Part 3 The Eternal Issues

Chapter 31

The Doom of Satan

The very personality of Satan is, as everybody is aware, denied in many quarters in the present day. The only people with whom we have to do just now, however, who deny this, are the followers of Dr. Thomas, With these men, self consistently enough, the devil is simply a personification of sin, which, however, may be represented apparently by a variety of living agents, in order to get rid of the distasteful idea of separate personality and yet meet the texts in which personality is too manifest to be denied.

I may be allowed, without being thought to wander too far from the subject before us, to look briefly at this point.

Now, we read of one in the book of Job who, when "the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord," "came also among them." He is expressly called Satan, and is a true "devil" according to the meaning of that word, "a false accuser."

These "sons of God" are spoken of by Jehovah in the same book as present when He laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:7), and therefore are certainly not men but angels. Among these angels then the accuser comes, as one of them: surely not a man among angels, and hardly a personification of sin.

From the presence of the Lord he goes forth to exercise manifest superhuman power against Job within divinely ordained limits. He is here clearly an angelic, yet a fallen and evil being.

In the book of Revelation we have a being figured as a "dragon," and explained to be "that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan" (Rev. 20:2). "That old serpent" of course refers to Eden, and tells us who was the real tempter hid under the form of the irrational creature. Here too the words of the Lord apply: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).

As a tempter we accordingly again find him assailing the Lord in the wilderness, One in whom there was no indwelling sin to seduce or personify; and there too he is called the devil and Satan, and appears as one who claims the kingdoms of the world as his. And he departing from Him for a season, the Lord speaks of his return in a way which suits this claim of his: "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;" and of His own cross as that which was his judgment, and would ensure his casting out (John 14:30, John 16:11, John 12:31). In all which we travel back once more to Eden, and find fulfilling the words to the old serpent, "He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

We find his being and power so recognized among the Jews that the Pharisees impute the Lord's casting out of devils to Beelzebub the prince of the devils; and the Lord rebukes them by asking, "Can Satan cast out Satan?" and, recognizing the fact of his having a kingdom, asks in that case how it shall stand? The devils He casts out, know Him in turn, call Him the Holy One of God and Son of God, and beseech Him not to torment them before the time.

Everywhere in the Gospels the power of Satan is a thing as manifest as malignant. A woman cannot lift up herself eighteen years, and it is Satan that has bound her. He puts into Judas' heart to betray the Lord; and in the apparent zeal for Himself of another disciple Christ discerns Satan also. He sows the tares in the parable, and these springing up are the children of the wicked one. Among the signs that follow those who believe is this, that they cast out devils.

In the Acts the workings of the same malignant spirit are as manifest. Satan fills Ananias' heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and keep back part of the price of his land. Cases of possession are still noticed, and as a common thing. Paul speaks of being sent to turn men "from the power of Satan unto God." In the Epistles he is the constant adversary of the people of God, whether openly as a roaring lion, or transformed into an angel of light. He is the spirit that works in the children of disobedience; the god of this world who blinds the minds of those that believe not. If resisted he flees, but the shield of faith is that by which alone the fiery darts of the wicked one are quenched. "Shortly," we are reminded, according to the first promise, "God will bruise Satan under your feet."

All this is but part of the testimony of the word of God as to the reality and power of man's old enemy. If words mean anything they assure us of his true personality, with that of numberless evil spirits, "his angels," possessed of superhuman power, which is used to obtain dominion over men's souls and even bodies, and from which nothing but divine power can deliver. I need not pursue this further now. But we shall have to consider some common mistakes as to Satan which it is of great importance to rectify, in order to have clearly before us the Scripture view.

Satan has been considered commonly (as one finds in the Paradise Lost of a great poet) to be here as a prisoner broken loose from hell, into which he had been cast immediately upon his fall, a hell in which even now he is supposed to reign, and to reign there eternally over fallen spirits and lost men, the divinely appointed tormenter of those whom he has made his prey. For no part of this is Scripture responsible, and its grotesque horror has been the reproach of orthodox theology. What would be thought of a government which allowed its prisoners so to break their bounds, and which employed the chief criminal to torture the lesser ones?

There is in Scripture not the slightest trace of a reign in hell,* or of Satan tormenting anybody there. He will be there, doubtless, the lowest and most miserable of all, but he is not yet in hell at all. Strange and startling as it seems to many, instead of being in hell, he is in "heavenly places," and instead of reigning in hell, reigns here, the prince and the god of this world.

{*It may have arisen from a misconception of Rev. 9:11. But the "bottomless pit," or "abyss" is not even hell at all.}

Thus we are exhorted to "put on the whole armor of God, whereby ye may be able to stand against the wiles of devil; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spiritual hosts* of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:11-12). Our translators have shown how foreign the thought was to their minds by putting "high" into the text instead of "heavenly." But here the devil and his angels are looked at as the antitype of the hosts of Canaan with which Joshua and Israel wrestled. We have long lost the type in losing the antitype.

{* Alford. "Hosts" is not expressed in the Greek: it is "spirituals."}

But in Job we have already seen Satan among the sons of God; and the "heavenly places" were surely his original dwelling-place. And if his casting down to hell has not yet taken place, he will be still naturally there where he belonged by creation. Now his casting into hell belongs to a time plainly yet future (Rev. 20:10), and everywhere in the Gospels, we find the devils anticipating their coming doom, but knowing it was not yet come. "Art thou come to torment us before the time?" they ask. It is plain then that hell cannot be their present portion.

The binding of Satan precedes necessarily the millennial blessing. How could there be righteousness or peace in a world in which he was still as active as ever? Immediately, therefore, after the appearing of the Lord, among the other foes that are dealt with, Satan and his hosts are not forgotten. The fate of the beast and the kings of the earth is first shown us at the end of Rev. 19, and then Satan is bound and shut up in the abyss a thousand years. The account may be given in figurative language, and is, no doubt, but yet with perfect simplicity, and Isaiah, eight hundred years before, gives us the same things with almost equal plainness, and in perfect harmony with the obvious meaning. For "it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth" — the two classes of which Revelation speaks; "and they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days (plainly, the millennium) shall they be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously" (Isa. 24:21-23).

"When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison." And this post-millennial loosing seems again to stumble many. It is evident that the object is to distinguish between the true subjects and the concealed enemies of the Lord, still such in the face of the long reign of blessing and of peace. That there are these is plain from such intimations as that in Ps. 18:44-45. And the effect of Satan being free is soon apparent. "He shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up upon the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."

Then comes Satan's final judgment. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever "

Concerning the nature of this punishment we are now ready to inquire.