The Defeat of the “Strong Man” (Arnold)

Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul's Letters by [Arnold, Clinton E.] When Jesus was answering the Pharisees’ diabolical accusation that he cast out demons “by the ruler of demons” (ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων) he gave an illustration:  “…No one is able to enter a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house” (NET).  That is a powerful illustration of Jesus’ power over the kingdom of darkness.  Here’s how Clinton Arnold nicely explains it:

From the context of Jesus’ words it is clear ‘the strong man’ is a reference to Satan, and his ‘house’ corresponds to his kingdom.  ‘Possessions’ [or property] are Satan’s greatest value and are not things, but people. Satan holds unbelieving humanity in bondage.  Christ has come to engage this ‘strong man’ and plunder his house; that is to release the captives in Satan’s kingdom.

This passage thus becomes a very important testimony to Jesus’ mission.  It provides additional clarification to the nature of the atonement. Jesus came not only to deal with the problem of sin in the world but also to deal with God’s prime supernatural opponent – Satan himself!

Jesus’ many exorcisms clearly demonstrate his power over the evil one.  They also provide numerous examples of Jesus’ ability to ‘bind’ Satan and ‘rob his house.’  In Mark’s account of the Gerasene demoniac, a man plagued with perhaps thousands of demons, it is highly significant to note that ‘no one could bind him’ (Mk. 5:1-20, esp. v. 3).  With only the concise command, ‘come out of the man, you unclean spirit,’ Jesus freed this man from horrific demonic influence.

The exorcisms, however, were not adequate by themselves to deal in any decisive way with the devil and his powers; that is, to ‘tie him up.’  They can only foreshadow an event of much greater importance.  Early Christian tradition uniformly looks to the cross/resurrection event as the point of fundamental significance in Christ’s conflict with the powers (Jn. 12:31-33; Acts 2:34-35, [etc., etc.]).  It was through this event that Satan and his hosts were dealt the fatal blow that spelled their final doom.  The strong man was defeated.

Clinton Arnold, The Powers of Darkness, p. 79-80.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

He Crushed Satan… (Cyril)

 I’ve come to appreciate Cyril of Alexandria’s 5th-century commentary on Luke.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, but it is interesting, edifying, and enlightening.  While studying the account of Jesus casting the demon out of the man in the synagogue (Lk 4:33-35; cf. Mk 1:33-26), I came across these helpful comments by Cyril.

The evil demons therefore were cast out, and made moreover to feel how invincible is His might: and being unable to bear the conflict with Deity, they exclaimed in imperious and crafty terms, “Let us alone: what is there between us and Thee?” meaning thereby, Why dost Thou not permit us to keep our place, whilst Thou art destroying the error of impiety?

But they further put on the false appearance of well-sounding words, and call Him the Holy One of God. For they supposed that by this specious kind of language they could excite the desire of vainglory, and thereby prevent His rebuking them, returning as it were one kindness for another. But though he be crafty, he will fail of his prey: for “God is not mocked;” and so the Lord stops their impure tongues, and commands them to depart from those possessed by them.

And the bystanders being made witnesses of so great deeds, were astonished at the power of His word. For He wrought His miracles, offering up no prayer, to ask of any one else at all the power of accomplishing them, but being Himself the living and active Word of God the Father, by Whom all things exist, and in Whom all things are, in His own person He crushed Satan, and closed the profane mouth of impure demons.

Cyril, Commentary on Luke, Sermon XII.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

What Does the Bible Teach About Satan?

Fallen: A Theology of Sin (Theology in Community) Although some critics and skeptics say that Christians made up a figure like Satan to scare people into morality, the truth of the matter is that Satan is real.  Even some non-Christian religions talk of evil beings and spirits, and a leader of these evil beings.  So what does the Bible teach about Satan?  Sydney Page has a nice summary in chapter nine of Fallen: A Theology of Sin (edited by C. W. Morgan and R. A. Peterson).  Here’s an edited outline of his excellent essay:

1) Satan is a created being.  Evil has not always existed, nor has the Evil One.  Scripture clearly represents Satan as being on the creature side of the Creator/creature distinction (Col. 1:15-20, etc.).

2) Satan is a fallen being.  Not only does Scripture present Satan as a created being, but also it presents him as a fallen being.  The first chapter of Genesis makes clear that God’s original creation was good, but Satan is undeniably evil.  See 1 Tim. 3:1-7 (esp. v 6), John 8:44, Rom. 16:20, Rev. 12:9 and 20:2.

3) Satan’s roles include:

a) The tempter in sexual sin (1 Cor. 7:5, 1 Tim. 5:14-15), b) tempting to withhold forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:5-11), c) tempting to anger (Eph. 4:26-27).

a) The deceiver and liar (John 8:44; cf. Gen. 3:13), b) deceiver and robber of the Word (Luke 8:12), c) deceiving and blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:3-4, 15), d) deceiver and sender of false apostles (2 Cor. 11), e) deceiver to extreme asceticism (1 Tim. 4:1-5).

a) The accuser of our brothers (Rev. 12:10), b) the accuser in Job, c) the accuser in Zech. 3:1-2.

a)  The one who afflicts: Satan afflicts Job and Satan afflicted a crippled woman (Luke 13:15-16).

4) Satan as the opposition: a) he opposed Jesus (Jn. 8:37-44, Luke 22:3-4), b) he opposes the followers of Jesus (Luke 22:31-32, John 17:15), c) he opposed the early Christian movement (1 Thes. 3:5, Rev. 2:10).

However, despite the fact that Satan is Christ’s chief and powerful opponent, the Bible also teaches of his defeat:

1) His past defeat (Heb 2:14-15, John 12:31-33, Col. 2:15), 2) his present defeat (Rom. 16:20, James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9, 1 John, 3) his future total defeat (Mt. 25:41, Rev. 20:7-10).

Page says much more about these topics and also lists more Scripture references.  I thought it was a helpful piece because I’ve not come across very many articles that give a nice, systematic summary of the Bible’s teaching about Satan.  We should know our enemy, the Devil – and also rejoice that God will one day crush him under our feet (Rom. 16:20).  His days are numbered!

Sydney Page, “Satan, Sin, and Evil” in Fallen: A Theology of Sin.

shane lems