Part II – The Beginning of Spiritual Warfare
In the beginning, God created the earth and placed the man on it.When He placed man there, it’s clear from His command to “take dominion” that man was the intended agent in a conflict against the devil. This is further reinforced by the fact that man is made in God’s “image” or literally “idol.” An idol represents a god on earth, and man represents the Living God on earth.
Why would God engage in a proxy battle with the devil instead of direct confrontation? I believe it’s because the devil has a basic accusation against God that there is no contest between a created being like himself and an uncreated being like God—God would always win. But if there were a “fair” fight between the devil and a created being, the devil believes he would win. In order to be vindicated, God permitted a real contest between the devil and His created representative, Man. This is the drama of history – the struggle between good and evil personified.
The devil’s second accusation is that God is not actually good, but just a celestial tyrant who defines good as “his way.” Lucifer, enamored with himself, set out to show that another way was not only possible but better. When he did this, God expelled him and his followers from heaven and put them on earth, but while that cleansed the heavens, it did not vindicate the character of God. Into this situation, man is born.
Why did there have to be a Lucifer? Couldn’t God have avoided creating Him in the first place knowing this would happen, so doesn’t it ultimately all go back to God? No. The Lucifer situation of some being with free will and unforced worship choosing to doubt God I believe is and was an inevitability of allowing free will in the first place. Therefore in creating Lucifer, God gets more than victory in a personal struggle, he gets vindication over evil personified. When He defeats Satan at the end of days, He will have permanent closure on the “dark side” of free will such that in heaven, free will and worship will be able to exist eternally without risk that any more would ever fall away into rebellion. So Jesus description of evil may apply here to: “such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come”
The devil, however, wins the opening battle of the war by taking God’s representative captive, by engaging him in the same moral evil that he himself had partaken of.For all intents and purposes the war would appear to be over.Man deserves destruction now just like the devil, and God has no vindication.What the devil didn’t count on, and I think still has trouble understanding is God showing love to his creature.Rather than the instant judgment he himself had experienced and earned, man is given grace at every point. This grace begins to show on the divine stage of history that God’s character is fundamentally different than the devil’s.The devil returns evil for evil and even evil for good, but God returns good for evil.
Very slowly, this grace begins to lead to an establishment of God’s will upon the earth.And it’s slow because really God pursues it against all odds – a race of wicked people ruled by his arch enemy, God will carve out a people. In this way, God gets a vindication even greater than he would have gotten had Adam resisted the devil’s temptation and fulfilled his original mission. God will actually defeat the devil by redeeming a race of evil people who have become good, something seemingly impossible, and a permanent strike against evil.