Wise as Serpents: The End of All Evil (Part 26 – final – of sermon series)
We come to the conclusion of our study of the nature and tactics of evil, though we could certainly continue because the warnings and teachings of God’s Word concerning the kingdom of darkness are so prevalent. The Lord describes the Christian’s life in this present world as like being a sheep in the middle of a wolf pack. And we have emphasized how God commands and warns us to be wise as serpents yet innocent as doves to this truth. We must not return to a mindset that wilfully turns a blind or naïve eye to evil, resolving to only think about “the sunny side of life.” A sunny, bright, beautiful life is coming for Christians in the New Heavens and New Earth, but life in this fallen world is not like that. Beware of men, and expect the majority of human beings to hate Christ and oppose the gospel. Do not be surprised if people hate you when you stand for Christ.
In this final post of the Wise as Serpents series, we will cover two subjects. We will spend most of our time on the second point, but here is the first:
Be cautious about revealing yourself to people too quickly
Wisdom about evil instructs us to be very cautious about revealing ourselves to people too quickly. Victims of evil often learn this truth the hard way after they open up to someone about the hidden evil that is oppressing them.
The story of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings illustrates this. First a bit of the background concerning Hezekiah –
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. (2 Kings 18:1-7)
Hezekiah held fast to the Lord, and God blessed him.
Now the main text we are considering:
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.
And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.
Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.”
He [Isaiah] said, “What have they seen in your house?”
And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.”
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the balance of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah and all his might and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh his son reigned in his place. (2 Kings 20:12-21)
Hezekiah had paid tribute to Assyria in the past, and during that time the Lord effected a great victory for Judah —
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me. Whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD and from the doorposts that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:13-16)
Perhaps this gives us insight into Hezekiah’s motive for later on showing all his treasures to the Babylonians. Did he think that if they saw that he could pay them tribute, they would leave Judah alone? We don’t know; but it does seem that Hezekiah, godly king that he was, still had his moments of weakness. And Isaiah’s words to him afterward would indicate this.
Isaiah zeros right in on this matter of showing the treasure to the Babylonians. “What have they seen in your house?” he asks. “I showed them everything,” Hezekiah answers. Isaiah does not rebuke him directly, but his subsequent prophecy would indicate that Hezekiah was not wise in showing these foreigners his treasure.
Evildoers will use flattery if they think it will help them attain their goals. If we are going to be wise as serpents about evil, we must be wise to its use of flattery to deceive us. Notice how the Babylonian prince flattered Hezekiah:
At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.
Such deceit! “We traveled all this way to see how you are doing, Hezekiah, because we heard you were sick. Here are some get well cards from our king’s son, and some presents for you to cheer you up. We are your friends.”
Hezekiah apparently buys it. Falls for it. Shows them his whole place, including his savings account.
I can identify with Hezekiah. Over the years one of my foolish ways has been to be too quick to trust people. In police work I learned not to make that mistake, but when I became a pastor I must have concluded that “things were to be different” in the Christian church. The missions organization we were with, Village Missions, emphasized “getting people to come to church.” Welcome them all. That kind of thing. And I did. Way up there in the mountains of Montana there were some Sundays eventually when we would have 100 people or so in attendance.
But what a mess it turned out to be.
There are MANY people that the Lord does NOT want us to invite to church! They are not welcome in His house. Wolves are not welcome among the sheep.
How many times have you, perhaps, done something very similar to Hezekiah only to be burned later? You found someone professed to be a Christian, or professed to be your friend, so you opened up to them and trusted them. You showed them your treasures, you might say, and what happened? They used it against you later. So we must be wise.
Often people write to us at ACFJ and ask, “should I go to my pastor and tell him what is really going on in my marriage, about the abuse and all the evil?” And we have a tough time answering that question because many, many times those who have disclosed to the pastor or elders find out that the information they shared goes right back to the enemy and is used against them.
Let me repeat the fact that these envoys who came to Hezekiah came with flattery to deceive. Watch out for flattery –
They make much of you [that’s flattery], but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out [from the liberty you have in Christ], that you may make much of them [they want to be worshipped]. (Gal 4:17)
A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet [it’s a trap]. (Proverbs 29:5)
There it is then. Wisdom dictates to us that if we are to be wise regarding evil, we must be cautious about sharing our lives with people too quickly, even if and perhaps especially if they “seem like” the most supportive, godly, wonderful Christian we have ever met.
The end of all evil
There is an end coming to all evil. To set the groundwork for our examination of this truth, let us look at Genesis 11 and the account of the tower of Babel:
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that the may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Gen 11:1-9)
The subject of unity among nations and a “new world order” has often been in the news, as it has been recently in regard to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. That subject seems to be generating just about as much heat as the current presidential campaign.
After the First World War the League of Nations was formed with the supposed intent to end all wars once and for all. If an aggressor like Germany for example started to invade another country, the rest of the League members would stand together against the guilty party and put an end to it. Supposedly. As we all know, this union did not end world war.
In its quest for power, evil always works to gain allies, and it does so in order to further its enlargement of the kingdom of darkness. This kingdom of evil has as its goal the destruction of God’s kingdom. In a fallen world of sinful men, the unification of nations or of other individual entities is not necessarily a good thing nor can it be assumed that such unions are the will of God. In fact, the normal course of such unions will be to establish a kingdom that is opposed to the kingdom of God. Wisdom understands these things. We see it clearly in Psalm 2:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together [they unify], against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
If the nations unite together and consolidate power, this is what’s going to happen: the kings of the earth will set themselves against the LORD and say, “We’re going to break his bonds from us. We’re going to do away with his control. We’re gonna be in control!”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [bow your knee to Christ], lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
History certainly has proven this out.
Notice these points from Genesis 11:
- The Lord had commanded man to fill the earth, multiply, and subdue the creation. These Babelites were acting in full rebellion against the Lord’ s command. “Let us make a name for ourselves, let us consolidate our power, lest we be dispersed…”.
- The purpose of Babel is “to make a name for ourselves” rather than to obey and give glory to God.
- The Lord’s words “Nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them,” are not describing a good thing! Rather, the Lord is announcing that the union of evil men and nations will give undue and horrible power to them. Therefore the Lord intervened, confused them by establishing different languages, and they were dispersed into their own nations and language groups.
You may not like Michael Savage but his motto “borders, language, and culture” is indeed a biblical idea. It has been established by the Lord and it began from the action He took at Babel. So I would conclude that while nations certainly can cooperate, there is not to be a consolidation of power. As long as this fallen world remains, it is the Lord’s decree that nations remain dispersed into their own borders, languages, and cultures. This is a safeguard against the centralizing of evil. Those who are wise understand this.
But in the Kingdom of God it is not going to be that way.
It is the purpose of God in Christ to bring those who are born again into a new creation without borders, a creation that has people of all nations and races living in perfect peace.
I don’t know if there are going to be different languages in the new creation, the new world. But we know there are going to be people there from all tribes and nations. And we know that we will be able to understand one another because we got a glimpse of that at Pentecost (Acts 2). In Christ there is new creation and there is (will be) one Kingdom and one King. But this time it works, because there will be no evil.
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:4)
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. (Rev 21:22-26)
That passage describes the one-world kingdom, the one-world peace. And it is effected by God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is the division into nations, language groups and ethnic groups now (in this fallen world) meant to be absolute? In other words, must we retain and defensively protect ‘racial purity’ and ‘ethnic differentiation’ and prosecute a no immigration policy? No; that can’t be God’s will, because the Old Testament repeatedly said the nation of Israel was to extend God’s kindness to widows and orphans and strangers in the land — the alien who comes in among you. But at the same time there is God’s safeguard against the ethnic groups and nations unifying and consolidating against Him: the different languages.
Peter learned this lesson about the new creation:
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35)
So anyone who comes to faith in Christ and fears Him and worships Him is in fact a citizen of the kingdom of God. God sovereignly responded to Babel’s reaching for the power that could be achieved by consolidating the efforts by fallen man: He confounded the languages and thus dispersed the nations. But in the new creation God in Christ reverses that division of nations. There is no place in the body of Christ for any craving of power, nor for any kingdom-building for your (or your ethnic group’s) own selfish purposes. As Christians we are to love the Lord and we must not give special privilege to our own national or racial or ethnic group. We are to love one another and we are to earnestly contend for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The true body of Christ is an example of the new creation to this fallen world. And how much damage and hindrance is done to the cause of the gospel and evangelizing the nations, by wickedness coming into the church and causing all kinds of dissension! No wonder the New Testament says “Give a divisive person a first and second warning. And then if they don’t repent, expel them!” (Titus 3:10)
So God’s plan is that the body of Christ is to be multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Largely, that is what tongues at Pentecost was all about:
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? (Acts 2:5-8)
One kingdom. One King. One citizenship. This is the body of Christ, the Church, the kingdom of God. But the unification of nations now, apart from Christ, is a tactic of the kingdom of darkness. Just think how much evil has been caused down through history when conquerors went out to conquer and to establish themselves as world ruler. Alexander the Great. The Roman Empire. All of these and more were set completely against the kingdom of God. In the fallen world it is almost impossible to even one national or ethnic-group leader who is godly — let alone a league of nations.
It has been our experience that the very same danger lies in church unions. Over time, what perhaps was once the body of Christ morphs into the kingdom of darkness as a result of the quest for power and the determined desire of ungodly people who have been passing themselves off as Christians, to break the bonds of God’s precepts. For an example, here is a report from the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Assembly 2016, held in Portland Oregon.*
Declining a proposal to admit to and apologize for harming the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community, the 222nd the Presbyterian Church (USA) instead opted to express deep regret for ways that those minorities of “God’s beloved children” have been led to feel that they stand outside the grace of God and are unwelcome in the denomination.
At the same time, the resolution expresses the deep sorrow of all in the PC (USA) who have left the fellowship of the church, and expresses appreciation to those who have maintained relationships despite profound disagreement. (link)
Christian denominations must be on constant guard against wolves creeping in who would pervert the gospel of Christ and the Word of God. Here is another example from the PCUSA’s General Assembly 2016, where prayers to Allah were offered:
“Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad,” and so went the prayer offered up by Wajidi Said, from the Portland Muslim Community, as part of the “first order of business” during the opening plenary session of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Wajidi was taking part in the assembly’s scheduled time of remembrance for those killed in the recent Orlando terrorist attack and those killed last year in the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, S.C. (link)
Evil unions, you see. The same spirit as at Babel. Working for the glory of man to replace the glory of God.
The end of evil under the One True King
We end then with this wonderful promise of what is to come. We will be there! We are going to see the end of all evil once and for all. The kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever!
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:1-7)
* Note for non-American readers: the Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA) is a different denomination from the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).
Audio and PDF versions of Jeff Crippen’s sermon here.