In one of his presentations, Apostle Eric Nyamekye, the Chairman of The Church of Pentecost, made an illustration that struck me to write this article. During the presentation, he invited me and one Pastor Benjamin Ofei Badu to stand by the lectern while holding hands with him. He then urged Apostle Dr Jimmy Markin to preach the gospel to two of us – Pastor Benjamin Ofei Badu and myself – till we accepted Christ as our Lord and personal Saviour.
Upon the altar call extended to us by Apostle Dr Jimmy Markin, we abandoned the Chairman’s group (which illustratively representing the “camp of evil”) and responded to the gospel. It was at this stage that I had an intuition to write about the existential and relative “loneliness” of the devil, because when people hear the gospel and convert in their numbers to Christianity, they denounce evil so as to follow Christ. In other words, they abandon the camp of evil people to make the devil feel lonely as they settle with Christ.
In this article, we shall discuss the nature of the devil, how he operates, and the role the gospel plays in dealing with the devil and the evil associated with his activities. The overwhelming impression of the article is that the gospel is powerful enough to destroy the evil of society and diminish the influence of the devil.
Who is the Devil?
The Greek term for the devil is diabolos, which means “slanderer” or “accuser”. The devil is the epitome of the concept of evil and, as a result, he is alluded to severally as the prince of evil, evil spirit, Serpent, Lucifer, and demonic spirit. There are numerous similar assumptions about the devil in Scripture, and a cursory observation would prove that none of them is glorious or denotes a good person who helps people to worship God. No wonder he is the embodiment of scattered evil.
Traditionally, the devil is identified with idols, witchcraft, sorcery, ungodliness and wickedness. The devil has been in existence right from the creation of the universe. His first recorded activity in the Scriptures is in Genesis 3:9-13 in which, acting through the Serpent, he deceived Adam and his wife to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. Prior to that, God had forbidden them not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil as well as the fruit of life, but the devil, as typical of him deceived them to eat of the fruit (knowledge of good and evil) in rebellion against God.
Right after this event, evil continued to infest the human race to the extent that Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy and envy (Gen. 4:8). The succeeding generations were plunged into evil to the chagrin of God leading to His pronouncement of first judgement on the world with the flood (Gen. 9:1-17).
The Biblical Perspective on the Devil
As stated above, most of the references to the devil in the Bible are tied to evil. They include social vices, destruction of human lives, rebellion against God, deception of people to disobey God or subtly swaying them from the precepts of Scripture. He is described in Genesis 3:1 as being crafty: “Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”(Gen. 3:1, NIV). Basically, the way the devil is mentioned in scriptures and how God’s children are cautioned to beware of him live no doubt about the evil nature of his activities and his existence in the world.
Examining a few references to him, either directly or indirectly, may deepen our understanding of this discussion. The devil is referred to as Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24–27), thief (Jn. 10:10), father of lies and a murderer (Jn. 8:44), and the tempter (Matt. 4:3). The prophet Isaiah gives a unique description of the devil: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!” (Isa. 14:12, NKJV).
Isaiah sees him as the one who weakens the nations, ostensibly by his evil ploys, schemes, and wicked activities. This description of the devil gives a strong justification in the need for “Possessing the Nations” (Psalm 2:8) with values and principles of God’s Kingdom such as are being espoused by The Church of Pentecost. If the devil’s key task is to weaken the nations, God has also empowered His children to possess the nations to His glory.
The perception about the devil as the adversary of God is real and each religion has its own way in their attempts to deal with him. All the names ascribed to the devil portray him as the adversary of God and His children, and this understanding is held by all religions, particularly the Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
In Christianity, for example, everything about the devil represents evil, deception, and ungodliness (see Jn. 10:10) and there is no justification to consider any of his work as “good” or glorious. The references to him as the “evil one”, evil spirit, and demon inundate Christian theology and discourse. He is so hated that no genuine Christian audience will entertain anyone positive claim about the devil in the world. The names ascribed to him in scriptures are enough to attest to the belief that there is nothing good in the devil.
The Task of the Devil
The fundamental task of the devil is to deceive people (see Acts 5:3; 2 Cor. 11:3) so that they do not discover the truth in the gospel or the ways of God for their lives and worship Him. He is the originator of evil, deception, and the epitome of ungodliness. But knowing that the gospel is the church’s most effective weapon to disorganise his kingdom, he tries to do whatever he can to either discourage Christians from propagating the gospel or even deter non-Christians for accepting the gospel.
Jesus’ statement about the devil in John 10:10 enhances our understanding of the real task of the devil: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV). The devil is described in the above passage as a thief. Who is a thief and what does a thief do? A thief is somebody who steals another person’s wealth or property.
Every thief is a criminal and has a limited time to live; so can the devil or all who indulge in evil practices be described. The Bible says, “Do not fret because of evil people, or be envious of wicked people, for the evil person has no future, and the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished” (Prov. 24:19, 20, NET).
The Phenomenon of “Killing” the Devil?
Today, it has become a common practice to see some Christians praying for the death of the devil but is it how the Bible enjoins us to do? We are aware of casting demons out of persons who are demon-possessed but not those who claim to have “killed” the demons entirely as purportedly being practiced in some churches (Matt. 10:8; Mk. 3:15; Lk. 11:20). Our duty as Christians is not to pray for the sudden demise of the devil, knowing very well that as a supernatural being his final destruction on earth will be executed by God himself. The cessation of existence of the devil is drawing closer by the immanence of the apocalypse. The Day of Judgement will be the doomsday of the devil and that is evident in Romans 16:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (NIV).
The final punishment of the devil to bring every activity of his to an abrupt end is the Judgement Day when God will judge the whole world (Acts 17:31; 2 Pet. 2:4). Until then, the devil continues with his ploys, schemes, craftiness, deceptions, and pretense, as usual. Sadly, these vices of his are so terrible that some people keep asking when the devil will die for humanity to enjoy an “evil-free” society?
Making the Devil Feel Lonely
In the face of struggling to answer the question about the demise of the devil, it is important to focus on the biblical models of handling him with his evil schemes that have affected the human race. There are a number of ways recommended in the Bible. They all suggest that the devil is not as fearful as people perceive him to be as long as one consistently and steadfastly remains in Christ; he can be dealt with to weaken his kingdom and influence even before his appointed time of God’s Judgement comes.
The devil does not operate in a vacuum. He largely operates with agents to unleash terror or evil against the precepts of God. My own Christian life is a typical example of how the gospel can be used as the weapon to destroy the works of evil and render the devil and his agents lonely.
My Personal Testimony
Growing up in my village, I was raised in a typical pagan community with idols dotted in front of almost every house. But when the gospel started taking hold in my community, the visibility of idols in the community began to wane. Like almost every person in my community, I also grew up worshipping idols, but something dramatic occurred when the gospel was preached to me.
I got converted to Christianity and denounced idolatry and evil practices. Later, my parents and many of my siblings, together with some members of my extended family, also followed suit leaving the family idols in the hands of few people. The conversion of the rest continued, making some of the idols I knew to fizzle out of power and influence because there were no longer worshippers to attend to them.
Today, walking through my community, the buildings containing some of the idols are broken down while some of them can be seen in dilapidated states, because the power of the gospel in the community has transformed the lives of many people leading to their denouncing of those idols. When the gospel is proclaimed under the power of the Holy Spirit, it renders the devil lonely. In other words, his influence consistently weakens long before his final judgement takes place.
The inference is that the influence of the devil or the activities of evil people in society can be dealt with not necessarily by only conventions and numerous laws, but mainly by the power of the gospel. When the gospel is preached with the focus on its capacity to transform people’s lives with the principles and values of God’s Kingdom, evil is made to stand alone. The devil himself tends to feel lonely, and the axis of evil is distorted. Thus, the church must give the gospel its rightful influence in society.
For us as Christians, our main focus must not be on what the devil and evil people are capable of achieving, but rather, the propagation of the transforming power of the gospel should be our major weapon. The gospel carries authority to change people’s lives and makes them denounce their wickedness and all kinds of evil. A typical example is the conversion of Saul (Acts 9:1-8).
Saul’s Conversion and its Effect on Evil and Wicked Practices
Before his conversion, he was an agent of the devil with the passion to execute terror against Christians and to stop the rapid spread of the gospel. His evil was hailed by the people in his community but right after his conversion to Christianity, his life was transformed and he left the company of his wicked friends.
Instead of the Lord “killing” the devil that influenced Saul’s wicked decisions and actions, He rather revealed himself to Saul and that alone made him to denounce his wickedness against innocent people. His encounter with Christ on his way to Damascus led to the then Saul’s dissociation from his friends and thus rendering the devil relatively lonely. In other words, by his conversion hell was depopulated and the kingdom of God on earth populated. Whenever evil people like Saul get converted, the devil becomes frustrated because he has lost a committed agent and that can always happen if Christians witness the gospel to people.
Christians must know that the appointed day for the devil is coming, but for us to break the syndicate of evil, we must make the propagation of the gospel our main focus. The fact is that the gospel is very powerful enough to dismantle the works of the devil and that is clear in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).
The understanding here is that instead of giving the devil too much attention, it is good to remain constantly in the Lord, live by the principles and values of God’s kingdom, and make the propagation of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit a way of life. When the gospel enters a society, the first thing that takes place is the breaking of every stronghold of the devil while disorganising the formation of evildoers and that has always been our reason for testimony.
Above all, the Bible says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4, NIV). This biblical passage assures Christians of the authority they possess. It means that every Christian is superior to the devil and what is required is for the person to sustain his superiority by living a righteous life, being prayerful, and remaining faithful to the Lord. For the Bible says, “No weapon forged against you will prevail…” (Isa. 54:17, NIV). What this means is that there are certain kind of weapons but God’s assurance gives us an authority over them. Thus, for this assurance to always work for Christians, we need to consistently abide in Christ (Jn. 15:1-13; Col. 2:6).
The devil exists but the believer in Christ is divinely resourced with the power of the gospel to expand God’s Kingdom of light at the expense of the devil’s kingdom of darkness. Wherever evil and corruption triumph, the transforming power of the gospel is the solution. The devil fears the gospel because when people receive it in totality, their lives are transformed and evil is denounced making the devil feels lonely and more frustrated (cf. 1 John 3:8; 5:18).
The strength of a Christian is not only about binding and casting evil from society, but also by witnessing the Good News to humankind and teaching people to make way for God’s Kingdom values and principles to take pre-eminence in their hearts and minds. When their minds are taken captive by the power of the Holy Spirit, the devil will be left stranded and wandering in loneliness.
Any Christian with authority of God must not relent on the propagation of the gospel. It is a powerful weapon to disorganise the forces of darkness and render the enemy’s kingdom powerless. If there is one great mission for every Christian to accomplish in his lifetime, it is the vigorous propagation of the gospel to overcome the whims and caprices of the forces of darkness, thus possessing the nations for Christ.
The gospel is enough to equip the church as an army of God to possess the nations and that explains why Christians must not rationalise the vigorous propagation of the gospel. Being aware of this, Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:6, NIV) and that must also be the watchword of every Christian.
Vincent Anane Denteh (Rev.)