THE WORLD MIGHTS of this darkness, the spiritual forces
of wickedness among the celestials, know quite well that we are destined to rule over
them, hence they are intensely concerned about us, and are our real adversaries at the
present time. Just as Israel was sporadically at war with the nations in the land of
promise, so we are waging a defensive right against these celestial hosts. Too often we
wrestle with blood and flesh, not realizing that these are not our real adversaries, but
only the necessary human tools of these spirit powers. God gives us these conflicts in
order to acquaint us with their stratagems. We may rest assured that an especially
clever plot to hinder Gods work, which is camouflaged as an attempt to help it, is
not of human invention, especially if it is accompanied by showers of burning arrows,
which can only be extinguished by the shield of faith.
It is evident that, as in
the case of Adam, the adversary uses intermediaries to accomplish his ends. Those who are
deceived by him and his hosts are the tools with which he works. Most saints shrink with
horror at the idea that they could be used by Satan to hinder the Lords work. Let
such beware, for they are open to this very thing if they refuse to be on their guard.
Judas was not the only one who was used by Satan. Even in his case we can see the strategy
of the adversary. He could have found many men to betray our Lord, but how much better for
his purpose to lure away one of those near to Christ, one of His chosen apostles! He works
especially well within the ranks of accredited religionists.
Most Christians look for
evidences of the adversarys activity among the ranks of the immoral, the profligate,
the worldly. But that is a mistake. A spirit, without a physical body, is not tempted by
the pleasures of the flesh. Indeed, he cannot even apprehend such matters, as he has no
means of experiencing them. Mankind is tempted from within to such sins and excesses. But
Satan is primarily concerned with spiritual affairs, particularly those which affect the
purpose of God and His Christ. Hence he seeks to turn aside the saints from the role of
suffering and humiliation which will prepare them to cope with him in heavenly realms, and
bend their energies to world betterment before Gods time, and by means similar to
those to be employed by Christ, but apart from His personal presence.
This can be camouflaged
into a most meritorious and glorious crusade against the powers of evil, even if it is the
reverse. Christendom will be convinced that their cause is just, that they are doing the
will of God, when they attack and destroy the non- Christian religions and set up a
messiah who will unite the world under their banner. The important point is to see that
all will be so cleverly accomplished by the powers of darkness that nearly all will be
convinced that they are on Gods side and are working for the welfare of one world,
while they are really carrying out the behests of the powers of darkness. They will be
thoroughly deceived because they will abandon the ground on which this gracious
administration is based and the precious promises of Christs return, and yield to
the allurements of the adversary to take His place and perform His work before He comes.
Judas was not the only one
who was influenced by Satan. Peter, the chief of the twelve, also was deluded by him
(Matt. 16:21-23). He, too, wished to forestall Gods time. Our Lord was revealing to
His disciples that He must suffer and die. But Peter would have none of this. Many, if not
all, of us would have agreed with Peter. Here was a Man Who had unlimited power. He could
have set up the kingdom at any time, and brought blessing to everyone. Yet now He speaks
of suffering and death! Peter seemed to have no inkling of Gods purpose in it all,
or of the part of evil in bringing about the humiliation of man and the glory of God.
Satan always seems to be on mans side, and wants to do him a favor, as at the first
in the garden of Eden, Peter did not want his Master to suffer. But our Lord has short
shrift for such thoughts. He knew whence they came. So He calls Peter Satan and a snare.
As the present is
preeminently a spiritual administration, and we are destined to reign in the realms
now ruled by the adversary, we may rest assured that Satan is far more opposed to us than
to the Circumcision apostles. Only occasionally do we read of the parts that evil spirits
played in the history of Israel. A very small fraction of the accounts of our Lords
life even refer to the spirit world. But a large part of the closing chapter of Ephesians,
the charter of the present grace, is concerned with this phase of our conduct.
But we are not spiritists,
who communicate directly with the spirit world by means of mediums, or ouija boards, or
table rapping. Indeed, it is not a question of communication but of warfare. And it
is not a question of physical force but of spiritual stratagems. Yet it is
carried on through blood and flesh, for it is only by means of physical, soulish
members of the human race that the spirits can reach us. Paul had warned the saints in
Corinth lest somehow, as the serpent deludes Eve by its craftiness, it should be
corrupting their apprehension also (2 Cor.11:3).
The conflicts among the
saints often have the appearance of wrestling. Too often they are merely the efforts of
the adversary to oppose Gods operations. We should look beyond the human instrument
to the power behind it, as our Lord did with Peter. Is it not notable that He never called
Judas Satan, so far as we know, but rather Peter, His loyal disciple! No doubt it was a
great help to the chief apostle in his future service, to recall how ready he was to act
the part of the adversary. He wanted to help, not to hinder. Let us not imagine
that this is a true test. It is through well-meant efforts to be of service that the
adversary works. The great apostasy of the end time will be a Christian crusade to further
His cause. We should be wary and wise and test all as to its concord with Gods times
and seasons, His plan and purpose.
Another test is the
character of the opposition. Men in wrestling seldom hurt or harm each other very
seriously. But when a missile like a burning arrow strikes you (in case your large shield
is not up) you may rest assured that its ultimate source was not a mortal, but that it
came from a spirit power behind him. A letter lately come to hand speaks of a note
received from a brother as follows: He may have held the pen, but Satan dictated the
letter. Most saints are not clever enough to accomplish the damage they do, so we
must look upon them as on Peter.
After the dais, one great
change for the better will be our relation to the spiritual powers of darkness. Now they
are enemies. It will be our privilege to transform them into friends. Few saints seem to
realize what a powerful part they play in our experience today. But one who seeks to
recover Gods truth, and to stand for it, is in constant and cruel conflict, for to
stop this is the great object of their enmity. Now they thwart and hinder every move, if
they can. They transform helpers into hinderers. The trend of Christendom is proof
positive how successful they are. They are far more clever than the saints, and use them
freely, by means of misunderstandings and slanders, in harming any work that threatens
their domination of the Christian world.
snares beside the teaching were present even in Pauls day, for even then there
were some who slaved for their own bowels and sought, through compliments and adulation,
to delude the hearts of the innocent (Rom.16:17-20). The apostle does not instruct us to
deal with them, but rather to avoid them. Then he gives the real remedy: The
God of peace will be crushing Satan under your feet swiftly. He recognizes that much
of the misconduct among the saints, especially among the leaders and teachers, is not due
merely to their frailty, but to the influence of evil spirits.
In that day of illumination
we will not need to contend with any deviation from the teaching. Neither will anyone need
to make any provision for food. Adulation will be entirely ruled out. All this will follow
from the change from mortal to immortal bodies. But, far more than that, Satan himself,
the instigator of human opposition and dissension, will be beneath our feet. Now he
dominates the actions of many a saint. But then his place and power will be taken from
him, and we will be above him, able to subdue and control the one who, next to our flesh,
was the cause of most of our miseries.
Just as the enemies of
Christ will figuratively find themselves a footstool for His feet, so will the greatest of
all our enemies be placed beneath our power. But, best of all, we will not retaliate. We
will not use our authority to further alienate and estrange him from God or from
ourselves. We, to whom conciliation was first presented, will be conciliatory to all, and
be able to bring back all our enemies into the circle of friendship and conciliation with
God. Doubtless due to Satans machinations, we cannot now even bring about peace
among ourselves, but then all our own differences will have been dissolved, and we will be
able to bring it to our erstwhile enemy in the spirit world.
A. E. Knoch