How Real Is the Devil to You?

THE Scriptures portray the Devil as a real person. He is invisible to humans for the same reason that God is invisible to human eyes. “God is a Spirit,” says the Bible. (John 4:24) The Devil is a spirit creature. Unlike the Creator, however, the Devil had a beginning.

Long before Jehovah God created humans, he made a multitude of spirit creatures. (Job 38:4, 7) In the Bible these spirits are called angels. (Hebrews 1:13, 14) God created all of them perfect​—not a single one was a devil or had any evil trait. How, then, did the Devil come to be? The word “devil” means “slanderer” and thus refers to someone who tells malicious lies about others. “Satan” means “Resister,” or opposer. Just as a formerly honest man makes himself a thief by stealing, one of the perfect spirit sons of God acted upon an improper desire and made himself Satan the Devil. The Bible explains the process of self-corruption this way: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.”​—James 1:14, 15.

This is apparently what happened. When Jehovah God created the first human pair, Adam and Eve, the angel who was about to rebel against God took note. He knew that Jehovah commanded Adam and Eve to fill the earth with righteous people, who would worship the Creator. (Genesis 1:28) This angel saw that there was a possibility that he could gain honor and importance. Motivated by greed, he coveted what rightly belongs only to the Creator​—worship from humans. Instead of rejecting such an improper desire, this spirit son of God nurtured it until it gave birth to a lie and then to rebellion. Consider what he did.

The rebellious angel used a serpent to speak to the first woman, Eve. “Is it really so  that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” the serpent asked Eve. When Eve cited God’s command and the penalty for disobeying it, the serpent declared: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from [the tree that is in the middle of the garden] your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:1-5) The assertion was that God had not told Adam and Eve the truth. By eating the fruit of that tree, Eve would supposedly become like God, having the authority to decide what was good and what was bad. That was the first lie ever spoken. Telling it made that angel a slanderer. He also became an opposer of God. The Bible thus identifies this enemy of God as “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.”​—Revelation 12:9.

“Be Watchful”

The lie that the Devil told Eve worked just as he had planned. The Bible says: “Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward she gave some also to her husband when with her and he began eating it.” (Genesis 3:6) Eve believed Satan and disobeyed God. She was able to get Adam to break God’s law too. The Devil thus succeeded in setting the first human couple on a course of rebellion against God. Ever since then, Satan has exercised unseen influence over human affairs. His goal? To turn people away from worshipping the true God and gain their worship for himself. (Matthew 4:8, 9) With good reason, then, the Scriptures warn: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”​—1 Peter 5:8.

How clearly the Bible portrays the Devil as a real spirit person​—an angel that became corrupt and dangerous! The first essential step in our keeping watchful is to recognize that he really exists. But keeping our senses and remaining watchful involves more. It is also important not to be ignorant of Satan’s “designs” and of his methods of misleading people. (2 Corinthians 2:11) What are his schemes? And how can we stand firm against them?

The Devil Exploits Man’s Inherent Need

The Devil has observed humans since the creation of mankind. He knows man’s makeup​—his needs, his interests, and his desires. Satan is well-aware that man was created with a spiritual need, and the Devil has cleverly exploited this need. How? By feeding mankind religious untruths. (John 8:44) Many religious teachings about God are contradictory and confusing. Whose purpose do you think this serves? Contradictory teachings cannot all be true. Is it not possible, then, that many religious teachings are expressly designed and used by Satan to misguide people? In fact, the Bible refers to him as “the god of this system of things,” who has blinded people’s minds.​—2 Corinthians 4:4.

Divine truth provides protection against religious deceptions. The Bible likens the truth of God’s Word to the girdle that a soldier of ancient times wore to help protect his loins. (Ephesians 6:14) If you take in  knowledge of the Bible and keep its message close to you, as if you were girded with it, God’s Word will safeguard you from being misled by religious lies and errors.

Man’s spiritual inclination has led him to explore the unknown. This has exposed him to another of Satan’s deceptive devices. Exploiting man’s curiosity about what is strange and mysterious, Satan has used spiritism to bring many under his control. As a hunter uses bait to attract his prey, Satan employs such devices as fortune-telling, astrology, hypnotism, witchcraft, palmistry, and magic to attract and entrap people around the world.​—Leviticus 19:31; Psalm 119:110.

How can you protect yourself from being ensnared by spiritism? Deuteronomy 18:10-12 states: “There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable things Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you.”

The Scriptural advice is direct: Have nothing to do with spiritism. What if you have been sharing in some practice of spiritism and now want to break free? You can follow the example of early Christians in the city of Ephesus. When they accepted “the word of Jehovah,” the Bible says, “quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody.” Those books were costly. They were worth 50,000 pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19, 20) Yet, Christians in Ephesus did not hesitate to destroy them.

Satan Preys on Human Weaknesses

A perfect angel became Satan the Devil because he gave in to the desire for self-exaltation. He also awakened in Eve a proud, selfish longing to be like God. Today, Satan keeps many in his grip by arousing in them the feeling of pride. For example, some feel that their race, ethnic group, or nationality is better than that of others. How contrary this is to what the Bible teaches! (Acts 10:34, 35) The Bible clearly states: “[God] made out of one man every nation of men.”​—Acts 17:26.

An effective defense against Satan’s appeal to pride is humility. The Bible admonishes us “not to think more of [ourselves] than it is necessary to think.” (Romans 12:3) “God opposes the haughty ones,” it states, “but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble  ones.” (James 4:6) One sure way to resist Satan’s efforts is to manifest in your personal life humility and other qualities approved by God.

The Devil is also eager to exploit the human weakness of yielding to improper sensual desires. Jehovah God intended for humans to enjoy life. When desires are fulfilled within the limits of God’s will, the result is genuine happiness. But Satan tempts humans to satisfy their cravings in immoral ways. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) It is much better to keep the mind focused on things that are chaste and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) This will help you to exercise firm control over your thoughts and emotions.

Keep Resisting the Devil

Can you succeed in resisting the Devil? Yes, you can. The Bible assures us: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Even if you oppose Satan, he will not give up immediately and refrain from causing you any further trouble as you take in knowledge of God. No, the Devil will try again at “another convenient time.” (Luke 4:13) However, you need not be afraid of the Devil. If you continue to resist him, he will not be able to turn you away from the true God.

Resisting the Devil, however, requires knowledge of who he is and how he misleads people as well as of the protective measures you can take against his schemes. There is only one accurate source of that knowledge​—God’s Word, the Bible. So be firm in your determination to study the inspired Scriptures, and apply in your life what you learn from them. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area will be happy to assist you free of charge with such a study at a time convenient to you. Please do not hesitate to contact them or to write the publishers of this magazine.

As you undertake a study of the Bible, you need to realize that Satan may use opposition or persecution to get you to stop learning the truth from God’s Word. Some of your loved ones may become angry with you because you study the Bible. This may happen because they do not know the wonderful truths found in it. Others may make fun of you. But would succumbing to such pressures really please God? The Devil wants to discourage you so that you will stop learning about the true God. Why should you let Satan win? (Matthew 10:34-39) You owe him nothing. You owe Jehovah your very life. So, then, be determined to resist the Devil and ‘make Jehovah’s heart rejoice.’​—Proverbs 27:11.

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Those who became Christians burned their books on spiritism

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Make a firm decision to study the Bible