One of the great things about being in a regular bible study with thinking adults is that you come across questions and issues that otherwise wouldn’t occur to you. This past week, one of my friends posed what seemed like a simple question, but I think it has a lot of deeper implications.
He basically asked, “Why is Satan so hell-bent on being evil? Why is he so opposed to everything good?”
This is the kind of question that might be overlooked because for so long, we’ve equated Satan with pure evil. But why is that exactly? If you really think about it, it seems almost cartoonish and unrealistic.
To illustrate, imagine a movie villain who is determined to destroy the entire world. He has no redeeming qualities, doesn’t care about anybody else in the world, and everything he does is pure evil. Whatever the “good” choice is, he does the opposite for reasons that are hard to finger.
Sounds kind of outlandish, doesn’t it? In my opinion, such a character would lack the depth and balance to make him seem realistic. Most villains today seem to believe they are doing something good, even if they are misguided or extreme in their measures. Take Magneto from the “X-Men” series, for example. He is one of the main villains, but he earnestly believes that mutants are the future and that homo sapiens are an obsolete species characterized by intolerance and ignorance.
So why is it that Satan is pure evil? How is that believable?
Simply put, it is because he has completely separated himself from God, who is the source of ALL moral good in the universe. Apart from Him, any modicum of good is literally impossible. The reason that human beings are capable of good—even villains—is because they are made in the image of God, which includes morality, dominion over this earth, creativity, etc.
If Satan were to commit even one decent act to the benefit of others, that would mean he is an additional source of good. This is, of course, not the case. In fact, one of his favorite tricks is to turn anything good into some destructive force. Self-assurance turns to haughtiness and pride; serving others becomes an ego boost and a way to feel morally superior; love and acceptance turn into tolerance for things that God explicitly states are wrong. The list goes on and on. You could name anything and chances are, Satan has distorted it in some way. We are all easily fooled if we are not discerning and Spirit-led.
OK, so now that we’ve established that God is the only source of good and that’s why Satan is pure evil…what does that mean for the afterlife? What does that mean for hell?
It means that once people have been eternally separated from God and sent to hell, they are now completely stripped of their godly nature. That means that it’s not going to be a chummy party down there by any stretch of the imagination.
I have actually heard atheists say, “Well, if I’m wrong and I’m going to hell, at least I’ll spend eternity with cool, interesting people! Maybe I’ll see Jimi Hendrix down there!”
Maybe you will see certain “interesting” people down there, but any redeeming qualities they may have had on this earth are going to be completely gone. Whoever you see down there is not going to be someone you enjoy, even if you were to somehow avoid the torment of the flames. You will not be having warm, friendly reunions.
Furthermore, if you are thinking that adopting Satan as your new master might be some consolation (because of his beauty or talents, maybe), then again, you are sadly mistaken. He is not going to be governing hell or setting up some kind of viable alternative to heaven. He is going to be thrown into the lake of fire and burning just the same as everyone else. Remember, God is the ruler of everything, even hell. Any power Satan currently enjoys is temporary, and there will come a time when God no longer permits him to act in rebellion.
Finally, I know a few of my long-time readers may be wondering about my stance on the eternality of hell. I apologize because this is long overdue, and you may have already noticed I took my posts on annihilationism down a while ago.
My view now is that hell is probably eternal torment, as the traditional view presents. I will concede that I’m not 100% sure, but much of the scriptural support for annihilationism came from the Old Testament where it talked about “death” and “being no more.” My knowledge of the Old Testament was far more incomplete at the time, and now I realize that conceptions of the afterlife were not fully developed during that period. Before Jesus came and fully paid for our sins, no one could go to Heaven (or even Hell) yet. Everyone who died went to the same realm, called Sheol, although there were separate places for God-fearing people. Sometimes, this is referred to as “Paradise,” but the terminology can get confusing. Either way, it didn’t make sense for God to talk about the afterlife much when His work of redemption was not yet complete (until Jesus said “it is finished”).
So my current idea of hell is that it is a place of eternal separation from God that probably involves the literal pain of burning flames. As the final humiliating act of defeat, Satan will be suffering there along with everyone else who chose to reject God and separate themselves from Him. There will be degrees of punishment, for sure, but we don’t know exactly what that will entail. In the end, whether you go to heaven to worship Almighty God or go to hell to pay the price for sin, God is glorified to the utmost by praise and justice.
[Seems I’ve found a way to get into my blog while at work…instead of going directly to my site, I need to go through WordPress.com first. Hopefully, this will lead to more frequent updating. Previously, I could no longer access my blog because websites that are “uncategorized” (or in forbidden categories) would get blocked.]
Finally, another update! I think this will be the end of this topic for now, but I just wanted to address a couple more areas. Some of it overlaps with what I’ve already said, but I think more emphasis couldn’t hurt.
Worked-Based Salvation vs. “Grace”
This is a biggie. Often in churches, you will find Christians on both extremes of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning believers exhorting you to read your Bible every day, diligently attend bible study, pray x number of times per day, pay some percentage of your income as offering, smile, do charity work…etc. The list goes on and on. Without these things, you cannot be a true Christian.
On the other end, you’ll find people emphasizing God’s grace—as if that is His only predominant trait—and living however they want. They look like the world, act like the world, but because they “accepted Christ into their hearts” at some point in their lives, they think they’re set. In their minds, they have been vaccinated from the virus of damnation, and they’re free to wallow in whatever filth they please. Of course, not everyone is this blatant in their abuse, but the general sense is that absolute freedom has been attained. There’s no need to strive and give your full effort anymore. “It is finished,” right? Lukewarm living, while not ideal, is “OK”…except it’s really not.
So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than either of these extreme views. People love easy-to-digest absolutes, so some don’t like learning the finer points. But you could say it falls somewhere in between.
Is God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross sufficient for any person, any circumstance? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It can save and sanctify the serial felon just as much as the nice, “wholesome” American person you work with. Christ’s blood covers anything.
But can a person be saved and live however he wants? Not really. The Bible tells us that true believers in Christ “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Colossians 3:10 tells us that as believers, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In other words, when we become Christians, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who begins a new work in us, transforming us from the inside-out. We are on a new path toward sanctification, and while we will never quite get there in the sinful flesh, we will continually progress in our walk.
Bottom line: If we are truly saved as Christians, our lives will begin to resemble Christ more and more. We will not read the Bible simply out of duty, but with genuine eagerness to draw closer to our Lord and learn more about Him. Just as we want to learn about people we love, we want to understand God and His character on a deeper level, so we are drawn toward Scripture. We will want to fellowship with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, eager to edify each other and grow together. We will grow in diligence with prayer—again, out of a closeness and reliance we’re developing with God—while also becoming more compassionate and kind toward others.
The first step is becoming truly saved and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Let’s call that Step A. The next step that will continue to happen until we die is growing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. That’s Step B. Of course, there will be setbacks along the way and slips, but the general momentum is forward and upward.
A –> B. Simple, ain’t it?
The problem with works-based salvation is that it can be misconstrued as this: B –> A. This is impossible. We as humans cannot attain salvation through works any more than a dog can clip its own toenails and brush its own teeth. Stupid analogy, but we just got a puppy, OK? 😉
On the flip side, a person cannot be a true Christian and live, look, and think just like the rest of the world (see Romans 12:2). If a person is living like this, then you have to wonder if “Step A” ever really took place. Do we see “B” happening? If not, then chances are the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in that person. “A” must ALWAYS lead to B at some point (though admittedly, in varying degrees). So we all need to test ourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to do.
Now, here comes a BIG disclaimer. A lot of what I’ve said is pretty common knowledge, at least in good churches. But what often gets overlooked is that diligence and acts can increase our chances of having an encounter with God. We are not always going to “feel like” talking to God, reading the Word, or loving our neighbor. Sometimes, it takes conscious effort and discipline. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes, people are pumped and excited to go to the gym. Other times, they have to drag themselves to go. Either way, it’s better than not going.
How do you expect to encounter God or have a spiritual epiphany if you are never learning anything new from the Bible? How do you expect to hear God’s voice leading you in a beneficial way if you never pray? When are you ever going to feel compelled to open up your wallet and give to the Lord or help the needy if you don’t ever make the plunge? It has to become less of a leap for you. Churches would all go under if offering came only from those who were completely “on fire” each week. If you never learn how to give, don’t expect to become generous miraculously without any conscious effort on your part. (Sure, it can happen if God bestows you with that gift, but don’t count on it.)
Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Don’t sit on your couch and make God drag you everywhere.
Uninformed and Extreme Bible Interpretation: Finding the Fine Lines
Throughout our history, numerous Christians—genuine or not—have embarrassed the faith through immoral behavior that they supposedly learned from the Bible.
You’ve heard the stories. A father physically assaults his child and blames Proverbs for telling him not to “spare the rod.” Men read that wives should submit to their husbands, so they go on a chauvinistic power trip. A friend points out the wrong behavior of a fellow believer, and someone will instinctively recite: “Do not judge!”
One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to blur the fine lines between good truth and destructive evil. To our human minds, it may be hard to distinguish the real differences. Spanking and disciplining a child in love can correct behavior and lead them toward a better future with moral character. Striking a child in a temper-induced rage can escalate very quickly to abuse, which is sinful and repulsive. Discipline builds up; abuse tears down.
Wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean she is less valuable or some kind of servant. In fact, if people would go beyond biblical sound bites and actually learn something, they would also come across the next few verses in Ephesians 5 where it tells husbands to love their wives as themselves—that alone should get rid of any selfish expectations from a marriage relationship. But just in case we didn’t get the message, Paul further states to care for her and give oneself up for her protection, just as Christ did. We’re talking about a savior who washed his disciples’ feet and ultimately suffered and died for us. Does this sound chauvinistic to you? If wives would respect their husbands and husbands cherished their wives, we wouldn’t be seeing the rampant unhappiness and divorce we see today.
And yes, we are not to judge others insofar as we puff ourselves up with pride and look down on them. We are also not to judge hypocritically. As Jesus humorously illustrated, it’s ridiculous to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own eyes.
But this is different from faithfully rebuking someone in love. People in the church today seem to think that fellowship is all about hanging out, eating together, sharing some laughs…but it’s really not. It’s supposed to be about building each other up in faith, and sometimes that means pointing out potential pitfalls for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it “loving” to not point out that someone is developing a drinking problem? Or that their moral compass seems to be getting off kilter, possibly because of surrounding worldly influences?
Again, there’s a fine line, and as flawed prideful humans, we are prone to step over that line. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.
Rebuking out of love is good. Judging and looking down on another person is wrong and pride-building.
Follow the Spirit’s Lead
There sure seem to be a lot of “fine lines” to walk in the Christian faith, huh? How are we ever supposed to get it all right? Well, as mentioned before, we can’t. We are destined to fail over and over again—hopefully less and less as we grow, though. In our own wisdom and flesh, it’s very hit-or-miss.
God knew this, and that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to indwell true believers and guide them. Without relying on the Holy Spirit every single day, what eventually happens is that we start slipping. In my own life, I’ve seen complacency set in alarmingly fast! Whereas we might have once stood firm on some moral issue, without leaning on the Holy Spirit for long enough, we might become lax. “Maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad after all. Who are they hurting really?” “Maybe it is a woman’s ‘choice’ to abort her baby. After all, doesn’t it statistically lead to less crime?”
Human wisdom and rationalizing can get out of hand very, very quickly. We cannot trust ourselves. Left unchecked, we may look back in a few years (or even months) and find we’re so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on. That’s why it is important to keep equipping ourselves for spiritual battle. If people would read their Bibles more, there wouldn’t be such mass confusion over simple issues. If they would pray more, they would stay more in tune with God’s wishes for their lives, rather than getting engulfed in the tides of the world.
Christianity isn’t supposed to be “easy.” The Bible tells us we are foreigners in this world, and as such, we are never going to feel completely at ease here. If we do, then something is wrong. Our citizenship is in heaven, you guys, so inform yourselves and don’t let Satan fool you. It’s so much easier for him to trick the ignorant believer than it is someone whose mind is filled with scripture. It might start out with little things, small deviations, and before you know it, you’re far gone. And I guarantee, when we see God one day, we’re going to wish with all of our might that we tried a lot harder in this life. We’re going to wish so badly that He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Keep up your guard, and don’t let Satan fool you so easily. May God help us all to be good soldiers in the fight!
As we’ve seen, Satan does an excellent job of tricking the world. In some cases, his work is evident in gruesome displays of immorality and wretched appearance, but in most cases, he disguises his work very well. His intent is masked with fluffy and warm exteriors, and without the right spiritual mindset (or “glasses”), we can be blind to his power.
Sadly, those in the church are not immune to his charms and tricks. In fact, you could argue that some of his most devastating victories have been won in the hearts of those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, Satan goes for the small wins and deceptions. There are a lot of those. In other cases, he methodically manages to pull off huge lies that perpetuate throughout the body of believers. I believe that many souls are lost because of this.
Generalities and vagueness aside, let’s dive into some specifics. Mind you, there’s no way I will be able to cover them all, or even a satisfactory amount. I bet I’m going to want to edit this post over and over as things come to mind. Maybe this is a work in progress…which is part of the reason why it took me so long to write it. I kept telling myself, “I know I’m going to leave out something important! I need to be prepared!” But then I realized, maybe this was a stalling tactic of some sort, paralyzing me from actually getting off my butt and doing it. Rather than tackling the whole mountain, let’s take it one upward step at a time.
(My goodness, it’s been a while. I’m babbling even more than usual.)
Satan loves to distort the concept of God’s supernatural power in the minds of believers.
You hear things like, “With God, nothing is impossible,” or “God is Almighty and All-Powerful!” These things are true, right? Right! So there’s no danger in exaggerating and stretching these things out to their limits, right?
Sometimes, we inject our own ideas and expectations on these truths, distorting them. And that’s exactly what Satan wants us to do. Remember, he is very, very clever. He knows when he can be blatant and obvious, and he knows when he has to be subtle. Because most people are bad at detecting subtleties (or don’t bother to really think), he chooses this route quite often.
“With God, nothing is impossible.” God is Almighty and All-Powerful!”
When we hear these things, we expect that it means that whatever God does, He would do it in the most spectacular and impressive way possible. This might mean that God works instantaneously and not slowly. With a quick *snap* of His fingers, His work is done. That’s the most powerful thing we can imagine, right? After all, if we can imagine a being doing something more quickly, wouldn’t that make it more powerful than God?
But notice the Bible said nothing about these other details. Since when is power always defined in speed and style?
If God created the world as we know it in six days, people who buy into these concepts might wonder why He didn’t do it in six seconds…or one second…or an instant. After all, if God is maximally powerful, why couldn’t He do it quicker? Certainly, a universe that is billions of years old is completely out of the question. MY God would never take that long.
Oh really? Then why did it take 150 days for the waters to recede after the great flood with Noah and his family waiting in the ark? Why did God require animals on the ark instead of just creating them all over again after it was over? Why did it take God more than an instant to create the universe? Why did Joseph have to endure so many trials and setbacks before he finally rose to power in Egypt? Why did Jesus have to reach the age of 30 before he began his earthly ministry? Why did Jesus rise from the dead on the third day rather than the second? Why did God allow the enemies of Israel to dominate and rule over them for so long? Why did it take almost 1,900 years before the Jews were given back their homeland of Israel?
The list of examples could go on and on, but you get the point. For whatever reasons, God chooses to take His time on things so that they end up just right. Remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9a: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness.”
With my lowly human brain, I can think of a lot of reasons explaining the examples above. And that’s with my limited perspective and knowledge. Surely, God has much more knowledge in doing what He does.
From what I’ve observed and noted, God seems to prefer directing natural processes to meet His ends. This is not lazy nor does it diminish His power; remember who created and put into place those natural processes in the first place! You think gravity and other forces just existed by themselves? There is something glorious in the way that God can manipulate His complex creation to do the job rather than going *poof, it’s done* like some kind of magic trick. Sometimes it helps to think of God more as the ultimate chess master (seeing an infinite number of moves ahead) rather than a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat.
Consider two hypothetical artists. They are both able to create the same exact masterpiece painting, but Artist A takes 10 days and Artist B can get it done in 10 minutes. Surely, Artist B is better, right? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. If I knew he did it in 10 minutes, I would think, “Wow, that’s amazing that he is able to physically create something like that so quickly!” But if I only knew of Artist A, I would appreciate his work on a different level. “I wonder what he was thinking as he was carefully and deliberately painting those strokes. What life experience was he drawing upon to create such a beautiful painting? What was he feeling, and what was he trying to communicate?” There would be a deeper level of appreciation and glory for Artist A, I believe, all other things equal. Maybe it’s something like that with God as well.
Maybe during those 150 days of water receding, God was putting into place a new system of condensation and rain cycles. Remember, it didn’t rain the way we know it today before the flood. Water was largely in the ground up until that point, not suspended in the sky. He was changing the entire ecosystem and inventing a new precipitation method. Plus, it naturally takes time for water to soak into the ground, evaporate into the air, etc. There was a lot going on. Noah and his family were perhaps left in the ark to praise and worship God without any earthly distractions. No fields to tend to, no work to be done…just waiting and focusing on God.
Maybe God created the world in six days then rested on the seventh to model a full week for us. In fact, this isn’t really a “maybe” (Genesis 2:3 makes it pretty obvious). By the way, God didn’t rest because He was “tired”…I’ve heard that one jokingly said before by atheists. Think about it. He rested not only to model behavior for us, but because He was DONE. There was nothing left to do. And when you’re done working, you rest whether you’re tired or not. (Good grief.)
In other cases, it seems people need to go through a lengthy development process where their character will be more in line with God’s purposes for them. Or in Israel’s case, they needed time to repent and to be punished for their wayward tendencies. People are stubborn, but especially the Jews in the Bible. You’ll notice (e.g., in Judges) that there was an endless cycle of the Jews messing up, God forgiving them, and restoring their blessing…but each time this would happen, God would delay the restoration more and more. Eventually, I guess it took 1,900 years for the Jews to take back their homeland (1948), and it really only could happen after great suffering first (Holocaust, which ended in 1945). Satan might whisper, “Why didn’t God snap His fingers and move the hearts of the nations to give the Jews back their land? Maybe God is just cruel, or doesn’t exist at all!”
But God never works that way. Reading the Bible should make that obvious, and we have a ton of precedent to inform us. God puts events in history into motion to produce the desired outcome. His plans supersede all of Satan’s (and therefore the rest of the world’s) hate for the Jews. There are a myriad of other details that we cannot possibly see or comprehend.
As for Jesus rising on the third day, I’ve heard a number of theories. I think the main reason is timing…falling on a certain day of the week, or even lining up with the traditional Jewish feasts (which is very significant in prophecy). I’ve also heard that it would take that amount of time to confirm with certainty that he was actually dead—or if he wasn’t, being trapped in that tomb with no food, water, or medical treatment after being severely tortured would finish the job. The point is, we don’t always know the “why” reasons. God does things according to His own schedule and methods. His greatness and power are not subject to our expectations or imaginations.
Satan loves to stretch the meaning of “God’s love.”
You’ll hear it over and over again in many modern churches. “God is love, God is love”…”God wants the best for everybody’s life!”
Is this not true? Of course it is, but not in the way they’re thinking. Because of God’s love, His greatest desire is for everyone to come into a closer relationship with Him. Why? Because He knows that’s best for us, whether we agree or can see it or not. Anything else we seek in this life will only end in dissatisfaction or even spiritual (and eternal) ruin.
What this does NOT mean, however, is that God wants everyone to be “happy,” rich, or comfortable in this world. God does care about our temporary earthly happiness somewhat, but it’s a very distant #2 (or #200) to our eternal position.
Also, His “love” does not equate to full acceptance of everything we do and are. His love sometimes necessitates punishment to get us on the right path. His justice and righteousness sometimes mandate destruction.
A parent who truly loves his child would punish her if she were to lie or steal. A parent who leaves the child alone to her errant ways is only setting her up for future failure and misery. How is that love?
In the same way, God’s love means that He cannot accept our sinful ways and leave us alone. I was reading some of the comments for an article about Washington (the state) legalizing same-sex marriages, and I was disturbed (but not all that surprised) to see a number of “Christians” chiming in to chastise the church for opposing homosexuality. They would say things like, “Jesus is love, but sadly, the church seems to think that discriminating and hating is the right way. They are distorting Jesus’ message.”
No, misinformed Christian, you are distorting Jesus’ message by implying that He would be “accepting” of homosexuality to begin with. How could anyone who claims to know the Bible think that this is some sort of gray area? God hates homosexuality, period. It was often the last (and worst) thing God would tolerate before He destroyed entire cities and populations. That doesn’t sound like warm and fuzzy acceptance to me. In fact, I wish the whole Disney-movie expectations of God would be done away with once and for all…love is not about butterflies and roses. The Bible is far from being “G”-rated.
The truth is, God loves people and therefore desires that all turn away from this sin. If they do not, then He is left with no choice but to severely punish with His wrath (people love to forget about His justice and law). Is it “loving” to say to a person, “It’s OK to keep on lying and stealing. I love you!”? Or, “I love you my son, and therefore I don’t care if you go out and live recklessly, impregnating women and destroying yourself with drugs”? Of course not. Then why do we think God is up there saying, “It’s OK to live a homosexual life. It’s just who you are!”
If who I am is wrong, then I need to fix myself, simple as that. If a man naturally wants to lust after every attractive woman he meets, he needs to keep that in check rather than saying, “But that’s who I am!” Since when is what we want (or even “need”) to do some kind of reliable gauge for right behavior?
You get the point.
This is getting a bit long and I’m running out of time, so I will have to continue at a later point. I hope this has given you enough to chew on for now. =)
When you hear the name “Satan” or “the Devil,” what immediately pops into your mind? Is it a mischievous, grinning creature with a red tail and horns? Or is it a horrifying being, fit for the most frightening of nightmares?
Well, truth be told, the reality of Satan himself is probably far from either of these descriptions. In fact, the Bible alludes to him as having been “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12; dual prophecy of “King of Tyre” representing Satan). Originally, Satan was probably among the greatest of angels, making him superior to any other created beings in history. The key word is, of course, “created.” None of creation can be greater than the Creator.
The bottom line is this: we are completely outmatched by him unless we are guided, protected, and empowered fully by the Holy Spirit. This is very difficult to do consistently on this earth since we are continually struggling with our flesh and sin nature. We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word, fellowship with strong believers, and in prayer if we are to stand a chance.
But perhaps it would also be helpful in some small way to observe some of Satan’s favorite tricks and lies. If we can better recognize how the Father of Lies operates, maybe we can sidestep some of the pitfalls with wisdom.
Satan Is the Greatest Imitator
In my humble opinion, it takes a certain level of intelligence or acute sense to copy something well, whether it’s in music, writing, art, strategy, or almost anything else. The naturally talented person may unknowingly be doing something right, but the astute observer will pick up on what exactly it is the other person is doing and copy it—resulting in the appearance of being excellent himself.
Satan, having superior intelligence and eons of observation/experience, has a habit of copying the Almighty God’s work.
Now, people who know me or read this blog know that I don’t shy away from making controversial or offensive statements when I need to make a point. So I’ll just reiterate what I’ve been saying for some time now: some of the world’s major religions are merely imitations of the real truth.
Take Islam, for example. It started about 600 years after Christianity and borrows many similar ideas. Creationism, monotheism (defined more narrowly), Jesus Christ, heaven, hell, and a future kingdom reigned by a great ruler…the similarities are plentiful. But it differs in many critical areas, missing the mark where it matters—namely, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Christianity warns us that before Jesus’ second coming, there will be a time of reign for the Antichrist. Not-so-coincidentally, Islam tells us that before the second coming of Jesus, there will be a seven-year reign for the mighty (and good) 12th Imam, a being of light. Hmmm…smell fishy to anyone?
Or take Mormonism, which started almost 1,800 years after Christianity. Some Mormons, in fact, consider themselves Christians of a different denomination or sect. To the ignorant, the religions seem almost identical on the surface. They even call themselves “The Church of Latter Day Saints.” If you read up on them or talk with Mormon evangelists, they will try to earn your trust by sounding a lot like familiar Christianity. Heck, even the wording and style of their scriptures—notably, the Book of Mormon—sound much like our Bible to those with untrained ears.
But again, they miss the mark by believing that Jesus Christ and even God the Father were once mortals who had to achieve godhood (how they explain creation or who the original Creator was is beyond me). There are other serious doctrinal issues, but I’ll stop there.
As you can see, Satan has a bad habit that is becoming clearer…
Satan Loves to Alter Truth Just Enough to Sound Plausible
In other religions, we’ve seen that Satan likes to take basic truths and then twist them enough to lead to error and death. But this is not limited to religious doctrine.
Take the fact that human beings are precious in God’s sight and that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are designed to rule over the lesser beings of this earth and to shadow God’s many attributes, such as the powers of discovery, invention, love, reasoning, moral nature…
Now, take that sound biblical truth and blow it up just a bit—exaggerate it. Now you have man making his own truth, his own morality, and living to exalt himself rather than Almighty God. Suddenly, scholars and thinkers use their God-given abilities and think they’re “too educated” to even believe in a higher power. They learn new things about the world around them and use these discoveries as excuses to deny the existence of God—the one who created it all in the first place. Deceived people all over the world start to live by the mantra of “we make our own destiny,” living apart from their true purpose of glorifying God.
In sexual relationships—designed by God to be good and pleasing in marriage—Satan tells us that it’s OK if we’re going to marry that other person in the future anyway. After all, let’s not be legalistic here and picky about a small thing like timing (hint: if you read the Bible enough, you learn that timing and circumstances are critical in God’s eyes). But gradually, bit by bit, our morality shifts and erodes to the point where we don’t even remember our original stance on sex in the first place. Satan loves to alter truths incrementally.
Soon, it’s “as long as I love the other person.” Then it becomes, “Well, as long as it’s with someone special for my first time.” Eventually, it becomes, “I’m an adult, I can do what makes me feel good.” The phrase “consenting adults” becomes a free pass to do anything under the sun.
Unfortunately, even in modern Christian doctrine, we are not safe from Satan’s deception. I think I’ll have to separate the Christianity-specific distortions into its own part later. Yes, Satan has clearly infiltrated our own ideas and practices.
Satan Loves to Wrap Evil in a Pretty Bow
Satan is not a sloppy person or oozing with slime and acid. His most successful lies come in the most welcoming packages and seem harmless, even highly attractive.
Take Christmas, for example. Christians thought it was important to have a day to commemorate the birth of their Lord, Jesus Christ (even if the chosen date was questionable). Satan sees this and hates it; Jesus coming to the earth as fully human was the beginning of the end for him. So he devises a warm, affable, grandfatherly figure named Santa Claus to take attention away from the Savior. Even worse, this new figure distracts people from an early, impressionable age. Children all over the world start fixating on Santa Claus instead of Jesus, and meanwhile, Satan is laughing his head off.
I won’t address some of the coincidences, such as “Santa” being an anagram for “Satan,” or the predominant use of the color red. I don’t know how significant these are, especially since some of it is language and culture-specific. But I think a popular Christmas song’s lyrics tell much of the story:
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
So, apparently Santa Claus is omniscient now? And how does he deliver presents all over the world in less than one full night? Well, it would seem he has some powers of omnipresence (or perhaps an invisible legion of helpers). Does this sound familiar?
How about the fact that children learn to be good not for goodness sake (ironic, considering the lyrics), but rather to be on the “good” list to receive the best presents? It’s a works-based reward system, just as almost every other religion in the world is except Christianity.
Or how about another crucial holiday, Easter, which signifies Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? The ultimate defeat of evil and our source of eternal salvation?
In comes a fluffy, cuddly bunny laying eggs everywhere. How cute, and how completely off-the-point.
Satan Is Artistic and Talented
Lest we forget, Satan was perhaps the most beautiful being ever created by God. Not only that, but he was wise and gifted in music. Hence, his pride overtook him and caused him to rebel.
To me, it’s no wonder that so much of the music industry is dominated by God-less groups or even artists who have explicitly claimed to have sold their souls to the Devil. The Beatles were famously involved with mystics, an easy avenue for demonic activity to enter into people (as are, possibly, mind-altering drugs). Bob Dylan referred to a deal he once made with the “chief commander…on this earth” in a 60 Minutes interview (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; Satan is the “god” of this world and age). The ironically-named “Stairway to Heaven” song by Led Zeppelin is often referred to as one of the greatest rock songs of all time…and it contains these possible backward-masked lyrics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stairway_to_Heaven):
Oh here’s to my sweet Satan.
The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan.
He will give those with him 666.
There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.
More recently, Snoop Dogg rapped about a deal made with the devil in “Murder Was the Case.”
Nowadays, Satan probably senses that the world is naturalistic and dubious of anything spiritual, so he’s laying a little lower. He’s always a masterful tactician. He doesn’t mind not getting attention as long as the world looks away from God as well. But you can’t tell me that Lady Gaga and a number of others aren’t likely in cahoots with him currently…
You also see that many of the most artistic people today are eccentric, have alter egos, are “spiritual” (in cults or off-brand religions), and predominantly homosexual. I don’t have statistics, but I’d imagine this includes a large portion of successful fashion designers today. Heck, my favorite classical composer, Tchaikovsky, was gay.
Somehow, high talent seems to be a gift of some kind to those who follow down the lost path. Considering that Satan is so immensely talented himself, it seems to be his natural way of rewarding those who are following him to their doom…
First, let me start by clarifying that when I say “Rapture” here, I am referring to the idea of a pre-Tribulation Rapture. That is, that all believers on earth—including those who have passed away—will be swept up into heaven before the seven-year Tribulation begins.
Now, assuming this is correct, it leads me to wonder how the rest of the world that is left behind could possibly account for the disappearance of millions “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Will some kooky scientists come out of their basements and affirm the reality of spontaneous combustion? Or will people speculate about some massive government conspiracy?
Some people believe that the world will actually try to explain this great disappearance as a worldwide alien abduction act. Here’s one example of a video on this view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_5cG1dOutY.
According to this person, the “Satanic lie” has been cultivated by the devil himself for many years. Random sightings here and there, people claiming to have been abducted, persistent rumors of “Area 51,” the depictions of aliens as having large, bulbous heads and black eyes (which surprisingly can be found in even some ancient drawings…Satan must have gotten a head start)…heck, even Hollywood has played its part in making it imaginable and graspable in our minds.
Perhaps this verse is even referring to the alien deception:
Revelation 16:13: “Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.”
(From John’s perspective, he was limited in his ability to describe certain things he saw in his vision because he had never seen such things before. So he had to do his best with what he knew.)
“Came out of the mouth” could figuratively mean that the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet spoke about this, telling the world. Since there will be no other plausible explanation—at least to those who adamantly leave God out of the picture—people will be drawn to this possibility.
Not only that, but 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 says this: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
Basically, this is where God sends the judgment of delusion upon those who rejected Him for so long. His patience finally runs out and He says, “Fine, you didn’t want to accept me, so I’ll let you believe whatever you want.”
Is it so hard to believe that the world could be deceived into believing that aliens abducted millions of people? How else are they going to explain it?
Heck, Francis Crick—co-discoverer of the DNA molecule—couldn’t get over science’s inability to explain the origins of life, so he theorized that extraterrestrials could have implanted earth with the first living molecules. Even Richard Dawkins, Mr. Head-Honcho New Atheist, seems open to the possibility:
Don’t believe the lie. If we do indeed get Raptured up pre-Tribulation, the rest of you remaining here hold fast to the truth.
One of Satan’s favorite tools is to take something that is true and wonderful and twist it ever so slightly to achieve his ends. Because the lie maintains the outward appearance of truth, people get sucked in easily and led to their own destruction.
I believe Islam is like that. It took a lot of the surface-level ideas from Christianity and the Bible, and altered them just enough to make the new lie convincing but deadly. Jesus was a powerful prophet who did miracles, but He is not the son of God (Islam claims). Jesus was captured and sentenced to death, but never was actually crucified. God made Adam and Eve, but not in His own image. Jesus Christ is coming back to rule the earth…but not alone.
Muslims claim someone will rule before Jesus Christ, and then alongside Him. This person is called the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam.
How long will this Mahdi reign? Interpretations vary somewhat, but the most prevalent view is seven years.
Do we know of anyone else the Bible tells us will reign for seven years? That’s right, the Antichrist.
It is expected that Muslims will flock to this leader, thinking him to be their Mahdi—their prophesied redeemer. (Likewise, Jews will think it is their messiah—a powerful political leader—finally come to rule the world…at least for the first 3 1/2 years.)
What are some characteristics of this Mahdi?
Well, here are a pertinent few, according to Islam:
– He will fill the world with justice and fairness at a time when the world will be filled with oppression, which is war and calamities.
– He will rule for seven years as a fore-runner to Jesus’ Islamic Rule.
– His face shall shine upon the surface of the Moon. (See a video about a supposed Imam sighting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXpScktgvPE. Notice how they think he is a being of light.)
What do we know of the Antichrist from Bible prophecy?
– He will bring unity to the world in a time of war, famine, earthquakes, and economic distress…before demanding worship and dooming his followers to hell.
– He will rule the earth for seven years at a time called the Tribulation. Afterward, Jesus will come down to conquer.
– If the Antichrist is anything like his partner/boss, Satan, he will portray himself to be a wonderful person, even a being of light. Satan becomes an “angel of light” to deceive people (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Talk about fishy business here. It’s becoming incredibly obvious that Satan is going to use the fastest growing religion of Islam to achieve his ends. Very clever you are, Satan, but some of us are onto you.
(Holy Spirit protect me!)
“Spiritual warfare is real, guys.” These are the words of a personal friend of mine, who saw firsthand an exorcism taking place during a missions trip. This guy is not a “superstitious,” imaginative, or emotional person. In fact, he’s one of the most logical and clear-thinking people I know. But even he couldn’t deny the reality of spiritual warfare in our modern times.
That got me to thinking and researching. Scripture references abound, but I hope you’ll forgive me if I just go ahead and write what I know. If you want verses for any particular point, please request it in the comment section. (This is my way of saving time when I don’t have a lot, but I still want to post something.) A lot of these points were made by Mark Driscoll anyway in his sermons, so check them out when you have time.
First and foremost…
Not every evil is (directly) from the Devil.
True, he may have been the first to tempt Adam and Eve, but Satan is not the only thing we’re competing against. We also have our own flesh to deal with, which is full of sinful desires. The world is currently Satan’s domain, and he already has a lot of systems in place that we have to guard against. The Bible tells us that Satan is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, 32).
He doesn’t have to personally attack you or even send a demon to do it. A lot of temptation and deception is already in place, whether internally in our flesh or externally in the world.
Satan is a created being who fell from glory.
Some people like to portray it like an epic rivalry between God and Satan, but this is far from the truth. There is the Creator, and there are the created. Angels and humans are both among the created, and Satan is a fallen angel. By definition, that makes him clearly inferior to God.
While there is some speculation that Satan was the leader of praise and worship in heaven (there are mentions of musical instruments with him), we can’t be 100% sure. What we do know is that Satan—in his original sin of pride—rebelled against God and took a legion of angels with him. They were all cast out of heaven, and are allowed to remain for a time before God’s sovereign plan to destroy Satan and his demons once and for all.
Satan is powerful, but very limited.
Satan is undoubtedly gifted in many ways. His greatest skill is tempting through lies and deception. He’s not called the “Father of lies” for nothing.
Notably absent from his repertoire, however, are God’s attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Satan cannot create or do anything outside of the restrictions that God has in place. Satan also does not know everything. He’s keenly aware of much of the past and present, and he also has plans for his future. But he cannot accurately predict anything beyond his own actions and perhaps what is already written in the Bible. (Yes, Satan knows the Bible, though I wonder sometimes whether he’s able to read Revelation.)
Please note that Satan is extremely intelligent and persuasive. Don’t think for a second that Satan isn’t smarter than you or me. He’s not only a higher being than us, but he’s had all of human history to practice his deception. In fact, even true believers are susceptible to his lies unless they are constantly on guard with the Holy Spirit. But we’ll get to that kind of stuff in a bit…
Finally, Satan is only one being. Unlike God, he can only be in one place and attack one person at a time. But he does have a legion of fallen angels (demons) to do his bidding…
Satan is extremely attractive (and prideful).
The Bible describes Satan as being perfect in appearance, fine like the most precious jewels. This contributed greatly to his pride and probably to his appeal. He was so appealing, in fact, that he somehow convinced other angels to follow him away from God’s favor.
Now, the Bible doesn’t really go into detail about all the happenings in heaven and the fall of Satan. Perhaps there was some kind of war, and maybe there wasn’t. I’m sure there’s a LOT more to the story than we will ever know (in this life, anyway).
There are at least 50 million demons, but maybe more.
It is written—or strongly implied—that Satan convinced a third of the angels to leave with him. Considering that in other parts of the scripture, John has a vision of 100 million angels in heaven worshiping God, that means there are at least 50 million demons (x/(100+x) = 1/3). There may be more, considering how many other angels were not present in that vision.
So, if there are over 6 billion people in the world, chances are that a demon is NOT attacking a particular individual. The demons, perhaps, can only attack about 1% of the population at once. Strategically, they are probably focused in on prominent people, whether political leaders, celebrities, or even spiritual threats to their agenda.
Spiritual warfare is very much about tiers and rank.
This isn’t a Rocky type of story, where the underdog can win with sheer will and scrappiness. It appears that the stronger being—whether angel or demon—always wins. So if a person is demonically possessed, it will take a stronger angel to drive it out. In Daniel 10, we see an angel struggling to beat a stronger demon, so he has to get the help of the archangel Michael (who is “the great prince who protects”).
Demons can influence everyone, but they can only possess nonbelievers.
In the Bible, you see numerous instances of true believers being influenced by demons, so we know that it’s possible. Heck, we even see Satan trying to tempt Jesus himself (or attacking godly men like Job).
One thing demons cannot do, however, is possess true Christians. Why is this? Because believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He resides inside of us, and no spiritual being is greater.
If I had to break it down into tiers, it goes simply like this:
“S” rank (untouchable): Holy Spirit
“A” rank: Archangels, Satan
Lower ranks: Officers all the way down to lesser demons
Demons are not to be trifled with.
Even if we are true believers, we must proceed with caution when it comes to dealing with the spiritual realm. We need to constantly invoke the protection and might of the Holy Spirit. If we go into the situation with bravado—and dangerously, pride—then we might be setting things up for disastrous results. Demons can possess someone you might be trying to help and endow them with supernatural strength, strange voices, suicidal urges, and other bizarre influences. You don’t want them to harm themselves or you in the process.
Satan knows what he’s doing.
When Satan was tempting Jesus, how did he do it? Did he tell Jesus something like, “Come on, man, let us cut ourselves, shriek, and jump up and down naked while we pull out our hair”?
No, he knew Jesus would see right through him in a second. Instead, he actually used scripture in his futile attempt to tempt Jesus. He misinterpreted passages and took things out of context, but Jesus knew God’s word better to counter it. (Of course, there was no chance Satan would have succeeded, even though Jesus was in the form of a man, but that didn’t keep him from trying.)
Also, in 2 Corinthians 11:14, it tells us that Satan transforms himself into an “angel of light.” He’s not red with horns and a pitchfork, but rather, he uses his attractiveness to fool the unsuspecting. He might borrow from scripture (and slightly distort things) or even use half-truths to confuse those who don’t have the discernment bestowed by the Holy Spirit.
God can use bad things, like pain and suffering, to bring about a greater good. Satan does the opposite: he can use peace, tolerance, and prosperity to achieve his evil goals. He can even use a beneficial thing like science to convince people of error.
False teachers and false religions are tools of the Devil.
As a Christian, it might seem easy to spot false religions. Increasingly, however, the true gospel is becoming compromised to the point where culture and ulterior motives seep in and distort the message.
The Bible warns us of false teachers all the time. Again, do you think that Satan is going to have false teachers preaching, “Worship the devil! Kill your family and slaughter the innocent!”? No, of course not. He knows that people are not THAT stupid. Instead, he’ll slightly alter God’s word, and like a ship sailing a couple degrees off course, we’ll end up completely in the wrong destination.
Spiritual warfare is not outwardly prevalent in America.
You’re probably thinking that outward spiritual warfare doesn’t seem to happen often here in America, and you’re right. It’s somewhat rare. You won’t see many demon possessions or exorcisms taking place around the corner.
But why is this? Well, like I mentioned before, there are a limited number of demons Satan has at his disposal, so he can’t attack everybody. More importantly, Satan only pays direct attention to those who are a threat to his kingdom. And frankly, America is already killing itself spiritually. Satan doesn’t need to bother sending many of his limited troops to attack us directly.
Many liken American Christianity to the church in Laodicea (in Revelation 3), and sadly, that is the ONLY church addressed that didn’t have a single positive quality to it. The other six churches had at least one good aspect, but not Laodicea. To be fair, I’m sure there exist some pockets of “Philadelphia”-type groups or churches who resemble Ephesus (some good), but overall, Laodicea is the model for American Christianity. We are rich and lukewarm, and we don’t even know how lost we are.
One type of church that clearly doesn’t exist in America is Smyrna—the faithful and persecuted church—which was blameless in Jesus’ eyes. That probably exists only in third-world countries or places where it’s difficult and dangerous to be a Christian. They have so much blessing in store for them…
As mentioned earlier, I do believe that Satan targets a few prominent people, whether public figures or celebrities, and they’ll do most of the work for him. But the bottom line is that much of America already has the gun in its own mouth (as Mark Driscoll poignantly illustrates). Why waste precious bullets?
Satan doesn’t want Christians to be reading Revelation.
Revelation, tellingly, is the only book in the Bible that explicitly promises a blessing to those who read it and take it in. However, one of the enemy’s great victories over us is that he has convinced Christians to stay away from this book. It’s “scary,” “impossible to understand,” and “unnecessary” to know as believers. Or at least that’s what people have come to believe. In fact, a faithful brother of mine recently told me that a pastor got fired immediately after preaching once on Revelation. Can you see Satan grinning from ear to ear?
Think about it. If you were Satan, would you want people knowing your future plans and knowing what to look out for? Would you want them to read about your imminent defeat and utter humiliation, being shackled by a common angel? Wouldn’t it worry you that your plans would be thwarted, and wouldn’t your pride be wounded when people read of your hopeless campaign against the Almighty God?
I don’t know about you, but if Satan doesn’t want us to read something, that’s a pretty clear indication that I should be reading it more. I encourage all of you to study it faithfully and receive the blessings promised upon your lives. Plus, many believe we are in the last days, so it might be more relevant than you think to your everyday Christian walk.
The end times is the topic of my next post, but I hope I’m leaving you with something to think about for now.