“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:21-26)
From the beginning of time the prince of darkness has been at war with the Son of God, and the Son of God has been at war with him (Genesis 3; Isaiah 14; Revelation 12). It is a mutual conflict, a mutual enmity. It is ever the purpose of that fiend of hell and the myriads of demons ruled by him to topple the throne of God, usurp his authority, and destroy the souls of men. His principle weapon of warfare is religion — self-righteousness and will worship (2 Corinthians 11; Galatians 1:6-9).
But the fiend of hell, that old serpent, the devil shall accomplish nothing. He is God’s devil. He is by the omnipotent power of Christ forced into servitude. And soon he shall be cast into hell, crushed beneath our Savior’s feet and ours. Yes, he shall be crushed beneath the feet of us, poor, weak mortals he seeks to destroy (Romans 16:20).
Because he knows he has but a short time, he is in a rage (Revelation 12:12) and goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. But, blessed be God, our all-glorious, omnipotent Savior has everything in control. This lion can do nothing but roar! He cannot hurt anything or anyone in God’s holy mountain, Zion! The warfare is real; but victory is sure!
Beyond these things, we know nothing. Let us be wise, and leave these matters alone. Do not investigate witchcraft, demonism, and the occult. Playing with these things is indescribably more dangerous than playing with arsenic. It is enough for us to know only what God has revealed.
In Luke 11:21-26 our Lord Jesus lifts the corner of the veil and allows us to have and instructive peek at the warfare that takes place in the spirit world for the souls of men. The Lord’s instruction here is not instruction about demonology and exorcism. It is instruction about the wonders of God’s almighty, saving grace in Christ.
A Great Destroyer
In verse 21 Satan is described as a strong man armed, keeping his palace. The palace he keeps is the heart of a man. This is a picture of fallen man in his natural state and condition. We have before us a picture of all fallen men, deceived and being deceived by the prince of darkness. — “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace” (v. 21).
Our hearts ought to be the throne of God, but they have become the palace of Satan. When our father Adam was the obedient servant of the Most High, his body was a temple for God’s love. No more! Now, through the fall, we have become the servants of sin, and our bodies have become the workshops of Satan, “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-4).
Satan is here called “a strong man.” Who can stand against him? The monster of darkness, the red dragon of hell is well named Abaddon and Apollyon – Destroyer! He has been at the business of soul destruction for 6000 years or more. No mortal has ever been a match for him. Adam, in all his created perfection, could not stand before the great destroyer. Samson, with all his might, was no match for the prince of darkness. Solomon, with all his wisdom, was weak as water before the fiend of hell. Satan is so strong that if all men should combine against him, he would laugh at us as Leviathan laughs at the grappling hook.
Satan is strong, not simply as one possessing force, but in the sense of intense, fiendish cunning. He knows how to adapt his temptations to our besetting sins. He knows the best time to assail us. He understands that there is a time when kings go forth to battle, and he is ever ready for the fray. He is a good swordsman. He is a supreme marksman. He knows our weak places. He sees every chink in our armor. Therefore, unsuspecting men are taken captive by him at his will.
He is a strong man with a vengeance, full of fury and full of envy (Hebrews 2:9-14). We should ever bless and praise our God that there is One stronger than this fiend of hell. Satan would crush us to eternal ruin if it were not that the omnipotent Christ comes in to rescue chosen, redeemed sinners by almighty grace.
This strong man, the Destroyer, we are told here, is armed. He is armed with the most cunning deception, the most appealing temptations, and the most alluring charms. He finds in our own hearts his willing accomplices: — Our Inward Lusts — Our Stubborn Pride — Our Willful Compliance — Our Hardness of Heart! And he is armed with the lie of freewill, works religion.
The Prince of Darkness always keeps his palace; and his goods are in peace. Satan is never caught sleeping off guard. Whenever the Son of God comes, whenever the Holy Spirit begins to work, he will do everything he can to keep his palace. And the best way to keep his palace in the City of Mansoul is to keep his goods in peace.
While we sleep he sows tares. He never sleeps. He is always the busiest one around. We may neglect our souls; but Satan never does. He is always making visitations and going from place to place upon his evil business to watch after his black sheep. The sinner’s heart must be carried away by storm, if it be ever taken, for there is no hope of taking the Evil Spirit by surprise. — “He keepeth his palace. His goods are in peace!”
Kept in peace, the unbelieving soul has no fear of God before his eyes. He has no great sense of guilt before God, no uneasiness, no tormenting conscience. He is at peace. He has all the peace of one dead!
Yet, all his strength is withered mussel, all his armor is melting plastic, all his palace is unfortified, all his goods are vulnerable before that One who is stronger than he. Thank God, there is One stronger than he! And that One who is stronger than he is the Son of God, the sinners’ Friend, and he is…
A Great Deliverer
The Lord Jesus Christ, when he comes in the saving operations of omnipotent grace, comes upon and assails the Prince of Darkness in his palace, and spoils his goods (Luke 11:22; Matthew 12:29; Isaiah 49:24-25; 53:10-12; Colossians 2:15). He comes upon the fiend of hell, binds him, overcomes him, takes away his armor, and divides his spoils.
There is an obvious reference here to Isaiah 53:12. The Lord Jesus comes and takes possession of those very goods once used by the fiend of hell for evil and makes them instruments of good in the palace of his grace!
The fact that Satan sets up and maintains an empire of sin in every human heart is a fact too obvious to be questioned by any rational person. The terrible effects of it are too well known to be denied. Here we have that fact plainly stated. “It was,” as Robert Hawker wrote, “the setting up this kingdom against God and his Christ, for which the devil and his angels are said to have been cast out of heaven and to have left their own habitation (Revelation 12:7-12; Jude 6).” It was by Satan’s seduction of Eve that Adam was brought down, and by Adam’s transgression that the whole human race was made a fallen, corrupt, sinful race (Romans 5:12). It is Satan who works in all the children of disobedience continually (Ephesians 2:2-4).
Because Satan’s kingdom of darkness, deception, and sin takes in the entire human race, he is called “the prince of this world” (John 16:11). Because he seeks to destroy our souls and seeks to destroy the church and kingdom of God, he is called “a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) and “the dragon” (Revelation 12:7), “the devil” and “Satan.” Here he is called “the strong man armed.” So powerful is his influence over the unregenerate, that men are taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2:26).
How happy and thankful we ought to be to read in the Book of God that “the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). One great purpose and design of the gospel is the overthrow of Satan and his kingdom and the restoration of perfect order in God’s creation. Let us rejoice! The Son of God came into this world to “save his people from their sins” and “that he might destroy the works of the devil;” and that which he came to accomplish shall be accomplished! The Word of God reveals a threefold binding of Satan.
- By his death upon the cross, in the accomplishment of our redemption, and by his resurrection from the grave our Savior bound Satan and broke the power of his usurped dominion over the nations of the world of Satan (John 12:31-33; Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; Revelation 20:1-6).
- In regeneration and conversion, by the power of his grace, through the operations of his Holy Spirit in the new birth, the Son of God binds Satan in the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners and takes possession of his house.
That is what is described in Luke 11:21-26. Our Savior is the man stronger than the strong man armed. He comes by omnipotent mercy into the hearts of chosen sinners, binds Satan, casts him out, and spoils him of all. This is what happens every time he saves a sinner. He does not stand knocking at the door of the lost sinner’s heart, hoping that the sinner might choose to let him enter. He knocks the door down, bolt and bar, enters the house of the ransomed soul, and sets up his throne in the heart, bringing his welcome with him. Thus it is that we have been “translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Isaiah 49:24; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:7-11; Ephesians 2:1-4).
- When he comes again to make all things new, the Lord Jesus will cast Satan out of this world into the lake of fire, where he shall have no more power (Revelation 20:10).
There is a day coming when Christ will come again in his glory, when the total and everlasting destruction of Satan’s kingdom will take place. In that day we who are one with Christ will triumph over the prince of darkness in complete victory (Romans 16:20). There is no such thing as “a devil’s hell.” Hell belongs to God. It is his torture chamber, in which he will forever torment the devil and all who have followed him to destruction.
Now, look at verse 23, and observe this fact. – There is among men in this world…
A Great Division
Those who are not with Christ are against him. There is no middle ground. — “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” The Lord Jesus here shows us the impossibility of neutrality with regard to him, his gospel, and his kingdom. Multitudes try to straddle the fence, halting between two opinions, not wishing to deny Christ altogether, and not wishing to serve him altogether, not wanting to engage in open rebellion to the Son of God, but not wanting to engage in the cause of Christ. Such neutrality is impossible.
There are, with regard to spiritual things, only two camps; there are only two sides. Either we are with Christ, committed to him and his cause, or we are against Christ, committed to the world, the flesh, and the devil. We cannot serve both God and mammon. If we do not serve Christ, we oppose him. There is no middle ground. In a word, the gospel of Christ demands decisiveness (Joshua 24:15). John Gill wrote…
“Since there is such an open war proclaimed and carried on between Christ and the devil, none ought to be neutral; whoever is not on the side of Christ, is reckoned as an enemy; and whoever is not concerned by prayer or preaching, or other means to gather souls to his word and ordinances, and to his church, and to himself, is deemed by him a scatterer of them.”
Next, in verses 24-26 our Lord gives us a warning concerning spurious conversions. Here is…
A Great Deception
That which is Satan’s greatest weapon of defense against Christ and the gospel of his grace, that by which he most securely keeps his palace is a refuge of lies.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
The unclean spirit goes out of his own free will. – He is not cast out, but goes out. He walks through dry, desert places seeking rest, but finds none. He returns to his house from which he came out. When he returns, he finds his house in wonderful condition. It was swept, not washed, but swept. It was garnished, not made new, but garnished. When he returns, he brings seven spirits more wicked than himself. Then the last state of that man is worse than the first. When the sinner takes for himself a refuge of lies, seeks to hide from God in false religion, he is worse off than a person with no religion (Isaiah 28:14-20). But even here, the soul is not beyond the reach of omnipotent grace (Isaiah 28:16, 20; Hosea 4:17; 11:8-9; 13:4, 9, 12, 14).
O Lord Jesus, Great Deliverer, O Blessed Son of God, Almighty Savior, if you are passing by, traveling in the greatness of your strength, come and show your mighty prowess. Turn aside, O Heavenly Samson, and rend the lion in this vineyard. If you have dipped your robes in the blood of your foes, come dye them all again with the blood of my cruel sins! If you have trodden the wine press of Jehovah’s wrath, and crushed your enemies, here is another of the accursed crew, come and drag him out and crush him! Here is an Agag in my heart, come and hew him in pieces! Here is a Dagon in my spirit, break, O break, his head and set me free from my old state of sin! Deliver me from my fierce enemy, and unto you alone shall be the praise, forever and ever. Amen.
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