Is Satan an actual living, personal being? Atheists and their near kinsmen, infidel theologians, say “No.”
For instance, G. B. Gray, a representative of the liberal persuasion, wrote:
“If we would fix more exactly on the origin of the Satan, there is much to be said for Marti’s suggestion that he is the personification of the self-accusing conscience of Israel.”
To those who have confidence in the integrity of the Scriptures, however, there is no doubt about the fact that the devil is a personal being.
He is constantly represented in the Bible as a personal entity. Personal names and personal pronouns as well as personal acts are so frequently attributed to him that it is impossible to view Satan as the mere personification of evil.
The great enemy of God is most commonly referred to in the Bible as “the devil” or “Satan.” He is termed the devil thirty-three times in the New Testament, and called Satan thirty-six times.
But he is also designated by many other titles. He is:
• Abaddon, Apollyon, the great dragon, the old serpent, the deceiver of the whole world (Rev. 9: 11; 12:9),
• the adversary (1 Pet. 5:8),
• the accuser of our brethren (Rev. 12:10),
• Beelzebub (Mt. 12:24),
• Belial (2 Cor. 6:15),
• an enemy (Mt. 13:28),
• the evil one (Mt. 13:19),
• the father of lies, a liar, a murderer (Jn. 8:44),
• the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4),
• the ruler of this world (Jn. 12:31),
• the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and,
• the tempter (Mt. 4:3).
By way of definition the devil maybe said to be:
“A created but superhuman, personal, evil, world-power, represented in Scripture as the adversary both of God and man.”
Satan in the Old Testament
The Hebrew term satan etymologically denoted “adversary,” being related to a verb suggesting the idea of “lying in wait.” The word was frequently used in a very general sense of adversary.
In Numbers 22:22 it is even applied to the messenger of Jehovah who opposed Balaam. The general usage is usually indicated by the absence of the definite article. When the article is used, e.g., “the adversary,” it becomes a proper name and thus denotes the personal devil.
Satan in the Garden
Our first knowledge of Satan is derived from the temptation account in Genesis. Numerous attempts to refute the historicity of this narrative have been attempted. Professor Melancthon Jacobus speaks to this very point:
“That there was a real serpent in this transaction cannot be doubted any more than we can doubt the real history throughout. Here, where the facts speak, further explanations are not necessary, nor fitted to the time of the beginning. (1) The real serpent is contrasted with the other animals, (vs. 1). (2) In the New Testament allusion is made to a real serpent in referring to the history, (2 Cor. 11:3, 14; 1 Jn. 3:8; Rev. 20:2). Yet (3) that there was in the transaction a superior agent, Satan himself, who only made use of the serpent, is plain from his being referred to as ‘the Old Serpent, called the Devil and Satan,’ (Rev. 12:9) — ‘a murderer from the beginning,’ (Jn. 8:44). Satan is also spoken of as the arch seducer, who is even transformed into an angel of light,’ (2 Cor. 11: 14). The reference may be to this event. Almost all the Asiatic nations hold the serpent to be a wicked being that has brought evil into the world. Some have sought to turn this history of the temptation into an allegory. But it wears the same aspect of historical detail as the rest of the narrative.”
Satan Tempts David
The divine record of Chronicles declares: “And Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel” (1 Chron. 21:1). Here again Satan is seen in his role as a tempter and enemy of God’s people.
Some have claimed a contradiction between this passage and 2 Samuel 24:1 where it is stated that Jehovah moved David to number Israel. There is no discrepancy, however, for a combining of the verses simply shows how God employed Satan as the agent to punish His people for their sins.