God’s Family in Kingdom Warfare
(Reading time: 18 minutes) The previous articles in this series explain how the conflicts we experience in life originate with warfare between two spiritual kingdoms. Satan’s intent to replace God as the Most High resulted in his expulsion from God’s presence, along with the angels who supported him, and the beginning of continuous war between two spiritual kingdoms. In addition, Satan deceived Adam and Eve, usurped their authority over the earth God created for them and became the god of this world. Since then, human history reveals how Satan’s followers have been in conflict with God’s.
As God’s people – his family, who also are citizens of his kingdom – we represent him and need to use the resources he makes available, including spiritual authority over our domains. In this article, we’ll examine our duties as citizens of God’s kingdom and how we should respond to the spiritual beings in Satan’s kingdom, to human government and to Satan’s human followers.
God is Our Father
The Holy Spirit confirms or testifies with our spirit that we’re God’s children, which also makes us his heirs (Rom. 8:16-17). We no longer belong to this world or the sinful system that governs it; instead, we’re foreigners and don’t belong to this world system (Eph. 2:19; John 15:19). Because we’re citizens of God’s kingdom yet live on earth as foreigners, we in effect are God’s representatives or ambassadors in hostile, foreign territory. We represent God’s nature and communicate his message to people in this fallen world, that he loves them and sent his Son to die for their sin so they can be liberated from its bondage and experience the blessings of his kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20).
This perspective requires that we emphatically renounce our relationship with Satan. It also reveals that as ambassadors and kingdom representatives, we don’t rely on the foreign realm in which we live to provide for our needs. The kingdom we represent provides everything we need personally and for kingdom business. Though we have jobs to “earn a living,” we need to acknowledge our Father as the ultimate source of everything good we receive.
God has a comprehensive plan for each of us and continues to work behind the scenes in our behalf. Father worked through Jesus to defeat the world system and disarm its powers and authorities (John 16:33; Col. 2:13-15). Those beings had power and authority because humanity was dead in sin, separated from God as his enemies and unable to live righteous lives by our own efforts. That’s because we were born as followers of Satan, under the powers and authorities of his kingdom.
But Jesus followed Father’s plan to disarm the forces of Satan’s kingdom and break the devil’s power, making him ineffective (Heb. 2:14-15). He rescued us from the dominion or controlling authority of Satan’s dark kingdom (Col. 1:13). Now that we’re God’s children and kingdom citizens, Jesus and Holy Spirit intercede for us, petitioning Father in our behalf according to his will (Rom. 8:26-27). Because our relationship with God is legal, Jesus also is our advocate with the Father, legally representing us and our cause before him (1 John 2:1).
Because we’re God’s family, heirs and legal representatives of his kingdom, he gives us “insider information” on how his kingdom operates: the “knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11, NIV). Through firsthand experience, we learn the mysteries and deep truths of how our Father operates. In addition to showing us kingdom secrets, he gives us “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” which allows us to access and use kingdom authority and resources, and receive kingdom benefits (Matt. 16:19). We then can take decisive action, confident that what we bind, prohibit or restrict on earth “will be bound in heaven.” Likewise, whatever we loose, release or allow on earth “will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). Notice the grammar for “will be” is future tense, which tells us God responds to our kingdom actions on earth by producing the results from heaven.
God, the Holy Spirit, works in and through us as we cooperate with him. Holy Spirit lives in us, so we become God’s temple or dwelling (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:22). In effect, he is Father’s seal of ownership on us, not only identifying us as his people, but also guaranteeing fulfillment of all the blessings and benefits Father promises (2 Cor. 1:22, 20).
Holy Spirit communicates with us to teach us and remind us what Jesus said (John 14:26), guide us into all the truth (John 16:13), and even tell us what to say when we’re oppressed (Luke 12:11-12). He leads us and tells us what to do in everyday situations (Rom. 8:14; Luke 2:26; Acts 8:29; 11:12). He also strengthens us with power (Acts 1:8; Eph. 3:16), which allows us to overflow with hope and enables us to participate in signs and wonders (Rom. 15:13, 19). It’s humanly impossible for us to represent Father’s kingdom and do his will on earth, so Holy Spirit lives in us to do the work through us. God is and provides everything we need.
In addition, God assigns his angels to us as ministering or serving spirits (Heb. 1:14). These are the angels who remained loyal to him when Satan and his angels rebelled. They willingly do what God commands for us, from generally taking care of us to protecting us (Ps. 103:20; 91;11-12).
They might appear to us in a dream to instruct us (Matt. 1:20; 2:13). They might take physical human form, looking like ordinary people (Mark 16:5; Acts 1:10; Heb. 13:2). On rare occasions, they might appear in obviously angelic form or supernatural human form (Matt. 28:2-3; Luke 24:4). Typically, they appear to us to deliver a message, encouragement or instructions (Acts 8:26; 27:23-24), but they might also physically intervene to deliver us from harm (Acts 5:19; 12:7-11). We must realize, however, they follow God’s commands, not ours.
This describes important aspects of our position as God’s children and citizens of his kingdom, and why we can act as his representatives on earth. Now let’s consider some of our duties.
Our Duties as Kingdom Citizens
The New Testament calls Jesus the “firstborn,” which is a translation of the Greek word having the same meaning as “prototype” (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Heb. 1:6). The words “firstborn” and “prototype” both describe the first in a series, in which all in the series have similar features. Christians are God’s children and Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and it’s our Father’s intent for us to become like our elder brother (Rom. 8:29). As we’ll see, Father also expects us to continue the work Jesus began.
Before we examine some of the duties that involves, we need to identify our top priority. Jesus said we’re to “seek first” Father’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Righteousness refers to God’s integrity, that he never deviates from his pure nature and standard of behavior. His kingdom includes everything he intends and does. We’re to “seek first” his kingdom and righteousness, or make them our top priorities; not just identify and look for them, but desire them and do whatever conforms to them. If we do that, Father will give us everything we need for life (2 Pet. 1:3). We serve God and he serves us; that’s an unbeatable arrangement! In reality, it’s the basic dynamic of our covenant relationship with him.
Our priority is to conform voluntarily to whatever Father intends, says or does. This doesn’t mean we’re incapable of acting on our own. Jesus referred to himself when he said, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). This reveals not only his dependence on Father for direction and results, but also his personal, voluntary commitment to Father. He didn’t present his own teaching, come on his own authority, or speak on his own (John 7:16, 28; 12:49). He said people shouldn’t believe in him unless he did the works of his Father and that he acted in his Father’s name (John 10:37, 25). This reveals the degree of commitment to God’s kingdom and righteousness we should choose, by making them our priority as Jesus did.
Now that we understand what our priority should be, we can consider our duties as kingdom citizens. Jesus, our prototype, is the model we’re to follow, so we’ll do what he did. He defined his mission by quoting from Isaiah 61. He came to earth to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; also, to set the oppressed free and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). He also came to seek and to save the lost, break the devil’s power and destroy his work (Luke 19:10; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Because we believe in him, we’ll do the works he did.
He also said his followers were to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [he] commanded….” (Matt. 28:18-20). Notice he said we’re to make disciples, not converts. A disciple is a learner, a student or follower. We disciple people by instructing them in the ways and teachings of Jesus, helping them become his followers. Obviously, making converts is an essential first step, but the goal is to make disciples. We’re to make disciples of all nations; all ethnic groups regardless of their nation of residence. Baptizing means to dip them into water as a symbolic rite of initiation into God’s family. Teaching literally means informing and instructing them; not just about anything, but teaching them to obey everything he commanded.
Jesus said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). What does “even greater things” mean? That definitely does not mean we’ll be greater than Jesus was, because all the works are done by the same Holy Spirit. Some suggest “greater” might refer to quantity or scope, since Jesus as a human was limited geographically, in contrast to his eventual millions of followers worldwide. But Jesus revealed the key to “greater.” Those who believe in him will do even greater things than he did because he was returning to the Father. Something significant happened between the time he made that statement on earth and his return to Father in heaven. What happened? The cross.
Jesus died on the cross “so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). The Greek word translated “break the power” means to abolish, to make something inactive, inoperative or useless. With Satan’s power broken, we can expect greater victories because he’s now ineffective. Before Jesus was crucified, he called Satan the prince or ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Through his death on the cross, Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities of Satan’s kingdom, triumphed over them and made a public spectacle of them (Col. 2:15). Satan is now the “god of this age” and “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2). That means he has less power and authority, so he’s only effective with those who listen to him or belong to his kingdom, and his time of influence on earth now is limited to “this age.” As a result, Jesus’ followers will do even greater works than he did because our enemy is crippled, demoted and limited.
Jesus said that after he ascended to Father in heaven, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13–14). “In my name” means acting in his place as his legal representative, authorized to do what he would do in each situation. And we can expect even greater results than he experienced on earth. That may sound blasphemous to some, but Jesus said it would happen and made it possible through his death on the cross.
The nature of spiritual warfare changed at the cross. It’s not a battlefield where we must try to “defeat” the enemy, because Jesus already did that. Our duty as kingdom citizens is to legally and authoritatively enforce Jesus’ victory by doing Father’s work for his glory.
Our Response to Spiritual Beings in Satan’s Kingdom
As we saw in a previous article, “Our Domains Under Spiritual Attack,” we should first submit ourselves to God, then resist the devil and he’ll flee from us. We need to support God’s kingdom values and principles, which includes opposing Satan’s kingdom and works. And we need to be on guard against Satan’s lies, choosing instead to believe only what God says, rejecting any thoughts or feelings incompatible with his nature.
We can use our spiritual authority to protect our domain from evil spiritual beings or forces, and physical threats such as storms, illness or other danger. We need to remind ourselves our duty is to do Father’s work and enforce Jesus’ victory, not to serve ourselves. We’re acting as representatives of God’s kingdom, not our own or Satan’s, so our behavior needs to reflect Father’s nature, not ours or the devil’s. Consider using a version of this “Spiritual Decree” to address evil spiritual beings.
It’s foolish and completely unnecessary to rely on our own abilities when confronting the dark kingdom. Jesus defeated the enemy, God’s kingdom is superior to Satan’s in every respect, and we’re acting as God’s agents, backed by his authority and led by his Holy Spirit. As we act authoritatively to do Father’s work, it’s important to state clearly and specifically what the dark spirits must do. Be as specific as possible, because general statements have little effect. This is a legal matter and legal actions must be specific. We can repeat what we say as needed; evil spirits are stubborn, so perseverance is necessary. Submit to God, resist the devil, then expect him to leave quickly, and God will crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20).
We must be careful not to exceed our authority. For example, Michael the archangel, one of the highest ranking angels, didn’t dare condemn Satan for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9). “Condemn” means to pronounce judgment, acting as a judge to seal someone’s fate. God is the Judge, the only one who legally pronounces penalty for sin; we’re not qualified to do so. A rebuke is a forceful warning with an implied threat. By saying, “The Lord rebuke you,” Michael left the threat of judgment up to God, as he should. Likewise, it’s inappropriate for us to threaten anyone with judgment, including a spiritual being.
We also would exceed our spiritual authority if we try to use it against people. As we become aware of evil spiritual influence or attack, we should speak to the spirits involved. In general, we should speak where no human can hear us or among other believers who understand. Speak publicly only if we know beyond doubt we should do so, as Jesus did when commanding an evil spirit to come out of someone (Mark 1:25; 9:25), or pronouncing a miraculous act such as healing (Mark 2:10-11; 3:5).
As always, we represent God and his kingdom, so we need to do his will his way. The spiritual war isn’t about us! Rather, it’s about Satan’s hatred for anyone and anything associated with God and his eternal, all-powerful, invincible kingdom. We’re on the winning side, because Jesus already defeated the enemy. Our job is to enforce the victory against spiritual beings in Satan’s kingdom.
Our Response to Human Government
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). We definitely will disagree with our human governmental leaders at times, and some will deliberately oppress us because we stand for biblical principles. But this verse reveals the real source of our conflicts, assuming we’re representing and honoring God correctly. Not flesh and blood, but spiritual beings and forces in the heavenly realms. That is, the conflict originates in the spiritual realm and expresses itself on earth through people, including human governments. Yes, we’ll struggle when humans oppress or persecute us, but they are not the enemy.
God instituted human government and “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good … [Rulers] are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). That is God’s design and intent for human government. We can and should support and vote for candidates who embrace Judeo-Christian values. We can and should communicate with leaders who hold public office, treating them with respect (1 Pet. 2:17), avoiding hateful, threatening, derogatory or abusive language. We’re to live honorably in every way, including the way we treat government leaders (Heb. 13:18). We must respect the office they hold, even if we strongly disagree with their policies or ideology. We can and should affirm the good they do but oppose the evil.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Notice our petitions, prayers and intercession is to be for them, not against them. Why? So we may live peaceful and quiet lives, but more importantly because it pleases God, who wants everyone to be saved. We’re to use our spiritual authority against the spiritual forces motivating evil government actions, but pray for the humans doing it. Remember who the enemy is.
We must take a stand for God’s kingdom and its expression on earth, and face any opposition with courage, refusing to move from our God-honoring position (Eph. 6:13-14). We must refuse to comprise God’s kingdom and righteousness, be vocal, even take legal action or defend ourselves in court.
Some of Jesus’ apostles were arrested, jailed and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish authority of that time, where the high priest ordered them to stop teaching in Jesus’ name. The apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). Later, people stirred up opposition to Stephen, so they seized him and took him before the Sanhedrin, where he make a lengthy response to the charges against him (Acts 6:9, 12; 7:1-53). Paul and Barnabas encountered strong opposition in one of the cities where they preached the gospel. Their response? They “spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord” (Acts 14:3). They stood their ground and refused to disobey Jesus’ command to preach the gospel.
We must refuse to be timid or passive. It’s time for us to stand up for righteousness and make our voices heard. As God’s family and citizens of his kingdom, we have the spiritual authority to oppose evil and spread the good news. It’s clear, however, rulers can abuse their authority and mistreat us because our righteous beliefs conflict with their unrighteous ones. In that case, we can resort to civil disobedience if necessary (See the article, “A Biblical Perspective of Civil Disobedience,” or the book, “A Biblical Perspective of Self-Defense and Civil Disobedience.”)
Our Response to Satan’s Human Followers
It’s essential that we distinguish between Satan’s spiritual followers who rebelled with him and his earthly followers who were born in sin and believe his lies, and treat them differently. We should use our spiritual authority against evil spiritual beings and forces, standing our ground and expecting God’s will to be done. However, we must respond differently to Satan’s human followers. First, they’re created in God’s image though they’re aligned with his enemy, so we dishonor him if we dishonor the ones he created. We’re to treat all people with respect (1 Pet. 2:17). Second, God uses our interaction with them to draw them to himself, but also uses them to purify, train and strengthen us. In general, we need to be wise in the way we act toward outsiders, people who aren’t citizens of God’s kingdom (Col. 4:5).
Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Similarly, as God’s representatives, we must portray his nature to a world that desperately needs him. He created all of humanity in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). Sin obviously corrupted humanity in every conceivable way, but God progressively restores his image and likeness in his children, making us increasingly like our elder brother Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Our role in that transformation is to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” and “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
It should be no surprise that Satan’s human followers strongly oppose us or what we stand for; we belong to God, with whom Satan is at war. As a result, we’ll be the recipients of insults (1 Pet. 4:14), hatred (Luke 21:17), suffering (Rom. 8:18), troubles (2 Cor. 4:17), trials (2 Pet. 2:9), persecution (John 15:20) and maybe even death (Matt. 24:9). However, because we’re the only image and likeness of God people will see in life, godly traits must govern our treatment of all people, including those who sin against us.
Let’s consider some specifics. The following list may seem overwhelming, so it might be helpful to focus on one trait until it develops sufficiently, beginning with humility.
Humility. This trait should be a priority, because it affects everything we do, including how we interact with unbelievers. We’re to clothe ourselves with it, or consciously and sincerely put it on (Col. 3:12). For greater insight to this valuable trait, see “Humility First.”
Love. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44). This love isn’t a mushy feeling. Rather, this form of love – described by the Greek noun agape – is an attitude that elevates other people above ourselves and their needs above our own, and treats them well even at great personal expense. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-6). Love also a fruit of the Spirit, which means it’s a trait Holy Spirit develops in our character or human spirit (Gal. 5:22). God loved the world so deeply and completely that he sent his Son to die for our sin (John 3:16). In the same manner, we’re to love (agape) people, even those most would consider our enemies (Luke 6:27).
Forgiveness. Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14). Father sent his Son to die for the world’s sin and when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice and lordship, Father forgives our sin. Because he forgives all our sin, he expects us to forgive the comparatively minor sin others commit against us. As Jesus said, if we choose not to forgive, Father won’t forgive us. We should keep that in mind when people sin against us.
Gentleness. We’re to let our gentleness “be evident to all” (Phil. 4:5). Biblical gentleness expresses itself in a mild and even-tempered manner, even in hostile situations. It’s another fruit of the Spirit we’re to “put on,” indicating it’s something we need to consciously develop because it likely isn’t natural (Gal. 5:22-23; Col. 3:12).
Goodness. We’re to “do good to all people,” including those who hate us (Gal. 6:10; Luke 6:27). Another fruit of the Spirit, it motivates us to treat others as we would have them treat us (Gal. 5:22; Luke 6:31). Imagine the impact it would have on someone who hates us if we respond by doing something good for them.
Kindness. This is another fruit of the Spirit we’re to put on (Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12). Biblical kindness is considerate, benevolent and gracious. When someone slanders us by speaking abusively about us or trying to damage our reputation, we should answer kindly and not engage in verbal counterattacks (1 Cor. 4:13; 2 Tim. 2:24).
Patience. It should be obvious by now that most of these traits are more effective when combined with patience. Still another fruit of the Spirit we’re to put on (Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12), it enables us to withstand abusive, hostile or vicious attacks. It’s an invaluable trait to begin developing as the spiritual conflict escalates.
Peace. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). Those who adamantly oppose our godly convictions want us to believe we can have peace by compromising our principles or silencing ourselves. But biblical peace is an inner, spiritual trait, not an external condition. We can let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, regardless of the tumult surrounding us (Col. 3:15).
We’re to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-14), not fire and brimstone. Salt preserves food and makes it more flavorful and enjoyable. Light exposes good and evil, truth and lies, and it shows the way to go. As God’s representatives on earth, we bear his image, reveal his nature, and spread the good news about his love and forgiveness. As salt and light, we’re to be positive influences in the world, which includes being model citizens of our nations, actively opposing evil and promoting good; working to make the world a better place.
Jesus’ own words: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:10-12).
As we’ve seen in this series, interpersonal conflicts – conflicts, not differences of opinion – have a spiritual origin, not psychological. We should be prepared to explain in a respectful manner why we’re hopeful (1 Pet. 3:15). However, we can’t reason effectively with people who’ve chosen Satan’s ways unless Holy Spirit supernaturally breaks down their spiritual barriers. Otherwise, they’re spiritually blinded and deceived because they believe Satan, the father of lies (2 Cor. 4:4; John 8:44). People only know what they observe, hear or choose to believe. Because they’re deceived, they think their beliefs and actions are justified and they act with confidence and conviction. If they knew spiritual reality, they might think and act differently, but they don’t.
Unlike most followers of Satan, we know spiritual reality: there are two spiritual kingdoms at war and we humans are in the middle of it. As members of God’s family, we have the authority, responsibility and resources we need to stand our ground. We can face the enemy’s onslaught and courageously refuse to compromise.
Timidity and passivity are not godly traits. Failure to resist evil with words and actions condones it. As members of God’s family and citizens of his kingdom, we must lovingly and mercifully oppose those who promote or embrace evil.
Satan and his spiritual hordes are our enemies, his human followers are not. They’re brainwashed by his propaganda and need our help. It’s our privilege to do our heavenly Father’s work and offer them what he freely gave us.
As God’s family and citizens of his kingdom, we represent him and do his works on earth as Jesus did. We will do even greater works because he defeated our enemy, who now is crippled, demoted and limited. We must distinguish between Satan’s spiritual followers who rebelled with him, and his earthly followers who were born in sin and believe his lies.