Satan: The powerful pawn

The Bible knows him by various names and titles. He is the serpent of old, the devil, the tempter, the adversary, the prince of the power of the air, the god of this age, the red dragon, Satan, star of the morning, son of the dawn, the anointed cherub, the accuser of the brethren, the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning. In his first appearance in the Garden of Eden, he tempted Eve, who gave to Adam, and thus the whole human race was plunged into sin and death. He is, indeed, the most powerful of God’s created beings, and he is entirely opposed to everything holy and righteous and good.

Since Satan is opposed to all holiness and goodness, he is opposed to Jesus Christ and is opposed to Jesus’ church. Satan hates Christ and hates Christ’s church and hates every member of Christ’s church. He is “our adversary, the devil” who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).” Make no mistake about it, if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, the devil is seeking to devour you. His goal is your destruction. He aims to ruin your testimony, to silence your proclamation of the gospel, to cause you shrink back from your faith, and to deny the faith when he threatens you with loss. When you, as a believer, sin, you have fallen prey to his schemes. Satan rejoices in your sin, because in that sin you have listened to Satan rather than trusted and obeyed the Lord. Yes, Satan is certainly a dangerous foe to the believer, and we are wise when we are alert to his temptations and his deceptions and are aware of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). The believer should diligently defend his holiness and make sure that the devil does not have easy access to our heart, for he desires to bring about your sudden destruction.

But while Satan is a formidable and dangerous adversary to us, he is merely a created being to the Lord God. Part of the reason that the devil sometimes has a larger-than-life persona for believers is because we insist on viewing him from a human perspective and focusing on how he appears to us. David did not go out to meet Goliath in his own strength, but he went out in the name of the LORD of hosts. “Today the LORD will deliver you into my hands (1 Sam 17:45-46).” For the LORD, Goliath was just an overgrown uncircumcised Philistine, and he would fall dead just like any other man of dust. In the same way, we do not encounter Satan in our own strength. We stand firm against the schemes of the devil because we stand firm clothed in the Lord’s armor (Ephesians 6:11ff). We can have no fear of the devil because Jesus Christ has already crushed him and destroyed him by His finished work on the cross (Genesis 3:15; I John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15).

HOW THE LORD VIEWS SATAN

Now let us think about how the Lord God views Satan. First, it is given that the Lord is the sovereign Creator of all things and of all beings. He has created all things for His purpose, and He has ordained all things that will come to pass, from the first events of Genesis 1 to the final events of Revelation. And it is evident that the Lord God created Satan, for Satan is a created being. While understanding the fullness of God’s purposes is beyond human ability (Psalm 131), the Lord has revealed to us many details of His purposes in His Word, the Bible. As we study the pages of the Bible and see what God has revealed to us about Satan, we see that the devil has been created with his unique powers and his wickedness for a specific purpose. The devil is the tempter and the accuser and the liar, and much more, but it is those very qualities that define his area of usefulness. Satan is the Lord’s powerful pawn who spends the vast majority of the divine drama of history in complete obscurity. It is only when his unique “talents” and “abilities” are needed that he is summoned onto the stage to perform his part, to say his lines, and then to exit the stage until “an opportune time (Luke 4:13)” when he is needed again. We must remember that the Lord is the playwright, the director, and the producer of history. He has already written the script, and He has, in eternity past, chosen the cast. In time and space, the Lord created the heavens and the earth, the stage for the drama. “Let there be lights, camera, action!” And history began. But the grand play of human history is not unfolding randomly. No! The drama is unfolding in perfect agreement with the way it was scripted in eternity past by the sovereign Lord of all. And so, Satan does not come and go as he pleases, nor does he ad-lib his lines. Rather, his performance is directed by the Lord and is in perfect agreement with the divine script.

SATAN: THE SUPPORTING ACTOR

When is Satan called on to make an appearance? Satan’s main role is to appear in one of his various forms to tempt someone, so that their obedience will be tested. He also enters the drama at the end of the age when he brings about the great tribulation against the church. Other than some small bit parts here and there, that’s about it. If Satan were a real actor in the world today, he would be starving! There just isn’t a lot of work on the world’s stage for an extremely evil guy like the devil! Let’s quickly examine his major supporting roles in Scripture.

Genesis 3. The Scene – the fall of mankind. Satan’s role is to tempt the first Adam to test his obedience and his righteousness. Our adversary appears as a “serpent more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made (Genesis 3:1).” His first words create doubt about the word of the LORD God. “Did God actually say?” His next words declare that God lied about the wages of sin, telling Eve instead that she can sin with impunity. “You will not surely die,” even though the LORD God had clearly said that you would (2:17). His final words in this scene suggest that God is not good and that He is keeping good things from Eve and Adam. So, Eve takes of the forbidden fruit and gives to Adam. The results are that the serpent, Satan, is cursed; in the future, the Messiah will come to crush Satan’s head; Adam has failed the obedience test; and Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden and from God’s presence because of their sin.

Why is Satan summoned? One reason is that there are only a few actors to choose from at this point in the drama. Also, Satan is the most evil and the most deceptive of God’s creatures. Satan is the one the LORD calls to test Adam.

 Job 1, 2. The Scene – The wager between God and Satan, with Satan claiming that Job only obeys God because the LORD protects Job. The LORD then allows Satan to test Job to see if Job will continue to obey even when his earthly prosperity and possessions are taken away. So, we see that Satan is summoned “from going to and fro on the earth (1:7)” and is pointed to “My servant Job” so that Job can be tested.

Why is Satan summoned? Satan is summoned because he is the only one powerful enough to ruin Job’s prosperity and to bring about Job’s physical affliction, and who hates God and man enough to bring about Job’s undeserved misery.

Matthew 4:1-11. The Scene – The testing and vindication of the Second Adam. Jesus has just been baptized (Matthew 3:13-17) and, as the first act of His earthly ministry, He is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (4:1).” Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights and then is approached by the tempter (Satan). The tempting of the first Adam should be kept in mind as the tempting of the Second Adam takes place. Satan calls Jesus’ identity into question (“If You are the Son of God . . .”), he tempts Jesus to obey him rather than God (“command these stones to become loaves of bread”), he twists the Word of God using parts of Psalm 91 (remember Genesis 3:1, “Did God really say?”), and he offers Jesus everything He could possibly desire in this world, if Jesus will worship him. Jesus perfectly resists all of Satan’s temptations with the word of God (“it is written”), and then commands Satan to depart (“Begone, Satan!”). which Satan obeys. Thus, the Second Adam conquers Satan and resists all his temptations in the very sphere where the first Adam failed.

Why is Satan summoned? Satan is summoned because it was Satan who caused the fall of the first Adam. Satan needed to be defeated by the perfect Second Adam. It was Satan who caused the ruin of the human race, so Satan needed to be confronted by the Redeemer. It was Satan who caused death to enter the world, so it was fitting that Satan be conquered by the Lord who brought in eternal life. Satan is summoned onto the stage because his crushing defeat in the wilderness proves that the Son of God has also appeared on the stage. Satan, the most evil one, can only be vanquished by the Holy One.

Revelation 12, 13, 16, 20. The Scene – The final rebellion against the Lord and attack against the church before Jesus Christ returns. In this scene, Satan takes the form of a red dragon and is allowed to persecute the church. In chapter 12 the dragon “has come down to you in great wrath (12:12),” “he pursued the woman (the church) who had given birth to the male child (12:13),” and “he became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring (12:17).” Satan is allowed to vent his hatred on the church. In chapter 13, Satan raises up an accomplice, “the beast,” who “is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (13:7).” The dragon, along with the beast, and the false prophet, assemble for the battle (16:14). Satan’s final scene is in Revelation 20:8-10 where he gathers the nations for battle. They “surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven, and the devil is thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Why is Satan summoned? Satan is summoned because he is the one uniquely qualified to be the ultimate rebel against the Lord. He is the only one powerful enough to organize and execute this battle against the Lord and His church.

CONCLUSION – THE MAIN POINT

While from our perspective the devil is a powerful and formidable enemy, from the Lord’s perspective Satan is merely a special pawn whom He has created for His use in bringing about His redemptive plan for history. We must remember that Satan is cursed by the LORD God near the beginning of Genesis and then in Revelation 20 is finally thrown into the lake of fire, while we believers are “chosen by the Lord before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)” so that the Lord might “demonstrate the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy whom He prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:23).” Therefore, we should have a healthy respect for Satan’s power, we should not fear him because we are protected from him by the Lord of hosts.

SDG                 rmb                 9.13.2020

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