Satan And His Minions
by Matthew Cramer
There are those — past, present and certainly to come — who contend that Satan or the Devil is a myth, a construct to explain the obvious evils that existed in bygone days before modern science and psychiatry arrived. They are thinkers, theologians, philosophers and other intellectuals, bred in faith-starved academia, who assert the only reality is what science can validate through physical experimentation.
They typically deny the existence of God or a Supreme Being, and all things spiritual including the existence of spiritual beings, and the validity of revelation, faith, and tradition. They hold their noses when personal experience is offered, labling it anecdotal — immediate disqualification, in their view, as to the truth of a thing. Anecdotal evidence occupies, they say, a very low place in the hierarchy of evidence credibility, because of its susceptibility to human agendas and interpretations.
Others say evil is the absence of good, placing it outside the Infinite Goodness of God. That may be a part of the story, but it does little to define evil beyond the absence of something — an emptiness — void of power, thought or a will of its own.
The voices alleging all these notions are relatively small in number, but their influence is substantially more significant because of their elite status. They make easy inroads into the minds of the doubters, deniers, agnostics and others without faith.
Nevertheless, stretching across the BC and AD periods, over 4,000 years of Hebrew and Christian history affirms the existence of Satan and his minions. While this affirmation is anecdotal, it includes oral and written tradition, personal testimony, Sacred Scripture, the words of Jesus Himself, and authoritative Church pronouncements.
The Catechism of The Catholic Church is probably the most recent authoritative publication in Christianity that, amongst many other topics, deals with Satan. For example, there is this, during a discussion of the Our Father and Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17:15:
§2851 — In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ.
The point I am raising here is neither trivial nor meaningless fodder for cocktail party forensics. God created us out of love that we might enjoy life with Him in Heaven. At the end of the day, it’s that simple. Thus, first and foremost, our life here provides the means to choose Him through obedient actions of our free will, as we grow in the awareness and experience of our existence, moment by moment in time.
God establishes the fullness of our existence at conception. But, we are creatures in space and time, dunked in the midst of an ongoing process across our lifetime, as we come into increasing possession of that existence moment, by moment.
Today’s existence is enlarged from what it was yesterday. Children grow up. Teenagers mature — take my word for it. We experience more, learn more, make more decisions, and so on over time. We grow in wisdom, faith, and maturity. We will be more tomorrow and tomorrow until we are called to account by Our Lord.
I can choose to live out my existence this moment in obedience to God’s will. I can ask for forgiveness, receive it, and be reconciled with Him for the disobediences of yesterday. But, my performance in tomorrow’s enlarged existence must wait until I actually live it. Thus, it is of utmost importance we make choices every day that move us closer to God and our inheritance, an inheritance that Jesus paid so dearly to win back for us.
If the faith-starved intellectuals, doubters and deniers are correct that the notion of Satan and his minions is a myth, not real — then we have no further need to proceed here, except perhaps to bone-up for cocktail parties.
But an entirely different picture emerges if they are not correct, i.e. Satan and his minions are real. We must then confront the reality that powerful spiritual enemies, bent on robbing us of our eternal inheritance, are afoot. I don’t know about you, but I want to live with God for the rest of eternity. I am old enough to know that nothing else will fulfill me. If there is a real enemy out there, determined to block my inheritance, I want to exercise every weapon at my disposal to avoid and frustrate his plans.
Many Christians assert that a loving, powerful God, who wants us to live with Him in Heaven, creates us. Still, for many, it’s easier to deny the concept of evil entities, than to confront the notion of their reality, and learn how to engage and resist them when attacked.
Running away and hiding, or numbing ourselves in denial, will only leave us more vulnerable and further the enemy’s plans. Instead, we must carefully and confidently learn about our enemy, what weapons they have, what are their strategies, and with what weapons we can effectively resist and overcome them.
The good news is that our efforts will yield a double benefit since the weapons we use will ultimately rely on the authority and power of Jesus. Thus, of necessity, we must draw closer to Our Lord in order to become stronger and more effective in the struggle against our spiritual adversaries.
Ruth Ann and I experience the actions of evil entities in our own lives from time to time, and we have seen evil’s handiwork in the lives of others during ministry. We do not suggest there is an evil spirit behind every bush, far from it. Each of us must contend with the train wreck of our own Adamic nature (concupiscence) every step of the way to Heaven.
Still, many of us lack sufficient information to deal with evil in an effective, life-giving and powerful way. Thus, we are moved to post here the first of a four part series that presents what we have learned about Satan and his minions. We intend not to glorify evil, but to raise up Jesus Christ and shed more light on the incredibly powerful and far reaching effect of His death and resurrection.
Before proceeding, it’s important to drive a few, very significant stakes in the ground that will both overshadow, and be a foundation for, the rest of this presentation.
- Attempts to learn about evil sometimes evokes a sense of mystery, the occult, ancient and hidden powers, all raising an excessive or fearful focus on evil. These distractions are meant to obscure truths, and must be resisted by maintaining prayerful focus on Our Lord during the learning process.
- Satan and his minions, in their existence, power, and authority, are not, and never were, equal or superior to God in any way.
- Jesus, the Son of God, through His death on the cross, has totally and permanently defeated Satan and his minions’ hold on mankind and creation.
- Our Triune God, and our redemption by Jesus, guarantees us our free will. Satan and his minions can never overpower us beyond our free will.
WHO IS SATAN, WHO ARE HIS MINIONS?
What follows is a brief scripture study of our subject. For research purposes, I used the RSV translation (with Apocrypha) and chose a word group consisting of: Satan, devil, devils, demon, and demons. The study is not exhaustive since the word group registered 97 hits throughout the scriptural text, far more than those presented here.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.”
- The context of this passage refers to the King of Babylon, but the Church fathers long ago saw in this a reference to Satan.
- “…O Day Star, son of Dawn!” — This passage suggests a spiritual being of cosmic grandeur, eminence, prestige, and splendor.
- “…you who laid the nations low!” — A very powerful being, more powerful than worldly powers.
- “…I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” — Enraptured by the grandeur and power of his own existence, this being embraces pride and considers himself at least equal to God.
- “…How you are fallen from heaven…How you are cut down to the ground…you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.” — Day Star is defeated and somehow limited (cut down), i.e. has lost some of his original cosmic grandeur, eminence, and prestige. He has been removed from Heaven, and sent to the depths of Hell, or the abode of the dead (as Sheol is sometimes interpreted).
“And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth…”
- “…a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.” — The splendorous son of Dawn, filled with pride, is now an ugly, threatening, dangerous dragon; a huge, powerful being of cosmic proportions.
- “His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven…” — This confirms the cosmic proportions of the dragon and suggests the dragon’s followers number in the order of a third of the stars, a very high number indeed.
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
- “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought…” — A terrible war of cosmic proportions occurred in heaven; a war amongst the angels. We don’t know the exact reason for the power struggle. Certainly, pride, free will, and some kind of permanent, angelic choice was involved.
- “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan…” — This text connects the titles of the “ancient serpent”, the dragon, the devil and Satan together.
- “…the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” — A primary characteristic, deceiver, is revealed and his followers are identified as angels (spiritual beings). The pit, or Sheol does not completely confine Satan and his minions because they have access to earth.
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
- “…for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” — Another primary characteristic is revealed, the accuser, who accuses the brethren before God and, no doubt, in the brethren’s own minds. This aggressive effort against the brethren is unrelenting.
- “…they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” — Satan and his minions are conquered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, (the blood of the Lamb), and the good deeds of His followers, even unto martyrdom.
- “…woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” — Woe suggests that trouble can be inflicted on earth; both in individuals and in nature itself. Due to a limited time on earth, Satan’s aggressive and determined activities are intensified by anger, hate, rage, fury, resentment, and vengeance. (All synonyms of great wrath.)
“…for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.”
- Because man was created in God’s image, the Devil was given over to envy and set about to frustrate God’s plan for mankind by leading us into disobedience. Thus, death entered the world. (For more on this, and the different kinds of death, see What Jesus Did in the Sandbox postings.)
Jn 8:40, 44
“…but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
- “He was a murderer from the beginning” — The devil’s aggressive actions are murderous, meant to destroy our relationship with God, and bring spiritual and physical death to us (as in original sin). He is now attempting to frustrate Jesus’ mission by having the Jewish leaders kill Him at the wrong place and time.
- “When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” — The devil is fundamentally absent of truth. His very nature is to be a liar. Truth is more than factual correctness. It is also a person; Jesus said: “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life…”There is no room for God in Satan.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Based on the Catechism and the scripture study above, it is correct to say that the Devil is real, not a myth. He is a spiritual entity, an angel with an intellect, will and angelic powers.
He is a created being, created by God, as were the other angels. He is not an anti-God, nor does he possess the same power and existence as God.
The Devil’s name is Satan. At his creation, he was a powerful, beautiful, spiritual being, of cosmic grandeur, eminence, prestige, and splendor, perhaps the greatest of the angelic beings.
Aware of his own powers and splendor, Satan judged himself to have the same level of existence as God. In so doing, he gave himself over to pride and separated himself from God.
At their creation, possessing all of the knowledge and existence they would ever have, the angels were given some sort of choice in which they would demonstrate their submission to God. Some speculate they were asked to worship Jesus Christ Incarnate. Others think the choice was somehow related to mankind’s creation in the image of God. Still others say we have no clue, and idle speculation is unproductive.
In any event, Satan, judging himself at the same level as God, refused to submit. He seduced approximately one third of the heavenly host to join with him, setting himself as an alternative to God.
A great battle ensued in the heavens. Michael, the Archangel, leading the rest of the heavenly host, defeated Satan and his minions, cast them out of Heaven (away from the presence of Almighty God), and into the fires of Hell (eternal punishment).
When Adam and Eve were created, Satan, now an enemy of God and dedicated to frustrate God’s plans, seduced mankind away from God. It was indeed a spiritual train wreck. We gave Satan and his minions a claim on us and they brought death into the world.
Death cut a wide swath across mankind’s existence: in our relationship with God, in our physical bodies, in our relationship with nature, in the inner harmony of our being, and in our spiritual authority.
Out of love for us, and obedience to His Father, The Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, became man. By His shed blood on the Cross, Jesus cancelled the claims of death and paid the price of our freedom (redeemed us) from Satan’s hold.
Defeated by Jesus, and with time running out, Satan and his minions remain envious of us. They are tirelessly and aggressively trying to isolate us individually from God, frustrate His plans for us, and deprive us of our inheritance.
They want to murder the God-given spiritual life in us through pride, accusation and lies — temptations that lead us to chose our appetites, our emotions, desires and ourselves as the center of our priorities instead of God’s will and love for us.
A thorough review of the Catechism’s disquisitions on Satan and his minions is highly recommended. Its content is based on Scripture (some of which is discussed above), Councils of the Church, Church Doctors, and Papal teachings. It is far more instructive and detailed than the information summarized here. The word group mentioned above registered 74 hits in the Catechism, far more than those already discussed.
While the picture painted above is reasonably accurate, it is not heartwarming. There is more to say about Satan and his minions including the tools Jesus and the Church provide us to deal with evil. These will be discussed in other postings in the Sandbox.
Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind a few key facts that set a proper perspective:
- “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8)
- Choosing God’s will in our lives requires us to confront two different inducements that often work in tandem: The train wreck of our own Adamic nature (concupiscence), and temptations from Satan and his minions.
- Jesus will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist.
- We are guaranteed all the necessary wisdom and power to win the fight. Jesus’ sacrifice, our Baptism into the New Life, and the other Sacraments of the Church all provide unlimited amounts of grace that protects, instructs, and equips us in our struggles with evil.