In the pragmatic 21st century the devil seems like a fairy-tale character to many, especially as he is typically fancifully depicted with horns, a pointed tail and carrying a pitchfork.
The single dependable source for information about the spirit world is the Bible. Satan and his demons are mentioned from Genesis to Revelation and they are portrayed as the enemies of humanity.
God calls things what they are and the name ‘Satan’ is a Hebrew noun meaning “adversary”— 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 describing this ‘devil’ is translated from the Greek word diabolos and means “an accuser, a slanderer” (W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Devil, Devilish”).
These definitions are backed up by Jesus Christ who tells us Satan is “a liar and the father of it” and that “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). The Apostle John also states in Revelation 12:9 that he “deceives the whole world.”
But where did the devil come from? God had already created the angels before He made the earth as He asked Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me… Who marked off its dimensions? . . . who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).
These verses reveal the angelic world was united and singing in exultation when God created the world, but later the situation dramatically changed. Genesis 1:2 tells us that after its creation, “the earth was without form, and void” or, as the original Hebrew words tohu va-bohu indicate “waste and void” (Young’s Literal Translation). This verse also becomes clearer when the Hebrew word hayah, translated “was,” is properly translated “became,” as it is in Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 19:26. Thus the earth was not created waste and void, but became that way. In Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, Genesis 1:2 appropriately reads, “Now the earth had become waste and empty.”
God then reshaped 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.
We find further information in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.
In Isaiah 14:4 God addresses the “king of Babylon” the despotic ruler of ancient Babylon, but in verse 12 the subject shifts from the physical king to a powerful angelic being: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground...For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;... I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
In Ezekiel 28 God begins again by discussing a human ruler and then shifting to the spiritual power behind the earthly throne. In verse 12 God starts to address “the king of Tyre” rather than the prince. God’s description of this ‘king’ makes it clear He is not speaking to a 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:...You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:12-15).
God did not create the devil, but a magnificent and perfect being with free will. However Satan’s sins of pride and vanity ultimately led him to challenge God for control of the universe! Revelation 12:4 also indicates that a third of the angels followed Satan in this rebellion. The attempted takeover of heaven was, of course, not successful. Christ tells us in Luke 10:18 that He saw Satan “[fall] like lightning from heaven.”
It seems likely 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, described in the rest of Genesis 1.
From that time Satan has effectively deceived the whole world by influencing human beings to cut themselves off from God’s guidance. Starting with Adam and Eve he has led humanity to use the free will God granted them to do things their way, rather than looking to God as the ultimate authority.
Although God is always in ultimate control, Jesus Christ said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” and in II Corinthians 4:4 we are told Satan is the “god of this world’. Under the devil’s influence humanity has rejected God’s revelation and built civilizations on wrong foundations. But it will not be that way forever!
Satan’s reign will come to an end, but the transition 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….” (Daniel 12:1, NIV). In spite of this 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.
The Good News magazine