During ancient times, many people, thought that a belief in Satan was only superstition, and even today many think of Satan only as a figure of speech or an imaginary figment of the imagination to blame when things go wrong or when we find ourselves involved in some unethical behavior.
But Jesus Christ knew the devil was no figure of speech, no superstition, no jest, no make-believe creature, because he knew him, had seen him, and debated with him. Jesus recognized Satan as the prince of the powerful force of evil. Satan is the one who opposes the purposes of God and is “especially associated with deceit, temptation and testing, through which he attempts to deflect believers from obeying God.”1
This very real creature, called Satan, is described throughout the Holy Bible, but one must gather the puzzle pieces together to assemble an accurate picture. This evil creature is first mentioned in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, when the serpent tempts Eve and lures humankind to their doom. Satan, entered the garden and deceived Eve into eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil by stating that God lied. “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5, ESV).
This spiritual being took the shape of an animal — similar to the Arabic Jinn, which frequently resided in serpents — and deceived Eve into disobeying God, then convinced her husband, Adam, to do the same. The evil nature of these actions caused sin to enter the world and be handed down, genetically, to all offspring. This one event has produced the evil world in which we now live.
From Genesis to Revelation
This evil nature in humans, caused and encouraged by Satan, is recorded throughout the Bible and well into its last book. Revelation describes a war in heaven in which the archangel Michael hurls Satan and his followers from heaven to earth.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him, (Revelation 12:7-9, NRSV).
When did (or when will) this happen? Some commentators state this is in reference to Christ’s resurrection when he appeared before God as our advocate. “Satan, the accusing adversary, could no longer appear before God against us, but was cast out judicially. . . . He and his angels henceforth range through the air and the earth, after a time (namely, the interval between the ascension and the second advent) about to be cast hence also, and bound in hell.”3 In other words, The Archangel Michael cast out Satan, from heaven to earth, upon Christ’s resurrection. After Satan is defeated on earth in a final battle, he will be cast into hell and imprisoned there for a time.
As the Holman Bible Handbook states, “Heaven rejoices because it has been rescued from Satan, but the earth must now mourn because the devil has been cast down to earth, and his anger is great. He knows that he has been defeated by the enthronement of Christ and that he has but a short time” (see Revelation 12:10–12).4 This is the scenario in which I believe, but there are other ideas, too, so you have several choices from which to believe.
Some commentators believe Jesus’ previous heavenly name was Michael and this event in question did not happen at Jesus’ resurrection, but will happen at the end of this age. “The time of this war in heaven was not indicated, but the context refers to the end time. The efforts of some expositors to make this coincidental with the first coming of Christ . . . are not justified by the context in Revelation 12.”5
Another idea is that Revelation 12:7–9 has nothing to do with heaven, but entirely all to do between the Roman empire (presided over by Satan) and its conflicts with the Church (headed by Jesus).6 So, what is taught and preached, depends upon what church group you attend or what study Bible you use.
Whether Satan is now restricted to our earthly realm or not, God has allowed him to attend heavenly events in the past. God has an organized governing body in heaven called the heavenly host or divine council that convenes to govern and rule his creations and make plans and carry out important decisions. An example of Satan attending this council is in the book of Job.7 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it’” (Job 1:6–7, ESV).
What is Satan and what are Demons?
According to The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Satan in the Hebrew means to oppose, obstruct, or accuse. In Greek, Satan literally means ‘adversary.’ In the New Testament, it refers to a title or a name.8 It is the angel in Jewish belief that is commanded by God to tempt humans to sin and carry out God’s punishment, and the Christian belief is that of a rebellious angel who is the adversary for God and lord of evil.9 It is the personal supreme spirit of evil and represented as the tempter of mankind, leader of all apostate angels, and ruler of hell. Lucifer, on the other hand, is from Latin (lux=light, fer=ferous [more]) meaning light-bearing, and is used as a name of the Devil, as well as the name of the planet Venus when appearing as the morning star.10
Satan was created before the earth was formed (Job 38:4–7). By his own free will, he has been sinning (1 John 3:8) and murdering (John 8:44) and is generally believed to have fallen because of pride (1 Timothy 3:6).11 When Satan fell and rebelled against God, one-third of the angels in heaven, by their own free will, followed him. These fallen angels are still part of his entourage today (Revelation 12:4). Some of these fallen angels mated with human women on earth, therefore producing the Nephilim, a hybrid human-angel creature (Genesis 6:1-4).
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of God were having sexual relations with the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. They were the mighty heroes of old, the famous men” (Genesis 6:4, NET).
Are these fallen angels what the Bible calls Demons? There are two popular opinions concerning Demons. The most accepted theory has been what the majority of Bible teachers and scholars believe, that they are fallen angels, those that sinned and followed Satan after his fall.12 Academics, such as Dr. Michael Heiser, lean more to the theory that “Demons are the departed spirits of dead Nephilim killed before and during the flood. They roam the earth harassing humans and seeking re-embodiment.”13 The Outlaw Bible Student is planning a separate detailed study on Demons in the not-too-distant future.
In today’s world, these three names — Satan, Devil, Lucifer — are pretty much interchangeable when speaking of the ‘evil one’ in the Bible, but there are other titles and names which are applied to him, too. Among them are the adversary, the dragon, that old serpent, and the god of this world. In the New Testament, Satan is used interchangeably with Diabolos (Greek: devil), depending upon which version is used. You will also find that he is ‘Beelzebub,’ as well as many other reference comparisons (e.g., ‘power of death’ or ‘roaring lion’).14
Now, concerning this personal name ‘Lucifer,’ it didn’t come into existence until several hundred years after the death of Christ and it was used in error because of a mistranslation. The name came from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, around 400 A.D., when the Hebrew word heylel, meaning ‘shining’ was assumed to be the name of the planet Venus (the morning star). Jerome was correct in his usage, but later translators mistook it to be the name of the devil. You can read the interesting details of this mistranslation in a study titled “Satan, the Devil, and Lucifer: are they one and the same?” listed at the end of this article.15
How to Fight Satan and Win the Battle
The apostle Paul reinforces Jesus’ viewpoint to new Christians that Satan is real and not just some obsolete Jewish superstition. He wanted them to know details of this evil entity — his organization, his powers, and where he lives.16
In explaining what it is we face, Paul is very specific. It is not a struggle against other humans, but one against spirits. Flesh and blood foes are just mere tools of evil, the real foe lurks behind humans; the real foe is Satan himself.17 This is a spiritual war against a devious, a wicked, and a ruthless enemy. This war between God and Satan is in every part of the cosmos, both on earth, as well as in heaven. And now in this modern age, because we model our lives after Jesus Christ and belong to him, it becomes our war as well. Satan will try to draw us away from our righteous path and if he can’t, he will harass us, impede our way, try to render us less faithful, and less serviceable to the kingdom of Christ. And Satan is not alone; he has ample help. A popular Bible commentary states the following.
In [Ephesians 6] verse 12 there is called up before us an imposing array of spiritual powers. They are “the angels of the devil,” whom Jesus set in contrast with the angels of God that surround and serve the Son of man (Matthew 25:41). These unhappy beings are, again, identified with the “demons,” or “unclean spirits,” having Satan for their “prince,” whom our Lord expelled wherever He found them infesting the bodies of men. They are represented in the New Testament as fallen beings, expelled from a “principality” and “habitation of their own” (Jude 6) which they once enjoyed, and reserved for the dreadful punishment which Christ calls “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” They are here entitled principalities and powers (or dominions), after the same style as the angels of God, to whose ranks, as we are almost compelled to suppose, these apostates once belonged.18
Satan and his warriors, as well as the places from which they came and those places they currently inhabit, are invisible to us, but just because they are unseen does not mean that they are not real. X-rays and wi-fi signals are all unseen, but real. Many colors, which other animals can see (e.g., infrared, ultraviolet) are unseen by humans, but they are all real. Gravity and electricity are unseen, but real. You get the idea. Likewise, the following things are real, too: Satan and his angels, demons, unclean spirits, evil authorities, and cosmic powers. And these locations are real as well: other principalities, other habitations, other dominions, and other realms or dimensions. These are the things Paul speaks about in Ephesians 6:12.19
The apostle says, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13, ESV), and then describes the various pieces of Christian armor as though he is equipping a soldier for battle.20
Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17, NRSV).
Without this armor we will be defeated by the devil and his army, but our battle is mostly defensive — we are not to be out searching for Satan and mounting an attack, but just to stand our ground. “The armor is to put a stop to the power of demonic agenda over us . . . the armor of God is to enable us to bolt and bar the doors of our spiritual lives.”21 Their dedicated activity is trying to rob all Christians of the spiritual blessings that God has given us.22
Although mostly defensive, there are two offensive weapons included, prayer and the sword of the Spirit (the Holy Bible), both to be used to fight back if we are ourselves directly attacked.23 Having recruited the readers of his epistle under the right leader (Jesus) to fight the right war (against evil) with the right equipment (armor of God), Paul now tells them what the correct maneuvers should be. “They are to pray at all times under the direction of the Spirit (who knows what to pray for), and they are to keep themselves diligently alert in prayer and petition on behalf of other believers in the common struggle.”24
We must keep watch over ourselves, our families, and our Christian brothers and sisters and pray for God’s spirit to help us fight off Satan and his army. We need to use the defensive tools as Paul instructs us. By doing this, we can stand firm in our faith and deflect Satan’s attacks.
Copyright © 2019, Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- Manser, Martin H., Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies, (London: Martin Manser, 2009).
- Whitehouse, Owen C., “SATAN,” in A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology, James Hastings, et al., (Eds.), (New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark, 1911–1912), vol. 4, p. 407.
- Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), vol. 2, p. 580.
- Dockery, David S., (Ed.), Holman Bible Handbook, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), p. 800.
- Walvoord, John F., “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, (Eds.), (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, p. 958.
- John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible; Adam Clark Commentary; Hanserd Knollys’ Commentary on Revelation.
“Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary” (Study Light, retrieved 8 September 2019), https://www.studylight.org/commentary/revelation/12-7.html
- Hermann, Ray, “Angels—What are They?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 25 July 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/angels-what-are-they/
- Satan: Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan); Greek term σατάν, (satan). The term שָׂטָן (satan) is rendered as diabolos in the Septuagint.
Seal, David, “Satan,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry, et al., (Eds.), (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
- “Satan” in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Wester, Inc., 2003).
- “Lucifer” in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, (see above).
- Seal, David, “Satan,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry, et al., (Eds.), (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
- Thompson, Leonard, Demons, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 2005), p. 43.
- Heiser, Michael S., Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World—And Why It Matters, David Lambert, (Ed.), (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), pp. 40-41.
- Easton, M. G., Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1893).
- Hermann, Ray, “Satan, the Devil, and Lucifer: are they one and the same?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 9 June 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/satan-the-devil-and-lucifer-are-they-one-and-the-same/
- Findlay, George G., “The Epistle to the Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible: Ephesians to Revelation, W. Robertson Nicoll, (Ed.), (Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton Co., 1903), vol. 6, p. 99.
- Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), vol. 2, p. 357.
- Hermann, Ray, “Ephesians 6: Evil Cosmic Powers & the Armor of God,” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 17 February 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/ephesians-6-evil-cosmic-powers-the-armor-of-god/
- Thompson, Leonard, Demons, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 2005), p. 99.
- Hoehner, Harold W., “Ephesians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, (Eds.), (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, p. 643.
- David S. Dockery, (Ed.), Holman Bible Handbook, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), p. 718.
- Erickson, Richard J., “Ephesians,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), vol. 3, pp. 1032-1033.