Christ has triumphed over Satan and over every power and principality. He did this through his death and through his resurrection from the dead. So why does Satan still exist to exert his rage? It’s a question Pastor John addressed in a Q&A setting several years back. Here’s what he said.
If God is sovereign, then it is clear that he could destroy Satan at any time. Why does God allow Satan to live? Let’s make sure we agree that God could take him out any time he chose, because I think there are some who would say he really can’t because of the rights or authority or independence or free will that Satan has. But the reason I know he can take him out without turning me into an automaton or breaking any rules is because he is going to take him out. He is going to throw him into the lake of fire.
Take Out the Tempter
And the question is, Why didn’t he do it yesterday? If he had done it yesterday, I wouldn’t be tempted the way I am today. And the Bible says, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). Well, the best way not to be led into temptation is to take the tempter away, isn’t it? Take him out. I have got plenty of sin in my life to make me struggle. I don’t need Satan on top of this sin that I have to make my life miserable. So, God, take him out because you have a right to take him out. You have the power to take him out. You are doing nobody wrong when you take him out. Take him out. And he doesn’t do it. Why?
“God knows that when we walk in and out of temptations, more of God’s glory will shine in that battle than if he took Satan out yesterday.”
Now the Bible doesn’t answer the question directly, and so we go on inferences, but here is my best shot. God has ordained that Satan have a long leash with God holding onto the leash, because he knows that when we walk in and out of those temptations — struggling both with the physical effects that they bring and the moral effects that they bring — more of God’s glory will shine in that battle than if he took him out yesterday. There will be evidences of God’s patience with us as we struggle with sin, evidences of his mercy to us as we struggle with sin, evidences of his sustaining grace through horrific physical suffering that Satan was the immediate cause of.
It says that in the Bible. This woman was struck by Satan, and for eighteen years she had this bent-over back. And Satan was doing it, and God was ordaining that he be allowed to do it. And all of that in order that the glory of God, his mercy, his justice, his grace, and his wisdom would shine more brightly (see Luke 13:10–17).
Christ’s Glory in Suffering
And we can argue with that. We can say, “I don’t agree. I don’t think God should run the world this way.” And if we ultimately disagree, then we will reject God. We will reject the biblical testimony, and we will perish forever in hell. And I choose to trust him that his way of managing the devil and managing evil that comes at me is wiser than the way I might choose to manage it. And perhaps the other thing I should say is that he sent his Son right into the middle of this satanic warfare. It was Satan that put it in the heart of Judas to betray Jesus. So Jesus exposes himself to the horrors of Satan’s deceit and lies and murder — he is a murderer from the beginning and a liar (see John 8:44) — and dies in order to make a public display of the principalities and powers in his defeat of them (see Colossians 2:15). There is more glory that will come to Jesus Christ by suffering to destroy Satan, than by powerfully shooting Satan in the head.
“There is more glory that will come to Jesus Christ by suffering to destroy Satan, than by powerfully shooting Satan in the head.”
And there is more glory that will come to Jesus Christ by our sharing in the sufferings of Christ and holding on to his supreme value than if we had been able to say, “Satan, depart!” and never have another problem. And I think the reason for that — this is my ultimate, final answer — is the glory of God shines most brightly, and the glory of Christ shines most brightly, when we are seen to be supremely satisfied in Christ in spite of Satan’s torments — which exist — rather than having those torments removed and liking Jesus because of it. It is when you love Jesus in spite of it and through it that his glory shines most brightly, rather than when we have life made easier for us by its removal, and we like Jesus because of it.