A Series of Answers to Common Questions
If Jesus really is God how could Satan tempt him? And how could the Devil offer him authority to rule over the very kingdoms of the earth which should have already belonged to Christ in the first place if he really is God?
This entails a somewhat lengthy reply and explanation of basic Christian theology. Yet for those who dont have time to read through all of this please skip to the summary statement found near the end.
Basic Theology 101 Gods rule over creation and man as his coregent
In the first place, the Holy Bible teaches that God owns and controls the entire creation, including the earth:
"The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters." Psalm 24:1-2
"I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it." Psalm 50:9-12
The Holy Bible further teaches that God designated man as ruler over the physical creation, and grants humans the right to reign over all the works of Gods hands:
"Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the groundeverything that has the breath of life in itI give every green plant for food. And it was so." Genesis 1:26-30
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." Psalm 8:3-6
"The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man." Psalm 115:16
"You [Nebuchadnezzar], O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold." Daniel 2:37-38
"This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." Daniel 4:24-26, 31-32, 34-35
The Fall of man and the rule of Satan
The Holy Bible also indicates that, as a result of mans disobedience where the first human couple listened to the Serpent/Satan (Genesis 3; Revelation 12:9, 20:2), God handed mankind over to the control and dominion of the Devil and sin:
"Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:34, 44
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to dothis I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." Romans 7:14-23
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Romans 8:5-8
"and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:26
By taking control of humanity Satan also took possession of all that man had dominion over, such as the world. This is why the Devil is called the prince/ruler of this world and is said to have a kingdom:
"Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." John 12:31
"I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me," John 14:30
"and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." John 16:11
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:1-2
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12
"We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." 1 John 5:19
At times Satan will exercise his rule from a specific geographical location, in certain places such as Pergamum, which became the capitol of emperor worship and where an altar of Zeus had been built:
"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you livewhere Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your citywhere Satan lives." Revelation 2:12-13
Moreover, we are told that a network of wicked and unclean spirits shares Satans rule over the world:
"In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you. And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. So he said, Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince." Daniel 10:1-13, 20-21
The princes that the angel was referring to were spirit beings who exercised control over the human rulers of those respective areas and places.
A very important qualification is necessary at this point. Even though Satan rules the world he does not have ultimate control since he is still subject to the sovereign authority of God and can only act and do as God allows.
The God who humbled himself to become a servant
Now as far as Jesus is concerned, even though he is God and owns everything, being the very Heir of every created thing:
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Matthew 11:27; cf. Luke 10:22
"Last of all, he sent his son to them. They will respect my son, he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance." Matthew 21:37-38; cf. Mark 12:6-7; Luke 20:13-14
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-3, 10-11, 14
"The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands." John 3:35
"He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." John 16:14-15
"All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them." John 17:10
"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 1:1-3
He set aside his rule and authority for a season in order to assume the role of a servant by becoming a man:
"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 cf. Mark 10:45
"For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." Luke 22:27
Jesus demonstrated his servant role by washing the feet of his followers, including Judas!
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, Lord, are you going to wash my feet? Jesus replied, You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand. No, said Peter, you shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. Then, Lord, Simon Peter replied, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well! Jesus answered, A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. Do you understand what I have done for you? he asked them. You call me "Teacher" and "Lord," and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:3-15
It is interesting that John mentions that the Father had placed all things under the authority or power of the Son in the same context where he records the Lords act of washing the feet of his followers. This underscores the fact that Christ willfully humbled himself in order to assume the role of a servant even though he is the unique, beloved Son of God who owns and rules all things. It further shows that the Lord exercised his authority not by force, but through acts of love and service as a demonstration of the heart of God for his people.
The Lord further spoke of the glory he at one time had with the Father, thereby implying that he didnt have that glory while he was on earth:
"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." John 17:5
The blessed apostle Paul stated it best:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8
The Son who comes to destroy the kingdom of darkness
One of the reasons why Christ came was to destroy the power of Satan and the kingdom of darkness:
"He 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." 1 John 3:8
He did this by setting people free from the power and effects of sin, such as physical diseases and demon-possession:
"and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." Mark 1:34
"For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, You are the Son of God." Mark 3:10-11
"When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, You are the Son of God! But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ." Luke 4:40-41
"On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath. The Lord answered him, You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing." Luke 13:10-17
"You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosenby us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead." Acts 10:36-41
The Lord also came to take the penalty of sin, which is death, in order to remove the charges against mankind for breaking the holy Law of God:
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:13-15
Satan The Accuser of the brethren
Pauls point here is that by doing away with the charges against sinful mankind for breaking Gods moral code through his death on the cross, Christ has disarmed the spiritual powers and authorities since he has left them with no grounds to accuse and condemn the people of God.
The Scriptures clearly state that one of the functions of Satan is to accuse Gods elect:
"Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" Zechariah 3:1-2
"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." Revelation 12:10; cf. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7
Yet because Christ has paid the price for sin and has made peace between God and his people through his blood (i.e. death), the Devil can no longer bring any charge against them before Gods judgment seat.
As the blessed Apostle wrote elsewhere:
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:1, 8-11
"And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us allhow will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who diedmore than that, who was raised to lifeis at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:30-39
The inspired writer of Hebrews says something similar:
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers 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 deaththat is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for (hilaskesthai, lit. turn aside God's wrath, taking away the sins of) the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." Hebrews 2:9-11, 14-18
Satan held the power of death in that he instigated the rebellion of the first couple, whereby he brought them under the condemnation of sin, namely death. By tasting death for all whom God would save Christ took on the penalty of sin, and by his resurrection Christ demonstrated that he had destroyed death itself. His resurrection further showed that God had accepted Jesus death as an atoning sacrifice which satisfied Gods justice and appeased his holy wrath, which is what hilaskesthai literally means. In other words, Jesus death made God propitious or favorable towards sinners, being the basis upon which God could now look upon man graciously and forgive him of all his sins.
The Son who sets us free
Since the price for sin has been paid, and Gods justice and holiness have been satisfied, sinners can now be set free from the power and rule of Satan and enter into Gods reign by repenting and believing in the Lord Jesus:
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, the Lord replied. Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:15-18
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:13-20
With the foregoing in perspective we can now examine Jesus temptation in more depth.
Jesus Temptation Reexamined
Here is the temptation account as reported by Luke:
"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, If/since (ei) you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. And Jesus answered him, It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone." And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours. And Jesus answered him, It is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve." And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, If/since (ei) you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you," and "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone." And Jesus answered him, It is said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time." Luke 4:1-13
And here is a portion from Matthews version:
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, If/since (ei) you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread. But he answered, It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."" Matthew 4:1-4
There are several key points which can be gleaned from the above texts. In the first place, lest the readers assume that Satan wasnt certain whether Jesus is Gods Son we need to point out that the Greek conjunction ei (if/since) doesnt necessarily express doubt. Rather, the conjunction suggests that Satan is tempting Christ precisely because he knows he is Gods Son and wants him to fail. As NT commentator Donald A. Hagner explains:
" The question has been prepared for in the baptism narrative, where Jesus is designated the Son of God (see on Comments 3:17). In the temptation pericope the relation of the Son to the will of his Father is called into question (cf. the likening of Israel to a son in Deut. 8:5). The testing is accomplished here by the suggestion of something that, looked at from another perspective or in a different context, is within the power and prerogative of the Messiah. The tempter does not suggest uncertainty on his part concerning the divine sonship of Jesus by use of ei, if (in a first-class condition). Indeed, the situation here is like the narrative about the demons, e.g. in Mark 1:24, where with the invasion of their realm, the demons have an intuitive knowledge of the true identity of Jesus. Thus, from the perspective of the devil, we might well translate ei here as since " (Hagner, World Biblical Commentary: Matthew 1-13 [Word Books Publishers, Dallas TX, 1993], pp. 64-65)
Secondly, we are expressly told that it was the Holy Spirit who drove Jesus into the desert for the specific purpose of being tempted or tested by the Adversary.
Thirdly, notice that the texts further say that the Tempter started to test Christ the moment he was hungry. This indicates that it was Gods will for Jesus to face the enemy of our souls during one of his weakest moments in order to overcome all that Satan would bring against him. Yet Jesus only did this right after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, therefore showing us by his example how to be victorious over the enemy.
Suffering as the path of glory
It also shows that the Devil thought that this was his opportune time to cause Jesus to stumble. Even though Satan clearly knew that Jesus was Gods Son he must have assumed that by becoming human Christ was now susceptible to sin and capable of failure since he was seeing Jesus getting tired and hungry from being in the desert and fasting for forty days. The Devil must have reasoned to himself that if Christ could be so weak and hungry as a result of being a man then he surely must also be prone to sinning and disobeying God in his weak condition.
Another point to be gleaned from all of this is that Satan must have known that Gods purpose was for Christ to experience human frailty and suffering before he could enter into his glory. The enemy may have reasoned that the reason why God sent forth his Son was to experience human weakness in order to learn what it was like to be faithful to Gods will in spite of human pain and anguish. As Hebrews puts it:
"Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Hebrews 5:8
Only after fully experiencing such human frailty would Christ be able to reclaim the glory that he had before the world was created.
This is something that the Devil was determined to prevent from happening, and yet he was quite unsuccessful since the Lord Jesus proved faithful and overcame the attempts of the evil one.
In fact, on one occasion the Lord Jesus spoke of having to suffer in order to enter into his glory:
"And he said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:25-27
Moreover, Jesus himself told his followers that the road leading to life was difficult and only few would be able to make it:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 cf. Luke 13:21-30
The above seems to support our interpretation that Satans purpose was to entice Jesus in his moment of weakness to avoid the path of human suffering so as to not fulfill the will of God. The enemy clearly didnt want Jesus to endure hardship and pain since he seemed to realize that this was the way that God had ordained for his Son to regain his glory.
However, our exegesis seems to run into a bit of problem when we take into consideration that the Devil was instrumental in causing the death of the Lord Jesus. Why would he want Christ to die on the cross when he tried to entice the Lord to avoid suffering by offering him a shortcut to glory and royal authority?
This leads us to our next point.
The Mystery that was kept hidden
The Holy Bible further informs us that Gods purpose in the death of the Lord Jesus was kept hidden from the rulers of this age, which would naturally include the spirit authorities as well:
"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Corinthians 2:6-8
This helps us understand why Satan would want to have Jesus crucified since he didnt realize that the cross was Gods means of destroying his kingdom and power over the sons of men and the earth. The Devil thought that by having Jesus killed he would be ending the ministry of Christ, thereby causing him to fail in accomplishing Gods purpose.
We know that the Devil wanted Jesus to be killed since he entered Judas in order to influence the latter to betray his Master and Lord:
"Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money." Luke 22:1-5
"The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me. His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, Ask him which one he means. Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish. Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him." John 13:2, 21-27
This means that Satan didnt factor in the crucifixion as being an integral part of Jesus trials. The Devil must have assumed that Christs suffering only included such things as human hunger, fatigue etc., but not crucifixion. The enemy must have thought that by instigating the death of Jesus he would be basically terminating Christs ministry and thereby thwart Gods will in the process. Little did he realize how wrong he was.
This, perhaps, also explains the shock and confusion of the evil spirits at seeing Jesus before the appointed time of their destruction:
"And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:28-29
"When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me. For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, What is your name? And he said, Legion, for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss." Luke 8:27-31
Note that, even though these spirits were seeing Jesus for the first time, they fully knew who he was and were clearly aware that he would be the One to destroy and torment them at the hour designated by God.
The demons also realized that Christ had the power to send them into the abyss, or the place where demons are imprisoned and where Satan will be bound for a thousand years:
"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 years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time." Revelation 20:1-3; cf. 9:1-12
The only way these demons could have known all of this is if they already knew who Jesus was and had already seen him beforehand in the spirit realm, in heaven itself. This interpretation makes sense in light of the emphatic and explicit Biblical teaching that Christ is the preexistent Son of God who came down from heaven (*).
In other words, the reason why the evil spirits were shocked to see Jesus before the appointed day is because God had kept the knowledge of the Incarnation hidden from them. The demonic realm was prevented from knowing that God would send his Son before the judgment day in order to destroy the kingdom of darkness by his ministry and perfect life of obedience, which included dying on the cross in order to set people free from the power and effects of sin and Satans control.
God has the right of ownership because he is the Creator and sovereign Ruler of the entire creation. God also designated man as his coregent, giving him the right to rule the world as his agent and representative. Yet since the Fall Satan has been given permission to rule this world as a consequence of mans rebellion against God since the first human couple chose to obey the Adversary instead of God their Creator.
The Lord Jesus owns creation by virtue of being the Divine Son of God. Yet Christ temporarily gave up his right to rule the moment he entered into creation in order to function in the role of a servant by becoming a man.
Satan, thinking that Jesus was prone to sinning since he had become a man who could experience human weaknesses such as hunger and fatigue, seized the opportunity by enticing Christ to turn away from Gods purpose for him. The Devil thought he could cause Jesus to sin by giving him the option of receiving authority to rule once again without having to follow the path of suffering, even though this was the way God had ordained for the Son to enter into the glory he had with the Father before the world began.
Satan soon found out that he was wrong and powerless against the Son of God since Christs entire purpose in going to the desert was to take whatever the Devil could throw at him and successfully overcome him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, it seems that the Devil didnt realize that part of Christs suffering included the shame and humiliation of dying on the cross, which accounts for why he instigated Jesus betrayal by Judas and subsequent death at the hands of the Gentiles due to the insistence of the Jewish religious leaders. The enemy must have erroneously assumed that Christs sufferings only included such things as experiencing human fatigue, hunger, weakness etc., but not death on the cross. Had he known that the crucifixion would mean the end of his reign of evil as well as his control over the lives of the people of God Satan would have obviously tried to prevent Christ from going to the cross. Yet God, in his perfect wisdom, kept this hidden from the enemy and even used him to fulfill his will for the Son to die since this was the means by which the Almighty would render Satan powerless.
In other words, the Devil actually helped to accomplish his own destruction by instigating the death of Gods unique and beloved Son, the Lord Jesus, the eternal King of glory!
The following quotation from an Apostolic father helps capture the gist of what we have been saying:
Chapter 19. Three celebrated mysteries
Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death. (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians; source; underline emphasis ours)
This blessed disciple of the glorious Apostles of our risen Lord Jesus hit the nail on the head. In fact, we couldn't have stated it any better!
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