The helmet of salvation in Paul’s array of war implements refers to maintaining confidence in and focus on the reality that ultimately we win—we get to say, “Checkmate.”
The word salvation refers to deliverance, so a savior is one who fights to overcome the enemy, thus providing deliverance. The name Joshua comes from the Hebrew word for savior. He fought to overcome the enemies living in the land of Israel so that the nation could occupy that territory.
“Checkmater” may not be a word, but somehow it didn’t seem right to use the term “Terminator,” though that would be applicable, too. The name Jesus is a Greek form of Joshua, connoting that His primary role is that of fighting to deliver His people. He provides deliverance in two ways. During His first advent He secured deliverance for those receiving Him from the penalty of sin by dying on the cross for us. At his second advent He will provide deliverance for us from this present wicked world, defeating His (and consequently our) enemies and ruling as King over the earth from Jerusalem.
Winning When Losing Looks Certain
I never did play chess that much, and it has been a long time, but I do remember that even though a player may have lost a lot more of his pieces and it appears that he stands little chance of winning, it is possible for him to corner his opponent’s king and checkmate him, winning the game.
Our situation looks a lot like that in America today and also around the globe, with the opponents of biblical Christianity seeming to have the upper hand in virtually every area and appearing to be unstoppable. From every indication there is no way that we can win.
Especially interesting is a reference to the helmet of salvation in Isaiah 59, which describes a moral setting that mirrors our nation today precisely.
After recounting the moral degradation of the day, the passage goes on to describe the response specifically of Jesus, the Deliverer.
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. (Isaiah 59:15b-18 ESV)
The word “intercede” would better be translated “intervene.” It is not referring to talking but action. We intercede with our mouth, but this passage refers to Jesus intervening with his arm: “then his own arm brought Him salvation.” Ultimately this passage is referring to the future deliverance by Jesus of His people from their enemies mentioned above.
What a difference it makes if we face an enemy knowing that ultimately we will triumph. What confidence it gives as we must wrestle with Satan and his armies daily, watching them gain power and win one battle after another, knowing that ultimately our side, with Jesus as our Commander-in-Chief, will win the war.
Paul is instructing us that beating Satan requires that we maintain that outlook.
The world is closing in on us, and perhaps someday we might even be subjected to the horrors currently being inflicted on Christians in Iraq. Nonetheless, in the end we will triumph through Jesus Christ. Someday soon He will break through the clouds and rapture His church. Perhaps the transition will be too fast, or maybe by then I will be too sanctified, but at least for now looking ahead to that event I think my inclination will be to look down on this world facing seven terrible years of Tribulation that will culminate with the reign of Jesus Christ and at the top of my lungs yell, “CHECKMATE!!!”