Is the Devil deceiving us? ...

Is Satan Ugly?

Satan the Devil is portrayed as evil and repulsive. Is this true?

Satan doesn't get a good press. He's variously described as the Evil One, Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, 666, Devil, Fallen Angel. He is symbolic of all that's evil and wicked, the Tempter, the Destroyer of all that's good and upright. Amid the flames of hell-fire he strides around with horns, pointed goatee, blazing eyes, tail, cloven hooves and of course, a pitch-fork and red body sock. Clearly not someone you would pass without at least a glance!

These characteristics attract some of homo sapiens, for he has a following in some quarters. Some claim to have met him. Some sweaty preachers - perhaps a bit foolhardy - threaten to take him by that tail. But on the whole most of mankind are inclined to avoid him. Satan isn't thought of as a cuddly toy.

History of the Devil

Perhaps a majority of Western Christians are skeptical as to his existence. Certainly many of their leaders are. Turn, though, to the Bible and we catch glimpses of a very real being. Satan exists in a parallel universe - but in a world that intrudes into our own. Even in our age of skepticism, even among scientists, there's a growing realization of the reality of that other world.

But whatever his present appearance and disposition, Satan certainly wasn't always "ugly".

We can start at a mid-point of his career. Jesus - who had a real encounter with Satan - saw him "fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). We may not be able to put a date to this, but it was certainly a notable event. And it tells us that Satan once had a place in heaven. Jesus revealed more of the history to John - recorded for us in the book of Revelation. Satan is there identified for us as "the great Dragon, the Serpent of old [in John's day, a `dragon' was a large snake], the Devil" (Rev. 12:9). [Devil - Gk. diabolos - or accuser, refers only to this one being, though often the term demon is translated as devil.] In this passage we find (v.4) that Satan was thrown out of heaven together with a third of the "stars", identified as angels (v.9), defeated in a battle with the archangel Michael and the angelic forces he commanded.

At that point he was clearly corrupted. But what about before?

The Old Testament draws a veil over much of Satan's visible activity until he was thoroughly unmasked by Jesus. But we know he had been yin heaven. It's the sixth century BC prophet Ezekiel who lifts that veil a little. He is exposed (Ezek. 28) as a being highly exalted in the counsel of God - an "anointed cherub", in fact. [Cherubim are powerful angelic beings closely associated with the presence of God] In a passage which uses the then Prince of Tyre as a type. Ezekiel soars into the past history of the spirit being which controlled that prince.

Spirit Hierarchy

Those close to God anciently had insight into the spirit world. We learn from Daniel that there were spirits with limited but extensive power who have authority over nations. Some were God's agents while others were His adversaries (see Daniel 9).

Supreme over those who opposed God is the one identified by Isaiah (Isa. 14:12) as Lucifer. (Heb. = helel = shining one. Anciently the Greek term was Phosphoros, their name for the planet Venus, the "morning star".) The king of Babylon was then under Lucifer's sway, and Isaiah saw the king as a type of this mighty spirit being. The prophet describes his plot to usurp the authority of God: "How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations. For you have said in your heart, '1 will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars [angels] of God ...l will be like the Most High" (Isa. 14:12-15).

It was, of course, no contest. Lucifer was cast out along with those angelic beings he had persuaded to follow him in his rebellion. The account reflects the human archetype of this rebellion: Nimrod. As `father of the gods" (also known as Kronos) he sought to ascend into heaven and was 'cast down' (Genesis 11:1-9). His spiritual descendants, the King of Babylon and the Prince of Tyre had the same motivation.

Angel of Light

Isaiah in vision slightly lifts the veil of Lucifer's origin in heaven. Ezekiel fills in more detail. Generations after the Isaiah vision, he notes that this being now controlled the Prince of the city of Tyre (Ezek. 28). Addressing the "king of Tyre", the shadowy being behind the Prince, God's message was: "You were the seal of perfection. full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God" (Ezek. 28:12-13). Clearly this was no human being! He continues: "You were the anointed cherub that covers; I established you. You were on the holy mountain of God ...you were perfect in your ways".

Lucifer, as his inspired name suggests, was an angel of light. The cherubim are powerful spirit beings who attend on the throne of God. That was Lucifer's original created role. But...he sinned. Lifted up with pride and ambition he persuaded thousands of subordinate angels to fight God! As Ezekiel adds: "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created ...till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading [promises of high office when God would be overthrown?] you became filled with violence within, and you sinned. Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God. And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from [i.e., removed from] the midst of the fiery stones".

Since then he has - mostly behind the scenes - corrupted mankind through a systematic undermining of the true godly values for successful living. Lucifer, the shining one, is now Satan the Adversary of all that's good and holy. His destructive philosophy has been universally insinuated into education and business and government. He holds sway in art and in entertainment. In the world's religions - where you would expect most opposition to him -Satan has confused mankind and all but obliterated the true faith. As Jesus told the apostle John - "he deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).

Satan's Self-portrait

With such a reputation, his alleged fearsome appearance would be well-earned. But Satan doesn't want you to see it that way!

Paul unveils the Devil's self-portrait. The apostle warned the Corinthian Christians against false teachers: "...for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder. For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

Isaiah thundered: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (cs 5:20). Leaders in government, leaders in entertainment, leaders in business apply this perverse and twisted philosophy. Worse - spiritual leaders through ignorance or greed or ambition wrap their congregations in this same destructive and suffocating blanket.

Be warned. God's arch adversary has a facade of righteousness and light. He has, too, ministers - servants - in all walks of life wearing the same cloak, says Paul! Don't expect the Devil to appear in a red body suit. Don't expect him to present his opposition to God in some grotesque perversion of the truth. Rather, check that your standards, your beliefs, your religious teachers conform to the Word of God.

Paul, again, warned that much false teaching is source from the world of adverse spirits: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the truth giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (I Timothy 4:1). It will be, he says, a special problem in our day.

Would you, as a Christian, knowingly embrace teaching from a demon? Of course not! But the arch-deceiver will inject his perverse doctrines through channels that appear to be righteous. Not a red body-sock, but perhaps a clerical collar!

Satan since his fall from heaven has lost none of his power, none of his craftiness or subtlety. He beguiled (deceived) mother Eve by the ultimate false teaching - that by disobeying God's express commands she would still live forever (II Corinthians 11:3).

Check Your Beliefs

The apostolic church was plagued by false teachers busily spinning a web of doctrinal deceit. Paul, again: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18).

Few followers of Jesus Christ pay heed to what they believe, passively "going to church" and then forgetting all. Unknowingly, they may have imbibed a poison potion poured out by demonic beings intent on destroying faith. But what you believe - your doctrinal portfolio - is vital to your salvation!

There's a pure fountain of truth revealed in the Scriptures - a body of belief that frees us from fear (e.g., of hell-fire and eternal torment), that opens a glorious eternal future for the faithful children of God. Satan wants to veil that from you! Where do you expect to learn truth? We don't look to business, or to the world of entertainment. And certainly not to Downing Street or Capitol Hill.

But we do expect it from the pulpit, from the religious media etc. Given Satan's masterly use of disguise - isn't that where you should be particularly wary? That sweating TV evangelist - does he draw his words from the Word of God? It's your personal responsibility to check it out - from the Scriptures. For you wouldn't want to be taken in by a doctrine concocted by a foul spirit. Would you?

God's adversary - Satan the Deceiver - has effectively deceived the whole world. By elaborate, colorful and exciting ritual he blinds man to saving truth. Or by smooth spiritual-sounding words. Or by a cloak of good deeds.

Satan is indeed "ugly". But he still projects the image of himself as a "bringer of light". Especially he masquerades as a bearer of Christian truth. Check him out!


To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.

For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 No. 3, January/February 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.


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