God has permitted Satan to roam free even after his rebellion and leading one third of the angels astray with him is the fact that troubles everyone at some time or the other in our lives. Why has the righteous and just God not delivered justice and stopped him from his continuing evil deeds? The Son whom Satan planned to dethrone and whose place he wanted to occupy has obeyed the Father to “empty Himself of His Godly glory” to become man and suffer. Yet God has not stopped the adversary, the devil, from continuing to interfere in His plans. But why is God not taking any action despite open rebellion of Satan?
Satan’s reaction after rebellion and failure – Scripture clearly defines the uniqueness of Satan at his creation by God – “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). Using his wisdom to justify his actions, there is no way that he would have accepted his fault for that would amount to repentance. His most likely answer would be – “God, You are at fault – You have made me knowing well that anyone with such traits is likely to be filled with arrogance. Nobody can live righteous in this creation after receiving such extra-ordinary blessings”. This reply is in line with his arrogant response to God’s recognition of Job’s righteousness, “But now stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 1:9-11 & 2:4-5).
Is God giving the devil a chance for repentance? – The All Knowing God is well aware of his past and future actions and this was revealed to Apostle John while being taken up from the Patmos Island into heaven as revealed in the Book of Revelation. The devil and his angels are destined for the everlasting fire prepared for them as confirmed by the Lord also (Matthew 25:41) and those angels who rebelled through sexual immorality are kept in “everlasting chains under darkness for the judgement of the great day” (Jude 6). A just God would like to prove his claims wrong through righteous living by man and then punish the devil. Towards this end various steps were initiated by God.
The first step is creation of mankind “a little lower than angels, crowned with honor and glory, given dominion over everything and visited by God everyday” (Psalm 8:4-6). This was to reveal that man despite being of a lower status than angels could live righteously. Satan was in the Garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:13) and was thrown down to the earth (Revelation 12:7). The Son of God revealed the light of His glory on the first day of creation and this light was declared good by God and separated from darkness of evil, for the two cannot cohabit (Genesis 1:1-4).
God’s desire then and now is the same – Man to expand His kingdom of righteousness over all the earth and be victorious over the forces of evil. Lord Jesus’ message to each of the Seven Churches as proclaimed through Apostle John ends with, “He who overcomes…..” and then lists out the special blessing made available to the victorious. The greatest blessing is finally declared “he will sit with Me on My throne as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 2 – 3). Demand from God is still the same and this is achieved through righteous living in His power. To defeat this plan of God Satan tempted Adam and Eve through the serpent causing them to disobey God and sin to prove to God that righteous and sinless living is not possible.
Other reasons for Satan being free – God allows Satan to tempt and through that tests believers to build up their faith and character (James 1:12). The book of Job sets this aspect clearly. Secondly, God uses the devil to keep the believers humble through “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” Apostle Paul lest he be ‘exalted above measure’ after having received such ‘abundance of revelations’ about Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4-7). Thirdly, Satan provides a “battle ground” for the saints – all believers- that they may be entitled to exceptional rewards in and after life on the earth through overcoming the strife (Revelation 2:7;11 etc). Fourthly, the devil is still free to demonstrate to all of creation the power and authority of God over the power of Satan through empowering the believers to defeat the evil forces – snakes and scorpions and healing the sick afflicted with diseases caused by the devil (Mark 16:17-18). Fifthly, Satan is free to afflict people to turn them towards the light of God’s healing of body and soul through repentance and to turn them towards holy and righteous living (Job 33:14-30). And finally, the one of the reasons for Satan being free despite his rebellion is to purge man of any possibility of falling ever, in the eternal future.
Why does God not end the devil’s reign over the earth – God is just and righteous and administers punishment after acceptance of guilt. The devil’s defeat also must glorify the Almighty God and prove the superior worth and beauty of the Son of God and His desirability over Satan. Sudden defeat and binding of the devil and his forces of evil would definitely reveal God’s power but not the superior worth of Lord Jesus. Each failure of evil before good reveals the beauty of the Son of God to all of creation by providing a proof of victory. Satan is ‘accuser of brethren’ and a liar to the core. His argument for Job’s righteous living is God’s blessings on Job and the moment that God would withdraw His hand, Job would surely curse God to His face (Job 1:7). To prove the devil wrong, God allows him to subject Job to severe crisis, one after the other, through loss of family, wealth and relations – where even his wife not able to withstand his agony, cries out “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). His three friends also held Job guilty of some hidden and not yet confessed sin in his life causing God to nearly sin by seeking an answer from God. Abraham was considered righteous by God and passed the test by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice but even he failed through having fathered Ishmael.
Stages of Satan’s defeat – Since the challenge was to the throne of the Son of God, it was imperative that He lead the charge in defeating Satan. The Son must fight and win the battle decisively and win allegiance of saints over the devil’s lies. The ball was set rolling by God immediately after the sin of Adam and Eve by declaring the ‘crushing of the devil’s head by seed of woman and in turn also get His heel bruised’ (Genesis 3:15).
The first stage is the birth of the Messiah as a child, emptied of all Godly glory, to live the ordinary life of a man, to be tempted, tested, subject to rejection and cruelties and yet claims righteousness in His life. “Which of you can prove Me guilty of sin?” was the challenge to His detractors even while teaching that occurrence of a sinful thought is also commission of sin (John 8:46). The accusers had been defeated the moment they changed the charge against the Savior from blasphemy through claiming to be Son of God to rebellion against the Roman Emperor. The second defeat was their seeking the release of Barabbas, a murderer, while seeking crucifixion of the One who raised the dead to life – both physically and spiritually.
How was Satan defeated by the cross? – The devil never understood the outcome of the sacrificial death of Lord Jesus for this was then and still remains a mystery to many. Probably he thought that he will be able to hold the Son also captive after His death, like every other person till then, before being led to freedom by the Savior. Caiphas, the High Priest, rightly declared, “It is expedient for us that one man (Lord Jesus) should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50). Satan’s soul destroying weapon against mankind is sins committed knowingly or otherwise, to be able to hold them captive and deny entry into the presence of God. To the Cross of Calvary, God permitted nailing of all sins of all humanity from eternity past/since creation to Lord Jesus’ second coming, on to His Son to redeem all who believe in Him. His resurrection from the dead proved His victory over evil, death and sin to open the gates of heaven for the redeemed.
Apostle Paul then cried out in victory, “O death where is thy victory? O death where is thy sting?” for the sting was taken out on the cross “through bruising of the heel” of the Messiah. The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). We were dead in sin but the law was fulfilled on the cross through our Lord’s sacrifice, “principalities and powers were spoiled and an open show/spectacle of them made while triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:13-15). Without sin and law to condemn us, Satan is powerless over us and is a defeated foe who is roaming free and not cast into hell fire but his influence is blunted.
Second stage of defeat – The devil faces the threat of imminent damnation and being cast into hell one day with the proof of his failure mounting up daily through thousands upon thousands finding forgiveness by turning to the glorious beauty of the Lord. The believers turn to rejoice in His Divine glory while rejecting the lies and ugliness of ‘the evil one’. Apostle Paul confirmed his task as assigned by the Lord being “to open their eyes (gentiles) so that they may turn from the power of Satan to God” (acts 26:18). The ‘god of this world’ – Satan- has blinded the minds of those who do not believe the Good News of the Gospel while this blindness is removed by the Holy Spirit. “Light of the Gospel of the glory of Lord Jesus is revealed by the Spirit of God through His Word. The utter ugliness and vile nature of the lies of Satan is seen by the believers and the “beauty and glorious worth of the Son” is fully realized. Choosing the Son of God and rejecting Satan glorifies God while adding to the defeat and helplessness of the devil, causing his second defeat.
It is ironic that there is no book listing out the biographical details of Satan’s life, his raison de etre and his style of working to achieve success. We learn his style through the lives of others for while God declares “I AM who I Am” the devil probably declares “I am who I am not”. God created the universe and Satan is forever busy to counterfeit the idea and ‘blinds the minds’ lest the truth be seen. God desires to open our eyes while the devil wants us to keep them closed to believe his lies.
God desires to use us by enlightening us by revealing His glory but Satan does the opposite. It is our choice to choose darkness or light of God’s glory – the choice we make determines our eternal existence!