Many people, including many Christians, regard Satan as a mythical being. It is right to say that Satan is not mentioned often in the Bible. Should he be? Need he be? The Bible makes us aware that such a being exists, but it is not about him. Satan is not the equivalent of God. Satan is a thinking, powerful, personal being–not just the personification of evil. Satan is the originator of rebellion within God’s creation. He is created by God as well. Both Jesus and the Gospel writers refer to Satan. Where is he now and what is his impact on our eternity?
We first see Satan in the Garden of Eden, which was on Earth. He tempts Eve, then Adam to question the honesty of God, and floats the idea that being like God was achievable for humans. That was the bait that sank the hook. The hook was the vast alteration of humans and all creation by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It seems mythy (my word–so you can’t use it for Scrabble), but Jesus does not cast doubt on the book of Genesis, so I will accept it as historical. Could it be real? Why not? An being of advanced being of great knowledge and power could create the means to genetically alter two human beings with direct contact. That we can almost do. How he manages to alter the rest of creation is more of a mystery.
Satan had access to Earth, now he held dominion over it. Evil and death would be the norm. In the rest of the Old Testament, you only see Satan twice for sure and possible two more times. In Job and in Zechariah you see Satan in Heaven as an accuser. In Job, he also has access to Earth as a disrupter and tempter. Two other “maybe it’s Satan” passages tell his backstory. Isaiah 14:9-16 and Ezekiel 28:14-19 do not refer to Satan directly, but rather the king of Babylon and the King of Tyre. The descriptions seem too much for a human. Could these men have been possessed by Satan himself or even been incarnations of Satan? If so, we learn that Satan is a cherubim/seraphim and that his downfall was essentially pride and wanting to be God. Sound familiar?
The arrival of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, changes things. Satan was still the dominate spiritual force on Earth, but he is no match against the Son of God, except perhaps in the fact that Jesus has human flesh. The goal of Jesus is to fulfill God’s law for all of humanity and to suffer the required punishment for sin, at least the demand for God to forsake (remove from His presence entirely), all humanity. The counter move for Satan must have been to get Jesus to fail or quit. Killing Jesus was attempted via King Herod, via Jesus himself during Jesus’ formal temptation, and lastly through the crucifixion. Did Satan understand that killing Jesus at the crucifixion was playing right into God’s hands? I think he figured it out, but too late.
Revelation speaks of Satan being driven from Heaven. This is somehow connected to Jesus’ work on Earth and likely Jesus’ death:
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.Revelation 12:7-9 (ESV)
So Satan no longer has access to Heaven. Why would he in the first place? It doesn’t say, but I would surmise that it had something to do with Satan knowing that God wanted to save humans and Satan using that as leverage to delay is own judgment.
Satan is cast to Earth. Again, why? It seems that at least some of Satan’s angelic followers are thrown into “prison” :
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;2 Peter 2:4 (ESV)
I left the footnote annotation in this quote because it matters. Both the ESV and KJV choose the word “hell”, but the Greek word is different from any other in the Bible. I think “Gehenna” refers to what we think of as Hell–the post-Judgment Day place of eternal punishment. This is not “Sheol or Hades” either. They refer to the post death, pre-Judgment Day destination for human condemnation. This word is “Tartarus”, which is borrowed from Greek mythology. It was a prison for souls or specifically for the Titans. Here Peter uses it for a place that is possibly equated to the “abyss” found in Luke 8:31. Why isn’t Satan there? Instead, it appears that he is here with us.
Revelation 20:1-3 holds out this information:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit (Abyss) and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.Revelation 20:1-3 (ESV)
The timing of this is greatly debated and beyond the scope of this blog. It would appear that Satan himself or at least some aspect of his power or following is still at work influencing the affairs of mankind. How much of the evil in this world is our own doing and how much can we say, “The Devil made me do it?” is unknown.
Satan’s final disposition is most relevant to the topic of this blog. In Revelation 20:7-10, we get the end of it:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.Revelation 20:7-10 (ESV)
Cartoons and even great works of art can depict Satan as the ruler of Hell, joyfully tormenting the damned of mankind. That is not the case. Satan suffers with the damned. To be forsaken by God is a torment even for God’s first and greatest enemy.
Satan is on a misery loves company campaign. God is still saving people with the Gospel, and Satan is still opposing it using every avenue at his disposal. There is no need for you to share his fate.