What power does Satan have to oppose God?
What are his strategy and his goal?
Why did God allow Satan to torment Job without cause?
– A study of the book of Job
This article analyses the text of the book of Job, and comes to the following eleven conclusions:
1. Satan is only able to do what the Lord allows him to do. Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job by destroying all his possessions.
2. God claims certain people as His (His elect). The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only; not about the followers of Satan.
3. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He accuses God’s elect.
4. By rejecting God’s assessment or judgment of His elect, Satan is actually saying that God judges wrongly. When Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge.
5. Satan has no real interest in humans; his goal is to save himself. He and his angels are condemned by God, and Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges.
6. Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but his sufferings on earth were the direct consequence of a dispute and an agreement made in heaven. This was not an isolated incident but still continues every day.
7. If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for the creation will be massive; Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.
8. Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; he is also fighting to retain the right to rule the earth.
9. The Lord and Satan are in a battle for the minds of the people. God does not take the rule by force. Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority. This war for the right to rule will NOT be won on the basis of power but on the basis of loyalty.
10. God’s intelligent beings are free to choose. God wants them to trust His judgments so that they would serve Him because they want to serve Him. Satan is the one who does not grant freedom. He controls people and angels against their will.
11. Satan thought he could succeed against God because he knew that God allows His intelligent beings to choose for themselves, and he thought that he would be able, through brilliant deceptions, to convince them to side with him.
This is the second of the following series of articles:
- Origin of Evil
- Why Satan thought he could win against God
- Why did God not destroy evil immediately?
- War in Heaven
- Why was evil not destroyed after the Cross?
- Why does God not create a separate galaxy for Satan and his followers?
God is all-powerful. He created everything. Satan and His evil angels, in contrast, are merely created beings. The devils believe that God is one, but they “tremble” (James 2:19). Satan is perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created. Why did he think he could succeed against God?
The facts from the book of Job, in brief, are as follows:
One day “the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD” (Job 1:6).
Satan also was among them (Job 1:6). The LORD asked Satan: “From where do you come?” (Job 1:7).
Satan answered, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1:7).
But the Lord said, “have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8).
But Satan rejected God’s assessment of Job. He declared that Job fears God only because God protects him on every side, and blesses the works of his hands, making him very wealthy. Satan continued, “but put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9-11).
The LORD then gave Satan permission to test Job by destroying everything that Job owned (Job 1:12), including his children.
“Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22).
A second meeting of the sons of God with the Lord is described in Job 2:1-6. The same issues are brought up, but with slightly different specifics. Satan failed the first time around to destroy Job’s faith in God. The Lord now adds, referring to Job, “he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (Job 2:3).
Now Satan requests even more power to show that Job does not really have faith in God:
“Stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 2:4-5)
“And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life” (Job 2:6).
“So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:1-7).
Job was the wealthiest man of the east, and Satan said that Job fears God only because the Lord blessed the works of his hands. God then allowed Satan to take away everything that Job owned, and to cover Job’s body with painful boils so that “Job took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes” (Job 2:8). The wealthiest man was reduced to one of the poorest and most miserable people. But still, Job did not curse God. He said:
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)
The book Job helps us with the question above.
It is possibly the oldest book in the Bible. Job himself made “morning and offering burnt offerings” (Job 1:5), and there is no mention in the book of the Jewish priesthood. Job probably lived before the time of Abraham.
Job was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). He was also very wealthy (Job 1:2-3); “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3).
He was a real person. Other Bible writers refer to him (James 5:11). Ezekiel mentions him with Noah and Daniel as exceptionally righteous (Ezek 14:14, 20).
The book of Job makes a distinction between God and the Lord (Job 1:8-9; 2:3). In the article Son of God, it is proposed that “the Lord” in Job refers to Jesus Christ before He became a human being.
Sons of God
Who are these “sons of God” that came to present themselves before the Lord? Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Believers are also called “sons of God” (Rom 8:14). However, in Luke’s gospel, in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, where the sequence of generations is listed using the phrase “son of”, for instance, “the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat”, Adam is called “the son of God” (Luke 3:23). So perhaps God also created other worlds and perhaps these “sons of God” in Job are the leaders of these worlds, as opposed to angels. As ruler of this world (John 12:31), Satan was among them.
Satan means adversary. In the previous article (Origin of Evil) it was shown that Satan is one of a special class of angels (covering cherubs) that serve in God’s immediate presence. Ezekiel saw four of them (Ezekiel 10:9). “The sound of the wings of the cherubim was … like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks” (Ezek 10:5). “Each one had four faces and each one four wings” (Ezek 10:14, 21). “Their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around” (Ezek 10:12).
Ezekiel describes them as “living beings” (Ezek 10:15, 20). John also saw “four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev 4:5).
These are extremely mighty creatures. When Satan looks at the mighty angels of lower classes, they just run (Dan 10:21).
1. Satan is only able to do
what the Lord allows him.
Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job. Satan was not allowed to kill Job, but God allowed Satan to kill Jesus. We do not have to fear Satan.
2. The dispute is about God’s elect.
We see in Job that God claims certain people as His. He elects them on the basis of qualities that are invisible to Satan and other created beings. The dispute in Job is over the Lord’s elected people only. The dispute is not about the followers of Satan.
3. Satan is the accuser of the brethren.
Satan accuses Job. In general, Satan accuses God’s people. In the book of Revelation, he is called the “accuser of our brethren” (Rev 12:10). In Zachariah 3:1-2 Satan stands next to the high priest Joshua “to accuse him.”
4. Satan accuses God
of unfair judgment.
Satan rejects God’s assessment or judgment of the Lord’s elect. Satan argued that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away. But the issue is not Job as a person. The issue is much bigger. By saying that Job fears God only because God protects him and blesses the works of his hands, and by saying that Job will curse God if Job’s possessions are taken away, Satan was actually saying something about God, namely that God judges wrongly. And when Satan tests Job, he is actually testing God’s ability to judge. Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges.
This confirms the conclusion in the article on the Origin of Evil that Satan inspired distrust in God. In Eden, he called God a selfish liar.
Satan did not respond to the Lord by saying that Job is but one in millions. It was important for Satan to show that God was wrong with respect to Job. Apparently, the question is not the view of the majority. God does not need all people on His side to win this war. It is proposed that the issue is not who will be saved, but whether God makes mistakes when He judges.
5. Satan attempts to defend himself.
Why does Satan want to show that God makes mistakes when he judges? Is he concerned that God might save the wrong people? It is proposed here that Satan has no real interest in humans; his goal is to save himself. God has cast Satan “as profane from the mountain of God” (Ezek 28:16). He and his angels are condemned by God (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4). It is to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself that Satan wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes when He judges. If God’s judgments can be shown to be wrong in even a single instance, then Satan has won; then God’s judgment of Satan and his angels are brought into question.
6. The agreements in heaven
have consequences on earth.
Job had no idea of the events in heaven, but the test he went through on earth was the direct consequence of a discussion and agreement made in heaven between the Lord and Satan. It is proposed that what happened to Job was not an isolated incident, but a general principle. The book of Job is a revelation of what always has been happening in the invisible realm. Satan accuses God’s people and requests God’s permission to allow him to test them, to prove that God judges wrongly. There is, therefore, a very direct relationship between the dispute in heaven and the trials on earth.
Jesus similarly said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).
We see something similar in Daniel 10. Daniel’s prayer caused a skirmish in heaven. For three weeks the heavenly messenger struggled against the supernatural “Prince of Persia”. Only when Archangel Michael came to his assistance was he able to deliver the message to Daniel. Daniel had no idea of what was happening in the spiritual realm as he prayed but only learned of it afterward. The principle is that this is a single war, fought on two fronts; heaven and earth.
On the basis of Job, we can safely assume that there was a debate between the Lord and Satan before Adam and Eve were tested in the Garden of Eden and that the Lord gave Satan permission to test Adam and Eve, just like he was later allowed to test Job. Just as in the case of Job, Satan was limited as to what he was allowed to do. God allowed Satan to test Adam and Eve only with respect to the prominent tree in the middle of the garden (Gen 3:2-3). It is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not because the tree contained some magical properties, but because that was the only place where they would encounter evil.
In fact, we can assume that events on earth today still are governed by debates and agreements between God and Satan.
7. The tests on earth have consequences
for the entire universe.
The consequences also go in the other direction. The debate in heaven results in tests for God’s people on earth, but the tests of God’s people on earth prove or disprove the reliability of God’s judgments, and therefore have consequences for all beings in the universe. The earth serves as testing ground for God’s judgments, that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). In other words, the opinions of the “rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” are influenced by the church. The church refers not only to the New Testament Church but to the people that trust in God (have faith in God) throughout all ages.
If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even only in a single instance, the implications for the heavenly beings will be massive. Satan would be able to claim that he also has been judged unfairly.
8. Satan is fighting for the right to rule.
It is was proposed above that Satan wants to show that God makes mistakes when He judges to defend himself against God’s judgment of himself and his followers. It is now further proposed that Satan not only wants to be cleared from guilt; his ultimate goal is to rule.
There are indications in the debate between the Lord and Satan that the issue is the right to rule:
When Satan said that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it”, he was implying he rules the earth and all of its people.
When the Lord referred to Job as a “blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil”, He was disputing Satan’s claim for full control over the peoples of the earth.
Initially, Adam and Eve had ownership of the world. God gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26, 28). When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Satan became “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 12:31). He wants to retain the right to rule the earth.
9. The right to rule is won by loyalty.
God does not take the rule by force. Nor does He allow Satan to force angels and people to submit to his authority. This war for the right to rule will not be won on the basis of power but on the basis of loyalty. It is a battle for the minds of the people. From the earliest times God has always been sending message after message to the people of this world, ensuring them of His love and asking them to trust Him:
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:1-2).
Satan’s purpose is firstly to show that God’s elect does not really have faith in God. But Satan does more than objectively testing the loyalty of God’s people; because the right to rule is won by winning loyalty, he actually incites people and angels against God. As the Lord said to Satan,
“you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause” (Job 2:3)
10. God’s intelligent beings
have freedom to choose.
Satan is the Lord’s enemy, but note that the LORD does not use force against Satan. The Lord allows Satan into the heavenly meetings, listens to him, debates with him, allows Satan to question His judgment, and allows Satan to test His judgment. When Satan comes back after having failed the first time, God even allows Satan to put Job through an even more stringent test.
Similarly, God allowed Satan to visit the Garden of Eden and to tempt Adam and Eve and allowed him to tempt Christ in the Wilderness.
The Lord’s very claim, namely that Job serves God, as well as Satan’s test of that claim, would make no sense at all if God sovereignly decides who will serve Him, and then programs them to serve Him with irrefutable force, as claimed by the theory of election.
Everything in Job happened with God’s intelligent beings looking on. They hear the challenges and see the tests. God works out this rebellion/sin problem in full sight of the whole universe. This also implies that God wants His intelligent beings to understand the issues, and to decide for themselves who is right; the Lord or Satan. God wants them to trust His judgments so that they would be able to serve Him in complete freedom because they want to serve Him.
This entire story of Job is a major difficulty to Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God, by which they mean that God determines everything and that nothing happens outside of His will. If that was true, why do good people suffer? What is the point? People that believe that God decides who will be saved often describe that as God’s mercy, but they seem to ignore the fact that that also means that other people will be eternally destroyed in hell, simply because God arbitrarily decided that they will. Personally, I believe this is blasphemy. God is love (1 John 4:8). God is Light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). To then say that God will decide who will be eternally destroyed in hell, irrespective of what these people want or do or think, sounds to me like blasphemy. And I do not accept the view that God works with a different system of ethics. I believe that what we understand as good is what God also understands as good.
Job confirms a principle from the previous article (Origin of Evil), namely that God created His intelligent beings with the ability to disobey Him so that their service and love will be their free choice.
Freedom is the foundation of God’s government. God is all-powerful, but by granting unlimited free will to His intelligent beings, God limited Himself. God could have created robots, that only do what they are told to do, but it was God’s choice to create intelligent beings that are completely free. He is able to do away with evil by forcing His intelligent beings to serve Him against their will, but He created this universe for His intelligent beings. To force them to obey Him would undo His entire goal for this universe. He wants all His intelligent beings to love and worship Him by choice and not because He forces them to worship Him.
Free choice is a fundamental difference between God’s systems of government and Satan’s. Satan is the one who does not grant freedom to others. Satan attempts to force people and angels to do what he wants them to do. When people are possessed, they no longer have the ability to leave Satan behind. The mark of the beast is specifically used to force people to worship in a certain way.
11. Why Satan thought
he could succeed against God
We are now able to answer the question above. For the following reasons Satan thought that he could succeed against God:
He knew God very well and knew that God would not use force. He knew that God allows his intelligent beings the freedom to choose for themselves. He knew that the contest will not be on the basis of power, but on the basis of loyalty.
He thought that he would be able to convince them to side with him, because, as a mighty covering cherub, who previously explained God’s decisions to the universe, he was loved by all angels and they had much respect for him.
Satan had an advantage over God because he could tell lies. Because he knew God so well he knew that he would have to tell lies and misrepresent God before man and before the angels. But he also knew God cannot use deception or lies, and that God’s only weapons are love and truth.
He has perhaps the most brilliant mind ever created and was able to use extremely cunning deception and lies.
Jesus said of Satan:
“He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).