On the home page of this website, under The Next Denouement, is a panoramic view of creation, corruption, redemption, and restoration copied here for easy reference. (See also Sections 8.1, 8.6 and 8.13 of Theology Corner)
A theme that underlies the entire ministry of Jesus Christ is the apocalyptic assumption that God is battling Satan for all creation and the souls of all mankind. Jesus understood Himself to be the one in whom this battle was to be played out in a decisive way. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and establish God’s domain. This objective was accomplished when God the Son allowed Himself to be crucified (Heb 2:14) as the only possible sacrifice to generate the reconciliation, expiation and propitiation that took place between God and His creation and God and the souls of all mankind. The death of Jesus Christ occurred at a specific time and place (John 19:30); but the consequences of this substitutionary atonement instantly exploded throughout Heaven, Hell, and the universe, throughout all that has been, all that is and all that ever will be.
By the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, all creation was redeemed from the bondage of evil and each soul was offered redemption from the bondage of sin. But Satan was not a willing seller and is at war with God to retain possession. The outcome of the struggle was completely decided by the substitutionary atonement. Yet few would claim Jesus has set His corrupted creation free from the influence of Satan or set redeemed souls free from the influence of sin. Evil continues to rage; the world, at every level, is at war. Christians are on the front lines of this Great War between good and evil whether we like it or not. As we stand side by side with Jesus in this war, the suffering of the Christian soldier has a meaning and value to God commensurate with this titanic spiritual struggle of the ages.
God created the universe with such precision that the slightest change in any one of its properties would preclude our existence and God designed the earth as a home for man. God placed certain powerful angels in charge of His creation and instructed them to be good stewards. Some angels began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels. Satan exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence, on whatever he touches, which caused all creation to be captured by the bondage of evil. That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor. “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw. Man had not yet been created.
God set aside some real estate for the Garden of Eden and restored it to its condition prior to Satan’s diabolical influence. He then created Adam and Eve to live in this Garden. In full view of all the angels in Heaven, Satan demanded unrestricted access to Adam and Eve and, although they were created sinless, Satan won them over. Evil had taken up residence in the soul of man, that particular evil called sin. The will, intellect and heart of Adam and Eve had been possessed and permeated by sin. But what about us, the descendants of Adam and Eve?
God is just. God does not impute to us the individual sins of Adam and Eve. But He knew it would be pointless to allow the offspring of Adam and Eve to be born sinless. He knew they would follow exactly the same path as their created ancestors. So He allowed the generations of Adam and Eve’s offspring to be born with a sin nature. We are all born corrupt, averse to God and inclined to evil. However, for this depraved nature we are not responsible and no guilt or demerit attaches to it. We become responsible for this sin nature only after attaining the age of accountability and ratifying it as our own. The age of accountability is not the same for all persons and, for many, it may be very young indeed.
God knew, before the creation of the universe, that all this was going to happen. On one hand, God knew sin would prevent Him from fellowship with man; on the other hand, God knew He would love each individual unconditionally and would not want eternal separation to be the inevitable consequence of sin. But sin could not simply be overlooked; a price had to be paid for every crime. Unfortunately, if you and I paid the price for our own crimes, our souls would spend eternity in Hell. Before the universe began, God chose an incredible, astounding and magnificent solution to this dilemma.
Although God could have simply restored and repossessed His corrupted creation and the corrupted souls of mankind, His purity of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth demanded a punishment for every evil, particularly that evil called sin which resides in the human soul. Only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, was great enough to redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and offer redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind. But Satan will never acknowledge the efficacy of that punishment. He is battling God to retain possession of that which was given to him (Luke 4:5-7). The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare. It marked the denouement when God the Son redeemed all creation from the bondage of evil and began the process of setting creation free from the influence of Satan himself. That denouement also marked the instant when God the Son offered redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind and began the process of setting redeemed souls free from the influence of sin itself. For a time and within limits, God continues to permit certain consequences of rampant rebellion and the brutal corruption of all life. But He expects His people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.
In these last days, Satan is making a ferocious attempt to demean God, discredit man and destroy God’s relationship with man in full view of all the angels in Heaven! Satan’s all-consuming purpose is to drive an irremovable wedge between God and man, to affect an alienation that cannot be reconciled. Satan claims the concept of salvation by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is a sham. God the Father should not have attempted it, Jesus Christ could not have legitimately paid for it and you and I, driven by our sin nature, could never receive it. According to Satan, it’s all smoke and mirrors so that God can save his wretched humans without appearing to compromise His own character. The accusation, once raised, cannot be removed, not even by destroying the accuser. If the salvation offered to every man and woman can be exposed as a perversion of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth, then a chasm of alienation would stand between God and man that could not be bridged. Reconciliation would be unthinkable. God’s whole enterprise in creation would be radically and irrevocably flawed; He could only sweep it away in awful judgment as He nearly did once before (Gen 6:5-7).
As integral players in this Great War, the course of our Christian lives must never elicit the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms to question the manifold wisdom, holiness, justice and truth of God.
Christians eagerly anticipate the next denouement but the struggle is relentless!
But should this apocalyptic panorama of creation, corruption, redemption, and restoration be viewed as wildly speculative theology inappropriate for modern consumption? Was Satan, long ago, relegated to the dustbin of history? Has Satan, for all practical purposes, disappeared from the Protestant Church? Did Calvin and Luther view Satan as a serious adversary or merely one God would squash like a bug whenever he became a nuisance? Isn’t Satan just an anachronistic bogeyman who has been all but extinguished by the behavioral and physical sciences and by most Protestant preachers? Wasn’t Satan’s power completely destroyed by the Substitutionary Atonement?
Consider the thoughts of Richard Watson (1781 – 1833) on the role of Satan. Watson was 10 years old when Wesley died. From 1823 to 1829 Watson worked on his Theological Institutes which remained a systematic theology standard for many years and ranks among the best expositions of Wesleyan/Arminian theology. It was the first attempt to systematize John Wesley’s theology and, by extension, Methodist doctrine.
2 Thes 2:9 says: The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan... Richard Watson’s summary comments on the work of Satan are given below:
- That the introduction of sin into the world is ascribed to the malice and seductive cunning of a powerful evil spirit, the head and leader of innumerable others.
- That when a Redeemer was promised to man, that promise, in its very first annunciation, indicated a long and arduous struggle between Him and these evil supernatural agents.
- That it is the fact, that a powerful contest has been maintained in the world ever since, between truth and error, idolatry, superstition, and will worship, and the pure and authorized worship of the true God.
- That the Scriptures uniformly represent the Redeemer and Restorer at the head of one party of men in the struggle, and Satan at the head of the other; each making use of men as their instruments, though consistently with their general free agency.
- That almighty God carries on His purposes to win man back to obedience to Him, by the exhibition of truth, with its proper evidences; by commands, promises, threats, chastisements, and final punishments; and that Satan opposes this design by exhibitions of error, and false religion, gratifying to the corrupt passions and appetites of men; and especially seeks to influence powerful agents among men to seduce others by their example; and to destroy the truth by persecution and force.
- That the false religions of the heathen, as well as the corruptions of Christianity, took place under this diabolical influence; and that the idols of the heathen were not only the devices of devils, but often devils themselves, made the objects of the worship of men, either for their wickedness or their supposed power to hurt.
Does Watson’s teaching on Satan, as a central figure in the titanic spiritual struggle of the ages, show some resemblance to the contents of The Next Denouement?