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Enemy-occupied Territory

• Greg Boyd

Satan plays a main role in the book of Revelation. This sermon introduces who Satan is and his origin. It also addresses the primary tactics Satan uses and how we can combat and overcome them.

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This is the first reference to Satan or the devil in the book of Revelation. He is a central player later on in Revelation and in the New Testament. Even when not specifically addressed in Scripture, Satan is always in the background. This raises a question: can we believe Satan really exists? How can we still believe in a personal devil in the modern scientific world?

Many say that he is merely a symbol of evil, and therefore we should conclude he is not real. It is true that many depictions of Satan are mythical and a human invention. We actually know nothing about what Satan looks like, which is why depictions in the Bible are so varied. However, these mythological depictions of the devil point beyond themselves to an actual reality. They are meant to point to an actual transcendent force of evil at work in this world.

Satan is primarily viewed in the Scriptures as a sinister, invisible intelligence. We don’t know if he has an inherent form, but if so, it’s invisible to us unless he or God chose to have him appear. Satan, the Adversary, is an evil intelligence that is at work to wreak destruction in this world. He is “the thief” that Jesus says “comes only to kill, steal and destroy.”

Throughout the Ancient Near East and in classical mythology, Satan was an angel who overstepped his bounds, shines bright for a moment, but then experiences a sudden fall. We read this in Isaiah 14: 12-14:

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star (helēl) son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

The church interpreted this as a reference to the fall of Satan. The word “helēl” is translated as Lucifer in Latin. This is how Satan became referred to as Lucifer before his rebellion. It was taught that this star had such potential for God but it had will against that of God. This fall from heaven is expressed Revelation:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Revelation 12:7-9).

Ancient people believed stars were gods. Lucifer wanted to be the king of the mount of assembly. He wanted to rise above the mountains, above the clouds to displace God. This resulted in a war, a war where lies are the primary weapon. Our Adversary—this intelligent evil force—is the Father of Lies, the Mastermind behind all false propaganda. CS Lewis put it this way:

Christianity agrees with dualism that this universe is at war.  But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel….Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 Dualism is the fight between two co-eternal, co-equal powers. Dualism explains why beauty and violence permeate all of nature and permeate human society. The Christian faith doesn’t agree with dualism’s view of the independent powers, but it does agree that this universe is at war. Christian teaching recognizes it as a civil war, not between two eternal, equal powers. God is the ultimate power who will win in the end.

At some point in our pre-historical past, humans were deceived by Satan into handing over the God-given authority of this earth to him. For reasons that are far too complex for us to understand, our little planet has become the plot of land upon which God’s battle against the powers of evil is being deceivably fought. We and our planet are caught up in Satan’s civil war, and we are called to play a role in it. We are living in enemy-occupied territory. Satan is referred to in the Bible as the god of this world. Paul wrote:

Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles (methodeia) of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-12).

We stand against the “wiles” of the devil, the schemes and strategies of an evil invisible intelligence. To take a stand against the devil is to “struggle against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil.” The goal of Satan is to get us to buy into lies that we will act on. We are surrounded by a fog of deception, and once this fog becomes the norm, then we find our lives bombarded by the war of lies. Lies are viewed as truth and the truth is viewed as lies.

Our job is to embrace the truth of the faithful witness, Jesus, and to push out deception with truth. This is how the war is fought and how God will overcome all lies in the end. This is how the coming kingdom will manifest, and it is how it expands in our midst.

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Topics: Problem of Evil, Satan, Spiritual Warfare

Sermon Series: Dear Church

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The MuseCast: February 6

Focus Scripture:

  • Revelation 2: 7-11

    And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: “I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.

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