In Chapter 24 we looked at the use of the words “devil”
and “Satan” in the Old
Testament. The words are used slightly differently in the New
Testament. As well as
their ordinary sense, they are also both used symbolically.
You must read the context
to determine the meaning.
Jesus had just been given the power of the Holy Spirit and was
coming to terms with how he should use it. In the wilderness,
he was tempted to use the power for his own needs, popularity
and power. He successfully overcame these temptations and
emerged stronger and better able to use the power correctly.
The Bible describes the temptations as coming from the “devil”
1. Discuss the three temptations mentioned and why they
would have been tempting to Jesus. Are they tempting to
2. From what mountain is it possible to see “all the kingdoms
of the world and their splendour” (v8)?
3. Who could have given Jesus “all the kingdoms of the
and their splendour” (v8–9)?
4. Is there anything else in the passage which suggests it is
not entirely literal?
5. Discuss the idea that the “devil” is used here
as a symbol
for Jesus’ own thinking. Is it a reasonable explanation
what is described?
6. What does “the devil left him” mean (v11)?
The source of sin
We saw in Chapters 16 and 17 that temptation to sin arises
from within us. James tells us
Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is
dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived,
it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
gives birth to death. (James 1:14–15)
Similarly, Paul wrote:
. . . it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living
me. . . So I find this law at work: When I want to do good,
evil is right there with me.. (Romans 7:17,21)
So the thing which stops us doing good is what Paul calls the“sin living in me”.
Jesus was tempted like any other human being, except he did
not sin. So his temptations, like ours, must have come from
within him. Hebrews 4:15
A symbol of our desire to sin
In the New Testament, both the devil and Satan are used as
a symbol of human sinfulness or our human tendency to sin.
This is seen in the description of Jesus in the wilderness.
the passage from Romans quoted above, a similar idea is used
where Paul describes his human tendency to sin as the “sin
living in me”.
Hebrews tells us that when Jesus died, he
“destroyed him who holds the power of death—that
devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)
Compare this with the words found a little later in Hebrews:
“Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages
do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself”
Both verses are telling us the same thing: the power of sin
destroyed when Jesus died because we can be forgiven through
his sacrifice. The first verse makes sense if we think of the
as a symbol of the human tendency to sin.
Now compare these two verses:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
(1 Timothy 1:15)
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the
devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)
Again, the verses are saying the same thing. The devil is a
symbol of the human tendency to sin and the devil’s work
the sins which we commit. These are destroyed when we are
forgiven, and so repentant sinners are saved.
The word translated “devil” in the New Testament
is the Greek
word diabolos meaning “false accuser”. Sometimes
it is translated“devil”, but in other places it is translated “false
or “slanderer”. Can you tell which word is diabolos
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way
they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine,
but to teach what is good. (Titus 2:3)
In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of
respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy
in everything. (1 Timothy 3:11)
Jesus called Judas a “devil”:
“Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is
devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who,
though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Judas was a devil because he betrayed Jesus.
Sometimes “satan” is used in the New Testament to
adversary or opponent, just as it is in the Old Testament. For
example, Jesus described Peter as a “satan” when
to persuade him that he would not be killed:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never
Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus
turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are
stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things
of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22–23)
Where diabolos is not translated “devil”
|1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:1–3; Titus 2:3.
Where “devil” is a person or group of people
|John 6:70–71; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 2:10.
Where “devil” is a symbol of the human tendency to sin
|Matthew 4:1–11; Matthew 13:39; 25:41; Luke 4:1–13; 8:12; John 8:44; 13:2; Acts 10:38;
13:10; Ephesians 4:27; 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:6–7; 2 Timothy 2:26; Hebrews 2:14; James
4:7; 1 John 3:8.
Where “Satan” is a person or group of people
|Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:18;
Where “Satan” is a symbol of the human tendency to sin
|Matthew 4:10; Mark 1:13; 4:15; Luke 10:18; Acts 5:3; 26:18; 1 Corinthians 7:5;
1 Timothy 5:15; Revelation 20:2,7.
|The King James Version also uses the word “devil” where other versions use the word “demon”.
The subject of demons is discussed in Chapter 23.
1. Satan is sometimes used in the New Testament to mean
an adversary or opponent, just as it does in the Old
2. A devil in the New Testament is a false accuser or slanderer.
3. Both “devil” and “Satan” are used
as symbols of the human
tendency to sin.
1. The Bible uses the devil as a “personification” of our
human desire to sin. That is, it speaks of it as if it were
living being. What other personifications in the Bible can
you think of?
[Here are some examples to get you started: see Proverbs
9:1; Matthew 6:24; John 8:34; Revelation 6:8; Romans
2. Why does the Bible speak of our human tendency to sin
as if it were a living being?
3. Explain Revelation 20:1–3 using the idea of the devil/
Satan as a symbol of our human tendency to sin.
4. Read the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24–30 and
Jesus’ explanation in Matthew 13:36–43.
(a) What is the devil here?
(b) Who are the weeds and who are the wheat?
(c) What is the field?
(d) When will the weeds be removed?
(e) What is the harvest?
1. The following questions may have more than one correct
answer. Discuss your answers with someone else.
(a) Where does sin come from?
A. an evil force in the world?
B. a powerful evil being?
C. we inherit it from our parents?
D. an evil force in human nature?
(b) What is a “satan” in the Bible?
A. a powerful evil being?
B. the snake in the garden of Eden?
C. an adversary or enemy?
D. our human tendency to sin?
(c) What is a “devil” in the Bible?
A. a powerful evil being?
B. the snake in the garden of Eden?
C. our human tendency to sin?
D. a false accuser?
2. Read the letter to Smyrna in Revelation 2:8–11. Who
Satan? Who was the devil?
3. In Paul’s letters, he describes some people as “handed
over to Satan”. Find all the places where this is mentioned.
What do you think he means?
• BB Study 6
• The devil: the great deceiver by Peter Watkins (published
by The Christadelphian, 1976). 128 pages. A detailed and
careful study of all the major passages on the devil, satan,
• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach by
Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986),
Chapter 16 “Jesus and the devil”. 20 pages. See
• Wrested scriptures by Ron Abel (published by The Christadelphians,
Pasadena). Pages 163–184 deal with passages
about the devil and Satan that are frequently misinterpreted.
23. Demons and ghosts
24. The Devil and Satan: Old Testament