Updated: Jul 30, 2019
The following is the twelfth post in a series looking closely at the teachings of Robert Henderson found in his book Operating in the Courts of Heaven. I first suggest some theological questions that require answers before the teaching is embraced whole-heartedly, then evaluate the biblical passages used to back-up the teaching.
Simon-Peter’s courtroom trial
Luke 22:31-32 31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Henderson uses this passage to justify that Jesus went into the courts of Heaven on behalf of Peter and secured for him what was written in the books of Heaven for him. That Satan had apparently developed evidence against Peter to try to thwart God’s agenda recorded in the books, and his scheme was to take Peter to court and put him on trial and disqualify him from his kingdom purpose or destiny.
This is reading a lot into the passage that isn’t there.
The one word Henderson looks at is the verb “asked for.” He points out the Greek would be more accurately translated “demanded for trial” (See exetesato in Strongs G1809). There is actually no lexical support for this assertion. Evidence is actually to the contrary. “Perhaps in explanation we might suggest that the basic meaning of [this] is to want something, in the first instance for oneself. . . It might suggest a far more humble demanding…” 
The ‘you’ here (v.31) is plural, thus Jesus is referring to all the disciples (as captured by the NSAB, NRSV, TEV, NJV, ESV, NIV, etc.) and not just Simon-Peter. That Jesus calls Peter by his previous given name “Simon” shows Jesus knows he will not be a Peter “the rock” in the next few hours or days. Peter’s famous denial unfolds later in the same chapter (Luke 22:54-62). The parallel of v.31 to this is Job 1:12; 2:6 where Satan has to ask God’s permission before he sifts the wheat. This is a process where the grain is shaken through a strainer to remove dirt, small stones and other impurities before preparing it to eat. Alternatively, you can separate the grain by winnowing. Since both of these are a metaphor for a time of testing, Jesus is saying the disciples are about to go through a time of testing. Though Satan might be involved in the testing, he is not the main operator in view here. Rather, God is going to remain in total control, just as he was for Job.
So what is this the time of testing being spoken of? Henderson would invent a trial in the courtroom of heaven. The immediate context provides us with an easier answer: Jesus’s own arrest, trial and execution. This answer is reinforced by Jesus’s use of “Simon,” and further confirmation of this interpretation is Jesus’s statement where he prefigures Peter’s eventual repentance and return to faith (Luke 24:34; John 21:15-23).
 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol 1, pg. 192
In “The Courtroom on Trial?” series of posts, some theological problems with the Courtroom model of intercessory prayer are discussed. These include;
- Is the nature of the Courts of Heaven obscured by the limitations of human language?
- Does the courtroom model suggest God is not the ultimate?
- Does the courtroom model suggest either God is not all-knowing or heaven is imperfect?
- Does the courtroom model suggest Christ’s atoning death on the cross was inadequate?
- Does the courtroom model suggest a theology of works?
- Does Operating in the Courts of Heaven imply a theological method that prioritises personal experiences over biblical revelation?
Following these the exegetical problems are discussed. These include;
- The persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)
- The heavenly books
- Heaven’s council
- The five stage process (Romans 8:29-30)
- Simon Peter’s courtroom trial (Luke 22:31-32)
Finally, I provide my own conclusion and recommendations.
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