C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked about a Dark Power in the universe – a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease and sin.” Where did Mr. Lewis get this impression, and does it fit the message of the New Testament? I believe it does, but it does involve some piecing the puzzle together.
Most passages in the New Testament that reference Satan describe his evil moral character or his powerful influence in the world. Regarding Satan’s nature, Jesus simply called him “the evil one” (Mt 13:19). Evil is Satan’s most basic attribute. Jesus amplifies this description of Satan’s nature in John 8:44, “[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” Deception as in “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9) is Satan’s standard operating procedure.
Concerning Satan’s influence, Paul calls him “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). Additional titles for Satan that imply influence are, “god of this world” (II Cor 4:4) and “ruler of this world” (Jn 16:11). In Ephesians 6, Paul explains that our fight is not “against flesh and blood,” but against Satan and his intermediaries whom he calls, “rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). And finally, according to I John 5:19, “The whole world lies in the power, or grip, of the evil one.”
Now lest we imply that God has somehow left the scene and Satan is running the show unfettered, we need to balance all the New Testament teaches regarding the work of God as well as His arch-enemy. The parable of the wheat and the weeds, along with Jesus’ interpretation (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43), give an excellent picture of the parallel growth of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan (called “the enemy of God” in the parable). For a thorough explanation of this parable and its implications for Satan’s influence click here. Rest assured, despite his current power, Satan is a defeated enemy and his ultimate destruction is foretold in the last verses of this passage.
Returning to our question at hand, what does this mean for the world we live in today? I think it means that evil, violence, disease, and corruption will continue to flourish under Satan’s rule. And while we understand that in the big picture view, what does it look like on a more personal and practical level? We will take up that question next time.