THE COSMIC CONFLICT
“Our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.”
This is how J. B. Phillips translates Ephesians 6:12 and it brings a chill to the heart while at the same time it raises questions and offers explanations few of us have been willing to face.
Limited in outlook, bound by tradition and convention, and more or less trained to believe only what we can demonstrate on the drawing board or in the test tube, we blithely go our ways, oblivious to the scriptural affirmations having to do with the forces of evil by which we are surrounded.
We live in a time when the personality of Satan is questioned by some people, despite the evidences of his malignant influence on every hand. Strange that some should doubt the reality of the enemy of souls—or is it strange? Has he not succeeded in blinding the minds of many, that they should neither recognize him nor turn from him to the marvelous light of the Gospel?
For evidence of his evil presence one has but to pick up the morning’s newspaper to read of the lives he has marred. More than that, the indifference, unconcern, self-satisfaction, and inertia of many “good” people are more than mere personality deficiencies, for often they reflect the deadening influence of the enemy of souls in the hearts and on the minds of unsuspecting victims.
The cosmic conflict is that unending warfare between the forces of righteousness and the forces of evil, between God and his angels of light and Satan and his minions of darkness.
This is not fanciful thinking, if the biblical record is true, or if the evidences of our own day are to be interpreted correctly.
That Satan should intensify his warfare at times should be expected. That he will increase his efforts near the end of the age is one legitimate interpretation of Revelation 12:12: “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
Of this we can be sure: Satan and his hosts are exceedingly active today, as we can see on every hand.
The comfort and hope of the Christian and the immediate hope of the world rests on the fact that this is not a one-sided engagement but a conflict against God and all the forces of righteousness which proceed from him.
It is strange that in spite of the wealth of references in the Bible to Satan, his hosts, and his work, we are often inclined to pass over the entire matter as something of a joke. Yet because it is the very antithesis of a joking matter it makes our indifference or ignorance the more serious.
Again and again our Lord refers to Satan and his works, to his positions as the “prince of this world,” and the “prince of devils.”
That Satan could with assurance offer the power and glory of this world to the Lord of Glory gives him a status we reject at our own peril. Paul refers to him as the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” which shows something of the universality of his operations.
We can tell from both history and present conditions that this cosmic conflict is being waged in every area of life and in every part of the world. It is spiritual and very real, being waged at the personal, the national, and the international levels.
Satan, we are told, goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is described as our “adversary,” an enemy against whom we must always be vigilant.
The Apostle Paul was acutely aware of this cosmic conflict. He suffered from the attacks and hindrances of this adversary on every hand. Writing to the Corinthian Christians he warns against the Satanic intrusion of bitterness and misunderstanding between Christians, and added: “For we are not ignorant of his devices.”
The enemy of souls is cunning to a degree none of us can imagine. He may appear as an angel of light and again with all the sinister trappings of a fiend of hell. He will tempt Christians by a simulated success in their work, by the injection of pride thereby rendering them useless in the work of the Lord, and by seemingly innocent diversions from legitimate work—in any one of a thousand ways and usually at our weakest or least expected point.
Those who preach the Gospel find themselves caught up in this battle for the souls of men, because the cosmic conflict centers at this point. As the seed of the Word is sown Satan comes along to snatch it out of the hearts of men. At the same time he sows the tares of unbelief and indifference so that the wheat of God’s redeemed ones is forced to grow along with the tares of the children of Satan.
Satan is the master propagandist. He is a liar and the father of lies. As the conflict rages, growing in tempo and working to a climax, the lying propaganda of the devil is to be found on every hand. Only by the Spirit of God can men see with discernment. Only by His help can they be delivered from the blandishments and the false concepts and philosophies which are a part of this cosmic warfare.
At no point is this cosmic conflict more clearly seen than in the satanic cleverness, persistence, and power of the growing Communist influence. Playing on legitimate longings engendered by human need, taking advantage of the animosities and hatreds of nations and races, exploiting all of the facets of the humanistic philosophy, appealing to the materialistic desires of men everywhere, communism offers the answer to all of these aspirations with but one proviso, “Bow down and worship me.”
Once man capitulates to a world without God he may indeed secure certain temporary advantages, but he does so at the price of his soul.
One has but to study the methods of this monstrous evil to see in it the works of Satan himself. Gladly will he give to the world the power and the glory which are his, provided the one fatal compromise is made. Gladly will he make man’s lot in this world more bearable—if materialism will satisfy—if he can keep them for eternity.
Nevertheless, this cosmic conflict, in which all of the world finds itself involved, has a sure end. Christ will surely triumph. Satan will surely be vanquished.
The question for each of us is this: on whose side are we today? By whose strength are we living? Who is the Captain of our salvation? Are we the sons of God through Christ’s redemptive work, or, are we the children of the devil by failure to receive the Giver of Life?
L. NELSON BELL
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