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When did Satan fall? (Luke 10:18) — Mondays with Mounce 228

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My friend is wondering when Satan’s powers were limited. Creation? The cross? The Millennium?

What prompted the discussion was that a friend of his thinks that Satan is not limited at all right now, and therefore all limiting has to be only during the Millennium.

First of all, I think that attitude is naive and dangerous. Of course Satan is limited now. We see bits and pieces of what it would be like if Satan had full sway. We call it the Holocaust. Or we call is Rwanda; 3 million human beings slaughtered at the hands of their neighbors. If you think that in America this is as bad as Satan can get, you need to wake up and learn some history.

I am not sure of the extent of Paul’s promise, that “now you know what is holding him in check, so that he may be revealed at his proper time” (2 Thess 2:6), but there are certainly limits being placed on Satan right now. Whether the scenario in Job is normative or not I do not know.

The key verse in all this is Luke 10:18. The 72 disciples have returned from their ministry and are telling Jesus of their victory; “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus responds that as they were preaching the gospel and exorcizing demons, he was watching Satan fall.

The ESV and its dislike of the imperfect misses the verse. “I saw (ἐθεώρουν) Satan fall (πεσόντα) like lightning from heaven.” ἐθεώρουν  is imperfect. The HCSB (and NRSV) turns to vocabulary to try and carry the sense of the imperfect. “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash.” The NASB, which is much more attentive to the imperfect, gets it right. “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (see also Isa 14:4–11 and Revelation 12:9).

As the apostles, and all who come after, proclaim the word of God in the power of the Spirit, they force Satan to retreat, at least to some extent. He does not go away, and he will return for at least one more terrible assault on the church, but his powers are limited when God’s children do what their father calls them to do.


Mouncew

William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at Teknia.com and visit his blog on spiritual growth at BiblicalTraining.org/blog/life-journey.

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