Though Jesus dealt a final blow to Satan’s kingdom through the cross and resurrection, the New Testament makes it clear that Satan is still viewed as the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), “the ruler of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2) who heads a rebel kingdom (Rev 9:9-11) and through whom he still controls “the whole world” (1 Jn 5:19).
Satan is the “adversary” who “like a roaring lion . . . prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). The NT portrays this demonic kingdom as being directly or indirectly behind much of the evil in the world. In Romans 8:34-39, Paul implies that demonic powers can bring about “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (death), though none of these things, and none of the demonic powers “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus our Lord” (8:30).
Further, the “god of this world” is understood to be a primary influence behind all sin. He is “the tempter” (1 These 3:5; 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Cor 7:5), and all who surrender themselves to his influence are “children of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8, 10).
Satan is also the master deceiver who blinds the minds of all unbelievers so they cannot receive the truth (2 For 4:4). He, along with his lesser cohorts, is ultimately behind all false teaching (1 Jn 4:1-4), enslavement in legalism, astrological superstitions, false doctrines, and false philosophies. This is why we are told “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:21).
Satan’s power to deceive is further illustrated by the fact that he, and his messengers, can appear as “an angel of light” or “an angel from heaven” teaching false doctrine (2 Cor 11:13; Gal 1:8). He and his legions can, and will, perform “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.” Satan’s ability to deceive is so powerful that he can deceive entire nations (Rev 20) and is called “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9).
The work of Satan, we are told by the NT writers, continually aims to bring trials to Christians in order to discourage us (1 Thess 3:5). He seeks to entrap church leaders by slandering their reputations (1 Tim 3:7).
The heart of the believer is viewed as a spiritual battlefield. We are instructed to not “let the sun go down on anger,” and not to “make room for the devil” (Eph 4:26-27). This teaching presumes that the enemy is constantly present, seeking to gain an entrance into the believer’s life. In the same vein, believers are told to forgive others “so that we might not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor 2:10-11).
One of Satan’s “designs” is apparently to cause us to harbor unforgiveness, which gives “room” to the devil and can bring divisions within the Body of Christ. When this occurs, we are being “outwitted” by the “god of this world.”
—Adapted from God at War, pages 276-279