The Reality of Satan
“Satan” is a descriptive term that means “adversary.” “Devil” means “slanderer.” These terms aptly describe the being who is known as the enemy of God and His people. The first encounter with the devil is seen in Genesis 3, where the creature here slandered God’s severity by telling Eve that if she ate the forbidden fruit, they would not die as God had said. While he is not called the devil in Genesis 3, Revelation 12:9 tells us that this was indeed “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”
Satan’s desires from the beginning are revealed by Jesus when He rebuked the Pharisees: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). From the beginning Satan was a murderer and liar. His desire was not to see Adam and Eve have fun and live. By slandering God and deceiving, his design was to murder them. He wanted them to die, and this has been the devil’s desire ever since.
This reveals to us that Satan is not just some force of evil. He is a personality who desires, who acts, and who seeks to hurt those who belong to God. Recall that Jesus warned Peter, “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Satan had designs on Peter specifically, and Peter of all disciples knew the danger of Satan when he wrote his epistles. With his own experiences, he wrote, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Pet 5:8-9).
Satan, then, is a deceiver, a liar who seeks to murder and devour God’s people. This makes him extremely dangerous and not one with whom we should ever play around with or see how close to him we can get. Even at a time of year like now, we need to be very careful here. Pretending to be the devil is not cute. It is not mere fun. It is dangerous and deceptive, and children need to be taught to flee from him, not act like him.
While the devil is dangerous and powerful, he is not God’s equal. He does not have the knowledge or power of God, and he is, in fact, both defeated and defeatable. This defeat was affected by Jesus Christ: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb 2:14-15).
Peter said that we can resist him, steadfast in the faith (1 Pet 5:9). James wrote, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). Paul told Christians what they can do to fight and stand their ground against the devil:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:10-17)
Scripture minces no words when it comes to the devil. We are to take him seriously so that we “do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:27). At the same time, we need to remember that God has already defeated Satan through Christ and given us the tools of faith to resist his influences “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor 2:11). While “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving,” God has “shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4-6). The power of the Gospel will always win out.