Author, pastor and counselor, Bruce S. Campbell received his Master’s of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest novel and companion study guide, The Beginning: Prelude to the Apocalypse, discuss many of the paradoxes of the Christian faith. In 2009, Bruce and his wife, Jill, founded The Secret Place to counsel ministers who are struggling in sin or need to be renewed in their faith journey. For more information, visit www.BruceSCampbell.com.
7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. Rev. 13:7 (NKJV)
Most evangelical Christians believe the world is headed quickly to its end. There have been many books and movies depicting possible scenarios of how it might all play out. We have seen many Hollywood versions of demons and angels fighting for power and dominion at the end of the age. Most depictions I’ve seen don’t seem to take God’s word into account. We don’t really know how it will all work out, but we are assured that God ultimately wins.
In spite of the ultimate victory, we are told in Revelation 13:7 that the saints will be overcome by the beast. And Daniel 12:7 tells us that “when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” It is not an easy reality to be told you will be overcome. In everyday life, I see the war on the saints as having already begun. In fact, it has been going on for a long time. The war is being waged for the hearts and minds of men, women, and children everywhere. I see it daily in counseling sessions of Christians whose lives have been overcome by the evil one.
To make matters worse, the saints that are being defeated often don’t even know they are in a war. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor. 10:2-5 (NKJV). We do not know what the final war will look like as described in Rev.13:7. But, if we open our eyes, we can fight the war we are in right now. I am talking about the war over fear, guilt, selfishness, unforgiveness, apathy, disappointment, lust, fornication, homosexuality and the like.
Recently, my wife and I were dealing with a single woman that was suicidal. She had taken out a life insurance policy to leave money to her children and began to make plans to stop her pain and her life. Fortunately, God intervened in her plans and we were able to speak life back into her soul. She had been defeated in her heart and had been overcome by the evil one. In counseling with her, we discovered that she wanted a husband and began to resent God for not giving her what she wanted. She was jealous of other women and relationships, and began to feel rejected and felt angry at God. She felt that because she was a Christian, she was entitled to get all of her wants met. She began to compromise in dating and then felt the disappointment of the inevitable failures. The disappointment led to emotional pain, depression, and finally to suicide as the only way out.
The defeat of this single Christian woman is indicative of the war on all saints. We must put to death the desires of our flesh. When we listen to the voices of selfish entitlement and envy what others seem to have, we become prey for the evil one. If we could learn to be satisfied in Christ alone, we would not be filled with disappointment. If we didn’t covet after other’s things, we would never feel cheated for not having them. Even though God intervened in this woman’s life and she is healing, I wonder how many other people go on being defeated in the hidden war of the heart. We should learn to fight against our own selfishness by yielding to God through simple trust. This is how we win our war!
Jesus said that he who sins is servant of sin (Jn. 8:34). In other words, if we turn in our hearts away from God we can come under the power of Satan. It has nothing to do with our salvation, but does have everything to do with our quality of life. Satan went to God and requested to sift Peter. Peter was full of pride and arrogance and the devil knew it. 31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." 33 But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." 34 Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me." Luke 22:31-34 (NKJV). The book of Revelation chapter 12 declares that Satan stands before God day and night accusing the brethren.
Why does God allow us to be tempted? For one thing, it tests our faith and helps us to see areas of weakness in our lives. His motive is to bring us to maturity. It is His desire to bless us, not only in this age, but also the age to come. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 (NKJV). Even Christians will be under the attack of Satan if they sin. Paul gives many examples of this in Scripture. Paul acknowledges that some Christians in Corinth are sick and have fallen asleep (passed away) for drunkenness and sin at the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor. 11:20-32). Sin will not take away your salvation, but it will give authority to Satan.
The trouble is in misunderstanding the temporal and eternal law. The law still exists in the temporal until all things are fulfilled. Jesus said it like this: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:17-19 (NKJV).There is much confusion over passages like this because people want to make it about salvation. It is not about salvation, but is about reward. Our sin as Christians not only gives power to Satan in this age, but also affects our reward in the next age. When I hear a Christian spout off that they are not under the law, I ask, “Which one are you not under? Perhaps you are not under the law of murder, or adultery or false witness? Can you violate any of these laws with no consequences?”
The law has not passed away in our temporal existence. Even rejecting the Old Testament covenant laws still has some consequences. For instance, Leviticus 11 talks about how touching a dead carcass causes a person to be unclean. The law commanded people to wash and even break dishes and throw them away where defiled by carcasses. Now if you should happen to handle a dead carcass, you could say, “I’m free from the law!” and not wash your hands, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The reason God gave the law is still in affect regardless of our obedience to its commands. God wants obedience from the heart as a matter of trust.
We should focus on the motives of our hearts, and get rid of everything that isn’t motivated by the spirit of love. All works that come from love are acceptable to God. When love is our motivator we are being motivated by His spirit. His Spirit in us produces works of righteousness. Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Cor. 3:13-17 (NKJV). It is not that we are endlessly trying to obey every detail of the law, but rather that we allow the Holy Spirit to live through us. The Spirit produces life in us. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23 (NKJV)
The only way we can win this war on the saints is by submission to the Spirit of God. 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 1 Cor. 15:56 (NLT). We only come under the power of sin if we yield to it. Satan must have legal grounds in order to present a cause before the great judge in heaven. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Rev 12:10-11 (NKJV). The Holy Spirit of Christ (represented as blood) that was in them was the power to overcome the devil. The saints overcame the devil because they didn’t have selfish love ruling their hearts. They were yielded to the selfless, sacrificial love of Christ, regardless of the cost to themselves.