we looked at the figure of the devil and why the Church teaches that Lucifer was an archangel created by God, who rebelled.
There are many names for the devil. You may have heard Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub and Diabolos. He is also referred to as Belial, Prince of Darkness, Prince of demons, Angel of the Abyss, Father of lies, Accuser, Adversary, Evil One, Destroyer, Slanderer and Ancient serpent. Many of these titles come from Scriptures.
The word “satan” is a Hebrew word meaning "adversary" and "accuser". Many religions describe the devil as an angel, demon or minor god. In the Hebrew Bible, Satan is an angel that tests man for various reasons. In the New Testament, Satan is found or mentioned 36 times and is portrayed as an evil, rebellious demon who is the enemy of God and mankind.
In Islam, Satan is known as "Iblis" or "Shaitan", who was the chief of the angels until he disobeyed Allah by refusing to prostrate himself before Adam because he refused to accept Man as his superior.
If we read the Bible, we know that Satan is a "murderer from the beginning" and a "liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). We also know that Satan is a tempter - he tempted Jesus in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13). But even though Satan can tempt, believers have the power to resist (1 Pet 5:8-9) and Christ was revealed to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). We also know that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). And Christ's death destroyed the power of devil (Heb 2:14-15).
In Luke 10:18 Jesus says: "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." It may be a reference to the Book of Revelation where it says that "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." (Revelation 12:9)
There are a few instances in the Gospels when Jesus drives away evil spirits, but the one I like the best is from Mark 1:21-27. Jesus goes to the synagogue and begins to teach. Then a man who is possessed cries out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God!"
Then Jesus responds, "Be quiet!" and, "Come out of him!" The evil spirit begins to shake the man violently and comes out of him with a shriek. The people are so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him."
Another one from the Gospel of Mark is when Jesus' disciples are unable to drive out an evil spirit from a boy who was possessed. So Jesus asks them to bring the boy and proceeds to expel the spirit. Afterwards the disciples ask Jesus how come they couldn't drive the spirit out. Jesus says, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:14-29).
These three passages teach us that Jesus Christ has authority over the devil and evil spirits but that sometimes the only way to deal with evil is through prayer and fasting.
It’s clear that people in the times of Jesus believed in evil spirits and Satan, but what about nowadays? Except for movies like the Exorcist (and some other really bad movies), most of us don't have any real experiences with "the prince of darkness." But all of us have real experiences with evil (just read the newspaper). Come back next week and find out what the Church teaches about dealing with evil today.
Image: The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain (1308?11) by Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca. 1255?ca. 1319). Owned by The Frick Collection, 1927.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org