“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” The Book of Revelation 12:9
Recently I asked a group of Sunday School students what they knew or believed about the Devil. Their responses generally described what they knew in the following ways.
“He’s a bad person.”
“He makes people do bad things.”
“He’s a evil person.”
“He tries to bring people away from Jesus.”
I suspect given that these were teenagers I should be pleased that at least they have determined the Devil is a negative force that is real…to a degree.
For the past few weeks I have been particularly motivated to take a closer look at the Biblical character referred to as ‘the Devil’, the “serpent”, “Lucifer”, the “deceiver of the brethren”, and the “evil one”.
My interest was peaked while preparing to visit Phoenix, Arizona to attend a Winter Gathering of fellow pastor’s and missional church planters from around the nation. In performing a Spiritual Mapping of the city — so as to pray more accurately as the Holy Spirit sent me — I was shocked to learn that on February 17th, the Phoenix City Council had convened its monthly session without its regular Opening Prayer given by a guests Christian minister or layperson. This prayer had been a part of the city council’s’ agenda for well over sixty years. Now it was no longer permitted.
The previous fall a religious organization known as “The Satanist Temple” of Tucson, petitioned to be allowed to lead the religious prayer to their god, the Dark Lord Baphomet. Initially the council thought it was a publicity stunt, but soon learned it was an ardent request that would be followed up by media coverage and even local business supporters, who believed they had just as much right to pray to their god as did the Christian representatives.
This bronze monument weighing in at just under one ton, and at a height of almost nine feet (9′) was unveiled by the Satanic Temple in Detroit on July 25, 2015
Over the next three months, the council seemed to capitulate between affirming or denying their requests. A eleventh hour emergency session resulted in the current status — no prayer for anyone. When asked if they felt vindicated The Satanist Temple representatives stated “We want them to have the right to pray. We believe everyone has the right to pray openly under the constitutional rights of ‘equal access under the law’.
What’s interesting is that the tenants of The Satanists Temple clearly state they do not believe that Satan is a real entity — only a metaphorical symbol of ultimate rebellion. They use Satan as a symbol to promote their angst against any form of authority they see as tyrannical, oppressive and diminutive such as the Christian God may be depicted in the Bible. They describe themselves in every respect as Humanist. People who believe the human being is without question the center of all creativity and authority.
I suggest that there are many people today who might agree with the manner in which the Satanist use Satan to express their opposition to oppressive authority. Does the Christian God who introduces him into the Biblical narrative describe the Devil as an abstract, metaphorical type of rebellion? How does God describe Satan to world?
To learn the answer to this question we turn to the writer of Revelation. A man named John is attributed to writing this mysteriously prophetic – and at the time – a contemporary critique of the political and religious landscape of his day; (circa 95 B.C.E.).
In Revelation 12:7 we read about a civil war that breaks out in heaven. The archangel Michael is pitted against [the dragon]. The dragon is defeated. In John’s describing of the dragon he reveals certain truths : 1) the dragon has been cast out of heaven and 2) the dragon is not in hand-to-hand combat with God. He is not God’s equal! And 3) the dragon is in fact the Devil. John is thorough in informing the readers of his letter to the true identity of the dragon. He describes him with the ancient monikers “serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” John also tells how the Devil and his supportive confederacy of rebellious Angels were cast out of heaven and down to earth.
We learn through John’s writing that the Devil is real. He holds influence over other angelic beings, and when cast to earth, he begins to deceive the people of earth. The Devil is the same Serpent we find deceiving Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden which led to the sinful separation of the entire world from its intended relationship with God. As punishment, The Lord God established an eternal and perpetual hatred between the Devil and the offspring of Eve — humankind. The Devil is that same rebellious angel who is also described as an “Angel of light” in his appearance and objective to camouflage his true nature; deceit, death and destruction of all institutions and people that yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
As Christians we must understand that the battle between the Church and the dragon continues to be played out in our reality through every act of disobedience against the heart and nature of God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. Every unkind and selfish act. Every betrayal fueled by envy, lust and greed. Every voice that rails against another image bearer of God is influenced by the forces of the Devil.
These are not mere emotional imbalances. Nor are they to be easily discarded as not having been authentically what they were, schemes of the Devil to divide humankind by promising one group power and control over another. The game has not changed since the origin of man. The Devil lost heaven and is resolute to campaign against God by deforming man’s relationship with others and his Creator.
John is also tying the deceptive nature of the Serpent to the political presence of Rome in his day. He associates Rome as a force for wickedness that has enticed the Churches of Asia Minor with the false promises of power and cultural acceptance. John, using the serpent, is making an explicit connection between the Devil as the ultimate deceiver of humankind, just as he did in the historical narrative of Israel’s religious past found in Genesis 1 – 3. John wants the Churches who will receive this letter to realize that the government of Rome is an instrument of the Devil’s scheme and that they must renounce their allegiances to Satan before they are eternally lost.
Isn’t it interesting how the Church of Satan and The Satanist Temple both hold to the portrayal of Satan as a symbol and not a real being that truly existed and interacted with humankind? And yet, he is in fact both. The Devil truly is the celebrated icon for rebellion, but not one without real power to deceive and destroy. I contend that these truths are not examined enough in the Christian context, resulting in many Christians accommodating themselves with political movements, charismatic personalities and popular philosophical agendas that are mere age old strategies devised by a being that has been accepted as a myth or at best a symbol.
Beware and become informed that the devices of Satan, the Devil are just as real and impacting as they were in the Garden of Eden or the government of Rome in the first century. Did you know that in New York, NY, on February 10, 2016 The Satanist Temple announced 2016 as the year of “Satanic Revolution”? Satanist are committed to ushering in more converts to their cause of open rebellion against the very God of all creation. For example they have several creative campaigns such as “Socks for Satan”, and “Soles4Souls”, a not for profit global social enterprise to collect new socks and shoes for indigent children.
Also, on February 19, 2016, in theaters nationwide, to oppose the Biblical thriller “Risen”, The Satanist Temple launched a premiere screening of their highly anticipated historical horror film, “The Witch”. They describe it as a “transformative Satanic experience.” Oddly enough, though they do not believe that Satan is real, they use ‘historical’ facts to support his power through witchcraft.
For most Christians, these schemes and practices are under the radar. They do not pay enough attention to the people or programs they support. They appear to be too oppressed, too tired, or too interested in the newest gadget being marketed to see the larger strategy in play. They fail to realize that identifying the reality of the Devil as more than a mere myth is critical if we are to apprehend the victory we already have obtained over the Devil as well as through the the crisis of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
In my next blog we will examine more closely why the Devil being real is not only true, but necessary to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on Resurrection Sunday.
Until then, remain watchful and #keepchasingJesus!
ΑΩ Rev. A. David Griffin, MDiv