Understanding the Book of Job, Satan, and God’s Sovereignty from the perspective of Jesus and the Cross – PART 2

After finishing up our initial look at the book of Job in part 1, and examining the traditional interpretations that we have been told to apply from it, we now enter part 2 to deepen our study – a study that will primarily focus on the life and work of Jesus Christ as how it gives light into the real relationship between God and Satan.

Be prepared for an absolutely earth-shattering look into the goodness of God and His great love for us.  

But before I dive right in to Jesus, let me set the stage for why Jesus and the New Testament are so important, actually foundational, for any study concerning Satan.  

There are over over 50 scripture verses/passages in this particular post. For brevity’s sake, I did not include the full text of each Biblical passage referenced but instead only cited the verse location. I have provided weblinks of the full text of each passage for your convenience.   

LIMITED REVELATION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

What do we actually know about Satan from the Old Testament? Surprisingly, very little.

What we find in an examination of the Old Testament are really only two passages of scripture with any real measure, or direct reference to Satan – Genesis 3, witch we assume is portrayed as the serpent in the story of the fall of man, and Job chapters 1 and 2 , which we just reviewed in part 1. The rest of the Old Testament is basically silent with only a few one-off verses (i.e. Zechariah 3:1-2, I Chronicles 21:1) which actually bear very little insight into either Satan, his spiritually dark realm, or his minions. And regarding Job specifically, there are some Biblical scholars who would argue that Job 1-2 isn’t even talking about the Christian “devil” outright—only that the text speaks of an adversary and isn’t referring “Satan” proper as we think of him in Christianity.    

In reality, the Old Testament speaks hardly at all about an evil being named Satan or another opposing company of evil spiritual beings (devils, demons, etc.) that are present and at work in the world.

There do exist some other cryptic passages (see Isaiah 14:12-20, Ezekiel 28:11-19, Deuteronomy 32:17, and perhaps Genesis 6:1-4) that might speak of Satan or fallen spiritual beings, but these are debated among scholars and are most likely not passages an average Joe or Jane would ever attribute to Satan without someone handing it down to you through a pastor or Bible instructor.

In fact, one could easily read through the entire Old Testament and get the sense that God is the only spiritual player in the world—that He alone is the sole cause behind everything that takes place on earth and Satan is just an afterthought and someone of no real significant importance or threat. A reading of the Old Testament as a stand-alone body of work would most likely lead one to believe that Satan is just an annoyance, a side-note, a pest, an irritating mosquito whose power is extremely minimal and limited only to what God authorizes him to do. Satan’s influence as found in Moses, The Prophets, and the Psalms, appears incredibly insignificant with only a few isolated, vague accounts to cite at best.

The point I am making is that there is a limited revelation about Satan in the Old Testament. We actually know very little regarding his role, purpose, and power, or the existence of demons, etc. And most importantly concerning this post, we know very little about what exactly is the relationship between Satan and God from the Old Testament.

EXPANDED REVELATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Much to the opposite, the New Testament absolutely gushes with information about Satan and his kingdom. Allow me to elaborate:

And lastly, with the many letters of the remaining New Testament content (Romans-Jude), there are a plethora of verses that guide us into understanding Satan’s kingdom ranging from:

I’ll skip mentioning the book of Revelation because it has so much in there concerning Satan’s evil works and his coming end that it would require another ten pages just to scratch the surface.

I take the time to point out all of those passages to make something very clear. It is mostly hidden in a reading of the Old Testament. However, it is explicit and obvious and impossible to miss in even a casual reading the New Testament:

God is not alone in acting in and upon the world. There are other evil forces at work. There is another spiritual kingdom that is at odds with God’s kingdom.

Just as I John 5:19 says, “We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.” (emphasis mine)

This is NOT so clear in the Old Testament, but it is absolutely undeniable in the New Testament. Whatever mystery surrounding the dark operations of an opposing kingdom of darkness covers the Old Testament, it has been conspicuously and dramatically removed in the revelation of the New Testament.

This is an example of what theologians call progressive revelation. This means that, although we might be introduced to a subject at an earlier point in time, the full understanding isn’t communicated until a later point in time. The latter gives a fuller revelation to the former. One cannot take the old and use it to interrupt the new. The new supersedes the old.    

Therefore, given the mass amount of revelation about Satan that is provided by Jesus and His followers, as found in the New Testament, logic dictates that we first start in the place where we have the most information about Satan, rather than using Job’s account as our foundational framework. Instead of starting from a few sparse Old Testament passages regarding Satan’s relationship with God, let us first get our footing from the place where the most concentrated and informative content on the devil is found—in the life and work of Jesus Christ and the letters and dramatic acts of those who first followed Him.

Alright, it’s time to dive in to Jesus. What does Jesus’s life and teaching reveal to us about the relationship between God and Satan?

THE MINISTRY OF JESUS: AN ENEMY EXISTS AND A KINGDOM NEEDING TO BE DEFEATED

Jesus’s ministry can be summarized by one main objective: bringing in and manifesting God’s heavenly Kingdom on earth. This foremost and primary purpose was heavily preached by Jesus (Matthew 4:17, 10:1-7) and was the same message carried out by His first followers (Acts 8:12, Acts 19:8, Acts 28:16-31, Colossians 1:12-14, James 2:5, 2 Peter 1:11).

This raises an interesting question: given that God made the earth and all that is in it, and taking the usual assumption that God is sovereign and has full, unilateral control over everything in the universe at any given time, then why are not we humans already living in God’s kingdom? Shouldn’t we already be living in God’s best now? If God wants His kingdom on earth, why doesn’t He just snap His finger and make it so? Why was there a need for Jesus to bring God’s kingdom? Shouldn’t God’s kingdom be here by default, since God has complete, sovereign ownership and control over the earth?

In Jesus’s ministry, we clearly see that God’s kingdom is not on earth. Satan’s is, as we already read: We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.  So, what is going on here?

This question, which really comes down to the concept of the sovereignty of God, has plagued theologians as well as regular folk for millennia. Why would an all-powerful God allow such evil to exist? Why doesn’t He eradicate His enemies by just simply making one simple divine thought and destroy the Devil?

To explain this sharp incongruence, traditional theologians usually reason away this problem by asserting that there is a superior, unfathomable, higher, Godly goodness at work in allowing evil. And, I guess unfortunately for we humans since we experience suffering, evil is sometime the means by which God chooses to bring about His purposes (the “unseen, mysterious, heavenly purpose doctrine from part 1).

For some people, that explanation suffices. But for others, including myself, we find that this traditional conclusion:

  1. is contrary to the premise that “God” is an all-compassionate and all-loving being
  2.  goes against the basic realities about evil and suffering that we encounter and experience in everyday life (i.e., as good parents we would never internationally let our kids physically suffer. If they are sick, we take them to the doctor. However, a fully sovereign God seems to have no problem letting his kids suffer and die)
  3. falls short of imitating the beautiful, loving, sacrificial, and self-emptying character/nature of God as demonstrated by His Son incarnate, Jesus Christ.

But without laying out my own elaborate personal theodicy here, the one absolute take away that we will be forced to embrace after examining this “Jesus” of the New Testament is this: 

Regardless of why you might think evil came in to being and continues to be “allowed” to exist in our world, Jesus of Nazareth, who was the fullness of Gods presence and very being on earth, considered evil to be nothing short of an ENEMY who was at complete opposition to the things of God. Jesus believed and acted as though this evil Kingdom had an agenda of its own apart from God’s agenda. And God incarnate came to COMPLETELY DESTROY evil’s destructive works.

What the New Testament reveals is that in order for Jesus to establish His father’s Kingdom, Jesus had to first kick out an unwelcome kingdom that was already present and reigning over the earth. That kingdom, as testified by Jesus’s life and teaching, was the kingdom of Satan. (Matthew 12:22-32).

THE MINISTRY OF JESUS: DESTROYING THE ENEMY KINGDOM

Although Jesus’s work on earth was multi-faceted, I believe the scripture clearly puts forth His number-one, underlying motive in His coming to die on the cross: to destroy the work of the Enemy. I John 3:8 states Jesus’s purpose as this:

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  (ESV, emphasis mine)

Jesus Himself also expressed the same intention concerning his life and work:

The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”   (John 12:31, New Living Translation)

What these two verses state is the exact action we see being carried out in Jesus’s earthly ministry. It is a heavenly ministry that has launched an all-out offensive on Satan’s kingdom. Why? Because there was a spiritual Enemy in the world who was operating contrary to the purposes of God who needed to be defeated.

Empowered through human sin, and expressed through disease, suffering, and all works of evil, Satan’s selfish kingdom had run amuck upon the earth. But, whenever Jesus showed up in a situation where Satan was directly or indirectly found, Jesus always engaged in battle with the opposing kingdom and brought restoration to the afflicted: 

1. When confronted by Satan directly Jesus actively resisted (Matthew 4:1-11).

2. When Jesus encountered demons from within Satan’s kingdom, He cast them out (Mark 1:21-28Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 9:14:29, Mark 7:24-30, Luke 11:14-2). 

3. When Jesus encountered victims who had been reaping the after-effects of sin and Satan’s corrupted earthly rulership, Jesus healed and restored them (Luke 10:13-17).

4. He forgave sins which enslaved and made us vulnerable to Satan’s kingdom (Mark 2:1-5, Luke 7:36-50).

5. Jesus sent out 12 disciples, and then on another occasion 70 more disciples to all the surrounding villages for the purpose of proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was here. In doing so, Jesus gave them full authority with uniquely blanket instructions, no conditions or exceptions attached, to alleviate suffering working in anyone they encountered by casting out demons and healing the sick (Luke 9:1-6, Luke 10:1-12, 17-20). Jesus also gave those same instructions to any and all believers who were to come following His resurrection (Mark 16:9-20).

6. And in His ultimate triumph over Satan’s kingdom Jesus DESTROYED the power of death that Satan retained through the grip of sin:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  (Hebrew 2:14-15, NIV)

7. Furthermore, there is not one example in Jesus’s life on earth that constitutes any reasonable notion that God somehow uses Satan to bring about a heavenly purpose. In every example that Jesus encountered Satan, or a demon, the opposing spiritual entity would be forced to flee. There is not one recorded instance in Scripture where Jesus says to someone, “Hold on, you need to keep this demon or sickness for a while God runs His course with you.” Not once.

8. Similarly, there isn’t one example in the New Testament where Jesus tells someone that they need to keep their physical disease because it is God’s will to let Satan afflict them. In fact, instead, we have many times where it is cited that Jesus and His followers healed ALL that came to Him and were present (Matthew 8:16, Luke 6:17-19, Matthew 12:15, Acts 5:12-15, Acts 28:1-10).

9. The one time where Jesus’s disciples did have a problem with casting out the enemy of this world the response was shocking. Jesus didn’t tell the afflicted that it was God’s will to for them to be sick. Jesus didn’t comfort His disciples telling them that this demon needed to stay or was there for a heavenly reason. Instead, Jesus just cast the demon out Himself and in turn criticized His disciples for not getting the job done themselves (Mark 9:14-29)! Unbelievable!!

In summary, when we look at the life and works of Jesus it is as though it was etched into HIS very nature to mend, repair, and give life to anyone who was suffering. And, whenever He saw the effects of evils’ negative works, He always eliminated it and cast it out.

So, what we find via an overwhelming and unanimous witness in the life of Jesus is that there was a kingdom of darkness that had infiltrated the whole world that was not working to effect the will and desires of God AND, wherever Jesus happened upon its reign of terror operating in someone’s life, this opposing kingdom ALWAYS had to come to an immediate end. No exceptions.

CONCLUSION: In examining the New Testament scriptures, the profound and undeniable truth is that Jesus saw another kingdom operating in the world. And, Jesus’s actions toward this kingdom prove that its existence was not of God, or something intentionally permitted by God, but rather an anti-kingdom that was opposed to God in every way. A kingdom so evil and contrary to the things of God that it needed to be cast out and destroyed before God’s kingdom could even be established. Jesus treated this evil kingdom NOT as a subservient power that was authorized as a service to God, nor as one that God allowed for a hidden Godly purpose, but as something that needed to be utterly destroyed, burned with everlasting fire, and put to death.

Thus, the relationship between God and Satan, which may have been less clear in the Old Testament, is finally clearly expressed in the work of Jesus

Satan’s evil kingdom does not bring about the purposes of God. And as a result, everything about Satan’s kingdom must be annihilated. 

What does this mean? This means that our attitude toward suffering, evil, and everything that Satan’s evil kingdom is responsible for is something to be resisted, fought against, and rejected. Satan’s evil works are not of God and not something that has been heavenly employed or allowed for our benefit.

STILL EMBRACING JOB?

But, for some people there yet remains a difficult barrier to breech. Despite the witness of the life and work of Jesus toward Satan’s evil kingdom, some folks still want to embrace a more Job-like concept of evil. For them it remains difficult to let go of the idea that God will sometimes use Satan, or evil, to bring about a secret, greater purpose. They believe that these two opposing Kingdoms cooperate with each other.

Thankfully, Jesus offered up a profound teaching on this very topic. His instruction brings us into an even deeper revelation about the operational cooperation, or what is actually the lack of cooperation, that these two opposing kingdoms have.

AN AUTHORIZED SECRET AGENT OR A TRUE DIVIDED KINGDOM?

Do Satan and God work hand in hand? Is Satan like a mobster who God hires out to do His dirty work? It there a tangled yet unilaterally controlled dance between the two parties? Does God employ Satan to bring about His own Holy purposes? Does God use evil to bring about good things?

I concur that a plain reading of the book of Job alone drapes some mystery upon their relationship. But thankfully, Jesus gave us some profound insight into this association in Matthew chapter 12. The implications of this teaching are straight forward and far reaching:

Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul (Satan), the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them,Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:22-37, NRSV)

After watching Jesus set a person free from a tormenting spirit that caused the loss of both speech and sight, the religious leaders of His day accused Him of being associated with the ranks of Satan.

They affirmed that Jesus had some type of power, but proposed that the power itself came from the Devil, not God.

Jesus’s response was stunning, and settles the issue concerning the relationship between God and Satan.

In Jesus’s opening statement, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?“, He delivers a knockout blow to the idea that God and Satan are somehow in cahoots and doing business together. Jesus does this by first laying out an easily understandable principal that this text provides:

If any given authority goes about doing works in the world (in this case, evil works of Satan), and then someone from within its own ranks goes about undoing those works (in this case Jesus) that were done, then there is no way for that authority remain in power. That authority, or kingdom as Jesus refers to it, will not survive; it would fall apart, because there is someone in the organization who is working in opposition to that kingdom and counteracting its endeavors. Whatever work the kingdom has set out to accomplish won’t stand because it is constantly being undone by a subversive. 

This makes sense as to how we usually apply it. We say that this is only talking about Satan’s kingdom. We say that Satan’s kingdom can’t stand because it is divided.

But, here is the juggernaut blow: Jesus presents this concept as a simple truth about the nature of how all kingdoms function. Jesus qualifies this specifically when He says this concept applies to “every” kingdom: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

So, likewise then, we must also apply this principle to God’s Kingdom as well.

Now that we have established that “a divided kingdom won’t stand” is a universal principal, let us identify what exactly God’s Kingdom is out to obtain. What is the ultimate purpose of God’s Kingdom?

God’s Kingdom is here to bring life. For Jesus said in John 10:10:

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly“.

And he also said in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The apostle Paul adding in I Corinthians 15:45:

So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam (Jesus), a life-giving spirit.

So clearly, God’s Kingdom’s purpose is to give life. And the quality of that life is abundant and eternal

And, who does God want to give life to? Us! We human beings!

Yes, we are the intentional objects of His love! Yes, we are the crowned glory of His creation, created in His image, ordained to receive the very same fullness of life that was in His Son Jesus. 

Unfortunately, the effects of our own independent choices led to sin, which handed dominion and rulership of this earth, and potentially our souls, to Satan. And from the time of our falling away from God till now, we have been slaves to sin and subjected to Satan’s kingdom. This brought us loss of relationship with God, which in turn led to disease, suffering, and death.

But, God’s ultimate plan from the beginning was to restore this relationship. But how would this restoration come to pass you ask?

By destroying the one who had the power of death: Satan (I John 3:8, Hebrews 2:14, Colossians 2:15). And in so doing, God would defeat the enemy, tie up the strongman (Matthew 12:29), and enable us to be released from Satan’s kingdom through faith. And on the cross, Jesus delivered the final judgement to a spiritual enemy that we humans could not defeat by our own strength due to our bondage to sin.

So then, what we see is that everything that God intended to do through Jesus’s work on earth and on the cross was squarely aimed at ridding this world of Satan’s rule and pronouncing judgment upon Him. That’s the same reason why, when Jesus sent out his twelve and seventy disciples to the surrounding towns (Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-12), Jesus told them to “proclaim the Kingdom of God”. And, how were they supposed to do that? THROUGH healing the sick, casting out Satan’s minions, and raising the dead. Why? Because those things are precisely the negative effects that the rule of Satan’s kingdom has brought upon the earth. Satan and sin bring death –God brings life.

Yes, godly judgement was being poured out on the cross. But, that judgment was not to sacrifice Jesus for the purpose of saving humans from angry, wrathful God who would otherwise just send them to their burning eternal death—the judgement was to cast out the ruler of this world in order to free up His beloved sons and daughters to inherit His Spirit and become loving members of the divine family of the Eternal King.

Now, if Jesus came to thwart the rule of Satan and do away with the effect of sin—whose effects were manifested in us through death, suffering, and disease—how can it possibly be that God is ALSO using Satan, whose same works are death, sickness and, disease, to bring about the Kingdom of God? If God is an abundant life-giver, then how can God employ Satan if the effects of Satan’s kingdom bring about the exact opposite?

Is God’s kingdom divided? Absolutely not! 

The answer that we must submit to, as testified to in the works that Jesus did in His own life—as well as the works that the twelve and seventy disciples did, and also the works that He said His future believers would do (Mark 16:9-20) and whom did (Acts 5:14-16, 8:5-8, 14:6-10, 16:16-18, etc.)—is that God does not in any way use Satan to bring about works of good.

Because if God DID, then according to Jesus’s teaching God’s very own kingdom would be divided in itself and it would be laid to waste and would not stand. 

This is why when Jesus walked about the earth, we NEVER find anyone who came to Him for physical or mental healing being turned down. He never turned down a sick person telling them that the works of Satan, which God was allowing, needed to be further wrought in them until God determined it was enough.

Instead, Jesus is recorded as healing and delivering every single person who came to Him.

The indisputable truth that the New Testament brings through the revelation of Jesus is that God’s kingdom is not divided in any way concerning the evil works and effects of Satan. God is not using Satan as a pawn to get God’s work accomplished. If He was, God’s kingdom would not stand.

THE MINISTRY OF JESUS: VICTORY OVER THE ENEMY KINGDOM YIELDS A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN RELATIONSHIP

What we see lastly then, culminating in His finished work on the cross, is that Jesus defeated an enemy that had been holding us hostage from God through sin. God did not see Satan as a tool who was kept on a short leash for enacting secretive or corrective Kingdom purposes, but rather as a very real adversary that needed to be completely done away with in order to bring us into God’s Kingdom of everlasting, abundant life. And the Bible unmistakably describes the very purpose of Jesus coming in the flesh, and dying on the cross, as that exact reason:

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” –I John 3:8 NIV

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” –Hebrews 2:14 NIV

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through the cross.” –Colossians 2:15 AMP

Clearly, something drastic happened on the cross. The Bible testifies that this demonic enemy, including his hierarchical underlings, have been defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So, regardless of how we think God and Satan’s relationship worked out in the Old Testament, we are left with no other option than to conclude that any Old Testament/Job conceptualization of the Satan/God relationship that we may have been holding on to has now been quite drastically changed due to Jesus’s finished work on the cross. Whatever that relationship was it is now no more. It has been absolutely done away with. This triumphant victory over the kingdom of Satan forces us to reassess the traditional view of how God and Satan interact.

SUMMARY

FACT: Jesus’s finished work on the cross has now changed the relationship between God and the Devil at the fundamental level. This relational change is at the heart of the big point that I would like to make in this post: Throughout this blog I have presented Satan as a mortal enemy to God. I don’t believe that God has ever used/allowed Satan to bring about God’s Kingdom or a secretive heavenly purpose.

But, even if you continue to disagree with my notion because the Book of Job seems to paint his situation as such, then you have to admit along with me that regardless of whatever crazy relationship that may have existed back in Job’s day that relationship has now been completely destroyed by Jesus’s work on the cross.

Even if there were a crazy relationship in the Old Testament where God and Satan worked together to being about good, that weird, tangled relationship no longer exists. It died along with Jesus when He was nailed to the cross. The enemy has been defeated, and Satan’s Kingdom has been judged. And if we were to continue to view the relationship between God and Satan through the lens of a stand-alone reading of the book of Job, then we would be completely throwing out the sacrificial work that Jesus accomplished on the cross. 

We read earlier I John 3:8, which says that Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil. To destroy the same work that the devil was doing in the garden of Eden story, the Book of Job, and in all of creation. We must ask ourselves: “Was Jesus successful in His mission that the Father sent Him on or not?” I think He was.

And if you believe that Jesus was indeed successful, then we can’t take the example from Job and credit God with having the same relationship with Satan as He does post- crucifixion and resurrection. 

The revelation and coming of Jesus is the earth shattering goodness of God, and it reveals incredibility cast and His great love for us. God doesn’t want us to suffer. God doesn’t was us to experience pain. And He certainly doesn’t want us to die. He came to give us life and life abundantly. Praise God for the good news of Jesus Christ! Let us walk in it and rejoice! 

Let us now continue on to part 3, where we will answer a few questions that arise from our new perspective of Job, and also take a brief look at a non-literal approach to the text.    

On to Part 3 –>

*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below! 

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