Who or what are the Bible's "devil" and "satan"?
Who or what are the Bible's "devil" and "satan"?
The Devil & Satan Exposed and Unmasked - Andre W. George
The Dictionary defines the Devil as "the supreme spirit of evil, and an enemy of God." Satan is defined as "a name for the devil".For centuries, the Devil or Satan has been considered to be the central figure of destruction in this world and the architect of all evil. God is the embodiment of all that is good, whereas Satan the Devil is the exact opposite. Who really is the Satan or Devil which is frequently mentioned in the Bible? Is he a supernatural being who was once a powerful angel and is now in opposition to God’s supremacy? Is he the force which drives mankind to such loathsome deeds?
This book is specifically written to examine this popular doctrine about the Devil or Satan and to expose the hidden secrets about him. The author will bring to light the truth about this intriguing subject by resorting to the only source of all Truth, the Bible. Though very few people may agree with what is written in this book, the reader is nevertheless urged to approach this book with an open mind and allow the Truth to penetrate the falsehood which pseudo-Christianity has introduced and has led so many astray.
For many years the author had a very rigid belief in the existence of a personal Devil/Satan, but is now a Christadelphian who has embraced the truth which had eluded him as a former Roman Catholic. However, he does not wish to impose his present belief on anyone, but is bringing the important teachings of the Bible to light, and only asks the reader to weigh up the evidence for himself.
All citations used in this book are from the King James Version of the Bible, unless otherwise indicated at the end of a citation.
CHAPTER 1 – THE DEVIL AND SATAN
POPULAR BELIEF OF THE DEVIL AND SATAN
For centuries the vast majority of Christendom have embraced a belief in a powerful supernatural being called the Devil or Satan. He is believed to be a rebel angel expelled from heaven because of his revolt against the authority of God. He is now supposed to be roaming this earth as the notorious Devil or Satan, thought to be the agent responsible for all that is evil in the world. He is considered to be the main archrival of God, directly responsible for all the sin and mayhem which exists today.
The Devil or Satan is supposed to rule over his own kingdom, popularly called 'Hell' – a fiery region where the wicked are supposed to be confined to burn for eternity on account of their evil deeds. He and his host of confederate fallen angels are in total command of this lower region, where he reigns supreme, being the god of evil.
However, the Devil or Satan will be limited in power during the millennium (the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth) and is to be permanently destroyed at the end of the millennium. He will deceive the nations no more because he will be cast into a lake of fire along with those whom he has misled. (Rev. 20:10)
THE BIBLE AND SATAN THE DEVIL
Is this popular doctrine of a fallen rebel angel in harmony with Bible teaching on the subject? Though the Bible certainly contains quite a number of references to the Devil and Satan (particularly in the New Testament), the terms 'Devil' and 'Satan' really do not refer to what has been taught by Christendom about a once perfect angel who led a rebellion in heaven and became the famous Devil or Satan. This will be examined in greater detail in the following chapters. If it can be proven that the terms 'Devil' and 'Satan' are not what we have been led to believe all these centuries, then we need to face the reality and adjust our belief in a personal Devil or Satan. The error of this doctrine greatly affects the overall Gospel message which should encompass all truth.
Since it is not possible to examine all the Bible references which relate to the Devil and Satan, the most relevant and controversial ones will be discussed and explained. It is appropriate therefore, to begin the discussion with the Genesis account of the fall of man, where it is alleged that the serpent involved in the fall was the actual Devil or Satan in disguised form. It is also assumed that Satan either took the form of a serpent, or he entered into the serpent to effect his atrocious plan of the fall of man. Are these ideas supported by the Genesis account or are they simply conjectures?
THE SERPENT OF GENESIS
The popular belief about Satan finds its origin in Genesis 3, which relates that the fall of man was through the subtlety of a serpent that deceived Eve into believing a well constructed lie. He led Eve to believe that eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God had forbidden them to eat, would in no way cause her death or the death of Adam, but rather, would make them as wise as God Himself, knowing good and evil. This simple deception brought about the downfall of man.
Was the crafty serpent really Satan in disguise, as suggested and widely believed? Did Satan transform himself into a serpent for that purpose, or did he use the serpent as a medium to communicate to Eve? Though these suggestions may sound plausible to many, they are simply conjectures. The entire narrative of Genesis 3 does not provide any foundation for these ideas at all. All that the Genesis account reveals is the scanty information that the serpent was the most subtle of all the beasts created by God. Simply put, the serpent was the smartest of all the animals. He was endowed with extreme cleverness. Consider this citation..-
"Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1)
This is what the Bible says about the serpent who deceived Eve into disobeying God’s command. Any additional explanation to this account about the serpent has no basis, and should be dismissed immediately. Even Eve confessed to God that she was tricked by the serpent..-
"And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." (Genesis 3:13)
No Devil or Satan is mentioned anywhere in this narrative. We need to ponder and ask ourselves whether God would withhold the fact of the existence of a supernatural, destructive being called the Devil or Satan from the knowledge given to Adam and Eve. Were they innocent of the fact that a malicious being was lurking somewhere in the garden waiting patiently for the right moment to attack? Were they innocent victims of misguided deception? Was God unfair, or being malicious, by cursing an innocent serpent who was a victim of Satan who craftily used him as a disguise to outsmart Eve? These are questions that require some careful thought.
The fact that God’s own words of rebuke were directed to the serpent is testimony that there was no second party involved. Would God have allowed Satan to go scot-free? Here is God’s pronouncement upon the serpent..-
"And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:" (Genesis 3:14)
Consider carefully the words spoken to the serpent, "because thou has done this". It is logical that God should curse the serpent because he was the real deceiver. He schemed a pernicious lie, thus suggesting that God was withholding something good from Adam and Eve. He imputed bad motives to God, but there is no suggestion that the serpent was under the influence of a wily Satan as a ventriloquist manipulates a dummy. The record is absolutely clear. Even the Apostle Paul endorsed the fact that the actual serpent was involved in the temptation of Adam and Eve. This is Paul’s remark about the incident..-
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety..." (2 Corinthians 11:3)
Note carefully that Paul stated that the serpent beguiled Eve through 'his subtlety'. If there was a personal Devil or Satan behind the scenes, surely Paul would have clarified the matter. Paul obviously did not believe that a supernatural being had any part in the temptation of Eve. It was entirely the serpent’s doing.
What about the serpent communicating with Eve? Isn’t it most surprising for an animal to speak? No, it isn’t, for this isn’t the only occasion where an animal had the power of speech. A dumb ass once spoke with human voice when her master was unkind to her, (Numbers 22:28-30 and 2 Peter 2:15-16). If God gave a donkey the power of speech simply to rebuke her master’s folly, then it isn’t strange at all for a serpent to speak. It is not beyond the realms of possibility, either, that God used the serpent as a means to test Adam and Eve’s obedience to Him. God had previously given them the command – not to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. By this command He tested their obedience. Had they not disobeyed, they would have qualified to receive eternal life. The choice to consider or reject the idea presented by the serpent rested with Adam and Eve. The serpent itself had no effect on the decision they made. They of their own volition accepted the serpent’s lie.
But the Bible student who insists that there is a fallen angel Satan/Devil attempts to link the incident in Eden with an event described in Revelation 12 – a 'war in heaven' occurring before the creation of man. We will now discuss this event and explain its true meaning.
WAR IN HEAVEN
The Book of Revelation, chapter 12 describes a conflict in heaven in vivid detail, as given in the following quotation..-
"And there was war in heaven…and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Revelation 12:7-9)
This highly symbolic and historical passage is often used as absolute proof for those who persist in the belief of an evil god, called Satan the Devil, who, they say, was cast out of heaven with his host of rebel angels. A connection is made with the event in the Garden of Eden simply because of the reference, 'that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan'. First of all it should be noted that the book of Revelation is future to the time it was revealed to the Apostle John in AD.96. The historical aspect of the book relates to events which were to take place after the ascension of Jesus into heaven and subsequent to the giving of Revelation, (Revelation 1:1, 4:1). It is illogical, therefore, to interpret this vision as occurring thousands of years prior to John’s day. The belief that the war in heaven describes the downfall of Satan, a rebel angel, at the beginning of creation is absurd. Heaven here is used as representative of status rather than the place where God dwells.
But what is the explanation of this highly pictorial vision? God is omniscient and His will is done in heaven absolutely, so a war could not have happened in the literal heaven. The Roman Empire ruled the then known world, and the dragon was a symbol of its power. In AD 324, there was a power struggle between the pagan ruler, Licinius, and the rising Christian party under the leadership of Constantine. The arena for this power struggle could be said to be the Roman political heavens. Licinius was defeated and slain in the famous Battle of Chrysopolis by 'Michael and his angels' which is a suitable reference to Constantine and his army who supposedly fought in the name of Christ. Constantine was victorious, so Christianity became the official religion of Rome; and the pagan Emperor, priests and all the pagan worshippers were cast out of all places of authority in the former pagan Roman 'heaven'. The symbols of Revelation 12 are very apt in describing a future rather than a past historical upheaval. It should be pointed out that this is an anachronism because the vision of Revelation was given about 96AD. Its entire message is about events future to the time the vision was given to the Apostle John, so the 'old serpent’ called the devil and satan was simply a reference to the authority or power of the pagan Roman Empire. This chapter as we can see has no connection whatsoever with what transpired in the Garden of Eden.
THE SERPENT AS A SYMBOL FOR SIN
It is worthy of note that in the Bible a serpent is used in a figurative sense in association with evil and wickedness. For example, let us consider the following citations..-
"But when he (John Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7)
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33)
In Revelation 12, John sees the vision of a woman in heaven about to give birth to a son and a dragon wanting to devour the child after it was born. The dragon and serpent are one and the same and are called 'the devil and satan'. It is not that the devil and satan are called the dragon and serpent. The reason for this designation is because the dragon/serpent are intent on an evil work, namely the destruction of the child that was to be born. Therefore the sin principle is quite evident.
LUCIFER - Who is He?
The vast majority of Christians believe that 'Lucifer' was the former name of the fallen rebel angel who they assume became the Devil and Satan. But is this assumption true? This we will examine in the light of the scriptures. First, it is important to give a reason for the use of the name Lucifer since it is mentioned only once in the entire Bible, in Isaiah 14. This name is coupled with the epithet 'Son of the morning', a reference to the bright planet Venus which at times appears very low in the morning sky, before the sun rises. The name ‘Lucifer’ is aptly used to describe a self-exalted king in all his pomp and glory prior to being humbled by God. Here are the passages..-
"That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!" (Isaiah 14:4)
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Note first of all that the person being addressed is the King of Babylon. There isn’t the slightest clue that the taunt refers to a fallen angel, known as Lucifer, who subsequently became the Devil or Satan. The passage gives a vivid description of the king in all his grandeur, pride and arrogance, exalted to the political heavens of the most powerful kingdom of his day. Isaiah compares this King to Lucifer, the day star Venus, in his brightness and self exaltation. The words are a prophecy concerning Nebuchadnezzar, or possibly Belshazzar, who were great kings of Babylon, but dramatically fell from power. These kings were so powerful and rich, that they imagined themselves as gods (as quoted above in verse 12), but they were men, just the same, as the following verse shows..-
"Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned." (Isaiah 14:20)
They weren’t even going to receive a decent burial! If Lucifer was indeed an angel, he necessarily would be immortal, (Luke 20:36) not subject to death as a human. Another clue that Lucifer refers to a human is in the following quotation..-
"They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the MAN that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;" (Isaiah 14:16)
This Lucifer as we see is conceded to be a mere man. Therefore we can safely conclude that this chapter in Isaiah does not support the fallen angel theory, but is a prophecy of the rise and fall of a king and an empire that would soon come to power and then disappear.
One final reason why this passage does not imply a super human being is derived from this boastful remark..-
“I will ascend into heaven I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:12)
One thought provoking question arises from this boast. Why should this Lucifer want to ascend into heaven with his throne if he was there before and had been previously thrown down? Observe that the language is not in the past tense, but future. A careful and unbiased reading of Isaiah 14:4-23 should be conclusive that it is not describing the fall of a once powerful angel who is believed to become the devil or satan.
THE PRINCE OF TYRUS
This is another troublesome passage of scripture worthy of comment and discussion. It is also very often used to support the popular belief in a fallen angel, Satan the Devil. Here is the quotation..-
"The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus ('Tyre' in modern translations), Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God:" (Ezekiel 28:1-2)
Does this description fit a supposed supernatural being who became Satan? Surely not! From the very outset of the quotation, the person to whom the prophecy is directed is clearly identified as the ‘Prince of Tyrus’. He had become extremely rich and powerful. Haughty pride and arrogance had corrupted his ways, so God had decided to put an end to his ambitious reign. Immediately, we note two points from verse 2:
The person to whom the lamentation is addressed is a mere man;
The exact location of this Kingdom of Tyre is given as being in the "midst of the seas". (an island power)
From these descriptions, we can begin to eliminate any connection with a fallen angel turned Satan suggestion. We learn more about this prince from the verse below.
"With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures: By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches:" (Ezekiel 28:4-5)
Still there is no hint of a supernatural being, but only a man who lusts after riches and gold. The next thing that Ezekiel introduces is the death of this prince..-
"Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 28:10)
It is important to know that death is not an issue for angels. Angels cannot die (Luke 20:36). The following verses become more figurative. They are usually quoted out of context to support the idea of Satan being in the Garden of Eden..-
"Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." (Ezekiel 28:12-15)
The subject is still the King of Tyre, who had an alliance with Israel in the days of David and Solomon. He was well acquainted with Yahweh, the God of Israel and their worship of Him. Hence the figurative language about being in Eden where the cherubim were placed. Later cherubim were placed on the ark which was in the most holy place of both the tabernacle, and (later) Solomon's temple. This was the centre of Israel's worship. The precious stones were worn by the high priest in his breastplate. The king of Tyre was represented by the spread out wings as protecting Israel (Joshua 19:29, 2 Samuel 24:7). In like manner to the cherubim whose wings overshadowed the mercy seat symbolised the divine protection and presence of Yahweh, God of Israel.
The king being upon the holy mountain of God is a reference to Mount Zion in Jerusalem where the Temple was built for which King Hiram supplied materials. He was 'perfect' or upright until the day that iniquity was found in him. There is no problem with the word 'perfect' (Hebrew 'tamin' meaning plain, whole, complete). The same word is used to describe other upright men in the Bible, such as Noah and Job. Tyre and its king departed from the true worship of God, they profaned the sanctuaries of God and therefore were utterly destroyed, and Tyre reduced to ashes. (verse 18).
There are two similar passages of scripture which are often used to support the belief of fallen angels. They refer to angels who sinned or kept not their first estate. These controversial passages are found in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 and are believed to relate to the same event. Here are the citations to which we refer..-
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;" (2 Peter 2:4)
"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 6)
Do these references describe disobedient angels who were expelled from heaven and delivered to chains of darkness? It may surprise some to know, perhaps for the first time, that the word 'angels' does not always refer to the heavenly host of angels in God’s presence, but can also apply to human agents. 'Angel' is derived from the Greek word 'aggelos' (pronounced 'angelos') which can be translated messenger, agent or angel. Scriptural use of the word 'angel' may be applied to any messengers of God, such as prophets (Isaiah 42:19 and Malachi 3:1), priests (Malachi 2:7), and the leaders of the Christian churches (Revelation 1:20). Interestingly, the Hebrew word 'malak' when translated into English means angel or messenger. Therefore the name Malachi means 'my messenger'.
With this brief explanation of the word 'angel', we can now deduce that the angels who sinned or left their first estate cannot refer to heavenly angels who do God’s will (Psalm 103:19-21); and who cannot die (Luke 20:36); but must refer to earthly messengers. The metaphor which states that those angels are being kept in 'chains of darkness reserved to judgment' is used to express the bondage of death from which they will rise to receive their righteous judgment. Being cast down to hell simply means that they went into their graves, and not to a fiery place of constant torment as many would suggest.
To what event do these passages in Peter and Jude refer? They are connected to an episode in Israel’s history involving 250 princes in the congregation of Israel who rebelled against Moses. They were led by Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On. Those princes (aggeloi – messengers, angels) were supposed to minister to the entire congregation of Israel (Numbers 16:9) but left their first estate as princes and sought to perform the office of the priesthood (verse 10). As a result, because of their sinful action, the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the whole company which included Korah, Dathan and Abiram (verse 32). Therefore they were cast down to the grave (or hell), and delivered (in a figure) into chains of darkness, reserved unto judgment. The following verse does fit this event.. -
"Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them." (Psalm 55:15)
As we can see, the Bible’s allusions to the fallen angels does not countenance the idea of rebel angels who were thrown out of heaven because of rebellion.
JOB’S SATAN IDENTIFIED
Of all the passages cited so far, it should be realised that none of them relate to a supernatural fallen angel who is assumed to be the Devil or Satan. We will now focus our attention on the Satan who was supposedly involved with the cataclysm of Job. First, it would be prudent to briefly discuss who were the 'sons of God' who came to present themselves before the Lord, with Satan also coming among them (Job 1:6). Were they divine angels? Some people think so, but the narrative does not specify that they were. Interestingly, the phrase 'Sons of God' is common in the Bible and is usually applied to human agents. For example, it is said in Luke 3:38 that Adam was a son of God. Believers are called 'sons of God' in 1 John 3:1; therefore we should not conclude that the sons of God in Job were heavenly angels. Language allows for a figurative use of the word 'son'. In Arabic, for example, there is a common expression used, 'son of the village' which refers to a native of that particular village. In the Bible the phrase 'son of Belial' refers to a worthless or wicked fellow and is not a literal son of wickedness. Therefore we should not conclude that the phrase 'sons of God' were heavenly angels, for it could refer to a group of believers who periodically came together to worship God. Scripture also informs us that Divine Angels do not need to present themselves to God on periodic occasions, since they are constantly in his presence to do His will (Matthew 18:10; Luke 1:19).
But even if we were to assume that the “sons of God” were divine angels it would not have been possible for the orthodox Satan to have been in their midst. Popular belief states that after his rebellion, he was hurled out of heaven. If that was true, then how did he regain access to heaven to be among holy angelic beings and before the presence of a most holy God? This would be preposterous.
Who then was the Satan who came among the 'sons of God'? We need to understand first what the word 'Satan' really means and the origin of the word. The word 'Satan' so frequently used in the Bible is actually an untranslated Hebrew word Satan, meaning adversary or opponent. The word 'Satan' is a noun, but not a proper noun, so it can be used to describe anyone who opposes someone else.
Returning to the Book of Job, who really was Job’s adversary who accused him before God? Was he a supernatural villain who many claim to be the Devil? It cannot be, for there is no evidence to indicate that the 'sons of God' were truly divine angels, nor is there any substantial evidence to justify that the Satan who came among them was actually a supernatural being. Note that all that was said about him was that he came from wandering and walking around in the earth (Job 1:7). Even if we were to assume that it was the orthodox Satan who engaged God in the dialogue concerning Job, he wasn’t superhuman since he had no power to achieve anything on his own. Job was inflicted with God’s permission and with power derived from God Himself. God granted the adversary his request to bring the calamity upon Job (Job 1:12). This Satan had no power to act on his own to bring the disasters upon Job. He had to move God against Job to bring the afflictions upon him. Job himself later clearly identified his adversary (Satan). Job attributed his adversity to God’s doing. Consider this plea to his friends in which Job associates his suffering with God’s doing..-
"Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me." (Job 19:21)
Was Job maligning God for something which He was innocent of? This would have been a serious offence by Job and would have invoked the wrath of God upon him. Job’s wife foolishly advised Job to curse God and die, but his wise reply to her showed that he realised he was being put to the test by God himself..-
"But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips." (Job 2:10)
At the end of the book (Job 42:11), we are emphatically told that it was the action of God which brought the evil (disaster) upon Job.
So who was the adversary or Satan who was powerful enough to persuade God to accede to his request to afflict Job? Job makes this bold reply to his supposed comforter Eliphaz the Temanite..-
"God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked." (Job 16:11)
Thus Job states that it was the ungodly who apparently were jealous of his position and relationship with God. Job’s Satan is not the fallen angel as popularly advanced in Christian circles. Rather it was God who tried Job, through an adversary, to save the adversary by Job's example and to prove the accusation of the adversary wrong. Consider that it was the three friends who were told to go to Job and offer burnt offerings and Job would pray for them (Job 42:7-8), even as He (God) would later do with Jesus in order to save all those who would be saved (Acts 2:23). In this regard Job was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, when he (Job) was maligned before God by a vicious enemy, who apparently, envied Job because of his righteousness. It is remarkable that through all of Job’s trial, he never once mentioned a supernatural devil or satan being involved in his predicaments.
One final reason which eliminates the possibility of “the Satan” in Job being a fallen angel is the fact that Peter in his 2nd epistle gives contrary evidence..-
"yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings [the righteous] in the presence of the Lord. " (2 Peter 2:11)
But, in the Job incident, we are told that the Satan slandered Job to God. However according to the evidence provided by Peter, we deduce that slanderous accusations are not characteristic to angels, but to humans.
GOD AS SATAN
Does this bold statement sound plausible? Does it send chills down your spine? Has God ever acted as a Satan or adversary (enemy) to anyone throughout history? We again resort to the Bible for the answer.
In the Book of Numbers 22:20-41, we have an extraordinary incident about a prophet called Balaam. He had such a great reputation that when the Israelites were encamped in the plains of Moab, Balak the King of Moab sent specially for Balaam to place a curse upon the Israelites. At first God did not permit Balaam to go, but Balak called Balaam a second time, so God gave him conditional approval to go if the men of Moab called him (v20). But Balaam, who was tempted by the glamour of riches and honour offered to him by Balak, did not wait for this condition to be fulfilled and instead, as soon as it was morning set off in pursuit of glory (v21). The action of Balaam kindled God’s anger against him, at this manifestation of determined self-will. Therefore God dispatched an angel to oppose the prophet as a Satan or adversary against him (Numbers 22:25, 2 Peter 2:16) to stand and block his way. Through the Angel, God withstood Balaam and frustrated his designs. This incident proves that God can become a Satan to those who deliberately transgress His commandments by whatever way He deems necessary. The fact is, God alone is supreme.
Let us consider two other parallel accounts of scripture where it is evident that God assumes the function of Satan himself..-
"And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." (1 Chronicles 21:1)
“And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." (2 Samuel 24:1)
How we react to or interpret these passages (particularly the second one) is very important. The reader, if careful and observant, should recognise that both accounts relate to the same event. There is no doubt about that. It should be observed that in the first account it is Satan, the adversary, who does the provoking of David, but in the latter account it is God Himself, for the pronoun 'he' cannot be referring to any other person but God Himself. It would be mischievous for anyone to come to any other conclusion or to simply raise an argument. However what was it that specifically moved David to number Israel?
God had brought about certain calamities upon David and his people Israel, which caused him much anxiety. David who was aware of his infidelity to God in the past, grew extremely worried about possible attack. As a consequence, David was moved to demand the count of men in his army. This reckless and unwise action taken by David demonstrated the fact of his reliance upon the strength of his army to defend him rather than trusting God for protection. He failed to look to God for help, so God’s anger was kindled against him. David had failed to recognise God as the 'El Gibbor', the mighty warrior, so God became a Satan or adversary to David who was made to later suffer the consequences of his great error.
GOD’S REAL ENEMY EXPOSED
Does God have an enemy? Many believe that this enemy is a fallen angel Devil or Satan. We digress slightly from our main trend of discussion to address this very intriguing question. Who is God’s real enemy? As mentioned already, the most obvious answer is Satan, the Devil. Even the Oxford Students Dictionary describes the word 'devil' as 'the supreme spirit of evil - an enemy of God', although it gives these additional meanings, 'an evil spirit', 'a wicked or cruel person'. Really, is it a rebel angel now called the Devil or Satan who is the principal enemy of God? Is this the real truth? If not, what is the real truth?
The Bible supplies the answer, which often eludes us because of the entrenched belief of the majority of Christians in a fallen angel/devil.
Although both the Old and New Testaments often refer to Satan, we should begin to realise that the orthodox belief of Satan the Devil does not mesh with the Truth taught in the Bible. The real enemy of God isn’t the popular Devil or Satan, but actually sin in the flesh; sin, in all its various manifestations in the world around us, either singly or collectively. Jesus Christ himself validated this statement when he chided the blind, stiff-necked Jews with these scathing words of rebuke..-
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father you will do.” (John 8:44)
Was Jesus referring to a superhuman agent, or rather to the evil desires of the Jews who were secretly conspiring against him? They were an example of sin in the flesh, and were obeying the lusts of their sinful nature deeply rooted within them, and thus could be said to be ‘of their father the devil’. The heart and carnal mind is set upon fulfilling the desires of the flesh and is hostile to God (see Romans 8:5-7). It can be concluded that God’s worst enemy is exposed and unmasked as sin lodged within our members. Sin accuses and testifies against us before God. This is what the Bible says..-
"For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;" (Isaiah 59:12)
This description given by Isaiah personifies sin and makes it come alive. It is man’s worst and deadly enemy (his personal Satan). God who opposes sin, sees sin as the opposition to His will that is in people. Remember that it was through the disobedience of one man that King Sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). We think of Cain, and how God warned him that "sin lieth at the door" (Genesis 4:7) when reprimanding him for his disobedience. Then in his sinful envy Cain went on to kill his brother Abel. Sin had entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, so the consequences of evil quickly set in and Cain became the first murderer. This demonstrates that SIN is God’s worst enemy which manifests itself in our evil actions, not a personal devil or satan who we constantly blame for the evil which resides within us. The Bible explains that 'evil' comes from the heart..-
"...the heart of the sons of men is fully set within them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
CHAPTER 2 – JESUS, AND SATAN THE DEVIL
Is there any connection whatsoever between Jesus and Satan the Devil? During Jesus' mortal life on earth he came into direct contact with Satan the Devil on a number of occasions. His first encounter occurred just after his baptism by John the Baptist. Matthew 4:1 states, that Jesus immediately after he was baptized and confirmed as Son of God, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.
Who was this Devil so bold and cunning as to approach the Son of God three times in an effort to make him sin? The usual view is that he was the disgraced fallen angel – the Devil. Before going further into Jesus' temptations, it is imperative to understand the origin and meaning of the word 'devil' which appears so often in the New Testament. Incidentally, please note that the entire Old Testament is silent on the Devil, an intriguing matter in itself!
ORIGIN OF THE WORD, 'DEVIL’
The word devil does not appear in the Old Testament, but appears for the first time in the Gospel of Matthew. Where does the word devil originate from? Cruden’s Concordance informs us that the word 'devil' derives its meaning from the Greek word 'diabolos', meaning a calumniator, one who accuses. Parkhurst says that..-
“the original word 'diabolos' is derived from the word 'diabebola' which is the perfect tense, middle voice of the word 'diaballo'. Diaballo is compounded of 'dia' (through) and ballo (to cast), therefore rendering the meaning to 'dart or strike through'. He further explains that whenever the word is used in the figurative sense, it signifies to strike or stab with an accusation or evil report.”
Hence, Parkhurst defines 'diabolos' as a word meaning an accuser or slanderer. This he illustrates by referring to 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3, all of which would certainly apply to human beings and not to a supernatural being.
From this brief explanation it should be perceived that the word 'devil' is a general term and not used as a proper noun. It is a word that can be employed in any situation where slander, accusation and falsehood are present.
JESUS ENCOUNTERS AND RESISTS THE DEVIL
Are there any instances in the life of Jesus on earth where he had the occasion to encounter the devil? Yes, there is an occasion where the devil or satan confronted Jesus three times and tried in vain to entice him into committing sin. This occurred after Jesus had been baptised by John the Baptist. Following his baptism, we are told in Luke 4:1 that Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted of the devil. Since Jesus had fasted for forty days he would be weak and hungry. If the devil who tempted Jesus was indeed a supernatural rebel angel, why would the Spirit of God lead Jesus to such a remote, solitary place to allow His Son to be in such a weakened condition? It does not sound reasonable for God to allow his son to be led into the wilderness to be tempted by a rebel fallen angel who wanted to snatch power or claim equality with God. The temptations were very real to Jesus, but would he have truly been tempted by a wily spirit being who conversed with him and tried to entice him in three different ways? Were the tempting thoughts placed into the mind of Jesus by the devil who hoped that Jesus would accede to them? Had there been a real tempter – a personal devil – the obviousness of the temptation would have definitely weakened its power. The effectiveness of any temptation lies with its ingenuity.
So, there must be another way of looking at the temptations of Jesus. Jesus, although he was Son of God, was fully human and therefore was tempted in all areas like as we are. (Hebrews 4:15) James further reminds us that, “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” (James 1:14) It was no different with Jesus who was also tempted by his own hunger, for he was also susceptible to committing sin. The difference was that he did not allow the temptation to entice him and did not succumb to its demands. Though he was weak, he found strength in the use of the scriptures to counter his temptations. Assuming that the devil had been an external physical being, quoting the Scriptures to overcome him would be of no avail since it is the popular view that the devil has no regard for the Word of God.
Jesus' temptations were not necessarily subject to external influences as we will soon see. For example, the thought of turning stones into bread could have rushed to the mind of Jesus as a result of the pangs of hunger from fasting for forty days. But unlike us, he was in command of the situation and did not give in. He immediately quoted the scriptures..-
"...that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Deuteronomy 8:3)
He did not obey the 'mind of the flesh' and yield to the temptation simply to satisfy the lust of the flesh - his desire to satisfy his hunger.
The second temptation about being taken into the holy city, Jerusalem, by the devil as recorded by Matthew and Luke, has to be reconciled with Mark’s record that the temptations all took place in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). Therefore Jesus could not literally have been in Jerusalem on the pinnacle of the Temple to cast himself down in dramatic fashion. How then do we reconcile the details of this temptation? The answer is that the whole temptation was conceived in the mind of Jesus. He could picture being in Jerusalem with his mind’s eye. However, he did not succumb for one second to the power of the fleshly mind. To do so would be to abuse his God-given power.
It is interesting to note that Alfred Edersheim has a reference to a Jewish legend and expectation that the Messiah would stand on the pinnacle of the temple and proclaim his Messiahship in an attempt to impress the Jews to accept and worship him. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 1, Page 292.) Legend or not, this public spectacle did not materialize. However, Jesus was tempted to go contrary to his Father’s will simply to gain the admiration of the Jews through a dramatic performance but did not yield to the temptation. He was able to ward off the temptation and allow God’s spirit to prevail.
The final temptation concerning the devil taking Jesus to an exceeding high mountain, from where he was shown all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, also cannot be interpreted in its literal sense. There is no mountain high enough for Jesus to literally see all the kingdoms of the world which existed in his time. This is impossible unless we accept that he saw it in vision form, that is, in his mind’s eye. This vision explains the reason for Luke’s insertion, "in a moment of time" (Luke 4:5). This is the only logical explanation.
What actually sparked off this temptation in the mind of Jesus was the fact that his Father had promised him the kingdom and had delegated all power and authority to him (John 5:26-27). The prospect of taking the kingdom immediately became a Satan to overcome. Note that the words, 'devil' and 'satan' are used interchangeably in the temptation narratives. This highlights the true source of the temptations which confronted Jesus and which he overcame. He did not allow himself to be deceived by the lust of the flesh or the lust of the eye or the pride of life to abuse the power his God had given him. To do so, would be blatant disobedience to God. In each case, the scripture cited by Jesus as a means to overcome the mind of the flesh was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy. This Book describes the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. Jesus also went through this same experience in the wilderness where he was successful in overcoming the lusts of the flesh. The Word of God was his major weapon in not surrendering to the ‘pride of life’ which is so apparent in this last temptation. This is no doubt, why he was described by Paul to the Corinthians as the 'last Adam' (1 Corinthians 15:45). The first Adam transgressed - the last Adam conquered and overcame the natural instincts of his nature.
Of course, Jesus was not just tempted at the beginning of his ministry. He faced temptation throughout his three and a half years culminating in what was arguably his greatest temptation, which took place in the garden of Gethsemane. It was there that he had the fiercest confrontation with the devil – which was the mind of the flesh warring against the mind of the spirit. This we can realise from his words of agony..-
“"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…”
On this occasion, there is nothing to suggest that there was an external tempter (i.e. devil). The words of Jesus came from deep within him. These were words uttered by someone having a tremendous internal emotional battle. He desired that the ‘cup of death’ should pass from him, but as he overcame in the wilderness temptations, he found the courage to reject the idea. The spirit did prevail and the flesh (i.e. the devil) was defeated when he countered the attack with the following words..-
“"…nevertheless not as I wilt, but as thou wilt.” (Matt 26:39)
Though the natural will of Jesus was to avoid the cross, he did not yield to the desire to serve himself, but rather accepted the will of God. It was a difficult battle which raged entirely in the mind of Christ. He was human and had our same inclinations – but he allowed God’s spirit to conquer the seductive spirit – the thinking of the fleshly mind.
A careful examination of the Scriptures reveals that Christ was tempted in all points like we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
JESUS EXPOSES THE DEVIL AND SATAN
The temptations in the wilderness and in the garden were not the only occasions when Jesus encountered the Devil and engaged him in open warfare. This happened on two other distinct occasions. The first was in a solemn revelation to his twelve disciples that one among them was ‘a devil’ who would betray him. Here are his startling words..-
"Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70)
Obviously the devil whom Jesus spoke of was none other but Judas. Was Judas really a devil or was the devil concealed within Judas, as many seem to believe? Actually, not the latter, for Jesus did not associate Judas with the Devil, but identified him as a Devil. In so doing, Jesus pointed out who would betray him, to his adversaries the chief priests, who were always looking for an opportunity to arrest Jesus. Judas in due course fulfilled his role and betrayed Jesus to the Jewish chief priests immediately following the last supper..-
"And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;" (John 13:2)
Further on, the record states that it was Satan who entered into Judas and enticed him to conspire with the priests to deliver Jesus into their hands..-
"And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly." (John 13:27)
It now needs to be clarified which of the two is actually supposed to be the superhuman being – the Devil or Satan? It is not difficult to discern that the two words are often used interchangeably. How can they be differentiated one from the other? It definitely makes no sense at all for Satan to enter someone who is a Devil for Jesus had already stated that Judas was a devil.
Although Judas was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus, he had ulterior motives for being with Christ. Perhaps his hope was to receive an exalted position in the kingdom which he thought Christ would take by force. As time went on, Judas realised that Jesus was not planning on seizing power, and he concluded there was more to gain by conspiring with the Pharisees and Sadducees to deliver Jesus over to them for thirty pieces of silver (Matt 26:15). These envious, unscrupulous leaders were only too happy to accept Judas' offer. Judas' other weakness was love of money. He was treasurer for the twelve and stole from the bag. (John 12:6)
Judas was singled out by Christ as being a devil because all along, Jesus knew the ulterior motives which Judas had for being with him. At the betrayal, we see that Judas allowed himself to be taken captive by the devil, that is, his carnal mind or deceitful heart. His carnal mind got the better of him, and he conspired with the Pharisees and Sadducees to hand Jesus over to them. In this whole narrative, 'Devil' and 'Satan' are figures of speech to illustrate Judas’ evil scheme of the betrayal for money. This entered into his wicked heart after the sop which Jesus handed to him, identifying him as the betrayer. The act of betrayal proved Judas to be both a false accuser and slanderer (Devil) and the adversary (Satan) of Christ.
The second situation where Jesus confronted and rebuked Satan, involved another of his disciples, Peter. Peter had taken Jesus to task when Jesus revealed that he would be arrested and slain. Peter vehemently tried to dissuade Christ from such an idea which he (Peter) thought ought not to happen. This is Peter’s remark..-
"Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." (Matthew 16:22)
Did Peter forget that he was addressing his Lord and Master, whom he had previously confirmed as the Son of God? Was he without faith or temporarily out of his senses when he was unwittingly providing Jesus with a temptation to go contrary to His Father’s will? Also, in a sense, Peter’s remark was an accusation against Jesus that he (Jesus) had spoken falsely. Shocked and appalled by Peter's remonstration, it provoked Jesus to give this startling response..-
"Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matthew 16:23)
Who could believe that Jesus addressed Peter as Satan?! Was Jesus referring to Peter as a person, or did he think Peter was under the influence of the superhuman being called Satan? Many who believe in a personal powerful Devil would quickly conclude that Peter was under the spell of a supernatural being. But why did Jesus directly and sharply rebuke Peter personally if he was used by Satan as a medium? This brings to mind the serpent which tempted Eve being cursed by God. The truth is that Peter was the actual Satan, the adversary who tried to divert Christ from fulfilling his mission by attempting to induce him to disobedience towards God. To infer that an evil spirit called Satan entered Peter and prompted him to make such a careless statement is to believe that Satan can manipulate man’s decisions and thinking at his own whim. In such a case, man is only a puppet of the supposed devil and satan. In which case, he should not be held responsible to God for his evil deeds. Since Peter was considered by Jesus to be fully responsible for his reckless remark, it indicates that Peter was not tempted by supernatural means. Man himself bears the responsibility for his own actions. This is quite evident in this incident with Peter.
The problem with Peter does not end there. On another occasion Jesus had cause to bring to Peter’s attention that he (Peter) was still controlled by the carnal mind of the flesh which sometimes got the better of him. Here is a stern warning of Jesus that Satan (the adversary) desired to get the better of all the disciples and that Peter required special prayer from the Lord as he was the most vulnerable!
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)
Was Jesus warning Peter about the subtlety of a personal Devil or Satan, and confirming that such a being does exist? Should his remark be taken literally? It is essential to consider the context of this warning. The disciples had been disputing among themselves who would be the greatest, and Peter was involved also. (Luke 22:24-30) Jesus was warning Peter not to allow Satan the adversary, that is, the power of sin, to cloud his mind and derange his thinking ability. Peter also had a wavering faith and Jesus alerted him to this weakness. This materialized when Peter denied Jesus three times through his own human weakness which almost had him sifted as wheat, as Jesus described it. Peter’s real conversion was after the denial of his Lord, when he wept bitterly on recalling the solemn warning of Jesus. That conversion strengthened Peter’s faith, and he went on to be a leading example to the believers - a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ unto the end.
In addition to these instances of Jesus addressing Judas as a devil and Peter as Satan, there is one other outstanding occasion where Jesus had the opportunity to use the word Satan. This reference is very often used to defend the belief that Satan was once a very powerful angelic being whose abode was in heaven until his rebellion and consequent fall. Many use this verse of scripture as proof for belief in a personal devil, since Jesus stated that he witnessed the falling of Satan from heaven. Here is the actual remark..-
"And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18)
Was Jesus actually confirming the fact that he saw the orthodox Satan falling from heaven? We should not be too quick to arrive at a conclusion without a careful consideration of the context and reason for Jesus making this statement. This remark was made as a response to the report of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus to preach the gospel, who returned excitedly reporting to Jesus their great success in casting out devils (Luke 10:17). The euphoria with which they approached Jesus evoked the reply given by Jesus. If we recall that the word 'Satan' means adversary/enemy, we can understand the underlying reason why Jesus applied the word ‘Satan’ to describe the general binding effect of sin ("The wages of sin is death" Romans 6:23) manifesting itself in certain unexplainable and incurable diseases which the seventy disciples were able to cure in the name of Jesus. Jesus foresaw in his mind’s eye the power of the adversary Satan falling and being destroyed with the swiftness of lightning. This is metaphorical of the total eradication of sin.
JESUS’ REAL MISSION
It is necessary for us to consider the main mission of Jesus Christ while he was on earth. What did Jesus come to accomplish during his time on earth? It may be something we have not seriously thought about up till now. A satisfactory answer to this important question would help make the understanding of the real Bible Devil and Satan much clearer.
There are a number of ways we could answer this question, but there is one outstanding reason for Jesus being born into this world. We are told in the Bible that Christ was manifested so that he could destroy the works of the Devil/Satan. John clearly outlines this in his first epistle..-
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8)
This answer provided by John articulates to us the real mission of Christ upon the earth. The writer to the Hebrews gave a similar more detailed account of what was achieved by Christ. Here is what he says..-
"Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15, NKJV)
These two previous passages state the purpose for Christ being here on earth. He came to destroy the devil/satan which is the power and root of sin within us and has the power of death. Jesus too shared our fleshly nature. The Bible also clearly teaches us that sin is what leads to death, and that Jesus died on the cross to take away the sin of the world. John the Baptist announces at the time he baptised Christ..-
"Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)
Here is how Paul explains it:
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
If death is a direct consequence of sin, and Christ came to "destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil", it is logical to conclude that the devil and sin are one and the same. Realise that both have the power of death. No sin - no death. Devil destroyed - sin and death abolished. Clearly then, if we accept this simple reasoning the devil or satan is no longer in disguise, but is revealed and unmasked. The devil is a personification of sin in the flesh. Sin in all its various forms and disguises is the real personal devil which Jesus in his mission came to destroy.
JESUS EXPOSES THE WORK OF THE DEVIL
In the Book of Revelation, chapter 2, we have an interesting remark made by Jesus to John while he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos. It concerned the church in Smyrna:
"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10, NKJV)
Remembering that the word 'devil' is used as a synonym for sin in human nature, we can conclude that a sinful enemy was going to imprison some of the members of the church. This enemy was the pagan Roman government who was about to persecute the early Christians in an effort to eradicate them. The apostle Paul and many of the other apostles also suffered at the hands of the Romans, and were cruelly put to death.