The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: D

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Devil and Satan -- "You are the man"

An officer came up one day before the king of the land and presented the following:

"Sir, please decide with regard to the following case: There is a person who is horrendously evil. His name is Satan; he also goes by the name The Devil. He has prompted countless people to sin, enticing them with deception and lies. He opposes God, and even calls God a liar. Satan slanders God, and is not even interested in the welfare of those he supposedly cares for. He despises God's laws, as they are too restrictive. He brings harm to others, and takes for himself glory which belongs to God. He offers as rewards for following him things which he does not have the authority to offer, and he is the father of all lies. Satan does not care for the interests of God or the interests of anyone but himself. God gave great gifts and power to this man, but he lifted up his heart in pride, and he has rebelled against God. Now, I ask you, should Satan be granted immortality? Should he be allowed to live forever in God's kingdom?"

The king replied, "Of course not!" as he rose out of his throne, startling his servants. "There is only one thing that this man deserves: DEATH! It would be absurd to suppose that such a person deserves eternal life. Let us have Satan apprehended AT ONCE so that he can be executed as quickly as possible." As the king retook his seat upon the throne he asked the officer, "Do you know where Satan is right now?"

"Why, yes." the officer said.

"Well, why in the world haven't you apprehended him?!"

"Well, sir. It's because you are the man."

"ME!!! Haven't you read what the scriptures say? The scriptures say that Satan is a fallen angel. He rebelled against God and then enticed Adam and Eve into sinning."

"So Satan fell before Adam did? How then can it be said that Adam introduced sin into the world?"

"Never mind that. Anyway, Satan took a third of the angels with him in his great rebellion, and these angels married the daughters of men, producing giants upon the earth."

"So am I to understand that when these angels sinned like this, God became enraged with mankind and destroyed THEM? Is that fair?"

"Look, I'll concede that God punished mankind in the flood, but don't forget that he took those angels and confined them in chains of darkness, reserved for judgment."

"So," the officer again replied, "you say the rebellious angels were confined like that. How then did the giants live on the earth after the flood. Did some survive the flood, or were there more rebellious angels? Or were the angels who sinned and were confined in chains able to repeat their earlier sin? And if rebellious angels repeated this earlier sin, how come they later stopped? Why aren't they doing the same thing today?"

"Well, I don't know, but I do know that Satan himself approached God and was granted permission to strike at Job in a variety of ways. How could that possibly be me? 'You are the man.' What a ridiculous statement!"

"Sir, have you considered the logic of your own words? You are suggesting that Satan has openly led the world's first and greatest rebellion against God, and yet he is still allowed to come into God's presence and be granted explicit permission by God to inflict calamity upon others. Would you allow your number one enemy, who was rebellious against you, to come into your presence and ask for things from you? You wouldn't even let him ask, and even if you did you certainly wouldn't grant him his request! What king in his right mind would do that?"

"You know, maybe it does seem a little strange that God, whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil, and who cannot tolerate wrong, would allow Satan to come into His very presence like that. Regardless, it does not change the fact that I didn't enter Judas, and I didn't suggest to Jesus that he turn stones into bread. That wasn't me, and so for you to say that I am Satan is just plain wrong. Was it me who hindered Paul from seeing the brethren in Thessalonica? The scriptures that speak about Satan make it very clear that we are dealing with an actual supernatural being."

"Sir, please hear me out. Do you remember when the prophet Nathan confronted David regarding David's sins following the murder of Uriah [2Sa 12:1-8]?"

"Yes, of course I remember what happened."

"Nathan told David about a rich man, a poor man, and a traveler who stayed with the rich man. These people were not real. The story was a parable -- keeping the true identity of the evil rich man hidden from David while he rendered judgment was necessary so that David would be unbiased in the judgment he rendered. Having rendered the proper judgment, then and only then was it appropriate for Nathan to confront David by saying, 'You are the man.' Had Nathan begun by talking point-blank about what David had done, David would have cut him off very quickly. Nathan's method had a purpose. It allowed David to be confronted with the enormity of his sin, so that he might be motivated to repent. God in the Scriptures uses the same method with His descriptions concerning Satan. Nobody who reads about Satan would think for a second that he belongs in God's kingdom. WE ARE EACH THE MAN! This is why 'Satan' is described as the result of human thinking both when Jesus rebuked Peter, and when Peter in turn some time later rebuked Ananias [Mat 16:23 = Mark 8:33; Acts 5:3,4]. 'Human thinking' and 'conceiving this in your heart' is where Satan is. But at the same time, Satan can be anything that is our adversary. This is why the Satan who hindered Paul from returning to Thessalonica [1Th 2:18] refers to the Jewish leaders of Thessalonica who persecuted him both in Thessalonica and also in Berea [Acts 17:5-9,13], why the Angel of Yahweh was Satan to Balaam's donkey [Num 22:22], and Yahweh Himself was described as Satan to David at one point [1Ch 21:1; cf 2Sa 24:1]. And I'm not denying that there can be external tempters, even devious ones. But the root of the problem is within us. We are each Satan to ourselves -- that is, we are each our own worst adversary."

The king, now sitting on his throne deep in reflective thought, with his head resting upon his left hand, motioned with his right hand to the officer. "Go on."

"The idea that Satan is a fallen angel is itself ludicrous. Angels cannot sin, and while we're on the subject let me comment on two remarks the Lord Jesus Christ made. First, he said that in the days of Noah people were 'marrying and being given in marriage' [Mat 24:37-38 = Luke 17:26,27], which is an obvious reference to the sons of God who were marrying the daughters of men, as described in Gen 6. At the same point in his ministry, Jesus was stating that the angels neither marry nor are given in marriage [Mat 22:30 = Mark 12:25 = Luke 20:34-36], which was his unequivocal comment about whether the 'sons of God' in Gen 6 referred to angels. Your worst adversary is not someone else; it is your own proneness to sin. Jesus recognized this, and it is why he compared his own crucifixion to the serpent being raised up [John 3:14,15], and why Jesus in his death was able to destroy him who had the power of death over him, that is, the devil. Who was that devil? Who had the power of death over Jesus?"

"Continue," the king said.

"It wasn't Caiaphas or Pilate or any of the other leaders. They had no inherent power over Jesus, the only power they had was given them by God [John 19:10,11]. Besides, at most they could kill his body but they could not kill his soul [Matt 10:28]."

"Are you suggesting that God was the devil who had the power of death over Jesus? That because God alone is the one who can kill both body and soul in Gehenna, that God was him who had the power of death over Jesus? That in his death Jesus destroyed God??"

"No, your majesty. God raised Jesus up from death, since it was impossible that he should be held by its power [Acts 2:24]. That which had the power of death over Jesus was his own sin-prone nature. Even though he conquered sin, he was always mortal and thus was certain to die unless God miraculously intervened. And if he had given in to sin, then he was certain to die and to stay dead. Jesus' sin-prone nature is what deserved death, and in his death and subsequent resurrection, he put to death that nature, which therefore no longer had power over him. Your majesty, as I said already, there are places in the Scriptures where the terms Devil or Satan refer to one person who is opposing or an adversary to someone else, in one way or another. But in many cases, The Devil or Satan is used to refer to someone's own sin-prone thinking, acting as an adversary against them because it is enticing them away from God. In no case does either name refer to a rebellious fallen angel. When I came before you and described the wickedness of Satan and asked you what he deserved, you answered rightly. Then I pointed out that YOU ARE THAT MAN.' When Jesus asked the Jews about where the authority for John's baptism came from, they wouldn't give him a straight answer, and we all know why [Matt 21:23-27 = Mark 11:27-33 = Luke 20:1-8]. Had I approached you directly about confronting your own sin-prone nature, you would just as surely have altered your answer."

"That was a very wise thing you did. I would daresay that you are as wise as Solomon was. He couldn't get a straight answer out of the mother of the dead baby, and so in his God-given wisdom he phrased the issue in such a way as to draw out from both women sincere expressions about whether they wanted the remaining baby to live or die. Their expressions clearly revealed who the real mother of the remaining child was. In like manner, you are to be commended for drawing out from me an untainted judgment against Satan, and then clearly revealing to me who that Satan really is. Indeed I am the man. And you are to be commended for following the example of using Nathan's inspired teaching method in this instance."

"Sir, may I be allowed one more comment?" the officer asked humbly.

"By all means, go ahead."

"Nathan was not the first to use such a technique. Tamar used it also when she confronted Judah. Judah, upon hearing that Tamar was illicitly pregnant, ordered her to be put to death by burning. However, upon being confronted by her with irrefutable evidence that he was the man involved, he admitted that she was more righteous than he [Gen 38:26]. She had concealed his own identity from him, got him to admit the judgment that was necessary, and then revealed that he was the man. Later, Judah was in the same kind of situation again. When he and his brothers came before Joseph, son of Jacob by Rachel, Joseph was able to draw out from Judah an expression that he himself was willing to die so as to save the other son of Jacob by Rachel. Only then did Joseph reveal that he was the man they had earlier mistreated. So you see that Nathan was not the first one to use this technique. God uses this same technique throughout Scripture with regard to Satan's identity. He isn't trying to ultimately mislead us about who Satan is any more than Tamar or Joseph or Nathan was ultimately trying to mislead Judah or David. The answer is before us all the time if we are willing to think about it and receive it. Think about the case I brought before you today. Render honest judgment about what Satan deserves. And then recognize that 'you are the man.' It's not an easy thing to do. Look at how hard it was for Job. But in the end, he recognized his true place before God, and despised himself and so he repented in dust and ashes [Job 42:6]. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful [James 5:11]."

The king was very pleased. "Now I see," he said. "Whenever I look in the mirror, or whenever I examine my own mind and my own thinking, I must realize that I am looking at 'Satan'. And I must be on guard, and careful to resist this great enemy -- who is actually not outside, but inside my own 'camp'. Thank you, trusted friend; you have taught me a valuable lesson!"


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