Friday, March 22, 2013

What does Satan Look Like?

Recently a few believed that a recent episode of 'The Bible' on the History Channel portrayed Satan, the
tempter of Jesus in the wilderness, as looking quite a bit like President Barak Obama.I suppose if you do not like the President, you may very well think he is the devil. But is this what the devil really looks like?

When I was a child I remember Mom buying a devil costume for me one Halloween. It was the traditional red with horns, tail and pitchfork. Mom said it fit me well. And this was basically what I thought Satan did look like when I was growing up. But a funny think happened on the way to growing up. On a family trip through the Great Smokey Mountains, we spent a day in Gatlinburg, TN. There we visited Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum and another attraction called Christus Gardens. It was a diorama of the life of Christ. So one would enter and see these scenes of Christ's life from birth to the Great Commission. But one scene struck me in such a way that caused me to think about Satan in a different way. It was a scene of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Satan was not red with a tail. He was an attractive man in a suit. The narrator explained that in order for Satan to tempt us, he cannot appear offensive. There must be something attractive about him that makes us want to listen. And usually what he has to offer is attractive!

So what does Satan look like? There is only one description of what the devil looks like. It is in The Book of Revelation that we have Satan described as a serpent and a dragon. He has seven heads and ten horns and on his heads seven diadems. (Rev. 12) There is nothing attractive about him. Between Genesis and
Revelation we are warned not to be led into temptation. And it is Satan's attractive temptations that we must be careful about.

St. Paul warns us in his First Letter to Timothy: Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, (1 Tim. 4:1-2) In Paul's day as is true today, many preach another gospel. Most of them are on TV. They package their message that appeals to the unconverted soul. As Paul again writes: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim. 4:3-4) The biggest myth today is the prosperity gospel. It is no gospel but another system of works. We cannot work our way into heaven. Neither can we manipulate Almighty God. This false teaching is attractive to those who desire to be like God (little god's), who want to influence their world (name it and claim it) and just want more in their life (health & wealth). It is all about the self and selfish desires. This is opposite of the true gospel that saves us from our self and selfish desires. But who wants to hear that message? But that is the point! The true gospel is offensive. It does not fill stadiums with people who are willing to give money with the thought they will get something in return. Or if they fulfill every jot and tittle of the Law they will blessed. Scripture reminds us that if we are guilty in just one part of the law we are guilty from breaking the whole law. (James. 2:10) In fact it is The Law that reminds us just how bad we are. (Rom. 3:20) There is no hope for us especially when we die. At death there is judgment. No matter how hard we work, hell is waiting for the lawless. (Mt. 7:21-23) And so people who are tempted towards the attractiveness of the prosperity gospel will fall into the devil's hand.

Satan will not tempt us with the horrors of this life. But he will be appealing, attractive to the eyes. In fact it will be in the church that he will sow his seeds. (Mt. 13:25) After all, when Eve was tempted to disobey God who gave her life and paradise, it was in the garden. She looked at the forbidden fruit and when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:6) We cannot see Satan, but we can discern his temptations. (Heb. 5:14)
Temptation of Eve by Michelangelo