Murder in Heaven!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There was a time, when heaven was the murder capital of the universe.

A lot of people have the idea, that once we get to heaven God is going to wave some magic wand, or flip some switch in the back of our heads and presto! We won’t sin anymore. After all it will be impossible to sin in heaven, right? Wait a minute. Where did sin begin? in heaven! While it is true that there will be no sin in heaven, we need to carefully examine why. Some say, “Well, we will have different natures. We will be like the angels.” Yet Lucifer was an angel and he sinned in heaven! He even committed murder!

This is what Jesus said when He was talking about Lucifer who became the devil:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, John 8:44 NKJV

What did Jesus mean by “he was a murderer from the beginning?” Was Lucifer committing murder in heaven? Yes, he was!

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Matthew 5:21-22 NKJV

Murder begins in the heart.

The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity. -Ellen White, Signs of the Times, July 31, 1901

Did Lucifer have murder in his heart? Would he have committed murder if he had been given the opportunity? Yes, and Isaiah tells us why.

For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Isaiah 14:13-14 

In many countries, especially in the past, the only way to get the throne was to kill the person already on it. When Lucifer said, I will exalt my throne above God, he wanted to eliminate God and take His place. When Satan led people to crucify Jesus on the cross He was showing the universe the heart of his rebellion which was murder. He was also showing the universe what he wanted to do to God high in heaven had he been given the opportunity.

Murder seems very extreme. We have a hard time believing any of our church friends could do such a thing, but is it really out of the realm of possibility or reality? About a decade ago a serial killer in Kansas was caught after putting fear in his community for decades. Police traced a computer disk to the church where the killer served as president of his congregation. I have heard people “joke” that the only reason they did not kill an ex spouse or mean boss was because they did not want to go to prison. Sometimes we joke about things that are serious to us.  It’s not always the love in our hearts that keep us from murdering. For some it is only the fear of prison that holds them back. I am afraid the reality is, there would be more murders if it were not for prison. Heaven would not be a safe place if the people allowed to live there refrained from murder only because they did not want to go to prison.

Let’s take a deeper look at Lucifer’s murder plot back in heaven. Ezekiel sheds some light on this.

You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,Till iniquity was found in you. Ezekiel 28:15 NKJV 

Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; Ezekiel 28:17 NKJV

You can define iniquity by having a tendency to do wrong or bending the wrong way. In heaven, somehow Lucifer’s love for God, and later that of many of the angels as well, made a wrong turn and was bent towards himself. He fell in love with his own beauty and began to put himself first, even to the point of wanting to eliminate others who stood in his way of being number one. The longing to be number one leads to murder. Pilate was willing to murder Jesus so he could be number one in popularity. Judas was willing to have people attempt to murder Jesus to force Jesus to defend Himself and His disciples so they, Judas included, could all be the greatest, another word for being number one. We willfully sin, knowing sin put Jesus on the cross, because our “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” turn out to be greater than our love for Jesus. Whenever we put self first, we put God on the cross.

In a sports tournament a team must eliminate every single team in the tournament in order to be number one. Then as if being the number one team is not enough, there is an award for the most valuable player, so at the end one person stands alone as the greatest. In sports it should be all for fun and we should enjoy the friendly competition. Sin is not friendly in its desire for supremacy.

An investigation into the mystery of iniquity leads us to the conclusion that Lucifer became a murderer when he fell in love with himself to the point that meeting his own desires became more important to him than the life of God. When we sin our desires become more important to us than the life of God and we, along with Satan put Jesus on the cross.

In heaven, even the angels who remained loyal to God did not discern that Lucifer’s rebellion would lead to murder. The cross was a real eye opener for the entire universe. The cross exposed Satan’s true colors and revealed the love of God.

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. -Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889. 

The cross and not the fear of prison will prevent murder from happening again in heaven, where murder first began. Being given an angelic nature will not prevent sin from reoccurring, since we realize sin began with an angelic nature. A magic wand or switch in the back of the head will not prevent sin in heaven. Only the cross will prevent sin from ever occurring again. The cross will keep us safe from murder, sin and apostasy as we continue studying the cross for eternity.

The victory over sin and apostasy begins as we study the cross here on earth.

Circumcision; Gospel or Barbaric Ritual?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson, mentions circumcision, which some people in some cultures now classify as barbaric. I have heard a few good Christians question why God chose circumcision for a sign that you belonged to Him? I have heard Christian men ask, “why the penis of all places?”

We all know circumcision is no longer a sign of a covenant between God and us – thank goodness! Still it puzzles some believers as well as unbelievers alike as to why God ever had anyone do this. My purpose here is to answer the question, “why did God ever tell us to do this” and in the process we will see the gospel where before many people only saw a painful ritual.

The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT

God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating anymore, so instead of just trusting in God’s promise, he took his much younger handmaid Hagar and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This is the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of just trusting God to write them on our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (SeeGalatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.

So God had Abraham practice circumcision.

Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT

Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Abraham was trusting in his flesh to work things out, so God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh he was trusting in, so that he could realize the gospel is not “me plus Christ” but “Not I but Christ.”

For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT

… like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98

Abraham had that part of his body circumcised because that was the part of his body he was trusting, more than he was trusting in God’s power. Now we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water washing self away, and dying to self, we rise up taking the new breath we now live, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.

Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual. For example, female circumcision,  which has no Scriptural significance is still widely practiced. It is seriously harmful to women and its practice often has ulterior motives.

It is worth noting that there is some evidence that circumcision does have health benefits. There is evidence to suggest that certain health issues are less prevalent in communities where circumcision is widely practised (http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/basics/why-its-done/prc-20013585)

Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer Biblical or morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would say, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or “embarrassing” an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second,  most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available. And with the health benefits, your parents may have made no mistake at all.

Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual.