In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, we read from the New American Standard (NAS) Bible Paul’s words:
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Many have made assumptions as to what that thorn in the flesh might have been—maybe some physical affliction or persecution or whatever. But to understand this, a more important question must be asked first, and that is: Who is this “messenger of Satan”?
To begin answering this, in John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, we read a different more revealing and even more accurate translation of this most important portion of verse 7, directly answering our question here. He explains (this text is updated to make it more readable for today):
But after all, I see not but that the devil himself may be meant as the subject here; for as before observed, the phrase “a thorn in the flesh” is metaphorical, and the other, a “messenger of Satan,” is literal, and explains it. Therefore, the whole may be read thus: “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the angel Satan to buffet me.” So we see that Satan—who was once an angel of light but now of darkness—is the “thorn in the flesh.” And, Satan might be suffered to appear visibly to him from time to time in a very terrible manner, and which was very grievous to be borne. He might by permission have great power over his body, as he had over Job's, to use it ill, to beat and buffet it, for this also may be taken literally. And he might likewise in other ways greatly distress him by stirring up the corruptions of his heart; by following him with his satanical injections, suggestions, and temptations; by raising violent persecutions and instigating many of his emissaries against him. And this sense is the rather to be chosen, because it includes all others that have any show of truth.
Without getting too technical, while the NAS and other translations speak of “a messenger of Satan,” the fact is that there is no preposition “of” between “aggelos” and “satan,” or angel Satan. Furthermore, and this is most important, the noun “Satan” can be either nominative or genitive case, making a difference in its meaning. What is nominative and genitive? If “Satan” was nominative, then it has to read “angel Satan.” But if it is genitive, it has to read “angel of Satan.” For example, here is a genitive case relative to an angel: “But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (Matthew 1:20). The text here then supports the message. So, what do the Greek texts tell us?
Three of the major Greek texts that are used in Bible translation are the Byzantine text, the Textus Receptus, and the Westcott and Hort text. Of these three, Byzantine and Textus Receptus have the word Satan in the nominative case, or “the angel Satan.” But the Westcott and Hort text has it in the genitive case, or “an angel of Satan.” (Click here to see this distinction.) Therefore, at the Greek text level, it will go either way. But even more stunning is that with two of the three text supporting “the angel Satan,” the translators have wholly ignored this. And for the sake of honest examination, let us look at another example regarding this matter.
In Luke 1:26 we read from the King James Version (KJV): “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth.” You will notice that in regard to this angel, Gabriel, it does not say “the angel/messenger of Gabriel.” But, this is the same nominative case as that found in 2 Corinthians 12:7, which KJV, like all the others, translates: “the messenger of Satan.” So why the bias? Why on the one hand do they say “the messenger of Satan,” but then say “the angel Gabriel”? They cannot be both ways. The fact is that when the nominative case is used in 2 Corinthians 12:7 just as it is used in Luke 1:26, then both of these angels have to be addressed in the same manner: “the angel Gabriel” and “the angel Satan.” They are both nominative case.
Thus we see that the thorn in the flesh that humbled Paul was indeed the angel Satan. And what you are going to find now is that it is far more revealing and relevant that the angel Satan did indeed afflict Paul so as to keep him humble. Furthermore, you will find that the reality of this bears great significance for the church, as well as affirms the vital revelation of the fulfilling and culminating Elijah—all of this we will cover here. Let us then restate verses 7 and 8 with the accurate translation which we will use:
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the angel Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!
8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that he might leave me.
To begin this, in the above quote from John Gill, he cited Job as an example of the very thing that Satan effected upon Paul. Frankly, this is a MOST relevant correlation. In Job 1:8, we find that Yahweh spoke to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job?” In order to test Job, Yahweh gave Satan the authority to strip him of everything he had. First, all of his sons and daughters were killed, as well as his servants and all of his livestock. Next, Yahweh gave Satan the authority to smite him with sore boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.
Three times we are told that all of this evil was brought upon Job by Yahweh God: Job 12:9, James 5:11, and in Job 42:11, which reads, “Then all his brothers and all his sisters . . . consoled him and comforted him for all the evil that Yahweh had brought on him.” While Satan performed all of these works that humbled and tested Job, he was in fact an angel sent by Yahweh to do so. Even remember, it was Yahweh who in the first place brought forward Job’s name: “Have you considered My servant Job?”
In obvious like manner, Yahweh sent the angel Satan to afflict Paul. Three times Paul implored Yahweh to remove him. But He affirmed both the right and the purpose whereby Satan was to continue to have this authority: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, by the will of Yahweh Satan remained!
Beyond Paul’s personal life, why would Yahweh do this to him in the same manner as He did to Job? Because both of these men clearly represent Christianity: Job in clear type, and Paul as its founding apostle.
How is Job a type of Christianity? Very clearly, even as the church is:
(1.) The single-portion former rain with the first Remnant,
(2.) Followed by the Body of Christ that is afflicted by Satan with loss,
(3.) Then completed by the double-portion latter rain with the fulfilling second Remnant,
So Job’s life evidenced the same:
(1.) The single-portion blessing that came upon him,
(2.) Followed by the affliction of Satan with loss,
(3.) Then completed by the double-portion blessing.
There is no question at all that Job was a clear intercessoral testimony of the church. And in both Christianity and Job, the angel Satan was given authority to afflict them. How then does this relate to Paul, and how does it prove that 2 Corinthians 12:7 does indeed speak of the angel Satan as the one who continually afflicted him so as to humble him? Most importantly, Paul is the apostle who was the father of Christianity; and as went Paul, so has gone Christianity. Even as Paul was afflicted by Satan, and even as Job was afflicted by Satan, so Christians, the Body of Christ, have been afflicted by Satan.
Of course this fate is also proven by the clear fact that Christ Himself was turned over to and afflicted by Satan. Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3-4), and thereby Yahshua was taken into captivity by the Jews (whose father was Satan, John 8:44) and the nations (over whom Satan rules, John 14:30, Luke 4:5-6), and thereupon He was afflicted and killed. Therefore equally true, and frankly most obvious, as went Christ, consequentially, so has gone the Body of Christ. And as we have noted, in like manner, as went Paul, so it had to be with the Body of Christ, Christianity. All three of these intercessors—Job, Yahshua, and Paul—were each given over to Satan, attesting what would happen to the church!
Now, let us consider another like evidence to this that is most relevant here. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, we read of Paul’s actions to turn a man over to this same afflicter, Satan:
I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
But, this was not the only time Paul did this, for in 1 Timothy 1:20 we read that he now turns two men over to Satan:
Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.
Therefore, as the foreshadowing founding apostle of Christianity, what does this hold for the Body of Christ? Very simple, we already know that Christianity was supposed to receive 3,000 years to perform their work, and then rest on their sabbath on the eighth day, their Sunday sabbath. But, that has to be cut short to 2,000 years, and Immanuel come and perform that which they have failed to accomplish in those years, and would fail to do so in the third 1,000 years as well. (Read Death and the Passing of Christianity, page 2.) And most significantly, we read in 2 Corinthians 12:8 that specifically three times Paul asked that Satan might leave him. Well, hopefully he will be heard this time and Yahweh cut his requests short to two, and there be no need for that third request.
Do you already see now why Paul handed two men over to Satan to teach them not to blaspheme, and turned over a third man as well for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved? Clearly, two parts of the church have already been turned over to Satan; and if Yahweh does not cut their days short, as it is written, no flesh will be saved (Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:20). The third part will be turned over to Satan as well, just as Paul did so to the man for the destruction of his flesh. We can be most glad that Yahweh will indeed end Satan’s affliction of the church.
In addition, it seems most unusual that when Paul explained this work of Satan relative to himself, you will notice that he repetitiously used the same statement, even in the same sentence: “to keep me from exalting myself.” “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the angel Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” Is there not also a significance in this as well? Are these possibly testimonies to the two parts, the 2,000 years, that Satan is given so as to keep the church from exalting itself? It certainly seems so, for otherwise it is unnecessary repetition.
And, do you recognize why Paul, from the natural standpoint, would so freely do this to these three men? Obviously, he turned these three men over to Satan for correction with the same intentions that were spoken to him by Yahweh: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Essentially, it is, “I’ll just do the same thing God did to me.” That is what he was acquainted with, and saw its value, so he repeated it—of course not knowing that his actions would be intercessoral and prophesy. But, Yahweh has His will and His way.
Continuing in this examination of Satan, we have noted that in 2 Corinthians 12:7 it accurately reads, “the angel Satan.” So, was Satan an angel? Indeed he was, but he fell. In 2 Corinthians 11:14, we read the familiar statement, though here in a more literal translation: “for even Satan transforms himself into an angel of light.” So, what is this transformation? Is it into an angel? Not at all. In Ezekiel 28:14-16, we see that he was in fact a cherub: “You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you. By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.” And in Isaiah 14:12 we read: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!” And more directly, Yahshua said regarding Satan per se: “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18).
But, some claim that since the following was written about Satan, that he was actually created evil. These verses are therein cited to prove this, noting that he was a murderer and liar and sinned from the beginning.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies [John 8:44].
. . . for the devil has sinned from the beginning [1 John 3:8].
But, from what beginning? From his own beginning? Or, from the beginning of man, which we see in Genesis 3? By what we see in Creation, Yahweh God in fact creates all things good. But, because of man’s, and obviously an angel’s, weakness, they fall. Even angels obviously follow Yahweh God’s sowing-and-reaping trinity pattern:
Good —> Corruption and death —> Good in its fullness
Furthermore, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 states, “brethren . . . God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Does this mean that they believed from the beginning as well? Of course not. From the beginning it was planned, but took time to be fulfilled. Likewise, Revelation 13:8 states that Yahshua was “slain from the foundation of the world.” So, was He literally slain there, or was it 4,000 years after Creation? Again, it was later. In like manner, from the beginning it was planned that Satan would fall, and that took place at or before the Garden. Or, from Creation he has been a murderer and sinned. But just as man was created good and fell, so Satan was created an angel of the order of the cherubim and fell.
Therefore, we see that Satan is in fact a fallen angel. So, when we read that “Satan transforms himself into an angel of light,” that transformation is not that he becomes an angel, but that as an angel he presents himself as being light. Therefore, we see once again that the accurate message of 2 Corinthians 12:7 is: “there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the angel Satan to torment me.” Yes, the angel Satan.
Continue to page 2 of The Messenger for SATAN’S EFFECTUAL WORK