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The spiritual world is unseen. Though it is felt in various ways, it is often ignored or disregarded because it is invisible. The visibility or lack thereof does not affect the reality of evil spiritual forces which oppose God. The chief of these forces is Satan. Satan is real. Often Satan is popularly depicted as red with horns, goat hooves, a tail, and a pitchfork. Very little of this would find its origin in how the Bible describes Satan. Likely, his popular image comes from an eclectic mix of folklore, mythology, and literature. But what does the Bible say about Satan? A comprehensive answer cannot be given here. But we will look at various names and titles given to Satan. We will also see his principal manner of attack against God and Christians. And we will lay out some strategies for Christians in resisting him.

Just as there is the kingdom of God, there is a kingdom of evil spirits (Matt 12:26; Mk 3:24; Luke 11:17-18). And at the head of this kingdom is Satan. He is the devil, the enemy, the accuser (Rev 12:10), Belial (Syriac for worthlessness), Beelzebul (Lord of the dwelling or Lord of the flies, Matt 10:25), prince of demons (Matt 9:34), the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph 2:2), the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the great dragon and the ancient serpent (Rev 12:9; 20:2).[1] He is a murderer and the father of lies (John 8:44). He goes about like a roaring lion seeking whomever he can destroy (1 Pet 5:8).

Satan is always and everywhere the adversary of God, the opponent of Christ, and the deceiver of humans. His primary goal is to make people sin. He will use every imaginable tactic or tool to lead people into sin, violence, and even death. His hatred of God is so intense that he longs to destroy every creature who bears the image and imprint of God. Satan will do everything he can to prevent someone from coming to faith in Jesus Christ. And failing that, from the moment you believe, he will do everything he can to torment, trouble, and keep you from living a joyful and holy life.

The Dutch theologian Wilhelmus À Brakel notes that Satan will appear in three different manners. He will appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). He will appear godly and lovely. He might bring to attention some passage of Scripture, but he does so with intention to deceive and distort. He will distract from the preached Word with some other benign topic. His strategy in this is to take our gaze off of Christ and place it on things of lesser value. He will tempt us to be satisfied with virtue for the sake of virtue, and rob us of the comfort that comes in Christ. Satan will appear as the Prince of darkness. He will assail our senses in a way that we cannot tell reality from imagination. In this he induces fear. He will create scenarios where our lives seem to be in jeopardy, and we are tempted to doubt God’s power or kindness. But Satan most likely chooses to conceal himself. He will convince us that he does not exist. And quietly and without notice he will tempt and corrupt our hearts. He will lead us into evil, prevent us from good, or simply bewilder and confuse the soul.[2]

In each of these presentations, Satan will attempt to make the Christian sin. He will obscure your faith. Frivolous questions of the trustworthiness of God will creep into your minds. Doubts will bubble up in your hearts. The path of the cross will seem unbearable. He will then assail your prayer life. You will miss the comfort, strength, and power of prayer. You will believe that you are too busy to pray. He will also seek to prevent you from the blessing of the means of grace. You will be tempted to occupy your minds with drivel until late on Saturday, and then struggle with being drowsy on Sunday. Your minds will be cluttered with random thoughts, so that you do not focus on the preached word. He will also attempt to rob you of the joy and benefits of your sanctification. You will doubt every good thing you do. You will question whether you don’t do enough or that you attempt to do too much to earn God’s favor. Satan will attack your faith, prayers, reception of the Word, and sanctification. If he cannot destroy you, he will seek to sideline you.

Jesus was clear in his assessment of the reality of Satan. Either he is as Jesus says he is, or Jesus is wrong on this key aspect of faith and religion. In response, we should learn to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). We must remember that Satan is a conquered enemy (Zech 3:2). He is powerful but his power is limited by an all-powerful God. We know his schemes, so we should recognize his influence and turn all the more to Christ. God provides faith. We must remember to pray. We need to remember God’s Word. And we must live in the encouragement of Christian fellowship.

[1] Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3.146.

[2] Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 4 Vols., 4.236–41.

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