What is Spiritual Warfare? Is there a “spiritual world”? Much of modern culture has persuaded us against discussing matters of demons, angels, and spiritual realities. Yet, the Scriptural reality is that we are, indeed, involved in a spiritual war. Our enemy is constantly looking to steal, kill and destroy. Therefore, we must be armed for battle and knowledgeable of the Spiritual warfare at hand. In this session of Secret Church 7, Pastor David Platt navigates how Scripture discusses Spiritual Warfare, and the necessity of being armed for war.
- Who We (The Church) Are
- Where We’re Going
- Foundational Truths
I humbly – and I pray carefully – intend to bring you the Word of this great God. His Word and the study of it ignites His worship. We will now begin to worship through the Word. The purpose of our time together is far deeper than the study of angels, demons, and spiritual warfare.
I want you to understand from the start, this is not just a game. There is a real battle waging for real souls of men and women and little boys and little girls all around the world, and the stakes in this battle are high. They are higher than any war that has ever been fought or will ever be fought in this world. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says:
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
From the very beginning of our study, I want you to meditate the importance of this text. There is a battle that is waging between the god, little “g,” god of this age, who is blinding the minds of unbelievers, and God, big “G,” God, over heaven and earth, who is shining light into hearts. I hope you understand this. There is a true God of light who desires people all over this world to be saved, and there is a false god in this age of darkness who desires people all over this world and in the room you are in to burn in hell, and you and I are right in the midst of it – verse 5 – preaching Christ.
This is where we have to decide who we are. In the late 1940’s, the government of the United States commissioned the S.S. United States. It was an $80 million troop carrier built for the United States Navy. It was designed to carry 15,000 troops into war, the fastest, most reliable troop carrier in the world. It could go 10,000 miles without having to stop for fuel or supplies. It could outrun any other ship, go anywhere in the world in less than ten days. The only catch was it never carried any troops.
It was put on standby once during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it was never used in all of its capacity by the U.S. Navy. Instead, it became known as a luxury liner for Presidents, heads of state, and celebrities. Now, as a luxury liner, it couldn’t carry 15,000 troops, but just under 2,000 passengers could enjoy the luxuries of 695 staterooms, 4 dining salons, 3 bars, 2 theaters, 5 acres of open deck with a heated pool, 19 elevators and the comfort of the world’s first fully air conditioned passenger ship.
Instead of a vessel for battle used during the trenches of wartime, the S.S. United States became a means of indulgence for wealthy patrons who wanted to coast peacefully across the Atlantic seas. I am convinced that we need to answer a central question in the church today, and that question is, “Are we, as the church, a troop carrier, or are we a luxury liner?” Are we a troop carrier, or are we a luxury liner, because things look radically different on a troop carrier than they do on a luxury liner.
There are some critical differences. Our demeanor will be different. The faces of soldiers that are preparing for battle look much different than the faces of patrons enjoying their luxuries. Our use of resources will be very different. The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the liberal abundance of a luxury liner, and our pace will be different. The pace at which a troop carrier moves is, by necessity, much faster than a luxury liner. After all, a troop carrier has an urgent mission to accomplish. The luxury liner is free to enjoy the ride along the way.
I am convinced that, in the church in our day, we have settled into an understanding of the church as luxury liner. The church exists to make me feel comfortable, to adjust to my preferences and cater to my desires, and in the process, we have lost sight of an eternal battle that is waging around us, and we have a crucial decision before us, church. Are we going to indulge ourselves in the peaceful comforts of this world? Or are we going to engage ourselves in battle for peoples around the world? This is the question I am convinced we face in the church in our day.
I want to call you to get aboard a troop carrier and to give your life to defeating an adversary and taking the gospel of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth, no matter what it costs you. That is what this study is about. Secret Church is not designed to be luxury liner material. This study is not about catering to our comforts. It is about equipping a body of people – not entertaining a body of people – but equipping a body of people to know who you are in Christ, and to know what it means to live in victory with Christ.
Not only so you can experience victory, but also so that you might lead others to victory in the nations, that they might know the gospel of the Kingdom that we celebrate as believers all over the world. In order that they might know the great God that we sing to. So, as we study, my encouragement for you is to take good notes. You’re studying not just for your sake. This is not only so that you can have more information. It is so you can be equipped to take the Word of God on angels, demons, spiritual warfare, and practice it in the places where you go, and teach it in the context where you live as God takes you around the world.
This is bigger than what is going on wherever you may be. Make notes to go back in your Bible for days ahead. I want to give you as much information as possible in the time we have, and maybe a little extra information, on angels, demons and spiritual warfare. The goal is not for you to walk away saying, “That was fun!” The goal is for people all over the world to walk away from this study equipped and ready to take the nations for the glory of Christ in defeating an adversary. So you are in? OK, here we go.
Where We’re Going…
Just a small introduction on where we are going. What I want us to do is I want us to spend some time on a few foundational truths that are going to be the foundation for everything else in the study. Then, we’re going to split it up into these three categories: Angels: we’re going to look at who are they, how are they organized, what do they do, and how do they relate to us? Then, demons: what are demons, who is Satan, how do Satan and demons relate to God, and how do Satan and demons relate to us?
Then, we will go to spiritual warfare, and we are going to take three major periods in redemptive history: the Old Testament, description of Christ in the Gospels, and then the Church in the Letters, the Epistles. We are going to look at spiritual warfare in those three facets of Scripture. Then, we will conclude our study with controversial questions. What about deliverance ministry, casting demons out of people? Can a Christian be demon-possessed? Should we talk with demons – conversing, naming, binding demons? Can we acquire or inherit demons from other places or people? We will end with two concluding challenges that have absolutely captivated me. I want to get to those now, but we are going to work our way there.
Biblical Truths About Spiritual Warfare
So, here we go – foundational truths. Just making sure we begin here with some foundational truths before we begin more in-depth. First foundational truth: there is a spiritual world. There is a spiritual world. I want to invite you to turn with me to 2 Kings 6. Now, we are going to turn to some different passages in our Bibles. Not many passages, but there are some places where I want to make sure to draw your attention to certain Scriptures. I have tried to include as many Scriptures as possible in the study guide, so that we do not have to spend too much time turning here and there, but I want you to see the story. In 2 Kings 6, we see that Elisha was the prophet of God, and in this text, he’s described as “the man of God.” I want you to see what is happening here. Look at 2 Kings 6:8. Follow along.
Elisha is the man of God here, the prophet. “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, ‘I will set up my camp in such-and-such a place.’ The man of God sent word to the king of Israel…” The man of God, remember, is Elisha. “…sent word to the king of Israel: ‘Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.’ So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God and time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on guard in such places.”
So, you see what is happening here. The king of Aram wants to destroy the king of Israel and all his army, but God tells Elisha where the king of Aram is going to be. So, Elisha says, “Hey, king of Israel, just so you know, the king of Aram is hiding out over here.” Obviously, this did not make the king of Aram very happy. So, 2 Kings 6:11 says, “This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” In other words, “Who is the traitor here?”
“‘None of us, my lord the king,’ said one of his officers, ‘but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.’” “He knows everything about you, king. He knows all your plans.” So, the king of Aram decides, “We need to kill Elisha.” So, the king sends out men to find him, verse 13. “‘Go find out where he is,’ the king ordered, ‘so I can send men and capture him.’” Do you not think Elisha would know? That is the whole point.
“The report came back: ‘He is in Dothan.’ Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” So, in the middle of the night, they are surrounding the city. The whole army is surrounding Elisha, ready to take him down. Then, what happens? Verse 15, “When the servant of the man of God” (Elisha’s servant) “got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.”
“‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked.” He is panicking. A whole army has come and is about to destroy them. So, listen to what Elisha says to him. “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” Now, that is an interesting response. Put yourself in the servant’s position in the story. “OK. Those who are with us – two – are more than those who are with them – army around the city. The old man’s good at prophecy, but math is not his area of expertise.” So what happens?
“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” All of a sudden, the servant was able to see that an entire army of the Lord was surrounding this army, and that, indeed, there were “more with us than there are with them.” So, verse 18 says, “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.”
“Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, ‘Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.’ Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, ‘Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?’” You see what just happened? Elisha led them directly to the king of Israel.
Now, the point of bringing that passage is that I want to put that story before you, because I want us to realize how alike we are to the servant of Elisha. We see so little. That is the point of the story. There is a spiritual world, and, brothers and sisters, there are many things that are going on that we do not see. An invisible world that is just as real as the visible world, yet far more powerful. Just think of this. There are vast numbers of angels, good and bad, all around us. Just meditate on that for a short time. Angels, holy angels, that if we were to see them, we would be astounded by their beauty. Also, evil angels, demons, that if we were to see them we would shudder back in total horror. God, open our eyes to see the spiritual world.
Now, at this point, objections begin to pop up. Spiritual explanations are primitive. “Do you not know, science, technology, medicine, have basically rendered belief in the spiritual world as erroneous? You say you believe in demons and angels, that is like saying you believe in dragons, elves, and the tooth fairy. Really? If you cannot see it, feel it, touch it, smell it, then it is not there.”
We are blind to a spiritual world. “How can you explain that God controls thunder and lightning when we know meteorologists can predict that a week before it happens? How can you say that there is a personal force who tempts, a person who tempts people to sin, when we know that sin is just a product of our DNA and the social environment in which we live? It can, also, be predicted, what we are going to do. How can you really believe in these kinds of things?”
At most, the spiritual world – angels and demons – are looked at as religious myths. This is one of the great parts of The Screwtape Letters, one of C.S. Lewis’ classical books. When an elder demon is speaking to a younger demon and giving advice on how to deceive people, listen to what he says. “Wormwood” – this is the elder demon speaking to the younger demon –
I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that devils are predominately comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, just suggest to him a picture of something in red tights. And persuade him that, since he can’t believe in that, he therefore cannot believe in you.
Modern culture has talked us out of not only thinking about demons and angels, but even talking about them without thinking, “Is this just a little too crazy? Are we just imagining this?” Spiritual explanations are primitive. Spiritual realities are not pervasive. In other words, even if we acknowledge that there is a spiritual world, oftentimes we begin to think, “Well, that just deals with séances and Ouija boards and occult practices and this or that.”
This is an extremely dangerous way to think; to think that they are not pervasive; to ignore the fact that the conflict waging in the spiritual realm has a big effect on what we watch on television, and how we respond to what we see in a movie, and how, husbands, you speak to your wives; and how, parents, you speak to your children; and how we live our lives daily and spend our money. That has everything to do with the spiritual world. Even if we acknowledge there is a spiritual world, in our context, we disconnect it so much from the natural world that we think, “Well, they simply do not have anything to do with each other.”
We do not realize how the spiritual world infiltrates our politics and our businesses and our neighborhoods and our homes and everything we do. We have, actually, exported this distinction all around the world in the way we have conducted missions. Lesslie Newbigin said that “Christian missionaries have been one of the most secularizing forces in the entire world.” We have told men and women all over the world that it is not spirits who make the crops grow, it is scientific agriculture.
So, we got fertilizers and fungicides and pesticides and hybrid seed, and we showed them their religion has nothing to do with agriculture. It belongs in the realm of science. What we should have said is this is a God-created and God-sustained world, and He has designed ways for this world to operate, and we experience the most and best of His gifts in this world, when we operate according to the way He has designed it.
So, we seek Him, and we work in the context of how He, as a perfect designer of this world, has made us, but we disconnect the two in our lives. As a result, we see no need in our lives on a daily basis for the supernatural power of God. We even reduce sin to psychopathy and psychological problems that need to be fixed in the context of social environments, and we do not pay attention to the spiritual world around us.
What Does the Bible Teach Us About the Spiritual World
Then, some even say spiritual powers are not prevalent in Scripture. What I want to show you in the Bible is that there is an active, prevalent, pervasive spiritual world all throughout Scripture, from the very beginning – Genesis 3, the fall of man – to the middle, with Jesus in Matthew 4, to the very end – Revelation 20 when Satan is judged.
Make sure you understand this. If you do not believe in the spiritual world, then you are denying the reality of the Bible. Even deeper, if you deny that there is a spiritual world around us, you are denying the truthfulness of Jesus Christ Himself. Christ was inundated in the spiritual world from the very beginning; an angel announced His consummation as well as His birth. He was tempted by the devil – Matthew 4, Luke 4. He was served by angels after His temptation. He could have summoned legions of angels from the cross. Angels were present at the tomb when the stone was rolled away. They were present when He ascended into heaven. To undermine the reality of the spiritual world is to undermine the very reality of the birth, life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ Himself.
So spiritualities are pervasive. We need to avoid two errors here. C.S. Lewis talked about it. “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They, themselves, are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight.”
Error number one is empty rationalism. Either to deny the spiritual world as religious myth or to compartmentalize it. This is where we need to realize that much of the world is far more secularistic, humanistic, and materialistic than we would like to think. We tend toward empty rationalism. The other extreme to avoid, though, is an excessive fanaticism. Yes, there are spiritual realities, but if we are not careful, we will over-analyze them and overreact to the spiritual world, causing all kinds of misunderstanding and misconception.
I want to be honest here. After studying this for months in preparing for this study, I am convinced that there are all kinds of fiction, superstition, fantasy, nonsense, and heresy when it comes to ideas about spiritual warfare in Christian circles. We need to be careful. Yes, not to confine ourselves to an empty rationalism that ignores the spiritual world, but we also need to be careful not to indulge ourselves in excessive fanaticism.
David Powlison wrote a great book on counseling as it relates to spiritual warfare. He talked much about the fanaticism related to spiritual warfare. He even talks about a husband and wife that would attempt to cast demons out of each other when they began to fight with each other. He argued that the married couple, besides “reinforcing their hostility towards one another – trampled the name of Christ through the mud of their superstition, hostility, fear and confusion.” He goes on to state, “The real devil, who aims to dishonor God and conform us to his evil ways, could only be pleased at the personal and interpersonal wreckage he brought about in this situation.”
I want us to study this very honestly because I am convinced that there is a great deal of confusion in the church here and around the world regarding spiritual warfare. We need to stay away from both of these two extremes, both of these errors.
We Live in a Spiritual World that is at War
Foundational truth number one: there is a spiritual world. Number two: we are involved in a spiritual war. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. This is a war of conflicting kingdoms. We have already looked at this passage – 2 Corinthians 4:4. The description there is a kingdom of God and a kingdom of Satan. Jesus talks about how His kingdom is not of this world in John 18. Ephesians 2 talks about the ruler of the kingdom of the air. There is a kingdom of God that coexists with a kingdom of darkness, and it is not a peaceful coexistence. There is tension there.
History is the story of this tension. We need to realize that, from the very beginning, the Bible, the very beginning of human history is a drama of war and peace and conflicting kingdoms from Genesis 3 on. In the middle of pagan nations, following after the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the god of this age, little “g” god, the devil, God calls out a people to Himself to be a light in the middle of darkness. Yet, even the most bright lights among His people still fall. Abraham still deceives and lies, and Moses still struggles with unbelief, and he dies. Noah, who had faith in God when no one else did, still gets drunk, and he dies. David, the man after God’s own heart, commits adultery and organizes murder, and he dies. Over and over again you see the brightest lights among the people of God still infiltrated with darkness.
Until we get to the perfect man. He comes into our world, and there is no sin in Him. He conquers with His life. He conquers with His death. He conquers with His resurrection. He shows us the kingdom of light, so that all who trust in Him can be delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light through Him, but even those who trust in Him still have a sinful nature that wars within them, and the conflict continues. Yes, there is coming a day when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of Christ, and He will reign forever, but at this moment, we find ourselves in war.
It is a continual struggle. I want you to think very quickly with me about how the New Testament describes the Christian life as warfare. It is a war against sin – Hebrews 12 – and a struggle against sin. It is a war within our souls – 1 Peter 2 – a war against your soul. A struggle against sin, a war within our souls, and we struggle for our faith. Jude 3 talks about how we have to contend for our faith. We have to fight for it. We struggle for the gospel. Philippians 1, “…going through the same struggle you saw I had…” in the gospel.
1 Timothy 6, Paul says we fight the good fight. Paul comes to the end of his life and ministry, and he writes in 2 Timothy, “I have fought the good fight…” That sums up his life. He fought. He kept the faith. He says to New Testament Christians in that same book, we are soldiers. “Endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” We are soldiers. The New Testament talks about how we have weapons. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. 2 Corinthians 6, in the middle of that passage, Paul talks about “…weapons of righteousness in the right hand and the left…” Then, back in the Old Testament – this is a passage we are going to look at a briefly later in the study – war is raging in the heavenlies. In this passage, Daniel’s prayers are affecting an entire battle between angels that is going on in the heavenly realms.
The point is we are in wartime, not peace time. We need to realize this. We are in wartime, not peace time. This is why Paul says in Ephesians 6, a passage we are going to come back to many times, “Our struggle” – and this astounds me. Paul says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” It is not a physical struggle. You think about what he had been through physically. He had been stoned and beaten and harassed and abused and imprisoned and shipwrecked.
If anybody knew this was a physical struggle, it was Paul, but that is not what Paul says. He says that is not what the struggle is. “…not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This is a spiritual war, and what is happening in the spiritual realm is far deeper, far more meaningful, far more impactful, than even what is happening in the physical world. Meditate on this truth. You have an opponent in this world that wants to destroy your marriage and wants to rob you of your purity and wants to lead you to defame the name of the God who saved you. He wants to pull you down and destroy your soul. We are in wartime, not peacetime. There is no time to sit back and relax. Peacetime is coming, brothers and sisters, but it is not now. It is not now.
What Does the Bible Teach Us About Spiritual Warfare
Third truth: the basis – now this is very important – the basis for our understanding of the spiritual war is biblical. It is biblical. This is where we have to decide an answer to this question: what is going to be our authority as we think about angels, demons, and spiritual warfare? Fiction or fact? Are we going to be talking, in this study, about fictional authors who write about spiritual warfare or the Bible? Fiction or fact? Experience or exegesis? We are not going to talk all night about what is going on over here and what is going on over there. We are we going to look at what we do understand about Bible. Intuition or interpretation? What feels right to us or what God has declared to be right?
This is where we have to decide, ladies and gentlemen, where is our court of appeal? This is one of the biggest challenges, because God has worked and is working in different ways in different circumstances all around the world, and we have to account for that. However, at the same time, if we do not have an objective standard of truth by which to evaluate all these different experiences, then we are going to be carried out into all kinds of ideas and falsehoods. This is where I am convinced that so much of what passes for spiritual warfare in Christian conversations today is not true to Scripture and so based on experience that, in the end, it is actually more pagan that it is biblical. It is accommodating the occultic worldview that the devil is raging in.
So, where are we going to find our answers? Where is the basis of our discussion going to be? Remember, the Bible does not answer every question we may ask. Now, this is true regarding all types of questions we might have and circumstances we might face, and it is particularly true regarding spiritual warfare. How did Satan become evil? The Bible really does not answer that question. How did the demon-possessed in Scripture become demon-possessed?
There are many questions that we are going to see and questions that we have in the world today that the Bible does not answer, but the good news is that does not mean we are completely without hope. God is not in heaven saying, “I wish I would have remembered! If I would have known they were going to be studying that topic, that night, and had those questions, I would have put it in there.” God is not saying that because – this is the good news, relax – the Bible does answer every question we need answered to live to the glory of God. It does not answer every question we ask, but it does answer everything we need to grow in Christ and to experience victory in this world. This is very important.
I want to be honest. I am a Western Christian, born in the Western world, with Western thinking. I readily admit that I have much to grow in my own Christian life. I have limited experiences. I think I have traveled around the world a good bit, but I still have not seen many things that God is doing around the world. There are many different experiences, so admittedly, I am at a loss when it comes to experiences, but I want you to hear that, even if I had spent the last 50 years traveling around the world and experiencing every single possible thing, my goal would still not be to share my experiences with you. My goal would be to share the truth of God’s Word with you, because it is the foundation by which we look at each of our experiences. So, the important thing is to spend most of our time in the Bible, and then bring Scripture to bear on experiences, stories, accounts from around the world.
The Word is authoritative. This is of utmost importance. We are an experience-driven people. I am convinced one of the most dangerous places to be is in a Christian small group Bible study. It’s dangerous. Many people sit around and open up their Bibles. Instead of finding out what the Scriptures are teaching to the original audience in their day, people ask one another what it means to them. The reality is, in the end, they never studied the Bible. They studied each other the entire time. They have learned nothing about the Bible.
We are an experience-driven people, and so we need to make sure to let the text be our starting point. What does it say? What does it mean? Then, save our questions for later, until we have looked at the text. Do you understand this? How are we going to approach the text, then? This is just an overview from the How to Study the Bible Secret Church. I just want to remind you that there is a process when we come to the Bible of observation. We explore the text. We listen to the text. We listen thoughtfully, repeatedly. We are searching for different things in the text – patiently, imaginatively, meditatively, purposefully. We listen to the text.
Then, we look at the text. We look for things the Word emphasizes and repeats and connects and communicates. That is observation. We start there. What is the text saying?
Then, we move to interpretation. What does the text mean? Interpretation – we examine the context. In order to understand a text, we have to see the context that surrounds it. We have to travel to their world in order to see what the Bible is going to say to our world. We have to begin there. So, we consider the literary context, because how truth is communicated in Gospel narrative is very different than how truth is communicated in the Song of Solomon. Very big differences. Consider the literary context. The historical-cultural context. Things that are happening in 2 Kings are not the same things that are going on in Revelation, so we need to take that into consideration. We need to consider the theological context and not just pick small words or verses here or there and bring it out and start to make many different assumptions about it.
You could take Psalm 14 where it says there is no God and say, “Well, obviously Scripture teaches there is no God.” In that case, we have disregarded all of its context. You have to be careful not to do that. Principles to remember: we are examining the author’s original intent. The Holy Spirit spoke through a human author at a certain time at a certain place. A biblical text can never mean what it never meant. You cannot simply take it out of its context and create some entirely new meaning for it. We have to see what is happening here. Context shapes our understanding of meaning. The rule of context is context rules. We have to see the context.
This is where I want you to think about dangers to avoid – two particular dangers to avoid. Number one is fragmentation, and by that I mean isolating texts from their context. Now, this is a danger even in the way the Secret Church notes are designed. You have all these different texts from different places. We have to be really careful, because if we are not, we will take one verse from here in the Old Testament, one verse from the Gospels, one verse from the Epistles, and we will put them next to each other, and we will simply connect them all and think they are talking about the exact same thing at the exact same time in the exact same place, and we isolate the texts from their contexts. We can do that and make the Bible say anything we want it to say.
We also have to avoid flattening, importing a text from one context into the context of another text. I will give you an example of that, especially in spiritual warfare. Oftentimes, what people will do is they will take Mark 5, the story of the demon-possessed man. Then, they will import that entire story, and what it is talking about when it comes to demon-possession, into Ephesians 6 and what Paul is talking about when it comes to spiritual warfare. They just assume that Paul is discussing the specific event happening in Mark 5, when the reality is, there are some major differences. So, we have to avoid both of these dangers.
Observation – what does the text say? Interpretation – what does the text mean? Then, application – we implement the text. How can I put this text into action? That is where we identify timeless truths; relate the timeless truths to today. Now, we bring it into our world, based on what it said in that world, and we practice the timeless truths.
So, here is the point. When we come to God’s Word to learn about spiritual warfare, first, we need to listen to the text. Then, we need to grasp the context. Then, we can begin asking our questions, but we cannot ask our questions from the beginning because, if we are not careful, we will start looking for all the answers that we want in Scripture. Do you understand this? This is so dangerous, and the danger is we can completely misuse the Bible in this way. We can think we are adhering to truth when we are deceived the entire time. Is this not a glaring tactic of the adversary? To convince us that we are being biblical when we are taking Scripture and twisting it to accommodate ourselves and give us the answers that we want.
OK, fourth foundational truth: the enemy in the spiritual war is formidable. He is a lion looking for someone to devour. Lions prowl for one reason – they want to kill. We need to realize that, if our adversary was a man, if he possessed nothing but human strength, ingenuity or cunning craft, then we might consider defending ourselves with human strength, but he is not. In our flesh, we are no match for our foe. The reality is, if you were to face the devil on your own, you would be outsmarted and overpowered in less than a second. Meditate on that truth. If you were to face the devil on your own, you would be overpowered, outsmarted in less than a second. You have a formidable foe.
Now some say, “Why even think about the enemy? Why not just focus on God?” There is a grain of truth to that, but listen to 2 Corinthians 2:11, the end of this passage, “…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” We need to open our eyes. If you are playing a sport, is it not good to know the strategy of the other team? What they are going to be doing?
We need to open our eyes. We need to get on our knees. This battle is spiritual, and as a result, it must be fought in spiritual ways. Prayer. We must know who he is and we must know how he works. We need to know who he is and how he works.
We need to know that Satan has – I am convinced – two primary objectives. Number one is to destroy God’s people. Satan wants to destroy God’s people, and ultimately, to the end that he defames God’s glory. He wants to defame God’s glory. Spiritual warfare is ultimately a battle for glory. That is stated at the end of Psalm 96.
The scope of the spiritual war is universal. It affects every language. Every language is affected by this war. Every people, every nation, every tribe, every life. Every life on this 6.8 billion-member planet is affected by spiritual warfare.
This is a cosmic spiritual war, which means that involvement in this spiritual war is inevitable. It is inevitable. We sometimes think that spiritual warfare and demonic activity is something that happens when something strange begins to happen. The reality is spiritual warfare is happening when you are sitting alone in your home or when you walk down the street. When you wake up in the morning, and you turn to your spouse. When you look in your child’s eyes. When you walk to class, or you sit in your desk at work, spiritual warfare is happening. Not simply in isolated, strange times. The battle is continual. The battle is fierce, and spiritual retreat only leads to spiritual defeat. You cannot ignore this war, ladies, and gentlemen. The Bible does not say ignore the devil, and he will flee from you. You take that tactic, you will fall. You will fall.
Two more truths. The stakes in the spiritual war are eternal. Casualties in this war do not merely lose a limb or an eye or life. Casualties in this war lose everything, and the stakes here are either an eternal heaven or an eternal hell. The God over this world wants people to be saved, 2 Peter 3:9. He does not want anyone to perish, but the god of this world wants people to burn in hell, in a lake of fire. How we fight this battle has eternal implications for men, women, boys and girls, in every nation, tribe, people and language.
Which leads to one last foundational truth – and this is the good part. The best foundational truth. The outcome of this spiritual war is irreversible. It is irreversible. Brothers and sisters, Satan has been defeated. This was prophesied at the very beginning of this for us in Genesis 3, “…he will crush your head…” It was fulfilled in Christ. I love Colossians 2:15, “…having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Is that not a good verse?
Satan has been defeated, and Satan will be destroyed. We know the end of the story. “…the devil…was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur…” – this is what is going to happen – “…where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) This is going to happen. Do you know what this means? This means that we do not fight this war for victory; we fight from victory. There is a major difference between the two. Meditate on that truth, because if it is not clear in your mind, then you will struggle to experience victory in this life.
If you are thinking, confused, defeated, trying to figure out how to live this Christian life – if you do not keep this in your mind, then you will not find yourself on the front lines risking it all for the glory of His name. However, when you know He is the victorious King, then you will risk it all, and you will stand firm against the devil’s schemes. You will resist the devil and he will flee, because you know you are fighting from victory. Memorize this verse. 1 John 4:4, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” That is a fact.
The Spirit of Christ who dwells in you is greater than the one who is in the world. “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5) Child of God, you have the victory. Satan is a defeated foe. Brothers and sisters, the victory has been accomplished. Satan has been defeated. What continues to be at stake, though, are the lives of those who are still fighting. Jesus’ victory has yet to be enforced completely in the world. One day He is going to come and enforce His victory, finally and completely, and evil will be totally abolished.
Yet now, we find ourselves in the middle of guerilla warfare, and the strategy of the adversary is to prevent people from experiencing the pleasures of peace that have been accomplished for them. So, we fight this battle, not ultimately for victory, but knowing that our victory has already been won. It has already been accomplished on your behalf, both now and for all of eternity. So, with that kind of confidence, I think it is safe to say we are ready to fight. So, let us begin our study on angels.
What Does the Bible Teach Us About Angles
What are angels? What are angels? Angels are spiritual beings without physical bodies. We are going to think, generally, about angels briefly. Mentioned many times. Over half of the books of the Bible mention angels. 108 appearances in the Old Testament – 108. 165 appearances in the New Testament. They are all throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. Angels have many names. Messengers, angels, ministering spirits, holy ones.
What are angels? First of all, they are spiritual beings. Hebrews 1 talks about how they are ministering spirits. They are spirits, not material beings with physical bodies like you and me. So, they cannot be seen by us unless, either God gives us a special ability to see them, or God gives them some sort of bodily form through which they appear to people in Scripture, which we will see later, but they are spiritual, not physical. They are created spiritual beings. Psalm 148:5, “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.” Referring back to the beginning, all His angels, all His heavenly hosts. Angels have not always been there. They were created by God.
Spiritual beings, created beings. Angels are personal spiritual beings. They have moral capacities. We see this in Scripture, and we will talk about this more later in our study with demons because they were angels who sinned. 2 Peter 2 talks about it. So, they have a capacity to make moral decisions. They have intellectual capacities. 1 Peter 1 talks about how they speak, how they look into things. They have emotional capacities. Job 38 – “On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” Luke 15 – there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. They have joy. They have emotional capacities. Angels are powerful spiritual beings. Psalm 103 talks about how they are mighty ones who do his bidding.
They are powerful, but they are limited in different ways. Angels are limited in space – make sure you understand this – angels are not omnipresent. They do not necessarily have physical bodies like us – they are spiritual, but that does not mean that they are simply automatically everywhere. They are still limited in space. You see in Luke 1, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth. The means he was not in Nazareth at one point. He was at a different point. Not omnipresent; limited in space. Limited in knowledge. Angels do not know everything. They do not know everything. Not omnipotent, not omniscient. Not omnipresent. So, they are powerful, but limited.
Angels are single, unmarried spiritual beings. “At the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:29-32) Scripture always describes angels in masculine gender, but they do not have a gender. There is not reproduction in angels. They are single, unmarried spiritual beings. They are immortal spiritual beings. Here in Luke 20, it says, “They can no longer die, for they are like the angels.” So, that does not mean they have been there forever like God. They are not eternally existent like God, but once created, they will be there forever. They are immortal. Created ones created so they can never die.
Angels are versatile spiritual beings. They can appear in a physical way – an angel of the Lord, Luke 1, appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. So, it appeared physically. They can appear in dreams and visions. Matthew 1, an angel comes to Joseph in a dream, a vision. They can appear in other forms. Daniel 10, look at this passage, “…a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” That is an amazing description!
Matthew 28, an angel who came to the tomb. “…an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” Revelation 4 gives us another picture. So, they appear in other forms.
When were angels created? We do not know exactly, but we do know definitely before the seventh day of creation. “The heaven and the earth were completed in all their vast array,” Genesis 2:1 says. So, definitely before the last day of creation. Probably on the first day of creation, when God created the heavens and the earth. It makes sense that He created the inhabitants of the heavens at that point, and we have a description of earth being formless, the Spirit of God hovering over the water. Most scholars would say that they were probably created on the first day of creation. You go to Job 38, and God talks about how “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” when the earth was created. So, probably at the very beginning.
How many angels are there? How many angels are there? Multitudes. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel…” “A great company.” Multitudes. Legions. Matthew 26 – you know at the cross, we have a description of legions of angels. That is a word that was used to describe a division of the Roman army. It would usually be about 3,000 to 6,000 troops, but in Scripture it is really used, whenever you see “legion,” it is really used to describe a vast number, a big number. Myriads – Revelation 5 – “numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.” So, the answer is a lot. A lot of angels there are. Here is the point: the number is fixed. They are not procreating, and they do not die, so from the very beginning till now, same number of angels.
Now, some have asked, “Are they as numerous as the stars?” Possibly. Some have looked at Revelation 12 where it talks about how “his tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” This is the description – and we will discuss this more in a minute – when a third of the angels were cast down with Satan in his rebellion. So, some have said that originally the number of stars in the sky corresponded to the number of angels. It is possible, but that is much to build off of that verse.
Others have asked if there are guardian angels for every one of us based on Matthew 18. “I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” So, some have said there is a guardian angel for every person in the world, a guardian angel for every child in the world, a guardian angel for every Christian in the world. So, the number of Christians would correspond to the number of angels, and since there is a set number of angels, that means we are pretty much set with the number of Christians. So, once we reach the maximum number of angels, then this is not good.
So, maybe that is not the way. I think, due to an absence of much to go on in Scripture here, I would be very hesitant to say that there are guardian angels for every one of us. So, the reality is there are many angels who stay around the throne of God at all times and are worshipping and are really not involved in bringing messages or have anything to do with us particularly. So, I think we are trying to come to too many conclusions from that passage.
How are angels organized? We do not know exactly, but we do have some hints. We see a picture of cherubim, which is the highest order or rank of angels. Cherubim, literally the responsibility of the cherubim was to protect and proclaim the glory of God. They were given the task of guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden. “…he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flashing sword back and forth…” (Genesis 3:24) The cherubim were placed over the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament. “Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover put between the two cherubim” – two angels – “over the ark of the Testimony I will meet with you.” (Exodus 25:21-22) “I will show my glory to you.” Psalm 18 talks about how God mounted the cherubim. So, sometimes they are described as his chariot. So, you have cherubim.
You have seraphim. Literally this is what it means – ablaze with adoration of God. Is that not a great description? Do you not want your life to be ablaze with adoration of God? What an incredible image! Continually worshipping the Lord. They are only mentioned one time, and that is in Isaiah 6 – seraphs.
Then, we see living creatures – mighty representatives of God’s creation. We have already looked at this passage. It is Revelation 4, where it gives, basically, a description of strong, mighty creatures in creation to represent these angels.
Then, you have in Scripture the archangel who is Michael. Archangel Michael. That term, archangel, indicates some kind of authority over other angels. In Daniel, he is called one of the chief princes, Michael. Then, Jude calls him the Archangel Michael. Revelation 12, which we will study later, pictures Michael and his angels fighting against the devil. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4, that the Lord is going to return from heaven with the archangel’s call. Can you imagine that day? God says, “Michael, it is time.” What a day! Come, Lord Jesus, quickly!
Gabriel, God’s messenger. Only two angels are mentioned by name in Scripture, Michael, and Gabriel. In Daniel, he is mentioned there in Daniel 8. Luke 1, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth as we already saw earlier.
So, when you come to angels, you have two main categories: holy angels, and then evil angels. Holy angels, Mark 8, 1 Timothy 5, talk about elect angels. Then, you have evil angels. The evil spirits, demons that were cast out. We are going to talk about demons more shortly, but these are the two classes. Holy angels and evil angels. So, even demons are classified as spirits or angels.
Now, we will talk about that more in the time to come, but what about the angel of the Lord? Sometimes Scripture talks about an angel or “the” angel of the Lord. What does that mean? In Genesis 16, the story of Hagar, it says the angel of the Lord told Hagar, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” Sometimes the angel of the Lord is identified as the Lord. This story in Genesis 31 says, “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw the male goats were mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, or spotted, the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Look up and see.’ So, the angel appeared, and then he said later in the passage, “I am the God of Bethel, were you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me.” So, here the angel of the Lord is identified as the Lord.
Other times, the angel of the Lord is distinguished from the Lord. That is the case in
2 Samuel 24. You see him as distinct, different. So, the truth is that sometimes in Scripture, he is identified as the Lord, sometimes distinguished from the Lord. The description just varies.