“Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit. Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste. Brought death into the world, and all our woe. With loss of Eden, till one greater Man, Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat, Sing Heav’nly Muse… – Paradise Lost, John Milton.
The classic book, Paradise Lost, written by John Milton, was published in 1667. Paradise Lost is an epic poem of 12 books based on the biblical story of Satan’s fall from Heaven and Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. The poem is the same story you find in the first pages of Genesis, expanded by Milton into a very long, detailed, narrative poem. Milton’s work should not be understood as biblical fact. But it does delve into the devil extensively.
There are times when I think we need to learn more about the devil and there are times when I think we need to unlearn things about the devil. That is because some of the things we have learned about Satan come from John Milton’s Paradise Lost or Dante’s Inferno, or some horror movie.
The snake’s presence in the Garden of Eden is the thing that had Adam and Eve begin to doubt themselves and God’s plans for their lives. We know this presence all too well. It’s that voice that whispers into our ear that says we’re not good enough, strong enough, attractive enough, smart enough, that we don’t add up. We need something more than what God can give us. It’s that nagging voice that comes to us to plant doubt into our heads, that seeks to erode our confidence and replace it with self-doubt. That thing in us that always seems to make us question who we are, that tries to strip us of our strength and our sense of self worth, that beats us up and kicks us when we’re down.
There is always a method to Satan’s madness. Satan shows up only at the very end of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. That’s when Jesus is at His weakest and most vulnerable from 40 days of fasting. No water. No food. If Jesus is going to crack, this is the moment—when He might give it all away for just a morsel of bread. If evil ever has a chance to enter our story, it’s when we’re at our worst, when we feel most exposed. The devil whispers to Jesus three times. First, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3) Second, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” (Matthew 4:6) And third, “Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9). We know that voice, the nagging voice that tries to cut our knees out from under us, its words shrink our self-worth. It’s a voice that tries its best to convince us that we don’t deserve better, that we’re all alone, that no one else understands.
Life is messy and complicated. There is no way to undo our mistakes. The good news is God knows all that. He was one of us. He has lived this life. He knows what it feels like to undergo these things, to be tested. He even knows what it’s like to die, and to die the most humiliating of deaths: death on a cross. But because of Jesus’ death on the cross, paradise was not lost for those who trust in Him.
- Why do you think the devil opposes God’s work in our lives? In what ways have you noticed the devil’s opposition to God’s work in your life?
- Read John 10:10. What are the descriptive terms Jesus uses to describe the devil? What can the devil steal, kill, and destroy in your life?
- Read John 8:44. How would you define “the father of lies”? What does that phrase mean to you? How can we accurately identify common lies of the devil in our lives?
- Read 2 Corinthians 10:5. Based upon this Scripture, how should we “fight back” against the lies of the devil?