Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit
to be tested by the Accuser.
The Temptation is no better understood than the disciples’ experience on the day of Pentecost is understood – and for the same reason. That reason is that when we read the story of the Temptation, we tend to forget that nobody at the time knew that the Son of God was still unknown and, therefore, nobody at the time knew that Satan was evil, including Satan himself.
Paul said that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in the Son (Col. 2:3). This means that until the Son was revealed, only God and His Son possessed those riches. In that wisdom and knowledge was hidden, among countless other things, the understanding that Satan and many other heavenly beings were evil in God’s eyes. Surprised? Look in the Bible again. Nothing in the Old Testament revealed to people, or even heavenly beings, that God saw Satan as evil. Throughout the Old Testament, Satan is only seen doing, and doing well, what God told him to do.
Paul said that God, from the foundation of the world, hid the Son from both men and heavenly creatures (the “Aeons”):
3. By revelation, the mystery was made known to me, as I also briefly wrote before,
. . .
5. which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
. . .
8. To me, the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach among the Gentiles the incomprehensible richness of Christ
9. and to enlighten all men as to what is the plan of the mystery that has been hidden from the Aeons by God, who created all things through Jesus Christ.
If Satan had known the Son, he would certainly have known that the Son was the one “through whom God made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2). And if he had known that the Son made the worlds, he certainly would not have offered the Son authority over this world – one of the billions of worlds that he had created! Moreover, if he had known the Son, Satan would have known that the Son created not just the worlds, but everything that was created (Jn. 1:3), including him. And if Satan had known that, he would never have tried to persuade the Son, his Creator, to bow before him, as he did during the Temptation.
The Son could not have been known any more than the Father could have been known before the Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost, for it is only by the Spirit that we may come to understand the things of God. From that day, when they were born again, the disciples began to truly know God and His Son. That understanding is what reveals the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 to be the event of unequalled importance that it was, and it is also what reveals the Temptation to be the astonishing event that it was.
When we read the Temptation with the understanding that (1) Satan did not know the Son of God and (2) Satan did not know that God saw him as evil, the story is transformed into an absolutely riveting tale. You can read about the Temptation from this perspective in Chapter 7 of my book, God Had a Son before Mary Did, at GoingtoJesus.com. I hope you will find the time to consider it.