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Millions of deceived people dabble in the occult for entertainment, or even for personal gain. But how many people can recognize Satan's shocking influence on their workplace, community or even their church?
Can you recognize—and overcome—the power of evil around you?
No one can deny that millions today are fascinated by the occult. Young people in particular are flocking to "entertainment" like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight novels. Three movies of those novels have been released; one—The Twilight Saga: Eclipse—grossed more than $72 million on its opening day in June 2010, more than had any other film in United States history.
Contemporary entertainment routinely glamorizes "undead" vampires, witty and creative witches, demon private detectives and other figures who maneuver in a shadowy world between God and Satan, life and death. The "death metal" music genre, along with glamorizing gruesome violence, often sings open praise of the devil.
But who and what is the devil? On the one hand, many "intellectuals" consider it primitive and unfashionable to express belief in evil spirit beings. Yet on the other hand, the subject remains one that fascinates millions. Certainly, if there is a devil, we need to know how to recognize him and how to overcome his malevolent influence.
Your Bible explains why there is so much trouble and evil in the world. We read in Revelation, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
Here, your Bible describes a powerful spirit being, called the Devil and Satan, as "the great dragon" and "that serpent of old." And we learn an amazing truth which few today believe—that he has deceived the whole world.
Why is there a devil? God did not create a devil, but He did create angelic beings with free moral agency. He created three cherubs or archangels—Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel (the cherub Michael is called an archangel in Jude 9)—and each apparently led one-third of the angels. One of these, Lucifer, became God's adversary (the term "Satan" comes from the Hebrew for "adversary") and was cast down to the earth with one-third of the angels. "And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth" (Revelation 12:3–4). In scripture, stars are often a symbol for angels (cf. Revelation 1:20).
Who is the devil? Some may find it shocking, but your Bible describes Satan as "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4). He roams about on the earth, "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Using type and antitype, chapter 28 of the book of Ezekiel describes Lucifer's original responsibilities, and subsequent downfall. Here the king of Tyre is the type, and the cherub who became Satan is the anti-type. "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: "You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings"'" (Ezekiel 28:12–17, NIV).
Lucifer was given responsibility over the earth long before human beings were created. He had the free choice to obey or to disobey, just as human beings have the power to choose right or wrong. But Lucifer rebelled—he refused to carry out the will and government of God. The first man—Adam—was then given the opportunity to replace Satan as ruler of this world. But Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation and sinned. Like Adam and Eve, every human being except Jesus Christ—Immanuel, God in the flesh—has sinned. Scripture reminds us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
God the Father sent a second Adam, Jesus Christ, to resist the devil and conquer him. Scripture tells us that after 40 days of fasting, Jesus was physically exhausted, but He still battled the devil with scripture. Refusing to obey Satan, Jesus finally gave him an order, saying, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (Matthew 4:10).
Jesus proved that He would not give in to the devil. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). He proved that He has the character and the righteousness to rule the earth. When Jesus returns as King of kings, He will replace Satan as the prince of this world, banishing him for 1,000 years. But until then, Satan will continue to deceive the whole world. Could he be deceiving you?
God warned ancient Israel to reject the occult and all false worship that He did not establish: "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners" (Deuteronomy 18:9–14).
Shockingly, despite God's clear warning, we see that every year at Halloween, millions of parents encourage their children to dress up as demons, witches and other strange occult figures, making light of the occult and making a mockery of God's command to shun such practices!
While many millions of people "play at" the occult, only a relative few openly and knowingly worship a being they consider to be "the evil one," or participate in occult religions that openly worship Satan, his demons or some manifestation of evil. It is not unheard of, even in our "modern" day, for witches and sorcerers to practice deadly rituals—in extreme cases even to the extent of human sacrifice. Others practice what they consider to be "innocent" forms of occultism and paganism—in the U.S. alone, as many as 300,000 people are estimated to be practitioners of "Wicca"—a form of polytheistic nature worship that is even recognized as a legitimate religion by the U.S. Army chaplain's office, which provides pastoral service for military Wiccans.
How common, then, is Satan-worship? Most people who worship Satan do not even realize that they are worshiping him! The Apostle Paul explains this satanic strategem, pointing out that Satan will not always appear as a serpent or a dragon, but will disguise himself as an angel of light! "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Yes, the Apostle Paul warned that Satan has his own ministers who appear as ministers of righteousness. That is why we challenge Tomorrow's World readers not to believe us just because we assert something as truth. We urge you to go to your Bible to find the truth. Remember the Bereans in Acts 17:11? Luke wrote that they "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." We all need to do that!
How can you identify a minister of Satan? A minister of Satan may be sincere, but sincerely deceived. A minister who preaches against the words of Jesus Christ and God the Father is certainly not a true minister of Jesus Christ, no matter how sincere he may be. For example, some ministers preach that Christians need not strive to keep the Ten Commandments (which Christians know is possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). They believe that Christians are free to disobey their Savior—in effect they approve of rebellion against God, just as Satan does! Remember, as the Apostle Peter wrote, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
The Apostle Paul also warned those who disobey God's truth, "to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek" (Romans 2:8–9). The Bible plainly teaches obedience—to the truth, the gospel, the Ten Commandments and God's righteousness. Counterfeit religion is one of Satan's deceptions. He appears as an angel of light, but leads millions away from the true light of God's word.
The devil also seeks to exploit our human nature—which is vanity, selfishness, greed, envy and lust! There is an evil influence that, as the Apostle Paul states it, "now works in the sons of disobedience." Paul explains that, through Christ, we can be delivered from our past participation in the lusts of human nature. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Ephesians 2:1–3).
We must be able to identify in our own nature our human weakness and tendency to sin. That is why we need a living Savior to redeem us first of all from our past sins, and to give us the power to overcome the influences of the world, Satan and our own human nature!
Some Christians struggle against their uncontrolled anger. Some who have been offended let their feelings turn to bitterness, malice, rage, hostility and hate. We should be angry at evil and the ways of Satan, but we must never hate another human being. We should despise people's wicked conduct and attitudes, but we should love even our enemies, as Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44.
Be warned. Satan can control you if you do not control your anger. "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26–27). Uncontrolled rage can lead to a satanic bitterness, and anyone who remains consumed with anger will ultimately end up in the lake of fire. Do not let Satan have his way with you. Learn to live at peace with others. We read: "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:14–15).
Even Christians sometimes face difficulty and stress because of past hurts and abuse. As a result, they may become careless and allow a root of bitterness to spring up in them. They want to hold on to the pain of the past, and even to relish some hoped-for revenge. But what does God say? "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). God will ultimately inflict righteous judgment and punishment on all unrepentant sinners. Christians, however, must learn to forgive! In His "outline prayer," Jesus taught us to ask God to "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). Do you pray that way? Pray for your enemies. Learn to let go and forgive. You will be thwarting Satan, and you will not be giving in to his attitude of malice and revenge!
We have seen a few of the devil's strategies and how to avoid his deceptions. Realize that Satan's fate is already decided. At the final judgment, all the wicked will be consumed in the lake of fire. Satan and his demons will also be cast into the lake of fire. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matthew 25:41).
We look forward to the time when all evil will be banished from this earth. We pray, "Thy Kingdom come!" Until then, Satan and his demons will continue to attack and deceive wherever they can. What can you do to overcome this evil force? Christians must overcome the influence of the world, the power of Satan and his demons and their own human nature.
First, we need a close relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. God will protect us from evil. The "outline prayer" teaches us to ask of God, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:13).
God will protect you and deliver you from the evil one, if you cry out to Him for deliverance—if, in word and deed, you choose the Kingdom of God and reject the kingdom of Satan. As He inspired the Apostle James to write, "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:6–8).
God has made these promises. You need not give in to temptations, or to feelings of depression or fear. Resist! God will give you the power. Get down on your knees and pray to your Father in heaven. Study the Bible—God's inspired word—and obey its instructions. When Jesus faced Satan's temptations, He fought the devil by quoting Scripture. Jesus used these spiritual weapons. You need them, too!
The Apostle Paul tells us to be fully armed spiritually. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:10–13).
Who is the devil? He is neither an imaginary figure, nor a comic-book character in a red suit with horns and tail. He is not a creature to "have fun about" on Halloween. The devil is your enemy, and wants to see you destroyed. But you can overcome him, if you use the sword of the Spirit—the word of God—and if you live by that word. The Apostle John wrote, "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14). You can have peace of mind. Act on the words of your Bible, and with the help of your Savior, you too can overcome Satan!