HOW do you view the Devil?Do you think of him as a real person who tempts people to do wicked things, or does he merely represent the principle of evil? Is the Devil someone to be feared, or should he be dismissed as nothing more than a superstitious notion or a mythological unreality? Does the word “devil” refer to some abstract destructive force in the universe? Could the term simply be a symbol of the evil traits in humans, as many modern theologians claim?
It is not surprising that mankind is divided on the question of who the Devil is. Imagine how difficult it can be to discover the true identity of someone who is a master of disguise! Particularly is that so if he is determined to remain concealed behind a mask. The Bible describes the Devil as such a personality. Referring to him as Satan, it says: “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) Though he is evil, the Devil presents himself as good in order to misguide others. And if he gets people to believe that he simply does not exist, that suits his purpose even better.
Really, then: Who is the Devil? When and how did he come into existence? How does he influence mankind today? What, if anything, can we do to resist that influence? The Bible contains the accurate history of the Devil from his very beginning and provides truthful answers to these questions
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Should we be surprised by the confusion regarding Satan’s true identity?Not at all. To illustrate: A criminal might wipe his fingerprints from a crime scene so that he may conceal his identity and thus continue his illegal activity undetected. Similarly, Satan is a criminal mastermind who is content to operate behind the scenes, promoting moral corruption. Jesus clearly identified Satan as the one responsible for the evil state of human affairs. Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world.”—John 12:31.
Where did the Devil come from? Originally created as a perfect spirit creature in heaven, this outlaw angel made himself the Devil when he became obsessed with the desire to have humans worship him instead of God. The Bible records a conversation here on earth between Satan and Jesus in which the Devil revealed his selfish ambition. Satan tried to get Jesus to “fall down and do an act of worship” to him.—Matthew 4:8, 9.
Likewise, in conversations with God, as recorded in the book of Job, Satan revealed his motives. He would stop at nothing to influence humans to renounce God.—Job 1:13-19; 2:7, 8.
Consider: If Satan conversed with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, how could Satan possibly be merely the principle of evil that resides in others? There is absolutely no evil in God or his Son! Clearly, then, Satan is a real person—an evil spirit creature who has no respect for Jehovah or for Jesus.
The corrupt state of human affairs bears testimony to the existence of a real Devil. The nations of this world let surplus food rot while their hungry populations starve. The nations store up weapons of mass destruction for mutual annihilation. They pollute earth’s environment. Yet, most people are blind to the source of such hateful, self-destructive behavior. Why?
The Bible reveals that Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) To manipulate humanity, Satan employs an invisible organization. He is “the ruler of the demons.” (Matthew 12:24) Just as the boss of an organized crime ring can run a large illegal empire without revealing himself to all those involved, so Satan uses his insidious organization of wicked angels to control masses of people who remain largely unaware of his role or influence.
How thankful we can be that the Bible unmasks the Devil and exposes his organization! We can thus take steps to resist the Devil’s influence. The Bible admonishes us: “Subject yourselves . . . to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”—James 4:7.
The Devil Exploits Man’s Inherent Need*
The Devil has observed humans since the creation of mankind. He knows man’s makeup—his needs, his interests, and his desires. Satan is well-aware that man was created with a spiritual need, and the Devil has cleverly exploited this need. How? By feeding mankind religious untruths.
Jesus told religious leaders in his day, "You are from your father the Devil, and YOU wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie."—John 8:44
Many religious teachings about God are contradictory and confusing. Whose purpose do you think this serves? Contradictory teachings cannot all be true. Is it not possible, then, that many religious teachings are expressly designed and used by Satan to misguide people? In fact, the Bible refers to him as “the god of this system of things,” who has blinded people’s minds.—2 Corinthians 4:4.
Divine truth provides protection against religious deceptions. The Bible likens the truth of God’s Word to the girdle that a soldier of ancient times wore to help protect his loins. (Ephesians 6:14) If you take in knowledge of the Bible and keep its message close to you, as if you were girded with it, God’s Word will safeguard you from being misled by religious lies and errors.
Man’s spiritual inclination has led him to explore the unknown. This has exposed him to another of Satan’s deceptive devices. Exploiting man’s curiosity about what is strange and mysterious, Satan has used spiritism to bring many under his control. As a hunter uses bait to attract his prey, Satan employs such devices as fortune-telling, astrology, hypnotism, witchcraft, palmistry, and magic to attract and entrap people around the world.—Leviticus 19:31; Psalm 119:110.
How can you protect yourself from being ensnared by spiritism? Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states: “There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of [tries to contact] the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable things Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you.”
The Scriptural advice is direct: Have nothing to do with spiritism. What if you have been sharing in some practice of spiritism and now want to break free? You can follow the example of early Christians in the city of Ephesus. When they accepted “the word of Jehovah,” the Bible says, “quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody.” Those books were costly. They were worth 50,000 pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19, 20) Yet, Christians in Ephesus did not hesitate to destroy them.
*source material: Watchtower 11/15/2005 article "How Real Is the Devil to You?"