War on the Saints: Rev. 13:17

Spiritual War

War is not as ‘simple’ as it used to be, but has become much more complex and has taken on a more technological approach over the past years. A good example is America’s war on terrorism. It is a phenomenal modern-day military engagement, yet on the other hand it is viewed by most who are not physically involved as a boring drawn-out saga. But the war goes on. Bombings and raids are scheduled almost like a mail delivery service while the world watches on colour television.

From my point of view, it appears that America’s war on terrorism will continue for a long time, and, in fact, may never be a total success. The reason is because the enemy is just too difficult to detect. It was bad enough in Vietnam, where the enemy was camouflaged by every available shrub, dry leaf and underground tunnel, but war on terrorism is worse. The enemy is not just in a particular country, but at any given time he could be anywhere and everywhere. It may be your neighbour, your work associate or even a friend. Dangerous is the enemy that can conceal himself without detection until, like a viper, he strikes with certain death.

However, far worse than the aforementioned natural wars is Satan’s war on the church. The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesians by reminding them that, “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.” (Eph. 6:12).

We have an enemy that is not only subtle but persistent, and he will not quit until he successfully destroys the faith of God’s children. As a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, the Devil has certainly made havoc on God’s work over the past centuries. (1 Pet. 5:8). On their own, the strength of Samson, the wisdom of Solomon and the dedication of David proved no match against satanic guile. Serious consideration should also be given to the havoc he wreaked in the seven churches of Asia Minor. (See Issue No. 5).

As we move ahead into the future we should not take for granted the prophecies recorded in the book of Revelation, foretelling a great satanic deception in our day. Paul described it as being “with all deceivableness”. (2 Thess. 2:10). In Revelation 13:3-7, we read of the whole world wondering after the beast and worshipping the dragon. The saddest statement is found in verse 7: “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them…”

When the purpose of the church is thwarted and reduced to a remnant the mass of humanity will indeed wonder after the beast.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to put on the whole armour of God so that they would be able to stand against “the wiles of the devil”. (Eph. 6:11). He also expressed his fear for the Corinthians, hoping that they would not allow the Serpent to beguile them through the medium of corrupt preachers. (2 Cor. 11:3). As for the Galatians they were already bewitched by preachers who had perverted the gospel being taught to them. (Gal. 1:6-9, 3:1). It is a fact that every church God started was eventually undermined by Satan who used false preachers as the basic tools in his spiritual onslaught.

Although physical persecution and martyrdom characterized the history of the Early Church, it should be noted that its ultimate demise resulted from a perversion of its doctrine. In their original setting, doctrine and truth related very much to a godly lifestyle. To undermine truth was to negatively affect the godly lifestyle of the saints and open a door to worldliness, sin and self-righteousness.

False doctrine, or as Paul described it, “doctrines of devils”, must not be ignored, but rather searched out and corrected. Satan’s introduction of contrary doctrine into the work of God was not accidental, but deviously intended to undermine God’s work. To say that doctrine is not important is positively not an inspiration from the Holy Ghost. In 2 Timothy 2:16-19, the Apostle called the perverted messages of Hymenaeus and Philetus “vain babblings”. He showed that the sermons preached by these men ate the spirituality of the saints like a cancer and fostered an increase in ungodliness. Although the Devil was not seen physically walking among the believers he was definitely there. Spiritual martyrdom was a more subtle way of defeating God’s work.

In future articles we are, by God’s help, hoping to address this subject in whatever limited way it can be dealt with. It is my firm conviction that the onslaught on God’s people has long started and many are already destroyed without even realizing their eternal plight.

False doctrine is just one method among many that the Devil uses to defeat God’s work. Although it is a frequent occurrence in scripture for a man to be demonically inspired to create false doctrine, the most common means of infecting God’s work is to pass it down traditionally. It may be from a song, a creed, dogma or custom.

Inheriting Lies

Among the many traits that identify the 21st Century is the spirit to gamble. This desire to win has manifested itself in almost every aspect of our North American society, ranging from the simple “roll-up-the-rim-to-win” coffee cup to the complex and high risk money market investment – not overlooking the dozens of daily instant lotteries, the fast growing casinos and the traditional race track. Like many trends in society, gambling is here to stay as it caters to man’s desire to obtain wealth without labour. Added to this is, of course the question of wealth by inheritance.

It must be a wonderful experience to receive news of a large inheritance left to us. Be it from a late relative, a forgotten godfather, or someone we helped in the past, an inheritance is one blessing we would all appreciate.

However, there is the possibility that an inheritance could be more of a liability than a blessing at times, and would require careful analysis prior to acceptance.

The same could be said of life and the circumstances we are born into. Some are born into this world with ‘silver spoons’ in their mouths while others are swaddled in rags. Really, we have no choice as to the environment and situations we encounter at birth. Our parents, our family, our habitat, and even our fallen nature are predetermined and unavoidable as far as choice is concerned. What may be viewed by some as a misfortune is accepted by others as providence.

In describing the greatness of God’s knowledge and wisdom in creating each of us the psalmist David wrote, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mothers womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Ps. 139:13-14).

A proper understanding of God’s sovereignty will place a confidence in our hearts so that we can accept our inherited circumstances without begrudging those whom we perceive as more privileged. But the acceptance of our reality should not immobilize our desire to aspire or achieve greater spiritual and natural goals. Unfortunately, many have accepted their inherited situations as their eternal fate. Similar to the unprofitable servant of Matthew 25:24-30, they justify their passivity by their seeming misfortune, but even so, we must remember that this attitude does not restrict God’s judgment on “the unprofitable servant”.

I am convinced that although we have no choice in the things we inherit at birth, the success of our future depends on our ability to change for the better. With God’s help we must endeavour to improve our situation. Ignorance can be dispelled by education, health enhanced by diet and exercise, and the list goes on and on. As change for improvement is good and may be an absolute necessity for our survival in the natural world, even so the same consideration must be given to our spiritual life.

Our arrival into this world was not graced with divine attributes, but with a fallen and carnal nature. David declared that, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps. 51:5). But the goodness of God initiated a continuous transformation in our lives changing condemned sinners into “new creatures”. Let us not reject this ongoing work of grace, but rather yield ourselves to the progressive change.

In his prophecies relating to the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth, Jeremiah described a sad and disappointing situation relating to the Gentiles. He said, “…the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.” (Jer. 16:19). It may be good to inherit someone else’s wealth but to inherit someone else’s lies is pathetic. The situation can become even worse by failing to do anything to correct the “inherited lies”. The question to ask ourselves is, have we inherited traces of lies from our forefathers?

Our Lord Jesus encountered a similar situation in His day and was greatly opposed for criticizing Jewish heritage. He generated great antagonism among the Jews when, in His effort to deliver ‘present truth’, He told them that their fathers ate manna in the wilderness and were dead. (Jn. 6:47-51). If we are not careful, we too can manifest a negative attitude to spiritual progress when certain aspects of our traditional concepts are criticized. But, in order for us to move ahead truth must be isolated from falsehood and all traces of lies eradicated from our midst.

Scripture is very specific about the impossibility of liars entering the kingdom of God, whether it be original or inherited lies. Revelation 21:8 declares that “all liars” – whether it be liars in the pulpit or liars in the tavern – “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone…” Again in chapter 22:15, there is condemnation of those who “loveth and maketh a lie”. It should be noted that a liar in the pulpit is worse and more dangerous than a liar in the tavern. The prophets Hananiah and Shemaiah, though popular among the people, were liars. They preached a “smooth” gospel that offered the people a hope that had no reality. They caused the people “to trust in a lie”. (Jer. 28:15, 29:31). The same can be said of Hymenaeus and Philetus, whose incorrect interpretation of the resurrection overthrew the faith of some. (2 Tim. 2:16-18). Even so, we must not offer God’s people a misguided hope. Our ministers must renounce “the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully…” (2 Cor. 4:2).

Let us carefully consider the following scriptures:

“The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.” (Jer. 2:8).

“A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so…” (Jer. 5:30-31).

“…Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words…” (Jer. 7:3-4).

“…The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent then not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jer 14:14).

“And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.” (Jer. 23:13).

“…Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain (worldly): they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Jer. 23:16).

“Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 23:31-32).

Judging by the above scriptures, it becomes quite clear that doctrinal and prophetic misconceptions passed on to us by previous generations are not accepted by God. Our unawareness of inherited lies or – as we say in the 21st Century – ‘false doctrines’ in no way excuses us. As a matter of fact, what we deem as minor and unimportant may “eat us doth a canker” the very core of our Christian life and eventually “overthrow” our faith. (2 Tim. 2:17-18).

As Christians it is imperative that we view inherited lies not as simple human error, but rather as a more devious and diabolical plot. In His defense against the religious leaders of His day, our Lord attested to the fact that they were of their father the Devil. “…He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in 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.” (Jn. 8:44). Was it not the Devil who twisted the truth by presenting Eve with a false hope? Was it not “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” that undermined the Early Church? (1 Tim. 4:1).

While many of us are anticipating a future physical attack on the church, we often fail to recognize that Satan has made a spiritual slaughter of God’s work for the past two thousand years. He has not taken away our religion, but he has greatly perverted it. He has not declared a physical war on the saints but has continuously slaughtered their faith. He does not approach the church dressed as a heinous red-clad devil, but has assumed the posture of an “angel of light” and “a minister of righteousness”. (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

May God enable us to recognize that Satan’s war on the saints will include and infiltrate almost every aspect of daily life and often involves the least obvious people and activities. But that which makes his victims most vulnerable is the absence of truth in their lives; not just theological truth which is also important, but truth as it pertains to Christian lifestyle.

The only way for a child of God to overcome the Devil is by the cleansing effects of Christ’s blood and the testimony of a godly lifestyle that follows. (Rev. 12:11).