Your Worst Enemy—His Rise and Fall
THE Bible shows that the enemy emerged shortly after God placed man and woman in their Paradise home. God, requiring the loyalty and obedience of this couple, gave them a simple command: ‘Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.’—Genesis 2:16, 17.
The enemy, however, saw this as a golden opportunity: “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’” Eve, doubtless familiar with the serpent and its shy ways, had no reason to run in terror. Not grasping that a superhuman power was behind this serpent, she was intrigued by its smooth words.—Genesis 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:14.
So when Eve responded that a violation of God’s law would mean death, the serpent replied by flatly contradicting God: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”—Genesis 3:2-5.
The rest is history. Eve, deceived into thinking she could live successfully independent of God, ate of the tree, and Adam followed suit. Swiftly moving to punish the rebellious pair, God condemned them to eventual death.—Genesis 3:16-19.
Who Was Behind the Serpent?
The Bible specifically identifies Satan as “the original serpent.” (Revelation 12:9) Delete the Devil from Genesis (as some skeptics would do) and the account is meaningless. One must then believe that a serpent somehow mustered up the ability to talk!
Yet the Bible shows that only man was created “in God’s image” and thus was able to communicate intelligently. (Genesis 1:27) Note, too, the sentence God pronounced upon the serpent: “And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Genesis 3:15.
Applying these words to a literal serpent makes little sense. Do humans really feel any more “enmity” for serpents than for, say, rats and spiders? Quite obviously, then, the “serpent,” “woman” and ‘seeds’ of that text are symbols that can be understood only in the light of other scriptures. (Galatians 4:26; 3:29; Revelation 12:1-6; Matthew 23:33) Nevertheless, it was now clear that a Satan, a resister of God, was on the loose.
The Enemy’s Origin
“That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him.” (John 8:44) Jesus Christ thus indicated that Satan was at one time “in the truth,” doubtless among the glorious angelic “sons of God.” (Job 38:7) This is a far cry from gruesomely depicting him as a horned, cloven-hoofed creature.* The Bible, however, does not dignify him by giving his original name.
‘But how could an angel sin?’ object some. Precisely what process of thinking led him into rebellion is not spelled out in the Bible. Perhaps he reasoned like the haughty king of Babylon: “To the heavens I shall go up. Above the stars of God I shall lift up my throne.” (Isaiah 14:13; compare 1 Timothy 3:6.) Likely an obsessive desire to be worshiped triggered that deadly chain reaction: “But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.”—James 1:14, 15.
Dividing the Universe
Why, then, did God not simply destroy Satan? Because Adam and Eve’s defection raised serious questions: Was God’s rule oppressive? Or was his rule righteous? Who had the right to rule? Was God withholding freedom from his subjects? Given the opportunity, would all of God’s servants abandon him?
Destroying Satan would have settled none of these questions. So God has wisely permitted Satan to exist—for a limited period. This has allowed both men and angels to observe God’s and Satan’s contrasting way of ruling. People can thus align themselves with either God or Satan. This issue of God’s rule versus “independence” divides the universe to this day!
Another side to this issue was revealed centuries later. In a remarkable glimpse into heaven itself, the Bible in Job 1:6-11 tells of an assembly of angels that Satan brazenly attended:
“Jehovah said to Satan: ‘Where do you come from?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘From roving about in the earth and from walking about in it.’ And Jehovah went on to say to Satan: ‘Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? . . . Thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.’”
It is obvious from the tone of this exchange that Satan was in opposition to God.* He implied that none of God’s servants would remain faithful if placed under pressure. Consequently, new questions were raised: To what extent would man be willing to suffer hardship out of love for God? Are God’s servants selfishly motivated? Again, these questions could be answered only by allowing wickedness to exist a while longer.
Are There Spirit Governments and Authorities?
Satan has spent some 6,000 years recruiting followers. He even gained the backing of rebel angels who under his influence “forsook their own proper dwelling place” in heaven. (Jude 6; Genesis 6:2) But how successful has he been in wooing humans to his side? How extensive is his influence today?
Quite extensive, according to the testimony of one angel to the prophet Daniel. Explaining why he had been delayed, the angel said: “But the prince of the royal realm of Persia was standing in opposition to me for twenty-one days, and, look! Michael, one of the foremost [angelic] princes, came to help me.” (Daniel 10:13) But who could resist an angel? Certainly no human. Why, it took but one angel to destroy 185,000 puny humans in one night! (Isaiah 37:36) The opposing prince must therefore have been a demonic agent of the great Adversary, Satan, himself!
The implications of this are enormous. The apostle Paul indicated that “wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places” are organized into “governments” and “authorities.” (Ephesians 6:12) Doubtless, then, each world power is invisibly governed by an invisible demonic “prince”! (Daniel 10:20) Indeed, Satan later boasted to Jesus of his ownership of “all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth.”* Jesus, of course, refused to have any share in this Satanic rule. (Luke 4:5-8) But what of men currently in office as national leaders? Are they not, in effect, Satan’s puppets?—See also Revelation 13:2.
“Eat Much Flesh”
Does Satanic rule really have a tangible effect on mankind? A chilling answer to this is given in Daniel chapter 7. There the Medo-Persian Empire is pictured by a bearlike “beast.” At the end of Da 7 verse 5, the Bible says: “And this is what they were saying to it, ‘Get up, eat much flesh.’” Satan’s demon princes were evidently inciting Persian rulers to “get up” from their second-rate power status and greedily gobble up territory.
History verifies that in time Medo-Persia responded to this demon invitation to “eat much flesh.” Says The Historians’ History of the World: “It is interesting to reflect that this empire was the greatest in mere geographical extent that the world had ever seen, far greater than Egypt, greater than the Assyrian empire at its widest reach, and greater than any empire that was to succeed it until modern times, except for the brief decade [under] Alexander the Great.”
To this day, international leaders show the same inclination to extend their spheres of influence. But now the stakes are higher. Nations perform what one writer called the “macabre dance” of maintaining a “balance of terror”—enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over. The tempting prospect of a “limited” nuclear war has even seduced “military strategists of all the major powers” to abandon “their long-sacrosanct notion of mutual deterrence. . . . They are busy instead plotting how best to wage and win an atomic exchange. The unspeakable is being discussed; the unthinkable is being contemplated.” (Maclean’s, February 15, 1982) Have they gone mad? No, they are merely succumbing to the proddings of their invisible ruler—Satan the Devil.
Who Are the Devil’s Advocates?
“I believe in [the Devil], I guess,” said one woman. “But I haven’t thought about him in a long time.” The Devil’s existence, though, should not be shoved into the corners of our minds. It must be faced squarely.
Belief in the Devil, however, does not mean being in morbid fear of him, or being fascinated by the occult. Christians flee demonistic and occult practices. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 1 Corinthians 10:21) Interestingly, the book The Devil’s Dominion observed: “The main reason why there has been such a growth of interest and involvement in the occult and in the satanic . . . has been the spiritual sterility of the established Church . . . the true but unwitting group of Devil’s advocates are the clergy of the established Churches themselves.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, suffer no such “spiritual sterility.” Nor do they become unwitting Devil’s advocates by joining the chorus of skeptics who deny his existence. (2 Corinthians 11:14) Knowing who man’s enemy is helps them understand why the God of love permits evil. They know just where they stand on the universal issue, preferring to submit to the good laws and the benefits of God’s rule rather than choose short-lived “independence.” And they are confident that with God’s help they can be ‘delivered from the wicked one.’ (Matthew 6:13) Recognizing that there is a Devil may open them to ridicule, but it also serves as a real protection.
A World War II poster in the United States read, “Know Your Enemy!” Battles have been lost because a general underestimated his foe. Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, know who the enemy is and they are “not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) They know that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one” and are thus not seduced by his schemes.—1 John 5:19.
Jehovah’s Witnesses also know that Satan’s evil reign is soon to end. The Bible foretells that soon the all-powerful Creator of the universe will rid his realm of all opposers. Satan’s rule will be succeeded by, as the apostle Peter wrote, “new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to [God’s] promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 3:7, 11-13; Revelation 20:1-3, 10.
In the “short period of time” left, we urge you to study the Bible and learn how you, too, can “oppose the Devil.” (Revelation 12:12; James 4:7) Jehovah’s Witnesses would be pleased to help you do this so that you can rejoice in the Bible’s promise: “The God who gives peace will crush Satan . . . shortly.”—Romans 16:20.
Medieval tradition merged the figure of the Greek god Pan (horns, cloven hooves, etc.) with that of the Devil.
The Jewish Encyclopedia claims that Satan in this account “can not be regarded . . . as an opponent of the Deity,” even going so far as to call him a “member of the divine council who watches over human activity.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia similarly says that Satan performed his accusatory role “as a function on behalf of God”! But if Satan was really on a mission from God, why would God ask, “Where do you come from?”—Job 1:7.
This confrontation with Jesus further shows that Satan could not be an allegory for the evil within man. Jesus Christ, as a perfect son of God, had no evil within him but was “guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.”—Hebrews 7:26.
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Under demonic influence the Medo-Persian Empire grew to be one of the most extensive in history
The Great Sea
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The popular conception of the Devil is borrowed from the portrayals of the mythological Greek god Pan
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Are the world’s military leaders, now plotting nuclear strategy, succumbing to the proddings of Satan?