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Where did Satan come from?

Mike McKinley | Oct. 4, 2016

If you start reading the Bible on page one, everything seems to go just about the way you’d expect. You’ve got God, the Creator and Designer of an amazing world. You’ve got the creation itself, which reflects God’s genius in its diversity and grandeur. And at the pinnacle of creation you have mankind. But somewhere around page three or four (depending on the size of your Bible) you read something that seems utterly out of place:

"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’?" (Genesis 3:1)


Here in God’s perfect creation—a world that God made out of nothing, a world that he designed and controls—something has gone rogue. One of God’s creatures is now trying to undermine his authority and bring down humankind.

That raises a huge number of questions! Let’s take a look at a couple.

Did the devil make me do it?

Did the devil make me do it?

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An introduction to what the Bible says about the devil, evil spirits and demon possession

Who is the serpent of Genesis 3?

Genesis doesn’t explain where the serpent came from or why he was trying to tempt Eve. All we are specifically told is that it was part of God’s creation, but it was craftier than all the other animals. But it is clear from the beginning that we are dealing with more than your garden-variety snake.

First, it is able to talk. I don’t know where you live, but in my neck of the woods we don’t have a lot of talking animals. This seems to indicate that the serpent of Genesis 3 was under the control of a personal being.

As the story of the Bible goes on, it becomes clear that this serpent is a manifestation of Satan. The things that the serpent does in the Garden of Eden have the distinct smell of satanic activity. The serpent tempts Eve to disobey God; Satan is referred to as “the tempter” by the authors of the New Testament (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). The serpent succeeds in deceiving human beings; the Lord Jesus called Satan “the father of lies” (John 8:44). And the serpent opposes God’s good work; Satan is said to have been “sinning from the beginning” (1 John 3:8).

And so it should come as no surprise when John’s Revelation makes the connection explicit. In Revelation 12:9 we read about the defeat of Satan, and notice how John refers to him:

"The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray."

We can safely conclude that, even though Genesis does not specifically use the name “Satan” in connection with the serpent in the garden, the snake is in fact a manifestation of the evil one.

So, where did Satan come from?

Scripture is not concerned to tell us much about Satan’s origins. He shows up abruptly in Genesis 3 and his presence is then assumed throughout the Bible.

Piecing together the evidence, it seems that Satan was created as an angel. Paul says that he “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), and the element of disguise is located not in the fact that he appears to be an angel, but that he appears to be an angel “of light”. Even though the Bible does not answer every question that we might have about Satan’s origins, we can say a few things with certainty:

  • God created Satan! Nothing exists that was not made by God. God made the world out of nothing, and so all creatures in heaven, on earth, and under the earth owe their existence to God (Colossians 1:16). Satan is no exception.
  • God created Satan good! Everything that God created was very good (Genesis 1:31) and there is no sin, deception, or evil in God (1 John 1:5; James 1:13). Therefore, we can conclude that when God created Satan, he created him morally pure.
  • Some created angels rebelled against God. Seemingly at some point between Genesis 1:31 (where everything is very good) and Genesis 3:1 (the serpent in the garden), some angels turned against God and became wicked (their rebellion is spoken of in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6—I explore this further in Did the Devil Make Me Do It?)
  • Satan has authority in the realm of demons. At several points in the Bible, Satan is spoken of as the leader of the demonic forces (John 12:31 and Ephesians 2:2). We also see Satan taking leadership in the work of attacking and tempting God’s people (Job 1:6; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Zechariah 3:1).
  • Satan’s evil came from within himself. He was not tempted and led astray (for there was no one to tempt him) but he produced sin and deceit from within himself (John 8:44).

So Satan is the leader of the pack of angels who rebelled against God, and he was cast out of God’s presence.

There is quite a bit of mystery here that we simply cannot know or understand, but it seems wise for us to be careful about speculating beyond those basic facts. God doesn’t tell us why he allowed the devil to rebel against him. He doesn’t tell us why he didn’t destroy Satan a long time ago.

But we must remember that, at the most basic level, he is merely a twisted part of God’s creation. He is not a competing god. Satan is still (in the words of Martin Luther) “our ancient foe”, but he is not worthy of our fear or anxiety. Jesus has dealt him a death blow (Hebrews 2:14); it’s now just a matter of waiting for Satan’s end to come.

This is adapted from Mike Mckinley’s book, Did the devil make me do it? This book is part of the Questions Christians Ask series of short, readable books which clearly explain how the Bible answers the questions Christians are asking. The series covers topics such as What happens when I die?Is God anti-gay?Can I really trust the Bible?Do miracles happen today? and How will the world end? 

Mike McKinley

Mike McKinley is the author of Passion, Did the devil make me do it? and Church Planting is for Wimps. Since 2005 he has been pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia. Before that, he served on the pastoral staff of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, having received his MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary. Mike is married to Karen, and they have five children.

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