Does the devil really exist? If so, what snares and traps does he use against us and our loved ones? And how can we avoid that evil influence?
The picture many have of the devil, also known as Satan, is a being dressed in a bloodred uniform with a pointed tail, horns and a pitchfork. In the popular imagination he inhabits a terrifying place called hell, with ever-burning flames that he uses to torture the unfortunate who are sent there.
Most people are skeptical about this fairy-tale character and are unsure what to believe or where to go to find the answers. Recent surveys indicate that more and more traditional Christians doubt that the devil is a real being. Does he really exist, and if so, how can we escape his evil influence?
There is a dependable source of knowledge that gives us valid information that we cannot discover anywhere else.
What does the Bible say about the devil?
The Bible is the only reliable source of information about who and what Satan is, how he works and how we can resist him. It reveals that Satan is an incredibly powerful spirit being who holds sway over and manipulates all nations. Every New Testament writer refers to Satan (or the devil), as do several Old Testament books. Jesus Christ Himself acknowledged the existence of Satan (Luke 10:18; 11:18).
Satan is a master deceiver, and one of his most effective deceptions is to make people believe that he does not exist. From Genesis to Revelation, we are told that Satan is the enemy of mankind, and that he is intent on the total destruction of all humanity.
Bible prophecy issues dire warnings about end-time events, describing Satan as having great wrath because he knows that he has only a short time left (Revelation 12:12-13). Unless Christ intervened in world affairs, Satan’s fierce and unrelenting onslaughts would result in the destruction of the entire human race (Matthew 24:22).
What is Satan’s plan?
The following are some important biblical facts about Satan.
- His names reveal much about his character. The words devil and Satan basically show he is the accuser of men and the adversary of God. He is also known by other names: Belial (worthless or wicked, 2 Corinthians 6:15); the wicked one (1 John 5:19); the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5); the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10); a serpent and a dragon (Revelation 12:9, 13); and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2).
- He is an enemy of all that is good and right. He is a murderer (John 8:44); the father of lies and deceit (John 8:44); and our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).
- Satan has the support of spirit beings that the Bible refers to as demons. He was able to influence a third of all angels (Revelation 12:4) to rebel against God. These fallen angels assist Satan and do his bidding in his war against God and His followers. Demons are described throughout Scripture: Matthew 10:1; 25:41; Luke 7:21; 1 Timothy 4:1; James 3:13-16; Jude 1:6-7; Revelation 16:13-16.
- Notice carefully the following descriptions of Satan, and why he is able to influence and mislead governments and people in positions of leadership.
- 2 Corinthians 4:4 names Satan as “the god of this age” who has blinded people’s minds “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ . . . should shine on them” (emphasis added throughout). He blinds humans to the good news, or gospel, of Christ’s coming Kingdom, which will replace Satan’s kingdom (Revelation 11:15). No wonder he hates Christ’s message!
- Ephesians 2:2: As “prince of the power of the air,” Satan influences people’s thoughts to turn them against God.
- Ephesians 6:11-12: The apostle Paul tells us that Satan and his demons use wiles (or craftiness and deceit), supernatural powers and wicked spirits in high places to resist God in any way they can.
- Luke 8:27-33: The demons knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and they obviously know who Christ’s true followers are. In John 14:30 Jesus acknowledged the temporary position of power that Satan and his demons presently wield, when He said, “For the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”
- Revelation 12:9: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Again, Satan’s deceptive powers are evident worldwide.
It is clear from these and other scriptures that true Christians are dealing with a formidable and dangerous foe who is bent on their utter destruction!
What are snares?
Snares are traps designed to capture a specific type of bird or animal, usually by the neck or leg.
In 2 Corinthians 2:11 the apostle Paul warns Christians to be on guard “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”As a young boy, I grew up on a government forestry reserve covered with trees and shrubs. My father, who was the head forester, fought a constant battle with poachers who illegally laid snares or traps on the preserve for unwary animals.
These snares consisted mostly of thin cable wire that the poachers subtly and dexterously placed along the paths animals used on a daily basis. Once the animal walked into the snare, the wire would wind tightly around its throat, either choking it to death or preventing it from escaping so it could later be killed by the poachers.
Almost every day my father would send out a team of workers to try to find these snares. They were difficult to locate, as they were cleverly hidden. If poachers were apprehended, they would be fined or even imprisoned. However, the poaching continued as long as I can remember.
Watch out for the snares Satan sets
In like manner Satan sets snares for unsuspecting people, especially for those who seek to be Christians. In 2 Corinthians 2:11 the apostle Paul warns Christians to be on guard “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
Paul twice called such tactics “the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7; 2 Timothy 2:26)—like the snares the poachers cleverly set!
Below are some of these snares.
Snare of the devil: false doctrine
Paul warned the young evangelist Timothy: “Now the Spirit expressly [margin, ‘explicitly’] says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Paul also warned the Church of God at Corinth to watch out for “deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his [false] ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
So Satan actually has ministers of religion who appear to be ministers of righteousness but are unwittingly working with him.
And the demons can cause biblical deception because they have knowledge of the Scriptures (James 2:19) and can distort them. The Old Testament also has a similar warning regarding false prophets in Deuteronomy 13:1-3.
Snare of the devil: pride
It was pride that caused the archangel Lucifer to rise in rebellion against God his Creator. Notice in Isaiah 14:13-15 how many times the words I will are used by Lucifer in his desire to exalt himself and take God’s place as ruler of the entire universe. Satan even convinced one-third of the angels to follow him (Revelation 12:4).
Paul warned Timothy not to prematurely ordain a person as a minister because of the snare of pride. Paul wrote that a minister should not be “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).
Pride of beauty, wealth, intellect or anything can make us a target for Satan.
Snare of the devil: deceit and lying
Notice Christ’s accurate assessment of the devil: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources [Phillips Translation: ‘he speaks in character’], for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan’s lies and believed him when he said “you will not surely die” after God had said they would surely die if they ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-7). Ever since then, the history of mankind demonstrates man’s willingness to listen to Satan instead of God—with dire and heartrending consequences.
Consider the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts. They pretended that they had given all of the proceeds of the sale of a property to the Church. They appeared to be prominent members of the Church, but acted in a deceitful and hypocritical way when they lied to the apostle Peter.
Notice what Peter said: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Ananias fell down dead at Peter’s feet. Tragically, his wife Sapphira also lied to Peter and likewise fell down dead (Acts 5:1-11).
This was the awful result of two people responding to Satan’s prompting and following his example of being a liar.
Snare of the devil: evil thoughts
James wrote: “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:14-16).
James is talking about wisdom that is sensual and demonic, which results in confusion. Since God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), where does it originate? It is one of Satan’s techniques to confuse and undermine the activities of mankind. James’ advice? Follow after “the wisdom that is from above” instead (James 3:17-18).
Snare of the devil: anger and accusation
Sometimes we lose control, and anger gains a foothold in our lives. Paul wrote: “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place [an opportunity] to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Uncontrolled anger can lead to bitterness and a spirit of accusation.
Instead, follow the advice in Hebrews 12:14-15: “Pursue peace with all people . . . lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Are you in a habit of accusing people? Remember that Satan is “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
By having an angry, accusative mind-set, we can easily fall into the snare of the devil!
Snare of the devil: sexual immorality and lust
Western society in particular has been discarding previously held beliefs about sexual propriety and adopting a new interpretation of morals. Permissiveness and promiscuity have replaced biblical morality. Chastity is no longer considered a virtue to be admired, and standards of morality have largely been removed and replaced with a new morality.
This approach of sexual freedom has had tragic consequences, especially for families, with a large percentage of marriages ending in divorce. And the repercussions extend even further to unwanted pregnancies, suicides, abortions, mental turmoil and unhappiness. Meanwhile, all forms of media are filled with material promoting destructive sexual promiscuity and immorality.
In the Bible God condemns all forms of lust, such as fornication (sexual activity before marriage) and adultery. These are sins, and they break the Seventh Commandment. Satan knows that these types of sin bring about dire consequences to marriage and family.
Notice 1 Corinthians 6:13-20, where we read that “the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord” (verse 13). God is concerned about what we do with our bodies—we are His creation! He tells us, “Flee sexual immorality” (verse 18) and, “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit” (verse 20) by avoiding sexual immorality.
These admonitions should be taken seriously, since sexually immoral people “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verse 9).
We are to avoid sexual activity until after marriage and then engage in it only with our mate (Hebrews 13:4).
How to avoid the snares of the devil
Here are some ways to avoid Satan’s snares:
1. Seek God’s help. Satan is so subtle and powerful that we cannot resist his influences without God’s help. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). The most important key is to daily draw near to God and remain close to Him. Christ instructed us in Matthew 6:13 to pray: “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” The more we can grow in God’s character through regular prayer and personal Bible study, the less chance we’ll have of Satan manipulating us.
2. Resist the devil. Notice James 4:7: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Daily be aware of the devil’s attempts to induce you to fall into his contrary way of life, and resist him. This includes controlling not only our actions, but our thoughts as well.
3. Put on the armor of God. The apostle Paul provides further advice on how to avoid Satan’s snares. See Ephesians 6:10-18, where we are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (verse 11). For further study of this important section of Scripture, see our article “How to Put on the Armor of God” and the related articles about each piece of armor.
Satan finally subdued
The Bible reveals that Satan’s role as “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) will soon come to an end. After Christ’s return to replace Satan’s rule with His Kingdom, Satan will be bound “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:3).
What a glorious time that will be for all of mankind! May God give you the wisdom and love for His Word, His truth and His way of life in order to avoid Satan’s snares and be there to witness this momentous event!