Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Fall

Here on earth, it's the "Fall" season, and last night we were reminded of that fact with the now-annual modern rite of the "Fall Back" act of turning clocks back one hour in a return to standard time from daylight savings time.

But those are not what we're going to talk about here in reference to the Fall. We're going to take a look back at mankind's fall from grace, and even further back, to the fall from heaven which led to that one in Eden.

Most people are aware of the name "Lucifer", and in Christian tradition the name has been assigned to the principal angel with glory as bright as the morning star who led a revolt in heaven against God.

The term Lucifer should not, however, be understood to be a proper name of "the Devil" or "Satan", merely a reference to that state from which he has fallen, that place in the glory of heaven itself.

The devil is but one of what were originally angelic creatures created by God as spiritual beings in a state of innocence. They ultimately became evil as a result of their own willful act, and when this act saw them cast out in the first 'Fall from Heaven', they turned their gaze towards God's human creation, leading us to sin and to our own separation, or the 'Fall of Man' from paradise.

That first fall of the angels came when, as Isaiah told in reference to the King of Babylon in his own day, and as is applied originally to Lucifer "Thou said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High."

The angel known as Lucifer led a rebellion of angels in heaven, seeking a place above God. The result was a war like none ever seen here on earth. As described in "Revelation" or the "Apocalypse": "there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon (Lucifer), and the dragon fought and his angels, and they prevailed not..."

The result of this rebellion, and the victory by Michael and the angels of heaven, was the 'Fall from Heaven' referred to earlier: "..neither was their place found anymore in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduces the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."

Lucifer/Satan had ultimately committed the first sin of "pride", or the excessive love of one's own excellence. Through the love of his own worth, he attempted to withdraw himself from subjection to Almighty God. He was able to get the angels opposed to the Divine Incarnation to follow him. These angels were jealous at the very thought of a lesser being, a human, being raised above them. That is how they saw Jesus, a man who would be raised above them.

So cast out of heaven, and free to roam the earth, full of hate and anger, Satan looked around at the beauty of God's creation. This earth was a place of natural beauty and wonder, and to populate it the Lord had created mankind in his own image and likeness, a creature of perfect innocence and integrity.

Satan immediately saw the weakness in this creation: man was in the image and likeness of God, but was, of course, not God. Man was made of flesh, and in that flesh lay the very weakness that Satan would exploit. His goal? To separate man from God forever. Why? To hurt God, of course. A victory in heaven denied, Satan would now seek victory on and dominion over the earth.

When God created man, who we know as 'Adam', he did not intend for us to have dominion over the entire earth. That right was reserved to God alone. But man was given great freedom and responsibility to care for the earth, the 'Garden of Eden' where that first man Adam was set, and he was permitted to eat of all the fruit of the garden, with the exception that man was specifically told to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A helpmate was created in 'Eve', or woman, and they continued as innocent creatures until Satan realized and hatched his great plan. He sidled up to the woman one day while she was alone, and the great deceiver whispered into her ear that first great lie. He told Eve that of course God didn't want man to eat from a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because then man would know everything and be like God.

Eve speaks this lie to Adam, they both fall for the devil's deception, eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and immediately have their eyes open to their disobedience. They wanted to know good and evil? Now they know it, and they know that they have committed that evil. They have disobeyed God. They try to hide from Him, willfully separating themselves from God. Of course their sin is found out, and they are banished from paradise.

The consequence of that sin by our first parents seems to be a victory for the devil. Satan has separated man from God by sin. Man has fallen from grace, and the 'Fall of Man' signals a sinister joy for Satan. This evil habit of sin now spreads down through history. Cain murders Abel, and the depths of sin are revealed. Man, originally created to be free from corruption, or death, is no longer immortal.

For the angels cast out of heaven, and of course for Satan himself, there can be no redemption. They are spiritual beings, and once cast from heaven they are out for good, relegated to the hell marked by being separated from God and paradise forever. For man, death without redemption from our sins is the same. Death in sin is isolation in that hell marked by permanent separation from God, separated from paradise forever.

This apparent, at least to himself, victory for Satan was not to be, as we now know. What Satan never saw coming, what he could not conceive, was just how far God was willing to go in order to provide an ultimate victory in salvation from sin. God became man in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and allowed himself to be persecuted, tortured, and crucified for our sins.

Satan never saw this level of love and commitment, could never conceive of such love in his own selfish nature. God allowed His Son to suffer death and lie in the tomb. Then, on the third day following that crucifixion and death, He rose in victory. Satan was defeated again, this time by Christ. There would be no ultimate victory for evil over good.

For their original 'Fall from Heaven', Satan and his fellow demons, the fallen angels, are left separated forever from God and the paradise of heaven. They are left with just one outlet for their ongoing hatred: separate as many human souls as possible from God. How do they accomplish these small victories? Tempt men to sin, keep them in sin, and have them die in that sin.

In the 'Fall of Man' we were cast out of what was meant to be the perpetual, eternal paradise of Eden. But we were so beloved by God that He gave us a path back to the glory of heaven. It takes only one thing on our parts: embrace the gift of salvation that we received on the cross from Jesus Christ.

All men need to do is recognize and accept that Jesus Christ did indeed suffer and die for our sins, each of us individually. God wants one thing from us, to give up that willfulness of sin, to recognize and acknowledge Him as our creator, as our Father. He demands that one thing from us, as in the beginning: know and acknowledge that He is God, and that we were created by Him for His purposes.

Give up your selfishness. Swallow your pride. Overcome your fear and embarrassment. Turn from your sin. No, you are not worthy. None of us are, but that is not the point, what we think of ourselves. What is important is that God thinks you are worthy. He feels that you are worthy enough that he was mocked, whipped, and nailed to a cross for you. Accept this love, and rise from the Fall!


THIS IS THE continuation of the "Sunday Sermon" series, all article of which can be reached by simply clicking on that 'Label' below.

No comments: