by Doy Moyer
Years ago I was asked to teach a class on 1 Timothy 6 for a congregation that I was visiting. We read of Jesus Christ, “the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (v. 15-16). Seemingly out of the blue I was asked, “Does this mean that Satan is not eternal or immortal?” My answer was a simple, “Of course.” Little did I know I was talking to some who believed that Satan was not created, but that he, like God, had always existed.
Occasionally the question arises, and there are yet those who believe that Satan could not have been created by God, for that would mean that God created evil. While much can be said about this, let’s see if we can boil down these issues.
First things first. Satan is created. The alternative is that Satan is eternal and immortal, just like God, which places him on the same eternal level. One may not think this is a big deal, but we need to understand that what we think about other beings will say something about our views of God. There are no beings or creatures who are on par with God’s eternal nature. He alone is the “I AM.”
Considering whether or not Satan is created is not a matter of speculation. Colossians 1:15-17 says about Jesus, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities―all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
This passage is not ambiguous. All things, including all visible and invisible rulers and powers, were created by Him and for Him. Now if Satan is such an invisible ruler and power, then Scripture teaches he was created. Follow the evidence.
Jesus refers to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). The apostle Paul refers to him as the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) and “the prince (ruler) of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). Christians are to “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” (Eph 6:11-12).
Back in 1 Timothy 6:16, God “alone has immortality.” If one is not God, he does not inherently possess immortality. God promises immortality to His people (Rom 2:7; 1 Cor 15:53-54; 2 Tim 1:10), but intrinsic immortality is tied to His nature and His alone. God has no beginning and no end. This differs from created beings being granted immortality by the One from whom immortality flows. Only God has this. Satan does not and, therefore, had to be created.
Does this, then, mean that God created evil? Not at all. God is not the author of evil. “Satan” (adversary) is the description and name given to this one whom we also call the devil or slanderer (Rev 12:9). There is no indication that he was created for the purpose of being Satan in order to be evil. Like all else God makes, the assumption should be that he was created to serve and glorify God.
The implication would be that this creature, who was indeed powerful, was given the freedom to make choices. As human beings were given freedom to decide whether or not they would serve God, we also find that angels had the ability to rebel and sin (Jude 6; 2 Pet 2:4). Whether or not Satan was an angel, an archangel, or another type of creature, we do not know. However, he still falls under the umbrella of the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this present darkness. All rulers and authorities were created by the Lord.
Evil is not a material thing that was created. It is defined, not by its own self, but rather in connection to a standard that is good. That standard is God, so anything that deviates from Him will result in what we call “evil.” As darkness is not a thing in itself, but rather is the absence of light, so evil is the absence and even the perversion of the good. When we choose to rebel against God, we have chosen the darkness and evil. God did not create the evil, but He allows creatures of choice to walk in the dark. Of course, consequences for that follow.
Satan, then, was a created being who chose to rebel against God, thus resulting in evil. The importance of this is not only how we think of God, but also how we consider the fight we are in. The bottom line is that God always wins. While Satan is powerful (1 Pet 5:8), he is not God, and he cannot defeat those who put their faith in God. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).