The book of Job is universally recognized as a text on suffering. But right now the rhetorical florescence and theological argumentation that have made it famous are matched by a spiritual and cultural relevance that cannot be denied. People with a linear rather than cyclical philosophy of history, now read the book and recognize riveting parallels to their times.
Spiritual confusion is the worst kind of deception, and in the book of Job there is an enemy who is skilled at engendering it. In the book’s initial speech cycle, first speaker Eliphaz launches a great lie that eventually becomes definitive for identification of the book’s final camps: whoever subscribes to it, whether fervently or unenthusiastically, promptly or reluctantly, belongs to one camp; whoever rejects the lie belongs to the opposing camp, and escapes spiritual confusion.
The lie, accessed supernaturally, is the content of a revelation out of character for the community of the sages where its recipient, Eliphaz, belongs, and in which he clearly plays a consequential part—to judge by his primacy among the book’s speakers. Eliphaz describes his revelatory experience in eerie terms: “A word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. . . . Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up” (Job 4:12-15).1
The spirit’s message is as remarkable as the physical impact just described: If God “charges His angels with error, how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before a moth?” (verses 18, 19). In unequivocal terms, the visitor makes clear that humans do not enjoy great esteem with God.
The claim spouts confusion: it could not be more false: God has already extolled His admiration for a human, Job: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8).
Friend Bildad, who knows that Eliphaz is spouting confusion, will resist the lie until in exhausted surrender most likely, he unites with Eliphaz and Zophar to express the contempt for humans that allegedly is God’s view of things: “If even the moon does not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is a maggot, and a son of man, who is a worm?” (Job 25:5, 6). Bildad’s surrender to the lie is the final speech by any of the three called Job’s friends, for there is no further point to the conversation.
Job and Armageddon
This end of struggle in Job uncannily parallels the vision of the sixteenth chapter of another biblical book, Revelation, where an account of the battle of Armageddon takes place. Despite the hype generated by political interpretations and fantasies about cutting-edge AI weapons technology, the battle of Armageddon is moral and spiritual rather than physical and military. Spirits of demons successfully integrate global political powers to fight against the truth (Rev. 16:13, 14, 16). Then all that remains for God to do is mete out final time-based punishment and declare that “it is done” (Rev. 16:16, 17).
Armageddon is no great nuclear holocaust or dreadful genocide or terrible World War III. Fearful wars rage today. Worse may come, causing widespread suffering and destruction. But Revelation’s Armageddon is a spiritual matter, with consequences irreversible for eternity. “It is the final conquest of Christ over Satan at his glorious advent.”2
Exegetes have read Armageddon as God picking His political side from among us. This is confusion, commentary, perhaps, on how successfully deception can thrive among humans. The preposterousness of God needing human weaponry to clean the earth from wickedness ought to strike us with greater force than it does. That God must take sides in a human political struggle in order to win the war against evil is nothing short of ridiculous. But knowing that deception can unite erstwhile enemies in a fight against God is worthy of incessant repetition, and the stuff of endless warning.
Satan is a deceiver, a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44). The space-time where we live out our thoughts and behaviors is moral first. The brilliance or stupidity of arguments to the contrary does not modify the truth. We demean ourselves and our Creator by thinking or arguing otherwise. Eliphaz’s lie had a goal—winning a theological argument. But winning rhetorical contests is not what humanity most needs. Nor do we need more losers to join us. What we most need is truth. And truth is readily available. Jesus says, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6); “Come to Me” (Matt. 11:28).
Lael Caesar is an associate editor for Adventist Review Ministries.
1 All Scripture references are from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Don Fortner, Discovering Christ in Revelation (Auburn, Mass.: Evangelical Press, 2002), p. 284. Fortner does see the Eastern invaders as enemies of God’s people. But his spiritual insight is admirable.