The Doctrine of Satan (Part 1)
Is Satan a personal being or just an ‘emanation’ or an evil principle? Where does Satan come from? Does Satan cause every sin and disorder in a person’s life? These and other questions will be covered in this three-series about what the Bible teaches concerning Satan. This series partially summarises an article written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries called Satanology: The doctrine of Satan.
What the Bible Teaches
The Bible clearly teaches that Satan exists. Satan is mentioned in 7 Old Testament books and in 19 New Testament books. Jesus mentioned Satan 25 times (for example Matthew 4:10; Mark 3:26; Luke 13:16; John 12:31) and clearly taught that Satan exists. Satan is mentioned by every New Testament writer. Satan is not just an emanation or an imaginary, symbolic character. Without a doubt, the Bible clearly teaches that Satan exists.
A Personal Being
Not only does Satan exist, but the Bible shows that he is a real personal being. Satan has all three attributes of personality: intellect, emotion and will. That Satan has intellect is shown in Job 1-2, where he debates with God. In Matthew 4:6, Satan quotes Scripture, showing intellect. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Satan is described as being crafty, a function of intellect. Regarding emotions, Satan is depicted as being puffed up and as being angry — both signs of emotion (1 Timothy 3:6; Revelation 12:12, 17). Regarding his will, five times Satan said ‘I will’ in Isaiah 14:13-14. There is no doubt that Satan is a personal being.
The Bible also refers to Satan using personal pronouns. The Greek language describes some objects in the neuter (neither masculine nor feminine). If Satan were merely ‘a thing’ or ‘an emanation’, the neuter would have been used in the Greek language of the New Testament. However, Satan is always referred to in masculine pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘his’ or ‘him’, but never as an ‘it’.
More proof that Satan is a real personal being is that he acts like a person, not as some ‘thing’ or an emanation. For example, things or emanations do not sin, but the Bible says the devil sinned from the beginning (1 John 3:8). In Zechariah 3:1, Satan acts as a prosecuting attorney. John 8:44 teaches that Satan lusts, lies and murders. These are the actions of a real person. Moreover, as a person Satan is held morally responsible for his actions. Mere things are not thrown into the everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41), but persons are.
The Bible is very clear that Satan exists and that he is a real personal being. Even if religious groups teach contrariwise and say that Satan does not really exist or that he is just a thing, an emanation or some evil principle (and this is indeed being taught in South Africa), don’t believe these false teachings but rather uphold what the Bible teaches. Scripture cannot be broken.
A Created Being
Satan has not existed eternally; he is a created being. God created Satan without a single flaw. In fact, when Satan was created, he sealed up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, meaning that of all the beings that God created, Satan was the wisest and the most beautiful of all created beings (Ezekiel 28:11-15).
Satan was created as a cherub and even became the anointed cherub, or arch-cherub. This means that he ruled over the other cherubim. Satan had a covering of stones and was in charge of the worship of God in heaven (Ezekiel 28:11-15).
Just to emphasise, God created Satan without a single flaw. When God created the celestial beings (that includes Satan), they were created holy but with the power of contrary choice (cf. Mark 8:38; Jude 6). This means they had the ability to choose in a manner contrary to their created nature. If they chose holy in conformity with God’s will, these celestial beings were confirmed in their holiness. This is what two-thirds of the celestial beings did. Having been confirmed in their holiness, these holy and elect celestial beings do not have the ability of contrary choice anymore —in other words, they cannot sin anymore.
But as it turned out, Satan and a third of all celestial beings chose to make an unholy choice (cf. Revelation 12:4). In the next article, we will discuss the fall of Satan, his different abodes, designations as well as his nature.
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