In the cult movie The Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey's character Verbal Kint famously says "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist".
The Devil seems to be doing a good job. In a 2009 poll conducted by Nielsen, 68% of Australians said they believe in God, while only 37% say they believe in the Devil.
Belief in the Devil, or Satan as he is also known, has been made ridiculous by portrayals of him as a cloven-hoofed, pointy-tailed, red, goat-like creature, carrying a pitchfork.
What does the Bible actually say about the Devil and does one have to believe in him to be a Christian?
How did the Devil come about?
The Old Testament books of Ezekiel (chapter 28) and Isaiah (chapter 14) explain that the Devil was created by God originally as a beautiful angel called Lucifer, which means Day Star, who became full of pride and decided he no longer wanted to serve God but to be God.
For this rebellion Satan was thrown out of heaven, taking one third of God's angels with him (Rev 12:4, 7-9) but we see in the book of Job, (chapter 1) that he is still able to come before God's throne and talk with Him, and that Satan is also free to roam the earth.
Is the Devil as strong as God?
Unlike God, Satan is a created being and therefore limited by time and space. He is not all-knowing, all-powerful or everywhere present at the same time as God is. Nevertheless, he is a very powerful adversary whom even the archangel Michael "dared not bring ... a reviling accusation [against], but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'"
Thus the yin yang idea of a balance between good and evil is not Biblical, as God has twice as many angels as Satan and Satan has to have God's permission to act.
Does the Devil rule in hell?
The idea that the devil is ruling a wicked kingdom in hell is entirely without Biblical foundation.
In fact, the Bible says that hell is prepared as a place of torment for those angels, now demons, who rebelled against God (Matt 25:41), and was never intended for people at all, although we condemn ourselves there by not accepting God's payment for our sins on the cross through Jesus' death and resurrection. Hell is not a place where Satan will rule but a place where he will suffer eternally (Revelation 20:10).
The Bible teaches that until Jesus comes again to rule and reign on the Earth, Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31) who has the power to give riches and power to those who worship him - as he tempted Jesus to do in the wilderness. (Luke 4:5-7) But as Matthew 16:26 says "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
Jesus warned that the devil is a liar. "[The Devil] ... does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (John 8:44)
Part of this lie is that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) in order to make wickedness seem appealing.
Satan hates humans, as those created in the image of God and whom God loves, and he hates especially those who to choose to obey God. Peter warns Christians: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) and Jesus called Satan the thief who comes to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10:9).
By becoming a Christian we declare war on Satan (Ephesians 6:12) but the Bible promises us that the Holy Spirit of God within us is greater than he who is in the world [Satan] (1 John 4:4).
Does one have to believe in the Devil to be a Christian?
Believing in Satan is not a requirement for salvation, but it is a requirement to be able to live the Christian life. Satan's existence is taught throughout the Bible. Seven Old Testament books teach his existence and every New Testament writer refers to his reality and activity as a personal being. Jesus also referred to Satan 25 times in the Gospels which points to us needing to know who he is and what he does.•