Satan Is Not Omnipotent: A Philosophical Arguments (6)
Satan And Spiritual Warfare:
Spiritual Warfare is probably the most misunderstood area of the Christian life. While some Christians fear demonic forces, others are so sure of themselves that they seek out opportunities for confrontation with evil spirits. Still, others blame every problem or sickness on the Devil; some even try to cast demons out of fellow Christians. In reality, these radically different approaches all exhibit ignorance of Satan’s true nature and the extent of his power.
The Origin of Spiritual Warfare:
The first thing to do is to look at the conflict that originated in Spiritual Warfare. Revelation, chapter twelve, chronicles warfare, which occurred sometime around the creation of the earth. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the Devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Revelations 12: 7-9 NIV).
Additional passages alluding to the same incident occur in Isaiah and Ezekiel:
How you have fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, star of the morning, son of the dawn, you have been cut down to the earth and weakened the nations!” “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the recesses of the north.'” “‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Highest.'” “Nevertheless, you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.” “Those who see you will gaze at you. They will ponder over you, saying, is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms. – Isaiah 14:12-16.
The Bible does not shed much light on the specific issue being disputed in heaven. Many Christians have the impression that Satan tried to overthrow God, and it is complicated to believe since God is the all-powerful creator and sustainer of all life. We have no examples in Scripture of Satan possessing omnipotence or any other divine attribute, but we have adequate evidence that he is an intelligent being. Given this intelligence, would Satan think that he could overthrow a far greater being possessing infinite attributes? To depose the One who sustains you would be the equivalent of suicide.
Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 are the most commonly cited passages for insights into the pre-existence and fall of Lucifer (Satan). While looking at these passages as references to Lucifer, readers often overlook that the authors primarily give prophecies concerning literal nations that will soon oppress Israel (Isaiah 14:4; Ezekiel 28:12). Therefore, to take the passages as referring only to a spiritual principality can be misleading. You note that both passages fit better when referencing a literal king and Kingdom on this earth. The word “Lucifer” does not occur anywhere in the original text. The word translated “Lucifer” is “shining one” and can be taken to refer to a spirit personality or an earthly being. The last portion of the quote, “is this the man that made the earth tremble.”
The primary reference of Isaiah is to a person. However, the fact that an allusion to Satan exists here is undeniable. We apply this passage to Satan at all because the prophets are writing first of all about literal earthly kings but also making reference to the spiritual principality, which is the influencing force behind the nation. The influencer has come to share so much purpose in common they are addressed as one in what we might call a split reference.
In this case, the influencing principality seems to be Satan himself. With the realization that Isaiah is writing to Israel concerning an earthly kingdom, the first explanation of the phrase “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14) would be that some earthly Babylonian king has a giant ego. Full of pride over his conquests and accomplishments, he considers himself in sovereign control of his destiny. And he is seeking to exalt his throne even higher as evidence that this could be the case; see the story of Nebuchadnezzar in the narrative of Daniel 4:23-32 and Daniel 5:18-21. The Daniel 4 message is one of the most substantial insights into God’s Sovereignty in the entire Bible. Only in a secondary sense can we apply Isaiah 14 to Satan as well. Notice the five “I will” phrases there versus what God willed. The phrase “I will be like the Most High” bears a striking similarity to the phrase “you will be like God” in Satan’s temptation of man (Genesis 3:5). That decision for man was to take control of his life separate from God.
We have no reason to doubt that Satan’s decision was any different, especially since divine overthrow would seem impossible. In other words, we would be inconsistent if we said the phrase “I will be like the Most High” means something different for Satan than it did for Adam and the king of Babylon. They all desired to exercise uninhibited control over themselves in the same way God exercises Sovereign control over his Kingdom. Satan tempted Jesus as the second Adam similarly (Matthew 4). If the Devil could get Jesus to violate the will of the Father, Jesus would effectively be ruling himself apart from God. If Satan could get Jesus to usurp that authority for himself, if he could get Jesus to “be his own man,” he would have made Jesus a fellow partaker of the same form of rebellion and eliminated him as a fit redeemer. Instead, Christ stayed with the will of the Father and became the author of our eternal Salvation. When Satan lost that initial contest in heaven, he was “cast down” from his lofty service position to God and the angels who followed in his rebellion.
At the time of Adam’s sin, something happened to his nature. A similar change seems to have happened to Satan (Ezekiel 28: 15-16). His nature became twisted, and he is now continually given over to doing evil. From his loss in the heavenly warfare, Satan set his course according to this evil, perverse nature, interfering with enticements where possible in the human arena to introduce a self-centered will to man. That was the impetus of his attack in the Garden of Eden when he asked, “Has God said?” and successfully undermined man’s attitude towards God’s leadership. Thus, Satan became the Father of the classic struggle we call Spiritual Warfare by his act of disobedience.
Warfare is a word derived from the word ‘WAR’; Warfare is then an act or fact of engaging in a war, conflict, or struggle. It takes another dimension when it is Spiritual. Spiritual Warfare is the conflict between light and darkness, between Christ-followers and the Devil and its demoniac forces. Warfare is a face-to-face meeting or encounter, especially a challenging or hostile Spiritual Warfare between opposing forces, especially a prolonged and bitter but sporadic struggle between two ‘WILLS’; the ‘Will’ of man as demonstrated in Flesh and the ‘Will’ of God. Spiritual warfare covers a lot of territories. We might say that it runs from the beginning of creation until today. It takes on a variety of expressions as we seek to move from our position of separation from God into the intimacy for which He created us. From a Biblical point of view, it has not always been the same.
There are some stages that we can identify:
- When humans were created, they were Amoral, intuitive, and capable of training to take care of the garden chores. It is often assumed that they were moral from the beginning, but the text tells us otherwise. In this first stage, Satan was present as a tempter. Gen 1-3
- After the Fall, human beings were Immoral, willful, egocentric, and error-prone. (Man was sure that he knew good and evil for others, including God and himself. That is a good definition of Original Sin.) He was capable of knowing evil and rationalizing to blame others. Satan was the adversary. Gen 3
- The Covenant of the Law brought another element into play. God made it clear that He intended a particular behavior. Humans became Immoral, Self-righteous, Critical, and Self-justifying. The Law was complicated for us to interpret in particular situations, and we couldn’t keep it. Satan was a tempter, judge, jury, and executioner.
- The advent of Jesus brought new humanity, moral fulfillment of the Law, and the possibility for us to be reconciled to God. The new humanity is offered as a gift from God. We receive it as we are willing to die with Christ to our self-centeredness and enter resurrection life in the Kingdom of God. We cannot restore the old. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life..” Rom 6:23 We must receive a new life as a gift. We are set free from bondage to Satan through the death of self. We are raised beyond his reach in the Kingdom of God, which is at hand. Mk 1:14.
The battle between good and evil is not a battle between God and Satan. God is Sovereign over all of His creation, including Satan. The struggle lies between the Old Creation and the New Creation. The Old Creation is Satan’s domain. The New has been opened for us through the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We might walk out of bondage to Satan into the freedom of the Kingdom of God. The New Testament Scriptures use the two Greek words for life, from whence we get biology or studying life. And Zoe, the commonly used word in the New Testament for eternal life, or a life lived out in a loving relationship wherein we know God. We are born first of the flesh, bios, then of the Spirit, Zoe. We are born first separated from God, in sin. We are born into the family of God in our new birth. We are not complete at our new birth.
Paul refers to the Corinthians as babes in Christ but carnal adults. I Cor 3:1 We are born anew but must grow into the full expression of the incarnate Lord in our flesh. Our outer nature is wasting away; our inner nature is being renewed daily. II Cor 4:16. There is no reason to fear Satan. The victory has been won, but the battles are still being engaged. That is spiritual warfare. Jesus said, “if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jn 20:23 It would seem that the scope of spiritual warfare begins with our willingness to be reconciled to God. Jesus’ work is to set us free from the bondage in which Satan holds us until we receive the gift of freedom established on His Cross.
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