Who is the devil?
The Bible teaches that just as God is the author of all life, and truth and beauty and goodness on earth and in the universe, so also there is someone who is ultimately responsible for all death and destruction on earth. That person is the devil. People sometimes talk about “forces of good and evil”. However as surely is God is a person, so also is the devil. He makes deliberate, calculated decisions. His desire at all times is to thwart the will and the plans of God.
I also guess it’s easy to assume that God and the devil counterbalance one another, or that the battle between God’s goodness and the devil’s evil is quite an evenly matched battle. However, that is completely untrue. Guess who created the devil? – God! God is the creator of all life. God is bigger, God is more majestic than absolutely anything. The devil cannot even begin to compare with the size of God. God has already won. However, if that is the case, then why does it often seem as if evil triumphs unchecked on earth? Sincerely, I am still trying to understand this one myself. I’m always thinking or asking God: “God, why don’t You just zap the devil or crush him or somehow get rid of him, so we can all live in peace?!” The Bible teaches that that will happen eventually. God is going to deal decisively with the devil, and throw him into the lake of fire, or hell, where he the devil is going to spend the whole of eternity. Unfortunately the devil is not going to stay there alone; he is going to be accompanied by lots of others, including all human beings who reject God’s love extended to us through Jesus.
How it all started:
The Bible and Christian tradition teach not only that God created the devil, but that the devil actually started off as the most beautiful angel in heaven. He was then called Lucifer, or the morning star. However, this beautiful angel let his beauty go to his head, and he rebelled in pride against God, wanting to claim God’s position as leader or boss for himself. (So this kind of behaviour is not unique to humanity!) In Lucifer’s rebellion, he managed to persuade some of the angels to side with him. God, unsurprisingly, was not impressed, and threw Lucifer and his rebellious angels out of heaven. Lucifer then became the devil, also known as Satan, and the rebellious angels became the demons.
Instead of seeing the error of his ways, and repenting or at least apologising (!), the devil has continued in deliberate defiance against God and God’s ways. He and his army of demons now operate widely on earth to cause mayhem and destruction in every way they can.
Spiritual agents in a physical world
God, the remaining angels, the devil and his demons are all spiritual beings. We human beings are also ultimately spirits, however we current inhabit a physical world. When we die our spirits will be separated from our bodies, and our spirits will leave this physical world, although our bodies will remain. So it is through spiritual rather than physical means that the devil manages to influence us. That is, the devil does not have a physical mouth to physically speak to us. The word “spiritual” has a very different meaning in Christian terms to what it means outside Christian thinking. Here it just means someone who exists as a spirit without a body. Because the devil is a person, he has a personality. He thinks, he reasons, he can make suggestions. He does all these things to our minds. However, because he is fallen and evil, as he insists on standing against the goodness of God, everything that he suggests to us is full of lies and deceit and evil. It is because of him and his suggestions to our minds that our minds are constantly full of negative thoughts, negative temptations, self-centredness, pride.
Responsibility for our actions?
Even though the devil is real, and his suggestions are real, we as human beings still have to take responsibility for our actions. We cannot blame the devil – “Oh the devil made me do this… or that” What the devil can do is suggest. However, he cannot actually make us sin. What he is very good at is deceiving us regarding sin, to make it look attractive and wonderful so that we will then of our own free will reach out and take the forbidden fruit, as Eve first did in the garden of Eden. In that very first case, the devil actually took on physical form, appearing as a snake to Eve. That first account demonstrates how the devil so easily deceives us into sinning against God. There the devil did not hold a gun (or a flaming sword!) to Eve’s head and force her to take the fruit. Rather he reasoned with her. He pretended he did not know the answers to the questions. He questioned God’s judgement. And surprise surprise, those seemingly simply tricks are exactly the same ways he still works today. He reasons with us. He suggests to us how sweet some “forbidden fruit” might taste. He questions the judgement of our God-given commonsense and conscience. And sadly, he seems to be as effective now as he was then. (Because it seems to be coming from our minds, we may not realise that it is in fact originating from the devil.)
In many ways, we are even more foolish than Eve was, because she had no way of seeing the consequences of her behaviour. However, I am confident in stating that for each one of us, at least once, even where the inevitable consequences of a particular silly or selfish action are standing right in front of us – we have all gone ahead to do take that action anyway. If you have never done it, then I am sure I have done it countless times, despite the fervour of my Christian upbringing. It is largely because of all our sin, that the devil successful deceives us into committing, that human behaviour is so characterised by selfishness and pride resulting in all kinds of dreadful and terrible repercussions, some small, some very significant.
I have come across many supposedly “clever” people, who scoff at Christian theory, thinking it is “too simplistic”, or “primitive” to think that one person (God) could act for goodness, and one person, the devil could act for evil*. But let’s think about it for a minute. Do animals commit sin? Do they deliberately destroy their natural environment? Human beings are the only “animals” who sin, they are the only ones who possibly can because they are the only ones who have been created with free will to choose between right and wrong rather than to merely act on instinct. And who created human beings this way? God. Not one of these clever people has managed to stop himself or herself from sinning. Not one of these clever people has managed to come up with a solution to the fact that we are all hard-wired to be utterly self-centred, even though we know that behaving this way is wrong, even though we can see the destructive effects of our behaviour in the world around us. It is not a matter of being simplistic, rather it is simply true. The devil is a real person, and we can see the real effects of his actions in the world around us every single day. (*Not all clever people think in the way described above, of course. Many people who are extremely brilliant and intellectually capable believe wholeheartedly in the truth of the Bible, and this has been true throughout the ages of history….that is, the ages of history that have occurred after the Bible was actually written!)
Thankfully, God is even more real than the devil (because He is bigger, therefore there is more of Him!) and God has defeated the devil forever.
As individuals, two paths stretch before us – the way of the devil, which is the way of sin, living self-centred lives, even when we are trying to be good, eventually leading to brokeness and destruction; or the way of God, which is the way that eventually leads to peace, and life and joy and fulfillment. By default, we are ALL born on the wrong path, but anyone can choose to make a change; why not do that today: choose life, choose God.
Photo of snake from Pixabay
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