WHO THE DEVIL IS? UNRAVELING MYTH AND SUPERSTITION
The goal of this paper is to cut through six thousand years of myth and superstition and unravel who the devil is because he delights in confusing us. He delights in trying to get us to not worry about him.
The devil, despite popular fiction, is not an impish character that's half goat and half man with horns, a pointy tail, and a pitchfork. He is not simply a force for evil. He is not simply the dark side of humanity. He is not simply something in each one of us that wants to do the wrong thing.
Satan is a renegade angel and he is awesome. That is a word we generally use to refer to God. But Satan is awesome compared to humans. He is the most beautiful, the most powerful of all of God's creation. In fact, he had so much influence that one-third of all heaven's angels chose to follow him into rebellion. That does not describe a little guy with a goatee and a forktail. That is not a little, insignificant character made up by human imagination.
WHERE IS SATAN?
Our first thought is that he is in hell where he belongs. "No, he is not!"
Satan has never been to hell. It is guaranteed he is going there, but he is not there now. In fact, Peter tells us clearly that Satan is roaming the earth as a roaring lion looking for someone whom he can devour.
Satan is the unseen power behind distrust in God. Satan is not omnipresent, as God is, but his powerful influence over the world of men is enormous. He cannot be more than one place at a time, but those angels who sided with him are many in number. Their mission, and his, is to overthrow God's people and God's ways from this earth. He wants to bring you down. Many of the things he has placed in this world are designed to do just that, bring you down!
WHO IS SATAN?
Who is he, exactly? First, he is a created being. I want you to recognize this fact. Satan is not God. He is a created being. He is the highest of the created angels. The first creatures God created were beautiful and intelligent beings called angels. Recognize this important fact, God did not create a devil. He made an angel who was corrupted by his own beauty and wisdom. Satan is neither god nor human, he is a renegade angel.
ANGELS IN THE SCRIPTURE
There are only three angels mentioned in Scripture by name. First, there is Gabriel who is associated with the redemptive work of God. He is God's messenger to humans. Then, there is Michael who is the warrior angel who fights with Satan to resist his rebellion. The third one is Lucifer who is described as the most beautiful of all God's creatures. Ezekiel 28 describes him as full of wisdom and beauty from the day he was created. He was not a self-made being. Whatever he had came as gift from God. But his "heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty and [he] corrupted [his] wisdom for the sake of [his] splendor" (verse 17). God had given Lucifer position. He was the highest ranking angel and was the guardian of God's throne. He had enormous power and purpose. But they were not good enough for him. He wanted more. He thought he deserved more.
Isaiah 14:12 calls this being "shining star, son of the morning," or "Morning Star." In Latin these words mean Lucifer. Lucifer was a created being of enormous power, beauty, and intelligence who gazed too long at his own beauty and admired too greatly his own wisdom. Lucifer, the Morning Star, became Satan, the adversary. Satan literally means 'adversary' in Hebrew. He went from being God's trusted guardian to His vile enemy.
Let us learn from Isaiah 14:12-14. These verses tell us what happened to Lucifer. "How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, 'I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God's stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High." Lucifer wanted God's place in the universe. He wanted God's prestige. The respect and honor that God, the sovereign God was getting, he wanted for himself. He wanted God's control over all of creation.
Based on his outward beauty and his God-given wisdom, he felt in his heart that he could be like the Almighty. Lucifer was an awesome creature but he lacked the character of God. Lucifer was created without sin but as a creature he did not possess the holy and loving core that God possesses. His outward splendor meant too much to him. In contrast, the Son of God voluntarily laid aside His outward splendor and put on a crown of thorns. Lucifer did not possess this kind of inner greatness. He let his beauty deceive him into thinking he was more than he was. Lucifer became Satan, God's chief adversary.
SELF-CENTERED NATURE OF SATAN: SATAN'S INTERPRETATION OF GOD
Satan's will is always self-centered. God's will is others-centered. God values His own goodness because it overflows into the lives of His creatures. Lucifer valued his splendor because it made him 'better' than anyone else. Satan plans and connives to destroy God's world and attempts to build his own. But God loves His creatures too much to allow Satan to take control. Satan would dominate the universe and would be a despotic king, making all bow before him, ruthlessly punishing all who opposed him. God in contrast is known for His mercy and forgiveness. He does not want any to perish but wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Satan will stomp on anyone who stands in his way.
We often interpret other people's motivations by our own motivations. If you're greedy, you cannot understand someone else who will give something up for free that does not try to get something in return. If you are an angry person, you cannot understand someone who is calm and peaceful, who does not get upset over trivial things, who does not get upset every time a personal right is violated. We often interpret others character by our own character and that is how Satan interprets God. Satan could not see God's goodness because he was too busy looking at himself. He led a rebellion against a gracious and wonderful God who only deserved to be honored and praised for all He had done.
Satan lost everything that he had before the rebellion. Understand, God willingly gives His children everything that Satan lost. We are the inheritors of what he gave up. We get a place in heaven. Ephesians tells us that we have been raised up with Christ and will be seated with him in the heavenly realms. We will be given power to serve God and rule the earth. We are given important places in His kingdom. He puts his imprint on our personality and one day we will be like him. All those things that Satan could not have, we have received. God has given these things to us as an inheritance, as a free gift based on the redemptive work of Christ. Can you imagine how it must feel to him? Puny people like you and me getting what he lost, insignificant beings, in his view, getting what he had. When we try to grab the above things for ourselves we fall into the same trap as Lucifer. It is God who enables us to have these abilities and privileges.
What is Satan's agenda? He is working to overthrow the kingdom of God. His strategy is to destroy anything that has to do with God. What do terrorists do? They try to hurt anything that you care about, to inspire fear, to make your life miserable. Satan is doing the same thing. Jesus said it this way, "The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I have come to bring you life and give it in abundance." Satan is after your homes, your marriages, your family, everything that God cares about. Everything God wants to invest His heart and energy into, Satan wants to tear down. The better we understand our adversary, the better we recognize his strategies.
NAMES FOR SATAN
This fallen being is given several names in Scripture that derive their meaning by some role he fulfills or some behavior he enacts. He is called the prince of this world because this is his headquarters. This is his territory. He is called the destroyer because he wants to destroy all that God has designed and all that He loves. He is called the dragon because he is a vicious and ferocious enemy. He is called the deceiver because he is the great con artist. He disguises evil as good. And he is called diablo because he is the father of lies, the father of all lying.
Satan is the one who makes something so bad, so dangerous, look good. Satan is like that hunter who sets bait for bears in order to kill them. This hunter does not mean the bears well. His act of feeding the bears is not a kind act. It is a deceptive act that appears like kindness on the outside but once the motive is known becomes treacherous to the bears. The bears are deceived into thinking that all is well when in reality they are being set up for destruction. Satan attempts to do the same thing to us.
SATAN AS A FISHERMAN
Satan is a good fisherman. Satan is an exceptionally good fisherman. I remember as a child in Canada I used to love to go fishing every summer and catch Northern Pike. When fishing for Northern Pike one often uses long shiny spoons. There are red ones, silver ones, gold ones. You throw it into the water and they swivel and shine in the water attracting fish. Let me ask you, "What are the shiny spoons in your life? What is the bait Satan uses in your life? Is it live wiggly things? Is it plastic things? Is it metal things? Is it a net? What does Satan use to attract you? What does Satan use to pull you away from what God has for you?"
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
What should we do? I will give you three things. The first is to smarten up. It may seem harsh for me to tell you to smarten up but the more we know about our adversary the better chance we have of defeating him. You understand what God says in His Word and you say, "OK, I am going to trust that. I am going to start doing things God's way. I tried my own way long enough. I have been my old willful self long enough. It is time to try things differently. I want to smarten up. I want to know what the enemy is doing. I want to understand his tactics. I want to recognize that lure before I feel the pinch of the hook. I want to know the truth in order that I will not be deceived." Do not simply be hearers of the truth, but be doers.
Secondly, we need to suit up. Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the whole armor of God. Do not let Satan push you around, but stand firm with what God gives you. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist. We need to be clothed in truth, to be surrounded with rightness, with integrity, with clarity. We are to put on the breastplate of righteousness to shield our hearts with rightness. Our feet are to be covered with an attitude of peacefulness that wants to live a life of peace. Peacemakers are never aggressively hurtful toward others. We are to take up the shield of faith that protects us from the lies of the enemy. We trust that God's ways are indeed the best ways, despite what we see around us or hear from the enemy. We place the helmet of salvation on our head, which protects our thinking from the many assaults it receives each day. We know and use the Word of God that we will never be deceived and as our primary weapon against lies and falsehood. And finally, we are to pray in the spirit on all occasions, praying for all the saints.
We do not simply smarten up and suit up but we also need to team up with God. As you maintain a close communication and connection with Him, you are strengthened. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can endure. He will give you exactly what you need to survive. Every encounter you have with Him is a true opportunity to win.
DISPELLING A FINAL MYTH
I want to dispel one final myth about Satan. I remember Twilight Zone as a kid and seeing the devil trying to get people to sign a contract to sell their soul to him. Any of you remember that? Satan does not do that because he does not have to. You are already under contract to him. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Our hearts are born into that contract. That is bad news, but there is good news. There is a way to escape from Satan. Just one! By the name of Jesus Christ you are saved. Do not sit condemned under Satan's rule in your life any longer. The only thing you have to do to escape is to accept Jesus Christ and the redeeming work He has accomplished at Calvary and you shall live. Reject Him and you shall die the second death, which is eternal and irrevocable separation from God where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-42)-hopeless suffering and pain.