Jesus saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven…
Or, put another way, Jesus saw the attributes of Satan drop away from our heavenly image of God.
When His 70 joyful disciples returned after having healed and blessed so many as they declared the kingdom of Heaven was now here, the people saw…for the first time…the pure…the unadulterated…the Satan-free…image of the Heavenly Abba.
The people SAW.
They saw a love divine without condition, reservation or limit.
They saw God as a rescuing healer, not a cruel afflicter.
They saw God as a subject of our awe, not our terror.
They saw Satan was the Old Testament oppressor, not Abba. Abba was richly in the Old Testament, but only as the Father of light, love and all blessing, in whom there is no darkness, variableness, or shadow of turning.
Jesus knew that wondrous day that Satan’s nature had been completely severed and separated from Abba’s nature. Satan’s attributes of wrath, cruelty, vengeance, oppression, and condemnation had forever been cut, culled away and discarded as heavenly virtues.
Satan fell from Heaven’s image that day. And he is still falling…
The problem had been one of definition and differentiation. The Old Testament saints had a largely UNDIFFERENTIATED view of God and Satan. They believed Satan was God’s “left hand,” His “angry voice,” His official “minister of wrath.”
Old Testament saints wrongly included Satan in their functional definition of God. Whenever there was temptation, destruction, wrath, and death, all activities which the New Testament would later assign to Satan, the Old Testament would instead attribute these destructions to God Himself.
So, Old Testament saints would not pray AGAINST the wiles of the devil, the way the New Testament instructs, but instead would just beg God to stay His own wrathful hand. Satan was nowhere in their causative equation. God was seen as the ONLY cause of both good and evil.
The New Testament, by contrast, better DIFFERENTIATES the identities of God and Satan. What is joined at the conceptual hip in the Old Testament is separated and severed in the New. Jesus, it could be argued, IS the DYNAMIC DIFFERENTIATION of God’s image from Satan’s image. He is the refining fire which burns all the unworthy attributes the Old Testament God out and away from the pure and perfect divine nature.
The following thought experiment helps highlight this dynamic. Imagine you are the father of an infant child who has just started verbalizing words. The infant is at the developmental stage where has effectively learned to call his mother “mamma” and you “dada.” It took him a while to distinguish between the two of you, but now he has fully separated and severed the two of you in his thinking by calling by you two different names. You each have a DIFFERENTIATED identity in his young mind.
However, the child has NOT learned to differentiate you from other men. He calls ALL men “dada” when he sees them. He needs more time, more maturity, more mental development before he can effectively distinguish BETWEEN different male identities. Until that happens, calling every male “dada” is “right” for him CONSIDERING where he is at DEVELOPMENTALLY. But, for us, calling all men “dada” would be weird and woefully wrong BECAUSE of where WE are at developmentally.
Now, let’s apply this to the Old Testament saints. John Calvin, in one of our few areas of agreement, rightly noted how the Old Testament saints had “only a “sleight capacity” to understand the truths of God. Simply put, they labored under developmental limitations. The Old Testament saints were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit because they lived PRE-Cross and PRE-Pentecost. The promise of the Father had not yet descended upon and within men. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:23. Galatians says the Old Testament saints were “children in bondage under the elemental spirits of the world” in need of a “tutor” until the “faith of Christ” came (2:20; 4:1-9).
Put in practical terms, Old Testament saints were spiritual infants. They saw God as their “spiritual dada,” but they also saw Satan as their “spiritual dada” because they could not effectively separate and sever their identities.
Simply put, the Old Testament saints had an UNDIFFERENTIATED understanding of God and Satan.
Jewish and Christian scholars alike have both noted that the Old Testament view of God differs SIGNIFICANTLY from the New Testament view in one key aspect– the way Satan is viewed.
THE WAY SATAN IS VIEWED explains most of the apparent discrepancies between the tones of the Old and New Testaments. Let me explain. For the Old Testament believer, Satan was an obedient angel who had a tough job as God’s enforcer who was in charge of:
1) executing the wrath of God’s curses on disobedient men,
2) dispensing eventual death to all men,
3) testing men’s faith by oppressing them with circumstances to see if they remain righteous,
4) hardening the hearts of certain men to commit acts of rebellion so that they quickly destroy themselves,
5) destroying what God commands through war, plague, famine, and natural/ supernatural disasters, and
6) accusing men of their failures before God based on his eyewitness reports.
BUT in all this, Satan is merely fulfilling his role in the heavenly train. He is not seen as an enemy of God, a rebel opposed to the Kingdom of God on every level, like he is portrayed in the New Testament. For sure, the New Testament confirms that Satan does engage in wrath, accusation, destruction, and temptation, BUT NEVER under the approval or direction of God. The Old Testament says Satan is just following orders, while the New Testament says Satan is “off the grid” in complete disobedience to God.
In short, Old Testament saints see Satan as a Luca Brasi figure. Brasi was a character from THE GODFATHER novel and movies who did the Godfather’s dirty work, but who was absolutely loyal to his leader, perhaps even the most loyal. Brasi was an assassin, spy and fixer who always worked behind the scenes to discover and destroy those disloyal or opposed to his Godfather. He rooted out, then disposed of the Godfather’s enemies. He always had his Godfather’s trust and blessing. This was the Old Testament view of Satan.
As THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH CONCEPTS by Philip Birnbaum says, “Satan…is…identified with the angel of death. He leads astray, then he brings accusations against man, whom he slays eventually. His chief functions are those of temptation, accusation and punishment. Under the control of God, he acts solely with the divine permission to carry out his plots.” (Sanhedrin Press, page 594). Rabbi Benjamin Blech similarly writes, “Judaism sees Satan as a servant of God whose function is to set up choices between good and evil so that we can exercise our free will….[His] apparent harshness is merely camouflage for divine concern and love.” IF GOD IS SO GOOD, WHY IS THE WORLD SO BAD? Simcha Press, pages 7-9.
Author Stephen Harris notes that the Old Testament Satan is not the same entity as the New Testament Satan. In the Old Testament, “The Satan figure acts as Yahweh’s spy and prosecuting attorney whose job is to bring human misconduct to the deity’s attention and, if possible, persuade Yahweh to punish it. Throughout the Old Testament the Satan remains among the divine ‘sons,’ serves as God’s administrative agent, and thus reveals a facet of the divine personality…. At the outset, some Bible writers saw all things, good and evil alike, as emanating from a single source– Yahweh.
Israel’s strict monotheistic credo decreed that Yahweh alone caused both joys and sorrows, prosperity and punishment (Deut. 28)…. The canonical Hebrew Bible grants the Satan scant space and little power. Whereas the Old Testament Satan can nothing without Yahweh’s express permission, in the New Testament he behaves as an independent force who competes with the Creator for human souls…. According to Mark’s Gospel, one of Jesus’ major goals is to break up Satan’s kingdom and the hold that he and lesser evil spirits exercise on the people. Hence, Mark stresses Jesus’ works of exorcising devils and dispossessing the victims of demonic control. The New Testament, then– in sharp contrast to the Old– shows Satan and the devil as one, a focus of cosmic evil totally opposed to the Creator God. This ‘evil one’ is the origin of lies, sin, suffering, sickness and death.” UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE: A READER’S INTRODUCTION, pages 26-28.
The renowned INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA is in full agreement with this in its entry on Satan: “The Old Testament does not contain the fully developed doctrine of Satan found in the New Testament. It does not portray him as at the head of a kingdom, ruling over kindred natures and an apostate from the family of God…. It is a significant fact that the statements concerning Satan become numerous and definite only in the New Testament. The daylight of the Christian revelation was necessary in order to uncover the lurking foe, dimly disclosed but by no means fully known in the earlier revelation…. In the early states of religious thinking it would seem to be difficult, if not impossible, to hold the sovereignty of God without attributing to His agency those evils in the world which are more or less directly connected with judgment and punishment…. The progressive revelation of God’s character and purpose, which more and more imperatively demands that the origin of moral evil, and consequently natural evil, must be traced to the created will in opposition to the Divine, leads to the the ultimate declaration that Satan is a morally fallen being to whose conquest the Divine Power in history is pledged.”
Finally, scholar Jeffrey Burton Russell, who has written multiple volumes on the the historical development of our understanding of Satan, notes that the reason early Jewish thought saw Satan as God’s servant is as follows: “Since the God of Israel was the only God, the supreme power in the cosmos, and since, unlike the abstract God of the Greeks, He had personality and will, no deed could be done unless He willed it. Consequently, when anyone transgressed morality, God was responsible for the transgression as well as for its punishment.” THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS: RADICAL EVIL AND THE POWER OF GOD IN HISTORY, Cornell University Press, 29-30.
Russell goes on to trace that later in Jewish history, closer to Jesus’ day, more and more Jews began to see Satan as an evil entity acting independently of God’s approval.
This is easily proven by considering the incident in which King David sinned by numbering Israel. This incident is first recorded in 2 Samuel 24:1, and then centuries later in 1 Chronicles 21:1. In the earlier entry, David’s sin is caused by “the anger of God,” while in the later passage “Satan” is the cause of David’s sin. Same sin, same event, entirely different cause. The Jews were beginning to see that they could not attribute BOTH sin and punishment to God, good and evil to God, love and hate to God. They began to develop the idea that Satan was an enemy to God’s purposes rather than an obedient friend.
Unfortunately, when Israel as a nation rejected Jesus as Messiah, they also rejected the truth about Satan and have since sadly regressed back to their early Old Testament view, as the earlier quotes above show.
But let’s catch our breath and think about this for a moment. If in the passage above, Satan’s destructive activity is wrongly attributed as God’s wrath, then where does that leave us? It leaves us falsely accusing God of of all sorts of evil events, motives and destructions. We have chained God and Satan at the spiritual hip, good and evil at the spiritual hip, love and wrath at the spiritual hip— God is blamed for all that Satan does, while Satan gets partial credit for the good God does. The end result is that the character of God is clouded and men are unable to fully see, trust and rejoice in his love and forgiveness.
So was the Old Testament view of Satan different than the New Testament view? Yes, vastly different, but perhaps the best way to put it is not so much that the Old Testament was wrong about Satan, but that the Old Testament was almost completely uninformed about him.
The first reference to Satan is not even until 548 pages into the Old Testament. Satan is first mentioned only 3 pages into the New Testament. The total number of times Satan is mentioned in the Old Testament is 19 times, 14 of which are in the book of Job. The New Testament mentions Satan (or his devils) nearly 200 times, despite the fact that it is five times shorter than the Old Testament in length.
Only three Old Testament writers ever even mention Satan, and that only briefly. EVERY New Testament writer mentions Satan.
Amazingly, Moses, David, Abraham and Solomon NEVER mentioned Satan at all– never. Their clueless silence is hard to imagine, given the fact that these men are considered giants of the faith. Contrast this with the New Testament, where Jesus repeatedly calls Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), the Apostle Paul calls Satan “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) who can appear as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). The Apostle Peter calls Satan– “your adversary… a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and the Apostle John calls Satan– “the evil one… in whose power the whole world lies.” (1 John 5:19).
What is going on here? Not one Old Testament verse warns us of Satan’s evil influence in our hearts or minds, much less his rebellious rule over the entire fallen world. Not one demon is cast out in the Old Testament. Legions of devils are cast out in the New Testament. Evil spirits are sent FROM the Lord in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 16:14), but are sent FROM Satan as Beezlebub, the ruler of demons, in the New Testament (Matthew 12:24-29).
Jesus’ main thrust in ministry was to destroy the works of Satan, not enable them or approve of them in ANY way. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8.
When summarizing the Gospel for the first Gentile converts, Peter described “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about DOING GOOD and HEALING ALL who were OPPRESSED OF THE DEVIL; for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38.
The point? Jesus continually exposed Satan as an ENEMY of His Father, and NOT a SERVANT.
Jesus described Satan as: “a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44. This is a crucial passage for it shows Satan’s evils come from “his own resources,” not God’s, and that he is in essence a KILLER and a LIAR, in fact the “father” of all killing and lying.
Remember, Satan tried to both deceive and kill Jesus in the wilderness temptations in Luke 4. Jesus defeated him then and went on defeating him throughout the rest of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Jesus not only opposed Satan personally, he fought against Satan’s ENTIRE kingdom of demonic elements, “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10.
Through the work of the cross, Jesus defeated all of Satan’s armies, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15. Greek scholars tell us these words describe Jesus having a victory parade wherein He brandishes all the captured armor of Satan’s kingdom for all to see and celebrate. Satanic captivity has been taken captive by the Lord of love and light who has ransomed and rescued us from our dark kidnappers.
Now we see what one of the main problems was with Old Testament believers. They simply did not have the depth of understanding to see the truth about God’s Kingdom as it related to Satan’s kingdom. Their understanding of what we call New Covenant truth was at most only embryonic. This is the perfect example of John Calvin’s claim that Old Testament saints had only “sleight capacity” to understand deeper New Testament concepts– the true nature of Satan being just such a concept.
Without the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth, Old Testament saints simply could not accurately process HOW the two invisible personalities of God and Satan operated on the earth. It wasn’t God working WITH Satan as they supposed. It was God working AGAINST Satan as Jesus revealed. Jesus revealed that between their two kingdoms, there was no treaty, no cooperation, no partnership, no under-the-table deals, no compromise, no joint operation going on. IT WAS WAR! Jesus stated the battle lines of this war in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” Satan = stealing, killing, destroying. Jesus = life abundant.
Because the Old Testament saints’ view of Satan was dim and partial at best, they were clueless that Satan was an enemy of God to be resisted wholeheartedly. Rather, they simply resigned themselves to the fact that all the “occurrences of evil and destruction” on the earth were just the judgments of God to be humbly endured RATHER than zealously opposed. God first brought the evil according to His secret and mysterious purposes. Then, God wrathfully punished us for the very evil He brought by inflicting the various curses of Deuteronomy 28. Satan was merely the executing angel obeying God’s orders. Satan had no “dog in the hunt,” nothing personal, just doing his job.
BECAUSE of this, when the Old Testament authors used the word “Lord,” for them the word COULD mean the loving works and words of Yahweh in saving and blessing His people. HOWEVER, the word “Lord” could ALSO mean the wrathful works and words of Satan in testing, judging, accusing, and cursing His people.
The term is MISATTRIBUTION. It means “assigning the WRONG source or cause of an action, purpose or event.” Simply put, the Old Testament destructions of Satan have been wrongly attributed as “the wrath of God.” This is the MOTHER OF ALL MISATTRIBUTIONS because it ultimately FRAMES GOD for EVIL.
The result is a bipolar image of God that leaves us double minded and unable to receive much of anything from Him. We become poor petal-pluckers who vacillate back and forth– “God loves me, He loves me not— God hates me, He hates me not— God blesses me, He blesses me not— God saves me, He saves me not— God answers my prayers, He answers my prayers not.”
So how do we read the Old Testament in New Testament light? How to we retranslate the Old and dimmer understanding of Satan to accommodate the New and better understanding of Satan? Simply put, we must allow the Spirit to re-divide the terms “God” and “Lord” in the Old Testament. We must use THE BRACKET.
We have to PURGE THE DEVIL OUT of the Old Testament’s usage of the names of the Lord. This explains why John 1:18 says that nobody prior to the Gospels had truly seen God at ANY time– because all had wrongly blended the nature of Satan INTO their image of God. The result was that nobody had a pure understanding of God’s absolute love and goodness.
For sure, Old Testament saints had a partial view of God’s goodness, but not a full frontal view of His nature.
This dynamic is so revealed in Exodus 33:18-23, where Moses prayed to see the Lord’s glory. The Lord then responded, “I will make all my goodness pass before you….” But Moses, from the cleft of the rock, could only see the Lord’s goodness after He passed by. In other words, Moses could only see God’s true goodness from behind and at an angled distance.
Again, as Calvin said, Old Testament saints had only a “sleight capacity” to grasp God’s perfect goodness as revealed by Jesus Christ. They lacked the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which God sent at Pentecost to lead believers into all truth. They also lacked the full knowledge of Jesus’ coming life, death and resurrection, which we thankfully have through the preaching of the Gospel.
Where would any of us be without the Sermon on the Mount defining for us the pure nature of God?
Where would we be without the Gospel revelation of grace, forgiveness, Abba-hood and life in the Spirit?
Where would we be if we still thought God and Satan were working together in joint purpose and cooperation?
Well, we would be limited to the same Old Testament view that Moses had– seeing God’s goodness from behind and at an angled distance. We could know some aspects of his goodness, but we would stumble around in the “strobe light” effect of the Old Testament, with alternating flashes of light and dark disorienting us and making it difficult to perceive the nature of God in an abiding way.
We would “choppily” see God as BOTH light and dark, good and evil, loving and wrathful. We would not have the FULL FRONTAL VIEW of His glory revealed only by the face of Jesus Christ. We would not have the revelation of 1 John 1:5 that, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” We would not have the revelation of James 1:12-17 which says we are “to let no man say” that God has any connection to evil and that only “good and perfect gifts come from the Father of lights.” We would not have the revelation of Satan as the enemy ruler of this world from John 12:31 and 1 John 5:19. In short, we would still be largely confused about who was doing what in this fallen world.
Old Testament saints simply could not process the pure nature of God without first receiving the full revelation of Jesus. For that reason, we need to put THE BRACKET around the words “Lord” and “God” EVERY time we read them in the Old Testament. Whenever Old Testament Scripture says the “Lord” kills, destroys, curses, crushes, afflicts, oppresses or devastates, we need to “open the husk” of the word “Lord” to see WHO is really being referred to in the particular passage– God or Satan.
Let’s use a couple of easy examples. In Deuteronomy 28:63, let’s apply THE BRACKET “the Lord [Jesus OR Satan] will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought.”
What are we to make of this bloodthirsty statement? Does this sound like the compassionate Jesus we know as the God who is “the same, yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. Deuteronomy 28 again and again describes how the Lord will torture, oppress and joyfully destroy us, our families and our nation if we stop listening to God. The Lord will send “enemies” to enslave us, “wonderful plagues” to afflict us, and “famines” to cause us to become cannibals who eat our own children. I am just scratching the surface here. It gets worse, much worse.
But the point is this– Satan is the one doing the plaguing and destroying and evil rejoicing here, not God.
The New Testament couldn’t be any clearer that all these curses of Deuteronomy 28 are the areas where Satan rules in his wrath, “wrath” which Revelation 12:12 says is “great” against the “inhabiters of the earth.”
The Old Testament saints used the word “Lord” because they thought that the destroying force at work here was under God’s direct and obedient command. Bottom line: a New Testament reading should retranslate the word “Lord” here to read “Satan.”
The wonderful blessings in the first fourteen verses should remain as clearly coming from Jesus, for that is the essence of His nature as a blesser, protector and healer. All references after this describe the devil’s work, not God’s, so they must be properly assigned to Satan.
Another easy example. 1 Samuel 16:14 says “an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him [Saul].” Now, bracket the word “Lord” with [Jesus OR Satan]. We know all evil spirits are of Satan as the ruler of demons. God never sends evil spirits on anybody. Let no man say this, including Samuel. Jesus always cast evil spirits OUT of men, never INTO men. This is really a great example where the word “Lord” is OBVIOUSLY talking about “Satan,” who again, the Old Testament saw as a servant of God rather than an enemy.
What about the flood? Who killed everybody? Satan did. Who saved Noah? Jesus did. God would have saved all who believed, but their universally hard hearts allowed Satan as the god of THIS world to destroy them. God’s protective hedge constricted down to the size of an ark, but it fully protected the righteous remnant from Satan’s destructions.
Remember, Satan has the power of death, NOT God (Hebrews 2:14). God saves, heals and delivers. Satan steals, kills and destroys. Death only became real when Adam started listening to the voice of the dark Lord RATHER than the voice of the Lord of life. What do we think? That Satan was twiddling his thumbs in the Old Testament while God was killing and afflicting everybody? NO– NEVER! Every foul and unworthy thing we have thought about God should be laid at the doorstep of Satan.
Let’s look at another example. If the Old Testament Scripture says “the Lord” commanded that the people “surely stone to death” a man who merely picked up sticks on the Sabbath, then we can again use THE BRACKET: “And the Lord [Jesus OR Satan] said unto Moses, ‘The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.’ And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died, as the Lord [Jesus OR Satan] commanded Moses.” Numbers 15:35-36.
Does anybody really see Jesus ever commanding anybody to be stoned to death for ANY thing, much less merely picking up sticks? Jesus’ own disciples violated that same law when they picked grain on the Sabbath. Jesus sure didn’t command them to be stoned. Rather, He defended them against their accusers by saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:24.
Wow! If that weren’t enough, in John 8, when a woman caught red handed in adultery was about to be stoned in His presence, Jesus STOPPED IT! God doesn’t stone us or order us to be stoned. Jesus saves us from the stonings we do deserve and the ones we don’t deserve. Out of His non-condemning love for the woman, Jesus was able to tell her in a tone that was tender, tried and true, “I don’t condemn you. Go forth and sin no more.”
So who told Moses to stone the Sabbath breaker? Well, who stones us today with accusations, condemnations and oppressions of every kind?
All together now— “SATAN.”
Revelation 12:10 says Satan is “the accuser of the brethren… which accused them day and night.” Satan operates in “the ministry of condemnation,” not Jesus. “There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]