This article looks at the fact that we are not always aware of the reality of angels and demons in our daily lives. The author discusses angels and their task, as well as demons and their influence.

Source: Una Sancta, 1990. 8 pages.

The Spirits of the Air: Of Angels & Demons

That there are spirits in the air around us is a thought to which — I dare say — we scarcely give much thought. To our modern minds, influenced as we are by the thinking of the twentieth century, spirits can scarcely be real. Yet Scriptures insist that such is the case nevertheless. In this first submission on the Spirits of the Air, I wish to trace the thoughts of persons and bodies who (may) have influenced our perception of the spirits of the air. I intend also to point out why we are to understand well what goes on in the invisible world around us. I propose to deal with a.o. angels, demons, and the struggle between the two.

Our fathers of by-gone times had apprecia­tion for the reality of spirits, as is evidenced by the existence of the so-called Engelenbrug (Angel's Bridge) in the Dutch town of Middel­burg. The name appears to have come from an episode in the early eighteenth century; B Smijtegelt, a minister of the Reformed chur­ches, had to pass over that bridge to visit a dying congregation member. Because of this preacher's forceful opposition to misuse of al­cohol, clients of the local pub hatched a plan to kill the preacher as he crossed the bridge. Yet when the thugs observed Smijtegelt crossing the bridge, he was accompanied by two strong-armed figures — angels who protected him without himself knowing it.

This awareness of angels, however, has dimmed since the days of our fathers. Cer­tainly it appears safe to say that we today do not take seriously the possibility that there are angels — and possibly demons too — around us all the time. Why that is so? That will be due in large part to the fact that we all grew up in an age of science. Charac­teristic of our century, particularly in the post-war era, was the notion that all things truly real were measurable, tangible. Indeed, acceptable wisdom dictated that anything not measurable or tangible was not truly real. This lesson was hammered into our young minds: reality is what you see, what you sense, what you can observe and study.

Within such a climate of thought, there is, we understand, no room for spirits in the air. Elves, angels, ghosts, and demons: these are not measurable, are not tangible, and so ­we are given to understand by the age in which we live — these spirit-like beings must be discarded as mythological leftovers of the unenlightened times of the distant past.

This influence of a scientific world view was not restricted only to those moments when we read material directed to us by the world. Church leaders too — being as they were children of their times also — did not ade­quately appreciate the reality of spirits in the air. Notably important here is H Bavinck, that giant of reformed continental dogmatics at the turn of our century. This influential thinker in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands was actually at a loss as to what to make of the doctrine of angels. His convic­tion was that angels had no real place in the religious life of any Christian today; the im­portance of angels is rather to be found ­thought he — in that they were used by God to bring His Word to various individuals in Bible times (cf Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, II, 473). Similarly, Bavinck did not see a place for demons in the lives of God's people today (cf III, 144ff).

This lack of appreciation for the spirits of the air appears to have dominated the thinking of the average believer in the course of our century. Not that every theologian agreed. Abraham Kuyper lamented the fact that an­gels were not seriously reckoned with in the daily life of the average church member of his day (Engelen, pg 9). K Schilder (cf Wat is de Hemel and Wat is de Hel; also Tusschen Ja en 'Neen', 3ff) and GC Berkouwer (cf The Providence of God and Sin, 99ff) took serious­ly the presence of angels and demons in this world (though Berkouwer, in his latest dogmatic treatise on The Return of Christ no longer has any room for angels). Yet even the works of these leaders in the reformed world did not result in the average reformed church member taking angels and demons for real in their daily lives. Indeed, even up till today, Reformed Christians in the Western world do not take seriously the thought that there may well be spirits around them at any and every moment; we have not learned to appreciate that angels and demons are very much part of everyday life.

I consider this a dangerous development. Al­ready the world around us has written off angels and demons as a myth we've inherited from the less enlightened fathers. If the Scriptural revelation of angels and demons does not come alive for us as something real for our daily lives, it may well be that we see the day when our children consider the mat­ter of spirits to be theological baggage we can well do without. It is in this regard worthwhile to note that there are today theologians (calling themselves reformed) who consider the whole subject of angels to be unprofitable for any believer unless one somehow first experiences angels (H Berkhof, Christian Faith, 1979, 175f.). This same writer sees no need to make mention of demons at all. There is then need for us to take the matter of angels and demons most seriously.

This is the more so because of trends in the world around us in the last decade. Whether it be out of reaction to the rigidness of a strictly scientific world view, or due to the import of Eastern and pagan religions into the western world, or to have some combina­tion of these (and other) factors, the last years have seen a renewed interest in the world of spirits. Occult, witchcraft, channel­ing: it's all found a recognized place in the New Age Movement. This renewed interest in our day in things spiritual prompts the need for a proper reformed understanding of what the spirits are all about. We may be certain that we'll hear more about the subject in the years to come. Indeed, we can count on it that our youth will come into contact with the world of the spirits, will even play games with that world as certainly as they will ex­periment with drugs.

A third reason why we do well to be keenly interested in the spirits of the air is because of what the Lord our God, in His infinite wisdom, has been pleased to tell us about the spirits of the air. Of particular importance here is the closing part of the Letter to the Ephesians. It is no accident that in this chap­ter the apostle Paul lays beside each other the subject of interpersonal relations in the Christian household (5:21-6:9) and the Christian's warfare with the hosts of dark­ness (6:10-20). In fact, the word translated by "finally" in 6:10 is not at all meant to divorce 5:21-6:9 from 6:10-20; that word is rather meant to tie the two paragraphs together (cf Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, 161). What the apostle does in 6:10ff is explain the deeper reality behind the struggles that one experiences in the Chris­tian home between wives and husbands, children and parents, and (in the days of Paul) slaves and masters. It is the apostle's contention in Ephesians 6 that the frictions and tensions that be are rooted in that deeper reality of spiritual war. The devil, together with his demons (those spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places), battle against the saints of God in an effort to break apart their lives. Those tensions in the home are part of that battle.

Here, then, is evidence aplenty that the sub­ject of angels and demons is most relevant for the ups and downs of the lives we live day by day.


We're told in Genesis 1:1 that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The following verses of that first chapter of the Bible tell us how the Lord formed and fashioned the earth and what dwells on this planet. What we are not told, however, is how the Lord formed the heavens and whatever might exist there. So it is that we know noth­ing about the creation of angels. We're not told it because our existence is of this earth; we need not know it in order to praise our Maker.

That does not mean that we know nothing about the beginnings of the angels. For to Job God says that the angels were already there when God "laid the foundations of the earth", more, ever since the beginning the angels have been singing and shouting for joy be­cause of the wonders of God's creation (cf Job 38:4ff). It would appear then that we are to understand that the angels have existed from the time of Genesis 1:1.

Why was it that the Lord God was pleased to fashion angels? The Lord tells us that the reason for their existence is that these crea­tures might praise and glorify the Creator. Such is the united testimony of Holy Writ; all creation (and therefore angels included) ex­ists for the purpose of glorifying God (cf Isaiah 43:7). Nehemiah puts it into words:

Thou art the Lord, Thou alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host...; and the host of heaven wor­ships Thee.Nehemiah 9:6

Accordingly, we confess the following in Art 12 of the Belgic Confession:

We believe that the Father ... has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures ... to serve (the) Creator.

That angels indeed were created for the glory of God is pointed up in that we read of angels doing precisely this. Recall again the words God spoke to Job concerning the time when He laid the foundations of the earth. Said God: at that time "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7). It's that purpose for existence that prompts the psalmist to encourage the heavens to praise the Lord. Psalm 148: "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord for the heavens ... Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him, all His host!" (vss. 1f). And again: "Bless the Lord, O you His angels" (Psalm 103:20). Yet that praise was not to come for no reason; the praise the psalmist encourages from the an­gels is a praise responding to God's mighty deeds. The poet of Psalm 103 instructs the angels to bless the Lord — why? — because "the Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all" (vs. 19). The angels over the fields of Bethlehem sang God's praise because God acted; He sent His Son to earth (Luke 2). In the Revelation shown to John, the angels praise God be­cause of the saving work of the Lamb (5:11ff) or because of Gods just judgments upon the sins of earth (19:1ff). So it is that these heavenly beings do not attract attention for themselves, nor do they desire praise for themselves (Revelation 19:10); they instead ever and again direct attention to God.

In light of the task for which they were created, God has given to angels their specific "being, shape, and form" (Art 12, Belgic Confession). To carry out their task, God did not give to angels bodies of flesh and blood; God made them instead as "spirits" (cf Hebrews 1:14). These heavenly spirits have knowledge of God and can think (cf 1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:10). It is this knowledge of God and their ability to think that the angels use to respond to God's ac­tions with songs and words of praise (cf Job 38:7; Luke 2:13f; 1 Corinthians 13:1; Revelation 5:11ff). An­gels were initially created in great numbers (Psalm 148:2) and that number has not grown since through procreation (Matthew 22:30). As such, angels know no family allegiances; they can concentrate with undivided attention on the tasks for which they exist (cf 1 Corinthians 7:32). There appear to be various classes of angels; beside "regular" angels, Scriptures speak of cherubs (Genesis 3:24; 1 Kings 6:24; Ezekiel 10:3) and serafs (Isaiah 6:2), as well as of archangels (Jude 9).

The angels God created for His own glory were objects of His election (1 Timothy 5:21). From eternity God had determined which of these innumerable angels would remain faithful to Him, and which would not. In ac­cordance with this divine election, a certain number of angels — no more and no less than God had determined — rebelled against God shortly after God finished creating the world. Once the angels had chosen whether they would remain faithful to God or would join in the rebellion, it was no longer possible for the angels, be they fallen or not, to shift al­legiance anymore. As a result, those angels who remained faithful to God are now com­mitted to God with absolute allegiance. It is that absolute allegiance to God that gives rise to their exemplary obedience to God. The faith­ful angels are characterized in Scripture as "hearkening to the voice of His will" and "min­isters that do His will" (Psalms 103:20f). There is no hesitation on the part of angels, no reluctance to obey, no desire to disobey. It is for that reason that Jesus Christ was able, in the third petition of the Lord's Prayer, to hold up the angels as an example for the kind of obedience He desires from His people. To quote the Catechism: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven is a prayer in which we ask God that "everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven" (Lord’s Day 49).

These creatures of heaven created for the praise of God in the heavenly places are com­monly known as "angels". The word "angel" describes the task of these heavenly crea­tures in so far as it relates to man. For the word used in Hebrew for "angel" means "messenger". So Jacob, for example, when he travelled back to Canaan from Padan-Aram, sent angels, messengers, to greet Esau (Genesis 32:3). Similarly, King David and his military commander Joab sent angels, messengers, back and forth to each other with instruc­tions and reports about the war (2 Samuel 11). Those creatures who inhabit the heavens are God's angels, God's messengers who carry messages from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. Jacob's dream about the ladder is a case in point (Genesis 28:10ff). It is in that same light that we are to see the various angels God sent to specific persons with mes­sages from God. We may think of Abram and Lot (Genesis 18f), of Gideon (Judges 6), of Manoah and his wife (Judges 13), of Zechariah (Luke 1), of Mary (Luke 1), of John (Revelation 19:9). Similarly, it is that task of being God's messengers that is pointed up in the angelic meeting around God's throne described in Job 1 (cf Zechariah 1:11).

This task of being messengers between heaven and earth, however, implies more than that angels say things on God's behalf to individuals on earth or report to God on how persons on earth are faring. It is as messengers of God that angels are also in­structed by God to do certain things on earth, and by doing certain things to communicate a message from God to those who live on earth. It is this thought that is captured in the words of Hebrews 1:14. In that text it is said of angels that they are "ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation". Sent forth from God these angels are, in order to do specific things for the benefit of the elect. Here we may think of the words of Psalm 91:

He will give His angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.Psalm 91: 11f

We may likewise think of what Elisha's ser­vant was allowed to see when he and the prophet were surrounded by the Syrian army: "the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (2 Kings 6:17). Messengers of God these horses and chariots of fire were, mes­sengers sent by God to protect His prophet, messengers sent by God to impress on the young servant that God ever and again protects His people (cf Psalm 34:7). Not — let it be said — that each Christian has his own individual "guardian angel" to protect him. This element of Roman Catholic theology has been rejected by the Reformers as Scripturally un­sound. It rather is so that angels in general guard God's people at any given moment.

Yet it is not only by means of protection that angels serve the saints. God involved an angel to punish Israel after David numbered the people (2 Samuel 24:16). That angel was used by God to impress upon David and all Israel the saving message that God's people were bound to trust upon God alone. Similar­ly, God sent an angel to kill 185,000 of the Assyrian soldiers who had besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35), and in doing reminded His people of that same truth. And in the Revelation shown to John, the Lord Jesus makes clear that angels pour out God's plagues upon an apostate mankind (cf Revelation 16). In all these cases God uses the angels to communicate a truth to His people on earth.

The function of angels has been profoundly affected by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The purpose of that sacrifice — as we well know — was to ransom a people from the power of the devil and reconcile these to God. As such, the purpose of Calvary revolved around the glory of God on high.

The effects of that triumph did not touch earth alone. Because of that victory, the an­gels received new perspective for their work too. Christ's triumph made repentance on earth possible, and this repentance on earth prompts great joy in heaven among the an­gels (Luke 15:10). Indeed, it is that triumph of the Son of God on Calvary that allows God in heaven to send His angels to earth to serve "those who are to obtain salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). From all eternity glory rightfully belonged to God, and because of Calvary could glory again be given to God; today the angels are engrossed in that one task of bringing that glory to God on high, and they do it both by word and song, as well as by serving those for whom Christ shed his blood.

Are there angels around us today? Do the angels today serve God's elect, guard us on our way lest we dash our foot against a stone? The answer here is yes, they do. Though we live in the twentieth century, there are al­ways angels guarding us, serving us. These angels, we are to know, are sent from heaven for our good by none else than our Father in Jesus Christ. Why we can be sure of it? Be­cause that's what Hebrews 1 says: angels are ministering spirits sent forth to serve those who are to obtain salvation. By the grace of God in Christ, we are to obtain salvation. To ensure that we be not harmed, that we can instead give glory to our Creator/Redeemer, the Lord sends His angels to us day by day to have charge of us. What is said in Scrip­ture about angels is not a truth that was valid only in the days of David or of Paul. Today — though we may not see them, let alone recognize them as angels — they al­ways accompany us and our children, lest we should dash our foot against a stone. More, by means of angels the Lord our God guards us so that we are able to serve our Creator day by day.


Demons were not originally created as demons. The Lord God, Scripture tells us, had created all things good, very good (Genesis 1:31), including the angels. But, Scriptures add, certain "angels ... did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling" (Jude 6; cf 2 Peter 2:4). The reference is to a revolt that occurred in heaven sometime shortly after God created heaven and earth. For reasons not told us in Scriptures, some angels opted to rebel against God and leave their first position. It should be noted that this angelic rebellion and fall did not happen without the will of God, for all things in heaven and on earth always were and always shall be totally in the hands of the Almighty Creator. The apostle Paul even speaks specifically of "elect angels" (1 Timothy 5:21), thereby implying that certain angels were set aside for "reproba­tion" before the foundation of the world.

These fallen angels — commonly called demons or devils — remain angels in that they retain the outward characteristics of these spirits. As faithful angels, so also these fallen angels are bodiless creatures, have no family, have knowledge, can communicate. They are different from the faithful angels, however, in that they have become totally depraved, and so intent on every evil; they cannot do good. Their leader is that angel known as the Devil and Satan (cf Matthew 25:41).

Before we go further into the characteristics and attitudes of these fallen demons, we do well to have straight in our minds the fact that the leader of these demons is as much a creature as anything else God created. Con­trary to what has been suggested in the course of history (and is held for truth in too many minds today) is the fact that Satan is not some sort of a second god, an anti-god, a god of darkness who opposes the God of light (cf Art 12, Belgic Confession). It is true that the Evil One would love to be worshipped as a god (as indeed he is by people of this world, cf 2 Corinthians 4:4), but he in fact is not a god. To suggest that he in some way is a god able to do this or that of himself — even read human minds — gives too much honour to Satan, and as such takes honour away from the true God. The consequence of that observation is that this world is not to be understood as a battle ground between two opposing deities, two powerful gods having it out (with those on earth being the hapless victims of their struggle). The Almighty reveals in His Word to men that Satan is very much a creature, and as such is limited, is finite. He is not everywhere present, is not all powerful, does not know all things. Nor can he continue to exist by himself; he too, as any creature, is dependent on his Creator for day by day ex­istence. What the Church confesses in Lord’s Day 9 of the Heidelberg Catechism applies to the Evil One and his demons too: "the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them, ... still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence" (cf Art 13, Belgic Confession). Satan, too, lives on because Almighty God allows it, grants him continued existence. Recollection of this reality will go a long way in having a proper perspective of the demons and their prince.             

For the benefit of His children, it pleased the Lord to reveal a number of characteristics and attitudes of the demons and their prince. It is particularly through the names given to the prince of demons that the Lord reveals to us the character of these fallen angels. The names God reveals included, a.o., Satan, Devil, Belial, Beelzebul (or Beelzebub), Dragon, Serpent, etc. To gain some under­standing of this prince of demons, I draw attention specifically to the first two names mentioned: Satan and Devil.

The DEVIL he is called in Scripture. That term Devil comes from a Greek word that means to throw things through each other. The result of throwing things through each other, we know, is that one makes a chaotic mess. It can be done not only by deeds but also by words; by distorting, by tearing com­ments out of contexts, and so on, people can be set against people, a chaos made. So that word "devil" comes to means slanderer, false accuser.

The Lord would have us to know that this name characterises the Evil One and his demons. These fallen angels are bent on es­tablishing chaos, on driving God and people apart, on driving people from people. To reach that goal, the demons slander, make false accusations, twist both the truth of God's Word and the words people speak, the deeds people perform. As such, Jesus makes a point of calling the Devil a "murderer" and a "liar" (cf John 8:44).

How much of a devil the Devil and his angels are is illustrated countless times on the pages of Holy Writ. We may think, for ex­ample, of the Devil's efforts in Paradise to deceive the woman. Purposefully, conscious­ly, the Devil twisted God's words so that God was made to look stingy — He hadn't given all the trees to Adam and Eve for food (Genesis 3). Let no one think either that the Evil One has changed his tactics since the days of the fall; that creature is absolutely depraved and cannot change himself in essence. He may put himself out as "an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14), but all the while remains a deadly Devil.

The Lord also reveals the leader of the fallen angels as "SATAN". That word simply means adversary, enemy, opponent. The reference is to someone who puts obstacles on the path of another, who goes out of his way to trip another up (cf 2 Samuel 19:22). So we read in 1 Chronicles 21 that,

Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel.1 Chronicles 21:1

That verse captures the meaning of the term "satan"; the Evil One is against, is contrary, opposes (cf Zechariah 3:1ff).

Who specifically does the Evil One oppose? That, we understand, is God. It was against God that he rebelled in the beginning, against God that he incited Eve in Paradise. Because it is God against whom Satan pits himself does he also fight against anyone who loves God and belongs to God. As such, the Evil One sets himself up against the church of God. The church, the people of God who live for God's glory: they are the ones whom Satan hates, the ones he opposes. It is, in other words, against the believers today that Satan fights; these are they whom he tries so hard to trip up.

Why the Lord our God has revealed these names to us? God knows the Evil One, knows how Satan opposes God, opposes God's people, how the Devil slanders God and God's own in an effort to drive people from God. God considers it necessary, for the sake of our own salvation, that we too know just who the Evil One and his demons are. God would not have us consider the Evil One to be some gentle old fool who wouldn't touch us, or some distant force that doesn't affect us. The Devil would have us think it, to be sure, so that we might be easy prey for him. But with these names God reveals to us the character and attitude of the demons and their prince, so that we in turn might take the devil and his angels seriously.

That we are indeed to take Satan and his demons seriously is further pointed up by other titles God is pleased to give to Satan. Jesus Christ calls Satan "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The apostle Paul is inspired to write that Satan is "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4). In Ephesians 6 that same apostle uses such threatening terms as "principalities", "powers", "the world rulers of this present darkness" (vs. 12) in order to make clear that Satan and his demons have great power. It is as if the apostle would press upon the church of all ages the truth that the Evil One is no harmless wimp, no powerless sulk; it is rather so that he has great power, can issue commands and receives obedience.

Jesus makes mention again of this lofty posi­tion and great power in the Revelation He showed to John on Patmos. John is made to see that beast with ten horns and seven heads, that beast to whom the dragon (i.e. Satan) "gave his power and his throne and great authority" (Revelation 13:2). The intent of the beast is to organise the world powers behind him, to enlist in his service also the false prophet (i.e. the apostate preachers of the gospel), and so to unite mankind behind that one god of this world, that dragon, that Evil One. In his efforts to realize his goal, in his efforts to gather all mankind behind him, to glean worship from the whole earth, this Evil One and his beast leave no stone unturned: temptation, deception, force, slander, mali­cious accusations, lies, murders — all of it is used by this Devil, by this Satan, to attain that goal. It means for us that the warning of that voice from heaven is to be taken seriously: "woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath" (Revelation 12:12). So too are the words of Peter to be carefully heeded: "Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). In fact, this is the reason why Paul says what he says in Ephesians 6:

Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.Ephesians 6:11

Well does the church echo in her confession this truth of Scripture: "the devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and of all that is good. With all their might, they lie in wait like murderers to ruin the Church and all its members and to destroy everything by their wicked devices" (Art 12, Belgic Confession). And else­where: "our sworn enemies — (including the devil) — do not cease to attack us" (Lord’s Day 52).

To sharpen our focus the more on this dark reality, we are to note that there are in­numerable demons (cf Mark 5:9; Ephesians 6:12). More, these demons are presented not as operating simply in far away places; these demons are presented as being active in the air (Ephesians 2:2; 6:12). They, like angels, are spirits, are as such invisible, can be anywhere. That in turn means that demons can certainly be present with us as we read this article, can be present with us as we weld or do our baking. Not, let me add, that demons are necessarily always present wherever God's people are; angels are with God's people all the time to protect them, demons can be present.

This horrid reality can in itself be enough to frighten us much. Who, after all, would dare to be comfortable with the thought of various demons in our midst?! It is small wonder indeed that unbelievers would prefer to ig­nore the reality of demons.

Yet it is not the Lord's intent to frighten us. For in His Word He has told us much more than that these depraved enemies of God and of all that is good lie in wait like murderers to ruin the Church and all its members. God would have us know that the Evil One and his hosts are defeated.

I mentioned earlier the text that relates that certain angels in the beginning left their proper dwelling (Jude 6). This same text tells us also of God's immediate response to the fall of these angels. Says Jude: these fallen angels "have been kept by (God) in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judg­ment of the great day." With those words the Lord tells His church that the Evil One and his demons did not, on the day of their revolt, break free from God's sovereign control; rather God straightaway bound these dis­obedient angels so that they were restricted in their activities. Jude speaks of chains being used to bind these demons, and the reference to chains makes clear that God permits these demons to do certain things and no more, to go so far and no further. So it is that neither the Evil One himself, nor his demons, can do a thing without God permit­ting it. What we read in Job about God allow­ing Satan to do this and that to Job is characteristic of all Satan's activities (Job 1, 2); always must Satan acknowledge that there is One stronger than He, One who limits Satan's activities. From that it follows too that even something like the temptation in Paradise did not happen without God; God permitted the Devil to make use of the ser­pent, permitted the Devil to utter his decep­tion to the woman. Here is touched that deep and most comforting truth confessed in Art 13 of the Belgic Confession: God "so rules and governs (all things) that in this world noth­ing happens without His direction." And later:

His power and goodness are so great and beyond understanding that He ordains and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even when devils...act un­justly." Again: "He holds in check the devil and all our enemies so that they cannot hurt us without His permission and will.

Bound Satan is so that he can do no more than God allows. This binding is something the Evil One and his demons do not wish to acknowledge. In fact, ever since the day of his initial rebellion the Evil One has continued the struggle to free himself from the chains imposed on him by his Maker. Yet always in the course of the Old Testament was Satan but a tool of God (cf 2 Samuel 24:1 with 1 Chronicles 21:1).

There came the day when Jesus engaged the Devil and his demons on Calvary. On that day, Satan tried once more so desperately to break the eternal chains by which the devils were bound. But break those chains the demons could not, and they could not break the Christ of God either. For that three-hour hellish darkness around the cross was broken by that piercing cry of triumph: "It is finished" (John 19:30). With that triumph over the Evil One Christ "disarmed the prin­cipalities and powers and made a public ex­ample of them" (Colossians 2:15). So it was that when Christ could ascend into heaven, He could lead a host of captives (Ephesians 4:8); more, in heaven Christ could be crowned Lord of all (cf Acts 2:36; Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:21). As the Lord's Prayer also says it: "for Thine — and not Satan's — is the kingdom and the power." Lord’s Day 52: Christ has "power over all things." It is this same reality that John was allowed to see in Revelation 20; an angel came down from heaven and "seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him" for the entire New Testament dispensation (vs. 1f).

It is true that the Lord would have His church know well who Satan is so as to be adequately armed against the "wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11); God, after all, made the human race responsible. At the same time, though, the Lord of the church does not wish His people to live in fear of an undefeated enemy. Satan is bound, is dependent on God for existence, must do what the Lord would have him do. In fact, this fallen angel with his cronies must fulfill the purpose for which they were initially created; the Devil and his demons must add to the glory of God in heaven.

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