Religion Views Satan and Christ Vying Over the World
This Gnostic Representation is Westernized Yin and Yang
Most people, saved and lost, have the worldview of Satan having power as great as Jesus and both contesting over the souls of people. The image of each of them sitting on your shoulders whispering temptations into your ears is classic, even in the older cartoons and literature.
This worldview is either a gross oversimplification of Scriptures or Gnostic-influenced error that you are in control of your destiny being swayed by both the “good” (Christ) or the “dark” (Satan) forces that flow through the universe. Whatever worldview you subscribe to, both are wrong. This error is carried over in artistic renditions of Christ’s temptation.
Satan is Erroneously Viewed as Having the
Power to Defeat Christ
Even Scripture, improperly interpreted, seems to support the concept of Satanic power. Certainly this has been the impression throughout the Church Age. Art and literature depict Satan as being this evil distorted creation of immense power overcoming the world that God made to set up his kingdom in darkness. Much contemporary art even has Satan ruling in Hell being the agent of God that punishes unbelievers. One is forever warned not to “make a deal with the Devil” for he will then get your soul for eternity. This is classic Gnosticism that substitutes Satan for Hades, god of the Dead. However, let us look at the truly foundational concept to determine if the basic claim is correct; does Satan have power.
At first blush there is a verse that seems to support this claim of Satanic power (2Th 2:9). However, the next two verses then clarify what “power” Satan actually wields and the source of His power, God (2Th 2:10-12). Now, before we become lost in the error of Theodicy (God is the source of evil), we need to remember that one should not develop a theological doctrine based on a single verse. A verse can modify or clarify doctrine but a single verse should not be the foundation for doctrine. This occurs frequently in the concept of “proof texts”; i.e., I can prove my position by pointing to a single verse, but I digress.
What power does the Trinity possess? Christ clearly stated that He has no power but receives power from the Father (Jo 5:19-24). The Holy Spirit is the “conduit” of His power from the Father (Lk 4:14). This must be the case both during His earthly ministry but also throughout past and future eternity. This relationship must be in place if we are to have the doctrine of the Trinity, the Three in One. If there is not this relationship then we do indeed have three distinct gods and are guilty of the charge of plural gods. The Holy Spirit is the conduit from the Father to both the Son and to those who are of the Son (saved) (2Ti 1:8-9, 14). Thus, if we exhibit any power then it must be via the Spirit from the Father based on the completed work of salvation of the Son. But, this power is not due to our will but the will of the Spirit. This is the concept of charisma (χάρισμα) which is mistranslated as gift in most English translations. The current view that we are given “gifts” and are encouraged to use them for God’s work is Gnostic and related to the Star Wars “force” concept.
What force was Christ able to exercise? Hmmm, well, He was the active agent of creation (Jo 1:1-3) though He was not the only agent in creation (Ge 1:1-2). It was Christ, accessing the power of the Father via the Spirit who spoke the elements of this created universe into existence, “ex nihilo”. This is true power that is absolutely under the control of the Father through the direct action of the Holy Spirit who is not a mindless force able to be controlled by anyone but the One Who exercises and transmits the power of the Father to those already determined by God to accomplish the aims of God; that is, the Gospel. Since God “spoke” this creation into existence any power this universe possesses must necessarily come from God (He 11:3). Since Christ is eternal He has always had access to the Father being co-equal with the Father as is the Spirit. The three work in unison from eternity past through today into eternity future. What about Satan?
Satan Began as Lucifer, Angel of Light
and he still masquerades as light, Dark Light
Satan is created; therefore, he is not eternal. He is one of the created angels who are ministering spirits doing the will of God; i.e., slaves of God doing His will as are we, His people (Ro 6:15-19). Satan was created as Lucifer, the anointed cherub, the highest of all the angels until he sinned (Ez 28:11-16). Then he was cast out from his position and his attributes as the angel reflecting God’s glory were destroyed. Eventually he was cast out of Heaven though he still masquerades as an angel of light though now that is only dark light (Ez 28:17; Lk 10:18). Notice, Satan has no power of his own. He was created, he was changed, he was cast down; all of these descriptions show the powerlessness of Satan. The only power that exists is the power of God. Satan does not have direct access to this power any more than man does. The only power man can access is the power to subdue or modify and control his environment (Ge 1:28-29). Sinful man does this apart from God and thus only partially understands the power he accesses and uses them for destructive, and occasionally for beneficial, purposes.
But Satan does exercise some type of power, right? Yes, we see this directly in one of the few books that takes us behind this material reality, Job. Satan comes before God in Heaven. God points to Job and Satan claims Job is not righteous, just bribed to pretend to be righteous. He asks permission to “test” Job and God gives him the boundaries to act. The same occurs in Job chapter two but with changed boundaries. Thus, the power is actually God who allows Satan access. Satan thinks he is revealing Job’s true heart to God, always the presumption of the created being toward the eternal God. However, he is actually being tested with Job! Each time he attacks Job he demonstrates his sinfulness for him, and everyone, to observe. His testing demonstrates the justification of his sentence of eternity in the Lake of Fire. Job’s testing revealed the falsity of his religiosity resulting in his salvation. The two are being contrasted by God through the writer. This message plays itself out time and time again in Scripture and in life.
Thus, there is no contest between Christ and Satan for control of the world. Satan seeks to be the god of this world but not for power for no one has access to power except by the expressed will of the Father. He, and the fallen angels (demons) clearly understand that they are under the power of God (Mt 8:28-32). He seeks to be god to prove God’s unrighteousness in creating flawed beings; thus, making God the actual author of sin. This is at the core of Theodicy but it is a false assumption which leads to a forced untrue conclusion. Couching the power of Satan in these terms forces a Gnostic image of Satan sweeping the globe to dominate man. Satan is active but only within the boundaries set by God. Yet, Satan is not harmless. He actively enslaves people but not through direct application of power. We will discuss his true element of control in our next post.