Satanology and Demonology

by James F. Myers

 

INTRODUCTION

Satanology and demonology (subcategories of Angelology) are the two branches of systematic theology that investigate, classify, and categorize the biblical teaching in relation to Satan and his followers, the fallen angels. This aspect of theology has been frequently overlooked or distorted to the detriment of the modern church. In the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, this neglect was a consequence of the undue influence of anti‑supernatural rationalism on theology.  Under this subtle pressure, aspects of the supernatural were either downplayed or ignored, especially when the existence of a personal devil or demons was the subject. By the late twentieth century, the bankruptcy of rationalist modernism led to its replacement by postmodernism in Western culture as a whole. Accompanying this postmodern shift is a renewed interest in the so‑called “spiritual”, but this new spirituality is frequently divorced from a Judeo‑Christian heritage or biblical base.

Also, by the late twentieth century, a resurgent interest in angels, spirits, and demons, swept through the culture at large, having a related impact on the evangelical church as well, often creating more confusion than certainty. In many churches, blame for personal problems, failures, and sin was placed on some oppressing or possessing spirit rather than on wrong individual choices and the influence of the sin nature. By the latter half of the twentieth century, teaching about Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare was largely erected on personal experiences and anecdotes rather than exegesis of biblical passages. Only an emphasis on a biblically derived theology of Satan and the demons can supply the believer with sound answers to questions about the origin of evil and suffering, the presence of sin in the human race, the role of the human race in the broader conflict among the angels, and a correct understanding of the unseen spiritual warfare which rages around mankind, and of its ultimate resolution.

In the course of this study, we will first examine the personality of Satan, his creation and fall, and then investigate his role in human history, his power, strategy, and limitations.  Subsequently, we will analyze the biblical teaching on the demons, their origin, fall, role, and ultimate destiny.  At the conclusion, we will pay close attention to the nature of spiritual warfare and to the believer’s protection against the demonic.

I.            IS SATAN A REAL PERSON?

A.       His Existence

The existence of a real, personal devil was challenged by nineteenth-century liberal protestant theology. Having been cut loose from accepting the Bible as the infallible and inerrant revelation of God to man, these rational theologians sought the explanation for Satan in an evolution of religious ideas ultimately rooted in Persian dualism.  The attempt was made to reduce Satan to the level of human myth, a primitive explanation for the existence of evil and suffering.

The existence of Satan is attested throughout Scripture: he is mentioned by at least one of his numerous titles in five Old Testament books and 19 New Testament books of the Bible, and Jesus himself always discusses Satan as a distinct individual. All of the attributes of personality are attributed to Satan. He reasons, plans, deceives, expresses emotion, develops strategy, chooses between alternatives, and has organized his demonic troops into a rigorous hierarchy (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16).

Historical evangelical Protestant theology has always accepted the existence of a real personal being who is the originator of evil in the universe. His personality is evidenced by his description as a creature (Ezek. 28:15), his classification as an angel, specifically of the order of cherubs (Ezek. 28:14), and  to his elevation to the highest position among the angels: he is designated “the anointed cherub” and the “cherub that covers”. His original sin evidences that he has both rational and volitional capacities, and the divine judgment upon him reveals his personal responsibility for his decisions and culpability for rebellion. Further, Scripture states he has intelligence, cunning, anger, and pride (2 Cor. 11:3, 13-15, Matt. 4:1ff). Ryrie notes:

“If Satan were merely a personification that people have devised to express their ideas of evil, then such a personification could scarcely be held morally responsible for his actions, since, in reality, there is no being who can be held accountable.”

B.        Titles of Satan

Names in Scripture are more than mere labels or tags. Names were designed to describe a person or something about his essence or character. Much can be learned about Satan from these various designations. 

Devil, Accuser of the Brethren, Satan.

The English word “devil” derives from the Greek word diabolos, which means “slanderer” or “accuser” (Luke 4:2, 13; Rev. 12:9). In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called “the accuser of our brothers”. A slanderer brings false charges or lies against another with the intent to defame and damage his reputation. Satan translates the Hebrew satan, which means “adversary, accuser, opponent”. This designation suggests a legal aspect to Satan’s role as he seeks to arraign believers before the Court of Heaven. He is portrayed in this role as the prosecuting attorney who seeks to win his case against the human race.  Satan opposes God’s people in two ways:  he charges believers before God as unworthy because of sin (Zechariah 3:1; Romans 8:33); Satan accuses believers to their own consciences. His goal is to have the believer focus on personal sins and failures, to distract him by guilt and by attempts to resolve sin through human works, ritual, and self-righteousness. Such self‑absorption begins the slippery decline into the self‑destruction of arrogance. By focusing on personal failures, man forgets that the sin problem is resolved by Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross.

Serpent, dragon.

In the Garden of Eden, a serpent appeared to Eve and tempted her to disobey the command of God. Genesis 3:1 reveals that “the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made”. The identity of this serpent is disclosed in Revelation 12:9: “The great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.  . . .” This reveals something about his character. In the creation account of man (Gen. 1:26) God created man to rule over the birds and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing. Man was to rule over the serpent, yet the serpent was crafty enough to subvert this authority by getting the woman to listen to and submit to him. We must remember that Satan was created “full of wisdom” (Ezek. 28:12). His guile and cunning is so vast he is able to confuse and deceive man to do his bidding, unless man trusts exclusively in God’s Word.

The ruler of this world.

Twice our Lord Jesus Christ refers to Satan in this manner (John 12:31; 14:30). The word “world” translates the Greek word kosmos, which encompasses the entire world system, including all the ideas, religions, and philosophies Satan promotes among mankind to establish his kingdom on the earth. Some of the more popular of these ideas today are secular humanism, postmodernism, situation ethics, evolution, psychology, socialism, materialism, Marxism, moral relativism, pragmatism, and New Age mysticism. Each human culture has its own philosophies promoted by Satan’s world system.

Prince of the power of the air.

This title is ascribed to Satan in Ephesians 2:2. It is related to the title “ruler of this world” and refers to the atmosphere of the earth. Within God’s sovereign permission, Satan has temporary control of man’s physical environment, he is still in operational control of planet earth. His limited kingdom includes all fallen angels and the unsaved segment of the human race. This verse also emphasizes that he is the personal intelligence who is now working in the “sons of disobedience” (all unbelievers). Every person is first born physically under the authority of Satan as the ruler of this world, and is therefore influenced by him directly and indirectly because he is the controller of the physical and ideological environment of the earth. Since unbelievers are subjects in his domain, they may still be utilized by him to gain his nefarious ends.

God of this age.

This title is closely tied to the two previous ones, and is found in 2 Corinthians 4:4. During post Fall human history, between the fall of Adam and Eve and the future Second coming of Christ, Satan has been given the freedom by God to propagate his worldly system during “this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). Satan is attempting to demonstrate his ability to rule the planet to validate his ambition “to be like the most High”. This verse goes on to say that as part of this function he is blinding the unsaved to the truth. He does this not through physical blinders, nor through reaching in and controlling the volition of the individual, but through the deceptive schemes, false religions, and intriguing philosophies of the cosmos diabolicus which delude and beguile unsuspecting humanity. Only the Holy Spirit overcomes this deception by making the gospel lucid to every unbeliever at the moment of gospel hearing (John 16:8-9). Unfortunately, most are comfortable in their blindness and continue to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).

Evil one.

Satan is referred to by this title in Matthew 6:13; John 17:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 5:19. These verses inform us that despite his beauty, intelligence, and power, Satan is the embodiment of all evil. Often his evil is a deceptively beautiful evil, attractive to mankind, and not merely an ugly, harsh one, as is often portrayed in fiction and films. His evil pervades the whole world because the whole world lies in his power. Yet believers who oppose this incredibly wicked personage have the protection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ, in His present role as our intercessor, prays that believers be kept from the evil one (John 17:15). Christians are also promised that they will always be strengthened and protected from the evil one because of His faithfulness (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Tempter.

This title is given to Satan in Matthew 4:3, when our Lord Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Temptation may have two senses. The first, may be called objective temptation. Satan entices and lures people to perform his will. He sets the trap and baits it with an attractive lure, but he does not have the power to force anyone to step into it. A person may only fall prey to external temptation by choosing to do so. The reason man so chooses, and Jesus did not, is because fallen humanity usually succumbs to the indwelling sin nature which is inherently drawn to external temptation. This internal attraction and desire for the bait in the trap is the internal or subjective side of temptation as described in James 1:14: “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” Thus, Satan is not only the master counterfeiter and master deceiver but the master of temptation.

Roaring lion.

1 Peter 5:8 warns every Christian to be of sober spirit, which means to have clear, objective thinking based on the principles revealed in God’s Word; not to be distracted, but to be constantly alert, because “your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. Satan is not omnipresent, but continuously seeks opportunities to prevent Christians from advancing to spiritual maturity and glorifying God.

Deceiver.

Paul referred to the deceptiveness of Satan and warned the Corinthians about it (2 Cor. 11:3). If Eve, who did not possess a sin nature, was deceived by the craftiness of Satan, how much easier must it be for believers who do possess a sin nature! This deception may take any variety of forms, but one approach Paul describes is religious deception. He warns us that, in his role as deceiver, Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light” and as a “servant of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Satan has the power to deceive even through miracles and signs and wonders.  This is the very tool he will use to beguile many into following the coming Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Rev. 12:9). Jesus also warned that many who claim to be Christians and who even healed people, cast out demons, and performed many miracles in His name will be told by our Lord at the last judgment to depart because He never knew them (Matthew 7:21-23). The only way Christians can avoid the subtle deception of Satan is through a detailed knowledge of God’s Word.

This picture Scripture paints of Satan should cause every one of us to recognize the incredible danger that Satan presents to every human being.

II.       Satan’s Origin and Fall

A.       Creation of the Angels

At some unknown time in eternity past God created the angels. This vast host of rational, spirit beings was composed of various orders. Some were messengers, some served God in relation to His worship, others were involved in the activities of the heavenly temple. Two of the highest angelic orders are called seraphim and cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Ezekiel 10:1-15; Heb. 9:5; Isa. 6:2, 6). But the highest of all the angels, the most intelligent, beautiful, talented, and powerful is called Lucifer. How long the angels existed before sin disrupted their unity is unknown. But the angelic Fall did not occur until after the creation of the universe, for “all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7) at the time of the original creation.

B.        Fall of Satan

Every creature, including the angels, was created by God through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:3; Col. 1:16). Since God is perfect and cannot create anything less than perfection, because of His absolute righteousness, He cannot be involved in the creation of evil (Hab. 1:13a).  Thus, all the angels were originally created perfect, holy, and righteous. In the New Testament, we are told that many of these angels rebelled against God at some unspecified time in the past.  Though Karl Barth rejected the idea that the demons were fallen angels, their connection with Satan during the Tribulation (Rev. 12:7, “the dragon and his angels”), and the identification of Satan with the demons as their leader Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24, 27) establishes the creaturely category of Satan and the demons as angels.  These fallen angels are allies and agents of the devil (Rev. 12:7) and share his destiny in the lake of fire (Matt 25:41). At some unrevealed time in eternity past, there had been a revolt among the angels led by Lucifer, with one‑third of the angels following him in this rebellion. Subsequently, these angels become known as “evil” or “unclean spirits”.

Two passages (Is. 14:12-17; Ezek 28:12-19) reveal the conditions of Satan’s original state and fall into sin.  Since controversy over the interpretation of these passages and the identification of them with the fall of Satan has recently become more pronounced among evangelicals, the issues must be identified and evaluated.

Until the nineteenth century, the personages described in these two passages were identified with either 1) a historical figure, 2) the future Antichrist, or 3) the fall of Satan.  By the mid nineteenth century and the development of the higher critical methods of Protestant liberalism, the attempt to identify the passages with some Canaanite or other pagan myth came into vogue. As contemporary evangelical scholars become more influenced by the liberal historical criticism, they, too are replacing the biblical Satan with interpretations based on the assumptions of liberal scholarship.

To apply these passages to only a human figure presents several exegetical problems as well as theological difficulties. The exegetical problems will be noted in the analysis of each verse.  Theologically, these passages provide the only Scriptural information regarding the origin of evil in the universe. If these passages do not address such an origin, then the Bible would be unexpectedly silent about such a momentous event, and the door to dualism, the eternal coexistence of both good and evil, would be left open. One distinctive of Christianity is that evil is restricted in time in the universe.  Evil had a beginning, originating with the free choice of a creature, and it will have a permanent termination at the end of history and be confined for eternity to a place of judgment. All nonchristian religions and philosophies run aground on the shoals of the problem of evil and cannot explain its origin, purpose, or destiny. If these passages do not speak to the origin of evil in the universe, then the Christian has no biblical revelation to support the claim that evil is not eternal, and therefore has a weakened defense against dualism.

C.       Why Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are not speaking about men.

Exegetically there are eight major difficulties with identifying the figures in either Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 with either a human or a mythological figure.

1.        First, a methodology which identifies the figure as representing some Canaanite or Phoenician myth or an idealized, but non-historical man is incompatible with a view of the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture, and a literal, grammatical, historical interpretation. Further, no pagan myth has ever been discovered which could provide such a source.

2.        Second, what is said in both passages goes far beyond the abilities or events related to any historical figure. 

3.        Third, Ezekiel addresses a lament to two individuals, the first is called the “prince of Tyre”, the second, the “king of Tyre”. The prince is viewed as a human (“man”, Ezek. 28:2, 9) who aspires to deity, in contrast to the lament beginning in v. 14 which is addressed to a king who is a heavenly being (“the anointed cherub”, Ezek. 28:14; “the covering cherub”, Ezek. 28:16), ejected from heaven. The god of Tyre at that time was Malqart, which meant “king of the city”, which could be equivalent to the king of Ezek. 28:11-19. The Old Testament makes it clear that these idolatrous gods are not mere figments of human imagination, but are the creations of demons who empower them (Deut 32:16, 17; 1 Cor. 10:20-21). Therefore, the second half of Ezekiel 28 must be addressing the demonic power behind the human leader of Tyre who is Satan, the leader of the demons. 

4.        Fourth, in the New Testament, Paul identifies Satan’s sin as pride (1 Tim. 3:6-7), and these two passages would be his only Scriptural source for that assertion. 

5.        Fifth, the descriptions, though grand, could not apply to a human king and are not indicated as figures of speech or metaphor.

6.        Sixth, no human king could be said to be “blameless in your ways from the day you were created” (Ezek 28:15).

7.        Seventh, the guardian cherub is said to have been created, bara, by God (Ezek. 28:15, 17).  This special creation verb in the Qal stem always speaks of creative acts of God and, except for Adam, no other individual human is said to be the object of this divine creation verb. 

8.        Finally, the assertion that the king in Ezekiel was in the garden of God cannot be reconciled with any temporal, human figure.

D.       Ezekiel 28: The Fall of the Anointed Cherub

The judgment oracles on Tyre occur in the second major division of this book, which describes God’s future judgments on the Gentile nations (Ezekiel 25-32). Chapter 28 is the third passage addressing the destiny of Tyre (chapter 26 describes the destruction of the city, chapter 27 addresses a lament over the city of Tyre, and chapter 28 pronounces a funeral dirge over the leadership of the city). The first 10 verses address the “leader” (nagid), an authority figure who could be religious, military, or political. Often it is translated “prince”.  At that time in history, the ruler of Tyre was Ethbaal III (590 B.C. to 572 B.C.).  The use of nagid is restricted to this one instance in Ezekiel, and thus heightens the contrast between the ruler of the first oracle of chapter 28 and the second oracle addressed to the “king” of Tyre. Dyer notes that Ezekiel uses the word “king” sparingly, “apart from King Jehoiachin (Ezek. 1:2) he did not use the title “king” of any of Israel’s monarchs.”

It is not uncommon in Scripture for Satan to be addressed through the creature he influences. When God pronounced the judgment on Satan for his role in man’s fall, He addressed Satan through the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15). When Jesus foretold His crucifixion, Peter began to rebuke him, and Jesus confronted Satan through Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23). Peter was neither demon‑possessed nor Satan possessed. At that point, Peter’s objection represented Satan’s agenda to prevent the completion of Christ’s saving work on the cross. Since Peter voiced Satan’s plan, Jesus addressed the ultimate objector.

This prince is described as “a man and not a god” (v. 2), and one lifted up by pride.  This self- absorbed ruler aspired to the worship, adoration, and privileges of deity. This desire was not uncommon among kings of the ancient world. But he was specifically designated as a man who thought highly of his own wisdom and wealth. Yet Ezekiel states that his human wisdom is no match for the already famous Daniel, and his riches will soon be lost.

In contrast to the prince of Tyre, Ezekiel pens a second lament in Ezekiel 28:11-19, “Again, the word of the Lord came unto me.” He addresses a second personage, the “king” of Tyre.  This change in nomenclature must not be dismissed as mere stylistic variance, for there is no such parallel in Ezekiel to support such a claim. In the first section, the prince was a man who desired to be god, but here is a cherub who desired to be god. The description of this cherub demonstrates he could not have been a mere human addressed by some metaphor or title. This individual had been in the garden of God (Ezek. 28:13), had direct access to the holy mountain of God (Ezek. 28:14), and was the prototype of perfection from the instant of his creation (Ezek. 28:12). No mortal such as Ethbaal III or even Adam possessed such qualifications. Adam was not an anointed cherub, nor did he have access to the mountain of God.  When Adam sinned he was cast from a garden, east of Eden, not from a mountain (Gen 2:9; 3:24).

The dress of the creature goes far beyond anything known of either Adam or an historical figure. The cherub was adorned with a breastplate decorated with precious and semiprecious stones. These were nine of the 12 stones also found on the breastplate of the Jewish high priest (cf. Exodus 28:15-21), and would immediately bring that association to the mind of a Jewish reader, suggesting a priestly role for this covering cherub.

The cherub was also “blameless in your ways until. . . unrighteousness was found in you”. Those who wish to assign this passage to a human king assert that “blameless” (tamim) , “without blemish, spotless, complete, sincere, without fault, perfect”, does not necessitate moral perfection. Indeed, that is correct. Both Job and Noah were said to be “blameless”, yet both continued to sin and possessed sin natures. However, when applied to God, tamim does entail this nuance of moral perfection (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Sam 22:31; Psalm 18:31).  Context determines meaning, and in the poetic parallelism of Ezek. 28:15, unrighteousness is the antonym of blamelessness, indicating the cherub was not merely functioning in a manner that was not faulty, but that he was perfectly righteous until he sinned. Tamim must have a meaning opposite to both “unrighteousness” and to “sin” that can only be a moral perfection which no human king could possess.

The explanation of Ezekiel 28:15-16 is the only detailed description of the original sin in the universe in the Scripture. These verses highlight the mechanics of Satan’s fall. He is indicted with “abundance of trade”, which recalls the mercantile endeavors of the leader of Tyre (Ezek. 28:5). This positive trade balance elevated Tyre to a position of wealth and power over her neighbors. In the same way, the anointed cherub used his position of contact and authority among the angels to entice them to join him in his own plans for an autonomous kingdom. The fall of  Lucifer is described in more detail by Isaiah, where, of the 20 attributes ascribed to this creature by Ezekiel, 14 are repeated.

E.        Isaiah 14

This passage in Isaiah is also debated as to its reference to Satan. As with the Ezekiel passage, it is found in the context of a judgment, but this time against Babylon. Those who reject a reference to Satan often apply this passage to a literal king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:4. Nebuchadnezzar is the most popular candidate, Sennacharib is also offered as an option, though several others are suggested, including an “idealized” or nonspecific king. The second interpretation offered is a reference to the future Antichrist.  The third combination would see a general reference to a Babylonian king as antitype of the fall of Satan and type of the future fall of antichrist.

The previous chapter announced the eventual destruction of the city of Babylon. Isaiah 14:3-21 specifies the judgment against the king of Babylon (v. 4).  By verse 12, the terminology becomes too strong for any human king. This personage is said to have “fallen from heaven” because he aspired to “ascend to heaven”. Any attempt to reduce the former to a simple metaphor for ambition similarly dilutes the latter phrase. The description here transcends that of any human monarch, and is a proleptic picture of the plunge of Satan described later by our Lord (Luke 10:18).

The taunt addresses the Light Bearer, or Morning‑Star.  The Latin vulgate translated the Hebrew helel ben shahar as “Lucifer, son of the morning”, which became the basis for the kjv rendering.  For that reason, “Lucifer” became a proper name for the fallen cherub of Ezek 28. In that passage (Ezek. 28:15), we have the only description of the origin of his sin, but Isaiah 14:13-15 describes the content of the sin.

Five statements summarize the arrogant sin of Satan.

1.        I will ascend to heaven;

This summarizes the ambition of the fallen one. He aspired to the highest of positions, in competition with God himself.  He desired to enter and command the very habitation of God.

2.        I will raise my throne above the stars of God

“Stars of God” here may refer literally to the stars of the universe, in which case, the reference is to ruling the space‑time universe. If it is a metaphor, then it refers to the angels, who are called “stars” in Job 38:7; Jude 1:13; Rev. 12:3-4; 22:16. The latter construct is preferred.

3.        And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 

The mount of assembly describes the convocation of angels before the throne of God (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7).  Pagan religions so frequently located the abode of the gods in a mountain, often in the north, that this became an idiomatic expression for heaven. This is seen where zaphon is used in place of heaven in Job 26:7 and where the glory of God is described as coming from the north (Ezekiel 1:4-28).

4.        I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

Clouds often are associated with the presence of God and his intervention in human history.  Here we see the ambition to be the controlling authority in the domain of God.

5.        I will make myself like the Most High.

The ultimate in arrogant aspiration is expressed in this final assertion. He claims to be equal or surpass God in all his power and might. The title El Elyon stresses God’s omnipotence, sovereignty, and authority over His creation (Gen. 14:18-20).

Together these expressions mark the pinnacle of arrogance in creation history. They led to a conspiracy among the angels where one‑third followed Lucifer in revolt against God (Rev. 12:7). Eventually, this led to the temptation and fall of the human race and injected evil into human history. When God has allowed evil to run its course, it will be finally and ultimately judged and confined to the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

These passages should serve as warnings to all. No matter how fantastic and significant our talents and powers might be, they all derive from God who created the heavens and the earth. They are to be used under His authority and for His glory. When turned to a self‑serving purpose, the end result is always destructive to the creature.

F.        When Did Satan Fall?

Evangelicals disagree concerning the timing of Satan’s fall.  Three different time periods are suggested for when Satan led the angels in revolt against God. The first places the creation of the angels somewhere in the creation week, and the fall of Satan after the events of Genesis 1. The second places the creation of the angels and their fall prior to the events of Genesis 1.  The third suggests that God first created the universe as a dwelling place for the angels, and that the description of the earth in Genesis 1:2 as formless, empty, dark, and covered with water is a description of an earth in judgment from Satan’s fall.

The view that Satan and the fallen angels rebelled after the events of Genesis 1 is argued most often by those who understand that everything in the universe, including the angels, was created during this seven 24-hour day time period.  Support for this view is found in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Second, emphasis is placed on God’s statement that everything was “very good”. “This means that even the angelic world that God had created did not have evil angels or demons in it at that time.  But by the time of Genesis 3, we find that Satan, in the form of a serpent, was tempting Eve to sin (Gen. 3:15).  Further support is sometimes adduced from 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6, interpreting these verses as applying to the original creation.

This interpretation is usually challenged on three counts.  First, the Exodus 20:11 statement can be understood to mean that everything in the current earth was created during the seven day creation week of Gen. 1.  Second, the Hebrew word tob translated “good” need not have a moral or ethical sense (Gen. 2:9, 12, 18) and describes divine satisfaction with the creation. Third, the parallel passages in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 apply only to the angels who sinned in Genesis 6, not to the entire body of fallen angels.

The second position posits an indefinite time period between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2.   Support for this is found in the grammar of Gen 1:2, which translates the initial clause “but the earth became”, which indicates a disjunction from the original creation of 1:1. The threefold imagery of verse 2, “darkness”, “the deep”, and “formless and void” are used throughout Scripture to describe a judgment by God for sin.  Third, the final state of the new heavens and new earth is devoid of darkness and oceans.

This latter view is criticized for attempting to place too much emphasis on the grammar of verse 2, for attempting to make the three terms mean something before the fall of Adam which they acquire only after the fall of Adam, and for attempting to compromise with evolutionary time scales.

It seems best to this writer that the third interpretation, above, has the least problems and is most consistent with the language of the original text.

 



[1] T. H. Gaster, “Satan,” The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Abingdon, 1976), 4:224-8.

[2] Gen. 3:1; 1 Chron. 21:1; Job 1:6-12; 2:3-7; Psa. 109:6; Zech. 3:1-2; In the New Testament, Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 3:22-26; Luke 10:18; John 8:44; Acts 5:3; Rom 16:20; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 6:11; 1 Thess 2:18; 2 Thess 2:9; 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:26; Heb 2:14; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 3:8; Jude 1:9; Rev. 2:9 are some of these. In addition Rev 2:9-10, 13; 2 Pet 2:4 allude to Satan and demons. Thus the reality of his existence is widely attested.

[3] John Calvin

[4] This discussion is taken from Robert Dean, Jr and Thomas Ice, What the Bible Teaches About Spiritual Warfare (Grand Rapids:  Kregel, 2000),

[5] Ps 109:6 reveals a legal context based on the use of shaphat in vs. 7.n  Satan is also used in military and political contexts (1 Sam. 29:4; 1 Kings 5:4; 11:14, 23, 15). “Satan is a judicial term referring to an “accuser,” “slanderer,” “calumniator,” or “adversary” in court” Anchor Bible Dictionary, s.v. Devil.

[6] Chafer, Systematic Theology. (Dallas:  Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), 3:217-222. The Greek elencho translated convict or convince is a legal term used of the Holy Spirit ministry to unbelievers (“the world”) and indicates that at Gospel hearing every unbeliever, though he may deny it and reject the gospel, is convinced of its veracity by God the Holy Spirit. So the unbeliever can blame no one but himself for his rejection of Christ.

 

 

[7] For example, Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah” in Expositors Bible Commentary, accepts without documentation that the Isaiah pericope is based on a myth “known, but not, of course, accepted as true by the prophet and his hearers.” John D. W. Watts in the Word Biblical Commentary is even more nebulous, the best solution he can offer is, “As verse 8 seems to pick up themes of an ancient myth of God’s forest in Lebanon, so this section seems to be based on another such myth.” (emphasis added). Once the Satan interpretation is discarded, no commentator can offer any substantive solution as to the referent of the passage. For an excellent analysis of the entire problems of identification of these passages with Satan see Jose M. Bertoluci, “The Son of the Morning and the Guardian Cherub in the Context of the Controversy Between Good and Evil,” Unpublished THD Dissertation, Andrews University, June, 1985.

[8] Bertoluci, 57145.

[9] TWOT, s.v. Satan,

[10] Robert H. Mounce, Ezekiel, The New American Commentary, Vol. 17, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1994), 268-269.

[11] Franz Delitsch. Commentary on Isaiah, p

[12] It is common for Hebrew poetry to move from describing a human event to a heavenly event which is in parallel. Psalm 45 moves from a description of an earthly king as type to Messiah as antitype.

[13] H. L. Ginsberg, “Lexicographical Notes, Vetus Testamentum Supplements (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967), 79-80.

[14] Bruce Waltke, “The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1-3” Three parts, Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (JulyCSept., 1975). Allen Ross, Creation and Blessing (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989).

[15] In order to apply these passages to all fallen angels, the term “eternal chains” must be reduced to metaphor for nothing more than slight limitation or restriction of activity. This violates the principle of a literal grammatical hermeneutic.  Though the claim is made that 1 Pet 2:6 does not restrict the sin to “some angels”, if, as will be demonstrated, this describes a demonic assault on the human race described in Gen. 6, then only those demons involved would be incarcerated.

[16] This interpretation is quite ancient and precedes the modern creationBevolution debate. This view does not inherently entail a compromise with evolution.  John Milton held this view to explain the fall of Satan in “Paradise Lost” long before anyone sought to cram geological ages or macro‑evolution between the verses. Unfortunately, this view was co‑opted by some 19th century theologians who attempted to assimilate the findings of nineteenth century science with the Bible. This latter approach should be completely rejected by Bible believing students.  Yet, the older view which explained the creation and fall of Satan is exegetically defensible.  Donald Grey Barnhouse, The Invisible War;  Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology; Bruce Waltke, “The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1-3,” BibliothecaSacra 132 (1975):25-36; 136-44; 216-28; 133 (1976:28-41); Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 105-107.  Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah (Tustin, Ca: Ariel Ministries Press, 1983), 382-388.