Our Enemy the Devil

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).[1] 

Fall of LuciferBefore 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.[2]

       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.[3]

       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.[4]

       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. 

Excerpt from: The Christian Life – pages 119-125

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:

[1] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich., Kregel Publications, 1995), 314.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing, 1969), 25-26.

[3] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 18.

[4] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil, 139.