Contrary to the claims of some, Satan most certainly exists:
Given all that the Bible has to say about the devil, only a cultist or theological liberal could claim to understand Scripture yet state that he does not exist. The Bible everywhere assumes the existence of a real, volitional and personal malevolent being known as the devil, or Satan.
Indeed, if we simply use a concordance, we find how often he is directly referred to – not to mention all the indirect references. If we run with the ESV, we see the two main words used as follows: “Devil” is used 33 times; “Satan” is used 49 times.
Of course numerous other names are used, such as Beelzebub, Belial, adversary, evil one, enemy, deceiver, father of lies, tempter, great dragon, murderer, and so on. As Graham Cole says in his new book Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons (Crossway, 2019):
The serpent is revealed as the enemy of the word of God, the enemy of the integrity of God, and the enemy of the people of God. At times, this spiritual being of immense power and cunning works his mischief as an angel of light. Other times he is like a ravenous lion on the prowl. He is a spoiler. He is a disuniter. He is the enemy of the interpersonal. Temptation is his specialty from the beginning. Christians need to have a worldview that takes the devil seriously in its awareness of evil.
Or as Ronald Kohl says in the book he just edited on this subject, Our Ancient Foe (P&R, 2019): “The Bible speaks often and definitely about Satan’s person and work. Sometimes it speaks via allusions or references; sometimes Scripture mentions him by name. I fear that, as Christians, we take Satan far too lightly. . . . Satan is a very real person.”
One cannot claim to be a Christian or a student of Scripture and deny the reality of the devil. Yet incredibly some folks seek to do just this. Liberal theologians of course try to. They no more believe in the reality of Satan than they do in miracles, or the resurrection, or the reliability of Scripture.
And most folks who are into the New Age Movement will talk heaps about spirituality, God, angels, heaven, and the like. But most of them talk very little about things like Satan, demons, sin and hell. In fact, most New Agers tend to deny the reality of those things.
I just recently had someone send in this comment to my site, after I had mentioned the devil in an article: “To my knowledge and research of scripture, there is no such thing as a ‘DEVIL’ although if we take the ‘D’ out of the DEVIL we end up with EVIL and thus, it could be said that devil is to do evil and each of us has the power to chose to do evil or to do good. I challenge anyone to show where in scripture there is evidence of a devil….”
Oh dear. He went on to discuss just one verse – the one about “get thee behind me Satan” – and claimed that this simply had to do with anything that is contrary to God’s will. Talk about trying to play fast and loose with the clear teachings of Scripture.
So how might we respond to those who claim that the Bible knows nothing of the devil, or that all those verses simply refer to some abstract principle of evil? We can begin by reminding the reader of the famous line by C. S. Lewis as found in the preface to his 1942 classic, The Screwtape Letters:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
As to the claims of the theological liberals and others that this is just some principle of evil, and not an actual evil being with great powers, a few things can be said. This is certainly NOT how the Bible treats the devil. Indeed, it is irrational to suggest this. As R. C. Sproul puts it, he once had a student say this to him: “I do believe in the reality of an impersonal force of evil in the world.”
Sproul said he found this response fascinating and asked the student, “How can an impersonal force be evil? What is this mysterious impersonal force? Cosmic dust? Radioactivity? Impersonal objects, forces, or powers can be many things. One thing they cannot be is morally evil.”
And Michael Green in his important book, I Believe in Satan’s Downfall (Hodder & Stoughton, 1981) is worth quoting from at length here:
It is logical for an atheist to reject belief in the devil, just as he rejects belief in God. . . . What is totally inconsistent is to accept one part of the spiritual realm, God, and to reject the other. The existence of the devil is a necessary part of consistent theism. Many who call themselves Christians will want to protest at that, but let them ask themselves if they are not in danger of reducing Christianity to a system of morals. Can they continue to accept the idea of revelation whilst rejecting the devil of whom it speaks? Can they listen to Jesus Christ while rejecting the devil to whom he bears witness? What satisfactory account can they give of the chaos in God’s world if there is not destructive force of evil at work? How can they make any sense of the atonement if there is no devil?
He continues: In critical circles
the idea of Satan is an aetiological tale. That is to say, it is a mythical or poetic story to explain a perplexing phenomenon, the existence of evil, disease and death in God’s world. [But] Satan is no mere explanatory tale: he is a menacing reality. He was for the Old Testament heroes: he was for Jesus: he was for the apostles, the saints and martyrs: and he is for us.
The biblical data on the reality of Satan is found throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament. But in the Old Testament we learn much of his activity as a fallen angel: tempting the first parents in the garden; being given permission to afflict Job; and his role as an accuser, and being rebuked by God (Zechariah 3:1-2).
But it is in the New Testament that we learn so much more about him. The Gospels alone give us dozens of references to him. And the truth is, just like the topic of hell, Jesus spoke more about the reality of Satan than anyone else in Scripture. So if we have a problem with a real devil, we then have a problem with Jesus himself.
Just a few things we find there: Jesus was of course tempted by the devil (see Matthew 4 and the parallel accounts). And Satan entered into Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3). Also, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, alluding to a very real devil, as we find in John 8:44:
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
In John 10:10 Jesus refers to Satan as a thief: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In Matthew 25 Jesus discusses the final judgment. In verse 41 he speaks of the cursed who go “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”.
The rest of the New Testament often mentions Satan as an actual figure. Paul for example says that we must not fall for his wiles (Ephesians 6;11); that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14); that we should give no opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:27); we must watch out for the snares of the devil (1 Timothy 3:7; 2 Timothy 2:26); and so on.
The other writers also assume the reality of Satan. For example, Hebrews 2:14 speaks of Jesus destroying the devil; in James 4:7 we read about resisting the devil; and in 1 Peter 5:8 we read about the “adversary the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And in Revelation 20 we read of the final defeat of Satan.
As to the passage that this fellow mentioned – and mangled – it is found in Matthew 16:21-23:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Jesus gives Peter a very strong but necessary rebuke. Peter here was listening to the voice of Satan, not God, and seeking to prevent Jesus from going to his divinely appointed end – the cross. Those who distort or deny the message and mission of God become at that point spokesmen or emissaries for the devil.
In sum, there is no way you can claim to be a Christian and take the Word of God seriously if you seek to deny the reality of Satan. It just can’t be done. Let me close with three quotes, the first one from C. S. Lewis. In his classic work, Mere Christianity, he says this:
One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe – a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference [from Dualism] is that Christianity thinks that this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.
My second witness is Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In his The Christian Warfare, which examines Ephesians 6:1-13 (volume 7 of his 8-volume expository commentary on Ephesians), he says this:
It is my belief … that the modern world, and especially the history of the present century, can only be understood in terms of the unusual activity of the devil and the ‘principalities and powers’ of darkness. Indeed, I suggest that a belief in a personal devil and demon activities is the touchstone by which one can most easily test any profession of Christian faith today. I make no apology, therefore, for having considered the matter in such detail. It is essential for the successful living of the Christian life and for the peace and happiness and joy of the individual Christian, and also for the prosperity of the Church in general.
In a world of collapsing institutions, moral chaos, and increasing violence, never was it more important to trace the hand of the ‘prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of the disobedience’, and then, not only learn how to wrestle with him and his forces, but also how to overcome them ‘by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony’. If we cannot discern the chief cause of our ills, how can we hope to cure them?
Finally, a few lines from a memorable Keith Green song, “No One Believes in Me Anymore (Satan’s Boast)”:
Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As time keeps slipping away
I can imitate your brightest light
And make your night look just like day
I put some truth in every lie
To tickle itching ears
You know I’m drawing people just like flies
‘Cause they like what they hear
I’m gaining power by the hour
They’re falling by the score
You know, it’s getting very simple now
‘Cause no one believe in me anymore
Oh, heaven’s just a state of mind
My books read on your shelf
And have you heard that God is dead?
I made that one up myself
They dabble in magic spells
They get their fortunes read
You know they heard the truth
But turned away and followed me instead
You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9YL0HV0mwE