[Reading time: 7 minutes] In previous articles, we discovered that the nature of spiritual conflict changed at the cross from war-like battles to legal conflicts and one of God’s functions is to render the verdicts. In this article we’ll identify the prosecutor, the one who initiates legal action by bringing formal charges against someone, accusing them of wrong-doing.
The Prosecutor’s Identity
We’ll see that the original languages of the Bible reveal the identity and activity of the prosecutor. The key Hebrew word in the Old Testament is satan, which refers to someone who offers opposition; an adversary, accuser, opponent or enemy. This is a generic word the Bible even applies to the angel of the Lord in Numbers 22:22 (ESV): “But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.” The Bible also applies the word to one of Solomon’s adversaries: “Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom” (1 Kings 11:14 NIV).
By now you may realize the Old Testament uses the generic noun, satan, as a title or proper name for a specific spiritual being – the devil. Here’s an example: “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’” (Job 1:6-7). Satan, true to his nature, accused Job of serving the Lord only because he blessed Job and protected him, then he said, “But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (verse 11). Satan the adversary and accuser was looking for grounds to accuse Job of having ulterior motives for serving God. Zechariah the prophet described a similar situation he experienced: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him” (Zech. 3:1). That’s what the accuser does.
The Greeks used a similar word for “adversary” – satanas – possibly derived from the Hebrew and Aramaic term. The New Testament writers used this generic noun as a proper name for the devil, and it also means “adversary” or “accuser.” This would be like naming the devil “Liar” because that’s what he does.
Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). Farmers or wheat processors sift wheat to separate the wheat kernels, which have value, from the chaff, which has no value. So Jesus was using figurative language to describe Satan’s desire to test Peter to find something that was worth using against him. The devil uses the same tactics of testing and temptation to find grounds for accusations against us. That’s exactly why Satan asked to test Job.
Satan also used this tactic with Jesus, by offering him all the kingdoms of the world – bypassing the horrific crucifixion and spiritual death he’d eventually experience – if Jesus would simply bow down and worship him. Jesus’ reply? “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matt. 4:10). Satan was tempting Jesus to get him to fail his life purpose, so he could bring formal legal charges against him for violating God’s will. In addition to testing and tempting us, Satan also tries to deceive us by masquerading as an angel of light, so we’ll turn from God’s will, allowing him to make formal charges against us (2 Cor. 11:14).
The New Testament uses another word, antidikos, which refers to an opponent at law or in a dispute. Consider two passages that clearly demonstrate its legal usage. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court” (Matt. 5:25). Jesus used this term in his parable of the unjust judge: “And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary’” (Luke 18:3).
With this legal connotation in mind, consider this well-known verse: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy [antidikos] the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The verb translated “devour” in this verse means to destroy or ruin completely. The devil is our adversary, our opponent at law, who prowls around looking for opportunity to destroy or ruin us by bringing legal charges against us. He typically also plants accusing or condemning thoughts in our minds, or causes someone else to make such statements about us. He will use any means possible to neutralize us and make us ineffective in God’s kingdom, by weighing us down with guilt and condemnation.
It’s surprising to see how strong the legal theme is in the Bible. This can radically change our perception of our spiritual conflict, as it should. This is why it’s important to consider so many scripture passages, because we don’t understand the legal terminology used in these verses, even if we’re familiar with them. Let’s consider two more Greek words used in the New Testament.
Legal Charges in the Heavenly Court
The Greek verb, enkaleo, means to file a formal legal charge; more generally, it can mean to bring a charge or call in a debt. Its legal application is clear in these passages from the book of Acts: “If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges” (Acts 19:38). And, “I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment” (Acts 23:29).
Those are secular uses of the word, but it applies in a spiritually legal context as well: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Rom. 8:33). God justifies us, declares us not guilty because of Jesus’ death in our behalf. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Who brings charges against us? Satan, our adversary and accuser, the prosecutor. But God has us covered legally.
One final word to consider is kategoreo, a Greek verb that means to file a formal legal charge against someone. It’s used in the description of Jesus’ trial: “When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer” (Matt. 27:12). It also occurs in a passage relevant to us: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’” (Rev. 12:10). The phrase, “the accuser of our brothers and sisters” uses the noun form of the verb, describing one who brings legal charges; clearly, this is Satan. Notice two points in this verse: (1) our accuser makes his charges before God, the Judge, making them formal legal charges; and (2) he does it “day and night.” He never stops and is always looking for evidence he can use against us.
Legal Charges in Secular Courts
Clearly, Satan the accuser acts as a prosecutor who brings legal charges against us before God, the Judge. Is it possible Satan also will bring legal charges against Christians in secular courts on earth?
Consider Jesus’ description of end times events. “On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them…. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:9, 11). In that culture, governors and kings ruled on matters of law (See Acts 24:1, 10, 22). Add to that the parallel passage in Luke: “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15). This clearly describes believers being arrested and charged in civil courts in the end times.
I suggest Satan will use the same tactics in the physical realm as he does in the spiritual realm. In light of American laws regarding hate speech, bigotry and discrimination, do you see the possibility of legal charges against Christians in civil courts? It’s already begun! Christians are facing such charges for not performing services that violate their religious convictions. This may be the trend of the future and fulfillment of these end-times prophecies. Expect it to increase! Satan, our adversary, will use every available tool to neutralize us.
From the beginning of human existence, Satan has been our adversary and accuser, acting as prosecutor before God the Judge. Expect him to continue with that strategy because it’s his nature.
Find other articles about the legal nature of our spiritual conflict