The Third “Last Thing”: The Binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3) -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:624 (Oct 1999)
Article: The Third “Last Thing”: The Binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3)
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Third “Last Thing”:
The Binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3)*

David J. MacLeod

In the nineteenth century, Christian theologians began openly questioning the existence of Satan.1 Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), the father of modern liberalism, declared, “The idea of the devil as developed among us is so unstable that we cannot expect anyone to be convinced of its truth.”2 He preferred that Satan be seen as a metaphor for evil. In the midst of the titanic struggle of World War II, with evidences of demonic evil all about him, Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976), the most distinguished New Testament scholar of his time, made his celebrated plea that we should demythologize the New Testament. It is impossible, he argued, to live in the modern world of electricity, radio, and scientific medicine and still believe in the New Testament world of miracles, angels, and the devil.3 In the Encyclopedia of Philosophy there is but one reference to the devil in the entire eight volumes. Belief in the devil’s existence, Paul Edwards asserts, is rejected by agnostics, atheists, and most believers in

* This is article four in an eight-part series, “Expositional Studies of the Seven ‘Last Things’ in the Book of Revelation.”

David J. MacLeod is a member of the faculty of Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa, and is associate editor of The Emmaus Journal.

God. Edwards says, “Billy Graham is one of the few Protestant ministers who still believe in the devil.”4

The reasons for this modern attitude are many, three of which may be mentioned.5 First, there is the modern secular worldview that has no room for the supernatural. Second, there are the popular conceptions of the devil as half man and half beast, with horns, cloven hooves, tail, and trident, which have turned him into a figure of fun for many. Third, there is the devil’s own lie. As the French critic and poet Pierre Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) wrote, “The devil’s cleverest wile is to convince us that he does not exist.”6

The Bible states that Satan is from a high order of angelic beings and was created good (Ezek. 28:12, 15). He, Packer says, is the supreme illustration of good gone wrong.7 He heads an arm...

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