It’s hard to imagine a being who was as close to God as Lucifer (Satan) was coming to believe that he could even do battle with God, much less defeat Him. Even the most depraved mind should be able to see that the creature cannot possibly contend with the Creator. And yet Satan attempted to dethrone God and strives to this day to defy His authority, thwart His plans and harass His people.
Perhaps part of the explanation is that pride, the worst and most evil of all sins, has blinded Satan to reality. Two Old Testament passages (Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-19) furnish a picture of Satan’s original position and the reasons for his loss of that position. They tell of an exalted angelic being, one of God’s creatures, who became too proud and ambitious. He determined to take the throne of God for himself. But God removed him from his position of great dignity and honor. As a result of his original status and authority, Satan had great power and dignity. So great is his strength that Michael the archangel viewed him as a foe too powerful to oppose (Jude 9).
Satan’s influence in worldly affairs is also clearly revealed (John 12:31). Satan is also extremely intelligent. Through his intelligence he deceived Adam and Eve and took over their rule of the world for himself (Genesis 1:26; 3:1-7; 2 Corinthians 11:3). His cleverness enables him to carry out his deceptive work almost at will, although his power is subject to God’s restrictions (Job 1:12; Luke 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). But he does have certain victories—although within the boundaries God has set for him—and perhaps these victories allow him to continue the illusion that he can have victory over God Himself.
The reins of God on his activities are illustrated by Satan’s request to God for permission to afflict Job (Job 1:7-12). Satan is permitted to afflict God’s people (Luke 13:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; Hebrews 2:14), but he is never permitted to win an ultimate victory over them (John 14:30-31; 16:33). A part of Satan’s continuing ambition to replace God is his passionate yearning to have others worship him (Matthew 4:8-9; Revelation 13:4,12). Satan is “the wicked one” (Matthew 13:19,38), while God is “the Holy One” (Isaiah 1:4).
Satan’s nature is malicious. His efforts in opposing God, His people, and His truth are tireless (Job 1:7; 2:2; Matthew 13:28). He is always opposed to man’s best interests (1 Chronicles 21:1; Zechariah 3:1-2). Through his role in introducing sin into the human family (Genesis 3), Satan has gained the power of death—a power which Christ has broken through His crucifixion and resurrection (Hebrews 2:14-15). He tempted Christ directly, trying to lead Him into compromise by promising Him worldly authority and power (Luke 4:5-8).
Along with his work of tempting mankind, Satan also delights in deception (1 Timothy 3:6-7; 2 Timothy 2:26). His lying nature stands in bold contrast to the truth for which Christ stands (John 8:32, 44). The great falsehood which he uses so frequently is that good can be attained by doing wrong. This lie is apparent in practically all his temptations (Genesis 3:4-5). As the great deceiver, Satan is an expert at falsifying truth (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
He brings disorder into the physical world by afflicting human beings (Job 1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Hebrews 2:14). Sometimes God allows him to afflict His people for purposes of correction (1 Timothy 1:20). Not to worry, Satan is destined to fail in his continuing rebellion against God. His final defeat is predicted in the New Testament (Luke 10:18; John 12:31; Revelation 12:9; 20:10).
The death of Christ on the cross is the basis for Satan’s final defeat (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Peter 3:18,22). This event was the grand climax to a sinless life during which Jesus triumphed over the enemy repeatedly (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). Here again, Satan probably rejoiced in the death of Christ, believing this to be a victory for him, but like all his victories, this one, too, was short-lived. When Jesus rose from the grave, Satan was once again defeated.
The final victory will come when Jesus returns and Satan is cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:1-15). Strength for a Christian’s victory over sin has also been provided through the death of Christ. We have assurance that “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). But such personal victory depends on God’s grace and power in our lives and our will to offer resistance to Satan’s temptations (Ephesians 4:25-27; 1 Peter 5:8-9). To help Christians win this battle against Satan, God has provided the power of Christ’s blood (Revelation 12:11), the continuing prayer of Christ in heaven for believers (Hebrews 7:25), the leading of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16), and various weapons for spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:13-18).
Some people have trouble admitting the existence of such an enemy as Satan. But his presence and activity do explain the problems of evil and suffering. The Bible makes it plain that Satan exists and that his main work is to oppose the rule of God in the affairs of man. Many wonder why God would allow Satan, this great embodiment of evil, to exist in His creation. No completely satisfying answer to this question has been found. Perhaps He allows it to show that evil and wrongdoing do not provide the key to the ultimate meaning of life which man so desperately desires. Or perhaps He allows it to spiritually build a Christian’s wisdom and knowledge drawing him or her closer to God and away from Satan.