“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #20)
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matthew 25:41, N.K.J.V.)
This post marks the end of our series “The Wiles of the Devil,” and I don’t mind telling you that I’m glad it does. When the Lord first burdened me about writing on this topic, I put in the initial spadework to figure out how many posts it might take to complete the series. My starting estimate was ten, but it didn’t take me long to revise that to twelve. Shortly afterward, I revised it to fourteen. I thought that was going to be the number, but the nearer I drew to that fourteenth post the more God opened my eyes to other passages that I needed to include in the series. So here we are now at post #20, and frankly I’m sick and tired of writing about all the damage that Satan has done and continues to do.
I don’t know why God lets the devil roll through the pages of history like an unstoppable locomotive. All I know is that it’s obvious that He loves taking the devil’s work and turning it on its head to bring amazing good out of it. Unfortunately for us, that’s not the same as actually erasing that work or, better still, preventing it, is it?
What we find in scripture is a simple, unwavering pattern: God lets Satan make his play, and then God makes His play. It’s as if the two are locked in an ongoing chess match. Satan makes a move that produces consequences that please him, and God follows it with a countermove that produces consequences that please Him. As 1 John 3:8 tells us, Jesus came to earth to “…destroy the works of the devil.” Take special note of that wording. Before works can be destroyed they must first be brought into existence. Destroying is different than preventing.
A regular reader of this blog has been reading this series, and he and I have done some texting regarding the posts. One day I told him that the series had become fairly depressing to me because of the fact that God lets Satan win so much. To that, this fellow came back with a wonderful reply. He referenced a certain bad experience that he’d had, one in which Satan had been the instigator, and then he named all the good that God had brought out of that experience. When I read his reply, I thought, “That’s it! Right there in a short text is the Bible’s whole teaching on how God uses Satan’s work to further His own.”
One of the classic Bible stories that evidences this truth is found in the first part of the book of Acts. Following Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, approximately three thousand people become Christians and the world’s first church is formed there in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-47). That church thrives and grows exponentially in the days that follow, but it isn’t too long before Satan starts doing his work and causing his problems.
First, Peter and John are arrested by the Jewish religious authorities and brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin Council (Acts 4:1-22). Second, Ananias and Sapphira lie about a church donation and are struck dead (Acts 5:1-11). Third, the Jewish High Priest has all the apostles arrested and imprisoned (Acts 5:17-18). Fourth, problems arise within the church when the Greek-speaking Christians accuse the Hebrew-speaking Christians of favoring the Hebrew-speaking widows in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1). Fifth, Stephen is brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin Council and stoned to death following his testimony (Acts 6:8-7:60). Sixth, in the wake of Stephen’s death, even more persecution arises against the church (Acts 8:1). Seventh, a Jewish Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus becomes the leader in that persecution, and his crusade becomes so severe that many members of the Jerusalem church are forced to flee the city and relocate to other places (Acts 8:1-4).
Okay, so all of that is bad, right? Yes, no doubt about it. And Satan is either directly or indirectly behind it all. But here’s how God brings good out of it and uses it to further His cause: Wherever those Christians relocated, they preached the gospel there and won even more people to Jesus (Acts 8:1). You see, as long as Christians were bottled up in one city and one church, world evangelism wasn’t happening. But when those Christians started fleeing the city because of the persecution, missionary work kicked into high gear. Actually, this is exactly what the resurrected Jesus had commanded of His followers just before He had ascended back to heaven:
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8, N.K.J.V.)
Still, though, as encouraging as I find God’s chess-match countermoves to be, I find even more encouragement in the promise that one day He is going to pronounce the final “Checkmate” and end Satan’s play time once and for all. Even before then, He’s going to imprison Satan for 1,000 years. Here’s the sequence of events according to the Bible:
- When Jesus returns to walk this earth again at the close of the tribulation period, Satan and all the other fallen angels will be chained up and imprisoned in Tartarus (the bottomless pit, the deep, the abyss) for the 1,000 years of Christ’s earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:1-3; Isaiah 24:21-22). (For more on this subject, read my post “The Establishing of the Kingdom Age,” which is part of the series “Bible Prophecy in Chronology.”)
- Once the 1,000 years are completed, Satan and the other fallen angels will be released from Tartarus, and Satan will immediately begin mounting his last offensive against God. But God will end that offensive quickly and decisively (Revelation 20:7-9). (For more on this subject, read my post “Satan’s Final Rebellion” from the same series.)
- Following this last failed offensive, Satan and all the other fallen angels will be permanently cast into Gehenna (the eternal lake of fire) (Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41). Gehenna is a different site from the “hell” (Hades) that exists now (Luke 16:19-31). As awful as Hades is, it is only a temporary holding cell compared to the eternal prison of Gehenna. Whereas Hades only takes in the soul of the lost person, Gehenna takes in the soul and the body as the lost person’s body is resurrected and reunited with its soul (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5). This resurrection and reuniting take place at Christ’s Great White Throne Judgment immediately following Satan’s final rebellion after Christ’s 1000 year reign. It is at this judgment that each lost person from history will be cast body and soul into the fiery lake of Gehenna, where he or she will join Satan and the other fallen angels in eternal punishment and imprisonment. (For more on this subject, read “The Great White Throne Judgment” from the same series.)
This, then, is how it all ends for Satan, eternally imprisoned in a lake of fire, joined by not only his fellow fallen angels but also all of history’s lost people. Obviously, if we know what the Bible says about his fate, he does too. So, maybe he’s arrogant enough to confidently think he can change it. Or maybe he’s just hoping to somehow be able to change it. Or maybe he has resigned himself to the inevitable and is determined to take as many humans with him as he can.
That last one is the one that seems the most likely to me. That’s why I’ll close this post and this series by urging you not to allow yourself to become one of Satan’s eternal running mates. The Bible says that the everlasting fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels, but it doesn’t say that it’s been prepared for you. The truth is that by placing saving belief in Jesus Christ you can avoid that fire. That, you see, is the only way not to fall eternal victim to the wiles of the devil. And it’s definitely the way that God wants you to choose.