At Vacation Bible School a youngster asked: Who was Satan? Another asked: How did he get into the Garden of Eden. The teacher who passed these questions along to us said that these triggered a floodgate of follow-up questions like: Why did Satan get kicked out of heaven? and Why did he look like a snake?
These questions may have been asked by 5th graders, but they have also been pondered by people of all ages for millennia. We don’t know all the answers, but the Bible provides lots of clues–even as it leaves us asking more questions.
Let’s begin by answering the first question: Who was Satan? In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we read about Satan leading a rebellion in heaven and losing.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
From what we read here, God created heavenly beings before he created man, but like man, these beings had free will. They exercised this free will by defying their creator. Led by Satan, they were deceived into thinking that they could be as powerful as God. When they lost a battle against angels who served God, they were hurled to the earth. When did this happen? Why earth and not a billion other places in the universe? These are questions for which we don’t have answers. But, unfortunately, this crafty, cunning former angel was given some level of power while on earth.
It may seem strange to think that God created a being as evil as Satan, but not if one understands evil. God is pure goodness. When one, even an angel like Satan, turns his back to God, he turns his back on goodness. From that point on he becomes evil. When he places anything ahead of God–even things that seem to be good–he loses God’s favor. Without God and the guidelines for living He has laid down, men become self-centered. Every evil in the world can be traced to that self-centered nature because evil is a rejection of God.
It seems strange then to think that evil was allowed into the Garden of Eden, but God had cast Satan to earth where eventually he indwelled a serpent, the most crafty of creatures. That serpent was likely brought into the garden by God along with all the other wild beasts and posed no threat to humankind…until Satan entered it.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
Satan cannot abide anything that reflects God’s goodness, so it is not surprising that he had his designs on man, God’s greatest creation. If man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) then Satan had to try and destroy man–to make him turn his back on his creator. What better way to do that than to indwell a serpent.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Since neither the man, Adam, nor the woman, Eve, knew anything other than goodness as they communed with God in the garden, they would not have reason to cringe at the sight of any beast or even a serpent. So Satan chose that creature to be his voice, tempting Eve with an idea that seemed not only very rational but very good as well–to be like God!
Once men and women turned their backs on God, their punishment was death–eternal separation from God. That’s why God set in motion a plan of redemption that would culminate with the death of God’s own son, Jesus, on a Roman cross, and his subsequent resurrection and triumph over death.
If you would like to know more about what this redemption means for you, I encourage you to read our May 5th blogpost: How does one become a Christian?