Belief in Satan the devil as a literal being is not fashionable in many circles. Even in the United States, where belief in the devil is common, polls have shown that most Americans do not believe in Satan as a literal, living entity. Many conceive of the devil as merely symbolic of man’s inhumanity to man or the embodiment of evil in general.
The Bible, however, presents Satan as a real being—a spirit presence possessing great power to do harm. Because so many reject the existence of an actual devil, he is an unrecognized cause of much suffering. Whether we realize it or not, his deception of humanity is the major cause of anguish and grief.
The extent of Satan’s influence and power is clearly revealed in the Bible. 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×tells us he “deceives the whole world.” John writes elsewhere that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19 1 John 5:19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
American King James Version×). When Paul proclaims that “the god of this age” has blinded the minds of many so that they do not believe the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×), he refers to the devil.
In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus tells us that as soon as many people hear God’s Word explained to them “Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:15 Mark 4:15And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.
American King James Version×). This wicked being wants mankind blinded to the comfort, encouragement and deliverance of God’s truth.
Through the spiritual blindness and ignorance Satan has foisted off on the world, he is the instigator of incalculable suffering. He has blinded humanity to the reason for our existence. He has deceived people into believing that his way—the way of selfishness and sin—is better than obedience to God’s commands. Regrettably, humanity has fallen prey to Satan’s ploys, not realizing the ultimate grief that sin brings.
Satan is called “the tempter” (Matthew 4:3 Matthew 4:3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
American King James Version×). Throughout history he has succeeded in tempting people to indulge in an unlawful and immoral exercise of their physical appetites. He employed this strategy in the Garden of Eden, and his game has worked marvelously ever since. Everyone has suffered because of it.
Yet Satan’s influence goes beyond mere deception. Paul refers to him as “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein 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:
American King James Version×)—apparently “broadcasting,” as it were, wrong moods and attitudes to receptive human minds.
Jesus described the devil as “a murderer from the beginning” (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’s intent has always been to make human life miserable and ultimately destroy us (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×). His very nature is destructive, and those who commit destructive acts unwittingly follow him. Revelation 9:11 Revelation 9:11And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue has his name Apollyon.
American King James Version×labels Satan as “the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.” These two names mean “destruction” and “destroyer,” respectively. In contrast to God, who is the creator, sustainer and giver of life, Satan is the ultimate destroyer and murderer.
Satan is the agitator of war and other conflicts. The book of Revelation depicts demonic spirits at the end of the age that “go out to the kings of the earth” to “gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
American King James Version×). Satan and his demons will instigate a time of distress that will be more terrible than any devastation human beings have ever experienced (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×).
We can see from these passages that Satan exerts a pervasive power over mankind. God, however, sets limits on Satan’s power (Job 1:12 Job 1:12And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only on himself put not forth your hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
American King James Version×; Job 2:6 Job 2:6And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand; but save his life.
American King James Version×). God will not allow Satan to thwart His master plan for the salvation of humanity. God will never relinquish His ultimate control over mankind and the rest of His creation. (To learn more about Satan’s role in human affairs, be sure to read Is There Really a Devil? )