by Paul George
In part 1 of the series, “What in the World is Happening,” we focused on God’s eternal plan for creation. In this article, we will examine Satan’s opposition to God’s plan. Satan’s opposition began before creation of the heavens and earth. Satan and the angels existed before the creation of the world. How do we know this? The angels witnessed creation and rejoiced (Job 38:4-7). Job was not present at creation. No man was, but the angels were. In Genesis 3, Satan is present in the garden, but he is already fallen. Two Old Testament passages, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, deserve solemn reading as they graphically portray Satan’s fall.
Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, contain important information about Satan which is helpful in understanding his activities throughout history. He is a created being, who was without sin in the beginning (Ezekiel 28:15). He is an angel, a cherub (Ezekiel 28:16). He was created wise, beautiful, and powerful. His beauty, splendor, and power led to his downfall, because he did not receive these as a gift from God. Instead, he took pride in what he was given. Ambition grew in the soil of pride, and Satan was no longer content with what he had. He wanted more. He wanted that which rightly belonged to God. Because of this, he was cast down, and his position was taken from him.
The one who wanted to be “like God,” was cast down because of his pride and ambition (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:2, 9). He convinces Eve that disobedience to God’s command will make her “like God” (Genesis 3:5). Satan begins with a question, raising doubts about the goodness of God, and ending with an absolute denial of God’s words that imply that God is a liar. He changes Eve’s view of God. She sees God as one who withholds what is good from man, for His own selfish reasons. In the final analysis, Satan seems to achieve a total success by bringing about in men the same rebellion for which he was condemned. Satan approaches Eve as an ally, but in the end, he is exposed as her adversary. The fall of man, and its resulting curses, is a direct result of Satan’s deception.
The first reference to Satan in the Bible is found in First Chronicles chapter 21 verse 1; The second reference is found in Job chapter 1 verse 6; the third in Job chapter 2 verse 1; the fourth in Psalm 109 verse 6 and fifth in Zechariah chapter 3 verse 1.
While Job is not among the very first books of the Bible, many scholars believe Job lived during the patriarchal times, before Moses. While Satan may not be prominent in the Old Testament as a whole, he is introduced as God’s enemy and man’s adversary. He is counted among the “sons of God, angels. He is free to go about the earth and has access to heaven and the throne of God. He acknowledges God’s authority, but does not respect it or fully submit to it. Satan knows he cannot afflict Job without God’s permission. He acknowledges that for him to afflict Job is ultimately for God to afflict him (Job 1:11; 2:5) Satan’s words reveal his belief that men only serve God when it serves their own fleshly interests, and that they will turn from God when suffering comes into their lives. Satan cannot imagine anyone worshipping God for who He is, rather than for what He gives. He thinks men must be bribed to worship and to serve God.
Satan’s efforts produced the opposite of what he hoped to achieve by inflicting Job with adversity and suffering. While Satan is rebellious toward God and an adversary of Job, the suffering ultimately resulted in a deepening of Job’s faith and brought greater blessings to Job. Job’s final condition is far better than his first. In spite of and because of Satan’s opposition, Job is blessed, and Satan’s purpose frustrated. In the end, Satan learns nothing and gains nothing. God gained a more intimate relationship with Job, an opportunity to instruct the angels, and an occasion to teach us about Satan, the spiritual war, and the role of suffering in the life of a child of God.
As described in the Book of Job, what happened through Satan’s opposition to God and inflicting suffering upon Job is exactly what always happens in the plan of God. Satan is allowed to manifest his rebellion and bring about that which he supposes will hinder God’s people and His plan. Satan is allowed to do only that which God has planned for His glory and our good. He does nothing apart from divine permission. He does nothing contrary to God’s plan. Through Satan’s opposition, God’s purposes are fulfilled, and Satan’s purposes are frustrated. In spite of his failures, Satan never learns. Instead, he continues his rebellion.
The account in 1 Chronicles informs us of Satan’s role in the numbering of Israel’s men. It also tells us Satan worked through David and that his purpose was to oppose Israel.
In one of his visions, Zechariah saw “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” (Zechariah 3:1-2).
While these account add little to what we know about Satan, they underscores an important fact: Satan is the untiring, unceasing adversary of God and of His people. He seeks power and recognition for himself, arrogantly resisting and rebelling against God. He is rebellious, evil, and cunning. He persists with his devious work. In his ambition and efforts to further his own position, he willingly sacrifices humanity and indeed all creation. He may approach us as an ally, but eventually he is unmasked as our adversary, a deadly foe.
Satan’s character and conduct do not change in the New Testament; they only intensify. Satan’s purpose is always the same: he seeks to exalt himself above God by opposing God and men. While his goals are always the same, his methods differ greatly. We see this in the way Satan opposed our Lord at the time of His first coming (Matthew 4:1-11).
Satan was “a son of God” and he rebelled against God and was cast down. In the wilderness, the issue was clear: Jesus’ son ship, thus the repeated challenge, “If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3, 6). In the past, Satan was quite successful in tempting men based on his own fallen perspective, ambitions, and values. Satan’s temptation of Jesus reveals much about himself, as well as something very important about our Lord. The temptations that found a responsive chord in the hearts of fallen men had no appeal to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unlike Satan, Jesus was intent on doing the will of the Father. Jesus, unlike Satan, was willing to humble Himself, even to the point of death, to fulfill God’s purpose of providing the only means for man’s forgiveness and eternal life. Our Lord’s submission to the will of God was the basis for our Lord’s victory in the wilderness, as well as His victory at the cross over Satan, sin, and death.
Motivated by pride, Satan opposed Jesus, the Apostles, the first century church and the Gospel message. In these last days, Satan’s attack upon the character and nature of Jesus and the church has increased to the point where God will complete His plan for the removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete.
The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, Satan’s doom is implied in the taunting of the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre. God spoke of Satan’s defeat in Genesis 3:15. The Old Testament prophets provide more details concerning the “bruising of the heel” of the Seed who will bruise the head of the serpent (Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53).
Jesus spoke of Satan’s defeat during His earthly ministry, especially as the time of His death drew near. The apostles likewise spoke of Satan’s doom, seeing it as accomplished through the death of Christ, but still to be fully carried out fully in the future (Romans 16:20; 1 John 3:8). Satan’s downfall is described in the Book of Revelation in three major stages. The first phase of his final destruction begins with the termination his access to heaven and the throne of God (Revelation 12:7-11). This “casting out” of Satan serves only to increase his anger and rebellion toward God which he now takes out on those who dwell on the earth. The period of great tribulation is set in motion. God’s wrath on sinful men is achieved through this angry outburst of Satan, and the world is judged for its sin.
After the time of great tribulation, our Lord returns to the earth as its King to establish His rule over all the earth for a period of 1,000 years. During this time, Satan is bound so that he can no longer oppose God or men (Revelation 20:1-6).
At the end of the 1,000-year reign, Satan is released for a time. He finds on the earth a large number of people, who prefer Satan’s reign to that of our Lord, and so a great and final battle is waged against Satan and those who have chosen to follow him. When Satan and his forces are defeated, he and all of his followers are judged and cast into the lake of fire, forever (Revelation 20:7-15).
The Good News
Unlike Satan who is everyone’s adversary, Jesus is the sinner’s advocate. Jesus humbled Himself, resulting in redemption; Satan exalted himself, resulting in man’s sin. Jesus intercedes for us before God; Satan accuses us. Those who follow Jesus share in His reign; those who follow Satan share in his ruin. Those who follow Jesus become like Him; those who follow Satan become like him. Jesus is the truth; Satan the liar. Jesus sets free the slaves of Satan; Satan promises freedom but enslaves. Jesus is the only way to the Father; Satan turns men away from the Father. Jesus delivers His followers from eternal separation from the Father; the followers of Satan are eternally separated from the Father. The followers of Jesus submit to the will of the Father; the followers of Satan resist the will of the Father. Jesus is gracious and compassionate; Satan is cruel and sadistic. The Bible ends with an account of Satan’s final doom. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.
Beyond this destiny-determining decision, there are other implications we must consider. We must never underestimate the power of Satan. Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 8 and 9).
The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord (2 Peter 2:9-11). It is troubling to hear Christians speak flippantly of Satan. Nowhere in Scripture is Satan a joking matter. Nowhere is he taken lightly. Nowhere in Scripture do we find men or women of God taking Satan on as though he were an easy match. I hear a great deal about “binding Satan” and other such actions, but I do not find these practices in the Bible. Let us remember that he is an angelic being with great power, though an enemy we must respect him as a deadly foe.
Second, we must not overestimate the power of Satan. Just as some do not take Satan seriously enough, others give him too much credit, often crediting Satan for every irritation or problem of life. Satan does not often bother with such matters, at least so far as Scripture speaks of him and his activities.
Satan has significant limitations. For example, he is limited to those activities consistent with God’s plan. Satan is not allowed to act in a way that actually alters God’s plan. Further, he is neither all knowing nor all-wise. Satan does have a vast demonic network and is therefore supplied with much information. However, he is still not omniscient. We have no evidence, for example, that he can read our minds, though he surely can hear our spoken words and prayers. Although he was created with great wisdom (Ezekiel 28:12), Satan is most certainly not wise. The Scriptures reveal that his perspective is now very warped. True, the Scriptures instruct us that Satan has not learned lessons from history or from God’s dealings, such as in the Book of Job. He persists at pressing on with his rebellion.
The Book of Proverbs often reminds us that wisdom is proportionate with humility. Likewise, arrogance is proportionate with folly (Proverbs 1:20-33; 3:5-7). Wisdom is also a result of the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10; 15:33). Wisdom comes from God; thus, those who reject and resist Him cannot be wise (Proverbs 21:30). Satan is intelligent. He is incredibly cunning; but he is not wise. Everything he thinks and does is from a mind and heart warped by pride and arrogance.
Third, nothing can hinder or frustrate God’s plan for the redemption of humanity. The combined opposition of Satan and his host of fallen angels cannot frustrate the will of God.
Fourth, God has provided a way of escape from sins of pride and rebellion. We can be sure that Satan will tempt us in these very areas. In His grace, God has provided “a way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Pride is continually condemned in the Scriptures as sin. The Bible constantly emphasizes God’s grace and reminds us that nothing worth boasting about finds its source in us; instead, it is a gift from God.
Fifth, The Bible has been written to increase our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see the ultimate source. The kings of Babylon and Tyre were those who opposed God and His people. Behind these men was Satan, but there is a holy, righteous, and compassionate God, who is causing all things to work together for His glory and the good of His children.
We often assume adversity or difficulty come from Satan. This may or may not be true. Perhaps it has. Perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.
Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. However, the God of the universe is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with God’s power.
Satan’s names and designations tell us about the nature, character, and attributes of Satan. Most of these may be summarized as follows:
Satan [adversary] (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1:7, etc.) The Devil (Matthew 4;1; John 8:44, etc.) The Dragon (Revelation 20:2) The Serpent (Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 20:2) The Evil One (Matthew 6:13; 13:19, 38; 2 Thessalonians 3:3) The angel of the abyss (Revelation 9:11) Abaddon or Apollyon (Revelation 9:11) The accuser of our brethren (Revelation 12:10) The Adversary (1 Peter 5:8) Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24) Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15) The deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9) The great dragon (Revelation 12:9) The enemy (Matthew 13:28, 39) The evil one (Matthew 13:19, 38) The father of lies (John 8:44) The god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) The prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) The ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) The ancient serpent (Revelation 12:9) The tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5) Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1)
Satan’s nature, character, and attributes:
An angel, a cherub (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:14 A son of God (Job 1:6; 2:1) A liar (John 8:44) A murderer (John 8:44) Cunning, crafty (Genesis 3:1) A hinderer (1 Thessalonians 2:18) A deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3) One who takes advantage of others (2 Corinthians 2:10-11) A tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5) Evil (Matthew 13:19, 38) Arrogant (Job 2:4; Luke 22:31) A schemer (2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 6:11) A hypocrite (1 Timothy 4:2) Cruel and lacking any compassion (see Luke 13:10-17)
Satan’s goal is to promote himself and his glory by opposing God. In reality, just the opposite is happening. In God’s plan, Satan is bringing glory to God by his opposition.
Satan has considerable power, but he is not at all free. As we can see from Job 1 and 2, Satan can do nothing to Job apart from God’s permission. God permits Satan to do only that which is a part of His plan.
From all that we can discern from Scripture, Satan is intelligent but his perspective and thinking are warped by his own arrogance and ambition. He has a broad-based network of demons, which keep him well informed. Satan is not God, nor does he possess the attributes of God. He is powerful, but not all-powerful; He knows much, but he does not know all.
Satan’s weapons are the flesh and the world. Most often, Satan works indirectly, through these means. In addition, Satan employs fallen demons, unbelievers, and even the failures of the saints, like Peter (Matthew 16:23). There are other beings, such as the two beasts of Revelation 13 and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).
Satan’s power comes from God’s divine providence that allows him to do what he does. In addition, Satan has the power and authority rendered to him by the fallen angels, demons, who have followed him in rebellion. Further, Satan has power to affect men. This comes through the internal “pull” of the flesh and through the external “push” of the world.
What is Satan’s destiny? Defeat and doom. His downfall was first pronounced in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. It was promised in Genesis 3:15. Jesus spoke of his defeat in John 16:11. The Lord Jesus Christ, specifically through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, defeats him. He is overcome at the cross, but his full and final defeat is future (Romans 16:20). Through the preaching of the gospel and personal faith in Christ, men are being delivered from Satan’s grasp and granted eternal life (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:9). Sometime in the future Satan will be cast out of heaven, and his anger toward God and men will be intensified in its expression toward men in the limited time he has remaining (Revelation 12:1-12). Just before the 1000-year reign of our Lord, Satan will be bound, so that he cannot oppose men or God (Revelation 20:1-6). After 1000 years of living under God’s rule, Satan will be released for a time, and many will choose to follow him. This leads to a final battle between Satan and his followers and God and His saints (Revelation 20:7-9). Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire forever, along with all who have followed him (Revelation 20:10-15).
Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. That kingdom includes every person who has not trusted in Christ. The “father” of the unbeliever is the Devil. His followers behave as he does (John 8:44). Whether men realize it or not, they are under his control, and they do his bidding. Often his control comes indirectly through the world or the flesh. Men may think they are free, but they are actually Satan’s slaves. Satan works hard to keep men from the truth–and from deliverance from him and his kingdom which comes through believing in Christ (Luke 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
Satan seeks to destroy the Christian (1 Peter 5:8). To do this, Satan seeks to distort the truth, to deceive the Christian, and ultimately to turn the Christian away from simple faith and obedience in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). Often, Satan will disguise himself or his teaching as coming from a true believer as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). He is a master of disguise, a creature with many faces.
Let us pray: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.