“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×, New International Version).
One primary cause lurks behind the suffering and tragic circumstances that afflict so many people. The Bible reveals that a powerful, intelligent and vastly influential being actively orchestrates the wickedness that dominates our planet. Most of us have heard of him. The Bible most often calls him the devil and Satan.
You may have wondered whether he really exists. After all, to many the devil seems like a fairy-tale character—a grotesque, blood-red creature with horns, a pointed tail and bat’s wings who carries a pitchfork and inhabits an infernal region of ever-burning flames. Because he is typically depicted so fancifully, it isn’t surprising that few take the idea of a devil seriously.
Does such a being exist? Where could such a creature have come from? What is his purpose, his goal, his intent? What does he do? Is he, as many believe, simply a mythical embodiment of evil?
Most people aren’t sure what to believe. They either haven’t given the concept of the devil that much thought or don’t know where to look to find the answers.
Through the centuries belief in the existence of the devil—a being responsible for evil—has waxed and waned. During the Middle Ages belief in the evil one and his influence on mankind was unquestioned. But as scientific advancements during the Renaissance dispelled myths and superstitions related to demons and evil spirits, the notion of the devil as a literal being fell into disfavor.
Subsequent scientific advancements and increased education encouraged skepticism regarding the existence of a spirit world, good or bad. Today many ridicule the idea of a literal evil entity who is responsible for the misery and suffering we see around us. But what is the truth? Does the devil exist?
Finding a reliable source of knowledge
Where can we find reliable, accurate information on the spirit world? Only one source can give us the answers, revealing to us information we could find nowhere else. That single dependable source is the Bible. Beyond it, everything concerning Satan and whether he exists is only mythology and speculation. (For clear evidence of the reliability of the Bible, be sure to download your free copy of Is the Bible True? or request it from any of our offices listed at the end of this booklet.)
The Bible contains unequivocal internal evidence that it truly is the Word of God. Through its pages God reveals true spiritual knowledge—information unavailable from any other source. It tells us in sobering terms that the devil does exist. It explains that this being and the spirit world are every bit as real as our own.
It shows us that Satan is an incredibly powerful spirit being with a pervasive influence over humanity. Along with his cohorts—called demons or evil spirits— he is mentioned frequently in the Scriptures. He shows up from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation.
The Bible reveals much about this being. It shows us his origin, how he came to be what he is. It reveals his intentions and the methods he uses to accomplish them. It describes his character and nature and the motivations that drive him. It helps us see the staggering impact his influence can have on us individually as well as his sway over the whole of humanity. It reveals his future. The Bible gives us knowledge we could never discover or understand on our own.
Jesus Christ spoke of the devil as a powerful, conscious, real being. If we accept Jesus as real, as the Son of God—and the Bible as giving the truthful account of His ministry and teachings—we must also accept the devil as real.
The writers of the four Gospels record instances in which Christ confronted Satan and his cohorts, the demons. The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, show Satan to be the enemy of Christ, determined to thwart and undermine His work. Just before Jesus began His ministry, Satan tried, through temptation, to turn Him aside from His divine purpose (Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
8 Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
10 Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
11 Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version×; Luke 4:1-13 Luke 4:1-13 1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungry. 3 And the devil said to him, If you be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to him, All this power will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If you therefore will worship me, all shall be yours. 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, Get you behind me, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. 9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down from hence: 10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you: 11 And in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering said to him, It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
American King James Version×).
Failing at every turn, Satan was finally allowed to influence other human beings to execute Jesus (Luke 22:2-4 Luke 22:2-4 2 And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.
3 Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
4 And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him to them.
American King James Version×; John 13:2 John 13:2And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;
American King James Version×, John 13:27 John 13:27And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus to him, That you do, do quickly.
American King James Version×)—making Him, as the Messiah and our Savior, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
The apostle Peter, who experienced his own struggles with Satan (Matthew 16:21-23 Matthew 16:21-23 21 From that time forth began Jesus to show to his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be to you.
23 But he turned, and said to Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense to me: for you mind not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
American King James Version×; Luke 22:31-32 Luke 22:31-32 31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.
American King James Version×), warns us to be on guard against this powerful wicked spirit: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×, NIV, emphasis added throughout). Peter’s sobering warning helps us to realize that the devil is the enemy of not only Jesus Christ, but also the unwavering enemy of all Christ’s followers, seeking to rend and consume them.
The father of lies
But we find more to the story of Satan. A central message of the Bible, from beginning to end, is that the devil is the enemy of all humanity. As we discover what the Bible says about him, we find him continually intent on mankind’s harm, waging war against human beings in every way imaginable.
The very name Satan, the designation the Bible uses most for this evil being, helps reveal his malicious intent. God calls things what they are. Satan is a Hebrew noun meaning “adversary”—the enemy, opponent, antagonist, foe. The verb forms of the noun mean to “accuse,” “slander” and “be an adversary” ( Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 5, 1992, “Satan,” p. 985).
The other term the Bible most often uses to describe this being, devil, is similarly revealing. Devil is translated from the Greek word diabolos, the root from which we get the word diabolical, used to describe something wicked or sinister. Diabolos means “an accuser, a slanderer” (W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Devil, Devilish”).
We see that the meanings of the Hebrew word Satan and the Greek word diabolos overlap. In fact, the Septuagint, the oldest known Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates Satan with the Greek word diabolos. Both mean “slanderer” or “accuser” and can have the sense of an accuser or opponent in court (compare Zechariah 3:1 Zechariah 3:1And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
American King James Version×). Both the Hebrew and Greek terms are used in the New Testament to refer to this enemy of mankind.
The Bible reveals much more about this evil being’s nature and character. As we will see more about shortly, Christ says Satan is “a liar and the father of it” and that “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×).
It is through his lying, deceptive nature that Satan most successfully influences mankind. The Bible reveals the enormity of his lies and their impact, the apostle John stating in Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×that he “deceives the whole world.”
Did you catch this stunning testimony to Satan’s handiwork? He “deceives the whole world”! What does this mean? What is God telling us when He reveals here that this malignant spirit deceives the whole world? Consider the staggering implications of this statement.
John did not say that Satan deceived the world only at some time in the distant past. The word John uses—translated “deceives” in the New King James Version of the Bible—is in the present active tense, meaning that Satan’s deception started in the past and is a continuous, ongoing process that is not yet finished. The book of Revelation shows that Satan’s great deception will continue until God miraculously intervenes to put an end to his influence over mankind.
The beginning of Satan’s influence
Satan has seduced humanity for thousands of years. But when—and how—did his influence begin? How did he gain his firm foothold in human thinking? What is it about him and his methods that allows him to deceive not just a handful of people, but virtually the entire human race?
The story begins with the very origins of humankind. As stated in the book of Genesis, God created our first human parents, Adam and Eve, and provided a beautiful garden paradise in an area called Eden as their home (Genesis 1:26-27 Genesis 1:26-27 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×; Genesis 2:7-8 Genesis 2:7-8 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
American King James Version×). There He began personally instructing them (Genesis 2:16-17 Genesis 2:16-17 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×), laying the foundation for them to develop a close personal relationship with Him.
But something happened that suddenly derailed that relationship. “Now the serpent [the devil, Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×; Revelation 20:2 Revelation 20:2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
American King James Version×] was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’” (Genesis 3:1 Genesis 3:1Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
American King James Version×, NIV).
God had told Adam and Eve they could eat of all the trees in Eden except one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17 Genesis 2:16-17 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×). He warned them they would perish if they ate of its fruit.
Satan, appearing in the form of a serpent, came privately to Eve and subtly contradicted what God had told her and her husband: “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ ” (Genesis 3:4-5 Genesis 3:4-5 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:
5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
American King James Version×).
Eve believed the serpent. She ate the fruit and shared it with Adam. Together Adam and Eve set in motion a tragic pattern that mankind has followed ever since—choosing to decide their own way, which has brought them under Satan’s deceptive influence (1 John 3:10 1 John 3:10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother.
American King James Version×), rather than the truth of God. Life for man would never be the same. Sin— rebellion against God’s instruction—had entered the world (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:12Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
American King James Version×). Mankind would now reap its tragic fruit.
Adam and Eve’s surrender to Satan’s influence was the beginning of “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×). Satan managed to inject his cunning deceptions into the relationship between God and God’s human children. By convincing Eve that God was lying to them about the consequences of partaking of the forbidden fruit, Satan showed early in human history that he is the adversary of both God and humanity, the ultimate false accuser and slanderer — the meanings of his biblical names.
A murderer from the beginning
Jesus referred to this incident in the Garden of Eden when He confronted those who opposed His message and work—murderous men who wanted to kill Him for identifying Himself as the Son of God. Jesus recognized the source of their motivation: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×).
Satan was truly “a murderer from the beginning.” Yet he did not need to physically harm Adam and Eve to bring about their deaths. He knew that if he could influence them to sin—to disobey God—they would bring death on themselves (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×). His lies—his deception—did lead directly to Adam and Eve’s eventual submission to the clutches of death. By influencing all human beings since then to likewise choose the way of sin and disobedience to God, Satan has played a part in the deaths of all human beings since Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:12Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
American King James Version×).
Christ also said Satan is “a liar and the father of it.” His lies undermined and then destroyed the relationship between God and His children. By following in Adam and Eve’s footsteps in accepting Satan’s ways of sin and rebellion, we have cut ourselves off from God’s guidance and assistance and desperately need the redemption that can come only through Christ (Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×; Romans 3:23-24 Romans 3:23-24 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×; Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×).
The world suffers because of sin
Humanity as a whole has continued to follow the pattern set by Adam and Eve long ago. Satan, by deceiving us into rejecting God’s instruction and influencing us to follow him instead, has seen to it that we, like Adam and Eve, would continue to resist God’s rule over us (Romans 5:10 Romans 5:10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
American King James Version×; 8:7; Ephesians 2:1-3 Ephesians 2:1-3 1 And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
American King James Version×). We suffer the painful consequences of our choices and actions just as they did. (Of course, Jesus came to die for our sins and show those of us whom God would call to salvation in this age before Jesus’ return the way to repent and come out of our miseries. To understand more, please download or request our free booklets The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion .)
Why is the world so full of misery? The answer, as revealed in God’s Word, is simple: We reap what we sow. “Do not be deceived,” writes the apostle Paul. “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8 Galatians 6:7-8 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
American King James Version×, NIV). Our actions bring consequences. Much of the world’s suffering can be traced to people’s actions and decisions. We haven’t learned that many of our choices lead to tragic results regardless of our intentions.
The prophet Hosea understood the principle of cause and effect as he observed the sad spiritual condition of the kingdom of Israel in the 700s B.C. Hosea 2 and 4 show that idolatry, violence and sexual immorality were rampant in Hosea’s time. Within a few years the mighty Assyrian Empire would sweep down from the north and lay the Israelite kingdom waste, slaughtering and enslaving its inhabitants.
God revealed to Hosea what was coming and why: “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7 Hosea 8:7For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it has no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
American King James Version×). “You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies” (Hosea 10:13 Hosea 10:13You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped iniquity; you have eaten the fruit of lies: because you did trust in your way, in the multitude of your mighty men.
American King James Version×). In other words, said God, it was inevitable that the people’s sins would catch up with them: “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2:19 Jeremiah 2:19Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and that my fear is not in you, said the Lord GOD of hosts.
American King James Version×).
When we search for the main reason people suffer, we can learn a great deal by tracing the circumstances back to their cause. Most often we will find that sin is the underlying cause—whether one’s own sin or that of others—and suffering and misery are the sad consequences.
By influencing mankind to sin, making it appear attractive and appealing, Satan holds our world in a deceitful grip of lies, suffering and death.