Definition: The spirit creature who is the chief adversary of Jehovah God and of all who worship the true God. The name Satan was given to him because of his becoming a resister of Jehovah. Satan is also known as the Devil, because he is the foremost slanderer of God. Satan is described as the original serpent, evidently because of his using a serpent in Eden to deceive Eve, and for this reason “serpent” came to signify “deceiver.” In the book of Revelation, the symbolism of a devouring dragon is also applied to Satan.
How can we know whether such a spirit person really exists?
The Bible is the chief source of evidence. There he is repeatedly referred to by name (Satan 52 times, Devil 33 times). Eyewitness testimony as to Satan’s existence is also recorded there. Who was the eyewitness? Jesus Christ, who lived in heaven before coming to earth, repeatedly spoke of that wicked one by name.—Luke 22:31; 10:18; Matt. 25:41.
What the Bible says about Satan the Devil makes sense. The evil that mankind experiences is far out of proportion to the malice of the humans involved. The Bible’s explanation of Satan’s origin and his activities makes clear why, despite the desire of the majority to live in peace, mankind has been plagued with hatred, violence, and war for thousands of years and why this has reached such a level that it now threatens to destroy all mankind.
If there really were no Devil, accepting what the Bible says about him would not bring lasting benefits to a person. In many instances, however, persons who formerly dabbled in the occult or who belonged to groups practicing spiritism report that they were at that time greatly distressed because of hearing “voices” from unseen sources, being “possessed” by superhuman beings, etc. Genuine relief was gained when they learned what the Bible says about Satan and his demons, applied the Bible’s counsel to shun spiritistic practices, and sought Jehovah’s help in prayer.—See pages 384-389, under the heading “Spiritism.”
Believing that Satan exists does not mean accepting the idea that he has horns, a pointed tail, and a pitchfork and that he roasts people in a fiery hell. The Bible gives no such description of Satan. That is the product of the minds of medieval artists who were influenced by representations of the mythological Greek god Pan and by the Inferno written by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. Instead of teaching a fiery hell, the Bible clearly says that “the dead . . . are conscious of nothing at all.”—Eccl. 9:5.
Is Satan perhaps only the evil within people?
Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-7 tell about conversations between Jehovah God and Satan. If Satan were the evil in a person, the evil in this case would have to be in Jehovah. But that is in complete disagreement with what the Bible tells us about Jehovah as being One “in whom there is no unrighteousness.” (Ps. 92:15; Rev. 4:8) It is noteworthy that the Hebrew text uses the expression has·Sa·tanʹ (the Satan) in the accounts in Job, showing that reference is being made to the one who is outstandingly the resister of God.—See also Zechariah 3:1, 2, footnote in NW Reference edition.
Luke 4:1-13 reports that the Devil endeavored to tempt Jesus to do his bidding. The account relates statements made by the Devil and answers given by Jesus. Was Jesus there being tempted by evil within himself? Such a view does not harmonize with the Bible’s description of Jesus as being sinless. (Heb. 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22) Although at John 6:70 the Greek word di·aʹbo·losʹ is used to describe a bad quality that had developed in Judas Iscariot, in Luke 4:3 the expression ho di·aʹbo·los (the Devil) is used, thus designating a particular person.
Is blaming the Devil just a device used in an effort to escape from responsibility for bad conditions?
Some people blame the Devil for what they themselves do. In contrast, the Bible shows that humans often bear much of the blame for the badness they experience, whether at the hands of other humans or as a result of their own conduct. (Eccl. 8:9; Gal. 6:7) Yet, the Bible does not leave us ignorant of the existence and devices of the superhuman foe who has brought so much grief to mankind. It shows how we can get out from under his control.
From where did Satan come?
All of Jehovah’s works are perfect; he is not the author of unrighteousness; so he did not create anyone wicked. (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 5:4) The one who became Satan was originally a perfect spirit son of God. When saying that the Devil “did not stand fast in the truth,” Jesus indicated that at one time that one was “in the truth.” (John 8:44) But, as is true of all of God’s intelligent creatures, this spirit son was endowed with free will. He abused his freedom of choice, allowed feelings of self-importance to develop in his heart, began to crave worship that belonged only to God, and so enticed Adam and Eve to listen to him rather than obey God. Thus by his course of action he made himself Satan, which means “adversary.”—Jas. 1:14, 15; see also page 372, under the heading “Sin.”
Why did not God destroy Satan promptly after he rebelled?
Serious issues were raised by Satan: (1) The righteousness and rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Was Jehovah withholding from mankind freedom that would contribute to their happiness? Were mankind’s ability to govern their affairs successfully and their continued life truly dependent on their obedience to God? Had Jehovah been dishonest in giving a law that stated that disobedience would lead to their death? (Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:3-5) So, did Jehovah really have the right to rule? (2) The integrity of intelligent creatures toward Jehovah. By the deflection of Adam and Eve the question was raised: Did Jehovah’s servants really obey him out of love or might all of them abandon God and follow the lead being given by Satan? This latter issue was further developed by Satan in the days of Job. (Gen. 3:6; Job 1:8-11; 2:3-5; see also Luke 22:31.) These issues could not be settled by merely executing the rebels.
Not that God needed to prove anything to himself. But so that these issues would never again disrupt the peace and well-being of the universe, Jehovah has allowed ample time for them to be settled beyond all doubt. That Adam and Eve died following disobedience to God became evident in due time. (Gen. 5:5) But more was at issue. So, God has permitted both Satan and humans to try every form of government of their own making. None have brought lasting happiness. God has let mankind go to the limit in pursuing ways of life that ignore His righteous standards. The fruitage speaks for itself. As the Bible truthfully says: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jer. 10:23) At the same time God has given his servants opportunity to prove their loyalty to him by their acts of loving obedience, and this in the face of enticements and persecution instigated by Satan. Jehovah exhorts his servants, saying: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) Those proving faithful reap great benefits now and have the prospect of eternal life in perfection. They will use such life in doing the will of Jehovah, whose personality and ways they truly love.
How powerful a figure is Satan in today’s world?
Jesus Christ referred to him as being “the ruler of the world,” the one whom mankind in general obeys by heeding his urgings to ignore God’s requirements. (John 14:30; Eph. 2:2) The Bible also calls him “the god of this system of things,” who is honored by the religious practices of people who adhere to this system of things.—2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Cor. 10:20.
When endeavoring to tempt Jesus Christ, the Devil “brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time; and the Devil said to him: ‘I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it. You, therefore, if you do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.’” (Luke 4:5-7) Revelation 13:1, 2 reveals that Satan gives ‘power, throne and great authority’ to the global political system of rulership. Daniel 10:13, 20 discloses that Satan has had demonic princes over principal kingdoms of the earth. Ephesians 6:12 refers to these as constituting ‘governments, authorities, world rulers of this darkness, wicked spirit forces in heavenly places.’
No wonder that 1 John 5:19 says: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” But his power is only for a limited period of time and is only by the toleration of Jehovah, who is God Almighty.
How long will Satan be allowed to mislead mankind?
The provision for relief from Satan’s wicked influence is symbolically described in this way: “I saw an angel coming down out of heaven with the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he hurled him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, that he might not mislead the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After these things he must be let loose for a little while.” (Rev. 20:1-3) Then what? “The Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur.” (Rev. 20:10) What does that mean? Revelation 21:8 answers: “This means the second death.” He will be gone forever!
Does the ‘abyssing’ of Satan mean that he will be confined to a desolate earth with no one for him to tempt for 1,000 years?
Some persons refer to Revelation 20:3 (quoted on page 365) to support this idea. They say that the “abyss,” or “bottomless pit” (KJ), represents the earth in a state of desolation. Does it? Revelation 12:7-9, 12 (KJ) shows that at some time before his abyssing Satan is “cast out” of heaven down to the earth, where he brings increased woe upon mankind. So, when Revelation 20:3 (KJ) says that Satan is “cast . . . into the bottomless pit,” he surely is not simply left where he already is—invisible but confined to the vicinity of the earth. He is removed far from there, “that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.” Notice that Revelation 20:3 says that, at the end of the thousand years, it is Satan, not the nations, that are loosed from the abyss. When Satan is loosed, people who formerly made up those nations will already be on hand.
Isaiah 24:1-6 and Jeremiah 4:23-29 (KJ) are sometimes referred to in support of this belief. These say: “Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste . . . The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.” “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void . . . I beheld, and, lo, there was no man . . . For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate . . . Every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein.” What do these prophecies mean? They had their first fulfillment upon Jerusalem and the land of Judah. In execution of divine judgment, Jehovah permitted the Babylonians to overrun the land. Eventually it was all left desolate and waste. (See Jeremiah 36:29.) But God did not then depopulate the entire globe, nor will he do so now. (See pages 112-115, under “Earth,” also the main heading “Heaven.”) However, he will completely desolate both the modern counterpart of unfaithful Jerusalem, Christendom, which reproaches the name of God by its unholy conduct, and all the rest of Satan’s visible organization.
Instead of being a desolate waste, during Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, and while Satan is in the abyss, all the earth will become a paradise. (See “Paradise.”)