Who is Satan?

Two extremes are often taken when discussing issues related to Satan and demons.  First, some think that Satan is not real and that demons do not exist.  In our modern world, the idea of the existence of demons may seem primitive and even unenlightened. Science can find physical relationships to most problems; therefore, many assume that none are related to demonic activity.  The second extreme is to associate most every conflict or problem directly to demons or the devil.  To error on this side gives too much credit to the devil and creates curiosity and interest in darkness. This error arises from a misunderstanding of Satan’s activities and how he operates with his demonic forces.

The Adversary

The first time we see a reference to the devil is in the Garden of Eden.  Here Satan is simply referred to as “the serpent”(Gen 3:1). Later, however, the name Satan is given to him in the book of Job.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.  The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”

(Job 1:6-7)

Satan is the Hebrew word for adversary or opponent.  Several times in the Old Testament he is referred to as opposing or accusing God’s people (Job 1:7; 2:7; I Chron 21:1; Zech 3:1). In the New Testament we see many names given to him as the leader of the dark forces or fallen angels.

  • The devil (Matthew 4:1)
  • The ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30)
  • The prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2)
  • The evil one (Matthew 16:11)
  • Satan (Matthew 16:23)
  • The serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3)
  • The tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)
  • The accuser (Revelation 12:10)
  • Be-elzebul (dung-god) (Matthew 10:25; 12:24)

All of these names reflect some portion of his activities. He is called the tempter not only because of his original temptation of Eve and the temptation of Christ, but he still operates that way against God’s people.  He is known as the accuser of the Christians because he attempts to condemn and tear down what Christ’s grace has built in your life.  Satan’s goal is to get you to turn from God in order to hinder your progress.  This is done through lies, murder, persecution, deception, confusion, or all manner of sin in which he can involve you.  Satan will at times bring physical calamity, as in the life of Job, to attempt to turn God’s people away from the truth.  He will try every scheme to accomplish his goal.

The Bible tells us that Satan was the original murderer, liar, and sinner.

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  (John 8:44)

. . .the devil has been sinning from the beginning. (I John 3:8)

Satan’s Limited Power

God has limited Satan and his demons in their ability and authority.  Satan’s authority is relegated to operate in the realm of darkness.  This limits his means of operation.  That is why he must work through deception and temptation.  In order to get a hold of you, he must bring you into sinful patterns or doubt and unbelief.  This is his only hope to combat God’s work in your life.  That is why he is called the “ruler of darkness”(Eph 6:12).

Not only is Satan’s ability real, it is also restricted. When Moses went before Pharaoh’s court, God allowed several miracles to be accomplished before Pharaoh.  On three different occasions Pharaoh called for his sorcerers and soothsayers to perform the same acts. They were able to duplicate three of these acts. When Aaron’s rod became a serpent, Pharaoh’s soothsayers threw down their staffs, and their staffs became serpents as well. They were able to turn water into blood and brought forth frogs upon the land just like God’s miracles through Moses and Aaron.  However, in the forth miracle when Aaron stretched out his rod and lice come forth upon all of Egypt, they tried the same feat with their secret arts but could not (Ex 7:11). They found their power limited and finally acknowledged God. Satan is capable of performing certain mystical acts to entice those who are spiritually hungry. He has done this through false religions and practices of witchcraft and sorcery.

In the story of Job, because he was an upright man, God limited Satan actions in what he could do to Job.  What Satan was not given permission to do, he could not do (Job 1:12; 2:6). God has always limited Satan, but Christ’s death dissolved the deeds of the devil and gave individual believers the power over him (1 John 3:8; Heb 2:14). Any authority that Satan had over man was lost when Jesus, as a man (last Adam), defeated Satan and overcame him through His life and death.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

(Colossians 2:15)

Before He went to the cross, Jesus was showing His disciples the type of authority He had given to them.  He sent them out to heal the sick and tell of the kingdom of God.  They returned announcing that even the demons were subject to them.  Jesus declared, “            I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you”(Luke 10;19).

Jesus explained His superior power was through the Spirit of God.

But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.              “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. (Matthew 12:28-29)

Jesus “tied up” or bound Satan at the cross. Satan was legally defeated; however, he is not prevented from operating through deception. That is why it is so crucial for you as a disciple to learn to overcome the devil. Christ has done that legally; now you are called to follow his example.

About the Author:

Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.

Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.

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