One of the strongest desires for every human being is to be content and happy. People generally want to be fulfilled and at peace with themselves as well as with the world around them. Sadly, most people look for contentment and happiness in the wrong places. They search for it in entertainment, sex, drugs, wealth, power, etc., but true, lasting joy is not found in those things. True contentment is found in a relationship with the Lord. The happiest people on earth are those who know God. They understand that their purpose in life is to serve God with all their might, and laboring at that task brings them joy, for they know they are right with God.
Now of course, even Christians have better days than others. Some days it is harder than others to rejoice and be glad (cf. Psa. 118:24). The fact is that things don't always go our way--plans fall apart, we have setbacks physically, loved ones pass away, we lose our job, etc. As Job said in his difficult days of adversity - "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble" (Job 14:1).
Facing the routine ups and downs of life would be difficult enough by itself, without any outside force stacking the deck against us. Unfortunately, however, there is an outside force--a distinct personality--working against us. He is identified by a variety of names in the Bible, but the best known and most widely used name to refer to him is Satan.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term for Satan is used 19 times. The word refers to one who lies in wait or one who opposes. In the New Testament, the Greek word for Satan is used 36 times and means an adversary, an opponent, or an enemy. Another term that is used to refer to him is devil, which is used 33 times in the New Testament. It comes from a word meaning slanderer or traitor.
Who is Satan exactly? Who is this devil who has established himself as the archenemy of God and the foe of mankind? Is he real? If so, what is his origin? Why has he positioned himself against both God and man? What is his mission? What are his powers? And what is his ultimate destiny? These are questions that our hearts want to know the answers to, and thankfully, God's word provides those answers. In this week's and next week's feature lessons, we will answer these questions (and others) about Satan and learn what we can about him, not only to satisfy our curiosity, but, more importantly, to better understand our adversary. The better one understands his enemy, the more successful he will be in defending himself. That is true in all forms of conflict, whether physical or spiritual.
QUESTION #1 - IS SATAN REAL?
Throughout history there have always been those who reject the existence of Satan as a real, personal, spiritual being. Instead, they speak of him as a myth, or they believe that the idea of Satan was invented to teach moral values and scare people into obeying the Bible. We should expect this sort of disbelief from the world; after all, if they don't believe in God or the Bible as His word, why should they believe in the spirit being known as Satan, which the Bible speaks of? But, there are those who profess to be believers who also reject the idea of Satan literally existing. They think of evil as some kind of thing, but they reject the notion that there is a spiritual being out there who is trying to ruin the souls of men. Where is the consistency in this sort of thinking? The same Bible that proclaims the existence of God informs us of the existence of Satan! How can a person consistently claim to believe the Bible and in God's existence but not Satan's?
The reality of Satan's existence is clearly documented in the Old and New Testaments. From the first book of the Bible to the last, the existence of the devil as a real, literal adversary is affirmed. We are first introduced to Satan in Genesis 3 as he arrives on the scene in the form of a serpent to tempt Eve (cf. Rev. 20:2). We see him again in I Chronicles 21:1 where he worked to tempt King David to sin. In the first two chapters of Job, the word Satan is used 14 times! In fact, the entire thrust of the book of Job is utterly dependent upon the actual existence of Satan. In it we see how he acts as an adversary against God and mankind, yet we also see God's ultimate authority and superiority over him. Satan is also mentioned in Zechariah 3 as he opposes the high priest. In this text, the devil appears ready to challenge God's right to forgive the sins of men. He seeks to overthrow the throne of God's grace and turn it into a seat of judgment and condemnation.
In the pages of the New Testament, the existence of Satan is reaffirmed, and more of his cunning, deceit, and hypocrisy are revealed. Let's look at Matthew 4:1-11 at this time - "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'' Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you.' And, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'' Jesus said to him, 'It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'' Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'' Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him."
Now, let's be honest--that passage is pretty plain about the existence of a literal being named Satan, isn't it? If we really believe the Bible to be God's word (and thus 100% true), then we must also believe that Satan is real because the Bible states that he is. He isn't some ambiguous force; he has a personality as a distinct being.
A few chapters later, Jesus referred to Satan as "Beelzebub" meaning the lord of refuse or the lord of the flies (Matt. 12:27). This term is an expression of contempt signifying everything that is opposite of holiness and purity. This isn't a name that the Lord would apply to some harmless, mythical character that was nothing but a legend! No, Jesus would only apply a name like this to a being that was dangerous and overflowing with wickedness.
Let's briefly consider a few other New Testament passages that clearly show Satan to be real. Jesus' apostles definitely knew that Satan was their bitter enemy. For example, Jesus informed Peter: "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat" (Luke 22:31). A fact often overlooked within this text is that the pronoun you in the Greek is plural, indicating that Satan wanted all of the apostles! The apostle Paul spoke of "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2) who has his "devices" (II Cor. 2:11), and even his own "ministers" who disguise themselves as righteous (II Cor. 11:15). The apostle John noted that "the devil has sinned from the beginning" (I John 3:8), and he lamented the fact that "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (I John 5:19). Furthermore, Paul's thorn in the flesh was said to have been "a messenger of Satan" (II Cor. 12:7). But, perhaps most troublesome is the fact that it was Satan who "put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot" to betray Jesus (John 13:2).
In addition, various New Testament writers have referred to Satan as the author of sin (I John 3:8), sickness (Acts 10:38), and death (Heb. 2:14), as well as the one who leads men astray (II Thess. 2:9,10). Clearly, Satan is not figurative; he is very real!
QUESTION #2 - WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF SATAN?
The Bible doesn't explicitly tell us about the origin of Satan, but there is enough information available from the Scriptures for us to draw a logical, well-reasoned conclusion as to how he came into existence.
First, we must ask: Is Satan a created being or is he eternal? Although the devil is quite powerful, he doesn't enjoy the status of deity. Deity is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and absolutely righteous (cf. Psa. 139). Satan doesn't possess these qualities. He is not all-powerful for God is stronger than him (cf. I John 4:4). He has to have permission from God to do certain things, and the Lord limits His activities (e.g., Job 1:12; 2:6; Rev. 20:2). He is not able to be present everywhere simultaneously. It is true that he is the ruler of this world (II Cor. 4:4), but God will someday restrict him to the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:10). He cannot be omnipresent if he is restrained to a particular place. Satan is also not all-knowing. In the book of Job, he believed that all men would forsake God sooner or later if they were forced to endure extreme trials. He was wrong on this matter; so clearly, he doesn't know everything (cf. Job 1:11; 2:5; James 5:11). Satan is also not smart enough or powerful enough to "snatch" the disciples of the Lord from His hand (John 10:28). In light of all this evidence, it seems obvious that Satan is not deity, and since he is not deity then he doesn't possess an eternal nature. This simply means that the devil hasn't always existed; he was created sometime in the past.
Colossians 1:16 gives further evidence for this conclusion - "For by Him [i.e., Jesus] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers..." This verse says that everyone and everything (besides the Godhead, of course) was created by Jesus! So, unquestionably, God created Satan.
But, what was Satan like when he was originally created? Was he created "evil" ? The answer is no. Listen carefully to the wording of Genesis 1:31 - "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good..." Everything God had created was very good. Thus, whatever else Satan may have been originally, he was definitely good. God did not create Satan as an evil adversary; rather, Satan later became evil.
There is some compelling evidence within the Bible that indicates Satan was originally one of the angels who inhabited the heavenly realm. Yet he (along with others) departed from righteousness and rebelled against God. Job 4:18 seems to hint at this truth, but the New Testament sets forth this doctrine clearly in several places. II Peter 2:4 - "For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment." Also consider Jude 6 - "And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day."
Well Stephen, those verses don't say anything specific about Satan. That is true, but they do state the fact that angels can and do sin. That fact combined with Jesus' statement in Matthew 25:41 has some powerful implications. There Jesus refers to "the devil and his angels." If Satan was originally good, yet now he has his own angels, isn't it logical to conclude that Satan himself is the leader of a group of angels who rebelled against God and were expelled from heaven as a result?
It is undeniable that angels have freedom of choice. They have the freedom to fear and serve God as well as the freedom to refuse doing such. Of course, if they choose evil rather than good, that is no reflection upon their Creator, but simply a rebellion against Him. As we saw from II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, apparently some of the angels chose wrongly. They sinned and broke God's law for them by not keeping their proper domain. They evidently departed from the appropriate position God had established for them.
But why did they do this and when? These are questions we can't answer with certainty because the Bible doesn't address them. However, one may speculate that Satan and the other angels' sins had something to do with pride and the desire for more power and authority. Also, we can be certain that this rebellion took place before the temptation of Adam & Eve in Genesis 3 since Satan is already playing his chosen role as adversary at that time.
QUESTION #3 - WHY HAS SATAN POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST BOTH GOD & MAN?
Again, the Bible doesn't answer this question specifically, but it is reasonable to believe that after Satan's rebellion in heaven failed miserably and he learned that he would be punished to the utmost extent for his sin, he grew angry and bitter and had an enormous desire for revenge.
Satan lost, and no one likes to lose. But how could he get revenge against God? Surely another attempt at overthrow would fail. How could he hurt the Being who was infinitely more powerful than him? Certainly he couldn't hurt God directly, but perhaps he could get some revenge indirectly. Remember, man is made in the image of deity; he is God's master creation on Earth. Surely, Satan and his angels realized how sweet it would be to spoil the apple of God's eyes! Thus, it is through mankind that Satan would get his revenge.
Satan knows his own case is hopeless. He can't overpower God, but he can hurt God indirectly by getting men to sin and forsake the Lord. That is why he stalks about as our adversary, "like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). Misery loves company, and Satan wants to take as many souls to hell with him as he can! This is his battle plan for revenge against God, and he will do everything within his power to take you to hell with him! Truly, he is "the enemy" (Matt. 13:39).
Next week we will conclude this study on our adversary the devil. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.