Question & Answer Forum

How does Satan communicate?

Satan was a created cherub (Ezekiel 28:14), one of the angelic orders. As such, he operates in the realm of spirits. Though fallen, he remains a spirit being.

Two references will suffice to show his work in the spirit realm. In Acts 5:3, Peter asked Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” Since the human spirit is related to knowledge, to the mind (1 Corinthians 2:11), Satan is able to insinuate thoughts into the human mind.

The soul is also part of man’s spirit being and relates to the emotions (Matthew 12:18; 26:38). Since the Lord tempts no man with evil (James 1:13), it seems necessary to understand that “an evil spirit from the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:14) that afflicted Saul was permitted by God, not directed by Him. This evil spirit affected Saul’s emotions, bringing him into a form of depression and violent anger.

The conclusion, then, is that Satan communicates with men through their mind and emotions.

In both of these cases, Satan’s communication does not override the responsibility of the individual. Ananias was responsible for the acts he committed in response to Satan’s initiative. As strong as Satan is, we can resist (James 4:7) his mental and emotional attacks. Our will determines our response to Satan’s communication.

D. Oliver

Can Satan speak to a believer with a physical voice?

Angels spoke with human voices when they appeared as humans (Luke 24:4-6, 23), so these spirit beings can communicate with a physical voice. These elect angels appear as humans by divine direction, not by their own will. Their speech capabilities are divinely imparted. This does not seem to be the case for Satan or for fallen angels who serve him.

To speak to Eve, the devil used a serpent (Genesis 3:1, 14). To communicate with the Lord in the presence of His disciples, he used Peter (Matthew 16:23) and Peter was responsible for his words (v. 23b). Evil spirits used the voice of those whom they possessed (Mark 5:5, 7, 9).

The one apparent exception requires some examination. Satan spoke to the Lord during His temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-12). While the temptations involved physical issues such as hunger, bread, bowing in worship, and coming suddenly to His temple, was the conversation in the spiritual, mental realm? Or, for this unique occasion of divine purpose, did God allow Satan the special power of a human voice?

If a believer hears a physical voice that he attributes to Satan, one of three things is possible: a satanically induced thought comes with such power that it seems to have a physical voice; a nearby person has allowed himself to be an accomplice of Satan; the voice is delusional.

D. Oliver

Why do we hear that Joseph was older than Mary?

Several assumptions underlie this conclusion. The fact is that Joseph last appears in the gospel narratives when the Lord is 12 (Luke 2:43). Later mentions of Joseph merely relate to the Lord’s lineage (Luke 3:23; 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42). Another fact is that references to the Lord’s family during His ministry include references to his mother, brothers, and sisters (Matthew 12:47; 13:56), but not to Joseph. A third fact is that, while He was on the cross, the Lord committed His mother to the care of His beloved disciple. From that time, John took her to His own home (John 19:26, 27). Being the first of Mary’s children (Luke 2:7), He was responsible for her care and He entrusted that to John. From these facts comes the assumption that Joseph had died after the Lord was 12 and before He was 30.

Mary is assumed to be young because of at least two facts. Isaiah 7:14, prophesying the Lord’s virgin birth (Matthew 1:23), uses a word, translated “virgin,” that implies both youth and moral purity. Also, Mary was able to walk to Jerusalem at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion, when He was around 33. At a time when life expectancy was less than today, this indicates that relatively few years separated her age from His.

Joseph’s maturity in handling the news of Mary’s being with child (Matthew 1:18, 19) may suggest a mature age. Also, his being addressed as “Son of David” (v. 20) may indicate that his father was deceased and he was the living heir to David’s throne. The Lord’s being proclaimed as “Son of David” during His ministry may also indicate that Joseph had died previously.

These various suggestions make it reasonable to assume that Joseph was somewhat older than Mary.

D. Oliver

Is it possible that the Lord’s brothers were only half brothers?

The idea that Joseph had sons before he married Mary or that those referred to as His brothers were merely His close relatives does not satisfy all the statements of Scripture. The term “brothers” in the New Testament is clearly used to refer to those with common parentage (Matthew 20:20, 24), nationality (Acts 22:1), and spiritual life (Romans 1:13). There are no clear cases of its use for close family relationship apart from common parentage.

In addition, the references to the Lord’s sisters (Matthew 13:56; Mark 6:3) must refer to those who shared a common parentage. In the New Testament, the word “sisters” is only used in that way or for those who are related spiritually – which are not cousins or half brothers..

Most conclusively, Psalm 69 is messianic (vv. 4, 9, 20, 21); “My mother’s children” (v. 8) reproached Him, “for neither did His brethren believe in Him” (John 7:5).

James, Joses, Simon, Judas, and His sisters were the children of both Mary and Joseph.

D. Oliver