THE WORLD MIGHTS of this darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, know quite well that we are destined to rule over them, hence they are intensely concerned about us, and are our real adversaries at the present time. Just as Israel was sporadically at war with the nations in the land of promise, so we are waging a defensive right against these celestial hosts. Too often we wrestle with blood and flesh, not realizing that these are not our real adversaries, but only the necessary human tools of these spirit powers. God gives us these conflicts in order to acquaint us with their stratagems. We may rest assured that an especially clever plot to hinder God’s work, which is camouflaged as an attempt to help it, is not of human invention, especially if it is accompanied by showers of burning arrows, which can only be extinguished by the shield of faith.
It is evident that, as in the case of Adam, the adversary uses intermediaries to accomplish his ends. Those who are deceived by him and his hosts are the tools with which he works. Most saints shrink with horror at the idea that they could be used by Satan to hinder the Lord’s work. Let such beware, for they are open to this very thing if they refuse to be on their guard. Judas was not the only one who was used by Satan. Even in his case we can see the strategy of the adversary. He could have found many men to betray our Lord, but how much better for his purpose to lure away one of those near to Christ, one of His chosen apostles! He works especially well within the ranks of accredited religionists.
Most Christians look for evidences of the adversary’s activity among the ranks of the immoral, the profligate, the worldly. But that is a mistake. A spirit, without a physical body, is not tempted by the pleasures of the flesh. Indeed, he cannot even apprehend such matters, as he has no means of experiencing them. Mankind is tempted from within to such sins and excesses. But Satan is primarily concerned with spiritual affairs, particularly those which affect the purpose of God and His Christ. Hence he seeks to turn aside the saints from the role of suffering and humiliation which will prepare them to cope with him in heavenly realms, and bend their energies to world betterment before God’s time, and by means similar to those to be employed by Christ, but apart from His personal presence.
This can be camouflaged into a most meritorious and glorious crusade against the powers of evil, even if it is the reverse. Christendom will be convinced that their cause is just, that they are doing the will of God, when they attack and destroy the non- Christian religions and set up a messiah who will unite the world under their banner. The important point is to see that all will be so cleverly accomplished by the powers of darkness that nearly all will be convinced that they are on God’s side and are working for the welfare of one world, while they are really carrying out the behests of the powers of darkness. They will be thoroughly deceived because they will abandon the ground on which this gracious administration is based and the precious promises of Christ’s return, and yield to the allurements of the adversary to take His place and perform His work before He comes.
Judas was not the only one who was influenced by Satan. Peter, the chief of the twelve, also was deluded by him (Matt. 16:21-23). He, too, wished to forestall God’s time. Our Lord was revealing to His disciples that He must suffer and die. But Peter would have none of this. Many, if not all, of us would have agreed with Peter. Here was a Man Who had unlimited power. He could have set up the kingdom at any time, and brought blessing to everyone. Yet now He speaks of suffering and death! Peter seemed to have no inkling of God’s purpose in it all, or of the part of evil in bringing about the humiliation of man and the glory of God. Satan always seems to be on man’s side, and wants to do him a favor, as at the first in the garden of Eden, Peter did not want his Master to suffer. But our Lord has short shrift for such thoughts. He knew whence they came. So He calls Peter Satan and a snare.
As the present is preeminently a spiritual administration, and we are destined to reign in the realms now ruled by the adversary, we may rest assured that Satan is far more opposed to us than to the Circumcision apostles. Only occasionally do we read of the parts that evil spirits played in the history of Israel. A very small fraction of the accounts of our Lord’s life even refer to the spirit world. But a large part of the closing chapter of Ephesians, the charter of the present grace, is concerned with this phase of our conduct.
But we are not spiritists, who communicate directly with the spirit world by means of mediums, or ouija boards, or table rapping. Indeed, it is not a question of communication but of warfare. And it is not a question of physical force but of spiritual stratagems. Yet it is carried on through blood and flesh, for it is only by means of physical, soulish members of the human race that the spirits can reach us. Paul had warned the saints in Corinth lest somehow, as the serpent deludes Eve by its craftiness, it should be corrupting their apprehension also (2 Cor.11:3).
The conflicts among the saints often have the appearance of wrestling. Too often they are merely the efforts of the adversary to oppose God’s operations. We should look beyond the human instrument to the power behind it, as our Lord did with Peter. Is it not notable that He never called Judas Satan, so far as we know, but rather Peter, His loyal disciple! No doubt it was a great help to the chief apostle in his future service, to recall how ready he was to act the part of the adversary. He wanted to help, not to hinder. Let us not imagine that this is a true test. It is through well-meant efforts to be of service that the adversary works. The great apostasy of the end time will be a Christian crusade to further His cause. We should be wary and wise and test all as to its concord with God’s times and seasons, His plan and purpose.
Another test is the character of the opposition. Men in wrestling seldom hurt or harm each other very seriously. But when a missile like a burning arrow strikes you (in case your large shield is not up) you may rest assured that its ultimate source was not a mortal, but that it came from a spirit power behind him. A letter lately come to hand speaks of a note received from a brother as follows: “He may have held the pen, but Satan dictated the letter.” Most saints are not clever enough to accomplish the damage they do, so we must look upon them as on Peter.
After the dais, one great change for the better will be our relation to the spiritual powers of darkness. Now they are enemies. It will be our privilege to transform them into friends. Few saints seem to realize what a powerful part they play in our experience today. But one who seeks to recover God’s truth, and to stand for it, is in constant and cruel conflict, for to stop this is the great object of their enmity. Now they thwart and hinder every move, if they can. They transform helpers into hinderers. The trend of Christendom is proof positive how successful they are. They are far more clever than the saints, and use them freely, by means of misunderstandings and slanders, in harming any work that threatens their domination of the “Christian” world.
“Dissensions and snares beside the teaching” were present even in Paul’s day, for even then there were some who slaved for their own bowels and sought, through compliments and adulation, to delude the hearts of the innocent (Rom.16:17-20). The apostle does not instruct us to deal with them, but rather to avoid them. Then he gives the real remedy: “The God of peace will be crushing Satan under your feet swiftly.” He recognizes that much of the misconduct among the saints, especially among the leaders and teachers, is not due merely to their frailty, but to the influence of evil spirits.
In that day of illumination we will not need to contend with any deviation from the teaching. Neither will anyone need to make any provision for food. Adulation will be entirely ruled out. All this will follow from the change from mortal to immortal bodies. But, far more than that, Satan himself, the instigator of human opposition and dissension, will be beneath our feet. Now he dominates the actions of many a saint. But then his place and power will be taken from him, and we will be above him, able to subdue and control the one who, next to our flesh, was the cause of most of our miseries.
Just as the enemies of Christ will figuratively find themselves a footstool for His feet, so will the greatest of all our enemies be placed beneath our power. But, best of all, we will not retaliate. We will not use our authority to further alienate and estrange him from God or from ourselves. We, to whom conciliation was first presented, will be conciliatory to all, and be able to bring back all our enemies into the circle of friendship and conciliation with God. Doubtless due to Satan’s machinations, we cannot now even bring about peace among ourselves, but then all our own differences will have been dissolved, and we will be able to bring it to our erstwhile enemy in the spirit world.
A. E. Knoch, The Dais - Chapter Twelve