Why do people call Satan a fallen angel?


Where in the Bible does the idea come that Satan is a fallen angel? It cannot be Isaiah 14:12 or Ezekiel 28:13-15; these refer to the kings of Babylon and Tyre. Doesn't dragon in Revelation refer to the future? Also what is meant by " spirits in prison?"


The conclusion is based on several passages.

In I Kings 22:19-22, we find God addressing all the host of heaven, which would include the angels. It states that "a lying spirit" came before him. Given that Jesus calls Satan the father of lies (John 8:44), it is commonly concluded that the lying spirit was Satan.

In Job 1:6, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them." The phrase "sons of God" refer to the angels, but we find that Satan was among their number once again. (Also Job 2:1.)

While Isaiah 14:12 and Ezekiel 28:13-15 address two kings, it is done so by establishing an allegory to previous events.

"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'" (Isaiah 14:12).

The phrase "son of the morning" calls to mind Job 38:7, "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" -- a reference to angels. Notice as well that Lucifer has fallen from heaven. Men hope to go to heaven when they die and when they reach there, they will not be leaving. The arrogance of the king of Babylon is illustrated in the same way the New Testament states Satan and his angels behaved.

"And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6).

"And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:7-9).

"He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:2-3).

Combining the three statements we find that the angels are in chains (Jude 6), Satan and his angels were cast out (Revelation 12:7-9), and Satan is reserved in chains (Revelation 20:2-3). Therefore, people conclude that Satan is among the angels and since he had other angels following him, he could be counted as a chief angel or archangel.

Men may dream of power, but few claim to place their throne in heaven and challenge the rule of God. It is likely that God is using an event from the past to illustrate the extreme arrogance of Babylonian king. Yet, in using it as an illustration, it does not mean the event is a complete fantasy. The illustration can be an allegory, and it does match other details about Satan in other passages.

"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. 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. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading; therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever'"" (Ezekiel 28:12-19).

Once again, the direct application is to the king of Tyre, but the illustration is not of a man. An allegory is being established. Notice the facts presented:

  1. Was in the garden of Eden
  2. Was created
  3. Was an anointed cherub
  4. Was on the holy mountain of God
  5. Became sinful
  6. His downfall was pride
  7. Was cast out of the mountain of God

In one sense it is hyperbole to apply these concepts to the king of Tyre, but it can also refer to true events and by drawing parallels between the actions of the king of Tyre to those events, we both see the character of the king of Tyre, and a brief glimpse to something that happened. Once again we find similarities to things we know about Satan.

  1. Satan was in the garden in the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 20:2).
  2. Since Satan is not God we know he was created and as all of creation, he was a part of the very good (Genesis 1:31).
  3. This one in the garden was a cherub. We know that in the garden were Adam, Eve, Satan, and God from Genesis 3. Neither Adam, Eve, or God are a cherub. Who does that leave?
  4. Satan could at one time appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1; I Kings 22:19-23); thus, he was in heaven.
  5. Satan quickly became sinful (John 8:44).
  6. Satan's downfall was pride. "Lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil" (I Timothy 3:6).
  7. Satan was cast out of heaven (II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:7-9; 20:2-3).

These facts in the story to which the king of Tyre was compared, lead people to conclude that Satan was at one time a cherub who quickly fell into sin because of his pride.

Finally, there is this passage in Revelation, "And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon" (Revelation 9:11). Both the Hebrew and Greek names mean "Destroyer." A very apt name for Satan (Job 26:6; Proverbs 27:20; combined with the fact that Satan once had the power of death, Hebrews 2:14). But notice that this one from the bottomless pit is called an angel.

The book of Revelation speaks of things in the future of when it was written, but not necessarily in our future. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John" (Revelation 1:1). "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). "Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true." And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 22:6). "And he said to me, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand" (Revelation 22:10).

In regards to "spirits in prison," see the article "Spirits in Prison."