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The devil is probably one of the most mocked characters in the modern western world. From cartoons of a little red fellow with horns and a pitchfork, to Halloween costumes, to representations in films, he is treated as a joke. Many people – even people who believe in God – simply don’t believe that there is such a thing as a real, personal devil. He is, they say, just a mythical personification of the evil in the world.
In reality, that concept is one of the two most dangerous lies spread around by the devil himself (the other is the one that says he is all powerful – so big and powerful that you’d just better do what he says and not argue.) The Bible makes it clear that there is a real, personal being, known as the devil or satan (I refuse to give him a capital letter), who is the ultimate source of evil.
Isaiah 14:12-20 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 are two passages that seem, on the surface, to be addressed to earthly kings. However, we don’t have to go far beneath the surface to realize that the things said in these passages could never be applied to a human being. The Ezekiel passage speaks about one who was created perfect, full of beauty ans wisdom, and was appointed as the “guardian cherub”. Satan, as he was originally created by God, was not an evil being, but the head angel.
However, both Isaiah and Ezekiel show that he became proud, and then tried to rise up and make himself even greater than God. Because of this he was thrown out of heaven and cast to earth, where he took the form of a serpent. In that form he tempted our first parents to do the same as he had done, promising them that if they disobeyed God they would themselves become “as gods”. Sadly, they fell for it. God had given them dominion over the world, but by obeying the devil rather than God they handed that rule over to satan.
Satan could not return to rule from heaven, the place of God’s throne, so instead he set up his throne in the physical heavens, becoming known as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). From there he was able to influence everything that happened on the earth.
When Jesus came, the devil tried to destroy Him almost as soon as he was born, by influencing Herod to have all the male children killed. When it came time for Jesus to enter into His ministry, the devil tried to stop Him with the wilderness temptations (Matthew 4). Notice that Jesus was not battling against some kind of evil force, or a principle, but against a real, personal being who spoke to Him and took Him to various places in the effort to tempt Him away from His goal.
Jesus’ death on the Cross was a defeat for satan. By His perfect obedience to the Father, Jesus reversed the disobedience of our first parents and claimed back the earth as part of God’s Kingdom. The devil’s fate was sealed. However, for the present time he continues to “hold his fort” in the physical heavens – much as, in the Second World War, some Japanese soldiers continued to hold their positions long after the war was over. He still influences, and even controls, those people on earth who make themselves available to his influence.
The day is coming, however, when his time will be up. The victory that Jesus won at Calvary will be fully enforced, and the devil’s influence will be removed from the world. Till that time, we have to choose whether we will follow the devil and share his eternal destiny in hell, or follow Christ and share His eternal reign in heaven.