When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him. Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.” (John 12:29-31)
Relate: In the five hundred some odd devotionals I have written for The River Walk I could count the number of times I have talked specifically about Satan or hell on one hand and still have a few fingers left. In fact, I would have five fingers left. I just went through and checked and the closest I have come is writing on sin, demon possession, and Halloween. In the past year of sermons I have listened to at church, preached, and heard on a podcast (I have a three or four preachers I do like to listen to just about once a week each), I am pretty sure I have not once heard a sermon specifically on this topic. Oh the devil will pop up here or there as the abstract “adversary” necessary to the dialogue, point, or illustration but as the primary point of a message he is noticeable only for his absence.
It is funny then that I seem to see pictures and comments popping up all over the place on social media saying things like: “If you need the threat of eternal torture in order to be a good person, you’re not a good person!” Is it that the only people who truly want to talk about Satan are the ones who claim not to believe in him? Is it that we are so eager to not appear guilty of their charge that we do our best to avoid the topic? Have we been so subtly influenced by a modernist, materialistic, worldview that we simply not only avoid but we do not even realize that we are avoiding such things as Satan and hell? Whether or not you agree with their stances and interpretations of Biblical and church views, kudos have to be given to both Rob Bell and Francis Chan for their willingness to at least wade in and discuss these neglected topics. Now, in a few short paragraphs, I’ll do a little wading in as well.
React: For brevity’s sake there are only three things I will say here about Satan. The first of those is that Satan is real. In our times and in our culture we simply do not acknowledge things like angels and demons, heaven, hell, and the devil. Yes, we might make an intellectual assent to their reality but our living, our actions, and our moment to moment thinking do not in any way acknowledge their existence. Craig Groeschel writes about how we do this with God in his book Christian Atheists. Living this way regarding Satan is dangerous. We have been given the command to be clear minded and vigilant because he prowls about seeking whom he may devour.
The second truth we need to understand is the flip side of that coin. Yes, Satan is real and we must be wary of his schemes but we must also understand that he is already defeated. This is what Jesus was foretelling in the verse for today. Through the atoning work of the cross and His victorious resurrection Jesus has been crowned victor. After Jesus died on the cross he descended into hell to do two things. He metaphorically stole the keys and kicked down the gates. Now, against any who are found in Christ, Satan is powerless. The question is, where do you find yourself today?
Finally, even though Satan has already lost, we must understand that he hasn’t yet conceded defeat. To understand this best, I recall a story I heard one time about a man who saw his farmer friend kill a chicken. That bird was all nervous and panicked but it literally went ballistic when the ax came down and its head was cut off. The headless bird flapped and kicked until it was about six or seven feet in the air when it suddenly stopped, and fell to the ground lifeless. Satan has lost his head, but he hasn’t yet stopped flapping. The evil, the destruction, the torment he inflicts on this world will continue and intensify until that moment when God says “enough.”
God, thank You for allowing me to partake in the victory You have won on our behalf. Help me to maintain a balanced view of the enemy of our souls. Help me to be vigilant of the war that is waged while always remembering that the victory has already been won. You are the Champion. You alone are God.