Get ready to tackle our hottest topic yet: the Devil.

The Big Lie – A Biblical word study on the Devil

Diabolos and Satanas in the New Testament


Matthew 25:31-46
Revelation 20:1-10
Mark 4:1-20, The Sower
Luke 8:4-12; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-19
Luke 22:1-6; John 13:1-11, 27
Revelation 2:8-16
Revelation 12:7-17

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Matthew 25:31-46 (5/20/13)

By the time of the New Testament, diabolos appears to refer to the one and only Devil, and that’s certainly what we see today.

My study buddy had such a great insight into today’s passage that, even though she prefers to remain anonymous, I can’t take credit for it. She pointed out that in vs. 41, the eternal fire was prepared for the Devil and his angels. God never intended for human beings to end up there! Sadly, some of us choose to go there by our actions and our rejection of God’s plan for our lives (vss. 42-46). Years ago, the Rev. Dr. Bob Templeton preached a sermon on Romans 6:23 in which he said, “Only volunteers go to hell.” You could preach the same sermon using today’s passage as the scripture text.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
Revelation 20:1-10 (5/21/13)

You remember from yesterday that the eternal fire has been prepared for the Devil and his angels, and I’m pretty sure you know that “angel” means “messenger.” This passage from Revelation uses satan and diabolos interchangeably, showing us again that “Satan” is the Devil’s name in the New Testament. The beast and the false prophet, who work for the Devil and could be considered his messengers or angels, are thrown into the lake of fire along with their boss.

Personally, I wouldn’t make too much of the fact that the Devil is called the “dragon” and the “ancient serpent.” Remember that an apocalypse is richly symbolic, and not especially descriptive. If you don’t believe me, just look at the description of Jesus in Revelation 19, where he has eyes of flame, a sword coming out of his mouth, and tattoos on his thigh. Well, maybe the writing could be on his clothes, but we’re still stuck with the eyes and tongue. The flaming eyes are likely to be a symbol of omniscience, and the sword of his teaching, or maybe of his words of power, i.e., miracles, hard to tell. The point is that the Devil is probably cunning, powerful, and grasping, like a dragon. The Devil is probably our ancient and natural enemy, like a serpent. Keep the characteristics in mind, and don’t pay much attention to the window dressing.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
Mark 4:1-20, The Sower (5/22/13)

We’re still pursuing the idea that “Satan” in the New Testament is used as the proper name of the Devil. We’re going to read the Parable of the Sower once today and twice tomorrow, so pay attention to the birds.

Meantime, I started today rereading The Screwtape Letters for the first time in several years. In the third paragraph of the introduction, C. S. Lewis says, “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar.” If you didn’t believe me a couple weeks ago, believe Lewis. And if you don’t believe Lewis, believe Jesus, who called the Devil “a liar and the father of lies.” The Screwtape Letters, in case you missed it, is well worth a trip to the library. It’s short, funny, and full of good insights into how the Devil works.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
Luke 8:4-12; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-19 (5/23/13)

Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is recorded in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. We saw yesterday that when Jesus explained the parable in Mark, the birds represented satanas Satan.Today we see that in Luke, the birds represent the diabolos devil. In Matthew, the birds represent the poneros evil one.

Now, since you asked me (woo-oo, Swami Regina sees the future; readings $5), I can think of two reasons right off hand why the three gospel writers might have used different Greek words for the being represented by the birds: But the point is that in the New Testament, Satan = The Devil. At least in the Parable of the Sower, Satan = The Devil = The Evil One.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
Luke 22:1-6; John 13:1-11, 27 (5/24/13)

We see again today that in the New Testament, satanas Satan and diabolos devil are used almost interchangeably. Judas got into trouble because he listened to the liar and tempter, Satan. We don’t know what Judas was told, only that it seemed to him at the time to be a good idea to betray his master. If he had thought about it, he would have known that betrayal did not agree with scripture. For example, Isaiah 33:1, says that traitors will come to a bad end: “Ah, you destroyer, who yourself have not been destroyed, you traitor, whom none has betrayed! When you have ceased to destroy, you will be destroyed; and when you have finished betraying, they will betray you.”

Remember that at the beginning of our study, whenever Satan made a suggestion about what Jesus could do, Jesus responded, “It is written….” The reason Biblical study is critically important is that when Satan tempts us, we know what is written.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation): Revelation 2:8-16 (5/27/13)

The best part of Revelation – providing you personally aren’t being outlawed and executed for being a Christian – is the letters to the churches. Like our own present-day churches, most of the churches addressed in Revelation have some good points and some bad points. By reading the whole list and thinking calmly about what they were doing right and wrong, we might be able to better assess what we are doing right and wrong. But I digress.

In the letter to the church at Smyrna, we see again that Satan and the Devil seem to be the same person, although presumably Satan is working through human beings in having the church members thrown into prison.

In the letter to Pergamum, however, “Satan” seems to be used as a code word for something else – just exactly what is not known to us today. It might be the major idol in the city, Asklepius, whose symbol was the snake. It might have been idolatry in general. Pergamum was apparently the site of the first Christian martyrdom in Asia; maybe John is referring to that incident, or maybe he’s talking about something else entirely that threatened the church there. We don’t know, but his readers did. Remember that an apocalypse is highly symbolic, like a political cartoon. You can get confused if you are even a little bit out of touch with the community that uses the symbol. For example, my husband and I agreed today that the talking feather in Doonesbury was George Bush, when in fact it was Dan Quayle. And this is in our own lifetime! The symbols in Revelation are 2000 years old, and I encourage you not to argue with each other about what they represent.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):
Revelation 12:7-17 (5/28/13)

By now, you probably are convinced that Satan = the Devil and the Devil = Satan in the New Testament. So far, so good, and today is that last day on that particular topic.

Again, I wouldn’t make too much of the “ancient serpent.” I wouldn’t even make too much of the dragon being hurled down from heaven to earth. Why? Because of the symbolism. What it means is this: God is going to step into history, free his people from oppression and persecution, and win the battle. Meantime, be faithful! That’s the whole message of Revelation, and all the window dressing is just a disguise to keep the Romans from identifying, arresting, and killing individual Christians. It is an apocalypse, and an apocalypse is a tract for hard times.

Think about it. If we take the dragon, etc., literally, then whom is the dragon pursuing? Well, Mary, apparently, because Mary is literally the “woman who had given birth to the boy.” And she is given two wings and flies away into the desert. If you have trouble with that, and I do, then you have to consider the possibility that the woman represents Israel, Jesus’ figurative mother, and that the wings and the place of refuge are God’s protection of Israel. Then the dragon, the serpent, and so on are also representative of something: Rome, which was the current problem.

But if you think something else about Revelation, that’s fine with me. It’s not worth breaking communion over.

From the International Standard Version (courtesy of the ISV Foundation):

More of The Big Lie The Son of God and the Father of Lies
The OT satan is always an adversary, but not always the Devil.
The Hebrew satan is translated various ways.
In the New Testament, both satanas and diabolos normally refer to the Devil.
Sometimes satanas and diabolos are used figuratively to refer to someone acting like the Devil.
Poneros – Evil in the New Testament
Demons cause sickness, not sin.
Sometimes Satan and demons cooperate with each other.
Neither Baalzebub nor Lucifer is a Biblical name for the Devil.
Belial means "worthless," and once it's used as a nickname for the Devil.
Satan's job description: Temptation and Lies
Our job description: Resist him!

Copyright 2013 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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