This week I’ve been reading a bit of prophecy in the Bible. Prophecy is one of those really tricky parts of Scripture to read, because it is not always readily apparent what it means. It is similar to poetry, in that what it says is often symbolic of something else. An added dimension of Bible prophecy, is that there is often more than one meaning.

Take for example, some Scriptures about Satan that are part of our third week in the Pure Love reading plan and study.

Isaiah 14 is prophetic literature, attributed to Isaiah in the time of Israel’s exile from their land. Something that complicates our understanding of Satan is that the main places that talk about Satan are in prophetic or poetic literature. In prophecy there is often one meaning that the actual/present-day audience would understand, and an additional meaning for a past or future spiritual reality. For example, the disciples and New Testament writers very often will point out Old Testament scriptures that were prophetic of the Messiah. However, many of those passages that are rightly applied to Christ, also had a literal, more obvious and current meaning for the original audience at the time the prophet spoke. The original listeners wouldn’t have perhaps considered there might be a far-future interpretation of what was said, and yet, over time, as people pondered the words of God through the writings of men, they realized there was more there than first meets the eye.

In this section, Isaiah 14, the apparent/literal present-day meaning is about the King of Babylon, and when Israel would be free from their exile and slavery. For the broader spiritual reality, this passage has been read by both Jews and Christians as expressing Satan’s attitude and fall. This idea is also found in Ezekiel 28:11-19, Revelation 12, and other places.

Satan is pretty much the biggest jerk of all time. He is a dictator who cares nothing for the sanctity and dignity of life, who only lusts for power and destruction. As many of the world leaders in the Bible times (Nebuchadnezzer, for example), Satan seems rather insane. So just as we are given examples of familial love and healthy human intimacy to help us understand the love and commitment God has toward us, we are given examples of terrible, dictatorial, selfish and insane human rulers to help us understand what Satan is like.

I don’t want to try to say exactly what Revelation is talking about, or when the timeline of Satan’s fall and banishment was, or when his ultimate destruction will be. I think a lot of these specific ideas people have about timelines and such is ultimately not very helpful. I think it is more helpful and probably healthier for our outlook on life to instead extract the broad truths these passages can help us see.

For example, it’s pretty clear that these scriptures I’ve mentioned aren’t meant to be literally about the human who is a “placeholder” in the narrative. No person is blameless and angelic… no woman sprouted wings to escape a dragon’s onslaught. Agreed? But what we can gather to be true is that Satan was at one time beautiful and celebrated by God, yet he wanted more power and authority. God – being undefeatable – cast Satan down out of heaven, that he might cause no destruction there. For whatever reason, which I don’t fully claim to understand, he does have some authority on earth, yet he knows it is temporary, which makes him rather angry and desperate. Unfortunately, many of us are deceived by him and drawn to his power. HOWEVER, those of us who turn to God and follow Him will always be welcomed, and though we may receive battle scars, we will not be abandoned (Revelation 12, Zechariah 1).

You know what is terribly interesting about all this? God is SAD about Satan’s demise. In Ezekiel 28:11, God says it is appropriate to weep for his fall, because he was created to be a beautiful guardian of the mountain of God. If God can weep when Satan failed to live up to his original design, how much more do you think He weeps for us when we are broken and don’t recognize the amazing design God has given us? So His cry to us always is, “Return! Return! This world you are suffering in is not what I had in mind!” (Zechariah 1:3, 15).

Another thing that is very clear, is that Satan’s reign is TEMPORARY. I mentioned this before – Satan knows it, and he is made desperate by it. I wish that we could remember this more easily and live in the reality and promise of future victory and freedom. In the midst of exile, punishment and destruction, God always speaks to us of the redemption that is to come. “I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan… I rebuke you” (Zechariah 3:2).

This weekend I went to a “marriage summit” with my husband – a Friday evening & Saturday event here in my town. It was so great, and gave us some really helpful tools to help us in our marriage. And it was just great to have some time alone with my spouse to work on some areas of challenge, and also to celebrate what the Lord has done in bringing us together. One thing that was not-so-fabulous about the weekend is when I realized how not-nice I am sometimes. I think people who really point us to God will always help us to focus on ways we ourselves need to change, rather than giving us reason to point at another. So in that way, the speakers were excellent, for I came away appreciating my husband more, and realizing where I need to change. Really, it is fabulous any time we take steps toward health! But it does not FEEL fabulous to realize one’s own failings.

I am encouraged, though, to realize that I can see my own areas where I need to grow yet NOT FEEL CONDEMNED. This is how our Father speaks to us. Our Father, our Savior, the amazing Holy Spirit – they speaks words that convict and encourage, but never condemn. The LORD rejects the accusations of Satan that I am failing as a wife. Instead, through my Lord I am able to see my “failings” but still see that I am winning with Jesus. I am not a failure as a wife, though I do have some areas in which I am not very healthy.

Every day is a chance for me to return to my God, see myself as I really am, and reject the accusations of Satan; to remember that Jesus has already won, and in one amazing day, my sins were all removed (Zech. 3:9). Every day I get to cling to God and remind myself that the darkness is temporary. I can move toward God, toward my spouse, toward every person in my path, and bring God’s victory through love and truth, dispelling the lies of Satan by the light of love.

Thank you, Lord, for the truth of your victory, your unfailing love and mercy, and your constant call for me to be in relationship with You. Help me not get tripped up by the things I cannot understand, and instead keep my eyes fixed on You, knowing that You will complete the good work You started in me (Philippians 1:6).