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The History of the Devil: God's Implacable Foe

the history of the devil
The devil is a fallen angel who hates God & His creation. He lies and deceives to destroy our faith. He wants us to worship him, not Jesus.

We first meet the Devil in disguise as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. This is one of his more frightening disguises, but St. Paul tells us he sometimes appears as "an angel of light".

Who is this being so able to appear in strikingly different forms over vast intervals of time? Picking up on Paul’s use of the term angel, we see this interesting observation from Jesus’ brother Jude:

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. - Jude 1:6

Where Did the Devil Come From?

Next questions? What was that “first estate” and how did they leave it? Jesus reports, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."' (Luke 10:18), and in his vision in Revelation, St. John saw this:

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels and prevailed not; neither was their place found anymore in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. - Revelation 12:7-9

So, the Devil’s “first estate” or original position was in heaven, and he was subsequently cast out of there and into the earth.

Now, what does this mean in THE BIG HISTORICAL PICTURE? We see for ourselves as we read through the Bible how the devil continued his war here on earth, beginning with Adam and Eve, and going on to Job, king David and even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Was the Devil Always God’s Enemy?

But what is the backstory? Who is the devil, and where did he come from? He was a created being made by the Word of God sometime after the beginning (Genesis 1:1) but before the LORD “laid the foundations of the earth.” He was in that group of “morning stars” and “the sons of God” who sang and rejoiced as God created the world.

God created everything good, and so we know that is how the devil started out; he was among those “sons of God.” We have no direct description, but two insights from the major prophets give us an idea of how he may have looked. Ezekiel speaks of him as, "perfect in thy ways from the day thou was created"

“perfect in thy ways from the day thou was created,” and calls him “the anointed cherub that covereth;” this means he was the one who stood between God Himself and the rest of the heavenly host, beholding God’s shekinah glory himself but shielding the rest of the heavenly host from its almighty power. This was his high estate “till iniquity was found in thee.” (Ezekiel 28:15)

But that “iniquity” changed him from a light-bearing son of God to the devil we now know. Isaiah explains:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15

This anointed cherub who stood in the direct presence of God realized how perfect he was, but his self-appreciation turned to pride and ambition and asking why should he himself not be God. He recruited other angels to help him usurp God’s place, and the result was what we read in Revelation.

Why Did a Holy Cherub Become the Devil?

What was LUCIFER’S MOTIVE for this? One view is that it was a gradual exercise of his free will, another that he resented the creation of man, and a third is that he refused to accept God’s plan of redemption that put Jesus at its center.

Unable to withstand God’s almighty power and attack Him directly, the now fallen angel began his career of deception by attacking God through the people he created, and he is already at work at this when we and Eve encounter him in the Garden of Eden.

He does not appear again in the Bible until we see him attacking Job, quite in keeping with his strategy. Jesus later calls him a thief and says,

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I have come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Yes, that is what the devil does, steals, kills, and destroys. He went all out on Job but could not overcome God’s protecting hand. But the devil never gives up his attacks but often tries to hide them as he acts through subtilty. He influenced king David to sin in numbering the people when God had told him not to and thus brought about the deaths of 70,000.

How Has This Strategy Worked Out?

We see how successful the devil’s plan has been when he appears in person to trick Jesus into bowing down to him:

And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever, I will I give it. If thou, therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be thine. – Luke 4:5-7

Wow! The devil controls “all the kingdoms of the world.” Is this true? St. John affirms,

“the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” - 1 John 5:19

The devil does not want to lose that power, and that is why he worked so hard to kill Jesus! But the deceiver himself was deceived! What the devil thought was the end of Jesus’ life became the beginning of His Kingdom and the devil’s end when Jesus’ Resurrection signaled His victory over death and sin and the devil. The blood the devil worked so hard to spill has become the cleansing power that washes sins away and brings us to salvation.

What Does This Mean for Believers?

Even seeing this, the devil battles on, fixing his hate on us: he has read the Book of Revelation! He knows his time is short. He will fight on, enlisting the rulers of this world to fight against the Lord Jesus and his people. He will enlist every ally that he can. He will try to destroy our faith and deceive us into worshipping him. Peter tells us the devil comes after us “as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”, and Paul commands us to put on the WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD to withstand him. But Jesus stands with us and Revelation assures us his end is sure.

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. - Revelation 20:10
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. - Matthew 13:43

You can read more about the Devil and his ongoing warfare against the Lord Jesus and His church in SPIRITUAL LIVES. Here you will see how the Father of Lies tricked Eve into sinning and then drew Adam into sin. He is at it today, diligently, using our natural desires to woo us away from that narrow way that leads to life. Protect yourself and those you love with prayer and expect him to try to pervert even that. Run to Jesus every time and He will give you victory and strength to overcome.

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