This post is part of a series based on the book The New Christian’s Handbook by Max Anders.
What Is The Spiritual War?
“Humanity falls into two equal and opposite errors concerning the devil. Either they take him altogether too seriously or they do not take him seriously enough.” – C.S. Lewis
The Material and the Immaterial
The Bible speaks of an unseen world behind all that we can touch and see: the spiritual world. From our perspective the material world is the real world. From God’s perspective, this world is a passing thing. It had a beginning and will have an end. But God is not a physical being. He’s a spirit. His world has always existed and always will.
In the book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis proposes through literary devices that the spiritual world is actually more real than our own. While we view spirits as ghosts, or phantoms, from the perspective of the spiritual world we are the apparitions, passing through a transitory state to our ultimate spiritual destiny.
To deny the existence of the spiritual world is to deny the primary essence of ourselves. It requires blinders to miss. Too much is unexplained and short-changed without it.
phantom – Something apparently seen, heard, or sensed, but having no physical reality; a ghost or an apparition.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
We are spiritual beings bound into a physical world. So the problem for us is that we can’t physically see what’s going on in the spiritual world. Scripture says we are innately aware of its existence. We can see evidence of its activity. We interact with it constantly, whether knowingly or unknowingly. But the only way we can really discern what is going on in it is through what scripture tells us. Even that is hard to contextualize.
Most of what we usually envision about the spirit world is based on artists depictions of angels and demons, and that is pretty much just folklore with no basis in scripture. Scripture gives us some good information, but when things going on behind the scenes are described they are usually described in the form of a vision; kind of like a dream. The essential reason for this is that these things are near impossible to describe in terms that we can understand.
The Bible describes events in the heavenly realms (the spiritual world) in the form of visions to give us a facsimile that we can almost understand. 🙂 For us, this leads to a lot dreamy speculation. There’s not much we can do with it except imagine. What’s important is simply to understand that vast events are going on, way above what we know, in the scope of the spiritual world. We’re given a glimpse to help us see that there’s a bigger picture, despite our limited ability to grasp it.
Angels are spirit beings God created to carry out his will. Their existence is taught in at least thirty-four books of the Bible. The word angel occurs about 275 times. They are used to establish order in the spiritual world and minister to us in the material world.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:14
Jesus taught that angels exist.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:53
Angels were created before the material world.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16
““Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angelsshouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7
Angels are numerous and organized.
“I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing on his right and on his left.” 2 Chronicles 18:18
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” Hebrews 12:22
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:10-11
Angels Interact With Us
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
Angels bring messages from God. (e.g Matthew 1:18-21, Genesis 19:15)
Angels execute God’s justice. (e.g. 1 Chronicles 21:15, Acts 12:23)
Angels protect God’s people. (e.g. 1 Kings 19:6, Daniel 6:22, Acts 5:19; 12:8-11)
Angels guide God’s people. (e.g. Acts 8:26)
Angels are interested in God’s plans for us.
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” 1 Peter 1:10-12
Satan and Demons
Like us, God gave angels free will. Also like us, some of them rebelled against him and fell into sin.
Satan is a powerful fallen angel. His name means adversary. Multitudes of other angels followed him in his rebellion against God. The Bible calls fallen angels demons. They have made themselves enemies of God and of us because God loves us.
“Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:7-9
Revelation gives a lengthy account of a vision of events in Heaven. In the book of Daniel, he gives us a glimpse into the fight going on through a vision in chapter 10. It’s wild stuff. Daniel tells of an angel saying it took him three weeks to get to Daniel because he had to fight his way to him. These accounts convey supernatural events and are surreal to read. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that most of this is not really our concern. Through it all, God is in control and his purposes always prevail.
Satan tempted Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden. Jesus called him “the god of this world,” but he is not God’s equal. He doesn’t possess any of God’s omni-attributes. He’s not all knowing, present everywhere, or all-powerful. He’s subject to God like everything else in creation.
In the book of Job we see that Satan must ask permission before being allowed to test Job.
One day the angelscame to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
God allows Satan to cause a great deal of grief for Job. He allows him to cause a great deal of grief in the world today, as suits his eternal purpose. But he’s not God’s equal. He’s simply a tool. But make no mistake, Satan and his demons are waging war against God and us. They know God’s love for us and hate us as much as him. In the time they’ve been given, they are fighting to lead as many astray as they can. They seek to mislead, accuse, tempt, and destroy. They deceive and bring harm.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1-3
Satan and demons have a purpose in God’s eternal plan.
They provide both an impetus for us to seek God and generate plausible alternative choices for the sinful mind, so that our decision to follow or reject God comes from a sincere spiritual decision in the heart and not merely an intellectual decision based on our own self-interest. Through these fallen angels, love and truth are revealed.
Some Names of Satan in Scripture
- Abaddon/Apollyon – “destroyer” – Revelation 9:11
- The Accuser – Revelation 12:10
- Beelzebub/Beelzebul, the prince of demons – “Lord of the flies” – “Dung god” – Matthew 12:24
- Liar/Murderer/Father of Lies – John 8:44
- Serpent, Dragon, Devil – Revelation 12:9
- Prince of this world – John 14:30-31
- The Evil One – Matthew 6:13
- The Tempter – Matthew 4:3
Satan and all demons are bound for eternal punishment. Some have already been imprisoned.
“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” Jude 1:6
The spiritual war is already won, though the battle has not completed.
There was never a chance that the spiritual forces of evil would overcome God. The battle was for the fate of mankind. Satan sought to cheat God out of his relationship with us through temptation and sin. He stood as the accuser and prosecuting attorney. God could not condemn him without condemning us… or so he thought. Jesus utterly decimated his plan by paying for our sin on the cross.
“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:13-15
The power of Christ extends to believers to stand against Satan.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Satan and his forces are powerful enemies, far more powerful than us. The emphasis in scripture is on God’s power over them. His will and protection overrules anything they can do. Through faith we have power in Christ to overcome them. That doesn’t mean we should be naive.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:8-11
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17