Discussing Satan or the war between good and evil is not fashionable these days. People would rather believe evil doesn’t exist or that Satan is an evil boogieman created to keep people oppressed under a religious dictatorship.
How does Satan work?
Satan adapts himself and his tactics to oppose the entire kingdom program of God. Specifically, his goal is to distort mankind’s understanding of God. He does this primarily by setting up his own counterfeit kingdom program. He will do whatever he has to in order to promote his plans and programs successfully. According to the Bible, the existence of Satan (e.g. Num 22:22, 32; 1 Chron 21:1; Matt 4:1-12) and demons (Matt. 12:22–29; 15:22–28; 17:14–20; Mark 5:1–16) is unquestionable. Satan is the chief of the fallen-angels (Luke 11:15; Eph 2:2). As with good angels, evil angles (i.e. demons) have personality (Isa 14:12-14; Luke 22:31; 2 Cor 11:3; 2 Tim 2:26; Rev 12:7) and they are spiritual beings (Ezek 28:2; Acts 19:15; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12; Jude 9; Rev 9:1-12; 16:13).
Satan attacks God and His program by offering a counterfeit kingdom and program (2 Tim 3:5; 2 Cor 11:15; 1 Tim 4:1-3; Rev 2:24; 2 Thes 2:9-11) and he attacks believers through temptation. He tempts believers to commit evil by conforming to society (1 Thes 3:5), covering up selfishness (Act 5:1-11), and acting immorally (1 Cor 7:5). Satan accuses the believer before God (Rev 12:10; see 1 John 2:1-2) and he opposes our gospel witness (Matt 13:38-39; Mark 4:15; 1 Thes 2:18; Rev 2:10). He is also busy spotlighting our sin (Rev 12:10) and generally hindering Christian service (1 Thes 2:18); sometimes through physical ailments (2 Cor 12:7). Demons specifically oppose the spiritual progress of God’s kingdom plan (Eph 6:12) through plight (Matt. 9:33; 12:22; 17:15–18; Mark 5:4–5; 9:22; Luke 8:27–29; 9:37–42; Rev. 9:14–19), perversion (1 Tim. 4:1–3; Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37–39; Lev. 18:6–30; Deut. 18:9–14); and possession (Matt. 4:24; 12:22; Mark 5:15–18; Luke 8:36; John 10:21).
Since born-again Christians are (1) sealed in the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13), (2) live under the ownership of God (2 Cor 1:22), (3) and are controlled by One who is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4), Christians cannot be possessed by demons. Therefore, the Christian is assured of victory over the temptations and power of Satan and his minions (1 Cor. 10:13; 15:54-57; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4; 5:4). The struggle between good and evil, i.e. God and Satan, is real (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 22:31–34; Gal. 5:16–17; Eph. 6:10–20). Yet, at the final judgment Satan and all of the fallen angels will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone forever (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10).
Satan’s basic tactics
We can learn much about how Satan works by examining the Fall found in Gen 3. We learn first of all that Satan is cunning. As such he has a specific method of battling God. This strategy has three components.
- Satan disputes what God said. In the confrontation of Eve in the Garden, Satan asked her, “Has God indeed said…?” He is asking, “Did God really say…” and “Does this really apply to our culture and our situation…” He is working to cast doubt in the mind.
- Satan denies God’s capability to do what He said He would do. When Eve told Satan that she would die, Satan replied, “You will not surely die.” It is like us asking the question today, “Would God really send people to Hell?”
- Satan denigrates God’s character. Satan goes on to tell Satan that God is holding back from us…the implication is that God doesn’t really love us and want the best for us. Satan explains, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
What doesn’t Satan want me to know?
The more we understand about how Satan works and the more we know about his person, the better we can successfully thwart his attacks. Let’s examine some common questions regarding Satan.
1. What is wrong with the teaching that Satan directly causes sin in every person?
This teaching is incorrect on at least two bases. (1) Satan’s aim was not to promote sin in the world. Satan did not propose to be a fiend, but rather to be like God (Is 14:14). Thus, he is not so much aiming to destroy but rather to construct his own kingdom. He seeks to realize his own ambition for authority over this current world-system (including its culture, morality, and religion (2 Cor 11:13-15). (2) Human sin comes directly from the fallen human fallen heart (Gen 6:5; Mark 7:18-23; James 1:13-16).
2. What is revealed in Isaiah 14 concerning Satan’s original purpose in rebelling God?
Satan said, “I will be like the most High (v 14).” This statement indicates that his overall goal is to rule over God’s created universe. For this reason, he encouraged Adam and Eve to become self-centered, self-sufficient, and independent of God (Gen 3:5). This attitude was subsequently passed on to the human race so that all mankind have become “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3; 5:6; Rom 1:18).
3. How did Satan’s purpose relate to his desire to be worshiped by Christ?
Satan’s ultimate desire was to be worshipped by Christ (Luke 4:5-7). Imagine the egotism of Satan such that his passion was to be worshipped by God. Satan realized that he must displace God before he could take his place as the ultimate power in the universe. Christ withstood this onslaught of Satan and stood firm in His commitment to worship the Lord God almighty and to serve Him alone.
4. When will Satan for a brief time realize his purpose to be worshiped as God?
The day, of course will come when Satan sits as God in the temple of God in an attempt to convince the world that he is God (2 Thes 2:3-4; Dan 9:27; Matt 24:15; Rev 13:3-8). However, these actions occur only because of God’s permissive will to prepare the world for God’s final wrath.
5. What in general is Satan doing to those who are unsaved?
Satan is doing everything in his power to keep the unsaved from being delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13). Satan energizes (like the battery) the sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2); he blinds the minds of the unsaved so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:3-4); and he holds the unconscious world in his arms (1 John 5:19).
6. To what extent does Satan counterfeit the things of God?
Satan promotes an extensive religious system (1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Cor 11:13-15). To accomplish this task, Satan freely establishes various religions based on selected biblical texts, which may even elevate Christ as the leader and incorporate every phase of Christian faith, except for one. They omit the doctrine of salvation by grace alone on the ground of the shed blood of Christ. These abominations are in the world today and deceive many. Those truly following Christ need to expose these satanic delusions through the testing of the attitude they take toward the saving grace of God through the blood of Christ (Rev 12:11).
How should we respond to Satan?
We must live the life God has for us…not in fear of this worth adversary, but knowing that the victory is already ours. The struggle between good and evil, i.e. God and Satan, is real (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 22:31–34; Gal. 5:16–17; Eph. 6:10–20) and the end is certain. Satan and his followers will cast into the lake of fire and brimstone forever (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10). The victory is ours.
Are you living a life of freedom in Christ?