Question: "Is Satan the master of hell? Do Satan and his demons punish people in hell?"
Answer: There is a common misconception that Satan is in charge of hell and that he and his demons live there and use their pitchforks to torment souls for eternity. This concept has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. In fact, Satan will be one of the tormented in the lake of fire, not the tormentor (Revelation 20:10).
Where does the idea that Satan is the master of hell come from, if not from the Bible? Much of the false thinking may come from Dante Alighiere’s epic poem The Divine Comedy. 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 poem describes the brutal descent of sinners into the underworld. Dante journeys through different levels of hell and purgatory and eventually arrives in paradise. The poem itself was an amalgamation of myths, Catholic ideas (like purgatory), and Islamic traditions about Muhammad’s “night of ascension” (lailat al-miraj). Dante’s medieval view of hell is influenced more by the Qur’an than the Bible.
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.
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).