Who is on the LORD’s side?
Who is on the LORD’s side? That was Moses’ question at Mt. Sinai when Israel was running wild (Exo. 32:25-26), worshiping and celebrating around the golden calf. The allies of the LORD, those who would stand together with Moses, were not obvious at that time, and they often are not. However, when Moses called for God’s allies, the whole tribe of Levi rallied to him, and armed themselves for battle as he commanded. In the chaos of the camp Moses wasn’t sure who his allies were that day, but he knew that his allies were the same ones who were on the LORD’s side. Those who, like Moses, follow the LORD, may not always know who their allies are, but they can be sure that they have allies, and that their allies are those who are on the LORD’s side. Those allies who are on the LORD’s side are often not obvious, but as Elisha assured his servant when their town was surrounded by a vast army of enemies, “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). And then Elisha prayed that the LORD would open his servant’s eyes, and the servant saw that the mountain where the enemy gathered was “full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17-18). The conflict that followed was not a conflict of flesh and blood, as the servant of Elisha had anticipated, but a conflict in which the power of God prevailed decisively over the power and schemes of the enemy.
We who like Moses and Elisha are God’s people today, are still faced with people running wild and threats from the enemy. Paul warns us that we are engaged in battle, and must be prepared for it. He says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph 6:10-13 NIV). Christians need to understand that there is a battle going on, and that we are in the middle of it. It is not a battle of guns or knives, but a battle of ideas and possibilities and thoughts and actions and arguments and pretenses and knowledge and power (2 Cor 10:3-5). Winning the battle requires God’s power, and God’s equipment. It also requires being able to recognize the enemy, and his schemes (methods), and having the assurance that we do have powerful allies. In fact as Elisha said, “there are more with us than there are with them.” Like Elisha’s servant, Christians need to have their eyes opened and see not only the army arrayed against us, but also the allies God has deployed in our behalf. David’s assurance is our assurance still, “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:37, and consider also Romans 8:5-11, 31-39; 1 Corinthians 2:9-15).
Allies and Adversaries
Christians are assured repeatedly in the New Testament that God’s Holy Spirit is an ever present ally and helper, as in 1 Cor 2:12 “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (NIV). God’s Spirit is our guarantee of things to come, Paul says (2 Cor. 1:21-22). On the other hand, there is also a spirit at work in the world, who guarantees things of a very different sort, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph 2:1-2 NIV). Life and an understanding of the gift of life come from the Spirit of God, but sin and death are produced by the work of the spirit who is called the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” So Christians have a mighty ally, but there is also a daunting adversary. In fact, Christians have many allies in the battle for heart and soul, as well as many adversaries. The Bible says that there are angels interacting with and at work in behalf of God’s people (Heb. 1:14, Heb. 13:2, 1 Cor. 11:10). In fact, Jesus prophesied that the dream of Jacob’s ladder (Gen. 28:10-22), with angels of God busily moving between heaven and earth, would be fulfilled in him (John 1:51). Jesus, by his victory in the world, facilitated the work of angels, and he frequently spoke in his parables of their role even at the end of time.
At the same time, the Bible also clearly indicates that Christians face much opposition in the spiritual realm from unseen but very real and powerful forces. Arrayed against the Christian is the devil and “authorities, … the powers of this dark world and … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:11-12). Paul warned us in his letter to Timothy that demonic work would not diminish but would continue with great effect (1 Tim 4:1-2) and that those who serve idols (and many still do, and more all the time) are in fact serving demons (1 Cor. 10:20-21). The book of Revelation pictures the work of both angels and demons affecting this world right up until the judgment (Rev. 16:3-4, 18:2, 9:20, 15:1, etc). Unseen forces, both allies and adversaries, are at work all around. A battle is raging, and we are being affected by the conflict, are in fact engaged in the conflict. Who is on the LORD’s side? If we are, then we can be assured we are not alone, not on our own.
Allies — Angels
Heb 1:14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (NIV) What are these angels who serve the saints? The word angel comes into English from Greek, and simply means messenger. An angel can be anyone or thing that is a messenger or representative of someone else. In the Bible the English word angel is generally used to describe those messengers of God who are spirits rather than creatures of flesh and bone (Heb. 1:4, Luke 24:39). While the Bible tells us very little about any particular angel many scattered facts about them are presented to us. We read in Psalm 148,
Ps 148:1-6 (NIV)
1 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
6 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.
From these verses we can discern several bits of information about the angels, mentioned in verse 2. First, we see in verse 5 that all angels are created beings. Angels were brought into being by the direct command of God. One thing this sets aside is the notion some people have that angels are glorified humans. We will see confirmation of this in later scriptures, but the Psalmist here says that angels were created by God’s command, and so humans do not become angels after death. By the same token, and again Jesus later taught on this (Luke 20:27-38), the angels, like the sun, moon, and stars, are created by God’s command and do not reproduce themselves. The angels, the heavens, the stellar bodies, were all brought into being by God’s command. The Psalmist also tells us that angels were created to be what they are (set in place, v.6). This does not mean that angels don’t have minds or will, they do, and some have abandoned their place (2 Pet. 2:5, Jude 6), but angels are not promoted or demoted. Those angels who continue as God’s allies have their place, and are not in competition with one another. There is function, order, and structure in the hosts of heaven. And a third main point we can glean from this Psalm is that as part of their design, God’s angels praise him (v.5). Angels were created and set in place by God and do not experience “growing up” or “promotion” or “birth” or engage in procreation. They do have function and order, and are intended to praise God.
What else can we know about angels? What follows are some facts with supporting scriptures.
1. Angels are created beings.
Psalm 148:1-5, Colossians 1:15-16, Romans 8:38-39. Angels are clearly included in the scriptures among those things that are “in creation.”
2. They were created before the physical universe.
Job 38:4-7 (note: in this passage the phrases “morning stars” and “sons of God” are synonymous parallel references to angelic beings, as angels are also identified as sons of God in Job 1:6, and a person fallen from heaven is called morning star or lucifer in Isa. 14:12. Angels are sons of God in the same sense as Adam Luke 3:38 in that their lives came directly from God, not in the sense of Jesus, who is unique and has a unique Father-Son relationship within the godhead, John 1:14, Col. 2:9) Since the angels sang and shouted when the foundation of the earth was laid, they must have been created before the cosmos itself.
3. Angels have minds of their own, free will, and some have sinned.
2 Peter 2:5, Jude 6, 1 Cor. 6:3. The angels are not mindless robots, but clearly in the Bible are presented as rational, thinking beings, capable of making their own choices. Some have chosen to leave their assigned positions with the heavenly host and have lost their place.
4. Angels are spirits, not physical beings..
Hebrews 1:14, Luke 24:39, 1 Corinthians 15:50. Since the angels are spirits they can be manifested in this world in virtually any way at all, including various forms or being unseen. They are not “lacking” flesh and blood, but are more than that, not limited as flesh and blood is limited. Godly humans can look forward to having the sort of spiritual “body” in the resurrection that the angels have now (see #5 below). The appearance of an angel cannot be predicted, because as a spirit it can wear any form when working in the physical world.
5. Angels do not marry, or procreate, or die.
Matthew 22:30, Luke 20:34-36. As spirits the angels are not subject to physical death (though those who’ve sinned will experience the second death, the lake of fire, Rev. 20:10). They do not have male and female characteristics, which are a part of the physical world only (Gen. 1:27-28), and do not make marriages or reproduce themselves.
6. There are countless numbers of angels.
Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 5:11. The New Testament speaks of thousands upon thousands of angels, and ten thousand times ten thousand. In other words, there are more angels than the Greek/Roman numbering system could account for. God created a vast multitude of angels. There are plenty of them to do his work in this world, in the whole universe, and in heaven.
7. Angels are wiser, stronger, and generally greater than humans.
2 Samuel 14:17/20, Hebrews 2:6-7, 2 Peter 2:10-12. We’re told that man was created “a little lower than the angels.” Angels are at least in some ways greater than humans. It was considered a great compliment in David’s day to compare a man’s wisdom with that of the angels. And Peter cautions us against disrespect toward spiritual beings whose power we do not understand. Consider that angels are not subject to sickness, aging, and death as humans are, and that their wisdom, besides the glory of their creation, is a wisdom that includes the observation of God’s work and man’s activities for all of the history of creation. Jesus indicated that 12 legions of angels (perhaps 60,000) would be sufficient to conquer and control the world (Matt. 26:53), which would have to include overcoming all human resistance, and all of Satan’s allies as well.
8. Angels have various ranks, differing power, and different responsibilities.
Daniel 10:12-13, Daniel 12:1, Colossians 1:16. The Psalmist said that God set the angels in their places. Daniel spoke of ranks and assignments that angels have, and Paul also spoke of differing ranks and powers both among the heavenly host, and the forces of darkness.
9. Angels have often appeared as ordinary people.
Hebrews 13:2. Since an angel is more than physical, physical appearances are not a limitation for angels. Men have been both blessed and tested by the appearance of angels who looked like ordinary people, and the writer of Hebrews indicates that this can still happen today. If the question is, “have you ever seen an angel,” most of us should answer, “I don’t know.”
10. Angels have appeared as physical phenomena, and can appear as whatever their “mission” calls for.
Hebrews 1:7. Again, as in #9, angels can take on any appearance in this world, including wind or fire. In fact, wind and fire are often associated with the manifestation of spiritual beings, as symbols of the unseen and of power.
11. Angels often strike terror or similar reactions in those they appear to.
Daniel 10:4-11, Numbers 22:31, 1 Chronicles 21:16-20, 30. It is a mistake to picture angels as cute or cuddly. They are never pictured as such in the scriptures. Instead, when people knew that they were in the presence of an angel because the appearance was angelic they were generally dismayed or terrified. Even Daniel, who could face up to anything his human adversaries threw at him, including death threats and the lions’ den, paled and fainted at the mere sight of a messenger of God. Picturing angels as winged babies or white robed winged ladies is far from the Biblical imagery of these mighty and terrifying beings.
12. Angels do not have ordinary physical limitations, but they do have limits.
Revelation 10, Daniel 10:12-13, Matthew 24:36, Romans 8:38-39. In the Bible we see angels that are impossibly large or fast or strong for physical laws to apply. But they do have limits. There are things the angels don’t know, there are things the angels can’t do, and the angels struggle with opponents who are also mighty spiritual beings and sometimes are delayed in their missions.
Considering these scattered facts about angels, there are some things to bear in mind. Be aware that some lie about what angels have done. 1 Kings 13:18 The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: `Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.'” (But he was lying to him.) (NIV) Not only do some men lie about their interaction with angels, but there are phony angels too, 2 Cor 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (NIV) and Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (NIV) Christians must realize that messages, or claimed messages, from or about angels are not to be accepted uncritically. Angels are powerful beings, deployed by God in our behalf, but there is deception by and about angels that we must be aware of and weigh on the scales of Biblical truth. No angel of God will contradict God or encourage sin, but some who claim to be angels or to know the work of angels may do so (see also Matt. 4:6-7, Rom. 8:38- 39). Also, the Bible is very clear in telling us that God’s angels are not to be worshiped and do not desire worship (Col. 2:18, Rev. 19:9-10, Rev. 22:8-9). This is not a moot point, because many have misunderstood and gone beyond recognizing the work of angels to seeking relationships with them, and in his excitement over the work of angels even old John made the mistake (twice!) of bowing before an angel that, rationally, he knew not to worship. The adoration of angels, speculations about them, and questing for experiences with them are serious errors that put people in great jeopardy. At the same time, belittling angels or celestial beings or being arrogant toward them is a grievous error as well (2 Pet. 2:10-12, Jude 8-10). The power and abilities and dignity of angels should be respected, even that of angels who have abandoned their place with God. But they are never to be worshiped, nor can any message from any angel (whether claimed or real) ever be accepted that contradicts what God has already said to us, as recorded in the Scripture. Knowing that we have angels as mighty allies should give us confidence, but must not mislead us into pride or foolishness.
Allies — angels — seraphim and cherubim
The angels themselves are, as mentioned, separated into various categories of power and function and responsibility. In the Old Testament we read of a group of heavenly beings called Seraphim (Isaiah 6:1- 7). The word seraph literally means “burning one” and is the same word applied to the poisonous snakes of the Old Testament (whose poison burned in the body, Num. 21:6). The word Seraphim is not really a proper name, but is a description of the appearance of the creatures Isaiah saw around the throne of God. They were fiery. Isaiah says,
Isa 6:2 Above it (the throne of God) stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (NKJ)
Isa 6:6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. (NKJ)
Isaiah saw “burning ones” who had wings, and handled live coals. This description fits a class of creatures described elsewhere in the Bible that are called Cherubim (note, both the word seraphim and the word cherubim are plural words, as indicated by the suffix “im.” One of the cherubim is a cherub). Cherubim first turn up in the Bible after the fall of man when God placed cherubim (more than one) and a flaming sword to guard access to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24). One has to wonder what made the task of guarding the tree so daunting that multiple cherubim and a flaming sword were called for, but perhaps we can later discern why such a display of power was needed. Do note though that the cherubim guarding the tree of life were associated with a flaming sword. Isaiah saw burning ones (seraphim) around God’s throne, and in Eden the cherubim were accompanied by a fiery sword.
The next time we encounter cherubim in the Biblical record is at the time Moses was learning how to prepare the tabernacle and its furnishings. The most important object in the tabernacle would be the ark of the covenant, covered by the mercy seat, which would have two cherubim mounted on it (Exod. 25:17-20). Moses was shown what these should look like, but not much is left for us except that they were winged. Later we learn that the mercy seat was a symbol for the throne of God, with God enthroned in the place between the cherubim (Num 7:89, 1 Sam 4:4) God is “the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim.” A magnificent description of the cherubim in action if found in 2 Sam 22:7-18.
In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.
“The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his canopy around him–the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth. The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot arrows and scattered, bolts of lightning and routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
Again in this Psalm the presence of God, where the cherubim are, is associated with smoke and fire, and wind. The cherubim are pictured as God’s throne bearers, and the beating of their wings stirs mighty winds that even push aside the seas. In David’s description of how God rescued him from the deep waters of his troubles we have imagery that in our time is reminiscent of using a huge helicopter in air-sea rescue, and the beating of the rotary wing pushes aside the waters below as the rescuer descends and reaches down to the endangered. The cherubim in this picture are awesome and mighty beings, perhaps the most awesome and powerful of all God’s creatures, and honored with being in his presence and bearing his throne.
The cherubim are further described for us in the book of Ezekiel in several of his visions. In Ezek. 10:20 Ezekiel tells us that the “living creatures” he had previously described were cherubim. These creatures were again seen as throne bearers for God, and are associated with a windstorm and fire (Ezek. 1:4), looking somewhat manlike but each one having four faces, four wings, hands, and legs. The faces were those of man, lion, ox, and eagle (Ezek. 1:4-10). Later Ezekiel would describe them similarly, but substituting the word cherub for the word ox in describing the four faces (Ezek. 10:14), and again later he would see carved cherubim, each with two faces, those of lion and man (Ezek. 41:18-19).
The cherubim of Moses and Ezekiel and seraphim of Isaiah seem to be of the same nature. They are God’s honor guard and personal attendants; his throne bearers and heralds. They are apparently the highest order of the “heavenly host.” They surround and carry the throne of God (1 Samuel 4:4, Ezekiel 10:20, Isaiah 6:2, Revelation 4:6). Their appearance varies from episode to episode, as is the case of spiritual beings being physically manifested. Sometimes the cherubim or seraphim (or living creatures, as Ezekiel and John in Revelation describe them) are seen as having two wings (1 Kings 6:23-28) or four wings (Ezekiel 1:4-10) or six wings (Isaiah 6:2, Revelation 4:6-8). They are sometimes seen with man-like hands (Isaiah 6:6, Ezekiel 1:4-10). They have characteristics, including faces, of man, lion, ox, and eagle (Ezekiel 1:4-10, 41:18-19, Revelation 4:6-8). They are sometimes seen as covered with eyes (Ezekiel 10:12, Revelation 4:6-8). They lead the heavenly host in praise to God saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty (Isaiah 6:3-4, Revelation 4:8-11). And they are often associated with fire (Seraphim=burning ones, Isaiah 6:6, Genesis 3:24, 2 Samuel 22:9-11, Ezekiel 1:4-10, Ezekiel 28:14) and wind. God himself is of course often associated with the cleansing, tempering, purifying power of fire — “Our God is a consuming fire,” Hebrews 12:29.
This class of mighty beings, created for God’s most honorable work and given the greatest power and responsibility of all creatures, apparently includes one known as Satan (Ezekiel 28:14, 1 Timothy 3:6, Luke 10:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, 9).
Adversaries — Satan — cherubim, a special case
In speaking of the king of Tyre, God said, “You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones” (Ezek 28:14 NIV). Now, the king of Tyre was not a cherub, but this is a figure of speech. Usually, an allegory is based on something real or at least realistic. Was there a guardian cherub who truly, as the king of Tyre symbolically, was in Eden and had access to the presence of God? Ezekiel writes, “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.'” (Ezek 28:12-19 NIV)
Again, as we read this, was there a being, a cherub, wise and beautiful, in the garden of Eden, who fell because of pride, who became a symbol of the king of Tyre, and the king of Babylon (Isa. 14:4-20), and the “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:4-9) and the church leader who falls because of pride (1 Tim. 3:6)? We know that there was a wise and mighty being in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-7), we know that he, the serpent, was the devil or Satan (12:9, Rev. 20:2), that he was the one who deceived the woman (2 Cor. 11:3), and that he came into conflict with God and man at that time (Gen. 3:15), a conflict that would require a man, born of the seed of woman, to resolve. While Ezekiel is speaking prophetically of the fall of the king of Tyre, the pattern of that fall, like that of Babylon’s king and that of the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:9), was in the same pattern as that of Satan, wise, proud, powerful, and beautiful.
We know that Satan was not created bad, but rather beautiful, as in the figurative language of Ezekiel. Satan is included among the heavenly hosts (Eph. 6:10-12). Thus he is a created being (Psalm 148:5). He was among the sons of God whose lives come directly from God (Job 1:6) and must have been among those who sang and celebrated when the earth was created (Job 38:4-7). Sometime after the creation Satan fell from his place, and was cast down (Luke 10:18, Rev. 12:9). And his fall was associated with certain sins. In particular, Satan’s fall is associated with pride (1 Tim. 3:6), lying (John 8:44) and murder (John 8:44). It is very likely then that Satan’s fall is recorded for us in Genesis 3, when the beautiful guardian cherub lied to the woman and caused her death. Ezekiel had said that the guardian cherub was “perfect… in Eden… the garden of God” (Ezek. 28:12-14). He was “blameless” in his ways “from the day you were created until wickedness was found in you…” (Ezekiel 28:15). What Satan did in Eden was what Paul described the man of sin doing in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “opposing and exalting himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” And the conflict between the son of God and Satan seems to begin at Eden (Genesis 3:15). This is where Satan comes under a curse and is informed of impending judgment.
At the time of his rebellion against God, in Eden, Satan secured himself a place, a kingdom, by gaining mastery over man, and so over man’s God-given dominion, through sin and death (Hebrews 2:14-15, Romans 5:16-17, John 12:31). Jesus three times calls Satan “the prince of this world,” (John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11). The Greek word for prince, which Jesus used here, is “archon.” The same word that is the root of the word “principalities” or “rulers” in Eph. 6:12, and the prefix of the word “archangel.” Satan is not an archon, a prince, by his own promotion, but was created as such. Why was he in the garden of Eden? He was there, in Ezekiel’s analogy, as a guardian cherub. Daniel spoke of mighty angels as princes with responsibilities for nations of the earth, of whom Michael was a “great prince” (Daniel 12:1), a protector of Israel. Michael the great prince was one of several “chief princes” and he, with allies, contested with others such as the “prince of Persia” (Daniel 10:13). When Michael is mentioned in the New Testament he is called an archangel (Jude 9). The term “archangel” is a compound of two words, prince and angel. Michael is one of those rulers or principalities in the heavenly realms that Paul spoke of. The compound Greek word describes the same role Daniel had ascribed to Michael, that of being an angel who is a “great prince.” But now remember, as Michael was appointed “prince” to protect Israel, so Satan by Jesus’ description, was apparently appointed “prince” to protect the world. Satan and Michael are described with similar offices, except that Satan’s office is the higher of the two. As Michael was to guard Israel, Satan was to guard the world. One possible implication of this is that at the beginning, in the ranking of angels, Michael was under Satan’s authority.
We know, from the symbolic descriptions in Revelation, that Michael and Satan, with their respective armies of angels, were in heavenly conflict which Michael could only win by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:7, 11). Michael was mighty enough to battle Satan, but not able to prevail without Jesus destroying the devil’s work in this world, which was his dominion (1 John 3:8, Matt. 12:29). We can offer a guess that prior to his fall, Satan the cherub may have been directly over Michael the archangel in authority, and we know that Michael though an angel of the Lord, still shows him respect while disputing with him (Jude 1:9, Zech. 3). Satan is presented to us in scripture as the worst of all rebels, like one who is entrusted with children only to abuse them at the first opportunity. Because of the place he was given, and the power he secured for himself through subjecting man to sin and death, Satan is called the prince of this world (John 12:31), the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2), the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), the tempter (1 Thes. 3:5). He is a mighty being, clever and attractive, but consumed with self-interest, perfectly willing to use anyone or anything to have his desire. Remember that the way to the tree of life in Eden was guarded by a flaming sword and cherubim. Was this guard needed to keep man away from the tree? Or was it Satan and his allies that the cherubim prevented from access? As Satan sought the body of Moses and sought the downfall of Joshua the high priest (Jesus), so he would have sought the tree, to keep man chained forever in sin, but God used his mighty angels, chief princes, cherubim, each of those times, and surely many others, to prevent Satan from achieving his goal.
The word Satan means an adversary. That is what Satan is, the adversary. He is also called , Satan, the dragon, that ancient serpent, the devil (war in heaven, Revelation 12:9). He is Satan, the evil one, the devil (the parable of the sower, Mark 4:15, Matthew 13:19, Luke 8:12, devil–slanderer). Satan is the prince of demons, Beelzebub (Mark 3:22-26, 2 Kings 1:2, Beelzebub–Beelzeboul, of Aramaic origin; dung-god; Baal-zebub = “lord of the fly”; a Philistine deity worshiped at Ekron). He is king of the tormenters from the abyss, the angel of the bottomless pit (abyss), Appolyon, Abaddon (Destroyer) (Revelation 9:11). Satan is the devil, your enemy, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Paul calls him Belial (Belial = “worthless or wicked,” 2 Corinthians 6:15). And many call Satan Lucifer, from the KJV of Isaiah 14:12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” As in the passage from Ezekiel cited above, this passage is not specifically about Satan, but is about the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:13). In fact, the word “lucifer” is probably not a proper name at all, but is a word that means “morning star.” “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!” (Isa. 14:12, NAS). Satan apparently was one of the “morning stars” who sang at the creation of the world, but that is presented as a description of him rather than a proper name for him.
Knowing who Satan is may be helpful to us, but knowing how he works is even more important. How does Satan work? The key word is deception. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor 11:3 NIV and see 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Satan is the great deceiver, and while he is a creature of great power and authority, we have answers to that in the work of Jesus and the help of God’s angels. But Satan the deceiver continues to be very effective in his seduction of humanity. We know in the scriptures that Satan tempts (1 Thes 3:5), Satan incites (1 Chr 21:1), he torments (2 Cor 12:7, Luke 13:10-16), and he prompts (John 13:2). Satan does these things by his own approach (2 Cor. 11:14) and he also uses agents. His agents include demons, people, illness, and natural phenomena (Mark 3:22-26, Job 1:12-17, 2 Corinthians 11:15, 2 Corinthians 12:7). When he speaks through people, he can sometimes use well meaning friends (Matt. 16:23). Satan is capable of noticing and using our negative feelings to get his way with us. Most notably he capitalizes on unresolved anger “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph 4:26-27, NIV) He is an expert at filling open spaces in human hearts (Acts 5:3) and taking advantage of a lack of commitment (see also Matt. 12:43-45, John 13:27).
Satan spoke to Jesus, spoke through Peter, entered Judas, filled Ananias’ heart, blinds the minds of unbelievers, and takes people captive to do his will. He or his agents affect each of us regularly, and communicate with us regularly, in words and circumstances. Of course, like the other angels, there are things Satan does not know (Matthew 24:26, 1 Peter 1:12.) But Satan certainly knows a lot, more than your or I. He has the great intelligence and craftiness he was created with, and he has thousands of years of experience with human beings. Satan is a created being, and like other angels he can’t be everywhere at once (Job 1:7). But again, Satan has multitudes of allies, both spirits and humans. And he is always on the move, seeking prey (1 Peter 5:8). He may not be able to read your mind– The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jer 17:9-10 NIV) But he can certainly read your actions, your face, your voice. Even animals can detect your fear and react to it, and Satan is certainly a good observer and a powerful tactician. He is much less than God, but still much more than human, and beyond our ability to cope with alone.
Adversaries — demons
And then, among those who are Satan’s allies, what about demons? The Bible offers no clear testimony as to what demons are, other than indicating that they are not beings of flesh and bo ne, that they are intelligent, and that they are opposed to God and malevolent. Some have guessed that demons are fallen angels, but that isn’t clear cut. For one thing, when Paul lists possible forces of opposition to the Christian, he lists “angels nor demons” as opposites in the same way that he lists “life nor death” as opposites (Rom 8:38). Are they only different as to their choices, or are they opposite in some way relating to origin as well? There do seem to be some differences between angels and demons besides goodness or badness. For example, demons seem to crave a body to inhabit (possess, Matt 12:43-45, Matt 8:31-32). But we know that angels already have spiritual bodies equivalent to the glorified body planned for our resurrection (Luke 20:34-36), which we long for (2 Cor. 5:4). It seems unlikely that if the demons already had the greater spiritual body we long for they would crave a physical body to be housed in. Also, generally, the angels that rebelled against God were imprisoned (though Satan had secured a place for himself in this world). “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell [tartarus], putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;” (2 Pet 2:4, NIV, also Jude 1:6). But demons claim a right to move about in this world (Matt 8:28-29). So if demons are fallen angels, then they are exceptions to several things that are generally true of angels, and of the angels who followed Satan in particular. Revelation 12:9 does say that Satan was thrown down to the earth, and that his angels were thrown down with him. So perhaps these are the demons. Though still, the objections listed above make this uncertain.
Others might suppose that demons are “ghosts.” The unhoused souls of dead humans who did not serve God. Isa 19:3 said, “The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will bring their plans to nothing; they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.” So perhaps the spirits of the dead are demons. But generally, the spirits of the dead do not have access to this world. Isaiah also wrote “They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them” (Isa 26:14, NIV). And Solomon said much the same in Eccl 9:6, “Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun” (NIV).
There have been a few exceptions to the general rule that the spirits of the dead have no access to this world, including Samuel (1 Samuel 28:8-19, and Samuel, a godly man, asked, “Why have you disturbed me..?), and Moses (with Elijah Matthew 17:3). The passage in Isa. 19:3 does at least create some uncertainty as to whether the spirits of the dead in some cases may be in contact with this world. And prior to the resurrection of Jesus, Satan had the power/keys of death and hades (Hebrews 2:14, Revelation 1:18). But it seems unlikely that, even if such exceptions could occur, the souls of the dead would be able to dominate the living so as to posses some control of their bodies. The idea of desiring a body does at least fit somewhat with the idea that the dead, being unclothed — without a body — desire to be clothed again (2 Cor. 5:1-5). But there are problems with this interpretation.
Whatever demons are, whatever their origin, whatever they were supposed to be, they are dangerous, they are troublesome, they can’t be totally avoided, but you can limit your involvement with them. Some of the necessary choices to avoid involvement with demons include: Revelation 18:1-4, come out of Babylon, a haunt of evil spirits. And 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, flee from idolatry (Deut. 32:17, Psalm 106:37-38). Note that idolatry here includes spiritism, mediums, psychic readings, astrology, UFOlogy, the occult, witchcraft, Hinduism, Buddhism (eastern mysticisms), new age mysticism, channeling, retrogression, shamanism, etc. All of these things provide avenues for demons and their twisted thinking to influence us and damage our lives.
It would be naive, and unscriptural, to think that either angels or demons have ceased working in this world. They are busy around us, whether seen or unseen. And they are trying to influence us, for good or bad.
How might spirits communicate with us today? Of course God’s Spirit has communicated with us through his word, and this is the test ground for all other messages from all other sources, whether human, natural, or supernatural. And, as we’ve seen above, spirits of other kinds have communicated through human agencies, writing or speaking or acting. Also, spirits (besides the Holy Spirit) have contacted humans in various other ways.
Sometimes in a dream..
Matt 2:12-13 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (NIV)
Sometimes in a trance..
Acts 10:10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (NIV)
Sometimes in a visible, audible way..
Acts 10:3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” (NIV)
Sometimes by direct physical manifestation..
Acts 12:9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. (NIV)
Notice that at least two of these illustrations call for communication directly to the mind of man, in sleep or in a trance. If the relaxed or sleeping mind is especially accessible for input from spirits, how much more important it is to heed Paul’s instruction: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph 4:26-27, NIV) Going to bed with a mind full of anger somehow makes us more vulnerable to Satan. Considering that spirits may be able to communicate more readily with a relaxed or sleeping mind, how dangerous are intoxication, and techniques such as yoga or transcendental meditation that call for emptying the mind? Paul’s encouragement is to stay in your right mind all the time, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (1 Cor 14:15 NIV, see also 1 Pet. 4:7) A clear mind is helpful in making good choices, and helpful in preventing undue influences from spiritual forces.
We are in a world of busy activity, and the unseen activities are just as real, and at least as important as the those that are seen. We breath air that we cannot see (hopefully) to live, and we use electricity passing unseen through wires to light our homes. We are constantly surrounded by unseen power and activity. Including spiritual activity and power. All around us a battle is taking place. A battle for our minds and actions, a battle for our souls. The question has been asked, “who is on the LORD’s side?” A mighty host is arrayed with him, working in behalf of his people. To stand with God is to have cherubim and other mighty angels as allies. To stand with God is also to stand against the devil, apparently a mighty cherub himself, who also has many strong allies and great craftiness in his pitiless scheming. How many angels or demons are moving about you or I right now, watching for reactions, looking for openings, struggling and wrestling for a good or bad outcome? How can we know? The battle is both around us and within us. God wants our minds and hearts because he loves us. Satan wants our minds and hearts because he needs us. He’s running out of dominion, running out of time, trying to avoid the crushing weight of final and total defeat. And so he works to consume us, even while God’s messengers work to meet our needs. As Elisha told his servant, those who are with us are more than those who are with them. That’s a great assurance. God’s side is, and always will be, the winning side. You and I have all the help we need to win the battle, and can walk in confidence, counting on God to deploy his forces effectively in our behalf.
|If Satan had a top ten list|
|1. Fear||2. Anger||3. Lust||4. Greed||5. Ignorance|
|6. Intoxication||7. Addiction||8. Laziness||9. Impatience||10. Hatred|