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What do Christians mean when they talk about spiritual warfare? Are they talking about a physical or military attack on people? Is it some kind of hate campaign?
No, spiritual warfare is about the battle that takes place in the realm of the spirit. Ultimately, it is a battle between God and the devil, but people get caught up in it along the way.
Let’s go back to the beginning. When God first created the universe, He created a powerful angelic being who was then known as Lucifer. This being was very beautiful, very wise and very powerful. However, although his wisdom and power were great, they were limited – unlike God whose wisdom and power are infinite. Although he was a great being, Lucifer was never equal to God.
After a while Lucifer began to become proud of his beauty, power, wisdom and position. It irked him that God was greater than him and ruled over him, and he rose up in rebellion vowing to take over God’s throne. That would have been a disaster, even if it had been possible, because no created being – no matter how wise – could ever have the ability to run the universe. So, he was thrown out of heaven and cast down to earth, where he took the form of a serpent.
Meanwhile, God had created two people: Adam and his wife (she was not called Eve till later), the first of the human race. He created them in His own image, to be as much like Him as it was possible for a created being to be, and He gave them authority to rule on earth as His vice-regents. They were to enforce God’s rule over every creature on earth, including the serpent.
Instead, they allowed themselves to be deceived by the serpent, who convinced them to follow the same path he had: if they disobeyed God, he told them, they would become “as gods”, able to run their own lives without God’s interference. By obeying the serpent (the devil) instead of God, they handed their authority over to him. He became the ruler of the earth, and earth became a rebel state within the Kingdom of God.
Unable to rule from the heaven where God’s throne is, the devil then set up his throne in the physical heavens surrounding the earth, a position from which he was able to influence everything on earth. For this reason he became known as “the prince of the power of the air.” With him are numerous other fallen angels who joined with him in his rebellion.
Hating both God and those who serve God, and with an agenda to “kill, steal and destroy”, the devil and his demons attack people in every way possible: sometimes with direct oppression or physical attack, but most often by influencing other people to attack them.
When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, He defeated satan (the devil) and claimed back the world as part of the Kingdom of God. However, satan continues to fight to hold his territory, just as some Japanese soldiers continued to fight to hold their strongholds after Japan had been defeated.
People sometimes ask how they can “get into” spiritual warfare, but the truth is, if you are a Christian you are in spiritual warfare whether you like it or not. Christians are under constant attack from the devil; he wants to stop your witness and destroy your life. The good news is that God has provided us with both armor to help us stand against those attacks and weapons to use against the devil and his forces and take back what he has stolen.