The greatest battle ever fought has impacted every person who has ever lived or ever will live. Yet it was witnessed by no one but the combatants!
One of the most important and bloodiest battles of World War II came to be called the Battle of the Bulge. In it, Adolf Hitler made a final desperate attempt to split the Allied armies so that Germany could turn all her power against the Soviet army on the Eastern Front. His plan failed, and the German army was never able to mount a strong offensive again. More than 80,000 American soldiers were killed, maimed or captured in this nearly six-week struggle.
Momentous battles such as this fill our history books. Which was the greatest?
A battle of biblical proportions
Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Luke) record one of the greatest and most important battles that ever took place. It transpired nearly 2,000 years ago in the wilderness outside of Jerusalem. The lives of every human being in all of history hung on the outcome of this battle!
Just before Jesus Christ began His ministry at around the age of 30, He was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. From there, He went out into the desert to do battle with the ruler of this world, Satan. If He lost, there would be no future life beyond the grave for anyone. The background of this battle goes back to the very beginning.
Adam and Eve lose almost everything!
When the first humans, Adam and Eve, were created, God gave them rulership over this beautiful earth. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:27-28).
One of their first tests came shortly afterward when the devil entered their domain, the Garden of Eden. Instead of resisting his propositions, they gave in and soon were yielding to him. Adam and Eve bought into Satan’s lies and deceit and thus lost their authority over the earth.
The dominion of the earth was now under the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). When Jesus went to meet Satan in the wilderness, He came into the territory of the enemy.
Jesus Christ goes out to battle
“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2).
Now why would the Son of God be involved in a battle with Satan? He was the One who had created this powerful angelic being who had rebelled and become the devil. Certainly, He was more powerful than this fallen angel!
But could He defeat him on the human level? For that is what He will ask us to do. Before He was born of Mary, Jesus Christ existed as the Word (John 1:1-3). In order to become the Savior of all mankind, He emptied Himself of all His godly power and glory to become like us (John 1:14). He would live a sinless life and, being physical, would give His life as a redeeming sacrifice for all of us.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. …
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18).
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
The battle plans
Satan’s plan was to destroy the Savior and thwart God’s plan to add humans to His eternal spirit family. He had deceived Eve, turning her away from God; and he would attempt the same with Jesus. If he could separate Jesus from God by enticing Him to do things that would bring Him under his control, then Jesus would eventually sin. If Satan could get Jesus to sin, then He couldn’t be the redeemer of the world and would Himself come under the death penalty.
Christ’s plan was to defeat Satan; and in doing so, He would also provide an example to His followers of how they could do the same.
Luke 4:2 tells us that the battle waged for 40 days. Then in the final days of the battle, the devil hit Christ with his best shots—three salvos, one right after another. Seeing that Jesus was very weak from hunger and thirst, he began his final desperate attempts to win this battle. It was here that the conflict reached a climax.
“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:2-3).
Noting the desperate hunger that Jesus was experiencing, Satan challenged Him to end it by turning stones into bread. But Christ, like Paul, could say, when I am (physically) weak, then I am (spiritually) strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Of itself, the turning of stones into bread would not have been a sin, but Satan leads people into sin by getting them to yield to him even in small ways. Satan wanted to start Christ down a path He hadn’t chosen. Jesus had chosen the spiritual tool of fasting, and He would be the One to make the decision of when and how to end it.
So He reminded Satan that the spiritual nourishment from God’s Word was more important than the physical (Matthew 4:4). He later reminded His followers that if they put God’s Kingdom first, then all their physical needs would be provided (Matthew 6:33). Christ’s example also teaches us not to compromise—even in small, seemingly insignificant ways—with Satan and his influence.
Then Satan tossed out another challenge—for Jesus to throw Himself off a high wall of the temple to prove that God would have His angels take care of Him. Again, Jesus’s response was from the Scripture. We are not to test God by deliberately putting ourselves in danger (Matthew 4:7).
And, finally, taking Jesus up into a high mountain, he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Since Satan was the current ruler of this world, Jesus didn’t deny that he had the authority to make that offer. Satan laid before Him all the power, wealth and glory of all the nations of the world if He would fall down and worship him.
To each of these temptations that Satan threw at Him, Christ responded with a quote from Scripture. So when we’re faced with a temptation, we should ask, What does God’s Word say? This is one reason it is so important to study the Bible.Again, Jesus went to the Holy Scriptures. He rebuked Satan, saying that only God is worthy of worship, and commanded him to leave (verse 10).
All of these things Jesus Christ would receive in due time (Luke 22:29). He would be patient and acquire God’s blessings the right way.
To each of these temptations that Satan threw at Him, Christ responded with a quote from Scripture. So when we’re faced with a temptation, we should ask, What does God’s Word say? This is one reason it is so important to study the Bible.
The battle is in the mind
Years later, Christ inspired Paul to exhort Christians to put on the whole armor of God for their daily spiritual battles.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).
One way a Christian puts on the protective armor of God is through occasional fasting. This is what Jesus did (Matthew 4:1-2). The purpose of fasting is to draw closer to God in order to receive help from Him.
In all of Satan’s attempts to derail us, he tries to take advantage of our nature—our human desires and weaknesses. Jesus had all the physical desires of a normal man. He had to control them and not allow those desires to master Him (1 Corinthians 9:27).
The battle is in the mind. Spiritual growth and character development take place in the mind, where the inner man must be renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
If our character is spiritually strong, we will be able to keep the desires of our bodies under control so they won’t betray us or lead us into conduct that destroys our future. Christ filled His mind with the message of the Holy Bible. He knew what God’s inspired Word taught.
There is a saying about life among the wild animals of Africa: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle … when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Every day we awaken to a new battle. Satan would like to prevent us from achieving our awesome goal of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
It is prudent to ask ourselves, Where am I most vulnerable? What is my Achilles’ heel? These are the areas where we especially must be on guard. No one can truthfully say that he or she has no weakness (1 Corinthians 10:12).
In the apostle John’s first letter, he spoke of three human passions that drive most men and women. Unfortunately, these common desires pull us away from God.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
It seems that almost every spiritual failure we suffer goes back to our allowing ourselves to be led by one of these three unbridled passions that take our focus off God.
Our spiritual battles begin in our minds, our thoughts. The thoughts that are filthy, selfish and vain must be conquered. We must learn to rule ourselves with the help of the power of God’s Holy Spirit. If we don’t learn this important principle, then we will not be prepared to rule righteously under Christ in His future Kingdom.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:20-21).
Jesus Christ is offering you the opportunity to assist Him in bringing a new and better way of life to this suffering world. For more information on how to be a part of that, we encourage you to study our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.