WHAT IS SATAN?
"The angel of the Lord stood in the way for a satan against Balaam" (num 22:22). "Jesus said to Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou savorest the things that be of men" (mat 16:23).
'SATAN' is the common Hebrew word meaning 'Adversary' and is so translated in most of its occurrences in the Old Testament. In some places the translators, for some reason, chose arbitrarily to transfer the word rather than translate it properly. If they had been consistent, the result would have been a severe blow to the 'supernatural personal Devil' theory.
It is beneficial to study all the occurrences of the word 'Satan' in the Old Testament. There is much to be learned from a careful review of these passages. It will be noted, in every case but one (1ch 21:1) that when it is translated 'Satan' the margin always shows 'adversary' (The margin only occurs for the first reference in Job, but applies all through). If the passages are fairly and honestly examined, any apparent support for the traditional theory of a personal Devil based on the word 'Satan' completely disappears. Note that in (num 22:22) (num 22:32) an angel of God is termed a 'satan'; also in (1sa 29:4) note that the Philistines considered David a 'satan' to them. David spoke of his own nephews (sons of Zeruiah) as 'satans' (2sa 19:22). In two cases God stirred up human 'satans' to punish Solomon (1Ki 11:14), (1ki 11:23) (1ki 11:25) though earlier, when he was obedient, there were no 'satans' to trouble him (1ki 4:5).
GOD IS TERMED A 'SATAN' TO WICKED ISRAEL
In one case God himself was termed a 'satan' to Israel because of their disobedience. If an angel of God could be a satan (adversary) to a wicked man (Balaam), then it is quite appropriate for God Himself to be a satan (adversary) to wicked men. Compare the two parallel accounts of the same incident - "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He (the LORD) moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah..." (2sa 24:1)
"Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel" (1ch 21:1)
God does not cause people to sin. The sinful tendencies of human nature we possess result in evil actions that have very negative consequences, not only for the individual involved, but also for many in his or her circle of influence. David recognized his own guilt, and was punished for this act. God is always perfectly righteous and just, but He has a perfect right - as Creator of all - to enforce His law and punish sin in any way He wishes. If we deliberately entertain sinful ideas, He may arrange that we be moved to put them into action, so they may be brought out into the open and punished, for sinful ideas are themselves sin, and merit punishment (mat 5:28). God often punishes with kindness and love, to correct us and save us from worse sin, and ultimate rejection.
Why, when they knew from the parallel passage who the 'adversary' was, did the AV translators use 'Satan' here, rather than properly translating it, as elsewhere where they had no choice, where 'Satan' would have been absurd?
It will be noted that in (psa 109:6) and (zec 3:1-2), where they have 'Satan' in the text, they have 'adversary' in the margin, dissolving any support for the personal Devil theory. In fact, in three other places in the same Psalm, they have rendered the same word correctly as 'adversary' And even in v. 6 where they have 'Satan: the universal principle of parallelism in Hebrew poetry - (saying the same thing twice in different words. Read Psalms 105.) all through for a striking example) - confirms the true meaning - "Set a wicked man over him; and let Satan (an adversary) stand at his right hand."
THE 'SATAN' OF ZECHARIAH 3:1,2
This one who resists Joshua in symbolic vision is clearly illustrated by the literal history of the same period "Then stood up Joshua... and builded the altar... for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that they builded the Temple... then they came... Then the people of the land weakened them, and troubled them, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose... and wrote an accusation against them:' (ezr 3:2-3) (ezr 4:1)
Here is a clear example of scriptural satanism. 'Accuser' is one of the meanings of the Hebrew word 'satan'.
THE 'SATAN' OF JOB
This leaves only the record in Job where the word 'Satan' occurs (but there again, the AV has the revealing term 'adversary' in the margin). The introduction of the orthodox personal Devil theory into the Job picture is totally incongruous. This 'Satan' or 'adversary' was 'among the sons of God' (the worshipers) who came to 'present themselves before the Lord' (job 1:6). To picture the traditional Devil in such a situation is an absurdity, and betrays a very low concept of God.
To see it for what it really says - an adversary of Job, a professed worshiper of God who was jealous and envious of Job's favor with God - is perfectly natural and reasonable, and is the picture anyone would get if it were translated correctly. To suppose that God would negotiate and argue with a supernatural personage almost as powerful as Himself - as traditional theology would have us think - and give him power to bring God's faithful servant Job to the very gate of death, illustrates the depth of confusion to which popular religion has sunk.
As to the power used to bring all the calamities upon Job, a careful reading of the narrative will show that all the superhuman power manifested was entirely of God, and under God's control - "Thou movest Me (God) against him (Job), to destroy him" (job 2:3). "The hand of God hath touched me" (Job speaking) - (job 19:21).
"His brethren comforted him over all the evil the Lord brought on him" (job 42:11).
This last statement is by the inspired narrator, and confirms Job's own words. True, it does say that - "So went Satan forth... and smote Job with sore boils:" (job 2:7)
The other passages above clearly show that this power was of God. We often find ordinary men being given power to do superhuman things, as it suited the purpose of God. And we find such cases spoken of as both God doing what was done, and the human agent doing it.
Speaking of the plagues of Egypt (which included the infliction of boils), we are told:
"The Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand and cause frogs to come up"...
"Moses and Aaron did all these wonders:' (exo 8:5); (exo 11:10)
And yet in the same context (as here in Job), it is described as God doing it.
MAN'S GREAT ADVERSARY IS SIN
The great Adversary of all mankind is Sin in the flesh: the evil, rebellious 'motions of sin' within all human flesh; the 'mind of the flesh' which, says Paul, is - "Enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can be" (rom 8:7).
This ingrained evil principle of human nature led Paul to further say...
"I am carnal (fleshly), sold under Sin... Sin dwelleth in me .. . In my flesh dwelleth no good thing... Sin dwelleth in me... I see a law in my members... the law of Sin in my members .. . They that are in the flesh cannot please God... If ye live after the flesh ye shall die... The flesh lusteth against the Spirit" (rom 7:14) (rom 7:23); (rom 8:8); (gal 5:17).
Such could be multiplied many fold, illustrating the Bible Satan. Here are a few... "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, thefts, etc." (mat 15:19).
"The works of the flesh are: adultery, hatred, wrath, strife, murders, etc." (gal 5:19-21).
"ALL that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father, but of the world" (1jo 2:16).
So we find that in the New Testament, the term 'Satan, or 'adversary, is applied to this evil principle in human flesh, in its various manifestations: personal and political.
The word 'satan' was carried over from the Hebrew language into the Greek of the New Testament. Let's consider the occurrences of the word 'satan' in the New Testament... If these passages are examined, they will all be seen to fit into the pattern of standing for the Sin principle, or for individuals or organizations serving and motivated by those principles. The exception is in one case where Christ, speaking to the Pharisees 'in parables', (mar 3:22-26) (mat 12:24) (mat 12:27), adopts their own superstitious nomenclature - Beelzebub, Satan - and confounds them with it.
PETER WAS A 'SATAN'
Peter, in love, misguided by the natural inclinations of the flesh (the Satan), remonstrated with Christ about the latter's coming sacrificial death. Jesus said - "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou savorest of the things of men" (mat 16:23) (mar 8:33).
Peter was motivated by natural fleshly feelings that in natural blindness were contrary to the will and purpose of God, and contrary to true wisdom and goodness. There was certainly no supernatural force of Evil involved. To call him a 'satan' in the scriptural sense was quite appropriate, and in harmony with his 'good, but misguided, intentions.
But to call him 'Satan' under these circumstances if it signified the evil, orthodox, God hating Devil, would be an impossible thing for Christ to say to him in rebuke of his flesh misguided love for his Master. Peter was certainly an 'adversary' to the purpose of God in his objection to the sacrificial death of Christ, but the traditional, popular view requires us to believe that Christ identified him with a supernatural force which is the total epitomy and embodiment of the utmost and most extreme depth of viciousness and evil.
There's a similar illustration of what the Bible 'Satan' really is in Acts 5. Peter said: "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?" (act 5:3). Then expressing the same thing more literally, he said (act 5:4) "Why hast THOU conceived this thing in thine heart?" And a little later to Ananias' wife Sapphira, he said (act 5:9) "How is it ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?"
PAUL'S 'MESSENGER OF SATAN'
These parallelisms are given us to show us the use and meaning of 'satan'. Paul said that, because of his unique and high privileges in God's revelations - "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2co 12:7).
Here again, the traditional orthodox view necessitates the idea that Christ was allied with and using an evil fiend, the arch enemy of God, to torment Paul. This cooperative service by the Devil was for Paul's eternal benefit. Therefore we are presented here with Christ and the Devil as being allied together for Paul's good!
Such are the results of the viewpoint of traditional Christianity. To any who have a scriptural conception of the relationship between Christ and Paul, this monstrous view that introduces the God of Evil into their relationship is impossible. But it is reasonable and harmonious that Christ, in love, laid upon Paul a bodily affliction - part of the general, present, passing Sin constitution that afflicts the world (in hope - (rom 8:20)) - so he would be constantly reminded of his fleshly weakness and total dependence upon God's support.
According to the traditional orthodox theory, God and 'Satan' are in a partnership, and Satan faithfully does God's bidding in gleefully torturing forever to all eternity those who have not pleased God in this present brief life. But while Satan is thus represented in this theory as allied with God, and used by God to torture the wicked, they are at the same time represented as being in deadly conflict and competition, struggling for the 'immortal soul' of each individual.
'DELIVERING UNTO SATAN'
Paul said (1ti 1:20) that he had delivered Hymeneus and Alexander to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. And similarly, he instructs the Corinthian brethren, concerning offenders against the Truth who were in the Body - "Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1co 5:5). The meaning of 'delivering to Satan' is clear from the context... "That he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1co 5:2) - PUT AWAY from among you that wicked person" (1co 5:13). And the stated purpose of removing such from the Body - "For the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1co 5:5) - is similarly explained in the context - "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? PURGE OUT therefore the old leaven (the ungodly members) that ye may be a new lump." (1co 5:7)
The 'spirit to be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus' is the spirit and purity of the Body, purged and preserved by removing from it the sinful and fleshly elements which, if not removed, would 'leaven' and corrupt the whole lump. For the Body's self protection from the leaven of sin, to 'deliver someone to Satan' is to put them out into the world of Sin, where they belong as sinners, but with the hope of their awakening and reformation. But to give them to the orthodox Devil is to consign them to the hopeless, endless tortures of hell. Unless one were determining a man's final judgment the last thing to do would be to give him to the orthodox Devil. That's clearly not the purpose of disfellowship.
Other plain, literal commands concerning 'delivering to Satan' are - "A heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject" (tit 3:10). "Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly... If any man obey not our word... have no company with him" (2th 3:6) (2th 3:14). "Mark them which cause offenses . . and avoid them" (rom 16:17). But the purpose is correctional, in hope, not consignment to the monster of traditional Christianity - "Have no company with him, that he may be ashamed Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him AS A BROTHER" (2th 3:14-15).
Paul says to the believers at Thessalonica:
"I would have come to you, but Satan hindered" (1th 2:18).
When we look into the history of the case, we find that that which hindered Paul was the opposition and evil designs of wicked men, men who lived and operated according to the sinful motions of the flesh. There were plenty of these in the record, but no appearance of the orthodox Devil.
'SATAN' IN REVELATION OBVIOUSLY REFERS TO MEN
When the general meaning of the Revelation is understood (and it must be understood in order to obtain a complete understanding of the Gospel), the references in Revelation 12 and Revelation 20 will be seen to be conclusive against the orthodox personal Devil theory; and that under the terms 'Dragon', 'Serpent', 'Devil' and 'Satan': the political power and dominion of the flesh- Sin's Flesh (rom 8:3) - is being represented.
This Dragon / Serpent / Devil / Satan power has 7 heads and 10 horns (rev 12:3), and we are told in literal explanation of these symbols (rev 17:12-14) that these 10 horns are 10 kings who, at the time of the end, make war against Christ when he returns to subdue the earth and set up his Kingdom. And these kings are related (rev 17:18) to the 'Great City which ruleth over the kings of the EARTH'. This is a very earthly picture throughout.
The Great City that ruled the earth in John's day, and for ages afterward, and for centuries beyond that in a different (but very real) form, was ROME. So the Revelation establishes the Dragon / Devil / Satan power as the political embodiment of Sin's Flesh in its world ruling manifestation.
WHAT ENTICES MAN TO SIN?
The traditional view is that every person is tempted when he or she is enticed by Satan. This is true - if we understand what is meant by 'Satan' The Scripture says - "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin" (jam 1:14-15).
It will be noted that there is absolutely no mention of any 'Satan' in the process. THIS is the Bible Satan, in its tempting and enticing activity: the 'lust of the flesh"; the 'law of Sin in the members'. Let us be sure we recognize and fight the real enemy - SIN - in all its forms! A fundamental and thorough knowledge of God's revealed scripture message will enable us to do that.
SATAN'S' SEAT' IN PERGAMOS
The identification of Satan with the Sin motivated opposition of wicked men to the things of God is further illustrated by Revelation 2:13 (rev 2:13), where the apostle John is conveying a message from Christ to the faithful believers who lived in Pergamos - "I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my Name... even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth."
According to the concept of traditional organized Christianity, Satan's 'seat' - or headquarters - was never in Pergamos in Asia Minor, but in a fiery burning Hell. But Pergamos was at that time a center and stronghold of men who opposed the Truth of God, and persecuted His people. The simple picture is clear. Man's great Enemy and Adversary is the fleshly mind: both his own from within, and the individual or organized opposition and antagonism from without. The Enemy of the Truth and the people of God is Sin in all its world filling, world ruling forms. And this is how the Scriptures present it.
STUDY ROMANS 7 FOR THE TRUE BIBLE PICTURE
Read Romans 7, where it is analyzed most deeply. There is absolutely no hint or mention of any supernatural evil creature, nor any room in the argument for him. But we do find Sin - the Sin principle in the flesh - very vividly personified as the great Enemy and source of evil. Introduce the sulfurous hoofed and horned Fiend of popular superstition, and the whole picture is confused and contradictory. He is of necessity an accepted partner of God, and at the same time immeasurably more successful in the snaring of 'immortal souls' than God.
A personal Satan, a monster of evil, torturing the vast majority of mankind forever without end, would make God's purpose with man a hideous, monstrous failure. That false doctrine makes a terrible, tragic, monumental multiplication of suffering and evil, world without end. It would seem impossible to really believe that this is the eventual, eternal culmination of God's Purpose with mankind! But the traditional theory and teaching of a supernatural personal Devil, eternal Hell theory necessitates it.
Fortunately, the Scriptures do not. To this point we have focused largely upon what the 'devil' and 'satan' are not. In the third and final lesson regarding this vital subject we will explore in greater depth exactly what the Bible indicates the devil to be. This exercise will cover some very important Gospel fundamentals that are key to understanding how God's righteousness has been demonstrated and declared in the process of bringing salvation to us.
1. From what language has the word 'Satan' been derived?
2. What is the basic meaning of the word 'Satan'?
3. Have righteous individuals been called 'satans'? Give illustrations.
4. What other word appears in the AV for 'satan'?
5. Have wicked men been classed as 'satans'? Give illustrations.
6. In what way have the translators not been entirely faithful in rendering 'satan'?
7. Who constituted the 'Satan' of Zechariah 3?
8. Who brought all the evil upon Job? Give Scripture in proof.
9. In what way was Job's adversary able to bring affliction on Job?
10. Has God ever been a 'Satan, or adversary? When?
11. Was any righteous person in the New Testament ever called a 'satan'?
12. How did the Hebrew word 'satan' happen to be used in the NT, which is in Greek?
13. Who was the 'satan' that opposed Paul visiting the believers at Thessalonica?
14. Can we be 'satans' in opposing the will of God, if we are sincerely trying (in ignorance) to do what is right? Give a scriptural example.
15. What is meant by 'being delivered to Satan, to learn not to blaspheme'?
16. How do we know the 'Satan' of Revelation is a symbol of human organizations?
17. What was the 'satan' that influenced Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5?
18. What is the tempting and enticing force in the lives of all people?
19. From what source does all the evil of the world proceed?
20. What is the great 'Satan' we must all fear and oppose and overcome?
21. What force alone is able to assist us to overcome this great Adversary?