While the apostle John was on the Isle of Patmos, he received a very remarkable vision. In that vision he saw "there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." And then John heard a loud voice proclaim, "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" (Revelation 12:7-9,12).
To many people, Satan is a myth, like a character from one of Aesop's fables, meant to serve as an allegory to explain the presence of evil in the world. However, most Christians consider Satan to be a very real person who was once an angel of light who rebelled against God, was cast out of heaven and has come to earth. He has been described as being full of all kinds of subtilty and all mischief, an enemy of all that is righteous, who seeks to pervert the right ways of the Lord (see Acts 13:13).
Satan has many name-titles. He is known as a liar (Acts 5:3). In fact, he is the father of lies (2 Nephi 2:18). He is a deceiver (Rev. 12:9), a rebel (D&C 76:28), and a tempter (1 Cor. 7:5). He has the power to show signs and lying wonders (2 Thes. 2:9) and to encircle people in his awful chains (Alma 5:7) and drag them down to hell (Alma 30:60). He incites people to perform such deeds as adultery, fornication, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, discord, jealousy, selfish ambition, dissensions, envy, drunkenness and other similar things (see Gal. 5:19-20). But as skillful and powerful as he is in persuading us to behave in this manner, there is another name that Satan has that is more terrible than all the rest.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that before the world was created God, our Father, called us, His children together and offered a plan whereby we could have the opportunity to inherit all that He has. That plan called for us to live on a physical earth and to be clothed with a physical body where we would be tested to see if we would do all things whatsoever the Lord our God commanded us (Abraham 3:25).
As part of that plan it was necessary to have a savior who would atone for our sins, thereby allowing us to have them washed away as though we had never committed them. With our sins removed, we could then have the opportunity to receive a resurrected body like our Father has. One of our Father's children, named Lucifer, stepped forward and offered himself to become that savior, but not as our Father had designed. He had his own plan for saving us that he thought was much better. Our Father rejected Lucifer's plan and instead chose Jehovah to be the savior of mankind.
After trying to persuade as many of our Father's children to accept his way of salvation, Lucifer started a war in heaven to overthrow our Father in an attempt to install himself as God. But his revolt only succeeded in getting himself, along with one third of our Father's children, expelled from heaven. When that happened, his name was changed to Satan and he, along with his followers became known by the title of devils.
But there was another serious consequence to Satan's action. He and his followers became disqualified from participating in the plan of salvation. Part of what that meant was that they would not have the opportunity to live on earth in bodies of flesh and blood. That also meant he and his followers would not be able to become resurrected beings and inherit the glory that comes with that condition. Instead, they would not only remain forever as spirits but as spirits of darkness.
Because we dwell here with a veil of forgetfulness placed over the memory of our prior earth life, we don't fully appreciate how significant a loss this was for Satan. It was a devastating punishment for him! Imagine having a curse put on you where you would forever remain like a five-year old child. Because of that condition you would be prevented from maturing as all your other brothers and sisters were doing. Therefore, as a five-year old, you would not have the freedom to do many of the things your more matures siblings are allowed to do.
You would watch as they went to dances, knowing you would never have that fun experience. You would watch as they got their driver's license, knowing that forever you would ride nothing more complicated than a tricycle. You would watch as they went off to college on their own having an exciting adventure, knowing you weren't allowed out of the back yard without supervision. You would watch them go out on dates and see the dreamy look in their eyes when they returned, knowing you would never be able to understand what such a feeling was like.
For Satan it is worse than that because there was a time when he was one of the greatest of all the angles in heaven with the potential to achieve glorious honors, power, and dominion. Now he must hopelessly watch as even the lowliest of our Father's children have experiences that he will never have the privilege to participate in. And even those who inherit the telestial kingdom will receive a glory that is far superior to anything he will ever have. He will not only live outside of heaven forever but will live in outer darkness for eternity, where there is no glory whatsoever. Whatever dreams he had, whatever pride he had, whatever ambitions he had have now been totally and perpetually destroyed. He almost had it all and now he has nothing! I don't think we can truly comprehend how devastating that is to someone like Satan.
When we talk about the war in heaven we sometimes view Satan as throwing a pouting fit because he didn't get his way. When we discuss how Satan seeks to tempt us here on earth we often think of him as merely trying to sabotage God's plan by messing it up as much as he can. However that is not an accurate picture of him. Satan is enraged, furious, livid, and fuming mad at God his Father. He is consumed with bitterness, resentment, hostility, hatred, malice and vindictiveness. Because of what his expulsion from heaven means, he has become a man of wrath, a man of anger, a man of hate, a man of rage, and a man of violence. That is what the angel meant when he told John, "for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Other translations render this, "having great fury," or "great anger."
One of the greatest things we have that Satan can never possess is a physical body, therefore, he despises us because of that and he will do whatever he can to deny us that gift from God. Because of that, one of his other name-titles is murderer.
The apostle John says that Satan is a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) and Nephi says that the devil is the founder of murder (2 Nephi 26:22). In the beginning, it was Satan who put it into the heart of Cain to slay his brother Able. The reason he offered Cain for committing this act was that Cain would then possess all that his brother had, but that was not entirely true. Satan's real motive for inspiring Cain to commit murder was to destroy Able's God-given gift of mortal life.
The Book of Mormon records that the Lamanites "delighted in murdering the Nephites" (Alma 17:14), and "loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts" (Jarom 1:6). A man by the name of Kishkumen started a fraternity of murderers who swore an oath to support each other in this crime. A man named Gadianton took over where Kishkumen left off and established a band of robbers who's sole reason for existence was to get gain through the use of murdering others. Eventually the Nephites themselves became just as murderous as they swore an oath to cut their enemies off from the face of the land (Mormon 3:10,11). This kind of behavior is inspired by Satan. As Nephi explained, Satan "stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness" (2 Nephi 9:9).
God's plan is to give us eternal life but Satan's plan is to bring us both physical and spiritual death. While Jesus is the prince of peace, Satan is the prince of violence, the minister of murder, and the apostle of carnage, mayhem, and bloodshed. In every age of man, it isn't enough for Satan simply to entice people to disobey the laws of God, he also strives to incite people to kill, maim, and torture others. And there is a reason why he does that.
The prophet Lehi taught his family that the devil "seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27). I don't think mortal men have the ability to truly comprehend how miserable Satan really is. When a loved one dies, the grief family members experience can be among the most intense emotional pain a person can suffer. But when a loved one is senselessly murdered, that pain is multiplied many times over and is often the reason why people question the goodness of God as they bitterly ask in their unrestrained grief, "Why, God, if You are so good and loving, did You allow this to happen?" And it is because of this grief that some people turn their back on God. When that happens, Satan is able to make men come closer to being almost as miserable and despising of God as he is.
Life on earth is one of the most precious gifts God has given us, and because of that it should not be surprising that the taking of life is one of Satan's most important goals. But, since Satan doesn't have the power to directly end a person's life, or forcibly cause others to do it, then how does he accomplish his purpose?
Jesus taught, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matt. 15:19). Whatever we do, good, bad, or indifferent, comes from the desires of our heart. Even though Satan doesn't have the power to physically force us to do anything, he does have power over the hearts of men (2 Nephi 30:18; Alma 8:9). Therefore, he "rages in the hearts of men" (2 Nephi 28:20) "stirring up the people to do all manner of iniquity" (3 Nephi 6:15). That is why there was so much wickedness in the days of Noah, because "every imagination of the thought of [man's] heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5).
The greatest motivating factor that causes people to kill someone is hate and anger. Therefore, if Satan can get people to hate their brother or sister and to act on their anger, then it becomes an easy matter to lead them to commit murder. That's why the apostle John wrote, "he who hates his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15). But when a person allows hate to fill his mind, a very interesting thing happens - reason, logic, and objectivity seem to disappear. A person who is filled with hate doesn't think rationally. Their ability to correctly analyze their actions ceases to exist and they can rationalize committing even the most hideous evil. Not even the thought of what will happen to them if they are caught enters their mind. It's as though their hate and anger makes them oblivious to everything else except getting revenge.
We see this kind of behavior in people who were fired from a job only to return with a rifle in their hand and start shooting at anyone in their way. This is what causes "road rage" where one motorist kills or severely injures another motorist over a trivial matter. This is the motivation behind estranged husbands staking and killing their wives.
Hate and anger is what causes a Palestinian mother to proudly allow her child to wear an explosive belt so he can deliberately blow himself up in order to kill innocent Israelis. It's what drives Irish Catholics and Protestants to kill each other. It's what provokes Croatians to engage in mass genocide of Serbians in Bosnia, or the Hutus's genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. It's what motivates terrorists to devote themselves to devising, planning, and executing the most lethal ways of killing and instilling fear in as many people as they can.
Perhaps the most common way that Satan stirs people up to anger is through contention. Contention can be described as the art of verbal warfare. It involves arguing, debating, disputing and disagreeing with someone. Although many people engage in this kind of behavior as a harmless pastime, it nonetheless opens up the possibility of conflict, strife, and dissension. That is why Jesus said, "he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. (3 Nephi 11:29)
Perhaps nothing generates more hostile contention than religion and politics. The debate over abortion is often heated and rancorous. The controversy over homosexuality is often resentful and unforgiving. The disagreement between liberals and conservatives is often bitter and ugly. The arguments between religious denominations is often uncivil and unpleasant. And all of this provides Satan with fertile ground to goad people into inflicting harm on others, such as those who bomb abortion clinics, kill homosexuals, murder Christians, and assassinate political rivals.
Contentious anger among family members is one of the leading causes of violence in the home. It is one of the main reasons why husbands severely beat their wives, why wives kill their husbands, and why parents physically abuse their children. And this same kind of contention produces similar results between neighbors, friends, and people who don't even know one another.
But anger isn't the only way Satan inspires people to commit murder. He also does so by appealing to a person's greed, vain ambition, and the intoxicating effect of power. Nearly all wars begin because of one man's greed and vain ambition for power that makes him want to conquer lands that belong to someone else and subjugate its people through the use of force. This was certainly true for such men as Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Saddam Hussein. And it is also how dictators maintain their power and control over others. In a lesser sense, it is this same attitude of the heart that causes people to rob and kill.
It is Satan working in the hearts of expectant mothers, often time appealing to their vanity or selfish desires that motivates them to seek an abortion. When that happens Satan is able to prevent a waiting spirit from having the opportunity to inhabit a physical body by murdering the child before it has had a chance to be born.
If Satan has so much power over the hearts of men, then how can we inoculate ourselves from becoming infected by his influence?
The antidote for this disease of the heart is love. Hate and love are like fire and water. They cannot exist together. And too much of one smoothers and extinguishes the other. But the difference between them is that you can never have too much love, but even a little bit of hate can sometimes be too much.
Many people drink alcohol socially without ever becoming alcoholics, but the possibility of becoming addicted is always present. On the other hand, there is never any side affect to not drinking alcohol. And the same is true for hate and anger. People get angry all the time without committing murder, but Satan is always at work seeking to increase our hatred and inflame our anger. That means the more we allow hate and anger to be part of our normal lifestyle, the greater opportunity we give Satan to push us beyond the bounds of rational behavior and cause us to do something we may later regret. When that happens we become like robots, mindlessly performing the work of the devil.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray "And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4). Most newer translation render this "but deliver us from the evil one." But how does God help deliver us from the power of the evil one so that he does not lead us to commit sin by tempting us through his power of deception?
King Benjamin taught his people how we can do this when he said that it is through "the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). Since it is through the heart that Satan is able to gain control over us, we need God's power and influence to change our hearts so there is no more desire for hate, anger, contention, bitterness, pride, greed, and selfishness.
Jesus is the prince of peace. It is through the power of Christ that we receive the peace of God, which passes all understanding, that will keep our hearts and minds free from the power of Satan (see Phil. 4:7). It is when we have been spiritually born of God and receive His image in our countenance that we will then experience this mighty change in our hearts (see Alma 5:14).
But what does it mean to receive the image of Christ in our countenance?
An image is a representation, likeness, or reflection of something else. It's an illustration of that which is real. Although Christ is a real Person, there are images we have of Him in our mind but those images are not really Christ Himself. Instead, they represent or reflect what we think Christ is like. And those images of Him come from the way the scriptures describe Him.
The Old Testament tell us, "The LORD God, [is] merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Ex. 34:6) "The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression" (Num.14:18). "Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth" (Ps. 86:15). The apostle Paul described the Spirit of God as "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith" (Gal. 5:22), and as having "bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, [and] longsuffering"(Col 3:12). In our day we've been told that God's power or influence is "maintained by virtue of the priesthood, [which works] only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned" (D&C 121:41).
The image we've been given of Christ is that of a Being who is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, patient, forgiving, full of compassion, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned. When we possess these same qualities in our life, then it can be accurately said that we have taken upon us the image and likeness of Christ.
But there is something interesting about these qualities. It is impossible to be longsuffering, patient and forgiving while being angry with someone. It is impossible to be merciful, gracious and full of compassion while hating someone at the same time. It is impossible to be gentle, meek and loving but still have a desire to hurt someone. That is why the Lord has said, "Be patient in afflictions, revile not against those that revile. Govern your house in meekness, and be steadfast" (D&C 31:9). "If men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded" (D&C 98:23).
If we are patient and meek as the Lord commands us, then there will be no desire in our heart to revile against others or to seek revenge. And if there is no such desire in our heart, then the Evil One has nothing to work with to lead us into the temptation to commit violent sin. That is why we need to pray for Christ's power of love in our life because if we allow anger, resentment, bitterness, and hate to have a place in our heart, then our countenance begins to take on the image of Satan, and then, if we are not careful, we too might find ourselves becoming a man of wrath.
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