How Real Is the Devil?
“SEEING is believing,” goes a popular saying. It is well known that the best testimony to any fact is that of a reliable eyewitness. Do we have such an eyewitness to help us to answer the question: How real is the Devil?
That might seem impossible; but is it? Did you know that Jesus Christ lived in heaven before coming to earth? He was an eyewitness to things that went on in the spirit realm and had much to say about the Devil.—John 8:23; 17:5.
It would be most unwise to brush aside the testimony of Jesus. He always told the truth. He gave his life for the sake of the truth. (John 18:37; 8:40) Jesus’ words of wisdom, especially in his famous Sermon on the Mount, have won the highest praise, even from non-Christians. Yet in that sermon Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Deliver us from the wicked one.”—Matt. 6:13.
And what about God himself? Certainly he should know whether there is a Devil. The Bible as a whole contains the Creator’s point of view. It, too, bears all the earmarks of credibility. When relating events it gives the time, the place and the names of persons involved. The accuracy of the historical accounts in the Bible has amazed even its critics. Hundreds of Bible prophecies have been fulfilled to the smallest detail. And Scriptural counsel on human relations has proved to be unsurpassed.
What, therefore, does the Bible, which includes the testimony of Jesus Christ, say about Satan? Is “the Devil” merely an abstraction, a principle or force? Or does this term refer to an intelligent spirit person that can influence humans? According to the Bible, how real is the Devil?
Abstraction or a Person?
The Scriptures consistently refer to the Devil as a person. The Bible’s book of Job opens with an account of angelic “sons of the true God” assembling before Jehovah. Concerning this gathering, which doubtless included Jesus in his prehuman form, we read: “Satan proceeded to enter right among them.” (Job 1:6) Satan’s coming among God’s “sons,” who are persons, indicates that he, too, is a person. So does the fact that Satan conversed with Jehovah God.—Job 1:6-12; 2:1-5.
Many other Bible passages show that the Devil is a person. For example, 1 Chronicles 21:1 and Zechariah 3:1, 2 reveal Satan to be a resister of God’s people and, therefore, of God himself. (Zech. 2:8; Luke 10:16) In fact, the name Satan is Hebrew and means “resister, adversary.”
The Gospel account at Matthew 4:1-11 tells of Jesus’ being tempted by “the Devil,” a Greek term meaning “false accuser, misrepresenter, slanderer.” This threefold temptation of Jesus involved conversation between Jesus and the Devil in which Satan employed clever arguments, including a wrong application of Psalm 91:11, 12, to induce Jesus to sin against God. (Matt. 4:6) Jesus later called the Devil a “father” (in a figurative sense), a “manslayer” and a “liar.” (John 8:44) The apostle Paul, at 2 Corinthians 2:11, spoke of evil “designs” that Satan schemes up against Christians.
Only an intelligent, reasoning person could think, speak to God and Jesus Christ and ‘design’ tactics against people. It is worthy of note, too, that the majority of mankind throughout history have attributed the ultimate cause of evil to a person or persons in the spirit realm.
Did God Create the Devil?
Certain persons object that a righteous, loving God could never create a Devil. God is too good to do that, they say. But does such reasoning prove that the Devil does not exist?
Actually, that view is shortsighted, for the Bible nowhere says that God created an opposer of himself and of his creatures. Remember Jesus’ statement that the Devil “did not stand fast in the truth.” (John 8:44) He was once in harmony with God’s truth. But pride and desire to have people worship him instead of God moved Satan to forsake his righteous standing and to become a slanderous opposer of God.—1 Tim. 3:6; Matt. 4:9; Gen. 3:1-7.
Some insist that an all-wise, all-powerful God could not create a son that would turn bad. But such an assertion reduces God’s intelligent creatures to robots that are incapable of free choice. The fact that man was created “in God’s image,” and perfect at that, and yet turned bad, precludes such a narrow viewpoint.—Gen. 1:27, 31; Deut. 32:4.
But why has God allowed the Devil to exist for so long?
Why Permitted to Exist?
At the beginning of human history the Devil, through a serpent, introduced rebellion into the human family. (Gen. 3:1-7; Rev. 12:9) He deceived Eve into thinking that disobedience to God would be a way of superior enlightenment. He suggested that mankind would be better off governing themselves, deciding for themselves what was good and what was bad, instead of submitting to God’s direction. In direct contradiction to God, Satan stated that Adam and Eve would not die if they disobeyed.—Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-5.
The Devil thus implied that God was a liar and that God’s way of ruling over mankind was unrighteous and oppressive. The Bible account of Job shows that Satan also questioned the motive with which people serve God. He claimed that Job did so only because God prospered him materially.—Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5.
Some important questions, therefore, arose. Would rebellion against God really bring benefits, as Satan had claimed? Could man rule himself successfully by any form of government? Or would blessings for mankind result only from submitting to God’s rulership? Also, is all worship of God selfishly motivated? Or would there be people who would willingly keep integrity to God, even under dire circumstances? In the interests of eternal peace and harmony among all intelligent creatures, God chose to allow sufficient time to settle this issue once and for all.
Deceptive Ruler of a World System
During his period of permitted existence the Devil has been allowed widespread influence over mankind. Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of the world.” (John 14:30) And at Revelation 12:9 he is said to be “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” Did you know that? Few people do. Why?
Because Satan “keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14) He is a master at deception. (Gen. 3:13; 1 Tim. 2:14) People should, therefore, not expect that the Devil would control the majority of mankind through outright Satan worship, involvement in occult practices or direct demon possession. Most persons are not inclined to such extremes. It is much more to Satan’s liking to hold sway in a subtle way over intelligent, capable persons who are highly respected. He does this in his role as “the god of this system of things,” which includes the world’s great political, commercial and religious systems. (2 Cor. 4:4) Note how this is so.
The Bible’s book of Revelation symbolizes the political element of this world system as “a wild beast . . . with ten horns and seven heads.” (Rev. 13:1) Where did it get its ruling authority? “The dragon [Satan the Devil] gave to the beast its power and its throne and great authority.” (Rev. 13:2; 12:9) Has not the human political system manifested Satan’s animalistic disposition? Though God prohibits the wanton taking of human life, the history of earth’s governments has been one of wholesale bloodshed to further nationalistic aims.
It is true that, on occasion, political leaders speak of God and make a pretense of prayer, asking God’s guidance on governmental affairs. But then they ignore his written Word, his righteous commandments, his clearly expressed will, and push ahead with their own selfish schemes. They have taught mankind that their destiny lies in their own hands rather than in God’s. It is no wonder that the Bible says that “expressions inspired by demons” are leading the political rulers of the earth into a final war against God.—Rev. 16:13, 14.
The Scriptures closely associate the commercial element with the political “kings of the earth.” (Rev. 18:9-19) Does not commerce, too, manifest the spirit of God’s chief adversary? Everywhere greed and dishonesty are apparent, so much so that a common motto today is Caveat emptor, that is, “Let the buyer beware.”
But are not the great traditional religions of the world different? Do they not constitute a mighty bulwark against any superhuman evil influence? On the contrary, the religious leaders of both Christendom and pagandom have intimately associated themselves with the political and commercial leaders. As “friendship with the world is enmity with God,” these systems of worship betray themselves to be false religions.—Jas. 4:4.
The Bible describes the world empire of false religion, called “Babylon the Great,” as a harlotrous woman “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”—Rev. 17:2, 5.
Has not the human family swayed like a drunken man from the effects of this religiopolitical combine? Have not the world’s religions blessed the nations and prayed for the troops in their blood-spilling war efforts? And what about morals? It is clear that when the middle-class attitude on morals changes, so does that of many religious leaders. Ignoring the Word of God, hypocritical clergymen turn to the wisdom of the world and seek the plaudits and approval of men. No wonder that, instead of being described in God’s Word as a place of protection from the Devil, Babylon the Great is called “a dwelling place of demons.”—Rev. 18:2.
Thus, the Bible shows that Satan, as the ‘god of this entire system of things,’ maneuvers its parts to suit his purposes, creating an overall way of thinking or mental bent that permeates mankind in general. (2 Cor. 4:4) It is as the apostle Paul said: The Devil is “the ruler . . . of the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2, The Bible in Living English; The Emphasised Bible; Young’s) Even persons who would like to live according to right principles find themselves “locked” into the present system of things, pressured to go along with its corrupt thinking and activities. And many have suffered direct harassment from the supernatural, such as hearing “voices,” seeing frightening appearances, or being afflicted by objects flying about for no known reason.
After considering all this evidence you may say that you believe that there really is a Devil. But more than just such a “belief” is necessary.
“Take Your Stand Against Him”—How?
The apostle Peter, at 1 Peter 5:9, urges: “Take your stand against him [the Devil], solid in the faith.” How can a human ‘take a stand against’ a mighty spirit creature?
Certainly not by becoming superstitious, thinking that every unusual occurrence has a supernatural cause. Such thinking would be wrong, unscriptural, and could make a person fanatical and neurotic.
Nor would it be wise to seek the help of persons who practice “exorcism.” Jesus warned that such a practice would be an identifying mark of certain “false prophets,” saying:
“Be on your guard against false prophets . . . many will plead with me, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? Have we not exorcised demons by its power? Did we not do many miracles in your name as well?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Out of my sight, you evildoers!’”—Matt. 7:15, 22, 23, The New American Bible; compare Acts 19:11-16.
It is not by any miraculous expelling of demons, but by putting on “the complete suit of armor from God,” that a person can “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Eph. 6:11) That “armor” includes Christian qualities such as faith, righteousness, peace and ability to make practical use of the Word of God. (Eph. 6:14-18) How can you acquire that protective armor?
First there must be a change of mind and heart. The Bible shows this, saying: “Do not conform to the present world system, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” “Be renewed in your mental attitude.” (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23, The New Berkeley Version) In this way you can break free from the dominant trend of thinking that the Devil has imposed on this world system. (John 8:32) Bible study will help you to develop real peace of mind, faith and hope in God’s purpose that will protect you from the Devil’s onslaughts. What, though, is God’s purpose toward this wicked one?
Removal of the Devil—Soon
At the close of the first century C.E. the apostle John wrote: “For this purpose the Son of God was made manifest, namely, to break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) The time for earth-wide realization of this is very near.
Nearly six thousand years have elapsed since the Devil first imposed his rule over humankind. That has afforded sufficient time to prove to be false Satan’s claim that ‘enlightened self-government’ apart from God can benefit mankind. And throughout human history multitudes of faithful men and women have clung to their worship of God despite extreme hardship, even the loss of life. This invalidates the Devil’s further claim that all humans would break integrity to God if brought under pressure.
There is no need, therefore, to prolong Satan’s existence. Bible prophecy indicates that within the present generation a “great tribulation” will sweep into destruction religious “Babylon the Great,” the political “wild beast” and all other parts of this present earthly system of things. (Matt. 24:3-14, 21, 34; Rev. 17:16; 18:8; 19:19-21) Right after that, Satan will be ‘bound and abyssed,’ restrained from all contact with the earth, for a full thousand years. Finally he will be eternally destroyed.—Rev. 20:1-3, 7-10.
Do you wish to survive that “great tribulation” and the removal of Satan? If so, you must act now to “put on the complete suit of armor from God.” (Eph. 6:11) Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to conduct a free Bible study with you in your home or any other convenient place. Contact the Witnesses locally. You are also welcome to attend any of the weekly meetings held in their Kingdom Halls. Taking advantage of this free offer will help you to make a start at obeying the counsel at James 4:7: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”
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The Bible calls the Devil “the ruler of the world.” He maneuvers the great political, commercial and religious systems to suit his purpose. Did you know that?