Satan’s Work as a Deceiver -- By: Gregory H. Harris

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:622 (Apr 1999)
Article: Satan’s Work as a Deceiver
Author: Gregory H. Harris


Satan’s Work as a Deceiver

Gregory H. Harris

The Bible presents Satan as playing a strategic role in deceiving people so that they either do not receive or do not retain the truth of God. By deceptive tactics Satan continually attempts to hinder God’s program. Deception is an essential element of Satan’s nature, for Jesus said he is “a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Lying is one of his basic means of deceiving others.

The apostle John wrote of “the great dragon. .. the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). The word “deceives” renders a present active participle (ὁ πλανῶν), which speaks of deception that is “a continuous action which has become. .. habitual.”1 Satan is involved in much more than random occurrences; he deceives because it is part of his personality to do so.

Two Old Testament accounts depict Satan’s use of deception to accomplish his goals.2 Of utmost importance is the account of the fall of man. Although the word “deception” is not specifically used in Genesis 3, Paul twice identified Satan’s role in the Garden of Eden as deception. In 2 Corinthians 11:3 he wrote, “But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” And in 1 Timothy 2:14 Paul wrote that “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived,

* Gregory H. Harris is Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.

fell into transgression.” In both verses Paul used an intensified form of the verb “deceive” (ἐξαπατάω, rather than ἀπατάω).3

The other significant Old Testament reference depicting Satan as a deceiver is more enigmatic. First Chronicles 21:1 states that “Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.” Although again the specific word “deceptio...

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