Spiritual Growth Ministries
THE LIFE & TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST
THE ENEMIES OF JESUS CHRIST
I. The kingdom of Satan:
Satan was, of course, Jesus' chief enemy from the very beginning. It was he who put it in the heart of King Herod to have all the children two years and under killed, trying to kill Baby Jesus. It was Satan who tempted Jesus Christ for forty days and forty nights. When Jesus told His apostles that He must suffer for them, it was Satan who influenced the thinking of Peter, caused Peter to grab Jesus and cry out, "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." Then Jesus turned to Peter, and said unto him (and yet not really to him, but to the one who influenced his thinking):
"Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matthew 16:23).
Most people have only a vague idea concerning the demonic spirit world. They imagine millions of demons running helter-skelter around the earth, bothering people, and causing them to sin. Jesus acknowledged in Matthew 12:26 that Satan does have a kingdom. It is highly organized. Most probably wherever there are natural boundaries in the world (countries, provinces, states, counties, cities, etc.) there are also spiritual boundaries. Satan is called the "prince of this world" by Jesus. Under his authority are other evil spirits in positions of authority, ruling as "princes" over the demonic system all over the world.
We find this thought expressed in the words of the Apostle Paul:
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
The meaning of the word "principality" is "the territory ruled by a prince." One example of this is found in the book of Daniel, Chapter 10. Daniel sought the Lord by fasting and prayer for three weeks, with seemingly no results. On the twenty-first day of the fast, an angel appeared unto him with this message:
"Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me" (Daniel 10:12-13).
By these verses, we understand that the demonic prince of Persia withstood and hindered an angel sent from God for twenty-one days. God then dispatched Michael, the archangel, who freed the angel from spiritual resistance so that he could complete his journey to Daniel.
In John's messages to the seven churches in Asia (Minor), he tells the church in Pergamos:
"I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith" (Revelation 2:13).
According to this verse, it seems plain that Satan had his headquarters for Asia Minor in the city of Pergamos.
We have stated the purpose of God several times in this course:
"To bring into existence a group of people (His church, His bride) who have willingly chosen to love God and serve Him in holiness, and have a fellowship, friendship and love relationship with Him."
Satan also operates with a purpose--and his chief purpose is to defeat and bring to nothing the plan and purpose of God. Some ways that he and the millions of demonic spirits (fallen angels) under his authority try to hinder the work of God are:
1. Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers ". . . lest the light of the glorious gospel . . . should shine unto them" (II Corinthians 4:4).
2. When God's Word is sown in the hearts of the people, ". . . then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12).
3. Satan (or spirits under his authority) attacks the believer. This can be done through evil thoughts and suggestions, feelings of oppression, depression, and negative emotions (I Peter 5:8).
4. Satan and his demonic kingdom do everything possible to destroy the church of Jesus Christ, the spiritual kingdom of God on earth. (I Thessalonians 2:18)
Satan could not stop Jesus from establishing the kingdom of God on earth, and we have the promise of Jesus that ". . . the gates of hell shall not prevail against (His church ) . . ." (Matthew 16:18). Satan is still the enemy of Jesus, although he is a defeated one. He was defeated at the cross, and all who will give their lives to Jesus and are His faithful followers need not fear him (Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:15).
We are admonished in the Word of God to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7; I Peter 5:9). We are fighting a spiritual enemy, not a flesh and blood one, so we must ". . . be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might," putting "on the whole armour of God," that we "may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:10-11).
II. The Religious Leaders:
Among the most devout enemies of Jesus Christ were the religious leaders of his day, the two main groups being the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Pharisees were a group of devout Jews who sought to keep the law in its strictest sense. There was a group of Jews resembling the Pharisees as far back as the Babylonian Captivity, but the organization of such a people did not take place until after 165 B. C. The actual name "Pharisee" (which means "the separated ones," or "the separatists") did not come into use until about 135 B. C.
The Pharisees were found everywhere--not only in Jerusalem--although at the peak of their popularity they numbered only about six thousand. The Pharisees were right in much of what they believed. Unlike the Sadducees, they believed in the supernatural--miracles, spirits, and a future resurrection. However, besides their strict observance of the Law, they also advocated the observance of their own traditions, which included much ceremonial washing and cleansing. While they believed in a coming "Messiah," they could not accept Jesus as the long-awaited one, because they expected the Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom that would rid them of all Roman rule.
As a whole, the Pharisees were hypocritical. Jesus said it like this, ". . . ye strain at (out) a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Mattthew 23:24). This is one of the reasons that John the Baptist refused to baptize them unless they were willing to "bring forth . . . fruit meet for repentance,"--that is, show the sincerity of their repentance by changing the way they lived (Matthew 3:7-8). (He even called them "a generation of vipers".)
Jesus tried to "shake" the Pharisees out of their hypocritical living by His straightforward preaching. He openly rebuked them in front of His disciples and a multitude of people, listing their sins:
1. They say, and do not (Matthew 23:3).
2. They bind heavy burdens on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers (verse 4).
3. All their works (such as prayer, fasting, giving) they do to be seen of men (verse 5). See also Matthew 6:1-18.
4. They make broad their phylacteries (boxes that contain the law of Moses) so that men will notice that they are carrying them (Matthew 23:5). (This would be like someone carrying a large Bible for the same reason).
5. They enlarge the borders of their garments. These are fringes that all male Jews were required to wear as a reminder to keep the commandments (Numbers 15:38-40).
6. They love the uppermost rooms in the feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues, which are the Jewish houses of worship and instruction (Matthew 23: 6).
7. They love to be greeted in the market as "Rabbi," which means "teacher" (verse 7).
8. They not only do not enter the kingdom of God themselves--they keep others from entering (verse 13).
9. They make long prayers for a pretence. (Verse 14))
10. They make a great effort to win one convert, and then make him twofold more a child of hell than themselves (verse 15).
11. They pay tithe of mint, anise and cummin (common potherbs), but do not act according to justice, show mercy, and have faith in God. They were careful to observe the little matters of the law, but neglected the very spirit of the law itself (verse 23).
12. They make clean the outside the cup and the platter (their bodies) while the inside was full of wickedness and uncleanness (verse 25).
13. They appear righteous (on the outside) unto men, but within they are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (verse 28).
The Pharisees considered themselves a very exclusive group. They kept to themselves, even refusing to have much to do with other Jews--thus, their name (Pharisees--separatists). They were quick to condemn Jesus because He often ate with publicans (Jewish tax-collectors), and sinners. His answer to them was, "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" (Matthew 9:10-12).
The Pharisees also rebuked Jesus for healing the sick on the sabbath day, but Jesus reminded them that they were faithful to loose their oxen and donkeys from their stall on the sabbath day and lead them to water. (Luke 13:11-15)
"And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day" (verse 16).
Jesus was invited into the home of a Pharisee, and he went in and sat down to eat. The man was offended that Jesus Christ had not first washed before dinner. (Luke 11:37-39)
"For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables" (Mark 7:3-4).
Jesus did not advocate eating with unwashen hands, but he often did these things to bring to the attention of the people the truth that inward cleanliness is more important than outward cleanliness:
"Do not ye understand, that whatsoever entered in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies:
These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man" (Matthew 15:17-20).
The Pharisees pestered Jesus in many ways. They sought a sign from Him (Matthew 12:38); they often gave him "tricky" questions, trying to get Him to make statements that would get Him in trouble (Matthew 22:15-21). His answers only caused them to marvel and go their way (verse 22). Worst of all, some of the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14).
It should be pointed out that there were some Pharisees who did become Christians. Two prominent ones are Nicodemus (John 3:1), and Paul (Acts 23:6). Although most of the Pharisees were hypocritical in their conduct, there were a few, like these men, who were serving God to the very best of their ability. Read Philippians 3:5-6.
The Jewish scribes were a class of learned men who made a study of the law, including the writing and teaching of it, their profession. They were also called "lawyers" (Matthew 22:35), "doctors of the law" (Luke 5:17), and "rabbis" (Matthew 23:8). They were not priests, but lay members. Besides making copies of the Scriptures, all higher instruction was in their hands. They often served as judges in Jewish courts.
They often joined the Pharisees in their condemnation of Jesus, and when Jesus made his long discourse concerning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matthew 23), He included the scribes as being in the same spiritual condition.
It was a scribe who came to Jesus with the all-important question, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36).
"And Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (verses 37-39).
Luke 10:25 tells us that the lawyer asked the question "tempting him," but there was no way that he could condemn Jesus' answer!
The scribes were among the religious leaders that played an active part in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 26:57)
The Sadducees were a religious group of Jews who accepted the law, but rejected much of the tradition of the Jews. They also denied that which was spiritual, not believing in spirits, the resurrection, and life beyond the grave. Like the Pharisees and scribes, they tried to find fault with the teaching of Jesus Christ, and sought to give Him questions that He would be unable to answer:
"Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, if any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.
And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife" (Luke 20:27-33).
They asked the question to create doubt concerning the feasibility and possibility of a future resurrection, but Jesus' answer brought to light their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures:
". . . Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
I am (not I was) the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:29-32).
The Sadducees shook their heads in astonishment and walked away. They had no further questions after that!
The high priests (called chief priests in the New Testament) were usually Sadducees. Thus, the Sadducees also had their part in the death of Jesus Christ (Luke 19:47). Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the leaven (doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6, 11-12)
To enable the student to remember what the doctrine of the Sadducees was, remember this:
"The Sadducees did not believe in angels (or any spirits), and they had no hope of a future resurrection and life after the grave. Therefore they were SAD, YOU SEE?"
advocate . . . . . . encourage, support
1. Jesus' chief enemy from the beginning was _____________________.
2. Satan does have a _____________________.
3. His _____________________ is highly ______________________.
5. Probably every country, province, state, city, etc., has an evil ______________ that rules the spirit world in that region.
6. Who hindered the prayers of Daniel, delaying an answer for twenty-one days?
7. In what city in Asia Minor did Satan have his headquarters for that area?
8. What is Satan's chief purpose?
9. Jesus promises us that ________________________ shall not prevail against His church!
10. If we _____________ the devil, he will flee from us.
11. We are to put on _________________________________.
12. The group of Jews who sought to keep the law in its strictest sense is called __________________.
13. What right things did they believe in?
14. Name five things Jesus rebuked them for:
15. Give two things that they condemned Jesus for:
16. The scribes often joined the Pharisees in their ______________________ of Jesus.
17. They played an active part in the _________________________ of Jesus.
18. Name some of the errors of the Sadducees.
19. The chief priests were usually _____________________________.
20. What was of special interest to you in this lesson?