Hope for Triumph over evil
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). This enmity, or hostility, is not natural. When Adam and Eve broke the divine law, their natures became evil, in harmony with Satan.
Fallen angels and wicked people united in desperate companionship. If God had not intervened, Satan and humanity would have formed an alliance against Heaven, and the whole human family would have been united in opposition to God.
When Satan heard that enmity would exist between himself and the woman, and between his seed and her seed, he knew that by some means human beings were going to be enabled to resist his power.
GRACE FROM CHRIST
Christ implants in us resistance against Satan. Without this converting grace and renewing power, we would continue as Satan’s servants, always ready to obey him. But the new principle in the heart creates conflict; the power that Christ gives enables us to resist the tyrant. To hate sin instead of loving it displays a principle that is entirely from above.
The world’s reception of Jesus strikingly displayed the antagonism between Christ and Satan. The purity and holiness of Christ stirred up the hatred of the ungodly against Him. His self-denial was a constant rebuke to a proud, sensual people. Satan and evil angels joined with evil human beings against the Champion of truth. They show the same enmity toward Christ’s followers. Whoever resists temptation will ignite Satan’s anger. Christ and Satan cannot harmonize. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Satan’s representatives try to deceive Christ’s followers and draw them away from their loyalty. They twist Scripture to achieve their goal. The spirit that put Christ to death moves the wicked to destroy His followers. All this is foreshadowed in that first prophecy: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed."
Why is it that Satan meets no more resistance than he does? Because the soldiers of Christ have so little real connection with Christ. Sin is not repulsive to them, as it was to their Master. They do not go against it with determined resistance. They are blind to the character of the prince of darkness. So many do not know that their enemy is a mighty general, warring against Christ. Even ministers of the gospel overlook the evidences of Satan’s activity. They seem to ignore the fact that he even exists.
AN ALERT ENEMY
This alert enemy is intruding his presence into every household, every street, in the churches, in national councils, in courts of justice. He is busy perplexing, deceiving, seducing, everywhere ruining the souls and bodies of men, women, and children. He breaks up families, planting seeds of hatred, strife, rebellion, and murder. And the world seems to think that God has decreed these things and so they must exist. All who are not committed followers of Christ are servants of Satan. When Christians choose to associate with the ungodly, they expose themselves to temptation. Satan hides himself from view and draws his deceptive covering over their eyes. Following worldly customs converts the church to the world, never the world to Christ. Familiarity with sin will cause it to seem less repulsive. When we encounter trials because we are doing what God wants, we may be sure that He will protect us. But if we place ourselves where we will be tempted, sooner or later we will fall.
The tempter often works most successfully through those whom we least suspect of being under his control. Talent and culture are gifts of God, but when these lead away from Him, they become a trap. Many people with cultured intellects and pleasant manners are polished instruments in the hands of Satan.
Never forget the inspired warning ringing down the centuries to our time: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Our great enemy is preparing for his last campaign. All who follow Jesus will have conflicts with this enemy. The more nearly Christians imitate the divine Pattern, the more surely they will make themselves a target for the attacks of Satan.
Satan attacked Christ with fierce and subtle temptations, but Jesus repulsed him in every conflict. Those victories make it possible for us to conquer. Christ will give strength to all who seek it. Satan cannot overcome any without their own consent. The tempter has no power to control the will or force the person to sin. He can cause distress, but not defilement. The fact that Christ conquered should inspire His followers with courage to fight the battle against sin and Satan.
Angels of God and evil spirits are plainly revealed in Scripture and are interwoven with human history. Many think that the holy angels who “minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14) are actually the spirits of the dead. But the Scriptures present proof that they are not disembodied spirits of the dead.
Before God created human beings, angels were in existence for when the foundations of the earth were laid, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). After the fall of Adam and Eve but before any human being had died, God sent angels to guard the tree of life. Angels are superior to humans, for man was made “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).
Says the prophet, “I heard the voice of many angels around the throne” (Revelation 5:11). In the presence of the King of kings they wait—“ministers of His, who do His pleasure,” “heeding the voice of His word,” “an innumerable company” (Psalm 103:21, 20; Hebrews 12:22). They go out as God’s messengers, “in appearance like a flash of lightning,” their flight is so swift (Ezekiel 1:14). The angel that appeared at the Savior’s tomb, with his face “like lightning,” caused the soldiers to quake with fear of him, and they “became like dead men” (Matthew 28:3, 4). When Sennacherib blasphemed God and threatened Israel, “the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eightyfive thousand” (2 Kings 19:35).
God sends angels on missions of mercy to His children. To Abraham, with promises of blessing; to Lot, to rescue him from Sodom’s doom; to Elijah, about to die in the desert; to Elisha, with chariots and horses of fire when he was surrounded by his enemies; to Daniel, when he was abandoned to become the lions’ prey; to Peter, doomed to death in Herod’s dungeon; to the apostles in Philippi’s jail; to Paul in the stormy night on the sea; to open the mind of Cornelius to receive the gospel; to send Peter with the message of salvation to the Gentile stranger—in all these ways holy angels have ministered to God’s people.
God has appointed a guardian angel to every follower of Christ. “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). Speaking of those who believe in Him, Jesus said, “In heaven their angels always see the face of My Father” (Matthew 18:10). God’s people are exposed to the unsleeping hatred of the prince of darkness, but God assures them that the angels never stop guarding them. God gives them this assurance because they will have to face mighty agencies of evil—agencies that are numerous, determined, and untiring.
EVIL ANGELS OPPOSE GOD’S PLANS
Evil spirits were originally created sinless. They were equal in nature, power, and glory with the holy beings that are now God’s messengers. But now they are fallen because of sin, and they have joined together to dishonor God and destroy humanity. United with Satan in rebellion, they cooperate with him in warfare against divine authority.
Old Testament history mentions their existence, but during the time when Christ was on earth evil spirits showed their power in the most striking ways. Christ had come to redeem humanity, and Satan was determined to control the world. He had succeeded in establishing idol worship in every part of the earth except Palestine. Christ came to the only land not fully yielded to the tempter, stretched out His arms of love, and invited all to find pardon and peace in Him. The angels of darkness understood that if Christ’s mission were successful, their rule would end soon.
The New Testament clearly states that people have been possessed with demons. Such people were not simply suffering with disease from natural causes. Christ recognized the direct presence and influence of evil spirits. The demon-possessed men at Gadara were wretched maniacs, writhing, foaming, and raging, and they were doing violence to themselves and putting in danger everyone else who came near them.
Their bleeding, disfigured bodies and deranged minds made a spectacle that pleased the prince of darkness. One of the demons controlling the sufferers said, “My name is Legion; for we are many” (Mark 5:9). In the Roman army a legion consisted of from three to five thousand men. At the command of Jesus the evil spirits fled from their victims, leaving them subdued, intelligent, and gentle. But the demons swept a herd of pigs into the sea. To the people living in Gadara, the loss outweighed the blessing Christ had brought, and so they asked the divine Healer to leave. (See Matthew 8:28-34.) By blaming Jesus for their loss, Satan stirred up the selfish fears of the people and prevented them from listening to His words.
Christ allowed the evil spirits to destroy the pigs as a rebuke to Jews who were raising unclean animals for profit. If Christ had not restrained the demons, they would have plunged not only the pigs, but also their keepers and owners, into the sea.
Furthermore, God permitted this event so that the disciples could witness the cruel power of Satan on both people and animals and would not be deceived by his delusions. Jesus also wanted the people to see His power to break Satan’s hold and release his captives. Though Jesus Himself went away, the men He had so amazingly delivered remained there to tell about the mercy of their Benefactor. The Bible records other examples: The daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman, severely afflicted with a devil whom Jesus cast out by His word (Mark 7:25-30); a youth who had a spirit who had often “thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him” (Mark 9:17-27); the maniac, tormented by a spirit of an unclean devil who disturbed the Sabbath quiet at Capernaum (Luke 4:33-36)— the Savior healed them all. In nearly every instance, Christ addressed the demon as an intelligent being, commanding him not to torment his victim ever again. The worshipers at Capernaum “were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out’” (verse 36).
In order to get supernatural power, some welcomed the satanic influence. Of course, these people had no conflict with the demons. Included in this group were those who had the spirit of divination—Simon Magus, Elymas the sorcerer, and the slave girl who followed Paul and Silas at Philippi (see Acts 8:9, 18; 13:8; 16:16-18).
None are in greater danger than those who deny that the devil and his angels exist. Many accept their suggestions while they think they are following their own wisdom. As we approach the end of time, when Satan will work with his greatest power to deceive, he spreads everywhere the belief that he does not exist. It is his policy to conceal himself and his way of working.
The great deceiver is afraid that we will become acquainted with his deceptions. To disguise his real character, he has influenced people to portray him as something to ridicule or despise. He is pleased to be painted as comical, misshapen, half animal and half human. He is pleased to hear his name used in jokes and mockery. Because he has masked himself with superb skill, many people ask, “Does such a being really exist?” Because Satan can easily control the minds of those who are unaware of his influence, the Word of God reveals to us his secret forces, and this puts us on guard.
SAFETY WITH JESUS
We may find shelter and deliverance in our Redeemer’s superior power. We carefully make our houses secure with bolts and locks to protect our property and lives from evil people. But seldom do we think of the evil angels and that, in our own strength, we have no defense against their attacks. If they are allowed, they can confuse our minds, torment our bodies, and destroy our possessions and our lives. But those who follow Christ are safe under His watchful care. Angels that excel in strength are sent to protect them. The wicked one cannot break through the guard that God has stationed around His people.