Satan was not created as an evil angel – God ‘saw everything that he had made and it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31).
Berkhof writes, ‘He was originally, it would seem, one of the mightiest princes of the angelic world, and became the leader of those that revolted and fell away from God’ (Systematic Theology, The Evil Angels, pp. 148-9).
Satan is personified, as regards his fall, in the account of the judgement of the King of Babylon: ‘How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer [day star] son of the morning!’ (Isaiah 14:12).
He is also pictured as lightning falling to earth from heaven (Luke 10:18), and again as the dragon hurled down to earth after his defeat in heaven at the hands of Michael and his angels (Revelation 12:7-9). Once an angel of great beauty and power, he had become lifted up with pride and rebelled against God.
What lessons can we learn?
Firstly, beauty can be dangerous. Satan was beguiled by his own beauty and he is still attractive to this world. Although men’s minds are blinded to the fact, he has become their prince, their god and their brightest star. The attraction men find in the things and fashions of this world is evidence enough.
However, these attractions are but the bait on Satan’s hook, for ‘Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame’ (Philippians 3:19). They have ‘exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen’ (Romans 1:25).
By contrast, our Saviour, while on earth, ‘had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him’ (Isaiah 53:2). To the believer, however, he has become as beautiful as the Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys, and as radiant as the sun shining in its strength (Song of Songs 2:1; Revelation 1:16).
Unlike Satan’s evil attractiveness, Christ’s holy beauty can never deceive. But it canbe dangerous – to unrepentant sinners! Its very nature means that sinful creatures cannot stand in his presence, but will be banished from his sight for all eternity.
Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Can you see the beauty of Christ? If not, ask him to open your blind eyes to the truth of the gospel, and make the words of Scripture come to life.
Secondly, we should beware of smart talk. In Eden, Eve did not find Satan the least bit frightening. Quite happy to converse with him, she was taken in by his persuasive words. His first device was to contradict God’s clear statement – that judgement would follow if she disobeyed him by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.
‘You will not surely die’ (Genesis 3:4), he soothed. This is always his first line of attack, namely, to undermine the authority of God’s own word. We need not fall into that trap for, said Jesus to his Father, ‘Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth’ (John 17:17).
Satan’s strategy with Jesus was no different. He first tried to sow seeds of doubt about God’s truthfulness: ‘Ifyou are the Son of God …’ he insinuated (Matthew 4:6). Alone, hungry and tempted, Jesus might well have pondered whether God’s Son could really find himself in such a dire situation.
Next, knowing our Lord’s reverence for the Scriptures, Satan quotes them accurately but applies them falsely. He wanted Jesus to perform a startling act of showmanship to prove his claim to be the Messiah. Finally, he promises Jesus the world (quite literally!) as the reward of serving him.
How does Jesus repel these attacks? With properlyquoted scriptures; these are chief among ‘the weapons of our warfare’, which are ‘not carnal but mighty through God … casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God’ (2 Corinthians 10:4 -5).
Thirdly, as he himself was condemned and cast out by God, so he seeks to turn the tables on us – he is ‘the accuser of the brethren’. Revelation 12:10 says, ‘I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night”.’
Again, Zechariah was shown ‘Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose [accuse] him’ (Zechariah 3:1). Joshua was easy game, for he was ‘dressed in filthy garments’ – symbolic of his own and of his people’s sin.
So one of Satan’s chief delights is to accuse believers. And he does a thorough job, for he accuses them to God, to one another and to themselves. What is the answer?
Zechariah continues with these words. ‘And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire? “‘ You know the rest. Christ takes away the filthy garments and clothes Joshua in ‘rich robes’ – ‘the garments of salvation … the robe of righteousness’. So believing sinners are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10).
And if God is for us, ‘who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies’ (Romans 8:31-34). Although we are often guilty and at fault, God has forgiven us for Jesus’ sake, and we may and must forgive one another – and ourselves as well!
Christ our Advocate
Are we still troubled by Satan’s accusations? Jesus Christ, writes Ferguson, has given us the ‘Spirit of adoption, bearing witness with our sonship and producing the enjoyment of it [Romans 8:15-17]. In this sense [John] Owen sees him as an Advocate, overpowering the accusations of law, conscience and Satan, and giving an immediate assurance to the Christian’ (Sinclair Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life, Banner of Truth, 1995, p.94).
John Newton (1725-1807) expands upon this comforting truth in his hymn ‘Approach my soul’:
Bowed down beneath a load of sin,
By Satan sorely pressed,
By war without and fears within,
I come to thee for rest.
Be thou my shield and hiding place,
That, sheltered near thy side,
I shall my fierce accuser face,
And tell him thou hast died.
Let John Bunyan’s The Holy Warhave the final word: ‘Remember, therefore, O my Mansoul, that thou art beloved of me: as I have therefore taught thee to watch, to fight, to pray, and to make war against my foes, so now I command thee to believe that my love is constant to thee… Hold fast till I come’.