To understand Satan's origin, we must go far back in time, before man existed. Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
American King James Version×tells us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” However, as is usually the case, the Bible doesn't tell the whole story in one or even several verses. We find more details elsewhere in the Bible, in this case in the book of Job.
When Job, beset with terrible calamity and suffering in spite of being a very devout follower of God, began to question God's judgment, God responded with pointed questions to help him realize he didn't have the wisdom to question God. In His response, in the form of questions to Job, God revealed some details about His creation of the earth. “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?” God asked him. “Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions?…On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7 Job 38:4-7 4 Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if you have understanding.
5 Who has laid the measures thereof, if you know? or who has stretched the line on it?
6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
American King James Version×, NIV).
God here reveals information no man could know, since no man was present at creation. God described the earth at its creation as a dazzlingly beautiful jewel floating in space. The creation events were so magnificent that “all the angels shouted for joy.” The angels—spirit beings God had created—already existed when God made the earth. They were united in their joy when God created the world, singing and shouting in exultation. They were in perfect harmony and agreement at that time. So how does the devil fit into this picture?
A beautiful earth becomes a wasteland
Some time after the world was formed, however, the situation dramatically changed. Genesis 1:2 Genesis 1:2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.
American King James Version×tells us that, after its creation, “the earth was without form, and void.” This English translation doesn't adequately convey the meaning of the original Hebrew. The words tohu va - bohu, translated “without form and void,” are better translated “waste and void” (Young's Literal Translation).
However, in Isaiah 45:18 Isaiah 45:18For thus said the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he has established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
American King James Version×, God expressly says of the earth that He “did not create it in vain.” Here the same Hebrew word, tohu, is used. If God did not create the earth in a state of waste, how did it come to be in that condition?
Part of the answer is indicated in Genesis 1:2 Genesis 1:2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.
American King James Version×. The Hebrew word hayah, translated “was,” can also properly be translated “became,” as it is translated in Genesis 2:7 Genesis 2:7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
American King James Version×and 19:26. The earth was not created waste and void but became that way at some point after its creation. In Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, Genesis 1:2 Genesis 1:2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.
American King James Version×appropriately reads, “Now the earth had become waste and empty.”
God created the earth in such sparkling beauty that the angels were overjoyed at its creation. But something happened to bring it to a condition of devastation and waste. Its original beauty was destroyed. God then reshaped it, forming it into a beautiful home for the first man and woman, as recorded in the remainder of Genesis 1. But the Genesis account does not tell us the entire story. Something else happened between the first two verses of Genesis that is not recorded there.
God does give us additional details in several other chapters of the Bible regarding what brought about this condition of waste and confusion.
In 2 Peter 2 the Bible records several examples of God's judgment for wrong doing. Verses 5 and 6 discuss the Flood of Noah's time and the later fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But before this, in verse 4, we read that “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but thrust them down into Tartarus [a condition of restraint], and delivered them into chains of darkness, being reserved for judgment” (Modern King James Version). When did these angels sin, and what was their sin?
Again, we must look at other verses to find the answer. Jude 6 gives us additional details: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these [God] has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (NIV).
We saw earlier that at the earth's creation all the angels were happy and joyous, singing and shouting together. Obviously, then, it was at a later time that some sinned— destroying the wonderful harmony and cooperation they had once enjoyed. What was the nature of their sin? They “did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home”—they left the place and position God had given them. They rebelled against their Maker, the Creator of both the physical universe and the spirit world of angelic beings!
A rebellion against God
In Isaiah 14 we find more information. This chapter makes reference to the angelic rebellion, identifying its ring leader. It gives us important details we could learn of in no other way.
In verse 4 God addresses the “king of Babylon.” In Isaiah's time the city-state of Babylon was emerging as the major power in that region of the world. Its king was a war monger, expanding his empire through brute force. He enslaved, plundered and devastated the nations around him. (In context, this passage has dual meaning, in that it also refers to an end-time tyrant who will rule over a final global empire referred to in Revelation 17 and 18 as Babylon the Great.)
The philosophy of the king of Babylon here is satanic—acquiring wealth and power at the expense of others, gaining it through violence and bloodshed. The king of Babylon thus exemplifies Satan and his characteristics. Indeed, as we will read more about later, Satan is the real power behind the throne of the world's kingdoms (compare Luke 4:5-7 Luke 4:5-7 5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
6 And the devil said to him, All this power will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
7 If you therefore will worship me, all shall be yours.
American King James Version×; John 12:31 John 12:31Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
American King James Version×; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×; 13:2).
In verse 12 the subject shifts from the physical king to a ruler who is yet higher. Many scholars recognize that the original language of this passage is in the form of a lament, a reflection of God's mourning and sense of great loss due to the events being described: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High'” (verses 12-14).
Who is this being who dares to exalt himself above the other angels (stars symbolize angels, Revelation 1:20 Revelation 1:20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.
American King James Version×) of God, to challenge God Himself as ruler of the universe?
More details revealed
In Ezekiel 28 God gives us the answer. This chapter is written much like Isaiah 14. God begins by discussing a human ruler, then shifts to the spiritual power behind the earthly throne—the behind-the-scenes ruler who controls the kingdoms of this world.
In Ezekiel 28:2 Ezekiel 28:2Son of man, say to the prince of Tyrus, Thus said the Lord GOD; Because your heart is lifted up, and you have said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the middle of the seas; yet you are a man, and not God, though you set your heart as the heart of God:
American King James Version×God addresses the “prince of Tyre.” Tyre, a coastal port city north of ancient Israel on the Mediterranean Sea, was famous as a major trading center. Its rulers had grown haughty and presumptuous because of their wealth and influence. In verses 6-10 God tells this ruler that because of his arrogance, his might and wealth would fail and he would be overthrown.
But notice in verse 12 that God begins to address “the king of Tyre” rather than the prince. This figure is the true ruler, the real power behind the throne. History gives some additional insight here, as the patron god of ancient Tyre was Melkart, meaning “king of the city.” He was deemed to be the true ruler of Tyre. And consider that the false gods of this world can represent actual demonic powers, Satan being chief among them as “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×).
In fact, God's description of this “king of Tyre” makes it clear that He is speaking to no physical human being: “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created” (verses 12-13).
No mortal man could accurately be described as being “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” This entity was created— unlike human beings who are born rather than created. This being had also been “in Eden, the garden of God.” Other than Adam and Eve, no people had been in the Garden of Eden. God had expelled them, after which He placed an angel there specifically to prevent anyone else from entering (Genesis 3:24 Genesis 3:24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
American King James Version×).
Fall of a superangel
In the next verse God mentions some of the history of this being: “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones” (Ezekiel 28:14 Ezekiel 28:14You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire.
American King James Version×).
What do these remarkable statements mean? What is a “cherub who covers”? Hebrews 8:5 Hebrews 8:5Who serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, said he, that you make all things according to the pattern showed to you in the mount.
American King James Version×tells us that the tabernacle established through Moses—the portable sanctuary the Israelites carried with them in their desert wanderings—was “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (NIV). In Exodus 25:18-20 Exodus 25:18-20 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shall you make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.
American King James Version×we find that God instructed the Israelites to make a representation—a physical model—of His throne for the tabernacle they would carry with them in the wilderness. At either side of the “mercy seat,” which represented God's throne, was a golden cherub with wings extended to cover the mercy seat. The two cherubim, fashioned out of gold, represented real angelic beings—the great superangels whose wings cover God's throne.
The being God addressed through Ezekiel is called the “cherub who covers,” indicating that he had once been one of the great angels depicted in the model of God's throne. God gave these angels the awesome distinction of serving at and covering the very throne of God in heaven!
Many other scriptures say that God “dwells between the cherubim,” showing that these wondrous creatures accompany and serve Him at His seat of power (1 Samuel 4:4 1 Samuel 4:4So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwells between the cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
American King James Version×; 2 Samuel 6:2 2 Samuel 6:2And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwells between the cherubim.
American King James Version×; 2 Kings 19:15 2 Kings 19:15And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwell between the cherubim, you are the God, even you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
American King James Version×; 1 Chronicles 13:6 1 Chronicles 13:6And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjathjearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up there the ark of God the LORD, that dwells between the cherubim, whose name is called on it.
American King James Version×; Psalms 80:1 Psalms 80:1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that lead Joseph like a flock; you that dwell between the cherubim, shine forth.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 37:16 Isaiah 37:16O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwell between the cherubim, you are the God, even you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: you have made heaven and earth.
American King James Version×). This magnificent being apparently held a position of high honor and distinction in God's angelic realm.
This same great cherub is also described as being “on the holy mountain of God.” In the Bible, “hills” and “mountains” are often used to symbolize governments (see Revelation 17:9-10 Revelation 17:9-10 9 And here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits.
10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a short space.
American King James Version×). Apparently this super angel was given authority in the governance of other angels, who number in the hundreds of millions (see Daniel 7:9-10 Daniel 7:9-10 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
American King James Version×; Revelation 5:11 Revelation 5:11And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
American King James Version×).
God also says to this cherub, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15 Ezekiel 28:15You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
American King James Version×). Like the description in Isaiah 14, this passage describes a created being, not a man. This being was extraordinary, perfect until he sinned, beginning with pride in his own beauty and splendor, which corrupted his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:17 Ezekiel 28:17Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you.
American King James Version×).
“…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 [or 'covering,' NKJV] cherub, from among the fiery stones” (verse 16, NIV). This once marvelous being sinned and was expelled from God's throne, cast away in disgrace.
A personal choice to rebel
Satan's sin of pride and vanity ultimately led to outright and open rebellion against God. Isaiah 14:13-14 Isaiah 14:13-14 13 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on 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.
American King James Version×, which we read earlier, states: “You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars [angels] of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High'” (NIV).
This powerful spirit entity decided to challenge God for control of the universe!
What had been an amazingly beautiful, immensely talented spirit being with great responsibility in God's angelic order became, through his rebellion against Almighty God, a reprehensible, despicable creature. Thus, God did not create the devil. Rather, what God created was a magnificent and perfect being. But later, this powerful being, by his own will, became the devil and Satan—the adversary, slanderer, accuser and destroyer. He made himself the enemy of God and humanity!
The immense powers he had used in God's service were turned not to serve God, but to try to thwart God's purposes. This creature remains an enormously powerful spirit being, but now his powers are used for wicked, destructive ends.
As we've seen, so vain and proud did he become that he thought he should be ruler of the universe. His enormous talents and abilities led him to believe he was equal to, if not better than, God Himself. His thinking became corrupted. He rebelled against God and tried to overthrow Him. By his rebellion against his Creator, he transformed himself into Satan the devil.
Other angels in rebellion with him
Satan was not alone in this rebellion. Millions of other angels joined him in rejecting God's authority and leadership. We find this symbolically described in Revelation 12:3-4 Revelation 12:3-4 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
American King James Version×: “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon…His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.” Verse 9 identifies this dragon as Satan. As we saw earlier, the Bible uses stars as a symbol for angels (Revelation 1:20 Revelation 1:20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.
American King James Version×). This apparently indicates that a third of the angels followed Satan in this rebellion and were cast down to the earth with him.
The attempted takeover of heaven was, of course, not successful. Two thirds of the angels remained loyal to God and thus constituted a more numerous force. More importantly, God is omnipotent—all powerful—and cannot be overthrown.
Jesus said that Satan “[fell] like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18 Luke 10:18And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
American King James Version×). It seems likely that this titanic struggle is what brought about the chaotic and wasted condition of the earth described in Genesis 1:2 Genesis 1:2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.
American King James Version×. As mentioned earlier, God then renewed the surface of the earth in preparation for human habitation, as described in the rest of Genesis 1. Yet to aid His purpose in developing righteous character in human beings, God allowed Satan and his minions to remain on the earth for the time being. Thus Satan was allowed to tempt Adam and Eve in the garden.
The Bible refers to Satan and the other rebellious angels as evil spirits, unclean spirits and demons. They are fallen angels —who had plummeted from their purpose of serving God and humanity (Hebrews 1:13-14 Hebrews 1:13-14 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
American King James Version×), reduced to hatred and bitterness toward God and His holy purpose for humanity. In Scripture they are shown to be able to not only influence but even possess people (that is, exercise direct control over their bodies and actions). Such demonic control can cause people to exhibit violent and self-destructive behavior (Matthew 8:28 Matthew 8:28And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
American King James Version×; 17:14-18; Acts 19:14-16 Acts 19:14-16 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
American King James Version×; Luke 8:27-33 Luke 8:27-33 27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither stayed in any house, but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of God most high? I beseech you, torment me not. 29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he broke the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is your name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31 And they sought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. 32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they sought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. 33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
American King James Version×).
God's servants are not to be fearful or overly anxious about such demonic influence affecting them. While there are many evil spirits, they are fewer in number and inferior in power to God's faithful angels, who are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14 Hebrews 1:14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
American King James Version×). Christians are to be confident because “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
American King James Version×).
A strong mind spiritually attuned to God's way of life is the best way to resist demonic influence. Faithful servants of God are to be filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 Ephesians 5:18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
American King James Version×), enabling them to resist such influence so that evil spirits are forced to flee (James 4:7 James 4:7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
American King James Version×). Also, the true ministers of Christ have been given authority over demons, enabling them to cast demons out of those possessed (Matthew 10:1 Matthew 10:1And when he had called to him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.
American King James Version×, 8; Mark 6:13 Mark 6:13And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
American King James Version×, 16:17). After all, God is the ultimate source of power.