Satan (Devil, Lucifer and all these not exactly the same meaning names) is often told to rule in hell, tormenting the damned souls and so on, while in the Bible I could not find anything more than the fact of putting him there. Basing only on the Bible I'd rather assume that he is as punished there together with human sinners.

Where does the idea of Satan as the ruler of hell and punisher of the souls come from and is it an official doctrine (in either Catholic or Protestant Churches)?


4 Answers 4


The idea that Satan is the ruler of Hell does not come from the Bible. Revelation 20:10 clearly describes Satan as being himself tormented in the lake of fire, and not as the tormentor. The idea may come from Dante Alighiere’s epic poem The Divine Comedy written between 1308 and 1321. Dante’s poem describes the brutal descent of sinners into the underworld. The poem is written in the first person as Dante describes his imaginative journey through the three realms of the dead: Inferno (hell); Purgatorio (Purgatory); and Paradiso (heaven).

The poem is an amalgamation of myths, Catholic ideas (like purgatory), and Islamic traditions about Muhammad’s “night of ascension” (lailat al-miraj). One extra-biblical source Dante drew upon was Islamic tradition (Hadiths) as depicted in Muhammed’s “Night Journey.” According to one scholar, Islamic eschatology has exercised “an extraordinary influence on Chinese and Christian thought. Among numerous popular eschatological works written by Christians, Dante's Divina Commedia is an example of Islamic influence.” (Islam by Solomon Nigosian, page 152, Crucible, 1987)

“The Qur'anic basis for this account is Qur'an 17:1, and Muslims commemorate annually ‘the night of ascension’ (lailat al-miraj) on the 26th of Rajab—the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. It is assumed that the general plot as well as the many small details of Dante's Divine Comedy reflect a fanciful treatment of this Islamic theme” (op. cit., p128).

Qur'an 9:17 speaks of "eternal fire" and in 98:5 it says the "disbelievers of the People of the Book and the idolators, who are the worst of creatures, shall be in the fire of Hell forever." However, Islamic teaching goes way beyond the descriptions in the Bible. Here is an account in the Hadith about Muhammed's night journey to Jerusalem, his ascent to heaven and his vision of the afterlife:

"Gabriel told me when I asked, was that he was the angel of hell... Then I saw a man... Gabriel told me this was our father Adam... Then I saw men with lips like camels... I was told that these sinfully devoured the wealth of orphans... Then I saw men with bellies I had never seen before... These were the usurers... Then I saw women hanging by their breasts. These were those who fathered bastards."

Many other works of art, and literary pieces such as Dan Brown’s novel Inferno, follow Dante’s lead and picture Satan as the one in charge of hell. Dante’s literary vision of hell is depicted by Botticelli in his painting Map of Hell as a subterranean funnel of suffering—a wretched underground landscape of fire, brimstone, sewage, and monsters, with Satan himself waiting at its core. It’s all very disturbing, and effective as a work of art, but it is based on the imaginations of men, not the Word of God.

In Dante's Inferno, Satan is portrayed as a giant demon, frozen mid-breast in ice at the center of Hell. As opposed to the popular conception of the era, which viewed Satan as an all-dominating beast of Hell, Dante gives the portrayal of Satan as simply another victim of Hell's tortures. He places Satan trapped within the ice, stripped of voice and power and thus sets forth a new conception of who and what Satan is. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante%27s_Satan

Protestant Christian Response: Satan is not the ruler of hell. It is God who is in charge. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that can do no more. . . . Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell” (Luke 12:4–5). Jesus is referring to God here. He alone has the power to throw someone into hell. Who holds the keys of death and hades? Jesus has absolute control over that domain (Revelation 1:18). Jesus assures all believers that not even the gates of hades can overcome His church (Matthew 16:18).

The lake of fire, mentioned only in Revelation 19:20 and 20:10, 14–15, is the final place of punishment for all unrepentant rebels, both angelic and human (Matthew 25:41). The universal punishment for all who reject Jesus Christ as Savior is to be “cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). The Bible speaks of hell as a place of “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life should have no fear of this terrible fate. By faith in Christ and His shed blood, we are destined to live eternally in the presence of God.

Satan does not rule hell or lead his demons in tormenting those who are banished there. In fact, the Bible does not say that Satan has been to hell yet. Rather, “eternal fire” is awaiting Satan; the place was originally created to punish Satan and the demons (Matthew 25:41), not to give them a kingdom to rule. Until Satan is condemned and thrown into the pit forever, he spends his time between heaven (Job 1:6–12) and earth (1 Peter 5:8). He will not always have freedom of movement, and he knows it. “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12). Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Satan-master-hell.html


I can only answer from a Protestant perspective and that perspective would be from scripture itself, since Protestants professedly believe that scripture is 'binding' (I am quoting here from the the first of the 39 articles of the C of E for want of anything more broadly indicative.)

I cannot find anything that 'explains' why there is a misconception. But misconception, I agree, there definitely is, through (I would say) ignorance of the scripture itself.

So I would suggest that ignorance is the reason for the misconception rather than any party or parties deliberately putting about an error.

I would suggest that it is just superstitious rumour from non-religious sources and from paintings which attempt to depict hellfire, such as those paintings accompanying the written work of Dante Alighieri.

A previous question dealt with the common misconception that the Entity variously referred to as Serpent, Satan and Lucifer (in Hebrew descriptions); as Diabolos, Poneros and Antidikos (in Greek descriptions); and as 'the Devil' (a rather poor English translation) will have the power to torment the souls and bodies of resurrected humans in the lake of fire.

The first answer to that previous question explained from scripture that the misconception was false. However the second answer to the question introduced the concept of the Entity "ruling" in hell - something that the question had not asked.

So this present question focuses on the matter of 'ruling'.

I would agree with the OP here as I, also, cannot find any text of scripture that attributes future 'rule' (in hell) to the Entity so described above. (They are not personal names for no personal name is ever given to that individual, only descriptive titles that convey his activities and characteristics).

The texts only convey (as the OP states) the fact of the presence of Satan, not any activity open to him to conduct in the future.


The last - specific - mention in the bible of that individual is in Revelation 20:10 :

... the diabolos that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone ... [KJV] (I have written 'diabolos' rather than 'devil'.)

Thereafter, in the closing two chapters of scripture, there are two general references in which he would be included with all who are in the same state as he.

  • Firstly there are those who did not overcome within the context of time and who shall therefore not inherit anything in the new heaven and the new earth, Revelation 21:8. The multiple description ends with the category 'all liars'.

... and all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. [KJV].

  • Secondly, there are those have no right to the tree of life and thus may not enter the gates of the new city, Revelation 22:15. This multiple description ends with the category 'and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie'.

They are described as being :



Thus after being described for the last time, the individual under discussion is no longer given any specific attention and is classed among all those who behaved in similar fashion.

Which, I would say, is conclusive proof that the idea of him 'ruling' anything is a fiction.

To those men, who behaved towards Jesus in a way which was exactly the same as the way in which the Entity behaved towards him, he said :

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44 [KJV].

The last chapters of the Apocalypse indicate that both the father of liars and all who are liars like him, shall be together, none ruling another, for ever in the lake of fire.


I would have to agree with above comments. an my answer to where the theory came from that Satan rules in hell is this Hollywood..( take the movie little Nicki for example) And I believe it to be misconception because Satan (plz correct me if I'm wrong) was a fallen angel that God cast out for his rebellion an also his attempts to over throw God because of his jealousy problem he wanted to be worshiped he wanted to have the most power about like today's world of politics. So I believe the closest he has ever gotten to rule over anything which is still yet another deception is hell an he used Hollywood to decieve people into believing it So my final answer is Holly wood

Below copy an pasted 1st segment from earlier comment I was referring to I do not take any credit for it used only as reference to what I agreed with in aove coment

Protestant Christian Response: Satan is not the ruler of hell. It is God who is in charge. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that can do no more. . . . Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell” (Luke 12:4–5). Jesus is referring to God here. He alone has the power to throw someone into hell. Who holds the keys of death and hades? Jesus has absolute control over that domain (Revelation 1:18). Jesus assures all believers that not even the gates of hades can overcome His church (Matthew 16:18)


Why is Satan commonly believed to rule in hell?

Some believe Satan is a Seraphim and chief of the sinning angels, is probably the highest of all the angels. There are some who think that Lucifer was highest only among the rebel angels in hell.

This answer will be based on the Catholic traditions in regards to Satan and the nine choirs of angels.

Although it is now generally accepted that there are nine choirs of angels and each choir is of angel is different and ranked accordingly.

During the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications. According to medieval Christian theologians, the angels are organized into several orders, or "Angelic Choirs.

Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Celestial Hierarchy) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. Although both authors drew on the New Testament, the Biblical canon is relatively silent on the subject, and these hierarchies are considered less definitive than biblical material.

Choirs in medieval theology

St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica (1225–1274):

1.Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones;

2.Dominations, Virtues, and Powers;

3.Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. - Christian angelology (Wikipedia)

St. Thomas Aquinas' list is by far the most widely accepted list of angelic choirs and places the Seraphic order of angel as being at the highest level of angels followed by the Cherubim, and so on. According to St Thomas:

1.The angels that rebelled and became demons did not lose their nature or their connatural gifts. They cast away, by their sin, the grace in which they were created. They did not cast away the beatific vision, for they never had it. Now, if we think of angelic orders as orders of angels in glory, then, of course, there are no orders of bad angels. But if we consider angelic orders as order of angelic nature simply, there are orders among the demons.

2.Certainly, there is a precedence among bad angels; there is a subjection of some to others.

3.Demons of superior nature do not enlighten inferior demons; enlightenment here could only mean the manifestation of truth with reference to God, and the fallen angels have perversely and permanently turned away from God. But demons can speak to one another, that is, they can make known their thoughts to one another, that is, they can make known their thoughts to one another, for this ability belongs to the angelic nature which the demons retain.

4.The nearer creatures are to God the greater is their rule over other creatures. Therefore, the good angels rule and control the demons. - ORDERS AMONG THE FALLEN ANGELS

This stated it only makes sense that Satan was a Seraphim, for surely some of the Seraphim fell in great revolt against God. Although one can not say with certainty it is generally believed Satan was a Seraphim.


3.Lucifer who became Satan, leader of the fallen angels, wished to be as God. This prideful desire was not a wish to be equal to God, for Satan knew by his natural knowledge that equality of creature with creator is utterly impossible. Besides, no creature actually desires to destroy itself, even to become something greater. On this point man sometimes deceives himself by a trick of imagination; he imagines himself to be another and greater being, and yet it is himself that is somehow this other being. But an angel has no sense-faculty of imagination to abuse in this fashion. The angelic intellect, with its clear knowledge, makes such self-deception impossible. Lucifer knew that to be equal with God, he would have to be God, and he knew perfectly that this could not be. What he wanted was to be as God; he wished to be like God in a way not suited to his nature, such as to create things by his own power, or to achieve final beatitude without God's help, or to have command over others in a way proper to God alone.

4.Lucifer, chief of the sinning angels, was probably the highest of all the angels. But there are some who think that Lucifer was highest only among the rebel angels. - ANGELS: FROM THE TEACHINGS OF SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS

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