Here is the text prior to Jesus' statement above:
“Get away from me, opposer of God – for you set your mind not upon God’s interests, but the interests of people.” (Mark 8:33)
Then he began to teach them that the Servant of Humanity* must bear many things, and be rejected by the elders and by the chief priests and the scribes, and be murdered – and after three days, will rise from the body. He spoke this openly. So Peter took him aside and began to admonish him. (Mark 8:31-32)Why would Peter "admonish" Jesus? Simon Peter was, after all, Jesus' disciple.
Did Jesus mean 'Satan'?
Many translations of Jesus' statement here use the word "Satan" instead of "opposer of God" from the Lost Gospels of Jesus. If these translations are correct, is Peter "Satan"? Did Peter turn into Satan all of a sudden? Did a man who was one of Jesus' closest and most confidential students - who would one day become one of Jesus' most ardent representatives - suddenly become "Satan"?
Is this "Satan" that guy they warn us about: Someone who stands on one shoulder tempting us? Or someone with horns and a pitchfork who gets us to sign a contract? Is this "Satan" actually Peter as it turns out?
Such a notion is silly. But certainly, they bring us to the question of the identity of "Satan." Just who is, or what is, "Satan"?
Let's review the use of this term and its meaning more closely:
The term "Satan" is being translated from the Greek word, Σατανᾶς (satanas) - which means, according to the lexicon, "adversary - one who opposes another in purpose or act."
But when we break down the usage of the term by Jesus in the scriptures, we find that neither Jesus nor his disciples refer to this as a particular person - certainly not as Peter.
What about other references to Satan in the Bible?
Consider, for example, the references to Satan in the Book of Job:
The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it."Then Job is afflicted with all sorts of physical calamities. This is the result of a deal between God and "Satan"?
Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:7-12 NIV)
Can we not see the reality from the combination of Jesus' statements and these verses in Job the true identity of Satan?
Consider again the initial exchange between God and Satan:
"Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it."Now consider Jesus' comment to Peter:
“Get away from me, opposer of God – for you set your mind not upon God’s interests, but the interests of people.”And in the desert:
“Go away, enemy of God! For it is written, “You shall worship the LORD your God and Him only shall you serve.” (Matt 4:10)(Other translations use "Satan" instead of "enemy of God" in Matt. 4:10.)
If we are to believe these translations to "Satan," this would mean that Satan is hanging out with God sometimes and hanging out with Jesus sometimes. So how could Satan be so bad then?
And how could Satan have so much influence if he is so bad? This would mean that Satan is out of God's control somehow. As if God lost some control over things.
This is in fact what some preach: That God lost some control over the world to Satan, and this is why there is so much evil in the world.
Frankly, that simply makes no sense at all, because "God" means someone who has full control. If God has lost some control He wouldn't be God.
In fact, this interpretation that Satan has gotten out of control is actually atheism - because it is stating that God has lost control, meaning there is no real God.
Is 'Satan' a metaphor?
The reality is that "Satan" is not who or what some teachers would have us imagine. He is not sleuthing around and lurking in the bushes like a monster, waiting to pounce.
Rather, these discussions are metaphorically describing the illusory energy of the material world. The energy that deceives us into thinking that we are these physical bodies and we will become happy within the physical world: The illusion that if we can just get that next thing, we'll be happy.
The next thing can range from material possessions to sex or other sensual pleasures such as eating, music, and so on; to achieving some position of fame; to achieving power within the business world; to achieving "champion" status within some sport; to achieving governing or political power within some country or other assembly; to even achieving the position as parent.
Each of these temptations - is rendered by the illusory energy - which has been designed and programmed by the Supreme Being into the physical world.
This illusion is, in fact, under His full control.
And the personified characterizations that Jesus and other Prophets utilized in their teachings illustrate the reality that this energy is a personal one. It has been designed and programmed by the Supreme Being, yet it is still executed by those who participate within the material universe.
Let's use an example. Let's say a boy sees a pretty girl in a tight dress and this makes him want to have sex with her.
So is the girl satan? Or how about the store that sold the dress? Or perhaps it is the dressmaker who made the dress? Or maybe the cotton grower who grew the cotton used to make the fabric in the dress?
Most of these participants may not even realize they participated in something that would serve to attract the boy. The girl may have bought the dress to wear to a social event. The dressmaker may have built the dress based on an order from a designer. The designer may have designed the dress based on a store order, and the store may have been trying to fulfill the demands of their customers. The cotton grower didn't even know what the cotton would be used for.
But the senses of the boy's physical body - the eyes and genitalia in particular - also played a role. Are they Satan perhaps? Or how about the mind of the boy?
So we can see that it is not just a single person or sense involved: It is an arrangement. The temptation is designed within the activities of the physical world. There are many participants, both individuals and groups, all arranged by the illusory energy of the physical world.
But also there is the physical body and the physical mind - all arranged to provide the self within (the spirit-person) with the notion that if we get the next thing we would be happy.
As each of us should know from experience, the next thing doesn't make us happy. We may get the sex, or the money, or the fame, or the leadership position, or the big house, or the parenthood. But once we get each next thing and experience it for a while, we realize that it didn't make us happy. It doesn't bring us fulfillment.
Why does the next thing always deceive us?
Because we are looking for the next thing. We need fulfillment. We figure that the last thing didn't fulfill us, but the next thing will.
This is the programmed into the arrangement - the design - of the physical world. It is the illusory energy of the Supreme Being.
Why? Why would the Supreme Being design such a system that serves to tempt us and distract us from spiritual matters? As well as keep us ignorant regarding our real spiritual nature?
Why would God set this up?
There are two purposes - depending on one's situation and consciousness:
The primary purpose of God's illusory energy - call it Satan if you wish - is to allow those who have rejected the Supreme Being the ability to forget Him. To give those who wanted the freedom to get away from God.
Yes, those of us who have fallen to the physical world and have been forced to take on physical bodies have done so because we have rejected our loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.
We were pushed out of the spiritual realm because we didn't want to be with God anymore. We became envious and self-centered, so we were pushed out:
"The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)This metaphorical description of what happened to Adam and Eve is what took place for each of us. We were kicked out of the spiritual realm and sent to "work the ground" - the physical world - with these physical bodies.
The illusory energy is designed to give us precisely what we wanted as we rejected the Supreme Being: Freedom from God. We wanted to forget God. So He gave us these physical bodies and this illusory energy - to allow us to forget Him altogether - or to remember Him only when we need Him for something. In other words, here in this world, we have the choice to think about our relationship with God or forget Him altogether. We can also choose to remember Him only when it is convenient.
He even allows us to believe that He doesn't exist at all if we want to. Why does He give us this range of freedom to forget Him or even deny His existence?
Does God want true love?
This is because the Supreme Being enjoys loving relationships. And love requires freedom. Therefore, the Supreme Being must give us the ultimate freedom of choice regarding whether to love Him or not. If He was always around as we exercised our freedom, then how free would we feel? Certainly, that freedom would be false, as we would feel obligated to revere God if His existence was obvious to us - and seen by us.
Note from Genesis that when we rejected God we became self-centered, and thus desired His role. We want to pretend that we are the greatest - the hero - the champion - the leader - the parent (creator).
These are all God's roles. God is the greatest, the hero, the champion, the leader, and the Creator. But because we became envious, we wanted those positions - or at least one of them.
So He gave us the opportunity to pretend. He gave us these temporary physical bodies and the ability to chase these dreams.
But how could we play God if we were always seeing Him? Again this relates to freedom. Could we really pretend to be God while He was standing there in front of us as God - all-powerful?
No. The Supreme Being created this place of illusion and created these physical bodies in order to hide Himself from us while we attempted to play God.
This is what Jesus is rejecting when he says, "for you set your mind not upon God’s interests, but the interests of people.” The "interests of the people" relate to wanting to impress others in the material world. This is ultimately based on self-centeredness. Wanting to be liked by others. Wanting others to follow us.
Does God want to lose us forever?
But the Supreme Being also doesn't want to lose us forever. He wants us back - if and when we decide to come back.
So He has arranged the physical world with various learning experiences and consequences to each and every self-centered activity. This is to provide the ability for us to become rehabilitated - if we indeed choose to be.
But remember that just as we are not these physical bodies, the afflictions that take place upon our bodies do not happen to us. Just as someone playing a computer game won't be harmed when his game icon becomes damaged in the game - or a car being scratched won't harm the car's driver - the afflictions of the physical body do not harm the spirit-person. They occur upon our virtual, temporary vehicle.
Yet the lessons the physical world teaches are very real. And their purpose is clear. If any one of us decides we want true happiness - not the false facade of the material world - He will provide us with a path back to Him. He sends us His representatives - and His scriptures - and the Holy Spirit - to help guide those who want to return to our loving relationship with Him.
For those who decide they want to return to our innate loving service relationship with the Supreme Being: Something else takes place.
The Supreme Being personally guides those who want to return to Him back to Him. He will provide them with clear guidance in the form of teachings. These teachings include not just information, but practical matters, such as challenges in the form of temptations, afflictions and so on.
Why? Because the Supreme Being only wants us back if we are serious about it. He doesn't want those who are just interested in extending their self-centeredness into the spiritual world. (An oxymoron because the spiritual realm is the place of God-centeredness.)
So these challenges and afflictions of this world not only serve to teach us: They also test and increase our seriousness.
Just think of a person who had been abandoned by a former friend or spouse. What the person just let the person whimsically return to a relationship with them? Certainly not. They would want to know that the person was serious before they let them back into their life.
The same goes for God. He wants us to be serious about returning to Him. He doesn't want any fakers.
Yes, the Supreme Being wants us back in His loving arms. He wants us to take shelter in Him because He knows only this can make us happy - and He loves us and wants us to be happy. But He also wants us to choose for ourselves that we want to love Him and serve Him again, and become serious about it. Loving God means wanting to please God - setting our mind upon God’s interests, as Jesus puts it. This was Jesus' - and all the Prophets' - most important teaching:
"‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:29-30)