Knowing Our Enemies: Satan (13)
In 2003 the U.S. Defense Department created a special deck of “Iraqi Most Wanted” playing cards. Each of the 52 cards gave a profile, in order of rank, of the henchmen of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Saddam was the Ace of Spades and the top card in the deck. The American soldiers invading Iraq were each given a deck of cards. By thumbing through his cards, either while on active duty or during some down-time of recreation in the barracks, the soldier could quickly familiarize himself with his most important enemies.
In our spiritual warfare we need a profile of our enemies. This article and the next two are our profile cards. Our Reformed Confessions (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 52; Canons of Dordt, V, 4) identify our three principal enemies. On one card is “Satan.” On another is “The World.” On a third is “Our Sinful Flesh.”
We begin with a profile of Satan. He is our foe. Some people question whether all of the enemies on the “Iraqi Most Wanted” cards were legitimately the real and present threats they were portrayed to be. Make no mistake about it, Satan is a real and present threat. He is not a symbol of evil or a figure of speech. Satan is real, as real as you are. The Bible says so.
Satan is that perdition-bound, God-hating, powerful, fallen angel, who, under the sovereignty of God, seeks through temptation to influence souls to hate and disobey God. The information on his card is alarming and makes a battle against the likes of Saddam Hussein, “Chemical Ali” and “Mrs. Anthrax” look like mere sport.
While the list is not exhaustive, here are six profile descriptions of Satan that every soldier in the army of Christ should know.
1. Satan is not physical but spiritual
- As an angel, Satan is pure spirit. He was not made out of the dust of the ground and does not have a visible, physical, flesh-and-blood form as we do (Eph. 6:11-12).
- Although he may be present, I will never see Satan walk past me or my group of friends after church, or while I am on a date, or exiting a job interview.
- It is impossible to include a picture of Satan on his profile card.
- It will take more power than I possess to destroy Satan, for he cannot be killed by tying a mill-stone around his neck and casting him into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.
- His working is essentially spiritual, aimed at my soul. A terrorist can slit my throat or shoot bullets into my chest. Satan goes deeper. He wants my soul, the spiritual aspect of my being in which I stand consciously before my Maker. He wants my soul to die savoring the things of men and not of God (Matt. 16:23).
- This makes his working mysterious and beyond complete comprehension. As the Spirit’s good operation of regeneration in my soul is mysterious and beyond my comprehension (John 3:8), and likewise the holy angels’ ministering for my salvation (Heb. 1:14), so also are Satan’s evil operations and influences upon my soul. I know that in Jesus’ day Satan took possession of some (Mark 5); he also entered Judas (Luke 22:3; John 13:27); he filled the heart of Ananias with a lie (Acts 5:3); and he takes some captive at his will (II Tim. 2:26). But exactly how he interacts with the thoughts, desires, and emotions of my flesh is mysterious. He does, though. I must take him seriously!
2. Satan is not God, but a creature
- Only God is God, eternal and self-existent. Satan is a creature who was made. 1
- As a creature, Satan is not omnipresent. His influence extends throughout the whole earth due to his hordes of demonic henchmen (Eph. 6:12); nevertheless, even as a spirit-being he cannot be present everywhere in the universe at the same time. He comes and goes (Job 1:6-7; 2:7).
- Satan is not omniscient. He does not know everything. He does not know the names written in the book of life or when Christ shall come again (Mark 13:32).
- Satan is not omnipotent. He has tremendous power, but power that is limited and controlled by God (Job 1:12; John 10:21; James 4:7). Always, I must remember this!
3. Satan is so depraved
- His names reveal him to be the evil one that he is. His two most common names are “Satan” and “Devil.” “Satan” appears 55 times in the Bible, and most often in the books of Job and Revelation. “Devil” never appears in the Old Testament, and 61 times in the New Testament.
- “Satan” means “adversary.” Chiefly, he is the adversary of God. He hates God personally, hates God’s sovereignty, and hates God’s decrees and works. Because he cannot kill God, he hates and opposes God’s Anointed. Because Satan could not keep Christ in the grave, and because Christ was caught up unto God and to His throne (Rev. 12:5), Satan goes after the woman, Christ’s church—thus, you and me (Rev. 12:13). If he could get just one of God’s children to drown in perdition, he could claim the throne of the universe, for he would have exposed God as a powerless and faithless idol who could not keep His promise to save all His own. Adversary!
- The name “Devil” means “slanderer.” He is the father of the lie (John 8:44). He uses human beings as his mouthpieces—and soon the Antichrist—as he goes through the world uttering lies about God, Christ, and the church, intending to destroy the name of God.
- It is impossible to express just how wicked this Adversary and Slanderer really is. Article 12 of the Belgic Confession reminds me that “the devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and every good thing, to the utmost of their power, as murderers, watching to ruin the church and every member thereof….” Satan has no conscience that can prick him in his defiance of God. He will never repent. Nor will he evolve into a morally decent creature. He is far worse than the worst of Nimrod, Athaliah, Herod the Great, Caesar Nero, Hitler and the 52 “Most Wanted of 2003” all put together.
- Satan is not my friend. Some people are fascinated by gargantuan or venomous serpents and want to keep them as pets in their homes. However, I may never become infatuated or fascinated with Satan and suppose I can innocently get to know him. I may never worship him. He is my adversary and I must hate him, flee from him, and pray for his destruction.
4. Satan’s craft and power are great
- He is not a mere man devoted to the utter ruin of my soul in hell, but the prince of a hellish kingdom (Eph. 2:2). He is a dragon (Rev. 12).
- Typically, his power is not exercised through brute force, but craft, wiles, and evil stratagems. He is the Tempter who works through deceit (Matt. 4:1,3; Eph. 6:11). He is the Master of Trickery, making hell look appealing and sin fun. He can appeal to my pride to convince me that the dung of my boast “I am Protestant Reformed!” is the solid ground upon which I should stand in the judgment day. He baits gnarly hooks of hell-fire with honeycomb so that even though the whore’s feet go down to death, the young man cannot resist her and her lips (Prov. 5).
- Before he rushes at me head-on declaring, “God did not say!” he will dance at my side suggesting, “Yea hath God really said eighteen-year-olds may not drink beer, listen to pulsating music, and talk profanely together around a bonfire? Does the Bible say that? Where?”
5. Satan is my constant foe
- Some enemies fatigue. Some lose focus. Some eventually give up. Not Satan (I Pet. 5:8).
- Every day Satan is ready to meet the challenge of getting me to turn my back on God and walk toward hell, either boasting in iniquity or despairing in hopelessness. Whether I am ready for him when I first stir in bed at dawn or not, he is ready for me—ready to tempt me to have negative thoughts multiplying in my mind as I arise from my slumber, so that I begin my day gloomy, or to have me lose control of my emotions or tongue at the first encounter of something I do not like. He exerts his influence upon me in the sanctuary to make sure I get jealous of so-and-so as she walks in, to make sure I think about the game during congregational prayer, or to make sure that when we guys gather in our circle afterward we demean others, especially so-and-so with his dorky haircut. He is present on every date to make sure we get alone time and temptations to compromise our chastity. When I leave the job interview with no job, he tempts me to imagine I am a worthless failure. Even while I pray, he tempts me to think about something other than the immediate presence of God’s majesty, or to doubt that God really will forgive me, or that He even hears my confession. Relentless he is.
6. Christ is Satan’s Lord
- Satan is not the Lord of the universe but subject to my Christ who is. Not unto thee, Satan, but to our God will we forever exclaim and pray, “For in Jesus Christ, Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen!”
- Because Christ who bruised Satan’s head on the cross is Satan’s Lord, Satan will never claim and bring to perdition an elect child of the Lord (John 6:39; 10:29). Rather, the lake of fire will soon claim Satan forever (Rev. 20:10). My comfort is that I belong to the Lord.
Let’s take a moment to illustrate one of Satan’s battle campaigns in order to see all these characteristics of his in play, and to acknowledge how awful he is. It is a campaign waged on the field of a young woman’s soul.2 Imagine a nineteen-year-old woman who goes to the first class of her sophomore year in college. Satan also attends. This Reformed young lady, while not recklessly craving attention, is somewhat vulnerable because she is having a hard time being content, yearning for the emotional rush of a relationship with a man. She wants a boyfriend. Satan will play on that yearning. In that first class she meets a handsome fellow. By the end of the week over 100 text-messages have been exchanged.
He is an unchurched unbeliever and she knows it. They begin dating—secretly. Her guilty conscience is overridden by the excitement she feels as he continually tells her how attractive she is and how lucky he is to talk with her. Satan is taking her captive at his will.
When her parents and mature friends find out what is going on, they compassionately but sharply admonish and warn her, insisting she cut off her relationship with this fellow. She tries to justify her actions and temper their concerns, “He is such a good guy. Honestly. Give him a chance. He wants to come to church with me and talk with our pastor. We talk together about the Bible, about what it means to be Reformed. Besides, we are not dating, we’re just friends.” Her parents repeat, “You may not be friends with the enemies of God. God is not mocked.” Her immature friends keep cheering, “You two are adorable!” Her mature friends say, “Dear, does this advance your relationship with God?”
She feels less and less guilt. Through the Adversary and Slanderer’s working she feels more and more vindication for standing up to “narrow-minded and judgmental” family and friends. Meanwhile, she and the young man are secretly breaking boundaries because they really do “love” (that’s Satan’s lie; lust is not love) each other and want to demonstrate their “love” through intimacy. Through the emotional rush this “amazing man” gives her, she is ready to sell her inheritance and even her soul for a life with him. She has never felt better about herself. Her heart pounds to see him. He makes her feel like a princess. Her obsession is unbreakable. And on top of it all, he’s coming with her to a catechism class.
Three years later they have a ten-month-old daughter and are divorced. He was manipulative, abusive, and repeatedly sexually unfaithful.
Satan has his sights on bigger things—her family. Two years after the divorce she is engaged to another man and planning her second wedding. Most in her family are overwhelmed with grief. Her father collapses to his knees to pray every night and just sobs uncontrollably. Thinking about the whole situation is all-consuming; “What happened to our sweetheart—the baby of our family? Did I fail as a father? How could this happen? Divorce? And now remarriage? In our family? How? Why? And our 3-year-old granddaughter… how can we help her in all of this?”
The divorced woman is angry because no one—with the exception of two older brothers—comes or gives their blessing to her wedding. “What!?” she bitingly retorts, “You all think I’m going to hell!?” Influenced by Satan (his craft is great), she, and two of her older brothers, are convinced this remarriage is not the adultery God calls it, but God’s tender mercy to a suffering saint who cannot be expected to live the single life at 24 years of age. Now there is conflict in the family. Will it escalate? Satan’s goal is attitudes, words, and actions that dishonor God. Then there is the new husband and his family. They go to a Reformed church and are appalled that the family of their new daughter-in-law does not come to the wedding and calls this beautiful marriage adulterous. “How unbelievably unchristian, hyper-radical, and judgmental can folks be?” they wonder.
What a tragedy is the whole mess.
This happens. I’m a father. Just writing this puts a knot in my stomach.
Don’t you see how the bloody battles of history are mere sport, compared to the campaigns waged by Satan? Don’t you hate Satan with all your heart and long for his complete destruction in hell? Don’t you long for heaven? Don’t you see how desperately we all need armor—God’s armor? Don’t you want to pray right now?
Do it. Pray. Pray in adoration of your good and sovereign God who is in control of these heart-rending happenings in testing and proving His saints; who will never allow Satan to pluck one elect child out of His hands, so that even if a believer is drawn into great and heinous sins by Satan, faithful Jehovah will graciously bring that believer to confession of sin and amendment of life.
Humble yourself before His sovereignty and reverence Him as He does not always incorporate all of our physical seed into His everlasting covenant. Not knowing who are elect and who are reprobate, pray that those who have been taken captive by Satan be freed. Free them, O God! Pray for wisdom in hard situations, and for charity that rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. And thank God for that precious blood of His Lamb by whom we overcome our great enemy Satan and love not our lives unto death (Rev. 12:11).
1 For a description of the beginnings of Satan, see a previous article in this series: “Knowing War’s Origin: In the Angelic Realm” in the May 15, 2015 issue.
2 What follows is not a description of a concrete case. It is an imaginary case. No particular individual or family is in mind. May the reading of this deliberately descriptive and sobering fictional account by the youth be an instrument of God to give them serious pause.