This POST was originally published at DesiringGOD.org. It is based on my book, Good News About Satan: A Gospel Look at Spiritual Warfare.
In a very real sense, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). All humans, including those who compose the church, are subject to the evil god of this world. So here’s a question for you: True or false?
God could have cast Satan into the lake of fire immediately after he rebelled, or immediately after the deception in the Garden, or at any point from then until now, thus sparing his people and the world untold misery and suffering.
By [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)
Christ spun forth galaxies with a word. He could just as easily have removed the entire kingdom of darkness with one little word. Wouldn’t the Bride of Christ have been better off? Why didn’t the Divine Bridegroom care for us in that way?
All this is just one way to pose one of the most knotty questions in all of theology.
Why Does Christ Allow the Enemy to Exist?
The short answer is this: for our joy and his glory.
Jesus Christ came “to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18). Through his death, “he destroyed the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14–15). What a Savior! What a Deliverer! Every liberated POW story shares a common climax — triumphant jubilation. If there were no enemy to free us from, we would never experience this extraordinary magnitude of joy.
Light is all the more glorious in contrast to darkness. Freedom is enhanced by the experience of captivity. Holiness is more beautiful when we have been shocked by the gargoyle face of evil.
Remembering how our Divine Rescuer irreversibly saved us from the jaws of the enemy maximizes our delight, admiration, and reverence for him. Thus the very existence of Satan ultimately magnifies the glory of Christ. And this type of glory would not be possible were Satan not allowed to range throughout the earth. And we have at least three more ways to see these truths in the Bible.
1. Satan and Demons Obey Christ
Consider Christ’s forty-day battle with the devil in the wilderness. Not only did Jesus win, but when the ordeal was over he said, “Be gone Satan,” and the evil one immediately obeyed (Matthew 4:10¬–11).
The fact that Satan and demons obey Christ results in glory for him — and profound joy for us who follow Christ.
2. The Hour That Changed Everything
In Gethsemane, as the mob approached with swords and clubs, Jesus said, “This is your hour and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:52).
He knew this was coming. But instead of asking the Father to save him from this hour, he prayed, “Father, glorify your name.” The voice from heaven replied,l “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Jesus explained to those who heard it, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:27–31).
The hour of the power of darkness was also the hour of Christ’s glory. Whenever we remember and proclaim this most extraordinary hour — this amazing cosmic turnaround — Christ receives glory, and we receive joy in him.
3. This Drama Is No Cliffhanger
Scripture reveals the ultimate destiny of Satan. Good news lies ahead: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). How will spiritual warfare ultimately conclude?
Then comes the end, when [Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:24–25)
When we look to our future hope and realize what lies ahead for our enemy, Christ is glorified, and we can rejoice knowing no one will ever snatch us out of his hand or separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (John 10:28; Romans 8:38–39).
What Is Spiritual Warfare About?
Spiritual warfare is not primarily a story about believers dressed in awesome armor. Nor is it primarily a story about Satan and demons. Instead, spiritual warfare is first and foremost a story about Christ and his all-surpassing glory over and above the kingdom of darkness. The bad news about Satan becomes the good news about Satan when we recognize that the glory of Christ shines most brightly against the black backdrop of the kingdom of darkness. As for Satan, he means it for evil against us, but God means it for good (Genesis 50:20).
And even in the heat of the fiercest battle, with our faith riveted on the indomitable Jesus Christ, we can “rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:3–9), knowing that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).