Satan is the archenemy of God. Yet he is not equal to God in any way because he is a creation of God. He is a powerful angel, having formerly ministered in the very presence of God. Satan is not the red, devilish cartoon character with horns, a spiked tail, and pointy pitchfork. He is much more diabolical and deceiving than that.
Ezekiel 28:11-19 is a rebuke to the literal king of Tyre, but the prophecy extends to the ultimate power behind all evil, Satan himself. It says,
11 "Again the word of the LORD came to me saying,
12"Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,
"You had the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13"You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The ruby, the topaz and the diamond;
The beryl, the onyx and the jasper;
The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald;
And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,
Was in you.
On the day that you were created
They were prepared.
14"You were the anointed cherub who covers,
And I placed you there
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.
15"You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created
Until unrighteousness was found in you.
16"By the abundance of your trade
You were internally filled with violence,
And you sinned;
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God.
And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the stones of fire.
17"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor
I cast you to the ground;
I put you before kings,
That they may see you.
18"By the multitude of your iniquities,
In the unrighteousness of your trade
You profaned your sanctuaries.
Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you;
It has consumed you,
And I have turned you to ashes on the earth
In the eyes of all who see you.
19"All who know you among the peoples
Are appalled at you;
You have become terrified
And you will cease to be forever."'"
We get a great deal of insight into who Satan is from this passage. Here is what we learn:
- Satan was given incredible wisdom. Thus, it ought to be no surprise to us that his extreme shrewdness gone bad is the source of extremely intricate lies and elaborate temptations, each tailor-made for each individual. It should also give us insight as to why so much of the world is deceived by him and living in darkness in ways unpleasing to God. He is the ultimate villain (v. 12).
- Satan is a created being. Thus his power is limited. Since God created Him, God can (and will) also destroy him. This also shows us that God had a plan in allowing him to exist in the first place, knowing that he would sin and turn against him (v. 13).
- Satan was a high ranking angel having the very fullness of beauty. All of the precious stones are said to have been his coverings. Looking at him must have been as awe-striking as looking at a perfect, colorless diamond or at a breathtaking nature scene. Gold, it is said, was the very workmanship of what held him together. We see great strength implied in the beauty as well (v. 11-13).
- Satan was given a very special place of ministry and service right up close to God’s very presence. Like the cherubs spoken of in the Old Testament as being those which were adjacent to the mercy seat and within the inner sanctuary of the temple (Exodus 25:18-22), Satan also was a cherub adjacent to the presence of the perfect holiness of God. While we learn in the Old Testament that any man who saw the face of God would die, Satan was right in God’s throne room. Perhaps it was God’s design that the foremost of His creation, Lucifer (Satan’s other name meaning “shining one”) would be that which would most proficiently and profoundly reflect God’s glory and image. His makeup in the likeness of all of the precious stones would perfectly reflect, refract, and demonstrate all of the wonders of God, who has revealed Himself as being Light. As a diamond sparkles and a prism reveals the full spectrum of colors, so Lucifer would show forth God’s incredible wonder and beauty more perfectly than any other created being at that time (v. 14).
- Satan was blameless and perfectly righteous initially. This is why He could stand and minister in the Almighty’s very presence. He was the lead cherub, the model for all of the other angels (v. 15).
- Satan’s downfall was pride and jealousy. In Isaiah 14:14 we read that he wanted to be “like the Most High.” He began to envy God’s authority and power. After all, he was quite wise and powerful and beautiful himself. This desire to move from number two to number one was what forced God to throw him out of heaven with one third of the angels that he tricked into following him (Revelation 12:4). These fallen angels are referred to as demons, the helpers and ministers of Satan. Satan is not everywhere at one time like God, so he must rely on his helpers. That he was able to trick one third of the angels who had it made being in heaven is quite a testimony to his power of deceit and trickery. They now are fallen with no hope of redemption and destined, like Satan, for eternity in a fiery hell (Revelation 20:10) (v. 16-17).
- Satan is the father of iniquities. All that is vile and unrighteous is what he stands for and promotes vigorously. Never does he take a break from corruption, pollution, trickery, lying, and deception. Anything that is not of God or for God is of and for Satan (Mark 9:40) (v. 17).
- His doom is sure, and there is nothing he can do to stop it (v. 18).
- Those who recognize and acknowledge Satan for who he really is are repulsed by him. For the Christian, he is our enemy. We hate him and everything he does and everything he stands for. His work is always against us. He tries to bring us down and attack our faith. Satan’s work is destruction, division, and evil. To this we are appalled (v. 19).
What are his primary techniques and strategies?
Ephesians 6:11-12 makes it clear that we battle Satan and his forces. It says, “Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Satan, like a general of a vast and powerful army, has his troops stationed everywhere, working 24-7 to disarm, distract, deceive, divide, and destroy the people of God. This is why we, like soldiers of the cross, must put on the armor of Christ so that we can resist him. Faith guards our heart and mind, the assurance of salvation protects us from despair, and truth guards our path so that we are able to continue to attack with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Our mission is to declare the gospel of Christ, and we have laced up our shoes so that we can take it to the world (Ephesians 6:10-17). Above all, we must guard our heart for righteousness' sake. When we sin, we become powerless and useless to the kingdom.
Since this enemy is prowling, seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8), we need to be alert, prepared to encounter his schemes and being prepared to stand against them. Satan’s techniques and strategies are limitless because he is constantly crafting new ones specifically for each one of us and specifically for our current state of being. Let’s examine three categories of his attacks and how to endure and resist them: lying, deceiving, and oppressing.
In John 8:44, Jesus says to the self-righteous religious leaders of the day, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.”
We can be sure that Satan will never tell us the truth. He may use the truth of the Bible but apply it incorrectly or misinterpret it. He is the ultimate liar, the best and most creative. Every component of the gospel he will attack and deny in an effort to keep us from God. But the lying doesn’t stop after we do find God. He will tell us that God will love us only if we behave good. He will draw attention to our weaknesses and insufficiencies and tell us that Christ cannot really forgive those or will not help us overcome them. He will try to get us stuck in the mire of sin.
His objective in lying is to make the truth look like error and the error look like truth. For example, if he can make the church live in sin and look like hypocrites and if he can make the world look civilized and moral, very few will be able to find the truth because truth looks like error and error looks like truth. He will also try to make sin look good and justified and following God look overly difficult or impossible.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We must identify Satan’s lies and replace them with the truth of God’s Word. We need to know the Word, or we will believe falsehood.
Revelation 20:1-3 says, “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”
This passage clearly teaches that the work of Satan is to deceive. Deception is when we are doing the will of Satan, and we are unaware of it. It is not a deception to steal when the person knows stealing is wrong. It is when a person really believes that evolution is true because the textbook says it is. He never hears the truth and is led astray by those craftier and more deceived than he.
Satan does not only deceive individuals but nations. A whole nation can act sinfully and be caught up in following an evil leader. Obvious examples would include Germany following Hitler and the Soviet Union following Stalin. In the last days, Satan will deceive most nations, but he will be destroyed. First, his earthly schemes will be thwarted by Christ, and then he will be bound for a thousand years. After that time he will be allowed to deceive for awhile, only to be thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone himself. This is where the cartoons and comic strips lie to us again. Satan will not be the boss of hell tormenting the visitors. He will be in hell himself. All of those who do not turn to Christ are his children and will burn with their father, the devil.
The really sad part about deception is that some who mix with the church of Jesus Christ are such people. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They talk big and know the Bible well, but the result of their actions and labor is meaningless discussion, stealing of money or dignity, and division. But the difficulty in identifying them is that they disguise themselves as one of us. Look at 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.” Remember that Satan was created without sin. He knows how to play the role of righteousness and so do his followers.
1 Timothy 6:3-6 is a guidebook for identifying deceivers. Satan is invisible so we do not often sense his trickery. But we can see his tangible attacks and strategies. The passage says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” Here are the characteristics of false teachers in list form:
Advocate a different doctrine (get involved in groups, studies, books, trends, and activities that sound biblical but really are far from the truth; this tends to be a sort of subculture which places itself above other Christians as having figured out some sort of hidden revelation or secret truth)
Does not agree with sound words (when confronted with Biblical thinking, there is a refusal to listen to what the Bible has to say because a judgment has already been made that everybody else is wrong and out to get them and their real truth)
Inability to see how the erroneous thinking is impacting their efforts to live in a godly manner (the deviant thinking creates enormous pride and a severe lack of interest in seeking reconciliation)
Conceited and understanding nothing (this person gets extremely proud and self-righteous; thinking they are wise, they become fools; even sound teaching begins to pass by their heart and mind)
Morbid interest in controversies and meaningless debates (these people come up with questions that sound intelligent, truth-seeking, and humble, but which are really meant to make themselves look good; the questions distract from what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach and much precious time is wasted in meaningless discussion about specific words, terms, and insignificant issues)
Create within the body of Christ envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth (the result is division and a lack of peace and order; by now many people are off course and not pursuing discipleship and evangelism but some other irrelevant idea; the deceivers who have the depraved mind pull those who lack a strong biblical foundation down into sin and less important matters; those who already are depraved because of some sin enslavement are especially vulnerable)
Anyone who teaches a false doctrine about Christ and is unwilling to repent ought to be publicly denounced and removed from the church (Revelation 2:20).
Understanding deception is so important for any believer, but especially for the new believer. Satan’s temptations are not always obvious. Sometimes we fall into them without realizing it. We must recognize the fruit of deceivers and not be taken by them.
Oppression is a falling head over heels into deception and believing a high quantity of Satan’s lies. It is a bombardment of difficulties, lies, temptations, deceptions, and even physical problems. It is an all out attack on a person, trying to bury them before they can maneuver their way out. It is like blitzing in football. You send several extra defenders at the quarterback so he is buried under a pile of bodies before he can even react to throw or hand off the ball. Satan blitzes us as well.
In the story of Job in the Old Testament, Satan approaches God, and God points out that He has a faithful and righteous follower in Job. Job is very well off, prosperous in every way. Satan, with God’s permission, takes all of that away in an effort to see if Job will still follow God. He believes that Job is only a follower of God because God has blessed him. Job still follows God even after the loss of all of his children and all of his possessions. God then allows Satan to go after Job himself, afflicting his health to a point of agony and near death. Satan tries to deceive Job through Job’s friends who tell him that he is afflicted because he has sinned. Job knows that he is blameless before God, but even his friends betray him. Yet he serves God. In the end God Job learns a valuable lesson that God is in charge and must be trusted no matter what. God, being gracious, does give Job back more than what he had had previously. The point is that Job was oppressed. All that he had he lost in a series of rapidly successive catastrophic events.
This happens to people today in different forms. A job is lost. A spouse’s health deteriorates. A child rebels or runs away. The house burns down. The spouse leaves. The stock market crashes. The needed money for prescribed drugs is gone. These types of things happen, and many times all at once. This is Satan’s move to discourage and bury the believer before he can rationally respond to the situation and place his faith in God. Many people do not persevere through such a barrage of difficult events. But God is always there and will carry us through. We have to trust Him with a relentless trust perhaps even to the point of death.
Honoring God through a period of oppression is hugely glorifying to Him. God is pleased by our faith in His goodness and such faith may have to go against all that our brain tells us in such times is true about God. We must believe what His Word says and trust Him that He knows better than we do what is best for us. God is love, and all that comes into our lives will of necessity be the kindest and wisest and best thing for us because of God’s love.
Response to Evil
So where does this leave us? It leaves us with the knowledge that our faith will be under attack. It leaves us hopefully more equipped to deal with Satan’s strategies and temptations. And it should give us comfort that we have a God who can be trusted. Three things to remember to encourage ourselves amidst the daily battles:
- God will never tempt us.
James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
- God will give us the strength to resist, endure, and escape temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”
- God will reward us for persevering under trial.
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
Being tried and tested by God so that we can give Him glory and so that we can see what we are made of is one of God’s ways to help us grow to become more like Christ. Often in God’s trials, God will allow Satan to tempt us to give up or give in along the way. But we must stand firm. As James 1:2-4 which says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Satan and his demons hate man because God loves man. Unsaved man is prisoner to Satan (2 Timothy 2:26), and saved man can be tempted, oppressed, and deceived by Satan. Yet we believe that God is faithful and provides a way of escape from temptation, and we believe that God is in complete control and totally sovereign. Satan can only do what God allows. Christ gives us the victory to resist the devil and to ward off his attacks, so we need not fear him or be preoccupied with him or with demons. We need to be aware that we fight a spiritual battle ultimately, and as such we must fight with the Word of God, prayer, and appropriating the strength and blood of Christ.