The Bible is full of references to the devil (also called Satan, Beelzebul, the enemy, the evil one, etc). It would be fair to say that the existence of this being is central to the Christian faith. We learn from the gospels that Jesus, when carrying out His ministry and His miracles, was often casting out demons and rebuking the devil.
But who or what exactly is the devil? There are plenty of scriptures that mention the devil in many different contexts. In one scripture he is referred to as a “great dragon” and an “ancient serpent” (Revelation 12:9). Elsewhere he is described as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:32). In another scripture the devil is described as the “son of Dawn” who has “fallen from heaven” (Isaiah 14:12).
The impression that one gets when reading the scriptures that mention the devil is that he is in opposition to God, and does not serve God. Instead, he is the lord of temptation and betrayal. He tempts Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-2), and betrays Jesus through the actions of Judas Iscariot (John 13:2). Many Christians argue that while God is perfectly good, the devil is responsible for all evil in the world.
But let us consider whether it is really possible for any being to exist in opposition to God. I believe that God created this universe and everything in it. Theologians will tell you about attributes of God such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. In other words, God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere. If this is true, it means that everything that happens, and everything that has ever happened, is and always has been under the direct control of God.
In this context, is a rebellion against God by the devil really possible? If God is omnipresent, that means that nothing else exists apart from God. The whole of existence is part of God, and God is in control of everything. One would have to conclude that either the devil doesn’t exist, or he exists but is under God’s control. But why would a benevolent God create and control a being whose purpose is death, destruction, and torment?
Some Christians might respond that the devil fell from grace and acts of his own free will, as do his earthly followers. But this argument fails. It fails because, as we have said, omnipresence is part of God’s nature. If this is true, there can be no free will. All of existence is created and sustained by God. He is all-powerful and in control of everything that happens.
I believe, therefore, that it is wise to see sin and shame and death and destruction as under the direct control of God. After all, isn’t that why we pray to Him? Isn’t that why we reach out to Him? Don’t we know, deep in our hearts, that God has all power, is in control, and is the solution to every problem?
Perhaps God has created an evil spiritual being, a devil, in opposition to Himself as part of the game of life. Perhaps the devil is part of a grand scheme that God is unfolding in order to express different facets of His power and His nature. But if this is the case, I would still have to conclude that the devil doesn’t really exist as a free, independent being, because he is a part of God and is under God’s control.