Satan, also known as the devil, is mentioned frequently in the Bible. There are many popular ideas about this evil spirit being. Some think that Satan is not real, but is rather a personification of the wickedness that abides in the world. Others admit that the devil exists, but presume that he is now confined in the fiery pits of an ever-burning hell. Still others believe that Satan is free and actively promoting sinfulness in our world today. What is the truth? What does the Bible tell us about this evil being?
God's Word clearly teaches the reality of Satan as a personal entity. He is presented as an evil being who affects humanity by his actions. Many details about the devil are available in the Bible, but the facts have to be searched out. In this article, we will piece together what the Scriptures have to say about Satan and draw conclusions from the Bible and other available sources.
Although the Bible doesn't tell us explicitly, evidence suggests that the angelic realm was formed sometime during the first three days of creation, before God brought forth the dry land on the earth. This understanding is supported by passages in Nehemiah and Job:
NEHEMIAH 9:6 You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You. (NKJV)
JOB 38:4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (NKJV)
The "host of heaven" mentioned in Nehemiah 9:6 is a reference to angels, as are the parallel terms "morning stars" and "sons of God" in Job 38:7. The passage in Job suggests that the angels were present when God "laid the foundations of the earth" (probably a reference to the separation of the dry land from the water on the third day of creation).
Now that we have an idea when the angels were originally formed, let's examine what the Bible reveals about the creation of Satan:
EZEKIEL 28:12 "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries . . . " (NIV)
Satan is never mentioned by name in this passage. However, there are some clues in Ezekiel 28 that identify the entities being spoken of here. The chapter starts with God's proclamation against the "Prince of Tyre" (v. 2). This prince is proud and says, "I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods" (v. 2). These words mirror what Paul says about the "Man of Sin" (II The. 2:4). Ezekiel 28:1-10 is speaking figuratively of the coming Antichrist.
We see another message beginning in Ezekiel 28:11, this one addressed by God to the "King of Tyre." However, because of the things said about this king, it is clear that God is not speaking to a mere man. This king is the one who will give his authority to the Prince of Tyre at the end of the age (Rev. 13:2). This king is the ancient dragon, Satan.
The first thing to notice about this passage in Ezekiel is that the "king of Tyre" (Satan) was in the Garden of Eden and he was "the seal of perfection." When does the Bible show that the Garden of Eden was formed?
GENESIS 2:8 The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (NKJV)
Genesis 2:8 seems to indicate that the Garden of Eden was planted by God after He created man. Ezekiel 28:13 reveals that Satan was in Eden before he sinned. Therefore, contrary to traditional understanding, Satan was in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve before he fell.
This anointed guardian cherub was likely one of the two angels who covered the mercy seat with their wings (see Heb. 8:5; 9:5, 23-24; Exo. 25:20; 37:9; I Kings 6:19-28; 8:6-7; I Chr. 28:18; II Chr.3:10-13; 5:7-8). However, because of pride, this cherub's wisdom was corrupted, as I Timothy 3:6 implies:
I TIMOTHY 3:6 Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (NKJV)
How did pride cause Satan to fall into condemnation? The Bible doesn't tell us directly, but there are enough clues to figure out the answer to this question.
Genesis 1:26-28 shows that God made mankind in His "image":
GENESIS 1:26 Then God ['elohim] said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 So God ['elohim] created man in His own image; in the image of God ['elohim] He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God ['elohim] blessed them, and God ['elohim] said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (NKJV)
There are several theories about what it means to be made "in the image of God." This passage makes it clear that being made in God's image is what makes mankind (both men and women) different the rest of the physical creation.
Mankind is like 'elohim in some way because we are made in the image of 'elohim, but how? Michael S. Heiser, an ancient Hebrew language expert, gives the following explanation in answer to this question:
. . . This points to viewing the image in a FUNCTIONAL sense (i.e., we are to "image" God) as opposed to a QUALITATIVE sense (as though the image is some quality or ability given to us; i.e., the image is some possessed attribute).
. . . When Scripture speaks of mankind being created in the image of God, what is meant is that mankind has been created to represent God on earth.
. . . God deliberately created mankind to rule the earth, and to accomplish this purpose, He created man as His own image - He made man his co-regent / representative ruler.
The image of God then, refers to our unique status as human beings, rulers in God's stead, according to His own will. We are created AS His image - to function as He would were He administering His own affairs directly. Our abilities - unequally given to us in the providence of God are not THE image, but only a means to carrying out His expressed and often secret end. (pp. 8, 9, 10, 11, "The Image of God in Scripture")
This understanding of "the image of God" is supported by the immediate text, which shows that mankind's duties included having dominion over the earth and every living creature on it. This interpretation is also supported by a related passage of Scripture in Psalm 8:
PSALM 8:4 What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen — even the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. (NKJV)
Although this Scripture is a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah as a man (Heb. 2:6-9), it also shows the position of mankind on the earth and alludes to the reason for Satan's ultimate fall. Verse 5 tells us that humanity was made "a little lower than the angels." However, it was mankind, not angels, who were given rulership over the earth.
As Ezekiel 28:12 tells us, Satan was "the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty" when he was created. Yet neither he nor any of the other angels were given dominion over the earth initially. Rather, Adam (a being Satan surely considered inferior to himself) was given this power. It's easy to see why Satan's pride led him to sin.
Ezekiel 28:16 tells us that Satan was filled with violence and sinned through his "widespread trade." The Hebrew word rendered "trade" in Ezekiel 28:16 is rekullatekha; it is a form of the noun rekulla, which means "merchandise" or "traffic." However, rekulla is derived from the root word rakal, which means "to go about." A closely-related derivative, rakil, means "slanderer." In the New Testament, Satan is often called the "devil," or diabolos in Greek. Not coincidentally, the literal meaning of diabolos and its variations is also "slanderer."
The account of Satan in Ezekiel 28 probably involves aspects of both "merchandising" and "slander." The Scriptures imply that Satan, likely through peddling his slander, may have turned 1/3 of the angelic host against God (Rev. 12:3-4). It's not hard to imagine Satan going around to the angels, seeking to build support for his contention that they were far better qualified to run the earth than mankind. It was through this slanderous "merchandising" that Satan became filled with violence against humanity.
Eventually, Satan must have developed a plan that he felt would deliver to him the position he believed should have rightfully been his from the beginning. He decided to deceive the humans in the Garden into disobeying God's direct command. After proving mankind was unworthy of the rulership position God had placed them in, Satan, in his arrogant pride, must have thought God would see that he should be given authority over the world in their place.
It's in this context that we see Satan approach Eve in the Garden of Eden:
GENESIS 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (NKJV)
The Bible elsewhere identifies Satan with the serpent in this story. In Revelation 12:9 and 20:2, he is called "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan." Did he appear to Eve in the form of a talking snake? Probably not.
The Hebrew word translated "serpent" in the above passage is נחש (nachash). In addition to "serpent," this Hebrew root word has several other possible meanings. It can be used as a noun to mean "one who practices divination," or "shining brass." However, nachash can also be used as an adjective to mean "bright" or "brazen."
In Genesis 3, it is possible that nachash is an adjective being used as a noun. If that is the case, the proper translation of hanachash in Genesis 3 would be "the bright one" or "the shining one." This understanding of nachash fits in very well with Paul's description of Satan appearing as an "angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14).
Notice Satan's tactics with Eve. He didn't lie to her outright, but instead he twisted the truth. He led Eve to doubt God's word.
GENESIS 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." 11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" 12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (NKJV)
Although Satan apparently believed that the downfall of mankind would benefit him, it actually turned out to be his undoing. God was not pleased with his role in man's disobedience, and he was cursed for his deviousness:
GENESIS 3:14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." (NKJV)
Satan's plan to rectify the "mistake" God had made by putting humans in charge of the earth backfired. As well as revealing the flaws of man, Satan revealed his own shortcomings. His deception resulted in God placing an age-lasting animosity between him and mankind. From that point forward, "the Shining one" became "the Adversary" (Heb. HaSatan) of humanity. The enmity between man and Satan is alluded to by Paul in the conclusion of his letter to the Romans:
ROMANS 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (NKJV)
Satan's actions did achieve their desired aim; God cast man out of the Garden of Eden for his sin (Gen. 3:24). In his fallen state, man was condemned to suffer death because of Adam's sin, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans:
ROMANS 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of him who was to come. (NKJV)
Because Satan enticed mankind to sin and bring death upon themselves, he is called a murderer:
JOHN 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (NASU)
"The beginning" spoken of by Yeshua refers to the beginning of God's plan, when mankind was in the Garden of Eden before the fall (Gen. 2). "The beginning" here is not referring to Satan's creation, because we know that originally he is said to have been created "blameless" (Eze. 28:15).
John also speaks of Satan being a sinner "the beginning":
I JOHN 3:8 The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. . . . (NASU)
In one way, Satan's plan succeeded. Because Adam disqualified himself from rulership by his disobedience, God placed Satan over the world in his place. The devil's temptation of Yeshua in the wilderness shows this clearly:
LUKE 4:5 Then the devil, taking him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to him, "All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish." (NKJV)
Satan tempted Yeshua for the same reason he had enticed Eve in the Garden. He knew that Yeshua was in the process of regaining rulership over the earth and would replace him if successful. He thought that if he could get Yeshua to sin (as he had Adam and Eve), he could thwart God's plan and remain the ruler of the world. However, where Adam had succumbed to Satan's machinations and disqualified mankind from ruling the earth, Yeshua withstood the temptation and triumphed. This victory paved the way for him to become Adam's successor. Yeshua will reclaim rulership of the earth at his second coming.
Just before his crucifixion, Yeshua alluded to Satan's status as the current ruler of the world:
JOHN 14:30 "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me." (NKJV)
Paul refers to Satan as "the god of this age" in his follow-up letter to the Corinthians:
II CORINTHIANS 4:3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (NKJV)
In Mark's Gospel, Yeshua clearly states that Satan is the one God uses to blind those who can't see the good news of the Messiah:
MARK 4:14 "The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. (NKJV)
As the "god of this age," Satan rules over the other fallen angels and the demons:
MATTHEW 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; 26 and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?" (RSV)
Here Satan is called "Beelzebul," which literally means "Lord of the flies." He is identified as the "prince of demons." We also know from the Scriptures that Satan is the ruler of the fallen angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9). For an examination of the difference between fallen angels and demons, refer to my related article.
When demons bring sickness and ailments upon people, we find that Satan is blamed:
LUKE 13:11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, he called her to him and said to her, "Woman, you are loosed your infirmity." 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. . . . 16 "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" (NKJV)
ACTS 10:38 "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." (NKJV)
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible clearly shows that Satan has not been restricted to a fiery hell after his fall. Indeed, the Old Testament shows that, before the first coming of Yeshua the Messiah, Satan continued to have access to the heavenly throne of God:
JOB 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and walking back and forth on it." (NKJV)
JOB 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and walking back and forth on it." (NKJV)
It appears that Satan served as some kind of celestial prosecutor for God before the divine council. In that role, Satan slandered and accused God's people before the heavenly throne of YHVH, as the story in Job shows. Zechariah also saw Satan in action as the accuser in a vision:
ZECHARIAH 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched the fire?" (NIV)
Some time after Messiah Yeshua triumphantly returned to heaven after his crucifixion and resurrection (Rev. 12:5), Satan and his angels were cast out and no longer had access to the throne:
REVELATION 12:7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (RSV)
Some have incorrectly believed that this passage refers to Satan's initial fall. Yet the time sequence established in Revelation 12 clearly indicates that this ejection from heaven was after the Messiah returned from the earth and before his second coming at the end of this age.
Yeshua, just before his crucifixion, stated that his triumph on the cross would allow for Satan to be cast out of heaven:
JOHN 12:31 "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; 32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (RSV)
JOHN 16:11 "Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." (RSV)
Yeshua told his disciples that when he had gone back into heaven after his resurrection, the Father would send His Spirit to teach them and help them remember all the things he had said to them (John 14:26). But in addition, he warned them of the coming of Satan to the earth after his departure.
In Revelation, John records an angel speaking from heaven who warns the earth about the coming of Satan:
REVELATION 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." (NKJV)
Satan now roams the earth looking for those whom he can prey upon:
I PETER 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV)
Paul tells us how to avoid becoming the prey of Satan:
EPHESIANS 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (NKJV)
James also gives believers advice on thwarting the devil's schemes:
JAMES 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (NKJV)
Paul, in his final letter to Timothy, speaks of those who have been caught by the devil:
II TIMOTHY 2:24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (NKJV)
Now that we've examined Satan's origin and activities, let's look at the final destiny of Satan. What do the Scriptures say will be his ultimate fate? Yeshua briefly mentioned this in his dissertation on the judgment in Matthew 25:
MATTHEW 25:41 "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: (NKJV)
Revelation 19 describes the battle between the forces of the Antichrist and Yeshua at the end of this age. After the defeat and destruction of "the beast" and "the false prophet," the Bible reveals that Satan himself will be captured and imprisoned for a thousand years:
REVELATION 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit [abussou, "Abyss"] and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit [abusson, "Abyss"], and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. (NKJV)
ISAIAH 24:21 So it will happen in that day, that the LORD will punish the host of heaven on high, and the kings of the earth on earth. 22 They will be gathered together like prisoners in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison; and after many days they will be punished. (NASU)
REVELATION 20:7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (RSV)
Satan's final rebellion against YHVH will be thwarted, and God will finally deal with the devil. Revelation 20:10 describes how God handles Satan. Just what does this verse tell us about the fate of the Adversary?
The first part of the answer lies in the Greek word basanisthesontai, translated "tormented" here. Understanding the true meaning of basanisthesontai, which comes the verb basanizo and the noun basanos, is one of the major keys to accurately interpreting Revelation 20:10.
According to Friberg, basanisthesontai means "strictly, rub upon the touchstone (basanos), a Lydian stone used to test the genuineness of metals; hence, test or make proof of anything . . ."
The history found in Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament of how the meaning of these words evolved over time is very helpful in correctly understanding this verse:
. . . The βάσανος [basanos] originally belongs to the calling of the inspector of coins. It is linked with the Heb. root בחן ("to test") . . . βάσανος is generally accepted to be a loan word . . . The testing of gold and silver as media of exchange by the proving stone, was first developed by the Babylonians, then came to the Aramaeans and Hebrews by way of Lydia . . . and them to the Gks. In non-biblical Gk. βάσανος is a commercial expression, or is used in relation to government. It then acquires the meaning of the checking of calculations, which develops naturally out of the basic sense of βάσανος, βασανίζειν [basanizein] . . . In the spiritual sphere it has the figur. sense, which is closely related to the original concrete meaning, of a means of testing . . . The word then undergoes a change in meaning. The original sense fades into the background: βάσανος now comes to denote "torture" or "the rack," espec. used with slaves . . . βάσανος occurs in the sense of "torment" . . .
The change in meaning is best explained if we begin with the object of treatment. If we put men instead of metal or a coin, the stone of testing become[s] torture or the rack. The metal which has survived the testing stone is subjected to harsher treatment. Man is in the same position when severely tested by torture. In the testing of metal an essential role was played by the thought of testing and proving genuineness. The rack is a means of showing the true state of affairs. In its proper sense it is a means of testing and proving, though also of punishment. Finally, even this special meaning was weakened and only the general element of torture remained (pp. 561, 562, vol. I, emphasis mine).
The meaning of Revelation 20:10 is that Satan (and implicitly, all those who haven't submitted to God by the end of the Millennium) will be cast into the lake of fire. There Satan and the wicked will be punished for their rebellion. In addition to punishing, the lake of fire will also test, prove, and refine those cast in it. However, this process is not "eternal" as we understand the concept.
To verify this, let's look closely at the final phrase "forever and ever." Friberg says that this phrase, translated the Greek eis tous aionas ton aionon, literally means "into the ages of the ages." The Greek nouns aionas and aionon are plural forms of the Greek aion, which simply means an "eon" or "age." This word refers to an indefinite period of time; however, it does not convey the idea of eternity.
This Greek phrase is used numerous times in the Scriptures (see Gal. 1:5; Phi. 4:20; I Tim. 1:17; II Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:21; I Pet. 4:11; Rev. 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 5:13, 14; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7; 19:3; 22:5). Most people assume that this phrase means "eternity"; however, some scholars realize that this connotation was not present in the original Koine ("common") Greek of the New Testament. In his work on the original meanings of aion and aionios, Louis Abbott writes:
The Greek phrase eis tous aionas ton aionon, "for the eons of the eons," occurs about twenty times in the Greek New Testament in this combination. The ASV margin and some other versions, lexicons, dictionaries, and commentaries translate the phrase correctly.
Windet, in De Vita Functora Statu, of 1633 says (p. 170), "eis tous aionas ton aionon, of the New Testament meant a finite period."
At 1 Cor. 15:25, where the Greek text shows, dei gar auton basileuein achri hou the pantas tous echthrous hupo tous podas autou, "For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet." This clearly states that Christ's reigning is limited. There is no Scripture to contradict the statement when aion and aionios are correctly translated.
Dr. William Barclay concurs in his commentary (p. 166-169) on The Letters to the Corinthians. If the Greek words eis tous aionas ton aionon mean endless time, as translated in the KJV, "forever and ever," we have a contradiction in Scripture, for Rev. 11:15 says, in the same version: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever." That contradicts 1 Cor. 15:25, which says: "He must be reigning till . . ." If Rev. 11:15 is translated "eons of the eons," or "ages of the ages," there is no contradiction. The ASV says (1 Cor. 15:24-25), "Then cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; When He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all His enemies under His feet;" consequently, the reigning of Christ Jesus and the saints (Rev. 22:5) will be "for the eons of the eons" or "for the ages of the ages." (ch. 5, An Analytical Study of Words)
A correct understanding of "into the ages of the ages" shows that Satan, as well as those who worship the "beast" (Rev. 14:11) will be refined in the lake of fire for an indeterminate, probably lengthy, but still finite, amount of time. The use of the phrase "day and night" in Revelation 20:10 also bears this out, since time as we understand it does not exist in eternity. For a more indepth review of the biblical teaching on this topic, see my article Eternal Life vs. Everlasting Punishment.
One final point regarding Satan needs to be addressed. Some believe that YHVH the Father created the angel that became Satan with free will, and that this angel freely chose to rebel against God and set himself in opposition to His divine plan. But is that what the Scriptures teach? Did the Almighty God who knows all things NOT know what this creature of His would ultimately do?
God Himself provides the answer to that question through the prophet Isaiah:
ISAIAH 45:7 "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil [vore' ra']; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things." (JPS)
God clearly takes credit for having created evil in this pronouncement. Although He initially made Satan "blameless in his ways" (Eze. 28:15), God knew that the character He placed within Satan was prone to pride, and that this pride would cause Satan's future actions regarding mankind. Therefore God takes credit for creating this evil being, and all the evil that has come forth him.
It was necessary that a being such as Satan exist in order for God's divine plan and purpose to be realized. We see this clearly illustrated in the story of Job. It was God who first brought Job to Satan's attention, inciting him to slander Job's motives for obedience:
JOB 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." 9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have You not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to your face." 12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out the presence of the LORD. (NIV)
After his initial divinely-sanctioned attack on Job's family and material goods did not achieve the desired result (Job 1:13-22), Yah baited Satan into attacking Job again. Once more, He gave him the approval to do so:
JOB 2:3 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited Me against him to ruin him without any reason." 4 "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face." 6 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life." 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. (NIV)
One important thing we must recognize from this story is that God set a limit on what Satan could do to Job. This shows that there are boundaries to Satan's authority, and he cannot act outside of the will of God.
The rest of the book of Job goes on to show that although there often appears to be no reason why bad things happen to good people, God truly is in control, He has a plan, and all things eventually work out for good (Rom. 8:28). After steadfastly maintaining his innocence throughout his ordeal, Job finally realizes that sometimes one cannot understand why God does things in the manner He does:
JOB 42:1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 "I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." (NIV)
Job finally realized God's plan was a wonderful mystery that was beyond his limited human ability to understand.
Although Satan was the one who acted against Job, clearly the evil done to him was purposed by God Himself. Even though Satan did these things out of hatred and malice, God intended good to come from them. So it is with all of the Adversary's actions; he despises man and seeks to destroy him, but God uses Satan's evil to fulfill a specific purpose so that His plan for humanity might ultimately be completed. Although generally not recognized or accepted, the completion of God's plan is clearly stated by Paul in I Timothy 2:4:
I TIMOTHY 2:4 [God] who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (RWB)
The Bible gives quite a bit of information about Satan. To understand the truth, all the information has to be pieced together. First and foremost, we must understand that Satan is accomplishing the will of God. Satan is currently the "god" of this world; he is the highest ranking evil spirit being. The devil has authority over the fallen angels and the demons. In the end, Messiah will return and subjugate all who won't submit to God's authority, including Satan and his angels. Their punishment will be age-lasting destruction and refinement within the lake of fire.
Bryan T. Huie
July 12, 1997