Swept and Garnished (4)
As noted in the first meditation in this series, the scribes and Pharisees were the particular target of this parable according to the parallel account in the gospel of Matthew (MAT 12:24; MAT 12:38). The Pharisees were the “...most straitest sect...” (ACT 26:5) of the religion of the Jews: rigid advocates of the letter of the law of Moses but not its spirit, passing over weightier matters like judgment, mercy, faith and the love of God (MAT 23:23 c/w LUK 11:42) in favor of less weighty mechanical obediences like tithing. Their notable leaven which was so dangerous was hypocrisy (LUK 12:1): judging others for things they were guilty of themselves; judging others for small infractions while being themselves guilty of great ones; judging others by artificial standards which had no basis in the Law. It was not godliness that they were after; it was only a form of godliness (c/w 2TIM 3:5)---an outward show of piety that was meant to impress men, “...all their works they do for to be seen of men” (MAT 23:5). They were noted for outward cleansing (MAT 23:25-28; MAR 7:1-6) while being full of extortion and excess within (MAT 23:25). Let it be known, therefore, that religion which is not according to spirit and truth (JOH 4:24) that impresses man's senses with an outward show---such is a magnet for unclean spirits. The Scarlet Harlot, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT...” is depicted as having everything that appeals to the senses: beauty, wealth, power, commerce, instrumental music, etc. (REV 17:4-5; REV 18:12-22), yet full of sorceries and innocent blood (REV 18:23-24) and “...become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit...” (REV 18:2). God is to be served from the heart, not the lips (MAT 15:8) and worshipped in the “...beauty of holiness” (PSA 29:2), not the holiness of beauty. The unclean spirit (per our text) comes back home with “...seven other spirits more wicked than himself...” An interesting adjunct here is that Jesus taught that the Pharisees' converts were twofold more the children of hell than themselves (MAT 23:15). There were certainly seven available wicked spirits since Jesus had cast seven of them out of Mary Magdalene (MAR 16:9). Seven is a number which represents completion and fullness (seven days in a week, seven abominable sins, seven seals, etc.). Considering that Jesus is using this parable to set forth how totally wicked and possessed of evil spirits the generation to which He was speaking would become (“...even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” MAT 12:45), these seven unclean spirits may well represent the Satanic counterpart to the seven Spirits of God mentioned in REV 1:4; REV 3:1; REV 4:5; REV 5:6. Mind that there is literally only one Spirit of God (EPH 4:4) Who is the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Godhead (1JO 5:7). The phrase, “seven Spirits of God” is figurative language for the sevenfold ministry of the Spirit mentioned in ISA 11:1-2 which was speaking of the fullness of the Spirit in Jesus Christ: “...God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (JOH 3:34). ISA 11:2 represents the Holy Spirit as, “...the spirit of the LORD..., the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” All the good that is represented by God's seven Spirits could conceivably be Satanically reversed in these seven unclean spirits, turning the unbelieving portion of Israel into a diabolical madhouse rushing hell-bent to its own destruction. And that is essentially what happened. John Gill made this observation about the phrase, “...even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (MAT 12:45): “This parable fitly suited them, the Scribes and Pharisees, and the men of that generation, from whom in some measure the unclean spirit might be said to depart through the doctrine, and miracles of Christ, to go into the Gentile world; but being followed there with the preaching of the Gospel by the apostles, returns to the Jews, and fills them with more malice, blasphemy, and blindness, than ever, which issued in their utter ruin and destruction; of which this parable may be justly thought to be prophetical.” Gill's comments have some basis in the Scripture. With the crucifixion of Christ, God's glory departed from the nation to shortly come in the person of the Holy Ghost to indwell the gospel church on the day of Pentecost (MAT 21:42-43; ACT 2:1-4). The Book of Acts plainly shows that the going forth of the gospel was accompanied by a continual hounding of the apostles by belligerent, unbelieving Jews (Saul of Tarsus being one such before his conversion). This antichrist fever was what brought on their eventual destruction. Consider what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian saints: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 (14) For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: (15) Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: (16) Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. The actual influence of evil spirits in Israel should not be overlooked. A careful reading of ISA 28:9-18 shows that Isaiah has gospel times in mind. Paul cites ISA 28:11-12 as applicable to the gift of tongues amongst Gentile believers in his day (1CO 14:21). ISA 28:16 is a clear prophecy of Christ (c/w 1PE 2:6). In the midst of this prophecy is a warning to the scornful men that ruled God's people in Jerusalem (ISA 28:14), which would have been the likes of the scribes and Pharisees. They had “...made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us...” (ISA 28:15). They supposed that they had a dark “ace in the hole” that would save them. God supposed otherwise (ISA 28:18). With such diabolical discourse going on, it is therefore no wonder that that generation was such a welcome house for unclean spirits. Except for the remnant which embraced Christ, that nation basically became the house of Satan, and its religious assemblies “...the synagogue of Satan” (REV 2:9; REV 3:9). “...And the last state of that man (yea, of that generation, of that religion) is worse than the first,” for “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father...” (1JO 2:23). Lest any Christian get puffed up against Israel, let it be remembered that Almighty God used that people to write both testaments of Scripture, bring forth the blessed Messiah and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and reform the O.T. church into the gospel church. What we have we got from them. One of those Jewish apostles (Paul) leaves Gentile believers with this: Romans 11:20-23 (20) Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (21) For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (23) And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.