The Reality of Satan—Then and Now

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by Ed Walsh, Jul 1, 2018.

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  1. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    The Reality of Satan—Then and Now

    By "Then and Now" I mean the Puritan era as compared to our modern era.

    In preparation for our sixth lesson on Luke chapter four, I was intrigued by the following account while Jesus taught in a synagogue in Capernaum (a city in the North by the Sea of Galilee) on a Sabbath Day.

    Luke 4:32-35
    32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
    33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,
    34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.
    35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

    Some commentators–Lenski maintains that many, even the better ones–interpret Jesus commanding the demons an accommodation to the superstitious beliefs of his day. Kind of like when Jesus speaks to the wind and the waves, and even to a fever as he does just several verses after the story I quoted (vs. 39). Although I am persuaded that most PB members would agree that Jesus addressed literal demons and that they obeyed his commands, nevertheless it is my opinion and experience that we modern Christians have far less fear and wariness then we should, given what the Scriptures teach about the Devil. I am also aware that the Puritans seem to find a demon under every rock. Was this Puritan view excessive? Is our view inadequate?

    So what do you think? Which view is more in keeping with the Scriptures? I have some more to say, but I will wait to see if there is any interest in this topic.

    Below are the verses I plan to address in the next lesson on Luke:
    Ephesians 6:11-12 (see in context)
    11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
    12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    1 Peter 5:8-9
    8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
    9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

    2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (see in context)
    11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
  2. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    The Accommodation theory that some seem to hold, as in Jesus was just talking down to the superstitions of His audience, would be an outright denial of the veracity of the scriptures.
    Jesus Himself talked to Satan in the desert, as he no doubt told that to his Apostles, was he just talking to Himself?
    I think there should be a balance on this subject, as Satan would want 2 extremes on the loose within the Church. Either an outright denying that he and demoniac forces are still present and doing things even today, or else to see Him or a Demon under every rock.
    Christians have nothing to fear from him as long as euipping ourselves with full armor of the Lord, and not doing things such as not dealing with anger, or playing around with the Occult, as those can allow Satan to establishing footholds in even Christian lives.
  3. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Might be informative to read Kuyper's (1837-1920) view in the "modern era" vein of the OP (below reformatted for reading clarity):

    The clear details given to us in revelation allow us to state the following:

    (1) A world of spirits exists beyond our human race.
    (2) These spirits form armies of angels and demons.
    (3) The demon armies are spiritually-organically under the dominion of Satan.
    (4) Angels and demons both received powers, gifts, and talents from their creator.
    (5) They were called to put these powers, gifts, and talents to use in the service of their God—not only to praise him, but also to be instruments of his kingdom administration.
    (6) Because of these spirits, numerous influences go forth upon the earth—and this not only upon spiritual life but upon the physical, visible, and material as well.
    (7) After the fall, the demons abused the powers and functions they had been given in order to bring the earth, and especially our human race, down to perdition.
    (8) Until Jesus appeared on earth, these demonic influences established Satan’s dominion over all peoples and nations, with the one exception of Israel, so that he became the ruler of this world.
    (9) At that point in time, Christ came to destroy the Devil’s works so as to become not the ruler of this world, but rather its Head and King.
    (10) The temptation in the wilderness, as well as the many demons cast out [by Jesus], are to be explained against this background.
    (11) The power of the ruler of this world was therefore essentially broken nineteen centuries ago, leading Jesus to proclaim: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” [Luke 10:18].
    (12) The outpouring of the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension meant that a holy spiritual atmosphere descended upon this world so as to drive back unceasingly the demonic atmosphere that weighed so heavily on the lives of the nations.

    Scripture further testifies to us that Satan has been bound since that time. At the end of time, he will be unbound once more and released in the fullness of his demonic power [see Rev 20:7]. This important prophecy, however, establishes for us that at the present time Satan does not have his full power at his disposal.

    Not only does this mean that Satan never could or can do anything except with God’s permission, but it also means more particularly that Christ’s kingship will break down Satan’s kingdom more and more, and that the work of his power is restrained by the spiritual atmosphere that rules in the church of the living God through the Holy Spirit and radiates from it into the world.

    By this, we do not mean to say that the power of Satan has already been destroyed and that it has already been doomed to complete impotence. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that the struggle undertaken by the Evil One to bring us down to perdition continues, and the apostle emphatically teaches us that, behind the works of flesh and blood, we must see the frightening battle in the heavenly spheres with the “spiritual forces of evil” [Eph 6:12].

    After Jesus came down to earth, however, and after the Holy Spirit was poured out, a great change was effected; and thus we can identify two realms that are very clearly distinguishable: one is that of the unbelieving nations, where Satan’s power continues to work as it did before. Alongside and over against it, there is the other realm covered by holy baptism, where all power is held not by the spirit of Satan but by the Holy Spirit.

    Src: Kuyper, Abraham. Pro Rege: Living under Christ’s Kingship: The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship. Ed. Jordan J. Ballor et al. Trans. Albert Gootjes. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2016. Print. Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology.
  4. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    The dominion of Satan, His kingdom of darkness has indeed been broken over those who are in the Kingdom of Jesus, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but he still can cause havoc among the nations and the peoples of the world who are not part of the Kingdom of Christ.
  5. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Below is just the title page from William Gurnall's 800+ page book on Ephesians 6:10-18 regarding the Saint's warfare with the Devil, and our defensive and offensive weapons used to ward off his attacks. (which seem to be ever present) So again I ask for more comments on your opinion about whether the Puritan model or our modern model is more in keeping with the Scriptures.

    I really appreciate the comments thus far. Thanks.

    Christian in Complete Armour;
    A Treatise On
    The Saints’ War with the Devil:
    wherein a discovery is made of the policy, power, wickedness, and stratagems, made use of by that
    Enemy of God and his People
    A Magazine Opened,
    from whence
    the christian is furnished with spiritual arms for the battle, assisted in buckling on his armour, and taught the use of his weapons;
    together with
    The Happy Issue of the Whole War
    William Gurnall, A.M.,
    formerly of lavenham, suffolk
    carefully revised and corrected by the
    Rev. John Campbell, D.D.​
    Consider also part of the first paragraph of Thomas Brooks', Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices

    (after quoting 2 Corinthians 2:11, Brooks begins)

    Beloved in our dearest Lord,
    Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan's devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter. It is my work as a Christian, but much more as I am a Watchman, to do my best to discover the fullness of Christ, the emptiness of the creature, and the snares of the great deceiver; which I have endeavored to do in the following discourse, according to that measure of grace which I have received from the Lord.
    End of Quote===

    Someone has suggested that there are only these two possibilities if you are unaware of Satan's devices.

    If a professor of Christianity is unaware of the Devil's activity in his life there are only two options:
    1. You are of such a lukewarm state as a Christian, or perhaps not yet a Christian at all, that Satan need not bother with you. You are no threat to him.
    2. You are a true Christian so woefully deceived as to the reality of diabolical activity in your life that you easily succumb to his wiles.
  6. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Would it be too hyperbolic in your opinion to look at everything as a battle against Satan? I ask because I fear many do not realize this in that we all have a tendency to dichotomize everything in life.
  7. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I am still looking for answers—not advancing a dogmatic position.
    But Eph. 6:12 seems to agree with your statement above.
    Ephesians 6:12 (KJV)
    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers,
    against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
    against spiritual wickedness in high places.​
  8. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    If this was the Puritan view, it, in my opinion was excessive.

    Inadequate if one does not realize times are different and not the same as Jesus experienced. In other words, I believe most Christians do see Satan in a superstitious way as a being who has divine powers.
  9. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I think extreme evil is clear evidence of the current existence of demonic influence. Some of the worst and most vile things that happen in the world must have a supernatural force working behind them.
  10. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Satan would have us believe he has no influence behind mild evil. :)
  11. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    It appears as if Thomas Brooks attributed personal opposition from Satan when writing about 2 Cor. 2:11:

    Reason 3. The strange opposition that I met with from Satan, in the study of this following discourse, has put an edge upon my spirit, knowing that Satan strives mightily to keep those things from seeing the light, that tend eminently to shake and break his kingdom of darkness, and to lift up the kingdom and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the souls and lives of the men.​

    Brooks also laments the lack of writings by others on the matter of the devices used by Satan:

    Reason 5. I know not of any one or other that have written of this subject; all that ever I have seen have only touched upon this theme, which has been no small provocation to me, to attempt to do something this way, that others, that have better heads and hearts, may be the more stirred to improve their talents in a further discovery of Satan's Devices, and in making known of such choice Remedies, as may enable the souls of men to triumph over all his plots and stratagems.
    William Gurnall was certain some have actually entertained devils:

    The apostle indeed bids us entertain strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares Heb. 13:2; but he would not have us carried about with strange doctrine, ver. 9, [though] by this I am sure some have entertained devils.​
  12. Charles Johnson

    Charles Johnson Puritan Board Freshman

    I believe avoidance of ascribing much power to Satan is often due to a reaction against the superstitions of more legalistic, superstitious branches of Christianity, which teach that Satan can gain a foothold through things which the reformed would consider to be legitimate expressions of Christian Liberty; for example, drinking alcohol, listening to rock music, or reading Harry Potter. I have heard claims that such things can be devices to introduce demonic possession or influence.
    It can also be a reaction against the attribution of sin to demonic forces, without any attention being paid to the more immediate causes of sin, such as innate human depravity, so that where some superstitious Christians will blame sin entirely on the wiles of the Devil, the reformed react and blame it entirely on human depravity, without considering that such depravity and the sin that springs from it are means used by Satan to further his purposes, so that an acknowledgment of the power of Satan need not obscure the role of indwelling sin or human responsibility for sinful acts.
    Now, since you asked for scripture, let us observe that the context of Ephesians 4:27, "Neither give place to the devil", is an admonishment against concupiscence and various other sins resulting from it, such that the foothold which the devil might receive is the sinful desires and actions of believers; and when James 1:15 is considered, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.", there can be little doubt that the adverse consequence of the devil's receiving a foothold through sin is more sin. Thus, the Puritans were correct in viewing the work of the devil in every act of sin, and an acknowledgment of such need not diminish human responsibility for sin, nor infringe upon Christian Liberty.
  13. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    The big rule is, we can’t compare what Christ and his apostles did and knew in regards to Satan and his specific activities to what we can know and do. I think we learn all about Christ and his power (and some about Satan and his activity) from the gospels, but then must turn to the epistles for ‘our’ marching orders.

    In them I see a difference between the behind-the-scenes knowledge they give us on Satan’s general activity with its warnings to live holy and chaste lives in light of it; and any expectation on our part that we can or should seek to know specifically what or who is behind our various afflictions, etc. Paul knew, and received revelatory knowledge on this and many other things as an apostle, but we’re not that.

    I’ve believed for a long time that Thomas Brooks went too far in his treatment in “Precious Remedies,” though that book is otherwise full of wisdom and good counsel. His lament that he knew of nobody else who had written on the subject as he did, maybe should have been a heads up on this (?). I do believe he was a godly and sincere man and waaaay above me and most of us in those things. But he could have been wrong. Like most Puritans I’m sure he was wanting to recover an experiential Christianity and deal with some difficult things.

    Not that my wrestlings with doctrinal issues carry much weight, but coming out of the kind of charismatic thinking I was in by the late 1990’s and all the difficulty that came from it, I’ve given a great deal of time and thought to the issue of “discerning” the specific activity of Satan. It seems to me that the epistles point us to the fact as a warning that he’s powerfully active, wants us to sin and fail, can afflict, holds unbelievers captive, is presently the prince of the power of the air. But just as with so much else, there’s a difference between the knowledge Christ and his apostles had about Satan’s specific doings and us who live afterwards. It seems to me that the epistles exhort us to use that general knowledge of Satan and his devices to flee from sin and “traps” (for instance withholding forgiveness) and cling to Christ, and not overly focus on specifically what Satan may or may not be doing. For instance, perhaps Satan indeed was behind Brooks’ affliction while he was working on 2 Corinthians 2:11, and maybe it was indeed “because” of what Brooks was doing, but Brooks speaks about that unseen and unknowable activity with a certainty and authority that I find problematic. It opens the door for anyone who feels oppressed or depressed or suffers affliction to feel like they, too, can speak with certainty of specifics which are known only to God, and that brings us right back into the mess we’ve escaped from (or I did).

    I think we’re practicing all the spiritual warfare we need when we pray as our Lord taught us to pray (and live as he taught us to live). Sometimes we pray those things more fervently! I’m well aware that some of my children are presently “held captive by the devil to do his will.” That’s a very real thing. But knowing that, the epistles teach me that prayer for their deliverance and that they might hear the word of God are my focus.

    Just my wordy two cents. :)
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2018
  14. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior
    I agree with you for sure, but the pendulum, I fear, has swung the other way.

    Consider this morning's thread–Art Azurdia resigns.
  15. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I agree. I think the pendulum is crazily swinging to and fro in every direction. There just seems to be a lot of politics, celebrity, and other worldly temptations in most camps of the western church.
  16. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, I saw and appreciated your response and great example of Manasseh. There was no fear of God before their eyes. And yes, no holy fear of falling into the traps and schemes of the Evil One.
  17. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This boils down to how Satan works. He (satan) does not whisper into ones ear or mind by voice or some type of ESP. Though he works by the effect of the fall, which came by literally speaking to Eve in the garden. So in effect we who believe that satan does not work like many think today (See #13) still can say with certainty satan is alive and still works. I am pretty sure if Pastor Brooks was pressed he would deny any type of direct contact with satan via some type of physical voice, or direct implantation of thoughts into his mind.
  18. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Jesus and the Apostles saw Satan and his activities directs towards us as being real, and that we need to deal with that threat by putting on full armor of God, walk in the Spirit, trust in promises of God, and do not allow him any footholds into our lives.
  19. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Satan is far more inteeligent han we are, and still ahs thosepowersand abilities created and given to him by God. Good news is that he is on a cosmic leash, and the believer need not fear him , bit woe to those that he has blinded and enslaved in his kingdom of darkness.
  20. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Indeed, as in Isis, and the vast number of shootings happening all of the time now.
  21. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    There is to be factored into this the fraudulent activities that many have seen being put on in various charasmatic circles, as many in those churches have demons causing all sorts of bad things, and are binding and casting demons out of everything and anything.
  22. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    I too come out of a Pentacostal background, and would see Satan wanting Christians to have one of 2 extreme viewpoints on this issue. Either deny that he has any power left, seeing him as being powerless to do anything, or else see him and demons in all activities in our lives.
  23. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Satan is limited in his powers and means to do harm by God Himself, but still is allowed to cause havok if the saints are ignorant to him and his devices.
    Any time one gets involved in the Occult, false doctrines of demons, and having spiritual destruction in our lives, he is being active and at work.
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