Tuesday, January 15, 2008
What is Spiritual Warfare?
THE NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL REALMS
To understand this invisible war, you must first understand the natural and spiritual worlds. Man exists in two worlds: The natural world and the spiritual world. The natural world is that which can be seen, felt, touched, heard, or tasted. It is tangible and visible.
The country, nation, city or village in which you live is part of the natural world. You are a resident in a natural kingdom located on one of the visible continents of the world. You can see the people who are part of your environment. You can communicate with them. You can experience the sights, sounds, and smells around you.
But there is another world in which you live. That world is a spiritual world. You cannot see it with your physical eyes, but it is just as real as the natural world in which you live. In I Corinthians 15:40, Paul speaks of this division of natural and spiritual. He says there is a natural (terrestrial) body and there is a spiritual (celestial) body.
All men have a natural body which lives in the natural world, but man is also a spiritual being with an eternal soul and spirit. Man is body, soul, and spirit. Your spiritual being (soul and spirit) is part of a spiritual world just as your natural body is part of the natural world.
Because spiritual warfare is just that--spiritual--it must be understood with a spiritual mind. In our natural, sinful state we cannot understand spiritual things:
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Corinthians 2:14)
It is necessary to use spiritual discernment to understand spiritual things.
Perhaps one of the best examples of natural and spiritual discernment is recorded in II Kings chapter 6. It is the story of a natural battle in which troops of the enemy nation of Syria had surrounded a small town called Dothan where the prophet Elisha was staying.
When Elisha's servant, Gehazi, saw the great host of the enemy he became fearful. Elisha prayed that God would open Gehazi's spiritual eyes so he could see the angelic hosts surrounding and protecting them. On this occasion, God actually opened the natural eyes of Gehazi and allowed him to visibly see the superior forces of God aligned for battle.
The story of this battle at Dothan is similar to present spiritual conditions in the Church. There are some, like Elisha, who see clearly into the realm of the spirit. They know there is a conflict occurring, have identified the enemy, and recognize the greater forces of God that assure victory.
There are others like Gehazi who, with a little encouragement, will be able to open their spiritual eyes and no longer be fearful of and defeated by the enemy. But sadly, there are many people who, like those in the city of Dothan, are spiritually sleeping. They do not even know that the enemy has surrounded them and is poised for attack.
TWO SPIRITUAL KINGDOMS
Within the natural and spiritual realms of which we are speaking there exists separate kingdoms which are ruled by natural and spiritual leaders.
All men live in a natural kingdom of this world. They live in a city or village which is part of a nation. That nation is a kingdom of the world. A natural kingdom is a territory or people over which an actual king or political leader is the sovereign ruler. The Bible speaks of these natural kingdoms as "kingdoms of the world." The kingdoms of the world have come under the power and influence of Satan:
Again, the Devil taketh Him (Jesus) up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
And saith unto Him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (Matthew 4:8-9)
John 5:19 sadly reminds us that "the whole world is under the control of the evil one."
In addition to the natural kingdoms of this world there are two spiritual kingdoms: The Kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom Of God. Every person alive is a resident of one of these two kingdoms.
The Kingdom of Satan consists of Satan, spiritual beings called demons, and all men who live in sin and rebellion to God's Word. These, plus the world and the flesh, are the spiritual forces of evil at work in the world today.
The Kingdom of God consists of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, spiritual beings called angels, and all men who live in righteous obedience to God's Word. These are the spiritual forces of good.
The Kingdom of God is not a denomination. Denominations are man-made organizations of groups of churches. They have been established for practical purposes of organization and administration. Denominations are major church organizations like Baptist, Assembly of God, Methodist, Lutheran, etc. The Bible speaks of the true Church which is not a denomination or religious organization. The true Church is composed of all those who have become residents of the Kingdom of God.
At the present time in the natural world, the Kingdom of God exists individually within every man, woman, boy or girl who has made Jesus King of their lives. It exists communally in the true church and wherever people make this world the kind of world God wants it to be. In the future, there will be an actual visible manifestation of God's Kingdom.
THE INVISIBLE WAR
The invisible spiritual war is a battle which involves all men and women. Because the Kingdom of Satan is a spiritual kingdom . . .
. . . we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Spiritual warfare is not a natural battle between flesh and blood. It is not a battle of man against man. It is not a visible battle. It is an invisible struggle in the spirit world. It is a battle within and around man. It is not a visible war because spirits are involved and we learn in Luke 24:39 that a spirit does not have flesh and bones.
Spiritual warfare is "multidimensional," which means it is fought in different dimensions. It is:
1. A social battle between the believer and the world: John 15:18-27
2. A personal battle between the flesh and the spirit: Galatians 5:16-26
3. A supernatural battle between the believer and evil supernatural powers: Ephesians 6:10-27
4. A physical battle, with Satan launching attacks of sickness against your body: Job 1-2.
Every person alive is engaged in this battle, whether he realizes it or not. There is no neutral ground. Unbelievers are in bondage to evil and have been taken captive by the enemy forces. They are victims of the war. Believers have been freed from the enemy through Jesus Christ and are victors, but they are still engaged as soldiers in the war.
Ephesians 6:12 indicates that we (all believers) wrestle against evil spiritual forces. Wrestling involves close personal contact. No one is exempt from this battle. No one can view it from a distance. You are in the midst of conflict whether you acknowledge it or not. If you believe it will get better, you are wrong. The Christian warfare never ceases.
WHERE THE BATTLE RAGES
This invisible war is being waged on earth:
The thief (Satan) cometh (on earth) not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Satan fights to maintain control of the kingdoms of the world. He does not want them to come under God's authority. The battle also rages within the hearts, minds, and souls of men and women.
Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers and attacks believers in the areas of worship, the Word, their daily walk, and their work for God. The battle also rages in your physical body which Satan attacks through sickness and disease.
HOW THE BATTLE STARTED
The invisible war started in Heaven with an angel named Lucifer who was originally a beautiful angel created by God and part of the Kingdom of God. Lucifer decided he wanted to take over God's Kingdom. You can read about his rebellion in Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28:12-19.
A group of angels joined Lucifer (now called Satan) in this rebellion. Lucifer and the rebellious angels were cast out of Heaven by God. They formed their own kingdom on earth:
And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon (Satan); and the dragon fought and his angels. (Revelation 12:7)
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)
Lucifer became known as Satan and the angels which followed him in rebellion as demons. Demon spirits can enter, torment, control, and use humans who belong to Satan's Kingdom. They motivate evil acts which are done by men and women. Satan directs his demons in their evil activities. He combines these powerful forces with the world and the flesh to war against all mankind.
REASONS BEHIND THE CONFLICT
Man was originally created in the image of God and for the glory of God (Genesis chapter 2). The invisible war against man started with the first temptation in the garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3). Satan caused Adam and Eve to sin. This resulted in all men inheriting the basic sin nature and committing individual acts of sin due to this nature:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)
It also resulted in the invisible war between man and the forces of evil:
And I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman (mankind), and between thy seed (the forces of evil) and her seed (the forces of good represented by the Lord Jesus Christ). . . (Genesis 3:15)
Because of sin, man was separated from God and condemned to death. This death was the spiritual death of separation from God. It was also physical death, for when man sinned Satan entered the genetic system with the curses of sickness and disease. But God loved man so much that He made a special plan to save him from sin:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
Through belief in Jesus, confession and repentance from sin, men and women can be released from the power of the enemy. The death and resurrection of Jesus not only resulted in salvation from sin, it also defeated the enemy, Satan:
. . . For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)
But if Satan is defeated, why does the war still rage? Why do we still see evil in the world around us? Why are we tempted by sin and attacked by sickness?
In the natural world, following any war there are always pockets of enemy resistance. These are rebellious troops that will not give up until forced to do so. Although Jesus defeated Satan, we are living in territory which is still occupied by enemy resistance forces. Understanding spiritual warfare strategies gives us the ability to deal with these evil powers.
Satan is trying to keep men captive in sin. Through deceptive methods he is enticing men and women to sinful living. He aims for the affections of the soul and spirit which rightfully belong to God. He also targets the body to destroy it with sickness and disease:
The thief (Satan) cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Satan still wants to be the supreme ruler. He is waging an intense battle for the body, soul, and spirit of man. His strategies are directed at God, His plan, and His people.