To many people, the idea of Satan, or the Devil, is a myth. He is a product of the imagination of superstitious people who did not know any better. Yet the Bible says that he is a reality.
United Testimony Of Scripture
From the Book of Genesis, through the Book of Revelation, the existence of an intelligent, cunning personage who is the great archenemy of God is clearly taught. Known by a number of different names, this personage is always treated as a real character - there is no indication whatsoever that he is merely a symbolic figure of evil.
Testimony Of The Old Testament
In the Old Testament, Satan is referred to in seven different books: Genesis, 1 Chronicles, Job, Psalms, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah. In these books we find him under several different names.
Testimony Of The New Testament
Nineteen of the New Testament books refer to Satan. They include: the four gospels, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 John, Jude, Revelation.
Therefore we have a number of different authors over a sixteen hundred year period testifying to his existence. Were all of them mistaken when they wrote about this personage?
Testimony Of Jesus
In addition, we have the testimony of the Lord Jesus. Jesus acknowledged the existence of Satan. At least fifteen different times, and under five different names, Jesus asserted that the Devil, or Satan, existed.
Confrontation With Jesus
This personage, the Devil, had a confrontation with Jesus when He was fasting.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1).
On three different occasions in the temptation account, the Bible records the answers of Jesus to Satan. Obviously He was speaking to someone. Five different times we find Jesus using personal pronouns when responding to the Devil. There is nothing in the temptation account that causes us to think it is mythological, or that Satan is merely a symbol of evil.
Personal Pronouns Used
Elsewhere, the Bible uses personal pronouns when describing Satan. This points unmistakably to a person. For example, the Lord spoke directly to Satan, and called him, "you."
And the Lord said unto Satan, Have you considered My servant Job? (Job 1:8).
By speaking directly to Satan, and calling him "you," it shows that he is a real person. Satan is also referred to with the pronouns "himself" and "you" in Job 2:2
, as well as "you" in Zechariah 3:2
. All of uses are indications of personality.
Furthermore, personal characteristics are attributed to the Devil.
Ability To Organize
The fact that he can organize his forces shows that he has personality.
And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea (Revelation 20:7,8).
When he is thrown down to the earth during the Great Tribulation period, the Bible says the Devil knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12
). The fact that he has this knowledge reveals he is a personal being.
Satan is able to form plans, use cunning, and deceive people.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
All these are characteristics of personhood.
He Can Reason
The fact that Satan quoted Scripture to the Lord Jesus during the temptation, shows that he is a personal being. He was able to reason with Jesus by quoting an obscure verse of Scripture out of context.
He Has Choice
Satan has the power of choice. In the beginning he chose to rebel against God, and he has been making that same choice ever since. Choice is an obvious sign of personality.
Satan Has Emotions
The Bible speaks of the Devil showing emotions. He has shown the emotion of hatred for the things of God. The Devil also has shown desire. Jesus said.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31).
He has also displayed pride.
not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the Devil (1 Timothy 3:6).
Among the emotions he shows is burning anger.
Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the Devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time (Revelation 12:12).
All of these emotions are examples of one who has personality.
There are also personal actions attributed to the Devil.
Able To Tempt
The Bible calls Satan the tempter.
Then Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1).
He attempted to cause Jesus to sin, but he failed in the task. He is, however, able to tempt people to sin. To be able to tempt shows intelligence and design - both qualities of personality.
He is able to accuse God's people.
And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ: for the accuser of the believers is cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10).
This is a trait only a person has. The Old Testament also records accusations made by Satan.
And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary (Zechariah 3:1).
As Joshua the high priest was a real person, so is Satan, his adversary.
Satan is said to fight against God. His struggle is organized - another trait of personality.
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war (Revelation 12:7).
During the temptation of Jesus, Satan communicated to Him through the power of speech. In the Book of Job, Satan is also shown as talking to God.
Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land (Job 1:9,10).
Speech is only possible if Satan is a real personality.
The fact that the Devil will eventually be punished for his sins shows that he is more than a mere force or idea.
And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and sulfur, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:10).
You can only punish someone who is real. It is impossible to punish an idea or an abstraction.
Authority Of Scripture
Therefore, the existence of a personal Devil is tied to the issue of the authority of Scripture. If Scripture is accepted for what it claims to be - God's inspired Word, the final authority on all matters of faith and practice - then the existence of a personal Devil is beyond all doubt. However if one rejects, for whatever reason, the authority of Scripture with respect to the Devil, then it is a short step to reject other important doctrines of Scripture. One cannot believe in a fully authoritative Scripture and, at the same time, reject its teaching about the existence and personality of the Devil.
Satan is not a mere force, a symbolic figure of evil, or the figment of someone's imagination. He is a real personage. We discover this in the following ways.
Scripture always treats him as a personal being - never some impersonal force, or mere symbol of evil.
In His dialogue with Satan, Jesus treated him as someone who has real substance. We also find the Devil in conversation with the Lord in the Book of Job.
Personal pronouns such as "he," "you," and "himself," are attributed to the Devil.
He has the characteristics of one who has personality.
He has also demonstrated personal actions.
The existence and the personality of the Devil is tied to the acceptance of the Scripture as God's revelation to humanity.
We conclude Satan is a real being that exists. There is no evidence whatsoever that we should understand him as some sort of illusion or symbol of evil.