What is the Angelic Conflict?
The Angelic conflict is the reason we exist, the reason we are who we are, the reason for sin and suffering and salvation. Though its beginning predates human history, it continues full force today, mostly unseen, but sometimes bursting into public awareness with calamaties like those of September 11. People ask how and why such a disaster could happen. Because of the Angelic conflict. But even as it shapes and permeates the bigger events of human history, so this conflict also shapes and permeates all aspects of our personal lives, though few indeed are aware of it.
The ultimate conspiracy, its true nature and parameters remain among the most carefully guarded secrets of all time. For the devil has deceived the whole world, God tells us through the apostle John. He is the prince of the powers of the air, the ruler of the earth, the roaring lion prowling about seeking someone to devour. Craftier than any serpent, he can appear as an angel of light, with a voice we can only compare to a pipe organ, or perhaps a full orchestra. Far superior to any of us in intellect, he has blinded the minds of men, persuading Christians and non-Christians alike that they can please God with their own works and there is no devil, no hell, no unseen war at all. (1)
At least, not one that affects them in any direct and relevant way. Oh, they’ve heard of it. You can hardly live in today’s society and not come across the concept of good versus evil. Books, movies, video games — it’s everywhere, in a multitude of permutations that range from the abstract (evil as an unreasoning destructive force) to the personal (Satan against the servants of Good, or, more rarely, God).
It is a measure of Satan’s genius that he uses all of them to disguise, obscure and pervert the truth. Through them the conflict is often trivialized, portrayed in comic book fashion, with Satan as a great slavering monster rearing up from the flames of his subterranean throne room to devour yet another hapless soul.
Most people know such monsters don’t exist, and therefore conclude that neither does Satan. Or if he does, he’s down there in hell, where they don’t plan on going. Regardless, it has little bearing on their workaday lives and they leave the theater or close the book having been entertained, but not enlightened. Instead, one more layer of gauzy deception has been wrapped around their spiritual vision.
For Satan is no slavering monster, nor is he confined to a subterranean inferno ruling over souls he has stolen from life to eternally torment in death. The Bible says he is the most beautiful creature ever to come from God’s hand, once called the son of the morning, former guardian of the throne of God, one who persuaded his fellow angels to rebel against their perfect, righteous, holy creator — which testifies to his personal appeal and intellect. He has free access to heaven even now – when he is not roaming about the earth itself. (2)
He doesn’t desire to destroy everything, nor to bring down a reign of darkness and terror. He does not intend to be a fiend, but to be like God, to rule in God’s place, to be worshipped and loved and praised as God is. (3) If things go wrong in the nations and institutions he controls, it is more likely because he can’t control the sinful nature of man than because he intends for things to be a mess.
Not that he doesn’t want to destroy some things. He does: God’s word , Jesus’s reputation, the true memory of what occurred at the Cross, the Gospel, any believer advancing in God’s Plan; local churches proclaiming the truth, nations that operate under Divine laws; the Jews . . . He has as many plans to implement these desires as he does those to bring about his planned perfect world. (4)
How did things come to this? The Bible teaches that before the creation of man, a conflict arose between God and His angels when Satan attempted to wrest God’s rulership away from Him. The resulting battle left the earth’s surface ruined (tohu wa bohu) and packed in ice. Presumably at this point the trial occurred that found Satan and his cronies guilty and sentenced them to the Lake of Fire. (5)
Since Satan is not yet in the Lake of Fire, logic says he appealed his sentence. We can easily deduce the grounds on which he did so, since it is an accusation against God’s character we hear often enough in life: how can a loving God cast His creatures into hell?
To answer this appeal, God created man, a lower being, and set him into the great open theater of earth for all the angels to observe. (6)
Through the genius of His plan, using the free will decisions of the original perfect man and woman, God arranged that all the rest of us would begin life condemned as sinners and rebels, just as Satan is condemned. (7) Then He would take on the form of this lower being Himself –that had to be an incredible shock to his angels – and, more shocking still, allow these pitiful, sinful, gullible men to mock and abuse Him and finally nail Him to a Roman Cross. There He turned around and bore the penalty for the sins of those same stupid, vicious people and all the rest of us besides. In so doing, he satisficed the claims His justice had against us so that we could live with Him forever. There is no greater demonstration of love than this. (8)
Those who reject that love and the gift it has provided will eventually — and eternally — reap the consequences of their free will decisions against Him, just as Satan and his followers will one day reap theirs. (9) Thus God is clearly shown to be just and right, even as the fallen angels are shown to deserve the sentence they have received.
But salvation from eternal condemnation is just the beginning of God’s plan for those who believe. He leaves us here after salvation so that He might deliver us from the power of sin in time. He wants to bless us in the devil’s world, a world of sin, by giving us the privilege of testifying in this great trial as Invisible Heroes, witnesses for the Prosecution. To that end, He has provided all the power and knowledge we need to do this. We have only to take advantage of it, though that, again, is a matter of choice. A matter of many choices made day after day after day all the way to the end of our lives. (10)
It is, naturally, Satan’s objective to turn us into witnesses for his own defense, to get us to embarrass ourselves and our loved ones and, most of all, the One we claim to serve. He seeks constantly to deceive us, to confuse us, to scare us and get us distracted with inconsequential issues, making mountains out of molehills, wasting our lives as the Exodus generation wasted theirs — wandering in circles in the wilderness. Above all he wants to keep us out of that Promised Land of blessing beyond imagination that is the province of the spiritually mature believer. (11)
If we are not well trained and equipped in matters spiritual, he will succeed. We must be humble enough to recognize our need and submit ourselves to the authority of our pastors and of the word itself, to study it as we study no other subject, then use it in our lives. Man does not live by bread alone, says our Lord, but by the word of God. As we eat physical food on a daily basis, so we should eat spiritual food as well. It is the key to temporal victory. Apart from the knowledge of the word of God — and the application of that knowledge to our lives — we will wander among the rocks, whining and mewing about our misfortunes, always wondering why, and never understanding what is going on, casualties in a war we don’t know we’re even fighting. (12)
There are many other parts to the Angelic conflict, as I mentioned above — parts that relate to the nations, parts that relate to the Jews, parts that answer questions like “Why 9-11?” The doctrine of the Angelic conflict is lengthy and complex, as one would expect it to be. Since my intent here is to provide only a general summary, there is much I have left out.
It is, however, the basis for the fantasy and science fiction novels that I write, published by Bethany House. Arena and the first three books of my Legends of the Guardian-King series have all won Christy Awards, which are given to honor excellence in Christian fiction. I invite you to investigate them by clicking on the “My Books” tab in the header at the top fo this page.
Readers interested in further academic study may consult The Invisible War by Dr. Donald Barnhouse. Lewis Sperry Chafer also offers a couple of brief chapters on it in his Major Bible Themes. Both of these books are currently available through Amazon.com or Christianbook.com. Studies of greater depth and scope (and more immediate availability) may be found at the website of Grace Bible Church (Pastor Robert R. McLaughlin), where you can download the doctrine as a printable word document (there are 28 pages with lots of scripture to back up the points) or listen to a series of 57 hour-long lessons by Pastor McLaughlin via real audio. The lessons are also available on a CD. All of it is free of charge, since Grace Bible Church operates on a grace basis with regard to its tapes, publications and Internet ministry. I strongly urge you to check out this excellent resource if you are at all interested in increasing your knowledge about the angelic conflict.
Copyright 2009 Karen Hancock
(1) Revelation 12:9; 13:4; Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31; Matthew 4:8,9; Ezekiel 28:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3, 14, 15
(2) Ezekiel 28: 12-14, 17; Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:4; Job 1:6, 7; Revelation 12:10
(3) Isaiah 14:13, 14; 2 Thessalonians 2:4
(4) 2 Corinthians 11:3,4, 13-15; I Timothy 4:1
(5) Isaiah 24:1; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10; Genesis 1:2 — tohu wa bohu is also used in Jeremiah 4:23 to describe the results of a battle which occurred at a time when “there was no man” (vs 25), ie, in pre history. Vs 26 adds that it was done by the Lord in “fierce anger”
(6) I Corinthians 4:9 “spectacle” = theatron, the place where public dramas were shown
(7) Romans 11: 25-32
(8) Colossians 2: 13-15; Romans 5:18; John 6: 47, 51
(9) John 3: 18
(10) Ephesians 1; Job 1, 2; Job 42; I Corinthians 4:9; Hebrews 12: 1
(11) 2 Corinthians 11: 3, 4, 13-15; I Timothy 4:1; I Corinthians 10:19-21; Galatians 3:23; Matthew 19: 16-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 8-10
(12 ) Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4; Jeremiah 15:16