society that it can happen in the safety of someone’s home, drinking diet coke, with men who are not strangers. Evil doesn’t just lurk in the shadows, in the places where “those” people go and the “good” people don’t. It’s in every place you are; some are just fortunate never to have met it.

But meet him I did. And after: After the hospital, where I had to go because it was the only way to get the drugs to prevent an STD or a pregnancy.  After I had to tell the nurses what had  happened (and in my mind, I had allowed) and was humiliated and embarrassed; after they held my  head while I threw up, and my body was wracked with sobs so fierce the bed shook; after  they held my hand to still the shaking so I could take the dreaded pills. After I had to have my best friend tell my mom because I didn’t have the strength; after I had to decide to either ignore the man I was seeing (who is a police officer and the reason why I finally reported it) or tell him what happened and that it might affect our relationship  for a while, and after he told me to leave (and later to come back) and after he had to reconcile it with himself ; after I was fired from my job because my boss (who was a woman) would question me about it and then complain because I was “distracted” and finally told me that “I shouldn’t have to suffer because of what happened to you.” After one of the most important people in my life broke my heart by refusing  to talk to me about it;  after I counted out my sleeping pills to my mom because I was so tired I ached and just needed to sleep; after I was nothing but a heap of ugly crying on the floor, the kind that leaves you in the fetal position, struggling for air, too exhausted to drag yourself off the floor; after this I say to life or God or whatever is out there,  “Thank you.”

Thank you? After all of those afters, how can I say thank you? I can because I finally realized that feeling weak, vulnerable and afraid doesn’t make me weak, vulnerable and afraid. I am no longer arrogant enough to think that I am above those emotions, because those are what make us, us. Mostly, I’m thankful I was left a heap on my bathroom floor, unable to pick myself up, because it forced me to swallow my arrogance, stubbornness and pride and do what I have never permitted myself to do before – accept the hands that were reaching down to lift me up.

Accepting those hands has catapulted me on a journey that has been hell, a beautiful, scorching hell. I had to let myself fall apart, and for a Type A control freak, there is nothing more unacceptable. I have been forced to stand toe to toe with demons who wanted nothing more than to see me burn. I stood against the demon of self-loathing for allowing that man to do what he did, for not seeing what he was planning, for falling apart. I stood against the demon of insecurities that tried to convince me that of course all he wanted was sex, that’s all any man would want from me. I stood against the demon of guilt that all women face when raped, that society has slapped us with because of what we were wearing, where we were, or how we were acting.

It wasn’t easy. It was a mountain with ragged cliffs and deep crevices. I fell apart, I had panic attacks at my gym. I refused to go out for weeks. I stopped talking to people I didn’t know.  I was diagnosed with PTSD. But I learned how to stand up to the hell and the demon, to look it in the eye and acknowledge its presence. Then I learned to walk away. I learned to depend on other people and, as scary as that still is, I know  that I would not have been able to make it up this mountain on my own. No one can.

When I started on this journey, that first day in my therapist’s office, I told her she had her work cut out for her and she was going to earn every penny she made (and it’s a non-profit, she didn’t make a lot of pennies!).  She shot right back “I have the easy job, the work is up to you.” And make no mistake, it is work repairing  what you spent a lifetime breaking. It is grueling. It will leave you bleeding, bruised and scarred.  Embrace those scars; they are beautiful and they represent your strength.  Someone once said, “Scars are proof that we survived something that tried to kill us.”  My best friend, Rachael – who has stood beside me through all my hells and never once let go of my hand – said this: “Scars can be a beautiful thing when we let others see them and show them that they can survive, too.” So wear your scars with pride, show them off.  You fought for every one of them.

“I was raped.”  I stuttered, stumbled and choked those words out between sobs on my last day of therapy. This was my last demon, but oh how powerful he was. The grip he had on me was suffocating. But now I was no longer alone. I was standing with my family and friends who had stood beside me, had picked up swords to fight for me when I couldn’t fight for myself, whose faith in me was unwavering. And we stood strong.

I have a friend who said something so simple yet so profound I need to share it. He said that he has seen hundreds of women in varying degrees of undress, and he never once thought of raping them. The profoundness of this statement is that it is true for the majority of men. So why then, does society put the responsibility of preventing rape on women by dictating what we can safely wear, where we can go and with whom? More importantly, what is it going to take to teach that ignorant society to put the blame on the person who committed the crime?

I will never be able to utter rape without catching my breath and probably crying. But that’s ok, because rape is an ugly word that should never be easy to say. But it is what happened to me, it is not who I am.

 

 

 

Go Away, Jesus!

Matthew 8: 33-34. “And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts.”

What happened to the demons when the pigs drowned?  Why did the whole city come out and beg Jesus to leave?  Did they miss the demons and the maniacs?  Did they love the pigs? You’d think they would have been pleased, but they weren’t.

First, the demons.  There really isn’t a lot to go on.  I don’t think they drowned with the pigs, because they are supernatural beings.  One source I read says it’s possible they were cast into the abyss—back home to their master, Satan. The truth is, we just don’t know. And it’s not the important piece here, anyway, so let’s move on 🙂

I’m much more interested that the swineherd(s) ran away into the city and told everyone they saw what had just happened.  It’s not often anyone got to tell such an exciting story!  The word seems to have spread quickly, and it wasn’t long until the whole city came to Jesus and begged Him to go away.

Why?

I read somewhere that in trying to solve a crime, it’s a good practice to follow the money. Of all the things I read about this incident, that’s the one that makes the most sense. (By the way, there are some REALLY cuckoo ideas out there!) That herd of hogs was a great money-maker. The market was the Roman officials and soldiers in Israel, as well as the resident gentiles.  When the city fathers heard that the pig revenue for that year had just gotten laundered, so to speak, they decided to waste no time in asking Jesus to leave their neighborhood.  Who knew what else He might be up to, after all?

Weren’t they excited to learn that the two maniacs had been released from the control of the demons?  Maybe, but it sure does seem as if they were a lot more concerned about the loss of their income than they were about those two men.

I think it’s interesting that my KJV uses the word besought.  They didn’t order Him to leave. They weren’t stupid, apparently.  Anyone Who could cast demons out of men and into pigs was Someone to treat with respect. So they begged Him politely to please find somewhere else to do miracles, and to not destroy any more of their economy. Please, Sir. Thank You.

It occurs to me that they probably treated Jesus with more respect than we do today.  But that’s a topic for a rant, so I won’t go there.

Pigs and Demons

Matthew 8:30-32. “And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And He said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.”

Have you ever wondered why there was a herd of pigs being tended  by swineherds in Israel? Pork was unclean for food, and it was even considered unlawful for an Israelite to raise hogs, in part because they were so dirty, and they did great damage if they entered another man’s fields.

The answers I found that make sense to me are, first, that the Romans held pork in high esteem. Perhaps these animals were raised to sell to the Romans. Second, while an Israelite could not lawfully raise hogs, and gentile could. Perhaps this herd wasn’t owned by a Jew.  This isn’t a terribly vital subject, but one of interest to inquiring minds 🙂

Much more important is the glimpse we get into the fear that the demons had of Jesus, and the incredible power He had over them.  The demons begged Him, if He were going to cast them out of the two maniacs, that He allow them to enter the herd of swine.  It seems they needed some sort of body as a host.  I don’t know what would have happened to them if Jesus had simply cast them out, as He did earlier in this chapter.

Jesus simply said one word: “Go.”

Talk about power!  He uttered one command, and a legion of demons instantly departed from the men and entered the swine, who immediately went berserk and rushed over the cliff and drowned in the sea. Wouldn’t that have been something to see!  A herd of pigs, running madly over the edge of a cliff and landing in the water, one after another, probably making an unearthly noise of grunting, screaming as they perished.

It is very clear from this incident that the demons had no power whatsoever against Jesus. He was completely in control of the situation.  He always will be. He’s not afraid of pigs or demons.

Thou Son of God

Matthew 8:28-29. “And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?”

This is the beginning of another dramatic incident, one that has a lot of depth.  Just a bit of background:  Often, tombs were cut into rocky cliffs, and they tended to shelter what we would refer to today as homeless people.

On the other side of the Sea of Galilee, in the country of the Gergesenes, Jesus was met by two men who were possessed by demons.  They came out of the place of the dead, and were so dangerous that no one could get past them. In Mark 5:1-7, we are told that no one could bind them.  They would break their chains; they also cut themselves with stones.  In Luke 7:30, we learn that the two were possessed not by just one demon each, but by many; their name was Legion. They must have been terrified and terrifying. They could not save themselves, and no one else had been able to help them.

We must not miss the significance of verse 29.  These legions of demons immediately recognized Jesus, and called Him by His Name! I want to quote what Mr. Gaebelein says about this passage. One might think he were alive today, yet he wrote this well over 100 years ago:

When our Lord appeared in the land the evil one had by the demons taken possession of large number of people and was driving them on to perdition. It will be even worse before His return. Satan and his angels WILL be cast out into the earth and his angels with him. This will be during the great tribulation. And even now those possessed by demons are continually increasing. The ever changing, as well as new forms, of insanity, many of them at least, if not all, must be connected with the influence of these evil spirits. The so-called “mediums” of  spiritism and adepts in occult “sciences” are undoubtedly demon-possessed. Surely our days, the days long ago predicted, are the latter times in which some apostatize from the faith, giving their mind (it is the mind where these evil workings begin) to deceiving spirits and teaching of demons (I Tim. 4:1).  And opening the soul to the deceiving spirits and teachings of demons means their dreadful entering in and taking full possession.

First, it is significant that the demons knew Jesus, knew Who He was, and knew that He would ultimately defeat them. Second, it is significant that they also knew that it wasn’t that time yet, and they challenged Him with that knowledge.  Satan knows his end. He knows Jesus will win the war. Still, it is his goal, as long as he is free, to destroy the hearts and souls of as many as possible, thereby destroying that for which Jesus died.

It is spiritual warfare, and the war started in the Garden of Eden.

Himself Took our Infirmities

Matthew 8:16-17. When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His Word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”

The drama of these stories  is intense. Imagine the setting here.  It is evening, the coolest part of the day, and still crowds of people were coming to Jesus in hopes of a miracle. They want healing for their diseases, and freedom from the demons that had possessed some of them.

“Wait a minute,” you may say. “Are you telling us that demons are real, and people can actually be possessed by demons?  Isn’t that a little bit too much like Hollywood’s The Exorcist or something?”


Yes, demons are real. They existed then, and they still exist today.  There are a couple of theories out there about who they are and where they came from.  I do not want to address this topic here. I did some googling, and there are tons of websites about the subject. Just be careful as you read, understanding that the only right answers are the ones that come from God’s Word–and that the Word can be twisted to mean whatever the writer wants it to mean.  At some future date maybe we’ll dig into this topic, but don’t hold your breath.  Studying demons doesn’t seem to me to be a worthwhile way to use my time.

Satan is not omnipresent, omnipotent, or omniscient.  He knows a lot, and he has power greater than we imagine, but he is not God.  To put his whole plan into play, he needs help.  He uses demons for that purpose.

I’ve studied a lot of history.  Down through the centuries, when God is removed from any society the door is left wide open for Satan and his ilk to come in and create endless misery.  The people of Israel had turned from God and become more interested in outward appearance than inner spirituality.  This is not the first time we hear of demons being cast out. It certainly won’t be the last.

I don’t know if the people could actually see the demons who were cast out of their human hosts. The picture you see here is an artist’s rendering.  It’s very dramatic, and frightening as well.  Jesus could see the demons.  He knew them, and they knew Him. We’ll hear about that later on in this chapter.

I can only imagine the relief that came when a person was suddenly free of the demon(s) inside him. What an incredible thing it must have been to see the victim ranting, railing, and writhing only to suddenly become peaceful.  Amazing grace, indeed.  Then, of course, there were those who were healed of various illnesses as well.  There were perhaps lepers, people with cancers of various types; blind people, lame, dumb, deaf people; people with palsy or arthritis that crippled them. Think of the crowdsw of these people and those who brought them to Jesus. And He healed not just some of them, but ALL of them.  Every single one.

Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely He hath born our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”  His ministry of carrying the sin of the world on His shoulders started long before He went to the cross.  The illnesses, griefs, and sorrows that exist in this world are not His fault; they are the result of sin. We live in a sin-sick world, but because of His great love for us, He gave His Son to heal us and give us right standing with God.

Isaiah 33:24 says, “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”  This is a prophecy of the Millenial kingdom, in which Messiah will rule and His people will be restored whole; all demons will be cast out, all the results of sin will be removed.

Jesus will reign.

I Never Knew You!

Matthew 7: 21-23. “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kngdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? and in Thy Name have cast out devils? and in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”

What terrifying and irrevocable words will come out of the Lord’s mouth for those who have served Him falsely!  When I was in my early teens, this passage scared me to death.  I knew I was saved, remembered clearly accepting Jesus when I was five, and knowing exactly what it was all about. Even then, though, I was aware of my struggle with sin and self, and wondered if my salvation experience had been the real thing. I don’t remember ever talking with anyone about it.  I do remember reading my Bible carefully every day, looking for God’s promise that I was truly His child.  And He gave it to me, many times over.  So many verses were aimed at that very struggle.  One I remember well and still use today to encourage those who fear they aren’t truly born again is Ecclesiastes 3:14. “And we know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; and He doeth it that all might fear before Him.” What God has promised, He performs. Always.

All right. Let’s take a closer look at the words in this passage. First, Mr. Gaebelein points out that this passage is not referring to the Church.  Those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior, the Bride of Christ,  will meet the Lord in the air.  What follows is the Judgment seat of Christ, which is only for believers and not those who merely give lip service to faith in Him. There will be no “Depart from Me” spoken at this judgment.

What Jesus refers to in this passage is the great White Throne Judgment.  When He says, “In that day,” He means the day when the kingdom of the heavens is come in His complete return to the earth.  At that judgment, many will be found to have been merely outward professors of Christ, without being true possessors. Outward profession is not that which brings one into the kingdom; it is obedience to the will of the Father that makes the difference.

Notice that false professors will be noted for prophesying in His Name; they will claim to have cast out devils and done other “wonderful works.”  Then think back to the stories of Moses’ miracles in front of Pharaoh, and the successful efforts of the Egyptian magicians to duplicate those miracles.

Never underestimate the power of Satan. He’s the best liar this old world has ever seen.

I believe it’s very important here to note that these false teachers will proclaim their own magnificence before God.  True believers won’t need to do that.  They will already have been rewarded for their obedience and their works and labors of love, without having to blow their own horns to gain God’s attention.