“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
— C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters
After our message on the Gerasene Demoniac this past weekend, I said I would post a few blogs with more information on Satan, demons, and the spiritual world. The first post here on this topic will look at where the spiritual personification of evil came from according to the Bible. Other posts will look at their tactics and goals, and Biblical defenses in warfare. But first, their origins.
First of all, God created all that exists, and this includes both the physical and metaphysical worlds, or the physical and spiritual. In Nehemiah 9:6, Ezra declares that God made the heavens and all their hosts, and they worship God. This is a reference to the creation of angels. God created these spiritual beings to worship, serve, and carry out God’s mission. Over all of his creation God declared it was good. But sometime between the creation and the events of Genesis 3 there must have been a revolt, a rebellion among a set of angellic beings turning them against God and into evil. This revolt is spoken of in a couple places in the Scriptures. In 2 Peter 2:4 Peter tells us that God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to judgment. Jude 6 echoes Peters words stating that angels did not stay within their position but are being kept in chains until judgment. These two passages inform us that some angels rebelled and became hostile to God, and now are under the just condemnation and judgment of God. As a result they are hostile to God and have a desire to destroy his work.
Many scholars believe a passage from the prophet Isaiah speaks to the rise and fall of Satan as the leader of this rebellion.
Isaiah 14:12-17 (ESV)
12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’
In this passage the core sin is pride, the desire of Satan and demons to exalt themselves above the most high (see also Ezekiel 28:1-19). Rather than finding their joy in God and living as created beings, they decided to exalt their own greatness. The result was a casting down into the pits of Sheol or the grave.
By Genesis 3 the fall of Satan is complete, and the demonic desire to ruin God’s creation and destroy God’s prized people is in full view. The serpent of old, the Devil himself enters the garden and has a conversation with the first woman. In the conversation he tempts her with the very same rebellion that cost him the place in the Kingdom of God. The promise to the woman was that if they ate the fruit, their eyes would be open and they could be like God, determining right and wrong for themselves. In other words, the temptation was to dethrone God and take his place as the ruler of their own lives. It is in this that Satan gets his power. At any place we as humans exalt our pride and self-will over that of the Creator, we are stepping into the realm of Satan and inviting him to dance into our lives.
From this point the Bible shows Satan and demons as very real personal beings that have real existence. They are not the idea of evil, but the real personification of evil in absolute rebellion against God. They speak, they interact, they tempt, they demonize, they call. And they are there, in every situation, in every relationship, in every temptation, in every struggle, in every idol. They are seeking to destroy our lives (see John 10:10) and are striving to wreak havoc in God’s creation. Satan is the originator if evil, and he sinned from the beginning (1 John 3:8). Their goal is to oppose and destroy every work of God, working destructively in creation and in the lives of people. But they are not physical being and cannot take on physical form (although they can influence and inhabit physical beings).
Finally, Satan and demons are ultimately under God’s control and will accomplish the eternal sovereign purpose of God. We cannot fully understand the purpose of the Trinitarian God and His plan, but in creation God not only allowed the existence of rebellion and evil, but he also uses these things for His glory and will accomplish His purpose, not only in spite of evil, but in a very real way in the midst of it. He is not the source of evil, but he is the redeemer of all that is evil. There are several passages in the Scripture that make it very clear that Satan only has power that God allows, and he cannot thwart the purposes of God even though he tries (Job 1:12, Job 2:6, James 4:7, 1 Samuel 16:14-16). Demons have limited control and limited power. Jesus claims absolute authority over demons, and has given that authority to the church (Luke 9:1, Luke 10:17, Acts 16:18, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Therefore, we should not fear demons and Satan, but should be keenly aware of their existence, and their purpose. They are always there as part of the equation. When we know their goals, know their tactics, and stay close to Jesus, we will find victory.
*note – much of the material here was taken from Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, chapter 20 on Satan and Demons.