Most importantly, be sober (disciplined) and vigilant (stay on guard). Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chanceto devour someone. Resist him and be strong in your faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are fellow sufferers with you. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of grace who has called you [to His everlasting presence] through Jesus the Anointed will restore you, support you, strengthen you, and ground you. For all power belongs to God, now and forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11) D.L. Moody once said, “I believe Satan exists for two reasons: first, the Bible says so, and second, I've done business with him.” Peter’s finale to his letter to the church ends with a warning about the devil, so let’s talk about the devil. There are two dangers in doing this.
First, that we talk about the Devil too much.Second, that we talk about the Devil too little.
Too much,and we are distracted from God and maybe even scared or overwhelmed by the reality of supernatural evil. Too little,and we forget there is a very real spiritual side to the world. We wrestle with “principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
So let’s talk about the Devil, but no more than the devil deserves. We do this “so that we may not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)
"Devil" is from “diablos”, and it means accuser, slanderer or even destroyer. The Bible refers to the devil as "the enemy" (Mt 13:39), "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).
'Satan' is derived from a Hebrew word “Satanas” meaning 'act as an adversary'; literally, an opponent in a court. Generally, Satan is a title (“the Satan”) rather than a personal name. In the Old Testament, it is used to describe people as well as divine beings.Perhaps that’s why Jesus can call Peter (the writer of this letter) Satan. He wasn’t saying Peter was a demonic being. Peter was the adversary in that moment, perhaps even representing the voice of the Ultimate Adversary.
The Bible does not give us a lot of backstory or description, but it does tell us a lot about Satan’s intent and plans. I think that’s purposeful. It would be easy to become really consumed with what Satan and demons are like when the most important thing is to know what Satan does.
- The two main passages from which we pull a lot of our understanding of Satan’s backstory are intertwined with the description of actual kings (Ezekiel 28 is about the King of Tyre; Isaiah 14 is about the King of Babylon). The kings are like Satan; Satan is like the kings. The line that separates where and what to apply to whom is not always clear. It’s enough to know they all embody evil in two different dimensions of reality.
- When John wrote in Revelation 12 that a dragon was hurled out of heaven, that appears to be a symbolic reference to future events, not past events, but….it’s apocalyptic literature, which is pretty hard to understand anyway, so maybe it is looking back. Or maybe it’s about Rome. Maybe it’s divinely inspired to refer to all three. Commentators differ a LOT on what to do with Revelation 12.
- When Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning” after his disciples reported casting out demons, the implication is that Satan was being dethroned spiritually as the exorcisms were taking place. Jesus does not appear to be referencing a past event where Satan was cast out of heaven - though he could have been. (Luke 10:18)
I don’t think the lack of a really precise Satan template is a mistake in revelation JI don’t think God intended for us to get too fascinated by Satan. It is enough to know that:
- Satan is real
- evil people are his ambassadors
- Satan and his servants are at war with God and His servants
- Satan’s strength and plans are crushed by the power of God.
Our idea of what Satan (or demons, or hell) is like is largely shaped by Dante’s Inferno and Hollywood. Think of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4. There is no physical description of the devil at all. The devil is simply called The Tempter. I have the devil from The Passion Of The Christ in mind. That’s not biblical; that’s Mel Gibson. The Bible describes Satan through titles and various images that are used to explain the nature, intent, and plans of Satan. There are three key images used.
The first two are 1) a snake/serpent (Genesis) and 2) as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
Both of these have to do with the subtle nature of deception: the serpent is crafty, the angel is falsely beautiful.
In the Ancient Near East, the serpent was viewed by almost all cultures as the bringer of wisdom (the Greeks loved the serpent); the writer of Genesis shows what happens when lies masquerade as truth. Sometimes that which appears to be wisdom is not wisdom at all. Proper authority is questioned (“Did God really say…?”); error looks good (“you will be like a god”).
Paul warns that, since there is an Angel of Light, “it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:15). Satan is an infiltrator of the church, and his servants bring harm to the people of God.
- False servants of righteousness lead us from foundational, doctrinal truth (to “shipwreck our faith” – 1 Timothy 1:19). There is a reason there were councils and creeds in church history: there is strength and truth in looking to the historical church community for a solid foundation for biblical interpretation. #becarefulwithnewideas
- False servants of righteousness claim to love holiness, but becomes a legalistic, pharisaical accuser to bring shame (as opposed to speaking truth in love that leads to a godly sorrow, which brings repentance – 2 Corinthians 7:10)
- False servants of righteousness tempt us to compromise our integrity through sin, often by living in a way that models and thus invites personal or corporate compromise (gossip; lust; greed, etc)
As a roaring lion
A roaring lion is terrifying and overwhelming (think also of the “great dragon”, not the subtle serpent, in Revelation 12). There are times when Satan’s attack is meant to terrify us. Peter is probably referring here to the persecution the church was experiencing. I think this could refer to any time we are overwhelmed by the trials, pressures or persecutions. A lion’s roar is stunning; instead of “fight or flight,” “freeze or flight” kicks in immediately. It’s the time we are overwhelmed or scared of the spiritual battles in which we are engaged.
It strikes me that these two images of Satan highlight two questions that can undermine our faith, and two responses that can build it.
- Did God really say….? Is this really the truth about God, me, and life?
- Can God really do…..? Is God really big enough for this?
But Peter gives us the path of resistance; that is, God’s design for resisting the Devil in all his manifestations.
This has to do with sobriety of temperament. We are not to be bland or unconcerned, but measured and steady in the midst of the storm. The Bible uses the imagery of God as an anchor in the midst of storms; we, his people; are to serve as anchors in the midst of a stormy world. We are cautioned not to be "blown about by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14); I thinks it's fair to say we ought not be blown about by anything. We claim to build our foundation on the rock. We should live like it.
The Greeks used the word “gregoreuo” to describe people crossing a river by stepping on slippery stones. Jesus usedthisin the Garden of Gethsemane: "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and be vigilant(gregoreuo) with Me." (Mt 26:38). Which they didn’t (26:40). So what does vigilance look like for us today?
- Obedience (James 4:7) This is ‘dying daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and “making our body our slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27). There is sweat equity we invest in the Kingdom not so that we can enter it, but so we flourish in the fullness of what God offers to us on the path of life.
- Scripture(Jesus in the wilderness temptation – Matthew 4). Jesus countered Satan with the truth of Scripture. It’s meant to be a model for us. We don’t have to be Ph.D. theologians, but we must invest time in reading and studying the Bible.
- Prayer (like, everywhere in Scripture). Over and over – pray.
- We are not meant to walk alone. We are rooted in Christ, we are fed by His Word, but we are planted in soil. That soil, ideally, is a holy church community. Sometimes God uses people in our lives to help us resist the devil. It’s called accountability. #embraceit
Spiritual warfare is often limited to exciting prayer battles and miraculous events, as if we resist the devil with exorcisms and contests like Moses had with Pharaoh’s magicians. Now, if you are a Christian, you know the Bible records the reality of that kind of spiritual battle. In countries where voodoo or the occult is strong, we hear plenty of accounts of how these kinds of battles are a necessary part of establishing the power of God in a ‘language’ that everyone understands. Take the right weapons to the battle.
But note how Peter tells people to resist: in the very ordinary, every day process of doing life together as faithful disciples of Christ. You want to fight the devil? Praying, absorbing our Bibles, and submitting our life to God and others is also spiritual warfare. Nobody writes glamorous stories about this, and it won’t make it to the big screen, but it’s wrestling against principalities and powers also.
The result? God will...
- Restore and Support Make you firm; blend with others; create mutual support – it’s the one body (1 Corinthians 12), one building metaphor (1 Peter 2).
- Strengthen Tighten up the interconnectedness of every part, so that there is no falling apart.
- Ground Create a firm foundation in Christ, the house built on the rock (Matthew 7)
In 1 Sam. 29:4 : 'He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting', i.e. 'become an adversary [Satan] to us'.