After Satan’s fall from his eminent position in heaven, his guardianship over the earth also was forfeited. So God created mankind and gave dominion and care of the earth and of the other creatures over to human beings. However, not wanting to relinquish his control over the earth, and desiring to spoil God’s great Plan and His purposes for people (see “God’s Plan” and “people’s purpose”: C-15, P-I), Satan spoke deceptively through a serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:4,5). She succumbed to Satan’s lies and, in turn, tempted Adam (3:6). Eve later even told God that the serpent (that is, Satan) had “deceived” her (3:13b); however, Eve and Adam were responsible for their actions of disobedience and had to be held accountable and punished (3:16-19,23).
Satan cunningly convinced Adam and Eve to believe three lies about God: 1) that His Authority and Word may be questioned without negative consequences resulting (Gen. 3:1), 2) that God is a liar (3:4) or even nonexistent, and 3) that they could be like God (3:5). (These are the same things of which he attempts to convince people today, by deception through false religions and “New Age” teachings—see “‘New Age’ folly” and “infiltration of ‘New Age’ theology”: C-9, P-I.) Having corrupted God’s greatest creation, mankind, Satan regained (illegitimate) rule over the world. This he still retains today—temporarily, until Jesus returns again.
Job was a very good man who obeyed God. God pointed out to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Satan’s reply was,
Does Job fear God for nothing?.... Have you not put a hedge [of protection] around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face (Job 1:9-11).
The Lord agreed to allow Satan to attempt to demonstrate that Job would curse God if his health and prosperity were taken away. God said, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12a). We may think that bad things should happen only to “bad” people, but this is not always the case. Sometimes God permits inauspicious circumstances to enter the lives of those who love and obey him. Why? Because he wishes to test their loyalty and faithfulness to Him, for one thing. Also, some good comes out of such occasions when one endures and learns from these experiences. Usually we are shown something about ourselves that needs to be changed, improved, or purged; and only through unfavorable circumstances can these things be pointed out to us. We should not resent nor despise God’s correction, because God disciplines those whom He loves as His children (Prov. 3:11,12; Heb. 12:5,6).
Yet another instance in the Old Testament demonstrating the devil’s existence, as well as his indicting and libelous nature, is when God showed the prophet Zechariah a vision of “...Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him” (Zech. 3:1). (“Devil” means “false accuser” or “slanderer”; “Satan” means “adversary” or “oppressor”; “Joshua,” the Old Testament name for Jesus, means “Jehovah [God] is salvation.”) God, speaking to Satan, said, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan!” (3:2a), an appropriate response to the devil’s accusations and arguments (Jude 9). Satan blames everyone but himself. We all tend to do this sometimes (some people all the time); and it is the same blaming, slandering nature causing us to do it that Satan possesses.
I grow very weary of watching and listening to political ads right before any election. I wonder how many candidates, who (it seems to me) haphazardly slam their opponents, even realize (or care) that if they make one false accusation, they are breaking God’s ninth commandment: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor”—Exo. 20:16. And “neighbor” does not just mean someone next door or down the street; it means anybody, even an opponent.
Satan is the great “accuser” of God’s people (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10b). Evangelist Marilyn Hickey has noted rightfully that Satan spends a great deal of time telling God (and attempting to prove to Him), concerning people whom God has blessed or enriched, “You see! Your people don’t really love you! They only love what they can get from you and will hate you if you don’t give them what they want and expect!” This was not true of Job; but, unfortunately, it is true of many people, whether it be those who know that they have prospered through God’s help or those who do not even acknowledge that God played any part in giving them what they have.
We all should recognize this truth: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...” (James 1:17a). How do you like it when you give someone something, but no appreciation or thanks is given in return? Or, worse yet, what if that person even denies that you gave him/her anything? Think how God feels; He gives us everything we have, and some of us never thank Him for anything! Many people do not even acknowledge that He exists, or they pay homage to other “gods” who have given them nothing! (Isa. 44:10). All too often, people prove Satan’s accusations to be valid.
Satan caused such things as Job’s servants and livestock to be killed or taken away (Job 1:14-17) and all of his sons and daughters to be killed in a horrible calamity (1:18,19). But what did Job do rather than to curse God? He worshiped and praised the Lord (1:20,21) and “...did not sin by charging God with any wrongdoing” (1:22).
Satan, with God’s permission, continued his devastation of Job by afflicting him with painful sores all over his body (Job 2:7). Job’s wife even suggested a way out of the pain by exclaiming, “Curse God and die!” (2:9b). Job’s courageous response was, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10b). How many of us can respond to hard times with that kind of attitude—keeping in mind that there is a reason for everything which happens to us, even bad things? I ashamedly admit that it often is difficult for me to do so.
Throughout all the unwanted “advice” from “friends” (who really could not understand nor relate to Job’s distress), and though he just as soon would have been dead, Job endured to the end—often questioning God, but never cursing Him as Satan insisted he would. How did Job bear all of this suffering and grief? The answer is found in his enlightening statement, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). (Recall that “Redeemer” is a term for the Messiah—see “names for and attributes of the Messiah”: C-3, P-I.) Job knew that his pain, whether deserved or not, was as nothing when considering the future, eternal ecstasy that he would experience with God. He was well aware that, one day, God personally will grant rest and rewards to those who trust in and choose to be part of the glorious redemptive Plan He has laid out for humanity. Job realized that, though his body eventually would die, there would come a time when, in the flesh of his new, glorified, recreated body, he literally would see God—in person (19:26,27)!
Satan tried unsuccessfully to tempt Job into believing that he was a meaningless part of God’s Creation, that his integrity and righteousness meant nothing to God, and that he had no purpose in God’s wonderful Plan. But Job knew better; and he endured the immense, intense burden of suffering and pain laid upon him, knowing that even if he died God had something infinitely better in store for him. As Paul stated centuries later, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18, a reference to the future miraculous and instantaneous change in believers occurring at the Rapture—see “changed bodies”: C-12, P-V, S-1). It turned out that, after Job prayed for the “friends” who had given him a deluge of “advice,” God gave him a great deal more after his terrible ordeal was over than he ever had possessed before it began (Job 42:10-17). However, even this great reward during the remainder of his life pales to insignificance when considering the exquisite riches Job (and those who believe in the redeeming power of God through Jesus Christ) will receive one day, at the end of this age. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
Satan, who passionately hated (and continues to hate) Israel, once incited King David to command that an unwarranted census be taken of Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, to find out the number of men available for fighting (1 Chr. 21:1,2). Joab, commander of David’s army, respectfully discouraged this move; but David remained adamant in his commitment (21:3,4). It may be that David began to lack faith that God would continue fighting effectively for Israel; or maybe pride gripped David (urged on by Satan), causing him to want to increase the size of his empire without consulting God, and he wanted to make sure he had the manpower to do it. In any case, God was very displeased with this action, and He punished Israel for David’s unauthorized transgression; as a result of David’s disobedience, 70,000 men in Israel died (21:7,14).
Satan leaves death and destruction behind him wherever he goes. Unfortunately, he is so clever and deceitful that he can dupe those who normally follow God (as David did) into being his “pawns,” just long enough so that they fail to get God’s approval of important plans, or else they try God’s patience or authority. Inevitably, unpleasant consequences result when this happens.
While there are a number of portrayals bringing out the evil character of Satan in the Old Testament, there are even more in the New Testament. Probably the most common attribute associated with the devil is temptation. Satan even tempted Jesus, the Son of God, at least three times while Jesus was in the desert for forty days and nights (Matt. 4:1-11). Satan tempted Jesus in the same way that he tempts each of us today: to make us want to obtain material things, to gain fame, and to acquire power.
First, having fasted for 40 days, Jesus (being as wholly human as He was God) was extremely hungry. Satan told Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matt. 4:3). This appealed to the human want of having something material which (temporarily) would fulfill one’s desire. The fact that Jesus refused the temptation to have something that He actually needed at the time—food to satisfy genuine hunger—was commendable; it demonstrated His amazing patience and endurance. Jesus’ profound reply was, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (4:4).
Next, Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem and told Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” knowing that the angels, at Jesus’ command, would lift Him up and prevent Him from being injured (Matt. 4:6). Doing so, of course, would have drawn much attention, as it was in a busy part of the city. It would have proven to many onlookers that He was the Son of God that He claimed to be, giving Him immediate recognition and fame. However, Jesus knew that it was not yet the time to reveal this; so again He resisted the devil’s temptation. Incidentally, Jesus’ response, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (4:7), was one of many claims by Jesus to be the Lord God.
Finally, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain, showing Him all the splendor of all the world’s kingdoms. Satan, being the temporary ruler of this world, told Jesus, “All this I will give you...if you will bow down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9). (Remember, Satan was given the “title deed” to the earth by mankind through Adam and Eve.) If Jesus really was God, as Jesus claimed to be and as Satan surely knew Him to be, then this one thing—Jesus’ worship of him—would satisfy his longing and craving to be the “god” that he so intensely desired to be. (It also, secondarily, would have given Jesus, the man, kingly power, which He knew was worthless because worldly power passes away—24:35a—and He was willing to wait until the Father will “...put everything under his feet”—Psalm 8:6b; 1 Cor. 15:27a.) So Jesus commanded Satan to go away from Him, saying “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matt. 4:10). This is a commandment we should follow.
The bottom line is that in no case, then or later, did Jesus ever yield to Satan’s enticement, because He was aware of the future glory that would be His one day by humbling Himself and persevering while He was in the world (Phil. 2:5-11). It is wise for us to do the same in times of trouble, using Jesus as an example; He was tempted in every possible way (Heb. 4:15).
At one point—soon after Peter had affirmed he had no doubt that Jesus was “...the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16)—Jesus was telling His disciples how He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be rejected and killed, and then rise again after three days (Matt. 16:21; Mark 8:31). Satan influenced Peter to attempt to convince Jesus not to accomplish this vitally important purpose in God’s great Plan. Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter for not withstanding the devil’s urging. More importantly he rebuked Satan (who, in effect, spoke through Peter) by saying, “Out of my sight, Satan!” Jesus continued by asserting that Satan (and Peter) did “...not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:22,23; Mark 8:32,33). Satan, well aware that Jesus had come “...to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b) by eventually rising from death, wanted nothing more than to foil this divine objective in any way possible.
At another time, Satan requested of Jesus (to whom he, involuntarily, must subject himself) that he be allowed to “sift” the disciples “as wheat” (that is, screen them and test their allegiance to Jesus). Specifically, Satan wished to tempt Peter, and Jesus told him, “...I have prayed for you, Simon [Peter], that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31,32a). Although Peter replied insistently, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death,” Jesus countered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (22:33,34).
Jesus was exactly right, because Peter yielded to Satan’s temptation (Luke 22:54-60). After Jesus’ resurrection, though, Peter repaired this violation of his word by expressing sincerely to Jesus, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (John 21:17c). In his heart, Peter had turned from his sin of denying the Son of God.
Peter was not the only disciple who failed Satan’s “sifting” test; Judas also submitted, albeit with more tragic results. Luke’s account states, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve [disciples]. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus” (Luke 22:3,4). Satan later would possess Judas again prior to his betraying Jesus.
John’s account describes, “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot...to betray Jesus” (John 13:2). At the Last Supper, a troubled Jesus verified that He knew this by saying, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” (13:21). John asked, “Lord, who is it?” and Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish”; He then dipped the bread and “...gave it to Judas Iscariot.... As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into [possessed] him” (13:25-27).
As expected, Judas betrayed Jesus to the chief priests and the elders in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew discloses, “Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him” (Matt. 26:48,49). Later, Judas felt such remorse for betraying “innocent blood” that “...he went away and hanged himself” (27:3-5), rather than make peace with Jesus for his betrayal as Peter had for his denial.
Thus, Satan not only had urged Judas to betray Jesus, but he also had impelled Judas to kill himself, the latter exhibiting the devil’s trait of being “...a murderer from the beginning...” (John 8:44b). Suicides are a result of Satan’s direct or indirect influence. One becomes so bound up and entangled in the troubles of life, which Satan and his forces so cleverly have devised and produced, that one feels there is no other alternative than to end one’s life.
At one point during the ministry of Jesus, He came upon a woman “...who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all” (Luke 13:11). After He told her that she was set free from her infirmity and laid His hands on her, “...immediately she straightened up and praised God” (13:12,13).
The synagogue leader was disturbed because Jesus had healed this woman on the Sabbath and pointed this out to the people there who had witnessed the healing. Jesus replied, “...[S]hould not this woman,...whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Luke 13:16). Clearly, Satan was the force behind the evil spirit which restrained this poor woman’s body in a hunch-backed posture for so many years (or maybe Satan had done it personally himself). Jesus knew this, and He released her from her physical bondage.
Followers of Jesus warned us to resist Satan. Paul admonished to “...not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27). James declared, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Peter warned, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet. 5:8,9).
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.