“Fear not those things you are about to suffer. Behold, Satan, the accuser, is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you may be tried, and you will have tribulation ten days.”
The “fear not” that commences the fourth oracle is at once ominous and yet reassuring. It is ominous for two chilling reasons. The first is because it predicts a significant escalation of the “tribulation” that the Smyrnaeans have been called upon to endure. The second reason, which ties the third and fourth oracle together, reveals for the first time the true source of all such persecution.
Suddenly, and without warning, the prophet has introduced us to the second most important symbol in the Apocalypse – Satan – the archetypal symbol of evil. This powerful personage, who was known as Saw-tan’ to the Hebrews and Satanas to the Greeks, has been called “the accuser” since the beginning of recorded history. In the oldest book in the Scriptures, perhaps in the world, we find Satan accusing Job before the throne of the Almighty, and in the presence of the entire heavenly hierarchy. This personification of evil, as any reader of John Milton knows, is the fallen archangel who, in the not too distant past, led the unholy angels in a Star-wars like assault upon the Gates of Heaven in order to gain control of the universe. Although Satan failed in this attempt he is still the undisputed leader of the revolutionary forces of evil. As such he presently has control over much of the cosmic system.
Drawn into the story of human history from its first page to its last, Satan is always presented as a most vital factor in the on-goings of men, of angels, and, let this be emphasized, of the universe itself. It can only be regarded as significant that his career is detailed so thoroughly in the Scriptures. No other creature is accorded such prominent treatment. Although Satan is presented in the Scriptures under forty different appellations besides that of the accuser, he is best known, and his character most clearly set forth, in a single title.
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” [John 8:44]
From the time he deceived Eve with the statement “Ye shall not surely die” until his final deception of the nations after the millennial reign of Christ upon the earth, this powerful personage is set forth as the arch-deceiver of humanity. John, in his First Epistle, tells us that the whole world “lieth in the wicked one.” Let the reader be assured that this is not merely dogmatic hyperbole. Throughout the Scriptures Satan is presented as a mighty and malignant being who presently controls the political and economic systems of our planet.
“And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this authority will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it.” [Luke 4:6f]
This astonishing claim, which was delivered during the temptation of Jesus, was never denied by the Son of Man.
Satan’s power and influence, it should be noted, stretches far beyond the confines of our planet. Paul, after urging the Ephesian Christians to prepare for the war against Satan, describes the extent of his power.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies.” [Ephesians 5:12]
In other words, the ultimate conflict that will soon engulf the world will be cosmic in nature – for Satan has also deceived and led astray a multitude of the inhabitants of space.
It should be observed, in this connection, that the usual portrayal of Satan with his red suit, horns, hoofs and tail, is merely another of this creatures clever deceptions – a deception which we have no need to fear. When he appears as an “angel of light”, however, it is time for the intelligent Christian to beware. It is my opinion that this is exactly how he will deceive the world and install the Antichrist in the dark days that are ahead – by appearing to the world as an interplanetary angel of light and messenger of truth.
We have run far ahead of the Prophet on this subject and we ought to reserve the balance of our commentary until the proper time. For the present it is enough to observe that although it is the Jews who are the instrument of the persecution in Smyrna, it is Satan, the accuser of the brethren, who is the behind the scenes manipulator of the ten days of tribulation the oracle prophecies.