The Devil you Know

One writes about the devil with reluctance. How much sweeter to write about the beauties of Christ. The Holy Spirit, however, has thought it profitable to reveal to us quite a lot about our arch-enemy in the Scriptures. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Peter was caught off his guard by Satan when he denied his Lord three times (Luke 22:54-62). It is with this sad experience in mind that he addresses the church: ‘ Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8).

 

The purpose of spiritual darkness

The old master painters knew that by including lots of dark hills and clouds, the glint of the sun on a river in the valley or the lightning flash would appear all the brighter. Likewise, the glory of Christ shines all the brighter in comparison with the darkness of sin and its effects.

 

No joke

The portrayal of Satan as a red monster with horns, tossing people into hell with a pitchfork is pure fiction, people may even joke about it, and the devil is sure to be happy with that. The truth is that he was created a beautiful archangel who subsequently tried to usurp God’s authority, and was cast out of heaven along with the angels who rebelled with him. Also, it is God alone, and not Satan, who has the authority to consign lost souls to the pit. When Jesus tells us ‘Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matt. 10:28b) he is referring to God, not Satan. The commentator Matthew Henry says, ‘this destruction comes from the power of God: he is able to destroy; it is a destruction from his glorious power (2 Thess. 1:9).

It is Jesus himself who ‘will punish those who do not know God … They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord…’ (1 Thess. 1:8-9).

 

Satan’s names

The devil may appear in various guises and act in different ways, so has been given various names in the Bible. About seventeen of these names are listed in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible at http://www.studylight.org/concordances/tcr/view.cgi?n=2881.

We first meet him as the Serpent who tempted Eve in Genesis 3:1, beginning with the lie that God forbad them eating fruit from any tree in the garden, following on with the lie that if they ate the fruit from the one tree God told them not to eat, then they would not die. He lied and deceived, with the aim of bringing death and destruction into the world, all with the intention of attacking God who had cast him out of heaven for his rebellion. One result of sin entering the world was that soon afterwards Cain became jealous over his brother Abel, whose sacrifice was accepted by God, whereas his own was rejected, so he slew him. Jesus said of the devil, ‘He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him … He is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).

The meaning of Satan is ‘adversary’ or one who resists, accuses and opposes all who trust in God. Further details are at http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/satan/. He seeks to accuse us before God on account of our sin and guilt. He is ‘the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night’ (Rev. 12:10b). But the verse continues to tell us Satan has been hurled down, having been overcome by the ‘blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ John Newton wrote in his hymn ‘Approach, my soul, the mercy seat’,

 

Be Thou my Shield and hiding Place,

That, sheltered by Thy side,

I may my fierce accuser face,

And tell him Thou hast died!

 

Are you finding great comfort in the thought that Jesus, by his shed blood, has overcome all Satan’s accusations by blotting out our guilt, so we can stand in His righteousness before God?

Other names include Prince of this world (John 14:30), Ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2), and The Evil One (Matt. 13:19). He is the Angel of the Abyss (Rev. 9:11), also called Abaddon and Apollyon. He is the great Dragon (Rev. 12:9), who leads the whole world astray, but he has been hurled down to the earth with his angels, where he is furious because his time is short (v. 12b).

 

The end of Satan

He may be powerful, but one of God’s Angels has power enough to bind him in the Abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2). After his release, he will attack the city of God, all the redeemed, but then fire from heaven will descend and destroy his forces, and the Devil will be thrown into the lake of burning sulphur where he remains for ever (v. 10).

 

Our response

As long as Satan is on the prowl we need to keep alert. Peter tells us to resist him and stand firm (1 Pet. 5:9). Paul tells us to put on all the armour of God so we will be able to stand when the day of evil comes, taking the word of God and praying in the Spirit (Eph. 6:12-18).

 

We shall overcome

Although Christ defeated the Devil by his death and resurrection, he remains a formidable foe until he is finally destroyed. We have a constant battle against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the forces of evil. The Bible assures us, however, that we shall overcome all these enemies if we are trusting in Christ. ‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). ‘For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith’ (1 John 5:4). We cannot overcome the forces of evil in our own strength, of course, but by the power of Christ: ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Phil. 4:13).

 

Our reward

Our risen Lord promises the church at Ephesus: ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God’ (Rev. 2:7b). We have now come full circle. Although we had been banned from eating the fruit of this tree after Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptation, Christ has defeated that serpent, obliterated our sin and guilt, and clothed us in his righteousness. There is nothing to prevent us living in God’s paradise if we are trusting in Christ for salvation. He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us: ‘And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’ (John 14:3).

Are you ready to move to your new home in the Paradise estate?

 

 

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Comments

  1. Andrew Christofides says:

    A timely reminder of unseen battles! Thank you Nigel.

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