What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
As in the previous verse, the figurative sense overshadows the literal. True, women and snakes are bitter enemies, but the real hostilities are spiritual - between Satan and the woman, a symbol of the church (see Galatians 4:21-31; Ephesians 5:22-32; etc.).
Some ask, "If this is so, how can Satan, who cannot reproduce, have 'seed'?" The answer, again, lies in the spiritual realm. Paul says in Galatians 3:26-27, 29:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . . And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
No matter what their racial makeup, members of God's church become Abraham's spiritual descendents because, as Jesus says, "Abraham's children . . . do the works of Abraham" (John 8:39). Jesus goes on to explain that Satan has spiritual offspring also:
But now you [those in Jesus' audience] seek to kill Me. . . . You do the deeds of your father. . . . You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. (verses 40-41, 44)
Satan's seed are those who do Satan's will in rebellion against God.
In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul writes of this enmity between seeds:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Genesis 3:15 prophesies of this spiritual war between God's people and Satan's.
"Seed" in verse 15 is collective (like "team" or "family"), but the following pronoun, "He," is singular. As Christ's body (Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22-23), we are included as participants in the "enmity." However, the subjects of the "bruising" clauses are strictly Christ and Satan, the two leading opponents in the battle.
Paul also uses "Seed" in a singular sense in writing of Christ as "Abraham's Seed" in Galatians 3:16: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ." Revelation 12:5 illustrates the connection between the woman and the Seed:
And she [the woman] bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.
Interpreting itself, the Bible shows that the singular "Seed" of the woman is indeed the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part One)
This exchange with Melchizedek, right before the Passover evening, occurred on the heels of Abram returning victorious from a fight against multiple kings and their armies. Protection and deliverance from enemies are conclusive themes in the biblical use of the title, “Most High.”
Christians should consider this in relation to their enemies. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our fight is not with the peoplearrayed against us, but with the principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness. These are the enemies who sow division within the church, who encourage offense to be given and taken, who fan the rumor mill, who stir the pot of circumstances, who work in the background to distract God's people from what truly matters.
The fiery darts of the wicked one fly and find their marks on any whose armor is deficient. These principalities often try to convince God's people that they are not good enough, that they are not worthy. They hold up sins as evidence, trying to blackmail Christians into giving up.
The Most High, though, blesses us with protection, if we ask for it. He blesses us with forgiveness, if we ask for it. Is there any righteous work God will not perform or any good thing He will not provide for His people?
Another enemy is the one we all face within: the carnal man, the old man, the flesh. This part of us will probably never completely die until we are incorruptible spirit beings, but we can hold it at bay through God's strength. All of our human efforts and setting of our wills would be useless without the Most High giving the victory.
In Romans 7, after Paul bewails the continual struggle he finds within himself, he asks, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (verse 24). He answers his own question: “I thank God—[He will deliver me] through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (verse 25). Once again, we see Christ, the Lamb, being provided as a blessing from the Most High as a means of deliverance.
The last enemy is death (I Corinthians 15:26). It will not be overcome until everything else has been overcome, and this does not happen until the resurrection from the dead. Our resurrection—our victory over death—is possible because our Captain went before us and blazed the trail (Hebrews 2:10). He is called the firstborn from the dead, showing that others will likewise rise from the dead. Thus, we see the Most High providing the life, death, and resurrection of His Son as a blessing to us so that we can follow in His footsteps, and even have the great enemy, death, delivered into our hands.
David C. Grabbe
Passover of the Most High God
2 Kings 4:18-20
In these verses we see the child going out to the field to visit his father among the reapers. Suddenly, he cries out, "My head! My head!" (verse 19). His father, seeing the seriousness of the situation, instructs his servant to carry the child to his mother, but after a few hours sleeping on her lap, the little boy dies (verse 20; the Septuagint translates this as "he slept on her knees").
Though the details are scanty, most commentators suppose the child falls victim to sunstroke, a heatstroke caused by direct exposure to the sun. Out in a field of grain, the boy must not have had any protection from the intense rays of the Mediterranean sun. Being a child, he succumbs quickly, feeling the first symptom as a massive headache before fainting.
Spiritually, this diagnosis makes sense. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:16 that a Christian can stand firm in God's way if he is properly equipped, "above all, taking the shield of faith with which [he] will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Satan throws multiple distractions, trials, and ideas at God's children, and without the strength of faith, these can quickly and easily engulf us and make our heads spin. Without protection, their intensity could take our eternal life!
The Bible frequently speaks of spiritual lethargy and apostasy in terms of disease. He says of Judah, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores" (Isaiah 1:5-6). David writes, "There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor is there any health in my bones because of my sin" (Psalm 38:3). Jesus uses this metaphor as well: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Mark 2:17). Most telling is Christ's instruction to the spiritually blind Laodicean church to "anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see" (Revelation 3:18).
Applying this biblical metaphor to the events of II Kings 4, the boy, representing the individual Christian, falls prey to prolonged exposure to Satan's world. Since the tender, inexperienced child is unprepared for the onslaught of such a powerful and intense foe, the Devil easily overcomes his resistance, and his mother can only watch her child die in her arms. How many of our former brethren have we helplessly watched "die" in the arms of the church in recent years?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part I: Reviving God's Children
In conclusion, be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless strength. Put on God's complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil's craftiness. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. (Phillips)
It is clear that we are fighting a spiritual war against enemies who are far greater in numbers, intelligence, subtlety, and power than Israel had to wage war against in terms of the Amalekites, the Moabites, and so forth. In addition, our enemy is invisible.
Paul tells us to "stand," a military term for holding on to a position. In effect, before one can launch an attack, he must first hold the position he is in. In the Phillips translation, the word "against" is used four times, probably to stress the determined hostility that our enemy has. The Christian soldier is confronting something that, as a soldier, he could not overcome except that he himself also has invisible help to draw upon as a resource.
In military strategy, perhaps one of the most basic of all rules is never to underestimate the enemy. Our struggle is not merely against human foes, yet we find, in other places, that it is a war to the death. In fact, here in Ephesians 6, this idea is hidden in the Greek. It is a war to the death against supernatural forces. The word "powers" denotes those who aspire to world control, and ancient writers used the term to designate the savior gods of pagan religions. That is who we are fighting against—demons!
Our warfare, then, has all the trappings of a literal war, but it is something that we cannot see yet happening nonetheless. The qualities that we need to fight this war are not things we have inherently. We have to be given them by God. Our relationship with God is of supreme importance as to whether we are going to have the proper resources to fight this battle. We have to go to Him to get them, and we also need to be on good terms before He gives them to us.
One of the most valuable of all of these resources is the mindset that we are involved in a war. There are times when we, as a soldier, are going to face privation and hardship. There are going to be times of pain—both physical and mental. There are going to be times of sorrow that may lead us to depression or even bitterness. There will be occasions when we will be in fear and feel a great sense of insecurity. There are times we will win our battles, but other times we will lose and thus feel guilty and maybe depressed. There are going to be times of obedience that give a feeling of exhilaration and of being in control, as well as times of disobedience when just the opposite will be the effect.
There will also be times when we will be aware that God is disciplining us—sometimes in terms of punishment for sin and at other times in training to prepare us to master what we are doing. There will be times of sacrifice and even times of death. Nevertheless, all of these are part and parcel of a soldier's life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier
Notice the number of times in these few verses that we are exhorted to stand. We must hold our ground as we fight against the pressures of Satan and this world. In verse 11, Paul tells us to "stand against" the Devil's tricks. In verse 13, he encourages us to prepare "to withstand in the evil day" and "having done all, to stand." In the next verse, he concludes, "Stand therefore" and put on the armor that God can supply.
There are two things to notice here. First, we are to stand firm. Paul does not instruct us to be agile or swift of foot. To the contrary, he advises us not to move; we are to stand on a firm foundation, as it were. We are to be securely grounded, rooted and unmoving. A person living a life of integrity is not shifty, but has solid convictions rather than preferences that vary with circumstances.
Second, Paul details the armor we need to "take up." He lists several pieces of "the whole armor of God," but "the breastplate of righteousness" deals mostly closely with integrity.
Most soldiers in Paul's day wore a breastplate, and even today, the most basic protection offered to police and soldiers is the armored or bulletproof vest. The Roman breastplate, primarily made of bronze and backed with leather, was worn around the chest, protecting the heart and other vital organs. In Paul's spiritual analogy, the breastplate guards the heart, the seat of our attitudes and emotions. In other words, if we are to stand firm in the truth, our heart must be protected!
Interestingly, the translation of the New Testament by J.B. Phillips renders "the breastplate of righteousness" as "integrity your breastplate." Paul instructs us to protect our heart, our love, and our emotions with a breastplate of integrity! As part of the equipment each Christian needs to stand firm in the spiritual war we have been recruited to fight, we must fasten integrity right across our chests to provide protection. What happens when a soldier takes off his breastplate? He opens his soft abdomen to attack; he is unprotected! Spiritually, the heart becomes vulnerable, apt to be turned away.
Building With Integrity
The helmet protects the head, the part of the body most vital to quality of life. It is the thinking part where choices and judgments are made, where attitudes reside and surge forth in conduct. It is the part that holds knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and memories of life's experiences, that determines the kind of life we lead. It is that part where Satan aims most of his fiery darts.
In this metaphor, hope is not an offensive weapon but a defense; it is a motivator to protect us from losing sight of the glorious end of God's purpose. Why? The only thing that can really defeat and destroy us is for us to give up. Jesus says in His Olivet prophecy, "But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). Hope's fruit is not just an optimistic and positive outlook but also the drive to persevere, to endure come what may, to propel one forward. Only the hopeful will do this. The hopeless will give up.
So powerful is hope's action that Paul says in Romans 8:24-25 that we are saved by it! "For we are saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." This in no way conflicts with his declaration in Ephesians 2:8 that we are "saved by grace through faith," because both faith and hope are necessary for salvation. Faith primarily operates in the present as visible evidence of things hoped for but not yet seen. Hope, though it is also operating in the present, primarily does so with reference to the future. Paul then says that, if a person has hope, he is motivated to wait patiently for what he hopes to see. The hopeful are motivated to endure whatever it takes to receive what they hope for.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope
1 Thessalonians 5:8
Paul employs a military metaphor of a sentry on duty. He writes of "the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation," soldiering gear. The alert and self-controlled sentry, vigilant for signs of the enemy, is entrusted with the safety of those within his camp. Normally, he is neither lackadaisical nor wildly excitable. His armor and weapons grant him a measure of control and ability when the need arises.
Similarly, a Christian should become neither lackadaisical nor wildly excited about the time of the end without the controlling factors of faith, hope, and love. There is nothing wrong with speculating about the time of Christ's return. Speculating is a natural result of watching and evaluating the times. However, since even Christ did not know the time of His return, we would be very arrogant to think that we might have had it revealed to us. In reality, if someone claims to know when Christ is coming, it is nothing short of blasphemy! That person is calling God a liar! Jesus Christ says nobody knows, not even the Son (Mark 13:32), and the implication is that the Father will not tell the Son until it is just about time for Him to return.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
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