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My high school team was called the Lowell Red Devils and used logos showing a little man dressed in red with horns, a pointed tail, and a pitchfork. Most people know the devil does not really look like that. Such a being no more exists than Santa Claus or Mother Goose.
Some people conclude that the devil is just a pretend being who symbolizes evil but does not really exist; they view Satan as a myth, legend, or figment of the imagination. Others make a joke of such a being or consider him to be a basically harmless old guy who just has some obnoxious characteristics.
The purpose of this study is to learn what the Bible says Satan is really like.
We all agree that there is much evil in the world. What is the cause of that evil? Is there really a powerful being who encourages evil, tries to take people to hell, and will himself be punished forever?
Some people believe the Bible references to Satan are symbols to embody the idea of evil. But consider:
1. God is a spirit (John 4:24).
2. Man consists of a spirit dwelling in a physical body (James 2:26).
3. Angels are spirits that serve God (Heb. 1:13,14).
We cannot see any of these spirits, yet the Bible repeatedly affirms they exist. In a similar way the Bible describes Satan as a living spirit being, who has other spirit beings (demons) who serve him.
We must believe the devil exists for the same reason we believe in these other spirit beings -- not because we see him, but because the Bible teaches it.
Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7 -- Satan is described as a living being, just as real as God, Job, Job's family, and Job's friends. He could speak and reason. If his part is not real, why take any of it as real?
Matthew 4:1-11 -- Satan tempted Jesus. He is pictured as a real person, just like Jesus, the angels, etc. Again, he spoke and reasoned. This event is recorded as historical fact, just like other events in Jesus' life.
We will see other similar references.
The Bible does contain symbolic language, but whether or not a particular passage is figurative must be determined by the Bible itself -- by context and by other passages. We should never take a passage in a literal or historic context and assume it is figurative without proof.
Since there is no Bible reason to take the passages about Satan as figurative, we must conclude Satan is a real, living, spirit being.
Some think the devil is obnoxious, but he's really not that bad and can't really hurt you. Some people believe in "finding good in everyone" and try to do that with Satan. Others just laugh as though he is a joke.
Matthew 13:19 -- In the parable of the sower, Jesus called him the "evil one" who snatches the word from men's hearts. [Cf. Mark 4:15; Matt. 13:38; 1 John 2:13,14; 3:12; 5:18]
1 John 3:8 -- The devil has sinned from the beginning. At the Garden of Eden he lied to Eve, and his history ever since has been one of wickedness and evil.
"Satan" means an adversary.
Matthew 13:39 -- The parable of the tares describes him as an enemy (of God). He opposes all the good that God seeks to accomplish.
1 Peter 5:8 -- The devil is our adversary who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Matthew 25:41 -- Because of his evil, Satan's destiny is eternal torment in the lake of fire. [Rev. 20:10]
The nature of Satan is completely opposite that of God. God is always good with no admixture of evil. He always acts to achieve what is best for all His creatures.
Satan is always evil. He may do what appears to be good, but if so it is done with evil motives to achieve his own evil ends, not really to be of benefit to God or man.
[John 8:44; Matt. 12:24; Eph. 2:2]
Job 1:6-2:7 -- Satan caused the death of Job's children, loss of Job's possessions, and loss of Job's health.
Acts 10:38 -- Jesus healed people who were oppressed by the Devil.
Luke 13:16 -- Jesus said the woman who was bowed over had been bound by Satan.
2 Corinthians 12:7 -- Paul's thorn in the flesh was a messenger of Satan.
Hebrews 2:14 -- Satan has the power of death.
Suffering, disease, and death were all caused by Satan.
Suffering sometimes occurs as an obvious result of sin, as when a man becomes drunk and beats his family or has a wreck. But even when the connection is not obvious, suffering is still here because sin is here.
People often blame God for sickness and death: "God wanted him so He took Him." God did put pain and death on earth, but He did so as a punishment for man's SIN. The sin was committed as a result of Satan's temptation [Gen. 3:16-19].
God originally placed man in a beautiful garden without pain, suffering, or death. None of these would be on earth if sin had not come, and the one ultimately responsible for sin is SATAN, not God.
He is not content just to be evil himself. He wants everyone else to be evil too.
Genesis 3:1-6 -- Satan (as a serpent) tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. He appealed to the lust of the flesh (good for food), the lust of the eyes (a delight to the eyes) and the pride of life (it would make one wise). [Cf. 1 John 2:15-17]
Matthew 4:1-11 -- Satan tempted Jesus by similar appeals. V3 calls him "the tempter."
John 13:2 -- The devil put it in Judas' heart to betray Jesus. [v27; Luke 22:3]
Acts 5:3 -- Satan filled Ananias' heart to lie to the Holy Spirit about his gift.
[1 Thess. 3:5; Eph. 6:16; 2:2; 1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Tim. 5:15; 3:6,7; John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:12; 1 Chron. 21:1]
I do not claim to know exactly how Satan suggests these evil thoughts to men's hearts, just as I don't know how God answers prayers. But the Bible clearly states that he does do so.
Having led men into sin, Satan then opposes and hinders all God's efforts to save men from sin [2 Cor. 4:4; Acts 13:10; 1 Thess. 2:18; Mark 4:15; Rev. 2:10].
Satan is truly an enemy of man in the greatest possible way: he seeks to cause our eternal condemnation and hinders every effort to prevent our escape from it. Surely we need to understand his evil purposes. We must never cooperate with him but oppose him in every way.
[Matt. 16:23; Luke 22:31]
Revelation 12:9 -- The devil or Satan is the deceiver of the whole world.
John 8:44 -- He is a liar and the father of liars. There is no truth in him. He must lie and deceive to get a following.
Gen. 3:1-5,13 -- The serpent was subtle and lied to Eve -- beguiled (deceived) her. Had Eve understood God's real love and the real consequences of obeying Satan, she would not have done it. Satan denied the consequences and made evil appear to be good.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 -- This is standard procedure for Satan. He transforms himself into an angel of light. Satan is the world's greatest counterfeiter.
Illustration: If a man owes you $1000 and hands you a blank piece of paper, would you consider the debt paid? No, but it he prints it to make it look real, he may fool you. That's the way the devil and his agents work.
Satan does not usually do his own dirty work. He works through agents. God has sent true preachers, apostles, and prophets, so Satan makes counterfeits -- false teachers, apostles, and prophets.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 -- False teachers do not appear as false teachers or no one would believe them. They are "deceitful workers" who appear as ministers of righteousness.
A man who is clearly an atheist or grossly immoral would not fool many religious people. But a good moral man who seems kind and concerned can teach error and fool people decent and devout people.
Isaiah 5:20 -- Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil. Yet that is Satan's favorite trick. His workers are wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15).
[2 Thess. 2:9,10; Eph. 6:11; Matt. 13:39; 2 Cor. 4:4]
God has a true plan of worship, so Satan gets people to offer counterfeit forms of worship. They appear to be devout and sincere, but they are not in harmony with God's will.
Matthew 15:9 -- And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. This worship is worthless, like the counterfeit money.
People think Satan wants people to quit worshipping God altogether, so they think "As long as you worship the true God, it does not matter how you worship."
But Satan does not care if people worship, so long as he can get them to worship in unacceptable ways.
Jesus built His church and is the head of it (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22,23). So to fool people, Satan makes counterfeit churches. They appear to be serving God, but are not really following His will.
Matthew 7:21-23 -- Fooled by false teachers (v15-20), people think they are serving God, but Jesus will rejected them because they are not doing the will of the Father.
People think Satan wants you to refuse to be a church member altogether. He would never lead you to join a church, so they say, "It does not matter what church you join as long as you are sincere. All the churches are going to the same place, so just join the church of your choice."
But Satan does not care if you are a member of a church, so long as it is one that does not really follow God's will.
God makes a way for men to be saved from sin through the blood of Jesus. So Satan makes counterfeit ways that offer men salvation, but they are not in harmony with Jesus' gospel.
Galatians 1:8 -- But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
People sometimes think Satan does not want people to live good lives, so if some religious group convinces a person to change for the better, people think he must be truly saved and that church must be pleasing to God.
* A man had been an alcoholic, drug addict, and wife beater. He claimed to receive Holy Spirit baptism, cleaned up his life, and joined a church. He claimed he must have been saved and the church must be acceptable, else why would he have changed so?
* A member of a faithful church was selfish, unloving, obnoxious, the cause of many problems in the church and family. He joined a denomination and claimed to have developed a sweet disposition as a result. Some wondered if maybe that church was teaching truth if it could change him so. (He had not really changed -- eventually his family broke up.)
Satan does not care if people are "converted" and live more decent lives, so long as they don't obey the truth according to God's will. Often a religious man, who thinks he is right, is harder to convince of his error than an obvious sinner (consider the Scribes and Pharisees).
Why are there so many denominations? Why so many different doctrines, plans of worship, ideas about salvation?
When you understand how Satan works, none of this should surprise you. Whenever God makes something good, Satan makes a counterfeit that looks enough like the real thing to fool people, but is different enough to condemn people.
Chronicles of Narnia is a series of books about an imaginary land with talking animals, ruled by the good lion Aslan. In the last book, a donkey dresses up in a lion skin and tricks people to think he is Aslan, so they will do the donkey's will. That is how Satan works.
We must study God's word diligently to distinguish truth from error. [Acts 17:11; Heb. 5:14; 2 Cor. 6:15; Matt. 16:23; 2 Thess. 2:9]
Acts 26:18 -- Paul's preaching turned men from the POWER of Satan unto God.
John 12:31 -- He is the prince of this world. His will rules in the lives of hosts of people.
Ephesians 6:11,12 -- We wrestle in spiritual warfare with Satan and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places.
An army comes to attack with soldiers, guns, tanks, planes, and warships. All is under the control of the commander.
So Satan rules over many forces: false preachers, false churches, large numbers of people, many influential and wealthy people, political leaders, education leaders, organizations and institutions of all kinds
We must recognize this for what it is: spiritual warfare! We must not sit passively, compromise, or ignore the danger. We must fight!
[Eph. 5:11; 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4; John 14:30; 16:11; Rev. 2:13; 1 Thess. 2:9; Matthew 4:1-10; Job 1,2]
1 Peter 5:8 -- He is like a powerful lion, seeking to devour us.
John 8:34 -- Whoever commits sin is his bondservant. Sin is disobedience to God and obedience to Satan, whether or not we intend it to be.
2 Timothy 2:26 -- As a result, many people have been taken captive by Satan. As an army captures prisoners of war, so sin in our lives makes us prisoners of Satan.
Hebrews 2:14 -- He has the power of death. Death is the consequence of sin. Those who do not escape Satan's captivity will eventually die spiritually.
[Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:8,10]
Satan is a powerful, dangerous enemy. Never underestimate him. Many people think they can flirt with the devil. They get just as close as they can to sin, and as a result, many are captured.
Satan is a wild, powerful, dangerous lion, sly and deceitful. He will capture and slay you. If you really believed that, would you play with him and say, "Nice kitty," or stay away from him and fight him if he comes close?
Powerful as Satan is, his power is still limited. There is a power greater than his.
1 John 3:8 -- Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. He defeated Satan when He arose from the dead. He will give the final defeat when He returns to raise all men. [1 Cor. 15:25-26]
Strong as Satan is, he cannot defeat Him who is "above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named" (Eph. 1:21)
People often excuse their sin as though it is all Satan's fault. "The devil made me do it." "I couldn't help myself. It was too hard. No one could be expected..."
Job 1:12; 2:6 -- Terrible as Satan's trials toward Job were, yet God limited him. First he could not harm Job personally, then he could not kill him. As a result, Job did not sin [1:22; 2:10].
1 Corinthians 10:13 -- Likewise, God limits Satan's power to tempt us. There is no temptation beyond our ability to resist. There is always a way of escape whereby we can endure it.
James 4:7 -- Resist the devil, and he will flee. [1 Peter 5:9]
Ephesians 4:27 -- Do not give place to the devil.
Ephesians 6:10-18 -- We must use God's armor to STAND UP against Satan. By our own power, we will lose. With God's power, we can be victorious.
Too often our problem is that we simply do not fight hard enough. We give up! We do not look for the way of escape. We do not resist the devil! Then we wonder why we fall!
[1 John 5:18; Matt. 4:1-10; 2 Cor. 2:11]
Hebrews 2:14,15 -- Jesus came to bring the devil to nothing and deliver those who were subject to his bondage.
We do not need to stay captives of Satan. Christ has overpowered our captor and offered us freedom! How? By dying in our place. He allowed the enemy to kill Him, so we could go free!
John 8:31, 32 -- If we know the truth and abide in it, it will make us free from the bondage of sin (v34).
[2 Tim. 2:26; Acts 26:18; Luke 10:18; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:1,7; 1 John 2:13,14]
Note the final destiny of Satan: Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10
What must we do to be freed from Satan?
1 Peter 1:22 -- We purify our souls in obeying the truth.
Mark 16:16 -- He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Who is winning the battle for your life? Whose power do you submit to?
Copyright 2002, David E. Pratte
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.