Some might wonder, “if the serpent of Genesis is thought to be Lucifer, how does he appear as a snake to Adam and Eve?”. Eden is a high place where the earth and its creatures overlap with heaven and its creatures. Genesis 3 points in the direction of the snake being a spiritual entity. And then, later, biblical authors fill in the picture. As when the prophet Isaiah has a vision of God’s heavenly throne room. He is surrounded and praised by the spiritual beings who are thought to be angels or cherubim around God’s throne (many still teach this), but when Isaiah sees these creatures, he describes them as “seraphim,” which in Hebrew means “snakes.”
The Serpent is essentially a former staff member in God’s throne room.
And the prophet Ezekiel understood this figure as a spiritual rebel who didn’t want to live under God’s wisdom and authority. He wanted to be God. The same temptation the serpent puts before Adam and Eve.
The Serpent tells them they could rule the world like God but by their own wisdom.
They take the bait, and subsequently, are all kicked out of the garden. And God says, “this rebel will now crawl on its belly.”.
The Bible offers subtle clues where this entity goes and works behind the scenes, animating division and hatred between humans. They also use various avatars and incarnations to describe this being; a snake, a sea dragon, or a dark desert creature, or the king of death in the grave.
He is also given many titles like “Tempter,” or the “The Evil One,” or “The Devil,” which in Greek means “The Slanderer,” and of course “Satan,” which, in Hebrew, has the word “the” in front of it.
“The Satan” means “The Adversary” because he isn’t for anything; rather, he is anti-everything, working through lies to drag us back into darkness and disorder.
What about these “demons” I read of?
Okay. Remember the concept of God’s heavenly staff team, the Divine Council, or the Sons of God. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we are told that some of these rebelled too.
Multiple times, actually…
After the serpent comes the rebellion of the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6, we are told that they have sex with women who then give birth to violent warrior giants.
These are probably the strangest characters in the whole Bible, at least from our point of view. Ancient readers knew exactly what was going on.
The ancient kingdoms around Israel claimed to be founded and protected by giant warrior kings, part human, part god, and divine wisdom.
So the biblical authors are saying, “Hey, those warrior kings, they shouldn’t be honored!”
In this story, they are portrayed as human rebels who are captive to spiritual evil. Spreading their violence in God’s good world.
One of those warrior kings in Genesis 10 goes on to build the city of Babylon. Nimrod, whose name sounds like the Hebrew word for “rebel.” His kingdom leads to the next rebellion, where humans exalt themselves in Babylon.
But God scatters that rebellion. When Moses in Deuteronomy looks back at that story, he says that God handed over the nations to worship the rebel host of heaven, the gods of money, sex, and military power. Moses is the first one to call them “demons”, that is, lesser spiritual beings.
Demons are spiritual forces at work behind corrupt human power structures, but they also work on a personal level. Animating and exploiting humanity’s greed and selfishness, as well as the weakness of our mortal bodies.
In the Bible, spiritual evil is at work in anything that drags God’s good creation back into chaos, darkness, and death. This is why when Jesus arrives on the scene; he said his enemy is not human. Jesus and his first followers viewed all the pain and suffering in God’s good world as a sign of its captivity to death and spiritual evil.
Jesus knew that the only way out of this cosmic ruin is to overcome evil and death itself, even if it costs everything.