ACST 44. The Fallen

Bruegel, the fall of the rebel angels

The Bible says a great deal about Satan, but perhaps a great deal less than one would expect. Satan was the first to rebel against God’s sovereignty in heaven, and the leader of humanity’s rebellion through deception. One would think that whole books would have been written explaining who this prince of darkness is, and preparing believers to do spiritual warfare against him. But in spite of his threat to us, God has given us relatively little information about him.

The Bible is written to humans, and reveals only enough about Satan and his kingdom to prepare us for the battles with him we will face. While it is important to know one’s enemy, it is even more important for Christians to know themselves, and the resources available to them for engaging the enemy. Too much fascination with the enemy can lead to an overemphasis on his power, and a fatalistic attitude about the times we face him. For that reason, there is more emphasis in the Bible on Christ than antichrist. There is more said about God’s kingdom than Satan’s counterfeit.

Some of the most significant passages that inform readers of Satan and his influence are those where he appears almost by accident. Jesus rebuked Peter for insisting that he would never go to the cross. He says “Get behind me, Satan.”[1] His rebuke is scathing, and suggests that when we oppose God’s plan, Satan is behind it.

When Satan first appears in the Old Testament narrative, he has possessed the body of a beautiful and wise animal called the serpent. This serpent in Eden is capable of conversing with our ancestors, and leads them to rebel against their maker. The serpent is condemned for his incitement of that rebellion, and God seems to speak through him to Satan himself when he promises that a seed of the woman would do battle with him, be injured in that battle, and finally prevail by crushing the serpent’s head.[2]

Another passage where we suddenly discover that Satan has slipped into the story is found in Ezekiel 28.

“The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man,

say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD:

“Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I

am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart

of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god,

though you make your heart like the heart of a god-

3 you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is

hidden from you; 4 by your wisdom and your under-

standing you have made wealth for yourself, and

have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;

5 by your great wisdom in your trade you have

increased your wealth, and your heart has become

proud in your wealth- 6 therefore thus says the Lord

GOD: Because you make your heart like the heart of

a god, 7 therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners

upon you, the most ruthless of the nations; and

they shall draw their swords against the beauty of

your wisdom and defile your splendor. 8 They shall

thrust you down into the pit, and you shall die the

death of the slain in the heart of the seas. 9 Will

you still say, ‘I am a god,’ in the presence of those

who kill you, though you are but a man, and no god,

in the hands of those who slay you? 10 You shall

die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of

foreigners; for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD.””[3]

The chapter starts out with an obvious prophecy directed toward the ruler of Tyre. He is called the prince of Tyre, and he is guilty of such pride due to his wealth and accomplishments that he fancies himself a god. Ezekiel predicts that the real God will humble this false god by bringing foreign armies who will “draw their swords against the beauty of (his) wisdom and defile (his) splendor.” As a result this great prince of Tyre will “die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas.” God asks him, “Will you still say ‘I am a god’ in the presence of those who kill you?” No, this ruler of Tyre is not a god. He will be punished for his arrogance.

In the next section of his prophecy, Ezekiel goes so far to the extreme in both condemning and praising Tyre’s ruler that it appears he is looking beyond the earthly ruler to Satan himself – his spirit-being counterpart.

“Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me:

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. 13 You 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. 14 You 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. 15 You were blameless

in your ways from the day you were created, till

unrighteousness was found in you. 16 In 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. 17 Your heart was

proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your

wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to

the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast

their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your

iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade

you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire

out from your midst; it consumed you, and I

turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of

all who saw you. 19 All who know you among the

peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a

dreadful end and shall be no more forever.””[4]

Whoever the referent of this lamentation is, he is called the “king of Tyre” as opposed to the “prince of Tyre” (vs. 1). While other rulers are called kings in Ezekiel,[5] there must be a reason that a new title is used at this juncture in the prophecy. Since the king of Tyre is called a prince, perhaps Satan is referred to as king in that he is the power behind the power, the pride behind the pride.

Such superlatives are used of the king of Tyre that it seems strange for these words to be referring to a mere man. He was “the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” He was “blameless in (his) ways “till unrighteousness was found (in him).” His “heart was proud because of (his) beauty.” He “corrupted (his) wisdom for the sake of (his) splendor.” These descriptions seem to be speaking of – and to – someone greater than a mere human king.

The descriptions of the referent’s past are also problematic if they only refer to a human ruler. Was the king of Tyre “in Eden, the garden of God”? Was he “an anointed guardian cherub” placed “on the holy mountain of God”?

For these reasons, some scholars conclude that the ultimate message of Ezekiel 28:11-19 speaks through the human ruler of Tyre and to the spirit being that inspired him.[6]

The good news in all this is that if God’s message in Ezekiel 28:12b-16a described the rebellion of Satan, then we would expect 28:16b-19 to describe God’s judgment upon Satan. Notice the specific judgments that are described here:

1. He is cast from the mountain on which

he had been placed as guardian cherub,[7]

2. He is destroyed,

3. He is cast to the ground,

4. He is exposed before kings,

5. He is consumed by fire,

6. He is turned to ashes,

7. He comes to a dreadful end,

8. He shall be no more forever.

Any one of those descriptions of the judgment of Satan might be taken figuratively, were it simply standing alone. But the mass of them seen together seems to prove beyond question that Satan is not an immortal being. God is not going to have to put up with that creature and his prideful rebellion forever. He will come to an end. His future is sealed. Tyre as a nation was destroyed, and its prince with it. Is there any doubt that this king of Tyre will suffer the same fate?

The fact of Satan’s eventual complete destruction could be a major means of encouragement to believers, who often (for the time being) suffer at his hands. But this very fact is often ignored completely in Christian theology. Those who are convinced that no beings (either angels or humans) will ever die overlook or redefine the Bible when it speaks about the demise of Satan.

When John saw the vision of everything that is going to make it into the next age, Satan was not there. John said “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” He saw no lake of fire, no hell, no grave, no tartarus, no part of the old creation. John said “for the first heaven and the first earth” – i.e. all that was part of the original creation – including Satan – “had passed away.” Satan will pass away.[8]

After describing the glories of the holy city, new Jerusalem, John said “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars [all of these terms describe Satan], their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”[9] Satan will experience the second death.

Satan was said to have been thrown into that lake of fire and tormented day and night for “ages and ages” (the literal rendering of what is usually translated “forever and ever.”[10] No doubt God is going to take a long time to destroy Satan and his evil angels. But to insist that “ages and ages” means eternity makes it impossible for the lake of fire to be what God says it is – the second death.

God created hell for the purpose of destroying his enemies entirely – both soul and body.[11] When the demons saw Jesus, they asked him if he had come to destroy them.[12] They knew that their ultimate fate would be destruction at the hands of our savior. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus became a human being so that he could deliver us who fear death – and “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”[13] God has prepared a fire for the devil and his angels.[14] Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed in such a fire.[15] Their destruction serves “as an example” of that destruction that awaits Satan and the fallen angels. Those cities are not burning today. They were totally, permanently destroyed. The adjective aionios, usually translated “eternal” described the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah and will describe the fire of hell because it will destroy eternally, that is, permanently. This is the usual meaning of the term aionios in the New Testament, as seen in the following examples:

  • the permanent sin which can never be forgiven (Mark 3:29).
  • the permanent weight of glory compared with our slight momentary affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:10).
  • the permanent things that are unseen compared to the transient things that are seen (2 Corinthians 4:18).
  • the permanent house (body) in the heavens compared to our temporary tent (body) on earth (2 Corinthians 5:1).
  • the permanent destruction the lost will face at Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
  • the permanent comfort and good hope we have through God’s grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
  • the permanent glory that accompanies salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10).
  • Philemon’s permanent return to Colossae, after being parted from them for a while (Philemon 1:15).
  • the permanent salvation made possible by Jesus, our great high priest (Hebrews 5:9).
  • the permanent judgment that will take place after the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 6:2).
  • the permanent redemption secured by Christ’s sacrifice in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:12).
  • the permanent covenant made possible by the shedding of the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20).
  • entrance into the permanent kingdom provided for all those who make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Paul describes Jesus as the ruler who will destroy all of his enemies before delivering the kingdom over to the Father. He will destroy “every rule and every authority and power” — terms that refer to demonic spirits.[16] He must do that or God’s plan cannot be accomplished. He must do that before he puts an end to death. Before that happens, everyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life will have been throne into that lake, and will have experienced the second death. Is Satan’s name in the Lamb’s book of life? No, so his fate is to be destroyed in hell, along with all he has deceived into joining him.

Satan has rebelled against God, and has convinced an undisclosed number of angels to follow him in that rebellion. They have lost their original authority in heaven, and have fallen from their positions of God-ordained rank. They appear to have reorganized into ranks through which they seek to influence humanity by various means. Paul teaches this when he described them as rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil.[17] Their goal is to corrupt the earth, and to get as many human beings as possible to share their ultimate fate – complete destruction.

The succeeding chapters will outline the various means that Satan and the demons use to accomplish their purposes. It is best to know what one’s enemies are up to. Perhaps this knowledge will assist us in doing battle with them, and resisting their influence until Christ comes and defeats them for good.

[1] Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33.

[2] Genesis 3:15.

[3] Ezekiel 28:1-10.

[4] Ezekiel 28:11-19.

[5] Ezekiel 1:2; 7:27; 17:12, 16; 19:9; 20:33; 21:19, 21; 24:2; 26:7; 29:2f, 18f; 30:10, 21f, 24f; 31:2; 32:2, 11; 37:22, 24.

[6] Ron Rhodes, Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 106-107. “…the king is portrayed as having a different nature than man (he is a cherub, considered to be in the inner circle of angels with closest access to God – verse 14). He had a different status than man (he was blameless and sinless – verse 15). He was in a different realm than man (the holy Mount of God – verses 13-14). He received a different judgment than man (verse 16 – he was cast out of the mountain of God and thrown to earth, which seems parallel to description of Satan’s fall in revelation 12).”

[7] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), 15. “Now if we were to try to assign positions to the different orders of angels, we would conclude that the cherubim who could stand and look Godward, or minister throneward occupied the highest position of all and had the greatest privilege of any created being. It was over such a privileged class of angels that Lucifer was placed in authority by Divine appointment.”

[8] Revelation 21:1.

[9] Revelation 21:7-8.

[10] Revelation 20:10.

[11] Matthew 10:28.

[12] Mark 1:24.

[13] Hebrews 2:14.

[14] Matthew 25:41.

[15] Jude 7.

[16] 1 Corinthians 15:24-26.

[17] Ephesians 6:12.

Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !

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