The Progress of the War

Based on the 2nd of 5 Messages on The War of Ages by Rev. Chris Coleborn at the 7th PCC Annual Conference, 6-10 Jun 2006

We can trace the clash of arms in the great cosmic war down through the ages. Since its declaration at the beginning of time, specific battles of this war of the universe can be known and described.

Down the generations a bloody trail can be traced in the history of the world. Both in Biblical and General history we can see its progress. Let us now trace something of its progress as history records and reveals it.

We will consider this lecture under the following headings:

The War’s Progress in Scripture

The War’s Progress in General History

The War in Heaven

1. The War’s Progress
in Scripture

Let us turn to the Bible and briefly trace something of the course of this awesome war.

We see this war first graphically manifested itself in a physical as well as spiritual appearance when Cain killed his brother Abel. (Gen 4:3-8)

Why did Cain kill his brother Abel? We need to remember it was not simply another sad case of fratricide – a brother killing his own brother. Oh no, it is much deeper and darker than that. In and behind Cain, we need to see the great claw of the Serpent, reaching out to destroy and prevent the coming of the One who would crush his head. This incident, like so many in the history of Christ’s ancestors, is nothing less than the war of the Serpent and his seed against the Captain of the Lord’s Host that would come from the woman – the line of God’s covenant people.

The Bible is clear on this. In 1 John 3:12 we read:

"… Cain was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous."

What lay at the root of Cain’s enmity against Abel was a spiritual thing. One belonged to the camp of the Evil One and one belonged to the camp of the Righteous One – the Saviour, the Lord Jesus. It was an assault on the people of God’s grace by the people of the most powerful rebel of the dark side.

We next can clearly discern this great spiritual conflict at the time of Noah. In Genesis 4:19ff we read of the descendants of Cain. They broke God’s order for mankind’s lives. For example, they abandoned one man and one woman in marriage for polygamy. They lived for the things of this life above all else, so became wonderfully clever in inventing arts and crafts – not that that was wrong in itself, only that it seems indicative of where their heart and chief interests lay. They did not respect life, but gave way to pride, boasting and oppression – murdering others, as Cain did. We see this in verse 23 in the recorded boast of Lamech to his wives, "I have slain a man to my wounding and a young man to my hurt."

Also from the days of Noah we can see how one of the battlefields where this great spiritual struggle is fought out is that of marriage. Note the deep spiritual undertones, of Genesis 6:1-2. There we read:

"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose."

You realize of course that this is not saying that angels married human beings. No, the Bible says that angels do not marry – they are not created for a physical relationship (cf Mt 22:30).

It means this! The sons of God are those from the camp of the seed of the woman. The daughters of men are those from the camp of the seed of the serpent. It is saying that one of the ways the Evil One sought to corrupt and defeat the soldiers of the Lord’s cause, was to compromise them or lead them astray by intermarriage, by being unequally yoked. If a professing believer can be led to marry an unbeliever, generally and humanly speaking it destroys the believer or incapacitates him. Also the children of that marriage generally are not believers either. This has been a favourite weapon of the Evil One down through the years to inflict casualties on the camp of the sons and daughters of God. This is of course why the Lord often cautions us not to marry unbelievers, or to be unequally yoked.

We see another battle when just Lot and his family are tempted to put social and material advantages and comforts before faithfulness to the Lord and His covenant.

You remember how Lot chose, (Gen 13), to separate from Abraham, through whom the Seed of the Woman should come, and to (verse 10), "choose the plain of Jordan which was well watered everywhere"?

Not that it was wrong to choose good pasture, but this was just bait by the Evil One to capture Lot and his family. A victory of sorts was won by the Evil One, I suggest, when Lot separated from Abraham (the Seed of the Woman), v. 10 & 11 and in v. 12, "pitched his tent toward Sodom".

Now you can see that Lot choosing the plain of Jordan was not just being a good steward of his possessions. It was a spiritual drifting into another camp – the camp of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities under the sad sway of the Seed of the Serpent. And while the Lord in His wonderful grace rescued his servant Lot from that camp, it was as by fire. Lot and his family were casualties.

By way of observation then, we can see that the weapons of the Evil One are not always coercion and physically oppressive. They often are social and enticing and very subtle.

But still, the Lord brought victory out of this defeat for Lot, by choosing a descendent of one of his daughters, the Moabites, Ruth, to be an ancestor of the Saviour who should come – the Seed of the Woman.

When Ishmael mocked Isaac (Gen 21:8-12), it was the Seed of the Serpent persecuting, or making war against, the Seed of the Woman. The Lord by Paul makes a commentary on this in Galatians 4:22-31, especially v. 29 – "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."

So it was with Esau and Jacob. In Genesis 27:41 we read how Esau hated his brother Jacob because of the "blessing". This blessing at its heart was the covenant blessing of the coming of the messiah – the Seed of the Woman. That was why there was hatred and battles between them and their descendants. Esau was the type of the reprobate – the seed of the Serpent, just as Jacob was a type of the elect – seed of the Woman, as Romans 9 makes clear.

When the Israelites were in Egypt and Pharaoh "afflicted them with burdens" and made them serve with rigour, and made their lives bitter with hard bondage" (Ex 1:11-1) it was not simply matters of political expediency. Sure, this element is there, but it is only a cover for once more the claw of the Serpent to strike a blow at the Seed of the Woman.

When Pharaoh introduced late pregnancy birth control (Ex 1:15-16), it was not simply population control so the people could be better administered. No, once more it was a spiritual thing – a weapon raised in the battle to destroy the people of the Lord. So too, when Pharaoh ordered the baby boys to be cast into the Nile. (Ex 1:22) It was the Great Serpent seeking to devour ‘the man child’ of God’s party.

In the days of King Saul and David, you recall how Saul tried to kill David? Why was this so? The first impression is simply for a mere political reason – Saul feared that David was after his throne. However, while that factor is present, the reality is much deeper. Saul was of the party of the Evil One, (seen by his rejection of the revealed will of God, and making his own will and wishes his highest authority – the supremacy of man; also by his seeking the witch of Endor). In his war against David he was seeking to destroy the Seed of the Woman, of whom David was. This is the real reason why Saul tried to kill him so often and hated him so much (cf. 1 Sam 18 to 31).

Another battle of the great war of all ages is also seen in the days of Saul. Remember how one of his soldiers – Doeg, a descendant of Esau, (cf 1 Sam 22), was so eager to kill the priests of the Lord at Nob when those faithful servants of the Lord sought to help David, the Lord’s anointed? Spiritual enmity was at the root of it all.

And so the war continued to unfold in the various battles of history. In the days of the Kings of Judah, Athaliah the queen, a daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who had declared war on the saints of God and put many to death, married Jehoshaphat’s son, King of Judah. Now Jehoshaphat was a godly man – one of the Lord’s people (1 Kgs 22:42) but was also a casualty in the war. He was tempted to make peace with Ahab, and made a close friend of that ungodly man and his family, and as a result, his son Jehoram (or Joram) married their daughter Athaliah. (1 Kgs 22:50& 2 Kgs 8:16-18).

Our text says that this son Jehoram walked in the ways of Ahab king of Israel – self as the centre of life – man who would live without God. What was the tragic result of this unequal yoking of his believing father in friendship and his marriage with those whose view of life and ultimate truths are so different? There was a great falling away from the Lord at the highest level among God’s covenant people. There was great sin and injustice. Jehoram, the husband of Athaliah murdered all his brothers and various others of the princes of Judah as soon as he took the throne. Why? An act of an eastern despot to remove rivals? No, for the same reason Cain killed Abel, "because" said God, "they were better than thyself…" (2 Chr 21: 1-4 & 13). It was the seed of the Serpent striking down the seed of the woman.

However the greatest horror at this time was a most blatant attempt by the Seed of the Serpent to utterly destroy the ancestors of Chris Jesus – the Seed of the Woman. We read in 2 Kings 11 how Athaliah, when she saw that her son was dead, "…arose and destroyed all the seed royal". She murdered her own descendants and those of her husband and son in an attempt to blot out the house of David. Yet again the Lord in this war shows us His side is the ultimately winning side by preserving alive a little son Joash. His godly aunt, Jehosheba and her husband the faithful High Priest Jehoiada were used in this wonderful way in this battle.

What was all this – merely a tyrant seeking the throne of a nation? No, as Revelation 12 indicates, it was the great blood coloured dragon stealthily seeking with all its might and main to destroy the line from which must come the Seed of the Woman that was said would crush his head. It is but one more battle in the great war of the ages.

There are various other examples of how this war progressed, just two more from the actual time when God came among us in human nature.

You all known when Jesus was born in Bethlehem that wise men came from the east seeking Him. In Matthew 2 we read of how they came to Jerusalem seeking information on Him that was born to be King. Who then ruled over the land? In verse 1 we are told it was Herod (the Great) and verse 3 he was troubled by this enquiry, for Herod knew immediately that this could be no other than the One promised from the foundation of the world. Note in verse 4 that he specifically enquires where the Christ should be born. The title "Christ", you will remember, means "the anointed one" – the One especially prepared of God. This is just another name for the Promised One, the Messiah, and the Seed of the Woman! Herod knows with whom he is dealing.

Herod is not wishing to know from the scholars of Judah where the Messiah – the Seed of the Woman should be born so he too may worship Him, and have Him as his Lord and Saviour. The Holy Spirit tells us why. In verses 12-13 we are told in part, that Herod "seeks the young child to destroy him."

Why does Herod seek to destroy the seed of the woman? Understand, it is not simply because he is a megalomaniac – a man with a passion for power and self-aggrandizement, and who wishes to remove all rivals. The vivid picture of Revelation 12 conveys to us what is happening. In verse 4b we read,

"… the (great red) dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born."

And to make it all the more clear that this is part of the great drama of the War of the Ages unfolding, and that it is a confrontation of the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Dragon, we know from history (Josephus etc.) that Herod was an Edomite or Idumean – that is, a descendant of Esau. Esau, the archetype of the reprobate and seed of the Serpent.

Note then also the wrath and hatred of the seed of the Serpent against the seed of the Woman. Herod, we read, (Matthew 2:16) "… was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, …" Little covenant soldiers whose lives were laid down in the good cause of the Captain of their salvation, and the good fight of faith. Little soldiers now at victory and in the full enjoyment of life in Emmanuel’s land.

The other example from the life of Christ Jesus, of the progress of the war, and in a sense its culmination and deciding battle of the whole long war, is of course, His crucifixion and death on a hill outside of Jerusalem.

Who was instrumental in His death? Who but the nations who lived without God, Herod’s Son, also known as Herod (Antipas)- Esau’s descendant, and also those of the Jewish nation who were described by Jesus in John 8:44, as "of your father the Devil … He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth ..."

The Bible describes the Lord Jesus on one side, and the confederation of the Romans, Herod and the Jewish leaders on the other side in the language of a great confrontation. In Acts 4:26-27 we read in part,—

"The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. … against thy holy child (seed) Jesus … both Herod, Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together …"

The day Christ Jesus was tried and crucified, that was the day His heel was bruised. But on that day, and the day of His resurrection, it was the glorious day when the head of the Serpent was crushed. The victory was won. And while the war continues, and there are yet battles to be fought, they are in the nature of a desperate rear guard action by a retreating enemy. They are ‘mopping up operations’.

Something of this great Battle of all ages is of course found in Revelation 12.

There are further examples we could discuss if time permitted, such as the persecution of the early church as found in the book of Acts.

2. The War’s Progress in General History

Time will not permit us to dwell on the many instructions to be found from general history on the progress of this war. But we will mention some of the events in history that are obviously a part of the War of all Ages.

During the time of the close of the Old Testament, and the return from exile, and the opening of the New Testament, with the appearance of John the Baptist and of our Saviour, a great drama of this war was enacted. It is the incredible story of the Maccabees and the battles between the Greek Antiochus Epiphanies, etc. and the faithful of God’s people. Read, remember and learn.

Then there were the great persecutions of the early Church under the Roman Emperors. A great part of the war, where in the language of Revelation 12:17, "The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

But there are too the histories of the battles of the Waldensians, Lollards, Huguenot, & Covenanters. You remember the story of Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLaughlin – Psalm 25 – "To Thee I lift my soul" "My sins and faults of youth do Thou O Lord forget"?

Time will not permit us to tell of them. But you should know these histories. Read them for example in Wylie’s History of Protestantism.

In our day too, the war is fought in various ways and places. Not only physically in lands such as Sudan, Arabia, North Korea, China, Myanmar, Kampuchea, Indonesia, India, etc. where various Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and atheistic governments and authorities persecute the church of Jesus Christ – and His children hurt, suffer and die. It is also fought in the western countries, such as Australia, the USA, Britain, and the Netherlands, etc. The war in those places is more that of ideas – what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is error, behaviour and speech, etc. Its areas of battle are often that of marriage, children, education, origins, etc. God’s children are assaulted by attractions to worldliness and the cares of this life.

And yes, the increasing risk of imprisonment and jail is also real – as we can see from the case in Victoria of the Christian pastors who may be imprisoned under an unjust and discriminatory religious vilification law.

Looking into the future, we are told that the Antichrist and the son of perdition are coming, and that there will yet be nation rising against nation, and wars and rumours of wars, and of the seed of the woman being hated of all men, (Mt 6-14), but says Jesus, "when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh"(Lk 21:28)

This is something of the progress of The War in history.

3. The War in Heaven

There is another aspect to this war that we must not overlook. That is the war of all ages as it was fought in heaven.

We get a glimpse of this war in heaven in various places in Scripture. For example, Job 1:6-12 speaks of how at one time the Serpent, also called the Devil and Satan, would appear in heaven itself before the presence of God and accuse God’s children. In the book of Job he accuses Job of following the Lord simply for the social and material good things the Lord has given him. Satan says, before the very throne of God in heaven, that if God were to take it away Job would curse God to His face. (Job 1:11).

Of course Job, in whose heart was the grace of the Seed of the Woman, was enabled to be a good soldier, and did not fall in that battle, though sorely tried.

But this is significant. There was a contest between God and Satan in the very heights of God’s heaven. Satan is called "the accuser of our brethren … which accused them before God day and night." (Rev 12:10) Yes there has been a celestial, heavenly element to this awful war.

Similarly, another place we see the war of all ages being fought out in heaven, the throne-room of God, is of course Revelation 12. There in verse 7 we specifically read of this heavenly war. "There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon: and the dragon fought and his angels."

This war was fought not with swords and physical weapons. It was a war fought with spiritual principles, truths and powers such as justice, righteousness, grace and love. This is seen in the weapon that the dragon – Satan used. It was the spiritual weapon of ‘accusation’. He accused the brethren before the throne of God day and night (v. 10b). So too the weapon used by the archangel Michael, one of the great soldiers of Christ Jesus, the Captain of the Lord’s Army, is spiritual (v. 11), "the blood of the lamb …"

This war in heaven in time and space seems to have taken place at the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus, when atonement for all the sins of all God’s children was made. Satan now had no hold on them, and could not accuse them. The atoning blood of the Lamb cleansed. These deep and great issues affecting the whole universe were effected at this time. Also from this time Satan, that great blood coloured Dragon, had no right to heaven, and forever was cast from it. Thus v. 9-10,—

"The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."

So, there has been war in heaven and in heavenly places.


What should be our attitude to this war as we see it unfolded in history, and in our lives and times, and as we see go on into the future until its end?

The attitude we should have is, I believe, that of certainty of victory —

"We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" ( Rom 8:37)

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor 15:57-58)

This is the grace of Christian hope. Not an uncertain wish for something, but the knowledge of a certainty that brings refreshment, courage, warmth, optimism, and rest in the Lord.

Something of this attitude is seen in the incident of Elisha and his servant at Dothan recorded in 2 Kings 6:13-17. Note the context of the battle! The enemy – an incredible army of great power was all around the little walled town of Dothan where God’s servant was staying. When Elisha’s servant saw the army he was very fearful, but Elisha had the spirit we need in the battle we face. "Fear not" he said, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." You recall when the Lord opened the servant’s eyes he saw yet an even more awesome army of unlimited power, the Lord’s host, all around this petty little earthly army – "… and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariot of fire round about …" (v. 17). Let us pray that our eyes will be thus opened in the battle we face.

Also another incident I will mention that shows the attitude that we may with every confidence take in the midst of the battle, is found in our father in the faith, King Hezekiah in the day that Sennacherib, King of Assyria attacked the city and people of God. (2 Chr 32) Though the Assyrians had an apparently overwhelming army, Hezekiah knew the realities of the war of which this earthly one was but a symptom. We read, in vv. 6b-8, "… (he) gathered (the captains of war) together to him … and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh: but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah."

John Knox said something like, "One man plus God is a majority"!

Rest in the Lord and soldier on then in the good fight of faith, fellow soldier; in the strength and victory that is ours in our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Chris Coleborn