From the September/October 2016 issue of Discern Magazine

Satan: A Profile

He’s invisible, so many people are confused whether Satan really exists. They don’t know how he works today. Here’s what you need to know for your protection.

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Stumbling along in the dark is never a pleasant experience. It can be especially unnerving when it happens unexpectedly. I recently had a vivid reminder of what this feels like.

After driving for a few hours on a recent trip, I stopped at a gas station with a convenience store. While I was in the restroom, the electricity went off in the entire facility, and the room went dark. There was no window to let in natural light, and there were no emergency backup lights. Try as I might, I couldn’t see anything. It was pitch black, and I was in an unfamiliar room.

Doing my best to remember the multiple turns I had taken on my way in, I groped my way along the edges of the wall. Occasionally I put my hands in front of me to make sure I didn’t walk into an unseen object or another wall. After what seemed like an unusually long time, I finally saw a glimmer of light and scampered out of the darkness.

As I and a few other customers exited the store, the employees locked the doors behind us because, without electricity, the gas pumps wouldn’t work, and they couldn’t ring up sales on their cash registers.

Spiritual light and darkness

The Bible often uses the stark contrast between light and darkness to make a point. In creating the physical universe, we know that God made light and divided it from darkness (Genesis 1:3-4), and metaphorically, not following God is described as walking in darkness instead of light (Isaiah 50:10). Later, Jesus said that He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12).

The apostle Paul employed this same light-and-darkness concept when he wrote that people are blinded by Satan “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ … should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4, emphasis added throughout). And he used it in explaining his ministry before King Agrippa, saying that he had been called by Jesus to open people’s “eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

So it is clear that Satan—“the god of this age,” as Paul called him (2 Corinthians 4:4)—is an evil being who aims to keep people in the dark regarding God’s way of life. But Satan didn’t start out on the dark side. He began as an angel who served as an administrator in God’s perfect, righteous government.

Satan’s turn to the dark side

Before he was called Satan—a name meaning “adversary”—this angel was known as “Lucifer” (as most English translations put Isaiah 14:12). “Lucifer” is a Latin translation of the Hebrew word heylel, which means “shining one” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon). Lucifer served as an anointed cherub—a type of angel—who covered the mercy seat. Serving in this capacity, he was “on the holy mountain of God” and was perfect in his ways (Ezekiel 28:14-15). Satan thus began as an angel of light—one who supported God and His plan. He drew high praise as one who was “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (verse 12).

Lucifer continued in this capacity until “iniquity was found” in him (verse 15). Scripture explains that he “became filled with violence within” and that he sinned (verse 16). He was represented in Scripture by the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 28) and the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14), both of whom were filled with pride. And his pride apparently led him to attempt to ascend into heaven to exalt his “throne above the stars of God” and “be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).

Satan is a liar; he is cunning; and he is invisible. He is a formidable foe.

In his misguided attempt to advance himself, Lucifer apparently convinced a third of the angels to follow him. But instead of obtaining the position he coveted, he and the rebelling angels were cast to the earth (Revelation 12:4). Sadly, these vanquished fallen angels continued their fight against God. They also became adversaries of humans, who will each have an opportunity to become children in God’s eternal family (something the devil and his demons can never become).

Now, instead of being an angel of light, Satan and his followers impersonate or pretend to be angels of light in order to deceive humans (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Because of his unsound mind and actions, Satan has now accumulated quite a rap sheet—an extensive record of criminal activity. Put another way, Satan is among the worst terrorists imaginable, guilty of crimes against humanity. Consider two of the key aspects of his character.

Satan is a liar

The word liar is only found in about a dozen places in the Bible (it varies slightly among various translations), and John 8:44 is one of the most insightful of these. Here Jesus said that Satan “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (English Standard Version).

Jesus had the perspective to know. In His spiritual existence before coming to earth as a human, Jesus had seen Satan’s fall from heaven (Luke 10:18) and had witnessed his conduct.

While Satan probably lied to the angels he led in rebellion against God, the first biblical account of Satan lying to a human occurred in the Garden of Eden. Wasting no time to continue his battle against God and His plan for humanity, Satan lied to Eve, saying that it was okay for her to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, and she would not die as a result of doing so (Genesis 3:1-5).

It is important for us to note that Satan was quite “cunning” in his approach (verse 1). In other words, he was quite skillful when it came to lying. Invoking half-truths—Eve didn’t die immediately; that would come later—and trickery, “the serpent [Satan] deceived Eve by his craftiness” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Eve fell for Satan’s deception and Adam followed her example. Because of their disobedience, they were banished from the Garden of Eden and no longer had access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Not content with what he had done to the first humans, Satan and his demons have continued their lying deceptions against humanity.

Though invisible, Satan, “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan … deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). He is “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). And “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).

Satan is a liar; he is cunning; and he is invisible. He is a formidable foe.

Satan is a murderer

The result of Satan’s lie to Eve was that she and Adam would die instead of living forever with God, which was symbolized by access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22). This result was not accidental. It was what Satan intended. We come to this understanding of Satan’s motive when we ponder Jesus’ declaration that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).

Murder, of course, breaks yet another of God’s commandments (Exodus 20:13). We see the mind-set of this evil spirit being. He will break rules, tell lies, do whatever he deems necessary to deceive and kill humans.

Today Satan is assisted in his efforts against humanity by demons and false religious teachers (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 14-15). To counter his relentless efforts, we must live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4) and “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

With God’s help, we can “overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13-14). Learn more in our articles “Don’t Be Ignorant of Satan’s Devices” and “How to Resist Satan, the Roaring Lion.”

Satan’s fate

Even though Satan is currently the god of this age, his jurisdiction over our present evil world will eventually come to an end (see “Satan Destroyed? How?”). The Day of Atonement—a holy day of God most people have been blinded from understanding—pictures the binding or putting away of this being who trades in darkness (Leviticus 23:27-32; Revelation 20:1-3).

Christians who are striving to live by the original faith delivered by Christ to His apostles will observe this holy day each year (see our festival calendar). With the binding of Satan, the light of God’s truth will be able to shine steadily upon all of earth’s inhabitants. People won’t have to live in the dark or endure the attacks of our invisible enemy. 

To learn more about the Day of Atonement, see the Feasts of the Lord video “Atonement: The Root of the Problem” and the booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.

About the Author

David Treybig

David Treybig

David Treybig is a husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife, Teddi, have two grown children and seven grandchildren. He currently pastors the Austin, Texas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He has served in the pastoral ministry for over 40 years, pastoring congregations across six states.

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