Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Are You Wearing the Whole Armor of God?

Of late I have spent more time than usual (which is a lot to begin with) thinking about the days ahead and what we are soon going to be experiencing. It is clear that the end times are are getting very close and that the spiritual warfare has stepped up its game. I look at the Christian friends that I have who are aware that we will not escape these things that are coming, and I see them suffering tribulations that stretch on and on with no relief. I see them striving harder and harder to be obedient and get back to what the Bible really teaches, and yet there is no relief for them from these things which are assailing them.

I long ago realized that I was a soldier in a war. All Christians are, if they are walking with the Lord. There is always spiritual warfare going on around us. Even if we are not under attack at any given moment, we can look around and see that someone we know is. There is no relief, because the spiritual world is ramping up for that last hurrah. There is more activity now than ever before, because mankind is feeding these spirits by rampantly sinning. We are told that before Christ's return it would be as in the days of Noah, and truly it is in many ways. Violence is becoming a natural state of affairs for everyone. It is no longer safe for anyone, anywhere. Then there are the sexual activities -  not only fornication, adultery, and prostitution, but perversions, pornography, sex trafficking etc. It is so common that people do not even blink an eye to see these things being acted upon in public. Addictions to substances and activities such as gambling are prevalent. There is a war going on. A war in which the prize is our souls, yet most Christians are not on the battlefield, nor are they even dressed for battle. They (at least the Christians in America and some of the other more prosperous countries) are lounging in the officers' lounge, enjoying the good things that life has to offer, completely oblivious to the battles that are going on outside that lounge.

Before a Christian can engage in battle, they have to learn how to wield their weapons and put on their battle armor. Most Christians ignore or are completely ignorant  as to even how to use their weapons, even if they put on a piece or two of their armor. So what is our armor, and what are our weapons? They are listed for us in a very familiar passage, and while people know the passage, they do not take seriously the directive to apply it to their lives.

Ephesians 6:10-18 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."

Before we are told what our armor and weapons are, we are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Paul is not speaking of our physical abilities of strength, but of our spiritual attitude. The first thing we have to do is to switch from a defensive attitude to an offensive attitude. By offensive I do not mean that we should offend people, but rather than waiting for the enemy to attack us, we should go on the attack against the enemy - the spiritual enemy. Next Paul tells us that we must put on the entire armor of God, not just one or two pieces, to be able to withstand the deceptions of the devil, for he will attack us in every possible way. We dare not leave a spot uncovered or it will be our Achilles heel.

It is then made clear to us that the enemy that we are fighting is not the flesh and blood neighbor who annoys us, or the colleague who takes advantage of us or manipulates us, or the loved one who cheats on us, or any of the people in our lives that leave us hurting and scarred. Our fight is with a more formidable foe. It is with the spiritual entities who speak into the ears of these flesh and blood people. The spirits who encourage and influence people to evil. People are sinful and prone to enough sin themselves without the help, but with it people will do even worse things than they might have otherwise. Multitudes of people are opening the doors to let these spiritual entities into their lives to control them. They do it not only in ignorance, but a great many people do it willingly.

Our battle is against not just one type of spiritual entity, but all sorts of entities. Just as there is a hierarchy of God's angels, there is a hierarchy of fallen angels and demons with different assignments, agendas,and sins. The first thing that must be done to understand this passage in Ephesians is to understand the spiritual world of the wicked. Scripture delineates a difference between fallen angels and demons or as some verses say, devils or unclean spirits. We know from accounts in Scripture such as when the angels visited Abraham and then went on to visit Lot in Sodom that they have the ability to manifest themselves in human form. So much so that the men of Sodom wanted them turned over to them, so that they could have homosexual relations with them. Genesis 19:1-5 "And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them." 

There was a time even earlier when these fallen angels manifested themselves in human form. in Genesis 6:1-2, 4 "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,  That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."  These fallen angels were called the sons of God and they could not only take human form, they procreated with human women producing hybrids which are called nephilim.

On the other hand, demons, devils, or unclean spirits seem to be unable to manifest a body and have to inhabit the body of someone or something else. This allows them to control the person or thing they inhabit. They also can inflict mental disorders, illnesses, unusual strength, and the like. Jesus cast demons out of people when He was on earth.  For example, He cast Legion out of the demonic and they begged Him to let them go into a herd of swine. Mark 5:1-13 "And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.  And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,  Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:  Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.  But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,  And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.  For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.  And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.  And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.  Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine:"

As a piece of non-biblical information which cannot be held to be on a par with the Scriptures, the book of Enoch teaches that demons are actually the disembodied souls of the offspring of the fallen angels and women from before the Flood, otherwise known as the nephilim. It is taught in Enoch that these souls did not go to hell, but remained in a sort of limbo until Judgment day, being forced to wander the earth without bodies, which is why they seek them.

So now we look at the verse in Ephesians that lists some of these entities. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  There are several types of spiritual entities listed. First are the principalities. The Greek word for "principalities" is "arche" which means chief, magistrate, or ruler. The definition of principality is "the state, office, or authority of a prince; the territory or jurisdiction of a prince.We find an entity of this type mentioned in Daniel. Daniel prayed for three weeks before an answer was sent via an angel of God. This passage is evidence of why our prayers sometimes take a while to be answered.  Daniel 10:12-13, 20 "Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy word. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come."  This tells us that there are entities over kingdoms and nations who are princes. As this would appear to go along with the definition of a principality, both in the English and the Greek, and as the angel and Michael had to fight this prince of Persia and then the prince of Grecia, it would appear that these are fallen angels, and very powerful ones to require that the archangel Michael come to join the fight. They are the chief rulers and commanders of the kingdoms and nations and those entities which operate in those places. They would be in political control of the nation and the human leaders who are not under God's rule.

The word in Greek for "powers" is "exousia," which are those who are in authority or have jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means to have official power to make legal decisions and judgments.  They probably are the ones who make the judgment decisions and give orders to the rest of the evil hosts under them. As fallen angels and demons are not omnipresent, most likely this group oversees either territorial areas or organizational entities. What sin the power is mainly over (although all places have all sins, some sins are more prevalent in some places than in others) can probably be discerned by the major sin of an area or the major focus of the group. For instance, there are some areas and places that are known for the sin of gambling. There are some that are known for their sexual debauchery. There are some that are known for their love of money and greed. There are some that are known for their paganism or anti-Christian religious zeal. There are some that are known for their faux Christianity, or apostate Christianity. Then there are human organizations that deal in these same sins - false religion, sexual debauchery, drugs, murder, illegal weapons, human trafficking, etc. These powers would have jurisdiction over these things and the demons who actually do the dirty work. It would seem likely that the ability to have jurisdiction would fall to those who are more powerful, thus the possibility that these are fallen angels, but ones who are not as powerful or as high on the ladder of hierarchy as the principalities.

Rulers of darkness are the next mentioned in the verse. The Greek word for "ruler" is "kosmokrator." This is defined as world ruler. In fact this is an epithet for Satan. The word "darkness" is "skotos" which means "shadiness, obscurity, or darkness." This group are not restricted by political geography, the entire world is their playground. They can roam the earth and spread their evil wherever they want. Nor does it seem that they are confined to specialize in a particular sin. They are simply truly evil for their sins are perpetrated in darkness or in secret. And they rule over those who influence people to these sins. This would seem to be the kinds of sins which take place in secret, or at night, or in obscurity. Rape, murder, pedophilia, etc. As people often seem to be possessed when they commit these type of sins, and since the demons roam the earth, it would seem that these rulers of darkness might be demons or devils.

The last entities mentioned are spiritual wickedness in high places.The Greek word for "high" means "above the sky", and the word for "places" means "everywhere." While the other evil entities seem to be earthbound, this group is not. Their depravity or wickedness can reach out into space. We have no idea what our governments have put in orbit. And it would seem that all of these UFO sightings are not all human in origin. It is very possible that these demonic entities are responsible for many of the "alien" sightings, and interactions. It is also quite possible that these are the entities who possess people. Many of the people who claim to channel spiritual entities say that the entities claim to be aliens from another star system. Other people manifest possession as mental illnesses. I believe the wicked human powers that control this earth (financially, politically, militarily) are possessed by demons. They answer to Satan directly.  While Christians cannot be completely possessed by demons, they can open doors to parts of their lives which give the demon great amounts of influence, if not complete control over that area of their lives. Unfortunately Christians have been taught that demons can't control them. Of course Satan would tell that lie. It puts Christians to sleep so that they are not on their guard to close doors that get opened. I have known many Christians who have played with ouija boards, or read horoscopes, or played games such as Dungeons and Dragons. And I doubt that there are many Christians anywhere who have not listened to rock music in their life. Even objects can be cursed, so that if you bring them into your house and use them, a door is opened. All of these and many more things open doors to demonic influence. The list is endless of the doors that are opened every day unless you virtually live as a hermit. We have to constantly be aware that we have to close those doors and pray for forgiveness for allowing those doors to be opened. We also need to bind and rebuke in the name of our Savior any spirits that might have come through those doors.

Now that the obvious doors of sin have been addressed, there are a few more dangerous doors of which Christians are completely oblivious. The first is that there are a vast number of people who call themselves Christians and think that they are heaven bound, because they are fairly good people. They are not born again and do not have an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord, so they have no protection from evil spirits, as the only protection we have comes from the blood of Christ which has been applied to our lives. These people are as open to possession as the Satan worshiper. The next kind of Christian is the one who is carnal and living in sin or walking the fence. This Christian has forfeited protection by making his relationship with Christ a non-working one. When we have sin in our lives, it hinders our prayers and our relationship, so we cannot expect God to honor any actions that we try to take against these spiritual powers. Another problem is the apostasy in the Church with all these false doctrines and New Age teachings that have infiltrated it. When we pursue lies with itching ears, we leave ourselves open to Christ's chastisement, not His protection. All of these doors will allow a Christian to be unprotected and open to the influence of evil spirits. It is imperative that Christians get their lives in order and make sure that they are living holy lives in order to fight the enemy. 

As a side note, one must be careful about trying to help people who are believed to be demon possessed. Christ told us that in casting out demons it leaves a void that must be filled, and if the person does not immediately fill it with the Holy Spirit, the demon can come back with more demons in its wake, and the person's state becomes worse than it was to begin with. Matthew 12:43-45 "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation."

As these unclean spirits are all assigned particular sins, it is helpful to look at the Scriptures that list some of the sins to see where we need to be vigilant.  1 Corinthains 6:9-10 " Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."   Galatians 5:19-21 " Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Revelation 22:14-15 " Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."

These are some of the enemies that we face, so now we need to see what armor to put on to defend ourselves. The first piece of armor is truth. Satan is the father of lies, but Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life. Much of what is being taught these days in the Church is not the truth. In fact there is one really big lie that has been around for a century that is only recently being challenged and it is one that will lead many Christians to their death, and some to the loss of their salvation. It is the pre-trib lie. We will not be gone, and those who are unprepared for what lies ahead will find themselves very unprepared. A great many other teachings such as "name it and claim it" are replacing the truth of Scripture. We cannot fight lies with lies. We can only fight lies with truth, so we have to study and learn what the Scriptures actually teach so that we can recognize the lies and not be deceived. Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." 

The next piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. We have no authority in Christ's name if our lives are filled with sin. We need to be obeying God's commands and living holy lives. Only then is there no obstacle between us and God that can cause a chink in our armor.

Our feet need to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We need to have a thorough grounding and confidence in the gospel of Christ's sacrifice, which brought peace to mankind. Not peace in the sense that the world will be at peace right now, but the peace that passes all understanding when we have a relationship with Christ, so that no matter what the battle brings, we have an assurance of the final outcome of the hope of the peace that will exist in His kingdom. We need to stand firm (hence our feet being shod) on the knowledge of the power of that gospel.

To finish covering the body with armor, we need to put on the helmet of salvation. If you are not born again, you can't even begin to put on the rest of the armor. Our head is the center which runs the rest of the body. It is the place where all of the lies and garbage of Satan should get filtered out, because we have the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth and knowledge in the Bible. By putting on a helmet, we have the ability to reject the blows and lies that Satan would throw at us.

Now that the body is covered, we need to pick up the weapons. One is defensive and one is offensive. Our defensive weapon is our shield. With a shield you can ward off the blows or darts that Satan throws at us, no matter what part of the body he tries to attack. Our faith is our shield in that if Satan can't pierce our belief in God, he cannot win against us no matter what he does. The stronger our faith, or shield, the more impenetrable our armor becomes.

The last piece of armor is the offensive weapon. It is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. God's Word is a powerful weapon against Satan. Christ quoted Scripture at Satan when He was in the desert for forty days. It has the power to stop evil in its tracks. Swinging the sword of God's Word can make demons flee. That is why God commanded us to study His Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Knowing God's Word is both an offensive and defensive weapon as mentioned above when discussing truth. As it says in Hosea, God's people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. That knowledge is knowledge of God's Word that prevents us from being deceived. Then having studied and learned how to rightly divide it to protect ourselves, we can wield it as a sword against the enemy who would try to attack us. That is why Satan has spent a lot of time getting Christians to not pick up their Bibles and study. If they are inclined to feel they should read it daily, he has them just read through it in such a way that they can state that they have read through the Bible "x" number of times per year and feel that they have done well by God. Reading is not the same as studying. You can read through the Bible hundreds of times and learn nothing. Studying is required to really learn something.

Lastly, while this is not a piece of armor, per se, prayer is a very powerful weapon. Just as God's Word can be used as protection from the enemy or to attack it, prayer can be used to ask for protection, and it can be used to ask God to take offensive measures against the enemy. It is an incredibly powerful weapon, yet it is a weapon that Christians seldom seem to use. And that makes Satan very happy. He works overtime getting us to not use this weapon, because he knows that if we used it often and regularly, he would always be losing the battle. It is a weapon that he has to get rid of. Notice that the only two offensive weapons we have, the sword or Word of God and prayer are the two things that Christians neglect. They may go to church, they may tithe, they may be involved in multiple ministries, but they tend to neglect studying the Bible and most all Christians I know will admit to not spending very much quality or quantity time in prayer.

The war has been waging since the beginning of creation, but it will reach it's pinnacle far too son. God's army is not prepared at all. As the little boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes" says, "But he hasn't got on any clothes." Christians are going to be fighting the battle wearing no battle armor and carrying no weapons, because they have been too busy enjoying life and worshiping God in a way that pleases themselves, rather than pleasing God. If they do not wake up soon, it will be too late. Unfortunately it seems that prophecy tells us that this is exactly what is going to happen.

Revelation 6:9-22 "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?  And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." Revelation 7:9, 13-14 "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;....And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?  And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."  Jesus told us "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." in Matthew 24:21. It will be the worst slaughter of God's people that has ever been since the beginning of time.

In Revelation it said that those who came out of the tribulation (by death) are a great multitude that no man could number. Too many Christians are naked and unarmed. Too many are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Too many are not obeying God's commandments.  Do not let yourself be one of them. Study to show yourself approved, and to rightly divide the word of truth. Put on the armor of God and pick up your sword and shield. and as Christ says, "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." Luke 21:36.  Revelation 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 3:10 "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."  Isaiah 3:10 "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings."

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