We are not told precisely how or why Satan does certain things, but when we analyze the pertinent texts and take into account all of the data, we see what he does and what he is capable of. The Christian, then, is broken over the plight of the unregenerate, properly sobered, and bolstered that Jesus so decisively routed Satan at Calvary.
Is Satan capable of inception? Does he whisper temptations in our ear? Is Satan’s authority, power, and relationship to unbelievers the same or different from Christians? These are all valid and, frankly, somewhat haunting questions. I am not left emotionally unmoved by the many destroyed marriages and ministries around me Satan has devoured. I trust your experience is comparable. It is vital that you and I rightly discern and evaluate Satan. He is not to be trifled with nor buffooned, but in Christ, his back was utterly broken on Calvary’s hill. Therefore, it is important we establish a few implications that help us to discern the person and activity of Satan:
1.) Satan is not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, nor eternal.
There was a time when Satan was not. In contrast, there was never a ‘time’ when the Son of God was not (i.e., The Son is eternal). Satan is created and contingent just as humans are (Col 1:16-17). In Job 1:6, the Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” to which he responded, “From roaming through the earth.” He is physically positioned in the universe. He is not omnipresent and thus is unlikely to be personally tempting individual Christians. In Matthew 4 and Job 1-2, he fails to know the future and his potency is shown to be limited by God.
2.) Satan exercises his otherworldly dominion by way of a hierarchical, geographical, and militaristic strategy.
In Matthew 4, Satan legitimately offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world. These kingdoms seem to have a geographical and governmental nature. This offer is textually grounded in Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 82. But through the cross, Jesus took back the authority forfeited in Adam (Col 2:14-15). Therefore, in Matthew 28:18, Jesus states that all authority has been given to Him. In John 12:31 we’re told Satan is the “ruler of this world,” which rings of realm and region. Then, there is that peculiar reference to the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” in Daniel 10:13, 20. This dark prince opposes the angel Gabriel and the angelic prince Michael. It’s hierarchical. Experientially, this rings true. The nature of spiritual warfare varies depending on the continent and culture (North America, Asia, Africa, etc.). Satan leads a hierarchy of demons (Mt 12:24), a divergent and highly capable army, which implies he is leading an otherworldly ‘outfit’ that personally tempts persons (Col 2:15, 1 Pt 5:8-9) depending on the sinful sensibilities of a given culture.
3.) Satan can manipulate matter, weather systems, and bacterial life.
We see in Job 1 that Satan is able to manipulate matter and weather patterns and, in Job 2:8, he infects Job with a skin disease. His purpose is to afflict Job, and for our machinations, we note he is capable of feats not afforded to humans.