In this season of my life, my mind has been swirling as I consider my understanding of the dynamic of Satan's part in God's redemptive plan for restoring my relationship with my Father in Heaven. I've been thinking of how this battle has been going on since before the creation of man. We tend to think that our battle is unique and our struggle is like nothing anyone else has encountered in the last 6000 years or more. I think our natural inclination is to see ourselves as the Biblical figure of Job -- a righteous man or woman whom God has allowed to be tormented by Satan. But is that the reality of our situation? And what is the truth about the relationship between our Enemy and God and us? That's quite a complicated triangle and I'm not sure we Christians fully understand the forces at work [or the history] in this relationship.
This is a Biblical concept that has always intrigued me, and unless you are willing to connect the dots in the Bible, it will be difficult to fit all the pieces together. As far back as 2015, I wrote that not only has Job been called the oldest Book in the Bible, but in many ways, it is the most difficult to understand. Christians have a hard time comprehending that Satan was allowed access
to the Throne of God in order to accuse Job, who the Bible says was
"blameless and upright, and one who feared God [with reverence] and
abstained from and turned away from evil [because he honored God]." He
is also called "the greatest of all the men of the East." So why would
God allow Satan to torment this righteous man, and what are we to
understand about this complicated relationship in this famous Book of the Bible? What is the history between God and Satan, and how does that translate to our struggles?
First of all, let me say that I have a rather unorthodox understanding of the purpose of the Book of Job. Unlike many Christians, I do not think God's inspiration for this book is to teach us how to endure like Job did. Although Job's constant faith is certainly a model we should follow, I firmly believe that the Book of Job was written to show us how Satan operates and how God controls Satan. It is ultimately a book all about Authority. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 5:19, "The whole world is under the rule of the Evil One". So the questions that arise from that statement are the same ones that we ask regarding Job. How much authority does Satan have? Can he do anything he wants to, or are there restrictions placed on him by God? And how did this dynamic of conflicting authorities come about?
To answer that last question, it is imperative we understand the history of how God and Satan came to this impasse and how it affects us. The most detailed Scripture that explains the collapse of God and Lucifer's relationship is found in Ezekiel 28:12-18. Here, the characteristics of Lucifer are attributed to an earthly king of Tyre. But God gives us a perfect picture of how Lucifer became Satan ... he was created by God in perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty; he was an anointed guardian cherub in Heaven, placed by God in the Throne Room. He was blameless until he let his pride, arrogance, and rebellion bring him to the point that he planned on usurping God's Throne and Authority over all creation. So, God cast him out of Heaven "to the ground" ... "in Eden, the garden of God". And since Job 38:4-7 shows us the angels were created before the earth was created, and Ezekiel 28:13 says that Satan [as the serpent] was already in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve to sin, he must have been cast out sometime after the angels [and then the earth] were created and before Adam and Eve sinned.
And it's interesting that Jesus, Himself, says He "saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven". This is said in context to the joy that the 70 disciples experienced when Jesus sent them out with His authority to heal and cast out demons. He is reminding them that He was there when He saw Satan cast out of Heaven, and it should be no surprise to them that they were able to defeat the devil as they ministered in the countryside. They needed to recognize that Satan is a fallen foe, and has always been subject to the authority of Jesus, as the Son of God. And that is a lesson for us, too! Jesus has given us His same authority that He gave those disciples! We should not be questioning that we can "trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy". In addition, we should be mindful of what Jesus said to point them to a bigger truth ... “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”. Casting out demons is a fruitful and beneficial pursuit while we're here on earth, but it doesn't come close to comparing to our eternal life in heaven.
So, we know why, and possibly when, Satan was cast out of heaven, but that still leaves us with the question of how he was able to accuse Job before God. Apparently, during Job's time, Satan still had limited access to heaven and the throne of God: Job 1:6-7 tells us, “One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, ’Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it’”. The Bible gives us no explanation as to why God would permit this, after casting Satan out of heaven. So, we're back to our questions: How much authority does Satan have? And can he do anything he wants to, or are there restrictions placed on him by God?
We know what Satan wants to do ... steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). But the fact that millions of human beings are alive on the planet today, tells us that most of the time, he doesn't get his way. So, it's apparent to me that we, who are alive, are existing because a greater power (God) is protecting us. That is what Job 1:12 says : And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. That is a very valuable piece of information to have: Satan's authority is limited by God. And in the case of Job, I think God set very strict limits for Satan; the Enemy was not allowed to take Job's life.
But here's the concept we need to consider... since we have been given the authority of Jesus [by Him], and He has all authority over Satan, God can and does limit Satan's authority. But we also see something else in this verse and the entire Book of Job. Sometimes God grants greater authority to Satan than is ordinarily his. In this instance, Satan requested permission to launch a special attack on Job to try and prove that Job wasn't as righteous or loyal as it was attributed to him. And that permission was granted to him. Not only was he allowed to take all of Job's possessions and cause the deaths of all his children, but Satan was given permission to attack Job's health as well. The majority of the Book of Job is an account of the suffering Job endures because of Satan's attacks. But there is one very important fact we need to keep in mind.... God was the One who gave permission for Satan to attack. And He limited the severity of the attacks. I believe what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a testament to Job's circumstances: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. God was in control of Satan's attacks against Job to prove Job's character and the strength of his faith.
So, by now, many people might be asking, "Then does that mean that God
has given Satan permission to attack me?" Here's what we need to
understand... Satan has been given real authority to harass and, yes,
even attack us. But he is only successful when we give him permission to do so. We have the authority [and power] of Jesus, which is greater than any authority Satan possesses. Job
didn't have that choice. Jesus had not yet come to offer salvation to mankind, so Job did not possess the authority to overcome Satan. God, in His sovereignty, chose to allow Job
to suffer, without Job doing anything to prompt the attacks. Yet God protected Job's life and rewarded him by restoring the fortunes of Job and gave him twice as much as he had before!
If Satan is going to be able to exercise the authority he wants to exercise, he needs human cooperation, a human partner. That's what he was trying to accomplish when he tempted Jesus in the desert. Remember, at the time, Jesus was in his human state, and Jesus resisted him. It is important that we understand that in reality, the devil has very little, if any, power or authority other than that given to him by us. That's what happened in the Garden of Eden... he was only able to bring about the fall of man because Adam and Eve obeyed his request to partake of the apple. He had no authority to make them do it! They cooperated! That is why James can confidently tell us to "Resist the devil, and he will flee."
We must begin to understand that we have authority from our Father, just as Jesus was a man under the Father's authority. We have the power of God's Holy Spirit, which is transferred to us at baptism, just as it was to Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River. And Jesus made it clear before His ascension that when He left, He would send the Apostles (and all who would follow in their footsteps) the Holy Spirit -- the One who had empowered Him. They would be able to resist Satan and all his powers to steal, kill, and destroy.
You see, the problem that Job had is not the same as our problem. His particular circumstances were controlled by God, and to show us that Satan's authority is limited by God. He did not have the authority of the Holy Spirit because Christ had not come. Our problem is that we don't exercise the authority we have been given; or worse yet, we ignore or deny the limited presence and power that Satan possesses. When we recognize the history between God and Lucifer/Satan, we begin to understand how they relate to each other. And we can see that, just like Jesus, we have been given the right to use our authority to bring about whatever is in accord with the Father's will. In Job's case, it was God's will to allow Satan to attack him. We may never completely understand that Sovereign decision, but we know that Job did not contribute or cooperate with Satan. Now it is time for us to recognize that we are entrusted with Divine Authority passed from the Father to His Son, who conferred it to us, and that authority conveys a truth that we can resist being led into temptation, and expect to be delivered from evil -- just as Jesus taught us to pray.
As noted by Dr. Charles Kraft, a wise man of God, under whom I have trained, "If we are Christians, we have no choice as to whether or not we possess this authority. It is part of the package given to us with the Holy Spirit. Our only choice is whether we learn how to use this authority and whether we actually make use of it." Job didn't have a choice. Will you exercise yours?
Revelation 12:10-12 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power, and the kingdom (dominion, reign) of our God, and the authority of His Christ have come; for the accuser of our [believing] brothers and sisters has been thrown down [at last], he who accuses them and keeps bringing charges [of sinful behavior] against them before our God day and night. And they overcame and conquered him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, for they did not love their life and renounce their faith even when faced with death.