The Devil Himself: His Fall

“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! You 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; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15

How, why, and when did Satan fall from heaven?

Satan’s fall from heaven is symbolically described in Isaiah 14:12–14 and Ezekiel 28:12–18. While these two passages are referring specifically to the kings of Babylon and Tyre, we believe they also reference the spiritual power behind those kings, namely, Satan. These passages describe why Satan fell, but they do not say when the fall occurred. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, witnessed Satan’s fall, and He mentions it in Luke 10:18: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” We know that the angels were created before the earth (Job 38:4–7). Satan fell before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1–14). Satan’s fall, therefore, must have occurred somewhere after the time the angels were created and before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Whether Satan’s fall occurred hours, days, or years before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, Scripture does not say.

The book of Job tells us, at least at that time, Satan still had access to heaven and to the throne of God. “One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, ’Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it’” (Job 1:6-7). Apparently at that time, Satan was still moving freely between heaven and earth, speaking to God directly and answering for his activities. Whether God has discontinued this access is a matter of debate. Some say Satan’s access to heaven was ended at the death of Christ. Others believe Satan’s access to heaven will be ended at the end times war in heaven (Revelation 12:7–12).

Why did Satan fall from heaven? Satan fell because of pride. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. Notice the many “I will…” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes Satan as an exceedingly beautiful angel. Satan was likely the highest of all angels, the anointed cherub, the most beautiful of all of God’s creations, but he was not content in his position. Instead, Satan desired to be God, to essentially “kick God off His throne” and take over the rule of the universe. Satan wanted to be God, and interestingly enough, that is essentially what Satan tempted Adam and Eve with in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). How did Satan fall from heaven? Actually, a fall is not an accurate description. It would be far more accurate to say God cast Satan out of heaven (Isaiah 14:15; Ezekiel 28:16-17). Satan did not fall from heaven; rather, Satan was pushed.

What did Jesus mean when He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” in Luke 10:18?

In Luke 10:18 Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The context of these words is the return of the 70 (or 72) disciples that Jesus had sent out to evangelize and prepare His way to Jerusalem (see verse 1). When the 70 return and give their report, they are joyful and a little surprised that “even the demons submit to us in your name” (verse 17). Jesus’ first words in reply are, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (verse 18).

In referencing Satan’s fall from heaven, Jesus most likely had in mind Isaiah 14:12, “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” The fall of Satan that Jesus saw happened after Lucifer’s sin, before Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. In his pride, Lucifer had lifted himself up, but God had cast him down out of his original place in heaven (although he retains a limited access to heaven for now, according to Job 1:6). Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 speaks of Jesus’ pre-existence and the Lord’s defeat over the power of Satan in a general sense.

When Jesus’ disciples came back to report their joy over their authority over demons, Jesus, in so many words, tells them they should not have been surprised. Satan is a fallen foe and has always been subject to the authority of the Son of God. Jesus had sent the 70 out in His authority, which extends over the demonic realm. Satan’s fall “like lightning” indicates that his judgment in heaven was swift and obvious. Not only did Jesus give the 70 authority over devils, but He also enabled them “to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).

As the 70 are celebrating that the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name, in Luke 10:17, Jesus redirects their excitement by pointing to an even bigger blessing: their salvation! Jesus says, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (verse 20). Casting out demons has a temporal, limited benefit in this world, but having your name written in heaven is an eternal, unlimited blessing!

Revelation 12:9 refers to another time in which Satan is cast out of heaven: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” We believe this happens during the future tribulation period when Satan is barred access to heaven once and for all.

At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return, overthrow the kingdom Satan was attempting to set up, and bind the devil for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1–3). At the end of 1,000 years, Satan will be released for one final battle, but he is defeated again and thrown into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:7–10).

Jesus has power over Satan and power to save us. Still today, believers face a spiritual battle against forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). With God’s Spirit, we do not need to fear Satan or evil spirits; rather, we depend on the Lord’s strength for victory in our spiritual struggles and trust that God will preserve us for heaven’s inheritance. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Does Satan still have access to Heaven?

Satan was originally one of God’s holy angels, but he rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18). That was only the first stage of his judgment. Satan’s kingdom was vanquished at the cross (John 12:31–32). Later, he will be bound in the abyss for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1–3) and then will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:10).

Until his final judgment, Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 14:30), but it seems that he still has restricted access to the heavenly realms. In Job 1:6, Satan stands in the presence of God. There is a similar situation in 2 Chronicles 18:18–21 involving a “lying spirit.”

Since God is holy and absolutely without sin (Isaiah 6:3), and since He will not even look on evil (Habakkuk 1:13), how can Satan be in heaven? The answer involves God’s sovereign restraint of sin. In Job 1, Satan stood before God to give an account of himself. God initiated the meeting, led the proceedings, and remained in absolute control (verse 7). The result was that Satan’s power was limited (verse 12) and God was glorified.

Here are some other facts to note: 1) Satan does not have open access to God’s presence. He is summoned by God. 2) The visits are temporary. His time before God’s throne is limited. 3) In no way is the purity of heaven tainted by the brief, God-ordained presence of a sinful being, “quarantined,” as it were, by God’s regulatory power. And, 4) Satan’s access is only granted prior to the final judgment. After the judgment, God creates a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), wipes away all tears from our eyes (verse 4), reveals the New Jerusalem (verse 10), and promises the complete absence of sin (verse 27).

When we say, “God cannot allow sin into heaven,” we simply mean that God cannot allow human beings who are still in their sin to live in His presence. But it is possible for God to command a sinful being to stand (temporarily) in His presence in order to commission him (Isaiah 6), to exact an account from him (Job 1-2), or to judge him (Revelation 20:11–15) without compromising His holiness.

God’s holiness will eventually consume all sin. Until that day, His holiness regulates sin, and that means that Satan, on certain occasions, is briefly summoned before his Creator to give an account of his actions.

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