Concept Research: Who is Devil?

Regarding to my practice project, I wish to illustrate a scene where a pianist’s struggling under the temptation from devil. His struggle within is so intense that he finds himself losing direction, which leads his unconscious falling both physically and psychologically. In order to underpin my art practice and further develop concept, I would like to conduct the research in the contexts of both religion and religious iconography.

First question, who is devil? I would like study it from a broader view, from the aspect of religion. A useful source to study the devil’s personalities is none other than bible, due to its over two thousand year-old historical accuracy, but also a root of religious impact and cultural influence. Ultimately, the whole bible is written out by God, in accordance with the biblical principle whereby “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (Timothy 3:16) Technically, God inspired and superintended certain human authors to complete all the scriptures. In fact, the relevant terms about the devil has been mentioned several times directly and indirectly. Thus I would like to analyze its major characteristics by using NIV translation.

1. A Fallen Angle
Bible verses:

  • “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” – Isaiah 14:12–15
  • Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.'” – Ezekiel 28:12–14
  • “And he (Jesus) said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” – Luke 10:18
  • “People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?'” – Revelation 13:4

The term ‘morning star’ (Isaiah 14:12) is originally derived from Latin vulgate ‘Lucifer’, which is biblically regarded as the name of a chief cherub angel prior to his falling. This passage has been biblically applied to link to a passage in book of Revelation, in which he was illustrated as a dragon, precisely an illegal controller to this world (Revelation 13:4). In the book of Ezekiel, ‘Lucifer’ was described as a chief angel that filled of wisdom and beauty, more importantly, was even anointed as a guardian angel in Eden (Ezekiel 28:12). However, his sinful desire and jealousy that procured him to be same like God, made him casted off from heaven. The falling of the angels happened prior to the creation of human being. (Genesis 3:1)

2. An Opposing Side to God
Bible verses:

  • “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'” – Matthew 25:41
  • “And he (Jesus) said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” – Luke 10:18
  • “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:44
  • “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me.” – John 14:30
  • “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
  • “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:11-12

God is the ultimate good and just source whereas an opposing, evil force comes from devil (James 4:7). Advices like resisting the devil, against the evil spirits and guarding ourselves with truth are often taught in bible (Ephesians 6:11). God uses light to describe himself in contrast to devil’s darkness image.

3. The Tempter
Bible verses:

  • “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 that must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” – Genesis 3:1
  • “But craved intensely in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert.” – Psalm 106:14
  • “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'” – Matthew 4:1-11
  • “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:13
  • “And He (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.” – Mark 1:13
  • “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – 1 Corinthians 7:5

There are quite many verses particularly referring to the temptations that come from devil. The devil, also known as Satan or serpent, is infamous for his deception (Genesis 3:1) and temptation (Mark 1:13) ever since deceiving Eve in ancient time. Many times the Christian are warned to be aware of devil’s temptations, by holding on to godly principles.

4. The Liar
Bible verses:

  • “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman.” – Genesis 3:4
  • “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:44
  • “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. ” – Revelation 12:9
  • “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur,where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” – Revelation 20:10

The devil is identified as a liar (Genesis 3:4), for there’s no truth found in him (John 8:44). He keens to deceive the world with the rest of fallen angels (Revelation 20:10).

5. The Accuser
Bible verses:

  • “Then Satan answered the LORD and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?” – Job 1:9
  • “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
  • “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.'” – Revelation 12:10

A number of passages show that the devil used to accuse God’s people before Him (Job 1:9). From time to time, devil has been using various kinds of tactics to accuse Christians in order to draw them further away from God (Revelation 12:10).

6. In Control of This World
Bible verses:

  • “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” – Matthew 4:8–10
  • “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” – 1 John 5:19
  • “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me.” – John 14:30
  • “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • “In which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” – Ephesians 2:2
  • “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the powerof him who holds the power of death—that is the devil” – Hebrews 2:14
  • “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

The bible has been describing the devil as the king of this world (1 John 5:19) although his kingdom does not last for long (Revelation 12:9). There are few more symbolized names given in the bible, like ‘ruler of kingdom of the air’ (Ephesians 2:2), ‘god of this age’ (Corinthians 4:4), ‘king of death’ (Hebrews 2:14), ‘dragon’ (Revelation 12:9), ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 14:30), ‘the evil one’ (1 John 5:19), ‘ruler of darkness’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), etc.

7. An Impostor
Bible verses:

  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15
  • “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
  • “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14
  • “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
  • “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10

The devil enjoys putting up all kind of deceptions; not only disguising himself as ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), but also the ultimate source to the false prophets and bands of fallen angles (Revelation 20:10).

8. The Destroyer
Bible verse:

  • “Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer.” – Psalm 17:4
  • “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
  • “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).” – Revelation 9:11

The devil was not solely described as the destroyer of this world (Revelation 9:11), but also a constant seeker to devour our life (1 Peter 5:8).

9. The King of Evils
Bible verses:

  • “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” – 1 Chronicles 21:1
  • “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.” – Jobs 1:46
  • “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” – Matthew 10:24–25
  • “The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one.” – Matthew 13:38
  • “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'” – Matthew 25:41
  • “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” – 2 Corinthians 6:15
  • “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 also several terms to describe the devil’s wickedness. The most common synonym ‘Satan’ (1 Chronicles 21:1) is recognized as an accuser or adversary; ‘Beelzebul’ (Matthew 10:24–25) stands for ‘the lord of flies’ or ‘the lord of dung’; the Hebrew term ‘Belial’ (2 Corinthians 6:15) means ‘worthless’, or the embodiment of evils; And, ‘the great dragon’ (Revelation 12:9) symbolized leaders of the fallen angels and evil followers.

10. Angels are Higher Ranked than Human Being
Bible verse:

  • “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” – Psalms 8:4-5
  • “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.” – 2 Peter 2:4
  • “Yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord.” – 2 Peter 2:11
  • “But we see Jesus (referring to Jesus’s humanity), who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” – Hebrews 2:7


Many verses, which are derived from both Old Testament and New Testament, consistently argues that angels (even the fallen angels) are higher ranked than human being before the second coming of Christ. The angels are deemed “stronger and more powerful” than us. However, the sinned angles are not allowed to repent their sins as in human being.

Reference:
Barker, Kenneth, Burdick, Donald, Stek, John, Wessel, Walter and Youngblood Ronald (1995) The NIV Study Bible. Michigan: Zondervan

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