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The Darkness From Hell Part 2 - Lenten Vespers

March 21, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

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THE DARKNESS FROM HELL, II Principalities and Powers

We are now looking at the most confusing and perilous assaults the powers of darkness can make. We have looked at the flesh, we have looked at the world, and now we are looking at the devil. We saw his lesser agents last week. This week we consider his generals, whom St. Paul calls principalities, powers world-rulers of this present darkness. We consider St. John, who was suffering exile because he was a follower of Jesus. The Lord showed him a vision of the blessed saints around God’s throne, a vivid picture of the Lamb, which is Jesus as He sacrificed Himself, and finally some bizarre images of the death throes of our planet. In the 16th chapter he saw three evil spirits who appear like frogs. Remember this is only a vision. Evil spirits are really invisible, but very powerful. They have ugly work to do, so it is fitting they be given an ugly form. He said that one came from the dragon, one from the beast, and one from the false prophet. The dragon comes from chapter 12. John saw him in the sky; he swished his tail and one third of the stars fell. From earliest times, the Church Fathers have interpreted this to mean Satan’s original rebellion, joined by one third of the angels. That spirit comes from the devil himself. The beast is from chapter 13, with seven heads and ten horns, deceiving people by doing dark miracles, misleading kings and nations to destruction. A spirit that comes from him is also evil. The we have the false prophet from chapter 14. This is the saddest of all because this is the spirit of deceit and corruption within the Church herself. False teachers build up false hopes. They appear to be righteous, but St. John saw what they really are. They deceive nations, generations, classes, and ethnic groups.

I don’t know the names of these spirits, nor do I want to. As mighty as they are, no man would ever want to challenge them. But they challenge God. And like their deceitful leader, they attack God where He is most vulnerable, in His image here on earth, that is, in us. Whereas the little demons deceive individuals, these lead mighty mass movements, and cause wars.

Where are we most likely to meet these frog-spirits today? In the evil directions where we see masses of people moving. For the last two centuries, the powers that be have been leading mankind to worship himself, to reject the Triune God, and merely pray to whatever is left when you take away anything particular about God. What you have left is the unknown god that Paul confronted on Athens. In America, since the founding of the country, a cult of the unknown god has been developing which we can identify as American religion. Don’t confuse this with popular Evangelicalism. For all of its faults, popular Evangelicalism believes in the Triune God, and believes that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God. American religion refuses to discuss Jesus in a meaningful way. It only believes the most general things about God. Sometimes it calls him the Supreme Being, a term invented by Maximillien Robespierrre, the despot of France in the Reign of Terror. It says “holidays” instead of Christmas, “spring break” instead of Easter. It has faith in democracy. It speaks of heaven but does not live as if it believed there was one. It utterly rejects any idea of hell.

One used to meet that religion in the public square. The prayers that teachers prayed at the beginning of the school day, the prayers that opened the houses of Congress, the religion that shines through all the verses of Longfellow’s carol I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, the religion of American Exceptionalism, that is American religion. One met it in less public places, like the Lodge. Shortly after the attack of September 11, we saw it in that all-religion service led by Oprah Winfrey. We cannot take part in such things. I am not suggesting intolerance here. We need to speak the truth in love, and outdo our adversaries in kindness. But we cannot say that we believe what they believe. That’s a lie. We cannot join in prayer with people who are praying to the Supreme Being. That sect attempted to establish its own semi-secular kingdom of God in this country just before World War I. Today it has found new forms, like the feminist religion which refuses to use masculine pronouns for God, and hates the Our Father.

This is the same old rebellion John saw in his vision. They came at our Lord that way. As the Psalm says, the kings of the earth rise up and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and His anointed. So the Parisees took counsel with the Herodians to trap Him into saying something about taxes. So Caiaphas took counsel with Pilate, and Pilate with Herod. So the Zealots stopped following him, and Judas gave in to materialism. The evil spirits went all out as Jesus took all of their fury patiently. They led the leaders of Israel out into the street to mock and accuse the Lord, even to demand His execution. But they knew the decisive battle was at hand. If they couldn’t get Jesus to sin, they would lose the war. The window of opportunity closed as the life-blood drained from Jesus. They heaped on the pain, the insults, the despair, all in vain, Jesus had authority over them all, but He did not use it. He took all their fury and died. That closed their window of opportunity. The very act of killing Him made it impossible for the powers of evil to ever win. They had killed Him in innocence. The Incarnate Son of God had planted a new and better Tree of Life. Easter morning makes it all clear.

So the spirits are powerful, so they are numerous. We must not be afraid. The host of hell has been beaten. The Light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Now it’s time to take the battle to the enemy. It’s time to follow the cross, the destroy the gates of hell. We belong to the Light. We are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, who has made us kings and priests to serve our God forever. AMEN.