We should first of all realize that there are many reports from people claiming to have seen Satan face to face, while supposedly appearing to them as a man. However, the Bible indicates that Satan cannot materialize himself to the human eye.
In our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World,” we say this:
“It appears from Scripture that demons cannot materialize themselves the way that angels can. Demons cannot appear as men. They can, however, create an illusion, or an apparition that might look very real to people. Examples of those illusions would include the appearance of ‘ghosts,’ or of a ‘lady,’ claiming to be ‘Mother Mary.’
“We read in Job 4:12–16 about Eliphaz’ encounter with a spirit: ‘Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it. In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men. Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; There was silence; then I heard a voice…’
“Eliphaz saw some kind of a form before his eyes but he could not discern the appearance of the spirit. This indicates that it was a demon, as the Bible does not show that God’s angels appear to man in such a way. It was something like an apparition—a phantasm. It was what the disciples thought they saw, too, when Jesus was walking on the water.
“Another encounter with a demon is recorded for us in 1 Samuel 28. This encounter is discussed in detail on pages 38 and 39 of our free booklet, ‘Do We Have an Immortal Soul?’ To summarize here, King Saul consulted a witch to find out his future. During a séance, the witch ‘saw’ a demon, who pretended to be the dead Samuel. Saul could not see the demon. The demon spoke through the witch to Saul. We note again that the demon did not materialize himself as a being with flesh and bones. Rather, it was an illusion.”
In another example, alluded to above, the disciples saw Jesus walking on water and were afraid, erroneously thinking it was a ghost or a spirit or an apparition (Mark 6:47-50). They did not think at first that the incident was real, but just an illusion. In these illusions and “visions,” Satan may “appear” in the disguise of a human being, but that is not how he really looks. Likewise, Satan cannot show himself in our dreams. In that regard, please see our Q&A,
When it comes to the real appearance of Satan, he most certainly does not look as Hollywood might portray him in movies (not that we recommend ever watching these kinds of demonic horror flicks). Rather, he was created as a cherub. Known as Lucifer, he was a high-ranking angel, but he rebelled and sinned against God (Isaiah 14:12–15; Ezekiel 28:11–17). We say this in our above-mentioned booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”:
“… before he was sent to earth, Lucifer had been trained in heaven before the very throne of God, and he had angels under his command. We read in Ezekiel 28:14 that he was the anointed cherub who covers. Recall that the cherubs covered the throne of God when God appeared to Moses in the Tabernacle. Also, we read in Ezekiel 28:14 that Lucifer was on the holy mountain of God in heaven (compare Hebrews 12:22). When he sinned by trying to ascend from this earth to heaven to dethrone God, he was cast out of the mountain of God (Ezekiel 28:16). Christ later said that He saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:18).”
Lucifer, who had been created as a bright morning star or lightbringer, became the prince of darkness. His whole mindset and attitude changed from love to hatred. This had undoubtedly consequences for this outward appearance. Even though he likes to appear as an angel of light, his real appearance is one of horrific and abhorrent hatred and darkness, if one could see him in his real state, as God can. Even on the human level, a person who is absorbed and eaten up by hatred will show this in his or her facial expressions.
The Bible gives us numerous descriptions of the appearance of cherubs in their glorified state. Quoting from our booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”:
“We find a very detailed description of their appearance in the book of Ezekiel. We read in Ezekiel 1:5–14: ‘Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies… As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.’
“We are later told that these four living creatures were ‘cherubim’ (Ezekiel 10:20–22). They were transporting a throne on which the ‘LORD’ sat. Notice Ezekiel 1:26–28: ‘And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it… This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.’ We are told, for instance, in Psalm 18:10 that the LORD ‘rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind.’
“Ezekiel 10:14 also reveals that the predominant facial features of a cherub are those of an ox. While we had read in Ezekiel 1:10 that the four cherubs had the face of an ox, a man, a lion, and an eagle, Ezekiel 10:14 lists those characteristics as the face a cherub, a man, a lion, and an eagle. Taken together, the Scriptures equate the predominant facial features of a cherub with that of an ox. Some have suggested that cherubs look mainly like oxen. Notice, though, that they are described with the ‘likeness of a man.’ Only their facial features and the soles of their feet are different from the ‘likeness of a man’ (in addition to the fact that they have wings)…
“Rienecker’s Commentary to the Bible points out that ‘cherubim appear where God is personally present or where He reveals Himself in His glory… The cherubim are witnesses of the personal presence of God on earth… Today, cherubs are pictured similar to the winged creatures, called “kurubu,” that have been dug out in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria.’ Some of these ‘kurubu’ look like creatures with a body of a lion, with wings, and with the head of a man, while others have the appearance of a man, with animal heads.”
However, the mere fact that in the incidents where cherubim are expressly described in the Bible, they do not have animal bodies, does not have to mean that none of the cherubs have an animal-like appearance.
There are other powerful angels which are described with spiritual bodies resembling different animals. We are quoting from our booklet on “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”:
“… four very powerful angels—the ‘four living creatures’—are described in the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation in this way: ‘Before the throne [of God in heaven] there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature was like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”’ (Revelation 4:6–8).
“Here we are introduced to angelic beings that look like a lion, a calf, and a flying eagle. One angelic being has the face of a man, implying that the rest of his appearance may not resemble that of a man. In addition, all have six wings.”
The Bible speaks also of seraphim, and we say this in our booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”:
“The word ‘seraphim’ means ‘burning’ or ‘noble.’ These beings are depicted as standing above God’s throne, each having ‘…six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew’ (Isaiah 6:2). The voice of a seraphim is so powerful that ‘…the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out’ (Isaiah 6:4). Isaiah 6:6 describes one of the seraphim as touching a burning coal with his hand.
“Whether this passage makes clear that seraphim look like men, is uncertain. The reference to ‘face,’ ‘feet’ and ‘hand’ might suggest this. On the other hand, the Hebrew word for ‘seraphim,’ ‘saraph,’ (compare Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, under ‘Seraphims’ and ‘Serpent’, Number 8314) is also used in other passages, describing dragons or serpents. We read in Isaiah 14:29, ‘Do not rejoice, all you of Philistia, Because the rod that struck you is broken; For out of the serpent’s roots will come forth a viper, And its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent.”’ The Hebrew word for ‘fiery serpent’ is ‘saraph.’ The New Jerusalem Bible gives the rendering, ‘a flying dragon.’ An additional passage can be found in Isaiah 30:6: ‘The burden against the beasts of the South. Through a land of trouble and anguish, From which came the lioness and lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent (‘saraph’ in Hebrew)…’
“Rienecker’s Commentary to the Bible states the following: ‘Passages such as Isaiah 14:29 and 30:6, describing flying seraphim (plural of saraph, translated by Luther as “flying dragon”, as well as Isaiah 6:2, 6, using the word to describe six-winged beings above the throne of God, go beyond the idea of an ordinary snake or serpent, and impress on the reader the concept of dragon-like creatures…”
It is interesting that seraphim are described as flying dragons or fiery flying serpents. Even though Satan is not identified as a seraph, but as a cherub, the parallelism is undeniable. Satan is described as a dragon. This does not seem to be a description of a person looking like a man. We read in Revelation 12:3 about Satan as “a great, fiery, red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.”
We also read that the dragon spewed water out of his mouth like a flood [apparently referring to human armies] to destroy God’s people (Revelation 12:15-16).
We understand of course that much of this is symbolic language. The Roman Empire and its ten revivals are portrayed as a beast with seven heads and ten horns, and with ten crowns on his horns (Revelation 13:1-3). Also, a woman is described sitting on a scarlet beast, having seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 17:3), depicting the last seven revivals of the Roman Empire under Roman Catholic rule and influence. We also read that the dragon gives his power to the beast, and who is being worshipped (Revelation 13:3-4). It is also the dragon who sends out demons to the kings of the East to assemble them at Armageddon (Revelation 16:13, 16). But there are distinctions between the description of Satan, the great fiery red dragon, in Revelation 12 and the beasts in Revelation 13 and in Revelation 17. Nowhere in the Book of Revelation are these two beasts referred to as dragons. Satan’s designation as a dragon may not all just be a symbolical description.
Rather than saying that Satan is described symbolically in a way similar to the beasts (the Roman Empire and its revivals), because he controls the beasts and his description is therefore patterned after the beasts, it appears more likely that the two beasts are depicted as “physical” patterns after their spiritual ruler—Satan—which would give us a clue as to how Satan might look in his spiritual state.
In addition, we should remember that Satan is also described in Revelation 12:9 as “the great dragon… that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” Compare also Revelation 20:2; 12:14-15.
In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul speaks of the serpent in the garden of Eden which beguiled Eve, clearly referring thereby to Satan the Devil.
In our free booklet, “Heavens and Earth—Before and After the First Man,” we say this:
“We read, for example, in Genesis 3:1 that ‘the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.’ While Satan is described as a serpent and as a dragon (Revelation 20:2), it appears that Eve was confronted by and spoke to a real serpent in the Genesis account. Satan gave the serpent a voice —in the same way that God gave a donkey a man’s voice to speak to the false prophet Balaam (Numbers 22:28; 2 Peter 2:16)…
“God punished the serpent, stating that it was more cursed than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field (Genesis 3:14). God pronounced punishment on a literal, physical serpent, as well as, of course, on Satan the devil who used the serpent.”
The punishment pronounced for both the serpent and Satan—the serpent of old—is interesting. In verse 14, we read: “On your belly you shall go…” When applied to Satan, God changed his appearance in the spirit world. Even if he stood upright before his temptation of Eve, that would not be the case anymore. Rather, he would be more like a dragon or a serpent, crawling on his belly. He would still walk [or move, travel, change his location] to and fro on earth, like a roaring lion, and he would also have wings with which he could fly. In fact, he will “fly” or ascend to heaven in our time to unsuccessfully try to replace God in heaven.
As the two beasts in the Book of Revelation are never described as dragons, so they are not described as serpents either, showing again the difference of descriptions between them and Satan (Further discussions in this regard can be found in our free booklet, “Evil Empires and Evil People—Wild Beasts of the Bible.” ).
Another hint regarding his present appearance can be gleaned from the book of Job, where Leviathan is being described. We say this in our booklet “Heavens and Earth—Before and After the First Man”:
“The description of Leviathan in the book of Job and in other places refers to a living animal… Some have said that the description of Leviathan in the book of Job is merely a description of Satan. However, clearly an animal is described in Job 41, not a spirit being (even though some of the characteristics of Leviathan might very well, in a symbolic sense, apply to Satan).
“We might also consider additional passages outside of the book of Job that refer to Leviathan. Psalm 74:14 says that God ‘broke the HEADS of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.’ Some might want to dismiss this passage as simply mythological, claiming that no known animal existed or exists with more than one head. This claim is not necessarily accurate. Even today, sometimes animals, due to mutation or birth defects, are born with more than one head, so there is no reason to believe that the passage in Psalm 74 must be understood in a mythological, rather than a literal way.
“Psalm 104:25–26 clearly identifies Leviathan as a real, living water animal, co-existing with man: ‘… The great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great. There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there.’”
Having said this, it does not dismiss the possibility that the outward appearance of Satan is being described in the book of Job as well; and that Leviathan may be, to some extent, a physical pattern made after Satan, the spirit being. Viewed from that angle, note what God says about “Leviathan” in Job 41:18-21:
“His sneezings flash forth light, And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights; Sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, As from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, And a flame goes out of his mouth…”
The Bible tells us that Satan has the power to call down fire from heaven to kill people.
To summarize, it appears that the description of Satan as a great fiery red dragon and as the serpent of old is more than just a symbolic expression. Clearly, Satan does not look like an ordinary man, nor could he approach us as an ordinary human being. Even though the Bible is not dogmatic as to the way he looks, there are hints indicating his dreadful and terrible, and at the same time frightening appearance. It would be foolish to want to make contact with him, or to try to “see” him, but far too many are doing this in one way or another, perhaps without knowing it.
We want to conclude with this sober warning from our booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World”:
“Though many people don’t believe in the existence of Satan and demons, they are quick to dabble in the occult, being ignorant of the danger therein. Demons are called ‘familiar spirits’ because they want to familiarize themselves with man (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27). Haunted houses, poltergeists, séances, communication with the dead, and contacts with ‘aliens’ are all clearly of demonic origin. Satan and demons are destructive… Sorcery, witchcraft, hypnosis, and certain meditation practices are further methods of Satan to overpower the mind of a human being and to make him or her into a helpless victim. Whenever we give ourselves ‘over’ to another influence, we have become victims of the powers of darkness.”
To visualize Satan as a devouring fiery red dragon with several heads and as a vicious poisonous serpent might perhaps show us the seriousness of our fight with Satan and his demons (Ephesians 6:11-12)—it is not a laughing matter, and must not be taken lightly.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link