Preparation for Kingdom Warfare
(Reading Time: 15 minutes) Everyone on earth engages in spiritual kingdom warfare, even if they don’t realize it! There are two spiritual kingdoms at war: God’s, including his angels and human followers, and Satan’s, including fallen angels, demons and human followers.
As God’s followers and members of his kingdom, we’ll experience opposition and attacks from members of Satan’s kingdom. However, there are measures we can take to prepare ourselves so we’ll respond correctly and effectively to the spiritual assaults. The opposition and attacks are increasing and will continue to get worse because the spiritual warfare will keep escalating until the Lord returns. If we don’t prepare ourselves now, it’ll be increasingly difficult to do so as the attacks increase in frequency and severity. Jesus said some of his followers will fall away in the time of trouble, persecution and testing because they have no “root”; their faith is shallow, making them spiritually vulnerable or unstable (Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13).
Cultural Christianity is no longer acceptable. Simply attending church on Sunday or saying the “blessing” over meals is ineffective without a meaningful relationship with God. These can become human practices lacking spiritual value.
Kindergarten Christianity also is no longer acceptable, in which we rely on someone else to take care of us, feed us spiritually and tell us everything we need to know. It’s time for us to grow up, feed ourselves and accept responsibility for our own spiritual development.
We need to prepare ourselves mentally with a kingdom mindset and biblical worldview to avoid being deceived by Satan’s lies. When Jesus’ disciples asked him about signs of the last days, his first response was a warning about being deceived (Matt. 24:4-5; Mark 13:5-6; Luke 21:8). We can avoid deception by learning truth from the Bible.
In this article, we’ll examine several ways we can prepare ourselves for spiritual kingdom warfare. Failure to prepare will have eternal results. Yes, God protects us and provides what we need, but that’s no excuse for carelessness, laziness or indifference. As we’ll discover, he tells us what to do to prepare ourselves so we’ll experience the results he intends.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we must “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph. 6:10, NIV). Strong in the Lord, not strong in ourselves, relying on our own strength, abilities or resources. The healthier our relationship with the Lord is, the stronger we become because of that relationship; ultimately, it’s his mighty power working in and through us.
Paul emphasized the spiritual nature of our warfare by identifying its source: the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil, not flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). Satan’s human followers are involved in his attacks, but they aren’t the enemy; they’re deceived and believe his lies, so they think what they’re doing is justified.
Paul then used the image of Roman armor to represent what he called the “armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) and the “armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). The Roman army was almost invincible due to their weaponry and tactics, so using their armor as an analogy is an especially strong image of our spiritual armor’s effectiveness. God’s army is absolutely invincible, because he is both almighty and omnipotent, and we’re to be strong in his mighty power.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph. 6:13). “Therefore”: having identified the true enemy and the nature of the conflict, we must put on or rely on God’s armor.
Armor is primarily defensive. By preparing ourselves with the armor God provides, we can remain faithful to what he says. We can withstand an assault and hold our position, refusing to surrender our principles, beliefs and purpose based on what God tells us.
Truth. The first item Paul mentioned is the “belt of truth” (Eph. 6:14). The Greek word translated “truth” in this verse appears in key verses throughout the New Testament and refers to that which is true and dependable, what conforms to reality or reflects it. Jesus came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14); who he was and everything he said and did was truthful about the reality of God and his kingdom. True worshipers will worship the Father in truth (John 4:23-24), referring to true worship instead of ritual, and worshiping God for who he actually is. Jesus said he was the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6), so he was the reality or evidence of God and his kingdom, and the mediator for everything we need. The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth” and will guide us in all the truth (John 16:13), so everything he says and does not only reflects but reveals the reality of God and his kingdom. The “belt of truth” is critically important to us, because it shows us how to prepare ourselves for spiritual kingdom warfare and appropriately use what God gives us. Like a belt, truth holds all the other pieces of armor together and makes them effective. If we don’t embrace what God says as truth and live accordingly, we’re living as if we belong in Satan’s kingdom instead of God’s, regardless of our eternal destiny.
Righteousness. After the belt of truth, Paul referred to the “breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14). God the Father made Jesus, who was sinless, become sin for us and then die, paying the penalty for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Cor. 15:3). When we put our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin, God credits our faith as righteousness and we actually become the righteousness of God (Rom. 4:3; 2 Cor. 5:21). That righteousness protects us from accusations, condemnation and whatever else threatens our spiritual well-being, just as a physical breastplate protects vital organs. Is it still possible for us to sin? Yes, but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Standing Firm. In Paul’s description of our spiritual armor, he wrote that we should stand our ground or stand firm, which naturally draws our attention to footwear. Roman soldiers wore specialized sandals with spikes on their soles that prevented them from slipping. Similarly, we’re to stand firm with our feet “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:14-15). That “gospel of peace” frees us from worry and so provides a strong, secure footing for everything we do, enabling us to “stand our ground” and not retreat from or compromise the Word of God.
Faith. Next, “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). In ancient warfare, archers would launch a volley of flaming arrows at the beginning of an attack to overwhelm the enemy with fear. In the same way, Satan often launches volleys of evil thoughts, feelings, imagination, fears and lies to overwhelm us and make us ineffective. However, our faith is a shield that not only protects us from Satan’s “flaming arrows,” it even extinguishes them just as the Romans covered their shields with wet leather to put out flaming arrows. The Roman shields were large enough to protect the soldiers, just as our shield of faith protects us from Satan’s attacks. Our faith is complete reliance and dependence on God that shields us from spiritual harm. Some resources describe spikes on the bottom of the shields the soldiers could use as anchors to help them stand firm during an attack. Other resources state the Roman soldiers closest to the enemy would position their shields side-by-side to form a wall of protection from the enemy’s arrows. The soldiers behind them would hold their shields above their heads for the same reason. This suggests the importance of standing united in faith with other believers to protect each other from attack.
Salvation. Paul then instructed us to “take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17). A helmet is protective headgear and most would consider their head as the location of their mind, so we can interpret the “helmet of salvation” as that which delivers or protects us mentally and emotionally. The Greek word translated “salvation” applies broadly to all forms of safety – deliverance or protection from loss or danger, whether spiritual, mental-emotional, or physical. Elsewhere, Paul referred to “putting on … the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thess. 5:8), where hope is a confident expectation of salvation, not wishful thinking. We also experience spiritual salvation through the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 1:77). The same Greek word applies to our physical salvation, protection or deliverance, including salvation from our enemies and from all who hate us (Luke 1:71); necessities for physical survival (Acts 27:34); or deliverance from physical harm (Phil. 1:19). God provides the insight and assurance we need, yet we need to develop a mindset, a confident expectation of salvation from whatever harms or endangers us.
Scripture. “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). The sword is the only offensive part of the armor; everything else is defensive. The Roman soldier’s sword was double-edged and short for easier handling in close combat. Scripture describes God’s word as “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12; see also Rev. 1:16). Just as the Roman sword was highly effective, God’s word also is when we receive and use it properly to speak the message of the kingdom and to combat our spiritual enemy. And to do that, we need to study it carefully and rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us into all the truth within it (John 16:13).
Prayer. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph 6:18). While this doesn’t clearly fit the metaphor of Roman armor, it relates to communication, which is essential to any strategic action such as warfare. We’re clearly engaged in spiritual kingdom warfare, as this article series describes, but our spiritual enemy attacks us only because we’re God’s children. The warfare is about God and his kingdom, not primarily about us, so it’s especially important for us to stay in communication with our Commander and King. Praying “in the Spirit” with “all kinds of prayers” can take several forms, such as letting the Holy Spirit intercede for us and through us (Rom. 8:26), and praying from our spirit in a language we don’t know (1 Cor. 14:14). As the spiritual conflict increases, praying in the Holy Spirit and with our human spirit becomes increasingly important.
As we saw earlier, putting on the full armor of God (not just one or two parts of it) enables us to take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Eph. 6:11). Schemes in this context are deceptive methods or strategies. Jesus said the devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), which means his goal is to deceive us. The word, “devil,” originates from the Hebrew word meaning “slanderer,” so “the devil’s schemes” literally include deceptive accusations and derogatory thoughts about ourselves. He lies to us about who we are, our abilities, our value, even our acceptance to God. These are the schemes we need to stand against, and putting on the “full” armor of God is essential preparation for doing so.
We’re to put on spiritual armor, “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph. 6:13). Evil has been in the world since Adam and Eve sinned, but there is a “day of evil” ahead, a period of unprecedented evil, immorality and wickedness. That may refer to a period when we individually experience a more severe spiritual assault, or a time when unprecedented evil dominates the world, or both. Either way, we’ll be able to stand our ground only if we have “done everything” to prepare for it. Notice Scripture doesn’t say to put on the armor to defeat the enemy; rather, we do it so we can stand firm against the enemy’s assault. This is a matter of our own spiritual safety and well-being.
In addition to putting on armor, there are best practices we can follow to prepare ourselves for kingdom warfare, some of which we call “spiritual disciplines.” Let’s consider a few practices which are critically important and excellent starting points.
Bible Reading. It’s essential that we read the Bible and believe what it says. Scripture is spiritual food that strengthens and nourishes our human spirits, and helps conform our thinking to God’s. Without it, we’ll continue thinking like the world and be vulnerable to Satan’s deception. Jesus said we “live … on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The word translated “live” in this verse indicates God’s word – spiritual food – supplies us with spiritual necessities and support so we will be spiritually alive. Jesus also said his words were “full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). We receive the greatest benefits from the Bible by reading it ourselves because we’re more engaged in the process than simply listening to someone else read it or talk about it. We benefit greatly by using an annual Bible reading plan and committing ourselves to reading daily. We face spiritual challenges every day due to the world we live in, so “feeding” our spirits daily is important.
Time with God. Besides reading the Bible, consider spending dedicated, private time with God daily, even if it’s just a few minutes. Honor him by meditating on who he is – the only true God, far superior to every other being – and the loving, personal relationship we have with him. This also is an excellent time for us to worship him, pray to him and pray with our spirits. The key is focusing our attention on him, which is the essence of worship.
Repentance. “Repent” (Greek verb, metanoeo): to have a change of heart and mind that abandons former ways and results in a new mindset and behavior; to change or transform one’s thinking. The New Testament addresses our need for repentance, because we need to change the way we think (Luke 17:3; Rom. 2:4). It’s astounding to realize how much we still think like the world and we likely won’t realize how much we do unless we read the Bible regularly; especially the New Testament. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for people who have different values, perspectives, beliefs and opinions to work together effectively. This is why it’s important for us to reject normal human ways, embrace God’s ways and develop a biblical worldview so we can work effectively with him.
Communication. Because we’re God’s children, his Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14). The question is whether we are aware Holy Spirit is leading us and we choose to follow. We all have urges, spontaneous thoughts and “gut feelings,” but some of these may be from the Spirit. God doesn’t give us general guidelines then abandon us to figure out life on our own. Instead, he wants us to work cooperatively with him, and this requires awareness and communication. Knowing his perspective, expectations and goals makes it easier for us to determine the source of our urges, thoughts and feelings; whether they’re from God, Satan or ourselves. And the absolute best way to gain that insight involves reading the Bible consistently, spending quality time with God, and conforming our thinking to what the Bible says.
Healthy Relationships. We need to evaluate our relationships with both believers and unbelievers, and make changes if necessary. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15). Being “yoked together” refers to a close or binding relationship, in which each person influences or affects the other. This passage clearly applies to marriage relationships, but also includes non-marital relationships such as business partnerships in which partners must work closely together to achieve shared goals. This principle even applies to associating with spiritually immature believers (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; Titus 3:10). Not because we’re holier or better than they are, but because our relationships affect us spiritually. Bad company corrupts good character and such partnerships can weaken our faith, commitment, integrity or standards (1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 22:24-25). We need to have meaningful relationships with other believers who share our foundational beliefs and values, even if we differ on lesser issues.
These are some “best practices” that help develop and mature us spiritually, so we can serve God more effectively as citizens and representatives of his kingdom on earth. A significant part of that involves actively engaging in kingdom warfare.
Our perspective is how we view something and judge its relative importance or value. The Bible says we’re not to conform to the world’s pattern or ways of doing things, which includes thinking the way the world does. Instead, we’re to be transformed by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2), which means we’re to completely change our way of thinking to something better. So our goal should be developing a biblical perspective (one based on Scripture), ultimately viewing the world and life as God sees them. Let’s consider the perspective we should develop on some important issues and how these changes will affect virtually everything we do.
Kingdom Mindset. As we’ve seen in this article series, there are two spiritual kingdoms at war with each other – God’s and Satan’s – and each of us belongs to only one of those kingdoms. There’s no middle ground! Jesus said we can’t serve two masters, referring to God and money, but that is a much broader principle (Matt. 6:24). We can’t serve both God and Satan, nor can we serve both God and ourselves. Instead, Jesus encouraged us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and assured us God then will provide everything we need (Matt. 6:33). We’re not to be self-centered and focus on getting our blessings from God or getting back what the enemy stole from us. Rather, we can and should make God’s kingdom and his righteousness – what he does and how he does it – our top priority, then allow him to take care of us as he chooses. That is a kingdom mindset.
Troubles. The normal – that is, worldly – way of thinking considers trouble, trials and tests as something to avoid at almost any cost. However, due to our relationship with God, such experiences can produce unimaginable benefits if we respond properly. Why? Because “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The Greek verb translated “works” in this verse (synergeo), has the same basic meaning as the English noun, “synergy.” So God not only uses “all things … for the good” for us – the good, the bad, the pleasant, the unbearable – he uses the combination of everything we experience to produce compounded or synergistic benefits. That should change our perspective! For example, we should consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, which in turn makes us more mature and complete (James 1:2-4). Scripture also says God comforts us in all our troubles, so we then can serve others by comforting them (2 Cor. 1:4). He even allows us to experience severe problems so “we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Cor. 1:9). And each time he intervenes in our behalf, our confidence increases that he will deliver us again (2 Cor. 1:10). Our most difficult troubles in life are light and momentary, compared with the eternal glory we’ll receive, so we should set our attention on the eternal benefits God produces for us, not the temporary problems the world creates (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17-18). This is why the apostles rejoiced when they suffered disgrace for the Name and we can, too (Acts 5:41).
Hatred. The world system, as part of Satan’s kingdom, hated Jesus when he was on earth because he belonged to God’s kingdom. The people thought they hated him because of what their religious leaders said about him, but the real source of their hatred was spiritual; Satan’s kingdom hated the earthly representative of God’s kingdom. Jesus said everyone from the world system will also hate us because of him and because we don’t belong to the world (Matt. 10:22; John 15:19). Being hated is unpleasant and can even be dangerous, because people in the world system feel justified in opposing and even harming those who don’t support their views. We can expect them to exclude or avoid us, insult us and slander us (Luke 6:22). Jesus assured us, however, we’ll receive a great reward in heaven for suffering such hatred, so we can actually rejoice and jump for joy in anticipation of receiving that reward (Luke 6:23).
Persecution. The world’s hatred of us naturally leads to persecution because we don’t belong to its system (John 15:19). As a result, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). However, Jesus said we should consider ourselves blessed when people insult, persecute and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of him. We can rejoice and be glad, because our reward in heaven is great (Matt. 5:11-12)! Persecution is not simply being ignored or criticized. The Greek verb translated “persecute” refers to being subjected to systematic harassment and attack due to one’s religious beliefs. It often takes the form of persistent ridicule or mockery, slander, silencing what we say, and even physical assault. Historically, however, persecution has motivated Christians to fast, pray and rely on God.
Martyrdom. Martyrdom was common among early believers. John was beheaded (Matt. 14:8-11); Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:59-8:1); James was killed with the sword (Acts 12:2); and before his conversion, Paul persecuted other believers to their death (Acts 22:4). Jesus taught that in the end times, his followers would “be handed over to be persecuted and put to death” and even betrayed by family members and friends (Matt. 24:8-9; Luke 21:16). The Book of Revelation provides other glimpses of martyrdom during the end times. It reveals in heaven “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained” (Rev. 6:9). The Greek word in this verse translated “slain” refers to vicious ritual slaughter, killing people violently, and includes beheading (see Rev. 20:4). Yet, Revelation also describes those who triumph over our accuser, Satan, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony: “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11). Jesus said we shouldn’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matt. 10:28). Most of us are afraid of death and cling to life. But Paul wrote he desired to “depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Phil. 1:23). Instead of clinging to life, it’s far, far better to lay down our lives voluntarily for the gospel of God’s kingdom and receive unimaginable, eternal benefits in heaven!
- Preparing ourselves for spiritual kingdom warfare involves:
taking appropriate defensive measures by putting on spiritual armor (the armor of God)
- committing ourselves to proven best practices (spiritual disciplines)
- developing a biblical perspective of the spiritual realm and life on earth.
By taking these steps, we’ll be better prepared to handle opposition and attacks from members of Satan’s kingdom. Such experiences are inevitable in life and will escalate until the Lord returns, so we’d be wise to begin preparing ourselves now. We won’t regret the effort once we begin experiencing the benefits in life.