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Angelology: S. Lewis Johnson’s ‘Systematic Theology’ Series


Going through S. Lewis Johnson’s “Systematic Theology” series, I’ve completed the first year of the course, material originally covered in weeknight lessons during one fall and spring class year.  The last several messages in that section looked at Angelology.  The following are some interesting points brought out in those lessons.

Demon Possession in the Old Testament. From this lesson (message 26 in the Believers Chapel list): while the New Testament has many examples of actual demon possession, the Old Testament is generally silent, though with a few hints and references.  1 Kings 18:28 describes Baal worshippers slashing themselves, something believed to be demonic activity.  Another hint comes in David’s behavior before Achish in 1 Samuel 21:13-15, acting like a madman.  Interestingly, both David and Achish were familiar with such behavior, as in Achish’s comment to his men, “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow.”

As to why we see in the gospel accounts such a great outbreak of demonic activity:  One of the reasons  for Christ’s coming was to destroy the works of the devil.  The spirit world was especially disturbed at His arrival.

Demonic Possession in Modern Times: Here we note that some restraint exists over the demons’ activity, outwardly, in Christian lands: reference 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the restraint of sin today.  Some demonic possession and demonic activity does occur, among occultic and spiritualistic peoples; but as we all realize, in Christian lands, Satan sees it better to disguise himself as an angel of light.  Thus, demonic activity exists, but of a different kind.  As SLJ notes in lesson 28 (this transcript) :

 you must not for one moment think that the dangerous man to Christianity is the man who attacks it. … The man who is dangerous is the man who claims to be a Christian and who stands in the Christian pulpit and claims even to believe the Bible but who does not really believe it and who does not really proclaim the truths that are contained within it and particularly the essential doctrines that concern the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Guardian Angels?  (lesson 27 / Transcript message 51) Scripture does teach that the angels minister to the saints, collectively, and come to our aid as needed.  I’ve read a few other Bible teachers who completely disregard the idea of an individual guardian angel assigned to each person. One objection I’ve heard is that, after all, we humans are mortal, and if we each have a guardian angel assigned to us, what does that angel do before and after our lifetime?  As I think about it, that objection doesn’t necessarily negate the idea, since it could be a “one to many” relationship, one guardian angel with many individuals throughout the course of history.  S. Lewis Johnson here sticks to the known (scriptures), noting the incident in Acts 12, especially verse 15 – “and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” (singular reference). So, whether the idea is true or not, the early church at least believed in the idea of a guardian angel.

The Restraint of Satan.  From lesson 28 (transcript PDF here): This last message in the Angelology course also deals with eschatology, Satan’s future.  From this message especially come several good quotes and observations.

1) The type of restraint of Satan, quite different from when our Lord was in the tomb:

how different the restraint of Satan is from the restraint of our Lord Jesus. You’ll remember that they set a seal upon the sepulchre. But He tore the bars away on the third day and came forth from the grave.  Satan is in the abyss with a seal upon it for a thousand years, and he would still be there, were it not for the fact that he really is to be released, in the future, in order that he might have a little season of further rebellion.

2)  The Divine Irony in Revelation 20:1-3:

“And ‘an’ angel laid hold of Satan and bound him and put him in the bottomless pit.” Now, doesn’t that strike you as strange?  Well, it should, you know why? Because Satan was ‘big fellow, master too much’ who bossed the angels in ages past, remember. He was the anointed cherub that covereth. He was the chief of the angelic host. And this is the irony of God: that an angel, just one little angel, is enough now to lay hold of the dragon and bind him in the bottomless pit. I think there’s a great deal of drama and divine irony in that little word ‘an.’

3) Regarding Our Human Sinful Nature, the reason behind why Satan “must” be released after 1000 years:

The world can never be unified except once. (I could say twice if we said, under Jesus Christ.) But only once, for you see, the one thing that we all have in common, in which we are completely united, is the one thing that prevents us from ever being united; and that is our sin. That’s why Marx could never get along with his friends. That’s why Lenin could never get along with his friends. There can be no unity in the human race, except finally in the unity of all directed against the Lamb of God.

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