Summer in the ancient world was the traditional season for war: the Mediterranean Sea and roads were passable, farms could spare manpower, and clear weather conditions allowed scouts and officers to get better glimpses of enemy positions. Now, with the summer upon us, it seems appropriate to think about warfare on earth and in the heavenly places.
For 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.
This famous Pauline verse is noteworthy for a number of reasons: it indicates a hierarchy among the powers of darkness; it indicates that they have not been destroyed by the Cross, but await their final judgment; and it shows us that the real battle must be won by spiritual means, not weapons of wood and steel. The enemy is a master of psychology and influence: he gains his victories not by ostentatious displays of miraculous power, but by appealing to human weakness and vanity. Satan’s deception of Eve in the Garden of Eden is recorded as an object lesson for humanity in the perils of temptation and speculation.
The term “Satan” is not found in the Garden story of Genesis 3: the identification of the Serpent with Satan occurred much later and features in the Book of Revelation: “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” (12:9). A variety of terms are used to describe the enemy, revealing different aspects of his character and methods of war.
As the Dragon, Leviathan, and Rahab, he represents chaos, a force at enmity with God’s cosmic order. The story of creation in Genesis 1-2, written as a polemic against the mythologies of Israel’s neighbours, details how God created the world in an orderly fashion, subduing the chaotic waters, the abode of the sea dragon. The salutary lesson in all of this is that chaos is not to be desired – it fails to satisfy anyone and leaves misery in its wake. In our current Western culture, where cultural Marxism and postmodernism have created so much misery, the chaos-order motif helps Christians to realise the ultimate source of this upset. Looking a priori at our analytic concepts, we should realise that we must return to order, sensing that the return of Jesus, amongst other things, is for the purpose of restoring order to the world.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
As the father of lies, Satan knows how to deceive and manipulate us. He can appear “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He can mix truth with lies so as to make an attitude or course of action seem righteous, when it is in fact a deviation, great or small, from the true path. He is content to play long games: to draw us little by little away from the truth over a long period of time until, one day, the aggregate of those small steps is a great journey.
Christ said, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man comes to the Father, except through Me” (John 14:6). As followers of Christ, we belong to the Kingdom of Light, and light banishes the darkness, revealing the facts. But we are also free agents: what we choose to expose ourselves to will influence us. Prayer in a spirit of humility, of openness to the Lord’s illumination, as Scoop reminded us recently, is the way to keep the darkness from our hearts and minds. The closer we stand to Christ the Lantern, the more light we shall have.