Satan the devil

There are two unfortunate trends in today's Western world regarding Satan, the devil, mentioned in the New Testament as the relentless adversary and enemy of God. Most people are unaware of the devil or underestimate his role in causing chaos, suffering and evil. For many people, the idea of ​​a real devil is just a remnant of ancient superstition, or at best a picture of evil in the world.

On the other hand, Christians have adopted superstitious beliefs about the devil, which are known under the guise of "spiritual warfare." They give the devil excessive recognition and "wage war against him" in ways that are inappropriate to the counsel we find in Scripture. In this article we see what information the Bible gives us about Satan. Armed with this understanding, we can avoid the pitfalls of the extremes mentioned above.

References from the Old Testament

Isaiah 14,3-23 and Ezekiel 28,1-9 are sometimes considered descriptions of the origin of the devil as an angel who sinned. Some of the details can be understood as references to the devil. But the context of these passages shows that the main part of the text refers to the vanity and pride of human kings - the kings of Babylon and Tire. The point in both sections is that kings are manipulated by the devil and are reflections of his evil intentions and his hatred of God. To speak of the spiritual leader, Satan, is to speak in the same breath of his human agents, the kings. It's a way of expressing that the devil rules the world.

In the book of Job, a reference to angels says that they were present in the creation of the world and filled with wonder and joy (Hi 38,7). On the other hand, the Satan of Job 1-2 also seems to be an angel being, as it is said that he was among the "sons of God". But he is the adversary of God and his righteousness.

There are some references in the Bible to "fallen angels" (2Pt 2,4, Jud 6, Hi 4,18), but nothing essential about how and why Satan became the enemy of God. The Scriptures give us no details about the life of the angels, neither about "good" angels, nor about fallen angels (also called demons). The Bible, especially the New Testament, is much more interested in showing us Satan as someone trying to thwart God's purpose. He is called the greatest enemy of God's people, the Church of Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, Satan or the devil is not called by name in a salient way. However, one finds the conviction that cosmic powers are at war with God, clearly in the motives of their sides. Two Old Testament motifs depicting Satan or the devil are cosmic waters and monsters. They are images that depict the satanic evil that holds the earth in its spell and fights against God. In Job 26,12-13, we see Job explaining that God "aroused the sea" and "shattered Rahab." Rahab is called a "fugitive serpent" (V. 13).

In the few passages where Satan is described in the Old Testament as a personal being, Satan is portrayed as a prosecutor seeking to sow and sue discord (Zech. 3,1-2), inciting people to sin against God (1Chro 21,1 ) and uses humans and the elements to cause great pain and great suffering (Hi 1,6-19; 2,1-8).

In the book of Job, we see that Satan gathers with other angels to present himself before God, as if he had been called to a heavenly council. There are some other biblical references to a celestial gathering of angelic beings that affect human affairs. In one of these, a lying spirit beguiles a king to go to war (1Kön 22,19-22).

God is portrayed as someone who "smashed the heads of the Leviatan and made him frugal to the wild beast" (Ps 74,14). Who is Leviatan? He is the "marine monster" - the "fugitive serpent" and "meandering serpent" whom the Lord will punish "at the time" when God bans all evil from the earth and establishes his kingdom (Isaiah 27,1).

The motif of Leviatan as a serpent goes back to the Garden of Eden. Here, the serpent - "the craftier than any beast in the field" - seduces people to sin against God, resulting in their fall (1Mo 3,1-7). This leads to another prophecy of a future war between himself and the serpent, in which the serpent seems to win a decisive battle (a stab in the heel of God), only to lose the fight then (his head will be crushed). In this prophecy, God says to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and their offspring; he will crush your head and you will stab him in the heel "(1Mo 3,15).

References in the New Testament

The cosmic meaning of this statement is understood in the light of the Incarnation of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth (Joh 1,1, 14). We see in the Gospels that Satan seeks to destroy Jesus in one way or another from the day of his birth until his death on the cross. Although Satan succeeds in killing Jesus through his human proxies, the devil loses his life through his death and resurrection.

After Jesus' Ascension, the cosmic battle continues between the Bride of Christ - the People of God - and the Devil and his lackeys. But God's plans win and survive. In the end, Jesus will return and destroy his spiritual opposition to him (1Kor 15,24-28).

Above all, the Book of Revelation illustrates this struggle between the forces of evil in the world, driven by Satan, and the powers of good in the Church, led by God. In this book full of symbols, in the literary genre of Apocalypse, two cities that are larger than life, Babylon and the great, new Jerusalem represent two terrestrial groups that are at war.

When the war is over, the devil or Satan will be chained in the abyss and thus prevented from "seducing the whole world" as he had previously done (Rom 12,9).

In the end, we see that the kingdom of God triumphs over all evil. It is depicted by an ideal city - the holy city, the Jerusalem of God - where God and the Lamb live with their people in eternal peace and eternal joy, which is made possible by the mutual joy they share (Rev. 21,15 -27). Satan and all powers of evil are destroyed (Offb 20,10).

Jesus and Satan

In the New Testament, Satan is clearly identified as the adversary of God and humanity. In one way or another, the devil is responsible for the suffering and the evil in our world. In his healing ministry, Jesus even referred to fallen angels and Satan as the cause of illness and infirmity. Of course, we should be careful not to call every problem or illness a direct blow from Satan. Nevertheless, it is instructive to note that the New Testament is not afraid to blame the devil and his evil cohorts for many disasters, including illnesses. Illness is an evil, not something that is ordained by God.

Jesus called Satan and the fallen spirits "the devil and his angels" for whom the "eternal fire" is prepared (Mt 25,41). In the Gospels, we read that demons are the cause of a variety of physical illnesses and ailments. In some cases, demons occupied the minds and / or bodies of humans, resulting in weaknesses such as seizures, dumbness, blindness, partial paralysis, and various types of insanity.

Luke speaks of a woman who met Jesus in the synagogue, which had "for eighteen years had a mind that made her ill" (Lk 13,11). Jesus freed them from their infirmity and was criticized for having healed on a Sabbath. Jesus replied, "Should not this one, who is yet Abraham's daughter, whom Satan had already bound for eighteen years, be released from the shackle on the Sabbath?" (V. 16).

In other cases, he exposed demons as the cause of infirmity, as in the case of a boy who had terrible cramps and was a lunatic from childhood (Mt 17,14-19; Mk 9,14-29; Lk 9,37-45). Jesus simply commanded these demons to leave the frail and they obeyed. This showed Jesus that he had complete authority over the world of Satan and the demons. Jesus gave the same authority over the demons to his disciples (Mt 10,1).

The apostle Peter spoke of Jesus' healing ministry as one that freed people from diseases and infirmities for which Satan and his evil spirits were either the direct or indirect cause. "You know what has happened throughout Judea ... as God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with Holy Spirit and power; He went about doing good and healing all who were in the power of the devil, for God was with him "(Acts 10,37-38). This view of Jesus' healing ministry reflects the belief that Satan is the adversary of God and of his creation, especially humanity.

It puts the ultimate blame for suffering and sin on the devil and characterizes him as the
"First sinner". The devil sins from the beginning "(1Joh 3,8). Jesus calls Satan the "prince of the demons" - the ruler of the fallen angels (Mt 25,41). Jesus has broken through his devotional work the influence of the devil on the world. Satan is the "strong one" in whose house (the world) Jesus invaded (Mk 3,27). Jesus has "bound" the strong and "distributes the booty" [carries his possessions, his kingdom, away].

That's why Jesus came in the flesh. John writes, "The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil" (1Joh 3,8). Colossians speaks of this destroyed work in cosmic terms: "He has stripped the powers and powers of their power and publicly displayed them and made them a triumph in Christ" (Col. 2,15).

The Letter to the Hebrews goes into greater detail about how Jesus achieved this: "Because the children are flesh and blood, so did He equally accept Him, so that through His death He might take power over Him who had power over death, the devil. and redeemed those who throughout their lives had to be servants because of fear of death "(Hebr 2,14-15).

It is not surprising then that Satan would try to destroy God's purpose in his Son, Jesus Christ. Satan's goal was to kill the Incarnate Word, Jesus, when he was a baby (Offb 12,3, Mt 2,1-18), to try him during his life (Lk 4,1-13), and imprison and kill him (V 13; Lk 22,3-6).

Satan "had success" in the final attack on Jesus 'life, but Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection exposed and condemned the devil. Jesus had made a "public spectacle" out of the ways of the world and evil presented by the devil and his followers. It became clear to all who were willing to hear that only God's way of love is right.

Through the person of Jesus and his redemptive work, the plans of the devil were reversed and he was defeated. Thus Christ has already defeated Satan through his life, death, and resurrection, exposing the shame of evil. Jesus told his disciples on the night of his betrayal: "That I go to the Father ... the prince of this world is judged now" (John 16,11).

After Christ's return, the devil's influence in the world will cease and his complete defeat will be evident. This victory will be in a final and lasting change at the end of this age (Mt 13,37-42).

The mighty prince

During his earthly ministry Jesus declared that "the prince of this world will be expelled" (Joh 12,31), and said that this prince has "no power" over him (Joh 14,30). Jesus defeated Satan because the devil could not bring him under his control. No temptation that Satan threw at Jesus was strong enough to lure him away from his love for and faith in God (Mt 4,1-11). He has defeated the devil and stolen the possession of the "strong" - the world he held captive (Mt 12,24-29). As Christians we can rest in faith in Jesus' victory over all the enemies of God (and our enemies), including the devil.

But the Church exists in the tension of "already there, but not quite" in which God continues to allow Satan to seduce the world and spread destruction and death. Christians live between the "It's done" of Jesus' death (Joh 19,30) and "It's done" the eventual destruction of evil and the coming of the kingdom of God to the earth (Rev. 21,6). Satan is still allowed to go against the power of the gospel. The devil is still the invisible prince of darkness, and with the permission of God he has the power to fulfill God's purpose.

The New Testament tells us that Satan is the controlling power of the present evil world and that people unconsciously follow him in his opposition to God. (In Greek, the word "prince" or "prince" [as used in Joh 12,31] is a translation of the Greek word archon, which refers to the highest government official in a political district or city).

The Apostle Paul states that Satan is "the God of this world" who "blinded the minds of the unbelievers" (2Kor 4,4). Paul understood that Satan could even hinder the work of the Church (1Th 2,17-19).

Today, much of the Western world pays no attention to a reality that fundamentally affects their lives and futures - the fact that the Devil is a real spirit being who tries to harm them at every turn and thwart God's loving purpose. Christians are reminded to be aware of Satan's machinations so that they can resist them through the guidance and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Unfortunately, some Christians have gone to a misguided extreme in a "hunt" for Satan and have inadvertently given extra food to those who mock the idea that the devil is a real and evil being.)

The church is warned not to be wary of Satan's tools. Christian leaders, says Paul, must lead a life worthy of God's call to "not catch themselves in the noose of the devil" (1T in 3,7). Christians need to be wary of Satan's machinations and they must wear the armor of God "against the evil spirits under the sky" (Eph 6,10-12). They should do this so that "they are not over-favored by Satan" (2Kor 2,11).

The evil work of the devil

The devil creates in different ways spiritual blindness to the truth of God in Christ. False doctrines and various notions "taught by demons" make people "follow seductive spirits," even though they are unaware of the ultimate source of seduction (1T in 4,1-5). Once blinded, people are unable to understand the light of the gospel, which is the good news that Christ redeems us from sin and death (1Joh 4,1-2; 2Joh 7). Satan is the main enemy of the gospel, "the evil one," who tries to seduce people into rejecting the good news (Mt 13,18-23).

Satan does not have to personally try to seduce you. He can work through people who spread false philosophical and theological ideas. People can also be enslaved by the structure of evil and seduction embedded in our human society. The devil can also use our fallen human nature against us, so that people believe that they have "the truth" when in reality they have given up that which is of God, that which is of the world and the devil. Such people believe that their misguided belief system will save them (2Th 2,9-10), but what they have actually done is that they have "betrayed God's truth" (Rom 1,25). "The lie" seems to be good and true because Satan presents himself and his belief system in such a way that his teaching acts like a truth of an "Angel of Light" (2Kor 11,14).

Generally speaking, Satan is behind the temptation and desire of our fallen nature to sin, and therefore he is called the "Tempter" (1Th 3,5; 1Kor 6,5; Apg 5,3). Paul leads the church in Corinth back to 1. Moses 3 and the story in the Garden of Eden to exhort them not to be turned away from Christ, something the devil is trying to do. "I fear, however, that like the serpent deceived Eve with her cunning, so also your thoughts are turned away from the simplicity and sincerity towards Christ" (2Kor 11,3).

This does not mean that Paul believed that Satan personally tried and directly seduced everyone. People who say, every time they sin, that "the devil has made me" do not realize that Satan is using the system of evil in the world created by him and our fallen nature against us. In the case of the above-mentioned Christians in Thessalonica, this deception of teachers who sowed the seeds of hatred against Paul could have been achieved by tricking people into believing that he [Paul] deceives them or covers up greed or any other unclean motive (1Th 2,3-12). Nevertheless, as the devil sows discord and manipulates the world, behind all those who sow discord and hate is the tempter himself.

According to Paul, Christians who were separated from the community of the church because of sin are, in fact, "handed over to Satan" (1Kor 5,5, 1T in 1,20), or have "turned away and follow Satan" (1T in 5,15). Peter admonishes his flock: "Be sober and watch; because your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion and seeks out whom he devours "(1Pt 5,8). The way to defeat Satan, says Peter, is "to resist him" (v. 9).

How do people resist Satan? James explains, "So be subject to God. Resist the devil, he flees from you. Make your way to God, then he will approach you. Cleans the hands, ye sinners, and sanctify your hearts, you who are fickle "(Yak 4,7-8). We are close to God when our hearts have a reverent attitude of joy, peace and gratitude to Him, fed by His indwelling Spirit of love and faith.

People who do not know Christ and are not guided by his Spirit (Rom 8,5-17) "live by the flesh" (v. 5). They are in tune with the world and follow "the Spirit who is at work at this time in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2,2). This spirit, identified elsewhere as the Devil or Satan, manipulates humans so that they are anxious to do "the desires of the flesh and the senses" (v. 3). But by God's grace, we can see the light of the truth that is in Christ and follow it through the Spirit of God instead of unknowingly coming under the influence of the devil, the fallen world and our spiritually weak and sinful human nature.

Satan's warfare and his final defeat

"The whole world is in trouble" [is under the control of the devil] writes Johannes (1Joh 5,19). But those who are children of God and followers of Christ were given understanding to "know the truthful" (v. 20).

In this regard, disclosure 12,7-9 is very dramatic. In the warfare motif of Revelation, the book draws a cosmic battle between Michael and his angels and the dragon (Satan) and his fallen angels. The devil and his lackeys were defeated and "their place was no longer found in heaven" (v. 8). The result? "And the great dragon, the old serpent, which is called Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world, was thrown out, and he was thrown to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him" (v. 9). The idea is that Satan will continue his war against God by persecuting God's people on earth.

The battlefield between evil (manipulated by Satan) and the good (led by God) results in war between Babylon, the Great (the world under the control of the Devil) and the new Jerusalem (the people of God, that God and the Lamb Jesus Christ follows). It is a war destined to be won by God, because nothing can defeat his purpose.

In the end, all the enemies of God, including Satan, are defeated. The kingdom of God - a new world order - comes to earth, symbolized by the new Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. The devil is removed from the presence of God and his kingdom is wiped out with him (Rev 20,10) and replaced by God's eternal reign of love.

We read these encouraging words about the "end" of all things: "And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God with men! And he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and he himself, God with them, will be their God; and God will wipe away all the tears from their eyes, and death will be no more, nor suffering nor screaming nor pain will be more; because the first has passed. And who sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make everything new! And he says: Write, for these words are true and certain! "(Offb 21,3-5).

Paul Kroll