I am finishing my read-through-the-Bible-in-2-years plan at the end of this month, and so these days, I am reading through the book of Revelation in the New Testament and the last of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament.
Yesterday in reading Revelation 20, I noted in my journal that a single angel from heaven can seize (arrest) Satan and throw him into the bottomless pit and keep him there (Rev 20:1-3). It seems so simple and matter of fact. God simply sends one of his angels who immediately finds Satan and arrests him without any extended battle or resistance. Satan is prevented from deceiving the nations any longer until his prison term is over. In Daniel 10, we read that of a battle between the angels and the demonic forces, and the prince of the kingdom of Persia is able to withstand the angels of God for 21 days (Dan 10:13). But this is not due to the difficulty that God has in controlling Satan. When Satan’s time is done, and God’s purposes through him are accomplished, it is a simple matter of just arresting him and throwing him into the bottomless pit. In the previous chapter, the beast and the false prophet have also been captured and thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20). Once the deceivers have been arrested and imprisoned, the deception stops.
That arrest and long-term imprisonment of the deceiver (and his partners in deception) has not yet happened, at least not according to my understanding of eschatology. We are currently still in the battle, and the battle is all about deception and truth. Satan can only exercise influence and create trouble by deceiving people. In Rev. 20, he is called the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil and Satan. In Rev. 12:9, the same 4 titles are used, but he is also called “the deceiver of the whole world.” Deception is his primary strategy. He has no legitimate authority, no absolute truth on which to make his claim. Everything he does is based on deception. He is by necessity, very good at deception, since he has few other tools in his toolbox.
So if Satan is such a great deceiver, it would be naive to believe that he has not used this method with me. What lies have I been believing, and so coming under the influence of the enemy of God? I am convinced that much of the conflict we experience within ourselves and with others is because we are listening to lies that are constantly seeking to invade our thinking. These thoughts are obviously not labelled as lies, and in fact, we generally don’t even recognize them as foreign ideas that our adversary has introduced into our thought stream. We have observed an event or heard a comment or read an email – and we interpret it, we tell ourselves a story – a story that is laced with lies about what was the true intent of that act or those words and what really matters from a kingdom perspective. What we didn’t realize that just happened in the telling of that story to ourselves is that our interpretation was given to us by a very skilled deceiver.
But we are not defenseless against this crafty deceiver. We have the truth (the Word of God taught to us by the Spirit of God, see 1 John 2:20-21), and the voice of truth tells us a different story. As Casting Crowns say in their song, “Voice of Truth“, we need to choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.
The voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
We need to confront the lies that we are repeatedly telling ourselves, and tell ourselves the truth from an eternal perspective. A few years ago, a never-ending cycle of negative thoughts was controlling my attitude and occupying my time – and this had been going on for months. I eventually gained victory over those lies by firmly telling myself, “Ken, you are thinking like an unbeliever! You have eliminated any room for God or faith to work in these scenarios you have painted. Stop thinking like that and tell yourself the things you really believe.” Just as I do not think that the negative thoughts were solely the product of my brain, neither do I think that the confrontation just came from me. The Holy Spirit confronted me and pointed me back to truth. I finally chose to listen to the voice of truth and my attitude changed.
This ongoing and raging battle against the deceiver’s lies makes training missionaries to walk in faithfulness and fruitfulness much more challenging. We, as trainers and mentors and coaches are by no means the only voices that are influencing our colleagues. We have competition for the attention of those we are seeking to disciple and train. We ourselves are hearing the same lies, even as we seek to help others focus on the voice of truth. How we need the Holy Spirit to reinforce and repeat the voice of truth into our stories that we tell ourselves (John 16:13-15).
To conclude, let me recommend a recent blog post by Chuck Lawless, entitled 13 Truths about Spiritual Warfare for Leaders. Lawless identifies some key truths that help us make sense of the battle we are in – as we wait and long for the arrest warrant to be issued against the deceiver.