There are two extremes that I have witnessed when it comes to Christianity’s approach to the topic of Satan. Some would dismiss the literalness of his existence and activity completely. They allegorize what Scripture says about him unto the point where he is merely a symbol of the reality of evil. Others rush to the opposite extreme and ascribe Satan’s (or his demons’) activity to everything unholy or evil which occurs on earth. I have spent much of the last two years examining biblical texts, reading the views of those whom I consider theologically balanced and missionally engaged in order to refine my own thinking on this issue. Because I am hard-wired by God to speak in headlines and not fine print, here is where I currently stand on the topic of Satan’s existence and activity:
Satan is very real. Satan is extremely active. He has a strategy for your life and has not left you unaddressed in his plans.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” – The words of Jesus Christ in Luke 22:31-32
We would have to work very hard to conclude that Satan is symbolic and not literal. Scripture reveals him to be a real being with an intellect, will and emotions. He was one of God’s choice angels who ultimately rebelled against God, wanting God’s glory as his own. His domain is the earth and has been since he successfully tempted Adam and Eve to distrust and disobey God and listen to him. Satan is known as The Accuser, The Deceiver, The Destroyer, The Serpent, The Thief, The Murderer, The Roaring Lion, The Dragon and, interestingly enough, as The Angel of Light. He is seen in Matthew 4:1-11 as a literal being who tempted Christ over a succession of days. Satan is revealed as entering the heart of Judas Iscariot at Christ’s betrayal. Paul spoke of Satan as actively blinding the minds of unbelievers so that they will not receive the message of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). Peter describes Satan as roaming about this world looking for anyone that he might be able to devour (1 Peter 5:8). At the back of my bible in Revelation 20:1-10 we read that Satan will be incarcerated by Christ and ultimately judged when he is sentenced to the eternal lake of fire, after which he will never be heard from again. Jesus spoke literally of Satan to Simon Peter in the above verses and characterized him as demanding access to Peter’s life so that he could bring him to ruin, much like he sought to accomplish in the life of the Old Testament saint, Job. Much like he desires to do to me. And to you.
Let us be grateful that we do not see nor understand everything pertaining to the realm of darkness. Know this for sure: Satan is accompanied by innumerable fallen angel soldiers (demons) and they are committed to the war against the glory of God. They actively attack anything that might bring God glory. They hate humans who are made in the image of God. They hate individual Christians who are a reminder that God redeems, forgives and restores. They hate the collective church because they know that Jesus decreed that hell would not be able to outlast the Church and that the Church is God’s appointed vessel to make His glory known on earth. So Satan fights and will not stop until the final click of his clock. You are not incidental to him. He is working on some level against you right now. It may be merely to check and ensure that he still has you living for yourself. It might be that he wishes to trap you in sickness, affliction or addiction. His favorite poison is bitterness and he works diligently to make sure you have opportunity to drink it. He will benumb you with religion, inflate you with arrogance, blind you with riches and stagger you with heartbreak. Paul told one group of people that we cannot afford to remain ignorant of Satan’s strategies (2 Corinthians 2:11). Yet so many of us do.
I have written more than I intended so I need to close off the topic for now. The goal is not for me to be sensational or to frighten anyone. As always in this blog, Truth is the aim. Perhaps in another post this week I can offer great relief that there is a dominant reality that swallows up the activity of Satan so that nobody needs to fear. Satan knows that he is already defeated and it is just a matter of time until the reality of his sure doom arrives. We do well to acknowledge the same about him: Satan is defeated and may only prevail in those places where Christ is not welcomed. Jesus Christ has overcome Satan and this will be the reverberating theme of the ages. The Son of God is the answer and He also is your hiding place, your refuge and your high ground for battle. We run to Christ…Satan runs from Him. Do you know Him who is the Way, the Truth, the Life and the Victory? He knows you and will be your Protector if you will have Him.
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