(Greek) "the accuser" or "the slanderer" (Job 1:6-11; Job 2:1-7; Revelation 12:10). In Hebrew Satan means "adversary." The two-fold designation marks the two-fold objects of his malice - the Gentiles and the Jews. There is one one Devil, many "demons" as KJV ought to translate the plural. Devil is also used as an adjective. 1 Timothy 3:11, "slanderers"; 2 Timothy 3:3, "false accusers." Peter when tempting Jesus to shun the cross did Satan's work, and therefore received Satan's name (Matthew 16:23); so Judas is called a "devil" when acting the Devil's part (John 6:70). Satan's characteristic sins are lying (John 8:44; Genesis 3:4-5); malice and murder (1 John 3:12; Genesis 4); pride, "the condemnation of the Devil," by which he "lost his first estate" (1 Timothy 3:6; Job 38:15; Isaiah 14:12-15; John 12:31; John 16:11; 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:1:6).
He slanders God to man, and man to God (Genesis 3; Zechariah 3). His misrepresentation of God as one arbitrary, selfish, and envious of His creature's happiness, a God to be slavishly-feared lest He should hurt, rather than filially loved, runs through all pagan idolatries. This calumny is refuted by God's not sparing His only begotten Son to save us. His slander of good men, as if serving God only for self's sake, is refuted by the case of "those who lose (in will or deed) their life for Christ's sake." Demons, "knowing ones," from a root daemi, to know, are spirits who tremble before, but love not, God (James 2:19), incite men to rebellion against Him (Revelation 16:14). "Evil spirits" (Acts 19:13; Acts 19:15) recognize Christ the Son of God (Matthew 8:29; Luke 4:41) as absolute Lord over them, and their future Judge; and even flee before exorcism in His name (Mark 9:38).
As "unclean" they can tempt man with unclean thoughts. They and their master Satan are at times allowed by God to afflict with bodily disease (Luke 13:16): "Satan hath bound this woman these eighteen years" with "a spirit of infirmity," so that she was "bowed together." Scripture teaches that in idolatry the demons are the real workers behind the idol, which is a mere "nothing." Compare 1 Corinthians 10:19-21; 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 9:20. Compare Deuteronomy 32:17, Hebrew sheedim, "lords" (1 Corinthians 8:5); Acts 16:16, "a spirit of divination" (Greek of Python, an idol); Acts 17:18, "a setter forth of strange gods" (Greek: demons); 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalm 106:37; Leviticus 17:7. Idolatry is part of the prince of this world's engines for holding dominion.
Our word "panic," from the idol Pan, represented as Satan is, with horns and cloven hoofs, shows the close connection there is between the idolater's slavish terror and Satan his master. The mixture of some elements of primitive truth in paganism accords with Satan's practice of foiling the kingdom of light by transforming himself at times into an "angel of light." Error would not succeed if there were not some elements of truth mixed with it to recommend it. Corrupting the truth more effectually mars it than opposing it. Satan as Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24-30) is at the head of an organized kingdom of darkness, with its "principalities and powers" to be "wrestled" against by the children of light. For any subordinate agent of this kingdom, man or demon, to oppose another agent would be, reasons Christ, a division of Satan against Satan (involving the fall of his kingdom), which division Satan would never sanction (Ephesians 6:12-13).
Demons are "his angels" (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9). Natural science can give no light when we come to the boundary line which divides mind from matter. The Bible-asserted existence of evil among angels affords no greater difficulty than its manifest existence among men. As surely as Scripture is true, personality is as much attributed to them as it is to men or to God. Possession with or by a demon or demons is distinctly asserted by Luke (Luke 6:17-18), who as a "physician" was able to distinguish between the phenomena of disease and those of demoniac possession. The Spirit of God in the evangelists would never have sanctioned such distinction, or left people under a superstitious error, not merely connived at but endorsed, if the belief were really false. There is nothing wrong in our using the word "lunacy" for madness; but if we described its cure as the moon's ceasing to afflict, or if the doctor addressed the moon commanding it to leave the patient alone, it would be a lie (Trench, Miracles, 153).
In Matthew 4:24, "those possessed with demons" are distinguished from "those lunatic" (probably the epileptic, but even this caused by a demon: Mark 9:14, etc.). Demons spoke with superhuman knowledge (Acts 16:16); recognized Jesus, not merely as son of David (which they would have done had their voice been merely that of the existing Jewish superstition), but as "Son of God" (Matthew 8:29). Our Lord speaks of the disciples' casting out of demons as an installment or earnest of the final "fall" of Satan before the kingdom of Christ (Luke 10:18). People might imagine the existence of demons; but swine could only be acted on by an external real personal agent; the entrance of the demons into the swine of Gadara, and their consequent drowning, prove demons to be objective realities.
Seeing that physical disease itself is connected with the introduction of evil into the world, the tracing of insanity to physical disorganization only partially explains the phenomena; mental disease often betrays symptoms of a hostile spiritual power at work. At our Lord's advent as Prince of Light, Satan as prince of darkness, whose ordinary operation is on men's minds by invisible temptation, rushed into open conflict with His kingdom and took possession of men's bodies also. The possessed man lost the power of individual will and reason, his personal consciousness becoming strangely confused with that of the demon in him, so as to produce a twofold will, such as we have in some dreams. Sensual habits predisposed to demoniac possession. In pagan countries instances occur wherein Satan seemingly exercises a more direct influence than in Christian lands. Demoniac possession gradually died away as Christ's kingdom progressed in the first centuries of the church. There are four gradations in Satan's ever-deepening fall.
(1) He is deprived of his heavenly excellency, though still having access to heaven as man's accuser (Job 1-2), up to Christ's ascension. All we know of his original state as an archangel of light is that he lost it through pride and restless ambition, and that he had some special connection, possibly as God's vicegerent over this earth and the animal kingdom; thereby we can understand his connection and that of his subordinate fallen angels with this earth throughout Scripture, commencing with his temptation of man to his characteristic sin, ambition to be "as gods knowing good and evil;" only his ambition seems to have been that of power, man's that of knowledge. His assuming an animal form, that of a serpent, and the fact of death existing in the pre-Adamite world, imply that evil probably was introduced by him in some way unknown to us, affecting the lower creation before man's creation. As before Christ's ascension heaven was not yet fully open to man (John 3:13), so it was not yet shut against Satan. The old dispensation could not overcome him (compare Zechariah 3).
(2) From Christ to the millennium he is judicially cast out as "accuser" of the elect; for Christ appearing before God as our Advocate (Hebrews 9:24), Satan the accusing adversary could no longer appear against us (Romans 8:33-34). He and his angels range through the air and the earth during this period (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12). "Knowing that he hath but a short time" (Revelation 12), in "great wrath" he concentrates his power on the earth, especially toward the end, when he is to lose his standing against Israel and expulsion shall be executed on him and his by Michael (Revelation 12:7-9; Daniel 12:1; Zechariah 3, where Joshua the high priest represents "Jerusalem," whose "choice" by the Lord is the ground of the Lord's rebuke to Satan).
(3) He is bound at the eve of the millennium (Revelation 20:1-3). Having failed to defeat God's purpose of making this earth the kingdom of Christ and His transfigured saints, by means of the beast, the harlot, and finally Antichrist, who is destroyed instantly by Christ's manifestation in glory, Satan is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years during which he ceases to be the persecutor or else seducer of the church and "the god and prince of the world" that "lieth in the wicked one."
(4) At its close, being loosed for a while, in person Satan shall head the last conspiracy against Christ (permitted in order to show the security of believers who cannot fall as Adam fell by Satan's wiles), and shall be finally cast into the lake of life forever (Revelation 20:7-10). As the destroyer, he is represented as the "roaring lion seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). As the deceiver he is the "serpent." Though judicially "cast down to hell" with his sinning angels, "and delivered into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment" (2 Peter 2:4), he is still free on earth to roam to the length of his chain, like a chained dog, but no further. He cannot hurt God's elect; his freedom of range in the air and on earth is that of a chained prisoner under sentence.