Satan is called the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2), the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the prince of the world (John 12:31, 14:30). He is also identified in the Bible as the deceiver of the world (Revelation 12:9) and the spirit working in the unsaved (Ephesians 2:1). Satan is shown in Scripture to wield great power in this world and to have great influence in the world.
Satan is a mighty creature and a beautiful angel who rebelled against God. Satan’s first recorded interaction with humanity was to deceive mankind and lead them into sin. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has held sway over the hearts of men and has had great authority over the course of this world. Satan’s angelic followers, the demons, are able to take over the lives of people. Demons can possess people and cause them to harm themselves and others. (Mark 5:2-5; 9:17-22) Demons apparently exercise great authority over the governments of this world. (Daniel 10:13; Ephesians 6:12) At the end of this age Satan will control a powerful world leader who will wreak havoc on the world and persecute thousands of people. (Revelation 13:1-2)
Despite Satan’s great power, his power is not limitless. He is the god of the world, but he is not God. Satan is a creature always under the control of God. God limits Satan’s activities, and accomplishes His good purposes in all things despite Satan’s malice. The greatest example of this is Satan’s control of Judas Iscariot. The Gospel of John says that Satan filled Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Judas’ betrayal was evil and according to the wicked will of Satan. Satan sought to hinder the plan of God, but Judas’ betrayal directly resulted in Jesus’ death on the cross. God allowed Satan to control Judas and He allowed Judas to reject Jesus so the greatest good in the world- the salvation of men- could be accomplished on the cross.
Why does God allow the Satan so much power and control? The Bible does not give a clear or simple answer. However, some of what the Bible teaches about God’s allowing evil also answers why God allows Satan such power. God allows Satan to work so His name will be glorified. Just like God used Pharaoh’s hard heart to bring Himself glory (Exodus 14:4), so God is using Satan to glorify His name. God also allows Satan power to show the world the terribleness of sin. If men experience the pain of sin in this life and repent of their sin, they will be saved from eternal destruction (1 Corinthians 5:5) God also allows Satan power to test Christians to make them more like Christ. God used Satan’s affliction of Job to reveal to Job his own pride and wrong view of God, and God is doing the same in Christian’s lives today.
Though a complete answer cannot be given to this question everyone can be certain of three things. First, God permits Satan to trouble this world as part of the righteous punishment of sin. Sin always brings forth death and God uses Satan as one instrument of accomplishing this judgment. Second, God is allowing Satan the temporary power to afflict the world to bring about a far greater, eternal good. (Genesis 50:20) Part of this good is the salvation of mankind (Acts 17:26-27) Last, God allows Satan the power to trouble men to shape Christians into Christlikeness and bring eternal good to them. (Romans 8:28-29)
The Bible says in the book Revelation that God will imprison Satan for one thousand years and will then throw Satan into the Lake of Fire forever. Since God has the power to restrain Satan why didn’t He do so as soon as Satan rebelled? Why didn’t God keep Satan out of the Garden of Eden and away from Adam and Eve? Why did God allow Satan to tempt men to sin?
The Bible does not give a direct answer to this question. Despite that, what the Bible reveals about the character and purposes of God helps in the formulation of an answer. Romans 9:21-23 speaks of the Sovereignty of God in His dealings with men. God allowed some, like Pharaoh, to persist in sin to show all mankind His wrath, power, patience and glory. God in His grace and wisdom allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve so that through their sin His wrath, patience, mercy and glory would be known to all people. Because man sinned we learned first hand that God is Holy and always punishes sin. We also learned that God is an overwhelmingly gracious God who gave His Son to die for our sin. Through sin we learn about God what we could never have known any other way. The sin of Satan and the fall of man allowed God to show that His grace is far greater than our sin.
The righteous angels study the gospel looking from the outside into something mysterious to them. (1 Peter 1:12) The angels do not understand the mercy and grace of God in the same way men do because the angels are not recipients of His grace. In the end, the plan of God that allowed sin will result in incredible, eternal praise to Him. “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10) All the redeemed will praise God for His righteous judgment of the wicked. (Revelation 19:1-2) The plan of God which allowed sin also allows people the opportunity to truly and personally know “the grace of God that brings salvation.” (Titus 2:11)
The words at the end of Genesis apply to this question. “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” (Genesis 50:20) Satan was bent on the destruction of man, and God allowed Satan to work great evil. All the evil Satan desired also accomplishes the eternal good that God ordained. God allowed Satan to tempt man for our eternal good and His eternal praise. Though a full answer cannot be given to this question we can rest in the character of God. God is perfect, wise and good. The Judge of the whole earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25) You can trust Him.
The Biblical account of Adam and Eve’s sin describes a serpent tempting Eve to disobey God. This serpent is understood to be Satan. (Revelation 12:9; 20:2) Satan is the originator of sin, but he was not created sinful. (Ezekiel 28:15) Satan was created perfect by God, and sometime after his creation he sinned. When did this happen?
The Bible does not give a definitive answer to this question, but Scripture does give a few indicators that help identify the time period in which Satan sinned. Ezekiel 28 says that Satan was in the Garden of Eden, was beautiful, was one of the cherubim surrounding God’s throne and was perfect until the day he sinned. Isaiah says Satan’s first sin was an arrogant desire to become greater than God. (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Satan’s sin must have taken place sometime after the sixth day of creation. Satan could not have fallen before the events described in Genesis 1 because the Bible says that God created all things in six days. (Exodus 20:11) The angels were most likely created on the first day of creation when God created Heaven and Earth, since the angels watched the creation of the earth from the beginning. (Job 38:7) Satan is an angel and must have been created at the same time as the rest of the angelic creatures.
Satan must have sinned after the six days of creation because Genesis 1:31 says that at the end of the sixth day, “God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good.” Nothing in the context of Genesis 1 limits Genesis 1:31 to only the things God had made on the earth, or only the things in the garden of Eden. Genesis 1 starts with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and continues with an unbroken sequence of Divine creative acts in which God made all things. Therefore, everything in heaven and earth must be included in the evaluation, “very good.” A sinful, rebellious angel would not be considered by the Holy God to be “very good.”
Satan sinned sometime after the creation week and before the sin of Adam and Eve. The Bible does not tell how much time elapsed between creation and the fall. Some scholars think Adam may not have sinned until nearly 100 years after creation, because he fathered Seth at the age of 130 years. Cain and Abel were born after Adam and Eve sinned and then grew to adulthood before Cain killed Abel. After Abel’s murder and Cain’s exile Eve gave birth to Seth. Therefore, Adam could have been as old as 100 when they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The Bible does not tell how much time elapsed between Satan’s fall and the temptation of Adam and Eve. Satan’s rebellion against God could have been as late as 100 years after creation.
The fact that Lucifer ministered around the throne of God suggests that some time elapsed after creation before Satan sinned. He probably did not rebel on the 8th day of the world’s existence. Satan sinned sometime after the creation was completed but before Adam and Eve sinned. Satan was not created sinful, but in his pride he rebelled against his Creator.
The reader of the Gospels and Acts is given the impression that Jesus and the apostles regularly encountered demon possessed people. Today things seem very different. Demonic activity in America appears to be non-existent. Demon possession and other obvious demonic misdeeds do not seem to take place now like they did in the New Testament. What is going on? Are demons still active today?
Demons are very real beings who posses great power and intellect. They are evil spiritual creatures who rebelled against God and were cast out of their positions of heavenly service. They exist now in opposition to God and in hatred of all men. Demons do not have physical bodies but can take control of physical creatures to accomplish their purposes. The New Testament indicates that demons give people supernatural strength (Mark 5:3-4), cause people to do harm to their own bodies (Mark 9:20-22), speak prophecies through the people they possess (Acts 16:16) and manipulate people to oppose the work of God.
Violent acts today are often blamed on drugs or mental illness. Many tragedies have multiple contributing factors, but why don’t Christians give serious consideration to the possibility of demonic activity behind some horrific events? It is overly simplistic to say demons are responsible for every tragedy of humanity, yet it is also dangerously naive to say demons have no role in any terrible event. The Bible mentions demonic influence in some diseases and mental disorders. Not every sickness or mental disorder can be traced to a demon. But why not some? Why disregard a demonic role in any addiction, disease or mental illness just because a medical explanation is (sometimes) available.
More important than the influence of demons over the physical body is the spiritual role they play. Demons are intent on war against God and the spiritual destruction of mankind. Their goal is to hold people in spiritual condemnation (2 Corinthians 4:4), facilitate spiritual destruction (1 Peter 5:8), hinder the Christian’s obedience (Ephesians 6:12) and oppose the working of God in this world.
The Bible does not say much about how demons go about their nefarious spiritual work. The book of Daniel tells of a demon that held off an angel of God and hindered the revelation of God’s truth to the prophet. (Daniel 10) In Daniel and the book of Ephesians are hints that demons are involved in manipulating the governments of the world. (No, this does not mean that politicians are demon possessed, not even corrupt politicians.) 1 Corinthians 10:20 says that those who worship idols are making sacrifices to demons. In 1 Timothy 4:1 false doctrine is described as the product of demons. This does not mean false teachers are demon possessed, but false teaching and false religions originate with demons.
Demons are still actively at work in the world today. They are battling to keep the hearts and minds of men in spiritual darkness. The work of demons does not require big displays of demonic power. They move behind the scenes combating the work of God, tempting men to sin, spreading lies and opposing the truth of God’s Word. This activity of demons is far more dangerous than causing individual humans to do terrible things to others. Demons are still at work in the world seeking the eternal destruction of men.
Modern folklore presents Satan as the ruler of the underworld. He stands on a high cliff bathed in the red light of infernal flames and oversees the torments of the damned. He sends his demons out into the world to accomplish his abominable purposes. He is the lord of the underworld. Or is he? What does the Bible say is the current role of Satan?
Satan does not rule hell. Hell is not a kingdom. Hell is a prison. Satan is not the warden of the underworld, like a Christian version of the Greek god Hades. Nor is Satan the top dog in hell, like a gang leader running a prison from the inside. Satan’s relationship to hell is that of a convict out on bail waiting for sentencing.
Satan is not yet in hell. At this time he is free and roams the earth. “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan does not rule in hell, but he does have great authority. Satan is the chief of the fallen angels. Jesus speaks of “The devil and his angels”. Revelation 12 speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven “and his angels were cast out with him.” Satan is represented as the greatest of the rebellious angels. The Bible hints at a hierarchy of leadership among fallen angels (Ephesians 6:10; Colossians 1:16), but it is silent on how Satan exercises his supremacy over the other fallen angels.
Satan is also called “the prince of the power of the air”. (Ephesians 2:2) Satan has a significant power over the affairs of men. Satan’s rule is not limited to Satanists or those who have sold their soul to the devil. All the unsaved are described as under the kingdom of darkness with Satan as the spirit actively at work in them. Because of mankind’s sin, Satan exercises holds great authority and influence in this earth.
Despite his great power Satan is not the ultimate ruler of the affairs of earth. God remains sovereign over all things- including Satan. The devil does no more than he is allowed to do. Though Satan is a rebel bent on opposing God he is, in fact, accomplishing God’s purposes. Satan is the enemy of God who is still subject to God.
Satan is not God’s equal or opposite. Satan is the first of sinners, the chief of rebels and the father of lies. He is a vicious, powerful creature, but creature he remains. How can the creature become as great as the Creator? Satan is greatly inferior to God and must yield to the commands of God.
Though Satan is not in hell he will one day be cast into the lake of fire. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) The Lake of Fire is not his domain of rule but his place of punishment. Satan’s end will be an eternity of suffering the unending wrath of God.
The Devil, Beelzebub, the prince of darkness, Apollyon, Lucifer, the evil one. Satan.
In the Christian worldview Satan is seen as the chief enemy of God, the first rebel and the instigator of sin in humanity. Those with a Biblical background see Satan at work in the serpent that tempted Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden, as the spiritual being working through the antichrist in the last days and as an active agent for evil throughout history. Satan accuses Job, afflicts Jesus and prowls about like a roaring lion seeking for his prey.
Where did this evil being come from? Did God create the father of lies?
Satan first appears on the Biblical stage in Genesis 3 in the guise of a serpent. Though Satan is not named in the book of Genesis, the book of Revelation states that the serpent in the garden was the Devil. John sees “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:” (Revelation 12:9) I believe Satan possessed the serpent, like demons would later possess men and beasts (Matthew 8:31), and used that creature to deceive Eve.
The Bible does not specifically tell of Satan’s origins. Other statements of the Bible direct us to an answer. Satan is a created being. Everything that exists owes its existence to God. Colossians 1:16 specifically mentions the creation of angelic beings, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Because nothing exists that was not made by God we can be certain Satan was created by God.
Everything God created was perfect. Genesis 1 describes God’s act of creation. Though the opening chapter of the Bible does not describe the creation of angels (and in fact, the Bible does not anywhere describe the creation of angels), the reasonable assumption is that God created all angelic beings sometime during the creation week. I believe God created the angels on the first day when He created “the heaven and the earth”. Regardless of when God created angels, He created them and He created them perfect. Psalm 18:30 says all that God does is perfect. At the end of the creation week God examined all His work and declared it “very good”. All of creation, including the angels, was perfect and exactly as He intended it to be.
Satan was created by God as a perfect creature. The Bible speaks of Satan’s sin and rebellion. In Ezekiel 28 God pronounces judgment on the King of Tyre. The judgment includes the earthly ruler of Tyre (vs. 1-9) and the spiritual power behind the wicked king- Satan. (vs. 11-19) Satan sinned, was cast out of his exalted position and condemned to God’s judgment.
Ezekiel 28:15 sums up the origin and sin of Satan, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.”
The previous article began to answer the question “do demons need to possess living beings to do evil? The Bible does not speak of demons for the purpose of teaching about their nature or limitations but some deductions about demons can be made from the Biblical references to them. A reasonable inference can be drawn from the Bible that at least some demons prefer to inhabit physical beings. This preference does not necessarily mean demons require a physical body to accomplish their diabolical purposes.
Demons are angelic creatures who rebelled against God and were cast out of their positions of service in heaven (Revelation 12:3-4, 7-9). God created them spiritual beings who have the same nature as angels. There is no instance of a righteous angel requiring or desiring to inhabit a physical body. The demons desire to inhabit a body is not a part of their created nature.
As evil angels following in the path of Satan it can be surmised that demons are actively fighting against the will of God and are actively working for the harm of mankind. The gospels and the book of Acts show a real physical component to this malicious activity. Demons possessing a human body cause seizure like symptoms which cause the possessed to fall into fire or water, instigate the person into cutting themselves, drive the person into unsafe living conditions and causing tearing pains in the body of the person.
The physical harm done by demons is only part of their activity. Their work has a physical effect but not is limited to physical means. Ephesians 6 describes the Christian life as a spiritual battle. Paul says we do not fight against flesh and blood. The battle is against “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) The tools for the Christian in this battle are depicted as armor but not of leather and steel. The Christains’ armor is spiritual not physical. His armor is truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation and the Word of God. Such an armament will not defeat a physical enemy, but it will stand against evil spirits.
Daniel 10 gives a glimpse into what the spiritual activity of demons may look like. An angel of God came to the prophet Daniel to explain the meaning of a vision he had seen. The angel told Daniel the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” fought against his coming to Daniel. The angel Michael, “one of the chief princes” came to the assistance of the first angel and allowed him to reach Daniel. Though the details are limited this passage provides a glimpse into the spiritual battle that is taking place. These angels and demons were not warring together through humans they controlled. Daniel probably would have noticed a swordfight on his front doorstep. They were engaged in a spiritual battle in their own spiritual forms. A physical form is not necessary for the evil work of those angels which followed Satan.
Demons can do possess individuals even in America today. Nothing in the Bible would imply demons are limited to only working by controlling a physical body. Demons are powerful spiritual beings actively at work in a spiritual battle against God. Christians need not fear demons for, “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)