Our Enemy Is Not Imaginary
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
WE NEED TO BE SOBERED BY THE REALITY OF THE EVIL POWERS THAT OPPOSE US. Evil is more than an abstract concept or an impersonal force. It is personified in a spiritual adversary who is the ultimate fulfillment of evil. Along with the spiritual beings who have allied themselves with him, this adversary is intent on our destruction. Satan, whose name means “Accuser” or “Slanderer,” is certainly not equal to God in his power, but he is nevertheless just as real. And his powers are not to be ignored. Those who seek to live in fellowship with God have to struggle against “the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Unfortunately, the path to God leads through enemy-occupied territory.
It bears repeating that the devil is not equal to God. Contrary to dualistic philosophies in which two equal and co-eternal powers vie against one another, the Scriptures affirm that the devil is one of God’s created beings, perhaps the highest, who at some point rebelled and has opposed God’s rule ever since (Jude 6; Revelation 12:9,10). Hell is portrayed as a place first of all “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). His doom is certain, but that does not mean the devil has ceased to destroy all that he can. John Milton, who of course had thought profoundly about these things, wrote that the devil is “the strongest and fiercest spirit that fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair.”
Satan, then, is primarily God’s adversary; we are caught up in the cosmic struggle, but only because we are associated with God. Satan seeks to overthrow every aspect of the Creator’s kingdom, and as beings whom God created to serve Him, we are among the targets of God’s enemy. To the extent that we take God’s side in the war, we will incur the wrath of Satan and his forces. The war is real, and our enemy is not imaginary. His destructive will, therefore, ought to be among the reasons why we seek God. “I sought only for the heart of God, therein to hide myself from the tempestuous storms of the devil” (Jakob Bohme).
“The devil never sleeps, and your flesh is very much alive. Prepare yourself for battle. Surrounding you are enemies that never rest” (Thomas a Kempis).