Spiritual Warfare: Taking the Offensive

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There Is No Time to Waste

At long last, we are nearing the end of our exercises in Spiritual Warfare.  Our graduation from Boot Camp is right around the corner, as is our return to our duty stations, where we will have the opportunity to put into action the things that we have learned here.  As we do, we can be confident that…

  • Because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross, we now possess the Authority we need to overtake and defeat any foe that we come up against;
  • Everything we will be called upon to overcome is all part of God’s way of preparing us for our Destiny, which is ruling and reigning with Christ when He comes to set up His Kingdom;
  • As we take the Light of the Gospel  into the sin-darkened territories presently held by Satan, we will be bringing liberation to those who are still being held captive there; and,
  • To prevent us from completing our missions, Satan will do everything in his power to stop us.

In light of this last point, before we can graduate and move on, there is one last exercise for us to complete—one providing us with an understanding of the basic principles of Strategic Warfare and the Offensive Weapons needed to ensure our success on the battlefield.

As we learned in our last exercise, we have been outfitted with a top-notch arsenal of defensive weapons known as the Armor of God.  These—the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of Peace, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit—when worn faithfully and used as directed, will provide us with the defensive covering we need whenever we come under attack by the devil.  However, there is more to Spiritual Warfare than merely protecting ourselves while we maintain our current positions.  To the contrary, we have been charged by Christ to launch out into the world, to be sown as seed among the nations, in order to free Satan’s spiritual captives and bring the Kingdom of Christ to the earth.  For, it was Christ who boldly proclaimed…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19)…

…and, it was He who also commissioned us to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

We Need to Carry Out His Strategy in Ways that Honor Our King Understanding Strategic Warfare

Understanding Strategic Warfare

When seeking to understand the principles of Strategic Warfare, it is essential that we first establish a clear definition for the term.  Since strategic is defined as…

…pertaining to, characterized, or of the nature of strategy…

…with strategy being…

…a plan, a method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.[1]

When we put this into a military context, Strategic Warfare can be defined as…

…the science and art of military command aimed at meeting the enemy under conditions advantageous to one’s own force…[2]

…a military command in which…

…a distinction is made between strategy and tactics.  Strategy is the utilization, during peace and war, of all of a nation’s forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security.  Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.[3]

Here, in this definition, we have two levels of war described for us; but, according to modern military theory, there are actually three that we need to take into consideration—the strategic, the operational, and the tactical, where…

…the strategic level…involves a strategic concept, plans for preparing all national instruments of power for war or conflict, practical guidance for preparing the armed forces, and leadership of the armed forces to achieve strategic objectives;

…the operational level is concerned with employing military forces in a theater of war or theater of operation to obtain an advantage over the enemy and thereby attain strategic goals through the design, organization, and conduct of campaigns and major operations; and,

…the tactical level translates potential combat power into success in battles and engagements through decisions and actions that create advantages when in contact with or in proximity to the enemy.[4]

To put this into more understandable terms, at the Strategic Level, those at the top of the chain of command are the ones responsible for creating an overall plan for winning the war, taking into account the manpower and materials they have at their disposal.  Once their plan is in place, they delegate different aspects of the plan to those serving under them at the Operational Level, whose duty it is to orchestrate and oversee the campaigns assigned to them and their individual theaters of operation.  Directives from this level can then be sent down to the Tactical Level—to those in charge of the troops on the ground—to make sure they are deployed to the right place at the right time, are appropriately trained and armed for each engagement, and they have adequate intelligence and support for each and every battle.

Why is this so important for us to know?  Because this is the same way that the Spiritual Warfare we’re engaged in is structured and carried out.  At its Strategic Level, creating the plan for the war itself, is God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Charged with the implementation and oversight of their plan’s many Operational Level campaigns are the Angels of various ranks and with specific responsibilities.  The troops on the ground at the Tactical Level are us—the Born Again members of the Church, serving under the leadership of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, whose responsibility it is to…

…equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Given that our enemy is merely a copier/counterfeiter and not a creator, he has pretty much duplicated this strategic structure—with the exception that, instead of the All-Wise, All-Powerful, and Everywhere-Present Creator God making the plans—he, the quintessential Usurper is the one devising the schemes that he hopes will one day defeat God’s Army, overthrow God, and catapult himself onto the throne of the universe.  Unlike our Commander-in-Chief, who is headquartered in the Third Heaven, this Presumptuous Pretender to the throne has been relegated to the less advantageous location of the Second Heaven, where he and his generals occupy what will prove, in the end, to be temporary thrones from which they oversee his operations in the First Heaven and on the Earth.

As we learned in Spiritual Warfare: Getting the Lay of the Land, these operations are carried out by an army of demonic subordinates whose responsibility is to keep their human charges on the earth in bondage to their master; and, should they somehow fail at this, to prevent those who do find freedom in Christ from growing in their knowledge of Him and from serving Him and His Kingdom purposes successfully.

The Plan for Winning the War

Assessing Strategies

To help us better understand the part Strategic Warfare plays in the on-going conflict between God and Satan, let’s assess and compare how each side makes use of these three levels.  We know from our exercise in Spiritual Warfare: Knowing the Enemy that…

  • Satan’s original plan—his Plan A—called for his overthrow of God and the take-over of His Throne in Heaven; however, given the fact that God was and still is All-Powerful, and Satan’s power was and still is severely limited in comparison, this proved to be a colossal failure.
  • This led to the creation of Satan’s Plan B, which called for him to set up his kingdom and reign upon the Earth—but, this plan, too, hit a wall when God created Man and gave him Dominion and Authority over the Earth instead.
  • Undaunted, Satan then devised a scheme whereby he could gain control of the Earth by taking God’s Authorized Representatives captive through deception and lies. So, lying about who he was, who they were, and who God is, Satan convinced Eve, then Adam, to disobey God.  As a result, Man and Woman became slaves to Satan, sin, and death, and the Authority which should have been theirs was handed over to Satan.
  • Satan’s plan was dealt a bitter blow, though, when eventually he, sin, and death were defeated through Christ’s Atoning Death and His powerful Resurrection.  As a result of His Victory, this Second Adam reclaimed the Authority that the First Adam had lost, and restored it to all those who afterward would come to the Father through Faith in His Finished Work on the Cross.
  • But, because Satan had already established rulership over the world’s systems and its structures, he continues to occupy territories which rightfully belong to Christ and His Church. What is enabling him to maintain his grip on them is the ignorance, timidity, or unwillingness of the Church to rise up and retake these areas in the Name and Authority of Christ, through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
  • So, Satan’s Strategy is—by whatever means necessary—to keep the people who don’t know God from knowing Him, and to keep those who do know Him too ignorant, too fearful, or too self-seeking and apathetic to do anything to dislodge him.

Given that Satan’s Strategy is primarily focused on maintaining control of the territories presently under his rule, it is essentially a Defensive Plan.   On the other hand, God’s Strategy, being one of Infiltration, is a decidedly Offensive One.  Because He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance, God has chosen to strategically place His very own Sons and Daughters in positions behind enemy lines where they can reveal the Love of Christ to the captives and, shining the Light of the Gospel into those dark places, they can illuminate a way of escape into the Kingdom of God.  This is exactly what God did when He sent His willing and obedient Son, Jesus, into Satan’s authorized territory where, having shone the Light of God in the darkness and revealed the Love of the Father there…

…Jesus’ obedience, then, took Him even to the cross, and through that to the empty tomb.  Thus He won the battle over Satan from behind enemy lines…to defeat the enemy and begin to establish His own Kingdom in the middle of enemy territory…

…and, since this was behind enemy lines, it meant warfare—spiritual warfare aimed at taking back God’s world from the usurper.[5]

Like our Savior, we have been assigned to carry on this mission in the very same way.

The Individual Campaigns of the War

Assessing Operations

Because Satan is neither omnipresent nor omniscient like God, he is limited to being in one place at a time.  Therefore, he must depend on a hierarchy of subordinates to carry out his operations, and rely on this system of underlings for his much-needed intelligence reports.  Depending upon their nature and location, these operations are most likely carried out by one of these three groups…

  • Satan’s Hierarchy—consisting of Rulers, Principalities, and Powers, with…
    • Rulers—being the spirits charged with gaining/maintaining control of the world’s authority structures, such as government at all levels, schools, businesses, churches, civic groups, athletic organizations, and families;
    • Principalities or Territorial Spirits—being the demonic spirits that are in charge of operations taking place within a specific geographic area or ethnic/cultural group of people; and,
    • Powers or Strongholds—being the spirits representing the evils associated with certain sins and the demons assigned to their promotion.
  • Forces of Darkness—the lying spirits behind any Religions, Philosophies, and Ideologies that are opposed to God and the Truth, including humanism, atheism, evolution, New Age, reincarnation, existentialism, socialism and communism; and,
  • Lower Level Spirits—the wicked spirits assigned to individuals in an effort to influence their behavior.[6]

No doubt imitated by Satan when he set up his own kingdom, God’s Operational Level is also made up of a hierarchical structure of spirits who carry out the operations called for in His plan.  Although the Bible doesn’t give us a lot of specifics about the structure itself, what we do know is that it consists of Angels operating at different levels, and possessing various degrees of authority.  From what we can gather in the scriptures, those closest to God and His Throne, and those highest in rank and authority, are the… 

Cherubim;
Seraphim; and
Living Creatures. 

  • Cherubim

The Cherubim are probably the highest ranking of all of the Lord’s Angels.  The first time they are mentioned in scripture is in Genesis 3:24 where, following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, they are placed as Guards at the entrance to the Garden, to keep Adam and Eve from returning and eating from the Tree of Life while in their fallen state.

They are next mentioned in Exodus 25:18, when God instructs Moses on how to build the Tabernacle.  For the Most Holy Place, Moses is told to make two Cherubim of gold and to place them at the two ends of the Mercy Seat…

The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be…

There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel (Exodus 25:20, 22).

The Mercy Seat which the Cherubim sheltered was also known as the Seat of Atonement and revered as the earthly Throne of God.  Verses such as these inform us that, in addition to their role as Guardians, the Cherubim also serve as the Bearers of God’s Throne…

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!  He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake (Psalm 99:1)!

“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth (Isaiah 36:17).

Ezekiel saw this throne and gave us a description of these incredible creatures in Ezekiel 1:5-14…

And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot.  And they sparkled like burnished bronze.  Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands.

And the four had their faces and their wings thus their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went.  As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.  Such were their faces.

And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.  And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.  And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Later in Ezekiel 28:14, we learn that Lucifer, Satan’s name in his pre-fallen state, was one—probably the highest ranking one—of these Angels…

You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. Ezekiel 28:14

Angels Carry Out the Operational Campaigns of God

  • Seraphim

Because the Seraphim are only mentioned once in the Bible—in Isaiah 6:1-3, 6-7—much less is known about them and their ministry. From Isaiah’s description…

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for…

…it would seem that, because of their non-stop praise and their access to the heavenly altar, their primary ministry is as priests before the throne of God.  And, given that their name means “burning ones,” I think we can infer that they are burning in passionate devotion to God and in their dedication to the praise of His holiness.

  • Living Creatures

Although Ezekiel, in his vision, describes the Cherubim as Living Creatures, in Revelation 4:6-8, we find another set of Living Creatures being described…

…around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:6-8)

These are set apart from those in Ezekiel in several ways…

…in Revelation, each one has only one face, whereas in Ezekiel each had four faces.  In Revelation, each has six wings; in Ezekiel, they had four.  In Revelation, they have eyes around and within; in Ezekiel, the eyes were in the wheels, and the spirits of the cherubim were in the wheels.  In revelation, they do not move; in Ezekiel, they propelled the throne of the sovereign God throughout the world. [7]

As for their ministry, in Revelation 6:1-7 and 15:7, we learn that, in addition to their worship and praise, these creatures also play instrumental parts in the execution of the God’s end-time judgments on the world.

  • The Other Angels

From other portions of scripture, besides being the worshipers at, the guardians of, and the priests before the Throne of God, we learn that the Angels carry out God’s operations in a number of other ways…

  • In Luke 2:10 and Acts 27:23-23, they serve as God’s Messengers;
  • In 2 Kings 6:17 and Daniel 10:13-20, they are God’s Warriors in the heavenlies and on earth;
  • In Daniel 4:13 and 17, they serve as God’s Watchers, observing and recording the affairs of men and nations;
  • In Psalm 34:7, Psalm 91:11, Daniel 6:22, and Acts 5:19, they provide Protection and Deliverance for God’s People;
  • In Genesis 24:7 and Exodus 23:20, they give Guidance and Direction to the righteous;
  • In Matthew 13:39-42 and Mark 13:27, Jesus informs us they will be the Reapers in the End-Times Harvest;
  • In Revelation 1:1, they bring God’s revelation to man;
  • In 2 Kings 19:35, Acts 12:23, and Psalm 78:49, they are God’s Instruments of Judgment and Destruction;
  • In Revelation 7:1-2 and Revelation 16:1, we learn that they have Power over God’s Creation;
  • In Matthew 18:10, we are told that they are the unseen Guardians of Children; and,
  • In Luke 16:22-23, we discover that they Escort the Saints into the Presence of God upon their deaths.

The Troops Deployed on the Ground

Assessing Tactics

With Satan’s Rulers engaged in controlling the world’s Authority Structures, and his Principalities busy riding roughshod over its Geographic and Ethnic Territories, it seems that the actual Tactical Maneuvers of his plan have been delegated to his Powers, Forces of Darkness, and Lower Lever Spirits for implementation.  These are the spirits who are responsible for establishing Strongholds, or bases of operation, in the minds of men and women, from which Satan can exercise control.  This is accomplished through their promotion of certain sins, through the lies contained in their false religions, philosophies, and ideologies, and through the intelligence gathered by and resulting from the harassment of the Lower Level or Familiar Spirits.

Those in this last group are the spirits that most of us must contend with on a daily basis.  They are the demons who, much like God’s Guardian Angels, are assigned to us at birth—those who study us, our habits and tendencies, throughout out lives, looking for ways and opportunities to trip us up and keep us in a perpetual state of confusion and defeat.  As Familiar Spirits, they become so well acquainted with us that they can pretty much predict what we’re thinking about and how we will react in any given situation.  Armed with such valuable information, they not only know which sins we will be predisposed to give into and which lies we will fall for, but also which of the Devil’s D-Bombs will be the most useful in rendering us ineffective…

The Devil’s D-Bombs are Some of His Most Effective Weapons

  • Distraction—a loss of focus, confusion;
  • Distortion—of the truth; or,
  • Deception—disguise and outright lies;
  • Disobedience—a disrespect for authority;
  • Delay—in answers to prayers and provisions;
  • Disruption—of plans and schedules;
  • Discouragement—resulting from stress, overwork, lack of appreciation, hurt feelings;
  • Depression—mental and emotional ailments, especially due to repressed anger;
  • Defeat—after repeated failures;
  • Destruction—a loss of property and reputation;
  • Disease—physical ailments and suffering; or,
  • Death—suicidal, accidental, or disease-related.

Apparently, in his dealings with those who already belong to him, Satan is free to use these, or any other evil tactics he can come up with, against them with impunity—especially if and when he finds that they are in danger of going over to the other side.  When it comes to dealing with those who belong to God, however, he doesn’t enjoy the same privilege.  We know this because, when he came against righteous Job (Job 1: 9-12), seeking to prove that Job only worshiped God for the blessings he could get out it, he had to obtain God’s permission to do so.  Later, in 2 Corinthians 12:7, we find out that he had to get God’s permission to harass the Apostle Paul, permission which was granted in order to achieve God’s higher purpose… 

…to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

While being limited in what he can do to the Righteous, Satan does enjoy a distinct advantage in his dealings with everyone else.  Because every person coming into the world is born “in sin” and in a state of alienation from God, they not only already belong to Satan, but they are, by virtue of their carnal natures, predisposed to living according to their physical appetites and soulish desires.  This state of affairs makes it easy for the Powers of Satan to do their work of establishing secure Strongholds within them—Strongholds from which they can operate throughout their lives, even if these people later come to Faith in Christ.

If We are to be Victorious, We Must Identify and Eliminate the Devil’s Fortresses in Our Lives

What Are Strongholds?

Simply put, Strongholds are faulty patterns of thinking which have developed such a “strong hold” on us that they keep us bound by bad habits, irrational behaviors, pride or an exaggerated sense of self.  They are anything in our lives that misrepresents God, anything that deceives us about who we really are, and anything that deludes us into thinking we can live life successfully apart from God.  These misrepresentations, deceptions, and delusions are ways of thinking that have developed in our minds over time, and which serve primarily as a means of keeping us alienated from, and at odds with, God.

Their points of origin can be traced all the way back to our births, when we arrive in this world with the strongest of all Strongholds already intact—an “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!” mentality.  Then, as we make our way through life, others are gradually added; with the most deeply ingrained ones coming first from our interactions with family, friends, and our early experiences in life, and with later ones coming from our educational and religious training (or lack thereof), or as a result of our encounters with the cultural forces at work all around us.  As such, they become fortresses erected around our erroneous beliefs; fortifications which, in our minds, serve to protect and justify our choices in life, and to help insulate us from any potentially painful experiences—and, which Satan delights in using to keep us in bondage or to render us useless in our Kingdom Service.

But, it needs to be noted here that bondage of this or of any other kind is an anathema to God.  Therefore, the Strongholds in our lives are one of the first things we must deal with in Spiritual Warfare.  Before we can successfully liberate any of Satan’s other territories, we must first rid our own of its enemy outposts.  As Jesus would say…

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

Because they are the heavily guarded outposts of lies and deceptions built up in our minds by the devil, and the devil is a powerful spirit whose chief aim is to keep us from God and His revelation of the Truth, the only way for us to deal with these Strongholds is through the power of a stronger Spirit–the Holy Spirit of Truth—and the Spiritual Weapons God has made available to us.  For…

…though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

With our spiritual armor in place, we can begin the process of taking our thoughts captive by exercising the authority delegated to us by Christ in Matthew 28:18; with it, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can proceed to bind up the “strong man,” or the demonic being in charge of protecting that mental fortification. According to Jesus’ instruction in Mark 4:27…

…no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.  Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Once this strong spirit is overthrown, we can move in and take captive any of the lying thoughts previously under his protection, and replace them with Truth from the Word of God.  As we do, we begin erecting a Strong Tower of Truth, built in the very place where the Stronghold of Lies once stood.  And, as warriors for Christ, we will have reclaimed territory too long in the possession of His enemies.

When it comes to God’s Tactical Operations, unlike Satan’s, which are nothing but destructive, God’s tactics are always redemptive and remedial, because they are borne out of love.  In Spiritual Warfare:  Understanding the Nature of the Conflict, we learned that the goal of Satan and those in his kingdom is to destroy the individual and absorb his will into their own, for no other reason than to satisfy their insatiable greed and increase their power base.  However, it is the goal of God and those in His Kingdom to bring the individual into the Family of God, shower him with love, and empower him to become the unique and whole/holy person God created him to be.   In the former, the motivation is selfishness and greed, while in the latter, it is giving and grace.

So, to help His Children realize their spiritual potential and prepare them for their eternal destinies, God routinely deploys them to the front lines of the conflict where, in the heat of the battle, their character will be refined and they can learn to use their Offensive Weapons to overcome His enemies.

Fighting the War with God’s Weapons will Ensure Our Victory

Our Offensive Weapons 

When it comes to a discussion of our Offensive Weapons, it may come as a surprise to learn that the most powerful one in this category is a Godly Lifestyle.  That’s because…

Spiritual Warfare is not just a prayer prayed or a demon rebuked—it is a life lived…everything we do either aids the forces of darkness or repels them…

Since it is sin that gives the devil an entryway into our lives, we need to take seriously the charge given to us in Ephesians 4:27 to…

…not give place to the devil.

Maintaining this kind of lifestyle, though, demands that we “keep short accounts with God.” To do so, we need to vigilantly guard our hearts and minds, and routinely examine our lives to see if there is any sin that has gone unchecked and unrepentant of, for…

Repentance is a major weapon against Satan.  It’s simple:  if I repent, I break the powers of darkness.  But if I’m disobedient, I allow the enemy to work.  If I obey God, I hold the devil off.  If I’m moving in unbelief, I make room for him.  But if I exercise faith, I cut him off.[8]

The reason behind this is also a simple one.  Because Spiritual Warfare is the cosmic conflict between two competing wills—the holy and perfect will of God and the perverted and opposing will of Satan, both vying for the allegiance of man—and, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each human being living on the planet, every time a person chooses to do that which satisfies his own selfish desires, he is actually empowering Satan to carry on his work.

To help us keep this from happening, we need Faith and Obedience, two more of the weapons making up our offensive arsenal.  Faith is that inner assurance or confidence we have that, because our Father knows what exactly He is doing, He has a good plan in place, even if we don’t know yet what it is.  As we develop more of this kind of Faith, it becomes easier for us to believe God for the impossible, to launch out into new territories, and to pray our way to victory.  Jesus told His disciples as much in Matthew 17:20 when he said…

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Our Obedience is simply the outward demonstration of our inner trust that this is so.  In our submission and obedience to a higher Authority, we are not only coming at Satan in an opposing spirit—which serves to render him ineffective in that situation—but, we are also keeping him from sowing his seeds of pride and rebellion in our hearts.

When We Come at Our Enemy in an Opposite Spirit, He is Rendered Ineffective in that Situation

Although we may not realize it, obedience is a key factor in Spiritual Warfare because…

There are rules and principles by which the spirit world operates.  Among the most important of these:  the rules that govern authority relationships.[9]

As we have emphasized so many times over the course of these exercises, God has established a very specific authority structure within Creation, and it is one that He expects us to honor.  When we don’t—that is, when we use our wills to do things that overturn that order—we are actually giving Satan and his demons permission to carry out their wills in the spheres where we live…

Scripture is clear that there is a close connection between the spirit world and the human world.  In spite of our habit of regarding spirit things and human things as separate, in Scripture these realms are not compartmentalized from each other.  They are tightly interrelated, with events that go on in the spirit realm having repercussions in the human realm, and vice-versa.

Furthermore, the same rules seem to govern interaction between humans and God and humans and Satan.  The authority of God to do what He wants, for example, seems enhanced when His devotees obey, acknowledge the authority of, pray to or worship Him.  Likewise, the authority of Satan to do what he wants is enhanced when his devotees respond in such ways to him.

It looks as though a major principle is this:  The way authority is exercised in the human sphere affects what goes on in the spiritual realm, and vice-versa.[10]

Closely associated with our Obedience, then, are the weapons of Discipline and Self-Control—two things which must be instilled in any soldier who is to be used by God.  These are essential to us if we are to avoid the many land mines of temptation that the devil has carefully laid out in his effort to sideline us from our service.  This is a reality that even the Apostle Paul had to come to grips with in his ministry, leading him to…

…discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).

So, it stands to reason that we must learn to do the same.

For the Battle is the Lord’s

As for Prayer and Worship, if God’s authority is enhanced through our implementation of these two weapons, then they are ones that we definitely need to use more often.  When we pray, we are not just staying in touch with our Father, but we are activating the ministry of His Angels on our behalf and releasing His power into the lives and situations that need it, while rendering the enemy in those situations powerless.  Then, when we worship God and offer Him a fitting sacrifice of praise, we are not only giving God His due but we are actually creating confusion in the enemy’s camp and throwing his troops into disarray.

Probably the best illustration of this is the story recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20:14-15,17,20-23.  When the Moabites, Ammonites, and people of Mount Seir came against Judah and godly King Jehoshaphat, the king prostrated himself before God, and pleaded with Him to deliver him and his people from these enemies.  At that point…

…the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.’

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.’

And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.’

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.  For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

Afterward, all Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah had to do was collect the spoils, something which took three days for them to do.

In addition to the Prayer, Worship, and Praise offered by the people to God in this situation, it is apparent that the Word of God, which was given to them by means of His prophet, played a decisive role in the securing of this victory.  In our last exercise, we learned that the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit with which we guard our minds against our enemies’ assaults; but, this is not the only way that God intends for it is to be used when it comes to Spiritual Warfare.  Because His Word is the Spirit-inspired revelation of His character, and His will and His purposes for Man and the Earth, when we speak His Word into a situation, we are actually declaring that His will regarding that situation be done.  And, as we speak His Word into that situation, the resources of heaven are activated to ensure that His Will is carried out there.

Some of the other Offensive Weapons at our disposal, that we don’t make use of the way we should are…

…patience, consistency, and tenacity, by which we learn to wait on God and His timing, and to not give up even in the face of adversity and suffering;

…giving, for when we are generous with our time, talents, and resources, we sow seeds of provision into the lives of others and in our own lives as well;

…love, because it covers a multitude of sins, and it enables us to overcome evil with good; and,

…unity, because it not only increases our effectiveness exponentially and helps to speed our victory—but, because it was the chief concern on Jesus’ heart when, on His last evening before going to the Cross, he offered this prayer on behalf of His disciples

And now, Father…I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me…keep them in your name…they may be one, even as we are one.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:6ff).

Amen–may it be so, Lord Jesus!

To Win the World for Christ, We Must Become United in Our Purpose

 

 

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir reminds us what it is all about…

 

[1] Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018, at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/strategy?s=t

[2] Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, Revised and Updated Edition (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2014).

[3] Dictionary.com Unabridged.

[4] USAF College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education (CADRE), Air and Space Power Mentoring Guide, Vol. 1 (Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Air University Press, 1997), excerpt.+

[5] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority: Practicing the Authority Jesus Gave Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 1997), 22.

[6] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 95-114.

[7] C. Fred Dickason, Names of Angels (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1997), 58.

[8] Sherman, Spiritual Warfare, 182.

[9] Kraft, I Give You Authority, 123.

[10] Kraft, I Give You Authority, 124-125.

Spiritual Warfare:  Gearing Up for Battle

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Time for Us to Gear Up for Battle

For some time now, we have been involved in a rather rigorous training program, a Spiritual Boot Camp of sorts, designed to prepare us—as followers of Jesus Christ—for service as soldiers in the Army of God.  As part of this training, we have…

Our Uniforms and Their Maintenance

Having completed these preliminaries, the time has come for us to suit-up in our uniforms and learn about the weapons we will be carrying with us into battle.  Unlike the heavy duty combat attire worn by most soldiers—designed to camouflage both a soldier’s person and location (as well as any dirt that he might pick up along the way)—the uniforms we will be wearing are robes of purest white, made of the finest linen, and designed to call attention to our holy lifestyles and identify us as saints set apart for service to our Lord and Savior.  According to Revelation 19:7-8, this is what we, as the Bride of Christ, will be wearing to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…

…for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And, according to Revelation 19:14, it is what we will be wearing when we accompany our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, on His return to earth to crush His enemies at the Second Coming

And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.

Our Uniforms are Meant to Shine as Lights in the Darkness

These Kingdom-Issued Spiritual Robes are what each of us receives when we come to Christ for Salvation—robes that were purchased for us by Him through His sacrificial death on the Cross, and given to us to replace the filthy, sin-saturated civilian clothes we are wearing when we are first saved.  We find a wonderful illustration of this in the spiritual re-outfitting of Joshua, Israel’s high priest, in Zechariah 3:1-4…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’

Like the new garments given to Joshua, our robes, when first issued, are spotless and bright white; however, because we are still living in bodies of flesh and in a corrupted world system, it doesn’t take long for them, too, to become soiled by sin.  This, of course, brings us to the matter of maintenance; for, as Soldiers of God, we need to understand that once we have been issued our uniforms, we must make every effort to see that they remain in the same pristine condition as when we first received them.

Fortunately, we have not been left on our own in this endeavor; for, from the moment we are born into the Family of God, we are placed under the supervision of our very own Drill Instructor/Inspector General—the Holy Spirit—who comes to live within us 24/7 for the rest of our lives, in order to train us in the righteous ways of God, to empower us to live obediently to His commands, and to call attention to any violations of God’s uniform code of conduct.  When such violations do occur, and our uniforms become soiled and tattered due to sin, He is there to inspect us, to convict us of our need to repent, and to assist us in carrying our dirty laundry to the Cross of Christ where it can be cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb.  We can be assured of this because of the promise of God that…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Putting on the Mind of Christ

Developing a Missional Mindset

In His capacity as our DI, the Spirit of God works tirelessly to transform us from the raw recruits we once were into the seasoned soldiers we need to be; those who are trained and fully equipped to meet any challenge that might eventually be faced on the battlefield.  However, just providing us with uniforms and then helping us to keep them clean isn’t enough to make us into this kind of soldier.  To really prepare us for service in the army of our King, along with a change of clothing, we must also undergo a change of mentality—one in which we replace our old carnal, self-centered, civilian ways of thinking with new spiritual, selfless, and mission-oriented mindsets.  In other words, it is essential that we learn how to…

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

What does it mean to be renewed in the spirit of our minds?  Well, it means that we…

  1. Put on the mind of Christ…

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8).

We must have a mind of humility, servanthood, and obedience and, like Christ, we must be willing to give our lives in service to God our Father.

  1. Learn to live in submission…

First, to God…

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7)

Then, to Earthly Rulers…

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people (1 Peter 2:13-15).

And, to others…

…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

We should be living as one “under authority,” respecting whatever authority structure God has placed over us—like the Roman centurion, who told an impressed Jesus in Matthew 8:9…

For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

  1. Like Jesus, be prepared to suffer…

[For] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

  1. Train ourselves in godliness…

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Our Spiritual Dogtags

We do this as we study our Training Manual in Righteousness, the Bible… 

[For] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We do this by learning to Communicate and stay in contact with our Father and Commander-in-Chief through Prayer…

I call to God, and the LORD will save me.  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.  God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old…because they do not change and do not fear God (Psalm 55:16-19).

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).

And, we do this as we Dedicate our Lives and Wills to the Purposes of God through Worship…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

…for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (Corinthians 6:20).

Therefore…let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

We Must Remember Who Our Real Enemies Are

The Weapons in Our Armory 

Now that we have addressed the matter of our uniforms and their maintenance, and our mental attitudes have been reoriented from individualistic, self-seeking, and opportunistic ones to those that are more team-spirited, selfless, and completely dedicated to God’s mission in the world, we can move on to an introduction to the weapons that we will be carrying with us into battle.

The first thing we need to know about these weapons is that they, like the warfare we will be engaged in, are spiritual, not fleshly, in nature.  We need to remember that we are not battling flesh and blood people, or warring against the physical, cultural, or religious structures that we’ve identified in our previous exercises, but against the evil spirits who are working in and through these to accomplish the will and work of Satan.  As the Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12…

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 

Our real enemies, then, are the powers of Satan who are…

…organized in a hierarchy of ruler/principalities (archai), authorities (exousia), powers (dunamis), and spiritual forces of evil (kosmokratoras).  It is reasonable to assume the authority structure here is arranged in descending order.  Daniel 10:13 and 20 unveil the identity of the archai as high level satanic princes set over nations and regions of the earth.

The word exousia carries a connotation of both supernatural and natural government.  In the Apostle’s understanding, there were supernatural forces that ‘stood behind’ human structures…

Presumably, the dunamis operate within countries and cultures to influence certain aspects of life.

The kosmokratoras are the many types of evil spirits that commonly afflict people, e.g., spirits of deception, divination, lust, rebellions, fear, and infirmity.  These, generally, are the evil powers confronted and cast out in most deliverance sessions.  Even among them there is ranking, the weaker spirits subservient to the stronger ones…

These insidious powers continue to work through human governments, religions, and powerful personalities to keep people in bondage to legalism, social ideology, and moral compromise.  Their role is to pollute the minds and pervert the wills of people, diverting them from redemption, holding them hostage to the father of lies.[1] 

Powerful spiritual enemies such as these require powerful spiritual weapons to ensure their defeat—the kind of weapons which can only be provided by our All-Powerful Lord…

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the fleshbut have divine power to destroy [enemy] strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10: 3-6).

We Are Never Out of His Line of Sight

Our Defensive Weapons

As for the weapons themselves, these fall into one of two categories—they are either defensive or offensive in nature.  In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul describes those in the defensive category by comparing them to the armor worn by the Roman soldiers in his day.  During his many imprisonments, when he was either chained to or guarded by one soldier after another, he had countless opportunities to study these warriors up close, and plenty of time to reflect on the parallels between Rome’s mighty fighting machine and the kind of warriors we should be for Christ.  Given this insight, Paul’s instructions to us are to… 

  1. …be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might…

Here, at the outset, Paul admonishes us to remember just where our strength for the battle comes from—it comes from the Lord.  This is so important for us to keep in mind because, on our own, most of us don’t even have the strength to deal with enemies that we can see—much less take on enemy forces that we cannot see.  Fortunately for us, the Lord is not at the same disadvantage that we are.  Not only is He All-Powerful but He sees everything—and, according to 2 Chronicles 16:9…

…the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

In fact, He has made the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him far above all rule and authority and power and dominion available to us, so that we can…

…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:10-11); and,

…to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

  1. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm…

Being fully assured of having the strength we need to fight, we can now put on the armor that will protect us from our enemies.  And, armed with the knowledge that every need of ours will be supplied by our Commander-in-Chief, we can, with confidence…

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:13-14).

The Belt of Truth

  1. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…

As strange as it may seem, the very first piece of armor we are told to put on is the Belt.  That’s because, while seeming to be the least important piece of equipment in our arsenal, it is actually the most important.  Although it is nearly invisible when the rest of the armor is put on, this piece is so important because, like the Belt worn by the Roman soldier…

  • It secures the soldier’s robe and keeps it from flapping around in battle;
  • The soldier’s shield and lance are attached to it when they are not in use;
  • The soldier’s breastplate is attached to it and held in place by it; and,
  • The sheath containing the soldier’s sword is also attached to it.[2]

Unlike the Roman soldier’s belt, though, our belt is not just any old piece of leather.  Paul refers to it as the Belt of Truth because Truth, for us, is the foundational piece of our spiritual armor—Truth, for us, is none other than Jesus Christ.  Not only is He the One who holds everything in life together but He is the One who gives us eternal life and brings us into the Family of God in the first place.  As soldiers in the Army of God, we know the Truth that…

…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1)…

…[and that] the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

We know that He is…

…the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him] (John 14:6).

And, we know the saving Truth that God wants everyone else to know is…

…there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:5-6).

Ours is One of Righteousness

  1. And having put on the breastplate of righteousness…

The breastplate worn by a typical Roman soldier was made of either bronze or brass and was the shiniest and most beautiful piece of equipment he owned.  It covered the area of the body from his neck to nearly his knees and protected all of his vital organs, especially his heart.  It consisted of two sections of metal—one going down the back and the other going down the front—which were held together at the shoulders and attached to the belt at the waist.[3]  No doubt, when Paul saw this breastplate, he was reminded of an image of protection similar to the one afforded to us by the Righteousness of God, and made available to us through Christ…

…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:22).

When we come face-to-face with the Truth that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—and the only mediator between God and men—and we put our faith in Him for Salvation, we are immediately made righteous in the sight of God and empowered to live righteously by the Spirit of God who comes to live within us.  These are the two aspects of Righteousness—one Positional and one Practical—that we need to take into consideration here.  John MacArthur explains them in this way…

Basically, God’s gift of salvation in Christ brings a believer into a position of righteousness. God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son to the believer, and thereby declares him righteous positionally.  But as you know full well, believers still have sin in their lives — Christians are not practically righteous, 100 percent of the time. However, it is on the basis of our positional righteousness, that we are exhorted to strive for practical righteousness in our daily lives.

Positionally…

As a Christian you are: spiritually alive unto God, dead to sin, forgiven, declared righteous, a child of God, God’s possession, an heir of God, blessed with all spiritual blessings, a citizen of heaven, a servant of God, free from the Law, crucified to the world, a light in the world, victorious over Satan, cleansed from sin, declared holy and blameless, set free in Christ from the power of sin, secure in Christ, granted peace and rest, and led by the Holy Spirit…

Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God — for ‘in Him you have been made complete’ (Colossians 2:10).

But…

…that completeness does not mean that when you understand your position you will remain as you are—no, you will see changes in your life. The New Testament continually emphasizes your identity as a believer and urges you understand and apply your spiritual resources. As you continue to mature in Christ, you will not only come to a greater understanding of who you are, but you’ll also rely more consistently on your resources — those granted to you as a result of your position in Christ — to handle the practical aspects of Christian living. [4]

Because of our Positional Righteousness, we can pray with expectation…

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me (Ps. 5:8); and,

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me (Ps. 71:2)!

And, as we maintain our Practical Righteousness, we can trust God’s promise that…

Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked (Prov. 13:6).

Our Shoes are for Carrying the Gospel of Peace

  1. …and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace

Although they might seem relatively insignificant, especially when compared to his massive and beautiful breastplate, the shoes worn by a Roman soldier were critical pieces of his equipment.  Like the breastplate, they, too, consisted of two parts—the greave, which was a piece of metal—a sort of shin plate—extending from the knee to the ankle; and, the shoe itself, which was made of leather with long, dangerous spikes on the bottom of the shoe.[5]  Not only did these shoes enable him to stand firm while engaging in hand-to hand combat with an enemy but, because of the spikes, they could also be used as weapons to maim or even kill his opponent.  When properly shod, the Roman soldier was prepared for whatever the war threw at him—he was ready to march to the next battlefield and ready to fight when he arrived there.

The spiritual parallel for us is this:  having put on the belt of truth—that is, having put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), and having been covered by our breastplate of righteousness—both the positional and the practical or personal, we are ready to put on our shoes and take the gospel (the good news) of peace with us wherever we go.  Being so shod, we are equipped for both the march and any enemies we may meet along the way; remembering…

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ (Isaiah 52:7).

To Protect Against the Flaming Arrows of the Enemy

  1. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…

So far, in the donning of our spiritual armor, we have put on…

  • our Belt of Truth—the Truth being Jesus Christ, whom we also know to be the Word of God;
  • our Breastplate of Righteousness—our Positions of Righteousness with God and our Practices of Right Living made possible through our relationship with Christ; and,
  • our heavy-duty Shoes—which enable us to take the Gospel of Peace–the good news about Jesus–across some rough and rugged spiritual terrain to those in need of it.

Before we march out, though, Paul tells us that we must take up our Shields of Faith to protect us against any enemy missiles that may be launched at us as we proceed.  Since we’ve already exercised Faith in coming to Christ for Salvation…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)…

By Faith, we have been made Righteous and live Righteously…

’my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:38-39)…

And, it is with Faith that we launch out with the Gospel of Peace…

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…(Philippians 1:27)…

…what Faith could Paul be referring to here, when he tells us to take up the Shield of Faith?  Since Faith is…

…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)…

I think he is referring the assurance we need that—before going into battle…

If God is for us, who can be against us?…[assurance] that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

…and the conviction that…

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8: 31, 37-39).

If…

….everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4)…

…where does this Faith come from?  Well, according to Romans 10:17, it comes from the Word of God, for…

…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

To help illustrate why Paul chose this particular piece of equipment to represent the protection afforded to us by Faith, we need to take a closer look at the shield used by the Roman soldiers in his day.

A Roman legionnaire usually possessed two shields—a small round one made of metal that was highly decorated, and only worn when he needed to dress to impress; and, a large rectangular one, sized and shaped very much like a door that, when used properly, would cover just about every part of his body. It was this shield that he used in combat and the one that Paul was referring to in this instruction.

This type of shield was usually formed by taking at least six layers of animal skin and laying them on top of a piece of wood.  These were then tanned and woven together to created a nearly impenetrable surface.  In order to keep the leather on the shields from becoming dried out and brittle over time, a regular application of oil was needed—something which became an important part of a soldier’s daily routine.  In addition to this, prior to going out into battle, a soldier would immerse his shield in water until it was completely saturated.  In this way, be could prevent his shield from catching on fire when it was struck by the enemy’s flaming arrows.[6]

I am sure that when Paul learned how the soldiers cared for and used their shields, it put him in mind of the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit and the Water of the Word he mentioned at another time in Ephesians 5:25.  It is through our saturation in the Water of the Word of God, applied to us daily by the Holy Spirit, that we receive the Faith needed to move out onto the battlefield with confidence, laying claim to the victory that Christ has already won for us.  We can do this because we know that…

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Proverbs 30:5).

The Helmet of Salvation

  1. …and take the helmet of salvation…

As for the helmet of the Roman warrior, it too was made of bronze, with pieces of armor attached to the sides to protect his cheeks and jaw.  It was often decorated with elaborate engravings and usually had a plume made from either feathers or horsehair standing straight up from the top of the helmet—so it was quite impressive to behold.  Because the helmet was so heavy, the inside of it was lined with a cushiony substance which protected the head.[7]  A wise soldier wouldn’t dare go into battle without it because he surely would have lost his head to an enemy’s battleaxe or sword.

Paul tells us that we, too, have a helmet for the protection of our heads—in our case, our minds—that is found in our Salvation.  When we come to Christ for Salvation, we come to a personal Knowledge of the Truth, something which we had never known before.  That’s because…

…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4:20-25).

Just as the Truth is in Jesus, the Truth is now in us, and given that, we are to live as people of the Truth.  In our former civilian lives, all we knew were the lies that the enemy wanted us to believe; but now, as people of the Truth, our minds must be renewed so that we think like Jesus—and, when we start thinking like Jesus, we will start acting like Jesus.  So, in putting on our Helmet of Salvation, what we’re doing is protecting our minds from the lies, accusations, and false guilt that the enemy hurls at us in an attempt to render the “command centers” of our minds inoperable.

But, having…

…been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet. 1:23)…

…we can protect our minds from the devil’s onslaught by filling them with the very same Word of God.  As we do, we will learn more about who we are in Christ and become more confident and secure in our identity as the Children of God.  Our “heads” will then be as protected as a Roman’s soldier’s was in his helmet, and the enemy will be denied the access to our mind that he has long been scheming to get.

The Word of God

  1. …and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

In Hebrews 4:12, we are told that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart…

…and, it was the two-edged sword of the Roman soldier that Paul had in mind here.  Although a soldier usually had five swords at his disposal, not all of them were suitable for use on the battlefield; some were too big and unwieldy for hand-to-hand combat and some were too small to inflict very much damage.  But the two-edged sword was just right for this purpose; it was the sharpest, easiest to maneuver, and the most lethal weapon he had in his arsenal.

This sword was about 19 inches long and in addition to its two razor sharp blades, it had a tip which turned upward.  When it was thrust into an enemy combatant and twisted, it could virtually rip the foe’s insides apart.[8] As gruesome as the thought of this may be, it was the image Paul chose to use when describing the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit; for, it is the one weapon capable of penetrating a person’s innermost being, separating one’s thoughts from his feelings, one’s blood from his bones, and one’s mind, will, and emotions from those of God.

Probably the best example of the effective use of the Word of God as a defensive weapon can be seen in Jesus’ use of it in His wilderness testing, recorded for us in Matthew 4:1-11…

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But he answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’  Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Three times, Jesus was tempted by Satan to act apart from the will of God and each time He met the temptation with the spoken Word of God.  This is exactly what we should do when confronted by the devil or tempted by “…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).”  Hindsight being what it is, if the First Adam had wielded the Word of God as faithfully and forcefully as the Second Adam, just think how different life on the earth would have been!

The use of the Sword of the Spirit is not limited to its use as a defensive capacity, however.  Unlike the other pieces of our armor, it also serves as an offensive weapon.  But, we will have to wait until our next exercise to learn more about that and our other weapons of offense–and, about the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of our Warfare.

 

Armed and Ready for Battle

 

The Gaither Vocal Band reminds us of the faithfulness of God’s promises…

 

Original Armor Images by Rev. Yves Langevin, courtesy of www.freebibleimages.org.

Image of the soldier’s shoes from Dressed to Kill by Rick Renner.

[1] Thomas B. White, “Understanding Principalities and Powers,” in Territorial Spirits, ed. C. Peter Wagner (Chichester, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 1991), 61-62.

[2] Rick Renner, Dressed to Kill: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare and Armor (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 2015), 261-262.

[3] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 292.

[4] John MacArthur, “How to Get in the Game,” article dated January 12, 2010, on the Grace to You website at https://www.gty.org/library/articles/a179.

[5] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 313-314.

[6] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 346-351.

[7] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 374-375.

[8] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 405-406.

Spiritual Warfare:  The False Faith of Religion

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A Self-Righteous System Based Upon ‘Good’ Works

Now that we have finished mapping out the first two tiers of Satan’s earthly kingdom…

Its Physical and Financial Landscape; and,
The Educational and Media Structures making up its Cultural Landscape…

…it is time for us to move on to a survey of its third tier, which is the Religious Landscape over which he rules.  As we do, we need to keep in mind that the Structures in these Landscapes have been especially designed to maximize Satan’s control, conditioning, and corruption of Corporate Humanity’s Body, Soul, and Spirit.  As we have learned previously, it is through the manipulation of the…

Physical and Financial Structures that he Controls what people
can do and where they can go;
Educational and Media Structures that he Conditions the way people think and feel;

…and, as we shall learn in this session, it is through the…

Religious Structures that he Corrupts the worship of God and
redirects that worship to himself. 

As we have been reminded of so often over the course of these exercises, Satan’s motivation for this Corruption is his obsessive and self-destructive quest to usurp God’s throne and grab the glory that goes along with it.  Since most people consider Religion to be the means by which we are drawn closer to God, to say that Satan uses it to do just the opposite, might seem somewhat incongruous at first; however, once we have examined the matter more closely, I think we will come to see that the difference between Religion and the Righteousness required by God is as vast as the distance between the Heaven and Hades we learned about in Spiritual Warfare: Getting the Lay of the Land.  So, to clarify what we mean when referring to Religion, we must pause for a DOT—or, a Definition of Terms for this particular structure.

  1. Religion—What Is It?

As defined by Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Religion is…

…a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members an object of devotion; a code of behavior by which individuals may judge the personal and social consequences of their actions; and a frame of reference by which individuals may relate to their group and their universe.[1]

Breaking this definition down, we find that…

  • Because it is a system of thought, feeling, and action, Religion is something that appeals to, encompasses, and makes use of every aspect of the Human Soul—both the individual and the corporate one;
  • Because it is shared by a group, Religion provides its adherents with a community that they can be a part of and relate to; and,
  • Because it provides its followers with an object of devotion, a code of behavior, and a frame of reference…
    • Religion satisfies their inherent need for something to worship or revere;
    • Religion provides them with guidelines on how to behave or act by defining morality and establishing boundaries for them; and,
    • Religion helps them make sense of the world around them and explain its origins.

Religion, then, is the belief system expressly designed to meet the needs of the Human Soul which, as we know from our previous exercises, has been a part of Man’s Carnal or Fleshly Nature ever since it became separated from his Spirit (and God’s Spirit, as well) as a result of Sin.  Given this, and the fact that…

…God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24); and,

…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6)…

…the Soulish Worship produced by Religion—no matter how pious it may appear to be on the surface—is something which is reprehensible to God.

  1. Religion—When and Where Did It Originate?

When trying to determine just when and where Religion originated, we must first decide which approach to the subject we are going to take—the Secular Approach or the Biblical Approach.  In choosing the secular one, we would find ourselves in the company of Anthropologists, Sociologists, and Historians who approach the subject from an Evolutionary Perspective; one which…

…starts with the view that man evolved from a pre-simian ancestor.  Since animals have no religion, there must have been, it is said, a long ascent through apish chatter and fear of the dark unknown to…a ‘belief in a vague, potent, terrifying inscrutable force.’

Animatism developed into ‘animism,’ the spirit-fearing religion of most isolated tribal people.  Then came the polytheism immortalized in the Greek mythologies.  Israel’s glory, so this summary of the development of religion suggests, was that she was able to narrow down the many gods of the surrounding nations to one tribal god.  And eventually the one Creator-God of the Hebrew prophets, together with the philosophical monotheism of Plato, paved the way for higher religion.[2]

The Biblical Approach, on the other hand, gives us a completely different and, to my way of thinking, a far more reasonable explanation; for…

According to the Bible, the first true man was a monotheist, and when he falls into sin, he seeks restoration through animal sacrifice.  The theory of the evolution of religion suggests that man is an animal taking a long time to become divine.  The Bible describes a human couple made in the image of God, who degenerated into what we are now.[3]

According to this approach, instead of it being the unexpected byproduct of, or the evidentiary support for, Man’s upwardly mobile evolutionary journey, Religion is actually the degenerative process that was set in motion by Man’s Original Sin back in the Garden of Eden.  Although we have made quite a few trips to the Garden already, it will be necessary for us to visit there once again, if we are to expose the roots and the true nature of Religion’s False Faith.

To do this, though, we must first have an understanding of the significance of the Garden to the relationship between God and Man.  Because God is Spirit and Man is Flesh, for the two of them to enjoy fellowship together, it was necessary that a special meeting place be created for them.  In much the same way that man’s spirit and his body of flesh needed his soul to be a place of mediation between two such disparate entities, God and Man needed a place—something like a Sanctuary, a Tabernacle, or a Temple—where they, too, could come together.  This, then, is what the Garden represented to them.

Although the world that God created was beautiful enough in itself, when it came to creating the Sanctuary of the Garden, He pulled out all of the stops.  He filled this Sanctuary with everything that was beautiful to behold and to enjoy.  It was well-watered by a river flowing up from underground springs and filled with every tree that was good for food.  In addition, the areas surrounding it were also well-watered and filled with gold and precious stones!  When this special Sanctuary was completed, God took the Man He had created and placed him in it, and charged him with the responsibility of caring for it.  God made it clear to Man at the time that if he wanted to maintain their fellowship and continue living there, he would have to obey the Word God had given him, even when tempted to do otherwise.

In addition to all the other trees in the Garden, God placed two very special ones at its center—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  His purpose for doing so was to test Man—giving him the opportunity to choose for himself whether to obey God and be blessed, or to go his own way and reap the consequences.  In reality, what He was setting before the first Man and Woman was the choice between the only two Systems of Faith that would ever be available to mankind—the choice to either put their Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to achieve Salvation on their own terms, or to do things God’s way and put their Faith in His Word as the only means of securing their Salvation and Eternal life.  Since these trees were representative of those two systems, an examination of their roots and fruit will aid in our understanding of the systems themselves.

Such an examination reveals that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

The Tree of Works and Death

…was rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God.  As listed in Isaiah 14:13-14, these were…

I will ascend into Heaven;
I will be like the Most High;
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; and,
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

The SAP produced by it was Selfishness and Pride, and its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory.

On the other hand…

The Tree of Life…

The Tree of Grace and Life

…was rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, as described for us in Psalm 40:6-10…

I delight to do Your will;
Your law is within my heart;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; and,
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Its SAP was Submission and Praise, while its Fruit was all about God and His Glory.

In comparison, then, the Two Systems of Faith line up something like this…

The Roots and Fruit of the Two Trees

Of course, hindsight being what it is, it’s easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—to their selfishness and pride, as well as to their desire for self-determination and glorification.  Unfortunately, when they chose to eat of this tree, there was no way for them to know the kind of fruit it would bear in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and in the generations to come.  They had no idea that in choosing the Way of Works over the Way of God, they were dooming every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already bound to the same system–the system of Satan’s Soul-Centered False Faith of Religion, which actually leads it followers away from the Truth of God and on to their Spiritual Deaths.

  1. Religion—How Did It Develop?

Starting out as just a small seed of unbelief in the hearts of our first parents—but, nurtured as it was in the fertile soil of Satan’s prideful ambition—it didn’t take long for this False Faith of Religion to grow into an enormous tree with a very sturdy trunk.  That’s because it was founded upon Cain and his self-styled Worship of Works, it was fed and grew stronger on Man’s Worship of Nature, and its reach was eventually extended to cover the whole world through the many branches it developed following God’s confounding of the languages at the Tower of Babel.

Cain’s Worship of Works

That Cain and his offering would serve as the base upon which the Tree of Religion was founded should come as no surprise to us; for his—and his brother Abel’s—offerings were the first ones to be recorded after their parents’ expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  Given their proximity to that event, in both time and location, it seems reasonable to expect that Adam and Eve had instructed their sons concerning the type of offering that would be required of them by God.  The fact that Cain brought an offering of produce from his field, which was rejected, and Abel brought a lamb to be sacrificed and it was accepted, would tend to lend support to this theory.  But, was the difference in their offerings the only reason to look upon Cain as Religion’s Founding Father, or was it something that went much deeper than that?

We get an indication of the real issue in Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between these two men and their offerings was faith, for…

By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.

Why, then, was faith the deciding factor here?  Because…

…without faith it is impossible to please him [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6); and,

…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

If it was a heart of faith that was required to please God, how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  The most logical conclusion is that, since…

…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17)…

Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had receivedmost likely from his parents and something to the effect of “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—then, acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Cain, on the other hand, having rejected the same Word, and determined to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching Him in the manner previously ordained.  Such an arrogant action on his part revealed that his heart was far from God, he was in denial concerning his sinfulness and need of sacrificial atonement, and his faith was in his own worthiness and works.  So great was Cain’s sense of self-righteousness that even when he was corrected by God and given an opportunity to repent, he refused—choosing instead to try to vindicate himself through the murder of his brother.  The true nature of Cain’s heart and actions were described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers…

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

So, it was these characteristics of Cain…

  • An unbelief in and a rejection of the Word of God;
  • A life built upon deception;
  • A faith based on self-worth and the works of the flesh;
  • An inexplicable resentment and envy of the truly righteous; and,
  • An unjustifiable need to suppress and eliminate those who are walking with God…

…that have, ever since the time of Cain, become the hallmarks of the structure we know of as Religion—hallmarks which were clearly demonstrated by the Religious Leaders of Jesus’ day who, in their resentment and envy of Him, felt completely justified in their persecution and crucifixion of the very Son of God.

The Way of Cain

Man’s Worship of Nature

I must admit that when considering the transition from Cain’s Worship of Works to Mankind’s Worship of Nature, I was at a loss to explain how it could have happened.  I mean, why would any reasonably intelligent person choose to worship a being or a material entity lower in rank in the created order than himself?  It just didn’t make any sense, for the leap from the one to the other seemed far too great.  Thankfully, in Romans 1:21-25, the Apostle Paul provided us with some insight into this highly illogical progression (regression, actually) as he explains that it was really just a short hop because…

…although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!

It would seem, then, that if we—like Cain—don’t believe God and we reject His Word as the only source of Truth in the world, not only will we fall for any and every lie that comes down the pike, but we will also have to invent a few of our own if we’re going to ever make sense of our existence and the world in which we live.  After all, how else can we explain why…

  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west on a daily basis;
  • The moon and the stars come out at night and move from place to place in the sky;
  • The wind is so powerful and yet invisible;
  • The thunder thunders and the lightning flashes randomly across the sky;
  • The land is separate from the seas and the earth, at times, rumbles mysteriously under foot;
  • The rivers race downhill from the mountains to the sea;
  • People are people and animals are animals—why we eat one but not the other; and,
  • People die and what happens to them after they do?

Well, those in ancient times chose to explain these things through the use of Myths…

Myths explained how Earth was created, where life came from, why the stars shine at night and the seasons change.  Why there was sex.  Why there was evil.  Why people died and where they went when they did.  In short, myths were a very human way to explain everything.

…in its most basic sense, a myth is defined as ‘A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the world view of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society (American Heritage).’  ‘Explaining aspects of the world’—that’s another way to say ‘science’ or ‘religion,’ the two principal ways people have used to explain the world.[4]

Creation myths set out to explain the origin of the world, the birth of gods and goddesses, and eventually the creation of human beings.  Explanatory, or causal, myths try to give a mythic reason for natural events, such as the Norse belief that Thor made thunder and lightning by throwing his hammer…another fundamental type of myth is the ‘foundation’ story, which explains the beginnings of a society—often with the distinct sense of superiority that direct descent from the gods clearly implies.[5]

This eventually gave rise to the rule and domination of men over men because…

Once local rulers understood that connecting themselves to the gods would cement their hold over people, myth was elevated to an institution that could prove more powerful than an army.  Most of the great ancient civilizations…were theocracies, in which there was no difference between religion and state.  With connections to the gods and usually the cooperation of a potent priesthood, divinely anointed rulers held the power of life and death over their subjects…[6]

…a development which eventually led to the founding of the world’s first empire in the land of Shinar—as well as the world’s first Religious System at the Tower of Babel.

A Few of Religion’s Many Faces

A System of Worship for the World

In Genesis 11:1-2, we are told that following the flood of Noah’s day…

…the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Then, in Genesis 10:8-12, we learn that Shinar is where Nimrod, Noah’s great-grandson, came to power—and, where it was said of him…

…he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before [against] the LORD.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.  From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Although the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Nimrod, there are a number of references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  One such reference is in Antiquities of the Jewscompiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus…

Now it was Nimrod who excited them [the people] to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…[7]

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like the man of lawlessness the Apostle Paul warned his readers about later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10—and described there as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[8]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name [i.e. God’s character and attributes], they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when ‘scaled’ through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[9]

Most Likely What the Tower of Babel Looked Like

So, in addition to establishing himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod also made a name for himself as the instigator of the first organized false religious system in the world—one …

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood.  In the original this system, depicted by means of constellations, [was] the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin [and] then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible.

According to this corrupted version…

…the serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent…

Madonna and Child

…and, it was this woman and child who would later become known everywhere as the Madonna with Child.  

These fables…were introduced under the guise of revealing hidden esoteric knowledge [but]…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal, which was the worship of the ‘heavenly host,’ which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels.

Satan was quite willing to receive worship ‘by proxy,’ hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[10]

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that…

…the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’

So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:5-9).

As a result of this scattering, when the people made their way into strange new lands, one of the things they all carried along with them was the false religion they had known at Babel in the land of Shinar—the place later called Babylon

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[11]

And, it was for this reason that Babylon came to be known as the “mother” of every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon, and the one described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.

Mystery Babylon–Satan’s False Religious System

This is the same Religious System used by Satan throughout history to deceive and seduce those following in the Way of Cain, and to oppress and destroy those choosing to follow in the Way of Abel.  The one…

  • Out of which God called Abram, in order to create Israel as the nation through which His Son would come into the world;
  • That enslaved the Israelites in Egypt—and, the one that God crushed when He delivered His people from bondage there;
  • That God commanded His people to destroy when they went into the Promised Land—but whose failure to do so led to their eventual corruption;
  • That killed the prophets God sent to call His people to repentance;
  • That eventually carried God’s people into captivity, destroying their temple and leaving their land barren and in the hands of their enemies;
  • That crucified Christ;
  • That has persecuted the Church throughout its history and been responsible for the death of its martyrs;
  • That was responsible for the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and all the religious wars throughout history;
  • That led to the formation of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Rationalism, Atheism, and every cult the world has known; and,
  • Whose syncretism is now manifesting itself in the New Age Religion that will soon serve as the State Religion during the reign of the Antichrist.

4. Religion–How Will It End?

Most importantly, it is the one that God will one day judge and destroy…

Like Her Master, She Will Meet a Fiery End

…and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. Rev. 16:19

…for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Rev. 18:5

‘Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.’ …her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. 18:6,8

Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. 18:16-17

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;’ 18:20-21

…[for] all nations were deceived by your sorcery…and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” 18:23-24

In that day, like her Master and Manipulator, Satan’s Soul-Centered False Faith of Religion will meet her well-deserved doom—and, she will be seen no more!

 

Phillips, Craig, and Dean remind us that our salvation is all about God’s amazing grace–not our works…

 

[1] “religion.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. © 1994, 2000-2006 on Infoplease.
© 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease.
14 May. 2018   <https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/philosophy-and-religion/other-religious-beliefs-and-general-terms/religion-general/religion/>.

[2] Robert Brow, “Origins of Religion,” in Eerdmans’ Handbook to The World’s Religions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 30.

[3] Brow, Eerdmans’ Handbook, 31.

[4] Kenneth C. Davis, Don’t Know Much About Mythology (New York, NY; HarperCollins Publishers, 20060, 23-24.

[5] Davis, Mythology, 12.

[6] Davis, Mythology, 12.

[7] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[8] Josephus, Antiquities, 79-80.

[9] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/.

[10] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html).

[11] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/).

 

 

Spiritual Warfare: Knowing the Enemy

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Snake in the Grass

The devil…was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him (John 8:44).

In our last exercise, we learned how important it is to understand the nature of the spiritual conflict in which we, as the Sons and Daughters of God, are engaged.  As we shall learn in this exercise, it is equally important for us to discover as much as we can about our adversary—that is, if we want to stay alert and guard against his assaults.  For…

…unless we grasp how the devil fits into God’s scheme of things, we will find it more difficult to stand against his conspiracy against us personally and his influence within our culture.  How we perceive our enemy will largely determine how we fight against him.[1]

Over the course of the past six exercises in our Workout Program, we have learned a lot about this adversary–the one who goes by the names of Satan, Lucifer, and the Devil—so let’s collect that information here and review what we have learned about him thus far.

  1. His History and Character

As for his history and character, we now know that Satan…

  • Was a created being, making him vastly inferior to the God who created him, and meaning that…

Since he was created, he is not self-existent, and never can be free from the Creator.  He may vainly propose to become independent, and even be permitted for a time to act under that delusion; but that only delays the inevitable judgment that awaits him.[2]

  • Was created perfect…

…or was the perfect fulfillment of the Creator’s intention.  Satan was a free moral agent, capable of choosing evil but not obligated to do so.  That he chose evil must ever be to his own condemnation, for the Creator had surrounded him with sufficient motives for choosing the good.[3]

  • Was created as one of the highest ranking in a class of Spirit Beings called Angels

…powerful creatures who have a significant role to play in God’s unfolding plan for mankind; and who…
…were present at pivotal points in the spiritual history of man, including the creation of the universe, the proclamation of the birth of Jesus and will return with Christ’s heavenly army to establish His Millennial Kingdom.[4]

  • Possessed a superior intellect and surpassing beauty…

First, consider God’s statement [in Ezekiel 28:12] ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty.’  For the God of the universe to declare that another is perfect in wisdom is remarkable.  Satan must have incredible intellectual powers; repeatedly the Bible stresses his brilliance.  His beauty and majesty also must be unimaginable.[5]

  • Became vain because of his beauty, proud because of his wisdom, and power-hungry because of his position. He conceitedly regarded these things as emanating from within himself, instead of acknowledging them as endowments from God—gifts given to him by the good pleasure of the Almighty, for the benefit of the Kingdom of Heaven…

Lucifer was God’s masterpiece, a showpiece whose presence brought glory to his creator… [And] until he sinned, he existed to serve God, without weariness, struggle, or competition.  He was God’s worship leader; the director of choirs and coordinator of praise.  If only he had known how fortunate he was![6]

  • Rebelled against God’s authority and attempted to usurp that authority for himself…

… instead of passing all of the praise to God, he began to keep some of it for himself.  Like a trader who keeps a bit of the profits that cross his desk, so Lucifer would hold back some of the worship, enjoying what he thought was his share…

…[Until] consumed with jealousy and burning with a desire for recognition, he set out to do what he wanted to do rather than what God wanted him to do.[7]

  • Began his career as a liar and a slanderer of God in order to justify his misguided and failed actions…

Satan apparently concluded that he was so magnificent he didn’t need God.  Like the first humans, he probably felt he could be his own God.

Once Satan enthroned himself and rejected God’s moral guidance, a whole series of negative character traits automatically developed.  Any moral being who rejects God’s leadership finds it psychologically necessary to justify that decision…[Thus] Satan justified his rebellion by finding fault with God.

When Satan rebelled, he became the supreme accuser of God’s character.[8]

  • Became a murderer when he provoked Cain to kill his brother, Abel, in an effort to eliminate the righteous son of Adam and Eve—the one he thought might be the redeemer promised to Eve by God…

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts (Hebrews 11:4).

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

Angel of Light to Prince of Darkness

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you (Ezekiel 28:15).

  1. His Ambitious Plan

in addition to his History and Character, we also know that…

  • Lucifer’s original plan—his Plan A—called for his overthrow of God and the take-over of His Throne in Heaven; this in spite of the fact that God was and is All-Powerful, and his own power was severely limited in comparison. But…

Far from withdrawing, Satan chose to escalate the conflict.  Admitting defeat was too humbling; better to forge ahead with sustained rebellion than withdraw from the fray and accept his punishment.  He would pretend that illusion is reality; he would call his defeats triumphs.  And he would store up more retribution by expanding his rebellious rule.[9]

  • This, of course, led to the creation of his Plan B, which called for him to set up his kingdom and reign upon the Earth…

Pride caused Lucifer to gamble his privileges away.  He took the big risk, thinking that if he could not dethrone God, at least he could set up his own throne somewhere in the universe.  He had underestimated God and overestimated himself.[10]

  • This presented him with another problem, though—God had given the Earth to Man to rule, so what was he to do about that?

When the devil noticed that a new being existed, created in the image and likeness of God, destined to have the lordship over creation, he developed his own plan and wanted to destroy God’s work.   Satan’s attack consisted in tempting Adam and Eve with exactly the same iniquity that constituted his own ruin.  Lucifer himself had wanted to be like God.  That was what he offered Eve, saying, ‘You will not surely die…’[11]

  1. His Overall Strategy

Given that…

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Genesis 1:27-28)…

…so that, in bearing God’s image to the ends of the earth…

…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea… (Habakkuk 2:14)

…for Satan to achieve his Plan B and realize his ultimate goal, his strategy had to include…

  • Gaining control of the Earth by taking God’s Representatives and intended Family captive through deception and lies. Lying about who he was, who they were, and who God is, Satan convinced Eve, then Adam, to disobey God.  As a result…

Adam dropped the scepter and Satan picked it up.  Man, created to be king of the earth, would now become a slave and be everywhere in chains… In Eden, the crown slid from man’s head, Satan picked it up from the dust and crowned himself…He would now treat the world as if it belonged to him.[12]

  • Preventing God’s Kingdom from coming to the Earth; keeping his captives from escaping to freedom by blinding them to the Truth of God, and keeping them ignorant of His Word and His free gift of Salvation…

By their disobedience, Adam and Eve abdicated their throne of earthly dominion, yielding it to Satan, the architect and instigator of their fall.  This ushered in a counterfeit kingdom that the Bible calls the ‘kingdom of darkness,’ which is in constant conflict with the Kingdom of God…

Satan rules his kingdom of darkness by keeping his ‘subjects’ in ignorance of the true nature of their environment and of the existence of God’s Kingdom.  He fills their heads with lies and deception.  Satan controls his subjects by keeping them ‘in the dark’ regarding spiritual truth.  He blinds their eyes lest they understand the glorious good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.[13]

The Nature of the Beast

The Enemy of the Truth

  • Harassing, intimidating, slandering, and deceiving them at every possible turn—and, should any of them manage to escape…

Satan sees our down times as his opportunities.  True to his nature, he strikes with vile determination when we are weakest… Satan is relentless in his attacks because he utterly hates us.  He desires our complete destruction.  There is no goodness in him at all.  He is absolutely void of virtue and compassion.  This is his nature and he is not going to change.[14]

  • Frustrating the Service of those who manage to make it to the Kingdom of God by stirring up division and strife among them, and wearing them down until they finally give up and quit…

Satan is unable to destroy Christians, so his ultimate goal is to make us ineffective in our mission.  Whether he can destroy faith or stalemate us in other ways, his point is to block Christians’ efforts to rescue those currently under his control…he wants to guard his captives from the power of the gospel.  Satan can convince most Christians never even to try to advance God’s cause on earth.  Others do try, but he can frustrate their plans or redirect them into fruitless projects…

He can divide believers or get them to pursue foolish, doomed-to-failure tactics.  And he has been remarkably successful getting believers to preach a message so alien to the gospel that no one could meet Christ through their message.[15]

  • Corrupting all the institutions which affect their lives—especially the Family—and distorting the Image of God on the Earth through Sexual Perversion and Gender Confusion…

…when man chose to renounce the will of God…the knowledge of good and evil made its entrance.  Man now had a knowledge that corrupted him, poisoned him…now humanity carries in itself the seed of evil that it transmits from generation to generation.

In the moment in which the devil enters into a place of authority over man and creation, the polluted and corrupt world becomes his vehicle of expression, a system designed to keep humanity in slavery.  The Bible teaches us that since then, the world serves the devil’s purposes.[16]

  1. His Defeat and its Impact on the War
  • From his victory over the First Adam to the coming of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, Satan treated “the world as if it belonged to him.”[17] After all, he had wrested the lordship over the Earth from Adam and Eve, and now that they were his slaves, there wasn’t anything that they or their descendants could do about it.  That is, until Jesus came, and then it became an altogether different story…

…Jesus came as a human being, living in our post-Fall human context ‘for a little while lower than the angels’ (Hebrews 2:7).  As a man He retraced Adam’s footprints up to the point of temptation, facing temptation after temptation and succeeding in obedience where Adam had failed.

Jesus’ obedience, then, took Him even to the cross, and through that to the empty tomb.  Thus He won the battle over Satan from behind enemy lines—won it as a man for both humans and God.  When the Father resurrected Jesus, a cosmic battle was won, and the usurper defeated and deposed from second place in the universe.[18]

  • As a result of His Victory, this Second Adam reclaimed what the First Adam had lost, and restored it to those who would come to the Father through Faith in His Finished Work on the Cross. In spite of his loss, though, Satan isn’t about to roll over and play dead…

…like Nazi Germany even after D-Day, Satan still has plenty of fight left…Knowing he has been defeated doesn’t bring melancholy to Satan; it makes him furious.  Seeing his end draw near makes Satan even more frantic to destroy.  In the psychology of hatred, rage becomes irrational, and Satan apparently has become angrier than ever.  But his strategy is far from irrational.  He continues, in calculated and effective ways, to pursue his course of opposition to God’s plans.[19]

  1. His Kingdom: Past, Present, and Future

From the Garden to the Cross—

  • Satan ruled over the Earth with impunity. Having already robbed Man of his innocence in the Garden, he was now free, from the Garden to the Cross, to successfully…

Sear men’s consciences through sin—leading to the destruction of the then-known world through the Flood;
Corrupt the governmental system ordained by God
—leading to the rebellion at the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages;
Introduce a false religious system into the world—which, once the nations were scattered, made its way into every culture in the world; and,
Compromise the worship of the people of God—ultimately leading to their expulsion from the land God had chosen for them.

  • At this point, given mankind’s colossal failures and his many successes, it must have seemed to Satan that his rule over the Earth had at last been firmly established. This, however, would soon be proven to be a false assumption.  That’s because, in spite of Satan’s best efforts to destroy God’s plan and His people, the Lord has never left Himself without a faithful remnant.   As prophesied by Isaiah…

…the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward… (Isaiah 37:31)

  • And, it would be through this remnant that the long-awaited Redeemer would finally come…

…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).

From the Cross to the Second Coming of Christ—

  • Although Christ soundly defeated Satan on the Cross, and conquered his power over death through His Resurrection, for reasons that are His own, God continues to allow Satan to rule—albeit as a Usurper—over the ungodly systems he has managed to establish during mankind’s time on the Earth.  As we learned previously…

God could put Satan completely away, but He has chosen to use him to give the Church ‘on-the-job’ training in overcoming.  Otherwise, there would be no more warfare of any kind.  We are in apprenticeship for our place with Christ on the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…and without an adversary there could be no practice in overcoming.[20]

…Satan exists as God’s instrument of justice for the disobedient and God’s means of purification for the obedient.  Our war with him teaches us about the nature of sin, the holiness of God, and our own helplessness apart from Grace.[21]

  • So, until Christ returns to set up His Kingdom here on Earth, Satan

Though under the restraining hand of God…is now in authority over the unregenerate world, and the unsaved are unconsciously organized and federated under his leading…

This federation includes all of the unsaved and fallen humanity; it has the cooperation of the fallen spirits, and is the union of all who are living and acting in independence of God.

This satanic system has its own ideals and principles which are in sharp contrast to the ideals and principles given to the redeemed, yet these two classes must mingle together as closely as the ties of human life can bring them.[22]

  • Jesus made mention of these two conflicting classes in His Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, characterizing the wheat as those in the Kingdom of God, and the tares as those in Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness. Since His instructions at that time were to…

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’ (Matthew 13:30)…

…such will be the status of Satan’s kingdom until the time for God’s Harvest. 

Satan Bound for 1000 Years

His Time Is Coming

From the Second Coming of Christ to the End of the Age—

  • When the time finally comes for the legal owner of the Earth to harvest the crops sown in it from the beginning of time—that is, when everyone who is going to be saved is saved, and Satan’s attempts at ruling the world apart from God have utterly failed, Christ will return to the Earth to execute judgment on Satan and his kingdom…

God’s judgment is often long in coming, but when it arrives it is swift and sure.  When God begins to wrap up human history as we know it, the demise of the Serpent will happen in a series of stages.  The lake of fire was inevitable from the moment Lucifer said, ‘I will make myself like the Most high’ (Isaiah 14:14), but for centuries God has postponed the inevitable.  When He no longer needs Satan for His own purposes, the end shall come. [23]

  • The three stages of Satan’s judgment are as follows…

First, he is cast out of heaven.  Second, he is bound for a thousand years.  Finally, he is cast into the lake of fire.

If the first step in Satan’s demise is that he is forbidden to reside in heaven, then the second step is that he is forbidden to reside on earth.  For one thousand years the nations are permitted to go their own way without satanic direction or influence.  

[Then] He who had always taken his own hell with him… [is] to be cast into a hell of a different sort.  He must now relinquish control of all beings he ever influenced.  The power is gone, so is the insolence, scheming, and defiance.  Stripped of everything he once thought he had, he [the former Light Bearer] is now forced to abide in eternal darkness.[24]

  • And, once…

‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15)’…

The destruction of the Serpent in the lake of fire stands as a final witness to the fact that no creature who fights again the Creator will win.  No will pitted against the will of God will ever find permanent fulfillment and freedom.  God has proved that he alone rules, and beside Him there is no other.[25]

 

In spite of Satan’s claims to the contrary, there is only one I AM–and it’s certainly not him!

 

 

 [1] Erwin W. Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1996),20.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Motive and Methods (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1964), 17.

[3] Chafer, Satan, 17.

[4] Grant R. Jeffrey, Heaven: The Mystery of Angels (Toronto, Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 1996), 183.

[5] Dennis McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 23.

[6] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 26-27.

[7] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 27-28.

[8] McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, 24.

[9] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 40.

[10] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 33.

[11] Harold Caballeros, Victorious Warfare (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 65.

[12] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 44-45, 50.

[13] Myles Munroe, Rediscovering the Kingdom (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 2004), 84.

[14] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 39.

[15] McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, 56.

[16] Caballeros, Victorious Warfare, 67.

[17] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 44-45, 50.

[18] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority: Practicing the Authority Jesus Gave Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 1997), 21-22.

[19] McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, 51.

[20] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 91.

[21] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 191.

[22] Chafer, Satan, 50.

[23] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 167..

[24] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 168, 186.

[25] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 191.

Spiritual Warfare: Preparation for Our Destiny

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Authorized by Christ

…to Take Down the Kingdom of Darkness

In our last exercise, Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority, we were introduced to the concept of Dominion; and, as part of that introduction, we learned that our Destiny, as God’s Children, is to one-day rule alongside of Christ in His Coming Kingdom.  In anticipation of and preparation for that Destiny, God gifted the first Man and Woman with the Authority that they (and we) would need to rule over His Earthly Creation.

Unfortunately, this Authority was lost—handed over to Satan—when Adam and Eve succumbed to his temptation to disobey God in order to become “gods” on their own terms—that is, apart from God and through their own wisdom and works.  Of course, it didn’t take long for them to realize what a foolish decision that was; for, not only did they immediately lose their (and our) Authority to rule, but both they and we became slaves to Satan, sin, and death in the process.

Thankfully, God already had a plan in place—a plan in which His Son, Jesus, would come to the Earth as a Man, live and die as a Man; and then, through His sacrificial and atoning death on the Cross, He would recover Man’s lost estate—which included the forfeited Right to Rule over the Earth.  It was this Authority that Jesus, upon the successful completion of His mission, restored to His Disciples, and to all who would later come to Faith in God through Him.

He May Have Lost His Authority but He Still Has His Teeth

If We’ve Already Won, Why Fight?

When we say that Jesus, through His Victorious Death and Resurrection, won back our lost Authority, we do not mean to imply that He divested Satan of any of his power.  That’s because, in spite of the often-interchangeable use of these words, Authority and Power are two different things.  As Dutch Sheets explains…

…authority and power are not the same.  Power is the ‘strength or force’ needed to rule; authority is the ‘right’ to do so.  They are governmental twins and must operate in tandem; authority without the power to enforce it is meaningless; power exercised without authority—the right to use that power—is usurpation and is morally wrong.

Satan didn’t gain any power at the fall and didn’t lose any at the cross.  His power or ability didn’t change at either event; his authority, or the right to use that power, did.  In fact, though Christians often state otherwise, Scripture nowhere says that Christ delivered us from or dealt with Satan’s power at Calvary.  He dealt with Satan’s authority.[1]

This difference is important for us to grasp because it will help us understand the Apostle Peter’s warning to…

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

It is also an important distinction to be made because…

If Jesus stripped Satan of his power, as some teach, then we longer need to concern ourselves with him—he becomes a nonissue.  Or if we Christians have been delivered from Satan’s power, as some teach, then he can no longer affect or control us.  We would be able to ignore him completely, which is precisely what many Christians do.

If on the other hand, Jesus dealt with Satan’s authority—the right to use his power or abilities—then we would need to deal with him as a usurper, a rebel, a thief that has no right to steal, kill, and destroy but will if not stopped (see John 10:10).  If we have been delivered from Satan’s authority and given a higher authority in Christ’s name, then we must exercise that authority over the devil’s works and power.  When we do, God’s awesome power will back up our authority.[2]

Since we know that Jesus has dealt with Satan’s authority, and we have been delivered from his authority and given a higher one in Christ’s name, we must use what we have been given to stop the works of the Satanic Usurper so that the Kingdom of Heaven can come to the Earth—just as God has always intended it to do.

For although Satan knows what Christ did to him at Calvary and through the Resurrection, and realizes that as a part of Christ the believer is his master, he still carries on a guerrilla warfare against the Church through the use of subterfuge, deception, and bluff.  While guerrilla warfare is illegal, it is still warfare and must be faced and overcome.  God could put Satan completely away, but He has chosen to use him to give the Church ‘on-the-job’ training in overcoming.  Otherwise, there would be no more warfare of any kind.

We are in apprenticeship for our place with Christ on the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  The crown belongs to the conqueror—and without an adversary there could be no practice in overcoming.[3]

Crown of Righteousness

Is There a Crown in Your Future?

An Apprenticeship in Overcoming

By definition, to overcome means to…

  • to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: as in, to overcome the enemy; or,
  • to prevail over (opposition, a debility, temptations, etc.); surmount: as in, to overcome one’s weaknesses.[4]

I don’t know about you but the thought of all this effort holds little to no appeal for me; as someone with a serious aversion to confrontation and conflict, it sounds like a lot more hostility and hardship than I want to sign up for.  Given my “druthers,” my flesh—that is, my body and soul—would prefer to coast along through life with as few physical challenges and emotional hassles as possible.  However, this just isn’t going to happen, is it?  As most of us can already attest to, life seems to be one series of obstacles after another; between which, if we are fortunate, we find brief periods of rest and relief.  So, in light of this, what should our attitude toward these obstacles be?

The Apostle Paul answers that question for us in Philippians 2:5, when he challenges us to…

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…

…a challenge which then begs the question, what kind of mind did Jesus have?  Having reviewed some of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that Jesus encountered on His way to the Cross in our last exercise, and considering how He triumphed over every obstacle that stood between Him and the completion of His mission—a mission which ultimately ended with His victory over death itself—I think we can safely say that the mind of Christ was one of an Overcomer.

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you trusted Christ as your Savior, you also became an overcomer, just like Him.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Him, you had to overcome three really big obstacles–the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”   This means that on your way to the Cross, you had to overcome the downward pull of the world and its culture, the inward pull of your sinful human nature, plus all of the obstacles that were placed in your path by the devil solely for the purpose of keeping you away from Jesus.  And, since all of this was being accomplished over the course of time, you probably had no idea at all that this was what you were actually doing.

Overcomer

We Can Do All Things Through Christ

The truth is, that as distasteful as the thought of overcoming may be to our flesh, once we are Born Again through Christ, it becomes a part of our spiritual makeup—or, as these verses attest to, a part of our Spiritual DNA…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [opposing spirits], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

Overcoming, then, is the process by which we, as the Church, learn to take authority over the obstacles and the enemies that are trying to keep God’s Will and Kingdom from coming to the Earth.  It is imperative that we become adept at this because, as the Bride of God’s Son, we will one-day be ruling with Him over this very same Kingdom.  As the Apostle Paul explains it…

…do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)

Therefore, in preparation for her glorious Destiny, the Church—the Bride of Christ…

…must learn the art of spiritual warfare, of overcoming evil forces in preparation for her assumption of the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  To enable her to learn the technique of overcoming, God devised the scheme of prayer.  To give her ‘on-the-job’ training, God delegated to her the authority to enforce His will right here on earth.  In order to enable her to acquire the character and the ‘know how’ she will need as co-sovereign, He has place upon her the responsibility and authority to enforce God’s will and administer His decisions in the affairs of earth.[5]

We’re in the Army Now!

God's Army

Our Faithful Service for Christ will bring us Eternal Rewards

Although they may be unaware of it at the time, when New Believers come to Christ for Salvation, in addition to being Born Again spiritually and adopted into the Family of God, they are also automatically inducted into the Armed Forces of God.  Make no mistake about it, this is not a Volunteer Army; for, everyone who is raised to New Life in Christ is immediately conscripted into it as one of His Soldiers.

Unfortunately, some of these Believers, due to a lack of adequate Discipleship Training, remain woefully ignorant of the Spiritual War raging around them and of their responsibility to do battle in it—so they never even report for Service.  Some others, when they are made aware of the conflict, acknowledge the reality of the situation but then refuse to become involved; leaving others to do the fighting for them, while they assume the stance of Conscientious Objectors.  And, still others, when informed of the War and their status as Soldiers in it, flatly refuse to believe that it is real and go AWOL, choosing to live out their lives in a perpetual state of Spiritual Denial.

But, let’s not be counted among these!  Not only does their absence on the Spiritual Battlefield hurt the cause of Christ and hinder the coming of His Kingdom, but it also robs them of the rewards they may have otherwise received in that Kingdom.

Instead, let’s keep in mind that…

…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10); and,

…whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward (Colossians 3:23-24).

Then, we can…

…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14); being…

…fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21).

 

 

Mandisa reminds us that each of us is an “Overcomer” through Christ …

 

[1] Dutch Sheets, Authority in Prayer: Praying with Power and Purpose (Bethany House: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006), 20.

[2] Sheets, Authority in Prayer, 21.

[3] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 91.

[4] overcome. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/overcome (accessed: August 27, 2017).

[5] Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 49.

Visit the Workout Room

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Welcome to the Workout Room

…for some exercises in spiritual discipline.

His Truth, My Voice has added a new Page to its lineup.  It is the Workout Room, and this is the place where we will be attempting to get spiritually fit through a program of exercises in Spiritual Disciplines.  The first set of exercises, dealing with the basic principles of Salvation, has been posted there so be sure to check it out.  If you know someone who has yet to experience this gracious gift of God, or maybe someone who has been saved but still has questions about their Salvation, please be sure to refer them to this Page— http://histruthmyvoice.org/?page_id=5756.

 

Salvation: Can We Lose It?

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Many years ago, I attended a church which staunchly supported its denomination’s position that a person can lose his salvation.  Up to that point in my Christian experience, I hadn’t given much thought to the matter, probably because the thought that a saved person could somehow become unsaved had never occurred to me.  However, since all I have ever wanted to know is the truth, I decided to try and keep an open mind about it, at least until I could search the scriptures for myself.

As I started thinking about it, though, the idea of a person losing their Salvation began to seem like a very far-fetched and highly illogical one.  I mean, if it was possible, at which point would that person cross the line?  Would it happen after he had committed a certain number of sins, or, once he had committed a particular kind of sin?  In other words, would it be the quantity or the quality of his transgressions—or, perhaps a combination of the two—that would push him out of the righteous camp and back into the camp of the wicked?  And, if this could happen, just how was he to know if and when he had crossed over?  Would an angel of doom suddenly appear on his doorstep with a message informing him of the transfer; or, would he come to know it as he found himself, going through life, with a dark cloud hanging over his head?

Eternal Security

Can We Really Lose Our Salvation?

Of course, no one that I knew at the time had any answers to these questions—nor, could I find any in the Bible.  And, that’s because, once I got around to checking out the verses usually used to support this theory, I found that, more often than not, they had been taken out of their immediate contexts, and out of the overall context of the Bible, as well.  As examples of what I mean, here are some of the verses that I reviewed, along with a brief description of the contexts in which they are found.  I will leave you to judge for yourselves whether or not they really support the position that a person can lose his or her Salvation.

Matthew 7:19-23 

The Verse:  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

The Context:  These verses come from the Sermon on the Mount, and were a warning from Jesus to His disciples to beware of false prophets; saying that the way that they would recognize them would be by their fruits.  It would be to these false prophets that Jesus would one day say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

Matthew 10:22

The Verse:  “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

The Context:  Here, Jesus is preparing to send out His twelve disciples to minister on their own, charging them to confine their ministry to Israel and not to take it to the gentiles.  He warns them that, because of their association with Him, they will be persecuted and encourages them to stay strong through the opposition.

Matthew 24:9-13

The Verse “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

The Context:  In the Olivet Discourse, when the disciples asked when the temple would be destroyed, Jesus warned that it would be at a time of great tribulation, when many false Christs and false prophets would arise, and when they would experience intense persecution.  The last statement in this verse was intended to encourage them to remain faithful through whatever challenges they may have to face.

Luke 12:46

The Verse:  “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”

The Context:  Jesus admonishes his disciples to be ready for His return at any time and uses a parable contrasting the reward waiting for a faithful servant and a faithless servant to make his point.  In the parable, the faithful servant is the one who believes his master and behaves accordingly, while the unfaithful servant proves his unbelief through his mismanagement and abuse of others.

Luke 13:6-9

The Verse:  “Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

The Context:  The fig tree in this parable speaks of Israel and of her failure to produce the fruit that she should have.  This doesn’t have application to an individual’s salvation.

John 8:31-32

The Verse:  “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Context:  This was directed to some Jews who professed belief in Jesus.  But when He said this to them, they took issue with the part where He said they would be free.  As descendants of Abraham, they claimed that they had never been enslaved, so they didn’t need to be set free of anything.  In their response to Jesus’ statement, they revealed that they hadn’t come to faith at all.

John 15:1-6

The Verse:  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Context:  In the last of His seven “I Am” statements, in His farewell discourse in the Upper Room, Jesus declares Himself to be the True Vine—in contrast to Israel.  The implication is that those in Israel who do not come to true faith in Jesus will be cast away as unfruitful dead branches, while those who do come to faith will remain in Him and bear fruit.

Romans 11:20-22

The Verse:  “But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”

Context:  Once again, the branches referred to here are the Jews who, because of their unbelief, were cast off.  Paul is admonishing the Gentile believers to not be arrogant toward the Jews because they had been grafted into the Vine.  Instead, they are to be reverent and grateful for God’s kindness to them for, if He judged the unbelief of the Jews, He will also judge them for their pride and arrogance.

1 Corinthians 9:27

The Verse:  “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

The Context:  Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete training for a race to describe his approach to ministry.  In the same way that an athlete endures the rigors of training so that he may run and win the race, Paul endures whatever hardships are required to carry out his ministry and win the lost to Christ.

Colossians 1:21-23

The Verse:  “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

The Context:  To the Colossians who had become believers, Paul contrasts their conditions before salvation and after their salvation—reminding them that, because Christ has reconciled them to God in order to present them holy and blameless before Him, they should make every effort to remain steady and grounded in their faith.

1Timothy 1:18-20

The Verse:  “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”

Context:  Here, Paul is encouraging Timothy to stay strong as a minister of the Gospel—unlike those who claim to represent Christ but who have proven to be false teachers.  He identifies two who fit that description, saying that they had been put out of the church for that reason.

1Timothy 4:1

The Verse:  “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

The Context:  This relates to the false teachers that Paul has been warning Timothy about—and, about how they will infiltrate the Church in an effort to lead true believers away from the faith.

Hebrews 3:6

The Verse:  “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”

The Context:  In this passage, the writer is contrasting Christ with Moses—with Christ as the Son over the household and Moses as the servant.  He then contrasts the followers of Moses with the followers of Christ.  Moses’ followers failed to enter into the rest of God through their unbelief, but the true followers of Christ will prove their belief as they hold on to their faith in the midst of struggle and persecution.

Hebrews 3:12-14

The Verse:  “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

The Context:  Again, recalling the unbelieving Jews in the wilderness, the writer admonishes those who hear the voice of God not to rebel and harden their hearts to the truth.  Instead, they are to encourage and build up one another in the faith so that none of their hearts will become hardened by sin and unbelief.

Hebrews 6:4-6

The Verse:  “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

The Context:  This is probably the most problematic passage for those who question the eternal security of the believer.  However, I think it will begin to make more sense when it is interpreted within the context of the book in which it is found.  The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were either being threatened with or undergoing persecution for their faith; and, because of that, they were  being tempted to return to the “safety” of their original Jewish faith and rituals.  The imagery used here is of one who has come to the magnificent feast that is offered in Christ, only to return, in comparison, to the table scraps being offered by life under the Law.  Having just made a case for the superiority of Christ over every aspect of the Jewish religious system, here the writer encourages those being tempted not to abandon the former in favor of the latter, as Judaism could offer them nothing in the way of salvation—only Christ can do that.  In essence, the writer is saying that salvation through Christ is God’s Plan A—His only plan—and, since there is no Plan B, they need to stick with it.

Hebrews 10:26-31

The Verse:  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The Context:  Because Christ is the only way that anyone can be saved, for those who have heard the gospel of salvation through Him and rejected it—choosing instead to remain in their sinful conditions—there remains no other way for them to be saved.  In their rejection, they have demeaned or “trampled underfoot” the sacrifice offered by the Son of God, so all they can expect is judgment and punishment as enemies of God.

2 Peter 2:20-22

The Verse:  “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”

The Context:  The “they” here refers to false teachers who appear to have come to faith in Christ but haven’t really.  It would have been better for them to not have made a show of knowing Christ because they will be judged all the more severely for their deception, and for their attempts to lead others from true faith.

2 Peter 3:17

The Verse:  “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”

The Context:  Peter warns that false teachers are twisting Paul’s teachings, and admonishes his readers not to be deceived by them—but to grow in the grace of Jesus Christ and in the knowledge of the Lord.

1 John 2:24

The Verse:  “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.”

The Context:  John’s readers had seen many leaving the church, so he tells them that their departures only indicated that they were not true believers to begin with.  Warning that the devil is always at work trying to deny the Son, he encourages them to hold on to the faith that they had in the beginning.

Revelation 3:5

The Verse:  “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”

The Context:  This is part of Christ’s letter to the church at Sardis, a church He described as being dead, despite its appearance of life.   However, there still were a few in the church who were saved—ones whose names had been written in the Book of Life and would not be removed.

Revelation 22:19

The Verse:  “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

The Context:  Jesus, through John, warns that anyone who attempts to add to or take away from the inspired Word of God will be regarded as a false prophet and subject to death—the same fate as the false prophets in the OT.

No longer a slave

Through Christ, We Have Become the Sons and Daughters of God

Instead of focusing on the more negative aspects of the question, perhaps it would prove more helpful if we approach it by looking at it within the context of the overall Story of the Bible—a story driven by God’s desire and plan to create a family for Himself.  As we have learned in our three previous exercises in Salvation, this family was to be one made up of men and women from every tribe and nation of the world, who had originally been born as slaves to sin and death, but whose freedom had been purchased for them by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Once forgiven and free, they were in a position to legally be adopted as the sons and daughters of God, and be placed into the family of God by the Holy Spirit—who would then begin the lifelong process of training these offspring of God to think, speak, and act like His children.

With this in mind, then, let’s now go to a passage of scripture which will provide us with a picture of the security that every believer, as a blood-bought child of God, should expect to experience.  This passage is the Parable of the Prodigal Son and, while I cannot ever recall haven heard it used in support of a believer’s eternal security, I think it provides us with one of the best examples of it to be found in the Bible.

As one of the best known parables, it tells the very familiar story of a father and his two sons; with the younger son, itching to get out and experience what the world has to offer, choosing to rebel against the authority of his father, while the older son remains at home and obedient to it.  In its original context, this parable was given, along with the Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, in response to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ criticism of Jesus for His practice of associating with “tax collectors and sinners.” It was used in that context to illustrate God’s great passion for seeking and saving the lost; however, when viewed from the perspective of family dynamics, it provides us with the reassuring picture that, no matter how far away from God we stray, His love for us remains the same and our position in His family is never in jeopardy.

Here, then, is the story, taken from Luke 15:11ff…

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.  And he arose and came to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Now, let’s take a look at what this parable has to say in regard to eternal security…

  • The younger son, in pursuit of a life in the world, willingly chose to separate and alienate himself from his father;
  • Everything he did while in the world would have been reprehensible and an anathema to his father;
  • Yet, when he was as far away from his father as he could possibly get, he came to himself and the first thing that he acknowledged was, that in spite of his own unworthiness, his father was still his father; then,
  • When he repented and returned home, he discovered that to his father, the son was still his son.

In other words, the son’s sins did not, in any way, negate the Father-Son relationship—in fact, it remained intact the whole time that the son was living in the world.  What they did do, though, was sever the fellowship between the two during the period of the son’s estrangement; and, ultimately, rob the son of the future rewards that his inheritance would have otherwise brought him.  So, it wasn’t his position in the family which was lost—it was his fellowship with his father, as well as any future rewards for faithful service.

The Prodigal Son

Lessons about Family from the Story of the Prodigal

So, when we consider that…

  • Every sin capable of being committed would have, at some time in the past, been committed by the men and women who eventually come to Christ for Salvation;
  • Every imaginable sin was paid for and completely covered by Christ’s atoning work on the cross;
  • When each of these men and women come to faith in Christ—that is, when they receive by faith His death as a substitutionary payment for their deaths–they are declared “Not Guilty” in the Court of Heaven, and immediately adopted into the family of God; and,
  • Their adoption papers have been signed in the blood of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and witnessed by God…

…is there anything that they can possibly do to undo their adoption, and cause them to lose their Salvation…especially in light of such promises as these from the Word of God?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  (John 5:24)

…whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  (John 6:37)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  (John 10:28)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

…you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  (Ephesians 1:13)

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.  (1 John 5:13)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  (Jude 24-25)

I don’t think so, for…

Eternally secure

Safe in the Hands of God

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Pilgrim Mennonite Mission Choir reminds us that, whatever we may do, God’s “Grace is Greater Than Our Sin”…

 

Salvation: Do We Have a Choice?

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I have been a Christian for many years and in all that time, the three subjects that seem to have generated more confusion and conflict within the Body of Christ than anything else have been…

Predestination and Election
The Eternal Security of the Believer, and
Women in Ministry.

For all of the discussion and arguments provoked by these subjects, though, not much in the way of a consensus seems to have been reached.  I believe this is primarily due to the fact that proponents on both sides of the issues have often failed to interpret the verses supporting their positions within their immediate contexts, as well as within the overall context of the scriptures.  However, I believe that once they have been interpreted with a proper understanding of God’s overall purpose for man, and with a clear definition of the terms involved, we will find that these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp and that most, if not all, of the confusion can be eliminated.

It’s Really Not as Hard as It Seems

Since both Predestination and Election and Eternal Security relate to the subject of Salvation—which we are presently addressing in this series of exercises—they will be dealt with in this and our next session, while the subject of Women in Ministry will be addressed when we get to the exercises dealing with Service.  Now, as for…

Predestination

The most important requirement for understanding Predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in creating mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family.  The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of scripture which address the subject of Predestination; for, in each one, Predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the Family of God:

In Ephesians 1: 4-5:  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

In Romans 8: 29:  For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers].

In Ephesians 1:11:  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17:  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)

From these passages, it should be easy to see that we have been Predestined—

–  To be adopted as sons of God—that is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
–  To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus—that is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
–  To obtain an inheritance—that is, as legally adopted sons and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father.  This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ, and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.

Once we understand that God’s purpose for Predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition.  The word Predestine is made up of two components…

…pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose.

When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—that is, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny.  As we have just seen, that destiny is:

–   To be adopted as sons of God;
–   To be conformed to the image of Christ; and,
–   To inherit the riches of the Father.

Support Adoption

Supporting Adoption Through Salvation

But how did He accomplish this?  First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He originally created us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or Salvation.

In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness.  That is, He created man:

–  With a spirit which would live eternally, like God;
–  With a soul consisting of a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God; and,
–  As a moral being with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.

However, when the first man, Adam, was seduced by Satan, he failed the first test of “Sonship” which was obedience to the Father.  As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died; and, without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires but a slave to Satan as well.

When God’s intended “sons” became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our Predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation or Salvation.  Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be regenerated, justified, and redeemed from the curse, penalty, and power of sin.  Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.

As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way He was created by God.  However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not everyone will realize that destiny—and this is where election comes into play.

Election

By definition, Election means a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place.  However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like:

Heaven or Help

Be Sure to Cast Your Vote for Heaven Before It’s Too Late

John 3:14-16:  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21:  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones doing the voting, that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved.  In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual.  The conclusion that we must come to is this:  that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them.  Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.

Now that we have been strengthened by this understanding of God’s purposes through Predestination and Election, we are ready move on, more fully prepared to take on our next challenging exercise—which is, the question of whether or not we can lose the Salvation that Christ died to give us.

Predestined to be like Jesus

Everyone is Predestined to be like Jesus

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Jesus invites ALL to come, just as they are…