Christ is calling us to the spiritual warfare of prayer, fasting and suffering for his sake (Acts 5:41). Such militant action will only happen however as we are convinced that Jesus is truly the Warrior God (Ex 15:3; Jer 20:11).
The Lord has recently been helping me overcome a personal resistance to talking about the Church as an army.
First there has been the “defeat” of mainstream Christianity in the same sex marriage vote. On a natural level this seals the opinion of those in power that the leaders of God’s people are “yesterday’s men” and Bible-believing Christians are “on the wrong side of history”.
The political resources available in an open democracy are clearly futile in halting the advance of godlessness amongst us.
We must discern from the ongoing retreat of the influence of Christianity in the public sphere that as the LORD of Hosts handed Israel over to heathen nations for defeat and exile so he has handed our nation over to dark powers.
To function as “soldiers” of Christ (Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 2:3; Ph 2) it is crucial we understand that the conduct of the army in which we fight is totally determined by character of the Commander whom we serve.
LORD OF HOSTS
279 times in OT
“Lord of Hosts” is a fairly literal translation of Hebrew Yahweh Sabaoth; a title used for God 279 x in the Old Testament with the connotation to go forth or carry on war.
The NIV unfortunately loses this meaning with the translation, “LORD Almighty”.
Much closer is the sense, “Lord of Heaven’s Armies!” (NLT) or, “God of the angel armies” (The Message).
The true God is Lord of all powers, seen and unseen (Gen 32:2; Josh 5:14; Isa 40:26; Pss 103:21; 148:2) and he demonstrates this repeatedly by giving victory in earthly battles (Deut 20:4); sometimes even against Israel (Am 3:13).
This Old Testament teaching is not the expression of a primitive spirituality Christians have outgrown. God’s own declaration in Isaiah makes this abundantly clear, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name” (Isa 54:5).
The Warrior actions of the Lord are an expression spousal intimacy! Whilst the language of Lord of Hosts is rare the New Testament (cf. Rom 9:29; James 5:4) the conviction of divine almightiness to fight for his people remains (2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:15; 21:22).
However the way God wars goes through a radical transformation in the person of Jesus.
JESUS IS THE LORD OF HOSTS
HEAVEN and EARTH!
Christ recognised his Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” (Matt 11:25) and the Great Commission teaches “all authority” has now been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18). Has Christ’s disowning of political and militaristic conflict, “turn the other cheek”, consigned the notion of the warfare of the Lord of hosts to the dustbin of religious history (Isa 50:6; Matt 5:39; 10:35-45; John 18:36)? No!
For when John identifies the glory of Jesus with the God who appeared to Isaiah in the temple he identifies Jesus as “the LORD of hosts” himself (Isa 6:3; John 12:41).
Only when Jesus returns will it be manifest to the world that a human being is the divine Lord of Hosts waging the ultimate warfare to destroy all wickedness.
As part of the armies accompanying the Lamb his Bride combat is an essential part of her bridal character (Rev 19:8, 11-20). But I have so far omitted the crucial dimension that totally transfigures our perception and commitment to the wars of the Lord, the cross.
If Jesus is the Lord of Hosts then it is as the Lamb of God he wages the conclusive battle against evil.
He overcomes the enemies of sin, Satan and death by himself experiencing what it meant to be the enemy of God (Luke 10:19; Rom 5:10; 1 Cor 15:26; 1 Tim 5:14).
Christ conquers by suffering as God’s enemy cut off from his covenantal privileges as Son and Messiah and under a decree of utter destruction (Mark 15:34; Rom 3:25; Gal 3:13 cf. Deut 7:2; Isa 34:2).
Through his death and resurrection Jesus has won a total military triumph; ““When he ascended on high he took a host of captives…. he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” (Eph 4:8; Col 2:15).
As the infinitely jealous Bridegroom who has borne in himself “the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev 19:15) Jesus continues to wage the war of God on earth, through his saints (1 Tim 6:12).
That under the Lordship of Jesus our warfare is spiritual rather than material only makes it more intense (Eph 6:12ff.). As the angel armies served the LORD of Hosts under the old covenant so the Church, raised up in union with them to the heavenly places, fights with a wisdom and passion which is divine (Eph 2:6; 3:10, 15 James 3:13, 17).
The massive cosmic shift in the character of this war is solely determined by the character of cross, because the context of this warfare is persecution.
Throughout the book of Revelation Satan and the beast are “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Rev 11:7; 12:17; 13:7). God’s majestic purpose in the outwardly successful advance of wickedness is that by blessing and not cursing his enemies we become increasingly worthy of being married forever to the all conquering Lamb (Luke 6:27-29; 23:34; 1 Pet 2:23; 3:9; Rev 19:7-8).
As Jesus himself was perfected only through the conflict of the cross (Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) so the wisdom the Church needs to successfully advance Christ’s kingdom against evil powers comes only through sharing in the Lamb’s War (Eph 3:10).
New Testament Christians only ever make with divine power (2 Cor 10:3-5). Who wouldn’t agree with that?
But once we understand the prohibition against fleshly force this excludes not only the Crusades of yesteryear but every form of soft selling of the gospel that denies the crucified Lord.
Tragically however most of the Church is stuck in a Sunday School level of spirituality.
Instead of enlisting in the total War of the Lamb hordes of passive believers present indisputable evidence that we don’t understand what we are fighting for (Rev 19:11)!
On this matter however the prophetic testimony of both testaments is crystal clear.
Overwhelmed by his vision of the LORD of hosts in the Temple Isaiah knew the purpose of his conscription into divine service was to witness “the earth full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 6:1ff; 11:9).
In like manner the apostle John, seeing the same glory centuries later (Isa 6:3=John 12:41), now understand this majestic glory was the manifestation of a personal name, the name of Jesus (John 1:14).
Whoever has a revelation of the name of Jesus as the crucified Lord of Hosts will fight on…to the very End (1 Cor 2:8).
However personally uncomfortable we may be with conflict, to share the cosmic revelation of the glory of the crucified Saviour is absolutely worth fighting for! Let’s fight on, whatever the cost.
““He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”” (Rev 2:7).
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 31st January, 2018 |
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: N/A | | |
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