The Conflict Begins
Have you ever asked yourself, Why is the world the way it is? What’s going on here? Most people have. Here is a brief explanation in an edited excerpt from Dr. Renald Showers’ extraordinary book What on Earth Is God Doing?
Editor’s Note: With this article we conclude “The Foundations of Faith.”
Satan worship, witchcraft, spiritism, and astrology. The present revival of the occult is merely one phase of the continuing war of the ages between God and Satan. Apart from knowledge of this war, it is impossible to understand what life is all about; and the only way to learn about this conflict is to study the philosophy of history presented by the Bible.
For centuries mankind has been wrestling with three major issues: Where have we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? The Bible deals with all three questions.
The Bible’s philosophy of history begins with the eternal, personal God who exists as three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Prior to creation nothing existed but God.
In eternity past God decided to have a kingdom over which He would rule as sovereign King (1 Tim. 1:17). Since nothing existed to serve Him, He created subjects over which to rule. First, He created angels—spirit beings not possessing bodies of flesh and bone (Mt. 22:30; Heb. 1:13–14). But they did possess intellect (2 Sam. 14:20) and the ability to communicate (Gen. 19:1–2).
They also were more powerful than the other type of created beings (2 Pet. 2:11). Although made to dwell in the heavens, they were given access to Earth after its creation (Gen. 19:1; Mt. 24:36).
The second major type of personal subject God created was the human being. Inasmuch as God had created the earth to be part of His domain, He intended to have on it a subject who would administer His rule over everything else on the planet. Just as some kings divide their kingdoms into provinces, place a governor over each province, and hold each governor responsible to administer the province well on his behalf, so God created man, placed him as governor over the earth, and held him responsible to administer the earth well on behalf of God (Gen. 1:26, 28; Ps. 8:3–9). In other words, God intended Earth’s government to be a theocracy.
To govern the earth for God, it was essential that man understand his earthly, physical province. Therefore, God formed for him a physical body from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7). It also was necessary that he receive and understand God’s directions. Therefore, God created man in His own image (1:26–28) as a personal being with intellect and the ability to communicate.
With the creation of man, God’s work of bringing His kingdom into existence was completed. The universal kingdom of God was a reality, and everything in it was very good by God’s perfect standard of evaluation (v. 31).
After creation was completed, one of the highest angels became so proud of his intelligence and powers that he deceived himself into thinking he could overthrow God (Isa. 14:12–14; Ezek. 28:11–17; 1 Tim. 3:6). He hoped to make himself the king of the universe by establishing a kingdom of his own that would war against and destroy God’s kingdom. Because of this angel’s rebellion, his name was changed to Satan, which means “adversary.” He had become the great revolutionary, the enemy of God and of every member of God’s kingdom (Mt. 13:25, 28, 39; Lk. 10:18–19).
However, despite his proud plans, Satan will never be more than a creature of God’s. In this respect, the biblical philosophy of history differs radically from religious and philosophical systems that picture a struggle between two equal gods, one good and one evil. According to the Bible, there can be no doubt about God the Creator defeating Satan the creature. In fact, God could have crushed Satan’s rebellion instantly, but He chose not to do so. His reason will be seen later.
To establish his kingdom, Satan had to obtain subjects over which to rule. As a creature, he lacked ability to create beings. The only way he could obtain subjects was by persuading God’s other creatures to join him in his rebellion. If his kingdom were to rule over both heavenly and earthly spheres, he had to persuade both angels and humans.
A sizeable number of angels joined Satan’s rebellion.
Then Satan subtly entered man’s perfect earthly environment and baited him with the notion that, if he disobeyed God, he would become like God (Gen. 3:1–5) and could rule his own life. So man disobeyed the directive of his divine King and joined the rebellion.
Man’s rebellion produced tragic consequences:
First, man died spiritually at the moment of his disobedience (2:16–17). A drastic change occurred in his nature. Man had been created with a favorable disposition toward God, so he fellowshiped with and served God in a proper way. When man rebelled, he lost that disposition and became confirmed in one of enmity against God (Rom. 8:7). Enmity so fully took control of man’s entire being that his nature suffered a perversion called total depravity. As a result, man’s relationship to God, the Source of life, was broken.
Second, man eventually died physically. When he rebelled, a process of decay began that made his body subject to disease, deformity, and death (Gen. 3:19; 5:5; Rom. 5:12; 6:23; Heb. 9:27). He also became subject to death by hazards, accidents, and violence (Gen. 4:8; 9:5–6; Lk. 13:4).
Third, man’s ability to dominate the earth was changed. He lost ability to govern some things (Heb. 2:5–8), and the ability he did retain became perverted. As a result, he became doomed to abuse the earth and to exercise his dominion in a manner contrary to what God had intended.
Fourth, tragedy struck his domain. A province of a kingdom often suffers when its governor rebels against the king. In man’s domain, soil productivity was reduced greatly (Gen. 3:17), and for the first time the soil produced thorns and thistles (v. 18). Animal nature changed from tame and noncarnivorous (1:30) to wild and carnivorous. All of God’s earthly creation became subject to vanity and corruption (Rom. 8:19–22). And it continues to groan and travail in pain today. Through his own sin, man lost his perfect environment.
Fifth, man was transferred from God’s kingdom to Satan’s. This consequence had a tragic effect on the entire human race. Because the original parents of the race chose to rebel against God, and because humans reproduce after their kind, every person (except Christ) is born with a disposition of enmity toward God. Thus everyone is born spiritually dead and a member of Satan’s kingdom (Eph. 2:1). Unless individuals accept God’s way of salvation, they continue through life energized by Satan and living according to Satan’s ways (v. 2). They are blinded to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4), deceived into believing that error is truth (11:14–15), held in spiritual darkness in Satan’s power (Acts 26:17–18), and are children of Satan (Mt. 13:37–39; Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8, 10) who are headed for the same place of judgment as he (Mt. 13:40–42; 25:41; Rev. 20:10, 15).
Every unsaved person belongs to Satan and his kingdom of darkness (2 Cor. 6:14–15). Satan uses unsaved people to do some of the work of his kingdom (Job 1:9–15, 17; Lk. 22:3–6; Jn. 8:37, 40, 44, 59; 2 Th. 2:9; 1 Jn. 3:12).
Sixth, because Adam, the governor of the earthly province of God’s universal kingdom, defected from God, the theocracy was lost and a satanocracy was established. For this reason Christ called Satan “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and Satan had authority to offer all the world’s kingdoms to Christ (Lk. 4:5–6). In fact, Satan dominates the present age so completely that the apostle Paul called him “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4, literal translation of Greek text).
Satan duped man into believing a lie (Jn. 8:44). Instead of bringing mankind freedom, rebellion against God’s authority brought man slavery to a sinful disposition (Rom. 6:6, 16–23), death (5:12; Heb. 9:27), and the continual fear of death (2:15). Instead of becoming his own sovereign, man was brought under the dominion of a new king. His original King was a loving, benevolent Ruler who offered life, peace, happiness, and fulfillment in return for willing obedience. His new king is a hard, selfish taskmaster who offers death, sickness, conflict, grief, and frustration in return for service to him.
Man’s rebellion confirmed him so strongly in his tragic predicament that he was rendered totally incapable of rescuing himself from it. Nothing short of supernatural, divine intervention would be able to save man from the predicament he had brought upon himself by his own choice (Isa. 43:11).
Man needed a Redeemer.
Since the Redeemer would be the key to God’s strategy, the key to Satan’s strategy would be to prevent the Redeemer from coming to Earth and to hinder His work.
Scripture reveals that Satan has two lines of attack: (1) try to destroy the members of God’s kingdom and (2) try to pervert the witness of God’s kingdom with apostasy. Both tactics will be observed repeatedly as the drama of the conflict unfolds.