What Does the Bible say about Satan's Role in Death?

by Dr. David L. Cooper

In studying the role of Satan as the administrator of death, let us first examine death itself. In Romans 5:12 and 6:23a, James 1:15, Ezekiel 18:4c and other passages of the Scriptures, we know that the origin of death was sin. We also know that sin entered the world when Adam and Eve transgressed the only prohibition that God had placed upon them. Then God drove them from the Garden of Eden and placed a flaming sword to keep them from the tree of life; for, if they had partaken of the tree of life that would have sustained them eternally, they would have had eternal life in their lost condition. As a result of this disobedience, in that all of us sinned through Adam, we became subject to physical, spiritual, and eternal death.

When Satan pitted his will against God, he corrupted his own nature and could no longer be entrusted with the duties which he had performed prior to his rebellion. But he could still be used negatively. In this respect, we find in Hebrews 2:14,15:

Since then the children [that is, humanity] are sharers in flesh and blood, he [that is, Christ] also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to naught him that had [marginal reading, has] the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Notice in verse 14 that, in the phrase "him that had the power of death," the ASV marginal reading is has, for in the original Greek the verb is the present participle and is literally translated has. Thus after Satan had fallen from his high estate, he became the administrator of death.

But, since our days were numbered before we were born, as we learn in Psalm 139:16, God, not Satan, determines the length of our lives. Death was not in the original plan; but, knowing fore what would transpire, God made gracious provision for each of us and also preordained our length of days. Through sin, we, in Adam, made death necessary; God has decreed when it will occur; Satan administers the decree. Had we, through Adam, not sinned, we would not have to die; for, as we have seen, it is sin that produces death.

Although subject, through sin, to physical, spiritual, and eternal death, we are not forever doomed. Through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, all of us who believe on Him are saved. Nominally, when He arose victor over death and thus became the first-born of the dead, He vanquished Satan and removed from all believers the curse placed upon mankind in the Garden of Eden.

Nor will Satan always have the power of physical death, for death was not in the original plan. God never transgresses upon man's freedom of the will; yet He carries out His eternal plan. Foreknowing what would transpire, God made provision for the atonement, whereby spiritual life replaces spiritual death, as we read in John 3:16. At the end of the Tribulation period, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth, Satan will oppose Him in the war of the great day of God, the Almighty, mentioned in Revelation 16:14, and commonly, but erroneously, referred to as the battle of Armageddon, because of a misunderstanding of Revelation 16:16. I say erroneously referred to because the war will be much more than a single battle and because Revelation 16:16 probably has reference to a gathering together of the leaders for a council of war, rather than for actual battle at Har-Magedon.

Revelation 20:1-3 reveals that Satan will be defeated, bound, and cast into the abyss, there to remain for a thousand years. The return of the Lord will usher in the great Millennial Age, during which Satan will execute no death. He will be chained and powerless.

There will, however, be death during the Millennium. In Isaiah 65:20 we find:

There shall be no more thence and infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed.”

We see, then, that those who are born during the Millennium will be given opportunities to accept Christ; yet some will not receive Him. They will be allowed to live a hundred years. If they still do not accept Christ, God will place upon them the curse of sin, which is death. In Revelation 20:7-10, we read of an uprising that cannot be a war in the ordinary sense of the term, for we know from Isaiah 2:4 that in the Millennium, the nations will not learn or engage in war any more. What will occur, I believe, is a rebellion against God, similar to a march of protest. During the last century of the Millennium, many people will be born. At the close of it, many of them will still be holding out against Christ. Satan will be loosed. He will gather together these unregenerated youths and, by his deception, cause them to rise up in rebellion, to march in protest against God. These youths will have had an opportunity to accept Christ; but, of their own free will, they will follow Satan. Then death will come. Fire will come down from heaven and devour them. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, there to remain forever. The Millennium will end; and the eternal order, mentioned in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, will be ushered in. Death will be no more, for Christ, the first fruits of the dead will have abolished it, as we read in (I Corinthians 15:20-26).