The Binding of Satan
The Binding of Satan
by Don K. Preston
"Satan is bound?!? Why that is ridiculous; just look around. There is evil, temptation, suffering, and immorality. Satan cannot be bound if these things are present."
This is a typical response to the contention of realized eschatology that Jesus has fully conquered Satan and destroyed his power. We well recognize the emotional response such a suggestion evokes. But we kindly challenge the reader to consider for a moment the exciting and comforting concept that Jesus has indeed cast Satan into hell and broken his power. Would it disturb you to know that Satan can have no power over you? Would it be upsetting to know that God has fulfilled his word and gives everlasting life now? Is it unsettling to know we can truly overcome the world? Would your life be more confident and victorious if you knew that Satan had no authority to accuse you before God?
Why Did Jesus Come?
Did Jesus come to bind Satan and destroy his power? Think carefully now for the answer has tremendous significance. Let us see what the Scriptures say about Jesus' reason for coming. In Matthew 12:22-30, Jesus cast a demon out of a man. The Pharisees insisted it was by the power of the Devil. Jesus logically demonstrated the fallacy of Satan casting out Satan. He then challenged them "how can one enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house." Jesus' power to cast out demons demonstrated two facts: the imminence of the kingdom (v. 28); and the binding of Satan (v. 29). Satan was being bound by Jesus!
When the Lord sent seventy disciples out on a "missionary tour" he empowered them to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead (Luke 10). Their message was "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (v. 9). When they returned they were ecstatic: "Lord even the devils are subject unto us through thy name." He responded "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." Reader was Satan being bound? Was Satan suffering defeat? Was Jesus foreseeing his utter destruction? Was Satan only suffering a temporary set-back or was something even worse in store for him?
The apostle John records Jesus' words as to the fate of Satan and his, Jesus', power over him. In John 12:31, as he stood in the shadow of the cross and contemplated his victory there he said "Now is the judgment of this world, now is the god of this world cast out."
Friends, Jesus saw Satan as about to be defeated! Do you see the word now? Jesus said now is Satan cast out; not 2000 thousand years later, he said now!
In chapter 16 of the same book, Jesus spoke of the sending of the Holy Spirit. He said the Spirit would convict the world of judgment because "the prince of this world hath been judged."
In his first letter, I John 3:5-8, the apostle of love tells us in no uncertain terms that Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.
Hebrews 2:14f says Jesus came to destroy the devil. Question: Did Jesus fail to do what he came to do?
Amillenialists often chide the dispensationalist for saying that Jesus came to establish the kingdom but because of the Jew's rebellion could not do so; Jesus failed! The amillenialist says this impugns the power and omniscience of God. But those same amillenialist also say that while Jesus came to bind Satan and destroy his works that Satan is not yet bound; he is still the god of this world! Well, Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan. Did he fail? He came to bind Satan. Did he fail? If it is wrong for the dispensationalist to say Jesus came to do something but failed, why is it not equally wrong to say Jesus came to bind Satan but he has not done it yet?!?
An Objection Considered
It will be rejoined that in his death and resurrection Jesus SET THE STAGE for the final defeat and destruction of Satan at the judgment. He did bind him by his resurrection but he will destroy him at his coming. This is accurate: the Bible does speak of the DECISIVE action of the cross and the CONSUMMATING action at the return of Jesus (I Corinthians 15:24f). It is also to be noted that in the interim between the resurrection and the judgment Satan is depicted as very actively engaged in attempting to destroy God's people. Peter depicts Satan as a "roaring lion" seeking whom he may destroy (I Peter 5:8). Paul warns the Corinthians of Satan's ministers who paraded as ministers of light, (II Corinthians 11:11f) Revelation 12-13 depicts Satan's actions in his attempts to thwart God's Scheme of Redemption. The above being true, one consideration is missing from the objection: the Bible saw the consummating action, the judgment of Satan at Christ's return, as imminent.
The Imminent Judgment of Satan
The passages cited above indicate the decisive defeat of Satan at the tomb. Yet other texts, written post resurrection and during the time when Satan was depicted as a roaring lion walking about seeking to devour, indicate his impending final downfall.
In Romans the brethren were undergoing the "sufferings of this present time" (8:18; this conflict centered around the question "Who is a Jew," 2:25f). In the following chapters Paul addresses that question and the conflict between the two sides. It was a conflict between law and grace (chapters 3-6), between death and life (chapter 5), between freedom and bondage (chapters 7-8). Paul, chapter 8, develops in depth the conflict between the life of the Spirit, the New Covenant life, and the life of the flesh, the Old Covenant life. He speaks of the promise of the coming manifestation of the Sons of God (8:18f), when God would settle the issue of identity as to the true Jew. That the anticipated time was imminent is seen in their "earnest expectation" of it; they "eagerly awaited" it; and the miraculous "first-fruits of the Spirit" had been given to them until the climactic, the redemption of the body. In chapter 13:11-12, inspiration promised the anticipated day was "at hand;" and in chapter 16:20 Paul told them God would "bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
First Corinthians also foresaw the imminent demise of Satan and his power. In the famous resurrection passage (chapter 15), Paul said the victory over sin and death, i. e. the resurrection, would be when the power and sting of sin and death were destroyed. Now since the "power of sin is the law," the Old Law, it therefore follows that the resurrection, the defeat of Satan in the resurrection is nothing less than the full demise of the Old Law. And when did Paul envision this as happening? He unequivocally stated to the Corinthians "we shall not all sleep." This chronological statement, which has Paul stating in no uncertain terms that the generation then living would not pass until the resurrection occurred, cannot be ignored or passed off as simply a use of the "editorial we." It should be compared with the other similar statements (Matthew 16:27-28; Matthew 24:30,34; I Tessalonians 4:15-17).
Finally, Revelation posits the final downfall of Satan as "at hand." The entirety of the book, not just parts of it, were said to be "at hand" (1:1-3; 22:6f). In chapter 12, John saw Satan fall from heaven; he also noted that Satan had only "a short time" (12:12), in which to accomplish his devilish designs. His demise was at hand! In chapter 20, we see him finally defeated and cast into the fiery lake.
The honest student simply must find some way to correlate these passages which predicted Satan's final defeat with the emphatic time parameters placed there by inspiration. To deny the CHRONOLOGY of the predictions is nothing less than a denial of the inspiration of the predictions.
How Is Satan Bound?
But if Satan is bound there should be no evil today, right? There is evil today; therefore Satan is not bound. (Sounds like a strange twist on the atheistic argument about God and the existence of evil doesn't it?) This sounds impressive; but it fails to consider several Biblical issues. Satan is bound! Space forbids full examination, but we would like to suggest a few areas in which Satan is quite clearly bound.
There is no more demon possession. Jesus, God incarnate, came into the world and met Satan "incarnate." Jesus' personal ministry was truly the war of the Gods. Satan in-dwelt individuals and did not want to come out (Matthew 17, Mark 5). But Jesus "by the finger of God" (Luke 11:20) cast him out and spoiled his house.
Jehovah predicted he would cause the evil spirit to "pass out of the land" (Zechariah 13:2). With the passing of the miraculous power (Ephesians 4:8f) this was accomplished.
Satan cannot condemn the Christian! Romans 8 is the Christian paeon of victory, "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ." Paul asks rhetorically, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?"; and "Who is the one that condemns?" The answer is No one! The christian is saved and Satan cannot do a thing about it! (A Christian can renounce his salvation (II Timothy 2:12), but that is not in Paul's mind here.) Under the law, one sin condemned; under Christ grace covers our error. Satan cannot accuse us because we have the righteousness of Christ and our sins are not imputed to us because of his blood (Romans 4). That friends, is good news!
Satan utterly failed in his attempts to thwart God's Scheme Of Redemption. This is the very picture depicted in Revelation.
Is the Bible a collection of unrelated stories or books? Far from it. From Genesis to Revelation it is the story of sin, God's Scheme to redeem man, and Satan's attempts to foil God's plan. We see this best in the promised Seed line.
Was Satan simply interested in getting Cain to kill Abel? Look deeper. The promise of the savior would come through the righteous ones. If Satan can kill the obedient Abel he can thwart the promise of salvation before it really gets started. Wrong! Seth, the one from whom righteous Noah eventually comes is born.
Was Satan simply interested in getting the world to be corrupt in Genesis 6, or was there a larger purpose? Surely! If all are evil, whence the righteous seed? But there is good Noah and Satan's plans fail again.
Consider the Davidic line. From David would come the Savior. But Satan will seek to destroy the line. Were Saul's murderous attempts on David's life simple jealousy, or was Satan seeing the larger implications of David's death? And what of the time when wicked Athaliah killed every male offspring of David save one seven year old boy named Joash (II Kings 11)? Was that simply a case of internecine political in-fighting? Why, Satan has the salvation of the entire world hanging on the slim thread of a seven year old boy. Kill him and God cannot bring salvation through the Davidic line. But the boy is saved, reigns for forty years, and the Davidic line prospers. Satan was foiled again.
Time will not permit investigation of the story of Ruth, of Esther, the reasons for God forbidding inter-marriage with other nations, and a host of other related subjects, all of which are related to God's Scheme of Redemption and Satan's attempts to thwart it. Pursue this fascinating subject yourself.
In Revelation, inspiration depicts the imminent consummation of God's scheme of Redemption. Satan has attempted to kill Jesus. His last resort is to destroy the church in her infancy before she can grow to maturity (chapter 12). He incorporates the city "where our Lord was crucified," (11:8), which becomes drunken with the blood of the saints (17:6f). But Jesus comes in judgment on that apostate city and destroys her. In chapter 20 judgment is set, Satan is cast into the lake of fire; and Jesus takes his glorious bride unto himself! This all happened in 70 AD with the full destruction of the Theocracy of Israel, the persecuting city of Jerusalem, the Old Heavens and Earth. The New Creation is complete--what Satan had succeeded in getting man to forfeit, communion with God and eternal life, is restored. Satan lost — God finished His work.
Whence Comes Evil
But if all this is true why do we still have evil in the world? Consider: in Revelation 20, Satan is cast into the lake of fire. He is fully defeated. But in chapter 22:15 we find that outside the New Jerusalem, the perfected church, [it is not heaven!] is all manner of evil. Here is the continued existence of sin and evil AFTER Satan is depicted as destroyed! How is this possible?
Are Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, dead? Of course. Are we still influenced by them? Positively! Is Hitler dead? Nero? To be sure. Are we still influenced by them? Unquestionably! In the very same way it is possible for a Christian today to maintain that Satan has been finally defeated, cast into hell. Evil still exists because man is still a free moral agent with dilemma ever present. (Incidentally, Adam and Eve had free agency and dilemma BEFORE Satan appeared to Eve. They could have sinned.) But man needs to recognize his own responsibility for his own actions.
James says we are tempted and drawn away of our own lusts (James 1:13f). Every temptation we have can be summarized under the three headings of I John 2:15-17. Our great need is to take responsibility in curbing our own appetites. We need to rely more on God and his promises!
Yes, there is still evil and temptation in the world. But the Christian has the truly good news that Jesus overcame the world and we can too!
Is it frightening to know there is no demon possession? Is it dangerous to believe that our Savior has accomplished what he came to do — destroy Satan and his works? Is it heretical to believe the Christian has eternal life, and Satan cannot touch him? Does it destroy faith to know that God has fulfilled his word and restored man to himself despite Satan's best (worst?) efforts? Does it destroy hope to know we can overcome the world because Jesus did?
One thing is certain: the Bible says Jesus came to destroy Satan, and he would return quickly to consummate his victory. The Christian must ask: did Jesus fail? If so, we are hopelessly lost. Personally, this writer believes Jesus returned as he promised, and consummated his grand Scheme of Redemption. Victory is assured! Mankind need never again say, "The devil made me do it."
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