Dr. W. A. Criswell
On television, on radio, we welcome you, from one side of this great Southwest to the other, sharing with us these services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Of Demons and Devils. It is by no means a topic suggested by a current secular and religious fad, the discussion of demons and demonology brought to pass in no small part at this present moment by a movie called “The Exorcist,” which I have not seen. But the message is the verses that follow where I left off last Sunday, preaching through the epistle of Simon Peter.
Last Sunday morning we closed at verse 7 in chapter 5. And this morning we begin with verses 8 and 9 in that same chapter. The reading of the text is:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil,
as a roaring lion, walketh about , seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist steadfast in the faith.
Now let us look at the words first, before we begin an exposition of the passage. The imagery that lies back of what Simon Peter is saying is a shepherd keeping watch over his flock by night. And in the nighttime a lion prowls and stalks and circles the flock, seeking which one of them he will devour.
And using that imagery of a shepherd guarding his flock at night, and the stalking lion picking out which one he will devour, the apostle writes two vigorous, imperative words. In the English, each one is translated with two words: be sober, be vigilant; because your “adversary” [1 Peter 5:8]. In the way that Simon Peter wrote it, nepsate, gregoresate, two imperatives. “Be sober,” nepho, not drunken, intemperate; nepsate, “be sober”; gregoresate, “awake!” Be watchful, don’t be asleep! Then in his [Greek] text, there is no “because,” just immediately, “your adversary diabolos,” the devil [1 Peter 5:8].
In the Scriptures there is always just one diabolos. There is one Satan. There is one king-sovereign ruler over all of the demons of disease, and darkness, and despair, and ruin, and destruction. There are many diamonioi, many “demons,” many unclean spirits, but there is one great prince and ruler over them all. And in Scripture he is always presented as that: there is one devil, diabolos, there is one Satan. In Hebrew, in Greek, in English it is always the same, Satan, the same word. There is one Lucifer; there is one serpent and dragon.
In the twelfth chapter of the Book of The Revelation, in one verse he is called “the dragon, the serpent, Satan, and the Devil” [Revelation 12:9]. There is just one, and he is the sovereign ruler over all of the kingdom of darkness. Nepsate, gregoresate, diabolos; “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking” – whom? Seeking “which one,” tina: “which one he may devour” [1 Peter 5:8], katapinō, gulp down – literally “gulp down”; swallow down. “Whom anthistēmi,” and the medical profession has made us acquainted with that word: histēmi means “to stand” or to place; anti, is against. “Whom stand against”; place yourself against, “steadfast” [1 Peter 5:9]. And here is another word that these kids all know, “stereo” – the word here, stereo; stereos is the Greek word meaning, “firm, steadfast.” I presume they use it in the stereophonic musical world to describe the firmness of the music; it is all there, you can hear it all. It is the word here – anthistēmi, “stand against him,” face against him, stereoi, “steadfast, firm.” How? “In the faith!” [1 Peter 5:9]. Now this is what Simon Peter wrote.
There is a mystery of iniquity into which the human mind cannot enter. Paul, in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, used that expression, “the mystery of iniquity” [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. It is hidden in the heart of God. We cannot understand evil in the world or in the human heart. In the tenth chapter of the Apocalypse, in the seventh verse, the apostle John by inspiration says that when the seventh angel sounds, in his day, the mystery of God shall be finished [Revelation 10:7].
Why God allows Satan, and evil, and darkness in His universe is unknown to us. Why does not the Lord, by the sweep of His hand or by the fiat word of His voice, destroy all evil, why? We do not know. It is called in the Scriptures, the mustērion, the secret of evil, which to us is not revealed. But what we do know, both in Scripture and in life, are for us to understand. So we speak of this diabolos, who as a roaring lion, circles the flock of God, seeking which one he will seek to destroy [1 Peter 5:8].
First, the beauty of his person: in the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel, in the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, Lucifer is described; “the son of the morning” [Isaiah 14:12]. He is called “perfect in beauty” [Ezekiel 28:12]. I have never seen a “perfect” anything; everything in this world has in it some measure of imperfection. He is called “perfect in beauty.” He is covered, and he walks, and his garments are the iridescent light of the gems of diamond, and sapphire, of jasper, of pearl, of gold [Ezekiel 28:13]. In the second Corinthian letter, the [fourteenth] verse and the [eleventh chapter], the apostle Paul refers to him as “the angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14], the brightness of the meridian sun.
In medieval days, all through Europe there were presented by the church miracle plays. They were the precursors of Shakespeare and all of the dramatic presentations the modern world knows. In those miracle plays Satan was always presented in one way: he was a devil with horns, with tail, with hooves, with a red coat, and with a pitchfork. It is manifestly a caricature, and it may please Satan that in the imagery of the world, he is a devil like that. Actually, he is the opposite of that! Satan is beautiful, and alluring, and powerful beyond anything that a human mind could imagine.
If I could, by illustration, try to enter into somewhat of what Satan is like, it would be like this: in the days of the Second World War, I remember beautiful women, whose pictures would be on the front pages of the newspaper. It would be a beautiful and alluring woman who was in the pay and in the hire of the enemy. And they would persuade her and buy her to seduce a general, or a great representative of government, and finding secrets from us, would deliver them to the enemy. That is Satan: beautiful, alluring, seductive; but treacherous and traitorous in the extreme.
If I could find an example of what Satan is really like, I would say you would find him in the mind, and the voice, and the prestige, of a brilliant and gifted theological professor. He speaks in learnedness and in eloquence, but he denies the faith. He empties Scripture of its inspiration. He takes away deity from Christ, makes Him just another man, and robs the church of all of its hope of a consummating and glorious tomorrow. That is Satan!
If I could pick out Satan as he really is, I would picture him as a great, popular leader of government. And he comes forth as the champion of the people and rather than face the harsh realities and the stubborn facts of economic life, he soothes the people into the persuasion that he is their great benefactor and patron, and he looks at the printing press making money; thousands of dollars, millions of dollars. And he gives order through the instruments of government for deficit financing, and the presses – it is that simple – and they print money, and print money, and the government goes in debt and what finally happens is: it’s a painless way to rob the poor, and to destroy the pensioner, and finally to bring the country into economic collapse and chaos. That is Satan! Smart, shrewd, deceptive; but beyond his soft and mellifluous voice there is destruction and ruin. That is Satan.
Here in the gutter is a drunken bum in his vomit; that isn’t Satan. That’s one of his minions who has destroyed a human life, plunged it into despair and ruin. Satan is somewhere in a plush office, presiding over an empire – thinking up ways and means and approaches to allure our young people and to destroy their lives both inwardly and on highways, where they’re killed by the thousands and the thousands every year. That genius at the top, presiding over the great corporations, that is Satan! Beautiful, amenable, courteous, alluring, interesting, acceptable, but treacherous! Deceptive in the extreme: that is Satan.
I speak of the extent of his power. It is hard for us to enter into the vast, vast unimaginable control he has of God’s universe – the mystery of evil. In the Book of Jude, the apostle writes that “Even Michael the archangel, when disputing with diabolos – Satan – about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” [Jude 1:9]. Even Michael the archangel dare not cross Lucifer. In the twelfth chapter the Book of the Revelation: “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, against Satan and his angels” [Revelation 12:7].
His illimitable power: he is king over the fallen angels. In the twelfth chapter of the Revelation, one third – one third of all of the angels of God fell in rebellion with Satan [Revelation 12:4]. I remember one time speaking of that in this pulpit. And when we think of that, and wonder how it is that the angels of God turned aside from the Lord and followed Satan – why do you do it? Why do you do it? For Satan is alluring; he’s deceptive, he’s interesting. And he places his wares in beautiful order and asks you to buy them, and we do! What the angels do we do, and do all the time. One third of them left their first estate and followed Satan, rebelling against God, refusing the mandates and disciplines of the Lord God. And the king over that fallen, angelic host called “demons” in the Bible, the king is Satan.
In the ninth chapter of the Book of The Revelation he is called their king, and he’s given two other names there, in Hebrew Abaddon, in Greek Apollyon; and in either instance, the word means the same thing: it means ruin and destruction and death [Revelation 9:11]. He’s the king over all of the fallen hosts of the dark and evil world, in heaven and in earth. He is also the sovereign ruler over fallen men, men who reject God. If a man will not accept God, the true God, and worship the true God, he will accept the devil and worship him. Because a man’s made that way – he will worship something, he will follow something, he will give his life to something – he is interested in something, and whatever we are interested in, whatever we give our lives to other than the true God, is idolatrous. It is sin; it is Satan, it is satanic.
And finally, in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew and the forty-first verse, Satan controls the man completely and he is sent away into the fire, prepared for the devil and his angels [Matthew 25:41]. That is Satan! Satan is called, in the [fourth] chapter of 2 Corinthians, Satan is called “the god of this world” [2 Corinthians 4:4]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? There is a kingdom in this world, and it is presided over by his satanic majesty, the king: Apollyon, Abaddon.
I was eating dinner with Dr. Black in Istanbul, the president of Robert College, a Presbyterian college in Istanbul. He had married a Bulgarian and was in Bulgaria when the communists took it over. And he said to me, “You cannot realize the strength and the power of those communists over their people.” He said, “Children will turn informer against their parents when they know that what they report will mean the death of their fathers and their mothers. But children will inform against their own parents; seeing them die, executed, put to death!” Then he added to me a word I’ll never forget. He said, “There is a kingdom of darkness in this world, presided over by a king, just as there is a kingdom of light in this world presided over by Jesus Christ.” And he said, “The kingdom of atheism, of communism, of totalitarianism is an expression of the kingdom of Satan; and its king is diabolos, the devil.”
There is a god in this world [2 Corinthians 4:4] and we see him in his illimitable power in his command of the elements and of disease. It was Satan who destroyed God’s first creation. It was Satan who destroyed God’s recreation and made the animal kingdom vicious and carnivorous, and made men full of murderous thoughts – wars and bloodshed – and uses the elements of nature to destroy the man that he hates.
For example, there came upon a day to Job, a messenger saying “The Sabeans and the Chaldeans have come and they have taken away the flocks and the herds and they have slain the servants.” And while he was speaking there came another messenger and saying, “And fire from the heavens came down and burned up the sheep” [Job 1:13-17]. And while he was speaking, there came another saying, “And there is a mighty wind that came out of the wilderness that over turned the house and crushed all the of your children” [Job 1:18-19]. And finally, Job himself was struck with a loathsome disease and “sat in the ash heap” [Job 2:7-8]. Who did that? Who does that? Who raises up murderers who dip their hands in human blood, who are guilty of violence? Who does that? Who sent lightning out of the sky to burn up the flocks? Who sent the wind to crush the children? And who afflicted Job with a loathsome disease? Under the permissive will of God, Satan did it. He did it.
In the [thirteenth] chapter of the Book of Luke, there is a woman bound down with that infirmity. Eighteen years she could not lift herself [Luke 13:11], and the Lord Jesus said, “Satan has bound her down” [Luke 13:16]. In the twelfth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, the apostle Paul says, “I have a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me” [2 Corinthians 12:7]. All of these violences that you see in the world – the turbulence of nature, the stress of the wind and the storm, and the disease that afflicts us – all of that was not intended by God, it’s Satan! Satan is an interloper; he is an intruder. God never intended that, that’s Satan!
And I speak of his power over the human heart and over the human mind, and the facility with which he enters us. It is almost unthinkable how easy it is for Satan to get into the human mind and into the human heart. In a thousand ways and in a thousand forms, does he enter. Day and night, circling, seeking whom he may devour, and his ways are so innocuous and so deceptive.
I was in a meeting one time as a little boy, and the evangelist called up a great big powerful man and set him in a chair right there on the platform. And he took a string and he put it around the man seated in the chair, and he said, “Break it.” And the man just broke it. He took the string and put two or three strands around him and said, “Break it.” And the man broke it just like that. And while the big strong man sat in the chair, the man took that string and he wrapped it around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around, and around the man, and then he said, “Break it!” And that big strong man did all in his power to strain against that and failed; he was bound. That is Satan; you didn’t know it, you didn’t realize it.
There was a man, and a pig was following him. And the man was dropping beans, and the pig was following along, eating those beans as the man dropped them. And a fellow watching said, “Where are you taking the pig?” And the man replied, “To the slaughterhouse.” That’s Satan. And how easily he conquers us, a little at a time; a little here, a little there, a little push there, a little suggestion yonder, and finally we don’t recognize ourselves. We are somebody else. That is the deceptiveness of Satan.
How do I war against him? Anthistēmi – resist, face him stereoi – steadfastly! [1 Peter 5:9]. But how, Lord? However a man may find strength in himself to oppose, he is no match for Satan. Satan is too deceptive, and too smart, and too shrewd, and too strong for flesh and blood. We are no match; we lose the battle before we begin. How does a man stand to face Satan? You do it in God, in the faith [1 Peter 5:9].
Let me show you in just a moment:
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh throughout dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
Then he sayeth, I will return into my home from whence I went out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
Then goeth he, and taketh unto himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there in that man: and his last state is worse than the first.
What is that that the Lord has said here in the twelfth chapter of Matthew? It is a very simple thing, and it is one that all of us have experienced. Here is a man that has an unclean spirit. Now you just name anything of a thousand things: drunkenness, cursing, lying, stealing, whoremongering – vile, whatever it is. And so he says, “I’m going to reform. I’m going to thrust that evil spirit out of me, I’m not,” and then just name it. “I’m not going to whoremonger any more, I’m not going to lie anymore; I’m not going to get drunk anymore; I’m not going to embezzle anymore; I’m not going to steal any more; I’m not going to,” whatever it is, “I’m going to live a new life. I’m going to be a new man; I’m good going to walk straight.” So he thrusts that spirit of uncleanness out of him. And then the days pass, and that spirit comes back and looks on the inside of that man’s heart. It is empty! It is empty; it is swept, and clean, and garnished. He’s really fine, he’s walking straight. He’s really reformed, but his heart is empty, though it’s swept, and clean, and garnished. And that spirit sees the emptiness on the inside of that man’s heart, and he goes out and he finds seven other spirits worse than himself, and comes back in that man; and what he once was, so he is ten times, seven times worse than even that [Matthew 12:43-45]. For not only does he get drunk now, but he curses, and he lies, and he’s filthy, and he has descended into the gutter.
What’s the matter? Why, it is very evident what’s the matter: the man’s heart is empty, though it is clean, and swept, and garnished. For you see, a man can’t live without something in his heart; he has to give himself to something. He can’t help being that way, he’s created like that. And if a man’s heart is empty, then you’ll find him giving himself to false pride, vain ambition, money, covetousness, pleasure, indulgence, a thousand things – they come and live in that man’s heart. What does the man need? He needs what Simon Peter wrote there, when he says, anthistēmi, stereo, “face the devil firmly.” How, Lord? In the faith; letting Jesus, letting God come into your heart. He dwells in our heart by faith [1 Peter 5:9]. There is another spirit in your heart, it is the Spirit of Jesus; it is the Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And when a man has the Spirit of Jesus in his heart and the Spirit of God in him, when a man is born again [John 3:7-18], and he’s got the Lord in his soul, that evil spirit has no place. He can’t dwell there. He can’t.
The spirit of evil, of covetousness, of drunkenness, of lying, of debauchery, of whoremongering, of a thousand other things that are vile and bad; when they come into the Christians heart, brother, you got to fight! You’ve got to resist it – you’ve got to anthistēmi – you’ve got a confrontation! And the Spirit of Jesus won’t let an evil spirit stay in the heart. There’s no room for him, he can’t get in because God is there, and that is the triumphant life.
The Christian doesn’t lose the battle; never. He may be in a fray, and he may be in a war, and he may look for a while that he is down; never, never! God never lost a battle; never. And He is not going to lose it with you. All that my soul needs is Jesus, that’s enough. And when I have Him in my heart, He sanctifies and hallows every desire and ambition of my soul. He makes life beautiful, blessed, holy, heavenly, helpful, encouraging, triumphant, victorious, and finally He delivers us before the presence of the great Glory without spot or blemish [Ephesians 5:27; Jude 1:24]. That is the greater King and the greater Power and the greater Spirit; even the Spirit of Jesus.
In a moment now we sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, to open your heart to the Lord, to give your life to the blessed Savior, to come into the fellowship of this church, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming, down one of these stairways, walking down this aisle, “Pastor, today I decide for God and here I am, here I come.” Or, “I am putting my life in the circle and circumference of this dear congregation, and I am here, right here. Here I am, pastor, here. See? There is my hand. I have given my heart to God. I have opened my soul heavenward and I am coming.” On the first note of the first stanza, do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.