Satan’s Knowledge of The Cross

Question:

Lately I’ve been thinking a bit more about what Satan didn’t know, and what he did know with regard to the crucifixion of our Lord. It is obvious that he didn’t know the mystery of Christ, regarding the dispensation of grace to us Gentiles and all of the purpose with the body of Christ and all of that. However, in my consideration of what he was thinking when he worked so personally to accomplish Christ’s death, that is something that I find less clear. What was his calculation? Did he think he was risking something? What was he counting on being the case that would secure his advantage or even victory? These are the questions that I’m working on, and if you’d care to share your thoughts, I’d really appreciate it.

In reading Appointed, I so much appreciate the way you deal with how specifically Christ fulfilled the law and its requirements as he went to the cross as the sacrifice for the nation. In your dealing with that, I think your point about what is recorded twice in John about the unknowing prophecy by the high priest is excellent, and it must no doubt help to deal with why the crucifixion was fully viable as a sacrifice for Israel, and therefore why it was applicable to those who would receive it. I’ve heard it said that Satan thought Israel could not receive the benefits of the death of Christ if they did not intentionally offer Him as a sacrifice, but in effect murdered him in their rejection. I think this is an interesting plausibility. If in fact they were ignorant, as Christ attests while on the cross, and in accordance with His ministry to them in parables and such as he prepared them to be ignorant and then after his death have their true, honest opportunity to know without a doubt who he is and repent, then perhaps that ignorance would have helped to alleviate their guilt of rejecting him as their messiah. Also, in accordance with the appointment by the high priest that he should die for the people and then the sentence at the hearing also by the high priest, it seems that indeed, Israel did, again ignorantly, but did identify the lamb and then sentence the lamb to die, thus in actuality participating in the sacrifice enough to constitute their end of the fulfillment of the need of redemption. Thus, even if Satan did think the aforementioned, it actually worked out opposite. That makes some sense to me, but it seems there still may be more. If you wish to share any thoughts on this point, I’d be happy to hear them.

I’ve read some of Keith Blades thoughts on this and he focuses more on what he understands Satan to be thinking about Christ during the crucifixion, while the sins of the world were upon him. If I understand Keith correctly, he believes that Satan’s calculation was that while Christ was separated from God, with the sin of Israel upon Him, Satan could kill Him, and thus bring Him into the pit in the condemned status with sin upon His account, and hold Him in the pit forever, utilizing Satan’s greatest power, the power of death and hell. If you understand that differently, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. But, if my understanding is correct, then I can see that thought, and with some of the passages about the battle on the cross, Isaiah 50 especially, it seems to make some sense that Satan could have been thus calculating. However, the two ideas are inconsistent, for if Satan thought the sacrifice was ineffective, then he wouldn’t believe the sin of Israel would actually be laid upon Christ while He hung on the cross. But if Satan thought is was actually a sacrifice wherein Christ was functioning as a valid substitute redeemer, then I can see where he could be thinking what Keith proposes. But both don’t seem to be compatible. So, I am left wondering.

As I consider what took place between the two during Christ’s earthly ministry, it is clear that Satan at first wanted to catch Christ in a fault and disqualify Him as the faithful son and able redeemer. That didn’t work, and subsequently Christ went about loosing Satan’s strong hold on the nation, all the while proving Himself more and more the perfect son, the perfect lamb. Satan becomes more enraged and seeks opportunity to kill Christ. He then fully participates in the taking of Christ by the authorities to kill Him. Clearly, Satan wants to have Christ dead. So, what is he thinking? Part of my thought is this: Satan seemed willing to give Christ the kingdoms of the world if Christ worshipped him. That must have been a trade that still would allow Satan to maintain his ultimate control of his usurped authority. If Christ worships him, then Christ is disloyal to God and not able to fulfill the plan God has with him, and even if Satan delivers control over all the nations of the world to Christ, Christ is in effect working in conjunction with Satan in opposition to God’s prescribed method of regaining control of those nations, thus Satan remains in power with Christ serving his will. Could it also be true that when Satan saw his opportunity to kill Christ, he thought that even if Christ was successful in accomplishing redemption for Israel, Satan would still possess the rest of the nations, and the heavenly places, and could continue to work in opposition to what God was doing? Moreover, Satan would still control much of the nation of Israel itself as the leaders were clearly His followers already and completely loyal to his will above God’s. Could it be that this was a calculated risk?

Obviously, once we bring the mystery aspects into the discussion, Satan is not calculating any of that as a risk. But, given Israel’s status as “given up” and as the unclean nation that they were, I think it was an over sight on Satan’s part to not recognize that if redemption of Israel could be had, then redemption for the rest of the nations who were in the same status and position before God could also be had. But beyond that, I feel like I haven’t got the whole picture. Satan and the blinding effects of his pride and hatred have to come into the picture. I think I see some of it, but some things are still fuzzy. I’ve gone on long enough about my thoughts; if you would care to address some of these things and your own thoughts I’d really appreciate it.

Answer:

I’m glad to hear of your progress and continued fellowship. I will delve into some of the types of issues you raise below when I get to that section of Matthew so I don’t want to teach all of that here. But let me address what I can in a brief manner anyway.

There are many things that are often said/postulated about the associated events surrounding the cross work, and as you indicated, Keith had a fairly detailed and elaborate understanding of his own about it. However, I am not fully persuaded when it comes to these various understandings. They seem, to me anyway, to take conceptual liberties that while certainly interesting to ponder, I personally am unable to justify from the various relevant texts.

Most of what Satan believes can be seen in his children, as they simply ape the thinking and works of their father. His choices and decisions are more “informed” if you will, but the basic rationales and issues are the same. “Ye shall be as gods, etc.” What is clear is that Satan understands that Christ is being presented as the new Adam. God’s claim is that this “son of God” will succeed on His behalf where the the first (and any following hopeful) had failed. Satan has always succeeded in maintaining his power with any would-be christ that he was presented with. There is an initial “trying” of the stone which puts the general issues at stake on display. This then gets played out to varying degrees in Christ’s encounters throughout His ministry and the issues presented to Him. The culmination being of course the cross. For Satan, diplomacy has ended as it were. Actually, Satan understood this following Christ’s initial testing, but nothing would be able to be done about it until “His hour” arrived, as Christ Himself understood full well.

Well then, what of the redemptive work, and Satan’s understanding of it? It seems clear to me that exactly what it meant, and what would be involved in its execution, was not clear before the resurrection, not to Christ’s own disciples, and not to the enemy. That God claimed He would be the “Redeemer” and would utilize Him to repossess this earth with its nations through His kingdom, yes, that was clear. That God claimed He would ultimately show Himself to be the “Most High” through it, yes. But of course, God had talked about redemption previously in the various contexts of Israel’s program. He talked about accomplishing redemption in connection with the Exodus for instance. Even Isaiah 53 only becomes evident in light of the cross and fulfillment. Since He stands in contrast to the disobedient servant, one might argue that this is something the nation could conceivably accomplish, which wouldn’t necessarily involve them dying for anyone. This would be incorrect and an incomplete understanding, but you get my drift. Concepts such as “bearing” can mean and be accomplished in many different ways. After all, aspects of this “taking upon himself” were accomplished during His life and ministry. So it is unclear to me that Satan, even as an avid Bible student, understood even the basics of this point let alone its full ramifications when it came to the person and work of the Christ. The tenor of all the relevant scriptures would seem to indicate the contrary. It does not appear that they understood they were helping to accomplish God’s redemption. I do think there was a lot of uncertainty on Satan’s part concerning just what God had “up His sleeve” if you will, as there always is with contentions, and he strategized accordingly. Satan would combat God’s king on the same ground he always had. And he thought he knew what all the rules were to boot. Death would obviously be one of the major weapons in his arsenal, assuming he got the chance to utilize it.

What is also clear is that in connection with this, Satan understood there was to be a contention surrounding the power and issues of death. It was very clear that what was claimed for and by Christ was that He would resurrect. The contention both on and following the cross is the issue of the power of death. Again, it seems clear to me that Satan did not have this down as it were, for it does not appear to be over on his part until the resurrection. That is, if Satan fully understood the issues of the relationship of Christ to sin (not just atonement but Adam in general and the nature of Christ’s un-”cursed” body), wouldn’t it be over at the cross? Yet, there is still apparently an issue in the mind of Satan of contending with Him, keeping Him from resurrecting following His death, etc. Christ declares “It is finished”, but it is not clear to me that Satan understood just what that meant at the time. Sin of course is the central issue when it comes to the power of death, and it is Christ’s sinlessness that enables Him to function as the substitute Redeemer in the first place, suffering the wrath of God, whereby also the enemy has no power over Him. There is a very important shift that occurs whereby when Christ’s “hour” arrives, it is the time for “the hour” of the “power of darkness” to shine. However, what is demonstrated is that at no time does death have “power” over Him. Consequently, He will take that power, along with its keys, to Himself. Moreover, others had been raised from the dead, so it is not entirely clear that Satan would necessarily understand what all the ramifications would be should Christ succeed in rising again. I do believe there are some sin footholds that Satan tries to get with Christ on the cross, but I don’t believe it is in connection with Him functioning as the substitute, and getting Him into the pit as such. As I indicated, I will delve into that more when I get to the issues of “His hour” in the Matthew study.

There may be a case to be made for the elaborate systems of Christ as substitute and the pit, what Satan supposedly attempted in connection with this, etc. but thus far I am not persuaded by what I have heard by those proposing them. I believe it is more about what Satan didn’t know, rather than what he did know. He is prideful, arrogant, and haughty. His wisdom is corrupted, which means he is a fool. He thought, and thinks, that Christ on the cross is the pinnacle of weakness and impotency. Even understanding what God claims occurred at the cross, it is not entirely clear that Satan accepts the effectual extent that God claims for it. The thought of dying for the “dirt men” is repugnant and laughable to him. He only thinks in terms of law and is ignorant of grace. He is a Bible student but not a Bible believer. He knows what God claims He will do, but questions its certainty and contests His ability to do it. Even now, it appears he questions God’s proclaimed outcome. Yes, Christ has resurrected, but he still questions its meaning and contests Christ’s right of possession and dominion. His heart growing ever harder, he still lives in the mental world of his initial fantasy when He first attempted his coup and said “I will be like the most High.” He only seems to respect power, and only seems to come to terms with it when it is executed upon him.

Anyway, this is just my understanding bro., and just skimming the surface at that, but hopefully you find it somewhat helpful. Until next time…

Seated in heavenly places with Him,

-DWB

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