That two horned, two winged, red skinned, pitch fork toting, fire breathing, sin loving demon himself. That omnipresent demonic being who somehow gets billions of people in all different continents to do bad "stuff".
This is certainly a topic that stirs up lots of emotion. Many people are fascinated with this mystical character and have an extremely hard time even so much as considering that perhaps this character isn't actually what they think he is.
Matthew chapter 4 will be the focal point of the study, although there will be many other references as well.
In order to try to keep this study from turning into a 30 page document, I won't get into all the instances where we read about a "satan" or a "devil" but I will say that what I share here in regards to Matthew chapter 4, can be backed up many places elsewhere as well. This is not just a one section conclusion. I will offer ample amounts of scriptural proof elsewhere but I believe in brevity and simplicity so in order to somewhat hold to that in this study, I chose to limit my references.
So the chapter we will look at briefly is Matthew chapter 4 when the "tempter" took Jesus up to the high peak and tried to bribe Him. The chapter begins like this...
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" Matthew 4:1
The Greek word for "devil" here is G1228 "diabolos".
Most people when they come to the word "devil" in the scriptures, are trained to just automatically assume the description I gave above. That two horned son of a gun! However, the biblical definition of this word and the 3 ways that it is used in the bible are very different. They are as follows:
1) one prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely
2) a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer
3) METAPHOR applied TO A MAN who opposes the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil & side with him
So based upon the biblical usages of this word, and how they are defined, we can see that there is really nothing that would firmly suggest that this is a mystical creature. In fact, it seems more likely that this is a man or a person who slanders, accuses falsely, and who acts like a "devil". Metaphorically speaking.
But let's continue on in the chapter.
The tempter (devil) comes to Jesus and in verses 5 and 6 we read...
"Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down."
Now it seems to make sense that whoever this tempter was, he was a figure of high authority and high rank. Perhaps even the High Priest. Remember, Jesus was causing a great deal of discomfort and problems for them. They were constantly meeting and trying to figure out ways to suppress Jesus who was stirring up the masses and going against the grain of their religious practices. Jesus was also loosening the religious grip that they had on the people.
One might say that Jesus was even "binding the strongman so that He could plunder the strongman's goods." The message Jesus came preaching was a message of turning from that system of dead works and believing in Him. Jesus was removing the people from that system of death and giving them life.
But back to verses 5 and 6 which state that the "devil" (which we showed above could very easily mean "a man") took Jesus into "the HOLY CITY" and set Jesus on the top of the Temple.
Now, who would have access to the Temple in such a way as this? Why would this mystical creature take Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City? Doesn't it make more sense that this was a prominent figure who had authority in that day? Perhaps a High Priest?
As a quick side note, consider that the "slanderer who falsely accused" fits beautifully with the pushers of the Law and those who were full of dead mans bones. How was a person accused of anything in those days? By the Law. But that is another topic.
As we continue on into the chapter we read this...
"Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9
As I have been showing for years now, in the bible when universally sounding terms such as "all" and "world" and "earth" and "all flesh" etc are used, they pretty much NEVER mean literally all people or literally the entire world.
These people had absolutely zero concept of globe as we know it today. They had no clue about China. They had no clue about anything other than what they knew which was their known localized area. The Roman Empire and surrounding regions. That was their whole "world".
Like in Luke 2:1 when we read that "a decree went out from Caesar that ALL THE WORLD should be taxed".
Did Caesar decree that people in China should be taxed? Of course not. This was just the language used to represent their entire world. Everywhere they were familiar with, would be taxed by Caesar.
So when the "devil" (who was a man) took Jesus up to the high mountain and they looked out at "ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD" and he offered to give them to Jesus if Jesus would worship him, this was nothing more than a man of high authority and rank, taking Jesus who was a complete thorn in this man's side, and trying to bribe Him so that Jesus would sort of, go away.
If you look up the meaning of the words used for "fall down and worship me", you'll see that one of the biblical usages of this was basically reverence for another man. Specifically listed is the Jewish High Priest or those in High authoritative positions.
Let's not forget that Jesus was basically rebelling against all of those high authorities. Whoever this man was, he was doing all he could to stop the rebellion and get the people "back in check". But with that said, he still wanted to be respected by Jesus which is why he asks Him to fall down before him in reverence.
Now, the last passage we will look at here is verse 10 which reads as follows...
"Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you,[d] Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Matthew 4:10
Now normally I remove those little blocked in letters from my verse quotes, but here it is of utmost importance so I left it there.
The term there "AWAY WITH YOU, SATAN!" is actually the same exact term that we find here in this exchange...
"Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”But He turned and said to Peter, “GET BEHIND ME, SATAN!" Matthew 16:22-23
So in this passage we have Peter, (a man) trying to thwart God's plan by trying to stop Jesus from dying on the cross. Jesus rebukes Peter for it and says "GET BEHIND ME, SATAN!"
Well, the same exact Greek word is used in Matthew 4:10 when Jesus there said to Satan, "AWAY WITH YOU, SATAN!"
The word is G5217 "hypago" and it means: to go away, withdraw oneself, or depart from there.
So Jesus in both places, uses the exact same words to demand that they depart from Him.
In Matthew 4:10 Jesus says "Get behind me Satan!" to this man who was trying to thwart God's plan.
In Matthew 16:23 Jesus says "Get behind me Satan!" to Peter who was trying to thwart God's plan.
Same exact word used in both spots.
So then why are we so quick to assume that the "Satan" who tempted Jesus in Matthew 4 was a mystical 2 horned demonic being? If we know for a fact that "Satan" in Matthew 16 was Peter the apostle, then why can't the "Satan" of Matthew 4 also be a man?
Seems very likely that it indeed was.
This whole concept goes along very nicely with our constant reminding of how the "prince of the age" and how the "ruler of this world" etc was being cast out and about to be destroyed back in that day. Or how the "present form of the world was passing away" according to Paul in that day. That world was the Old Covenant world. Paul said the following...
"However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the RULERS OF THIS AGE, who are COMING TO NOTHING. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the RULERS OF THIS AGE knew; for had they known, they would not have CRUCIFIED THE LORD of glory." 1 Cor 2:6-8
Do we see how much the focus is on the rulers of that age? The higher ups that were in power? They had so much control and they were so corrupt that essentially they were the very "Satan" themselves. The very opposition to Christ, personified. But yet 90% of believers, when they read "the ruler of this age" they immediately think "DEVIL WITH HORNS". This had nothing to do with a devil with horns and everything to do with the High ranking authorities of the Old Covenant who, as Paul said, CRUCIFIED THE LORD.
Perhaps this is why in Revelation we read this about them when John addresses the believers who were being persecuted...
‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." Rev. 2:9
John is speaking of nobody else here besides the Jews who were persecuting the believers. Who else would "say they were Jews" besides Jews? They were very proud and vocal about being Jews but John draws back to what Paul said about how a true Jew isn't one outwardly but rather one inwardly who's been circumcised in the heart. John follows that same theme by saying that those who say they are Jews aren't really the true Jews in the heart, but rather they are a "synagogue of Satan".
In other words, they were the enemies of Christ. The opposition of Christ. The false accusers of the brethren. The slanderers themselves. John was not saying that they went to a synagogue and the two horned devil came in and they all worshiped him. They were simply, the opposition to Christ. The enemies of Christ.
Jesus said this about the "ruler" of that "world" and how the time had come for him to be cast out. He said...
"Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the RULER OF THIS WORLD be cast out." John 12:30-31
The Greek word for "rulers" used is G758- "archōn" which literally means- a ruler, commander, chief, leader.
This was no doubt, a person of high rank that was being cast out. The "world" was the Old Covenant world of Judaism and everything that came with it. That was all about to come crashing down to an abrupt end when the Temple was burned down.
Another passage that shows this connection...
"Nevertheless, many even of the authorities (RULERS- archon) believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God" John 12:42-43
How powerful is that one? Same word "archon" used for the word "authorities" there. We see that many of the rulers of that world believed in Jesus but because of their fear of the PHARISEES, they did not confess their belief because why? They were afraid they would be put out of the synagogues and they loved the glory that came from man more than the glory that came from God. Are you starting to see that this "ruler that was going to be cast out" was nothing more than the High Priest or corrupt and defiled men that were in charge of the Old Covenant system of works? It all points straight there.
Another interesting example is found here..
In John 17 Jesus says this about the "world" that was coming to an end but yet that had some of His sheep still within it...
"I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours....I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from THE EVIL ONE." John 17
Now I know what you are saying...look, it says the EVIL ONE! That MUST be the devil or satan! But not so fast!
In the original Greek, the word "one" is non existent. It is not there at all. The passage actually reads...
"That you keep them from the evil." or "that you keep them from evil"
There is no personification in that text. None whatsoever. The Greek word used for "the evil" is ponēros G4190 and it means the following:
full of labours, annoyances, hardships, pressed and harassed by labours bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and trouble.
So Jesus was praying that God would keep His sheep away from trouble and hardships and perils and tribulation. He was NOT praying that He would keep them away from some boogyman devil. Sorry, it's just not there.
Last passage for now to show the same theme. Jesus said...
"I will no longer talk much with you, for the RULER OF THIS WORLD is coming. He has no claim on me" John 14:26-30
Again, same word "archon" used for ruler of this world. Meaning a man who was in charge, commander, leader, authoritative position.
Who came for Jesus? Did not the High Priest call for Jesus on the night of His arrest? This is what John records..
"Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons." John 18:3
There's your answer. This ruler of the world that Jesus said was coming for Him, was none other than the arrest that was about to take place at the orders of the high authorities. Paul said that their battle was "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
The rulers and authorities there is simple. Right back to what we've been saying all along here. The powers and the spiritual forces of "evil" in the "heavenly places" seems to refer to some mystical demon right?
As I just showed a few paragraphs prior, most times when the word "evil" was used in their culture, it had little to do with wicked spirit beings and way more to do with just "bad things" "negative things" "sin" "hardships" "annoyances" "perils" "pain" and so on. Evil to them was basically anything "bad".
It was not a spiritual being floating around in the sky causing people to do certain things or act certain ways. For instance, one of many examples is Paul in romans 5:8 when he writes..
"But sin by the law produced in me all manner of evil desires."
Did the law produce wicked spirits and demons here? Or was Paul saying it produced BAD desires?
In Romans 12:9 Paul says to "abhor EVIL and cling to what is good"
Was Paul saying to abhor spiritual demons and cling to what is good? Or was he saying to abhor bad things and cling to what is good?
In Romans 12:17 it says "repay no one EVIL for EVIL"
Was Paul saying "repay no one mystical spirit for mystical spirit"? Of course not. He was saying don't repay someone badly because they treated you badly.
In Romans 12:21 it says " Do not be overcome by EVIL but overcome EVIL with good."
Was paul saying "don't be overcome by the demon spirit but overcome demon spirits with good?"
Nope. Paul was simply saying do not be overcome by wickedness but do good instead.
The word "evil" most times simply refers to bad or wicked acts and things.
So when Paul above said that they fight against "evil in the HEAVENLY PLACES", he was simply referring to the LEADERS and the AUTHORITIES in high positions. That's what "HEAVENLY places" means.
"HIGH UP" positions of authority = "Heavenly places"
We see the same concept in Isaiah 14 when Isaiah saw Lucifer falling from "heaven" when he saw the vision of the king of Babylon falling from "power". This is THE ONLY time we see Lucifer mentioned in the scriptures. Everyone always speaks of Lucifer as being the devil but man nothing could be farther from the truth of what that chapter is speaking about. Lucifer was the "morning star" which "fell from heaven". Again, going back to the cosmic language that was common in their day. Simply meant that the King of Babylon was going to fall from power. A "STAR" (King) falling from "HEAVEN" (power)
Lucifer has NOT A DARN THING to do with some 2 horned devil. Not even in the slightest way.
Anyways I have derailed enough but I wanted to just link some other portions to my theory on Matthew chapter 4 to show that this isn't just a one section concept. It's everywhere.
To me, it all fits wonderfully within the context of the High Priest, the Pharisees, the Temple, and the Law.
The "devil" or "satan" was the opposition. The opposing force to what Christ came to do. Ultimately, at the climax of the story, this opposing force killed Him. They hung Him on a cross.
He ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God until His enemies were made a foot stool. His enemies were those who had previously had Him killed. On them would all the righteous blood fall when the judgment came at the hands of the Roman armies less than one generation later. (Matthew 23 & 24)
If this study bothers you, that's ok. To me it makes a ton of sense and I feel as though I linked plenty of scriptures to make a strong case (and trust me, there are many more). I know not everyone will agree. Sometimes tradition is too strong and people can't get past it, but we should at least be open and humble enough to consider challenging information that is presented to us.
Anyways, if you are upset about this article, I am sorry. The devil made me do it.
Thanks for reading guys. If you've enjoyed it please give it a like below and feel free to share.