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Questions About Satan

satan

What is his real name?

We don’t really know of any formal name. He is called many informal names, which are derived from his character (Satan, “the evil one,” the devil, etc.). Some believe his name is “Lucifer.” This name is unfortunate. It comes from the Latin translation of “morning star” found in Isaiah 14:12-15. Some believe this passage describes the fall of Satan; however, this is hotly debated, as the context does not really suggest as much. The association seems to have been popularized in the intertestamental period through the books of Enoch. Unfortunately, the King James Version, following this popularization, actually uses the term “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12-15. Most modern translations have corrected that. So we don’t really know any formal name for Satan.

Can he read minds?

There is no reason to believe that Satan has the power to read minds. He is not omniscient (he does not know everything). While his power is greater than ours (relatively speaking), his power is very limited.

Where is he?

We don’t know. I imagine that he has never been in your room, seen your house, or taken a ride with you in your car. He probably does not even know your name. Remember, he is not omnipresent (everywhere) or transcendent (above time and space). Being a created being existing in our universe, he is spatially limited just like us. Therefore, he is only in one place at time. I don’t know how fast he travels or his mode of transporation. I don’t know if he walks, runs, flies, or hitches a ride on a car. I just know that he is not everywhere.

Where does he live?

I doubt he has a “home” or a regular habitation. One thing we can say for sure is that he does not live in hell. Popular thought frequently holds that he lives in hell or is the ruler of hell. This is simply false. Hell is not his. In fact, he has never been there and does not want to go there any more than you or I do. Hell, as we often think of it, has not even been created yet. It is a post-judgment habitation. However, hell will one day be his eternal dwelling, as it will all other demons and unbelievers (Rev. 20:14).

Was he an angel?

This is what I was taught and I suppose I believe it. But I don’t know for certain if it is true. I don’t even know what angels are, since the term “angel” does not really refer to a particular species. Remember, angels do not procreate, so they have no physical relationships the way humans do (at least I think). The reason we sometimes call Satan a “fallen angel” is due to a supposed double-referent interpretation of Isaiah 14:1-14. But, again, there is no definitive reason why we must believe this passage refers to anyone other than the king of Babylon. Revelation 12:3-4 may be of some support here. It speaks of the Dragon who swept a third of the “stars” of heaven to the earth. Could this be Satan and other angels who “fell” in a great rebellion? Maybe, but again, it is hard to be sure. God was just not too interested in letting us know so many of the details we want to know about angels, demons, and Satan.

Can he take human or animal form?

It seems that Satan took the form of a serpent in Genesis 3. Therefore, he may be able to take the form of other animals. However, it is greatly debated whether Genesis 3 is to be taken literally. He may be able to take on the form of a man as it seems happened with other angels in Genesis 6. However, again, it is greatly debated who the “sons of God” were in this chapter so we cannot be definitive.

What does he look like?

We don’t know. One thing we do know is that he does not have horns or a tail and he is not red. However he looks, he is probably not the monstrous looking figure that popular culture has made him out to be. I imagine that he, in his natural form, is or was very beautiful. However, this we know: if he ever presents himself to a human, he will be in his best form. After all, he presents himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), not an angel of darkness.

Does he think he will win?

This is a question that has perplexed me all my life. Why does he do what he does? After all, he has read the Bible! He knows the end! Does he think he’ll find a loophole? Why did he try to stop Christ? Did he really think it was possible for Christ to worship him? (Matt. 4:9). Crazy questions that I don’t have the answer to. Maybe the noetic effects of sin have just really messed up his mind to such a degree that he does think his rebellion could eventually pay off.

Why did he tempt Christ to turn stone into bread?

This is an interesting question. In Matthew 4:3, Satan tempts Christ to turn a stone into bread. Why? It does seem odd. Here we have the cosmic evil meeting his arch-enemy, and what is his first stab at temptation? To turn a stone into bread to satisfy his hunger. Some will say that he was trying to make Jesus break his fast. Big deal. Like breaking a fast is a cosmic sin. I think it was more than this. I think Satan was trying to get Christ to give in to his base instincts to break the rules of the incarnation. You see, Christ had to be like us in every way. And since we cannot turn stones into bread when we get hungry, neither could Christ. Satan was trying to get Christ to draw upon his omnipotence (power) to satisfy his human need to eat. Had Christ done it, we would not have had a representative on that cross. Satan was trying to get Christ to forfeit the incarnation.

When was he created? 

We don’t know. It could have been before the creation of this universe, at the same time, or sometime after. It would seem to me, however, that Satan and all the angels were created in and with this universe. If so, God is no longer creating these angels, as he has rested from all creation. If not, then there is no reason to think that angels are not still being created (albeit, not indirectly through procreation like we are).

When did he fall?

This we don’t know either. But it was sometime before Genesis 3.

Is he God’s evil equal?

Not even close. Satan is a creation of God. He is not God’s cosmic equal. God has complete power over Satan just as he does over us. As the book of Job illustrates, Satan can only do what God allows him to do.

20 Responses to “Questions About Satan”

  1. Chris Echols 2013-02-18 at 2:54 am

    “Very little was heard of Lucifer on [Earth] owing to the fact that he assigned his first lieutenant, Satan, to advocate his cause on your planet. Satan was a member of the same primary group of Lanonandeks but had never functioned as a System Sovereign; he entered fully into the Lucifer insurrection. The “devil” is none other than Caligastia, the deposed Planetary Prince of Urantia (Earth) and a Son of the secondary order of Lanonandeks. At the time [Jesus] was on [Earth] in the flesh, Lucifer, Satan, and Caligastia were leagued together to effect the miscarriage of his bestowal mission. But they signally failed.” -The Urantia Book 53:1.4

  2. Your thoughts on the person of Satan are helpful and clarifying, particularly in regards to his non-omniscience, non-omnipresence, etc. Still, a few corrective notes:

    First, on the question of whether he was an angel, though indeed, we can’t know for sure, we can make the relatively safe guess that he was, given passages like Job 1-2, Luke 10:18, etc., not to mention the positions of theologians of note like Augustine, Calvin, etc. To suppose that he was not an angel requires us to posit some kind of tertium quid between angels and humans: an idea not even vaguely supportable in Scripture.

    Second, with regards to the question of whether he thinks he can win, it seems naive to suppose that he really believes there is any hope for him. It seems much more believable that, knowing he has no hope of winning, he continues to fight against God and his kingdom out of sheer hatred. Hatred of God is the breeding ground of illogical actions.

    Third, while there are many ways to interpret the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, and the view presented here is just as weighty as others, there is at least one other important factor to take into consideration. When Satan speaks to Jesus in Matthew 4, the very first thing he says is, “If you are the Son of God….” Having come directly from his baptism where God himself had identified him as his beloved Son, Jesus is clearly facing the temptation to doubt the revealed word of God. It is a recapitulation of the Fall in Genesis 3, where Satan also tempted God’s image-bearers to doubt his goodness and his word.

    Fourth, in regards to the timing of Satan’s own fall, it is by no means a certainty that he fell before the temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. In fact, there are some interpretative traditions that see the temptation itself as the effective fall of Satan. This was (perhaps) his first act of rebellion against God. In any case, we cannot say for certain.

  3. Whatever his true power is and whatever form he takes…make no mistake about it…he’s after us.

    One of his greatest coups was to make people think that he really doesn’t exist.

  4. It would most certainly appear from Scripture, that Satan (Satanas), a Greek form derived from the Aramaic (Heb., Satan), an adversary, is used of an angel of Jehovah in Num. 22: 22 (the first occurrence of the word in the O.T.); but in the NT however the word is always used of Satan, the adversary of both God and Christ. All of the Lexicons point to this reality!

    St. Paul speaking of false apostles and deceitful workman, men who are “disguising themelves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11: 13-14, etc.) Here, as in Rev. 12, who is called “a great red dragon” (verse 3), “that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole earth.” (verse 12: 9) This being and so-called personage, could be no other than a great “spirit”! Whom the Jewish leaders called “Beelzebub”, the chief of the fallen angels. And it would appear that the devil and his evil spirits are pure spiritual beings who have lost none of their powers except supernatural grace. But Jesus has power and authority over the devil and his demons, as the Messiah, and Christ of God!

    Btw, I like this statement from Vatican II about Adam and man, “Although he was made by God in a state of holiness, from the very dawn of history man abused his liberty, at the urging of personified Evil. Man set himself against God and sought to find fulfillment apart from God. Although he knew God, he did not glorify Him as God, but his senseless mind was darkened and he served the creature rather than the Creator.” (GS 13)

    Finally, ‘The name “devil” comes from the Latin through the Greek language, and means “one who throws something against.” But the devil is one who “acuses falsely” or “judges”. He is a liar & the father of lies! (John 8: 44) The Battle is in the Word!

    Surely the Apostolic Church knew this reality of a personified Evil! In St. Paul, Eph. 6: 11-12, etc., 1 Peter 5:8-9, and John’s…

  5. Marc Taylor 2013-02-18 at 5:36 pm

    Some people believe that when praying to God about things such as personal struggles with sin that they find extremely difficult to stop doing that it is to be spoken/prayed to God silently (since only He can know the totality of the human heart) for if spoken audibly Satan and/or his diabolical legion would be able to know and hone in even more on that person with this sin.

    Any thoughts?

  6. About being tempted by stones into bread, it’s usually the small things that tempt us the most, the things that seem like they would be fairly harmless, things nobody would even have to know about. Jesus’s temptations, in the desert and later in the garden, all appear to revolve around what kind of Messiah he is going to be. Is he going by the easy way, the way of earthly power and glory where self is central, or the hard way, the way of the cross where obedience to God is central. When confronted with the big black-and-white questions, most of us have a much easier time of saying no to the really really bad thing, but we’re much more likely to sneak in just a bit of that minor little bad thing that’ll satisfy our appetites for a time, and that’s how we get stuck. And so Jesus, who in every respect has been tempted as we are, is exposed to that same pattern.

  7. The other thing about Satan suggesting Jesus turn rocks to bread, who would want the devil going around bragging that God accepted suggestions from the Evil One?

  8. I wonder about your use of “very debated” (re our understanding of Is 14) and “greatly debated” (re Gen 3 and whether it is to be understood literally) as a reason to withhold one’s assertion of a doctrinal position. Is the practice of scholars to knock doctrines back and forth like a badminton shuttlecock sufficient warrant to entertain doubt?

    I question the weight to be given such intellectual debate. Given the nature of dissertations and the (apparent) need to call everything into question, we very soon would be left without confidence in any doctrine if the mere fact of debate is sufficient for us to withhold commitment to the belief in question. The deity of Christ, his resurrection, and the nature of his incarnation are no less debated; certainly you would not caution us against a rush to judgment re those matters?

    I am not saying a blind dogmatism is a good thing. I am only suggesting that the presence of a debate re a doctrinal issue is not a sufficient reason to question the historical understanding of various doctrines or the reasonable conclusions drawn from the teachings of Scripture.

    But that’s just me.

  9. “Remember, he is not everywhere, he is only in one place at time. “

    yet he has many servants and agents

    therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness 2 Cor 11: 15a

    you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience Eph 2:2

    But praise to God Almighty!!! – He has disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Col 2: 15

  10. Marc Durocher 2013-02-19 at 9:19 pm

    Ha, ha, ha—I mean ho, ho , ho,
    When I first clicked on the article, I thought it said, “Questions about Santa.” I thought Michael was a little late with this topic 🙂

  11. It seems as though some are concerned about Michael’s reference to the fact that some debate whether Genesis 3 ought to be taken literally. I don’t know where Michael himself stands on all of the facets of that account, but my original understanding of his post was simply that Satan’s appearance as a serpent need not be taken literally. The entire story can be understood as a strictly accurate historical account while believing that the author (presumably Moses) was using a bit of poetic license in describing Satan as a serpent, just as John does in Revelation 20:2.

  12. Is it possible that people still hold to an ‘anthropomorphic’ view of God and the creatures of the heavenly realm?

    Is it not likely that the story of the Garden of Eden is a ‘parable’ designed to show how man who was created in the image of God, sought to equate himself with God – and this was the first sin.

    The scriptures are somewhat contradictory, but is it not possible the Satan represents the ‘evil impulses’ which are in all human beings…. the stumbling block to their enjoying perfect communion with God?

    Christians have missed the point when interpreting Philippians 2. The”Second Adam” did not commit the sin of trying to equate himself with God, for which GOD has exalted him.

    I’m told that the Chinese have a vision that we all have ‘two dogs fighting within us. A ‘black’ dog and a ‘white’ dog
    Which one wins? The one we feed!

    Isn’t that Christian?

    Best wishes
    Abel

  13. Dear Greg,

    Thank you for responding!

    I have always been uncomfortable with the Theories of Sacrificial Atonement.

    Peter and Paul went to great lengths to justify their views to Jewish onlookers – and they evidently thought that ‘blood sacrifice’ would make sense to them.

    What they seemingly failed to understand is that in Jewish custom-
    (i) Human sacrifice was never permitted
    (ii) Sacrifical atonement – permitted in limited circumstances but was never for sins to be committed in the future (thats why indulgences caused problems later)

    The Gospel writers were quite specific about what THEY believed is required for salvation
    (i) Belief in Christ crucified and resurrected
    (ii)Christ is the Messiah
    (iii)Belief in Christ as Son of God

    We have Christs own assessment of what is MOST important in Mark 12 vv 29-31

    And other interesting scriptures
    (i) Christs depiction of ‘judgement day’
    (ii) Revelation 20v12
    (iii)Revelation 22v12

    I live in a country where ‘demons’ frequently speak out of mentally ill people, and the experience is very real to those who suffer these afflictions and for some observers. Fortunately ‘witch-doctors’ seem to be a dying breed – but tradition remains a powerful force!

    My very best wishes
    Abel

  14. 2 Peter 1:19 – et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem cui bene facitis adtendentes quasi lucernae lucenti in caliginoso loco donec dies inlucescat et lucifer oriatur in cordibus vestris

  15. I know this post is well after the main event….but as someone has already posted…he is the deceiver of the whole world..not bad for a single entity who cant be everywhere at once…if Revelation 12 is to be believed..he is fighting with just 33% of the troops..he is hopelessly outnumbered and out gunned yet he fights on..sort of sounds heroic here doesn’t he..! Is it possible for the worlds population to ALL be tempted at once? How can this be if this power is not omnipresent and able to contact us all at once? Just supposing..personification to one side.. diabolos is a force created by God to “sift” all of us..we have an adversary that / who challenges our every move and tests the motive behind everything…after all the only place attributed with wickedness is the heart of man. He is declared a traducer…ie a retranslator…he tests our heart by translating a message from God , enshrined in us and evident all around us into a man centred creation, that has no room for God being in charge.

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