Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirteen verses of the second chapter. When we come to the second chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote to these saints which were at Colossae we find him expressing great care and concern for them. What’s more, is that within the first verse of this chapter—not only do we find the apostle Paul expressing concern and care for the saints which were at Colossae, but also for the saints of Laodicea and those who hadn’t yet seen his face. In fact, when you read this particular chapter you will find the apostle using the word “conflict” when describing his thoughts and feelings for these saints. This concept of the apostle Paul continues along the very same lines as the two statements he made in the previous chapter concerning giving thanks for and praying for them always. I find it to be absolutely incredible that when we read these first two chapters we find the apostle expressing great care and great conflict for and on behalf of these saints—a theme which was readily expressed in the various epistles the apostle Paul wrote to the churches and saints which were in Asia. What’s more, is that we read in the eleventh chapter of the second epistle which Paul wrote to the Corinthians how on top of the continued afflictions, struggles, trials, troubles and suffering he experienced, there was the continued burden and care for the various churches which he had helped establish or helped disciple and train up in the ways of Jesus Christ. Much like the words which Solomon wrote concerning “training up a child in the way they should go,” so also the apostle Paul sought to train up these churches in the way they should go in order that when they are older they would not depart from the truth and the simplicity of the gospel and of Jesus Christ.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing to the saints which were in Corinth, for when writing unto these saints the apostle Paul expressed his concern for and over this church. The apostle Paul was concerned that just as the serpent beguiled Eve with his cunning craftiness, so Aldo’s would their minds be turned away from the simplicity that was found in Christ. What’s more, is the apostle Paul also wrote of his concern that they would so quickly turn away and turn aside—not only to another gospel, but also another spirit and another Jesus different from and contrary to what they had been taught. Even when you read and consider the words which the apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders prior to his departure you will find him expressing great care and concern for their well-being, as he knew that after his departure savage wolves would come which would not spare the flock. The apostle Paul would go on to declare unto these elders that for three years he ceased not to warn them night and day with tears concerning the very real danger that would present itself after his departure. If you read the epistles which the apostle wrote unto the churches you will quickly find that one of his greatest concerns and cares for these churches was their faith—their trust and their confidence in Christ, and the simplicity that was found in the gospel. The apostle Paul was undoubtedly com dunes with care and great concern for the churches and the very real danger that would present itself very early on in the formidable years of the church. What so amazes me and is quite astounding is how quickly Satan began going to work against the early church. In fact, if you read the New Testament book of the Acts you will find one of Satan’s first tools used against the church—namely, that of persecution.
IN order to understand the way the adversary—the devil and Satan—came against the church, and the reason the apostle Paul was so concerned for the churches, it is imperative that we examine the words which Jesus spoke to His disciples prior to His death and crucifixion. If you turn your attention to the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus departing from the Temple, and His disciples coming to Him to shew Him the buildings of the Temple. In response to their desire Jesus first asked them if they saw all these things which were before them, and then declared unto them that there would not be left there one stone upon another which would not be cast down. As Jesus came to the Mount of Olives, His disciples once more came to Him privately and asked Him when those things which He spoke of would come to pass. Moreover, the disciples asked Jesus what would be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the world. What we find and what we read immediately following this question is a powerful word of caution and warning, as well as instruction concerning the days which were to come. If you begin reading with and from the fourth verse of this chapter you will find a tremendous amount of language concerning the Last Days—days which many scholars believed would begin the day Pentecost came and the day the Spirit was poured out on all flesh. Consider if you will the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples beginning with the fourth verse of the chapter:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee in the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray the that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s asked those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say not you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:4-28).
If you read the words which Jesus Himself spoke unto His disciples concerning the end of the world and of His coming, you will find that there were essentially two tactics the enemy and adversary can and will use against the saints of God within and upon the earth. In fact, when you read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, you will find that the very first words which proceeded from His mouth was a word of caution and warning that no man would deceive them. This would not be the first time within this particular instance and occurrence Jesus would speak of the tremendous potential for deception, for Jesus would reference and speak of false Christ’s who would arise up during the Last Days, and many who would rise up claiming to operate in His name. Jesus recognized and understood that the Last Days were going to be marked by a powerful and pervasive deception that would spread like gangrene within and throughout the earth, and would especially be used against the saints of God. In fact, if you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find different occurrences of deception beginning to spring up among the churches, although it does not seem to take full effect until we begin reading the various epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches. When you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that the very first tactic the enemy and adversary brought against the saints and brought against the early church was not deception, but rather was that of persecution, suffering and opposition. As early as the fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find persecution beginning to break out against the early church—first among the religious community found within Jerusalem. The early church had its origin within the city of Jerusalem, and within an upper room there in the city. It wouldn’t take long for the opposition and persecution to begin, for immediately following the Day of Pentecost we read of a man who was lame from birth being healed in Jesus’ name as Peter and John walked by him on the way to the temple. What we must recognize and realize is that the enemy and adversary wasted absolutely no time coming against the church, and in all reality, he rose up against it in its infant stage. Much like Pharaoh of Egypt sought to destroy all the male children under the age of two in order to halt the increase and multiplying of the children of Israel within Egypt, and much like Herod sought to destroy all the male children under the age of three in order to destroy the Messiah from within the earth, so also would the enemy and adversary seek to destroy the early church in its infant stage. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that the enemy didn’t immediately come against the church with a flood of deception, but rather with a tidal wave of persecution and opposition.
If you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that pretty much throughout the entire book—with the exception of the first three chapters—there was a tremendous flood of persecution and opposition that broke out against the church. When reading this New Testament book carefully and slowly you will find that this persecution first began within the city of Jerusalem, yet would later spread with the church as the church was forced to move beyond the city of Jerusalem and move to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. In fact, it was Saul himself who would initially be a great catalyst for the persecution which would break out against the church during its early and infant stages. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the opening verses of the ninth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts: “And Saul, yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). Even before we find and read these words in the ninth chapter we find the following words written in the opening verses of the eighth chapter which describes this persecution in an even greater measure: “And Saul was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4). With these words written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke we find that immediately following the death of Stephen there was not only a persecution which broke out against the church, but there was a great persecution which broke out against the church. As a direct result of this great persecution the saints of God were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria. With the saints of God being scattered abroad throughout the surrounding regions of the earth we read how Saul would proceed to make havoc of the church, as he would enter into every house and hailing men and women committing them to prisonWe dare not miss or lose sight of the significance of these words, for it wasn’t with deception the adversary first came against the church, but rather persecution. It was the tool and tactic of persecution the enemy and adversary first came against the early church in order that through a war of attrition he might wear down the saints.
There are four specific passages within Scripture I feel impressed to present to you at this time, which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, as well as the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The first passage is found in the seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel and concerns the little horn w high would rise up within the earth. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the seventh chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel beginning with the twentieth verse of the chapter: “And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:20-22). If you continue reading this particular chapter—specifically the twenty-fifth verse—you will find additional commentary concerning this horn which would rise up within and upon the earth: “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand unto a time and times and the dividing of time” (Daniel 7:25). If you continue reading in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel—specifically in the eighth chapter you will again find the prophet Daniel witnessing the great trouble and havoc this particular individual would wreak against the saints of the Most High. Consider if you will the words which we find and read in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth verses of this chapter: “And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (Daniel 8:24-25). It is quite clear from these passages that in the Last Days the adversary through a tremendous manifestation of evil upon the earth will not only make war against the saints, but will also seek to wear out and wear down the saints of God.
If you continue reading in the canon of Scripture—particularly and specifically the counterpart to the Old Testament book of Daniel, which is the New Testament book fo the Revelation of Jesus Christ—you will find two more distinct passages which describe the Great War which would break out against the saints of God within the Last Days. In the twelfth chapter of this New Testament prophetic book you will begin reading of a great wonder in heaven which was a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and upon her head was a crown of twelve stars. This woman being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. There would appear in heaven another great wonder—a great read dragon, which had seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. This dragon would with his tail draw the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. Moreover, this dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child, who was to truly the nations with a rod of iron. Instead of devouring the child, however, the child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. Immediately following this great sign in heaven we read of a Great War in heaven which broke out between Michael and his angels as they fought against the dragon together with his angels. Ultimately and inevitably the dragon and his angels prevailed not against Michael and his angels, and there was no more found any place for them in heaven. As a direct result of the dragon losing his place in heaven, he along with his angels were cast out, and cast out into the earth, together with his angels. It’s absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this war in heaven, for what began as a war in heaven within this particular chapter would culminate and result in war upon the earth against the saints of God and against the holy ones. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the twelfth chapter of this New Testament prophetic book beginning with the thirteenth verse: “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth. And 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” (Revelation 12:13-17).
This war which would break out against the saints of the most High would not end in the twelfth chapter but would spill over into the thirteenth chapter. It is within the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament prophetic book that we read of the beast which rose up out of the sea—a beast which had seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. Pay close attention to the words which are written and recorded concerning this beast, for what we read concerning this beast brings us face to face with the reality of the continued war that would break out and break forth against the saints. Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote and recorded in this chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:1-10).
When you read the words which are recorded in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, as well as the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find that the serpent, which is the devil and Satan will transition his war in heaven to a war within and upon the earth against the saints of God. I am utterly and completely convinced that this war against the saints is undoubtedly a war of attrition and will include tremendous opposition and persecution against the saints of God in the Last Days—days which would begin with the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The enemy and adversary would first come against the church with a tidal wave of persecution as he would first set out and seek to overcome and destroy the church through persecution, oppression and affliction. It is imperative that we recognize and understand that the first tactic and strategy of the enemy and adversary ain’t deception, but rather was a great flood of persecution against them—either by casting them into prison, or by shedding their blood through lashes and stripes, and in some cases even death. The enemy first came against the church attempting to break their spirits and thrust them into a place of bitterness and offense. In fact, this is precisely what Jesus spoke when speaking to His disciples, for He didn’t merely declare that many of the saints would be afflicted, and even cast into prison, but also as a result would become offended. It’s worth noting Jesus’ final words to John the Baptist, for when Jesus sent the disciples of John back to him there in that prison cell He did so with the instruction and word of caution “And blessed are those who are not offended in me,” or some translations read “blessed are those who are not offended because of me.” This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges presenting itself in the Last Days, for there will be many individuals who will grow offended in Christ because of the persecution, oppression and affliction they will endure at the hands of the enemy and adversary. It’s important for us to recognize and understand this, for while persecution is perhaps the most blatant and outright tactics of the enemy and adversary, there is one that is far more subtle and less visible. Persecution is in fact that tactic of the enemy and adversary which is the most visible by men, however, there is another weapon the adversary can and will use against the saints of God—namely, that of deception.
When you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Colossae you will find that in the fourth verse he goes on to declare that the reason for his words was in direct proportion to the possibility that any man should beguile them with enticing words. What’s more, is that when you come to the eighth verse of the same chapter you will find the apostle Paul going on to write the following words: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). If you continue reading in this chapter, you will find the apostle Paul again using the word beguile in order to express his concern for the church: “Let no man beguile you of your ward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseeth with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:18-19). Within this particular set of verses we come face to face with the concern of the apostle that the saints which were at Colossae—and even those of Laodicea, and those which had not seen his face—would become beguiled and enticed away from the truth that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in the eleventh chapter. Beginning with the first first of the eleventh chapter we find the following words written by the apostle: “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtitle, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might bear well with him” (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). When writing to the churches in Galatia the apostle Paul first wrote these words: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).
What do the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, the words which Paul wrote unto the Galatian churches, the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints, and the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Colossian saints have in common? If you read these passages very carefully you will quickly discover that while the enemy like a dragon will come against the church making war against it through persecution, affliction and opposition, the enemy like a serpent will come against the church and destroy it through deception. What we must recognize and understand is that the serpent can and will come against the church with a flood of deception in order that he might deceive them by accepting another gospel. The apostle Paul was concerned that much like the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden, so also would the serpent beguile the saints of God that they would abandon and forsake the simplicity that is in Christ. This was the same concern the apostle Paul had when writing to the Colossian saints, for the apostle Paul was concerned that through deception the serpent would come against the church in order that he might entice and draw them away from the truth and the simplicity that is found in Christ. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for if the enemy and adversary is not coming against you right now through persecution, I am convinced that he will most readily and most certainly come against you with and through deception. One of the greatest tactics the serpent has used against the church since its inception and early days is that of deception, for the apostles spent a considerable amount of time preaching the truth of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ in order that they might silence the false teachers, the false brethren, and the false apostles and apostles. If there is one thing we must be on our guard against right now, it’s that which would entice us away from the simplicity—and not only the simplicity, but also the beauty—that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that now more than ever before we must work diligently and fervently to guard ourselves from and guard ourselves against deception which would seek to entice and draw us away from the beauty that is found in the person of Jesus Christ. There may be times when the serpent and the dragon will come against you with a one-two punch of persecution and deception, and we must needs be on our guard against this very reality.
THE SERPENT AND THE DRAGON! As I am sitting here right now I find it absolutely necessary and imperative to call our attention to the reality of the serpent and the dragon, for again—as a dragon the devil will make war against the saints through persecution, affliction, opposition and much suffering. Like a serpent, however, the devil will come against the saints of God more subtly and will use deception—whether it be presenting false Christs, or whether it be presenting false brethren, or whether it be through the teaching and preaching of false teachers, false apostles, false prophets and the like. I have long believed that Satan is preparing to make his last, his final and his greatest stand within the earth against the saints, and I am convinced that he can and will do us both as the serpent and the dragon. We have a great need and a great responsibility to recognize and understand this one-two punch of the devil, for he can and will come against us as both the serpent, as well as the dragon. What’s more, is that we must be a people of discernment to recognize when the devil is coming against us as the serpent, and when he is coming against us as the dragon. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the manifestation of the devil within our lives, for the devil can and will manifest himself in the earth as the dragon who seeks to make war with and wear out the saints, and he will also manifest himself in the earth as the serpent who is more subtle and cunning, and will through deception seek to beguile us away from the truth that is in Christ. Ultimately, the devil will seek to draw us away from Christ, for through persecution he will seek to cause us to become offended in and with Christ, and through deception he will seek to entice us away from the truth that is found in the gospel and to follow and believe another gospel and receive a Jesus different from the One we have heard preached, and which we have read in the Scriptures. Oh that we would possess within our hearts, our minds, and our spirits the discernment that is necessary to recognize and understand the tactics and strategies of the enemy within our lives—particularly and especially during these Last Days, for the time is short, and the end is most certainly near and at hand.