Who is Satan?
Satan or the Devil is often portrayed as some guy in a red suit with horns, a pitchfork, and a tail. This cartoon-like caricature is often mocked as being made up. Is this what Satan looks like? Is he real?
According to the Barna Group, the majority of Christians do not believe that Satan or the devil actually exists. However, according to an AP-AOL news poll, up to 97% of evangelical Christians believe that angels exist. Contrary to the beliefs of many, Satan is not the opposite of God—an anti-god. According to the Bible, Satan is a created being, having been created by God as His most powerful angelic helper. So, Satan is an angel who rebelled against God.
The Bible says that Satan was created by God as a cherub, the most powerful of God’s angelic beings. Sometime after his creation and before the creation of mankind, Satan rebelled against God and took one third of the angels (now referred to as demons) with him into rebellion.
What does Satan look like?
No, Satan does not look like the cartoon character in the red suit with a tail and horns and a pitchfork. Contrary to the beliefs of some Christians, Barak Obama is not Satan. Angels, including Satan, don’t have male or female characteristics in their heavenly state (which Jesus told us through His teaching7). However, when they come to earth, they can take on human form. In the Bible, all angels who take on human form appear as males. All biblical references address Satan by the personal pronoun “he.”
However, in their heavenly state according to the Bible, a cherub is a large creature—up to 18 feet in height with 8 foot long wings. In the prophet Ezekiel’s vision, the cherubim (plural of “cherub”) had four wings. Under their wings were human-like hands that could be used to carry things. All the surfaces of the cherubim, including the wings, were covered with eyes. Each cherub had four faces, one “of a cherub, the second the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.” The New Testament book of Revelation describes similar creatures, only with six wings each, with faces of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. So, these creatures look nothing like the cute little cherubim you can buy for your garden or bookshelf. Satan himself is described as being “perfect in beauty,” being adorned with all kinds of precious stones.
The fall of Satan
Satan was created as a perfect being. He is described as originally being wise and completely righteous. However, pride caused Satan to fall, (“your heart was lifted up because of your beauty”), since he wanted to receive the worship due to God alone. At that point there was rebellion in heaven, when Satan convinced one third of the angels to rebel against God. Michael, an archangel of God, fought with God’s angels against Satan and his angels, with Satan losing the battle and being cast from heaven down to earth. It isn’t certain when Satan rebelled against God, but a passage from the book of Job (Job 38:4-7) suggests it occurred between the creation of the earth and the creation of Adam and Eve. In describing the creation of the earth to Job and his friends, God said that “all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Presumably, “all the sons of God” would have included Satan as well, suggesting he hadn’t rebelled at the point the earth was created.
However, Satan wasn’t finished in his rebellion against God. Satan took on the form of a snake in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve. He managed to convince Eve that God’s instructions against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were done as a way of keeping something good from her. She believed Satan’s lie that she would “become like God.” We don’t know where Adam was at the time of Satan’s temptation, but he followed his wife’s lead and also disobeyed God’s instructions.
Satan’s continued rebellion
Satan continues in his rebellion today, since he hates God and His plans. He wants people to worship him and follow his evil ways. He opposes Jesus Christ—God who took on the form of a man to redeem humanity from their sin, and restore their relationship with Him. A comparison between Jesus and Satan is given in the table below.
Comparison between Jesus and Satan
|Purpose||Lead people to salvation||Lead people into rebellion|
|Methods||Tell people the truth||Tell people lies|
|Followers experience||Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control||Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies|
|Following leads to||Freedom from sin||Enslavement to sin|
Satan’s ultimate fate
The Bible says that Satan will continue in his rebellion against God until the very end. Near the end, a “beast” (world ruler) will arise from the “sea” (the gentile nations), having been given power by Satan to perform signs and wonders for the world. In addition, a false prophet, a religious leader empowered by Satan will deceive people into worshipping him. The beast and the false prophet will convince the leaders of the earth to follow them into war against God and His people. However, the armies of the leaders of the world will be destroyed at the battle of Armageddon and the beast and false prophet will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. At this point, Satan will be locked up for 1,000 years, while Jesus Christ rules the earth with His saints. At the end of that period, Satan is released for a short period of time, deceives the leaders of the world again, and convinces them to attack Jesus and His rule on the earth. The battle is short as fire from heaven consumes the rebels. Satan is then thrown into the Lake of Fire (hell) to “be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Following Satan’s demise, the saints of Jesus Christ will judge the angels who joined him in rebellion.
The apostle John says that believers can overcome Satan when “the word of God abides in you.” When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He cited scripture to him (Matthew 4:1-10). In addition, Paul tells us that the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, is our only offensive weapon against the Satan (Ephesians 6:13-17). In the parable of the sower, Jesus said that there were those who heard the word of God, but failed to take it in, and so were led astray by the devil (the seed that fell by the side of the road). So Christians resist the devil by knowing and memorizing scripture so that we cannot be deceived by the lies of Satan. The Bible gives believers the following instructions about resisting the devil:
- Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
- “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
- In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
- Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Satan is often comically portrayed as a guy in a red devil suit. He probably likes it this way, since most people (including Christians) are apt to disbelieve in his existence. As a “non-existent” force in people’s lives, Satan is free to influence them without being discovered as the cause of many of their problems. However, the Bible says that Satan is a beautiful and powerful fallen angel, who would like to do nothing more than take away the joy of Christians through deception, and lead people into rebellion against God. Although Satan is destined for the Lake of Fire, biblical prophecy indicates that he will deceive entire nations and kingdoms before he is relegated to eternal damnation, along with the other fallen angels he led into rebellion against God.
Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)