There’s been much discussion lately about heaven and hell and whether or not hell really exists. I choose not to get into that discussion other than to say if one exits the other must. If one does not, then it logically follows that the other does not. Now there are huge ramifications to all of this that are far beyond my simple mind.
The same logic regarding heaven and hell is true when it comes to satan, angels and demons. If one believes there is a God it might/must logically follow there is a counterpart to God – in Christian circles that would be Satan. If there are angels, then it follows there must be demons. In our culture, we are predisposed toward the idea of angels, but often get a bit squeamish when it comes to demons. We might watch “The Exorcist” and cringe, but give little credence to it being real. However, if you’ve been in a situation with demons in your midst, as I have, you know they are nothing to trifle with.
The main point of this post is to take issue – to some degree – with something the pastor of the church we attend said this past Sunday. His message was from Mark 1:21-39 where Jesus encounters some demons. As an introduction to his message the pastor made these observations: “Satan and his demons do exist;” “Satan is a created angel who sinned…” and “Satan is not an eternal being, he was created by God.” When I heard the last statement I sat up and wondered whether or not I heard him correctly. “Satan is not an eternal being, he was created” – really? Now I don’t take issue with God creating Satan and his being an angel who sinned, but I do wonder about his not being eternal.
Some of my concerns are quite simple: If Satan is not eternal, then why didn’t Jesus – or God for that matter – simply remove him from existence as a finale to the cross? If Satan is not eternal, then how can he rule hell, a place of eternal torment and punishment? If Satan is not eternal, then why would should I for one minute think that he can have any sway over my life or that of others?
Since I had questions, I decided to ask our pastor and we exchanged a couple of emails regarding the idea. Much of his comments related specifically to the idea that Satan was created and therefore not eternal as in “no beginning and no end.” However I suspect there is more to that idea than what was proposed. For example:
Even though there are passages in the NT that speak to God’s “eternal” existence such as John 1:1-3 and Col 1:15-17 neither writer chooses to use that term. Which is a bit fascinating on its own. Nevertheless, it seemed our pastor was using the word “eternal” as it applies to created or non-created entities. Since God has no beginning and no end, he is eternal. Others, who may have a beginning but no end (Satan, angels, demons, even those who have eternal life) are not “eternal” but are in the category of “forever.” (I’m not sure how long forever is if it’s not eternal.) Yet, taking it one step further, how can Satan or any one else for that matter, be in “eternal torment” without they themselves being eternal?
Here’s another part of my concern. The Bible speaks specifically about eternal redemption, eternal glory, eternal inheritance, eternal sin, eternal fire, eternal bonds, eternal comfort, eternal dominion, etc, etc, using three Greek words virtually interchangeably (αἰώνιος, ἀίδιος, αἰών). . Each of those words carry the same emphasis of eternal or forever. Does that mean thosconcepts hinged to those three Greek words are not eternal in the sense of no beginning and no end when it comes to God’s eternal plan of salvation? Or, would we say the word eternal, as translated in scripture, is translated loosely or perhaps even inappropriately?
Now I do agree that Satan is a created being. He does have a beginning. If, and only if, one uses “eternal” in the sense of having no beginning and no end, then naturally Satan is not eternal. If however, one uses the word as the NT uses the word, than Satan is an eternal being just as Christians have eternal life through Christ. Does that mean we had no beginning – of course not – but that does NOT deny we are eternal beings.
Yes – in a large way – were dealing with semantics. But semantics matter when throwing out a statement like “Satan is not an eternal being” without qualifying that statement based on scripture and its use of the word eternal.