WE see, then, that God created the heavens and the earth perfect and beautiful in their beginning, and that at some subsequent period, how remote we cannot tell, the earth had passed into a state of utter desolation, and was void of all life. Not merely had its fruitful places become a wilderness, and all its cities been broken down; but the very light of its sun had been withdrawn; all the moisture of its atmosphere had sunk upon its surface; and the vast deep, to which God has set bounds that are never transgressed save when wrath has gone forth from Him, had burst those limits; so that the ruined planet, covered above its very mountain tops with the black floods of destruction, was rolling through space in a horror of great darkness.
But what could have occasioned so terrific a catastrophe? Wherefore had God thus destroyed the work of His hands? If we may draw any inference from the history of our own race, sin must have been the cause of this hideous ruin : sin, too, which would seem to have been patiently borne with through long ages, until at length its cry increased to Heaven, and brought down utter destruction.
For, as the fossil remains clearly show, not only were disease and death-inseparable companions of sin - then prevalent among the living creatures of the earth, but even ferocity and slaughter. And the fact proves that these remains have nothing to do with our world ; since the Bible declares that all things made by God during the Six Days were very good, and that no evil was in them till Adam sinned. Through his fall the ground was cursed,, and it was doubtless at the same time that the whole creation was subjected to that vanity of fruitless toil, of never-ceasing unrest, and of perpetual decay, in which it has since groaned and travailed in pain together until now (Rom. viii. 22). When thorns and thistles sprang out of the earth, and its fertility was restrained, then a curse affected the animal kingdom also. There appeared in it a depraved and even savage nature which ultimately, though not perhaps in antediluvian times, reached its climax in a cruel thirst for blood, and completely changed the organization of some species at least. How this change was brought about, it is of course useless to speculate : for the hand of the Almighty wrought it. But that it did take place, and that the beasts of the earth were not always as they now are, we have proof in the following facts.
On the Sixth Day God pronounced every thing which He had made to be very good, a declaration which would seem altogether inconsistent with the present condition of the animal as well as the vegetable kingdom (Gen. i. 31) Again; He gave the green herb alone for food " to every beast of the field, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth " (Gen. i. 30). There were, therefore, no carnivora in the sinless world.
Lastly; in a great prophecy of the times of restitution we read: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together ; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed ; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play upon the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea " (Isa. xi. 6-9). That is, that, when sin has been suppressed by the return of the second Adam, the curse shall lose its power, the savage nature of the beasts of the field shall disappear, the carnivora shall become graminivora, the poisonous shall lay aside their venom; all shall be restored to their first condition, and be again as when God pronounced the primal blessing. 1
Since, then, the fossil remains are those of creatures anterior to Adam, and yet show evident tokens of disease, death, and mutual destruction, they must have belonged to another world and have a sin-stained history of their own, a history which ended in the ruin of themselves and their habitation.
And since a lord and vicegerent was set over the animal kingdom of our world, through whose fall deterioration, disease, and death obtained irresistible power over every living creature, so we should naturally conclude that superior beings inhabited and ruled that former world, and, like Adam, transgressed the laws of their Creator.
1. Except the serpent, who will lose his power to injure, but will still exhibit the sign of his degradation. See Isa. 1XV. 25.
But who were these ancient possessors of the lands now given to us ? Whence came they, and whither have they gone ? What fearful sin caused their own disappearance, and involved in one confused ruin their earth and its aerial surroundings ?
We have no records left to us : the numerous remains in primeval rocks are only those of the lower forms of creation. Yet, as we peer hopelessly into the night, a faint and unsteady gleam seems to emanate from the Scriptures in our hand, a very different light from that which they pour upon other subjects, scarcely more than sufficient to make darkness visible, but enough to reveal the outline of a shadowy form seated on high above the desolation, and looking sullenly down upon his ruined realm.
It is our own great enemy, the Prince of this World and of the Power of the Air.
Let us, then, consider the scanty hints which the Bible seems to offer in regard to this great mystery. But we must tread lightly and rapidly over the bridge which we shall attempt to throw across the foaming torrent : for we cannot be sure of its foundation: nay, in the darkness of the night there may also be serious defects in its construction. Yet the revelation to which we shall refer was given for our learning, and, like all Scripture, is profitable, even if we fail to grasp the secret contained in it, provided we handle it with reverence and fear (2 Tim. iii. 16). For the contemplation of such a theme gives us some idea of the ineffable magnitude of the events, past and future, by which time is bounded, and of the countless millions of actors concerned in them: it calls off our minds which are prone to dwell so complacently, and yet so irrationally, upon this present brief age and our still more insignificant selves : it strikes us with inconceivable awe : it makes us tremblingly anxious to be safe in the only refuge before the next great storm of God's wrath comes thundering over our doomed world: it urges us to fulfil our minute duty in the stupendous drama which the great Supreme is rapidly hastening to its close.
Now there are, perhaps, two sources from which we may extract some information respecting the former condition of the earth. First, from any passage which seems to refer directly to it; and secondly, from the account given to us of " the times of restitution of all things " (Acts iii. 21), the very name of which, suggests that God's original purpose will not be frustrated by sin, but that everything will be restored even as it was before the earliest rebellion of the fallen angels. [But observe the defining words, " which have been spoken of by the prophets." It is such a restitution as they foretell not less, not more.]
If, then, we glance at the few particulars of Satan's history which have been revealed to us, we cannot fail to observe that, besides the actual power attributed to him, 'he manifestly holds the legitimate title of " Prince of this World " ; or, in other words, that this dignity, together with the royal prerogatives which of right pertain to it, was conferred upon him by God Himself.1 For there is no other way of explaining the fact that the Lord Jesus not only spoke of the Adversary by this title (John xiv, 30), but plainly recognized his delegated authority in that He did not dispute his claim to the present disposal of the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Luke iv. 6-8).
And it is only by recognizing the legitimacy of that claim that we can understand a passage of Jude, in which the conduct of the archangel Michael towards Satan is adduced as an example of due respect for authority, even though it be in the hands of the wicked (Jude 9).
The meaning of " World " is somewhat ambiguous: for while the signification of the Greek word may be confined to our earth and its inhabitants, it may also extend to the totality of the universe, and in the case before us possibly does comprehend all the spheres of our solar system. At least if there be truth in the accounts given by astronomers of the ruined condition of the moon, which is described as " an arid and lifeless wilderness," it would seem likely that Satan's power extends so far. And it may be also that the catastrophe in the sun, which was remedied on the Fourth Day, testifies to his connection with that glorious luminary.
In one passage Paul, according to our version, styles him the God of this World " (2 Cor. iv. 4). There, however, the Greek for " World " is a different word, and should be translated " Age." Satan is indeed the legitimate Prince of this World; but it is only by abusing his power, and blinding the eyes of men, that he induces them to worship him as their god. At the close of the present age he will be deprived of his princedom ; and, the basis of real power being thus removed, his impious superstructure will immediately fall to the ground.
1. Previously, of course, to his fall. See the exposition of Ezek. xxviii. 11- 19, in the subsequent part of this chapter.
But, even at the risk of interrupting the argument, we cannot refrain from pausing for a moment to glance at the solemn warning contained in the title " God of this Age." There is indeed reason to believe that the Devil has received far more directly personal worship than those who are not accustomed to investigate such matters would imagine. But it is to something more general that Paul refers. His own words in another place will best explain his meaning: " Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey ? " (Rom. vi. 16). There are two laws set before us, that of God and that of Satan; and whose law we keep, his servants and worshippers we are. Profession, however vehement, goes for nothing in the other world. We may profess the worship of the Supreme God, we may be very sedulous in the outward part of it; but if at the same time we are obeying the law of Satan, his subjects we are reckoned to be, and to him our prayers and praises ascend. And the law of Satan is this: That we seek all our pleasures in, and fix all our heartfelt hopes upon, this present age over which he presides; and that we use our best endeavours by means of various sensuous and intellectual occupations and delights, and countless ways of killing time which he has provided to keep our thoughts from ever wandering into that age to come, which will see him a fettered captive instead of a prince and a god.
But he is also called " the Prince of the Power of the Air (Eph. ii, 2). This principality would seem to be the same as " the heavenly places " our version incorrectly translates " high places " (Eph. vi. 12) which, as Paul tells us, swarm with the spiritual hosts of wickedness. It is by no means necessary to restrict it to the eighty or a hundred miles of atmosphere supposed to surround the earth : for if Satan's power extends to the sun, as we suggested above, and so to the whole of our solar system, the kingdom of the air would include the immense space in which the planets of our centre revolve; and in such a case it seems not unlikely that the throne of its prince may be situated in the photosphere of the sun. We should thus find a deep underlying significance in the fact that idolatry has always commenced with, and in no small degree consisted of, the worship of the Sun-god, whether he be called San, Shamas, Bel, Ra, Baal, Moloch, Milcom, Hadad, Adrammelech and Anamelech, Mithras, Apollo, Sheikh Shems, or by any other of his innumerable names.
May there not be great significance in the fact that the very name of Satan passes, through its Chaldaic form " Sheitan," into the Greek " Titan," which last word is used by Greek and Latin poets as a designation of the Sun-god ?
Indeed it would almost seem as if this connection were understood in the dark ages: for Didron, in his Christian Iconography, describes three Byzantine miniatures of the tenth century, in which Satan is depicted with a nimbus, or circular glory, the recognized sign of the Sun-god in Pagan times.
As the Church became Paganized, the nimbus began to appear in images and pictures of Christ and the saints. At the same time the Church was corrupted by the introduction of other customs-such as the circular tonsure, and the practice of turning to the East-which had been connected with sunworship from hoar antiquity. [See Mystery Babylon, 103 ff.]
There is, perhaps, something suggestive in the word used to describe this kingdom: for it means thick and misty, in contrast to bright and clear, air. Hence it may have been selected to indicate the polluted and sin-defiled condition of Satan's heaven. And this view appears to be confirmed by a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where we read: " It was, therefore, necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these " (Heb. iX. 23). The purification of the latter will probably be accomplished at the return of the Lord, after that expulsion of Satan and his angels from heaven which is foretold in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. And we may notice the beautiful agreement between this idea of the existing impurity of the first heaven and the prophecy of Isaiah, that, in the age to come, " the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days " (Isa. XXX. 26).
What, then, is the nature of the power indicated by these titles of Satan ? To understand it we must glance at the general hints of Scripture concerning spiritual agencies. For, though unseen and little suspected by the rulers of earth, there are also spiritual powers (Eccles. v. 8), all originally appointed by God, whether they be loyal to Him now or not. Rank above rank these watchers stand, each passing on his account to a superior until it reaches the Most High at the apex of the pyramid. So in Zechariah's first vision, those whom the Lord had sent to walk to and fro upon the earth are represented as delivering their report to the Angel of the Lord, who then appeals to the Almighty Himself (Zech. i. 11, 12).
And hence we read of thrones, dominions, principalities, powers (Col. i. 16), archangels,1 and angels. Nor can we know much of Scripture without discovering that vast numbers of these invisible beings, who supervise the affairs of men and their world, are in open rebellion against the Almighty; that there are principalities, powers, and world-rulers, of darkness, with whom, as Paul tells us, we have to wage a fearful warfare (Eph. vi. 12). These all render account to Satan, their prince, who, in his reports to the Most High, makes use of their intelligence to accuse ourselves and our brethren before God day and night (Rev. xii. 10).
1. But we ought not, perhaps, to speak of archangels in the plural; since Michael, called the archangel, is the only one mentioned in Scripture. Probably, however, there may be other beings of the same rank connected with other worlds. For Michael appears to bear the title because he is the appointed ruler of all faithful angels in the heaven of our earth. And hence we find him standing as the prince of God's chosen people and the great opponent of Satan (Dan. xii. I ; Rev. xii. 7; Jude 9).
If we would know something of the manner of their rule we may read God's own estimate of it in the eighty-second Psalm. That brief poem-one of the grandest of the revelations which raise the separating veil and permit a momentary glimpse of mysteries beyond our own sphere-is so important as an illustration of our subject, and also as affording a solution of many moral difficulties caused by the present condition of the world, that we subjoin an amended translation of it, together with a few words of comment.
I. " God standeth in the congregation of God: In the midst of the gods doth He judge.The Psalm thus falls into four paragraphs, the first of which represents the Almighty as standing among the angelic rulers of this world, and charging them with their folly. Apparently we have two examples of such an assembly in the beginning of the Book of job, where the sons of God, and Satan among them, are described as coming to present themselves before the Lord. In each of these cases the council, so far as its purposes are revealed to us, had reference to an inhabitant of earth, and its decisions were of the gravest moment to him. The Book of Kings furnishes us with a third instance, in the celestial assize held to determine the fate of Ahab, (I Kings xxii. 19-23). And just as Satan takes part in the deliberation respecting job, so here we read of the presence of a lying spirit who receives permission to possess and inspire the false prophets for the destruction of those who trusted them.
The " gods " of the second line are angels-in this case, of course, fallen angels-so called as being the agents of God. So our Lord explains: " If He called them gods unto whom the word of God came " (John x. 35) A similar use of the word may be found in the ninety-seventh Psalm, in quoting from which Paul renders the clause, " Worship Him, all ye gods," by, " Let all the angels of God worship Him." Compare also Heb. ii. 9, with the Hebrew of Psalm viii. 5.
In the charge which follows, how graphically is the present state of the world portrayed! How plainly are we made to see that if lying, fraud, oppression, and violence are prospering; if the tears of the weak are flowing ; if there is many a child of God whom,
O'erwearied and unblessed,
A host of restless phantoms chase";
if there are multitudes who can say, No man cares for my soul, all this is because a Rebel is swaying his sceptre of iron over the groaning earth.
In the third and fourth verses we seem to discern a wondrous unveiling of the love of God. Not only over the fallen race of Adam has He yearned: nay, He has offered space for repentance, and would have shown grace, to the sinning angels also. We are reminded of those mysterious words which the Lord uttered, just after the voice from heaven had resounded through the Temple-" Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this World be cast out ! " For it would seem as though the irrevocable decree, fixing the doom of " the worldrulers of this darkness," had only then gone forth, and the ears of the Lord had, as it were, caught the thunder of the closing gates of mercy, which up to that time had stood open even for Satan and the spiritual hosts of wickedness. Possibly it was their hostility to the incarnate Son of God which filled up the measure of their iniquity: so that to them, as well as to the Jews, the Parable of the Husbandmen might have been applied. They had refused to offer to the great Creator the fruits of His earth which had been committed to their care : they had rejected merciful pleadings, such as our Psalm discloses: and finally, as soon as they descried the Son entering their realms, they had destroyed whatever hope might have remained to them by crying:-" This is the Heir! Come, let us kill Him, that the inheritance may be ours! "
The fifth verse shows that God had already foreseen the end. He declares that His remonstrance is vain : the rebels will not listen. By breaking away from Him they have lost their wisdom, and can no longer understand ; they have become shortsighted after the manner of men, if not in their degree. They can but move restlessly to and fro under the darkness into which they have wandered, striving by incessant activity to forget the Divine fulness of their former estate ; while they exhibit the reckless madness of sin by stretching out their hand against God and strengthening themselves against the Almighty.
And terrible are the consequences of their condition to the earth which groans beneath their sway. All its foundations are tottering : it is filled with flagrant abuses and crimes, the cry of which ascends to heaven : there is an anarchy of injustice and oppression. They must, then, be deposed: their power must be taken away: a fearful retribution must vindicate the justice of Him Who is King over all.
Accordingly their sentence follows, and its terms should have prevented that vague interpretation of the Psalm which has been content to refer it to merely human rulers. Not to those who are called into existence under mortal conditions are these words addressed, but to beings who from the earliest hour of their life have rejoiced in the immortality of the sons of God. Nevertheless, because they have sinned and fallen from their first estate, they also must come under the law of sin and death. Like the ephemeral children of Adam they shall perish, and fall like one of the short-lived princes of Earth.
This sentence has not yet been carried out : it will be so, apparently, when Satan is bound and cast for a thousand years into the abyss, or vast fiery deep in the centre of the earth, which, as we may gather from Scripture, is the prison-house of the lost dead. He thus suffers the first death during the Millennium, and is afterwards cast into the Lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death. See Isa. xxiv. 21, 22; Rev. xx. 1-3 ; Rev. xx. 14.
The Psalm closes with a prayer. While he contemplates the evils brought upon the world by its present Prince, the Psalmist is moved to long for the advent of the Righteous King, for the coming of Christ to depose the rebel powers, to inherit all nations, and to judge the earth.
It is, then, plainly revealed that spiritual as well as human powers are concerned in the administration of our earth. And these diverse agencies are mentioned as making up the totality of its government in a verse of Isaiah, where we are told that the Lord at His coming will depose and punish two distinct governing bodies, " the High Ones that are on high, and the Kings of,the Earth upon the earth " (Isa. XXiV. 21). Of these, the former are manifestly identical with Satan and his angels; the latter with the antichristian world-powers, that is, with the Gentile powers of Christendom. For after Israel's temporary rejection the dominion of earth was formally transferred to the Gentiles in the person of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. ii. 37, 38). Nor will Christ alter the form of government, though He change the rulers. For Himself and His Church will then take the place of the High Ones that are on high, while the first rank among the Kings of the Earth upon the earth will be given to the seed of Abraham according to the flesh.
It is, however, a startling fact that the present disposal of the regular spiritual powers of the world seems to be entirely in the hands of Satan. This is evident from the eighty-second Psalm, as well as from the verse of Isaiah ; since in either passage the spiritual rulers are stigmatized without any reserve as rebels against God.
And , again, in the tenth chapter of Daniel we read of the Satanic Prince of Persia, and also of the Prince of Grecia : but the angel of the Lord who opposes the former does not take a similar title. Nay, from his own words we may see that his post is no permanency ; he is merely sent down for a special purpose, and retires when it is accomplished, leaving the Prince of Grecia unassailed. And how deeply significant, how worthy of our most solemn thought, is his complaint that, upon his entrance into the heaven of our earth, he found, with a solitary exception, all its principalities either hostile or indifferent ! (Dan. X. 21.) From the whole region of the vast rebel empire there came forth but one loyal prince of God to aid him in his conflict with the powers of darkness. This faithful archangel was Michael: nor is it difficult to account for his presence in the regions of air. For he is described to Daniel as " your prince, and afterwards as " the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people " (Dan. X. 21 ; Xii. I). It appears, then, that he is the spiritual ruler of Israel; and so, that when God chose a people upon earth for Himself, He took them out of the jurisdiction (-Acts xxvi. 18; Col. i. 13) of Satan, and appointed one of His own princes to govern and protect them. Hence with fierce enmity the Prince of Darkness seems to have matched himself against Michael, and to have directed in person his desperate assaults upon the alienated principality. One of his victories is recorded in the Book of Chronicles, where we are told how he " stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel " (I Chron. xxi. I).
Dan. x. 13, 20, will show us that this was probably effected by a victory over Michael and the consequent suspension of the archangel's protecting influence. A remarkable hint of the spiritual conflicts which seem to be connected with every earthly event may also be found in 2 Kings vi. 16. For when the trembling servant of Elisha told his master that Dothan was surrounded by the Syrians, the prophet seems to have immediately glanced at the spiritual forces on both sides, and then, satisfied with what he had seen, replied:-" Fear not for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. The subsequent blinding of the hostile army was doubtless effected at God's command by the fiery host which protected Elisha, and the miracle certainly seems to imply a previous defeat of those who were with the Syrians.
In the third chapter of Zechariah we seem to have a typical representation of the whole conflict, with a glance at its final result. For the angel of the Lord, before whom Joshua the high priest is seen standing, would naturally be Michael, the protector of Israel; Satan himself is present to accuse ; and the Lord is introduced as judge, deciding against the Adversary, and in favour of Joshua and Jerusalem. But this sentence has not yet taken effect : for Satan, by the vigour and pertinacity of his attacks, afterwards caused the ruin and dispersion of the Jewish people, thus apparently defeating the purpose of God, and completely recovering his lost province. Michael's rule seems, therefore, for the present to be almost in abeyance ; but, as we find from the prophetic Scriptures, he will shortly resume the battle, and gain a decisive and final victory (Dan. xii. I ; Rev. xii. 7-9).
From all this we may surely infer that, although Satan is a rebel, he has not yet been deprived either of his title or his power. He is still the great High One on high, who divides the world into different provinces according to its nationalities, appointing a powerful angel, assisted by countless subordinates, as viceroy over each kingdom to direct its energies and bend them to his will. And so we get some idea of the terrible reality of Paul's meaning, when he affirms that our great conflict is not with flesh and blood, but has to be carried on against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this age of darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. vi. 12).
But who is sufficient for these things ? For the whole aerial surroundings of our planet are densely peopled with a hostile race of beings unutterably superior in wisdom and power to ourselves; having had during a vast number of years every conceivable experience of the weak 'points of humanity; possessing the incalculable advantage of being themselves invisible, though as spiritual intelligences they are probably able, not merely to judge of us by our words and outward expression of countenance, but even to read the innermost thoughts of our heart ; co-operating with the most perfect and never-failing organization; and lastly, directed by a leader of consummate wisdom and skill, who is assisted by powerful princes, and finds his subjects so numerous, that, if we are to lay any stress on the word " legion "' in the memorable narrative of Luke, he is able to spare some six thousand of them to guard one miserable captive (Luke viii. 30).
Truly, with such facts as these before us, we might well faint for fear did we not know that there is a mightier Power above all the hosts of the Prince of Darkness, One Who regards us with feelings of wondrous love, Who is not only able, but yearning, to shield us from the destroyer now, and Who purposes shortly to deliver us altogether from the anxiety, the terror, and the danger, of his assaults. For although the Lord has not yet formally deposed the rebel, and arranged a new government, He does not leave the world entirely to Satan's mercy. Angels of God penetrate the realms of air, encamp round about them that fear Him, and protect. them from the malignant foes to whom they would otherwise fall an easy prey (Psalm xxxiv. 7). Nor are their numbers insufficient: the servant of Elisha beheld the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about his master (2 Kings vi. 17). Angels of God are appointed to take the charge of whole churches, as we find from the first three chapters of the Apocalypse. Nay, the reins of government are sometimes wrested even from the hands of Satan's most powerful princes, and a great kingdom is for a while ruled by an angel of God. This, as we found just now, was the case with the empire of Persia when the Lord would have the world-power favourable to His exiled people (Dan. x. 13).
It might also at first seem that the elements are not left altogether in the hands of the rebels. For the voice of the angel of the waters sounded not like that of an apostate, when John heard him saying:-" Thou art righteous, O Lord, Which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou " hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy" (Rev. xvi. 5, 6). These are indeed the words of one who has long sighed and groaned for the wickedness which his eyes have seen, and at last recognizes the righteous judgment that overtakes it. And again ; the angel " which had power over fire is evidently one of the princes of God (Rev. xiv. 18).
But since these two, as well as those whom John saw holding the four winds of the earth (Rev. vii. I), are only introduced in connection with the time of the end, it is probable that they are the appointed successors of Satan's ministers, who will hereafter take possession of the elements to use them in the execution of the wrath to come. For until the Devil be deposed from the throne of the air, it is likely that he will exercise control, to a great extent at least, over atmospheric phenomena. In the Book of job we find him even wielding the lightning : for at his bidding the fire of God fell from heaven, and consumed both the flocks and servants of the patriarch (job. i. 16). And when, many centuries afterwards, our Lord arose from His sleep and " rebuked " the winds and the sea (Matt. viii. 26), it cannot be supposed that He was chiding the mere rush of the blast, or the senseless waves ; but rather, those malignant spirits of air and water which had combined to excite the storm.
Such, then, is the picture set before us in the Word of God - the whole earth divided into provinces by the Prince of this World, and systematically governed and administered under his direction by his viceroys with their officers and subordinates countless in number ; this organization, perfect in itself, but continually disturbed by interferences from a mightier Power for the protection of individuals, of churches, and occasionally of whole nations. And the product of these two influences gives us the exact state of the world as it is at present ; a state generally and systematically evil and godless, but with many individual exceptions, and subject at times to partial changes on a more extensive scale, which we call reformations or revivals ; a thick darkness, illumined, however, here and there by burning and shining lamps ; an arid desert, but not without its oases ; an ever-restless sea, on the surface of which the broad stream of the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience is the prominent feature, but with some undercurrents setting in an opposite direction.
Let us now turn to the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel, from which we may, perhaps, extract a little more information on this mysterious subject. The first nineteen verses of the chapter contain a very remarkable but somewhat obscure, prophecy, consisting of two distinct parts, an address to the Prince of Tyrus, and a lamentation upon the King of Tyrus. Now there can be no doubt that these titles refer to two persons, and are not merely different appellations of the same. For in the address to the prince there is nothing which could not be said to a human potentate ; but the king is manifestly superhuman. Of the prince it is said that he will be slain by the hand of strangers, and the word translated " slain " means " thrust through " with sword or spear': but the king is to be devoured by fire, and brought to ashes upon the earth.
With regard, therefore, to the first ten verses, there is no reason why we should not apply them to the then reigning prince of Tyre, whose name, as we learn from josephus, was Ittiobalus. Now Tyre was built on a rocky island about half a mile from the mainland, and was strongly fortified. Hence Ittiobalus is represented as exulting in the strength of his seagirt city, and likening himself, in proud reliance upon his inaccessible dwelling, to the God that sitteth above the heavens : he is ironically told that he is wiser than Daniel , whose fame was evidently world-wide at the time: his presumption is ascribed to his wisdom, his success in commerce, and the vast rishes he had acquired. But because he had set his heart as the heart of the Most High, therefore the terrible of the nations, that is, the Chaldeans, should come against him; and, when about to be slain by a man, he should at length discover that he was no god.
Thus far the prophecy is easily intelligible ; and we know that a short time after its delivery Tyre was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. It is curious, too, to find the Tyrians in later times flattering Herod by exclaiming that his voice was the voice of a god, and not of a man, and so bringing upon him a punishment far more signal than that which befell their own ancient prince (Acts Xii. 20-23).
But the lamentation upon the King of Tyrus (Ezek. xxviii. II-I9) does not so. readily yield its meaning: for there are expressions in it which cannot be applied to any mortal. Now to adopt the too common plan of explaining these away as mere figures of speech, is to trifle with the Word of God. We have no right to use so dishonest a method of extricating ourselves from difficulties, a method which enables men to deduce almost any desired meaning from a passage, and makes the whole Bible an enigma instead of a disclosure. We must rather confess, if it be necessary, that we have no clue whatever to an interpretation.
But there is a kind of prophecy, especially frequent in the Psalms, in which the prophet, speaking first of a contemporary matter, is then borne on by the Spirit to some stupendous event of the last times, of which the incident in his own days is a faint type. And if we apply this principle to the passage before us, we are at once struck, upon considering the type, by the similarity of the pretensions of Ittiobalus to those of Paul's Man of Sin, " who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God, showing himself that he is God " (2 Thess. ii - 4) - Can, then, the King of Tyrus, as distinguished from his type the Prince, be the great final Antichrist ? Let us try the key, and see if the wards fit.
And first ; is there any reason why Antichrist should be called the King of Tyre ? It would seem so. For Tyre is in Palestine, and in the second verse of this chapter is said to be " in the midst of the seas." Now if we turn to Daniel's prophecy of the Wilful King, we shall find it predicted of that destroyer, that he will enter into the glorious land, and plant the tabernacles of his palace " between the seas " (Dan. xi. 41-45). This in other words seems to mean that he will invade Palestine and fix his abode at Tyre.
But there is a significant change in the expression for Tyre. In Ezekiel's address to the Prince it is said to be " in the midst," or, more literally, " in the heart of the seas," that is, surrounded on all sides by water (Ezek. xxviii. 2). And it is a well-known fact, that in former times, up to the date of Alexander's siege at least, Tyre was an island. But it is now a peninsula, and is, therefore, likely to be so in the still future days of Antichrist : hence the expression in the original of Daniel is merely, " between the seas " (Dan. xi. 45). And so, perhaps, we may explain the connection of Antichrist with Tyre.
But what shall we say of the lamentation itself ? For there are assertions in it which could be true of no mortal, not even of Adam. Certainly our first father was in Eden, and in the garden of God; but we are not told that every precious stone was his covering: we know not how he could be called the Anointed Cherub: we do not hear that he was upon the Holy Mountain of God, and walked up and down in the midst of the Stones of Fire. Indeed, so far as we can see, there is but one being of whom some of the expressions in this passage could be used, and that is Satan: the whole of the remainder may be explained of Antichrist.
But why this strange confusion ? Why should these two mysterious wonders be thus apostrophized as though the history and personality of both were merged in one being ? It is not difficult to find an explanation. For it needs but little study of Scripture to learn that all human energy is raised and directed by spiritual influences. Upon the children of God comes the Spirit of God, and they are then able to do His will. But if they lose their feeling of dependence upon Him, and grow remiss in prayer, they are liable, to be seized and misdirected by spirits of evil, and fearful consequences may ensue. So David was once moved by Satan to the cost of himself and his people (I Chron. xxi), though not to his final ruin; for the Devil cannot compass that even in the case of the weakest of God's saints. But the wicked are altogether subject to the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. ii. 2).
Now while evil angels and demons are doubtless appointed for the ordinary work of influencing mankind, yet we can easily imagine that, whenever there is any transcendently mighty issue at stake, their great leader, who excels them all in wisdom and power, would himself undertake the more arduous labour. And, accordingly, at our Lord's first advent, when the hour of the Prince of Darkness had come, Satan himself entered into Judas, and directed him to his fearful crime (John xiii. 27). So when that last great master-piece of the Adversary shall appear, the Antichrist, whose coming, as Paul tells us, is after the working of Satan (2 Thess. ii. 9), and to whom the Dragon shall give his power, and his throne, and great authority (Rev. xiii. 2), it is but reasonable to suppose that he will be possessed and energized by the Devil in person. And thus he will be a compound being, partly human, partly superhuman; at once the king of Tyre and the Anointed Cherub that covereth ; a travesty by Satan of the incarnation of our Lord. Hence the great difficulties of this prophecy vanish: the tangled web of the lamentation is unravelled. For it is easily intelligible if understood to be spoken sometimes to the human, sometimes to the Satanic part of Antichrist.
Nor need this twofold address seem strange to us: for we have a similar one in connection with the very earliest mention of Satan in the Bible. At his first introduction to us we find him commencing his work of ruin through the medium of a serpent's body. And the just sentence of God, though nominally pronounced upon the serpent alone, comprises both the punishment of the beast energized and that of the Devil within it. Thus the parallelism with our passage is complete.
With this general clue to the lamentation let us now proceed to its details. The first sentence seems to apply, primarily at least, to Satan, who is said to have sealed up the sum, being perfect in wisdom and beauty (Ezek. xxviii. 12). His vast empire is often alluded to in Scripture, and, as we have already seen, may not improbably comprehend the whole of our solar system. Certainly no other angelic power of greater or even equal dignity has been revealed to us. The archangel Michael himself is quoted by Jude as preserving towards the Prince of Darkness the respect due to a superior, however wicked he may be, until God has formally commanded his deposition (Jude 9). If, then, he be a being of such high degree, he would also in God's perfect kingdom, where there are no anomalies as with us, excel his subordinates in wisdom and beauty as much as he does in rank.
The next clause speaks of him as having been in Eden, the garden of God (Ezek. xxviii. 13). Now Satan was indeed in Adam's Eden : he did not, however, appear there as a minister of God, but as an apostate and malignant spirit eager for the ruin of the new creation. Hence the Eden of this passage must have been of a far earlier date. Nor did it at all resemble the garden in which Adam was placed. For we read nothing of trees pleasant to the sight and good for food : but the prominent feature is the covering, that is, probably, the pavilion or palace, of Satan, which is described as being made of gold and of every precious stone.
Yet, while this description , does not in any way remind us of Paradise, we cannot but be struck by its resemblance to that of the New Jerusalem, with its buildings of pure gold as it were transparent glass, its foundations garnished with all manner of precious. stones, its jasper wall, and its gates of pearl. And that city, be it remembered, seems to be , the destined habitation of the Church of the Firstborn, who will then be spiritual beings of a higher order, equal to the angels (Luke xx. 36), and, with Christ at their head, will have succeeded to that same power which Satan and his angels are now so fearfully abusing (Rev. v. 10).
The remainder of the verse should be translated:-" The service of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared with thee on the day when thou wast created " (Ezek. xxviii. 13). Now music is one of the necessary attendants of royal state. In the third chapter of Daniel we have an enumeration of the various instruments which were to signal the time of the king's pleasure (Dan. iii. 5) : and in the fourteenth of Isaiah the pomp of the King of Babylon and the noise of his viols are said to be brought down to the grave with him (Isa. xiv. II). Nay, the blast of a trumpet accompanied the manifestation of God Himself upon Mount Sinai (Exod. xix. 16) ; and the trump of the archangel will sound at the return in glory of the King of the whole earth.
The meaning, then, of this clause seems to be that Satan was from the moment of his creation surrounded by the insignia of royalty; that he awoke to consciousness to find the air filled with the rejoicing music of those whom God had appointed to stand before him.
In the next verse we seem to pass from the royalty of Satan to his priestly dignity (Ezek. xxviii. 14). He is said to have been, by God's appointment, the Anointed Cherub that covereth. Anointed doubtless means consecrated by the oil of anointing; while the Cherubim appear to be the highest rank of heavenly beings, sitting nearest to the throne of God, and leading the worship of the universe (Rev. iv. 9, 10 ; v. 11-14) Possibly they are identical with the thrones of which Paul speaks in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Colossians (Col. i. 16). The words - that covereth - indicate an allusion to the Cherubim that overshadowed the ark; but we cannot, of course, define the precise nature of this office of Satan. The general idea seems to be that he directed and led the worship of his subjects.
He is also said to have been upon the Holy Mountain of God, and to have walked up and down in the midst of the Stones of Fire (Ezek. xxviii. 14. The Mountain of God is the place of His presence in visible glory, where His High Priest would, of course, stand before Him to minister. The Stones of Fire may, perhaps, be explained as follows. We know that the station of the Cherubim is just beneath the glory at the footstool of the throne (Ezek. i. :26). Now when Moses took Aaron, Nadab, Abihul and seventy of the elders of Israel, up the mountain of Sinai to see the God of Israel, " there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in clearness... And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire upon the top of the mount " (Exod. xxiv. 10, 17). This paved work of sapphire glowing with devouring fire, is, perhaps, the same as the Stones of Fire and if so, Satan's presence in the midst of them would indicate his enjoyment of the full Cherubic privilege of nearness to the throne of God.
The next verse shows that God is not the Author of evil (Ezek. xxviii. 15). For even the Prince of Darkness was by creation perfect in all his ways, and so continued, until iniquity was found in him and he fell.
That which follows is more difficult, " By the multitude of " thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned : therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the Mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering Cherub, out of the midst of the Stones of Fire (Ezek. xxviii. 16).
The first clause of this verse may refer solely to the human aspect of Antichrist : for there are prophetic intimations that commerce will be a prominent feature in the perilous times of the end (Rev. xviii. 11-19). In the past history of the world we have many instances of its demoralizing effects upon nations wholly given to it, of the luxury, fraud, and violence, which ever seem to develop with its growth.
Nevertheless, the clause may apply to Satan in some mysterious way which we cannot yet explain : for we are only able to discern the dimmest outlines of these spiritual matters. Certainly such an application seems to be required by the context, and if the authorized version seems obscure, an admissible change in the rendering will suggest a very suitable interpretation. For the word translated " merchandise " may also (as an investigation of the root will show)1 signify " detraction " or " slander " ; and we know that the very name Devil " means " the slanderer," or " malignant accuser."
Now that Satan does carry to God slanderous reports of the actions and motives of men we learn from the Book of Job. And the life of the same patriarch also supplies us with an instance of the cruel violence which seems to follow these accusations so invariably that the whole princedom of Satan has become a realm of injustice, in which the servants of God suffer affliction, while the wicked, as a rule, flourish. For the present the Lord permits this state of things, because His own children need the furnace to purge away their dross ; but hereafter He will assuredly require all their sorrows and all their tears at the hands of their malignant persecutor.
From the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse we learn that He will at length put an end to the slanders of Satan by sending Michael to drive him down from his throne on high, and expel him altogether from the heavenly places. And at the instant of his fall from his aerial dominions a loud voice is heard saying in heaven:-" Now is come the salvation, and the strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ : for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night " (Rev. xii. 10).
1. The Hebrew means, to go about-(I) in order to traffic, (2) for the purpose of slandering. Hence the nouns, a merchant, and slander. The word used by Ezekiel, might, therefore, incline to either meaning.
This expulsion is probably identical with the one mentioned in our text. For, if we adopt the rendering " slander," or " malignant accusation," the cause assigned for the casting out in Ezekiel exactly corresponds to the proclaimed result of it in the Apocalypse.
The next verse presents no difficulty (Ezek. xxviii. 17). For that the heart of Satan was lifted up because of his beauty, and that he corrupted his wisdom by reason of his brightness, we may infer especially from Paul's warning:-" Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the Devil " (I Tim. iii. 6).
Pride in his own superiority seems to have prompted this wondrous being to turn to himself that worship which it was his office to direct to his Almighty Creator. But already the ruin of God has fallen upon his realm : he finds his power checked and cut short by angels who are irresistible because they come in the strength of the Most High : he sees, perchance, the gathering armies of Michael preparing for the fatal onslaught which will drive him from heaven: and knows that they will be quickly followed by the Son of God, Who will hurl his blasted and helpless form from his last stronghold upon earth into the depths of the abyss. Then will he at length both feel and exhibit in his own person to the whole universe the ineffable distance between the loftiest, wisest, and fairest of created beings and the great and ever blessed Creator, Who alone is worthy to receive glory and honour and power.
With the latter part of the prophecy, referring as it does to the joint downfall of Satan and Antichrist, we have at present no concern, since we are just now occupied not with the future, but with the past.
It, therefore, only remains to put together the information which, if our interpretation be correct, this passage contains. The outline will be somewhat as follows.
God created Satan the fairest and wisest of all His creatures in this part of His universe, and made him Prince of the World and of the Power of the Air. Since his wisdom would be chiefly used in expounding the will and ways of God, we can probably discern in its mention his office of prophet. He was placed in an Eden, or region of delight, which was both far anterior to the Eden of Genesis-for he was perfect in all his ways when he entered it-and also, apparently, of an altogether different and more substantial character, resembling the New Jerusalem as described in the Apocalypse.
In the scanty account given to us of this Eden we may, perhaps, trace the lineaments of the heavenly Tabernacle. For, from the second chapter of Genesis, we find that Eden was a district, and the garden an enclosure within it (Gen. ii. 8). Following this analogy we discover in Satan's habitation three enclosures, Eden, the Garden of God, and the Holy Mountain of God, corresponding, possibly, to the Outer Court of the Tabernacle, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies, respectively. And this idea is strengthened by the fact that Satan is said to have been upon the Holy Mountain of God as the Anointed Cherub that covereth; just as the images of the covering Cherubim were placed in the Holy of Holies.
He, therefore, appears to have been the great High Priest of his realm dwelling in a splendid palace of gold and precious stones near to the place of God's presence ; just as the Israelitish High Priest resided at Jerusalem in the vicinity of the temple.
He was also its King, having been placed upon this summit of honour at his creation, and not subsequently raised to it from a lower rank. Finally; he was perfect in all his ways, and apparently continued so for a length of time.
Now all this evidently took place before his fall and the preparation of the present world. And so we can only conclude that he is closely connected with our earth, and that a large portion of his history extends back into times far anterior to those of Adam.
Now the analogy between Satan's office and that which our Lord has already taken upon Himself in part, and will shortly exercise in full, is so striking that it is not easy to avoid the following inference. That Satan abused his high office of prophet, priest, and king, and thus involved the whole of his province in sin, and the earthly part of it, at least, in a ruin to which allusion is made in the second verse of Genesis. That, when his return to obedience had been proved an impossibility -perhaps by his conduct towards the new creation, which may have been intended to give him an opportunity of repentance and when no other created being could be found able to restore the confusion, the Lord Jesus Himself came forth from the Godhead, to take the misused power into His own hands, and to hold it until the rebellion be altogether suppressed, and every trace of it obliterated.
The offices of prophet and priest He is already exercising, but not that of king. For had He at once assumed the sceptre, the result would have been utter destruction to all living ; since all have sinned, and whatsoever is sinful must be cast out of His kingdom into unquenchable fire. It was, therefore, necessary first to put away the iniquity of those who should be saved. This He came into the world to do by the sacrifice of Himself : and now, having given us instructions as to our conduct during His absence, and many exhortations to be ever watching for His return, He has departed with the blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies, there to appear in the presence of God for us. This done, He will come to earth a second time, to wrest the power from the hands of Satan, and, after destroying that which cannot be healed, bring back the residue of creation to purity and order.
Seeing, then, that the government which Christ will shortly take upon His shoulders appears to be exactly identical with that which was once committed to Satan, and that God's first arrangements were of necessity perfection, does it not seem likely that, when the times of restitution arrive, the original order of things will begin to be restored in Christ's Millennial kingdom ?
If so, we can easily discover the outline of Satan's preadamite world. For in the Millennium, Christ and His Church, the members of which will then have been made like unto Himself, are to reign in the heavenly places over earth and its inhabitants. So, probably, in remote ages, before the first whisper of rebellion against God, Satan, as the great governing head and the viceroy of the Almighty, assisted by glorious beings of his own nature, ruled over the sinless dwellers upon earth. At the same time he directed the worship of his subjects, and expounded to them the oracles of the all-wise Creator.
But his weight of glory was more than he could bear: pride lifted up his heart, and he fell from his obedience. Then, doubtless, corruption appeared among his angels, and so descended to those who were in the flesh. How long God bore with this ; what warnings and opportunities He gave ; whether any availed themselves of His mercy, and are now holy angels who from time to time revisit the place of their ancient habitation-all such questions as these we can only answer by conjecture from the analogy of our own race. But the fact that we can ask them shows how rightly all our vaunted wisdom in this life is said to be at best but a knowledge in part, and how wonderful a supplement may, in the World to Come, be added to our present scanty information even in regard to the history of our own planet.
We are, however, apparently able to discern in the New Testament clear traces of the two orders of Satan's subjects, the spiritual, and those who were in the flesh. For there are three distinctive terms applied to the dwellers in the Kingdom of Darkness.
The first is [ho diábolos], the Devil, a word which in this sense is never used in the plural, and is always a designation of Satan himself. Its literal meaning is "the one who sets at variance,." " the slanderer,." or " malignant accuser." And how apt a name is this for him who began to slander God to man when he corrupted our first parents, and has since continued to do so by the stream of hard thoughts and evil suggestions which he is ceaselessly pouring into human hearts ! Nor does he stop at this : for in giving in his reports of the inhabitants of earth he also slanders man to God. So we find him declaring that self-interest was the sole motive of job's righteousness (job. i. 9-11) : so we hear him desiring to have Peter that he may sift him as wheat (Luke xxii.31) : so we read that he accuses ourselves and, our brethren before our God day and night, (Rev. xii. 10). The name Devil is, then, applied to Satan alone : for he appears to be the only evil power who reports the actions of men directly to God.
In the second place we find mention of the angels of Satan (Matt. xxv. 41), who are doubtless the spiritual intelligences which God appointed to assist him in his government, and who chose to follow him into sin. These probably constitute the principalities, powers, and world-rulers of this darkness (Eph. vi. 12).
But another class of Satan's subjects is much more frequently brought before us, that of the , or demons ; and great confusion is introduced into our version by the erroneous translation " devils." 1 We may, however, in some measure avoid this confusion by remembering that the proper word for Devil has, as we have just said, no plural, and is only applied to Satan himself. Whenever, therefore, we meet the plural in the English Testament, we may be sure that the Greek is [daimónia], which ought to be rendered " demons."
1. This mistake has been most unaccountably confirmed in the Revised Version, notwithstanding the protest of the American Committee.
Now these demons are the same as evil and unclean spirits, as we may see by the following passages. " When the even was come they brought unto him many that were possessed with demons; and He cast out the spirits with His word " (Matt. viii. 16). Again, in Luke's Gospel, we read:-" And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us through Thy name." To which the Lord responds :-" Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you " (Luke x. 17, 20). So in Matthew's account of the lunatic boy, the demon is said to come forth from him (Matt. xvii. 18) ; but in Mark's Gospel this same demon is called a foul spirit, and also a deaf and dumb spirit (Mark ix. 25). And Luke gives us a list of " certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities," of whom the first mentioned is " Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven demons " (Luke viii. 2, 3). Demons and evil spirits are, therefore, synonymous terms.
But they must be carefully distinguished from angels, bad as well as good. For angels are not mere disembodied spirits, but as we may learn from our Lord's declaration that the children of the resurrection shall be equal to the angels-are clothed with spiritual bodies, such as are promised to us (compare Phil. iii. 21 and Luke xxiv. 39) if we " shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age and the resurrection from the dead " (Luke xx. 35)- We must carefully distinguish between the resurrection from, or rather, out Of (), the dead and the resurrection of the dead. The latter is, of course, the final uprising, when all who are at the time in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth; the former expression refers to the calling of a privileged few out from the great company of the dead, and is applied only to the resurrection of Christ, or to the first resurrection of Rev. xx. 4-6. See Acts iii. 15,; Luke xx. 35 ; Phil. iii. 11.
This distinction [between demons and angels] was clearly understood by the Jews: for in the Acts of the Apostles we read that the Pharisees cried out concerning Paul:-" We find no evil in this man : but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God " (Acts xxiii. 9). And in the preceding verse we are told of their opponents the Sadducees, that they denied the existence of angels and spirits.
What then is the meaning of the term " demon" ?, Plato derives it from [daeémõn], an adjective formed from [daõ], and signifying " knowing " " intelligent " ; most modem scholars refer it to [daiõ], to divide, as though it meant a divider or distributor of destiny. We incline to Plato's opinion, which makes the word point to the superior knowledge believed to be possessed by disembodied spirits.
Its classical use is as follows. By Homer it is applied to the gods; but we must remember that Homer's gods are merely supernatural men. It was afterwards used of a sort of intermediate and inferior divinity. " The deity," says Plato, " has no intercourse with man ; but all the intercourse and conversation between gods and men is carried on by the mediation of demons." And he further explains that " the demon is an interpreter and carrier, from men to gods and from gods to men, of the prayers and sacrifices of the one, and of the injunctions and rewards of sacrifices from the other."
If we inquire whence these demons came, we shall be told that they are the spirits of men of the golden age acting as tutelary deities--canonized heroes, precisely similar both in their origin and functions to the Romish saints. In Hesiod's curious description of the ages of the human race we find the following account (Works and Days, 109-26).
" First of all the immortals, who possess the mansions of Olympus, made a golden race of articulate-speaking men. These lived in the time of Cronos, when he ruled in heaven. Like gods they spent their lives, with hearts void of care, apart and altogether free from toils and trouble. Nor did miserable old age threaten them: but ever alike strong in hands and feet they rejoiced in festal pleasures far from the reach of all ills. And they died as if overcome by sleep. All blessings were theirs. And spontaneously the fruitful soil would bear crops great and abundant. And so they occupied their cultivated lands in tranquillity and peace with many goods, being rich in flocks and dear to the blessed gods. But after that earth had covered this generation, they indeed by the counsels of mighty Zeus became demons, kindly ones, haunting the earth, being guardians of mortal men. These I ween, shrouded in mist, and going to and fro everywhere upon the earth, watch both the decisions of justice and harsh deeds, and are dispensers of riches. Such a royal prerogative is theirs."
Now if we remember that according to Bible teaching the Heathen gods were really evil angels and demons who inspired oracles and received worship, we shall easily understand that the golden age of which ancient bards so rapturously sang was no reminiscence of Paradise, but of the times of that former world when Satan's power was still intact. A change in the heavenly dynasty, the expulsion of Cronos or Saturn, is always mentioned as having brought to a close this age of unmingled joy. Nor need we be startled at the good influence attributed by Hesiod to demons. For in a Heathen poem we can only expect to learn what the Prince of this World may choose to say, and have no cause for wonder if he commend his own agents.
Such, then, are the demons of the classical writers. Nor does there appear to be any reason for changing the meaning of the term in the New Testament. For may not these demons be the spirits of those who trod this earth in the flesh before the ruin described in the second verse of Genesis, and who, at the time of that great destruction, were disembodied by God, and left still under the power, and ultimately to share the fate, of the leader in whose sin they acquiesced ? Certainly one oft recorded fact seems to confirm such a theory : for we read that the demons are continually seizing upon the bodies of men, and endeavouring to use them as their own. And may not this propensity indicate a wearisome lack of ease, - a wandering unrest, arising from a sense of incompleteness ; a longing to escape the intolerable condition of being unclothed-for which they were not created-so intense that, if they can satisfy its cravings in no other way, they will even enter into the filthy bodies of swine ? (Matt. viii. 31).
We find no such propensity on the part of Satan and his angels. They, doubtless, still retain their ethereal bodies-for otherwise, how could they carry on their conflicts with the angels of God ?-and would be likely, to regard with high disdain the gross and unwieldy tabernacles of men. They may, indeed, possibly enter human frames ; not, however, from inclination, but only because such a course is absolutely necessary for the furtherance of some great conspiracy of evil.
Thus in the New Testament the spiritual subjects of Satan are plainly divided into two classes ; nor would it be difficult to prove a similar distinction in the Old. Such angels as the princes of Persia and Grecia, of which we have already spoken, would of course belong to the first order; while the familiar spirits, and probably also the Shedim, Seirim, Lilith, Tsiim, and Iim, would be identical with the demons.
But here a question naturally arises. Why, if a preadamite race really existed upon earth in the flesh, do we not find some indications of it among the fossil remains ? Certainly no human bones have been as yet detected in primeval rocks ; though if any should be hereafter discovered, we need find no contradiction to Scripture in the fact.
But the absence in the fossiliferous strata of any vestige of preadamite man is no real obstacle to the view we have taken. For we are totally unacquainted with the conditions of life in that pristine world, which may not have been, and indeed probably were not, the same as in our own. For Adam was created after, and apparently, as we shall presently see, in full view of a previous failure. Hence it may be that death did not touch those primeval men until the final, destruction, and that the decaying and dying state of the animal and vegetable kingdoms was a warning ever before their eyes of the wrath that would at length reach their own persons except they repented. It may be that their bodies were resolved into primal elements, leaving the spirit naked, instead of the spirit departing and giving up the body to decay as with us It may be that they were smitten with some consuming plague of the Lord which changed their comely forms into indistinguishable masses of corruption (Zech. xiv. 12), or reduced them in a moment to ashes upon the earth (Ezek. xxviii. 18 ; Mal. iv. 3). It may be that the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, with all that appertained to them, so that they went down alive into the pit (Numb. xvi. 30). It may be that they all perished in what is now to us the deep, and that their remains are covered by the deposit at the bottom of ocean. Evidently our habitable land was once the floor of the sea, theirs may be now.
Indeed we may find hints which perhaps add some little confirmation to the last conjecture, and tend to link these disembodied spirits with the locality which may have been the scene of their sins in the flesh, and of the just punishment by which they were finally overtaken. At least there is a prison mentioned in Scripture, which is either in the depths of the sea or is connected with them, and in which we may with probability infer that many demons are already confined, while fresh captives are from time to time placed under the same restraint whenever an outrage of more than ordinary daring calls forth the righteous indignation of God, and causes Him to bring the mischievous career of its perpetrators to a sudden and final close.
Certainly the knowledge of some such fact seems to have terrified the legion of spirits from which our Lord delivered the Gadarene ; or, otherwise, what meaning can we assign to their agonizing entreaty that He would not command them to depart into the Abyss (Luke viii. 31) ? In Matthew's account their words are different, and they fear lest they should be tormented before the time (Matt. viii. 29). But the latter expression probably conveys the same idea as the former ; and we are thus made to understand that at a certain fixed, and to them well known, time all the demons who are still at liberty will be cast into the same prison. It is called " the Abyss "1; and in some passages, such as the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse, this term is evidently applied to a fiery hollow in the centre of the earth : but it is also used for the depths of the sea, a meaning which accords well with its derivation. For instance, in the Septuagint version it is the deep over which darkness was brooding before the Six Days, and also the great deep, the fountains of which were broken up to inundate the earth. The connection may be merely the idea of depth in both significations : but it seems not unlikely that the Abyss in the centre of the earth was so called from the fact that the compartment which forms it lies immediately beneath, and is entered through, the deep sea by which it is probably secured.
1. is usually derived from a (the Greek Alpha) privative and , -akin to -" depth," and especially the deep waters of the sea. But this would make it mean "the depthless,- " the shallow," rather than " the bottomless." It is better, then, to derive it from a intensive and , in which case it will signify " the great deep," " the abyss."
Hence perhaps the reason why, after the last judgment, when all the prisoners of the Abyss will have been cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, there will be no more sea in the renovated earth.
And regarding the sea as the bar of the pit, or assuming that the Abyss may sometimes be called the sea, just as the deep sea is called the Abyss, we seem to be helped to the exposition of a passage which has not hitherto received an adequate interpretation. In the account of the last great judgment we read: " And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and Death and Hades "-that is, " the unseen world " ; for the translation " Hell " is incorrect-" delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works" (Rev. xx. 13). Now the sea is commonly supposed to be mentioned as giving up the bodily germs of those who have been drowned or buried in it. But if the meaning goes no further than that, why do we not also hear of the earth giving up the far more numerous dead which lie beneath its sods ? Instead, however, of sea being coupled with land, we find it mysteriously connected with Death and the unseen world : that is, it is mentioned in a list of places filled, not with the remains of material forms, but with disembodied spirits.
This is certainly a fatal objection to the common interpretation : but if the sea be the prison of demons, all difficulties vanish, and in that case we can well understand why it is the first to give up its dead. For every one will be judged in his order, and, therefore, these preadamite beings will have an awful precedence of the prisoners of Death and Hades, whose innumerable cells are, perhaps, filled exclusively with criminals from our present world.
But we must now pass on from this stupendous subject: for enough has been said to exhibit the hints of Scripture in regard to former ages and the preadamite destruction. And since that which is set before us is but a shadowy form, we must not persuade ourselves that we see a sharply defined outline. To be wise above that which is written is to entangle oneself in a net of Satan from which it is all but impossible to escape.
Let us not, however, fail to learn one lesson from the wondrous things we have been contemplating. Rebellion is ruin, no matter how noble, or wise, or fair its leader may be. For even Lucifer, the bright son of the morning, the loftiest of the angels of God, has fallen low from his high estate, and ere long, shorn of all his wisdom, and might, and beauty, will be plunged into, the perpetual night of the Abyss. There is but one attitude natural or possible for a created being, and that is entire submission and unreserved obedience to the will of Him Who created and sustains him.
Let the proud of the earth consider this, those who madly turn against God the very abilities and advantages which they owe to His bounty, those wilful ones who walk defiantly in the ways of their own heart. But if any deny the law, destruction must follow, or the whole universe would soon be disintegrating in anarchy. For the sake of the remainder of His creation the mercy of God is restricted to a fixed limit ; and except the rebel repent in time, deprived of all that lifted up his heart, and blasted by the thunderbolts of the Omnipotent, he must sink into the horrible silence of the everlasting darkness (I Sam.ii. 19).