There are many things that people misconceive about Satan in modern times. This is as a result of many things from ignorance of the Bible to common misconception to his portrayal by our culture to just plain heresy. These misconceptions can mess up our views of many things, from Eschatology to Demonology. The point of this post is to tear down these misconceptions to give a better understanding of how Satan fits into the world. (Note that the picture above is an artist's rendering, not an actual painting of the actual Satan)
1. A Giant Red Creature with Horns and a Pointed Tail
This picture perfectly shows exactly what modern culture thinks of Satan. In fact, this was taken straight from the Wikia page for the Left Behinds book, found here. When you logically look at this, though, the fact that Satan was once an angel contradicts this. He would more likely be a brilliant looking creature, very appealing to the eye (Which would agree with his affinity for temptation). 2 Corinthians 11:14 agrees with this conclusion, as it says in the ESV that, "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." It is likely that this picture came from the pagan ideas of what a demon would look like.
2. Omniscient and Omnipresent
Unlike God, Satan does not know everything. We often think that Satan is knowing everything we are doing. This isn't true. Nor is it true that he is always there watching us. Those are attributes solely belonging to God. Only God is omniscient and only God is omnipresent. Everything Satan knows he had to be there to see or have his demons tell him about. Nothing in the Bible even hints that he is everywhere at once.
3. The Torturer in Hell
The Master of Hell. The Ruler of Hell. The Controller, Torturer, Runner, whatever word you want to use, Satan isn't it. In fact, when Satan is cast into Hell in Revelation 20, he is not the one who will be torturing the wicked for an eternity for their sins against God. In fact, he will be tortured alongside them for his sins against God. Besides the fact that the Bible nowhere attributes this role to him, a plain reading of Scripture and understanding of Satan's character would show that if it was his job to torture the wicked for their sins against God, the job would never be done. Satan doesn't want to punish those who breaks God's law, he wants to encourage people to do it. This idea most likely originated with Dante Alighieri's book, "The Divine Comedy". "The Divine Comedy" is divided into three parts, "Inferno", "Purgatorio", and "Paradiso". You probably know this by the more common name, "Dante's Inferno", the name of his section about Hell. He did not rely on Scripture Alone to write these accounts, as he drew from Muslim Tradition and Catholic Doctrine. It taught ideas of Purgatory and Salvation by Works.
So who is the Master of Hell? Who actually is causing the eternal conscious torment? John MacArthur, when talking about God the Father forsaking God the Son on the Cross, says this, "This is a reminder to all sinners that while hell is the full fury of God’s personal punishment presence, He will never be there to comfort. He will never be there to show sympathy. He will never bring relief." God created Hell to punish the sins of the wicked. Wouldn't this make Him a "Cosmic Sadist" (In the words of David Reagan) if he punished people for eternity? No. Why? Because we deserve it. All sin is eternally sinful. Infinitely sinful.
Here is an analogy that I've heard a few wise teachers use: If you throw a rock and hit nothing, nothing happens. If you throw a rock and hit a window, you'll probably have to pay the owner back. If you throw a rock and hit an animal, you might get bit. If you throw a rock and hit a person, you might get arrested for assault or get into a fight. If you throw a rock and kill a person, you'll probably be arrested for manslaughter in a best case scenario. If you throw a rock and kill the president, you'll never see the sun again if you don't get shot dead where you are. What changed? It's still just throwing a rock, but the change is who the crime is against. Read this verse from Psalm 51:4 (ESV), "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment." All sin is against God, who is infinitely Holy and Just. So we deserve an eternal Hell. It is only those who repent and trust in Him because of the grace He shows to them that are saved.
4. Warded Off By "Holy Items"
This mostly arises in Catholic superstition. So called "Holy Water", Crucifixes, Relics of Old Dead People who may or may not have been saints, etc. are often thought to be able to ward Satan off. No such evidence is given to make us conclude that a blessing should be given to water and that will ward off demons. No Biblical text hints at Ananias of Damascus's left pinky toe being able to keep Satan at bay or heal a man.
5. Someone We Are Allowed to Rebuke
From Catholic Demonologists to Word of Faith Charismatics to Confused Evangelicals, many people think that it is okay to rebuke Satan. The most common phrase is "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus". No Christian in Scripture rebukes Satan. Not Paul, not John, not Moses, not Peter, not Phillip, not even the younger believers. In fact, Jude warns against this in verse 9 of his Epistle, saying, "But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you.'" (ESV). Not even Michael the Archangel has the authority to rebuke Satan. Michael is probably the second most authoritative being in the entire world, second only to God Himself. So why, then, would we think we have that authority?
The Bible gives a better alternative. Don't even talk to Satan. Instead, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." (James 4:7-10, ESV)
6. The Good Guy
One of the earliest traceable lies about Satan is that he is the good guy. This can be traced all the way back to Satan's Initial rebellion against God, which lied in his own prideful mind as well as the minds of his followers, which are known as Fallen Angels or Demons. Among humans, after Eve's lapse into this heresy (And this myth IS a heresy), we see this first appear among the Gnostics. Today the belief manifests in two forms.
About the Author
Brandon C. Hines is a young writer from somewhere in northern Alabama who writes about Theology, Polemics, and Apologetics. His beliefs are best summarized by the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
You can search for various topics I have written about by going to Google and typing in a keyword, then typing site:Learningthepath.weebly.com after it.