Satan: His Craft and Power are Great
The Bible clearly teaches all people to know the Lord, that is, Yahweh, the one true God, who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them (Gen 1–2; Col 1:16). He revealed Himself through the prophets, and in these last days through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb 1:2). The Bible also teaches that all humanity has an enemy, and all we can truly know about him is revealed in the Bible, therefore, the encouragement is to know your enemy, too.
First, we must consider our enemy’s titles, which will give us a glimpse of his character. The most voluminous title for our enemy is Satan, which means “adversary.” The next most numerous title is “devil” which means “accuser,” or “slanderer.” Jesus thrice called him “prince of this world (Jn 14:30).” He also called him “liar” and “father of lies (Jn 8:44)” and “the evil one (Mt 13:19).” There are a number of other titles given to the arch nemesis of God and man, and we will employ more of them as we look at Satan’s works.
Second, we must consider history, as revealed through his works, recorded in the Bible. Genesis opens with an account of Creation. It is a strange beginning at first glance. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1), but the earth became formless and void (Gen 1:2). Searching the Hebrew phrase “formless and void” only takes us to two other passages: Isaiah 45:18 and Jeremiah 4:23–26. Some believe that much happened between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Thomas Chalmers, a 19th century Scottish pastor and theologian, devised the Gap Theory that made accommodations for ideas like evolution, which require enormous periods of time. A.W. Pink believed that the prince of this world fell during this gap, as suggested by Jeremiah 4:23–26. One thing we can all agree on is that the Old Serpent was there in the Garden of Eden to greet Adam and Eve (Gen 3).
Lucifer, the morning star (Is 14:12), was created by Yahweh, as the anointed cherub (Ezek 28:14). Anointing is a concept related to the induction of an office holder (1 Chron 16:22). God did not make the evil one, evil, however (Ezek 28:15). Satan was thrown down from heaven for his apostasy (Ezek 28:17; Rev 12:8). As God’s most beautiful and wise creature (Ezek 28:12, 17), his heart was lifted up in pride. He brought many angels down with him (Rev 12:9), as Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Mt 12:27). The war in heaven would find a new battlefield on the earth (Rev 12:7, 13).
The god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) desired to exalt his throne above the stars of God (Is 14:13–14) who are the stars of heaven (Job 38:7), meaning the angels of heaven. Lucifer clearly had an exalted place on the mountain of God in the presence of God (Job 1:6), “You walked in the midst of the stones of fire (Ezek 28:14, 16).”
God’s judgment against Lucifer brought him to ashes on the earth (Ezek 28:18). With exalted titles of “god” and “prince” we recognize his reign in the domain of darkness (Col 1:13). Even his former glory and status is acknowledged by Michael, the arch angel, who refused to revile the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2; Jude 6).
Satan employs the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers of nations, who oppress and persecute (Is 14:5–6). This dominion over man is the result of his victory over Adam in the Garden of Eden, but it is a dominion that has been broken by Jesus Christ, the second Adam, at His Cross.
The ongoing conflict between man and demons was foretold by God in Genesis 3:15. The seed of Satan would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. This latter seed was to bless the nations (Gen 12, 15), as promised in God’s covenant with Abram. In crushing the head of the serpent, He would bring many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). There would be many battles en route to the Son of God destroying the works of the devil at the Cross (1 Jn 3:8). When Satan was cast down to the earth, he made it his prerogative to destroy Jesus Christ (Rev 12) and His people. It was war.
Satan was a murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:44). He is Apollyon, the destroyer (1 Cor 10:10; Rev 9:11), who was with Cain in the murder of Abel (Gen 4). He was with Pharaoh in killing the children of Israel (Exodus). He inspired King Herod to kill the baby boys of Bethlehem (Matthew). In every case, Christ was his target. Satan is the spirit in the sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2), and he knows those who are his fellow destroyers (Rev 11:18). As slaves to sin (Jn 8:34; Rom 6:6), the wicked love to do their master’s will. He also knows those who belong to God (1 Cor 3:23), for they resist the devil (Jas 4:7) and flee from his temptations (1 Cor 6:18).
Satan labored to oppress and persecute the people of Israel in order to destroy the promised seed, Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16), who would war against him. Satan knew the Scriptures, and he clearly knew what the prophets had told the people of God about the coming Messiah (time, place, identity, etc.). Later, Jesus and Satan fought in the Judean wilderness (Mt 4; Lk 4), where all the kingdoms of the world were the acknowledged possession of Satan. They fought throughout Jesus’ ministry, as He exorcised demons and healed the sick. The demons trembled at Jesus’ presence because they knew the truth about hell and the lake of fire prepared for them (Rev 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15).
At the Cross, Satan profaned the seed of the woman and Son of God by tempting Him to save Himself (Mt 27:40–42). When Jesus Christ defeated sin, Satan, and the world dominated by them (1 Jn 3:8), we must ask, was the war between them over? Did Satan concede his position, his power, and his people? No, like Saul, operating under an evil spirit, while retaining a throne that was no longer his, Satan presses on until the appointed day of his demise (Rev 20:10). He has shifted from a position of power and the tactic of destruction, to a position of weakness and a tactic of deception.
Third, we must discern the devil’s deception. After the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and enthronement of King Jesus, the victor victorious, Satan became the divine counterfeiter. He is an imposter, and with the scepter of dominion wrested from his hands by King Jesus, he remains on as a usurper. The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; but the spiritual war continues until all of God’s people are gathered into the family of God from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9; 7:9; 14:6). In war, truth and lies must be discerned because deception is a key strategy by the enemy. Where can we find Satan’s lies and deception at work in the world?
As the divine imposter, Satan operates with an evil Trinity. He is the father of the sons of disobedience, who are filled with his evil spirit (Eph 2:2), chief among them being the son of destruction and man of lawlessness (2 Thess 2:3). Satan’s people are called, “children of the devil (1 Jn 3:10)” and “children of wrath (Eph 2:3).” He mimics everything that represents God and truth, but with just enough subtle distortion to aid men on their way to hell and eternal damnation. If Christ is the Light of the world, then Satan poses as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).
If Christ has His church (Mt 16:18), then Satan has his synagogue (Rev 2:9; 3:9). The mystery of godliness is met with the mystery of iniquity. If Jesus did miracles, then Satan has his illusions and magic. If Christ sent out apostles (Acts 1:8); then Satan has sent false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (2 Cor 11:3). If God’s people have a Gospel to proclaim, then the apostles of Satan have a gospel message, too (2 Pet 2).
Fourth, we must discern the message of Satan’s false gospel brought forth by false teachers and prophets. 22 of 27 books in the New Testament issue warnings against these false messengers. The apostle Paul labored against something he called, “another gospel (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:7).”
Satan rarely poses direct hostility toward the true Gospel; but rather, he takes the true Gospel and makes ever so slight alterations. He is glad to use the Bible in order to support his perversions through errant interpretations and distorted applications (Mt 4; Lk 4). In our day, we see Islamists slaughtering Christians by crucifying and beheading them. We must agree that Satan is at work in these Muslims, who think they are serving God by killing God’s people (Jn 16:2); but the other gospel is far more insidious than blatant bloodshed.
If Satan easily infiltrates the churches (Rev 2–3), then he must ascend the pulpit in diverse local congregations. Satan will be preaching his ad hockery in a church near you this Sunday. He sows tares, which represent a counterfeit seed appearing as the Word of God. He has a message of good works, which creates a spirit of unity. After being told that doctrine divides them, men are told that God is love, and they themselves are good. God does good works, and He approves the good works of the earnest church member. Sin is a minor problem that can be solved with a sincere and re-doubled effort to follow Jesus’ example. This is the key to the false gospel.
A false preacher must avoid the Cross of Christ, and never talk about the blood of Christ. He must reinforce that all people are children of God, and work to encourage something in the order of Christ died for everyone and imply that everyone is saved by dousing the fiery doctrine of hell. Satan’s version of the gospel is that God saves those earnestly trying to be good people doing good works; but Satan deceives the whole world (Rev 12:9) with his false messengers bearing these false messages. In the twisted minds of Satan’s minions, Jesus is Satan’s brother and a good man; but He is not the Son of God and only hope for totally depraved sinners being prepared for the wrath of God to come.
The synagogue of Satan is a pleasant place. It is a no grouse zone. It has a very soft and agreeable message. There are lots of nice people who attend and who are comfortable with their status before God. They work to be good citizens in the world, offending no one, if possible. Their way seems right to them, and it is a wide way that is traveled by many. Surely, God will accept them of all people, but they will continue to work hard to ensure His favor because assurance of salvation is not a blessed idea to them.
Fifth, we see how Satan treats true believers, that is, born again Christians, who know the enemy’s machinations, and who work to expose his evil (Eph 5:11). Satan does not trouble his own children, slavishly working for their elusive salvation, but he wishes to mute and immobilize the children of God. He shuns them for calling out false teachers. He saturates the media with endless myths and fables about Christ and God. He laughs at the foolishness of the Gospel of God, and he inspires the nations to scoff, even rage against true Christians, who declare a righteousness imputed to them by Christ. He insists their testimony is pure arrogance. He silences them by mocking them mercilessly in proportion to their public witness. He encourages them to have carnivals, trunk or treat events, or yoga clubs; and too often, God’s people comply out of fear of embarrassing themselves or damaging their reputation.
In summary, Satan is our enemy. He was created by God and held the highest office next to God before pride doomed him. He has fought man from the beginning, and it took the God/man, Jesus Christ, to defeat him. God suffers his ongoing presence and mock imitations while He gathers His elect from every nation. The end of Satan will come when the Gospel has been preached to all nations and the harvest is complete (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15), as Jesus Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). Hell will receive Satan and marvel at his demise for all eternity (Ezek 28:11; Rev 20:10).
In conclusion, we study Satan because he is a subject in the Bible. We must not aggrandize nor diminish his person and works. We must be wise to his existence and his operations. We must always remember, He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world (1 Jn 4:4).
The futile course of this world will soon perish, as will the prince of this world. Jesus has overcome him by His blood, and we, too, will overcome him by the word of our testimony (Rev 12:11). The truth has set us free from captivity to his lies (Jn 8:32), and this is the truth that we proclaim, so that the world might know this truth that is still setting captives free. Beware of his fiery darts but engage the enemy with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Eph 6:17), because the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. Be strong in the Lord and fight on!
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 26, 2021