Satan is a figure from the Bible who has entered into popular culture. He is often pictured as a red, humanlike creature with horns, a tail and carrying a pitchfork. The ruler of Hades and the demon hordes. The tormentor of lost souls.
In our modern culture, satan is more of a cartoon character than a real entity. But the Bible is clear that Satan is real and is the enemy of God’s people. But where Satan came from is shrouded in mystery, and the Bible does not have a great deal to say about it. This article will examine what it does say, along with his purpose in creation.
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Satan’s Ultimate Origin
Where does Satan come from? Some have proposed that the power of evil, symbolized by Satan, is an eternal principle of the universe that is contending with God for power and authority over the universe. But this is contrary to what we see described in the Bible, where God is omnipotent and sovereign over all things.
The Bible itself does not explicitly describe the origin of Satan, but it does so implicitly. In Colossians 1:16 Paul says that in Christ “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” The “all things” here includes things in heaven and things invisible. And the expression “thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities” is frequently used to describe spiritual beings – at least some of whom are in opposition to God and his people (Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 2:15, 1 Pet. 3:22). Like all of creation, Satan was created by and for God through the agency of Jesus. And Satan is under Christ’s authority. Satan is not an eternal entity free to do whatever he wants.
Was Satan, like Adam, created good and then fell? Or was he created to be what he is now? Scripture indicates that there were angels who fell from their place and into rebellion against God. Both Jude 1:6 and 2 Peter 2:4 mention angels who abandoned their positions of authority and fell. These are angels who are now kept in chains and darkness, awaiting judgement. It is not hard to image Satan being one of those who abandoned their position of authority in rebellion against God. He may or may not be bound now, but certainly his influence is widely felt in the world today.
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Potential Old Testament Mentions of Satan by Isaiah and Ezekiel
There are two passages from the Old Testament that are frequently used to describe the fall of Satan. There are some who see Satan described in these two passages, and some who see human rulers described. Isaiah 14:12-15 describes the morning star (which is the origin of the name Lucifer) being cast from heaven. He had sought to raise his throne over the stars of God, becoming like God himself.
While it is appealing to apply this to Satan, it is in the midst of a prophecy against the king of Babylon. And what is described here would not be out of line for what an empire ruler of that day would claim for himself. It seems best to me to see this passage, like what surrounds it, as applying to the human king of Babylon rather than to Satan. But, as expressed earlier, there are many who see Satan described here, and it is certainly possible.
In Ezekiel 28:11-19 we find a lament against the king of Tyre. This prophecy is in the midst of many others against the nations surrounding Israel. But Ezekiel invests more words on Tyre than on any other. Chapters 26 and 27 are against Tyre itself. The first 10 verses of chapter 28 are against the ruler of Tyre. And then this passage against the king of Tyre.
Given the distinction between the ruler of Tyre and the king of Tyre, and what is said about the king of Tyre, it is popular to see this king as being the one who we have come to know as Satan. He is described as the guardian cherub who was in Eden and was blameless, until wickedness was found in him, and he was driven from the mount of God.
Like the Isaiah passage, commentators are divided as to whether or not this passage in Ezekiel is a look at Satan’s fall. But it is in line with what Peter and Jude said about angels abandoning their positions of authority in rebellion against God.
The tenth chapter of Daniel may shed some light on this. In this chapter Daniel saw a vision that caused him to mourn for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks an angel came to him and explained that the delay in coming to him was because the prince of Persia had resisted him, until Michael, one of the chief princes came to his aid. This prince of Persia resisting the angel was certainly not a human prince. It would seem to be a fallen angel who was the secret power behind the human ruler of Persia. And this may be the same relationship between the ruler of Tyre and the king of Tyre.
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References to Satan in Extrabiblical Books: First Enoch
The book of First Enoch is not considered as canonical by most Christians, but it was widely read by the early church, and it does appear to be where Jude draws his reference to the angels who abandoned their place. Chapters six through ten of First Enoch closely mirror Genesis 6:1-8, especially verses two and four.
These chapters from First Enoch describe the Sons of God in Genesis as fallen angels, or Watchers. And they had sexual relations with human women to produce the giant Nephilim. It is not clear from Genesis that these ‘Sons of God’ were angels, nor that the Nephilim were their offspring. But that has clearly been a popular way of understanding it. While First Enoch does not mention Satan by name in connection with this fall, he is widely thought to have been a part of it.
Satan’s Appearances in Revelation
Revelation has a lot to say about Satan, although it is challenging to fully understand all of the symbolism that is described. Revelation 12:7-9 describes a war in heaven between Michael and his angels against the Dragon and his angels. This Dragon is generally considered to be Satan. In this battle, Satan is defeated and cast from heaven and goes to the earth in a rage, making war on those serving God.
When this battle takes place is unclear, at least to me. But what seems clear, especially considering the passages already mentioned, is that Satan is in rebellion against God. That he has been cast from heaven. And that he is now the sworn enemy of God’s people.
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Satan’s Place in God’s Creation
The Scripture is clear that Satan is a created spiritual being, that at least some angels have rebelled against God’s rule, that Satan is a leader in that rebellion, and that he is the adversary (1 Pet. 5:8) of God’s people. But I believe it is important to realize that the omniscient sovereign God was not surprised by this state of affairs. And I would go so far as to say that it was a part of God’s sovereign plan from the beginning.
1 Peter 1:3-9 suggests that the trying of our faith serves a useful purpose in proving the genuineness of our faith. If that is true, and I believe it is, then the role Satan fills, as an adversary, is an essential one. Is Satan in rebellion against God? I believe so. But he is filling the role that God intended for him to have. Without the challenges, and sometimes suffering, that we experience, we would not grow in maturity. It is the difficulties in life that we face that cause us to focus on what is more important. So, while we may not like what Satan does, in the end, what he does is to our benefit.
I do not mean to suggest that Satan is a helpless pawn in God’s hands. His choice to rebel seems to have been freely made, just like mine. And he will suffer the consequences of his rebellion. But Satan, even as he works against God’s plan, is helping to accomplish God’s purpose in creation.
Satan’s fate seems to be little different than that of humans who are in rebellion against God. His end, according to Revelation 20:10, is to be cast into the Lake of Fire, facing eternal torment. Satan is a defeated foe, and his doom is certain. He knows that his time is short (Rev. 13:12) and is working overtime in a losing effort to disrupt God’s purpose in creation.
Clearly there is much about Satan that we do not know. But what we have clearly revealed in Scripture is what God wanted us to know. We have a powerful adversary who is at war against our Lord and his followers. But that adversary is no match for Christ and is a defeated enemy. If we will be faithful to our Lord, we have nothing to fear from Satan. So, take your stand against him and you will emerge victorious from the battle (Eph. 6:10-17).
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Ed Jarrett is a long-time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of three. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.