When dealing with the reality of Satan as a being the church typically makes one of two very egregious errors in the path of understanding of Satan. The first path is that we do not want to admit Satan is involved at all in the issues in the world, and like angels Satan is figment of our religious past. The second is that we blame Satan for everything that occurs and declare he is the sole perpetrator of all evil. The first premise is dangerous because we do not acknowledge the biblical reality of Satan. The second is even more dangerous and destructive because it attempts to absolve humanity of their own sin and consequences of that sin.
We must find a natural and biblical balance when dealing with the reality of Satan. Satan is not an all knowing being capable of possessing and making humans sin without their complicity. But Satan is also not innocent and responsible for a great deal of suffering. The reality of Satan cannot be ignored, but we must be careful to ensure Satan is not the scapegoat on which we throw our sins with “the devil made me do it” as an excuse. We must also acknowledge that along with scripture, many cultures have shaped the way we view Satan and his abilities. Greco-Roman and Persian influences on the look and ability of Satan permeate the early church, including Celtic believers, who were influenced by their own culture as well. We must acknowledge the influences while seeking biblical truth about this entity. This chapter will attempt to do so.
Like many orthodox faiths, as well as those within Celtic traditions, Celtic theology puts a high view of the Bible and its words within its context. If we are to accept this way of looking at scripture, we simply cannot deny the existence of Satan because his reality is chronicled in the Bible. Seven Old Testament books discuss Satan, and every New Testament writer discussed his reality. Jesus constantly spoke of Satan, and in the twenty-nine passages found in the gospels, Jesus is speaking of Satan in twenty-five of them.
Satan is an angel and therefore possesses the same traits and power of an angel, simply in a fallen state. Satan demonstrates that the following traits are possessed.
and I fear, lest, as the serpent did beguile Eve in his subtilty, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in the Christ; -2 Corinthians 11:3
and the dragon was angry against the woman and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, those keeping the commands of God, and having the testimony of Jesus Christ. -Revelation 12:17
And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, lo, the Adversary did ask you for himself to sift as the wheat, – Luke 22:31
How hast thou fallen from the heavens, O shining one, son of the dawn! Thou hast been cut down to earth, O weakener of nations. And thou said in thy heart: the heavens I go up, Above stars of God I raise my throne, And I sit in the mount of meeting in the sides of the north. I go up above the heights of a thick cloud, I am like to the Most High. -Isaiah 14:12-14
Satan is also referred to as a person in both the Old and New Testaments, rather a thing or personification.
And Jehovah saith unto the Adversary, ‘Whence comest thou?’ And the Adversary answereth Jehovah and saith, ‘From going to and fro in the land, and from walking up and down on it. -Job 1:7
Satan is Not Just an Abstract Concept
In Matthew 4:1-12 Jesus uses pronouns when describing Satan during His temptation, and as such it is safe to assume Satan is an actual being and not a feeling or abstract object. There are some that would argue that Satan is simply a personification of the evil humanity has done. Biblically this cannot be the case. Personifications are not judged and sentenced; persons are. Jesus judges Satan as a person in Matthew 25:41. To say Satan is not an actual person would be to deny the words of Jesus Christ in this instance.
The Nature of Satan
It is widely understood that Ezekiel 28:11-19 is speaking of Satan. In this reality we find that Satan is a creature (verse 15), meaning that Satan was at some point created. As such, Satan is not infinite and therefore not a god nor is Satan as powerful as God. This also decidedly declares Satan is not omnipresent nor is Satan omnipotent. Satan does not possess God-Like traits because Satan is a creature.
According to Ezekiel 28:14, Satan belongs to the order of angels called the Cherubim and is therefore a spirit being like all other angels. Ezekiel 28:12 explains that Satan was the highest created angel. As Lucifer, Satan was higher order than Michael. In the fallen state, Lucifer could be considered the archangel of the non-elect angels, or demons as they are known, but not more powerful than God, the Creator. Scripture attests to the fact that although fallen, Satan retains great power in this time.
in whom the god of this age did blind the minds of the unbelieving, that there doth not shine forth to them the enlightening of the good news of the glory of the Christ, who is the image of God; -2 Corinthians 4:4
in which once ye did walk according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience, – Ephesians 2:2
The Various Names of Satan
The sheer number of biblical and extra biblical cultural understanding of a supreme evil being further support the reality of Satan as an actual being.
- In Scripture
Satan– used 52 times, means Adversary or Opposer
Devil– used over 30 times, from Greek, meaning Slanderer
The Apostle John records Satan as “The Evil One”
The Shining One or Serpent from Genesis 3- This name tends to stick with Satan both as a name and a shape.
Great Red Dragon– Revelation 12:3
Accuser of the Brethren– Revelation 12:10
Tempter– Matthew 4:3
The Prince of the Power of the Air– Ephesians 2:2
Beelzebul– Describes Satan as the chief of the demons
In its totality, these names not only personify Satan as a being but also shed light into the personality of this evil one. The Bible gives us background, looks and reality of this non-elect angel.
In extrabiblical Cultural Accounts
Since all humans are made in the image of God, Christian or not, we cannot ignore the accounts of evil outside of our understanding. God gave all humanity the ability to detect the traits of Satan and many outside of the Bible have described a cultural experience that could be argued as Satan if the cultural experience is applied in conjunction with Biblical narrative. The Celtic view of the evil one outside of the Bible has its own dedicated chapter later in the text.
- Islam- Muslims have two terms for their Satanic figure. The first is Iblis, which is his proper name (just as Christians use Satan or Lucifer). The second is shaitan, which is a noun or an adjective, describing any being that rebels against God. Ergo, there is one Iblis, and he is a shaitan, but there are other shaitans as well. Although we are different faiths, our shared understanding of the evil one is very prevalent.
- Ancient Egypt- SET, OR SETH, whom the Greeks called Typhon, the nefarious demon of death and evil in Egyptian mythology, is characterized as “a strong god (a-pahuti), whose anger is to be feared”. The inscriptions call him “the powerful one of Thebes,” and “Ruler of the South.” He is conceived as the sun that kills with the arrows of heat; he is the slayer, and iron is called the bones of Typhon. This could easily be an account of Satan to a culture that did not have the Bible to understand it.
- Norse Pantheon- Hel was one of the children of the trickster god Loki. Her kingdom was said to lie downward and northward. It was called Niflheim, or the World of Darkness, and appears to have been divided into several sections, one of which was Náströnd, the shore of corpses.
Satan is a Reality
These, and many other extra biblical interpretations can at least inform us of the reality of Satan beyond the Bible. Almost all cultures have a Satan-like figure which further shores up the reality of this being. This does not mean these accounts trump the biblical account, and neither are those accounts attempting to do so. The reality of Satan existing in all cultures is found both in scripture and the collective of human memory.
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