The devil and his demons are real. There is a war on. We have our part to play, especially by prayer. Even so, God’s people need to keep a sense of proportion. Christ is victor and the demonic is on borrowed time. Christ must always be in the foreground of thinking and living and not the evil one.
Spiritual warfare is a tricky subject. Definitions of it vary. Some define it broadly as fighting against the world, the flesh and the devil. Others define it more narrowly as combat against the devil and his demonic entourage. For this brief treatment, I will define spiritual warfare as that aspect of our common struggle as Christians against the evil workings of certain spiritual creatures – the devil and his demon followers – who are intent on spoiling God’s plan to save his human creatures.
The Angelic Order
There are good angels and there are evil ones led by the devil. The good angels are those that never fell from God. They are ministering spirits who serve God’s purposes (Heb.1:14). Since the Scriptures are addressed to us and not to angels we only have glimpses of their nature and roles. No surprise then that over 2000 years there has been enormous speculation to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. But like Calvin we need to stick within the boundaries of knowledge that Scripture supplies, and if we speculate we need to say so.
The Great Defection
The devil and his entourage are those angels who rebelled against their creator. Scripture has little to say about the fall before the human fall. What we know that there is an order – or better disorder- of spiritual creature bent on malevolence. Traditionally pride has been seen as the devil’s great sin and the root of his rebellion . Genesis 3 pr(esents a creature who questions God’s character and God’s word in an attempt to lead God’s human creature to defect from the word and will of God (Gen. 3:1-5). This is still the demonic game plan.
The Grand Recovery Plan
But God so loved the world that he has a rescue operation in place as he seeks to restore true worship throughout creation (cf. John 3:16 and 4:23-24). The centerpiece of that plan is a person, a cross and an empty tomb. Jesus is the faithful divine Son of God who did not fail when tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1-11). The other two sons did fall for temptation; Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:6-7), and Israel in both the wilderness and the land of promise (Ps.106). The Bible from one perspective is the story of these three sons: two who failed when tempted and the one who didn’t. Thanks be to God!
Life in Between
When we think of ourselves, we are live after that pivotal coming, cross and coming to life again of the faithful Son and before his return in glory to set the world to its rights. We live in the last days in the setting of a groaning creation (Heb. 1:1-2 and Rom. 8:18-25). This is the arena for spiritual warfare. Oscar Cullmann provided a classic analogy for our location in time and space. We live in between D-Day and VE-Day. D-Day was the turning point in the war against the Nazis, when the allies landed at Normandy. It took place in June 1944. But VE-Day i.e. victory in Europe day tool place elate in May 1945. Much fighting took place between those dates but the decisive battle had been fought and won. In the plan of God, the cross of Christ was the victory (Col. 2:11-15). His resurrection was his vindication.