A Great Battle in Heaven and on Earth
For several months my family has been praying for a friend. Her whole family has been plagued by an unusual and severe affliction. They’ve consulted experts without relief. For more than half a year they’ve suffered daily with the kind of misery reserved for people like Job. We’re heartbroken but all we can offer are encouraging words, fervent prayers, and hope that someday things will change. Worse, my friend’s condition is something she can only share with a few trusted people. It’s simply beyond most people’s comprehension. You see, her house has been invaded by a poltergeist.
Nonsense, you say. That kind of thing is Hollywood fantasy. Surely it can be attributed to something else – atmospheric pressure changes, an elaborate hoax perpetrated by someone else, toxic mold messing with their minds. I understand how easy it is to dismiss this. Such a notion simply offends our secular humanist and materialist tendencies, which have infected plenty in the Church. Still, it’s hard to explain away random thumping throughout the house, upended furniture, objects flying down the stairs, angry shrieking, and bite marks on the children’s arms.
When I first heard about it, I was skeptical. But I trust my friend implicitly. And another trusted friend witnessed it first-hand. The demonic manifestation is real and no matter who they’ve consulted, no one seems able to rid these demons from her home.
Even if we are skeptical about demonic possession, the Apostle Paul wasn’t. He understood the significance of the spiritual battle in our daily life. To the Ephesian Christians, who lived in an idolatrous and sexually permissive culture, he wrote:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
A few things stand out. First, Paul is certain that the schemes of the devil will impact the lives of believers. He is also sure that only God can provide the strength to withstand spiritual attack. We cannot live the Christian life in our own understanding and under our own power. Paul counsels believers to put on full body armor which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I don’t believe my friend was randomly targeted. She is one of the most compassionate defenders of preborn children that I’ve ever met. She writes about life, family, and faith issues and teaches Christian leaders how to better engage the public with their message. Through her and her husband’s work, God’s kingdom advances.
The timing of this manifestation stands out to me, however. It seems that what is happening in her home provides a window into the larger cultural battles facing our nation. The assaults on preborn life, man-woman marriage, intact families, and religious freedom are not happenstance. Seeds of destruction were sown years ago and have been carefully tended. Now that they’ve born their wicked fruit, some Christians seem surprised. They’ve not been paying attention.
It’s been a hard summer. We’ve seen major losses on marriage. Our President viciously defends Planned Parenthood, despite damning evidence of their horrific evil. Sadly, many who call themselves Christ-followers have capitulated to the world and have abandoned the male-female requirement of marriage, sexuality, and family life. It appears that the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” are taking over.
Perhaps we are looking at this current cultural moment from the wrong perspective. Do you remember what Jesus told Simon Peter in Matthew 16:18? Jesus gave Simon his spiritual name, Petra, which means “rock” in Greek, and said, “And 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.”
Jesus taught that the entire world is ruled by Satan. Yet, gates are a defensive mechanism meant to keep invaders out. What’s going on here? C. S. Lewis answered this beautifully in Mere Christianity.
“Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
Having established a beachhead through his death and resurrection, Jesus intends His church to advance into enemy territory throughout history. Empowered by His presence and guided by His Holy Spirit, each bloody inch of ground is taken through self-sacrifice and service to God. As you consider this cosmic battle, where do you suppose the fighting might be the strongest? Would it be on some fringe battlefield hundreds of miles away or at the gates of the enemy’s own fortress?
If we see attrition in our camp, it is not because we have left the battlefield, but because we are in the thick of the fight! If we continue to share the Gospel in this growing darkness, each of us can expect to be wounded. My friends are being wounded daily for the sake of the Gospel. Do not fear to have wounds, for these will one day shine as medals of valor.
This is not the time to shrink from fear or lack of hope. Our faithful defense of marriage, life, and the freedom to proclaim and live out the Gospel is drawing the vicious anger of the devil. The enemy is on his heels and he is throwing everything he has against the Church right now. My friend recently wrote, “Satan will use all his weaponry to destroy any individual, family or church passionate about life because we represent the heart of God on this earth. May we fight well.”
Be encouraged! Jesus already dealt the fatal blow to the prince of this world. What we see today is the fierce backlash of a cornered and defeated ruler. But be warned. Even though fatally wounded, the devil will work to hurt us as much as he can. So, following Paul, let us daily “take up the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”