Many people believe in a supernatural evil being whom the Bible generally refers to as Satan or the Devil.   In our attempt to determine who Satan is and whether or not he is omnipresent, we will consider a number of scriptures from the Bible.  [Note:  When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we quote a non-biblical source that is using Scripture from a different version of the Bible.]

Who Is Satan?

Satan made his first appearance in human history when he assumed the form of a serpent (i.e., a snake) and tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 3:1-15.  However, in his usual form, Satan is an angel, albeit a renegade angel, who attempts to deceive people into believing that they are justified in doing almost whatever is necessary for them to be able to satisfy their personal desires.  And, for Satan to persuade people to do what he wants them to do, the Bible states in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”

With regard to 2 Corinthians 11:14, Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible states,

For Satan himself is transformedThat is, he who is an apostate angel; who is malignant and wicked; who is the prince of evil, assumes the appearance of a holy angel. . . . The phrase “an angel of light,” means a pure and holy angel, light being the emblem of purity and holiness. Such are all the angels that dwell in heaven; and the idea is, that Satan assumes such a form as to appear to be such an angel.

 [W]e are not to expect that Satan will appear to man to be as bad as he is. He never shows himself openly to be a spirit of pure wickedness; or black and abominable in his character; or full of evil and hateful.

Also, in reference to the same scripture, John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible states,

Satan, the enemy of mankind, sometimes appears . . . as he did to Eve in the garden, and to Christ in the wilderness; and by such appearances he often imposes on mankind; pretends the greatest friendship, when he designs nothing but ruin; and under a notion of good, either honest, or pleasant, or profitable, draws on into the commission of the greatest evils; and, under a show of truth, introduces the most notorious falsehoods and errors. . . .

And, John Calvin’s Commentaries on the Bible explains 2 Corinthians 11:14, as follows:

[W}hen Satan tempts us to evil, he does not profess to be what he really is. For he would lose his object, if we were made aware of his being a mortal enemy, and opposer of our salvation. Hence he always makes use of some cloak for the purpose of insnaring [sic] us, . . . [and] makes it his endeavor to appear as an angel. Even when he tempts us to gross crimes, he makes use, nevertheless, of some pretext that he may draw us, when we are off our guard, into his nets.

Thus, Satan is an angel, but he is not an angel of light (i.e., a righteous angel) as he depicts himself.   Instead, he is an angel of darkness, whose constant objective is to entice people to engage in behavior that the Bible regards as contrary to God’s moral commandments.

Revelation 12:9 mentions a battle in heaven between the angels of God and the angels of Satan that will take place during a period that many Bible scholars refer to as the End Times, which is the climatic period on the earth that leads up to God’s final judgment of mankind.  This scripture states, “[T]he great dragon was cast out [of heaven], that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan. . . .”  Revelation 20:2 also indicates that the Devil and Satan are the same being.

Several other scriptures suggest that Beelzebub is another name for Satan.  In Matthew 12:24, the Pharisees said about Jesus Christ, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  Likewise, Mark 3:22 states, “[T[he scribes . . . said, ‘He  [Jesus Christ] has Beelzebub,’ and ‘By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.’”  And, Luke 11:15 says essentially the same thing as Mark 3:22.

Furthermore, a number of people think that Lucifer is also another name for Satan and that he was an angel who was banished from heaven.  The basis for their belief is probably Isaiah 14:12, which says, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!”  However, most authoritative sources on the Bible, including Strong’s Concordance, The NIV Bible, and a decisive majority of Bible commentaries, agree that the name Lucifer is a reference to a particular king of Babylon – probably, Nebuchadnezzar.

Is Satan Omnipresent?

Before proceeding, we want to define what we mean when we mention the term omnipresent in this article.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, omnipresent means “present in all places at the same time.”  Thus, if Satan is omnipresent, he theoretically could be personally tempting every person every day and, perhaps, even multiple times each day.

Since Satan is a spirit being, it may seem reasonable to believe that he is omnipresent, which would mean that he is not limited by time or distance.  However, insofar as we can determine, the Bible provides no compelling reason to believe that Satan has the ability to be present at more than one place at any particular time.  And, if Satan is not omnipresent, he cannot tempt most of the people in the world even just once during the course of a year,  The following simple arithmetic indicates why.

There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in three out of every four years.  Therefore, there are approximately 31.5 million seconds (60 x 60 x 24 x 365) in most years.  So, if Satan took an average of only 10 seconds to tempt someone, he could directly (i.e., personally) tempt only about three million people during most years.  That is obviously only a very small fraction of the billions of people in the world.


Whether he is called Satan, the Devil, or Beelzebub, the angel to whom these names apply is an apostate angel, and there is no indication in the Bible that he has the ability to be omnipresent.  And, because Satan is not omnipresent, it is impossible for him during the course of a year to be able to tempt more than a small percentage of the people in the world.

[Note: Some people may think that Ephesians 6:12 contradicts what we have stated about Satan’s ability to negatively influence the behavior of people.  The Appendix that follows addresses this matter.]


Does Ephesians 6:12 Contradict the Belief that Satan Has a Limited Ability to Negatively Influence Most People?

We will begin by quoting Ephesians 6:12, which states,

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

To determine whether or not Ephesians 6:12 contradicts what we have stated with regard to the limited ability of Satan and his demons to negatively influence the behavior of people, we have consulted a number of Bible commentaries, including those that follow.

Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible says with regard to Ephesians 6:12,

For we wrestle –  The Greek word used here . . . denotes a “wrestling;” and then a struggle, fight, combat.

Not against flesh and blood – Not with people. . . . The apostle [Paul] does not mean to say that Christians had no enemies among men that opposed them . . . ; but that their main controversy was with the invisible spirits of wickedness that sought to destroy them. They were the source and origin of all their spiritual conflicts, and with them the warfare was to be maintained.

But against principalities – There can be no doubt whatever that the apostle alludes here to evil spirits. . . . The word “principalities” refers to principal rulers, or chieftains.

Powers – Those who had power. . . .

Against the rulers of the darkness of this world – The rulers that preside over the regions of ignorance and sin with which the earth abounds. . . . “Darkness” is an emblem of ignorance, misery, and sin. . . .

Against spiritual wickedness “The spiritual things of wickedness;” but the allusion is undoubtedly to evil spirits, and to their influences on earth.

In reference to the same scripture,  John Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible declares,

Not against flesh and blood – The meaning is, that our difficulties are far greater than if we had to fight with men. . . . [O]ur enemies are such as no human power can withstand. By flesh and blood the apostle denotes men, who are so denominated in order to contrast them with spiritual assailants.

Against principalities, against powers –  He [Paul] calls them . . .  princes of the world; but he explains himself more fully by adding –  of the darkness of the world. The devil reigns in the world, because the world is nothing else than darkness. . . . By darkness, it is almost unnecessary to say, are meant unbelief and ignorance of God, with the consequences to which they lead.

By calling it wickedness, he denotes the malignity and cruelty of the devil, and, at the same time, reminds us that the utmost caution is necessary to prevent him from gaining an advantage. For the same reason, the epithet spiritual is applied; for, when the enemy is invisible, our danger is greater.

Adam Clarke Commentary states with regard to Ephesians 6:12,

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood –  Our wrestling or contention is not with men like ourselves. . . .

Against principalities [B]eings of the first rank and order in their own kingdom.

Powers Authorities, derived from, and constituted by the above.

The rulers of the darkness of this world The rulers of the world; the emperors of the darkness of this state of things.

Spiritual wickedness [H]ighly refined and sublimed evil; disguised falsehood in the garb of truth; Antinomianism in the guise of religion.

By the spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, . . . we are to understand different orders of evil spirits, who are all employed under the devil, their great head, to prevent the spread of the Gospel in the world, and to destroy the souls of mankind.

And, in reference to the same scripture, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible says,

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood – T]heir enemies are such as here described: not “flesh and blood”; frail mortal men. . . .

but against principalities, against powers – by whom are meant not civil magistrates, or the Roman governors . . ., and may be said to be the rulers of the darkness of this world, or of the dark Heathen world, and were in high places, and were of wicked and malicious spirits, against the people of Christ. . . .

and against the rulers of the darkness of this world – that is, over wicked men in it, who are in a state of darkness itself. . . .

against spiritual wickedness in high places or wicked spirits, as the devils are, unclean, proud, lying, deceitful, and malicious; who may be said to be in “high” or “heavenly places”. . . .

The aforementioned Bible commentaries and others that we have consulted provide no reason to believe that Ephesians 6:12 contradicts what we have stated about the limited ability of Satan to tempt most people.