You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you (Ezekiel 28:12, 15).
There is nothing in the Bible to tell us when the angelic realm was created. However, Job 38:4-7 speaks of the angels shouting for joy when God laid the Earth’s foundation, so they had to have been created before earth existed. Neither is there a mention of the timing of Satan’s rebellion.
All we know for sure is it had to have preceded Genesis 3, when the serpent convinced Eve to disobey God. Satan was already God’s adversary by then, although there’s no mention of his rebellion in connection with the creation. For this reason, I’ve concluded it also happened before the creation story begins.
Here’s How It All Began
The wickedness in the one we call Satan was no surprise to God. He knows the end from the beginning after all. And like all the angels, Satan had been created with the power of choice, which gave him the potential for evil.
Since God knew Satan would rebel, many have wondered why He let it happen. Others have asked, “Why didn’t God just destroy Satan at the time? Why let him cause all this trouble?”
The Bible doesn’t answer those questions directly, but maybe after reading this you’ll conclude, as I have, that if God had not allowed things to unfold as they did, you and I might never have come to be, and would not be able to look forward to an eternity that surpasses all human understanding.
We have no way of knowing how long it took for Satan’s wickedness to reveal itself, but through Ezekiel we learn that it was his pride in his beauty and splendor that triggered its appearance (Ezekiel 28:17).
His pride apparently caused him to believe that exalted as it was, his assigned place in the order of creation was inadequate for someone of his talent and potential. Since no created being was higher, he determined to make himself like the Most High God (Isaiah 14:13-14).
As I said, this introduction of a second will into the universe was no surprise to God, but He couldn’t let it stand. Knowing that one-third of the angelic population had cast their lot with Satan, He moved to put down this revolt and pronounced judgment on Satan and those who had joined him.
Some have speculated that in response Satan accused God of being unjust and having no love. I believe this speculation has merit based on what God did next. Remember, the following was not God’s reaction to Satan’s accusation, but His rebuttal to an accusation He already knew Satan would hurl at Him.
First, He created Man, a being vastly inferior to the angels but having intellect, the power of choice (free will), and eternal life just like they do.
To demonstrate His justice, He established a set of Laws with which to govern Man’s life. These laws reflected His own standards of righteousness. He declared that all men would be judged according to these laws and those who kept them faithfully would inherit eternal life with Him. However, even one violation would condemn the offender to an eternity of punishment. There would be no exceptions, and no appeal. From the highest to the lowest, all of mankind would be equally subject to these laws and would reap the reward or punishment due him or her according to its provisions.
Of course, God knew that mankind would not be able to meet the requirements of His Law and left to their own devices everyone would be found guilty and condemned to death. But the Law defined His righteousness, and to live in His presence Man’s righteousness had to equal it. Also, in order to be just, the Law could tolerate no deviation from its standards. Every violation had to incur the death penalty.
God didn’t want all of mankind to be lost, but unless He lowered His standards, something His righteousness would not permit, He couldn’t change His Law. His solution to this seemingly unsolvable problem was to pay the penalty Himself for all of mankind’s violations. He would come to earth in the form of His Son and die for the sins of the world. His death would pay for all of man’s violations of His Law (John 1:29, John 3:16).
Just like the penalty for violating the Law would be the same for everyone, so would the remedy. Anyone, from the highest to the lowest, who accepted the Son’s death as payment in full for his or her sins would be granted a full pardon and a place in eternity with Him. It would impute to them a righteousness equal to His own (Romans 3:21-24). Because He had created Man with the power of choice, He wouldn’t impose His solution on anyone, but would grant it without exception to everyone who asked to receive it (Matt. 7:7-8).
These two actions, implementing a Law no one could keep, and offering a pardon no one could earn, were God’s rebuttal to Satan’s accusations. It combined perfect justice with perfect love. Man was free to choose either alternative. He could strive to live up to God’s impossibly high standards and earn His way into eternity through his own works or he could accept the Son of God’s death on his behalf and be granted eternal life by faith.
After creating Man, God implemented the Law portion of His plan to provide an example for all of humanity to study. His purpose was two-fold. He wanted mankind to see the blessings that came from the level of obedience we are capable of, but He also wanted us to learn that the level of obedience His Law required for our salvation was unobtainable (Romans 3:20). These two points were quickly proven when the first two humans broke His Law soon after being placed in the most blessed environment humanity has ever enjoyed.
This was also no surprise to God. To prevent mankind from becoming obsolete before we got started, He initiated a sacrificial system to teach mankind that we would ultimately be saved through the shedding of His innocent blood. In the mean time, the shed blood of certain innocent animals would set their sins aside temporarily.
Protecting them from destroying themselves through their own sinfulness was no small task. It took the most elaborate religious system ever devised and the sacrificial deaths of untold numbers of innocent animals. He chose one people, the descendants of Abraham, to be the principal participants in this religious system, blessing them enormously when they obeyed and punishing them without mercy when they didn’t, all as an example from which the rest of the world could learn about His nature (Romans 15:4).
When the time finally came for God to send His Son to die for our sins, He made His one sacrifice sufficient for all time (Hebrews 10:12-14). Those who died in faith before He came would receive eternal life along with those who died in faith afterward. The Son’s one righteous life was of sufficient value to save all of mankind’s unrighteous ones, from the first one to the last (1 Peter 3:18).
God determined that His plan would have a fixed expiration, after which He would bring it to a conclusion. At that time all of mankind will stand before Him. If they have died He will bring them back to life, never to die again. Everyone will be shown the point in his or her life when the two choices available were made clear to them. Remember, part of God’s plan is to demonstrate that He’s a just God (Deut. 32:4). Therefore He can neither reward nor punish anyone who didn’t get an opportunity to choose.
The one exception involves those children whose lives came to an end before they had become intellectually mature enough to understand their choices. A just God cannot punish those who are unable to comprehend, so He declared all such children innocent and counted them as His own (Romans 7:9).
Those who have accepted by faith the pardon He purchased for them will be granted an eternity of unparalleled blessing. Those who have chosen to earn their place in eternity through their own works will be shown their shortcomings and condemned to eternal punishment (Rev. 20:15). Since these are the only two choices available to mankind, those who will have opted out altogether will receive the same destiny as if they had refused the pardon God made available. Receiving the pardon requires a conscious choice to accept it (Romans 10:13). Refusing to choose at all is equivalent to rejecting it.
At that time Satan will receive his final judgment and will be condemned to eternal punishment along with all those who had refused to accept the pardon (Rev. 20:10).
It’s sad to think that many who chose to earn their own way or refused to choose at all will have thought they were preserving their independence, exercising their freedom of choice. When it’s too late to change their minds they will finally realize that they were actually following Satan’s will, not their own.
Remember, there have only ever been two wills in the universe, God’s and Satan’s. If we don’t choose God’s will for us, we’ve chosen Satan’s will by default. In the spiritual sense, free will is simply the option of choosing between God’s will and Satan’s. God wants us all to choose His will (2 Peter 3:9), but He won’t force us to do it against our will.
I believe this is the secret of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which God commanded Adam not to eat (Genesis 2:16-17). As I’ve said, there was only one will on earth at that time, and that was God’s will, which was “Good.” Eating the fruit of the forbidden tree introduced a second will, which was “Evil.” This was Satan’s will. By getting Adam and Eve to disobey God’s will, Satan was getting them to obey his will. In doing so they acquired the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Somehow this altered their genetic make-up in such a way that this knowledge was passed to all their progeny. Today we call this the “flesh” or the “sin nature.” But I think it’s really the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the realization that there are two wills in the universe. We can choose which one to follow, but if we don’t consciously choose God’s will, Satan’s will becomes the default choice.
1 Corinthians 15:24-28 tells us that the Lord Jesus will reign until He has put all of God’s enemies under His feet, including death.
“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all rule, authority and power.” (1 Cor. 15:24)
Before the Lord turns the kingdom over to His Father, He will destroy all rule, authority and power. The primary meaning of the Greek word for destroy is “to put down, deactivate or render inoperative.” The one for rule is “the origin, or active cause.” The one for authority is “the power of choice, the liberty of doing as one pleases” and the one for power includes “strength” or “ability.”
This means in eternity we who have accepted the pardon He purchased for us will no longer have the ability to disobey God’s will. The origin and active cause of our disobedience will have been rendered inoperative. The disastrous effects of Adam and Eve’s disobedience will have been reversed. The knowledge of Good and Evil will be no more and there will finally be only one will in all of creation again, the will of God. That’s God’s plan in a nutshell.