In the government of the universe God employs a vast number of angels arranged in hierarchical tiers. Around his throne are four mighty archangels (the "living creatures" in Revelation 4-5, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1ff). Also there are twenty-four "elders" around the throne of our Father in heaven. (These beings are probably not men but angels since the Apostle John would surely have been among them if they were men). Lesser angelic orders, labeled in Scriptures as thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, serve in the affairs of men and they are involved in events in the natural world as well. So called "guardian angels" care for each of us who are in the family of God. (For more on the angels see http://ldolphin.org/gangels.html).
Satan ("the Adversary") was once among the highest of all angels. James Boice calls him, "the Prime Minister" of the universe (http://ldolphin.org/satan.html). Satan's rebellion against God brought ruin and destruction into the natural order, and also the fall of the human race into sin and death (Genesis 3). Yet the fallen angels still populate the invisible spiritual realm which surrounds us and is within us (Job 1). Satan and his angels will be cast of heaven to earth during the coming seven-year tribulation period which is to take place before the public return of open Jesus Christ to rule the nations from Jerusalem. For now the destructive actions of the devil are everywhere. (Revelation 12, http://raystedman.org/revelation/4204.html).
In the era of history we live in now Satan is in fact in charge of human affairs! He is "the god of this present world" (system). Nevertheless, the devil, his angels, the unfallen angels, and every one of us is under the sovereign rule of Jesus, "...who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him" (1 Peter 3:22). All that Satan does is strictly by God's permission. His activity is allowed for the present age with the result that most of mankind remains deceived and blinded to eternal realities. (2 Corinthians 3, 2 Thessalonians 2). Satan is known as a murderer from the beginning, a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) His deceptions are increasing rapidly as we near the end of the age (2 Thessalonians 2).
Jesus has been "declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). Our Lord now rules from the highest throne in the entire universe. He has full authority even to raise the dead and to judge men and angels (John 5).
"...God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)
The world we live in now is a world of shadows and dark places. The physical universe (which we sense and relate to through our physical bodies) is actually embedded within the greater unseen spiritual world. (We sense, or relate to, the spiritual realm through our spirits). Ultimate, eternal realities reside in the spiritual dimension. At Mt. Sinai, for instance, God told Moses to built a tabernacle fashioned as a copy of an eternal temple which is in the spiritual realm (Revelation 15, http://raystedman.org/revelation/4207.html ). In our present state of being we Christians are mere ghosts. Our ultimate destiny as the children of light will be glorious indeed. (See The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for illustrations of this).
Ray Stedman says,
"...the physical things which God has made are reflections of an inner and greater reality. Do not turn that around. It is not that the things that take place in the inner life are shadows or reflections of the physical universe around. It is quite the other way. The physical universe was made to correspond to the inner reality. It is the inner truth, the truths that affect the soul and spirit of man, with which God is primarily concerned. He made the physical universe in order to reflect these so that, as we look around us and observe and assimilate with our senses, we are constantly reminded of the great things that are taking place within us, and around us, in the invisible kingdom that surrounds us on all sides." (http://www.raystedman.org/genesis/0303.html).
The root issues in the fall of Satan center around that archangel's proud challenge to the throne of God. The fall of Satan occurred in the early history of the created universe, and of course prior to the fall of man.
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit." (Isaiah 14:12-15)
Working in the human race through many deceptions, Satan has long been in the business of building "strongholds of evil" everywhere in the world. These invisible strongholds are like well-fortified, heavily-defended medieval castles. The Apostle Paul talks about them in 2 Corinthians 10. Our assignment as Christians is to be partners with Jesus in the destroying these strongholds:
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 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, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV)
Another translation puts it,
It is I Paul who call upon you--and I am doing it in the gentleness and the sweet reasonableness of Christ--I, who, as you say, am a poor creature when I am with you, but a man of courage when I am absent. It is my prayer that, when I do come to you, I may not have to be bold with that confidence with which I reckon that I can boldly face some who reckon that we direct our conduct by purely human motives. It is true that we live in a human body, but for all that we do not carry on our campaign with human motives and resources (for the weapons of our campaign are not merely human weapons, but God has made them powerful to destroy fortresses). Our campaign is such that we can destroy plausible fallacies and all lofty-mindedness which raises itself up against the knowledge that God has given, such that we capture every intention and bring it into obedience to Christ, such that we are prepared to punish all disobedience, when your obedience has been fulfilled. (William Barclay's translation)
(For more on the weapons we are to use in spiritual warfare, see Ray Stedman's commentary, "Our Secret Weapons," http://raystedman.org/2corinthians/3692.html).
What and where are these enemy-held fortresses, or strongholds, we are to assault and tear down? Evidently these unseen entities "reside" in government and politics, in commerce and industry, in schools and in churches--and inside of each of us as well. Wherever these fortresses prevail, men are held captive to superstition, to empty tradition, to the exaltation of self. The influence of strongholds in our lives can be seen when we continue to "act out" the unresolved conflicts which developed earlier in our lives. Any of us can get stuck in the past and find that we are unable to move on to maturity. The strongholds that affect us the most are probably those within our own "unconscious," and in our immediate environment of family and friends. Strongholds bring bondage; Jesus brings liberty and fullness of life.
The strongholds of evil in ourselves (and in others) are buttressed and fortified with rationalizations and arguments, with defense mechanisms and illogical patterns of thought based on ignorance, tradition, or the false philosophies of this world. The core of these strongholds is always pride, whether it takes the form of arrogance, self-exaltation, or, alternately, as touchiness and resentment (i.e., pride turned inward).
Successfully attacking, invading, and destroying enemy-held strongholds is somewhat analogous to storming a medieval castle. "In Christ" we have been armed with an infinitely better set of weapons than any earthly, historical knight would possess:
"...be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:10-18)
God's goal for us Christians is that we should become whole persons. The enemy's intentions are to damage or destroy us. While many believers content themselves with second-best, there is no need settling for less, considering the unlimited nature of the life God offers us in Christ, and the mighty weapons He gives us for helping one another to fullness of life now. (See Individuation and The Biblical Concept of Wholeness, by Kenny Ammann). The on-going efforts of the enemy to keep us from giving over these areas to Christ often show up as our "defense mechanisms."
Unfortunately we all have strongholds in our lives, and we usually resent anyone interfering with what lies beneath them. We are likely to become defensive even when the outer periphery our defenses is barely approached. We often find in our very make up a whole host of reasons, (rationalizations) for our not allowing Christ to penetrate more deeply into our motives and our deep instinctive self-centered beliefs inherited from Adam.
Pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness are not sinful roots which once dealt with, never grow back. Covetousness and lust and hatred in our hearts are all too common among Christians. These root evils (strongholds) are at the heart of our resistance to spiritual growth. The weeds grow back in the garden faster than the flowers!
Most of us also tend to resist God's humbling processes--do we not often seek only to justify ourselves or to rationalize our behavior? The Bible says, "Humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that in due time He may exalt you." Because our own strongholds can easily blind us, we must be careful in meddling in the lives of people around us. Jesus told us to remove the plank, or log, in our own eyes before attempting to remove the speck from our brother's eye. In helping others by "speaking the truth in love" we help the entire Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
"Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own Master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4)
For both He who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are being sanctified (us) are all of one (body), for which reason He is not ashamed to call them (us) brethren, saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You. And again: "I will put My trust in Him." And again: "Here am I and the children whom God has given Me." (Hebrews 2:11-13)
A sad commentary on many of the churches of our day is that they no longer teach the scriptures in any depth. The result is that whole congregations are starving for want of a decent spiritual meal. Some churches compensate by specializing in excessive emotionalism, charged appeals, and endless chorus-singing. Such worship activities provide a temporary lifting of the spirits but do not give us the "strong meat of the word" we all need to flourish the rest of the week.
But especially, the New Testament theme of spiritual warfare is seldom taught in churches today. We need knowledge and experience in this aspect of the Christian life now more than ever in all of history. (http://raystedman.org/warfare/warfare1.html).
God has called us, (we who follow Jesus as our Lord), to be conformed to the image of Christ. We are being made whole (holy), in the process known in theology as "sanctification." Obviously all the strongholds in our lives must be dealt with eventually. God has already "qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints of light" (Colossians 1:12).
(See also, The Strongholds of Inner Space http://ldolphin.org/strongholds.html)
I have dealt here, in these rambling thoughts, only personal strongholds. Many of the enemy-held strongholds of evil in society are found in politics, business, education and religion. Some of these fortresses of the evil-one have been in place for hundreds or thousands of years.
The letter to the Hebrews assures us that God will soon purge the heavens (and the earth) of all evil --destroying all the works of fallen man, and all the strongholds of Satan--leaving only those things God has built.
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:25-29)
Daily life seems to be accelerating now faster and faster for all of us. Surely the world's problems are about to cascade into the great judgments predicted in the book of the Revelation. Man has had "his day" to run things here on this planet--and man has failed very badly.
A mere seven years from now, Jesus Christ could well be reigning on earth from Jerusalem. Meanwhile, "...be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:10-11)
Recommended: William P. Young, The Shack, This highly unorthodox novel is all about our intimate relationship with our God under the terms of the New Covenant.
Health: This year has been eventful for me in terms of health, as mentioned in last month's newsletter. In early June I experienced sudden blood clots in my right leg, and lungs. The standard treatment for DVT/PE events is to put such patients in the hospital for a system check, while blood thinner levels are fine-tuned. My eight days in the hospital was very wearying--hospitals are not good for sick people, they are much too noisy and frenetic night and day. I am OK now, regaining strength a little every day.
Last month's illness jolted me into facing up to my own mortality and the brevity of life. God pulled down a major stronghold in my heart while I was in the hospital. This stronghold had to do with my love for the world, which I scarcely even been unaware of till now, (hence this month's topic). The Apostle John wrote, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever". I haven't changed my basic beliefs lately, but what I do believe is sharper and clearer now.
1. Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We're going to see the King.
2. No more crying there, we are going to see the King Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We're going to see the King.
3. No more dying there, we are going to see the King Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We're going to see the King. (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=lmGiu9JfbIs )
Finances: Last month I mentioned that I have a number of accumulated debts. I am a one-person ministry and have never had a secretary or any support staff. When I retired from a 30-year career physics in 1989 I never imagined that God would give me so many new friends and so much more to do. Friends who want to help out with my multitude of expenses may send contributions directly to me by means of the PayPal link on my web site, http://ldolphin.org. (My PayPal user name is email@example.com). Several wonderful friends responded last month by sending in gracious donations towards my work.
For those who'd like to contribute for tax purposes, checks may be sent to Peninsula Bible Church, 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. (Please include a note designating your gift to my support account). I do not receive a list of those who send in contributions to my church so I can't send thank you notes in most cases. God knows who you are, and may He bless you all richly. More than ever I much appreciate the prayers of my friends.
Previous newsletters are on my web site: http://ldolphin.org/news/. To be added or deleted from this mailing list, drop me an email. My main web site library is http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml, with newer articles posted at the top. Links to mp3 files of my Bible classes are there as well. Our email team at the Paraclete Forum is standing by to help, to encourage or to pray for you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 22, 2008