The Protestant Reformation is dated from October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of his church. But Luther was not the first to protest errors and wickedness in the church. Beginning with the Old Testament, the history of God’s church is the story of protest against Satan’s agents that have always worked to force or deceive the earth’s inhabitants into rebellion against their Creator.
Attacks From Within the Church
Perhaps one of the most difficult ideas to grasp is the reality of attacks against the church from within the church. But why should Satan limit his assaults against God’s church to agents acting from outside the church? Using his agents planted in the midst of God’s people has always been an effective and destructive strategy for the arch rebel. J H Merle d’Aubigne recognized this when he said, “There have been Protestants in the Church from the very beginning of Christianity, since liberty and truth could not be maintained here below, save by protesting continually against despotism [absolute power] and error.”[i] Satan has always had his agents among God’s church.
The Mystery of Iniquity
From the beginning of his corruption, Satan has used deceit and slander to win converts who will work for him against God’s church as insiders. Jesus called Satan a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). As surprising as this may seem, Satan became a liar in heaven. The result of his lies was war in heaven (Revelation 12:7-9).
In heaven, he was known as Lucifer or Lightbearer. His name was later changed to Satan, or Adversary. Lucifer had a high position in heaven. He was the covering cherub next to God. (Ezekiel 28:14) In puzzling process which the Bible calls “the mystery of iniquity”[ii], Lucifer began to covet God’s throne (Isaiah 14:13-14). Through deceit and flattery, he won the allegiance of a third of the angels (Revelation 12:4).
Satan’s Favorite Tactics
He used the same tactics when he was cast out of heaven with his followers. He seized man’s dominion of the earth through smooth talking and dishonesty. He tricked Eve and won her confidence. In taking the fruit forbidden to her by God, the rightful Ruler of the earth, Eve committed an act of high treason against God, a criminal offence of disloyalty against His government.
Eve became Satan’s servant, which Romans 6:16 tells us that in so doing she made Satan her master. She encouraged her husband Adam to join her in switching allegiance to Satan. When he took the fruit, which God had expressly forbidden him to eat, Adam became a traitor, losing his place as governor, and the dominion of the earth was transferred to Satan.
God Gives Church Hope
But God would not abandon His church to Satan’s rule. The first prophecy in the Bible restored hope to humankind by predicting a Saviour, the Seed of the woman, who would restore the kingdom to God. It is significant to note that Jesus promised His disciples that they would sit upon thrones with Him in the kingdom made new (Matthew 19:28).
Another part of God’s judgment in the Garden of Eden was also a promise. Addressing the serpent, He said, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. (Genesis 3:15). Satan and his followers have always been at war against the people of God. But the hatred goes both ways. In the heart of God’s followers God has placed an abhorrence of everything that is false and whatever strikes against the authority of God.
A telltale sign of Satan’s work, in fact, is any attack on God’s authority. Religious movements that have at their heart, a lessening of Christ’s authority, are sure to be the work of the arch deceiver.
For a study of New Testament warnings against satanic agencies inside the church see Matthew 7:13-29, 13:24-28, 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-12, 2 Peter 2:1, Revelation 12, 17:1-6.
[i] History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, 833.
[ii] 2 Thessalonians 2:7