Angel FAQs: The Fall of Satan

The Bible reveals very little about Satan's exodus from heaven, but some passages may tell more than we think.

BY: William D. Webber

 

Continued from page 2

(v. 16) Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
(v. 17) Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to earth; I made you a spectacle of you before kings.


Using poetic imagery, Ezekiel describes the ruler of Tyre as the first man created in Eden, a fully clothed priest (the stones are those worn by the priest), and a guardian cherub. Yet this sentence also be read as having a double meaning; the verses can be interpreted as a description of Satan as someone who was full of wisdom, beauty, and splendor in the beginning but who later became corrupted by pride. Verses 14 and 16 are the basis for believing Satan was a cherub.

Even if we accept the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel as having double meanings, the Scriptures still tell us very little about the fall of Satan. But other theologians have extrapolated from the Bible (is this what he means?) to answer the questions in their own ways.

One of the questions Beliefnet members have also raised is: How could an angel that was created as a "good angel" sin?

The Bible does not tell us, but Thomas Aquinas gave a classic answer in his book "Summa Theologica." Even while most Christians think his answer makes sense, please remember this is conjecture, not gospel. The Bible teaches that God created the angels, and like all of God’s creations they were "good," but that did not mean they were incapable of sin. To be incapable of sin, Aquinas wrote, the angels would need to be in a state of bliss that he defined as "seeing the essence of God" and being "confirmed in goodness by God’s grace.... No angel could of his own will turn toward that bliss unless aided by grace.... The fall of some angels shows that the angelic nature was not created in that state." His view was that the angels who chose to follow God demonstrated a willingness to receive God’s grace. Once this choice was made, these angels were blessed, confirmed in goodness, and lost the capacity to sin.
In Aquinas’s view the angels who sinned exercised their free will. At first they did not seek evil. Rather, they chose to do good but in a way that fed their selfish pride. Satan wanted to find bliss through his own actions rather than through God’s love and grace. This, then, was a major cause of his downfall.

When Did Satan Fall?
The Bible does not tell us. What we do know is that the angels were created before the Earth (Job 38-4-7). Satan fell before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The fall must have occurred somewhere between.

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