Is Satan Real?
Is Satan Real?
Several years ago, after teaching a Bible class on the book of Genesis, a longtime Christian indicated to me that he did not believe in the reality of Satan. This gentleman acknowledged the existence of good and evil, but he thought that “Satan” was simply a word used in Scripture to describe evil, rather than refer to an actual wicked being.
It is true that Satan is evil. (Have you ever noticed that you cannot spell “devil” without spelling “evil”?) He tempts, deceives, destroys, lies, murders, etc. But, he is not merely a word used by the Holy Spirit and His inspired penmen to symbolize evil; he is, as Jesus and Paul referred to him, “the evil one” (Matthew 6:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3, emp. added). He is not just wickedness; he is “the wicked one” (1 John 3:12, emp. added). He does not merely represent dishonesty; “he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Although Satan is not deity and in no way has the infinite, eternal attributes of God, the devil is as real as God. That is, the same God-inspired book that describes the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omni-benevolent, glorious Creator, also tells us about a real, fallen spiritual being called Satan. His name appears 14 times in the first two chapters of Job (perhaps the oldest book of the Bible). Scripture reveals that God confronted Satan in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14-16). Jesus spoke to him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). And Michael the archangel contended with him about the body of Moses (Jude 9).
Satan is not a fairytale character on par with the Big Bad Wolf or Captain Hook. He is not a little red cartoon figure with horns and a pitchfork who gleefully sits on a throne in hell (see Butt, 2012). The sooner that Christians take seriously “the adversary” (Satan), “the accuser” (devil), who goes “to and fro on the earth…walking back and forth” (Job 1:7), “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), the better prepared we will be to withstand his schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and snares (2 Timothy 2:26). We should neither underestimate him nor overestimate him. He is not deity (and thus not all-powerful or all-knowing), but he is also not a figment of our imagination. Unlike God, he desires all men to be lost (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). Thankfully, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Butt, Kyle (2012), “Satan is Not the Ruler of Hell,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1026.