By Adam Graunke
The devil does not rule Hell; it was created to punish him.
For many people (including many Christians), the devil is a relatively harmless little prankster in a red suit who whispers in our ear to try to get us to do naughty things. For others, he is God’s archenemy, nearly equal with God and locked in some sort of endless wrestling match, the outcome of which is uncertain. Both ideas are false. The Bible paints a multi-faceted picture of the devil, using various titles and activities both to inform and to warn us about his abilities, his influence, and his certain, eventual defeat.
Naming the Enemy
Satan means “accuser” or “adversary,” and is more of a functional description of the devil than a proper name. He is “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10). Of what does he accuse the brothers? He accused Job of being unable to stay faithful to God in the midst of suffering (see Job 1:6-12). Today he accuses Christians of their sinfulness in an attempt to feed our own self-condemning ways, though we have Jesus Christ as our advocate before the Father to speak the truth: that even though we are sinners, Jesus paid the price for our sins and our punishment has already been received by him on our behalf (1 John. 2:1, 2).
The word devil also describes Satan’s work, meaning “slanderer.” This same word is translated in Titus 2:3 to warn older women not to be slanderers (or “false accusers” as the KJV renders it). The slanderer uses premeditated, false propaganda against Christians to lead them astray or distract them from the work of the kingdom.
Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus said that when the devil lies, “he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, NIV). Since Eden, the devil has lied to all people, twisting the truth of God’s Word. He “leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). He attempts to convince believers to lie as well (see the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-3).
Satan is the prince of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Satan has his hands in some very influential places. Governments are a gift from God to people (see Romans 13), so it should not surprise us that Satan attempts to manipulate and control them. Jesus warned the church in Smyrna, “The devil will put some of you in prison to test you” (Revelation 2:10). We know that government officials, not the devil himself, put people in prison. Jesus was right to point out, however, that the devil’s influence on governments would result in the persecution of believers.
Paul confirmed that “our struggle is . . . against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The phrase “powers of this dark world” can be more literally translated as “the world powers of this darkness.” Darkness is a synonym for sin and sinfulness (Matthew 6:22; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:8; 5:11) and characterizes the dominion from which the saints have been rescued (Colossians 1:14). The days are evil, and before our salvation, we were in darkness (Ephesians 5:8, 16). Satan has workers and devotees in high profile positions all over the world, and it is possible that evil beings control (for now) much of what happens around the globe.
At the same time, there is a spiritual battle being waged “in the heavenly realms.” Until Jesus returns, spiritual forces continue to rebel against God and against his saints.
The fact that the struggle takes place in the heavenly realms ought to be a source of great encouragement to believers, for it is the realm where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20). Christ has not only been seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms, he has ascended “higher than all the heavens” (4:10). Christians need not fear “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (2:2), for Jesus reigns over all beings and realms and through the cross he has triumphed over every enemy (Colossians 1:20; 2:14, 15).
Though Christ has already vanquished his enemies and is already seated at the right hand of God, he will not fully exercise his reign and destroy his enemies until the day everything is summed up in him (Ephesians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28). Christ has established his lordship in every realm of existence, earthly and heavenly, though in both, evil still has a presence until its final (already guaranteed) conquest on the day of Christ. Those who side with God and put on his armor can take heart in the knowledge that they resist a vanquished, time-limited foe who, though powerful and influential in the lives of those “dead in their sins,” is nevertheless incapable of defeating those who are strengthened in the Lord.
A Skillful Schemer
The apostle Paul warns believers to take their stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11). What are the schemes of the devil? A brief survey of the New Testament reveals some of the devil’s many cunning schemes and details of his character: temptation (Luke 4:2); lies (John 8:44); impersonation of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15); leading the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9); blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4; as in Matthew 13:4, 19 where the evil one snatches the Word away from people); and opposing the work of the kingdom (Matthew 13:36-39; 1 Thessalonians 2:18).
Elsewhere in the New Testament, certain behaviors “give the devil a foothold” and become tools for his wiles: sensuality and impurity (Ephesians 4:19); false teaching (2 Timothy 2:16-26); being envious and selfish (James 3:14, 15); anger and hatred (Ephesians 4:26); dwelling on temptation (James 1:14, 15); falsehood (Ephesians 4:25); stealing (Ephesians 4:28); unwholesome talk (James 3:6; Ephesians 4:29); and bitterness (Hebrews 12:15).
Satan is powerful, but only God is all-powerful. Our hope and our victory come from God alone through Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation and the Savior of all who believe. We can lean on the promises of God that assure us the victory over Satan. Until Jesus returns, however, we must stand firm.
Christians face a spiritual struggle against the devil, one that requires the use of spiritual weapons and armor (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; Ephesians 6:13-18). God provides us with his own armor, which enables us to stand firm when the devil attacks (Ephesians 6:11; also see Isaiah 59:17). Christians become “strong in the Lord” by putting on the armor of God. Given the spiritual nature of the battle, there is no other way to fight than with spiritual weapons God supplies. The fact that they are from God is important to us because it assures us of the victory.
God seated Christ “at his right hand in the heavenly realms” and will bring all things under Christ’s headship. God “made us alive in Christ” and “raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” It is his armor that will enable us to stand and resist the devil and his powers (Ephesians 2:5, 6).
To stand against the devil does not imply that Christians are to “take the battle to the devil” or that spiritual warfare is somehow picking a fight with evil. Spiritual warfare is essentially spiritual defense, for this is what Paul meant when he urged the Ephesians to “stand your ground” in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13). We need not go looking for a fight; the devil knows us well and will attack us often; we need only to stand firm.
Our victory comes through our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8). He came to free those who were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). Through the cross, Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities (Colossians 2:15). We serve a risen Savior who is exalted above the highest heavens, who reigns over all of creation, who will return to redeem our bodies and our universe, and who will achieve what John wrote about the devil: “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 does not rule Hell; it was created to punish the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Though he is now powerful, his time is short. Our calling is to stand firm, to resist the devil, and to help others do the same. We will win, because Jesus has already won!
Adam Graunke is a freelance writer in Waterloo, Iowa.
The Devil Is Bad
Would you like to take a music break? Here’s a swingin’ song about two biblical examples of Satan’s temptations.
The song The Devil Is Bad by the W’s came on the Christian music scene in 1998. You can view the video to this humorous, yet truthful, song about why the devil is bad!
If you’d like to read the lyrics, they are listed here: