Several blogs ago I posed this tough question: why didn’t God destroy Satan? First off, let me apologize for taking a couple weeks to write today’s post. I guess A.D.D. kicked in 🙂 as I found myself writing several other blogs over the past couple weeks. (By the way Click HERE for Part 1 if you want to refresh your memory).
So… why didn’t God simply destroy Satan the moment he rebelled? Put on your “thinking caps” and let’s dive in!
The answer to this tough question is rooted in what the spiritual war revolves around. About the key battle that is being fought. To understand just what that key battle is, I need to take you back to the very first battle of the war…
Here is a description of what happened…. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. – Revelation 12:7-9
This passage describes the beginning of spiritual warfare. And while it is a battle, a battle WE need to fight, we often don’t realize the primary way this battle is fought.
When the text says “Then war broke out in heaven…” the Greek word for “war” is “polemos” pronounced “poe-lemm-ose.” And this word is layered in meaning. On the one hand, it means a fight. A battle. Just like wars fought in Afghanistan or Iraq. We don’t have the details what the spiritual war looks like, but we can assume it’s similar to the wars in our world. With the spiritual equivalent of guns and bombs. After all, various Scriptures describe angels wielding swords: “…he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn.” (Numbers 22:31)
But there is another aspect of this war, an aspect that we often overlook. And it’s the part of the war that is not fought with swords or strength. Let me explain…
The Greek word “polemos” is where we get the English word “polemics.” Polemics means a strong verbal attack on someone or something. And the meaning of that Greek word provides an important clue about the nature of the fight.
The “war in heaven” in Revelation 12 was fought on two levels. It began as a war — not of swords — but of ideas. Where the battlefield was not a plot a land in heaven, but the minds of angels. Consider this quote: “The ‘war in heaven’ was most likely fought… [as] a war of ideas and principles. Political candidates often slander and distort the character of their opponent for political advantage, and this is exactly the kind of campaign that Satan was waging against God — a political campaign based on lies and deception. Political campaigns are about winning hearts and minds.” (Servant God, p.32)
Satan attempted to convince the angels that God was not good. That God could not be trusted. That God was holding out on them. And it seems from Revelation 12:4 that he convinced 1/3 of them: “Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.” (Revelation 12:4)
Once Satan achieved a level of victory in this initial aspect of the war — once he won the minds of these angels — he had his army… and the second stage of the war began: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back… Again, we can only imagine what this spiritual battle actually looked like. Images of epic battles in movies like Braveheart and Spartacus and Gladiator come to mind.
Of course, the spiritual battle has physical aspects to it. The Bible describes Satan and his demons afflicting human beings with diseases and sickness and disabilities: “One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” When he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! – Luke 13:10-13
While the physical aspects of the spiritual battle are very real, and while we need to come against them by the power of the Holy Spirit, the physical attacks are but symptoms of the spiritual battle — effects of it — while the cause or root of the battle typically remains untreated or goes unnoticed.
Here’s the key: the battlefield in the spiritual war isn’t primarily fought over a plot of land — whether it’s a plot in heaven or in our bodies. The primary battlefield is our minds. And the battle is about the goodness of God: “The central question in the cosmic conflict revolves around the trustworthiness of God’s character. This war over God’s character is the real ‘Mother of all Wars.'” (Servant God, p.31)
And it’s because of this — because the war is ultimately over God’s character — that God didn’t simply annihilate Satan the moment he rebelled. I realize that may not be clear at the moment but it will in my next blog. Stay tuned! (And I promise I won’t wait two weeks to post the next one!) 🙂
***What is the Role of Faith in Healing? When it comes to praying for healing, this is one of the most controversial questions. Last Sunday I began to address this question and I am pressing into it further this coming Sunday. If a person isn’t healed, is it because they lacked faith? Is it their fault? Or is there another reason? Please join us at The Eastside Vineyard Church as I press into these tough questions. March 30. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***