Saturday, September 16, 2006

Following is an excerpt from Joe Ortiz's book, The End Times Passover

The True Soldier Role of Christians

There are five elements involved in God’s spiritual armament for Christians, elements that go contrary to military standards, as the world understands. Number one is the belt of truth. The word “belt” used here is “gird,” or in the Greek, perizonnumi, which literally means to be dressed for service. This means that the Christian is to be ready for service when the truth is known. What is the truth but what the Lord states in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” While the military man wraps himself with a holster belt to house his weapon, the Christian wraps himself with the belt of truth, which holsters the word of God.

Secondly, the Christian is seen putting on the breastplate of righteousness as the second line of defense while engaging in spiritual warfare. The Greek word for breastplate is thorax and, according to W. E. Vine, is seen metaphorically as righteousness in this verse. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, we see it used to describe the righteousness found in faith and love. The physical heart (right beneath the left breast) is the power source of the human body, pumping life-giving blood to the millions of arteries that sustains it. How appropriate that this heart should be protected by a breastplate made not of cold, hard steel; but, rather, made of faith and love found only in Jesus Christ. It should be noted that the Israelites were well aware of this concept through the prophet Isaiah. In Chapter 59:15-17, the prophet clearly states that the Lord Himself is the provision for salvation, and that through His righteousness, not our own:

Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was not justice. 16 he saw that there was no one, and he was appalled that there was no one to intercede; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak, (Isaiah 59:15-17, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In Matthew 6:33, we see Jesus reminding His called out ones not to worry about their lives, what they will eat or drink, or about their bodies and what they shall wear, but rather, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” The message here is that during times of warfare, both spiritual and bodily, as the Christian puts on the breastplate of righteousness, that of faith and love found only through Jesus Christ (not our own), then shall the believer find protection in time of need. As Christians put on the “belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness,” they are firmly planted in readiness to preach the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, the third piece of spiritual equipment that needs be used by the Christian is the “shield of faith.” The Greek word for shield is thureos, which, according to W. E. Vine, formerly meant a stone for closing the entrance of a cave; therefore, a shield, large and oblong, protecting every part of the soldier. The word is used metaphorically of faith, Ephesians 6:16, which the believer is to take up “in (en in the original) all” (all that has just been mentioned), i.e., as affecting the whole of his activities.”

Whereas, the shield has long been known as a military piece of equipment to ward off incoming missiles from enemy forces, in Ephesians, we are told by the apostle Paul that the Christian’s shield is faith in Jesus Christ, who through His almighty power is able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. We are told in James 4:7 that as we resist the devil, he will flee us. However, even though we are often weak in resisting temptations, the Lord’s protective powers are still in force and will protect the called out ones during times of trials. In 2 Peter 2:4-9, he reiterates that the Lord can (and has always been able to) rescue the believer:

For if God did not spare angels, when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment, (2 Peter 2:4-9, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Here we see the called out ones donning their spiritual uniform, which includes the belt of truth in the knowledge that the only way humanity can be reconciled to the Father is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We also see the Christian being protected by the Lord’s breastplate, which is (His) righteousness, that of faith and love. The third part of this spiritual uniform is the “shield of faith,” which is provided by God as a result of submission to this truth, which results in the righteousness of His faith. As the Christian “believes,” the automatic “shield of faith” is provided by God, which results in protection from the fiery darts of Satan.

Now we see the fourth part of the Christian arsenal for spiritual warfare, that being the “helmet of salvation.” The Greek word for “helmet” is perikephalaia which (according to Vine) comes “from peri, around, and kephale, a head. It is used figuratively in Ephesians 6:17, with reference to salvation, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, where it is described as “the hope of salvation.” The head is not to be regarded here as standing for the seat of intellect; the word is not used elsewhere in scripture. In Ephesians 6:17, salvation is a present experience of the Lord’s deliverance of believers as those who are engaged in spiritual conflicts. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the hope is that of the Lord’s return, which encourages the believer to resist the spirit of the age in which he lives.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Page 543, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

It is interesting to note that W. E. Vine also agrees here that the “hope of salvation” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 is viewed as the hope of the Lord’s return, which will include the being “caught” aspect of The Second Advent. However, Vine does not venture to say that the “hope” is solely the fulfillment of the act of being “caught up.” We will later be discussing the “blessed hope” of Titus 2:13 in greater detail.

But as we can plainly see, the obvious reference to the “helmet of salvation” is the reality that those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are “covered” by God’s salvation. It is said in Romans 10:9, 10 that “if you confess with your mouth (which is part of the head) that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart (which is seen as being protected by the breastplate of righteousness) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved!” It further states that it is with your heart that you believe, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved!

So here we see that the true Christian warrior is the individual that puts on “the belt of truth,” that being that Jesus is the only way to the Father; the “breastplate of righteousness,” which is the protective force that comes from the Lord’s faith and love for us; the “shield of faith,” which protects us from the fiery darts of Satan; and “the helmet of salvation,” which is the “hope” of the Lord’s soon return to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. Finally, the fifth aspect of Christian military arsenal is the “sword of the Spirit,” probably the most important part of spiritual equipment for the Christian journey, more so, as the days grow shorter.

As the Christian soldier dons the spiritual accouterments, and readies the body as a living sacrifice for the preaching of the gospel, out of the spiritual sheath comes forth the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God! The word sword (in the Greek, according to Vine) has two distinct meanings. The word for sword in Ephesians 6:17 is machaira, which is “a short sword or dagger,” whereas the word for “sword” in Revelation 1:16, 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21, is rhomphaia, a weapon of larger size. The word rhomphaia is used in Revelation to describe the Lord’s judicial acts in the outpouring of His wrath on unbelievers. The word machaira, from where we get the word machete, is a short sword or dagger, and hereby implies that the Christian, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is to preach the word of God, and thereby provoke the conscience of mankind. It does not imply the presence of the physical or military-style power that only the Lord will generate. True, many Christian soldiers have been used by God in the performance of His almighty power to realize military-style miracles (David slaying Goliath with his slingshot, as one example). However, the message being conveyed in Ephesians 6:17 is that the Christian, especially in the latter days and times of tribulation, will be seen preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not engaged in physical combat against the armies of the Beast. True, the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:1-14 are seen performing great feats (power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain, turning water into blood and striking the earth with every kind of plague); however, it appears that they alone will have this type of power, while the remaining believers will be limited to evangelizing in the traditional manner. In these verses (Ephesians 6:14-17), we see the Christian soldier moving forward in life, carrying the message of Jesus Christ to all mankind with the “sword of the Spirit,” (the little sword or dagger), whereas the Two Witnesses (for three and a half years) and especially the Lord at His Second Advent, will yield the much larger and awesome sword (rhomphaia) of prophesying the impending wrath and judgment of God.

It bears repeating (as stated in an earlier chapter) that the Christian nature is not one of retaliation, nor will it include one of waging war alongside Christ when he returns, as Hal Lindsey asserts in his book, The Rapture, page 19. Here, Mr. Lindsey quotes Revelation, Chapter 19, in an attempt to prove that the Christian Church is already in heaven, where he sees it supposedly experiencing the marriage and wedding supper, and supposedly returning as the “armies” (vs. 14) that come with Him when He returns to judge the earth.” True, the ecclesia will be involved in the administrative Judgment process after the Lord returns. However, scripture does not identify the Christian Church as being part of the armies the Lord uses to wage war! Mr. Lindsey very conveniently omitted two verses (10 and 13 of Chapter 19) to make it appear as though the Bride (which he believes is the Christian Church) is now saddled upon white horses and is following the Lord as part of His war-waging entourage. As we pointed out in a previous chapter, the ecclesia is not seen as part of the Lord’s armies in Revelation 19. Neither should the called out ones be viewed in a human militaristic sense; but rather, as an army of soldiers whose weapon is the word of God and whose main responsibility is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian is never encouraged to fight, retaliate or militarily force people or nations to abide in God or in His ways. Although many Christians have served in the military and have engaged in physical battle in a myriad of wars throughout history, the military branches they patriotically served under were armies of various nations, not God’s army. God could very well have supported these various nations at one time or another, but they were not God’s armies in the sense that the war was between the Christian Church verses other nations or other religions. On the contrary, the Christian is exhorted to turn the other cheek. In Matthew 5:38-48, we see Jesus specifically stating what kind of attitude Christians should have towards others, especially our enemies:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect, (Matthew 5:38-48, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

More on turning the other cheek later in another chapter, but it is important that we interject this group of scriptures to remind the Christian that being a soldier for Christ does not entail physical or militaristic retaliation. Instead, it requires the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ in faith and love, in His righteousness, through His spiritual sword (which is the word of God) and under His protective shield and breastplate of righteousness. All He asks of us is to put on the “belt of truth,” and be ready to do His will. All the spiritual accouterments for this warfare are given freely to the Christian, and its reloading power comes as we abide in Him through the spiritual agency of the Holy Spirit.
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