Compared to eternity, your time on earth's stage is relatively brief. At your appointed time, you play the part assigned to you for however many years, and then you exit. Your future rewards depend on how well you performed your job.
The drama in which you have been cast is real; it's a story about a war that began in heaven years ago between the two most powerful, though far from equal, beings in the universe. The conflict involved a collision between two wills: the will of God and the will of His former chief of staff, Satan. This drama continues to play out every day within the inner recesses of every human heart. You will never comprehend the reason for the battles you face every hour of every day until you understand the origin of this war and the enemy's goal in the war.
Satan is real and really dangerous
Some people refuse to believe in the existence of a literal devil. Ken Woodward in Newsweek magazine, refers to Satan as "merely a trivial personification hardly adequate to symbolize the mystery of evil." Others attempt to diminish Satan's power by reducing him to a comic-book character with red suit, horns, and a tail who runs around poking people in the backside with a pitchfork. Some historians argue that this absurd caricature originated in the Middle Ages as an attempt to attack Satan by assaulting his oversized ego.
Today many people laugh at Satan rather than fear him. I believe the devil is delighted when people underestimate his power either by denying his existence or by diminishing his potential threat. If we are going to win this real battle that threatens everything and everyone important to us, we must understand the ferocity of our adversary. No military commander could expect to be victorious in battle unless he understood his enemy. Should he prepare for an attack by land and ignore the possibility that the enemy might approach by air or by sea, he would open the way to defeat. Or should he prepare for a land and sea attack and ignore the possibility of an attack through the air, he would certainly
jeopardize the campaign. No individual can be victorious against the adversary of our souls unless he understands that adversary; unless he understands his philosophy, his methods of operation, and his methods of temptation.
A long time ago and far, far away
Moses declared in a prayer in Ps 90:2, "Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." Unlike God, who is eternal and has no beginning or end, Satan has both a beginning and an end. Like human beings who die apart from Christ, Satan will suffer eternal torment in the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev 20:10).
Satan's origin is described in the Old Testament prophecy of Ezekiel 28, the prophet is instructed to deliver a message against the king of Tyre, whose pride had led him to believe he was a god himself. But it's clear that God is speaking to someone other than the human king, "You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering; The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond.... You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountains of God.... You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.... You heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you" (Eze 28:12-15, 17).
The human leader of Tyre did not possess "the seal of perfection." No one, except perhaps his mother, would have thought of him as an "anointed cherub." He ruled in Tyre not on "the holy mountain of God." God was speaking to the one who had inspired the king of Tyre to rebel against God: we commonly call Satan (from the Hebrew word for adversary) or the devil (from the Greek word for slanderer). Originally, Satan had a much more appealing name. He was called Lucifer, the Latin translation of his name found in Isa 14:12, meaning "star of the morning." We can piece together Lucifer's story from God's pronouncement against him in Ezekiel 28.
For consistency, we will refer to him as Satan from this point on-and look at four facts about him: Satan is a created being. God says that "the day you were created" to remind Satan that he is a creature, not the Creator. Besides putting Satan in his place, this phrase underscores to all of us Satan's limitations. He is not omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), or omnipresent (able to be everywhere at once). further more, just as a disgruntled deacon once reminded me, "God can say to Satan, 'I was here before you came, and I will be here after you are gone.'" That's the downside of being a creature.
Satan held an impressive office in God's kingdom. Satan is referred to as "the anointed cherub" and the "cherub who covers." The term "cherub" refers to a rank of angels who were charged with guarding the holiness of God. Since Satan was the anointed cherub, he was evidently in charge of all the other angels who held this important office. As the one who protected the holiness and majesty of God, he was the chief gatekeeper in heaven, meaning he had unparalleled access to God. Satan possessed incomparable wisdom and beauty. God describes Satan as "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty."
Although Satan's rebellion forced him to surrender his position in heaven, he did not relinquish these impressive attributes. He is still a crafty and appealing creature, making him all the more dangerous. Satan's pride led to his downfall. Forgetting that he was a creature, Satan allowed inward pride to metastasize into outright rebellion against God. This led to an open war in heaven that continue to this day.
Battle of the wills
Isaiah gives us a blow-by-blow description of the event that led to his ouster from heaven. Like Ezekiel's prophecy against the king of Tyre, Isaiah's words represent not only God's condemnation of a human leader, the king of Babylon, but the one who had inspired the king's defiant attitude toward God. The Babylonian monarch's unbridled ambition was both similar to and rooted in Satan's desire to exalt himself above God, "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High'" (Isa 14:12-14).
One day Satan thought and said to himself, "I don't have to stay the person I am. All I have to do is determine what I want to be and then dedicate myself to doing whatever it takes to become that person." Then Satan looked about and began dreaming about future possibilities. "Instead of being just one of many angels, I want to rule over all the angels. Instead of having to bow down before that spoiled son of God, I want to sit on his throne and have him worship me for a change. When I think about it, what I really want is to be like God.“ Prior to Satan's conversation with himself, there had been only one will in heaven, and that was God's will. But that one will became two wills when Satan decided to pursue an agenda separate from God's purpose for him. It was the mystery of iniquity. Satan's insidious idea was that I want something different from what God wants for my life.
This battle of the wills was the basis of the first sin ever committed in the universe and of every sin since that time. At the root of every act of disobedience in your life is a conscious decision to place your desire above God's desire. I know this next statement may offend some, but I want you to seriously consider it before rejecting it. Whenever you ask yourself, What do I really want in life? You are in danger of among the same mistake that led to Satan's eventual removal from heaven. I realize this cuts against the grain of what we often hear about dreaming, vision-casting, and goal-setting. "If you want a different life from the one you are living," some assert, "the first step is to close your eyes and imagine: the income you would like to earn, (2) the house you would like to own, (3) the automobile you would like to drive, the work you would like to perform, (5) the kind of mate you would like to marry.“
But if we acknowledge that God is our Creator and we are His creatures, then our first question should not be "What do I desire? but What does God desire for me?" Sometimes God reveals His will through our desires. Ps 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." If I am living in obedience to God, He can reveal His plan for my life through my desires. Nevertheless, within the hidden corners of our hearts a desire lurks for something contrary to God's will for our lives. Just as Satan encouraged the kings of Babylon and Tyre to pursue that desire, Satan whispers to us, "There is a better way than God's way."