Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them…
The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, etc. The text -
I. ASSUMES THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN. Many question the reality of any such being, but:
1. We may ask - Why should it not be?
(1) We ascribe all effects to given causes. Instinctively we do this. A child hears a noise, and at once looks round to find out the cause.
(2) And we see many evil effects, sad, dreadful ones, and we are therefore led to look for their cause.
(3) The same argument that tells against the existence of the evil one tells equally against the existence of One who is the All good, that is, God. If there be no prince of evil, there is no "Author and Giver of all good." If it be said our own nature is sufficient to account for all the evil we find, then it may be said our own nature is sufficient to account for all the good we find.
(4) It is not sufficient to say that evil is the mere absence of good - a negative, not a positive quality. That only pushes the question further back, and leads us to ask - Why should the absence of one quality cause such wretchedness in those surroundings which it has left? If the earth had not been made incapable of light apart from the sun, there would be no darkness. Darkness, therefore, and evil also, require a cause, are a distinct creation.
2. The Bible affirms such existence. Take but one instance out of the many affirmations of this truth. Our Lord taught us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." He had just come away from fearful conflict with that evil one, and therefore bids us thus pray. If our Lord's words, and those of his apostles, do not teach the personality and real existence of Satan, then no language could be devised that would teach it
3. And it is good news - a gospel. For evil being summed up in a person, in one head, destroy that, as it shall be destroyed, and evil ceases to be (cf. story of the Roman emperor, who wished that all Rome had but one neck, that he might destroy it at a blow; in a very real sense it is thus with the kingdom of evil). Satan broke as a wolf into the fold - he has no rightful inherent place therein - and he can be driven forth, or destroyed by the good Shepherd, and will be.
II. TEACHES US THAT THE POWER OF SATAN IS LIMITED. It would be dreadful to think otherwise. In dark moments men are tempted so to think. Pessimism so thinks. And it may be asked - Why should not evil be eternal as well as good? The whole doctrine of evolution is against it. We see perpetually the lower forms of life giving place to the higher, the less good to the better. It is thus in all departments of life. The fittest survives. The unfit disappears. Therefore we believe in the limit taught by the text. The whole Bible asserts it. To teach it is almost the Bible's raison, d'etre. And whilst on the most reasonable hypothesis - that our life here is but a school, an education - we can explain, at least to a large extent, the presence of evil in its varied forms, notwithstanding, and even because, infinite wisdom and power and goodness are at the head of all things; but if the devil be head of all, then there is no accounting for the much and manifold good that we know exists and increases day by day. Believing, therefore, that beneficence reigns, evil must have an end.
III. EXPLAINS THE VIRULENCE OF EVIL EXISTENT AMONGST MEN. It says it is because Satan is in "great wrath, knowing that," etc. Such representation is in keeping with the malignant character which the Bible ever attributes to, and which must belong to Satan. See in the Gospel narratives, when commanded to go forth from those he had taken possession of, with what violence he maltreats them, throwing them down, tearing them, casting them into convulsions, etc. It is that which Satan would and does do. And in Christian experience there is the counterpart of this (cf. Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress ').
IV. LEADS US TO ASK - WHEREFORE ARE WE TOLD ALL THIS? It was and is:
1. To prevent dismay, bewilderment, and despair. One can understand how not a few would be, for many yet are, fastened upon by these foes of faith.
2. To inspire hope and courage, patience and trust. How calculated to render us this high service these teachings are!
3. That we may tell them to others. Many yet are sitting in the land of darkness and the shadow of death, not knowing that he hath come who shall destroy "death, and him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil." "Go, preach my gospel, saith the Lord."
4. To set us on our guard, and to make us more heedful of the commands of Christ, the Captain of our salvation, in whom abiding, neither death nor hell can work us harm. - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.