Impressions about Satan are rampant in popular culture: The angel on one shoulder and the devil (complete with horns and pitchfork 1 ) on the other, “the devil made me do it”, etc. But we rarely go into what the Bible actually teaches about our arch-enemy. In this post, I’ll try to trace his life from beginning to end.
Once Majestic, Now Fallen
The prophet Ezekiel has an interesting twist in the middle of chapter 28. The first 10 verses start out with a warning to the leader of the Phoenician city/state of Tyre. He was getting far too proud, believing that his wealth was his own doing and not giving proper credit to God for His blessing. In fact, the king was guilty of thinking that he himself was a god.
However, verses 11-19 shift the subject; suddenly they are speaking to more than a normal man. Scholars take this “king behind the king” to be a description of Satan. Ezekiel describes a being who once was “Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty”, who was in “Eden, the garden of God”, who was “covered with precious stones”:
You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created….Ezekiel 28:14-15a
…until unrighteousness was found in you. “By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.Ezekiel 28:15b-16
What a downfall, right in the middle of verse 15!
The same shift happens in the writing of the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 14: Verses 3-11 are addressed to the king of Babylon; verses 12-15 appear to be speaking to a “king behind the king” again; then verses 16-23 go back to the human king. The middle verses explain the reason for the downfall: Rebellion, not being content to be one of God’s creatures (even a beautiful and highly-favored one), wanting to usurp God’s position and be on the throne himself.
How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning 2, son of the dawn! … you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God … I will make myself like the Most High.’ … Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
And so it began.
Leading Others Away From God
Not only was Satan not content to be what God created; he also was not content to wallow in his evil by himself. We all know of him tempting Adam and Eve as the serpent in the garden (Genesis 3:1-15). In Revelation, he is described as a dragon whose tail sweeps a third of the stars from the sky (Revelation 12:3-4). Those stars are generally interpreted as other angels who choose to follow Satan and share his fate.
The Bible tells of the activities of these fallen angels. In Daniel 10:12-14, the one in charge of Persia fought to keep God’s angel from getting to Daniel to comfort him. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul warns us not to face these alone; we are to use God’s power to resist them (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Enemy of God, and of Anyone God Loves
Satan has continued this pattern all through the ages, hating God for being above him. And, since God loves us, Satan hates us. He has spent the millennia doing everything in his power to keep us as separated from God as he is. The Apostle Peter warns “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). The stories of the temptation of Jesus tell us that Satan even tried (unsuccessfully) to get the Son of God to disobey His Father! (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13)
Jesus later went on to say that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” and is “the father of lies” (John 8:41-44). As in the beginning with Eve, deceit (“father of lies”, remember) is his favorite tool.
C.S. Lewis’ classic book “The Screwtape Letters” gives a fictional behind-the-scenes look at an elder demon mentoring a younger one on how to ensnare “the Enemy’s” beloved humans. One of its advantages is the reminder that everything Satan does or says is against us, no matter how innocent it seems at first (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). There is never a hint of even neutrality; he is always at war with God, and therefore with us.
Don’t Panic, Though
Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s wonderful book, “God’s Devil“, reminds us, however, that Satan is on a leash. He is NOT God, and never will be; he is NOT omnipotent, and never will be; he is limited, and always will be. He can do only what harm God allows and not one step farther. His actions will end up advancing God’s purposes, whether Satan intends to or not.
We see this in the Old Testament story of Job (Job 1:12, Job 2:6, Job 42:12,16-17). It also shows in several New Testament stories: Demons did not come off well any time they encountered Jesus (Mark 5:1-13, Luke 4:31-37). The New Testament letter from James reminds us that Satan runs away when confronted by God (James 4:7), and John tells us that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:1-4).
So, what will Satan gain for all of his efforts? The book of Revelation tells us. He will be…
- Jailed in the Abyss for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-3)
- Let out, and immediately war against God again (Revelation 20:7-8)
- Defeated for the last time, and be doomed to Hell forever (Revelation 20:9-10)
- Note: Not as a ruler, rather “tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Satan is called an “accuser”, always nagging at God to punish us for trusting and following the wrong leader (which would be him!) (Zechariah 3:1-2). Revelation 12:10 rejoices because “the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down”. Here’s the entire passage:
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,Revelation 12:7-10
“Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
That gives good reason to end this post with the quote: “When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future”!