A Pneumatic Metaphor for War

Part Four of What we Should Have Seen, Where we Go From Here (4 of 8)

In his famous work, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote,

“One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living ma part of the universe occupied by the rebel. 

Lewis continued: “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

When you consider the events of 2020 in light of a war narrative, certain things emerge that otherwise could be dismissed as mere coincidence or randomness. So before I turn the corner to more practical concerns over the remaining blogs in this series, let me first briefly highlight the most salient points thus far with a worldview illuminated by the Biblical narrative of cosmic war. This will help us all keep the big picture in mind while we try to interpret certain details.

A QUICK REVIEW

As previously detailed in earlier blogs “Zig”“Peril”“Upgrade” . . .

1. With regard to the events thus far in 2020, the church missed it badly, proving how shallow and cookie-cutter our prophetic faculties have become. Frankly, we were too happy with where we knew our words were taking us to bother wondering whether the Holy Spirit would be there when we arrived. In 2019, His endorsement was assumed, so we began playing a shell game with ourselves—proclaiming and believing soulish words that fit a sentimental revivalist narrative rather than a clear-eyed charter from the Lord of Hosts. Like Elijah in his cave, our expectations were full of so much wind and fire we failed to register that, for all its bluster, our voices had a hollow sound at the center, lacking a fraction of the substance of the Lord’s bare whisper. In this sense, the silencing of our voice was God’s gracious invitation to finally begin listening again, like a parent putting their finger on their child’s lips. Shhhh. It was embarrassing, but invaluable

2. The church missed it badly, but not entirely. We missed in foresight more than in faith, and faith pleases God. For example, the largest movement of fasting in at least seven decades happened concurrent to the coronavirus outbreak. By faith and simple obedience, our faces were on the floor in prayer. Was that an accident, or the work of sovereignty? I wrote a book with Lou Engle (The Jesus Fast) that anticipated mass global evangelism following massive global fasting. We were ready. It was kinetic, it wasn’t passive. 

We know God is advancing His kingdom dramatically in these days, we simply did not anticipate how fragile and ineffectual our corporate religious systems would prove to be compared to the subtlety and sophistication of the enemy’s resistance. Top heavy with unquestioned routines and overconfidence in our machine, centuries of programatic infrastructure practically folded like a house of cards. If not for Zoom, we would have been instantly assigned relic status. (In that sense, Zoom will prove to be far more of a panacea than a gift if it suspends the deeper, more thoughtful work still required). 

The path ahead: we must mine the depth of God’s full intentions. It is the kindness and patience of God to expose those areas where we have grown comfortable speaking with general or presumed knowledge rather than a particular, revelatory burden. In a new era, strategic setbacks graciously force us to hew closer to our source and recalibrate our blinds spots. The sting is a gift. God knows this. He’s a master chessman. 

3. For all these reasons, our “gap” in prophetic accuracy is likely part of a multidimensional upgrade, not because we’ve earned it, but because we so clearly and desperately need it. We’re fully responsible for going off the rails, but in the Lord’s sovereign administration of history, He also knows that such full and public exposure of our lack, along with our dependence on old paradigms, and sloppy soulishness, can become flint-and-tinder in His hands for a new spiritual burn cycle. The new era requires a new, corporate upgrade. God is going to give it because the mission must advance commensurate to the challenge of the times. For this reason, I believe the next two to five years will revolutionize many aspects of the western church.

EVERY REVIVAL IS A BREATH REVIVAL

In light of this review, let me now state the obvious: every revival cycle is fundamentally a “breath revival.” By that I mean, every historic revival is about a fresh move of the spirit of God. And that’s where it gets interesting, because, as most of you know, Biblical Hebrew (‘ruach’) and Greek (‘pneuma’) both utilize the concept of “breath” or “wind” to describe the Holy Spirit.

It was when Adam was filled with the ruach of God that he became a living soul, not before. When an inert thing like dirt begins to breathe, that’s life. When a dead thing lives again, that’s revival. When the pneuma was poured out in Acts 2, a mighty rushing wind filled the upper room. There, 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, another Adam’s lungs were filled with divine breath as God scooped together 120 specks of broken humanity and breathed His own life into them. On that day, the corporate Body of the Last Adam moved from death to life, and the outpouring of the Holy Pneuma that followed remains the greatest revival in human history to date. Yet Scripture promises that the final outpouring will far surpass that of the early church (Joel 2:23-32, Micah 7:15, John 14:12, Romans 11:12-15).

This is why pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, can be so dangerous. It steals our breath. It’s obvious that Covid-19 has done far more than shut down stadium gatherings and cripple the economy. As a measurement of our emotional, physical and moral vitality, it’s taken our breath away. We’ve lost courage, perspective, hope. But it goes deeper still. What’s not so obvious is the diabolical contrast between the new normal it seeks to impose, and how obviously the virus’s profile attempts to mock the very thing it has displaced. We know Covid-19 is classified as a “coronavirus” because it appears to wear a sort of three dimensional crown, similar to the corona that wraps around the sun. In and of itself, this means nothing. It’s just protein structure. Or is it?

SOMEONE WANTS TO MAKE A POINT

Tell me if you see any spiritual tit-for-tat going on? In the midst of the most widely coordinated effort of prayer and fasting in history, with Evangelicals, Charismatics and Catholics asking God for sweeping revival to be marked by: 1) proclamation of the gospel; 2) healing and miracles; 3) mass evangelism, causing tens of millions to cross from death into life and crown Jesus king, instead, we got…

Photos by engin akyurt on Unsplash
  • A breath-stealing plague…
  • Mandatory coverings for our mouth…
  • Legislated silence in our assemblies…
  • Panic-stricken fear in masses who no longer want to assemble…
  • Mass medical evangelism about a crown-virus…
  • Taking people from life to death

If it wasn’t so enraging, it might inspire awe. We all know the enemy sometimes comes as an angel of light. Sometimes he is subtle, mercurial and clever. But sometimes he is just a three hundred pound mafia thug chomping a cigar and pushing all his chips in because he got panicked. Anyone see any poker tells here?

There are equal dangers: reading too much into purely biological data, and not reading enough. I think many things about this story have purely natural explanations, and require no additional conjecture, yet Jesus often rebuked the spiritual leaders of His day for failing to see with spiritual eyes. Yes, too much time has been wasted in arcane conspiracy theories, but do you think the pride of the enemy does not compel him to tip his hand? He does not merely resist, he seeks to mock and boast by leveraging the very substance of our hope against us. This is demonic smack talk. It’s what warriors do, which is why David used Goliath’s own sword to finish him off. It is one thing to defeat your enemy, it is another to have your head removed with your own sword.

Pour out your breath! we cried. Our very prayers were breaths. All the new souls delivered into the Kingdom would be breath-born. There is no other way: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Pneuma is pneuma” (John 3:6). 

Salvation! No, coronavirus. 

Something can be both natural and demonic. This may be a natural occurrence, but is not an accident. The enemy has tipped his hand.

For all our misses and contrivances, we were onto something.