Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures


(17) The Devil and Satan

Not A Fallen Angel.

The current teaching that the Devil is a fallen angel, with mysterious powers over the minds of men and women, is quite foreign to the Bible teaching on this theme.

We learn from the Bible that Jesus Christ was manifested that "he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Again, that Jesus partook of human nature that "through death be might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is the devil" (Heb. 2:14).

In these two statements, the devil is defined as:

From other parts of the Word, we learn:

(1) -- That Christ came to destroy sin.

"He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26). "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3).

"His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).

"He was manifested to take away our sins" (1 John 3:5).

(2) -- That sin was the original cause of death.

"The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).

"By one man (not the devil) sin entered the world, and death by sin" (Rom. 5:12).

"The sting of death is sin" (1 Cor. 15:56).

These two lines of reasoning converge to show that the terms "sin" and "devil" are used synonymously. In order to destroy the devil, Jesus came in that nature where it is found, for we shall show that the act of sin comes from the flesh. He partook of flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy the devil. So declared Paul in Hebrews 2:14.

But if the devil were an angel, how would the death of Jesus destroy him? Yet Paul is specific that the devil was destroyed through death!

Human Nature Is The Devil.

If we can show that human nature is the devil, it follows that when Jesus died, seeing that he came "in the flesh" (1 John 4:2), the devil was put to death as far as he was concerned. Jesus possessed our nature, but be never succumbed to it, for be never sinned. He triumphed over it during his lifetime, by figuratively putting it to death, and when he died on the cross, its power was brought to an end.

After he had been raised from the dead, he was given "divine nature" or immortality, in which the devil, or the lusts of the flesh, find no place.

But the devil still lives in us so long as the lusts of the flesh hold sway, and so powerfully, unfortunately, that we give way to sin. What can be done? We can seek the strength of God to overcome (Phil. 4:13), and His mercy to forgive where we fail. And in Christ, if we confess our sins, such mercy will be freely extended (1 John 1:7).

We have shown that the devil and sin are synonymous terms, and we now propose to quote Scripture to show that the term "sin" is used for human nature, the source of all transgression. Consider the following passages:

"Sin dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:17).

"He (Christ) died unto sin once" (Rom. 6:10).

"Reckon yourselves to be dead to sin but alive unto God" (Rom. 6:11).

"God made him (Jesus) to be sin for us who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21).

In all these places "sin" is related to human nature, or the lusts of the flesh. Normally "sin" is transgression of law, but it is clearly seen that such a definition cannot apply to the references above.

Sin (transgression of law) springs from fleshly lusts or desires, styled in Romans 8:3 as "sinful flesh" (see Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-23). Our nature is such that we do not need the prompting of a supernatural devil to cause us to sin, because it springs naturally from the 'lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). The thought of sin is generated by the "desires of the flesh," before the act of sin is committed (Ps. 10:4; 94:11) so that Isaiah exhorted the unrighteous to "forsake his thoughts" (Isa. 55:7). James summed up the matter thus:

"Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14-15).

This process is illustrated by the confession of Achan:

"I SAW two hundred shekels of silver, I COVETED them, and TOOK them ... I SINNED" (Joshua 7:20-21).

Saw, coveted, took! That defines sin, without the need of a supernatural devil to tempt!

Paul likewise, in treating with the subject of sin (Romans Ch. 7) speaks of it as an, element of human nature, which he found to be at enmity with the principles of God. There is no hint in his words of a supernatural devil being responsible for sin.

"The evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin (human nature, alias the devil) that dwelleth in me" (Vv. 19-20).

He confessed to a "law in his members" warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the "law of sin in his members" (Romans 7:23).

The "law of sin and death," the desires of the flesh that lead us to disobey God, is the Apostle's term for human nature, the devil of the Bible (Rom. 8:2).

Significance Of The Word: Devil.

The word "devil" has been used as a translation for two entirely different Greek words: diamonion and diabolos. The first word should be translated "demons." It was applied to those diseases (mainly mental disorders) which Jesus miraculously "cast out" of afflicted persons. An example occurs in John 7:19-20. Jesus asked the Jews: "Why go ye about to kill me?" They answered: "Thou hast a devil (diamonion), who goeth about to kill thee?" The Jews' reply, "Thou hast a devil!" is equivalent to the modern expression: "You are mad!"

In speaking of "demons" in that way, the New Testament was merely using the vernacular of the times by which mental disorders were described. The Grecian theory was that demons were the cause of madness, epileptic disorders, and obstructions of the senses. To be "possessed of a demon" was the way in which these illnesses were then described; and to "cast out a demon" was to say that the person was cured.

The word diabolos is compounded of dia, a preposition signifying across or over, and ballo, meaning to throw or cast. It defines that which crosses, or falls over, and is therefore a fit word by which to designate inordinate desires of the flesh, which cause mortal man to cross over the line of righteousness established by God, and so to sin.

The word also signifies to "traduce," "slander," "libel," "falsely accuse." Thus Judas is described as a devil (diabolos) because be betrayed and slandered Jesus to the authorities (John 6:70). In 2 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 2:3 the word had been correctly rendered "false accusers" (Gr. diabolos), for it should never be translated "devil."

A consideration of the places where the word is used, will reveal that it cannot apply to a fallen angel. In Revelation 2:10, the faithful are warned that "the devil shall cast some of you into prison." Did the fallen angel do that? Of course not! The reference is to the civil authorities of the times, who were, "falsely accusing" the Christians. In this case, sin was politically manifested. How much better would this reference read if diabolos was therein translated as it is in Timothy and Titus: "False accusers shall cast some of you into prison."

Again, in Ephesians 6:11, Paul refers to the "wiles of the devil" (i.e. the false accusers). He was referring to the unscrupulous means that pagan authorities were using to obtain a conviction against Christians when they were hailed before the courts. These same "devils" were always on the watch, ready to condemn any inconsistency on the part of the Christians. The Apostle therefore warned certain ones against being lifted up with pride, and so "falling into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Tim. 3:6-7).

Would the devil taught by Christendom condemn anybody lifted up by pride? By no means! He would look favourably upon such as a most promising subject!

Another reference, frequently quoted to prove the existence of a supernatural devil is 1 Peter 5:8: "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour."

But let us look at the statement a little more closely. The word "adversary" is antidikos in Greek, and signifies "an opponent at law!" So, once again, we are in the atmosphere of a court case! And who is opposed to us? Why, the devil! Again let us use the translation of 2 Timothy 3:3, and the "opponent at law" is a "false accuser," and against such Peter warned Christians to be on their guard.

But why describe him as a "roaring lion?" Because, as the use of a similar expression in 2 Timothy 4:17 shows, this was a figure of speech by which the fierce and unscrupulous antagonists of Christianity were described. They were men of the flesh, and they personified sin in political manifestation.

The flesh, with its lusts, is a false accuser and a calumniator, because if its desires are gratified, mankind will never attain unto the Kingdom. It slanders God, because it reasons that He does not really want men to do the things He has asked them to do. It is a deceiver, because it claims that true happiness is found only in gratifying its desires. The whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John 5:19), and there are but few who are prepared to "resist the devil," and so gain a victory over flesh. Most are "children of the devil," in that they obey its lusts without consideration of God's way, thus revealing that they are "of their father the devil" or sin's flesh.

There is not a reference to the words "devil" or "satan" in the Bible that cannot be interpreted in accordance with the principles outlined above.

The Word "Satan."

The Hebrew word "satan," means "adversary." In contrast to the word diabolos which denotes an evil adversary, satan can refer to either a good or an evil adversary!

In Numbers 22:22 it is used in the former way. The verse reads: "The angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary (Heb. satan) against him." Here the word satan had been correctly translated "adversary," though the same Hebrew word in many other places has been transliterated "satan."

In v. 32, the word satan had been rendered "withstand." The account has to do with the withstanding of the wicked prophet Balaam by an angel of God, so that in this, we have an example of a good satan opposing a wicked man.

Another example of a good satan, or adversary, is contained in 1 Chronicles 21:1. It records: "Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel." The parallel account in 2 Samuel 24:1 reveals that the "satan" (adversary) in question was God, Who was opposed to Israel at the time because of the wickedness of the people. The record in Samuel reads:

"The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah."

A careful consideration of the use of this word throughout Scripture reveals that it should not be interpreted to signify a fallen angel.

For example, in 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul wrote that he had delivered certain heretics "unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."

Would the Satan of orthodoxy teach them "not to blaspheme?" Not if the current doctrine is true, on the contrary, he would teach them to blaspheme. The satan in this instance was the pagan world to which Paul had excommunicated the heretics, in order that they might be disciplined, and eventually brought back to an acknowledgement of the truth (see Titus 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:6, 15).

In 1 Timothy 5:15, Paul wrote of certain women being "turned aside unto Satan." They had not sought out the invisible tempter of orthodoxy, but bad been drawn aside by the allurements of the world, the great adversary of the Truth (1 John 2:15-16).

The Bible refers to a "synagogue of satan" (Rev. 2:9), or a religious congregation in opposition to the true one. It describes Satan's seat as being in the Asian city of Pergamos (Rev. 2:13), because that city became the temporary headquarters of those heretics which troubled the early Ecclesias (cp. v. 14).

It refers to satan as being "bound" during Christ's millenial reign (Rev. 20:2), which is a reference to flesh being restrained under the disciplinary laws of Christ. It describes Peter as satan, when he set himself in opposition to Christ (Matt. 16:23).

The word Satan, therefore, signifies "adversary." Whilst it can relate to a good adversary opposing wickedness, most often it is an evil adversary that is in view. The greatest and most evil adversary to righteousness that mankind possesses are the lusts of the flesh. The desires are so powerful, that to gratify them men turn their backs upon God. Jesus taught that "from within, out of the heart of man" proceed all forms of sin (Mark 7: 21-23), and that is the satan we need to dread most.

Satan In Job And Revelation.

Satan figures largely in the book of Job, and many base their concept of a fallen-angel-devil upon the expressions of this book.

It is alleged, for example, that the scene of Ch. 1:6-7 which depicts Satan appearing before the Lord in company with the sons of God, relates to God's dwelling place in heaven, and at first sight it seems to read that way.

But obviously, if God is so holy that He "cannot look upon sin," He would not tolerate such a creature in close proximity to Him.

And a true interpretation of the verses does not require such an inconsistent picture.

We learn from Deuteronomy 19:17 that when a person appeared before a priest (God's representative on earth) he appeared before the Lord, because God was with the priest in the judgment (2 Chron. 19:6).

Why not apply the same principle of interpretation to Job Ch. 1:6 -- a principle that is consistent with other parts of Scripture? When that is done, the whole transaction is understood as taking place on earth, before God's priest.

But what of the term: "Sons of God"? Does not that indicate the angels of heaven?

By no means. The same phrase is used of mortal believers (see Deut. 14:1; Hos. 1: 10; Isa. 43:6-7). John, writing to mortal believers, declared: "Now are we the sons of God" (1 John 3:2). Thus the term relates to mortals, not angelic beings.

Satan (many Bibles supply the alternative -- "adversary" in the margin) was also a son of God, or a believer, but one who was motivated by jealousy and envy against Job, and who was therefore his adversary. He sought to blacken Job's reputation in the sight of God by imputing unworthy motives to his blameless life, and by accusing him of hypocrisy.

It is by no means uncommon to have such people among the believers, and claiming to be sons of God in the sense of 1 John 3:1. Even among the disciples of the Lord, there was satan in the person of Judas (John 6:70) as well as Peter (Matt. 16:23, Mark 8:33). Every Christian community has its satan, its Judas in its midst, so that Job's experience was by no means unique.

It is sometimes claimed, however, that the Satan of Job exercised the powers of life and death over the patriarch. The book does not say so. It claims that all the trials that Job experienced came from God (Job 2:3; 19:21; 42:11). He was tested that his enemies might be confounded, and that a principle of faith in adversity might be exhibited as an example for all times (James 5:11).

[We would like to also point out, that throughout the book of Job, Job and his friends NEVER attributed any of the trials he was experiencing to any one but God. -- Antipas]

Another reference frequently advanced to prove the existence of Satan in heaven as a fallen angel is Revelation 12:7: "There was war in heaven . . ."

This seems conclusive, but is far from being so when the context is examined. For example, vv.1-2 depicts a woman giving birth to a son "in heaven." It is the same "heaven," but is it God's dwelling place?

Such an idea is unthinkable. There is neither marriage nor giving in marriage there (Luke 20:36). It is obvious that we are in the presence of symbolic language (see Rev. 1:1), and the "heaven" in question relates to the political "heavens" which are set up on earth!

In fact, all this chapter is couched in symbolic language, and should be interpreted in that light. It is completely wrong to base a Bible doctrine on the literal interpretation of such expressions.

The same chapter speaks of a "great red dragon" (also in heaven) "having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" which catches a third of the stars in his tail and casts them into the earth.

Obviously this is not literal language; nor is it the language of fantasy. It is the language of symbol, the clues for the understanding of which, are carefully given (see Rev. 17:9-10). And these reveal that the symbols have relation to political events on earth, not in heaven, in which God's purpose is worked out.

The doctrinal evidence of the Bible shows, without doubt, that the devil revealed therein relates to sin in its various forms which Christ came to destroy.


  1. What, according to the Bible, was the original cause of death?
  2. Explain in scriptural terms the process of sinning and its results.
  3. What does the word "devil", used in our English Bible version, really mean, when properly translated from the Greek?
  4. How should the Hebrew word "salan" be translated into English?
  5. Did Job think that the evil brought upon him was caused by a super-natural Satan?
  6. Where, in the Book of Job, do we have proof that the trials were divinely controlled?

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