O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The Temptation of Christ in Covenant Context

The whole subject of Satan and the devil has fascinated me for a long time. Throw in covenant eschatology, and things get really interesting.

Previously, I haven't put out any public work on the issue. Perhaps this is an introduction to some who may wonder what to do with Satan and the devil as preterists. A lot more needs to be worked out in the future. This is one approach that makes sense to me, but I'm not dogmatic about my conclusions. There are certainly other options out there. I'd love to hear some feedback and suggestions here.

The Temptation of Christ in Covenant Context

Tim Martin

Covenant Community Church

Whitehall, Montana

Views: 236

Comment by Stephen Patrick on June 19, 2013 at 9:23am


While I've read other studies and threads here about just who or what Satan (the adversary) was, I still struggled with those. A literal tendency I guess. This was the first time I've heard a message concerning Satan within, as you said, a Covenant Context. This makes much more sense than any of the others. While I still have some minor questions about a few things, this was very helpful.


Comment by Tim Martin on June 19, 2013 at 7:35pm


Thanks. I share your uneasiness about some other explanations.

One man in the congregation came up to me after the sermon and pointed something out that I had completely missed. He showed me that the Majority Text variant reading for Matt. 4:10 is "get behind me, Satan!"

Isn't that cool?

I thought that was a powerful confirmation. It seems to me that Matthew intended the reader to draw the connection between 4:10 and 16:23 based on the Greek syntax and construction. You can't see that in the English translations, but it is there...


Tim Martin

Comment by Eohn Rhodes on June 27, 2013 at 9:31am
Thanks for the insight on the subject. So now I realize the adversary is not always the same individual and could even refer to a group of people. Strongs defines satana as one who opposes another in purpose or act. we really have complicated it. The one who tempted Eve may not be the same one who tested Job. In Job it seems like God is asking the adversary why he is against him since Job seems to be okay with who God is. Thanks for making your work public
Comment by Tim Martin on June 27, 2013 at 11:02pm



One of the comments we had in discussion after that sermon in the congregation was "this changes things..."

The old traditional/medieval conception took something pretty basic (satan=adversary) and warped it into something completely unrecognizable. Covenant Eschatology offers a way to unravel the chaos and stupidity... once and for all.


Tim Martin

Comment by Doug on June 28, 2013 at 10:32am


I am not shy about confronting the issue of satan. In fact, I hold to the belief that he/it is no longer a power to be reckoned with for Christians in the New Covenant. This is at odds with the church I attend, which almost every week tells us to "resist the enemy".

Now, that creates "cognitive dissonance" every time I hear it, because even my own wife doesn't hold with me on this topic. So I pretty much keep it all to myself. In fact, even here at DID I have opposition on this issue, so I have been reticent to open my mouth lest I get tromped on.

Nevertheless, since you brought it up, I am still willing to lay my heart out there once again....

First, I am sure you have heard of the concept of satan as practiced by the muslims. They do indeed believe there is a personal creature called satan. They also stress the concept of jihad. According to wikipedia, jihad has four connotations:

"Muslim jurists explained there are four kinds of jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the cause of God):[53]

  • Jihad of the heart (jihad bil qalb/nafs) is concerned with combatting the devil and in the attempt to escape his persuasion to evil. This type of Jihad was regarded as the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar).
  • Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) is concerned with speaking the truth and spreading the word of Islam with one's tongue.
  • Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) refers to choosing to do what is right and to combat injustice and what is wrong with action.
  • Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God, or holy war), the most common usage by Salafi Muslims and offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some contemporary Islamists have succeeded in replacing the greater jihad, the fight against desires, with the lesser jihad, the holy war to establish, defend and extend the Islamic state.[54]"

Islam is a religion started in the middle ages. Though Islam today is an enemy of Christianity, in its original form, it was started by their "prophet" Muhammed. But its interesting to note that Muhammed himself was greatly influenced by contemporary Jewish and Christian thought. In fact, I believe that had the Jews and Christians treated him differently, the Muslim faith of today would look far more benign towards us today. But that's a different subject... My main point is that we ought to at least look at Islamic concepts of Jihad and satan to get a feel for how the ancient world saw this topic. As I see it, Jihad might really be what the concept of satan for Christians should look like.

I mention this simply to give some background to what the middle ages teaching REALLY was (apart from the Catholic tradition), and to see that the world has not universally held to a devil with pitchforks and horns. That is a Catholic construct, and rather than just fighting the Catholic theology which has morphed into a protestant theology with its horns intact, I think we ought to instead reach out to other sources of information to find out how mankind in general has understood satan.

Now, even though muslims practice their own struggles for righteousness, and they call it jihad, don't Christians also do the same thing? In fact, don't practically ALL religions do that too? No matter what you call it, the struggle against evil is what all humans have to deal with. Christianity and Judaism have painted this picture of a personal devil, but not all cultures have done so the same way.

Christianity is unique in that christians accept that the struggle has been completed in the person of Jesus. That means that whatever this personage/concept is (the devil or satan), it/he has been conquered. The difference in covenant theology however is that satan is COMPLETELY defeated and also is GONE into the abyss.

But that has some important implications and problems for preterists. First, if indeed this "person" is gone, then why do we still have struggles with our own sin? If we insist in saying that satan is completely defeated and gone, then we must deal with this issue, not just for ourselves, but we must be prepared to give an answer to our skeptical brothers in Christ. They have been reared in believing in a personality called satan, and they have been taught that he is still active and on the loose. They get this from thinking that the work of Christ is only partially finished, and that only when Jesus returns will He take care of the unfinished business of the devil and satan. Full preterists believe that process has been completed already, and we don't have to deal with satan.

However, (and this is a big problem for preterists), if we believe that satan is not and never was a spiritual being, and was instead a personal struggle that dwells within, how can we answer the problem we create when we say that this "devil" was defeated and thrown into the abyss? If that is true, say the skeptics, then why would a christian today still have internal spiritual struggles?

Perhaps you could talk to this question. I would love to hear your thoughts on it, because if we are not careful, preterism and covenant theology will paint itself into a corner and although our explanations will be different, they will have their own difficulties that opponents will rightly attack.

Comment by davo on June 28, 2013 at 9:57pm

Doug: First, if indeed this "person" is gone, then why do we still have struggles with our own sin?


But Doug, surely that reflects your own assumptions? Active sin needs no satan as we do it quite well by ourselves.


Doug: If that is true, say the skeptics, then why would a christian today still have internal spiritual struggles?


Quite simply because Christendom has taught the ‘religion of self-righteousness’ and ignores the reality that Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and was in fact the full demonstration of God’s righteousness on man’s behalf. Yes we all do sin, i.e., we miss the mark and err into less than healthy ways of being. BUT, in relation to God, Jesus for all time once and for all bore the LIABILITY for sin – thus putting sins’ liability to an end; again in relation to man and God. As for man a man… as we confess said faults one to another restorative healing occurs, that is… what has already occurred between God and man hence forth translates between man and man.

Comment by Norm on June 30, 2013 at 10:25pm


I listened to your lesson on the way back home from Fort Worth/Dallas to Houston. I'm being transferred there beginning August 1st after 35 years in Houston and had been house hunting. 

That was a "great" exposition you presented and I will reiterate again for our readers; that being part of the Preterist community allows us to drink at a deep well of revealed knowledge coming to light again.  I have come to similar conclusions about the Satan/deciever attribute as you have but your presentation was just magnificent.  I knew the biblical language of the big picture called for your conclusion but you fleshed it out so deeply. I really wish you could put it to a written presentation sometime in order that we all could have it as a ready resource. I think it is that important that I'm going to highly encourage you to do so. 

My evangelical friends live in such a medieval world and they don't even know they do. You can't tell them so as they believe they have everything in place and are comfortable living in that worldview. 



Comment by Norm on June 30, 2013 at 10:51pm

As Preterist we should all understand Rev 12 is about People,   the woman was the church (people) and Satan/dragon was People (murderous Jews just like their role model Cain and their Father the Satan). That is why we need to be careful when we say that Satan has been destroyed because it’s not really about an individual entity that lived from Adam to AD70 but it was a mindset and approach that was the deceiver amongst Israel and that was manifested throughout history via people. The Hebrews painted the picture through storytelling and various representations that were consistent through their literature. Even we Peterist haven’t always quite figured that out completely yet.

The deceiver that was embedded within covenant Judaism has been destroyed and cast out of Covenant entitlement as that work is done for all eternity. However there is one thing that evangelical do get right somewhat even though they don’t know how to explain it properly or fully understand it as they should. That is we still have the realm of darkness outside of Covenant where there is gnashing of teeth and that is still a playground for those who haven’t accepted Christ and life through the Spirit.  We also still have the reality of self-righteousness trying to claw its way back into the Garden in every generation but we know the eternal truth and do not have to succumb to it as the Word continually reveals the futile nature of it.  Christ has defeated the rulers and principalities of this world but that doesn’t mean that some people still aren’t trying to reenact that old act. We still have to resist the deceivers as it is part of human nature called the flesh.  



Comment by Doug on July 4, 2013 at 3:25pm


You were trying ton counter an argument I was not making. I'm on your side on this one, brother.


As I said earlier, there is one little problem remaining re: "satan" being in the world today, in the guise of people. That is, what could be meant by Revelation's statement that satan was thrown into hell at the beginning of the thousand years, and then was let loose a "little while"?

After all, is we preterists are going to make a big deal out of Jesus' statements that He was going to return "soon", then we ought to be consistent and apply the same logic to satan being let out a "little while" to deceive the earth. Because, AFTER he is let out for a short time to "deceive the nations", he is finally disposed of, as the text implies, forever.

If you maintain that he is still present in people of today, then you have to do something with the Revelation texts. For me, I have reconciled this in my own mind by believing that satan prior to Christ was indeed a personal spiritual being that ran amok in the world of that time. But I believe that now, he is gone forever. I believe that the evil we see around us are the vibrations left over from satan's ringing of the bell of original sin. That is, as time goes on, righteousness will continue to reign stronger and stronger, and evil will continue to take a back seat to God's government overspreading the world. James makes it clear that everyone is tempted by his OWN lust, not a personal devil. That said, the only remedy for the complete stomping out of evil is the righteousness of Christ living within each individual person. I believe that as the gospel grows, eventually the vast majority of mankind will be converted and sin will be just a footnote in history.

Comment by davo on July 5, 2013 at 4:32am

Sorry Doug, my bad in reading you back-to-front… I plead the vagaries of the internet as my excuse. ;)


I tend to see “the satan” in human terms as singular and or corporate dependant on context, e.g., antichrist/s etc… thus in the case of Revelation, the position of High Priest, his messengers being the Judaic priestly body.


Their end being the ‘lake of fire’ which from my perspective was the destruction of Jerusalem of Ad70 when Jerusalem and in particular her Temple were awash with flames i.e., a sea or lake a fire.


The other side of this covenantal coin being know in terms of ‘the second death’ – there was to be NO resurrection of the old covenant mode of existence, UNLIKE the promise of resurrection/restoration found in the OT with regards to Israel’s FIRST death, i.e., exile in Babylon – a recapitulation of the proto-Israel story as seen in Adam and his exile etc. 


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