The Fall of Lucifer

It is often taught that the archangel Lucifer rounded up one-third of the angels and rebelled against God, but is this scriptural?

Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 tell us about the fall of "Lucifer, the son of the morning" (Isa. 14:12). Both passages are clear enough that they have been interpreted throughout history to mean that Lucifer was an archangel of such glory that he swelled up with pride and tried to overthrow or at least displace God. By doing so, he became the devil and satan.

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 upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." (Isa. 14:13)

Ezekiel 28:12-19 is addressed to the king of Tyre, but Christians of all backgrounds and descent have interpreted the prophecy to concern Lucifer, the one empowering the king of Tyre. This is because Ezekiel says that he was in the garden of God (v. 13) and that he was "the anointed cherub who covers" (v. 14).

You can read the passages yourself. This page is not really about the fall of Lucifer, but about the story that he persuaded one-third of the angels to join him in a rebellion against God that was overthrown by Michael and his angels.

I agree that the devil was once Lucifer, a cherub or archangel that was full of beauty and wisdom, but his heart was lifted up because of his beauty and his wisdom was corrupted by his own brightness (Ezek. 28:17). Pride was truly the original sin.

But is the idea that he took one-third of the angels with him scriptural?

One-third of the Angels?

It is Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 that teach that Lucifer fell and became the devil, but let's look at the passage that is used to teach that he got one-third of the angels to join him in a war against God.

And there was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels. They did not prevail, nor was their place found in heaven anymore. The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and satan, who deceives the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

This seems pretty clear, doesn't it? There was a war in heaven, and the devil and his angels fought with Michael and his angels.

But let's look at where this passage is found. It is found in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation of John, verses 7-9.

What other parts of the Revelation do we interpret as being in the past? Almost nothing, and there is nothing in this passage that indicates it was in the past.

Revelation 12:1-5 describes a woman who gives birth to a Son who will rule the nations. No one doubts that this Son is Jesus, nor that his birth was in the past.

These verses are just setting the stage, however. The dragon appears after the birth of the Child, not before. He does use his tail to throw down a third of the stars of heaven and throw them to the earth, but we have no reason to believe this is a reference to one-third of the angels joining his rebellion in eternity past. All of this section of the Revelation has always been interpreted as prophecy, not a historical retelling of a rebellion in heaven before Adam was created.

Look at verse 6, which tells us that the woman fled to the wilderness, to a place God prepared for her, and "they" (whoever "they" are) fed her for 1260 days. Only then is there war in heaven.

A time period of 1260 days, or 3.5 years, is found throughout the Revelation. Almost all of us understand this to be a future period, whether we interpret those 1260 days as a literal 3.5 years or not.

If the 1260 days are future, then how can the war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels not also be in the future? Revelation 12:5-6 reads like this:

... that they should feed her there 1260 days. And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.

There is no break at all between the prophecy that the woman would be hidden in the wilderness for three-and-a-half years and the statement that there was war in heaven. The two are intimately related. They are part of the same prophecy.

This tradition that the devil drew one-third of the stars, representing angels, into rebellion with him in the beginning is not an ancient tradition. In the late second century, one Christian leader—a man taught by great and famous Polycarp, who had been appointed as a bishop of the church in Smyrna by apostles (probably John)—wrote this about Revelation 12:

[Gnostic heretics] ... are in reality predecessors of that dragon who, by means of a deception of the same kind, will cause with his tail a third of the stars to fall from their place and will cast them down to earth. It behooves us to flee from [the heretics] as we would from [the dragon]. (Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Bk. II, Ch. 31, Par. 3. c. AD 185)

This teacher, so close to the apostles, knows nothing of one-third of the angels falling in the beginning. Instead, he properly interprets the Revelation, putting the war between Michael and the dragon in the future. He "will" cause a third of the stars to fall.

Traditions of Men

To be honest, this is a very minor error. I can't imagine that anyone's life will be affected by finding out that Lucifer's rebellion in the beginning didn't involve one-third of the angels and that he probably didn't fight Michael. Ezekiel 28:16-18 says that it is God who destroys him, not an army of angels.

I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God, and I will destroy you ... I will bring forth a fire from your midst. It will devour you, and I will bring you to ashes upon the earth.

Knowing this one detail probably won't affect your life or your walk with Jesus. However, realizing how easily we swallow tradition without verification could transform shallow and confusing Christianity into a vibrant, powerful faith that affects everyone around us.

Knowing how to preach the Gospel the way the apostles preached it, rather than teaching soteriology (the doctrines about salvation) to the lost will result in real conversions rather than the small percentage we experience now. Knowing that grace is not mercy, but something far more can give us faith to believe that we really are delivered from sin and transform the way we live.

There are many others. I wrote this page not so much because the matter of one-third of the angels rebelling with Lucifer is important, but because our unquestioning acceptance of the traditions of men is important.

I hope you will follow up on the links I gave you. I have longer versions of both those links in booklet form. I have a recently released (Aug. 1, 2015) 40-page booklet on grace that will not only give you a scriptural description of grace, but teach you how to walk in the power of it.

I also have a booklet called The Apostles' Gospel that walks you through Acts to show you the Gospel as it was preached by the apostles.

I did not give a link to Grace because Amazon has not yet linked the paperback and the Kindle version. If you go to Amazon and search "Grace Paul Pavao" it will find both versions for you.

If you are not going to read the links I gave above, you can use these links to return to my categorized articles or the home page.