INTRODUCTION: While unbelievers view the rise and fall of nations as simply a history of man-made alliances and wars, we are taught in God’s Word to see the upheavals of this world as part of a fierce battle “in the heavenly places”, (Ephesians 6:12ff), between God’s forces of pure good, and the forces of evil. Even the terrible persecutions of the church, (as the world reacts to God’s judgment by hitting out at God’s people), are part of this conflict. However, as we will see this week, God is in control of the spiritual warfare in the heavenly places. Because He is on the move, Satan and his demons are forced to take off their mask in a last-ditch effort to defeat the Lord and His Anointed, our Savior, Jesus Christ. They will never succeed. As the hymn says, “The Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend, to guide, sustain and cherish, is with her to the end”.
Monday: read Genesis 3:15 & Daniel 7:7-11. There are many fearful features in the visions Daniel has of Satanic power! Working through the nations of this world, wicked forces arise more terrible than any natural beast. In fact, as foreshadowing the Antichrist at the end of time, there will be nations, such as the Romans in Daniel 7:7-8, who will increase in wickedness until they take on qualities of that final incarnation of evil! But no matter how complex and terrifying these visions are, the basic fact is crystal clear and quite encouraging for believers: no matter how shockingly brutal and evil the forces of this world may be in their warfare against Christ and His people in every age, they are merely fulfilling Genesis 3:15 in their effort to, “bruise the heel” of Christ and His church. In fact, as Dr. Sinclair Ferguson says, the whole of the Bible, indeed, the whole of Bible and world history, is simply a footnote to God’s promise of conflict, and eventually victory, for Christ and His people – as promised in Genesis 3:15.
For example, consider the four nations of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, depicted so clearly in the image of Daniel 2 and then in the four beasts of Daniel 7. Are any of them still intact? Did they succeed in their hostile plotting against God’s Promised Seed? Did they manage to extinguish the church of Christ by their violent persecution of her? No! They are the ones who have been swept away! Christ and His church continue to march through the pages of history while every nation that rises against the Lord is swept away like the chaff! As hymn # 347 says:
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From Heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe and traitor
She ever shall prevail.
Tuesday: read Daniel 7:7-11; 8:22-27 & Daniel 2:34-35. We see from Daniel 7 that the final appearance of the Antichrist, (as a horn that “grows” out of the head of the beast – compare Revelation 13:1-5), is of such power that no one can stand against it in their own human strength. Human wisdom, learning and even man-made religion will fail to resist the pull of worshipping this beast. But take heart! Even before the final demise of this Antichrist, when it will be thrown into the lake of fire, (compare the burning of the beast in Daniel 7:11 with the punishment of burning in Revelation 19:20), the power of our Savior Jesus is great enough to deal a mortal blow against the beast and Antichrist – by the power of the Cross!
For example, notice in Daniel 8:25 that the power which destroys the Antichrist is called literally, a power of, “no human hand”. This is a spiritual picture of the power of the Kingdom of God, shaped by no human source. It is the “stone” cut out in Daniel 2:34-35, which grows to fill the whole earth! Is this not a picture of Jesus Christ, “the Rock” of our salvation? He is the “Rock” that originates with God, eternally begotten from Him, without any human fatherhood! Praise God that this Rock’s growth throughout the whole of history cannot be stopped!
Weds/Thurs: read Daniel 8:27 & 10:7-9. The Lord knows how hard it is for Daniel and for us to hold ourselves together in the face of such coordinated and intense attacks directed against us as God’s people. No wonder Daniel is so sick with grief and terror after seeing these visions in Daniel 8:27! More visions follow, and Daniel’s body simply breaks under the stress of trying to behold this violent conflict in the heavenly places! What are we to make of such weakness in Daniel and in us? Why must it be that those most devoted to their Savior are most frequently targets of the fiery arrows of the wicked one, and suffer most from their consciousness of this “war within them” between their flesh and God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17)?
The answer is that one way in which God ensures that we learn to hate sin, and love Christ, is by causing us to suffer the enmity of the evil one and the consequent conflict in our lives. Because God promised to place within our hearts an enmity which cannot help but fight against sin and Satan, we are delivered from the evil one’s thrall – precisely by the very conflict with sin and Satan which make us hate them. Listen to Pastor Bill in his comments on Genesis 3:14-15. Praise God for these truths!
“The serpent is cursed as an instrument of evil. However, it is clear from v.15 that God pronounced a far greater curse upon Satan, who had possessed and used the serpent. While the snake was reduced to a lowly and miserable existence, it still would live and serve the useful purpose of warning man of the degrading effects of sin. For Satan, there is the sentence of a perpetual enmity and an eternal death. Far from Satan’s temptation having enlisted the sons of men into his evil company, God would overrule so that enmity was perpetually between the devil and all of mankind. Sinful men may serve Satan, but they loathe the miserable service and hate their oppressing, demonic master. The serpent was demoted, but his animating possessor, Satan, was doomed.” Hallelujah!
Fri/Sat/Sun: For further reflection, listen to how our Westminster Confession of Faith describes this conflict in our members, between sin, Satan and our new lives in Christ: (Chapter 13, paragraphs 2 & 3): “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
And how about Westminster chapter 17 paragraph 3, describing how even Christians who will, “persevere to the end” may fall prey to this conflict with sin and Satan?
“Nevertheless, believers may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.”
And is this not exactly John Bunyan’s description of this conflict? Bunyan writes of Christian being instructed by the Gospel minister called Interpreter in the nature of this conflict:
“Then I saw in my dream that the INTERPRETER took CHRISTIAN by the hand, and led him to a place where a fire was burning against a wall, and one standing by it was always pouring much water on it to quench it; yet the fire burned higher and hotter. Then CHRISTIAN asked, “What does this mean?”
Inter. The INTERPRETER answered, “This fire is the work of grace that is worked in the heart; he that pours water upon it to extinguish and put it out, is the devil: but in that you see the fire burn higher and hotter in spite of the water, you shall also see the reason of that.” So he took him around to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, which he also continually threw into the fire, but secretly. Chr. Then CHRISTIAN asked, “What does this mean?”
Inter. The INTERPRETER answered, “This is Christ, who continually with the oil of his grace maintains the work already begun in the heart: by the means of which the souls of his people prove gracious still, in spite of what the devil can do.
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
And the man you saw standing behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach you, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.”
MAY GOD ENCOURAGE YOU IN YOUR CONFLICTS WITH SIN AND SATAN, (and remember – these conflicts can be subtle, as Satan is a lying serpent, not just a lion)…. especially when we at times can’t see the Lord Jesus pouring the oil of His Spirit into our lives. Amen!