The True Identity of the Devil

The Bibles Teaching

The true Bible teaching of the devil and satan is very far removed from the popular idea that the devil is an immortal monster with a tail and a pitchfork, tempting man to rebel against God. We hope to show that the Bible teaches that the devil is actually sin which manifests itself in individuals and organisations.

The idea of a “fallen angel” is a idea which has is routes in paganism and was adopted in to Christian theology. The ancient Greeks and Roman pagan religions for example proclaimed the idea of good and evil Gods who would strive together over the souls of men.

These ideas find no real support in the Bible. A lot of assumption and “reading into” the wording has to be done to attempt to find support for this idea and in doing so many solid scriptural principles are broken.

Why is this subject important?

The mission of Jesus Christ was to save us from “the devil”:

“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8

“Forasmuch then as the children (mankind) are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” Hebrews 2:14

This subject then is one of upmost importance to understand because Jesus Christ came to destroy the devil.

God’s principles at stake

To believe in a fallen angel who tempts men to sin against God is to put a number of clear scriptural teachings in jeopardy. Consider the following reasons which clearly prove that the true identity of the Devil an Satan is not an immortal monster.

1. Sinners have to die

“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning…” 1 John 3:8

The Bible tells us that this Devil was a sinner.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

The Bibles clear teaching is that the wages of sin is death. It is impossible therefore to have an immortal being who can sin. If we attempted to suggest that the Devil was a mortal monster then how is it that he has supposably lived for thousands of years and possesses the powers of disease, deception, death, pain and torment and is permitted by Almighty God to challenge his authority.

2.There is no clear definition of the Devil

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”. Amos 3:7

If the Devil does exist in the way proclaimed by popular Christian theology the why do we not have a clear scriptural description of who he is, what his character is like, what he is doing and why God is allowing him to exist.

3. No mention in the Old Testament

It is interesting to note that in the detailed record of God’s dealings with Israel in the Old Testament, nowhere is there given an indication of a personal devil who goes around tempting people.

The hebrew equivalent of the word devil is only used 4 times and is in connection with false worship and idols of wood and stone – not an immortal being.

4. God holds men accountable for their actions

The Bible teaches that we are all responsible to God for our own actions and tempted by our own lusts:

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:13-15

“The heart is deceitful above all things , and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23

Unlike the humanistic views of today, the Bible shows that man is inherently evil and that this comes from within himself. How is it therefore that this supposed external Devil is manipulating mankind to rebel against God? The Bible shows that this is a natural occurrence and that there is no need for this monster to do so. Sin originates form the mind of a man and therefore he is responsible for following it.

5. It is impossible for a rebellion to happen in Heaven

Jesus Christ himself proclaims that God’s will is done in heaven when he teaches his followers to pray for God’s coming Kingdom to be on earth in what has become known as “the Lords prayer”:

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

If God’s will is done in heaven then how is it that a rebellion was supposed to of taken place by the angels, one of which became the so called monster the Devil.

The true identity of the Devil & Satan

So, if the Bible teaches that man is responsible for his own sin and that this sin comes from within him, who or what is “the devil” or “Satan” which is spoken about in the scriptures? In essence the Devil and Satan is simply a “personification” of sinful desires of mans rebellious lusts. There is nothing unusual about the scriptures using personification. For example:

  • Riches are personified (Matt 6:24)
  • Sin is personified (Romans 5:21, 6:16)
  • Death is personified (Revelation 6:8)
  • Nation of Israel personified (Jeremiah 31:4, 18)
  • Believers in Christ are personified (Ephesians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 12:27)
  • The Holy Spirit is personified (John 16:13)

We shall see that the original words for “devil” and “satan” are descriptive and not titles and these words are simply used or personified to express this idea of sin in different forms.

Sin is personified in different phases of manifestations and in different ways. Here are the three main ways the Bible presents it:

Where man is influenced by his own personal feelings (subjective)

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil (your lustful thoughts), and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

“And supper being ended, the devil (his fleshly thoughts) having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;” John 13:2

“…neither give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:27

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” Hebrews 2:14

These questions do not have scriptural answers and so we find that just from this verse there are many problems with thinking that this Devil is the orthodox Devil.

Just from this passage we can see that “The Devil” or diabolos cannot mean a fiery fallen angel with a pitch fork and horns who is tempting people to sin. Think about these questions:

  • Why would Jesus need to partake of “flesh and blood” (be a human being) to destroy this Devil?
  • How is it possible that through dieing Jesus destroyed an immortal fallen angel with supposed terrible powers.
  • This verse tells us that Jesus destroyed the Devil – how would that be possible if the Devil was immortal and if he has destroyed him why is he supposed to still be at large in the world today?

Note: Jesus had sin cursed nature – he could of sinned if he chose to (see Hebrews 4:15 for example) and therefore when he did not he destroyed “the devil” sin personified.

Used as a descriptive word used instead of a name (metonymy)

“Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 6:70

Because sin resides within Judas he is described as a devil (see later what this word means).

Used to encapsulate different areas of mans power of society (aggregate)

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10

“And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,” Revelation 20:2

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” 1 Peter 5:8

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:11-12

From the above we can see the word “devil” being used to describe the social, political and religious systems of men who are described as “the devil” because they are full of the thinking of man as opposed to the thinking of God.

If we can accept that the above verses describe “sin” in different forms then the Bible is in harmony. If we read into these verses and claim they are describing a literal monster which tempts and devours man, then the verses previously mention in the first section do not add up. We will now go on to explain in more detail the meaning of the words “devil” and “satan” in the meaning of the original words used.

The original word for “Devil” – Diabolos

To understand the true meaning of the word translated as “Devil” (Diabolos) one must take all the passages of the scriptures which mention it and look upon them with an open mind – allowing the scriptures to interpret actually what it means.

The literal meaning of Diabolos is “slanderer” or “false accuser”. It is from the word “diabolo” which means “to cross over a line”. In simple terms, when it is used in scripture, it describes the state of man in his ability to sin, or his sin cursed nature.

For example the verse above, quoted from Hebrews 2:14 says that the “Devil” has the power of death. Compare this with:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“… every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:14

We can see here then that the Devil is simply the inner mind of man, his natural brute nature which is rebellious towards God. It is the nature which all men inherit from Adman (see 1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus had this nature because he was “in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15) but he resisted those impulses and so destroyed “the devil” or the impulse to sin within his own self.

The reason we die is because of sin, not because of a fictitious horned Devil.

The original word for Satan

This is a word which has only been selectively translated into English by the translators of the Bible. The word actually means “adversary” and can be used in a good or bad sense:

“And God’ anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary (a SATAN)  against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.” Numbers 22:22

We can see from the above passage that this angel was doing God’s will but was a “Satan”. If you take the true meaning of the word and do not read any pre-conceived ideas  into passages that use this word then you will see there is no evidence for it to mean a “supernatural” monster.

For example:

“But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Matthew 16:23

The popular belief is that the fiery monster of Satan had possessed Peter and he had lost control of his actions and had allowed Satan to take over. This verse does not say this and you have to read all of that into the passage without any scriptual evidnece. This is just one example of how precoceived ideas have twisted the true meaning of Satan.

The Serpent in the garden of Eden

Many people who believe in a supernatural devil like to point towards the Genesis record of the serpent to substantiate their claim, however little evidence is forthcoming that the Serpent was or was used by a super monster to tempt Eve.

These points might be worth considering:

  • The serpent was created in a “very good” state and was an intelligent animal. (see Genesis 1:31 +3:1)
  • It was punished for its involvement and so must have been responsible for it’s actions – it was therefore not a “tool” in the hands of a mystical monster (see Genesis 3:14)
  • The punishment upon the serpent was to go on it’s “belly all the days of it’s life” – the supposed view of the supernatural Satan does not do this and is not subject to this punishment.
  • Some suggest that the Serpent had to be supernatural because it could speak. It must be remembered that it could speak before it’s punishment but there is no record of it speaking afterward, eg. when it was to be on it’s belly. Just because it spoke does not make it a supernatural monster, consider Balaam’s ass in Numbers 22:28 and 2 Peter 2:16.
  • The serpent was permitted to play this part in order to test Adam and Eve’s faith. The testing of faith is a common theme which runs through the Bible, consider: Genesis 22:1, 1 Peter 1:7, Hebrews 11:1-11.
  • Because the serpent, through his animal reasoning, told the first lie became is the father of liars. The “diabolos” or false accuser. Consider Christ’s words in John 8:44 and compare with Genesis 3:4-5. The Bible clearly uses this language to identify all who defy and corrupt God’s words, as the serpent did, and so they become his children – consider the language used in Matt 3:7, 12:34, 23:33.

Other articles on this topic