You’d be forgiven for thinking that Satan had somehow disappeared over the last couple of decades. When was the last time you heard anyone mention him? When was the last time you heard someone mention him in a non-humorous manner? In a poll done a few years ago the question was asked: do you believe in a personal God? Around 60% of people said yes which would be encouraging if it weren’t for the second question the poll asked: do you believe in a personal devil? That 60% collapsed to 34%.
This is bad news. For if we do not have a proper Biblical understanding of Satan then I would suggest that we do not have a proper Biblical understanding of sin.
Wait, isn’t the Devil just some sort of imagined concept, something to scare little children, a bit of joke really?
If you think the Devil is a joke may I refer you to Jude:
“Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.” v10
Harsh words but fair I think. So let us move on from there and see what the Bible has to say about Satan.
Who is Satan?
The main passage where we learn about Satan’s history is in Ezekiel 28 in a section which is probably entitled “A Prophecy Against the King of Tyre” And while the first part of the chapter is certainly that the second one is more interesting (this is a long reference but very useful so I'll quote it in full):
“The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
" '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.
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.
So I made a fire come out from you,
and it consumed you,
and I reduced you to ashes on the ground
in the sight of all who were watching.
All the nations who knew you
are appalled at you;
you have come to a horrible end
and will be no more. “
What if this is talking about the King of Tyre?
That would work except notice the language used: ‘you were in Eden, the garden of God” which means unless God is talking about Adam and Eve then this lament is about someone more than a human king. Indeed the whole language of this passage makes it clear that the lament if for a spiritual being.
What does this passage tell us about Satan?
Satan is a created being (v15), he used to be a cherub or angel (v14), he was blameless and perfect (v12), he was beautiful (v12), he walked in God’s presence (v14). And he was powerful – cherub in a Biblical context refers to the highest of angels and Satan was a ‘guardian cherub’ so the most powerful of all angels. So powerful in fact that even in his fallen state the Archangel Michael was careful:
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare bring a slanderous accusation against him but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”
Jude 1 v 9
What went wrong?
Satan became proud of his powerful position, his beauty and his wisdom. He sought to place himself above God.
“Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”
Ezekiel 28 v 17
“By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.” v18
It is thought that ‘trade’ refers to Satan seeking God’s praises for himself. As Paul writes in Timothy:
“…or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.”
1 Timothy 3 v 6
What happened to Satan?
God cast Satan out of Heaven. This is known as the Fall of Satan.
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
Revelation 12 v 7 – 9
Satan is thrown down to this world with his angels which we know from Revelation 12 v 4 numbered a third of the angels in Heaven.
As Jesus says:
“He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Luke 10 v 18
What does Satan do now?
Satan means adversary and the Devil means slanderous. These two words basically sum up what Satan does. He first of all opposes God and all that God stands for i.e. good. And secondly he is slanderous in the sense that he will twist the truth into lies. He also tempts people into sin and he deceives people. This is clearly seen in Genesis 3 when he says to Eve:
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
Genesis 3 v 1
Here we see Satan manipulating the truth, what God actually said was that Adam and Eve must not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan is doing what Satan does best and leading people into sin by lying, deceiving and tempting. Satan is evil and delights in wickedness.
What power does Satan have?
Satan has been granted power of the world i.e. all un-believers
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”
John 12 v 31
Satan has been given authority over the world and over all unconverted humans. As it says in Job:
“The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
Job 1 v 7
How powerful is Satan?
The fact that Revelation describes Satan as a ‘great dragon’ gives clues as to the extent of Satan’s power. He is extremely powerful and we should never underestimate him.
“The god of this age 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 Corinthians 4 v 4
Satan is so powerful that every false religion, philosophy and wrongful thinking exists because he has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
He is also powerful in tempting believers:
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5 v 8
Fighting Satan requires constant vigilance. He is prowling around us searching out our weaknesses. In the same way that God knows what will be best for us Satan knows what will do us most harm. He knows your weak spots, what areas you are easily tempted in and wants nothing more than to devour you.
And as I referred to earlier even the archangel was careful in his dealings with Satan. We then, as mere mortals, should be so much more careful.
Satan can hurt us both physically and mentally. We see this in the case of Job and also when Paul writes:
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me”
2 Corinthians 12 v 7
What group of humans does Satan hate the most?
“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”
Revelation 12 v 17
Satan rages against God’s church, he opposes Christians and does his best to bring them down. He is at war with Christians.
What is one of the biggest dangers with Satan?
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
2 Corinthians 11 v 13 - 15
Satan is expert at pretending to be an angel of light; he used to be one after all! We should be doubly careful then. If Satan can pretend to be the truth we must be sure in ourselves of the real truth. Only if we are certain of the truths in God’s word will the lies of Satan become apparent.
Does the power of Satan mean I am excused from sin?
No! We are fully responsible for our actions. We may be tempted into sin but like Eve in Genesis 3 the choice to give way is our own. That is why God punishes us for sin – because we are still responsible.
Is there any hope at all?
I realise that reading about the power of Satan makes for grim reading. Here we have an adversary far beyond our puny human efforts to beat. Here we have a powerful spiritual being pitied against us. But then there’s a very important fact I haven’t mentioned yet…
What is this important fact?
Satan has been defeated. This is such a sure fact that in Ezekiel it is prophesied in the past tense!
“So I made a fire come out from you,
and it consumed you,
and I reduced you to ashes on the ground
in the sight of all who were watching.”
Ezekiel 28 v 18
And in Revelation:
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Revelation 20 v 10
Satan was defeated by God when he fell from Heaven to Earth. And his final defeat is soon to come. Satan is in his death throws, everything he does is futile, his doom is a certainty.
How is this possible/Why is this in the ‘Greatness of God section’?
Because God is more powerful than Satan! God is in control of Satan. God limits Satan’s power and ultimately God will cast Satan into Hell. This is a fruitful topic to investigate further but will have to wait for another time. As we reflect on how powerful Satan is we draw encouragement from the fact that God is vastly more powerful!
How does Satan’s final defeat help me now?
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.”
Revelation 12 v 10 – 11
Jesus’ death on the cross (i.e. the blood of the lamb) has provided salvation to all those that believe in him. Christians can strong and resist the Devil because they have power of Christ to do so!
What is the most encouraging thought of all?
Satan’s greatest triumph was his defeat.
What do you mean?
Satan’s greatest triumph was killing the Son of God, Jesus. Yet this triumph of killing the Son of God resulted in salvation to all those who repent and believe.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—“
Hebrew 2 v 14
Jesus’ death destroyed the Devil. Jesus in his ‘defeat’ triumphed against Satan! Through his Son’s death the Father rescued us from Satan:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1 v 13 - 14
The more I write on this topic the more I see there is to write. There are still many topics to deal with: why Satan was defeated at the very beginning, how much control God has over Satan, how can Christians fight Satan, etc But the basic principles are wondrously clear:
Satan is a defeated foe. His grip over this sinful world will not last forever. Jesus’ death on the cross provided a way of salvation for all those that repent and believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God. And the time is coming when Jesus will come again and Satan will be defeated once and for all along with all those that still refuse the salvation freely offered to them in the gospel.
Will you join Satan in his doom? Or have you been saved through the blood of the lamb?