Authority: A History of Satan

This is part of a series of posts on the doctrine of Authority. Click here to see the entire series.

Satan is a being created by God.  That should be all that needs to be said.  God created Satan.  Satan is not co-eternal with God.  Satan is not equal in power and authority to God.  Satan was created as an angelic being who, like Adam, decided that he wanted to be like God and fell.  Satan fell from heaven to earth (Revelation 8:10) and he took one third of the angelic beings, now demons, with him (Revelation 12:4).

After being cast down to the earth Satan was given the authority to torment the citizens of earth with possession, destruction and death (Revelation 9: 1-11).  As such, he is described as the prince and ruler of this world.  During his unholy reign as prince of the world he worked mightily to deceive the nations with spiritual untruth.  Also during his reign he entered into the courtroom of heaven in order to bring accusations against the elect people of God.  Job is perhaps the best example of this reality

Nevertheless, Satan was and is still subject to the decree of Almighty God.  He was not able to torment Job without the expressed permission (this does not imply that God has a “permissive will”, rather it is an anthropomorphism) of God.  Indeed, Satan was used by God as an instrument of His judgment upon the reprobate and His discipline of the elect.  Satan was created as the greatest and most powerful of the angelic beings, but that should never be confused with attributes of deity.

The Binding of Satan

A doctrine that is totally ignored by Evangelicals today is the binding of Satan.  The earthly ministry of Jesus had a dramatic impact upon the authority and power of Satan.  At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem He states, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out.”  (John 12: 31).  Matthew 12 records the story of the demon possessed man who was blind and dumb.  After casting out the demon and healing the man Jesus was accused of doing so by the power and authority of Satan.  In response to that accusation Jesus utters these words, “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man?”  Cleary, the authoritative activities of Jesus are serving to bind the power and authority of the “strong man” Satan.

Revelation 20: 1-3 succinctly describes the binding of Satan.  Most Evangelicals are unable to understand this simple passage because they begin with the erroneous presupposition that Revelation 20 is speaking about some future millennial kingdom where Jesus will reign literally on earth (see the heresy of Dispensationalism in “Evangelical Heresies”).  The ministry of Jesus at His first coming had the effect of binding Satan and putting him into the “abyss”.  This was done so that he might no longer “deceive the nations”.  As a result, he is no longer able to possess people.  His power and authority have been dramatically reduced.  Revelation 12: 10 summarizes this event when it says, “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 brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.”  Satan has been permanently cast out of heaven and into the abyss.  From there he is no longer able to torment the citizens of the earth.

(Revelation 20:3 speaks of his being “released from prison for a short time” at the end of the present age.  Since this is not an essay on eschatology, I am not dealing with that future reality here.  It is sufficient to say that Satan will be given back some or all of his original authority over the earth at the time of the final consummation.  That period, however, will be short lived and brought to an immediate end by the final glorious appearance of the Lord Jesus.)

As a direct result of Satan being bound, several things follow.  First, there is no such thing as demon possession.  If a genuine example of demon possession exists, it is proof positive that Satan has been released from his prison and Jesus will be returning shortly.  Otherwise, we are not to expect that men will experience demon possession.  I realize that this is difficult for Evangelicals to accept.  This is due, in part, to the fact that they do not understand the nature of the cessation of the charismata.  Demon possession was something that existed primarily to give opportunity for Jesus and His apostles to demonstrate their authority.  Just as other miraculous activities were accomplished by the hands of the apostles in order to attest to their God given authority, so also was the case for demon possession.

When Jesus sent out the seventy on their first missionary mission, they returned to Him marveling that they had the authority to cast out demons.  Luke 10: 18-19 records Jesus’ words to them when they returned to Him:  “I was watching Satan fall from heaven light lightning.  Behold I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.”  Casting out demons was not an activity that the seventy performed primarily to make the demon possessed feel better.  The primary purpose for exorcism was to attest to the authority of the one performing the exorcism.  The many examples of exorcism in the New Testament, we are told by Jesus, existed for the purpose of dramatically illustrating that Satan was being cast down from heaven to the abyss so that he might no longer have authority over the earth.

The second thing that follows from the binding of Satan is that he is no longer the “deceiver of the nations”.  In the Old Covenant the nations were in darkness.  They had little or no hope.  If a person was to be saved, he had to come out of darkness and join himself to Israel.  Satan was the prince of the nations and those who lived there were in utter torment.  With the coming of Jesus, however, all things changed.  Jesus came to take back the nations for Himself.  After His death and resurrection, Jesus gives the words of the Great Commission to his apostles when He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth…”  This is a vitally important statement that is frequently glossed over.  Jesus has taken back His authority on earth.  Satan is no longer the one who has authority over the earth.  Jesus has taken it back and, quite importantly, delegated that authority to His apostles.  He continues by saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”  Do you see the importance of that commission?  Jesus has delegated His authority to His Church and commanded Her to go unto “all the nations”.  These are the same nations that used to be under the authority of Satan.  But, Jesus has bound the strong man and is now plundering his house, by means of the missionary activity of His Church.

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4 thoughts on “Authority: A History of Satan

  1. michael

    Thank you, we have talked about this, and now it is more clear to me to have it as a reference.

  2. Jason

    I realize this article is *super* old by internet standards, and I’m grateful to read an attempt to understand the Bible without leaning so heavily on John Darby. Still, there are a few things that stick out in the context of some of the verses mentioned.

    The fall of Satan and his messengers in Revelation 12 seems to occur in verse 8. Verse 4 pictures Satan knocking stars down. I’m fine saying stars represent heavenly beings, but the context appears to be things being thrown from their position by Satan, not being cast out, with him, by God.

    Given the positioning of verse 8 after the “snatching up” of the Son and before the persecution of God’s people, I think you nailed it dead on that Christ’s ascension marks a stripping of some of Satan’s authority (also reference in Hebrews, if I remember). However, I disagree that this is the point he was bound, due to verses 12-17 (which detail the tribulation of the people of God at Satan’s hand on earth, specifically *because* he was cast down [verse 12]).

    The idea that Satan was a heavenly angel who was cast down before the fall usually comes from Ezekiel 28:11-19. However, that ignores the context that the prophecy was intended to be spoken to the nations, and this section specifically to the king of Tyre.

    The verses speak of extraordinary blessings, exultation, and wealth squandered. However, there is a specific reason given for why it was lost. It was due to the pride that came with abundant trade specifically (verses 16-18). Instead of picking and choosing which verses speak of Satan, and which speak of the king (to which the prophecy was explicitly addressed), I think it’s far more reasonable to read this as hyperbole of the blessings and judgement of the king alone.

    Instead of sin entering creation through the fall of an cherub who then tricked man by taking the guise (or body) of an animal, sin entered the world through Adam, who was (probably easily, due to the lack of the knowledge of good and evil) convinced by the craftiness of a serpent (as the scriptures say). Satan was in heaven as prosecutor of the brethren. With the atoning work of Christ, there was no longer a case to be made and “there was no longer any place for [him] in heaven” (Revelation 12:8).

    Stripped of any authority in heaven after Christ’s ascension, he continues to act against the brethren in this world as god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is why believers are still told to resist him. At the return of Christ, he will be bound. Upon release, he will be destroyed.

    I understand our desire to know more about our adversary, but I believe a lot of the traditions surrounding him come more from the Book of Enoch and Paradise Lost than from God’s revelation to us. I worry we, as the church, are in serious danger of promoting worthless myths (1 Timothy 4:7), which have been used to lighten the load of original sin by making the source of wickedness something other than man (as people still do today).

      1. Mad Welshman

        Update December 1, 2017: The planned series on Satan has been scuttled due to the fact everything I wanted to write about Satan was already written in the essay entitled “Authority;”


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