The devil is just as far from God in power and might and wisdom and in every other such attribute as is any human being. This is true because God is infinite and perfect in every one of His attributes while humanity and the devil are limited, finite and imperfect. Infinitude is just as far from one point in finitude as it is from another. The devil is finite in his attributes because he is a created being, just as are we. We know that God is the only essential, necessary being. Everything else is contingent upon Him (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:11; Col. 1:16,17; Heb. 1:3).
In fact, in many ways man has more power and wisdom than the devil. The devil cannot make us do anything that we chose not to do. James says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Peter tells us to be steadfast in the faith in resisting the devil (I Pet. 5:9). Paul exhorts us to not give place to the devil (Eph. 4:27). And God has provided a way of escape to avoid the traps he sets for us (I Cor. 10:13). Furthermore, we are able to understand the value of the will of God while the devil tries to destroy it.
The devil’s chief power is his skill at lying. Jesus said there is no truth in him because he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is skilled at making something that is bad and evil look like it is good and right, even himself, for he sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14). He is proficient at lying wonders (II Thess. 2:9). One of his favorite devices–and we are not ignorant of his devices (II Cor. 2:11)–is to twist the word of God into something that it is not. He used this approach on Eve when he twisted what God had said and deceived her (Gen. 3:1; I Tim. 2:14). He tried unsuccessfully to use this approach on the Lord (Matt. 4:6).
As mentioned earlier, the devil is a created being (Psalm 148:1-5). The Bible does not explicitly say when he was created but if all things in heaven and earth were created in six days, then his creation would have been during that time frame (Ex. 20:11). Furthermore, it would have been very early in creation because God states in the book of Job that the sons of God (i.e., the angels) shouted for joy when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7).
The Bible says that when the creation was finished, God saw that everything that He had made was very good (Gen. 1:31). The devil then was not created evil since everything God had made was very good. But this also suggests the obvious question of when the devil became evil. When did the devil become the devil? Apparently, sometime between when God declared everything that He had made was very good and the temptation of Eve, the devil must have willfully chosen to rebel against God.
Why did he rebel? The indications are that he was moved by pride. In describing the qualifications for elders, the apostle Paul warns against appointing a new Christian, a novice, because he can easily be lifted up with pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil (I Tim. 3:6). Ezekiel (28:11-19) and Isaiah (14:12-14) both seem to allude to this. Ezekiel describes an anointed cherub that was created perfect in beauty and full of wisdom and that had been in the garden of God till iniquity was found in him. Isaiah describes Lucifer who wanted to exalt himself like the most High.1 Thus we have the proverb, pride goeth before destruction (Prov. 16:18).
The name “satan” means adversary. Peter described our adversary as a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). In the early days of earth history, in the days of Patriarchy, when God asked him what he had been doing, satan replied that he was going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it, presumably seeking to devour, as he tried to with Job (Job 1:7). In the parable of the tares, Jesus described the enemy, which is the devil (Matt. 13:39), as going through the fields while men slept and sowing tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). The devil never stops. He was after Peter (Luke 22:31), Joshua the high priest (Zec. 3:1), king David (I Chron. 21:1), the apostle Paul (II Cor. 12:7) and also after the Lord (Matt. 4:1-11).
He is also after you and me. But the good news is that he is beaten. Even before the foundation of the world the Lord had put in place a plan of salvation whereby satan’s efforts would fail (Rev. 13:8; Eph. 3:9). Immediately after the Fall it was foretold that the seed of the woman would deliver a mortal blow to satan (Gen. 3:15). The Lord has destroyed the devil and the power which he held over man–that is the fear of death through His resurrection from the dead (Heb. 2:14; Col. 2:14,15). Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels and he will be cast there, bound forever (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).
Eric L. Padgett
- The majority of commentators seem to reject the view that these passages refer to the devil. However, both passages are consistent with what we know explicitly and implicitly of the devil from other, undisputed passages. We know the devil was created perfect, and that God did not create the devil as the devil. We know, therefore, that he must have fallen from some higher state. We know that Paul describes at least one of his faults as being pride, which comports with Ezekiel’s description of his heart being lifted up and Isaiah’s description as one seeking to obtain the position of God. We know that there was an hierarchy of created, angelic beings and that some of these rebelled and left their first estate. We know that hell was created for the devil and his angels. We know that the devil was in the garden. While it is obvious that they also refer to the historical figures of the king of Babylon and Tyre, some of the references in the passage in Ezekiel especially seem only to apply to the devil (e.g., “created”; having been in the garden of God, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty; anointed cherub, etc). There is nothing in these two passages from the prophets that would demand that they not be referring to the devil in some respects. As far as I can understand, there is no doctrine that would be violated or damaged by such an application. At the very least, these two passages describe circumstances that parallel what we know of the devil’s history and I can’t understand the strong historical opposition to such an application.