A 2016 Gallup poll found: (1) 11% said that they did not believe in God; (2) 27% said that they did not believe in the devil; (3) 15% did not believe in heaven; (4) 22% did not believe in hell (gallup.com/poll/193271/americans-believe-god.aspx). Every poll that I have ever seen indicate a similar pattern: More people believe in God and heaven, than believe in the devil and hell.
However, the Bible teaches the reality of both God and the devil, and both heaven and hell. We have an adversary, and he “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Does Satan have power? He certainly does. Consider the book of Job: (1) He influenced evil men (Sabeans, Chaldeans) to attack Job’s house (Job 1:12 cf. 1:13-15, 17). How did he do this? We are not told. When Satan affected the heart of Ananias (Acts 5:3), Ananias was complicit in the matter and responsible (Acts 5:4). (2) He caused violent weather (a. the fire of God = lightning?, b. wind) to come on Job’s house (Job 1:12 cf. 1:16, 18-19). How did he do this? We are not told. However, he was only able to do this because God permitted it (Job 1:12). (3) He caused disease to come to Job (Job 2:6-7). How did he do this? We are not told. However, he was only able to do this because God permitted it (Job 2:6). Satan did not force Job to turn from God. He used indirect means (men and nature) to attempt to get Job to turn from God. Kerry Duke well states, “Apparently, the devil was allowed to utilize the physical environment to afflict Job – a sort of ‘Satanic providence’… The devil appears to exert an influence on the world which is roughly parallel to God’s providence. As with God’s providence, this activity is hidden from our view. Perhaps it is through this means that the devil tempts us… God allows Satan to have enough power to test severely our will, but He does not permit him to coerce us to sin. We have the ability to resist the devil (James 4:7)” (Duke, God at a Distance, p. 170).
Has Satan been allowed to use miraculous power? It is not clear to me that he ever has. Darrell Conley has written, “If the devil also possesses supernatural power and is able to perform miracles, then we would have no way of confirming God’s word. We would not know whether God was doing it, or the devil” (Conley, The Gospel Versus Occultism, p. 18).
What about: (1) Pharaoh’s magicians (Exodus 7-8)? I believe that it was trickery. (a) It is interesting that when they had prior knowledge of what was to be done, they were able to duplicate it (Exodus 7:14-22; 8:1-7). However, when they had no advanced warning, they were unable to duplicate it (Exodus 8:16-18). (b) It is interesting that it was through Moses and Aaron plagues were removed (Exodus 8:8-14; 8:29-31; 9:28-34; 10:16-19). The magicians were unable to remove such (Exodus 9:10-11). [Note: For more information see article Questions About The Exodus by B.H.].
(2) The witch at En Dor (1 Samuel 28)? I believe that it was God, and not this witch, who brought up Samuel. (a) The woman cried out with a loud voice, when she saw Samuel. She seems to have been greatly surprised. (b) The LORD said through Jeremiah, “Do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers… for they prophesy a lie to you” (Jeremiah 27:9-10). Where is the clear passage which indicates that anyone other than God can foretell the future? The Bible indicates that God alone knows the future (Isaiah 44:6-8; 46:9-10). [Note: For more information see article Demons (Part Two) by B.H.].
(3) Slave girl at Philippi (Acts 16:16-24)? She was demon possessed. She is said to have had a spirit of divination. Could she foretell the future? I am not convinced that she could. Darrell Conley has written, “The (original B.H.) word ‘divination’ is a word which also means ‘ventriloquism,’ which in turn is a word that does not carry with it the idea of ‘throwing one’s voice,’ but of ‘speaking from the belly,’ which is how the illusion of distance is achieved. That the girl was actually possessed by a demon is clear. That the demon caused her to claim the power to divine is also clear. That the demon itself may have spoken these things from within her (‘speaking from the belly’) is likely. That the demon was able to actually divine the future is not substantiated by the text” (Conley, pp. 20-21). [Note: For more information see article Demons (Part Two) by B.H.].
If Satan has been allowed to use miraculous power, then in those Biblical instances, God’s power has also been present and superior. Aaron’s rod swallowed the rods of the magicians (Exodus 7:8-13). Jesus and His disciples cast out demons (e.g. Acts 16:16-18).
If I Were Satan
It does not take Satanic miracles to mislead people. It can be done in much more subtle ways.
(1) I would try to convince people that they can start obeying God tomorrow. There is always tomorrow. There is plenty of time. But, I would know that this is a lie. Time will eventually run out.
(2) I would try to get them to believe in salvation by mental faith alone, or by water baptism alone. They can debate which is correct. However, both will be wrong.
(3) I would try to convince Christians that lukewarm, half-hearted devotion pleases God. But, I would know that such would not be acceptable (Revelation 3:16; Luke 14:26, 27, 33).
(4) I would try to get members to hear, but not do. They would think that they are pleasing to God by attending alone. I would know that God expects more (James 1:22).
(5) I would try to convince them that worship is all that matters. They can live like the world, and so long as they worship – God will be pleased. It would be a lie (1 Timothy 2:8; James 4:8).
(6) I would try to get them to believe that it does not matter which church they attend. One church is as good as another. But, I would know that these various churches do not even teach the same plan of salvation.
(7) I would try to get them to believe that God does not care how they worship. He only cares that they worship. This would be very deceptive (Matthew 15:8-9; John 4: 24).
(8) I would try to get the church to forget its true mission as the pillar and ground of truth (2 Timothy 3:15). I would turn it into little more than a social club.
(9) I would instigate fusses and fights among brethren over the smallest of matters, Biblically insignificant matters. This would greatly hinder the work of the church (John 17:20-21; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:1-2; 3:16; 4:2).
I think that he is doing an outstanding job. What do you think?
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels'” (Matthew 25:41). Hell was a placed prepared for the devil and his angels. The unrighteous who follow him will also be there.
We are in a fight for our eternal souls. We have an adversary. He is seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Do not be deceived.