What’s the primary cause lurking 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. 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.
The Scriptures make it clear that God is not to blame for the world’s many chronic problems. They tell us that Satan the devil is the true “ruler of this world.”
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?
Finding a reliable source of knowledge
To find the answers, we need reliable, accurate information on the spirit world. Only one source can reveal to us the information we can find nowhere else. That single dependable source is the Bible. Beyond it, everything concerning Satan and the spirit world is only mythology and speculation.
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.
A central theme of the Bible is that the devil is the enemy of all humanity. 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 or 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”).
Jesus Christ says Satan is “a liar and the father of it” and that “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). The Bible reveals the enormity of his lies and their impact, with the apostle John stating in Revelation 12:9 that he “deceives the whole world.”
Satan’s origins revealed
But where did the devil come from? Did God purposefully create an evil being? To understand Satan’s origin, we must go far back in time, before human beings existed. Genesis 1:1 tells us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” However, the Bible doesn’t tell the whole story in one or even several verses. We find more details elsewhere in the Bible, in this case in the book of Job.
When Job, beset with terrible calamity and suffering in spite of being a very devout follower of God, began to question God’s judgment, God responded with pointed questions to help him realize he didn’t have the wisdom to question God. In His response, in the form of questions to Job, God revealed some details about His creation of the earth.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” God asked Job. “Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? . . . On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7, New International Version).
God here reveals information no man could know, since no human being was present at creation. God described the earth at its creation as a dazzlingly beautiful jewel floating in space. The creation events were so magnificent that “all the angels shouted for joy.”
The angels—spirit beings God had created—already existed when God made the earth. They were united in their joy when God created the world, singing and shouting in exultation. They were in perfect harmony and agreement at that time. So how does the devil fit into this picture?
A beautiful earth becomes a wasteland
Some time after the world was formed, however, the situation dramatically changed. Genesis 1:2 tells us that, after its creation, “the earth was without form, and void.” This English translation doesn’t adequately convey the meaning of the original Hebrew. The words tohu va-bohu, translated “without form and void,” are better translated “waste and void” (Young’s Literal Translation).
However, in Isaiah 45:18, God expressly says of the earth that He “did not create it in vain.” Here the same Hebrew word, tohu, is used. If God did not create the earth in a state of waste, how did it come to be in that condition?
Part of the answer is indicated in Genesis 1:2. The Hebrew word hayah, translated “was,” can also properly be translated “became,” as it is translated in Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 19:26. The earth was not created waste and void but became that way at some point after its creation. In Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, Genesis 1:2 appropriately reads, “Now the earth had become waste and empty.”
God created the earth in such sparkling beauty that the angels were overjoyed at its creation. But something happened to bring it to a condition of devastation and waste. Its original beauty was destroyed. God then reshaped it, forming it into a beautiful home for the first man and woman, as recorded in the remainder of Genesis 1. But the Genesis account does not tell us the entire story. Something else happened between the first two verses of Genesis that is not recorded there.
God does give us additional details in several other chapters of the Bible regarding what brought about this condition of waste and confusion.
In 2 Peter 2 the Bible records several examples of God’s judgment for wrongdoing. 2 Peter 2:5-6 discuss the Flood of Noah’s time and the later fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But before this, in 2 Peter 2:4, we read that “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but thrust them down into Tartarus [a condition of restraint], and delivered them into chains of darkness, being reserved for judgment” (Modern King James Version). When did these angelssin, and what was their sin?
Again, we must look at other verses to find the answer. Jude 1:6 gives us additional details: “And the angels that did not keep within their original authority, but abandoned their proper sphere [or “assigned place” (Good News Translation)], [God] has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for the Judgment of the Great Day” (Complete Jewish Bible).
We saw earlier that at the earth’s creation all the angels were happy and joyous, singing and shouting together. Obviously, then, it was at a later time that some sinned—destroying the wonderful harmony and cooperation they had once enjoyed. What was the nature of their sin? They did not keep within the limits God had set for them but abandoned their assigned place. They rebelled against their Maker, the Creator of both the physical universe and the spirit world of angelic beings!
A rebellion against God
In Isaiah 14 we find more information. This chapter makes reference to the angelic rebellion, identifying its ringleader. It gives us important details we could learn of in no other way.
In Isaiah 14:4 God addresses the “king of Babylon.” In Isaiah’s time the city-state of Babylon was emerging as the major power in that region of the world. Its king was a warmonger, expanding his empire through brute force. He enslaved, plundered and devastated the nations around him. (In context, this passage has dual meaning, in that it also refers to an end-time tyrant who will rule over a final global empire referred to in Revelation 17 and 18 as Babylon the Great.)
The philosophy of the king of Babylon here is satanic—acquiring wealth and power at the expense of others, gaining it through violence and bloodshed. The king of Babylon thus exemplifies Satan and his characteristics. Indeed, as we will read more about later, Satan is the real power behind the throne of the world’s kingdoms (compare Luke 4:5-7; John 12:31; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 13:2).
In Isaiah 14:12 the subject shifts from the physical king to a ruler who is yet higher. Many scholars recognize that the original language of this passage is in the form of a lament, a reflection of God’s mourning and sense of great loss due to the events being described:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Who is this being who dares to exalt himself above the other angels of God (stars symbolize angels, Revelation 1:20), to challenge God Himself as ruler of the universe?
The Bible reveals more details
In Ezekiel 28 God gives us the answer. This chapter is written much like Isaiah 14. God begins by discussing a human ruler, then shifts to the spiritual power behind the earthly throne—the behind-the-scenes ruler who controls the kingdoms of this world.
In Ezekiel 28:2 God addresses the “prince of Tyre.” Tyre, a coastal port city north of ancient Israel on the Mediterranean Sea, was famous as a major trading center. Its rulers had grown haughty and presumptuous because of their wealth and influence. In Ezekiel 28:6-10 God tells this ruler that because of his arrogance, his might and wealth would fail and he would be overthrown.
But notice in Ezekiel 28:12 that God begins to address “the king of Tyre” rather than the prince. This figure is the true ruler, the real power behind the throne. In fact, God’s description of this “king of Tyre” makes it clear that He is speaking to no physical human being!
“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created” (Ezekiel 28:12-13).
No mortal man could accurately be described as being “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” This entity was brought into being with instant perfection and wisdom—unlike human beings who must develop in maturity and wisdom (the only exceptions being Adam and Eve). This being had also been “in Eden, the garden of God.” Other than Adam and Eve, no people had been in the Garden of Eden. God had expelled them, after which He placed an angel there specifically to prevent anyone else from entering (Genesis 3:24).
Fall of a superangel
In the next verse God mentions some of the history of this being: “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones” (Ezekiel 28:14).
What do these remarkable statements mean? What is a “cherub who covers”? Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the tabernacle established through Moses—the portable sanctuary the Israelites carried with them in their desert wanderings—was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (NIV).
In Exodus 25:18-20 we find that God instructed the Israelites to make a representation—a physical model—of His throne for the tabernacle they would carry with them in the wilderness. At either side of the “mercy seat,” which represented God’s throne, was a golden cherub with wings extended to cover the mercy seat. The two cherubim, fashioned out of gold, represented real angelic beings—the great superangels whose wings cover God’s throne.
The being God addressed through Ezekiel is called the “cherub who covers,” indicating that he had once been one of the great angels depicted in the model of God’s throne. God gave these angels the awesome distinction of serving at and covering the very throne of God in heaven!
Many other scriptures say that God “dwells between the cherubim,” showing that these wondrous creatures accompany and serve Him at His seat of power (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 13:6; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 37:16). This magnificent being apparently held a position of high honor and distinction in God’s angelic realm.
God also says to this cherub, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15). Like the description in Isaiah 14, this passage describes a being created mature, not a man. This being was extraordinary, perfect until he sinned, beginning with pride in his own beauty and splendor, which corrupted his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:17).
“. . . You were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian [or ‘covering,’ NKJV] cherub, from among the fiery stones” (Ezekiel 28:16, NIV). This once marvelous being sinned and was expelled from God’s throne, cast away in disgrace.
Choosing to rebel against God
Satan’s sin of pride and vanity ultimately led to outright and open rebellion against God. Isaiah 14:13-14, which we read earlier, states: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars [angels] of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (NIV).
This powerful spirit entity decided to challenge God for control of the universe!
What had been an amazingly beautiful, immensely talented spirit being with great responsibility in God’s angelic order became, through his rebellion against Almighty God, a reprehensible, despicable creature. Thus, God did not create the devil. Rather, what God created was a magnificent and perfect being. But later, this powerful being, by his own will, became the devil and Satan—the adversary, slanderer, accuser and destroyer. He made himself the enemy of God and humanity!
The immense powers he had used in God’s service were turned not to serve God, but to try to thwart God’s purposes. This creature remains an enormously powerful spirit being, but now his powers are used for wicked, destructive ends.
As we’ve seen, so vain and proud did he become that he thought he should be ruler of the universe. His enormous talents and abilities led him to believe he was equal to, if not better than, God Himself. His thinking became corrupted. He rebelled against God and tried to overthrow Him. By his rebellion against his Creator, he transformed himself into Satan the devil.
Other angels join the rebellion
Satan was not alone in this rebellion. Millions of other angels joined him in rejecting God’s authority and leadership. We find this symbolically described in Revelation 12:3-4: “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon . . . His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.” Verse 9 identifies this dragon as Satan. As we saw earlier, the Bible uses stars as a symbol for angels (Revelation 1:20). This apparently indicates that a third of the angels followed Satan in this rebellion and were cast down to the earth with him.
The attempted takeover of heaven was, of course, not successful. Two thirds of the angels remained loyal to God and thus constituted a more numerous force. More importantly, God is omnipotent—all powerful—and cannot be overthrown.
Jesus said that Satan “[fell] like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). It seems likely that this titanic struggle is what brought about the chaotic and wasted condition of the earth described in Genesis 1:2. As mentioned earlier, God then renewed the surface of the earth in preparation for human habitation, as described in the rest of Genesis 1. Yet to aid His purpose in developing righteous character in human beings, God allowed Satan and his minions to remain on the earth for the time being. Thus Satan was allowed to tempt Adam and Eve in the garden.
The Bible refers to Satan and the other rebellious angels as evil spirits, unclean spirits and demons. They are fallen angels—who had plummeted from their purpose of serving God and humanity (Hebrews 1:13-14), reduced to hatred and bitterness toward God and His holy purpose for humanity.
Causes of humanity’s problems
When we understand the magnitude of Satan’s deception, we can better grasp the roots of so many of humanity’s problems. Collectively we have had thousands of years to experiment with governments, philosophies and ways of living, so why have we been unable to solve our problems? Why do so many difficulties persist year after year, century after century?
Satan has effectively deceived the world throughout history by influencing human beings to cut themselves off from God’s guidance. He has led us into wanting to do things our own way, to rely on ourselves rather than God as the ultimate authority.
Although God is always in ultimate control, the Scriptures make it clear that He is not to blame for the world’s many chronic problems. As Jesus Christ said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
God is not at fault for the misery that plagues our planet. Satan the devil is the true “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11). John tells us that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Again, Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Moreover, Satan’s demonic cohorts also exercise control in this world—even at times powerfully influencing human governments. In the book of Daniel, the righteous angel Gabriel tells Daniel that he had just been fighting, with the help of the archangel Michael, against a powerful spirit personality referred to as “the prince of Persia”—and that he would soon have to fight another he called “the prince of Greece” (Daniel 10:13, 20). (See “Kingdoms at War: Powers of the Unseen World”).
Of course, these are but subordinates under the devil. In an attempt to lead Jesus astray in Matthew 4:8-9, Satan offered “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”—as they were truly under his dominion (compare Luke 4:5-7).
Although we cannot see Satan, his influence is powerful and pervasive. The devil thereby spiritually influences humanity to reject God and God’s law. Under this influence, “the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable do so” (Romans 8:7, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Separated from God, man chooses to go his own way with devastating results. Under Satan’s influence, humanity has rejected God’s revelation and guidance and built societies and civilizations on wrong foundations. But it will not be that way forever!
Satan’s reign will come to an end
Satan will not always dominate planet earth. Bible prophecy reveals that an astounding series of events will shake our world as never before and usher in a new age—a 1,000-year era under the reign of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10; Luke 21:31).
This good news of the coming Kingdom of God is at the heart of Christ’s teaching: “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).
The transition from Satan’s domination of the earth to Jesus Christ’s rule will be neither easy nor painless. The prophet Daniel describes it as “a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then” (Daniel 12:1, NIV).
The world, Christ said, would grow increasingly dangerous as His return nears. “It will be a time of great distress,” He warned, “such as there has never been before since the beginning of the world, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God’s chosen it will be cut short” (Matthew 24:21-22, Revised English Bible).
Satan will not relinquish his kingdom without a fight. As the time of Christ’s return draws near, we can read this sobering warning in Revelation 12:12: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Many prophecies go on to detail a frenzy of destruction directed at God’s Church, at the people of Israel, at humanity as a whole, and at the returning Jesus Christ.
This coming end of Satan’s rule over the world will mark the end of “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). With the battle for control of the earth over, it will at last be time for a new age to begin!
Jesus Christ will usher in a literal kingdom, the Kingdom of God on earth. Notice Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever’” (NIV).
Revelation 21:4 tells us what the world will be like when Satan’s influence is no more: “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (NIV).
Is there really a devil? Yes. Absolutely. And other demons besides. But God assures us the time is coming when Satan, his demons and their works—the physical suffering, misery, mental anguish and mourning they bring—will be no more.
May you have the wisdom, strength and love for God’s truth and His ways to resist Satan’s deceptions and be there to see that wonderful day!