We have seen that the world was predicted to be a dangerous place at the time of the end. Man's actions have brought us to the brink of extinction. But why do we think and act in such self-destructive ways? Is another factor—one that few recognize—at work influencing human behavior?
What is the major source of the widespread spiritual blindness that prevents people from understanding God's truth?
"But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
There is a reason that few people understand and accept God's truth: Satan the devil. This powerful, unseen spirit being is a master of lies and deception. As the mastermind behind the religious deception that envelops the world, he has blinded humanity to God's truth. All of us have fallen prey to his lies to some extent.
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How extensive is Satan's influence in the world?
"So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
"We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).
These verses reveal that Satan dominates the world. His influence is so pervasive that he is even called "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4). Apart from God, humans are under his power and domination (Acts 26:18). This is not God's world, but the devil's.
Does Satan play a major role in human sin and suffering?
"[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
Satan has actively influenced people from the time of our first parents, Adam and Eve. He successfully turned them away from God (Genesis 3:1-24). Ever since, humanity as a whole has chosen to live apart from God.
What is the natural result of this spiritual blindness and lack of the knowledge of God?
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . ." (Hosea 4:6).
Apart from God, and blinded to His knowledge, can man make right decisions?
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25).
"O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).
What is the result of humanity's departure from God's saving knowledge and choosing its own way?
"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity . . ." (Isaiah 59:1-4).
"The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace. Therefore justice is far from us, nor does righteousness overtake us; we look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness!" (Isaiah 59:8-9).
From mankind's beginning, people have willingly embraced satanic ways—and they have suffered the consequences. Satan has brought about untold sin and suffering. To understand the reason for so much anguish and sorrow in the world, we need look no further than Satan, our own actions and decisions and the results of our sins. This violent, bloodstained world—a planet edging ever closer to disaster—is the result of people collectively rejecting God's guidance and choosing to follow "the god of this age."
Will Satan be particularly active just before Christ's return?
". . . Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath . . ." (Revelation 12:12).
Why is he particularly angry at this time?
". . . The devil [has] . . . great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (same verse).
Knowing that his time is short, and that Jesus Christ will soon replace him as ruler of earth, Satan will vent his fury against the world's inhabitants. His rage will bring even more suffering and sorrow.
Will the devil direct his anger to a particular group of people?
"Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child . . . And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:13-17).
Just as Satan hated Jesus Christ and orchestrated events to bring about His execution (Luke 22:2-6; John 13:27), he also hates those in the Church Jesus founded. He is the driving force behind persecution of those who are faithful to Jesus Christ and keep God's commandments.
Does Jesus Christ confirm that His followers would be persecuted?
"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake . . . You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake" (Luke 21:12-17).
Jesus prophesied that, as events come to a climax before His return, some will lash out at those who are faithful to God. Some will be imprisoned, some killed. In a world increasingly hostile to God and His laws, those who believe in and try to live God's way will be hated. As Paul warns us, "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).