Moving on with our series we come to the chapter of Satan. What an interesting chapter! In researching articles on the internet, I found many, many conflicting statements, all perfectly justifiable from certain perspectives. It all depends on how one interprets the Bible; and on which translation. To me, we, as humans, are presented with choices – some of those choices will lead us down the path of light (Jesus) or the path of darkness (Satan).
“The future is always changing.
We create the future with our words,
our deeds, and with our beliefs.”
~Babylon 5 Episode
First, let’s dismiss the picture we commonly have in our minds when we think of Satan. Nowhere in the Bible is Satan depicted as having horns, a pointed tail, a pitchfork, cloven hooves, a wicked beard and moustache, etc. In reality, that picture is very representative of the Greek god Pan.
When we think of Satan all kinds of things come to mind. To quote Mr. Fischer:
“Tremendous cunning and power are attributed to satan by some people. It is said that sometimes a battle rages between satan and God over the custody of a person’s soul. The devil supposedly wins an occasional battle. This is a rather frightening consideration, because it accords more power to satan than to God. It would make us wonder if we have a right to call God “Almighty.” Perhaps, if this were the case, we would more appropriately call God “partly mighty.”
So, where did the concept of ‘satan’ come into our consciousness? According to Mr. Fischer:
“In the allegory of creation, there was no devil until Adam and Eve began to think in opposition to divine principles. This is important for us to remember.”
In my research, some state that ‘satan’ was around before the creation of the world. They espouse that there was a creation, then a gap, then the world was created. (See www.learnthebible.org/satan-vs-lucifer.html.) Others maintain that ‘satan’ was created at the same time as the heavens and the earth. (See www.angelfire.com.) Both writers quote numerous Scriptures, as well as citing their reasons for their own interpretations of those Scriptures.
Especially when reading Old Testament, it’s important to remember that it was originally presented orally. It wasn’t until the Babylonian captivity that the first Jewish Scriptures were actually written. And, as we’ve discussed before, the first stories written began with Abraham. It was decades, perhaps centuries later that the story of creation was added. There are several possible influences to the introduction of Satan. Quoting Mr. Fischer again:
“The actual origin of the concept of satan is hidden in almost impenetrable mystery. But one tempting trail leads to the religion of the Persians. The ancient Persians had a two-god religion:
One god was Ahriman, the god of darkness and evil; the other was Ormazd, the god of light and goodness. Many religious scholars feel that this Persian philosophy had an influence on Hebrew theology; hence, the character of satan became a part of the Hebrew legends, and these legends, in turn, became the basis for the Hebrew scriptures.”
Other trails are the Babylonian legend of creation and Greek mythology. In the Babylonian legend, a fallen angel named Kingu had an army of demons who went around trying to get people into trouble. The Greek tradition holds that Hades is the kingdom of the dead. This kingdom has fields of good and places of torment – depending on whether you were good or bad. Our common ‘picture’ of Satan that resembles the Greek god Pan stems from this tradition. Remember that the Jews were in Babylonian captivity for somewhere around 70 years. After the Babylonians came the Persians, then the Greeks. So, it stands to reason that all of these influences helped to shape the concepts and ideas of the Hebrews.
Was Satan an angel?
Again, it depends on who you read, their interpretations, and how we read the Scriptures. Some Bible versions use the word cherub and interchange it with angel. And many use references to a cherub as a reference to Satan. However, the description of cherubs as being with four different animal heads, feet with the soles of a calf, and having an appearance of burning coals, as found in Ezekiel (1:6-13), comes nowhere near the picture we hold of an angel. The original Hebrew word is malak and the Greek word is angelos – these words simply mean “a messenger.” This translates into our concept of angels being “messengers of God.” There’s nothing in the Bible that indicates Satan would be a messenger of God. Again, a lot of what we think and believe is based on our reading, which version of the Bible we read, how words have been translated in those various versions, and how we interpret the meanings.
What About Lucifer?
It’s important to keep in mind that lucifer is not actually a name, it is a word from the Latin Vulgate that means “morning-star” or “light bringer,” and is used in reference to the planet Venus.
The original King James Version is one of the only versions that uses this term, and it was never intended to be a proper name. It comes from Isaiah 14:12 which reads, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (Day Star), son of the morning!” Some feel this passage refers to ‘Satan’ while others say it has nothing to do with ‘Satan.’ There are many interpretations of what this symbolism means, which is a much longer examination. Suffice to say, some do feel that “fallen from heaven” refers directly to the “fallen angel” and thus the name became Lucifer. If we look at 2 Peter 1:19 we read in reference to Jesus, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”; and if we assume this passage to be in reference to Numbers 24:17 (“…A Star shall come out of Jacob…”) and interpret this to mean Jesus; then we give Satan the name Lucifer – since lucifer means morning star, and all of a sudden Satan and Jesus become one in the same! This illustrates once again how different translations, and different points of view, can lead to some very unintended meanings.
The term ‘satan’ in Hebrew literally means to oppose or to obstruct. The term ha-satan translates traditionally as “the accuser,” or “the adversary.” In Greek the term was translated to diablos, which is translated to devil in English. It is traditionally held that the goal of Satan, the adversary, is to lead us away from God – to tempt us. This is vividly illustrated in Matthew 4:3-11, which describes the temptations of Christ. What if, rather than reading Matthew literally, the story is illustrative of man’s condition and Jesus’ ability to rise above it. As Mr. Fischer says:
“Jesus was in the wilderness and was tempted to change stones into bread. It is reasonable to assume the tempter was the voice of human hunger speaking to Him. When He was at the pinnacle of the temple and was tempted to throw Himself off and land safely, it was probably the voice of a human desire for quick, sensational recognition. In the third temptation, He thought about becoming the political and military leader that the Jews expected their Messiah to be – and to worship materiality that would go with filling such a role.
This was the voice of worldliness speaking to Him. There was no being outside Jesus, only the voice of His own human nature. For example, the pinnacle of the temple was a high platform where Roman soldiers had an outpost. If there had been a visible satan there, these soldiers would have encountered ‘him,’ and attempted to destroy ‘him.’
Each time Jesus Christ, in His higher nature, rejected the temptation. Had He succumbed, the power of God working through Him would have been nothing more nor less than magic to Him. But because He remained in a high state of spiritual consciousness, He became the ethical Messiah of the world.”
In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Charles Fillmore writes:
“Satan assumes various forms in man’s consciousness, among which may be mentioned egotism, a puffing up of the personality; and the opposite of this, self-depreciation, which admits the “accuser” into the consciousness. This “accuser” makes man believe that he is inherently evil. Satan is the “Devil,” a state of mind formed by man’s personal ideas of his power and completeness and sufficiency apart from God. Besides at times puffing up the personality, this satanic thought often turns about and, after having tempted one to do evil, discourages the soul by accusing it of sin. Summed up, it is the state of mind in man that believes in its own sufficiency independent of its creative Source.”
The concept of being inherently evil also flies in the face of our creation. In Genesis 1:31, after making the world, the plants, the animals, and humans, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…” God’s plan for creation and for life is that it is good – not inherently evil. It is our own choices that move us away from our “goodness.”
We have discussed the idea that Heaven and Hell are states of consciousness. When we allow God to live in and through us, we manifest Heaven. When we allow the temptations of ‘Satan’ – the adversary – to invade our consciousness, we move away from the light of God and into darkness. As Mr. Fischer puts it,
“Satan is not an impish being with a pitchfork, prodding people into a sinful life; rather, satan is the lower nature of all people. It is the self of us that can tempt us to do things that we know are not for our highest good. Satan is the selfish, human, cunning, devious ego of limitation that motivates the human personality to turn away from God. It is the part of us that must decrease as or spiritual nature increases.”
In John 12:32, Jesus says, “I, if I am lifted up from this earth, will draw all men to myself.”
“We must elevate our desires of human appetite, raise the standards of our moral passions, bear up our spiritual aspirations, and be receptive to the drawing power of Christ. This is to lift up and spiritualize the human self, thus defeating our ‘satanic’ nature. When this happens, the kingdom of Christlikeness will be established in our hearts, minds, and worlds. This is the great personal victory, which is the objective of true Christianity. Rather than doing battle with an external force that doesn’t exist, the overruling of the lower nature by the higher is the ultimate accomplishment.” (Mr. Fischer, Alternatives)
Through writing this, I thought of the story of Job. In the story, God and Satan are having a conversation. Satan says, ‘Sure Job worships you, you’ve given him everything. But, take it all away and he’ll curse you.’ God responds, ‘Ok, you Devil, you…take away everything he’s got – but don’t touch him.’ The story progresses, there’s a lot of back and forth, a nagging wife, and friends get involved and throw in their two-cents worth. Through it all, Job stays firm in his commitment to God. As interpreted in our tradition, the story gives Satan a lot of power. Thus, “the traditional view of satan is that of a second god, a god of evil who prevails in today’s world to influence the evil-doing of human-kind.” (Mr. Fischer, Alternatives) What if we took a different view of the story? Perhaps it’s a beautifully written story to illustrate the point that we all have choices. We can choose those things that edify life and demonstrate the light and power of God such as love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude; or we can choose those things that separate us from God and thus move us into “darkness” – lies, lust, greed, gossip, anger, vengeance, violence, etc. This all points directly back to our quote – we determine our future. Our thoughts, our words, our actions, and our beliefs all will play a role in whether our journey is one that leads to Light or to Darkness. The choice is ours to make.
Side Note: In researching today’s topic, much of what I read carries from the author an implied “I know the truth” statement. Remember, Scripture warns us of deceivers of the truth. In John 8:44, Jesus says, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Personally, I hesitate at anyone’s statement that they alone possess the truth. We should research, read, study, and pray; and let God lead us to the truth. I’m on a beautiful journey into the experience of God – and I invite you to journey as well. Don’t just take my word, or anyone’s word, for the truth.
- Ezekiel 1:6-13
- Isaiah 14:12
- 2 Peter 1:19
- Number 24:17
- Matthew 4:3-11
- Genesis 1:31
- John 12:32
- John 8:44
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