Satan’s Followers in Kingdom Warfare
(Reading time: 15 minutes) As we saw in previous articles, Satan has a kingdom that includes fallen angels, demons and unredeemed humans or sinners. Originally, he was the world’s prince or ruler, but after Jesus’ crucifixion Satan is now only the god of this age and ruler of the kingdom of the air, and he controls the world system. This means Satan was demoted and his authority and power have been limited in time. When people are born, they’re automatically citizens of Satan’s kingdom and they must make a conscious choice to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, to transfer from Satan’s kingdom to God’s. Otherwise, they’ll remain in Satan’s kingdom, enslaved to sin, and share his ultimate judgment for rejecting God – eternal separation from God and torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10, 15).
Whether they realize it or not, those who aren’t committed to serving Jesus actually are followers of Satan. They’re living normal human lives, doing what they want and making their own choices. But self-centeredness was the basis for Satan’s rebellion against God, and theirs clearly puts them under Satan’s dominion. They’re disobedient to God and Satan is at work in them (Eph. 2:2, NIV).
Satan uses people to do his work; even followers of Jesus. For example, when Jesus told his disciples he would be abused by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, who would have him crucified, Peter (one of his disciples) rebuked him. “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Jesus responded to Peter and addressed the spirit motivating his rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:21-23). Another of Jesus’ disciples was instrumental in his arrest. “Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus” (Luke 22:3-4).
With scriptural evidence of Satan working through Jesus’ disciples, it’s easy to believe he works in and through his own followers, the citizens of his dark kingdom. In this article, we’ll examine how they reflect his nature, imitate his behavior and do his work.
Satan blinds his followers to truth and deceives them with earthly, unspiritual, demonic “wisdom” (James 3:15). His priority is to program his followers so they consider things of God foolish and can’t understand them (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). As a result, their minds are blinded or veiled to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Their own wickedness deceives them (2 Thess. 2:10) and they become worse, deceiving others and themselves even more (2 Tim. 3:11). They have free will, but their deception blinds them to the fact they’re influenced by evil spirits. Their consciences become seared – calloused, unfeeling and unresponsive – and their deception convinces them what they do is right and justified (1 Tim. 4:2).
Because they increasingly become like him, the Bible refers to Satan’s followers as his children, implying a family resemblance. Challenged by Jews who opposed him and called God their Father, Jesus set the record straight. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires” (John 8:44). The word translated “father” literally refers to a male parent, forefather, ancestor or elder. “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil” (1 John 3:8); that is, they belong to the devil as his child (Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:10).
We expect children – especially young children – to learn from their parents, think like them, adapt their values and mimic their behavior. Just as followers of Jesus are to become increasingly like him, the image of God our Father, followers of Satan will become increasingly like him. Let’s examine some of those characteristics in Satan and his followers.
Satan, the devil, “has been sinning from the beginning,” which makes him the original sinner (1 John 3:8). Sin is evil according to God’s standards, and the devil is “the evil one” (Matt. 13:38-39), the epitome of an evil being.
Satan’s followers let sin reign in their mortal bodies so they obey its evil desires (Rom. 6:12). Sin pleases their sinful nature, but as their consciences become seared (1 Tim. 4:2), that level of wickedness gradually becomes less enjoyable. They want more gratification and engage in ever-increasing wickedness (Rom. 6:19; 2 Tim. 3:13), and approve of others who do the same things (Rom. 1:29, 32).
Self-centeredness causes one to focus on themselves, so their will, thoughts, desires and interests are the most important to them. Self-centeredness is the basis for all sin. God created the being who became Satan as a guardian cherub (Ezek. 28:14), likely one of the highest beings in God’s kingdom. He was “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezek. 28:12). Despite his perfection, he became proud and wanted to exalt himself and even usurp God (Ezek. 28:17; Isa. 14:13-14). His pride evolved into a desire to be worshiped, which made him want to become like the Most High (Isa. 14:14). He even offered the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if he would worship him (Luke 4:6-7). His agent in the last days, the man of lawlessness, will “exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). As the last days reach their climax, people on earth will worship Satan, the dragon and the “beast” (Rev. 12:9; 13:4, 8). Satan’s great pride and expectation of worship make him the epitome of self-centeredness.
God told Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from a specific tree, but they thought it was good for food, pleasing to look at and would help them gain wisdom (Gen. 3:6). Self-centeredness, their desire for personal benefit, motivated them to disobey God and became the predominant characteristic of sinful human nature. Self-centeredness motivates people to sin, because they believe it will help them, provide something they want, or simply make them feel good. Scripture indicates there will be terrible times in the last days as people’s self-centeredness increases. “People will be lovers of themselves, … boastful, proud, … without love [for others], … without self-control, … conceited, lovers of pleasure” (2 Tim. 3:1-4). Though humans have had these traits throughout history, these and other ungodly traits will worsen and make the last days “terrible times.” A person’s self-centeredness makes them want others to focus on them, to idolize them as “stars,” to “follow” them, even “worship” them in the sense of being preoccupied with everything they do.
Satan’s warfare against God reveals his hatred of him and anything or anyone associated with him. The Hebrew word translated “satan” refers to a legal, social, military or any other type of adversary, and capitalizing the word makes it a proper name for the worst adversary ever to exist. Unable to attack God directly, Satan turned against the beings God created in his own image – humans – beginning in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-7). The New Testament also uses other terms to describe this adversary: accuser and enemy. Satan is our accuser, an adversary who brings legal charges against us (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10), and our enemy, an adversary who wages war against us (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:17). Why would Satan hate us? Because we rejected him and became the children and representatives of his enemy, God.
Satan’s followers, citizens of his kingdom, also are God-haters (Rom. 1:30), which makes them our adversaries, accusers and spiritual enemies in kingdom warfare. Jesus said the world will hate us because it hates him (John 15:18-19) and because we don’t belong to their system (John 17:14). We shouldn’t be surprised if the world hates us (1 John 3:13), including “all nations” (Matt. 24:9). There are many New Testament examples of people making accusations or bringing legal charges against Jesus, his disciples and Paul, and we should expect the same treatment. People will falsely say all kinds of evil against us because we’re Christians (Matt. 5:11), even falsely accuse us of doing wrong (1 Pet. 2:12). When they accuse or attack us, God will give us words and wisdom none of our adversaries will be able to resist or contradict (Luke 21:15). It’s not about us; rather, it’s about the God we serve.
A rebel is someone who opposes, rejects or is hostile toward authority; by nature, they are disobedient and lawless. Rebellion demands autonomy and therefore refuses to submit to any control or authority. Satan rejected God as the Most High and intended to overthrow him (Isa. 14:13-14). He also persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey God’s clear command (Gen. 3:1-5). Satan’s kingdom promotes rebellion and produces chaos.
Whenever we see rebellion to legitimate authority, we’re seeing Satan and his followers at work. Self-centeredness causes rebellion, and where there is no authority or people reject existing authority, everyone does whatever they want (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). But whoever rebels against authority is rebelling against what God instituted (Rom. 13:2). Satan’s most radical followers refuse to be accountable to anyone, do what’s right in their own eyes, focus on satisfying their own desires, and reject all boundaries.
Satan originally was a guardian cherub stationed near God’s throne (Ezek. 28:14), likely one of the highest-ranking beings in God’s kingdom. Because he sinned, however, God demoted him and expelled him from his presence (Ezek. 28:16-17). His self-centered behavior since then makes it obvious Satan has not repented and refuses to forgive God for judging him.
Similarly, self-centeredness causes Satan’s followers to justify themselves and refuse to forgive others. People’s unforgiveness will contribute to the terrible times of the last days (2 Tim. 3:1, 3). They will feel justified for being angry with those who disagree with them and, being unwilling to exercise self-control, they will be abusive, brutal and rash (vv 2-4).
One of the main titles attributed to Satan in the New Testament is “devil,” from a Greek word that means “slanderer,” someone who separates or sets in opposition. Satan, the devil, by nature is a slanderer. We see him in action in the Garden, talking to Eve. “He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”? … You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen. 3:1, 4-5). Satan was slandering God as not being truthful, telling Eve she couldn’t trust what God told her.
The New Testament uses several Greek words to describe the slanderous behavior of Satan’s followers. One is the same word translated “devil,” describing people in the end times as slanderous (2 Tim. 3:3). Other words refer to insulting someone, or attacking their reputation by slander or libel. For example, they might falsely accuse us (1 Pet. 2:12); that is, they maliciously attack our name or reputation. Today we also call this “character assassination.” Another word describes heaping abuse on us because we don’t participate in their reckless, wild living (1 Pet. 4:4). Satan’s followers engage in character assassination by slandering those who disagree with them or disapprove of their behavior.
When Satan slandered God in the Garden of Eden, he scoffed at what God told Eve. “You will not certainly die” (Gen. 3:4). He was expressing contempt and ridiculing what God said.
The soldiers who crucified Jesus put a scarlet robe on him, put a crown of thorns on his head, knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:29). Later, the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders mocked him while he was hanging on the cross. “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! … He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him” (Matt. 27:42-43). The Apostle Peter warned of the scoffing we can expect. “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Notice Peter’s emphasis: “Above all.” It’s especially important that we prepare ourselves to be mocked, ridiculed and treated with contempt for the beliefs we live by and the truths we declare. Jude affirms there will scoffers in the last times (Jude 18).
Jesus said of the devil, “there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The motive for lying is to deceive or mislead someone, to make them believe something that’s not true. In the first biblical record of someone lying, we see Satan claiming that what God said wasn’t true, and Eve later admitted Satan deceived her (Gen. 3:1-5, 13; 2 Cor. 11:3). Throughout history, he’s caused people to believe lies, including false religions and alleged scientific theories, that blind people to truth, including the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). In later times, people will follow his deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Tim. 4:1). His last acts on earth will include deceiving the nations to gather for battle against Jesus (Rev. 20:7-8). This will be radical deception to make world leaders believe they can militarily defeat the Lord, who appeared visibly from heaven (Rev. 1:7) and ruled the earth for 1000 years (Rev. 20:6-7).
Jesus warns us to guard ourselves, especially in the end times, because deception from false prophets and messiahs will be widespread (Matt. 24:4-5, 11, 24). Some people will distort the truth about Jesus and the gospel, and even introduce destructive heresies to attract followers (Acts 20:30; 2 Cor. 11:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1). Many Christians will reject sound doctrine and turn to preachers and teachers who say what makes them feel good by perverting the gospel (2 Tim. 4:3-4; Jude 4). Such spiritual leaders are Satan’s servants, who falsely present themselves as servants of righteousness, just as the angel of darkness masquerades as an angel of light (Matt. 7:15; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). What they present as pleasing, beautiful, beneficial and enlightening contains enough truth to make it believable, but the spiritual results are devastating.
Satan attacks God’s kingdom in part by creating division within it, destroying the unity that’s an essential characteristic of God’s family. Satan is the devil (or “slanderer”) and our accuser (Rev. 12:10). Whether his accusations are true or false, they hinder relationships and even cause offenses which result in unforgiveness. He knows disunity among God’s people reduces their effectiveness, and that’s part of his kingdom warfare strategy.
Whether it’s intentional or not, Satan’s followers work to carry out his desires (John 8:44), which includes creating division among God’s people (Rom. 16:17; Jude 19). They’re the ones who accuse and slander believers, and stir up conflicts among us.
The New Testament doesn’t refer to Satan directly persecuting God’s people; rather, it describes him as testing them or causing them to suffer distress. Jesus said Satan had asked to sift the disciples as wheat, which was a figurative reference to testing them severely to reveal whether their faith was genuine (Luke 22:31). The Book of Revelation states “the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Rev. 2:10). Though Satan would undoubtedly use his followers, these passages clearly reveal he originates the actions.
The New Testament uses two Greek words of the same word group when it describes persecution. The verb means to persecute, pursue, harass or cause to suffer, whether physically or emotionally. The noun refers to hunting people down to inflict pain or death; especially to destroy adherents or force them to renounce their beliefs.
Jesus warned that his followers would be persecuted (Matt. 5:11; 10:23; 13:21; Luke 21:12). Many first-century believers were imprisoned for spreading the good news about Jesus, including apostles (Acts 12:5; 16:22-23), church leaders (Phm. 23) and ordinary believers (Acts 8:3; Rom. 16:7; Heb. 10:34). When Stephen was arrested allegedly for blasphemy, then tried and stoned to death, great persecution broke out against the church and the apostles were scattered from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). As followers of Jesus, we likely will be persecuted and even imprisoned (Luke 21:12). Timothy affirmed that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Persecution is an expression of the spiritual warfare against God’s people.
God expelled Satan from heaven in part because he was “filled with violence” (Ezek. 28:16). The Hebrew word translated “violence” (hamas) refers to the use of destructive force resulting in maiming, destroying or killing. It often indicates lawlessness, terror or lack of moral restraint. The New Testament describes Satan (the devil) as prowling around, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). This all relates to an abusive nature that expresses itself through assault, torment and general violence. Satan’s spiritual followers – demons and fallen angels – express this nature through violence and by tormenting people (Matt. 8:28; Acts 5:16; 2 Cor. 12:7).
Satan’s human followers also express this nature and behavior. Early in human history, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence” (Gen. 6:11), where “violence” is the same Hebrew word applied to Satan (Ezek. 28:16). Jesus experienced violence from people before he was crucified (Matt. 26:67; 27:26; Mark 15:19; Luke 22:64). Crucifixion was, by design, a prolonged and torturous death, which lasted six hours for Jesus (Matt 27:45-46, 50; Mark 15:25; Luke 23:44). The New Testament offers many examples of Christ’s followers experiencing violence through beating, flogging and stoning (Acts 16:22-23; 22:19; 1 Cor. 4:11).
Jesus said when he returns, life on earth will be like it was in the days of Noah, when God destroyed the earth partly due to widespread violence (Matt. 24:37). Also, people in the last days will be abusive (2 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:4), so we can expect widespread violence and abuse from Satan’s followers.
Jesus identified Satan’s deadly nature, when he said he “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). This isn’t figurative language, because the word translated “murderer” describes the literal killing of a human being. In a statement many believe is about Satan, Jesus said, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), where the word translated “kill” refers to slaughtering, killing or sacrificing.
Like their spiritual father, Satan’s followers have a long record of killing those they hate, including Jesus and his followers. The religious leaders of his day arrested Jesus and handed him over to the governor to be executed (Matt. 27:1-2; Mark 15:1, 11-13). Later, members of the Sanhedrin stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:54, 57-58). King Herod had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword (Acts 12:1-2). Before his conversion, Paul arrested Jesus’ followers and put them to death (Acts 22:4; 26:10), then later he was “exposed to death again and again” as an apostle (2 Cor. 11:23).
Jesus said in the end times people would have even their family members put to death because of him (Matt. 10:21; 24:9; Mark 13:12; Luke 21:16). We’re seeing this around the world, but we’re also seeing figurative, non-lethal versions of this in the form of intimidation, death threats and character assassination. The goal of these lethal and non-lethal acts is to silence God’s people. When the end-times “beast” rules, people literally will be “beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God” (Rev. 20:4). Islam has a long-standing tradition of beheading: “Strike off the heads of the disbelievers” (Quran 47:4). As of this writing, no government or agency endorses this practice.
Satan controls the world (1 John 5:19), enslaving or controlling people primarily through sin (John 8:34), and uses his demons to possess people (Luke 11:14-15, 18). His human followers use threats and intimidation to control, dominate or demand obedience to their ideologies. For example, they use labels (such as “racist” and “hate speech”) to control those who don’t support them by silencing them. As they gain influence in government, they’ll even encourage laws that suppress Christians and conservatives.
Jesus said Satan intends to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), and the word translated “destroy” includes destroying people, objects or institutions. Satan’s human followers naturally try to destroy anything associated with God, including the human family, marriage, godly sexuality, the church and God’s specific will for individuals.
People in the end times will be ungrateful, meaning they’re unappreciative and cannot be pleased. People will be brutal and lack self-control, so they’ll be vicious and overreact even to normal events (2 Tim. 3:2-4).
All of these are characteristics of Satan’s nature, which his spiritual and human followers exhibit and express in kingdom warfare. We’re already seeing this in everyday life, but it will increase dramatically and produce “terrible times.” However, Jesus provides us with everything we need and prepares us in advance so we can prevail against the enemy’s onslaught, as we’ll see in the next article.
Only when Jesus returns to set up his kingdom will the entire world system be under God’s control. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever’” (Rev. 11:15).
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
As citizens of Satan’s dark kingdom, his human followers reflect his nature, imitate his behavior and do his work, which clearly is evident in kingdom warfare.