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Feb. 02, 2010

Why does Satan bother us when he knows the ultimate outcome?

Question from a reader:

If Satan is familiar with the Bible, and knows what John wrote in Revelation, why doesn’t he just say something like: “Well, if that’s what God says, then I’m going to do the opposite and disrupt his plans.” I would answer that by saying first, that since God has determined that the events will unfold as described in Revelation, then Satan is powerless to change them. But, it begs the question, why does Satan bother when he knows the outcome? I think, although I have no specific scriptural support for it, that Satan is the ultimate egomaniac. That being the case, he might overestimate his “power” (which is clearly under God’s control) and be delusional about his role in the events of the last days, thinking he might somehow really be like The Most High. Another possible explanation is that he knows full well that he loses in the end, and is determined to make the lives of Christians on earth as “hellish” as possible, knowing this is as close to hell as we will ever get. There is yet more to this possibility that might include a discussion of free will and election, and whether one can lose one’s salvation, but in the interest of brevity, I won’t go into it here.

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

Concerning your question about Satan, I commend you on your own answer. I believe it is right on target. You said: “I think, although I have no specific scriptural support for it, that Satan is the ultimate egomaniac. That being the case, he might overestimate his ‘power’ (which is clearly under God’s control) and be delusional about his role in the events of the last days, thinking he might somehow really be like The Most High.” Let’s look as some Scripture that supports your conclusion.

Satan and angels are created beings; and, as such, are totally subservient to God and limited in all their powers compared with the Sovereign and Omnipotent Creator. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him” (Co. 1:16). “For I am convinced that neither death, no life, no angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height , nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). “For the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Satan and his fallen angels (demons) are, however, powerful, crafty, intelligent, deceitful, and committed to (permanently sealed into) opposing God. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

As created beings, Satan and angels (fallen or not) do not know God’s plan (except for that which is revealed). They do not know what God’s Decree contains, until it actually happens. “But of that day or hour no one knows not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32).

Satan and the angels can not read minds. No where does Scripture mention this capability for any creature. Yet, it specifically asserts the ability to know an individual’s mind as possessed by God. “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all” (Ps. 139:4); “But He knew what they were thinking” (Luke 6:8)

Satan, demons, and fallen humans all know that God is real. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6). “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20).

This does not affect a fallen creature at all. Satan’s entire delusion is that he is “like God.” This is the reason he fell and introduced sin into the creation. “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (Is. 14:12-15). This is the same delusion that he presented to Adam and Eve, and they chose it too. “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). This is an intoxicating delusion. One who is operating their life based on “illusions of grandeur” will act irrationally consistent with their mental (or spiritual) illness.

Thus, even though fallen creatures know the revealed truth, and know that God exists, it is irrelevant to them. Satan is convinced that he is free to act, smarter than God, and able to thwart God’s plan. “Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?... Put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face’ “ (Job. 1:9, 11). At every point Satan is focused on opposing God (cf. the Temptation of Jesus in Matt. 4:1-11). Fallen humans also oppose God: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Rom. 1:22-23).

Paul’s words in Romans 1 point out the primary way that Satan has opposed God. He sometimes poses as an angel of light and offers counterfeit religions based on subtle misinformation: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Other of his counterfeit religions are outright pagan (Ps. 106:36-7-”And served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons;” Deut. 23:17-”None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute;” 1 Cor. 10:20-”I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I did not want you to become sharers in demons.”) His final delusion will be with the Antichrist in a worldwide religion, and the only reason this will happen is the Lord removing the restraint. “Who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.....And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed....The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:4, 6, 9).

Satan considers himself successful in his opposing God. However, what he does not appreciate is that since he is created, even he and his demons are part of God’s decree. As such, Satan cannot do anything that is not allowed by God. And, everything Satan is allowed to do, brings about the eternal plan of God to His Glory. “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord” (Job. 1:12). “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (Mark 1:27). “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).

Satan is so thoroughly deluded about his ultimate success over the Lord, that he actually attempts a physical over-throw. This same blinding delusion is reflected in the men whom he uses in the end times—”by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and these was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:7-9).

So, the answer to your original question is summed up in the statement “seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” Satan is so delusional that, in his blinding hatred opposing God, he willingly fulfills God’s decree as it is plainly revealed and known by him. The devil cannot oppose God more vigorously than the way described in the final chapter of God’s plan in Revelation. He thus willingly charges into the face of sure defeat fully confident of victory. Such is the nature of evil. “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-2). Even after 1,000 years to contemplate the truth of the Scriptures, when he is finally released, Satan goes right back to opposing God exactly as described in Revelations. “And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations... And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:7-10).

If Satan was free to decide not to do what the Bible reveals he will do, then Satan would be more powerful than God. God would be proven not to be Sovereign. Additionally, God tells us He is Truth (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”-John 14:6) and His Word is Truth (John 17:17); if, in fact, Satan could decide that he will not act as prophesied in Revelation, then the Word would be false. If the Word is false, and it is the source that reveals both God and Satan, then nothing could be believed about either.

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