Can Satan Make Me Do Something I Don’t Want to Do?

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagoni...

Gustave Doré, Depiction of Satan, the antagonist of John Milton’s Paradise Lost c. 1866 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question: Can the devil tempt a born again christian into doing something they do not want to do?

Answer:  Temptation is, by definition, an enticement to do something wrong.  So yes, the devil not only can entice us to do wrong, but in fact is looking for every opportunity to do just that.  Will he entice us to do something we don’t want to do?  Yes, if it serves to get us to disobey God.  Of course, there are some things we don’t want to that he doesn’t want us to do either.  We may not want to serve God in the face of difficulty or danger, and Satan would be perfectly fine with us not serving God in such circumstances or any circumstances.

Perhaps your question is really can the devil make us do something wrong even when we don’t want to.  And the answer to that question is no.  He cannot make us do anything.  He can lie to us, seek to persuade us to do wrong things, and even create pressure for us to do wrong.  But we must choose to either believe his lies, follow his persuasion, or yield to his pressure.  Even if there were not devil, we are capable of choosing to do evil.  Our desire to be our own god is the same one Satan is following and so we are in one sense quite on the same wavelength with each other.

There are some people who have so fully yielded to Satan that they seem to lose control of their lives (see the case of the man in Mark 5:1-20), and children who somehow come under Satan’s influence might also be subject to his control (Matthew 17:14-20).    This is what is sometimes called “possession.”  The demon seems to have ability and freedom to operate through the body of the host he infects.  But even here there is a person there who can will for these demons to depart and who can be delivered.

Paul describes (Ephesians 2:1-4) three influences to evil in our lives:  Satan (the prince of the power of the air), the world (our coporate desire to be our own gods expressed in encouragement to one another to follow this instinct), and the flesh (our own inner yearning to be god and trust ourselves rather than Him).  On the day when Jesus establishes his millennial kingdom on earth (Revelation 20), he will greatly minimize the world’s influence (all people starting out will be believers) and he will banish Satan for a thousand years, and yet, at the end of that period, when Satan is released, there will be people ready to follow him in a military campaign against Jesus.

That is how crazy sinful we are.

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Does Satan Have the Power of Death?

Question:  When someone goes in for an operation and others say it’s in God’s hands, is it, or is it in Satan’s hands, since he can give death not God–because God does not kill and God gave Satan the power of death.

Answer:  I presume you are thinking about this from the standpoint of the teaching in Hebrews:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).

I think, however, that you may be interpreting this without taking into account what the rest of Scripture says about who holds the right to determine whether someone dies or not.  You may recall that in the garden in Eden that God told Adam that in the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die (Genesis 2:17).  Satan, through the serpent, contradicted that statement (Genesis 3:4).  But God declared to Adam after he ate it that he would return to the ground from which he was taken and also removed the couple from the garden so they couldn’t eat from the tree of life and live forever (Genesis 319, 22-24).  God also delivered one of Adam’s descendents, Enoch, from dying by simply taking him (Genesis 5:24).

When human sin became so great that God decided to send the flood, he told humans that this would happen in 120 years (Genesis 6:3) and decided to end all life but Noah’s and his family’s (Genesis 6:13).  After the flood God told Noah and all mankind that He was giving them the responsibility to take human life from those who murdered other humans (Genesis 9:6).  In Genesis 22 God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but of course withheld his hand and provided a sacrifice in his place.

In the Exodus from Egypt God required the lives of all the firstborn of Egypt, saying that He would go through the land to accomplish this (Exodus 11).  In the laws He gave Israel through Moses He required the death penalty for several infractions other than murder (for example, kidnapping, Exodus 21:16) to be carried out by Israel’s leadership.

Now, in the book of Job, when Satan engineers the deaths of Job’s children, Job does not blame Satan, but says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21).  Perhaps Job was just ignorant that it was really Satan who made that decision.  But we are assured that is not the case when Satan wants to afflict Job.  God specifically tells Satan that he must not kill Job (Job 2:6).  In other words, it is God alone who determines who dies.

But this leads us to think of a very helpful distinction we must always observe.  There is the primary cause of all things, God, and there are secondary causes that God uses to accomplish His purposes.  He determines who dies, but He puts it in the hands of human officials to carry out the sentence, and sometimes allows Satan to carry out the work of bringing a deadly situation to a human life.

So when the author of Hebrews says Satan has the “power of death” we need to think clearly about what that means.  Does it mean he has the absolute power to determine who dies and who doesn’t?  Apparently not.  In the context the author speaks of the slavery we are under to fear of death.  Could the “power of death” be referring to the power Satan has to make us afraid of death?  This makes much more sense in context.  In this sense, then, Jesus has broken his power by making it clear that death leads to an eternal life with God through Christ’s sacrifice.  Satan no longer has the ability or “power” to enslave us with the fear of death.

Randall Johnson

Who are the sons of God in Genesis 6 and Job 1?

Question:  In Genesis 6:2 and now in Job it refers to the sons of God and I’m sure  in other places.  We’re just beginning so I need to understand who the verses are speaking about.

Answer:  In Job the “sons of God” definitely are angels who appear before God along with Satan.  This has led many to suggest that this is the correct identity for those in Genesis 6:2.  On this view, angelic beings, particularly rebellious angelic beings, those who followed Satan, took wives from human women.  Their offspring were called the Nephilim.  Some have suggested that when their offspring died the spirits of these half-men, half-angels, became what we refer to now as demons, desiring to be in human bodies again and therefore eager to possess humans.

The problem with this view is that it assumes it is possible for two completely different “species” to mate and produce offspring.  This is especially difficult to believe of angels since they do not have bodies (they are “spirits” according to Psalm 104:4 and spirits do not have flesh and blood, Luke 24:39).  Angels seem to be able to adopt a physical form to appear to us, since we cannot see spirits normally with our physical eyes.  But does this enable them to also send sperm compatible with human female ova in order to produce offspring?  Seems very doubtful.

Another view is that the “sons of God” are men of accomplishment, rulers among men.  There is evidence that this is a way the Hebrew for this phrase could be used.  This might also help explain how new Nephilim came to be after the flood, when presumably fallen angels were no longer allowed to sire children by human women.  In Numbers 13:32,33 the spies sent by Moses to explore the promised land report Nephilim in the land.  This makes sense only if this is a general term for large and unusual people.  It cannot refer merely to offspring of angels.  Typical of such men is that they want more than the God-given allotment of one wife and they feel they have the power and influence to accomplish this.

A third view is the the “sons of God” refer to godly believers who contradicted God’s desire to marry only other believing women and instead married the “daughters of men,” meaning unbelievers. This resulted in a dilution of the faith in the subsequent families that were raised and resulted also in the sheer number of ungodly persons living at the time of the flood.  Only Noah and his family remained believers worthy of saving.

It is hard for me to decide between the last two views, but I see a lot of problems with the first view.  It can’t be ruled out but it is highly unlikely in my view.

Randall Johnson

Who Is the Destroying Angel in Numbers 16?

Question:  Who exactly is the “destroyer” referenced in 1 Cor 10:10, when interpreted in light of the wording of Exo 11:4, 12:23, and 12:29 in the NKJV translation?

Answer:  The incident referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:10 actually refers to an event that occurred in Numbers 16 when several Levites were challenging Moses’ authority as leader.  The leaders of the rebellion, Korah, Dathan and Abiram, were standing at their tents and God told Moses He was going to destroy all the assembly who was supporting them.  Moses asked Him to only deal with the leaders.  God opened the earth and swallowed them and their families alive.  Several of their followers who were offering incense on the altar were killed by fire.  When the next day the assembly came again to Moses and accused him of killing these leaders, God began to kill them with a plague.  Moses and Aaron offered a sacrifice on their behalf so that more did not die.

In Exodus 12 Moses told the Israelites that Yahweh would go “through the land to strike down the Egyptians” but that if they applied the blood of the lamb to their doorposts God would “not permit the destroyer to enter” their houses (verse 23).  Though it does not say a “destroying angel” did this in Numbers, Paul is undoubtedly assuming the Jewish tradition that the same angelic activity that occurred in Exodus with the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt (see Psalm 78:49) was repeated in Korah’s rebellion.  Whether the angel from God opened the earth, sent the fire that killed those offering illicit fire on the altar and sent the plague, or whether the angel was commissioned for just some of that action, we do not know.

It is possible that the destroying angel was the angel of Yahweh.  The angel of Yahweh (this means, the messenger of Yahweh) is a separate person from God but at times is identified as Yahweh (compare Genesis 16:7-11 with Exodus 3:1-6).  It seems best to understand this by positing that Jesus, the Son, is the angel of Yahweh.  We can understand this because we know that Jesus, the Son, is both equal with God and yet a separate personality from God the Father.  This helps make sense in this passage of Yahweh taking responsibility for opening the earth, sending the fire and the plague.  Yahweh did, but it was Yahweh the Son, not Yahweh the Father.

We see this stand out in stark relief in Genesis 19:24 when the text says that in judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Yahweh rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from Yahweh out of the heavens” (when you see LORD in all caps this is the English representation of the divine name, Yahweh).  The Son was bringing down judgment from the Father in heaven.

Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 11 we read that some of the Corinthians were sick and some had died because they were violating another sacred symbol of God, the Lord’s supper, by their inappropriate behaviors.  God still does not tolerate wanton abuse of His holy symbols and leaders.  And that is the intent of Paul in this passage, also, to warn the Corinthians against offending God’s holy ordinances.

Randall Johnson

Can Satan Read Our Minds?

Question:  I believe that Satan cannot possess me but can he put thoughts in my head. It seems that he can, but if so how? How would he know my thoughts or control them without being inside of me?

Answer:  I wish I knew all the answers to these questions.  It could be that he knows human beings well enough from our behavior, having watched us for many millennia.  This enables him to predict our thoughts to a fair degree.  I don’t believe he can read them, but I can’t prove that.  It seems too God-like a thing for him to be able to do. 

How he influences our thoughts, I don’t know.  It has seemed from my experience that he or demons can create an ambiance, air, feeling of something like fear or shame or whatever, that we pick up on and adopt as our own.  But when we take authority over the unclean spirit or spirits in the name of Jesus the ambiance disappears.  We may have some of our own legitimate fear, shame, or whatever, that still remains, but it seems to have been magnified by what Satan or a demon does.

Perhaps you’ve been around someone who was down or fearful and it began to arouse in you the same feeling.  This may be what is going on when demons purposely seek to sway us in wrong responses to the situations in our lives.  They don’t want us to see the truth that God is with us and that we need not despair, or be distraught with fear, or controlled by lust, or whatever other inhibiting attitude or concern they might induce us to.  Standing on the truth of God is the key to overcoming their evil influence (Ephesians 6:10-18).

The corollary to this truth is that we can be people of positive influence in the lives of others as we display courage, faith, purity and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Randall Johnson

Can We Be Booted Out of Heaven Like Satan Was?

Question:  Were angels created on the first day when God made the heavens and earth? Or do we know when they were created?

Also, if Lucifer could be kicked out of heaven, is the reason we can’t be kicked out of Heaven because we are sealed with the Holy Spirit? Or when God makes a “new heaven and a new earth” will it be different than the old heaven and no one will be able to be kicked out because there won’t be sin? Or can we be kicked out just like Lucifer was?

Answer:  We might infer from Genesis 3 that angels were created before humans since we see the devil already fallen and speaking through the serpent in the garden to tempt Adam and Eve to disobedience.  Of course, this gets us into questions about whether Genesis 1 depicts 24 hour days or day-ages, etc.  If you subscribe to the Day-Age theory of creation I suppose you could have Satan and the other angels created on the first day of earth creation or before and that would be way earlier than humans.

Job 38:7 makes it sound like the angels were already in existence and rejoicing over God’s creative work on earth, so my thinking is that they predated the creation of earth.

 Apparently angels (who it seems are created in God’s image and are each individual creations of God [see below]) included those who were chosen for salvation and those who were not (1 Timothy 5:21).  Satan was not, and he chose to rebel against God (though Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are said by some to refer to Satan’s fall, I think there is good reason not to see it as a direct reference to him).  The elect angels could not rebel, and we, as you noted, being sealed with the Spirit, cannot turn away from God either.  Heaven will only consist of those whose “spirits” have been “made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23).  Many other Scriptures make it clear that we cannot lose our salvation.

The new heaven and earth is the place where heaven ultimately will reside.  Revelation 21,22 describe the heavenly Jerusalem coming to earth as its resting place, and God dwelling in its midst.  So we’re safe in either place.

BIBLICAL DATA ON ANGELS

            Ps. 148:2,5; Col. 1:16; Job 38:7; Heb. 1:14; (Lk. 24:39; 8:30)

             A.  Angels are created

            B.  Angels were created before man, perhaps before earth

             C.  Angels are spirits and do not have bodies of any kind 

  • spirits do not have flesh and bones
  • spirits do not take up space
  • spirits can not be in more that one place at a time

  

            2 Sam. 14:20; Mt. 24:36; Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12; 2 Pet. 2:11

             D.  Angels are intelligent but not all knowing

             Mt. 25:31; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26; Ac. 10:22; Rev. 14:10

             E.  Angels are holy

             Lk. 20:35,36

             F.  Angels are immortal and non-reproductive (each is an individual creation of God)

            Ps. 103:20; Dan. 10;  Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; Heb. 1:14

             G.  Angels are God’s servants and stand in various ranks before God

             Dt. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Mk. 5:9,15; Mt. 26:53; Rev. 5:11

             H.  Angels are multitudinous

How Do Angels Interact with People Today?

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...

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Question:  Four questions my wife and I are discussing:

  1. Are there any examples of angels engaging in combat in the Bible?
  2. Are there any examples of angels engaging in a healing process in the Bible?
  3. What are the methods of angels interacting with humans and do you have any references
  4. Do angels deliver messages today to believers and if so, is there a limit here to what messages and could they deliver it through other people?

Answer:  There is a surprising amount of information in the Bible about angels.  In answer to your questions… 

  1. Daniel 10 depicts an angel who came to answer Daniel’s prayer with a message from God.  He related to Daniel that the “prince of Persia” resisted him until the archangel Michael’s arrival to help him get free to come to Daniel.  It seems the conflict between angels in heaven affects the lives of people on earth.  Various political entities have angelic and demonic beings associated with them seeking to accomplish things in and through them.  The demonic prince of Persia did not want the angel from God to encourage Daniel, but Michael made sure he got through.  In addition to this passage many others speak of angels as the Host of God and angels are seen in battle or ready for battle in such passages as Numbers 22; 2 Samuel 24; 2 Kings 19; and Matthew 25:63 among others.
  2. After Jesus’ temptation (Matthew 4:11) and his prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) angels came to Jesus and ministered to or strengthened him.
  3. Angels are seen in Scripture accompanying the Israelites in the Exodus (Exodus 32:34), bringing messages from God (Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Luke 1:11-13, 26-28; Acts 10:3-6; 27:23,24; et al), participating in the last judgment (all through Revelation) and various other activities involving humans.  Admittedly, these are few and far between, but they on occasion act on behalf of God to accomplish His purposes.
  4. It is entirely up to God as to whether He wants to use angels today to deliver messages to believers and He may indeed choose to do so, as many have attested.  Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to entertain strangers since they might be angels.  This isn’t the only reason Scripture gives for helping those in need, but it shows us that God may still use angels in this way.  The only limit I can think of as to what they might communicate to people is that it cannot be in contradiction to God’s revealed Word in Scripture.  As to whether they can communicate through another person, that seems a little too much like demon possession and the Scripture never represents angels as doing that.