The word Satan is only mentioned three times in the Old Testament (Job 1:6-12; Zechariah 3:1-10; 1 Chronicles 21:1). However, conservative scholars identify the serpent in Genesis 3 as Satan or at least a beast that was possessed by Satan. Scripture says the serpent is “more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). Satan’s designations as tempter (Matthew 4:3) and the old serpent (Revelations 12:9) refer back to the Genesis passage. Orthodox Christianity has always understood that it was Satan who deceived Eve and caused the fall of humankind.

Biblical scholars have noted that the characteristics about the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28 do not seem applicable to a mere human being. He sees himself as being wise as a god (vs. 6) and wiser than Daniel (vs. 3). This proud person claims to be a god and sit on the throne of a god (vs. 2). The Lord said about him (verses 12-15): “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God . . . 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. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you . . . So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you . . . Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”

The church has understood this passage to be speaking about the fall of the king of Tyre and the fall of Satan. Ezekiel is making an historical as well as a cosmic point about Satan as a created angelic being. At one time Satan had a privileged position with God, but fell due to his own rebellious choice. The full character of Satan’s evil nature is not fully developed in the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament the term Satan occurs thirty-six times. Most references are preceded by the definite article, “the Satan,” and refers to him as a personal devil. That means the devil is a personality who is crafty and deceptive as opposed to an impersonal force. Orthodox Christianity has always professed to believe in a personal devil.

Satan holds a position of great influence in the spiritual world. He has personal access to the presence of God, a privilege that will be taken away from him in the future (Revelations 12:9). Satan is the ruler over a powerful kingdom of evil that he executes with intelligent consistency. However, Satan is a created being and therefore does not have the attributes of God. Since he is not omnipresent, he rules over the kingdom of darkness by delegating responsibility to “his angels” (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7).

Dr. Neil

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