Is the Fall of Satan a Myth?

I had not intended to write about Satan any time soon because I don’t think it is among the seven most significant and damaging items of Christian baggage. However, recently several readers have asked about this issue, so I decided to address it now.

Fall of Satan by Dore

Although it is not among the top seven, it is important because false belief about Satan often leads to fear, superstition, and a focus on misguided behaviors in believers.

Let me say that I don’t know for sure whether a being called Satan even exists, and I think it very unlikely. But we will delay that discussion for another time.

The Myth of the Fall of Satan

However, if Satan does exist we know almost nothing about him because the things we traditionally understand about Satan are myths not supported by the Bible, and perhaps the biggest myth of all is the story of Satan leading a group of angels in a rebellion against God only to be defeated and cast down from heaven.

The Bible does not support the fall of Satan myth—even if one considers the Bible inerrant! It is simply a story compiled from a patch-work of unrelated passages separated from their biblical contexts.

The Myth Defined

The fall of Satan is a popular view and has been around for a very long time. But we must ask whether it is supported by any educated Christian leaders—it is. We find an example of this support in The Moody Handbook of Theology (Moody, 1989). This is not a marginal work, but represents the perspective of a significant body of believers.

Here is a section about Satan from page 294:

Satan’s original state. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes Satan prior to his fall. He enjoyed an exalted position in the presence of God; the brilliance of heaven was his surrounding (28:13). He was called the “anointed…covering cherub” who enjoyed the position of highest honor before God (28:14, 16). Isaiah refers to this supreme angel as “star of the morning (KJV Lucifer; NIV morning star), son of the dawn” (14:12). After he became God’s chief adversary (Heb. Satan) he is never again called by any of these honorable titles. But in his prefall splendor he was filled with wisdom and beauty, and he was blameless (Ezek. 28:12, 15).

Satan’s fall. Satan’s fall is described in both Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Because of his sin Satan was cast down from the presence of God (Ezek. 28:16). The reason for Satan’s downfall was his pride; his heart was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom became corrupt (28:17). The statement indicates Satan must have had extraordinarily high rank that led to his pride. Isaiah 14:12-14 further describes the sin that led to his downfall. Five “I will’s” emphasize his sin (14:13-14). He desired to enter the very presence of God and establish his throne on God’s throne above the other angels. He wanted to be like the “Most High.” For that reason God thrust him down out of heaven.

Satan fell from his original exalted position. As the anointed cherub, Satan led a host of angels, possibly one-third of all the angels, from heaven in his fall (Ezek. 28:16-17; Rev. 12:4).

The Four Biblical Fragments Used to Support the Myth

This is precisely what I was taught to believe and, in fact, did believe for many years. But it is all a fabrication pieced together from unrelated scraps of text from the Bible to form a history that never occurred.

Note that this view of the casting out of Satan is supported almost exclusively by three Bible passages: Ezekiel 28:12-17, Isaiah 14:12-15 and Revelation 12:3-9. We will add to them the words of Jesus from Luke 10:18:

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

They seem quite convincing, don’t they? Together, these four passages seem to tell a powerful, cosmic story. This story is assumed by many believers, taught in Sunday schools and popular writings, and preached from many pulpits.

However, I will demonstrate in the next few posts that none of these passages have anything to do with a failed angelic rebellion. Each is about something else entirely.

Next time we will examine the Isaiah passage.

Articles in this series:

Is the Fall of Satan a Myth?
The Fall of Satan in Isaiah 14
The Fall of Satan in Ezekiel 28
The Fall of Satan in Revelation 12
The Fall of Satan in the Book of Enoch
Satan in the Old Testament
Was Satan the Serpent in Eden?
Was Satan in the Desert with Jesus?
Does Satan Exist?
Do Demons Exist?

Image credit: Illustration for John Milton’sParadise Lost
by Gustave Doré, 1866 via Wikimedia Commons
Your observations and comments are welcome below.
If you enjoyed this or found it helpful, please sign up for updates in the column to the right (email, RSS, Facebook, or Twitter) so that you don’t miss future posts. Also consider sharing this post using the buttons below. Have a great day! ~Tim
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33 Responses to Is the Fall of Satan a Myth?

  1. Phil Johns says:

    I look forward to seeing the rest of this Tim. I’ve been told I’ve got demons many times!! Mainly by the ex wife!

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  2. Interesting post, I don’t think i’ve ever seen it summarized that neat all in one place like that. A series like this could do a lot of good for a lot of people who currently misunderstand all of this. Good job. Looking forward to the next post!! Dont leave us hanging too long! 🙂

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    • Thanks Eric, I appreciate your kind words. Unless something unexpected happens, I expect the series to continue straight away (with the exception of a short post on another matter tomorrow). Most of it is written; I just need to edit it.

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  3. michaeleeast says:

    The passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel never actually mention Satan or rebellious angels.
    They seem to be myths about pride.
    They are obscure to say the least.
    I don’t think you can base any beliefs about Satan on them.
    Nevertheless the myth of Satan endures.
    I believe that Satan is a mythological explanation for why bad thing s happen to good people.
    I don’t believe that he exists in reality.

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  4. sheila0405 says:

    Like the others, I am waiting eagerly for your treatise.

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  5. Add me to the list of eager readers! I’m also curious as to how you explain the conversation Jesus had with Satan when he was being tempted! I personally believe Satan exists… likely due to the passage in Mathew 4:1-11 and of course Luke 3:3-4. I’m SO glad you are addressing this sooner than later! 🙂 Thank you!

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    • sheila0405 says:

      I had forgotten about the temptation of Jesus in the desert. There’s also a passage in which we are warned that our adversary the devil prowls like a lion looking for prey. And then there’s the famous scene in Job, in which the devil tells God that Job only loves God because Job has a good life. I believe Job is written in allegory, and the reference to the devil looking for prey could also be such, but Jesus talking to the devil? Hmmmm. Intriguing.

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    • I am glad you are interested Blonde! My next post should go live tomorrow (Thursday).

      The temptation of Jesus is an interesting case, and I do have something to say about it, but I am afraid that readers will become tired of Satan posts if they continue too long. So I plan to address the fall of Satan in the current series and talk about the temptation of Jesus sometime in the undetermined future. I hope that is not too disappointing.

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      • It is disappointing indeed, however I plan to read your blog as long as you continue to write on one so, this will give me something to look forward to! I will just have to contemplate about that myself until that time comes… Who knows? Perhaps I will post about it too one day! 😉 I agree however, the Satan topic need not be overdone as he tends to add to our Spiritual baggage versus helping us to let go of it! 😉

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  6. donovanmneal says:

    Interesting blog post Tim. I reviewed some of your tenants of belief. Although, I respect your spiritual journey I do not share your belief that Satan does not exist. I will be following along to see how you exegete the scriptures. “How readest thou?” I’m also curious how you interpret Gen 3:15 and what if any way does this scripture apply not just to Satan, but also Jesus. If there is no Satan as you purport, then the fall neither exists. To me the real issue is does the person exist or not. Everything else is moot.
    Again I will be looking forward to your posts.

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    • Hi Donovan, it does not bother me that people disagree with me. I will address Genesis 3:15 in due time.

      You are correct in saying that if there is no Satan then there was no fall. Of course, I do not believe there was a fall. I hope you are pleased with the upcoming posts!

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  7. lotharson says:

    Hello Tim.

    Depending on one’s epistemology

    https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/do-extraordinary-claims-demand-extraordinary-evidence-erfordern-ausergewohnliche-behauptungen-ausergewohnliche-beweise-siehe-unten/

    there might be good grounds for thinking that there truly exists deceiful spiritual beings, but this is of course a far cry from saying that the Biblical description of demons is accurate.

    You are entirely right that the BIBLICAL bases for believing in Satan’s fall are very weak.

    But philosophically speaking, if
    1) the devil is real
    2) he is completely wicked

    it makes a lot of sense to believe that he became so by using his free will unless one endorses the (extremely blasphemous) notion that God Himself predetermines his creatures to become evil.

    Cheers.

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  8. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in Isaiah 14 | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. Sabio Lantz says:

    Tim:
    Very good writing and great approach. I will keep reading. I will recommend your site to some conservative Christians in the future — perfect audience, I hope.

    BTW:

    I’d like to make suggestions about your blog, if you are interested. But I don’t want to make them here. Can I suggest you put up a contact page or e-mail to help communication. Then I could send you my thoughts.

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  10. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in Revelation 12 | Jesus Without Baggage

  11. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in the Book of Enoch | Jesus Without Baggage

  12. allen993 says:

    I Believe The Downfall Of Satan Is A Superstitious Belief Of Religion And It’s Probably A Myth Or Fact Behind The Fall Of Satan! Maybe Or Maybe Not?

    Like

  13. Pingback: Do Demons Exist? | Jesus Without Baggage

  14. Pingback: Does Satan Exist? | Jesus Without Baggage

  15. Pingback: Was Satan the Serpent in Eden? | Jesus Without Baggage

  16. Pingback: Was Satan in the Desert with Jesus? | Jesus Without Baggage

  17. Pingback: Satan in the Old Testament | Jesus Without Baggage

  18. Pingback: The Fall of Satan in the Book of Enoch | Jesus Without Baggage

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  21. Pingback: What we can learn from Satan — Rebel to the Core

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