No one enjoys a good joke about the devil more than Satan himself.
He loves it when you tell one to make him out a buffoon or the warden of hell who welcomes in various evil-doers and sends them to their infernal rewards. He really gets a high when you make him out to be so outlandish that no one in his right mind would believe in such a goon.
The devil honestly does not care whether you believe in him or not. There is not a word in Scripture that says one has to believe in the devil in order for him to do his dastardly worst in them or through them.
Millions of people today scoff at the idea of Satan, then turn around and do his dirty work for him.
The people who believe most in Satan are God’s choice servants. They who do combat with him on a daily basis have no trouble acknowledging his reality. That’s why the Apostle Peter felt he should give this reminder to those who take seriously their discipleship:
Be of sober spirit. Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
He’s out there. Watch out.
I can’t find anything in Scripture that commands God’s people to become experts in Satanology. I’ve known a few people over the years who seemed to be such. Every prayer they uttered was against him, their testimonies and sermons revolved around him, and the books they wrote or read were filled with descriptions of his work.
We must work to avoid either extreme–of concentrating too much on the devil and of completely ignoring him. In between those two ditches is the road.
Here are 5 things we can know for certain about Satan.
1) He’s real and not imaginary.
Peter knew. He had seen demons ruining people’s lives and seen Jesus cast them out. He even had a little personal experience with his infernal majesty.
A few days before His crucifixion, Jesus warned Peter, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not. And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.(Luke 22:31-32)
When Peter denied Jesus those three times as our Lord stood condemned in the High Priest’s courtyard, one reason he wept so bitterly was from knowing he had played right into the enemy’s hands. (Mark 14:66-72)
2) He’s on earth and not in hell.
Where did the idea originate that the devil is tending the fires of hell while waiting for his quota of humans to arrive? From Dante’s “Inferno,” some say. If that’s so, Dante did a great disservice to humanity.
Satan is on earth. No passage says this so clearly as Revelation 12–
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
A voice from Heaven was heard praising God for His power and salvation. Then he spoke this dark note: Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.
3) Satan is destined for hell, but as its chief prisoner, not its warden.
Revelation 20 makes it clear that there will come a day when Satan and his gang of evildoers will be cast into the lake of fire.
What’s more, he knows it right this minute. That’s one reason he’s so angry.
You may recall when the Lord Jesus encountered the demon-possessed man of Gadara. Matthew tells us that as the man approached Jesus, the demons inside him spoke up: “What do we have to do with you, Son of God? Have you come to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)
Interesting the two things the demons knew full well: they knew who Jesus was and they knew the destiny awaiting them.
At no time–now or ever–will Satan ever be in charge of hell. Revelation 1 pictures our Lord holding the keys to death, hell, and the grave. Jesus is Lord over all of it.
4) However, in the meantime, Satan is able to do lots of damage.
Peter describes him as a roaring lion, prowling about, seeking his next victim. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). Those are Satan’s chief tactics.
He seeks one to “devour.” I’ve known the devil to devour people’s health, their businesses, their witness and influence, and their fortunes.
Paul instructs the Lord’s disciples, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
Paul cautions the Corinthian believers to be quick in forgiving others, “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (II Cor. 2:11).
5) Satan has lost his most potent weapon–death–but continues to wage a war he has already lost.
Students of American history remind us that when the Battle of New Orleans was fought early in 1815, the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed achieving peace between the USA and Great Britain. The battle might have given young America a boost emotionally, but in practical terms, it was pointless. The War of 1812 was over.
When our Lord was dying on the cross, He called out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Granted, it looked like anything but that, but Jesus was in the process of taking Satan down for the count. When He came out of the grave on that first Easter morning, it was as Victor, not victim. Satan was defeated and knew it. Wherever he was at the time, I’m betting Lucifer gagged on his champagne.
We enjoy the way the Apostle Paul gloats, “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” And again, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:54-57)
Like a bee that still flies around after losing its stinger, Satan is loose but has been defanged. He no longer owns the keys to death, hell, or the grave. And his days are seriously numbered.
Resist Him, Christian.
Don’t mess around with him. Don’t discuss with him, don’t negotiate with him, just resist him. “Resist the devil and he will flee,” says one of the apostles in James 4:7.
In resisting him, do so with three great tools:
–with your firm faith. (5:9) “How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.”
–with the knowledge that you have plenty of company. (5:9) The devil would like you to think you’re the only one going through this kind of suffering or temptation and it’s because you are such a poor disciple. But he’s lying.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful….” (I Cor. 10:13)
–with the promise of blessed days to come. (5:10)
Martin Luther put it as well as anyone ever could–
“The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure;
For lo! His doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.”
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of our text in The Message is worth looking at:
Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would lke nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ–eternal and glorious plans they are!–will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, He does.”
Amen. And amen.