Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Biblical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 27:46

Did God Really Reject Christ on the Cross?

All contents copyright © 2012 by M.L. Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, ama sabachthani?”  - which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
 - Matthew 27:46 NIV
Based largely upon the above passage of scripture an entire doctrinal theology has been created and disseminated throughout the world which teaches that God Most High turned his back on His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, while he hung on the cross claiming he had literally become sin. What I find interesting about this, is that everyone so easily embraces this concept. No questions are asked, no thought is given as to the “why” of such a situation. We simply accept it as fact.
But let’s assume someone does ask that “why” question. Maybe some of the questions raised because of that particular theological interpretation would follow along the lines of:
1. If God can turn His back on Jesus, what chance does the average person have? Jesus was sinless and was only doing what was necessary to save mankind.
2. How did Christ actually become sin? Is sin some sort of independent element that can be put on someone—even without their consent? If that’s the case, then wouldn’t God be aware of such a condition and not hold Jesus to blame but recognize His selfless act for what it was?
3. Is God so distant and remote that He can’t see that Jesus was only doing what God Himself wanted to be done? Why is it that Jesus should be made to suffer—not just physically, but also through spiritual separation from God the Father?
4. Lastly—and in my opinion the most important—since Jesus went to great pains to assert the fact that He is God, how can He turn his back on Himself ? This is nothing to dismiss blithely. The very reason that Christ was hanging on the cross was because of the crime of blasphemy.
There are far more questions that come to mind, but the main points are covered in the four questions above. To be fair, it is reasonable to assume that these questions had already been asked and answered by various church pastors, teachers and followers of Christ of many stripes over the years. Of course the disconnect between question and answer seems to appear in the answers. Despite the implications of a Living God turning His back upon Jesus Christ, it has been my observation that too many in positions of leadership within the Christian faith remained resolute,  held to the orthodox view they had been taught and simply could not be swayed. Still others seemed to be hesitant—weighing the implications of agreeing with the orthodox viewpoint. It was as almost as though they understood that there were errors with the orthodox view, but had no better answer. This reduced them into a position of trying to convince others of the correctness of the orthodox answer they had been taught, but deep down held their own nagging feelings as to what the real answer to those questions might be.
Just to be clear, this is not a commentary designed to bash any pastors or teachers for the answers they have been given to such vexing questions. Despite the difficulty of the question, it remains clear that these people are sincere in the answers they give in response to the questions presented and that such answers were correct to the best of their understanding. It remains my belief that most in the church are dedicated, honest, hardworking people who love God and are doing what they are told to do by Jesus as outlined in Matthew 28:19.
So how did it come to pass that a piece of scripture could wind up being so mangled as to lead to a whole different meaning? Well that’s a rather long story and it took several hundred years to accomplish. It has taken even longer to solidify into the error it has become in the minds of Christians the world over. Once a particular teaching falls into the realm of “tradition”, it becomes like a horrible addiction that you cannot shake no matter how hard you try. If you think overcoming an addiction to cigarettes or heroin is tough, try bucking a tradition sometime. People will come out with torches and pitchforks to chase you down.
That brings us to another difficult question. When evidence is revealed which clearly indicates that there has been an error in interpretation of Scripture, should we really continue to hold on to a traditional view of scripture simply because its, well, tradition? Would it not be far wiser to find out just what the scripture actually says and then push forward with those findings?
In the Gospel of Matthew, 27:46, Christ is near the end of His earthly existence, having hung on the cross now for nine hours. Suddenly he cries out in His native Aramaic, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which translated means, “My God, My God why have your forsaken me?”
Now on its face, that verse seems to be pretty clear. Jesus has been hanging in a very uncomfortable position for several hours after having been beaten, humiliated and abandoned by His friends. It would seem by all accounts, an ignoble end to what had started out as a promising week. Why shouldn’t Jesus cry out in despair and pain to the one who ultimately put Him in that position to begin with? After all, didn’t He pray to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to allow for “...this cup to pass” if it was His will? That would certainly seem to indicate that Jesus was not all that enthusiastic about what was about to befall Him.
It is at this point that emotions coupled with the “hearing with fleshly ears and seeing with fleshly eyes” sidetrack us from the reality of the situation. I will reiterate: Jesus is God; He was then and He is now. It is important to remain clear on the concept that while He was here amongst us, His Spirit was locked into a fleshly body just as ours are. As a Christian, we must be cognizant of the fact that our bodies are merely containers for our spirits. When our bodies die, our spirits are freed from those bodies. If we do not concede that point, then nothing else in this commentary will make sense. Having accepted the spiritual reality of our existence, we can return to the construct of God Almighty and His relationship with Jesus Christ.
One of the many differences between Jesus and human beings was not so much that He was also God while he was here on this earth in the flesh; one of the salient differences was that Christ was not of Adam’s seed. Why is this important and what does it have to do with Christ crying out while near death hanging on the cross? All mankind since Adam and Eve, have been born of a “sin nature”; that is, they have been born of parents who transgressed an established line of demarcation set forth by their god.
At this juncture it is necessary to point out that the word Sin means, “To miss the mark”. It is also necessary to draw a contrast between Sin and Evil in order to understand the magnitude of Christ’s work on the cross. Too often these two terms are conflated or used interchangeably. This is an error. Sin, Het in the Hebrew, is not the same as Evil, ra in the Hebrew. Both have very different and distinct meanings. To place this dichotomy into understandable terms it would be helpful to understand the following: Due to a type of covenantal agreement between god and his creation, all humans born of that first creation fall under Sin, but not all of these people are evil. Those who are Evil cannot be such without also being in Sin. That may sound convoluted, but it is a concept and a truth which Jesus understood quite well. Sin and Evil and their differences played a large role in the scripture verse we’re exploring. 
So to bring us back to the Garden, it is well known to most all within the Western world that two human beings, Adam and Eve, chanced upon an spiritual entity in the Garden who had camouflaged himself in the form of a serpent. This angel first discussed the plight of the human and the nature of god with the woman and then succeeded in tempting Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. We then see that Adam was not seduced to eat, but rather made a conscience decision to join Eve in eating this particular prohibited fruit. But why; why give up all of that perfection just because some other creature in the garden said it was alright to do so? To delve into that answer would be its own commentary. Regardless, the answer does have some bearing on the reason Christ winds up hanging on the cross several thousand years later.
Getting back to those words Christ spoke as he hung upon the cross, it is important to understand just why He had to be on that cross to begin with. I have always been left with less than satisfactory answers whenever I had asked why Jesus had to die on the cross for us. The standard answer I was given is that he died in our place because we’re all sinners. “For the wages of sin is death”, the Bible tells us, but I still didn’t get it. Who is paying this wage and why does it have to be paid to us? Since this wage we’re being paid is our very lives, who is it that ultimately benefits from the remittance of this type of wage? Is it God Himself? Why would God demand such a wage? What’s He supposed to do with it? After all, He created us. If he wanted a bunch of human beings stacked like cordwood, it is reasonable to presume that He could have just created us that way to begin with.
To understand why such a wage is paid, one needs to understand a bit more about the relationship between God, Man and His spiritual messengers generically referred to as Angels. The Bible talks about spiritual or angelic entities far more than some people might realize. Despite such mentions in the scriptures, we have still come away with a very different understanding of just who and what these beings are. The reasons for this confusion are multi-fold and stretches back almost as long as there have been human beings on the earth. Suffice to say that this confusion, whether intentional or not, was created and then solidified in the minds of people through…tradition. More recent traditions play a role in buttressing this image of spiritual entities more than anything else. Even those who are not students of history are somewhat familiar with the works of Homer, Dante or Milton. They are hard to miss as much of the literary world and Hollywood live off such stories and traditions.
Going back in time to ancient Greece, one would become familiar with the Greek tales of monsters, of hells, of other worlds which Homer recounted in his poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. These poems and the concepts which were introduced found their way into the works of later authors such as Dante in his epic work, “The Divine Comedy” and still later, John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. It is through these works that much of the imagery and mythos which makes up our understanding of heaven and hell, angels and demons and lastly, God and Satan are birthed. The Satan with the red suit and the horns and pitchfork is connoted through these writings as well as such hellish localities as the River Styx. That Dante in his poem was trying to make what essentially amounted to a political statement and invoked TONS of irony. (For example, Dante is given a tour of hell by Virgil, a first century BC Roman poet who was essentially an atheist.) To a people who couldn’t read a Bible that was hard to find and then when found, existed only in the Latin language, Dante and Milton provided the much sought after imagery of the after-life and the spiritual world which they craved. Interestingly enough, though today we now have the Bible in the English language, the myths which these and other men created of heaven and hell and the beings that inhabit them continue to thrive.
The truth is that such spiritual entities are not exactly as Dante or Milton portrayed them—not even close; neither are there ever increasing levels of hell for those who are more wicked than others. These are concepts which were made up; it is simple fiction. This begs the question of whether there is a hell and where it might be located. Where exactly was it that Christ went when he died on the cross? Wasn’t that hell? Good questions all. The answer is that upon His death, Christ’s Spirit descended to a place which in Hebrew is referred to as Sheol. It is also variously referred to as the grave and as hell, though those last two designations can be somewhat misunderstood. The answer to the question as to whether there is a hell is to quote from the Bible:
“…He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit, through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”
1st Peter 3:19-20
“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Revelation 1:18
In the first quote, the Apostle Peter is explaining just where Jesus went when He breathed his last on the cross. If you were unaware that Christ actually descended into this abode of the dead upon his earthly death, now you know that His Spirit did in fact go there—just as all spirits did upon earthly death. Additionally you have scripture reference to aid you in your own study. Christ went to the abode of the dead as prescribed covenantally; a place called Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in Latin or Hell in the English. While He was there, He explained to those spirits imprisoned there exactly who He was and that due to a particular sacrificial act on His part, He now possessed authority over the whole world covenantally and offered them their freedom. Here is another scriptural quote:
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. That is why it says:
When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’
What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
Ephesians 4:7-9
What Paul is saying here is that Christ has extended to us all His grace by freeing us from the bonds of damnation. By dying and descending to Sheol, He pointed out the angel’s error. Christ wasn’t a sinner, yet the angels conspired to kill Him as though He were. Those angels had no right covenantally to kill Christ; He had transgressed no covenantal agreement with them. Yet when Christ was murdered and His Spirit descended down into the abode of the dead, Paul says that, “…He made a public spectacle of them…” (Colossians 2:15), referring to those angels who had had sought to expel God from their earthly midst. It was at that moment that the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel finally came true. The era of angelic rule over mankind ended and the Kingdom of God now began. That is what Christ meant when he said, “It is finished.”
Of course it is reasonable to ask that if, “It is finished.” why it is then—since Christ now has the keys to death and hell—that we are still here? Why do we continue in this obviously fallen world rife with pain, death, injustice and all manner of bad things? To answer that question, we need to still understand the role of angels just a bit more. Their importance in this matter is without a doubt. The death wages as a result of sin is essentially paid to them as a result of a covenant agreement.
One might be inclined to question the existence of such a covenant between God and angels as it is not clearly delineated within the Canon of scripture. In fact there is a covenant—actually referred to as an oath—which spells out what God promises and the limitations which are placed upon the angels as a result. This oath is found in the Deuterocanonical Book of Enoch. This book was once a part of the Hebrew texts, but was finally excised from what would become the known Canon of scripture by the Nicene Council early in the 4th century AD.  Regardless the removal of this book from our Bible, there are still bits and pieces of its affect within the cannon of scripture. Consider this from the Book of Daniel:
...But the prince of the Persian Kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” and 10:20-21, “...So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth.  (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.”
Daniel 10:13
Here we have an angel talking to the prophet Daniel about at least two angelic rulers over two geographical locations which are still identifiable on the globe today. This angel also identifies Michael as the prince over Israel during this time, approximately 606 BC. Why a prince for Israel and not a ruler as are the other angles who are mentioned? Additionally, who made these angels rulers over anyone to begin with? Consider further what the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 3:10 -11.
Paul calls these beings Rulers and Authorities in the Heavenly realms. This is an interesting way to phrase the job given to an angel if in fact an angel is merely a messenger with no authority but that which is given by Almighty God. Would such angels have the temerity to seize such authority on their own despite Christ’s words that, “...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) So the question as to the identities of these Rulers and Authorities which Paul mentions remains. Further, where would Paul learn about such beings and why would he give them such a high designation if they do not actually exist. Would that then leave all of Paul’s writings in doubt? Paul’s provocative teachings go even further by asserting that it is through humans that these angels will be taught about the true nature of God Most High. How is it that a human can teach an angel anything? That answer is rooted in the nature of the relationship between God and man and God and angels. Consider that difference as you consider the nature of the Mosaic Law.
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The Law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.
Galatians 3:19
Here Paul hits us with another provocative statement. Through primarily tradition, it is thought that God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Deeper study of the scriptures reveals that in fact it was an angel of the Lord with whom Moses spoke. This is not only made clear in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:2-4), but it is reiterated in the New Testament as well. (Acts 7:30 and Acts 7:35). So be it the Old Testament or the New Testament, it is clear that it was not God Most High which brought us the Mosaic Law, rather it was angels—specifically Celestial entities. Unto itself, this should not be terribly alarming. God uses angels to do His work all the time. It would be short duty for Him to send one of them down give Moses a few instructions by which to keep the rabble at bay.
The problem is that Paul also seems to think that there are Rulers and Authorities in the heavenly realms. Do we know if these Rulers and Authorities follow God and do His will or do not follow God and work against Him. Paul cautions us about these Rulers and Authorities and urges us to take upon us the Full Armor of God to protect ourselves from them. That would lead one to believe that these Rulers and Authorities stand against the desires and will of Almighty God. If these are the same entities which gave us the Law, then is the Law a good thing? That would mean taking a look at the Law from a completely different perspective.
There is little doubt that the Ten Commandments are good for all concerned. Most people are at least familiar with some of the Ten Commandments. Yet the Ten Commandments are only a small part of the whole Law. There are six hundred and thirteen Levitical Laws on top of the Ten Commandments. Few outside of the Jewish Rabbinical line know what these laws encompass, yet this is what is referred to when talking about the Law. These six hundred, twenty three total laws and commands paint a very severe picture of a god that is not easy to satisfy or to please. It is these Laws which Christ countermanded in His Sermon on the Mount. The full implication of the Law and its effect upon man is illustrated by Paul in Ephesians:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12
Why is it that Paul is so insistent that we need to use Christ to protect ourselves from these angels. Why do we need protection from angels if they are messengers of God’s? That doesn’t seem to make much sense. One might presume that these are the fallen angels who are talked about, but fallen angels would hardly be placed in positions as Rulers and Authorities. Certainly such a fallen angel could not rightfully give all of the kingdoms of the earth to Christ. Further it would have been folly for them to attempt to lie about their rights to Christ. These Rulers and Authorities knew quite well who Christ was as He wandered in the desert. Lying to God Most High about ownership is ridiculous. Christ was tempted by that which could have been legally given to Him by these Rulers and Authorities. So if these angels do not fall into the traditional mold that has been created for them then just exactly what are they?
In the 2nd century AD, around the year140, a man named Marcion of Sinope (modern-day Turkey) arrived in Rome. He met with and became a student of a Gnostic leader named Cerdo. Cerdo had arrived at a rather unorthodox conclusion with respect to the identity of God and Jesus Christ which Marcion found fascinating. Cerdo taught that the God of the Old Testament was a different God than the one manifest in the New Testament through Christ. In his argument, he raised some interesting points:
1. The god of the Old Testament was unknowable. With the exception of just a handful of people throughout history, this god really had no direct relationship with his creation, leaving them to their own devices.
2. Christ, by contrast, was approachable to all within proximity and had been very well known by all around him. Further His Spirit continued with His people after His death and resurrection.
3. The Old Testament God was sheer justice. He was replete with laws and edicts that were very strict. To violate some of these laws meant death.
4. Christ took some of these very laws and turned them on their head, in one case dismissing an Old Testament violation punishable by death via stoning with a simple admonition to, “...Go and sin no more.” In fact, in teaching basic principles, Jesus seemed to contradict aspects of Levitical law. “An eye for an eye” became “Turn the other cheek.”
5. He exemplified an intimate relationship with his creation through his love and graciousness whereas the Old Testament God was more imperious and demanding.
Within the last century and a half, a theology called “Dispensationalism” has been created that partly answers the stark contrast respecting the two different aspects of God’s character. The reason he was such a distant, remote, stern disciplinarian in the Old Testament times was because that was what He was supposed to be for that period of time. The Dispensation of the Law more or less guided God’s behavior just as the Dispensation of Grace guides Jesus’. There were four dispensations before the Law dispensation stretching back to Adam and Eve, but god essentially acted the same way towards man throughout all of them.
Marcion and Cerdo didn’t have to wade through any of that convoluted thinking as it hadn’t been conceived during their lifetimes. No, that prevailing theology in the church today came out of the teachings of French theologian and Pastor, John Calvin (1509 – 1564) and then was modified by the inventive mind of John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882), who regarded Dispensationalism as the answer to the question of why God and Christ do not act alike.
The salient point in all of this is that all of these people: Marcion, Cerdo, Calvin, Darby, et al, stretching out over a period of almost two thousand years, came to recognize that the god of the Old Testament and Jesus didn’t seem to act the same. When Christ says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the father,” and “I and the Father are One.” It is a clear indicator that both incarnations should act pretty much in one accord. Yet is it clear that even with a cursory read of the Old Testament, one will leave with the impression of an angry, aloof God that doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or at all; not exactly the image of Christ which is described so eloquently by Paul in 1st Corinthians 13.
So then, what is the truth? Well Marcion took what Cerdo had taught him and expounded upon it. His thought was that there were actually two Gods at work. The Old Testament God was called Yahweh. This god was basically vengeful and the author of all evil. This god was concerned only for his people—the Jewish people—and he’d happily kill any and all of the others that got in his way. By contrast, the New Testament God was full of grace and love for all mankind, being a respecter of no one people in particular, and promising life to all. This God disclosed himself in the personage of Jesus Christ.
Marcion’s views could be seen as convoluted and errant as those of John Nelson Darby’s, but unlike today where dispensationalism is still eagerly taught as absolute truth in seminaries and in church pulpits, Marcion’s supposed errors were quickly brought to light and stamped out—primarily through an early church father named Augustine. The reason I say “supposed” is that there are no writings of Marcion which remain. All we do know of him and his teachings are through the jaundiced eyes of Augustine who made something of a career out of pointing out Marcion’s errors. In the end, most people decided that Marcion was too controversial and with the Orthodox Church having branded him a heretic, Marcionism soon died out.
What is of note, however, is that the disparity of God’s behavior as seen between the Old and New Testaments never went away. Here is an example of two different people separated by about sixteen hundred years—Marcion and Darby, confronting the same problem and arriving at two conclusions which wound up having the effect of rewriting who God really is and thus our understanding of Him.
Marcion was partly correct in his conclusions as was John Nelson Darby. You need to understand this in order to understand what Christ said as he hung on the cross in the ninth hour. Here we enter a concept that can be somewhat provocative, but it needs to be researched and understood before it is dismissed. There is and has only ever been one God. No one knows his name as God is simply a title. Therefore Marcion was correct in that there are two different gods at work here: The god that he referred to as Yahweh is in all probability, one of several mighty angels—one of these Rulers and Authorities which were cited in various scripture verses earlier.
You see it is mere presumption to think that Jesus or Paul was referring to Satan when he mentioned those particular angels. Firstly, contemporary theology teaches that there is but one Satan. (And Satan in this context is used as a name even though it is merely an adjective. Satan simply means adversary or accuser. It isn’t a name like Fred Satan.) Additionally, if there were but one Satan, then why do both Jesus and Paul talk as though there are a multitude of these angelic beings in positions of authority? Why did the angel in Daniel chapter 10 refer to at least two other angelic rulers?
The conclusion which is so provocative is that the god(s) of the Old Testament are in actuality angels of the Most High God. In the beginning, they were created to act as liaisons between God Most High and this human creation. God always had a relationship between Himself and man but it was a relationship from a distance; it was a relationship through proxy, a position filled by these angels. This wasn’t an accident or an oversight; this was by design. God related to us solely through His angels.
How is it that such a conclusion can be reached? Well Jesus Himself said it first. In John 5:37, Jesus says quite plainly that no one has ever seen God or heard his voice. 1st John 4:12 mirrors the same statement. No one has ever seen God.”  1st Timothy 6:15-16 is more expansive, “...God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, which no one has seen or can see.”  
We in the flesh cannot behold what God is in His essence anymore than we could survive in the sun. God in His essence is so far beyond us that the two cannot mix. It has nothing to do with the allegation that we are sinful and fallen; rather it has everything to do with simple physics. Consider that if there is all of these repeated statements which insist that man has never seen God, then exactly who has mankind been interacting with throughout the Old Testament? Enter the angels; beings created that can traverse the two realms. They can be spectral and they can be corporeal. They can be wind and rain and they can be fire. Essentially an angel can assume whatever shape and function that can be created with matter. That is how God created them. 
Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines angel as:
One of a class of spiritual beings; a celestial attendant of God. In medieval angelology, angels constituted the lowest of the nine celestial orders (seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations or dominions, virtues, powers, principalities or princedoms, archangels, and angels)
A conventional representation of such a being, in human form, with wings, usually in white robes
A messenger, esp. of God
A person who performs a mission of God or acts as if sent by God: an angel of mercy
A person having qualities generally attributed to an angel, as beauty, purity, or kindliness.
A person whose actions and thoughts are consistently virtuous
An attendant or guardian spirit.
As a contemporary definition, this is somewhat satisfactory, but of more importance would be how angels were regarded by the ancients. The Jews regarded angels primarily as messengers or workers of the Most High God. (Hebrew: “Melakha” meaning work and “Mal’achut” meaning message.) However, Jews also tended to use the term to describe others as well such as “kruv” which describes young children (and is where we get the term Cherub from.) as well as “Gil-Gaulim” meaning revolving (Most likely alluding to the entity(s) in Ezekiel 1:24).
Paul’s views on angels are a bit more stark. To reiterate Ephesians chapter 6, Paul exhorts us to put on the “Full armor of God” so that we are protected from these spiritual entities. In Colossians 2:17, he warns us to not be seduced by the religion of angels. (Not something to dismiss casually; such religions are more pervasive in our society than we’re willing to acknowledge or admit.) And then of course there is Job 4:18 to wit:
If God places no trust in his servants,
If He charges His angels with error,
How much more those who live in houses of clay,
Whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!
It would appear that the Most High God himself would caution us human beings to be wary of angels. In fact we’re told by John the Apostle to “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God. (1st John 4:1) Why should one test a spirit if all of these angels are regarded as good with only one malevolent Satan running loose? The answer becomes obvious. In the biblical context by which angels are most frequently used, it is clear that they are a creation of the Most High God, that they are spiritual in construct, but have the ability to take on many disparate forms depending upon the circumstances and their own desires. It is these angels which Paul warns us about.
But how can we go from knowing there are angels to suddenly having to come to grips with the fact that they acted as surrogate gods to us here on earth? Surely the Most High God would have prevented such behavior. Well it is important to consider the fact that God placed those angels into those positions as Rulers and Authorities. Once in place, these beings were free to administrate over us as they saw fit. If God Most High would have prevented them from acting out the way they did, it would be the same as Him preventing anyone of us from doing the good or bad things we do every day.
We were created in God’s image. Obviously that doesn’t mean a physical image as much as it is a Spiritual one. Human beings come to know God through faith. Angels know God on a different level altogether. As a human, it would be difficult to comprehend the communication between God Almighty and an angel. Suffice to say there is a level of communication and of intimacy between them which at present, is beyond us. Therefore angels do not have to operate on the same level of faith in God that human beings must. Their faith is a different construct. It is due to this relationship they enjoy with God Almighty which has led them to rely on the strength of the oaths and covenants. They believe God implicitly when He says He’ll do something. They know to the very core of their beings that God is truth and will always be truthful.
The errant theological teaching which asserts that Satan acts as he does because he believes that he is really God is beyond absurd as taught by orthodoxy. The truth is that Satan knows quite well who God Almighty is and is under no allusions to the contrary. Regardless, the enemy does believe that he is god to a portion of humanity and it is this which has plunged him and his brethren into the War in Heaven outlined in Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28 and Revelation 12. Christ’s death on the cross and His subsequent journey into Sheol legally wrested control of this realm from the hands of these Rulers and Authorities. The covenant which these angels enjoyed under the Old Testament was declared null and void upon Christ’s death.
Orthodoxy has unwittingly given the enemy what they need in order to keep people ignorant of this War in Heaven: Disinformation. It is one of the oldest battle tactics in warfare and the Bible tells us that it will be a great deception in the last days which the enemy will use to their advantage. So great will this deception be that “...if possible, even the elect will be deceived.” (Matthew 24:24) To deceive humans is not terribly difficult for an angel. We do not see the world as they do and our brief lives upon this planet keep us from being as effective against their lies and deceit. The enemy has only to perpetuate a lie for one or two generations until those that know the truth die off. At that point, the lie has become the truth as no one can recall what came before. Again, think back to Dante and Milton and contrast with Marcion.
So that brings us back to the cross with Christ about to give up His spirit, but before He does, He cries out those words. So the question remains; if He is not crying out to God not to forsake Him, what is he crying out? To understand that, one has to understand the culture and methodologies employed by the 1st century world, specifically the world of Israel under Roman occupation. If one were to a enter a synagogue or temple sometime before the Common Era and wanted to read Psalm 119, how would one know how to locate Psalm 119? Were one to ask the rabbi to reference Psalm 119, the rabbi would reply with a blank stare; he would have no idea what Psalm 119 is. This would at first seem puzzling. Why wouldn’t a Jewish rabbi know how to find Psalm 119? Most anyone can find the Psalms in the Bible—it is located between the Book of Job and Proverbs. True enough, but today we enjoy the benefit of years of difficult and tedious work to arrange and catalog the Bible, separating it into chapter and verse. However back in the 1st Century AD and earlier, the Bible as we know it today did not exist. The Bible comprised only the Old Testament writings and was a series of scrolls written on a reedy material called Papayas. To reference a particular book, passage or Psalm, one would use its incipit. Incipit? What’s an incipit? Why have we never heard of this before? The following is from Wikipedia:
The incipit of a text, such as a poem, song or book, is its first few words or opening line. Before the development of titles, texts were often referred to by their incipits. Incipit comes from the Latin for "it begins". In the medieval period, incipits were often written in a different script or color from the rest of the work of which they were a part. Though incipit is Latin, the practice of the incipit predates classical antiquity by several millennia, and can be found in various parts of the world. Although not always called by the name of "incipit" today, they remain popular and commonplace.
Many books in the Hebrew Bible are named in Hebrew using incipits. For instance, the first book is called Bereshit ("In the beginning ...") and Lamentations, which begins "How lonely sits the city ..." is called Eykhah ("How"). In the first case, the incipit has passed into English, "Genesis" being derived from the Greek translation of Bereshit. This is not the case, however, with other books; the second, for example, is called "Lamentations" in English.
It was in this manner which rabbis from ancient times were able to recall passages of scripture. It is of note to point out the fact that it wasn’t just rabbis who could do this; it was a typical method of reference for a host of writings. Jesus, who knew his way around the scriptures, would have been well familiar with this method as it was the only one used to recall scripture. That is the reason that Jesus didn’t cite the Old Testament passage of Exodus 12:24 when he referred “an eye for an eye” but rather simply said, “...You have heard that it was said...” Christ didn’t cite a numerical reference because there wasn’t one. That didn’t happen until several hundred years later when the Bible was first compiled into the Vulgate, a Codex (or book) of the then known cannon that was translated into Latin by Jerome of Stridonium. (modern-day Croatia) Then later beginning in the 13th Century when it was broken down into chapters by Italian Dominican biblical scholar Santi Pagnini, and then even later in the 16th Century when numerical verse was added by William Whittingham.
Now it is clear to see that what Christ was actually doing as he was about to give up his Spirit. While hanging on the cross, He had employed an incipit. The incipit was for what we now refer to as Psalm 22. The question now becomes one of why Psalm 22 was so important that He would cry it out as he was taking in the last few moments here on this earthly plain? To answer that question, we must look at Psalm 22.
Not surprisingly, Psalm 22’s incipit is: “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”  The Psalm goes on to essentially recount the very events that Jesus had just endured, down to the casting of lots for his clothes. Psalm 22 was written several hundred years before Jesus even came to earth making the mention of the casting of lots for his clothing curious. Coincidence, or did Christ understand that he was fulfilling the prophecy of that Psalm? The Psalm then concludes with something surprising for all of those who are of the belief that God turned His back on Jesus because he had become sin and He couldn’t stand to look at him. Psalm 22:24 says, “For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
The Psalm continues to point out how Jesus will rule over the earth and generally has good news for Him—and us—all around. So why would Jesus reference this Psalm as he was dying on the cross? The answer to that becomes obvious when the parties witnessing His execution are identified. All of the Pharisees who were milling about on the periphery while Christ was being executed knew exactly what the Psalm in which Christ referenced had to say; Jesus only needed to cite the incipit. It is of some curiosity to know whether these Pharisees experienced a chill down their collective spines as they recalled from memory the content of that Psalm and saw how accurate it was—down to the Roman guards casting lots for Christ’s clothing. Despite his present situation; nailed to a cross after having been scourged and beaten so severely that his face was an unrecognizable mass of bloody flesh, Jesus got his message across to not only the Pharisees, but to those in the Spiritual realm who were also watching the events anxiously. Psalm 22 outlined the fact that Christ was not dying a broken man; He was merely fulfilling prophesy and was on His way to fulfill yet another one.
What Christ did as He spoke the Incipit of Psalm 22 on the cross should be a source of reassurance to anyone, but especially a Christian. Instead, orthodoxy perverts this passage so as to use it as a club, pummeling hapless Christians in an attempt to keep them “in line”. This perversion of the scriptures first began in earnest with the Nicene Councils, but there are many who can assume their share of the blame from the early Gnostics to the latter day Prosperity Gospel preachers whose desire for money far outstrips their desire for a right relationship with Christ or the legalistic Christians whose refusal to acknowledge the fulfillment of the covenant by Christ results only in nailing Him back on the cross. Still that does not excuse those in positions of leadership, teaching in seminaries or churches today who are shown this error, but because of tradition or ego—or perhaps both, ignore it and return to the warmth and familiarity of their perverse doctrine.
It has been no end of curiosity to me as to why those who are shown the truth of scriptural interpretations such as Matthew 27:46 persist in their error. The implications of the God they worship are horrific for humanity, yet they continue. I am well aware that this has come about as a result of the teaching which they have received, but at some point in one’s walk, a decision has to be made as to who God is in one’s life. A god whose heart is so far removed from compassion that his feelings and sense of moral decorum are regarded as more important than the very life of his creation, is really no god at all. Such was the situation which drove an early Greek philosopher named Epicurus to pen his famous riddle:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?”
Orthodoxy was molded into another version of the truth long ago to fulfill the needs of political leaders, miscreants and other power seekers who held God in little regard. Epicurus lived nearly three hundred years before Christ and did not have the benefit of seeing these prophecies fulfilled, yet his trilemma is legitimate. Orthodoxy will stumble to answer such a seemingly vexing question which will utilize much rationalization, but still not provide the answer sufficiently. Orthodoxy, under present design, cannot answer the Epicurean riddle. If teachers of the Gospel were to step away from orthodoxy long enough to assess it critically, they would see the corruption which has infected the truth. Something as simple as this passage in Hebrews would have nullified the perversion of the orthodox interpretation of Matthew 27:46:
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
- Hebrews 4:13.
To further exacerbate the perversion, theologians rationalize that God looked away from Christ because while Christ took on the sins of the world; He literally died Spiritually. Anyone understanding the nature of Christ would know that that is an impossibility. If Christ died Spiritually, then God is dead Spiritually—they are one and the same. Again, orthodoxy maintains that such is possible because through it all, Christ is not really God, but a mere subset of God. Therefore God can allow Him to die and then simply bring Him back to life again. This rationalization goes to the nature of a concept called the Trinity or the Triune Godhead. (I will leave that to a future commentary which can be found here: ) This rationalization of a Christ subset shows a stunning dearth of Spiritual discernment, but it allows the errors of orthodoxy to flourish.
In Hebrews 9:14, Christ is called an eternal Spirit. It says that, “... he offered himself unblemished to God”. Such a statement flies in the face of the theology which insists that Christ became sin and was so repulsive to God that God had to look away. An additional point to consider in this orthodox rationalization: As an eternal Spirit, if Christ were to die Spiritually for even a nano-second, He isn’t actually eternal unless you are willing to redefine the meaning of eternal. If Christ is not eternal, then his resurrection is a lie and his entire ministry is a cruel hoax.
Just to be clear, to “become sin” or as some translations say that “sin was imputed upon Him” is merely a misunderstanding of the translation. 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin (or be a sin offering) for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is from the Random House Unabridged Dictionary:
Impute. (Theology). To attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) to a person or persons vicariously; ascribe as derived from another.
In short, Christ took our place. There was no mechanism which altered the bio-chemical construct of Christ whereupon he was suddenly imbued with all of the sins (read transgressions) of everyone who ever lived or who would be born. There was no like Spiritual alteration either. To be made a sin offering simply meant that rather than our being put to death to satisfy those wages, Christ allowed Himself to be put to death physically in our stead. It is instructive to point out that one should not read into the scriptures what isn’t there. More importantly, however, is to learn who God is, learn his character. He showed us what he is like in Christ, thus if you can’t imagine Christ doing something, then don’t imagine God would do it either. They’re one and the same.
One last thought. We may be the last generation before Christ returns or it may be several more generations; there is no way to know for certain and that is not supposed to be our focus in any event. Attempting to pin down a time when Christ returns to this earth is not part of the great commission He gave to us. We are to be watching the signs, but not get so bogged down in them that all else falls by the wayside. There is one truth that is immutable: For each one of us alive today, this is the last generation. At some point we will draw our last breath and we will go to Christ, or we’ll remain alive to see Him return. Either way, our time here is precious—and so very short.