In our day, there is a renewed interest in Satan. Hollywood has given us movies like The Exorcist and The Omen, along with a legion of other shows to whet every movie watcher’s appetite for the occult. Even in some Christian circles, there has been a renewed interest in ministries of deliverance. Let’s now explore what the Bible says about this subject.
What Does the Bible Say about the Devil?
While the Bible is silent on the subject of the exact timeline of when the Lord created angels, what is known for sure is that the Lord created everything good because He is holy. When Satan, who was once the angel Lucifer, rebelled against God, he fell immediately from heaven (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28).
When Satan fell, one-third of the angelic host joined him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:3-4, 9). These angels who fell with Satan are now known as demons. The first to rebel was Satan, who was promptly thrown out of heaven along with myriads of angels who followed his lead. The Bible says they “did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling” (Jude 6). This is in contrast to “the elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21) who were given the grace to remain sinless.
We should note that in comparison to humanity, which fell in its representative head (Adam), each apostate angel fell by his own choice.
Satan is mentioned more frequently than all other evil angels combined. Twenty-nine times Satan is referred to in the Gospels, and of those twenty-nine, Jesus spoke of him twenty-five times.
- Satan is “the prince of the demons” (Matthew 12:24), who rules the evil spirits that inhabit the cosmos.
- Satan is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), exercising authority in the ordered system of all things opposed to the knowledge and plans of God.
- Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), which includes all the unsaved and all the fallen angels.
- Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), meaning those in the world who reject the Creator and serve their master, Satan.
Scripture refers to Satan fifty-two times. He is described as “Satan” or adversary or opposer. Thirty-five times Scripture refers to Satan as the Devil - “accuser or “slanderer.” Here are some of the mentions in the Bible that describe Satan:
- The evil one (John 17:15)
- A roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).
- Abaddon (destroyer, Revelation 9:11).
- A great red dragon (Revelation 12:3).
- That ancient serpent (Revelation 12:9).
Such descriptions of Satan help readers understand the influence he cleverly wields to the end of evil and destruction as he rules as the leader of lesser spirits under his control.
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What Does the Devil Do?
Satan is 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 of his titles, 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 encourage 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).
Are Demons Real?
Jesus exercised authority, but he exercised it all the same way by his word. How did he exercise his teaching authority? By speaking an authoritative word. How did he exercise his authority over demons? By merely rebuking them. How did he exercise his authority over disease? He did it the same way: by telling the fever to come out. Words may not seem very powerful, but when they come from God, they have the power to transform people’s lives, to triumph over supernatural evil, and to overturn the effects of illness. The words of Jesus carry supreme divine authority over creation and all the powers of hell.
Some of them noticed how he exercised this power (Luke 4:36–37). This is how the gospel spreads: by word of mouth, from person to person. When we see what Jesus can do, we want others to know about it to see for themselves. In this case, people not only saw his power, but they also saw how he exercised it: by speaking his word. Just as God once spoke the universe into being, so Jesus spoke, and it was so. Here was a clear demonstration of his divine power. He spoke his words with the very authority of God.
Even if some people did not recognize the source of this authority, the demons certainly did. They knew exactly what they were up against, which is why they cried out against it. This happened at the synagogue, where the demon “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God’” (Luke 4:33–34). Jesus provoked a similar response at the end of the day when he was healing the sick: “And demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’” (Luke 4:41).
These demons knew who Jesus was, and it terrified them. The Bible says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And as Jesus began to do this devil-destroying work, the demons recoiled in terror. They were filled with unholy dread, shuddering at the power of his mighty word (James 2:19). There is no good news for the demons. Jesus has no gospel to save them but will only condemn them to hell.
Therefore, the demons asked if Jesus had come to destroy them. They knew that he was the Holy One of God, and they hated him for it. No doubt, this explains why Jesus told them to be quiet. This happened at the synagogue, where he said to the demon, “Be silent and come out of him!” (Luke 4:35). It happened again at Peter’s house, where Jesus rebuked the demons “and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ” (Luke 4:41).
Jesus did not want the demons to be the ones saying His deity. Jesus hardly needed the servants of hell to declare his true identity. When they said that he was “the Son of God,” they were not saying it for his glory, but for a wicked purpose. What matters is not merely knowing that Jesus is the Son of God, but also worshipping him as the Son of God. Yet, these demons were not worshiping Jesus at all. They were not treating him with reverence and respect. Instead, they were causing a commotion.
This is the violent conflict that the word of Christ always brings. Some people believe it by faith and begin to share it so that others can be saved. But the demons hate it—they hate it. There is nothing they hate more than God’s word, whether it comes from Christ himself or one of his servants. They know its holy power, and for that very reason, they cry out in fear against it.
Indeed, this explains why nothing in the world arouses so much spiritual opposition as does the proclamation of biblical truth. Anyone who shares the gospel of Jesus Christ can expect to face opposition and even hatred. And any church that takes a stand for God and his Word can expect to face the same. The devil hates the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he will stop at nothing in his ferocious and ultimately futile attempt to destroy them.
As we preach the Word of God, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit makes it the power of salvation to those who believe. And there is nothing the devil or any of his demons can say to stop it.
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Should Christians Be Afraid of the Devil?
The Apostle Peter was one who underestimated Satan and his wiles. Jesus warned Peter beforehand about his impending betrayal, but Peter said in Luke 22:33, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Peter was overconfident and didn’t understand the strength of Satan. Moments before Jesus warned about the strength of Satan, Peter rejected the warning, and Jesus said in Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31).
Peter became putty in Satan's hands, for it was as easy for Satan to seduce Peter as it was to sift wheat in a sieve. With all that said, Satan’s power over Peter and the people of God are limited. Satan may be stronger than we are, but we have Jesus who defeated death and the grave and put an open shame to Satan’s plans in the Cross (Colossians 2:15).
1 John 4:4 says, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When the roaring lion Satan comes to deceive, Christians are to resist him in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Satan sifted Peter, but his victory over Peter was only temporary. With the warning Jesus gave, also came the teaching in Luke 22:32, “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus both predicted the fall and restoration of Peter.
Christians today are not to underestimate Satan and need to understand that pride goes before destruction. To overestimate Satan is to grant him more honor and respect than he deserves, for Satan is a created being and, as such, is finite and limited and subordinate to God.
Test Everything against Scripture
John in 1 John 4:1 instructs his believing readers they are not to believe every prophet or spirit that comes their way. In succeeding verses in 1 John, John gives specific tests that help his readers and the people of God today to determine the orthodoxy of teachers with the Incarnation. In providing the test of the Incarnation, John is not saying that the Incarnation exhausts orthodoxy. It is possible to believe in the Incarnation and hold errant views on justification, such as the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy does. John is focused here on the Incarnation because he was combatting this teaching in 1 John.
The Incarnation is critical to the Christian faith, and so we must test all spirits against the teaching of Scripture. Whatever our Pastor or a Bible teacher is teaching must be verified with Scripture. The Bereans in Acts 17 were commended because they tested what Paul taught with the Scripture. We must always confirm whatever our pastor or a Bible teacher says according to their faithfulness to the whole counsel of God.
The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:14 warns the Corinthians Satan masquerades as an angel of light. Satan is a deceiver and will hide in the local church, influencing teachers to deny the Word of God. Sound biblical doctrine comes from the Word of God, which is why every Christian is to read, study, and grow in their handling of the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). Every Christian is to be a Berean so they can test the spirits and grow in the grace of God.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.