“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” — 1 Peter 5:8
This is a biblical mugshot of the roaring lion, aka Satan, the devil, a murderer from the beginning, a liar and the father of lies (Matthew 4:10, 13:39; John 8:44). Take a long look at this picture and memorize his features. No doubt you will need it for these trying times ahead.
The infamous history of the roaring lion is extensive. He has been a prowler since the beginning of his prolific career. According to one of the earliest records, he is known to be constantly “roaming through the earth, walking to and fro,” searching into the works of the children of men in order to destroy them (Job 1:7). He is, in this capacity, a type of spy or informant against humanity for the purpose of indictment.
The forensic profile of the roaring lion made by our agent in the field, the apostle Peter, describes the assailant as an “adversary,” which from a legal understanding describes an “opponent of the court.” Thus, the roaring lion often impersonates a prosecuting attorney standing in the plaintiff’s place to accuse God’s people of their crimes before the Judge’s bar. As testified by John Gill, “Satan accuses men of the breach of the law, and pleads that justice might take place, and punishment be inflicted, and which he pursues with great violence and diligence as a roaring lion.”
This lines up with earlier reports as recorded in Zechariah 3:1 and Job 1:6 where this adversary was known to harass, mock, and hurl accusations against individuals to undermine their standing before the Court and the world. According to these eyewitnesses, he is “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God, day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
The roaring lion’s primary weapon for submitting these prosecutorial accusations is found in the violence of his roar. Like a lion, his loud and ferocious roar serves as a boastful display of power to strike fear into the hearts of those who hear it. For Satan, his roar is used to intimidate and accuse his prey as he prowls in the darkness around them. The intensity of his roar indicates that he is exceedingly hungry and full of rage, for he knows his time is short; daylight is fast approaching to reveal the vanity of his desperate estate.
According to Albert Barnes, “The lion here is not the crouching lion — the lion stealthfully creeping toward his foe — but it is the raging monarch of the woods, who by his terrible roar would intimidate all so that they might become an easy prey. The particular thing referred to here, doubtless, is persecution, resembling in its terrors a roaring lion.”
The objective of the “raging monarch of the woods,” therefore, is to persecute his prey so that they scatter out of fear or wander away from the protection of the Shepherd and become lost and alone in the darkness. When this happens, the lion will no longer roar, for only by silence and stealth can this vile predator now sneak upon his quarry to seize and devour the “life-blood” of his victims.
Peter And His Knowledge Of The Roaring Lion
The apostle Peter was quite familiar with the roaring lion (Luke 22:31). He had first heard the “roar” directed at him when he denied knowing Jesus three times after his Master’s arrest (Matthew 26:69-75). It was a devastating encounter that left him broken and weeping bitterly, but one which would forge a stronger faith within him that could never again be blindsided by this dark predator and the roar of his ferocious accusations.
For the next thirty years after his Lord’s death and resurrection, Peter would now spy out and discern the familiar roar on countless occasions. He had especially heard the roar when his dear friend and spiritual brother, the apostle James, was horrifically beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I of Judea (Acts 12:1-2). He had heard the roar again when he, too, was thrown into prison to await the sword of the king’s executioner, yet later was rescued from death by an intervening angel of the Lord (Acts 12:3-11). And now, two decades after his narrow escape, Peter could hear a low-pitched roar in the distance that made him instantly realize that the vile beast was back on the prowl. God’s people, he knew, needed to be warned.
It was sometime after the summer of 64 AD at this point, and a great fire had consumed a significant portion of Rome. In a rage, the emperor Nero (perhaps to extinguish the spreading rumor that he, himself, had set the fire) publicly accused Christians of being the true culprits behind the devastating event. As a result of Nero’s defamation, many believers were rounded up as arson suspects, perhaps falsely accused of the crime by informers, and then publicly executed to the delight of the pagan citizenry. Soon after, the Roman Empire established an official state policy that either generally suppressed or directly criminalized many of the beliefs and activities of the Christian faith. It was under this new, state-sanctioned persecution, in fact, that the apostle Paul was arrested, sent to a Roman prison for a second time, and later beheaded by order of Nero (or his prefect) sometime after the fire, probably around 65 AD.
It was in the midst of these increasingly oppressive conditions that Peter felt inspired to write his first epistle to the scattered believers throughout the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. Charged by Jesus to “feed His sheep,” Peter knew the time had come to prepare the flock for the reality of a new level of persecution. He, along with many in the Church, would have already read Paul’s last letter to Timothy and they were all saddened to later learn of the apostle’s shocking execution in Rome. Believers of the day would have been encouraged by Paul’s final words which revealed his calm, peace-filled demeanor and enduring faith even though he was being “poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6).
Peter may have been one of the few readers, however, who would have immediately grasped what Paul was referring to when he spoke of having so far been spared from the “mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17), which most likely was an allusion to Nero. Was it just a coincidence that Peter, when writing his own letter, felt compelled to echo Paul’s literary devices by warning of a “roaring lion” with an insatiable desire to “devour,” a Greek word that literally means, “to drink down”?
Our Faith Against The Roaring Lion
Regardless of the thought process behind his words, Peter’s first God-breathed letter to the saints would be a profound, much-needed treatise on the importance of standing strong in the faith in the face of external persecution. Considering the explosive situation since 64 AD, Peter was clearly eager to encourage believers throughout the Roman Empire to hold on to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ with all humility, regardless of the tyranny of Nero or the roaring lions to come. This meant to be duly respectful of the various human authorities established by God, with the understanding that living a life “above reproach” would give the roaring lion no justifiable advantage in the eyes of the world to undermine Christianity through slanderous accusations (1 Peter 2:12). Peter’s call for a display of grace in the midst of persecution was to publicly honor their Lord and Savior as they strove to emulate Christ during His unjust sufferings when He, like an innocent lamb, fully “entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
Peter, of course, was not naïve about the struggles of maintaining such a humble faith in practice. He knew such commitment to discipleship and righteous living would not always silence the murderous intentions of the roaring lion. Certainly the apostle had experienced conflict with Jewish authorities in the past (Acts 4:19; 5:29), and from a technical standpoint, he was still a fugitive from the law after escaping King Herod Agrippa’s grasp by God’s grace. Nevertheless, Peter knew that the Church needed to be reminded that their obedience to God might one day clash with their submission to the wicked authorities above them, and they would need to trust God to guide them through the conflict, just as Jesus had done, even unto the penalty of death.
It is at this point in his epistle that Peter, with great spiritual perception, issued his word of warning about the roaring lion to prepare the faithful for the coming battle. In a prophetic declaration, he spoke of “fiery trials” that some believers would soon experience for the cause of Christ (1 Peter 4:12). Whether or not this was a reference to the great fire of Rome is debatable. It is a compelling point, however, that the historian Tacitus made reference to a report that Nero, in fact, would sometimes order unjustly-condemned Christians to be tied to the large posts surrounding his estate and lit like torches to illuminate his garden parties at night. Fiery trials, indeed.
The Roaring Lion In America Today
Such horrific notions of fiery trials and roaring lions may seem like a barbaric reality from the bygone age of the Roman Empire, and yet Peter’s vivid warnings still have a startling impact on Christians today. This, no doubt, is by God’s omniscient design, and therefore it is instructive for all of His people who find themselves notoriously at odds with the dark world around them, no matter their time or place in history. Even now, we can hear a roaring lion looking for shaky or distracted Christians; and our task at hand is to be on the lookout for a satanic predator that may soon emerge from the present-day darkness with a fierce hunger and ready teeth.
Sadly, even today, we are seeing the rise of a similar hatred towards Christians in America as the prominent voices of our culture point their fingers at the bold believers in our midst who have become a convenient scapegoat for all the problems in our society. Our Gospel message of faith and repentance, along with our eagerness to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11), chafes at their opposing desire to live as they please without the dictates of God. “If not for these Christians,” they might be heard to proclaim, “we would have no need for ‘safe spaces’ or judicial activism to criminalize their biblical beliefs as ‘hate speech’ and ‘domestic terrorism’ so we can feel better about ourselves!”
Alas, some things never change. In fact, the similarities between the Roman Empire and America are uncanny. As we speak, the pandemic and social unrest burns through our country like the fires of Rome, the flames being fanned by the government’s aggressive encroachment upon people’s civil liberties in this convenient time of crisis. Back in 64 AD, it was wicked Nero who used the event of his great fire to step on the backs of Christians in order to rebuild Rome for his own twisted glory and pleasure. And now, once again, the pagan mob and their secular leaders are blaming Christians for causing the current chaos in America when all the while these progressive malcontents are the ones conspiring to raze the moral framework of our constitutional liberty so they can rebuild a new society for their own twisted glory and pleasure.
It is very likely that what we are seeing is the long shadow of an approaching beast. Some may easily dismiss it as a “soft totalitarianism” useful for protecting us from our present dangers, and yet the swift expansion of governmental power and control has all the characteristics of a sharp-toothed totalitarian regime that may soon dictate every facet of one’s life, including one’s very thoughts and beliefs. All over the world, the conspiring globalists are already ushering in the “Great Reset” of society which has a goal to force every individual into a new social “credit” system using a digital biometric ID linked to your banking activity, medical records, and a critical, ongoing analysis of your social behavior to insure your compliance and submission to their transhumanistic new world order.
We as watchful Christians should be disturbed by these developments. We are at a particular point in prophetic history where the warnings of Peter should speak loudly to our souls. As C. J. Ellicott described this wake-up call by the apostle, “These are the sudden cries of warning of a shepherd who spies the lion prowling round the flock in the darkness, while the guardians of the flock lie drowsy and secure.” In light of this alarming truth, we must ask ourselves: Are we paying attention yet? Are we sober-minded and watchful as these political and cultural maneuvers play out in America? And is it possible that the beastly mechanism being presently implemented will ultimately be used to hunt down, cut off, and “devour” unsuspecting Christians before Christ’s return? (Revelation 13:15).
According to Joseph Benson, the roaring lion will not always attack us directly. “He sometimes attacks the people of God in person, though not visibly, and sometimes by his ministers, the other evil spirits who are in league with him; and sometimes by wicked men, his subjects, whom he instigates to tempt them by the terror of persecution.” Whether it comes in the form of a tyrannical Caesar like Nero or a totalitarian regime that roars like a lion to scatter Christians into the wilderness, such evil must be confronted by the word of God to force it to flee before we succumb to the devilish temptation to forsake our faith in exchange for temporal safety.
Even now the roar of the lion can be heard in America. It emanates from leaders in our government, from the angry rhetoric of the “woke” mob, and from the halls of journalism, an institution which is nothing more than a factory of propaganda for secular humanism. They broadly accuse biblical Christians in toto of being selfish and unloving because believers refuse to support the cultural viewpoints which God has clearly denounced as sin. They accuse biblical Christians of being racist, anti-science, and even anti-Christian in order to shut them up and marginalize their influence in the world. And sadly, many professing Christians are now joining with the mob or fearfully capitulating to these false accusations and ostensibly “denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1) by distancing themselves from God’s sacred word for the sake of cultural accommodation and worldly acceptance.
The Roaring Lion Cannot Overcome Us
Thankfully, God’s word and a Spirit-led understanding have provided Christians with all the spiritual tools to guard their camp against the prowling beast of Satan and to fearlessly engage the culture with the Gospel. As Paul assures us in 2 Corinthians 2:11, Satan should not be able to outwit us and impede us from performing this glorious task. And why is that? Because with the Lord’s guidance, “we are not unaware of Satan’s schemes.” The Bible, you see, has shown us the roaring lion’s mugshot.
We know the roaring lion’s distinct appearance and have perused his criminal record and “modus operandi” throughout biblical history. He may roar and snarl and fill our hearts with dread, but ultimately, God’s word tells us that if we stand firm in our faith and resist him, he will flee from us (James 4:7). In the court of heaven’s justice, this roaring lion and his accusations are toothless and mute because we, as faithful disciples, have “an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1) who will plead on behalf of every one who applies for pardon and salvation in His name. After all, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).
Therefore, as we begin to hear the distant roar in the darkness and prick up our ears, this is where the biblical mugshot comes into full use as we train ourselves to distinguish between good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14), and stand firm against all the “strategies of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). We may lose our life during this earthly fight, just as Peter soon followed after Paul and lost his life under Nero by the brutality of an upside-down crucifixion. Nevertheless, we must never lose our faith in Jesus Christ because only by Him is our ultimate victory to be found. Indeed the martyred apostles knew this wondrous truth, even with their dying breath, that they had “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven” with a faith that is shielded by God’s power for salvation (1 Peter 1:4-5). All true believers, in fact, know this great truth and are prepared, if need be, to glorify God in their suffering.
Satan, you see, can never overcome faithful Christians who have no fear of being devoured. Instead, it is the fearless believers who will, in the end, overcome the devil “by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony,” and because “they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
That old prowling lion out there in the darkness? He can just roar away. We’re too busy paying attention to our Lord and going about His business.