Jesus’ disciples were worried about the future. They wanted to know what to look for as a sign that He was on His way back.
“For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” [see Matt 24:5-6].
Wars and rumours of wars… We don’t have to watch too much TV to see graphic footage of wars in the Middle East and Africa. Nor to hear rumours of wars between the US and Iran. Are they signs of the approaching end?
Well, Jesus said, “Not yet.” But that doesn’t stop apocalyptic cults and doomsday preppers from preparing as if the end was tomorrow. And it doesn’t stop many Christians from being fearful of the end.
But the truth is, these wars are far away from most of us. But there is a war much closer to home; one we tend not to give much thought to; one that should concern us much more than armed conflict in far-flung corners of the globe.
No, there is a war that goes on every day -and every moment of every day. And it is one that many of us are woefully unprepared for. This war is a spiritual battle; a war for our very souls.
[Eph 6:12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
This is a war between the devil, aided by his demonic army, and the people of God. And it is unrelenting. There is never a time when our enemy takes his sights off of us, or calls a truce, or gives us time to pick up our wounded. This enemy doesn’t ‘fight fair.’
So if we are to survive – even more – if we are to thrive in this war, we will need a few things to prepare us and equip us.
We find just that sort of equipping in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. For Paul reminds us there of what God has done in Christ for believers. He reminds us that God took us when we were strangers and aliens to Him, in rebellion against Him – when we were enemies of God.
And He made us alive in Christ, reconciling us to Himself, and joining us together as one family, one body, one bride for His Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ has triumphed over His enemies (now our enemies too) in the cross. He has gained the ultimate victory over sin, death and the devil, and we now share in that victory.
Which, of course, makes us a target for the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. But God has provided armour for us to wear in this battle -armour that will keep us safe, and allow us to advance against our enemy.
All of Ephesians has been leading up to this passage about the armour of God. All of Ephesians prepares us to fight this battle to the death. But we need to put on our armour first.
- Put on the belt of truth. See Eph 1:13 especially, but also 4:20-24.
- Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Again, see Eph 4:20-24.
- Put on the shoes of the gospel of peace. Check out Eph 2:13-19.
- Take up the shield of faith. Read Eph 2:8; 3:12, 17; 4:13.
- Take the helmet of salvation. Eph 1:13.
- Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
It might be worth reminding you that the word of God was all Jesus needed to defeat the devil when He was tempted? “It is written…”
When we are equipped in this way, we are able to stand in the face of the enemies onslaught. But remember, we don’t do it alone. We do it with our fellow believers, who are also in this battle. That’s why Ephesians makes so much of us being one body, one church, one flesh, one bride – in Christ.
And we have the power of the Holy Spirit also. We don’t need to fear this battle. In fact, we should push in and push back the enemy at every opportunity.
“For the gates of hell will not prevail against the church” [see Matt 16:18].