In discussion with other believers about the devil and satan
we often fail to have clear in our own mind what a disputed passage DOES
mean, as well as knowing how to show what it does not mean.
The fundamental reasoning behind this study is that we are correct in interpreting the devil as referring to sin and sinful tendencies, but that sin must be manifested through something; one cannot have abstract diabolism, it must always be manifested in a person or system of things. It is for this reason that the devil is personified; because sin (the devil) cannot exist in the abstract, it can only be found within the human heart and person.
We have traditionally been aware that in some passages, notably in Revelation, the devil refers to sin manifested through a political system, notably that of the Romans. This study reasons that sin was particularly manifested through the Jewish system and Law of the first century. Because the extent of this seems to be largely unrecognized, this aspect has been highly emphasized, although in no way should this sidetrack us from recognizing that the fundamental reference of the devil is to sin, albeit through various manifestations. Judas provides a neat example; he was influenced by ‘Satan’ to betray Christ. This has reference to his own carnal desires, e.g. for money, but also to his being influenced by the Jewish satan, the aims of the Jewish world of the first century with its desire for an immediate Messianic Kingdom.
Apology is made for the following comments lacking much of a ‘devotional’ aspect; they are designed primarily to help us in our preaching the Truth, with extra comments appended to stimulate our own personal study of the passages.