How much power does Satan have?

Q.  How much power does Satan have?  Where did he come from?  How do I avoid his control? 

Hebrews 2: 14-15

14* Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

15* and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

How much power does Satan have? This is a question that begs our attention because we live in a time when more and more people are polarizing to two chains of thought. First of all, there are those who look at the one the Bible calls Satan or the Devil or the evil one and they see him only as a comical character, somebody dressed in a red suit with the little pointed horns and tail and carrying a pitchfork. The object of every standup comedian, just a mythological figure, that ‘s good for a laugh.

But then on the other hand, there are those for whom he is all too real. One’s who Satan has so infiltrated their lives, that he has even become the object of their worship. There are some who are so under control of his power, that Satan’s very demons seem to dictate their every move. How much power does Satan have? We need to back up for just a moment and look at a couple of other questions as preludes to that question. For example, before we can answer the question “how much power does Satan have”, let’s ask the question, “who is Satan”? If you go through the Bible and study the names and titles given to him, you begin to understand some clues. For example, the name Satan, found primarily

in the Old Testament–passages like Job 1, I Chronicles 1: 21, Zechariah 3:1-2.

The word Satan comes from the Hebrew word that literally means “adversary” or “opponent”. In the New Testament, you find the word “devil” more often, from the Greek word “diabolos”, and “diabolos” means the “slanderer” or the “accuser”. The New Testament is filled with fifteen other titles about this one we would call the devil. He is called in the New Testament the enemy, the evil one, a liar, the father of all lies, a murderer, a deceiver of the whole world, the great dragon, the ancient serpent, the tempter, the prince of the power of the air, and maybe the most frightening name of all, the destroyer. Satan, then, is the great source of evil in the universe and in the world. And also be assured of this–he doesn’t work alone.

Ephesians 6:12              

12* For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil one and all of his forces that inhabit the darkness. That’s who Satan is!

Where did he come from? That’s a difficult question to answer. But since everything that exists has been created by God, at least we learn that from Genesis 1 and Colossians 1, and other places. Satan has to be a created being. But how he came to be the epitome of evil is not exactly clear in the Bible.

There are some clues. For example, in Isaiah 14:12-21 tells us something about the kings of Babylon and Tyre, the prophecy about their fall. There are three verses there that tell us something about Satan’s origin.

Isaiah 14:12-14

12 “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!

13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.

14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

It seems to me that there was one that God was talking about through the prophet who dared to make himself or attempt to make himself equal to the most high who was cast down. Could that be the devil?

It seems even more logical when you read a passage from I Timothy 3:6, where Paul writing to Timothy gave him there the criteria for being an elder. And there’s a warning there. He says,

1 Tim. 3:6

6* and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.

Maybe the most powerful other reference to this theory would be from the book of Jude, a little one chapter book, but verse 6, let me read it to you,

Jude 6

6* And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

How much power does he have? The one who is known as the “destroyer”, his power to destroy lies ultimately in the human soul, but there are some limitations on his power here are five basic principles about the power of Satan from Scripture.

His power is limited by human choice. One of the most powerful verses to be found anywhere in the Bible, to me, is in Joshua 24, where Joshua is beginning to bid farewell to the children of Israel and he stands before them and he says:

Josh 24:15

15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The most powerful word in that statement is the word “choose”.

Going all the way back to the beginning of time, we have been made creatures of choice. Yes, Eve fell victim to the very first sin on this earth, but she had the power to choose. And so did Adam. God has given us that. Romans 6:16 echoes this very sentiment. Let me read to you, it says,

Rom 6:16

16* Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

The theme here is you really have two choices. You are going to choose to be a slave to sin or a slave to obedience which leads to righteousness. But notice the first part of that verse again (verse 16): “Do you not know that when you present yourselves”, it’s a choice. Some of the best news I can tell you is that the power of Satan is limited by human choice.

Second principle: his power to tempt you is incredible! It is incredible! Paul warned the young preacher Timothy

2 Tim. 2:24-26

24* The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,

25* with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,

26* and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

None of us have escaped the trap. Romans 3:23 says, “Ever single one of us have sinned and therefore we come short of the glory of God.” Now, folks, it is not true as some have proposed that you and I are born into sin. I was not born a sinner, I was born a baby, just a clean and innocent and blank baby. But as I grew older and had the power to choose, I was vulnerable to the most powerful adversary that you can imagine. And I chose to sin and you did, too. The amazing thing about this is that his temptations, as powerful as they are, are just so basic. Listen to what the old apostle John wrote in I John 2:16,

1 Jn. 2:16

16* For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The third principle about his power we want to consider: his power to destroy is horrible. When we fall into the trap of sin that Satan sets before us, we become more vulnerable to the next temptation. And then more vulnerable to the next, and then to the next. People, before we know it, we are so absorbed and we become a tool of Satan, bent on doing the Master’s Will.

We choose to become. We choose to become slaves. Either slaves of obedience which leads to righteousness or slaves to sin which leads to death. The vast majority of this world’s population chooses slavery to sin. You know one of the scariest things about that is that if Satan’s destroys a man or a woman, he then uses that person to destroy others. Satan never conquers a man or woman without adding him or her to his army and this new soldier of Satan will do his General’s bidding.

With that sobering thought, comes a positively magnificent one: Jesus is more powerful than the devil ! Have you ever noticed that of all the recorded history that composes the Bible, that the devil is mentioned more times in the gospel accounts than in all the rest of the Bible put together.  Now that’s pretty amazing when you consider that the Bible, includes about 1600 years of recorded history and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John only tell us about three of those years. And, yet, the devil is more active in those three years than at any other time. I wonder why? Maybe you’ve figured out the answer. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us about what? The life of Jesus. The devil was bound and determined to stop Jesus. From the time He came in that form of a baby given to Mary, the devil was after Him even then. The devil confronted Him in the wilderness. In Luke 11, the Pharisees accused Jesus of being of the devil and Jesus looked back at the Pharisees and said wait a  minute. Don’t you know before you enter a strong man’s house, you’ve got to bind that strong man and then you go in and plunder that which is his? When Jesus was on the face of this earth, He was a strong man facing another strong man–the strong man of Satan. It was the colossal battle of all the universe. You know what the result of it was? The result of it was recorded in our Bible reading today and I want to read you that again from Hebrews 2:14-15.

Heb. 2:14-15

14* Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

15* and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

As incredible as it seems by Jesus’ own death, He conquered the power of Satan. He came to this earth and looked as if He was losing, and the devil must have jumped in delight as Jesus was nailed to that cross, but what we were seeing was the most strategic maneuver of all times. And Jesus fooled Satan by apparently losing. As He was nailed to that cross, Satan’s only real weapon–the weapon of sin–was being destroyed and paid for by that sinless blood that was dripping from Jesus’ veins.

Verse 15, says that it frees those of us who have lived all our lives in the fear of death. Until Jesus did what He did, we would live our lives gradually absorbed by sin becoming an evermore tool of Satan, and at our death, we would just be added to his kingdom of torment. But Jesus stopped all that! Jesus stopped that downward spiral of doom by defeating the power of the devil.

Paul was reflecting on that in Romans 7 when he talked about how sometimes he sins and he did things he didn’t want to do, listen to verse 24,

Rom. 7:24

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

25* Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Jesus delivers you from the power of death.

Romans 6:11 says in the same way,

Rom. 6:11

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

When you come to Christ, you even begin to thwart the devil’s power to tempt you. I Corinthians 10:13 says

I Corinthians 10:13

13* No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The devil is powerful, but he .is not more powerful than Jesus, and he will not overcome you when you are in Jesus.

That leads then to the fifth thing about the devil’s power. The devil has already been whipped–one of these days he is going to be destroyed. The book of Revelation is a strange book to many of us. It has apocalyptic style. It was written by the apostle John. It was written to Christians who were under Roman persecution at the hand of Domitian and he was telling those good people: Look, you’re going to be freed from that because God’s providence is going to reign.

Rev. 20:10

10* And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

What does all this mean to you? It goes back to this business of choice. Don’t think you have the choice of your own will or the power within your power of choice, to thwart the devil at every temptation, the choice you have to make to accept Jesus Christ and to live your life in accordance with Him and then He thwarts the power of the devil. It’s the only way it’s done but there is the assuredness that it will be done.

(above adapted from Dr. Steve Flatt).

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