Satan“Who is he?”People’s beliefs concerning Satan range from the silly to the abstract—from a little red guy with horns who sits on your shoulder urging you to sin, to an expression used to describe the personification of evil. The figure of Satan is often perceived as a fugitive from a Halloween party. He is portrayed as wearing a silly red suit. He has cloven hoofs, horns, a tail, and carries a trident. Such a figure is a point of ridicule among those who deny biblical Christianity. I once asked a teenage class of about thirty students, “How many of you believe in God?” The majority of the students raised their hand. Then I asked, “How many of you believe in the devil?” Only a couple raised their hand.
One student blurted out, “How can any intelligent person believe in the devil in this day and age? The devil belongs to superstition along with ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.”
I replied, “There is a far more credible source for believing in Satan than for believing in goblins. You may not be persuaded of the trustworthiness of the Bible, but it is surely a more credible source than Mother Goose.”
To lump Satan with witches and goblins is to do violence to serious and sober thought. I followed my discussion with them by asking: “If you believe that God is an invisible, personal being who has the capacity to influence people for good, why do you find it hard or incredible to imagine that there is an invisible, personal being that has the capacity to influence people for evil?”The silly picture of Satan was intentionally created by the church in order to poke fun at him. The church was convinced that an effective ploy to withstand Satan was to insult him. His most vulnerable part was seen as his pride. To attack his pride was seen as an effective way to repel him.
The Bible, however, gives us a clear portrait of who Satan is and how he affects our lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his position in heaven due to sin and is now completely opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God’s purposes.Satan was created as a holy angel. Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer.Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, apparently the highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14Ezekiel 28:151 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s pride led to his fall. Notice the many “I will” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.Satan became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:312 Corinthians 4:4Ephesians 2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:31 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3;2 Corinthians 4:4Revelation 20:3). His very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes.” Another of his titles, the devil, means “slanderer.”Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and encourage opposition to God’s kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and those who follow God. However, Satan’s destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).Perhaps our problem with Satan rests on the fact that we react to a caricature instead of the biblical view of him. In Scripture, the term Satan means “adversary.” We know him as the devil. He is a high angelic creature who, before the creation of the human race, rebelled against God and has since battled with human beings and God. He is called the prince of darkness, the father of lies, the accuser, and the beguiling serpent. The real portrait is nothing like the horned, triad-bearing, comedic adversary to which we have become accustomed. That image, at least in part, arose out of the medieval church.
The biblical view of Satan is far more sophisticated. He appears as an “angel of light.” That image points to Satan’s clever ability to manifest himself under the appearance of good. Satan is subtle, beguiling, and crafty. He speaks with eloquence; his appearance is stunning. The prince of darkness wears a cloak of light. Scripture also speaks of Satan as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Christ is also referred to as a lion, the Lion of Judah. He is a redeemer, the anti-lion and devourer. Both images speak of strength.
How, then, should the believer react to Satan? On the one hand Satan is indeed fearsome. 1 Peter 5:8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.The believer is not to respond, however, in sheer terror. Satan may be stronger than we are, but Christ is stronger than Satan.1 John 4:4But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world..Satan is, after all, a creature.He is finite and limited. He is limited in space and time. He cannot be in more than one place at a time. He is never to be regarded in any way as an equal with God. Satan is a higher order of being than humans; he is a fallen angel. But he is not divine. He has more power than earthly creatures but infinitely less power than almighty God.