Devil and Satan
1st March 2008, mgh
1) An Introduction
The terms devil and satan are often used interchangably. Many people believe that a devil, or satan, exists that has power for evil. Some say that he is a fallen angel and tries to destroy God's work among men and women. Some think that a devil tempts people to do evil.
However, from a Bible context, there are problems in accepting ideas like this. The God of the Bible is presented as having all power in heaven. Jesus said God's will is done in heaven,
Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. (Matthew 6:9-10)
King Jehoshaphat, who was given a great victory,
'Yahweh, the God of our fathers, aren’t you God (mighty) in heaven? Aren’t you ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in your hand, so that no one is able to withstand you. (2Chronicles 20:6)
Debunking Lucifer the fallen angel
There is a logical mismatch if the God of the Bible is powerful and rules in heaven, with the idea of a fallen angel. How can the devil be a fallen angel if God has supreme power over angels and all His creation in heaven and earth? How did a perfect angel come to revolt against a mighty God? How is it that this powerful God, the Creator of all that we see around us, including man and woman, could not destroy one who revolted against Him? Why would God allow a supernatural being to destroy His work on earth?
Isaiah 14 is frequently used to support the theory of a fallen angel. It is essential that the context of this chapter is examined. In Isaiah 14: 4 it states, “take up this proverb against the king of Babylon”. The chapter continues to speak of the greatness of Nebuchadnezzar and then his fall from power. The language is poetical and metaphorical. A great and powerful ruler has “fallen from heaven”. This is not the literal heaven but the ruling powers on earth. In other places, Isaiah uses the 'heaven' metaphorically to refer to rulers, or leaders.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations.” (Isaiah 14: 12)
Nebuchadnezzar had indeed weakened and conquered nations of the ancient world to establish his empire and his power. He became a fallen ruler of nations. This is not speaking of a fallen angel.
The words 'devil' and 'satan'
The concept of the devil and satan is a religious one. Therefore, to find out what is meant by the words devil and satan, we must go to the Bible. The Bible makes a number of references to the devil and satan. The first thing that must be established is what the Bible writers meant by the terms 'devil' and 'satan'. We cannot impose our own views on the meaning of these words. The Hebrew and Greek words, with their usage and meanings, are the only true way to understand what these words really mean. This can only be determined by by examining the way the words are used in the context in which they occur in the Bible.
To commence this task, we need to examine the Old Testament first, as it was the first section of the Bible to be written. The New Testament writers were familiar with its writings and frequently quoted from it. Among the terms they used is the word 'satan'.
Briefly, the word 'satan' occurs 19 times in the O.T. In all instances 'satan' is used to indicate an 'adversary', or opponent. An interesting case was when an angel who was doing God's will opposed, or was a 'satan' to Balaam who refused to carry out God's instruction. In another instance an 'adversary/satan' who posed as a worshipper who came among those who came to worship God in the book of Job. Other examples are of men who were adversaries to God's will.
'Devil' is a Greek term and only occurs in eth N.T. It does not occur in the O.T. In 2 Timothy 3: 1-3, the word translated 'slanderers' is the word translated devil elsewhere in the N.T. From this word we have the English word 'diabolical'. Again in 1 Timothy 3:11, the women are advised not to be 'slanderers', which again is the word for 'devil'. These devils are once again people who are slanderers or false accusers.
In simple terms, 'devil' and 'satan' in the Bible refer to enemies of God's will. It is not some supernatural being or mysterious spirit. From the start of the Bible to the end of the Bible, there is one clear enemy to God's purpose. It is the human heart and mind, the will of men and women who wish to satisfy their own desires and oppose God's will. This can be described as sin, which is the wilful desire of man to fulfil his own lusts and to do as he pleases, instead of being obedient to God's will and obeying God's laws. (For more on this see The Sources of Evil.)