Monday, June 19, 2017

Satan's Reality

The fact of Satan’s existence can be neither proven nor disproven by philosophical reasoning alone. Nevertheless, the incontrovertible existence of evil must have an actual perpetrator. Experiential claims by themselves cannot prove Satan’s reality because they lack any objective standard by which the alleged experiences might be validated.
However, a reliable historical account of human history would serve to establish the factuality of Satan if the author were credible. Actually, one such book exists—the Bible, whose author is the God of creation, the originator of truth without error, and the Creator of Satan. Thus, the Bible is the Christian’s only unimpeachable witness to the actual existence of Satan.
The revelation of Satan’s existence is found in only eight Old Testament books, yet it is completely consistent with the more frequent references in the New Testament. The Hebrew word for Satan basically means “adversary” or “one who opposes.” Of the 27 Old Testament occurrences, 18 refer directly to Satan (once in 1 Chronicles 21; 14 times in Job 1–2; 3 times in Zechariah 3), while 9 refer to adversaries other than Satan. Additionally, 2 Corinthians 11:3 and Revelation 12:9; 20:2 testify to Satan’s reality in Genesis 3, where he is disguised as a serpent. First Kings 22:21–22 and 2 Chronicles 18:20–21 refer to him as “a lying spirit.” Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 allude to Satan as the power behind the kings of Babylon and Tyre, respectively.
On the other hand, New Testament references abound. The terms translated “Satan” or “devil” refer to “the evil one” on 74 occasions. Every New Testament writer mentions him, and he appears in nineteen New Testament books (Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Titus, Philemon, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John excepted). An amazing 28 of 30 references in the Gospels involve either direct encounters with or mentions of Satan.
Satan exhibits the three basic characteristics associated with personhood: intellect, emotion, and will. With his intellect, he tempted Christ (Matt. 4:1–11) and schemes against Christians (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim. 2:26). Emotionally, he exhibits pride (1 Tim. 3:6) and anger (Rev. 12:12, 17). The Devil also exercises his will against Christians (Luke 22:31; 2 Tim. 2:26).
Five additional personal qualities complete an elementary profile of this lying and murderous adversary. First, he is a created angel. According to Paul, God created all things (Col. 1:16), which includes angels. God’s response to Job equates “morning stars” with “sons of God” (Job 38:4–7; cf. 1:6; 2:1), the first-created angelic ranks who sang and rejoiced over the remainder of creation. The evil power behind the King of Tyre is referred to as the “anointed guardian cherub” (Ezek. 28:14, 16) who was created (Ezek. 28:13, 15). Originally created as a chief angel at the level of Michael the archangel (Jude 9), Satan now rebelliously leads a band of evil angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9). Although he is an angel of darkness, he disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
Second, Satan is a spirit being (1 Kings 22:21–23; 2 Chron. 18:20–22; Eph. 2:2), although he appears at times like a physical person (Matt. 4:3–11), just like the holy angels (Mark 16:5). Whereas the writer of Hebrews refers to angels as “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14), Christ characterized demons as “unclean” (Luke 4:36) and “evil” (Luke 8:2) spirits. Such would also be true of the prince of demons.
Third, Satan possesses an extraordinary mobility. Both Job 1:7 and Job 2:2 portray Satan as “going to and fro on the earth,” as does 1 Peter 5:8, which refers to Satan as one who “prowls around” the world. Fourth, Satan can function both in heaven (1 Kings 22:21–22; Job 1–2; Rev. 12:10) and on earth (Matt. 4:3–11). Finally, God will hold Satan morally responsible in the end for his treacherously evil deeds (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).
The theological understanding of Satan reflects a studied contrast with the Lord Jesus Christ. This surprises no one, since Christ is the Creator and Satan a mere creature. We will consider this contrast further tomorrow.