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Is our view of Satan too small?

It does not mean much to acknowledge that Satan is real and active if we then immediately deny that he could be at work in almost every layer of human authority and influence. 

BIBLICAL PREACHING AUTOR 108/Peter_Mead 18 DE ENERO DE 2024 12:33 h
Statue of the Fallen Angel, Retiro Park, Madrid. / [link] Xurxo15[/link], Wikimedia commons.

I have noticed something strange.

Many Christians will acknowledge the existence and the general agenda of Satan. They will affirm that he is alive and active on planet Earth.

Yes, they recognize that he hates God and God’s people. Yes, he hates truth and wants to steal, kill and destroy. Yes, he wants to tempt us into rebellion, crush us under guilt, and destroy all that is good, beautiful and anything that has even the faintest reflection of God’s character.

And yet, oddly, as quickly as those affirmations are made, that awareness seems to evaporate just as quickly.  For many Christians, the devil appears to be a very limited antagonist.

He might get some vague credit (for want of a better term) for any temptation we consciously notice. Still, he gets specific credit for very little activity. 

For example, suppose the subject of the occult is raised with the related concepts of devil worship, seances, fortune telling, etc. Many will shudder and point to the enemy’s works in that case. 

But is that the whole story?  Is Satan just tempting us as individuals and running a relatively obscure dark religious operation? 

Let’s take a few moments to review some essential biblical background.


Origins of Satan

The name Satan means adversary and came to be applied to the greatest adversary of all – the devil.  It is a well-earned label!

What we know of his origins is described primarily in Ezekiel 28:11-19, where it is clear that prideful arrogance was the key driver of his original fall from perfection.  Since his fall, his primary domain has been Earth and Sheol. 

We see him cursed by God in Genesis 3 – the one whose goal was to be the most high became the most low, eating dirt close to the underworld.


Influence in the world

The big question in this post essentially relates to his influence.  According to 1 John 5:19, the whole world is under the control of the evil one.  He is called the ‘prince of this world’ on several occasions (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).  

He influences through lies, especially the original lie that we humans can be like God, and he masquerades as an angel of light, deceiving people (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14). 

There are plenty of people whose spiritual father is the devil, and it is possible to identify them by their actions and their lack of love (John 8:44; Matthew 13:36-40; Acts 13:10; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 3:10)


Influence over nations

He rules the nations and tried to strike a deal with Jesus in exchange for Jesus bowing down to him. Still, Jesus did not affirm his ultimate ownership of the nations and did not bow down. 

Jesus knew and trusted that, at the right time, the Father would give the nations to him.  (See Matthew 4:10.)  Jesus confronted the power of evil by casting out demons from people.

It is evident that Satan commands the realms of darkness (see 1 John 3:8).  What Jesus began in his ministry, he is continuing – building his church and the “gates of hell” continue to be unable to resist the onslaught. Satan is on the defensive.


Influence in the Church

Paul wrote to the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20). Yet, it would be naïve to assume that Satan does not influence the church. 

While our minds might go to Judas Iscariot, whom Satan influenced (John 13:2) and then entered (John 13:27), we do not need to live in fear of being taken over by the evil one. 

We belong to God, who is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).  However, we should recognize that discord, anger, unforgiveness and resentment can provide an opportunity to the devil, and we should actively resist him (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9).


Our hope as the spiritual war rages

Because of Jesus’ victory over the rulers and authorities on the cross (see Colossians 2:13-15), Satan’s power of death is now broken (see Hebrews 2:14-15). 

We now know that death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).  And yet, the one who comes only to steal and kill and destroy does not give up easily (John 10:10).  His ultimate downfall is already determined; he will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). 

In the meantime, he fights on.  Indeed, as his time gets short, we might expect him to offer a big final push, but we know the end of the story.


The hole in our spiritual warfare

So, what is missing in our understanding of the spiritual battle that we are in?  Satan exists and is active on earth.  Yes, he does tempt us and would delight to see us derailed by sin and defiled by discord. 

And yes, the occult does exist, and some people are drawn into religious acts of pure evil.  But at the start of this post, I suggested our view of Satan may be too small.  Is Satan just tempting us as individuals and running a relatively obscure dark religious operation? 

To be candid, I have been struck by how much we are inclined to bury our heads in the sand regarding evil in this world. “Oh yes,” people will affirm, “Satan is real, and we are in a spiritual battle.” But mention some specific aspects of society and watch the response change:

Could there be evil at work in news reporting designed to shape our thinking?   “No way, we can trust the news media.” 

Might the enemy be shaping education to harm children?    “Don’t be ridiculous!”

What about medical professionals who seem driven by something other than ‘first do no harm?’ “Of course not! The doctors I know are good people.”  

What about government decisions that seem to benefit them but harm people and cost lives?  “Absolutely not!  They have our best interests at heart.” 

What about unelected and unaccountable groups of the hyper-rich and influential seeking to gain control over ordinary people? “If such groups exist, then I’m sure they mean well.”

What about influential people who have publicly declared the global population needs to be reduced by whatever means?  “Of course not; they only want to help the poor!”

What about the entertainment industry that so fills our consciousness?  “Oh, but I like him, she’s my favourite, etc.”

It does not mean much to acknowledge that Satan is real and active if we then immediately deny that he could be at work in almost every layer of human authority and influence. 

And I would suggest we are utterly naïve if we don’t believe that the prevailing paradigm of our day, with its “lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God”, is influenced by Satan.  (See 2 Corinthians 10:3-6) 

In the past, Christians seemed ready to recognize the malevolence of hedonism or materialism as it confronted our worldview in the so-called “Christian West” or the evils of totalitarian regimes in the East. 

But today, too many Christians seem happy to play along with and believe the best about media-driven narratives concerning identity politics, critical theories, social justice, weather worship, globalist agendas, neo-communist ideologies, uncontrolled immigration and encroaching violent religion. 

Are we sure that we should ‘believe the best’ and ‘affirm the good’ in all the ideas swirling around and in all the layers of authority setting themselves up over us?

Perhaps it is time for us to fix our eyes on Jesus and recognize that we are genuine outsiders in this world and that we will be hated by it. And yet we are here as ambassadors to represent God’s truth, to share the hope of Jesus, to stand for what is right and to not love our lives even unto death.

Let’s stop smiling at the devil as if he is an insignificant foe.  Let us instead armour up, stand firm, be ready to speak, be prayerful as if we are in a war (for we are), and when we have done everything we can, to stand.

Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching




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