“Be watchful! Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 PET. 5:8.
1. Explain how a spirit creature became Satan.
AT ONE TIME, he enjoyed a fine standing with Jehovah. At some point, however, this spirit creature began to desire the worship of humans. Rather than dismiss that improper desire, he nurtured it and let it grow until it gave birth to sin. (Jas. 1:14, 15) We know that creature as Satan, who “did not stand fast in the truth.” He rebelled against Jehovah and became “the father of the lie.”—John 8:44.
2, 3. What do the terms “Satan,” “Devil,” “serpent,” and “dragon” reveal about Jehovah’s greatest enemy?
2 Since his rebellion, Satan has proved to be Jehovah’s greatest enemy, and he certainly has not been a friend of mankind. The titles given to Satan reveal the depth of his corruption. Satan means “Resister,” indicating that this wicked spirit creature does not support God’s sovereignty; rather, he hates it and aggressively fights it. More than anything else, Satan wants to see the end of Jehovah’s sovereignty.
3 As noted at Revelation 12:9, Satan is called Devil, meaning “Slanderer.” This reminds us that Satan has defamed Jehovah by calling him a liar. The words “the original serpent” bring to mind that tragic day in Eden when Satan used a snake to deceive Eve. The expression “the great dragon” brings to mind thoughts of a terrifying monster and aptly fits Satan’s savage craving to obstruct Jehovah’s purpose and destroy His people.
4. What will be discussed in this article?
4 Clearly, Satan poses the greatest threat to our integrity. For good reason, the Bible admonishes us: “Keep your senses, be watchful! Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 Pet. 5:8) In view of that warning, this article will consider three characteristics of Satan that underscore the need to guard against this unscrupulous enemy of Jehovah and His people.
SATAN IS POWERFUL
5, 6. (a) Give examples showing that spirit creatures are “mighty in power.” (b) In what sense does Satan have “the means to cause death”?
5 Spirit creatures called angels are “mighty in power.” (Ps. 103:20) They are superior to humans and thus have greater intellect and strength. Of course, faithful angels use their power for good. For example, on one occasion an angel of Jehovah struck down 185,000 enemy Assyrian soldiers—a feat that would have been impossible for one human and difficult even for an entire army. (2 Ki. 19:35) On another occasion an angel used his superhuman power and ingenuity to release Jesus’ apostles from jail. That spirit creature eluded security measures, unlocked the doors, let out the apostles, and then locked the doors behind them—all of that while guards were stationed nearby!—Acts 5:18-23.
6 Whereas faithful spirit creatures use their power for good, Satan uses his power for evil. And what power and influence he has! The Scriptures refer to him as “the ruler of this world” and “the god of this system of things.” (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4) Satan the Devil even has “the means to cause death.” (Heb. 2:14) This does not mean that he kills all people directly. However, his murderous spirit has permeated this world. Moreover, because Eve believed Satan’s lie and Adam disobeyed God, sin and death spread to all mankind. (Rom. 5:12) In that sense, the Devil has had “the means to cause death.” He is what Jesus called him—“a murderer.” (John 8:44) What a powerful enemy we have in Satan!
7. How have the demons shown themselves to be powerful?
7 When we oppose Satan, we align ourselves against not only him but all those who side with him in the issue of universal sovereignty. That number includes a sizable group of other spirit rebels, or demons. (Rev. 12:3, 4) Time and again, the demons have demonstrated their superhuman strength, causing great misery to those whom they have tormented. (Matt. 8:28-32; Mark 5:1-5) Never underestimate the power of such wicked angels or that of “the ruler of the demons.” (Matt. 9:34) Without help from Jehovah, we could never win our fight against Satan.
SATAN IS VICIOUS
8. (a) What is Satan’s goal? (See opening image.) (b) From your own observation, how does this world reflect Satan’s vicious spirit?
8 The apostle Peter likened Satan to “a roaring lion.” According to one reference work, the Greek word translated “roaring” denotes “the howl of a beast in fierce hunger.” How well that describes Satan’s vicious disposition! Although the whole world already lies in his power, Satan is hungry for more victims. (1 John 5:19) To him, the world might be a mere “appetizer.” In effect, Satan has turned his attention to the “main course”—the anointed remnant, who are accompanied by their companions, the “other sheep.” (John 10:16; Rev. 12:17) Satan is intent on devouring Jehovah’s people. The waves of persecution he has unleashed against Jesus’ followers from the first century until now give evidence of his vicious spirit.
9, 10. (a) How did Satan try to hinder God’s purpose with regard to the nation of Israel? (Give examples.) (b) Why did Satan have special reason to focus his attention on ancient Israel? (c) How do you think the Devil feels when one of Jehovah’s servants commits a serious sin today?
9 In his attempts to hinder God’s purpose, Satan shows himself to be vicious in yet another way. A famished lion feels no pity for its prey. It feels no compassion before the kill and experiences no remorse afterward. In a similar way, Satan has shown no pity for those whom he tries to devour. For example, think about how often Satan the Devil must have been lurking somewhere when the Israelites succumbed to such sins as sexual immorality and greed. When you read about the tragic consequences that befell immoral Zimri and greedy Gehazi, for instance, can you “see” the roaring lion reveling in his conquest?—Num. 25:6-8, 14, 15; 2 Ki. 5:20-27.
10 Satan had special reason to focus his attention on ancient Israel. After all, that nation was to produce the Messiah—the very one who would crush Satan and vindicate Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Gen. 3:15) Satan did not want the Israelites to thrive, and he was vicious in his efforts to contaminate them with sin. Do not imagine that Satan felt sorry for David when he committed adultery or had any sympathy for Moses when that prophet was no longer qualified to enter the Promised Land. On the contrary, Satan no doubt rejoices when one of God’s servants becomes stained with serious sin. In fact, such victories may be among the things the Devil uses to taunt Jehovah.—Prov. 27:11.
11. What interest might Satan have had in targeting Sarah?
11 Satan had particular animosity for the family line that would produce the Messiah. For example, consider what happened shortly after Abraham was told that he would become “a great nation.” (Gen. 12:1-3) While Abraham and Sarah were in Egypt, Pharaoh had Sarah brought to his home—evidently so that she could become his wife. However, Jehovah intervened and saved Sarah from this moral predicament. (Read Genesis 12:14-20.) Shortly before the birth of Isaac, a similar incident occurred in Gerar. (Gen. 20:1-7) Was Satan behind the scenes on those occasions? Did he hope that Sarah, who left prosperous Ur to dwell in tents, would be seduced by the luxurious palaces of Pharaoh and Abimelech? Was Satan thinking that Sarah would betray her husband—and Jehovah—and enter an adulterous marriage? The Bible does not say, but we have good reason to believe that the Devil would have been delighted to render Sarah unfit to bear the promised offspring. Satan would have suffered no pangs of guilt that a good woman’s marriage, reputation, and standing with Jehovah would have been marred. How vicious Satan is!
12, 13. (a) How did Satan show his vicious disposition after the birth of Jesus? (b) How do you think Satan feels about young ones who love Jehovah and strive to serve Him today?
12 Jesus was born centuries after Abraham. Do not imagine that Satan thought that this infant was beautiful, cuddly, or precious. No, for Satan knew that this newborn child would grow up to become the promised Messiah. Indeed, Jesus was the primary part of Abraham’s offspring, the one who would later “break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) Would Satan reason that taking the life of a baby was going too far? Satan has no noble code of ethics. And with regard to the child Jesus, Satan did not hesitate to act. How?
13 King Herod was greatly upset when astrologers inquired about “the one born king of the Jews,” and he was determined to kill him. (Matt. 2:1-3, 13) To make sure that the job was done, he ordered the execution of all boys two years of age and younger who were living in Bethlehem and its districts. (Read Matthew 2:13-18.) Jesus escaped death in that unimaginable slaughter, but what does this tell us about our enemy Satan? It is evident that the Devil places no value on human life. He certainly does not have a soft spot for children. Satan truly is “a roaring lion.” Never underestimate his vicious disposition!
SATAN IS DECEPTIVE
14, 15. How has Satan “blinded the minds of the unbelievers”?
14 Only by being deceptive can Satan turn people against the loving God, Jehovah. (1 John 4:8) Through deception, Satan keeps people from becoming “conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matt. 5:3) He has thus “blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.”—2 Cor. 4:4.
15 One of Satan’s greatest means of deception is false religion. How pleased he must be to see people worship their ancestors, or nature, or animals—anyone or anything other than Jehovah, “who requires exclusive devotion”! (Ex. 20:5) Even many who think that they are worshipping God properly are shackled to false beliefs and useless rituals. They are in a pitiable state, much like that of those whom Jehovah implored: “Why do you keep paying out money for what is not bread, and why spend your earnings for what brings no satisfaction? Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and you will find great delight in what is truly rich.”—Isa. 55:2.
16, 17. (a) Why did Jesus tell Peter: “Get behind me, Satan”? (b) How might Satan deceive us regarding the matter of urgency?
16 Satan can fool even zealous servants of Jehovah. For example, consider what happened when Jesus told his disciples that he was about to be killed. No doubt with good motive, the apostle Peter took him aside and said: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this happen to you at all.” Jesus’ reply to Peter was firm: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:22, 23) Why did Jesus call Peter “Satan”? Because Jesus understood what was about to happen. The hour approached when he would die as a ransom sacrifice and prove the Devil a liar. At that critical juncture in human history, it was not a time for Jesus to “be kind” to himself. Relaxing his guard would have been precisely what Satan wanted him to do.
17 As we near the end of this system of things, we too are living in critical times. Satan wants us to relax our guard, to “be kind” to ourselves by carving out a niche in this world, thus losing our sense of urgency. Do not let that happen to you! Instead, “keep on the watch.” (Matt. 24:42) Never believe Satan’s deceptive propaganda that the end is far off—or that it is not coming at all.
18, 19. (a) How might Satan try to deceive us with regard to the way we think about ourselves? (b) How does Jehovah help us to keep our senses and to remain watchful?
18 Satan tries to deceive us in yet another way. He would have us believe that from God’s standpoint we are unlovable and our sins are unforgivable. That is all part of Satan’s deceptive propaganda. After all, who is particularly and really unlovable in Jehovah’s eyes? It is Satan. Who is really unforgivable? Again, it is Satan. But the Bible assures us: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.” (Heb. 6:10) Jehovah appreciates our efforts to please him, and our service is not in vain. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:58.) So let us not be fooled by Satan’s deceptive propaganda.
19 As we have seen, Satan is powerful, vicious, and deceptive. How can we win our battle against such a daunting enemy? Jehovah does not leave us defenseless. His Word educates us about Satan’s methods, and “we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Cor. 2:11) When we understand Satan’s tactics, we are better able to keep our senses and remain watchful. But just knowing Satan’s designs is not enough. The Bible says: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas. 4:7) The following article will discuss three areas in which we can fight Satan and win.