Jesus described Satan as a murderer.
He attacks God’s people and in 1 John 3, we see that Satan has been using people to physically attack God’s people for a very long time. John says verse 12 “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brothers were righteous.”
What he is doing there is using people’s jealousy. Here’s someone who didn’t want to deal with his own heart problem and so he just tried to get rid of the person who was reminding he had a problem through physical violence.
And Peter tells us that same kind of thing is still happening today. He writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Now that’s a picture, the devil is like a roaring lion.
And how does he seek to do this devouring?
The next verse tells us.
“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
He uses physical suffering, and throughout the book of 1 Peter, it’s physical suffering for doing what’s right, persecution for righteousness sake in other words.
We find another very specific example of this in Revelation 2:10.
Jesus is speaking to the church in Smyrna there and he says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.”
Now you have got to think, how does the devil throw people into prison? He was going to use human authorities to do it. And the point is that Satan uses physical attacks in his war against God’s church.
And you know, this is a little off topic, but apparently sometimes God even allows the devil to use other kinds of physical suffering in the lives of believers. I get that from the book of Job, we have one example at least, where Satan asked God for permission and God gave it, and we read that Satan struck Job with sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
Now let me tell you something really amazing about all this, because it sounds so terrible, but look, God sees the big picture and Satan here thinks he is doing awful damage to the church, but God is using Satan, that’s what is so amazing about our God, and what happens to us as a result of staying faithful in the middle of persecution or as a result of trusting God in the middle of suffering, we know what happens from books like 1 Peter, we find favor with God, we inherit eternal rewards, and so Satan is raging against God’s people and God allows it to happen because God knows that really all Satan is going to do in the end is accomplish the long term good for God’s people. It’s a little like with Jesus right? There Satan was attacking God’s Son, having Him crucified, which seems terrible, but what does God the Father do, what happens as a result, well God uses this act to bring about our salvation and not just that, this is what leads to Christ’s glorification. Christ is going to be receiving glory throughout all eternity for that experience of suffering.
But still, with us living in this world, as believers, I think knowing this about Satan’s schemes, that he uses physical violence, it should at least wake us up a bit and make us more serious and careful.
This is not a game.
You do what is right and especially you proclaim the gospel and it’s likely Satan is going to take notice and attempt to do physical damage to you in some way.
Paul is so convinced of this that he says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Again, we don’t have to and we really shouldn’t go around all scared about that, but it should make us serious.
That’s what Peter says about it actually. Again 1 Peter 5:8. “Be sober-minded (serious) be watchful because your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion.”
It is kind of like you can imagine two roaring lions that are on chains, and you have to walk a path right in between these two lions, now they can’t really devour you, but it seems close, they can get close, how do you walk through them, I think even though you know they can’t ultimately hurt you, you still are going to walk carefully and knowing that Satan can and does use physical violence in his attacks against the church should do the same to us.
This is one of those areas where we have to really work hard at applying the gospel because if we are not careful, Satan can do some great work with the threat of physical violence.
You see Satan is an intimidator and if you look over at Hebrews 2:14 and 15 I think you will see something interesting. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Satan has the power of death and that he uses the fear of death.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, Jesus partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver those who through the fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
What’s happening there is that Satan uses the fear of death to keep people in slavery and you see that, people so afraid of death that they don’t really live and that was the way it was for us before we were saved, but Jesus has released us from that, we don’t have to fear death any longer, but the problem is, everybody is so afraid of death and we have habits for a long time where we were afraid of death, and Satan still is able to use the threat of death to keep us from all out obedience to Christ.
And how do we respond to that strategy, we have to keep going back to Christ and applying the victorious work of Christ to our lives, that death no longer has the same kind of power over us, and if we are doing that, what’s going to happen is that we are going to be freed up to live and make decisions based on what is right and not just fear that we might be hurt physically or even die.
We even see Satan attempting to use this strategy in his war on Jesus. If you look back at Matthew 16, verse 21, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
So Jesus is looking straight at his suffering, but watch what happens.
Verse 22, “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Now that sounds like a nice thing for a friend to say. Your friend tells you he is going to be crucified and you say, no, I don’t want that to happen. But what’s really going on there is that Peter is saying, no way, this is not how God works, this is not right, God doesn’t use suffering. And we know that’s what is happening because what does Jesus say back to Peter. He says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Really what Peter wanted was glory now and so he was trying to distract Jesus from what his real mission was, which was to suffer in the place of God’s people, and Jesus saw that desire for glory now for what it was, a distraction, a temptation from Satan.