Scripture Reference: Genesis 4, Genesis 6, 2 Kings 11:1, 2 Peter 2, 1 John 3
The Serpent Strikes BackDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 22, 1995
Selected highlights from this sermon
After the fall, Satan moved to strike down the prophesied Seed—the Savior of the world. Killing and corrupting, the tools of Satan’s malice, were seen in the person of Cain who killed his brother, Abel. Satan continued in his corruption by poisoning the whole generation before the flood.
Despite his attempts to kill off the royal Seed, God preserved the genealogical line and the Redeemer came just as God prophesied. So we can say with great confidence that Satan’s victories are merely illusions.
Some time ago I heard a story about a man who very innocently pulled a stone from a mountain, and he triggered an avalanche. And I think that’s the way it was with Adam and Eve. They ate of the fruit of the tree, not realizing that they were doing something that would have repercussions throughout the entire universe. And you and I today are affected by the decision that they made.
Let me be very clear in reminding you that when the angels fell, they were created individually and so they fell individually. It was not hard to believe that there were two-thirds of the angels that remained faithful to God, and one-third that fell. But the human race is different. Our lives are connected with our parents and our grandparents. And because of that, Adam and Eve, being our first parents in effect, are the ones who sinned, and all of us became tainted as a result of the fall.
We are created with sin natures within us. We are under the condemnation of sin, all because the entire human race was therefore plunged into a life of sin, and struggle with sin, all because of the decision of Adam and Eve because we are a solidarity. We are bonded together. There are no baby angels, but all of us came into this world through the birth process. We are all interrelated and connected.
Now last time in the message, we learned that God said that there would be enmity between thee and the woman. He said to the serpent, “Between thy seed and her seed…” What happened is Satan now began to think to himself, “I am going to try to destroy the seed that God says is going to destroy me.” So conflict is set up between Satan and God from that time forward. And what we’d like to do today is to take our Bibles and give a few instances of it as it is found in the Old Testament.
So, first of all, let us take our Bibles and turn to Genesis 4. Here we have the story of Adam and Eve having children, and the first child that they have is called Cain. And the word Cain simply means begotten. He was the begotten one. This is the son that God gave to Adam and Eve. And this entire chapter now is going to be a contrast between Abel who was a righteous son, and Cain who was a wicked one.
The first strike that Satan makes is against the family, and his first strike is an attempt to destroy Abel, which he believed was the righteous seed. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’ And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.”
Notice here the issue was really a religious one. How does one approach God? Bible scholars have pointed out that Abel brought the firstlings of the flock. He brought blood — a blood offering, and Cain didn’t. If that’s the reason why the offering was accepted and Cain’s was rejected, then there must have been some revelation that God gave regarding the kind of offering to be brought.
Perhaps it is simply that Abel offered it in faith. It says in Hebrews 11 that by faith Abel offered unto God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, because he offered it in faith. We don’t know exactly the reason why it was that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s except that Abel was a righteous man who did believe, most assuredly, and Cain didn’t. But this much we know. The antagonism between the brothers escalated. As far as Cain was concerned he felt that he had been very unfairly rejected. And you have all of those first-born qualities, those leadership qualities, and those insecurities that firstborns sometimes have. And they all came to the surface, and the Bible says that he became jealous and very angry.
Now, you know, here at The Moody Church, we have a lot of people coming to us for counsel. In fact, as a staff we discuss that in staff meetings. We seem to have more people coming for counsel in the last couple of weeks than usual, and we are wondering how to handle the case load.
Well, as I was looking at this, I realized that God counsels Cain here. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could telephone The Moody Church and say, “We need counsel because we are in trouble and we’d like to speak to God?” Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Now, if you say that, we would probably have to refer you to other people, but here God speaks to Cain. Cain is suffering from low self-esteem. He’s feeling rejected, and the Lord says to Cain in verse 6: “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door (that is, ready to destroy you). Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
So notice what the Lord says. He says, “Cain, there is a way out of this. All that you need to do is to do what is right, and you’ll be accepted.” But Cain did not accept God’s advice. The Bible says that he told Abel what happened, and then he slew Abel, his brother.
Now you may say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, this was just sibling rivalry. This is the way in which kids get along, or don’t get along.” Those of us who have been parents know that there are times when sometimes our children just do not see eye to eye on everything. Did you know that Satan was involved in this? It clarifies it and says in 1 John 3 in the New Testament: “Why did Cain slay Abel?” It’s because Cain was of that wicked one. Satan was involved, and he slew him because Abel was righteous, and therefore, righteousness was a threat to Satan, and furthermore Satan very probably thought that Abel was the promised seed, and if he wiped him out, then he would be able to win the battle. And I can just imagine, after Abel’s blood is spilled on the ground, Satan saying to himself, “I won, I won, I won! I destroyed the promised seed.” Well, of course he didn’t because after Abel is slain, you know, God gives to Adam and Eve another son called Seth. And that word Seth means substitute. And the devil begins to realize that no matter how many people he kills, God might always have someone else created. Someone else will be born who could be the promised seed. So Satan realizes that when he thought he had won, he really didn’t. Well, that’s the first attack.
We could go on to point out that the Lord put a mark upon Cain, and Cain became a wanderer, and later on it says in verse 16, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife,” and you know, one of the big questions that is asked is, “Where did Cain get his wife?” People ask that question. Even those who should be concerned about where they might find a wife sometimes ask questions about where Cain got his. Well, the answer is he married one of his sisters or one of his cousins, because the race was pure in those days, and Adam and Eve had many different children.
But Cain said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”
He began to discover something about sin. Despite the wonder of revenge, and despite how good it felt to finally get rid of that brother, the consequences were very unacceptable. In the long run, it never pays to sin.
People are concerned about whether or not O. J. Simpson is guilty of the murders that we’ve heard so much about, and the fact is, as someone mentioned to me, “Even if he is free if indeed he did those crimes, he will never be free.” He will be condemned in his heart, and someday he’ll have to give an account to God for it. Sin never pays.
Well, you and I know, of course, that Adam and Eve were not the first parents that have had some difficulty raising Cain. As a matter of fact, there has been difficulty within the family… Was I going too fast for some of you on that one? (laughter) There have been difficulties in families ever since. And Satan strikes the family, that unit that God has raised up that should propagate the faith. And here he is. He tries to do it by destroying, by killing.
Let’s take another example in Genesis 6. Here is an attack against society. Satan said to himself, “I cannot destroy the seed by killing. Maybe I can destroy the seed by corrupting. Now this is a puzzling passage. It says in verse 1: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”
What in the world is going on here in the text? Who are these sons of God? Well, there are those who believe that the sons of God represent the godly line of Seth, and the daughters of men represent the Canaanites. There are problems with that view, and we can’t go into detail about all of the problems except to say that first of all, it’s not clear at all that all of the descendants of Seth were that righteous. But furthermore, that expression “the sons of God” wherever it is used in the Old Testament always refers to angels. For example, in the book of Job, it talks about, you know, “the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord.” Is it possible that these are fallen spirits, demonic spirits, cohabiting with human beings, and bearing children? Well, a part of that is possible. It is possible for Satan and spirits to take a human form. We know that, even though they do not have the power to create as such, but they can actualize themselves. Satan did that to Jesus Christ. And if demons are able to speak, that means that they are able to translate themselves into something material. And there are those who have fallen into such perversions that they have had relations with evil spirits that have been actualized as human beings.
I’ve read accounts and I’ve spoken to people, and I believe that at least in some instances that has been true. But I don’t believe that that would beget children, so I take the point of view that “the sons of God” is really a reference to demonic spirits that are indwelling, inhabiting and energizing the people in that day. And as a result of that there were leaders that were born, but these were evil leaders that were involved with demons and immorality. And the two inevitably go together.
Do you know what I also believe? I believe that these demons were so wicked that God decided to build a special place for them where they would be confined forever, and they are not free to roam the earth today. You say, “Well, why would you believe that?” Notice what it ways in 2 Peter. Now it may take you a moment to find it, but it may be a text you’ve not looked at for a while, so I’ll give you a moment to find it.
Second Peter 2, chapter 2! This is talking about heresy. It’s talking about apostates, those who deny the faith. Here at The Moody Church we had an apostate a few weeks ago who denies the faith, and there was a debate here regarding his heresies. And I might say that the judgment of God is upon such, not only individually but upon all those who would believe their teachings. And all that you need to do is to read the book of Jude and the book of 2 Peter, and find out how much God hates apostasy.
But notice what it says in chapter 2, verse 2: “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them, the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned but cast them into hell (The Greek word is tartaroō.) and committed them to pits of darkness reserved for judgment, and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah…”
Notice the context in which he says this. He’s saying that God took these spirits that sinned, cast them into Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, but He did spare Noah. This happened during the days of the flood, just before the flood came. Because of the wickedness that was upon the earth, there were some spirits that were so evil that God says, “I’m going to confine you so that you will not be able to rule the earth.” Tartarus, in the New Testament! When Jesus was going to cast out a demon, he said, “Please don’t send me to Tartarus,” that place of torment, which is really not yet the lake of fire, but which is a holding pen, so to speak, before the lake of fire comes.
Now back to Genesis 6! I want you to notice that the text says that the evil of men was great upon the earth. As a matter of fact, we read these words in verse 5: ‘The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And the Lord is even sorry that He makes man. It doesn’t mean that it took Him by surprise. It simply means that God was grieved and He was going to have to begin again. And He did with Noah who found grace in the sight of the Lord.
First strike, [Satan] says, “I’d like to kill them. It didn’t work.” Second strike, [Satan] says, “I’m going to corrupt them. I want the entire human race to be involved in various kinds of perversion and sensuality so that God cannot even stand them anymore, and so that God will judge the world and blot the human race out.” Once again, Satan thought to himself, “It looks as if I am winning,” but (verse 8) “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” There was someone righteous left who had not been contaminated with the things of the world.
We look at our own society today, filled with violence and filled with immorality and impurity. Sometimes I call people on the phone just to see how they are doing. I have no special agenda. I did that this last week. I phoned a family connected with Moody Church and heard something that made me so angry, so angry. Unbelievable! Two lovely young girls molested by a grandfather as they learned about a week ago. And then one of these young ladies also, worse than molestation really, with some neighbor. I’m not sure exactly of all of the details, and I say to myself, “Where does all this perversion come from? How many are there out there that are molesting children, that are doing those despicable things?” And listen, do you know what that means? That means that there are people who are listening to me today who are molesting children, doing things that are despicable. And if you fit into that category today, let me tell you to stop it! Stop it, in the name of Christ, because you are doing the devil’s work.
And by the way, some of you mothers, you have husbands that are molesting your children and ruining their lives, and you are pretending that you do not know because you don’t want to face the consequences of what would happen if that man were found out. Could I simply tell you today to go for help and blow his cover? Blow his cover! Deal with it.
We look at movies today, the impurity of mind and heart and spirit, the pollution of soul, young people watching these movies, all of this foolishness, and all of the sensuality and the violence and the occultism. It takes hours and hours of reading the Scriptures simply to purify the mind, to get all of the pollution out of the minds of the hearts of even Christians today.
Satan says first of all, “I want to destroy them by killing them. I can’t kill them; I’ll corrupt them. I will separate their souls from God.”
Now, listen to me very carefully. If you are involved in sexual immorality of any form, whether it is pornography, whether it is some form of perversion, I want you to know today that you need to go for help, because the iniquity that we face, even within the church today, grieves God. God says, “I am sorry that I have made man.” That was Satan’s strike.
Now, there are other ways that Satan tried to blot out the good seed. Turn to 2 Kings 11:1 for just a moment. We find that Satan has a woman on the throne who is going to do the devil’s work. And notice it says in 2 Kings 11:1: “Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family.”
We don’t have time to go into the text in detail, but I just want you to know that if she had destroyed all of the royal offspring, the promises that God made that Jesus Christ would be born through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the line of David would not have been fulfilled because she was going to kill everybody who was of the royal seed.
Well, would you believe that there was one who was spared, and his name was Joash? Somebody hid little Joash, and he didn’t fall under this woman’s edict to destroy the royal seed. Athaliah, by the way, was involved in Baal worship. You also get the corruption of religion, which we don’t even have time to get into, the corruption of worship, along with the immorality and violence and pride and greed. And you have all of that pouring into the life of Israel, as God preserves the seed, but as Satan attempts to destroy it. So once again, Satan thought, “I won. The promises of God are going to be nullified.” No, you didn’t win. Joash was spared.
We don’t have time this morning, but let me just jog your pure mind by way of remembrance. Jesus comes on the scene, and what happens? He’s there, born in Bethlehem, and Herod says, you know, to the wise men, “Why don’t you go find out about Him because I’d really like to come and worship Him.” Oh yes, of course you’d like to come and worship Him, wouldn’t you?
Well, it turns out that Herod really doesn’t want to worship Jesus Christ after all. He’s not interested. He wants to kill Christ, and then they flee to Egypt, and what happens? In fleeing to Egypt, Herod then has all of the boys, the children who are two years of age and younger, killed, in all of the environs of Bethlehem, hoping that he will be able to, in that way, by casting a large net, kill Christ. But Christ has escaped, and he doesn’t know it.
So Satan says to himself, “I can’t kill Him. I’m going to try to corrupt Him.” So you have those temptations, and he takes Jesus Christ to a high mountain, and he says, “If you worship me I will give You all of the kingdoms of the earth.” Now scholars are divided on whether or not Satan had a right to say that to Christ. Well, Christ didn’t rebuke him. He didn’t say, “You have no right to talk to Me like that.” Remember that he is the prince of the power of the air. He has much more right that you or I might realize. He said, “Jesus, if you worship me I’ll give You all the kingdoms of the earth,” and Jesus said, “No, I won’t bow down to worship you. Thou shall worship the Lord, thy God only, and Him only shall thou serve.”
Satan said, “I can’t corrupt Him that way. If He won’t listen to me, maybe he will listen to His special disciple. Of course, He won’t listen to me, but if I can get His disciple to say the same thing that I’m saying, maybe that will work.”
And so he inspires Peter. And one day when Jesus said to the disciples, “I want to go to Jerusalem, and there I am going to die,” what did Peter say? “Far be it from me.” In fact, it says that Peter took him aside and rebuked him, saying, “Master, don’t do it,” the same thing that the devil had told him on the mount of temptation. And then Jesus had to say to Peter, “Satan, get thee behind me. Thou speakest not the things that be of God but the things that be of man.”
We come to Gethsemane. Here is Jesus in agony. Satan now is in a bind. He doesn’t know what to do. Should he support the death of Christ on the cross? That was a question. Should he inspire these evil people to put Christ on the cross, because surely he knew that the death of Jesus Christ was going to be his own death knell? And by the way, the message that I preach next week, God willing, is going to be one of the most important in this series as I talk about the death of Christ, and how the triumph of the cross ended every possible right to Satan’s career, and the victory that Jesus accomplished. Should he inspire them, or should he pull back? The glee of seeing Jesus on the cross, even if it is for a few hours, was so great. Satan was in a muddle. There was ambivalent madness. He wanted to kill Christ before the cross. He couldn’t do that. And now should he support the killing of Jesus Christ?
And so you have Jesus dying on the cross, and what happens? Satan, for a brief moment, is glad, but he knows that it is going to be very brief because three days later Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, and later on He is taken into heaven as King of kings, and Lord of lords, as God of very God. And Satan was defeated again.
How can I wrap this up for you? Just a couple of observations, a couple of lessons very quickly! Number one, Satan always strikes at the people of God. He always strikes at God’s people. He does not bother with those who are into paganism. They are his. He always opposes the people of God. In the Old Testament it was Israel. In the New Testament it is the church, because he is opposed to God and to His people. And in this day and age it is you and it is me.
Let’s look at the history of the church for a moment. The first three centuries, kill them! You have all of those persecutions that took place in Rome, and thousands and thousands of believers were put to death in fire, and thrown to wild beasts. He couldn’t do it that way. Tertullian said that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. Wherever he killed them, there were more of them, so he decided that he would take a different tactic. “I can’t kill them; I’ll corrupt them.” After the time of Constantine, you have, of course, Europe becoming (quote) Christianized, and you have all of the pagan practices that the Romans had been practicing now brought into the church and somehow made to fit with Christianity. You try to kill them, and then you try to corrupt them.
But what about you and me? Is he after us? Oh, you’d better believe it. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, I have not known a single satanic suggestion or attack in my life.” If that’s what you are saying as a believer, all that I can say is that Satan’s plan for you has worked perfectly because you are asleep.
A number of years ago I had a biopsy. Not an autopsy but a biopsy! (laughter) And I was in the hospital and they had to put me to sleep. It was the first time that I had ever been put to sleep, and the anesthesiologist (What a word! I had to practice it last night.) said, “I’m not supposed to work today, but I saw your name on the list, and I’ve often heard you preach over the radio, and I wanted to be the one to be here today to put you to sleep.” (laughter) And I thought to myself, “I sure hope to God she loves my preaching.” (laughter) But you know, during those hours when I was asleep, I was not involved in the battle. Anything could have happened and it was okay by me because I had been anesthetized.
And that’s what Satan does. He hates you. He has made meticulous plans for your downfall. Spirits have observed you. They know your weakness. They know your secret sins that they hope to exploit and to hold against you someday. They know what they can do to use good sweet bait to ruin you. And now you are saying that you have never been affected. You have been! I have been. I know satanic attack and so do you! He always goes for the people of God. That’s number one.
Number two, all of his victories are a sham. All of his victories are illusionary. You say, “Well, that’s not true. Look at all the victories. Look at the smashed marriages. Look at the immorality that destroys families, his attack against the family. Look at the perversions of the day that multiply around us so that you can’t even take your child to some neighbors to have them babysit the child without wondering whether or not the children are going to be safe.
Yes, but what you need to understand is that the more victories he wins, the greater his condemnation shall be.
I want to tell you today that Satan’s defeat is as inevitable as the spirits that have been confined in Tartarus, who are awaiting the lake of fire. That’s how inevitable his destruction really is. Always remember that.
You know, Pyrrhus won a victory against Rome. And the victory ended with Pyrrhus having so many casualties it almost destroyed his army. And he is the one, I believe, who said at a later time, “If we had any more victories like this we shall be destroyed.” And that can be said of Satan. If he has any more victories, he is going to be only more surely and more completely destroyed.
And finally, let us remember that it is our responsibility to resist him. The Bible says, “who resist in the faith.” Resist, resist, resist! Some of you who feel overwhelmed because of your obsessions, because of your addictions, because of the demonic struggles that you are in, there is hope for you. There is something that you can do. You can go for help to other believers and to Christ, and you can resist him in the faith. Your defeat is not inevitable.
Let me tell you one of the most important steps to spiritual victory. It’s when we get to the point in our lives where we actually believe that change is possible. If you feel that you are locked in, that you’ve struggled with this for so long that your defeat is inevitable, it will be inevitable. I’m told that when there are bull moose (I guess the plural of moose is moose.) in the wild and they are fighting for the herd, after the fight and one is victorious and the other loses, the loser never challenges the victor again. Now that’s what Satan wants. “I want to defeat you, and defeat you, and defeat you, and now that you are defeated don’t you ever challenge me again!” But we can challenge him because Christ, as we shall learn next week, crushed the head of the serpent and said, “Now is the judgment of this world, and now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” We can challenge Satan again. We can resist him.
Remember that story of the man (an excellent chess player) who painted a picture of a huge chess game between Satan and a young man. And the whole idea was that if Satan were to win, that young man would have to be the servant of Satan and be in hell forever. If the young man were to win the game of chess, Satan would have to serve the young man. Well, I am told that this painting hangs in one of the galleries here in the United States, but I will not mention the city because I did one time, and we received letters from our listening audience, trying to work things out regarding the painting. But I am told that the painter painted it in such a way that the devil had just moved his queen, and declared checkmate in four moves. The young man’s face was ashen and pale.
Chess players from all over the world came to look at the painting and agreed that the devil had won. But there was Paul Morphy who came, a chess player who looked and looked and looked, and in his mind moved this piece and that piece and that piece, standing in front of the picture for 15 minutes and then half an hour, and finally shouting, “Young man, there is a move that you can make. There’s a move that you can make.” Something had been overlooked. “There’s a move you can make.”
Satan says, “I’ve got Cain; he is going to kill Abel.” Seth arrives. “I’m going to destroy civilization through perversion and iniquity.” Oh, but Noah finds grace in the eyes of the Lord. “I’m going to destroy the seed royal. Sure enough! They’re all destroyed, aren’t they?” Oh, somebody hid Joash.
And on and on it goes. “I’m going to kill Christ,” but He escapes to Egypt. “And I’m going to see to it that He won’t go to the cross,” but He does go to the cross, and then He is resurrected.
I want you to know today that no matter who you are, and no matter what level of spiritual growth and struggle you are at, there is a move that you can make. One of the moves that you can make even is to come for special prayer. Let someone else bear your burden, because if there’s anything that Satan cannot stand it is light. As long as you are secretly battling, that is the realm of the devil, but once it is exposed to someone who helps you bear that burden, there is a light. And with light, there comes life because Jesus won a victory and now invites us to participate with Him in it.
Our responsibility is to resist him steadfastly in the faith, knowing that we in Christ, if we’re willing to expose and come to the truth, are the victors.
And let us pray.
Our Father, we want to thank You today for Christ. Thank You for all of the grace that He gives to us so freely. And we pray today, Lord, for those who struggle. Bring openness and honesty and truth to bear, for we are in need of it. We thank You that when the serpent strikes that Jesus has been there to crush his head.
And now before we sing together, I want you to pray. You talk to God with whatever it is you need to talk to Him about. Some of you may not know Christ as Savior. You’ve come to church and you didn’t know that today was the day that you would believe on Christ.
And Christian, what burden is there that you need to bring to God?
Father, hear our prayer. Come to cleanse us. Come to cause Satan to flee because we have righteous lives. In Jesus’ name we ask, Amen.