A reader has pointed me to the blog of another retired UK doctor, who evidently shares my conviction that the current unusually disordered state of the human world has an element of the demonic to it. In fact he expressed surprise that things have deteriorated less quickly than he predicted last year. Interestingly he attributes the present easing here to the role of Christians, as opposed, sadly, to the general response of denominations and church leaders both to COVID in particular, and the rise of what James Lindsay usefully labels “Identity Marxism” in general.
What is most interesting about the good doctor’s analysis is that it seems to reach an explanation beyond – or even independent of – informed opposition by Christians to the lies being told, although that certainly exists. The blogger seems to be speaking of something more existential.
I laid out my attitude to what the New Testament sometimes calls “the powers and principalities” back in 2015 here, and I developed the idea further, in the context of both world history and salvation history (essentially the same thing) in my book The Generations of Heaven and Earth. For the purposes of this essay, a key point is the fuzzy line between evils attributable to sinful human beings in the world – such as acquisitive lust for money and power, violence, knowing deceit and so on – and satanic spiritual powers pulling the strings, and following a bigger agenda, which somehow stand behind them.
Once again, regular readers will remember that, the year before COVID broke into our consciousness (and whilst it was breaking out of its cosy lab in Wuhan!) I was writing my e-book Seeing Through Smoke, in which I linked the increasing evidence of widespread deception in our world to the “spirit of antichrist,” and conceivably even to the final deception described in 2 Thessalonians 2 and elsewhere in Scripture. The congruence of key biblical prophecy and current events was a warning, I wrote, to keep our eyes open… and then we got into the COVID insanity.
The blogger with whom I introduced this piece seems to be correct in saying that in England, for the moment, the madness has eased off. He regards that as a temporary respite, and I suspect he is right, if we look at the situation across the world. The USA is struggling under increasing civil restrictions, parts of Australia are virtually police states, and even as close as Lithuania people are reporting that refusing to get a vaccine passport is pretty much as great a threat to continued existence as Revelation’s mark of the beast would be, by preventing non-bearers from buying or selling even food, or earning a living.
There is, even in England, a palpable sense of continued threat even as the visible signs of fear and restraint are receding. On the the one hand, I visited a village pub in the Midlands last week, to find no masks in sight, a relaxed crowd of locals, and – perhaps most significantly – conversations about families, work and life generally, and not about viruses, tests or vaccines.
And yet the threat of vaccine passports remains in the Government’s “Plan B,” and there are some indicators that if the waning COVID risk fails to trigger it, then exaggerated fear of common or garden flu might. Already flu vaccines are being touted as a civic duty in the mold of Pfizer boosters, to invoke guilt and division rather than the rational self-help that vaccinations ought to be. Scotland has already introduced passports, by just one vote occasioned by an “against” voter being prevented from getting to the session in time.
A parliamentary report on the pandemic today rather predictably criticises the government for failing to lock down hard and fast enough, as well as for more genuine errors, which appears to seal that useless policy into future responses instead of being consigned to the waste-bin of history as it should be.
And of course we now have plenty other crises which may easily provide excuses for the further removal of civil liberties: with supply-shortages provoking panic-buying, and an energy policy widely regarded as untenable, centred on the mirage of zero-carbon by 2035, many are predicting climate change lockdowns before long. Furthermore, if the widely-predicted worldwide economic collapse occurs, caused by governments printing trillions of dollars worth of inflationary money on top of an already unstable debt-crisis, all illusions of a return to normality will be swept away. In that case watch out for the Great Reset and serfdom, and queue up for your digital identity and universal basic income in lieu of the dignity of work.
Now to me, it has been important (and inordinately difficult) to make my fellow-Christians aware of what is going on around them in plain sight. It is important not only out of love for the brethren, but because the New Testament makes it clear that the Church – the spiritual body of elect believers rather than any institutional representation thereof – is Christ’s chosen instrument not only for the long task of evangelizing the world, but specifically as God’s weapon against Satan and his forces during the final days of this age. Unlike the blogger (as I understand his position) the stubborn resistance of individual savvy “preppers” is not what Jesus has in mind, but the corporate witness of the Church as his earthly body.
For that body, in its local manifestations, to be providing an alternative narrative to the Big Lie, living it out and offering it to the wandering sheep, is of great importance. And for the body also to be praying, from a sound understanding, against the triumph of evil is also vital. Some of that has, I’ve no doubt, been happening in this country as well as elsewhere, albeit it as yet amongst a minority of believers. And who knows how much that insightful activity here has so far held back the worst excesses of what we have seen across the rest of world?
But it might well be, I now realise more fully, that successful “spiritual warfare” has also been going on somewhat unconsciously, amongst those who, though faithful to Christ, have not yet seen through the nudges and the propaganda. Here’s what I mean.
I have long been struck by the pair of images presented in Revelation 12, the first of which (vv7-9) pictures the war between good and evil as a battle fought by angels in heaven, and the second (10ff), counterposed with it, as the defeat of Satan by the Church not by force of arms, nor cunning strategy, nor political action, but simply “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” In other words, real spiritual warfare consists, for Christians, simply of being what they are called to be in Christ – faithful unto death.
Ephesians 3 – which I’m due to preach on next week – expands that insight, by describing the salvation of the Gentiles, together with the Jews, as a “mystery” (a word meaning a secret now revealed) hidden within the Godhead since before creation. It is a mystery by which God’s wisdom is made known to the “powers and principalities in the heavenlies,” accomplishing his eternal purpose in Christ, so it is no trivial secret.
The fascinating thing (apart from the fact that few of us nowadays see such significance in the fact that Jesus saves Gentiles as well as Jews) is that the amazing spiritual insights of the first three chapters of Ephesians are used by Paul not to call Christians to take over the world in the knowledge of their predestination to sit eternally as co-heirs with Christ, nor even to astonish the world with miraculous signs and wonders as the prosperity gospellers suppose. In fact, Paul does not even emphasise “getting out there and witnessing to the lost.” Instead, the fruit of this mystery, which knocks Satan’s plans out of kilter, consists of living the practical lives of love and righteousness laid out in the last three chapters.
A. W. Tozer wrote:
The popular notion that the first obligation of the Church is to spread the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false. Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it.
He wrote this in the context of purifying the Church to make world mission effective, but it also implies that “spiritual worthiness” has value even before the word is proclaimed to the world.
I think Paul’s point in Ephesians is that the original aim of Satan was to demonstrate in the court of heaven that because mankind is incorrigible, God has no option but to destroy the race (and incidentally vindicate Satan’s accusations from the Garden of Eden onwards). Instead, for even the abandoned Gentiles to live godly lives through Christ vindicates God’s original plan for mankind (Ephesians 1), and completely disarms Satan’s accusations, rendering the devil himself liable to final judgement.
In other words, it seems to me, whatever Satan’s deceptive plans for the end times may be, they are held back in some far-from-obvious spiritual way by the very existence of a faithful Church, until the time when God himself chooses to let the devil loose to hang himself (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
So, brethren, though it may be of great value to bring what is dark into the light, to prepare our churches for tough times ahead, and so on, the primary task may be what we have been told to do all along: to teach the church to be faithful to the gospel. The rest, I suspect, will follow naturally.