Tuesday, May 12, 2015
C. Peter Wagner
As we begin moving into the 1990s, I sense, along with many other
Christian leaders, that the Holy Spirit is saying, “Prepare for warfare.”
This decade may see the most intense spiritual warfare of recent times.
We may see some of the greatest victories for God and His Kingdom,
and we may see some of the most serious setbacks. The final outcome,
however, is not in doubt. The power of satan was definitively broken
on the cross, and it may well be that the enemy knows the end is near
and that he is waging a last ditch stand that will end at Armageddon.
This is not happening in a vacuum. Through recent decades, God
has been moving His people, step by step, through phases of preparation,
setting the agenda for the current decade. As I analyze the trends,
I believe that in 1950 God began to ripen the greatest spiritual harvest
in all of Christian history, and He put evangelism at home and in
the world high on our agendas. In 1960, God began speaking to us
about compassion for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless, and the
destitute. Social responsibility was added to the agenda. In 1970, we
saw the first seeds of what is developing now into the greatest prayer
movement in living memory. In 1980, a contemporary renewal of the
prophetic ministry began and, while this is not so widely recognized
as yet, the gift of prophecy and the office of prophet are reemerging.
Now in 1990, spiritual warfare is moving to the forefront.
To go further back in the historical context, the holiness movement
of the late 1800s and the Pentecostal movement of the early
1900s laid foundations for personal righteousness on one hand and
ministry with supernatural signs and wonders on the other. Both of
these have continued to play major roles in preparing the Church
for the 1990s. I believe we will see increasing emphasis on both holiness
and power ministries in the years to come.
Is Warfare the Best Term?
I wish we didn’t have to think about this phase of ministry as
warfare. After all, Christians are not advocates of war. Jesus is known
as the Prince of Peace.
If I personally were to choose an analogy for our struggle with
the enemy, I might want to say it is like a football game. I could
think of many very descriptive parallels between football and our
adversarial relationship with satan. This would be much more pleasant
than talking in militaristic terms.
But I am not free to do this. The Bible itself describes our fight
against the devil as warfare. And I believe the reason for this is clear.
We are in a life and death struggle. Football games are intense while
they are being played, but very few people can remember who held
the national championship two years ago. It doesn’t make that much
difference. But, unlike football, our spiritual struggle bears eternal
consequences. It can mean the difference between Heaven and hell
for millions of people. Warfare is not a game. There is a finality to
war unlike any other human activity.
God’s Kingdom Implies Tribulation
The apostle Paul says, “ . . . We must through many tribulations
enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). On several occasions he details
what some of this tribulation can be expected to look like. He
says that perilous times will come and people will arise who are lovers
of themselves, lovers of money, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,
unloving, unforgiving, brutal, and despisers of good (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
He speaks of the persecutions that he suffered, and says, “All who desire
to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions” (2 Tim. 3:12).
He desires that we “be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which
you also suffer” (2 Thess. 1:5). He was physically driven out of city after
city, and in Lystra, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing him to be dead (Acts 14:19).
Satan is referred to several times as the god of this age or the
prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4). He has usurped
God’s authority and set up his kingdom here on earth. His power is
awesome. In his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Luther
insightfully said of satan, “On earth is not his equal.”
When Jesus came, He invaded satan’s kingdom with the Kingdom
of God. Satan was not only insulted, but his power was broken
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is not taking
this invasion lying down. That is why violence has erupted both in
the Heavenlies and here on earth. That is why Jesus said, “The kingdom
of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force” (Matt.
11:12). That is why Paul said, “ . . . We must through many tribulations
enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
As we enter the Kingdom of God, we can choose one of two
postures. We can draw back and protect ourselves in a defensive
posture, or we can move forward aggressively in an offensive posture.
Those who choose the defensive will attempt to avoid spiritual
warfare. Many I know even get upset when others talk about it. I
agree with what John Dawson says in his book, Taking Our Cities for
God, “We need to lift ourselves out of a self-centered spirituality—a
mentality that says we are victims rather than warriors.”1