The Work of the Devil


Scriptures primarily use two different designations for the Devil: One, of course, is "the Devil", which is found only in the New Testament. "Satan" is the other most frequent reference, which is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Several other designations are found throughout Scripture, although none are nearly as common as these two. The following is a list of the most common designations for the Devil, provided with frequency of occurrence within Scripture and sorted according to it:

Other somewhat vague references to the Devil can be found in Scripture; however, most of these names are informal, implied, or passing references. For the purposes of our study, we would like to limit our attention to the above list.

Consider Names in General

Interestingly, none of the above references are what we would commonly call a proper "name". To elaborate, please consider that the names of people in Scripture were generally related to his or her origin:

In each of the above cases, a person's name, or even an angel's name, is in some way a reference to his origin, whether it be his Creator, ancestors, circumstances at birth, or purpose for life. However, this is not the case for the Devil. If he ever wore a name given by God, it is unknown to us. This may be significant. He is manifested to us as a being cut off from his origin, both in creation and purpose. The only designation given to us for this malevolent being are working descriptions of the activities he has chosen. Later, we will examine the work of the Devil in more detail, but for now, we want to introduce the designations given to us for the Devil, and identify each designation with its related work.


The word, Satan, is transliterated from the Hebrew, exchanging Hebrew letters and sounds for their English equivalents. In other words, it is not translated at all, which adds an element of mystery. However, the word, Satan, is not a mysterious word. In fact, it is often used in application to other beings, and in those cases, it is simply translated as "adversary" or "enemy", as seen in these Hebrew-English lexicons:

9406 [9407] שָׂטָן (Hebrew) (page 966) (Strong 7854) - † שָׂטָן n.m.:Psalm 109:6 1. adversary. 2. Satan (NH שָׂטָן, סָטָן; Aram. שָׂטָנָא, סָטָנָא, Syr. sotÍonoÀ (Hehr.); NH vb. סָטַן, Aram. סְטַן; Ar. šatÍana is be remote, esp. fr. the truth, and fr. the mercy of God; šaytÍaÀnun Satan, Eth. sayt’än::);—1. adversary, in gen., personal or national; (ל) הָיָה לְשׂ׳: Nu 22:22 (JE), 1 S 29:4 (cf. Nes:Marg. 15), 2 S 19:23, יָצָא לְשׂ׳: Nu 22:32 (JE); שׂ׳: 1 K 5:18, 11:25; שׂ׳ ל הֵקִים:, subj. God 1 K 11:14, 11:23, cf. Psalm 109:6 (|| רָשָׁע). 2. superhuman adversary, הַשּׂ׳:: a. of Job, one of בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים Jb 1:6, 1:7, 1:7, 1:8, 1:9, 1:12, 1:12, 2:1, 2:2, 2:2, 2:3, 2:4, 2:4, 2:6, 2:7. b. of h. p. of Isr. bef. י׳:, Zc 3:1, 3:2, 3:2; LXX. ὁ διάβολος. c. as שׂ׳: Satan 1 Ch 21:1 (interpr. 2 S 24:1), LXX διάβολος (LXX σατάν † 1 K 11:14, 11:23; Σατανᾶς Mt 4:10, Mk 1:13, Lk 10:18 + 33 t. NT). (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Unabridged))

8167 שָׂטָן - שָׂטָן: — 1. accuser, adversary: a) human: 1K 5:18; b) mal°ak yhwh † Nu 22:22-32; — 2. spec. supernatural figure: ha´satan, the Satan † Zc 3:1f Jb 1:6–2:7 (14 ×); > satan (proper name) † 1C 21:1. (Holladay, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, pg 350).

In this name, Satan, we learn the primary work or activity of the Devil. He is the opponent or adversary. He is the one who withstands. In the Scriptures, he first appears as an apparent adversary to man:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6 NKJ)

The Lord said that eating of this tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in man's death (Genesis 2:15-17). Yet, Satan contradicted the Lord's clear wording and convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This brought both physical and spiritual condemnation, ultimately resulting in a separation of soul from the body (physical death, Genesis 3:22-24; James 2:26) and man from God (spiritual death, Revelation 20:10-15). As instigator of our death, Satan became recognized as a murderer from at least the dawn of our history and knowledge:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44 NKJ)

examples in scripture of him being our enemy

Although he first appears as the adversary of man - and no doubt, he is - we later learn that man is not his primary target or opponent. It is God Himself that Satan seeks to resist, thwart, and withstand.

The Devil

The god of this World

II Corinthians 4:4; John 14:30; 12;31; 16:11


Although we know so little about the Devil's origin, to know that he was an angel in the presence of God, and yet he rebelled against God is to know that he is profoundly powerful and hardened and therefore a fearful creature indeed. Although he is not a literal dragon, the spiritual power symbolized by a dragon is incredibly more fierce. Although we have dismantled many of the myths and misunderstood symbols regarding the Devil, we should not forget that these symbols were intended to communicate that the Devil is an awesome foe, unlike anything we have ever encountered. Let us remember the example of Michael and not dismiss the Devil's power so lightly (Jude 1:6).

Although we are given but a few passages concerning the origin of the Devil, the many fables and myths concerning his origin have prompted a thorough examination of the commonly held beliefs. In closing, we see that we do not really know as much about the Devil's origin as many claim to know. The obvious lesson being that God does not think it important; otherwise, He would have revealed it so (Deuteronomy 29:29; II Peter 1:2-3; II Timothy 3:16-17). The more important points to consider are the nature of the Devil, his work, and his defeat - how we overcome him in Jesus! That we will consider in the remaining articles of this series.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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