If you’re a Christian, you’ll know that life is not just drifting. There are things to know, decisions to make and battles to fight. In the life we have been given, we will need to be strong.
Paul writes about this at the end of his letter to the Ephesians (6:10-18). He has described God bringing us to himself, sending his Son to make it happen, and told us how we are to live. Now, we need to take up the strength he will give us through Jesus Christ.
And he says we will need to stand in an ‘evil day’. There’s a battle on—something particularly difficult and threatening.
When anything goes wrong, our immediate instinct is to blame someone, protect ourselves or attack someone. But if we do this, we are not seeing what’s really going on.
In the real world—as God reveals it to us, our battle is not with people we can see. It’s against ‘powers of this dark world’—headed up by the devil or Satan. And although they are powers of this world, they are operating in ‘the heavenly realms’.
We need to know this space well, because it is where our struggles are happening.
It sounds strange to hear of evil in heavenly places! But it will help if we notice the other things that are happening in this area.
It’s here God blesses us with the full blessing of being in Christ. It’s here we find out we are chosen, called sons and daughters of God, forgiven through Christ’s death, and told many things about the future we will share (1:3-10). It’s the space where we know and relate to him.
Then, it’s the place where Christ is reigning—seated beside God (1:20). In other words, Christ is totally in control of the place where we relate to God. We should be enormously grateful for this.
But there’s more. We have been raised up from our spiritual death to sit with Christ in God’s presence—in ‘heavenly places’ (2:6). It’s the space where we enjoy his friendship.
But then, this space is also where God displays the greatness of his work in us for others to see—the rulers and authorities in heavenly places (3:10). Who are these other creatures inhabiting the space we share with God?
Our passage now makes this clear. They are ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (6:12).
So ‘heavenly places’ is not heaven. Satan can’t be there. And we are not in heaven yet. But we are in these heavenly realms and so is Satan. In other words, he and his hordes come to mess with our relationship with God.
It turns out that ‘the heavenlies’ are the arena we are living in now! It’s the way things are. The real battle in life is about relating to God. If you are ignoring ‘the heavenlies’ you’re not dealing with your God, or with your real enemy. You’re not really ready to live.
Having to battle in this space is how things have been from the beginning.
God puts Adam and Eve in his Garden of Eden—the space in which they can relate to him. Everything is wonderful and there is unfettered companionship between God and his creatures. Satan enters this space. He sows doubt about who God is. He suggests to Eve and Adam that they should decide things for themselves.
In very short time, he has moved them over to his side (Genesis 3:1-6). They eat the forbidden fruit and immediately are ashamed. Satan has others with him now who are experiencing God as an enemy rather than as a friend.
Our first ‘parents’ got us all involved in Satan’s plan. That’s the battle that’s going on.
If you think this is just something ‘spiritual’—in the sense of being unreal—think again. The battle is being worked out in a very domestic way.
In Eden, Adam and Eve immediately start blaming others. They don’t deal with the real problem. They start fighting each other. And it goes on. Their oldest boy kills his younger brother.
Notice, they have given opportunity to the devil by not accepting that their enemy is Satan. The blame game goes on amongst us humans and the devil gets free points!
Everyone has this problem. The world tries to deal with its own community angers, but, all too often, it uses anger to try and resolve anger.
If there’s no one to resolve our dispute with God, our social battles become messy and complex. We are surrounded with hostilities and power plays. While we think the problems are merely human, and solvable, we are living in ‘fairy land’!
Paul has already given us some idea of how anger can play into Satan’s hands. He says, ‘be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil’ (4:26-27).
There are some things that ought to make us angry—enough to make us speak up, or act. But anger can take us over. It can move from being right, to being wrong—in a flash! Satan will have us being furious with each other while we don’t even admit he exists—and he’s laughing.
Given this is the battle we are in, Paul will tell us how to be strong in the Lord. We are going to need all of who he is and what he has done. We are going to need to take it up and to put it on. But more of this in the next articles.