Part One: In The Presence Of My Enemies
(First in a series of teachings on what it is to be an Overcomer)
Text Psalm 23 (all scriptures NKJV)
We are going to look at this Psalm in a way it is not usually studied. We are going to see it through prophetic eyes and apply it to the corporate Bride of Christ. I want to give you a prophetic picture of the Bride that is hidden within this Psalm we know so well, with particular emphasis on verses 5 & 6. The Psalm is in three parts, revealing the pathway of the Bride.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (v1-3).
These first three verses speak of the newborn believer, the born again Bride. She is finding salvation, healing, rest, restoration, righteousness, nourishment. She wants for nothing as she is coming to understand Jesus Himself is her Saviour, Healer and Provider. Jesus as the Shepherd of her soul is guiding His Bride out of the world and into the paths of righteousness.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” (v4).
Next He leads The Bride through the valley of the shadow of death. This is the Cross. The Bride is now being discipled. She is comforted by His rod and staff. The rod is symbolic of authority – a shepherd carried a rod to guide and protect his sheep and would also make each of his sheep “pass under the rod” individually, where they were inspected for wounds and defects. (In Ezekiel 20:37 Yahweh told Israel they would pass under His rod). A staff was used for support, ie. to be leant upon when standing or walking, and is symbolic of strength and comfort. The key for the Bride in this passage is the Lord’s victory over death at the Cross. He is the only one who can lead her through this valley. He is the one who holds the keys (Rev 1:18). The fear of death is the deepest fear known to mankind, but death in this passage is described as a shadow – with an appearance of darkness but having no substance for her. Through the Bridegroom’s eternal victory over death, the Bride is beginning to overcome the fear of death. “Oh death where is thy sting, oh Hades where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55) Only discipled believers will follow Jesus to the Cross.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (v.5-6)
This is the called, chosen and faithful Bride, and these verses speak of the Kingdom. Jesus told the disciples they would eat and drink at His table in His Kingdom (Luke 22:30). And here we see three things: a table, an anointing and a cup. Let’s look at these.
He Himself has prepared a table for her, and the table He prepares is in the very presence of her enemies. So this table is in the midst of warfare. You may be used to thinking of spiritual warfare as seasonal – it comes and it goes. But here we see the Shepherd prepares a table in the presence of the Bride’s enemies and invites her to stay and dine with Him there. Why do you think that is?
Firstly, let me tell you a few things firstly about tables. In the Old Testament times to be invited to sit at a king’s table was to enjoy the protection and covering of that king. And the enemies of anyone who sat at a king’s table would know beyond any shadow of doubt that if they messed with you they messed with the king. In Song of Solomon 2:3 & 4, the Bride sings “I sat down in his shade with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste, He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” To be under the protection of a king was to be “in his shade, or under his shadow.”
In other examples, the prophets of Baal ate at Jezebel’s table (1 Kings 18:19), and King David summoned Mephibosheth to his table in order to protect him (1 Sam. 9;7-11).
The table was also traditionally the place where covenants were confirmed. Where did Jesus choose to announce the New Covenant in His Blood – at a table (Luke 22:14-20). It was as Jesus sat at a table that Mary, symbolising the Bride of Christ, anointed His feet (John 12:2,3)
The table was also the place where plans and secrets were shared and discussed. It was after feasting at Abraham’s table that the Lord revealed His plan for the destruction of Sodom. It was also then that Abraham interceded before the Lord for the righteous of Sodom. (Genesis 18).
So we see that the table symbolises a place of protection and also intercession for the Bride. “While the king is at his table, my spikenard sends forth its fragrance (incense/intercession).” SOS 1:12 This is the place where the Bride learns the King’s strategies and tactics for warfare. We’ll talk about authority later, but strategy is simply the “how to” of moving out in that authority in a specific area or intercessory assignment. It’s a military term. The English word “strategy” comes from the Greek “strategia”, meaning literally the “art of a general” or “office or command of a general.” The dictionary defines strategics as: “the science or art of combining and employing the means of war in planning and directing military movements and operations”. In military usage, a distinction is made between strategy and tactics. Strategy has to do with large scale, long range planning to ensure victory, while tactics deals with the actual deployment and usage of combat troops to carry out that strategy.
Strategy for spiritual warfare is shared in fellowship at the King’s Table. It is made known to the Bride through intimate relationship. People can shout and carry on all they want about their ” spiritual authority” etc., but if they move out without knowing the King’s strategy all they end up doing is punching at the air and burning themselves out.
David, Israel’s king, knew his success on the battlefield was linked to the level of his fellowship with the Lord. Through long lonely nights in the fields as a shepherd, where His only fellowship was with Yahweh, He was hidden away and prepared by God for His later life as a warrior king. In Psalm 18 he wrote ” “He teaches my hands to make war so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” and in Psalm 144 he said the Lord “trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” In the days of David the main weapon of warfare was the bow and arrow. The hands held the bow but the fingers held the arrow. Hands prophetically represent power, strength, action and possession. Moses had his hands held up by Aaron and Hur – when Israel fought against Amalek on the plains below (Gen. 17:11-13). Joshua held out his hands and his spear towards the city of Ai until it was utterly defeated by the Israelites. (Joshua 8:18). Fingers represent the strategy or tactics for a specific battle. The fingers had to be extra sensitive when holding back the string to know the exact moment and strength with which to release the arrow. Now that combination is strategy and tactics working together and can only be learned at the King’s table. The Bride may have authority, but the wise use of her authority is only learned through intimate fellowship with the Bridegroom. The sensitivity of strategic warfare is gained as we learn to move with Him daily – growing in our ability to stand or to move with His very heartbeat. That kind of relationship is developed through consistent pursuit of Him. And that kind of trust from the King is gained by being tested and proven. Those who are faithful in with a little authority shall be trusted with more. (Luke 19:17)
There are no formulas in spiritual warfare. We love formulas. We love to think once we have learned something we will always know how to do it – like riding a bicycle. The Lord seldom moves that way. He knows that once we think we know something we stop depending on Him and start depending on our own knowledge and experience. Joshua was a great general for Israel and the Lord gave him strategy and tactics for defeating the city of Jericho. But when Joshua came to the next city, Ai, the Lord gave him a totally different strategy (Joshua chapters 6 & 8).
So what else do we see at this table, this place of intimate intercession and authority? We see the anointing. There is not time or space here to talk in depth about the anointing, so there’s a lot that must be kept for another time. Let us understand the anointing here speaks of the Bride’s priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6). In Old Testament times only kings, priests and honoured guests were anointed with oil in this particular way. Jesus is here the Great High Priest, anointing the head of His priestly Bride. Priesthood is the place of worship and intercession.
And the cup that runs over? I believe it is the Cup of the Kingdom. In Jewish tradition there are four cups shared at the Passover table. They represent God’s four promises to Israel when He led them out of Egypt as recorded in Exodus 6:6-7:
I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (the cup of sanctification);
I will rescue you from their bondage (the cup of deliverance),
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments (the cup of redemption);
I will take you as my people and I will be your God (the cup of the kingdom, also known as the cup of completion)
It is the cup of the kingdom that Jesus said He would not drink until the kingdom of God shall come in fullness.
“Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.'” (Luke 22:17-18) That cup of the kingdom is being poured out for His Bride. It is for those who seek first His Kingdom.
But now I want to return to the question: Why would Jesus seat His Bride at His table right in the midst of His enemies?
Because the corporate Bride has a very specific calling, and it is the bearing of testimony. As long as the Bride is on the earth she bears witness to Christ’s resurrection. Every moment of your life as you follow Christ, whether you are aware of it or not, you are manifesting the specific testimony that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:9-12)
So what is the testimony we bear? That God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness IN himself. I’m not talking about door knocking, I’m not talking about standing in the park and preaching or giving out tracts in the shopping centre. You may or may not ever do one of those things but you still bear witness. The two words “witness” and “testimony” in the New Testament come from the same Greek word: martus. (The English word “martyr” is derived from this word.) “Marturia” is the action of being a witness (verb) while “marturion” is the witness or testimony that is borne (noun). It means evidence.
To help clarify the point I am making I would ask you to imagine a courtroom in the heavenlies and imagine in that courtroom the greatest slander case of all the ages is being heard. What is being disputed? The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not in the papers, not on the T.V., at the movies or in a book someone has written. This trial is taking place in the heavenlies. God has just given testimony that His Son lives. This is the testimony God has given – “that He has granted man eternal life, and this life is in His Son”. The prosecutor, the Devil, marches up and down the courtroom railing against God and calling Him a liar. Then God comes up with His trump card and calls out to a few of His angels, “Bring in the evidence”. And in marches……… the Bride of Christ! In marches you, and you, and you! And you stand. By the life of Christ in you, you stand in that place. The prosecutor throws everything he can at you – accusation, tribulation, persecution, even death for some. But the life of Christ in you keeps you standing. Having done all, you stand. You are both the witness and the evidence. You bear witness simply by being who you are. You are the eternal evidence of Christ’s resurrection and you bear indisputable testimony of His resurrection as you bear His very life in you. Witnessing is not something the Bride does – it is something she IS! The corporate Bride of Christ is a mystery hidden by God from the beginning of ages to bear witness to His Son’s resurrection to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. The apostle Paul spoke of this mystery when he wrote:
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
One of the names for the tabernacle the Israelites carried through the wilderness was the “tabernacle of witness”. (Numbers 17:7-8; Acts 7:44). It was a mere shadow, an earthly forerunner to the temple made without hands of the New Testament. The Bride is His tabernacle of witness. The testimony the Bride bears is that Christ lives. She herself is the bearer of that testimony both as evidence and testifier. Peter on the day of Pentecost declared it:
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which WE ARE ALL WITNESSES.” ( Acts 2:32)
What a statement into the heavenlies! It had never been heard on the earth before! How the principalities and powers must have trembled to hear that proclamation from a mere man. Beloved, who are we? We are the church, we are the Bride, we are His Witnesses, and we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. ( Rev. 12:11)
Why does the King invite the Bride to His table in the midst of her enemies? We, as the last days Bride, are called to a warfare that is being fought in the midst of gross darkness even as it arises around us. The Kingdom is arising in the midst of darkness in which the only true light will be carried by the Bride of Christ. Don’t think it strange that your Bridegroom calls you to the intimacy of His banqueting table in the midst of the rising darkness. Don’t think it strange that Your Father demonstrates His matchless wisdom through you. You are part of a mystery, hidden from the beginning of the ages.
Live the Kingdom in the presence of your enemies. Walk with the stature of a King; worship with the heart of a Priest; follow with the abandonment of a Bride.
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Part Two: SEATED IN HEAVENLY PLACES
(Second in a series of teachings on what it is to be an Overcomer)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus….. (Eph. 2:4-6)
There is a theory taught in some church circles, based on the above scripture passage, which implies living a victorious Christian life is all about knowing and exercising your spiritual position in Christ. This theory says that because we, the church, have been raised up with Christ and are now seated together with Him in heavenly places, we have the right to exercise all authority over evil principalities, dominions and powers. The implication behind this theory is that if we are not walking in something called “victory” at all times, then we are lacking faith and do not understand the Word of God. To walk in this victory, all we have to do is rebuke Satan and his demonic forces and all our problems will be over, because we are seated in this undisputed place of spiritual authority.
Well, is this the truth or not? The answer is both yes and no. Remembering that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to lead us into ALL truth and not partial truth, let’s look a little closer and test this theory against scripture. How does the ‘ruling and reigning in heavenly places’ theory fit into the context of what Paul was writing to the Ephesian church? To find out we need to look at this passage in relation to the fuller message Paul was sending to the Ephesians, so we will begin in chapter one.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN CHRIST (Eph. 1:3)
Having first greeted them, Paul immediately begins sharing the message weighing on his heart. He states that every spiritual blessing that resides in Christ in the heavenly places is ours even here on earth. Paul then goes on to elaborate on these spiritual blessings we have in Christ, teaching that in Him (Christ) we have:
*Been redeemed (i.e. given hope) (v. 7)
*Have an inheritance ( i.e. promised glory) (v. 11)
*Have been given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (i.e. been sealed by His power) (v. 13)
From verses 15 through 21 Paul continues that he is praying the church will be granted deeper revelation of the hope, inheritance and power which God has made available to them in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens, above all powers and principalities. This then, is the context in which we come to the discussion of the church being seated in heavenly places in Ephesians 2:4-7.
Paul then goes on to teach them (and us) about the church’s legal position in relation to sin. Having, by God’s grace, been raised from the dead IN Christ, the church is now seated together corporately IN Him in the heavens, above all evil principalities and powers. The church is not sitting together WITH Christ, the church is IN Christ. To “sit” implies a completion of work. It implies having come to a place of rest – the same rest Christ came into when His work of redemption was finished. For what purpose has God, through His risen Son, raised the church to heavenly places? Let us read on:
….that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7)
What?? We, the church, have been raised up and seated in the Heavens, so that God can demonstrate His grace!
In the first session in this series we saw that the main purpose and calling of the church on earth is to bear witness of Christ’s resurrection, so that God’s wisdom will be demonstrated to powers and principalities (Eph. 3:9-10). We learn here that God’s purpose for raising the church in Christ, to be seated in the heavenlies, is to demonstrate to the principalities and powers His grace! The church is His witness in the heavens just as she is called to be His witness on the earth. Furthermore, the only authority mentioned in this passage is Christ’s authority, because God has placed all things under His feet. Being seated in heavenly places is not the same as being seated on Christ’s Throne of authority (more about this in Session Three).
Can you see the difference when we re-align our focus? In trying to make this verse fit our own ideas of spiritual warfare we have missed the point. It is not about us and our authority – never has been. It is about our Father God and His grace. Grace is not only about salvation. Grace is about being kept and sustained by the power of God, whatever the circumstances we are experiencing. Grace is being endowed with the power to overcome. And overcoming is about spiritual warfare.
I will tell you what I see for the future of the church. I see troubled times, I see persecution and injustice rising against the people of God, I see hardship and I see large scale martyrdom. Many of you see these things ahead of us to varying degrees. But I want to tell you something else I see. I see grace to overcome being poured out on the Bride of Christ in measures not ever known before. You may ask “What will happen to me and my family? Will our lives change, will we be persecuted, will we be imprisoned, will we be driven from one place to another?” I will say to you I do not know what will happen to you personally. I only know this: There will be grace, and there will be greater grace. As the need is, so will be the grace poured out. Why? Because the purpose of your suffering will be for the glory of God and for the demonstration of His grace. You will be evidence to the principalities and powers that where sin abounds, grace abounds so much more. And therein, my friends, lies true victory.
“And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33
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Part Three: Overcoming the World
(Third in a series of teachings on what it is to be an Overcomer)
Firstly, a quick review of what we have learned in the first two sessions of this series:
a) The main calling of the church on earth is to bear witness to Christ’s resurrection, so that God’s wisdom will be demonstrated to powers and principalities (Eph. 3:9-10).
b) The church, in Christ, has also been raised up and seated in the heavens, so that God can demonstrate His grace. (Eph. 2:6-7)
c) Christ’s church is therefore His witness both on the earth and in the heavenly places.
In any study about overcoming, we will sooner or later come to the question “What is it that Jesus overcame, and which I also need to overcome?” For the answer let’s firstly look at Jesus’ own words to us in John 16:33:
‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’
Jesus told us we would most definitely experience tribulation in this world. However, we shouldn’t confuse tribulation with persecution. They are two separate things. The word for tribulation literally means “a pressing”, or “to press hard against”. When Jesus normally spoke about persecution (e.g. John 15:20), He used a different Greek word meaning to “drive away, pursue in a hostile manner, or to mistreat.” To experience tribulation is simply to be pressed hard against the world. And to be an overcomer is to overcome the world. Remember that it is through MANY tribulations we enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
The world is more than our natural geographical surroundings. It is a vast alliance of political, commercial and religious kingdoms lead by a fallen angelic being, Satan (see Matthew 4:8-9, John 14:30) All that pertains to this fallen world system is ultimately opposed to the rule of the Kingdom of God on earth. Even the good we see in the world derives from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (which is centered on man’s ability to do “good” without Christ), and not from the Tree of Life, Christ Himself. The kingdoms of this world are destined to come under the rulership of Jesus Christ (Rev. 11:15), but until that time the world continues to oppose Him and all that are His.
‘ For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.’ 1John 5:4-5
Only those who are born of God can overcome the world because this world system can be withstood only through the Spirit of God operating through the people of God.
Are you struggling in your spiritual life to overcome one or numerous recurring problems that you know are displeasing to the Lord and not His highest will for you? You may be wrestling with constant fear, character or integrity issues such as dishonesty or pride or an uncontrollable temper, sexual temptations, or any number of other things that believers frequently struggle with. You can be sure that whatever the issues you need to overcome, they are something common to the world system we live in. Be encouraged that however great your struggle or trial, the power to overcome provided through the shed Blood of Jesus Christ is greater. He knows and understands the turmoil we experience as we seek to ‘come out’ of the world system we once embraced. As we press further into Him, yielding our will to His in faith, He will provide the strength and peace needed to overcome the world.
In Session Two we saw that in Christ the church has been raised to be seated in heavenly places (G. ‘epouranios’). However, to be seated in Christ’s Throne in Heaven (G. ‘thronos’) is granted only to the overcomers. A throne symbolically speaks of kingly power and authority, it speaks of absolute rulership, and it speaks of a Kingdom. Jesus said He didn’t sit with His Father in His Throne until after He overcame.
‘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.’ Rev. 3:21
In much of today’s teaching on spiritual warfare we hear constantly about our authority. Very seldom do we hear about the relationship between spiritual authority and overcoming. Do you want to walk in true spiritual authority? Those who make the demons tremble and mountains move do not do so because of their reputation among men, years of seminary training, or thunderous voices. Rather they are those who ‘through many tribulations’ have entered the Kingdom of God. Many have no fame or reputation on earth at all but their names are well known and respected both in Heaven and Hell. They are called overcomers.
In Session Four we will look at The Overcoming Bride.
Great South Land Ministries Australia. Copyright Notice: This article may be freely shared without omission or change. It may not be uploaded to a static website without permission of the author. All scripture references in this article are NKJV.