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Does Satan exist?

The existence of Satan*: Is Lucifer real?

*Also known as Abbadon, Devil, the Evil One, Father of Lies, and Ruler of the Darkness

An answer to those who ask, "Do SNU religion professors believe that Satan really exists?"

by Dr. Hal Cauthron, New Testament scholar and retired chair of Southern Nazarene University's School of Theology and Ministry

To say Satan is not real or does not exist is inappropriate theologically for at least two reasons:

  1. On the one hand, saying Satan does not exist would mean denying the reality of the evil that plagues human life in this world. That evil is expressed, not so much through sinful choices and actions by human persons, as it is through the human institutions that so often end up creating negative and evil consequences instead of the positive, good consequences envisioned. This perverseness seems to have a will and power of its own which human beings are unable to avoid or overcome.
  2. In addition, denying Satan's existence means one is claiming a level of knowledge and insight which human beings do not have. It would be a very arrogant claim to a kind of all-knowing that finite creatures do not possess.

On the other hand, in affirming the existence of Satan, one must be careful not to say more nor less than what Scripture says. One must attempt to speak primarily from a pastoral perspective, i.e., to affirm especially those truths that strengthen trust in God and reliance upon Jesus Christ. Such an emphasis will guard against unhelpful speculation about Satan that tends to move beyond the clear statements of the Bible. Let's take a look at three essential scripturally-based affirmations about Satan:

1. Jesus Christ has won decisive victory over Satan.

John 12:31
"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out."
John 14:30
"I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me."
John 16:8, 11
"And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment . . . about judgment because the ruler of this world has been condemned."
1 John 3:8
"The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."
Ephesians 1:20-21
"God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right had in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come."
Colossians 1:13-14
"He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Colossians 2:13-15
"And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it."
Hebrews 2:14-15
"Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death."

2. Believers need not fear Satan's power.

Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

3. Believers should not seek to engage Satan on their own, but trust in Christ's protection.

Luke 10:18
"See, I have given you authority . . . over all the power of the enemy."
Ephesians 6:11-13
"Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
2 Corinthians 11:14
"Even Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light."
James 4:7
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
1 Peter 5:7-11
"Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen."


"Oh Lord, . . . help me to sign the contract to fight the devil as long as I've got a fist and bite him as long as I have a tooth, then gum him till I die. All this I ask for Christ's sake. Amen."
-- prayer by Uncle Bud Robinson (1860 - 1942), pioneer Nazarene evangelist
 

What's the truth about Satan?

An article on Satan, a.k.a. the Devil, worth reading: "What's the truth about Satan?" written by my former professor Rob Staples and published in Holiness Today

    -- Howard Culbertson


Theology / Doctrine resources:     Satan's empty bag of tricks     Satan's limits     Spirit possession in Haitian voodoo and biblical demon possession

How "entire" is entire sanctification?     Fate of unevangelized. Answers to oft-asked questions     Missions and End Times     Doctrinal questions and answers    Salvation    Reflections on tongues-speaking    What is sin?    What beliefs are taught at SNU?    Case study: Word for God?

10/40 Window map and explanation     Seeking God's will?    African martyr's commitment     Mission trip fundraising    Ten ways to ruin your mission trip    Nazarene Missions International resources