This is a small sample chapter from the book I’m currently writing. If all goes as planned, this will be published in 2019.
As we noted in the introduction to this book, God took the rebel gods by surprise with His act of self-sacrifice at Calvary. Paul called it: “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”1
The Greek word translated “rulers,” archontōn, could refer to the Jewish and Roman officials who sent Jesus to the cross, but in context, it’s more likely that Paul meant principalities and powers—the supernatural sons of God who’d been in a state of rebellion against their Creator for at least three thousand years.
The beauty of this spiritual jujitsu move is that Jesus had telegraphed it with the Parable of the Tenants:
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.
He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.Mark 12:1-9, ESV
The priests, scribes, and elders assumed that Jesus was talking to them. He was, of course. But on a deeper level, the parable was directed at the spirits behind the Jewish religious authorities. The tenants were the bene elohim placed over the nations after the Tower of Babel incident. The servants sent by the vineyard’s owner were the prophets, none of whom lived easy lives. The son and heir, of course, was the Messiah, Jesus.
And even though he told them exactly what would happen, the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” could not resist sending him to the cross.
Things didn’t go the way they planned. Jesus took the opportunity of his physical death to explain a few things to the first generation of rebels, the Watchers who’d been locked up in Tartarus for the Mount Hermon rebellion:
[H]e went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah… (1 Peter 3:19b-20a, ESV)
The Greek word translated “proclaimed” is sometimes rendered “preached” in English bibles, but the sense of the verse is more forceful than just preaching. In a nutshell, Jesus visited the Watchers in the abyss to explain what had just taken place in Jerusalem: He was dead in the flesh, which was exactly what he wanted to happen.
In other words, to paraphrase our friend Dr. Michael Heiser: “Thank your minions for helping me complete that part of my mission. By the way, I’m getting out of here at dawn of the third day—and you’re still dead.”
Now, this is admittedly speculative, but the history of the world suggests that the gods of the nations have been at war as much with each other as they’ve been with their Creator. The shock of the Resurrection, and the improbable survival of the early church despite efforts by Rome and Jerusalem to stamp it out, forced the pagan gods to admit they’d been completely outplayed. The clock was ticking and their backs were against the wall. It was time to try something desperate—setting differences aside for a joint effort to build a counter-religion to the growing faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s meet the colleagues of the moon-god.
1 1 Corinthians 2:8 (ESV).