|Observing the Text!|
The Kingdom and the Church
There is a war going on! Those living on earth are on the battlefield. The enemy does not understand that he has been defeated. God planted a cross on earth and announced that he ruled. The war has been decisively won! But there are still small battles which occur between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. We can illustrate this by observing how the battles are carried out in the form of attacks and counterattacks. We should understand that as we attack the citadels of Satan, his forces will counterattack. The life and ministry of Jesus serve as a model for the church to understand this strategy.
|Interpreting the Text!|
The Remnant is the Church
Jesus appointed his twelve disciples (Mark 3.13-15). Up to this point in Mark’s story, he had recorded the preaching and baptisms by John (Mark 1.1-8); the empowering presence of the Spirit in the life of Jesus (Mark 1.9-11); the battle of Satan and Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 1.12-13); and the proclamation of Jesus that the time for the kingdom had come (Mark 1.14-15). In the last two events, the wilderness and the proclamation of Jesus, the battle lines were drawn. Satan had attacked Jesus in the wilderness and the response of Jesus was the proclamation of the kingdom as an assault against Satan and his domain. The war was on!
Attack: Jesus in Combat
The continuing story of Mark revealed the attack of the kingdom of God into this present evil age. Jesus expelled a demon at Capernaum (Mark 1.21-28); healed the mother-in-law of Peter speaking to the fever as a demonic force (Mark 1.29-31); healed the sick and cast out many demons (1.32-34); went through Galilee preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons (Mark 1.39); cleansed a leper (Mark 1.40-45). At the conclusion of the first chapter of Mark, Jesus announced that the kingdom had arrived in his works.
In the second chapter of Mark, Jesus continued the assault on Satan. Mark records two attacks: the healing of the paralytic and the healing of the man with a withered hand. Mark points out how the religious community responded to Jesus. When Jesus healed the paralytic, the Scribes are amazed and give glory to God (Mark 2.1-12). By the conclusion of the section, the religious community has become antagonistic and its leaders met to decide how they should kill Jesus (Mark 3.6). The summary of this warfare is given in Mark 3.7-12. Mark says that many were healed and that many demons were expelled. The first three chapters of the Gospel of Mark show Jesus counterattacking the enemy after he was attacked by Satan in the wilderness.
Counterattack: Satan in Combat
Jesus began to multiply his efforts in the war by his choice of twelve disciples for a special purpose (Mark 3.13-15). These disciples were to have a relationship with him and enter into combat with him (sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons). At home alone, Jesus is attacked again by the enemy. The first attack came from his family: they thought he was crazy (Mark 3.21). The second attack came from the religious leaders: they accused him of being demonized (Mark 3.30, see John 10.20). These attacks were in-your-face attacks, designed to prevent Jesus from continuing his attack on the kingdom of Satan.
Attack and Counterattack in the Teaching of Jesus
Jesus understood the ability of Satan to counterattack. In Luke (11.24-26), he taught that a demonic power would strike back when he told his listeners that one demon could be expelled only to return with seven others more evil to take up residence.Jesus understood the ability of Satan to counterattack. Click To Tweet
The counterattacking ability of the enemy is suggested in the teaching of Jesus about the greatness of John the Baptist (Matt. 11.11-15). John was the first to announce that the kingdom of God had arrived (Matt. 3.2). His announcement was a declaration of war on Satan! Jesus states in Matthew 11.2, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” The kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God are the same (see Luke 16.16). Another translation could be: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is being violently treated, and violent ones are trying to plunder it.” The word translated by NIV as violent men can simply be violent ones; there is no word here in the Greek text for men.
The text means that from the time John the Baptist proclaimed that the kingdom was coming, declaring war on Satan, until now, at the point Jesus was teaching and continuing, the sons of the kingdom were suffering violence; violent ones, the demonic forces which were resisting the advance of the kingdom by the words and works of Jesus, were plundering members of the kingdom. In short, the violent ones are trying to reclaim what they have lost: they would fight back, they would counterattack (Kallas. The Significance of the Synoptic Miracles. 1961. 73-74).
The late Dr. George Ladd argued that “We do not discover (in the New Testament) the idea of Satan attacking the kingdom of God or exercising his power against the kingdom itself. He can only wage his war against the sons of the kingdom…God is the aggressor; Satan is on the defensive” (Ladd. A Theology of the Kingdom. 1974a. 160-166). By saying that Satan does not war directly on the kingdom, (he cannot ascend to heaven and attack God directly) this does not imply that Satan does not attack the people of the kingdom. He does attack and with great effectiveness when we are unaware of his methods. Dr. Ladd also stated, “God’s rule makes its way with great force and keen enthusiasts lay hold on it, that is, want to share in it…. God was acting mightily in his own mission and became the dynamic power of the kingdom which has invaded the world, men are to respond with a radical reaction.” Jesus used violent language to demonstrate that the presence of the kingdom demands radical reaction (Matt. 10.34; Mark 9.43; Luke 14.26; Ladd. 1993. 69-70).
Satan does strike back when his kingdom is attacked by the kingdom of God. Jesus taught such in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13.18-23; Mark 4.19). When asked what he meant by this parable, he replied that Satan comes and takes away the word (he fights back when God is advancing his kingdom). In the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matt. 13.24-30) he explains that the weeds were the sons of Satan and the enemy who had sown them was the devil.Satan does strike back when his kingdom is attacked by the kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
As we attack the strongholds of Satan’s kingdom with the rule of God, we can expect him to forge a counterattack. He will always try to undo the work of Jesus in lives. Paul uses the metaphor of soldiers in an army in pleading with the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God.” After putting on the armor, Paul exhorts the believers “to stand and fight” (Eph. 6.10-18). God has provided offensive and defensive weapons. With them, we can attack as well as sustain the counterattack of Satan’s kingdom.
Living into the Text!
It is always important to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- In what areas of the stronghold of the enemy have you been attacked?
- How are you a part of the remnant?
- Where is the devil trying to gain back what he lost in the life of your community of faith and in your life?
- How does Satan take away the word of the kingdom/rule in your life, your family life, your business life, your marriage, and your church life?
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.