Who Is Satan?

In Genesis 3, we are introduced to the serpent, who we identified as Satan. From the previous lessons, we showed that mankind is not naturally sinful, though we are naturally weak. Satan preys upon our weakness, encouraging us to sin in various ways. Why is Satan so interested in getting us to sin? How do our sins benefit him?

Satan is called by a lot of different names in the Bible. These names give us hints about Satan's character. Consider this list:

Wicked one Matthew 13:19
Enemy Matthew 13:34
Beelzebub Matthew 12:24
Prince of the devils Matthew 12:24
Strong man Matthew 12:29
Murderer John 8:44
Liar and father of lies John 8:44
Prince of this world John 12:31
Satan Mark 1:13
God of this world II Corinthians 4:4
Belial II Corinthians 6:15
Old serpent Revelation 12:9
Tempter I Thessalonians 3:5
Adversary I Peter 5:8
Angel of the bottomless pit Revelation 9:11
Apollyon Revelation 9:11
Abaddon Revelation 9:11
Great red dragon Revelation 12:3
Devil Matthew 4:1
Accuser of our brethren Revelation 12:10

There are two passages that hint at the origin of Satan. Both passages discuss a condemnation of a king who lived during the time of the prophet, but at the same time, the prophecy spoke of events that happened long ago. Frequently, prophesies in the Bible have multiple applications. There is usually an immediate application and then a future (or past) application that contains an even deeper meaning.

The first passage is Isaiah 14:12-17. From this passage we learn that Satan, called Lucifer, was once an angel in heaven. For some reason, he thought he could lead a rebellion against God. Jude 1:6 tells us that angels who did not keep their first estate were cast out of heaven. The second passage is Ezekiel 28:13-18. Here Satan is referred to as a cherub, a guardian or warrior angel. In his creation, he was perfect, but he became corrupt. Verse 17 indicates that he became vain because of his beauty. I Timothy 3:6 hints at this in saying that Satan's condemnation was through pride. His vanity led him to sin in many ways against God. He was cast out of heaven. He now dwells on this earth.

In essence, Satan became the arch-criminal of this universe. Jesus called him a murderer in John 8:44. Because of Satan, sin and death were brought into the world (Genesis 3:1-7). Satan continues to encourage people to sin, leading many to eternal death (Romans 6:23). In a very true sense, Satan arranged the ultimate murder when he arranged Christ's death upon the cross (Luke 22:3).

Satan holds men and women captive to do his will through their own fears, especially their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15, II Timothy 2:25-26). The reason Satan worked so hard to stop Jesus' mission was to prevent him from freeing us from Satan's rule. He tried to corrupt the Son of God by trying to lead him into sin (Matthew 4:1-11). When he failed, he set about arranging Jesus' death. Eventually, Satan managed to kill Jesus upon a cross after only three short years of preaching in this world (Luke 22:3-23:56). It is ironic that in stopping Jesus, Satan enabled the very thing he was trying to prevent -- the salvation of mankind. Because of Satan's sins, a grievous punishment in Hell is awaiting him when this world ends (Matthew 25:41).

Meanwhile, Satan is the self-made ruler of this world. He could not defeat God in heaven, but he can hold mankind under his thumb. All people who sin are under his dominion (Ephesians 2:1-2, Colossians 1:13). He manipulates and controls the world's nations (Luke 4:5-7). Satan's strength is in his power of deception (Revelation 12:9). He is able to make sin, corruption, and ultimate death look desirable. He is able to make people desire the very things that ultimately destroy them both physically and spiritually. Satan is powerful in this world. Our only hope of escape is through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).

Because Christians have escaped the dominion of Satan, he has become the enemy of every child of God. He scours the world looking for ways to overcome Christians (I Peter 5:8-9). Paul talked about the Christian's war with Satan in Ephesians 6:10-18. It is not a physical war. This is a war that is fought on the spiritual plain. It is a war for the hearts and souls of men. Satan cannot force men into his service. God has limited Satan's power in this area (I Corinthians 10:13). Instead, Satan must encourage people to want to do his will instead of God's Will. The basis of his persuasion is our own desires (James 1:13-15). We are forewarned. As Christians, it is our duty to resist the efforts of Satan (James 4:7).

Unfortunately, Satan does not fight fairly. He uses countless tricks. Many of his weapons are not easily identified (II Corinthians 11:13-15). He does not appear before us in a red suit with forked tail and a pitchfork demanding that we sin. He uses cunning and deception to make sin look attractive and appealing (Ephesians 6:11). It is not a one time battle either. He uses many traps (I Timothy 3:7). If one doesn't get us, perhaps another will snare the unwary.

You see, Satan has never given up his battle for supremacy against God. He has been thrown out of heaven, along with the other angels that followed him, but he carries on his war in this world. Every person he corrupts is a blow against God.

In the truest sense, Satan has already been defeated. Christ came into our world for the express purpose of destroying Satan's work (I John 3:8). Satan killed Jesus, but by his resurrection, Jesus spoiled the principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15). Jesus broke Satan's power of death. He now holds the keys to death and the grave (Revelation 1:18). Satan's doom is sealed and he knows it. Like a cornered, maddened animal Satan is trying to take as many people down with him as he can (Revelation 20:10,15). If he can't win, he is out to spoil God's victory.

Satan is a powerful enemy. We can't hope to fight him on our own and win. Instead, we need to draw near to God and lean on his strength (James 4:7). Only through Jesus can we defeat Satan (John 14:6). Jesus broke Satan's power through the sacrifice of his own life. When we join with Christ's shed blood by our full obedience to God's Will, we can overcome the power of Satan. (Romans 6:3-6,17-18).

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