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The Satan and Demons

Explore a biblically accurate description of different evil spirits. Learn about different types, where they come from and what they do on earth.

Biblical Themes May 23, 2019


A Spiritual Rebel in the Garden [00:00-01:12]

Jon: So we’ve been learning about spiritual beings in the Bible, and I still have a lot of questions about the bad ones.

Tim: Well, great! Let’s talk about the Satan and demons in the story of the Bible.

So let’s start in the beginning. In Genesis 1, God creates a beautiful, ordered reality out of darkness and disorder so that life can flourish. He appoints humans as his representatives to rule over all of it. And seven times God calls it “good.”

Jon: Yeah. I experience that goodness often in the world, in things like beauty and truth, love and generosity.

Tim: But in Genesis 3, we meet a creature who’s in a state of rebellion against his creator. We’re not yet told why or how he rebels, but he’s on a mission to ruin God’s good world for other creatures.

Jon: This thing is trouble.

Tim: Yeah. This creature is the Bible’s first portrait of evil. It distorts what God has purposed for good, ruining and dragging creation back into darkness and disorder.

Jon: So the humans join this spiritual rebel, which leads them back into chaos and death.

Tim: And from this point on, the human rebellion is interwoven with a spiritual rebellion. And the biblical story shows how this happens over and over again.

Who is the Snake? [01:13-02:20]

Jon: Okay, but wait. We’re getting all this from a slithering snake?

Tim: Well, there are clues in the story that it’s more than just a snake. Remember, Eden is a high place where the Earth and its creatures overlap with Heaven and its creatures.

Jon: So the snake could be a spiritual being?

Tim: Well, Genesis 3 points in that direction, and then later biblical authors fill in the picture. Like when the prophet Isaiah has a vision of God’s heavenly throne room, he’s surrounded and being praised by the spiritual beings.1

Jon: Yeah. These are the cherubim around God’s throne.

Tim: But when Isaiah sees these creatures, he describes them as “seraphim,” which in Hebrew means “snake.”

Jon: So the snake is like a former staff member in God’s throne room. So why is he talking to the humans?

Tim: Well, the prophet Ezekiel understood this figure as a spiritual rebel who didn’t want to live under God’s wisdom and authority. He wanted to be God.2

Jon: Ah, right! That’s the same temptation the snake puts before Adam and Eve.3

Tim: Exactly. He says they could rule the world like God but by their own wisdom.

Jon: So they’re all kicked out of the garden.

Tim: Yeah. God says this rebel will now crawl on its belly.4

Jon: Where does it go after this?

The Satan [02:21-03:11]

Tim: Well, the biblical authors offer subtle clues where this being is at work behind the scenes, animating division and hatred between humans. They also use a variety of images to describe this being. It’s a snake, or a sea dragon, or a dark desert creature, or the king of death and the grave. He’s also given many titles like, “tempter,” or “the evil one,” or “the devil,” which in Greek means “the slanderer.”

Jon: But his name is Satan, right?

Tim: Actually no. “Satan” is not a name; it’s another one of these titles, which is why in Hebrew, it has the word “the” in front of it. “The satan” means “the adversary” because he isn't for anything; rather, he’s anti-everything, working through lies to drag us back into darkness and disorder.

Demons [03:12-04:53]

Jon: That’s intense. Now what about the other spiritual rebels in the Bible called demons. What are they all about?

Tim: Okay. So remember the concept of God’s heavenly staff team, the divine council, or the sons of God? In the Hebrew Scriptures, we’re told that some of these rebelled too.

Jon: When did that happen?

Tim: Multiple times actually. After the snake comes the rebellion of the sons of God in Genesis 6. We’re told that they have sex with women who then give birth to violent warrior giants.

Jon: Oh right, the Nephilim. These are probably the strangest characters in the whole Bible.

Tim: Well, strange from your point of view. But ancient readers knew exactly what was going on. The ancient kingdoms around Israel claimed to be founded and protected by giant warrior kings who were part human, part god, and filled with divine wisdom.

Jon: Ah, I see. So the biblical authors are saying, “Hey, those warrior kings? They shouldn’t be honored.”

Tim: Right. In this story, they’re portrayed as human rebels who are captive to spiritual evil, spreading their violence in God’s good world.

Jon: Yeah. One of those kings in Genesis 10 goes on to build the city of Babylon.

Tim: Yes, Nimrod, whose name sounds like the Hebrew word for “rebel.” And his kingdom leads to the next rebellion, where humans exalt themselves in Babylon.5

Jon: But God scatters that rebellion.

Tim: And when Moses, in Deuteronomy, looks back at that story, he says that’s the moment when God handed over the nations to worship the rebel host of heaven—the gods of money, sex, and military power. Moses is the first one to call them demons, that is, lesser spiritual beings.6

Jon: So demons are spiritual forces at work behind corrupt human power structures.

Jesus Overcomes Evil And Death Itself [04:54-05:42]

Tim: Yes, but in the Bible, they also work on the personal level, animating and exploiting humanity’s greed and selfishness, as well as the weakness of our mortal bodies. In the Bible, spiritual evil is at work in anything that drags God’s good creation back into chaos, darkness, and death.

Jon: So this is why when Jesus arrives on the scene, he said his primary enemy is not human.

Tim: Right. Jesus and his first followers viewed all the pain and suffering in God’s good world as a sign of its captivity to death and spiritual evil.7

Jon: But they didn’t think this was the end of the story.

Tim: Right. Jesus knew that the only way out of this cosmic ruin is to overcome evil and death itself, even if it cost him everything.8

Credits [05:59-06:12]

Jon: You just watched a video in our Spiritual Beings series. This one was on the Satan and demons.

Tim: Next up is our last episode about how Jesus opens the way for a new humanity to rule with God over Heaven and Earth.

1. Isaiah 6:1-3
2. Ezekiel 28:6-9
3. Genesis 3:1
4. Genesis 3:14
5. Genesis 10:6-10; 11:1-4
6. Deuteronomy 32:16-17
7. Ephesians 6:12
8. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; Colossians 2:15
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