The world makes jokes abut the devil and relegates to the realm of myth. He is commonly pictured as wearing a red costume and having horns and a tail and carrying a pitchfork. However, a correct knowledge of this being is vital to any real understanding of the history of the world we live in, and the personal conflict in which we are involved. For the existence, power and schemes of the devil are facts of tremendous significance, for we live in the midst of his schemes and snares. Jesus informs us that Satan heads a mighty kingdom of fallen angels called demons.
He is the malignant spirit who first tempted mankind to sin through our first parents, Adam and Eve. Since then his purpose has been to drive a wedge between mankind and their creator. His goal is to hurt God the only way he can, and that is through mankind whom God loves. His goal is nothing short of the ruin of mankind.
In the process of his war with God he has brought untold sorrow and shame to the history of the human race. He is the instigator of the wars and hatred between mankind. The world is deceived by this great deceiver, who Jesus called the father of lies, to the point of rendering this powerful spirit being a mere fable, which greatly enhances his influence and advantage over the affairs of men, for your greatest enemy is the one you do not know you have.
Satan is the motivating influence behind the world’s mindset against God. Because mankind is born under his influence they are unaware of it. The Bible gives a detailed description of this person and his career. It describes a being so powerful and influential that all would be lost apart from the One who came to “destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).
Angels are referred to almost 300 times in the Bible. They are a prominent part of God’s program for mankind. The word “angel” in both the Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek means “messengers”. They are revealed in the Bible as an order of supernatural spirit beings of which there are different classes and rankings.
There number is innumerable. In Daniel 7:9-10 we read of God’s throne concerning angels: “A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him”. The Hebrew language had no word for “million”, but instead used “a thousand thousands” for a million. “Ten thousand times ten thousand” would be a hundred million. The same words are used in Revelation 5:11: “Thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousands”.
Angels were originally all holy, and were all created at the same time and are not born as humans are and do not reproduce and multiply themselves. They are always spoken of in the masculine. They are always referred to as men, never as women. The world of angels comes in two groupings: The good angel who never rebelled and the fallen and these are organized into a hierarchy of different rankings with tremendous power and authority. The Bible speaks of “thrones”, “rulers and authorities, powers and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). There has been continual warfare between these for the control of mankind throughout history.
The Prince of the fallen angels was there from the beginning of mankind’s creation and the history of the human race is a long scene of warfare and cruelty, pain and sorrow. How terrible and fearful are the forces of darkness and spiritual wickedness that are behind all the sin and misery that has plagued the fallen human race throughout its history.
The ministry of angels is important to the understanding of God’s providential care and leading of His people. Believers are surrounded by holy angels, mighty beings, sent from God to minister to His children throughout their lifetime, and escort them home to heaven when their journey here is over. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).
Lucifer’s creation and fall
Ezekiel 38:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-15 deal with the devil’s creation and fall. In Ezekiel 28 speaks past the king of Tyre and Isaiah 14 speaks past the king of Babylon, to the motivating influence that was behind them. An example of this is seen in Matthew 16:23 where Jesus spoke past Peter, who was rebuking Jesus for saying that He must be crucified, to address Satan who was the motivating ingluence behind what Peter said.
In Ezekiel 28:13 he is said to have been in the Garden of Eden. Certinly this could not be true of the ruler. But Satan the Tempter was there of Tyre. In 28:14 he was ordained by God to be a “guardian Cherub” and that he was on the holy mount of God; “You walked among the fiery stone”. Lucifer was the greatly exalted Cherub who guarded or covered God’s throne with praises as he led the other angel’s in the worship of God.
The “mountain of God” was a symbol of God’s throne where He governed the universe. The “fiery stones” refer to angels. “You were blameless in all your ways till wickedness was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15). Many wonder why God would create the devil and evil. God did not create the devil and evil. He created Lucifer and all the angels with free will like he created mankind. God created mankind and the angels with a choice to love Him or rebel against Him. If He created them as mere robots they could not truly love their Creator.
His exalted position of close proximity to God’s throne cause him to covet God’s glory and worship. “Your heart became proud on account of you beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17).
Lucifer the anointed Cherub became Satan the devil and was cast out of His exalted position in the 3rd heaven to the lower heavenly places to the lower heavenly places (the 2nd heaven—Ephesians 6:12) and became “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2). He now stands as the prince of the kingdom of darkness opposed to the kingdom of light. This will be his realm until the end, when Michael the archangel will cast him and his angels to the earth during the tribulation period (Revelation 12:7-13).
Satan’s great ambition is to have a throne of his own and be worshipped by mankind and to rule over the “stars of heaven”—the angels.
God” purpose in creating mankind was so He could communicate Himself with His creation in a love relationship. Because God is love He created mankind as a spiritual personality on whom He could bestow His love. We are told in Hebrews 2:5-6 that God created mankind to rule over the angels and to put the world to come under His authority: “It was not to angels that He has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking, but there is a place that someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him. You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet”.
The Bible is filled with promises of a glorious eternal destiny that God has provided for redeemed mankind: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (Hebrews 2:9). The Bible teaches a most exalted purpose for mankind’s creation. This purpose is to have perfect fellowship with God Himself, to share in His eternal life, and His ruling of the universe in a family relationship.
The universe, especially planet earth was created for one purpose: to provide a suitable home for the redeemed and glorified human race. God formed man on the sixth day of creation: “The Lord God formed the man of the dust of the ground and breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
“Now the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there He had put the man He had formed and the Lord God made all kinds of trees to grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil” (Genesis 2:8-9).
Mankind was created for fellowship with God and knowing that man would fall, God planned through Christ, to demonstrate the incomparable riches of His grace expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). But this relationship must be freely chosen and to do this the man must be given a choice so God prepared a special area, a perfect garden with beautiful trees bearing fruit of every kind, for a testing ground. It was called “Eden” which means “delight”. It was paradise.
Adam was the representative of all his descendants and would set the course for humanity and human history. In the center of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—so called because good would be known if Adam obeyed concerning it and evil if man disobeyed.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).
MANKIND”S FALL AND THE PROMISE OF A REDEEMER
Satan knew that the only way he could hurt God was through mankind so that was his point of attack. In his consuming hatred of God Satan would wage war against the human race that God loved. The devil and his demonic hoards were about to begin the conflict of the ages. God, who could have ended the conflict before it began, would allow it to play itself out for Good.
He would use it to reveal Himself to His creation through His dealings with sin and its terrible consequence for the sinner and reveal Himself to His creation through His dealing with sin and its terrible consequences for the sinner and reveal His love and grace to His creation as nothing else could. The drama of angelic and human rebellion and His response to it would reveal to His creation the character of their God.
The serpent’s body was taken over by Satan, who had earlier led the angels in a revolt against God, would now tempt God’s human creation. Jesus said he was “a murderer and a liar from the beginning” (John 8:44). He said to the woman “Did God really say you must not eat of any tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1).
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You may not eat fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die” (Genesis 3:2-4).
“You shall not surely die” the serpent said to the woman, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
She chose to believe the tempter over God and saw only what the tempter wanted her to see, until her own lusts took over and each step became easier until she ate of the forbidden fruit. She gave it to Adam and he ate. They had made themselves their own masters. Now they would write the unwritten history of the human race. Their own individual wills had replaced the will of God.
Then they heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden. It was a theophany of the Word of God, the pre-incarnate Christ, and they hid from Him among the trees of the garden, but the Lord God called out to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” He answered “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:8-10).
Through sin Satan had driven a wedge between God and humanity. Though Adam was covered with fig leaves, he still knew that he was naked before God.
“So the Lord God said to the serpent, “because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of you life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).
As a result of their sin everything changed. To the woman God announced that she would give birth with increased pain and there will be strife between the man and the woman. From now on children will be born under the curse. It would be a time of struggle and pain as a constant reminder that we are all sinners (Genesis 3:16).
Adam was told that the ground (the earth) would be cursed for his sake. Now only through pain and toil would it produced crops along with weeds and thorns. Their bodies would begin to age and wear out and finally die and return to the dust of the ground from which they came.
The serpent would be cursed above all the other animals as a perpetual reminder to mankind of their fall and Satan’s final doom. It may have stood erect and glided on its tail, but now it would crawl in the dust as an object of revulsion.
In the heavenly realm Lucifer’s sin had brought about a fall among the angels prior to the fall of mankind. The fallen angels under his authority are also called demons. There is only one Devil, which means “slanderer” or “accuser”. He is called “Satan” which means “Resister”.
Angels fell individually, but humans fell corporately. “In Adam” we all fell. Because Adam was the head or organic representative death established itself on all of his descendants as well. Through Adam every member of the human race, through their mere birth, is inescapably a member of a fallen and corrupted race. This is why Jesus declared: “I tell you the truth. No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).
Satan became the “Prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30) and the “god of this age” (mindset) (II Corinthians 4:4). The whole world is under his control (I John 5:19), and he is the “spirit working in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). He is the Tempter (Matthew 4:3). He is a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He is the deceiver who leads the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9).
In the midst of the sin and its horror and shame God gave a promise that He would not allow the enemy to destroy His intended purpose for His creation of an intimate relationship with Himself. It was the beginning of the gospel message, The message of the offspring of the woman, born of a virgin. The term “offspring of the woman” is unique because generation was through the male. He would not be connected to the fallen nature of His parents, not tainted by the fall and not under sins dominion.
The only remedy now was a new creation brought about by a new head of humanity, another Adam, the Last Adam, to undo the tragedy caused by the first Adam. This was God’s plan from the beginning. God would send His own Son as the Last Adam to undo the works of the devil. Out of the ruins of the old creation God would build His new creation “in Christ”. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:22).
In Eden God decreed enmity, meaning bitter hatred, between the serpent’s offspring and the offspring of the woman. The primary offspring of the woman (A virgin birth) was the Lord Jesus Christ. The primary offspring of the serpent is Satan.
Since this first messianic prophecy was given Satan has been the bitter enemy of the woman’s seed, Jesus Christ. His person and work has been the focus of Satan’s attack. The secondary seed are the “children of the kingdom” and the “children of the wicked one”. This enmity of Satan is also directed toward God’s people. He makes unceasing on believers to mar their lives and service because they are “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). And to them has been committed the task of carrying on Christ’s work, the great “ministry of reconciliation”: That through them, their witness and prayers, the truths of salvation will be given out.
And because of this we can expect the fiercest opposition from Satan. This is why Jesus prayed: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Satan’s attack on our effective witness will be noticeable especially in our prayer life which will literally become a war zone.
The children of the kingdom are those who trust in Christ: “For you are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). The children of the serpent are those who reject Christ—“You brood of snakes” (Matthew 12:34). “Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell? (Matthew 23:33). “For you are children of your father the devil” (John 8:44).
In this struggle the offspring of the serpent would crush Satan’s head with a fatal death blow and destroy the works of the devil: “The Son of Man came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 38). But in the process of crushing the serpent’s head He would have to expose His heel to the serpent’s deadly fangs. This would take place on the cross where Christ would destroy the works of Satan for those who would trust in Him, But to do this would cost the Son of God great suffering and death.
This cosmic warfare between good and evil would be the theme of human history and the unfolding story revealed in the Scriptures. Christ’s coming signaled the greatest explosion of demonic activity from the demonic realm because His coming would eventually seal their doom. God has a plan for this world. It will be the scene of divine visitation. It will be the scene of the cosmic war where God will defeat the evil one.
In the fullness of God’s time Jess Christ, the eternal Son of God became flesh as the offspring of the virgin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but born of the virgin Mary. He was born of Mary, but the One who was born already existed from eternity. He would come as the Second Adam, the Captain of our salvation, ever moving forward on the lonely road toward suffering and death to crush the serpent’s head and “destroy the devil’s work” (I John 3:8).
The pleasant life in Eden characterized by fellowship with God came to a sudden end. Mankind was to have dominion over God’s creation, but their choice to heed the voice of the Tempter and disobey God changed everything, his dominion over the earth was lost to the Tempter and we are told in I John 5:19: “The whole world lies under the control of the evil one”, and Jesus referred to Satan as the “Prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; and 16:11).
This is brought out in Luke 4: 5-8 during Jesus’ confrontation with the devil: “The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours”.
It is significant that Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim to possess the kingdoms of this world. Jesus came to go to the cross to reclaim from Satan what Adam has forfeited. Satan was saying that Jesus did not have to go to the cross. He could have all these kingdoms if He would bow down and worship him. But Jesus rebuked his offer. He chose rather to die for the sins of the world and establish His own kingdom. Eventually antichrist will take him up on the offer (Revelation 13:1-2).
Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden. The perfect creation that God had declared “very good” (Genesis 1:31), was now devastated by the fall of angels in the heavenly realm who had set themselves up against the Creator. This was soon followed by the sin of mankind in the earthly realm. This has resulted in the deadly conflict between good and evil since the dawn of human history. The tragedy is that the majority of mankind is unaware of this warfare in which the enemy wants nothing short of the eternal damnation of the human race.
From that day until now the history of mankind has been one of warfare between the spiritual powers of good and evil, between the Creator and the created. Mankind is the focal point of the satanic ambition and schemes because the only way Satan could hurt God was through mankind. God’s reaction to our sin and suffering would dumbfound the wildest imagination. It would show the extent to which He would go to redeem His fallen creation: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As a consequence of this, believers are now engaged in spiritual warfare with the spiritual forces of Satan’s kingdom. Now all the hatred of Satan against God is directed toward His people. All the powers of the demonic forces are now activated to rob the finished work of Christ of it fullest effect upon the world.
The devil is a shrewd general and uses his troops where most needed and that is why his target Bible believing churches and believers. They are commission by the Lord to carry on His work and this makes them very dangerous to Satan’s cause. He sows the weeds among the wheat; the false among the true; the bad among the good. Deception and discourse are his methods. This is why we are given so many warnings in the Bible not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices and to stand on the finished work of Christ.
SATAN”S DEFEAT AT THE CROSS
Genesis 3:15 heralds that messiah would ultimately end the age-long conflict with the serpent—by crushing his head. The account of Jesus’ ministry begins with Him confronting the devil in the desert and defeating Him. After defeating Satan in His own life, the Son of Man was qualified to defeat him for the entire cosmos.
Jesus said: “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house” (Matthew 12:28-29).
Jesus is saying that one cannot take back the property of Satan’s kingdom unless he first ties up the strong man who is charge of the whole operation. This is what Jesus came to do. The account of Jesus’ ministry begins with Jesus confronting the devil in the desert. His ministry was about overcoming the “strong man”—Satan, who was guarding his property, and tying him up, enabling His people to take his possessions (his captives who have been blinded to the gospel).
Before going to the cross the battle was joined in Gethsemane. Satan’s legion put intense pressure upon Him as He contemplated the cross. His will was attacked at every point: “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” as he considered what lay ahead of Him. At the cross the cosmic war that had raged from the beginning of time had now come to center on one Person. The One stronger than the “strong man” had finally arrived.
Colossians 2:14-15 tells us: “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.
By dying for our sins and satisfying the law that demands death, Christ disarmed or stripped away the weapons of the satanic powers. This refers to the power of these demonic rulers to condemn mankind through the broken law. They have been stripped of their power over believers who stand perfectly righteous and holy in Jesus Christ”.
“Having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us” refers to the law that condemns us. God took away these broken laws by nailing them to Christ’s cross and judging Him for them. The Law (the written code) was a certificate of debt against us. In the east a debt was cancelled by nailing it to a post. Our certificate of guilt was taken out of the way by nailing it to the cross.
When Jesus was crucified the Romans nailed the charges against Him to His cross of claiming to be the king of the Jews (Matthew 27:34-37), God nailed the record of our sins to His cross and judged Him for them and blotted them out: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The certificate of our debt to the Law has been canceled because Christ paid our debt in full.
It was customary that when the debt was paid the canceled bill was nailed to a post for all to see. As with all debts the only one who could sign its cancellation was the one to whom the debt was owed. The cross of Christ was God’s signature on the canceled debt written in Christ’s blood.
Along with canceling the charges of the law that was against us He also disarmed the evil spirit forces, Satan and his fallen angels, who ruled over us and were made a public spectacle by Christ’s victory over them. Just as the victorious Romans would lead their defeated foes in a victory parade through the streets of Rome making a public spectacle of them.
Christ ascended to heaven after His resurrection as total victor over Satan and his demonic forces. When Christ sat down at the right hand of God, Satan’s defeat was total, as He cried from the cross “it is finished” (John 19:30). Not only was the penalty for our sin finished, but Satan’s legal authority and dominion was finished, but even more, when Jesus ascended to the throne of God, believers were raised and seated with Him:
“But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up in Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
Satan’s dominion over us was ended at Calvary. This is the meaning of our enthronement with Christ. Now instead of Satan having authority over us, we have been given authority over him.
In Matthew 16:16-19 Jesus uses Peter’s confession to teach about the Church. In order to understand this we must first understand the Biblical meaning of the “Church”. It does not refer to anyone who claims to be a Christian. Claiming to be a Christian does not make a person a Christian. Nor does it mean anyone who attends church. It always refers to a “called out assembly” who has been called out of the world through their faith in Christ. It refers only to those who have been “born again”. As Jesus said in John 3:3: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
“Peter answered, ‘you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”
Here the gates of hades are on the defensive, and God’s church is on the offensive. Jesus said He was going to build His church on the rock of Peter’s confession that the Father revealed to him, that Christ is the Son of the living God. Christ’s church will be built by overcoming the gates of Satan’s stronghold and releasing his prisoners he holds captive.
They are to do this through the authority of Christ. The church is literally to storm the gates of hades with the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the reason Jesus established the church, which is His spiritual body in this dispensation of the church. As Christ used His physical body at His first coming He now uses His church.
The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and “binding and loosing” has to do with the presentation of the gospel as does John 20:23: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”.
Only God can forgive sin, but the believer is given the authority and privilege of presenting the gospel message and declaring to those who believe that their sins are forgiven. It is the same with “binding” and “loosing”. If they believe the gospel they are loosed from their sins, if they do not believe they remain bound in their sins. This is to be the business of God’s people. This is what the church is called to do.
On the cross Jesus struck the fatal blow to Satan’s kingdom. After His resurrection and glorification He is now seated as our representative at the right hand of God the Father. Christ is now the true Prince of the world and will return to establish His kingdom. Satan’s claim to this world is as a usurper. Nothing Satan can do can change the finality of his defeat at. the cross.
The demons recognize Christ’s supreme authority over them (Mark 1:23-24; James 2:19) and believers share in this authority. Every sinner who comes to Christ is removed from Satan’s kingdom and transferred into Christ’s kingdom and the victory of the cross is magnified. While Satan continues to rule as a usurper, Christ has won the victory over Satan and those who belong to Christ share in this victory. While Satan was defeated at the cross the carrying out of the sentence is yet future.
In the meantime the spiritual forces of darkness are working to render Christ’s work on the cross ineffective for as many as possible. Now that his doom has been assured Satan has intensified his warfare against the church. Since the coming of Christ Satan has waged uninterrupted warfare against believers, seducing them to neglect the work that Christ has called us to do.
Today we are engaged in a spiritual war against a vicious and cruel pantheon of spiritual hosts of wickedness under the authority of the powerful and crafty Prince of darkness whose methods are lies and deception. This conflict brings us into a realm beyond human resources and we must depend on supernatural resources. Our confrontation with the supernatural powers under Satan that are arrayed against us is the logical conclusion of our belonging to Christ.
There are still battles to be fought. The victory over the powers of evil in principle has not yet been manifested. The Christian life is still spoken of in terms of warfare. The final outcome of this war has been settled, but there are still important battles to be fought and fighting these battles still defines the believer’s life. This is why the Scriptures give us so many images of believers as soldiers.