Who is Satan?

Have you ever seen the Loch Ness Monster? How about Sasquatch or Big Foot? These are only a few of the imaginary creatures we hear about. Their “sightings” make front page news in the tabloids.

There is a city in Northern Wisconsin that calls itself “The Home of the Hodag.” According to Eugene Sheperd, who supposedly discovered the hodag in 1893, it has “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.” It’s a popular creature in the area. Even the local high school has the hodag as its mascot.

Some people see Satan as a fictional creature. He’s the little red man with horns and a pitchfork. Or he’s the ghost-like figure that can scare the bejeebers out of you in a movie like “Exorcist.” Or a normal good-looking person as he sometimes portrayed on TV or in movies.

So who is Satan? Or what is he? A monster? A mascot? A movie star? Satan may be all of these, but one thing he isn’t is imaginary. Satan is real. And he is a personal being—not with flesh and bones but a spiritual “being.” That might sound complex, but really it’s quite simple.

The Bible calls Satan a fallen angel. At first there were only good angels. God gave them a choice to serve him or serve themselves. Some of them rebelled against God and decided to serve themselves. Satan was a leader of this group and he led a large number of angels in a rebellion against God. The good angels stayed with God, continue to serve God, and enjoy God’s blessings. Satan and the evil angels rejected God, hate him with a passion, and serve themselves. (See 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6)

As an evil angel, Satan is pretty powerful, but not nearly as powerful as God. Jesus is proof of that. He took on the devil in one-on-one combat and it wasn’t even close. It turned out just as God said it would. Satan bruised the heal of Jesus, but got his head crushed in the process. That’s what the cross did.

The amazing thing is that Jesus crushed all our sins in the process. Like Satan, the bad things we do are real. Yet the cross is also real. And that is where Christ defeated Satan and won real life, real hope, real forgiveness.


What is heaven?

“Why are you so happy, Dad?”

Dad is holding a newborn daughter in his arms.  The five-year-old son wonders why Dad’s smile is so large.

Can a father ever fully explain?  Can a young son grasp the awe that grabs the heart of a dad when a new life comes into the world?

The reality of heaven may be more than human minds can fully comprehend.  Yet we ask, “What is heaven?”  God does give us some answers.

What is heaven?

Jesus once told his friends, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going . . . to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

What is heaven?

The Apostle Peter told his friends, “In keeping with [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

What is heaven?

The Apostle John writes, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘. . . [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new’!”

What is heaven?  God gives us answers.  Heaven is a real destination, a place.  Heaven is a place of moral perfection, available to sinful humans only through Jesus’ saving work.  Heaven is place of perfect joy, without a single tear ever again.

But what is heaven?  What exactly will it look like?  Why can’t I see it now?

Questions.  Good questions.  Questions not so different from the sincere question of a son to the proud father of a new child.

“Why are you so happy, Dad?”

The father’s answer may not include every detail, but he will emphasize the point that matters most.  He will answer in a way the son can understand.  “Son, having a baby is like having the biggest, hugest chocolate birthday cake you could ever imagine.”

The five-year-old gets a smile on his face.  He understands.

What is heaven?

The Father replies, “Heaven is a place of perfect joy—you will never be sad again.”  We can understand that, and with a huge smile on our face.

What is Hell Like?

Most people think they know what hell is like. Ask them on a blast furnace August day how hot it feels. Search Google for graphics featuring hell and flaming infernos will fill your screen. The terrors of war are compared to hell. As is terminal disease, divorce, and a dysfunctional workplace.

The Bible uses similar pictures to describe hell. Jesus predicts how on Judgment Day his angels will throw those who have rejected him “into the fiery furnace.” He goes on to say that those in that furnace will weep and gnash their teeth (Matthew 13:50). Hell, then, is a place of abject sorrow and staggering grief. It is a place where people’s fate is horrific and unstoppable. That’s why they gnash (grind) their teeth to display their frustration, rebellion, and anger.

There are additional ways the Bible helps us relate to hell. In Jesus’ story about a rich man suffering there, he has the man describe the place as a torture chamber (Luke 16:24). Hell is pictured as a place of blackest darkness (Matthew 8:12, Jude 13). The Old Testament prophet Isaiah uses a metaphor Steven King would enjoy. He says the people in hell are perpetually consumed by worms (Isaiah 66:24).

The essence of hell is separation from God and his kindness, love, generosity, and care. It was from the depths of that separation that the sin-suffering Jesus screamed from the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Paul promises such separation awaits those who reject God’s grace. “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Gruesome pictures. Distasteful descriptions. But even worse is being there. Words are inadequate to capture hell’s excruciation, its anguish, its dread. Little wonder that Jesus urges us to avoid hell’s torture, torment, and terror at all costs: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Hell is what anyone deserves who has ever done anything wrong. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (Galatians 3:10). Hell is the destination for all who believe they don’t need forgiveness or that they can earn their own forgiveness. That’s the price a lack of perfection exacts in the holy God’s court of justice.

How wonderful that God provides us a way to escape. He gives us a place to live for an eternity that is the polar opposite of hell. That is what Jesus is all about. The Bible assures us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…. God made him who had no sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17,21). With Jesus’ righteousness, heaven is ours.