The Fall of Satan

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

All Scripture references are from the New King James Version, unless otherwise stated.

The kingdom of darkness is a reality which everybody should take notice of. Satan and his demons – they are the fallen angels who were cast out of heaven because of their complicity in his rebellion – are engaged in a fierce battle against God and His kingdom. They strive for worship and power. Satan is an imitator of God who is intent on ruling the universe in God’s place. His aim is to be also worshipped as God. In his imitation of the Triune God, Satan’s kingdom is ruled by a triumvirate – the devil, the Antichrist and the false prophet. The devil pretends to be God; his future world leader, the Antichrist, will be offered to the world as the Christ; while the false prophet will imitate the ministry of the Holy Spirit by doing great signs and wonders.

Lucifer was a good, wise and beautiful angel who was created by God, but he was corrupted by pride and lust for power. He revolted against God’s authority in an effort to raise himself in status to be equal with God. In Ezekiel 28 is a description of the earthly king Tyre, and also of Satan who was the spiritual power behind him to instigate and control him. Lucifer was the real king of Tyre. Both of them have fallen because of their pride. The Lord says of Lucifer:

“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, o covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour; I cast you to the ground” (Ezek. 28:12-17).

Because of the following four reasons it is quite clear that these verses refer to Lucifer and not the earthly king of Tyre:

  • He was in the Garden of Eden.
  • He was a cherub who covers.
  • He enjoyed free movement on God’s holy mountain.
  • He was perfect since the day of his creation, till iniquity was found in him and caused his downfall.

The angels who were deceived by Lucifer to sin by sharing in his rebellion were cast out of heaven with him. Their iniquity transformed them to become perverted and hateful creatures. After his fall, Lucifer was described as Satan, who is the adversary of God.

In Isaiah 14, the Lord uses the fall of the king of Babylon to describe Lucifer’s fall from heaven. Babylon is a well-known symbol of Satan’s kingdom on earth. This is evidenced by the fact that Satan took possession of Nimrod after Babylon was first established, and influenced him to become a violent person who was so arrogant and great in his own eyes that he built a city and a tower with its top reaching to heaven (Gen. 11:4). In this way, fallen man could rule over the whole earth, ascend to heaven and declare himself to be God. During the later history of Babylon the city was still the symbol of a mighty kingdom that was violently opposed to the kingdom of God. According to Revelation 18, the city will be rebuilt in the end-time and again impose its dominion upon the nations of the world. The demonic nature of this evil city is clearly evident from prophecies on its final downfall: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every fowl spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Rev. 18:2).

Throughout the centuries, Lucifer was the real king of Babylon, also of mystery Babylon, the harlot mother of all the false religions. The human tyrants who ruled in Babylon were all impersonations of him who gave expression to his rebellion, violence, religious self-deification and idolatry in their most extreme form. It is very fitting that Lucifer’s fall from heaven should be likened to the fall of Babylon’s king, as his kingdom is also destined to destruction. From the context it is very obvious that Lucifer’s fate is discussed here as the earthly king of Babylon was never described as Lucifer, who sat on the mount of the congregation in heaven and exalted himself to be equal with God:

“How you are fallen from heaven, o Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?” (Isa. 14:12-17).

It must have been a sudden and highly dramatic event when Lucifer and his angels were cast out by God. John says that he drew a third of the angels of heaven with him (Rev. 12:4), which is an indication of his considerable power and influence. The consequences of Lucifer’s expulsion from heaven were far-reaching. He swore vengeance on God and His kingdom by incessantly attacking and destroying His creation. This declaration of war finally transformed him into Satan – God’s Enemy and Adversary. He is particularly intent on controlling and destroying human beings who were created in God’s image; therefore, God describes him as a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).

Satan’s fall from heaven was only the beginning of his humiliation. After that, the opportunity was given him to reveal his true character, thereby filling up the measure of his iniquity. He did that by deceiving en destroying people. Nature also suffers because of the Fall and the destructive acts of the devil and his human henchmen. Satan will launch his most violent attack on mankind during the seven year-long reign of the Antichrist: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12). Many people will die because of wars, pestilences famines and other calamities while the earth and its resources are ruined.

Satan’s fall, as described by Ezekiel and Isaiah, occurs during different stages. It will assume a further dimension when, at the end of the great tribulation when Christ returns, he will be incarcerated in the bottomless pit for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-3). Then, it will be said of him: “Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities?” After he has been released from the pit at the end of the thousand years, Satan and all his followers will be cast into the lake of fire for ever.

Satan is further revealed

It is important to notice that Satan is progressively revealed in the Bible. In the process, quite a number of descriptive names have been assigned to him. These names are further indications of his motives, strategies and evil character. Satan and his demons arise from the abyss (Luke 8:31) and operate in mystical spheres or heavenly realms, i.e. the supernatural sphere (Eph. 6:12). They prefer to hide their true identity in order to gain easy access to people’s hearts and minds. Initially they assumed the identity of various idols, and even ancestral spirits, to ensure that people would unwittingly serve and worship them through prayers and sacrifices. This practice became very popular throughout human history, but Christians have always been warned not to have anything to do with this. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons… You cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:19-21). Whether the heathen (Gentile) nations know it or not, they are serving the devil through their false religious practices.

During Old Testament times the heathen nations served a large number of Baals (foreign gods) and Ashtoreths (goddesses) (Judg. 2:11-13; 1 Sam. 12:10). They often deceived Israel to participate in worshipping these idols. Idolatry was practised together occult activities such as consulting the spirits, divining and soothsaying, which are all works of darkness by which Satan deceives people. Israel was seriously warned against these activities: “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practises witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord… For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you” (Deut. 18:10-14). Astrology is also prohibited as one of the works of darkness (Isa. 47:12-14).

In the Old Testament there are also concepts that are more directly related to the devil and his demons – even examples of naked Satanism. The Hebrew word “sa-ir” means “devil” or “demon.” In Leviticus 17:7 and 2 Chronicles 11:15 it is translated as “demon.” The KJV renders it “devil.” However, “sa-ir” can also be translated as “hairy demon”. In A concise Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, W.L. Holladay says that “sa-ir” is “a hairy demon in shape of he-goat.” This perception accounts for the fact that the devil may also be depicted as a hairy he-goat. Among Satanists, the devil is often visualised as a black goat or a human-like creature with the head of a goat. This abominable creature has human as well as animal features, but always with two goat-horns on his head.

The Old Testament also uses the word “shed” for “devil” (cf. Deut. 32:17). In Psalm 106:37-38 an ancient form of Satanism is described, in which people sacrificed their children to the devils: “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood… whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan.” In this case, devils are equated with idols.

As a very direct revelation of the Wicked One, the name “Satan” is only mentioned a couple of times in the Old Testament. This name means “Adversary” or “Enemy” and depicts Satan as the big adversary, or enemy, of God and all the believers. “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel” (1 Chron. 21:1). He instigated David to do something that was contrary to God’s will. He is also the accuser of believers: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose [or accuse] him” (Zech. 3:1). The following is another descriptive name that strongly alludes to Satan: “In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent” (Isa. 27:1).

In the New Testament, both the names “Satan” (Adversary) and “devil” are used. “Devil” has been derived from the Greek term “diabolos” and means “false accuser” or “slanderer.” Other descriptive names which are used for the devil in the New Testament are “the wicked one” or “the evil one” (Matt. 3:19; 1 John 5:19), Mammon, the god of money (Luke 16:13), the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), the deceiver (Rev. 12:9), the father of lies (John 8:44), Apollyon, the destroyer (Rev. 9:3), Beelzebub, the dung-god (Matt. 12:24), Belial, the worthless one (2 Cor. 6:15), the accuser (Rev. 12:10), the murderer of people (John 8:44), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), the ruler of this world (John 12:31), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the serpent (Rev. 12:9), the great dragon (Rev. 12:9), the roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), and the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4).

Satan is head of the kingdom of darkness with many evil spirits, or demons, under his command. Since the Fall he also controls and manipulates all unsaved people who are spiritually in his direct sphere of influence. It is from this evil power that the Lord saves us: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).

The devil tries everything possible to gain authority over God’s creation with a view to destroying it. He also unceasingly endeavours to destroy the image of God in human beings by blinding them spiritually and making them slaves of sin. His final objective is to be served and worshipped by all people. He also plans to establish the Antichrist in a position of authority on earth in the place of Christ. One of his methods to achieve these goals is to oppose the work of the Holy Spirit by subjecting people to the influence of deceiving spirits and doctrines of devils. Are you spiritually well enough equipped to fight this battle? The Bible says: “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11-12).

The spiritual position of power which Satan attained on earth is a direct consequence of the Fall. All people are born with a nature which is inclined to sinning, and therefore join the devils in their rebellion against God. They are spiritually dead and morally depraved (Rom. 3:10-18). Even after the coming of Jesus Christ most of them prefer darkness to light because their works are evil (John 3:19). That is why the devil is called the ruler and god of this fallen, evil world (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4). John says that the whole world lies in the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). His influence is far-reaching. Satan uses a variety of methods to deceive people spiritually, among which the following are the most common ones:

False prophets. In his most disguised form, Satan attacks the church of Christ by infiltrating it with false prophets who pretend to be apostles and ministers of Christ. 1 John 4:1 says that “many false prophets are gone out into the world.” The Bible also reveals that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15; cf. Matt. 7:15). They utterly distort the Word of God and deceive people to deny the divine attributes of Christ. The atonement of sin on the cross is also denied. Randy Pike rightly says of such people: “Theology without regeneration changes men into clever devils.” One of the methods that these false prophets use is to deny that there is a devil or a hell. If that is the case, we don’t need a Saviour to deliver us from the power of Satan. When such ideas are entertained, the devil can continue unhindered with his deception and destructive works. Furthermore, false prophets do not believe in a personal Antichrist, and will enthusiastically welcome any religious leader who might present himself as the universal Christ of all religions.

False religions. In a more direct way, humanity is deceived by the non-Christian religions into worshipping idols that are disguised demons (1 Cor. 10:19-20). The heathens are not aware that Satan has deceived them. In these religions, Jesus Christ is not recognised as God – neither is His crucifixion accepted as the only atonement for the sin of humanity. Satan is the god of this world who blinds the minds of people so they would be unable to accept the true gospel and turn to Christ for salvation (2 Cor. 4:4).

Occult powers. A still more ostensible revelation of Satan is by means of occult or mystical practices. He still does not associate it openly with his name and his kingdom in order that people may be more easily deceived into becoming unfaithful to God. The power of Satan is marketed and promoted by way of the New Age Movement, the Human Potential Movement, and related occult and mystical practices such as spiritual channelling, shamanism, magical powers, transcendental meditation, yoga, fortune-telling, psychic powers, astral projection, holistic healing, extrasensory perception, clairvoyance, etc. People are influenced to open themselves up to these powers and to cosmic wisdom, and freely draw on these resources. Eastern meditation is one of the most popular methods of bringing about an altered state of consciousness, which leads to an openness to occult powers, cosmic wisdom, spirit guides and demons.

Satanism. The direct revelation of Satan can only, because of the inherent repulsiveness of the idea, be made to highly deceived, morally decadent, and spiritually degenerate people. In the past, these direct revelations were confined to a relatively few small groups of people, but during the past two decades their numbers have vastly increased throughout the world. To these worshippers, Satan and his demons reveal themselves in all their abomination, vileness and bloodthirstiness. They demand animal or human sacrifices from their worshippers, as well as the murder of certain victimised enemies.

Although Satan was defeated on the cross by the Lord Jesus, he has not yet been shut up in a bottomless pit and is still actively involved in the struggle against God’s kingdom. Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and His Holy Spirit empowers us to prevail against the temptations and attacks of the evil one. We should remain vigilant at all times, putting on the full armour of God. It will only be at the second coming of Christ when Satan will be stripped of his power as the ruler of this fallen world, and incarcerated in a pit. Until then, the struggle will continue.

At the end of Christ’s thousand year reign of peace Satan will be released for a short time to test the people on earth spiritually. Those who are not truly born again will immediately fall into his power and be used by him in a renewed attack against the kingdom of God: “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. Ant they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:7-10). That will be the end of Satan’s fall and humiliation. He and his deceived followers will remain in the lake of fire for ever. Resist him and give him no place in your life (Jas. 4:7; Eph. 4:27).