Chapter 2:

An Enemy You Must Face,
a Friend Who Will Help

Many who are struggling to improve the world are frustrated. Why is it that not even carefully planned programs achieve the desired results? Why do people insist on hating one another when it is in their best interest to be kind and generous? Why do so many seem to take malicious delight in causing pain, inflicting vicious cruelty on defenseless animals and on other people? What moves some to vandalize and destroy and steal other people’s property, utterly heedless of the suffering they cause? Why is ignorance and confusion about God and the Bible so widespread?

The Bible answers: we are not alone—there is an evil, invisible Enemy. In the Hebrew language, he is called "Satan," which means "opposer." This spirit person is working hard to prevent people from turning to God. He enjoys sowing chaos and inflicting pain. He has a thoroughly twisted mind. He hates God and anything good, but he is very intelligent, using cunning deceit to obtain his ends. We cannot outsmart him on our own; those who try may never realise when they are overcome, going to their grave believing they are doing just fine.

God has exposed this enemy in the Bible, and there also we find the help we need to succeed against him. First, where did this Satan come from? Why is he so evil?

Before God created the earth, he created the heavens, both the outer space we can see and a "spirit" realm that we cannot. In this realm of heaven he created many spirit persons. We call them "angels", meaning "messengers", because that is the way they have been used toward us. Many people think that angels are humans who died and went to heaven, but the Bible describes them as applauding and praising God when the planet Earth was first created, long before anyone lived here. —Job 38.4a,7.

The Bible mentions three ranks of angels: cherubs, seraphs and ordinary angels. (Gen 3:24, Isa 6:2, 6, Acts 12:6-10) It does not explain much about these different kinds, but we will no doubt learn much more someday. Cherubs appear to be the highest rank. The Bible also mentions "the archangel", which means "chief angel." By definition, there can be only one. We will discuss him in Chapter 5.

All that God creates is perfect*. He does not want evil, and so would never be the source of it. (Compare De 32:4, 5) So all the angels were created of excellent quality, fit for the position and service for which they were made. None of them were fated or doomed to fail.

Faithful angels do not want us to worship them. Twice, when the apostle John felt moved to kneel in worship before the angel who was showing him the Revelation, the angel rebuked him sharply, saying: “Be careful! Do not do that! I am only a fellow slave of you and your brothers... Worship God!” —Rev 22:8, 9.

Unfortunately, long ago there was one angel who developed a different attitude. The Bible tells us that God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, in the beautiful paradise of Eden. Then He assigned a cherub to be there to watch over them. This cherub betrayed the trust placed in him. Because of his beauty, his heart became haughty, and he moved to have mankind serve him instead of their Creator. —see Ezekiel 28:13-17.

This was rebellion, treason! How could an angel have such ideas? He was not influenced by another rebel, since he apparently was the first. Certainly God would not have been the source of such bad thinking. No, Satan conceived this proud ambition within himself. How could that ever be? Are not perfect creatures incapable of improper thoughts? That is a common misconception. The truth is, God has given most any creature with a brain enough intelligence to discern right from wrong, helpful from harmful, pleasant from unpleasant. Dogs can do it; humans far more comprehensively, and likely angels even more so. By imagination alone we can see the possibility of wrong action. So at the brow of a cliff, we can imagine ourselves jumping off. But if we use our brain, we refrain. The ability to imagine possibilities, and consequences, is good, not bad; it is a natural element of intelligence. We prove our thinking ability and our goodness by turning away from wrong, not by being unaware of it. But if instead we allow ourself to dwell on a wrong idea at length, exploring it mentally, we may find it tempting, we could deceive ourselves into thinking that there may be a way to get away with it. ("If I glue feathers to my arms, I can soar off this cliff.")

It is healthy to feel good about oneself, and proper to take satisfaction in worthy accomplishments. But take care: it can be only a short step from healthy self-esteem to narcissism, excessive pride, and selfishness. That is what happened to the angel who became Satan. His thinking too much of himself has caused a world of problems. —James 1:14, 15; Romans 12:1-3.

No matter how smart we feel, we should realize and accept that we do need guidance in knowing right from wrong. On our own, even with a perfectly clear mind, we may have insufficient awareness of all the factors to safely calculate the difference between a wise and a stupid decision. We think ahead for possible consequences of a choice, but as you no doubt know from experience, often not far enough.

Knowing this, God set about lovingly providing guidance to his new creation in Eden. First, to emphasize their need to trust him as their Instructor, he set aside one tree in the garden as ‘off limits’, so’s to speak, forbidding Adam and Eve to eat from it. This did not diminish their enjoyment of life; it merely served as a sign of God’s authority to tell them right from wrong. Just by looking at the tree, they could see no obvious reason why they should stay away from it; they would have to trust God and obey because he said so. If they appreciated that he had given them their beautiful home, each other, and a purpose in life, this would be easy to do. —Genesis 2:16, 17.

In his bid for power, Satan took advantage of this restriction and urged Eve to take from the tree and eat. To speak he used a modest, cautious animal, a snake, like a ventriloquist uses a dummy. Far from frightening Eve (no animals were dangerous in Eden) it was a cunningly disarming approach. He told her that she should break free from God and decide for herself how to live her life; "you will not die." But he was lying; his real aim was, not that she be free and have a better life, but to bring her under his influence. He was also slandering God, calling Him a liar. That is why Satan is also called the "Devil", which means "slanderer". —read Genesis 3:1-7 before continuing.

God did not ignore or excuse their rebellion. They had chosen independence, so he gave it to them: outside the paradise garden! And just as God had warned, they eventually died. —Gen 3:16-19, 23, 24, 5:5.

We can learn an important lesson from this. Have you noticed that when some people are told not to do something, they make it their aim to do that very thing? "Nobody can tell me what to do!" they shout. It is their philosophy in life that all rules are made to be broken, that all restrictions must be defied. Some call that human nature, and believe it is a normal impulse that will always be with us. Immature children—including teens—tend to test limits placed on them, even by caring parents, because they do not yet see the danger their parents want them to respect. Yes, they may gain maturity by pain. Been there, done that, won't try that again. But education by trial can cripple or kill. Observing and listening is better. Instead of diving off the cliff, see how that rock you toss over the edge explodes into powder at the bottom. Listen to the advice of those with more experience and better vision. Do not be stubborn and have to learn the hard way.

It is especially deadly to have a rebellious attitude toward our Creator’s rules. For example, why is cliff-diving hard to survive? Because there is a law of God at work, called "gravity." We can defy that law, but we will still obey it, all the way to the bottom, and it will hurt. The consequences of defying His moral laws are just as sure, but not usually so quick. Short-sighted persons may think they are getting away with things because it doesn't seem to hurt at first. Wiser persons can see further ahead; they also trust God, who can see forever. The Bible promises, "the meek shall inherit the earth." A "meek" person is respectful and submissive to God, not rebellious, determined to refuse all authority. So which choice will you make? Will you gladly submit to God and inherit the whole planet as your home (shared with other good people), or would you rather be dead?

Do you feel like the American revolutionary who said, "Give me liberty or give me death"? We rightly resist being enslaved to other men, but a slave to God has in fact the greatest freedom. (see 1 Pet 2:16 and Rom 6:16-23) So let us be wise in our pursuit of liberty. In reaching out for "liberty", Eve got death. She lost the carefree life of peace and good health she had under God’s rule in Eden. God’s rules had not burdened her, and they will not burden us. We reach out for true liberty by letting God teach us how to live. Satan promises us freedom, but he is lying. Those who know God know they need God, that they cannot be free without Him. The "freedom" of those who reject God will not end well. But Satan can make independence look so alluring! It was his first successful pitch, and it still works for the majority of mankind. Even those who do love God can find it attractive if they focus too much on what feels good at the moment and lose sight of what is coming. —2 Pet 2:18, 19.

We also learn something about God from this. Some parents today make excuses or even laugh when their children are rebellious. These children later become serious problems for society, unless they learn discipline from some other source. God knew he could not just let this disobedience pass. He had to make sure we learned our lesson from our choice. We should be grateful that He believes in order in His family.

How Much Power Does Satan Have?

It is obvious that Satan’s influence is widespread. But many people assume that it is limited to criminals and low-lifes, drug addicts, drunks and prostitutes. Not at all. The Bible describes highly placed religious leaders as doing Satan’s work, for example, those who hated Jesus for telling the truth about their hypocrisy. Jesus boldly told them to their face: "You are from your father the Devil." —See John 8:2-47.

Nor should it surprise us in this day and time that political leaders are often influenced by this enemy of God. That is why the Bible can say: "the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one." (1 John 5:19) The Bible even calls Satan "the god of this system of things." (2 Corinthians 4:4) His power in the political world is so extensive that he could offer Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" as a temptation.— Matt 4:8-10, Luke 4:5-8.

So when Jesus later said "my kingdom is no part of this world," (John 18:36) he did not simply mean his kingdom is not based on Earth. Rather, he meant it is not allied with any earthly kingdom, nor does it spring from such. This is a very important fact for us to keep in mind, if we are interested in being part of his kingdom. If we join ourselves in devoted allegiance to any "kingdom" (government) of this world, enthusiastically believing that it will lead us to greatness, supporting it without question, we become part of the world, and not part of God's Kingdom. The world will then lead or press us to do things in opposition to God. For example: those who shouted "Heil Hitler!" and sang the Nazi propaganda songs with all their heart, in time were led to do monstrous things against the Jewish people, and against Christians who did not bow before the State. Can it happen again? It already has, many times. In the end, which side will we be found on? —see John 17:14-16, James 4:4, Revelation 16:13, 14, 19:19. (More on this in Chapter 11, "Loyalty to the Kingdom". Please read Chapter 6, "Let Your Kingdom Come" first, for a clearer picture of what the Kingdom of God is.)

Satan’s influence also extended into heaven; other angels have joined him in abandoning God. Jude 6 mentions "angels that forsook their own proper dwelling place." Genesis 6:1-4 describes how this occurred: "the sons of God began to notice the daughters of men, and they went taking wives for themselves." The result was a violent, wicked world. These women bore as sons freakish giants, mighty men, called "Nephilim" in Hebrew, which in effect means big bullies, merciless tormenters and killers. Mankind’s survival came to be in grave danger. To protect those who would serve Him, God swept away that world by a great Flood. This killed the giants and all the other wicked people, but not the fallen angels. These are now called demons or wicked spirits. Although they are no longer permitted to materialize to bear children, they still work with Satan to influence men toward evil. They delight in seeing immorality. They take sadistic pleasure in seeing violent conflict and death. Yet, just like Satan did, they can also present themselves as kindly, helpful spirits. Do not be misled; once they get a grip, they often turn to tormenting their helpless victims. Only by heeding God’s advice can we be sure of protection from them. —2 Corinthians 11:13-14, Luke 11:24-26.

We cannot destroy Satan— only God can. Until he and his kind are out of the way, there will be no perfect world of peace and harmony. Jesus cast out demons, assuring us of God’s power over them. (For example, see Mark 5:1-20, Luke 11:14-22.) As for us, we can stand fast against Satan’s guile and intimidation personally, and we can exhort and inspire others to do the same. That will improve the world that little bit. But for Paradise, we must wait on God.

Why Has God Permitted Satan Such Power?

Satan has not achieved his power by pushing God aside; rather, God has allowed him to have it. Why? What good could ever come of that? It all goes back to the claims Satan made to Eve. Remember, he said we did not need God; we would enjoy life more without His control or guidance. Eve fell for it, and Adam went along, desiring his wife more than loving God. God decided that the best solution for this situation was to let us go ahead and try it, to find out for ourselves. We would have to learn the hard way, since we had turned down the easy way. We wanted freedom, so we got freedom. Since then generations have striven hard to prove that they can decide right and wrong for themselves without God. We think we are so smart. He gave us the chance to prove it. What does history show? Have we conquered death? We haven’t even conquered the common cold! Rather, untold millions have been cruelly slaughtered by war, crushed by oppression, cheated and starved by corruption. Now we have reached the brink of the nuclear precipice. Are we smart or what?

In all of this God has not remained silent. He has made sure we have had access to His word on right and wrong, and many have acknowledged the sense of it. Looking at history, insofar as men and nations have at times respected godly standards, there has been some success in enjoying life. But then the people get complacent and self-indulgent, and the cycle of societal decay and collapse returns, as is happening now. —Micah 6:8; Prov 14:12.

Satan has not helped mankind. He has not led us to peace and prosperity, because that is not in him. He gives riches and power for a while to those who do his bidding, then discards them when they cease to be useful. He sees us as mere animals. Those who are meek, trying to be human and humane, he exploits and crushes. God does not permit him to do everything he wants, else we really would be living in hell, as some say we are.* But we have come rather close to it at times, in some places. It is instructive to observe the dynamics of a despotic regime, where one man can impoverish and destroy his own nation, and his paid underlings, with shortsighted craven selfishness, help him do it, while the trodden masses are unable to stop him. This is Satan in miniature, and we should learn from it. We choose to experience these object lessons whenever we put improper confidence in a man, which we do with depressing regularity. God does not entirely protect us from ourselves. He has prevented us from rendering ourselves extinct, and he has interfered whenever we or Satan plotted to do anything that would hinder His purpose. He does provide some protection to those who take his side, but even good people are affected by the environment, the world they live in. God does allow some accidents, and they are really accidents. Scripture does not say that Satan directly causes everything bad. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) And God does sometimes allow Satan to apply some pressure, or persecution, to test our dedication. This does not prove that God does not care about us. We can see such trials as opportunities to demonstrate the quality of our convictions and the steadiness of our loyalty. —James 5:10, 11, Matthew 5:11, 12.

This leads us to the other reason God did not crush the rebels on the spot. His own honor was involved. If he had killed Adam and Eve, he would have wiped out 100% of the human race. That would have in effect been an admission before the angels that this particular creation was defective; humankind was a failure that had to be scrapped and replaced. But God does not create faulty things; he had confidence in the quality of his work. True, those two had used their grant of free will to make a bad choice, but God was sure that did not mean all humans would. By permitting Adam and Eve to live and have children, he lovingly has given us, their descendents, an opportunity to take our stand on this issue. How well have you been doing with it so far? If we appreciate our Creator and all the goodness that he stands for, we will do our very best to obey him, and not weakly submit to base impulses. In doing this, we honor God. Yes, we can make him glad, as Proverbs 27:11 says: "Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, so that I can make a reply to him who taunts me."

By now the issue has been proven: people can be loyal to God, even when under pressure, and living independently of the Creator does not work. Does this need to go on like this forever? No! And that is one of the main reasons for the Bible: to assure us that this period of suffering will be brought to an end, not when we destroy ourselves, but when God has decided that the time is right. And that time is very soon. Are you ready? (See chapters 8 and 9 for details.)

Escaping Satan’s Control: How To Become Truly Free

How can we become ready? In this regard, Jesus made a very important statement at John 17.3: "This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ." Again, at John 8.32: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Satan knows that knowing the truth about God will set us free— of him! So it is very important to him to prevent you from learning this truth. He will try to keep you from reading the Bible, perhaps by distracting you with many other opportunities: don’t you need to work overtime? shouldn’t you get more education by going to school at night? You should relax on weekends, you are too tired to pick up the Bible. That new video game is what you really want to do. And your friends are waiting for you on that social website, your time is best spent killing hours there. And on and on. He will employ well-meaning friends. He will use ridicule, he will use smooth talk, he will use anything, as long as it works. —see Matt 10:22, 36, 37; 13:19-23.

He has even used preachers, who may say, "Reading the Bible will confuse you, just come to church, listen to me explain it for you." This allows that preacher to tell you anything he wants, whether it be in line with the written Word or not. "Oh," you say, "that kind preacher doesn’t want me to get confused. I’m very grateful for his concern. He’s been to college to learn it right and surely I should trust him." That kind preacher isn’t the kind God sends out if he discourages you from checking what he says against the Book. In contrast, Paul, a zealous Christian preacher, was delighted when people took enough interest in what he was preaching to check it out in their Bibles. —Acts 17:11.

There are many other wily ways Satan will try to separate you from knowledge of God. One of the smoothest is to have people say to you, "All you need is the Bible. Read it by yourself and you will learn all you need." That sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet if you read the Bible (and most people who succumb to this reasoning never seem to get around to it) you will eventually learn that that is not what it says. At Romans 10:14, 15 it points out that God sends out people to preach the good news. He would not do that if we did not need their help, would he? At Acts 8:26-35 we read the story of a man who was reading his Bible, but he couldn’t understand what it meant. God sent a disciple of Jesus to help him, which help he humbly accepted. God knows that you too need the help of trustworthy people who have learned the Bible before you. Satan says, "You don’t need help." God says, "Yes, you do."

But who can you trust to really help you? There are so many who are eager to teach you their interpretation of the Bible. It can be very confusing and discouraging to listen to them all. Many have simply given up trying. This confusion is yet again one of Satan’s cunning ploys to keep you away from God. But God encourages us to keep looking: "Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find." (Matt 7:7; see also vs 11) God himself will help our heartfelt, sincere efforts to come to know him.

Jesus knew we would face this problem of false teachers, so he gave some advice: "Be on the watch for the false prophets; by their fruits you will recognise them." (read Matt 7:15-23) So we can discern between true and false Christians by looking at their "fruits": their behavior, and the results of their behavior. Do they promote peace? Do they honor God? Are they loving? —John 13:35.

As with anything else worth doing, this needs to be done carefully. Remember 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: "Satan keeps disguising himself as an angel of light; it is therefore not a surprise that his ministers seem to be ministers of righteousness." And Jesus said they would come "in sheep’s covering." If we are careless, we will be deceived.

On the other hand, those who are God’s workers will be subject to a campaign of slander. Satan will use every sort of lie to make them look bad, to induce earnest people to reject them. Remember that Jesus was called a drunken glutton who spent time with whores. (Matt 11:19, Luke 5:29, 30) Or Satan will have people say, "They’re a cult! They’ll take everything you have, including your soul!" It is prudent to be cautious: cults do exist. But Satan will have achieved his aim if by using such scare tactics he can frighten you away from the people who can help you. So you have to be careful about giving credence to stories people tell about others. As the Bible says, "A naïve person puts faith in every word." —Prov 14:15; see also 2 Cor 6:3-10, Acts 28:22.

One more way that Satan has successfully prevented persons from escaping him is by inducing them to develop an emotional attachment to something that is displeasing to God. For example, many video games are extremely violent, yet you may have grown to enjoy them very much. If then you begin to learn about God, you will soon find out how he feels about that (Ps 11:5). You are then faced with a decision. Satan thinks he knows what you will choose. Will you prove him wrong?

The attachment can be more than emotional: it may be chemical, an addiction. Nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and many other substances have a powerful grip. These too act as the chains of Satan. Even the ungodly world recognizes the harm in these drugs; how do you think God feels about them? For a clue, see 2 Cor 7:1.

At 1 Peter 5:8 we are advised: "Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone." Lions target the weak and the young, those they can take down easily. Likewise Satan aims for those just learning about God, whose knowledge may not be sufficient for them to answer all the cunning arguments and temptations he throws at them. —compare Acts 13:6-10, 45.

A Friend Who Will Help

Do not be discouraged if you see that the path to everlasting life is harder than you thought. First, remember where it leads: to life eternal in a paradise world, with plenty of exciting and interesting things to do, places to go, things to see, beautiful people to do it all with, along with the intimate friendship with the Supreme Creator. And, consider the alternative: all other roads lead to death. —compare Matt 7:13, 14.

And do not exaggerate the difficulty in your mind. The Bible reassures: "Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) That doesn’t mean he will give up, but it does mean you can succeed in standing firm against him. The Bible says: "take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world." Yes, many others are standing firm, and they can help us too. Associate with these "brothers" and gain strength. —1 Pet 5:9.

Also, Ephesians 6:11-18 says you must put on a "suit of armor" supplied by God. The illustration below lists the various pieces and their purpose. Begin at once to put this armor on. Then you will be "able to resist in the wicked day" (whenever Satan attacks).

Roman Soldier
helmet----Hope of salvation: having mind on godly things protects thinking
breastplate----Protect heart (conscience) by doing only right, no hypocrisy allowed
shield----Faith means trusting God to be true, gives confident purpose that deflects arrows of doubt, fear or temptation.
sword----Knowledge of God’s inspired word enables one to cut through false reasoning.
belt----Devotion to truth supports the ‘vital organs’, gives sureness of movement in the fight.
feet----Soldier of God moves steadily with endurance waging peace, preaching the Good News.
Spiritual armor against Satan

Do not forget the last part of defensive equipment mentioned: prayer. A soldier who is isolated, cut off from his leaders, is an easy target. For more about prayer and how to overcome bad habits, see Chapter 13, "Wisdom From God to Guide Your Life."

God is patient, merciful, and willing to help. He wants you to succeed. Peter concluded: "But after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, who called you to his everlasting glory in union with Christ, will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong." (1 Pet 5:10; see also verses 6, 7) God is "near to all those calling upon him, to all who call on him in sincerity... He hears their cry for help, and he rescues them." (Psalms 145.14-20) Have faith that this is true. Satan is an enemy, but God is a friend who will help.
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