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Life On the Highest Plane
Vol. 2: The Relation Between Christ and the Christian

 

Chapter Twenty
Christ Our Captain and Conqueror — Conflict and Conquest

 

When Jesus Christ ascended into heaven He went as Conqueror over the evil one and all his hosts. When God exalted Him to Lordship over the universe He set Him at His own right hand far above all the principalities and powers that belonged to the kingdom of Satan and put them all under His feet. Through His death upon the cross Jesus Christ wrested from Satan every vestige of his claim upon the world and upon men. Through His resurrection and ascension He passed as Conqueror through the enemy's territory. At His exaltation God and all the heavenly host united in crowning Him King of kings and Lord of lords, the one and only Potentate. Through His Saviourhood He has now a claim upon every man's life, and through His installation as Head of the new creation He gained the right to the worship of all that believe. He has regained for God His sovereignty over millions upon millions of lives which are now in the possession and use of their rightful Owner. Jesus Christ has entered into the enemy's territory and inch by inch has won it back for God.

 

Ephesians 1:20-22, "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church."

1 Timothy 6:14-15, "Our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords."

 

Satan was judged, sentenced and doomed at the cross of Christ but, until that sentence is executed, he is contesting fiercely the Lord's victory and with all the might of his supernatural power is fighting to hold his ground and to regain what he has lost.

This conflict is typified in the conquest of the children of Israel over the wicked nations dwelling in Canaan as recorded in the book of Joshua. The land of Canaan was the land that God promised to the seed of Abraham. It was theirs by the right of God's gift. But it was occupied by the Canaanites who were an accursed race (Genesis 9:25), and other kindred nations who also were steeped in iniquity and wickedness.

These wicked nations in the land of promise were under the leadership and control of Satan to defeat God in carrying out of His divine purpose for, in, and through, His chosen people. Satan, through his emissaries, would keep God's people from the possession, enjoyment and use of their promised inheritance. These wicked nations were very powerful and, although each was under its own ruler, were easily welded together as one in aggressive alliance against God's people.

God commanded the children of Israel first to enter the promised land and then to possess and to hold it.

 

Joshua 1:11, "Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it."

 

God equipped them for the conquest of the land with a promise and a Presence; the promise was of victory, the Presence was that of the Victor.

 

Joshua 1:5, "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

 

As they moved toward Jericho to begin the conquest of these strong, powerful enemies, there appeared unto Joshua a man with a sword drawn in his hand. It was Jehovah, the Lord, who then and there became the Captain of the hosts of the Israelites as they went forth into battle against the Lord's enemies and theirs.

 

Joshua 5:13-14, "And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?"

 

Under the command of the Lord of hosts Israel went forth to take Jericho, Ai, Gibeon and to win victory over thirty-one kings. "The Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel." The victory of God's children was accomplished through the presence of the Victor.

 

Joshua 10:42, "And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel."

 

The book of Joshua in the Old Testament has its counterpart in the New in the epistle to the Ephesians. The conflict and conquest of the children of Israel under Jehovah, the Captain of the host, foreshadows the conflict and conquest of the new creation, the Body of Christ, under the Lord Jesus Christ, its Head and Conqueror.

 

THE CONFLICT IN THE HEAVENLIES

 

"In Christ" in the heavenlies is the believer's promised land. This is his God-given inheritance promised even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11). "In Christ" in the heavenlies every spiritual blessing is his possession by right (Ephesians 1:3). Through his identification with Christ the believer has already entered into the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:5-6).

Christ, his Saviour, has won him from the kingdom and family of Satan to the Kingdom and family of God; Christ, his Head, has given him His own divine nature; Christ, his Lord, has dethroned self and has assumed the undivided control of his life; Christ, his Life, has shared with him His risen, glorified, supernatural life in all its fullness; Christ, his Sanctification, has put His blood, His cross and His throne between the believer and the world, the flesh and the devil; and Christ, his Conqueror, gives Himself in His high-priestly and intercessory ministry for the believer's continuous and complete victory.

All this maddens the devil and spurs him into warfare against the saints of God. It is the twofold triumph of Christ in the believer and the believer in Christ that causes the conflict in the heavenlies. It is Satan contesting with Christ His inheritance in the saints and their inheritance in Him.

It is a spiritual conflict. It is a battle between supernatural forces. It is he who is the very personification of evil and wickedness and all his evil subordinates warring against Him who is the very personification of righteousness and holiness and all of His holy warriors. It is the hierarchy of hell against the theocracy of heaven.

 

Ephesians 6:12, R.V., "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

 

If in this conflict Christ is to be manifested as the Victor there must be on the believer's part a realization of the power of the enemy. It is a very foolish thing to underestimate the power of the devil for we do it not only to our hurt but to the detriment of the Body of Christ of which we are a member. The devil is mighty and powerful; he is cunning and crafty; he is intelligent and industrious.

His forces of evil are invisible—"not flesh and blood."

They are well organized—"principalities."

They are well governed—"powers."

They work in secret—"the darkness of this world."

They are entrenched in innumerable hosts in the very territory where the believer dwells—"hosts of wickedness in heavenly places."

It behooves the believer to know that he is surrounded by the unseen, cunning, malicious, powerful hosts of the evil one who plots his downfall.

 

1 Peter 5:8, R.V., "Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."

 

The believer is the channel through which Christ manifests Himself to a world in Satan's embrace, and through which Christ witnesses and works in that world to win it back to Himself. So if the devil can defeat the believer and cause his testimony, his prayer and his service, to be powerless, he has to that extent defeated Christ for he has held his ground in the world and regained ground in the believer. The only way in which he can hold his kingdom is by keeping his dominion over human lives. The most holy and spiritual Christian is Satan's greatest hindrance so against him will be launched his fiercest onslaughts.

This being true, not only is it necessary to realize the power of our foe but also to recognize his methods of attack. He is a deceiver and seldom fights in the open. He lays snares to entrap the ignorant and innocent and comes as an angel of light to deceive even the elect. He works most successfully through the subtlety of seduction.

 

2 Corinthians 2:11, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."

2 Timothy 2:26, "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."

2 Corinthians 11:14, "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."

2 Timothy 3:13, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

 

In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the devil making his final attack upon the God-man by trying to drive a wedge between the Father and the Son. To accomplish this he aimed his fiery darts at our Lord's spirit, soul and body. All the hosts of hell were united in that spiritual battle to keep Him from the cross. And now he works in every conceivable way to keep the Body of Christ from appropriating and abiding in the victory He gained for it at the cross and shares with it from the throne. Against both the corporate Body of Christ and its individual members the devil is massing his hosts, for he knows the time is now near when the sentence against him will be executed.

To understand his present method of attack we shall need to remind ourselves that he has two accomplices: the world and the flesh. The flesh is the material in human life upon which he works and the world is flesh in the aggregate. We shall need to understand also just what the devil is doing in this world which is wholly under his leadership and control.

His aim, as we have seen in chapter 5, is the dethronement of God. To accomplish this there must be the undermining of the authority of God in every relationship He bears to man, and the democracy of self-will must be established in its place. To achieve this success Satan planned a worldwide revolution in government, in society, and in religion. His plan is to destroy government through anarchy; society through debauchery; religion through apostasy.

The daily papers chronicle his successes in his worldwide revolution in government. Under the deceiving guise of a fair-looking but falsely working nationalism he is seducing countless numbers of men and women in various countries, some of whom are truly honest patriots at heart, into action that must inevitably end in the overthrow of stable government.

His successes in the worldwide revolutions in society are no less apparent. The immodesty and indecency in women's dress, the surrender of the outward marks of gracious womanliness for an aping mannishness; the laxness in the marriage vow as evidenced in the frequency of divorce; the insubordination of children and lack of parental discipline; the fading of the fair bloom of purity from the heart life of countless boys and girls; the growing unfaithfulness in the sacred relationship of husband and wife which reaches its height in the hell-born doctrine of free love; the feverish pursuit of pleasure on the part of both old and young: all are but a few of the manifestations of the social debauchery into which the devil is leading the world.

His successes in the worldwide revolution in religion is a topic of daily conversation in almost every country of the world today. The devil would have no religion but devil worship; he would do away with all authority but that of self-will. The authority of the sovereign God, delegated to the incarnate Word and revealed in the written Word, is set aside as something obsolete in the modern world. The right of every man to be a law unto himself in all matters of religion is the basic principle in the present appalling apostasy.

This terrible condition which God so plainly predicted would be seen in the last days is clearly outlined in one passage of Scripture. In the following verses we see the full-blown flower of anarchy, debauchery and apostasy.

 

2 Timothy 3:1-8, R.V., "But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away. For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And even as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth; men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith."

 

Against the corporate Body of Christ, Satan is working in two very distinct and definite ways at the present time, through degeneration and through division.

First of all, he is sowing tares among the wheat. He is placing his emissaries both in the pulpit and in the pews for the sole purpose of leavening the whole. He is mixing his own progeny among the people of God so as to lower the standard of the entire Body of Christ. Thus Christ will be so caricatured before those in Satan's kingdom that they will see no advantage in leaving it for the Kingdom of God.

Satan is working through his paid and his lay agents in the professing church to destroy the sovereignty of God; to undermine the authority of His Word; to strip Christ of His deity, and to unseat Him from the place and preeminence of Lordship; and to lead His people away from full conformity to the image of Christ by partial conformity to the standards and fashions of the world. Thus through this degeneration within the visible church, the Body of Christ is being made impotent in the midst of the world's appalling need.

The world has its standard of what the Christian should be, and inconsistent as it may seem, it holds the Church of Christ up to that standard. A worldly minded woman was asked by a minister's wife to become a Christian. Her response was as revealing as it was cutting, "If I should become a Christian, I could never wear the immodest clothes that you wear. The emptiness of the pews speaks of the contempt the world has for a church that degenerates into a lecture hall and a place of entertainment. A friend, who was eagerly praying for a husband's conversion, who out of regard for her went regularly to church, said, "Oh! why doesn't the minister preach Christ?" "Anything but Christ crucified, risen, ascended, exalted" is the devil's motto and he is doing his best to get ministers of the Gospel to make it theirs.

But the devil has another mode of attack upon the corporate Body of Christ. He is doing a very deadly work even among the saints of God through division. When he sees that he cannot touch the spiritual man through deceiving him regarding the fundamental truths of God, or undermine his love for God, or deflect him from doing the will of God, then he works to make him so zealous in his defense of the truth, so ardent in his love for it, so set in his own particular interpretation of it, that he will not fellowship with those who, as sound and true and devoted as he, do not see and act as he does. He cannot see that "adorning the doctrine" may be as great a manifestation of real love for Christ and as potent a weapon against the appalling apostasy as "defending" it. Or perhaps in his desire for vital spirituality within the Church he has placed such emphasis upon some segment of truth that he unspiritualizes other brethren who do not give that truth the same emphasis. Thus the devil succeeds in injecting into the very vitals of Christ's Body the poison of acrimonious criticism, unwarranted suspicion, unloving intolerance and bitter feeling. By weakening and dividing the spiritual forces of Christ and by turning their eyes in upon themselves rather than out upon the world lying in sin, Satan gains a tremendous victory in the conflict.

But the devil goes still further and presses on in an attack upon the individual members of Christ's Body who have entered into real oneness with their Lord. He sends forth his fiery darts to carry depression of spirit, delusion of mind, distraction of heart, deflection of will and distress of body.

The human spirit is the headquarters of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life and the vantage ground from which He works to carry the life of Christ out to the uttermost part of the human personality. So it is very necessary to have it untrammelled, joyous, assured. But the evil one works to inject the poison of doubt concerning one's spiritual condition, and discouragement over one's work. Especially are Christian workers being attacked in this manner by Satan.

The world today is flooded with cults. Tons of literature are sent broadcast filled with satanic propaganda. Reading rooms and lecture bureaus are established and everything possible is done to delude people and to seduce them from the simplicity of the faith of Christ. Earnest children of God are often caught unawares in some time of sorrow or affliction when they seek for light and comfort. These cults hold forth spurious hope through specious lies and people are ensnared. Or some through neglect of God's Word and failure to appropriate their inheritance in Christ by faith are unsatisfied in their Christian lives and turn to one of these novelties in religion, hoping by some shortcut to obtain what they have hitherto not had in experience. Others who desire the deepest spiritual life are led to take some truth of God's Word and then go beyond what the Word teaches regarding it into disastrous error. Or sometimes Satan seduces a Christian worker into a study of the books of these various cults under the guise of ability to save others from deception, and be thereby becomes entrapped. Satan has a thousand methods suited to the temperament and circumstances of the one he is trying to ensnare. Satan hates the Word of God and works against it by blinding men's eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4), by substituting his own doctrines (1 Timothy 4:1-2), by contradicting it (Genesis 3:5), by wresting it (Matthew 4:6), by leading men to disbelieve it (2 Timothy 4:3-4), by taking it out of men's hearts (Mark 4:15). Above all he would keep God's children ignorant of the truth concerning himself which the Bible reveals, and of the victory which Christ Jesus has already gained over him at the cross.

Satan works. to cause distraction of heart. Many of God's consecrated children are being tortured by cruel and crushing suffering and sorrow which have their source in Satan. He is sending his poisoned shaft into the home, alienating husband and wife through unfaithfulness. He is causing estrangements in family circles based on falsehood, misunderstanding and false interpretation of motives, words and acts. Through the shirking of the burden on the part of one member of the family he is placing an intolerable load upon another. Others who have made their business a real partnership with God he attempts to overwhelm with business perplexities and financial losses through the unscrupulousness of others. The evil one works to rob God's child of the peace of God.

Satan schemes to cause deflection from God's plan and purpose in work. He will do anything to keep God's child from the direct work of saving souls. He directs the attention to secondary matters; he divides the energy over unnecessary tasks, and he darkens the mind over questions of guidance.

Satan works to cause distress of body through weakening it by disease or crippling it by disaster (Job 2:7). Through his continued onslaughts upon every part of the believer's being the devil is trying to move him out of the will of God by getting him experientially out of his position in Christ Jesus.

 

THE CAPTAIN OF THE HOST

 

Some believers are ensnared by Satan because they fail to realize his power and to recognize his tactics. But others make the equally fatal mistake of overestimating his power and of overemphasis upon his activities. He is mighty, but there is One infinitely mightier. He is powerful, but there is One who is all-powerful. He can and does attack us from without, but there is an omnipotent, triumphant One who can and does strengthen, sustain and energize us from within. He is the One to whom all power has been given in heaven and upon earth. He is the Captain of our salvation; the Leader of God's hosts.

 

1 John 4:4, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."

Matthew 28:18, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."

Romans 8:37, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."

Hebrews 2:10, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."

 

The believer should always look upon Satan as a defeated foe. He has already been overcome by the Captain of our host. Any power which he exercises today is only a permitted power that God may get greater glory to Himself through the victory gained by His child before a doubting world, and also that the Christian's life in Christ may be deepened and strengthened. Satan was permitted through his human tools to stone Stephen to death but through Stephen's gloriously triumphant martyrdom God won the crown jewel from Satan's diadem, Saul of Tarsus. He was allowed through human instruments to put to death the Lord of glory but in doing it he sent himself to the bottomless pit.

That wicked one has no claim whatever upon one who is born of God and he has no power to harm or hurt him. The believer who is hid with Christ in God and who is one with his ascended Lord has the right to claim the perfect protection which that position provides and to reckon himself as a conqueror in Christ Jesus.

 

1 John 5:18, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."

Romans 16:20, "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."

 

The Captain of the host never commanded the children of Israel to fight for a position of victory but to fight from a position of victory. In His reckoning the battle was won before it was begun. Even before entrance into a battle He invariably spoke in the past tense of the deliverance of the enemy into their hands.

 

Joshua 6:2-3, "And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days."

 

Then why did they have to fight the battle at all? That through faith in their Captain and His Word they might come to share His assurance of complete conquest over the enemy. While the walls of Jericho were still standing and the children of Israel were shut outside the gates Joshua proclaimed to the people that their conquest of the city was an accomplished fact.

 

Joshua 6:16, "And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city."

 

The battle of the believer is that of faith from his position of accomplished victory over the evil one through his oneness with His ascended Lord.

 

THE CONQUEST OF THE ENEMY

 

In Ephesians 6:10-18 our Captain tells us that power to stand against the enemy depends upon our position and upon our protection.

 

Ephesians 6:10-11, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

 

In ourselves we have no power and we would have to succumb instantly to the attacks of the evil one. But "in Christ" oh! how different! Our Victor over Satan envelops us for we are hid with Christ in God. As someone has truly said, "Before the devil can reach your life to touch it, he must get through God and through Christ." Our part then in the conquest is, calmly and confidently, to meet every onslaught of the enemy from our hidden position in Christ Jesus and to sing as we fight "The Lord hath given me the victory." Then it will be ours in the conquering power of His might.

In ourselves we have no power to withstand the continuous attacks of the enemy against every part of our lives. But God has provided an armor that will protect at every point.

 

Ephesians 6:14-18, R.V., "Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."

 

"Stand—girded with truth." The power of the deceiver lies in his ability to persuade people to believe him instead of God and thus to lead them into doubt, disbelief and error. The antidote to this deception is to abide in Him who is the truth. We should saturate our lives in the truth of His love, His faithfulness, His power, His holiness, His purposes—in the truth of Christ Himself so that such truth like a girdle will bind us to Him in unswerving love and loyalty. But we need also to have Him, who is the truth, abide in us so that there may be nothing hypocritical, dishonest or shady upon which the prince of darkness can lay hold and use against us.

"Stand—having put on the breastplate of righteousness." Rooted in Him who is our righteousness and growing up into His own uprightness of life more perfectly day by day through the indwelling and working of the Holy Spirit, the believer can stand before every accusation of the devil with "a conscience void of offense toward God and men," as the tall pine tree whose roots have hid themselves in the bowels of the earth resists the blasts of the winter storm.

"Stand—having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." Our walk is through a world of disorder. Thousands of things happen to us to cut, to bruise, to wound, to grieve, to rob us of the peace of God that passeth all understanding and to hinder our testimony regarding a Gospel of peace and joy and rest. Countless things occur, many of them very trivial, which the devil rejoices to use to cause estrangement and misunderstanding. But the believer has the love of God in his heart so he is enabled to live at peace with all men. Over the mountain roads of Switzerland travelers wear heavy boots with thick soles, often with spikes, so that as they walk over the rough, stony paths they are unbruised, and over the ice and snow they are kept from stumbling and falling. They are rightly shod.

"Stand—taking the shield of faith." Conybeare's translation adds to the understanding of this direction from our Captain by saying "take up to cover you the shield of faith." How does the believer know from which direction the enemy under the cover of darkness will send forth a fiery dart, or at what point in his life it may be aimed? Paul speaks of "all" the fiery darts, intimating that possibly the devil sends many of them at the same time. There is great need that faith should be a covering. So the believer needs to walk in faith, to pray in faith, to speak in faith, to praise in faith, to live continuously believing in the faithfulness of God to keep that which has been committed unto Him.

"Stand—taking the helmet of salvation." The helmet is for the head. One of the most vulnerable places in the believer is his thoughts. Perhaps the devil finds entrance here more quickly than elsewhere. Is this not the reason why the apostle Paul exhorts Christians to think of things that are "true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report?" Every thought needs to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ if the believer is to know how to refuse the thoughts that come from the evil one. Satan also finds an undisciplined, undiscerning mind an easy prey to his delusions and ofttimes an unconscious instrument in his service. Even earnest Christians are often gullible and commend a sermon that is saturated with the most insidious denial of the Person and work of Jesus Christ because it is couched in eloquent, fervent language and even flattering admiration of the Lord it betrays. If ever there was a time when Christians needed to put on the helmet of salvation it is now. And putting it on will mean such a thorough and intelligent knowledge of salvation in Christ as shall make the believer impervious to every satanic attack even in these days of growing apostasy.

"Stand—taking the sword of the Spirit." Jesus Christ puts into the Christian's heart and hand the only weapon which He Himself used when He won that perfect victory in the wilderness. The sword of the Word of God, when used in the power of the Holy Spirit, is the mightiest weapon in this spiritual conflict. Satan cannot stand before "It is written" spoken out of the assurance of the believer's own experience of its absolute trustworthiness and power. It is the spiritual man who has been taught by the Holy Spirit the very deep things of God who is best able to put the enemy to rout by the use of this powerful weapon.

"Stand—praying in the Spirit and watching." The Christian warrior clad in his protective armor is now ready for the hardest fight of the battle. It is "prayer and supplication in the Spirit and watching thereunto" until the enemy is routed. It takes a truly spiritual man to be a potent prayer warrior. True "praying in the Holy Spirit" leads him out of himself into intercession for the lifting of the whole Body of Christ to life on the highest plane for the victory of the ascended Head to be manifested in the whole life of each member of His Body on earth.

Thus the believer, who is deeply rooted in his position in Christ and who has put on the whole of his protective armor, is able to stand and to withstand every onslaught and attack of Satan. The ground gained for him by Christ is held by him for Christ and a steady and successful advance is made into the territory still held in the dominion of the evil one. The spiritual man becomes an overcomer and, one with his ascended Lord, rejoices in daily and hourly conquest in this spiritual conflict in the heavenlies.

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