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How did Satan originate? “God is love,” and God is holy. Because love is his predominating characteristic, God desired to surround his throne with creatures whom he might love and by whom he might be loved. Because of his holiness, these creatures must also be holy; and by logical necessity love and holiness cannot be forced. Compulsory love or holiness could not satisfy the all-wise Creator. Therefore these loving and holy creatures must be able to choose whether “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” or to reject him and suffer the consequences. The story of the beginning of sin is nowhere related explicitly in the Word; but certain passages seem to hint so strongly, that the following theory has long been held to explain them.

Apparently God first peopled the universe, or at least our part of it, with a hierarchy of holy angels, of whom one of the highest orders was (or contained) the cherubim. One of them, perhaps the highest of all, was “the anointed cherub that covereth,” who was created beautiful and perfect in his ways. This cherub knew that he was beautiful, but pride entered his heart and the first sin in the whole history of eternity occurred. Pride led to self-will (Isa.14.13-Isa.14.14) and self-will to rebellion. This great cherub became the adversary (“Satan”) of God and apparently led other angels into rebellion (cf. 2Pet.2.4; Jude.1.6). God then created man in his own image (innocent but with the possibility of becoming holy on conditon of obedience). Because Satan already hated God, he hated man whom God loved, and tried to destroy him. It is evident that God could have destroyed Satan at the moment that he became “Satan,” but God has tolerated him these many centuries and has used him for testing man until the days of testing will be over. Then Satan and all the other enemies of God will be cast into the “lake of burning sulfur” (Rev.20.10, Rev.20.15). In the age-long (though not eternal) conflict between good and evil, it sometimes seems as though God has given Satan every advantage. Even so, God’s victory is certain.

The devil is referred to in the OT sometimes by the name Satan, which originally means “an opponent” (cf. Num. 22:22ff.; 1 Sam. 29:4; 1 Kings 11:25). In Genesis 3, while there is no direct identification made of the serpent and the devil, it is at least implied that what has gone wrong with human life cannot be explained except on the presupposition of the invasion and infection of human life by some malignant power whose hatred of God goes beyond anything of which man is capable on his own initiative (cf. Matt. 13:28). At the climax of the Bible story we see Christ struggling, not simply to reform and repair the evil wills of men and call them back to God, but against some force of titanic proportions whose challenge to what is good demands an agonizing and total response from God Himself (1 John 3:8). Jesus' life is a struggle against one who is mighty (Mark 3:27); the hour of his agony is the climax of this struggle (Luke 22:53). Yet there is no question about his triumph (Luke 10:18). The devil must therefore be regarded as an alien personal force in the universe, which seeks to annihilate what God has created, to bring chaos where there is order, darkness where there is light; which defies God with superb hatred and pride; which manifests itself in human sin, especially in the opposition which Jesus met and overcame in the cross. The intrusion of this power into human life does not absolve man from responsibility. Man's consent to its work rather increases his guilt, yet the powers of evil, even in the temptation of man, are under the control of God.

In the OT the figure of Satan is seldom depicted in such a sinister and powerful role as in the NT, but a development toward such a view can be traced (1 Chron. 21:1; Isa. 14:12-21; Zech. 3:1,2). The NT repeats the doctrine of fallen angels (Jude 6-8), and Christ's words in John 8:44 have to be interpreted in this light. There are OT references to various kinds of demons (Isa. 34:14; Lev. 17:7), who under the decree of God can incite men to folly and sin (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 1 Kings 22:22ff.), and it is recognized that those who practice communion with departed spirits are in danger of becoming allied with, and possessed by, a whole world of evil (Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:10; Exod. 22:18). In apocalyptic literature (e.g., Daniel) there are suggestions of a kingdom of evil, a continuing war in heavenly places, and of satanic powers involved in earthly political movements and conflicts.

The NT recognizes the unity of this kingdom (Mark 3:22-27) under one head (Rev. 12:7,8). Because the devil is doomed and his time is short, he is the more full of anger. Therefore Christians are warned to watch and resist (1 Pet. 5:6-9; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), recognizing the greatness of his power to possess and trouble men (Luke 22:31f.; Eph. 6:11,12). The NT suggests a connection between idols, witchcraft,* and demons (1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21).

Theology has tried to do justice to the fact that all creation is basically good. It has stressed the absurd, accidental, and voluntary nature of the fall of the angels. It has been careful to avoid any idea that the devil could be a dualistic counterpart of God-an eternal being involved in an eternal struggle between good and evil. “The devil,” said Luther, “is God's devil.” Christian piety has always sought to do justice to the fact that all evil is made infinitely serious in its guilt and consequences in the light of the cross of Christ, and that nevertheless all evil has been overcome and exposed in its meaninglessness and futility.

E. Langton, Essentials of Demonology: A Study in Jewish and Christian Doctrine (1949); G.B. Caird, Principalities and Powers: A Study in Pauline Theology (1956); M.F. Unger, Biblical Demonology (1963); J.G. Kallas, The Satanward View (1966); R.S. Kluger, Satan in the Old Testament (1967).

In the NT the word most commonly used for “devil” was δαιμόνιον, G1228, a diminutive form of daimōn, and referred to a spiritual being which was hostile to both God and man. There are numerous statements in the gospels about people being possessed by devils, a situation which manifested itself in eccentric behavior (Luke 8:27), dumbness (11:14) and epilepsy (Mark 9:17, 18). It should be noted, however, that the evangelists distinguished between sickness and possession by devils, as in Matthew 4:24, where the various categories are not identical with one another.

Christ’s enemies attributed His success in expelling devils to the indwelling of Satan himself (Luke 11:15), to which Christ replied that such a situation would disrupt the entire realm of evil (11:17, 18). Jesus shared His supremacy over devils with His disciples as in the missions of the Twelve (9:1) and the Seventy (10:17). Unlike His disciples He was unconcerned when others used His name to expel devils (Mark 9:38, 39).


E. Langton, Essentials of Demonology (1949).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

dev’-’-l. See Demon; Satan.