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A Brief History of the Satan

We’re going to begin here with A Brief History of the Satan. 

And some of you are going to say, “well, hold on! That’s bad grammar. It should be ‘A Brief History of Satan’”. 

And I’m going to say, “yes, if ‘Satan’ is a name”. 

And it is a name; or, I should say, it has become a name. But originally it was a description. The ancient Hebrew word “Satan” means “Accuser”. And that description, that title, is actually important for us to keep in mind, if we are going to understand what Jesus says here in Chapter 10 of Luke. 

So: A Brief History of the Accuser. 

The Satan — the Accuser — was not always the Satan. He was created to be a servant of God, a type of spirit-being called an angel. And the word ‘angel’ simply means ‘messenger’. So he was created to be a messenger of some kind, who served in God’s court. 

But at some point he rebelled against God. We don’t know when; and we don’t even really know why or how. There is one passage in Isaiah 14 that talks about how the “Morning Star” tried to make himself a god, and was struck down for it; but Isaiah is talking about the King of Babylon. Could he also be talking about Satan’s fall? Maybe. 

But the only way we can really confirm that is by going to another ancient Jewish book, the Book of Enoch, which says that Satan raised an army of angels and tried to replace God. Enoch says Satan was defeated, kicked out of heaven, and ever since then he and his demons have been flying in the air, unable to land. 

But there are two problems with the Book of Enoch. First: it is not in the bible. So we ought not to use a book from outside the bible to interpret the Isaiah passage. Maybe the Isaiah passage is talking about Satan’s rebellion; however, we cannot confirm this by using the Book of Enoch. 

The second problem is bigger, though. The Book of Enoch says that Satan was kicked out of God’s throne-room. He has no access to God. However, two times in the Old Testament, Satan is described going into God’s courtroom and “accusing” God’s people. That’s why he is called “the Accuser”. 

So the Book of Enoch says that Satan rebelled against God and was kicked out of heaven. And that is the idea that most people have about Satan. 

But the bible says that even though Satan rebelled against God, he still had access to God’s courtroom. He just changed jobs: he went from being a messenger of God to being an Accuser in God’s courtroom. The Old Testament describes him acting as the lawyer for the prosecution. In one scene, a priest is on earth, praying to God. And the spiritual reality is that this priest is in God’s spiritual courtroom, making his request. 

But then “the Accuser” shows up, and he says, “God, don’t listen to this priest! Don’t grant his request! He sinned against you yesterday like this, and the day before he sinned like this and this, and last week he did this and this and this…” 

And so, according to the bible, accusing God’s people was “the Satan’s” job for thousands of years…

But that is not the end of the Satan’s story. 

Let me read to you from Revelation Chapter 12. This is from the last book of the bible: 

“[7] And there was war in heaven. Michael — that is Israel’s guardian angel — Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. [8] But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. [9] The great dragon was hurled down---that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

 

Ah: there it is! Satan and his demons kicked out of heaven, just like the Book of Enoch said, right? 

Mmmmm…half-right. The Book of Enoch and the Book of Revelation agree that Satan is kicked out of heaven. But they disagree about when. The Book of Enoch says this happened in the early days of the universe. But in the Old Testament Satan clearly still has access to God’s courtroom. So the Book of Enoch is wrong. 

So when is Satan kicked out of heaven, then? 

Let’s find out, shall we? 

… 

Luke, Chapter 10. For several weeks now, we have Jesus’ war against the devil escalating. First, in Chapter 8, we saw Jesus’ miracles get much bigger. Then, in Chapter 9, we saw Jesus’ army expand: he sent out Twelve captains, and they were also very successful: they had power to cast out all demons. 

They were so successful that God the Father met his Son on a mountaintop one night and confirmed Jesus’ identity and calling. The Father was basically saying, “Son, you have done it! You have fought for your kingdom, and now it is yours!” 

So then Jesus, almost at once, began his journey to Jerusalem, to go and claim his throne. 

But…what happened to the war against the devil? Is it over already? Did we miss the final battle already? 

Nope. Here it is: 

[1] After this — 

— after what? After setting out on his journey to Jerusalem — 

the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 

Remember how last week Jesus sent messengers ahead to book hotel rooms for everyone? That’s what these seventy-two other disciples are also supposed to do. They are the advance party. 

But that’s not all they’re supposed to do: 

[2] He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 

So first he commands them to pray! Pray for what? Pray for more workers. Why? Because the harvest is ripe, and needs to be harvested now

See, after the grain is planted, and while it is growing, a farmer really has very little work to do. So a rich farmer only needed one or two or three employees during the growing season. 

But then, suddenly, at harvest time, he would need one or two or three hundred workers. Because grain comes ripe all at once, and needs to be harvested quickly to keep it from getting spoilt. So at harvest time a farmer would send out the urgent call: “hey! Workers needed! Right now!” 

Jesus is making that call. Ever since the time of Abraham, God’s Word, God’s promise of a Messiah, has been growing quietly. But now, suddenly, this is the time to harvest all the people who have been waiting for the Messiah! 

So Jesus is telling his disciples, “Now is the time! Pray for workers! Send out the call: jawatan kosong!” 

So, his first instruction: pray for workers. 

His second instruction: 

[3] Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. [4] Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 

And these are basically the same instructions he gave the Twelve in Chapter 9: “You’re going to have to trust me to provide for you. I don’t want you acting like those other travelling faith-healers; you’re not out there to get rich! And I don’t want you stopping on the road to chit-chat with old friends. This is the harvest! You gotta keep moving!” 

Then: [5] "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' [6] If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” 

Jesus is saying, “You guys preach peace to everyone. If someone accepts that peace, great! If they reject my message of peace, don’t stress la! I’m not sending you out to force people to join my kingdom! Remember, you are lambs, not wolves! 

“But if someone does accept your message of peace, [7] Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house — 

— “don’t be like those travelling faith healers who are always upgrading their accomodations — 

[8] "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 

Jesus does not want his disciples asking, “was this meat properly slaughtered? Did you follow the kosher food-laws when you harvested these vegetables?” That is something the Pharisees did. That is why the Pharisees avoided dining with the common people: they could never be sure the common people “obeyed God’s Laws” correctly in their cooking. And it created a great division in society. 

So Jesus is basically saying, “disciples, chill! Be gracious and kind! Be willing to eat with everyone, even if you’re not sure how halal their food is. You are not Pharisees! So do not let questions about food divide you from other people.” 

And, by the way, friends, this is something we need to remember, too, as Christians. In Malaysia we have experienced how food laws can be deliberately used to divide people. But we have to be careful, too. More and more of us are paying attention to what we eat, for health reasons and ethical reasons. We want organic vegetables, pesticide-free meat, fair-trade coffee…and all that is good! Don’t misunderstand me: it is okay for a Christian to be a vegetarian, or a vegan, or to be eating some kind of specialized diet. But we must not let that keep us from eating with other people who have different diets. 

So, for instance, if you are concerned about the abuse of factory-farmed animals, and you only purchase free-range chicken because of that concern: that’s fine! That is a legitimate and Godly justice issue. 

But then, if you visit someone’s house and they serve you KFC…eat the KFC! Do not turn your personal convictions into a judgement of the other person by refusing to eat what they give you. 

Does that make sense? 

Okay. 

So then Jesus says, in verse 9: “If someone accepts your message of peace, heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' [10] But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, [11] 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' 

So we notice here that Jesus is guaranteeing some rejection. He says, “when you enter a town and are not welcomed…” So Jesus is just continuing to confirm that, even though the disciples are working for God’s anointed King, that doesn’t guarantee them success! 

But we also have to notice something else here: if the disciples’ message of peace is accepted, they are supposed to “heal the sick” — and remember, “heal” and “save” are the same word, so they are to “save the sick”. How are the sick ultimately saved? Their sins are forgiven. The disciples are to heal people spiritually through preaching, and then heal those people physically as an external sign of what just happened within. And once they’ve done all this, they’re supposed to say, “The kingdom of God is near you.” 

But, if the disciples’ message of peace is rejected, they are supposed to publicly wipe the dust off their feet — remember that insult? — and say, “The kingdom of God is near!” 

What this means is that the disciples are successful no matter what. If they preach and people accept, then they have brought God’s kingdom near: the promise of God’s forgiveness. But if they preach and people reject…then they have brought God’s kingdom near: the promise that God’s judgement is on its way. 

And that’s what Jesus says next: “[12] I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 

And that, friends, is just about the heaviest possible curse that Jesus can possibly speak. Because if you remember, Sodom was that city in the Old Testament that was judged and destroyed by God for…ummm…

Well, everyone thinks that Sodom was judged for homosexuality. But that’s not quite right. Yes, the men of the city did threaten homosexual rape against their guests. Which is not very hospitable behaviour, am I right? 

But to make it worse, their guests were actually angels sent from God. So the men of Sodom rejected — and threatened violence against — God’s messengers. Oops. 

And now Jesus is saying, “Any town that rejects my messengers is committing a worse sin than Sodom.” Sodom rejected God’s angels. But these towns are rejecting the servants of the King himself. 

But Jesus isn’t done: [13] "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. [14] But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. [15] And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths” — into the Abyss, the place where the spirits of the dead wait for Judgement Day. 

So, wow! In the Old Testament, the cities of Tyre and Sidon were famous for paganism and corruption. The prophets Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah all cursed Tyre and Sidon, and those cities were eventually destroyed by Alexander the Great. 

But Jesus is saying, “if I had visited Tyre and Sidon back then, they would have seen my miracles, repented of their corruption, and joined me. Those pagans will have an easier time on Judgement Day than the Jewish towns that have rejected me!” 

Now, the town of Korazin we don’t know anything about. But we do know about Bethsaida. It was near Bethsaida that Jesus fed the five thousand in the last chapter. Apparently, in spite of that miracle, Bethsaida has rejected him. 

And Capernaum was the town, way back in Chapter 4, where Jesus spent all night healing everyone in town. And in Chapter 6 Jesus preached a very long sermon just outside Capernaum, and then healed the servant of their police captain. But, apparently, despite all this, Capernaum has rejected Jesus too. 

And here is Jesus’ summary: [16] "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." 

So rejecting Jesus’ messengers means rejecting Jesus. And rejecting Jesus means rejecting God. And that is always a mistake. 

… 

So the seventy-two disciples go out and do what they’re called to do. 

And by the way I should point out that, as usual, the number is important. Seventy-two disciples are sent out; way back in the book of Genesis, Chapter 10, there is a list of seventy-two nations. So that means Jesus sent out one messenger for every nation in the world. 

Now, of course, I have to emphasize that this is symbolic. These seventy-two disciples did not travel to every nation in the world; but this is meant to be a foreshadowing of what is going to happen. Luke is hinting to us that Jesus is not just a Jewish Messiah, a Jewish King; he will be a king for all the nations. 

So they go out. They do their job. Then [17] The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." 

And Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” 

Hmmmmm! So when was Satan cast out of heaven? 

During the ministry of the seventy-two. We have been building to this crisis point for several chapters, and now — suddenly — the enemy has lost his place in God’s courtroom. Jesus is saying, “While you guys were out there on the battlefield, I was watching Satan fall from heaven.” While the disciples were doing battle on earth, Michael the Archangel was doing battle in heaven, just as described in that passage from Revelation Chapter 12. 

Remember: “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. [8] But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. [9] The great dragon was hurled down---that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

From this point on in the book of Luke, the enemy army is broken, retreating, dissolving. That’s why, from now on in the book, there are almost no more exorcisms: the demons are fleeing before the army of God: Jesus’ disciples. 

That’s why Jesus says in verse 19: 

[19] I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. [20] However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." 

And with these words, Jesus tells us what Satan’s fall means to us. 

First, he confirms that we, his disciples, have authority to overcome all the power of the enemy. Satan cannot harm us. And this is confirmed in Revelation Chapter 12: after the dragon is hurled to earth, he is angry, and tries to attack God’s people. But he can’t: God’s people are protected. They cannot be harmed. 

Second — and far more important — Jesus points out that having authority to command Satan and his demons is a great thing, but even greater is this promise: that our names are written in heaven. 

And what does this mean, that our names are written in heaven? Well, remember, until this point, Satan “the Accuser” was a lawyer in God’s courtroom. And every time one of God’s people came in to pray, Satan would stand there and say, “God, don’t listen to this person! They are a sinner! They do not deserve your love and mercy!” 

But from this point on, Satan “the Accuser” has no more access to God’s courtroom. Now, when we approach God’s throne to pray, there is no one there to accuse us anymore! No one there to remind God of our sins! 

And this, too, is confirmed in Revelation Chapter 12: after the dragon is hurled to earth, the Prophet John hears a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ! 

“For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” 

So what does this mean for us? Friends, it means that there is no one left to accuse us of our sins. And if there is no one left to accuse us in court, then what is the Judge going to do? He is going to say, “Not guilty!” 

And then he is going to write that verdict down in the court records. 

So, if you are in Christ, then your name is written in heaven, in God’s court records, with “not guilty” written beside it. 

One day every human being is going to pass through the gates of death, and we are going to find ourselves in that courtroom. And the secretaries are going to open up the books, find your name, and read the verdict that is written beside it. 

That will be a terrible moment for those who do not know God. But if you have recognized Jesus as your King, if you have believed his promise of forgiveness, then you will stand there without worry, without fear. Because there is no lawyer to accuse you, and you already know what is written next to your name: “not guilty”. 

Now that is something to rejoice about. It is wonderful that we have power to trample Satan and his demons; but it is even more wonderful that we can walk into God’s courtroom without fear. 

… 

And Jesus thinks so too: [21] At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” 

This is a continuing theme in Luke, isn’t it? Salvation is not about how smart you are, or how strong, or how religious you are. It is about God our Father revealing, opening up the gift of forgiveness to those who need it most. 

And we see this principle at work even today: the proud reject Jesus. The rich, the powerful: they don’t need forgiveness, do they? But one day they will stand in God’s courtroom. And God the Father will say, “does anyone have an accusation against this person?” And the court will look around…but Satan “the Accuser” is not there anymore. 

But then, seated at the right hand of the Father’s throne, the Son will speak. He will say, “I accuse this person. He rejected my forgiveness. He thought he was good enough.” 

And the Judge will say, “Guilty!” And the secretaries will write the verdict down next to that person’s name, and they will be taken away, never to be seen from again. 

But the poor, the helpless, the victims of injustice, the “little children”: these are the ones who hear Jesus’ offer of peace and forgiveness, and accept it. And on Judgement Day, there will be no accusation against them. The Father will ask, “does anyone have an accusation against this person?” And the Son will stand up and say, “No. This one belongs to me.” 

And that’s why Jesus says in verse 22, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 

See, in that culture, there was no closer relationship than the father-son relationship. It was the son — usually the oldest son — who inherited the family business. So fathers would take special care to pass on all their wisdom, all their secrets, all their business tricks to their oldest son. And the oldest son was supposed to pass that on to his brothers, to his own children. 

So Jesus is saying, “My Father’s business is forgiveness and judgement. And he has put me in charge of the family business, because he knows me, he trusts me. Now, if you want to know my Father’s business plan, if you want to know who he is going to forgive and who he is going to curse, well…you need to talk to me! I’m the only one who knows my Father’s business plan, and I’m the only one who can tell you.” 

[23] Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. [24] For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." 

This is the beginning of the turning point of world history. For thousands of years prophets and kings have been looking for the dragon’s defeat. They have been looking for the great Champion, the Divine Warrior who would cast the Accuser out of the courtroom. Prophets and kings have been looking for it! 

But who gets to witness it firsthand? A rag-tag group of farmers and fishermen, tax collectors and ex-prostitutes. What an ironic joke! But it’s just as Jesus promised: these things are not revealed to the wise and the learned, but to those who have no other hope.  

… 

So, A Brief History of the Satan: 

He was created. He served God for a while. He rebelled against God, and became the Accuser in God’s courtroom. Apparently, like the other angels, he was able to move from heaven to earth and back again. 

But then, about two thousand years ago, he was fired. Defeated. Cast out of heaven. How? 

Well, Revelation tells us that Michael and his angels fought Satan and his angels, and cast them out. But that is a spiritual picture of the real battle, which took place here on earth. Michael and his angels were only able to win because of what these seventy-two disciples did. 

And what did these disciples do? They preached Jesus’ forgiveness, and to prove their authority to forgive they healed the sick and cast out demons. 

So, to be clear: it was preaching forgiveness that defeated Satan the Accuser. 

And then we all want to know: how is that possible? 

Well, think about it: what is the only thing that can defeat an Accuser? I stand before God and Satan says, “Ian is arrogant, selfish, lustful, lazy, lacks self-control.” And Jesus says, “Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven. Away with you, Satan!” 

There is no place for “the Accuser” anymore in God’s courtroom. Jesus is the only one now who can acquit or accuse. And there is only one sin left that cannot be forgiven. If, on that day, you stand before God’s throne and Jesus accuses you, and says, “this person rejected me”…friends, your judgement is fixed. 

I urge you: do not be that person. Accept Jesus’ forgiveness. It’s free. And it will give you everything! 

… 

But where is Satan now? What has he been doing for the last two thousand years? 

Revelation Chapter 12 tells us he was hurled down to earth. He can no longer to God’s courtroom. And for a being like that to be restricted to earth, unable to travel back and forth as he used to…well, that must feel like a kind of prison to such a creature. It would be like locking up a large dog in a small cage for years. And Revelation tells us he is insane with rage. Listen to these verses: 

“Rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! 

“But woe to earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” 

And then John writes and says, “The dragon was enraged and went off to make war against those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” 

So ever since Satan fell, he has been locked up here, on earth…with us. And he hates us. He is at war with the Church, with us. And while he is, in a way, in chains here, he still has the power of deception, and the power to imprison people who have rejected Jesus. 

And that sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? 

Well, friends, don’t be afraid. Satan has already been defeated. He is still dangerous; he still has a few tricks up his sleeve — as we will find out later on in Luke — but we have been given authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. 

Remember, brothers and sisters, that our greatest weapon in this war against the Accuser is forgiveness. It is so simple. It feels so inadequate, so weak! But it was the preaching of Christ’s forgiveness that brought Satan down from the heavens; it is the preaching of Christ’s forgiveness that keeps us safe; it is the preaching of Christ’s forgiveness that still sets prisoners free. 

So our application today is simple: preach the forgiveness of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you are a highly trained theologian, or a young child: any of us can offer it to someone else, in our words and in our actions. And do not forget to confess sins to one another also, asking for forgiveness from others. 

Every time we do these things, we are striking a blow against our enemy in the great war, the war that will one day end all wars. 

 

Christ Alone

Suffering First, Then the Crown