There is another world that is beyond human comprehension. This other world is as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. This other world is the spirit world. It is the realm where God, Satan, angels, and demons reside. Whether you realize it or not, it is the reality that is responsible for most of the struggles you experience every day of your life. Although this other world is invisible and immeasurable, it is more real and more permanent than the visible world in which we exist.
The Bible assures us that one day everything we can see, feel, and touch will be consumed by fire. All that will remain will be our spirits, which will be given new bodies to inhabit and a new heaven and earth in which to reside for all eternity. It is difficult to believe in something that is not empirically verifiable.
In our human history, we have discovered the reality of germs, atoms, and electricity, all of which have been presented in the universe since creation. Just because man was not able to see or measure those realities for thousands of years, were they any less real? To limit reality to the visible and measurable leads to a kind of tunnel vision unnecessarily limiting our ability to see the world, and our own lives, as they really are.
War of the worlds
Although this parallel world is invisible to the naked eye, as it also is to the most powerful microscope or telescope, we do possess an instrument that allows us to peek behind the curtain. Through the lens of the Bible, we discover there is an unseen war raging between the forces of good and evil. The truth to which all these elements point is the truth that God's good creation has in fact been seized by hostile, evil cosmic forces that are seeking to destroy God's beneficent plan for the cosmos. The general assumption of both the Old Testament and New Testament is that the earth is virtually engulfed by cosmic forces of destruction, and that evil and suffering are ultimately due to this diabolical siege. God waged war against now secured the overthrow of this cosmic army: The church as the body of Christ has been called to be a decisive means by which this final overthrow is to be carried out.
The origin of God's creation was good. But why do those of us who may be worrying about surviving the next round of layoffs at work, making our mortgage payment next month, or navigating our children through adolescence need to concern ourselves with some unseen spiritual war?
When the other world invades yours
We remember September 11, 2001, when the first jet slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. George W. Bush was told about the crash, he reportedly said, "That's some bad pilot!" Many of us felt the same way. If indeed the crash had been caused by pilot error, perhaps the remedy for future accidents would have been to order remedial training for pilots, better navigation systems installed in planes, or more skilled air-traffic controllers at airports. But we soon discovered it was no accident. When another plane crashed into the second tower, we immediately knew that America was under attack from a hostile force. For the first time in more than seventy five years since we were attacked by the Japanese forces, an enemy attack on our own continent forced us to quickly formulate a strategy for defeating the new adversary. Knowing the source of a problem is crucial for developing a strategy to combat that problem. A navigational accident demands one response. A hostile strike requires a completely different strategy.
Every day our world is invaded by what are commonly thought to be random events, and we respond accordingly. Couples divorce, so we develop marriage enrichment seminars. Drug use among children increases, so we educate them about the dangers of narcotics and encourage them to "just say no." Use of pornography rises dramatically among Christians, so we organize accountability groups. Christians complain of depression and thoughts of suicide, so we medicare them with the latest drugs. What if the source of our problems is something more than random events? What if the explanation for the problems that assault us regularly is something other than "stuff happens?" What if we are under enemy attack? Would we change our strategy, or at least adapt it, to confront such a reality?
Meet your real enemy
The Bible allows us to lift the curtain on our visible existence we can see the world as it really is. Through the scripture, we discover that not only is there an unseen world, but it is a world at war. The New Testament keeps saying about the spiritual conflict. Paul says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). Notice Paul's use of the personal pronoun "our." This war is not just a spat between two cosmic forces having little to do with us. We cannot shrug out shoulders when we read about it. We do have a stake in this battle. Whether you realize it or not, you are living in the cross fire of this spiritual war. A friend of mine said, "We Christians are not living on this earth as carefree tourist. We are soldiers on raw, pagan soil. Everywhere around us the battle rages.“
Those who dismiss such words as being over the top, sensational, or simply secondary to more-important spiritual realities do so to their own detriment. The late pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us, "Not to realize that you are in a conflict means one thing only, and it is that you are so hopelessly defeated and so 'knocked out' as it were, that you do not even know it you are completely defeated by the devil. Anyone who is not aware of a fight and a conflict in a spiritual sense is in a drugged and hazardous conditions.“ Admittedly, most Christians are not aware of this intense battle in which we are engaged. Although we regularly witness the fallout of Satan's assaults all around us, broken marriages, wayward children, divided churches, inexplicable acts of violence, we fail to connect the dots and understand the source of many of our conflicts.
There is a war raging around us and within us. Every Christian is a walking battlefield. The war within our hearts as a life-and-death struggle. Deep within the hidden recesses of the human heart, a bloodless battle is being fought-a life-and-death struggle for the soul. This intense spiritual warfare is raging between God and Satan upon the invisible battlefields of our hearts. In case you think all this talk of spiritual warfare is symptomatic of some kind of spiritual paranoia, consider the numerous passages in the Bible that use the imagery of war to describe our existence on earth. The first allusion to Christ in the Bible is that of an injured warrior (Gen 3:15). The final picture of Christ in the Bible is that of a conquering soldier who returns to Earth to reclaim His kingdom (Rev 19). Between the first and second comings of Christ, His followers are descried as foot soldiers who are fighting for the establishment of His kingdom on the foreign soil of planet Earth.
Paul in 2Cor 10:4-5 says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Paul goes on, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:11-12).
Again Paul says, "But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier" (Phil 2:25). "This command I entrust to you, Timothy...that...you fight the good fight" (1Tim 1:18). "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier" (2Tim 2:3-4).
At some point, we need to decide whether or not we really believe that the biblical worldview is correct. If we are convinced the Bible is God's Word, then we must conclude that we are living in the cross fire of a great cosmic battle. Furthermore, we cannot claim neutrality in this war. To say "I'm a lover, not a fighter" is no excuse for passivity. There is no safe place on the sidelines for us to sit out the battle until the all-clear signal is sounded. Jesus made it clear there is no allowance for conscientious objectors in this war, "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Lk 11:23).