SATAN / DEMONS

"Who is Satan?"

People's beliefs of Satan range from the silly to the abstract: from a little red guy with horns who sits on your shoulder urging you to sin, to an expression used to describe the personification of evil. The Bible, however, gives us a clear portrayal of who Satan is, and how he affects our lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his position in heaven due to sin and is now diametrically opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God's purposes for humanity.

Satan was created as a holy angel. Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, and was apparently the highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status, and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s pride led to his fall. Notice the many “I will…” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Because of his sin, God threw Satan out of heaven.

Satan became the ruler of this world that functions apart from God, and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3). His very name means adversary or “one who opposes.” Another name used for Satan, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and foment opposition to God's kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God, and those who follow God. However, Satan’s destiny is sealed – an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

"What does the Bible say about demons?"

Revelation 12:9 is the clearest Scripture on the identity of demons, "The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." The Bible indicates that the demons are fallen angels – angels who along with Satan rebelled against God. Satan’s fall from heaven is described in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-15. Revelation 12:4 seems to indicate that Satan took one-third of the angels with him when he sinned. Jude verse 6 mentions angels who sinned. So, it is likely that demons are the angels who followed Satan in sin against God.

Satan and his demons now look to destroy and deceive all those who follow and worship God (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15). The demons are described as evil spirits (Matthew 10:1), unclean spirits (Mark 1:27), and angels of Satan (Revelation 12:9). Satan and his demons deceive the world (2 Corinthians 4:4), attack Christians (2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 5:8), and combat the holy angels (Revelation 12:4-9). Demons are spiritual beings, but they can appear in physical forms (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). The demons / fallen angels are enemies of God – but they are defeated enemies. Greater is He who is in us, than those who are in the world (1 John 4:4).

"How, why, and when did Satan fall from heaven?"

Satan’s fall from heaven is described in Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-18. While these two passages are referring specifically to the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre, they also reference the spiritual power that was behind those kings - Satan. These passages describe why Satan fell, but they do not specifically say when the fall occurred. What we do know is this: the angels were created before the earth (Job 38:4-7). Satan fell before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-14). Satan’s fall, therefore, must have occurred somewhere after the time the angels were created and before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Whether Satan’s fall occurred a few minutes, hours, or days before he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden, Scripture does not specifically say.

The book of Job tells us that, for a time at least, Satan still had access to heaven and to the throne of God. “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). Apparently at that time, Satan was still moving freely between heaven and earth, speaking to God directly and answering for his activities. At what point God discontinued this access is unknown.

Why did Satan fall from Heaven? Satan fell because of pride. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. Notice the many "I will..." statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes Satan as an exceedingly beautiful angel. Satan was likely the highest of all angels, the most beautiful of all of God's creations, but he was not content in his position. Instead, Satan desired to be God, to essentially "kick God off His throne" and take over the rule of the universe. Satan wanted to be God, and interestingly enough, that is what Satan tempted Adam and Eve with in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). How did Satan fall from Heaven? Actually, a fall is not an accurate description. It would be far more accurate to say that God cast Satan out of Heaven (Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:16-17).

"Is there activity of demonic spirits in the world today?"

Ghosts, hauntings, séances, tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystal balls—what do they have in common? They are fascinating to most people because they seem to open the window into a curious and unknown world that lies beyond the limits of our physical existence. And to many, such things seem no more dangerous than opening a window in their homes.

Many that approach these subjects from non-biblical perspectives talk about the existence of ghosts and hauntings by the spirits of dead people who, for whatever reason, have not gone on to the “next stage.” These same people talk about three different kinds of hauntings: (1) residual hauntings (likened to video playbacks with no actual interaction with any spirits); (2) hauntings by human spirits, with those spirits being a combination of good and bad (but not evil), similar in nature to people we meet in life. Some may simply want to get a person’s attention, others may be pranksters, but in either case they do not truly harm people; and (3) interaction with non-human spirits or demons. These demons can sometimes masquerade as well-intentioned human spirits, but they are harmful and dangerous.

When reading material on ghosts and hauntings from such non-biblical sources, it should be remembered that just because an author may refer to the Bible or to Bible characters (such as Michael the archangel), it does not mean they approach the subject from a biblical perspective. When no authority is given for an author’s information, the reader has to ask himself, “How does he/she know this to be so? What is his/her authority?” For example, how does an author know that demons masquerade as well-intentioned human spirits? How does he know that it is good to ask advice from “spirit helpers,” while at the same time it is important not to “invite a spirit to manifest its presence” at a séance because it may be a demon? If demons can masquerade as well-intentioned human spirits, how can one tell whether his spirit helper is telling the truth about its identity or is truly a demon seeking to confuse and deceive? How can one be sure? Ultimately those who address such subjects from non-biblical sources must base their understanding on either their own thoughts, the thoughts of others, and/or the experiences of the past. But based upon their own words (that demons are deceiving and can imitate benevolent human spirits), experiences can be deceiving! Ultimately, if one is to have a right understanding on this subject, he must go to a source that has shown itself to be accurate 100% of the time—God’s Word, the Bible. Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about such things.

The Bible never speaks of hauntings. Rather, when a person dies, the spirit of that person is goes to one of two places. If the person is a true believer (not one who merely knows about Jesus, but one who has established a living relationship with Christ through faith), his spirit is ushered into the presence of Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:8) and he will be reunited with his body (after it has been transformed into an immortal body at the time Christ “snatches” away his own from the coming judgment upon the earth at the time of the rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]). If one is not a believer in Christ and does not have his name written in the Lamb’s book of life, his spirit is put in a place of torment (Luke 16:23-24) called hell, to await his sentencing for his works in what is called the “great white throne judgment.”

At that time he is also reunited with his body and is cast into eternal torment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15). But whether a person is a believer or an unbeliever, there is no returning to our present world to communicate and interact with people, even for the purpose of warning people to flee from the judgment to come (Luke 16:27-31). There are only two recorded incidents in which a dead person interacts with the living. The first is when King Saul of Israel tried contacting the deceased prophet Samuel through a medium (or witch), contrary to God’s command. God allowed Samuel to be disturbed long enough to pronounce judgment upon Saul for his repeated disobedience (1 Samuel 28:6-19). The second incident is when Moses and Elijah interacted with Jesus when he was transfigured in Matthew 17:1-8.

Scripture speaks repeatedly of good and bad angels moving about unseen (Daniel 10:1-21), but also as interacting with living people at different times, even to the point of evil spirits actual possessing people (dwelling within them and controlling them (see Mark 5:1-20, for example). Good angels, on occasion, appear to people as well (Acts 5:17-20; 12:3-11). The four Gospels and the Book of Acts are filled with many incidents of demon possession and of good angels appearing and aiding believers. Angels, both good and bad, can cause unusual natural and supernatural phenomenon to occur (Job 1-2, Revelation 7:1; 8:5; 15:1; 16).

Scripture repeatedly shows that demons know things of which the people around them are apparently unaware (Acts 16:16-18; Luke 4:41). Because these evil angels have been around a long time, they would know facts that those living limited life spans would not. Because Satan has access to God’s throne at the present (Job 1-2), the demons may also be allowed to know some specific events that pertain to the future, but this is speculation.

Scripture speaks repeatedly of Satan being the father of lies and a deceiver (John 8:44; 2 Thessalonians 2:9) and that he also can disguise himself as an angel of light. Likewise, those who follow him, whether human or otherwise, do the same (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Satan and demons have great power (compared to humans) (again see Mark 5:1-20; Acts 19:13-16), even to the point where Michael the archangel trusts only in God’s power when dealing with Satan (Jude 1:9). But Satan’s power is nothing compared to God’s (Acts 19:11-12; Mark 5:1-20, etc.) and God is actually able to use Satan’s evil intent to bring about His good purposes (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7).

God commands us to have nothing to do with anything that smacks of the occult, devil worship, or involvement with the spirit world through the use of mediums, séances, Ouija boards, horoscopes, tarot cards, channeling, etc. He considers all of these an abomination (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Isaiah 8:19-20; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 21:8), and those who involve themselves in such things invite disaster (Acts 19:13-16).

The example set by Scripture in dealing with items that pertain to the occult (books, music, jewelry, games dealing with the occult, and other occult objects) is to confess the involvement with such as sin and burn the items (Acts 19:18-19).

The main source of release from the power of Satan is through salvation through the believing of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 19:18; 26:16-18). And if one will not believe the Word of God, there is no other source of the truth they will believe, even if it came from one who rose from the dead (Luke 16:31). If one attempts to get rid of Satan and his evil angels’ involvement in his life without this, it is futile, as one merely leaves an empty dwelling place for even worse demons to return to in the future (Luke 11:24-26). But when a person comes to Christ for the forgiveness of their sin through His shed blood, the Holy Spirit comes to abide and remain until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). The other main weapon would be simple prayer in total dependence upon God, even as Michael the archangel exemplified in Jude 1:9.

In view of the multitude of passages dealing with involvement of the unseen demonic world with the present world—in contrast with the two recorded incidents involving interaction between the living and those who have died—and considering that the dead cannot visit the living without permission and that permission is not lightly given (Luke 16:27-31), it would seem best to understand ghosts, hauntings, spirit helpers, voices at séances, etc. (besides those which are the mere illusions created by charlatans) as the work of demons. Sometimes these demons may have no intent to conceal their nature, and at other times they may seek to deceive by appearing as human spirits in order to generate credibility for the lies they seek to spread and the confusion they seek to create.

Again, God states it is foolish to try to consult the dead on behalf of the living or to consult with those who say they have an inside track on the future when instead one can actually consult with the wisdom of the living God (Isaiah 8:19-20). And if God considered the occult practices of contacting the spirit world for wisdom or guidance for the future an abomination worthy of judgment in Moses' time (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), then God who does not change considers it so today (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12) and those who ignore this do so to their own hurt. Lastly, again, the largest weapon in God’s arsenal for freeing people from Satan’s kingdom is the good news of Jesus Christ.

"How is Satan god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)?"

The phrase “god of this world” (or “god of this age” [NKJV]) indicates that Satan is the major influence on the mind-set expressed by the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people. His areas of influence also encompass the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions.

Similar titles are found elsewhere in Scripture concerning Satan. Satan is called the "prince of the power of the air" in Ephesians 2:2. He is called the "ruler of this world" in John 12:31. These titles, and many more attributed to Satan throughout Scripture, signify his capabilities. To say, for example, that Satan is the "prince of the power of the air" is to signify that in some way he rules over the world and the people in it.

This is not to say that he rules the world completely; only God does this. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world (within the boundaries God has set for him) and has allowed Satan to operate with an agenda. When the Bible says Satan has power over the world, it must be made clear that God has given him domain over unbelievers alone. Believers are no longer under the rule of Satan (Colossians 1:13). Unbelievers, on the other hand, are caught "in the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:26), lie in the "power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), and are in bondage to Satan (Ephesians 2:2).

So, when the Bible says that Satan is the "god of this world," it is not saying that he has ultimate authority. It is conveying the idea that Satan rules over the unbelieving world in a specific way. In the case of 2 Corinthians 4:4, the unbeliever follows Satan's agenda. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4, the "god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." Satan's agenda includes pushing a false philosophy onto the unbelieving world—a false philosophy that blinds the unbeliever from the truth of the Gospel. Satan’s philosophies are the fortresses in which people are imprisoned, needing to be set free and brought captive to Christ in obedience to the truth.

An example of a false philosophy might be a belief that man can earn God's favor by a certain act or acts. In fact, earning eternal life is a predominate theme around the world. Earning God's favor by works, however, is contrary to biblical revelation. Man cannot work to earn God's favor; eternal life is a free gift (see Ephesians 2:8-9). And that free gift is available through Jesus Christ and Him alone (John 3:16; 14:6). You may ask why does mankind simply not receive the free gift that enables them to truly be called children of God (John 1:12)? The answer is that Satan—the god of this world—pushes a false philosophy onto the world. Satan sets the agenda, the unbelieving world follows, and mankind continues to be deceived. It is no wonder that Scripture calls Satan a liar (John 8:44).

"God vs. Satan - if God is all-powerful, why does He not just kill Satan?"

One of the mysteries of the Christian life is why God didn’t just destroy Satan immediately after he sinned. We know that God will one day annihilate Satan once and for all by throwing him into the Lake of Fire where he will be tortured day and night forever (Revelation 20:10), but sometimes we wonder why God has not destroyed Satan already. Perhaps we will never know God’s reasoning in this particular situation, but we do know certain things about Him.

First, we know He is absolutely sovereign over all creation, and this includes Satan, who is “on a very short leash.” Certainly, Satan and his demons wreak havoc in the world, but they are only allowed to go so far and no farther. We also know that God has planned everything from the beginning of time to the end. Nothing can thwart His plans, and things are proceeding exactly on schedule. “The LORD of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand’” (Isaiah 14:24).

Second, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Whatever God has planned for Satan, that plan will be the best one possible, resulting in God’s perfect wrath and justice being satisfied and His perfect righteousness being glorified. Those who love Him and who wait for His plan to be fulfilled will be thrilled to be part of that plan and will praise and glorify Him as they see it unfold.

Third, we know that calling into question God’s plan and its timing is to call into question God Himself, His judgment, His character and His very nature. It is not wise to question His right to do exactly as He pleases. The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). Whatever plan comes from the mind of the Almighty is the best plan possible. It is true that we can’t expect to understand that mind perfectly, as He reminds us: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will, whether we understand it or not. In the case of His timing for Satan’s demise, it has to be the best possible plan because it is God’s plan.