This series of lessons was adapted, with permission, to a classroom presentation format from two articles written by Bro. Bert Thompson and published in Reason and Revelation in October and November, 1998.  These articles, and much more material on this subject may be found at www.apologeticspress.org.

 

SATAN – HIS ORIGIN AND HIS MISSION

 

WHAT ARE SATAN’S POWERS?

 

            There can be no doubt that, Satan as Paul describes him:

 

II Corinthians 4:4 “IN WHOM THE GOD OF THIS WORLD HATH BLINDED THE MINDS OF THEM WHICH BELIEVE NOT, LEST THE LIGHT OF THE GLORIUS GOSPEL OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, SHOULD SHINE UNTO THEM.”

 

is powerful in his own right.  When the devil tempted the Son of God in the wilderness, he offered Him all the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world, if only He would fall down and worship him.

 

Matthew 4:9 “AND SAITH UNTO HIM, ALL THESE THINGS WILL I GIVE THEE, IF THOU WILT FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP ME.”

 

He had that capability within his power.  His justification for this insidious offer was based on his claim that, as the lord of this planet, he owned it:

 

Luke 4:6 “AND THE DEVIL SAID UNTO HIM, ALL THIS POWER WILL I GIVE THEE, AND THE GLORY OF THEM: FOR THAT IS DELIVERED UNTO ME; AND TO WHOMSOEVER I WILL I GIVE IT.”

 

What we might find most interesting is that Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim, either as god of this world or owner of all that they surveyed.  What, of course, is not brought out in this occurrence provided to us by the inspiration of God; is that Satan’s ownership of this world is temporary.  A writer named Erich Sauer notes in his book The King of The Earth the following:

 

This whole offer would have been unreal from the first for the Lord as a temptation, if some such legal basis for Satan’s dominion in the world had not existed.  Otherwise Jesus would only have had to point out that the necessary presuppositions for Satan’s legal claim to and ability to dispose of the glory of the world simply did not exist.  The Lord however left this claim of the devil’s un-contradicted and merely declared that man should worship and serve God alone (Luke 4:8).  With this He recognized in principle the tempter’s right to dispose of the kingdoms of this world in this present age.  This same thought lies behind the various sayings of Jesus in which He calls Satan “the Prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

 

We would do well to recognize the same thing the Son of God recognized: Satan is an important and powerful foe!

            As powerful as he is, however, Satan is not omnipotent – a fact that even he recognized.  During his temptation of Christ he admitted that his earthly reign “hath been delivered unto me” (Luke 4:6).  When the devil robbed Job of his family and earthly possessions, and even when he afflicted Job physically; he could only do so with the express permission of God (Job 1:12; 2:6).  When he sought to “sift” Christ’s apostles as wheat, he first had to “ask” for them (Luke 22:31).  It is evident, therefore, that his powers are limited.  Therefore the exercising of those powers are kept under God’s control; and all the more reason to have faith in God’s word that tells us that we will not be tempted beyond our ability to overcome.  That along with our temptations we will be provided by God a means of escaping that temptation. (I Corinthians 10:13)  Now that’s bad news for a lot of folks, because now we all know that we can’t legitimately blame anyone else for our sins now can we?

            But exactly what powers are in his possession?  When T. Pierce Brown observed in his writings that “apparently he is able to make some sort of suggestion to the heart” he provided us a picture window into which we may observe the way Satan works among men.  Among Satan’s powers are these:

 

He perverts the word of God:

 

Genesis 3:1-4 “NOW THE SERPENT WAS MORE SUBTLE THAN ANY BEAST OF THE FIELD WHICH THE LORD GOD HAD MADE.  AND HE SAID UNTO THE WOMAN, YEA HATH GOD SAID, YE SHALL NOT EAT OF EVERY TREE OF THE GARDEN?  AND THE WOMAN SAID UNTO THE SERPENT, WE MAY EAT OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREES OF THE GARDEN: BUT OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE WHICH is IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN, GOD HATH SAID, YE SHALL NOT EAT OF IT, NEITHER SHALL YE TOUCH IT, LEST YE DIE.  AND THE SERPENT SAID UNTO THE WOMAN, YE SHALL NOT SURELY DIE:”

 

He instigates false doctrine:

 

I Timothy 4:1-3 “NOW THE SPIRIT SPEAKETH EXPRESSLY, THAT IN THE LATTER TIMES SOME SHALL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, GIVING HEED TO SEDUCING SPIRITS, AND DOCTRINES OF DEVILS; SPEAKING LIES IN HYPOCRISY; HAVING THEIR CONSCIENCE SEARED WITH A HOT IRON; FORBIDDING TO MARRY, and commanding TO ABSTAIN FROM MEATS, WHICH GOD HATH CREATED TO BE RECEIVED WITH THANKSGIVING OF THEM WHICH BELIEVE AND KNOW THE TRUTH.”

 

He blinds men to the truth:

 

II Corinthians 4:4 “IN WHOM THE GOD OF THIS WORLD HATH BLINDED THE MINDS OF THEM WHICH BELIEVE NOT, LEST THE LIGHT OF THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, SHOULD SHINE UNTO THEM.”

 

He sows tares among God’s wheat (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)

He steals the Word of God from human hearts:

 

Matthew 13:19  WHEN ANY ONE HEARETH THE WORD OF THE KINGDOM, AND UNDERSTANDETH it NOT, THEN COMETH THE WICKED one, AND CATCHETH AWAY THAT WHICH WAS SOWN IN HIS HEART.  THIS IS HE WHICH RECEIVED SEED BY THE WAY SIDE.”

 

He lays snares for men

 

II Timothy 2:26 “AND that THEY MAY RECOVER THEMSELVES OUT OF THE SNARE OF THE DEVIL, WHO ARE TAKEN CAPTIVE BY HIM AT HIS WILL.”

 

He tempts, and we are to be able to stand against his “wiles” (Ephesians 6:11)

 

Matthew 4:1 “THEN WAS JESUS LED UP OF THE SPIRIT INTO THE WILDERNESS TO BE TEMPTED OF THE DEVIL.”

 

He afflicts:  (Job 2:7, (a woman taken in an infirmity that Jesus healed) Luke 13:16, (Paul)

 

II Corinthians 12:7And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

 

He deceives (Revelation 20:8-10)

 

Revelation 12:9 “AND THE GREAT DRAGON WAS CAST OUT, THAT OLD SERPENT, CALLED THE DEVIL, AND SATAN, WHICH DECEIVETH THE WHOLE WORLD: HE WAS CAST OUT INTO THE EARTH, AND HIS ANGELS WERE CAST OUT WITH HIM.”

 

He undermines the sanctity of the home:

 

I Corinthians 7:3-5 “LET THE HUSBAND RENDER UNTO THE WIFE DUE BENEVOLENCE: AND LIKEWISE ALSO THE WIFE UNTO THE HUSBAND.  THE WIFE HATH NOT POWER OF HER OWN BODY, BUT THE HUSBAND: AND LIKEWISE ALSO THE HUSBAND HATH NOT POWER OF HIS OWN BODY, BUT THE WIFE.  DEFRAUD YE NOT ONE THE OTHER; EXCEPT it be WITH CONSENT FOR A TIME, THAT YE MAY GIVE YOURSELVES TO FASTING AND PRAYER; AND COME TOGETHER AGAIN, THAT SATAN TEMPT YOU NOT FOR YOUR INCONTINENCY.”

 

He prompts both saints and sinners to transgress the laws of God:  Peter (Matthew 16:22-23); Judas (John 13:2); Ananias (Acts 5:3) King David

 

I Chronicles 21:1 “AND SATAN STOOD UP AGAINST ISRAEL, AND PROVOKED DAVID TO NUMBER ISRAEL.”

 

He hinders the work of God’s servants (Paul):

 

I Thessalonians 2:18 “WHEREFORE WE WOULD HAVE COME UNTO YOU, EVEN I PAUL, ONCE AND AGAIN; BUT SATAN HINDERED US.”

 

And he even makes accusations against God’s children before Heaven’s throne, Job (Job 1:6-11; 2:3-6); Joshua or Jesus (Zechariah 3:1-4); The children of God:

 

Revelation 12:10  “AND I HEARD A LOUD VOICE SAYING IN HEAVEN, NOW IS COME SALVATION, AND STRENGTH, AND THE KINGDOM OF OUR GOD, AND THE POWER OF HIS CHRIST: FOR THE ACCUSER OF OUR BRETHREN IS CAST DOWN, WHICH ACCUSED THEM BEFORE OUR GOD DAY AND NIGHT.”

 

            Satan employs his power of “suggestions to the heart” in a feverish manner to pervert the truth.  In his book Get Thee Behind Me Satan, Virgil Leach assessed our much-feted, worldly adversary in these words:

 

He is the great pretender and the first liar and hypocrite with special skills in deception…No one escapes his trickery; every man knows something of deception.  He will influence men to conceal or distort truth for the purpose of misleading, cheating and fraud.  If he cannot overthrow truth he will neutralize it, water it down to dilute it.  Qualities of guile, craftiness, dissimulation and pretense are used in all his maneuvers.  Satan is a master of deceit and is well aware

that half lies mixed with half truths more often do the trick and will more easily be swallowed and digested, not that he will not use an out-and-out lie should it fit the occasion.  Loving darkness, he would prefer a tree to hide behind than an open field and would prefer an ambush over open warfare.  Our adversary would desire to plant his “Judas kiss” on the cheek of very man.”

 

            Like a lion ready for the hunt is the way Peter describes him:

 

I Peter 5:8 “BE SOBER, BE VIGILANT; BECAUSE YOUR ADVERSARY THE DEVIL, AS A ROARING LION, WALKETH ABOUT, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR.”

 

Like a well-hidden, coiled snake:

 

Revelation 20:2 “AND HE LAID HOLD ON THE DRAGON, THAT OLD SERPENT, WHICH IS THE DEVIL, AND SATAN, AND BOUND HIM A THOUSAND YEARS.”

 

He is able to strike in an instant, injecting the poison of his venom into the minds of men.  Or, using what is perhaps the most insidious disguise at his disposal, he even may portray himself as an “angel of light” as Paul tells us:

 

II Corinthians 11:14 “AND NO MARVEL; FOR SATAN HIMSELF IS TRANSFORMED INTO AN ANGEL OF LIGHT.

 

An angel of light who hides behind a false front of humility, piety, and righteousness, yet whose intentions all the while are totally insincere and only designed to deceive.

            What awesome powers the devil commands!  What subtle meanness he exhibits!  One moment he presents himself as an innocent-faced, sweet-talking “angel”; the next he is a ravening wolf or slithering serpent.  Little wonder Paul was concerned about those he had converted at Thessalonica:

 

I Thessalonians 3:5  “FOR THIS CAUSE, WHEN I COULD NO LONGER FORBEAR, I SEND TO KNOW YOUR FAITH, LEST BY SOME MEANS THE TEMPTER HAVE TEMPTED YOU, AND OUR LABOUR BE IN VAIN.”

 

The apostle’s inner stirrings on behalf of those he had worked so long, and so hard, to wrest from the devil’s grasp were based on his knowledge that they faced daily a formidable foe who was more than capable of ravishing both their bodies and their souls.

 

WHAT IS SATAN’S UNTIMATE DESTINY?

 

            Is all lost then?  Hardly, although the Scriptures repeatedly tell us of Satan’s immense power, they likewise tell us:

 

I John 4:4 “YE ARE OF GOD, LITTLE CHILDREN, AND HAVE OVERCOME THEM: BECAUSE GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU, THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD.”

 

We know this to be the case because the Scriptures testify eloquently to the fact that Satan – far from having free reign – has been “bound.”

            The concluding book of the New Testament, Revelation, was written to offer encouragement to first-century Christians who, because of their faith in the Son of God, were threatened hourly with severe persecution “unto death” (Revelation 2:10).  Within this book, which is highly figurative, the message is one not only one of comfort, but of ultimate victory over the devil and his armies.  The twentieth chapter, especially, presents a picture of God’s arch enemy and our old adversary, Satan, as being totally overcome at God’s discretion:

 

Revelation 20:2-3 “AND HE LAID HOLD ON THE DRAGON, THAT OLD SERPENT, WHICH IS THE DEVIL, AND SATAN, AND BOUND HIM A THOUSAND YEARS, AND CAST HIM INTO THE BOTTOMLESS PIT, AND SHUT HIM UP, AND SET A SEAL UPON HIM, THAT HE SHOULD DECEIVE THE NATIONS NO MORE, TILL THE THOUSAND YEARS SHOULD BE FULFILLED: AND AFTER THAT HE MUST BE LOOSED A LITTLE SEASON.”

 

As Hardeman Nichols has suggested in “The Binding of Satan,  published in Premillennialism: True or False, edited by Wendell Winkler.

 

If in our study of Revelation 20 we fail to see the final overthrow of Satan and his collaborators, we have missed a major truth.  If we do not appreciate the final triumph of every righteous person, we have not been sufficiently blessed by this study.”

 

Concerning the devil, Nichols went on to write that “when, in the unspecified eternity before the world he initiated his rebellion, God put a restraint upon him.”

            That restraint never has been removed.  And, in fact, it has been tightened.  While it is true that in the first century the devil and his minions were able to affect people physically:

 

Luke 4:40-41  “NOW WHEN THE SUN WAS SETTING, ALL THEY THAT HAD ANY SICK WITH DIVERS DISEASES BROUGHT THEM UNTO HIM; AND HE LAID HIS HANDS ON EVERY ONE OF THEM, AND HEALED THEM.  AND DEVILS ALSO CAME OUT OF MANY, CRYING OUT, AND SAYING, THOU ART CHRIST THE SON OF GOD.  AND HE REBUKING them SUFFERED THEM NOT TO SPEAK: FOR THEY KNEW THAT HE WAS CHRIST.”  Also (Luke 8:26-33)

 

Fortunately this condition is no longer the case.  For example, when the prophet Zechariah foretold of the coming of the Messiah, and spoke of the blessings that would attend His reign, he stated the following:

 

Zechariah 13:1-2 “IN THAT DAY THERE SHALL BE A FOUNTAIN OPENED TO THE HOUSE OF DAVID AND TO THE HABITANTS OF JERUSALEM FOR SIN AND FOR UNCLEANNESS.  AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IN THAT DAY, SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS, that I WILL CUT OFF THE NAMES OF THE IDOLS OUT OF THE LAND, AND THEY SHALL NO MORE BE REMEMBERED: AND ALSO I WILL CAUSE THE PROPHETS AND THE UNCLEAN SPIRITS TO PASS OUT OF THE LAND.”

 

Concerning Zechariah’s prophecy, Homer Hailey in his Commentary on the Minor Prophets writes:

 

Likewise, unclean spirits, the antithesis of the prophets, would cease.  In the conquest of Christ over Satan and his forces, unclean spirits have ceased to control men as they did in the time of the ministry of Christ and the apostles.

 

L. M. Sweet correctly observed that in our day and age there is no evidence that “Satan is able to any extent to introduce disorder into the physical universe or directly operate in the lives of men

 

CONCLUSION

 

            God not only “bound” Satan, restricted his ability to control or influence us, but sealed his ultimate doom.  Our Lord will be victorious over Heaven’s Great Adversary, for:

 

I John 3:8  HE THAT COMMITTETH SIN IS OF THE DEVIL; FOR THE DEVIL SINNETH FROM THE BEGINNING.  FOR THIS PURPOSE THE SON OF GOD WAS MANIFESTED, THAT HE MIGHT DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL.”

 

It is by the power inherent in Jesus own death and resurrection that He will be able to destroy the power of death over us:

 

Hebrews 2:14 “FORASMUCH THEN AS THE CHILDREN ARE PARTAKERS OF FLESH AND BLOOD, HE ALSO HIMSELF LIKEWISE TOOK PART OF THE SAME; THAT THROUGH DEATH HE MIGHT DESTROY HIM THAT HAD THE POWER OF DEATH, THAT IS, THE DEVIL;”

 

And Satan’s fate is clear:

 

Revelation 20:10  “AND THE DEVIL THAT DECEIVED THEM WAS CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, WHERE THE BEAST AND THE FALSE PROPHET are, AND SHALL BE TORMENTED DAY AND NIGHT FOR EVER AND EVER.”

 

Eternal punishment in Hell has been prepared:

 

Matthew 25:41 THEN SHALL HE SAY ALSO UNTO THEM ON THE LEFT HAND, DEPART FROM ME, YE CURSED, INTO EVERLASTING FIRE, PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS:”

 

            God’s covenant pledge, made with our forefathers in Genesis 3:15 will then be fulfilled once and for all time:  “HE [CHRIST] SHALL BRUISE THY [SATAN’S] HEAD.”  The paradise lost of Genesis will have become the paradise regained of Heaven.  With the earthly reign of Satan brought to an end, and the eternal bliss of God’s saints secure, then, surely we as faithful children of God shall be able to say with David of old:

 

Psalms 118:24 “THIS is THE DAY which THE LORD HATH MADE; WE WILL REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.”