Archive for May 19th, 2015

Overcoming Satan

May 19th, 2015

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Revelation 12:10-11

We are still in that part of Revelation 12 that is dealing with an overview of the spiritual conflict we are engaged in. The matter of our sin and our salvation is not limited only to humanity – rather the entire issue also is connected to the rebellion of Satan against God. Following the war in heaven Satan is cast down to earth, and there is rejoicing in heaven among those humans who are redeemed. The voice calls Satan, “the accuser of our brethren,” so this is not proclaimed by an angelic voice, but by one of the redeemed.

The Nature of Spiritual Conflict: We are tempted to think of this war in terms of angels physically fighting one another, with flaming swords, but this is the nature of earthly warfare, not heavenly warfare. The heart of this war was an idea contrary to God’s, a lie that was seeking to pass itself off as the truth. Part of that lie was the unworthiness of God for the position that He alone held. Another part of that lie was the hopelessness that is associated with Satan’s attack. We do not know the many details we would like to have, but perhaps – at least this is my speculation – when God created the physical universe with the principle of decay worked into it, that Satan used this idea to condemn the entire natural order to inferiority, and trying to make this reflect poorly upon God.

But then there is human life there also upon the earth, created in the image of God, and the phrase “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), reflecting not only God’s likeness but also the likeness of the angelic host as well. And God’s act of then giving man dominion over the world, made something of eternal character also part of the world. So Satan sought and succeeded to corrupt that human life. If he could severe the spiritual connection between human life and God then he could consign mankind to merely the physical realm, rendering us spiritually dead. This is at best a theory but it does not seem unreasonable to suggest it in light of the scripture. Satan then constantly accuses us before God and before the heavenly host.

For every redeemed soul that appears in heaven, Satan would accuse them. “What are they doing here? See what inferior creations God has made! See how unfit He is to be God!” This lie has also spread to the earth, especially present in the last two centuries. This was incorporated in the ideologies of Nietzsche, Marx, Shaw, Lenin, Hitler, and others – the “will to power” and the “death of God.” The idea that disdains grace and redemption in favor of domination and the exertion of strength over another. It has shown itself in other ways throughout the centuries – the idea that “might makes right” for example, that power shows that it is worthy to rule because it can rule. It is the anti-grace and anti-redemption and antichrist notion.

So how do angels fight with one another? If not with guns, knives, and bombs – which have no effect against spirits – how do they wage war? The center of their warfare is the matter of truth. They do not fight over territory so much as wage war against the truth of God, replacing it with a lie. Deception, the partial use of logic to sway the listener to believe a lie, the accusations against the motives of God. You fight an idea with another idea, and the ideas of grace, love, and redemption fight against the ideas of unworthiness, hatred, and hopelessness. Deception is quite willing to use some truth to convince people to believe its lie – in fact it must use truth, it just misuses it and abuses.

Satan’s case was rejected, shown to be a lie, unworthy of heaven’s hearts and minds, and he and his fallen angels were cast out. The length of such a battle of angelic minds is not measurable by our standards, no more than we can measure their strategies or weapons of war by ours here on earth. But in the end, they lost, and no more do Satan’s accusations echo through the halls of heaven. Now the angelic host rejoices with every new believer’s salvation. Luke 15:10, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Priority of Heaven: We might at first glance question why someone would rejoice in heaven that Satan had been cast to earth – good for them but bad for us. But this reveals that our victory must come from there and come to earth here. There is no victory from anything originating here on earth that is sustainable for eternity, or even sustainable for very long here on earth. Our hope is not merely based on going to heaven when we die, but in also heaven coming to earth through the life of Christ and in the gospel, and by the Spirit, to save and transform us here. The one and only sustainable truth of this world originated in heaven, in the heart of God, and is now being proclaimed here. Heaven must be right before earth can become right. The voice announced that when Satan was cast out, then “Salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come.” And in that reality of a unified heaven is our hope found.

Overcoming Satan on Earth: So Satan and his angels are here. “He knows he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12), so we must know how to overcome him.

First, through the blood of Christ, meaning His sacrificial death for our sins and his glorious resurrection also for our salvation. The two events are inseparable in the New Testament teachings. He “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Salvation is not merely forgiveness, but new life and a new direction in life. This is the truth that is contrary to the lie of the devil. We are forgiven for our sins in Christ and Jesus has paid for our rebellion and disobedience. But Satan would also be happy for us to imagine that all we have in heaven is forgiveness and that heaven will just be a continuation of life here. But if heaven will truly be heaven, then the principle of inner decay of our souls must be completely eradicated, until all we have and all we are is the life of God. By the words “the blood of the Lamb” John called His readers to realize that the Lamb is alive and on the throne of God (Rev. 5:6). You are a new creation in Christ, and the old has passed away and the new has come.

Second, by the word of their testimony, meaning that they proclaimed the gospel they had taken to heart themselves. There are different words used in the New Testament to describe the gospel message and the teachings of the Bible. Kerygma, meaning the Christian proclamation, emphasizing the gist of what was preached to the world and to the church, was used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:4. But the word used here is marturia, emphasizing the Christian message that was believed upon and taken into the hearts by the Christians. It does not mean some random thought that we recall may or may not be in the Bible, but rather the truth that we have claimed, have believed, and have personalized into our hearts. It has the idea of this being proclaimed also, as this word can also mean a witness, something given in court for others to hear. The preaching and proclamation of the Church is always done best when the word we proclaim we have first taken to heart ourselves.

Third, that they did not love their lives to the death. This, of course, is precisely the teachings of Christ, that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), meaning that daily he consigned himself over to death for the sake of Christ. To the Ephesians elders he said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life death to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify (dia-marturomai) to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Self-love must be replaced with Christ-love, and then the promise is that we shall also be privileged to live a victorious life, with Christ Himself living in us. Paul finished his thought in Galatians 2:20, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.”

I am sure that I do not deserve heaven. I have not earned it by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. And I will corrupt it and damage it unless God does a work in me that only He can do, to transform and regenerate me. But this is the promise of God, and it is the message we need to tell the world. And it is the only real hope for any of us. And the only true hope for all of us.

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