Summary: The Devil is real and we can expect to encounter him if we're followers of Jesus.
A sermon by Heather Cetrangolo
We’re going to start with a questionnaire this morning. I want us all to think about how we would answer these statements, as true or false? (This is only for private reflection, not to share)
1. I believe that Jesus has saved me from being lost and without hope. (TRUE/FALSE)
2. I live my life in such a way that others around me know I believe this. (TRUE/FALSE)
3. I regularly tell people how Jesus has changed my life. (TRUE/FALSE)
4. Every day I ask God, ‘who do you want me to talk to about you today?’ (TRUE/FALSE)
5. I have to be involved in at least one outreach group to feel like I am part of the church community. (TRUE/FALSE)
6. I believe in Satan. (TRUE/FALSE)
‘Do you believe in Satan?’
I can remember being asked this question, years ago, in my first year at uni. A friend of mine whose name was Belinda, asked me this question. I proudly responded, ‘I believe in God.’
And she said, yeah I know but, ‘Do you believe Satan exists?’
I thought about it. And at the time, I had to say, ‘no, I don’t.’ Because I didn’t like the way that some Christians want to blame the Devil for everything. Some Christians seem to me obsessed with demons, and this can be at the expense of acknowledging that most human suffering is actually the result of sin. So, I said, ‘no, I don’t believe in Satan.’
And she said, ‘But haven’t you ever felt the power of Satan?’
I thought about. And at the time I had to say, ‘no, I haven’t.’
And she said to me, ‘Well, I have.’
I guess at that time in my life I was a bit oversensitive to people trying to check me out with these sorts of questions, to work out whether I was a real Christian or not. After all, the Nicene Creed which sets out the basic doctrines of our faith, makes absolutely no mention of the Devil. It is all about what we believe about God. So, believing in the Devil isn’t what makes you a Christian, and I would say, not believing in the Devil doesn’t make you not a Christian.
But having said that, the bible does tell us a lot about the Devil. And this must be because God wants us to know about him. And to know that in fact,
The Devil is Real
… and that we can expect to encounter him.
A very wise Anglican priest once said to me: “If you work for the Lord, one day you will see the Devil face to face, and when you do, you will recognize him.”
And now I know that to be true.
The Devil comes in many disguises. In the vision that John writes about in chapter 12 of the book of Revelation, the Devil is depicted as a red dragon with seven heads, wearing seven crowns. He is the colour of blood, a slaughterer, and he has authority (7 crowns worth of authority – 7 being the number of completion).
Which means, it would be wrong to say that, whether the Devil is real or not, is of no consequence to us. Because actually, what the bible tells us, over and over again, is that God has allowed him to have total authority over this world.
The Devil has Authority
(Now, I’m going to jump between chapter 12 and 13 a bit here, because, the unfortunate thing about visions given by God, is that they give us multiple layers of meaning in a strange, mixed up order … kind of like in dreams … this makes them very powerful, but very hard for preachers who are used to dealing with letters and narratives that human beings have given structure to)
In chapter 12:7-9, the Devil is defeated in heaven and thrown down to earth, along with his army of angels. There are time periods mentioned in chapter 12 and 13, during which there is a woman who flees to the wilderness (this is an image of Israel) and during which the Devil has authority in the world.
- In 12:6, 1,260 days.
- In 13:5, the beast is allowed to exercise authority for “42 months”, which is the same as 1,260 days.
- Also in chapter 11, the period of persecution is written as “42 months” … this all gives us the message that John’s vision is of the last days … the time between Jesus’ ascension and the last day when he will return … and during this time (symbolically represented as 42 months), here’s what God is going to allow to happen:
“The beast was allowed to exercise authority for 42 months.” (13:5)
“Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.” (13:7-8)