Wednesday, July 13, 2011
"Everywhere the New Testament sees a great conflict between the forces of God and of good, on the one hand, and those of evil led by Satan, on the other. This is not the conception of one writer or another, but is common ground. . . . The witness of the New Testament then is clear. Satan is a malignant reality, always hostile to God and to God's people."—"The New Bible Dictionary."
WHY, then, do many who profess Christianity—and who claim to believe the Bible—reject the idea that a real Devil exists? Because, in truth, they do not accept the Bible as God's Word. (Jeremiah 8:9) Bible writers, they say, reflected the philosophies of the nations around them and did not accurately convey the truth from God. Catholic theologian Hans Küng, for example, writes: "Mythological ideas of Satan with legions of devils . . . penetrated from Babylonian mythology into early Judaism and from there into the New Testament."—On Being a Christian.
But the Bible is not simply the word of men; it truly is the inspired Word of God. We are wise, therefore, to take seriously what it says about the Devil.—2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
What Did Jesus Think?
Jesus knew that
the Devil was a real person
Jesus Christ believed that the Devil was real. Jesus was not tempted by some evil inside himself. He was attacked by a real person whom he later called "the ruler of the world." (John 14:30; Matthew 4:1-11) He also believed that other spirit creatures supported Satan in his wicked schemes. He cured "demon-possessed" people. (Matthew 12:22-28) Even the atheistic publication A Rationalist Encyclopædia notes the significance of this when it says: "It has always been a rock of offence to theologians how the Jesus of the Gospels accepted the belief in devils." When Jesus spoke about the Devil and his demons, he was not simply repeating superstitions carried over from Babylonian mythology. He knew that they really existed.
We learn a lot about the Devil when we consider Jesus' words to religious teachers of his day: "You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie."—John 8:44.
According to this, the Devil, a name meaning "slanderer," was "a liar and the father of the lie." He was the first creature to lie about God, and he did so back in the garden of Eden. Jehovah had said that our original parents would "positively die" if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. Through the mouth of a serpent, Satan said that those words were not true. (Genesis 2:17; 3:4) Appropriately, he is called "the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan."—Revelation 12:9.
The Devil lied about the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. The prohibition on eating from that tree, he argued, was unjustified; it was an abuse of power. Adam and Eve, he said, could "be like God" in determining for themselves what was good and what was bad. Satan implied that as free moral agents, they should have complete self-determination. (Genesis 3:1-5) This attack on the rightness of God's way of ruling raised crucial issues. So Jehovah has allowed time for these issues to be settled. This means that Satan has been allowed to continue living for a while. His limited time is now rapidly running out. (Revelation 12:12) Still, he continues to alienate mankind from God by lies and deceit, using people like the scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus' day to propagate his teachings.—Matthew 23:13, 15.
Jesus also said that the Devil was "a manslayer when he began" and that "he did not stand fast in the truth." This does not mean that Jehovah created the Devil as "a manslayer." He was not created to be some kind of monster in charge of a place of fire and torment for any who opposed God. The "hell" of the Bible is not Satan's abode. It is simply the common grave of mankind.—Acts 2:25-27; Revelation 20:13, 14.
The Devil was originally "in the truth." He was once part of Jehovah's heavenly family as a perfect spirit son of God. But he did not "stand fast in the truth." He preferred his own ways and his own lying principles. "He began," not when he was created as an angelic son of God, but when he willfully rebelled against Jehovah and lied to Adam and Eve. The Devil is like those people who rebelled against Jehovah in the time of Moses. Of them we read: "They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not his children, the defect is their own." (Deuteronomy 32:5) The same could be said of Satan. He became "a manslayer" when he rebelled and became responsible for the death of Adam and Eve and, in fact, the whole human family.—Romans 5:12.
Other angels joined Satan in his rebellion. (Luke 11:14, 15) These angels "forsook their own proper dwelling place" and materialized human bodies in order to enjoy sexual relationships with "the daughters of men" in Noah's day. (Jude 6; Genesis 6:1-4; 1 Peter 3:19, 20) "A third of the stars of heaven," or a minority of spirit creatures, have taken this course.—Revelation 12:4.
The highly symbolic book of Revelation depicts the Devil as "a great fiery-colored dragon." (Revelation 12:3) Why? Not because he literally has a grotesque, ugly body. We do not know, in fact, what kind of body spirit creatures have, but likely Satan does not differ from other angelic spirit creatures in that respect. However, "a great fiery-colored dragon" is a fitting description of Satan's ravenous, frightful, powerful, and destructive spirit.
Satan and the demons are now severely restricted. They can no longer materialize as they apparently once could. Shortly after the establishment of God's Kingdom in the hands of Christ in 1914, they were cast down to the vicinity of the earth.—Revelation 12:7-9.
The Devil Is a Formidable Foe
Even so, the Devil remains a formidable foe. He "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone." (1 Peter 5:8) He is no vague principle of evil residing in our imperfect flesh. True, we do have a daily struggle against our own sinful inclinations. (Romans 7:18-20) But the real struggle is "against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places."—Ephesians 6:12.
"The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one"
How widespread is the Devil's influence? "The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one," says the apostle John. (1 John 5:19) Of course, we do not want to become obsessed with the Devil or allow superstitious fear of him to paralyze us. We are wise, though, to stay alert to his efforts to blind us to the truth and to break our integrity to God.—Job 2:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
The Devil does not always use brutal means to attack those who want to do God's will. At times, he makes himself seem like "an angel of light." The apostle Paul warned Christians of this danger when he wrote: "I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ."—2 Corinthians 11:3, 14.
We therefore need to 'keep our senses, be watchful, and take our stand against him, solid in the faith.' (1 Peter 5:8, 9; 2 Corinthians 2:11) Avoid playing into Satan's hands by dabbling in anything that is connected with the occult. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) Be a good student of God's Word, remembering that Jesus Christ repeatedly referred to God's Word when he was tempted by the Devil. (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) Pray for God's spirit. Its fruitage can help you to avoid the works of the flesh, which Satan promotes so effectively. (Galatians 5:16-24) Also, pray earnestly to Jehovah when you feel under pressure in some way from the Devil and his demons.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
There is no need to be in terror of the Devil. Jehovah promises real protection against anything Satan can do. (Psalm 91:1-4; Proverbs 18:10; James 4:7, 8) "Go on acquiring power in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength," says the apostle Paul. Then you will "be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil."—Ephesians 6:10, 11.
Take your stand against the Devil by studying God's Word and praying regularly