One of the more intriguing references to Satan takes place in a short passage in Luke 10 that deals with the return of 70 disciples to Jesus Christ after having conducted a census of faith in Judea and Galilee. Luke 10:17-20 tells us: “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.””
We will return to this passage when we look at demons and the biblical language of demonology to see this passage as part of the context that demonstrates the ubiquity of demon possession in many of the problems faced by people in the first century AD that were healed by Jesus Christ and His early disciples, but let us pause for a moment here to discuss the relevance of this passage as it relates specifically to Satan himself. This comes in the single sentence, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The obvious question when we see a sentence like this is, “When did Jesus see Satan fall like lightning from heaven?”
There are several possible answers to that question. Indeed, multiple answers of that question may be possible simultaneously. Let us explore the various options. The first option is that Jesus Christ saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven in the past. Most likely this would have occurred in the context of his original rebellion when he was removed from his position in heaven after having been corrupted. If this is what is meant, then Jesus’ comment can be understood as saying that Jesus saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven and it was a foretaste of the binding and defeating of Satan’s kingdom that would take place when demons were fully subject to believers. Of course, this particular situation was a foretaste of the removal of demonic influence at the return of Christ and the final judgment of the demons that will take place simultaneously with the Great White Throne judgment that will determine the ultimate fate of all humanity who did not believe in their physical lives on earth.
It is also possible that this statement refers to the fall of Satan at the present, suggesting that the fall of Satan like lightning from heaven was related to the harm that was being done at that time to his kingdom by the efforts of the 70 disciples in subjecting demons to Christ’s name. If this is the case, then the fall of Satan from heaven is not from being thrown out but because he leaves in anger seeing it as necessary to bolster his kingdom from the threats faced to it by believers who cast out demons from suffering people. This meaning may certainly be true, as it fits the immediate context of the passage and the way that Jesus says the phrase as part of an encouraging message to the believers in giving them authority over demons (portrayed as serpents and scorpions). We will return to this passage later on and explore this idea in greater context, but for the moment let us simply say that there are serious and often unexplored implications of this layer of meaning that are worth discussing at greater length.
Finally, it is also possible that Jesus Christ was speaking with the future in mind as if it had already happened, and pointing out that the fall of Satan from heaven was something that would happen and that the binding of Satan’s kingdom would be a foretaste of this blessed occurrence. Again, this would not be the first time that the New Testament would provide a look at the future as if it was the present, as it is something that we see also in the Transfiguration. And it is also possible that the fall of Satan is something that occurred for different reasons at different times, and that multiple layers of meaning were meant by this utterance. It is lamentably all too common that we see a single layer of meaning and then think of it as the only layer of meaning, and a thorough study of scripture should counteract this native tendency of ours to think that we have exhausted the levels of insight and applicability within the Bible.