The Devil (or Satan)



"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

~ C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


satan_gustave_dore
Satan by Gustave Dore

The Devil

Who is the devil? Who is Satan? Many world religions and belief systems subscribe to the existence of such a being.

What does the Bible say about the devil or Satan? What are his names? Where does he come from? What he he like? What does he want? What is his destiny? This article focuses on answer the questions “Who is the devil?” or “Who is Satan?” from the perspective of the the Bible.

In order this article will address the devil or Satan's existence, his names, his nature, his fall, his work, and his judgment.





The Devil: His Existence

" The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist."

~ Charles Baudelaire

Although many people in the world today don’t believe in the existence of the devil or Satan, it is clear that the writers of the Bible did. Bible writers refer to the devil or Satan as if the he exists, and moreover, as if he is a personal being. (More on his nature below.) For Jews and Christians, some of the most important stories in their faiths, whether it be the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden or the story of Job, posits the actual existence of the devil or Satan in our space-and-time world.

Christians in particular find significance in the fact that Jesus Christ testified to the existence of the devil or Satan, as well as to his personal and combative nature. Each of the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - record that Jesus Christ believed in, and even had direct experiences with, the devil or Satan (for example, Matthew 4:1-11).

(See ReligionFacts article on Demons.)

The Devil: His Names

Some Bible scholars have counted as many as 40 titles and names for the devil or Satan in the Bible. Whatever the exact number is, some are used more than others. Here is a sampling of common ones:

Lucifer

The name “Lucifer” is found in Isaiah 14:12, which reads,

"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!" (KJV)

Many scholars believe “Lucifer” was the name the devil or Satan had when he was angel, before he rebelled against God. The Hebrew name “Lucifer” means “day-star,” and is associated with the Greek title “day star," such as in 2 Peter 1:19, which reads,

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." (KJV)

The Latin name for "Lucifer" means “light-bearer.” Some associate the term with 2 Corinthians 11:14, which reads,

"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." (KJV)

Satan

The word “Satan” comes from the Hebrew shatan and means “adversary” or “resistor.” “Satan” is one of the most common designations for this being today. Here is a sampling of Bible verses that use the name:

1 Chronicles 21:1, "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." (KJV)

Job 1:6, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them." (KJV)

Zechariah 3:1, "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him." (KJV)

2 Corinthians 11:14, "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."

1 Timothy 1:20, "Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."

The Devil

The word “devil” comes from the Greek word diabolos and means “slanderer” or “false accuser.” Along with “Satan,” “devil” is one of the most common designations for this being today. Here is a sampling of Bible verses that use the name:

Matthew 4:1, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." (KJV)

Ephesians 6:11, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (KJV)

James 4:7, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (KJV)

The Serpent

The Hebrew word often translated “serpent” means "shining one." The term suggests the ideas of subtlety and cunningness. Here is a sampling of Bible verses that use this name:

Genesis 3:1, "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (KJV)

2 Corinthians 11:3, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."

Revelation 12:9, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (KJV)

The Dragon

The word “dragon” refers to the devil or Satan’s murderous and ferocious power. It is nearly a synonym for "serpent." Here is a sampling of where the term appears:

Revelation 12:3, "And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads." (KJV)

Revelation 12:4, "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." (KJV)

Revelation 12:7, "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels." (KJV)

Revelation 12:9, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (KJV)

Revelation 13:2, "And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." (KJV)

Revelation 20:2, "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years." (KJV)

The Evil/Wicked One

The Greek word at the root of this phrase refers to the active promotion of evil, tending or threatening to produce death. Here is a sampling of Bible verses that use the term:

Matthew 13:19, "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side." (KJV)

Ephesians 6:16, "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked [one]." (KJV)

1 John 5:18-19, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." (KJV)

The Tempter

This name refers to one of devil or Satan’s chief activities, which is to solicit people to evil. Here are two verses where the term is used:

Matthew 4:3, "And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." (KJV)

1 Thessalonians 3:5, "For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain." (KJV)

Beelzelbub/Beelzebul

This term was originally the name of a Philistine deity. It means “lord of flies.” The alternate form ending with -bul means “lord of filth" [i.e. "dung]. He is prince of demons. For example, Matthew 12:24-27 reads,

"But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges."

The three titles “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), are related titles and refer to the devil or Satan's sphere of influence.

The Devil: His Nature

Who is Satan? A created being

Note: While some Hebrew and Christian scholars don’t believe Ezekiel 28 refers to the devil or Satan, many, both ancient and modern, do (more on this in the next section). If the passage does refer to the devil or Satan, it indicates that he is a creature and while he seems to have more strength and abilities than people, he does not possess the same strength and abilities as the God of the Bible.

The Bible doesn’t teach that the God of the Bible and the devil or Satan are “equal but opposites.” God alone possesses the attributes of divinity such as being all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present. The Bible doesn’t teach dualism, the view that God and the devil or Satan are equal beings. Some eastern faiths teach dualism, and some Jewish and Christian believers mistakenly think the Bible teaches dualism, but it doesn’t.

Who is Satan? A spirit being

The devil or Satan is a non-material being, according to the Bible. He is a spirit. He was created as an angel in the order of cherubim. Ezekiel 28:14 reads,

"Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire." (KJV)

Who is Satan? A personal being

As opposed to the devil or Satan being a non-personal “force,” the Bible teaches that he is personal. Not only do Bible writers refer to the devil or Satan by personal pronouns (e.g. “he” and “him”), but they describe him as having attributes of a personal being such as speech, will, thought, and an agenda.

The Devil: His Fall

The following summary of the devil or Satan's fall, assumes that at least part of Ezekiel 28, specifically, verses 11-19, refer to, in part, the devil or Satan. Early church fathers of the Christian faith, such as Saint Augustine and Tertullian, interpreted Ezekiel 28 this way. This interpretation aligns with later Scripture in the New Testament, for example John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8.

Chapters 25:1-28:20 of Ezekiel contain lamentations articulated by God through the prophet Ezekiel over various nations. Beginning in 28:11 there is a noticable shift. God is still lamenting something terrible, associated with Tyre, yet aspects that are mentioned in the description go beyond human fulfillment. In other words, the description of "the King of Tyre" does not fit that of any merely human leader.

Verses 12-15 indicate that the devil's original state as a created angel was of perfection. He was wise (v. 12), beautiful (v. 12-13), anointed (v. 14), and a servant (v. 14). Seemingly, the devil or Satan had the ability to make choices, which he did in a wicked and rebellious manner. This is the origin of sin in the world, and sin is the reason for evil in the world. After the rebellion, the devil or Satan was a violent, profane-ridden fallen angel (v. 17), who was characterized by pride (v. 18).

The Devil: His Work

Presently, the devil or Satan works in different ways against the believer and the unbeliever, according to the Bible. With regard to unbelievers, he blinds their minds to the person of Jesus Christ (e.g. 2 Cor. 2:3-4), blocks the truth from their hearts (e.g. Matt. 13:4), promotes false religion (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:13-15), and ushers evil into the human heart (e.g. John 13:2). With regard to believers he seeks to promote disruptive attitudes and actions (e.g. 2 Cor. 2:10-11), distort a person's view of Jesus Christ (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:2-3), tempt toward immorality (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:5), and makes accusations against believers (e.g. Rev. 12:10).

The Devil: His Judgment

The devil or Satan experienced immediate consequences for his initial rebellion by being cast out of heaven (Isa. 14:12; Ezek. 28:15-16, cf. Job 1, 2). The New Testament also teaches that he was judged at the cross of Christ (John 12:31; 16:11; Col. 2:14-15; Heb. 2:14-15). And Satan or the devil's final judgment will come at the end of time, according to the Bible (Rev. 20:10; cf. Matt. 25:41).

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