We live in a divided world. I’m speaking about a division between believers and unbelievers, children of God and children of the devil. Jesus gave an illustration of this when He told the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13:24-30). Afterwards, when Jesus was alone with His disciples, they asked for an explanation of the parable (Matt 13:36), and Jesus said:
The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matt 13:37-43).
In this revelation we understand: 1) God the Son has sown good seed in the world, which are believers, 2) Satan has sown weeds, which are unbelievers, 3) both live side by side until Christ returns at the end of the age, 4) at which time Jesus will send forth His angels to separate out all unbelievers, 5) which unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, and 6) believers will enter into the millennial kingdom. We have here a picture of the current state of the world which consists of believers and unbelievers. The current state ends at the return of Christ when He renders judgment upon unbelievers and establishes His earthly kingdom.
For the present time, Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19). We are all born under “the dominion of Satan” (Act 26:18), into his “domain of darkness” (Col 1:13). Our spiritual state changes at the time we turn to Christ and trust Him as Savior (1 Cor 15:3-4). At the moment of faith in Christ, we become “children of God” (John 1:12), are transferred to the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13), forgiven all our sins (Eph 1:7), given eternal life (John 10:28), the gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17; Phil 3:9), and the power to live holy (Rom 6:11-14). And, it is God’s will that we advance to spiritual maturity (Heb 6:1; Eph 4:11-13; 1 Pet 2:2), and serve as His ambassadors to others (2 Cor 5:20).
Are Christians called to make the world a better place?
As Christians, our primary focus is evangelism and discipleship (Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19-20), not the reformation of society. Christians are to be good and do good (Gal 6:9-10; Eph 2:10; Tit 2:11-14), and in this way, society is better as a result. However, the reality is we live in a fallen world that is currently under Satan’s limited rule, and God sovereignly permits this for a time. True good is connected with God and His Word, and His good is executed by those who walk according to His directives. But there are many who reject God and follow Satan’s world-system, which system is always pressuring the Christian to conform (Rom 12:1-2). A permanent world-fix will not occur until Christ returns and puts down all rebellion, both satanic and human (Rev 19:11-21; 20:1-3). Those who are biblically minded live in this reality. As a result, our hope is never in this world; rather, we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit 2:13). We are looking forward to the time when Christ raptures us from this world to heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18). This will be followed by seven years of Tribulation in which God will judge Satan’s world and those who abide by his philosophies and values (see Revelation chapters 6-19). Afterwards, Christ will rule the world for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-7), and shortly after that, God will destroy the current heavens and earth and create a new heavens and earth. This is what Peter is referring to when he says, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Isa 65:17; Rev 21:1). Our present and future hope is in God and what He will accomplish, and not in anything this world has to offer. As Christians, we are “not of the world” (John 17:14; cf. 1 John 4:4-5), though it’s God’s will that we continue to live in it (John 17:15), and to serve “as lights in the world” (Phi 2:15), that others might know the gospel of grace and learn His Word and walk by faith. This understanding is shaped by God’s Word, which determines my worldview.
How are we to see ourselves in this present world? In the dispensation of the church age, we understand people are either in Adam or in Christ (1 Cor 15:21-22). Everyone is originally born in Adam (Rom 5:12), but those who have trusted in Jesus as Savior are now identified as being in Christ (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Co 5:17; Rom 8:1; Gal 3:28; Eph 1:3). This twofold division will exist until Christ returns. Furthermore, we are never going to fix the devil or the world-system he’s created. Because the majority of people in this world will choose the broad path of destruction that leads away from Christ (Matt 7:13-14), Satan and his purposes will predominate, and Christians will be outsiders. And being children of God, we are told the world will be a hostile place (John 15:19; 1 John 3:13). There will always be haters. Until Christ returns, Satan will control the majority, and these will be hostile to Christians who walk according to God’s truth and love.
How should we respond to the world? The challenge for us as Christians is not to let the bullies of this world intimidate us into silence or inaction. And, of course, we must be careful not to become bitter, fearful, or hateful like those who attack us. The Bible teaches us to love those who hate us (Matt 5:44-45; Rom 12:14, 17-21), and we are to be kind, patient, and gentle (2 Tim 2:24-26; cf. Eph 4:1-2; Col 3:13-14). What we need is courage. Courage that is loving, kind, and faithful to share the gospel of grace and to speak biblical truth. The hope is that those who are positive to God can be rescued from Satan’s domain of darkness. We also live in the reality that God’s plans will advance. He will win. His future kingdom on earth will come to pass. Christ will return. Jesus will put down all forms of rebellion—both satanic and human—and will rule this world with perfect righteousness and justice. But until then, we must continue to learn and live God’s Word and fight the good fight. We are to live by faith (Heb 10:38; 11:6), share the gospel of grace (1 Cor 15:3-4), disciple others (Matt 28:19-20), be good and do good (Gal 6:9-10; Tit 2:11-14), and look forward to the return of Christ at the rapture (Tit 2:13; cf. John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18).
The Bible reveals that Satan is the enemy of God and he attacks His people. Peter warns us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). In his efforts, Satan has strategies he sets forth to accomplish his purposes. A strategy is a plan of action one creates and employs in order to achieve an objective. Satan’s major objective is to make himself like God and rule in His place (Isa 14:12-14). But there is only one sovereign God (Isa 45:5-6), and He advances His own agenda, which cannot fail because He cannot fail. However, Satan’s desire, like his reasoning, has been corrupted by his pride (Ezek 28:17). Satan has been advancing his agenda for millennia and has become very knowledgeable and skilled in what works. Charles Ryrie states:
By his very longevity Satan has acquired a breadth and depth of experience which he matches against the limited knowledge of man. He has observed other believers in every conceivable situation, thus enabling him to predict with accuracy how we will respond to circumstances. Although Satan is not omniscient, his wide experience and observation of man throughout his entire history on earth give him knowledge which is far superior to anything any man could have.
Satan attacks God’s people in order to hinder spiritual growth and ministry. Christians who are advancing spiritually and engaging in effective ministry pose a threat to Satan’s agenda. Naturally, he will oppose our efforts and try to hinder us. Because Satan cannot touch God Himself, he goes after His people, seeking to frustrate our efforts as best he can. Sometimes he’s permitted to have his way. For example, Paul wrote, “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us” (1 Th 2:17-18). We’re not sure why Satan was permitted to hinder Paul and his companions. Though frustrated, Paul continued to seek the Lord and to minister where an open door presented itself (Acts 14:27; Rev 3:8). But an open door of ministry does not mean there will be no opposition. In fact, Christian ministry often means there will adversaries, as Paul wrote, “I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor 16:8-9). Thomas Constable states:
We know that Satan is behind all of our temptations having received permission to assail us from God (e.g., Job 1–2). He uses the world system and our flesh (sinful nature) as his tools. He also attacks us directly himself and through his angelic emissaries. God has given us specific instruction in Scripture about how to combat these attacks. We are to resist the devil (1 Pet 5:8–9), flee the temptations of the world system (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; 1 John 2:15–17), and deny the flesh (Rom 6:12–13; 7:18–24; 8:13)…Satan has consistently aimed his personal attacks at getting people to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey the revealed will of God (cf. Gen 3:1-7; Matt 4:1-11). The world system seeks to get people to believe that they do not need God but can get along very well without Him. The flesh tempts us to think that we can find satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment on the physical, material level of life alone.
Spiritual advance means opposition, but nothing more or beyond what God permits. The Christian who learns God’s Word and lives by faith will have the greatest impact for God in this world. Living by faith means we learn God’s Word and consciously trust Him as we apply it to our lives (Rom 10:17; Heb 10:38; 11:6). God’s Word is powerful (Isa 55:7-11; Jer 23:29; Heb 4:12), transformative (Psa 119:9-11; John 17:17), and moves the hearts of those who are positive to God (Luke 24:27, 32). Living by faith is the basis for renovating our thinking (Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 10:3-5), and advancing to spiritual maturity (Eph 4:11-15; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18).
The purpose of this study is to learn how Satan attacks, so that we “will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). Our enemy, the devil, is a brilliant commander who has manufactured schemes or strategies (μεθοδεία methodeia) he employs against the human race, and God’s people in particular. The same term—μεθοδεία methodeia—is used of false teachers who engage “in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14), in order to trap immature Christians with false doctrine. William MacDonald states, “The devil has various stratagems—discouragement, frustration, confusion, moral failure, and doctrinal error. He knows our weakest point and aims for it. If he cannot disable us by one method, he will try for another.” Satan has many demons and carnally minded people on his side, and he fights dirty. As Christians, we don’t go hunting for the devil; rather, we stand firm (ἵστημι histemi) against his attacks when he comes against us.
Knowing Satan’s strategies enables us to identify an attack and to defend ourselves by taking up the armor of God. Learning God’s Word and living by faith is the key to victory. Wiersbe states, “Everybody in this world lives by faith. The difference between the Christian and the unconverted person is not the fact of faith, but the object of faith. The unsaved person trusts himself and other humans; the Christian trusts God. It is your faith in God that is the secret of victory and ministry.”
First, Satan promotes sinful pride. Sinful pride tempts us to think we don’t need God, believing we can operate independently of the Lord, not obeying His Word or seeking Him in prayer. God hates pride. Pride was the sin that brought Lucifer down, as we are told of him, “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; and you corrupted your wisdom on account of your splendor” (Ezek 28:17 NET). The angel, Lucifer, became Satan when he set his will against the will of God (Isa 14:12-14). Satan takes every opportunity he can to promote sinful pride in others. Solomon wrote, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD” (Pro 16:5a), and “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Pro 16:18). Uzziah was king of Judah and God had blessed him greatly. But Scripture tells us, “when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God” (2 Ch 26:16a). When David was king, we are told, “Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel” (1 Ch 21:1). From the divine perspective, we know God was angry with Israel because of some unnamed sin (2 Sam 24:1), and He permitted Satan to have his way so that the nation might be judged and humbled. Satan was glad to initiate this attack, and David’s pride was the open door for national disaster (1 Ch 21:2-7). Afterwards, David humbled himself before the Lord (1 Ch 21:8-15), demonstrating humility by obedience and sacrifice (1 Ch 21:16-30). Another example of pride is seen in Nebuchadnezzar, who was a great king, but like others, sought to live independently of God. God came to him in a dream (Dan 4:1-18), which Daniel interpreted as a revelation about the king’s downfall if he did not humble himself (Dan 4:19-27). The dream was intended to help Nebuchadnezzar realize “that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Dan 4:25; cf. Dan 2:21). God’s revelation was a warning not to steal His glory. But Nebuchadnezzar’s pride kept him from accepting God’s message, and twelve months later (Dan 4:29), the king said to himself, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30). Afterwards, God judged him with a mental disorder that drove him to live like an animal for seven years (Dan 4:31-33). After his period of suffering, Nebuchadnezzar obtained humility and recognized God’s sovereignty, and he praised Him as He deserved (Dan 4:34-37). Unfortunately, not everyone responds to God’s corrective suffering, and there are many who die in their pride (Rev 9:20-21; 16:9-11). Humility is what God wants in His people. Humility is a lowliness of mind in which we realize our impoverished condition to function apart from God, His provision and His power (2 Cor 12:7-10). The humble person seeks God and His will above all else and relies on Him in everything, praising Him for His goodness.
Second, Satan is a liar. Jesus said of Satan, “Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). Satan’s lying influence is so great that he “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). People lie for various reasons (i.e., to avoid conflict, avoid consequences, to promote self, etc.). Satan, like many people, lies as a means of controlling others and circumstances. The lie is a powerplay. It also destroys trust. Satan lied to Eve and deceived her to eat the forbidden fruit, and she gave some to Adam as well (Gen 3:1-7). Satan’s lie allowed him to gain control of the world (Luke 4:6; 1 John 5:19). Satan tried his lies with Jesus and failed (Matt 4:1-11). Satan sends false teachers into churches to cause deception and disruption (Matt 13:38-39; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Cor 11:4, 12-15; 2 Pet 2:1). John tells us, “Many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Through his false teachers Satan introduces “doctrines of demons” among God’s people (1 Tim 4:1). Paul was concerned about the Christians at Corinth that they would fall prey to Satan’s falsehoods and wrote to them, saying, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Several things are noteworthy about Paul’s statement. First, he treats the account between Satan and Eve as an actual historical event, not myth (as liberal theologians do). Second, he shows the mind is the battleground where Satan often attacks. Third, Satan’s intention was to lead the Christians away from “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” The immediate danger in Corinth was the Satan-supported false teachers who came with false messages (2 Cor 11:4; 12-15). Satan will use anything as an allurement to draw us away from our devotion to Christ, even things such as family, friends, a career, an education, entertainment, suffering, prosperity, etc. Satan’s lies are intended to warp our perception of reality and get us to turn from God and His will. Knowing God’s Word helps us identify Satan’s lies. Applying God’s Word by faith enables us to resist Satan’s attacks. The Christian mind is the battleground, and “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” (2 Cor 10:5). Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Third, Satan promotes uncontrolled anger. Paul wrote, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:26-27). By itself, anger is not sinful. Even God gets angry (Num 25:4; Deut 9:8, 20; Jer 4:8). Human anger is a natural response to an injustice, real or imagined. We get angry because we feel someone has wronged us, and the personal scales of justice need to be corrected. Ideally, this happens when the offender comes and apologizes and seeks forgiveness, or makes restitution for damage. However, we cannot always control other people’s thoughts, words, or actions, but we can control how we respond. Paul tells us not to let anger last beyond the day. If we let anger fester, then by our choice we give the devil an opportunity to turn it into something greater, which can enslave us in bitterness. Solomon wrote, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city (Pro 16:32), and “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Pro 19:11). James said, “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does achieve the righteousness of God” (Jam 1:19-20). Harold Hoehner comments:
While believers may at times be legitimately angry (with righteous anger against sin; cf. John 2:13–16), they are not to sin. The way to prevent such sin is to “keep short accounts,” dealing with the anger before the sun goes down. The reason is that the devil would like to intensify a Christian’s righteous anger against sin, causing it to become sin itself. This then gives the devil a foothold (lit., “a place”), an opportunity for leading that Christian into further sin. Then anger begins to control the believer rather than the believer controlling his anger.
Fourth, Satan uses suffering to pressure us to turn from God. Satan can, on occasion, afflict God’s people with suffering (Job 1:1-2:10; Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38); but this is only done with the Lord’s permission. Satan’s use of suffering is intended to get us to turn away from God, who is the source of life, goodness, and strength. Job is the classic example of a believer who was attacked by Satan (Job 1:1-2:10). Though Job suffered greatly, he understood his life was in God’s hands and he kept faith, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). And on another occasion he said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15a). Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Satan’s request was granted. But the Lord also told Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter did return to the Lord and was strengthened (John 21:15-17). The key for us as Christians is to trust in God’s love and goodness when we face Satan’s attacks against our flesh. This is a faith response not born of feelings or circumstances (Rom 5:3-5; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6; 4:12-13; cf. 1 Thess 5:16-18).
Fifth, Satan masquerades as a messenger of light. Satan was created as a beautiful cherub (Ezek 28:12-14), and he retains all his outward attractiveness. Inwardly he is prideful (Ezek 28:15-17), and this is part of what makes him dangerous. Satan uses his outward appearance as a disguise to deceive others, and many of his messengers do the same. Paul wrote, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:14-15). The Pharisees were satanic deceivers. They referred to themselves as God’s children, saying, “we have one father, God” (John 8:41b). But Jesus said of them, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44a). The Pharisees were very religious. They read the Scriptures, prayed, fasted, offered sacrifices, and spent much of their time at the temple. Jesus said they had “seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (Matt 23:2). This was because they coveted positions of power. Jesus said, they “tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matt 23:4), they “do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (Matt 23:5), and they “love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men” (Matt 23:6-7). But Jesus also revealed their true identity as “hypocrites” (Matt 23:13-15), “blind guides” (Matt 23:16-19), and those who “neglect justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt 23:23). Outwardly they look attractive, “but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (Matt 23:25), and are “like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt 23:27), and “outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt 23:28). Jesus established policy for His disciples when He told them on a previous occasion, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matt 15:14). He also warned them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 16:6), by which His disciples understood leaven to refer to “the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 16:12b). Knowing God’s Word helps us identify and avoid Satan’s beautiful messengers, who outwardly appear righteous, but twist Scripture and promote false doctrines.
Sixth, Satan empowers his false prophets to perform miracles in order to deceive. When Moses was executing God’s plagues upon Egypt, it is recorded that three times “the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts” (Ex 7:10-11; 7:21-22; 8:6-7). Moses warned the Israelites who were about to enter the land that they should guard themselves against false prophets and dreamers of dreams who arise and give them a “sign or wonder”, and then seek to lead them away from God (Deut 13:1-4). Jesus warned of “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt 24:24). And Paul spoke of the coming Antichrist, “whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Th 2:9-10). Those who know God’s Word and live by it will guard themselves against the deceiving power of false miracle workers.
Satan desires that we turn from God and His Word and live independently of Him. He promotes sinful pride, lies, uncontrolled anger, uses suffering to pressure God’s people, masquerades as a messenger of light, and empowers false teachers to perform miracles in order to deceive. Knowledge of God’s Word informs us about Satan’s strategies, and the humble believer who lives by faith will be able to stand when he attacks.
 Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotes are taken from the New American Standard Bible (The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
 Charles C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian life (Chicago Ill., Moody Press, 1994), 130.
 Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Eph 6:11.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1952.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Strategy of Satan: How to Detect and Defeat Him (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 95.
 Taking a census was permitted under the Mosaic Law (Ex 30:12); but God did not instruct David to do this thing, and David’s motivation was pride, so that he would have an idea about the military strength of his kingdom (1 Ch 21:5).
 Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 637.
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul set forth the Christian armor which, in many ways, is a picture of the healthy Christian life. It is something we intentionally put on and use to defend ourselves when we come under attack. The assaults ultimately come from Satan who has well developed strategies of warfare and demonic soldiers to command. Satan and his fallen angels knowingly and intentionally attack. They are behind every act of terror the world has ever known, they do not relent of their activities, and they are not reformable. In addition to these fallen angels, Satan also has useful idiots—unbelievers and carnal Christians—who assist him in his efforts. These people help make up Satan’s world-system that seeks to envelop and enslave everyone it can. Satan’s system is philosophical, social, political, economic, religious, and cultural. These are all things external to us, but which are intended to penetrate our thoughts and impact our values, speech and practices. Furthermore, Satan has an inside agent within every person, which is the sinful nature which naturally resonates with all that is sinful and prideful. Warren Wiersbe writes:
As Christians, we face three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph 2:1–3). “The world” refers to the system around us that is opposed to God, that caters to “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15–17). “Society apart from God” is a simple, but accurate, definition of “the world.” “The flesh” is the old nature that we inherited from Adam, a nature that is opposed to God and can do nothing spiritual to please God. By His death and resurrection, Christ overcame the world (John 16:33; Gal 6:14), and the flesh (Rom 6:1–6; Gal 2:20), and the devil (Eph 1:19–23). In other words, as believers, we do not fight for victory—we fight from victory! The Spirit of God enables us, by faith, to appropriate Christ’s victory for ourselves.
The apostle Paul addressed the subject of spiritual forces throughout his letter to the Christians living in Ephesus (Eph 1:21; 2:2; 3:10; 4:27). He then mentions the armor available to them—and us—toward the close of his epistle (Eph 6:10-17). Paul opens his section about our spiritual armor, writing, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10). The word Finally (Τοῦ λοιποῦ) pertains to closing matters about how to live consistently concerning their new life in Christ. There are dangers that will threaten their walk with the Lord, and these believers need a divine perspective of the world and a divine strength to live successfully in it. Harold Hoehner writes:
From Eph 4:1 to 6:9 Paul gives practical applications for the believers concerning how to live out their new position in Christ before both believers and unbelievers. Now, in his final section (6:10-20), he describes the continual warfare of wicked forces against believers and accordingly exhorts them to be strengthened in the Lord in order to be able to stand against the wicked schemes of the devil. The struggle of believers ultimately is not a human conflict but is a battle against wicked spiritual forces.
The Greek verb ἐνδυναμόω endunamoo, translated “be strong”, is a present passive imperative. The present tense relates to ongoing action, the passive voice means the subject receives what is provided, and the imperative mood means we are commanded to accept it. The prepositional phrase ἐν κυρίῳ en kurio, translated “in the Lord”, means that Jesus Himself is the sphere within which our strength is found. The strength is not in us. We are weak. It’s Him and His strength we need. We are to be strong “in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10b). William MacDonald states:
Every true child of God soon learns that the Christian life is a warfare. The hosts of Satan are committed to hinder and obstruct the work of Christ and to knock the individual soldier out of combat. The more effective a believer is for the Lord, the more he will experience the savage attacks of the enemy: the devil does not waste his ammunition on nominal Christians. In our own strength we are no match for the devil. So the first preparatory command is that we should be continually strengthened in the Lord and in the boundless resources of His might. God’s best soldiers are those who are conscious of their own weakness and ineffectiveness, and who rely solely on Him. “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27b). Our weakness commends itself to the power of His might.
Paul continues, saying, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). Put on translates the Greek verb ἐνδύω enduo which is an aorist middle imperative. The middle voice means we are to dress ourselves, thus acting in our own self-interest. The imperative mood means it’s a command that we can and should obey. The armor Paul described could refer to the armor God Himself wore as a warrior (Isa 11:5; 59:17); however, it was more likely drawn from the Roman guard that supervised his house arrest (Acts 26:29; 28:17; cf., Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Phil 1:7, 13; 2 Tim 1:8). Roman soldiers were seen most everywhere, so their attire would have been familiar to Paul’s audience. And just as a Roman soldier would not go into battle wearing only part of his armor, so the Christian must put on the full armor (πανοπλία panoplia) provided to him by God. Our enemy, the devil, is a brilliant commander who has manufactured schemes or strategies (μεθοδεία methodeia) he employs against the human race, and God’s people in particular. The same term—μεθοδεία methodeia—is used of false teachers who engage “in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14), in order to trap immature Christians with false doctrine. “The devil has various stratagems—discouragement, frustration, confusion, moral failure, and doctrinal error. He knows our weakest point and aims for it. If he cannot disable us by one method, he will try for another.” Satan has many demons and carnally minded people on his side, and he fights dirty. As Christians, we don’t go hunting for the devil; rather, we stand firm (ἵστημι histemi) against his attacks when he comes against us. This is accomplished by following God’s will. Thomas Constable writes:
From other Scripture we know that Satan is behind all of our temptations having received permission to assail us from God (e.g., Job 1–2). He uses the world system and our flesh (sinful nature) as his tools. He also attacks us directly himself and through his angelic emissaries. God has given us specific instruction in Scripture about how to combat these attacks. We are to resist the devil (1 Peter 5:8–9), flee the temptations of the world system (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; 1 John 2:15–17; 1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22), and deny the flesh (Rom 6:12–13; 7:18–24; 8:13). How do we know the source of a given temptation so we can respond to it appropriately? Satan has consistently aimed his personal attacks at getting people to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey the revealed will of God (cf. Gen 3; Matt 4). The world system seeks to get people to believe that they do not need God but can get along very well without Him (1 John 2). The flesh tempts us to think that we can find satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment on the physical, material level of life alone (Rom 7).
Paul continues, saying, “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” (Eph 6:12). Though we live in a physical world and interact with other people—both saved and lost—our ultimate struggle is against unseen spiritual forces. In this verse, Paul ransacks the Greek vocabulary for power-words to describe a definite group of demonic forces he calls “rulers…powers…world forces of this darkness…[and] spiritual forces of wickedness.” Warren Wiersbe writes:
This suggests a definite army of demonic creatures that assist Satan in his attacks against believers. The Apostle John hinted that one third of the angels fell with Satan when he rebelled against God (Rev 12:4), and Daniel wrote that Satan’s angels struggle against God’s angels for control of the affairs of nations (Dan 10:13–20). A spiritual battle is going on in this world, and in the sphere of “the heavenlies,” and you and I are a part of this battle. Knowing this makes “walking in victory” a vitally important thing to us—and to God.
It could be Paul’s classifications refer to ruling demonic forces with various degrees of authority over the world, such as Generals, Colonels, Majors, and so on, right down to frontline troops. The scope of their influence is global, and their general character is wicked. I think it can be said with certainty that these fallen angels are behind all sinful pleasures and pressures that entice or push people into conformity with Satan’s world-system. We are not able to identify these unseen forces except by their activities. When someone lies, hates, steals, murders, or is enticed or pressured to commit any sin, we know the ultimate source is from Satan, his demons, his world-system, and/or the sinful nature within each of us. A person’s words and actions reveal the ultimate source of influence. To stand in opposition to these forces means we’re in for a fight. Thomas Constable writes:
If we want to obey God and resist the devil, we are in for a struggle. It is not easy to become a mature Christian nor is it automatic. It takes diligent, sustained effort. This is part of our human responsibility in progressive sanctification. This struggle does not take place on the physical level primarily, though saying no to certain temptations may involve certain physical behavior. It is essentially warfare on the spiritual level with an enemy that we cannot see. This enemy is Satan and his hosts as well as the philosophies he promotes that people implement.
God has not left us defenseless against this unseen enemy. He has provided armor for our protection. Paul writes, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph 6:13). As the Son of God, Jesus had the authority to deal with Satan directly (Matt 4:1-11), and we know He interacted with demons and cast them out of men (Matt 8:16). Later, Jesus delegated authority to His disciples so they could cast out demons (Matt 10:1, 8). And, the apostle Paul also cast out demons during his missionary journeys (Acts 16:16-18; 19:11-12). But we are not commanded to engage Satan and/or his demons directly; rather, we appeal to God, who handles them Himself, or sends His holy angels to do the work. The command given to us as Christians is to be aware that we have an enemy that seeks our harm (1 Pet 5:8), and that he has demonic forces that war against us (Eph 6:12). We stand against Satan and his demonic forces by wearing God’s armor so that when we are attacked, we will be able to resist the assault. The word resist translates the Greek word ἀνθίστημι anthistemi, which means to stand against. We don’t search out the fight; rather, we stand against the enemy when he comes. And, as we seek to live in God’s will, the attacks will come. Paul speaks of the evil day, which is the day when evil forces attack us, trying to get us to give up ground we’ve taken for Christ. And having done everything in preparation of that day, we simply stand firm. Grant Osborne writes:
The battle has been joined, and the forces of the enemy are in attack mode, coming at us fast and furiously. Paul changes his imperative from “put on” (clothing imagery) to “take up” (weapon imagery). This is a stronger verb, often used in a military setting, that speaks of an emergency situation in a battle that is already in process. The soldiers are arming themselves one piece at a time, but they are in a hurry lest the encroaching hostile forces catch them unprepared.
As Christians, we realize dark spiritual forces are at work in the world and against us. Though we live in this reality, our sphere of influence is more directly related to people around us who have been manipulated by Satan and his forces. Ours is a battle of the mind, as we pray for others and speak God’s truth in love, hoping they will turn to God and be rescued from Satan’s kingdom of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13-14). As we engage in Christian ministry, sharing the gospel and teaching God’s Word, it is our hope that “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26). When people do not turn to God, but choose to follow Satan and embrace his world-system, we then focus our efforts on others, seeking their liberation from the enemy captor.
Paul describes the weapons of our armor, saying, “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph 6:14). Stand firm translates the Greek verb ἵστημι histemi which is an aorist active imperative. This implies a sense of urgency. The active voice means the subject produces the action of the verb. It’s our responsibility to stand against Satan and his forces. The imperative mood makes this a command. The armor is put on in order of priority. After putting on a tunic, a Roman soldier would put on a thick leather belt. This belt was used to tuck his tunic in so that his legs would be free to move about. It also helped keep the breastplate in place and held his sword. The belt of truth refers to the truth of God’s Word. The palmist wrote, “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psa 119:160). And Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:17). Biblical truth is what should govern our lives. This is the truth of God’s Word lived out daily in our thoughts, words, and actions. As we live out God’s Word, this produces Christian integrity and a life of faithfulness to the Lord and others. Warren Wiersbe states:
The girdle holds the other parts of the armor together, and truth is the integrating force in the life of the victorious Christian. A man of integrity, with a clear conscience, can face the enemy without fear. The girdle also held the sword. Unless we practice the truth, we cannot use the Word of truth. Once a lie gets into the life of a believer, everything begins to fall apart.
In addition to the belt of truth, we are told to “put on the breastplate of righteousness.” The breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteous life we live in conformity to God’s truth. Objectively, it is true that we are positionally righteous before God because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us at the moment of salvation (Rom 3:21-26; 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9); however, Paul seems to be referring to our subjective righteousness; that is, our righteous lifestyle. Harold Hoehner writes:
Like the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness is likely a subjective genitive. This means it refers to the believer’s righteous lifestyle, of which the Christian has a part to play, as we make choices to live by God’s Word. As a soldier’s breastplate protected his chest from an enemy’s attacks, so sanctifying, righteous living (Rom 6:13; 14:17) guards a believer’s heart against the assaults of the devil (cf. Isa 59:17; James 4:7).
And Warren Wiersbe adds:
This piece of armor, made of metal plates or chains, covered the body from the neck to the waist, both front and back. It symbolizes the believer’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) as well as his righteous life in Christ (Eph. 4:24). Satan is the accuser, but he cannot accuse the believer who is living a godly life in the power of the Spirit. The life we live either fortifies us against Satan’s attacks or makes it easier for him to defeat us (2 Cor. 6:1–10). When Satan accuses the Christian, it is the righteousness of Christ that assures the believer of his salvation. But our positional righteousness in Christ, without practical righteousness in the daily life, only gives Satan opportunity to attack us.
Moving on to the next piece of armor, Paul states, “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15). Roman soldiers had some of the best footwear in the ancient world. Their shoes were comparable to cleats that gripped the terrain. Scripture teaches the gospel that brought us peace with God (Rom 5:1-2) is to be shared with others that they might know peace with Him and peace with other people. Because Paul presents the Christian as standing against an attack (verses 11-16), it’s probably best to take his meaning as the surefootedness that comes to us in battle, knowing we have peace with God. However, it’s possible Paul also envisions this as the gospel that we bring to others as we advance in the devil’s world. Thomas Constable writes:
The gospel that has brought peace to the Christian enables him or her to stand firmly against temptation. Likewise the gospel is what enables us to move forward against our enemies (cf. Isa. 52:7). The preparation of the gospel of peace probably refers to the gospel the Christian soldier has believed that enables him to stand his ground when attacked. We must be so familiar with the gospel that we can share it with others (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).
Paul continues, saying, “in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). The Roman shield was large, approximately 2 ½ feet wide and 4 feet long. It was commonly overlaid with leather, and soldiers would wet their shields during times of battle in order to help extinguish the fiery arrows their enemy would shoot at them. And, when in battle, Roman soldiers would stand side by side with their shields, like a wall of defense, making them practically impenetrable to attacks. The phrase of faith is likely a genitive of content, meaning the shield consists of faith. When we live by faith, we are able to extinguish the fiery darts that Satan throws at us, which would certainly cause damage if they got through. This faith is trust in God, His promises and commands. William MacDonald writes:
In addition, the soldier must take the shield of faith so that when the fiery darts of the wicked one come zooming at him, they will hit the shield and fall harmlessly to the ground. Faith here is firm confidence in the Lord and in His word. When temptations burn, when circumstances are adverse, when doubts assail, when shipwreck threatens, faith looks up and says, “I believe God.”
Paul adds, saying, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). The helmet obviously protects the head. Here, I believe it is designed to protect our thinking. The helmet of salvation is the confidence of present and future salvation we have in the Lord (John 10:28; 1 Th 5:8-9). At salvation, the believer is forgiven all sins (Eph 1:7), given eternal life (John 10:28), has peace with God (Rom 5:1), and will never face condemnation from the Lord (Rom 8:1). We know God is for us (Rom 8:29-36), and that “we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). Thomas Constable writes:
Since Christians are to put this salvation on, the salvation or deliverance in view seems to refer to the present and future deliverance we need when under attack by Satan (cf. 1 Thess. 5:8). We have already received salvation from condemnation. We receive this present salvation (deliverance) as we receive all salvation, namely by calling on God and requesting it (cf. 1:15–23; Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13). This salvation is evidently similar to a helmet because deliverance involves a mental choice, namely trust in God rather than self, and obedience to Him. Confidence in God becomes our salvation and so protects our thinking when we are under attack.
The sword (μάχαιρα machaira) was the Roman offensive weapon. It was a short double-edged sword. Romans also carried spears, but Paul did not include that in his list of armor. Unlike the other pieces of armor, Paul tells us the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The word (ῥῆμα rhema) refers to “that which is said, word, saying, expression, or statement of any kind.” The sword of the Spirit refers to the revealed word of Scripture we use to fight back when under attack. Jesus, when under assault by Satan, cited specific passages of God’s Word which were appropriate to the specific temptations (see Matt 4:4, 7, 10). William MacDonald writes:
Finally, the soldier takes the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The classic illustration of this is our Lord’s use of this sword in His encounter with Satan. Three times He quoted the word of God—not just random verses but the appropriate verses which the Holy Spirit gave Him for that occasion (Luke 4:1–13). The word of God here does not mean the whole Bible, but the particular portion of the Bible which best suits the occasion.
Paul closes, saying, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). Prayer is important to the Christian life, as it is the communication channel between us and God. It’s important that we know to call out to the Lord, Who is the source of all our logistical support. Praying in the Spirit means praying in the power of the Spirit. We pray for ourselves, and we pray for God’s people, who are also under spiritual attack. Harold Hoehner states:
The manner in which a soldier takes up these last two pieces of armor is suggested by two Greek participles: “praying” and “being alert.” When the enemy attacks—and on all occasions—Christians are to pray continually in the Spirit (i.e., in the power and sphere of the Spirit; cf. Jude 20). With all kinds of prayers and requests suggests the thoroughness and intensity of their praying. And like reliable soldiers, they are to be keeping alert, literally, “in all persistence” (en pasē proskarterēsei; the noun is used only here in the NT). Their requests are to be for all the saints because of Satan’s spiritual warfare against Christ and the church.
The battles we face are part of an ongoing war that will not end until Christ returns and suppresses all rebellion against Him, both demonic and human. Fighting effectively against Satan and his demonic forces requires a deep knowledge of God and His Word. Jesus had a well-developed knowledge of OT Scripture and this is what He used to defend Himself when attacked by the devil (Matt 4:1-11).
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 56–57.
 In the first half of his letter, he wrote about the believer’s union with Christ (Eph 1:12; 2:6-7, 13; 3:6), the spiritual assets available (Eph 1:3), and the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers (Eph 2:11-22). In Ephesians 4:1 through 6:9 Paul provides practical application to his readers, telling them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1), to walk in love (Eph 5:2), to walk as children of light (Eph 5:8), and to walk as wise men (Eph 5:15). The subject of love is also important to Paul and he addresses it in Ephesians more than any of his other letters, using both the noun (ἀγάπη) and verb (ἀγαπάω) a total of 19 times (out of a total of 107 times throughout all his letters).
 Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich. Baker Academic, 2002), 820.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1951.
 Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Eph 6:11.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, 57.
 Examples of this are found throughout Scripture. When the Pharisees attacked Jesus, He knew the ultimate source of their words and actions, saying, “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” (John 8:44). Later, when Jesus revealed to His disciples that He would go to the cross and die (Matt 16:21), this did not set well with Peter. Matthew records, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You’” (Matt 16:22). For a brief moment, Peter—a believer—became an enemy of the cross. Satan was behind Peter, motivating him to defy the Lord. Matthew records Jesus’ rebuke, saying “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’” (Matt 16:23). Here, Jesus rebuked Peter for being Satan’s mouthpiece. When Paul and Barnabas were on the island of Paphos and sharing the gospel with a proconsul by the name of Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-7), there was a Jewish false prophet who opposed them. Luke records, “Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith” (Acts 13:8). Paul identified this man by his words and actions and rebuked him, saying, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). The apostle John wrote, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). Again, words and actions reveal the source of influence.
 Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Eph 6:12.
 To this, we can also add that we live in a world that is systemically hostile to God (1 John 2:15-17), and that we have a sinful nature that influences us to walk independently of the Lord (Rom 7:18, 21; 8:5-7; Gal 5:17).
 Grant R. Osborne, Ephesians: Verse by Verse, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 227.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, 58.
 Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 643.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, 58.
 Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Eph 6:15.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, 1952.
 Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, Eph 6:17.
 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 905.
 William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, 1953.
 Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 644.
There was a time when I was completely lost in sin and every thought and action supported Satan and his kingdom of darkness. For a time, I added trouble to the world. But now, as a Christian, I desire to serve the Lord as a good son who walks in the light of His truth. This does not mean I don’t fail from time to time and commit sin; Lord knows I do (every believer fails, and some more than others). I also realize relapse does not mean collapse, and my occasional sin is forgiven when I turn to the Lord, confess it, and move on in my Christian life (1 John 1:9). But sin remains, and I face ongoing spiritual battles. This present article is intended is to show how the historic fall of Adam and Eve fundamentally changed the human race and the world, resulting in disease, decay and death among all living things, and that the tendency of humanity is to behave in a spiritually and morally corrupt manner, suppressing God’s truth and rejecting His solutions to life’s problems. Understanding this helps us make sense of the world in which we live and why people behave the way they do.
Sin is a dominant theme from Genesis chapter three to the end of the Bible, at which time God will do away with sin and its effects, creating a “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1). The word sin is found throughout Scripture, and both the Hebrew and Greek share the same basic meaning. The Hebrew word חָטָא chata means “to miss the target, or to lose the way,” and the Greek ἁμαρτάνω hamartano is defined as “miss the mark, err, or do wrong.” Sin is when we transgress God’s law and depart from His intended path. The apostle John states, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). “The underlying idea of sin is that of law and of a lawgiver. The lawgiver is God. Hence sin is everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God’s moral creatures that is contrary to the expressed will of God (Rom 3:20; 4:15; 7:7; Jam 4:12, 17).”
Sin impacts all things including family life, nature, economics, society, law, politics, science, education, etc. All sin and evil exist in connection with the willful creatures who manufacture it, and its effects can be short or long-lasting. Even the creation is cursed because of Adam’s sin, as the Lord told him, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17), to which Paul added, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom 8:20-22). Sin negatively impacts everyone and everything, and no one was impacted or hurt more by sin than God. On several occasions we read, “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen 6:6), and though God loved Israel, their ongoing sin “grieved His Holy Spirit” (Isa 63:10). As Christians, we are commanded, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). Sin ultimately cost God His Son, who came into the world and died on a cross in order to atone for it (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; 10:14-18; Rom 8:32; 1 John 4:10), and to set us free from spiritual slavery (Rom 6:6; Gal 5:1; Heb 2:14-15).
The Bible reveals we are sinners in Adam, sinners by nature, and sinners by choice. To be a sinner in Adam means we sinned when he sinned, that his fallen position is our fallen position, and his guilt is our guilt (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-24; Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21-22). This is commonly referred to as original sin. Since the fall of Adam, every person is born with a sin nature (except Jesus), and it is this nature that internally motivates people to rebel against all legitimate forms of authority, both human and divine. More so, the sin nature is not eradicated from the believer during his time on earth, nor is it ever reformed, as though it can be made to love God. To be a sinner by nature means it’s our innate tendency to sin (Jer 17:9; Matt 7:11; Rom 7:18-21; Eph 2:1-3). To be a sinner by choice means we personally choose to act contrary to God and His revealed will (1 Ki 8:46; Prov 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Isa 53:6; Rom 3:10-12; 1 John 1:10). Cumulatively these reveal that we are totally depraved, which means sin permeates and corrupts every aspect of our being, including our mind, will, sensibilities and flesh. Though we may be moral to the best of our ability and others may applaud us for our good deeds, our best efforts are tainted by sin and have no saving merit before God (Isa 64:6; Rom 4:1-5; 5:6-10; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5).
One of the major areas sin impacts us is in the mind, which theologians refer to as the noetic effects of sin. This means sin impacts our ability to think rationally, especially about God, who has made Himself known through general revelation (Psa 19:1-2; Rom 1:18-20) and special revelation (1 Cor 14:37; 1 Tim 5:18; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16-17). The majority of people throughout history think evil thoughts and are consumed with themselves and their own agendas rather than God’s will. Of Noah’s generation it is said, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). Later, Solomon declared, “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccl 9:3). And Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). And Jesus Himself spoke of the human condition, saying, “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] slanders” (Matt 15:19). One would think that when Jesus came into the world that mankind would rejoice in His light; however, Scripture provides a different picture, telling us, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19; cf. 1:4-5). When talking to religious Pharisees, Jesus declared, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word” (John 8:43). This is true of all unbelievers, for “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor 2:14). Even something as simple as the Gospel message is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18), in whose case “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:3-4). The tendency of fallen people who operate on negative volition is to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18), and to operate by a worldly wisdom that is not “from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (Jam 3:15).
At the moment of salvation, God the Holy Spirit indwells us and gives us a new nature that, for the first time in our lives, has the desire and capacity to obey God; however, the sin nature is not removed, and so we experience ongoing internal conflict between these opposing natures (Gal 5:17; Rom 7:14-23). As Christians, we are directed to “lay aside the old self…and put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:22, 24). Since we have been “born again” and given new life (1 Pet 1:3, 23), the sin nature no longer has domineering power over us, and we can choose a life of righteousness (Rom 6:5-13). As we grow spiritually, we will be transformed from the inside out and gradually become more and more righteous as we walk with God. Sinless perfection will not be attained until we leave this world, by death or by Rapture, and are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29), who will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phi 3:21). Until then, we are commanded to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom 13:14). We do this by choosing to live according to the Spirit’s guiding, and starving the monster that is our sin nature. To “make no provision for the flesh” means we stop exposing ourselves to the things of the world that excite the flesh and lead to sinful behavior. The positive action is to grow spiritually with biblical teaching (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18), Christian fellowship (Heb 10:23-25), selfless living (Phil 2:3-4), prayer (1 Thess 5:17), worship (Heb 13:15), and doing good (Gal 6:10; Heb 13:16). It is only by spiritual growth and drawing closer to God that we learn to glorify the Lord and live in righteousness.
Dr. Steven R. Cook
Audio Lesson for The Effects of Sin Upon Our World
 Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 305.
 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 49.
 In Judges 20:16 the Hebrew word is used of skilled soldiers who do not miss their target, and in Proverbs 19:2 of a man who hurries and misses his way.
 Merrill F. Unger and E. McChesney, “Sin,” ed. R.K. Harrison, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 1198.
 According to Scripture, Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), was “without sin” (Heb 4:15), and “in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). His sinless life qualified Him as a perfect sacrifice to go to the cross and die as a substitute for others (Rom 5:6-10; Heb 10:1-14; 1 Pet 3:18).
Angels are basically classified as either righteous or evil. The former retain their holy state and service to God and are called elect angels (1 Tim 5:21), whereas the latter have defected from their original state and continue in constant rebellion against God. Satan is the leader of all fallen angels (Matt 25:41; cf. Rev 12:7, 9), which Scripture designates as evil spirits (1 Sam 16:14; Luke 7:21), demons (Matt 8:31), and unclean spirits (Mark 5:1-4). These have been operating for millennia trying to frustrate the purposes of God.
All angels, whether good or bad, are organized for service and effectiveness. Michael is called an archangel (Jude 1:9), a chief prince (Dan 10:13), and is assigned the task of guarding Israel (Dan 12:1). Gabriel is a messenger angel who was sent to deliver important messages to God’s people (Dan 8:16; 9:21-22; Luke 1:19; 26-38). Both Michael and Gabriel are recorded in Scripture as battling fallen angels who appear as commanders of regions of the world (Dan 10:12-13, 21). One fallen angel is called “the prince of Persia” and the other “the prince of Greece” (Dan 10:20). These no doubt function as Satan’s emissaries to promote his purposes, and are part of a larger group that Paul called the forces of darkness (Eph 6:12). Demons can possess the bodies of men (Luke 11:24-26), animals (Gen 3:1-5; Mark 5:11-13; 2 Cor 11:3), and sometimes cause physical and mental illness (Matt 9:32-33; Luke 8:27).
Demons have some freedom, but not beyond the boundaries God has established (Job 1:1-21). God sometimes uses fallen angels to accomplish His sovereign purposes (1 Sam 16:14-16; 2 Cor 12:7-10), just as He sometimes uses sinful people to bring about His will (Acts 2:23-24; 4:27-28). The final destiny of Satan and demons will be the Lake of Fire, which God created as a special place of punishment for them (Matt 25:41). Those who reject Christ as Savior will join Satan in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:11-15). Those who accept Jesus as Savior are forgiven all their sins (Eph 1:7; Heb 10:10-14), given eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and will spend forever in heaven (John 14:1-3).
Fallen angels are involved in the affairs of mankind. The person who operates by negative volition aligns himself with Satan and his forces. Negative volition leads to idolatry, and idolatry leads to immorality (Rom 1:18-32), both individually and nationally. The worship of idols is the worship of demons (Lev 17:7; Deut 32:17; 1 Cor 10:19-21). Demons generally led the pagan nations into idolatry, which God’s people were not to practice (Deut 18:9-14). However, when God’s people mingled with them, they learned their idolatrous practices (1 Ki 11:1-8), and even created their own idols (1 Ki 12:26-33), which eventuated in human sacrifice (2 Ki 17:7-23; Psa 106:35-38; cf. 2 Ki 16:1-4; 21:1-9; Jer 32:30-35; Ezek 16:20-21; 20:31; 23:37).
When rulers turned away from God, He would use evil spirits to discipline them (Judg 9:23; 1 Sam 16:14-15). This resulted in the disciplined person experiencing mental madness and murderous behavior (1 Sam 18:10-12; cf. 1 Sam 19:9-10). God used an evil spirit to bring about the military defeat and death of King Ahab (2 Chron 18:18-22).
Some angels who were once free, are now kept in “eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day” and appear to have forfeited their freedom altogether due to some unnamed sinful violation (Jude 1:6), perhaps the account described in Genesis 6:1-5. And some very destructive angels (described as metal-like locusts) are now kept in the Abyss—a temporary spiritual prison—and will be released and led by a powerful angel whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek Apollyon (Rev 9:1-12). Four unnamed, but very dangerous angels, are said to be bound under the River Euphrates (Rev 9:13-16). These four angels will kill one third of mankind during the Great Tribulation. Other evil spirits will be used to gather world rulers and their armies together for the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:13-14; cf. Rev 19:11-21).
As Christians, we face social, political and religious attacks in our day, and there are dark spiritual forces at work driving much of what we see. Scripture is very clear when it says, “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” (Eph 6:12). These demonic forces are behind every act of terror the world has ever known, and their activity is tireless. Thankfully, God has given us armor and a weapon to protect us, which also serve to aid in the rescue and defense of others who face spiritual attacks. This is described in Ephesians 6:13-18.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph 6:13-18).
Dr. Steven R. Cook
Audio lesson for Demons and How They Influence Mankind
The Bible recognizes Satan’s world-system and warns us not to love it (1 John 2:15-16). When John writes and tells the Christian “do not love the world”, he’s not talking about the physical planet. The Greek word κόσμος kosmos as it is used by the apostle John and others most often refers to “that which is hostile to God…lost in sin, wholly at odds with anything divine, ruined and depraved.” Satan’s world-system consists of those philosophies and values that perpetually influence humanity to think and behave contrary to God and His Word. This operating apart from God is first and foremost a way of thinking that is antithetical to God and His Word, a way of thinking motivated by a desire to be free from God and the authority of Scripture, a freedom most will accept, even though it is accompanied by all sorts of inconsistencies and absurdities.
The kosmos is a vast order or system that Satan has promoted which conforms to his ideals, aims, and methods. It is civilization now functioning apart from God-a civilization in which none of its promoters really expect God to share; who assign to God no consideration in respect to their projects, nor do they ascribe any causality to Him. This system embraces its godless governments, conflicts, armaments, jealousies; its education, culture, religions of morality, and pride. It is that sphere in which man lives. It is what he sees, what he employs. To the uncounted multitude it is all they ever know so long as they live on this earth. It is properly styled “The Satanic System” which phrase is in many instances a justified interpretation of the so-meaningful word, kosmos.
People who live in Satan’s world-system exclude God and Scripture from their daily conversations. This is true in news, politics, academic communities, work and home life. God is nowhere in their thoughts, and therefore, nowhere in their discussions (Psa 10:4; 14:1). The growing Christian thinks about God and His Word all the time, as “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). The contrast between the growing Christian and the worldly person is stark, as their thoughts and words take them in completely different directions.
At the core of Satan’s world-system is a directive for mankind to function apart from God, and when obeyed, people produce all forms of evil, both moral and immoral. We should understand that Satan’s system is a buffet that offers something for everyone who rejects God, whether that person is moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, educated or simple, rich or poor. Satan is careful to make sure there’s even something for the Christian in his world-system, which is why the Bible repeatedly warns the believer not to love the world or the things in the world. We are to be set apart (Col 2:8; Jam 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16). “The world is the Christian’s enemy because it represents an anti-God system, a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to the will and plan of God. It is a system headed by the devil and therefore at odds with God (2 Cor 4:4).…It is in this wicked world we must rear our families and earn our livelihoods. We are in it, yet are not to be a part of it.” It is important to understand that we cannot change Satan or his evil program; however, we must be on guard, for it can and will change us if we’re not careful to learn and live God’s Word.
At the moment of salvation, God the Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13), and “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). This transference is permanent and cannot be undone. Once this happens, we are hated by those who remain in Satan’s kingdom of darkness. For this reason, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19; cf. John 16:33; 1 John 3:13). Love and hate in this context should be understood as accept or reject, which can be mild or severe in expression. When praying to the Father, Jesus said, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14b), and went on to say, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). It is not God’s will that we be immediately removed from this world at the moment of salvation, but left here to serve as His representatives to the lost, that we “may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). We are not to participate in worldly affairs that exclude God, but are to “walk as children of Light” (Eph 5:8), manifesting the fruit of the Light “in all goodness and righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph 5:9-10), and we are told, “do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph 5:11).
The growing Christian faces real struggles as Satan’s world-system seeks to press him into its mold, demanding conformity, and persecuting him when he does not bend to its values. The world-system not only has human support, but is backed by demonic forces that operate in collaboration with Satan. Scripture tells us “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” (Eph 6:12). The battlefront is more than what is seen with the human eye and is driven by unseen spiritual forces. As Christians living in the world we are to be careful not to be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col 2:8). Realizing the battleground is the mind, we are to think biblically in everything, which is our only safeguard against the enemy (2 Cor 10:3-5).
Christians face situations every day in which they are pressured to compromise God’s Word. They face difficulties at work, school, home, or other places, in which they are confronted by worldly-minded persons, both saved and unsaved, who demand and pressure them to abandon their biblical values. There is room for personal compromise where Scripture is silent on a matter; however, where Scripture speaks with absolute authority, there the believer must never compromise! “The world, or world-system, puts pressure on each person to try to get him to conform (Rom 12:2). Jesus Christ was not “of this world” and neither are His people (John 8:23; 17:14). But the unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values and attitudes of this world.”
By promoting the gospel and biblical teaching, the church disrupts Satan’s domain of darkness by calling out of it a people for God. By learning God’s Word, Christians can identify worldly conversations and activities and either avoid them or seek to redirect them by interjecting biblical truth, which should never be done in hostility. When sharing God’s Word with others it’s proper to know that not everyone wants to hear God’s truth, and even though we may not agree with them, their personal choices should be respected (Matt 11:14; Acts 13:50-51). We should never try to force the gospel or Bible teaching on anyone, but be willing to share when opportunity presents itself. At times this will bring peace, and other times cause disruption and may even offend. In this interaction, the growing Christian must be careful not to fall into the exclusion trap, in which the worldly person (whether saved or lost) controls the content of every conversation, demanding the Christian only talk about worldly issues, as Scripture threatens his pagan presuppositions. Having the biblical worldview, the Christian should insert himself into daily conversations with others, and in so doing, be a light in a dark place. He should always be respectful, conversational, and never have a fist-in-your-face attitude, as arrogance never helps advance biblical truth (2 Tim 2:24-26). The worldly-minded person may not want to hear what the Christian has to say, but he should never be under the false impression that he has the right to quiet the Christian and thereby exclude him from the conversation.
As we grow spiritually and walk with God, learning and living His Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17), we stand in opposition to Satan’s world-system and sow the seeds of spiritual insurrection in the lives of those who live and walk in his kingdom of darkness. We disrupt Satan’s kingdom when we share the gospel, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). When anyone places their faith in Christ, trusting solely in Him as Savior, they are forgiven all their sins (Eph 1:7), and gifted with eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the righteousness of God (Rom 4:1-5; 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). They are rescued from Satan’s enslaving power, as God rescues them from the “domain of darkness” and transfers them into “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13). The gospel is the only thing that will deliver a person from spiritual slavery; “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Once saved, we seek to influence the thoughts and lives of other Christians through fellowship (Heb 10:23-25), prayer (Jam 5:16), edification (Eph 4:29), encouragement (1 Thess 5:11), love (1 Thess 4:9; cf. Eph 4:14-15), and words of grace (Col 4:6).
The Bible reveals Satan was originally created a holy angel of the class of cherubim; however, because of pride (Ezek 28:11-18), he rebelled against God (Isa 14:12-14), and convinced many angels to follow him (Rev 12:4, 7). The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew שָׂטָן Satan which means “adversary, opponent…accuser, opposing party…[or] the one who hinders a purpose” The Greek Σατανᾶς Satanas carries the same meaning and is used “in a very special sense of the enemy of God and all of those who belong to God.” Other names for Satan include the shining one, or Lucifer (Isa 14:12), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Thess 3:5), the devil (Matt 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the serpent (Rev 12:9), and the great red dragon (Rev 12:3). Further, Satan is a murderer and liar (John 8:44), is compared to a lion that prowls about, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), and one who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).
Lucifer became Satan at the time of his rebellion when he declared, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isa 14:13-14). “The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.” Satan seeks to operate independently of God’s plan for him, and he leads others, both saved and unsaved, to do the same. Lucifer introduced sin and death to the first humans when he convinced them to turn from God and eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7). At the time of the fall, Adam handed his kingdom over to Satan, who has been ruling this world since (Luke 4:5-6; Rev 11:15).
Satan is permitted, for a time, to rule over the majority in this world. At the time when Jesus began His public ministry, He faced a series of tests from Satan, one of which was an offer to receive the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross. Satan told Jesus, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). Satan took possession of “this domain and its glory” by God’s permission and man’s sin, presumably, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and follow Satan (Gen 3:1-8). Satan said to Jesus, “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours” (Luke 4:7). Satan’s offer had to be true in order for the temptation to be real. At some time in the future, Satan will share his authority with the Antichrist, because he advances his agenda (Rev 13:1-2). Three times Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Other passages of Scripture call Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), informing us “that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He personally attacked Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1-7), Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13), David, (1 Chr 21:1), Joshua the high priest (Zec 3:1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). He continues to attack God’s people today (1 Pet 5:8), practices deception (2 Cor 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph 6:10-12). Furthermore, humanity is living in an “evil age” (Gal 1:4), under “the dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18), whose sphere of influence is called “the domain of darkness” (Col 1:13).
As Christians, we have victory in Christ. At the moment we trusted Christ as Savior, God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). As Christians, we have been gifted with God’s own righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9), and will never face condemnation (Rom 8:1). Furthermore, God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3), and called us to serve as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20), sharing the gospel message with others.
God the Father has promised to give Jesus the kingdoms of this world, saying, “I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psa 2:8; cf. Isa 2:1-5; Dan 2:44; 7:14). This will occur after the seven-year Tribulation; at which time it will be said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15; cf. 20:1-3). Satan was judged at the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Col 2:14-15), and awaits future punishment. His judgment is very near when he is cast out of heaven during the Tribulation (Rev 12:7-12); at which time his wrath is greatest against Israel. After the return of Christ (Rev 19:11-16) and the establishment of His kingdom (Rev 20:1-6), Satan will be confined to the abyss for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3). Afterwards, he is released for a brief time and will again deceive the nations and lead a rebellion against God (Rev 20:7-8), but will be quickly defeated (Rev 20:9), and cast into the Lake of Fire, where he will remain, with his demons and all unbelievers forever (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10-15).
The purpose of this article is to present what the Scriptures reveal about the reality of angels and to consider how they impact the world in which we live.
Angels are basically classified as either righteous or evil. The former retain their holy state and service to God and are called elect angels (1 Tim 5:21), whereas the latter have defected from their original state and continue in constant rebellion against God. The existence and impact of angels is real, influencing individuals and groups in matters pertaining to social, political and moral life. Holy angels continue to serve God and advance His agenda for human history.
Thirty-four books of the Bible teach the existence of angels. The word angel occurs approximately 275 times throughout Scripture. The word angel translates the Hebrew word מַלְאָךְ malak and the Greek word ἄγγελος aggelos, and both words mean messenger. Angels are created beings (Psa 148:2-5; Col 1:16), were present at the creation of the world (Job 38:4-7), have volition (Matt 8:28-32), emotion (Mark 1:23-26), and intelligence (1 Pet 1:12). Angels are spirit beings who help advance the gospel (Heb 1:14), are distinct from humans (Luke 8:27), have great power (Psa 103:20-21; 2 Pet 2:11), are innumerable (Heb 12:22; Rev 5:11), cannot die (Luke 20:36), and do not reproduce after their kind (Mark 12:25), which means there are no baby angels. As creatures, angels are not to be worshipped (Col 2:18; Rev 19:10; 22:8-9). Seraphim—angels with six wings—are devoted to the worship of God (Isa 6:1-3), and Cherubim—angels with four wings—are devoted to protecting the Lord’s holiness (Ezek 28:14).
As spirit beings, angels function in an invisible realm and were only observable to people when God chose to reveal them (in theology, this is called an angelophany). For example, Elisha’s servant saw the angelic chariots of fire only when God opened his eyes (2 Ki 6:15-17), and John was permitted to see myriads of angels around God’s throne (Rev 5:11). The vast majority of us are never given the opportunity of direct observation, but rather, we learn about angels through the revelation of God’s Word.
God used holy angels to minister to His people. For example, angels were instrumental in protecting Lot and his family before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:1-25). When Israel was in Egyptian captivity, God judged Egypt by means of “a band of destroying angels” (Psa 78:49), who were apparently involved in administering the plagues (Psa 78:43-49). When Israel was fleeing Egypt and being pursued by Pharaoh and his army, God sent His angel to protect them (Ex 14:19-20; Num 20:16). When Elijah was fearful, depressed, and running for his life, God sent an angel to provide for him and encourage him until he came to the end of his journey (1 Ki 19:1-8). When a powerful Assyrian army came against Jerusalem to destroy it, (2 Chron 32:1-19), King Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet “prayed about this and cried out to heaven” (2 Chron 32:20), and the Lord rescued them by sending “an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria” (2 Chron 32:21). When three of God’s servants refused to submit to the tyranny of the king of Babylon and were thrown alive into a furnace of fire, God honored their faith and “sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him” (Dan 3:28). Later, when Daniel was persecuted and thrown into a den of lions for not following a foolish edict, God protected His servant and “sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths” (Dan 6:22). God also used an angel named Gabriel, who told Daniel, “In the first year of Darius the Mede, I [Gabriel] arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him” (Dan 11:1). It was Gabriel who announced the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, telling Mary, she had “found favor with God” and informing her, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:30-33). Later, when the baby Jesus was facing danger, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream” and instructed him, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (Matt 2:13). And afterward, “when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, ‘Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead”’ (Matt 2:19-20). After Jesus experienced fatiguing temptations from Satan, it is written that “angels came and ministered to Him” (Matt 4:11). After Jesus’ resurrection, “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it” (Matt 28:2). When some of the apostles had been arrested and thrown into prison, we are informed that “during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison and released them to continue preaching” (Acts 5:19). And when Peter had been arrested by King Herod, the church prayed for him, and God “sent forth His angel and rescued” Peter from certain death (Act 12:11).
The book of Revelation reveals angels are instrumental in executing God’s judgments upon the earth (Rev 7:1-2; 8:1-3; 5, 8, 10, 12; 9:1, 13-14; 10:1, 5, 7-9; 15:1, 6-8; 16:1; 21:9). About half way through the Tribulation, there will be “war in heaven, [with] Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon…and his angels” (Rev 12:7), and Satan and his angels will be thrown out of heaven by force (Rev 12:9). And after the Tribulation “the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will repay every man according to his deeds” (Matt 16:27). Furthermore, God’s “angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them [the wicked] into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:49-50).
Though we don’t see holy angels, by faith in God’s Word we know they are present and active in our lives to help protect, provide, and strengthen us as we walk with the Lord. We also know they are active in the affairs of everyday life, helping to advance God’s purposes in a fallen world.
In the previous article, I addressed the biblical teaching that God is the supreme Ruler of His creation and that He has established human governmental authorities to promote law and order. In order to accomplish this, God has delegated authority to persons and groups who serve as administrative overseers to others. As Christians, we are commanded to submit to those God has placed in authority over us. However, Satan has his counterfeit leaders in the world, and their primary objective is to lead people outside of God’s will. In this article, I will address Satan and his counterfeits, to which the believer is not to submit. Like all my articles, this one is subject to revision as I consider the subject more and more.
Rebellion against God’s authority ultimately originates with the fall of Satan (Isa. 14:13-14; Ezek. 28:12-17), who convinced many angels to follow him (Rev. 12:4), and created a kingdom of darkness (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). Satan sits as ruler over his kingdom of darkness and has organized his fallen angels into various ranks. Paul addresses this when he writes, “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” (Eph. 6:12). Satan’s kingdom firsts consists of his governance over those angelic beings in the spiritual realm that have aligned with him in defiance against God; however, his kingdom of darkness was expanded to include people, and this expansion occurred when he convinced the first humans, Adam and Eve, to rebel against God and follow him (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-7).
The historic fall of Adam and Eve was contrary to God’s original plan, as He intended to rule the earth through them, as His mediatorial administrators, to whom He delegated His authority. The record of this delegated authority is found in Genesis, where God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). The rulership was given both to Adam and Eve, as the text states, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). The text then repeats their assignment to rule, stating, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). However, through an act of rebellion against God (Gen. 3:1-7), Adam and Eve subordinated themselves to Satan and transferred their rulership to him. As a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Satan’s kingdom was expanded, and all people are born into a world of darkness (John 12:46; Eph. 5:8), into Satan’s kingdom (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13), born in Adam (Rom. 5:12, 1 Cor. 15:21-22), born in sin (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Eph. 2:3).
Since the historic fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has had dominion over this world and is called “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 16:11), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan’s scope of influence is universal, as he is described as the one “who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), and who deceives “the nations” of the world (Rev. 20:3, 8). When tempting Jesus, Satan offered Him “the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9), and they were his to give. Jesus rejected Satan’s offer and stuck with the plan of God. Jesus began the process of reclaiming the world through His obedience to the Father and the work of the Cross, “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). After the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). As a result of Jesus’ work, Satan has been judged and sentenced (Gen. 3:15; John 12:31; 16:11), and in the future will be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9), confined to prison for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), and eventually cast into the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:10). However, until Satan and his company are finally removed from this world, he will continue as a subversive who seeks to destabilize God’s order of governance over mankind (to learn how Satan accomplishes this task, read my article on Satan’s World System).
As we realize this, we must not lose sight of the fact that God always remains in sovereign control of this world (Ps. 103:19; 135:6; Dan 2:21; 4:34b-35; 5:21; 1 Chron. 29:11-12), and that He permits Satan a limited form of influence for a limited period of time, always restraining him and his forces, both demonic and human (Job. 1:6-12; 2:1-6; 2 Pet. 2:4). God permits good and evil to coexist for a time, and Jesus explained this in His parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus described the world as a field in which the “Son of Man” has sown “good seed” which are “the sons of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:37-38a). These “sons of the kingdom” are children of God who have believed in Jesus as their Savior and who are to bear His light to others as a source of truth, goodness and love. But Jesus also explained that an enemy has sown tares in the field of wheat, and these tares are identified as “the sons of the evil one” (Matt. 13:38b), and “the enemy who sowed them is the devil” (Matt. 13:39a). These “sons of the evil one” are those who belong to Satan and whose values and practices align with his. The wheat and the tares will grow together until the time of harvest, which will occur at “the end of the age” (Matt. 13:39b).
Jesus’ parable addresses the reality that there are evil people in the world and that Christ Himself will deal with them in His time. Christians are never directed to resolve the problem of evil, as though it were within our ability to fix it. Rather, we are to advance to spiritual maturity by learning God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:14-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), and living His will (Rom. 12:1-2); and part of His will, at least within the discussion of this article, is being obedient to those whom God has placed in authority over us (Rom. 13:1-5; Tit. 3:1 1 Pet. 2:13-14), whether it is the president, a state governor, local city officials, police officers, employers, teachers, or parents. But human authority is limited to the will of God. In one sense, the Christian is to regard and obey the laws handed down through governmental authorities as a part of God’s system; however, there are times when lawmakers—both believers or unbelievers—operate outside God’s laws and create laws that are contrary to His character and Word. Furthermore, they demand that those under their authority abide by their unjust laws, to which Christians must refuse because obedience would place them outside of God’s will. There are biblical examples of believers who refused to obey unjust commands, such as the Jewish midwives who refused to execute Pharaoh’s command to kill Hebrew children (Ex. 1:22; 2:1-9), when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to bow and worship a golden statue (Dan. 3:1-18), when Daniel refused to obey the command from king Darius that everyone was to pray to him for thirty days (6:1-10), and when Peter disobeyed governmental authority when he was commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 5:27-28), to which he respectfully replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Act 5:29; cf. Matt. 28:18-20). When Christians disobey governing authorities, we are not rejecting authority per se, but only those unjust perversions which have crept in. The general rule of Scripture is that when human authority commands us to disobey God, then we have not only the right, but the duty, to disobey that unjust law. In these instances, the believer is submitting to God’s authority above all.
Rebellion against God’s authority started with Satan, an angelic creature who, at an unspecified time, led an angelic revolt against God and created a kingdom of darkness. Afterward, God created Adam and Eve to serve under His authority, as mediatorial administrators who cared for the earth. However, God permitted Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to rebel against His authority, and when they agreed to follow Satan, his kingdom of darkness was expanded and he became the temporary ruler of this world. According to God’s wise plan and sovereign will, He sent His Son into the world and the Son added humanity to Himself, lived an absolutely righteous life in obedience to His Father and went to the cross and died for sinful humanity. At the cross, Jesus reclaimed this world and pronounced judgment and sentencing for Satan, who will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire forever. Until that time, Satan continues as a subversive living in God’s world, and he has many followers who are used by him to subvert God’s will on earth. These enemies of God seek to infiltrate governmental systems and command people—both saved and lost—to disobey God. Though Christians are commanded to obey human leaders, we can never obey a command that is contrary to God’s will.
 Everyone is born into Satan’s slave-market and helpless to save themselves (Rom. 5:6-10; 6:6). Jesus is the only Person in the history of the human race to be born free from the taint of sin and the bondage of Satan’s kingdom, and Jesus lived His entire life without sinning (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb., 4:15; 1 John 3:5). As a free Person, Jesus went to the cross and died a death He did not deserve, in order to pay our sin debt and liberate us from Satan’s realm of darkness. We accept Jesus’ offer of liberation when we turn to Him as Savior, believing He died for our sins, was buried and raised again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Once we believe in Jesus as Savior, we are forgiven all our sins (Eph. 1:7) and given the gifts of eternal life (John 10:28) and imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:5; 5:17; Phil. 3:9). We are no longer “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), but now we are children of God (John 1:12; Rom. 8:16). John writes, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1). Further, we can say, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14; cf. Acts 26:18).
It was summertime in southern California. The year was 1976 and I was nine years of age. My parents put me on a church bus and shipped me off to Camp Cedar Crest for a week. The sights and smells of the forest were wonderful. The camp was located in the mountains of southern California and I was with friends every day. We had lots of activities like hiking, baseball and swimming to keep us busy. There was opportunity for Bible study and songs around the campfire, which was nice.
There was a big, open dining hall where everyone ate together. I remember the tall A-frame ceiling and the rows of tables that were lined up straight. I’ll never forget that someone dared me to sniff pepper. I sneezed about a dozen times or more. Everyone laughed and thought it was funny. I never did that again. I had good fun at the camp and was glad I went.
There was another building that was used for worship and preaching. I remember one night one of my friends was crying after a worship service and said he wanted to be saved. After the service, we walked together to the front of the platform where several people were gathered and some adults talked and prayed with us. My friend and I were relieved after someone shared the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4) and prayed with us.
Camp rules required that I always be with a friend when walking around camp. It was smart because it was easy to get lost if you wandered away. I was with two friends one time and we wandered up a hill just beyond the swimming pool. We climbed on top of two round boulders that were as big as cars. The boulders were leaning against each other, and we sat on one with our feet on the other. As we sat and talked, one of my friends pushed with his legs and noticed that the boulder in front of us moved a little. We looked at each other with big smiles, and all together began to rock that boulder back and forth with our feet until it fell forward. To our surprise, that giant boulder began to roll downhill toward the camp and we looked at each in sheer panic. Fortunately, after rolling several times, the boulder hit a few trees and came to a loud, crashing stop. The trees were made to lean forward in the direction of the camp. As we jumped off the boulder on which we were perched, we heard someone running up the hill and saw a camp counselor headed our way. He came to inspect the sound of the rolling boulder and the crash it made as it hit the trees. We admitted we had pushed the boulder over, but did not intend for it to go as far as it did. We all got in trouble for going outside the camp bounds that day. My punishment consisted of a reprimand and spending thirty minutes at the cabin with my nose pressed into a small circle drawn on a chalkboard. I’ll never forget that rolling boulder or the smell of that chalkboard.
It was not all sunshine and fun for some of the kids at camp that summer. In our cabin there was a boy who kept to himself. I remember he woke one night, trembling and shaking, holding onto the edge of the steel bunk bed as he cried. Many of the kids avoided him, not knowing anything about him. He rarely talked and kept to himself. I think he did his best to hide, hoping to make it through the week unnoticed. I had no way of knowing there was something wrong; something dark. A demon was at work in our cabin.
On the last night of camp everyone was gathered at the amphitheater where we sang songs and watched a movie on a big screen. I think the movie was Herbie Rides Again, which had come out a year or two before. Even though it was summertime, I remember the evenings got cold in the mountains, and I had forgotten to bring my jacket with me. I asked a camp counselor if I could run back to my cabin and grab my sleeping bag. He said yes, but to take a friend or two with me. Two of my friends ran with me as we cut across paths and raced to our cabin. Upon entering the cabin we turned on the light and to our surprise we saw a boy huddled in the corner. It was the same boy who had been having bad dreams during the week and avoiding others. He was sitting in the darkness, crouched in the corner, fearful of something or someone.
I remember telling the boy he was not supposed to be at the cabin alone because everyone was at the amphitheater watching the movie. He just stared at me. My friends and I approached him and he stood up. He moved away from the corner and positioned himself between two of the bunk beds that were against the wall. His eyes kept moving about the room as though some danger was present. He looked afraid and I felt compassion for him. I remember my grandmother praying with me when I was afraid, and without much thought, I asked him if it was alright if we prayed for him. To my surprise, he slowly nodded, and we approached him with arms outstretched toward his shoulders. A look of fear washed over his face as he quickly walked backward. His eyes were darting around and his facial movements quickened as we closed the gap of only a few feet between us. Suddenly, his head bowed and he became calm, eerily calm, with his shoulders limp at his side, standing like a lifeless ragdoll.
We prayed as our hands rested on the boy’s shoulders. We were praying a simple prayer to God as only children can do. Our prayer contained no great theology or eloquent speech. There was only a basic understanding from Scripture that we could call on God the Father in the name of Jesus in a time of need. It was simple faith simply applied. Suddenly the boy in front of us turned violent. He threw up his arms and knocked away our hands. He turned and grabbed hold of the steel frame of the bunk bed and began to rock it back and forth with great strength. He began to throw suitcases at us—the suitcases we’d packed earlier in anticipation of leaving the next morning. Without any thought, I grabbed him by the waist and wrestled him to the ground. His strength was more than I could handle, and my two friends jumped on top of him and helped hold his arms and legs to prevent his violence from causing harm.
It was at that moment he started growling. Deep guttural sounds were coming from him; sounds too deep for a human to make. He tossed his head back and forth, from right to left, and kept growling like a wild animal. I could feel the deep vibration in the tone of his voice. I was frightened. I wanted to run, but was afraid to let go. Then his head stopped for a moment and our eyes met. That’s when I knew. His once brown eyes where now frosty white. I could see the outline of an iris and pupil, but they were shades of white; not brown and black like before. Some physiological change had occurred in the boy and I was staring into the eyes of what appeared to be a demon. I cried out to my friends to look, and when they saw what I saw, together we started crying out to the Lord for help. The boy continued to whip his head back and forth and on occasion stop and look at me. I knew there was something supernatural at work; something dark. My friends and I lay on the floor of the cabin crying, shaking, hearts racing, too afraid to let go, and calling out to the only One we knew could help us.
After nearly ten minutes, the boy began to calm down. The growling began to soften. His head stopped turning from side to side and he looked upward toward the ceiling. It took a minute, but I watched his eyes slowly fade from white to brown. Suddenly, the boy’s facial expression turned from anger to confusion. He started looking around the room in bewilderment and wanted to know how he got on the floor and why we were crying. I was fearful it was some sort of demonic trick and asked my friends not to release him for a few minutes. After we saw his eyes remain normal for a little bit, and his strength and behavior seemed normal, we let go of him and lifted him to his feet. He said the last thing he remembered was us praying over him and being extremely afraid, although he did not know why he was afraid.
The boy then conveyed what he saw in his mind after we started praying for him. Originally, he said he could hear our prayers, but our voices gradually softened and then there was silence. He said he was standing in complete darkness, when there appeared a light from above. Like a spotlight, it shown on a dark figure that was tall, dressed in a black cloak, with red eyes. The light appeared to cause distress to the dark figure, although it made no sound. The boy said he watched the figure thrash its arms around as though trying to fight off the light, but it could not. Slowly the figure began to fall backwards, swinging its arms violently as it fell, and after about ten minutes, it finally hit the ground. The boy said after the light faded away, he suddenly became aware us laying over him on the ground and crying out to the Lord for help. We were stunned at his account.
We grabbed him by his arms and with nervous excitement we marched back up to the main campground and grabbed the nearest adult we could find and exclaimed a demon had just been cast out of this boy. We were so nervous and excited, we kept repeating ourselves. Several adults took the boy from us and went into a nearby room where they prayed over him and shared the gospel message. About twenty minutes later the boy emerged and came and talked with us. He said someone in his family was involved in occult practices and several months earlier he’d been encouraged to invite a “friendly spirit” into his life to help guide him. That’s when his life changed for the worse and his fears and nightmares began. By the time we finished talking, the movie had ended and it was time to go back to our cabins for the night. I barely slept a wink. I doubt the other kids did either.
This personal story is true as best I remember. My thoughts and memories are adequately clear to lead me to think this was a legitimate case of demon possession. I realize only those who were there that night can verify this account, and I’ve not been able to contact any of them since that event.
The devil is a real, personal being who opposes the Christian and seeks to make him ineffective in his Christian life. He is a formidable enemy of the Christian since he is intent on devouring Christians (1 Pet 5:8); hence, the Christian is called on to resist the devil (James 4:7). This can be accomplished through putting on the armor for a spiritual battle (Eph 6:10–17).
Before his self-induced fall, Lucifer was a wise and beautiful creature, having “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezek 28:12). He was an angel, called an “anointed cherub” (Ezek 28:14). However, this perfect angelic creature produced sin from the source of his own volition, and the Scripture states, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you…and you sinned” (Ezek 28:15-16a). Concerning Lucifer’s sin, the Lord says, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor” (Ezek 28:17a). Self-centered pride turned Lucifer’s wisdom into foolishness, and in his madness he sought to usurp God’s throne and rule over His creation. Lucifer became Satan (a term meaning “the adversary”) at the time of his rebellion when he declared:
I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. (Isa 14:13-14)
These five “I will” statements by Satan reveal that it was his every intent to set his will against the will of God and to make himself lord of the universe. Satan seeks to operate independently of God’s plan for him. He leads others, both saved and unsaved, to do the same. J. Dwight Pentecost writes:
The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.
After his fall Lucifer is called Satan (Job 1:6), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Th 3:5), the devil (Matt 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the serpent (Rev 12:9), the great red dragon (Rev 12:3), and the angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). It is this last designation that often catches people by surprise, because most think of Satan as a dark creature so nefarious in appearance and action that he’s easily recognized and guarded against. However, Scripture warns us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and that “his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:14-15). Both Satan and his representatives appear as beautiful, friendly, and attractive people, and it is this charade that often deceives and traps people into believing false teaching. Satan and his representatives are ultimately identified “according to their deeds,” which do not line up either with the character of God or the plain teaching of Scripture. It is from the place of biblical knowledge and spiritual adulthood that the Christian is able to discern the enemy and his tactics, especially when Satan is disguised as “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).
Lucifer created his kingdom of darkness when he rebelled against God, convincing a third of the angels to rebel with him (Rev 12:4), and through temptation he brought down to death the first humans when he convinced them to turn from God and follow his advice to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7). As stated earlier, all men are born into this world of darkness, into Satan’s kingdom, born in Adam, born in sin. The minds of all men are darkened by the sin nature and have a propensity toward rebellion and foolishness. Even after regeneration, men’s minds are not suddenly wise, but still dark from a lifetime of exposure to all the world’s humanistic philosophies. Every person born in the world (with the exception of Jesus) is born into the family of Adam (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:22), spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-3), enemies of God (Rom 5:8), and powerless to save themselves apart from God’s grace (Rom 5:6; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5). Without Christ men have no hope of being delivered from their state of spiritual death and darkness.
We find in Scripture instances where Satan has personally attacked people such Adam and Eve (Gen.3:1-7), Job (Job 1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32) However, being the finite creature that he is, Satan must rely on others, both demons and people, to execute his plans. Warren Wiersbe writes:
The devil is “the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” This does not mean that Satan is personally at work in the life of each unbeliever, since Satan as a created being is limited in space. Unlike God, who is omnipresent, Satan cannot be in all places at one time. But because of his demonic associates (Eph 6:11–12), and his power over the world system (John 12:31), Satan influences the lives of all unbelievers, and also seeks to influence believers. He wants to make people “children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2; 5:6). He himself was disobedient to God, so he wants others to disobey Him too.
Demons are fallen angels that willfully joined Satan in his original rebellion against God and continue to follow him and promote his kingdom of darkness. Demons are spirit beings with intellect and emotion (Matt 12:43; Mark 1:23-26), can inflict disease to oppress men (Matt 9:32-33), can possess both beasts and unsaved men (Mark 5:13; 9:17), promote a system of teaching that leads to immoral behavior (1 Tim 4:1-3), and are highly organized by Satan to maximize their effectiveness in opposing God’s will in the lives on men (Eph 6:11-12). J. Dwight Pentecost states:
In Ephesians 6:12 Paul tells us that Satan has followed the pattern of God’s arrangement and has ordered his demons into different hierarchies called principalities and power and rulers. To each of these hierarchies is assigned a different responsibility. Scripture does not tell us the responsibilities assigned to these different groups. We do know that they have one common purpose: to oppose God and to defeat God’s program for men in the earth as that purpose is revealed in the Scriptures.
Another aspect of Satan’s work is that he seeks to promote false teachers, both inside and outside the church (2 Pet 2:1-3; cf. Acts 20:29-30). Many of Satan’s false teachers are charming, friendly, well dressed, moral individuals who pray and give of their resources, and this is done with the intention to deceive Christians and draw them away from God and the truth of Scripture. Paul encountered some of these false teachers and described them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13), men who deceptively “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor 11:15). Though very religious, false teachers are spiritually dead, children of Satan, and bound for the Lake of Fire unless they turn to Jesus as their Savior. Some religious groups such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses fit well into Satan’s system.
Satan will even use well-meaning believers to accomplish his plans. On one occasion Jesus was telling His disciples that “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt 16:21). Jesus was telling them of His Father’s will for Him to die by the hands of sinful men and be resurrected; however, Peter was alarmed by the news and rebuked the Lord.
And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This [suffering and death] shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; [opposing God’s will] for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matt 16:22-23)
Peter loved the Lord, and though he meant well, he was resisting God’s will because it was offensive to him. Jesus was forced to rebuke him for getting in the way of the cross, declaring “you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” For a few moments, Peter slipped into worldly thinking, and briefly became an enemy of the cross, for he was opposing it. Later, Peter would preach the cross and many thousands would be saved (Acts 2).
Satan is an enemy who is bent on our destruction and is described as one who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). We must “resist him firm” in our Christian faith, and this can only be done as we regularly “submit to God” by learning His Word and living His will (1 Pet 5:9; Jam 4:7). It is only from the shelter of our right relationship with God that we find safety from the enemy. The Christian becomes his own worst enemy when he turns away from the Lord and abandons Scripture as his guide for life. Satan wants to trap and isolate us from God and His Word, because it’s only through worldly thinking that he can take advantage of us. The Christian who is filled with the Spirit and walking in the light of Scripture cannot fail, though great satanic storms are hurled against him.
Satan is a defeated creature. Though he advanced himself in heaven and on earth by convincing others to follow him (angels and men), both he and his kingdom have been judged by God (John 12:31), and his punishment is coming (Matt 25:41). Attack is inevitable for Christians living in the devil’s world, but victory is certain for the believer who lives in God’s will and advances in his spiritual walk.