Is Satan the Ruler of Hell?

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.

Do demons require physical bodies to do their work?

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)