“By proof we feel
Our power sufficient to disturb his Heav’n,
And with perpetual inrodes to alarm,
Though inaccessible, his fatal Throne:
Which if not Victory is yet Revenge.”
— John Milton, Paradise Lost
I think that Milton had it right. Satan knows that he cannot win the battle. But, his revenge involves not victory, but the perpetual upheaval of the Kingdom of God and of his throne. I do not think that Satan necessarily harbors any hope of winning the final battle. But, his revenge comes in the massive destruction which he causes and will cause, and in the number that he prevents from sharing the joy of God in his kingdom.
Sadly, human revenge is often the same. If you notice, most revenge movies do not restore the person lost (most revenge movies involve a dead loved one). Rather, they are intended to cause maximum damage to the person or the corporation that was involved. It is only when a revenge movie strays from revenge over a loved or injured person that you catch the disproportionate nature of revenge. It is the same way in real life. All you need to do are look at some of the lawsuits filed. Generally, the financial damage that they propose causing to the other person or corporation is way outside any realistically proportional punishment. The motive is not compensation for pain, rather the motive is often pure revenge.
Yes, I know that a person whose inattention to safely leads to another person’s broken arm should pay all hospital costs involved and any loss of income. But, often the injured person will additionally sue for amounts of money that often equal years of salary for the person whose inattention allowed the accident to happen. At that point you can tell that revenge has become the motive. Sadly, we have allowed our tort law to become an extort system which facilitates an attitude which makes Satan most proud, revenge.
Tort law itself is not wrong. We need to have a way to deal with civil wrongs. Not everything is criminal. If your car is backing into a parking spot and you accidentally bump the car behind you causing a dent, that is not a criminal matter. It comes under tort law. You can look at the Old Testament to find several examples of tort law. But, when you look at the Old Testament, you can see that damage awards are capped. For instance, a thief that had committed the crime of robbing a cow would also be liable to a tort judgment of five cows as damage punishment (see Exodus). Interestingly enough, a sheep was only four sheep, one less than a cow. There are other examples of tort law in the Old Testament, many of them not involving any criminal act, but they were all capped.
Revenge, however, has no cap. It is amazing how many people will claim that an emotional or physical injury is so great that the other person must be punished with a punishment so large that they are essentially sentenced to a lifetime of misery. That is what makes revenge so dangerous. Revenge has no relationship to justice. It is a disproportional desire to damage the other person for the sheer pleasure of watching them suffer. In fact, I would argue that the first murder, Cain killing Abel, had a large measure of a revenge motive behind it.
But, you know what the main problem with revenge is? It is the sin that we often do not see as sin. Revenge winds its ways through many of our darkest fantasies, and we encourage it. Revenge raises its head whenever we feel injured, and we often do not rebuke it. Revenge poisons out attitudes and we allow it. We often argue with ourselves that just fantasizing about some revenge but not doing it simply relieves our stress. And so we sin and poison ourselves. Yes, revenge is most dangerous and foul, even when not committed.