“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”
In the eternal scheme of things, choice was first given by God to His celestial angels. We know this because many among heaven’s ranks missed their high calling and abused their privilege of choosing. They maliciously rebelled against their loving and holy Creator! Fortunately, however, for the benefit of God’s everlasting kingdom, many of heaven’s angels exercised their freewill by choosing to be loyal. Ever since that time, they have faithfully served their Creator. Sadly, the other angels who were disloyal and acted unwisely introduced – evil into existence!
To keep heaven pure and holy, Lucifer and his rebellious fellow angels were forever expelled. The Lord Jesus personally described this event when He said, “… I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning…” (Luke 10:18)
The Lord was probably looking down when He watched Lucifer’s expulsion from His Father’s eternal realm. This all took place long before the creation of man.
Hypothetically, if you could simply view Satan’s behind – you would most likely see the mark of Jesus’ footprint! This would help explain Satan’s unthinkable aggressiveness toward the Son of Man during the 40-day period of His heaviest earthly temptations. The Bible summarizes Jesus’ physical experience with mankind’s enemy by saying, “…in all points He was tempted just as we are, yet without sin…” (Hebrews 4:15)
Our Lord successfully endured the travail of Satan’s direct attacks during His time of fasting and prayer in the wilderness. In fact, He was specifically led by God’s Spirit into the wilderness for this unprecedented purpose (see Matthew 4:1). The spiritual battle between good and evil took place during the early days of the Lord’s intenerate ministry. This occurred when He was only about 30 years of age (see Matthew 4:2-11).
Pause to contemplate the great importance of this fact – our Savior victoriously defeated mankind’s foremost enemy. He did this both in heaven and on earth! God’s Holy Son overpowered Lucifer in both dominions and never gave in to temptation.
The Old Testament’s message vividly portrays the great responsibility that accompanies freewill. Looking back, evil had already come into being long before the earth was eventually populated, so the world’s first couple had a great challenge. Their spiritual obedience was immediately critical! It was God’s earliest prophets who helped us understand this turbulent era of time.
Evil’s unholy destructive presence was in essence the back side of God’s gracious decision to give His angels, and later man, the opportunity of – choice! Man’s spiritual freedom could not function apart from the corresponding responsibility and consequences that resulted from his sinful decisions. Eternal life and death were both available through man’s freewill.
The Bible explains “…for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
From the very beginning, God had clearly said, “…but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17) Like Lucifer’s grotesque demons who had previously served as heaven’s angels, Eve doubted God’s Word and then misused her God-given privilege of – choice!
In order for human existence to have its intended eternal significance, good and bad consequences had to accompany the blessing of freely making responsible decisions. The privilege of being made in God’s image ironically came with the corresponding potential of experiencing spiritual conflict. From the Garden of Eden until now, the battle between good and evil (see Romans 7 and 8) has universally been intensely real and very personal!
This foreknown spiritual conflict is why God warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit on the tree providing – knowledge of good and evil! For spiritual reasons explained throughout the Scriptures, these timeless opposing forces will co-exist until the very end!
Jesus said, “Let both the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest…” (Matthew 13:30) At the end of time, both evil and its source will at last be eradicated forever (See Revelations 20:10)! The Bible also explains that while we are waiting, “we will not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Freewill’s noble decisions resulting from obedience demonstrate our love for God. However, disobedience demonstrates our human propensity to sin! Our natural desire to know and love God reflects the response that He has always wanted for us. His incarnation made it perfectly clear that everything He has revealed across the centuries has revolved around His sovereign plan. Fortunately, He has chosen to bless, forgive, and redeem us!
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
Nothing of lasting significance has ever revolved around our own personal planning or our temporary range of knowledge. It is only our confidence in what the Lord Jesus openly said and willingly did on our behalf- that pleases our heavenly Father. The Bible explains, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
The tragic consequence of anyone’s rejection of heaven’s Savior goes directly against God’s will. Scripture explains this by saying “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish…” (2 Peter 3:9)
Rationally, the resulting consequences for our decisions have always been related to our freedom of choice. As has been wisely stated, “for any lost seeker to finally miss heaven – they must disregard thousands of church steeples, millions of Bibles, countless radio and television programs, plus, all the personal testimonies of their Christian friends and family members!” Those who willingly choose to remain lost, in spite of God’s grace and open self-disclosure, will forfeit heaven for only one reason – their persistent unrepentance, which is a freely made choice!
By Billie Hanks Jr.