WHEN DOES CHRIST RETURN? PART THIRTEEN
WHAT/WHEN IS THE MILLENNIUM?
Many Christians believe Christ will return in the future to establish a one-thousand-year reign called the millennium. The word thousand is translated from the Greek kilioi, which means “one thousand.” The word millennium is not an English translation from the Greek. Millennium is a word from the Latin, which means one thousand years. The concept of a one-thousand year reign of Christ is obtained from several passages in Revelation 20.
Revelation 20:1-3: And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand yearswere ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
Revelation 20:4-6: I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years
Is this thousand-year time frame a literal one-thousand years or does it represent a different period of time? Is this one-thousand-year time frame something yet in our future or has it already happened? If you have read this far, you have seen a great deal of evidence presented to establish a first-century return of Christ and the associated events of resurrection, judgment and the establishment of the Kingdom. The one-thousand-year reign of Christ is also associated with His return. How can this association be defined within the context of a first-century return?
The Revelation given to John is contextually positioned in the first century. This is established in verse one of the first chapter of Revelation where John is told that the events contained in the message he is about to receive are to soon take place. In verse three of this chapter, John writes that the time is near for the events in the Revelation to take place. In verse nineteen of chapter one, John is told to write about what is about to take place. The Revelation is written to seven first-century churches.
After John records the events revealed to him, his final words in chapter 22 reflect more admonition from Christ that these events will soon take place, that He is coming soon and the time is near. Three times, in chapter 22, Christ is quoted as saying He is coming soon.
Unless one is willing to blatantly ignore these time statements that identify the time frame for the events of the Revelation to occur, the evidence is inescapable that these events were to occur during and soon after John received this revelation. In Revelation 1:19, John was told to write, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will (Gr. mello, is about to) take place later.” John was told to write about what he had seen, what was now happening and what would shortly come to pass.
As seen from the Scriptures cited above, the thousand-year reign is tied to resurrection. As explained in some detail in the chapter on resurrection, resurrection was a work in progress for the first-century Christians prior to Christ’s return. Before the return of Christ, Christians were sealed by the Holy Spirit, which acted as a deposit guaranteeing salvation.
Ephesians 1:13-14: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession.
Resurrection involved a rising up from the natural body of death into a spiritual body of life. The natural body of death was defined by the Old Covenant system. This covenant defined sin and death. As covered earlier, this covenant was being gradually eliminated during the forty years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The Old Covenant became fully removed at Christ’s return in the Judgment of A.D. 66 to 73. At His return, Christ brought redemption to those who had acknowledged His sacrifice and accepted His rule over their lives.
Hebrews 9:28: So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
1 Peter 1:3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. [Peter goes on to say in verse 13] Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Prior to the return of Christ, first-century Christians were in the process of passing from death unto life. This was resurrection in process. This process continued right up until the return of Christ. I submit that this process was the first resurrection discussed in Revelation 20. This resurrection went on during the forty years following the death of Christ and His return. This resurrection period was a time of much persecution and hardship for Christians. A number were killed. Yet through the power of God’s Spirit, they overcame. Christ had repeatedly said that those who overcame and endured to the end would be saved.
Christ had defeated Satan by His death and resurrection. In John, chapter 12, Christ speaks of the time of His death having come and that this would be when Satan is cast out. The Kingdom of God was being established. This Kingdom replaced the rule of Satan. In the temptation of Christ, Satan had offered Christ the kingdoms of this world. This shows that Satan was a controlling power at the time. Christ called Satan the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Christ defeated Satan and Satan’s power through His death and resurrection. The binding of Satan is reflective of his power being subdued. The reign of Christ began when He empowered his disciples at Pentecost. This reign continued during the forty years leading to the consummation at the end of the Old Covenant age. This was a specific reign that involved the putting down of His enemies. The putting down of His enemies took place during this forty-year reign.
Hebrews 10:12-13: But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26: Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Christ is not still waiting to have His enemies made his footstool. He is not still waiting for the last enemy, death, to be destroyed. This occurred during this forty-year transition period when the New Covenant system of life was advancing and the Old Covenant system of death was being destroyed. At the time of the consummation, Satan was allowed a short space of time to exercise his power in the events associated with the destruction of Jerusalem. The defeat of Satan was completed at the time of that destruction. The process that began at the cross was completed at the consummation. Satan would no longer have the power of death. He would never be able to prevent the spread of the gospel message of life. Christ brought salvation with Him at His return. The Kingdom of God would continue to advance with the granting of eternal life as its focus. Christ would now reign forever as the Scriptures teach.
The thousand-year period is not a literal thousand-year period of time. John was told to write about things that were already happening and things that would shortly come to pass. The thousand-year period was already happening. It was symbolic of the forty-year transition period when the old system was being replaced by the new system. It was a time of resurrection from spiritual death unto spiritual life. Christ was reigning and the Christian saints were reigning with Him as a royal priesthood.
Ephesians 2:4-6: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Revelation 1:4-6: John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father-to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.
A period of forty years is connected with several significant events in Scripture. The Israelites were tested for forty years in the wilderness before entering the promised land. Some view this as a foreshadowing of the trials experienced by the first-century Church before the full establishment of the Kingdom. David reigned over physical Israel for forty years. David is often seen in Scripture as a type of Christ. Some see David’s forty-year reign over physical Israel as a foreshadowing of the reign of Christ over spiritual Israel during the forty-year transition period.
A number of Jewish rabbis, writing in the first and second centuries, believed that the days of the Messiah would be a transitional period of forty years between this present world and the world to come. The Rabbis, of course, didn’t consider Christ as their Messiah and were looking for the Messiah to appear in the future as they still do to this very day. What is of significance for this discussion is that some Rabbis did hold to a forty-year transitional period. This lends additional credence to this concept.
As indicated above, the most significant consideration in arriving at the proper time frame for the fulfillment of what John wrote, are the time statements that “bookend” his narrative. John’s narrative begins and ends with straightforward, clear statements as to when the events he wrote about would come to pass. Unless one can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that such time statements mean something different from what they obviously imply, this author sees no alternative but to seek meaning for the Revelation in the events associated with the covenantal transition that took place in the first century.
When all the teachings of Christ and the apostles are considered as a whole, there is one central purpose that comes through. That purpose involves the change from the Old Covenant system of death to the New Covenant system of life. Christ died and was resurrected for that purpose. The first-century Church toiled and suffered for that purpose. God used the calamity of the Roman-Jewish War to consummate that purpose. The writings of John provide an overview of this purpose and what its outcome was going to be. The millennium, as representative of the forty-year transition period, is just one of many dynamics that John wrote about. The clear time frame statements tell us when it all occurred.
We presently find three basic views expressed in the Christian community regarding the millennium. All three views express belief in a future return of Christ. These views differ as to when the millennium occurs relative to the return of Christ. Some believe that Christ will initially return to “rapture” Christians off the earth. Following such “rapture” will be a time of great tribulation involving catastrophic world events. Christ will then return to establish His Kingdom and begin a literal thousand-years millennial reign. Those who believe in this approach are called Premillennialists. Other Christians believe that the millennium is to follow the evangelizing of the world, leading to a period of peace on earth for a thousand years or more. Christ will then return after this period of time. This position is known as the Postmillennial view. A third view is called Amillennialism. This view postulates that the present church age is the millennium and Christ will return at some future point to facilitate resurrection and a final judgment.
It should be noted that premillennialists believe that Christ returns “in the clouds” prior to the millennium. They also believe the resurrection of the wicked will take place after the thousand years are complete. With this in mind, consider the following Scripture: “The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future (Greek arti) you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matthew 26:63-64).
How future was this event to be? The Greek word translated “future” in the NIV is arti. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says that arti “properly marks time closely connected with the present.” The Arndt, Gingrich, Bauer Greek-English Lexicon defines arti as relating to the immediate. This word appears thirty-six times in the New Testament and contextually is always found to relate to an event that has just happened, is happening or is about to happen. The KJV, NKJV and RVSV translations of the New Testament translate arti as “hereafter” in Matthew 26:63-64. Christ was speaking of an event that would happen in the lifetime of those He was addressing at the time. This statement by Christ is a very powerful witness to His first-century return.
Some may argue that when Christ says “you will see,” He is using the word “you” in an editorial sense meaning that the “you” He is referring to are the “you” living at a time in the distant future when He would return. The use of the Greek word arti, however, completely dispels such a notion. Arti cannot mean something in the distant future. Use of this word restricts the “you” Christ was addressing to His accusers whom He was addressing at the time.
These accusers of Christ would be classified as wicked. Yet they are told that they will see Christ “coming on the clouds.” If, as the premillennialists believe, the wicked are resurrected and judged after the millennium and the millennium is a literal thousand-year period that begins at the return of Christ, how could these wicked accusers see Christ coming at the beginning of the thousand years? They wouldn’t be resurrected until a thousand years after Christ returns. If, however, we are to understand the millennium as a forty-year transition period that occurred in the first century, then it is very easy to see how these accusers could see Christ “coming on the clouds.” They would still be alive to witness His return in judgment.
The three millennialist views discussed here revolve around the belief that Christ will return in the future. If as documented throughout Scripture, Christ returned in connection with the A.D. 66 to 73 judgment, then the millennium must be understood to occur within that time frame of Christ’s return.
In keeping with the understanding of the millennium as the time frame between the ascension of Christ and His return forty years later, or the transition between the Old and New Covenant systems, a new millennial view is taking shape. It is called Transmillenialism. Webster defines “trans” as across, through or beyond. Christ facilitated the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Through His first-century millennial reign, Christ was able to move through and beyond what had been before. Transmillennialists view Christ as having returned in the first century and establishing His everlasting Kingdom. This view advocates a constructive worldview where the goal is to promote Kingdom living and bring all people to reconciliation with God through Christ.
DOES THE DEVIL “MAKE ME DO IT’?
We have seen how the millennium must be understood within the time frame of the first century if we are to honor the time statements that “bookend” the Revelation. The Revelation of John also shows the destruction of Satan within this time frame. Has Satan been destroyed?
We live in a world of many evils. Most Christians and many non-Christians believe that Satan is at the root of what is wrong with the world. Is this really the case? Is Satan the controlling power in the world today? Is the continuing history of this world a history of the activity of Satan and his influence over the affairs of men? Does the devil really “make me do it”?
Scriptural history shows that Satan has been a controlling influence for a good portion of human history. We see Satan active in the Garden of Eden. We find in 1 Chronicles 21 that Satan provoked David to number Israel. We have the famous episode with Job where Satan is allowed to create havoc for Job and his family.
In the New Testament we find a lot of Satanic/demon activity. There is Satan’s temptation of Christ in the wilderness. We find Christ, and those he sent, casting out many demons. We find Christ in His parables showing how Satan was active in preventing people from clinging to the word that Christ was teaching (Mark 4:15).
After the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, we still find Satan very active in the developing Christian Church. Peter indicates that it is Satan that filled the heart of Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). In 2 Corinthians 2:11 (KJV), Paul speaks of the devices of Satan. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul wrote about his “thorn in the flesh” being from Satan. In 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul wrote of Satan hindering him from coming to see the Thessalonian Christians. In 1 Peter 5:8, the devil is pictured as a roaring lion seeking to devour someone. In Mark 16:15-17, Christ instructed the eleven to preach the gospel to all creation. He said that those who believed would cast out demons. We see the deacon Philip casting out demons at the city of Samaria (Acts 8:5-7).
It is apparent that Satan was very active during the time Christ walked on this earth. It is also very apparent that Satan was very active during the forty years between the ascension of Christ and his return in judgment of Israel in the Great War. In view of this apparent activity of Satan, how are we to understand statements by Christ and the apostles that indicate Satan was about to meet his doom? If Satan did indeed meet his doom in the first century and is no longer active in the world, how do we explain the presence of evil in the world today? Let’s look at those Scriptural statements that appear to say Satan was about to have his power and authority terminated.
After the seventy-two returned from their missionary journey, they were elated that the demons were subject to them. Christ told them “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). In John 12:31, in anticipation of His impending crucifixion, Christ said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” The prince of this world is believed to be referring to Satan. In John 16:11, Christ said, “the prince of this world now stands condemned.” Was Satan going to be suffering only a temporary setback or are we here looking at something more permanent for Satan?
In Romans 16:20, Paul said, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” The English word soon is translated from the Greek word TAKOS. As covered in Chapter one, in its various tenses, this word always means with speed, quickness, swiftness and haste. Are we some 2,000 years later still waiting for Satan to be crushed? This statement about Satan was made several years after the crucifixion of Christ. So we see Christ before the crucifixion saying Satan would be driven out and condemned and we see Paul after the crucifixion saying Satan would soon be crushed. In Genesis 3:15, we find it prophesied by God that Satan would be crushed. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This prophecy is considered a prediction that Satan would strike at Christ’s heel through the crucifixion and Christ would subsequently crush his head. The crushing of Satan’s head did not take place at the resurrection of Christ. We find Satan very active after the resurrection. Yet Paul said that the crushing of Satan would soon take place. Therefore it had not yet taken place when Paul made this statement. However, Paul said it would take place soon. How soon would it take place?
The message of the Revelation was focused on the judgment to come through the impending Roman Jewish War, A.D. 66 to 73. In the Revelation we see Satan pictured as being cast down to the earth at the same time that we see salvation and the Kingdom being established. John is told that Satan has only a short time.
Revelation 12:9-12: The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.
How short was Satan’s time? John wrote this message twenty centuries ago. Paul said Satan’s head would be soon crushed. Did this happen soon after Paul made this statement? Are we still, 2,000 years later, waiting for this to occur? Throughout these essays I have shown that the bringing of salvation and the establishment of the Kingdom would take place at the return of Christ. I have also shown that the return of Christ is seen throughout the New Testament as an event imminent to first-century Christians. I submit that the “accuser of our brothers” was cast down to the earth in the first century during the A.D. 66 to 73 judgment. This is when Christ returned to bring salvation and establish the Kingdom. Satan was allowed one last fling before his demise. That is why he is shown as being “filled with fury because he knows his time is short.” He knows that he is about to be cast into the lake of fire. Satan is not still down on the earth 2,000 years later going about in fury doing his thing.
In Revelation 20 we see Satan bound for one-thousand years. This millennium, or one-thousand year period can be best understood as representative of the forty years between the ascension of Christ and His return in A.D. 70. This 40-year period was the time frame in which the Old Covenant system of death was being replaced with the New Covenant system of life. This transition period also led to the demise of Satan. The death and resurrection of Christ began the demise of Satan, and the return of Christ finished him off. We are not still waiting for Satan to be crushed. That event occurred at the return of Christ. This is why Satan sees himself as having only a short time as recorded in the Revelation.
During the 40-year transition period, Satan was already bound to the extent that the apostles and first-century Christians had power over Satan. Satan was unable to prevent the Christian church from growing even though he made every attempt to do so. Just before the return of Christ Satan was loosed for a short period and played an active role in the events leading to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. After these events, Satan was thrown into the lake of fire.
The events that describe the destruction of the temple, the fall of Jerusalem and the transition from the Old Covenant system of death to the New Covenant system of life, are events that brought about the demise of Satan. Christ described these events in a great deal of symbolic language in both the Olivet Discourse and the Revelation given to John. We find this symbolism especially apparent in Revelation, chapters 20 through 22 where the New Jerusalem is described. After Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, we see the New Jerusalem established. This New Jerusalem is a spiritual representation of man’s reconciliation with God. The New Jerusalem represents life in the Kingdom and our New Covenant relationship with God. We also see the existence of evil outside the gates of the New Jerusalem. Therefore evil continues to exist outside of the Kingdom. Man is still pictured as engaging in sin after Satan has been thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 22:14-15: Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Since evil continues to exist, does this mean that Satan is still active? If Satan is still active then he isn’t really destroyed. His head hasn’t really been crushed. If that is the case, then Christ has yet to complete the job of removing death. Let’s read what the writer to the Hebrews wrote:
Hebrews 2:14-15: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy 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.
Satan is seen as holding the power of death. The death of Christ is shown to destroy Satan. The word “destroy” is from the Greek katargeo, which means: “to make ineffective, powerless, abolish, wipe out” (Arndt, Gingrich, Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon). Christ died, was resurrected, returned to the Father and as the Father's agent brought judgment upon first century Israel and facilitated the full establishment of the Kingdom and reconciliation between God and man. The Kingdom equates with the New Covenant system of life which equates with entrance into the New Jerusalem. Establishment of the New Jerusalem represents the culmination of God’s plan to destroy the power of death by destroying the one who held that power. Any conclusion contrary to this would be in contradiction to all that Scripture says about Christ defeating and destroying Satan and Satan’s holding of the power of death.
The apostle John plainly said, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). If the devil’s work has been destroyed, then the devil is no longer working. He is no longer prowling “around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan was doing this big time prior to the return of Christ. Once Jesus returned and brought salvation with Him to complete the facilitation of our reconciliation to God, Satan was destroyed by being cast into the lake of fire. However you choose to view the lake of fire, there is no Scriptural evidence to suggest Satan is somehow exercising power and influence from the lake of fire. Neither is there any Scriptural evidence to suggest Satan has been released from the lake of fire. Christ did not only come to destroy Satan’s power of death but to drive him from the world (John 12:31). The Scriptures plainly show Christ came to destroy Satan and his works and Christ accomplished exactly that.
Most Christians believe that the events described in Revelation are future in their fulfillment and a future return of Christ is necessary for the destruction of Satan. Some Christians will grant a past fulfillment of events in Revelation but hang on to the belief that Satan is still around because evil is still around. The Scriptures, however, show that Christ appeared the first time to destroy Satan (1 John 3:8, John 12:31, John 16:11, Hebrews 2:14-15).
Many Christians look at the Scriptures that speak of Satan’s destruction and interpret them to mean that Satan is still around but Christians now have power over him through Christ. This is not, however, what the Scriptures say. The Scriptures show Satan to be “driven out,” “destroyed,” “crushed,” “condemned” and thrown into the lake of fire. To interpret this as Satan still having power, doing his works as usual and going around, as a “roaring lion seeking to devour someone” (1 Peter 5:8), is inconsistent with all that is said about his first-century demise. Christ came to destroy Satan’s work. He did exactly that.
Others will say that Satan no longer has power over Christians but is still active in the non-Christian world. If that is the case, then Christ has not really destroyed Satan’s works. Satan was destroyed as part of the process of making salvation available to all of mankind. It is because Satan is destroyed that man can escape spiritual death and be reconciled to God.
The Scriptures teach that it was Satan who held the power of death. How did he do this? The apostle Paul said, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Paul shows that sin derives its power from the law because it is the law that defines what kind of behavior is sin. Sin is defined as lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This is how the “sting of death is sin.” How does Satan factor into all of this?
Scripture shows that Satan has been sinning from the beginning (1 John 3:8). Satan has been the tempter and instigator of sin. He began the process in the Garden of Eden by deceiving Eve. He was allowed to continue influencing human nature for thousands of years. He is said to have the power of death because his influence upon human nature produced sin and sin results in death. Christ came to destroy the influence of Satan, and through His atoning work, provide man a way to escape death.
Since Satan is destroyed and has had his power broken, why do we still have so much evil in the world? Satan was around for thousands of years influencing human nature. We still have much sin in the world. If the influence of Satan is gone, why do we have so much sin in the world? The apostle James made a profound statement about the cause of sin:
James 1:14-15: Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James points out that our evil desire is what leads to sin. James wrote, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1). James also made this statement: “Do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit He caused to live in us tends toward envy?” (James 4:5). James shows that God placed within us a spirit that tends toward envy. Jeremiah wrote thousands of years ago, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). Man has a nature that tends toward sin. Israel proved this beyond any doubt in their inability to keep the Old Covenant law. Man has always had freedom of choice. Since man’s nature tends toward sin, man has more often than not chosen sin rather than righteousness. Satan took full advantage of man’s nature for thousands of years. It has been the choosing of sin over righteousness that is responsible for evil since the beginning of creation to the present.
Satan was the instigator of sin from the beginning. John wrote, “the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). The penalty for sin is death. Through Satan’s instigation of sin, he held the power of death. The death, resurrection and return of Christ removed that power from Satan. The righteousness of Christ applied to us negates the power that sin previously held over us. Not only was the power of death removed from Satan, but also Satan himself was removed by being cast into the lake of fire.
If the instigator of sin is destroyed, why do we still have so much sin in the world? The answer is that we still have human nature! Also, the past influence of Satan and the demons continues to affect man to this present day as man, because of the nature that he has, continues the sinful behavior that has been learned from generation to generation. Sin is still transgression of law and always will be. Sin still requires death. Through Christ, however, we can escape death because He paid the death penalty in our stead.
Christ came to put an end to Satan’s influence and therefore Satan’s power of death. As the apostle John said, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work” (1 John 3:8). Christ did not fail in what He set out to do. Christ appeared and accomplished the destruction of Satan as He said He would. Satan tried to defeat Christ by attempting to have him killed at His birth. Christ escaped. Satan tried to tempt Christ into worshiping him and Christ resisted. Satan instigated the death of Christ and Christ rose from the dead. Satan instigated much persecution against the developing first-century church and Christ returned in judgment and cast Satan into the lake of fire. The devil and his work have been destroyed.
I know that it is difficult to believe that Satan and the demons are no longer active in the world. We all like to pass the blame for the existence of evil onto Satan. We need instead to look in the mirror and realize that it is our nature that is responsible for evil. Christ has provided the means by which we can have power over our nature. God offers us his Spirit when we choose to follow Christ. The Scripture says that God’s Spirit is a Spirit of “power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV). Our focus as Christians must be on utilizing the power of God as the means to controlling our nature.
Some people in the Christian community and even outside the Christian community believe in present day demon possession and even claim to cast out demons. It is beyond the scope of this book to fully investigate the reality of such belief. We should be mindful, however, that human behavior is the result of many dynamics. Social, cultural, physical, psychological, spiritual, environmental, educational and genetic factors all play a roll in why we behave the way we do. It is interesting to note that people with serious psychological/spiritual problems, who by some standards many be thought to be demon possessed, can have their problems alleviated through drug intervention. I would not think that demons, who are spirits, would be affected by drugs, which are of the physical realm.
While Christ has put an end to Satan’s influence and power of death, He has not put an end to human nature. Human nature is as strong as ever. It can manifest itself in some very bizarre ways. Human nature still tends toward sin as it always has and probably always will. What Christ has done for us is to remove the death penalty connected with that sin so we can be reconciled to God and be granted life in spite of our human nature and the sin it produces. We should thank God for that every day of our lives!
Satan has been defeated. We should not look at the activity of Satan and the demons during Christ’s time on this earth and conclude that such activity is extant today. The demons during the time of Christ knew that their time was short. Satan was responsible for the binding of many people. Christ came to loose those bounds. On one occasion when Christ cast out some demons, they responded by accusing Christ of tormenting them before the appointed time. What appointed time were the demons referring to?
Matthew 8:28-29: When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’
That appointed time for their demise occurred when Christ destroyed the power of Satan through His death and resurrection and His return in judgment. Christ told His disciples shortly before His death, “My appointed time is near” (Matthew 26:18). The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Paul ties the “appointed time” to the coming of Christ, and the judgment unleashed upon national Israel from A.D. 66 to 73. The appointed time was the entire transition period that began with the death and resurrection of Christ and ended with His return in judgment. This was the appointed time that the demons were referring to. It was during this time that Satan was bound and then thrown into the lake of fire when Christ returned to bring salvation and establish the Kingdom. This was the crushing of Satan that Paul said was soon to take place.
What is the status of Satan and the demons today? They have no status. Satan and the demons have been defeated and destroyed. They no longer have ability to influence the behavior of man. Sin continues to exist because human nature continues to exist. However, the power of the Holy Spirit also exists. Christ dwelling in us grants us power over our sinful nature. Our focus needs to be on pleasing Christ by making righteous choices. We can no longer say, “the devil made me do it.”