“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking
whom he may devour.”
1 Peter 5:8
The above verse is a familiar one, although it is one that most Christians accept somewhat casually. Indeed, many Christians see this text and others that refer to Satan and his efforts to lead God’s people astray as maybe a bit mythological, viewing Satan’s “alleged” existence as nothing more than an idle tale or the result of pagan influence on early Christians that has survived through the ages.
One woman, who was otherwise very intelligent, became quite upset on being told that Satan was responsible for the existence of the sin and misery that prevail on this earth. Her retort was that neither Satan nor God exists. Both are creations of man that serve as excuses for the various behaviors manifested by humankind.
To believe that way, of course, one cannot believe in any inspired writing, and certainly not the Bible. Regretful though it may seem, it is often best to leave unbelievers with that mindset to stew in their own juices, which they will eventually do, unless they let the light of truth shine into their hearts. Our only hope for these deluded souls is prayer, and lots of it.
However, to those who have read and studied the matter, the existence of a formidable foe is unquestionable. We are all familiar with the Fall of man, explained so clearly in Genesis 3. Man chose to obey “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), rather than his Creator. As a result, “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12).
But why did Satan seek to cause man, the pinnacle of God’s creation, to fall?
“Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Christ. … But when God said to His Son, ‘Let us make man in our image’ (Genesis 1:26), Satan was jealous of Jesus. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man, and because he was not, he was filled with envy, jealousy, and hatred.” Early Writings, 145.
Satan’s envy, jealousy, and hatred led eventually to rebellion. Subtle at first and executed with the utmost skill, his efforts succeeded in convincing one third of the angels that he deserved the place held by the Son of God. His rebellion is explained clearly and beautifully in the first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets, “Why Was Sin Permitted.” Even though he was a created being, he credited himself for his beauty, talent, and intellect and sought to be equal with his Creator. “ ‘Shall the clay say to him who forms it, “What are you making?” ’ ” (Isaiah 45:9). Satan indeed manifested such a mindset toward his Creator!
The result, of course, was war in heaven—in heaven!
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 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 12:7–9).
An excellent summary of the conflict that brought about this war is given in this passage from Inspiration:
“Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. ‘I do nothing of Myself,’ said Christ; ‘the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father.’ ‘I seek not Mine own glory,’ but the glory of Him that sent Me (John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18). In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father’s life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life.
“In heaven itself this law was broken. Sin originated in self-seeking. Lucifer, the covering cherub, desired to be first in heaven. He sought to gain control of heavenly beings, to draw them away from their Creator, and to win their homage to himself. Therefore he misrepresented God, attributing to Him the desire for self-exaltation. With his own evil characteristics he sought to invest the loving Creator. Thus he deceived angels. Thus he deceived men. He led them to doubt the word of God, and to distrust His goodness. Because God is a God of justice and terrible majesty, Satan caused them to look upon Him as severe and unforgiving. Thus he drew men to join him in rebellion against God, and the night of woe settled down upon the world.” The Desire of Ages, 21, 22. [Emphasis added.]
So, Satan effected the Fall of our first parents and claimed the world as his domain. Because he was not privy to the plan of creation, which included provision for the salvation of mankind should he fail to maintain his obedience to his Creator, Satan was certain that he would have complete control over the human race as long as it should last and that man was rightfully his, since he chose to obey him rather than his Creator.
“The fall of man filled all heaven with sorrow. The world that God had made was blighted with the curse of sin and inhabited by beings doomed to misery and death. There appeared no escape for those who had transgressed the law. …
“But divine love had conceived a plan whereby man might be redeemed.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 63.
It was this plan for man’s salvation, conceived when the Father and Son consulted together regarding the creation of man in their image, that Satan had no knowledge of. If he had known about it, he would have known that although he might cause man to fall, there was a plan “whereby man might be redeemed.” Though there would be some who would choose to stand under Satan’s black banner, there would be a blood-stained banner raised that would provide redemption for all who chose to stand under it.
Even with Satan’s acquired knowledge of this fact, for he has now diligently studied the Bible for thousands of years, and the Spirit of Prophecy for more than a hundred, he is determined to cause as many to fall as he possibly can, for he knows now that he does not have to bear the penalty for lost souls. They will each bear their own fate. Satan’s punishment is to bear the penalty for those who have accepted the salvation wrought by the sacrifice of the Son of God. Thus the more he can cause to stand under his black banner, the less punishment he has to bear.
So the question for Satan becomes, How can I bring about the loss of the most souls?
Unfortunately for man, Satan is not bound by the law of God. He can lie, and it is through his lies that he succeeds in persuading so many poor souls to stand in his dark shadow—although many do so unknowingly.
How many has he convinced that their dead loved ones are already in heaven? Even “religious” publications promote that error. One immensely popular “Christian” publication has in almost every issue at least one if not several stories of actions, believed to have been committed by dead relatives, that have brought comfort to their survivors. How could these survivors doubt it when a departed relative, who supposedly has previously provided some comfort in a supernatural manner, leads them to believe that God has changed His mind regarding the day of worship?
In such an instance, those who have not made the Scriptures their safeguard will be deceived by Satan and his evil coconspirators into believing two of his lies: man’s soul is immortal and the seventh day is no longer God’s Sabbath day of rest. These two lies, by the way, have been and are being promulgated by the vast majority of the Christian world today.
But between now and then, Satan is diligently at work to cause man to have no regard whatsoever for God’s law. He insinuates thoughts into our minds that, unless rejected, will lead to man’s downfall.
“There is no safety for any of us unless we trust fully in God, and take a decided stand, guarding the avenues of the will, resisting the first insinuations of Satan, rejecting his counsel to yield to questionable impulses. This requires watchfulness, perseverance, and continual adherence to the word of God under all circumstances. We are here as probationers and are deciding our own eternal destiny.” The Signs of the Times, May 15, 1893.
“Those who would not fall a prey to Satan’s devices, must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts. The mind must not be left to dwell at random upon every subject that the enemy of souls may suggest. The heart must be faithfully sentineled, or evils without will awaken evils within, and the soul will wander in darkness.” The Acts of the Apostles, 518.
How many are there who fail to “guard well the avenues of the soul”? How many are there who willingly entertain every evil thought that enters their mind, not realizing that Satan slaps his knee in delight because he is causing another soul to fail of reaching the divine standard? How many fail to realize that they are “deciding their own destiny” and choosing—again, many unknowingly—to stand under the black banner of error?
It is not by chance that so many of the Bible writers have cautioned truth seekers against letting the mind wander wherever it may. Paul wrote more than once about the necessity of mental discipline.
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:4–6).
Isaiah and Jeremiah also cautioned their contemporaries about evil thoughts. When Isaiah fulfilled God’s instructions to him to “Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins,” he summed up their faults by concluding that “Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity” (Isaiah 58:1; 59:7).
Jeremiah reached very much the same conclusion when he told the children of Israel, “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you” (Jeremiah 4:14)?
Inspiration tells us that “In the struggle to reach the highest standard, success or failure will depend much upon the character, and the manner in which the thoughts are disciplined.” This Day With God, 66.
“Satan can not read our thoughts, but he can see our actions, hear our words; and from his long knowledge of the human family, he can shape his temptations to take advantage of our weak points of character. And how often do we let him into the secret of how he may obtain the victory over us.” The Review and Herald, February 27, 1913.
“There are many who are really troubled because low, debasing thoughts come into the mind, and are not easily banished. Satan has his evil angels around us; and though they cannot read men’s thoughts, they closely watch their words and actions. Satan takes advantage of the weaknesses and defects of character that are thus revealed, and presses his temptations where there is the least power of resistance. He makes evil suggestions, and inspires worldly thoughts, knowing that he can thus bring the soul into condemnation and bondage.” Ibid., April 8, 1884.
“Never forget that thoughts work out actions. Repeated actions form habits, and habits form character.” The Upward Look, 89.
And character determines where we stand. It is the only thing man possesses that he will carry with him to heaven. Inspiration states, “A character formed according to the divine likeness is the only treasure that we can take from this world to the next. Those who are under the instruction of Christ in this world will take every divine attainment with them to the heavenly mansions. And in heaven we are continually to improve. How important, then, is the development of character in this life.
“The heavenly intelligences will work with the human agent who seeks with determined faith that perfection of character which will reach out to perfection in action. To everyone engaged in this work Christ says, I am at your right hand to help you.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 332.
It is Satan’s sole objective to prevent man from acquiring this treasure, “a character formed according to the divine likeness,” and from standing under the blood-stained banner of Christ in this world so that he can stand spotless on the shores of the crystal sea in the next.
How many fail to realize that we do indeed have an enemy who walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?
[All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.]
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com.