By God’s grace and mercy we have the victory in spiritual warfare. But when and where did the war start?
When you study any war in history, it’s important to identify when and where it started. So it is with spiritual warfare. The answer may surprise you – it started in heaven! Look at Rev. 12:7-9… It tells us, “And war broke out in heaven…Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels (and the dragon was cast out of heaven). We read in Luke 10:18 that Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
The warfare that began in heaven spread to earth. In Genesis 3:1-7, we read about the Temptation and Fall of the first man and woman. Notice here Satan’s strategy: a) inject doubt (Did God really say not to eat the forbidden fruit?); b) tell an outright lie (You will not die if you eat it); and c) attack the character of God (God knows you will be like gods and he wants to deprive you of that.)
There is a line in the Book of Wisdom 2:24 that summarizes this: “But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and those who are in his possession experience it.” Death is a consequence of sin.
THE TURNING POINT: JESUS, THE GAME CHANGER
The Incarnation changed everything! It was the turning point of the war. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). As we say in the Creed, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
But the war raged on… in Matthew 2:16-18 we read about Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents. Thank God that St. Joseph obeyed the angel twice and saved Jesus twice. No wonder he is a powerful patron in spiritual warfare, and called the Terror of Demons.
Satan came after Jesus directly, to tempt him ( Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13). Jesus overcame each temptation by his resolve to obey God’s word and his refusal to be distracted away from his divine mission.
It’s interesting to me that 1 John 3:8 sums up Jesus’ mission this way: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the work of the devil.”
One of the ways that Jesus destroyed the kingdom of Satan was through casting out demons and evil spirits. There are five instances in the gospels in which Jesus cast out evil spirits from a specific individual and several other instances where demons are cast out of groups of people.
THE DECISIVE VICTORY
Jesus won the decisive victory over the devil through His Paschal Mystery. Romans 4:25 says, “…believe in him who raised from death Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” This is a summary of the basic gospel message.
Our victory all depends on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The ancient Easter Sequence puts this powerfully and beautifully: “Mors et vita duello, conflixere mirando; Dux vitae mortuus , regnat vivus.” Translated: “Death and life contending in warfare stupendous; the prince of life, though dead, reigns living. “
THE WARFARE CONTINUES
Although Jesus has defeated him, the devil continues the attack on the Church and Church members. This is depicted in Rev 12:10-17. The dragon makes war on the followers of Jesus. We can take heart from these words in 1 John 4:4, “We overcome the spirit of antichrist, “for he who is in you (us) is greater than he who is in the world.” Praise God!
So what should be our strategy as we “fight the good fight” against the enemy of our salvation? I would suggest a fourfold strategy:
1. James 4:8… “Cleanse your hands your sinners and purify your hearts.” Repent of sin; confess serious sin; break with sin; avoid sin. Sin, especially serious sin, opens the door to the enemy.
2. Speak the word of truth, the word of God (Eph 1:13; Col 1:5; James 1: 18). Defeat the lies of the devil with the truth of God’s word.
3. “Fan into flame the gifts of the Spirit” (2 Tim 1: 6-7). It says that God did not give you a spirit of timidity or cowardice. This begs the question, if God didn’t give it to you, then who do you think did?
4. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7; 1 Pt 5:6-9). Notice that James first says, “Submit yourself to God.” First Peter exhorts, ”Humble yourself before God…cast all your cares upon the Lord…be sober, be watchful for the devil roams about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
To conclude, we can say Alleluia! By the mercy of God, the victory has been won… but we are still at war. As long as we follow the Victor, victory is assured. From the Easter Sequence: Tu nobis Victor Rex, miserere. You, Jesus, the Victor King, have mercy on us!