There’s an increasing emphasis in our secular culture on the spirit world. More and more movies, books and TV programs feature angels and demons and spirit beings. The good news in all of this is that our culture has moved from pure secular humanism, where nothing beyond the natural world is allowed, to a position where the supernatural world is at least acknowledged. The bad news is that most of the spiritual information fed to our impressionable culture through movies, TV, self-help books and music is either distorted or completely false. As a result, many people in our post-Christian society are misled and desensitized to the truth.
Christ, Christianity, Satan, angels and demons are all misrepresented. Jesus Christ and Christians are demeaned, distorted and put down. The mission and character of the holy angels are trivialized. The dangerous deceptions and destructive intent of Satan and demons are either turned into cartoons and comedy routines, or actually promoted by movies and rock musicians. Occultism, the worship of spirit beings, and even Satanism are tolerated and even accepted as a part of our culture.
As always happens with our secular culture’s phenomena, some of the fall-out seeps into the Church. The result is an unbalanced, unbiblical and unhealthy emphasis on the activity of angels and demons and on supernatural experiences. This emphasis is not entirely bad, because for too long the anti-supernatural bias of liberal theology put the Church to sleep on the subject of angels, demons and other spiritual realities. Now, at least, Christians are more willing to express what Scripture has always said: Satan is real, and so are angels – both good and bad. Furthermore, most Christians now acknowledge that demons may cause physical and spiritual problems, and God’s people may even be called upon to oppose demonic influence by God’s power. A proper understanding of the reality of the supernatural and of warfare in the spiritual realm is critical for believers.
However, in some churches the pendulum has swung too far, with the supernatural activity of angels (both holy and evil) receiving a degree of attention out of proportion to its place in God’s Word. Emphasis on the saving work of Christ and the preaching of the gospel is often diminished. Expository Bible teaching is abandoned in favor of topical sermons on angels, demons or miracles. The recounting of subjective present-day experiences are preferred to doctrinal instruction from God’s Word.
A lack of sound teaching can result in serious doctrinal distortions. For example, books and songs which compare the battle between Satan and Jesus may unintentionally result in equalizing Satan and Jesus in the minds of believers. In effect, Jesus is lowered to the level of a created being, while Satan is elevated to the level of the Son of God! A subtle example of this is illustrated on a T-shirt found in many Christian book stores. Jesus and Satan are depicted side-by-side with the words “He loves me” under Jesus, and “He loves me not” under Satan. Unintentionally, Satan appears equal to Jesus in power.
The unhealthy emphasis on demons and angels spills over into teachings for Christian living. The idea, for example, that normal Christian conduct involves exorcising “territorial spirits” or “binding Satan” on a regular basis is not found in Scripture, but is, nevertheless, taught in some churches as a norm for Christian living.
Timetable For Binding
In Revelation 20:1-10 we read that Satan will be bound for a 1000 years, then released for a short time, and finally thrown into the lake of fire (hell) for eternal punishment. In other words, it seems clear that until Satan is bound for the 1000 years, he is not bound. He will not be bound until Scripture says he will be bound. The 1000 years of Revelation 20, when the Lord returns to set up His millennial kingdom, is a future event.
Therefore, binding Satan today is unscriptural terminology and practice, even though the intent may be for God’s glory. Christians who spiritualize the 1000 years of Revelation 20 to the Church age (the amillennial view of Revelation) are inconsistent if they call for the binding of Satan. If Revelation 20 is today, then Satan is already bound by God, and doesn’t need to be bound again and again by Christians! Any way you look at it, binding Satan shouldn’t be the norm for Christians today.
Norm For Today
What does the New Testament indicate about the normal Christian attitude in reference to Satan? James 4:7 says that we are to “resist the devil and he will flee” from us. How do we resist him? The classic passage in the New Testament for resisting the devil is Ephesians 6:10-18. This should be the Christian’s “standard operating procedure” for spiritual warfare today. There is nothing in either James 4 or Ephesians 6 about binding Satan. We are told to resist Satan, to oppose and combat his efforts and schemes. We are to take on the full armor of God so that we can stand firm and extinguish Satan’s flaming missiles.
If it were possible to bind Satan today, we would not need instruction about putting on the various pieces of God’s armor. If Satan could be bound, he would not be capable of attacking us and throwing flaming missiles at us. In fact, the concept of binding Satan can actually be quite a dangerous belief. If we believe that we can bind him, we will wrongly think that he has been incapacitated, and we will be completely unprepared for his next attack.
In addition, if we believe that our prayers can bind Satan, we will be far less diligent about putting on God’s armor, and will be more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Satan is not bound, and cannot be bound today. Our strategy, then, is to be fully armed to repel his attack. Putting on the whole armor of God and standing against him is the kind of resistance that thwarts the enemy’s scheming tactics, and forces Satan to flee.
Armor Of God
Specifically, notice the emphasis in Ephesians 6:16 on using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Again, there is no reference to binding Satan, but rather to knowing and using the appropriate Scriptures when under attack. Consider how our Lord Himself resisted Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Mt. 4; Lk. 4). Jesus did not bind Satan. In all three of Satan’s temptations, our Lord quoted Scripture to repel the devil: “He departed from Him until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13 nasb).
We should follow our Lord’s example when attacked or tempted. Knowledge of God’s Word is important for repelling Satan, and crucial for Christian living as well. As He was growing up, Jesus must have spent a lot of time memorizing the Word of God (Lk. 2:52). What an example for us!
Furthermore, note that prayer is emphasized as part of the full armor of God (Eph. 6:18). It certainly isn’t wrong to ask the Lord to overturn the efforts of the enemy, or to ask the Lord to put a “hedge” of protection (Job 1:10) around any Christian who is on the front lines in spiritual warfare. It seems, however, that prayer as a piece of armor is focused not on binding Satan but on requesting strength to resist the devil and grow in faith. “The devil trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees” is not a Scripture verse, but it is a scriptural principle.
So the biblical key to victory in spiritual warfare is not found in binding Satan but rather in putting on and taking up “the full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11,13). We are to “be on the alert” (Eph. 6:18) to the enemy’s schemes, but we should not consider that we can bind the enemy. Our confidence should be on the Word of God and the power of God within us to overcome his tactics (Eph. 6:10,15; 1 Jn. 4:4). Our attention should be focused on “truth and … righteousness” (Eph. 6:14). Our service should be characterized by sharing the Good News and building up believers (Eph. 6:15). Our time should be spent in the Word and in prayer (Eph. 6:18). This is how we put on the full armor of God, and how we are able to stand firm and resist Satan in spiritual warfare. We aren’t told to bind Satan, but as we “take up the full armor of God” his attacks will become ineffective and he will flee.
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org