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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Satan

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Sa´tan (the adversary or opposer). The doctrine of Satan and of Satanic agency is to be made out from revelation, and from reflection in agreement with revelation.

Besides Satan, he is called the Devil, the Dragon, the Evil One, the Angel of the Bottomless Pit, the Prince of this World, the Prince of the Power of the Air, the God of this World, Apollyon, Abaddon, Belial, Beelzebub. Satan and Devil are the names by which he is oftener distinguished than by any other, the former being applied to him about forty times, and the latter about fifty times.

The word Satan occurs in its specific sense as a proper name in , and in Job 1-2. See also . When we pass from the Old to the New Testament, this doctrine of an invisible evil agent becomes more clear. With the advent of Christ and the opening of the Christian dispensation, the great opposer of that kingdom, the particular adversary and antagonist of the Savior, would naturally become more active and more known. The antagonism of Satan and his kingdom to Christ and his kingdom runs through the whole of the New Testament.

Devil is the more frequent term of designation given to Satan in the New Testament. With one or two exceptions, which go to confirm the rule, the usus loquendi of the New Testament shows this term to be a proper name, applied to an extraordinary being, whose influence upon the human race is great and mischievous (; ; ; ; ; ; ; ). In the original this name is given exclusively to the prince of evil spirits, never to these spirits themselves, who, in connection with demoniacal possessions, are almost always termed 'demons'—a distinction which the Authorized Version has failed to observe.

We determine the personality of Satan by the same criteria that we use in determining whether Caesar and Napoleon were real, personal beings, or the personifications of abstract ideas, viz., by the tenor of history concerning them, and the ascription of personal attributes to them. All the forms of personal agency are made use of by the sacred writers in setting forth the character and conduct of Satan. They describe him as having power and dominion, messengers and followers. He tempts and resists; he is held accountable, charged with guilt; is to be judged, and to receive final punishment. On the supposition that it was the object of the sacred writers to teach the proper personality of Satan, they could have found no more express terms than those which they have actually used. And on the supposition that they did not intend to teach such a doctrine, their use of language, incapable of communicating any other idea, is wholly inexplicable.

The class of beings to which Satan originally belonged, and which constituted a celestial hierarchy, is very numerous: 'Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him' (). They were created and dependent (). Analogy leads to the conclusion that there are different grades among the angels as among other races of beings. The Scriptures warrant the same. Michael is described as one of the chief princes (); as chief captain of the host of Jehovah (). Similar distinctions exist among the fallen angels (; ). It is also reasonable to suppose that they were created susceptible of improvement in all respects, except moral purity, as they certainly were capable of apostasy. As to the time when they were brought into being, the Bible is silent; and where it is silent, we should be silent, or speak with modesty. It is probable, that as they were the highest in rank among the creatures of God, so they were the first in the order of time; and that they may have continued for ages in obedience to their Maker, before the creation of man, or the fall of the apostate angels.

The Scriptures are explicit as to the apostasy of some, of whom Satan was the chief and leader (; ). Those who followed him in his apostasy are described as belonging to him. The company is called the devil and his angels (). The relation marked here denotes the instrumentality which the devil may have exerted in inducing those called his angels to rebel against Jehovah and join themselves to his interests. As to what constituted the first sin of Satan and his followers, there has been a diversity of opinions. Some have supposed that it was the beguiling of our first parents. Others have believed that the first sin of the angels is mentioned in . The sacred writers intimate very plainly that the first transgression was pride, and that from this sprang open rebellion. Of a bishop, the apostle says (), 'He must not be a novice, lest, being puffed up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.' From which it appears that pride was the sin of Satan, and that for this he was condemned. This, however, marks the quality of the sin, and not the act.

The agency of Satan extends to all that he does or causes to be done. To this agency the following restrictions have been generally supposed to exist: it is limited, first, by the direct power of God; he cannot transcend the power on which he is dependent for existence—secondly, by the finiteness of his own created faculties—thirdly, by the established connection of cause and effect, or the laws of nature. The miracles, which he has been supposed to have the power of working, are denominated lying signs and wonders (). With these restrictions, the devil goes about like a roaring lion.

His agency is moral and physical. First, moral. He beguiled our first parents, and thus brought sin and death upon them and their posterity (Genesis 3). He moved David to number the people (). He resisted Joshua the high-priest (). He tempted Jesus (Matthew 4); entered into Judas, to induce him to betray his master (); instigated Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Ghost (); hindered Paul and Barnabas on their way to the Thessalonians (). He is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (); and he deceiveth the whole world ().

But his efforts are directed against the bodies of men, as well as against their souls. That the agency of Satan was concerned in producing physical diseases the Scriptures plainly teach (; ). Peter says of Christ, that he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil ().

It is, no doubt, true that there are difficulties connected with the agency ascribed to Satan. But objections are of little weight when brought against well-authenticated facts. Any objections raised against the agency of Satan are equally valid against his existence. If he exists, he must act; and if he is evil, his agency must be evil. The influence exerted by wicked spirits no more militates against the benevolence of God, than does the agency of wicked men, or the existence of moral evil in any form. Evil agents are as really under the divine control as are good agents. And out of evil, God will cause good to come. He will make the wrath of devils as well as of men to praise him, and the remainder He will restrain.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Satan'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/s/satan.html.

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