Chapter 68 - Maybe Jesus Didn’t Destroy The Devil
This letter is unique in the collection of Apostolic writings. It is unique because little is known of the author, the recipient, the location of its writing, the authority of the letter from a canonical perspective, the character of the letter, the language it was composed in, or the time of its composition. With all that in mind, one can hardly conclude that doctrine should be developed based on this writing. Particularly a doctrine of Satan or eternal punishment and reward. Many doctrines of the Scriptures are addressed in this letter and one thing that is clear throughout the letter, is that Yeshua is the Great High Priest according to the writer. The writer amplifies, because of His death and resurrection we are all able to get a little closer to Yahweh. This is represented by Yeshua giving us access into the Holy Place, a section of the Temple.
Let’s Learn a Little About This Temple First
In a moment we are going to discuss the iconic passage that claims Christ’s voluntary death destroyed Satan and his works. Before we get too far in to the concept of Satan as found in Hebrews, I would like to provide a little helpful info as to what the Book of Hebrew is about. The Holy of Holies is the innermost realm of the Temple. The biblical temple at the time of this writing consisted of a number of different levels of courts with their significant restrictions on what class of people could enter each level. The outer most area was a porch where trade, teaching, and cavorting generally took place. All who came to the temple passed through this area as they proceeded to the next area. Beyond the porch was the court of the Gentiles and the court of the Women. These areas are self-explanatory by their title. The next level of court in the Temple was the court of Israel. This section was restricted to the true men of Israel. Beyond that was the section where sacrifices took place and then one passed through that and entered the Holy Place, a place where only Priests of Israel were allowed to enter. In this area, the priests performed their duties. A few more steps beyond the Holy Place was the place that only the High Priest was allowed to enter, only once a year on the Day of Atonement. A biblical day of fasting called Yom Kippur in Hebrew. This most special and most sacred of places was called the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies.
Many scholars believe the book of Hebrews speaks of an access door made into this Holiest of All places by Jesus. They claim that because of the death of Yeshua on the tree there is now free access into the inner sanctum where the presence of Yahweh met with Moses and met with the High Priest during the Temple years. However, if we take a close look at the Greek terms used in this writing we can see this understanding is inaccurate. The Greek language indicates we are thus far only able to enter as far as the Holy Place. Recall that the Holy Place is the section of the Temple where non-High Priests performed the temple service. Priests of Israel had access to this place but women, gentiles, and men of Israel did not. Had Christ fully redeemed man and done away with all sin from then on, then we would be able to access the Holy of Holies. A completion of the entire plan would mean we would be without sin. To enter the Holy of Holies, sinlessness was a stringent requirement. Without going into an elaborate teaching, one can learn that Christ fulfilled the spring festivals; Passover and Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. However, there yet remains the fulfillment of the Biblical fall festivals. These include; the Feast of Booths, known as Ingathering, the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah/Yom Teruah), and Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement ceremony. These festivals of the Messiah are yet to be fulfilled and it is after they are completely fulfilled that Yahweh makes his dwelling here on Earth with men as Revelation 21 informs us.
Revelation 21:1-3 KJVA
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
If you are so inclined, one can find many fantastic teachings about the significance of the Biblical Festivals online in a Google search such as; The Biblical Festivals of the Messiah.
Hebrews Does Not Violate Torah, It Supports It
There has been much scholarly debate over the years as to the value and lessons taken from the letter called Hebrews. I will admit that the message of the letter seems to support an anti-nomian perspective. Such an anti-law philosophy does not exist in this letter and full support for the Torah of Moses and the Messiah can be found in this writing. If the view of this document is correct that the Torah has been nullified, then Yeshua has to be called a liar for saying not one jot or tittle of the Torah will disappear until everything in the plan of Yahweh that is supposed to happen has happened. Christ’s words mean that nothing should be removed from the Torah forever.
17 Don’t think I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law in any way, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men to break them, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The letter to the Hebrews is careful to state that the problem with the Torah was that man was sinful and did not keep it. Therefore, the letter continues, God came to renew the covenant. The following passage can be seen in context to be speaking about the Priest of the Temple, and particularly the High Priest; a man who could never be perfect and without sin.
For finding fault with them [the people and priests], he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Why New Doesn’t Mean New
This renewed covenant spoken of in Hebrews is then discussed in Chapter 8, but what does “new” mean anyway? Where your “New Testament” uses the word “new”, the Hebrew context of this statement as found in Jeremiah where this passage is quoted from, does not mean a better replacement. The meaning of the word according to the Hebraic context is that the covenant that was once made with the people of Yahweh is refreshed and made vital again. In His mercy, He sent an aspect of Himself as the Messiah to repair the fractured covenant and reintroduce the true manner to keep obey and follow God.
Although this is not intended to be a commentary on the letter of Hebrews, I will state that the “renewed” covenant is thought by Christianity to be a completely new covenant. This is not what the Bible teaches. The facts are the renewed or refreshed covenant will be realized when the Torah is written on the hearts and minds of the participants of those who say they follow God. The book of Jeremiah tells us those who are the members of this renewed covenant are the restored House of Judah and the House of Israel.
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
It is true we can find truth in this letter to the Hebrews. But does that make it Scripture? Because we find truth in an Apostolic writing doesn’t make the writing Scripture in the Biblical sense. But one can certainly glean instruction from this letter as one can learn from the wise words of any who teach Godly wisdom. Even within that framework, some have chosen to entirely discard the letter to the Hebrews, suggesting it does not complement and support the instruction and doctrine found in Scripture. Others have held it in the highest regard and although they misunderstand much of the message of Hebrews, they claim it to be equal to Scriptures. Still others, like myself, have come to terms with the letter not being Scripture, yet still see this Apostolic writing as being a valuable commentary on many Scriptural doctrines. It is reconcilable with the Old Testament and is a letter that does contain truth, which lines up with the rest of the word of the Creator. It is from that perspective that we are able to accept the words this document to the Hebrews shares that pertain to our present study on the non-existence of Satan. For a full treatment on why the Book of Hebrews is not Scripture, refer to Volume 2, Imagine There’s No Satan.
With that in mind, let’s look at a verse, which when examined in the linguistic context, and understood based on common practices of comprehending syntax and sentence structure, indicates that if there is a real supernatural Satan, then he has been destroyed because Yeshua has died and was resurrected again.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
To understand the message found in this verse we are forced to decide two things. Do we believe Yeshua accomplished what was said to be accomplished by His death? And also, do we believe there exists an actual “Satan” who is an active cosmic entity in the world today? First off, we see the subject being spoken of is Yeshua and the Greek syntax indicates that He has already come in the flesh and has died for a reason. The syntax identifies the death of Christ is an action that has past and the work it accomplished is also an action that has occurred and was completed in the past. The reason He had to taste death was so that that He could remove the power of death by His action. We must question if this verse is saying that Jesus came in the flesh and died in the flesh sometime in the past, but the destruction of the “devil” is still to come in the future. To restate that question, did Jesus already come and die in the past but someday in the future his death will be able to destroy Satan? Or is this verse possibly saying that Yeshua has come in the flesh, died in the flesh, and because of that, the evil inclination man has that often takes over man’s actions, no longer has to master man? Is this passage teaching that because of the work of Christ sin does not have to rule man and consign man to experience the death? A death that results in the destruction of man from the presence of Yahweh forever.
Does Sin Or Does The Devil Bring Death?
Clearly, if there is no supernatural evil entity, rather the term “devil” is a reference to the sin in man and is personified as an active autonomous force, then Yeshua came to destroy that which causes death. Jesus came to destroy the power sin has to bring death. That which causes death is sin. Sin that stems from man’s evil inclination. “Destroying” this devil is to neutralize the effect of sin and its draw on humanity, resulting in freedom for man. The tense/voice/mood of the term “might destroy” is the aorist, active, subjunctive. There are better Greek scholars than I who could add clarity to this tense/voice/mood designation. However, the general understanding is that the subject being spoken about has performed the work being referred to in the past by his action. This then means that Yeshua has destroyed the diabolosby his actions. The text says the devil is already destroyed not that at some point in the future he will be destroyed. If the “devil” is a cosmic entity but has been destroyed by Yeshua, then why are there so many who claim “Satan” is trying to ruin mankind by actively inflicting evil upon humanity? Why are we told in the Bible the devil is destroyed but in religion, we are told the Devil is very much alive?
What Was Destroyed By Jesus’ Death?
We see that it is our choice whether or not to sin that brings death. Our propensity to sin is the devil. Did Christ then destroy our power of choice? No, what was destroyed by His death is the impact of sin. Sin brings death and the devil brings death. These are one and the same and therefore the sin is the devil. Although God placed evil and good before man to allow man the opportunity to choose whether or not to obey, it appears in God’s mercy He understands man’s lack of will-power. The idea is that now, because of Yeshua’s death, you and I are given a fresh start at living a life where we attempt, or at least desire, not to sin. Of course none of us is able to live sinless and God knew that too. But disobedience is always our choice, it is not the efforts of a wicked being called Satan. We are told in Deuteronomy 30, if we choose life and blessing, we will live, but if we choose death and evil, we will die;
15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
16 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
In every age, according to Scripture death and cursing is brought on man by man himself. It is the choices we make that brings death it is not the Satan of Christendom that brings death.
According to the Greek, “the destruction of that which has the power of death” in Hebrews above, is an action that has already occurred in the past. The destruction has already occurred. We are not waiting for the destruction of the impact of sin any more than we are waiting for the Messiah to be crucified again. If Yeshua has died as is taught in the New Testament, then the power of sin has died and therefore “he that has the power of death” has been destroyed. Christ “destroyed” something by His death and it wasn’t the Devil of religion. We also know it wasn’t man’s potential to disobey, so it must be the consequence of sin. Below is a bit of a lesson in what the “aorist” tense is. Please read it if you could use a little help understanding that whatever it is that has the power of death, is destroyed already.
Tense - Aorist
The aorist tense is characterized by its emphasis on punctiliar action; that is, the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future time. There is no direct or clear English equivalent for this tense, though it is generally rendered as a simple past tense in most translations.
The events described by the aorist tense are classified into a number of categories by grammarians. The most common of these include a view of the action as having begun from a certain point (“inceptive aorist”), or having ended at a certain point (“cumulative aorist”), or merely existing at a certain point (“punctiliar aorist”). The categorization of other cases can be found in Greek reference grammars.
The English reader need not concern himself with most of these finer points concerning the aorist tense, since in most cases they cannot be rendered accurately in English translation, being fine points of Greek exegesis only. The common practice of rendering an aorist by a simple English past tense should suffice in most cases.
What we can learn from the above article is that the phrase, “through death he might destroy the devil”, is an act of destruction that has already been accomplished. Therefore, as I have stated above, the devil is destroyed. When considering the passage in question it is needful to ask the question; “Who is it that has the power of death, is it God or is it Satan?” If we think this passage is talking about Satan as the one who has the power of death then there is an apparent contradiction with Scripture. The Hebrew Scriptures teach that Yahweh is the one with the power of death; it is He that kills and therefore has the power of death. To claim Satan or any other entity has this power is to believe in two Gods.And we are expressly told there are no other Gods to attach to our belief system.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
How can some mythological being, which has been given an actual existence in the minds of men, be the one with the power of death when Yahweh has reserved that power for himself? If we are not comfortable agreeing that God has the power of death then we can look to another source that brings death. Any good Christian will tell us that sin brings death. An examination of what sin is and what the diabolos is shows us sin is the devil. The devil that has the power of death then is sin. This is clear in Romans 6, when Paul states that very sentiment in declaring the wages of sin is death. (see below)
So He’s Not Destroyed Nor Does Satan Bring Death.
It seems that a couple of ideas fly in the face of the common Satan theology. One of the common ideas suggests if there were a Satan, he has been destroyed according to Hebrews 2:14, yet Christian tradition asserts Satan is alive and active. And the other idea opposed to traditional Satan doctrine, is that God has the power of death, not Satan. Neither of the traditional views are possible according to the rest of the Bible. God Himself says that He has the power of death. That fact was made clear when the death angel killed every Egyptian firstborn during the Exodus. Satan did not bring death, God did. In the account we find in Exodus, the death angel was “The Lord.” A better understanding then, of what the writer meant when he wrote “he who has the power of death” and “the devil”, will help to reconcile some apparently contradicting ideas contained in these passages. The apparent contradicti0n we find that says God brings death in one place and says the devil has the power of death in the other place becomes a non-issue.
Did Satan Or Did Man Bring Sin Into The World?
We have discussed at length that the diabolos, among many things, is man’s opposition and adversity to God and to doing what is right. We are told that sin is what brings death and we are also familiar with the extremely common Ancient Near Eastern practice of using metaphors and personification to instruct the learner. Paul has taught very clearly that man has a problem with his inner drive, called his members by Paul. Paul meant man would struggle with the hard-wired impetus to do what man should not do. Paul also teaches the following about sin. In Romans, we find the understanding that sin brings death as I have stated above and that sin and death came into the world by a man not by a fallen angel.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If the wages of sin is death and sin has entered the world by man then it is something pertaining to man that has been destroyed by the work of the Messiah. It can be found that the terms “he who has the power of death…” and “the devil” are personifications of a very subtle and often sinister characteristic in man. This being said, we can recognize we are being told that man has the ability to overcome sin because of Yeshua’s death. This victory over sin and death gives man the privilege to overcome an ultimate spiritual and physical death. It is sin that has the power of death and it is sin that is the “devil.”
James was one of the pillars of the first century believing community and he taught sin was the force that had the power of death. According to James, sin happens because man will lust for or desire something, the sinful desire is conceived then acted on, and death of some kind is the result. Of course neither James nor Paul are saying death is instant. Just as Adam and Eve were told in the day they sinned they would die yet they lived for hundreds of years, (Adam lived to 930 years old) so too is sin today seen to cause death. Death encroaches on the human condition through degradation of the human spirit. Sin erodes the propensity to choose goodness and obedience. Once again, we can hear the words of James regarding the impetus to sin and the consequences of sin choices.
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Although man may still choose to sin, he always has the opportunity to turn from that sin. The message of the Apostolic writings is simply this; Because of the Messiah, every human being for all time is able to escape the consequence of their sin. We are invited to agree with the Messiah of God and then be rewarded with life.
For added clarity, I offer this paraphrase of Hebrews 2:14;
Just as we are human so too was God manifest as a human in the form of Yeshua the Messiah. He did this so that He could die in the flesh to make an opportunity for humanity to accept Him as the redeemer who saves from sin. So man could see man cannot redeem himself. Through this act, man might embrace the opportunity to be free from the sin that brings death to everyone. This sin that opposes man is a diabolos (devil).
1. Tense Voice Mood, (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship) 1994.
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