The warfare against demonic powers depicted in Scripture is very real. But though unrighteous angels can fight God, they cannot overpower Him:
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:7–9)
We should never believe that the conflict between good and evil is only figurative, not real. This passage vividly shows its reality—Michael and his angels fight in a great battle, with much at stake.
However, we should never believe that anyone can thwart God’s ultimate plan. The rebellion is real, the warfare is real—but Satan “was not strong enough” to stay in Heaven. God accomplished His will by casting out the devil.
We, too, war against these evil beings: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t want to overestimate the power of demons in our lives, but neither do we want to underestimate it. We should take up our armor yet not fear the future, for the outcome is certain: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).
Years ago I was asked, “Have you ever been personally aware of being in the presence of demons? Have you ever been aware of a guardian angel doing something on your behalf?”
Regarding demons, two instances in particular stick out. One was years ago when our girls were young and we were in Egypt, staying with a missionary family, our dear friends Pat and Rakel Thurman. After we’d been there perhaps six days, when there was no more jet lag and we’d been sleeping fine, one night Nanci and I were troubled and fitful and unable to sleep all night. It was a heavy presence of evil that was palpable. We prayed quietly, for protection of our daughters and ourselves, and got almost no sleep.
In the morning Pat and Rakel said, “You didn’t sleep last night, did you?” We were surprised, since we hadn’t been making noise. How did they know?
They said, “We couldn’t sleep either. There are nights here where the demonic presence is so great no Christian can sleep.”
Another time, Nanci and I were in Hawaii. We had an interview scheduled at what we thought was a Christian radio station. But the moment we walked in the front door, it took our breath away. There was a dark oppressive spirit in the place, one like I have felt only a few times in my life. It turned out to be a New Age station with pictures on the wall of various eastern mystics and religious leaders. We understood why we had felt what we had when we walked in. They wanted to talk about my book—they must have misunderstood what it was about—but all I talked about was Jesus being the Son of God, and how He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him. (That’s the benefit of a live interview—if it had been prerecorded they would have just tossed the tape!)
Another place I’ve felt that throat clenching darkness is at abortion clinics. Once I opened a dumpster at an abortion clinic and saw blood and flesh. I was overwhelmed with a horror that wasn’t like something made to look bad in a movie, but was real and undiluted evil, from the very pit of Hell. Satan, the murderer, and the one who lies to cover his murders, loves to kill children. As I looked at destroyed human flesh in that dumpster, I could feel his hatred. The devil is the ultimate serial killer.
On a less dramatic level—but real nonetheless—a hopeless sense of dread and foreboding has fallen on me at times, especially when I’m in the midst of a challenging writing project. When that happens, I call upon the blood of Christ to cover and protect me. I used to do this silently, but now I speak aloud. God hears me either way, but I want the demons to hear too, and the righteous warriors. Jesus responded aloud to Satan during the temptation. He quoted Scripture so the devil could hear it, perhaps also for the benefit of the holy angels. When we resist the devil, it may not always be appropriate to speak aloud (or to speak loudly anyway, e.g. at a restaurant or in church or at work), but as a rule I think it has merit. By verbalizing we give shape and expression to the weapons of spiritual warfare. A. W. Tozer entitled one of his editorials (and it became the title of one of his books), “I talk back to the devil.”
As for righteous angels, I’ll never forget driving too fast as a teenager, looking down at something that distracted me, and then looking up to see all yellow in front of me. I swerved to the right, bumped along in a field, cut back onto the road and saw in my rear view mirror the school bus that had come to a complete stop in front of me. I knew immediately the situation was impossible—I simply could not have been that close to the back of a school bus, where all I saw was yellow, going at that speed and not crashed into it. Yet I didn’t. God graciously delivered me, and I suspect someday I’ll find an angel or two were involved in the rescue.
My family stayed with the Shel Arensen family in Kenya back in 1989. Shel grew up attending Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. During our visit, Shel told me a story I’ve heard since, about something that happened there in the 1950’s. Herbert Lockyer wrote of it in his book on angels, and I think it’s in Billy Graham’s book on angels too. Shel’s family was living there at the time, and he pointed out to us where the events of that night unfolded.
That particular night during the “Mau Mau rebellion,” the ruthless warriors of the Mau Mau tribe gathered to climb the hill up to the missionary school (RVA) to capture and kill the missionary children and teachers, and fulfill their vows by eating the brains of white men, who they considered their oppressors.
Word got out about this plan, but it was too late to evacuate the school or to get outside protection. Desperate phone calls were made and people around the world were called upon to pray for God’s intervention. The night went on, with teachers and children huddled at RVA, praying and fully expecting to be attacked, and likely killed, any moment.
But nothing happened. The warriors never made it to the school, and no one was harmed.
No one knew the rest of the story until sometime later, when a Mau Mau warrior was in jail, and on trial. At his trial, the leader of Mau Maus, who led that attack, was asked, “On this particular night did you intend to kill the inhabitants [of the missionary school]?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you?”
His answer? “We were on our way to attack and kill them, but as we came closer, suddenly between us and the school there were many men dressed in white, holding flaming swords.” He said he and his warriors were all terrified, and fled down the hill, never to return.
Sure, sometimes God chooses not to answer our desperate prayers exactly as we wish. And yes, sometimes God’s children are hurt and even killed. But how many times has He answered when we haven’t realized He’s moved Heaven and earth—and maybe a company of righteous angels—to do it? Had the human warriors not told what they saw, no one would have known what really happened that night. How many amazing stories will we not hear until we are with Jesus? I have no doubt that the answer is “the vast majority of them!”