An interesting picture of Satan’s activity is revealed in the last book of the Bible:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And 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. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
The enemy of our souls is depicted as a great dragon, doing warfare against believers. He and his angels (the demons) have been thrown down to earth, and are in their final battle against their great enemy (God). The dragon is enraged because his time is short and he knows it. He is described not as a tempter or a deceiver, but as an accuser. He does battle by accusing the brothers day and night before God.
Satan’s accusations in Job
The book of Job describes Satan in his work of accusation. He came before God and accused Job of being faithful only because he was being protected and blessed. He told the Lord “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Whomever God commends, the accusers condemn. Charles Swindoll paraphrases this text as “Look, God, talk about kid glove treatment! The man gets penthouse perks.” The enemy of our souls has an extremely negative attitude about human beings. He does not believe in human potential, and explains away all human accomplishment.
Satan challenged the Lord to “stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” Satan was actually asking the Lord to inflict Job in order to reveal what he was sure would be his true character. “Because the believer belongs to God, Satan must operate within God’s sovereignty and cannot function beyond what God allows.” The book of Job partly answers the questions we all have about why the innocent suffer. Sometimes the reasons for suffering have nothing to do with personal sin. Sometimes suffering is allowed in order for the Lord to prove to Satan and his demons that their accusations are false.
Joshua, the High Priest
One of Zechariah’s prophetic visions begins this way:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”
Here again Satan is shown to believe the worst about a man of God. The vision goes on to describe Joshua as a man clothed with filthy garments, but God proceeds to clothe him in purified ones. This reveals a very important thing about demonic accusation. The demons are often partly right. The difference is that they do not see us after grace.
Whenever the unseen accusers target us, our best defense is not to try to prove them wrong with a history lesson. We fail too often for that to be an effective strategy. Our best defenses against accusations that we are not who we should be are the following:
Remind the accusers that our relationship with God is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He is our atoning sacrifice. Even the filthiest sin can be washed clean by means of the blood of Christ.
Remind the accusers that the Holy Spirit chooses to reside in us. In spite of the fact that our actions sometimes grieve him, he is faithful. It is his faithfulness that is the key to our complete sanctification and ultimate glorification.
Remind the accusers that God is infinite. He already sees our future, and so he relates to us on the basis of that future. It will do no good to tell God about our present shortcomings when he already foresees us living in holiness for billions of years. Our destiny is already settled in God’s mind.
Jesus’ prayer for Peter
Jesus had told Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus was aware that a battle was going to ensue in which Peter’s commitment was going to be challenged. Peter was going to fail, and deny even knowing Christ. But Jesus promised to bring Peter through that time, and use him afterword. Often, believers are convinced that once they fail in a particular area that their witness is forever marred in that area. This incident shows that times of failure need not weaken our faith. Grace operates in a person’s life when she allows God to rescue her.
By Rev. Jefferson Vann
(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)