Must Satan Ask God’s Permission To Do Evil?

[This article was taken from our book Don’t Blame God! A Biblical Answer to the Problem of Evil, Sin, and Suffering.]

A very well known biblical record that needs to be considered at this point is the book of Job. In Chapters One and Two, “Satan” is referred to as one of the angels who presented himself before the Lord. In light of the New Testament, we today realize that “Satan” is one of the names Scripture gives to the Devil, but the Hebrew word for “Satan” (as in the book of Job) simply means “accuser.” Those in the Old Testament thought that “Satan” was only an accusing spirit. They had no concept of him as the mighty spiritual enemy he is.

Misunderstanding, as literal rather than figurative, the “conversations” between God and Satan in the book of Job has caused many people no end of confusion, because it certainly sounds as if the Devil must ask permission from God to do evil, and furthermore, that God sometimes grants him such permission. The New Testament, however, reveals Satan as the “god of this age,” who does not ask God’s permission before doing evil. If he did, the so-called “war” raging between the forces of good and evil would be a sham.

This is why the dialogue between God and Satan must be an allegory, set forth in Scripture as it is because of the limited understanding of the Old Testament believers. [1] The way most people have interpreted the book of Job leaves God looking like a bored puppeteer who gets his kicks by tormenting one of his puppets and killing a lot of innocent bystanders just to win a bet with the Devil. [2] By the way, if the Devil did have to get God’s permission in order to do evil, evil would be easy to stop. God could “Just say No!”

The allegory in the opening two chapters of the book of Job serves to illustrate Job’s unconditional love for God. The book of Job was written to show that Job did not love God only because of what God had done for him. Rather, Job loved God because He is God, and thus is worthy of love no matter what the circumstances were in Job’s life.

The fact that Job did not understand the truth revealed in the New Testament about “Satan” is why he would say, regarding the loss of his wealth and the death of his sons and daughters, “…the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). It is also why the next verse says that “In all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Not knowing about the Devil’s kingdom and devices, Job could only attribute all his hardship to God.

The Devil has a vested interest in keeping everyone as ignorant about his modus operandi as he possibly can. One way he does this is by afflicting both good people and bad people in such a manner that it is impossible to determine whether a person is good or evil simply by what is happening in his life. It is very important to understand this point, if we as Christians are going to be true sources of help and blessings to others who are in need. Suffering, in and of itself, is not a valid barometer of one’s sinfulness nor his godliness, nor is it an indicator of God’s judgment on one’s life (Luke 13:1-5). Often Satan will arrange the circumstances so that a person doing evil suffers no apparent consequences (Ps. 37:7; Job 21). In other cases, he sees to it that one doing the right thing suffers for it (2 Cor. 11:23-28).

Endnotes

[1] An allegory can be difficult to spot in Scripture. Galatians 4:24 states that Abraham’s two sons “are an allegory” (KJV). Thus what seems to be literal and on the surface in the Old Testament, God reveals in the New Testament as something that actually involves a deeper truth. So it is with Job. God could not reveal the true nature and power of the Devil, but He could reveal some things about him. We refer you to Bullinger’s Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (pages 748-750) for an excellent explanation of an allegory.
[2] Yancey, Disappointment With God, pages 187, 188.

Was this article a blessing to you? Comment below to let us know what you liked about it and what topics you'd be interested to see going forward! Also, please consider donating – even $1 helps! – to support the creation of more content like this in the future!

1 comment

  1. food for thought , even tho Jesus said I Saw Satan thrown from Heaven like lightning ? what did Jesus see ?? Jesus calls Satan the god of this world , also the Father of Lies .
    It may be nice to believe their is No Satan / Devil however, I believe in GOOD / GOD and EVIL / Devil . I can still see YOUR Point and don’t rule it out yet .

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.