Question: “How much power does Satan possess?”
Answer: Satan was an angel created by God who turned against God’s authority (Isaiah 14:13) and became the head of a kingdom of evil spirits called demons, his “angels” (Matthew 25:41). His power both in the heavenly realm and on earth is great and should not be underestimated. However, while Satan and his forces are formidable enemies, Jesus Christ crushed Satan’s power, fulfilling the prophecy of Genesis 3:15. The cross of Christ won the victory (John 12:31). “The prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:11), and Jesus will one day destroy Satan’s power completely and purify creation (2 Peter 3:10).
Satan’s power in the heavenly realm / spirit world:
Satan’s power has repute in the spiritual realm (Jude 1:9), where he has limited access to the presence of God (Job 1:6). The book of Job provides insight into the relationship between God and Satan. In Job 1:6-12, Satan stands before God and reports that he has been “walking up and down” on the earth (v. 7). God asks Satan if he has considered godly Job, and Satan immediately accuses Job of insincerity—he only loves God for the blessings God gives. “Stretch out your hand,” Satan says, “and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (v. 11). God grants Satan permission to affect Job’s possessions and family, but not his person, and Satan leaves. In Job 2, Satan comes again into God’s presence and is, this time, permitted to affect Job’s personal health. (The rest of the book is from Job’s perspective, providing an example of how to deal with suffering.)
This is an important passage because it shows Satan’s place in the spiritual realm. He is able to accuse God’s people in His very presence, and Jude 1:9 shows that even Michael the archangel needs the Lord’s help in overcoming him. However, Satan is obviously restrained from enacting his full fury; he is still a created being under God, and his power is limited.
Satan’s power on the earth:
Job 1 also reveals that Satan does enact evil and cause direct harm on the earth. The most well-known and important of his actions on earth occurred in the garden of Eden. Genesis 3 tells of Satan’s temptation of Eve, the “mother of all the living” (v. 20), and her subsequent first sin. It was this act, and that of Eve’s husband Adam, that brought sin into the world, and it is the reason all humankind must be redeemed from sin in order to be with God.
One day, Jesus met a woman who had been “crippled by a spirit for eighteen years” (Luke 13:11). Jesus attributes the infirmity to Satan, who had kept her “bound” (verse 16). Satan’s power was real, but it was easily overcome by our Lord: “He put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (v. 13). Jesus’ miracle was a clear demonstration of His authority over Satan.
Since his instigation of evil on earth, Satan has been named as the “prince,” “god,” or “ruler” of this world (John 14:30; cf. John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 1:13). He is the enemy of God and truth (Matthew 13:24-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12), and he does everything he can to tempt individuals (Genesis 3; Luke 22:31; 1 Timothy 3:7) and larger groups of people (1 Thessalonians 3:5; Revelation 2:10). He “leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). Satan accomplishes this by various means, including appealing to man’s pride (1 Timothy 3:6; 1 Corinthians 4:6), interfering with the transmission of truth (Matthew 13:18-22, 38-39), and placing false believers within the church (1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; Revelation 2:9; 3:9). In John 8:44, Jesus says that Satan “is a liar and the father of it.”
God still grants Satan some authority in this world, which means that his power is not yet completely broken—except in one area: his power of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 says that Jesus came as a man to die in order to “destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil,” a power Satan had held “from the beginning” (John 8:44). The salvation Jesus provides has released us from Satan’s stranglehold. Death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Satan’s power – the conclusion:
The Bible says that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and we must “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Yet Christians have a great hope, for Jesus Christ (John 16:33) and our faith in Him (1 John 5:4) have overcome Satan’s evil. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).