[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: VIII. Spiritual Beings

Lesson: B. Satan and Demons

Objective: To understand the origin of Satan and demons and the extent and limits of their powers.

It is important to understand where Satan and the demons came from, how they relate to God and His angels, and the fact that neither Satan nor demons have unlimited power. Only God has unlimited powers. This chapter will include the origin of Satan and demons, what their power and influence is, what their limits are, and what their eternal destiny is.

1. Ron's Story

Let me begin with a personal story. When I was about 12 years old, our Sunday School teacher told the story of the temptation of Jesus. "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."(Matthew 4:1) gives the story of 40 days of temptation by the devil. When the teacher asked for questions, I said, "Is it true? Is there a real devil, or is it just a story?"

The teenage teacher was unable to answer. The following week was a different lesson, but again I asked my question at the end.

Later that week, I came home from school to find the Pastor visiting my mother, but really he was waiting for me. He said, "Young man, I want to talk to you. What is it I hear that you are asking questions about the Devil?"

I said, "I want to know if there really is a devil, or if it is just a story."

He said, "If you keep asking questions about the devil you will go straight to hell!" He immediately got up and left.

The point of this story may not be obvious. I didn't realize it at the time, but I do now. The pastor did not believe that there was a real devil. Most pastors in the United States have been taught in Seminary that stories like these are simply stories meant to teach moral truths. But if the pastor told me in front of my mother that it was just a story - well, that would be admitting that he didn't believe the Bible, at least not literally. In America of the 1950s, that would not be an option.

The claim of our church, unlike that pastor, is that the story is TRUE. There is a real and personal devil, named Satan. And Christians must be on guard against the devil and his partners. This chapter will help you to see what the Bible says about this.

2. Origin

Where did Satan come from? "And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home - these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day."(Jude 1:6) Jude speaks of a rebellion of angels. God created angels, as discussed in the last chapter. Yet some angels were not content to serve the Lord, and rebelled against Him. The head of this rebellion of angels was Satan. So ... Satan and the demons were created as angels, once served God, but rebelled against Him. "Satan is a created angelic being who fell from his first estate ..." (BFC Article 7-1)

One possible description of this fall was given by Isaiah about 735 BCE. "How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned ont he mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit."(Isaiah 14:12-15)

Isaiah is describing the King of Babylon, but the language seems to go beyond that historical person. Most Bible scholars apply these verses to both Babylon and Satan, who may have been influencing the King of Babylon. The interpretation is either an exaggeration of the King of Babylon, in the sense of mocking his pride, OR a more literal description of Satan and his rebellion which is similar to the pride of the King of Babylon. According to this interpretation, Satan wanted to be equal or higher than God, he was not content to be a servant. But his rebellion did not succeed, he was defeated.

3. Power and Influence

Although Satan was brought low, he was not killed. "... He is the god of this age, ruling by the permissive will of God ..." (BFC Article 7-1) God allows him to have influence upon the earth.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."(Ephesians 2:1-2) According to Paul, before we became believers, we "followed the ways of ... the ruler of the kingdom of the air". This spirit is Satan. I was not aware that I was following Satan, and if you ask an unbeliever, they will also deny this. Yet the Bible is true, and Paul says that Satan "is now at work in those who are disobedient." To some extend, we were influenced by Satan before we put our faith in Jesus. And everyone who has not trusted in Jesus is, to some extent, still under the influence of Satan.

One aspect of this influence is that the unbeliever cannot understand or see the 'light of the gospel. Paul also wrote, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."(2nd Corinthians 4:4) In previous chapters concerning salvation, I stated that the Holy Spirit must convict a person of sin and that God will draw an unbeliever to himself. Left to himself, a person cannot understand and accept the gospel of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. "... He exercises authority over the unsaved, tempts the believer to sin, and continually accuses the brethren before the throne of God." (BFC Article 7-1)

Paul wrote, "I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless."(1st Thessalonians 3:5) Paul was concerned that Satan might have tempted the Thessalonians into sin, and Paul's efforts would be useless. This does not mean that the believers would have lost their salvation, but by sinning they would have been worthless for the work of Christ. John wrote, "... For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down."(Revelation 12:10b) John calls Satan the 'accuser', and that is what the name Satan means. Revelation also speaks of a future day in which Satan will finally be cast down.

What should our reaction be? "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking form someone to devour."(1st Peter 5:8) Just as we would be careful of wild animals while walking in the jungle, we must be careful of Satan and his demons in our everyday life.

4. Limitations

While we must be careful, and aware that Satan exists and can tempt us, and has influence over unbelievers, we must realize that God is stronger. Satan is not God, Satan does not have God's power. "He has been defeated by the finished work of Christ on Calvary" (BFC Article 7-2) The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus, by his death, destroyed the devil. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil -"(Hebrews 2:14) Since Peter warned us about Satan after that time, after the death of Jesus, we have to understand that Jesus destroyed the power of Satan over believers, and will some day in the future cast Satan into a lake of burning fire. But for now, Satan is still tempting and prowling. We should not fear, because John said, "... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."(1st John 4:4) Satan can only tempt, he cannot make us sin or fall. We only sin when we give into the temptation.

In the book of Job, Satan accused Job of only serving God for selfish reasons. Satan said that if Job lost his wealth, he would no longer serve God. "The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD."(Job 1:12) God allowed Satan to take Job's wealth. But God limited Satan, and would not allow him to harm Job himself (only take his possessions). Job remained loyal.

In the last chapter on angels, I explained that they can only be in one place at a time. In the same way, Satan can only be in one place. He may travel very rapidly, he certainly has demons to help him, but he can still only be one place at a time. Only God is everywhere at once. When we feel that Satan or his demons are fighting us, or tempting us, we must remember that they can only go so far - God has set protective boundaries around His people and limits what Satan is able to do.

5. Destiny

In the last days, discussed in later chapters, there will be a period of 1000 years of peace upon the earth. During this time, Jesus will physically reign as King (other interpretations will be discussed in the lesson on the Millennium). "During the millennium he will be confined to the abyss, to be released at the end of that period to lead the armies of evil against God. He will be finally judged and doomed to the lake of fire." (BFC Article 7-2) One important aspect of that time is that Satan and the demons will be bound, and have NO influence at all upon the earth. At the end of the 1000 years, some men will rebel against the Lord. After the rebellion, God will have a great victory. This will be followed by The Last Judgment (also a later lesson). At that judgment, Satan and his followers will be thrown into a lake of burning fire for all eternity.

"He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years."(Revelation 20:2) "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."(Revelation 20:10) The devil and demons are fighting a losing battle, and will ultimately be condemned for eternity. They are desperate. Yet they are limited in what they can do, especially with the Lord protecting all believers.


Written Assignment:

Is it important whether or not someone believes that Satan is a real, personal, spiritual being?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 22-28

BFC Article 7


Key Verses:

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."(Matthew 4:1)

"And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home - these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day."(Jude 1:6)

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."(Ephesians 2:1-2)

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking form someone to devour."(1st Peter 5:8)

"... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."(1st John 4:4)


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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