Walking “by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) doesn’t mean we walk with our eyes closed.
When life overwhelms us and the forces arrayed against God’s people seem invincible, we must not close our eyes and walk blindly. Our Lord said, “Ye are the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Mt. 5:14), whether or not it looks that way to us. It is a sad commentary on the state of the modern church when so fundamental a word as “faith” is often misused.
God’s Word tells us that the Lord has already won the battle. It is our faith in this certainty in which we are to walk, as opposed to the distress we “see” with our eyes around us.
Paul contrasted faith and sight by describing how our faith in the next world differs from our daily vision of this one. He was contrasting our faith in the resurrection with our present mortal selves. Far from being a leap into the dark unknown, he described this walk of faith in terms of God’s promises, a faith in our eternity with Him as opposed to our sight of our present “groaning” under the curse. Such a faith gives a vision beyond the present and is, Paul said, to be the context of our desires (v. 2), and our sense of accountability to Jesus Christ (v. 10). Faith is a walk guided by a belief in God and His promises, as opposed to a confidence in the fallen world which we can see.
God’s promises in which we are to have faith are many, and have been given to us in the context of history. Scripture displays the grand and glorious sweep of history from creation to judgment. It speaks of our predestination before the foundation of the world and then gives us a glimpse of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21-22).
God gives our faith a past, present, and future. We do not walk in the dark; His glorious and gracious revelation of things that were, are, and shall be illuminates our way. God gives us all this so that we will have faith in our future with Him. Faith is a conscious walk toward the reality of the Kingdom of God and His Christ and our citizenship therein.
Lines vs. Cycles
According to the Bible, history is linear, not cyclical. History moves from its beginning (Creation) to its conclusion (Second Coming and Final Judgment), and has a purpose.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they rejected God’s rule over them and sought to be His equal (Gen. 3:5). When God cursed Satan, He declared that this alliance would not stand, that He would restore man to Himself and defeat Satan.
And I shall put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)
Revelation 12:1-13 tells of the conflict between the serpent and the woman with child, this time from the perspective of heaven. There, the serpent tried to destroy the child as soon as it was born. God caught up the woman’s man-child to His throne, and a great battle ensued for heaven and its rule. God defeated the serpent and cast him down to the earth, where he “persecuted the woman which brought the child”
This is a reference to the church and Satan’s attempt to destroy the people of God. Scripture here makes clear that history is not about good and evil in the abstract, but in the flesh; the great battle of history is between Satan and Christ. The victory of Christ in that battle should make our current conflicts clear-cut.
God’s curse on Satan was that he would be crushed. Revelation 12 describes the defeat of Satan as his rejection by the throne of heaven to which he had aspired. Later, Revelation 21-22 shows us a picture of heaven wherein dwells the Lamb of God. This must be the believer’s worldview, his big picture of the sweep of history.
Christ’s Invasion of History
The incarnation was, as my father said, the invasion of history by Jesus Christ to reclaim what was His. God’s prophecy of Satan’s defeat was also the promise of our salvation and restoration. Satan’s apparent triumph at Calvary (where he bruised Christ’s heel, a painful but non-lethal injury) turned to defeat at Christ’s resurrection (where he crushed Satan’s head, a mortal blow). Christ was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities
Our world and life view has to keep in mind the sweep of history as Scripture describes it. We must see the big picture and our part in it today. Augustine spoke in the 5 th century of the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Because the latter was Satan’s attempt to usurp God’s throne, we might just as accurately speak of the Kingdom of God as opposing the kingdom of Satan. Christ as Lord of heaven and earth saves us from the reign of Satan, the reign of sin and death that controls those who continue in the rebellion of Adam.
Jesus Christ is the new Adam
(1 Cor. 15:45), the head of a new humanity that will not fall from its calling. This is our worldview. We must think and act aware of who we are, where we stand, and the certainty of our calling.
The New Humanity
Those who believe in Jesus Christ are new creatures, reestablished in our relationship to Him and recalled to reflect the image of God in us. The authors of the Westminster Shorter Catechism defined that image as involving knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, in the exercise of dominion. The Spirit of God has regenerated us and Satan’s power is broken. Christ has all power in heaven and in earth as the incarnate Messiah, as He has in eternity. The Son has, in turn, commissioned us to proclaim His salvation, His Word, and His Kingdom (Mt. 28:18-20).
Revelation 12 depicts Satan as a loser defeated in the great cosmic war for heaven. Satan was “cast down unto earth” (v. 13) but is angry “because he knoweth that he hath a short time” (v. 12). He makes “war with the remnant of her seed [the church], which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (v. 17).
Satan’s defeat was real, and so his wrath against us is fierce. Paul describes the believer’s difficulties as tribulation, distress, persecution, nakedness, peril, and sword (Rom. 8:35ff.). The world sees us as “sheep for the slaughter” — helpless victims. But Paul says we shall be “more than conquerors” because of Christ:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)
The grace of God has granted us a picture of the future. It is ours to see this future and think and act in terms of it. It is the eternal Kingdom of God to which we are called as citizens and whose Lord we serve. We have, in Scripture, the sweep of history, and we must therefore see our role in God’s Kingdom as our place and our meaning in the outworking of God’s grace.