If Satan Has Been Defeated, Why Is He Still “Prowling Around”?

lion painting

In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter the Apostle told us: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

This is interesting because in Colossians 2:15, Paul the Apostle tells us that Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.”

If Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, defeated and disarmed Satan and the demonic powers, then how is it that the devil is still prowling around like a lion?

A Toothless Lion

Being that Satan has been disarmed, the real danger he poses is his “roar.”

A roar by itself can’t actually hurt you. Similarly, the devil can’t do anything to you without God’s permission (remember Job chapter 1). But whereas the devil needs God’s permission to harm you, you don’t need anyone’s permission to mess up your own life.

Jesus said this about the devil: “there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Ever since the Garden of Eden, one of the devil’s main strategies for our destruction has been deception. The serpent couldn’t hold Eve down and force her to take a bite of the forbidden fruit in order to destroy her. Instead, he had to talk her into destroying herself by falling into a trap.

For a look at some of the common traps the devil tries to lead us into, check out this message on 1 Peter 5:1-13 titled “Know Your Enemy”

Suffering According to the Will of God

Twice in 1 Peter, Peter speaks about people who suffer according to the will of God.

If Satan has been defeated, then why has God not yet destroyed him? We know that Satan’s fate is sealed: his final demise has been foretold in Revelation 20:10.

But why let him continue to exist and do destructive things, including testing / tempting people? The reason is because although God is not the author of evil, he is a redeemer, who uses bad and even terrible things to accomplish good purposes and carry out his plans.

One of my favorite examples of this is found in the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, where we see multiple stories of how God redeemed people and situations in the family through which Jesus came. Check out: Redemption: The Knots in Jesus’ Family Tree

For more on this, check out this message on 1 Peter 4:12-19 titled “Suffering and the Will of God”

The Ultimate Humiliation

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to thinking about the devil, is that the devil is God’s counterpart.

When Paul says in Colossians 2 that Jesus put Satan to “open shame” through the cross, he using a metaphor which his ancient readers would have been familiar with: it’s the picture of what a victorious army would do to the soldiers of the army they had defeated. They would not only bind them and lead them, humiliated, through the streets of every town on the road back to their capital, but they would often be sold as slaves.

The ultimate humiliation for a defeated soldier was something they might consider a fate worse than death: being forced to serve as a slave those by whom they had been defeated. This, Paul says, is what God now does with the devil: in his sovereignty and providence, what God allows the devil to do, He then uses to accomplish good and His purposes.

Mike and I discussed this in more depth in our Sermon Extra video this week. Check it out:

5 thoughts on “If Satan Has Been Defeated, Why Is He Still “Prowling Around”?

  1. Guys, this could not be further from the truth. Depicting Satan as a toothless, harmless lion is a dangerous fallacy. If that were the case, the Apostles would not need to warn us. The fact is, Satan is extremely dangerous to believers. Look at all the pastors who have fallen in the last decade or two. Look at all the marriages destroyed by pornography. Look at all the scandals that have destroyed Christian “celebrities.” Look at all the devastation he has wrought.

    Even still, look at all the Christians who have been murdered/martyred in our own time. Read what ISIS did to women and children. Read what so-called peaceful Buddhist monks have done (and are doing) in Asia. Look up the number of people arrested and persecuted in Western nations for simply talking about scripture. Nations that used to consider themselves Christians. Or consider the numerous mass shootings at churches right here in the US. And for all those who were murdered, jailed, and persecuted, how many more renounced their faith out of fear?

    A toothless lion? Hardly.

    The truth is, Satan has been cast out of Heaven and knows his time is short. He has nothing to lose because he has already lost everything; now he is simply out to destroy. And we have been warned.

    So, “Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters allover the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:9 (the next verse)

    Apologies if this came across as rude, that is not my intent. But please reconsider how you view this verse, and how you view our great adversary.

    1. Hi Micah! Thanks for reading and commenting. Great point, and good push back. I appreciate the discussion. How then would you explain 1 Peter 5:9 in light of what we read in Colossians 2:15, where it says that Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them”? And how about Job 1, where Satan has to ask for permission to harm Job, and is only permitted by God to do some things, but not other things (i.e. God gives the permission and puts limitations on what Satan is allowed to do)? In 1 Peter, he writes to those who “suffer according to the will of God” – and God uses that suffering for good in their lives ultimately, and to carry out His ultimate purposes.
      What does seem clear is that we are not to give Satan a foothold, and we are to be aware of his wiles, lest we fall into temptation and/or fall into one of his traps.

      1. Sure, let’s use WWII as an example. During WWII, the German’s MG-42 machine gun would literally cut people in half. It sent out around 25 rounds per second, and had a very distinct “bark” that GIs quickly came to know. In an effort to make it sound less dangerous, American GIs in training were shown films that declared “its bark is worse than its bite.” It sounded good, but obviously it was untrue.

        Saying Satan is all roar and no bite is pretty much the same, only the consequences are far greater than being cut in half 🙂

        With the benefit of hindsight we know that the Axis powers were defeated. Mussolini was publicly executed and hung up, Hitler killed himself while hiding like a coward, and Japan earned the distinct honor of being the only nation to ever be nuked. Those who wrought so much terror and destruction were all destroyed, publicly and humiliatingly so. But the damage they did was real. As for the soldiers, we could say that they were already victorious even though the war was still raging (since we know who wins), but the danger did not stop until the war was over and they were safely home.

        Our war is not yet over. Why else would Paul tell us to put on the armor of God, or remind Timothy to be a good soldier for Christ? And why would Peter warn about a lion that was harmless? Or why would Paul warn us to take heed less we fall? As long as we remain in Christ, we will arrive safely home. But if we stray from that…

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