Fall of Satan and his angels!
The rebellion of Satan and his angels
Satan. Spirit being who opposes God and seeks to frustrate his plans and lead his people into rebellion.
HERE we have the picture of war in heaven between the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan—all these names describe the one evil being—and Michael and all his angels. The idea seems to be that, such was his hatred, the dragon pursued the Messiah even to heaven, where he was met by Michael with his heavenly legions and finally cast out. It will be convenient to gather together here what Scripture has to say about Satan; it presents a complicated picture.
(1) There is the echo of the ancient story of a primeval war in heaven. Satan was an angel who conceived ‘the impossible idea’ of placing his throne higher than that of God (2 Enoch 29:4–5) and was cast out of heaven. The Babylonians had a similar story about Ishtar, the god of the morning star. He, too, rebelled against God and was cast down from heaven. There is one definite reference to this story in the Old Testament. In Isaiah, we read: ‘How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!’ (Isaiah 14:12). The sin which caused the fall from heaven was pride. There may be a reference to this in 1 Timothy 3:6, where it is urged that Christian preachers must be kept from pride in case they fall into the same condemnation as the devil did. When Satan was cast out of heaven, his dwelling place became the air in which he had to wander; that is why he is sometimes called the prince of the air or the ruler of the power of the air (cf. Ephesians 2:2).
(2) There is a strong line of thought in the Old Testament in which Satan is still an angel under God’s command and with access to his presence. In Job, we find Satan numbered among the sons of God and possessing access to his presence (Job 1:6–9, 2:1–6); and in Zechariah we also find Satan in the presence of God (Zechariah 3:1–2).
To understand this idea of Satan, we must first understand what the word Satan means. Satan originally meant simply an adversary. Even the angel of the Lord who stood in the path of Balaam to stop him from his sinful intentions can be called a satan against him (Numbers 22:22). The Philistines were afraid that David would be their satan (1 Samuel 29:4). When Solomon began to rule his kingdom, he was so blessed by God that he had no satan left (1 Kings 5:4). But later the foreign kings, Hadad and Rezon, were both to become his satans (1 Kings 11:14, 11:23).
In the Old Testament, Satan was the angel who was the counsel for the prosecution against individuals in the presence of God, their adversary. Thus he is the counsel for the prosecution against Job, cynically suggesting that Job serves God for what he can get out of it and that, if he is involved in disaster, his loyalty will soon cease (Job 1:11–12); and he is given permission by God to use every weapon short of death to test Job (Job 2:1–6). So, in Zechariah, Satan is the accuser of Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:1–2). In Psalm 109:6, the Authorized Version actually uses the word Satan in this sense: ‘Let Satan stand at the right hand of the wicked.’ The Revised Standard Version rightly alters the translation to: ‘Let an accuser bring him to trial.’
So, in the Old Testament, Satan was the angel who is the counsel for the prosecution when an individual was on trial before God, while Michael was the counsel for the defence. Between the Testaments, there seems to have been a belief that there was more than one Satan engaged in the task of bringing accusations against people; and we read of the archangel whose duty it was to fend off the satans (1 Enoch 40:7).
For the most part, in the Old Testament, Satan was very much under the jurisdiction of God.
(3) In the Old Testament, we never read of the devil, although sometimes we come across devils; but, in the New Testament, Satan becomes the devil. The Greek is diabolos, literally a slanderer. The dividing line is not very great between being a prosecuting counsel who brings charges against people and inventing such charges and tempting people into actions where such charges will be forthcoming. So, in the New Testament, Satan becomes the seducer of men and women. We find that, in the story of the temptations of Jesus, the three names are indiscriminately used. This power of evil is Satan (Matthew 4:10; Mark 1:13), the devil (Matthew 4:1, 4:5, 4:8, 4:11; Luke 4:2–3, 4:5, 4:13) and the tempter (Matthew 4:3).
Since this is so, we find Satan engaged in certain wicked schemes in the New Testament story. He seeks to seduce Jesus in his temptations. He puts the terrible scheme of betrayal into Judas’ mind (John 13:2, 13:27; Luke 22:3). He is out to make Peter fall (Luke 22:31). He persuades Ananias to keep back part of the price of the possession he had sold (Acts 5:3). He uses his wiles (Ephesians 6:11) and designs (2 Corinthians 2:11) to achieve his purposes in leading people astray. He is the cause of illness and pain (Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38; 2 Corinthians 12:7). He hinders the work of the gospel by sowing the weeds which choke the good seed (Matthew 13:39) and by snatching away the seed of the word from human hearts before it can gain an entry (Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12).
Thus Satan becomes the enemy of God and of human beings, the supreme evil one; for the line in the Lord’s Prayer should probably be translated: ‘Rescue us from the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13).
He can be called the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), for, having been cast out of heaven, he has to exert his evil influence among men and women. He comes to be identified with the serpent because of the story of the Fall in Genesis 3.
(4) The strange thing is that the history of Satan is a tragedy, whatever version of the story we use. In one version, Satan is the angel of light, once the greatest of the angels, whose pride caused him to seek to be higher than God and who was cast out of heaven. In the other version, Satan was a real servant of God and distorted his service into an opportunity for sinning. Satan is the supreme example of that tragedy in which the best becomes the worst.
The results of the rebellion of Satan and his angels
Constant spiritual warfare on the earth
As the Scottish Paraphrase has it of Isaiah 40:31:
On eagles’ wings they mount, they soar,
their wings are faith and love,
Till, past the cloudy regions here,
they rise to heav’n above.