January 2009 - Vol. 26

Apocalypse by Michael O'Brien

Do Christians Have Enemies?

Our Lord’s kingship is not of this world. Neither are his enemies.

by Steve Clark

We find ourselves in a battle
The staff of a former president of the United States used to have an “enemies list.” They wrote down the names of people who they decided were irredeemably hostile to the president. These people – politicians, journalists, academics, and others – were shunned with fear and contempt.

Do Christians have enemies?

Certainly we find ourselves in a battle. We are confronted with persecution, wickedness, false teaching, and temptation. Flesh and blood human beings are the agents for much of this evil. Are they our enemies?

I believe that the New Testament clearly teaches that they are not.

Pray and evangelize
The New Testament makes it clear that we need to take two actions: pray and evangelize. We need to pray against the spiritual enemies trying to prevent God from establishing his kingdom, and we need to evangelize the people who, wittingly or unwittingly, are on the side of Satan.

Both prayer and evangelization are necessary because the battle we are in is primarily, but not exclusively, spiritual. It involves human beings. The human factor is what makes things so messy. We often want to lash out at whomever or whatever is the cause of our trials. We usually perceive the cause as the human person, rather than Satan. We forget that people can sometimes be rescued from the enemy camp, that a persecutor can become a brother or sister in Christ.

Indeed, it is our duty to evangelize our deluded and misguided persecutors, to rescue them from ruin.

Think about St. Paul. His first dealings with Christians were as persecutor, not pastor. He was unknowingly operating under Satan’s command until the Lord delivered him. His conversion was surely the result of prayer, but it also involved the evangelistic courage of Ananias.

Prayer and evangelization are central in the spiritual battle against the kingdom of darkness – prayer against Satan and evangelism of men and women into God’s kingdom.

Evangelism is what this time is for. This age between Jesus’ ascension and his second coming as judge is a time of grace – the grace of conversion. “Do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience?” Paul asks in Romans, chapter 2. “Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” This time of grace will not last forever. Paul continues: “But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works.”

God is offering pardon to all, and he often extends it through us. He has proclaimed amnesty for those who turn themselves in and join the true king and his true kingdom. That is why we need to continue to proclaim God’s word in season and out of season, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for our persecutors.

Spiritual warfare
The spiritual battle in which we are involved is figuratively described in Revelation, chapter 12. The dragon (Satan) opposes the woman (the people of God). The woman’s male child (Jesus) is caught up into heaven and to God (the resurrection and ascension):

“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was with child, and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and 10 horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth. She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.”
A war breaks out which results in the dragon being thrown down to earth:
“Now a war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
The chapter concludes, a few verses later, with the dragon going off “to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.”

The meaning is clear. Because we are the woman’s offspring – the people of God – we are fundamentally involved in the war against Satan and the kingdom of darkness.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood
St. Paul emphasizes this in Ephesians, chapter 6: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual armies of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Note that the first thing Paul says about the war we are in is that the enemy is not flesh and blood. He recognizes our temptation to identify some human beings as our enemies. The truth, Paul insists, is that there may be human beings under Satan’s command who work against us, but the real battle is not with them.

Jesus made the same point when he addressed Pilate: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not of this world” (John 18:36).

The Lord Jesus will establish his kingdom not by calling up an army and fighting the Roman government, but by bearing witness to the truth, by speaking God’s word. That is how people will be delivered from bondage to Satan and brought into God’s kingdom.

And that is what we are fighting for – the full establishment of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and the destruction of the kingdom of darkness.

Let’s remember this when we pray and fast or speak to someone about Christ or take an unpopular but righteous stand. Our enemies are not flesh and blood. Our goal is to spread the good news of the kingdom as widely as we are able.
Steve Clark is President of the Sword of the Spirit. This article originally appeared in New Covenant Magazine, 1991.

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