Running with the devil

Revelation 20
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I’ve been playing a game called Skyrim (a lot) lately, and several mythical creatures are featured within it.  The werewolf has a prominent role, the ravenous bloodthirsty beast of lore that shapeshifts from human form when the moon is out. Through a handful of quests, one might find a werewolf locked up in a cage. It appears there is no key available to get this guy out, but, with some skill, you can pick the lock and free the beast.

Out of curiosity, I did this once.  Even as a fellow “werewolf” (further explanation required), the beast emerged from the unlocked cage and promptly attacked me.  He was out of control; I attempted to oust him, but failed quickly.

Though I bore weaponry and the ability to access the cage, albeit by underhanded means — specifically, without the key — I was quickly subdued.

He laid hold (v. 2)

Many people believe that, once we become Christians, we inherit a supernatural ability to manipulate our environment.  In Christianese, this is known in some denominations as “binding and loosing” when referring to spiritual augmentation.  People make reference to this verse (sans context) to justify this magical behavior, and the binding portion almost always has to do with the devil or Satan.

This interpretation is false in every way, especially because the verse really has nothing to do with spiritual warfare, but with the issuance of the law and salvation unto the Jews. Nonetheless, does not sin continue to rage in this world despite the believer’s “authority” to subdue Satan?  Of course it does, and it is because the Christian does not have the authority to bind Satan at this time.

The angel, God’s personal emissary, has the lone key to the bottomless pit, and the great chain to tie up Satan. As written in Revelation, he lays hold of the devil; in contrast, we should not attempt at this. While we are empowered by the Lord, it is not to attempt at a wrestling match.

Set a seal upon him (v. 3)

A seal on any item or document represents authority. Not only do the Lord and His heavenly constituents have the power to bind Satan, but no others have the authority to break that seal until the thousand years are up.

Christians concern themselves with the devil far too often.  My greatest fear is my own flesh, my carnal desire to rebel against God and behave contrary to His law. It was not the Serpent that bit into the fruit in Eden; it was man and woman who, while deceived, willingly ate, first hearing the deception, and then acting. Indeed, Satan prowls about like a lion, but it is our humanity that inflicts the most damage.

The devil, as seen in Revelation, is finite– he can only be in one place at a time.  If one might encounter the power of the adversary, the Christian must first submit to God, and then resist the devil.  We do not address Satan personally; even the angel Michael dared not address him. It is the Lord’s power alone that “binds” and “looses” Satan.

The second death hath no power (v. 6)

The limitations of Satan and the power of God is further demonstrated in the sixth verse, whereas John writes that the second death, which is the ultimate demise of the soul reserved for those who have set themselves apart from Christ, cannot consume the believer.

In the same way, a Christian cannot be “possessed” or tortured by an evil spirit, and the need for some absurd form of spiritual warfare or incantation is unnecessary.  The only required activity is prayer, and much of it, for the stronghold of the Lord is enough — no one can climb over the wall and attack. Again, this safety is reserved for the believer alone.

Shall be tormented day and night (v. 10)

Do not forget that the devil, in his tremendous attempt to deceive man, will still be cast down forever, along with those maligned with the Lord. Again, this activity is performed by the Lord, not men.

The dead, small and great (v. 12, 15)

For those who might believe they are aligned with the Lord because of their great deeds or mighty influence on this earth will be surprised on this day of judgment, and many believers will also be shocked, believing these folks were indeed saved.

The Lord is a harsh discriminator. Those who are not written in the Book of Life will join the devil where he is tormented, regardless of lifetime financial contributions, trivial niceties, church attendance, or vain spiritual endeavors.

It is indeed tragic that those who are convinced that they’re saved will be let down on that day, for they were “running with the devil” all along and had no idea.

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Likewise, the Christian should not be deceived into believing that Satan is a toy figure with goat horns that we can toss around with our words and thoughts, as many modern preachers purport.  This is serious business. Satan is the great deceiver, and it is even possible that he has convinced a throng of pseudo-believers to play the bind-loose game with him, knowing full well that this behavior removes attention from the One who is ultimately responsible and powerful enough to thwart him.

We are told in James to resist and flee the devil, not to engage in a championship bout with him. Let us begin to lean on Christ, and no longer depend on our own wiles and wit to contend with spiritual powers that are not to be trifled with.

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