Part 3 was about Satan in Zechariah and Isaiah.
VI. Satan in the Life of Jesus (New Testament)
Satan is there in the Old Testament, but the New Testament is where we see more of Satan’s activity and agenda than ever before. It is also the place where we see the gospel in clearly defined terms (John 3:16), and we hear more of heaven and hell and less of “Sheol” (the grave) because the gospel tells of the spiritual implications and a world beyond this natural one where the grave serves as the symbol of death.
We’ll take a look at the life of Jesus, and examine Satan’s actions and plot from Jesus’ birth through His Crucifixion and death.
The New Testament will afford us the opportunity to examine just how Jesus and the Kingdom of God advance against Satan and his devices.
Satan was found to be a fallen angel who waged war in heaven and lost in the OT, eventually being expelled from heaven. He was also an accuser of individuals and influenced even a man of God such as David to sin against the Lord. In the New Testament, Satan wages war with Jesus as well as His followers, though the Kingdom of God marches on.
Jesus’ birth and Satan
Remember the discussion of the Male Child in Revelation 12 and how “the dragon,” Satan, waited for the child to be delivered so he could devour the child? We start to see the vision of Revelation 12 played out here in Matthew 2. I don’t see the Male Child event in Revelation as future, but as past, along with the rebellion and expulsion from heaven of Satan and the one-third of the angelic host that followed him. Matthew 2 is the Male Child event as it happened in biblical history.
Matthew chapter 2 is about the birth of Jesus, the discovery and worship of the Magi, and the political plot by Herod to kill the Child by using the innocent Magi to go find Jesus and tell him where Jesus was. We know from the passage that the Lord tells Joseph to take Mary and Joseph and flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). Joseph and family remained there until the death of Herod (vv. 19-21).
The dragon is representative of Satan in Revelation 12, who wanted to devour the child. The dragon’s role there could also have something to do with the crucifixion of Jesus, since the Child of Revelation 12 is caught up to God and His Throne before the dragon can devour it. We realize that Satan’s plan was to stop Jesus from coming to earth because “the last Adam” would reverse the effects of sin in the Garden back in Genesis 3. Satan, by way of the serpent, set the Fall of mankind into motion; the last thing Satan would want is to have Jesus be born and live to go to the Cross.
Still, the Lord is with Jesus, so much so that Herod doesn’t get to lay a finger on the baby Jesus. Herod, representative of Satan in Matthew 2, dies, and Jesus and family are safe and can return to familiar territory to live out their lives.
Judas Iscariot, Satan Possession, and Apostasy
When examining the history of Satan, one cannot forget how Satan used Judas Iscariot to hand Jesus over for crucifixion. Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve Jesus chose to be His disciple that is known for betraying Jesus and handing Him over for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16), but he was also one who rather enjoyed money. We know that Judas was the son of Simon Iscariot, though we know very little about Judas’s father (John 6:71). According to today’s money units, Judas betrayed Jesus for somewhere between $185-$216 USD. If Judas didn’t look desperate enough before, this current-day amount for which he sold his Lord and Master seals the deal.
During his travels with Jesus and the eleven, it is said that Judas held the purse strings for the group. There seems to be Scriptural support for this claim:
3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, *said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. (John 12:3-6)
So, Judas was a thief who carried the money box for the disciples (a bad temptation for one who loved and lusted after money) and often took money from it for his own desires. John says it best: Judas Iscariot was a thief, someone who had little conscience when it came to stealing money. Judas sounds like someone that would steal $100 from his own mother if she ever turned her back. When it came to the alabaster box, Judas was upset that the perfume wasn’t sold and the money placed in his money box so that he could have it for himself. And yet, he’s here sounding as though he really cared about the poor. The only poor he cared about was himself.
We quickly discover this when Judas takes the initiative to go to the chief priests to strike a deal with them so that he could hand Jesus over to them:
14 Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. 16 From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus. (Matthew 26:14-16)
Judas asked them what they would give him for handing over Jesus. In other words, he decided to betray Jesus because of what he’d get out of it. He wasn’t thinking about what the chief priests would do with Jesus, or why they’d want Jesus handed over in the first place (he had seen them react to Jesus in public to know they wanted Jesus dead), just how much he’d get if he were the “mole” that would hand the Lord over to them. As we see here, he was motivated by money. And he was motivated by it because he loved money.
Judas’s love of money can be seen in not only his plans to betray Jesus for it, but also in his complaint against Mary of Bethany, when he criticizes her using the perfume she bought on Jesus. He was upset with the decision because he wanted that $300 worth of money for himself.
We see Judas follow through with his plans because he is there with Jesus for the Last Supper when he dips his hand in the bowl with Christ:
20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself.” (Matthew 26:20-25)
Judas proves to be the one betraying Jesus here, but his question pretends as though he didn’t know what he was doing. As can be seen from verses 14-16 of Matthew 26 above, Judas wasn’t thrown into the plot without deliberation and intentionality. He knew exactly what he was doing when he looked for a time to hand Jesus over. Going to the chief priests was a deliberate action, dipping his hand in the bowl with Jesus was deliberate, asking whether or not he was the one (faking innocence) was deliberate, and finding the right time to kiss Jesus and betray Him was deliberate, too.
Mark 14:10-11 shows that the chief priests were happy when Judas deliberately came to them, even promised him money for the deed:
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11 They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time. (Mark 14:10-11)
After getting money, Judas started “seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time” (Mark 14:11). As said above, Judas’s decision to betray Jesus was deliberate, nothing haphazard or unexpected.
Judas made his decision to betray (or hand over) Jesus, but Jesus, being God, was fully aware of Judas and his betrayal. In John 6:70-71, when He’s teaching the people following Him about faith and belief, Jesus calls Judas Iscariot “a devil”:
67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:67-71)
Jesus referred to Judas Iscariot as a “devil,” which makes sense in light of the fact that Judas gains Satan possession and allows Satan to enter him before carrying out the betrayal of Jesus. Judas is at the Last Supper with Jesus and the disciples when Satan enters him:
2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,” (John 13:2-3)
In John 13, we see that the devil “put into the heart of Judas Iscariot…to betray Him,” the “Him” being Jesus. So, in studying the history of Satan, we see that as Satan moved David to number the Israelite army and oppose the law of God, and in the same way that Satan, disguised as the serpent, tricked Eve and tempted Adam to sin and throw humanity into sin and sin’s curse (death), Satan was here behind the scenes, playing a starring role in the Lord’s upcoming betrayal and crucifixion. There is language regarding Satan and Judas in the Gospels that is even stronger than Satan putting the betrayal of Jesus in Judas’s heart:
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2 The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.
3 And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. 4 And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. 5 They were glad and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd. (Luke 22:1-6)
Luke 22:3 says that Satan “entered into” Judas, the Greek word being used there is eiselthen, from the parent combo word eiserxomai, meaning to come (erxomai) into (eis). With Satan entering Judas, we get the impression that Judas has surrendered his life to Satan at this point. After all, in the same way that someone must ask Jesus to come into his or her heart, Satan cannot forcibly possess someone unless that individual agrees to it. Luke has Judas being Satan-possessed (as opposed to demon-possessed) before he visits the chief priests to conspire on how to hand Jesus over.
Luke 22 says that Satan entered into Judas as he conspired to betray Jesus, but John 13 says that Satan entered into Judas while he dipped his morsel in the bowl with Jesus:
21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter *gestured to him, and *said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, *said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then *answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He *took and *gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus *said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor.30 So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night. (John 13:21-30)
According to John’s Gospel, Satan enters into Judas after he dips his bread in the bowl with Jesus. Then, he goes out to do what he’s agreed to do because the Lord prompts him to take care of it quickly. At some point between the time he agrees to hand over Jesus and the time he eats with Jesus, Judas has given Satan entry into his heart and mind and has abandoned whatever doctrine the Lord has taught, preached, and so on. Judas has come a long way in his love of money: since he’s placed no barriers on his love of money, his love of money spirals out of control until he’s now ready to sell Jesus for money. Satan has now taken over Judas, which means that, unfortunately, Judas has reached a point of no return.
It is my belief that being “Satan-possessed” is different from being demon-possessed. Demon possession is done to bring infirmity, sickness, and disease to humans, and can result in them doing things to harm themselves that, apart from demons, they wouldn’t do. Judas, however, wasn’t demon-possessed; he wasn’t in a situation similar to Mary Magdalene. He wasn’t beside himself, or lacked cognizance about his decisions.
No, Judas was well aware of his love of money, his thievery, his twisted priorities that made him put 30 pieces of silver above his Lord. He was well aware of his decision to betray his Lord. To be honest, he had been betraying Him every time he took money out of the money box from his fellow disciples and kept it for himself. So, if Judas could betray his Lord and disciples every day with the money box, what would it have bothered him to hand Jesus over for silver money? After all, money was his target. It was the one thing he loved most in this world.
When it comes to Jesus, there’s a song that says “I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold,” but Judas would’ve changed the lyrics: in his heart and mind, he’d rather have silver and gold than Jesus. Judas decided when he went to the chief priests that Jesus was less of a priority than more money. His greed drove him to give up his Lord for silver money that could not save him, could not talk to him, could not befriend him, and did not care about him.
It is at this point where Satan enters Judas that this Satan possession deserves large commentary. Keep in mind that Judas has been stealing from the money box every day, cheating Jesus and his fellow disciples, but Satan didn’t enter Judas until he consented with the chief priests to betray Jesus. This is significant because, when Judas hands over Jesus, he’s already decided that Jesus didn’t matter anymore. This was Judas’s very own way of apostatizing from the truth, an early concept of apostasy.
After all, this is what apostasy looks like today: when someone abandons Christ and turns his or her back on the Lord for the world, they go back because of the love of riches, money, lifestyle, people, reputation, and so on. It doesn’t matter what Jesus is abandoned for; all that matters is that the apostate, the person that walks away from Christ permanently after having come to the knowledge of Him and having a relationship with Him, does so because possessions matter more than the God who gives them and eternal life.
Paul used some phrases to describe these apostates. All of the phrases involve something to the fashion of “they have turned aside to Satan”:
14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; 15 for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. (1 Timothy 5:14-15)
These young widows in 1 Timothy 5 are those who are too free because their husbands have died, and instead of marrying and keeping house, they choose to gossip and get in all sorts of trouble. Paul encourages them to marry again (only in the Lord, though, see 1 Corinthians 7:39) so that they won’t stumble into trouble because of idleness. Those who have turned aside to follow Satan are those who have given themselves over to the way of Satan. This is why Paul wants these young widows to keep house and marry again: because their faith, their soul, is at stake as long as they remain free, single, and idle.
Paul mentions Hymenaeus and Alexander as two men who have blasphemed. His response to them? “…I have handed them over to Satan” (1 Timothy 1:20). He tells Timothy to “keep[ing] faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19). The word shipwreck here holds the same meaning as experiencing shipwreck in real life: to shipwreck means to wreck the ship, to crash, to destroy the ship when in an accident. Those who have “made shipwreck” of their faith have seen their faith collapse and have trashed it. In other words, Paul was telling Timothy to “keep faith” because those who have made shipwreck of their faith have done the opposite: they have “lost faith.”
9 Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:9-10)
Demas forsook Paul “having loved this present world.” The phrase “has deserted me” also means to abandon, so Demas abandoned the ministry because he loved the world and things of the world. He abandoned Paul, meaning that he was once with Paul and was active in his ministry. His new state differs from his former one.
What is being discussed here is apostasy. Apostasy means to “go away from,” “to desert,” “to abandon,” etc. In fact, the word for apostasy in the New Testament is the same word for “divorce,” and is used in the context of ending a marriage, putting away a wife or a spouse or a certificate of divorce. In Matthew 19:7, when Jesus tells of Moses issuing a certificate of divorce, the word for divorce there is “apostasiou,” which is apostasy. So apostasy concerns the doctrine of spiritual divorce, or, to match the title of C.S. Lewis’s book, The Great Divorce. The Great Divorce is apostasy, when a person turns from the Lord and goes back into the world. Apostasy is a reversal of the salvation process, and it’s designed to undo sanctification in the life of the believer. When the believer apostatizes, he or she stops bearing fruit in his or her Christian witness and gives into sin until he or she finally decides to break with their union with Christ (which comes by faith; this means that they decide to break with their union with Christ and faith as well) and follow after the lies of Satan. Man was made to worship, and when he or she decides to depart from Christ, mankind will turn to Satan decisively.
Judas gave himself over to Satan, and when he did, he decided to betray Jesus. Apostates, those who abandon the Christian faith they once knew, “betray Jesus” in that they sacrifice Christ for possessions, stuff, the things of the world.
The New Testament has much to say about these individuals, and Judas isn’t the only one to abandon the faith and betray Christ. Paul wrote half of the New Testament, and he taught believers much about the doctrine and those who go that route. At this point, we will take Judas’s path and examine a good Doctrine of Apostasy in part 5.
An Introduction to the History of Satan
1. Satan as Dragon and Angel
2. Satan as Serpent and Tempter
3. Satan in Zechariah and Isaiah
4. Satan and Judas
5. Judas and the Doctrine of Apostasy
6. Judas and Suicide
7. Theology of Life and Death
8. Satan, Jesus, and Temptation
9. Peter and Judas, A Comparison
10. Satan in Jesus’ Ministry