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1. SATAN’S ORIGIN AND HOME
The Scriptures give but veiled glimpses of his origin and home, for their purpose is more expressly to reveal God in His character; and Christ as the Redeemer of men; with the history of the redeemed from the fall of Adam, their salvation through the Cross, and their eternal destiny, when Christ shall have “abolished all rule and all authority and power” ( Corinthians 15:24), contrary to the reign of God, and God Himself shall be All in all.
2. SATAN’S POSITION AND CHARACTER
In regard to the position and character of Satan we know that he is the very embodiment of a lie, for “There is no truth in him … he is a liar, and the father of it,” said the Lord. The various names by which he is described in the Scriptures reveal his power. Fallen though he be, he is called by the Lord Jesus no less than three times the “prince of this world” ( John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), thus plainly recognizing his rule over the earth. That he is a personage of rank and power we learn from Jude: “Michael, the arch-angel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9). He is also called the “god of this age” ( 2 Corinthians 4:4, margin), for men obey and worship him, even unconsciously, when they do not obey and worship the Creator.
The fallen archangel is moreover described as the “prince of the power of the air” ( Ephesians 2:2), meaning wicked spiritual powers dwelling in the aerial heavens, for it seems the “Satanic confederation has its seat in the atmospheric heaven — in the spaces above and around our world” (Seiss).
That the “prince of the power of the air” has power (when permission is granted) to wield the forces of the air we see in the history of Job; for at his bidding lightning fell from heaven to consume the flocks of the faithful servant of God, and he caused a wind to blow Job’s house down and kill his children. In relation to his attacks upon the children of men the prince of this world is called the “tempter” ( 1 Thessalonians 3:5), because it is his fiendish delight to tempt others from loyal obedience to God. And he is named “the devil” ( 1 Timothy 3:6,7) — a word never used in the plural, and always, and only, of Satan himself. “The Hebrew name Satan occurs in the New Testament thirty-five times interchangeably with the Greek Diabolos, which is also used thirty-five times. The word Diabolos signifies “separator and slanderer” (Blackstone), or “malignant accuser.” Satan is the great separator, and he separates by slandering. He separated the race of man from God in Eden, and ever since he has been separating men from each other, with hatred, malice, envy and jealousy. He is especially named the “accuser of the brethren” ( Revelation 12:10), and we find him also described as “the great dragon,” the “old serpent,” and the “deceiver of the whole inhabited earth.”
That the adversary still has the world under his rule, is unmistakably shown in his attack upon the Lord Jesus in the wilderness. The Lord was led, under the constraint of the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness to be “tempted of the devil,” and after other temptations, the devil showed Him “all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth. And the devil said unto Him, To Thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship before me, it shall all be Thine” ( Luke 4:5,6,7, margin).
The extent of His claim to “all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth” the Son of God did not deny, and later the Lord plainly speaks of Satan’s kingdom. “If Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand”? ( Luke 11:18).
And He adds, “The strong man fully armed guardeth his own court,” until “a Stronger than he” comes upon him, and sets his captive free. How fitting therefore the petition, “Deliver us from the evil one” ( Matthew 6:13)! John also emphasizes the universality of Satan’s rule, for he writes, “The whole world lieth in the evil one” ( 1 John 4:19) — it is sunk in the darkness which is his sphere, and is under the rule of the “world-rulers of this darkness” ( Ephesians 6:12). The Scripture makes no distinction between high and low, or between cultured and ignorant, when it states that the “whole world” — heathen and Christendom — lies “in” the realm of the evil one.
In heathen lands, the deceiver is daring in his tyranny, holding men and women in gross and open sin. In civilized countries, the god of this age needs must veil his working. In these last days, however, he is beginning to more openly manifest himself as the prince of the world. He is familiarizing people with his name. Books to be popular must be about him, and in fashion’s realm serpents have been the favorite ornaments of dress, while palmistry, clairvoyance, planchette, and other means of intercourse with the spirits of evil, abound on every hand.
The adversary has also his organized governments, which the Apostle Paul describes as “principalities ... powers sovereigns of this present darkness” ( Ephesians 6:12, C. H.). We read of “Satan’s throne” ( Revelation 2:13); of “his ministers” ( 2 Corinthians 11:15); of his “principalities” and his “powers”; and of his hosts of “spirits of evil” ( Ephesians 6:12, C. H.) in the heavens. Daniel’s account of his interview with the messenger from God supports the view that these principalities and powers of Satan are given charge of specified countries; for the Satanic “prince of Persia” withstood the heavenly messenger, who said that on his return he would again have to meet with the same Prince, together with the “Prince of Greece” ( Daniel 10:13,20). Satan therefore reigns over an aerial kingdom of hierarchies and spiritual powers, and a kingdom on earth in the world of men, and he governs by means of an organized government.
But let us not forget that all these hosts are compelled to acknowledge the Sovereign Lord of the Universe! Unbelievers in God are alone to be found on earth, for the powers of evil “believe and shudder” ( James 2:19), knowing that they are reserved unto judgment.
3. SATAN’S SYSTEM OF RELIGION
WORSHIP OF IDOLS
In 1 Corinthians one aspect of Satan’s religion is revealed as we are shown what idol-worship actually means. They who would walk in fellowship with God must “flee from idolatry,” lest they would hold “communion with demons.” They dare not partake of the “table of the Lord,” and of the “table of demons.” ( 1 Corinthians 10:19-22, C. H.). The matter was vital to the Corinthians, as it now is to native Christians in heathen lands, for oftentimes the meat offered for sale had first been offered to idols, and some of the Corinthian Christians had accepted invitations to feasts celebrated in the temple of heathen gods — feasts which were acts of idolatrous worship. Thus we see how the fallen archangel not only deceives, and holds in darkness the human race, but he adds to their destruction, by seeking to meet the desire for an object of worship which lies dormant in every breast.
OUTWARD PROFESSION OF GODLINESS
But apart from direct Satanic worship, Satan has other ways of meeting the need for some religion. Paul writes to the Romans, “Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?” ( Romans 2:22, margin) as he shows that no outward rite or ceremonial fulfillment of the law is acceptable to God. Satan knows this, and therefore persuades men that outward obedience to some creed is enough, thus deluding multitudes into a false peace by causing them to rest upon an outward ceremony or form of words.
It appears by this that the adversary has not only a religion which gives him worship through material images, but that his “synagogue” or congregation is made up of professors of religion who are without the inward truth. John writes, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness [i.e. in sin], we lie, and do not the truth” ( 1 John 1:6, A. V.), and the most severe words that ever passed the lips of Christ were His scathing exposures of the Pharisees. “They say and do not” He said, and “outwardly appear righteous unto men,” when inwardly full of hypocrisy.
He told them they were of their “father the devil,” and called them “serpents,” and the “offspring of vipers” ( Matthew 23:15). And yet the Pharisees claimed God as their Father, and were the straitest sect in Israel in the outward fulfilling of the law! The Lord’s strong words make it appear that Satan’s invisible “church” is filled with those who make religion a cloak while they are really his subjects.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that the Holy Spirit had expressly told him that in the latter days the adversary would seek to draw many away from the faith by the teaching of spirits inculcating “doctrines of demons” ( 1 Timothy 4:1, m.). So that Satan has “doctrines” as well as system of worship — a “cup,” a “table,” and a “synagogue!” Paul said that the teaching would be given through men who would profess to be what they were not, and whose consciences would be seared as with a hot iron.
These “teachings of demons,” through false teachers acting under their control, had already begun in the first century, and seducing spirits were evidently at work in the church at Thyatira drawing servants of God from their Lord through the “deep things of Satan” ( Revelation 2:24). One calling herself a prophetess was leading souls astray, teaching them to “eat things sacrificed to idols.” The Lord’s complaint was that the church suffered these things to be in its midst — things upon which He pronounced the most awful warning of certain judgment. Satan’s religion has always one clearly defined mark in the omission of the Gospel of Calvary. And by this test all “gospels” that are not the Gospel may be recognized! The atoning death of the Son of God; His propitiation for sin; His blotting out of sin; His deliverance from the power of sin by the severing power of the Cross; His call of the blood-redeemed soul to the Cross in humiliation of self, and sacrifice for others — in brief, till that Calvary means, is emphatically repudiated, or else always carefully omitted, in the doctrines of the seducing spirits which are evolved in hell! Let everyone thus test the tenets of Theosophy, of Christian (?) Science, and all other teachings now being poured into the world by spirits of evil, who do not hesitate to appropriate for their purposes the very language describing the effects, and blessings of the Gospel.
It cannot always be said that there is no mention of the Cross (and in his later workings, even of the Blood of Christ), in Satan’s religious teaching, but it is the Cross as only an outward symbol without the inward power, for he knows that it is only the real acceptance of the death of Christ — or Cross of Christ — which saves from sin and delivers the soul from the power of Satan.
4. SATAN’S SUBJECTS “The whole world lieth in the evil one,” declares the Apostle John, but it is of the supremest importance to the prince of this world that those who dwell in his realm should not know it. To keep men ignorant of their position he blinds their minds! “The god of this world hath blinded the minds (margin: thoughts) of the unbelieving, that the light of the Gospel ... should not dawn upon them” ( 2 Corinthians 4:4).
The truth about the love of God to men, of men as sinners needing a Saviour, and of God’s gift of a perfect Saviour when really apprehended by the soul, must set free, and so the adversary hides the truth from his captives. They are kept “darkened in their understanding” and are thus “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” ( Ephesians 4:18).
That the truth must reach the understanding to be effectual in delivering the soul is evident from the Lord’s words that the good ground which received the seed was in the one “that heareth the Word, and understandeth it” ( Matthew 13:23; see also Colossians 1:9; 1 John 5:20). The adversary therefore labors to keep the understanding darkened, blinding the mind with (1) wrong thoughts about God, (2) prejudices of all kinds, (3) philosophy of earth, (4) false reasonings concerning spiritual things, or else he occupies the thoughts with earthly things, earthly idols, or the cares and pleasures of this life.
The adversary, or his minions, attends every preaching of the Word of truth, and when it does not enter the understanding it is easily snatched away. Once the smallest seed of the Word of truth enters the understanding it is sure to bring forth fruit in its season, unless it is choked by other things entering in.
Here the adversary is pictured as in full control of the darkened sinner, keeping him in peace, and the sinner is guarded carefully by the terrible one who is “fully armed” to meet every attempt to deliver the captive from his bonds. The poor soul resents his peace being disturbed, and cries, “Let me alone,” but the time comes when the “Stronger than he” — the Man of Calvary — lays hold of the captive soul, and he is delivered “out of the power of darkness, and translated … into the kingdom of the Son” ( Colossians 1:13).
The “tares are the sons of the evil one … the enemy that sowed them is the devil.” The attention of the world must be drawn to the counterfeits, and the true living seed of God hidden, for the tares look like the wheat until the time of fruit! And God looks on! “Let both grow together till the harvest,” He cries, for the tares cannot be uprooted without danger to the growing wheat. And the adversary also works on! The Lord’s wheat, and the adversary’s tares; the true and the counterfeit; are always found side by side throughout the inhabited earth. We must face the fact that the Scriptures declare these things to be true concerning all men, be they high or low, rich or poor, cultured or ignorant. There is no trace given of neutral ground. The Scripture “hath shut up all things under sin” ( Galatians 3:22) that “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” ( Romans 3:19, A. V.). “He that doeth sin is of the devil” ( 1 John 3:8). The Divine life which comes from God, and is implanted in the child of God, does not sin, for the good tree bears good fruit. The fallen life must also bring forth its own fruit of sin. Sin in greater or lesser degree it is true, but sin as God calls sin. We are children of the one by whose life we live. Children of God if His life is imparted to us, or “children of the devil” if we live under his control.
The arch-fiend has studied the fallen race of Adam for many thousand years, and knows how to allure his subjects. Among the sons of men there are some with more spirit-capacity than others, and these are the ones especially open to his snares, and most likely to become his tools to work out his will. These souls would not be allured by the “flesh,” nor would vain philosophy and reasonings charm them. Beguiled, as the serpent beguiled Eve, by the fascination of the knowledge of good and evil, he draws them on into unlawful dealings with the spirit-world, until some are given “a spirit of divination” ( Acts 16:16) like the damsel at Philippi, or like Simon the sorcerer, and are led into “magical arts” as in the days of Paul. Such are the workings of the adversary today in spiritism, palmistry, crystal-gazing, and such like things. In the twentieth century professed Christian people are once more practising the “abominations” which caused the Lord to cast out the nations of Canaan before ú His people Israel.
But all is in fulfillment of the Apostle Paul’s forecast of the latter days. The grievous times are upon us. Men are “lovers of self, lovers of money, ... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness” while denying the power thereof ( 2 Timothy 3:1-6).
5. SATAN CONQUERED AT CALVARY
Satan was conquered at Calvary. The disobedience of the first Adam was met by the obedience of the second — the Lord from heaven. The punishment of death was carried out upon the sinless One who took upon Him the sins of the world, and died as the Representative Man. The fallen race of Adam which God said must be “blotted out” ( Genesis 6:7, m.; Genesis 7:23, m.), because, “every imagination of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually,” was nailed to the Cross in the person of the second Adam, and by the Cross the Lord from heaven triumphed over the prince of darkness. “Through death” — the very result of sin; “through death” the very weapon by which the evil one held his subjects in bondage; through death — the Prince of Life destroyed “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” ( Hebrews 2:14). Satan has fallen from heaven.
But though the adversary was conquered at Calvary and cast down from his throne of power, he is left at large while the proclamation of the victory is sent throughout his dominions, for the purpose of giving the choice of masters to every human being. How bitterly the adversary resists the work of the Holy Spirit in men as their eyes are opened to the truth! But far more keenly does he resist the full enlightenment of the believer which makes him so possessed by the Holy Spirit that he becomes an equipped and aggressive warrior in the army of the Lord.
6. SATAN’S DEVICES AGAINST THE FULL DELIVERANCE OF HIS CAPTIVES
He seeks to keep back the soul from full surrender to God. “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to deceive the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part … ?” ( Acts 5:3, margin) It was when all were placing their possessions entirely at the disposal of the Lord! Ananias laid part of his possessions at the Apostle’s feet, pretending that it was “all”! Peter, filled with the Spirit discerned the truth, and his stern words at once unveil the source of the sin! Satan had “filled his heart” to make him “keep back part.” Keep back part for self, is the tempter’s whisper, for something kept for self gives place to the devil, and keeps the Redeemer from His Throne in the heart.
He resists the removal of the filthy garments spotted by the flesh. “Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary” ( Zechariah 3:1). Joshua is seen standing before the Lord clothed in filthy garments with Satan as his adversary. Even so does the devil resist every child of God as he stands before the Lord seeking to be clothed with change of raiment. Clothed in the garments spotted by the flesh, the redeemed one stands in dumb helplessness before the Lord. The simple words, “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan,” are spoken and the foe is silenced. The soul seeking deliverance is here shown the way of victory over the adversary! Just as we are, we must stand before the Lord in our deep need, and count upon Him to rebuke the evil one.
When the soul has yielded all in full surrender, and in dumb helplessness ceases from his own efforts to save himself, he knows by the Holy Spirit that he must take the Cross, and deny himself, if Christ is to see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. But “Be it far from thee,” cries the adversary, through the lips of even servants of God, who have dimmer visions of the things of God, and know not the eternal loss to the soul who listens to their plea. But “Get thee behind me, Satan,” the redeemed one must cry as he looks behind the human voice, and sees the adversary of God.
James points out that all “jealousy” and “faction” has its source in the life which he calls animal, and “devilish”! Satan is shown here to be the real power working through the fallen life of nature. Possibly when the believer has taken the Cross for himself, circumstances arise when “loyalty demands that he should stand up for a friend !” The spirit of faction comes in, or jealousy for others, and the adversary triumphs. The Apostle says that the wisdom which is from above is “without partiality.” All faction, all jealousy for the “own,” in friends, or denomination, is instigated by the evil one to keep the believer in the sphere lying under his rule.
The wiles of the devil concerning “revelations.” “I know a man in Christ … caught up into paradise” ( 2 Corinthians 12:2,4). “I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him” ( John 14:21), is a promise made by the Lord on the eve of His passion. There is a moment when the promise is fulfilled, and Christ reveals Himself to the obedient heart, and the believer knows the Risen Lord. To some He is manifested in light above the brightness of the sun, as to Paul in a wondrous heavenly vision, and others are but conscious of His Presence in a peace and joy unspeakable. In any case the glorified Christ now becomes a living reality to the soul. What are the wiles of the adversary now but an attempt to personate the Lord! The believer must know that the evil one can fashion himself as an angel of light, and work with all “power and signs and lying wonders” ( Thessalonians 2:9) to lead astray the very elect.
We need to walk carefully with God at this stage of the spiritual life, not coveting wonderful experiences, but rather an ever-deepening conformity to the death of Jesus ( Philippians 3:10), so that the life of Jesus may be manifested ( 2 Corinthians 4:10,11) to all around. “Visions and revelations” are not given to the soul for its own enjoyment, but for some definite purpose, as with the Apostle Paul when he was stoned in Lystra; called to Macedonia; or needed clearer guidance to remain in Athens.
The Lord does speak to His children, and makes them to know His voice from the voice of strangers. They know it as a babe knows its mother’s voice, but like the babe they may not be able to say how or why. When the believer is brought by the Spirit into the Spirit-sphere, and Christ is manifested to him, one of the first results is a knowledge of the voice of the Lord, in a way the soul has never realized before. The adversary knows that the believer has but little knowledge of his foe, so the wiles are soon planned to counterfeit the voice of the Lord, so as to confuse or to mislead the soul, either to destroy his faith in the guidance of the Spirit, or else to lead him in obedience to the voice of the devil, and in strong delusion to believe a lie.
The believer who would overcome must now know how to distinguish the voice of the Lord from the voice of the foe. This may be done by its effect, and by its object. The voice of the Lord brings a deep calm over the spirit, whereas the voice of the devil often causes confusion, restlessness, agitation and uncertainty. The voice of the Lord is invariably in accord with the teaching of the Word of God, although the adversary also can quote Scripture, but it is usually texts with the portions omitted which safeguard, or interpret the whole, or else he uses isolated words wrenched from the context which explains them! The wiles of the adversary are the most subtle, and likely to succeed, in the early days of the life in the Spiritsphere, for as the believer matures in the knowledge of God, the “mind of Christ” becomes the mind of the one closely in fellowship with God. It is well that the believer should understand this, lest he give advantage to the enemy by falling into discouragement, or depression, when the transition from childhood to manhood takes place, and God is teaching him how to use his spiritual senses, discerning good and evil. ( Hebrews 5:14).
The wiles concerning guidance. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” ( Romans 8:14). There is scarcely any subject connected with the spiritual life more difficult to explain, and more misunderstood than the subject of guidance! The words, “I was ‘led’ to do this or that,” are so often used when there is no evidence of any leading at all. There are many wiles of the adversary around the subject. One tactic of the .evil one is to make souls confused and distracted over what is the will of God; others he deludes into throwing aside all use of their judgment and knowledge, to act upon some isolated text, or some “thought” that came to them in prayer; others are beguiled into an attitude of judgment upon the walk of others, or else into a position not far short of infallibility, though they would not use the word. Our text gives the principal mark of the true guidance of the Lord. “Led by the Spirit” means that He deals, and does not drive or force, therefore the soul must take heed not to force itself to any course of action which is repugnant to it, that is, pre-supposing that the will is surrendered to God, as ready to take any course unmistakably shown to be His will.
Then let us understand, too, that as the life of Christ matures in the believer, the Spirit leads more from within by the working of life, which manifests itself as simply and naturally as the life of nature. When the believer becomes a “full grown man” ( Hebrews 6:1, R. V. m.), with heart and will under the complete control of the Spirit, the new life will increasingly work in him with less and less perceived action to his consciousness. As many as are led by the Spirit, in this way, are indeed sons of God, with spirit, soul, and body, working out His will with ease and spontaneity. (1) They are “guided by the skilfulness of His hands” ( Psalm 78:72), leading them hour by hour into the path prepared for them. (2) They are guided by their faithfulness to God: “The integrity of the upright shall guide them” ( Proverbs 11:3) — for they know what to do by the very instinct of right and wrong which God has planted within them. (3) The “meek will He guide in judgment” ( Psalm 25:9), for He uses their renewed minds ( Romans 12:2), yea, giving them the very mind of Christ, which led Him to empty Himself, and be obedient unto death … the death of the Cross. The soul that knows this principle of sacrifice and self-effacement as the characteristic of the life of Christ, needs no inner voice nor special guidance, to tell him what course he is to take while walking in this present evil world!
The believer who has emerged into the life in the Spirit finds himself free in a way he has never known before. It is just now that the evil one is ready with new wiles to ensnare the freed one, suggesting to him (1) “You have liberty now to do anything, for you are free”; or (2) “You are under no man’s control now, especially those who are in the flesh.”
And the adversary now does his best to counterfeit the true freedom in Christ by inciting rebellion to those in authority, and fleshly zeal under the name of the liberty of the Spirit. But the Word of God shows that the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free is really freedom from slavery to sin, and to the evil one. The freed soul passes under law to Christ, under the perfect law of liberty, which is liberty to do right, instead of seeing what is right, and doing what is wrong. Liberty to obey God instead of disobeying Him.
The law of Christ comes in here, and shows that there is a limitation placed to liberty by the conscience of the weak brother. The freed one is not only to be subject to others in authority for the Lord’s sake. but is to take heed lest his liberty of action become a “stumbling block to the weak” ( Corinthians 8:9). The Apostle Paul sets the example to the believer, and he wrote, “I have not used my right, but forego every claim, lest I should by any means hinder the course of Christ’s glad-tidings” ( Corinthians 9:12, C. H. and note).
CONCLUSION These wiles of the devil are those which will meet every believer who enters the sphere of the Spirit, and they are wiles which cease to a great extent as he progresses in the knowledge of God, and learns to know his foe.
The preaching of the Cross is therefore the supreme need in this day of contact with the supernatural forces of the unseen world, and conformity to the death of Christ ( Philippians 3:10), rather than the craving for signs and wonders, is the safest objective for all who desire to press on in the fullest knowledge of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.