By Billy Graham
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. --Ephesians 6: 12
THERE is a satanic principle involved in all that is happening today. The Bible describes "that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9) and we know him to be at work confusing all peoples and all nations. His handiwork is to be seen at every turn.
While we would like to take hope that universal peace is drawing closer, it appears instead that we are standing on the brink of Armageddon. We are told that there were hundreds of "little" wars between 1945 and 1979 which caused between twelve and thirteen million deaths. For Satan is determined that the dark, joyless river of humanity shall continue on its tormented way until the end of time. He won over Adam in the Garden, and he is convinced that he can claim the souls of Adam's descendants for himself.
There is not a thinking person in the world today who has not wondered many times about the existence of the devil. That he does exist, there is no doubt. We see his power and influence everywhere. The question is not is there a devil, but how and why did the devil come to be?
We know from the story of Adam and Eve that the devil was already present on earth before God made the first man. Evil already existed, else God would not have made a tree whose fruit gave the awareness of good and bad. There would have been no necessity for such a tree, no possibility of it, if evil had not already been present and man been in need of protection from it.
Did God Create Evil?
Here we face the greatest of all mysteries, the most significant of all secrets, the most unanswerable of all questions. How could God -- who is all-powerful, all-holy and all-loving -- have created evil, or permitted the devil to create it? Why did Adam have to be tempted? Why didn't God strike the devil dead when he entered the body of the serpent to whisper evil thoughts to Eve?
The Bible gives us a few hints as to what the answer may be. But the Bible also makes it very clear that man is not supposed to know the full answer until God has allowed the devil and all his designs to help work out His own great plan.
Before the fall of Adam, long before Adam even existed, it would appear that God's universe was divided into spheres of influence, each of which was under the supervision and control of an angel or heavenly prince, all of whom were responsible directly to God. Paul tells us of "thrones, governments, prince-doms, and authorities" in both the visible and the invisible world (Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:21). The Bible makes frequent mention of angels and archangels, showing that there was established order among them, some being more powerful than others.
The devil must have been just such a powerful, heavenly prince, having the earth assigned to him, perhaps, as his special province. Known as Lucifer, the "lightbearer," he must have stood very close to God -- so close, in fact, that ambition entered his heart and he determined not to be God's beloved prince, but to place himself on an equal footing with God Himself! Lucifer was not the counterpart of God, but the counterpart of Michael or Gabriel; he was not a fallen god, but a fallen angel.
It was at this moment that the breach appeared in the cosmos. It was at this moment that the universe -- which had been all good and all harmonious to God's will -- split, and a portion of it set itself in opposition to God. Just as there are today regimes and sects that deny the existence of God or defy His authority, the devil defied God and attempted to set up his own authority. He abandoned his own position in the government of God and descended into the lower heavens and cried out that he would be like the Most High God. He had been set by God as the prince of this world; and God has not yet removed him from that position, though the righteous basis for that removal has been laid by the death of Christ. Ever since that moment, the devil has been contesting God on earth.
The Devil's Kingdom
As a mighty prince, with hosts of angels at his command, he has set up his kingdom on earth. His power and position here are the very reasons that the Scriptures came to be written. Had Satan not defied God and attempted to rival His power and authority, the story of Adam in the Garden would have been very different. Had Satan not set himself in opposition to God, there would have been no need to give mankind the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need for God to send His Son to the cross.
Jesus and His apostles were well aware of the devil. Matthew records an actual conversation between Jesus and the devil (Matthew 4:1-10). The devil was very real to the Pharisees -- so real, in fact, that they accused Jesus of being the devil himself (Matthew 12:14)! There was no doubt in Jesus' mind of the existence of the devil, nor of the power that he wields here on earth.
The devil's strength is clearly demonstrated in the passage from Jude 9 which relates: "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Modern confusion about the personality of the devil has resulted in large measure from the caricatures of him which became popular during the Middle Ages. To allay their fear of the devil, people tried to laugh at him, and pictured him as a foolish, grotesque creature with horns and a long tail. They put a pitchfork in his hand, and a feeble-minded leer on his face, and then said to themselves, "Who's afraid of a ridiculous figure like this?"
The truth is that the devil is a creature of vastly superior intelligence, a mighty and gifted spirit of infinite resourcefulness. We forget that the devil was perhaps the greatest and most exalted of all God's angels. He was a sublime figure, who decided to use his divine endowments for his own aims instead of God's. His reasoning is brilliant, his plans ingenious, his logic well nigh irrefutable. God's mighty adversary is no bungling creature with horns and tail -- he is a prince of lofty stature, of unlimited craft and cunning, able to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, able to turn every situation to his own advantage. He is unrelenting and cruel. He is not, however, all-powerful, omniscient or omnipresent.
The devil is quite capable of bringing forth the false prophet of which the Bible warns. Upon the wreckage of disbelief and faltering faith the devil will set his masterpiece, the counterfeit king. He will create a religion without a Redeemer. He will build a church without a Christ. He will call for worship without the Word of God.
The Apostle Paul predicted this when he said: "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough........For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4, 13).
The Devil and the Anti-Christ
We know that the anti-Christ will appear and try to ensnare the minds and hearts of men. The time draws close, the stage is set -- confusion, panic, and fear are abroad. The signs of the false prophet are everywhere at hand, and many may be the living witnesses of the awesome moment when the final act of this age-old drama begins. It may well come in our time, for the tempo is speeding up, events move more swiftly, and on every side we see men and women consciously or unconsciously choosing up sides -- aligning themselves with the devil or with God.
It will be a battle to the death, in the truest meaning of that word -- a battle that will give no quarter, that will make no allowances or exceptions. The human phase of this battle started in the Garden of Eden when the devil seduced mankind from God, making it possible for there to be billions of warring wills, every man turning to his own way. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him [Christ] the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). It will continue until the end of time, until one or the other of these two mighty forces -- the force of good or evil -- triumphs and places the True King or the false king on the throne.
At this moment in history, two mighty trinities stand face to face: the Trinity of God (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) and the false trinity that Satan would have us worship in its place. The trinity of evil (the devil, anti-Christ, and false prophet) is described in the Book of Revelation: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13).
Never for a second of your waking or sleeping life are you without the influences of these two powerful forces, never is there a moment when you cannot deliberately choose to go with one or the other. Always the devil is standing at your side tempting, coaxing, threatening, cajoling. And always on your other side stands Jesus, the all-loving, the all-forgiving, waiting for you to turn to Him and ask His aid, waiting to give you supernatural power to resist the Evil one. You belong to one or the other. There isn't a no-man's land in between where you can hide.
In moments of your greatest fear and anxiety, in moments when you feel yourself helpless in the grip of events you cannot control, when despair and disappointment overwhelm you -- in these moments many times it is the devil who is trying to catch you at your weakest point and push you further along the path that Adam took.
In these perilous moments remember that Christ has not deserted you. He has not left you defenseless. As He triumphed over Satan in His hour of temptation and trial, so He has promised that you, too, can have daily victory over the Tempter. Remember: "You are of God . . . and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
The same Book that tells us over and over again of God's love, warns us constantly of the devil who would come between us and God, the devil who is ever waiting to ensnare men's souls. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8). The Bible describes a personal devil who controls a host of demon spirits that attempt to dominate and control all human activity, "The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).
Don't Doubt the Devil
Don't doubt for a moment the existence of the devil! He is very personal and he is very real! And he is extremely clever! Perhaps the most clever thing that he has ever done is to convince people he does not exist. Look again at the front page of today's newspaper if you have any question about the personality of the devil. Switch on your local radio or television news commentator. Note the local theater listings, glance at the magazine stands, and book racks -- in short, just look around you if you feel you need concrete evidence!
Would sane, thinking men and women behave in this way if they were not in the grip of evil? Could hearts filled only with God's love and God's goodness conceive and carry out the acts of violence and malice that are reported to us every day? Could men of education, intelligence, and honest intent gather around a world conference table and fail so completely to understand each other's needs and goals if their thinking was not being deliberately clouded and corrupted?
Whenever I hear an "enlightened" person of our time take issue with the plausibility of a personal, individualized devil in command of a host of evil spirits, I am reminded of this poem by Alfred J. Hough:
Men don't believe in the Devil now, as their fathers used to do;
They've forced the door of the broadest creed to let his majesty through.
There isn't a print of his cloven foot or fiery dart from his brow
To be found on earth or air today, for the world has voted it so.
Who dogs the steps of the toiling saint and digs the pits for his feet?
Who sows the tares in the fields of time whenever God sows the wheat?
The Devil is voted not to be, and of course, the thing is true;
But who is doing the kind of work that the Devil alone can do?
We are told that he doesn't go about as a roaring lion now;
But whom shall we hold responsible for the everlasting row
To be heard in home, in church and state, to the earth's remotest bound,
If the Devil by unanimous vote is nowhere to be found?
Won't someone step to the front forthwith and make their bow and show
How the frauds and crimes of a single day spring up? We want to know!
The Devil was fairly voted out, and of course, The Devil's gone;
But simple people would like to know who carries the business on.
Who, indeed, is responsible for the infamy, terror, and agony that we see all around us? How can we account for the sufferings that we all experience if evil is not a potent force? Modern education has, in truth, impeded our minds. Because of allegedly scientific findings, some have lost their belief in the supernatural powers of Satan, while others worship him.
George Galloway summed up this dubious contribution of current education when he said: "The theory that there is in the universe a power or principle, personal or otherwise, in eternal opposition to God is generally discarded by the modern mind."
The modern mind may discard it, but that doesn't cause the evil principle itself to disappear! Once asked how he overcame the devil, Martin Luther replied, "Well, when he comes knocking upon the door of my heart and asks, 'Who lives here?' the dear Lord Jesus goes to the door and says, 'Martin Luther used to live here but he has moved out. Now I live here.' The Devil, seeing the nail-prints in His hands, and the pierced side, takes flight immediately."
The Certainty of Sin
Sin is certainly a grim fact! It stands like a titanic force, contesting all the good that men may try to accomplish. It stands like a dark shadow, ever ready to blot out whatever light may reach us from on high. We all know this. We all see it. We all are conscious of it in every move we make. Call it what we may, we know of its very real existence. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
How do those who deny the devil and his minions account for the speed with which evil spreads? How do they explain the endless stumbling blocks that are placed in the path of the righteous? How can they reason away the fact that destruction and disaster are but the work of seconds, while construction and rehabilitation are often agonizingly slow?
Breathe a lie into the air, let loose a slanderous tongue -- and the words are carried as by magic to the farthest corners. Speak a truth, perform a generous and honest act -- and unseen powers will be at work at once to try to hide this tiny ray of light and hope.
When this book was first written thirty years ago no one built churches to the devil, no one constructed pulpits to preach his word. And yet today they do. His word is everywhere, and all too often his word is translated into desperate deeds. If no unseen power is at work corrupting men's hearts and distorting men's thoughts, how can you explain humanity's eagerness to listen to the base and vulgar and vile, while it turns a deaf ear to the good and clean and pure? One has only to listen to the blasphemous words of punk rock to realize that Satan is alive and well on earth.
Would one single person among us ever pass up a piece of ripe delicious fruit to select a rotten piece that was crawling with worms and reeking with decay, if we were not driven to this dreadful choice by a great and sinister power? Yet that is exactly what we all do over and over again. We constantly pass up the rich and beautiful and ennobling experiences and seek out the tawdry, the cheap, and the degrading. These are the works of the devil, and they flourish on every side!
The Struggle Between Good and Evil
What we see happening here on earth is but a reflection of the far greater struggles between good and evil in the unseen realm. We like to think that our planet is the center of the universe, and we attach too much importance to earthly events. In our foolish pride we see with human eyes. But a struggle of infinitely greater magnitude is being waged in the world we cannot see!
The wise men of old knew this. They knew that there is much that the human eye fails to discern and much to which the human ear is deaf. Modern man likes to feel that he "created" radio, television, and computers, that he made it possible to send audible sounds and visible images through space, and to make and record impossible amounts of data. The truth is, of course, that these waves, unknown to man, have always existed, and that far greater wonders exist in outer space, of which man may never gain the slightest knowledge. That these wonders were there, the ancient prophets knew -- but even they had but a suggestion of their magnitude, even they could catch but the faintest echoes of the mighty battle of the spheres.
One of the many prices Adam paid for listening to the devil was to lose the vision of spiritual dimensions. He lost for himself and all of humanity the capacity for seeing and hearing and understanding anything that was not basely material. Adam closed himself off from the eternal wonders and splendors of the unseen world. He lost the power of true prophecy, the ability to look ahead, and by so doing to better understand and perform the work of the present. He lost his sense of continuity. He became literally "dead in trespasses and sins." He had alienated himself from God.
G. Campbell Morgan says: "Our distance from God is that of inability to know and apprehend the near. It is the distance of the blind man from the glory of the picture in front of him. The distance of the deaf man from the beauty of the symphony sounding round about him. It is the distance of the sensate man from all the movement of life in the midst of which he lives."
But let tragedy or sickness come to us, let us suffer the consequences of our own sins, and we immediately blame God for it! We may be somewhat patient and understanding with our television sets when they do not give us what we want, but we are quick to rail against God and His universe when we get a distorted picture of it.
Let someone get the business promotion we wanted, let someone we consider less deserving succeed where we have failed, and we cry out against God's injustice. We demand to know why God permits such inequalities! We lose sight of the fact that God, like a great master television station, is sending out a perfect image of love and righteousness all the time, and that the faulty reception lies with us!
The Evil in Our Eyesight
It is the evil and distortion within ourselves that keeps us from seeing and experiencing God's perfect world. It is our own sin that blurs the image, that keeps us from being God's pure children. Paul spoke for all of us when he said: "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19). Paul recognized the dreaded enemy, the powerful foe of all mankind, and cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:24-25).
Two overwhelming adversaries were clearly apparent to Paul and he was acutely aware of being torn between their mighty magnetisms. The power of good was pulling his mind and heart toward God, while the power of evil was trying to drag his body down into death and destruction.
You are caught between these same two forces: life and death! Choose God's way, and there is life. Choose Satan's way, and it is death!