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In tormenting Job, Satan had to ask God for permission concerning what he could do (economic damage, family, health).

Before sifting Peter, Satan had to ask Jesus for permission.

Question:

  1. For believers, is there some time mark after which Satan needs to ask for permission (i.e. ask for permission after conversion, but not before?)

  2. Does the Bible indicate anywhere whether Satan needs to ask God for permission before dealing with Unbelievers? [I suspect the answer might be yes, given that permission was requested even for entering animals (i.e. the pigs going off the cliff)].

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When we consider where this 'permission' comes from we can answer points 1. & 2. First, every molecule in the universe, in a sense needs permission to do anything, because God is infinite in power. An infinite God can not allow anything to be done, without his permission. Therefore, for the Devil to exist, he needs, in a sense, God's permission. However the permission you are referring to is an abstraction from that more general permission and pertains to God's particular sovereignty, in rare specific cases. Here we are really dealing with God's sovereign control over the universe and we can have a window into it by this verse:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (NIV Romans 8:28-30)

(I have posted some details about this verse here, which supports this post, if you are interested in more details.)

This takes care of (1.) because for the elect God has planned out his blessing from eternity, so there can be no point where the Devil is not 'bound in chains' (Mark 3:27, Rev 20) in terms of the limits of his cruelty which he can unleash upon the elect.

With regard to (2.) I would say that the Devil is also clearly under the chains of God to limit his ability to inflict cruelty, otherwise, the whole world would due dead, or worshipping him, or some other great evil which we could not imagine. However this is a different case because he already has permission to rule their minds as he is the prince of darkness and ruler of the world.

The problem with all of this is our understanding of 'permission'. In general the Devil does not seem to need permission to carry on his work, but as he runs into brick walls of protection by God, he is bound. He is sort of free to cause havoc, without every second running to God for permission.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.(NIV 1 Peter 5:8)

However, in very narrow cases, such as Job and Peter, the Bible moves into a special circumstance when God seems to remove part of his protection for mysterious purposes that align with the Devil's wishes. These mysterious cases are called a kind of'permission' with Job and Peter. usually the Bible does not indicate that the Devil is asking God anything, but Job and Peter are on God's and the Devils radar specifically, so there cases have special attention in the bible. In fact God is the one who brings up Job! But these specific cases are still examples that not only work out higher blessing in those two person's lives (Romans 8:28-30) but draw out principles for us all who read them.

It is not really in line with scripture to think of the Devil as asking special permissions all the time, and God sometimes granting them and sometimes not. Rather God has generally granted the Devil to go about as he pleases under strict limits, and sometimes let's him go a little further when it suits God perfect will in working our his mysterious purposes in peoples lives and manifesting his glory to men. Both Christians and non Christians are i this open field of spiritutual warfare. Since this is the landscape God also wants us to enter into the conflict because it is not all going on without the effect of our own choices and decisions. We are to wrestles and pray because it makes a difference to the level of 'protection' we have obtained. This protection is primarily from sin. Therefore we are to 'wrestle' that means constant, tiring close contact, unlike boxing, or shooting.(Ephesians 6:12)

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  1. I don't think so. The example of Simon Peter (which actually applied to "all of you") you use shows indeed that Satan needs to ask God's permission to attack a Christian. However, God is under no obligation to grant Satan his request. Rather, the Bible implies that God only allows Satan to attack us if we can bear it (see Paul's example of being tempted only as much as we can bear). So that question is "how much we can handle?", not "how long since conversion?".
  2. The "pigs off a cliff" situation seems more likely to be because the demons wanted to avoid something worse (e.g. wandering aimlessly or hell) than having to ask permission. I don't see any clear Biblical passage to indicate whether or not Satan needs permission to attack non-Christians. However, there must be some kind of limit, otherwise he would have already led the whole world astray. And then how could anyone become a Christian? So, yes, I expect that Satan needs permission even to attack non-Christians, though there is no clear Biblical passage about this that I can find.

It's worth adding why God would allow Satan to attack us. As Paul wrote, sufferings produce perseverance, character and hope.

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The scriptures state plainly that the devil was defeated by Christ at the cross. Satan no longer has any weapons of offense at his disposal. He has been completely disarmed by the love of my Father (Matt. 12:29) ...how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Jesus entered the devil's (strong man) house (planet earth) and took back all that the devil owned. (The devil owned the title right to planet Earth which he took from Adam. Jesus took it back, bound satan and enabled all on earth to be free from satan's power if they choose. Jesus then gave dominion on earth back to all people, however, only those in the kingdom of heven on earth (belivers) who understand this revelation of Grace can actually exercise the benifits of their dominion). The other responses to this queation seem to indicate a beliefe that the devil is to be feared like the Boogy Man. The opposite is true. In fact the devil is now weaker in spiritual power and majesty than any believer in Christ simply because my Father and Christ dwells in the believer. So what was Peter talking about? The devil still has influence over people when they are ignorant of understanding the word of are not taught the true meaning of the word. This is what is called "Walking in the Flesh". When a person is in this situation then he begins to ignore or not believ the fact Jesus has accomplished and provided everything for us and attempts to consentrate on his own works. This is when the devil sees opportunity and uses his only weapon: influence. Through his influence the devil can convince a person to "help" Jesus out with their own efforts and move out of "Walking in the Spirit". When this happens then, by your own choice, you cut off the flow of Grace from my Father and, eventually, you will believe the devil is the Boogy Man. (Col.2:15) and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of these openly, triumphing over them in it. Thes principalities and powers were ownwd by the devil, Jesus spoiled them and was completely victorious over them.

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