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Satan's Works Destroyed

During a meeting at work a Christian colleague knocked at the door and interrupted to ask to speak to me privately. Vera, a social worker, said that her manager had just asked her to interview a woman reported to be a member of a local coven and who was suspected of abusing her children. She asked me to take a moment to pray for her. Then just before Halloween night at the end of October, while I was giving a warning to teenagers at a church youth club, they revealed how they "played at it" - glass on the table, ouija board, tarot cards. One of them was honest enough to say how he had been frightened by this. These incidents, taking place in a quiet corner of suburban England, alert us to Satan's pervasive influence. He intrudes into families, wounding young lives with deep psychological and spiritual scars, yet holds an attraction for the unsuspecting. The evil one behind all this is a cunning deceiver. "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (I) and "the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (2)

"What is this?"

Like the black, belching clouds from the burning oil wells that enveloped Kuwait, so Satan's evil schemes permeated the society in which Jesus lived. Right at the start of the Lord's ministry, the battle-lines with Satan were drawn as the conquest of evil began. Jesus' fame first spread because of His teaching and His power of exorcism. "What is this? A new teaching and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him. News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee" (3) Whether in the synagogue in Capernaum, the Gerasene countryside, the Decapolis region or beneath the mount of transfiguration, the Lord confronted evil spirits and healed oppressed individuals. A major purpose of His ministry was to engage in the battle against Satan's power over people in anguish.

His adversaries recognized the strength of their supreme Opponent. At their earliest encounter described by Mark, the evil spirit acknowledged Christ's deity, "I know who You are the Holy One of God" (4) The demon's insight into the character of Jesus was greater than that of His disciples. The demons were never agnostic! They confessed His power, acknowledged His deity and were fearful of their doom.

"In his right mind"

Jesus' most famous exorcism took place when He met Legion, the man with a deranged mind and wracked body, ensnared like a hungry snake in a pit. This outcast, demon-possessed

man roamed the desolate hills east of the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, the encounter involved a lengthy interchange between Christ and the demons. The evil powers were in fear of the Lord. The interchange between Christ and the demons showed their subservience to Him: they feared He would order them into the Abyss, so "they begged Him repeatedly" about where they should be sent.

Then the people were in fear of the power of Jesus and pleaded that He leave their district. But in contrast, the man "begged to go with Him" who had given him his freedom. The release from Satanic bondage transformed the man, sitting at the Lord's feet, dressed and in his right mind. He had physical composure, acceptable appearance, and mental health. The man returned to society, proclaiming the power of his Healer and sharing the message of good news in Christ (5).

"The kingdom of God has come"

Another exorcism leads on to an extended explanation by Jesus of the work of Satan. Matthew describes Jesus healing a blind, dumb person who was also demon-possessed (6) The first response to the instant healing was that the people wondered about His likeness to the Messiah. The Lord's power and compassion revealed His Messianic character. But the jealous religious leaders denigrated the Healer. The incident aroused controversy about the Lord's authority and He responded with logical argument as well as theology: "If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself'. He exposed their illogical analysis, arrogance and pernicious prejudice. Furthermore, He taught that their accusation against Him was an eternal sin, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come". Christ revealed how He worked in unity with the Holy Spirit in His ministry. The climax of the Lord's teaching was the message of victory: "if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you".

There is a poignant encounter recorded during one Sabbath when Jesus called forward from the crowd a woman who had been oppressed for 18 years. He had righteous indignation against the legalistic synagogue ruler, but showed compassion for the woman when He said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity" (7) He released her from oppression with a word: He did not need the elaborate rituals of exorcism used by the Jews. He brought to the woman both physical and spiritual health and incurred the wrath of the religious hypocrites standing by.

Jesus distinguished between the person and the demon. He showed compassion and kindness to the person who was "healed", and stern, ruthless rebuke of the demons who were "cast out". There is the frequent contrast between the Holy One and the unclean, light and darkness; between the tight-knit, lethal organization of Satan's kingdom and the benign authority of the kingdom of God. In the Gospels, Satan's power is often associated with disease and personal despair, but the intervention of Jesus brings wholeness and future hope. What opposing intentions for people's lives between the beneficent work of God and the malevolent work of Satan.

Power Sharing

The Lord gave the power of exorcism to His disciples as the seventy-two disciples embarked on their itinerant mission, "As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (8) And He rejoiced at the work of the Holy Spirit through the disciples when they returned from their preaching tour, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority ... to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you"(9).

Jesus Attacked

Satan made determined and repeated attempts to sabotage the Lord's mission, but all failed under the onslaught of Jesus' attack upon Satan's kingdom of darkness and oppression. The conquest began during the Lord's ministry; His conquest was completed at Calvary.

The Conquest Achieved

John, Peter and Paul all spoke of Christ's divine purpose, "The reason

the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work (10) John stated confidently the purpose of Jesus' mission because he had heard the Lord say, "now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself... the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on Me (or, he has nothing in Me - NASB)

The prince of this world now stands condemned" (11) It was at Calvary that the victory was achieved. The Cross achieved at least a threefold purpose: the destruction of evil, the satisfaction of God and the sanctification of men. These are the great Deliverance, the great Atonement and the great Regeneration. Here we highlight Deliverance - the Cross secured the conquest of evil. Jesus knew His own death would achieve the final victory over Satan. "By His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil . "(12)

Since His resurrection and ascension, He sits enthroned: "Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him"(13)

The Good News

During His ministry the Lord exercised power over evil, destroying the Devil's works. The battle is pursued today.

The conquest is extended as Christians go out on their mission, in the power of the Spirit, to preach Christ crucified as Lord and to summon people to repent and believe in Him. In every true conversion there is a turning not only from sin to Christ, but "from darkness to light", "from the power of Satan to God", and "from idols to serve the living and true God; there is also a rescue "from the dominion of darkness ... into the kingdom of the Son God loves". So every Christian conversion involves a power encounter in which the devil is obliged to relax his hold on somebody's life and the superior power of Christ is demonstrated (14).

In a lengthy explanation of the tactics used by the evil powers, the Lord issues a plea for victims recently released from bondage. For it is possible that after being cast out the evil spirit may then say, "I will return to

the house I left" (15) The exorcism is not enough. There is need for prayer protection and for the influence of Satan to be replaced with the knowledge of Christ.

The Christian can rejoice in the freedom of His Lord, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons... nor any powers... will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (16).

Bible references mostly from the New International Version,

(1) 2 Cor. 11:14.

(2) 1 Pet. 5:8.

(3) Mark 1:27-28

(4) Mark 1:24.

(5) Luke 8:26-39.

(6) Mat. 12:22-25.

(7) Luke 13:12.

(8) Mat.10:7-8.

(9) Luke 10:18-19.

(10) 1 John 3:8.

(11) John 12:31-32; 14:30; 16:11.

(12) Heb. 2:14.

(13) 1 Pet. 3:21-22.

(14) J. Stott, The Cross of Christ (IVP, Leicester, 1986, p 236).

(15) Mat. 12:44.

(16) Rom. 8:38-39.