Is Satan real? When you hear the name “Satan,” what do you visualize? Some people think of a man in a red bodysuit, with horns, and holding a pitchfork. Many years ago, the movie “Damn Yankees” presented Satan as a human who wore a three-piece suit and made deals with humans. Charlie Daniels had a hit song titled “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” in which he told of a fiddle contest between “Johnny” and the “Devil.” Great music, but very little theological credibility. The comic strip “Far Side” frequently had a picture of Satan and people in hell, making it a childish belief to ridicule.
The biblical concept is very different and very real. The Hebrew word “satan” comes from a word meaning adversary or accuser. First Chronicles 21:1 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and excited David to take a census of Israel.” This is clearly not a physical person but a spiritual being with a purpose to incite David to oppose God’s will. In Job 1 and 2, Satan afflicts Job not as a physical person but by causing natural forces to bring pain and misery.
In the New Testament, two Greek words in Greek become relevant. “Diabolos” is translated as the devil. “Beelzebub” means “Lord of the flies” and is based on the name of a pagan Philistine deity. The Jews of Jesus’ day used it to refer to the chief among evil spirits. They accused Jesus of doing miracles by Beelzebub (See Matthew 12:24, 27). Ephesians 2:2 and 43 other passages, Satan is used to describe the sinful ways of the world. Is Satan real? The answer is YES, and here are five biblical concepts of Satan that we need to understand:
# 1. There is a war going on between good and evil. Atheists such as Ricard Dawkins deny that good and evil exist, but most of us have seen it first hand. Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12 tell us that God’s purpose for the Church is to join the spiritual conflict between good and evil.
#2. Angels are not a useful tool for this war. In 2 Peter 2:4, we find that some of them sinned, but they cannot repent since repentance needs time, and they don’t experience time.
#3. Satan’s attacks are primarily spiritual, not physical. Matthew 16:23 tells us that Satan entered Peter, and Luke 22:3 says the same about Judas. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Satan masquerades as an “angel of light,” and his servants masquerade as “servants of righteousness.”
#4. Satans methods involve lying and sowing bad seeds. (See Matthew 13:24-30.) He also imitates and twists God’s blessings – sex twisted to porn, faith twisted to politics, drink twisted to intoxication, etc. James 4:7 tells us resisting Satan makes him flee, and God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there will always be a way of escape for Christians.
#5. Is Satan real? Logic and common sense make it foolish to deny Satan. Good and evil do exist. There is a spiritual force in evil. However, God is also real. First Peter 5:6-9 tells us that we have a purpose for our existence. Atheistic denial of evil leaves no purpose for human existence. Revelation 21:3-5 describes the ultimate result of following Christ. For those who oppose God, there is no future beyond the present.
— John N. Clayton © 2021