How do you picture the devil? I tend to picture a being rather like Hades from Greek mythology. I think that’s probably the way a lot of people envision him, even though they might imagine him as somewhat more powerful and serious than this guy on the right.
But I was thinking.
If you go around with that picture in your head and never think about it, it can really cause a lot of misconceptions.
In Greek mythology, Hades is kind of the opposite of Zeus. They’re about equally powerful, but they can never get along, so they end up ruling different realms. Zeus always wins when they argue, but never by much, so you’re never entirely sure that’s how things will turn out. (At least, this is how I understand things. But my knowledge comes mostly from the Disney movie Hercules and the Percy Jackson series. So forgive any inaccuracies.)
That doesn’t describe God and Satan at all. They’re not even close to equally powerful. God created the Devil, though not to create an enemy for himself. The decision to be the enemy was Satan’s, but he really has no hope of competing. He’s only the creation.
The Devil also isn’t the ruler his own realm. The eternal fire is prepared for (not by) the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). In Revelation 20:10, he is “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Thrown. He doesn’t go willingly with those who were loyal to him following happily at his heals. No, he is forced into a place where he is going to be tormented forever. He doesn’t want to go to hell any more than anyone else does.
And even though he is rebellious, there are times Satan has to get God’s permission to cause trouble. In Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6, Satan asks God if he can harm Job, and God sets limits even when he says yes. And in Luke 22:31-32, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” I don’t know that this is always the case, but at least in certain situations, the Devil can’t act on his every whim. And that ought to be a very encouraging thought.
Now, I am certainly not suggesting that Satan is not dangerous or that we should not be wary of him. But we certainly need to stop thinking of him as God’s evil equivalent.