Book I Chapter XIV Section 1-22
In the preface to his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes “there are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Our society has fallen into the former error and as Keith Green had the Devil saying in one of his songs – “no one believes in me anymore“!
It is the subject of angels and demons that Calvin addresses in Chapter 14, inbetween chapters on the nature of God (Chapter 13) and the nature of man (Chapter 15). He splits the chapter according to the nature of elect angels and fallen angels (demons).
Although we are not told everything we would like to know about angels in the bible, we are told a number of important facts about angelic beings:
- They are not self-existant, but were created
- They were created good and the depravity of demons comes “not from nature but corruption of nature”
- They are heavenly spirits who are messengers, or intermediates for God
- They are employed in our protection
- Although they know some element of the future, they have limited knowledge
- They are not to be worshipped
- They are not indispensible – sometimes God by-passes them to speak and act directly in human affairs
- We do not know their nature, rank or number and it is vain to speculate beyond what the sciptures tell us
In terms of demons we are also told a number of facts:
- There are a great host of them
- They are led by Satan or the Devil
- They were created good but become corrupt
- They therefore have the same attributes as angels
- They are bound by the will of God
- They are allowed to wage war against the elect angels and believers
- They are real spirits
As I read this chapter I’m reminded that there is a real and violent war happening right now in the heavenly realms between these powerful beings. How it is conducted is a mystery to me, but the bible teaches that “our war is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the heavenly realms”. How do our prayers affect this battle? I do not know, but what I do know is that from the moment that Daniel set his heart to steadfastly pray and seek God and an angel was immediately dispatched in response (Daniel 10.12).
How is it that the vast majority of the (Western) world is unaware of this battle? Do we just not want to see the evidence of the war, or is it that we can only see the results of the war and not the war itself. What is the war for? Is the war related to issues of social policy, national security, cultural values, church unity, or the souls of individual people?
I think the answer is yes for all. As the kingdom of God is established on this world through the work of the Spirit in the believer, then the forces of evil respond at the individual level (our struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil), the fellowship of believers (destroying church unity, purity and effectiveness), society’s values (eroding historic Christian values) and national (anti-Christian laws and destructive leadership).
But before we become paralysed with hopelessness, let us remember that the victory is already won and that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. Let us also remember the example of Daniel as how the godly can live holy and righteous lives in a depraved gentile society. How we need those like Daniel today who will not comprimise their Christian beliefs while faithfully serving a gentile king with distinction.
“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 heavenly forces of evil in the heavenly realms…With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6.12+18
Father, you know how our prayers influence the spiritual battle. We ask for faith to have confidence that You hear us and that our prayers are effective. Help us to recognise it is on our knees that we can do the most damage. For Your glory, Amen.