On Our 21st Anniversary

It seems like such a long time ago that we commemorated our 20th anniversary in July 2019. So much has happened in this past year, particularly during the first half of 2020. For the first time in our history, we were prevented from physically meeting for worship for a period of almost 3 months due to the COVID19 pandemic! And for only the second[1] time in our history, we were unable to have our Annual Church Conference in June. I think it would be fair to say that few if any of us had imagined or anticipated such a scenario.

Nevertheless, we have no doubt that our God is in sovereign control over all things and that He is working all things out for His glory and our good. This gives us great comfort for the present and confidence for the future.

But while God is sovereign and has ordained whatsoever comes to pass from all eternity, nevertheless, He has also appointed the means by which He will accomplish His ends. And sometimes, these means can be quite surprising and unexpected as we shall see.

Many of us would know that it has become something of a PCC tradition that the main bulletin article for the first Lord’s Day of July would be based on a biblical passage (or passages) that contains the figure corresponding to the number of years we have existed as a church. And so we arrive at the number 21 this year.

In the Bible, the number 21 appears twice. The first has reference to the age of Zedekiah when he began to rule as king of Judah (2 Kings 24:18). The second has reference to the number of days that an angel was detained by the prince of Persia (Daniel 10:13). I’ll like us to focus on this second passage for our brief meditation this year.

Daniel 10 contains the introduction to the final vision of this book. It is a remarkable chapter for it gives us some insight into the unseen realm of demons and angels. Daniel had been fasting and praying for three weeks for his people when a glorious angelic being appeared to him and spoke with him of things unseen and things to come.

In verse 12, he said, “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.” In other words, on the very first day that Daniel started praying, God heard him and dispatched his angel. But something happened that prevented him from coming to Daniel earlier.

The angel goes on to say in verse 13, “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.”

Daniel is given the explanation as to why even though the angel had been sent to him on the first day of his three-week long fast, he only managed to arrive at Daniel’s location at the end of this period. For 21 days, the angel had been detained and restrained by a very powerful being, whom he describes as the prince of the kingdom of Persia. Quite clearly, this was no ordinary human prince but an evil angel, who exerted a Satanic influence over the Persian kingdom, and hence the designation “prince of the kingdom of Persia.”

The New Testament describes Satan as the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2) and as the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). It is quite likely that the evil prince is none other than Satan himself since he was powerful enough to detain this glorious angel for three full weeks and it took no less than the mightiest of all the angels, even Michael, to deliver him.

What a fascinating verse Daniel 10:13 is, for it gives us a little glimpse into the unseen spiritual realm, where angels and demons fight against each other in a real and fierce spiritual warfare. Furthermore, we learn from this verse that behind the scenes of human history and human kingdoms are powerful spiritual forces at work.

This is consistent with what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We need to constantly remind ourselves that there is more going on in this world than meets the eye.

The phrase at the end of verse 13 “and I remained there with the kings of Persia” means that prior to Michael’s arrival to help him, the angel was detained there with spiritual rulers or demons who attempted to control Persia. It must have been a very uncomfortable twenty one days for this angel while he awaited deliverance.

Verse 14 says, “Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.” So having been set free by Michael, this angel was finally able to come to Daniel and reveal to him what would happen to his people in the distant future.

Then later in the chapter in verses 20-21, we read, “Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.”

The angel informs Daniel that once he had finished speaking to him, he must get back to the fight against the prince of Persia, and after that, to fight against the prince of Greece, who shall arise. As an aside, this implies that angels are neither omnipresent nor omnipotent.

Now as we saw earlier, this prince does not refer to a human ruler but to an evil angel, who exerts an unseen but powerful influence over the kingdoms of this world for the purpose of destroying the kingdom of Christ.

During the time of the Persian Empire, this evil influence was manifested in the various attempts to prevent the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, and also in that wicked attempt to wipe out all the Jews, recorded in the book of Esther. Then during the time of the Greek Empire, it would be felt especially during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, who greatly persecuted the people of God.

We don’t know all the details behind this great conflict in the spiritual realm but we can be quite sure that things would have been much worse for God’s people if the angels did not fight against Satan and his evil forces.

Well, what can we learn from this brief meditation on Daniel 10? One of the lessons is that we need to always be prayerful in light of the ongoing spiritual warfare. Perhaps one of Satan’s most effective strategies and devices is to get us to forget that there is really a spiritual battle that is being fought all the time and all around us. When we forget that or become indifferent to it, we will let our guard down and fail to put on the whole armour of God, and as a result, we will be unprepared and easy targets for Satan.

Here in Daniel 10, we are given a tiny peep behind the scenes of this spiritual war of the ages, involving evil angels fighting to destroy the people of God on earth and holy angels fighting on our side to defend us and to push them back. It is fascinating to me to think that the angels, who are such powerful and holy beings, do not get it easy all the time and that they too must exert much energy and effort in order to overcome their foes!

So what are we to do in the midst of this great war among the angelic hosts, all of whom are far more powerful than any of us? Are we to simply be helpless bystanders and spectators in all of this? By no means! As believers, we can be actively engaged in this warfare through means of prayer. Remember that this chapter starts with Daniel praying very earnestly for his people who were far away and facing much opposition, and God answering his prayer by sending him an angel.

This is why the apostle Paul, after telling us to put on the whole armour of God so that we can fight against the devil, writes, in Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”

Prayer is powerful because God is pleased to work powerfully through prayer – our prayers included. And prayer is not optional if we are to be faithfully engaged in this real but unseen spiritual conflict.

Dear Pilgrim Brethren, as we enter into the 21st year of our church’s existence and presence in this world, let us be mindful of the spiritual battle that we are all engaged in and be resolved to give ourselves to earnest and faithful prayer – personal, family and corporate prayer. Let us, through prayer, join the angelic beings in the war of the ages, and most of all, let us follow in the footsteps of the Captain of our Salvation, who was Himself  a man of much prayer during His earthly life and who continues to intercede continually for us at the right hand of God.

May this New Year ahead see us growing in our life of prayer and communion with the Lord!

Have a blessed 21st Anniversary!

—Linus Chua


[1] The first time being in 2003 due to the SARS coronavirus.