I’m so grateful Jesus has conquered the powers of darkness; they will not prevail against us or His Church.
Sure, there are setbacks, and in some cases extreme persecution against the Church. But Jesus is building His House, His Body, the Church, and hell’s assaults will ultimately be defeated!
…I will build My church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail (be victorious) against it.” Matt. 16:18 NKJV
The schemes of the enemy and the power of death can’t prevent the advance of God’s kingdom, nor stop His Church, nor claim victory over us.
Setbacks over the Years
Several years ago, we were building a new sanctuary building on our church property. We endured several setbacks, and at times outright opposition from the enemy. On one occasion, we had the main electrical power line to the new building stolen before it was connected to the city power grid!
The electrical contractor had installed the copper electrical wire and metal conduit on the side of the building, to be attached to the city power grid the following day. That night, it was stolen from the side of the building! It was expensive to replace. To add further frustration, we had to reschedule with the city to connect the new replacement line. Once the new line was installed, we had to pay a watchman to stay for a couple of nights in the new building to ensure the second wire wasn’t stolen! By God’s grace, this obstacle was overcome, and soon the building was finished.
Our church, and God’s Church universal, has endured assault for 2,000 years, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church!
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:34-35, 37 NKJV
Paul states we are more than conquerors; the phrase from the Greek literally means “super conquerors,” because of what Jesus, who is the head of the Church, has done for us with His ascension victory! We learn to rest in His victory and live with an overcoming mindset because Christ has overcome.
Jesus is building His house, His body, the Church. Despite the opposition of the enemy, the kingdoms of this world will eventually submit to Christ!
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Eph. 1:22-23 NIV
Perseverance and endurance are needed as we labor with Jesus to build His Church. The enemy uses opposition and resistance to bring discouragement and stop an advancing Church. Unless we are vigilant to resist his attempts to discourage and destroy us, we may give up, become overwhelmed, and disregard our calling and assignment.
In the books of Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah we read about a remnant of God’s people returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians.
God, through pagan king Cyrus, initiates the return and rebuilding of the second temple.
Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:2-3 NKJV
Once the leaders and remnant of the people return to Jerusalem, they rebuild the destroyed altar and resume worship to God, as prescribed by Moses.
Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Ezra 3:2
However, the leaders and people began to experience opposition and resistance from the enemy, through human agents.
The neighboring peoples discouraged the people of Judah, made them afraid to build, and bribed officials to frustrate their plan. They did this throughout the rule of Persia’s King Cyrus until the rule of Persia’s King Darius. Ezra 4:4-5 CEB
Paul stated in his Ephesian letter that our fight is not directly with others, but unseen spiritual forces trying to stop the advancement of God’s kingdom and Church:
We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Eph. 6:12 CEB
We get a glimpse of the “behind the scenes” spiritual warfare that was coming against Joshua, the high priest, after he led the rebuilding of the altar and restored worship in Jerusalem:
Then the angel showed me Jeshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel’s right hand, making accusations against Jeshua. And the Lord said to Satan, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.” Zech. 3:1-2 NLT
In the spiritual realm, human agents were influenced by demonic forces to discourage, breed fear, and stop the building efforts of the second temple by the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem. Joshua was a primary target because he was a Levitical priest reviving true worship of Yahweh in Judah. The result of the enemies assault: the work stopped for nearly sixteen years.
At that time the work on God’s house in Jerusalem stopped and was suspended until the second year of the rule of Persia’s King Darius. Ezra 4:24 CEB
The enemy hates when God’s people offer pure worship before the King of Kings; he will do almost anything to stop genuine Spirit-led worship and commitment to Christ.
Rebuilding the Foundation
The remnant re-laid the foundation to the temple, but then succumbed to the enemy’s schemes and left their assignment. Tragically, they just focused on building their own houses, failing to complete the temple. It remained just a foundation, worship eventually diminished, and it appeared the enemy won.
The Jewish remnant became a laughingstock to the nations, because they came to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the task looked impossible. Additionally, the sixteen-year delay re-enforced the ridicule of their enemies.
In this life, opposition and suffering happen. Often, it’s resistance just before we see the answer to prayer and breakthrough. We must be committed to persevere despite the opposition, and not lose faith.
Suffering and opposition from the enemy is like a jet just before it breaks the sound barrier; it meets a lot of resistance before the breakthrough.
I asked a pilot, “What happens before you break through the sound barrier?” His response, “the aircraft begins to shake, and analog instruments become erratic, but it’s short lived and once through the sound barrier, everything becomes smooth.” The breaking of the sound barrier is necessary for a jet to fly higher and faster in the natural.
I believe the Lord is inviting the Church to pray and breakthrough spiritual opposition in order that a new move of His Spirit can be realized!
God is leading us into higher spiritual truths, but there are things that must be broken through before entering the fullness of Christ victory.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God. The revealed things belong to us and to our children forever: to keep all the words of this covenant. Deut. 29:29 CEB
Higher Spiritual Laws
Once a truth is revealed, it is to be a continuing inheritance for future generations. The very nature of revelation received is an inheritance. Revealed truth brings us into encounter, primarily to transform us, provide vision, and reveal promised inheritance.
In the natural, all lower laws are subject to a higher law; so it is in the spiritual. For example, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2 NKJV). Spiritual opposition and resistance is a form of sin and death.
In order to break through to a higher law, the law of the Spirit of life, we must face this resistance knowing Christ has already broken through for us. And if He’s broken through then He made the way for us to break through.
All suffering, including death, must be “swallowed up in life” (2 Cor. 5:4). We are to live in the power of His resurrection, but to live there also takes living in the fellowship of His suffering (Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:10; Phil 3:10).
The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings… Phil. 3:10 CEB
That doesn’t mean we settle for suffering. Rather, we are to press on and pursue what Christ apprehended for us. Resurrected life is our aim, so we hold in tension His suffering and His victory. Not all will be saved, and not all will be healed, but we pursue His upward call and resurrection life believing for miracles.
Suffering often has to do with evil, tyrants, or disease that impact people’s lives; cause suffering to humanity.
Yet, even in these, God can use them to bring us into a higher reality. That reality is Christ Jesus! His word and His blood grant us breakthrough; Christ in us the hope of glory! We are fully clothed in Him, and we must live out of His victory!
Paul spoke of this higher reality, the mystery of Christ, and how God would use the Church to confound the powers of darkness,
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph. 3:10-11 NLT
Paul also understood perseverance,
We never give up… our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. 2 Cor. 4:16-18 NLT
Since Carolyn and I said yes to Jesus to serve Him in full time ministry, we’ve had our share of setbacks and opposition, as I’m sure many of you have had. We’ve had two vehicles stolen, robberies, sickness, financial hardship, false accusation, rejection and the list continues like an old country song! But Jesus, through it all, has been more than faithful to sustain us and guide us through the most challenging of circumstances. When we are faithless, He is faithful!
Jesus is building His house; we are stones being joined together and perfected by the master to build Him a glorious habitation that will last forever!
Notice what happened to the Jewish remnant after the sixteen-year delay in temple construction: the prophets started prophesying and the people responded to the Spirit upon their words:
Then the prophet Haggai and the prophet Zechariah, Iddo’s son, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of Israel’s God who was over them. Subsequently, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. God’s prophets were with them, helping them. Ezra 5:1-2 CEB
So the elders of the Jews built and prospered because of the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah, Iddo’s son. They finished building by the command of Israel’s God and of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. Ezra 6:14 CEB
God spoke through Haggai first, in this powerful passage:
On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Lord’s word came through Haggai the prophet: Say to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and to the chief priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, and to the rest of the people: Who among you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it appear as nothing to you? So now, be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord. Be strong, High Priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, and be strong, all you people of the land, says the Lord. Work, for I am with you, says the Lord of heavenly forces. As with our agreement when you came out of Egypt, my spirit stands in your midst. Don’t fear. This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: In just a little while, I will make the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land quake. I will make all the nations quake. The wealth of all the nations will come. I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of heavenly forces. The silver and the gold belong to me, says the Lord of heavenly forces. This house will be more glorious than its predecessor, says the Lord of heavenly forces. I will provide prosperity in this place, says the Lord of heavenly forces. Haggai 2:1-9 CEB
The Lord gave Haggai this word to encourage the leaders and people to finish God’s assignment—the rebuilding of the second temple.
Why was the glory of the second temple greater than Solomon’s temple? Because, in the future, beyond what that generation could see, Jesus, the Messiah, would soon enter this rebuilt temple! His glory would fill the temple! And His glory is still filling His temple, the Church, as we continue to worship and serve Him faithfully.
Two months later, Zechariah has an angelic encounter, visions and words for the people, look at this well-known passage that was given to inspire them to complete the task:
So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ” Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” Zech. 4:6-10 NKJV
Shouts of grace, His gift and power will do it Zerubbabel! And Church, God will do it for us today, only believe! The prophetic ministry released God’s Spirit to move on the people and do a miraculous work.
Prophetic ministry encourages leaders and God’s people to arise and finish the vision set before them.
Those who prophesy speak to people, building them up, and giving them encouragement and comfort. 1 Cor. 14:3 CEB
In many ways, the body of Christ in America (during the last few decades) has been like the remnant who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple destroyed by the Babylonians.
The enemy, through voices of atheism, secularism, new age, etc. has hindered God’s kingdom from advancing. Local churches, like Passion Church, are affected. Christians often “feel” the spiritual oppression around them. This can cause them to grow weary, become discouraged, and begin to forget about their kingdom assignment. Each individual and local church has a mandate from God, perseverance is needed.
Apostolic and prophetic ministries are not just to prophesy, but to remain faithful until the work of building God’s house is done. In a local church, we are to prophesy to build up, to encourage, to see God’s purposes completed.
He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. Eph. 4:11-13 CEB
The fact that the body of Christ is not yet fully mature is proof enough of the need for and continuation of the ministry gifts of apostle and prophet. The Lord has likewise made it clear in the scriptures that the glory of the last-day church will exceed anything that has preceded it. He has saved the best wine for last, and he will return for a glorious bride without spot or blemish!
…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Eph. 5:25-27 NKJV
Keep in mind that God said the “glory” in the house would be greater, not the house itself! The temple Ezra saw was inferior to the one built by Solomon. However, we are concerned only about His Glory in the house, not the house itself!
The Lord says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. So where could you build a house for me, and where could my resting place be? My hand made all these things and brought them into being, says the Lord. But here is where I will look: to the humble and contrite in spirit, who tremble at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2 CEB
God dwells in His people, individually and corporately. We are the temple of His Glory—24/7! We are called to be God’s dwelling place so that the nations can see His glory.
Like Paul, we love the church and labor until Christ is formed in her, “My little children, I’m going through labor pains again until Christ is formed in you.” Gal. 4:19 CEB
The church is called to be the vessel through which the glory of the Lord will be revealed.
True Christianity is about much more than getting saved. It is about the glory of the Lord being revealed, and His ways being demonstrated through His people to the world. This is what we are building at Passion Church!
…God… I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] Heb. 13:5 AMPC
We all go through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4), but it’s an appearance. However, we must cling to hope and walk in God’s peace and joy. Corporately we must press through and break the spiritual “sound barrier.” Only another outpouring of the Spirit can begin to correct the problems we face in our nation.
Like Paul, we can’t lose our motivation, our zeal or our spiritual momentum and power we have from Christ. No matter what we go through, what seems lost, or deteriorated, it will turn out for an occasion for testimony if we press onward in Christ.
Let us not be troubled by what we see in the world; rather, let us remember that God is still God, Jesus is victorious, and He has our lives in His hands! Evil will not prevail against His Church or its advancement!
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Building His House”