Story 1: The Divine Decree

An engraved vintage Bible illustration drawing of Satan Bound in the Bottomless Pit, from an antique book dated 1836 that is no longer in copyright

In the Bible, God tells us the story of how He has been pursuing and seeking a loving relationship with humanity…the people He created for Himself. He has been at it through all of human history. He created the universe to be the home of the human race with all the splendor of the stars and the beauty of nature for our delight. The Bible tells the story of how God has been moving in human history from the first until today.  It goes on to tell how God will work to show His love and blessing to humanity until the end of History, when He will create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

The Bible begins with how God made the universe. But what was God doing before He made the universe? He is eternal, which means He had no beginning. He always was and always will be. What was He up to before there were stars, planets, or people?

Well, the Bible does not tell us a lot about what God was doing before He made our world. The Bible was written for humans to explain our relationship to God so that we can be close to Him. God doesn’t seem to think we need to know what He was doing before we existed. There are many things that God doesn’t seem to think we need to understand.

Have you ever tried to teach a dog to read? Have you ever tried to teach a flower to sing? Why not? Dogs and flowers are very different from humans. There are many things we can do that we would never even think to teach them. They are different kinds of beings altogether with different capacities.  Usually, this is something we simply accept as fact.

In the same way, there are many things that God can do and understand that humans cannot do or even begin to understand. The difference between a human and a dog or a flower is huge. The difference between a human and Almighty God is even greater. And while we might not understand it, we can trust God because He does.   We cannot understand how God existed forever and ever before He made our world, but He did. He always was. Wow.

In most cultures and eras of human history, the idea that there could a divine being who was more powerful and more knowledgeable than the human race was not only acceptable, it was assumed.  In the 18th century in the West there came a time when the dominant thinkers in the culture decided that the human capacity to reason and discover truth through rational thinking was the supreme form of intelligence in the universe.  Over time, the idea of a supernatural God was shut down and eliminated from the discussion entirely.  No other being could trump the ideas that humanity came up with or inform the elite intellectuals of the human race about aspects of reality that they could not understand.  Referring to God, a faith system, or the supernatural was a sure-fire ticket to discredit oneself.  In many circles this is still true.

While that worldview is an option for belief about how the universe works, it is the minority view of humanity.  There is a reason that every culture and people group in human history across thousands of years has some sort of faith system that profoundly informs their way of life and their reason for hope.  They are not all crazy just because some westerners…who were a minority even in the West…decided they were wrong a few hundred years ago.  There is a universal reaching out by the human soul for something we need…a goodness that we know to be true…a belonging that we were made for.  We were made to  live in a deep, abiding relationship with God.

This reaching out is not a one-way street.  God has been pursuing a relationship with the human race since the very beginning.  Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong.  The seeds of the problem were planted long before humans existed.

The Bible does tell us about a few things God did before He created the universe. He had already made all the heavenly angels. They are His bright, beautiful servants and messengers. They are living creatures that never die.  They are able to happily and freely obey His every command…unhindered by the bondage of sin, failure, and rebellion.  Long before God made the universe, there were hundreds of thousands of angels with God in Heaven, living in rapturously joyful worship of Him and perfect service. Imagine such a wonderful place. Nothing bad ever happened. There was no sadness, evil, death or pain. All of heavenly life was aglow in the light of God’s glory and goodness.

Then came a change of great tragedy and sorrow.   It was the beginning of all bad things. There was a mighty angel named Lucifer. God had given him great power and beauty. He was the highest of all the angels. Instead of choosing to be grateful to God and worship Him for these truly awesome gifts, Lucifer decided to turn against God in a treacherous military coup. For you see, Lucifer wanted the power to rule instead of God. He wanted to sit on the throne of Heaven. He turned a third of all the angels against their own Lord, and they went to war against the rest of the angelic host.

At this point, we should be asking ourselves, “Why?” Why would any angel, living in the bright perfection of God’s glorious, radiant holiness, ever want to rebel? We don’t know. Some of the most brilliant men over the past few thousand years have asked that question. It makes no sense, but they did. Evil is not rational, but it can be alluring.  A third of the heavenly angels rejected God and fought against the holy angels that remained loyal to the Lord.

These days, we call the evil angels “demons.”  Often, as Jesus cast them out in the Gospel stories, they were called evil spirits.  In many cultures they are called djinns.  Lucifer usually goes by Satan, at least in the English language, and he is their supreme leader. They are the enemies of God, and they try to destroy anything that God loves.

 

A lot of people think this idea is crazy, especially those who live in western countries whose cultures have bought wholesale into the assumptions of the scientific empiricism.  It claims that the only things that we can take seriously or understand are those which we can measure by the five senses. The funny thing is that now science is showing us through concepts like string theory and the existence of dark matter that there are many aspects of our universe that we had never imagined before.   For example, there are extra dimensions where it would be possible for living beings to exist in the same space and time as the human race and we wouldn’t even know it.  Meanwhile, for thousands of years, virtually every religion and human culture has had some kind of idea that intelligent, spiritual beings exist all around us and seek to influence the outcome of our daily lives. From the djinns of India and the Arab world to the spirit houses of Buddhist Thailand, there is strong evidence for a real experience of human interaction with spiritual beings.  Christian Scripture provides an explanation for the phenomena: there are truly angels among us. Some of them are evil and wholly bent on our destruction.

One day, all the demonic spirits and Satan himself will be cast into a terrible Abyss. Their days of bringing destruction and pain will be over.  In the meantime, they are hanging out on earth, creating as much havoc as possible for the human race.  They know we are loved by God.  Waging war against us is their way of getting back at Him.

At the same time, there are angels who only do good. They are utterly faithful to God. All they ever do is respond to Him perfectly. Often, they obey Him by helping us. We can’t usually see them, but they are here.   They are on our side…or rather, we are on their side, fighting the same battle, looking forward to the final outcome when God will have total and complete victory.

In the Bible, God often sent His angels on missions to bring His message to His people on earth.  We will get to read amazing stories about them very soon.

Long before the human race existed, God created the angels, and He cast the evil, rebellious ones out of Heaven.  All the while, something else was going on in the mind of God. The King of Heaven was planning and preparing for something. It was going to be marvelous. He was going to create our universe, and He had it all planned out ahead of time. He knew every bird that would fly and every fish that would swim. He knew how He would make the human race.

He also knew that we would fall into sin.

He knew exactly how He would show His love to humanity by sending His Son to die for our sins.

Think about that for a second.

God knew what we would do…and He made us anyway.

He also knew the name of each human who would come to love Jesus and put their faith in Him. God purposed the whole story of His Great Rescue before He created the world. We are still in the middle of God’s plan…and the best is yet to come. One day God is going to destroy all evil and suffering.  He will recreate a perfect world where we can worship Him forever. Wow.

Think about what that means for you. Before God created the universe, He knew your name. If you have put your faith in the Son of God, it means that before He made the sun He had already chosen you and adopted you to be His child (John 10:22-30; Eph. 1:3-23). He loved you before time itself existed.  He knew that He was going to send His Son to die for you. You were already on the mind of God, and He set His heart on saving you. He created an entire universe and a world where He could glorify His perfect, holy Son by rescuing us from our sin and shame…and bringing us into His love and light. Isn’t that amazing?

The Bible is an amazing story for many reasons. It is marvelous because it about the One who is the Maker of all things. It is glorious because it tells the most important story in human history. It is an incredible tale because it displays the magnificent beauty of the Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. And it is precious because you and I are a part of it. We are loved by that amazing Lord, and we can read the story to learn about Him and love Him back.

 

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