We Are On the Winning Side!

Posted on September 26, 2016

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By David Ettinger

Dying Like Winners
Stephen stood silently as Israel’s Jewish leadership falsely accused him of blasphemy. The bold Christian was unfazed as words of venom and vitriol were hurled at him. As the Sanhedrin members gazed upon the soon-to-be martyr, they “saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:14). How could Stephen be so serene in the face of impending doom?

Lawrence Saunders, a Protestant preacher, was on his way to being burned to death at the stake. The year was 1555, and the English monarch was Mary Tudor, alias “Bloody Mary.” Suddenly, Saunders kissed the stake to which he was bound and cried out, “Welcome the cross of Christ! Welcome the cross of Christ! Welcome life everlasting!”[1] How could Saunders have been so euphoric at such a time?

In February of 2015, 21 Christians in Libya were beheaded by Isis terrorists because they refused to deny Christ. According to Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, the martyrs “died on that beach singing songs to Jesus.” [2] How could this be?

The answer is this: These, and millions of other martyrs, knew they were on the “winning side.”

Definition of “Winning Side”
Ever since the Garden of Eden, there has been ongoing warfare between the forces of light (God) and darkness (Satan) for the souls of men and women. This battle is well illustrated by the apostle Peter. Of God’s position, he writes: “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9). Of Satan’s position, Peter writes: “Be sober, be diligent; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

victory-1-1184167This “warfare,” however, is not a battle to the death. Rather, this conflict is one-sided in that one of the factions – Satan – has been defeated. God has already secured the victory. The war was won on the day it was launched – early in humanity’s history, in the Garden of Eden. Following the fall of Adam and Eve, God pronounced sentence on the tempter, Satan, declaring: “And I [God] will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman [the human race], and between your seed [followers of Satan] and her Seed [Christ]; He [Christ] shall bruise your [Satan’s] head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). At that moment, God pronounced Himself the winner and Satan the loser.

The apostle Paul explains what this means for the human race:

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [Christ] has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:13-15).

Paul’s reference to disarming the “principalities and powers” is a blatant indictment of Satan, who was spiritually “dragged through the mud” in the humility of defeat. His power over God’s chosen – if he ever had any – was obliterated.

It is Christ Himself who secured God’s crushing victory over Satan: “He has delivered us [believers] from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). Satan’s staggering defeat was a huge victory for Christ’s followers.

Why the Need for a Victor
Why did the human race need God to win this “war” between He and Satan? Put it this way, if God did not win it, you and I would still be lost in our sin and destined for eternal darkness and separation from God. In other words, you and I needed God to be the victor because humankind’s natural “state” is that of sin and estrangement from God.

sunset-cross-2-1478642About 3,000 years ago, Israel’s King David described man’s natural state when he wrote: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). How can it be that infants are stained with sin? Of course these little ones have not willingly committed sinful acts and, if indeed they had died in their innocence (before reaching the age of reason), I believe they would be immediately ushered into the presence of God. David’s point is that human flesh and blood is an affront to God and incapable of housing anything worthy, holy, or clean. Only God can make clean.

About 1,000 years later, Paul told us that “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no exceptions; every human being is born into a sinful state, the condemnation of which is imparted upon reaching the age of reason. The consequence is eternal separation from God, as per Romans 6:26: “For the wages of sin is [spiritual] death …”

And for those who believe they can wiggle their way out this reality, Paul makes this sobering assertion: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, italic added).

But though you can’t save yourself, there is someone who can: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our victor is God the Father! Our Victor is God the Son! They are one in the same (yet two separate “persons”) (John 10:30).

If Satan is Defeated, Why Do Christians Still Face Hostility?
Let’s return to 1 Peter 5:8. If Satan is defeated, then how can he still be prowling around looking to devour human souls? Is Satan defeated or is he not? Remember this: God works outside of time. Time did not exist until God created it. Though the physical world is subject to time and its ravishes, God is not. Therefore, when we read that God “will” do something, to Him, it is already a “done deal.” In other words, if God has promised it, though in human terms it will not be fulfilled for a thousand years, to God it is already accomplished.

We see an example of this in Romans 16:20 where Paul assures believers that “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly,” meaning that Satan’s influence over God’s chosen – his ability to shipwreck their relationship with God – is destined for extinction, though his capacity to wreak havoc upon believers exists for now.

This certainly is confusing. If Satan is still “alive” and active, then how can the Bible claim with such conviction that he was defeated at the cross? The answer is that Satan’s death sentence has been announced, but God has not yet fully carried it out. He allows Satan to do “his thing” in this world so that God’s purposes may be fulfilled. Satan is like the severed head of a snake which can still bite for about an hour while its body continues to wriggle. It is technically dead, but still active. It will be “completely” dead in due time.

The Great Promise
paradiseTurning to Colossians again, Paul tells us: “Set your mind of things above, not on things on the earth” (3:2). Why are we to do this? There are several reasons, but perhaps the most prominent is that “above” – Heaven – is our destiny. It is there where we will very literally see the face of God. (Because we are stained by the sin of this world, we are not yet permitted to see the face of God: Exodus 23:20; John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16).

However, when we leave this world, when “this mortal puts on immorality” (1 Corinthians 15:53), then we will see the face of God. We are assured of this in the following verses:

  • Psalm 17:15: “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”
  • Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
  • Revelation 22:3-4: “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”

Could it be that the promise of seeing God face to face is what allowed the victims of martyrdom mentioned above to be so joyful at the prospect of death? Could it be this is what will strengthen you and me in these difficult days?

In the Meantime …
Christians live in the light of two startling facts. First, that Satan is defeated (though still active); second, that our permanent, eternal abode is in Heaven where we will see God face to face. We’re not there yet, but we’re going. For now, we’re down here on earth where Satan is doing everything he can to destroy us. So, while we’re still in this world, what are we to do?

We are to endure!

When times get really tough, one way to put endurance into action is to cling to the words of Psalm 37:8: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm.”

When persecution hits – and it is coming fast – we are to accept what comes our way, just as Paul did: “And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat [i.e., answer softly]” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13). In other words, we are to maintain our Christian witness despite our circumstances.

God promises us that our suffering will not be in vain: “If we endure; we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).

And, finally, never forget the reward that awaits you: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Walking in Worthy Footsteps
victor's wreathAs life for Western Christians becomes more perilous and the attacks come more frequently, don’t be sidetracked. Remember that we are preceded by those who walked in the steps of fiery persecution: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

May the Lord give you the courage to stand firm in the trying days ahead as He fills you with the wondrous assurance that, as a child of the living God, you are most gloriously, absolutely, and immovably on the winning side!

[1] http://gracegems.org/Books2/dh08.htm

[2] http://libertycounsel.com/martyrs-died-singing-songs-to-jesus/