What can we know about Satan based on Genesis 3?
It is indeed interesting that a creature like Satan could exist at all, and was even allowed to tempt the first couple in the Garden. That is because nothing — nothing — can occur against the will of a Being with absolute power. We must presume that Satan was part of God's Plan from the beginning:
1 Peter 1:20-21: "For [Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God..."
Since Christ was foreknown before the world existed, His Act of Redemption was, therefore, part of the Plan before the beginning as well. It thus, follows that everything that occurred on earth was designed to transpire as it did. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Fall in the Garden was no "unforeseen accident." The circumstances were preordained to occur as they did. God never labored under any illusions that Man and Woman would not immediately be deceived by the cunning of the serpent.
Indeed, God paved the way to hasten the Fall. This was necessary in order to offer each human being a choice: a conscious decision to 1) choose the life that God offered or 2) choose "the world" offered by the Devil. Here is one possibility we might wish to contemplate:
God created a world in which Satan would unquestionably fall.
And, the Devil would bring much of the rest of the world down with him. We are often told Satan, "the Serpent," is "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), "the Adversary" (1 Pet. 5:8),"the Tempter" (Mt. 4:3), and so on.
Perhaps one way to view him might be as a created, personal, super-human being endowed with authority over the death of the faithless. While he is often seen as evil (and he surely is that), Satan cannot do anything without God's permission:
Job 1:9-12: "[Satan] answered the LORD, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.' Then the LORD said to Satan, 'Behold, all that [Job] has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.'”
Note that God allowed all that happened to Job. (Of course, Job is the model we should look to in times of great distress.) Note also, the haughtiness of Satan's words. He exhibits genuine contempt for God in these passages. There seems little doubt that Satan would instantly destroy everything God has ever created, and in fact, that is precisely what he is doing. It is just taking him a little longer than he expected!
Something that we probably do not often contemplate is that Satan appears to be fulfilling God's wishes. He is not allowed to overstep certain boundaries (Job 1:12, 2:6), or there would no longer be anything "made in God's image." It is for this reason that passages such as Matthew 2:16 seem paradoxical. This is where the Devil, using King Herod as an instrument of evil, manipulated this deviant to murder every baby boy 2-years-old and under in Bethlehem (and its vicinity).
God's Plan was to create a civilization of human beings, each of us instilled with an immortal spirit — a spirit of life, which would animate our physical bodies. For reasons we may never appreciate, each of us has to be tested, and through that testing we might then become "justified" — if we choose to be so through faithful obedience according to God's instructions.
Since God is not the author of evil, how might He accomplish this? Well, he would raise a being that He knew would soon entice human beings. This tempter might initially have been viewed merely as a custodian on the earth — or, at least, that may have been his initial role, one who oversaw the many duties required to sustain life on earth. Here, we might understand that God never forced Satan to commit "spiritual suicide"; he chose to do this of his own volition. God always knew what would happen after his creation: the long history of poverty, war, slavery, disease, sin, and death were inevitable.
These two factors, 1) creating a tempter that would act according to God's expectations, and 2) creating humans in need of justification, were both required: one intertwined with the other. Prior to his fall (in the Garden?), we must assume that Satan was created pure just as Adam and Eve (as unlikely as this may sound). However, due to his elevated, spiritual stature, Satan may have developed a profound contempt, just as he demonstrated during his encounter with Eve.
Human beings were inferior to Satan, yet God treated them well in the Garden. If correct, Satan may have been left to maintain their environment, perhaps little more than a glorified janitor. It seems plausible, under such circumstances, that resentment might easily boil underneath the surface. His crimes began with lies that would, at the very least, subject Eve, then Adam, to spiritual death. In John's Gospel we read:
John 8:44b-c: "[The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
Christ condemns Satan for being: 1) a murderer from the beginning; 2) not just a murderer, but a mass murderer, and 3) a liar, and the father of lies. Here, we might be reminded of Pharaoh in Egypt. Throughout the first chapters of the Book of Exodus we repeatedly read:
Exodus 7:3: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt." (cf. Ex. 7:13, 8:19, 9:12, 10:20, 27, 11:10).
God never forced Pharaoh to disobey His commands. But He did set the stage for all the maladies that would be poured out against Pharaoh and his kingdom.
As an omniscient Being, God knows everything that can ever be known. Just as with Pharaoh, God knew exactly what would happen after He created the Devil.
God provided the means, motive, and opportunity, but Satan made his own decision to "commit the crime." Satan knew the full dimensions of his actions. As a spiritual being, he was certain to be held to a much higher standard. Note that in Genesis 3:5, Satan accurately describes the effects of eating the forbidden fruit.
In this discussion, the idea that Satan fell from heaven due to pride has been discounted. Naturally, that position maintains that a war occurred in the Presence of Almighty God (Rev. 12:7-9, etc.), along with its many complexities. While it is certainly true that Christ envisions Satan "falling like lightning from heaven" (and Satan only), He also envisions Satan (only) being "cast out" in John 12:31. This would occur at the Crucifixion.
These are symbolic descriptions of Satan being deprived of his authority over the death of humanity. And, yes, he would be cast to the earth (Job 1:7, 2:2), where we see that the Devil is confined to "roaming about on the earth and walking around on it" — at least for now. We might understand these are timeless statements regarding the eternal, spiritual realm, something with which we often (understandably) have great difficulty.
As previously stated, nothing can ever occur contrary to the will of a Being with absolute power. It is not merely unlikely to occur, nor even implausible. Rather, it is impossible, pure and simple. If this were not the case, if God could not maintain control over his ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14), then He is hardly an omnipotent Being. However, He certainly is: Everything in heaven and on earth is subservient to God; absolutely nothing can transpire against His wishes.