The Cosmic Conspiracy, Part 5
Over the last 4 posts we have been taking a historical survey of the cosmic conspiracy against humanity (and ultimately against God) that has been playing out since the Fall. As much as Satan’s plan is to totally destroy humanity, so much more is God’s plan to redeem and save humanity, and His amazing creation. Truly, God has no rival or equal by any stretch of the imagination. But in His sovereignty, God has determined that He will work through humanity to rule the creation we call Earth. Satan’s eternally corrupt being is bent on dethroning God, and part of his plan is to dethrone man and use the earth as his terrorist training camp with sights on invading Heaven. This almost sounds too science-fictiony to believe! And that is exactly the latent power of a conspiracy. So, let's march on…
Up to this point, Satan’s most effective weapon in his conspiracy arsenal has been to use religion as his costume to parade right into the center of man’s relationship with God. A grand, new obstacle was presented when God started to build a nation of people that He would reveal Himself through, and eventually physically manifest Himself through in the form of THE Messiah of mankind. This new religion came with a monotheistic foundation and was built upon a rock-solid code of ethics and sacrificial rites that allowed a form of a “personal” interaction with Almighty God through a powerful covenant that God made with mankind.
Satan had tried for millennia to destroy this covenantal bond between God and man by enticing the nation of Israel to syncretize their worship of the One True God with the worship of the demon gods. Satan had succeeded in fracturing the nation into splinter groups that got absorbed into the swirling cesspool of the idol worshipping nations that surrounded them. Numerous times throughout Hebrew/Jewish history the plan seemed to have worked only to be foiled by a faithful remnant of believers in Yahweh who would not bow the knee to the evil warlord of the underworld. This remnant, this group of faithful holdouts, was the last thread in the unraveling garment of God’s people. This thread was now the bullseye of Satan’s target. But it was also the apple of God’s eye, and He would watch over His covenant and not let His flame be extinguished.
It was now time for Satan to unveil his latest twist in his cosmic conspiracy. His target was clear. The remnant people would not abandon their faith, and would hold tightly to it no matter what came against them. Satan’s strategy of, “if you can’t beat em’, join em’” kicked into high gear again. If he could not get these determined Jews to release their grip on their God, he would devise a plan that would cause them to grip so tightly that they would eventually choke the life out of their religion. They would be left holding onto a form of godliness that would ultimately turn into godlessness. They would fight to the death for a dead religion. How could Satan perpetuate such an unthinkable deception on a nation of devout Jewish believers?
It was now about four centuries before the advent of Jesus coming to the earth. The remnant of the Jews had managed to survive, and sustain their centuries-old religion that was passed down from Moses. They were back in Jerusalem after being in captivity in Babylon for 70 years and were rebuilding their precious temple - the center of all of their worship. Under the strong governmental leadership of Nehemiah, and the skilled teaching of Ezra, the priest, powerful reforms were put in place to keep the remaining Jews ardently focused on knowing their holy scriptures (which the vast majority of the populace had very little knowledge of by this time), and adamantly holding to the traditions that were passed down from their forefathers of the faith.
Out of this time period came a complex system of rules, laws, and codes that became the foundation of this new Jewish state. A renewed sense of nationalism swept through the remnant. Along with this new zeal for all things holy, came the need for highly trained teachers, and leaders who could rightly divide and interpret the Law of Moses for the common folk. There must have been such excitement and hope during those early years of reform. God had not abandoned His promises- His covenant was still intact. Somehow, some way, at some time, the Messiah would still come through their bloodline, and fully establish the Kingdom of God on the earth with the Jewish nation sitting atop the totem pole of the peoples of the earth. What a glorious future lie ahead!
At this period in biblical history there is a strange prophetic silence that prevailed for the 400 years before the birth of Jesus. It could almost be seen as the calm before the storm. During this time various schools of Jewish learning and law began to be established. Dogma and doctrine was propagated by groups of scholars who began to collect a following and thereby caused fragmenting of the Jewish nation into various parties and sects. These sects were quite adamant that their way of interpreting the Law was the holy and correct way. Deep in the psyche of the Jews was the reminder that their lack of adherence, honor, and commitment to the Law and the Covenant of God was the cause for all their demise as a nation. Now, with this new opportunity before them they would do everything in their power to remain “holy” at all costs.
Here was the moment to pounce for Satan. Enter operation “fanaticism.” Satan took this zeal for keeping the Law and slammed it into overdrive. He was able to take the desire for righteousness through keeping the Law of God, and morph it into a dysfunctional system for right-ness by keeping the law of the sect. Elaborate systems of human interpretation and application of the Law turned into an immensely onerous burden heaped on the backs of the Jewish populace. A starkly noticeable divide appeared between the knowledgeable, and the ones who needed to know. This created hierarchical structures that loomed so high that they blocked out the sunlight of God’s glory. It took about 400 years, but Satan succeeded in perverting the worship of Yahweh into a Jewish religion of worshipping, “my-way.” It was the dawn of a new religion. Judaism would become the weapon of choice for Satan. Should the prophesied, promised Messiah actually come, Satan was ready, and had the perfect weapon.
In the years leading up to Jesus’ birth, two very prominent and powerful religious sects (political parties, if you like) rose to the top of the leadership heap. These were the parties of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They were in a constant power struggle for who would lead the nation and impose its interpretation of the Law. These two groups had a few things in common, but the differences between them were palpable. At some points the differences even turned into hatred, which filtered down into the hamlets and villages of Israel creating a nation divided by religious views of Jewish faith and practice.
Alongside the development of this religious sectarianism, the specter of the Roman beast that was swarming through the then-known world was casting its domineering shadow over Jerusalem and the land of the Jews. It was just a matter of time until the Roman army would march in, set up shop, and absorb Israel into its vast empire. The Romans were more interested in military and governmental power so they allowed the Jews to hold onto their strange monotheistic cult (as the Romans saw it). There was, however, the need for Rome to keep the peace (pax Romana - the tagline of the Empire), so they had to select a group of delegates from within the Jewish system to rule through. In surveying the landscape of all the available leadership sects, the Sadducees rose to the top of the list. This further widened the divide between the two main parties of Israel, and a new stake was driven into the heart of Judaism - enter politicism, and the marriage between the sacred and the secular.
By the time that Jesus entered the world, the Romans had succeeded in dominating the Jews into unwilling submission, except for the Sadducees who were enjoying the power, and all the perks that came from being the sock puppets of the Roman emperor. The ardent religious beliefs of this group began to erode into a compromising mixture of political correctness that stripped their form of Judaism of its supernatural elements and incorporated a new and dangerous ideology that we would call liberalism (in a theological sense) so it would become less offensive, and appear more sophisticated to the onlookers from the Roman and Greek worlds.
On the flipside of this liberal wing of Judaism were the Pharisees who had taken a hard right turn, and tightened their grip on the throttle of strict religious observance in order to keep untainted by the secularism of the Sadducees. They began to add more restrictions, rules, and regulations to the practice of their religion until it became virtually impossible for anyone to reach the bar of righteousness. Strict adherence was the rule of the day for those who followed their teaching. This letter-of-the law myopic view became the genesis of another “ism”- enter legalism.
Between these two extremes, the common populace of Israel was growing weary with religion all together. Most citizens of Israel despised their Roman dominators, and therefore, began to despise the sell-out hypocrisy of the Sadducees. Phariseeism was a hollow, unattainable quest for pleasing God, so many gave up trying. A new class of Jews began to emerge and a new “ism” became part of the fabric of their religion, heathenism. These were Jews who believed in God, but would not be part of the organized religious structures of their day.
Satan’s stranglehold on religion was working. He had secularized it, politicized it, legalized it, and now heathenized it. The only and true form of worship to Almighty God was on the ropes gasping for breath from the repeated body-blows of Satan. The knockout punch was being loaded by Satan and his demon armies. If they could snuff out this sputtering candle, humanity would finally belong under his domain. This truly was the darkest hour for the earth since the fall of Adam and Eve. This is the moment that God had pre-ordained for His redemption plan to move into the manifestation phase.
Satan was well aware of all the prophetic writings over the centuries that spoke of the coming of THE Messiah. Now that he had the people of God surrounded, he began to survey the landscape of Judah for any possible signs that this predicted Messiah would arise from the deep darkness of sin that covered the earth as the prophets said would precede His coming. Surely, if there was ever a dark time, this was it, so Satan was on hyper-alert.
The sun was setting on the hopes of the Jews for their messiah to come and save them from the awful tyranny of Rome, and the oppressive restrictions of their religion. In a backwoods corner of the nation a shaft of light pierced the darkness, and an angel from the throne room of God visited with a teenage girl in a small and insignificant village. There must have been frantic reconnaissance reports from Satan's demons on patrol that righteousness had just crossed through the diabolical defense systems of darkness and was conducting some clandestine mission from Heaven.
The air raid warning system of Satan’s domain must have started blaring, announcing the possibility of a coming attack. Demon hordes must have been summoned to Judea from all corners of the earth to prepare for the long-awaited war of all wars. The messiah was on the way - but there was still time to deal a death blow to God’s redemption plan.
The next phase of the Cosmic Conspiracy was about to unfold and Satan would hold nothing back. The crosshairs of Satan’s war machine were now riveted on this tiny region of Judea. His finger must have been itching to pull the trigger. This is where the cosmic conspiracy unveils it’s full fury. Stay tuned to find out what happens next!
by Pastor Jim Anan