"At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven tongues, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend to them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright things that he had never yet imagined opened out before him…." The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
After reading The Lord of the Rings, I read Philip Yancy's The Jesus I Never Knew and then felt a challenge to read ancient English poetry. I am now reading John Milton's Paradise Lost and in the reading of this ponderous, epic poem, I am finding I need to apologize to Professor Tolkien for my disdain.
As I read through this ancient 17th century text, I have been lost in the language of the day. Certainly there are English words I understand, but more often than not, I lose the continuous thought Milton expresses in his story. "Adamantine", "obdurate", "nathless" and "athwart" are some of the examples of the verbiage well known to people in Milton's day, but confusing to me.
It's like, in the reading of this poem, I know most of the English words, but the meaning is as confusing to me as if it is another language, and yet in my mind the word pictures Milton painted are forming themselves in my head. And so, like Frodo, "the words (are taking) shape and visons of far lands and bright things that (I have) never yet imagined (are opening) out before (me)…"
In Paradise Lost, Milton attempts to tell the story of the fall of Satan, and the fall of man. I have not finished this poem, but in the reading of it, an idea has been forming itself in my head since reading again, The Jesus I Never Knew: The Eternal Question.
At some point before the creation of man, in the heavenly realm, Lucifer began to nurture thoughts that he could overthrow God. As the thought grew, he began to express his thoughts to other angelic beings and soon Lucifer had a vast following.
War broke out in the heavenly realm, Lucifer, who now became Satan was defeated and thrown from heaven, but not destroyed.
Sometime after these events God created the heavens and the earth, created vegetation, animals and man. Satan, still the deceiver sets out to ruin God's new creation, for whatever reason he had; most probably spite. He entices the serpent who enticed Eve who enticed Adam. And they fell to that temptation, abdicating the rule of the earth to God's enemy, Satan.
Ever since Adam and Eve, in each age, each individual has come to the same question Satan had to answer, each of the angelic beings had to answer and each man and woman have to answer: Will we continue to be obedient to God or will we go our own destructive way?
For the angels, they have made their decisions: some to continue in the glory of God, and some to everlasting damnation. They have come to the end of their story and there is no turning back. If the end was still in question (would God win or Lucifer?), there would still be opportunity for the angelic beings to change their minds. There is no question for them anymore. The end of their conflict has brought resolution. God is Almighty and no one can overthrow Him.
This question is now being asked of each individual: "Choose God or choose your own way?"
Even Jesus had to respond to the question in the desert temptation:
"The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.'
"Jesus answered, 'It is written: "worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'" Luke 4:5-8
The question is still being asked today. The end of the human conflict is still questioned by humans. Those of us who have made a decision, either way, still have the opportunity to change, either way, and we will have the opportunity up until the very last breath is taken.
Satan is still using the same enticement he gave Eve and later he offered to Jesus, "If you worship me, you can have everything." He may not say it to us in these exact words, but as one who has long studied mankind, he can guess pretty accurately how each person can be tempted and the likelihood of that person falling. It's only by trusting in God Almighty can we hope to be strong against temptation, and each temptation has been experienced by Jesus.
To stand against the enemy who seeks our destruction, our only recourse is to trust God through Jesus. So, as Joshua once asked, now I ask, "Choose you this day, whom you will serve…."