Mark 3:20-27, Matthew 12:22-30, Luke 11:14-23: Satan’s House Divided

On June 17, 1858, Abraham Lincoln spoke up to the Illinois Republican Convention.  In rising to present his opening speech in accepting the nomination of the Republican Party for the Senate race that year, he was disrupting an attempt by Horace Greeley to “adhere” to the appeasement-minded Stephen Douglas [1] by claiming principled moral and political ground against the evil of slavery.  His opening paragraph to this famous speech is as follows:

“MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION: If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South [2].”

When Lincoln spoke those fateful words about a house divided, it was understood by many that Lincoln was at least conceding that the divided American house might have to be reunited by warfare, and that the ideals of the American Revolution were themselves antislavery (which they were).  A call to return to original, godly, principles is itself a declaration of war on those who wish to oppress and dominate others.  And who desires domination and control over other souls more than the father of lies and the original murderer himself?

In three passages of the Gospels, Jesus Christ gives some tantalizing hints of a division within the demonic realm.  Let us therefore follow these clues to see where they lead us.  Let us first examine the three parallel passages to see what details are included about Satan’s kingdom.  While some of the details are likely to be obvious, some of them suggest greater depth of importance than has often been examined.

Mark 3:20-27:  If Satan Has Risen Up Against Himself

In Mark 3:20-27, we read a very intriguing passage about Jesus’ casting out of demons:  “Then the multitude came togther again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.  But when HIs own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”  And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of demons He casts out demons.”  So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables:  “How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.  No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.”

Let us note a few intriguing points about this passage.  For one, it sets the stage by commenting that the exorcisms of Jesus Christ drew so much attention from people that it was impossible for anyone to even eat because it was so crowded.  Then, as always, the ordinary sort of people have always been plagued with concerns and dangers from the spirit world, and appreciate anyone with the power to help their lives in some fashion.  Jesus’ own people (presumably his family) thought he was out of his mind for putting up with such crowds, and they wanted to keep him safe from the mobs of people.

At this moment scribes from Jerusalem accused Jesus Christ of being possessed by Satan the devil himself.  While Baal-Zebub (which means “Lord of the Flies”) had originally been a repulsive pagan deity of the city of Ekron (see 2 Kings 1:15-16), its name had eventually been attached as a personal name of Satan himself.  By accusing Jesus Christ the son of God of being possessed by demons, the scribes of Jerusalem were committing a very heinous sin (more on that shortly).  Nonetheless, their taunt about Satan casting out Satan was answered by Jesus Christ in a curiously ironic way.

Christ responded to the (false) claims of the scribes by making an interesting comment.  First, he asks a rhetorical question pointing out the absurdity of Satan casting out Satan.  He then comments, though, ominously, that a kingdom and a house (or family) divided against itself will not stand (something we ought to pay more attention to, lest we find ourselves divided against ourselves and therefore brought to destruction).  The most profound observation, though, is that if Satan’s house is divided against itself, Satan’s kingdom will have an end.  We know that Satan’s kingdom will have an end, so therefore it is possible that Jesus Christ is hinting at a deeper truth that Satan’s kingdom suffers from fatal flaws of internal divisions.

The passage ends with a clear comment about Jesus being stronger than Satan and therefore able to bind the “strong man” (i.e. Satan, who likes to rule through “big man” leaders and hierarchies and control-freaks and bullies, who like him are filled with swaggering machismo).  Calling himself a robber of a sort, Jesus Christ says of himself that he has bound the strong man like a kidnapper so that he could plunder Satan’s kingdom of its goods–namely those human beings tormented by demonic possession.  Christ, in ironically viewing his own work against the demonic realm from the perspective of Satan’s kingdom, demonstrates a profound knowledge of the sense of “ownership” that Satan’s supporters have over the people and institutions under their tyrannical sway–tyrants consider their countries to be their own, businessmen consider their employees (and even the thoughts of their employees) to belong to them as their property, evil plantation owners considered their workers to belong to them as slaves, and abusive heads of household have always considered their spouses and children as belonging to them as their personal property.  Satan’s kingdom has as its modus operendi the idea that human beings are the property of those strong enough to rule despotically over them, rather than being free and responsible as the children of their heavenly father.

Mark 9:28-30:  An Ominous Epilogue

Let us briefly, and ominously, note the severity of the action of the Jerusalem scribes, as it appears immediately after Jesus’ comments about Satan’s house divided, in Mark 9:28-30:  “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation,”–because they said, “He has an unclear spirit.”

Let us note what this specifically means with regards to the spirit realm.  John 3:1-2 is eyewitness testimony from Nicodemus, a Jewish leader in the Sanhedrin, that the religious leaders in Jerusalem knew that Jesus Christ had come from God because of the miracles he performed.  However, some of their number among the elites, threatened by his popularity with the people and his lack of inclination in ruling as the heathen and Satan-inspired do (as they did), accused him of working by Satan.  By knowingly calling what came from God as coming from Satan, they committed the unpardonable sin, for which there is no repentance.

This is serious business.  Those who accuse the godly, whom they know to be godly, of having demons or working as a result of demon-possession, rather than the possession of the Holy Spirit of God, will receive eternal condemnation because to call what is God’s Satan’s with full knowledge and awareness is to deliberately set one’s self up as an enemy to God.  This is an act of treason and rebellion which cannot be forgiven, because it is precisely what Satan himself did in rebelling against God’s kingdom deliberately and willfully.  Whatever repentance is possible for those who are cowed or coerced into disobedience or deceived into rebellion (and I believe for such beings repentance and restoration is possible), there is no repentance for those who oppose God or His servants with eyes wide open.  Let us therefore seek to avoid being among that company.

Matthew 12:22-30:  By Whom Do Your Sons Cast Them Out?

In Matthew 12:22-30, which is also immediately followed by a similar discourse on the unpardonable sin, gives some details that Mark does not, filling in the picture of Satan’s house divided in a little clearer relief:  “Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.  And all the multitudes were amazed, and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”  Now when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them:  “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every 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?  And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Therefore they shall be your judges.  But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, 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 scattered abroad.”

Though we need not go over the many similarities between the account from Mark and the account from Matthew, let us discuss the further details that Matthew’s account includes that Mark’s account does not, so that we may gain a fuller picture.  For one, let us note that the miracle of casting out the demon allowed an afflicted man to see and speak.  To praise God we must speak to him, and the demon, by making him mute, had made him unable to talk to God.  Likewise, the truth sets us free to see ourselves as we are, and the the ability to see allowed the man to recognize the difference of captivity to demons and freedom under the rule and authority of God and our King Jesus Christ.  Additionally, the reaction of the people (and the words of Jesus Christ himself) clearly demonstrate that the power to cast out these demons meant that He came from God, and pointed to his identity as the Son of David, the promised Messiah.

Let us also note the depth that this provides to the hostility of the Pharisees.  Like the common people, the Pharisees too recognized that Jesus’ actions made his claim to rule. They later attempt to taunt Him into providing a sign, as if His exorcisms are not sufficient evidence of His power, to which He replies that only a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign and that the only sign they will get is the sing of Jonah spending three days and three nights in the belly of the earth, and also pointing to the fact that their fate will be worse than the fate of Nineveh and the Queen of the South because they respected lesser emissaries of God than He Himself (see Matthew 12:38-42).  The false accusations that Jesus Christ was demon-possessed in light of the recognition by the people of Jesus’ legitimate authority as the Son of David is strong evidence that the Pharisees’ unpardonable sin involved a deliberate act of rebellion against their Lord and King and God.

Let us also note that Jesus Christ here also points out that Satan’s house is divided in this passage by implication (and not direct statement).  Both Jesus Christ and the children of His opponents both cast out demons.  Both are on different sides–and Jesus has stated (see Mark 3:28-30 and Matthew 12:31-32) that the Pharisees committed the unpardonable sin and are therefore Satan’s allies.  Since the Pharisees and Jesus Christ both cast out demons, Satan’s house is divided because those who are bitter opponents both cast out Satan and therefore weaken his kingdom.  Therefore as the sons of the Pharisees, by virtue of their rebellion against Jesus Christ, are in league with Satan, their actions against Satan’s demons demonstrate that Satan’s kingdom is divided and that it therefore cannot stand.

Let us also note that Jesus Christ here claims that those who are not with Him in fighting against the demonic realm (and recognizing the power of God) scatter and waste their seed rather than gathering in the harvest of believers.  Those who falsely accuse the workings of God as belonging to Satan have no part or place in His Kingdom or His Family, but only are kept for future judgment for their blasphemies.  And whatever work they feign to do as God’s servants is in fact working for Satan the Devil to scatter the good seed and waste it, rather than in harvesting and gathering good crops of righteousness.  Let us therefore gather with Christ and not scatter seed abroad as the wicked do.

Luke 11:14-23:  If I Cast Out Demons With The Finger Of God

Luke’s account in Luke 11:14-23 is substantially equal to that of Matthew and Mark:  “And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute.  So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.  But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.  But He, knowing their hearts, said to them:  “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house fails.  If Satan also is divided, how will his kingdom stand?  Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.  And if I cast our demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Therefore they will be your judges.  But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.  When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.  But when a stronger  than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.  He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

While most of what Luke has to say mirrors either (or both) Matthew and Mark, let us notice a couple of additional details he adds to our picture of the state of Satan’s kingdom.  First, let us note that Jesus Christ had only come the first time to use the finger of God to cast out demons.  The demons cringed in fear that He had come to judge them, for they knew it was not yet their time for judgment, a fate which they tremble at (James 2:19), and yet Jesus Christ was only using the finger of God and not the full power and force He will use upon His return.

Let us also note the further details that Luke’s account provides on how Satan guards his kingdom.  Luke states that Satan goes about guarding his spoil, his illegitimate rule over earth and its inhabitants fully armed and trusting in his armor of lies.  However, thankfully Jesus Christ is stronger than Satan, and therefore Satan’s kingdom is not at peace, for his armor will be taken from his and his spoil will be divided.  The grave shall not prevail–Christ and God will be victorious over sin and death and we will share in the victory, so long as we have cast our lot with God.  Let us pray that the day of victory comes speedily.

Conclusion

Let us note that the incident of Satan’s house divided was important enough to end up in three of the four gospels in substantially identical form.  In these passages Jesus Christ strongly implies that Satan’s house is divided against itself, either because the Pharisees have indirectly accused their own sons of casting out demons by the power of Satan by accusing God, or because the Bible points to internal division as the sign by which a house will not stand.  If we are in “divided houses,” we ought to reflect on why this is so, and what spirit it is that we are manifesting in our lives, to make sure it is the spirit of unity in Christ and not the divided spirit of Satan.

What is most important about these passages, though, are two lessons that we can take from these scriptures that the passages make abundantly clear.  First, if we knowingly and falsely accuse God (or Jesus Christ, or their servants) of acting through the power of Satan when we know better, let us know that doing so is an act of deliberate and unpardonable rebellion against God.  We do not want to put ourselves in that position.  Second, Jesus Christ is far stronger than Satan, and He has promised that He will bind Satan (for a thousand years, during the Millennium) and plunder his domain and rescue human beings.  We need not be in fear of Satan’s rule, because we are promised freedom and deliverance through the power of God and Jesus Christ.  We will be victorious.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/at-what-price-reconciliation-lessons-from-stephen-douglas/

[2] http://www.answers.com/topic/lincoln-s-house-divided-speech

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings, Satan's House Divided and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mark 3:20-27, Matthew 12:22-30, Luke 11:14-23: Satan’s House Divided

  1. Greg says:

    Can i use this posting in an upcoming book on Lincoln? If I have your permission, I’d like to use generous portions of it because almost all of this is ignored in Lincoln biographies. Southern evangelicals would have known the larger context for this story beyond the quick parallelto the nation being divided. The reference to Satan, JC throwing out demons, and fear of judgment for knowingly opposing God’s cleansing are themes that give deeper meaning to Abe’s use of this reference.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Deliver Us From Evil | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Spiritual Warfare Jesus’ Way | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: A Compendium Of Jesus’ Interactions With Outsiders In the Synoptic Gospels: Part One | Edge Induced Cohesion

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