Is there Really a Devil? Why??

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Kayla Lynn:

Dear Lee,

I’ve been having a hard time discerning the rationality of the Devil.

  1. I do not fancy the idea of a fallen angel, particularly since there is no direct story of this rebellious angel found anywhere, to my understanding, in the Bible.
  2. I do not see any need for the Devil in reality (in other words, the big picture), as humans can be quite awful on their own.
  3. However, I think, based on my understanding of human governments, if angels have a leader, then demons must also have a leader. However, that leader could possibly be God in both cases, right?
  4. Furthermore, why, even if God can create such evil (in us or in another being) in the first place, would evil be needed in the world at all? Is it to teach us a lesson or guide us?

These are my doubts at the moment, but I have had personal experiences which tell me otherwise… I could really use some direction on this subject.

Confused and seeking truth,

Thank you,

Kayla Lynn

Thanks for the great conundrum, Kayla Lynn!

I would say that you have already sensed much of the truth about the Devil.

As you say, there is little or nothing in the Bible about the Devil being a fallen angel. That idea comes mostly from books that aren’t in the Bible, and from the myths of various cultures.

In the Bible itself, the word traditionally translated “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12 is actually a reference to the King of Babylon. He is compared to the “light-bearer” (Latin: lucifer), or “morning star”—meaning the planet Venus, which appears from earth as the brightest “star” in the morning (or evening) sky. You can read the full prophecy in Isaiah 14:3–23. It predicts the downfall of the evil and oppressive king of Babylon by comparing him to the morning star falling out of heaven. The Biblical prophecy is about the fall of an earthly power, not about some supposed powerful angel who fell away from God and became Satan.

Satan, or the Devil


In the Bible, the idea of the Devil, or Satan, developed only gradually over time. In fact, the word “satan” was originally used for human enemies. Later Satan, or the Devil, became a metaphor for evil and falsity, and a personification of the spiritual forces of evil and falsity that fight against God.

Does this mean that the Devil isn’t real?

No, the Devil is very real.

It’s just that the Devil and Satan are synonyms for the whole complex of human evil and falsity. You see, we humans, and not God, were the ones who originated evil. And human evil and falsity seen as a whole is the Devil and Satan.

Wherever we see evil and falsity in the world around us, and in our own minds and hearts, that is the presence of the Devil and Satan. And anyone who has ever been the victim of human selfishness, greed, and grasping for power knows that evil and falsity are very real, and very destructive.

Let’s take a closer look.

In Part One below, we’ll look at the real, original meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words referring to the Devil, Satan, and demons. This will lead to a different view of the Devil than the one prevailing in traditional Christianity.

In Part Two, we’ll take up the question of why there is a Devil at all.

Part One: The Devil in the Bible

First, it helps to understand the original meanings of the words that are commonly translated as “the Devil,” “Satan,” “demons,” and so on.


The primary meaning of the Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan) is “an adversary, an opponent.” So in the Old Testament, satan is commonly used to mean “an enemy.” For example, 1 Kings 11:14 says:

Then the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal house in Edom.

The word translated “adversary” in this verse is the Hebrew word satan. It is used the same way for another enemy of Solomon in 1 Kings 11:23-25.

In fact, outside of the book of Job, the Hebrew word satan is most often used to refer to human enemies, though it is also sometimes used of spiritual figures who stand as adversaries. In many of the places where it is traditionally translated “Satan,” it should really be translated as “an enemy” or “an adversary.”

There are no capital letters in the original texts of the Bible. Editors and translators must use their judgment in deciding whether or not words like satan in the original languages are meant to be proper names (“Satan”) or just a description of something or someone (“an adversary, opponent”).

The Greek word σατανᾶς  (satanas), comes from the Hebrew word satan, and has the same meaning: an adversary or enemy. In the New Testamant, Satan is more often used as a personification of evil, traditionally interpreted as a powerful evil angel who opposes God and tempts humans to sin and destruction.

However, even in the New Testament it is sometimes used to refer to human beings. Consider, for example, this passage from Matthew:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:21-23 – see also Mark 8:31-33.)

Though the Greek word is usually translated “Satan” in this passage, it should probably be translated as, “you adversary!” In other words, Jesus uses the Greek word satanas to refer to a human being who is, at that time, opposing God’s will and God’s truth.

So even though the Greek word satanas is commonly used in the New Testament to mean Satan, a figure who is the personification of evil, it still also retains its original meaning of an enemy or adversary—specifically, anyone or anything who stands in opposition to God.

If we keep this original meaning of the word satan in mind when we read about “Satan” in the Bible, it gives new meaning to many statements about this evil being, or force, in the Bible.

And it’s clear from the Bible that “Satan” comes from a very human reality. Its original meaning was human enemies and adversaries.

The Devil

Although the word “devil” appears in a few places in traditional translations of the Old Testament such as the King James Version, the Hebrew words so translated are actually words for hairy goats, satyrs, idols, or perhaps demons. The idea of some evil overlord called the Devil doesn’t appear until the New Testament.

In the Greek of the New Testament, there are two primary words commonly translated “devil.”

One of them is διάβολος (diabolos). Most of the time, this word means a ruling evil figure, the Devil, which is also called Satan. This is the figure that Jesus was led into the desert to be tested by:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:1–3; read the full story in Matthew 4:1–11)

However, even this word is sometimes used to speak of individual human beings. For example:

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. (John 6:70–71)

Notice that Jesus didn’t say “one of you has a devil,” but “one of you is a devil.”

So even the Greek word most commonly used to mean “the Devil” can also be applied to an individual human being who is bent on evil.

And the underlying meaning of the Greek word διάβολος is “a false accuser, a slanderer.” So once again, when we read “the Devil” in the New Testament, it refers to a very human reality: those who slander others and make false accusations.


The other Greek word commonly translated “devil” is δαιμόνιον (daimonion). This word is most commonly used to mean an individual demon, or devil, who possesses a person, and causes that person to harm self or others. When the Gospels speak of Jesus casting out devils, this is the Greek word used.

However, the New Testament also refers at times to “the prince of the devils,” or “the ruler of the demons,” who is synonymous with the Devil. For example, after Jesus had healed a mute man who was possessed by a demon, the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons” (Matthew 9:34).

The ancient Greek word δαιμόνιον originally meant simply a spirit or spiritual messenger, or even a deity (in early polytheistic Greek culture), whether good or evil. But in the New Testament, it is almost always used to mean evil spirits.

So the general picture that emerges is of a host of evil beings, or spirits, ruled over by a figure called Satan, the Devil, or the ruler of the demons. This is the usual picture painted in traditional Christianity.

And yet, the Bible also uses the words for “devil” and “satan” to refer to human beings who are evil and who speak falsehoods and lies.

Swedenborg on the Devil

This use of the original Hebrew and Greek words for Satan and the Devil to also mean not only individual evil spirits, but also human beings who oppose God, speak falsehood, and do evil things suggests that there is more to the Devil and Satan than meets the eye.

And according to Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), that is precisely the case.

Contrary to all of the Christian teachings of his day—the teachings that still hold sway in most of Christianity—Swedenborg said that there is no such thing as a Devil, or Satan, who had been a powerful angel that fell away from God and became the ruler of hell. After all, that idea of Satan as a fallen angel isn’t in the Bible. It comes from non-Biblical books, and from various traditions that had grown up over the centuries. In fact, most “Christian” beliefs about the Devil and Satan come from various human traditions rather than from the Bible itself.

Swedenborg’s experience in the spiritual world showed him a very different reality—one that is more in line with the Bible’s use of these words to mean both evil spirits and evil human beings.

In fact, Swedenborg said that these are really one and the same thing.

Evil spirits, he said, are all human beings who have lived evil and selfish lives here on earth, and have gone on to live in hell after their death. According to Swedenborg, there is no separately created race of angels, nor are there fallen angels who have become devils instead. All angels and devils were once human beings living in the material world.

Then what about the Devil and Satan?

These, Swedenborg says, are really just personifications of hell.

You know how the United States is sometimes called Uncle Sam? Have you heard of the Russian Bear? Have you seen China depicted as a Panda?

Likewise, in the Bible hell is personified as the figure of the Devil and Satan. And hell is simply the combination of all human evil gathered together in one vast evil region of the spiritual world.

So when the Bible talks about Jesus, or human beings, being tempted by Satan or the Devil, it’s really talking about the evil influence of hell working on us, and trying to drag us down into false beliefs and evil actions.

The figures of evil such as the Devil, Satan, and the ruler of the demons, that appear in the Bible were either individual evil spirits who were once humans, or they were whole communities of hell that banded together to attack Jesus, or to infest human beings.

These collective demons can be seen in the story of the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5:1–20. In this story, Jesus confronts a demon-possessed man:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. (Mark 5:6–10, italics added)

Here the demon possessing the man speaks of himself in the singular, yet names himself “Legion,” with the explanation, “for we are many.”

The angels and the demons that appear in the Bible may be individual angels or evil spirits, or they may be whole communities of angels or evil spirits banded together and acting as one. This, according to Swedenborg, is a very common occurrence in the spiritual world. And it explains many seemingly strange things about the angels and evil spirits who appear throughout the Bible.

Further, according to Swedenborg, while we humans may be attacked by individual evil spirits and by whole crowds of evil spirits, Jesus Christ was attacked by all of hell together, meaning by the combined power of all human and spiritual evil. So when Jesus was tempted by the Devil, he was fighting not just individual evil spirits, nor merely communities of evil spirits, but against all of hell working together as a single vast Devil in a futile attempt to destroy him and derail his work of saving the human race from the power of evil, falsity, and hell.

Part Two: Why is there a Devil at all?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d be just as happy without some big ol’ Devil, or hell, or whatever you want to call it, mucking up the universe!

Why is there a Devil at all? Why does God even allow hell to exist? Did God create evil and hell?

These are huge questions, which people have debated for thousands of years. We can’t do them full justice in this short article. But here are some of the basics:

Did God create evil and hell?

Yes, I know. The Bible says:

I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

Because of this, many people, Christians and Jews alike, believe that God is the author and creator of both good and evil. And it seems that many people need to believe this in order to think of God as an infinitely powerful God. For those who think of darkness and evil as especially potent realities, if God isn’t behind them, then God must be a weakling. So the Bible lets us think that God brings evil and disaster, as well as good, upon us.

And the common Hebrew word for “evil” that is used in Isaiah 45:7 is also used to mean disaster and misfortune.

But consider the possibility that this verse is speaking from a human perspective.

Consider a hardened thief, who makes a living stealing the belongings of others. If God comes along and not only says “thou shalt not steal,” but enforces that law by means of human governments, what does the thief think about that?

To a thief, God’s law against stealing is a disaster. In a thief’s eyes, that law is evil, not good, because it ruins the thief’s livelihood and takes away the huge pleasure of sneaking into people’s homes and businesses and skulking away with their precious valuables.

So from the perspective of an evil person, God does create evil, because God destroys what an evil person thinks of as good.

But of course, an evil person has everything backwards. An evil person thinks of evil as good, and good as evil.

When it comes to things that are truly evil, it is not God, but we human beings, who create evil.

  • God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But we kill anyway.
  • God says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” But we cheat on our spouses anyway.
  • God says, “Thou shalt not steal.” But we steal anyway.
  • God says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” But we lie about people and destroy their reputations anyway.
  • God says, “Thou shalt not covet.” But we’re always getting jealous of other people, and wishing we had what they have.

We humans are the ones who create evil whenever we choose to go against the love, truth, and goodness that God created us for. And it is we humans, not God, who insist upon having a hell.

For more on this, see my article, Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

Why does God allow evil to exist?

Okay, even if God doesn’t actually create evil, why does God allow it to exist? Why doesn’t God just wipe out all evil? Isn’t God omnipotent, all-powerful? Couldn’t God just eliminate all evil with the stroke of a hand?

Yes, God could do that.

But in the process, God would destroy every human being on the face of the earth, not to mention every angel and spirit in the spiritual world.


Because ever since we humans first decided that we enjoy evil as well as good, evil has become a part of us.

And it became a part of us by our own choice.

Taking the second point first, since we have chosen and continue to choose evil, in order for God to destroy all evil, God would have to destroy our freedom of choice. And that would destroy us as human beings.

Without the ability to choose and live evil lives, would we really be human? Or would we merely be puppets in the hands of God, automatically and unquestioningly doing whatever God says?

God does not want puppets. God wants beings who freely choose to live by God’s love and truth. And that means God has to allow us to make the other choice as well. If we do not have the ability to reject God, and everything God stands for, then any choice to love God and live by God’s love and truth would be hollow and meaningless. We would be no different than robots, programmed to do God’s will.

God wants human beings, who freely choose to love God, and to love our fellow human beings.

Now for the first point:

Every time we choose and engage in evil, it becomes an indelible, permanent part of our character. Yes, we can later choose not to do that evil. But its memory and imprint never leaves us.

In fact, often it becomes one of our major motivators to do good. Who hasn’t looked back at something awful or insulting or evil or just plain stupid that they’ve done in the past, and resolved never to do that again?

We humans can learn from our mistakes. And the memory and history of those mistakes is key to keeping us going forward toward the good.

  • We look back at the Nazi holocaust, and resolve to overcome the bigotry, racism, and xenophobia that led to it.
  • We look back at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and commit ourselves to finding peaceful solutions to our conflicts so that no more cities will be obliterated.
  • We look back at a life of addiction and many wasted years of our life, and resolve to keep ourselves clean and sober, and do something good with the rest of our life.
  • We look back at hateful words that we spewed at someone who once was our best friend, and resolve not to speak and act from such blind rage again.

If God were to wipe out all evil with the stroke of a hand, all of those memories would be gone as well. All of the terrible lessons of our history would be erased. All the tough lessons of our lifetimes would vanish. We would never have learned the difficult and painful lessons that made us into the people we are today.

Our very humanity would be gone. We would no longer be the people who made mistakes and learned from them; who did evil and destructive things, and learned the hard way why we never again want to be those sorts of people.

In other words, in the process of wiping out all evil, God would destroy every single one of us.

Patchwork quilt

Patchwork quilt

Through our choices and our actions, we are all patchworks of good and evil, both in our past and in our present. Imagine what would be left if you took a patchwork quilt and ripped out every square that contains any dark colors. If God were to wave a hand and instantly destroy all the evil in our world, we humans would be like the tattered and useless remnant of that once beautiful quilt that was formed of many colors, both bright and dark.

Once we humans created evil, God allowed that evil to exist precisely because without evil, we would never learn to be good.

  • Without experiencing hatred and anger, we would never learn how to truly love.
  • Without learning where lying lands us, we would never understand the value of telling the truth.
  • Without discovering where our own arrogance and stupidity leads us, we would never humbly accept that God knows better than we do what’s best for us.

Our greatest lessons of love, and truth, and compassion, and appreciation for diversity, and the joy of true friendship with others, come from learning the hard way what our life becomes when we live from their opposites: from hatred, lies, oppression, bigotry, jealousy, and striving for dominance over one another.

No, God will not destroy all our evil with a wave of the hand.

But as we experience the pain and destruction brought about by our own selfishness and greed, God will help us to overcome them both in ourselves and in our world.

  • It is through the very battle against evil that we become strong for good.
  • It is in the battle against lies, deception, and slander that we learn the value of honesty, truthfulness, and appreciation for those who are different from ourselves.
  • It is in the battle against hatred that we learn to love.

Although God did not create evil or hell, God stands ready to lift us out of evil and hell whenever we are ready to leave our own stupid and selfish lives behind, and begin living according to the greatest commandments, on which all the Law and the Prophets depend:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

So why is there a Devil?

There is a devil not because God wanted one, but because we wanted one.

There is a Devil not because God created evil, but because we humans created evil.

The Devil is not some fallen angel who rules over hell. God rules over everything, earth, heaven, and hell alike. There is only one supreme ruler of the universe, and that is God.

Instead, the Devil is all of human evil and falsity seen as a whole. The Devil is the combined force of all evil humans, and all evil spirits, who work against God, and gain their enjoyment from dominating and destroying others rather than loving them and serving them.

The Devil is simply another word for hell. And there is a hell because even though God teaches us and leads us and woos us toward heaven, some of us reject God’s teaching, and God’s leadership, and God’s love, and choose to live from our own selfish and greedy desires instead.

That is why there is a hell. That is why there is a Devil, and Satan.

But God does give us the power to overcome the Devil, Satan, and hell in our own lives, and in the world.

Will we use that power, and banish evil and hell from our world and from our own souls?

That is our choice to make.

This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.

For further reading:


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in The Afterlife, The Bible Re-Viewed
57 comments on “Is there Really a Devil? Why??
  1. Walt Childs says:

    Excellent and very clear article. It all makes perfect sense and is logical.

  2. Tony says:

    to be fair many people think that having heaven or hell is very black and white so to speak and they don’t really like this idea because your essentially saying you you are going to be in one of them whether you like it or not, this doesn’t sound like we are free at all or if we are free it sounds really twisted.

    PS this comes from a human perspective 😛

    • Lee says:

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In response, heaven and hell are just as varied, if not more so, as the various human communities on earth. Heaven and hell are vast places, each with its own vast array of different regions, levels, groupings, and communities.

      Saying people are going to heaven, or to hell, is like saying they are going to Australia. The question is, which part of Australia? It could be in the barren desert or in the big, busy city. Similarly, heaven and hell are just as varied as the various terrains and landscapes of the human mind.

  3. Tony says:

    also saying god allows us to keep evil going sounds like he’s playing with us and yes you have explained why he does this but it doesn’t really make it any better just saying 🙂

  4. bldion says:

    We are in the 21st century, not Medieval times. I would rather listen to Stephen Hawkings and other scientists about what is real out there.

    • Lee says:

      Hi bldion,

      Stephen Hawking and other scientists tell us about what is real in the material universe. This article is about what’s real in the spiritual universe.

      If you think there’s no such thing as a spiritual universe, then obviously everything in this article will read like mere fantasy and illusion. So the question is, do you think there is a spiritual universe distinct from the material one?

  5. David Gray says:

    Hi Lee,

    The New Church concept of Satan is surprising to me. Given Swedenborg’s experience with spirits, I’m surprised that he would interpret references to Satan as a personification of human evil. It would seem natural for him to believe in a very powerful, evil spirit. I agree that there is not much in the Bible about Satan. I believe the passage in Isaiah 14 is typically viewed as having a dual meaning, like many things in the OT — an immediate interpretation and then a reference to Satan. How does Swedenborg interpret Luke 4 where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness? There were no other humans around, so it seems strange to me that Jesus would be tempted in the wilderness by “human falsity and evil.” And Jesus did not have a sinful nature to be tempted by himself. The passage also ends with, “and Satan left him until a more opportune time.” Doesn’t that really imply an actual person?


    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Perhaps I didn’t make myself as clear as I should have. Being a personification does not mean that the personification represents an impersonal force. Uncle Sam represents an actual culture and society made up of real, flesh-and-blood human beings. Similarly Satan, though a personification, represents actual, spiritual devils and evil spirits, all of whom were once human beings on this earth. So Jesus was not tempted merely by “human falsity and evil,” but by actual evil spirits all banded together as one to attack him. If ISIS fights against Uncle Sam, ISIS is facing actual U.S. warplanes, and, if they get their self-destructive wish, American “boots on the ground” in the form of physical, human soldiers.

      So Satan represents a real figure. That figure is the amalgamation of all of the evil spirits in hell. And the laws of the spiritual world make it possible for all of those evil spirits to act together as a single figure, and even appear as a single figure—as in the example of the demon who called himself “Legion,” “for we are many.”

      And yes, Isaiah 14 has been given a dual meaning in Christianity. But it is a dual meaning that has very little support in the literal meaning of the Bible—which is what most Christians rely on to derive their doctrine. FWIW, Swedenborg also interprets Isaiah 14 as being about spiritual powers of evil. He simply doesn’t come to the conclusion that it represents some actual, massive, powerful individual devil called Satan. That idea about Isaiah 14 has no particular support in the Bible.

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      You say, “Jesus did not have a sinful nature to be tempted by himself.” That is actually quite a slippery concept. Please withhold your judgment for a moment, but the Bible does not actually say that Jesus did not have a sinful nature. Rather, it says, he “in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” In other words, he did not sin. But that is not the same as not having a sinful nature.

      The Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that Jesus’ mother Mary was born without original sin. Besides the fact that original sin is a non-Biblical and false doctrine, the Immaculate Conception is also an entirely non-Biblical and false doctrine. It posits that because Mary had no original sin, therefore Jesus had no original sin, either. This is a fallacy piled on top of a fallacy.

      First of all, we are not born sinful, but evil in our tendencies and motives. We become sinful only when we actually sin—meaning actually do things that we know are wrong. But we still have a “sinful nature” in that our nature is to sin.

      In Jesus’ case, at birth he had a dual nature: a finite human one from his human mother Mary, and an infinite and perfect divine one from his Father, God. That dual nature, especially the finite human nature from Mary, is why he could be tempted at all. And though it is not technically a “sinful nature,” it is a nature that includes an evil heredity, and tendencies to sin.

      That faulty human nature from Mary was what made it possible for the Devil to tempt Jesus at all. And yet, unlike us, every time Jesus was tempted, he overcame the temptation, and did not actually sin. Through a lifetime of these victories in temptation, Jesus gradually put off all of the finite and faulty human nature that came from his mother, and replaced with the infinite divine nature that came from his Father, which was the divine soul within him. This is the process of “glorification” mentioned at various times in the Gospels.

      In fact, this was a prime reason that Jesus was born of a human mother at all. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, if it were true, would destroy the very reason that Jesus took on a human nature from a human being: so that he could face all of human evil on its own turf, and overcome it. The “sinful nature,” or evil heredity, from Mary, which was a part of him at birth, was precisely what he needed to do his work on earth.

      However, by the time of his resurrection, there was nothing left of that evil human heredity from Mary. He was no longer her son, because he had eliminated from his being everything that came from her, and replaced it with the divinity that came from the Father.

      On this point, Catholic dogma, and its echoes in Protestantism, is utterly false, and would destroy the very reason for the Incarnation.

  6. David Gray says:

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for the clarification. I can see better now how the “Satan” that tempted Jesus could have been a group of evil spirits acting as if they were a single agent. It just seems obvious to me that it must be an agent in that particular passage.

    I think evangelical theology agrees with most of what you said about sinful nature? When I say sinful nature, I mean “a tendency to sin and do wrong.” I agree that we are not guilty until we actually commit a sin. We reject the concept of inherited guilt (original sin), too, well as far as I know.


    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      I would be interested to hear what your pastors say about original sin.

      My understanding of Protestant doctrine is that it adopted the Catholic concept of original sin without necessarily using that term. In other words, Protestant doctrine holds that we are born guilty of sin due to the sin of Adam, and that we are therefore from birth subject to eternal death, which is the penalty of sin. The only way for this not to happen is to accept that Jesus died instead of us, thus paying the penalty for our sin.

      It’s not Biblical, but that’s my understanding of Protestant doctrine on the subject.

      If your pastors and your church reject that doctrine, I would be very interested to hear about it.

      • David Gray says:

        Hi Lee,

        That is interesting. From some quick research, it appears that evangelical theology does hold to that view of original sin. I will have to ask my pastor to see what he thinks. I have been following a more progressive evangelical apologist for a while, so I probably adopted my view from him. It makes more sense to me to inherit a sinful nature rather than guilt.

        Maybe I am a Swedenborgian at heart. Now I just have to win that girl back…. 😉


        • Lee says:

          Hi David,

          Haha! Be careful! Women are dangerous! They’ll get you to believe all sorts of crazy things! 😛

          But seriously, you do seem to be halfway between evangelical and Swedenborgian views. Do let me know what your pastor says.

  7. Brian says:

    Great article Lee!

    It’s always been interesting having discussions with other Christians, when they hear that I don’t necessarily believe in Satan or Lucifer as an actual single being. It’s common to hear things like, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to make the world think he doesn’t exist,” or “How can there be a God with out a Devil?” A cousin of mine who went to a very fundamentalist Christian academy was absolutely insistent that I believe in “The Devil” for fear of my eternal soul! I always felt that they were giving the idea of “Satan” a little too much power. Like you said, God rules over everything – including hell. Yes, we must be careful as evil is quite real and temps us if we let it. Evil may not have horns and sit on a throne, but if that images helps some people to avoid it then I guess that’s ok.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks. Yes, some people do seem to need to believe in a personal devil to keep themselves on the strait and narrow. But even in Swedenborg’s conception of the Devil, it is a very real being. It’s just that it is a corporate being (in the old, philosophical sense of the word) rather than an individual being.

  8. David Gray says:

    Hey Brian,

    I actually come from an evangelical background but I am in the process of questioning a lot my beliefs. Do you think you would believe that Satan is NOT an actual single being if Swedenborg had not said so? Believe him to be an actual single being seems to be the most natural way to interpret the passages that reference him, especially Luke 4. I would disagree, though, with your fundamentalist friend that such a belief is necessary for your salvation. In our culture it is common to see Satan as the enemy of God, which he is, but in our theology, he is just a really powerful evil spirit who God allows to exist for His purposes.


    • Brian says:

      Hi Dave,

      Those are some good points. I remember being about 4 or 5 years old at recess in day care and another kid might say, “Step on a crack and break the Devil’s back.” So I’d go to the nearest break in the walkway and stomp the concrete. Kinda silly huh? It would be hard to say what I might believe if I hadn’t later been instructed differently. I do remember being a bit relieved upon being taught that there was no singular “Satan.” Honestly, the idea that an opposite of God exists in such a potent capacity is downright terrifying. But maybe that’s ok for some people. I just feel that with a better understanding of what “The Devil” actually is, perhaps comes a better way of how to not fall prey to it. In this day and age, it certainly won’t be a cakewalk whether it’s a solitary antagonist or a collective of evil.

      Now I’m no authority, so I’ll gladly defer to Lee’s knowledge on any of these finer details going forward.

      So, we probably all have a few “devils” over the course of our lives that pull us in the wrong direction if we listen to them. That said, Jesus had a much tougher job while He was here. “The Devil” that temped him was not just one, but ALL of them. All the devils, from all of the hells, from the beginning. Jesus wrestled with this not just in the wilderness, but His entire life! He resisted temptation from all of hell, all the while spreading the Word and won!

      Now certainly God could allow a powerful evil spirit such as “Satan” to exist, for a purpose, but to what end? The story of the possessed man named “Legion” in the New Testament showed that devils could act as one if they wanted. Trying to visualize that story is almost unsettling, along other accounts of demonic possession that were not unheard of at the time. What Jesus did while He was here is actually much more amazing and triumphant than what most Christian faiths broadcast in their interpretations. He saved us by putting hell or “the Devil” back in it’s place so that you and I could actually have free will to choose what to believe, or to be good or selfish, or to have friendly discussions about Biblical interpretation on internet blogs…and that my friend is a wonderful thing!

  9. Kayla Lynn says:

    Thanks Lee!
    I really appreciate this post! I knew many of these truths before reading this, but there were some I hadn’t thought about, such as the idea of “the Devil” being all of evil put together. This was very interesting and came at a great time for me. Thank you so much! God bless!
    (P.S. I thought I lost the link to this blog until this post showed up in my email, and the article you mentioned above in the post is actually the article I first read when I found your blog. =D)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Kayla Lynn,

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and got a few new thoughts from it. And of course, I’m glad you found your way back here. It’s always good to know that an article hit the spot for the one whose question brought it on! 🙂

  10. Cat says:

    Lee, in your article you listed the five evils humans created:
    God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But we kill anyway.
    God says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” But we cheat on our spouses anyway.
    God says, “Thou shalt not steal.” But we steal anyway.
    God says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” But we lie about people and destroy their reputations anyway.
    God says, “Thou shalt not covet.” But we’re always getting jealous of other people, and wishing we had what they have.

    My question is, in the modern Christian world, all of these, except for one, have been made illegal. Why is “committing adultery” generally not made illegal in the Western world?

    I am a woman with two minor children, recently abandoned by a sex-addicted husband whom I’ve been with for 17 years. My ex developed the sex addiction in the last 5 years due primarily to the creation and convenience of the internet. I believe his addiction is fueled by the fact the society shys away on sex related sins both from social and legal perspectives. But the harm and damages this did to myself, and particularly our children, are real and immense. Why is sex sin so tolerated and how do we reconcile this reality with God’s teaching?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Cat,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and questions. I’m very sorry to hear about your ex-husband and his sex addiction.

      This sort of thing has been going on for a very long time. The Internet has only made it more accessible, which is putting many more men (and some women) to the test. Not knowing your situation or your ex’s history, I can’t comment on why he went the direction he did. But as you say, it causes great damage, especially when a man is married with children.

      To be fair, only a few of the things prohibited in the Ten Commandments are actually illegal in most Western and liberal societies today: killing (under most circumstances), stealing, and lying under certain circumstances. Coveting (desiring what others have) is not illegal, and in most liberal societies there are few laws left enforcing any of the strictures in the first part of the Ten Commandments relating to God, the Sabbath, and so on.

      On the other side of the coin, though there are no actual laws against adultery per se, adultery remains a valid cause for divorce in every society that I’m aware of. And various legal and social sanctions can be brought against those who break their marriage vows by committing adultery.

      As for the larger question of why sexual sin is tolerated, that is a huge question, and not one I can answer in a brief comment such as this. In general, liberal countries are loath to have government police people’s personal and sexual lives, but prefer to leave it up to individuals to make up their own minds about how they will deal with that area of their lives.

      Still, as I said, liberal governments do recognize that if a married person commits adultery, his or her spouse is fully justified in seeking a divorce, and that as part of the divorce seeking child support and alimony as appropriate. There is a general recognition that a man (or woman) cannot just abandon his (or her) responsibilities taken on when marrying someone and when becoming a parent.

      But all of that is likely a small comfort to you in your difficult and painful situation. Regardless of the laws particular countries may or may not have, sexual sin can and does cause great damage and destruction. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you deal with that damage and destruction in your own life and in the life of your children.

  11. Ike says:

    Hey, what do you suppose is the point of demonic possession and magicians? Magicians clearly do things that are impossible such as: telling someone to pick a random card from their deck and imagine the number, and then that number somehow appears written on a random object. Or making a large bowl of water appear from an empty newspaper. There’s lots of examples. Stuff like that is impossible and many magicians admit to (whether they know it or not) being helped by spirits to do their secret tricks. The thing is, in cases of possession and assistance from “demons” it’s assumed that there is a consequence for them in the afterlife.

    Where does this fit in with Swedenborg logic?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ike,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.

      To my knowledge, most magicians today specifically deny that their magic tricks are done through any supernatural forces—and those that do claim supernatural power are ostracized by their fellow magicians. “Magic” today is really sleight-of-hand, misdirection, and other purely non-magical tricks being used to fool the eye and mind of the audience. So popular magicians today really have nothing to do with demonic possession and the supernatural.

      About the general issue of contact with spirits from the perspective of Swedenborg’s theology, please see the article, “What about Spiritualism? Is it a Good Idea to Contact Spirits?

  12. Guenter Wagner says:

    Hi Lee,

    You said “But consider the possibility that this verse is speaking from a human perspective.”

    How would anyone come to think that it is not God speaking (Isaiah 45:7)?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Guenter,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.

      Yes, it is God speaking in the Bible. But God is speaking to human beings in the Bible. Therefore, so that human beings can understand what God is saying, God must speak from a human perspective, in words and concepts that human beings use and think in terms of.

      The Bible is not only a divine work. It is a relationship between God and humanity. It therefore has a divine message expressed in human terms. If that were not the case, no human being on earth could possibly understand it:

      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

      That is why God must speak to us from a human perspective in the Bible. Otherwise the Bible could not do its work of leading us to repentance from our sins, trust in God, and living a new life according to God’s commandments.

      • Guenter says:

        Hi, Lee,

        the catch is, I being human, do not believe that God creates evil. On the contrary! Should my neighbour insist that what God says is always true, I am a liar.

  13. Guenter says:

    Hi Lee,
    God speaks from a human perspective so we humans may understand and says:”..I make peace, and create evil”.
    I say, I do not believe you God, because you do not create evil but good. Another human being insists that what God says is always true and accuses me of falsifying the Word of God and calling me a liar.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Guenter,

      Yes, a lot of that sort of conflict about what the Bible means does go on.

      However, when it comes to the basics of what’s needed for salvation, the Bible is very clear. In some of the less critical teachings that are not necessary for salvation, it is more cloaked and subject to interpretation.

      Swedenborg offers the metaphor of the Bible as a clothed person whose face and hands are bare. Everything needed for salvation is plain to see, like the face and hands of the person. Everything else is more or less heavily clothed and requires some amount of interpretation.

      Whether or not God creates evil is not essential to how we can be saved. So that is one of the things that is “clothed” and requires interpretation.

      As long as we see the Bible’s plain teachings about what we need to believe and do in order to be saved, we can disagree and argue about the rest all we want.

  14. Guenter says:

    Hi Lee,
    but it is one of the basics for salvation to know that God is not the creator of evil. How could anyone confess his sins before God, turning away from them and do the work of repentance when it was God who created evil in the first place.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Guenter,

      The ancient Israelites were a fairly simple, largely uneducated people. Atheists delight in calling them “bronze age nomads.” They were driven, not by lofty ideals and a desire to serve and better humanity, but by basic issues of food, shelter, and brute force. So the basic message God had to get through their thick skulls was that he, God, controlled everything, and that they’d better obey him or else. That’s why the Old Testament, especially, talks so much about God’s wrath, and talks about God bringing evil and disaster on the people when they are disobedient. If those people didn’t believe that God had the power to strike them down and destroy them, they would consider him to be a weak God, and would pay no attention to him at all. And that is still true of many people today.

      So even the statements about God’s wrath and God creating evil are in the Bible in order to reach people who respond only to threats and brute force. In other words, even those statements are their to bring people to repentance and salvation.

      But at a deeper level, the reality of God’s nature is quite different. For more on this, please see these articles:

      • Guenter says:

        Hi Li,
        Thanks. You have a point there. However, today’s theologians, escpecially those who favour the concordant version of the Bible, would not accept a deeper understanding of the Scripture. Smart but stubborn people.

  15. fatefulfaith says:

    Hello again, I’m Kay Lynn (the asker). It all seems so surreal now to me.

    It may be hard to believe but this article brought me to the tipping point of my doubt in the Devil as a whole RIGHT before something very interesting happened that led me to believe that it was very real.

    The day I read this, I became certain that there wasn’t any personal enemy against me or other people. And I was happy (for a reason you will soon read) because I could finally forget about him and leave the subject alone. (I understand more of what you say here now than last year, and as I’m reading it again, I’m thinking about all the things I know now. I just got an email today, as people continue to comment on this article, so that’s why I’m here anyhow.)

    However, a week later, I was faced with a challenge to affirm my belief in God and help bring someone back to Him, or deny Him and lose my opportunity. Now, obviously, I didn’t know that denying Him would lead to me not being able to help the guy (how we got on the topic was weird. I hadn’t met him before, when I did I felt like I was supposed to meet him, and then a silly mess up about my favorite band lead to a conversation about God). He told me as we were coming home from a school event that he wasn’t sure if God was real, and instead of admitting that I did believe, I affirmed my doubts and just said “I don’t know either.” It makes me so mad that I was worried he’d tell my parents or something (yes, I was worried about that because my parents didn’t know my beliefs at the time, and I was always afraid of opening up about it). It was the dumbest thought and I knew it, but I gave in to the temptation of avoiding. . .an illogical situation.

    And then he started letting me in on some secrets in his life. Things got dark real fast. I mean, he was opening up about things you DON’T tell people 30 minutes after meeting them. I could suddenly feel the presence of the Devil in his life. I knew it, I really did! It was crazy to think that last week I could no longer believe and now I was experiencing it for myself. I didn’t know what to think about it all, I wasn’t sure to be honest.

    But I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t tell him how I felt, and I couldn’t reconcile him with God. I put myself in a terrible hole.

    However, I hadn’t realized this, and when I got home I prayed about it. I thought about it over and over again. How was I going to help him? How was it gonna happen?

    It took me awhile to realize I’d missed my opportunity.

    Now, a side story:
    I started seeking God when I was around 11 years old. This was a strange time for me, because I come from a non religious family.
    When I was in my tweens/early teens, I gained this fascination with the Devil. I don’t know why, but it was a bad bad bad thing, because I constantly wanted to find proof of his existence (and I became really desperate to find something real in him, when he never had any truth in him in the first place). I basically put God on the back burner, and it’s a haze from there. It got to a point so irrational and uncontrollable that I became disillusioned. I became depressed as I looked upon all the bad and evil in the world, and as my mind betrayed me. I could no longer trust myself because I’d had history with audible hallucinations. I felt hopeless and detached from reality, and I was beginning to decide that I couldn’t live in my mind that tricked me and fooled me. I couldn’t believe in God, spirits, or anything the like because I assumed it was bad for me. But I at one point, seeing how I was going to hurt myself, decided to go to God. There was a reason, but that’s a different story.

    Now, back to last year. I was pacing around my room for hours, though I had school in the morning. I just didn’t want to go all the sudden. I was too entranced in my thoughts to want to do anything. Anxiety and obsessive tendencies came back, and I dreaded it. I slowly stopped thinking about him, but for whatever reason, my drive to do anything had vanished. I don’t know why, but I ended up not going to school for a week. I just didn’t want to. . .at all, yet I had been one of those “I go everyday unless I’m sick” people for as long as I can remember. I lost all drive. I only wanted to live in my head, and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought I’d escaped from this life, from this pattern. It didn’t even effect me in this way when I lived with the OCD like symptoms back in my childhood (I’d had this problem all my life, my fascination with Satan was just the only negative one I’d ever had).

    I had continual attendance problems. I felt like a dead weight. I had to FIGHT myself just to get up and get moving, because the voices in my head just kept telling me to stay. I’d miss one or two days a week after this point. It was so bad, and there was no explanation as to why it was suddenly happening. I don’t know why I let that voice control me to the point where I didn’t want to fight. This had NEVER happened before. My mom would lie for me, because I had missed so many days that I should have been kicked out. I was so ashamed about it all. There was a time where one of my teachers started talking about parents who make excuse notes for kids that aren’t really sick. She was standing right next to me when she said it, and I wanted to run, because every ounce in my body screamed about how guilty I was.

    Then there was one night where I fell to my knees and I gave my entire life to God. I couldn’t make any more decisions. No, I just wanted Him to make them for me. It was a little selfish, and I soon found that things were not going to just get better right away, but at least I’d finally given in to His plans.

    After that, I’d been told that I was either to drop out or go everyday, and I remember hearing voices, loud and clear in my thoughts encouraging me to drop out. I didn’t believe for a second that it was my own thought voice. “This is what you wanted! Now is your chance!” Yet it wasn’t, I just wanted to know what was wrong with me, and this entire time I’d been fighting myself and fighting and fighting and fighting, that when I even thought for a second that was under spiritual attack, it wasn’t possible. No, it’s all me. I can fix my problems. It wasn’t until I told a friend about everything that had happened that I’d considered it and then I gave in to God not long after.

    A few days later, something within me clicked, and I did, finally, for real, understand who I was (a sinner) and what Christ had done. I can remember it as clear as day now.

    It was so clear, and ever since then, I’ve been following God with the deepest passion.

    I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter whether Satan exists (although I do believe he does) because we’re at fault when we sin and betray God. It always ends up being how you respond to life. I trust the Lord in everything now. He delivered me from my past, from my depression, and from the enemy, and now I devote myself to His cause.

    Thank you for writing this article, Lee. I truly appreciate it, because it is the start of what led to my devotion to God.


    (Sorry for the long comment.)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Kay Lynn,

      Good to hear from you again! Thanks for telling your story over the past year. I’m glad this article had a real impact for you. Keep in mind that we often learn more from our mistakes than from when we do things right. We’re going to make mistakes—and some of them will be real doozies! But if we learn our lessons from them and move forward resolving not to make that mistake again, it’s all good.

      If you haven’t seen it already, you might enjoy this article: Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth.

      Feel free to stop by any time!

  16. Cameron says:

    I’ve heard (as you mentioned) that these spirits from Hell can influence our thoughts. I also heard from offTheLeftEye that angels can do the same. In terms of free will, I understand that most of us have the choice to listen to and act upon these thoughts.

    At the same time, there seems to be a contradiction. I thought humans acted on their own accord on behalf of the Lord (or sometimes Hell). People with mental illness often times cannot push these thoughts away, and need medication to “kill the voices”. Very few people want to have these negative influences, but end up being pushed to act on them in extreme cases, even if they really don’t want to.

    Doesn’t this point to the possible notion that such influences don’t exist? How could someone pushed to the extreme mentioned above truly be acting on their own accord?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Cameron,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. It’s a very good question.

      The basic answer is that as Swedenborg describes it, our spiritual freedom is not a matter of simply wandering free. Rather, it is more like a giant tug of war with influences from heaven on one side and influences of hell on the other side, and we’re standing in the middle. Whichever way we pull, that’s the way the tug-of-war will go, not because we’re stronger than either side, but because God keeps the forces acting on us from heaven and from hell in equal balance so that the direction we pull is what makes the difference.

      This can give us the illusion that spiritually we’re just wandering free in a field full of daisies. But that’s not the reality of the situation. In fact, there are massive forces working on us, and if the Lord weren’t keeping them in very fine balance for us with infinite divine power and wisdom, we would have no freedom at all, and would instantly succumb to whatever force acting on us was stronger.

      We get some sense of these forces acting upon us when we have pitched battles within our own mind about whether to succumb to our addictions and our lower desires or whether to rise above them and do what we know is better for us and for our life and health. And we sense them especially when we’re struggling to keep slogging on toward the good in life instead of just cursing the world and giving in to anger, fear, bitterness, and defeat.

      In mental illness, the veil that usually separates us from the spiritual forces operating on us becomes damaged, and sometimes torn aside almost entirely, so that those forces are working nakedly on our mind. This is the source of the phobias, hallucinations, elation, mania, and abject depression that run through the psyche of people with unchecked mental illness. Psychoactive medications “kill the voices” by damping down the functions of the brain that are leaving the person open to these influences against their conscious will and desire.

      That’s a huge and controversial subject, which I can’t really do justice to here. The important thing to know is that when it comes to our eternal, spiritual life, nothing that is imposed upon us from outside, against our will, counts against us. People who are mentally ill may be stuck in a very dark place at times, and they may say and do some very destructive and evil things. But if they have not freely chosen such a life, but were pushed and even forced into it by inner forces beyond their control, they will not be held spiritually accountable for it. In the afterlife, their mental illness will be taken away. What’s left will be whatever character they built and whatever choices they made when they actually were in a state of freedom.

      I would add to this that except in very severe cases, having a mental illness does not completely erase a person’s freedom and rationality. It just dents and distorts it, and makes things more difficult. Mentally ill people are still people, they still do make choices, and not all of those choices flow from their mental illness. Even whether or not to take medication is a choice. So it’s not right to think that because someone has a mental illness, this means that person has no humanity and no freedom and no rationality at all. We all have our struggles in life. And many people with mental illnesses live good and productive lives even while struggling with those inner demons, with or without the help of medication.

      For a great movie on this theme, see A Beautiful Mind, which is based on the life of Nobel laureate John Nash. I was going to post the official trailer here, but it doesn’t convey what the movie is actually about. It makes it look like a standard American “hero in love” story, which it is not. Apparently the producers thought that the real, mental illness theme of the film would not bring American audiences flocking with a fistful of dollars. But it is a great movie precisely because it does not follow the standard American action movie template, but instead deals with a very real issue based on the life of a real human being.

      • Cameron says:

        I think you gave good explanations to my questions. I would like to clarify that I understand the majority of people who suffer from mental illness are rational, I was speaking more in regards to cases such as moderate to severe cases of schizophrenia and the like, which you addressed in your answer. I, myself, suffer from anxiety, so I know that those afflicted can still lead normal lives.

        I am curious as to what your personal opinion is regarding the controversial subject of spiritual influence and medication which you described. On a spiritual level, this seems to make sense. Many people report feelings of disconnection and not being fully themselves while taking medication. On the other hand, science tells us that the symptoms they experience are a result of chemical imbalances and improper nerve firings.

        • Kayla Lynn says:

          Hey, Cameron.

          I’m not the main author here, but I have a small testimony to share about this topic. I’ve have symptoms of OCD and depression for years, and one of the things my mom (who does not believe in the Devil or follow any religon) has said for years is that it’s all about perspective and how you respond to your problems. I don’t know if that’s true, but having taken no medication and dealt with suicidal thoughts and actions, I can say it must be true to some extent, and I think that gives the sense that influence has a lot to do with how mental illness affects a person. I do believe in mental illnesses, and I “have chemical imbalances” according to my parents, but I’m not sure where such issues originate from entirely. We know we humans have a bad habits of making bad habits, so I’m sure there’s quite a bit of external reasons involved at times. Though I can’t speak for everyone.

          Hope it was enlightening in some way.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Cameron,

          I’m reviewing an old two-part sermon of mine on mental illness that I may revise and post on the blog. I’ll probably make some significant changes reflecting further contemplation of and experience with these issues since I first wrote and delivered that sermon fifteen years ago.

          For now, a brief answer:

          Pragmatically, many people need to be on medication so that they can function reasonably well in society. However, it does have its downsides, one of which is that it commonly dulls the mind somewhat. This is why John Nash, whose life is portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind, ultimately decided to face his mental illness without the use of drugs. His life work depended upon having a sharp mind. He chose to face and battle the inner demons rather than have his mind dulled by the meds.

          However, facing mental illness without drugs is a more difficult and risky path, and it’s not for everyone. Many people think they can handle their mental illness without drugs, and they just stop taking them, often with disastrous consequences. You can’t just stop taking the drugs and expect to get better. You have to be prepared for a hard fight, have a clear strategy, and have a support system in place. Most people who struggle with moderate to severe depression or mental illness simply don’t have the necessary structure, support, and force of will to go off their meds. And it’s better to take the meds and live a reasonably productive life than to go off the meds and go off the rails.

  17. Magnolia says:

    I have witnessed more than once a person becoming obsessed by an evil entity. This person can then do things he would never normally do and would later want to forget about the incident and be ashamed of it. In such a state this person even looks as if he is someone else. On such occasions it seemed reasonable to explain the obsession with an attack from the world of evil spirits, or the devil. I have grown to believe the devil is a very clever person expert at causing pain and literally enjoying hurting others.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Magnolia,

      Something many people don’t grasp is that for those willfully engaged in evil, it is an enjoyable activity. Though hell is presented in the Bible metaphorically as a place of eternal punishment, the actual experience of it on the part of those who go there is of gaining great pleasure through carrying out their evil schemes, and then feeling the inevitable backlash of humiliation and pain wreaked upon them by their fellow evil spirits, which is the “punishment” part of hell.

      Swedenborg’s great insight on hell was that hell is not a place God sends the evil to involuntarily as a punishment for their evil deeds on earth, but rather a place that people who enjoy evil go to voluntarily so that they can engage in their particular forms of twisted pleasure, regardless of the reality that it always carries pain with it as well. For more on this, please see:
      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

  18. Jubunu walter says:

    You tried very well in that explanations, but devil is a real person an angel that turn against God , a rebel read Job 1

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jubunu walter,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. However:

      1. As explained in the above article, the Hebrew word satan simply means “an adversary.” The author of Job was not talking about some supreme Devil, nor was he talking about some fallen angel. The figure named satan in Job isn’t even necessarily an evil being; just a being who advocated putting Job to the test. For example, a prosecuting attorney is a satan or adversary to the defendant. The prosecutor’s job is to accuse the defendant and to establish the defendant’s guilt. That doesn’t mean the prosecutor is an evil person.
      2. The book of Job was never meant to be read as a literal story of actual people and events. It is a literary work dealing with the difficult subject of the existence of evil in the face of God’s goodness. The figures in it are characters in a morality play, not historical figures who lived on earth and in heaven.

      The Bible never says that everything in it must be taken literally. That is a materialistic and physical-minded view of the Bible. The Bible encourages us to pay attention to the spiritual meaning of its words, and not to get caught up in their literal meaning. Jesus said:

      It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

      And Paul said:

      Our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5–6)

      Unfortunately, present-day Christianity has ignored the teachings of Jesus and Paul. It has focused on the letter that kills instead of on the spirit that gives life.

  19. Mira says:

    i thought that 2 corinthians 3 vs 5-6 meant that Jesus has given us a new covenant with God that was different from the Jewish one. And so the law before killed but the Spirit of God with us now that helps us to live godly gives life.
    i don’t know if you fully understand what im saying, though.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Mira,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I presume you are responding to my quotation of 2 Corinthians 3:5–6 in my comment just above.

      Yes, as Paul says in these verses, Christianity in its true form is a new covenant with God that is different from the Jewish one. The Jewish covenant was focused almost entirely on people following the literal law of Moses in their outward behavior. It was a primarily external, behavioral covenant. The Christian covenant was set up as a covenant of “faith,” meaning a covenant of internally understanding and believing in the ways of God, so that we will then follow them in our words and actions.

      In both cases, we must follow the laws of God. But for ancient Jews, that meant following a strict code of behavior, whether or not they understood why they should behave in that way. It was enforced by rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. The most important thing was that people behave in the right way, and engage in the correct rituals of worship. Their inner motives for doing so are not a major part of the Old Testament.

      Christianity in its true form is a very different religion. It is based not on mere outward observance of strict behavioral laws, but rather on an internal acceptance of spiritual truth, which we then live according to in our lives. True Christians do not live out of blind obedience to laws they don’t understand, but out of understanding and acceptance of deeper truths about why and how we are to live a good life. The two best examples are the Great Commandments given by Jesus: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we have “faith,” it means that we see and accept within ourselves that the teachings of the Lord are true, good, and right, and commit ourselves to living according to them.

      Notice that Jesus and Paul did not say that the Law kills, but that the flesh and the letter kill. It is not true that the Law of Moses was impossible to live by (the Bible never says this), nor is it true that it caused people to sin (that is not what Paul meant). Rather, the Law brought about the awareness of sin. When there are no laws, there is no basis on which to consider ourselves sinners. The law makes us aware that many of our desires and actions are wrong.

      Unfortunately, the people of the ancient Jewish covenant ultimately did not obey the Law. It’s not that they couldn’t obey the law. The Bible never says that. God does not give us commandments that are impossible to keep. Rather, it is that the ancient Israelites simply didn’t live according to the Law of Moses. If you read the relevant Bible passages carefully, you will see that they never say that the people of Israel couldn’t live according to the Law, but that they didn’t live according to the Law. There’s a big difference!

      In the end, a literal, outward, behavioral code of conduct turned out not to be enough to guide and inspire people to become good people and live a good life. That is why God came to earth personally as Jesus Christ, and gave us a new covenant, not of the letter (literal obedience to behavioral laws), but of the spirit (inner understanding and acceptance of the truth and ways of God, and a commitment to live according to them).

      Unfortunately, Christianity quickly abandoned the new covenant that Jesus made with us, and reverted back to a ancient Jewish-style religion of obedience to strict behavioral laws and following human religious authorities instead of having a direct relationship with the Lord. On this, please see:

      Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

      Just to be clear, it’s not that Christians do not have to live according to any laws. In particular, Jesus made it very clear that we must continue to follow the Ten Commandments. Rather, it’s that instead of blindly obeying God’s laws out of fear of punishment and hope of reward, a true Christian will live according to God’s laws out of an inner understanding of and commitment to them. That is the true meaning of “faith” in the Bible.

      • Mira says:

        Wow. Just wow. Thqnl you, that is the best explanation I have ever heard of this verse. I guess this Swedenborg man really was in tune with God. So are you Mr Lee. Keep up the God work and be blessed.

  20. I thought there was only one Devil and multiple demons.
    Why did Satan tempt Jesus? Because he wanted Jesus to sin so that he couldn’t be our sacrifice. He wanted to thwart God’s plan for salvation, so that we couldn’t be saved, so that we would all be in hell. Isn’t that right?
    Satan doesn’t have a pitchfork, tail, or horns. It’s not like in cartoons. He appears as an angel of light.

    • Lee says:

      Hi WorldQuestioner,

      It has traditionally been believed that there is one Devil and multiple demons. But this is based on a low-level and literalistic reading of the Bible, plus a lot of tradition that doesn’t come from the Bible at all.

      Satan tempted Jesus because Satan (meaning hell) hates good, hates God, and wants to destroy them both. And yes, because the evil spirits in hell, who are collectively known as the Devil and Satan, want to drag everyone down to hell where they are. And Jesus was getting in their way.

  21. Ray says:

    So what about the story of Adam and Eve in the bible, and the serpent?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ray,

      The stories in the first few chapters of Genesis are purely symbolic. There was not a literal serpent, nor were there literal individuals named Adam and Eve. These are all symbolic of events in the early spiritual history of humankind. Here are a couple of articles that delve into the symbolism of Genesis 3:

      Short version:

      The serpent represents our engagement with our physical senses, and in a negative sense, giving more weight to the information and pleasures of our physical senses than to the inner presence of God’s love and wisdom in our heart and mind. That is the “Satan” that led the early humans represented by Adam and Eve astray, and it is the same “Satan” that easily leads us astray today. See also:

      Is there Really a Devil? Why??

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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