2 Peter 2:4 (NKJV)
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
Scripture gives us even fewer illustrations of hell than of heaven. I take that as an indication that we aren’t to know as much about hell. Suffice it to know that it’s bad.
Consequently, popular illustrations of hell are all over the map. They’re entertaining, but not to be taken literally. No attempt at accuracy seems to be made. Their hell is not the hell of scripture.
From Dante and Chaucer to The Far Side and The Onion, brilliant and often hilarious illustrations of hell are used to teach or to mock some human foibles. CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is one of the treasures in this genre. Lewis prefaces it with two apt quotes.
“The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” — Luther
The devil … the prowde spirite … cannot endure to be mocked.” — Thomas More
The Screwtape Letters brilliantly skewers sinful behaviors. It’s mockery of the devil (or devils) is clearly tongue-in-cheek, lest anyone take it literally.
Hell is often depicted as being run by Satan and his minions. Nothing could be further from the truth. In hell Satan won’t be a torturer; he’ll be a torturee.
Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison. — Revelation 20:7
Conversely, popular depictions of Satan’s actions in this world are reasonably faithful to scripture—particularly with respect to the books of Genesis and Job. They err in depicting hell as his current base of operations, but otherwise they usually get it right (or at least right enough to be useful).
By “useful” I mean that their depiction of the forces of evil inspires fear and awe. While Satan and his minions are often mocked (and deserve to be) that mockery must not lead to the kind of disrespect that causes us to let down our guard. We often mock enemies who are still plenty dangerous.
Never forget that fallen angels have angelic powers. They are vastly smarter and more experienced than we are. They know many things that we don’t know. (For example, they knew instantly who Jesus is.)
It’s a grave mistake to depend on your own wits in a battle with supernatural evil. Prayer is essential.
A great part of fighting evil effectively is simply being aware of spiritual warfare. This gets back to the distraction theme in this series. As long as we’re conscious of spiritual warfare, we’re at least in the fight.
But if we’re distracted, and start focusing on worldly perspectives and priorities, we’re in trouble.
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