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Which Creation 4
The Role of Satan
The role of Satan is often raised in concerns about creation. What role did he play? What role does he play? To best answer these questions I’m going to start in the middle, that is, with the temptation of Jesus by the devil. It is important to notice that the primary names of Satan indicate different aspects of his character. As Satan he is the adversary, as the Devil he is the slanderer.
In Matthew 4:1-11 we see Jesus being tempted by the Devil three times. On each of these occasions the devil makes an “IF” statement that challenges some aspect either of the character of God or the character of Jesus. The first statement, vv 3-4, challenges the provision of God for us, the second, vv 5-7, challenges the protection of God of us, the third statement, vv 8-10, challenges the purpose of God for us. The intention of the IF statement is a slander against the character of Jesus, it is a challenge to prove the statement true. In each case the challenge is met not by the proposed action but by reference to scripture.
In Genesis 3 we meet with Satan for the first time in the Bible. He makes a simple challenge to Eve, Hath God said? He is about to challenge the statement. His response to Eve’s statement is a direct contradiction of God’s command “Ye shall not surely die”. The next statement is a slander of God, without directly saying so Satan implies that God does not have Eve and Adam’s best interests at heart. The challenge that is being made is not simply to the provision by God of food but to the purpose that Adam and Eve will live out. Without directly suggesting that Eve partake of the fruit the devil has implied that God is keeping them from becoming greater than they are.
In this first encounter with Satan there is little in the display of power. There is no reference to a former glory no reference to great power. What we see displayed is subtlety, implication, and inference. These are the primary tools that Satan will use and does use. The temptation in the garden of Eden requires no direct invitation from Satan to eat of the fruit, the temptation exists by a slander of God and his purposes toward and for Adam and Eve.
The most impressive display of Satan’s power can be found in the book of Job. Job is considered to be the oldest book of the Bible. In Job 1 we find Satan coming with the “sons of God” before the Lord. In the conversation that takes place in vv. 9-11 the challenge is offered to God’s protection and provision for Job.
As Satan embarks on his offensive against Job we see his ability to influence the Sabeans and Chaldeans. It would appear that the actions of these people here in Job was in keeping with their history. What is notable here is that Satan is able to exploit their tendencies although we are not given the details as to how this is done. From what little we know of Satan it would be enough for him to make a suggestion that these raiders would have acted on. The devil didn’t make them do it, but he suggested where and when they could do something they were already prepared to do.
Satan also demonstrates an ability to control the weather. Lightning strikes the ground killing the sheep and shepherds, this has been known to happen even in recent times. A wind destroys the house of Job’s oldest son, the sirocco is a well known phenomenon of the desert. This is the greatest display of Satan’s power and even this limited display required the prior approval of God.
The final display of Satan’s power is seen in Job 2:7 where he makes Job suffer from boils. This was the outcome of Satan’s challenge to God in his protection of Job. This power over illness or the body is also seen in Luke 13:16.
One of the most prominent descriptions of Satan is found in Isaiah 14:12-23. This is a joint description (from v.4) of the king of Babylon under the control of Satan. The description of Lucifer would also appear to have reference to the Babylonian pantheon. The king of Babylon under the influence of Satan had engaged in warfare (vv. 16-17), but because of his pride he was to suffer judgment at the hand of God (vv. 22-23).
This same passage in Isaiah is also used by those who follow the Gap Theory as evidence of Satan before the present creation, but I see nothing within the passage that through exegesis or cultural context that would require such an interpretation. It is only when an evolutionary context is introduced that such a possibility becomes a requirement, but that is from outside the text.
A similar passage is found in Ezekiel 28 where the prince of Tyre is addressed as a man (v. 2) but is accorded characteristics which are supernatural (vv. 12-15). We can compare this passage with Daniel 10:12-13 where there is a prince of the kingdom of Persia that withstands the angelic messenger. That prince was a supernatural being influencing the affairs of the kingdom of Persia just as there was a supernatural being influencing the king of Babylon in Isaiah and the prince of Tyre in Ezekiel.
From what we have seen Satan’s power is primarily one of influence rather than coercion. While demons may possess individuals and oppress Christians both they and Satan can be resisted by the Christian. Satan has power over physical matter as evidenced in his ability to cause sickness and direct weather phenomenon. Yet not none of this is direct evidence of Satan existing in a prior creation on this planet, nor do we see him with sufficient power to directly challenge God by destroying his creation. Even when dealing with individuals Satan requires the prior approval of God.
Can we then rule out the fall of Satan prior to Genesis 1:2? Not entirely but I do believe that the case for the fall of Satan at that time is weakened. None of the passages we visited would require an understanding of time outside of what is expected from a plain text reading of the Old Testament unless we introduce assumptions from outside the Old Testament.
The Gap Theory being a substantial body of theory with detailed explanations cannot be refuted briefly. Therefore I propose further examination of the idea of judgement on Satan prior to Genesis 1:2, but that is another hub.
- What About the Gap Theory? | Old Testament Studies
A scholarly discussion of the gap theory.