Why is Satan Allowed to Test People? (Job 1:1-22)

Series Overview: Over the next four weeks we are going to be looking at several principals that we learn from the book of Job.  Each week we are going to be taking a difficult topic and discussing it in our context.  As we go through the study we ask that each student read through the book.  We start the series with one of the most difficult scenes to reconcile in the entire Bible.  In the first chapter of the Job we find a heavenly dialogue between Satan and the Lord.  Satan makes claim to the Lord that a certain servant of the Lord named Job, is only faithful to the Lord because the Lord has blessed him so richly (v 9-10).  The Lord then allows Satan to bring about disaster in the life of Job, only to not take his life (v 12).  Satan is allowed to take Job’s property, children, and health, but what we find at the end of this first chapter is that Job does not sin or charge God with wrong (v 22).  Job remains faithful despite his calamity.  Over the course of the series we will dive more into the explanation of trials and our response to them, but the main question that I want to tackle this week specifically has to do with the heavenly scene between the Lord and Satan, and reconciling God allowing him to test Job.

Who is Satan?:  To understand this heavenly dialogue we have to first understand the identity of Satan.  We begin by explaining his origin.  The Bible describes a time in which angels rebelled against God.  “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment” (2 Pt 2:4).  The Bible also says, “the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home- these he kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day” (Jude 6).  There was a time in history in which some angels, God’s agents for good, rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven.  These fallen angels are called demons.  Satan is one of the names given to the chief of these rebel angels, demons (Acts 10:38, Lk 13:16).  The name  “Satan” comes from the OT Hebrew, which means “adversary.”[1]  And so what we conclude is that Satan is the chief fallen angel working in opposition to God and the work of Christ.

Why Does Satan’s Activity Continue?:  As the Peter and Jude passages explain it seems that demons were cast out and shackled in hell.  Why then is Satan appearing in heaven?  An important verse in understanding the current activity of Satan and demons is found in 2 Peter as well.  “The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment” (2 Pt 2:9).  Though the unrighteous have a sure destiny on the day of judgment, they are allowed to continue their work and all the while continue their punishment.  This same principle can be seen with Satan and demons.  Their destiny of receiving God’s wrath and judgment is sure, both in finally in the future and now through their continued activity.  How is Satan’s continued activity a form of punishment?  God is allowing Satan to endure daily failed attempts to thwart God’s plans.  The continued activity of Satan is a far greater punishment than instant annihilation.  Therefore, Satan’s activity will continue in some way until his final judgment (Rev 20:10).

Why Is Satan Standing Before the Lord?:  We still haven’t answered the question why Satan is standing before the Lord in Heaven.  This I believe brings us to the most powerful aspect of this passage.  Satan stands before the Lord, because though he has chosen to rebel against the Lord and though Satan is the chief “adversary” to the Lord, he is not out from under God’s authority and cannot stop, hinder, or slightly alter God’s plans.  I believe F. Delitzsch puts this best into words when he says, “Moreover, both the Old and New Testament agree herein, that Satan is God’s adversary, and consequently altogether evil, and must notwithstanding serve God, since He makes even evil minister to His purpose of salvation, and the working out of His plan in the government of the world.”[2]  Satan stands before the Lord because his authority rests in the Lord.  This is also true for human authority (Rom 13:1).

Does this mean God endorses Satan?  Does all of this mean that God endorses Satan?  Is God commanding Satan to do evil things?  I believe the answer to the later question is a far easier question to answer than the first for we have so much Scripture that points to the goodness of God (Isa 6:1-4, Jms 1:13, Job 34:12, Gen 18:25, Jer 9:24, 2 Cor 13:11).  We know God is not the author of evil or commands evil things to be done, but does His allowance of evil mean He endorses evil?  As we established earlier Satan, demons, and all the unrighteous have a sure destiny, God’s wrath both now and in the future (2 Pt 2:9).  The, continued failed attempts and enslavement to sinful behavior that brings about death and destruction in the present and future of Satan, demons, and wicked people is a form of God’s punishment on them.  Therefore, we answer our main question this week.  Why is Satan allowed to test people?  It is a form of his punishment decreed by God because of his rebellion.  He is forced to daily experience failed attempts to disprove God and thwart His plan of redemption in Christ, just as in the case of Job (v 22).

[1]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2004), pp 472.

[2]C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 4, 10 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), pp 273.

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