In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini tells an interesting story about the owner of a jewelry store who was having trouble moving some of her merchandise. Specifically, she had a lot of turquoise and silver Native American jewelry.
Now, the jewelry owner had tried every conventional sales trick to make the jewelry more appealing. She placed the pieces in a central display case. She asked her sales staff to “push” them and so on, but nothing worked.
Then, on her way out of town for a business trip, she scribbled a quick note to the store manager directing her to cut the price in half. “Everything in this display case, price x ½,” she wrote.
All the jewelry sold, but not for the reason you might think. The manager misread the scribbled note. She had read the “½” as a “2”; so instead of slashing the original price of the jewelry in half, she had doubled it.
How then did she manage to sell the unsellable jewelry at double the price? Cialdini explains that people never questioned the true value of the jewelry. They just assumed that an expensive price tag must translate into valuable and good jewelry. (Samantha Broadman, “Do You Get What You Pay For?” Positive Prescription blog, 3-4-15; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s what Satan does all the time. He makes cheap and worthless things seem very valuable. He flips the price tags. He labels evil good, and a lot of people are deceived.
When our son, Peter, was in first grade, he came home from the school, describing an experience he had in music class. The teacher had put on some music and instructed the children to close their eyes. Then, with their eyes closed, they were to imagine traveling in a strange and wonderful land, where they would meet a friendly creature, who would be their guide in that land.
It was a “guided imagery” exercise, designed to reduce the stress of these first graders in a different environment. In fact, the teacher instructed her pupils to conjure up this “friendly creature” whenever they had a problem or needed someone to talk to.
I’m sure she thought she was being helpful, employing one of the new techniques she learned at the University, where she had just graduated with a degree in elementary education. But what she didn’t realize was that she had just introduced her first graders to the world of the occult. What she called “guided imagery” was the occult practice of “astral projection,” and the “friendly creature” was actually a “spirit guide” or a demon in disguise.
Neil Anderson and Steve Russo, in their groundbreaking book, The Seduction of our Children, reported that in a survey of hundreds of Christian teenagers, more than 50% of those who had entertained these spirit guides also had impulsive thoughts to kill someone. (pp.39,44)
What seemed so “right” and “good” was absolutely deadly! So it is with many occult practices – including Yoga exercises, the use of tarot cards, the practice of fortune telling and palm reading, or playing with an Ouija board. These things are masqueraded as “stress reducers” or “harmless parlor games”, but they are pathways by which Satan and his demons gain control of people’s lives. The Bible warns us of these things on numerous occasions, and there is coming a day when the whole world will realize just how hideous and destructive these satanic practices really are.
After the church is taken out of this world, Satan’s forces will be unleashed as never before, and they will be unmasked for what they really are. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Revelation 9, Revelation 9, where we catch a glimpse of those hideous forces.
Revelation 9:1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. (ESV)
Notice, this star is already “fallen” from heaven. The tense of the verb indicates something that happened in the past with continuing results. In other words, this “star” fell at some time in the past with the result that it remains in a fallen state.
Well, students of the Bible recognize this star as none other than Satan himself. Isaiah 14 calls him a “day star” or Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12). Then it goes on to describe his fall from heaven. You see, Satan used to be the highest archangel in heaven; but then he wanted to take God’s place himself, so God kicked Lucifer out.
He fell to this earth, and his first act as Satan was to convince Adam and Eve that they could be a god like he wanted to be. “You will be like God,” he said, when you eat the forbidden fruit; and it’s the lie he has been telling us ever since.
Today, people tell us, “You are full of potential. All you need to do is actualize the potential within and you will succeed.” But that’s not what the Bible says. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We are totally dependent upon God, and yet Satan would have us believe we can be gods ourselves.
Satan has indeed fallen to this earth, but during the tribulation, when the 5th angel sounds his trumpet, Satan will be given the key to the bottomless pit. Now, this pit is nothing less than a maximum security prison for Satan’s worst demons.
You see, according to Revelation 12:4, when Satan fell out of heaven, he brought a third of the angels with him. These are “fallen angels” or “demons,” as we sometimes call them. Well, the worst of these demons have been incarcerated in the “pit” since the early days of earth’s history. 2 Peter 2:4 says, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (literally a pit) and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.”
It’s a terrible place, even for demons. In Luke 8:31, when Jesus was casting the legion of demons out of a man, they begged Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit. It’s the same pit in which Satan himself will be bound during the reign of Christ on this earth (Revelation 20:1-3). Right now, it holds Satan’s worst demons, but when the 5th angel sounds his trumpet during the tribulation, Satan is given the key to this pit, and…
Revelation 9:2-3 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. (ESV)
Now, these are not natural locusts. They are demonic hordes loosed upon the earth. Satan’s forces are unleashed, and they invade the planet like a vast locust plague.
It is 1,000 times worse than opening up the maximum security, federal prison at Leavenworth and unleashing all the rapists and killers to wreck havoc on society. These demonic hordes are described as “locusts,” because they remind us of the locust plagues in the Old Testament.
When God sent the 8th plague on Egypt, the Bible says, “The LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 10:13-15).
This is a picture of absolute devastation, and that’s exactly what happens when Satan’s forces are unleashed. Only, instead of hurting the trees and the grass, they will hurt men and women.
Revelation 9:4-6 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. (ESV)
The believers are protected from this demonic invasion, those who have God’s seal, but everybody else will be tortured for five months. In fact, they will hurt so bad, they will want to die. My friends, that’s the nature of demonic activity, so…
Witchcraft promises you power over nature and over people, but in the end it takes away your power; it takes away your ability to make choices for yourself. During the Tribulation, people won’t even be able to choose their own death, though they want it so badly at the time. What may seem like “harmless fun,” what may seem to give you power, will only torment you in the end.
Joe Gutierrez, in his book, The Heat: Steelworkers' Lives and Legends, tells some stories from his 42 years as a steelworker. In one story, called “Snow Danced in August,” he describes a scene of silvery dust flakes that frequently floated to the floor in an area of the mill where steel strips rolled over pads in a tall cooling tower. For years, workers and visitors alike flocked to the sight, which was especially picturesque at night.
Then they discovered the dust was asbestos. “Everybody breathed it,” Gutierrez wrote. He now suffers from the slow, choking grip of asbestosis, as do many plant workers.
“Who am I?” he says in the book. “I'm everybody. Can't walk too far now. I get tired real fast and it hurts when I breathe, sometimes. And to think we used to fight over that job.”
How many things in our culture resemble the silver flakes in that steel mill? – Enchanting but deadly. ("Steelworkers Break the Mold," Chicago Tribune, 6-27-01)
That’s the way it is with the devil’s lies. The witchcraft popularized by the Harry Potter books, the fantasy games, like Dungeons and Dragons, the occult practices, like palm reading, Ouija Boards, and Tarot Cards, will only destroy you in the end.
So beware! There’s coming a day when Satan’s forces will be unleashed.
And when they are, they will be unmasked. They will be exposed for what they really are. Look at their description in verse 7
Revelation 9:7 In appearance the locusts looked like horses prepared for battle [These are not tiny little bugs. They are of considerable size, strength and speed]. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold [They are conquerors]. Their faces were like human faces [They are intelligent creatures].
Revelation 9:8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth… (ESV)
In some ways, they are attractive creatures, but they are very cruel.
Revelation 9:9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron [They are nearly invincible]. And the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle [The sound of them strikes terror in the hearts of even the bravest of men].
Revelation 9:10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. (ESV)
They will inflict an incredible amount of pain, as we have already seen. Put it all together: These demons are locust-like, horse-like, man-like, lion-like, scorpion-like creatures. It all adds up to one hideous, grotesque horde of beings, and that’s exactly what God wants to communicate here.
Satan and his forces are at last revealed for what they really are. They are not nice “spirit guides.” They are not “the warm light at the end of the tunnel.” They are not “your uncle Joe come back from the dead.” They ARE hideous, horrifying creatures that will absolutely destroy you in the end.
Revelation 9:11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon [which means Destruction], and in Greek he is called Apollyon [which means Destroyer]. (ESV)
Satan is a destroyer, who brings destruction into every life he touches.
When Barry Merritt and his family lived St. Petersburg, Florida, they would go to the beach. Even so, they found it hard to relax and have a good time, because there were too many threats: jellyfish, stingrays, sharks, and the wicked undertow.
Then one time, some of their relatives came to St. Petersburg with a boat. They decided to go out to an island a couple of miles offshore called Egmont Key. They had a great time because they didn't have to worry about the normal threats, or so they thought. The water was blue, the sand was white, and so they swam with their children without a care in the Gulf of Mexico.
A few days later, they were telling some friends about their wonderful day. That’s when they found out hey had been swimming in one of the most shark-infested areas around! Barry says, “We were in danger, but completely oblivious to it.” (Barry Merritt, Toledo, Ohio)
My friends, don’t be oblivious to Satan’s tactics. He makes the wrong look so beautiful and right when it is so very destructive. So beware, but if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ…
DON’T BE AFRAID.
Don’t be terrified. Don’t be immobilized by too much preoccupation with the devil; because even when Satan’s forces are unleashed and unmasked, God’s people are not unprotected.
We quickly passed it by, but did you notice something very important in verse 4. These hideous demons have the power to hurt everyone except those who have “the seal of God on their foreheads.” These are those who were sealed in chapter 7 – the 144,000 Jews who come to trust Jesus as their Savior and Messiah during the Tribulation.
God protects them from these hideous demons, and He protects those of us who trust Christ today. Ephesians 1 says God seals every believer with the Holy Spirit. So if the “sealed” are protected THEN during the Tribulation, they are certainly protected NOW from Satan’s assaults.
It’s the very thing Jesus prayed for in John 17. As he prays for His followers, He says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). It’s a prayer that God gladly answers in any age.
Lee Eclov, pastor of an Evangelical Free Church in Lake Forest, Illinois, talks about an experience he had several years ago that opened his eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare. While he was sound asleep, he heard the phone ringing (or so he thought). In the darkness, he blindly grabbed for the phone; but he was so groggy, he couldn't really wake up. When he put the phone to his ear, he heard a voice, flat and menacing: “You thought we'd forgotten you”, it said.
Then there was just silence, but Lee was sure the man was still there. His mind was racing to think, “Who wanted to hurt me? Who wanted me to cower in fear? The man who got angry a few weeks ago when we wouldn't give him money?” Pastor Lee says, “I was getting very scared. I sensed this was something dark and diabolical.”
Pastor Lee couldn't even speak, but somehow he simply blurted out, “Jesus!” And suddenly the fear left his heart and his bedroom. He came wide awake and realized he did not have the phone in his hand; that it was still across the room. Yet he knew that what had happened was more than just a dream. He said, “I had felt the presence of real evil – the presence of the Evil One. But now, after calling on Jesus' name, I wasn't frightened. As a matter of fact”, he said, “I was exhilarated at the power of Jesus' name. I got up, turned on the bathroom light, washed my face, and cleared my head. Then I went back to bed. Surrounded by the presence of Christ, I felt a great peace.”
And as Pastor Lee was falling back asleep, he heard a melody in his mind. “It was beautiful, like a lullaby”, he said. He recognized it but couldn't place it. Then the next morning it came to him: It was a tune from Les Miserables, and the words, which he didn't even fully know then, are “You will keep me safe, and you will keep me close; I'll sleep in your embrace at last.” Pastor Lee said, “I've always felt that my heavenly Father hummed me to sleep that night – that night when the power of Jesus' name conquered the Evil One.” (Lee Eclov, www.PreachingToday.com)
Let me tell you: That power is available to anyone who depends on Christ. All you have to do is shout out the name of Jesus, and Satan’s forces flee. I’ve done it several times throughout my life and ministry and experienced the same kind of results Pastor Lee did.
Sure, we need to be aware of Satan’s tactics, but we don’t need to be afraid, because our Heavenly Father protects those who are His.
On February 27, 2012, 17-year-old T. J. Lane from Chardon, Ohio, burst into his school's cafeteria and started gunning down classmates. Lane shot and killed three students, but if it wasn't for the courage of Coach Frank Hall, many more students could have died that day.
The funny thing is that Hall doesn't consider himself to be a courageous hero. The 6'1", 350-pound football coach admits that he has plenty of fears. He hates confrontations; he's afraid of heights, roller coasters, and scary movies; and he jumps through the ceiling when his kids sneak up on him. On one level, Coach Hall is more of a teddy bear than a fighter.
But Frank Hall believes that there's one word that defines his life calling – protector. So as the shots rang out on that February morning in the Chardon High School cafeteria, Frank Hall knew what he had to do. Hall, a follower of Christ who felt the hand of God through the ordeal, responded with courage in the face of danger. As students cringed under desks, Hall charged at the gunman, his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!” T.J. Lane, the 17-year-old shooter, was thrown off-guard by Hall's charge. Lane shot and missed as Hall dove behind a soda machine.
When Jen Sprinzl, a 51-year-old secretary, rushed out of the office to follow the bangs, Lane pointed his gun in her face. Hall once again he rose up and bellowed, "NO!" Then he charged at Lane, who wheeled and started running. Police finally found Lane on a wooded road, shivering and wearing a t-shirt with the word KILLER on it. When they asked him why he'd run away, he said, “Because Coach Hall was chasing me.”
In a later interview, Hall said, “I know, it sounds crazy, but in all honesty, I really didn't think about anything … I just reacted …. As a society, we cannot lose our outrage when these kinds of tragedies happen. We can't just get to the point where we accept these kinds of things as just part of our lives, now. We have to make sure we, as a people, don't accept it … we can't!” (Gary Smith, “A Coach's Courage,” Sports Illustrated, 6-24-13; www.PreachingToday.com)
Coach Hall is absolutely right. We cannot accept the evil that Satan is throwing at us these days, especially we who know Christ. We cannot cower in fear anymore. Instead, let’s charge the gates of Hell in the power of Jesus’ name, and know that they will not prevail against us.