Satan is a fallen angel, leader of the evil forces in the spirit world. In the Scriptures he is addressed in various ways: devils, adversaries, evil, murderers, liars, thieves, tempters, accusers of our brothers, dragon, god of this world. He is in constant rebellion against God. Through his influence he sows discord, delusion and disobedience among men. He is already defeated in Christ, and his reign and influence as God of this world will end with the return of Jesus Christ. (Luke 10,18, Revelation 12,9, 1, Peter 5,8, John 8,44, Job 1,6-12, Zechariah 3,1-2, Revelation 12,10, 2, Corinthians 4,4, Revelation 20,1-3, Hebrews 2,14, 1, John 3,8)
Satan: God's defeated enemy
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 known as "spiritual warfare". They give the devil excessive recognition and "wage war against him" in a way that is inappropriate to the advice 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 (Job 38,7). On the other hand, Satan of Job 1-2 also appears to be an angel, since 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 to “fallen angels” in the Bible (2 Peter 2,4: 6; Judas 4,18; Job), but nothing essential about how and why Satan became the enemy of God. Scripture does not give us any details about the life of 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 than someone who is trying to thwart God's purpose. He is said to be 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 prominent way. However, the belief that cosmic powers are at war with God is evident in the motives of their sides. Two Old Testament motifs that represent Satan or the Devil are cosmic waters and monsters. They are images that represent the satanic evil that holds the earth in its spell and fights against God. In Job 26,12: 13 we see how Job explains that God "agitated the sea" and "smashed Rahab". Rahab is known as the “fleeting serpent” (V.13).
In the few places where Satan is described as a personal being in the Old Testament, Satan is portrayed as an accuser who seeks to sow and sue discord (Zechariah 3,1: 2), he incites people to sin against God (1Chro 21,1) and uses people and the elements to cause great pain and suffering (Job 1,6-19; 2,1-8).
In the book of Job we see that Satan comes together with other angels to present himself to God as if he had been called to a heavenly council. There are some other biblical references to a heavenly gathering of angelic beings that affect people's affairs. In one of these, a lie spirit beguiles a king to go to war (1 Kings 22,19: 22).
God is portrayed as "who smashed the heads of the Leviatan and gave them to the wild animals for food" (Psalm 74,14). Who is leviatan? He is the "sea monster" - the "fleeting serpent" and "tortuous serpent" which the Lord will punish "at the time" when God banishes all evil from the earth and establishes his kingdom (Isaiah 27,1).
The motif of the Leviatan as a snake goes back to the Garden of Eden. Here the serpent - «which is more cunning than all animals in the field» - seduces people to sin against God, which results in their fall (Genesis 1: 3,1-7). This leads to another prophecy of a future war between himself and the serpent, in which the serpent appears to be winning a decisive battle (a stab in the heel of God), only to then lose the fight (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 her offspring; he shall crush your head and you will stab him in the heel » (Genesis 1:3,15).
References in the New Testament
The cosmic meaning of this statement can be understood in the light of the Incarnation of the Son of God as Jesus of Nazareth (John 1,1). We see in the Gospels that Satan tries in one way or another to destroy Jesus from the day of his birth until his death on the cross. Although Satan is successful in killing Jesus through his human representatives, the devil loses the war through his death and resurrection.
After Jesus' Ascension, the cosmic struggle between the bride of Christ - the people of God - and the devil and his lackeys continued. But God's plan wins and remains. In the end, Jesus will return and destroy the spiritual opposition to him (1 Corinthians 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 is chained in the abyss, preventing him from "seducing the whole world" as he did before (Romans 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 joy, made possible by the mutual joy they share (Revelation 21,15: 27). Satan and all the powers of evil are destroyed (Revelation 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 "eternal fire" is prepared (Matthew 25,41). We read in the Gospels that demons are the cause of a variety of physical illnesses and ailments. In some cases, demons occupied people's minds and / or bodies, which subsequently led to weaknesses such as cramps, dumbness, blindness, partial paralysis and various types of insanity.
Luke speaks of a woman who met Jesus in the synagogue, "who had had a spirit for eighteen years that made her sick" (Luke 13,11). Jesus released her from her infirmity and was criticized for healing on a Sabbath. Jesus replied: "Shouldn't this, who is Abraham's daughter, whom Satan had bound for eighteen years, be freed from this bond on the Sabbath?" (V.16).
In other cases, he exposed demons as the cause of ailments, such as the case of a boy who had terrible cramps and was addicted to the moon from childhood (Matthew 17,14: 19-9,14; Mark 29: 9,37-45; Luke). Jesus could simply command these demons to leave the infirm and obey them. In doing so, Jesus showed that he had complete authority over the world of Satan and the demons. Jesus gave the same authority over the demons to his disciples (Matthew 10,1).
The apostle Peter spoke of Jesus' healing service as one who freed people from illnesses and infirmities for whom Satan and his evil spirits were either the direct or indirect cause. "You know what happened all over Judea ... how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with holy spirit and strength; he went about and did good and made well all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him » (Acts 10,37: 38). This view of Jesus' healing work reflects the belief that Satan is the adversary of God and 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 » (1 John 3,8). Jesus calls Satan the "Prince of Demons" - the ruler of the fallen angels (Matthew 25,41). Jesus has broken the devil's influence on the world through his salvation work. Satan is the "strong one" in his house (the world) Jesus entered (Mark 3,27). Jesus "tied up" the strong and "distributed the booty" [carries away his possessions, his kingdom].
That is the reason why Jesus came in the flesh. John writes: «The Son of God has appeared to destroy the works of the devil» (1 John 3,8). The Colossian letter speaks of this destroyed work in cosmic terms: "He stripped the powers and powers of their power and publicly displayed them and made them a triumph in Christ" (Colossians 2,15).
The letter to the Hebrews goes into more detail on how Jesus achieved this: "Because the children are now flesh and blood, he also accepted it equally so that through his death he would take power from those who had control over death, namely the devil, and redeemed those who, through fear of death, had to be servants in all their lives » (Hebrews 2,14: 15).
Not surprisingly, 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 (Revelation 12,3: 2,1; Matthew 18) to try him throughout his life (Luke 4,1: 13), and to imprison and kill him (V. 13; Luke 22,3: 6).
Satan "succeeded" 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 the 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 work of salvation, the devil's plans were reversed and he was defeated. Thus, Christ has already defeated Satan through his life, death, and resurrection by uncovering the shame of evil. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus told his disciples: "That I go to the Father ... the prince of this world is now judged" (John 16,11).
When Christ returns, the devil's influence in the world will cease and his complete defeat will be evident. This victory will take place in a definitive and permanent change at the end of this age (Matthew 13,37: 42).
The mighty prince
During his earthly ministry, Jesus declared that "the prince of this world will be expelled" (John 12,31), and said that this prince "has no power" over him (John 14,30). Jesus defeated Satan because the devil couldn't control him. No temptation that Satan hurled at Jesus was strong enough to entice him away from his love for and belief in God (Matthew 4,1: 11). He defeated the devil and stole the possessions of the "strong" - the world that he held captive (Matthew 12,24: 29). As Christians, we can believe in Jesus' victory over all of God's enemies (and our enemies), including the devil, rest.
But the Church exists in the tension of "already there, but not yet", in which God continues to allow Satan to seduce the world and spread destruction and death. Christians live between the "It is accomplished" of Jesus' death (John 19,30) and "It Has Happened" to the ultimate destruction of evil and the future coming of God's kingdom to earth (Revelation 21,6). Satan is still allowed to jealous against the power of the gospel. The devil is still the invisible prince of darkness, and with God's permission he has the power to accomplish 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 John 12,31] is a translation of the Greek word archon, referring to the highest government officials in a political district or city).
The apostle Paul explains that Satan is "the God of this world" who "blinded the minds of the unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 4,4). Paul understood that Satan can even hinder the work of the Church (2 Thessalonians 2,17: 19).
Today, much of the western world pays little attention to a reality that fundamentally affects their life and future - the fact that the devil is a real spirit who tries to harm them at every turn and want to thwart God's loving purpose. Christians are cautioned to be aware of Satan's machinations so that they can resist them through the guidance and power of the inherent Holy Spirit. (Unfortunately, some Christians have gone to a misguided extreme in a "hunt" for Satan, and they have inadvertently given them extra food that mocks the idea that the devil is a real and evil being.
The Church is cautioned against being careful of Satan's tools. Christian leaders, Paul says, must live a life worthy of God's calling not to "catch in the devil's noose" (1 Timothy 3,7). Christians must be on guard against Satan's machinations and they must have the armor of God "against the evil spirits under heaven" (Ephesians 6,10: 12). They should do this so that "they are not overreached by Satan" (2 Corinthians 2,11).
The evil work of the devil
The devil creates spiritual blindness to the truth of God in Christ in various ways. False doctrines and diverse ideas "taught by demons" cause people to "follow seductive spirits" even though they are unaware of the ultimate source of the seduction (1 Timothy 4,1: 5). Once blinded, people are unable to understand the light of the gospel, which is the good news that Christ saves us from sin and death (1 John 4,1: 2-2; 7 John). Satan is the main enemy of the gospel, “the evil one” who tries to seduce people to reject the good news (Matthew 13,18: 23).
Satan doesn't have to try to seduce you personally. It can work through people who spread false philosophical and theological ideas. People can also become 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 what is from God against what is from the world and the devil. Such people believe that their misguided belief system will save them (2 Thessalonians 2,9: 10), but what they actually did is that they "wronged God's truth" (Romans 1,25). "The lie" seems good and true because Satan presents himself and his belief system in such a way that his teaching is like a truth from an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11,14) works.
Generally speaking, Satan is behind the temptation and desire of our fallen nature to sin, and therefore he becomes the "tempter" (2 Thessalonians 3,5; 1 Corinthians 6,5; Acts 5,3). Paul leads the church in Corinth back to Genesis 1 and the story in the Garden of Eden to warn them not to be turned away from Christ, something the devil tries to do. "But I'm afraid that like the snake seduced Eve with her cunning, so your thoughts will be turned away from the simplicity and honesty towards Christ" (2 Corinthians 11,3).
This does not mean that Paul believed that Satan personally tried and seduced everyone personally. People who believe that "the devil made me do it" every time they sin do not realize that Satan is using the system of evil he has created in the world and our fallen nature against us. In the case of the Christians in Thessalonica mentioned above, this delusion could have been accomplished by teachers who sowed the seeds of hatred against Paul by making people believe that he [Paul] is deceiving them or covering up greed or some other impure motive (2 Thessalonians 2,3: 12). Nevertheless, since the devil sows discord and manipulates the world, the tempter is ultimately behind all people who sow discord and hatred.
According to Paul, Christians who have been separated from the community of the Church for sin are, in fact, "given to Satan" (1 Corinthians 5,5; 1 Timothy 1,20), or have “turned away and are following Satan” (1 Timothy 5,15). Peter exhorts his flock: «Be sober and watchful; because your adversary, the devil, is walking around like a roaring lion and is looking for whom to devour » (1 Peter 5,8). The way to defeat Satan, says Peter, is to "resist him" (V.9).
How do people resist Satan? James explains: «So now be subject to God. Resist the devil, he will flee from you. If you approach God, he will approach you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and sanctify your hearts, fickle people » (James 4,7-8). We are close to God when our hearts have a devout attitude of joy, peace and gratitude towards him, which is nurtured by his inherent spirit of love and faith.
People who do not know Christ and are not guided by his Spirit (Romans 8,5-17) «live after the meat» (V.5). They are in tune with the world and follow "the spirit at work in the children of disobedience at the time" (Ephesians 2,2). This spirit, identified elsewhere than the devil or Satan, manipulates people so that they are careful to do “the desires of the flesh and the senses” (V.3). But by God's grace, we can see the light of truth that is in Christ and follow him through the Spirit of God instead of unknowingly being 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] John writes (1 John 5,19). But those who are children of God and followers of Christ have been given understanding to "know the truthful" (V.20).
In this regard, Revelation 12,7: 9 is very dramatic. In the warfare motif of Revelation, the book depicts 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 seduces the whole world, was thrown out, and he was thrown to the earth, and his angels were thrown there with him" (V.9). The idea is that Satan continues 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 follow Jesus Christ). It is a war designed to be won by God because nothing can defeat his purpose.
In the end, all 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 extinguished with him (Revelation 20,10) and replaced by God's eternal rule of love.
We read these encouraging words about "the end" of all things: "And I heard a great voice from the throne that said: Behold, the hut of God among 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 tears from their eyes, and death will no longer be, nor will suffering, nor shouting, nor pain will be; because the first has passed. And he who sat on the throne said: Behold, I will make everything new! And he said: Write, because these words are truthful and certain! » (Revelation 21,3: 5).