If Satan Is Bound, Why Are There Still Pandemics?

Alright wastelanders, we are in Matthew’s section about the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has been sharing much about heaven’s kingdom. In the previous passage, He revealed that the kingdom was for both Jews and Gentiles and that He is the Sabbath rest. He does not overburden His people with rules, regulations, and expectations as do worldly systems. Matthew moves past the Sabbath day and begins to describe the nature of the kingdom coming on this current earth.

Matthew 12:22-30

Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw.

All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?”

But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”

Jesus’ authority (v. 22-23)

Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw.

Not all ailments are the result of demon posession, but this man’s ailments are. He can neither see nor speak. Jesus, as was characteristic of His entire ministry up to this point, heals the man. Though this verse does not clarify that Jesus expels a demon, verse 24 will confirm that He does.

All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?”

In Matthew 8:17, Matthew explained why Jesus did miracles and expelled demons—to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah. He quoted Isaiah 53:4. Jesus healed as part of His bodily ministry on this earth so we might recognize Him as the one who bears the griefs and carries the sorrows of His people.

Matthew identified that Jesus is doing this because it is what was written beforehand concerning the ministry of the Messiah so that the Messiah would be identifiable. According to Matthew, Jesus did not heal people only for the purpose of healing people. He didn’t heal people to get people to follow Him. He didn’t heal people because they prayed and asked for healing. Matthew was explicit in chapter 8; Jesus healed the leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and all the demon-possessed and ill people who were brought to him at Peter’s house in Capernaum because He was fulfilling the Law and the Prophets.

The Jews responding to Jesus healing this blind, mute man call to mind Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the Messiah, which was written 700 years prior to Jesus’s incarnation, and consider amongst themselves whether Jesus might be the Messiah Isaiah foretold.

Satan bound (v. 24-30)

But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

The Pharisees heard the people talking about Jesus in light of Isaiah 53. Instead of encouraging the people to sincerely investigate Scripture, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons or Satan. There is a certain dogmatism present such that the Pharisees don’t want their people to be exposed to any other teaching than theirs. Jesus approached people differently. He compared all teaching to Scripture (12:9-21); Scripture encourages people to do the same (see Acts 17:10-12).

I have experienced this Pharisaical, dogmatic tendency in my own ministry. When I was in Sallisaw, Oklahoma at Eastside Baptist Church, I recommended that we examine our church bylaws in light of Scripture and pointed a few things I saw in the Bible that disagreed with the way we operated. the Deacons there (more like a board of directors than deacons) called for my immediate resignation and accused me of trying to steal the church building and convert everyone into presbyterians. Similarly, there is one pastor in our area that will have nothing to do with us. He will not partner with us for ministry or associate with us at all because he doesn’t want his people to be exposed to the way we teach. Those were his own words. I was this way before I was secure enough in my presentation of God’s word. Admittedly, what we teach the Bible to mean does not agree with what he teaches the Bible to mean. Unlike the Pharisees, we want people to compare our teaching to what the Bible says and ask difficult questions we can answer sincerely. I don’t worry too much because we begin with the Bible and teach the Bible in order and context. 

It is very interesting to see the difference between how a sincere teacher and a false teacher encourage their hearers to interact with their teaching and others’. I don’t have to expend a whole lot of energy identifying false teachers because our hope is that people are listening to more than one viewpoint and sincerely comparing what they hear to God’s Bible.

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges.”

The Pharisees are not man enough to accuse Jesus to his face or sincere enough to examine the Scriptures. Jesus, though, knows their thoughts. Even though He might not have heard their accusation, responds to it. Common sense informs us that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Like in the previous passage, Jesus appeals to common sense to highlight the absurdity of the accusation levied against Him. If He were on Satan’s team, He would not be expelling Satan. That would be counter productive. Furthermore, there are priests and Pharisees casting out demons. If they are doing the same work Jesus does and Jesus is of Satan, then so are the Pharisees who claim to expel demons. By the Pharisees own accusation, they are on Satan’s team. 

Because the Pharisees offer this kind of accusation, they, or the Pharisees who also claim to cast out demons, will be their judges. Their very claim to expel demons testifies against the Pharisees accusation against Jesus. They disprove themselves.

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

The people were focused on Isaiah 53. Christ’s healing ministry proves He is Messiah. The Pharisees shifted the conversation to exorcism so that they could ignore Isaiah 53. But, if Jesus casts out demons by God’s Spirit, that is still evidence God’s kingdom has come according to Isaiah 24:22. In Isaiah 24, Isaiah prophesied concerning the Messiah’s judgment on the earth. People and hosts of heaven were to be judged at the Messiah’s coming. Isaiah reports that, as judgment, the earth would decay because people violate God’s statutes (Isaiah 24:4-5). Leading up to verse 22, Isaiah prophesied that people would become depressed and anxious, not even being able to enjoy their wine and strong drink (Isaiah 24:9). People and hosts of heaven on the earth would be like prisoners in a dungeon even though it would not yet be time for the final punishment (Isaiah 24:21-22). Jesus’s claim is that this binding up of people and spirit’s who don’t belong to Him is realized in His ministry. As He casts out demons, He testifies that God’s kingdom has come in this way.

We notice this in our own time. Even with luxuries like wine and strong drink provided by God for enjoyment, people live like they are in prison. Instead of enjoying God’s many gifts, people are prisoners to them. The earth is decaying. Sicknesses, ailments, and pandemics charge across the land. People and demons are bound. Jesus will explain what that means in His illustration.

“Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”

Referring to casting out demons, Jesus describes binding a strong man. Jesus is the thief in His own illustration—binding up Satan, who had authority to deceive, so that He might carry off property that would otherwise belong to Satan. What is the property Jesus is stealing away? Look at what Jesus says next.

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”

It’s people! Those people Jesus steals away from the kingdom of the world and from Satan belong to Him. Everyone else scatters away from Jesus and is subject to God’s Isaiah 24 judgment. Even if he or she has good things on this earth, they will not satisfy. Those whom Christ steals away, however, will be able to enjoy the good things that God gives and will be satisfied in Christ even in the midst of tribulation, or sicknesses, pandemics, and the general decaying of the world as described in Isaiah 24.

As a teaser for our Revelation series, we can ask how Jesus’s allusion to Isaiah 24 informs our reading of Revelation 20:2-3. Satan’s being bound happened during Jesus’s bodily ministry on this earth two-thousand years ago according to Jesus Himself. Satan is not wholly bound, but bound from deceiving the nations. This is so Christ’s Gospel can be heard and understood by those He is stealing away to the kingdom of Heaven.

What we’ve discovered about the kingdom of Heaven:

Kingdom of HeavenKingdom of This World
Kingdom of priestsKingdom of consumers
Kingdom of prestige even for the leastKingdom of comparison and contrast
Kingdom of judgment even for the greatest
Exists throughout time—even before Christ’s incarnation
A people not a physical locationDefined by visible structures and conquests
Kingdom of suffering in the midst of this worldKingdom of force
Able to hear and understand Christ’s teachingUnable to hear and understand Christ’s teaching
Kingdom of wisdomKingdom of faultfinding
Kingdom of repentanceKingdom of pride
Chosen and built by God’s will aloneRejected by God’s will alone
Kingdom of restKingdom of merit
Kingdom of libertyKingdom of restriction
Kingdom of willing purityKingdom of unwilling rule-keeping
Kingdom of healingKingdom of using people
Kingdom whereby all human life is absolutely sacredKingdom whereby rules, programs, and organizations are elevated above  human worth
Kingdom of sincerity in learningKingdom of dogma
Kingdom of satisfaction and enjoymentKingdom of bondage and decay

Questions:

  1. What is one difference between a Christlike preacher-teacher and a false preacher-teacher?
  2. If Satan is bound, why are there still sicknesses and ailments in the world?
  3. How does this passage inform the way we read verses like Revelation 20:2-3?

One comment

  • thank you i do not often reply to your writing but today i must. God is still in control and in His wisdom and mercy He directs that His children suffer with all humanity in sickness and death. He wounds and He heals I will worship Him all my life.

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