Bible Question:

Exodus 7:10-22 states that Moses and Aaron performed miracles.  Aaron's rod turned into a snake and the Nile River turned into blood.  The Bible says Pharaoh's magicians did the same with their enchantments.  I always thought that God could create and that Satan cannot create.  There are many Scriptures that speak of God as creator.  But does Scripture state that Satan can create life from a rod, and blood from water? Does Satan have the ability to create? What power does Satan have?

Bible Answer:

The Bible states that Satan is an angel who is a deceiver. He deceives the world about God and himself. His first act of deception was in the Garden of Eden when he lied about God and successfully deceived Eve about God’s holy character  (Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3).

What Power Does Satan Have?

Satan deceives people about himself. He wants people to be ignorant of his existence because then he can be more effective. Unsuspecting people are more vulnerable. Satan is not our friend. Satan or Lucifer is a proud, evil creature who seeks his own glory (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-16) and wants people to be ignorant of the schemes he uses against us and to be ignorant of his power.

Therefore, God has warned us in 2 Corinthians 2:11 to not be ignorant of Satan’s scheme.

. . . so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NASB)

But many Christians and most non-Christians are ignorant of Satan’s schemes or power. He is a powerful creature whose schemes are rooted in deception. Therefore, this article seeks to provide important information about Satan answering the question, what power does Satan have?

Satan’s Power — As Revealed In Exodus 7-8

The first major example of Satan’s great power is found in Exodus 7:10-12. In this historical event, Pharaoh’s magicians imitated a miracle performed by Aaron with his staff.

So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Exodus 7:10-12 (NASB)

Here we are told Aaron caused his staff to become a snake. It was not “Moses’ snake staff,” as some claim. Aaron’s staff became a snake. Also, when all of the staffs of pharaoh’s magicians became snakes, they were not “pharaoh’s serpents.” That is, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to make all their staffs become snakes, imitating what Aaron did with his staff.

Now how did Pharaoh’s magicians do this? The answer is revealed in the definition of the Hebrew word “magician,” which is hartom. The Hebrew word refers to “some variety of occultist.”[1] The word is also defined as “one possessed of occult knowledge, diviner, astrologer, magician.”[2] Since occultists are empowered by Satan, this means that Satan was the power behind the magicians who caused their staffs to become snakes. God caused Aaron’s staff to become a snake.

Another second example of Satan’s power is found in Exodus 7:20-23 when Aaron lifted up his staff and struck the Nile River and it became blood. The Egyptian magicians imitated the miracle also. That is, Satan imitated the miracle.

A third example occurs in Exodus 8:6-7 when Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt and frogs came out of the Nile River and covered the land of Egypt. Again, the Egyptian magicians imitated the miracle. That is, Satan imitated the miracle.

A  fourth example occurs in Exodus 8:16-19 and reveals that Satan does not have the same powers God possesses.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.’” They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Exodus 8:16-19 (NASB)

This passage reveals that Satan’s power is limited. Satan is able to imitate God’s power in only a limited sense. Exodus 7-8 reveals that Satan has great power, but he is not as powerful as God.

Satan’s Power — As Revealed In Job 1-2

Job 1 reveals that Satan has other significant powers. In Job 1:9-11, God and Satan had a discussion about Job. Satan wanted permission to afflict Job and in verse 12 God gave him permission. Satan could not touch Job and afflict him without first getting permission from God.

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12 (NASB)

Then Job 1:14-15 reveals that Satan had the power to motivate the Sabeans to attack and kill Job’s servants.

. . . a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Job 1:14-15 (NASB)

Job 1:16 indicates that Satan was able to cause fire to burn up Job’s sheep and servants.

“While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Job 1:16 (NASB)

Job 1:17 states that the Chaldeans raided Job’s camels and killed his servants. Job 1:18 says that Job’s daughters and sons were killed by a wind.

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Job 1:18-19 (NASB)

Later in Job 2:5, God gives Satan permission to afflict his body, but God tells Satan that he cannot kill Job. Then Job 2:7-8 states that Satan caused Job to have boils all over his body.

 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. Job 2:7-8 (NASB)

This is a powerful passage since it teaches us that Satan was able to influence a nation to attack and kill, cause fire to fall down from heaven and burn up and destroy, control the weather, and cause illness. But the passage also reveals that God limits Satan’s power. God had to remove  a protective “hedge” around Job before Satan could do anything to Job.  God would not allow Satan to kill Job. That is, Satan has power but his power is limited by God. We could say that Satan has no power or ability, except that which is permitted by God.

Satan’s Power — As Revealed in the Gospels

In the gospels Satan’s demons are able to make people to become extremely violent (Matthew 8:28) and to possess people and animals (Matthew 8:28-34). They can make people mute (Matthew 9:32-33), blind (Matthew 12:22), to not “be in their right mind” (Mark 5:15), cause bodily harm (Luke 4:35), and convulsions (Luke 9:42).

In short, Satan and his army of evil angels have the ability to cause great bodily illness and harm in different ways.

Satan’s Power —  As Revealed in 2 Thess 2:9

2 Thessalonians 2:9 is an important passage since it clearly states that Satan will empower the antichrist with signs and false wonders.

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 (NASB)

His power and wonders will be so convincing that non-Christians will believe in him and follow him. While we are not told what kind of signs and wonders he will display, it is clear from Exodus 7-8, Job 1-2 and the gospels that he will have extraordinary powers.

What Power Does Satan Have?

It is clear from Exodus 7-8 that Satan has great power. He can appear to cause wood to become snakes, turn water into wine, and bring forth frogs – but only when allowed to do so by God. But he cannot create gnats (Exodus 8:16-19). It is obvious that Satan does not have unlimited power. His powers are limited since he is not God.

Job 1-2 teaches us that Satan can cause nations to attack, kill people, make fire fall from heaven and destroy, control the weather, and make people sick. God allowed Satan to kill Job’s children but Satan was not allowed to kill Job. In the gospels Satan’s demons could possess people and animals and cause a wide variety of illnesses. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, we are told that God will give Satan great freedom to perform signs and false wonders.

Revelation 13:1-10 describes the antichrist during the future tribulation. Revelation 13:7 states that God will permit him to make war against the saints and defeat them.

 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. Revelation 13:7 (NASB)

But notice again that God controls what Satan can do with his power.

Conclusion

In summary, what power does Satan have? Satan has great power, but how he uses his power is controlled by God. Satan’s power is not greater than the power of God. It is foolish for Christians to think they can control him. There are three important points for Christians to remember.

The first is, some Christians think that they can control Satan by using the phrase, “In Jesus’ name” or “I bind you in Jesus’ name” and then command Satan. But in Jude 9 we are told that only false teachers think they can control Satan by rebuking him. Michael the archangel dared not to rebuke Satan, but instead called on God to rebuke him.

Second, every Christian must remember that the disciples complained in Mark 9:28-29 that they could not cast out a demon. Jesus told them that some demons can only be cast out by prayer.

When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:28-29  (NASB)

That is, the most powerful way to cast out a demon is by prayer.

Third, we must remember that God has given us the armor of God as our primary defense against Satan. In Ephesians 6:13-14 tells Christians that our defense is one of resisting Satan. He flees when we stand firm and resist him. We are not called to attack him.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore . . . Ephesians 6:13-14 (NASB)

Satan flees when we resist him and stand firm against him. For a two part study on the Armor of God, visit the study in the book of Ephesians and find the “Armor of God, part 1” and “Armor of God, part 2.” You can also search for the “Schemes of Satan, part 1” and “Schemes of Satan, part 2” on this website and discover Satan’s Schemes.

 

References:

1. Robert Alden, “738 חרט,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 323.
2. Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 355.

Suggested Links:

Where did Satan come from? – Creation and Fall of Satan
Is Satan an angel?
Did God know and plan for Satan to tempt Adam and Eve?
Is Satan a serpent, dragon, devil or a cherubim? — The Evil One
Was the key in Revelation 9:1-2 given to Satan?
Can Satan take the life of a Christian early?
Is Satan in control of this world?
an Satan put thoughts into our mind?
What does it mean that Satan desired to sift Peter as wheat?