Friday, November 22, 2013

Big Authority Shifts (4) Millennium of Darkness

This one is not a shift, but the consequence of the previous two shifts.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they handed authority over the earth to the spiritual forces of evil. This was a huge disaster, because it left God powerless on earth. He still had authority in the spiritual world, but his authority on earth was gone. This was painful for him, as he was committed to sustaining the earth every day, but had lost authority to get involved in the world that he loved. It would take all his wisdom and power to turn this situation round.

Once God was squeezed out of his universe, the powers of evil got to work and really messed it up. A big mess needs a big salvation. God planned to achieve through Jesus, but he had a lot of patient work to do, before he could bring it to pass. Jesus could not be sent into the world immediately after the fall, because God did not have authority to send him and protect him. The forces of evil would have destroyed Jesus, before he had begun his ministry. God had to start slowly rolling back evil and putting in place a long-term strategy to constrain evil and restore authority to good people.

God launched a long-term strategy to achieve this restoration, but the first few thousand years were a hard struggle. From the death of Abel until the next prophet Enoch, no one called out to God. For more than a millennium, he was shut out of the world that he had created. During this long season, God only received rare opportunities to gain an influence on earth. He used each of these very wisely, but was not able to make much progress.

The genealogies of Genesis 5 and describe life on earth in the centuries after the fall. For nearly a thousand years, nothing of spiritual importance happened on earth. God was shut out of his creation, so he could not hold back the forces of evil. He had no choice but to leave the people of the earth to their own devices. With no one praying, the Holy Spirit was entirely shut out of the earth. Under these conditions, evil advanced in a terrible way. All human developments were twisted for evil purposes.
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Gen 6:5).
When God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth, he meant what he said. He was not half-heartedly giving authority, thinking the he could take it back if things turned sour. That would have been dishonest and God does not work like that.

Most Christians do not believe that God has given dominion over the earth to humans. They just assume that he can intervene whenever he chooses, and actually expect him to intervene all the time. They assume that if he cannot do what he likes when he likes then he is not sovereign, but that is not true. A sovereign God can sovereignly restrain his authority. He can give authority to someone else and not intervene when things go wrong, but still be sovereign, because that is what he decided to do.

This belief that God controls everything and can intervene whenever he chooses, honours his power, but turns him into a liar, because it implies that when he gave authority and dominion, he was just kidding. The only other possibility is that it was conditional on obedience, but no conditions were given.

We need to adjust our thinking on this issue. God gave dominion over the earth to humans. There has been some wheeling and dealing with the devil since then, but God has not changed his position. Humans have authority over the earth. That means that God can only act on earth, if he is given permission by a human. He can only act in a place or activity of life, if the humans who have authority over it permit him.

We find this strange, but that is the way that God has decided it should be. Perhaps, it makes us uneasy, because it switches responsibility for what happens on the earth to humans, so we cannot blame him for the evil that occurs. More importantly, it switches responsibility for Gods activity on earth to those who have chosen to serve him. He is constrained, unless we release him to do what he needs to do.

The millennium of darkness was a terrible season on the earth, but it proves that God is true to his word. He had given dominion over the earth to humans, so he could not intervene without getting permission from humans with the necessary authority. Unfortunately, permission was not given, so he was powerless to act on earth.

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