After tempting Eve to doubt God’s words and goodness, he then tempted her to doubt God’s justice. When God revealed His will in the prohibition of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, He said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:17), whereas Satan said, “You will not surely die” (3:4). Satan convinced Eve that there would be no negative consequence for her sin. He deceived her into thinking that there was no punishment for disobeying God.
The final step involved Satan’s convincing Eve that she deserved more. He said, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). This was the chef d’oeuvre of Satan’s first temptation. Eve ultimately gave into pride. C.S. Lewis, in his preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost, wrote: “Eve fell to pride [thinking that] . . . her beauty lacks spectators . . . [that] she ought to be adored and served by angels. She would be the queen of heaven if all had their rights. God is trying to keep the human race down. Godhead is their true destiny, and Godhead is what she thinks of when she eats.”
When she sinned, Eve acted on “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). She “saw that the tree was good for food [i.e., the lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [i.e., the lust of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [i.e., the pride of life],” and so “took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6). In all his temptations, Satan aims for these three spheres of desire: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The people of Israel repeatedly fell to the lust of the flesh (Num. 11:1–9, 31–35), the lust of the eyes (1 Cor. 10:7–8), and the pride of life (vv. 9–10) when they were tempted by the evil one.
The wisdom of God at work in the victory that He gained over Satan by Christ confronts the strategy that the devil used to conquer our first parents and Israel. Jesus came as the second Adam and true Israel. He was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. The temptations of Jesus, though uniquely crafted to His situation and calling, were nevertheless of the same nature as those Satan used against man in the garden. Satan tempted Jesus to doubt the words, goodness, and justice of His Father, and to act on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Jesus refused.
The Father had borne witness at Jesus’ baptism that He was His beloved Son (Matt. 3:17). Satan introduced his temptations by questioning God’s words. He introduced the temptations with the preface, “If you are the Son of God . . .” (Matt. 4:3, 6). Jesus withstood these assaults by holding fast to His Father’s words. When Satan tempted Jesus to turn the stones to bread, the evil one tempted the Son of God to deny His Father’s goodness toward Him. When Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself off of the temple mount, he twisted the Scriptures—citing Psalm 91:11–12 but strategically leaving off verse 13, an allusion to God’s promise of Satan’s own demise in Genesis 3:15. In so doing, Satan was denying God’s justice.
While Satan has different temptations for every person in every season of life, he utilizes the same fundamental tactics that he used at the beginning in the garden. During our time of sojourning here, we will be subject to an onslaught of his attacks. We must take up the whole armor of God. We must abide in God’s Word and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Captain of our salvation. We must study the tactics of the enemy and know our own hearts. Finally, we must long for the coming of Christ, when our warfare will be brought to an end. As Brooks reminds his readers: “Until you are taken up, into the bosom of Christ, your comforts will not be full, pure, and constant. Until then, Satan will still be thumping on you, and spreading snares to entangle you! Therefore you should always be crying out with the church, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev. 22:20).”
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on spiritual warfare and was previously published on May 24, 2019. Previous post. Next post.