In the Judeo Christian tradition, Satan, from the Hebrew word for "adversary," is the principal figure of the demonic world that is hostile to God and his will. In the Old Testament (for example, the Book of Job), Satan is presented as a distinct personality of darkness and accusation - the heavenly prosecutor. A fuller expression of his role is presented in the New Testament, where he is called "the tempter," "the slanderer," "the enemy," "the liar," and "the angel of the bottomless pit." Collectively, these titles present Satan as the one who has the power of death, rules with lies and deception, accuses humankind before God, and opposes the purpose of God in the world (while remaining obedient to God).
The concept of a temporal dualism in which Satan has influence is brought to expression most clearly in apocalyptic literature, such as the Book of Revelation. Two ages are reflected in apocalyptic cosmology: "this age" and "the age to come." Satan appears to be prevailing in this age, but in the age to come God will clearly display his sovereignty. In Christian tradition Satan is described as a fallen angel. Although no explanation is given in the Bible for God's allowing Satan to exist, it does indicate that his time is short (only for this age of time and history) and his end is certain - ultimately he will be banished by the Messiah.
The Bible gives us a clear portrait of who Satan is and how he affects our lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his position in heaven due to sin and is now completely opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God's purposes.
Satan was created as a holy angel. Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan's pre-fall name as Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, apparently the highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan's pride led to his fall. Notice the many "I will" statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.
Satan became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3). His very name means "adversary" or "one who opposes." Another of his titles, the devil, means "slanderer."
Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and encourage opposition to God's kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and those who follow God. However, Satan's destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
Satan was once a member of the divine council of God referenced in the Old Testament. He is referenced 11 times in Job and 4 other times in the Old Testament. The New Testament mentions Satan 34 times in all, starting with the first book Matthew and ending with the last Revelation. In the Christian tradition he rebelled against God and is now the enemy of God and man alike. He is the father of lies and no good is found in him. He leads a host of fallen angels (or demons) who know their days are numbered before they will be cast in the lake of fire and they seek to take as many humans as possible with them.
In Christian theology Satan's goal is to lead people away from the love of God, by tempting or tricking them. The only sources of supernatural power in the world are from either God (good) or Satan (evil). In the book of Genesis, Satan takes the form of a snake and tempts Eve with fruit from a tree. This causes sin to come into the world.
Satan, in the Book of Job, listens to God speak highly of Job and accuses Job to God before the host of angels that Job praises God only because he is blessed and would curse God if he was forced to suffer. God allows Satan to do what he will except to spare his life, and Satan causes Job to suffer immensely. (Job remained true to God through his hardships; Satan accused him further and punished him further, but could not get Job to break).
In the New Testament, Satan tries to tempt Jesus in the desert, and fails. Jesus warns extensively to beware of Satan as does Paul.
Satan is a synonym for the Devil. He is an angel who rebelled against God—and also the one who spoke through the serpent and seduced Eve into disobeying God's command. His ultimate goal is to lead people away from the love of God—to lead them to fallacies which God opposes. Satan is also identified as the accuser of Job, the tempter in the Gospels, the secret power of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and the dragon in the Book of Revelation. Before his insurrection, Satan was among the highest of all angels and the "brightest in the sky". His pride is considered a reason why he would not bow to God as all other angels did, but sought to rule heaven himself.
He is called "the ruler of the demons" (Matt. 12:24), "the ruler of the world" and "the god of this world". (2 Cor. 4:4). The Book of Revelation describes how Satan will be cast out of Heaven, down to the earth, having "great anger" and waging war against "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus". Ultimately, Satan is thrown into the "Lake of fire", not as ruler, but as one among many, being tormented day and night forever and ever.
The word Satan derives from the Hebrew "ha-satan", meaning the "accuser", "tempter", "persecutor", "calumniator", or "adversary". He "was a liar and a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44) Synonyms include Lucifer, demon, Mephistopholes, Mephisto, Beelzebub, the Evil One, the Tempter, and The Prince of Darkness. Only "devil" is used as an epithet for a profoundly evil person. The adjectives include "devilish," "demonic", and "diabolic". Those who worship Satan are called Satanists, Satan-worshippers, or demonists.
Satan. Satan is a spiritual being who led a heavenly revolt against God and was subsequently cast down into the earth (Luke 10:18). His personal name, "Satan," means "adversary." This name indicates Satan's basic nature: he is the enemy of God, of all God does, and of all God loves.
Devil. He is also called "the devil" in the New Testament. The word "devil" means "false accuser" or "slanderer." Satan plays this role in Job 1–2 when he attacks Job's character.
Beelzebul. In Matthew 12:24; the Jews refer to Satan as "Beelzebul," an epithet derived from "Baal-Zebub" ("lord of the fly"), a false god of the Philistines in Ekron (2 Kings 1:2-3; 6).
Other. Other titles of Satan include the tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), the wicked one (Matthew 13:19; 38), the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), and—three titles that point to Satan's authority in this world—the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Second Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan transforms himself into "an angel of light," a description that highlights his capacity and inclination to deceive.
The Book of Revelation twice refers to "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan," (12:9, 20:2). The Book of Revelation also refers to "the deceiver," from which is derived the common epithet "the great deceiver."
There are a couple of passages which refer to the judgment of earthly kings but may very well also refer to Satan. The first is Isaiah 14:12-15. This is addressed to the king of Babylon (verse 4), but the description also seems to fit that of a more powerful being. The name "Lucifer," which means "morning star," is used here to describe someone who sought to overthrow God's very throne.
The second passage is Ezekiel 28:11-19, addressed to the king of Tyre. As in the "Lucifer" passage, this prophecy contains wording that seems to go beyond the description of a mere mortal. The king of Tyre is said to be "anointed as a guardian cherub," but he was laid low by pride and "expelled" by God Himself.
In addition to providing names and titles of Satan, the Bible uses various metaphors to reveal the character of the enemy. Jesus, in the parable of the four soils, likens Satan to the birds that snatch the seed off the hardened ground (Matthew 13:4; 19). In another parable, Satan appears as the sower of weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:25; 28). Satan is analogous to a wolf in John 10:12 and a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8. In Revelation 12:9; Satan is the "great dragon . . . that serpent of old"—obviously, a reference to the serpent who deceived Eve (Genesis 3:1).
Satan's fall from heaven is symbolically described in Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-18. While these two passages are referring specifically to the kings of Babylon and Tyre, they also reference the spiritual power behind those kings, namely, Satan. These passages describe why Satan fell, but they do not specifically say when the fall occurred. What we do know is this: the angels were created before the earth (Job 38:4-7). Satan fell before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-14). Satan's fall, therefore, must have occurred somewhere after the time the angels were created and before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Whether Satan's fall occurred a few minutes, hours, or days before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, Scripture does not specifically say.
Why did Satan fall from heaven? Satan fell because of pride. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. Notice the many "I will..." statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes Satan as an exceedingly beautiful angel. Satan was likely the highest of all angels, the most beautiful of all of God's creations, but he was not content in his position. Instead, Satan desired to be God, to essentially "kick God off His throne" and take over the rule of the universe. Satan wanted to be God, and interestingly enough, that is what Satan tempted Adam and Eve with in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). How did Satan fall from heaven? Actually, a fall is not an accurate description. It would be far more accurate to say God cast Satan out of heaven (Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:16-17). Satan did not fall from heaven; rather, Satan was pushed out of heaven.
With both the angels and humanity, God chose to present a choice. While the Bible does not give many details regarding the rebellion of Satan and the fallen angels, it seems that Satan—probably the greatest of all the angels (Ezekiel 28:12-18)—in pride chose to rebel against God in order to seek to become his own god. Satan (Lucifer) did not want to worship or obey God; he wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Revelation 12:4 is understood to be a figurative description of one third of the angels choosing to follow Satan in his rebellion, becoming the fallen angels—demons.
Unlike humanity, however, the choice the angels had to follow Satan or remain faithful to God was an eternal choice. The Bible presents no opportunity for the fallen angels to repent and be forgiven. Nor does the Bible indicate that it is possible for more of the angels to sin. The angels who remain faithful to God are described as the "elect angels" (1 Timothy 5:21). Satan and the fallen angels knew God in all His glory. For them to rebel, despite what they knew about God, was the utmost of evil. As a result, God does not give Satan and the other fallen angels the opportunity to repent. Further, the Bible gives us no reason to believe they would repent even if God gave them the chance (1 Peter 5:8). God gave Satan and the angels the same choice He gave Adam and Eve, to obey Him or not. The angels had a free-will choice to make; God did not force or encourage any of the angels to sin. Satan and the fallen angels sinned of their own free will and therefore are worthy of God's eternal wrath in the lake of fire.
Why did God give the angels this choice, when He knew what the results would be? God knew that one-third of the angels would rebel and therefore be cursed to the eternal fire. God also knew that Satan would further his rebellion by tempting humanity into sin. So, why did God allow it? The Bible does not explicitly give the answer to this question. The same can be asked of almost any evil action. Why does God allow it? Ultimately, it comes back to God's sovereignty over His creation. The Psalmist tells us, "As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30). If God's ways are "perfect," then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. So the perfect plan from our perfect God was to allow sin. Our minds are not God's mind, nor are our ways His ways, as He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9.
The most likely explanation for the existence of evil, is that good can come out of it. For example, certain virtues couldn't exist without evil: courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission and obedience, to name a few. These are not virtues in the abstract, but elements of character that can only be had by moral souls. Just as evil is a result of acts of will, so is virtue. Acts of moral choice accomplish both.
What good comes out of a drive-by killing, someone might ask, or the death of a teenager through overdose, or a daughter's rape, or child abuse? The answer is that a commensurate good doesn't always come perceptibly out of those individual situations, though God is certainly capable of redeeming any tragedy. Rather, the greater good results from having a world in which there is moral freedom, and moral freedom makes moral tragedies like these possible.
This observation reveals an interesting twist in this problem. If morality freely chosen can only happen in a world where evil is possible, then heaven will be a place where there will be no moral growth, where moral choices will not be possible because all the inhabitants of heaven will be immutably good. Growth of the soul is only possible and available to inhabitants of a fallen world.
Two Scriptural observations lend credibility to this view. First, in recounting the great heroes of faith, the writer of Hebrews mentions that some were rescued by faith, but others endured by faith "...in order that they might obtain a better resurrection." (Hebrews 11:35) Second, St. Paul tells St. Timothy that "...godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8)
Both of these verses indicate that conditions in this life affect conditions in the next. Bearing up under evil in this life improves our resurrection in the next. Godliness in this life brings profit in the next. These benefits are not available after this life or there would be little urgency to grow now; all eternity would be left in which to catch up.
A deeper, more profound good results when virtue is won by free, moral souls struggling with evil, rather than simply granted to them as an element of their constitution.
There's a sound reason why God has allowed man the freedom to choose evil. It doesn't conflict with His goodness. God is neither the author of evil, nor its helpless victim. Rather, precisely because of His goodness He chooses to co-exist with evil for a time, that His goodness may be all the more manifest in those who overcome it by freely choosing to do good and avoid evil.
Romans 8:28: "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints."