Our Deal with the Devil

If storming the gates of hell sounds shocking, it is because we never hear about it. The church never preaches it. The pastors ignore it. The seminaries hide it.

Why?

Deal with the DevilBecause we have made a pact with the devil. Soon after the church laid siege to the gates of hell, Satan offered a truce, and we accepted. How did this happen?

Satan’s Offer to Jesus

Satan had previously made the same offer to Jesus, but He rebuffed Satan, and went on to lead the charge against the kingdom of darkness (Luke 4:1-13). After Jesus rejected the offers of Satan, Jesus announced that His mission was to find the people in chains and set them free, to seek out those who were living in darkness and bring them to light, to discover the prisons where captives were held and break their bonds, and to come to those who were broken and enslaved by the enemy and give them healing, hope, and freedom (Luke 4:18-19). Most of these people Jesus sought to rescue were held imprisoned behind the gates of hell, and so Jesus laid siege against them.

However, three years into the battle, our leader, our general, our commander was struck down. We thought we had lost. We were disheartened. We were defeated. But three days later, our defeat turned into victory when Jesus came striding out of the gates of hell, leading many captives with Him (Eph 4:8)!

Jesus gathered us together to explain what had happened and reveal the plans for the final stage in this siege. Though the war had been won, though death and the devil had been defeated, there were still battles to be fought, and captives to be freed. And though Jesus had cancelled the power of sin and escaped the clutches of hell, the gates still stood and many people were held captive behind them. So Jesus gave us His power and sent us on the mission of continuing the task He started (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:4-8).

For 300 years, the church continued to lay siege to the gates of hell. Yes, there were many wounded among our ranks, and numerous people fell victim to the flames and the ferocious beasts sent out to slay us. But we held strong in our resolve to continue the mission of Jesus. Jesus was with us in word, power, and deed, and though many in the church fell wounded on the field, thousands of captives were freed. The gates were beginning to crumble.

deal-with-the-devil

Satan’s Offer to the Church

But just when the battle was almost won, tragedy struck. The worst part about it was that this tragedy was viewed by most in the church as a great victory. It happened near the beginning of the fourth century A.D. The devil came to the church, as He had come to Jesus so many years before, and congratulated us on our success. He had thought he could beat us through brute force, but we had overcome against all odds and held firm against the onslaught of his overwhelming forces. So he offered to concede to us some of what was rightfully ours. He offered to pay us tribute. He offered us power, recognition, wealth, and fame.

In exchange, all we had to do was discontinue our siege against the gates of hell. We would not have to concede defeat, but could return home as victorious conquerors, complete with glory, riches, and might. We could set ourselves up as rulers of the world, calling all the nations to our beautiful and expensive centers of worship dedicated to Jesus Christ. We would have free reign to travel about and tell people about Jesus, and to preach and teach about Jesus. We could ordain our own professional priesthood, consolidate our positions of power and influence in the world, and transform the world for Jesus Christ.

All we had to do in exchange back away from the gates of hell. Yes, there were still people trapped and enslaved behind them, but that was a small price to pay for the worldwide domination that was being offered. We could do so much other good with the power and money that was begin offered, could we not?

Our Deal with the Devil

It did not take long for the church to decide. The answer was obvious. The offer was too good to pass up. We took the deal from the devil, and almost overnight, the church was transformed from a struggling band of fugitives fighting against all odds to seek and save the lost, and became rich, powerful, and prominent. We confiscated pagan temples and converted them into centers for the worship of Jesus. We trained and hired a class of professional clergy and sent them out into the world to do the Lord’s work. We passed laws and rules to support the morality taught by the church, and even made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.

Christianity entered its Golden Age, but underneath it all, behind the scenes, Satan rebuilt his walls, fortified his gates, and sent out his forces once again to enslave and capture the people of this world. The church knew this was going on, but now that they had gained power and riches, they thought that the best way to proceed was to consolidate more power and riches, until eventually the church became so rich and powerful, that nothing could stand in our way. But this pursuit has led us only further away from the gates of hell and fulfilling the mission of Jesus.

[This post is part of a series called "To Hell with the Church" which will form a chapter in my forthcoming book, Close Your Church for GoodTo get a free copy when it comes out, subscribe now.]


Comments

  1. says

    Wow! This is powerful stuff. Well done. I’ve got some folks to forward this to. Thanks, Jeremy! I’ll have
    More to respond later after I’ve digested it more. This is very exciting stuff.

  2. says

    “If storming the gates of hell sounds shocking, it is because we never hear about it. The church never preaches it. The pastors ignore it. The seminaries hide it.”

    Either you go to the wrong church, know the wrong pastors, or went to the wrong seminary – but in all three instances you’ve mentioned I’ve heard about storming the gates of hell a lot.

      • says

        I’m live in South Africa, which makes it a little different :) I think that’s what I’m trying to say – the church is bigger than your context, and I think this is something good to remember.

        I’m currently studying through the South African Theological Seminary (http://www.satsonline.org/) – through correspondence. It honestly seems to me (and this would require a lot of discussion) that much of what you seem to be having an issue with is a problem in the American Evangelical church. It’s not, per se, a worldwide problem (I am also referring to many of your others posts). Something seems to have happened there.

        I’m not saying we’re perfect down here, I’m simply saying that the more I hear from American Christians, the more I start realising that there are some very strange problems that side of the world that I struggle to understand.

        At any rate, there are churches in America where my friends go that seem to be really good. That’s why I say, are you sure you aren’t hanging around the wrong people? Admittedly, the States are also big – the Bible Belt sounds like a really difficult place to live, to be honest.

        • Sam says

          Ryan, My experience is similar to Jeremy’s. I grew up in the mid section of the USA, and my wife on one coast. Now we live on the other coast, and definitely not in the Bible belt. We have heard the “Gates of Hell” mentioned in only one place, as I referred to above, and that was not in church or seminary.

          Since there are reportedly over two hundred thousand churches in the USA, who knows what happens in every church? But I’m guessing teaching or preaching about the “Gates of Hell” is not the norm here in most churches. I’m guessing that Jeremy’s remarks and most of our interaction is based on the church we know in the USA.

  3. says

    Jeremy, have you ever heard Peter Leithart’s parable of the prophet Stanley?

    I’m not quoting it exactly, but the gist of it goes like this:

    Stanly ministered in a pagan city. In alleys and byways, marketplaces and houses he called the people to turn to the true and living God. Having no official recognition of any kind, Stanley and his growing ragtag band of followers met in basements and vacant lots and deserted buildings, but God blessed them with incredible success — so much success that their message came to the ears of the king, and he commanded his guard to go and bring Stanley to him.
    Captured, brought before the king, and expecting to be executed, Stanley preached the sermon of his life, calling the king to repentance. To Stanley’s great surprise, the king did exactly that, believed in the living God, and proceeded to gather his subjects and proclaim Stanley’s message to them himself.
    Whereupon Stanley went up to a hillside overlooking the city and prayed, “Take me now, God. I’m a prophet, not a &%$#@% chaplain to the king.”

  4. says

    Yes, you’ve got it! The question, however, is did the church really know it was “making a deal with the devil” until the deal was sealed and the church had her power, prestige, authority and riches and then all of that was too much to give up even if (or when) one might at some level realize what had happened? Might that not parallel what can happen in the lives of individuals? Of course, then one would rationalize that this “making a deal with the devil” idea is just hogwash. Might that be what the church has done?

    • says

      Sam,

      Good point. I don’t think they did know, which raises the question…. Do we know today when we are making deals with devil? I suspect that most of the time we do not…

      I am including myself in that….

      But thank God for grace!

  5. Mike says

    Jeremy:

    OK, so now what. You have laid it out there in really clear terms, what do we do now? Are you ready to go it alone? I suspect you are. You and the folks here might be enough to utrn the tide adn along the way we might come across others already engaging the enemy.

    Might be one of the best posts I have read on this topic, I will send a lot folks your way Jeremy.

    Peace my brother,
    Mike

    • says

      Thanks, Mike.

      I am ready to go it alone… but I suspect there are others out there I can join up with.

      My wife and I are actively looking and planning for ways to storm the gates of hell. We already have a few minor skirmishes already behind us as we draw closer to the gates….

  6. says

    Mikey likes it! That is my way of saying I asked my wife to read this post (she who never reads blog posts) and she said “Jeremy did good.” That is the supreme compliment. I agree.

  7. says

    Mike,

    There are a lot of us out here who are already going it alone — Jeremy one of them, I think. (Where “alone” = “outside the church establishment,” not necessarily entirely without partners — although most of us have done at least a period of that also.)

    It is worth noticing, though, that that most of us didn’t voluntarily walk out into the cold. Many of us were settling very nicely into the existing power structure, until something went wrong. For some of us, there was a way to compromise and keep fitting in, but we just couldn’t stomach it. Others of us, like Jeremy, ran afoul of the powers that be more or less innocently, and then found ourselves thrown under the bus for the good of the outfit.

    Although we may have found ourselves exiled into the wilderness quite involuntarily, like the young Moses, we’ve now made a life for ourselves, and don’t really want to go back. Or so we say. We may be right about the failings of the power structure, but it’s worth noting that many of us (myself included) are making a virtue of necessity. We won’t know for sure whether we’ve really learned our lesson about the temptations of power until someone offers us the kingdoms of the world.

    But assume we’ve ‘learned our lesson’ and don’t really want back in. The result is a nasty dynamic (ecclesiological at heart, but it turns out to be generational because it’s the young that lose the political battles) in which there can be no orderly succession.

    Speaking in broad generalities, many of the most capable folks are in the wilderness doing something else, and those who remain to inherit the power structure often haven’t the understanding or leadership qualities to actually run it. The interesting question, for me, is this: for any given power structure, will God simply allow it to collapse of its own weight, driving His people out into the wilderness as refugees? Will He send a Moses (however unwilling) to lead them out? Or will He find a way to redeem the power structure rather than destroying it?

    I think the last will turn out to be more common than the wilderness folk expect. There may be more call for Samuel than for Moses or Jeremiah.

    • says

      Tim,

      You are one of these also. Your recent “autobiographical” post really hit home with me.

      Hang in there, my friend.

      You are asking some great questions about power structures. I wish I knew what God was up to!

      I suspect there is a new reformation going on, but we will only know for sure in about 100 years…

    • Mike says

      Tim:

      I have not been a part of the institution for 11 years now and it wasn’t by choice at first (I was thrown out-heresy). I tried to get back in several times but gave up. Now I work against the machine much like Jeremy. In fact it was when I read his story elsewhere that I began to read his work and comment now and then.

      Yes I was and in some way still, ecclesiolgical at heart though I am getting over it.

      You ask some good questions, ones I thought of but never expressed to anyone. I suppose we shall soon see what the Lord will do with us castoffs, rebels, naysayers and the like. :) I personally like pub-baron myself (I like Guiness adn word got out but it hasn’t stuck yet)

      Mike

      • says

        Jeremy,

        Yeah. Always did like camping in the wilderness — who knew it would turn into a metaphor for my life? But we won’t be a tiny minority, runnin’ and gunnin’ forever. In God’s good time, the gospel takes the world by storm, and there comes a tipping point when the power structures become ours by sheer weight of numbers, as once happened in Europe. (And this is why I keep disagreeing with your take on church history.) I’m curious to see what sort of structures we wilderness types will wind up with. New ones? Transformed old ones? Something else, barely recognizable as ‘power structures’ at all?

        Mike,

        Pub Baron! I love it! May God give you Elijah’s keg of Guinness that never runs dry.

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