By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Every year, on October 31, we have some sort of notion of what we think the devil looks like. After all, children and adults dress up in bright red costumes completed with a speared tail and a pitchfork prop.
But does the devil actually look this ridiculous?
And if he decided to wear red felt all the time, how could anyone ever take him seriously as the deceiver of the world?
In this article, we’ll dive into who the devil is, what Scripture has to say about him, and some misconceptions about his physical appearance we’ve witnessed throughout history (in particular, during the Middle Ages).
We’ll finish the discussion about whether we, as Christians, should fear the Father of Lies, or if we can have confidence in our personal relationship with the Lord.
Who Is the Devil?
One of the first characters we encounter in Scripture, and in Sunday school lessons, is the devil. We first meet him in Genesis 3 in the form of a serpent, but his story takes place long before then (more on this in a moment).
First, before we identify him, we have to settle the question: is he real? If so, how do we know?
In fact 40 percent of Christians believe the devil is a symbol and not a real being, explains Eddie Lowen of West Side Christian Church.
After all, if he doesn’t exist in the first place, apart from what Scripture says, why do we need to know anything about him at all?
We know that he does exist. Dr. Hal Cauthron explains that the existence of evil itself points to an originator or perpetrator of evil. We can also point to instances where people have been possessed by demons, servants of the devil. People will brush this off or claim the person has a mental illness, but we have to analyze what Scripture says about Satan.
If people do not believe in the existence of the devil, and ignore empirical evidence (demon possession, demonic oppression, etc.), then Satan can happily do as he pleases.
As someone who has personally witnessed a demonic possession on three separate occasions, I admit with the trembling a fellow Christian and I experienced as we prayed the evil spirit out of her. After the response of the spirit to the name of Jesus (they hate the name Jesus, by the way), the attempts of the spirit to dissuade our prayers and our recitations of Scripture, and the purging of the spirit out of our friend— if after all of that I walked away from that moment with a belief the devil does not exist, I would be foolish at best and entering dangerous territory at worst.
I cannot deny the trembling I felt. I had a fellow Christian witness this alongside me, who can back up the claims, and everything I’d read about Satan and his demons rang true during this event.
So if the devil exists, what can and does he do, aside from possessing people or sending demons to possess people?
We know he deceives. He attempts to deter anyone away from the path of righteousness and away from true knowledge and relationship with God. He ultimately knows he will suffer in a fiery fate at the end of time, and wants to drag as many people with him as possible.
But let’s dive into what Scripture explicitly says about the devil, also known as satan.
Where Does the Bible Talk about the Devil and Satan?
Scripture has a multitude of passages and verses about the devil. We’ll highlight a select few from the Old and New Testament.
1 Peter 5:8 - “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Satan, the name for the devil, actively tries to destroy us. He prowls. He stalks. If given the opportunity, he would take every single one of us down, no questions.
2 Corinthians 11:14 - “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
The devil disguises himself. He wants to appear as a good thing, a half-truth, something to appease our temptations. That way, we trust him, and make ourselves vulnerable to him.
Isaiah 14:12-15 - “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”
This Isaiah passage discusses Satan’s fall from heaven. Satan used to be an angel in heaven, but pride consumed him. He wanted the worship the Lord received, and convinced one-third of the angels to follow him and be cast out of heaven.
Revelation 19:20 - “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.”
As stated in this passage, the devil will meet a fiery end. He knows this. He fears this. And he will do anything in his power to prevent this.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Cas Photography
What Does the Devil Look Like?
Now that we know a little about the devil, do we know what he looks like? Does he resemble the Halloween costumes we see, or something else entirely?
Scripture paints several different pictures of satan. In the garden, he takes on the form of a serpent. The Bible also says he disguises himself as an angel of light, something we would imagine to look pleasing to the eye.
When Satan tempts Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4, like other angels, he can take on the form of a man.
With all of these images in mind, we can surmise that Satan can shift to suit a form that will appeal most to one’s temptations, or won’t necessarily send alarm bells off in one’s head. If he appears as an angel of light, and stalks like a lion, he will disguise himself.
Most of us, if not all of us, may not have encountered his true form – if he has a true form. Because he’s a deceiver, he will take on different appearances.
What Are Some Misconceptions about Satan's Appearance?
No doubt, it seems silly that he would ever parade with a pitchfork or red horns, as that would immediately alert everyone in the vicinity to the fact that, “Hey, I’m the devil. You probably shouldn’t listen to anything I say.”
But where did this misconception even come from?
We can point to a number of medieval texts that perpetuate the evil-looking image of the devil. The Codex Gigas, one of the most famous of these, shows the devil with red horns, a green face, red talons, sharp teeth, and two tongues. Myth surrounding this book included the idea that the monk who copied this translation made a deal with the devil in exchange for the supernatural ability to finish the project in an extraordinary amount of time. In exchange, the devil supposedly enshrined his image in this document.
We can see multiple depictions throughout history, especially in the Middle Ages (most images on this article are not disturbing, but read at your own discretion), that often depict him as grotesque, scary, or disturbing. When looking at these, we can forget that Satan most likely beautifies himself.
He wants to appear as something good and pleasant. That way, he can deceive us all the more.
Should Christians Worry about the Devil?
The idea that Satan and his armies roam the earth and lay siege to souls can frighten Christians. But we do need to bear in mind that if we have the Holy Spirit residing inside of us, that Satan and his demons cannot possess us.
Because the Holy Spirit lives within us, we have incredible power to cast out demons and resist temptation, whilst relying on the Lord.
We should “worry” about him in the sense that if we deny or downplay his existence, then we run the risk of allowing him to do as he pleases within the world. But we know ahead of time of how he will meet his end, and his reign on earth will be cut short.
So no, Satan does not carry around a pitch fork or have red horns (at least, in most instances, we won’t find this to be the case). He likes to operate undercover. The devil disguises himself as an angel of light and will attempt to devour any and all people before he meets his fate during the End Days.
As Christians, we possess incredible power because the Holy Spirit lives within us. Although we do not need to fear the devil or his demons, we do need to know how they operate in the world.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Fotovika
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her at her website.