Elon, North Carolina
For the next few weeks I want to study what the Bible teaches about Satan. Who is Satan? What does he do? Today, I want to look at four metaphors for Satan and what they mean. The NT uses three metaphors to describe Satan. I want to look briefly at these four metaphors and the lessons we can learn from them.
Satan is a serpent
The serpent gives us the first picture of Satan in the NT. What is Satan’s role as a serpent? His role is to tempt people to sin, to get them to disobey God. That is what he did to Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:1-6). Eve talked to a snake but this snake was not scaly, slimy and repulsive.
It was beautiful. It was intelligent. It was “more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made” (3:1). Satan was inside of this animal. What we some of the ways Satan tempted Eve and still tempts people today?
1) He raises doubts about what God clearly said.
“Hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1 KJV). Does the Bible really teach this? Are you sure you have the right interpretation?
2) He misquotes Scripture.
Satan said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from ANY tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Did God say that? No. He said that they could eat “from ANY tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16).
3) He directly contradicts what God has clearly said.
God said, “If you eat from the fruit of the tree, you shall surely die”. Satan takes those very words, turns them around and says, “If you eat from the fruit of the tree, you shall NOT surely die”. He directly contradicted what God said and he still does that today. God says that Jesus is God. Satan says that he is not God. God says that hell is real. Satan says that it is not real.
4) He uses half-truths to deceive people.
Jesus said that Satan is not only a liar, he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). He invented lying. The first lie in the Bible was found on the lips of Satan and every lie since then comes from Satan. Satan does use pure lies but most of the lies he told to Adam and Eve were actually half-truths (not die, eyes opened). Half truths are much harder to detect. What are some half truths today?
One is that a loving God would never send any of his creatures to an eternal Hell. That is false but it does contain an element of truth. God is love. Another is that if you are sick and pray to be healed but are not healed, it is because you did not have enough faith.
It is true that when you pray, you do need to have faith (cf. James 1:6-8) but faith is not the only condition of answered prayer. It doesn’t matter how much faith you have if you are praying for something that is not God’s will.
5) He uses a disguise.
He tempts people indirectly (through an animal God created, a serpent). He uses their own family (Job 2:9) and friends (Matthew 16:21-23). This is a big one and leads us to our next point.
Satan is an angel of light
Satan poses as AN ANGEL OF LIGHT, not a demon of darkness (II Corinthians 11:13-15). He has a way of making good look bad and bad look good. How he does this is interesting. He never appears in his true form, lest he be exposed for who he is. The way he does this is by using a disguise.
He makes himself look attractive and appealing. He will use education to deceive people. He uses religion to deceive people. He uses ordained ministers to deceive people. He will even use the Bible to deceive people by misinterpreting it and quoting it out of context.
He doesn’t appear as a demon with horns and a pitch fork. He makes what is evil, bad and false look good and true and admirable. He has a way of making good look bad and bad look good.
He has servants or “ministers” (as the KJV says) and some of those ministers are ordained and pastors of churches. They work for Satan but pose as “ministers of righteousness”. Donald Grey Barnhouse once said, “When you are looking for the Devil, don’t forget to look in the pulpit”.
Jesus spoke of people who are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). They look like sheep but they are really wolves on the inside and they teach doctrines of demons (I Timothy 4:1), not doctrines about demons but doctrines which come from demons and from Satan himself.
Satan is very effective at this. The Bible says that he does not just deceive individuals; he deceives whole nations (Revelation 20:3). He has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9)
Satan is a hungry lion
As a lion, Satan opposes everything God is doing and tries to stop it. He attacks, persecutes and even kills many of God’s people (Revelation 12:1-4, 13-17; I Peter 5:8). The picture here is not a serpent or angel but a HUNGRY LION. You may say, “I have never been persecuted for my faith. I have never been arrested and jailed, because I was a Christian or beaten, because I am a Christian”.
However, in much of the world today (e.g., Muslim countries), Christians are persecuted for their faith and in much of church history true believers have been persecuted for standing up for the truth. We know from human rights reports that there are many countries in the world where there is still religious persecution.
In some cases the government officially sanctions it and in some cases they just tolerate it. This persecution comes directly from Satan. How is Satan like a lion? What do we know about lions? I did a little research on lions to find out a little about them.
1) They work at night.
They are nocturnal animals. They wait for the coolest darkest times to hunt. Lions are inactive for 20 hours a day. Lions spend a lot of their time resting. Lions often sleep for most or all of the day, especially in extreme heat and they don’t just sleep during that time.
They mate one hundred times in a twenty-four hour period. That must be the secret of their strength. Lions work when it is dark. Satan works day and night. He never sleeps but his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness.
2) They are dangerous
They are called the king of the beasts for their courage, bravery and fighting skills. They may look cute but these cats are really killing machines. They are extremely dangerous. They have long, sharp claws on each of their four paws. They have sharp teeth and
powerful jaws. Lions are extremely violent. They are out to kill. Jesus called Satan a murderer (John 8:44).
3) They are terrifying
A lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away. Facing a hungry lion would be horrifying. It is nothing to joke about. While people make jokes about Satan, he is really nothing to joke about.
4) They work in groups
Lions are the only cat that works in groups. They live in groups of fifteen or more animals called prides. They are social animals. They usually hunt in groups of two or three. They set up an ambush to surround and kill their prey. Satan does not work alone. He has a group of demons that help him do all of the evil that he does in the world.
5) They are predators
They have a good sense of smell. They slowly and silently stalk each possible victim (like our cat does). Satan walks around looking who he can devour. Remember in the Book of Job, Satan said that he roaming through The earth and went back and forth in it (1:7).
6) They are not invincible.
Lions are not always successful when they hunt, which incidentally is done by the females. They usually score only one kill out of several tries. They can be easily backed down or killed by elephants and water buffalo. A pack of hyenas can also back down or even kill a solitary lion!
David killed both lions and bears before he became king (1 Samuel 17:34-36 RSV). Satan is not always successful when he tries to tempt, deceive and devour people. He can be defeated (cf. I John 4:4).
Satan is a dragon
The Book of Revelation describes Satan as a dragon, a big red dragon, a big ugly dragon with seven heads and ten horns (12:1). This is a metaphor for Satan. He is not really a red dragon with a long tail. This is apocalyptic language. It is symbolic.
What does Satan do as a dragon? He persecutes the saints. Satan is red because he is a murderer. He is the one who inspires and motivates martyrdom and persecution (12:4, 17). He attacks, persecutes and even kills many of God’s people.
You say, “I have never been persecuted for my faith. I have never been beaten, arrested or jailed because I am a Christian” but persecution can take many forms.
In much of the world today (e.g., many Muslim countries), Christians are persecuted for their faith in a way that we are not persecuted here in America. There are many countries in the world today in which there is still religious persecution. In some cases, the government officially sanctions it and in some cases it just tolerates it. Satan is the one who is behind persecution of believers in the world today.