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How do you comprehend a death toll of 155 million people? This is the estimate of the death toll from twentieth century wars and massacres. Some even suggest that future historians will see the twentieth century as one long war, beginning with World War I in 1914 and concluding with the end of the cold war and the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

However, an even greater war is being played out on the stage of the universe. It’s a war that begins with an interstellar battle and ends with the mother of all battles. The war is bloody and prolonged, impacting untold millions, and leaving death and destruction in its wake. Those involved cannot escape. Nothing less than a total commitment of body, mind, and soul will do.

At first, the war was simply a grab for power. The traitor was already in a position of power, but he wanted all power, and he wanted it immediately. And so politics came to the fore, and with it gossip, innuendo, and undermining of authority. All it took was the subtly raised eyebrow in one place, the questioning comment in another, and full-blown insurrection when surrounded by those he had convinced.

Soon the traitor was counting the numbers. If he could just get together enough followers to launch a surprise attack, maybe he could lead a coup. One way or the other, he wasn’t worried—just so long as he had power.

The first battle

With the groundwork laid, the first battle began. What weapons were used remains veiled in mystery, as does the ebb and flow of that battle. The battleground was renowned as a place of dazzling beauty. The insurgents fought without rules. No deception was off limits, no price too great to pay. Even if all the rebel and his followers inherited was a blighted wasteland, they would fight the battle to the end.

The Bible describes this first battle: “There was war in heaven. Michael and the angels under his command [the forces of Jesus] fought the dragon [the traitor] and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle and was forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels” (Revelation 12:7–9).*

And so the first battle ended and the theater of war moved from an interstellar battleground to planet Earth. And the lies and the deceptions were repeated time and time again.

Nothing was too low for the “father of lies.” Appear as an angel of light? No problem! Impersonate Christ? No problem! Impersonate a departed husband, wife, or child? No problem! Stack lie upon lie? No problem! Involve millions in the plot, even if it meant their ultimate death? No problem! All because power beckoned.

The traitor deceived Adam and Eve with a subtle twist of half-truths, and after his first battle on earth resulted in victory, the world became his new theater of war.

Understanding the enemy

To understand the enemy requires some understanding of his motive. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of what happened. “ ‘How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, “I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High” ’ ” (Isaiah 14:12).

The prophet Ezekiel adds further, “ ‘You were the perfection of wisdom and beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone . . . all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold. They were given to you on the day you were created. I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you. Your great wealth filled you with violence, and you sinned. So I banished you from the mountain of God. I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire. Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. . . . So I threw you to the earth’ ” (Ezekiel 28:12–17).

The pivotal battle came after thousands of lesser battles between good and evil had been fought. No level playing field for this one. No privilege was granted to the Son of God. It was the fight of the ages, one Man against all the forces of evil. And at first, it appeared that the traitor had won. But he misunderstood the truth about this battle. Indeed, even as his victory scream rang out, a churning uncertainty began to grow in the pit of his stomach. What if? It shouldn’t have been so easy! It couldn’t have been scripted better!

As darkness cloaked Jesus’ death, thunder rolled and the ground trembled, and the demons raised their voices in praise to Lucifer. Power was within their grasp—the war was turning in their favor. As Jesus slept in the tomb that Sabbath, the forces of evil celebrated their victory. In heaven the loyal angels waited. But then came the dawn. In light, dazzling like lightning, the resurrected Jesus stepped out of His tomb. Now the chorus of praise was coming from heavenly places. Jesus was alive!

And with that the tide turned forever. For though the battle continued to rage and death still ruled, the flames of hope could not be extinguished. Someone lived who held the keys to death and the grave: the One who was dead but now is alive, Jesus Christ!

The fallen foe

The traitor seethed with anger. He had read the prophecies, and now he understood. The end was in sight. Enraged, he set out, knowing his end was near, but still determined to fight while hope existed. For him, the hope was that the inevitable might yet be overturned. The traitor became the ultimate suicide bomber, determined to take down as many people as he possibly could before the end finally came.

The Bible speaks of it like this: “ ‘Rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea. For the Devil has come down to you in great anger, and he knows that he has little time’ ” (Revelation 12:12).

Whether we know it or not, you and I are caught up in this war. The battles are daily, and they are real. It’s a battle for our souls, in which Satan, the traitor, is determined to take away our hope and our future, because then he can take us down with him.

Jesus says, “I have died in your place. Accept My sacrifice, follow Me, and live forever.” He won’t make you take the gift, but He says He will knock at the door of your life until you either accept Him or send Him away. “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Satan also has a plan for your life—a plan that leads to death. The good news is that Jesus has a better plan. Jesus offers you life, hope, and a future. “ ‘My purpose,’ ” says Jesus, “ ‘is to give life in all its fullness’ ” (John 10:10). In Jesus we can find strength to face the battle of life every day.

The apostle Paul says, “A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. . . .

“May God give you peace, dear friends, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May God’s grace be upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Ephesians 6:10–12, 23, 24).

* All Bible quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

The Great War

by Darren Croft
From the January 2010 Signs