Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty-eight verses of the fifteenth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find yet another instance and occurrence between Jesus and the Pharisees. If you have read and studied the New Testament gospel of Matthew thus far you will undoubtedly have encountered the various instances when Jesus experiences direct opposition from the Pharisees—and not only the Pharisees, but also the scribes, the elders, and at some point the Sadducees as well. The more I read and the more I study the New Testament gospel of Matthew the more I am confronted with the incredible reality that essentially Jesus waged a warfare on two distinct and two different fronts. If you study this New Testament gospel you will quickly notice and discover that Jesus waged warfare in the supernatural and demonic realm, for He continually encountered those who were sore vexed, grievously oppressed, tormented and possessed by evil spirits and demonic forces. Throughout the gospel which was written according to Matthew you will find Jesus regularly encountering demonic forces of darkness which had manifested during the days in which He walked upon the earth. This is actually quite interesting for within the Old Testament you find no such example of any demonic oppression or torment within the lives of men and women. You find great needs—particularly during the lives and ministries of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Within the Old Testament books of First Kings, as well as the book of Second Kings, you will find example after example of these Hebrew prophets performing great works and great wonders in the northern kingdom of Israel. What’s more, is that if you study the Old Testament book of Second Kings, you will find that Elisha performed twice as many miracles and signs as did Elijah.
When you come to the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus continually engaged in a constant struggle and battle with the demonic forces of darkness, and the evil spirits which tormented the lives of men and women. In fact, even within this particular passage you will find Jesus not only contending with the Pharisees on one front, but you will also find Jesus contending with the demonic forces of darkness. Immediately after Jesus had finished dealing with and confronting the Pharisees in this passage and their words to Him concerning His disciples and not washing their hands before eating bread, we find a woman of Canaan coming before and coming unto Jesus crying out for mercy on behalf of her daughter who was grievously oppressed and vexed by an evil spirit. What I find to be so completely and utterly fascinating about this particular passage of scripture is that it brings us face to face with Jesus who not only had to deal with, address and contend with the Pharisees and the religious system and spirit of that day, but He also had to contend with the various evil spirits and demonic forces of darkness that were present during that time. This particular passage found within the New Testament gospel or Matthew is one that is truly remarkable and astonishing, for within its verses we find a Jesus who was not only willing to address and face the religious system and spirit head on, but He was also willing to contend and deal with the various other evil spirits which tormented and oppressed the lives of men, women and children during those days. It’s worth noting upon reading the four gospels that demonic oppression wasn’t merely relegated to men and women who were in their adult years, but this demonic oppression was also found among the lives of children which were present during those days. Thus far within the New Testament gospel of Matthew we have seen and witnessed how demonic oppression touched the sons and daughters of Israel just as much as it touched the adults who were alive and living during those days.
One of the greatest things I love about the New Testament gospels is that they paint a picture and present us with a Jesus who is and who was not afraid to confront the religious spirit. If you read the four gospels written by the various New Testament authors you will find a Jesus who wasn’t at all timid when it came to dealing with and confronting the religious spirit that was so prevalent during those days and at that time. Time and time again the religious spirit raised its ugly head and sought it directly and vehemently oppose Jesus and His life and ministry within the earth. More often than not the religious spirit sought to directly oppose Jesus the Christ, and not only Jesus the Christ, but also His disciples. Without getting ahead of my elf we must understand that one of the greatest signs and marks of the religious spirit during this day was not merely its opposition against Jesus, but also against His followers. If we are to truly understand the four gospels written by the New Testament authors it is imperative that we recognize that the religious spirit didn’t merely target Jesus the Christ concerning His own actions and behaviors, but it also sought to accuse His disciples before Him. In all reality, I am utterly and completely convinced that we find the voice and presence of the dragon within and in the midst of the religious spirit and system—particularly and especially as it pertains to its accusing both Jesus and His disciples. It’s worth noting within the New Testament gospel of Matthew that not only did the religious spirit seek to accuse Jesus before the disciples, but the religious spirit slaps sought to accuse the disciples before Jesus. Essentially, the religious spirit sought to find fault with Jesus and with His disciples and followers, and to take such faults and accuse them before each other. What’s more, is that in addition to the voice of accusation found within and in the midst of the religious spirit, we also find the voice of judgment, guilt, shame and condemnation as well. The words we find within this particular passage of scripture are but one example of the religious spirit seeking to find fault with and accuse Jesus and His disciples within and among each other
I would like to call your attention to the various passages within the New Testament gospel of Matthew, which not only bring us face to face with the religious spirit during that day, but also with the various evil spirits of that day. If you study the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will quickly discover very early on after the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount the direct opposition of the religious spirit that existed during Jesus’ day—a spirit which sought to directly oppose both Jesus and His disciples. Before getting into the religious spirit and its direct opposition of Jesus and His disciples, it is first necessary to understand the voice of the dragon which was found in full operation behind the scenes within the religious spirit. I am convinced that if you truly want to understand that which was written concerning the religious spirit and system and its direct opposition of Jesus the Christ, it is necessary and imperative to first turn our attention forward in the Scripture to the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and then turn it backward into the Old Testament poetic book of Job. It is within these two passages of Scripture where we encounter the voice and presence of the dragon, and how the dragon seeks to operate within the earth and among men. What’s more, is that after we encounter each of these passages, I will then turn and direct your attention to the words of the apostle Peter who also had something to say about this tremendous adversary who sought to directly oppose us within and upon the earth. Consider if you will—first the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, second that which is found in the first and second chapters of the Old Testament book of Job, and finally the words which were written by the apostle Peter in the fifth chapter of the epistle which was written by his hand:
“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: and she being with child cried, traveling in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:1-12).
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:6-12).
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present Himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” (Job 2:1-7).
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).
I have read the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and I have often and long thought that what we find and what we read within the verses of this chapter deal with some future event which has yet to take place. I read this particular passage of Scripture and I thought that the war which took place in heaven was a war which took place in the future, and was an event which had yet to take place. The twelfth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ describes a great wonder in heaven, which was a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. This same woman was with child and cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. Within this chapter there appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head. This dragon—with his tail—drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth, and this same dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. The woman who appeared within this passage of Scripture. Brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. The apostle John describes how the child born to this woman was caught up unto God, and to His throne. The woman who gave birth to this child fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God that they should fed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. As this chapter progresses you will find and read that there was war in heaven as Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and could not prevail against Michael and his angels. Not only could the dragon not prevail against Michael and his angels, but there was not found any place any longer in heaven. This great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. As soon as the dragon was cast out of heaven along with his angels, there was a loud voice in heaven which emphatically declared, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:10-12).
When I read this particular passage of Scripture I can’t help but wonder if the events which were described in this particular passage took place before the end of time, and did not in fact take place during the days of the Old Testament, or perhaps even prior to the coming of the Messiah who was born of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and upon her head had a crown of twelve stars. Within this passage of Scripture we find this woman being with child, crying, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. Ultimately this woman would give birth to the child, and the great dragon stood before the woman to devour and consume her child as soon as it was born. I can’t help but wonder if what the apostle John is witnessing here is what was taking place in the supernatural realm prior to Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary, as the dragon sought to devour the child as soon as it was born. We know from Scripture that when Herod received the report of the wise men concerning this One who was to be born king of the Jews, and when Herod realized he had been deceived by the wise men who departed a different way to return home, he immediately rose up in a fit of rage and destroyed all the male infants under the age of two years old. This action was directly intended to hopefully kill and destroy the child which had been born of the woman—this child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. What the apostle John goes on to write concerning this child is that He was caught up unto God, and to His throne. What’s more, is that the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. Immediately following the account of the child being caught up unto the throne of God we read of the war which took place in heaven, as Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought against Michael and his angels with his own angels. The dragon, however, could not prevail against Michael and his angels, nor was their place found any more in heaven. The great dragon was cast out, that old Serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceived the whole world. When the loud voice spoke from heaven, this voice declared and proclaimed that the accuser of the breather was cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. Please don’t miss the incredible and tremendous significance and importance of this, for I can’t help but wonder if what we find and what we read in this particular passage of Scripture sets the stage for what we find in the life and ministry of Jesus.
If you study the account of the life and ministry of Jesus you not only find the fallen angels of the dragon wreaking havoc in the earth during the days of Jesus, but you also find the voice and presence of the dragon operating behind the scenes as it undoubtedly animated the religious spirit that was present during that day. There is a not a doubt in my mind that what we find taking place during the days of Jesus was in fact the voice and presence of the dragon which rose up to accuse both Jesus and His disciples during that day. In fact, I am convinced that there are three specific accounts of the voice and presence of the dragon working behind the scenes as it animated the religious spirit and the religious system during that day—this religious spirit which not only sought to accuse Jesus before His disciples, but also sought to accuse the disciples before Jesus. The first account of the religious spirit seeking to hurl accusation, judgment, and condemnation against Jesus and His disciples is found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—specifically inverses nine through thirteenth verses of that chapter. The second example and account of the religious spirit seeking to accuse Jesus and His disciples is found in verses one through eight of the twelfth chapter, while the third account is found in the opening verses within the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Consider if you will the words which are found in these particular passages found and contained within the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the passage in the ninth chapter:
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And He arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).
“At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1-8).
“Then came to Jesus the scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with t heir lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came His disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth 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 devils the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:1-20).
These three passages each bring us face to face with the voice and presence of the dragon which not only worked behind the scenes, but also animated the religious spirit and religious system that was very much active and present during the days in which Jesus walked the earth. It is absolutely undeniable that the religious spirit not only sought to accuse Jesus the Christ before His disciples while He walked upon the earth, but the religious spirit also sought to accuse the disciples before Jesus. It’s almost as if the religious spirit was seeking to divide Jesus Christ from his disciples and the disciples from Jesus Christ. One might get the strong sense that the religious spirit was seeking to drive a serious and severe wedge between Jesus and His disciples by accusing them between and before each other. As you read these passages you will find the religious spirit accusing Jesus of eating and fellowship with publicans and sinners, while you find the religious spirit also accusing the disciples before Jesus concerning plucking ears of corn on the sabbath and eating, as well as eating bread with unwashed hands. It is absolutely undeniable when reading these particular accounts of the religious spirit in action that the same ancient voice which sought to accuse Job before the throne of God in the Old Testament book of Job was the same voice which was now accusing the disciples before Jesus and accusing Jesus before the disciples. There is not a doubt in my mind that the religious spirit has always and will always seek to divide the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ from Christ through accusation, through judgment, through condemnation, through guilt, and even through shame. In fact, when you read Jesus’ response to the Pharisees after accusing His disciples of plucking the ears of corn and eating, you will find Him speaking to them concerning condemning the guiltless and the innocent. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we do not lose sight of this incredible and important reality, for the religious spirit has always and will always seek to accuse and condemn the saints of God and the followers of Jesus Christ. This is truly remarkable—particularly and especially when you consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the opening verse of the eighth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Romans, as well as the latter portion of this same chapter. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote—not only in the opening verse of the chapter, but also toward and at the end of the same chapter:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinated, them He also called: and whom he called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, who shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:1-4, 31-39).
Taking this reality a step further, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which were written by the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah—words which are found in the final two verses of the fifty-fourth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book which bears his name. In verses sixteen and seventeen of this particular chapter we find the following words written by the prophet: “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:16-17). I absolutely love the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for through and by them the prophet Isaiah emphatically declares that not only can no weapon that is formed against us prosper, but the prophet Isaiah also declared that every tongue which rises against us in judgment we have the authority, we have the power, we have the dominion to condemn. When you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the voice of the religious spirit—the voice which is animated by the ancient serpent, which is called the Devil, and Satan—seeking to accuse the disciples before and in the presence of Jesus. Despite the fact that the disciples were accused before Jesus—not only for plucking ears of corn and eating on the sabbath day, but also for eating bread with unwashed hands—they had not need to defend themselves in light of the accusation lodged against them, nor even in the presence of and before their accusers. It was Jesus who alone defended and justified the disciples before their accusers, and they had absolutely no need to stand up and defend themselves before their accusers. What is absolutely crucial and critical for us to read and understand is that the religious spirit has always and will always seek to accuse the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ before men—and not only accuse them according to the law, but also according to the traditions of men. Within the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that the Pharisees accused the disciples—not according to the law of Moses which was given centuries earlier in the wilderness at Sinai, but according to their own traditions. Please don’t miss the significance and importance of this tremendous fact and reality, for when it comes to understanding the religious spirit and its accusations against us, we must understand that it will not only seek to accuse us according to the law which was given unto Moses, but it will seek to accuse us according to manmade traditions, rules and regulations. We dare not miss or lose sight of this tremendous and incredible fact, for the religious spirit is very much active and present within our houses of worship. We would be incredibly naïve to think that the religious spirit is not both active and present within the house of God, and is not seeking to accuse the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ—not only before each other, but also before Jesus Christ Himself. What I so love about the New Testament gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus is that Jesus was not afraid, nor was He timid when it came to directly confronting and addressing the religious spirit that was so prevalent during those days, and Jesus would and could not stand for accusation, judgment, condemnation, guilt and shame. I leave you with the words which Jesus spoke in His famous Sermon the Mount:
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to Hyon again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).