The occult is becoming an increasingly popular subject in the entertainment industry, even while belief in a literal Devil remains unfashionable. As millions explore the spirit world in art, music and literature, Christians must ask themselves: Is there a real Devil, and can he deceive us?
Is the occult world increasingly affecting our youth—and our whole society? Is the devil real and, if so, how does he deceive mankind?
Youth culture is increasingly involved with the occult. Witchcraft is glamorized as youngsters flock to each new Harry Potter book and teenagers turn their television sets to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Teen music often glorifies the devil, and some high school gunmen have even committed murder in his name.
In some intellectual circles it is not fashionable to believe that the devil exists. Yet at the same time, many otherwise intelligent people find it adventurous or exciting to attempt contact with the world of darkness. What does the Bible say about this extremely important topic? If there is a world of demons and a real devil, you need to know how to resist and overcome such influence.
Your Bible explains why there is so much trouble and evil in the world. We read in Revelation, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
Here, your Bible describes a powerful spirit being, called the Devil and Satan, as "the great dragon" and "that serpent of old." And we learn an amazing truth which few today believe—that he has deceived the whole world.
How has he done this? Christians need to know his strategies and tactics. But first we need to understand how he came to exist. Did God create the devil?
Two chapters in the Bible—Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28—describe Satan's origin. Isaiah prophesies about an end-time king of Babylon who will rule a resurrected Roman Empire (described in Revelation 13, 17 and 18), but the type—the human king mentioned—transitions to the anti-type, Satan the Devil, also called Lucifer. "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High'" (Isaiah 14:12-14).
Lucifer was cast back to the earth. He allowed vanity and greed to incite rebellion against God. He wanted to knock God off His throne. But he failed, and still has his throne on the earth. The name Lucifer is a Latin word rendered "Morning star" or "Day Star" in other translations. Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Lucifer, bringer of light, became the purveyor of darkness.
The Apostle Paul explains that many are blinded to the true gospel and the truth of the Bible. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Notice that after Lucifer was cast down and became Satan, he became "the god of this age" or, in the King James translation, "the god of this world."
God did not create the devil, but He did create all the angelic beings. He created three cherubs or archangels—Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel (the cherub Michael is called an archangel in Jude 9)—and each apparently led one-third of the angels. We read that the dragon, Satan, was cast back to earth with one-third of the angels. "And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth" (Revelation 12:3-4). As we have explained in other articles, stars are a symbol of angels (cf. Revelation 1:20). One-third of the angels followed Satan and became demons.
The prophet Ezekiel describes Lucifer's original responsibilities, and subsequent downfall. As in Isaiah 14, we again see type and anti-type. The King of Tyre is the type, and the cherub who became Satan is the anti-type. "Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord God: "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you"'" (Ezekiel 28:12-17).
Lucifer was a created being, given responsibility over the earth long before human beings were created. He had the free choice to obey or to disobey, just as human beings have the power to choose right or wrong. But Lucifer rebelled— he refused to carry out the will and government of God. As Ezekiel wrote, "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you."
So we see that God did not create Satan the devil. He created the cherub or archangel Lucifer, who rejected God's government, sealed his character as an evil, sinful being, and in rebellion transformed himself into Satan the devil.
Adam was given the opportunity to replace Satan as ruler of this world. But Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation and sinned. Note that it was Satan who first sinned and fell. Adam and Eve, and every human except Jesus Christ—Immanuel, God in the flesh—have sinned. Scripture tells us, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
A second Adam, Jesus Christ, had to resist the devil and conquer him. Scripture tells us that after 40 days of fasting, Jesus was physically enervated, but still battled the devil with scripture. Refusing to obey Satan, Jesus finally gave him an order, saying, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (Matthew 4:10).
Jesus proved that He would not give in to the devil. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). He proved He has the character and righteousness to rule the earth. When Jesus returns as King of kings, He will replace Satan as the prince of this world, banishing him for 1,000 years. But until then, Satan will continue to deceive the whole world. Could he be deceiving you?
One of Satan's greatest deceptions is the false belief that he does not exist. Still, many participate in occult religions that openly worship Satan, his demons or some manifestation of evil. Some witches and sorcerers practice deadly rituals—even to the extent of human sacrifice. But God warned ancient Israel to reject all these forms of paganism and Satanism. "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners" (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
God warns us to reject occult practices and paganism. Yet these practices are increasingly common, and even accepted in society. An estimated 50,000 in America alone practice "Wicca"—a form of polytheistic nature worship so well-established that the U.S. Army chaplain's office now provides pastoral services to military Wiccans ("Witchcraft Gets Army's Blessing," Chicago Tribune, June 18, 1999)—and a marketing executive from the major bookseller Barnes and Noble recently estimated a "U.S. 'Pagan' buying audience" of 10 million. Some high school killers have even been influenced by occult religion. Yes, one of Satan's major deceptions is through religion itself! The Apostle Paul uncovers this tactic, pointing out that Satan will not always appear as a serpent or a dragon, but will disguise himself as an angel of light! "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Satan, the prince of darkness, can appear as an angel of light, not just as the stereotypical dark force of occult worship. The Apostle Paul warned that Satan has his own ministers who appear as ministers of righteousness. That is why we challenge you not to believe us just because we assert some truth. We urge you to go to your Bible to find the truth. Remember the Bereans in Acts 17:11? Luke wrote that they, "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." We all need to do that!
Some clergy may be sincere, but sincerely deceived. Some ministers preach that you do not need to keep the Ten Commandments; they falsely equate obeying God's law with salvation by works! But if any minister tells you that you do not need to obey God, ask him if he approves of rebellion against God. The Apostle Peter wrote, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
The Apostle Paul also warned those who disobey God's truth. "To those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek" (Romans 2:8-9). The Bible plainly teaches obedience to the truth, to the gospel, to the Ten Commandments and to God's righteousness. Counterfeit religion is one of Satan's deceptions. He appears as an angel of light, but leads millions away from the true light of the Bible.
The devil also seeks to capitalize on our human nature—which is already vanity, selfishness, greed, envy and lust! There is an evil influence that, as the Apostle Paul states it, "now works in the sons of disobedience." Paul writes of our deliverance, through Christ, from our past participation in the lusts of human nature. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others" (Ephesians 2:1-3).
We must be able to identify in our own nature our human weakness and tendency to sin. That is why we need a living Savior to redeem us first of all from our past sins, and to give us the power to overcome the influences of the world, Satan and our own human nature!
Some Christians struggle against their uncontrolled anger. Some who have been offended let their feelings turn to bitterness, malice, anger, hostility and hate. We should be angry at evil and the ways of Satan, but we must never hate another human being. We should despise their wicked conduct and attitude, but we should love even our enemies, as Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44.
Be warned. Satan can control you if you do not control your anger. "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Uncontrolled anger can lead to a satanic bitterness, and anyone consumed with anger could end up in a lake of fire. Do not let Satan get the best of you. Learn to live at peace with others. We read, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:14-15).
Even many Christians face difficulty and stress because of past hurts and abuse. They let a root of bitterness spring up in them. They want to hold on to the pain of the past and even to relish some imagined revenge. But what does God say? "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). God will ultimately inflict righteous judgment and punishment on all unrepentant sinners. But Christians need to learn to forgive! Jesus taught us in the "outline prayer" to ask God to "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). Do you pray that way? Pray for your enemies. Learn to let go and forgive. You will be thwarting Satan, and you will not be giving into his attitude of malice and revenge!
We have seen a few of the devil's strategies and how to avoid his deceptions. Realize that Satan's fate is already decided. At the final judgment, all the wicked will be consumed in the lake of fire. Satan and his demons will also be cast into the lake of fire. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matthew 25:41).
We look forward to the time when all evil will be banished from this earth. We pray, "Thy Kingdom come!" Until then, Satan and his demons will continue to attack and deceive wherever they can. What can you do to overcome this evil force? Christians must overcome the influence of the world, the power of Satan and his demons and their own human nature.
First, we need a close relationship with God and Christ. God will protect us from evil. The outline prayer in Matthew 6 teaches us to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
God will protect you and deliver you from the evil one, if you ask Him to—if you choose the Kingdom of God and reject the kingdom of Satan. As He inspired the Apostle James to write, "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:6-8).
These are two key points to remember in our battle with Satan. God has made these promises. You need not give in to depressing influences and feelings. Do not give in to temptations Satan throws your way. Resist! And draw near to God. Get down on your knees and pray to your Father in heaven. Study the Bible, God's Word, and follow its instructions. When Jesus faced Satan's temptations, He fought the devil by quoting scripture. Jesus used these spiritual weapons. You need them too!
The Apostle Paul tells us to be fully armed spiritually. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:10-13).
You need the whole armor of God. If you are clothed with this armor you can win the battle. Satan is battling for your mind, for your character and for your spirit. But with God on your side, you can conquer him. Know your enemy. Know his strategies. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:10).
Can you actually overcome the devil? Yes, you can, if you use the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—and if you live by that word. When Jesus resisted Satan, He said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'" (Luke 4:4).
The power of God's Word in you can conquer Satan. The Apostle John wrote, "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14).
God will give you the victory through Jesus Christ—you can overcome evil. And the Creator God will banish Satan and his demons forever. They will be replaced by Jesus Christ and His faithful servants in the coming Kingdom of God.
You can have peace of mind. Act on the instructions of your Bible, and with the help of the Savior, you too can overcome Satan.