Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 19 Number 9 September 2017
Page 10

Satan, Part 1

T. Pierce Brown

T. Pierce BrownSince I have not seen anything recently written in any gospel papers about Satan, and yet I find he is still operating, I decided it would be appropriate to call attention to him again. First Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Many operations are “downsizing” for economic or other reasons. His seems to be adding workers from all sections of society. 

Almost always when we are studying with a person who knows little about the Bible, the question is raised about the origin of Satan. Is he eternal or co-existent with God? If he is not eternal, then why did God create an evil being? The answer is reasonably easy if we read all that the Bible has to say about the matter. It may surprise us that the Bible says so little about how he began to operate. There are many things the Bible does not say that are assumed by preachers and theologians. First, let us look at the simple answer, and then we will examine various aspects of the question of Satan and his work.

God did not create an evil being, but He created both superhuman and human beings that possess the power of choice. One of those superhuman beings with the power of choice rebelled against God and became His adversary (which is the meaning of the term “Satan”). It is assumed by many Bible scholars and theologians that the words in Isaiah 14:12-14 where the term “Lucifer” is used refers to Satan. In the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary we find the following.

LU’CIFR (lu’si-fer; Heb. helel, “brightness”). This designation, referring to Satan, is the KJV rendering of NASB, “star of the morning,” that is, “bright star” (Isa. 14:12-14), probably what we call the “morning star” (so NIV). As a symbolical representation of the king of Babylon in his pride, splendor, and fall, the passage goes beyond the Babylonian prince and invests Satan, who, at the head of this present world-system is the real though invisible power behind the successive world rulers of Tyre, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.

This is merely an assumption and one’s interpretation of the meaning of a prophetic passage, although there may be no particular danger in that assumption. He continues:

This far-reaching passage goes beyond human history and marks the beginning of sin in the universe and the fall of Satan and the pristine, sinless spheres before the creation of man. Similarly (Ezekiel 28:12-14), under the figure of the king of Tyre, likewise traces the fall of Satan and the corruption of his power and glory. In the Ezekiel passage Satan’s glorious and splendid unfallen state is described. In Isa. 14:12-14 his fall is depicted. In both passages representation is not of Satan as confined to his own person but working in and consummating his plans through earthly kings and rulers who take to themselves divine honors and who, whether they actually know this or not, rule in the spirit and under the aims of Satan. Daniel 10:13 and Eph. 6:12 show that there are human as well as superhuman agencies in world governments in the satanic world system.

Although this position is widely held, we believe it to be in error in terms of the exegesis of the passages. It is not a very serious error because the language seems to depict very well what appeared to have happened in Satan’s case, although our judgment is that it is not a proper exegesis of either Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28. The danger in that sort of exegesis is that it allows an arbitrary and false method of interpreting prophecy to take the place of the proper way to understand them. A far better understanding of the prophecies is obtained by letting Jesus and the apostles interpret them. When this is done, then these prophecies about Babylon and the prince of Tyre can easily be seen to refer to them, as the text says it does, but the usual type of prophetic language is used to make the prophecy more dramatic. Surely if we can understand Peter’s language from Joel that the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood (Acts 2:20), we should not have trouble understanding these references in Isaiah and Ezekiel.

The idea that the passage is speaking of Satan is probably because these scholars assumed that it would be improper to use such exalted descriptions of the kings of Babylon and Tyre. Since the literal descriptions do not fit any human beings, it is assumed that they must refer to some superhuman being. Most of those commentators and scholars do the same thing with all the prophecies that relate to the Messianic kingdom and assume that since the desert has not blossomed like a rose (Isaiah 35:1), the lion and lamb have not lain down together (Isaiah 11:6) and people have not beaten their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4) that the kingdom has not yet come. If one reads carefully those and other similar passages and sees them fulfilled in Christ and His kingdom as the New Testament plainly shows, he should be able to better interpret all such prophecies.

Adam Clarke stated my position reasonably well in his comments on Isaiah 14:12 when he said:

And although the context speaks explicitly concerning Nebuchadnezzar, yet this has been, I know not why, applied to the chief of the fallen angels, who is most incongruously denominated Lucifer, (the bringer of light!) an epithet as common as those of Satan and Devil. That the Holy Spirit by his prophets should call this arch-enemy of God and man the light-bringer would be strange indeed. But the truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall, nor the occasion of that fall, which many divines have with great confidence deduced from this text. O how necessary it is to understand the literal meaning of Scripture, that preposterous comments may be prevented!

However, since Peter says in 2 Peter 2:4, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” and Jude says in Jude 1:6, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” we think it logical to conclude that at some time angels had an “estate” in the presence of God, but sinned and were cast down. So much of the language of Isaiah and Ezekiel used in speaking of Babylon and Tyre could be applied very well to what happened in Satan’s case. God probably used that language to suggest that those kings were in the same category as Satan, somewhat as Jesus did when he said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” It may be an error to say that a passage means something, and a truth to say that it suggests that. In my judgment, the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel do not refer to Satan, but they suggest the same kind of pride he apparently had that caused him to sin against God.

Satan, Part 2

T. Pierce Brown

In our first article we dealt with the origin of Satan. Although our opinion is that the Lucifer spoken of in Isaiah 14 is not Satan, there seems to be little doubt that he belongs to the angelic order of beings and was among the sons of God (Job 1:6). He has fallen, apparently through pride as 1 Timothy 3:6 suggests. The very title, “Satan” means adversary, so he is opposed to God in every aspect of his being. As one with a high degree of intelligence and power, he has exercised great power over other beings, including other angels who sinned (2 Peter 2:4).

In this article, we want to deal with the character and the works of Satan, for we need to understand his methods in order to defeat him. The names or titles by which he is called evidence a large part of his character. He is called Tempter in Matthew 4:5 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5. He is called Beelzebub, the prince of the demons (Matthew 12:24). In other places he is called the Enemy, the Evil One, the Father of lies, a Murderer, a Deceiver, the Great Dragon and Belial. That last word seems to be related to the Hebrew word “beliar” and means “worthlessness.”

In this article we shall not be concerned primarily with the ability of Satan during the time Christ was on earth to control the actions of individuals in what is called “demon possession.” We simply point out that there is no indication in the Bible that such possession involved any control of a person’s morals or was related in any way to the sinfulness of the person. When Satan filled the heart of Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3), it was not the same as a man being possessed with demons. One was a temptation to sin, to which they yielded. The other was simply the control of the physical body by demonic forces, which, in our judgment, was allowed during the time of Christ and the apostles to demonstrate to the world that Christ has power over all the universe, including the Devil.

Since Satan is fundamentally a liar, and his power is founded upon lies and his ability to deceive, the way to be delivered from the power of Satan is found in the remark of Jesus in John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Of course he did not mean that mere knowledge of truth would automatically make us free, but the proper application of that knowledge would make us free from the bondage and power of Satan and sin. If we are in a dungeon and one hands us a key and says, “You can have this key and it will make you free,” we have no trouble understanding that we must use the key properly before we can attain the freedom promised.

The question may be raised, “Since Satan is the deceiver, does that not make mankind an innocent victim, since he thought he was doing right?” There are at least two things we need to notice in answer to that question. First, the fact that Satan deceives does not mean that the person deceived thinks he is doing right. The deception may be and often is in the fact that although we know we are doing wrong, we think that we can escape the consequences of our actions. Second, man is often deceived because he receives not the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Men who are trying to do right are generally not tempted by evil, per se, but by a seeming good that can be obtained by doing wrong. A careful study of the temptations of Adam and Eve as well as that of Christ should cast light on that fact.

In this article, we will not discuss whether Satan tempts directly, by suggesting a thought directly to our minds, as he apparently did in the case of Judas, Ananias and Jesus. There is no doubt, however, that he uses human agents, for those who are already in his power persuade others to do evil. He takes individuals and institutions, including churches that are supposed to be on the side of righteousness, and clothes himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). False teachers are called “his ministers” and are transformed into ministers of righteousness, and they are called “deceitful workers.”

Any time a person perverts or twists the truth and causes another to be deceived into doing anything that will cause a soul to be weakened or lost, he is a tool of Satan. Every child of God should look carefully to find the things God approves and those of which he disapproves. When we find “little” things like disobedience to parents and backbiting are classified in the same list with what we think of as the most heinous and depraved sins (Romans 1:29-32), we should be more cautious that we are not tools of the Devil and are being deceived by him.

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