We don’t do well to downplay or write off the reality and danger of the satan. Actually, those of us in Christ particularly, won’t go very long until we experience something of it, a force and spirit, indeed personality (although steeped in an evil which nearly cancels, denigrates or changes that personhood), at work in the world in subtle and not so subtle ways.
This spirit in scripture is called Satan, that old serpent (of the garden in Genesis) the devil. Satan means adversary or opposer, while the devil seems related to slanderer. The devil is hell bent on the destruction of humankind, those made in God’s image, even standing in opposition against God. Of course the devil is only a creature and no match whatsoever for God, indeed owing his very existence to God.
It seems from scripture that the devil may well have been created as an angel, who somehow became enamored with itself, and lured other angels (perhaps one-third of them) to join it in its rebellion against God. Those angels would comprise the demons which are active and often cast out of humans by Jesus and his followers in the New Testament.
The whole world lies in the power of the evil one, that is, the devil. For the most part, this is a rather friendly alliance, even while the intent on the devil’s part is nothing less than malicious. The world, the flesh, and the devil has been called “the unholy trinity,” and does seem clearly from scripture and in experience, in league with each other. Getting on in life in the way and ways of the world is part and parcel of the devil’s ploy. We remember the devil showing Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and their glory, and offering them to Jesus if the devil would receive Jesus’ worship. Of course Jesus rebuked it with the words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only, shall you serve.'” The world appeals to the flesh, the sinfulness and weakness of fallen humanity. In fact the world and the flesh go hand in glove with the devil fueling the fire. Some of the time the result is indeed ugly and spirits are evident, especially in societies which believe in their existence. But by and large where we live, in the west, they are well hidden, indeed part of the fabric of society, and what problems might surface because of them is chalked up to naturalist explanations, such as mental illness, or social ills, etc. Such matters are indeed important, and deserve careful consideration on their own part. But the spirit at work in the world needs to be unmasked and indeed cast out. That is done only in and through Christ.
Ephesians 6 mentions “the evil day,” which may refer in some respects at least to this present era. But in context, it may refer to especially troubling days and times. While we in Jesus need to be strong in the Lord, putting on the armor of God, we do so, so that when the evil day comes we may be able to stand our ground, and having done everything, to stand. Of course that is not easy, and no fun, in fact quite uncomfortable at times. We may seem weak, but we stand with the strength and armor that is ours- in Christ. When I experience those days (thankfully, as a rule, not that often, although maybe in some respects we face something of this every day), I am rather amazed at all the other days, or that there is not more of this. Only God’s grace and power in Jesus protects us from that, I would think. I remember Paul’s words, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack, and bring me safely into his eternal kingdom.”
Satanic opposition is not merely something about us, about “me.” But we must get a handle on it, and learn to cope with it, and more than that, to learn how we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Of course in a spiritual warfare, not physical. This is not only about us, but about the world God so loved and sent his Son to redeem. Our world and the world at large, both with reference to people and systems. God’s kingdom come in Jesus factors into everything, even while its base is from God’s people in Jesus, the church. Not to say that God isn’t at work in the world in all kinds of ways beyond that. But to say that in some mysterious sense, through the church, God’s manifold wisdom is being made known to the rulers and authorities of this world. And it’s through Christ, his death and resurrection. We proclaim that and live that out in this life. Only “in Christ”(King Jesus) and all that means do we both triumph and bring light into the darkness, goodness into what at its core not good.
This satanic opposition is ongoing, but our victory in Christ is ongoing, as well. By the Spirit in the way of the cross, the way of death and resurrection.