What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
In Genesis 15:8-17, Abraham asks for evidence that God will follow through. He receives a command to prepare a sacrifice and an additional prophecy concerning his family's future. Genesis 15:12 shows that he made the sacrifice during the daylight part of the 14th. By this sacrifice, God ratifies His promise to Abraham.
Many have wondered why Christ was sacrificed during the daylight portion of the 14th, in the afternoon, rather than at its beginning and more in alignment with the Passover service in the twilight portion of the 14th. This reveals why. Even as He ratified His covenant of promise with Abraham by this sacrifice, Christ's sacrifice provides the ratification of the New Covenant. Christ's sacrifice, by God's decree, had to align with the ratification of His covenant of promise with Abraham. In Christ's sacrifice, death, and burial, God's draws together in one event the main elements of both the covenant of promise with Abraham and the Passover.
Notice especially how close this chronological alignment is. Verse 12 specifically states, "When the sun was going down." Thus, this sacrifice, like Christ's, took place in the afternoon. In the late afternoon, a great darkness and horror fell upon Abraham, allowing him to experience a small taste of the horror Christ faced in His crucifixion when God forsook Him. In addition, Moses inserts a detail that is not so readily apparent at Christ's crucifixion: that Abraham had to beat off some vultures. Vile birds are a Bible symbol of demons. This detail suggests that a great spiritual battle occurred, during which the demons taunted and persecuted Christ to induce Him to give up. He had to fight them off alone because the Father had forsaken Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
What does "greatpeace" mean? "Peace" automatically suggests an absence of war, no battling, no fighting. Under temptation, a battle always rages, even if we are winning. In such a case, no peace exists, much less "great peace." As an illustration, initially, the U.S. in Iraq won every battle handily, but it was still war. The spiritual war we fight is caused by temptation from Satan, our human nature, and the world. Remove temptation, and war stops. What remains is great peace.
How do we achieve not just peace, but "great peace"? The last half of Psalm 119:165 tells us: "nothing causes them to stumble." What causes a human to stumble? Temptation! This means that we have to be sheltered from it. The American Standard Version renders this phrase, "they have no occasion of stumbling," Young's Literal Translation puts it as "they have no stumbling-block," and the Rotherham's Emphasized Bible reads, "nothing to make them stumble." All of these renderings mean that not even the opportunity to stumble is presented. Other scriptures mention protection from stumbling:
Psalm 121:3 (NLT): He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.
I John 2:10: He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
Jude 24: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. . . .
God through the gift of His Holy Spirit is the only power in the universe that can accomplish such a feat. If God does not place that shield around us, we have no hope of success. Alone, we are powerless in the face of temptation. We overcome it not by our strength, but by God's power, the shield of faith (I John 5:4) given to us as His gift (Ephesians 2:8). It is our only sure defense.
To acknowledge God and to pray always are to be in alignment with one of Christ's most basic principles, a principle found in Matthew 6:33—to "seek first the kingdom of God" in all things. Praying always is stepping out in faith, believing that if we seek God first, He will add all the things we need (Philippians 4:19), including the strength to overcome, to finish this journey, and to enter His Kingdom.
When faced with the myriad decisions we have to make during each day, if we are not acknowledging God's presence, we have placed ourselves in the position of fighting our battles on our own. Israel made the same mistake, choosing the hard road in their fight, one littered with bodies. We probably all know of some bodies that now litter the spiritual road we have walked. We veterans carry scars from the battles we have lost.
Our battles to overcome are more like skirmishes than battles. In fact, we experience our most severe temptations and trials in everyday events like eating, conducting business affairs, or relating to others in the family or community. Luke 16:10 acknowledges this: "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in whatis least is unjust also in much."
What better way to win those little skirmishes than to have an invincible Champion, God, in the van of the battle? Because these skirmishes are in the myriad of details we deal with every day, only striving to pray always during the day gives us that unyielding first line of defense.
Our deceitful human nature has in its arsenal countless ways, reasons, and excuses to avoid confronting the real issue of life—overcoming and allowing God to form and shape us into His image. Just bringing God into the picture unleashes forces that will not only help us to overcome, but will also protect us from the pitfalls that litter our path (Psalm 91:12). It is this striving to pray always that a Laodicean naturally avoids because he feels no need.
Praying Always (Part Six)
The Kingdom of God will be the recipient of slings and arrows and wars and temptations, and its own people will need to be violent in return. He means "forceful." It will take a titanic struggle to enter it because so many things are acting against us. Jesus warns us it will not be easy. We are going to have to work vigorously and "violently" at times, to force ourselves to do what is right, because the Kingdom of God is now under siege in so many ways. Therefore, we have to fight as warriors in battle and violently engage the enemy.
From John 17:11-18, we know that the Kingdom functions in the world, and Jesus is not going to take us out of it. But He asks His Father to give us His protection from the Evil One so that we can at least have that added strength. We must constantly deal with the world, human nature, and the Evil One himself, as well as his demons.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 2): Leaven
Acts 20:28 and John 3:16-17 show that the pruchase price for the field, the world, was His own blood—His all. So what is the lesson in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure? Our Lord and Savior, finding the treasure of His elect in the world, conceals and protects them against all the depredations of the enemy. Our being hidden is the protection part. He, with His own life's blood, redeemed us with joy.
This should give us great confidence in our spiritual battles. The greatest battle has already been won, and that is not all. Since we are His treasure, and since He hides and protects us, sanctifying us through His truth—and do not forget that He prayed for our protection from the evil one—we have it better than it seems. We have more going for us than we might think, despite the spiritual battles we still have to fight.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 3): Hidden Treasure
In our day, "watch" has lost much of its original power. Is there anything more passive than watching television? We live in a spectator nation. We watch movies, news, the markets, and sporting events. Watching has become an activity that puts us on the sidelines and not on the field of battle, an idea foreign to the original meaning of the word. At the time of the King James translators, "watch" emphasized the carefulness, attention, and vigilance in the way a soldier kept alert for any sign of enemy movement.
A concept that has more meaning to us today can be found in the word "overcome." This word implies that we watch ourselves to spot our problems, do battle with them, and conquer them. "Overcome" better communicates the battle we have joined (Romans 12:21; I John 5:4-5; Revelation 21:7).
If we watch ourselves spiritually, we are not just watching our human nature, but doing battle with it. We are not just watching the world and its influences as they bombard us, but fighting against them. We are not just watching Satan's devices as they toy with us, but defending ourselves against them. In other words, "watch" as originally intended covers the entire process of overcoming that is our calling. We are to be identifying the problems, engaging them, and putting them to flight (Revelation 3:2; 16:15; I Corinthians 16:13; I Thessalonians 5:6-8).
Therefore, "overcome," more clearly than "watch," communicates to someone living today what Luke 21:36 says we should be doing as we near the end of the age. The premier end-time book, Revelation, repeatedly emphasizes that overcoming is "job one" for us (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 12:11; 21:7).
Luke 21:36 suggests that those who alertly overcome and pray always are those that may be counted worthy to escape and stand before Christ in God's Kingdom. In verse 36, Christ ties together all He has said throughout the chapter. If we do not neglect the spiritual (verses 34-35), and instead watch and pray always, we can "escape all these things" (verses 7-33) and enter God's Kingdom.
Luke 21 is a chapter about the end time, and in verse 36, we have spiritual instruction directly from Jesus to anyone living during that time. He is telling us how to escape the final effects of the turmoil that is ahead and to enter God's Kingdom. This, therefore, becomes an extremely powerful verse in helping us to understand exactly what we should be concentrating on at this time. It is a roadmap to safety and salvation.
What if someone told us where to find two tickets, which if purchased by us, would grant us escape from the end-time tumult and entrance into God's Kingdom? What price would we pay? Two such "tickets" exist, and we have the wherewithal to purchase them. Luke 21:36 shows us the two tickets. One is the "watch/overcome" ticket and the other is the "pray always" ticket. If we choose to be lackadaisical about overcoming or prayer, are missing either ticket, or have only a partial ticket, we will likely be required to "buy" those same two tickets at a very dear price in the Tribulation.
The Bible states quite a few "formulas" for producing certain things. We need to understand that none of these formulas stands on its own. They fit into a whole that includes other factors supplied from other instruction found elsewhere in Scripture. However, there are formulas, and then, there are formulas. Those that Jesus gives tend to be "trunk of the tree" formulas. They must be our base, and then we can stack other instruction on them.
These "trunk of the tree" formulas not only form a foundation that supports everything else, but they also give direction and boundaries for what and how we can add to them. Once a builder lays a foundation for a small, three-bedroom house, it automatically limits what he can and cannot construct on it. Consequently, we cannot build a beautiful spiritual temple on the wrong foundation. Luke 21:36 is an integral part of the right foundation for those of us living at the end.
As we have seen, in Luke 21:36, Christ reveals that the roles of watching—or paying careful attention to overcoming—and praying always are vital to our Christian lives at this time.
Praying Always (Part One)
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
We are not carrying on a physical war, but the battle for us is no less real. We need to understand that we are not fighting for material success, earthly power, or social prestige. We are not even trying to make our enemies look bad. The real issue is the victory or defeat of God's purpose for our lives.
We must realize that we have merciless, implacable, and powerful spiritual enemies, so that such things as human cleverness, ingenuity, organizing ability, eloquent arguments, charm, or forcefulness of personality are simply not the answer. Those things may impress men, but they in no way impress demons. Those things are the weapons of carnality, of flesh.
The good news is that the Captain of our salvation has already defeated their Goliath. Their leader is defeated, beaten, and the Victor lives in us, lending us His strength and insight.
Paul indicates that the enemy invades our minds, our imaginations. He does this through opinions, convictions, and feelings that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Paul uses the phrase, "casting down arguments," in verse 5. Some Bibles render arguments as "reasoning," "convictions," or "opinions." Even "feelings" would be appropriate to the thought. Whatever the application, these arguments exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.
These satanic thoughts or attitudes are designed to affect or alter first our minds and then our behaviors. Satan did this to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). These wrong reasonings are the key to understanding what Satan is trying to accomplish.
God created humans with the ability to reason, but what line of reason should a Christian follow? We can grasp what not to follow by considering Paul's phrase, "against the knowledge of God." In other words, the thoughts that invade our mind, which come from this evil, wicked, subtle, deceitful spiritual leader, will lead us to exalt or prioritize our reasoning above God's knowledge.
This knowledge is not primarily about God, but the knowledge He has revealed. Knowledge about God is certainly included, but what Satan desires is for us to exalt our ideas over godly and true knowledge and understanding.
Why would he want to do this? Because we have a relationship with a Person—a Being with personality, character, and a wonderful, wholesome way of life that produces every good thing. Satan tries to destroy that relationship by getting us to doubt either the Person and His goodness or the rightness and goodness of His promises and way of life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)
2 Corinthians 10:5-6
Our battle is to bring down every deceptive argument and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. Once we are sure of your obedience we are ready to punish every disobedience. (Phillips)
Paul makes it very clear that we are involved in a war! This does not mean that this warfare will always be going on at the same level of intensity. In warfare between nations and states, there are lulls in the battle as one side or the other prepares to make their next push. There are short periods during war in which a great number of people die or are injured, which are usually followed by longer periods when the two sides regather their strength, regroup, and get ready for the next attack.
It will be much the same way in the warfare we are involved in. I am here to tell you, please do not let down when it appears as if nothing is happening.Those very dangerous periods of time—the easy times, the good times, the affluent times.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier
1 Peter 4:1-2
We are commanded to arm ourselves with the same mindset and attitude of Christ. He had the entire host of heaven at His disposal yet never lifted a finger in His own defense! He threw the moneychangers out of the Temple, not because they were threatening Him, but because they were desecrating His Father's house. When it came to His own security, He always chose to remove Himself from the situation—until His earthly ministry was over, when He humbly submitted to the most unfair treatment that has ever been imposed on a human being.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." In the next several verses, He shows that we are involved in a war, one in which no sword, gun, or any other human weapon can help us. Our battles are spiritual battles, and even when those battles involve human instruments, our articles of defense are still spiritual: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and of course, the "sword" of the Spirit—the Word of God (verses 14-17). This is the sword that we should carry with us constantly and look to for defense.
David C. Grabbe
Living By the Sword
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