Some 35 years ago, when I was in theological seminary in Texas, I had a part-time job delivering real estate magazines. We put them in grocery stores, restaurants and hotel lobbies for people to pick up free. I recall, one day I went into a big hotel in Fort Worth to drop off a supply. I noticed a large group of old men milling around in the lobby. They all had hats identifying a certain military unit. Obviously they were old veteran soldiers.
I wandered over to where a couple of them were chatting and politely asked who they were. One of them spoke up proudly and said they were an old army unit having a reunion. I smiled and remarked that my father, like them, also was an army veteran of World War II.
They smiled back, but suddenly it occurred to me that these men were all well into their 80s at that time. I realized they were not veterans of World War II at all, rather they were a unit of old Dough Boys from World War I!
Those old soldiers are all gone now. And, indeed, my dad and most other World War II veterans have passed on also. As a child and youth I knew many of them. We still remember those warriors from that war who survive. Nonetheless, now we honor the thousands of soldiers who served more recently, either in peacetime or other wars including Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other less well known fights.
Most of us feel fortunate that we never had to endure the hardships of combat. Nonetheless, we are all involved in a war of another nature. It is a spiritual war of good and evil. In this article and two later installments, we will examine this Great War between God and the evil forces at work in the world. Indeed, as Christians, we are soldiers on the front line.
In this installment we identify the enemy – who he is and how we fight him. In the next one we will look at the weapons of our warfare. In Part 3 we will look at five key elements for success in this battle.
Part 1 – Know Your Enemy!
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)
In the above passage, the Apostle Peter warned believers who were facing persecution and stress, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The Apostle John likewise told his readers, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:8)
These, and many other passages in Scripture, indicate who truly is the archenemy of God. He is the one constantly at work to further evil in the world. Thus, the great spiritual war is against the powers of evil, led by the “Evil one” – Satan.
In the current era, belief in Satan as a personal being is not popular. Even many so called Christian scholars dismiss the reality of the devil and the demonic. But if we are going to take the Bible seriously, we must acknowledge that Satan is real.
The Bible talks about him in many places, and refers to him by many names and titles. Consider this list of biblical names for the evil one. The meanings of the names and biblical references are attached where appropriate.
∙ Satan- the Adversary
∙ The Devil – the Slanderer
∙ Lucifer – the Light Bearer (Isaiah 14)
∙ Murderer and Liar (John 8)
∙ The Tempter (Matt. 4)
∙ Abaddon or Apollyon – the Destroyer (Rev. 9)
∙ The Deceiver (Rev. 20)
∙ The Evil One (Matt. 13)
∙ The Accuser (Rev. 12)
∙ The Dragon (Rev. 12)
∙ The Ruler of this world (John 12)
∙ The God of this world (2 Cor. 4)
Though it does not give much detail about it, a survey of the whole Bible reveals that the devil is a fallen angel who, along with a host of other angels, rebelled against God (Luke 10:18; Revelation 12). The rebellious angels became Satan and the demons (Revelation 12:8-10). Satan was also present at the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4) and the trials of Job. Scripture also indicates that hell and the abyss were created for Satan and the demons (Matthew 25: 41; Revelation 20:10). Meanwhile, Satan is still hard at work among men on earth.
The clear teaching of the Bible is that Satan has several key objectives in his fight against God. For one, he wants to keep unsaved lost people right where they are spiritually. This he accomplishes in several ways. He may try to convince people that they are so bad they can’t possibly be saved. He will try to make them believe that there is no possible forgiveness for their sins or that they must work to be right with God. He also uses passages out of the Bible, out of context, to confuse lost people through the teachings of cults and counterfeit Christianity. The Apostle Paul also states that idolatry and worshipping pagan gods is, in fact, worshipping Satan and demons (1 Cor. 10: 19-20).
Satan also wants to ruin Christian’s spiritual lives and testimonies. He will do anything he can to neutralize a believer’s witness for Christ. His favorite strategy is to strike Christians, especially leaders and people with high profiles, with sneak attacks of great temptation. And it is usually directed at their weakest point. Sadly, many Christian ministries have collapsed because their leaders have willingly fallen victim to the onslaughts of Satan.
Even Jesus faced Satan’s attacks. He was tempted three times under extreme conditions. After His baptism by John, the Scripture says he retreated into the wilderness to fast for forty days. As he struggled with his physical appetites, Satan approached and said:
“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” Then the devil took Jesus to the highest point of the temple. He then quoted Scripture in a way to tempt Jesus to demonstrate His divine power in a way that was essentially blasphemous. 5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 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, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”
Finally, Satan tried to win Jesus over by promising Him all the riches and power of the kingdoms and empires of this world (which Satan may well have been capable of delivering). All Jesus had to do was to renounce God and worship at Satan’s feet. How many political leaders, wealthy business men, or even talented entertainers have fallen for this great lie of the devil? They believe his promise of worldly power, riches, and fame, only to later discover that his only intention was to blind them spiritually and destroy their lives. The prize is never worth the ultimate cost.
8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
In every case Jesus was ready to repel Satan’s devices by accurately quoting Holy Scripture. The Lord Himself had prepared all His life for these moments when Satan would converge.
Are you old enough remember Pearl Harbor? Not too many of us were alive at that time more than 70 years ago. If you want see how it really was on December 7, 1941, check out an old movie about the attack titled Tora, Tora, Tora (not the more recent fictionalized film called Pearl Harbor). On that day of infamy, the United States was totally surprised by a sneak attack that caught American forces completely undefended. That is exactly Satan’s strategy for destroying Christians.
But let’s not forget that Satan is not alone in this war. He has a powerful army of demons at his command whose objectives are the same as his. Again, people today with nontheistic worldviews often reject and scoff at the notion of the demonic. But the Bible clearly exposes the existence and threat of such evil forces. As far back as the pre-flood world, fallen angels may have been partially responsible for God sending the deluge (Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4-5; Jude 6-7).
It is entirely possible that many of the recent mass-killing rampages in America, and other countries, involved the demonic, perhaps even demon possession (consider the maniacal behavior of the Gerasene demoniac in Luke 8: 27-39).
We will likely see more of these kinds of irrational and horrible episodes in the future, such as took place in 2012 in Colorado and Connecticut. Naturalistic psychologists and social scientists will try to place the blame on neurological defects or societal pressures to explain the crises. And in many cases those factors must be considered, but behind it all is the spiritual battle taking place in hearts and minds of human beings. As paganism grows, as secularism erodes Christian influence, and as people dabble in dangerous occult activities, the spiritual defenses and divine protective covering of society soften, allowing greater vulnerability to demonic forces.
The point is that we must be ready for Satan’s attacks. He and his demonic cohorts are our enemies and they always employ sneak attacks. And Satan takes no prisoners.
If you are a believer, he wants to destroy you so you cannot stand for Christ in the war for people’s souls. Therefore, we are all involved in a spiritual war even if we don’t know it or don’t want to fight. No one can avoid this draft. No one sits on the sidelines. We may want to, but we cannot remain neutral.
In the next installment we will look at the weapons of our spiritual warfare.
© 2012 Davis