What Scripture Has To Say Concerning Rebuking and Conversing With Satan
Rev. Kenneth D. Willis
“Think about what you are thinking about. As you recognize a lie to your mind, always defend yourself out loud. That means speaking to Satan and the evil forces out loud, binding them in the Name of Jesus, and forbidding them to lie to you and to use your mind.”
We could look at dozens of examples from prosperity gospel preachers and those from the Word of Faith and Charismatic movements, and some even within Fundamentalism–all of which instruct us to verbally rebuke Satan and to even bind him. People listening to these messages from such people will feel empowered, emboldened and even led to do so in Jesus’ name. To be honest, it is a topic that not many in the Fundamentalist world address, due to the particular controversies attached to the topic and I believe due to a general hesitancy towards addressing the demonic subject matter it entails.
Those who preach and teach rebuking and binding the devil do so for several reasons: First, it sounds like a great sermon for victorious Christian living. Who does not want Satan to be rebuked and bound? I do, and I would be hard pressed to find any true believer in Christ who would not love to see Satan bound and rebuked. Second, the message sells. There are far more controversial topics for people to speak on; topics that would pick up a great deal of heat and rejection. Binding Satan is a topic that anyone can speak on with a one hundred percent approval rating.
Third, they use several Scriptures to defend the practice of verbally rebuking and binding Satan.
This article will deal with each “proof text” often used for rebuking and binding Satan, address the systematic theological problems that follow such teaching and also provide clear Scriptural teaching on how to deal with Satan.
First, we will examine the proof texts that are used to justify rebuking and binding Satan. The classic text from which folks draw this idea is found in Matthew 16 just after Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah. Christ then gives a great proclamation to Peter:
Matthew 16:18-19 – “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
As Fundamentalists, we are most familiar with misapplication of this passage by the Roman Catholic Church as proof for Papal authority (which we categorically reject as heretical), but here we can see another great misapplication of truth when someone says this passage gives them authority to bind Satan. The first problem here is that Jesus is speaking to the Apostle Peter. He is not speaking to us. The second problem is that the binding and loosing here is a Jewish teaching concerning teaching authority. Jesus is telling Peter He is giving him apostolic authority (and as Paul will later explain, when the Scriptures were completed, the need for apostolic authority and gifts ceased.) Jesus was not giving Peter a literal ability to bind and release people or things to heaven or hell–as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. So to argue for binding of Satan from this passage is both poor hermeneutics and heretical.
Another passage used is found in Matthew 18 where Jesus is addressing church discipline and unrepentant brethren. Because this verse contains the words “bind, bound, loose and loosed”, many jump on it as proof for binding Satan.
Matthew 18:17-19 – “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”
The first problem with this passage being a proof text for binding the devil is that it is not talking about binding Satan, but church discipline and reconciliation between brethren. Therefore, applying it to binding Satan is poor hermeneutics at best. The second issue is that the binding and loosing here does not in any way have to do with binding or loosing Satan. The words used here are referring to the fact that once someone is forgiven and restored in human terms, they are loosed and God looses them in His eyes as well. This whole passage has absolutely nothing to do with binding Satan.
Another passage used in the one in Mark 3 where the scribes accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. They were essentially saying, “because you work for Satan, you have the power to command demons”. Jesus refutes their absurd claim by showing it to be impossible and non doctrinal. However, the word “bind” appears here and many again jump on this passage as proof to bind Satan.
Mark 3:22-28 – “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:”
Jesus demonstrated in this passage that He has power over the demons because He has power over their master, Satan. Jesus has the power to bind Satan. Nowhere in this passage does it say we have that power or are to exercise that power.
We can however find an example of someone trying to bind a demon outside of the authority and direction of Christ. They thought they could simply bring up Christ’s authority and command demons. They found out however, that demons know when someone has the power of Christ or not.
Acts 19:13-16 – “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
These sons of Sceva, thought they were endowed with the same Apostolic power of Paul and could simply put Jesus’ name in their rebuke and experience divine results. The message here is manifold, but one takeaway is that simply adding Jesus’ name to a Satanic rebuke does not mean anything.
So how do we as New Testament, post-apostolic believers deal with Satan and demonic forces? Well, we need to consider a few facts based on the clear teaching of Scripture. First, Satan will one day be bound, but is not right now. Even a child can figure out today that Satan is far from bound. If people are truly binding him, someone is letting him out–frequently. If someone could truly bind Satan, we would live in a very different world. No one has ever bound Satan outside of Jesus Christ and His command. Scripture does clearly teach though that one day Satan will be physically and eventually permanently bound–and it will not be by some would be apostle.
Revelation 20:1-3 – “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”
Revelation 20:10 – “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Second, Satan is powerful and we are no match for him outside of God’s divine protection. The idea that we can go head to head with Satan is a fool’s errand. Jesus told Peter, the apostle, that if it were not for His intervention, Satan would destroy Peter.
Luke 22:31-32 – “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
If the apostle Peter was no match for Satan, how can we be so stupid as to think we can head off into battle to challenge him in single combat? People who think they can try this are headed for disaster. As if Peter is not enough of an example, consider the following two passages:
Jude 1:9 – “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
Zechariah 3:1-2 – “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
Jude 1:9 is one of only two places in Scripture where the word “rebuke” is used in relation to Satan. The archangel Michael, the most powerful angel in Heaven, did not dare to rebuke Satan. He chose to let the LORD do the rebuking. This is profound and we should take heed to Michael’s example. Let God do the rebuking. We can ask the LORD to rebuke Satan, but nowhere in Scripture do we find permission to engage Satan and converse with him.
Zechariah 3:1-2 is the only other passage in Scripture involving Satan being rebuked. The amazing fact in this passage is that the one doing the rebuking is the LORD, YHVH. It is fascinating to me that when Yahweh Himself rebuked Satan, He said, “the LORD rebuke thee”. Even if we quote the words of God Himself, we still end up not rebuking Satan ourselves and laying the rebuke in the hands of God!
Third, we are commanded to resist Satan and not to give him opportunities to harm us. James 4:7 and Ephesians 4:27 both teach us that we can and should resist Satan’s attempts to wreak havoc in our spiritual and physical lives.
James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Ephesians 4:27 – “Neither give place to the devil.”
Surprising to some is the fact that neither of these verses say anything about engaging with or rebuking Satan. James 4:7 teaches us to submit to God and resist Satan. This instruction teaches a quiet submission to God and quiet rejection of Satan. Nowhere does this verse even remotely imply conversing or directly engaging Satan. Like James 4:7, Ephesians 4:27 teaches us nothing of rebuking Satan, but only that we should not let him have advantage over us. Submitting to God and resisting Satan included putting Scripture up as our defense. Jesus did that on the three occasions Satan tempted Him and we are to follow His example.
Finally, we must remember that it is God who keeps us from falling to Satan’s attacks and He has given us everything we need in Scripture and prayer to stand against Satanic attack.
II Thessalonians 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.”
I Peter 5:8-10 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
Ephesians 6:10-18 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”
In conclusion, while we are to resist Satan and cling to the resources and One who will shield is from being wounded by Satanic darts, we do not find any Scriptural basis for challenging Satan one on one and trying to rebuke, much less bind him. He will be bound and vanquished, but not by any mere mortal. Even the archangel knows that only God can do this. Resist Satan by being submitted to God, by prayer, by the Word and the heavenly armor given to us by the Almighty Creator—who alone can vanquish the enemy of our souls.