Whether we realize it or not, each one of us is playing a part in a major drama that began years before we were born and will continue long after we die. It's a story about a war in heaven between the two most powerful (but far from equal) beings in the universe. It was a collision between two wills: the will of God and the will of His former "chief of staff," Satan, who originally was named Lucifer.
Some people refuse to believe in the existence of a literal devil. A Newsweek columnist referred to Satan as "merely a trivial personification, hardly adequate to symbolize the mystery of evil." Others see Satan as a comic-book character in a red suit, horns, and a tail, poking people with a pitchfork.
I believe a lot of people joke about Satan rather than fear him. He wants us to underestimate his power either by denying his existence or by dismissing him as any threat to us. If the believer is going to win this very real spiritual battle that threatens everything important to us, we have to understand the power and the methods of our adversary.
J. Dwight Pentecost said this: “No military commander could expect to be victorious in battle unless he understood his enemy. No individual can be victorious against the adversary of our souls unless he understands that adversary, his philosophy, his mode of operation, and his methods of temptation.”
Let’s look at the origin of Satan who is actually the only real enemy the Christian has, and let’s examine his initial rebellion against God, and see what his ultimate objective is.
To begin with, Satan is not the opposite of God. Many Christians would mistakenly say he is. They see Satan as God's evil twin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only God is all powerful and all knowing. Satan was created by God and his power is far inferior to God’s power.
God is eternal and has no beginning or end. Moses, in his God given wisdom, wrote this in Psalm 90:2, "Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."
Satan’s power and Satan himself, both had a beginning but only his power will have an end. His origin is recorded in Ezekiel 28. In the first ten verses, Ezekiel is instructed to deliver a message against the king of Tyre whose pride had led him to believe he was a god himself. But in verse 12, it's clear that God is speaking to someone other than the human king:
Ezekiel 28:12-15, 17.
"You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond....
You were the anointed cherub who covers,
And I placed you there.
You were on the holy mountain of God....
You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created
Until unrighteousness was found in you....
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I put you before kings,
That they may see you."
The human leader of Tyre didn’t possess "the seal of perfection,” and maybe his mother would have thought of him as an "anointed cherub" but no one else would. He ruled in Tyre, a city on the Mediterranean Sea, not on "the holy mountain of God." God was speaking to the one who had inspired this king to rebel against God: Satan.
Originally, Satan was called Lucifer, which means “son of the morning.” Isaiah 14:12."How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!"
God uses the phrase "the day you were created" so, unlike God, he is a creature, not the Creator. This underscores Satan's limitations. He is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent, but don’t underestimate his power.
The end of Satan’s power and his fate are referred to in Revelation 20:10, but Satan will never cease to exist. Like human beings who die apart from Christ, Satan will suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire. His end and destruction mean the end of his rule as the god of this world.
Satan held an impressive office in God's kingdom. He’s referred to as "the anointed cherub who covers." Cherubs are the angels who are charged with guarding the holiness of God. Since Satan was the anointed cherub, obviously he was in charge of all the other angels holding that office.
He had access to heaven and to God and was the one who protected the holiness and majesty of God. Satan possessed immense wisdom and beauty. God describes Satan as "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty." Satan's rebellion forced him to surrender his position in heaven, but he didn’t relinquish these attributes. He’s still a crafty, appealing creature, and has access to heaven and that makes him all the more dangerous.
Satan's pride led to his downfall. He allowed it to lead him into rebellion against God and this led to open warfare in heaven that continues to this day.
Ezekiel alluded to the reason for Satan’s rebellion against God but Isaiah gives us a blow by blow account of what happened.
Like Ezekiel's prophecy, Isaiah's words represent God's condemnation of a human leader’s acts (in this case the king of Babylon) but also against Satan as the one who had inspired the king's defiant attitude toward God. The Babylonian monarch's ambition was rooted in Satan's desire to exalt himself above God:
"How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
But you said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
Maybe this happened after Lucifer attended one of those motivational seminar that are so popular or after he read a new book on leadership. Whatever the motivation, Satan may have said to himself;
“I don't have to stay who I am. I can be who I want. All I have to do is determine what I want to be and then dedicate myself to doing whatever it takes to become that.”
“Instead of being just one of many angels, I want to rule over all the angels. Instead of having to bow down before God, I want to sit on His throne and have Him worship me for a change. Now that I think about it, what I really want is to be is God.”
Prior to this, there was only one will in heaven, and that was God's will. But it became two wills when Satan decided to pursue an agenda separate from God's purpose and he tempted the kings of Babylon and Tyre with "Here’s a better way than God's way."
The Bible doesn’t explain how a perfect creature like Satan could have an imperfect thought that would lead to rebellion. All Scripture tells us is that from somewhere in Satan's heart came the idea that he wanted something different from what God wanted for his life.
This battle of the wills was the basis of the first sin ever committed in the universe and of every sin since that time. At the root of every act of disobedience in our life is a decision to place our desire above God's wishes for us.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What do I really want to make of my life?” When you do, you’re in danger of making the same mistake that led to Satan's downfall.
I realize this goes against the grain of the popular idea that, "If you want a different life from the one you're living, the first step is to visualize: · the income you would like to earn · the house you would like to own · the car you would like to drive · the job you would like to have,” and so on.
But if we acknowledge that God is our Creator and we are His creatures, then our first question should be "What does God want for me?" Not "What do I want?"
God does reveal His will through our desires sometimes. Psalm 37:4."Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If we are living in obedience to God, He can reveal His plan for our lives through our desires, but all too often the desire in our hearts is for something not in God's will for us.
God tossed Satan out of heaven along with a number of angels who had decided they no longer wanted to be under the rule of the Almighty God.
As many as one-third of the angels chose to follow him in starting a new kingdom. Satan must have promised his followers that, with his leadership, they would build a kingdom greater than God's and would rule over the universe!
The dream of building a rival kingdom that will one day dethrone God is still alive in the hearts of Satan and his followers. He is attempting to establish an empire founded on the lie that life apart from God is both possible and preferable and he is recruiting as many as he can to join him in his efforts.
Although Satan is not omniscient and can’t see into the future like God can, he is thoroughly acquainted with the Bible (more so than many Christians). He knew of God's plan to send His Son to redeem mankind and of Jesus’ claim that He would rise again from the dead. Satan is aware of God's intention to break his rule over the earth and send him into the lake of fire forever.
Obviously, Satan has never believed God would actually succeed in His plan, just like many people don't really believe that they're going to die and stand before God in judgment and give an account of their lives.
Satan has launched a full-scale assault on God's kingdom in an attempt to regain his former glory due to the fact that he has doubts about God's ability to reclaim all that was lost through mankind's rebellion.
Go back to Genesis 1:26-27&31: where God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them....God saw all He had made, and behold, it was very good."
It’s obvious that Satan saw what God had created. If you resented God as much as Satan did, the only thing worse than one God would be a lot of sons of God, creatures who closely resembled Him, running around everywhere. Satan must have thought “If I could lure these human beings away from God and get them to follow me, together we could take over their Father's kingdom.”
It worked on the first two people. Adam and Eve not only became Satan's slaves by their own decision, but their act insured that all subsequent generations, including you and me, were automatically born slaves to Satan.
The apostle Paul describes the far-reaching effects of this one fatal decision in Romans 5:12. “Therefore .... through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Whether Adam intended to cast his vote for the entire human race when he rebelled is really immaterial. The result is that all of humanity suddenly became part of Satan's empire.
God could have abandoned us and left us to our deserved fate. He certainly would have been justified in allowing Adam and his sinful offspring to remain Satan’s prisoners forever. But He didn't.
When God saw man’s desperate condition, His unconditional love for His creatures moved Him to put into motion a plan for our salvation. Ephesians 2:4-5. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
In spite of Adam and Eve's rebellion and their offspring's continued rebellion through the succeeding generations, God has never given up on the human race. God has consistently demonstrated His love for His creatures through miracles and messages, and two thousand years ago, God did the unthinkable. In an elaborate plan that had been devised before the beginning of the world (man's rebellion didn’t take the omniscient God by surprise), the Creator took on human form, left the glory of heaven, and came to this earth that was firmly in Satan's grip.
Jesus’ death on the cross was no accident; it was part of God's plan from the beginning of time. The apostle Peter, addressing the same crowd that had crucified Christ a few weeks earlier, told them that their murderous actions were all part of God's eternal purpose: Acts 2:23. “This Man [Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
The apostle Paul describes the reason God did this in Colossians 1:13-14. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
We were held hostage in Satan's domain until Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We had "no hope" and we were "without God in the world," (Ephesians 2:12). His death paid the price to redeem us from Satan's kingdom.
In Paul’s time, the word redeem referred to purchasing a slave, not setting one free. Redemption simply resulted in a change of masters, and God has paid the necessary price in order to transfer us from Satan's empire to God's empire. When we choose to accept God's offer of redemption, we choose to serve a new Master. In
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul reminds the believer, "You are not your own ... for you have been bought with a price,"
Satan tried to thwart God's plan of redemption from the moment Christ was conceived in Mary's womb. He tried to persuade Joseph to divorce Mary for adultery, which could have resulted in her death as well as the death of the Child she carried.
When that didn't work, Satan persuaded King Herod to try to kill Jesus by murdering every Hebrew baby boy less than two years of age.
When that plan failed, Satan tried to entice Jesus to commit a sin which would disqualify Him as the spotless Lamb of God who could take away the sins of the world.
Jesus resisted Satan's attempts so Satan turned to Israel’s religious leaders and encouraged them to murder Jesus before He fulfilled the necessary prophecies concerning His death.
But when the Lord was dying on the cross, He cried out "it is finished," and when He rose from the grave three days later, Satan’s grip on creation and God's creatures was broken forever.
Satan is still trying to topple God's kingdom by thwarting God's purposes. Pick up the daily newspaper, - examine the lives of those around you - or simply examine the struggles in your own heart. It’s difficult to believe that Satan has really been defeated.
Years ago there was a book titled, “Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth.” The truth is, he is alive, but he’s not all that well. The mortal wound he suffered at the Cross broke his power over God's creation and his final judgment date is already set on God's calendar.
In Revelation 20:10, the apostle John was given a preview of Satan's end: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
We’re living in the time between Satan's initial defeat at the Cross and his ultimate destruction in the lake of fire. We’re witnesses to, and sometimes victims of, his last desperate acts.
We don’t know whether or not he really believes he can change his fate, but we do know this: between now and his final judgment, Satan is determined to launch one final assault on God's kingdom. Satan is gathering his troops right now for his one last battle.
Satan has had access to heaven all this time and still has now. At mid-point of the Tribulation a war will take place in heaven between God’s angels and Satan. Satan will be cast out of heaven and down to the earth.
Revelation 12:7-9. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Verse 10: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”
Satan is accusing the Christian before God day and night. This was first mentioned in the book of Job, and here it will finally be brought to an end.
Christ’s defeat of Satan became physically evident in Satan’s failure to tempt Christ and later in Christ’s ministry on earth when He cast out demons and raised people from the dead.
His defeat was proven by Christ’s triumph over death and His resurrection from the grave.
At the end of the Great Tribulation, God will put Satan in the “bottomless pit,” but at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ on the earth he’ll be turned loose for a "little season" Revelation 20:1-3. “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2: And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3: 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.”
Revelation 20:7-10: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8: And he shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9: And they went up on the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 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."
Satan will try to deceive the nations a final time. He will attack Jerusalem and fail. God has permitted Satan and his angels to have an influence on the world and they have opposed God at all times, their ultimate defeat and eternal punishment is certain.
Christians afflicted by Satan, like Job was in the Old Testament, can rest assured their enemies will suffer endless punishment. The beast and the false prophet who were cast into the lake of fire at the beginning of the Millennium will be there for eternity.
Scripture also makes it clear that God has judgments for man and there are only two. One is the never ending joy of heaven for the Believer in Jesus Christ. The other is the never ending torment of the lake of fire for those who reject the salvation offered by the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Satan will do everything within his power to prevent unbelievers from accepting God's offer of salvation through Christ. The offer has been made to everyone, but the Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4, "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Satan has not given up on the believers in Jesus Christ. We serve a new Master but Satan still tries to persuade us that we are still under his control. He wants us to forfeit the joy that comes from fellowship with God and from following God. No wonder Jesus refers to Satan as a thief who comes only to "steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10).
But if Satan has been disarmed, how does he exercise so much influence over Christians and non-Christians alike? The answer is that Satan is so cunning that we are not aware of, or that we chose to ignore, his power in our Spiritual conflict with him. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15: Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
If we read and study God’s Word daily and live our lives by the instructions contained therein, we put Satan on the defensive and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can live for Christ.
God’s final word of advice comes from James 4:7. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”