ACST 48: The Intimidators


When all else fails, Satan and his demons are prepared to manifest themselves visibly, or through some display of power, in order to prevent people from learning and living the truth. They prey upon the fears of believers and unbelievers alike. Paul told Timothy that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control..”[1] The demons are uncomfortable around people that they cannot control through fear. For that reason, when people are close to the gospel as unbelievers, or close to living the victory that they have in Christ as believers, demons will manifest.

This fact is a condemnation upon modern western society. The very fact that one does not see evidence of demonic manifestation on a regular basis in the modern world tells against our claim to spiritual superiority. It does not mean that we have the spirit world under control. It means that the demonic realm has us under control. Manifestation reveals the truth of demons’ existence. They do not want to do that because they are more comfortable working in the background, and convincing people that evil is inherent within them, and that there is no remedy for the suffering it causes.

The Christ of the Gospels

When Jesus appeared on the scene in the Gospels, he came in complete awareness of the demonic presence, and with power to overpower it. When people saw that someone was capable of dealing with demonic oppression and possession, they “brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word”[2] These were not people with merely psychological problems, or brain illnesses. They were people under the control of spirit-beings. Jesus did not counsel them, or hold therapy sessions. He cast the demons out. In a society where demonic oppression and possession is denied a priori, such victims have to be put away because modern science cannot treat them. Jesus was under no such restriction. He was able to properly diagnose and treat the cause of these people’s suffering.

The church in the west today must rediscover this gift. In fact, it is part of what makes us distinctive as a religious body. Christ called his disciples together “and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out.”[3] That authority has never been rescinded. We do our society and our planet an injustice when we disregard this fundamental aspect of our existence. Christ was known as one who had power over demons, and he intended for us to be known for that as well. Across the world today, in cultures deep in the depression of demonic bondage, some believers stand out as rays of hope because they do not fear the Intimidators. The Church in the west is not seen as the solution to this kind of problem, but we can be.

In Jesus’ day, the people took note of his teaching because it was more than just ideas. He backed up his words with power, so “they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.””[4] His acts of deliverance drew the people to his words. When he said that God loved them, they could believe it, because they had seen him manifest God’s love by healing and delivering people from demons. That is what deliverance ministry is for. It is not intended to promote the minister but to verify the message. Sometimes today, people get involved in deliverance ministries for the wrong reason. Deliverance is intended to advance the gospel, not to overshadow it.

Deliverance is designed to reveal who Christ is. When the demons encountered Christ in the Gospels, they recognized who he was. The Bible says, “whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.””[5] That is the essence of the church’s authority against demons today. It is not a magical power invested in us. It is the reality of who our Savior is that makes the demons afraid. For that reason, any born-again believer can oppose a demon. One does not have to be properly taught and pre-conditioned. All one really has to know is who Jesus is.

Deliverance overcomes bondage and frees people for productive ministry. Many of the women who supported Jesus’ public ministry were free to do so because he had freed them from demonic bondage. Demons do not really want to kill us as much as they want to keep us in bondage to worldliness so that we are unproductive in kingdom living. If worldliness loses its charm, the demons will seek to keep us distracted with fear by physically manifesting. The only thing that prevents them from doing so more often is the knowledge that manifesting removes them from the category of things that do not really exist.

How a demon can manifest.

Demons manifest as departed human spirits regularly. That explains why practically everybody had a ghost story. These ghosts are not really the spirits of dead people. They merely pretend to be. They can do a convincing job because they have observed those they choose to imitate prior to their deaths. Christians who are aware of this tactic can immediately dismiss these visitations and send the demons back where they came from with a failed mission.

Demons can also manifest as monsters that exist in public imagination. They take advantage of fear and seek to maintain an atmosphere of fear. There are remedies against any such paralyzing fear: often merely mentioning the name of Christ, or the power of his blood will send the demons away with a taste of their own medicine. Demons fear Jesus more than anything. They are aware that he will bring about their destruction at the end of the age.

Dabbling in the occult.

Some people open themselves up to demonic attack by dabbling in the occult or getting too interested in paranormal phenomena. Even Christians can do this. Some have argued that it is impossible for a true Christian to become oppressed by a demon because he has the Holy Spirit within. This is faulty reasoning. True Christians are attacked by spirits all the time; the presence of the Holy Spirit does not prevent it. Also, these demons are persons. Believers are free to communicate with these persons, although doing so is not wise.

Levels of influence

There are levels of influence for demons, from the lowest (the attack) to the highest (possession). Giving in to fear (or curiosity) leads to more loss of control, until one is completely under the demon’s control. At any point up until complete possession, a person may get freedom by professing Christ. The higher the level of influence, the more likely a person may need the help of others in breaking away.

The Reality of the spirit realm

Some general conclusions are in order before leaving the subject of the spirit realm.

1. Angels and demons do exist. They are not figments of the imagination.

2. Angels have been commissioned to serve humanity, particularly those who will inherit eternal life.

3. Demons have a variety of functions and manifestations. Their attacks can be categorized as follows:





4. Demons do most of their work in darkness. That is, they function without the awareness of those on whom they are working.

5. Demons can manifest, but seek to work usually without doing so. Manifesting removes the illusion that they do not exist.

[1] 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV.

[2] Matthew 8:16 ESV.

[3] Matthew 10:1 ESV.

[4] Mark 1:27 ESV.

[5] Mark 3:11 ESV.

ACST 47: The Accusers



An interesting picture of Satan’s activity is revealed in the last book of the Bible:

“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world- he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”[1]

The enemy of our souls is depicted as a great dragon, doing warfare against believers. He and his angels (the demons) have been thrown down to earth, and are in their final battle against their great enemy (God). The dragon is enraged because his time is short and he knows it. He is described not as a tempter or a deceiver, but as an accuser. He does battle by accusing the brothers day and night before God.

Satan’s accusations in Job.

The book of Job describes Satan in his work of accusation. He came before God and accused Job of being faithful only because he was being protected and blessed. He told the LORD “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”[2] Whomever God commends, the accusers condemn. Charles Swindoll paraphrases this text as “Look, God, talk about kid glove treatment! The man gets penthouse perks.”[3] The enemy of our souls has an extremely negative attitude about human beings. He does not believe in human potential, and explains away all human accomplishment.

Satan challenged the LORD to “stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”[4] Satan was actually asking the LORD to inflict Job in order to reveal what he was sure would be his true character. “Because the believer belongs to God, Satan must operate within God’s sovereignty and cannot function beyond what God allows.”[5] The book of Job partly answers the questions we all have about why the innocent suffer. Sometimes the reasons for suffering have nothing to do with personal sin. Sometimes suffering is allowed in order for the LORD to prove to Satan and his demons that their accusations are false.

Joshua, the High Priest

One of Zechariah’s prophetic visions begins this way:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”[6]

Here again Satan is shown to believe the worst about a man of God. The vision goes on to describe Joshua as a man clothed with filthy garments, but God proceeds to clothe him in purified ones. This reveals a very important thing about demonic accusation. The demons are often partly right. The difference is that they do not see us after grace.

Whenever the unseen accusers target us, our best defense is not to try to prove them wrong with a history lesson. We fail too often for that to be an effective strategy. Our best defenses against accusations that we are not who we should be are the following:

1. Remind the accusers that our relationship with God is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He is our atoning sacrifice. Even the most filthy sin can be washed clean by means of the blood of Christ.

2. Remind the accusers that the Holy Spirit chooses to reside in us. In spite of the fact that our actions sometimes grieve him, he is faithful. It is his faithfulness that is the key to our complete sanctification and ultimate glorification.

3. Remind the accusers that God is infinite. He already sees our future, and so he relates to us on the basis of that future. It will do no good to tell God about our present shortcomings when he already foresees us living in holiness for billions of years. Our destiny is already settled in God’s mind.

Jesus’ Prayer for Peter

Jesus had told Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”[7] Jesus was aware that a battle was going to ensue in which Peter’s commitment was going to be challenged. Peter was going to fail, and deny even knowing Christ. But Jesus promised to bring Peter through that time, and use him afterword. Often, believers are convinced that once they fail in a particular area that their witness is forever marred in that area. This incident shows that times of failure need not weaken our faith. Grace operates in a person’s life when she allows God to rescue her.

Paul on Condemnation

Probably the most famous passage relating to the issue of demonic accusation is from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[8]

The reference to “angels or rulers” shows that the demonic realm will surely seek to condemn believers. But Paul reveals that believers have a sure-fire remedy to any accusation coming from that realm. God’s love in Christ Jesus was demonstrated on Calvary. It is an event that is settled historically. It forever shows that God has decided in the believer’s favor. Earlier, Paul had said “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”[9] Although bad things may happen to us, none of those bad things should be interpreted as condemnation from God.

The practical result of this truth is that believers can be assured that if they are being accused or condemned, it is not coming from heaven. Heaven’s forces are mustered for our defense, not our condemnation.

When Satan begins to accuse believers of wrongdoing, lack of integrity, or falsehood, the believer’s often feel like God is watching from a distance, judging them. He does not do that. He is present at every accusation, and our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, always takes our side. Even when the believer sins, God stands for her, and not with her accusers. Even when there are consequences that come from that sin, God is ready to restore and heal.

In the end, all personal sins must be punished. But for believers, that punishment has already happened. The Bible says that Jesus Christ “was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”[10]

The Eternal Truth

The best way to overcome accusations is to counter them with the eternal truth. The eternal truth is not the mess a person might be in at this moment. The eternal truth is what God has decreed about believers for all eternity. The Bible tells believers to stand on this truth, and believe what God sees in them.

He Sees…

  • “the salt of the earth”[11]
  • “the light of the world”[12]
  • people of value to him[13]
  • people he has blessed and heirs of his kingdom[14]
  • branches of the Vine[15]
  • people “not of the world”[16]
  • “God’s fellow workers… God’s field, God’s building.”[17]
  • “God’s temple”[18]
  • “the body of Christ”[19]
  • “sons of God, through faith”[20]
  • “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise”[21]
  • “no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God”[22]
  • “no longer strangers and aliens, but … fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”[23]

One More Strategy

The enemy has one more method that he uses, but it is a “when all else fails” method. He usually has no problem enslaving people through temptation. When that method needs a little help, he resorts to deception. If people learn to discern between truth and his lies, he falls back on accusation and condemnation. But when even that strategy is defeated, Satan and his demons try to enslave people through fear. His final method – which will be discussed in chapter 48, is intimidation.

[1] Revelation 12:7-12 (ESV).

[2] Job 1:9-11 (ESV).

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009) 10.

[4] Job 2:5 (ESV).

[5] John MacArthur, 1, 2, 3, John Jude (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005) 75.

[6] Zechariah 3:1-2 (ESV).

[7] Luke 22:31-32 (ESV).

[8] Romans 8:33-39 (ESV).

[9] Romans 8:1 (ESV).

[10] Isaiah 53:5 (ESV).

[11] Matthew 5:13.

[12] Matthew 5:14; Ephesians 5:8.

[13] Matthew 6:26, 10:31.

[14] Matthew 25:34.

[15] John 15:5.

[16] John 15:19.

[17] 1 Corinthians 3:9.

[18] 1 Corinthians 3:16,17.

[19] 1 Corinthians 12:27.

[20] Galatians 3:26.

[21] Galatians 3:29.

[22] Galatians 4:7.

[23] Ephesians 2:19.

ACST 46: The Deceivers





Another look at the story of the fall in Genesis 3 shows that there was more to Eve’s temptation than luring her with thoughts of a delicious apple (or whatever it was). The serpent entered the picture, and we are told that he is more crafty than any other beast of the field. His capacity for speech seemed a good clue for that observation.

He uses his craftiness to introduce himself with a curious question. “He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”[1] This is what the rhetoricians call a loaded question. It ranks right up there with “have you stopped beating your wife?” There is no good answer to the question because any attempt at answering it could have sprung back in Eve’s face.

For example, what if Eve had pointed out that she had never actually heard God give the prohibition? She, after all, was still part of the body of Adam when God told him “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”[2] So, she could have said “no,” but that would not have been exactly honest. No doubt Adam had briefed his wife on the importance of avoiding the tree. This is clear from the answer she did give.

But she could not precisely answer “yes” either. God had not prohibited any of the trees of the garden, as the serpent’s question suggested. In fact, of the multitude of beautiful and delicious fruits available, it was only one that was taboo. So, answering the serpent’s question with a “yes” would be uncalled-for.

Eve tried to respond to the serpent as best as she knew how. Her answers seem to have added a bit more to the prohibition than what was originally there: “And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'””[3]

Scripture does not record God saying that the humans could not touch the tree or its fruit. His prohibitions appears to have been strictly against eating it. Either Eve is stretching the command here, or she may be reflecting the command as she heard it from Adam. Either way, the serpent senses that this half-truth can be very useful to him.

Notice the bait that the serpent presents to Eve to get her to simply take the fruit into her hand: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”[4] The serpent suggests not that the prohibition is untrue, but that there is another reason why God would not want humans eating of this special fruit.

Look at what Eve sees in the forbidden fruit now:

1. It is “good for food.” Perhaps Eve was hungry. It makes sense that the serpent would look for an opportune time to tempt Eve. Hunger is not a temptation, but it is an incubator in which temptation can grow and become strong. Undoubtedly she had not been fasting for over a month as Jesus had been when the tempter came to him, but she was probably just hungry enough for her stomach to allow deception to overrule her mind.

There was nothing wrong with Eve’s desire for food, or with her awareness that this fruit could appease that hunger. Her problem was that she had taken her eyes off of all the rest of the garden, and focused her hunger on the one fruit that was forbidden. Her hunger alone would never have driven her to take of that tree. She was being deceived.

2. It is “a delight to the eyes.” Eve, like most women, appreciates beautiful things. She has an appreciation for the glory of God reflected in the things he has created. She sees that glory there in that fruit. She sees it because it is really there. The Bible does not say that the forbidden fruit was a hideous warped thing. It was really beautiful, and Eve enjoyed staring at it.

Again, God had apparently not prohibited looking at the fruit. But Eve’s problem was that as she looked, the appeal of this fruit became an obsession. The beauty of this one thing seems to have clouded her mind to all the beautiful things in all of Eden that the LORD had not forbidden.

The sons of Eve follow in her footsteps. God grants most of us the joy of beautiful possessions, and the thrill of a beautiful partner to share life with. How do we respond to these acts of grace? We covet other people’s stuff, and desire other people’s wives. We are deceived by the same deception that our mother faced in Eden. But, unlike her, we cannot claim ignorance of the outcome. We know that coveting what does not belong to us will lead to loss of what does – but we do it anyway. Stupid.

Back to Eve – the desire to see something beautiful and to eat something scrumptious was apparently not enough to convince her. But she kept looking, and kept listening to the serpent’s words. Those words rolled around in her head. Suddenly, this fruit is something more:

3. It is “to be desired to make one wise.” She and Adam had an entire garden filled with discoveries. God had designed them to rule over all his domains. He had given Adam the work of cultivating the garden and keeping it. Adam had also enjoyed learning about all the different kinds of animals, and perhaps the plants as well. But this particular plant offered a short-cut to the possession of immediate wisdom. The serpent had said “that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”[5]

What a tremendous temptation that was! To go from creature status to like-the creator status in just one bite – now that is discovery. Eve knew that God’s goal was for the two of them to rule over God’s creation. She reasoned “Who is better able to rule God’s creation than someone like him?”

She had convinced herself to take the fruit in her hands. Now what? Well – first of all, she did not turn into a pillar of salt. She did not die right there on the spot. So, it must not have been true that God had prohibited merely touching the tree. If he had, Eve would have gone “poof” and God would have had to go back and do more surgery to give Adam wife #2.

Well, Eve lets this roll around in her brain also. She has not been struck dead, so she figures she might as well go ahead and take a nibble. “In for a penny, in for a pound.” Well, she ate it, and she did not immediately die. Didn’t God say that she would?

Not exactly. What God had said to Adam was that “in the day that you (as humanity’s representative) eat of it you shall surely die.” Those words shall surely die in Hebrew are a combination of two words from the same root. The words literally are “dying, you shall die.” What God had warned Adam of is that from the very moment that he ate of the tree, he, and all of those in him (including Eve) would become dying – mortal. That mortality would mean that each person in Adam would eventually die. That was the “you shall die” part.

I am sure that Eve did not understand the subtleties of Proto-Semitic Grammar, and did not think much about what might happen later. All she knew was that she had eaten of the forbidden fruit and had lived to tell about it. That was enough for her to believe what the serpent had told her.

From that moment, she became in league with the devil. The very next thing she did was grab her husband and tell him “eat this” and he did. Before either of them had finished digesting their snack, they both knew what it meant to be on the wrong side of God. The wisdom that they had sought – knowing good and evil – did not turn out to be such a good thing after all.

They looked at each other and both realized that they were naked. They had been naked before, and were not ashamed.[6] Now they were naked and felt shame. Why? They had lost the glory of innocence.

This story from ancient history reminds us that when temptation is not enough, the tempters will use deception to enslave us. They organize humans with political and religious systems the perpetuate shared deceptions. They cleverly mix lies with truth. Just a few lies are enough to do damage to a society, and with it.

the father of lies

Jesus called Satan “the father of lies.” He said that the devil “has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”[7] It should be no surprise, then, that deception is one of the major means that Satan uses to manipulate the nations. The kinds of lies that he uses are like the proverbial “bad apple.” They are mixed with entire barrels of truth, and turn the entire societies that fall for them into rottenness. Unlike God, who never lies,[8] the devil only tells the truth when doing so helps to prop up one of his lies.

Early in Acts, Luke records that Satan had “filled the heart” of Ananias to lie about some money that he gave.[9] Satan did not object to Ananias giving to the ministry, because he could gain supremacy in the lives of Ananias and his wife Sapphira by deceiving them into thinking that Jesus would not mind them holding back some of the money. The Holy Spirit (who does not like to be lied to) made this deception backfire by exposing it, and killing the two who had been partners with the devil in the conspiracy.


The devil has deceived a great multitude of people into worshipping and serving “the creature rather than the Creator.”[10] In some cultures. this involves the veneration or manipulation of carved, printed or fashioned images. In other cultures, people worship themselves and pretend that the creature has the same status as the creator. Either way, deception has occurred, and it has caused the deceived to exchange “the truth about God for a lie.”[11]

The apostle Paul had warned the Corinthians of this tendency by saying that he was “afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”[12] He wrote to his partner, Timothy, that “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”[13]

Another significant text is where Paul warns the Colossians against the heresy that seeks to turn them away from the true faith. He tells them “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”[14] It is these deceiving elemental spirits (demons) who are the author of human tradition, particularly when it conflicts with the gospel of Christ.

Only a small percentage of humanity would knowingly follow the teachings and ways of Satan and the demons. For that reason, they must deceive in the darkness of anonymity. They must influence people to do their will, while at the same time convincing them that they are doing their own will.


The apostle John speaks of “many deceivers” who “have gone into the world.”[15] He is speaking of false prophets, but perhaps also referring to the spirit beings who influence them. He goes on to say that “Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”[16] He warns against those who go ahead and do not “abide in the teaching of Christ.”[17]

Doctrine mattered to John. He ministered during a time when pagan doctrine was seeping into the church – doctrine that would eventually turn the church into a formal, ritualistic shell of its former self. It would take centuries of reform and revival for the church to thrive again. Satan and the demons did this, not by turning people from Christ, but by deceiving them into believing wrong things about him.

When John wrote Revelation, he recorded the fate of Satan. The deceiver will be thrown into the bottomless pit, or abyss. The purpose of this punishment is so that he is out of the way while you and I have the chance to reign with Christ. John saw a mighty angel throw “him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.”[18] This incarceration will take place after Christ returns, and before judgment day. It will last for 1000 years. After that period of time, Satan will be released “and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.”[19] He will be utterly defeated at that battle, but he will have managed to deceive many again – even after a 1000 year reign of righteousness on earth without his influence.


To be “taken captive” is to be in bondage, and need deliverance. There is just as much potential for a person to be taken captive by a false teaching as there is for her to be in bondage due to giving in to temptation. The bondage will progress naturally if it is never challenged by someone ministering deliverance by God’s grace.

Some can be in a slight state of bondage for years – as long as there is no effort from an intercessor to set her free. The longer a person is in bondage, the harder it will be to set her free. Usually arguments – even biblical arguments – have little affect. The reason is that deception permeates the heart as well as the head.

If you seek to minister deliverance to someone who has been deceived by demons, it is probably best not to try to reason with her – at least not in the sense of a debate on the issues. Proclaim the gospel of salvation by grace bought by the blood of Christ. Use this teaching as an anchor, and you will find that the demonically deceived will be less liable to drift away into the depths of her own deception. Patience is also called for, because those who are enslaved through deception cannot be set free easily.


The apostles James[20] and Peter[21] both encourage believers to resist the devil. Resistance – when having to do with deception – means having a firm grasp on the truth. This suggests that the best way to fight bondage in this area on a personal level is to get a good strong and comprehensive understanding of what God says in his word.

Paul mentioned to the Colossians that he rejoiced to see the “the firmness of (their) faith in Christ.”[22] That firm faith can only come with time spent learning and applying God’s word.

Learning to resist in the particular areas where demons seek to deceive you will require specific attention to your own personal history. You must remember the specific areas in your life where you have allowed yourself to be deceived. You must spend time building up your faith and making it more firm in those specific areas. The battlefield of your mind requires shoring up in the places where the defenses have proven weak in the past. Otherwise, the Adversary will simply keep attacking where he knows the resistance is low.


Remember that the easiest way for demons to continue winning the battles they fight with you is for you to ignore their existence. As long as you are convinced that every challenge you face in your spiritual life is due to your own desires or sinful nature, you are in danger of falling for deceptions that keep you sinning. The demons are creatures of darkness. They will not expose themselves to the light unless they feel doing so will give them an advantage. Their usual modus operandi is to remain in the background – the darkness.

A particularly effective way of deceiving that the demons often utilize is accusation. Dealing with this demonic strategy will require a separate chapter.

[1] Genesis 3:1.

[2] Genesis 2:17.

[3] Genesis 3:2-3.

[4] Genesis 3:4-5.

[5] Genesis 3:5.

[6] Genesis 2:25.

[7] John 8:44.

[8] Titus 1:2.

[9] Acts 5:3.

[10] Romans 1:25.

[11] Romans 1:25.

[12] 2 Corinthians 11:3.

[13] 2 Timothy 3:13.

[14] Colossians 2:8

[15] 2 John 1:7.

[16] 2 John 1:7.

[17] 2 John 1:9.

[18] Revelation 20:3.

[19] Revelation 20:8.

[20] James 4:7.

[21] 1 Peter 5:9.

[22] Colossians 2:5.

ACST 45: The Tempters


In the last chapter, Satan and his loyal demons were described as fallen ones. Their goal is to force as many human beings as possible to join them in their fallen state – and so share their ultimate fate – destruction. This chapter focuses on the primary means that they use to accomplish that purpose.

The four disciples who had been fishermen in Galilee were not the first in the Bible to be fishers of men. Satan and his demons have made it their life’s objective to lure as many people as possible into a life apart from God. The bait that they use differs according to the target and the occasion, but the activity is the same. It is temptation.


The first ever to be tempted to disobey God was Satan himself. He was “blameless in (his) ways from the day (he was) created, till unrighteousness was found in (him).”[1] He was tempted, not by God or some other creature, but by the lure of his own perfection. His heart became proud because of his own beauty, and his obsession with himself corrupted his God-given wisdom.[2] His inner being became filled with violence.[3] Perhaps in that very moment he plotted the murder of Cain. Maybe at that time he envisioned every murder that will ever happen – including the death of Christ on the cross. His anger over not being able to ascend to deity led him to lash out against humanity – because he knew it would be a man who will sit on the throne of God’s kingdom.

Corrupted by this evil in his heart, Satan was no longer allowed to remain in God’s visible presence. He was cast down from the mountain of God. That very act meant destruction for Satan. He has already been destroyed by divine decree. He just has not experienced the execution of the penalty yet. He died when he left God’s presence in much the same way that humanity died when our ancestors rebelled against God’s commandment. From that time on, Satan has been marked for destruction in the lake of fire.

Since he has made it his goal to take as many with him as possible, he immediately sought out other angels to join him in that rebellion. A significant number did join him, and so were cast out of God’s visible presence along with him. These became the demons. They are missionaries of a sort. They act on behalf of Satan, and seek to enlarge his kingdom by luring people into lives of slavery to their own passions. They did not create the passions: God did. Every craving within us has at its core a legitimate desire that God put within us for his glory and our good.

· the sexual desire reflects a yearning for intimacy and a desire to express love.

· the desire for food reflects a yearning to experience the joy of receiving what God has provided for nourishment and enjoyment.

· the desire for power reflects a God-given yearning for significance and to rule over domains that God has given us. God commanded humanity to have dominion over the earth – within the confines of his own authority and power.

· The desire for things reflects a yearning to posses and enjoy a part of God’s creation. God intended humanity to find their joy in experiencing all that he has to offer. That is why he put our ancestors in the garden of Eden. Eden itself became a temptation when Satan took advantage of a prohibition and steered Eve and Adam to steal the prohibited thing, in spite of the overwhelming abundance of non-prohibited things.

· the desire for life reflects God’s original intention that humans live forever in fellowship with him. God placed the tree of life in the midst of Eden to remind Adam and Eve that eternal life was possible for them. Sadly, they were enticed away from this blessing of grace, and lost the opportunity for life apart from Christ. God planned that incident because he purposed that eternal life would be found nowhere else but Christ.

· the desire for friendship reflects a God-given oneness that all human beings have with each other. We all came from the same ancestor. Even Eve came from Adam through that first surgery performed by God himself in Eden.[4] When you and I make friends, it is because we see something of ourselves in our potential friend. Adam’s initial reaction to Eve was not a lust for her sexually, but a recognition of this God-given attraction. She was literally “bone of (his) bones, and flesh of (his) flesh.” He found an affinity with her that he did not find with any of the other creatures that he observed and named. That affinity is expressed by the nickname Adam chose to call her by. She was to him Ishah (woman) because she was taken from Ish (man). That nickname became the generic name of all female humans. This unique friendship between man and woman is the reason for the institution of marriage.[5] God has set the monogamous male and female relationship of marriage apart not simply for the purpose of procreation, but so that it would express this unique unity. The fellowship and intimacy of marriage expresses God’s intention for friendship at its best. It is the closest we will ever come to the intimacy of the divine Trinity.

· There are many other desires that are in fact combinations and forms of these desires. For example, the urges that humans have to express themselves in art, music, architecture, etc… all stream from the yearning for things, and the yearning to continue life. The creator designed us to be creative. He designed beauty in the world, and wants us to reflect that beauty with our minds and hands and voices.

the hook

These legitimate human desires are the bait that the demonic world uses to lure people into lives of sin and slavery. The apostle James said it this way: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”[6] James uses a “fishing metaphor for drawing prey away from shelter in order to trap them with a deadly hook.”[7] The bait on the hook is appealing to us because it represents something that is a legitimate desire. It is something that we should have – something that God intends for us. But the bait is not the problem. the hook is the problem. All we see is the bait.

If Adam and Eve had foreseen the pain, misery and death they would cause to untold billions – they would have either run from the serpent, or stomped him to death right then and there. But they didn’t see the hook. Like stupid fish, they took in the serpent’s lies, and swallowed more than they bargained for.

temptation in the Old Testament

The pages of the Old Testament are filled with examples of people being tempted – besides the obvious ones in Eden. The history of God’s people is a history of stupid fish, constantly falling for enticing bait. In fact, often someone is found repeatedly falling into the same trap, and his descendants failing in the same manner.

Interestingly, though – the Old Testament does not contain the word temptation, or tempt, or tempter, or any other derivatives of the word. That does not mean that no temptation is recorded. Notice these examples of temptation:

“Beware lest wrath entice you into scoffing,

and let not the greatness of the ransom turn

you aside.”[8]

“”If your brother, the son of your mother, or

your son or your daughter or the wife you

embrace or your friend who is as your own soul

entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve

other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers

have known, 7 some of the gods of the peoples

who are around you, whether near you or far off

from you, from the one end of the earth to the

other, 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him,

nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare

him, nor shall you conceal him. 9 But you shall

kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to

put him to death, and afterward the hand of all

the people.”[9]

These are examples of the Hebrew word sut, which conveys the idea of tempting someone to do something wrong. In the first example, Elihu has been preaching to Job, and thinks he has convinced Job that God has brought all his problems on him as a ransom – that is – to gain his devotion back. Elihu warns Job not to let the severity of (he thinks) God’s judgment turn him aside. He is afraid that Job is going to be tempted to scoff at God – to do what Job’s wife suggests – curse God and die.[10] Elihu was wrong about Job’s troubles being caused by God, but he was right in his assessment of what hard times can do to a person. Troubles don’t always make us stronger, and they don’t necessarily drive us closer to God. For every person who is purified by trials, there are dozens who just go deeper and deeper into sin. Suffering can lure the unsuspecting fish into biting the hook, rebelling against God and all that is holy.

Hard times can lead a loving couple to turn against each other and divorce. Hard times can turn family members against each other. Unexpected difficulties can drive a wedge between friends. Unplanned obstacles can discourage and destroy congregations. A bait does not have to look good. It merely has to entice the fish to bite. Satan sometimes uses hard times to get people to turn away from God. Ironically, God is the only one who has power to take us through the hard times so that we experience his intended victory.

The other use of sut is the Deuteronomy passage where Moses warns the Israelites that they will be tempted to rebel against God once they have taken over the promised land. Moses predicts that God is going to cut off the nations before them, so the Israelites will be able to dispossess them and dwell in their land.[11] But he warns that the land is going to contain more than just milk and honey. There will be traps set throughout the land. He tells the Israelites not to be curious about the gods of these nations that God has allowed them to destroy. He particularly warns them not to inquire how those nations served their gods.[12] We humans are insatiably curious about one another. We are always borrowing from other people and societies things that appeal to us. Perhaps this trend may be called the lure of conformity. But Moses warns the Israelites not to borrow the religious practices of the nations they dispossess.

The temptation is not –per se – the worship of other gods. It is – at least at first – the temptation to worship the LORD in the same way as those other gods are worshipped. Moses says, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.”[13] This is why Moses had prescribed the complete obliteration of all the places of worship as soon as the Israelites took over the land.[14] God is not to be worshipped in the same manner – as if he is the same as – any other god.

But the temptation described in Deuteronomy 13:6-9a is even more disturbing than that described in Deuteronomy 12. It speaks of Israelites themselves enticing friends or relatives to abandon the LORD altogether and go and serve those pagan gods. Moses, once again, prescribes destruction, but this time he steps up the penalty. He labels this kind of temptation as deserving the death penalty. If anyone dared to lure you away from God, you should not listen to him, pity him, or conceal him. Your hands should cast the first stone, to be followed by the hands of all the people.

This seems a harsh rule to our modern senses. Those of us Christians who have had the privilege of living in pluralistic societies where freedom of religion is protected might have problems with these Scriptures. We must understand that God knew that his people would self-destruct in the promised land. He also knew that the very key element that would cause their self-destruction is giving in to this very temptation. This command was given out of love. If it had only been followed, it would have kept the nation of Israel from experiencing centuries of heartache and death.

Here again, the Hebrew word sut is used for enticement to do something wrong. The bait on the hook was the lure of the strange, the different. Perhaps the tempter would suggest that if the Israelites just do the things that the Canaanites did, then they would have the abundant crops, herds and flocks that the Canaanites enjoyed.

Satan had used the lure of conformity in Eden as well. He had suggested that if Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, they need merely to snack on this food-of-the-gods. Sometimes keeping up with the Jones’ can be a deadly trap.

Another Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to describe temptation is found in these texts:

“”If my heart has been enticed toward a woman,

and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door,

10 then let my wife grind for another, and let

others bow down on her. 11 For that would be

a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be

punished by the judges; 12 for that would be a

fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it

would burn to the root all my increase.”[15]

“if I have looked at the sun when it shone,

or the moon moving in splendor, 27 and my

heart has been secretly enticed, and my

mouth has kissed my hand, 28 this also

would be an iniquity to be punished by the

judges, for I would have been false to God


“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait

for blood; let us ambush the innocent without

reason; 12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive,

and whole, like those who go down to the pit;

13 we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill

our houses with plunder; 14 throw in your lot

among us; we will all have one purse”-”[17]

The Hebrew word that is translated “entice/d” in these passages is patah, and it suggests that the one being tempted is open to being deceived into accepting wrong as if it is right. The bait in each of these instances is different, but each involves something that is morally repugnant, but is being presented in the best of lights.

In Job 31, Job is defending himself against charges that he has brought on the troubles and grief he has faced by committing some secret sin. In verses 9-12, Job tells his accusers that if he had been tempted to seek sexual favors from his neighbor’s wife, and given in to that temptation, then he would admit it, and accept whatever penalty the judges might mete out for the offense. If he had done such a thing he would deserve to lose all his possessions. But – Job’s point is – he hadn’t given in to that temptation. He hadn’t committed adultery, so he does not deserve what happened to him.

In verses 26-28, Job tells his accusers that if he had secretly committed idolatry by worshipping the sun or the moon (a religious affection very common in his day) he would equally deserve punishment. But, again, Job denies any spiritual impurity or false devotion. He knows wrong from right, and has not allowed any graying of the lines between black and white.

In Proverbs 1:10-14, the sin is gang membership (or its 1000 BC equivalent). A father warns his son that some of his contemporaries will try to get him to throw in his lot with them – and they will murder, rape, and pillage until they fill their houses with all kinds of glorious stuff. The tempters will seek to deceive the son into believing that the end justifies the means. If all one wants out of life is a house full of stuff – and if right and wrong are merely subjective ways of looking at the world – it makes sense. But if right and wrong are objective facts – governed by a God who judges rightly and defends the victims of violence – the son had better not listen to his friends.

In only one of these texts is there a group of human tempters doing the deceiving (or attempting it). But in each text there is clearly an implication that someone is trying to tempt by means of deception. The “mark” is being acted on by a tempter. The question is – who is the tempter?

the tempter

In the New Testament, the answer is clear. The person behind all temptation is Satan. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Gospels say that he “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”[18] Matthew calls the devil “the tempter.”[19] Although he does not personally tempt every human being on the face of the planet, he is the force behind every temptation. His army of fallen angels are doing his bidding. They are the tempters because they are serving the tempter.

Satan’s primary and most often means of affecting change in this world is through temptation. He and the demons bombard the minds of human beings with thoughts that appeal to our desires, but which are really designed to enslave us.

using desires to tempt us to cheat

Jesus’ ordeal in the wilderness gives insight into what the tempters seek to do:

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the

wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And

after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was

hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him,

“If you are the Son of God, command these

stones to become loaves of bread.””[20]

Hunger is not a temptation. It is a natural response to being deprived of food for an inordinate period of time. Hunger drives us to procure or prepare meals. It adds to the enjoyment of what is eaten. In this case, the tempter saw Jesus’ hunger as an opportunity to get him to overturn the consequence of Adam’s fall. God had told Adam that one consequence of his rebellion in Eden will be that he will have to work the ground to produce food for himself and his family to eat. All those in Adam (including Jesus) must abide by these rules. No matter what food anyone eats, someone has to work for it.

Jesus is entirely capable of creating food out of the rocks. That is not the issue. Satan is trying to get Jesus to see the food from rocks as something that he deserves because he is the Son of God. The tempter is seeking to get Jesus to the point where he feels the rules do not apply to him. But Jesus is purposely starving himself in the Judean desert precisely because he is a human being submitting to God’s will. The whole purpose of testing in the wilderness is to demonstrate to the spirit world that the rules do apply to Jesus. If he is going to be humanity’s Savior, he must abide by humanity’s lot. That is why Jesus’ response to the devil had nothing to do with Jesus’ special rank as the Son of God:

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘ Man shall

not live by bread alone, but by every word

that comes from the mouth of God.'””[21]

Jesus had sensed the Holy Spirit lead him into the desert just as He led the people of Israel into the desert. He intended to be there forty days – one day for each year that the Israelites wandered. His purpose was not to get really hungry. His purpose was to obey God. He knew that God would take care of him – just as God took care of the Israelites. He saw beyond those wilderness days and anticipated his provision – his own promised land.

His quotation falls within a passage where Moses reminds Israel that trusting God during the time of discipline is the way into blessing:

“”The whole commandment that I command

you today you shall be careful to do, that you

may live and multiply, and go in and possess

the land … he humbled you and let you hunger

and fed you with manna… that he might make

you know that man does not live by bread

alone, but man lives by every word that

comes from the mouth of the LORD. … For

the LORD your God is bringing you into a

good land… in which you will eat bread

without scarcity, … And you shall eat and

be full, and you shall bless the LORD your

God for the good land he has given you.”[22]

The tempter comes along and suggests to Jesus that the rules need not apply to him. He has a special position, and that allows him to skip the times of fasting and go directly to the times of feasting. It all seemed very logical, especially to someone who hadn’t eaten in over a month. Temptation takes advantage of present weakness, and seeks to get the victim to cut corners in the race and proceed directly to the finish line. In God’s eternal kingdom, no one is ever going to go hungry, or suffer the lack of fulfillment of any desire. But until that kingdom comes in time, all of those natural desires will serve as bait for the tempters to get us to rebel against our creator.

using the word to tempt us to test God

The second temptation (in Matthew’s order) has the devil quoting from Psalm 91 to get Jesus to test God’s love and protection.

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and

set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and

said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw

yourself down, for it is written, “‘ He will com-

mand his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their

hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your

foot against a stone.'””[23]

The tempters know Scripture, and will use it if they need to – if they feel it will convince anyone reluctant to rebel against God’s will. Usually, it is not necessary for the demons to resort to this tactic. Usually desires alone are sufficient bait to catch humans and get them to sin. But, deception about God’s will expressed in Scripture is a helpful second method.

Here is a bit more of the context of the words Satan quoted.

“Because you have made the LORD your dwelling

place- the Most High, who is my refuge- 10 no evil

shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come

near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels

concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On

their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike

your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the

lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent

you will trample underfoot. 14 “Because he holds

fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect

him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls

to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.”[24]

Some suggest that what Satan has done is take a promise from God’s word out of its intended context here. That is not what is happening. Jesus meets all the requirements as a recipient of God’s promise: he knows the LORD’s name (14), holds fast to the LORD in love (14), and has made the LORD his dwelling place (9). A person who so trusts the LORD has every right to expect the LORD to protect her as she faces the challenges and pitfalls of life.

The devil has done good exegesis. His failing is in the area of application. He suggests that Jesus test to see if God will hold up his end of the bargain. The psalmist did not encourage his readers to so test the LORD. The psalmist was simply expressing his confidence that if anything bad did happen in his life, the LORD would be there to rescue him. He was not suggesting that his readers go jump off a 300 foot pinnacle, any more than they go lion hunting, or snake handling.

The tempter is misusing a text by trying to get Jesus to test and see if God can be trusted. Temptation often distorts God’s word into a kind of game, where we stretch the limits of its meaning. Tempters can take good theology about God’s sovereign election and turn it into permission to sin, since one is already a believer, so it is “safe.” Temptation can take a correct theological position and use it as an excuse to put down and isolate oneself from other believers – who don’t have a good grasp on that doctrinal position. The tempters are adept at using the word of God to entice us to test the LORD, and so express lack of confidence in him.

Also, that testing is wrong because it takes back the reins of one’s life and dishonors God. Believers who have committed themselves to the LORD have given over their freedom to make things happen. They have declared loyalty to God, and have given over control of their lives to him. If, in the course of their lives they happen to fall off a cliff, or encounter a lion or adder, they have no reason to fear. God is their refuge and he will rescue them. But they will not test him. That would be taking the reins back from the one to whom they have given it.

So, “Jesus said to (the tempter), “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'””[25] Jesus was once again quoting from Moses, who told the Israelites “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”[26] He was referring to an incident that had happened when the Israelites were in the desert (like Jesus was) after leaving Egypt.

“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved

on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to

the commandment of the LORD, and camped at

Rephidim, but there was no water for the people

to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with

Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses

said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why

do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted

there for water, and the people grumbled against

Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt,

to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with

this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the

people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel,

and take in your hand the staff with which you struck

the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you

there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the

rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people

will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the

elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the

place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling

of the people of Israel, and because they tested the

LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?””[27]

They had followed Moses and the LORD into the desert, then looked around and noticed that there was no more Nile river to get their fresh water from. So they turned against Moses and started quarrelling with him. For generations, that place would be called Meribah (quarrelling) in remembrance of the time when the Israelites gave in to the temptation to complain.

It would also be called Massah (testing) in remembrance of the time when the Israelites tested God. They had done their part (the walking out of Egypt). They expected God to respond to their faith with the appropriate provisions. If psalm 91 had been written, they probably would have quoted it to Moses too. Their whole complaint was that provision was part of the covenant, and that God had better keep his side of the agreement – or else.

Whole sections of Christendom continue to make similar mistakes. Some assume that they have access to a treasury of merit that will protect them due to the excess faith and works of others. Some assume that their faith alone is an appropriate bargaining chip that will force God’s hand. But God is free, and he has decided that his love and grace will be freely given. He will not be manipulated.

using shortcuts to tempt us to idolatry

The final temptation that Matthew records has the devil giving Jesus an opportunity to get all that he is destined for – without going to the cross.

“Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall

not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 8 Again,

the devil took him to a very high mountain and

showed him all the kingdoms of the world and

their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will

give you, if you will fall down and worship me.””[28]

The ESV Study Bible comments on this text: “The devil offers a shortcut to Jesus’ future reign in God’s kingdom—a shortcut that side-steps Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross.”[29]

The tempters really have no problem with humanity’s thirst for holiness and wisdom and service to each other, and all our other noble desires. They simply want us to gain our glory by submitting to the devil. Satan delights when people think they are following God by trusting in a religious image. His demons possess those images. When the False Prophet convinces a person that God is blessing her through – or by means of an image, he has gained another religious devotee to Satan’s kingdom.

There are no short cuts. Satan is a liar,[30] and he was lying to Jesus when he promised him the world – literally. Jesus caught him in the act.

“Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan!

For it is written, “‘ You shall worship the Lord

your God and him only shall you serve.'””[31]

This final quote is also from Moses, who warns the Israelites not to forget God when he blesses them:

“”And when the LORD your God brings you into the

land … take care lest you forget the LORD, who

brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the

house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you

shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you

shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods,

the gods of the peoples who are around you,

15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous

God, lest the anger of the LORD your God be

kindled against you, and he destroy you from

off the face of the earth.”[32]

God is a jealous God. We are his possession. He will not share his possession with any substitutes. In the same chapter where Moses tells Israel to love the LORD their God with all their heart and soul and might,[33] he tells them not to love anyone else. The greatest of all commandments is not that we love our creator, but that we love him exclusively.

Our love for God should be such that all other loves should be hate compared with this exclusive love. So, Jesus says “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”[34] He illustrates this by talking about people who plan to build something or go to war, but are not able to finish what they planned because they did not count the cost.

It is all or nothing. If you plan on being a Christian and a good child to your parents, a good spouse, or parent or sibling, or even to preserve your own life – the tower will never be built. There are only enough resources for one project, not two. If your project is to love God with all of who you are, you can make it. But if you plan on dividing the resources so that your devotion is split between God and anyone else (even yourself) both projects will fail.

The tempters are all about trying to convince people that they can have it both ways. Remember that the serpent did not just tell Eve that she should rebel against God. All he wanted her to do was put her desires and needs on the same level as her devotion to God. He convinced her that the forbidden fruit “was to be desired to make one wise”.[35] She reasoned that God wanted her to enjoy the food he created, and he also wanted her to have fellowship with him – and to do so she needed to be wise, like him. She was right in her conclusions, but wrong on the means to get there. The tempter had kept reminding her of the self project that she lost track of the original God project.

This – by the way – explains why there had to be at least one forbidden thing in Eden. Eden was a test to see if humanity would let anything come between themselves and God. It was a test to see if Adam and Eve would love God with all their heart and soul and might. They failed the test, and plunged the human race into the depths of mortality and depravity.

Along came Jesus, and the serpent tries the same trick. He offers Jesus a substitute to the cross — a way to rule all the kingdoms of the world without suffering as the world’s ransom. Fortunately for us, Jesus was aware of the temptation, and would not give in. He not only accepted God’s call on his life, he was also willing to take God’s way to accomplish it. If he had chosen any other way, it would have been idolatry.

The tempters are proficient at giving people alternate choices so that they accomplish legitimate objectives through illegitimate means. It is very easy to criticize the pagan in the two-thirds world who places a duded-up doll in his store window for good luck. We westerners laugh at such blatant idolatry, and consider it foolishness. But we are often just as guilty of idolatry when we place self on the throne of our lives and tell God he will have to wait for an appointment because we don’t have time for religion – we have a life to live. The same tempters are telling the same lie, and both sinners are believing it.


The result of giving in to temptation is not usually immediate death. Were that the case, humanity would not be around by now. Instead, yielding to temptation results in bondage – or slavery. Every time one yields to temptation and sins, it makes it that much harder to get free of the bondage. All it takes is one sinful act to earn the penalty of destruction in the lake of fire on judgment day. That one sin results in bondage, and makes the sinner more and more liable to sin, which leads to further bondage.

resources to overcome temptation

Jesus waited until after he had been baptized by John the Baptist before he went on his 40 day spiritual journey in the Judean desert. He did this as a visual aid for us – to show us what resource God has provided to help us resist the tempters’ traps. At his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on Jesus.[36] When Jesus went into the desert, it was the Spirit that led him there.[37] God had provided the “way of escape” already for Jesus, so that he would be “able to endure” it.[38] That way was the indwelling Holy Spirit. The fortunate thing for Christians who face temptation is that we, too, have the same resource available to us.

Another resource that we have is the intercessory prayers of Jesus himself as the high priest of the new covenant. He knows what temptation is – since he faced every conceivable kind of temptation. Because “he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”[39] One of the most powerful mental images one can keep in her mind while being tempted is that of the Lord Jesus in prayer for her at the very moment temptation is taking place. It takes a very hardened soul to ignore a praying Jesus.

It can also be helpful to imagine a tombstone with your name on it when you are being tempted. James said that “desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”[40] The newborn baby of sin looks very appealing, but it will grow up into death. Imagining a tombstone with your name on it helps you to see that. Paul said something similar: “the wages of sin is death”.[41]

Husbands and wives can help each other resist temptation by keeping their physical relationship strong and consistent. Paul recommends this as a means of avoiding temptation because of lack of self-control.[42] The same principle can also apply to believers helping other believers to avoid temptation by making sure that there are legitimate means of meeting their God-given desires. Part of loving one another is providing for one another’s needs. When the occasion presents itself for us to help others, we should do so. Like the early church in Acts, we should see to it that there is not a needy person among us.[43] It is not as easy to fall for some temptations when you have all you need.

spiritual warfare

Given all these resources that believers have for resisting the devil and overcoming temptation, one would think that living in victory would be commonplace. Yet, the Christian life is one of constant battle with these (usually) unseen tempters. Also, losing to temptation is only one of the ways a person can fail at spiritual warfare. When this typical strategy fails to work, the fallen angels have other ways of putting humanity in bondage. In the next chapters, some of those other strategies will be examined.

[1] Ezekiel 28:15.

[2] Ezekiel 28:17.

[3] Ezekiel 28:16.

[4] Genesis 2:18-23.

[5] Genesis 2:24.

[6] James 1:14.

[7] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2008), 2392.

[8] Job 36:18.

[9]Deuteronomy 13:6-9.

[10] Job 2:9.

[11] Deuteronomy 12:29.

[12] Deuteronomy 12:30.

[13] Deuteronomy 12:31.

[14] Deuteronomy 12:2-3.

[15] Job 31:9-12.

[16] Job 31:26-28.

[17] Proverbs 1:10-14.

[18] Matthew 4:1, cf. Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2.

[19] Matthew 4:3.

[20] Matthew 4:1-3.

[21] Matthew 4:4.

[22] Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (excerpts).

[23] Matthew 4:5-6.

[24] Psalm 91:9-15.

[25] Matthew 4:7.

[26] Deuteronomy 6:16.

[27] Exodus 17:1-7.

[28] Matthew 4:7-9.

[29] ESV Study Bible, 1825.

[30] John 8:44.

[31] Matthew 4:10.

[32] Deuteronomy 6:10-15 (excerpts).

[33] Deuteronomy 6:4.

[34] Luke 14:26.

[35] Genesis 3:6.

[36] Matthew 3:16.

[37] Matthew 4:1.

[38] 1 Corinthians 10:13.

[39] Hebrews 2:18.

[40] James 1:15.

[41] Romans 6:23.

[42] 1 Corinthians 7:5.

[43] Acts 4:34.

ACST 44. The Fallen

Bruegel, the fall of the rebel angels

The Bible says a great deal about Satan, but perhaps a great deal less than one would expect. Satan was the first to rebel against God’s sovereignty in heaven, and the leader of humanity’s rebellion through deception. One would think that whole books would have been written explaining who this prince of darkness is, and preparing believers to do spiritual warfare against him. But in spite of his threat to us, God has given us relatively little information about him.

The Bible is written to humans, and reveals only enough about Satan and his kingdom to prepare us for the battles with him we will face. While it is important to know one’s enemy, it is even more important for Christians to know themselves, and the resources available to them for engaging the enemy. Too much fascination with the enemy can lead to an overemphasis on his power, and a fatalistic attitude about the times we face him. For that reason, there is more emphasis in the Bible on Christ than antichrist. There is more said about God’s kingdom than Satan’s counterfeit.

Some of the most significant passages that inform readers of Satan and his influence are those where he appears almost by accident. Jesus rebuked Peter for insisting that he would never go to the cross. He says “Get behind me, Satan.”[1] His rebuke is scathing, and suggests that when we oppose God’s plan, Satan is behind it.

When Satan first appears in the Old Testament narrative, he has possessed the body of a beautiful and wise animal called the serpent. This serpent in Eden is capable of conversing with our ancestors, and leads them to rebel against their maker. The serpent is condemned for his incitement of that rebellion, and God seems to speak through him to Satan himself when he promises that a seed of the woman would do battle with him, be injured in that battle, and finally prevail by crushing the serpent’s head.[2]

Another passage where we suddenly discover that Satan has slipped into the story is found in Ezekiel 28.

“The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man,

say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I

am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart

of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god,

though you make your heart like the heart of a god-

3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is

hidden from you; 4 by your wisdom and your under-

standing you have made wealth for yourself, and

have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;

5 by your great wisdom in your trade you have

increased your wealth, and your heart has become

proud in your wealth- 6 therefore thus says the Lord

GOD: Because you make your heart like the heart of

a god, 7 therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners

upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and

they shall draw their swords against the beauty of

your wisdom and defile your splendor. 8 They shall

thrust you down into the pit, and you shall die the

death of the slain in the heart of the seas. 9 Will

you still say, ‘I am a god,’ in the presence of those

who kill you, though you are but a man, and no god,

in the hands of those who slay you? 10 You shall

die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of

foreigners; for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.””[3]

The chapter starts out with an obvious prophecy directed toward the ruler of Tyre. He is called the prince of Tyre, and he is guilty of such pride due to his wealth and accomplishments that he fancies himself a god. Ezekiel predicts that the real God will humble this false god by bringing foreign armies who will “draw their swords against the beauty of (his) wisdom and defile (his) splendor.” As a result this great prince of Tyre will “die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas.” God asks him, “Will you still say ‘I am a god’ in the presence of those who kill you?” No, this ruler of Tyre is not a god. He will be punished for his arrogance.

In the next section of his prophecy, Ezekiel goes so far to the extreme in both condemning and praising Tyre’s ruler that it appears he is looking beyond the earthly ruler to Satan himself – his spirit-being counterpart.

“Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me:

12 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the

king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord

GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of

wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in

Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone

was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond,

beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and

carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings

and your engravings. On the day that you were

created they were prepared. 14 You were an

anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were

on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the

stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless

in your ways from the day you were created, till

unrighteousness was found in you. 16 In the

abundance of your trade you were filled with

violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast

you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,

and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the

midst of the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was

proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your

wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to

the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast

their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your

iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade

you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire

out from your midst; it consumed you, and I

turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of

all who saw you. 19 All who know you among the

peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a

dreadful end and shall be no more forever.””[4]

Whoever the referent of this lamentation is, he is called the “king of Tyre” as opposed to the “prince of Tyre” (vs. 1). While other rulers are called kings in Ezekiel,[5] there must be a reason that a new title is used at this juncture in the prophecy. Since the king of Tyre is called a prince, perhaps Satan is referred to as king in that he is the power behind the power, the pride behind the pride.

Such superlatives are used of the king of Tyre that it seems strange for these words to be referring to a mere man. He was “the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” He was “blameless in (his) ways “till unrighteousness was found (in him).” His “heart was proud because of (his) beauty.” He “corrupted (his) wisdom for the sake of (his) splendor.” These descriptions seem to be speaking of – and to – someone greater than a mere human king.

The descriptions of the referent’s past are also problematic if they only refer to a human ruler. Was the king of Tyre “in Eden, the garden of God”? Was he “an anointed guardian cherub” placed “on the holy mountain of God”?

For these reasons, some scholars conclude that the ultimate message of Ezekiel 28:11-19 speaks through the human ruler of Tyre and to the spirit being that inspired him.[6]

The good news in all this is that if God’s message in Ezekiel 28:12b-16a described the rebellion of Satan, then we would expect 28:16b-19 to describe God’s judgment upon Satan. Notice the specific judgments that are described here:

1. He is cast from the mountain on which

he had been placed as guardian cherub,[7]

2. He is destroyed,

3. He is cast to the ground,

4. He is exposed before kings,

5. He is consumed by fire,

6. He is turned to ashes,

7. He comes to a dreadful end,

8. He shall be no more forever.

Any one of those descriptions of the judgment of Satan might be taken figuratively, were it simply standing alone. But the mass of them seen together seems to prove beyond question that Satan is not an immortal being. God is not going to have to put up with that creature and his prideful rebellion forever. He will come to an end. His future is sealed. Tyre as a nation was destroyed, and its prince with it. Is there any doubt that this king of Tyre will suffer the same fate?

The fact of Satan’s eventual complete destruction could be a major means of encouragement to believers, who often (for the time being) suffer at his hands. But this very fact is often ignored completely in Christian theology. Those who are convinced that no beings (either angels or humans) will ever die overlook or redefine the Bible when it speaks about the demise of Satan.

When John saw the vision of everything that is going to make it into the next age, Satan was not there. John said “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” He saw no lake of fire, no hell, no grave, no tartarus, no part of the old creation. John said “for the first heaven and the first earth” – i.e. all that was part of the original creation – including Satan – “had passed away.” Satan will pass away.[8]

After describing the glories of the holy city, new Jerusalem, John said “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars [all of these terms describe Satan], their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”[9] Satan will experience the second death.

Satan was said to have been thrown into that lake of fire and tormented day and night for “ages and ages” (the literal rendering of what is usually translated “forever and ever.”[10] No doubt God is going to take a long time to destroy Satan and his evil angels. But to insist that “ages and ages” means eternity makes it impossible for the lake of fire to be what God says it is – the second death.

God created hell for the purpose of destroying his enemies entirely – both soul and body.[11] When the demons saw Jesus, they asked him if he had come to destroy them.[12] They knew that their ultimate fate would be destruction at the hands of our savior. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus became a human being so that he could deliver us who fear death – and “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”[13] God has prepared a fire for the devil and his angels.[14] Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed in such a fire.[15] Their destruction serves “as an example” of that destruction that awaits Satan and the fallen angels. Those cities are not burning today. They were totally, permanently destroyed. The adjective aionios, usually translated “eternal” described the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah and will describe the fire of hell because it will destroy eternally, that is, permanently. This is the usual meaning of the term aionios in the New Testament, as seen in the following examples:

  • the permanent sin which can never be forgiven (Mark 3:29).
  • the permanent weight of glory compared with our slight momentary affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:10).
  • the permanent things that are unseen compared to the transient things that are seen (2 Corinthians 4:18).
  • the permanent house (body) in the heavens compared to our temporary tent (body) on earth (2 Corinthians 5:1).
  • the permanent destruction the lost will face at Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
  • the permanent comfort and good hope we have through God’s grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
  • the permanent glory that accompanies salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10).
  • Philemon’s permanent return to Colossae, after being parted from them for a while (Philemon 1:15).
  • the permanent salvation made possible by Jesus, our great high priest (Hebrews 5:9).
  • the permanent judgment that will take place after the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 6:2).
  • the permanent redemption secured by Christ’s sacrifice in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:12).
  • the permanent covenant made possible by the shedding of the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20).
  • entrance into the permanent kingdom provided for all those who make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Paul describes Jesus as the ruler who will destroy all of his enemies before delivering the kingdom over to the Father. He will destroy “every rule and every authority and power” — terms that refer to demonic spirits.[16] He must do that or God’s plan cannot be accomplished. He must do that before he puts an end to death. Before that happens, everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life will have been throne into that lake, and will have experienced the second death. Is Satan’s name in the Lamb’s book of life? No, so his fate is to be destroyed in hell, along with all he has deceived into joining him.

Satan has rebelled against God, and has convinced an undisclosed number of angels to follow him in that rebellion. They have lost their original authority in heaven, and have fallen from their positions of God-ordained rank. They appear to have reorganized into ranks through which they seek to influence humanity by various means. Paul teaches this when he described them as rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil.[17] Their goal is to corrupt the earth, and to get as many human beings as possible to share their ultimate fate – complete destruction.

The succeeding chapters will outline the various means that Satan and the demons use to accomplish their purposes. It is best to know what one’s enemies are up to. Perhaps this knowledge will assist us in doing battle with them, and resisting their influence until Christ comes and defeats them for good.

[1] Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33.

[2] Genesis 3:15.

[3] Ezekiel 28:1-10.

[4] Ezekiel 28:11-19.

[5] Ezekiel 1:2; 7:27; 17:12, 16; 19:9; 20:33; 21:19, 21; 24:2; 26:7; 29:2f, 18f; 30:10, 21f, 24f; 31:2; 32:2, 11; 37:22, 24.

[6] Ron Rhodes, Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 106-107. “…the king is portrayed as having a different nature than man (he is a cherub, considered to be in the inner circle of angels with closest access to God – verse 14). He had a different status than man (he was blameless and sinless – verse 15). He was in a different realm than man (the holy Mount of God – verses 13-14). He received a different judgment than man (verse 16 – he was cast out of the mountain of God and thrown to earth, which seems parallel to description of Satan’s fall in revelation 12).”

[7] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), 15. “Now if we were to try to assign positions to the different orders of angels, we would conclude that the cherubim who could stand and look Godward, or minister throneward occupied the highest position of all and had the greatest privilege of any created being. It was over such a privileged class of angels that Lucifer was placed in authority by Divine appointment.”

[8] Revelation 21:1.

[9] Revelation 21:7-8.

[10] Revelation 20:10.

[11] Matthew 10:28.

[12] Mark 1:24.

[13] Hebrews 2:14.

[14] Matthew 25:41.

[15] Jude 7.

[16] 1 Corinthians 15:24-26.

[17] Ephesians 6:12.