In This Lesson
Introduction | Who Is Satan? | The Meaning of the Name "Satan"
A Fallacious Understanding of Satan's Activities | What Does the Bible Say?
The "Sons of God" | What about 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6?
The Fall of Satan | A Dragon and His Angels | A Future Judgment
Theologians and Bible Scholars have been discussing and debating for centuries the subject of angelic and celestial beings, their form
and function, and their hierarchy or even if there is a hierarchical system of governmental structure for the spirit realm. Before we
open this study for discussion, let us remember that the Bible tells us all we need to know in this life, but it does not tell us all there
is to know. Therefore, we assent that the factual accuracy of the materials and opinions in this series of lessons may be disputed.
In addition to the Heavenly celestial beings we've discussed in the previous lesson, the Bible tells us about a large number of angels who rebelled against God at some point in the distant past and prior to the creation narrative in Genesis. How do we know the rebellion took place before creation? We can deduce that by the simple fact that Satan had already rebelled and fallen prior to his tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Scripture tells us quite plainly that some of God's angels fell into temptation and fell from grace, and that they face a future judgment.
"But the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he [God] has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day" (Judges 1:6)
However, the Bible does not tell us the specific cause or manner of their fall.
Now, having fallen from grace, their future is prophesied for them to spend eternity in Hell. In fact, Hell was created for them. "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41) It was never God's intention to put humans there; that is our choice.
In the Bible, there are four different words translated as "Hell" in most English Bibles:
- Sheol [Hebrew ]
sheh-ole', sheh-ole'; hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), include. its accessories and inmates: grave, hell, pit.
- Hades [Greek ]
hah dace; from I (as a neg. particle); prop. unseen, i.e. "Hades" is the place (state) of departed souls: grave, hell.
- Gehenna [Greek ]
geenna, gheh'-en-nah; valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge hinnom), a valley of Jerus., used (fig.) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment: Hell.
- Tartarus [Greek ]
tartaroo, tar tar o' o; from tartaros (the deepest abyss of Hades); to incarcerate in eternal torment: cast down to Hell.
Knowing that all angels and angelic beings were created by God and are, therefore, infinitely inferior to His intellect and perfection, then we may safely conclude that all created wisdom, power, or goodness are as nothing in comparison with God. "Even in his [God's] servants he [God] puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error; how much more those who dwell in houses of clay [mortals subject to corruption] , whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like the moth." (Job 4:18-19) "Geneva Bible Footnotes" makes this observation about these verses:
"If God finds imperfection in his angels when they are not maintained by his power,
how much more shall he lay folly to man's charge when he would justify himself against God?"
The point being, of course, that for us who are maintained by God's power, any arguments we would bring to justify ourselves against the Most High God are mere foolishness, irreverent, and irrelevant.
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Who Is Satan?
We know Satan to be the leader of the fallen angels, now called "demons". The Old Testament mentions Satan 19 times in 15 verses. In the New Testament he is mentioned 37 times in 34 verses. In order to come to a full and accurate understanding of who the fallen angels are and of their activities, powers and limitations, it seems prudent to first discuss their leader whom we know as:
- Satan (18 times in the OT; 36 times in the NT);
- Lucifer [also Day Star, Morning Star, Sun of the Dawn, Shining One] (1 time in Isaiah 14:12);
- Beelzebub/Beelzebul (7 times in the NT);
- the Devil (126 times in the NT);
- the "accuser" (1 time in Revelation 12:10); and
- the "Prince of the power of the air" (1 time in Ephesians 2:2).
Some Bible scholars assert he was a Cherub, while others say he was an Archangel. Ezekiel tells us about a Cherub called the "King of Tyre" who was present in the Garden of Eden. Although all other references to a "King of Tyre" [primarily in Kings and Chronicles] refer to a real mortal person, this one in Ezekiel 28 obviously refers to a spirit being, specifically an "anointed guardian cherub":
12"Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: 'You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
14You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
15You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.
16In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire." (emphasis added)
Scripture also tells us more about Satan in the books of Job, Isaiah, and Revelation. Perhaps the best-known Old Testament passage about Satan's fall from grace is in Isaiah 14:12-15
12"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
13You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'
15But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit."
None of these passages, however, say anything to indicate that Satan was previously an Archangel. For example, Job 1:6 tells us only that Satan still had audience with God, but not that any of the "sons of God" were specifically Archangels.
And Revelation 12:9 says that he's the deceiver and calls him the "ancient serpent", but again, makes no reference to his ever having been an Archangel.
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Some non-canonical Biblical sources provide fanciful notions that Lucifer [Satan's name before he fell] was a Seraph. However, unlike other Seraphim who have six wings, Lucifer supposedly has 12 wings, which further exemplified the regard or esteem God gave to him above all the other angelic beings prior to his fall. There is no Biblical support for this theory or doctrine of Lucifer having been a Seraph.
The Meaning of the Name "Satan"
The Hebrew masculine noun sa·tan' [feminine form sit·nah] derives from the verb satan, which means "to resist" or "to be an adversary". The noun, in reference to humankind, is used ±38 times in the Bible, for example: "They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries..." (Psalm 38:20a KJV emphasis added).
In many places in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word sa·tan' appears without the definite article "ha" ["the"]. The first time Scripture refers to it this way is when the Angel of the Lord stands in the road to resist Balaam as he sets out with the objective of cursing the Israelites.
"But God's anger was kindled because he [Balaam] went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. . . . And the angel of the LORD said to him, 'Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me.'" (Numbers 22:22,32 emphasis added)
There are other passages that use the word sa·tan' to refer to humans resisting or fighting against other humans. However, when Scripture uses the Hebrew definite article "ha" ["the"], then it always refers to Satan the Devil, the chief Adversary of God. In the Greek Scriptures [New Testament] the word sa·ta·nas' applies to Satan the Devil in nearly all of its occurrences and is usually accompanied by the definite Greek article "ho".
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A Fallacious Understanding of Satan's Activities
A common misunderstanding about Satan among Christians is that he is the opposite of God. That's not true! Yes, he opposes God. But in order to be God's "opposite", he would also have to possess the attributes of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence as God possesses. He possesses none of these qualities. Like all celestial beings, he is a created being and, therefore, possesses limited knowledge and power. Thus, Satan poses absolutely no threat to God!
Come and Let Us Reason Together
As we've noted in other lessons on ABTI, God expects us to use our mental faculties, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to analyze and reason truths He's revealed in His Word. In fact, He invites us to reason with His Word: "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD..." (Isaiah 1:18a) So, let's do that.
The fact that Satan possesses none of God's attributes of supreme power, presence, or perception is cause for comfort and even celebration.
- As a created finite being who is not omnipresent [present everywhere at the same time], he is limited to being in one place at a time. Therefore, he cannot be afflicting a family in Texas at the same time as he is attacking someone in India or in Kenya or in leaders of nations!
- As one who is not omniscient [all-knowing], he cannot know the thoughts of humans unless those thoughts are spoken or written in some form or another. He also cannot know the future plans for us, whether they are ones we desire for ourselves or ones God desires for us. Thus, he does not come against us based on any foreknowledge about our or God's future plans for us!
- As one who is not omnipotent [all-powerful], he cannot do anything to us or against us without God first ordaining or permitting it.
In other words, when we say things like, "Satan is attacking my family", we are attributing to Satan much more than he is ever capable of doing! Like us and the rest of the created universe whether seen or unseen he is limited to one place, at one time, and with very limited understanding, power, and authority. It is time to stop giving credit to Satan to stop "praising" him for things he isn't even doing!
If all the celestial beings and angelic hosts of Heaven have limited knowledge and power according to what God ordains for them as we've learned in the previous lessons then surely, this adversary of the Most High God and of us believers also operates under the same limitations!
What Does the Bible Say about Fallen Angels?
Again, we'll say as we said at the beginning of this series about celestial beings: The Bible doesn't answer all of our questions, but it does reveal all that God deems necessary to our understanding and salvation. There really is not a great deal of information in the Bible concerning the "fallen angels". Therefore, we will look instead toward Satan's fall from grace, knowing that whatever he did, other angels also did to their prophesied, eventual, and utter destruction.
As we discuss some of the references God has provided in His Word, keep in mind that much of the Bible is prophetic. Thus, even when a passage appears to be in the present or past, it may actually be a prophecy about the future. That's what makes Bible study so difficult and challenging and yet so exciting and rewarding!
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The "Sons of God"
The phrase "sons of God" appears in the Old Testament 8-11 times [depending on the Bible translation one uses]. Most of these occurrences pertain to the celestial beings who serve the Lord and appear before His throne. If you are familiar with the story of Job, you'll recall that Satan appeared before the LORD twice [in verses 1:6 and 2:1] with "sons of God", at which time the Lord challenged Satan to a contest.
Many people mistakenly believe that Satan persecuted Job on his own authority. But the text shows us very clearly that it was God, not Satan, who had the idea to test Job by the most extreme persecution that could be inflicted on a person. It was God's idea, God's test not to test Job's faith and integrity, which God already knew and acknowledged in calling Job "blameless and upright" (cf. Job 1:8, 2:3) but to demonstrate to Satan and to us what radical faith and trust look like.
The Bible is conspicuously silent on the specific classes or hierarchy of the beings [the "sons of God"] who present themselves before God's throne.
There is one place in Genesis 6:1-4 that seems to say that angels came down and had sexual relations with human women. During the first century AD, just prior to or during the composition of the New Testament canon, some sects of Judaism identified these "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2 as fallen angels who had sexual relations with human women. Some Theologians and Bible historians today think the belief may predate the actual writing of the book of Genesis.
Even though some Christian churches and cults teach this presumption as fact, most Theologians, scholars, and commentators today believe the truth is not nearly as mysterious and entertaining as the idea of angels and humans having sexual relations.
The so-called myth continued until the mid-second century AD when Jewish scholars, in particular, Lester L. Grabbe, publicly denounced it as "an old myth in Judaism". Until the mid-second century AD, many Jewish writings identify the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:1-4 as angels. By the third century, some early Christians accepted this Jewish teaching of the angelic descent myth to the "sons of God" passage in Genesis 6:1-4. By the fifth century, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity, for the most part, rejected the tradition. Those who adopted the tradition viewed the "sons of God" as fallen angels who married human women and by unnatural union begot the Nephilim [giant offspring of the fallen angels and the "daughters of man" and giants who inhabited Canaan].1
Present-day conservative Christian Theologians and commentators interpret the "sons of God" view as descendants of Seth, the pure line of Adam; and they interpret the "daughters of man" as the descendants of Cain.2
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What about 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6?
Those Biblical scholars who still hold to the belief that angels fathered children among mortal women resulting in the nephilim [giants] who existed before and after the Flood point to these two Scripture verses as a sort of "proof" of their hypothesis.
- "...God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;" (2 Peter 2:4 emphasis added)
- "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. " (Jude 6 KJV emphasis added)
On the surface, it appears there is a group of fallen angels who are currently bound and awaiting the future judgment. And those who believe angels had sexual relations with human women claim that these being "kept until the judgment" are those angels whose sin with mortal women was even more grievous than that of the other "fallen" angels.
Their Habitation and First Estate
Most Bible scholars agree that the term "habitation" means that Heaven was their native abode or dwelling place. They apparently became dissatisfied with that abode and voluntarily preferred to change it for another most likely for the promise of greater and immediate pleasure and/or position.
Also, the reference to "their first estate" primarily refers to their created state of holiness prior to their rebellion. As noted earlier, some have supposed that they relinquished Heaven out of their lust for mortal women [the "daughters of man" in Genesis 6:4]. However, Scripture is silent on the source of these angels' dissatisfaction, thus making conjecture useless. God simply expects us to take the events and their consequences on faith believing that He is in control and it is nothing about which we need concern ourselves.
Everlasting Chains under Darkness
When we read verses like these in Jude and 2 Peter, we must remember that the Bible often refers to future events in the past tense. For instance, Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven," (Luke 10:18) presumably indicating a past event. However, Revelation 12 speaks of a future war between Michael's army and Satan in which Satan will be "thrown down" to earth (cf. Revelation 12:9).
How can an event be past and future at the same time? Really, the answer is simple and yet so profound that our finite minds cannot grasp it. Our God is the One "who was and who is and who is to come" (Revelation 1:8), the "I AM" (Exodus 3:14). He is the omnipresent One who is always present at all times in every event, whether past, present, or future!
As the self-existent eternal One, He exists outside of our time and space. In fact, the Bible tells us in the first book of the Bible that He created time when He separated the light from the darkness, making day and night. Thus, He alone sees all things from His eternal perspective and, therefore, can speak of past, present, and future events in any tense, any time because all these events regardless of their position on our limited human timeline have been [past continuous tense], are being [present continuous tense], and will be [future tense] brought to their rightful and previously-determined end!
As for the "chains of gloomy darkness" or "eternal chains under gloomy darkness", the consensus among most Theologians is that these "chains" refer to the demons' spiritual state, not their present-day physical one. The Lord Jesus, while on earth, spoke at least 18 times about the "darkness" of this world, referring not to actual darkness but to the spiritual condition of humankind.
- Matthew 4:16
- "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." (John 3:19 emphasis added)
- John 8:12
Concerning the "everlasting chains", remember that Jesus announced the beginning of His earthly ministry with the words "to proclaim liberty to the captives" (Luke 4:18). He wasn't speaking about actual physical captivity, but about releasing the hearts and minds held captive under sin. In much the same way, in 2 Peter 2:4, the Apostle Peter seems to be saying that such great darkness encompasses the fallen angels as to be compared with "chains" from which they cannot break free.
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The Fall of Satan
The Bible really does not say very much about "fallen angels" per sé. In order to understand what happened, it may be more convenient to see what it teaches about their presumed leader, Satan.
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- The Hebrew Bible does not say that Satan is/was an angel, nor that he is "fallen". Rather, it uses the Hebrew word sa·tan', which we learned earlier, means "adversary" and which we know usually refers to human opponents. Only when the noun is used with the definite Hebrew article "ha" ["the"] does it represent Satan.
The Hebrew Scriptures do reference Satan, not by name, but by his attributes or designations.
True to his name, ha sa·tan', he never ceases to look for ways to defeat us. Even when he is reasonably assured that he can't turn us completely against God, his chief objective then is to try to damage our testimony.
The book of Job perhaps presents the best example of Satan's activities against the people of God and the restrictions placed on him by the Most High God. No matter what happens or what we are going through, Satan is still a defeated foe who must ask permission before doing anything against God's children!
See Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7; Zechariah 3:1-2.
In Zechariah 3:1-2, he is the one who relentlessly accuses us before our holy God: "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, 'The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?'"
In 1 Chronicles 21:1, he is the one who seduces, lures, or provokes us to go against what we know is right or to doubt God's promises: "Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel."
In Job 1:13-19 and 2:7, we see him as our chief persecutor:
12b"So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
13Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house,
14and there came a messenger to Job and said, 'The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them,
15and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.'
16While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, 'The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.'
17While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, 'The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.'
18While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, 'Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house,
19and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.'"
2:7"So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head."
- In Jewish Pseudepigrapha4, he appears as the chief evil figure, "ruler of a demonic host, influencing events throughout the world, cast out of heaven as a fallen angel". Later texts present him as destined to be conquered by the angels or the Messiah.
- The New Testament refers to Satan by name ±36 times as the leader of the fallen angels and our very real and dangerous adversary. Before we discuss this, let us reiterate what we discussed earlier, that Satan does not possess the same attributes as God. He can only be in one place at a time, and he does not possess perfect knowledge [that is, an ability to know our thoughts and plans].
So, whatever you are going through, regardless of the severity of your trials, there is a 7-billion-to-1 chance that Satan is personally and actually involved in it! [That number represents the world population.] Rather, the beings who daily challenge, attack, afflict, and inflict us with troubling physical, emotional, or spiritual pain are the angels who fell with Satan, now referred to as "demons". So, as we said earlier, we'll say again here: Stop giving credit to Satan for things he's probably not even doing! Rather, let us follow the New Testament advice:
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Remember, Satan is considered the leader of the rebellious angels. Therefore, if he is limited in what he can do against us, then certainly those same restraints or more apply to his followers! They are defeated foes! Instead of giving credit to them when we're under attack, we should praise the Lord for His promise in Romans 8:28 that everything will turn out for our good and His glory!
- In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Scripture tells us that Satan masquerades [false appearing] as an "angel of light". The only way for us to not be tempted to believe his lies, is for us to remain in God's Word and to practice the discipline to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Some people call this "practicing the presence of God". It means listening at all times for His still, small voice, remembering that He is the unseen Person listening to our every word and watching our every action.
- Revelation 12:9 refers to Satan thusly: "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." He is again referenced in Revelation 20:2 as "...the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan..."
- And in Luke 10:18, Jesus tells us, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
Most Bible scholars agree that Satan falling from Heaven probably refers to his original fall from grace when his power over the world was stripped from him. Jesus saw this from His eternal perspective from its beginning to its completion. That's why every time Jesus encountered Satan, He overcame him; and the casting out of devils in Jesus' name was/is a sign and pledge that Satan, the prince of devils, shall finally be stripped of all his power over this world!
A Dragon and His Angels
In Revelation 12:3-4, we are introduced to a "great red dragon" whose "tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth." This is the verse most pastors and scholars use to support the belief that one-third of God's angels rebelled and followed Satan.
In verses 7-10, we learn about a "war in heaven" between angels led by the Archangel Michael and "the dragon":
7"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,
8but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.'" (emphasis added)
A Future Judgment
Although God's Word says Satan has been cast out of the powers he possessed prior to the fall, and we know he is technically a defeated foe, the fact remains that Satan and his demons are very active in this present age.
God's Word offers comfort, however, to those who are suffering or being persecuted by the promise of a severe and everlasting judgment upon all fallen angels.
- "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Revelation 12:9 emphasis added)
- "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" (Matthew 25:41 emphasis added)
This teaching by Christ in Matthew 25:41 is primarily about a judgment awaiting humans who have deceived themselves into thinking they're saved when, in fact, they're not.
In a way, this verse speaks volumes about God's outrageous and unreasonable love for us. He did not prepare Hell for humans, nor has it ever been His desire that any human flesh should suffer there. Rather, He created a place to which the deceiver, liar, and accuser of the brethren will someday be confined. But for us, He sent His Son to receive in His own body and spirit the penalty which we deserve, so that anyone, anywhere, and anytime might embrace the free ransom provided, thereby escaping the torment that was never intended for us.
Notice that the first three verses above are written in past-tense. However, as we mentioned previously, the demons are quite active in our world today, just as they were in Bible times. So, these passages are prophecies about the eternal torturous future awaiting them.
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1Jewish Pseudepigrapha 52 texts written between 200 BC and AD 200 but ascribed to various prophets and kings in the Hebrew Scriptures; many are apocalyptic in nature
2"Fallen Angel", Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 5 January 2013. Web. 27 January 2013.
3"Sons of God", Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 January 2013. Web. 30 January 2013.