The Devil Himself: His Identity

“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! 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; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15

Who/what is Satan?

People’s beliefs concerning Satan range from the silly to the abstract—from a little red guy with horns who sits on your shoulder urging you to sin, to an expression used to describe the personification of evil. The Bible, however, gives us a clear portrait of who Satan is and how he affects our lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his position in heaven due to sin and is now completely opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God’s purposes.

Satan was created as a holy angel. Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherub, apparently the highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s pride led to his fall. Notice the many “I will” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Because of his sin, God permanently removed Satan from his exalted position and role.

Satan became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3). His very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes.” Another of his titles, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and encourage opposition to God’s kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and those who follow God. However, Satan’s destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

What are the names of Satan?

Satan is a spiritual being who led a heavenly revolt against God and was subsequently cast down into the earth (Luke 10:18). His personal name, “Satan,” means “adversary.” This name indicates Satan’s basic nature: he is the enemy of God, of all God does, and of all God loves.

He is also called “the devil” in the New Testament. The word “devil” means “false accuser” or “slanderer.” Satan plays this role in Job 1–2 when he attacks Job’s character.

In Matthew 12:24, the Jews refer to Satan as “Beelzebul,” an epithet derived from “Baal-Zebub” (“lord of the fly”), a false god of the Philistines in Ekron (2 Kings 1:2-3, 6).

Other titles of Satan include the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), the wicked one (Matthew 13:19, 38), the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), and—three titles that point to Satan’s authority in this world—the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Second Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan transforms himself into “an angel of light,” a description that highlights his capacity and inclination to deceive.

There are a couple of passages which refer to the judgment of earthly kings but may very well also refer to Satan. The first is Isaiah 14:12-15. This is addressed to the king of Babylon (verse 4), but the description also seems to fit that of a more powerful being. The name “Lucifer,” which means “morning star,” is used here to describe someone who sought to overthrow God’s very throne.

The second passage is Ezekiel 28:11-19, addressed to the king of Tyre. As in the “Lucifer” passage, this prophecy contains wording that seems to go beyond the description of a mere mortal. The king of Tyre is said to be “anointed as a guardian cherub,” but he was laid low by pride and “expelled” by God Himself.

In addition to providing names and titles of Satan, the Bible uses various metaphors to reveal the character of the enemy. Jesus, in the parable of the four soils, likens Satan to the birds that snatch the seed off the hardened ground (Matthew 13:4, 19). In another parable, Satan appears as the sower of weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:25, 28). Satan is analogous to a wolf in John 10:12 and a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8. In Revelation 12:9, Satan is the “great dragon . . . that serpent of old”—obviously, a reference to the serpent who deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1).

What does it mean that Satan masquerades as an angel of light?

Darkness and light are metaphors for evil and good. If anyone sees an angel of light, it will automatically seem to be a good being, for the correlation of evil with darkness, and of good with light, is a powerful archetype in human history. In the Bible, light is a spiritual metaphor for truth and God’s unchanging nature (James 1:17). It is repeatedly used in the Bible to help us understand that God is wholly good and truthful (1 John 1:5). When we are “in the light,” we are with Him (1 Peter 2:9). He exhorts us to join Him in the light (1 John 1:7), for giving us light was His purpose (John 12:46). Light is the place where love dwells and is comfortable (1 John 2:9-10). God has created light (Genesis 1:3), dwells in the light (1 Timothy 6:16) and puts the light in human hearts so that we can see and know Him and understand truth (2 Corinthians 4:6).

So, when 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” it means that Satan capitalizes on our love of the light in order to deceive. He wants us to think that he is good, truthful, loving, and powerful – all the things that God is. To portray himself as a dark, devilish being with horns would not be very appealing to the majority of people. Most people are not drawn to darkness, but to light. Therefore, Satan appears as a creature of light to draw us to himself and his lies.

How can we discern which light is of God and which light is of Satan? Our minds and hearts are easily confused by conflicting messages. How can we make sure we are on the right path? Psalm 119 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (verse 105) and “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (verse 130). The words of God have power. Just as God’s voice spoke physical light into existence, it can speak spiritual light into our hearts. Exposure to His voice – in His Word – will help us recognize the difference between the good light of God and that which is counterfeit.

Satan presents sin to us as something pleasing and beautiful to be desired, and he presents false teaching as enlightening and life-changing. Millions follow his deceptions simply because they do not know God’s truth. Isaiah 8:20-22 describes the darkness that results from ignoring the Word. The people of Israel have been seeking truth by consulting mediums, deceived by Satan’s lie. Isaiah says, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”

Darkness is a result of attempting to find truth without the Word of God. Sadly, as Isaiah says, when people do not have the “dawn,” they wander in darkness and often become angry at God, refusing to come to Him for help. This is why Satan’s masquerade as an angel of light is so effective. It turns white to black and black to white and gets us believing that God is the liar, that God is the source of darkness. Then, in our distress, we focus our hatred towards the only One who can save us.

What does it mean that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44)?

Speaking to a group of Jews, Jesus says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

Satan is the “father of lies” in that he is the original liar. He is the “father” of lies in the same way that Martin Luther is the “father” of the Reformation and Robert Goddard is the “father” of modern rocketry. Satan told the first lie in recorded history to Eve, in the Garden of Eden. After planting seeds of doubt in Eve’s mind with a question (Genesis 3:1), he directly contradicts God’s Word by telling her, “You will not certainly die” (Genesis 3:4). With that lie, Satan led Eve to her death; Adam followed, and so have we all.

Lying is Satan’s primary weapon against God’s children. He uses the tactic of deceit to separate people from their heavenly Father. Some of his more common lies are “there is no God,” “God doesn’t care about you,” “the Bible cannot be trusted,” and “your good works will get you into heaven.” The apostle Paul tells us that Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), so that what he says and does sounds good and seems reasonable. But it is nothing more than a false appearance.

Many of Satan’s lies tend to perpetuate themselves. This is what happened when Eve convinced Adam to also believe the devil’s lie. Today, Satan still uses people to spread his lies for him. Often, he uses charismatic but foolish people to further his falsehoods, as in the case of false religions and cults.

The Bible has many names for Satan to describe his true nature, including “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “tempter” (1 Thessalonians 3:5), “deceiver” (Revelation 12:9), “Beelzebub” (literally, “lord of the flies,” the ruler of demons, in Matthew 10:25), and “Belial,” meaning “wicked” (2 Corinthians 6:15).

Satan has told more lies to more people (and even angels) than any other being ever created. His success depends on people believing his lies. He has used everything from “little white lies” to huge, pants-on-fire whoppers to deceive folks. Adolph Hitler, a man who learned how to lie effectively, once said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

Whether a lie is small or large is not really the issue. Lies are of the devil. The Bible teaches that all liars “will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Warnings are never pleasant, but they are better than ignorance of danger; the Bible faithfully warns sinners of danger, including the danger of lying. Proverbs 19:9 also teaches that liars will be punished.

Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6), and He will never deceive you. Thankfully, Jesus is also the Savior, and His death and resurrection provide the basis for your forgiveness of all sin, including the sin of lying. Come to Jesus in faith and humility, and you will find that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

What does it mean that Satan is prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2)?

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1–2, emphasis added). In this text the apostle Paul describes Satan first as a “prince” with power, because he has authentic power in the world (1 John 5:19). This power has been given him by God (Luke 4:6). Satan has power over some illnesses (Luke 13:16; see also 2 Corinthians 12:7—it’s unknown if Paul’s “thorn” was an illness or something else). In some sense, Satan has power over death (Hebrews 2:14). The reason Satan is called a prince rather than a king is that there is only one King—Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:15).

Satan also has power over some people. The “sons of disobedience” referred to in Ephesians 2:2 are those who have not trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (cf. Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 13:12). The demons are also under the rule of Satan (Matthew 12:24), and one of his titles is “prince of demons” (Matthew 9:34). Satan has a kingdom (Matthew 12:26) and a throne (Revelation 2:13). Satan is called a prince because he is a ruler and possesses power to manifest evil in the world through influencing people and commanding demons.

“The air” in Ephesians 2:2 may refer to the invisible realm above the earth where Satan and his demons move and exist. This space, of course, is the location of the earth’s atmosphere or “air.” In Ephesians 6:12, Paul writes, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This evil realm called the “air” could be an actual locality, but it could also be synonymous with the “world” of John 12:31. This whole world is Satan’s domain (Matthew 4:8–9).

Although Satan has power and authority in the current world system in which we exist, his power is limited, always under the sovereign control of God (Job 1:12), and it is temporary (Romans 16:20). God has not revealed all of the whys and whens concerning Satan’s rule, but He has made it clear that there is only one way to escape the power of Satan’s dominion, and that is through His Son, Jesus (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:13–14). It is Jesus who, speaking of the impending cross, declared victory: “Now the prince of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31).

Was Satan in charge of music in Heaven?

Ezekiel 28:13 of the KJV and NKJV seems to hint that Satan was involved with music in Heaven. The NKJV says, “The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created,” although the exact meaning of this difficult Hebrew text is uncertain. There may have been such instruments in heaven, but there is no evidence outside this verse to verify it. Revelation 5:8 and 15:2 refer to harps, but not to timbrels or pipes.

The two Scripture passages that describe Satan before he fell are Ezekiel 28:12-19 and Isaiah 14:12-15. Satan was the “anointed cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14). He was adorned with every precious jewel imaginable (Ezekiel 28:13). He was “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12b). Likely he was the highest of all angels. He was persuasive enough to convince one-third of the angels to join him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:4). Even after his fall from heaven, not even Michael the archangel dared to stand up to him without the Lord’s help (Jude 9). Satan fell because of pride. He did not like being “second best.” He wanted to be God: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain’” (Isaiah 14:13).

Was Satan the head musician? This cannot be answered definitively. Scripture does not say enough about what his duties were in heaven. Considering the fact that the angels constantly worship God (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), it is possible that Satan led that worship. One thing is sure: for Satan to rebel despite having such an exalted position and close relationship with God, the devil is surely due his eternal destiny (Revelation 20:10).

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