The Devil of the Bible
In medieval times the devil was pictured as an immortal monster with great horns and hoofs, a fiendish character who tortured unfortunate sinners condemned to “hell.” A painting depicting such a creature tending the fires of hell, suggesting unbelievable torture of the victims, is still in existence in a church in England.
While this characterization of the devil has long since disappeared, he is nonetheless thought to be very much alive and at work, ordering all the evils of the present day. But is the evil of the world ordered by a superhuman, unseen spirit?
We are convinced that sin as conceived in the hearts of sinful men and women was the devil that was active in olden times, and this same sin is the only devil that is active in the world today.The devil or Satan is personal only as men and women are personal. It is used in Scripture in two ways:
1) The “devil” or “Satan” is a term applied to people who sin, who are adversaries of what is good and right; and
2) The devil or “Satan” is a term applied to sin or evil as an abstraction, and often given human-like qualities, as by personification. The Bible does not teach that there is a created supernatural or immortal superbeing or superpower of evil.
The Bible is plain about the origin of temptation and sin: “Each one is tempted” - when he is beguiled by the devil? No, but “when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). And Jesus’ own statement: “From within, out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications,” … etc (Mark 7:21-23).
Belief in evil spirits antedates Christianity by many centuries. According to tradition, demons were created by God before the world was made. Among these demons, Satan was supposed to be chief. Another ancient theory held that certain angels forsook their allegiance to God, descended to earth, and married the daughters of men, and their offspring were demons. The captive Jews in Babylon and Persia during the sixth and seventh centuries BC were exposed to these pagan beliefs. Apostatizing from their ancient faith, they gradually absorbed paganism. The Persians had long had an elaborate angelology and demonology, and much of this belief passed over into later Jewish thought.
The Real Meaning
The Old Testament does not contain the concept of Satan and the devil as it is understood today. The Hebrew stn, rendered “Satan,” was simply an adversary or enemy of God. The present-day concept of Satan is the result of human interpretation of the Bible influenced by Persian demonology, Greek mythology and Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The Bible gives us ample evidence of the real meaning of the devil. The word devil signifies simply “an adversary, one opposed to God,” hence anything or anybody opposed to God or His will is called a devil or Satan. We read in Hebrews 2:14 that Jesus Christ came to “destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” and from the book of James we learn that “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (1:15).
Originally stn in Hebrew, or “Satan,” as it is most commonly translated, meant mainly an adversary, an opposer. In some texts it is translated this way. A case in point is Psalm 38:20: “Those also who render evil for good, They are my adversaries [stn],” or as translated in the New English Bible: “Those who repay good with evil oppose [stn] me because my purpose is good.” Here the original Hebrew stn was rendered diabolos in the Septuagint, and “adversary” or “opposer” in the English text, which is the meaning of the Greek diabolos.
Today, as well as at every other time in history, men and women seek to avoid responsibility for their conduct. They seek a scapegoat for their errant conduct, and theology has obligingly provided one in the form of the devil or Satan. Using theological reasoning, it is the devil that is to be blamed for the evil in the world. This, we will show, is not Scriptural or reasonable. Men are responsible for their deeds: the Bible provides no scapegoat in the form of a devil; and society, circumstances or fate are not to be blamed. A society in which men were not held responsible for their deeds would not long endure.
In fiction, not all stories have a happy ending, but God’s Word, being truth and indeed the Word of God, provides a happy ending to all the evil in the world. The power of evil, the devil of the Bible, will not always rule supreme in the world. Satan will eventually be destroyed forever; sin and evil shall be forever banished from the earth.
In this study we will cover the following:
WHO Is the Devil?
WHAT Is the Devil?
WHERE Is the Devil?
WHY Is the Devil So Prevalent?
WHY DOES GOD Allow Evil to Exist?
Devils and Demonism Today
The Devil Dethroned
Who Is the Devil?
Popular belief holds that the devil or Satan is a fallen angel, once a bright star in God’s heaven, who because of his misconduct was cast out of heaven. (How he happened to land on the earth and not some other planet is not told.) Once on the earth he became a “spirit creature” that tempts men and women to rebel against the authority of God. But is this the teaching of the Scriptures?
The idea of a superhuman being or spirit creature that tempts men and women to do evil was introduced into Christian thought from pagan mythology. It is a creation of theology and is not taught in the Bible. The definition of devil in Harper’s Bible Dictionary agrees with the Scriptures: “the personification of wickedness.” Unger’s Bible Dictionary gives as a primary definition, “One who slanders another for the purpose of injury, a calumniator,” while another source gives for a definition, “Figuratively: an exceedingly wicked person; a demon, a fiend. Any great evil or calamity. A mischievous person.”
In Webster’s International Dictionary we find as some of the meanings for devil, “The personal and supreme spirit of evil and unrighteousness in Jewish and Christian theology, the tempter and spiritual enemy of mankind, who is the adversary of God. A person thought of as misconducting himself; a wretched fellow.” Truly, the devil as a personage, is of theology and not of the Bible.
Original Words Translated “Devil”
The word “devil” does not appear in the Old Testament Scriptures in the sense in which it is commonly used in theology.
Hebrew word: Sa-ir
Meaning: “hairy one, kid, goat”
Translated: “devil” (2), “goat” (23), “kid” (28)
According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary, this Hebrew word was used to describe “demons that inhabited the desert, and whose pernicious influence was sought to be averted by sacrifice. The Israelites brought this superstition and idolatry from Egypt where goats were worshiped as gods.”
Used:In Lev. 17:7, “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto demons [sair] after whom they have gone a whoring.”
Hebrew word: shed
In Deut. 32:17: “They sacrificed to demons [shed], not to God.” In Psalm 106:37 where King David is reviewing the history of the Israelite nation: “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.” As used here, “devil” means an idol, or some form of a god which they worshiped, a custom adopted from the Canaanites. It does not carry any meaning of a superhuman spirit being or fallen angel tempting them to sin.
By New Testament times, the Jews had adopted much of the superstition of the pagan nations with whom they had come in contact, and belief in demons had become widespread. Thus the term is used freely in the New Testament. It was commonly believed that a “devil” or “demon” entered into a man and made him ill or affected his mind. For this reason healing, especially of a mental illness, was frequently referred to as “casting out devils.” Jesus used the term “devil” as a representation or personification of evil and evildoers.
There are two different Greek words translated “devil” in the New Testament.
1) Greek Word: Daimonion, from root daimon.
Meaning: “supernatural spirit of a bad nature., demonlike, devilish; to be vexed with the devil.” Different forms of the root daimon are used interchangeably.
Used: In John 7:19-20, Jesus asked the Jews: “Why do you seek to kill Me? The people answered and said, You have a demon [daimonion]: who is seeking to kill You?” The expression, “You have a demon,” is equivalent to the present-day expression, “You are crazy,” or “You are mad.” A similar usage is found in Matt. 11:18: “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon [daimonion].” It is inferred that because John the Baptist refused to do as those around him he was thought to be mentally unbalanced.
In Luke 9:37-42, a child, evidently a victim of epilepsy, is described as having a devil. “And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and gave him back to his father” (v. 42). Note that He “healed the child,” indicating a physical ailment. We find other instances of those said to be “possessed with a demon” or “devils” that were miraculously “cast out,” or healed in the Gospels. (See Matt. 12:22; 15:22; Luke 11:14; Matt. 8:16; 4:24.) Mark 5:15-16 relates Jesus’ healing of a man said to have been “demon possessed.” The New English Bible, speaking of the man after he had been healed, reads, “They came to Jesus and saw the one who had been possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” The man had been insane.
2) Greek word: Diabolos
Meaning:combination of dia meaning “across, through,” and ballo meaning “to throw, strike.” Diaballo means “to traduce, to accuse.” Diabolos means a “false accuser, a slanderer.”
Translated: devil, demon.” The translation reflects the common belief in demons in Apostolic times. According to Barclay, “the Greek diabolos, literally means a `slanderer.”‘
“Usage: We find the word used many times in the New Testament but in not one instance is there any suggestion of the influence of a superhuman being. Frequently the “devils” referred to are the pagan authorities who were only too willing to condemn the Christian believers. In Ephesians 6:11, Paul advises his brethren to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil [diabolos].” As is evident from the verses following, the armor is spiritual. Likewise the devil is spiritual, described in v. 12 as “the rulers of the darkness of this age,… spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”
First Peter 5:8 equates the devil with “your adversary,” said to be walking about, “seeking whom he may devour.” It was the authorities of the day who sought to falsely accuse and devour the saints. In 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3, diabolos has been correctly translated “false accusers,” but in most instances of its use, it is translated “devil.” In Revelation 2:10, the ecclesia at Smyrna was warned that “the devil [diabolos] is about to throw some of you into prison.” Obviously no fallen angel or supernatural power is indicated, for only the civil authorities of the day had power to cast into prison. The authorities were the “false accusers,” the “devil [diabolos].”
The Origin of the Word “Satan”The word Satan is actually an untranslated Hebrew word meaning “an adversary.” It is derived from the verb stn, which with the vowels added, becomes Satan. Used as a verb it means “to lie in wait, to oppose, to be an adversary”; hence, the noun form means an “adversary, an opposer.” According to the Interpreter’s Dictionary, “the Hebrew root from which the name Satan derives, means primarily `obstruct, oppose.’ It is used in the Old Testament of obstructing a man’s path (Num. 22:22, 32), opposing in war (1 Sam. 29:4), preferring charges in a court of law (Ps. 109:6), and playing the part of an adversary in general (Ps. 38:20-21; 109:4, 20, 29). In the same Hebrew word family are the nouns from which we have `hostility’ or `hatred’ (see Gen. 27:41; Job 16:9; Ps. 55:3-4; Hos. 9:7).
“In the Old Testament, nowhere does Satan appear as a distinctive demonic figure, opposed to God and responsible for all evil. It merely defines the role which the being in question happens to play in a particular situation. It is only in the apocryphal scriptures that Satan begins to emerge as a distinctive personality” (Interpreter’s Dictionary).
William Barclay gives a helpful comment on the use of the word Satan. “The development of the conception of Satan is very interesting. The word Satan in Hebrew simply means an adversary; and in the Old Testament it is so used of ordinary human adversaries and opponents again and again. The angel of the Lord is the Satan who stands in Balaam’s way (Num. 22:22); the Philistines fear that David may turn out to be their Satan (1 Sam. 29:4); David regards Abishai as his Satan (2 Sam. 19:22); Solomon declares that God has given him such peace and prosperity that he has no Satan left to oppose him (1 Kings 5:4). The word began by meaning an adversary in the widest sense of the term. But the word takes another step on its downward path; it begins to mean one who pleads a case against a person. It is in this sense that it is used in the first chapter of Job.... The task of Satan was to say everything that could be said against a man.
“The other title of Satan is the devil“; the word devil comes from the Greek diabolos, which literally means a slanderer. It is a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man to the thought of one who deliberately and maliciously slanders man in the presence of God. But in the Old Testament Satan is still an emissary of God and not yet the malignant, supreme enemy of God. He is the adversary of man.
“Satan” TranslatedIn the English translations of the Bible, the Hebrew stn has been rendered both as “Satan” and “adversary.” Numbers 22:22 is an example: “And the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary [stn] against him.” In verse 32 of the same chapter the same Hebrew word is rendered “withstand”: “Behold, I have come out to stand against [stn] you, because your way is perverse before Me.” This is the same Hebrew word satan [stn] that is left un-translated as Satan elsewhere in the Old Testament Scriptures. Because the adversary was “the angel of the Lord” the translators correctly rendered it first “adversary” and then “withstand.”
But when the adversary is represented as being wicked, as Job’s accuser, the Hebrew stn is translated “Satan.” The figure of Satan in the book of Job is used as support by those who believe Satan to be a superhuman being who is the root of all evil. The text reads: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them” (Job. 1:6). The “sons of God” who presented themselves before the Lord were the believers of that day, gathering to worship God. Satan, or Job’s adversary, came among them as one of the worshipers. He is represented as being jealous of Job and seeking to find some cause against him. For Satan, or an adversary, to be among “the sons of God” is not unusual. We find it to be true throughout the Scriptures and it is just as true today.
Related Terms Used in Scripture
Several other terms are used in the Scriptures as symbols of evil.
Greek word: Apollyon
This term appears in our common version in but one place, Rev. 9:11, where it is used to describe “the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek ....Apollyon.” In the Hebrew, the word means “a destroyer.”
While the Greek form of the word appears but once, the Hebrew form of the word, Abaddon, is found in several verses of the Old Testament and its usage is self-explanatory. In our Authorized Version it is translated “destruction” in each case, denoting death or the place of the dead. In Job 26:6 we read: “Sheol [Sheol, the grave] is naked before Him, And Destruction [Abaddon] has no covering.” It is also used in the same sense in Prov. 15:11 and 27:20. The New English Bible leaves Abaddon untranslated in each of these texts. Hence, Abaddon or Apollyon is synonymous with destruction.
Greek word: Beelzebub or Baalzebub
In the Old Testament, Beelzebub (or Baalzebub) was an idol of the Ekronites, described in 2 Kings 1:3 as the “god of Ekron.” The meaning is obscure, but Baal was a common title for Semitic gods, and Zebub derives from a Hebrew root meaning “flies”; hence Beelzebub is “lord of flies.”
In the Greek New Testament the name is spelled Beelzeboul, the change of sound being perhaps introduced by the Jews for the purpose of throwing contempt at heathen gods. It is used of “the chief or prince of demons” in Matthew 12:24 and Luke 11:15. Here the Jews, wanting to belittle Jesus’ power to heal, attributed it to “Beelzebub” in scorn, saying “He cast out demons [daimonion], by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.” Beelzebub is believed by some to be the “prince of evil spirits.”
The word Anti-christ is found only in the New Testament writings of John to describe one who assumes the guise of Christ or opposes Christ. According to the Emphatic Diaglott, “strictly defined, antichrist was a mythical demonic or demonic-human adversary of Christ. It occurs in 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; and 2 John 7. It signifies `against Christ,’ and is defined by John to be any one who denies the Father and the Son, or that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”
Some today equate Anti-christ with Satan or the devil, believing him to be a “sinister demon-inspired leader [who] will rise to dominate the world in the end-time, persecute the saints, seek to destroy the Jews and banish the name of God and His Christ from the earth, and thus take over...thus thwarting God’s plan for the Messianic millennial kingdom.” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). This claim is speculation without Scriptural support.
The name Lucifer is from the Hebrew Helel, meaning “a shining one,” and also signifies “bright star,” probably what we call the “morning star.”
A wide segment of theology hold to the theory that Lucifer is the original Satan, but this is only in theology, for in the Bible we find him to be a symbolic representation of the king of Babylon in his pride, pomp, glory and death. The prophet Isaiah was told to “take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, how the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased! …Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,…how you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!” (14:4, 11-12). That Lucifer was a man and not a superhuman being is shown clearly by v. 16: “Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms?” (For further discussion, see page 29 of this study.)
The Evil One
The term occurs several times in the New Testament as the equivalent of Satan or devil. In the parable of the Sower, it is the “wicked one” that “catcheth away that which was sown” in the heart of the man who hears the word (Matt. 13:19). In John 17:15 Jesus prays that His disciples may be kept from this same power of evil. In Eph. 6:16, “the wicked” throw the fiery darts which the man armed with righteousness must resist. John writes of the “wicked one” which must be overcome (1 John 2:13-14; 5:18-19). In each case the use is the same. “The evil one” is a term for men and women who design and work wickedness.
WHAT IS THE DEVIL?
Various theories have been advanced as to the source of the evil, but in all of them man prefers to place the responsibility on someone or something other than himself. The tendency to blame someone else, to shift the responsibility to another, is as old as our records of the human race. Rather than face his own iniquity and admit it to God, Adam found it easier to say, “The woman you gave me for a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it,” and Eve said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12-14, NEB). This serpent is believed by many to have been the devil, but it was the evil conceived in their own heart or mind that caused Adam and Eve to sin.
The “serpent” symbolizes the naturally evil thoughts, the lower nature, the same tendency that still exists in men’s hearts and that causes us to sin today. The human being who sins and the sin which he or she originates are the only devil or Satan of the Bible and the only devil in existence today.
The Source of Evil: the Heart of Man
The source of sin and evil is stated unequivocally by Jesus, the apostles and prophets: It is the heart or mind of man. Sin results from the fleshly lusts and evil desires of man and these are conceived in the heart or mind of man, then transmitted into an act of sin. A man may be influenced to sin by another man, but there is absolutely no evidence that anyone was ever influenced by a superhuman being or immortal spirit such as the devil is supposed to be.
Jesus taught it.
There is no statement on the subject more convincing than the words of the Master Himself: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23). From within, out of the heart of man, evil proceeds. “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him;” said Jesus in Mark 7:15. This testimony renders null and void the theory that the devil or Satan enters the heart and puts the evil in it.
Jeremiah taught it.
Jeremiah was commanded to speak whatsoever God commanded him (Jer. 1:7), and in his writings we find it stated plainly: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (17:9). The heart, or mind of man, tends naturally to evil. Again the Prophet cries: “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?...Your ways and your doings have procured these things for you. This is your wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reaches to your heart” (Jer. 4:14, 18). It was their own wickedness, their own vain thoughts, their own doings that had brought them low. The Prophet made no mention of someone having put the evil in their hearts. No supernatural spirit or devil is involved; they devised the evil in their own “vain thoughts.”
The Wise Man taught it.
Although Solomon was not wise in his own conduct, he received wisdom from God Almighty (2 Chron. 1:7-12). And since the things written aforetime were written for our learning, we will quote from his writings. “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin” (Prov. 5:22). It is his own iniquities and his own sin that bind him.
The Wise Man also listed “A heart that devises wicked plans” among the seven things that are an abomination unto the Lord (Prov. 6:18), and in Eccl. 9:3, he states that “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live.” Man’s thoughts are not naturally good, but the devil is not to be blamed. Men themselves “devise” the evil thought.
The Psalmist taught it.
Speaking of the wicked, David, the servant of the Lord, said, “He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil” (Ps. 36:4). He gave no indication that anyone other than the wicked man himself was responsible for his evil imaginations. His evil thoughts-not the devil-led him to sin.
The Apostles taught it.
The words of the Prophet are confirmed by the great apostle Paul: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). The carnal mind is explained in the margin as “the minding of the flesh,” or as rendered by the New English Bible, “the lower nature.” The carnal mind, the lower nature, the natural man rebels against the law of God. There is no evidence of any influence from the outside, only the individual is responsible. Again, the evil comes from the mind, not from the devil.
Other Scriptures teach it.
In the days of Noah, before the flood, God “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). A marginal reference in the King James Version explains that the “Hebrew word [for imagination] signifieth not only the imagination, but also the purposes and desires.” After the flood, it was recorded that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). It was for this reason that God saw fit to destroy that ungodly generation. Their evil thoughts and imaginations brought forth the evil deeds. Again, no devil or influence from outside the man is mentioned.
The Process of Sin
The process of sin is well-stated in the book of James. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15). As with Achan, the evil desire is formed in the mind and nurtured there before the act of sin is committed. It is a man’s own lust, the desires of the flesh, that entices him. This lust is human nature untamed, and when it is not restrained, sin results. The verse gives no suggestion of an influence by a superhuman being or spirit creature.
Paul’s teaching is also in conformity with that of James. He described a conflict inside—not a conflict with forces outside. He said: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17). And in Romans 7 he confessed that this same conflict was a part of his own life. In vs. 21-24 (NEB) he said: “I discover this principle, then: that when I want to do the right, only the wrong is within my reach. In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive that there is in my bodily members a different law, fighting against the law that my reason approves and making me a prisoner under the law that is in my members, the law of sin.” Using the conflict within himself as an example, Paul describes the continual warfare between the spiritual and the natural impulses in all men. The “law of sin” is the Apostle’s term for human nature, the devil of the Bible.
The process of sin is vividly illustrated in the confession of Achan, the man who troubled Israel in the days of Joshua.
After the successful battle at Jericho, the children of Israel were sent reeling before the men of Ai. The Lord said it was because Israel had sinned, and in due process the sin was narrowed down to one man: Achan.
Achan’s words to Joshua when he was confronted with the indictment reveal the process of sin: “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel....When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonish garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it” (Josh. 7:20-21).
Achan said: “I have sinned...I saw...I coveted...and [I] took them. . .” The process is clear: He saw something he wanted, he coveted it, and knowingly he took it. The evil desire was conceived in his own mind. There is no suggestion of any influence from the outside, nor did he attempt to implicate anyone else. No devil or Satan was involved.
WHERE IS THE DEVIL?
If the devil, as believed by the majority, is responsible for all the evil in the world today he must be everywhere at the same time! Could it be possible that one devil cast out of heaven could have caused so much sin and evil? Our reason tells us that such a conclusion is ridiculous; furthermore, such a statement is not Scriptural. Although the belief is adhered to by the many, it cannot be supported by the Bible.
Where, then, is the devil? According to the apostle Peter, he is “walking about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). But this presents a seeming paradox, for one individual devil could not be everywhere-and we must admit that evil is everywhere!
Where has the devil been through the ages? Was he not in the garden of Eden, tempting Eve? Was he not near Jerusalem, tempting Jesus some four thousand years later? Now, nearly two thousand years later, is he in our midst, inciting human passions that cause murders, riots and wars?
THE DEVIL IN ACTION
From the Bible we learn that the devil has indeed been very active throughout these many centuries, but it is the devil of the Bible and not the devil of theology. One superhuman spirit being has not been responsible for all the wickedness in the world through the six thousand years of man’s rule, but the devil that has caused all the trouble is sin; man’s own evil connivings have been the cause. There is absolutely no evidence of an immortal spirit creature that puts the evil in men’s hearts.
The devil of the Bible is the personification of sin. Human nature, otherwise called “flesh,” the “lower nature,” or “the law of sin,” is the devil. This devil does not put the evil in the heart, for it is already there, ready to manifest itself if given opportunity.
The Serpent in Eden
We read in the third chapter of Genesis that Eve was beguiled by the serpent and ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:13). From Revelation 20, we learn that the devil and Satan and the serpent are one and the same (v. 2). But that does not prove the devil literal. Just as the devil is the personification of sin, so the serpent likewise is the personification of sin. This serpent (Gen. 3:1) is “more subtle” than any beast of the field, that is, crafty or deceitful, a fact which harmonizes with the Bible characterization of the devil. The serpent that tempted Eve was her own natural mind rebelling against the higher law of God.
Paul’s reference to Eve’s temptation in 2 Corinthians shows this to be the meaning: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (11:3). Paul was not fearful that his brethren would be tricked by a literal serpent, but he feared their minds might be corrupted just as Eve was corrupted-that they would allow their own natural desires to lead them away from the simplicity of the truth which they had learned.
The Devil that Tempted Jesus
Three of the four Gospels record a parallel account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Matthew devotes eleven verses to it; Luke, thirteen; and Mark covers it in two. Who was this Satan or devil? We are not told, but certainly it must have been someone of authority in the country, perhaps Herod, for only someone with such power could have offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world [all they could see]” in return for His allegiance. Certainly it was no immortal spirit or superhuman monster who tempted the Master.
Peter Becomes a Devil
When Peter contradicted Jesus’ statement concerning His approaching death, he was opposing the will of God and Jesus addressed him accordingly: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23). The devil [diabolos] is an adversary, an opposer, and when a man fits this description he may be properly called a devil or Satan. Thus Peter was, for the time being, Satan. The verse is too plain to be misunderstood.
People Who Were Called Devils
Cain and Abel
The account of Cain and Abel in Genesis makes no mention of the devil having a part in it, but when John refers to the incident in his Epistle he refers to Cain as one of “the children of the devil” (1 John 3:9-10, 12). Because of this reference many people today claim it was the devil that caused Cain to slay his brother. But Cain was the only devil involved. In verse 12, the Apostle gives the why of the matter: “And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Jealousy, not the devil, was the cause of the murder. Jesus said to the wicked Jews, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34), and because of this He said to them: “You are of your father the devil” (v. 44). To be the servant of sin is to be the servant of the devil.
Cain killed his brother Abel because of jealousy. He became angered when the Lord did not accept his offering. Murder is listed as one of the thirteen evils that come from “within, out of the heart of men” (Mark 7:21). Cain devised the evil in his own heart and he became the devil in the case.
David Numbering Israel
According to 1 Chronicles 21:1, “Satan [stn, Hebrew] stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” Who was the Satan who moved David to number Israel? Verse 17 gives the answer: “And David said unto God, was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered?” It was David himself who desired the census. David was glorying in his recent victories, and his pride in the greatness of his kingdom led him to ask for the numbering. He himself was the Satan, the devil. Afterward, as recorded in 2 Samuel 24:10, David blamed no one but himself. In the King James Version we read that his “heart condemned him,” but Berkeley translates it, “David’s conscience accused him.” A demon had nothing to do with it.
Judas becomes a devil
When Judas first became a follower of Jesus, he was a disciple and an apostle. But when he allowed his wicked desires to lead him to betray the Master, he became a devil. Jesus had divine foreknowledge that He would be betrayed by one of His own. This led Him to say, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). Note that He said “One of you is a devil,” not “One of you is possessed of the devil.” Anyone fulfilling the part can become a devil, as did Judas.
The case of Ananias and Sapphira
Supporters of the literal devil theory fly to this incident in the Scriptures to support their position. But a careful reading of the whole story does not uphold their viewpoint. Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…why have you conceived this thing in your heart?” (Acts 5:3-4). The Scripture is self-explanatory. Ananias was the Satan, he had conceived the idea himself. It was a product of his own scheming mind—Ananias was the devil. The Satan that filled his heart was the evil thought that preceded the lie.
Elymas the sorcerer
Paul addressed Elymas as a “child of the devil” when he withstood him and sought to turn the Roman deputy away from hearing the Gospel (Acts 13:7¬10). Elymas was a “son of the devil” in the same way that the wicked Cain was—because he was the servant of sin (John 8:34). Paul’s words further describe him as a sinner: “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10).
The devil that walks about
The apostle Peter, himself once described by Jesus as Satan, said, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Who is this “roaring-lion devil”? The following verse gives a clue: “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your bretherhood in the world.” The adversary or devil that might devour them was the evil influence of the world. Peter was warning the brethren that they would be subject to the same temptations as others in the world. There is no suggestion of a superhuman spirit or being walking around beguiling them.
“You are of your father the devil”
Jesus addressed the proud Jews of His day as children of “your father the devil” (John 8:44), contradicting their position that they were children of “Abraham.” His meaning was deeper: They were adversaries to Him and to the cause of God, just as their fathers had been before them. They were truly of their father the devil.
The Devil in Action Today
Today, just as in the days of the apostle Peter, our “adversary, the devil, [walks] about, seeking whom he may devour.” One need only pick up a current newspaper or news magazine to know that the devil-sin and all sinners-is very much alive and active in our day. Human nature has not changed. God said in Noah’s day that men’s thoughts tended only to evil (Gen. 6:5), and were He to speak today, He would only say it again. Not only men’s thoughts run to evil today, but they “do evil with both hands earnestly,” fulfilling the words of the Prophet to the very letter.
There is absolutely no evidence of an outside spirit that tempts to do evil. The devil of the Bible and not the devil of theology is active in the world today-sin and all sinners. And because men have been laying the blame on an imaginary devil which does not exist, they have not been fighting the real devil, the evil within their own heart; therefore they have made no progress in stemming the tide of evil in the world.
Other Works of the Devil
If we study the Scriptures, we find the devil of the Bible to be involved in many lines of work. However, careful scrutiny shows that in every instance where the word “devil” or “Satan” is used it can be understood consistent with the definition given-sin and all sinners. We will review briefly some of the other “works of the devil” as they appear in the Bible.
He hinders the gospel
Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, said “we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2:18). Who was the Satan? We do not know, but it was certainly no evil spirit, but an adversary, such as Alexander the coppersmith who greatly withstood the words of the Gospel (2 Tim. 4:15).
He quotes Scripture
In the account of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew’s gospel, the devil is represented as quoting Psalm 91:11-12 in an effort to persuade Jesus to tempt God. Our reason tells us that a spirit being could not converse with Jesus, hence the devil here must have been an individual, a person with authority in the land. Herod, the ruler at that time, was no doubt familiar with the prophets and Psalms. King Agrippa, whom Paul “almost” persuaded to be a Christian, was a direct descendant of Herod, and of him Paul said, “do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe” (Acts 26:27). He could not believe without knowing. It is not unlikely that the Satan in this case was Herod.
He appears as “an angel of light”
In our common version, 2 Corinthians 11:14 reads: “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” Other translations make the meaning clearer, using “disguises himself as an angel of light” (RSV), and “masquerades as an angel of light” (NEB). In other words, Satan here is setting himself up as something he is not. Paul was here exposing some who claimed to be apostles of Christ but were not. Anyone practicing any form of deceit is a Satan. Deceit is one of the thirteen evils listed by Jesus as coming “from within, out of the heart of men.”
He sows “tares among the wheat”
In His teaching, Jesus frequently used symbols familiar to His listeners. Everyone hearing Him would have easily understood sowing good seed, wheat and tares growing together, and reaping and binding (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-40). And today, people readily admit that the wheat and the tares are but symbols of the righteous and the wicked-but the devil must be literal!
“The enemy who sowed them is the devil [diabolos]” (v. 39). The devil is “the enemy,” an enemy of the truth, perhaps one who sows discord among brethren.
He has sinned from the beginning
According to John, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). Earlier in this chapter, John defines sin as “the transgression of the law” (v. 4), thus we learn that the devil and the sinner are one and the same. The terms devil and Satan are used frequently in the Scriptures to picture those who oppose God and His laws. John was of one mind with Jesus concerning the matter. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34), and John said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin,” hence anyone who is a “slave of sin” is also a “devil.”
He works lying wonders
To say one “works lying wonders” is to say he is a deceiver or that he is subtle and crafty. The devil of the Scriptures is described as having all these undesirable characteristics. Both Jesus and Paul prophesied that such “devils” would arise in the “last days.” Jesus said, “Imposters will come claiming to be messiahs or prophets, and they will produce great signs and wonders to mislead even God’s chosen, if such a thing were possible” (Matt. 24:24, NEB). And Paul, speaking of that same time, said, “The Spirit says expressly that in after times some will desert from the faith and give their minds to subversive doctrines inspired by devils, through the specious falsehoods of men” (1 Tim. 4:1, NEB). The devils who “inspire subversive doctrines” are men, false prophets, just as are the imposters who claim to be messiahs or prophets.
He sets a trap for the unwary
In writing to Timothy, Paul warns both bishops and servants of the Lord to beware of “the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6-7; 2 Tim. 2:26). It is evident from the context of 1 Timothy 3 that the devil who would condemn or ensnare the believers was someone outside the church. Devil here is diabolos, meaning an “opposer” or “false-accuser.” Paul was warning the ecclesia to “have a good report [from] them which are without,” which is to say, “abstain from all appearance of evil.” The pagan authorities of the day were only too willing to falsely accuse the Christians.
No one can be caught and ensnared by the devil at his will as might be indicated by a casual reading of 2 Timothy 2:26. They are only ensnared or trapped by their own evil thoughts and desires. The Berkeley translation of the verse in question clarifies it: “In the hope that God may grant repentance that leads to acknowledgment of the truth, and that they may come to their senses and be freed from the snare of the devil under whom they had been taken captive, to do his will.”
Paul hoped that they might be freed from the devil’s snare by “coming to their senses.” Man cannot be taken captive by evil against his will. The decision to do good or evil is entirely up to the individual himself. He has free choice. The only devil is the evil conceived in the human heart.
He may take advantage of the Christian
In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul appears to be fearful lest Satan take advantage of him and the brethren. The verse reads: “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
By reading the chapter from the beginning, we find that Paul’s concern was over the censure of some of the brethren, which he thought might have been too severe. The Satan he feared might take advantage of the situation was discouragement. His warning to fathers is comparable: “Fathers, do not provoke your children,...lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:21). (Note we have omitted the phrase “to anger” since it was supplied by the translators. Newer translations also omit it.)
He is the father of lies
When answering the Jews that boasted of their heritage in Abraham, Jesus said: “You are of your father the devil....He...does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The New English Bible translates the latter part of the verse, “He is a liar and the father of lies.”
It has been said that “the devil has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.” Lying is itself a sin and often leads to other sins; the man that lies is a devil, as is any other sinner. Jesus spoke clearly: “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.” The lie comes from within his own heart or mind; it is not put there by anyone else. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 12:22). The Jews were liars by their own choice and not necessarily because their fathers were. They were servants of sin. Sin was their master, thus they were of the devil.
Why Is “the Devil” So Prevalent?
We have seen in our study that sin or the devil has been prevalent down through the ages. God has given man a choice to obey His commands or to disobey. The majority have chosen the latter, thus sin or the devil thrives. Our own day is no exception. Men not only disobey God but resist all authority and break the laws of both God and man with impunity. Why?
1) Because God Is Silent
With the close of the Apostolic Age, the Scriptures which now make up our Bible having been completed, divine revelations through the Holy Spirit ceased. Since that time no one has seen an angel, had a vision or received any word direct from God. God has been silent now for more than nineteen hundred years. His laws still control the universe, but His Word is largely ignored. Why does God choose to keep silence? We will review some of the reasons.
According to Plan
That God would be silent at this period in history was foreknown. First Corinthians 13:8 is definite: “Whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” These miraculous powers were part of Holy Spirit power and ceased when it was withdrawn at the end of that age, when the Scripture writing was completed. Joel 2 and Acts 2 picture a “former” and “latter” rain or outpouring of God’s power upon mankind, with the inevitable dry spell between these two rains. We are now in this “dry spell.” The “latter rain,” the greater outpouring, will accompany Christ’s second coming, and with it God’s long silence will end.
`We walk by faith, not by sight”
This was also part of God’s plan. According to Paul, after the Holy Spirit power was withdrawn, only “faith, hope, love, these three” would remain, and “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Charity, or love, which Paul said was the greatest, is the rendering of complete obedience to all of God’s commandments (1 John 5:3), and it is through this that we may gain salvation.
2) Because Man Desires and Chooses the Evil
Another reason for the prevalence of the devil or sin in this age is that men want it that way. Given a free choice, they choose the evil and not the good. God decreed that the choice should be up to man: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil;...therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:15, 19). It is obvious that through the ages man has not chosen life and good. The choice is man’s, not the devil’s.
It was not the devil but Cain’s own choice that led him to murder his brother. The Lord said unto him: “If you do well, you are accepted; if not, sin is a demon crouching at the door. It shall be eager for you, and you will be mastered by it” (Gen. 4:7, NEB). Sin was the demon, or devil that mastered Cain.
Joshua gave the people a choice
After the children of Israel had reached the Promised Land, Joshua encouraged them to choose to serve God: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,...But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). In spite of Joshua’s warning, many times they did not choose the right, for it is recorded often that “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.” This was their choice.
Job showed choice
Job clearly indicated the natural choice of men. “Yet they say to God, depart from us; for we do not desire the knowledge of your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?” (Job 21:14-15). Again, it is man’s choice not to serve God; the devil has no part in it.
Jesus showed that it was man’s choice
Jesus taught that He was the way to God, that He was the Light, and that only through Him could men be saved. But He also knew human nature, for He said, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. Here lies the test: the light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil” (John 5:40; 3:19, NEB). Men prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil. Jesus saw that men preferred darkness in His day and it is the same today.
3) Because Man Is Stubborn
Man’s natural stubbornness is also a cause of the evil in the world. The men of Sodom could have escaped destruction by fleeing, but they would not. Noah’s generation was given the chance to enter the ark, but they would not. Cain was given an opportunity to do good, but he refused.
God calls, but man refuses
Man makes it his deliberate choice to do evil. God says, “I have called, and you refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, and would none of my rebuke,…they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:24-25, 29). It is man’s choosing, not the devil’s doing.
Man will not learn righteousness now
God calls on man to “Cease to do evil, learn to do well,” but he will not. “Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly,…when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:10, 9). God shows His favor by allowing the sun to shine on the wicked as much as the righteous, but they will not change. Again, it is their own doing; no devil is involved.
God called through the prophets, but man refused to hearken
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God called on His people that they might be spared the captivity. “Thus says the Lord, Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it. Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, Listen to the sound of the trumpet! But they said, We will not Listen” (Jer. 6:16-17).
The prophet Zechariah tells why they would not listen: “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulder, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets” (Zech. 7:11-12). It was entirely their own doing. There is no indication of a devil.
4) Because Justice Is Bound
Evil flourishes in our land today because men are not quickly brought to justice, but that is as it was prophesied and not because of any influence of the devil. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11). The New English Bible renders it, “It is because sentence upon a wicked act is not promptly carried out that men do evil so boldly.”
Isaiah also prophesied of this condition: “Justice is rebuffed and flouted while righteousness stands aloof; truth stumbles in the market-place and honesty is kept out of court, so truth is lost to sight, and whoever shuns evil is thought a madman” (Isa. 59:14-15, NEB).
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL TO EXIST?
When you read of soaring crime, embezzlements, protest marches and violence, have you ever said, “Why doesn’t God do something to stop all this wickedness?” The answer yes, He could. And one day He will use His power and might to stop all evil. Because He has not yet done so is no evidence that He will not, for the promise is that He “will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake” (Joel 3:16).
God chooses to keep silent at this time because this is part of His plan for the salvation of man
God foreknew ...
Because God foresaw what would be in the last days, He caused it to be written that “in the last days perilous times will come,” or as rendered by the New English, “The final age of this world is to be a time of troubles” (2 Tim. 3:1). Verse 13 accurately describes the last days: “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Note Paul did not say the devil would become more powerful but “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse.” The evil men are the only devils.
Paul made a further prediction in the next chapter: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers,” or as rendered by the New English, they will “gather a crowd of teachers to tickle their ears” (v. 3). It is “their own lusts” that lead them to evil. This agrees with other Scripture: “Temptation arises when a man is enticed and lured away by his own lust” (Jas. 1:14, NEB). Neither God nor a devil is involved. Man’s own lust leads him to the false teachers and into evil.
The fulfillment of these prophecies and others convinces us that we are living in the “last days” of man’s rule on the earth. God does not count time as man counts time, hence the “last days” does not mean a period of “days” but is used figuratively to represent a period of years near the end of this age.
God Planned ...
A careful study of the Scriptures proves that it was God’s intent that both good men and wicked men would inhabit the earth throughout the 6000 years of man’s rule.
Tares and wheat grow together until the harvest
Jesus spoke clearly on the subject in one of His parables. When the servant in the parable asked if he should gather out the tares the Master answered: “Let them both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matt. 13:30). Jesus explained the harvest as “the end of the world” (Margin: consummation of the age), or the end of man’s rule at His coming. Both tares (wicked) and wheat (righteous) were to be allowed to coexist until He comes.
The very fact that a Judgment is to be held to separate the righteous from the wicked presupposes that both will be there at that time. Zechariah informs us that “two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die” (Zech. 13:8) during the Battle of Armageddon, showing that evil men outnumber the good two to one.
As long as wicked men live there will be wickedness. Jesus said that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Job saw that wicked men prosper as much as the righteous. The Psalmist perceived the prosperity of the wicked. And it is so in our day, the wicked prosper and God is silent. He allows it to be so. We can rejoice that it will not always be so.
Men Will Not Hearken to God
God desires that all Israel might be saved, but they will not. He gives all the opportunity, but the majority ignore His call. He admonishes them to “seek good, and not evil, that you may live,” and to “hate evil, love good” (Amos 5:14-15). Again He pleads, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people” (Jer. 7:23). The following verse gives their answer: “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward, and not forward” (v. 24).
Note in verse 24: they go their own way, they walk according to the counsel of their own evil hearts, they do as they please; it is not the devil’s doing. No outside influence is suggested. God simply allows it.
Evil Chastens the Good
God allows conditions to be as they are in the world for the benefit of those who will serve and obey Him. The world is a proving ground for the Christian today just as the wilderness was a proving ground for the children of Israel. The trials and temptations that buffet the Christian daily are the making or breaking of a stone for His eternal temple.
God proved Israel in the wilderness
God continued to prove His people in later years after they had reached the Promised Land. He had promised to drive out the nations before them, but because of Israel’s disobedience He allowed some to stay, saying, “I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them” (Judges 2:21-22). Again, God was testing, trying, proving His people through trials. Again and again because of their disobedience He allowed the foreign nations to overrun Israel. A devil had no part in it.
God proves and chooses His own
In our day, the present world is the Christian’s wilderness experience. In John 17, Jesus prayed that His disciples should be in the world but not of the world. William Barclay gives a meaningful analysis of this prayer. He writes, in part, “Jesus did not pray that His disciples should be taken out of this world,…nor that they might find escape,…but that they might find victory.” He reasons that Christianity buried in a monastery is not the Christianity Jesus taught, that it “was never meant to withdraw a man from life, but to better equip him for life,…that it does not offer us a release from problems, but a way to solve those problems.” It is not a life “in which troubles are escaped and evaded,” but it offers a “life in which troubles are faced and conquered.” The Christian is not of the world, but he must live out his Christianity in the world. He must learn “to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).
RESISTING THE DEVIL
We now come to the most important aspect of our study. We as Christians, surrounded by the wickedness of the world-the devil of today-need to make our defenses sure against this enemy, sin and all sinners.
From the earlier parts of our study of this subject, we should be able to recognize the devil most important for us to conquer-the sin in our own hearts.
To be able to fight our enemy, we must first be able to recognize him. We will admit there are many devils (evil men) at large in the world, but the one most important for us to conquer is much closer home. Someone has said, “To see the devil, look in the mirror.” This trite saying speaks the truth: Our own personal devil, the evil in our own heart, is the one we need to conquer.
Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:20). We can judge by our own fruits whether or not we have a devil to conquer. We cannot compare ourselves with one another, for we read that they that compare themselves among themselves are not wise (2 Cor. 10:12). Our measure of comparison must be God’s rule, the Bible. Any of the many evils mentioned in the Scriptures that might be in our hearts are devils that must be banished.
Once we recognize our enemy and admit that he exists, we can, with the proper weapons and the necessary will, conquer him. God provides both; we have only to use them. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” is the command of the apostle James. Peter also calls on Christians to resist this adversary, the devil.
We need the God-given armor
Paul describes the armor for us and commands that we “Put on the whole armour of God.” The various parts of this armor are further described as truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:11-17). With this armor it is possible to fight and win over any evil. The weapons are spiritual and the warfare is spiritual, hence the devil could not be literal. The war is against the power of evil, the devil to be resisted.
We need to be armed with the mind of Christ
The apostle Peter commands us to arm ourselves with the same mind as that of Christ. If we are thus armed, we will surely be able to resist the devil, for Christ did always the things that pleased His Father (John 8:29). A mind like that of Christ will be so filled with God’s thoughts there will be no room for evil thoughts.
We are to “put on” Christ
Paul commands in Romans 13:14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Moffatt renders it “the character of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and the New English reads, “Let Christ Jesus himself be the armour that you wear.” If we put on the character of Jesus we will be without sin, without a devil to conquer.
We resist the devil by putting away anger, wrath and malice
Every sin overcome is the devil resisted. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath,”; “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice”; “Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth”; “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteous-ness of God” (Ps. 37:8; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Jas. 1:20). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Prov. 16:32).
We resist the devil by putting off the “old man”
The “old man,” our lower nature, often termed the “flesh,” is our enemy, the devil, and wars against our higher nature. When we resist the temptations of the lower nature we resist the devil. The apostle Paul revealed the struggle within himself between the two natures (Rom. 7:15-23), and in another letter he showed how he mastered himself: “I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). In so doing he was keeping his own command of putting off the old man and putting on the new (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10). He was resisting the devil, the old man.
POPULAR CONCEPTS OF THE DEVIL
Present-day concepts of the devil or Satan are far removed from the hoofed and horned monster of antiquity and superstition. But in general they are also as far from the truth.
In the early days of our country, the devil was as real to churchgoers as the fires of hell. In fact, the devil supposedly tended those fires!
While today’s concepts are quite varied in many respects, on one point they all agree: There is a literal devil. To some, he is a super-intelligent spirit-being directing all the affairs of men. To others, he is a personality, a power, with a host of demons under his control, ruling the kingdom of evil. Still others claim he is more than a personality. He is a person created by God and “as clearly revealed in the Scriptures as the person of Jesus.”
We will review some of the most commonly accepted concepts, comparing them with the truth of the Scriptures.
Although the devil may not be mentioned in sermons today, he is still to be found in the creeds of most churches. His form has changed from that of a monster to that of a sly spirit creature that moves unseen throughout the world, directing his forces in a bitter struggle against the power of God.
The ADVENTIST Concept
The Adventist concept of the devil or Satan differs somewhat from that of major Protestant churches. Adventist literature describes Satan, his origin and his work in great detail. We will study only the major parts of the doctrine, comparing it with Scripture.
The Origin of Satan or the Devil
According to Adventism, sin came into the world via the devil, also known as “the great dragon, that old serpent, Satan,” and “Lucifer, son of the morning.”
In the book, God Speaks to Modern Man, we find the origin of the devil explained. We quote: “How did Lucifer originate? Lucifer was created...Where was Lucifer created? That Lucifer was created in heaven and that heaven was his abode are beyond all reasonable question.”
It is further explained in the book that the “king of Tyrus” of Ezekiel 28:13-14 is this same Lucifer. Referring to these verses, the writer says, “That this is a picture of Lucifer in the magnificent glory at the throne of God admits of little doubt....Lucifer is seen in the presence of the great Creator and His Christ, and the ceaseless beams of undimmed glory play upon his elegant form. He seems to be walking on `stones of fire.”‘
The Adventist explanation of the origin of the devil reads more like an imaginative storybook. It is based largely on assumption and will not stand the test of “Prove all things.” To say that these conclusions are “beyond all reasonable question” and “admit of little doubt” stretches the imagination to the breaking point.
Who was Lucifer? The Bible narrative concerning him is explicit. He was a man, the king of Babylon. Isaiah 14:16 reads, “Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms?” (For detailed discussion of Lucifer, see page 29 of this study.)
The War in Heaven
Continuing with the Adventist theory, this Lucifer who became the devil “had been most honored of God, and next to Christ, stood highest in power and glory among the inhabitants of heaven....holy and undefiled.” But Lucifer became dissatisfied with his position and sought to take over the throne of God by force. This, say the Adventists, brought about the “war in heaven” described in Rev. 12:7-9. The outcome was certain from the beginning: Satan was to be cast out of heaven to make his abode on the earth. Quoting from the above-mentioned book, we read: “Yes, Lucifer and his angels fell from their high estate, and left their beautiful home in heaven....They sought to take over heaven by force, and they left heaven by force. Christ and His angels cast them out.”
The idea of war or any kind of turmoil in heaven where God dwells defies reason. That angels should rebel and fall from their high estate is likewise ridiculous. From Luke 20:35-36 we learn that angels cannot die. Certainly God would not grant eternal life to any who would later rise up against His divine authority and desecrate His heavenly abode. Nor does the Bible give any proof that Lucifer or the prince of Tyrus ever were in heaven. The language is simply descriptive of their earthly destinies. The king of Babylon was brought low because he exalted himself. The prince of Tyrus also was a man. He represents a class who had covenanted to work in the Lord’s vineyard, Eden, the spiritual garden of the Lord. They had failed to keep their vow and were to be cast out.
Satan’s Work on the Earth
According to Adventism, Satan’s first work upon arriving on the earth was to deceive Eve in the garden of Eden, thus causing Adam and Eve to lose their power of dominion and be cast out of the garden. Satan at once took over and “usurped the dominion that God had given to man….Satan claimed this dominion when he showed Christ the kingdoms of this world (Luke 4:6). Three and a half years later He [Christ] died on Calvary to purchase the dominion with His precious blood.”
From the time of Adam and Eve until now, Satan has carried out his work in the earth through deception. “Since Lucifer led into deception great hosts of angels who had never sinned, and led our first parents into sin, is it unreasonable to suppose that he would be highly successful in deceiving religious leaders and using them to teach error from the pulpit itself?” (from God Speaks to Modern Man, pp. 82-83, 93).
The above quotations are only a brief portion of the Adventist discussion of the subject with which we are concerned, but they contain their basic doctrine. The whole is based on the false premise that a literal devil existed since the time of creation and is still at work deceiving men and women in the earth. It also assumes the doctrines of original sin and the vicarious atonement of Christ to be true.
Who was the serpent that tempted Eve? The devil, Satan, and the serpent are one and the same (Rev. 20:2), but that fact does not prove them to be literal. The serpent is the personification of sin just as the devil and Satan are. The serpent that tempted Eve was her own natural mind which rebelled against the higher law of God, thus leading her to disobey.
The devil or serpent that tempted Eve is still at work in the world today, but it is not a literal person, only sin and all sinners.
The CATHOLIC Viewpoint
From The Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home, it appears that the Catholic doctrine varies but little from others. The origin of the devil is described as follows:
“The angels who rebelled against God were driven out of heaven and condemned to hell forever. They are the devils, and their leader is called the devil. He is also known as Satan, adversary, Lucifer (light-bearer, signifying his great intelligence) and Beelzebub or demon....The nature of sin committed by the fallen angels is a matter of theological speculation.”
Of Satan, the same encyclopedia says, “A proper name designating a personal evil being, actively hostile to God and man. As a noun, `satan’ does not occur in the Bible until the New Testament.... Influenced by an increased speculation in Jewish circles on the subject of evil spirits, the New Testament explicitly calls the Archfiend, the devil, by the personal name of Satan. He is the `ancient serpent,’ the evil chaotic principle of the world, and also the serpent of paradise who tempted the first parents to sin (Wisdom 2:24).
“Satan reveals his main purpose in this world at the very beginning of man’s history: to tempt man to sin. The kingdom of Satan is the earthly realm of bodily pain and suffering which are the essential components of the death brought into the world as a result of Satan’s first victory over mankind in Eden.... There is no suggestion in the Old Testament of two independent forces, one good and the other evil. On the contrary, it is always made clear that Satan is subject to God and that he cannot harm men who resist him.”
Like the doctrines already reviewed, the Catholic doctrine, given here only in part, is based on error from the beginning.
Lucifer Not the Devil
The name Lucifer has the meaning of “light-bearer,” but does not necessarily refer to a super-intelligence. In this case, it denoted the wicked king’s high position in the political heavens.
Satan an Adversary
This is a point of truth. Old Testament usage confirms the fact that there was no belief in a. literal devil or Satan among the Jews. (Notice the mention of “the influence of an increased speculation in Jewish circles on the subject of evil spirits.” This shows that the doctrine came from pagans who believed in evil spirits and not from the Bible.) The Bible explicitly condemns belief in spirits or wizardry. Israel was forbidden to “imitate the abominable customs of those other nations” (Deut. 18:9-12, NEB).
The Serpent in Paradise
Supporting proof for the serpent’s being Satan is given from the Apocryphal book of Wisdom. This is not recognized as part of the Bible and is not acceptable as evidence. The serpent in the garden is sin personified. Eve’s own natural mind led her to rebel against the commandment of God.
This is contradictory. God would not create a being for the purpose of tempting men. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). This is the Word of God; we cannot believe otherwise. Satan had nothing to do with “bodily pain and suffering”; nor with death that results from them. All these are the results of man’s inherent mortality and have nothing to do with the devil or Satan.
The point that “he [the devil] cannot harm men who resist him” is true. Men can, if they desire, resist the evil impulse, but unfortunately, the majority do not.
JEHOVAH’S WITNESS Concept
The Witnesses differ from most other denominations in that they recognize Lucifer for what he was: The King of Babylon. However, they present a fanciful tale as to the origin of Satan and a whole army of demons which they believe he commands.
Where did these demons come from? “Jehovah God did not create the demons. He would not create spirit creatures in opposition to Him and whom He would cast out of His heavenly organization....Their defectiveness is of their own making. They have taken themselves out of the family of God’s children.…”
Jehovah’s Witnesses place the origin of the devil at the time of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. According to their theory, Adam and Eve were “pure in heart,” yet “temptation invaded that garden in Eden.” The temptation came by way of the serpent. The question is asked: “Who, then, caused the serpent to talk to Eve?” The answer runs thus: “It was not God, because...what was said was the opposite of what God said....It must have been some superhuman invisible intelligent creature that made the serpent talk. It must have been one of the `sons of God’ who had shouted in applause at God’s creation of the earth. This angelic son had now turned traitor to his own heavenly Father. He not only rebelled against God his Father, but he also began teaching others to rebel against God. He thus made himself a resister or `adversary’ of God, and the Hebrew word for this is Satan....By rebelling against God, this son of God made himself Satan....Thus this spirit son of God became a self-made Satan or Adversary of the Sovereign of heaven and earth....The spirit son of God, now Satan, used a lie to deceive Eve.”
And from another book we read: “The name `devil’ is drawn from the Greek word diabolos and means `false accuser, slanderer.’ By this lie against God the rebellious son of God made himself a devil or false accuser....In this way he became the one whom the Holy Bible calls Satan the Devil....He was not of God’s making, but he was what he made himself.
“Satan the Devil is not an airy creature, but he is invisible because he is spiritual. He is very powerful in the invisible spiritual realm, particularly with reference to our earth and its atmosphere. Since mankind’s fall into sin and death at the garden of Eden, he has been the one `having the means to cause death’ (Heb. 2:14)....He is the `ruler of the authority of the air’ by having control over a powerful spirit organization in the air. Hence men who are the `sons of disobedience’ toward God breathe in, as it were, the spirit of Satan the Devil and in their daily lives they live by his spirit.”
Satan and his followers supposedly lived in heaven among the “sons of God” until 1914 when they were hurled down to the earth during a supposed “war in heaven,” brought about by the establishment of God’s Messianic kingdom. “They were confined to the atmosphere of our earth, and so woes resulted for the earth and for the sea. Satan the Devil has caused strife amongst the nations and is responsible for all the unrighteous wars that have been fought between men, and all the wicked murders, all heinous crimes and other corrupt acts that have been committed” (from Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie, Watchtower and Tract Society, 1965; and Babylon the Great Has Fallen! Watchtower and Tract Society, 1963).
This is but a small portion of the doctrine contained in the publications of this well-known organization, but it is sufficient to show the gross error it contains.
The existence of demons and evil spirits is assumed
The belief in the existence of evil spirits is admitted by the writers to have come from the ancient Babylonians (“Babylon the Great Has Fallen,” page 567), yet it is accepted as truth. As before stated, God condemns all such beliefs; they are an abomination to Him.
The serpent in the garden
This subject has also been covered in previous lessons. There was no literal serpent in the garden and no devil telling it what to say. The serpent represented the woman’s natural tendency to evil, her own evil desires, wanting her own way and not God’s. The idea of a “superhuman invisible intelligent creature that made the serpent talk” is based on someone’s fanciful imagination and is but a fable.
Rebellion in heaven
This, too, has been covered in other concepts. There never was nor could there ever be a war or rebellion in God’s heaven. “God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). If God would have peace in His churches, certainly He would have nothing but peace in heaven!
Satan’s spirit in the air
To say that men do evil on the earth because they “breathe in the spirit of Satan the Devil” is neither factual nor Scriptural. All men of the world breathe the same atmosphere-yet we have the good and the bad. Whether a man does good or evil is his own responsibility, not the responsibility of the air he breathes or of a devil. It is a matter of self-control. The good and the evil are ever present. It is up to the man to make the right choice.
To say that this self-made devil or Satan is responsible for all the woes that ever were on the earth is to deny that man has freedom of choice. There is absolutely no Bible evidence for such a statement. The men of the world do wickedly because they choose to do so and not because of a devil or Satan.The Jehovah’s Witness concept of the devil assumes many other false doctrines to be true, such as, a literal garden of Eden, Adam and Eve being created perfect, death being caused by their sin, the establishment of the kingdom in 1914, to mention but a few.
The FUNDAMENTALIST Concept
The concept of the devil and Satan held by most Fundamentalist churches does not differ materially from that of other Protestant denominations. The belief is covered in detail in the book, Your Adversary the Devil, by J. D. Pentecost. From it we have gleaned the following summary:
Satan was originally Lucifer. No Scriptural support is given, but it is declared that “Before God prepared this earth as a place for human habitation, God populated the heavenly sphere with innumerable created beings, each one with his own rank, his own station and his own responsibility.”
Lucifer was one of these beings, and not content with his position, desired to dethrone God and make himself sovereign of the universe. He sought, and was one-third successful in getting the support of other angelic beings. (Rev. 12:4 is given as support for this statement.) Those who followed Satan in his original rebellion are referred to as “demons,” possessing all the power and wisdom they had before their fall. These demons are no more limited by time and space than are angels.
Satan does his work through vast hosts of these fallen angels who have been assigned responsibilities under him. The writer says, “We are not dealing with an impersonal force, and we are not dealing with a principle of evil as opposed to the principle of good. We are dealing with personalities that have been assigned by Satan to frustrate and to defeat the will of God for us ... they dog your footsteps every moment.”
He states further: “God and Satan are in a battle for the minds of men. It is the mind that Satan wants, for if he can control the mind, he can eventually control the will....It may seem strange to talk about something we can’t see, feel, taste, or smell. But you will not understand the nature of the warfare in which you are engaged unless you recognize that Satan is warring to control your mind every moment of every day and that his purpose is to deceive you concerning the truth of God.”
We will discuss a few of the obvious errors contained in the above quotation.
Satan was not Lucifer and Lucifer was not Satan. (See explanation on page 29.)
Beings Who Populated the Heavenly Sphere
The long dissertation of this subject contained in the book is but conjecture. No Scripture proof is offered for there is none to give. We cannot accept anything we cannot read in the Bible. The statement that Lucifer was one of these beings is also pure speculation and lacks Biblical support. Lucifer was a king, a man, an earthly being who was dethroned because of his wickedness.
The War in Heaven
This subject has likewise been covered. It needs no further discussion. God’s angels would not rebel against Him. The angels referred to in the Scriptures as those who fell were not angels of God’s heaven, but human messengers.
Satan as a Personality
It is not clear just what is meant by this statement, but there is no personal devil or Satan. Satan exists only as the evil within the human heart.
The Warfare in the Heart
The description of the warfare within the minds of men comes close to the truth, but it is not brought about by a literal devil. It is the warfare of the lower nature, described by Paul as flesh vs. spirit. “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17). This is the warfare in the heart or mind of man.
Scripture Texts Often Misunderstood
There are a great many texts in the Bible which, upon surface reading, would lead one not knowing the truth of the Word to believe that there is a literal devil, an unseen spirit that tempts men and women to do evil. Let us look closely at a few of these.
From the Old Testament
It is readily admitted by Bible scholars that the word “devil” does not appear in the Old Testament in the sense it is commonly used in theology. And it is likewise conceded that the doctrine of Satan as an all-powerful figure responsible for all evil is not found in the Old Testament. The apocryphal books, known to have been written later than the authentic Scriptures, were largely responsible for the development of the idea of Satan as a personality.
Translators of the Old Testament have not been consistent in their renderings. It is interesting to note that the same Hebrew word stn that is rendered “Satan” in Job is rendered “adversary” in Kings (see 1 Kings 5:4; 11:14, 23 and 25). This is a more correct rendering and shows the true meaning of the original word. Yet knowing these facts to be true, supporters of the literal devil or Satan theory go to the book of Job in defense of their position.
Satan and Job
The narrative concerning Job and Satan is found in the first two chapters of the book of Job. As mentioned before, Satan is simply an adversary, an opposer to God and in his encounter with Job is nothing more. At the beginning of the narrative, Job 1:6, the marginal reference in the KJV gives for Satan, “the adversary.”
In this case, Satan, the adversary, is a sort of self-appointed prosecuting attorney against Job. He seeks to find some cause against him in his worship of God. Job was being tested just as Abraham was tested and God simply allowed it.
Who were these “sons of God” who came before the Lord? There is nothing to indicate they were angels as believed by some, but they were simply believers, probably a group of pious people who assembled to worship God. Among them were faithful and unfaithful, an occurrence not uncommon today. It is part of God’s plan that the wheat shall not be separated from the tares until Judgment. Wicked men are the Satan, the adversary in the account.
Lucifer and Satan
Supporters of the theory of a literal devil go to Isaiah 14 in defense of their position. To them Lucifer (verse 12) represents the devil. Says a popular religious teacher concerning this chapter: “Here is a king of Babylon. He had disrupted the earth. He was an invader, a conqueror. He was a warmonger, trying to take away from others and trying to acquire all he could. He had just the opposite philosophy from that of God. In other words, he had the philosophy of the devil. He represented the devil.
“Things are said about the great former cherub, the devil, that could not be said about a human being. God says, How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer. Lucifer means shining one, or shining star of the dawn. God names things or people or beings what they are. Lucifer was originally a shining `star.’ Stars represent angels.... He was a light bringer. In other words, one who had great knowledge and truth and light, and who was to give it to those who were placed under him. He was placed in a certain rule and authority over angels. . . . He had a throne, but he wasn’t willing to be content ... He was out to rule the universe. `I’m going to be god myself,’ he said.
“So Lucifer became the devil. God changed his name when his character changed. He tried to make himself God. But we find he was cast down to this earth.” (Herbert W. Armstrong, Did God Create a Devil? )
Who was Lucifer? Certainly there is no suggestion in Scripture that he was the devil or that he represented the devil. Men have added that interpretation. According to Harper’s Bible Dictionary, the name of “Lucifer” was attached to the devil or Satan some three centuries after Christ. We read: “Lucifer: A name given the planet Venus when it is the morning star. Used in Isaiah 14:12 to render the Hebrew [Helel] `shining one’ applied to the King of Babylon, fallen from his high estate. In the 3rd century AD Jesus’ saying, `I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven’ (Luke 10:18), was erroneously interpreted to refer to Lucifer in Isa. 14:12. Hence Lucifer came to be regarded as the name of Satan before his fall.”
Newer translations substitute such words as “shining gleam” (Berkeley); “shining star” (Moffatt); “bright morning star” (New English); and “day star” (RSV) for “Lucifer,” all reflecting the meaning of the original. The King of Babylon, once a bright light in the political heavens, was to fall. The Prophet is here speaking of things that “be not as though they were” (Rom 4:17), and writes as though his fall were an accomplished fact.
A little background to this prophecy may be helpful in understanding who Lucifer, the king of Babylon, was. Isaiah speaks the prophecy as though it were an event that had already happened, but from the record of that period of history we learn that actually it was spoken about 160 years before it came to pass, when Belshazzar, the king of Babylon who was to fall, was not yet born! Isaiah himself marks the time of his prophecies: during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isa. 1:1), kings of Judah. The exact duration of the reign of these kings is not certain but it was approximately 100 years. Isaiah’s prophecy began near the end of the long reign of Uzziah, about the middle of the eighth century before Christ, or about 740-750 BC.
The fall of Babylon is foretold in Isaiah 13: “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it....And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ Excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.... and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged” (vs. 17, 19-20, 22).
Babylon did not reach the height of its glory until the time of Nebuchadnezzar, some 120 or more years after the prophecy was spoken. The prophecy was so accurate as to identify the invaders as the Medes. Its fulfillment is recorded in Daniel 5: “That very night Belshazzar king of the Chaldeans was slain. And Darius the Mede [under Cyrus] received the kingdom” (vs. 30-31). According to history, the city fell to Cyrus, the ruler of the Medes and Persians, in the fall of the year 539 BC. The decay of the city began immediately and soon the area became a desert. “Queenly Babylon never revived. The end of the greatest world city of antiquity had come.” And today “The site is marked only by mounds of earth covering its once former glories” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).
Chapter 14 is a continuation of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Babylon: Babylon has ceased to be and its wicked king is dead. “The tenses of the verbs are prophetic,” according to the Interpreter’s Bible; “the event has happened in a future already realized in the mind of the speaker. The Prophet announces the overthrow of the tyrant as an accomplished fact. . . .” With this in mind we can better understand Isaiah 14. The king of Babylon, though not yet born, was to be cast down, his kingdom taken from him, and he was to die the death of a commoner. Verses 4 through 27 of the chapter are variously identified as a “taunt song” (Moffatt); “a taunt against the king of Babylon” (RSV); a “song of derision over the king of Babylon” (NEB). In our day it would be termed “satire,” meaning irony or ridicule in a literary form.
A writer in the Interpreter’s Bible views it as a satirical drama in five scenes, ending with the thought: “He [the dead king] won supremacy of his world; he had everything and when he died, the world echoed with thanksgiving that he was gone, and all men celebrated his death with curses.” The writer adds concerning Isaiah 14, “verses 22 and 23 make it unmistakably clear the application is to Babylon.”
The entire chapter points to the same conclusion: There is no one involved but the wicked king. Verse 4 addresses the proverb to the “king of Babylon,” described as an “oppressor.” Berkeley translates verses 4-6: “How the tyrant has stopped; how [his] insolent rage has ceased! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers who smote the peoples in wrath with ceaseless blows and trampled down the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution.” He had been a wicked ruler, but there is nothing to suggest that he was anyone other than the king of Babylon. His subjects were people on the earth whom he ruled with an iron hand.
Verse 12 calls the wicked king “Lucifer,” meaning high or shining one. The downfall of this “high” or “shining one” was set. He had been high in the kingdom, now he was to be cut down, and in death he would be no better than his servants. He was not Satan or a representative of Satan, nor was he ever an angel. The Scriptures do not imply it. He was none other than the king of Babylon.
The following two verses describe his boasting: “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 [referring to Jerusalem and its temple]: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (vs. 13-14).
We cannot believe that the king intended to take over the throne of God Almighty literally, but he wanted to exalt himself; he wanted his kingdom to be greater than all others. He was the Big “I”-I will do this, I will do that. He was like the rich man in Jesus’ parable who would “pull down my [his] barns, and build greater [barns], . . . but God said to him, Fool, this night your soul will be required of you” (Luke 12:16-20). And in like manner, the Prophet said, “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol [Sheol, the grave]” (Isa. 14:15). He, the king of Babylon, would be cut off because of his wickedness, because he oppressed his people and exalted himself.
Verse 16 is the key verse to the chapter. “Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying, Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms?” “Is this the MAN,” not is this Satan, not is this the devil, but IS THIS THE MAN? It was a man, the king of Babylon, who had sought to rule kingdoms that were not his, defamed the house of God, oppressed the people; and because of his wickedness he was to be brought low, to death.
The Lucifer, or “shining one” who had ruled the “queenly city” of Babylon, who drank wine from the golden vessels which he had taken out of the house of God, and gave not God the glory, but “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone” (Dan. 5:3-4), was Belshazzar, and God brought about his downfall. He was called Lucifer because of his high position; He was not the devil and did not become the devil, nor did he ever dwell elsewhere than on the earth.
He fell from “heaven”-not from the heaven where God dwells, but from the political heavens, from his exalted position over the kingdom. “That very night Belshazzar king of the Chaldeans was slain” (Dan. 5:30), and in death he was no higher than other mortals.
Satan in Other Old Testament Texts
There are comparatively few references to Satan and none to the devil of theology in the Hebrew Scriptures; but in all cases where we find it used, the meaning is consistent. Satan as used in Zechariah 3 is identified in the margin as the “adversary,” as he is in Job. The Satan who stood in the way of Balaam (Num. 22:22); the Satan who provoked David to number Israel (1 Chron. 21:1; 2 Sam. 24:1); and the serpent in Eden have all been discussed in this section. In none of these instances can Satan be proved to be other than the sinner involved. The sin comes from within the heart of man, not from a devil or Satan without.
From the New Testament
Due to the influence of the pagan nations, belief in demons and devils had become widespread by New Testament times. Because of this we find many verses alluding to a devil or demon having caused the sin or sickness of an individual. We will review a few of the most commonly used testimonies on the subject.
The Devil that Entered Judas
In Luke 22:3 and again in John 13:2 we find reference to the devil or Satan that entered into Judas and caused him to betray his Master. This devil or Satan was sin. Man sins because he chooses to sin. Mr. Barclay comments: “Satan could not have entered into Judas unless Judas had opened the door. There is no handle on the outside of the door of the human heart. It must be opened from within.” Mr. Barclay reasons that Judas wanted Jesus to be what he wanted Him to be and because Jesus took His own way, “Judas was so incensed that he betrayed Him. The very essence of sin is pride. The very core of sin is independence. The very heart of sin is the desire to do what we like and not what God likes. That is what the devil, or Satan stands for,…everything which is against God.”
Here is an excellent word picture of the devil that caused Judas to betray the Master, the same devil behind all sin, the evil in the human heart.
The Devils Jesus Cast Out
During Jesus’ ministry He is frequently said to have “cast out” devils. Believers in a literal devil also believe that literal demons possess individuals and cause sickness and disease. In Jesus’ time such superstition was perhaps due to ignorance, since a majority of the people were uneducated.
The context of the various Scripture passages where Jesus “cast out” devils or spirits reveals that it was a matter of healing or curing the one “possessed” or sick. In Matthew 12:22 the possessed one was blind and dumb and Jesus “healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw.” In Matthew 15 the child that was “vexed with a devil,” was “made whole,” or in other words healed. In Luke 11:14 we read that “when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke.” Matthew records that “they brought to him many who were demon-possessed. And he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet” (8:16-17). Casting out the “unclean spirits” and healing the sick were one and the same thing.
The Devil as Believed by Paul
Believers in a literal devil claim that Paul taught the doctrine in his Epistles, but this is reading into Paul’s words something he did not say. Paul is thought to have referred to the devil in Eph. 2:2 with the words “the prince of the power of the air.” This verse is self-explanatory: To walk according to the “prince of the power of the air,” is the same as to walk according to “the course of this world.” This evil power, says Paul, “now worketh in the children of disobedience.” The Christians, before their conversion, had followed the ways of the world, not the devil, as revealed in verse 3.
Again in writing to the Ephesians, Paul said, “Nor give place to the devil” (4:27). The context from which this verse is taken shows the “devil” to be the evil ways which are to be put away in favor of the “new man.” The New English Bible rendering of verses 26 and 27 is plain: “If you are angry, do not let anger lead you into sin; do not let sunset find you still nursing it; leave no loop-hole for the devil.” Anger uncontrolled leads to sin; if we allow anger to control us we are ruled by sin-the devil.
In writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul reported that he had delivered certain of the brethren “to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). This satan could not be the devil of theology, else they would more likely be taught to blaspheme than not to! And Paul would not be guilty of delivering his brethren to such a one! Paul was here referring to brethren that had become opposers, adversaries of his true teachings, whom he had been compelled to cast out. He hoped that his disciplinary measures might teach them a lesson.
Again in his Epistle to Timothy, Paul speaks of certain women being “turned aside unto Satan.” No doubt these women had been drawn away from the truth by the allurements of the world, always the adversary of God.
The Devils that “Believe and Tremble”
The apostle James spoke these words, perhaps a reference to Paul’s preaching before Felix the governor (see Acts 24:26-27). It is recorded that “Felix trembled,” but he did not tremble to the point of accepting Paul’s teachings. He was a “devil,” as is evident from the record in Acts: He hoped someone might offer him a bribe to free Paul, and because he was offered none, he was “wanting to do the Jews a favor,” and “left Paul bound.”
The “Spirits of Devils” that Work Miracles
In Revelation 16, John writes of a vision of unclean spirits like frogs “coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of demons, performing signs…” (16:13-14). These “spirits of devils” are the evil workers of which we are warned in the Scriptures.
Jesus warned in Matthew 24:24: “There will be false Christs and false prophets, who will rise up and show great signs and wonders, so that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived” (Knox Trans.). The apostle John cautioned the believers: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John4:1). The false teachers and false prophets are the “spirits of devils,” or wicked men. They claim to work miracles, but their claim is false. They are the ones who will say to Jesus in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” Jesus will answer them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:22-23). They are the false prophets, false Christs, evil men, devils.
The Devil of Revelation 12
Popular belief holds that Revelation 12 pictures the time that Lucifer tried to assume God’s throne, fomenting a war in heaven that ended with his being cast out to the earth where he became the devil or Satan.
We will not undertake to discuss this chapter in detail here, but in the light of other Scriptures, Revelation 12 does not teach that there is a literal devil or Satan. We hold that there are no contradictions in the Scriptures.
The book of Revelation begins with the words: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” It is a message Jesus received from His heavenly Father after His ascension, for He states further: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (vs. l, 18). These words state plainly that it is prophecy showing “things which must shortly come to pass.” If, as claimed, it tells of the devil being cast to the earth, the event must have happened since the end of the first century and not at the time of the Garden of Eden!
The entire book is prophetic and, we will agree, contains many things “hard to be understood,” but we cannot agree that it contains a history of the devil or Satan. Chapter 12 is but one of the visions shown the Revelator of “things which must shortly come to pass.” And in this vision, as in others, the characters in the drama are symbolic. There was never a literal war in heaven, nor will there ever be such. Such thinking is incongruous. The “war in heaven” (political heaven) symbolizes the conflict that ensues when the powers of earth rise up to resist Christ at His coming. The great dragon, “that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan,” symbolizes sin and evil which is to be bound at Christ’s coming and completely destroyed before the Kingdom is established.
DEVILS and DEMONISM TODAY
In this highly advanced twentieth century, belief in literal devils and demon possession is growing rather than dying out.
Spiritism has likewise grown in recent years, drawing its members from all major denominations. Says one writer, “Thousands of ministers and laymen who, until recently, looked on spiritism as something to be abhorred, today welcome its promises.” Mediums purport to transmit messages between the dead and the living.
Believers in demonic possession claim that all evil results from demon possession or oppression. Satan’s work is also seen to be the cause of physical ailments. How is man to be delivered from these demons? “Through the blood of Christ. The demon could not take possession of a soul covered by the blood. We need the blood to cover us body, soul and spirit.” So reads a current treatise on demons. (No Scripture reference is given for evidence).
Again we say that those who blame their evil impulses on the devil or a demon are only looking for a scapegoat. To use “demon obsession or possession” as an excuse for everything from an inordinate desire for money to murder is only to avoid coming to grips with the sin. All sin or evil originates in the human heart or mind, first in form of an evil thought. There is no Scripture proof that it originates in any other way. There is no such thing as a demon or devil that enters into a man.
And a sinner cannot be cleansed from his sin through the blood of Christ. It is but folly to believe thus. The Bible is rife with statements that tell how to be cleansed from sin: “Let him that stole steal no longer,…”; “Do not love the world, or the things in the world”; “Do not lie to one another,…”; “If anyone speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…”; “For He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit…”. (Eph. 4:28, 31; 1 John2:15; Col. 3:9; 1 Pet. 4:11; 3:10). These are but a sampling of the many commands in the Scriptures.
Exorcism (the casting out of a supposed evil spirit by a ritual) is even being practiced today, not only by church members, but by clergymen. This needs little comment, since without the existence of evil spirits there is no need for casting them out. Because the people believed in spirits at the time of Jesus’ ministry, the diseases He healed were often spoken of as devils or demon possession of an individual. “Demons” were the gods of the heathens; everything good or bad was thought to be the result of the action of one of the gods.
The late Bishop James A. Pike popularized spiritualism in recent years by his purported contacts with his dead son through spiritualistic mediums. As a result of his much publicized seances, others have been led to consult mediums and have likewise been led to believe they have had direct connections with their beloved dead.
The Scriptures abound with proof that such contacts are not possible. Man possesses no “immortal soul” that goes to a “land of light” where it can later communicate with those on the earth. The prophet Isaiah decried such contacts many centuries ago: “Why are you trying to find out the future by consulting witches and mediums? Don’t listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? `Check these witches’ words against the Word of God!’ he says. `If their messages are different than mine, it is because I have not sent them; for they have no light or truth in them”‘ (Isa. 8:19-20, TLB).
THE DEVIL DETHRONED
Today the devil or Satan, the personification of sin and evil, runs rampant. The laws of God and man are flouted because sentence against the workers of evil is delayed through the maze known as “due process of law” in our land.
But such a condition is not always to prevail. We are promised a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). Though all the iniquity in the earth makes such a condition seem a remote possibility, it is as certain as that tomorrow morning will dawn! How will it be effected? We will go to the Book for the answers.
The Devil Bound
One of the multitude of visions shown to John the Revelator was that of an angel or messenger that came down from heaven, “having ... a great chain in his hand, He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-2).
We cannot believe that this “dragon” is a literal beast, nor is he bound with a literal chain. The dragon is representative of all evil extant upon the earth at Christ’s second coming; the same devil and Satan that have been at work down through the ages. Our reason tells us that a “bottomless pit” could not be literal, hence a literal devil could not be cast into a spiritual “pit.” We are commanded to compare “spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). Sufficient evidence has been given throughout these lessons to prove conclusively that there is no literal devil or Satan; the terms represent the evil and the workers of evil.
During the Millennial reign of Christ, evil will be “bound,” that is restrained. It may be conceived in one’s mind or plan but it must remain there (“bound” in the human heart). NO open practice of evil will be allowed. At the end of the thousand years, before the Kingdom is established, it will be completely destroyed. According to the Revelator, “the devil … was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are” (Rev. 20:10). Many believe the fire to be literal. A spirit being, the devil, cast into a literal fire? Again, we must use our reason and compare “spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13). The devil, the beast and the false prophet are all spiritual and the lake into which they are cast is also spiritual (Rev. 21:8, it is “the second death”). It is identified in Rev. 20:14 as “the second death.” Death is not torment, but destruction.
Revelation 20:10, understood literally, presents two impossibilities: torment and night. Included in the “former things” that are to pass away are sorrow, crying and pain (Rev. 21:4), hence torment forever would be impossible. Also, Rev. 21:25 assures us that “there shall be no night there,” thus any torment or punishment would have to be necessarily limited to the space of time before God’s work on earth is complete.
Can You Answer These?
1. What is the devil of theology?
2. Describe briefly the devil of the Bible
3. What Hebrew word is translated “devil” in the Old Testament? What does it mean? What Hebrew word suggests a custom of the Canaanites?
4. What Greek words are translated “devil”? What are the principle definitions of each?
5. What is the Hebrew word for “Satan”? What does it mean?
6. What was the serpent that tempted Eve?
7. What did Jesus say is the source of all evil?
8. Name three persons of Scripture who showed themselves to be devils.
9. What is the source of the evil that is rampant in the world today?
10.Who was the devil that tempted Jesus?
11.What devil sows tares among the wheat?
12.What is the meaning of “Lucifer”?
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