The Doctrine of Creation (part 22)

January 24, 2009     Time: 00:45:01


Angels and Demons continued. The study continues at minute 6:07.

I was thinking about a story that Peter Kreeft recently told. He is a professor of philosophy at Boston College, which is of course a Catholic institution. He was lecturing in his philosophy class one day, and there were in the class in addition to the nominally Catholic students that normally attend BC a Muslim student as well and a Jewish student who were in this class. During the break of the lecture the Muslim student noticed that on the wall behind Dr. Kreeft there was the outline of a cross. There had evidently been a crucifix there on the wall which had been removed and now, because of the different color of the paint, you can see the faint outline of where the cross had been. This Muslim student said to the other students in the class, “Why did they take the cross down?” One of the Catholic students said it was because the college was going to get a federal grant and in order to get this grant money from the government you couldn’t have a sectarian interest in the school so they took it down in order to get this federal grant money. The Muslim student was aghast. He said, “You mean to tell me they took down the cross because of money? In order to get money?” One of the other students said, “No, no, that is not right. He is mistaken. The reason they took the cross down was because they didn’t want to offend anybody. They wanted to be inclusivistic so that no one would be offended at seeing the cross on the wall because we don’t have just Catholic students here at BC. We have people from many religions.” The Muslim student looked at him and said, “Why do you think I am a bigot?” The Catholic student said, “I don’t think you are a bigot? Why do you say that?” He said, “Suppose you were to come to my country and you were to see an Islamic symbol on the wall of the classroom – say, a crescent. Would you be offended?” And the Catholic student said, “Well, of course not!” And the Muslim student said, “But you think I should be offended when I come to your institution and see a cross on the wall. You think I am a bigot!” Well, at that point the Catholic student didn’t know what to say. The Muslim student then went on to say, “We have a very high view of Jesus in our religion. We think Jesus is one of the greatest of the prophets. Although we don’t put up symbols of our great prophets, if we did have a picture of Jesus on the wall in our classroom and the government troops came into the building and told us to remove the picture of Jesus from the wall, I would die before I would allow the government to take down the picture of our beloved prophet. So I am a better Christian than you!” The Catholic students were just left speechless. It is, I think, testimony to what it really means to follow Christ and to stand for him even though that may be politically incorrect in our day and age.

We certainly have seen the conflict – haven’t we? – between radical Islam and Christianity continue to go on in the Middle East. I think we need to continue to be in prayer about that – that these forces of terrorism and Islamic fascism would be defeated. I’d like to just lead us in prayer before we go into the lesson today.

[Opening prayer][1]

We’ve been looking at the final section of the doctrine of creation over the last few weeks. We’ve been talking about angels and demons. I don’t know about you, but whatever topic we are on in Sunday School in Defenders class, I find that when I am in church, things just pop out at me that are related to the topic. Did you notice, for example, in the hymns we sang today the references to angels that were in those hymns? Like the great “All Creatures of our God and King” where it talked about the angelic hosts praising the Lord along with the created world of nature around us – all creation praises God and extols his greatness. It was interesting just to see how these things are so relevant when you are alert to them.

We began to study then the subject of Satan and the demons. We saw that there is this spiritual creature of tremendous evil and opposition to God called Satan which means adversary, as it was pointed out, in the Hebrew. He is the adversary of God as well as our adversary. We saw a whole list of names that the Scripture gives to him: prince of the power of the air, liar, dragon, the devil, the ruler of this world, the god of this world, the tempter, the accuser of the brethren. All of these go to describe this spiritual being who opposes God and his people.

Now we come to the question that several of you were asking: the origin of Satan. The Scripture has very little to say about the origin of Satan and demons. In fact, I did a little research this week and there is almost nothing about this in extra-biblical literature either. It is very mysterious. You just don’t have a lot about this either in extra-biblical Jewish writing or in the Old or the New Testament. So there are a lot of popular ideas about the origin of Satan that have currency in the Christian church but really aren’t very solidly founded in Scripture which has quite little to say about it.

Fundamentally, though, I think we can say that Satan is not some sort of uncreated evil being which is lodged over against God in some sort of cosmic dualism. The Bible rejects any sort of ultimate dualistic view of the world – of good and evil locked in a kind of equal contest. Rather, the Scriptures clearly affirm that all things have been created by God including all of these spiritual realms and principalities as well as the physical spatio-temporal universe. So, for example, take a look at Colossians 1:15-16. If you have your New Testament, I encourage you to whip it out because we will be looking up a number of passages again this morning.[2]

Colossians 1:15-16, speaking of Christ,

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Everything outside of God, including these spiritual realms (these principalities and authorities and powers), are created by God. Christianity, as well as Judaism, rejects any kind of dualism which would be characteristic of Gnosticism. The Gnostic view of reality is that there is an evil god and a good god and these are locked in this terrible conflict that takes place here on this planet. But Scripture rejects any kind of dualism. Therefore, what that implies is that Satan is one of God’s creatures. He is a spiritual being which has been created by God.

The question that arises at that point would be: why in the world would God create such an evil, malevolent creature? Why would he create someone that is opposed to his work and which tries to destroy his work and destroy creation? Indeed, that might even strike us as something of a contradiction, that God (who is all good) could be the creator and author of evil. Therefore, many people have sought to explain the origin of Satan by imagining that Satan was originally some sort of angelic being who fell away through some sort of sin and thereby became opposed to the work of God. There are some passages in Scripture that are often used as prooftexts for this supposition.

One of these would be Isaiah 14:12-15. Let’s turn to that and we’ll read it together.

How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the depths of the Pit.

It has been thought by some that this is a description of a kind of satanic fall. The word “Day Star” later came to be rendered in Latin as “Lucifer” and Lucifer was then given as a name for Satan. Lucifer isn’t used in the Scripture as a name for Satan. Here it simply means Day Star which probably is Venus. It is the planet Venus that appears in the morning and in the evening. But in Latin this was translated as Lucifer and the name was given to Satan.

The problem with this is that that is to rip this passage completely out of context. What this is is a taunt or a mock of the king of Babylon who had opposed the Lord. For example, in Isaiah 14:3-4 it says, “When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon.” And then comes this mockery or this taunt of the king of Babylon who thought he was so great, it describes him in this hyperbolic language, and now he is laid low under the judgment of God. In Isaiah 14:16-20 it goes on to say,

Those who see you will stare at you,
and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
who shook kingdoms,
who made the world like a desert
and overthrew its cities,
who did not let his prisoners go home?’
All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
each in his own tomb;
but you are cast out, away from your sepulchre,
like a loathed untimely birth,
clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword,
who go down to the stones of the Pit,
like a dead body trodden under foot.
You will not be joined with them in burial,
because you have destroyed your land,
you have slain your people.

The immediate application of this is to the king of Babylon who was an unrighteous king and falls under the judgment of God.[3]

If there were some New Testament passage that looked back on this taunt of the king of Babylon and saw a deeper meaning in it and said this is a type of Satan, that this is an allegory of Satan, that would give us reason to think that this could indeed by a relevant passage. But there just isn’t any New Testament passage like that. No New Testament writer discerns in this anything about the origin of Satan. At least at face value this doesn’t seem to be a passage about the origin of Satan.

Another similar passage that has been appealed to is over in the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel 28:12-19. Here it says,

You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom
and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
carnelian, topaz, and jasper,
chrysolite, beryl, and onyx,
sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald;
and wrought in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
With an anointed guardian cherub I placed you;
you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till iniquity was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and the guardian cherub drove you out
from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought forth fire from the midst of you;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes upon the earth
in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples
are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
and shall be no more for ever.

Again, taken out of context, this might sound like a description of the origin of Satan as this glorious being, blameless in his ways before God, beautiful, wise, but then who became proud and so he was cast out and banished. But, again, the problem is when you read it in the context it is not talking about Satan. It is talking about the city of Tyre which comes under God’s judgment. Read verses 11-12 which says, “Moreover the word of the Lord came to me [Ezekiel]: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God.” Then it refers to how God is going to judge the king of Tyre and the city. It refers to the trade that this city is involved in. It was a big trading commercial center. He describes how it is going to be laid waste, burned, and fall under God’s judgment. Again, if there were a New Testament passage and appealed to this and said this is a type of Satan, then we could have reason to think there is something more here. But in the absence of any such passage I think we have to say that Ezekiel was not talking here about the origin of Satan. He is talking here about the king of Tyre and the judgment on him.

I don’t think either of these passages, at face value at least, properly shed light upon the origin of Satan. However, there are some other New Testament passages that might be more elucidating. For example, take a look at Luke 10:18. This is the reaction of Jesus when the seventy disciples come back from their mission trip that he sends them on. Jesus sends out the seventy to heal, to cast out demons, to proclaim the kingdom of God.[4] They come back in verse 17 saying, “‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” Could that be referring to some sort of primordial cosmic fall of Satan? Maybe. But on the other hand it might be referring to the fall of Satan in the sense that the disciples on their mission to go out and preach the Gospel defeated Satan and his minions. They cast out demons. They exorcised people. They say to Jesus, “Even the demons are subject to us.” Jesus is responding to that by saying, Yes, this was a tremendous defeat for Satan in what you’ve just done. Again, it is not altogether clear.

However, I think there are some other New Testament passages that, though obscure, do go to suggest the idea that Satan and his demons were in fact angelic-type beings who fell – that there was a kind of fall that resulted in their evil. In that sense it would imply that they were created good – all things were created by God as good – and through an exercise of free will, these creatures rebelled or fell away from God and so became evil in the same way that man was created innocent and yet fell away from God in the garden. So it would be the result of free will.

Let’s look at a few of these passages. Again, I have to say they are not as clear as we would like. We would like to have more information on this, but they give suggestive hints.

2 Peter 2:4. There he says, “For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell” – the Greek word there is tartarus. It is not the hell that people go to at the end of the world. This is kind of like the nether underworld, the nether realm, of where these beings are cast – “and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment.” Then he goes on to complete the sentence. Here it shows that the author does believe in the idea of some kind of an angelic fall. At least in the case of these angels that fell, they seem to be imprisoned in this tartarus, or in this realm, where they are reserved to judgment. Perhaps there are others that are on the loose so to speak. Perhaps especially bad ones were put in tartarus where they couldn’t do more harm. We don’t know. But it does indicate at least this idea of an angelic fall.

Another passage – turn just over to Jude 6. This refers to something very similar: “And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day.” There, again, we have described angels who did not keep their proper position but in some way left it. They fell away and so have come under God’s judgment.

There are a couple of other interesting passages in 1 Timothy that I would like to read as well. 1 Timothy 3:6. He is talking here about the qualifications to be a bishop or an elder in the church. He says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” That is an interesting verse because it depends on how you take this phrase “the condemnation of the devil.”[5] Is the “of” prepositional phrase meant to mean the condemnation which the devil metes out? The condemnation of the devil in the sense that the devil is the source of the condemnation – condemnation by the devil? Or does it mean that this is the same condemnation that is the condemnation that the devil gets? If it is the latter then it would suggest that Satan’s sin would be something like some kind of vaunting pride or ambition. The bishop shouldn’t be puffed up with conceit or he will fall into the same condemnation that Satan did. So it is suggestive of this traditional idea of a Satanic fall or angelic fall through pride or vaunting ambition, something of that sort.

The last passage that I wanted to draw to your attention is 1 Timothy 5:21. Paul says, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality.” The phrase that I obviously want to highlight is this interesting expression “the elect angels.” Just as certain people are elect and destined for glory and justification and righteousness, and others are reprobate and doomed to separation from God and destruction, similarly here Paul implies that there is a distinction among angels as well. There are elect angels which are going to be forever with God, and then there are by implication non-elect angels. That would fit in with this idea of angels that have fallen away.

This is all we really have, basically, in the Scripture. But I think it is enough to suggest that a plausible view would be that God originally created all of these heavenly invisible realms populated by these great powerful angelic beings and that they were created at least at a sort of distance from God enough to allow freedom of rebellion and sin. Had God so overwhelmed them with his majesty and glory perhaps sin would have been impossible, but they were created in such a way that sin was possible. This would be, it would seem, the origin of evil. This would then be mediated to the Earth through the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. So Satan and the demons are in fact fallen angels.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: It is in the genitive. This can be ambiguous. But that translation does render it in the way I described – the condemnation incurred by the devil.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Let me turn over there – Revelation 12. Let’s go ahead and read that.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!

The difficulty there, I think, would be this is presented at least as a kind of end time event, not a primordial event. The fall here – notice they are already evil before they are cast down. Michael and the angels are warring with the dragon and his angels, and then they are cast down. So this seems to me to describe some sort of a future triumph over Satan and his demons rather than a description of something that happened in the past.[6]

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: These symbolic passages are full of mystery and difficult to interpret. But if you do take the child to be the Messiah or maybe Israel, again the dragon already exists at this point. What you have described later in 7 isn’t the origin of Satan and the demons, it is his final defeat, right?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Yeah. Well, again, that is possible. It is difficult to know how to interpret this very symbolic literature. But as I say, it does seem to say that the war is going on in heaven between Michael and the demons and Satan, and then they are cast down to Earth and defeated. They are already evil and warring prior to being cast down here.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: He is now the accuser of the brethren. Even in Job, as you say, you have him saying, You think Job is so great, let me touch him and he’ll abandon you.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: This is a really interesting philosophical question that you are raising. He says, “Do angels continue to have free will?” On the one hand it seems inconceivable, I think, that there could be yet another angelic fall, that somehow more of the angels could fall away and become demons. That seems crazy. Yet, on the other hand, these angels seem to be great spiritual beings, and it would be almost – I was going to say inhuman, but that wouldn’t be the right word – demeaning to reduce them to the level of mannequins or robots who are just mechanical that don’t have freedom of the will. Surely they do. Here is a speculation that I think a lot of folks have that would make sense of this. Let me tie this into another question: will we have freedom to sin in heaven? Again, it seems inconceivable that having gone to heaven we could have the freedom to fall away and be lost or to sin. Yet, do we turn into puppets when we go to heaven and no longer have freedom of the will? That doesn’t seem right either.

Here is one possibility. Medieval theologians liked to talk about the blessed in heaven receiving the beatific vision. What did they mean by that? By that they meant that the blessed in heaven would see the essence of God himself. They would come to see God in all his glory and majesty as he is. Now we see in a glass darkly but then face-to-face as the apostle Paul says. It may be that someone who sees the beatific vision – who sees Christ in all his splendor and glory – is so overwhelmed at his beauty and attractiveness that the ability to sin is simply removed. In the same way iron filings in the presence of a gigantic electromagnet would just be sucked to the magnet and unable to fall away, so a person who sees Christ and God in all of his glory and beauty would in effect be robbed of his ability to sin because of the overwhelming attractiveness of Christ. One wouldn’t have the freedom to sin anymore. That wouldn’t be to reduce them to puppets because you would still have freedom to do various things to do other things. But just the freedom to sin would be removed because of the overwhelming beauty of the vision of Christ.

That seems to me to make sense of freedom in heaven and the inability to sin there. We are placed now in a kind of veil of decision making on this planet prior to our eternal habitation being decided. But once we go there it is too late to decide. Then that choice is sealed. God has created us at what some philosophers like to call an epistemic distance. Epistemic relates to the word knowledge.[7] To say he has created us at an epistemic distance means that God’s existence and nature and reality are not as evident as they could be. He could have given us an overwhelming revelation of his glory so that doubt and uncertainty would be impossible. But God has created us, so to speak, at arm’s length. His glory is revealed through nature, for example, and in his moral law in conscience – these speak of the glory of God. These are revelations of God’s glory but they are not overwhelming. There is a kind of epistemic distance, or arm’s length, at which God has created us that gives us the freedom to rebel against him, to sin, to have unbelief. In heaven, once we have the beatific vision this epistemic distance will be removed and so our choice will be sealed.

Could something like this have been done with the angels as well? I could well imagine a case that God would create these angelic realms originally at a sort of epistemic distance from himself that would allow angels to freely choose whether they are going to worship, follow, and obey God, or whether they are going to rebel and do evil. And Satan and his minions rebelled against God, sinned against God, and then the rest of the angels were given a sort of beatific vision to seal their decision so it would be impossible that there could be a further angelic fall or further angelic loss, and Satan and the demons have no chance at redemption or salvation. They are doomed as a result of their rebellion against him. That, to me, would make sense. That is conjectural, but it would make sense, I think, of the situation.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: They are not biblical in the sense that you can’t prooftext it using verses. That is right. There are things in Scripture that talk about, as I say, “we shall see face to face.” It says in the book of Revelation there will no longer be a need of any sun because Christ himself will be the light of the people. There will be no tears anymore, no crying or pain. There certainly is the idea that there will be a closer relationship with God. Paul says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and so forth. I think the idea is there in Scripture. This is not. Again, it is not in Scripture, but the Scripture does indicate that God’s revelation is not overpowering. He says, “No man can see me and live.” So when Moses wants to see God, God says, “I’ll show you my back.” That is to say, a kind of diminished vision of his glory. He hides Moses in the cleft of the rock, you’ll remember, and allows his glory to pass by and Moses gets merely a glimpse. You think of God’s revelation in nature and conscience described in Romans 1 and 2. It is clearly a veiled revelation, not an unbridled vision of his brightness. So, right, it is not in the Scripture, but it certainly is consistent with Scripture. It is intimated, I think.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t know, but could it be? Here is a suggestion. We’ve seen, in discussing the angels, that there are ranks of angels. Archangels, principalities. Maybe Satan was the highest of these? So naturally he would be the leader if he were the highest angelic being that fell, and the others would serve him. This question that you raised about a kind of parallel history is very interesting because . . . what is the biggest dis-analogy? There is no redemption for these angelic beings that fell.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That’s right. It leads to the question – why didn’t Christ die for the sins of the angels to redeem them? Maybe the point you are making is that that would have been a hopeless endeavor given that they have fallen away in this kind of permanent and irredeemable fashion. So there isn’t any redemption. There is no atoning death on behalf of these angelic hordes that have become demons because they are irredeemable.[8] That seems to me to be plausible. You look at these ones that are thrown into tartarus. These are so bad they can’t even be let out. That seems to me to be an interesting non-parallel element of the story.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Yes. And I think when we get to heaven, we’ll be in the kind of condition that the angels are in now in the sense we’ll see God in his unalloyed, unveiled glory and we won’t have a need of a sort of faith. Paul says – doesn’t he? – in 1 Corinthians 13 that there is faith, hope, and charity. And faith and hope will pass away. You won’t need them anymore. But charity will always endure. Love will always be there. But the point you make is, I think, a good one.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That’s a very intriguing thought – he connects it with the federal headship of Adam as the progenitor of all the human race where Satan is not the progenitor of all of these other angelic creatures. My discomfort there would be to think the atoning death of Christ wouldn’t be sufficient to cover everybody’s sin, even if these people were unrelated to each other genetically. I understand the federal headship of Adam in all persons being implicated in Adam’s sin, but I don’t think you have in Scripture the idea that Christ died for Adam’s sin and therefore kind of derivatively all those who Adam is the federal head of. Instead, Christ is the parallel to Adam in being the redeeming sacrifice for all the human race. I appreciate the idea. It is an interesting suggestion, though I am not so sure that that really works with regard to the atonement.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Isn’t that 1 Corinthians 13?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Earlier in the passage he says that these other things will pass away.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I see your point. He is talking about knowledge and prophecy passing away. I guess what I was thinking of – you tie this in with the book of Hebrews where he says no one hopes for what he already has, but you hope for that which you do not yet have. Similarly, faith looks forward to its possession so that when we have the fullness of our hope and the object of our faith then in that sense one wouldn’t need those.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: But love will always be there.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I guess I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 in light of Hebrews when I said that.


Next time we will talk a little bit about the nature of demons, but I hope that the study so far has helped to alert you to the spiritual warfare that we are involved in. The things that we see going on around us in the visible world are just, as it were, masks for a much deeper conflict. There is an enemy of our souls who will do everything in his power to destroy you. He hates you intensely and wants to render you ineffective. Therefore we dare not be ignorant of what he is like, what he is trying to accomplish. We need to be watchful, prayerful, and careful with how we walk lest we stumble, go astray, or be defeated in our Christian life.

[Closing prayer][9]

[1] 6:05

[2] 10:04

[3] 15:29

[4] 20:05

[5] 25:00

[6] 30:08

[7] 35:03

[8] 40:05

[9] Total Running Time: 45:01 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)