To the modern world, the figure of Satan is presented as a somewhat comical, if not quaint and ridiculous figure. Satan is always presented as a figure with horns and a tail, running around and tempting people to do wrongdoing and evil. To most people, Satan is somewhat irrelevant to their daily lives and possible is in some sense a mythological figure or fairytale figure. Satan, however, is very much apart of the Christian belief system. He first appears leading a rebellion of angels against God and the basis of the rebellion is not acknowledging God’s sovereignty over him and not seeing himself as a creature but wanting to be in an equal relationship with God. As a result of this angelic rebellion, Satan is said to be cast down into hell with his angelic band but is allowed to roam the earth tempting people and bringing about evil if he can. God allows Satan to exist until there is a last judgment.
Satan first appears as a snake in the book of Genesis where he says to Eve that if he eats of this tree, she will not die. Satan appears in many other part of the Hebrew Bible including First Chronicles and Job. In the New Testament, Satan appears once again where he tempts Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, there is further mention of Satan.
There are two comments that I would like to make about Satan. First, God allows Satan to wreak havoc and evil until the return of Christ where there will be a judgment. We do not know how men and women will be judged or what will happen to Satan. What we do know is that whatever may happen to all of us, including Satan, whether we gain entrance to heaven or are cast into hell, God will not destroy us completely including Satan. Perhaps that is the awfulness of hell, that for eternity, men and women will be there forever, cutting off the source of being and love which is God and Christ. Hell must be a place of eternal isolation and suffering that will never end and we will be compelled to be there for what we did or did not do, and choose to believe in our lives.
The second comment I would make about Satan is to define his fault or failure. The fault of Satan is pride and arrogance. He sees participating in God’s love that is offered to him as an insult, as having to bend his will to another and higher power. He wants equality, if not superiority and refuses to recognize God as his creator. This is the essential fault of all men and women, that they wish to be important and have such a sense of pride, that they do not wish to acknowledge what they are given as creatures, under God.
Satan refuses to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and that he himself is a created being and so to speak wants to run the show. All men and women share that sense of importance, egotism and refuse to acknowledge the truth that God and Christ are the creator. Satan, in his arrogance and because of his desire to be important, rejects eternal love and joy because of his great pride. Perhaps John Milton, in his epic poem Paradise Lost, defines the issue more precisely and exactly. Satan is a central character in the poem and says quite explicitly, “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”. The Christian life does not have the goal of self-importance but service. Jesus, in the night he was betrayed, washed the feet of his disciples. He bids us do the same in our lives.