Many Christians share concerns about Satan and his activities and these concerns are very real. However, are some of their concerns brought on by the Hollywood version of the Devil than by what Scripture says about him and who he is.
Hollywood’s version scares most people to death. Why is that? Why are we so afraid of this special effects creature, because that is all it is with it’s scaly body, red glowing eyes and sharp horns? It’s far from the reality of the real Satan. The one we see on the big screen is one who is an entity who can make the lights go out, drop the temperature in a room down to arctic levels and talk in a deep and creepy voice which has the power to raise goose bumps on our skin.
This alone creates a big problem for us when we become obsessed with what Satan looks like. We wonder what he looks like, where he sets up shop, what will we do if he hides in one of the kids dolls? These thoughts and questions are great for sparking ideas for all the horror writers, filmmakers and special effects experts out there. However, this does not help us think about Satan and his minions biblically.
Most movies seem to make it really fundamentally unfair to live in this world when someone like Satan exists. It seems as if Satan and his demons are not just powerful but they seem to be able to move wherever they want and whenever they want. Movie after movie shows this. For example, typical American family moves into a house that the Devil seemingly has chosen to be his summer vacation home and no amount of holy water or exorcisms are going to stop him from destroying the family and the house, even the family dog isn’t spared and anyone or anything that tries to stand in his way is doomed. So, if Satan wanted to put a bulls eye on your back, too bad for you, you’re out of luck. Even some Christians believe that Satan really does have this kind of unstoppable power and authority.
The possibility of a realm where Satan has this kind of reign is terrifying. What chance would any of us have if this were true. How could adults, mere mortals as us let alone children and teens withstand such satanic forces if they were made targets of the wrath of Satan with so much freedom? However, there are some that think about Satan in this manner. There was a two question survey done on people in their 20’s and older and those questions were:
- Can Satan go wherever he wants to?
- Can Satan make your life a living hell if he wants to?
Ask yourself the same two questions as well. If you happen to answer yes to either one of them, that’s not good news because you’ve been duped just like those in the survey where most of them answered yes to both questions. This is a myth about Satan that he is all-powerful and omnipresent. This is something he wants us to believe. But that’s OK because we all can be unduped.
Satan is Not Beastly, But Beautiful
Even though the Bible is sparse when it comes to the physical description of Satan, it does give us enough clues so that we can be certain that he is not some hideous looking creature like Hollywood wants us to believe. When Paul warned the church at Corinth about the Devil’s activity, he urged them to be on the lookout for beauty not beastliness.
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:13-14)
Some might say he is hideous by this statement and that’s why he disguises himself as an angel of light. But Paul doesn’t really seem to be suggesting this at all. He seems to be contrasting the outward appearance of false teachers with their inward motivations, outwardly they are very pleasant, but inwardly their motives are sinister. Paul is not saying that Satan is hideously ugly on the outside but warns of his sinister motives and that his outward manifestations can actually be quite beautiful. After all, Satan is an angel an incorporeal being and all angels originally were from God and are beautiful.
According to some passages in the New Testament we are to believe that at some time there was a heavenly rebellion and Satan was one of the angels of that rebellion. Those who rebelled against God were repelled from heaven never to return. “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved for judgment. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain but left their own abode. He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (2 Peter 2:4)
This recounts basically a heavenly mutiny with a group of the angels banding together in opposition against God. So his response was banning all of them from heaven and marking them for eternal judgment. However, there is no mention here of Satan. Jesus on the other hand gives all of us a glimpse of the original blueprint for hell and especially for who it was created for. “Then he will say to the ones on his left ‘Depart from me, you curse, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Matt 25:41)
Note Jesus says “the devil and his angels” this eludes to a group who has a leader, like soldiers with a general and the devil seems to be this leader of the fallen angels. This eludes to the fact that Satan is the leader of a band of angelic malcontents banished from heaven for all time. So his essence is angelic and not the beast portrayed by Hollywood.
Satan is Not All-Powerful
As much as Satan would really love to come and go as he pleases completely free to move about this world and be all-powerful, in reality, the world is not his playground to do as he pleases. At least not in the way that he really wants it to be. However, he wants us to believe that he is all-powerful. One point in case is that Satan unlike God cannot not read our minds, he would like us to believe that he can but he simply does not have that power. This is why any prayers that are to weaken him or prayers of protection need to be spoken aloud otherwise he can’t hear them. So right there, with just that is proof that he is not all-powerful. Even though Hollywood and novels give him carte blanche to do whatever he wants whenever he wants, that’s not how it works in the real world.
The perfect example of the extent of Satan’s real freedom can be found in the Book of Job. We all know that it is the desire of Satan to test Job and to prove to God that the only reason why Job worships God is because of all the good things that have been bestowed upon him. He wants to prove this to God and that if Job were to lose everything that he would curse God because of it. The Lord responded to Satan by saying “’Behold, all that Job has is in your hand, only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out in the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:12)
God puts limits plans? Wow! He’s not free to move about the world as he pleases according to this. Satan is not only limited by God in what he can and can’t do but he also has to ask Gods permission before he can do anything. Jesus even confirms this in the New Testament when he gives Peter a stern warning shortly before his death, he does this in order to prepare Peter for upcoming tests.
“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.” (Luke 22:31-32).
Satan demanded to have Peter, demanded. But the word demand and the act of demanding is not the same as command or commanding. People can try and demand all they want. A prisoner can demand to be let out of prison but it’s not going to happen, it all depends on his parole and when he’ll be released, he has no control over his destiny, that belongs to the parole board. A toddler can demand some ice cream but it is up to the parents whether or not they get any. It is no different with Satan, he can demand all he wants but it’s up to God whether or not his request will be granted.
Make absolutely no mistake, Satan is evil and we need to believe that with all our hearts. He is powerful but not all-powerful. And it is true that he seeks to do all of us great harm. But through it all and when it is all said and done, he is definitely not free, not the way he would want us to believe that he is. He is a rebellious fallen angel cast out of heaven and has a big chip on his shoulder over it. We also know that he will disguise himself as a good angel in order to fool us by posing as an angel of light. But the questions remain…what is his true identity? What is he seeking to do? What is his end game?
Paul’s & Peters Warnings Against Satan
Paul wanted the Christians at Corinth to be on guard so that they “would not be outwitted by Satan for they are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Cor. 2:11) He also made sure to warn the Ephesians that no matter how many opposed their stance for Christ, their real enemies were not people but the sinister forces lurking behind them. They were not wrestling “against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)
Peter urged those under his care to make sure to be on the lookout for Satan, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
By putting these three passages together we get a partial sketch of our ancient enemy. Hollywood has taken it far beyond the Scriptures description of Satan. Yes, Satan is a powerful being and he is scheming to outwit us, and he would love nothing more than to pounce on us and eat us for breakfast! So in light of us, we really need to know who our enemy really is.
A Clue From the Book of Job
In Job we are given the opportunity to hear a conversation between the God of the universe and the biggest villain in the universe.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?”
Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possession have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:6-11)
What this shows is the question of whether Job loves God for being God or does he simply love him because of all the good things he’s been blessed with. Satan is truly convinced that Job only loves God because of all the good things that God has blessed him with. Satan is hoping that he will have his way with Job in just a few minutes and all of Job’s so called righteousness will vanish.
Often we are led to believe that all Satan wants to do is to physically hurt us and that he just wants to kill all of us. But his intentions are far more ambitious than that of bodily harm. In fact that is simple child’s play to him. What Satan really wants is to put all his energy in making us curse God. This is his end game, he makes that very clear in Job 1:11 “But stretch out your hand and touch all that Job has, and he will curse you to your face.” This is his main ambition to find a way to lure us into a place where we will end up cursing God. When that happens, then Satan has won the game.
Paul tells us that it is Satan’s aim to “keeping us from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:4) Satan does not want us to think any glorious thoughts about God.
Satan works overtime trying with all his power to block our view of Gods awesome beauty and glory as well as His righteousness and justice. When he comes on the scene roaring like a lion it is his attempt to drown out our praise and adoration of God.
Adding Insult to Injury
It’s bad enough that Satan delights in robbing us of experiencing the glory of God, but he doesn’t stop with just that. Once he has accomplished what he wanted, inflicting spiritual harm, he experiences supreme delight by rubbing our faces in our sins, the very mess that he stood there and helped to create in our lives. The word devil actually means “the accuser”. He’s like a lawyer, dressed in a nice suit with his neat little briefcase that he pulls out his papers that list all of our sins and infractions committed over a lifetime. All neatly spelled out for us and wants us to feel continual shame and guilt by pouring salt in the wound standing there as our accuser. He’s been studying mankind for thousands of years and he has no problems with furnishing all the evidence he can about our guilt and presenting it to God.
Satan’s true passion is to accuse the very people he has tempted to sin in the first place! He loves to pour that salt in the wounds he has helped to inflict. Ripping open the wound, pressing down on the gash the he himself inflicted upon God’s people. He absolutely delights in adding insult to injury. And boy can the accusations sting! He wants us to feel guilt and shame to the extent that we cannot believe that God could ever forgive us!
Satan IS out there. He cannot be bargained with. He cannot be reasoned with. He is pitiless and always laser focused on his double mission:
- To lure us into a place where we turn against God.
- To accuse us of our guilt for the very rebellion he’s helped engineer.
For any Christian, there is no enemy that could be more serious.
Even though Satan does not truly run the entire world in which we live, he does however run the world around us, it’s like the air that we breathe. It is within that space that is the world of Satan, it’s an anti-God atmosphere that Satan lives in, loves and manages which surrounds us the same as the beauty that God also showers upon us.
So how is it that God has allowed Satan to have this much power? It is somewhat explained by Isaiah.
“The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt” (Isa. 24:5-6)
There’s the answer, it’s because mankind has blatantly defied God’s law, God himself ordained that “the creation was subjected to futility.” (Rom. 8:20). In other words, the evil world we now inhabit is a world of our own making, and God is allowing Satan to rule it for a temporary period of time. This is a tough truth to swallow but we need to understand this one. Any power the Devil has is only because God has given it to him for a season. However, the day will come when the power will be taken away. Jesus made sure of this through the Cross.
How Do We Battle This Evil and Survive?
It is through the Cross of Jesus Christ and only this Cross that we can survive the onslaught of evil that Satan so gleefully tries to bestow upon all of us, especially Christians. Christians are his most important targets.
His final hour. It is in that final hour where Jesus lets us all know that Satan is already finished. Some may think that Satan lived to see Christ die on the Cross, that this was his goal. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact Satan wanted to stop Christ’s final hour, he tempted him to give up his mission and he even tried to use the friendship of Peter to stop the triumph of the Cross. During the last hour of his life in a tender gesture he allows us to see how he carries a tremendous and emotional burden. All through the gospel of John Jesus refers to “His hour” which is the time of his great suffering and death. This is something that looms over him his entire life, he’s never unaware of it. His cross is a great victory over Satan and death. This moment of his suffering, death and rejection is painful and is hard to see victory in it, but He does, He knows the power His death on the Cross will have. Jesus truly understands that His Cross will topple Satan from the throne of power he is on. The Cross was Satan’s greatest fear of all.
Satan tries one last time to stop Jesus through Peter. After Peter hears that his dear friend is going to Jerusalem to die he is not going to have any of that. After all, he gave up his family, friends, job, everything to follow Jesus, plus he’s one of his best friends and what friend would let a friend go somewhere that they are going to be killed at? Would you let your friend? As a friend of course not, you would try to talk them out of it. However, Jesus knew that Satan was using Peter’s simple good intentions as evil and he rebuked Peter by saying to him “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man!” (Matt 16:23) Without Peter even knowing it, he had become the mouthpiece of Satan. Peter’s well intentioned words and behavior were twisted made to try and be a roadblock to the Cross.
The Cross of Jesus was a mortal blow to Satan and it is through the power of the Cross that we can fight the onslaught of evil that Satan continues to try and bombard on us by disguising much of it in lies that can cloud our judgment and keep us from seeing the true glory of God. Jesus has already secured victory for us, by his death on the Cross.
A lot of people see the Cross as somewhat of a temporary setback and that the resurrection was the delayed victory of the Cross. But what the resurrection really does is confirm the soul saving act and Satan crushing work of the Cross of Christ. John Scott once said “The cross was the victory, and the resurrection the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated.”
Even though we still must fight an enemy such as the Devil and all his activities around us for now, we however know, that we are also fighting an enemy who has already been mortally wounded by Christ. This is what Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior has done for us by dying on the Cross.