“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'”?” (Gen 3:1)
the devil in the Garden
SYNOPSIS: From Lucifer to Satan – Why, when and how did the devil rebel? – Can this event fit into a young-earth scenario? – What about the angels? – What the Bible does not say – How much power does the devil really have? – A recent-earth creation narrative that ticks all the biblical boxes – The whisperer entices Eve – Who is the ruler over the earth? – What happened on the Mount – Was it possible for Jesus to fail? – Victory at Calvary.
In the gap theory, I have heard a minister argue that Satan and his angels needed billions of years before they would have sinned, because sin comes from our character and character takes time to develop. But this is not how the Bible describes sin, as it is full of examples of how sin can be conceived instantaneously and carried out a short time after it has entered a person’s heart and mind. The best example being Adam, who was a brand-new sinless creature and perfect at the beginning, and he was not deceived. He knew what he was doing when he took the fruit not long after he had been created. It was all a matter of the heart – pride and self-centredness: “You will be wise like God” (Gen 3:5-6). That is why God tells us “to flee sin” (1 Cor 6:18; 1 Cor 10:14), because it “crouches at the door” ready to ensnare us in seconds (Gen 4:7).
As for Lucifer, he, too, was created perfect and he knew what was happening when a spirit of lawlessness entered into his mind. And there is no logical reason to think it took billions of years to occur and then to develop to the point where he carried it out. Besides, Jesus tells us there is no time delay, because once sin has been conceived in a person’s heart, they are already pronounced guilty of committing it (Matt 5:28).
Here is another argument used to support the gap theory. According to one old-earth creation minister:
“Why was Satan in the garden with Adam and Eve? It makes no sense. If a person thinks the devil just slipped in and did all that great damage to Adam and Eve then you don’t know God. Satan was there in the Garden because he had already been established as the god of this earth and this is where his throne was.”
There are a number of possible young earth scenarios that answer these questions, showing that Satan’s sin and his rebellion fit perfectly within a 6000-year biblical framework.
Not only that but in these scenarios no Scriptures need to be questioned and altered (e.g. “was” changed into “became” – Gen 1:2) and no new vocabulary has to be added (e.g. the introduction of unbiblical terms such as the “initial creation” and the “re-creation”). However, a person needs to take off their gap theory glasses so as to be able to enter into, and engage with, the arguments “to see if these things are so” (Acts 17:11).
The devil’s history is sketchy
Here I present my own summarised version of a recent earth creation narrative. I am not saying that all the explanations are correct, as I attempt to join the biblical dots, and I acknowledge there are other young earth creation narratives that have equally valid and differing points of view. But we are all in the same boat here whatever creation view we hold, because there is very little information about the devil’s history as the Scriptures are either sketchy or silent. Thus, each of us must rely on some speculation and our own interpretation. (For example, there are different opinions regarding the number of, and time of, Satan’s rebellion/s.)
The important thing, however, is to stick within the framework of Scripture and to those biblical statements that do provide clear information, which I believe I have done.
The first time we read about God pronouncing a sentence on the devil – who was found guilty and then cursed – is found in Gen 3:14, after he tempted the first woman, Eve. But when did the devil lead one third of the angels to follow him in his rebellion (Rev 12:4)? When did he ascend to heaven to make war with God? When was he thrown down to the earth? Also, how many rebellions were there?
My purpose here is to show that a young-earth interpretation is supported scripturally and ticks all the boxes. And if the fall and rebellion of Satan can be accommodated on this 6000-year-old earth then historically and theologically we don’t need an initial old earth and re-creation. Now I shall look into the main Scriptures regarding this matter, through the lens of one single recent creation completed in six days, in which God distinctly has the upper hand – not Satan.
Any gap creationist who can’t see this shows they have never really explored it or they are unwilling to do so.
First, let us establish what the Bible does not say
a) There is no example in the Bible of Satan destroying anything in the physical realm outside of God’s permission (Job 1; Matt 24:22; Num 22:18).
b) Nowhere are we told that one third of the angels rebelled at the same time the devil sinned – this has been an assumption based on the number of angels thrown out of heaven (Rev 12:24).
c) Lucifer did not literally try to take God’s throne. He knew that would be impossible. Rather he wanted to have authority over the angels and to be like God (Is 14:13-14), and “the whisperer” has always operated through stealth and deception.
d) There is also the unwarranted assumption that when the devil sinned and rebelled, he initiated great violence against God and His creation. As such “the devil’s rebellion” is automatically equated with “war in heaven and earth”.
All of these points are important in our analysis. Referring to these Scriptures, as well as Gen 1-3; Ezekiel 28, Luke 9-10; John 12:23-31; Job 38:6-7 and Revelation 12, I believe the following scenario is biblically sound.
A young earth creation narrative: In the beginning…
Lucifer was a magnificent spirit being, perfect when he was created. He was the anointed cherub who had the great privilege to cover the very throne of God. How long the angelic realm existed before the creation of the physical domain, we are not told. Some people believe the angels were created during the six-day creation week and have Scriptures to back this up; others argue that the angelic host are not subject to the timeframe of the physical realm. The fact is, we will never know in this life.
What we do know is that the biblical job descriptions of angelic beings is to serve and worship God, executing His judgments, delivering messages and ministering to man, the heirs of salvation (Gen 3:24; Rev 20:1-3; Eze 9:1-11; Dan 10; 1 Kings 19:5-7; Gen 16:7; Heb 1:14).
The word “throne” in Hebrew (kicce’) can mean a seat of royal dignity (Eze 28:2), but it can also represent an office of honour, authority and power. The archangel Lucifer began with a position of honour and authority (as God’s ministering cherub).
The question is when did the devil acquire his worldly seat of power on earth?
Gap creationists say it was billions of years ago on the “initial earth”; young earth creationists say it was about 6000 years ago on this earth. (The few people who hold to the gap principle and say that the gap of time could have been as little as a few days or months don’t resolve anything, because all the same problems exist no matter how much time is inserted, as I explain further on.)
Picking up the young earth scenario again…
Job 38:7 says that “all the sons of God” (angels) were present when the foundations of the earth were laid and they sang for joy, and no wonder, it must have been stunning to witness the birth of the physical creation. But God needed to give man free choice to see if he would choose to submit to His authority.
So He planted a garden for the man (joined later by the woman) and placed a tree in its midst – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, specifically to test man (angels didn’t need to eat)
“The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’.” (Gen 2:8-9;16-17)
It could not have taken very long for Lucifer’s mind to become twisted, only days or weeks after man’s creation. This is because the first humans were told to procreate. And if Adam and Eve had children before sinning, it would have caused all manner of theological dilemmas.
And so, at some point, between the entire angelic host singing for joy and Eve’s temptation, something happened to Lucifer’s mind. If not prior to the creation, by now he would know the earth was not made for him or the heavenly host but for man, who alone would rule it and tend and care for it. Also, it was man who had been given the authority to name all the animals and to have dominion over them, as with everything else in this brand new (and only) creation (Ps 8:6). But most astounding of all, man was commanded to put God’s glory on display by going forth and multiplying life – in the image of his Maker! No other creature had been granted such privileges and such honour – an intimate relationship, to marry and have children in their own likeness and in the likeness of their Creator God.
Lucifer becomes Satan
Did Lucifer feel he had been short-changed in the created order of things? The plain reading of the Bible shows that man’s potential far outstripped the heavenly host, who had not been created to become the children of God. Man was created to be a little lower than the angels, but only for a while. He was made ruler of the works of God’s hands, and all living things in the physical creation were put in subjection to him (Gen 1:26-28). King David and the prophet Job were in awe of God’s purpose and love for man:
“What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honour. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet…” (Ps 8:4-6)
“What is man, that You should exalt him, That You should set Your heart on him? (Job 7:17)
Mankind’s destiny was to govern the world under the authority of the Lord and to be loved as His children (1 John 3:2; 2 Cor 6:18). And Lucifer was not happy, because in his heart he wanted to rule the earth and rule over the stars of God (angels) and be just like the Most High (Is 14:13-14). He wanted that power but knew his limitations. Not having the backbone to confront the Almighty face to face, he turned his attention towards his perceived enemy, the new and weaker creature – man.
Lucifer was wise and thought he knew everything, but he did not. And so, as Satan, he began to hatch a plan that he believed he could carry out “behind God’s back”.
The Bible describes Satan as a malevolent coward, not a mighty conqueror! Think how he insidiously stirred up hatred for Jesus from behind the scenes.
Or how Absalom contrived against King David: “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords” (Is 55:21).
God describes the serpent as the most subtle (sly, cunning and crafty) of all creatures. His subversive and calculating character would have revealed its displeasure by murmuring and stirring up dissension by stealth and deception, because the only weapon he has is to lie.
Satan may well have found agreement with many angels early on. One thing is sure, those who listened to the devil’s schemes would have been seduced by the promise of rich rewards, honoured positions and freedom, under his rule, from their God-given tasks to serve God and man. And all this would have been conducted covertly.
All the while God waited patiently. This was a testing time for man, and angels too.
Sinned from the beginning
The devil hated man’s potential and what he represented, so sin was conceived in his mind, and then murder. (The Bible is full of examples of this natural progression: Gen 27:41; Gen 4:5-8.)
Jesus said the devil “sinned from the beginning” and he was a “murderer from the beginning” – by deceiving Eve who led Adam to take the fruit that would bring about their death. (In a similar covert opreration, King David was a murderer by extension when he sent a letter to his military commander, Joab, instructing that one of his elite soldiers, Uriah the Hittite, be dispatched into the fiercest part of the battle. This was David’s secret scheme to bring about Uriah’s death in the hope to cover up the fact he had conducted an affair with Uriah’s wife and she was now pregnant; 2 Sam 11:14-15).
The devil’s scheme was to tempt man to sin by rebelling against the one command God had given him – not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he could succeed, he reasoned, then God’s plan for man would fail.
This would prove how powerful he, the devil, was, and, over time, he could convince more angels to disobey God and follow him, as he set himself up as god of the earth with his own kingdom, or even lord of the universe! (We know his pride made him delusional.)
When Lucifer tempted Eve, she did not seem surprised to see him or to communicate with him. And as God had not yet cursed him, it is logical that Lucifer would have still been the glorious spirit being who is described as walking in Eden, the garden of God (Eze 28:13-14).
(Our fallen minds have no hope of imagining this Paradise, which operated on an ecological system incomprehensible to us today, after the Fall.)
The word “serpent” (literally “hissing” or “whisperer”) may well have been an illustrative title depicting his covert nature – i.e. an adjectival noun. For example, “serpent” in English can mean “a wily, treacherous, or malicious person”, and we talk about someone being as cunning as a fox, big as a bear or as harmless as a dove. This, of course, does not mean that such a person literally has the appearance of a bear, a fox or a dove. The noun “devil” is also used in an adjectival sense, describing a “false accuser”. I think it is profound that God does not give us a name for Satan before he sinned. (The word Lucifer was not in the original biblical text but added later, from the Latin word heyel meaning “light bearer”. This come from the root word hâlal, which means “boastful”.) It is as if God has made the name he had, prior to his sin, inaccessible to us – to have perished (Is 26:14).
The whisperer entices Eve
Lucifer – the serpent (literally, “the whisperer”) – would have dazzled Eve, with his illuminating beauty shining like precious jewels, as the prophet Ezekiel describes the devil’s appearance (analogous to the King of Tyre):
“Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘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'”‘.” (Eze 28:11-13)
Then Lucifer seduced Eve with his great words of “wisdom”. Maybe she trusted him because she had always seen him in the Garden with Yahweh, as His honoured covering cherub. God already knew what was going to happen, as their Creator was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8). God is righteous and long-suffering and he knows the end from the beginning, but sometimes consequences have to be reached so people can learn from them. (In Genesis, for example, Abraham’s offspring were not allowed to take over the land for a long time, because the iniquity of the Amorites “was not yet full”, Gen 15:16.)
Eve had not personally heard God’s command to Adam – not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – as she had not been created at that point in time. (Although Adam had instructed her later.) And so she listened to Lucifer’s lies that it would be of great benefit to her, and picked and ate the forbidden fruit. When she told Adam, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to say the serpent, “whisperer” (the Hebrew nachash even sounds like a hiss) had told her it was good. Adam’s response showed that he, too, was familiar with, and comfortable being persuaded by, this heavenly creature. After all, Adam and Eve knew that earthly animals, including serpents, didn’t speak.
And besides, Lucifer would have had far more success appearing in his god-like and angelic form as opposed to a long, skinny reptile without ears or eyelids and a flicking forked tongue ( 2 Cor 11:14).
When Adam committed original sin, mankind was condemned. God cursed the devil, the man and woman, and the whole creation as well.
Contrary to what the gap theory claims, God had never bestowed upon Lucifer the great honour to rule His beautiful creation for billions of years, and to continue that rule, after he had destroyed it, into the “re-creation” – even during the “re-creating” process! Rather the devil acquired his rulership from Adam through fraudulent and devious means, (telling him “You will be like God”) as well as murdering him by leading him into sin, which incurred the death penalty . (In a similar underhanded way, King Ahab “legally acquired” Naboth’s vineyard; 1 Kings 21; and King David “legally acquired” Bathsheba as his wife.)
The serpent was the oppressor who had been given the concession to influence man in order to test man’s faithfulness. Satan’s “clever” scheming resulted in this physical creature, man, transferring his allegiance from his Creator to the usurper.
But the devil’s power came only from his feigned words. He was the first pretender in God’s creation to manufacture lies (2 Pet 2:3).
Who is the ruler of the earth?
Satan had now attained part of the coveted role he wanted – to govern men’s hearts and minds and to be “like the Most High”. And as man had willingly placed himself in subjection to the Deceiver, God created a new office for the devil – he would be the “ruler of this world” (kosmos). This meant he was the “prince” commander over man and his descendants – the “god (vice regent) of this world”. He would now have certain powers over the nations and the inhabitants of the earth who had been alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ (Matt 4:8-9; John 14:30).
The devil’s prime means were deceptive communications, and by this medium he would institute the world’s evil systems in rebellion against God law of love (1 John 5:19; 2 Cor 4:4). Thus, the pretender became the “prince of the power of the air”. He also became the commander of the powers of the unseen world. The whole world would now be under his influence (Eph 2:1-3). And he held the power of death over his human subjects (Heb 2:14).
The devil’s coup on earth was swift and absolute (or so he thought). He had gained “god-like” powers over the world and man’s blood would be shed. And best of all, he didn’t have to lift a finger to achieve this apparent success!
But … and this is crucially important … Nowhere is the devil referred to as the ruler of the earth or the ruler of kingdoms and nations, as some gap creationists mandate (citing Matt 4: 8-9).
God alone is Sovereign over the earth and determines the future of all peoples and nations.
“We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth” (Ez 5:11); “‘For I am a great King,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations’” (Mal 1:14); “The Most High rules” (Dan 4:32); “Lord God, creator of the heavens and the earth: For you, O LORD, are supreme over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.” (Ps 97:9). “… For all his works are done in truth… the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Ps 33:4-5). “For the kingdom is the LORD’s, And He rules over the nations” (Ps 22:28). “The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad!” (Ps 97:1). “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; … You are exalted as head over all” (1 Chron 29:11).
The devil is described as “the god of this world” or the “ruler of this world” – which is not the same thing as the ruler of the earth. “The earth” is the creation and all that is in it, and “the world” is the present evil systems within it and the ungodly multitude alienated from God. So if Satan does not have the title “ruler of this earth”, how could he have had the title “ruler of the previous earth”? More importantly, what Scripture says he was ruler of any earth at any time? And what Scripture tells us he was “ruler of the world” in a “previous creation”?
Understanding this distinction between ruler of the earth and ruler of the world is crucial in order to understand the true scope – and limitations – of the devil’s power and his role in God’s plan.
Temptation on the Mount
The devil did not have the authority to transfer his power or to share it with anyone without God’s permission, as he claimed he did during Jesus’ temptation on the Mount.
This was another one of the devil’s lies, as “there is no truth in him”.
That is why Jesus said he is “the father of lies” (John 8:44)!
God Almighty already had ALL authority over heaven and earth, over all kingdoms, all nations and all people, and He could have given Jesus the position of ruler of this world had He wanted to, without Him bowing down to Satan, but Jesus’ mission was to rescue mankind, taken hostage by the devil through sin.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein … And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Ps 24:1; Dan 4:17, 25, 34-35)
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’.” (Matt 28:18)
Apart from the fact that Jesus could not sin, by going back on his word, and He came to earth to die for the redemption of man, He would never have taken over the temporary throne that had been created for the deceiver of the world (Matt 1:23; Is 9:6; John 1:1-3; Job 34:10; Rev 12:9-10).
In other words, Christ will never “replace” the devil on his seat of “worldly” power, as some gap theory believing ministers teach. Check it out – what Scripture says Christ will return to become the “ruler of this world”?
Rather we are told that in that day the Lord will return as “King of all the earth” (Zech 14:9) and he will sit on the righteous throne of David! “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32).
And when Jesus, after 40 days of fasting, was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, notice that the devil did not offer Jesus “all the kingdoms of the earth” – but “all the kingdoms of the world” (oikoumene – “inhabitants of the world”).
“Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’.” (Matt 4:8-9)
Furthermore, the devil falsely claimed to be able to give something that was not his to give. “And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish’” (Luke 4:5-6). In reality, however, any power Satan had was according to God Almighty’s sovereignty, because it is the Lord who “is the ruler of the kings of the earth” not Satan (Rev 1:5).
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Rom 13:1)
No wonder Jesus shut down His communications with the devil after three temptations. After all, what can a person achieve by continuing to argue with a consummate liar?
Could Jesus have sinned?
There are those who say it was possible for Jesus to have sinned. (I’ve heard the arguments.) This, however, is blasphemy, because sin brings death, and Jesus was not subject to “the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). In other words, it was impossible for death to hold the Son of God, thus Jesus could not have sinned, because there could have been no atonement for him: “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:24). And had Jesus, hypothetically, chosen not to follow through his commitment to God, made before the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8), he would have sinned. In that same way we would sin if we break a vow or commitment, particularly one to God.
“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matt 5:37)
And if God had sinned, he would be no greater than a human being. Also, he would have died and God’s promises would have failed and this is impossible. (“God cannot be tempted by evil” Jas 1:13.) Also, 1 Cor 10:13 tells us that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”. How is it possible then for God to promises this to us but not to his own Son?
God can relent from bringing about the destruction of people if they change their attitudes (Jer 26:3), but this does not contradict other Scriptures where God says he does not change (Jas, 1:17; Mal 3:6). This is because God’s character is immutable and his standards of love, truth and justice never alter (Deut 32:4; 1 John 4:8). If it were possible for God to sin (to go against his own laws and promises), then the Creator God would be a capricious God (like all the pagan gods) and we could never really be sure about our future or eternity.
Jesus was God, but he yielded to the Father’s will by becoming a humble human being – the last Adam, without sin – formed from the dust of the ground. He had God’s Spirit and character 100 per cent, but he voluntarily gave up his position in the Godhead to become a servant who was obedient to the Cross – as a human and the Son – who chose to totally rely on His Father. The depth of Jesus’s commitment, however, was independent of his Father’s. When Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus makes the following statement: “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?”
In other words, Jesus could have called on is Father for anything and it would have been provided. So when he prayed that the Father might take the cup from him, regarding the crucifixion, it was hypothetical. This is because he not only submitted to the Father’s will, but Jesus never lost sight of his commitment and his purpose, either. This makes the Son’s death truly voluntary.
“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt 26:39)
As God, he could not sin! However, the human side of his physical existence was tested in every way man is tested.
He was thirsty, he was hungry, he was hot and cold, he was tempted and sleep deprived, he suffered mental agony, affliction, sorrows and grief, betrayal, desertion, severe pain and death. In other words, he was pushed to the physical, mental and emotional limits of a human being – but he could not be pushed into sinning! This means all his physical human suffering was absolutely real, but he never agonised, fearful of committing sin. It would have been an incredible thing for God to be in a man’s body with all its limitations. It has never happened before. That is why he is our high priest who understands our human limitations – he, too, has suffered the weakness of the flesh, but not spiritual weakness. He was Immanuel – God with us (Matt 1:23)!
Satan’s powers subject to God
Satan (the god of this world) has always been subordinate to the “the Most High over all the earth” and “the great King over all the earth” (Ps 83:18; Ps 47:2; Mal 1:14). And the only power the devil has is what God has allowed him, which is a certain level of authority over the lives of those who sin. Being a cunning lawyer, Satan uses God’s law to his own end. That is why God had to “catch the wise in his own craftiness” – abolishing the legal power Satan has over mankind through Christ’s death (and resurrection). There was no other way. Satan holds God to His word, but his power IS limited.
For instance, Satan is unable to directly curse anyone. Nevertheless, he can bring about a curse by influencing people to sin (through their own freewill). An example is how Satan tempted the Israelites to “commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab”. In this way, he was able to get God to curse them and 24,000 Israelites were felled in a plague (Numbers 25:1-15). Another example of the devil’s limitations is when he appeared before God, who spoke of His righteous servant Job. Satan’s reply:
“‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?… But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (Job 1:9-12)
Here we read that Satan couldn’t even lay a hand on Job’s oxen, sheep, asses and camels, servants, brother’s house or children, or that he could not cause lightning strikes or gales without God’s permission.
And we are told, “There is no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Pro 21:30).
Nevertheless, in old-earth creation we are expected to believe that the devil was so powerful, he destroyed the “awe-inspiring initial creation” to such an extent that all life was obliterated. Some gap creationists also claim that this destruction affected the entire cosmos, and God – the Lord and King of heaven and earth – was unwilling or unable to stop him.
Question for gap creationists: What reason would God have had to allow Satan free reign to destroy the planet and cause great destruction to the universe (as this doctrine teaches)?
As for man, God tells us that after he was expelled from Eden, he was still allowed to continue his dominion over the physical works of his Creator’s hands (Ps 8:6).
Satan had now fallen from God’s grace and his new position meant he no longer covered Yahweh’s throne. He had been cut down to the ground, possibly “cut down to size” – put in his place (Gen 3:14). He was cursed to “eat dust all the days of his life”. In other words, he would never gain satisfaction from anything he would attempt to accomplish. However, the devil still had access to heaven and God’s presence, as he was commanded to regularly present himself to report to the Almighty (Job 1:7-8). But what about the angels?
What about the angels?
The devil’s character and tactics have always been cunning and subversive. No doubt some angels joined his rebellion at the beginning of his plan. But it is important to know that the definition of “rebellion” is sin (1 Sam 15:23) and sin is lawlessness – “to resist, or defy, God’s authority”; it does not automatically mean an attack on someone or something. As such, the devil’s “progress” at this stage did not have to include an out-and-out power struggle, or attempted coup.
Rather, his rebellious act had resulted in a transfer of power – from Adam to himself – via deceitful words, as opposed to violent means.
Perhaps Satan didn’t have enough angels in his camp yet to consider an attack. More likely it was all bravado and boasting as he knew he did not have that sort of power or authority to go to war with God (Is 14:13). Other angels could have “gone over to his side” over a period of time. Some may have been enticed by Satan’s surreptitious dealings while serving on earth, or from having met him on his visits into the heavenly realms to present himself to God (Job 1:6).
As in the case of man, dissatisfaction and falsehoods soon gain momentum, as lies and slander spread, developing a devilish life of their own. And by the time the devil was cast out from heaven, never able to return again, it seems that one third of the angels had “crossed over to his side” (Rev 12).
This furtive activity is exactly the same strategy used in instituting a military coup in the physical realm. (Satan’s inspired tactics, perhaps?) That is because the chief pre-requisite is for the commander to have gained control of all or part of the armed forces before a group attempts to overthrow an existing government. This, of course, all fitted in with the greater scheme of God’s purpose, because He had to know if all his creatures would submit to his authority in faith, love and righteousness, angels included.
Victory at Calvary
As for when Satan learned about God’s plan to redeem mankind through the blood of Christ, I don’t believe this happened until after Jesus’ death. After all, the disciples, who knew the Scriptures, didn’t know. When they learned that Jesus was the Messiah, they thought he was going to restore the physical kingdom to Israel then, and when he died on the cross they were devastated by this unexpected turn of events.
Even after Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples – who had travelled, studied and ministered under Jesus for most of his public ministry – seemed remarkably confused about what was happening (Acts 1:6-7). And on the road to Emmaus (pictured) they spoke dispirited of how they had hoped Messiah was “going to redeem Israel” in their lifetime (Luke 24:21). Even though they had knowledge of God’s written word “… they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 12:9).
Christ’s appearances to his disciples after his death, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, encouraged them greatly, but they still thought he would return to earth while they were alive. It wasn’t until the apostle John, late in his life, received a vision from God and wrote the Book of Revelation that it became clear to those who were capable of seeing and understanding (1 Pet 1:10-12) – Christ would return, but not the way they thought it would be.
This is because godly wisdom is a mystery that is inaccessible without direct revelation by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:7-12). And God tells us that “He catches the wise in their own craftiness” (Job 5:12-14).
For 4000 years of human history, Satan thought he would win his battle against God.
Already he was ruler of the world. He had also claimed spiritual “victory” over man, who was now doomed to die! Such was the extent of the devil’s “success”, he’d even managed to seduce God’s special people Israel, too.
They constantly proved themselves faithless to God’s covenant and when His wrath burned against them He destroyed them by the hundreds of thousands (2 Chron 13; Num 16:49; Num 25:9).
God even destroyed all mankind on the planet (saving only eight people) during Noah’s flood. (Some scientists have calculated the number of people who perished could have been around seven billion.)
And in some ways it must have seemed to the devil that he had been victorious over God, too, having killed Jesus and, apparently, frustrating His plans on every side.
But when Satan and his angels eventually learned that the Lord God Himself had come to earth as a human to take mankind’s sins to the Cross, and that His death was all part of God’s plan of salvation, which would open the way for mankind to be forgiven and reconciled to his Creator, the devil and his cohorts would have been shocked and furious!
This leads me into my next chapter: Satan being thrown out of heaven and cast to the earth.
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“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chron 29:11)