The problem of evil for an all-loving and all-powerful God inevitably leads to a discussion of the personality of Satan and why God allowed him to exist. While the Bible does not give us a comprehensive, systematic account of Satan and his origin, we are able to piece together enough relevant scripture to identify Satan’s character and role in the world.
Revelation 12:9 speaks to God’s enemy as the “great dragon, the serpent of old, who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” The following list of names identifies Satan’s roles and purposes very accurately.
“Satan” simply means “adversary” or opponent, one who is opposed to God’s rule and purposes (Matthew 12:25ff; Zechariah 3:1ff; Job 1:9ff).
“Devil “ means slanderer, because he slanders believers before God and slanders God’s character and reputation before man. He is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).
”Serpent of old” goes back to Eden and the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve. In this regard, he is called the Tempter, one who seeks to convince us to disobey God (Matthew 4:3; I Thessalonians 3:5).
“Great Dragon” identifies him as the evil power behind those who would wage war against God’s people on earth (Revelation 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16).
Satan’s influence and goal are outlined in the phrase: “One who deceives the whole world”. In order to destroy human beings, made in the image of God, Satan deceived Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s rule (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Revelation 13:14). As their descendants, we too blindly joined Satan in his scheme (Ephesians 2:1-2). The Bible makes it clear that the entire world is under satanic rule and control (I John 5:19) (by God’s permission, as a curse on our own rebellion). This demonic pall blinds the human population to reject God and his redemption plan.
Satan is never described as God’s evil twin or as an equal. He brings about Job’s miseries, but only with God’s permission (Job 1). He incites David to sin by taking a military census but only as a lackey of God’s judgment on a sinful nation (2 Samuel 24; I Chronicles 21).
There are hints in the Bible that prior to Satan’s rebellion, he existed as a majestic cherub, the chief of God’s creation (Ezekiel 28:11-19). If our biblical speculation is correct (Isaiah 14: 12-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9), this magnificent, perfect and free creature of God coveted an elevated position not his own. Whether he thought he could usurp God’s rule, or more probably, simply sought undue adulation, Satan’s rebellion involved other angelic creatures, as many as a third of their ranks (Revelation 12:4).
The Bible makes it clear that in spite of the fact that Satan exists, and exerts a great deal of evil influence that deceives and destroys God’s good creation, nevertheless, God is in sovereign control and will inevitably bring Satan and those who with him to judgment. The book of Revelation anticipates how the great Dragon will be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented for the evil he afflicted on the world (Revelation 20:10).