Lessons From the Old Testament: The Conflict of the Ages

English painter from the 1700s depicts Satan a...
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Genesis 4 recounts the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.

What God promised in Genesis 3:15 (“I will put enmity between you, serpent, and the woman, and between your seed and her seed”) is already happening.  Cain, who is described by the apostle John as one who belonged to the evil one (1 John 3:12), fails to please God with his offering and in anger and despite God’s warning not to let sin conquer him, invites his brother into the field and slays him.  The seed of the serpent is seeking to snuff out the seed of the woman.  From Satan’s perspective this is the way to stop the advance of God’s kingdom.  From Cain’s perspective, it is revenge.

So Cain becomes the initiator and the pattern of this conflict of the ages.  All subsequent attacks on the people of God may be seen in light of this spiritual conflict that Satan has immersed himself in.  He cannot attack God so he attacks those God loves.  And he takes great joy in using those God loves to attack others He loves.

One of the most monstrous attempts of the devil to extinguish the holy offspring is his work through the Pharaoh of Egypt when Moses was sent to lead his people into the wilderness to worship Yahweh.  Pharoah’s fear of the people of Israel seems unjustified based on their behavior up to this point.  His method of controlling the Israelites is even more sinister, as he asks the Israeli midwives to allow the boy babies of the Hebrews to perish at birth.  Failing that he puts the people under unimaginable stress with forced labor in brick-making and building.

Pharaoh’s resistance to God seems satanically inspired.  This is not in conflict with the truth that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and that Pharaoh himself hardened his own heart.  And even after he loses his firstborn son to the plague from God, he chases the people to the Red Sea with a vengeance, only to perish.

The prophet Isaiah characterizes the conflict this way:

Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength,
       O arm of the LORD;
       awake, as in days gone by,
       as in generations of old.
       Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
       who pierced that monster through?

Was it not you who dried up the sea,
       the waters of the great deep,
       who made a road in the depths of the sea
       so that the redeemed might cross over? (Isaiah 51:9,10)

Isaiah uses the name Rahab in reference to a mythical sea-monster in pagan literature used as a literary foil for God’s power over the false gods.  Egypt is commonly referred to as Rahab (Isaiah 30:7; Psalm 87:4; 89:10) because she acted in resistance to the creative and redemptive acts of God to no avail.  Like the pagan myth of the sea-monster goddess who was slain by one of her children to make way for the creation of the land and men, Egypt sought to stand in the way of Yahweh’s calling forth His people from their midst.  But Yahweh easily defeated her.

It is not always the case, however, that the immediate battle is a victorious one for God’s people, as the death of Abel reminds us.  Often Satan seems to get the victory.  But from God’s perspective it is a “bruising of the heel” rather than a death blow to the head (Genesis 3:15).  We are in this battle.  The conflict has not ceased.  Satan still seeks to destroy us (Job 2; Zechariah 3; Matthew 4; Luke 22:31; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 5:8).  As you are engaged in battle by Satan and his representatives you will see that he desires to either humiliate you, turn you from God, or kill you.  He may win the battle but the war belongs to God.

Paul speaks prophetically to the near future and the distant future when he tells the Roman congregation, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20)  There is coming a day, according to Revelation 12, when (speaking in past tense of a yet future event), “The great dragon was [will be] hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was [will be] hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” (Revelation 12:9)

This will take place during the tribulation, and then at Jesus’ coming Satan will be consigned to a prison for 1,000 years (Revelation 20), only to be released for a short time during which he seeks again to wound the Son of God.  But his doom is sure and the end of our conflict is certain.  In the meantime, fight on in the power of God.  Take the armor and the sword (Ephesians 6) and stand fast in the Lord.


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