In our last chapter, we discussed how ideologies are emergent properties of sin and sinfulness. As for how sin entered into the world, not more can be said than, “Sin entered into the world by sin.”1 We know that because of our sin, God Punishes us with evil by Withdrawing His goodness from us. And yet, in His Mercy, God Ministers goodness to all and Restrains our madness to keep us from being consumed in evil Genesis 20:6, Deuteronomy 18:14. Therefore, children still laugh, the sun still shines and there is still fellowship among people. This Grace by Which God Restrains and Blesses the world is known collectively as Common Grace. Without His Grace, Adam would have been childless or his children would have already plunged the world into the darkest hell.
The previous paragraph and associated chapter is only difficult to accept when we are blinded to God’s Word by our image of God. Until we repent of making Him in our image, we will continue to fail to perceive His Sovereignty. An old man may grow tired before completing a single breath but God, Though Ancient, is of Days. He Is The Everlasting God Who Never Grows weary Isaiah 40:28. His Wrath, just like His Mercy Lamentations 3:22-23 is new every morning Psalms 7:11. In His Wrath, He Eternally, Incessantly, Afflicts us. Therefore, in addition to Punishing us with an evil nature, God Gives the devil limited authority over the sinful world to influence, direct and torment sinners 1 John 5:19, Luke 4:6. God Is The Warden and satan is His prisoner. All human beings are prisoners enslaved by God’s Decree to a supernatural prisoner. Yet His Mercy Abides so that in our prison, God Graciously Restrains satan to keep him from doing his worst Job 1:12, 2:5-6. Else, all people would be many many times worse than Hitler.
Those who follow Jesus Christ are no longer subjects of satan 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Though seeming to be born to Pharaoh’s daughter Hebrews 11:24, they Were Predestined by God for liberation by Christ from the evil one. From the beginning, The Father Gave them to Jesus Christ John 17:12 and they are under Jesus’ Authority. However, until Christ Returns, believers are still prone to wander. They are susceptible to the devil’s wiles Ephesians 6:11 and can be tempted into sin Luke 22:31. It is only because God Keeps and Restores them that they do not remain in sin 1 John 5:18, Psalms 51:10, Luke 22:32. For this reason we pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.“Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4. For this reason, God Prays To Himself on their behalf, not to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one John 17:15, Romans 8:26,34.
Delusion and Disease
Among the permitted manifestations of the devil’s authority is the affliction of men through physical and mental disease. Most are familiar with the case of Job, a righteous man, whom God Allowed the devil to afflict with disease Job 2:5-7. Under God’s Sovereignty, an evil spirit tormented and afflicted Saul 1 Samuel 16:14-23 with what we might call depression. The means by which God Afflicted Nebuchadnezzar’s mind is not clear but demons did cause the psychotic behavior in the man from Gerasenes Mark 5:2-5. So also the young boy with epilepsy in Mark 9:20-25 was demon afflicted. Most certainly, not all diseases are caused by demonic enervation Matthew 4:24. All visible illnesses are necessarily naturally manifested but some illnesses are, beyond original sin, rooted in supernatural oppression by satan. For this reason, using The Authority He Received from His Father Matthew 12:28, Jesus Healed some people by Casting out demons. More importantly, by Healing the man from Gerasenes Mark 5:6-13, Jesus Christ Explicitly Demonstrates that the devil’s activity is limited by God’s Sovereignty.
Most perniciously, satan’s influence generally propels us into deeper sin and unbelief. At baseline, because of our selfish knowledge of good (tob) and evil (ra), we are unable to discriminate this from that. As is apparent in the extreme case of Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 4:34, without God’s Grace, the sinful man is an irrational and delusional animal. His first delusion is his love and defense of the very sin that enslaves and tortures him Romans 6:6. On the fertile ground of our impaired discrimination, satan sows deeper delusions Revelations 2:24, John 8:44-45 or cultivates those that already exist. For example, through the Pharisees’ anger Matt 5:22 and unbelief, the devil blinds them to Christ 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 10:38-39 and deludes them to attack and eventually kill their Messiah Matthew 12:14, John 8:59, 11:50-53.
A cursory glance at human history reveals a plenitude of insidious ideas and demonic deeds waxing and waning according to this pattern. We have seen that through repetition of sin, the false prophet eventually articulates false prophecies and ideologies. Now we see the powers and principalities that make this immorality dynamic. It is the devil that entices the false prophet into deeper sins. It is satan that curates the culture to help the false prophet discover and dress up the most deceptive false ideology. It is also satan that entices the false prophet’s many many followers into deeper self delusion and more evil deeds. How else did Hitler, the most “non-aryan” of men, delude Germans and other ethnic groups into perpetrating the Holocaust? Socioeconomic factors motivating human behavior should be delineated but the wise man prays that he is not deluded into reducing supernatural evil to a complex interaction of incentives and constraints. But is not this love of money, this love of tangible psychoeconomic analysis, the root of all evil?
Finally, above the baseline of general delusions, God Can Specifically Punish our unbelief by Sending us strong delusions 2 Thess 2:11-12. To repeat: evil character, evil deeds and evil thoughts are God’s Punishment upon those who do evil. Over and over in the Bible, God Declares that He Punishes people by Giving them over to the worship of idols Acts 7:42-43, Giving them over to false ideologies and evil deeds Psalms 81:12, Romans 1:24-32 and Giving them evil laws through which they kill their own children Deuteronomy 32:16–17, Ezekiel 20:25-26. God Does this by Allowing or Directing evil spirits to delude the people, particularly their leaders. As hard as this is to hear, it should not be surprising that God Punishes using evil spirits Whom He Has Condemned for destruction. He Frequently Judged Israel and Used the unbelieving nations around them to execute His Punishment. Then, He Punished those unbelieving nations for attacking His Beloved Israel.
Besides David who brought plague upon Israel through satan’s incitement 1 Chronicles 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:1, the death of Ahab is an explicit example of this pattern of spiritual judgment. God Wanted to Kill Ahab in a battle against Aram 1 Kings 22:20; 2 Chronicles 18:19. According to His Will, He Allowed and Chose the evil spirit which possessed false prophets to lie to Ahab 1 Kings 22:21-23, 2 Chronicles 18:20-22. Although Ahab clearly knew his false prophets were lying 2 Chronicles 18:7 and also knew that God’s prophet Micaiah always told the truth2 Chronicles 18:15, Ahab still succumbed to the strong delusion brought by the evil spirit through his false prophets. He went to war and was killed according to God’s Divine Plan 1 Kings 22:34, 37-38.
The King’s Decree
The daily Christian life is perfectly mirrored by the battle Israel fought in the time of Esther. You see, our King, God Almighty, Decreed that all sinners are subjects of satan Esther 3:8-11. But our Beautiful Christ, the true Esther, Found Favor with His Father The King Esther 5:2, Matthew 3:17. With the cross on which He Died, Jesus Hung the devil Esther 7:9-10, Colossians 2:14-15 and Freed us from the power of our accuser Esther 3:8, 7:3-4, Revelation 12:10, Job 1:9-11. And when Jesus Rose from the grave, His Father Gave Him All Authority Esther 8:8, Matthew 28:18, Philippians 2:9-11, Ephesians 1:20-22 to do Anything and Everything He Wishes Psalms 2:6-9. Like Esther with the Jews in Persia, Jesus Has Given Us His Gospel to carry to all the earth Esther 8:14, Matthew 28:19-20. By His Authority and His Holy Spirit, all believers obey Him and utterly annihilate all the works of the devil 1 John 3:8, Esther 8:10-14, Matthew 16:18, John 4:12.
Perhaps now The Word through Paul is more readily received.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
As the believer goes to war against false ideologies and their false prophets, she must build every strategy around an ever burgeoning knowledge of God’s Sovereignty. First, she must remember that her battle is not against the natural but the supernatural. Therefore, her weapons cannot be carnal but strong in The Lord 2 Corinthians 10:4. Secondly, it is God Who Allows satan to be active and God Limits satan’s activity. Since she is in Christ Ephesians 1:1 and holy in Christ Ephesians 1:7, she not only approaches the throne, she is already seated in Christ at the right hand of God Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1. Her slightest whisper Is Heard by The Holy One and, through her prayer, God Intercedes With Himself for her John 17:15, Romans 8:26,34. With Esther’s humble boldness, she asks Him to curtail the devil’s activity and God Answers her prayer.
Our battle is not against this legion of false prophets and their evil ideologies. Our war is against the spiritual forces that empower and delude them. To paraphrase brother Bonhoeffer, it is more important to talk to God about the false prophet than to talk to the false prophet about God. Since the visible was made from the invisible Hebrews 11:3, ask God for victory over satan in The Name of Jesus Christ. Once the spiritual is righteously ordered, the physical will follow as a matter of course.