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. Ephesians 6:12
When Paul said that “we wrestle” against “cosmic powers” that were not “flesh and blood”, what was really saying? In the previous verse, Ephesians 6:11, he describes these forces as being a part of the “schemes of the devil”. It seems that Paul had a very keen sense of the demonic real that was at work in attempting to hinder, destroy, and distort the work of the Kingdom of God on earth. He wrote to the Corinthians and told them that they were not “not ignorant of his (Satan’s) schemes” (2Cor. 2:11). He told the Thessalonians that he was hindered by Satan from coming to them earlier (1Thess. 2:18). And while there are a few other references in Paul’s epistles to Satan, it is perhaps surprising just how little attention the New Testament pays to the topic of Satan. But based on what Paul told us about Satan, it appears that the devilish work of Satan is still in operation, and if my reading of Revelation 20 is correct, there are good reasons for thinking that this might get worse in the days to come.
THE REALITY OF THE SPIRITUAL REALM
As I wrote in last week’s Pastor’s Desk, the baptism of Jesus was an intensely spiritual event. But what happened 40 days later was off the charts.
¶ 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. Matthew 4:1-2
How much did Christ speak about Satan? Jesus told His disciples that when they would preach, some of their hearers would be hindered immediately by Satan who would snatch the seed of the Word of God from their hearts (Mark 4:15). Jesus told Peter that Satan had planted a deceptive thought in his thinking (Mark 8:33). Jesus told a crowd about the true cause of an infirmed elderly lady’s ill health was due to Satan keeping her in bondage for eighteen years ( Luke 13:16). He accused the pharisees of doing the wicked bidding of their father—the devil (John 8:44). Just prior to Jesus being crucified He told Peter (whom He referred to as ‘Simon’) that Satan had demanded to have him and sift him like wheat and even more interestingly, He told Peter He had prayed for him to not fail and then strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:31-32). Christ also taught His disciples that the everlasting fires of hell had been “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). We are thus left in no doubt from what the Lord Jesus taught that the spiritual realm, where Satan and his demons worked to deceive, damage, and distract, was very real. But, just as with what Paul taught, what is worth being fascinated by is just how little Jesus talked about Satan.
THE ENEMY DECEIVES, DAMAGES, AND DISTRACTS
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
The work of enemy is malicious. In John 10:10, Jesus summed up the enemy’s work as stealing, killing, and destroying. In John 8:44, Jesus described Satan as “the father of lies”. And because the enemy knows that mankind was purposed to worship and walk with God, he also schemes to distract mankind from doing so with “the cares of this world” (Matt. 13:22; Lk. 21:34) which have the potential to “choke” the spiritual life of a vulnerable believer. We might summarise the enemy’s activities as deceiving, damaging, and distracting. Little wonder then that the enemy seeks to eradicate as many people as possible through abortion, murder, avoidable deaths, and strives to reduce global population levels through such scare-mongering as Climate-Extinction propaganda (which ironically brands itself as rebel for life while promoting a radical anti-life agenda of drastic population decrease). The enemy is the enemy of truth and preys on the most vulnerable to promote his deceptions — who are often regarded as the most intelligent among us. This work of deception is often carried out under the cloak of false religion which should also alert us to the fact, that unlike the true God, the enemy does not care what we call him, as long as we don’t call on the name of the true God!
Gargoyle on Notre-Dame Paris
THE ENEMY’S TIME WAS SHORT
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Revelation 12:12
While we can discern that the enemy is still active, the good news is that he has been defeated. World War II was essentially over on “D Day” (June 6th 1944). It was the strategic move that culminated in the surrender of the Nazis, on May 7th 1945 (after Berlin had been surrounded by the Allies. In a similar way the enemy’s “D Day” came in 30AD when Christ died on the cross and rose three days later. And in 70AD, his surrender (which will come on The Day of Judgment, described in Revelation 20) was assured when the last vestiges of the Old Covenant were done away with when God used the Romans to end the temple, the Levitical priesthood, and Mosaic sacrifices. This is why the book of Revelation tells us that the enemy knew his time was short to eradicate the church (he only had AD 30 to AD 70). Under the Old Covenant, the enemy had the authority to accuse God’s people of failing to live up to God’s moral standards. But with the removal of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant then being the only covenant available for mankind to enter into peace and reconciliation with God, this authority was cancelled and Satan was banished from having access to God’s immediate presence.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10
Andrew Corbett in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s house
In the last days of World War II in Europe, when it was inevitable that Hitler and forces were defeated, Hitler unleashed a tirade of evil and cruelty. One of the items on this list of wickedness was his order to execute Dietrich Bonhoeffer who had been held as a Nazi prisoner for two years and recently transferred to Flossenbürg concentration camp. Bonhoeffer was hanged on 9th April 1945. Hitler committed suicide 21 days later. The Bible reveals something similar about Satan’s final doom. Just before his doom enacted, “Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 20:7-8). Initially this might sound scary, but considering what Satan used to be able to do under the Old Covenant, we can be confident that if we are armed with the truth, we can be shielded against his wiles. And it also gives us a clue as to how we can actually be spiritually invincible.
Paul’s strategy for the believer’s spiritual invincibility-
¶ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. 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. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints Ephesians 6:10-18
One of the safest places for the believer to be is in the midst of the community of their brothers and sisters. This is why we invest so much importance to being in fellowship together on Sunday — and in a small group of the church. Church for the believer is like the Fortress of Solitude is to Superman — it is the place of refreshing, renewal, strengthening, and bathing. It has always been the enemy’s devilish strategy to isolate susceptible lambs from the flock. You cannot become spiritually invincible if you only connect with your local church when it is convenient, or, when you feel like it.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me John 10:10-14
Here are the five ingredients of spiritual invincibility-
Be in Christ—walk with Christ in daily time in His Word and prayer (Col. 2:6)