Know your enemy–the devil

Some people interpret the devil as a metaphor, a personification of evil who does not literally exist. Others picture him as a cartoon character, an archaic mythical being with an overlay of medieval and modern imaginings. The Bible describes the devil as a fallen angel, created by God to be good, but in rebellion against God, at war with all that belongs to God. He has no personal interest in the people living on the planet Earth; but, because God loves us, the devil tries to hurt God by bringing harm upon us.

God is purely good, but pure evil does not exist. Everything evil is something good that has been twisted, distorted, and changed from its original form and purpose. Even the devil was a good angel when God made him. The Bible does not say much about his rebellion beyond attributing his fall to sinful pride. I speculate that the devil understands power and authority, but he does not understand love and mercy. He sees God’s love and mercy as weaknesses, which is why the devil believes that he can run the universe better than God is running it. He is very clever, but he is also foolish. He cannot accept the reality that he is not equal to God. He is not all-powerful, all-knowing, or present everywhere. He cannot defeat God, but that reality does not stop him from trying.

The devil tempts people to sin. When we have sinned, he remembers our sins and stands ready to accuse us of sinning. His name, Satan, comes from a Persian word, a legal term for the prosecuting attorney in a courtroom. Once a person has sinned, Satan considers that person a partner in evil. Every sin is a sign that the sinner belongs to Satan and not to God. Satan is ready to accuse us in God’s presence of all our sins so he can keep us as his property–not because he cares about us, but because he hates God and wants to grieve God.

On one occasion, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and promised to give them to Jesus if Jesus would worship the devil. As laughable as that temptation seems, it was a shrewd offer. Jesus had come into the world to redeem sinners, to reconcile us to God and reclaim us for his Kingdom. His path to our redemption involved suffering and dying on a Roman cross. Satan offered Jesus a shortcut to his goal. Jesus could take charge of all the kingdoms of the world without suffering and without dying. He only had to worship the devil. Had Jesus wanted power and authority, he would have accepted that offer. But Jesus came into the world with love and mercy. It was not enough for him to rule over sinners still unreconciled to God. Jesus refused the devil’s offer and continued his journey toward the cross.

Satan quoted Psalm 91 as he suggested that Jesus jump from the pinnacle of the Temple and be carried by angels. Jesus refused to put God’s promises to the test. Yet Jesus was fulfilling the promise of the Psalm in his refusal–the same Psalm also promises that God’s people will trample the serpent. In the Garden of Eden, Satan had used the form of a serpent to tempt Eve into sinning and joining his rebellion. God responded that Satan was a loser–he would eat dust–and a descendent of Eve would defeat Satan. Jesus would crush the devil’s head, but in the process Satan would bruise his heel. Jesus crushed the devil’s head by his sacrifice on the cross.

Now, when Satan remembers the sins of Christians and accuses us of rebellion, Jesus stands as our defense attorney. He pleads our case before his Father, reminding his Father that our penalty has been paid in full. Satan stamps his little foot and complains, “That’s not fair!” He is correct; God is being unjust by forgetting our sins and receiving us into his Kingdom. In love and mercy, God would rather be unfair to our benefit than give us what we deserve.  Jesus comes like a thief in the night to steal us from the devil. He breaks into the strong man’s house–the world controlled by the devil–and binds Satan so he can take Satan’s property (sinners who have rebelled against God) and bring them home.

When missionaries sent by Jesus rejoiced in the victories they had experienced, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Satan’s fall is not a single event in history; he falls whenever God’s promises are shared and believed. The Word of God binds Satan. His only power is in his words, and when people trust God’s Word, Satan is bound. He is a chained dragon. Satan becomes unbound whenever people set aside the Word of God and fail to believe the promise of redemption. The Bible calls Satan a roaring lion, but he is no more dangerous than the lions in the zoo. So long as we stand where we belong–on the Word of God–Satan cannot get to us. Only when we leave God’s Word and climb into Satan’s territory are we in danger from the devil.

Satan is not God’s equal. Hell is a prison, not a kingdom, and Jesus holds the keys to that prison. The victory Jesus won by his death and resurrection is a victory over Satan, a victory Jesus shares with us. The apostle Paul calls us “more than conquerors” because we participate in the victory without having contributed to the battle. Satan does not have the power to take us out of God’s hands. Nothing, not even the devil, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. J.

 

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8 thoughts on “Know your enemy–the devil

  1. I think I am starting to repeat myself, but I love your view on biblical matters! I also always thought of the devil as God’s counterpart, as in good versus evil. But I like how you put that all evil is something good but twisted around. Makes me think.

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  2. Your post reminds me of Romans 8:1—“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And then later in the chapter–“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.”

    Thanks for this reminder.

    Becky

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  3. Great read! Something though I would add = You stated “The Bible calls Satan a roaring lion” BUT it actually says “he is LIKE a roaring lion”

    The difference is subtle, but worth noting. Just as people often misquote “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” wrongly placing emphasis on MONEY rather than the LOVE of it. Actually being a LION opposed to being ‘lion-LIKE’ can be equally confusing, leading to poor interpretations and false belief systems.

    The ‘lion-like’ nature of the devil is a warning, yes – but more specifically it is information regarding his tactics – masquerading as a fiercer beast than he really is, or in most cases as an angel of light. The point of both is that his only power is that of deception, unlike GOD Who is Omnipotent.

    If the devil were actually a roaring lion, we would indeed be unable to out run him or defeat him.
    But as you say, he is an ALREADY defeated foe by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

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    • Well, MJ, translators decide whether to interpret the Greek as a metaphor or a simile. In this case, the King James Version reflects the Greek–“as a roaring lion.” But, of course, whether it is metaphor or simile, the devil is no more a lion than he is a dragon. He is an angel, and both images are true descriptions but poetic, not literal. The point, as you say, is that he is defeated by Christ’s sacrifice and bound by God’s Word. J.

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      • Not to argue, but I’m a credentialed Biblical linguist and theologian and KNOW that it is NOT the translator’ s purpose to “interpret the Greek as a metaphor or a simile”. That is the responsibility of EACH individual reader, which is to be resolved by personal research of the text under the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Asking in faith and absolute accord and submission to the admonition delivered by James in his letter (Jas. 1: 5-8).

        The sworn duty of a translator is to communicate the original message delivered in another language WITHOUT any commentary or opinion as to interpretation! Disregard to the difference between “Interpretation’ and ‘Translation’ has resulted in the naive acceptance of too many so-called ‘translations’ that (because of their author’s personal dogma) are actually NOT true translations, but are poor or even FALSE ‘versions’ of the original texts.

        Examples of such heresies are ‘The New World’ so-called bible – ‘translated’ and published by the “Watch Tower Society”. For a more in-depth understanding of these insights, I recommend this Article @ https://mjthompsons.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/interpretation-of-scripture/. Peace!

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      • I am not only familiar with the term, I dislike the implications that it evokes – implying equal veracity to varying TRANSLITERATIONS disguised as righteous ‘translations’, at least to the non-professional or scholarly theologian. My personal deference stems from the supposition that private interpretations are inserted into so-called ‘translations’ completely unannounced and therefore hidden from the end-reader’s knowledge.

        At the same time, I do appreciate various foot-notes or margin entries provided by some translators in a sincere attempt to explain certain nuances peculiar to the languages being translated. Examples of archaic terminologies for which a related explanation is required should be provided but such explanations should also be duly noted as NOT CONTAINED in the ORIGINAL TEXT. Those should also NEVER influence interpretation or resulting doctrine.

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