His eyes glow. He comes in dreams and sits on your heart to crush the life out of you. He has the most evil grin. He is red, has a tail, and carries a pitchfork. These are various people’s depictions of Satan. People ask if their dreams of terror were sent by the devil to intimidate Christians. They wonder if people may be Satan or his agents because of an evil look or a conversation that kept the person from reading about Jesus. All of these things belie a misunderstanding of the truth about Satan.
It must be understood that the devil has power. It must be understood that the devil wants as many souls to follow him as possible. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Pet 5:8) Nevertheless, Satan would not appear like those things described above.
It must be also understood that the devil’s power is limited. “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him.” (Rev 20:2) Because he has been bound by the crucifixion of Jesus, the shedding of blood for sin, his power is limited. We are his masters, and he has to obey. If he comes to tempt us to sin, all we have to do is tell him to leave and he has to do so. "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (Jas 4:7)
Keeping those two points in mind, the devil would certainly not be seen as some portray him. Face the facts. If you could recognize the devil for who he is, would you follow him? If he had red tail and carried a pitchfork, wouldn’t you know him and refuse to believe his lies? If he came to you in a dream and tried to smother you, would that induce you to follow him or to fight him? I’m sure he would love for people to think that he appears in these ways, because then they will be off their guard when he does come before them. The evil or strange looking persona just works in his favor, because that is not how he really appears.
“Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) The greatest of all baseball musicals, DamnYankees, came close to the truth. Satan looked like a player’s agent. (Of course, some owners might believe that Scott Boras is the devil personified during negotiations over multimillion dollar contracts.) Some Hollywood movies of the Fifties thought it might be interesting if the devil were portrayed as a businessman in a three-piece suit. Little did they know how accurate they probably were! Satan is going to come to us in a guise that is pleasing and reassuring. He wants us to trust him, or at least not to reject him outright. After all, he wants us to do what he wants us to do. How will we do that if we are repulsed by him?
So how would we recognize him? Most often he comes to you looking like yourself. No, not in another body that looks like you, but in your own body. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (Jas 1:14-15) He makes you think “it’s just natural,” or “I was born that way.” Sometimes he comes as our friends, exerting peer pressure. Even so, he isn’t hard to recognize, if you know what to look for. Just look for someone who wants you to follow them into sin. Of course, that means you have to know what sin is; and for that you have to study the word of God. Only then can you recognize Satan and his ways. Then you will be ready for him. Ready to resist.