Where did Satan come from? Dr. Guy Richard talks about the origins of sin and fallen angels, encouraging believers to look to God for wisdom and hope.
The Bible seems to tell us that Satan was a created being, that Satan was among the first of the creatures. He was one of the angels that was created and then fell from that position. He chose to rebel against God, and as a result, the Scriptures seem to say that He was thrown down, he was cast out of heaven. And we’re told that he led many with him. So it wasn’t just Satan by himself, but there were many, if you will, fallen angels that followed him in that rebellion against God. The question comes as a result of that: if it is true that Satan was an angel, created good to serve the Lord and yet rejected that place of goodness, if you will—rejected that service of the Lord and chose instead to rebel against God with many other of His fellow angels—if that is true, how in the world did Satan choose that? Sin and evil must have been in the world already for Satan to be able to choose evil or to choose sin, rather than choosing to serve God.
The Origin of Evil
And so the question then comes as a result: if that is true, if the Bible’s comments about Satan and the fall of Satan, the casting out of Satan, is true, then where did evil come from? How was evil even there for Satan to choose in the first place? And I think what I’d want to say to that question is that evil is not a substance. Evil is not something that needed to be created in order to exist. Everything else that is had to be created. And we’re told that God created everything that is by the Word of His power, and sustains it still today. But evil, I want to suggest, is not a thing. It’s not a substance. Rather, it’s the privation or absence, denial of a thing.
The Definition of Evil
Sin is not a thing, it’s the absence of something.In this case, I think the testimony of scriptures is very helpful. We’re told in 1 John that sin is lawlessness. And so what does that tell us? That sin is not a thing, it’s the absence of something. In this case, it’s the absence of law. It’s un-law. It’s law-lessness. If you look at Romans 1, I think we see a couple of examples there. Sin, we’re told in Romans 1, is un-godliness. It’s un-righteousness. And so that tells us that it’s not a thing, but it’s a non-thing, if you will. The privation of a thing. It’s the absence or the lack of godliness, it’s the lack of righteousness. So in other words, I think what that tells us is that evil or sin, not being a substance in itself, is actually not godliness. It’s an attitude or a posture that chooses against God or opposite from God. And so what that means is, rather than having to be created, the only thing that would have—sin didn’t need to be created. The only thing that had to happen for evil to exist, was for God to exist—which the Bible tells us has been true from all of eternity—and for God to create beings that were able to choose Him or not choose him. And that, I would argue, first began with the angels, of which Satan was one. And so all that had to happen in order for evil to exist is for God to exist and for Him to create angels. And those angels were able, then, in their very creation, not-God-ness would have come into the world, and been a viable option for Satan to be able to choose.
The Wisdom of God
So if we think about where Satan came from, and as a result, where sin came from, I think we can look at what the Bible is telling us: that sin just came as a result of God creating angels, in this case. Angels, therefore, had the opportunity to choose God or choose not-God, that anti-God posture. And that anti-God posture is what we’re saying evil is. This is a difficult question. It’s a difficult question that the Bible is not explicit on. We have to look at implications and things that are—and make deductions from passages in the scriptures that are less than clear about all of these questions. And I think at the end result of all of the study that we give to answering this question of where Satan came from and where evil came from, should direct our minds and our hearts and our attention to the Lord Himself, because He is God and there’s none like him. And as Paul said in Romans, it ought to lead us to the place where we can say, “Oh, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! His ways are beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of God? Who has been his counselor? For from him, and through him, and to him are all things.”