The devil is perceived by many, if they believe that he exists at all, to be a devious-looking creature with two horns who is dressed in a red silky suit, has an arrow-tipped tail, holds a gleaming pitchfork, and echoes a sinister laugh as he whips forlorn souls into submission in a blazing inferno called hell. Although this perception is mostly absurd, the idea that the devil—or Satan—exists is not. Satan is not an evil principle, an irrational abstract of the human mind, a disease germ, nor an existence in a state of “unrealized potential.” No, the concept of such a being did not simply arise out of the fearful, grotesque fantasies of ancient mankind.
Rather, God has allowed encounters, at times, between Satan and various people so that they (and we) could be aware of this unique instigator of all evil and also could know that the devil—not God or other people—is their day-to-day enemy. The fact is, the devil is so clever and deceptive that he “...masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), thus making him an extremely formidable foe. Paul therefore exhorted, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11—see “full armor of God”: C-10, P-II).
Lucifer, an angel, was the original name of Satan after God created him eons ago. God, at one point, referred to him as the “king of Tyre” (Ezek. 28:12a). This angel had direct influence over Ithobalus II, the evil “ruler of Tyre” (28:2a), whose human pride was lofty. As God described Lucifer,
...You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you (Ezek. 28:12b-15).
Some believe this indicates that Lucifer was ruler over a world of people, sometime between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2, long before Adam and Eve ever came onto the scene (see “pre-Adamite world”: C-1, P-III). There even has been conjecture that demons are disembodied spirits who, having once existed in human form in the pre-Adamite world, now long to inhabit and take control of people’s bodies. I do not believe it is possible to know whether there actually was a pre-Adamite world ruled by Lucifer or whether Lucifer’s first connection with Eden was after Gen. 1:2, at a time when he was given rule, from a heavenly location (“the holy mount of God”), over the earth and over angels (rather than people), all of whom had free access to the earth and to the Garden of Eden.
Referring to Lucifer/Satan, God (again through the prophet Ezekiel) continued,
Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries (Ezek. 28:16-18a).
“Your widespread trade” (or “the multitude of your traffic” in the Masoretic text) probably indicates Lucifer’s moving about and viciously slandering God to all His heavenly creatures until he had one-third of the angels rebelling with him against God. Wherever God was respected and worshiped, Satan made sure He was demeaned and mocked.
What kind of elemental wickedness was found in Lucifer/Satan? Great pride, due to his majestic and radiant outward appearance, as well as his very high position and great power, corrupted this prominent archangel—even to the point of insulting his Creator. He saw no reason why he actually should not replace God’s Throne with his own and be in control of everything; consequently, he developed a foolish, unruly, and defiant stance against God—never repenting nor relenting, even to this very day.
God would not allow Satan’s throne to remain in heaven, so He removed Satan’s authority and heavenly citizenship and made this world be his “headquarters” (Ezek. 28:16b,17b; Luke 10:18). Satan still, however, retained his access to heaven. Isaiah shows us how Satan then felt in his bitter, resentful heart, which is demonstrated by Satan’s five “I will” claims:
...I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (Isa. 14:13,14).
Satan’s self-importance obsessed and overcame him. Rather than humble himself in front of God by admitting that he was wrong to speak out against Him, he hated God for punishing him and wanted to overpower God, his Creator, and subsequently to name himself “God.” Had Satan repented and turned from his evil, anti-God practices, I personally feel that God would have forgiven him and restored his former glory and standing. However, Satan’s immense pride would not allow him to ask God for forgiveness.
Let me say here that I believe Isa. 14:13,14 is out of chronological sequence in the passage. Satan’s “delusions of grandeur,” occurring after his citizenship and authority in heaven were removed in Ezek. 28:16b,17b and Luke 10:18 (due to his defaming God), are past history. However, the ultimate barring of his accessibility to heaven, in Isa. 14:12 and Rev. 12:7-9, has yet to occur. I feel Isa. 14:13,14 was placed at this point in the text simply to remind the reader of why Satan will be banned from heaven and “...cast down to the earth [after he lays] low the nations” (Isa. 14:12): It will be due to pride.
Satan envies God’s position, which is not to say that he envies other aspects of God, Who is the essence of Love and Goodness—things Satan hates. Satan does not want to be as God in the sense of having his good qualities; he just wants to have God’s Authority and Power. This present age is a transition period between Satan’s humiliating disgrace (Ezek. 28:16b,17b) and his permanent exclusion from the realm of heaven (Isa. 14:12; Rev. 12:7-9). Shortly after this expulsion, he will be bound up and thrown into the Abyss (a bottomless pit) for 1,000 years (Isa. 14:15; Rev. 20:2,3a—see “Abyss”: “references to hell”: C-14, P-I). Ultimately, he will meet his end (Ezek. 28:19b) as God’s primary antagonist by being “...thrown into the lake of burning sulfur...” for eternity (Rev. 20:10), forever separated from God (and those who love God) because of unrepented, unabsolved sin (rebellion and disobedience toward God) throughout the ages. (See “conclusion of the Millennium”: C-13, P-III; “existence and purpose of hell”: C-14, P-I; and “purpose of Satan”: C-15, P-I.)
Many characteristics and names of Satan can be discovered in the Bible. He is a “tempter” (Matt. 4:3; 1 Ths. 3:5b); he “sows” evil in this world (Matt. 13:38,39a); he “...comes and takes away the word...” of God from people’s hearts “...so that they cannot believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12); “...he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44c); he is a “great dragon” and the “...ancient serpent...who leads the whole world astray” (Rev. 12:9a); and he “accuses” believers before God “day and night” (12:10b). The devil also is the “evil one” (Matt. 13:19a; John 17:15; 1 John 5:19b); the “prince of this world” (John 12:31b); the “...god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4); the “...ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:2b); and a “...roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8b).
It is no wonder “...Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14); it is immensely advantageous to him for people not to know how evil he is nor even to know that he exists (just as it would be greatly advantageous for a thief to become invisible). Although each of us is responsible for all of our own actions, and we have no justification in blaming satanic influence for all the downfalls and calamities we experience, this does not mean that the influence is not there. On the contrary, it is there everyday; and it is up to us to withstand and counteract it, even if this involves simply turning away from it (James 4:7b).
I believe that our souls and bodies have an inherent desire to satisfy personal, selfish wants; and we have a choice to submit to this desire or to overcome it. Satan and/or demons merely attempt to coax our spirits into allowing our souls and bodies to obtain what they want, ignoring the fact that temporary pleasure or satisfaction can result in long-term grief and regret (seehappiness vs. self-gratification”: C-9, P-III). “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Unfortunately, we often tend to remain in situations where we anticipate receiving some type of short-term gratification or gain, disregarding the potentially adverse—often dangerous—consequences involved.
There are numerous other references to Satan, or the devil, in the Bible. One of the oldest is in the book of Job (probably the oldest book in the Bible), where his name is mentioned several times (Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-7). Many of Satan’s traits and capacities are evinced in this ancient story.
Satan associates with other angels (Job 1:6, 2:1); has access to heaven and can appear before God (1:6, 2:1); converses with God (1:7, 2:2); roams the earth (1:7b, 2:2b); knows of and hates the blessings that God gives to his children—that is, people who believe in and trust Him (1:10); and wants for God’s children to curse God (1:11, 2:5). Satan can harm and kill people only if God allows it (1:12a, 2:6); is limited by God in what he can do (1:12a, 2:6); incites theft and murder (1:14,15,17); can send down fire from heaven, when God permits (1:16); can control the elements and cause destructive storms (1:19); and can cause sickness and disease (2:7).
Karen Wheaton, exuberant and dynamic Christian singer who makes frequent appearances on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), has noted that Satan is not God’s opposite. Firstly, God created Satan, whereas God was not created but always did (and always will) exist (Rev. 22:13). If Satan is the “opposite” of anyone, that being must have been created, just as Satan was created. Satan, an archangel (which is a very highly ranking angel), is probably the “opposite” of the archangel Michael (Jude 9a), who is the prince and protector of Israel (Dan. 10:21b, 12:1a) and God’s primary angelic adversary against Satan (Rev. 12:7—see “good spiritual princes”: C-8, P-I, S-1).
Secondly, as extremely evil as Satan is, the degree of his badness never could equal the infinite degree of God’s goodness; so he cannot be God’s “opposite.” If he could be as bad as God is good, there might be some chance that Satan could defeat Jesus when He returns with His saints to earth. This will not occur, though; and the outcome of this future encounter (Rom. 16:20a) and Satan’s ultimate fate (Rev. 20:2,3,10) already has been written and sealed (see “eventual fate”: P-III).
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.