By Adam Brown –
There seems to be a tendency among Christians to obsess excessively or ignore entirely the reality of spiritual warfare.
For some, every headache or traffic jam is the work of the devil. The prince of darkness, it seems, busies himself with the minor annoyances of life. Moreover, Satan has an obsession with “Me,” as if there aren’t billions of other people on Planet Earth to worry about.
For others, the devil is so far removed, that he ceased to be active sometime in the Middle Ages. Post-enlightenment humanity need not fear Satan or his demonic entourage. We have “evolved” past such rudimentary science. The devil and bloodletting are things of the past, spooky disease and medicine of yesteryear.
Both extremes are dangerous. The first reveals a prideful and self-focussed worldview while the second neglects the biblical witness to demonic realities. Both give the devil and this minions far too much power.
The Devil is Real
He tempted Jesus in the wilderness:
- Matthew 4:1-11
- Mark 1:12-13
- Luke 4:1-13
Jesus refers to him in His teaching:
- Matthew 12:26, 13:39, 16:23, 25:41
- Mark 3:23, 3:26, 4:15, 8:33
- Luke 8:12, 10:18, 13:16, 22:31
- John 8:44
- Revelation 2:9-10, 2:13, 2:24, 3:9
The Gospel writers declare that Judas was possessed by him when he betrayed Jesus unto death:
- Luke 22:3
- John 13:27
The apostles and New Testament writers refer to him:
- Acts 5:3, 10:38, 13:10, 26:18
- Romans 16:20
- 1 Corinthians 5:5, 7:5
- 2 Corinthians 2:11, 11:14, 12:7
- Ephesians 4:27, 6:11
- 1 Thessalonians 2:18
- 2 Thessalonians 2:9
- 1 Timothy 1:20, 3:6-7, 5:15
- 2 Timothy 2:26; Hebrews 2:14
- 1 Peter 5:8
- 1 John 3:8, 3:10
- Jude 9
- Revelation 12:9, 12:12, 20:2, 30:7, 20:10).
This list does not even take into consideration other references to demonic powers, such as:
- John 12:31
- 1 Corinthians 15:24
- Ephesians 3:10
- Colossians 2:10, 2:15
Thus, the New Testament witness to the existence of Satan is conclusive. Satan is a real demonic angel, the enemy of God and God’s kingdom.
Spiritual Warfare is Real
Equally obvious to a careful reader of the Bible is the reality that, just as the devil is real, so also spiritual warfare is real. There are so many places we could go in the Bible to prove this point.
The many instances of demonic exorcism by Jesus and the apostles is one possible way to go:
- Matthew 4:24, 8:16, 8:28-33, 9:32-34, 10:8, 12:22, 15:22-28, 17:18
- Mark 1:32-34, 1:39, 3:15, 5:15-18, 6:13, 7:26-30, 9:38, 16:9
- Luke 4:33-41, 8:2, 8:27-38, 9:1, 9:42, 9:49, 10:17, 11:14-20, 13:32
Indeed, by each of these exorcisms, Jesus is declaring that He has power over the demonic world. Moreover, Jesus gives this same authority to His followers.
There are many other places in the New Testament that identify the reality of spiritual warfare. Let’s take a look at one of the most stunning.
The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail
15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:15-18).
On one level, Jesus’ response to Peter is abundantly encouraging. He affirms Peter’s confession, attributes Peter’s insight to God’s favour to reveal it to him, promises to build His church on Peter, and assures Peter that no opposition will be able to thwart God’s plans. Not even the gates of hell shall prevail against it.
And there it is. Did you see it? Wrapped in this promise of victory is also a promise of war. The gates of hell shall try to prevail against Christ and His church. There will be a spiritual war, and the devil will bring the full strength of his power to attack the church.
So, on the one hand, victory is assured for Christ and His church. But on the other hand, there will be a cosmic battle between the kingdoms of the prince of darkness and of the King of Glory.
This war will last until the very end of history. Satan will not let up until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). This means, of course, whether we like it or not, we are at war. And, we are not at war with mere mortals. Rather, we battle against the devil and his demonic horde (Ephesians 6:10-20).
The goal of this article is not to ready the battle plan, but rather to point out what should be obvious to Bible believing Christians. That is, the devil is real and we are at war with him. This war is of the most serious kind with the greatest of stakes. Heaven and hell hang in the balance.
Do we know that we are at war against a real enemy, the devil? How are we fighting? Or are we even fighting at all?