Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
It is perhaps quite surprising to us, that in a day of increasing evil, when wickedness is practised more openly than ever before, the thought of a Personal Agent behind it all is consistently denied. To much of the world, Satan is a legend or a funny story. In many religious quarters, infected by the teachings of liberal theology, he is a medieval myth, long since forgotten in the more mature developments of religious thought. This is very much to Satan's satisfaction and makes his work much easier. Delusion is certainly a vital weapon in his programme of disaster. More to the devil's taste is the increasing fascination of many people with the powers of evil. During the last decade or so we have witnessed a growth in the outward manifestations of the works of the "kingdom of darkness" that is quite striking, and to thinking Christians, very significant. The practice of occult sciences, black magic, and communications with evil spirit forces through spiritism, has grown at an alarming rate in this country. In many of our schools, the ouija board has become the basis of gaming—many young people being trapped unawares in the acts of evil.
These facts are no exaggeration of the true state of affairs, as many evangelists and teachers will affirm. Spectacular-ism has been one of the devil's most successful gambits during recent times. In the pursuit of Christian warfare it is essential to know the enemy we face. His personality and power are real. It is not wasting words to state this, although we are certainly aware of it. There is no place for relaxation in our dealings with him. His energies are unflagging and his experience vast in dealing with the weaknesses of human lives. The object of these two studies is to outline something of the nature of Scriptural teaching as to his personality and power.
The Personality of Satan. From beginning to end, the Bible leaves us in no doubt as to the fact that Satan is a person. If we look at the record of the events of Eden in Genesis 3 this is evident. "The serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made", v. 1. This identifies the character of the serpent straight away. But then we notice, "he said unto the woman, 'Yea, hath God said...?'". Personality is implied. We feel that we are confronted by a person who by intent, as a result of careful and cunning planning, was determined to destroy the humans he was tempting. More than that, we realize that through their fall he was furthering a deadly plan, aimed at over-throwing all the purposes of God. God's severe curse upon Satan in verses 14-15 also makes clear the personal nature of the conflict between God and the serpent himself. Amidst much discrediting of the early teaching of Genesis in our day, belief in the fall of man and the origin of human sin revolves around the work of a person determined to destroy both God and man in his activities. So much for the beginnings of divine revelation.
When we come to the end of our Bible we find, significantly, the marking out of the personality of the evil one. In Revelation 20 we read of the ultimate climax of Satan's activity on earth. Here personality is ascribed to him. We notice that his names are spelled out, so that there shall be no mistaking his person, v. 2. Referring to the angel out of heaven with the chain, we read that he "laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years". While he is in the abyss, the earth knows millennial peace and prosperity. Eventually, after a release for a brief while, we read that "the devil which deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" with the beast and the false prophet. The torment will be everlasting, 20. 10. We can thus learn that teaching concerning the personality of Satan encompasses the whole of Scripture. He enters as a person, with all attributes of personality; he is seen at the end to be judged as a person. It is a sad reflection here that hell was created for the devil and his angels and that so many unbelievers will share its terrors.
For the origin of Satan we go back before time began. He is a created being and it is obvious that he was not created as the evil one. This would make God the author of evil, a false proposition. There are two outstanding Old Testament passages which give us an indication as to where Satan began. In Isaiah 14. 4-23 we have word against the king of Babylon. It incorporates a parable taken up against him and speaking of his overthrow. All the pomp and pride of the nation is to be brought down, v. 11. Then in verse 12 Lucifer, sun or star of the morning, is addressed. Here a creature of beauty and power is seen, aspiring to the throne of heaven. "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High", v. 14 r.v. This describes vividly Satan's origin— the powerful Lucifer cast down to Sheol because of his pride and rebellion. We notice here the w///of a person raised in rebellion against the will of God. This picture is confirmed in Ezekiel 28. 11 -16—a remarkable prophecy concerning the king of Tyre. We read of the "anointed cherub that covereth"—one in whom was sealed or measured the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Yet of this person we read that there came a time when unrighteousness was found in him and he was cast out of the mountain of God.
What can we learn from these passages concerning the person of Satan? He is a person of great intelligence and power. Long ages ago he held high office in the realms of the highest created beings before God. In his pride he sought to rise, and led a rebellion with many other beings against God and His will. He was cast down, bringing with him a train of fallen angelic beings, 2 Pet. 2. 4. The exact nature of Satan's position and power before he fell we cannot fully know, But we are bound to feel that his could have been the highest place that a created intelligence could hold under God Himself. How great his fall!
In closing our thoughts concerning the personality of Satan, we can look at the manifestation of his character in Bible history. There are three interesting Old Testament passages which describe Satan's intentions to damage the lives of men. In each of these cases we see him as the adversary bent on evil work against God's people.
"Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel", 1 Chron. 21. 1 r.v. "There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them", Job 1. 6. "He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary", Zech. 3, 1 r.v. Here is a threefold witness to the personal nature of the aggression of Satan. He moves David to do wrong before God. He assails with questions before the Lord the integrity of Job, gaining by his pleas the permission to tempt Job with adversity. It is obvious from Zechariah 3 that he was set to do the same work with Joshua, but the Lord rebuked him. How essential for us as Christians today to gain insight into the personal character of our great adversary. How good to know that we meet him with the power of a Personal Saviour.
The New Testament also indicates the reality of Satan as a personal adversary. Notice the following Scriptures:
Regarding the final temptation of the Lord in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus says to the devil, "Get thee hence, Satan ... for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God", Matt. 4. 10 r.v. In rebuking Peter the Lord Jesus says, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumblingblock to me", Matt. 16. 23 r.v.
Words of the Lord Jesus again, "Simon, Simon, , . . Satan asked (obtained you by asking) to have you, that he might sift you as wheat", Luke 22. 31 r.v.
Here again is a threefold witness to the character of the enemy we deal with. The Lord Jesus confronted him with His majesty and superior power. There is no doubt as to the personal character of the conflict which was constantly emerging until it found its deadly climax in the triumph of the cross.
Let us not underestimate the powers of darkness with which we deal. We need to take to ourselves constantly the whole panoply of God, divinely provided for those who have to do battle with the enemy of souls.
To be concluded