Long before man was created, it would seem that Satan was already in existence, one of God’s created angels. “Angel,” from the Greek word angelos, means “messenger,” and refers to God’s ministering spirits. They are created beings, designed by God to be servants or ministers, (cf. Heb. 1:14). But not all of them performed faithfully. Some of them “kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation,” and God has kept them “in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” (Jude 6). It would appear that Satan was one of these fallen angels. Peter says: “For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;…” (2 Pet. 2:4).
The devil claimed that he owned this world, (Mt. 4:8-9). Such a claim would not mean much, coming from a liar, (Jn. 8:44), but our Lord said, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” (Jn. 12:31). Further, Paul refers to him as the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and the “prince of the powers of the air,” (Eph. 2:2). So, Satan obviously was given considerable power here.
When did Satan fall? From an incident recorded in Luke 10, some people mistakenly get the idea that Satan’s fall occurred during the earthly ministry of Jesus. In that chapter, we have the record of Jesus sending out 70 disciples. When they returned, they exclaimed that, “even the demons are subject unto us in thy name,” (vs. 17). Then Jesus responds, “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven,” (vs. 18). From this statement, some erroneously conclude that the fall of Satan was seen by Jesus when the 70 were preaching. But that is not what the text says. Jesus appears to be encouraging them by informing them that Satan is indeed fallen, and that he (Jesus) was actually there at the time of Satan’s fall. We need to remember that Jesus is not a created being, and he existed before he came to this earth in human form, (Jn. 1:1ff).
In outlining the qualifications for elders, Paul said, “not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil,” (1 Tim. 3:6). The reason a man who serves as an elder is not to be a novice or inexperienced newcomer, is that there is a danger such a man would be puffed up with pride and fall in the same manner that the devil did. The “condemnation” in that passage is not coming from the devil, but referring to him. The reason Satan fell in the first place was because he became “puffed up” or proud. Such pride could easily overwhelm an inexperienced elder.
Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the king of Babylon, seems to have secondary reference to Satan: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit,” (Is. 14:12-15 KJV). If Robert Milligan’s view was correct, this prophecy has a secondary application to Satan himself, who was cast out of heaven and now reigns over those evil spirits awaiting an inevitable doom in the lake of fire, (Rev. 20:10). Commenting on these passages, brother Guy N. Woods said, “By arguments which, to this writer at least, seem conclusive, it has been shown that sin began in heaven; that it had its origin in the rebellion of a created angel who, because he was puffed up with pride, sought to be the equal of God himself, and was, because of his vain ambition, cast out of the heavenly realm. Of the time when, and the place where such momentous events occurred, inspiration has not spoken; and it is idle for us to speculate thereon today. Suffice it to say that it occurred prior to the creation of man; for shortly after that event, the serpent, either the devil himself or his emissary, appeared in Paradise and seduced Eve, thereupon introducing sin into the human family.”
Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding the king of Tyre seems to have a similar dual nature, (Ez. 28:11-19). This would confirm again that Satan’s fall occurred before the creation of man. And he is having a limited influence upon this world until he is finally cast away forever.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.