“We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] schemes.”—2 COR. 2:11, ftn.
1. In Eden, what did Jehovah reveal about our enemy?
ADAM no doubt knew that serpents cannot talk. So he may have surmised that a spirit creature had spoken with Eve through the serpent. (Gen. 3:1-6) Adam and Eve knew virtually nothing about this spirit. Even so, Adam made a conscious choice to turn his back on his loving heavenly Father and join this stranger in resisting God’s will. (1 Tim. 2:14) Immediately, Jehovah began to reveal information about this enemy who had corrupted Adam and Eve, promising that this wicked one would eventually be destroyed. But Jehovah also warned that for a time, the spirit creature who spoke through the serpent would have the power to oppose those who love God.—Gen. 3:15.
2, 3. Why, apparently, was little said about Satan before the Messiah arrived?
2 In his wisdom, Jehovah has never told us the personal name of the angelic son who rebelled against him.a And God chose not to reveal even the descriptive name of that enemy until some 2,500 years after the initial rebellion. (Job 1:6) In fact, only three books of the Hebrew Scriptures, 1 Chronicles, Job, and Zechariah, mention Satan, which means “Resister.” Why was little said about our enemy prior to the arrival of the Messiah?
3 Apparently, Jehovah did not want to give Satan undue prominence by devoting large portions of the Hebrew Scriptures to discussing him and his activity. Jehovah’s primary purpose for inspiring that section of the Scriptures was to identify the Messiah and lead God’s people to him. (Luke 24:44; Gal. 3:24) When that was accomplished and the Messiah arrived, Jehovah used him and his disciples to reveal much of what we know about Satan and the angels who joined him.b That is fitting, since it is Jesus and his anointed corulers whom Jehovah will use to crush Satan and his followers.—Rom. 16:20; Rev. 17:14; 20:10.
4. Why should we not be overly anxious about the Devil?
4 The apostle Peter describes Satan the Devil as “a roaring lion,” and John calls him a “serpent” and a “dragon.” (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:9) But there is no need to be overly anxious about the Devil—his power is limited. (Read James 4:7.) We are backed by Jehovah, Jesus, and the faithful angels. With their help, we can resist our enemy. Still, we need to know the answers to three key questions: What is the extent of Satan’s influence? How does he try to exert that influence on individuals? And what are the limits of his power? As we discuss these questions, we will also consider the lessons we can learn.
WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF SATAN’S INFLUENCE?
5, 6. Why can human governments not bring about the changes mankind needs most?
5 A significant number of angels joined Satan’s rebellion. Prior to the Flood, Satan lured at least some of them into having immoral relations with the daughters of men. The Bible reveals this truth by symbolically portraying the dragon as dragging a third of the stars of heaven with him in his fall. (Gen. 6:1-4; Jude 6; Rev. 12:3, 4) When those angels abandoned God’s family, they put themselves under Satan’s control. These rebels, however, are not just a mob of troublemakers. Satan has set up an imitation of God’s Kingdom, with himself as king. In the invisible realm, Satan has organized the demons into governments, given them authority, and made them world rulers.—Eph. 6:12.
6 By means of his spirit organization, Satan exerts authority over all human governments. That fact was made plain when Satan showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth” and said: “I will give you all this authority and their glory, because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” (Luke 4:5, 6) Despite Satan’s evil influence, many governments do a measure of good for their citizens. And individual rulers may have noble intentions. But no human government or individual ruler is capable of bringing about the changes mankind needs most.—Ps. 146:3, 4; Rev. 12:12.
7. How does Satan use not only governments but also false religion and the commercial system? (See opening picture.)
7 Satan and the demons use not only governments but also false religion and the commercial system to mislead “the entire inhabited earth.” (Rev. 12:9) Through false religion, Satan promotes lies about Jehovah. In addition, the Devil seems determined to make as many people as possible forget God’s name. (Jer. 23:26, 27) As a result, sincere individuals who think that they are worshipping God are deceived into worshipping demons. (1 Cor. 10:20; 2 Cor. 11:13-15) Satan also promotes lies through the commercial system. For example, this system often teaches people that the best way to be happy is to pursue money and gather many possessions. (Prov. 18:11) Those who believe this lie spend their lives serving “Riches” rather than God. (Matt. 6:24) Eventually, their love of material things can choke any love they had for God.—Matt. 13:22; 1 John 2:15, 16.
8, 9. (a) What two lessons may we learn from the accounts about Adam, Eve, and the rebellious angels? (b) What advantage do we gain from knowing the extent of Satan’s influence?
8 The examples of Adam, Eve, and the rebellious angels teach us at least two important lessons. First, there are only two sides, and we must choose one. Either we remain loyal to Jehovah or we place ourselves in Satan’s camp. (Matt. 7:13) Second, those who join Satan receive only limited benefits. Adam and Eve got the opportunity to set their own standards of good and bad, and the demons attained a measure of influence over human governments. (Gen. 3:22) However, the costs always outweigh any seeming benefits that Satan may offer.—Job 21:7-17; Gal. 6:7, 8.
9 What advantage do we gain from knowing the extent of Satan’s influence? It helps us keep a balanced view of secular authorities and motivates us in our witnessing work. We understand that Jehovah wants us to respect governmental authorities. (1 Pet. 2:17) And he expects us to obey the laws of human governments as long as those laws do not conflict with his standards. (Rom. 13:1-4) But we realize that we must remain neutral, never favoring one political party or human leader over another. (John 17:15, 16; 18:36) Because we see what Satan is trying to do to Jehovah’s name and reputation, we feel more compelled to teach others the truth about our God. We proudly bear and use his name, knowing that loving him is far more rewarding than loving money or things.—Isa. 43:10; 1 Tim. 6:6-10.
HOW DOES SATAN TRY TO INFLUENCE INDIVIDUALS?
10-12. (a) How may Satan have used bait to trap his angelic brothers? (b) What lessons do we learn from the fall of many angels?
10 Satan uses effective methods to influence individuals. For example, he uses bait to lure them into doing things his way. Also, he attempts to bully them into submission.
11 Consider how effective Satan was in using bait to trap a large number of his angelic brothers. He must have studied them for a considerable time before luring them into taking sides with him. When at least some of these angels took the bait and had immoral relations with women, they produced a hybrid race that dominated mankind. (Gen. 6:1-4) Perhaps Satan tempted the disloyal angels not only with the opportunity for immoral sex but also with the promise of seizing power over mankind. His purpose may have been to disrupt the arrival of the promised ‘offspring of the woman.’ (Gen. 3:15) In any case, Jehovah ended all such plots by bringing the Flood—a move that thwarted the efforts of Satan and the rebellious angels at that time.
12 What lessons can we learn from this incident? Never underestimate the lure of immorality or the danger of egotism. For aeons, the angels who joined Satan served in the very presence of God. Yet, even in such a good environment, many allowed bad desires to take root and grow. Similarly, we may have served for decades in the earthly part of God’s organization. Yet, even in this spiritually clean environment, unclean desires can take root. (1 Cor. 10:12) How important it is that we constantly search our heart, reject immoral thoughts, and suppress unhealthy pride!—Gal. 5:26; read Colossians 3:5.
13. What is another effective bait that Satan uses, and how can we avoid it?
13 Another effective bait that Satan uses is curiosity about the occult. Today, he promotes interest in the demons not only through false religion but also through the entertainment industry. Movies, electronic games, and other media make spiritism seem exciting. How can we avoid being caught in this trap? We should not expect God’s organization to supply a list of acceptable and unacceptable entertainment. Each of us needs to train his own conscience to be in harmony with God’s standards. (Heb. 5:14) However, we will make wise choices if we apply the apostle Paul’s inspired counsel to let our love for God “be without hypocrisy.” (Rom. 12:9) We could ask ourselves: ‘Will my choice of entertainment make me seem hypocritical? If my Bible students or return visits saw the entertainment I choose, would they think that I practice what I preach?’ The more our speech and actions harmonize, the less likely we are to be caught in Satan’s snares.—1 John 3:18.
14. How might Satan try to bully us, and how can we cope?
14 In addition to offering bait, Satan tries to bully us into compromising our loyalty to Jehovah. For example, he can maneuver governments into banning our preaching work. Or he can prompt our associates at work or in school to mock us because of our desire to live by the Bible’s moral standards. (1 Pet. 4:4) He might also influence well-meaning family members to discourage us from attending meetings. (Matt. 10:36) How can we cope? First, we must expect this kind of direct assault—Satan is at war with us. (Rev. 2:10; 12:17) Then, we need to see the bigger issue behind such incidents—Satan claims that we serve Jehovah only when it is convenient. He says that if we are pressured, we will turn our back on God. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5) Finally, we have to rely on Jehovah for strength to face the issue. Remember, he will never abandon us.—Heb. 13:5.
WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF SATAN’S POWER?
15. Can Satan force us to act against our own will? Explain.
15 Satan cannot force people to act against their own will. (Jas. 1:14) Out of ignorance, many work in harmony with Satan’s purpose. But after they learn the truth, each one makes a choice as to whom he or she will serve. (Acts 3:17; 17:30) If we are resolved to do God’s will, there is nothing Satan can do to break our integrity.—Job 2:3; 27:5.
16, 17. (a) What other limitations do Satan and the demons have? (b) Why should we not fear to pray out loud to Jehovah?
16 Satan and the demons have other limitations. For example, nowhere do the Scriptures indicate that they can read the mind or heart of an individual. Only Jehovah and Jesus are spoken of as having that ability. (1 Sam. 16:7; Mark 2:8) What, though, about speaking or praying out loud? Should we fear that the Devil or the demons might hear our prayers and interfere? The answer is no. Why not? We are not afraid to do good works in Jehovah’s service just because the Devil might see us. Likewise, we should not be afraid to pray out loud just because the Devil might hear us. In fact, the Bible contains many examples of God’s servants who prayed out loud, and there is no hint that these ones feared that the Devil would hear them. (1 Ki. 8:22, 23; John 11:41, 42; Acts 4:23, 24) If we do our best to speak and act in harmony with God’s will, we can be confident that Jehovah will not allow the Devil to do us any lasting harm.—Read Psalm 34:7.
17 We need to know our enemy, but we do not need to be terrified by him. With Jehovah’s backing, even imperfect humans can conquer Satan. (1 John 2:14) If we oppose him, he will flee from us. (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9) Young ones seem to be a special target for Satan. What, specifically, can they do to stand firm against the Devil? The next article considers that question.
a The Bible reveals that at least some angels have personal names. (Judg. 13:18; Dan. 8:16; Luke 1:19; Rev. 12:7) Since Jehovah has named each of the stars (Ps. 147:4), it is reasonable to assume that all of his angelic sons, including the one who became Satan, also have personal names.
b Satan is mentioned by that name only 18 times in the Hebrew Scriptures but more than 30 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures.