The Many Masks of Satan
Anti-Semitism has been a scourge on mankind for more than two millennia. Ask anti-Semites why they hate the Jewish people and they quickly offer a host of tired, illogical, and factually indefensible excuses. For Bible-believing Christians, anti-Semitism is so foreign to Scripture that we must not entertain it even for a moment. While recognizing Jewish opposition to the gospel, the apostle Paul reminded us clearly that we do not have the option of hating God’s Chosen People: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom. 11:28).
Apart from the litany of ill-founded and often absurd excuses people use to justify their hatred for the Jewish people, another explanation for anti-Semitism exists. This one, in fact, can be found in the Bible. However, it will do nothing to comfort anti-Semites.
The pertinent Scripture is Revelation 12:1–6:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven—a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and, behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The subjects in the passage are the woman, her child, and the dragon. By comparing the description of the woman with Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9–10, we can see that the woman best represents Israel. The child is obviously Jesus, who was Jewish by birth. And the dragon is clearly Satan, according to 12:9.
The dragon tries to devour the child but is unable to do so because the child is miraculously preserved, even to the point of being caught up to heaven (the ascension). Later in the passage we read,
And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:13–17).
Frustrated in his attempt to destroy the Savior, Satan turns his wrath against the woman (Israel). According to this passage, he will make every effort to destroy her. Ultimately he will fail, but he will do as much damage as he can in the process. This passage provides the best—and the biblical—cause of anti-Semitism. Simply stated it is this: Hatred of Israel finds its source in Satan.
To hate the Jewish people is to participate in Satan’s overall program of hatred toward them. Other explanations, even those that defend the Jewish people, ignore this clear, scriptural teaching. To oppose the Jewish people is to do the work of the Devil.
The panoramic scene in Revelation 12 portrays the conflict of the ages between God’s plan of redemption, centering in the Messiah, and Satan’s plan to oppose it with all his might. The entire Bible could be encapsulated in this chapter. Satan’s eventual and certain defeat does not diminish his desire to keep up the opposition. And Israel is inescapably at the center of this conflict.
But how does Satan deploy his evil devices? Another New Testament passage provides the answer.
Satan knows that he needs to attract people rather than repel them. Appearing like the familiar caricature of a red, horned creature with a tail and hooves would cause people to turn away from him rather than be drawn to him. Therefore, he puts on masks that make him appear more benign than vicious. Consider 2 Corinthians 11:14: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Satan, in fact, wears many masks in his role of opposing God’s work. Some may even appear noble rather than malevolent.
To the casual observer of history, the Crusades may evoke images of chivalrous knights who leave behind virtuous ladies to embark on noble missions to fight evil in the name of God. A closer examination of the Crusades, however, reveals another picture altogether.
The Crusades were launched with what appeared to be a noble purpose—regaining the Holy Land from the infidel Muslims. In the process, the crusaders slaughtered nearly 100,000 Jewish people. It was a long distance from France to the Holy Land in 1098, the year the First Crusade was launched. Furthermore, there were no Muslims to be encountered for months. But as the armies marched through the Rhine Valley, they encountered significant Jewish communities. Why wait to meet the enemies of Christianity in the Middle East, they thought, when other enemies are right here on our way? Thus they attacked and decimated defenseless Jewish communities.
Such atrocities were committed all across Europe. When the crusaders finally did arrive at Jerusalem and breached its walls in 1099, they herded the Jews into their synagogue and burned it to the ground. Therefore, whatever the word crusade means to Christians when applied to evangelistic meetings, it has an entirely different connotation to Jewish people. Thus is the story of Satan in a crusader mask.
The Spanish Monarchs
The names Ferdinand and Isabella, monarchs of Spain in the late 15th century, often conjure up images of the courageous voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World. While it is true that these monarchs financed those voyages, they also played another role in history as well. Ferdinand and Isabella were fanatical Roman Catholic rulers who enabled the Spanish Inquisition.
While driving the Moors from Spain, they also burned evangelical believers and Jews at the stake for participating in practices that differed from Rome’s. On January 1, 1492, the day the victorious monarchs rode into Granada—the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain—they also signed the Edict of Expulsion for the large and prosperous Jewish community in the country. The edict became effective in August of that year. Historians tell us that as Columbus set sail, dozens of ships filled the harbor, loaded with Jewish refugees who fled Spain rather than convert to Catholicism.
Eventually around 150,000 Spanish Jews either fled their homeland or underwent a token conversion to Catholicism to save their lives and belongings. To the familiar ditty “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” could be added, “and Ferdinand and Isabella got rid of the Jew.” Thus is the story of Satan in the mask of the fabled monarchs of Spain.
Russia and Europe
The list of satanic masks could fill volumes. The world’s largest Jewish communities in the 19th century were in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland and the Ukraine. The czars led this Russian Empire and were devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church. Beginning in 1881 and continuing well into the second decade of the 20th century, the czars sponsored a series of pogroms—violent attacks on Jewish communities by peasants and Cossacks. One czar’s stated purpose was that one third of the Jews would convert, one third would leave, and one third would die.
By World War I, two million Russian Jews would arrive penniless in the Western world, primarily America. The first Jewish pioneers in the Holy Land were Russian Jews seeking a better life than what they suffered under the czars. Thus Satan appeared in the mask of the Russian Empire under the czars.
Unfortunately, a growing number of people today admire the evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Third Reich from 1933 through 1945. The satanic madness of Nazism wreaked such devastation on the entire world that it can only be classed as one of the worst crimes in history. The Jewish people were at the center of this horror. It is often said that more non-Jews died during this time than Jews. Although this fact is true, it should not diminish the unique horror of the Holocaust, which cruelly and systematically marked out and exterminated six million people for no other reason than that they were Jewish. Unique about the Holocaust was the fact that Hitler did not kill these Jewish people because he thought they were Communists or of some traitorous political persuasion. He killed them even if they were German citizens loyal to the state. He killed them simply because they were Jews. To people living during the early days of this madness, the growing number of restrictions on the German Jews were defended with the noblest of purposes—nationalism.
The rhetoric was simple. A scapegoat was needed on which to blame the crushing defeat of the “Great War.” Hitler convinced the Germans that a foreign element, the Jews, were to blame because they were “internationalists,” not “nationalists” who were loyal to the Fatherland. However, the Jewish people had lived in Germany for nine hundred years and even had fought for the Kaiser in the war. Many people bought the lie that removing the Jews would be best for the nation. Thus is the story of Satan in the mask of nationalism in Nazi Germany.
And today, anti-Semitism is exploding across the world. Satan is plying his deception once again. As Israelis try desperately to defend themselves against Islamic terrorism, Satan is deceiving the world into believing the Jews are the aggressors and the Muslims are the victims.
The apostle Paul warned us about Satan’s methods and schemes: “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). He also charged us to stand against the stratagems of the evil one: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
Peter also warned us about his maneuvers: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; Whom resist steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8–9).
As anti-Semitism grows stronger daily, it is urgent that we be able to recognize this work of the Devil. And knowing some of the masks Satan wears in his hatred of the Jewish people will help us to be aware of his nefarious schemes to impede God’s work in our lives as well.