"Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil (diabolos)?" John 6:70
"Even so must their wives be grave, not devils (diabolos)" 1 Timothy 3:11
WE have seen that 'satan' is the common Hebrew word meaning 'adversary', and is so used throughout Scripture; angels and even God Himself being 'satans' or adversaries, as circumstances required. The word 'devil' is used interchangeably with satan in many places in the Bible. But it should be noted that the term 'devil', while applied, like 'satan', to different people, is never used in a good sense, while 'satan' (adversary) sometimes is.
The word 'devil' is a translation of (and is derived from) the Greek word 'diabolos', a common noun meaning 'false accuser, slanderer'. It is a compound of dia, 'thru', and ballo, 'to cast'. It therefore means 'to strike through'. In a figurative sense it means 'to stab with an accusation or evil report'. Parkhurst's Lexicon defines diabolos as 'an accuser or slanderer'. Strong gives 'traducer,' which means 'false accuser'.
We note that diabolos, like satan, is a common noun, and not a proper name. As Jesus applied 'satan' to Peter, so he applied 'devil' to Judas (see John 6:70 above). Judas was a liar, a betrayer and a false accuser. Therefore he was a 'devil'. Paul used exactly the same word (diabolos in the Greek) to describe both men and women who would not be led by godly characteristics
"Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers (diabolous)" - 1 Timothy 3:11.
"Men shall be.. without natural affection, false accusers (diaboloi)" - 2 Timothy 3:2-3.
"Aged women, likewise.. as becometh holiness, not false accusers (diabolous)' - Titus 2:3.
The word 'devil' in these 3 places does not so appear in the common versions of the Bible, but has been translated properly in a manner to convey the right meaning. But the translators have not been so faithful in other places, and have thus caused confusion. If they had translated the Greek word 'diabolos' consistently, the Bible could have been its own interpreter, as it should be, and as it is -- when read and studied in the form of its original language.
This is clear by what Christ said to his faithful followers about the Pagan Roman authorities persecuting and afflicting them-
"The devil (diabolos) shall cast some of you into prison" (Revelation 2:10).
It was certainly the political authorities who put the disciples in prison. We know how the Roman government persecuted the early Christians. This world power, politically organized as the Pagan or Papal authorities, is in the same book called -
"The Dragon, that old serpent, the devil (diabolos) and satan" (Revelation 20:2).
This was the 'Dragon' that had 10 Horns, which were explained to be '10 kings' (Revelation 17:12): obviously a political symbol. These are the political-religious forces of the sinful world, made up by the aggregation of sinning men and women, which are the basis of the separation between God and man. As an entity, they are collectively the slanderer of God and destroyer of mankind.
In its general use, the term 'devil' (diabolos) is applied to the sin-tending principle in each individual of Adam's race, as the root of all organized and manifested diabolism. This is illustrated in its application to Christ in Hebrews 2:14
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil".
The traditional supposition that the 'devil' is a super-human, age-living, practically all-powerful monster, able to tempt and harass millions all around the earth simultaneously, and at the same time presiding over the torture of billions in hell, results in at least four absurdities --
In contrast, the Bible declares that the sin-principle in mankind - personified as 'the devil' - has the power of death. This is reasonable. The Scriptures tell us that until Jesus broke its prison gates, it held every descendant of Adam in its inescapable iron grasp: 'The wages of sin is death', and all without exception sinned. But to think of an immortal monster - the arch-enemy of God and man - as having the power of death is both dreadful and impossible. God, and God alone, has the power of death. Certainly the 'power of death' is the ultimate and supreme power, as far as man is concerned. Or are we to believe that this fiend, who tortures billions eternally for his own amusement, is God's agent, and that God has given him the power of death over mankind? This indeed fits the Greek and Roman gods and superstitions from which orthodoxy's picture is taken, but not the holy God of Scripture and of Truth. He says:
"I kill, and I make alive" (Deuteronomy 32:39).
"Was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil" (John 3:8).
"He was manifested to take away our sins" (John 3:5).
"He put away Sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26).
"Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the Sin of the world" (John 1:29).
"His own self bare our sins IN his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).
This last quotation is especially significant. It was done 'IN his own body', whatever it was that was accomplished in his life and death. This ties in closely with the necessity of his being 'flesh and blood' and of 'sinful flesh' for the purpose of destroying the devil by and in his death.
Christ, through death, destroyed 'the sin of the world' - the Bible 'devil' (Hebrews 2:14). In his own person, as the representative man (a man with the same sinful flesh as the rest of human kind), a man representatively incorporating the whole race within himself, he destroyed the power of sin by:
'Sin in the flesh' is the 'devil' that was destroyed by Jesus in his death. This is the devil having the power of death; for it is sin, and nothing else but sin, that causes death to men. Thus we read -
"By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin" (Romans 5:12).
"By MAN came death" (1 Corinthians 15:21).
"The wages of Sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
"Sin hath reigned unto death" (Romans 5:21).
"Sin bringeth forth death" (James 1:15).
"The sting of death is sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56).
Of course, literally, it is God Who has the 'power of death', as He has all power. No other person (certainly not an evil one) could possess or control that power.
But inasmuch as sin brought death in the first place, and sin inevitably (in the natural course) produces death, and sin is that deadly, evil principle that inevitably (in the natural course) causes a holy God to inflict death - it is perfectly correct and understandable to speak of sin as 'having the power of death'
But who or what prompts men and women to sin against God? What causes sin? James answers this very clearly and specifically --
"Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust bath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (James 1:14-15)
Paul refers to this as:
"A LAW IN MY MEMBERS, warring against the law of my mind" (Romans 7.23).
The whole world obeys or serves this law, and therefore it 'lieth in wickedness' (1 John 5:19). John thus describes this condition of the world -
"ALL that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16).
This law can be overcome only by the power of God's Word. Thus Jesus said-
"The words I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life" (John 6:23).
The enlightenment of God's Truth, coming from without, introduces a new law into the mind: the holy, life-giving law of the Spirit of God. This creates an inner conflict:
"The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are CONTRARY the one to the other" (Galatians 5:17).
The successful battle against this fleshly law, or ingrained principle of disobedience, throughout Christ's entire life, was how he overcame 'sin in the flesh', or the 'devil' (diabolos). So also we must constantly strive to overcome this law of sin in our members. Thus we are repeatedly warned and commanded -
"Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Romans 6:12).
"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
"To whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Romans 6:16).
"If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. But if ye through the Spirit do mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13).
There is no external, personal devil, with fiery breath and horns and hooves. It is mankind's own flesh-rooted inclinations, the 'law of sin in his members" which pulls toward disobedience to God's holy, righteous and reasonable commands -
"He that committeth sin is of the devil" (1 John 3:8).
There should be no difficulty with the concept of the Bible 'devil' being personified. Many things and ideas are colorfully and very effectively personified in Scripture:
Wisdom: "Wisdom.. she is more precious than rubies.. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor" (Proverbs 3:13-15).
Riches: "Ye cannot serve 2 masters: God and Mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
Our character: "Ye have put off the Old Man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:9). "Put off the Old Man.. put on the New Man" (Ephesians 4:22-24). "Our Old Man is crucified with him" (Romans 6:6).
Nature: Trees, the sun, floods, hills, waste places, etc. are spoken of as singing, clapping, rejoicing, dancing, skipping, and other human actions.
And, above all, Sin itself - the Bible Devil - is so strikingly personified -
"SIN hath reigned unto death" (Romans 5:21).
"SIN wrought in me .. SIN slew me.. SIN deceived me" (Romans 7:8-11).
"Whom ye obey, his servants ye are, whether of SIN. ." (Romans 6:16).
"Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of SIN" (John 8:34).
"Let not SIN reign in your bodies, that ye should obey it' (Romans 6:12).
In the light of this, we should expect the 'diabolos', 'sin-nature', the 'law of sin in the members,' to be personified, and should be surprised if it were not.
Sin is the great Slanderer of God, in denying His supremacy, wisdom, goodness, and the Truth of His Word. Thus Sin is termed the 'accuser, slanderer, liar; and these thoughts are carried in the Bible word 'devil,' properly understood.
The Biblical account of the origin of Sin shows the fitness of the terms used concerning it. Adam's original transgression did not arise from within. It was suggested by Eve; and hers suggested by the serpent:
"The serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made" (Genesis 3:1).
The serpent, given temporarily the power of speech by God, reasoned falsely concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; i.e., that by eating of it Adam and Eve would not die but live forever, because (he assumed) they would 'become like the angels'; and the angels do live for ever. Therefore the serpent said, 'Ye shall not surely die' . It is true that eating of the Tree did make them like the angels in some respects (Genesis 3:22).
The serpent therefore was a slanderer and a liar in declaring that God's statement 'Ye shall surely die' was not true. The serpent thus became the symbol and 'father' of all that resulted from that lie: the ingrained principle of disobedience, and all attendant sin.
Arising from man's serpent-caused fall, God said (Genesis 3:15) there would henceforth be enmity between the serpent's seed (wicked men, the liars and disobedient) and the Woman's seed (righteous men, centered and embodied in Christ) till the Woman's seed finally should destroy the serpent's seed. Like produces like. That is why the whole world of human nature is spoken of as the serpent and devil.
The thought of disobedience implanted in the minds of our first parents by the serpent, and which became a law of their nature (Romans 7:23), has developed a world of men and women whose natural, fleshly tendencies are to disobey God. Thus they are by nature and natural conduct a 'generation of serpents' (Matthew 23:33), even as Christ said:
"Ye are of your father the devil (slanderer), and the lusts of your father ye will do" (John 8:44).
All who are Adam's descendants are by nature 'children of the devil' . Their mortality illustrates this, because mortality is the fruit of the serpent (devil, slanderer) lie, causing Adam to disobey. But all who become related to the 'second Adam' (Christ) are released from the family of the 'devil' (sin), and become sons of God.
The destruction of the 'devil' by the work of Christ is the overcoming and final removal of the sinning human nature. This was accomplished first in Christ himself - as a prototype - by perfect obedience to his Father, and by submission to the death of the cross: the obedient, voluntary, public crucifixion and repudiation of the sin-cursed nature in justification of God's law and God's holiness; and by his resurrection to unending life: and so --
"Death hath NO MORE dominion over him" (Romans 6:9).
Thereafter, the process of devil-destruction is going on through the centuries, as those who have become related to Christ's sacrifice in the appointed way of belief, baptism and lifelong obedience have set their whole course of life to overcome the sinning nature by the strength of God's Word operating on their minds and in their lives. To such who have, with their whole energies, endeavored to please God, will be given unending life at Christ's judgment seat when he returns to earth. They will have faithfully and successfully (though admittedly never perfectly) labored to subdue or 'keep under' (1 Corinthians 9:27) their sinning impulses (the 'devil' within them) all of their lives. Their change to immortality and the 'divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4) will be the final destruction of the devil for them, just as it was for Christ many centuries before.
The responsible wicked of this and past dispensations (the dead raised, the living assembled) will also at Christ's return be judged, and then punished in measure, in accord with their deeds (Luke 12:47), and finally completely destroyed - removing forever this aspect of the devil-nature from the earth.
Then, during the 1000-year reign of Christ over the earth, the nations will be taught righteousness, and all will come to know God (Jeremiah 31:34), and will be called on - through faith and love of God - to overcome the impulses of their fleshly bodies, and live in holiness.
At the end of the 1000 years there will be another judgment of all who have lived during the 1000 years. All who have died in that period will be raised, and all - living and dead - will be judged. Those who have been obedient will be given eternal life (as those of this present dispensation will be at Christ's return), and those who have been disobedient will be destroyed.
Thus, all who are then left alive will be immortal. Sin and death will have been eliminated from the earth. The present sinning, dying, mortal nature of mankind - brought upon the world by Adam's sin - will be for ever gone. The 'devil' will thus have been destroyed completely, in every aspect and manifestation. The great work of Christ will thus have been triumphantly completed, and he will turn all things over to God, that God Himself may henceforth be 'All in All' (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
It will be noted that a fair proportion of the appearances of the word diabolos occur in the record of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, immediately after his baptism and the descent of the Spirit upon him. The orthodox idea that he was 'led by the Spirit' (Matthew 4:1) to be tempted by the orthodox Devil, God's archenemy, is an unconscionable debasing of the whole divine picture, like its war in God's holy heaven between loyal and rebellious angels.
That it would be any real temptation to Christ - with his knowledge of, and closeness to, God - to receive a proposition from God's avowed enemy, is impossible to perceive. It is deeper and more reasonable than that. It had to be a credible temptation, in harmony with Christ's character and knowledge. Just who provided the external aspect of the temptation we are not told. The Roman authorities have been suggested as the most likely possibility, and they fill the requirements. Certainly they were the then current political embodiment of the diabolos.
'Oppressed of the diabolos' (Acts 10:38) is used generally of all illness, because Sin, and the curse and evils that came on the race by Sin (Genesis 3:17-19) is the root cause of all disabilities and diseases.
The word 'devil' occurs many more times in the KJV New Testament (usually in the plural), but the original in these cases is not 'diabolos', but 'daimon', and it is used in reference to illnesses, physical and mental. This is mainly due to the peculiarity of the Greek language, and of the conceptions that lay in the origins of the speech of the period.
It was customary in Bible times -- when a sufferer spoke or acted under the influence of the malady -- to refer to it as the 'daimon' speaking or acting; such as when we say 'The drink is speaking' when we wish to indicate that a drunken man's statements are the result of intoxication and not of rational thought. Those who used this form of speech recognized that the words and actions were actually those of the sufferer himself, but were indicating that he was caused to so speak or act by the malady. The maladies were referred to as 'daimons' because the phraseology arose from a superstitious belief in creatures called 'daimons' causing illnesses. But anyone using the common phraseology would not necessarily be endorsing its origin. We could trace the origins of a host of English words to the most bizarre and superstitious origins, but we use them without any thought for -- or even knowledge of-- those origins.
It will be noted that there is no such phraseology in discussing illness all through the Old Testament, which is in Hebrew. In English we have similar expressions describing certain maladies that we use freely without the slightest endorsement of their literal origin or connotation, as 'lunacy' (struck by the moon), 'St. Vitus' Dance' (curable by worship of its patron saint), and such other physical afflictions as 'Devils Grip', etc.