- REVISED -
by Phil Enlow
History is moving inexorably toward the day when, “There will be no more delay.” Rev. 10:6. It won’t be long before the Almighty will bring down the curtain upon this age and mankind will stand before the Lord in judgment.
Satan, though he knows not the precise time, is very aware that his time is short. Rev. 12:12 speaks of a time when the devil, “is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Obviously from this scripture we see that the devil is able to know that the end is drawing near and that this knowledge causes him to redouble his efforts to destroy men and oppose the work of God in the earth.
No doubt this knowledge comes in large part through the church. Paul says in Ephesians 3:10 that the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through the Church. When the present tense expression of the mind and purpose of God comes forth in the earth by the anointing, Satan is a very attentive listener. He probably listens to the word of God more closely than most Christians.
It is no accident that there is a great increase in satanic activity in our day. God has spoken many times to his people to warn them of the lateness of the hour. Satan is fully aware of this. It should be no surprise that he is mounting a last all-out offensive in his work of evil. An all-powerful God is permitting him to deceive those who refuse to love the truth and so be saved. 2 Thess. 2:10.
SATAN AND THE CHURCH
But I am mainly concerned here with Satan’s opposition to the Church of Jesus Christ. Though he is powerless to destroy genuine Christians in the ultimate sense, yet he ever seeks to destroy the effectiveness of Christians as lights in the world.
In opposing Christians, Satan seeks to do one of two things: to put them to sleep; or to make them drunk. 1 Thess. 5:6 exhorts believers concerning both conditions: “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Verse 7 speaks specifically of sleep and drunkenness. Of course, sleep and drunkenness are spiritual conditions of which natural sleep and drunkenness are types and symbols.
The Bible is full of explicit indications that true blood-bought believers, possessing eternal life, bound for heaven, can be spiritually asleep in this world. In Matthew 25:5, Jesus indicated that when the time of the bridegroom’s coming approached, both wise and foolish virgins would be sleeping. Note: wise virgins, having oil in their vessels, but asleep. These are true believers. In Matthew 13:25 in the parable of the wheat and tares we see that the enemy was able to sow his seed in with the wheat because, “everyone was sleeping.”
To be asleep is to be at ease, careless, unaware of one’s surroundings. All kinds of things can take place around a sleeping person, yet he knows nothing of what is going on in the real world. He is lost in the shadowy world of dreams.
The sleeping Christian is unaware of things happening around him in the spiritual realm, which is the only real eternal realm. His mind is occupied by this material temporary world and its affairs.
In Romans 13:11, Paul wrote, “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber ....” If that was true almost 2000 years ago, how much more important is it for us today to “understand the present time”?
1 Thess. 5:7 says, “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.” The phrase “at night” stands out here.
We are nearing the end of a long gospel day. Though it has not always been a bright day yet there has been light, and the powers of darkness have been restrained to the degree necessary for the worldwide propagation of the gospel. John 12:31-32; 2 Thess. 2:7; Col. 2:15; Matt. 12:29.
SATAN’S INFLUENCE GROWING
But the day of grace is drawing to a close. The restrictions upon Satan are steadily dwindling as men reject God and are turned over to darkness. A deep spiritual night has fallen. Our world is “in the night.”
Isaiah spoke of a time when, “darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.” (Isaiah 60:2). This prophecy certainly describes the condition of the world into which our Savior came long ago. Yet it also describes conditions in our day.
Today’s darkness is more than a mere absence of light. It is the result of an intelligent conspiracy to destroy man. It is the result of demon power which blinds and deludes lost men. Though there is light in the world for believers, this is a darkness that exists in the minds of the children of destruction. It is the darkness of a man unable to see a blazing light because he is blind. II Cor. 4:4.
This demonic darkness is the prevailing condition of our world today. And it exerts a terrific force upon believers. All of us have experienced the difficulty of staying awake at a time of the night when we are normally asleep. Through habit our bodies and minds cry out for sleep. We yawn; our eyes grow heavy. Only a most determined effort will keep us awake. It is like that in this hour.
Though we are redeemed and possess eternal life, as long as we remain in these bodies, we will also possess the fallen adamic nature with which we were born. Though we are not compelled to obey it, the influence is there. Our old nature responds to the influence of our sin-darkened world like our bodies respond to the habitual time for sleep. Only a sober effort to combat this influence will prevent sleep from overtaking us.
Satan is using his new-found freedom in the world to bear upon the spirits of believers to cause them to quit fighting and go to sleep. He will do anything to cause them to become preoccupied with natural things to the neglect of eternal matters.
Great spiritual battles can rage around some Christians, yet they are unaware. The effects may stir them slightly, but they just turn over and go back to sleep. They are useless to God in matters of the Kingdom and may even become unwitting tools of the enemy.
They dreamily serve a Christ of history or a Christ who will one day come, but do not hear the Christ who is speaking today as they are consumed with the affairs of this life, both secular and religious. And Satan knows how to appeal to people to keep them involved and busy.
In many parts of the world today, believers are systematically persecuted. They suffer the loss of possessions; of opportunities to prosper in this world; they are imprisoned and tortured; many are even losing their lives for Christ. But Satan’s opposition to the Church in the western world has been much more subtle — and much more effective. Here he has posed as a friend, a benefactor, offering religious liberty, opportunity, comfort and ease. Storm clouds are indeed gathering but far too many remain asleep, unaware of true spiritual conditions.
Without a doubt the Church is purer and stronger spiritually where it is openly opposed. Christians have far less difficulty staying awake when there is a lion roaring at the door. But let the gentle breezes blow, bank accounts grow and the snores of sleeping Christians will almost surely follow.
With opportunities for indulging the appetites of “Adam” within us abounding, it is easy for spiritual realities to seem a bit foggy and unreal. We give mental assent to the doctrines of heaven, the Kingdom of God, angels and devils, spiritual warfare and the soon return of the Lord, but they seem dream-like beside our day-to-day interests in this world.
The Spirit of God cries, “Awake, repent, be sober, fight!” We start a bit in our slumber. Then Adam soothes us back to sleep: “Fight?! Fight what? You’re doing fine. You’re respected and liked by your friends. Your bills are getting paid. You’re active in the church. Don’t rock the boat. Look at brother so-and-so: he’s not all upset and fanatical and he’s a fine Christian, respected by all. Relax. Things are fine.” And our minds are flooded with thoughts of the various activities that fill our lives and we slumber once more.
THE SPIRIT OF SLEEP
The whole atmosphere is pervaded with a spirit that is causing men to fall into a deep sleep. It is like a deadly gas and Adam is right at home in such an atmosphere. This spirit of sleep is a cover, however, for the greatest satanic onslaught against men the world has ever seen. Great battles are taking place. Eternal issues are at stake. Lives are being enslaved and destroyed.
Is it any wonder that God’s word is: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion….” Amos 6:1. What will God have to do to arouse us? Must persecution come before we awake?
“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand.” This passage in Joel 2 goes on to describe the destructive forces loose during this time. God’s people are warned to turn wholeheartedly to the Lord. Blessings and restoration are promised. The passage ends with the promise that Zion would be a place of deliverance and salvation. God will have such a people. Will we be among them?
According to I Thess. 5:6-8, the possibility of sleep in the end time was not Paul’s only concern: he also issued a clear warning against drunkenness. As in the case of sleep, this drunkenness was not literal but spiritual in nature.
Of course, natural drunkenness is intended to be a picture of the spiritual condition that concerned Paul. A man who is drunk is robbed of self-control. He lacks judgment. His behavior is often embarrassing and inappropriate to those around who are sober. Though awake, he cannot properly assess or relate to the realities of life around him. He becomes useless in any meaningful undertaking. He may even become a source of danger to others. His influence for good is gone.
Not only may his condition be thus described, but the instrument of his stupor is powerfully addicting. He cannot live without it. Psychologically, as well, he comes to need the fantasy world that alcohol helps him create.
Drunkenness of the spirit is like all of this and far worse. Isaiah 28 gives us a clear picture. Verses 1-4 graphically portray the delusion of religion without God: proud spiritual leaders in religious trappings impressive to the natural man, presiding over the ease and prosperity of drunken multitudes blissfully unaware of impending doom. This is a perfect picture of most religion including most of professing Christianity.
Some professed followers of Christ even have a form of godliness but there is no power. 2 Tim. 3:5. Not only is there a lack of power, but if God’s power were suddenly to be manifested, no effort would be spared to suppress it. Consider the reaction of the good orthodox, Bible-believing religious folk of Jesus’ day. That is what is meant by “denying its power.” Religious man does not merely lack light; he hates and despises it and seeks at all costs to suppress and destroy it. John 3:19-20, 8:40.
The “wine” that keeps man in such a stupefied condition is the spirit of Satan expressed in religious doctrines and ideas. This wine fixes him up with a delusion that all is well when it is not. This delusion exists in the minds of men who embrace religious falsehoods.
And not only do they drink in the falsehood itself — that would be bad enough — but the authors of that falsehood come in to live as well — demon spirits long schooled in the art of deception. Demons have learned their craft over thousands of years of leading men astray. Thus, does Babylon become, “a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries” Rev. 18:2-3.
How does this delusion gain such a stranglehold on the world as a whole? The answer is simple — it is man’s rejection of truth. 2 Thess. 2:11-12 says, “For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
THE WRATH OF GOD
Rom. 1:18-32 shows the connection between the wrath of God and the state of delusion. “Wrath” involves turning man over to the darkness he loves — and chooses — to reap its fearful consequences.
Jeremiah 51 is a remarkable parallel to Rev. 17 and 18. In verse 7 we read, “Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord's hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad.” We clearly see that although the devil brings the delusive wine, the Lord sends it as the first step in judgment and destruction.
Note that in both Jeremiah and Revelation the cup is golden. One must never judge a cup’s contents by its outward appearance. That is true both of the devil’s cup and the Lord’s. Jesus’ description of the religious leaders of his day included these words: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matt. 23:25.
Isaiah 29:9-13 presents a clear picture of spiritual drunkenness: “Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer. The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers).
“For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I can't; it is sealed.’ Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I don't know how to read.’
“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’”
CHRISTIANS AND THE WINE
This condition of drunkenness that prevails so completely as the end approaches affects real Christians in varying degrees as well as the lost. Why else would Paul exhort believers to “be self-controlled”?
Isaiah 28:5-8 portrays vividly the effect that this wine has wherever it prevails. Verses 7-8 read, “And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth.”
God has always had his remnant in the earth. Even so it is today that a remnant of God’s saints is scattered through the systems of men where these conditions prevail. They cannot help but be affected by the wine. That is at least one reason Paul warns us against being taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy based on human tradition and the basic principles or this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8).
I’m afraid that there have been many real believers who have been confused, abused, scattered and who could certainly be characterized as being “out of the way.” Like Lot who pitched his tent toward Sodom and barely escaped with his life they are in no position to be profitable to God and his Kingdom.
“Out of the way.” That’s a serious condition, especially in light of the time. Only through a steady diet of God’s anointed truth can we escape the stupor and vomit brought on by the wine. Yet even God’s anointed truth itself will have no effect on one who doesn’t see his need and desire it from the heart. One might as well lecture a drunk on the virtues of sobriety.
By “anointed truth” I mean an expression of truth literally powered in its delivery by God’s Spirit. Far too much preaching relies on human ability and tradition and is not a genuine present-tense expression of Christ, the only true Head of the Church. It may even be scripturally accurate, yet spiritually lifeless. In John 6:63 Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” It is either Jesus himself speaking by the Spirit or it is people, at best, speaking about Jesus.
WHAT TO DO
It is an hour when God’s true remnant must seek Him with all their hearts. Only Christ can lead his people safely through the “wilderness” of this present world. It is his job alone to build his Church — and to lead us as individuals to our places in it. The Lord’s cup may not appear outwardly to be golden, but it contains the pure water of life.
Babylon is a scriptural symbol for the world system. It is not just the world of government and secular culture but also of religion, including that which bears the name, “Christian,” yet lacks the present-tense leadership and presence of Christ. Rev. 18:4 says, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.”
I am more persuaded than ever that God has abandoned much of professing Christianity and that deliverance is needed for His true remnant. It matters not that religious people gather in the name of Christ, sing “Amazing Grace” and preach many sound biblical doctrines. If God’s power and life are not there, God is not there. Such places exist to bind up bundles of tares for the fire (Matthew 13:40). It is no place for a true born-again believer — especially now in the end of the age. Seek God!
It is night. The world is asleep, or drunk, or both. Passive indifferent Christians in this hour are in trouble and don’t even know it. Consider the warning in Matt. 24:48-51 against carelessness at the time of Christ’s coming. Indifferent Christians may prove not to be Christians at all. Half of the sleeping virgins had no oil. They were unaware of their lack until it was too late. We will see an accelerated process in the days ahead of separation involving apparent believers being overcome by wine or sleep.
As Paul said in I Thess. 5:5-11, “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Return to Library of Articles
Return to Midnight Cry Messenger