If the devil were an enormously powerful supernatural being which tormented the wicked in hell, then it would be very difficult indeed to explain why God would create such a being. However the Bible does not teach that the devil is a supernatural being, or that it torments the wicked in hell. The Bible nowhere describes the devil as a creation of God. However, people often have the wrong idea about what the Bible means by ‘devil’ and ‘satan’. It is significant that the word ‘devil’ does not occur at all in the Old Testament.

The Hebrew word ‘satan’ is not a personal name, it is a word meaning ‘adversary’. It is used of different adversaries in different places. In Numbers 22:22 it is used of an obedient angel (as a verb), in 1 Kings 11:14, 23-24 and Psalm 109:68 it is used of mortal men, in 1 Chronicles 21:1 it is used of an enemy nation, and in Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33 it is used of Jesus’ disciple Peter, when he was opposing Jesus.

Throughout the Bible, God is described as the only source of supernatural disaster and evil: Judges 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14-23; 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Chronicles 18:21-22; Job 1:12,16,21; 2:6,9,20; 5:17; 6:4; 9:4; 10:2; 11:5-6; 19:21; 27:2; 42:21; Psalm 78:49; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Micah 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 1:25-32; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.

No one can be found in the Old Testament who believed in a supernatural evil being called ‘Satan’: For example, all the individuals in the book of Job believe his disasters came from God, including Job (Job 1:21; 2:20; 6:4; 10:2; 19:21; 27:2), Job’s servant (Job 1:16), Job’s wife (Job 2:9), Job’s three friends (Job 5:17; 8:4; 11:5-6), Job’s acquaintances and relations (Job 42:11), and Job’s adversary himself (Job 1:12; 2:6).

In the New Testament the term ‘devil ‘ (Greek: diabolos) is applied to a variety of people who were doing things that were opposed to the ways of God. In John 6:70 Jesus says that Judas Iscariot was a devil. In John 8:44 Jesus says that the Jews who were planning to kill him were of their father the devil. In Acts 13:10 Paul said that Elymas, who was opposing Barnabas and Paul, was a son of the devil.

In 1 Timothy 3:11 Paul says that the wives of deacons should not be slanderers or false accusers, and in 2 Timothy 3:3 he says that in the last days people will be slanderers — in both these cases the Greek word that is used is diabolos, so the term devil was actually being applied to them. In Revelation 2:10 Jesus warned the believers that the Roman authorities would imprison some of them — he said that the devil was about to throw some of them into prison.

In all of these cases people were acting in ways that were contrary to God’s wishes and therefore the term ‘devil’ is applied to them. Of course, they were all part of God’s creation and were given the choice of doing good or evil — but they made the wrong choice.

The Bible says the devil has been destroyed by Jesus: Jesus, by his death, destroyed the devil (Hebrews 2:14-18), and the devil is that which has the power of death, which is sin (Romans 7:8-11, 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). This shows us that ‘the devil’ is a term used for the natural tendency of men to sin.

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