Question: "Who is Satan in the Bible?"
Answer: Satan is described in the Bible as an angelic enemy of God and, by extension, the enemy and opponent of those who follow God. Although everything God created was good (Genesis 1:31), Satan chose to rebel against the Lord, and many other angels followed his rebellion (Ezekiel 28:15; Isaiah 14:12–17). Satan tempted Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden, and Adam followed her into sin, plunging the whole human race into a curse (Genesis 3:16–19; Romans 5:12). Pictured as a serpent and dragon in the Bible (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9), Satan is a murderer and the father of lies. He promotes false doctrines and craftily seeks to keep unbelievers in spiritual bondage (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14; 1 Timothy 4:1).
There are many things said in the Bible about Satan, but it is important to also establish what is not said about him. There are many misconceptions regarding the devil, including the following:
• Satan is not a personal being, but rather is only a force of evil.
• He is equal to God, thus creating a form of dualism.
• He resides in and is the ruler of hell.
• He can do whatever he pleases.
• He is omnipresent.
• He received a ransom from Jesus when Jesus died on the cross.
All these views are wrong and are not found in Scripture. False ideas about Satan come from a variety of sources. For instance, the belief that the devil is equal to God and is His opposite comes from the dualism in Zoroastrianism. The belief that Jesus died to pay a ransom to the devil was theorized by Origen. John Milton’s Paradise Lost, not the Bible, describes Satan as the king of hell (I:261–263).
Concerning Satan, the Bible gives the following information:
• Satan is a personal being, with a mind, emotions, and a will (Job 1; Matthew 4:1–12).
• He is a created being and is not equal to God (Ezekiel 28:15).
• Satan does not rule hell. Hell was created as a punishment for Satan and his demons (Matthew 25:41). Neither does Satan live in hell, as the Bible describes how he can enter heaven and roam the earth (Job 1:6–7).
• The devil can only do what God allows (Job 1:12).
• Satan is not omnipresent. But he does oversee a horde of demons, called “the powers of this dark world and . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). He uses this network to tempt and deceive people.
• He actively works to nullify the effect of the Word of God in people’s hearts (Matthew 13:3–4, 19), and he blinds the intellect of those who do not believe so they cannot understand the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The Bible describes how Christians should be mindful of the schemes of Satan: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Believers must resist him soberly, vigilantly, and steadfastly, aware of the reality of his plans to tempt us to make us unfruitful for the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:11). When tempted, the believer should submit himself to the Lord and resist the devil, and Satan will flee (James 4:7).
In addition to being a tempter, Satan is also “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10, ESV). He enjoys listing the many sins of believers, but the Lord Jesus, our Advocate, defeats the accusations because He has paid the price for our sins (1 John 2:1–2). Christians can be confident of their salvation because Jesus has done the work for us through His death and resurrection (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Satan is described as the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and has dominion over the world and its system (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19), but his authority will not last forever. During the tribulation, the devil will deceive the masses and raise up for himself the Antichrist, who will rule for seven years (Revelation 13:5–8). Since Satan has always wanted people to worship him as God, this will be a part of his deception as well, since many will worship Satan at that time (Revelation 13:4). He will also attempt to destroy the remnant of Israel but will not be successful (Revelation 12:13–16). At the end of the tribulation, Jesus will return, destroy the Antichrist and false prophet, and imprison Satan for 1,000 years (Revelation 19:19–20; 20:1–3). After that time, Satan will be released and will lead one last rebellion (Revelation 20:7–9); then Satan will finally be thrown into the lake of fire, forever to be tormented for his rebellion and works of evil (Revelation 20:10). The dominion of Satan over the world may seem unassailable, but the devil cannot withstand the power of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.