The Devil and Satan exposed and unmasked! - Part 2
The believers in Thyatira were exhorted to hold fast and beware of the seductive false teaching that was getting a foothold among them. This false doctrine is described as "the depths of Satan as they speak" (Revelation 2:24) which is a figurative reference to seducers introducing doctrine opposed to the Truth. The spread of false doctrine is also stated in the Bible as "doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus used certain parables to forwarn the disciples about those who would subvert the truth.
He spoke a parable about wheat and tares growing together in a field (Matthew 13:37-42). In the church or body of believers, there would be evil men drawing people away from the Truth. The errors would look very similar to the Truth just as wheat and tares look similar as young plants. So they are left to grow along together, but will be separated in the time of harvest. This parable is an example of the personification of sin as being called 'the devil' (v.39). The heart of man is described as deceitful and desperately wicked and cannot be understood (Jeremiah 17:9). It is the source and reservoir where sin (the devil) abounds. However, the book of Revelation reveals that 'the devil' (the manifestation of sin) will finally be eradicated when he is cast into the lake of fire.
This we may find hard to accept, but this highly figurative language indicates that 'the devil' is not a super-human immortal being, since he is subject to destruction. If death and hell (sheol - Hebrew; and hades - Greek) which is the grave and which is not human will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), then when why should we marvel or argue at the idea of 'sin' (the devil) being also cast into the lake of fire(Revelation 20:10)? We should not allow our bias to overcome our reasoning ability to recognize that, 'death' and 'hell' are abstract qualities. So too is 'SIN'.
In the previous chapter, we began to expose the true identity of the 'devil'. It should be apparent by now that the terms, devil and satan, do not refer to a supernatural fallen angel, deposed from a prominent position in heaven because of his rebellion against God. We have already concluded that such an event could not be possible in the presence of God in His heavenly realm. Let us review the true status of God in heaven as well as the universe for the benefit of those who continue to promote the false idea that the Devil is now in full control of this world. Many still believe him to be the god of darkness. This idea is so popular that it is even the subject of the lyrics of a popular Calypso song that Satan the Devil has a hand in the events of this world.
Is this the truth of the Bible, or is it man’s invention? The Bible emphatically states that God is the only potentate and besides Him there is no other. He is the absolute source of all power, and creator of both good and evil (calamity and disaster). God’s supremacy and capabilities are expressed in these quotations from the Old Testament, "That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." (Isaiah 45:6-7) “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand." (Deuteronomy 32:39).
There is only one logical interpretation of these declarations from God. He is in full control and shares His supremacy with no other. Therefore it is not possible for any other supernatural being to exist besides Him. Here is another quotation which further proves God’s omnipotence or His having unlimited power, "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." (Isaiah 42:8) This verse demonstrates that God does not share His glory with another, and an evil monster at that.
The idea that God is over all good and evil is supported by the fact that He informed and warned Adam and Eve about the consequences of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil which grew in the midst of the Garden (Genesis 2:17). Good and evil were in His hands only; therefore there is no room for a superhuman devil to create any disasters or calamities.
Assuming for a moment that there exists another supernatural being besides God, what is the source of his power, since the Bible states that all power belongs to and comes from God? Would God allow His power to be abused by a personal Devil/Satan for continuous evil? This idea portrays an ugly picture of a God who does not lie for he repeatedly reminded the Jews that he knows no other God beside himself. He is the only absolute being.
God gets extremely angry and jealous when men elevate other gods to positions of power. In Old Testament times God always reminded the rebellious Jews about their adoption of false gods and brought His wrath upon them. His godly jealousy is aroused when He is provoked by such callous behaviour. Here is a example of God’s view of the matter, "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." (Deuteronomy 4:24)
Supreme power belongs to God alone, and He is very jealous of His sovereignty. To believe in a supernatural devil is to accept the pagan idea that there are two gods, one good and one evil. One of these pagan groups is the Zoroastrians who believe in a god of light and a god of darkness. Scripture teaches, the God of the Bible, Yahweh, is the one and only supernatural being from whom all power proceeds. Many people attribute natural phenomena such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines and pestilences as being the evil works of Satan the Devil, rather than the righteous acts of God. They cannot accept that God is the one responsible for calamities since He can only do good. This is not what the Bible teaches about God. Here is a verse from the prophet Amos which states otherwise, "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6)
There is no other true interpretation of this passage of scripture, apart from what it states.
That God is the author of evil in the form of natural disasters is a constant theme of Scripture. He brought the flood waters in Genesis 6:17 and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah as is found in Genesis 19. On numerous occasions, God brought punishment upon his people Israel for their constant disobedience. When Jonah was fleeing to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, a mighty tempest suddenly arose. Who caused it? Was it Satan the Devil, or God? Here is a verse about the storm of Jonah, "But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken." (Jonah 1:4)
Where does Satan feature in this event? It is God Himself who brings calamities upon disobedient people such as Jonah. There is no other supernatural being endowed with these powers. Let Isaiah have the final word on this matter, "Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any." (Isaiah 44:8)
Many people vehemently oppose the concept that God can perform a dual role of being both good and evil. It is important to distinguish between evil and wrong doing for God is not the author of sin nor could He be involved with such. However, He says that He is the creator of both peace and evil (Isaiah 45:7) yet there are those who find this view hard to reconcile as they see a God who is infinitely good. They argue that He is immutable, that is, He cannot change. The writer fully agrees with this, but seeks to clarify what is the gist of this unchangeability? Simply put, it means that God cannot cease to be who He really is. For example, He cannot be both God and man at the same time.
The author remembers a serious discussion which he had with a group of friends on this very subject. It was hard for them to accept that God is the one directly responsible for any events which appear to them to be evil; therefore the word 'disaster' or 'calamity' was more appropriate. They preferred to accept that God only permits or allows evil, but He has no direct connection with it. Evil, they believed, originates from a personal Devil or Satan. They believed that God simply accepts the responsibility for the actions of the Devil/Satan. This opinion seems impossible to the author. Why should God allow the Devil/Satan to unleash evil (disaster/calamity) upon man and then accept the responsibility for such actions? This is not logical. The fact is that God renders good to those who obey His commands, but visits the wicked with disaster (evil). This is the righteousness of God who metes what we truly deserve.
Some contend that the Bible says God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity”. (Habakkuk 1:13) What Habakkuk was explaining is that God cannot condone or allow evil to flourish and simply overlook it. It is not that God cannot look upon evil for there are many instances in the Bible where God beheld the wickedness committed by man. The fact is that God will not ignore wickedness, but that does not mean that He doesn’t see it. He does so every passing day, as the following quotation illustrates, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:3)
The main reason for Habakkuk’s remark was that God was bringing punishment upon His own people Israel, and using a far more wicked nation to do this. The Chaldeans were a ruthless, pagan nation and Habakkuk was taking God to task for allowing them to flourish without punishment. A careful reading of Habakkuk chapter one will show this.
God does not inflict wanton evil or wickedness. He is not malicious, but rather full of goodness and mercy. His righteous anger is poured out when it is necessary to bring judgment upon a situation. We considered the case of the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah in the last section. Assyria and Babylon were destroyed by God after they had fulfilled their purpose in bringing judgment upon Israel. In our own day, we have many scourges including cancer and AIDS. Are these scourges of the devil? They are scourges brought upon us by God as a consequence of our blatant disobedience to His laws. Here is what God said to Israel after he took them out of Egypt from the bonds of slavery, "...If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee." (Exodus 15:26)
By God’s own admission, He is the author of both good and evil (calamity). God was reminding Israel that if they diligently hearkened to His voice, he would put none of the diseases of Egypt upon them. Did God use the Devil/Satan to inflict the Egyptians with diseases? Certainly not! He did it himself.
Let us consider the situation in which King Saul found himself after he made the fatal choice to disobey a directive given to him by God. Because of Saul’s grievous sin, God’s spirit departed from Saul and was immediately replaced by an ‘evil spirit’ which God sent upon him and led him to his tragic demise. Here are a few verses outlining this incident:
What other supportive evidence do we need to endorse the fact that the evil spirit which troubled Saul came from God? We do not see God consulting the devil in this regard! The evidence is conclusive. “I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
Here’s one final passage on this subject of God and evil, which verifies this line of reasoning and understanding.
"For the inhabitants of Maroth wait anxiously for good, because evil has come down from the Lord to the gate of Jerusalem." (Micah 1:12, RSV)
The people of Maroth had committed an abominable deed in abandoning God and turning to pagan idol worship. It provoked God to jealousy and kindled the fire of righteous judgment which came upon them. Evil from God was their recompense for their sinful deed.
Just pondering these examples, we should realise that 'sin' in our human nature is the real Devil or Satan unmasked and exposed. Sin, though an abstract idea is made alive through the figure of speech called 'personification'. This word means that an abstract idea is depicted as a person. There will be more on personification in the next section.
If we accept that evil, disaster or calamity proceeds from God, is He to be held responsible for the fallen nature and present state of man? Is God responsible, directly or indirectly, for the rampant violence and chaotic condition which exists in this world today? Certainly not! Adam and Eve were commanded by God not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Nevertheless, they were created to be free moral agents with a choice of choosing either good or evil. Since they were not created to be robots; they of their own volition deliberately transgressed the solemn command of God. They chose to disobey God and listen to the seductive reasoning of the subtle serpent, which was that God simply didn’t want them to be wise like Himself, knowing good and evil. In this way, sin made its infamous entry into the world.
Neither God nor a supposed devil/satan were to be held responsible for the free choice which Adam and Eve had made. Their forbidden quest for knowledge that they should be like their Maker spelled disaster, for sin and death itself was brought into being through this blatant disobedience of one man. This is how the Apostle Paul describes it, "Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned." (Romans 5:12, GNT)
Was Paul being naïve on this matter? He categorically states that it was through the action of one man that sin entered into the world. Paul placed the blame directly on Adam. Did he believe that the serpent who beguiled Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3) was the Devil/Satan in disguise? No he didn’t! Paul recognized the fact that Adam had freedom of choice, either to obey God or his wife. He chose the latter. Therefore it was because of one man (Adam) that 'King Sin' has reigned supreme ever since. He was a murderer from the beginning because he brought death into the world. Consider this verse, "For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;" (Isaiah 59:12)
How can sin, an abstract idea, testify against us when it isn’t a person? This is only possible through the use of a figure of speech called 'personification'. Sin is given human attributes, and in this guise it comes alive! Here are a few more examples of the idea and use of personification:
Wisdom, an abstract quality, is also personified in the Bible. For example:
All of these are examples of personification used in the Bible. They are abstract ideas presented as though they are human. If we fully understand the idea of personification, then we can see more easily that the 'devil' used in the Bible is a synonym (or striking example) for 'SIN' which itself is personified by the Apostle Paul. Personification explains why sin and other abstract principles are given human qualities; for sin which is very much alive and active within us is the real Devil or Satan exposed and unmasked. Sin is the real transgressor, the murderer and the slanderer – all the sinful characteristics of human nature. Sin holds the power of death which Jesus came in our human nature to completely destroy, through his perfect life and sacrificial death.
You might well ask, then why is the idea of a personal Devil/Satan so widespread? It is because people simply refuse to accept the full responsibility for their sins and its consequences. They want a scapegoat, someone to blame. They may accept that 'sin' has the power of death, but they still contend about who or what is the root cause of sin. They say it is the Devil/Satan filling the heart and clouding the mind that we eventually succumb to temptation. Surprisingly, this idea is not endorsed by scripture at all. Here is what James has to offer on the subject, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14)
People may concur with this idea but still ask, "Is it not the orthodox Devil/Satan who implants the thought into the mind and leads a person into temptation?" If this is not what happens then from where do those evil thoughts and temptations suddenly develop? Where do the lusts within us originate? Is it prompted by the devil? Jesus gave a straightforward answer to the Jews who were having a problem with ceremonial defilement. "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." (Mark 7:21-23, RSV)
Jesus did not involve a personal devil or satan to be responsible for all that he outlined which defiles a man. Rather he explained that the thought process comes from deep within an evil heart and materializes into those sinful actions. All manner of sin and blasphemy proceed out of the heart. Jesus endorsed similar words by Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, RSV)
Is wickedness or corruption stored in the heart by a deceitful Devil/Satan? Definitely not! It is stored there by us. This is what both Jesus and Jeremiah explain to us very simply. Who then are we to blame for our transgressions? No one else, but ourselves. Evil overflows from the reservoir of the callous heart, the seat of all emotion. Thus, the work of a personal orthodox Devil or Satan becomes redundant. Sin materialises only when we succumb to temptation initiated by the lusts of our own flesh.
We have shown in the previous section that 'sin' is identified as the power which rules the evil heart of man. It is like an albatross hovering ready to swoop down on its prey at the right opportunity. The collective body of sin in the human race is the Devil or Satan of the Bible. Sin manifests itself in various forms – in individuals, governments, religious authorities and systems. All of these together constitute the Devil and Satan. Here is an exhortation by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11)
Paul then goes on to explain who he identifies as manifestations of 'the devil’, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)
Paul identifies these opponents as being rulers of kingdoms, civil or religious, who exercise political or religious authority in an abusive, wicked way. Paul, like Jesus before him, encountered enemies throughout his entire ministry. He apologized to the Thessalonians for having neglected them for the following reason, "We wanted to return to you. I myself tried to go back more than once, but Satan would not let us." (1 Thessalonians 2:18, GNT)
Paul was obviously referring to the Jewish leaders in Thessalonica whom he termed ‘Satan’ for undermining the growth of the young Christian church. Later the Jewish leaders in Israel brought pressure on the Romans who had imprisoned Paul and prevented him from preaching and traveling. Paul was eventually executed by the Roman authorities who were as much ‘satanic’ as the Jewish leaders in Thessalonica.
To further identify the Satan of the Bible, we will highlight two incidents in the epistles of Paul where he "delivers a brother to Satan" as a means of discipline. If Satan is regarded as an atrocious evil being whose sole purpose is to oppose God by perpetrating wicked deeds, then why would Paul expect this being to teach his critics not to blaspheme? On the contrary, he would teach them to blaspheme even more vehemently! Here is the quotation, "Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have punished by handing them over to the power of Satan; this will teach them to stop their blasphemy. " (1 Timothy 1:20, GNT)
To whom then, did Paul deliver these disobedient brothers? He delivered them to the outside world, in the hope that this adverse action of excommunication from the body of believers would cause them to reflect upon their blasphemous deeds and eventually repent. On a separate occasion, Paul delivered another person who was involved in gross immorality unto Satan. Here is the reference, "You are to hand this man over to Satan for his body to be destroyed, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 5:5, GNT)
In reading this citation, common sense should prevail to realise that Paul wouldn’t deliver someone to an evil being so that he could finally be saved on the day of judgement. This would be unimaginable, for if it is true that Satan is a destructive evil being, then how can he save the spirit on the day of the Lord Jesus? This is absolutely ludicrous! So to whom did Paul deliver this wicked person? As explained above, he was sent back into the world, separated from the fellowship of God, in hope that he would come to his senses and repent. The world is the embodiment of sin in all its attractive grandeur, "for all that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 John 2:16)
When Paul excommunicated believers, it was intended that this separation from the body of believers would eventually cause them to reflect upon their sins and repent.
Though the words 'devil' and 'satan' practically refer to the same thing, and so have been used interchangeably by the author, it is imperative that the basic difference is clearly understood and not confused. The 'devil' relates to human nature and thinking. It encompasses the carnal mind and the sin principle within us. Satan, on the other hand, means adversary, and can embrace a single person or organised groups of people. We have pointed out earlier that Satan doesn’t necessarily refer to an evil person, but an adversary. All devils are satans, but not all satans are devils. Peter was a Satan to Jesus - not a devil - but Judas was both a devil and a satan. That is the basic difference.
We have already established that the fundamental purpose for Christ coming into this world was to conquer the Devil/Satan. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Jesus did not surrender to the passions of his fleshly nature. He submitted himself entirely to the will of his Father. In this way, Jesus vanquished the Devil and Satan; the sin power had no dominion over him.
We too are capable of overcoming our sinful nature. We can demolish the stronghold of sin within us if we subject ourselves entirely to the will of God, as Jesus did. James the brother of Jesus left us sound advice on how to resist the power of sin within us, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
Surely James was asking his readers to resist their own natural inclinations which were in their nature. This is the sin principle. In the same way Jesus resisted the advances of the Devil/Satan, which as we have amply shown, is the power of sin in the flesh and the carnal mind. We can do likewise and overcome this deadly adversary. The Apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesians to stand firm in the Lord and in the power of His might, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11) "Neither give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:27)
Paul went on to suggest that we should never give the devil (sin power) an opportunity to thrive within us. Sin, as mentioned previously is synonymous with the devil, therefore to give in to our sinful inclinations is simply to "give place to the devil", as Paul describes it.
Peter also speaks of this serious problem. He personifies sin as a roaring lion, "Be alert, be on the watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8, GNT)
This is a vivid description which Peter gives about the advances of sin. Peter spoke from his own personal experience, because had not Jesus prayed for him, he would have been devoured by the wiles of Satan. Peter was upbraided by Jesus on several occasions for being an adversary. This human weakness of Peter came out most powerfully when he denied his Master three times on the night of Jesus' arrest. It was this ugly incident which helped Peter to conquer the devil and satan.
However, thanks be to God who gave us His only begotten Son to become the propitiation (O.T. 'a covering'; N.T. 'reconciliation') for our sins and to gain victory on our behalf over the Devil and Satan – King Sin. We need to follow our Master who was the epitome of an obedient and sinless Son who remained steadfast to the end; hence given a "name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:12). For he did conquer the devil.