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Spiritual Warfare
How Did the Devil Get to the Earth

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The Devil and the other demons are but a part of the angelic creation, and their natural powers do not differ from those of the angels who remained faithful.

Like the other angels, they are pure spiritual beings without any body, and in their original state they are endowed with supernatural grace and placed in a condition of probation. It was only by their fall that they became devils. This was before the sin of Adam and Eve, our first parents, and this remarkable story is told in the Book of Genesis.

Yet it is remarkable that for an account of the fall of the angels we must turn to the last book of the Bible. For as such we may regard the vision in the Revelation, albeit the picture of the past is blended with prophecies of what shall be in the future: "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him" (Revelation 12:7-9).

To this may be added the words of St. Jude: "And the angels who kept not their principality, but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6; cf. II Peter 2:4).

In the Old Testament we have a brief reference to the Fall in Job 4:18: "In his angels he found wickedness". But to this must be added the two classic texts in the prophets: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).

This parable of the prophet is expressly directed against the King of Babylon, but both the early Fathers and later commentators agree in understanding it as applying with deeper significance to the fall of the rebel angel.

And the older commentators generally consider that this interpretation is confirmed by the words of Our Lord to his disciples: "I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven" (Luke 10:18). For these words were regarded as a rebuke to the disciples, who were thus warned of the danger of pride by being reminded of the fall of Lucifer.

But modern commentators take this text in a different sense, and refer it not to the original fall of Satan, but his overthrow by the faith of the disciples, who cast out devils in the name of their Master. And this new interpretation, is more in keeping with the context.

The parallel prophetic passage is Ezekiel's lamentation upon the king of Tyre:

You were the seal of resemblance, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in the pleasures of the paradise of God; every precious stone was thy covering; the sardius, the topaz, and the jasper, the chrysolite, and the onyx, and the beryl, the sapphire, and the carbuncle, and the emerald; gold the work of your beauty: and your pipes were prepared in the day that you were created. You a cherub stretched out, and protecting, and I set you in the holy mountain of God, you have walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your wave from the day of creation, until iniquity was found in you. (Ezekiel 28:12-15)

There is much in the context that can only be understood literally of an earthly king concerning whom the words are professedly spoken, but it is clear that in any case the king is likened to an angel in Paradise who is ruined by his own iniquity.

Even for those who in no way doubt or dispute it, the doctrine set forth in these texts may well suggest a multitude of questions, and theologians have not been loath to ask and answer them.

And in the first place what was the nature of the sin of the rebel angels? In any case this was a point presenting considerable difficulty, especially for theologians, who had formed a high estimate of the powers and possibilities of angelic knowledge, a subject which had a peculiar attraction for many of the great masters of scholastic speculation.

For if sin be, as it surely is, the height of folly, the choice of darkness for light, of evil for good, it would seem that it can only be accounted for by some ignorance, or inadvertence, or weakness, or the influence of some overmastering passion.

But most of these explanations seem to be precluded by the powers and perfections of the angelic nature. The weakness of the flesh, which accounts for such a mass of human wickedness, was altogether absent from the angels. There could be no place for carnal sin without the corpus delicti.

And even some sins that are purely spiritual or intellectual seem to present an almost insuperable difficulty in the case of the angels. This may certainly be said of the sin which by many of the best authorities is regarded as being actually the great offense of Lucifer, to wit, the desire of independence of God and equality with God.

It is true that this seems to be asserted in the passage of Isaiah (14:13). And it is naturally suggested by the idea of rebellion against an earthly sovereign, wherein the chief of the rebels very commonly covets the kingly throne. At the same time the high rank which Lucifer is generally supposed to have held in the hierarchy of angels might seem to make this offense more likely in his case, for, as history shows, it is the subject who stands nearest the throne who is most open to temptations of ambition.

But this analogy is not a little misleading. For the exaltation of the subject may bring his power so near that of his sovereign that he may well be able to assert his independence or to usurp the throne; and even where this is not actually the case he may at any rate contemplate the possibility of a successful rebellion.

Moreover, the powers and dignities of an earthly prince may be compatible with much ignorance and folly. But it is obviously otherwise in the case of the angels. For, whatever gifts and powers may be conferred on the highest of the heavenly princes, he will still be removed by an infinite distance from the plenitude of God's power and majesty, so that a successful rebellion against that power or any equality with that majesty would be an absolute impossibility.

And what is more, the highest of the angels, by reason of their greater intellectual illumination, must have the clearest knowledge of this utter impossibility of attaining to equality with God.

The Devil, that is to say, was not so obtuse as not to know that it was impossible to conceive of anything like (i.e. equal) to God. And what he could not think he could not will. If by this we mean equality with God, then the Devil could not desire it, since he knew this to be impossible, and he was not blinded by passion or evil habit so as to choose that which is impossible, as may happen with men.

And even if it were possible for a creature to become God, an angel could not desire this, since, by becoming equal with God he would cease to be an angel, and no creature can desire its own destruction or an essential change in its being. These arguments are combated early scholars who distinguished between efficacious volition and the volition of complaisance, and maintains that by the latter act an angel could desire that which is impossible. In the same way he urges that, though a creature cannot directly will it's own destruction, it can do this consequenter, i.e. it can will something from which this would follow.

Needless to say that theologians will usually disagree on many doctrinal truths that are not completely explained in the Scriptures. But the fact remains, that the Devil and his angels do inhabit this earth, and it is our duty to learn how to overcome him and live in victory.

Some of these preceding paragraphs were excerpted from

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV
Copyright 1908 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright 1999 by Kevin Knight

I have edited it and added comments of my own.



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