Satan is not the ruler of hell. He has never been there; although that is his ultimate destination, and of this he is well aware. There are no rulers in hell. The adversary’s boundary is not a physical one; like the boundary of a kingdom or backyard. His boundary is established by God. He is only able to do and go what the Father allows. Martin Luther said that even “The devil is God’s devil.” He was right. The only freedom Satan enjoys is the freedom God permits. Satan surely means to pulverize the saints, but God means to purify them. We must fight before we celebrate, and learn before we are approved. The Puritans said that God allowed Satan’s temporary reign to increase the saint’s eternal joy.
The enemy is powerful. He is a formidable foe, but he is not like God. Satan is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. Satan is wholly evil and will sorely tempt you to do likewise, but he cannot force you to do anything. Geraldine may have blamed the devil for her sin – “The devil made me do it!” – but he cannot make you sin than he could make himself like the Most High. Don’t blame Satan for everything wrong that happens. Don’t ascribe to him more power and authority than he actually has.
Because our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) we have a natural inclination to shift blame onto someone or something else. About this propensity to find a scapegoat Kent Hughes writes:
We need the theological wisdom and honesty of the little girl who had a terrific fight with her brother. When her mother came in and pulled her off, she said to her daughter, ‘Why did you let the devil put into your heart to pull your brother’s hair and kick him in the shins?’
The little girl thought for a moment and said, ‘Well, maybe the Devil put it into my head to pull my brother’s hair, but kicking his shins was my idea.’
We are very capable of being evil all by ourselves.
We need to accept our responsibility to obey the Lord and not shift blame for our own misdeeds onto Satan or his subordinates. Satan will attack. He must be resisted.
- James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
- He may be resisted because, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
This great truth reminds of another little girl. She was asked if Satan ever tempted her to wrong. “Oh, yes,” she replied, “The devil does try to get me. But when he knocks at the door of my heart, I just pray, ‘Jesus, please answer the door.’”
“What happens then?” She was asked.
“Oh, everything turns out all right. When Satan sees Jesus, he runs away every time!”
Believers must understand that the most powerful weapon with which to attack the forces of evil is the Gospel. It alone is the power of God unto salvation. It alone has the power to change lives, including those that are mightily influenced by demonic powers such as the Demoniac. In every instance where Jesus, Paul, or some other New Testament figure exorcised demons from individuals it was within the context of Gospel proclamation. We should expect the gospel to come in power and triumph over the works of the devil. Christ commissioned Paul (and us) to preach among the Gentiles:
“To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in [Christ]” (Acts 26:18)
You cannot have a Biblical theology without a corresponding demonology. Satan and his demons are real, and they are powerful. They will be ultimately defeated, but they are not presently dissuaded. Satan is subtle and crafty. The devil is ferocious. He hates God, the things of God, and the people of God. He is persistent and resilient. He will retreat from time to time, but he will return for more battle. That’s fine, because we are not ignorant of his devices. In His Book God has revealed the adversary’s tactics. The serpent’s head has been crushed by Christ, and only through Him will you have victory. With the weapon of His Word and the wisdom of God, not to mention His promises, prayers, and the power of His Spirit, we like Christ have been prepared by God not only to wage the war but to win.
With that I’ll close by reading, and hopefully encouraging you, from Hebrews 4:14-16:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.