Conflicts often have roots that go deep into history. If you read the headlines about wars, battles, and conflicts taking place on any given day, you’ll find that those events rarely materialize out of nothing. Sometimes the origins of conflicts go back centuries or even longer.
So it was with Jesus and Satan. When Jesus met and defeated the great Accuser in the wilderness, it was a culminating moment in a millennia-long conflict, one involving all of humanity. Actually, it was the beginning of the end of that conflict. For centuries Satan had been opposing God and his plans in the world, but now he came face to face with the One who would defeat him—and decisively. It’s not that Satan was unaware of who Jesus was; two of the temptations specifically pressed on his identity as the Son of God. Yet even knowing that, Satan still somehow believed he could get Jesus to sin. And why not? Every other human being in history had fallen to his temptations. Why not this one, too? Perhaps God had made a mistake by becoming human like this, by taking human flesh, human weakness, human limitations. Maybe God had finally become…breakable.
By the end of that first encounter with Jesus, though, Satan must have realized that was an empty hope. In fact, seeing that his best tactics had failed him, you have to wonder if he went away knowing the end was coming soon. You have to wonder if he remembered the voice of God promising him, so many millennia ago, “When the King comes, yes, you will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head.”
It must have made him long for the days when the war against God seemed to be going better.
He Wanted to Dethrone God
The Bible doesn’t spend much time talking about Satan. Its focus is on God, his relationship with human beings, their rebellion and sin against him, and his plan to rescue and forgive them. But Satan is there all the same, the Tempter and Accuser of humanity, the greatest Enemy of God and his plans. We aren’t told much about his origins, but the Bible contains hints here and there of where he came from. Above all, it’s clear that Satan is in no way a sort of anti-God, equal in power but just opposite in character from God himself. In other words, he’s never presented as the yang to God’s yin.
Actually the prophets of the Old Testament indicate that originally Satan was an angel created by God to serve him just like all other angels. Here’s how Ezekiel describes him:
You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.