Is there really a Devil? Does Satan live to torment us in this life and hopefully not the next? Is there really a spiritual war going on? ◊
It’s curious how the topic of the Devil is almost a joke among many non-Christians and yet a cauldron of confusion among Christians. Many Jesus-followers stay clear from talking about Satan or Demons to avoid seeming weird or way out there. At the same time, there are many Christians who eagerly engage on the subject and seem almost hyper-excited whenever they speak of the Prince of the Power of the Air. (Ephesians 2:2)
“And look at all that air!” they might say, to quote a witty pastor.
More palatable for many Christians is to refer to whole matter as Spiritual Warfare and acknowledge the existence of good and dark forces seen and unseen but very real and present throughout human history.
But is it really real? Is there really a Devil? Does Satan live to torment us in this life and hopefully not the next? Is there really a spiritual war going on?
The Empire Strikes Back
We see in Genesis 1 “in the beginning” that God creates the earth, the stars, life, and all of this universe dimension as we see it, including Man, made in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26). But have you ever really taken notice of the fact that an Enemy of God, the Serpent, was present in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve?
And it’s only Genesis Chapter 2.
Indeed, there is something going on here prior, perhaps in another dimension far, far away, in which opposing forces are already at work, even war in some cosmic rebellion extended to the earth.
Beyond this opening episode, the Old Testament says very little about Satan but there are ample references to idolatrous practices including worship sacrifices to demons. But the New Testament paints a far clearer picture of the spiritual warfare that exists in heaven and on earth. Jesus identifies Satan as the origin of evil (John 8:44) and directly confronts him during the forty days of temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13).1
Jesus also liberates many people from opposing demonic spirits and demonstrates an authority over them. (Mark 1:23-27, 34, 39; Matthew 12:22-29; Luke 13:10-16; Mark 5:1-20).
The Gospels frequently attribute human misery to demonic activity. In fact, using the tactics of doubt and deception, the Serpent (later identified in Revelation 12:7, 9 as the Dragon, the Devil, and Satan) instigated the downfall of the human race.
Thus the Bible begins and ends with a spiritual conflict and the Alpha and Omega, Christ Himself, as the ultimate victor and solution to the conflict.
The mythic image we have of the red devil with horns and a pitchfork is actually a myth. It does not come from the Bible. Many tie the imagery more to Pan of Greek mythology. It was the epic poem by Englishman John Milton in 1667, Paradise Lost, which described Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven. And we get that name, Lucifer, from the Latin translation of Day Star as referenced in Isaiah: 2
How you have fallen from heaven, Day Star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)
So if this is all real and not a myth, how are we to respond?
We are in a Spiritual Battle
As the Bible does attest, Satan exists and was created by God as an angel (Matthew 15:41) and was blameless until his rebellion against God (Ezekiel 28:12-15). Because of his rebellion, he and his legion of fallen angels (demons) have become a powerful force of evil in the universe. Kenneth Boa refers to Satan as the prince of the world system – his forces surround the earth…he influences the changing philosophies and politics of this planet.3 His names reveal his evil practices: devil, slanderer, evil one, destroyer, tempter, accuser, deceiver, murderer, liar, and father of lies.
As you review these other attributes of Satan, consider the impact on your own life:
- He opposes the person and program of God (Isaiah 14:14)
- He conceals his identity by disguising himself as an angel of light and counterfeiting the truth (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
- He deceives the nations (Revelation 20:3)
- He works against the hearts of the unsaved (Luke 8:123)
- He inspires spiritual counterfeits – false religions and false prophets (1 John 1:18, 22; 4:3)
- He promotes the pursuit of the occult for hidden knowledge and power (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)
- He implants wicked thoughts and plans into people’s minds (John 13:2, Acts 5:3)
- He can inflict disease and death (John 2:1-7), Acts 10:38, Hebrews 2:14)
Can one be possessed by demons? The Bible does not use the term “demon possession.” The Greek word daimonizomenoi means “to be demonized” which allows for different degrees of demonization, ranging from influence to oppression to control.4 Thus, all people are targets for the forces of Satan. They can assault our minds, thoughts, and influence our emotions, and weaken our wills, injecting deceptive, accusing and condemning thoughts and attitudes that are opposed to the truth of Scripture (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, 11:3). We can be oppressed by obsessive thoughts and behavior, even enslaved to irrational impulses and behavior. Most severe, as seen in several Jesus’ encounters, is demonic activity that dominates the mind, speech and behavior.
Yes, the battle is real. And most of us, Christians included, are not seriously prepared for the fight. Thankfully though, we have been given authority and victory in this spiritual battle (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; 10:19). Because of the cross of Christ, Satan is a defeated foe (John 12:31). Our spiritual weapons: prayer, the Word of God, and our union with Him through the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:9-15) actually equip us to be “rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).
And with that, it’s high-time to seriously engage, with Godly strength and confidence, an enemy that is real, insidious, treacherous, and highly dangerous.
Do you believe in the Devil? I certainly do.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. – James 2:19
1 Conformed to His Image, by Kenneth Boa, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 327.
2 Daily Dose of Bible Knowledge, Randy Peterson, David Baker, David deSilva, David Howard, Craig Wansink, West Side Publishing, Lincolnwood, IL, 2009, p.57.
3 Op. cit., Boa, p. 341.
4 Op. cit., Boa, p. 344.