What Was the Fall of Satan in the Bible?

The Fall of Satan is a significant event in Christianity. The Old and the New Testaments contain passages that explain what happened. We consider them pieces of the puzzle.

Jan 28, 2024By Eben De Jager, PhD New Testament, MTh Christian Spirituality

fall of satan bible


The Fall of Satan is a significant event in Christianity. Satan, a Hebrew word that means “accuser” or “adversary” is one of many names and depictions of the character that represents ultimate evil in the Bible narrative. The alternative names for Satan are Lucifer, which means “shining one, light-bearer,” Beelzebub (Luke 11:18), which means “lord of flies,” and devil, which means “to slander, attack” or more literally “to throw across.” The titles “Day Star” (or “morning star”) and “son of the Dawn” (Isaiah 14:12) also refer to Satan.


A Fall from What? The Fall of Satan & His Original Position 

satan as serpent fall of satan
The Serpent Tempting Eve, by Henry Fuseli, 1802, useum.org


Scripture depicts Satan as a serpent (Genesis 3), a dragon (Revelation 12), and even, according to some scholars, as the Leviathan, the water serpent (Job 41, Isaiah 27:1). Depictions of Satan may vary since “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).


Today, many laypersons and scholars alike reject the idea of Satan as an entity. They regard him as the mythical embodiment of evil in the world. In the Old and New Testaments, references to Satan in the various forms he takes show that he was a very real adversary to them.


ark replica
Replica of the Ark of the Covenant in the Royal Arch Room of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Photo by Ben Schumin on March 8, 2003.


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Considering the Old Testament sanctuary system, the Tabernacle and later Temple represented heaven and God’s throne room. The Tabernacle and its furniture were a pattern of a greater heavenly reality and therefore had to be exactly made as it was instructed (Exodus 25-28).


The focal point of the Tabernacle was the Most Holy Place, and more specifically the Ark of the Covenant that it housed. The lid, or mercy seat of the Ark, had two cherubs with outstretched wings depicted on it. They symbolized two real cherubs who served in the presence of God. In the Tabernacle, the shekinah would appear between the two cherubs when God was present in His full glory. Prior to his fall, Satan used to be one of the cherubs who served in God’s throne room in His presence.


In Ezekiel 28:12, the Lord refers to Satan as “the king of Tyre.” He then describes Satan’s former position saying “You were an anointed guardian cherub” (verse 14) and then calls him a “guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire” (verse 16). Satan used to have the exalted position of ministering in the very presence of God.


Reasons for the Fall of Satan

mihály zichy lucifer 1887 fall of satan
Lucifer, by Mihály Zichy, 19th Century, via Wikimedia Commons


According to Ezekiel 28, Satan was “the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (verse 12). The chapter describes Satan as beautifully adorned and initially blameless in conduct, but things soon changed for the worse.


It appears the domino effect that led to the fall of Satan started with his heart being proud because of his beauty. Pride corrupted his wisdom and influenced his actions. He became irreverent toward the holy environment he found himself in and became violent in thought, if not in deed. He conducted himself deceitfully, and sinned.


Isaiah 14 adds some detail. After initially addressing the king of Babylon, the speaker addresses Satan saying “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!” Satan wanted an even more elevated position above the stars of God (verse 12).


Stars are often a metaphor for the angels in Scripture, as Job 38:7 and Revelation 1:20 indicate. If this metaphor is accepted, Satan wanted to elevate himself from one among the angels to one ruling over them. As if that was not enough, Satan was not satisfied with merely serving in the throne room of God. Satan wanted to ascend the throne and place himself on a par with God (verses 13 and 14).


The Fall of Satan to Earth

paradise lost fall of satan
Illustration for John Milton’s Paradise Lost, by Gustave Doré, 1866, via University of Buffalo


Jesus testified that “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Revelation 12 depicts Satan as a dragon. No interpretation is needed to come to that conclusion because verse 9 calls the dragon “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” The description of the dragon as a multi-headed creature is reminiscent of the Leviathan (Psalms 74:14). Satan also correlates with Leviathan as the serpent-dragon (Isaiah 27:1).


The dragon used his tail to take a third of the stars of heaven (angels) and cast them to the earth with him. In the symbolic setting of Revelation, it is best not to interpret the tail literally but metaphorically. So, what does the tail represent? In prophetic terms, a prophet who lied was described as a tail (Isaiah 9:15). Jesus described Satan as the father of lies (John 8:44). It is conceivable that Satan lied to and deceived one-third of the heavenly angels, causing them to fall with him.


The fall of Satan must have occurred before the creation of man since Satan appeared in the form of a serpent in Eden. Here, true to his character as a deceiver, he deceived humanity and caused them to fall as well. The same desire he had to ascend to a higher position than he was assigned is what he used to deceive Eve. Satan told Eve that she, and by extension Adam, could “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Satan, therefore, continued his rebellion and corrupting influence among other created beings.


A Second Fall?

guido reni michael defeats satan
Archangel Michael defeats Satan, by Guido Reni, between circa 1630 and 1635, via Wikimedia Commons


The fall of Satan meant that he and the other fallen angels no longer resided in heaven. It did not mean that they did not have access to heaven at all. Several references in the Bible seem to show that Satan could still enter heaven to argue contentious issues.


In Job 1 and 2, Satan appears in a heavenly counsel among the “sons of God,” which is often a reference to angels in the Bible (Deuteronomy 32:8; Job 38:7). The confrontation between Michael and Satan about the body of Moses also seems to be set where God presides, which would imply heaven (Jude 1:9). It is, however, Revelation 12 that provides the best description of the nature and location of the conflicts between Satan and his angels, and the heavenly hosts.


lucifer and the rebel angels fall of satan
St Michael Expelling Lucifer and the Rebel Angels, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622, via the Thyssen-Bornmeszia Museum


Revelation 12:7 says that war broke out in heaven. Though it could refer to a physical battle, it more likely refers to a war of words. The word “war” is “polemos” in ancient Greek, from where we get the word “polemics.” The two sides likely engaged in an intense debate and polemics. Michael and his angels defeated Satan and his army, and they lost the right to access the heavenly realms to argue and accuse further.


This event likely occurred when Jesus ascended to heaven and took his place as ruler in heaven (verse 5). It is conceivable that Satan desired the place reserved for Jesus, and God banished him from his residence because of his pride and rebellion. He was, however, allowed access to heavenly places to make his case until there was no longer anything to dispute. The position Satan wanted to have, was taken. He, and his army of fallen angels, were prevented from accessing heaven; “there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Revelation 12:8).


Satan’s Long Imprisonment and Final Destination

hell oil on oak
Hell, 16th century, via Wikimedia Commons


Revelation 20 tells of what happened to Satan during the period known as the Millennium. Satan is bound in chains and cast into a bottomless pit. The chains and bottomless pit are best understood as metaphors since Revelation is a highly symbolic book. It is inconceivable that Satan can be physically chained or restrained in a deep abyss that is locked above him, as the text suggests.


After the Millennium of incarceration of sorts, Satan reemerges to deceive the nations again (Revelation 20:7). They attack the camp of the saints and the beloved city, the new Jerusalem. Their plan is, however, thwarted because fire rains down from heaven and devours them all. This time, the text describes the final fall of Satan; into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).


The Fall of Satan: In Conclusion

inferno lucifer king of hell
Lucifer, King of Hell, by Gustave Doré, illustration of Canto XXXIV of the Divine Comedy, Inferno, by Dante Alighieri, via the RIA


No single passage of Scripture presents the story of the fall of Satan. We can, however, piece it together from fragments of information that fit together like building a puzzle. There is enough information to reconstruct the reasons for the fall of Satan. He deceived a third of the angels, and they fell to the earth with him. Satan had at least partial access to heavenly places to enter debates and lay charges against the saints.


The eventual end of Satan and the other fallen angels will be their casting into the lake of fire. Revelation 20 presents the final destination and the result of the fall of Satan as a future event that will occur after a Millennium. Satan is bound in chains during this time and cast into the lake of fire shortly afterward.

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By Eben De JagerPhD New Testament, MTh Christian SpiritualityEben is a theologian, presenter, author, and public speaker with more than a decade of experience in Christian apologetics. His fields of interest are the gift of tongues and eschatology, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation. He holds a PhD from North-West University, a MTh (Christian Spirituality) from the University of South Africa, a BA(Hons) in Theology from the University of Johannesburg, and a BA in Theology from the Rand Afrikaans University.