The kingdom of darkness is an ominous reality of which every person should be informed. Satan and his demons – the fallen angels who were cast out of heaven because of their rebellion against God – are engaged in a fierce battle against God and His kingdom as they strive for power and reverence on earth.
It is important to note that Satan is progressively exposed in the Bible by his works and the descriptive names given to him. These names are further indications of his motives, strategies and evil character. Satan and his demons operate from mystical spheres in the abyss (Luke 8:31) and also from heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12), but prefer to conceal their true identity for the sake of greater acceptance. Initially, they took on the identity of various idols, and even ancestral spirits, to ensure that people unknowingly worship them by sacrificing to these gods and spirits. This practice became widely established throughout many centuries. In NT times, Christians are sternly warned against any form of idolatry, as it is only a smokescreen behind which the devils conceal themselves (1 Cor. 10:19-21).
During the OT, heathen nations worshipped many Baals, Ashtoreths and other idols (Judg. 2:11-13; 1 Sam. 12:10) and often seduced Israel to participate in these false religions. Idolatry was practiced in conjunction with other occult activities such as spiritism, divination, magic and witchcraft, all being works of the darkness by which Satan deceives people. Israel was clearly warned against these evil practices (Deut. 18:10-14). Astrology is condemned in the same vein (Isa. 47:12-14).
There are also concepts in the OT that are more directly linked to Satan and his demons, and even examples of open Satanism. The Hebrew word sa-ir means devil or demon (Lev. 17:7; 2 Chron. 11:15). In A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the OT the word sa-ir is rendered “hairy demon in shape of he-goat.” Among Satanists, the devil is portrayed as a black goat, a human-like creature with the head of a goat, or an abominable creature with the twisted face of a human and the horns of a goat on his head. The OT also uses the word shed for the devil (Deut. 32:17). In Psalm 106:37-38 an ancient form of Satanism is described in which people sacrificed their children to demons. In this case idols and demons are equated with one another.
As a clear and direct revelation of Satan, his name only appears in a few of places in the OT. Satan means Adversary or Enemy, denoting the fact that he is the great adversary of God and the believers (1 Chron. 21:1; Zech. 3:1). In these verses, two descriptive names of him are mentioned, i.e. provoker (KJV) and opposer.
In the NT, both the names Satan and devil are used. Devil is derived from the Greek word diabolos, meaning slanderer or false accuser. Other names used for the devil in the NT are the wicked one (Matt. 13:19), mammon, the god of money (Luke 16:13), the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), the deceiver (Rev. 12:9), the father of lies (John 8:44), Apollyon, the destroyer (Rev. 9:11), Beelzebub, the fly-god or dung-god (Matt. 12:24), Belial, the worthless one (2 Cor. 6:15), the accuser (Rev. 12:10), the murderer (John 8:44), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the serpent (Rev. 12:9), the dragon (Rev. 12:9), the roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), and the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4).
Satan is heading the kingdom of darkness and has many evil spirits, or demons, under his control. Since the Fall he also controls and manipulates the unsaved people who are spiritually dead and inclined towards him. God delivers us from this power of darkness (Col. 1:13). The devil makes every effort in his power to take charge of God’s creation and destroy it. He also tries to avert the restoration of the image of God in human beings by blinding them spiritually and making them slaves of sin. His final objective is to be worshipped and served in the place of God (Rev. 13:2,4). He intends to have the Antichrist (the counterfeit Christ) appointed to a position of authority as King of the world. He also tries to oppose and replace the Holy Spirit by influencing and controlling people spiritually by deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). We need the whole armour of God to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, as he and his demons are the rulers of the darkness of this age (Eph. 6:11-12).
The position of spiritual power that Satan attained on earth results from the Fall. All people are born with a sinful nature and therefore participate in Satan’s rebellion against God. They are spiritually dead and morally depraved (Rom. 3:10-18). Even after the coming of Christ most people still prefer darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). That is the reason why the devil is called the ruler and also the god of this fallen, evil world (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4). John says that the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). His influence is extensive. Satan uses various methods to deceive humanity spiritually, of which the following are the most important ones:
False prophets. In his most disguised form, Satan attacks the church of Christ by infiltrating it with false prophets who pretend to be apostles and ministers of Christ (2 Cor. 11:14-15; cf. Matt. 7:15; 1 John 4:1). They utterly distort and falsify the Word of God to deceive people (2 Cor. 11:13-15) and make them to walk in darkness.
False religions. In a more direct way, humanity is deceived by the false religions into worshipping idols that are disguised demons. Anyone participating in these sacrifices has fellowship with demons (1 Cor. 10:19-20). The heathen are not aware that Satan has deceived them in this way. He blinded their minds so that they will not want to worship God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4).
Occult powers. A more ostensible revelation of Satan is by means of occult or mystical practices. He still does not associate these powers openly with his name and his kingdom, with the view that people may be more easily deceived into becoming unfaithful to God. The power of Satan is marketed and promoted by practices such as magic, witchcraft, spiritism, astrology, transcendental meditation, fortune-telling, astral projection, extrasensory perception, clairvoyance, etc.
Satanism. The direct revelation of Satan, because of the inherent repulsiveness of the idea, can only be made to highly deceived, morally decadent, and spiritually degenerate people. In the past, these direct revelations were confined to a relatively few small groups of people, but during the past two decades their numbers have vastly increased throughout the world. To these worshippers, Satan and his demons reveal themselves in all their abomination, vileness and bloodthirstiness, and demand to be worshipped. During the coming tribulation period, this practice will occur widely (Rev. 9:20; 13:4).
Although Jesus Christ defeated Satan on the cross he is not yet bound in pit and removed from the spiritual battle-field. Christ can destroy his works in our lives (1 John 3:8) and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can prevail against his temptations and attacks (Eph. 6:11). But we have to remain vigilant and put on the armour of light (Rom. 13:12). The devil will only lose his position as ruler over the wicked world at the Second Coming of Christ, when he will be bound in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:2-3). Until then, the struggle will continue.
There are various strategies that Satan follows to deceive people and get them in his power:
Adversary. In the first and most important aspect of the fight of faith the devil is described as the Christian’s adversary who seeks your downfall or harm in all spheres of life (1 Pet. 5:8-9). He is intent on destroying your health, your property, your marriage and everything you have in an effort to make you despondent and drive you to all sorts of irresponsible actions.
Tempter. The devil tempts people to commit moral sins by enticing them through their unregenerate nature and fleshly lusts. We have to guard against these temptations (Matt. 26:41), seek the help of the Lord (Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16), and put off the old nature by mortifying Satan’s ally in our lives, which is the flesh (Rom. 6:6; 8:13).
Deceiver. As deceiver, the main thrust of the devil is to distort the truth about God and His Word, and to spread various lies about Christianity. He does this by sowing doubt in people’s minds about Biblical truths, thereby promoting deception and spiritual backsliding (Matt. 24:4-5,24; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Pet. 2:1-2; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Robber. Satan intends robbing Christians by impoverishing them spiritually and materially (John 10:10). He seeks your downfall and the loss of your crown in the service of the Lord (Rev. 3:11; 2 John v. 8; cf. Heb. 12:15-17). Rather restore your broken relationship with the Lord as He pardons abundantly (Isa. 55:7) and will not remain angry when backsliders repent (Jer. 3:12).
Accuser. The devil also attacks believers by actively accusing them (Rev. 12:10). He accuses Christians at the throne of God after he has successfully tempted or deceived them. However, if we immediately turn from our sins and confess them (1 John 2:1-2), we have an Advocate with the Father at His throne in heaven, who pleads on our behalf. Satan also sows seeds of discord among Christians by accusing the one by the other, thereby harming the work of the Lord. Resist incitements of this nature (Col. 3:13). We must indeed oppose the false prophets, but live wisely with fellow-brethren, forbearing and forgiving one another (Gal. 6:1-2).
I resolve to give the devil no place in my life (Eph. 4:27) and to put on the full armour of God to be able to stand against his wiles. When he attacks, tempts or tries to rob me, I will subject myself in prayer to God and resist the devil (Jas. 4:7). When I take refuge in the Conqueror, the enemy will flee away. I thank the Lord that He delivers me daily from the evil one (Matt. 6:13). I realise the seriousness of the battle against sin, the world and the devil, but I also realise that there is abundant grace to keep me standing in the battle.
1. Discuss the meanings of the names Satan, devil and mammon.
2. How did the devil reveal himself in the OT?
3. Mention and describe five descriptive names of the devil in the NT.
4. How does the devil make use of false religions to achieve his purpose?
5. Which four methods or institutions does Satan use to deceive humanity?
6. Name and discuss five strategies followed by Satan in his subversive work.