Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keep That Dog On The Chain!

What has happened to the great cartoons? I can't find Bugs Bunny anywhere these days, and I have a LOT of channels!! One of my favorite Warner Bros. cartoons was, and is, Foghorn Leghorn - the Southern Gentleman rooster! The plot never varied too much. He would aggravate the dog, the dog would chase him, and then dog would get his neck snapped back when the rope to which he was tied reached the limit. Occasionally he would also get hit upside the head with a 2x4. Oh, they don't write entertainment like that anymore! But before the cartoon would end, invariably Foghorn Leghorn would end up inside the dog's range and he would get tore up. He was safe, until he got too close to trouble.

That "dog on a chain" illustration has been used to describe the "binding of Satan" described in Revelation 20:2. Many understand this binding to be one where Satan is wrapped head-to-toe in a big chain, and tossed into the depths, never to be heard from again - or at least until the 1000 years has ended. While I'm the first to think that this type of 'paradise on earth' would be an awesome experience - after all, who wouldn't like a day, a week, a month, a year, a millennium without violence, crime, temptation, etc.? - I don't think this is what is meant by the binding of Satan. Let's add some context!

Go back to the book of Job. The angels present themselves - and Satan is among them! He challenges God's assertion that Job was faithful. Satan said Job was only faithful because he had it so good. God allowed Satan to take those possessions from him, and we see how Job did indeed remain faithful. Shortly after that, another scene in heaven takes place where Satan again shows up. This time God allows Satan to harm Job physically, but limits him as well. He could not kill Job. Again, Job remained faithful through it all - even when his wife urged him to curse God and die!

Two things stand out from this account: Satan was then allowed in God's presence to accuse people; and there are limitations placed on his power. In other words, Satan is NOT omnipotent.

In the Gospels we read where Jesus sent his disciples out to do some evangelistic work. Luke 10 describes the ability they were given to heal the sick and do miraculous works. The disciples returned with joy saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (Lk. 10:17). The Lord's response is very important: "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning" (Lk. 10:18). What was so significant about this event that the devil gets the boot (and forcefully so) from heaven?

Jesus also uses an illustration about the thief and the strong man in Mt. 12. Having just said that it makes no sense for Satan to cast out Satan (Mt. 12:26), Christ goes on to explain how by casting the demon out of the man he in fact rescued him from Satan's authority. Before he could take what was in Satan's possession He had to bind him. In other words, the 'thief' had to be stronger than the strong man! That "thief" is Jesus! By His coming and ministry which He began, He demonstrated His authority over the devil and "took" what was once in his possession.

Eph. 4:7-10 likewise teaches that by Christ's death, burial, and resurrection He has freed the captives - those once under the dominion of the evil one. Col. 1:13 states, "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (NASB). And Hebrews 2:14, 15 sums it all up perfectly: "Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (NASB).

I believe the argument can be made that Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ, and victory was won through the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection. But someone will certainly say that the devil can't be bound because of all of the evil, sin, crime, violence, terrorism, etc. that is in the world. After all, the 6:00 news is really just a report of what Satan has been up to in the last 24 hours! He doesn't seem to be bound very tightly!

Revelation 12 helps clarify what is going on in this world. It pictures the woman (I would say representative of the people of God - both Old and New Testament); the male child (very clearly a picture of Christ); and the dragon (specifically identified as Satan in 12:9). There was "war in heaven" and the dragon and his angels "were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven" (vs. 8). He was thrown down to earth (cf. Lk. 10:18). He is described as the "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). Heaven can rejoice because the accuser is no longer allowed to enter. The earth, however, must deal with his "great wrath" (12:12). The devil is now hell-bent on taking as many people to destruction with him as possible. He is greatly restricted, but that roaring lion still has teeth!

Earlier I mentioned how God had placed limits on Satan when testing Job. Likewise, Christians have the great blessing of 1 Cor. 10:13. God will not allow Satan to tempt us beyond what we can endure. He will also give us a way of escape when we do face those temptations. The "world" has no such guarantee. They are firmly in the sphere of Satan's destructive power, until they come to Christ, and experience the life and protection He offers!

Christians, too, will often err and decide to dabble with sin, thinking they won't get hurt, or not get 'too deep' in it. They will pay the price as well! The dog may have been on the chain, but when you get too close, you're gonna get bit! Too often Christians, spiritually speaking, seek to wander in the abyss - instead of following Paul's admonition: "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1 NASB). Christians have been given great assurances such as "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (I Jn. 4:4); and "If God be for us who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). We have been afforded great protection, but often choose to ignore it, and go it on our own. We wander right in that area where the dog on a chain can still get us. Whose fault is that?

Satan has been bound and defeated, and now seeks to take as down with him as possible. Christians are called to be faithful as the devil seeks to make war with them (Rev. 12:17). We are also called to preach the Gospel that still saves those who are presently under Satan's authority. We are admonished to keep ourselves "unstained by the world" (James 1:27), rely upon God, and by all means, STAY AWAY FROM THAT DOG ON THE CHAIN!!

C'mon, Murphy, let's go outside! (a dog that has never been on a chain in her life!!!)