This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
In the previous two or three studies in this series, we have been considering the rival programs of God and of Satan for the close of this age. It’s important to understand that the name “Satan” means “resister.” And this indicates one major aspect of Satan’s character and activity. He deliberately and systematically resists and opposes every purpose of God’s grace and mercy toward the human race.
I think it would be good just to take a few moments to go through the brief review which is at the top of your outline. There are four successive facts stated there, and I will just go through them with you so that we’ll move on with a clear understanding of what we’re going to be dealing with in this present study.
First of all, in previous studies—and some of them quite a long way back now—we saw clearly that Satan has established a rival spiritual kingdom in opposition to God, ruling over fallen angels in the heavenlies and demons on earth. We’ll not go into the background of that because we took several studies to establish those facts.
We saw that at the close of this age, God has two major objectives on earth in relation to the Church. The first is to reap earth’s last great harvest of souls. There is to be a harvest at the close of this age. In fact, Jesus said, “The harvest is the end of the age” (Matthew 13:39, NKJV). Secondly, to prepare the Church as a bride for Christ, who is the Bridegroom.
At the same time, Satan also has his specific objectives for the close of this age. The first being to gain complete political control. And in order to do this he has to find a man that will be an instrument whom he can use, whom he can raise up to a position of unique and supreme political power, so that through that man he can accomplish his purposes. That man in Scripture is portrayed under the title of “Antichrist.”
Secondly, Satan’s final objective through this man is to receive universal worship. This has been his objective since he fell. He wanted to be equal with God and receive the worship that is due to God only, and he has never given up that ambition for centuries after centuries he has been working systematically and persistently toward this end. And through this political ruler whom he plans to raise up at this close of this age, he will in fact receive for a short period, almost universal worship on earth.
Now in relation to these two purposes of Satan, Christ has committed to His disciples two special responsibilities. The first is to restrain Satan’s purposes on earth, until God’s purposes of grace have been fulfilled. It is not within the program of God totally to prevent Satan from accomplishing his purposes. He will be allowed to accomplish them for a short period. But it is the responsibility of the disciples of Christ, the true Church, to restrain the accomplishing of Satan’s purposes until God’s purposes of grace have been completely fulfilled.
And the second responsibility that Christ has committed to His disciples is to cast down Satan’s kingdom from the heavenlies. Though this fact is very clearly stated in Scripture, I’ve never met anybody who understood it. As a matter of fact, it came to me with a shock of surprise when I saw it there myself. I have never heard anybody else preach it or teach it. That is not to say that people have not done so, but I have never heard it. And I would not put it there in the outline if I had not become convinced that it’s scriptural and very clearly stated.
Now, let’s look at these two special responsibilities that Christ has committed to us, as His disciples in that order. First of all, we’ll consider the power of believers to restrain Satan. Secondly, we’ll consider the power of believers to cast down Satan’s kingdom. I have come to prefer the word “believers” to the word “Christians.” The word “Christian” is so much misused today, in particular in dealing with Jewish people; it puts all their opposition up. But if you talk about a believer, it’s altogether different. And actually the promises of God are only to believers.
All right. Let’s consider, then, the power of believers to restrain Satan. I think one key Scripture that contains this truth in essence is Matthew 5:13, which is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. In that verse, Jesus says this:
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (KJV)
Now, I am no scientist, and there are lots of facts about salt that I don’t know. I don’t even know the scientific name for salt. But in my simple way, I know two important things that salt does, and both of them are extremely relevant to our function as believers in the earth today. The first thing I know about salt is that it gives flavor to that which would otherwise lack flavor. It brings out the flavor and the goodness in things and makes them acceptable to the palate, whereas otherwise they would not be acceptable. Secondly, salt has the ability to restrain the processes of corruption. We are all familiar with these facts.
Let’s look at the first aspect of the operation of salt—to give flavor, to make something acceptable which otherwise would not be acceptable. We are the “salt of the earth,” so we are here to give flavor to the earth, to make the earth acceptable to God—for otherwise, without our presence, it would not be acceptable. In other words, as long as we are here, we, by our presence, cause God to look down upon the earth and deal with it in grace and mercy and in favor rather than in wrath and final judgment. It is our presence that keeps back the final judgment and causes God to offer mercy and grace to the earth as a whole. Salt is not in this way put on in large blobs or spoonfuls—it’s sprinkled just a grain at a time, a grain here, a grain there. But each little grain has its particular function and purpose—to give flavor to that particular area where it is sprinkled. And that’s how we are as Christians in the earth, each one of us should be functioning as a grain of salt creating an atmosphere in that place where we are that causes God to look with favor and mercy, not merely upon us, but on the people that are round about us. I think some Christians have not realized this. We are responsible for the situation in which we live, we’re responsible for the atmosphere around about us.
Let’s look at some illustration of this principle that true believers are the salt of the earth. In other words, the presence of true believers causes God to view the situation or a group of persons with mercy and favor. But if those persons, those believers, were not there, God would withdraw His mercy and His favor, and the only thing left would be wrath and judgment.
Let’s look at God’s dealing with Sodom in the 18th chapter of Genesis. The Lord had visited Abraham and his household had had a meal with Him and then told Abraham He was going on to see the wickedness of Sodom, preparatory to bringing judgment upon Sodom. Now we have to remember, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived in Sodom, and therefore Abraham had a very special reason for being concerned that God would not bring judgment upon Sodom. And so Abraham decided that he would talk to the Lord about this question of dealing with Sodom and bringing judgment upon Sodom. And so we read in verses 23 through 25 this conversation or these remarks made by Abraham to the Lord.
“And Abraham drew near [that is, to the Lord], and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there [would] be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (KJV)
Many, many believers have not grasped this thing which was so clear to Abraham. That God would never deal with the righteous as with the wicked. It is altogether out of the question that God, who is a just God, would ever do this. And it has never been the purpose of God that God’s judgments for wickedness upon the wicked should ever touch the righteous. Abraham saw this so clearly. And yet I find many, many believers don’t live in light of this truth. If any judgment at any time descends upon the wicked, if we are believers in Jesus Christ, made righteous by faith in Him, it should not come near us. It should not touch us; it should not even bring fear over us. It is totally alien to the justice of God that He would ever deal with the righteous as with the wicked. Abraham saw it, and God didn’t argue with it, He accepted it, He went along with it.
So, if Abraham said, “If there are only fifty righteous people in Sodom, wouldn’t You spare the city for the sake of fifty righteous?” God said, yes—verse 26, “If thou find fifty righteous within the city, I’ll spare the whole place for the sake of fifty people.”
And then we do not need to read the verses that follow through verse 32, but you’ll remember that Abraham brought the number down, ten by ten—“What about forty?” “Well, all right, I’ll spare it for forty.” “What about thirty?” “Well, I’ll spare it for thirty.” “What about twenty? I’ll spare it for twenty.” Abraham said, “I’m just going to talk once more, Lord, just once more—suppose there were only ten? Would You spare it for the sake of ten?” The Lord said, “If there are only ten, I’ll spare the whole city for the sake of ten righteous persons in it.”
Now I don’t know how many thousands of people lived in Sodom, I imagine it was a pretty big city, but I’m sure that the proportion still applies today. Ten righteous men in that city could have caused God to dispel His judgment and withhold His wrath for the whole city. What were those ten righteous persons? Had they been there, they were the “salt of the earth.” They were ten little grains of salt that made the whole city acceptable to God so that He would not deal with it in wrath and in judgment. Because of ten righteous believers in the city. This is what it is to be the salt of the earth.
This principle runs all through Scripture. Let’s look in 2 Kings, the 6th chapter, the 17th verse. This occurred in the ministry of Elisha the prophet. Elisha was in a city of Israel named Dothan. The king of Syria had sent an army with many horses and many chariots to arrest Elisha and take him prisoner. And on a certain morning, Elisha’s servant, the young man that waited upon him, rose up early and, I suppose, as would be customary in the land of Israel, went up onto the rooftop—you remember they had flat roofs—and he was rubbing his eyes and looking around, and suddenly he froze. And an awful scene met his eyes. Verse 15:
“When the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host [an army] compassed the city both with horses and chariots.” (KJV)
The whole city was surrounded by a tremendous army. And his servant said unto him,
“Alas, my master! [what] shall we do? And [Elisha] answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (KJV)
Notice there was one man who was the focal point for all the armies of God protecting God’s people. That one man was Elisha. And it is possible for a person to attract to himself the armies of God in protection and blessing. One man can have such a relationship with God that God will have all the forces of heaven watching over that one man. And all the people round about him will be protected because of that man. You study the rest of that story, the entire city of Dothan was saved because one man was there who knew God and was in right relationship with God, and that one man was Elisha.
Turn on to the book of Psalms, and look in Psalm 106, verse 23. This psalm is a record of God’s dealings with Israel from Egypt into the Promised Land. And it’s mainly a record of Israel’s transgressions and backslidings. It certainly is not to the glory of Israel. And in this passage of the psalm, it speaks about how the Israelites made the golden calf. And it says, verse 20:
“Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea. Therefore he [that is, God] said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.” (KJV)
You read the account in Exodus chapter 32, you’ll find that Moses stood between God and the destruction of the whole nation of Israel. Moses said, “Lord, don’t do it!” And one man by His intercession preserved the nation. And in that connection, we’ll notice that Moses is called “God’s chosen,” one of the titles that indicate the favor of God. God’s favor towards Moses could cover a whole nation’s transgressions! And then you turn on to Ezekiel, you see the opposite side of the picture. The situation later on in Israel when God could not find even one man who would stand on behalf of the people and keep off the wrath of God. Ezekiel 22 ends with an outline of the tremendous backsliding of Israel. We don’t need to go it into detail, but you’ll notice actually that every section of the nation is involved. If you begin in verse 24, Ezekiel 22:
“Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.” (KJV)
And this brings out a thought that I’ll leave with you—that it’s the latter rain that cleanses the land from God’s indignation. When the rain does not fall, then the land is not cleansed. And then notice the different elements in the people, all of whom are involved in this wickedness. Verse 25: “There is a conspiracy of her prophets.” Verse 26: “Her priests have violated my law.” Verse 27: “Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey.” Verse 28, the prophets again, and verse 29: “The people of the land”—the common people.
So we have the prophets, the priests, the princes, and the people. All have turned away in transgression and rebellion against God. And then these last two verses, 30 and 31:
“I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them.” (KJV)
Notice the “therefore.” “If I could have found one man, he could have changed the situation. But there wasn’t even one man who could stand before Me in the gap and make up the hedge.” And I cannot but say that I think the situation in the United States today is exactly the same. If God does not find one or more persons that will stand in the gap and make up the hedge, there is no hope for this nation.
Now let’s turn on to the New Testament. The 27th chapter of Acts, this is the scene when Paul, having been brought to trial and transferred to the judgment of Caesar, is on his way in a ship to Rome. And the ship runs into this terrible storm, and for fourteen days or nights they don’t see the sun or the moon or the stars, and they’ve given up all hope of being saved. And at that point the angel of God came to the ship in the night and spoke to Paul. And Paul says in Acts 27, verse 23:
“For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.” (KJV)
Those are two good things to be able to say about God, isn’t it? “Whose I am, and whom I serve.” I belong to Him, and I serve Him. And if you can say that, you have as much right to the rest as Paul had. The angel stood by him saying:
“Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” (KJV)
“Every single person on the ship will be saved for your sake. Because we’ve got to get you to Rome.” That’s God’s program! Satan can hinder, but he can never prevent the fulfillment of God’s program. He can delay it, but it will always go through. And the whole of heaven was concerned about getting one man, Paul, to Rome! And because of Paul’s relationship to God, God said, “Not merely will you be saved, Paul; the other people on the ship will be saved for your sake.” And if you want to know how many there were—you can look in verse 37. Luke, who’s writing the account, says, “We were in all in the ship two hundred three score and sixteen souls” (KJV). That’s 276 persons. If you leave out Paul you have 275. Two hundred and seventy-five persons were spared destruction. Because of the presence of the apostle Paul on that ship.
Now in your outline I’ve stated this. The same principle applies today. The presence of true believers makes the difference! And I would say to you, If you don’t make a difference, you aren’t much of a believer. If things are the same whether you’re there or not, then you aren’t really worthy to be called a believer.
I remember in the North African desert, in the Second World War, when I was there as a medical orderly, and we were with what was called the Lightfield Ambulance, which was attached to an armored division. And apart from the mobile bath unit, we were the only unarmed group with them. And once or twice in the desert, you end up not knowing where you are. We didn’t know whether we were behind the British lines or the enemy lines. And especially when a sandstorm comes up, you have no idea whether you are north, south, east or west.
And I remember on two occasions we got in that situation where we didn’t know whether we were in front of or behind our own lines. And a small medical unit, wandering about with a few trucks in the desert is a rather pitiful sight. And I remember, more than once, some of those other soldiers, who were not Christians, who didn’t even claim to be Christians—I remember one man, and he was really a blasphemer, he was an ungodly man. He came to me at one of these points and he said, “Corporal Prince, I’m glad you’re with us.” And I knew exactly what he meant. He meant, “We feel safer when you’re here.” Now, I’m not saying that to boast. I believe it should be true of every believer. I believe every believer should make a difference by his presence.
I was with that unit in more or less continuous action in the desert for two years, and they never lost a man killed during that time. I believe that was for my sake. Now you can say, “Well, Brother Prince, you’re very conceited,” but that’s up to you. I just say I’m a believer, that’s all.
Let’s look in 2 Corinthians 5:20 for a moment. And what really impressed me was the unbelievers knew it! When it came—when, as they say, “the chips were down,” they knew. They weren’t going to get converted, but they knew. Second Corinthians 5:20, this sums this up, I believe.
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” (KJV)
We—all believers—are ambassadors, heaven’s authorized representatives in an alien land. Speaking on behalf of heaven’s government and having the total authority of heaven’s armies behind you! Just like any ambassador who, fulfilling his function in any country of the world, speaks with the voice of authority on behalf of his government and has whole military resources of his government behind him. And as long as we are in the world, we are messengers of reconciliation. We beseech the world—“Be ye reconciled to God.” We’re here in Christ’s place, ambassadors of peace.
Now, as I pointed out before, but it can be said again, the last official act of a government, when it proposes to declare war on another nation, is to withdraw its ambassadors. Theoretically, according to protocol, it will not declare war and leave its ambassadors in enemy territory. And I am personally convinced that God will not declare war till He’s withdrawn His ambassadors. But when He has, then I say, “Look out earth!” Because you haven’t ever seen anything like what will come when God’s ambassadors are withdrawn.
Then the message of reconciliation is no longer offered. And there remains nothing but final war between God and a Christ-rejecting earth. But while we remain here, we have the function, the responsibilities, and the privileges of ambassadors. We are official representatives of heaven’s government in an alien territory. And when we speak, if we speak in the will of God with the authority that God has given us, the whole authority of heaven is behind us, making our words good.
Now let’s look at the second operation of salt that I mentioned, which is to restrain corruption. Of course, today, refrigeration is a familiar thing all over the world. But we can remember before refrigeration was made available, one main way of preserving things, such as meat, was to use salt. And on long sea voyages for many centuries, sailors regularly had their meat preserved by salt. The meat was essentially corruptible. Forces of corruption were at work in that meat. But the presence of the salt restrained the forces of corruption to keep the meat edible as long as it was needed by those sailors. And this is exactly what you and I are responsible to do. We are here to hold back the forces of corruption until God’s purposes have been fulfilled. Corruption is already at work in the world. We do not prevent corruption, but we restrain corruption as long as the voyage lasts. When the purposes of God have been fulfilled, then corruption will come to its head. This is very clearly stated in Scripture.
Let’s look in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2. Second Thessalonians chapter 2 is probably, outside of Revelation at any rate, the clearest statement about the coming of what I have called “Antichrist.” And most of this chapter deals with the coming of this evil, satanically inspired and empowered ruler. But in verse 3, Paul reminds the Christians that Antichrist cannot be manifested, this purpose of Satan cannot come to its culmination, until something else has happened first.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (KJV)
“The man of sin” and the “son of perdition” are the two titles of Antichrist. But notice that Antichrist cannot be revealed unless there is, first of all, a falling away. That means a falling away from the faith. The Greek word is apostasy. And it’s always used of turning away from the true faith of Jesus Christ. So as long as the believers retain the true faith, the man of sin cannot be revealed. Why? Because the believers are the salt holding back the final manifestation of corruption. And you see, Satan knows this verse is in the Bible. I think Satan knows the Bible pretty well. Satan realizes that if he’s going to manifest this man, he’s got to produce an apostasy within the Church. In other words, the salt of the Church has got to lose its saltiness. It’s got to cease to fulfill its function. Then if the salt loses its saltiness, the way is open for the manifestation of this final evil, satanic ruler.
So what is Satan’s— One of his main methods of working is to turn the believers away from the faith. In other words, to produce an apostasy. And as far as I am concerned, the last twenty years have witnessed within Christendom an apostasy that could almost be called a landslide. Where in most major Protestant denominations it is accepted to deny the basic tenets of the Christian faith. It isn’t just revolutionary, it’s almost normal. And this apostasy can be traced directly to the theological seminaries. The majority of theological seminaries in this nation are turning out well-qualified apostates!
I have had the privilege of fellowship with Dennis Bennett, the rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Mission Church in Seattle, Washington. And he’s known probably to many of you. I remember him saying once this: When he went to the theological seminary in Chicago to be trained for the ministry, the first lecturer that came out for the first lecture said this before he began lecturing. He said, “I want you to all understand clearly from the beginning that I’m an atheist.” That’s the first thing he ever said! There he was, training young men in a seminary of Christian theology. And it is the seminaries that have been the major instrument in breaking down the faith of young men who really, initially had a desire to serve God and Jesus Christ. I’ve talked to many ministers who have been to seminary, and they have almost universally made this statement. The hardest thing is to come out of seminary with any faith left! And lots of them just didn’t make it. I’ve heard others say, “It took me ten years to get out of me what seminary put in me before I could begin to serve Christ effectively.”
Now, I’m not saying this to be malicious or uncharitable. I’m stating what I believe to be simple, objective fact. And behind this we see that Satan is working to turn away believers from faith. Because until that happens, his purposes cannot be consummated. There must be a falling away, the salt must lose its saltiness, before corruption can come to its head. And this is exactly what is taking place in the world today. The apostates, the people that turn from the faith, are salt that’s lost its savor.
I would like to point you back for a moment to Matthew 5:13 and show you what will happen to salt that has lost its savor. Matthew 5:13, Jesus is speaking to the believers, the disciples, those that profess faith in Him:
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? [There’s nothing to salt salt with!] It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (KJV)
In English, English—I mean English that we spoke in England—I don’t think you can find anything worse to say to a person than that he’s good for nothing. And that’s precisely what Jesus says about the believer who doesn’t believe. He’s good for nothing. What is his destiny? To be cast out and to be trampled underfoot of men. And I want you to notice that it says “men” and it means men. The apostate church in due course will be trampled under foot of men. And if the church in the United States today goes this way, and if God does not intervene in revival and repentance and restoration, it will not be many years before the Christians of the United States will be indeed trampled under foot of men! And we have to face the fact there are literally millions of men just waiting to put their feet on the necks of the Christians. They’d consider it their greatest privilege. In China, Russia, and in many other nations of the world, there are people whose number one delight would be to have the bodies of Christians on the earth and to trample on them. And the only hope to avoid this is a return to the faith by the believers. This present move of the Holy Spirit that is taking place in America and elsewhere is not a nice, religious game. It’s God’s last offer of mercy. And people had better take it that way. There is nothing to be more grieving than to see so-called Charismatic believers treating their religious experience like a parlor game. Sometimes it’s almost an alternative to the cocktail party. I think that’s more displeasing to God, than even flat, plain unbelief. If Christianity isn’t a serious business, then it’s a farce. And there’s nothing in between the two.
I’ve had experiences in my own life recently that have shown me that I better take my religion seriously. Because the forces of the enemy take their part very seriously. Satan is very much in earnest about wanting to destroy you and me. Believe me. He’s not playing games. And if all we have to do is religious games, he’ll achieve his objective.
I was talking to a lady on the phone last night that phoned me long distance. I’ll not give away any details, but she’d been down to Ft. Lauderdale here and received deliverance in our home, and did so well that other people started to come from that area to get the same. But about two weeks ago, she lost her deliverance in measure. And began to be tormented. So last night she phoned me and she was crying over the phone and in torment. And I said, “Well, what happened two weeks ago that you lost your deliverance?” And I said, “Can you tie it in with anything?”
“Well,” she said, “I went to see my family confirmed in a certain church.” And she said, “While I was in the church watching the confirmation, this thing hit me.”
“Well,” I said, “now you know the reason.” I said, “Do you really believe in what that ordinance teaches? You know, that when you’re confirmed, you are confirming something that was done at infant baptism? Do you believe in infant baptism?”
She said, “No, I don’t.”
I said, “When the Bishop laid his hands on the heads of those people, you know, theoretically, it was to receive the Holy Spirit.”
She said, “I do.”
I said, “Had the Bishop received the Holy Spirit?”
She said, “No.”
I said, “Had your family received the Holy Spirit?”
And she said, “Yes.”
So I said, “You allowed a man who didn’t have the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the heads of your family that did have the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that just a silly religious game?” She got quite upset.
But after I’d left the home, she phoned again and got my wife and said, “I’m free!” So I trust she got the message.
We don’t have any time for religious games. And the people that are playing religious games are playing them to their own destruction. Because Satan is not playing games, Satan is out to destroy spirit, soul and body. He’ll torment you mentally, physically; he’ll break you and throw you aside like a squeezed orange peel in the gutter when he’s finished. And when all you have to offer him is religious games he’ll laugh in your face!
Let’s look again at 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 6 and 7. Speaking about this man of sin being revealed, which we have already looked at in verse 3, the apostle Paul says in verses 6 and 7:
“And now ye know what witholdeth [or restraineth] that he might be revealed in his time. [What restrains him so far from being revealed? Verse 7:] For the mystery of iniquity [but better, ‘lawlessness,’ that’s the exact meaning—the mystery of lawlessness] doth already work: only he that now letteth will let.” (KJV)
Now unfortunately, Elizabethan English was different from modern English. And the word let in Elizabethan English meant “to hinder” or “to restrain.” Exactly the opposite of what it means today. So the word is “to restrain.” “For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work only He who now restraineth will go on restraining until he be taken out of the way.” The Greek says literally, “till he become out of the midst.” That’s a very inelegant translation. But it’s the literal meaning. So in verse 6 Paul says, “What restrains,” and in verse 7 he says, “who restrains.” So whatever it is, it’s both a “who” and a “what.”
Now I realize books have been written of controversy for and against on this subject, and I’m not about to add another book. But after many years of meditation, without ever bothering God for an answer about these problems, but just letting the Lord speak to me, I must say that, to me, at the present time, it is clear that this refers to the presence of the Holy Spirit as a Person within the Church of Jesus Christ. He is a “who”; He is a “what.” It is the Spirit—who or what. And I believe that this—I don’t say this just for the sake of being interesting about prophecy, but I say it because I believe it’s of tremendous practical importance. THE restraining influence that keeps back the final manifestation of Satan’s purposes and the manifestation of the Antichrist as the world ruler is a Person—and that Person is in the Church. The Person is the Holy Spirit.
Now, Paul says, verse 7, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” corruption is already there, but the salt will hold the corruption back until the journey’s finished. To take the analogy from the sailors on the ship with their salted meat. That’s one major function of the salt is to restrain corruption until God’s purposes have been accomplished.
Now lawlessness is something that we see on an almost unique scale in modern America. You can hardly turn the TV news on one night in a week without having a fresh record of almost meaningless lawlessness. And shall I tell you the reason for it? Because there’s an apostasy within the Church, the salt isn’t doing its job. You see, if you look at secular America today, there’s almost a conspiracy to aid and abet the lawbreakers and hinder the law enforcers. You say, “Isn’t that awful.” Look at the Supreme Court. But you know what God says: “Look at the Church! Because it’s the lawlessness of God’s children within the church, it’s the permissiveness of God’s people within the Church that opens the way for lawlessness and permissiveness in secular society. It’s the failure of the salt that has produced the situation in the world.” God doesn’t blame the Supreme Court; He blames the Church.
Here is a clear example: when the Church opens to lawlessness, when God’s children behave like disobedient, disrespectful brats, what happens? The children of the nation become disobedient, disrespectful brats. What we see in modern youth, that many of us dislike and criticize, is what God sees in His children in the Church. It’s the spirit of lawlessness in the Church bringing apostasy from the true faith and standards of God in the Church. It opens the way for lawlessness in the nation. And God has said, 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall ...” Let’s read it, 2 Chronicles 7:14. See, here is clear evidence of the truth I’m seeking to bring out. And this is not the last time we read this verse, incidentally. Second Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall [first of all] humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (KJV)
Who has to turn from their wicked ways? God’s people! Who are called by His name. Christians, upon whom the name of Christ is called. God isn’t dealing primarily with the unbeliever, the alcoholic, the gangster, the beatnik, the hippie. God’s contention is with His people. Because if My people will meet My conditions, I will heal their land. But if God cannot reach His people, then the land cannot be healed. We are the salt of the earth. The condition of our land reflects the condition of God’s people. As long as we retain our saltiness, we hold back the corruption of lawlessness in society.
Let’s turn to Luke 17:26, which is a very simple verse, it says a lot.
“As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” (KJV)
Now we did, in one or two previous studies, look a little closer at this condition of the world in the days of Noah, and we saw these two features—satanic, supernatural intervention in the spiritual realm and the breakdown of morals and ethics in the natural in the character of man. Violence, evil imagination, sexual corruption. And we saw that God had a restraining force at work, which was Noah and his family. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Seven days before the flood actually began, God withdrew Noah and his family into the ark and closed the door. And the restraining force that was represented by Noah was withdrawn. And in those seven days, iniquity, godlessness, lawlessness, came to their climax. Then came judgment. And I must say that, as far as I’m concerned personally, God has made it clear to me, it’s going to be the same at the close of this age. God’s representatives will be withdrawn—I’m not saying where, and for a short period lawlessness will be allowed to come to its climax. But it cannot happen until God’s people have been withdrawn. ’Cause we are the salt of the earth.
Put it another way—I have written here in the outline. “The Holy Spirit as a Person came to earth on the day of Pentecost to form a Body for Christ. When that Body is complete, the Holy Spirit will return to heaven, taking the Body of Christ with Him.” Now I believe this. Furthermore, I believe there’s a unique situation in the world which started on the day of Pentecost, that the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, is actually personally resident here on earth! Just as much as Jesus was as the Second Person of the Godhead during the years of His earthly life. Jesus said, “I’ll go away, another Person will come. He’ll take My place. He’ll remain with you for the rest of the age.” That’s what He said in John 14.
Now I have personally come to believe that the— it will be altogether inconsistent with God’s dignity that this final manifestation of Satan’s power and authority should take place while the Third Person of the Godhead is still personally resident here on earth. There’ll come a brief period when the Holy Spirit will have fulfilled His ministry, formed the body of Christ, and He will go and take the body with Him! And then there’ll be that brief period, which we don’t need to seek to estimate in days or years, when lawlessness will come to its climax and God’s judgment will be poured out without restraint as it was in the flood.
However, to return to our theme, while we are here, we remain the salt of the earth, and one of our supreme responsibilities by our presence, by everything we say and do, is to restrain the manifestation of the Antichrist, the consummation of lawlessness and rebellion until God’s purposes of grace have been fulfilled.
Now let’s look briefly at the second of the responsibilities that Jesus committed to His disciples—the power of believers to cast down Satan’s kingdom. We’ll have to go rather quickly, I’ll deal with this only in outline. Ephesians 6:12, and we’ll take the version that I have suggested—“Our wrestling match is not against flesh and blood, but against rulerships and the realms of their authority, against the world rulers of the present darkness, against spirits of wickedness in the heavenlies.” This is a more literal translation than the King James. Notice that as believers, we are involved in a wrestling match with satanic, spiritual rulers operating in the heavenlies.
Now this is not the result of our failure, or our disobedience, it’s part of God’s program for us. We are committed to this wrestling match by the design and foreknowledge of Almighty God. It’s most important to see that. Because there follows from it a logical consequence. If God by design has committed us to this wrestling match, then God has made possible total victory. God would never commit His people deliberately within His will to a conflict which they couldn’t win. So if it’s the will of God, then the ultimate outcome can be and should be total victory for the people of God.
You see, most Christians talk as if they were scared of the devil, but the real truth is, that if we remain in the right relationship to God without being boastful or presumptuous, it’s the devil who should be scared of us. And in actual fact, this is the thing that he wants to keep us from understanding; His main remaining weapon is bluff.
Second Corinthians 10, and this Scripture we’ll go to many times. In this warfare we have been provided with the weapons that we need. Second Corinthians 10, verses 3, 4 and 5:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. [We do war, and again this is not the result of backsliding or failure, this is part of the Church’s function. We are in a warfare.] (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)…” (KJV)
I was looking at that word, “strongholds” the other day and I noticed it’s a kind of roadblock. It could be used of a roadblock. So every time you move out in God, you know what you’re going to meet? A roadblock. You know what you’ve got to do? Pull it down! You have been given the weapons to do it. The fact that Satan opposes something that God leads you to do should be received as a compliment. If it wasn’t pretty good, Satan wouldn’t bother to oppose it. Actually one sure way to find out the will of God is to notice what Satan opposes. ’Cause he opposes the will of God. So, if in the will of God you move out in a new area of ministry and service, undertake new responsibilities, the whole world turns against you, the wind blows as it did at Job’s house from every corner simultaneously, then you can be sure you’re in the will of God!
All right, and God has given you the weapons to pull down every roadblock that Satan raises in your path. If you won’t get afraid and turn round and expose your back, because you know what happens when you expose your back? There’s no weapons. There’s no armor for the back. God has left the believer with his front perfectly covered and his back totally exposed. And the lesson is—don’t turn your back! Keep facing the enemy, keep pressing on. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, and I’m usually challenged about it when I do say it—if you are a child of God, you’ve got the right to walk right down the center of the road and say, “Devil, stand aside. There’s a child of God coming down the road—you’ve got to move!” This is 100 percent scriptural. This is our right and our position in Jesus Christ. And we please God when we understand it and accept it. We don’t please God by a lot of sniveling prayers—“O Lord, please...” There are times to supplicate and lay hold upon God, but many, many times, what pleases God is when we accept our position in Christ, the authority that Scripture gives us, and act that way.
In the book of Esther you’ll find when judgment hung over the Jewish people, the whole nation was to be exterminated, Mordecai went out into the middle of the city and put on sackcloth. And had no access to the king. Esther put on her royal garments and went right in to the king and changed the situation. And there are times when you can put on sackcloth as long as you like, but one of the laws of the kingdom is, you can’t enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. But if you’ll realize that you are a queen, put on your beautiful garments and walk in with authority, the golden scepter will be held out to you and the king will say— “What can I do for you?” And because God is delighted when—without evidence or circumstances or symptoms or anything in the situation—we believe it. “You’re My partner; I want you to share My throne; tell Me what I can do for you.” That delights the heart of God. After all, as parents, we fully realize this. We do not want slavish, cowering obedience from our children. There’s nothing more grieving to a parent’s heart than that. What we want is for them to believe in our goodness, believe in our ability and believe in our faithfulness. And God wants the same.
Let’s look at a picture in Daniel for a moment, of this warfare in the heavenlies. As I say, we have to go quickly, actually in earlier studies, we’ve already dealt with this. Daniel chapter 10, Daniel gave himself up for three weeks of special waiting upon God. And let’s say mourning. There is a place for mourning. He says, verse 2 and 3, he says:
“I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (KJV)
He was seeking God with desperation and earnestness for 21 days. Then came the answer. You’ll find this in verses 12 and 13. An angel appeared; in fact, it was the angel Gabriel, and said:
“Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou did set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.” (KJV)
The first day that Daniel started to pray, his prayer was heard, the angel started with the answer. The angel was held up in the heavenlies by opposition of satanic angels in the heavenlies three weeks—21 days. And it was Daniel’s prayers that got the angel through. This is fantastic to the natural mind, but all Scripture bears testimony. First of all, the initiative is with earth. Not with heaven. When Daniel started to pray on earth, heaven started to move. Secondly, the angel couldn’t get through until Daniel prayed through. Daniel had the major part of the conflict, not the whole of it, but the major part of it, rested upon Daniel and his prayers on earth not upon the activity and warfare of angels in the heavenlies. Now this is a type or a picture or a preview of what the age is going to be like at the close.
Now turn to Revelation the 12th chapter and you’ll see the final fulfillment of this situation. Revelation 12 verses 7 through 11. Now I want to say, that without going into a lot of serious prophecy, I believe this is still in the future. I have read various interpretations which put it back in the past, but none of them, either in history or the book of Revelation so I just could not accept them.
“There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [that’s the devil]; and the dragon fought and his angels, [Where? In heaven] ... prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.” (KJV)
At this point for the first time Satan loses his place in heaven. The red dragon was cast out. From where? From heaven. The second part of verse 9:
“... he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (KJV)
Up till that time their headquarters have been in heaven. And as that time has not yet come, they still are there speaking now.
“And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the [authority] of his Christ.” (KJV)
The authority of Christ has been made effective in the heavenlies when Satan is cast down. And the accuser of our brethren, the “our brethren” when the angels are speaking of the believers on earth:
“... the accuser of our brethren is cast down [from heaven], which accused them before our God day and night.”
Now as this is still in the future, you know what Satan is doing in heaven right now? He’s accusing you and me who are believers in Christ. Now, verse 11:
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” (KJV)
Who is they? Our brethren on earth. Who is him? Satan. Notice, the final culmination of Satan’s casting down from the heavenlies is attributed to the believers on earth. They, the believers on earth, overcame him, by things that angels could not use. The blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony. Angels really don’t have testimonies. But sinners do. And we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. In other words, the final casting down of Satan and his angels from their place in the heavenlies is the responsibility of the believers on earth! I want to say that about six times, but time doesn’t permit. Just consider it said six times.
Now, there’s one final phase, which is the destruction of Satan’s forces on earth. That is to be left to Jesus. When He appears in His glory, He’ll finish that part of the job off. There’s a short period after Satan is cast down from heaven, when he’ll have his headquarters on earth, and when he’ll make the greatest amount of trouble for anybody that he possibly can, because he knows he’s got a very little time left.
Now Jesus will come from heaven, you’ll see the Scriptures there in the outline, we don’t need to turn to them, and He will personally deal with the Antichrist. But the casting down of Satan and his angels from heaven, that is our responsibility.