"That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan" (Revelation 12:9). The world has been deceived, not only by the influence represented by these words, but by the terms themselves.
This subject is one of the most confusing in the Bible. The traditional view has been greatly influenced by ancient superstitions. Today, most Christians have been led to believe that there is a supernatural being who is the enemy of God and the author of evil.
This view is not only incorrect, it is also likely to distort our understanding of the Bible message and may jeopardize our hope for salvation. If we believe that an outside tempter is responsible for all of our sin, then how can we truly repent and be converted?
To understand the Bible teaching on the subject of the Devil and Satan, we must start at the beginning when the serpent which was the most subtle beast of the field, tempted Eve by lying about God's commandment.
For this deceit, "the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:14-15).
This sentence had far reaching implications and it is a prophecy that outlines the entire plan of redemption.
The descendent of the serpent is sin. He was the father of all lying and deceit. The future descendent of the woman would be Christ He would overcome sin in his own body and destroy it on the cross, to redeem mankind from the curse of sin and death.
From the time that Adam and Eve were cast out from the garden as mortal creatures, there has been a constant struggle between man and the sin influence that the serpent planted.
The Apostle Paul describes this battle that is being waged inside of us in Romans 7:18-25. The desire to sin comes from within our own minds. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23).
With this background we can begin to understand how that the words Devil and Satan were chosen to describe sin in all of its manifestations. When we "resist the devil", we are overcoming the sin in ourselves (James 4:7). When Jesus told Peter to "get thee behind me Satan", the sin was being manifested in another person. In the quotation chosen at the top of this page, (from Revelation 12:9) the sin was manifested in the government of that day, which was an adversary to the saints.
When we take a good look at the subject of the Devil and Satan, we discover that there are several contradictions and inconsistencies in the traditional view. If there really were a supernatural being called the devil, the scriptures that are related should all be in harmony with this concept. This is certainly not the case. Following are a list of issues that you owe it to yourself to resolve, before you make any final conclusions on the subject:
There are two women who have a prominent role in the instruction found in the book of Proverbs. The first is called wisdom and the other is a harlot, a strange woman that leads young men astray. When we read the language about these women it might seem logical to conclude that there are two literal, supernatural women out there in the streets. One is calling for men to be wise and avoid evil, and the other is tempting them to sin. Would this approach be any less reasonable than believing in a literal devil?
To my knowledge however, no one is actually promoting such a conclusion. In fact it seems silly to think that this language is any more than a personification of the opposing influences in our lives. Strange as it is however, the same sinful influence that is personified by the harlot, is believed to be real when the word devil is applied.
In the book of Revelation, (which is a book that is filled with symbols) we find another very clear use of the harlot as a personification of sin manifested in the apostate church.
We are told in Revelation 17:
This "whore" represents a system of false worship that has been influential in deceiving the people with lies about the "old serpent, the Devil and Satan".
Why? By promoting hell (the grave) as a place of eternal torment, ruled by their fabricated "Devil", their parishioners are coerced into paying their tithes, in the hope of being saved from this terrible end. The true servants of God are warned not to be deceived by the wine (teaching) of the harlot. They are instructed to "come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4).
Do not be deceived. The "devil" is only a word used to personify sin. It is the sin itself that leads to our eternal rest in the dust. If we resist this "devil", we can hope for the gift of eternal life, through Jesus Christ
As we learn more about the way that sin is presented in the Bible, we understand that words such as the Devil and Satan are only representative of the various manifestations off sin.
One of the significant effects of the sin of our first parents was that we have inherited a nature that is cursed. We are therefore subjected to suffering, sorrow, sickness and pain as we endure our few days filled with trouble leading us all back to the dust of the ground.
Suffering and disease were more than a punishment. Such adversities are also intended to instruct us and hopefully lead us to repentance.
Paul's "thorn in the flesh" is an excellent example of the the way that God may use an affliction to lead us to the humility that he desires in us. Paul expressed it this way:
This account demonstrates the language of the Bible. Paul's adversity, (which many believe was very poor eyesight) was called a messenger of Satan. It is obvious from the context that this thorn was under God's control and that it was applied for His purpose. The popular superstitions about Satan would find no support in this story.
When we consider the redemptive work of Christ, we are told in Hebrews 2:14 "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil".
What was it that Christ actually destroyed when he died on the cross? He died for our sins, and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). It was the sin that dwelled in his own body that he destroyed by his death.
The destruction of the Devil (that is, sin in the flesh) was accomplished first in Christ, and even as promised in Genesis 3:15, he will return to bruise the serpent on the head.
With this victory sin in all of its manifestations will have been removed from the earth. All of the affliction, all suffering, sorrow, sickness and pain will no longer be remembered, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
Our comfort from the scriptures is in the knowledge that all of the effects of sin will be removed. (Including the confusion in the terms and the superstitions that have deceived us.)