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Is Satan Just a Symbol of Evil?

Is Satan Just a Symbol of Evil?

It is fairly easy to assert that the Satan we read about in the Bible is merely a symbol of all that is evil. But is that really what the Bible teaches? If so, why does the Bible describe Satan as speaking with Jesus Christ and with Almighty God himself? Consider two instances of such conversations.


When Jesus began his ministry, the Devil tried to entice him with three temptations. First, Satan endeavored to pressure Jesus to use his God-given powers in a selfish way to satisfy his own hunger. Then, the Devil dared Jesus to risk his life foolishly and draw attention to himself. Finally, Satan offered Jesus rulership over all the kingdoms of the world in return for one small act of worship. Jesus rebuffed all three clever attacks, each time quoting the Scriptures.​—Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.

To whom was Jesus talking? To an evil quality within himself? According to the Scriptures, Jesus “has been tested in all respects as we have, but without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) The Bible also says: “He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22) Jesus remained perfect, holding to a course of integrity. He never let any evil quality develop within himself. Clearly, Jesus was not talking to some evil part of himself; he was talking to a real person.

The same conversation reveals further evidence that Satan is a real person.

  • Recall that the Devil offered Jesus worldwide rulership in return for an act of worship. (Matthew 4:8, 9) This offer would have been meaningless if Satan were not real. Furthermore, Jesus did not question Satan’s claim to such impressive authority.

  • After Jesus rejected the temptations, the Devil “departed from him until another convenient time.” (Luke 4:13) Does Satan in this case seem like a quality of evil or, rather, a persistent, determined adversary?

  • Notice that “angels came and began to minister” to Jesus. (Matthew 4:11) Were those angels actual spirit persons, providing encouragement and practical assistance to Jesus? Clearly so. Why, then, should we assume that Satan was something other than an actual spirit being?


Our second instance involves the account of the God-fearing man Job. That record recounts two conversations between the Devil and God. In both cases, God praised Job for his integrity. Satan asserted that Job served God only for selfish reasons, insinuating that God was buying Job’s loyalty. In effect, the Devil claimed to know Job better than God did. Jehovah allowed Satan to rob Job of his possessions, his children, and even his health. * In time, it became obvious that Jehovah was right about Job, and Satan was proved a liar. God blessed Job for his integrity.​—Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7.

In those conversations between God and Satan, was Jehovah speaking to an evil quality within himself? The Bible says: “The way of the true God is perfect.” (2 Samuel 22:31) God’s Word also says: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty.” (Revelation 4:8) Holy means pure, sacred, set apart from sin. Jehovah is perfect and flawless. He simply cannot have any evil characteristics.

Satan’s conversation with God brought real consequences to the man Job

Still, some might argue that even Job was not an actual person, so the whole conversation was allegorical. But does that argument make sense? Other Bible texts indicate that Job was a real person. For example, at James 5:7-11, we find that Job is used as an example to motivate Christians to endure hard times and as a comforting reminder that Jehovah rewards such endurance. What force would that example have if Job were not a real person and the attacks from Satan, only fictitious? Furthermore, at Ezekiel 14:14, 20, Job is included with Noah and Daniel in the list of three righteous men. Like Noah and Daniel, Job was an actual person, a man of great faith. If Job was real, must not his attacker, the source of his persecution, have been real as well?

Clearly, the Bible presents Satan as a real spirit person. You might wonder, though, ‘Does he present any danger to me and my family today in this modern world?’


Imagine that a group of criminals suddenly flooded into your city. Obviously, personal safety and neighborhood morals would decline. Now consider a similar scenario: Satan and his demons​—real spirit beings who, like Satan, rebelled against God—​are suddenly confined to the earth. What would result? Well, think about what you see on the news locally and internationally.

  • Do you see an increase in senseless, violent acts, regardless of worldwide attempts to stop them?

  • Do you see an increase in entertainment featuring spiritism, in spite of the concern of many parents?

  • Do you see the environment being relentlessly destroyed, despite well-meaning efforts to save it?

  • Does it seem that something is seriously wrong with society​—that some force is pushing mankind toward disaster?

Please note who the Bible says is behind the present trouble: “Down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. . . . Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing that he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:9, 12) After considering the evidence, many people have concluded that Satan is a dangerous spirit person, one who is actively influencing the world around us.

You might wonder how you can find protection. That is a valid concern. The next article will offer some practical help.

^ par. 12 Jehovah is the name of God as revealed in the Bible.