Is Satan A Metaphor For Sin Or Is He An Actual Being?

Hi everyone,

I have always been taught that Satan is an actual (supernatural) being, along with demons, who are all fallen angels. However, I have just been introduced to the thought that he may be a metaphor for sin. I know the Bible contains a lot of metaphors, but it also contains actual historical facts. I’m now a bit disturbed by the thought that I may be reading a lot of things in the Bible that aren’t to be taken literally. What are your thoughts on Satan?


@OJMCKEE Great question :slight_smile: Whether or not we read something metaphorically depends on the type of literature we are reading. Revelation, as apocalyptic literature, has a great deal of metaphor and many references to the OT.

However, regarding the existence of a supernatural adversary, we see clear references in the NT to such a being that are clearly not metaphorical. Jesus’ testing in the wilderness for example and this reference from Peter. It is clear that the authors intended these stories to be taken to refer to a literal being.

1 Peter 5:8 - Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 John 4:4 - You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Our goal when reading Scripture is to understand authorial intent - what was God saying through the author to us. And it is clear the authors of Scripture believed and taught a supernatural adversary.


That’s something I greatly agree with @SeanO.

One passage I would add that I think demonstrates pretty clearly Satan is in fact a real being is when Jesus was lead into the desert and Satan tempted Him. The way I see it, Satan could have very well brought Jesus differnt places through the spiritual world, but Satan was clearly shown to be directly saying things to Jesus to the point they had a real dialog. Very similar to Job in this way only even more revealed to Jesus what was happening where it was hidden from Job. Take chapter 4:12-21 which demonstrates the kind of Spiritual warefar it really was for Job in that Eliphaz was coming from a place of authority due to him feeling he had special revelation from God concerning Job. And it just confirmed to Eliphaz that Job was in error based on what Job said in chapter 6. That’s some hardcore spiritual warefare given that Job was actually telling the truth. Put yourself in that position of Job to get a clear picture of what it was like for him to have his friends pretty much condemn him when he did nothing wrong. Pretty heavy. And it was even more so for Jesus.


Not only is your immediate question a good one, but the underlying question - how literally should you take the Bible - is an excellent question to.

I would suggest that the most natural approach to the Bible would be to assume that it’s speaking literally unless something in the context itself indicates otherwise. Obviously, if you’re reading poetry, as in the Psalms or the Song of Songs, you expect to see poetic metaphors and figures of speech. If you’re reading about someone’s vision or dream, then you expect to find symbolism. If someone is telling a parable, then you know the story is illustrating some larger point.

But in general, assuming that the bulk of the Bible is meant to be taken as written will keep you well grounded. When people begin reading “deeper” interpretations into the Bible, there’s no end to the fanciful views they can come up with. It was said of one such commentator that he found things in the Bible that even God didn’t know about!

Nobody needs to make the Bible “deep” - it’s already the Word of God on its plain surface. But the more you familiarize yourself with all of its contents by faithfully reading it through the years, the more you begin to see how to “put the puzzle together” - how some story in the OT illustrates a point in the New - patterns begin to emerge that seem to harmonize previously disparate ideas - views you’ve long held become reinforced or deconstructed as the big picture begins to fill in - and the Spirit will light up your mind with “Aha!” moments as you discover some nugget that makes things previously so difficult suddenly obvious.

God hides His word from the “wise and prudent”, but reveals it to those who approach His word with the wonder and faith of a little child.

I hope these thoughts will help you as you continue in His word.


I agree with many of the other comments. When Satan is referred to in historical narrative, it is literal, and therefore you can interpret the devil as being real. I also think he is supernatural, so can take on many forms, including human form by way of intercepting thought and thus speech. Hence Jesus at one point sees the devil working through Simon Peter (Matt 16:23, Mark 8:33) and rebukes him.


Hi Ms. Olivia,

I remember a time, before I came to know my Lord, or anything of scripture, when I bounced around ideas. I was 11 and a foster kid, so lived with many families with many ideas. I did not meet the scripture and find the truth until I was 14.

Satan is clearly indroduced in many scriptures in Ezekial descibing in detail His rebellion and expulsion . Ezekiel 28:13-14 places the beautiful creature in the Garden, at the time of our fall. He tempted our Lord three times. Satan is never refered to in the scripture as a metaphor or analogy. When in doubt, scripture interprets scripture. So follow the scripture and it will clarify everything for you.

But really. If Satan is only in your head? Isn’t that the worst possible place for him to be?