In The New Demons, Jacques Ellul points out the false gods we moderns adore. We have identified these conventional yet destructive gods as (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, god of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption. But have Jacques and I been right in speaking of gods at all? Our last three essays have been summaries of New Testament passages to various powers of evil. Today we will attempt to express those summaries, and link them to previous meditations on biblical witnesses, in a short meaningful narrative which celebrates the victory of Jesus over all powers of evil.
1. IN THE BEGINNING
God created Heaven and Earth as a well-ordered whole, full of vitality, to serve human beings as the perfect context for them to enjoy relationships of freedom and love with him, one another, and the rest of God’s creatures. God pronounced all this very good (cf. “Genesis 1: Creation as an Ordered Good,” August 31, 2012).
2. AFTER THE RUPTURE
The decision of Adam and Eve to judge God’s truth, freedom, love, and vitality ruptured our relationships with God, one another, and the rest of creation. This had consequences which were vast, profound, destructive, and irreversible. This rupture allowed powers of evil, which God had rejected on our behalf, to invade God’s good creation and immediately dominate and corrupt it and us. In just this way, we became the inescapable victims and unwitting collaborators of these powers of evil—including the six false Olympian gods (“Genesis 1 and 3: Our Good Creation and Evil Break with God,” September 15, 2012).
The nature of the powers of evil. These powers of evil are neither divine, like God, nor creaturely, like us or angels. They have their own absurd set of characteristics. They are:
(1) Phantom: they exist in their own peculiar immaterial way. They have no created bodies.
(2) Spiritual: they claim autonomy from God and want to play god in our lives.
(3) Personal: each has a mind and will of its own.
(4) Malevolent: they are bent on destroying all that God calls good.
(5) Aggressive: they are always on the attack against us. We must constantly remain on the lookout for our enemy the Devil, who, like a powerful predator, is always looking for ways to eat us (James 5:8, 1 Peter 5:8).
(6) Parasitic: they need energy to live on. They have none of their own, they get none from God, so they suck it from us and from other creatures through us.
The powers of evil spoken of in the Bible, then, are phantom, spiritual, personal, malevolent, aggressive, and parasitic in nature (“Powers of Evil: Not God, Not Creatures, Just Absurd,” September 18, 2012).
Satan. The personal names of this primary power of evil include the Devil (Matthew 4:1), Satan (Matthew 4:10), the Evil One (Matthew 6:13), Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24), and the Enemy (Luke 10:19). For the sake of convenience, I will more often refer to this principle power of evil as Satan. He is the ruler of all the powers of evil (Ephesians 2:2).
The one odd god of Jesus Christ is the source and goal of all truth, freedom, love, and vitality (or life). Satan, in contrast, is a liar by nature, the source of all lies, and a murderer (John 8:44).
The gods. There is only one true god. Nonetheless, both Old and New Testaments acknowledge the existence of false gods. Our Olympian personalities love to worship these (Revelation 9:20-21). These conventional yet destructive gods are the powers of evil previously identified as Jupiter, Mars, Vulcan, Venus, Pluto, and Bacchus.
For millennia these false gods have been represented by idols. By carving idols of them, we show our commitment to them, visually represent them, physically trap their presence, and spiritually concentrate their power in one place.
The Flesh. The Flesh is a third power of evil. We may think of it as the Unholy Spirit living within our Olympian heart just as the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of our Christian personality.
Before the Rupture, we human beings had only a Christian personality. After the Rupture, we had only an Olympian personality until Jesus Christ. Following Jesus Christ, we each have two very distinct personalities: one, our old Olympian personality, still enduring but doomed to destruction, structured in terms of the gods; the other, our new Christian personality, our bright future, structured in terms of Jesus Christ. Once Jesus returns and makes his victory over all powers of evil definitive, we each will once again have only a Christian personality.
Our Olympian personality, beginning with the Rupture and continuing to this day, is animated by the Flesh, that Unholy Spirit, who drives us all to believe the deception of the gods and to conform to their will by accepting their bribes and avoiding their bullying.
Demons. These are the myriad messengers of Satan. Like the Flesh, they also may dwell within each one of us and are sent by Satan to torment us in some special way.
How these powers of evil busy themselves These parasitic powers of evil deceive us into understanding God, ourselves, and the rest of creation in terms of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. The gods then bully us by threatening us with radical insecurity, misery, unimportance, guilt, and meaninglessness. They also bribe us to hurt others by promising to give us the power, happiness, importance, merit, and meaning we crave because of their threats. In the history of his relationship with the people of Israel, Yahweh—the one true god—would act very differently.
3. THE CALL OF ABRAHAM
To prepare us for his future victory over all powers of evil on our behalf, Yahweh decided to teach us his ways first. He freely decided to initiate a gracious relationship with Abraham and to freely continue it with his descendants. In that way he would enable them to discern the difference between himself and the gods. (“God’s Response to Our Break with Him,” September 25, 2012).
4. THE DECISIVE VICTORY OF JESUS CHRIST OVER ALL POWERS OF EVIL
When the time was right, the Word of God became a human creature, without ceasing to be God, and lived among us.
Birth. With the birth of Jesus, Michael and his angels are able to fight against Satan and his angels and defeat them. Satan and his angels are then thrown down from Heaven to Earth. Satan, “The Accuser,” can no longer make accusations against any human in Heaven. This furious Satan then commits himself to the destruction of all loyalists to Jesus Christ on Earth (Revelation 12:5-18).
Ministry. Jesus sees Satan abruptly tossed from Heaven to Earth (Luke 10:18).
On Earth, Satan aggressively tempts Jesus to betray his faithfulness to Abba (his father in Heaven and ours). Satan does this by tempting Jesus to understand the meaning of savior in Olympian terms. Jesus sees through his subtle deceptions by relying on the words of the Bible (Matthew 4:1-11).
People with demons living within them always recognize the true holiness of Jesus and fear his presence as hostile to theirs. He always quiets them with a quick command (Mark 3:11-12).
One or more demons may live in us (Matthew 7:22). Sometimes they are legion (Luke 8:26-39). Their presence in us is always destructive to a lesser or greater degree (Matthew 12:43-45). Sometimes such demons in us cause illness. For example, they may cause us to be unable to speak (Matthew 9:32-34), to see (Matthew 12:22), or to stand straight (Luke 13:10-17). They may also cause epilepsy (Matthew 17:18-19) or simply torment a person (Matthew 15:22). In all these ways, Satan enslaves us (Luke 13:16).
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus effortlessly binds Satan, commands demons to depart, and frees people from every kind of illness (Matthew 12:28-29).
When sending disciples out for the first time, Jesus instructs them to tell people that the Kingdom of Heaven has come to them and to witness to its presence, as he does, by healing sick people, raising the dead to life, curing lepers, and driving out demons (Matthew 10:7-8).
They return with joy because even demons obeyed their commands (Luke 10:17). Jesus affirms that he has given them, as his witnesses, all the authority and power they need to overcome all the power of Satan and his minions (Luke 10:19).
Jesus teaches us to ask Abba for protection against Satan and his minions (6:13). Jesus also prays for this the night before he dies (John 17:15). We are powerless in relation to Satan but Satan is even more powerless in relation to God.
Satan puts the goal of betraying Jesus into the heart of Judas (13:2). As soon as Jesus reveals that Judas will betray him, Satan enters Judas and Judas immediately leaves Jesus and rushes into the night (John 13:27-30).
Crucifixion and resurrection. Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus decisively defeats Satan as ruler of this world (John 12:31). He disarms all powers of evil, and frees us from them, by making a public spectacle of them on the cross (Colossians 2:15). On the cross, Jesus is also victor over the world; that is, over all societies, cultures, and personalities hostile to the one true god (John 16:33).
Following Adam’s rupture of his relationship with God, Satan ruled all of us human beings through death. Now Jesus Christ rules us all through righteousness leading to eternal life (Romans 5:14-21).
When Jesus was crucified and died, our Olympian personality was crucified and died with him. With the death of our Olympian personality, Satan lost his power over us. Through his resurrection, Jesus is free from the power of Satan to kill him and lives in an unbreakable relationship of freedom and love with God. We too are to understand ourselves as freed from Satan and alive for God through the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:5-11).
Until freed by Jesus, we humans were ruled by powers of evil, enslaved by false gods, even though—compared to the one true god—they were weak and pitiful (Galatians 4:3-9).
Jesus freed us from our need and desire to devote ourselves to false gods (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). God’s temple—each congregation and all of them together—has no room for idols (2 Corinthians 6:16).
5. THESE LAST DAYS BEFORE CHRIST’S DEFINITIVE VICTORIES
God vs. gods
We may belong to Jesus and his kingdom or to Satan and his (Matthew 13:38-39).
Satan is still busy at work in those who are hostile to God, other people, and the rest of creation (Ephesians 2:2).
We can’t serve both God and Pluto (Luke 16:13).
Olympians, claiming to be wise, are actually foolish. Rather than devoting themselves to God, they devote themselves to idols—to images of humans or other creatures (Romans 1:21-23).
Back in our Olympian days, we wrongly indulged in a number of harmful behaviors including the devotion to false gods. (1 Peter 4:3).
It is the Flesh that drives us to worship false gods (Galatians 5:20).
Paul angers Olympians in Ephesus by preaching that Artemis, whose famous temple stands in the city, is no god at all (Acts 19:23-27).
We now know for sure that only the one true god speaks words of truth. Idols cannot speak at all. Yet Olympians continue to worship them (1 Corinthians 12:2). Still, as Paul did with the Thessalonians, we invite Olympians to turn away from their devotion to false gods to serve the one true god (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Paul tells others that Jesus sent him to free others from the power of Satan (Acts 26:8).
We are to devote ourselves to God and resist Satan—who will then run away from us (James 4:7).
In union with Christ, we too have defeated Satan (1 John 2:13-14).
The Holy Spirit burns brightly inside our Christian heart. The Flesh, the Unholy Spirit, smolders darkly inside our Olympian heart (Galatians 5:16-18).
Once we were slaves of sin and served its wicked purposes which end only in death. Now we have been set free from sin so that we may be slaves of righteousness and serve its holy purposes which lead to eternal life (Romans 6:15-23).
When we live according to the Flesh who lives within our Olympian personality, it drives us to hostility with God which ends in death. When we live according to the Spirit who lives within our Christian personality, she empowers us to cry out to Abba and this ends in life and peace. (Romans 8:1-17).
Our Christian personality knows what is right and wills to do it, but the Flesh lives within our Olympian personality and drives it to do evil in spite of our Christian personality (Romans 7:14-25).
Those belonging to Jesus Christ have put the Flesh to death (Galatians 5:24).
Truth vs. falsehood
Satan can steal truth from our minds; for example, if we hear the Good News but don’t understand it, he can steal it from us (Matthew 13:19). Or he can simply blind our minds to it (2 Corinthians 4:4).
We sometimes speak what we think is the truth but in reality we are giving voice to Satan (Matthew 16:23).
We act as children of Satan when we oppose the truth of Jesus and his words (John 8:44, Acts 13:6-12).
Satan has a man lie to the apostle Peter about some money (Acts 5:3).
Paul warns that some will abandon their loyalty to Jesus by obeying deceitful spirits and falling for the teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
Freedom vs. power
Satan controls all the governments of the world and their glory (Luke 4:5-8).
Satan is the ruler (John 12:31) or god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Satan can prevent us from traveling in a timely manner to where we are needed (see 1 Thessalonians 2:18).
Satan has thrones of his own where political power is concentrated in our world (Revelation 2:13).
Five forces shape history: two good, Jesus and the prayers of his saints; three bad, political power, economic power, and Death as a power (Revelation 6:1-11).
Satan chooses to wage war against loyal witnesses to Jesus. He is able to do so because he succeeds in threatening and enticing most everyone into worshiping him and in killing loyalists to Jesus who refuse (Revelation 13:1-18).
The Holy Spirit burning brightly inside children of God is more powerful than the Unholy Spirit smoldering darkly inside those who belong to the world (1 John 4:4).
In the name of Jesus—by his authority and with his power—we may drive out the demons that live in people (Matthew 7:22).
We witness to the liberating presence of Jesus and his kingdom by healing people and thereby freeing them from the power of Satan (Acts 10:38).
Freedom from temptation: Paul advises husbands and wives to enjoy regular sexual intercourse with one another to avoid being tempted by Satan into having sexual intercourse with others (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Sometimes we are unable to cast out demons because of our lack of faith in Jesus (Matthew 17:18-19).
Love vs. indifference
The Devil still tries to trick us into serving him. We need armor from God to resist him and the other powers of evil through whom he works. The Devil and those powers are our real enemies—not other human beings (Ephesians 6:11-13). Satan has human beings under his spell. When people are spellbound, they act like we are their enemies. What Jesus calls and enables us to do is to break the spell and free them from Satan’s control. Then they are able to understand that we are their friends and to join us in freeing others.
As members of a church, we rightly practice mutual forgiveness and repentance to avoid having our Christian community destroyed through mutual accusations spread by Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Children of God do what is right and also love their fellow Christians. Children of the Devil do neither (1 John 3:10).
Vitality vs. death
The Devil held the power of death and kept all human beings in slavery to him through our fear of death. But Jesus destroyed the Devil and set us free. (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Satan will tempt us to abandon Jesus by causing us to suffer for witnessing to him (1 Thessalonians 3:5). We are to resist Satan even if he does so (1 Peter 5:8-9). Paul sent Timothy to make sure that the Devil had not tempted the Thessalonians to abandon Jesus as a result of their suffering for Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:5).
Some people who identify themselves as Christians actually devote themselves to Satan (Revelation 2:9, 3:9). Satan especially enjoys using these people to attack and cause the suffering of people who actually are witnessing to Jesus (Revelation 2:10).
6. THE LAST JUDGMENT AND CHRIST’S DEFINITIVE VICTORY
Satan and his minions will end up in eternal fire (Matthew 25:41). If we remain indifferent to marginal people, we may join them (Matthew 25:41).
Jesus warns us that, at the Last Judgment, he may not recognize us even if we used his name to drive out demons (Matthew 7:22).
Satan, at last, is destroyed (Revelation 20:10). Those who worshiped him through false gods and idols may end up where he is (Revelation 21:8).
Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.