Introduction: I submit that the devil is an actual entity or being, the worst enemy man has. In Jesus' encounter with the devil, the devil is presented as having mobility, thinking and speaking ability, and reasoning capability (Matt. 4: 1-3). The devil is also seen as possessing "authority" and the intellectual capacities to scheme, plot, and then accept defeat (vs. 4-11). The devil is even seen as having the gall and courage to seek to tempt the Son of God himself. Moreover, it is observed in Jesus' temptation that the devil is obsessed with causing man to worship him (vs. 9, 10).
I. The devil has a number of names, each descriptive of his nature and work
A. He is called Satan (the adversary, I Pet. 5: 8), the tempter (he tempts man, Matt. 4: 3), and Beelzebub (Matt. 12: 24). He is also known as "the wicked one" and the "great dragon" (Matt. 13: 19; Rev. 12: 9).
a. Devil is translated from the Greek diabolos, which means accuser (more later, Jn. 8: 44).
II. The origin of the devil
A. The Bible does not provide any specific and detailed information relative to the origin of the devil. In the oldest book of the Bible, Satan appears along with "the sons of God" (Job 1: 6).
a. He is present in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3: 1 ff). From "the beginning" the devil was a murderer, a liar, and "abode not in the truth" (Jn. 8: 44).
B. It appears to be a necessary inference that the devil was created (Col. 1: 16). Since God manifestly did not create the devil innately evil, the devil must have chosen to oppose rather than serve God.
a. There are actually three views as to the devil's origin.
1. The devil was created either as man or some life form and phenomenally evolved to almost possess God like abilities. There is no intimation of such in the scriptures to even allow this view as being perceived as plausible. A necessary inference to suggest such a view is precluded because this view presents contradictions as far as the Genesis' account of creation (Gen. 1 - 3).
2. The devil was one of the Godhead who went bad. This view is blasphemy. God inherently and innately is good and cannot "go bad" (I Jn. 4: 8, Heb. 6: 18, Jas. 1: 13).
3. The devil is a fallen angel. The devil is associated with angels (Job 1: 6, Matt. 25: 41). Also, there were angels who sinned and were "cast down" (2 Pet. 2: 4). The devil is obviously "superior" to man (Gen. 3: 1, Heb. 2: 9). While the Bible does not tell us in plain words (explicit teaching) as to the origin of the devil, it does appear he was an angel. One, perhaps of very high rank, who sinned (see addendum 1).
C. It should also be observed that correctly speaking, there is only one devil (see addendum 2). The devil is the very epitome of evil and is responsible for all temptation (Eph. 6: 11, Jn. 8: 44).
III. The devil enjoys limited power
A. It is apparent that with the temptation and fall of man, there were changes made regarding the devil (Gen. 3: 14). However, the devil has always been limited. In Job's case, the devil was granted special power (Job 1: 8-11, 12). Even then, though, Job's free moral agency was not denied (Job 1 ff). However, the devil is powerful and influential. So much so that he is referred to as the god and prince of this world (2 Cor. 4: 4; Jn. 12: 31).
B. The devil, notwithstanding, can be resisted. James wrote, " Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (Jas. 4: 6). In order for the devil to succeed, man must "give place" to the devil (Eph. 4: 27, see addendum 3).
IV. How the devil works today
A. God and the devil both seek to influence man, in totally opposite directions. God seeks to influence for good and the devil attempts to cause man to sin.
a. The devil appears to be more direct in his appeal to man, while God works through mediums such as the word (cp. Gal. 6: 1; Jn. 6: 44, 45). Also, on the surface, doing evil requires less effort than doing right (cp. Matt. 7: 13, 14).
b. The devil chiefly works through deception (Rev. 20: 10). He may employ false miracles ("lying wonders"), the temporary pleasure of sin, or false doctrine to deceive people (2 Thes. 2: 9; Heb. 11: 25; I Jn. 4: 1, I Tim. 4: 1 ff). The devil skillfully makes use of men who appear so righteous, but are actually teachers of false doctrine (2 Cor. 11: 13-15, Matt. 7: 15-20).
B. One primary way in which the devil works is through accusation. Diabolos (the accuser, devil) is used 38 times in the Greek New Testament. The devil succeeded in tempting Eve by accusation (Gen. 3). He is seen accusing God to man and man to God (Gen. 3: 5; Job 1: 6-11). He turns people against the plain truths of God's word by accusation. Speaking of God's people (the church), the devil accuses them thus: "they are self-righteous and opinionated." The avenues of appeal at Satan's disposal are the lust of the flesh, pride of life, and the lust of the eyes (Gen. 3: 6, Matt. 4: 1-11; I Jn. 2: 15-17).
IV. The final destiny of the devil
A. The irony of this whole matter involving the devil and deception is that: the great deceiver is himself the most deceived of all! He can not ultimately succeed because he is destined to failure. "And the devil that deceiveth them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone," John writes, "where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20: 10). Hell was actually prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25: 41).
Conclusion: Leave the audience with the thought of victory. Yes, the devil can be overcome. Consider the apostle John's statement, " ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one" (I Jn. 2: 14). The word of God is the instrument to defeat and thwart Satan's attempts (Matt. 4: 4, 7,10). Also, to Christians John wrote thus: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I Jn. 4: 4).
Addendum 1. Verses such as Isaiah 14: 12, Luke 10: 18, and Revelation 12: 9 are often taken out of context and misapplied. For instance, "Lucifer" applies to the King of Babylon and his fall, the fall of Satan from heaven regarding the seventy is a reference to his defeat relative to the miracle working ability given to the seventy in their limited commission, and the time element of the war in heaven does not coincide (Isa. 14, Lk. 10: 17-20, Rev. 12). However, in all fairness, some scholars do believe there may be some intended secondary correspondence and symbolism intended regarding the origin of the devil in the aforementioned passages. Nonetheless, the fact remains that we are not expressly told regarding the origin of the devil. In such matters we must be careful not to say too much (Deut. 29: 29).
Addendum 2: It is unfortunate that the King James Version translated diamon (demon) as devils (Jas. 2: 19). Vine observes, "Daimon, a demon, is frequently, but wrongly, translated 'devil,' it should always be translated 'demon.' There is one Devil, there are many demons" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Addendum 3: In the case of First Century demon possession, there does appear to have been a special opportunity granted to the demon world. This, however, appears to have been exceptional and limited to that time for the purpose of manifesting Jesus' powers over the demonic world (Matt. 17: 14 ff, Lk. 10: 17).