Ancient Spiritual Warfare

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

There, kneeling in earnest prayer, his head resting on the hard wooden bench, and his hands clenched with fervency, was a young man, very young, the blond man thought at first: young and vulnerable. It all showed in his countenance, now the very picture of pain, grief, and love. His lips moved without sound as names, petitions, and praises poured forth with passion and tears.

The two couldn’t help but just stand there for a moment, watching, studying, pondering.

“The little warrior,” said the dark-haired one.

The big blond man formed the words himself in silence, looking down at the contrite man in prayer.

“Yes,” he observed, “this is the one. Even now he’s interceding, standing before the Lord for the sake of the people, for the town . . .”

“Almost every night he’s here.”

At that remark, the big man smiled. “He’s not so insignificant.”

“But he’s the only one. He’s alone.”

“No.” The big man shook his head. “There are others. There are always others. They just have to be found. For now, this single, vigilant prayer is the beginning.”

“He’s going to be hurt, you know that.”

“And so will the newspaperman. And so will we.”

“But will we win?”

The big man’s eyes seemed to burn with rekindled fire.

“We will fight.”

“We will fight,” his friend agreed.

Frank E Peretti, This Present Darkness (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2001), 6-7. Emphasis in original.

The two “men” observing the praying man turn out to be angels. And the more people are praying, the more power the angels have over the demonic forces opposed to them.

It’s a fun story. It’s an interesting look at Ephesians 6:10-18. But it is fiction. And its fictional nature is clearly evidenced as John continues writing the book of Revelation. He writes as follows in Revelation 12:7-9,

Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him.

As the text just quoted demonstrates, John continues the book of Revelation by zooming in on the expulsion of Satan, which was already briefly described in Revelation 12:3-4a,

Then another sign appeared in heaven: There was a great fiery red dragon having seven heads and 10 horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. His tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth.

Last time, John showed us all of world history. This time, he zooms in on the fall of Satan to prove to believers that Satan is already defeated, and we need not fear him, no matter what new schemes he may employ.

However, contrary to This Present Darkness, Satan’s defeat is not dependent on us. Satan’s defeat does not depend on how much we pray. Satan’s defeat is fully and completely in God’s hands. As Jude explained:

Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

Jude 9

When people (even Christians) attempt to rebuke Satan themselves, they fall into the next description in Jude’s book:

But these people blaspheme anything they don’t understand.

Jude 10a

As such, John wants us to know 1) that spiritual warfare is real; 2) that spiritual warfare is not dependent on us; 3) that Satan’s defeat is certain. The result is that Christians should be confident in this life (and even in death).

Spiritual Warfare is Real

This text graphically illustrates that spiritual warfare is real. Satan (the dragon, cf. 12:9) wanted to hinder God’s plan of redemption. He wanted to destroy the promised child.

God, however, would not allow this to happen. Therefore, “war broke out in heaven” (12:7). In the end, the dragon and his angels were thrown to the earth. As John summarized it last time, “His tail swept away a third of the stars in heaven and hurled them to the earth” (12:4).

It is worth pointing out that the dragon is held responsible for the evil angels being cast to earth. Similarly, the source of the dragon’s fall is not specified. It is passive: “He was thrown to earth” (12:9). However, John specifies that the angels were thrown down “with him.” He also specified (in verse 4) that the dragon’s tail cast a third of the stars to earth. Therefore, Satan is held responsible for his own fall. It’s his own fault he was cast to earth.

But the fact of the matter is that spiritual warfare is real. And this should be a comfort to us. God is fighting for our good. And even if we end up dying suddenly in a car accident (or are martyred for our faith), God will bring us safely to His presence. The “prince of the power of the air” (cf. Ephesians 2:1; 6:12) will not be able to keep us from God’s presence. According to Revelation, his power ends when our souls leave earth. We need not fear!

Spiritual Warfare is Not Dependent on Us

Spiritual warfare has been happening since the beginning. This is clear from today’s text. No matter when this takes place–before creation, on the sixth day of creation, or some other time before Jesus is born–it is clear that God’s people are already in existence. (If it’s before creation, their existence is simply in the foreknowledge of God; Romans 8:29-30). This is because the woman represents God’s people (Revelation 12:1, 6). The woman is the target of the dragon’s fury. But this is where the beauty of God’s Word comes in.

But You, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.

Psalm 3:3

God—His way is perfect;
the word of the Lord is pure.
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 18:30

For He will give His angels orders concerning you,
to protect you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11

God fights for His people. His angels fight for His people. But do you recognize what we don’t see?

We don’t see God’s people fighting Satan and his angels. Even in Ephesians, the majority emphasis is Satan fighting against us, and us needing to be prepared to stand firm against him.

In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation,

Ephesians 6:16-17a

Because, as Revelation 12:7-9 makes crystal clear: Believers can be confident amidst spiritual warfare, because God’s victory is not dependent on us.

To make victory in spiritual warfare dependent on us and our faithfulness in prayer or fasting or righteous living is to make us more powerful than God, to make Him reliant on us for His power. This is blasphemy. Spiritual warfare happens all around us, but God doesn’t need our help.

Therefore, we are called to be confident!

Satan’s Defeat is Certain

As we will see next time, prayer is still critical for the believer. Just because spiritual warfare is not dependent upon us does not mean that we do not need to pray. This is because we evidence our faith through our prayer. And therefore the more we pray, the more faith we have, and the more faith we have, the more confident we are in every situation. Therefore, the more we pray, the more certain we will be that Martin Luther’s words are true:

The Prince of Darkness grim
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure
For lo! his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

If spiritual warfare was dependent on us, then Satan’s defeat would absolutely not be certain. However, since spiritual warfare does not depend on us, Satan’s defeat is certain.

This is because spiritual warfare ultimately depends on God. And because God is Trinity, Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word of God. Satan’s ultimate fall is not due to something we say or do; Satan’s ultimate fall is due to God’s Word–Jesus Christ.

If our faith is in Him, we can have confidence. If our faith is in ourselves we will be defeated.

Trust in Jesus today. He was struck by the dragon so He could deal the death blow to the dragon (cf. Genesis 3:15). And by dealing the death blow to the dragon, He dealt the death blow to death. As Jesus explained,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.”

John 11:25

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

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