Sunday, February 2, 2014

029. False prophets and false christs: Shift the Ape & Puzzle the Donkey - The Last Battle Part I

We have been progressively examining the elements of the ancient Tabernacle (with a diversion here and there) and how each typifies of Christ. There is progression, increased focus, and enhanced understanding as we approach God. We have now progressed to the point of the veil of the Tabernacle, which separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. We are on sacred ground, and the threshold of something even more sacred. The veil represents Christ himself, the passageway to the throne of the Father. However, before moving into a description of the veil and what lies beyond, we must pause and focus our attention on something else. There is a pattern that unfolds for those who seek to know the Lord. Part of this pattern is that before ascending, there is trial, darkness, despair, and even an assault by the wicked one or his fallen angels. Therefore, we will embark on a slight tangent for a few posts at this point in the Tabernacle series in order to lay out the challenges posed to those who seek the Lord's face.

The juxtaposition of light and darkness is everywhere, they often travel together. There is opposition in ALL things. Lehi's vision of the tree of life demonstrates that there is great darkness to be passed through by those who seek eternal life, indeed "an exceedingly great mist of darkness". Many prophets have recorded their experiences with darkness before coming to see or know the Lord (e.g., Moses, Joseph Smith, Alma the Younger). In the temple narrative, the wicked one, the god of this world, comes forth almost immediately in response to Adam's calling upon God, his true Father. The father of lies always tries to answer, to intervene, to stick his nose in and try to thwart and cause those who seek truth by preying on their weaknesses. He takes advantage of our eagerness, our impatience with our own spiritual growth and knowledge, our pride, our vanity, our yearning for truth, and pushes us towards things that are attractive, delightful, and distracting. He wants to provide an easier, faster, more immediately "rewarding" way, and wants us to ultimately worship him in the process, or at least not the true Lord and God. He is a master tempter and deceiver. He can set traps so subtle that even the elect are ensnared before they know it if they are not extremely careful. Beware when thing seem to good to be true, too easily obtained, too miraculous. I do not wish to dwell upon our fallen brother's feats or abilities, but as disciples of Christ, we must know our enemy so as to be prepared and ready always for anything.

We all fall and stumble (1 Ne 10:6). We are not perfect. We are all deceived in some way. Beyond the obvious danger inherent in being deceived and thrown off the true path, there is also a hidden danger in deception that, once a person realizes that they have been deceived, they can have diminished faith and enthusiasm for spiritual things. Once bitten, twice shy. Satan knows the potential fallout from deception and will feed the flames no matter which way things end up. There is an extremely poignant and related lesson quite overtly presented in the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia series written by C. S. Lewis, entitled The Last Battle, which speaks to this entire phenomenon of deception very directly. It is worth taking some time to review and relate it to interactions with the darkness that can come our way in our approach back to God. The power of the adversary is increasing….it is raw, thick, filthy, crude, earthy, dark, awful, merciless, unchecked, and even scum-like in texture and appearance. It can be felt, it is palatable. I feel it in certain social situations and in many places of commerce, it is almost everywhere on the internet. However, the power and light of the Lord is also rising, but it is soft, quiet, and gentle, easily chased away by even those thoughts and intents of our hearts that are amiss.

So here goes…

The Last Battle begins "in the last days of Narnia" and describes a very old, ugly, wrinkled, and clever Ape named "Shift". This represents the wicked one. Shift lived in the woods very far away from everyone, where there were no other speaking animals or people around except for one, a neighbor donkey and "friend" named Puzzle (who was more of a "servant" than a "friend"). Puzzle the Donkey did everything Shift told him to do, almost without question..."Of course Shift, I see..." Puzzle would say of Shift's suggestions, never complaining or questioning. Puzzle "knew" that Shift was more clever than he, and Puzzle was grateful that Shift was friends with him at all, as he had no one else.

One day Shift and Puzzle were on a walk and spotted something shining flowing down the great waterfall and into the pool below. Although Shift was the one who saw it and wanted it, he convinces Puzzle to go and fetch it from the water. Puzzle nearly drowns fetching what looked at first like a large blanket. Shift unfolds and studies it carefully and then realizes "It's a lion's skin."

Lightbulbs go off in Shift's darkened mind and he decides to make the lion skin into a winter coat for Puzzle. Puzzle is not interested because he has reverence and respect for the lions of Narnia and for Aslan. Shift of course turns things around and tells Puzzle that Puzzle got to go into the pool and retrieve the lion's skin and that Shift felt left out, that he wanted to be able to do something important and making this coat for Puzzle would make Shift feel important (lots of "me's" and "I's" in his arguments). Shift makes a patchwork-type coat of lion's skin for Puzzle, even using the hairy lion shoulders as shoulders for the coat and the lion's head like a hood that would cover Puzzle's own head. The only slight problem is that Puzzle's long nose and mouth stick out through the mouth of the lion's head. But Shift reasons that people who had never seen a real lion would never know the difference, as long as they didn't come too close, and if the light was bad, and if puzzle didn't make noises that could give it away.

Shift thought Puzzle looked "wonderful", and cries out "If anyone saw you now, they'd think you were Aslan, the great lion himself….everyone would do whatever you told them…think of the good we could do!" Shift continues to Puzzle…"you'd have me to advise you…I'd think of sensible orders for you to give. And everyone would have to obey us, even the King himself. We would set everything right in Narnia….You will pretend to be Aslan, and I'll tell you what to do." Puzzle resists, worried what would happen if the real Aslan should appear, but Shift is ever so clever and tricks Puzzle into believing that acting like Aslan would be very pleasing to Aslan, and tells Puzzle that Aslan himself sent the lion skin for the very purpose of setting things right in Narnia. Shift tells Puzzle that Aslan never comes around anymore anyway. Immediately after saying that, there is a thunderbolt in the sky followed by a small earthquake, which tosses both creatures to the ground. Puzzle believes this to be a sign that they are in the wrong, and that he should remove the lion skin. Shift, however, convinces Puzzle that it is a sign in the other direction, because he was just about to say (before the thunder and earthquake of course) that if Aslan had wanted them to conduct this errand, he would send such a sign. After all, what would a donkey know about signs anyway?

Puzzle the Donkey, dressed in a coat made from a lion's skin, made by Shift the Ape.
Puzzle, an ass, became a false Lion, a false Aslan. Puzzle listened to the lies and was persuaded by the sophistry of a wicked influence. He surrendered his agency, was willing to submit his will to the will of one who would destroy him. There are people who are false prophets and wicked spirits who are false Christs; they desire to be worshipped and to control others. False christs abound in the latter days…Lo here and Lo there! There are many claiming to "know christ" and to "be his friend". How do we know that they are not following the machinations of a Shift or being duped the appearances of a Puzzle the Donkey?

Well, word quickly spreads throughout Narnia that Aslan has returned. The king, his people, dwarves, and animals are so excited that Aslan is back that they are willing to believe almost anything..."I believe it all. If I seem not to, it is only that my joy is too great to let my belief settle itself. It is almost too beautiful to believe." (p. 17).

Shift becomes "Aslan's mouthpiece", ordering basically everyone around in the name of Aslan. Animals and people want to see "Aslan", to speak with him "face-to-face", but he is put away in a straw hut guarded by Shift. Shift gives orders from "Aslan" to wicked men to cut down the sacred forests and enslave the talking animals. Strife and murder break out among the ranks. Shift is the great false prophet and Puzzle the false christ.

As Shift the Ape continues to serve as the mouthpiece of "Aslan", he begins to instruct the animals that he is not an ape at all, but a man. A very, very old, and wise man. He continues in telling them that because he is so wise, he is the only one that "Aslan" trusts and will speak to. He lets it be known that "Aslan" cannot be bothered by talking with a bunch of stupid animals. Shift says that "Aslan" will tell him what the animals are supposed to be doing, and then Shift will pass along that information. False prophets and christs try to control others, duping them into believing that revelation can come to others through them, that they can receive personal revelation for you.

Shift tells all the animals that forever after they will have to work under the hand and in the mines of the wicked men. The animals balk at their sentence of slavery, but Shift quickly tells them that they will not be slaves, but will be paid…their wages will go directly into the treasury of "Aslan", who will use them "for everybody's good". Shift tells them that everything will be ok. Shift promises that soon there will be roads, cities, schools, offices, whips, muzzles, cages, and prisons! However, the animals only want their freedom and to hear Aslan speak. Shift tells them that true freedom is not doing what they want, but is found in doing what Shift tells them to do…he is a man after all, who speaks with "Aslan", and they are only stupid animals. Shift goes so far as to equate Aslan with Tash, the god of the world of men, who represents satan. That they are just different words from two different cultures for the same being…"Aslan is Tash. Tash is Aslan." There is no distinguishing between Christ and satan, the people have been deceived into believing anything; they cannot differentiate. They start referring to Aslan as Tashlan.

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