Again and again we hear Christians speak about Satan and the powers of darkness. Most of the time, these kinds of talks are focused on the fact that we are not involved with the devil any longer because Jesus has conquered him. There are also a lot of people shouting victory, while the reality of daily life often shows a different picture altogether.
People are fighting, are suppressed, suffer with sicknesses and they are even sometimes confronted with death. In many cases these resistances are considered as part of life or as a result of sin, which is in the world. Much attack is explained away in the sense that it is mere coincidence or that people are the cause of these attacks.
In other circles all problems are ascribed to the Evil One and continually loud prayers are sent to heaven or warfare is done whereby all kinds of powers of darkness are addressed. Much effort is done, a lot of noise is heard but with very little result. Paul already points to the fact that he does not want “to beat the air” in 1 Corinthians 9: 27 but rather that he is instructed in the dimensions of the spiritual world and thus exactly knows what he should or should not do.
Hence, it is important to understand what the Bible teaches us concerning our own responsibility and our position as Christian against the powers of darkness. In this article we will try to answer three different topics.
1. The victory that Jesus won
2. Satan who is still active
3. The commission of the New Testament
1. The victory that Jesus won
John declares in his epistle that Jesus came to reveal the works of the evil one. See 1 John 3: 8. He came with a clear mandate from Father God. From the beginning He drew a clear line between the works of God and the works of darkness. In the Old Testament this difference is not always clear but things are mostly ascribed to God. There are only a few references to Satan in the Old Testament.
It is also remarkable that John writes about Jesus who came to bring grace and truth. Read John 1: 17. These two elements stand in contrast to Moses’ law: grace and truth. In other words the law did not reveal the full truth, but only showed the shadow of the reality.
Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 4: 4 that “the god of this age has blinded the unbelievers”. Because of sin a covering came over the people, causing them not to discern the dimensions of the spiritual world and therefore Paul prays in Ephesians 1: 18 that “the eyes of our understanding (heart) may be opened so that we may understand what our calling entails”.
God is not good and evil; God is good. God is not light and darkness: God is light. See also 1 John 1: 5. These are foundations, which will help us have insight in the things that Jesus wrought on our behalf and how we should now position ourselves against the powers of darkness.
Jesus came with the commission of Father God, who testified from heaven that Jesus was His Son in whom He was well pleased. This happened after John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. God’s testimony out of heaven aroused a confrontation with the prince of darkness because immediately hereafter Jesus had to prove to Satan that He really was God’s Son, who would not submit to him. Read Matthew 4: 1-11. The Bible shows us that Jesus had fasted for forty days in order to prepare for this meeting.
After the three temptations Scripture says in Luke 4: 13 that the devil left Jesus until an opportune time. Jesus now had acquired the right to enter Satan’s territory and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Everywhere the sick were healed, demons were cast out and even the dead were raised. Acts 10: 38 testified that Jesus “went about doing good, healing all those who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him”.
Jesus trained also His disciples with the same commission and while they went out and experienced miracles and deliverances all over, Jesus prayed for them. The Bible says that Jesus saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Read Luke 10: 18-20. Even though the disciples were excited about the fact that the demons were subject to them in His Name, Jesus gave them instruction not to rejoice about that fact but rather to be glad because their names were written in the Book of Life. Yet Jesus said that He gave them power and authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and nothing would harm them.
It is interesting to think for a moment about the fact that Satan fell as lightning from heaven while the disciples went out to preach. Satan could not prevent Jesus from doing the work, but now the disciples were busy doing the same miracles and that went too far for him… He would have loved to stop it but Jesus had prayed for His disciples. They were thus protected and could fulfill their commission. Some people presume that Jesus spoke about Satan’s fall at the beginning of the world but that is not what is meant here. It is clearly about the commission that the disciples were fulfilling and Satan who tried to come against them in it.
This gives us insight in the fact that one cannot just do whatever pleases them… People will argue that Jesus did not die on the cross at that time. Hence, we will continue to examine the matter further.
At the end of the three years intensive ministry, Jesus came again in confrontation with the Evil One. First He rebukes Satan who tries to influence Him by means of Peter and then He cried out “this is your hour and the power of darkness”. Read Luke 22: 53. Paul explains further that the powers of darkness did not realize what they did when they crucified the Lord, otherwise they would not have done it. See 1 Corinthians 2: 6-8.
The moment Jesus hung on the cross it was literally night. The concentration of darkness was so intense that it even reflected in the natural world. In Colossians we then read that Jesus disarmed the powers of darkness and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Read Colossians 2: 15. This verse gives us the impression that Jesus disarmed the powers of darkness and thus they would not have any power any longer. The Greek original could also be translated differently, when the verb translated by disarmed would be translated in the reflexive form. This possible translation of this conjugated verb gives the following difference: He has shaken off Himself the powers of darkness, made a public spectacle of them and triumphing over them in it. Jesus fought against the powers of darkness, which violently came over Him. He has shaken them off Himself. When He died He declared: My God, My God, for this purpose I was sent! This is another translation of “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” God did not forsake His Son! The powers of darkness threw themselves on Jesus and He gave Himself into death because with it He won the greatest battles ever: He stripped Satan of the keys of death and Hades. Jesus closed forever the part of Hades where the Old Testament believers were waiting for redemption. He took captivity captive. Death is conquered! No believer will ever enter Hades. It is now only the place where the unbelievers are waiting on the Day of Judgment.
Because the Evil powers were unrighteous when they killed Jesus who had never sinned, God now declared that whosoever believes in Jesus would receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Jesus came to restore mankind into his original commission. He has redeemed us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. We have been redeemed from the slavery of sin in order to now fulfill the commission that Jesus has given to us.
After His glorious resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples and gave them the commission to proclaim the good news in the whole world. He ordered His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1: 8 and after this event the church was born! See also Matthew 28: 20, the great commission.
2. Satan, who is still active
In Hebrews 2: 8 we read that Jesus has subjected all powers of darkness to Himself, but we do not yet see that all things are subject to Him. The New Testament and especially the epistles of Paul, Peter, James and John show us that there is still a battle and resistance, which the believer will have to face. Expressions like standing fast, conquering, suffering, persecutions are all proof that darkness is still active. Read for instance Ephesians 6: 18-20, 1 Peter 5: 8, Revelation 12: 11 and many more comparable scriptures. In Acts 4 we discover that the first believers were already confronted with clear opposition because of their testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. See Acts 4: 23-31. Paul, then still Saul, was a persecutor of the church but after his conversion Paul himself is the one who experienced a lot of resistance and even in 2 Corinthians 12 he declared that an angel of Satan was beating him.
Peter warns us that the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, yet we should resist him in the faith. In 1 Peter 2: 21 and further Peter teaches us that Jesus has given us an example so that we might walk in His footsteps. He speaks in the context of suffering. In 1 Peter 5: 8-9 Peter says that the same suffering is measured to the brotherhood in the world. It is the devil who measures this suffering, because God gives grace and glory to all those who suffer because of the Gospel. 1 Peter 5: 10 stands in contrast with verse 9 “But may the God of all grace”. Hence it is clear that God is not the author of suffering but rather the Evil One and his powers who try to hinder us in our commission to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Through the ages we have always seen the same pattern where people stood up for the name of Jesus Christ but then came under severe persecutions. The period of the reformation is an example of many who have even given their lives because of the proclamation of their faith.
Matthew 11: 12 declares that since the days of John the Baptist till now the Kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force. The Kingdom of God suffers violence; the Evil One is not happy with the preaching of Jesus and the Kingdom and tries to stop the message. It requires violent people, men and women with determination and courage to break through despite of resistance and establish the Kingdom of God, pushing the darkness away.
3. The commission of the New Testament
It is clear that every believer must fulfill the commission of Jesus and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. In order to do this with fruit it is a requirement to build a relationship with Jesus and to make sure that we are known in the spiritual world.
The story of the sons of Sceva in Acts 19: 14 is a clear example of it. The sons of Sceva dared to use the name of Jesus to cast out demons. The evil spirits questioned who they were because they were not known in the spiritual world. “Jesus I know and Paul I Paul, but who are you?” We must be able to answer this question otherwise we will be very vulnerable and are even in danger. It is not a game and it is not a matter of trying whether or not it is working.
Paul knew who he was and was not walking with uncertainly. He knew how to keep his life pure so that the Evil One would not have grip on him. Because of the abundance of revelation he already endured enough opposition! Peter writes that we must resist the Evil by faith. The Evil One will sow doubt, thus we have to know who we are.
There is a personal fight against the evil powers but also a corporate fight, which can only be safely fought when we stand in the right authority lines within God’s army.
Jesus waits in heaven until His enemies are made His footstool. Read Hebrews 10: 13. We must rise as army of God pushing the darkness back and establishing the light of God on the earth. This confrontation demands efforts and perseverance in order to move forward. Jesus does promise great blessing to those who conquer, even at the cost of their earthly lives.
Paul teaches though that death is an enemy who must also be pushed back. It is the last enemy. See 1 Corinthians 15. We, as Christians, must begin to see death as an enemy and push it back with all power by faith in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Everything related to destruction, darkness, sickness and death is connected to the powers of darkness and must be brought under Jesus’ feet.
In closing, Paul declares that now “by means of the church” in Ephesians 3: 10 the manifold wisdom of God must be declared. The church must declare the death and resurrection of Christ. It is now up to the church to fulfill the commission, which Jesus started when He came to this earth and now He waits till the times of restoration of all things.
Shall we, as body of Christ, finally realize our commission and stand up in a powerful manner, becoming offensive instead of defensive only waiting for the return of Christ…? That return waits though until the conditions of the Scriptures are fulfilled.
In a next article I want to expound on the exchange principle. Read in more details about the works of the Evil One on the earth in my book “And yet God is different”. The book will soon be available on the website.
God bless you,